Mrs Joan M. Fawcett (Northumberland): It was a night of terror, but a night of pride. Many of us are aware of the Via train derailment and fire that started just west of Brighton on Sunday, November 20. This was a most terrifying experience for the 417 people on board the train. The fire started at the front of the train as a three-foot piece of train rail punctured a fuel tank. Many horrified passengers smashed windows and jumped from the inferno to safety as the train came to a halt.
Emergency crews from Brighton, Trenton and Colborne had to go through a swamp and down a mud-covered forest trail before reaching the wreck. Brighton Fire Chief Harry Tackaberry and his crew were the first on the scene, using foam to douse the flames that engulfed the engine and first car.
At the scene, the fire was put out in just over an hour. A helicopter from CFB Trenton hovered over the crash site, illuminating it with a spotlight, looking for anyone who may have jumped from the train, and also helped search groups on the ground.
If there can be any good to be recognized from such a disaster, it is the quick and efficient manner in which everyone reacted to this incident. Certainly the Brighton fire department, the Brighton OPP, the area emergency services, the local hospitals, CFB Trenton and the many volunteers are to be commended for their handling of this critical situation.
Many take for granted these vital services provided in rural Ontario. The member for Quinte, Hugh O'Neil, who visited the accident scene and hospital that night, and myself would ask that all members join in recognizing the herculean efforts of this community: a job well done.
My constituent Judith Ann Wilson obtained her real estate licence in October 1992. As a condition of her licensing, she had two years to complete three mandatory courses. During 1993, Judith became pregnant and health complications forced her to quit work. In fact, her physician ordered her to do so, which meant she had to stay off her feet and go on short-term disability. On March 30, 1994, Judith gave birth and subsequently went on parental leave.
The result of her pregnancy, medical condition and her parental leave meant that Judith could not complete the three courses she was required to take. Further compounding Judith's problem is that the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act does not contain any flexibility for parental or medical leave. Consequently, Judith is unemployed and unable to sell real estate.
On behalf of my constituent and other women and families in similar circumstances, I am urging the government to amend the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act to accommodate parental and medical leave. If the act cannot be amended quickly, then the minister must take whatever steps are necessary to correct this injustice.
How can a government that brought in legislation to extend parental leave not think to amend legislation that punishes individuals who take this leave? One law is clearly cancelling out the other. The government's failure to harmonize and coordinate its legislation is cruel and unusual punishment inflicted upon individuals like Judith Ann Wilson and other working women.
Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): Today I would like to welcome some visitors from my riding. It has been my privilege to work very closely with Jobs Ontario Training brokers in my riding over the past few years. Today, we have with us in the members' gallery an employer, Jim Blakely, of Ecowater in Picton; a trainee, Randy Minnie; and a representative of the broker, Devon Coburn of Edprin Job Training of Prince Edward county. I'd like to thank these people for coming all the way from Picton, and I would like to recognize the thousands of people who have participated in Jobs Ontario Training in my riding.
A month ago, I met a women named Angela Lumley who was a trainee. As a single mother living in a small community, she had been looking desperately for a job for several years. Like many others, she did not wish to be on social assistance, but it appeared she had no choice until she contacted her local broker. Now she is very happy to be working as a Jobs Ontario trainee at Mark's Custom Collision, an auto body shop in Bloomfield, and she will have a permanent job when the training period is over.
This is one of the reasons I am so shocked that the opposition Liberal Party says it wants to cancel Jobs Ontario and that the leader of the third party, Mr Harris, encourages single mothers to quit their jobs and go on welfare. In my experience, most of the unemployed and people on social assistance do want to work. Jobs Ontario Training is about getting people back into the workforce. It is working in my riding and across the province, and there are thousands of satisfied participants to testify to this.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Democracy is under siege in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. After imposing draconian new rules that severely limit the ability of opposition members and government backbenchers to carry out their responsibilities by restricting the amount of time MPPs are permitted to speak, and giving ministers new powers to determine the length of debates, this government has now also restricted the parliamentary calendar and has reduced the number of days this House normally sits.
"Normally sits" is a good statement because this House, this session, will sit only 20 days, and yet the government of Ontario continues to impose time allocation motions, the kind of motions now entertained because of the rule changes by Premier Bob Rae: 1991, Rent Control Act; Bill 143, environment; 1992, Bill 40, Ontario labour relations amendment act; Bill 150, labour-sponsored venture capital; Bills 74, 108, 109, 110, the advocacy package; Bill 121, rent control.
The list goes on: 1993, Bill 100, regulated health professions; Bill 8, casinos; Bill 80, Ontario Labour Relations Act, construction; Bill 47, photo-radar; Bill 48, social contract; Bill 164, auto insurance. There are more, by the way.
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): Sixty-one highway construction workers at the Ministry of Transportation have spent the last six and a half years pursuing a reclassification grievance. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union had to jump through every hoop the Ministry of Transportation could possibly place in its path. They persevered, and they won. In August 1994, the Ministry of Transportation finally signed a memorandum of settlement that gave retroactive wage increases to its workers.
The Management Board of Cabinet signed this arbitration award in October of this year, and after all these years, that's where the matter stands. The workers have heard nothing since then, nor have they seen their raises and retroactive pay. Is this a fair way for the government to treat its workers?
The questions must be asked: Is the NDP in favour of arbitration? Are they prepared to honour the awards when they lose against workers? The government asks workers to follow settlement procedures and they have a right to have the results respected. I call on the minister to implement the terms of the arbitration award as ordered by the board of arbitration.
The Fire Prevention and Public Education Awards are given to those organizations, media and persons who, along with the fire service of Ontario, have helped to prevent fires or who educate the public in the prevention of fires.
It is the fear of many people that a fire will break out in their home. But how many of us know best how to protect our families and property? Do we have fire alarms with working batteries? Do we have a plan of action in case of a fire? Public education is an important way to teach the community how to deal with these issues.
Cablenet 13 won the Fire Prevention and Public Education Award for an excellent series of programs and interviews with fire department staff throughout the year. These programs and messages helped raise awareness about fire safety and fire prevention in our community.
Rob Heeney, program manager of Cablenet 13, received the award on behalf of the station at a luncheon hosted by the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services. Rob was accompanied by Gil Pomeroy, a Kingston firefighter who works in the area of education.
The importance of public services like the fire service can't be overestimated. They are what make our communities appealing, both to live in and to invest in. One measure of the Kingston area's success in this regard is reported in an article in Saturday's Whig-Standard. It lists a number of recently announced projects whose value is a record $1.2 billion.
Public services mean we are able to develop the wealth this investment creates to improve our communities for ourselves and our children. Cablenet's series on fire prevention adds to everyone's security. I commend the people who put it together for a job well done.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I am very concerned about the way the government is developing a damn-the-torpedoes, ram-it-through approach to the establishment of the very expensive Advocacy Commission. We know that they attempted in Bill 175 to sneak through the kinds of amendments that would allow the commission to hire, pay wages and staff up.
The estimates are that this Advocacy Commission is going to cost between $30 million and $80 million. The commission, as of today, has no legal authority for hiring or staffing and yet we see them spending a fortune of money on advertising for rights advisers, regional facilitators and intake and referral officers. We are very concerned that they are forging ahead without the legal authority to do so and that as they proceed to do this, they are placing in jeopardy a program which has worked well for the past 11 years.
The provincial Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, which is a quasi-independent body, part of the Ministry of Health and one that I am very familiar with, has worked hard and is working hard to advocate for those vulnerable and unfortunate people who are in our provincial psychiatric hospitals. The way the government is proceeding to establish the Advocacy Commission, I believe, will place in jeopardy the rights of those individuals who have been well served by the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, and I'd ask it to reconsider its bad policy while there is still time.
Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): In June 1994, the government passed Bill 160, the Budget Measures Act, which changed the basis on which school boards will share assessment of publicly traded corporations and some non-share capital corporations. The sharing of this assessment will be based on enrolment as opposed to a ratio of residential and farm assessment and will be phased in starting in 1996.
"Student" will be defined in regulations to be developed in 1995. The Ontario Public School Boards' Association's discussions with the ministry have revealed that "student" so far will be defined as only those enrolled in day school and will not take into consideration students enrolled in evening adult/continuing education credit courses. The Ontario Public School Boards' Association has urged the government to broaden the definition of "student" to include full- and part-time students plus students enrolled in adult/continuing education programs.
On August 30, 1994, Mr Ernie Eves wrote the Minister of Education and Training on behalf of the OPSBA asking that he review the situation and provide comments. Mr Eves does not have a response. I urge the minister to consider the concerns that have been raised by OPSBA and the OSSTF as they draft regulations for Bill 160.
Mr Ron Hansen (Lincoln): I rise to pay tribute to a company that is up to its ears in POGs. Stanpac Inc of Smithville produces more than a million of these decorative milk caps a day and ships them as far away as California and Hawaii. School children collect them and trade them and even use them in a game called POGs.
Just last week, the company was recognized with a special economic renewal award from the Premier's Council. It was nominated by the West Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. It is one of 19 Ontario businesses to receive this new award. To be nominated, a company must exhibit a commitment to innovation in the development of new or improved goods and services; success in achieving sustainable development; positive labour-management relations; and excellence in design. Stanpac fits the bill to a T.
With $10 million in annual sales, Stanpac designs and develops at least one successful product each year. These innovations have led to new markets in the US, Central America, South Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Asia. Stanpac has had an annual growth rate of about 35% for the past seven years.
Stanpac has a profit-sharing program, and all employees meet with management on a monthly basis. Stanpac's strategy is working. When Stanpac came to Smithville in 1970, there were only four employees; now there are 70, all of them dedicated to making Stanpac a huge success in the international marketplace. Teamwork has made Stanpac a big player in a competitive market.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): On Thursday, November 24, the member for Durham West, Mr Wiseman, introduced a bill entitled An Act to amend the Regional Municipality of Durham Act, the Municipal Act and the Regional Municipalities Act. It has been brought to my attention that this bill appears to be incomplete and so contravenes section 38(d) of our standing orders in that it is in improper form. I must therefore rule this bill out of order, and it must be removed from the Orders and Notices paper.
Hon Anne Swarbrick (Minister of Culture, Tourism and Recreation): It is my privilege today to welcome three special visitors to the Legislature. With us in the members' gallery are this year's recipients of the Corps d'Élite Ontario Awards, our province's highest distinction in the field of recreation. Their families are also here today in the visitors' gallery. They are Robert Christie of St Catharines, Paul Mainprize of Mount Albert and Coreen Mills of Echo Bay.
The Corps d'Élite Ontario Awards honour outstanding recreation volunteers and professionals from across Ontario. In doing so, they affirm the vital importance of recreation in the community life of this province.
Participation in sports and recreational activities benefits us all. It promotes a healthy lifestyle and contributes to our physical and emotional wellbeing. Not coincidentally, youth active in sports and recreation generally perform better in school.
Recreation supports family unity. It builds stronger communities, bringing the diverse members of our society together in pursuit of common interests. It is also a very significant factor in youth crime prevention.
Recreation is a foundation of personal development and community pride, an agent for social change and a catalyst for economic renewal and growth. It is the biggest incentive for community volunteer involvement, frequently leading to greater citizenship involvement in the all-round political life of our communities.
The 1994 recipients of the Corps d'Élite Ontario Awards have recognized the tremendous value of these benefits and have devoted time and effort to ensure that they're available to all Ontarians. These three individuals have demonstrated leadership, determination and commitment in working with local and provincial organizations to improve our recreation and sports system and to strengthen its ability to address community needs and concerns. For the energy, the creativity and the perseverance that they've brought to their task, for their personal sacrifice and their sense of duty, they deserve both our gratitude and our respect.
I'd like now to ask our visitors to stand in order that this Legislature may show these special Ontarians our appreciation of their efforts. They are Robert Christie, Paul Mainprize and Coreen Mills. In recognizing these three people, I know this Legislature is also showing our appreciation to all the many recreation professionals and volunteers who contribute so profoundly to building the quality of life in this province.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The Liberal spokesperson in the field of tourism and recreation, Hugh O'Neil from Quinte, has yielded the floor to me because one of the three people who is being honoured today is from the city of St Catharines. I'm going to have the honour of reading into the record what will be said a little later on this afternoon, that is, something about the people who will be the recipients of this prestigious award.
First of all, Robert Christie: I don't know him as Robert; I know him as Bob. Bob began his career in Walkerton as the director of municipal recreation. In 1963, he joined the St Catharines department of recreation and spent the next 31 years serving the citizens of the Garden City. During those years he became very involved in his spare time with many organizations.
Chief among his voluntary pursuits was his impact on the Society of Directors of Municipal Recreation of Ontario. One of his roles was as a chairperson of the board of regents. At that time he established new guidelines which resulted in more equitable grant systems and a better flow of information between the SDMRO and the provincial government.
Bob was instrumental in the formation of the Ontario Recreation Society, where he was a leader in establishing training institutes for professional recreationists and streamlined procedures for the writing of fellowship papers.
He has worked tirelessly to create better recreation opportunities across Ontario for the physically disabled, for creative artists and for athletes in water-related sports. His efforts established Ontario as a world-class force, and this is evident in his work with recreationists from Germany and England and many contacts in the Olympic Games movement.
Robert has been very active in rowing at the Olympics and the St Catharines Henley Regatta. He has served on the Lincoln County Board of Education and numerous multisports games at the local, regional and provincial levels.
I also want to mention Coreen Mills of Echo Bay. As a long-time volunteer, Coreen has spent countless hours of unpaid leave from her job promoting recreation and its benefits. Living 30 miles south of Sault Ste Marie, this affiliation has meant many hours of travel to Toronto as a board member of the Ontario Municipal Recreation Association or in fulfilment of her responsibilities with the Parks and Recreation Federation of Ontario.
As Treasurer of OMRA, she maintained the ledgers and journals and prepared reports for the association and Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation. As the secretary, she took the minutes, returned to Echo Bay and would then type, collate, copy and mail those minutes to all the board members and liaisons.
Coreen has also served as vice-president of OMRA and worked on zone development and improving training opportunities for board members. Much of those training opportunities were weekend workshops in Toronto. Mrs Mills served two terms as president of OMRA and during that time accomplished much. In addition, as her association's representative on the board of the Parks and Recreation Federation of Ontario, she made five trips a year to Toronto. Coreen's main interest at the time was the partners in training program and the anti-drug initiative. She visited many school boards, bringing the anti-drug message to students and teachers alike.
Coreen has worked very hard in her Algoma zone. She helped plan three zone conferences and was a founding member of the Algoma District Recreation Association. Bringing training sessions to Algoma-based volunteers and professionals has been a major goal for Coreen. Whether it was to arrange board meetings, set agendas, ensure the distribution of committee reports or develop an office procedure policy, Coreen was there doing her part to ensure successful conclusion to the task.
In addition to being a wife and mother, she has a job. You see, ladies and gentlemen, Coreen Mills also drives a 72-passenger school bus 10 months of the year, something she has done for the last 19 years.
There's a third person by the name of Paul Mainprize of Mount Albert, and I'm going to provide for the member of the Progressive Conservative Party some information on Mr Mainprize so that can be in the records of the Legislative Assembly as well. I've had the opportunity to do it for two of the people. I congratulate all of them, and you'll find for once the members of the Legislature are unanimous in their accolades for those who are devoting so much of their volunteer and professional time to recreation in Ontario.
Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I'm pleased, on behalf of the Conservative caucus, to rise and have the opportunity to say a few words of thanks in recognition of this year's recipients of the Corps d'Élite awards. The winners of this year's awards, as well as the many tens of thousands of other recreational volunteers in this province, all deserve our thanks and appreciation for devoting their time towards enriching the recreational opportunities for people in Ontario. As volunteers, they often devote many, many hours to their communities and must juggle family responsibilities, work commitments, and they do it to develop and improve recreational opportunities in their home communities.
There is no disputing the benefits of recreation and its link to good health. Recreational pursuits keep people active and fit, they provide an outside focus for many people and act as a positive outlet for physical and mental stress. And as our orientation to health care changes, with more emphasis being given to a more preventive approach, I believe we should be encouraging people to participate in the recreational programs in their communities.
The core of community recreation is made up of volunteers and volunteer organizations, and once again I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to the Corps d'Élite recipients for their outstanding work in recreation, and also especially thank Mr Mainprize, whose name didn't come up earlier.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm quoting from standing order 33(a), page 26. We came back to this Legislature four weeks late, and the opposition parties have been diligent in working out their question period agenda. According to 33(a), and according to the information we received from the government today, 13 ministers are not going to be here today, including the Premier and the Deputy Premier. It makes it very difficult, considering the fact that for four weeks these people couldn't come back to work, and when they finally do come back to work, only half of the cabinet bothers showing up for question period.
When we're in opposition and we're setting up our schedule of questions and we get our questions scheduled and then we get the information from the House leader of the government side that half of the cabinet, including the Premier and Deputy Premier, will not be here, it makes very frustrating the efforts that we take in the morning to try and set the schedules for the afternoon.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): To the honourable member for Etobicoke West, he will know that he does not have a point of order. The Chair is not aware of lists that may or may not be circulated. There is a quorum in the House. In fact, I haven't called for oral questions yet.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Prior to doing that, I was going to invite all members to join me in welcoming a former member of the assembly, former member for Cochrane North Mr René Fontaine, who is seated in the members' gallery west. Welcome.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'd like to seek unanimous consent of the House for about a minute and a half. I had the opportunity, and time ran out on mine, to read into the record information about two of the people who are receiving the awards. Could I have unanimous consent for the third one? Mr Beer would read it in.
Mr Charles Beer (York-Mackenzie): I will give what is said about Paul Mainprize from Mount Albert. As a councillor for the township of East Gwillimbury for 12 years, Paul has continually defended a fair share of the municipality's budget to recreation and leisure services. He has served on the speakers' bureau of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation.
Two of his major topics have been violence in recreation and the benefits of recreation. He was on the committee that developed the catalogue for benefits of recreation and has served on the coalition against sexual harassment committee and the gender equity in sport committee.
While serving eight years on the board of directors for the Ontario Municipal Recreation Association, Paul has also served as treasurer, vice-president and president for OMRA. Among his accomplishments, he computerized the association's budget, developed the terms of reference for the association's strategic plan and continuously strived to raise the profile of recreation within the provincial government.
Paul provided extensive lobbying to the provincial government, which resulted in the preservation of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation's annual grants program to municipalities as seen in Ontario regulation 517. A concerned voice for recreation, it was that very concern that prompted this businessman to run for council in East Gwillimbury. His 12 years on council were spent chairing the community services committee for six years and then heading up the municipality's finance committee for another six years.
As a member of the Mount Albert United Church centennial committee, Mr Mainprize helped to develop senior citizens' subsidized apartments and he is currently on the board of directors responsible for the administration of that complex.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is to the Attorney General. Two years ago, the previous Attorney General announced that he was looking at new initiatives the government could take to curb drinking and driving. So far, we have seen nothing of those particular initiatives. We are also disturbed by recent reports that the budget for putting in place measures to combat drinking and driving has been cut and that grants for community prevention programs are on hold.
Last week, the Attorney General said that more education was needed to reduce drinking and driving. We agree. If she believes that to be the case, can the Attorney General tell us what her budget is for this year for drinking-and-driving countermeasures, how that budget for drinking-and-driving countermeasures compares to last year's budget, and can she assure us in this House that there have been and will be no cuts to community prevention programs?
Hon Marion Boyd (Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues): The current community grants budget is $251,500. The application forms have been sent out and grant applications have been received. It is certainly our intention to continue to help support very successful programs, particularly those that involve young people, and we've seen many, many successful programs in communities.
But we also believe that it's important for the community to be involved in those programs and we have seen a great success, particularly again for the student groups, in persuading corporations and community groups to support them in their efforts.
In the last countermeasures conference that I was at we discussed some of those methods, and the subsequent conference that the Ontario Community Council on Impaired Driving groups had, had been very successful in attracting that kind of support. So in addition to government money, there is community money being donated by corporations and by community groups to this and that makes it more of a full community program.
Mrs McLeod: We don't in any way take issue with the value of the programs. Our respect for the value of the programs is the reason for raising the question. I think the minister has successfully avoided answering the question I raised, which is, how does this year's budget for these measures and for these community programs relate to last year's budget? We're concerned about whether this is one of the areas in which cuts are being made. We are questioning how serious this government is about dealing with drinking and driving.
We are extremely concerned as well about the support for municipal RIDE programs. Everyone in the House will agree that the RIDE programs that are operated by municipal police forces across the province have proven to be an effective tool in the fight against drunk driving. So it is surprising and it is extremely disappointing to learn that the government is indeed reducing funds that it makes available for this particular program. According to the public accounts books, the amount of money the Ministry of the Solicitor General is spending on municipal RIDE programs has fallen from $549,176 in 1991-92 to $380,176 in 1993-94. This is a clear indication that this government has been slashing funding for a program that is extremely effective in keeping drunk drivers from killing people.
Minister, will you make a commitment to review this misguided decision with the Solicitor General, and will you tell us, since it seems as though there is not a clear commitment to either the community prevention program budget or the funding for RIDE, just how serious your government is about dealing with drinking and driving?
Hon Mrs Boyd: Well, no one on this side of the House is surprised that the Leader of the Opposition is misinformed again. The Solicitor General has put $600,000 into the municipal RIDE program. Those are dollars that are available to municipalities, and indeed we are encouraging municipalities to take them up. In addition, the member should know that the government has paid 100% of the costs of replacing the breathalyser equipment that was found to be defective last year. We are doing what we can to help our municipalities and of course our own Ontario Provincial Police to be as effective as possible in dealing with this issue.
Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, you will appreciate that we in opposition have two sources of information on which we can hold this government accountable. One is the public accounts books. The public accounts books very clearly show --
Our second source of information admittedly is the responses that ministers provide us in this House. Since the minister, the Attorney General, will not answer the question of how this year's budget compares to last year's budget for community prevention, on what basis can we determine whether the budget has been cut? There is no line item in public accounts for this budget, we can't find it there, and the minister won't answer the question in the House.
I raise one other aspect of the issue, and that's the fact that more than a year ago the Legislature gave first reading to a bill by the member for Mississauga North which gives society another tool to fight drunk driving. This bill would prohibit anyone under the age of 19 from driving while having any alcohol in their blood and would significantly increase penalties for any conviction.
In 1992, drinking was a factor in 249 personal injury traffic accidents for drivers between the ages of 16 and 18. Twelve of these young people died after drinking and getting behind the wheel of an automobile.
I believe we have an opportunity to send a strong message to young people that drinking and driving don't mix. I would ask the Attorney General: As you examine other legislative proposals for dealing with drinking and driving, as you look at legislative proposals that you may be prepared to bring forward, will you give serious consideration to this legislation to deal seriously with the issue of under-aged drinking and driving?
Hon Mrs Boyd: We've spent a lot of time in this Legislature talking about the graduated licence legislation that just passed, and in that legislation drivers between 16 and 18 years old are required to have zero blood alcohol content in their blood in order to drive. So there's no reason for us to entertain the legislation that the member for Mississauga North has put into place, and we have said that many, many times. There are other ways of dealing with this issue, and that is the major one, one which met with, frankly, the approval of this whole House.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My second question I will place to the acting Deputy Premier, in the absence of the Premier and the Deputy Premier, and in fact the Minister of Education and Training, to whom the question really should be directed. I make the preface because I recognize the fact that although this question is one which we are extremely concerned about, the minister may not be in a position to be aware of all of the details of the issue.
Nevertheless, I raise the question. It's a question of access of Ontario students to post-secondary education. I raise the issue because I believe one of the hallmarks of the Canadian university system is that it has always been an open system, that students from literally any part of the country could choose to apply to study at any of the universities across the country. I believe our system is one that was built on the belief that young people in our country should have every opportunity to pursue their career goals, to make them a reality, and that that should include the ability to travel to other provinces to study.
Minister, I ask if you can tell me whether there has been any change in the admission policies at Ontario's universities or whether students from across the country are still welcome at Ontario universities.
Hon Frances Lankin (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): I do try my best, in the absence of others, to fill in. I heard clearly that I was the Leader of the Opposition's fourth choice, and rightly so, because I actually don't know the answer to that question. I will have to stand it down and attempt to get that answer from the ministry.
The Minister of Education and Training, as you know, is representing Canada at a Commonwealth ministers of education conference sponsored by the Canadian government and is heading up the Canadian delegation. I will attempt to get that information from his ministry and pass it on to the member.
Mrs McLeod: I raise the question because I have a letter here that was received by a constituent of the member for Scarborough North. It's from the McGill University faculty of medicine. The letter says, "We regret to inform you that the Quebec government, in response to a request from the province of Ontario, has recently prohibited Quebec universities from accepting applicants who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents whose place of residence is outside of Quebec." I stress the fact that this is a constituent, a young woman, a resident of Ontario, who cannot even apply to the McGill medical school because the Ontario government, her government, has told Quebec that they should not accept Ontario students.
Minister, can you think of any possible justification that your government could have for urging the Quebec government to deny young people the right to apply to Quebec medical schools? What purpose can be served by cutting off the opportunity for students in Ontario to study in Quebec?
The member did make specific reference to the McGill medical school, and I would like to actually follow this up with the Minister of Health as well. The discussions that have taken place with the medical schools here in Ontario at the universities did in part talk about issues of the numbers of Ontario graduates from medical schools, irrespective of source, of where those students came from. I don't know whether or not that may have some national implications with respect to medical schools in other provinces.
Mrs McLeod: We're well aware that there was a meeting of provincial health ministers and that one of the items for discussion at that meeting was whether there could be put in place national solutions to some of the problems in terms of numbers of people applying to medical schools. There was discussion of whether or not the number of spots for medical schools across the country should be limited, but that is a completely, absolutely different issue than a uniliteral restriction for Ontario students applying to attend school in another province. This is absolutely unprecedented and, for us, a very serious issue of restricting the right of choice for Ontario students.
Minister, as well, the urging of your government to restrict Quebec in admitting Ontario students preceded that particular meeting. We have an editorial from the Montreal Gazette, and I don't have an exact time frame other than that this was an issue that dealt with the previous government of Quebec, in which it says: "Ontario health officials had been pressuring the Quebec health department to block Ontario residents from studying here and returning home to practise. It is surprising that the Quebec government should have acceded to Ontario's request. Ontario already limits who can practise within its borders; now it apparently wants to restrict who can study outside of its borders."
The editorial also indicates that Quebec medical facilities are upset about provinces restricting access to education, and it quotes the dean of medicine at McGill as saying: "In the past we would have gone to the Quebec government to explain the intellectual advantages of diversity. In general, we got a sympathetic hearing. Now we are politically strapped. It is difficult for us to go to another province (Ontario) that is trying to build a wall around its borders and control the input and output of students."
This is an issue that concerns the Ontario Medical Association, the Canadian Medical Association, and PAIRO. We ask the minister if she will endeavour to find out whether this is a policy that governs Quebec only or whether this same kind of barrier is being put up for students from Ontario to study in other provinces as well. If so, Minister, can you tell us why?
I do think it's interesting that as the questions developed, we did move from the area of general access of students to education in other provinces specifically to medical schools. In fact, I'm glad to see that as the questions got more specific, we narrowed in on that, because I think it would have led the public viewing this show to believe that all students were being blocked from attending McGill, or Ontario students, so it is good when you get down to the kernel of it.
Now it appears that we're dealing with the issue that the Ministry of Health has negotiated and discussed with the universities here and with the medical association about the number of graduating doctors required to practise medicine and what impact that may have on students training in other jurisdictions to practise here in Ontario and whether or not there are limits to the numbers. I think those are relevant questions.
Just in wrapping up, let me say that with respect to the issue of access to university education, I share the member opposite's concerns and I would urge her to try and deal with this issue on the bigger picture. To me, that would mean dealing with her federal Liberal counterpart government, which is at this point in time, in terms of the information we have heard, the true threat to the issue of access to university education for Ontarians, and in fact for all Canadians.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. On October 14, I wrote you concerning a case of student hazing at the Rideau Regional Centre just outside of Smiths Falls, an institution for developmentally delayed adults. I relayed to you how on April 24, 1992, Kim Wright, a young college student on work placement at Rideau Regional, was subjected to an incident of hazing so serious it damaged her health and made her physically unable to pursue the career she has been trained for.
It's six weeks, Minister, and I have yet to receive a response, so I'm going to pose two of the questions to you today in the House. What disciplinary measures were taken, following that 1992 incident, against staff at Rideau Regional? What policies have been put in place to prevent a recurrence?
Hon Tony Silipo (Minister of Community and Social Services): I will follow up when I get back to my office to see why the member didn't get a reply, because I remember signing a letter in response to his letter to me on this issue.
Let me just say to him that I hope he will appreciate that on the specific incident he referred to, he knows this is now an issue that's before the courts. There is a civil suit in the courts, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that particular issue.
I can say to him, however, on the broader issue that he raises around the policy, that since that incident -- and we've had a chance to verify this as a result of his letter to me -- there has been a very clear policy established at that centre to indicate that hazing is not an acceptable practice of behaviour, and my understanding is that the policy has been applied.
I didn't ask you to comment on specifics surrounding this case, which is before a civil court. I asked you about disciplinary measures that may have been taken against staff who were involved in this incident. I don't think there's any denial that the incident occurred. It's in respect of the repercussions and what followed in terms of Kim Wright's claims in respect to permanent health damage and her ability to find future employment -- those are the questions the civil court action is involved with, not in terms of disciplinary action.
It's been over two years since this incident occurred. You say that policies have been put in place. We now hear that these continue to occur, have occurred again this spring. Once again I ask you what you are doing in a meaningful way. What disciplinary action did you take following the 1992 incident?
Hon Mr Silipo: I hope the member will appreciate that I need to continue to be guided in what I can say about this particular incident by the legal advice I receive in the ministry, and I'm going to continue to resist to make a comment on the specific incident. If there is additional information that I'm at liberty to provide, I will be more than happy to do that, including specifically the question around any disciplinary actions that may have been taken.
But let me say that we also pursued, and I was quite interested in getting, information through our officials in the ministry about the allegations of additional reported incidents, as the honourable member has mentioned. I can tell him that as a result of our inquiries, we have no information of any additional incidents that have taken place since that time. Again, if the member has any further information that he would like to share with us, I would be certainly happy to receive it and to make sure it is investigated. But my understanding -- and I've taken steps to ensure that we've asked the questions, that we've received the information -- is that there have been no further incidents and that in fact there has been a very clear policy established at the centre.
Mr Runciman: It's a sad commentary in respect to the minister's being on top of this issue. Apparently he isn't, because we have the names of the individuals involved in the spring incidents, and we'll be glad to share them with him. Clearly he is unaware of them, and that's unfortunate, to say the least.
I want to talk about the kind of incident that occurred with Kim Wright. She was confronted, when she was escorting a patient from the institution, by male employees who attempted to drag her into a shower. They were armed with a jar of Vaseline. She was able to get away from them and lock herself in a small washroom. The employees then used a hair dryer to blow baby powder under the door to try and force her out, and she coughed and vomited so violently from the baby powder that she burst all the blood vessels in her face, neck and throat.
Hon Mr Silipo: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: As a minister, I try very hard to show my respect for members opposite and their right to ask questions, but I do want to draw to your attention that the member is reading into the record matters that relate to an action before the courts. I think there may be some action that you want to take in that respect.
The Speaker (Hon David Warner): Indeed, both members who are asking and those who are replying to questions should be aware of matters which are currently before the courts. It's impossible for the Chair to know that, and members should be guided by that principle.
Mr Runciman: This has been in the news media at length and with considerably more detail than I'm putting on the record today. I guess we're just a little sick and tired of self-righteous pontification on the part of those ministers across the way.
Mr Runciman: My point really is that this is a very serious matter and it may not only apply to one institution. Once again I ask the minister to have a full, open process in respect to taking a look at this situation at Rideau Regional in Smiths Falls, but also at all of the institutions that fall under his control where students are involved in placement situations. Is this continuing to happen right across the province? Are other, more serious incidents happening? What is he doing about the broader picture?
Hon Mr Silipo: If the member doesn't want to believe what I've told him, that's fine; that's his prerogative. But I have said to him clearly, and I will reiterate, there is a clear policy at this centre that clearly indicates that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable. I've said that to the member. I've said to him that upon receiving his letter with allegations of further incidents having taken place, we have investigated, we've asked the people who run the centre, the supervisors there, and we were told there have been no further instances.
The member says he has information that indicates further incidents have happened. I wish he would share that with us. I will assure him that it will also be investigated and we will get to the bottom of it. If further incidents have happened, we will deal with them, but I can only deal with information that we have and we can only do our job on the basis of information that we have and on the basis of what the people who are in charge of running these centres can tell us. So I look forward to receiving the additional information that the member has and I think that's the effective way in which we can deal with this and similar issues.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): My question is to the Attorney General on the issue of hate crimes. Nearly two weeks ago the member for Willowdale gave you a copy of materials published by self-identified Nazi Ernst Zundel. This literature included such phrases as: "Now the time and hour has come for the American and Canadian patriotic movement to rise like one man and vent their wrath on those German traitors and vassals. We can finally lance that festering boil and expose the Holocaust racket."
Hon Marion Boyd (Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues): I cannot tell the member that at this point. I can tell him that I handed the material over immediately to our crown law office and asked them to work with both the police and the federal authorities to see whether or not this was the kind of material that would constitute a charge.
Mr Harris: Last week a visible minority teacher at Humberside Collegiate in Toronto was assaulted. According to the Toronto Star, the attack came on the heels of a series of swastika carvings and other racially motivated incidents. Five non-white teachers received threatening letters which said: "We hope you will take us seriously or non-white teachers will face the consequences. Remember we can take any steps from class disturbances to physical harm."
Hon Mrs Boyd: As I've said in this House many times before, the Attorney General does not lay charges. If the police bring forward charges in the hate literature section, it is something that needs my permission to go ahead with.
I have not received any charges on hate literature from this particular thing to this point. They would be fully considered from a legal standpoint in terms of the test that applies for all cases: whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction. I can assure the member that if in fact those charges come forward and meet that test, I would be endorsing such a charge.
Mr Harris: Crown law officers can ask police to lay charges, and crown law officers work for you. Many have told us that if they did so, this nonsense would stop. Racially motivated incidents are never acceptable, but when they occur in the school system, full of impressionable minds, they're even more detrimental.
Mr Harris: No, they say five years. I'm just quoting Karen Mock. This is what she told us, that schools were the target of white supremacist organizations. She calls the incident at Humberside a "rude awakening that could have been prevented if the proper steps were taken."
Attorney General, this is not the first occasion I have raised this issue with you, and the seeming lack of commitment of you, your crown law officers, your government to use the existing legislation, and if it isn't good enough, to bring in new legislation. Karen Mock says it could have been prevented if the proper steps were taken.
I would ask you this in a very serious way: If your government is as serious about rooting out hate crimes as all the rhetoric suggests -- in spite of the catcalling and interventions from some of your colleagues right now, you had personally, and the Premier, lots of good rhetoric -- can you explain why you have ignored the offer of assistance and advice from the B'nai Brith to help you solve this problem? Why have you ignored them?
Hon Mrs Boyd: This is absolute nonsense. The anti-racism round table, which happens to be meeting even as we speak, has representation from B'nai Brith. We are consulting with those groups and in fact have consistently consulted with those groups. So this is just absolute nonsense. Once more the member opposite suggests that I bring forward legislation. He knows that the jurisdiction for the Criminal Code is the federal government and that no provincial government can bring forward that kind of issue.
The member opposite also knows that as to the remedies we have available to us in terms of the current Criminal Code, we have made representation to the federal government about the difficulty of dealing with that. All the provinces have been working together with the federal government. We've seen some changes in the code come forward in the last couple of weeks by the federal Justice minister.
All this rhetoric opposite about not taking action is simply nonsense. We take very seriously what has happened, very, very seriously indeed, and we are working very strongly with the community to counter this kind of racist behaviour which all of us find abhorrent.
Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: As founding president of the Toronto Regional Council of B'nai Brith, I'd like to correct the record. The leader of the third party doesn't seem to know the pronunciation of it.
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): My question is to the Chair of Management Board. Minister, on the weekend I was just sitting around reading this somewhat self-serving document, the Ontario Star. The only way you can get good press is to put out your own newspaper. That's pretty clear.
In the real Star, the Toronto Star, the headline screams, "NDP Staff Leave Jobs for Secure Civil Service." Minister, given the Toronto Star report this weekend that dozens of NDP political staff have received high-paying, supposedly non-partisan jobs in the civil service, will you admit that the hiring freeze referred to in this document does not include your ministers' staff, and will you admit that as long as you've got an NDP card and you work for a minister of this government, you've got a chance to get a job in the real civil service, excluding citizens in this province? Will you admit that's how the hiring is going on in your government?
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): The short answer to the member's question is no. The member, in his usual very dramatic fashion, has raised a question here that I think deserves just a little bit of exploration, though.
The member opposite has raised the question of a Star story which talks about political staff from the New Democratic Party moving into the OPS. There are a few who have moved into the OPS, into civil service positions, through an application and interview process. The number of New Democratic Party political staff who have moved into the OPS, though, is very tiny compared to the number of Liberal political staff who moved down the same road five years ago; a tiny, a very tiny number.
More importantly, with respect to the Liberal staff who moved into the OPS, the members opposite should notice that they're doing a much better job in the public service than they did as political staff to the former administration.
Mr Mahoney: The member for St Catharines said, "Is there a freeze or isn't there a freeze?" I refer back to "using state-of-the-art human resource management." That's from the self-serving document that you put out at your convention: "state-of-the-art human resource management." No government in living history has ever politicized the civil service the way this government has. No government has even come close to the kind of boondoggle that's happening in the civil service.
Mr Mahoney: The facts are that you are infiltrating the government with your friends, with people who work for your ministries and own NDP cards. You won't even let members of the public apply for these jobs and yet dozens of NDP political hacks are being quietly shuffled into these non-partisan, public service jobs.
My question to you, Minister, is, why can't my constituents apply for a job in the civil service but somebody who works for one of your ministers can? This is a double standard and it has got to be stopped. Will you commit to stop this practice today?
Hon Mr Charlton: The member opposite is emitting gases that I think we might have to have checked for their environmental safety. The member is wrong on all counts. There is a hiring freeze in place, there has been a hiring freeze in place since 1991, and the member opposite knows full well that the hiring freeze requires all ministries to go through a particular process internally before any positions --
Hon Mr Charlton: The member opposite is just totally wrong in all of the comments he's made here today. There has been a hiring freeze in place. All ministries have a process that they are required to go through to attempt to fill those positions internally. Then there's an application process for an exemption. There have been several thousand people hired under that hiring freeze, including some of the member's own constituents, which he says doesn't happen. The member is so out of touch that he has absolutely no idea what's going on.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): I understand you're trying to fill that trough, but the Liberals built that trough so big, you'll never be able to fill it by the time you leave. Six months is not enough time to fill the trough they built.
Mr Michael D. Harris (Nipissing): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services on welfare reform. Last week, the Auditor General of Canada released his impartial report on government programs. He concluded that Canada's welfare system has serious problems of dependency, disincentives to work and unsustainable costs. He further concluded that the time for tough choices is now.
I agree. The people of Ontario agree. I would like to ask you, Minister, if you agree with the impartial, non-partisan Auditor General of Canada on the state of Canada's social programs. Do you agree with the Auditor General?
Hon Tony Silipo (Minister of Community and Social Services): I think the record and the views of this government are quite clear in terms of also believing that the high dependency rate that exists in this province and indeed across the country is a problem that needs to be tackled. We believe it needs to be tackled in the way we've set out, which is by providing people with supports and opportunities to be able to link back to the workforce.
That's why we've put in place programs like Jobs Ontario Training that have resulted in over 65,000 jobs being created exactly for people who are on welfare or are about to be on welfare, and that's why we believe this initiative and other initiatives are not only saving taxpayers $200 million, but are the direction we need to pursue in terms of breaking that dependency that many people in the province, through no fault of their own, have found themselves in.
Mr Harris: I agree with the Auditor General's findings, not you. In fact, our comprehensive welfare reform package tackles many of the problems he cites. Specifically, the Auditor General found excessive expenditures on passive support measures, extensive and growing dependence on social programs, increasing numbers of employable people claiming welfare, and disincentives to work. We agree and that is why we support workfare and learnfare for Ontario.
Hon Mr Silipo: As always, we look forward to any comments that come from any source, including certainly the federal Auditor General in terms of any further suggestions, but I can say to the member that many of the problems the federal Auditor General points out we in fact have been rectifying for some time. We are moving the system towards one that has more of its focus on getting people back to work.
I'm glad that the leader of the third party has clearly again reiterated his position in terms of being in favour of workfare. We are not. We don't believe that's the direction we need to take. We believe that if you provide people with the supports and the incentives, they will take advantage of those, because the vast majority of people who are on welfare would rather not be on welfare.
We also don't agree with the member opposite, although I realize that today he didn't go into it as one of his directions, that cutting benefits by 20% is something that is a good thing to do. We think that creates a higher level of poverty in this province. We think it particularly hurts kids, and that is something we don't believe in.
What we do believe in doing is providing more supports and more incentives for people to be able to reconnect back to the workforce. That's exactly what we're doing through Jobs Ontario Training, JobLink and many other initiatives that we will have in place before this term is over and which we want to see continue right through.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Last week, Minister, you introduced legislation to deal with illegal after-hours clubs and those establishments where there's a problem with repeated drug dealing and violence. This legislation not only expanded but also toughened my private bill, Bill 180.
However, this weekend there was another incident and the incident took place in my riding. The latest shooting took place in a hall rented out for late-night parties, exactly the sort of situation this legislation proposes to eliminate. This morning, I received 28 calls from frantic constituents asking what we're doing about it. It's a disturbing situation, and my community and the communities across Metro and beyond are very much concerned. Tell us what the status of this legislation is so the people in my community know exactly what's going on.
Hon Ed Philip (Minister of Municipal Affairs): I thank the member for the question, because the member of course has been very directly connected with it and indeed introduced a private member's bill, which under its expanded form, having consulted with the police, community groups, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the various mayors and so forth, I was able to introduce last week.
The member is quite right. There was an unfortunate incident. A man was shot at 1:30 am in the establishment that he talks about. Luckily the man is not suffering life-threatening injuries, but the matter is certainly of grave concern to those who were in the club and indeed to the neighbours, the police and community leaders.
Last week, this particular club was singled out by one of the community leaders, Michael Thomas, the president of the Toronto East Downtown Residents' Association, who of course was endorsing the legislation. I understand from our House leader that discussions are ongoing now with the opposition House leaders.
Hon Mr Philip: The incident this week underscores the need that has been brought to us by the police, by residents and by municipally elected politicians to move quickly with the bill, and we trust that will be done.
Mr Marchese: Municipalities have requested this bill. Clearly the police support what we've done and communities are demanding it. What more do you need to make sure that this bill passes in this legislative sitting?
Hon Mr Philip: What we need is a spirit of non-partisanship on this issue. The member is quite right in saying that this legislation has popular support. It was endorsed of course by the chiefs of police and by other community leaders, and anything that the member can do to work with members on the other side to bring cooperation in the quick passage of this bill would be appreciated by all of those groups, because it's not just an incident, not just a problem related to the after-hours clubs that sell liquor, which is the one that he has described and in which we've just had the most recent incident, but also doughnut shops and some other after-hours establishments that have created some serious problems both for the police and for members of the community, and this bill deals with those problems as well. We intend to move as quickly as possible to give people control of their communities once again.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have a question on government waste for the Chair of Management Board. Last week, huge full-page ads appeared in major dailies across the province for people to be hired to provide advocacy services. The ads, which were sponsored by the Ontario Advocacy Commission, call for persons to fill positions of rights advisers, regional facilitators and intake referral officers. The ads were run at a cost per page of approximately $5,460 for the Toronto Sun,$18,000 for the Toronto Star and $14,000 for the Globe and Mail.
It's my understanding that the Advocacy Commission has no legal authority to hire anyone. They have not yet determined how many advocates will be required to meet their needs to serve vulnerable people. How can the government possibly find the money to pay for ads to recruit an unknown number of employees for the Advocacy Commission when at the same time it's cutting back on support services for vulnerable people in need?
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): The members opposite, as you've noticed, Mr Speaker, have risen on a number of occasions to raise questions about spending habits in this particular government, and I want in a very brief set of comments to start to address the kind of waste that went on in the past administration. All of the advertising that they're referring to here today is being done within the government's advertising budget for 1994-95, a budget which is reduced by 40% from what those characters spent just a few short years ago.
As you know, the Advocacy Commission will be set up early in the new year. That commission will proceed to do its hiring in a very orderly and cost-effective way, including the advertising which we're doing along with all of the other government advertising that this government does, at 60% of what it cost those characters to do the same thing just a few short years ago.
Mrs Caplan: The minister has confirmed the wasteful expenditure of advertising to hire people for an Advocacy Commission; he has refused to answer the questions. I'm going to be very specific right now.
We know that these ads are being paid for through the new fees that are being charged to residents in nursing homes and provincial psychiatric facilities. My question is: What vulnerable group are you going to have to pay for your next set of ads and, very specifically, how many advocates are going to be hired to provide the service? How many would be allocated throughout the province? How can you hire anybody before you can answer these questions? It's gross incompetence.
Hon Mr Charlton: The member opposite puts issues in a fashion that just shouldn't be acceptable here in this House. The member knows full well that none of the issues she just raised with respect to fees have any relevance to the spending that this government does on advertising, advertising that was budgeted on a regular basis for a number of years back way into our distant past. If the ads she's referring to are being paid for by anything, they are being paid for by the huge, huge savings we've accomplished as a result of our ability to make this government more efficient than the largesse that was imposed by the Liberal administration in this province: 40% reductions in our spending on professional and consulting fees, 50% reductions in what we spend on space for meetings, conferences and so on. As for the kinds of questions they raise here, the reductions that this government has put in place speak to nothing but a never-ending desire to pursue efficiency.
Mr Charles Harnick (Willowdale): My question is for the Attorney General. When the former NDP Attorney General initially announced his proposed changes to the Limitations Act, he stated: "While there are many pressing and legitimate reasons for limitations reform, none is more urgent" -- I stress the word "urgent" -- "than the need to remove the barriers to justice for victims of sexual assault."
Hon Marion Boyd (Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Women's Issues): I share the sense of urgency that the former Attorney General expressed with respect to sexual assault victims. However, on the Limitations Act, subsequent to our introduction we discovered that there were a number of issues brought forward by the Environment ministry and by the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat that needed to be dealt with, and we have on a number of occasions approached the opposition members about the need to make those kinds of amendments. What we require is some assurance that those amendments can be done in a timely way since, although this bill is important, it is not part of the priority agenda that was set by the caucus of this government.
Mr Harnick: Minister, I can tell you that no one in your ministry has ever approached me to so much as discuss this piece of legislation. In June of last year, and I'm talking about June 1993, and all through last year, in letters that you were sending out or letters that you were responding to, you were telling people like the Ontario Association of Architects that you would proceed with this legislation at the earliest opportunity. Two years have now passed. Nothing has happened. There have been no consultations with the opposition. Can you explain to the Ontario Association of Architects why you've led them to believe that the bill was a government priority when obviously it isn't?
Hon Mrs Boyd: The member must be getting forgetful, because on one occasion in the boardroom in my ministry and on another occasion in room 263 in this building, he and I discussed the need to make amendments to the Limitations Act, and I was seeking his agreement that he would support those amendments. Similarly, I spoke to Mr Chiarelli, who is the critic in the Liberal Party, around the similar kind of problem that we were facing. We have not been able to obtain any kind of assurance from them that they would be prepared to entertain timely amendments. I am as constrained by the time constraints within the legislative schedule as any other minister is --
Ms Evelyn Gigantes (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Since the fall election and in the spring, with the new Liberal government, we have seen the federal Liberals talk about adding money to the available funds to speed up construction of Highway 416, the route between 401 and Ottawa-Carleton. The last round of discussions that took place in the press seemed to indicate that there was confusion about what was being negotiated. Can you tell us, Minister, when you'll be able to meet with the federal minister on this matter?
Hon Mike Farnan (Minister of Transportation): I thank the member for Ottawa-Centre for keeping me informed and up to date on the issues in the Ottawa area and eastern Ontario. I also want to tell the House and the people of Ontario very, very specifically that I have written to Mr Eggleton again last week requesting a meeting with him to confirm the federal commitment to fund accelerated construction. As the member well knows, I am prepared to meet with Mr Eggleton without any conditions attached to the meeting. I'm ready to say here and now: "Your place or my place. I'll be there."
Ms Gigantes: I wonder if the minister could make clear what is the approach that his ministry will be taking on behalf of our government if in fact we find that the federal funding is not forthcoming. Are we going to be able to proceed with Highway 416?
Fact: Prime Minister Chrétien says he is committed to dollars for fast-tracking this project. Fact: The federal government has reneged on its commitment. Fact: The Liberals federally have shown no indication of seriously reversing this stalling tactic.
Fact: Ninety-eight Liberals in Ottawa have proven themselves to be totally ineffective in representing Ontario and the people of eastern Ontario. Fact: The provincial Liberals here in this House are doing absolutely nothing to put pressure on their federal cousins to resolve this problem.
Hon Mr Farnan: Even if the federal Liberals break their election promises, we are going to build that project. Construction is already proceeding but, let me say, without the federal Liberal dollars --
Mr Steven W. Mahoney (Mississauga West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Perhaps you could refer me to the specific section in the rules that would deal with imputing motives of other members. It seems to me that the honourable member for Nepean as well as all other members of the caucus of the Liberal Party have been fighting for Highway 416 for months to get this government off its duff. For this minister to try to blame the Liberal caucus for his government's inactivity is an absolute disgrace and contrary to parliamentary procedures in this place.
When you are prepared to make public the important elements of that contract -- and let's be clear; the public should be clear on this. This is the largest single contract ever awarded in the province. The government, when it asked people to bid on it, put a clause in saying that it would not allow anybody who bid on this project to reveal any of the details of the contract. We have a gag order imposed by this government. There is no question of that.
Last week in the House the minister undertook to come forward with the details of that contract. It is a $1-billion contract that the public has a right to know the details of. Will the minister today tell the House when he is going to table the important elements of that document so the public can understand and look at the details of a $1-billion contract?
Hon Mike Farnan (Minister of Transportation): This is a very simple answer and I hope the member listens very, very carefully. Prior to the development of the request for proposals, both of the consortia that were bidding on the project told us explicitly that they would not bid on the 407 contract if we would not protect the proprietary information.
Why are the Liberals so upset? They're upset because we're building Highway 407 22 years faster than it was originally planned under the Liberals. They are upset because the private consortia are building the highway $300 million cheaper than if the ministry had built it itself and if the Liberals were still in office. We have a time and a price guarantee on the completion of the project. That's why the Liberals are upset and that is the fact that they will not listen to.
"Whereas the city and regional concerns of Ottawa representing the wishes of citizens in the Ottawa region have passed motions rejecting any new bridge within the city of Ottawa because such a bridge and its access roads would provide no benefits to Ottawa but would instead destroy existing neighbourhoods;
"Whereas Christopher Higginbottom is a known homosexual paedophile who has been released into the Burlington community even though he was diagnosed by medical experts as remaining highly at risk of reoffending; and
"Whereas Higginbottom was acquitted of another sexual assault involving a child on the basis of inappropriate and unjustified conclusions drawn by the trial judge in relation to the evidence of the victim, all of which are unjustifiable in law; and
"Whereas in rendering the decision to acquit Higginbottom, the facts of his breach of probation and the long history of his past sex attacks on children were not adequately taken into account by the judge;
"That the Attorney General of Ontario undertake to investigate this case with a view to ensuring that justice is done; that she undertake to amend the provincial Mental Health Act to protect citizens against dangerous, high-risk offenders, and support federal high-risk offender legislation; and that the government of Ontario undertake to entrench within law a bill of rights for victims of crime."
"Whereas we believe that the Solicitor General should have followed the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters' advice and grandfathered those of us who have already taken safety courses and hunted for years; and
"Whereas the current dialysis system is discriminatory because some patients have dialysis machines and are treated in-home while others have to travel long distances to receive care and one local patient is forced to pay for her own nurse;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to help us to protect our children by changing the current maximum penalty of 10 years for sexual interference to a minimum of five years with mandatory counselling and up to and including life imprisonment as a maximum penalty."
"Whereas MPP Bud Wildman has misrepresented the majority of his constituents in the Algoma riding, denied them access to public information and, as minister of native affairs, has been totally biased concerning the Mississauga number 8 land claim and other ongoing claims in Ontario,
Hon Bud Wildman (Minister of Environment and Energy and Minister Responsible for Native Affairs): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I fully understand that it is within the traditions of parliamentary democracy that citizens can petition the crown and that it is certainly within the rules of this Legislature that petitions can be submitted by any member on behalf of citizens of the province who have a grievance or a concern that needs to be raised.
I would ask you, though, Mr Speaker, to look very carefully at the wording of this petition and what is being requested to determine if it is within the bounds of tradition and the rules of this House. I am concerned that the "whereas" and the request may in fact be beyond the acceptable approach for a petition.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): On the same point of order, Mr Speaker: If you're going to consider the point raised by the minister, I think you should also consider the appropriateness of his intervention. This petition dealt specifically with the minister, and I would ask you also to consider the appropriateness of his intervention.
To the member for Algoma, I am very pleased to consider the point which he raises. The member will know that it is only when the petitions arrive at the table that we are able to determine whether or not a petition is in order. I am certainly concerned about the point which he raises and I will look into the matter further.
"Be it therefore resolved that the government of Ontario be requested to amend Bill 173 to comply with the recommendations of service organizations who at present deliver home care to people in communities across Ontario."
"Whereas the 'Giant Steps' model has been presented to the triministry committee, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Premier's office;
Mr Speaker, this petition is signed by over 100 members of this province in the ridings of Quinte, Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings, Burlington, Brampton and many areas of Metropolitan Toronto, and I forward it to you with my support and signature.
"Whereas the after-hours club Tae's International, located at 2915A Dufferin Street, has been the site of over 20 reported offences, including alcohol, weapons, drugs and homicide, in the last four years; and
"Whereas the leader of the official opposition, Lyn McLeod, has called upon Premier Rae and all members of the Legislature to ensure speedy passage of legislation providing the necessary laws to close down after-hours clubs that threaten the safety of residents;
"(2) That Premier Bob Rae and all members of the Legislature move to pass legislation which would provide municipalities, police and the LLBO with the necessary authority to ensure that after-hours clubs are not a threat to the safety of residents."
"Be it therefore resolved that the government of Ontario be requested to amend Bill 173 to comply with the recommendations of the service organizations who at present deliver home care to the people across this province."
Bill 201, An Act to amend the Regional Municipality of Durham Act, the Municipal Act and the Regional Municipalities Act / Projet de loi 201, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la municipalité régionale de Durham, la Loi sur les municipalités et la Loi sur les municipalités régionales.
This bill would require that the regional chairman of the municipality of Durham be chosen from the elected council and that the council would have to then find a replacement for him by either going to the person who placed second or to a by-election. I think this is an important amendment to the Regional Municipality of Durham Act, as it's high time the person who is in the position of the regional chair be accountable in some capacity to the electorate, especially given the extent of the powers and the influence that person will have in the region.
Hon Brian A. Charlton (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet and Government House Leader): Just before I call the orders of the day, perhaps we can straighten out a few items that the House leaders I think have agreed on.
The first order I'll be calling today is the fifth order, which is third reading of Bill 163. I think we have agreement that our side will reserve 15 minutes, 10 at the beginning and five at the end, and that the two opposition parties will split the remainder of the time in that debate.
Hon Mr Charlton: Secondly, when we finish the debate and the vote on the fifth order, I would like to -- and I think I have agreement from the opposition -- call orders 82 through 93 concurrently. These are the concurrences. We've had the practice on some occasions in the past where we've agreed to deal with all of these orders concurrently so that members opposite can speak to any of the concurrences they wish to speak to during the time we pursue that debate, rather than dealing with one and then voting and dealing with another and then voting. I think we have agreement to deal with all of those orders 82 through 93 concurrently, with all votes at the end.
Bill 163, An Act to revise the Ontario Planning and Development Act and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, to amend the Planning Act and the Municipal Act and to amend other statutes related to planning and municipal matters / Projet de loi 163, Loi révisant la Loi sur la planification et l'aménagement du territoire de l'Ontario, la Loi sur les conflits d'intérêts municipaux, et modifiant la Loi sur l'aménagement du territoire et la Loi sur les municipalités et modifiant d'autres lois touchant des questions relatives à l'aménagement et aux municipalités.
Before we start the debate, I'd like to bring forward an agreement that one hour be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill. At the end of that time, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment.
Mr Hayes: I rise to present for third reading Bill 163, our planning reform package. Bill 163 was good legislation when the minister introduced it on May 18 this year, but the amended legislation before you today is even better and it is urgently needed.
The legislation has four key points: giving municipalities more control over local land use matters, improving the openness of local government, strengthening environmental protection and cutting red tape in the planning process.
The public, the development industry and Ontario municipalities have all told the province that the planning process, municipally and provincially, must be made faster and more efficient, and that is what this bill is doing. The current system is cumbersome and complicated, and development decisions take far too long. These delays amount to millions of dollars of lost economic activity and potential employment.
One of the problems, I know through my own experience in municipal politics -- and I'm sure other members in this Legislature can certainly recall, when they were there, some of the problems they themselves had in getting amendments to official plans or trying to get a piece of property rezoned for development and the frustrations they went through for so long and all of the different ministries they had to deal with. This piece of legislation is certainly going to address that particular concern and it's going to eliminate a lot of duplications. Also, if there are some ministries that are not affected, it won't be necessary for them to be involved. It will be streamlined because it will be going through Municipal Affairs and Municipal Affairs, will be certainly speeding the process up.
In order to cut the red tape and get decisions made faster, the legislation stipulates that municipal and provincial decision-makers make decisions within specified time frames. In the subdivision process, for example, there currently is no limit to the amount of time an applicant can be caught up in the planning system. Under the proposed system, municipalities or other approval authorities will have, on a subdivision application, for example, six months at most to make their decision. After that, the matter may be appealed directly to the Ontario Municipal Board for a hearing.
In terms of local control, we feel very strongly that local communities should control that local development process. This is particularly important in the rural communities such as those in my riding or in areas like the north.
What we have done in Bill 163 is to assign specific roles and responsibilities to the province and the municipalities. The provincial government will set broad policy direction, but within these policies municipalities will be given greater leeway to make decisions on local development applications. Over and above that, the ministries certainly have to be consistent also. The various ministries have their responsibility for good, sound planning.
However, with this greater responsibility and flexibility, it is essential that local accountability be strengthened. Our open local government reforms will ensure that new municipal planning powers are exercised in an open and an accountable manner through legislative changes regarding open meetings, conflict of interest and disposal of property. Our goal is to increase the confidence of local residents in the integrity of their local government.
In addition to inefficiencies and lack of trust in Ontario's current planning system, there is also fear that it simply does not have the teeth to protect the environment. Activities such as land clearing, drainage, dredging and filling continue to place pressure on wetlands and other natural features.
I am pleased to say that environmentally sound development will be promoted through the planning reforms that we are proposing. In addition to some specific amendments, provincial environmental priorities will be met through the comprehensive policy statements released as part of the package. The statements have been approved by the provincial cabinet and will come into effect when the legislative amendments are proclaimed.
The policy statements set out where development should and should not be permitted in such areas as woodlands, valley corridors, habitat areas and wetlands. They also cover economic development, housing, conservation and aggregate policies. I don't think there are many areas of concern where there are such fiercely competing interests as there are in land use planning. However, I believe our government has achieved a broad consensus on how to move.
The legislation has the support of municipalities, environmental groups and many interests in the building and development industry. I won't review all of the statements in favour of the bill, but let me draw the attention of the House to one statement released by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario on September 27, following the release of our amendments. Mr Bill Mickle, president of AMO, had this to say: "The planning amendments to Bill 163 introduced by the government today demonstrate that the province is listening to the concerns of AMO and the municipalities."
Just last Saturday, I spoke to the annual meeting of the Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations. They have welcomed Bill 163 and are very pleased that all four of their recommendations are now reflected in the amendments we have made. As a matter of fact, they made four amendments and were very pleased when at one point they heard that we had accepted and passed three out of the four, and they were further pleased that we had done all four. We carried all four of their amendments.
On behalf of the minister and myself, I would like to thank members of this House, from all three parties, who participated in the justice committee hearings on Bill 163. Although we could not agree on everything, there was a consensus among the members on the direction of the legislation. The final amendments to the bill reflect the concerns of all members of the House. Bill 163 will move planning in Ontario forward to the 21st century.
I was very pleased with the amount of input we had, clear across this province, and the number of presentations that were made by individuals. If you want to talk about an open forum dealing with a piece of government legislation, I'm not sure if I know of any other piece of legislation that had input from the public and the opposition as we have had on this particular bill.
I urge the House to pass this much-needed piece of legislation that will certainly streamline the planning process in Ontario and bring more open, public input into the planning process in the province.
Mr Ron Eddy (Brant-Haldimand): I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this bill, but unfortunately, it's very limited time, 22 1/2 minutes. Many of our members wish to speak to this important bill, but we're limited to three and that's most unfortunate.
Over three years and $3 million after the appointment of the Sewell commission to review Ontario's Planning Act, hold hearings across the province and recommend changes that would simplify and expedite the planning process in Ontario, what did we get? Well, we have Bill 163, which is an omnibus bill with a very long title and which contains a number of very important separate matters, so many so that deputations appearing before the committee didn't have the time to speak to all of the important issues; they could only speak to one or two that they selected out of the long list.
We also have a bill that the Sewell commission doesn't want any part of and was in great disagreement that it would do what the government has said. The government's claim, of course, was to expedite the planning process and to simplify it, and it certainly doesn't do that.
We have another time-allocated bill. Closure has been called on the bill. I think it's mainly to prevent opposition members from speaking to the government's bill and to over 200 amendments, many of which were presented by the government. Many of the opposition amendments are very important and would have expedited the planning process, but of course we didn't have the opportunity to deal with them.
The government said it saw the light by bringing in the changes it did, but it certainly didn't see a bright enough light to make the planning process less costly and less cumbersome. This bill is too important, too complex and too contentious for the government to have called closure on it. I certainly regret that and we're very upset about that.
This bill imposes a planning process on municipal councils and taxpayers which will be more time-consuming and more costly because it requires that official plans of municipalities be consistent with provincial policies, a never-ending list of provincial policies. There are several at the present time. Of course, the big problem with the provincial policies is simply that they weren't before the committee for review or debate and they weren't reviewed by the people and municipalities that will have to deal with them.
We asked for this time after time: "Let us include the policies as part of the bill to be reviewed and debated," because that's really the crux of the whole bill, the policies that municipal governments will have to follow. So I certainly disagree with the government's contention on this issue that municipalities are going to be given far more responsibility in the planning process. Many municipalities will tell you it's completely the opposite, and especially in rural Ontario.
We have a bill here that's going to impose a two-tier system on many municipalities in this province that have had one-tier planning processes for years and years, for decades, and been very successful. The two-tier system will create conflict, it'll be more costly and it'll be time-delaying.
We had an excellent example given to us by the mayor of Scarborough, who advised of a situation in which a planning application had been processed and approved by the city of Scarborough council and in which the Metropolitan Toronto planning department had participated all along, but at the final approval of the bill the commissioner of planning for Metropolitan Toronto demanded some changes. The mayor said it was only through representations to Metro council that they were able to get Metropolitan Toronto's approval. I think we'll see more of that, and that is most unfortunate.
It's true that the single-tier municipalities in Ontario will continue with single-tier planning, and that's wonderful because it's a better system. I would never impose a two-tier system of planning on any two-tier system of government. If they wish it, fine, but I would not impose it. Municipalities have other ways, of course, of including their requirements in an official plan. That's very easily done and that should be followed rather than imposing a two-tier system.
The bill will force those upper-tier municipalities that have policy official plans to change and to develop much more costly land use official plans. This is the case in the region of Waterloo and many of the counties that have proceeded with policy official plans. They're less contentious, their requirements are incorporated into the local plans and it's a far better system, in my opinion. So let's give the municipalities some rights.
The bill also expropriates the property rights of many property owners, so much so that a new organization called the Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance has been formed, which had 70,000 members as of November 1 of this year, simply to oppose some of the impositions and requirements of this bill. They're very upset and I think they're going to be a force to be reckoned with.
The other important aspect of the bill concerns farmers. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has advised us that it disagrees very much with the amendment of the government wherein municipalities over 10,000 can now enact bylaws regulating the cutting of trees. We already have a Trees Act and any upper-tier municipality can pass a bylaw controlling the destruction and cutting of trees, but under that system there is a hearing process, an application and a hearing process, and people feel they have the opportunity to state their case, as well as objectors. I think it was a far better way to go.
The opposition tried to change the population figure from 10,000 to 20,000 to let more municipalities out of it, but the government stood firm with 10,000, and that's unfortunate. I don't think the government really realizes that there are farms and farmers in municipalities in Ontario with greater than 10,000 population, but as we know, there are farmers even in the city of London, now that 65,000 additional acres, much of which is prime farm land, has been added to the city of London, but of course maybe it won't be farmed for that long.
We're very concerned about the bill. It should have had much more time for debate. It should have had more time for those who wanted to contribute to do so, to improve the bill. Municipalities I think are going to be saddled with tremendous additional costs and delays, in my opinion, and it's unfortunate that this has happened and that the government has said closure.
Another bill we've got closure on: Why? We had months we could have been here debating. I think we should still have the opportunity to, and especially we should have the opportunity, the citizens and taxpayers and the municipal councils should have the opportunity, to review the policies that are being imposed on the municipal councils in the province of Ontario.
Mr Allan K. McLean (Simcoe East): I welcome the opportunity to comment briefly on another seriously flawed piece of legislation brought forward by this government, and another closure motion, somebody at the start of this process said by unanimous consent. I don't think they had unanimous consent from us to proceed with this bill today. It's a directive from the government.
We're here today because the Minister of Municipal Affairs has been directed by the Premier to push through, at any cost, Bill 163, the Planning and Municipal Statute Law Amendment Act, which is based on the final recommendations of the Sewell Commission on Planning and Development Reform in Ontario.
I really can't disagree with the view that some of Ontario's somewhat outdated legislation is in need of an overhaul. I think we all agree with that. We all agree that the province must restore confidence in the integrity of the planning process. We want to make the system more efficient. We want to protect the environment. We want to reduce the red tape and clearly define municipal and provincial powers.
How does the minister try to accomplish these goals? He brings us a massive, complex bill that really should have been split into three separate pieces of legislation. It is a bill which was in serious need of amending from day one. I spoke and voted against this legislation on second reading because the impact of 163 is difficult to measure due to the sheer complexity of the reforms.
The minister simply cannot deny that most of those appearing before the standing committee on administration of justice reflected the views presented by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. That organization initially welcomed reforms to Ontario's planning, local government disclosure of interest and municipal acts. However, AMO representatives told us Bill 163 contains some fundamental flaws and will not lead to any significant improvements. AMO also indicated that while the legislative amendments contained in Bill 163 are a step in the right direction, they fall significantly short of fulfilling the principles of reform.
Even the minister must agree Bill 163 is seriously flawed, so flawed in fact that he brought forward over half of the more than 200 amendments introduced in the justice committee hearings. I regret the minister's urgent need to rush Bill 163 through this Legislature. It clearly shows he has little regard for the views and concerns of Ontario's municipalities. We spent five weeks travelling this province listening to the views of municipalities and of people. After those amendments were brought in, there was not a view that they got from the people we had talked about, unless they got it over the phone.
You know, I don't understand: Why can't the minister and his government recognize the fact that more than 200 amendments proves this legislation is beyond comprehension? Bill 163 includes provincial policies that still continue to contain too much detail and go far beyond areas of provincial interest.
My party has been highly critical of the legislation because the requirement that all municipalities create an official plan in accordance with the province's new principles is a form of top-down development which ignores local concerns.
As well, the planning reform would add further downloading burdens. Not only will new official plans have to be created in some areas where there are no plans, but municipalities will be required to do more technical studies and get more information from bureaucrats. Today that process is painfully slow, and in future it will be even slower.
The average cost to do an official plan in Ontario is approximately $80,000. Over 600 municipalities are going to need a new official plan within the next five years. Can you estimate what that cost will be? Probably close to some $9 billion in this province. The Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance has called Bill 163 the "billion-dollar boondoggle."
OPERA says this government has manipulated the rules of practice of this province to block the public from coming to an understanding of the far-reaching and crushing effects Bill 163 will have on lifestyles outside the major cities in this province.
The government has avoided all discussion of the cost of Bill 163 and what that will inflict on the residents and taxpayers of rural Ontario. The entire cost of Bill 163 is expected to amount to more than $9 billion, as I said, over the next five years. That cost will rest solidly on the shoulders of the residents and taxpayers of this province.
It's another unwarranted and unacceptable money grab. The public wants all levels of government to reduce spending and cut waste, and then the government turns around and inflicts billions of dollars of cost directly on to the backs of the people of Ontario, the residents of this province.
Communities in rural Ontario are also concerned about the legislation's land severance provisions and the principle that first-class farm land should be preserved. Much emphasis has been put on environmental considerations. The NDP government's original aim of encouraging economic growth and jobs has been shunted to one side.
Some elements of Bill 163, such as streamlining the planning and development process, are laudable goals. The Common Sense Revolution has made the elimination of red tape a major factor and it will be a priority when we come to government.
The minister has denied that his requirement that members of municipal councils, school boards, public utility commissions and police villages file, within 60 days of being elected or appointed, a detailed financial information statement containing a disclosure of assets, liabilities, sources of income and financial interests of the individual, the individual's spouse and minor children, as well as companies controlled by any of them, is onerous.
So much for the integrity bill. We thought it would have been introduced and we would have done away with part of this legislation, the conflict disclosure act, whereby their disclosure would have been the same as members of this Legislature. We see that's not going to happen. I would have thought they would have withdrawn this part of the legislation that has to do with disclosure and brought in the integrity bill, which would have taken its place. More people in this province would have been satisfied with that.
We were talking about the Manitoba model at one time and we had presentations to us with regard to that model which indicated that your conflict would be put in an envelope and it would be put on file and it would only be seen when somebody complained. That was not acceptable either, but I thought this government would have seen fit to withdraw this part of the legislation with the conflict and bring in the integrity bill. That's what we wanted.
The minister claims he's not bringing the whip down harder on elected municipal officials than on members elected to the provincial Legislature, but I beg to differ, because the minister fails to recognize that most of the elected municipal officials work only part-time. If this is a double standard, then I'd like the minister to try to justify this policy and explain the thinking behind the process that has led to its creation.
Although the PC party supports the idea of more open government, there are still several questions about the proposed disclosure-of-interest commissioner. We do not know how much power this commissioner will have and there are no details about the size of the staff. We have no details about how many offices will be opened across this province. We have no details of anything within this legislation of what this Conflict of Interest Commissioner's office is going to have.
The emphasis on environmental principles is another concern. There's no cost-benefit analysis that has been done on the potential extra costs the reforms would have on private sector development. The move to intensification is a made-in-Toronto approach to development which limits housing choices for consumers, and communities outside the GTA have different priorities. There's nothing here that they talk about in this bill with regard to major issues in northern Ontario. Northern Ontario is so much different from the rest of this province. When you get into the Atikokan, the Fort Frances, Kenora, Rainy River areas which relate to Winnipeg and the time zone that changes, we know there is a difference, and the people in the north were telling my colleague Bill Murdoch and me this past summer when we toured the north of the concerns they have which are not addressed within this bill.
I want to go back to the intensification, and it is also expensive and hard to implement through the planning process for private developers. There is no strategy for job creation linked to the land development reforms. There is no rationalization that has taken place to sort out the dual approval system created by the Planning Act and the Environmental Assessment Act.
When the Minister of Municipal Affairs first introduced Bill 163, and throughout second reading debate, he was fond of saying organizations like AMO -- Association of Municipalities of Ontario -- were on side and completely supportive of Bill 163.
The parliamentary assistant said that Bill Mickle is really supportive of Bill 163. Well, I think that Bill Mickle, once he has a look at all these amendments that have been brought in, almost 100 amendments that had no debate, that were deemed to have been passed because of this time allocation motion, will have another view of this bill once it's been finalized.
I wonder what the minister has to say now that the AMO representatives have appeared before the standing committee on administration of justice to express their concerns about Bill 163. The minister should give serious consideration to what AMO has to say about his policies, programs and legislation because that non-profit organization has a membership of about 700 of Ontario's 817 municipal governments, representing over 95% of the province's population.
Today I got a resolution from the township of Springwater with regard to a part of the bill that has to do with the piped water in rural municipalities, and they have some serious concerns that they wanted to bring to my attention and here we are today on closure with this bill. That municipality will have no say. I have no say other than to put on the record what my constituents have been telling me about this bill.
"AMO initially welcomed the introduction of the government's planning reform package, because the association and its members believed that improvements to Ontario's planning system are badly needed and it is in everyone's interests that the process move forward. However, the association believes that Bill 163 contains some fundamental flaws and will not lead to the improvements to Ontario's planning system that municipalities and many other interests have been seeking.
"AMO's assessment is that while the legislative amendments contained in Bill 163 are a step in the right direction, they fall significantly short of fulfilling the principles for reform -- that is, greater municipal empowerment and a streamlined planning process with the integration of social, economic and environmental policies."
That last statement is exactly what AMO thought that they were going to get with this Bill 163: "greater municipal empowerment and a streamlined planning process with the integration of social, economic and environmental policies." That was what AMO thought they were getting.
While I'm on the subject of committee meetings, the NDP majority on the standing committee on administration of justice, most likely at the minister's direction, simply choked off debate by invoking closure of the clause-by-clause review of the planning reform bill, 163.
Bill 163 is seriously flawed and we couldn't even discuss half of the amendments in committee before the government invoked closure. Bill 163, the so-called Sewell bill, is under heavy fire from this Legislature and across the province for its centralizing thrust which could rob local municipalities of input on planning issues. It also imposes overly strict disclosure-of-interest regulations on candidates seeking office with municipal councils, school boards and public utilities.
We had alternatives for that. We had the Manitoba model, which many wardens and municipal people said they wanted to be part of. We have our conflict commissioner of the province of Ontario, who wanted to have an integrity bill introduced, and we wanted that bill to be part of this, whereby all municipal people would have to fill out the same forms that we do as members of this Legislature. That is not part of this bill.
I regret the urgency with which the minister and his government are rushing Bill 163 through this Legislature. It clearly shows that this government, on its closure motions -- some 18 to 19 of them so far in this mandate; totally unheard of in the province of Ontario ever in its history -- gives us little chance to bring the views of our constituents.
Since all those amendments were brought in and put in place, we had five weeks of hearings before. What have we had since all of those amendments have been brought in? The parliamentary assistant says they agreed that three out of four of the environmental groups -- well, that's one group that may be partially happy until it sees the final results of this bill.
I see that the bill says that all the provisions are going to be renumbered. There are provisions in this bill for the Ontario Planning and Development Act, part I; part II is the Local Government Disclosure of Interest Act; part III is the Planning Act, and we go on and on in 113 pages to this bill, and they call these amendments. It's an amendment bill, and I can tell you that there'll be many businesses in the province of Ontario, many people who want to proceed with enlarging the towns and cities and the environment which we live in.
During the public hearings, when we were talking about the planning and development that's going to take place, I asked on more than one occasion: "What have we planned for roads around these major centres in Oshawa and Durham with regard to all the subdivisions that they're going to proceed with? What planning has been done with regard to the expansion of roads for the traffic?" Not a lot. There's not been much.
So, I regret this closure motion brought forward. It's another aspect of this government, bringing about 18 or 19 closure motions in, and our party will have another five minutes for debate on a major issue.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I too appreciate the opportunity to speak on the third reading of this omnibus Bill 163. As you can see, we have about 13 minutes to share with two of my colleagues and so many things to be said, as my colleague the member for Brant-Haldimand had stated too. Such a knowledgeable individual can contribute so much to making this bill more effective.
I'm just going to get straight to the point because there are some points I want to make about this bill. There were over 240 amendments to this incomplete bill, the bill that was badly -- I wouldn't say badly drafted but that completely missed the point of even what Mr Sewell had put forward.
One of the things they were extremely concerned about is that even the MNR had taken upon itself, I presume at the direction of this government, to invade property owners and designate areas as wetlands, really expropriating private properties without any consultation, although the parliamentary assistant may indicate that there were consultations, but just walking in and designating these areas as wetlands.
These properties, as you know, represent life investments. So much for democracy for this New Democratic Party who, in a democratic way, should have gone about making sure that people's properties are protected. But, no, in this expropriative manner, they have just completely violated any manner of decency in acquiring these lands.
AMO is really not amused about having the opportunity to represent and to make its presentation and to make its recommendations before the parliamentary assistant and before the committee. They had over 100 amendments, which of course were never debated, being denied by this closure act, this kind of draconian act by this government, which is trying to ram this legislation through as fast as possible, which is just atrocious.
As you know, there were concerns. First, when we speak of AMO, for many of our people out in the province, it represents over 600 municipalities out of, I think, 817 municipalities in this province. And to do that, to ignore AMO, a substantive representative of the municipalities, to ignore its recommendations is to tell you how democratic this government can get.
The Canadian Bar Association had indicated of course that there were many inconsistencies in the legislation, especially in the environmental areas. I would say to the parliamentary assistant, when he speaks to his minister, if he should ever listen, that these are concerns that should be taken seriously. Bill 163, they indicate, is a top-down kind of policy that is not very helpful. The thing that you wanted to achieve under 163 is working in reverse in that respect. To talk about cooperation from the municipalities and to bring them into the fold is not happening.
Committee of adjustment: They are extremely concerned about how that process works. I don't even want to mention minor variances. You should see the confusion on the part of the government when we start to deal with minor variances. Up to now, they have not come up with a definition of what "minor variance" is all about.
If you see such a large bill like this being rammed through at a time like this, with closure, without any debate -- because one of the most important things about having something debated and having amendments to any act is for the understanding, for the population to know about this. But what this government wants to make sure it does is that the people do not understand the legislation, so people more or less behave in this darkness of not understanding what this 163 is about.
The thing that is so ironic is that the parliamentary assistant was trying his best to present a very awkward bill, an awful, ill-devised bill, all through it keeping a straight face, although being such a decent and honest man. In the end, I think his credibility will be hampered by the fact that this legislation is awkward, it is top-down-driven in the sense of no cooperation, ignoring AMO, ignoring some of the suggestions made by the Canadian Bar Association. With that, I tell you, you will have more headaches down the road trying to legislate something that is terribly, terribly driven and terribly drafted in any way for any understanding of this.
I'm going to leave some time for my colleague, who will speak in a moment. I would say to you: Get some sense in this, and yes, you have an opportunity to pull back this legislation just now. I've got to tell you how democratic you would be as a government. But I don't have any hope in that government anyhow.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): It's five minutes, I think, I'm left with to debate what is probably one of the more important planning process bills that have been brought down by this government.
Firstly, let me say that the idea of this bill in its original intent was to in fact simplify, modify and ultimately speed up the planning process within the province of Ontario. I'm not really sure and I've not heard it addressed how this government feels this particular bill is going to in fact speed up or modify a process that is antiquated and cumbersome at the very least and make it any more efficient or in fact quicker so that people may process themselves through, not piling huge costs on top of development applications. This just doesn't do it any more. I'm not sure it ever did, but they as a government certainly lost sight of the original mandate of this piece of legislation, the original intent, which was to modify the planning process outside the boundaries of Metropolitan Toronto and create a system that will allow quicker and more timely decisions made on government's behalf so costs are not added on to developments and so on.
Minor variance is going to be a tough thing to define. I heard previous speakers speak about it. Minor variance can mean a whole bunch of different things to a whole bunch of different people. I know in municipalities around this province, what one municipality considers a minor variance another doesn't and vice versa. They still have not defined minor variance. I know if you come from the municipal field, that is a very key component of this kind of legislation. It's very difficult for councils to deal with or work on a determination of what this government deems to be a minor variance and what communities at large feel are minor variances, and I don't necessarily believe that is the proper approach to take.
They are also creating a type of regional council right across this province, and I think that's probably a step backwards. If there's something I would offer this government as an effect of direct elections at the Metropolitan Toronto level, it is that regional governments aren't working. They are removed from the people, and local councils and regional governments appear to be in conflict, at least in Metro, on an ongoing basis, so much so that the city of Toronto put on a referendum that asked them to abolish the regional government. This kind of thing sets those things in place, and I think they haven't really solved the dilemma in Metro but they're moving on using that as some kind of template on how municipal government should work.
That is really, really the wrong way to go, in my opinion. Frankly, I think if anything was being said at the last municipal elections, it is, governments need to be smaller, they need to be more understandable and they need to be far more timely when dealing with people's applications and constituents they're serving. This kind of legislation I don't think does that. It doesn't downsize government at the municipal level. It makes it more complex, and it doesn't really modify the process so that planning can become a process that can be reacted to quickly so that opportunities are not lost to municipalities around this province.
The mention was made of Durham. Durham's a good example; one of the few municipalities around here that is actually doing a bunch of business. Now Durham is doing some business, but they're going to find with this piece of legislation there could be a bogging-down process taking place.
Environmentally, it's going to cost tons of time and money when it comes to development on an environmental side of things. Maybe that's not all bad, but I guess the thing that needs to be addressed is, we must address environmental issues. There's no doubt about it; everyone agrees with it, but it has to be more timely. You can't spend the length of time that we've spent on environmental issues when it comes to development, because they make the developments obsolete or they drive the costs up so high those they were earmarked for in the development stage are long since lost because the costs have incurred because of the time it takes in the environmental process.
Finally, there seems to be an intent on this government's part. They talk about intensification. They talk about the planning process. What it comes down to is, no matter what takes place in this province with respect to planning, no matter what happens in this province, you must have the private sector on side. Why? Because the private sector will never develop anything if it isn't marketable.
What's happening is that we have a plan written by bureaucrats supported by socialists who don't take into interest the private sector needs out there, and the private sector needs are clear. You can talk about cooperative housing, you can talk about intensification, but if there's not a private sector input into that and it's not a marketable product at the end of the day, it won't get built. You can write 15 official plans, you can write 25 official plans, but if the official plan is out of touch with what the market-driven sector is looking for, you just end up with a piece of paper and no development. If you're looking for good, solid, well-planned, reasoned development, you must buy in those people who are putting up millions and millions of their dollars and ensure that you make the system fair and reasonable and not too lengthy so they can have fair return on the investment they make when they're making these developments happen in the jurisdictions around this province.
I'm not the person who should be talking. Maybe some of the rural members -- this is a city of Toronto initiative foisted upon rural Ontario. I will say that this government is going to have some very serious problems in rural Ontario --
Mr Stockwell: You are not. You're a socialist when it's convenient, Marilyn, as long as you're cashing cheques. You're not a socialist any more. It's true. Five minutes on a piece of legislation to change the whole planning process. A bloody --
The Acting Speaker: Order. Order. I want to remind the honourable member for Etobicoke West that outbursts such as we've just had are not conducive to conducting business. Please. We will now resume the debate.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to take a few moments today to express widespread concerns in my county, which is a large and rural county in eastern Ontario. I want to say that I, unlike other members, did not sit through the hearings process on Bill 163. I think, like all members, I recognized that it has been over a decade since we had any kind of significant renovation of the Planning Act, and I think the government is to be commended for trying to deal with a number of the pressures that have been building up over the past 10 or 15 years.
Having said that, and I recognize as well that the bill is not all bad, I think there are very significant difficulties in this legislation. And while I don't profess to know the matters at hand as well as the member for Etobicoke West, who, like others who served on local governments, and I have not --
Mr Conway: Well, the member for Etobicoke West, like my colleagues -- certainly the member for Brant-Haldimand -- brings a long and considerable experience around these issues, and I don't profess to have that. But I want to tell you that I represent a county of 36 municipalities, a large rural community in eastern Ontario. On behalf of most of my constituents, I want to raise very real objections to key elements of this policy.
The member for Etobicoke West is right when he says this is on a fast track and this Legislature is entertaining today sweeping changes that are going to affect a whole host of very important issues that touch people and we are going to, with this legislation, reorder key relationships in the community.
I want to say, on the basis of what I'm hearing from farmers and municipally elected people in the county of Renfrew, this bill is in significant respects a Trojan Horse pregnant with much trouble and considerable deception. I am deeply concerned that a new administration in 18 months' time is going to be confronted with the fact that people at the municipal and local levels are going to begin to feel and understand how this bill in fact produced a bill of goods very different from that which was advertised.
There is absolutely no question that in my county of Renfrew, a big, rural county, this bill is going to give to my municipalities more control over a much narrower band of less important issues. That is clear. When this bill is enacted, as it apparently will be, and all of the planning processes in my country, as elsewhere in the province, are going to have to be fully consistent with seven provincial policy statements touching on enormously sensitive and controversial questions like a wetlands policy and an agricultural lands policy, to name but two, and an aggregates policy, have you any idea what that is --
Mr Conway: I am here, I say, conveying the local input of Renfrew, where my county administration, almost all of my reeves, have said, "Will you please stand in your place and slow this train down, and if there are not significant changes, as there have not been, will you please vote against this bill because, in key respects, this bill is going to visit a great deal of hardship on the working men and women of Renfrew county?"
How, you might say, will that happen? Let me be clear in one respect alone: This bill, when implemented, is going to almost certainly freeze a vast amount of the rural development in Renfrew. That will immediately have, in areas like west Renfrew, the effect of driving up the cost of housing to working men and women who live on farms and work in sawmills and who do not have the kind of income that members of the Legislature and assistant deputy ministers in the ministries of Housing and Municipal Affairs would take as theirs.
Mr Conway: These are the rural townships where young couples now can go and, under certain conditions -- maybe they need to be tightened. I'm not saying the status quo is perfect, but this policy is effectively going to freeze rural development and that is going to mean housing prices are going to go through the roof.
Mr Conway: My friends opposite say no. I can tell you that the county administration, the planning department in Renfrew and others in the area have read this bill, have listened to the hearings, and that's their conclusion.
Another area that gives great cause for concern has been touched on by other speakers like the member for Brant-Haldimand, the member for Scarborough North and my Conservative friend from Etobicoke. Remember what we advertised. We said when this began that we were going to give more power to the municipalities. That is transparently not true and it won't be very long before the community figures that out. The municipal leadership and municipal administrations in Renfrew and Brant and everywhere else, I believe, have now figured it out, but the voting public has not yet perhaps understood it. It won't be long. But to give to provincial bureaucrats the kind of administrative and regulatory control they will have as a result of these seven new planning principles --
Mr Conway: They are the police people, without a doubt. And to say to municipalities that they're not going to be able to plan anything locally unless what it is they propose is going to be fully consistent with what will be, I'm sure, the shifting sands of these seven policy statements, boy, I suspect it'll be a very moving target.
I know my friends opposite have heard what people like my colleague from Nepean and I have been hearing in eastern Ontario about the wetlands policy as it is now, before this bill is even enacted. We are moving against property rights of people who are not particularly happy to have in this day and age that kind of intrusive government, particularly when we've advertised something else.
Mr Hayes: I sure did enjoy all those great comments that I heard here today. I just want to touch on a few points that were raised here today, especially by the member for Brant-Haldimand, whom I have a lot of respect for because he does understand municipal government, and I know that he supported us pretty well all through the process.
I just want to say to the House, though, that he made a statement here today that Sewell disagrees. Well, that is not really factual, because I think Sewell was quite pleased with the bill. Of course, like any other bill, we can't all be totally satisfied and we can't have everything that we want. That's all part of life. But Sewell does support this piece of legislation.
We also talked about the property rights. If you listen to some people, they would have us believe that we should not put any kind of legislation in, that we should certainly allow people to do whatever they feel like doing no matter how much they desecrate the land.
The member for Simcoe East talked about how complex the bill is. Well, the bill can be very complex and there are the three sections: planning reform, of course; the open local government; and also the disclosure of interest. In order to have good, sound planning, you'll have to have all of those three -- the planning, the open local government, and disclosure of interest -- because they certainly all complement one another. When we do planning in this province, it has to be in the open.
Mr Hayes: You know, if you listen to the opposition, Mr Speaker, they would have us believe, which they tried to get us to believe, that there would be nobody running in the last municipal election; they were all going to quit their positions. I know in my area there was certainly no shortage of candidates to run for municipal elections.
Mr Hayes: They said no good people would run; we'd lose all the good people. I think there's a heck of a lot of really good people out there who got elected to municipal councils across this province.
The member for Scarborough North raised the issue about invading private properties, especially when it comes to developing wetlands. I know the member for Renfrew North also mentioned this. I'm very glad they did mention this, because when we were up in Ottawa, when an individual came there and was very upset about part of her property being designated as wetlands, Mr Speaker, do you know when it was designated as wetlands? In 1984. They're here today blaming this legislation for something that happened back in 1984. You should get your facts really straight.
Just to let the House know, we had a presentation that was made by the Ontario Association of Committees of Adjustment and Consent Authorities in the province. In their presentation, I think some of the members in the opposition asked them how they felt about defining a minor variance, and of course they told us to really stay away from that particular issue of trying to define a minor variance, because in many of the cases that happen across this province, decisions are made on their own merits.
As far as municipalities having to be consistent with provincial policies is concerned, certainly they should be consistent with provincial policies. What's the sense of having policies if you're not going to be consistent with them?
The member for Renfrew North made some statements that all of these municipal people are opposed to this bill and it's going to freeze planning. Well, as I mentioned earlier, Mr Bill Mickle, the president of AMO, said, "The planning amendments to Bill 163 introduced by the government today demonstrate that the province is listening to the concerns of AMO and the municipalities." That's exactly what we have done. We listened to the private sector, the developers, the homeowners. We listened to many associations and organizations.
Mr Stockwell: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Considering the member who just spoke ended on the comments he did, I would seek from this House unanimous consent so he can name one private sector association that in fact endorses this piece of legislation. I ask unanimous consent because I know he would not leave something on the record that is in fact inaccurate.
Mr Eddy: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The parliamentary assistant advised that I agreed all along the way with the bill. I implored every step of the way that the policies be subject to review. I begged. I pleaded.
Abel, Allen, Bisson, Boyd, Buchanan, Carter, Charlton, Christopherson, Churley, Cooper, Coppen, Dadamo, Duignan, Farnan, Fletcher, Frankford, Gigantes, Grier, Haeck, Hampton, Hansen, Harrington, Haslam, Hayes, Hope, Jamison, Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings), Klopp, Kormos, Lankin, Laughren, Lessard, Mackenzie, MacKinnon, Malkowski, Mammoliti, Marchese, Martel, Martin, Mathyssen, Mills, Morrow, Murdock (Sudbury), O'Connor, Owens, Perruzza, Philip (Etobicoke-Rexdale), Pilkey, Pouliot, Rae, Rizzo, Silipo, Sutherland, Swarbrick, Ward, Wark-Martyn, Waters, White, Wildman, Wilson (Frontenac-Addington), Wilson (Kingston and The Islands), Winninger, Wiseman, Ziemba.
Arnott, Beer, Bradley, Caplan, Carr, Conway, Cordiano, Cunningham, Curling, Eddy, Fawcett, Harnick, Harris, Jackson, Johnson (Don Mills), Jordan, Kwinter, Mahoney, McClelland, McGuinty, McLean, Miclash, Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound), Murphy, Offer, O'Neil (Quinte), O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau), Poirier, Ramsay, Runciman, Ruprecht, Sterling, Stockwell, Tilson, Turnbull, Wilson (Simcoe West).
Hon Mr Charlton: Mr Speaker, we are calling orders 82 to 93 inclusively so that they can be dealt with concurrently. Members may therefore speak to any one of the items that are listed from the 82nd order to the 93rd order.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to join in the debate on concurrences. I guess what members of the opposition particularly like about this debate is that it allows for a lot of latitude and it doesn't invite the intervention of the Speaker on many occasions.
Mr Bradley: I'm complimenting them only because they are here this afternoon. Of course, for question period we couldn't find most of the ministers we wanted to direct questions to, so I am certainly concerned that this be the case. I was delighted to see them in the House and hope that they will return for question period tomorrow and on subsequent days.
I had someone say to me yesterday, one of my constituents said to me yesterday: "You know, I used to wonder why you'd get up in the House and rail on against gambling and particularly against casino gambling. I thought you were simply trying to score some partisan points because it was an NDP government that had brought in casino gambling and you're a member of the opposition." But this person --
This person said to me, "You know, I thought you were simply being critical because it was the government who brought in casino gambling, but my friends and I decided we would stop in to the Windsor casino just to see what it was like."
This person is not a high roller. He's a regular person, works in an industry, blue-collar job, a person who hasn't been scolding of others in terms of gambling in years gone by. And he said, when he got in there and then came back: "You were exactly right. The very people who shouldn't be gambling were gambling. One woman was sitting there with a baby around her while she's playing the slot machines. Another is gambling some huge amount of money that I'd cry if I ever lost on a blackjack table."
They may be Americans, most of them, and maybe they're going to gamble somewhere else anyway, but I'm going to tell you, for a lot of people in the NDP and the old CCF and a lot of the rest of us around here, it would be a sad sight to see what's happening, and it reminded me of the situation --
Mr Bradley: Well, the member doesn't understand. I'm speaking of this as an individual member of the House, just as many of my colleagues who sit on your side, I'm sure, are very uncomfortable. I'm speaking generically. Whether it's an NDP government or whatever brought it in is relatively irrelevant, except that I always thought the position of the CCF and its successor the NDP was in adamant opposition to this kind of gambling. That's the only reason I put it in the context of the NDP. I opposed it when people proposed it to the Liberal cabinet table. I opposed it adamantly. I'm sure the Tories probably had the same information brought to them.
Let me tell you something: It's attractive to governments, particularly when it's hard to raise taxes, because it is. I know if this government goes out to try to levy a tax in this province, the people will be in an uproar, because they don't want any more taxes. So more and more governments across this country, probably around the world, are looking for easier ways to get funds, ways that you don't have to justify increases in taxes.
The people who are paying the price are the most vulnerable in our society: people who are compulsive gamblers, people who don't have much and see gambling, particularly something as attractive as casino gambling, as a great chance to do so.
I wish the Premier and the Minister of Economic Development and a few others who showed up -- I don't think the Premier was there himself, but others who showed up -- for the official opening of the casino would go there today and see who's gambling, see who's in the casinos, and they'd see that there are a lot of people who don't have any money, who are in effect taking a chance with the little money they have to gain some more money.
That's why I must put on the record again, I know, and I won't name the people because it's not appropriate to do so, but there are people on the other side of the House on the government side who are as opposed to this as I am.
Now they're talking about putting one close to St Catharines. Well, if you're a merchant in St Catharines, if you're a business in St Catharines, all you're going to see is some of the potential money being drawn away from St Catharines and other communities in our area.
If you talk to the people -- and maybe some of the people in Windsor will quarrel with me on this; maybe they know more than I do about it, and I'm prepared to say that -- but I think a lot of the people who had businesses around the casino probably thought that there was going to be a lot of extra business for their businesses. Well, there may be a bit more, but the expectations haven't been realized, because largely people come in to gamble. They can eat something while they're at the gambling casino, and then they head out of town again or head somewhere else.
I wish governments all over would find a different way. I'm glad, I think I heard from the minister -- I stand to be corrected -- that you're not going to get into these idiotic video lotteries. They used to have them in stores in some of the maritime communities. What do you call those? VTRs or something like that, video terminals, and you gamble with those. Again, just squandering the money away.
Tell me you're going to give me 10,000 jobs in my community. Tell me it's going to be good for the province. I don't want it. I don't want it in St Catharines. I'm on the record as saying I don't want it. There will be a lot of people in my community, I'm sure, who would say, "How can you turn away these jobs?" I think the consequences of casino gambling are evident in places such as Atlantic City. I certainly will oppose any government that wants to put one in my community.
I hope the government will look long and hard. One of the things I want to say which is positive is that I agree with the statement that is made that, the government says, "We're going to evaluate the Windsor project very carefully before moving on." That part I agree with, and I'm pleased about that. I'm simply sorry that evaluation didn't take place first.
Everybody knows that when Detroit sets one up -- and they will eventually; not immediately -- it's going to draw those people right into Detroit. All you're going to be left with is the shell in Windsor and the problems that go with it.
It looks good now. It's so attractive. Listen, almost every municipal leader in the world says, "Isn't this great?" I know how attractive it is. It's like many of the owners of the bars who had offtrack betting. Some of them brought in offtrack betting, and they found out their regular customers took off. They took a hike because they didn't like the characters hanging around there. The people who came in spent their money on offtrack betting, and they didn't tip the waitresses and waiters. I guess you're supposed to say "waiters" now. It's generically --
Mr Bradley: "Servers" is the word. Thank you. The NDP has given me the appropriate word. The servers in a restaurant, they don't tip them. They spend all their money on the gambling, and then they lose their customers. I remember one individual who chastised me after a speech in this House who has since then asked them to take the offtrack betting out, and the restaurant is doing well again. It's a great restaurant. I won't give it a personal plug, but it's a good restaurant.
So I ask the government -- because they already have one in Windsor -- and I hope the minister, and she has given this undertaking, to her credit, will carefully evaluate all of the consequences as well as the benefits of the Windsor casino project before moving on to other projects in this province, even though I know you're itching to get some of them on some of the native reserves in Ontario. I'm not in favour of that either, personally, but I know there are others, in all three parties, who have different points of view on this.
But I wanted to say that because it was interesting hearing it from an objective observer, who once in a while tunes in to this Legislature, saying, "I always wondered why you made those speeches against casino gambling, and having gone to one of them for about half an hour, I know now why you make those speeches against casino gambling." I think society is going to pay a rather significant price somewhere down the line.
Today we were dealing -- and I noticed Ministry of Agriculture is part of the concurrences -- with the preservation of agricultural land. Some of our people who talked on this bill today, from all three parties, talked about some of the positive aspects as well as the negative aspects of the bill that just passed as a result of the closure being imposed by this government.
I happen to think, and again concurrences allow us an opportunity to advance some of these personal points of view, that we should be making a very major effort to preserve agricultural land in this province. I think some steps have been taken by all three governments and I hope that people will hold fast to that.
We view Canada as a very large country, and we are, but much of this country is really not very livable land for most people. I admire the people who are in the extreme northern portions of this country, because it's very difficult to live in those areas. The amount of arable land that we have and the amount of territory we have within our country that has weather which is conducive to growing fruits and vegetables and raising livestock is rather limited.
We seem to think we have this huge land that we have to fill up. I was asked once, for instance, by the Ottawa Citizen, someone had phoned me from the Ottawa Citizen to say, "What do you think is the number one environmental challenge or problem in the world?" They were perhaps surprised to hear me say "overpopulation," because the larger the population of human beings on this earth, the more demands that are being placed on the resources that we have.
I was watching Dr David Suzuki on, I think it's called, the CPaC channel. It's the Canadian parliamentary channel and it has some good programs out of the federal House of Commons from time to time. David Suzuki was speaking at some length at a conference and he pointed out just how much stress human beings place on the limited resources that we have in this country. One segment of that of course are the agricultural resources.
Here we are in Ontario. The best agricultural land is in the Niagara Peninsula, I believe, in southwestern Ontario. Where are we building? Southwestern Ontario and the Niagara Peninsula. Let's pave that land over, make sure it's gone, because that's progress. Many of my municipal friends believe this, and many of them don't believe this, depending on who you talk to, that you must pave every last centimetre of land in your community to show that you've made progress. I don't share that point of view.
I'm one who compliments the government when I think it's doing a good job and I criticize when I think there's room for criticism. One of the stipulations that was placed in the movement of the MTO to St Catharines -- many people said, "Oh, it's irrelevant; don't you worry about that" -- was the stipulation, and the former minister is here, that the city of St Catharines not be permitted to expand its urban boundaries simply as a result of having the MTO placed in St Catharines. I concurred with that and I thought it was a positive step and I said so. I believe that to be the case today. We can have development within existing urban boundaries.
But there are other areas I look at in my own Niagara Peninsula. I began driving, or taking the train or taking the bus, to Toronto and back about 18 years ago when I was first elected here. It used to be a beautiful sight. You could drive out of Toronto and then pass Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington. You had development through there, but when you got to Burlington the development ended.
What do we have along the Queen Elizabeth Highway? Is it the lovely orchard that I can look at? Is it lovely rural land? No, it's warehouses. It's not as though somebody plunked down a plant and said, "Here are 8,000 auto jobs," or "Here are 8,000 steel jobs," or something, and you could say, "It's a difficult tradeoff and it's good agricultural land, but at least there's something to show for it." Instead we get these warehouses. I don't know how many people they employ, but not many people. Maybe to many people's eyes that's beautiful, that's progress, that's business; to me, that takes something away from the Niagara Peninsula, the uniqueness of the Niagara Peninsula.
I drive through the little towns that used to be little villages and towns, and you see a sign for a subdivision. What on earth are they putting a subdivision in some of these lovely little communities for? So people from Toronto can live there and drive back and forth? That's what it's for. It's not for people who reside in the community. It's not that there's a need from within the community. Then they ask the member for Lincoln, the member for St Catharines-Brock, the member for Niagara Falls, the member for St Catharines and the member for Niagara South to come with them to Queen's Park to tell the Minister of Education that they need a new school or that they need new water systems and sewer systems. Why? To service people who are going to commute back and forth to Toronto, not to serve the needs of the individual communities. Yet this goes on and on.
I lament that fact and I hope all of us in this Legislature will recognize the importance of agricultural land, not only to our future but to other people in the world who can benefit from that agricultural land.
Conservation easements are something we fought for in the Niagara Peninsula. The various members got together, opposition and government. I publicly asked questions about it and members of the New Democratic Party, the member for St Catharines-Brock and the member for Lincoln, who are both here now, talked to the minister about it and publicly stated their support for conservation easements, which would afford an opportunity for farmers in our part of the province to retain their land and at the same time not have to make the same sacrifice they would otherwise, because it's difficult to make a living on the land today.
Mr Speaker, you in the chair are a person who knows agriculture well. You know it's not an easy business in 1994, probably never has been really easy, but it's a very challenging business with free trade agreements, with international trade agreements and with all the stresses that are there.
I implore the government and other parties to make sure that we do everything possible to save the farmer, to ensure that we have viable farmers out there and viable farms, and that we can preserve not only the agricultural land but much of the rural nature of the province of Ontario. That's what gives us some peace of mind; that's what makes things nice for us. I don't consider progress to be paving from Metropolitan Toronto to Fort Erie. There are some communities that are already paved. They're already well developed. Thank you, I don't want to see that going through the Niagara Peninsula.
I lament it happening in southwestern Ontario. There's some great land in southwestern Ontario. Frankly, I think that if you're going to have development, eastern Ontario in certain portions offers some opportunities where, first of all, the weather conditions may be somewhat different, more difficult for growing certain products, and second, some of the land is not as conducive to it. But what do we do? We've got to plunk her right down in southwestern Ontario where the land is good -- it's lush land out there -- and where the weather conditions are great. Meanwhile, eastern Ontario, which would love to have some of this development, is ignored by market forces -- not by governments, by market forces. That makes it very difficult.
Mr Bradley: The member from Manitouwadge interjects, "Where are people going to live?" I would think he would be inviting them to Manitouwadge, a wonderful place to live, I'm informed, and the member tells me a great place to be from as well. There are places in this province.
I hear people say, "We should be building for an Ontario that has 50 million people." Why should we be doing that? As soon as you continue to have your population growing and growing, you put more stress on the environment in your area. I don't want to go into the gory details, but you need more sewage treatment plants, more water treatment plants, more garbage dumps -- or sanitary landfills as ministers of environment call them -- around the province; you need more roads, more transportation, more everything.
I think what we've had has been reasonable and I don't think we have to be looking forward to huge population increases in Ontario, that we should be trying to necessarily attract that, although I'm told again that market forces are important in that regard.
I know as well that some of the ministers who are dealing with these concurrences are concerned about car insurance. The reason they're concerned about car insurance, and I don't know what other members are finding out there --
Mr Bradley: Which ministry? Agriculture, because some of the people who are on farms are also concerned about car insurance and vehicle insurance. I am getting all kinds of calls from people. Again, I'm not trying to place blame on anybody; I'm just simply trying to raise the issue of huge increases in automobile insurance and other insurance. The calls are coming in consistently to my constituency office.
I hope those ministers who are here will take that message back to the cabinet, and if there's anything within the realm and responsibility of the government that can be done to abate these increases, I'll be pleased to see it. I know there was a promise of government auto insurance. The reason I know that is that my colleague Mel Swart from years gone by, former member for Welland-Thorold, has reminded people on many occasions about government automobile insurance, or as you used to like to paint it, on the other side, driver-owned. That was the way you always put it: driver-owned.
That may not be in the books, but I do hope the government looks carefully at all of these problems that are related to automobile insurance and why there are such tremendous increases when in fact the government claims that it is interested in something else; that is, lower rates, that it's doing a lot of things for safety that are supposedly going to lower the rates in our province.
Another thing: The Solicitor General is here -- so that is good; I want to talk about his photo-radar -- and the Transportation minister of years gone by. I think it's a misallocation of the funds of the Ministry of the Solicitor General to put them in photo-radar, and I think those funds would go much better into other police officers being placed on the highways and elsewhere. I think people who are able to pursue other vehicles, who are able to spot people who are weaving back and forth because of impairment, are able to spot other problems happening on the highway -- if we had more of those officers, because I too agree with safety on the highway, that would be much more productive than the money machine we call photo-radar.
Mr Bradley: As the member opposite mentions, there is an option to be exercised there. That is true. I simply believe that the primary purpose of photo-radar is without a doubt to get money for the Ontario government. It goes back to a theme that I have raised before.
Mr Bradley: The minister says that I'm all alone over here. I simply say that I'm with the people of Ontario when I speak this afternoon. Mr Turnbull and I know that the people are listening to our interventions on their behalf.
There are other things I want to mention that I think are of some concern. On behalf of the people who are concerned about the environment, I want to say that I believe there should be a substantial allocation of funds to the Ministry of Environment.
Every government goes through the process, for some strange reason, of wanting to cut equally when they get into cutting, as though every ministry should be cut the same. I happen to believe that the government should pick its priorities -- I may not agree with them -- and not cut substantially in areas that are of great importance. I lament the fact that this government, despite what I always thought was a substantial commitment to the environment, certainly a visible and audible one in opposition, has cut significantly the budget of the Ministry of Environment.
I know the consequences of that. I know exactly the consequences. When I was a minister and I wouldn't get a 20% increase in a year, I would think the world would end because we couldn't possibly carry out our mandate. When I see Mr Wildman now have to make do with some very serious cuts in his ministry budget, I'm telling you I become very concerned about that. I hope that other members in the House on the government side, even in the cabinet, who are concerned about the environment will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Minister of Environment.
Mr Bradley: Now I'm asked, "Can we cut the deficit?" Well, I picked up a newspaper because I've always been interested in government advertising. A lot of it's self-serving advertising. I picked up the Globe and Mail and it had a full-page ad and it was nothing but self-congratulatory advertising. All it was --
Mr Bradley: Well, you're getting closer. It was a full-page ad and it said, "Here are all the firms that have benefited from Jobs Ontario." What does that mean? If the Minister of Health puts in an ad saying, "We have a problem with meningitis; we recommend the following," I'll tell you, if that's a large ad, if that's a prominent ad, I'll be the one to support that. You won't see any criticism. My objection is when it's self-congratulatory advertising.
I remember in the good old days when the other party was in power -- "good old days" in quotation marks -- I had to raise the issue of a jingle that came on the radio that said: "Life is good, Ontario. Preserve it. Conserve it." That was coming just before the election. I was chastised because I suggested that was alluding to Progressive Conservative, PC. I raised that issue in the House previously with that government and they paid the usual amount of attention and simply increased their advertising before the election campaign.
But the one thing they did do was sell the jet. They sold the jet. The minister was here when we talked about the jet. I used to get up daily and ask the question about the jet. Then on page 16 of the announcement, the Premier of the day, Mr Davis, got up and said, "And we are trading in the government jet for two water bombers." That was an example, and then I wanted them to sell Suncor and eventually Suncor got sold.
Mr Bradley: The other theme was, as I said, government advertising, because they always asked what you would do. So all of these things, and I don't think you should criticize Premier Davis for starting SkyDome. That is not something he should be criticized for, so I won't do that.
There are so many issues one could take before this House in the field of health care, for instance. We in the Niagara Peninsula, all the members there, will be looking forward to the MRI machines that we know must be coming to the Niagara Peninsula.
Mr Bradley: Well, we have three CAT scanners now because we worked together to raise those issues in the House. We have those CAT scanners. Now, may I tell you how much the government of Ontario paid for those CAT scanners? The answer is zero, because the money is raised locally by the people and then the operating cost is assumed partially by the province of Ontario.
Mr Bradley: What we are saying here is that we have MRI machines that are not available. I had someone phone my constituency office last week who said the mother in the family would have to wait four months, I guess, until March before the person would be able to have access to an MRI machine. In the St Catharines area, if you've got money you simply head across the border and that day at one of the malls you go in and there's an MRI machine. We know that in the United States --
Mr Bradley: That's exactly what happens. The member makes a very good point. The American system is based not on one's ability to pay, as such; in other words, if you're poor you still get it or if you're middle-income you still get it. It's ability to pay in terms of the fact that if you've got money in the United States, you have instant access to health care. So when they brag about the American system, that's fine as long as you've got money.
Canadians have some of that option as well. This is why I'm saying it will be nice to have in the Niagara Peninsula, and I'm sure they must consider us for these machines, approval for MRI machines in St Catharines and other areas in the Niagara Peninsula.
One of the things I want to say this afternoon -- we talk about health -- is that it's expensive. Members of this government know that now; they know how expensive it is. They've been in government. Everybody does. I get a bit concerned when I hear the radical right, the extreme right out there, these various coalitions that claim to speak for citizens and so on, talking about how they're going to cut, because what it really means is health care.
As I said in the House the other day, after you've taken all the French signs down, because it must be those French signs, that's what costs so much money, and after you've lowered the members' pay or don't pay the members anything, because that's what they say you've got to do -- that's a real problem -- and once you get rid of multiculturalism, I'm going to tell you, there will be all kinds of money in this province.
Mr Bradley: -- and a growing one, the member interjects: the Solicitor General's office, which is coming under considerable pressure from various places to put more resources to deal with the problem of crime, the perceived problem and real problem of crime out there.
All of these demands are made on those of us who are political representatives. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes; everybody would love to lower the deficit. That's where I think the only way to deal with this is to really pick what our priorities are and put our resources into those priorities. I hope that environment would be one of those priorities.
I want to talk about photo-radar. Here's a story that says, "Photo-Radar Won't Stop Bad Drivers." The only reason I want to mention photo-radar is to go back a bit to a theme I started out with, and that theme was that governments today are lowering themselves -- every government; please don't think it's this government alone -- to easy ways of getting cash, relatively painless ways of getting cash, non-tax revenue, because nobody wants to do that.
Mr Bradley: No, I'm going to tell you what's happening with this. What's happening with this is that private fund-raising is taking place. I want to compliment them. They have private fund-raising taking place. Family and children's services initiated this. They'll be looking for the assistance of government, yes, but here is private fund-raising. They didn't simply go to the government and say, "Give me, give me, give me." They said, "We're prepared to make an investment from our community in this service." I think more and more we're going to see a need for this.
I want to get into the field of social services and particularly student welfare, one of my favourite topics. I want to implore the government again to save this program by ensuring that it's not being abused. And it is being abused; that's the problem. Again it's a difficult issue. I understand how difficult an issue it is. But more and more we're getting parents who are contacting their members and saying, "My child," the child being a student in the midteens, "says to me, 'If I don't get my way at home, I'm going to go on student welfare. I'm going to claim abuse and an untenable situation at home and I'm going to go on student welfare.'" Then of course that person is supposed to attend school, and it's questionable whether that actually happens. Other kids see this happening and they say, "That's the way to go."
This program, in its initial stages, was a good idea. The idea was that students in a truly abusive situation at home, a truly untenable situation at home, who wanted to continue on in education would have the opportunity to do so with public assistance. There are some good examples of students who have done well doing that, from very difficult circumstances, and I commend those students. But my fear is the program will be abused even more and more, in two ways: one, students won't attend or, second, the students will simply use it as a lever to get out of situations where there's some discipline being exercised at home.
I know the minister has said he wishes to address that. I hope he does. But I sit on the government agencies committee and watch some of the people who are being appointed to the government agencies, and many of them were advocates in years gone by for those who appeared before the Social Assistance Review Board. If they were an advocate in years gone by, if that was their job, to try to get the Social Assistance Review Board to change its decision, then I wonder how impartial they can possibly be if they are to maintain their own conscience.
We had on the front page of the St Catharines Standard last week an article about the Salvation Army tightening its rules on who may receive assistance. Two people appeared in the story and they told their story about how difficult it was. The story was really, I suppose you could say, a shot at or perhaps a criticism of the Salvation Army for adopting this. Well, the calls came into the constituency offices, they came into the local newspaper, and I'll tell you, a lot of people backed the Salvation Army.
Who were these people? They were the working poor. They were saying: "So these people are complaining? These people who are on government assistance are complaining? Do you know what I do? I have to work part-time," or full-time, or two jobs. "I have to look after my own kids. I have to do a lot of things. I don't have a lot of these services, and these people are complaining?"
Where you find the greatest opposition is not among the rich. The really rich and really influential have their ways of getting around the tax system and often are able to get government grants and assistance in a different way. Where you're finding the opposition is among the working poor and the lower middle class and the middle class, who are very concerned that many of these programs are being abused.
Sometimes they are; sometimes they are not. I don't think it's fair to make a blanket statement that that is the case. I know that when the member for St Catharines-Brock and I raised issues of this kind we were attacked in a column in the St Catharines Standard, along with Mike Harris. We were in great company that day. We had Mike Harris in the column, and Christel Haeck and Jim Bradley were all mentioned in this column because we were welfare-bashing, when in fact, at least for two of us, we were endeavouring to ensure that the program was geared to the people it was supposed to address. I think those who feel a social conscience out there will have to be realistic enough to know that the public will justifiably demand that those programs be targeted to those who genuinely need them.
When I see people who are physically disabled, often very physically disabled, or mentally challenged, and when governments are paying for those people, I know of no one in my community who would object. Only the most cynical and the most hard-hearted person would object to that. But when they look at able-bodied people out there who are not pulling their weight, who are prepared to exercise an option that others don't want to exercise, I think they're going to be justifiably concerned about that and express that concern. You saw south of the border how that struck a responsive chord with the Republican Party.
I wanted to raise a couple of other issues of importance to us in the Niagara Peninsula. The member for Lincoln rose in the House the other day to express his approval of the decision which was made at the Environmental Assessment Board hearing into the OWMC. It is interesting in all of this discussion, of course, that one of the items that has been forgotten by some is that this was placed before the Environmental Assessment Board and designated for environmental assessment.
When the OWMC was set up, there was a hearing process in place then which would almost certainly have approved the OWMC. I had great pressure -- I live in the area, close to the area, 25 miles, I guess, as the crow flies -- to politically end this project. As Minister of the Environment at the time, I felt that it should not be a political decision but should be an environmental decision. The hearings, to say the very least, were exhaustive and comprehensive. As a result, a decision was made, rendered by the board, that it would be turned down. There's an appeal time, and we will be able to see that process followed through.
The point I want to make is that for those who sometimes don't have faith in government and in the institutions of government, the Environmental Assessment Board should give heart to those who believe they, in the David and Goliath fight, are the David, that David has a chance on many of those occasions before the board. That happened in this particular case.
He and I have differed considerably over the years on the Niagara Escarpment. I believe the Niagara Escarpment is a unique land form, one that should be preserved, one of which we can be justifiably proud in this province and one that requires the protection of government to ensure that those who would simply like to develop anywhere and everywhere wouldn't be able to take over that escarpment and we would have these gaudy structures all over it that would make it look unattractive.
Mr Bradley: The member makes a very valid point, though. I like this point he makes. He says like -- well, let's say southern Ontario. He and his area face a difficult circumstance. It's similar to those of us who live in southern Ontario or those of us who say you shouldn't cut any trees in northern Ontario. "Thank you. We've cut all our trees in southern Ontario to speak of, but don't you cut yours."
Similarly, he points out, there have been some developments that have been allowed on the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario, the southern tip of it, that would not be allowed today in the northern section. I think that's a valid observation, but I would hope that would not be used as a reason to loosen the restrictions that are now on development on one of our wonderful natural spots in Ontario, something of which we can be justifiably proud: the Niagara Escarpment. I wanted to mention that because I know the member always wants me to raise this issue. He always takes the opportunity himself to do so.
I drink some water because I saw in the auditor's report that water was of some concern. At least he said the water was safe here in Toronto. It's interesting how, when the NDP is in power, suddenly the water is safe, even though they've cut back in the ministry in their expenditures, and I happen to know how much testing you have to do. If I had gotten up in 1988 and said the water was safe, I'll tell you, every environment group in Ontario would have been on the attack, the NDP opposition would have been pounding its desks, the CBC would have been there analysing the water in 10 different communities and showing that the water wasn't safe. But we have an NDP government now and apparently the water becomes safe. Even in my own newspaper I saw an editorial that said: "Well, you know, the opposition shouldn't be pursuing this. The water is safe." Well, isn't that nice. All you have to do is elect an NDP government and the water suddenly becomes safe. Well, that's enough to make even the most cynical people in this province even more cynical.
Mr Bradley: The member for Middlesex, whom they won't allow to answer a question in the House -- they keep her out of the House when there are other ministers here; they chase her out of the House; they do that with all their junior ministers -- intervenes. Now, she would have been fit to be tied if a Liberal or Conservative government had slashed the Environment budget by as much as has been done under this government. The pride of green forces, the investigation and enforcement branch of the Ministry of Environment, is restricted in its growth and probably has faced some significant cuts as a result of government policies.
I also wonder about some of the inspections taking place out there. We want our food to be accepted in Ontario. The member for Grey-Owen Sound brought apples in. They were good-tasting apples. He would want to know that there's appropriate testing taking place and observation taking place in the meat factories of Ontario and of the fruit and vegetables sold in this province and imported into this province, and I'm going to tell you something: When you start cutting back on those areas, you start having problems. Nobody likes to talk about those, but that's where the problems arise.
I indicated I did not want to dominate all of the time before the House this afternoon. My friend the member for York Mills is often kind enough to provide me with some time in the House. I know he eagerly wants to pursue some issues, and in two minutes we'll be reaching 5:30 and I'll be turning the floor over to him.
But I also want to express one last thing, if I may, and I don't know what ministry it comes under, but it comes under one of them, I'm sure, and that is a great concern that as we head into the next election, we don't get into the kind of advertising that I saw south of the border. "We had reached a point in our political system," it is said in the New York Times, "where it was simply not possible to use positive advertising, because nobody out there would believe that any of the political parties," in their case, two parties, "would be able to deliver on them." So the only advertising they went to was negative advertising, and when I hear firms south of the border being hired here in Canada to come forward with that kind of advertising, I'll tell you, that will not be good for our political system. I've seen that advertising already, but ours is still not as bad as the American advertising.
That is simply not acceptable, but do you know why it will happen, or if it will happen? It will happen if it works, and unfortunately, on so many occasions, it's been proven that it works, with some exceptions. We all remember the ad in the last federal election, the Progressive Conservative ad which depicted the now Prime Minister in a very unfavourable light physically. That was one that was a good example of an ad that had to be pulled. I simply use that -- I don't taint the provincial Conservatives with that. I don't do that, even though I think John Tory approved it, and isn't he with the provincial Tories?
Mr Bradley: He's not with you? Okay, I just wanted to know that. But that was an example of one that backfired. However, I say to members of the House that it is the contention, I believe of Decima Research and its guru, that the problem was that they didn't keep playing it, that if they had played it 10 more days, it would have worked, would have started to work.
Well, I hope that doesn't happen. There's not much a government can do about it, but I express that view, that I hope is shared by members of this House, that what is placed before us by all of our parties will be positive programs, positive suggestions -- yes, some criticisms of the other party where they are acceptable, but not the kind of negative and cynical advertising we saw south of the border just a month ago.
Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I would like to just take up where the member for St Catharines left off, on the question of negative advertising. I think indeed that's correct: It would be a sad day if in Canada we see the embracing of the kind of advertising that we saw south of the border. Unfortunately, I have to think back to the last provincial election, the only election I've ever run in. I remember, as we were doing quite well in the polls, the sudden impact in the last 10 days of negative advertising, which in fact was put on by the Ontario Liberal Party, where there was a balloon depicting the leader of our party, Mike Harris, along with the federal leader of the party of the same name. The balloon ad kept on dwelling on what they perceived were the sins of the federal party and then turning the balloon and showing Mike Harris's face and saying, "Remember, a Tory is a Tory is a Tory." That was the punch line.
How do I know that negative advertising, which was put out by the Liberal Party, worked? Because people were repeating the punch line at the door. If a lesson is to be drawn from this, you could feel that the election was ebbing away from us as I went to the door. We sensed the ascendancy. Indeed, our own polling suggested we were at about 36 seats about 10 days before the election, before the actual polling date, and then we dropped off down to 20.
One has to conclude that, unfortunately, it has worked in Canada. At times it has not worked; it has backfired. I would sincerely hope that all parties learn that this is not what we should be emulating. This is the good part of our Canada, that we don't want to embrace some of those American policies. But I thought it worth putting on the record for my good friend the member for St Catharines my memory of negative advertising which emanated from his own party in the last provincial election.
Turning to the question of concurrences, as the urban critic for Transportation for my party, I particularly wanted to speak today about my concerns with respect to the awarding of the 407 contract. The history of roadbuilding in Canada has been fairly colourful, going back to the last century. In an effort to ensure that the process of roadbuilding was clean and transparent, the then provincial Tory government, in 1952, opened up the whole bidding process in such a way that bids would be opened in public and all of the contents of those bids would be public knowledge, so that the public, the taxpayer, would be assured that in fact the person who was winning the contract would have given the lowest bid. Common specifications were developed so that people would indeed be comparing apples with apples.
With the 407 contract, that is not what the government did. They went through a prequalification process in which three large consortia were requested to tender their initial bids. One of those consortia members was in fact disqualified because it was deemed that it was predominantly an American consortium. I believe that consortium was in fact Peter Kiewit and Bechtel in that organization. They were told, "No, you cannot bid on this because we want Canadian companies to be getting this business." The two remaining consortia that were allowed to bid were given a process which was, to be kind to the government, convoluted. I could think of other expressions which have been used to describe the awarding of this contract.
But there were no common specifications put forward by the government. There was an estimate as to what the probable traffic volume year over year would be on this road, and the two competing consortia developed bids and submitted them under the cloud of a confidentiality agreement that this government insisted they sign prior to submitting the bids.
The government had suggested that the reason for this confidentiality agreement was due to the fact that, unlike any other roadbuilding contract in Ontario history, not only would it be designing but it would be building, it would be operating and, most important, it would be financing this project, which is the largest contract this government has ever given in history -- a $1-billion contract.
The two consortia developed their bids and submitted them. Approximately two months before the winning bid was chosen, the Labourers' International Union of North America, Local 183, and two other unions approached one of the consortia and asked it whether it would sign a no-strike, no-lockout agreement. The agreement was duly signed, and it called for successive increases year over year of 4% for each of the first two years and then 5% for the remaining three years; in other words, a 23% increase over the five-year period.
Let's put this in context. This is at a time when inflation in Canada, and particularly in Ontario, was running at 1% or less. In fact in the greater metropolitan area, in which the road was being built, the inflation rate was running at a negative per cent. Here we have a government which is telling everybody about how fiscally responsible it's being, and yet it's allowing unions, and I may say certainly the most favoured union as far as Bob Rae is concerned, to extort a 23% wage increase over a five-year period. This surely has to be inflationary, if nothing else.
The day the winning consortium signed the no-strike, no-lockout deal, the manager of that union, Mr Reilly, sent out a very inflammatory letter suggesting that all of his members and hangers-on should insist that they sell tickets, "and don't take no for an answer." I don't have the letter in front of me -- it's easy enough for me to get it -- but the words were to the effect: "Don't take no for an answer. Squeeze them for as much as possible because the prestige of this union lies in the ability to raise money for the NDP."
Mr Turnbull: It is indeed very close to what was in the letter, and it said that the prestige of the union rested on this and the ability of the union to be successful in future lobbying efforts. There's the interesting thing. The union was recognizing that it was lobbying the government. I've heard of other less complimentary expressions for lobbying the government in a circumstance like this. It turned out to be the most successful fund-raising event the NDP has ever had. It raised some $100,000.
The day that this letter went out was some 10 days before the dinner. The day before the dinner was to take place, if I remember correctly, on January 19, there was a decision made that four deputy ministers would make the decision on the 407 instead of their political masters.
Mr Turnbull: This is indeed behind closed doors. So this of course allowed the deniable aspect for the minister and the Premier to say, "Oh, we weren't part of the decision about who the winning consortium was." Indeed, the decision was made by this group of deputies. The group of deputies never explained to the public how they arrived at their decision.
A very unusual thing happened with respect to this. The day the decision was arrived at as to who the winning consortium was -- I'm sure you'll be surprised at this, Madam Speaker. The winning consortium was the group whose union -- Bob Rae's favourite union, the Labourers' International, 183, which is currently being investigated by the provincial police -- got the contract, and the Premier and the minister were able to say, "Oh, nothing to do with us; it was deputies."
The deputy phoned on that Friday to my constituency office to tell me that they'd taken the financing out of it. I had never, ever heard from the deputy minister before, but the deputy minister went that extra little step of informing me directly as to who the winning consortium was. The winning consortium was indeed the one that is very, very close to the Premier.
The invitation to the dinner was quite specific: "Squeeze all of the companies." Then on the actual dinner menu there was a list of all of the hosts to that dinner and the then Minister of Transportation was listed as one of the hosts. When I asked a question in this House, the minister popped up in great indignation and suggested, "I wasn't there." I don't know whether he was there; some people have suggested that indeed he was, but the fact is, he was listed as a host at that dinner.
This leads one, if you have a suspicious nature, which of course I don't, to wonder about the propriety of this deal. The same union that was instrumental in getting this no-strike, no-lockout deal with 23% wage increases is the union which has got huge subsidies from this government for non-profit housing. And if this information I've been given is correct, I'm given to believe that the son of Mr Reilly, the manager of that union who sent out the letter telling everybody to squeeze all of the contractors to pay as much for the fund-raiser, is in fact the manager of all of that company's non-profit housing. Surprisingly, he's also listed I believe as being one of the trainers at a training centre which is getting Jobs Ontario funds. So he's being paid in two areas out of government funding and his father has just received a provincial appointment.
This is the union that is being investigated by the police. And this is the contract that, every time I asked a question to the government, the minister shot up to attention and became very careful about how he answered -- he wasn't quite his usual glib self -- which makes us rather uncomfortable with it. The question I asked in this House on several occasions, and on several occasions in the estimates process, was, "Did we get the lowest bid?" The minister was always very careful to avoid that and gave me this guff about value for money.
Let's just look at the question of value for money. The information I've got, I have to say, is bits and pieces that I've pieced together, because we in the opposition and the taxpayers are not allowed to be able to see exactly what was bid on. But we've pieced together. We know that the winning bid was substantially for six lanes of concrete, whereas we believe the losing bid was for four lanes of asphalt. How do you compare six lanes of concrete with four lanes of asphalt? We've never been told.
There is a process in which one can approximate this. It's a very flawed way of comparing bids. That is to use a life-cycle projection in which you establish what the life-cycle of concrete will be, and the life-cycle of asphalt, and then you choose a number in the distance at some point in time and say: "Okay, concrete will last this long. I'm going to have to resurface asphalt this many times in the meantime." Then you arrive at that life-cycle. The government expects the winning consortium to turn over the road at the end of a 30-year period to it in good condition.
The interesting thing about life-cycle projections is that depending on what time frame you use, you may have no resurfacing of concrete because it may be one year away from being resurfaced or rebuilt, but you may have, say, two and a half cycles of the asphalt, depending on what assumption you build in as to what the lifespans of asphalt and concrete are. We've never been told what that assumption is, and we've never been told whether they used a life-cycle approach to approximating which was the better bid, and we've certainly never been told this is the better bid. We've been told "value for money."
You know something? That is the kind of rhetoric which goes on all the time in this House, but it doesn't answer the question the taxpayers are asking, and that is, "Did the taxpayer get the proper deal?" We'll never know because this government put clauses into these contracts which in fact --
Mr Turnbull: It's very interesting. We get the member for Durham West saying, "Oh, we're getting the road 22 years earlier," which is absolutely preposterous. There was no suggestion that the road wasn't going to be built, so once again his assertions are absolutely fundamentally flawed. It was going to be built --
The fact is the road was going to be built. By choosing this secretive process, it didn't speed up the process. It didn't speed up the building of the road. We're asking about why it was a secret process, why the opposition parties cannot find out the assumptions that were built into the awarding of this contract.
It has been suggested to me by people who tender in the Third World on contracts that there are many contracts from governments in the Third World that are more clearly spelled out than this, and it leads us to the conclusion that the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario doesn't know how to set out a bid. Either that or there's something worse at stake.
These are the questions that are being raised: the comparison of materials, the life-cycle assumptions, the cost and ultimately what the taxpayer is paying, and we never know because the government built in secrecy clauses. These were there from the very beginning. We were told by the Premier, if I remember correctly, that the confidentiality clauses were to protect the bidders due to the nature of the financing. When the government took the financing out, which in my opinion was very poor judgement, it absolutely destroyed all reasons for confidentiality. Yes, there may have been some aspects of a proprietary nature in terms of the construction of culverts or something like this.
The interesting question also arises in that, once again it is reported to me -- I don't know definitively but I'm saying very clearly, and the then Minister of Transportation is sitting in the House listening to this -- in fact since the contract has been given to the winning bidder, the winning consortium has been back to the MTO and asked for a reduction in the powder mix of cement in the construction of this highway, which raises the question: Did the government get a reduction in the price of the highway as a result of using a lesser powder mix?
The answer, I would suggest, is no, because we know this government, and in fact in fairness, we know all governments of all political stripes, if suddenly they get a better deal, are going to trumpet it. But we haven't heard anything. In other words, the winning contractor decided in order to get the contract, which presumably was subject to a life-cycle analysis and had a certain concrete mix in it, specified -- but now they have gone back and they have changed to a lesser mix.
This may seem very trivial, but when you're talking about a $1-billion contract, this is not trivial. These are real, serious dollars that the taxpayers deserve to know are being properly spent. But we have no answer from the government. The government has gagged everybody on this. We had a clean, transparent tendering process in this province until this government came along and subverted that. We now have a closed, subjective and questionable process that --
Mr Turnbull: I'm fascinated when I hear one of the members across the floor saying, "You say it with a straight face." I remember turning on the television in the last Parliament -- I wasn't here and neither were you, sir -- and listening to how outraged your leader was at some of the things the previous government, the Liberals, did. I believe we would have been peeling him off the ceiling if any previous government had done what you've done, sir. This is the largest contract in history, $1 billion, and the taxpayers simply don't know whether they're getting the proper value.
We know of the connections between this government and the union that is being investigated, and the taxpayers are saying: "We want to know. We are not accusing people, but we're asking questions. These are legitimate questions that deserve to be answered."
The union that is involved, the Labourers' International, has appointed the president of the winning consortium to its board of directors of its soft tissue clinic which is funded by money from the government. We know there are a lot of connections between the union and this government, but we will never know what this government is doing because they've gagged us all.
Mr Turnbull: I have, in this House, asked for a public inquiry on this. I can tell you that it will be our intention as a government to do an investigation of the placing of this contract when we form the next government. We will restore the open, transparent, tendering process that the Conservative government put in place in this province in 1952.
Mr Turnbull: I'm somewhat disgusted at the former Minister of Transportation making those silly gibes. It was the Conservatives who put in the clean, open process in this province and we have never suggested that we move away from it. It was your government who did this.
The Ontario Transportation Capital Corp was created by this government quite obviously to hide various expenditures, and the Provincial Auditor in fact refused to sign the books last year. For the first time in this province's history the Provincial Auditor said, "I will not sign the books." He did not agree with the way this government was accounting for money.
Mr Turnbull: Madam Speaker, I would suggest you may want to ask member for Lake Nipigon if he perhaps wants to joint this debate, because he's got a lot to say across the floor, heckling me. Yet when I ask questions, he never has any answers. Quite apart --
The Acting Speaker: Order. Each member does have the right to express their opinion in this House. It is my duty to allow each member to do that. You will, each member on this side and on the other side, have that right. I would ask the members to come to order. Please continue your remarks.
Mr Turnbull: The Ontario Transportation Capital Corp was a ruse to hide expenditures of this government. It's a ruse that didn't work, and the Provincial Auditor said so. He disapproved of it. Indeed with the new accounting methods, we now see that the debt of this province is much larger than the government had suggested.
Another interesting example of how this government has been diverting money to its friends was that Wally Majesky, one of their favourite previous union leaders, suggested a study should be done of urban transportation methods. Wally in fact put in the suggestion and they gave him the contract. Initially the ministry said no, but he went back to his pals and then they approved it. Wally's contract wasn't tendered. It cost the taxpayers of Ontario in excess of $160,000.
Some months into the developing of this report, the actual guidelines as to what the report was to contain had not been developed jointly between the ministry and Mr Majesky. Guess what? In the end, it was Ministry of Transportation staff who wrote most of the report. But I guess Wally certainly added some colour to this by the anti-private-sector cartoons that were in it which depicted that anybody to do with the private sector was evil inherently.
This is the government that suggests it's open for business and that it is user-friendly. What an absolutely ridiculous situation, that they would suggest this when indeed we know that the whole of the report was filled with rhetoric and was filled with cartoons which were of an anti-private-sector nature.