LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Monday 3 May 2004 Lundi 3 mai 2004
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): Yesterday I had the honour of attending the ceremony of remembrance held at the Ontario Police Memorial here at Queen's Park. The names of Constable Philip Shrive of the Renfrew OPP and Constable John Flagg of the Kingston OPP, were added to the wall of honour. Both of these officers lost their lives in the line of duty in the year 2003.
There were four officers from the 1920s whose names were added as well: Evariste Laframboise, from Essex county; William McGillivary, of the Toronto department of highways; Andrew McKay, of the Newmarket department of highways; and Fred Bingley, of the Hagersville department of highways.
There are 231 names of police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty on the wall of honour. I'd like to thank the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation, under the leadership of president Richard Houston and his board of directors, for the excellent work they do in organizing the ceremony of remembrance.
I was pleased to see Chief Julian Fantino of the Toronto Police Service attend the ceremony as well. I would like to compliment Chief Fantino, who has shown incredible leadership during difficult times for his police service. I'd also like to extend the support of our caucus to the Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Police Services Board for the professionalism they have shown over the past few months and during these very difficult times. We thank all police officers, past and present, for making Ontario a province of law and order and for keeping our citizens safe and secure.
Ms Monique M. Smith (Nipissing): Today I rise to acknowledge the service of a great citizen of North Bay. On Friday 30 April, Chief George Berrigan officially retired as the chief of police of the North Bay police department. Chief Berrigan has served our community for 15 years as chief and 32 years on our police force. He leaves behind an incredible legacy.
We were fortunate enough to have Chief Julian Fantino, of the Toronto police department, speak at the change-of-command ceremony. He too noted that this was a momentous occasion for our community and spoke eloquently on policing in Ontario. I'd like to thank the chief of police for Toronto for coming to North Bay for our occasion.
I was privileged enough to attend Chief Berrigan's retirement party on Thursday, where hundreds of residents and police officers from North Bay and the surrounding area attended to celebrate Chief Berrigan's outstanding career.
I want to take this opportunity to wish him and his wife, Liz, a very happy retirement as he begins that retirement today. As well, I would like to wish our new chief of police, Paul Cook, and our new deputy chief, Al Jackson, all the best as they take on their new responsibilities. I have had the opportunity to work with Chief Paul Cook in the past and I know we will continue to have an excellent relationship.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to acknowledge these two outstanding citizens in our community, and I'd like to take this opportunity today to say to George Berrigan: Happy first day of retirement.
Mr Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): I rise today to share a letter I recently received from a small rural church in my riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka that serves 40 to 45 families year-round. They have just been told about water regulation 170/03. The church has already installed a UV light and filtration system, and the water is checked monthly for coliform and E coli. The results have always been 0/0.
The church was advised that the initial cost to comply with the regulation would be a minimum of $6,100, as well as ongoing costs for maintenance. The testing alone will be $15 a week. The church is already struggling to meet its financial obligations, and the additional burden of water testing will make it extremely difficult to keep their doors open. Is this really the intent of the water regulations? Surely not.
This church is not alone. I have heard from campgrounds, community centres, daycare centres and other small businesses on this issue. Last week, I attended the Parry Sound Municipal Association meeting and heard from many others. Many small businesses in my beautiful riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka run their own water systems and will be hit hard by these new regulations. Justice O'Connor recommended that the province provide financial support where approved systems are not economically viable for owners. To date, there has been no commitment from the Minister of the Environment to assist rural communities. I encourage the Minister of the Environment to delay enforcement of regulation 170/03 until appropriate funding can be provided.
Mrs Carol Mitchell (Huron-Bruce): On the first day of May, young voices were heard in song throughout Ontario. It was my pleasure to attend a concert given by Saugeen Children's Chorus in Kincardine on Saturday night. In Kincardine and other communities throughout Ontario, young people were singing together in unison.
Saugeen Children's Chorus is comprised of 33 children, and they are led by director Henriette Blom. Saugeen Children's Chorus is a part of the Ontario Sings program, and their mission statement is to enhance the cultural, social and economic well-being of communities in Ontario through the magic of youth choral singing. The group is comprised of both boys and girls, ages nine through 18. The group was formed 18 years ago and has toured Europe. During the month of May, they will travel to Montreal to perform with four other children's choirs.
Singing in a choir not only provides pleasure in itself, but the positive impact certainly has been noted by the children. Choral singers are far more likely to be involved in charity work and are more aware of other people's experiences throughout life. They believe their singing is a way of giving back to their communities.
Mr Michael Prue (Beaches-East York): This last week, we saw a whole group of people who arrived from various parts of the province, including some who had walked all the way from Sarnia, to protest our treatment of the disabled.
We know that the disabled are amongst the poorest in our province. We know that many of them subsist on a meagre $930 a month with which to feed and clothe and house themselves. We know that they have not had a raise in eight years. And we know that they are limited, where they are able to find some form of employment, to only a paltry $160 of extra money that they might earn. We know that that is compounded by a lack of affordable housing and that the social agencies that serve many of them also have not had any raises in years and years and years.
Against that backdrop, we can only say we are thankful today for the very meagre and small announcement being made federally and provincially for some $20 million to help get the disabled into the workforce. That is, though, a very small amount of money to the some 90,000 to 100,000 people in this province who are disabled, many of whom are in receipt of ODSP.
There are other things this government should be doing. We should be passing a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act, we should put real teeth into the building code, we should allow earnings of up to $600 a month for those who are able to work and we should of course increase the amount of money to people who have not had a raise for eight years.
Mr Vic Dhillon (Brampton West-Mississauga): I rise today to inform all members of the House that May is South Asian Heritage Month. The month of May is significant because it was on May 5, 1838, that the first South Asian immigrants arrived in our wonderful country.
The first South Asians to set foot on Canadian soil were Sikh soldiers serving in the British army. The Sikh lancers and infantry travelled by train from Montreal to Vancouver on their way back to India, after taking part in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria in 1897.
While most South Asians came to Canada directly from Asia, many came from places such as Kenya, South Africa, Singapore, Fiji, the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and many other countries.
Today, South Asians make up approximately 7% of Ontario's population and are proud to draw upon their heritage and traditions while contributing to many aspects of culture, commerce and public service across our province.
Ontario's South Asian community provides a living social, political and economic link between our province and many countries around the world. It is my privilege and honour as a South Asian to join with all members in recognizing May as South Asian Heritage Month. It is my hope that we use this opportunity to enhance our understanding and appreciation of our rich culture, heritage and traditions as we work toward making Ontario and Canada the best places in the world to live, work and raise our families.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): I'm pleased to rise in the House to discuss the concerns of many volunteers in my riding of Durham. These good citizens keep our community halls, arenas, churches and other facilities in the area operating. Community groups are concerned over meeting the new regulations on maintaining and supplying water to these buildings. Regulation 170/03 requires community facilities on private wells to meet new guidelines on treating water and maintaining their private water supplies.
A number of issues have been drawn to my attention by my constituents, including Glenn Larmer of Blackstock, Jim Ambrose of Zion United Church, Jane Smith of Tyrone, and Paul McIntyre of Maple Grove United Church, just to name a few.
Complying with regulation 170/03 will mean major expenses for community organizations. I am advised that one church in my riding has an estimate of $5,000 to provide the water treatment system necessary to meet the new regulation, plus another $3,000 annually to maintain and monitor the system. Some of these quotes have been much higher. This is but one example of the challenges occurring in villages and hamlets across Durham riding and in many parts of Ontario not served by municipal water supplies.
There are several issues the volunteers want to raise. First, they want to point out that there have not been previous complaints with respect to water supplies for which they are responsible. They've had tests with no adverse effects. Second, they note that they face costs that are very much higher for volunteer organizations, with no assistance.
Churches, community halls and arenas are the heart and soul of communities across my riding of Durham and Ontario. They are generally maintained and operated by volunteers who take pride in ensuring that these buildings meet the health standards. It may be that Ontario needs to meet with these groups to seek alternatives. I ask the minister to pay attention and to slow down on the regulation.
Mr Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): As this is Education Week in Ontario, I'm pleased to make this statement about the April 15 Peel Region Science Fair held at the University of Toronto, Mississauga campus. The science fair showcased the work of students from schools throughout Peel region. The student projects spanned the physical, mathematical, environmental, life, health and applied sciences. The topics ranged from purifying proteins in search of diabetes biomarkers to determining the optimal conditions for curling hair.
Each year, more than 250,000 students in Ontario compete in local science and technology fairs. Only the best projects from each region are able to move on. This year, Peel region will send six winners to join the other regional winners and represent Ontario at the Canada-wide science fair to be held in St John's, Newfoundland.
I extend the Legislature's thanks to all the teachers from across Peel region who spent months working with and encouraging the students. Building science awareness and skills are the seeds of our scientific future here in Ontario. Those seeds are germinating in the minds of this young generation of scientists, engineers and technologists.
Thanks to the committee members, especially Margaret Ramsay, for organizing a successful fair. Six students will represent Peel region, and we all hope Canada's winning entry will come from Team Ontario. I know they will make Ontario proud.
Mr Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I'm happy to rise in the House and point out an important anniversary to the people of this province and to many of the members here today. It was on this day 10 years ago in the Harbour Castle hotel in Toronto that the then leader of the third party, Mike Harris, launched what would become the most important economic document in this province in the past 50 years: the Common Sense Revolution.
In front of our caucus, about 200 well-wishers and the assembled Queen's Park media, Mike unveiled our party's road to election. It promised to create 750,000 new jobs, to lower people's personal income taxes by 30% and to balance the provincial budget, all within our first four years in office.
"Under a sweeping economic blueprint to be unveiled today, the Tory leader says his `Common Sense Revolution' would perform radical surgery on Ontario's fiscal policy to create jobs through reliance on the private sector rather than government."
We ushered in a new era in Ontario politics which established a benchmark for governments across Canada and throughout North America that lower taxes and controlled spending create a strong economic climate. We achieved the goals we set out for the people. We saw over 750,000 jobs created in our first term, we cut personal income tax by more than 30% and we balanced the budget. We did all that while inheriting a deficit from the NDP of almost --
Hon Gerard Kennedy (Minister of Education): I rise today in the House, as we begin Education Week around the province, to elaborate on the government's plan for public education. Premier Dalton McGuinty has clearly stated that he is committed to making improvements in public education a centrepiece in our government's mandate. We know that if we get public education right, we get the best citizens and the best workforce, as strong a society as possible, and the most prosperous economy.
Hon Mr Kennedy: The member opposite agrees. We've let it slide to the point where many families are choosing private schools over public education. The number of children attending private schools in this province has increased by 40% in the last eight years.
We have let it slide to the point where a steady number of young people either drop out of school or decide to stop learning; 50% of the kids in grade 9 in 1999 are predicted to either not graduate or to stop their education immediately after grade 12. Some will return to school later, but the fact remains that half of them get out of school as soon as they can or as soon as high school is over. That simply isn't acceptable in the world that Ontarians have to compete in today.
Last year -- and the member opposite knows this full well -- Ontarians told us to stop the slide in public education. What is at stake over the next four years, we believe, is the future of public education. Quite frankly, our parents and our grandparents did a better job of ensuring that their children had the education they needed for their times. Speaking as a member of a generation who had education handed to them on a silver platter, I believe that in turn, unfortunately, we have taken education for granted. That has to stop here and today.
What I want to say from this government is that those are not simply parts of a far-off vision for us. Those are action steps that have to be taken in our schools, and each one will be attended by a very specific strategy which will engage many members of this House.
We know, as we stand here today in Education Week, that it can be done. There are people elsewhere who might say these things are too difficult, but we say it's happening right now in a number of communities, in a number of schools, with the commitment of parents, teachers and the education support workers we have in place. They're overcoming a lot of barriers from the last few years. But it is not happening where it needs to be, which is in every single school in every community across this province.
Excellence in education, to mean anything, has to be for all the students in the province if we are to move ahead. Where do we start? We begin at a critical junction in a child's life, at the age of 12. If, by age 12, students become convinced that they cannot read, write, do math and comprehend at a high level, they're starting to decide whether or not school is for them. They're thinking that dropping out might be the cool thing to do, that it might be the only thing to do, because by that time they've become frustrated. They sit there on the precipice of adulthood, they're leaving childhood behind, and if they haven't had a positive education experience, if we're not prepared to invest our energy to see that that happens, then life decisions are slipping away from them -- not just for academics, but we know increasingly in a social and job sense as well it's being determined right there before they themselves can truly comprehend it.
There was a StatsCan study released last month which concluded that teens who begin high school with weaker literacy skills are less likely to complete high school. It may be stating the obvious, but here is a legacy item associated with the last number of years that all people have to contend with.
Dr Alan King, who was engaged three years ago by the previous government, tells us that not 25%, but likely 30%, of those students who began grade 9 in Ontario in 1999, the double-cohort year -- and all of us were so concerned that the double-cohort get into college or university. It didn't seem to be well planned for, that those kids would miss out, and left behind are a large number of students who didn't even get their diplomas; there are 40,000 to 48,000 kids in Ontario today who are predicted not to have a high school diploma.
I hear the member opposite make fun of that; I hear the member make light of that. I say to him that we're going to do everything possible to help these teenagers succeed. We're going to do that with much intervention and assistance to recognize that these kids are not standard. It was possible for a previous government and a previous cabinet to sit there and receive the two previous King reports and not respond. But truly, as much as we want these better outcomes for those students, those selfsame students who are struggling out there now and some, sadly, who may yet come behind them, the best way to help all of our students is to ensure a high level of literacy and numeracy at an earlier age, at age 12. This means more than the basic ability to read, write and do arithmetic. It means a growing capacity, through the elementary and secondary years, to understand information from a variety of sources and interpret it across a variety of disciplines. Our goal is to ensure that every student in Ontario is able to do this by age 12.
The province-wide test results for 2002-03 revealed that 50% of grade 3 students met the standards for reading, just 56% met the standard for writing, and 57% for math. In grade 6, the results indicate that 56% were at the provincial standard for reading, 53% for writing, and the same 53% for math. Almost half of our students are not meeting the standard. While much was done in the past -- in fact, 200 million taxpayer dollars were spent by a previous government to measure performance -- very little, almost nothing, was done to help students to be better at that performance. We say that we are committed to fulfill our duty to help all of our students to do better. And we, unlike previous governments, are going to measure our progress. We say that by 2008, 75% of students will reach that provincial standard in province-wide reading, writing and math.
Strong development in the early years is crucial. To get to the goal we have of endowing an education advantage on kids by the time they're 12, we have to be working at the earliest age possible. We will amend the curriculum to put a focus on reading, writing and math at a high level. We'll include a dedicated literacy hour and math time each day to provide the necessary learning intensity.
For the first time, every elementary school will have four specially trained JK to grade 6 lead teachers, two each in literacy and numeracy. They will be skilled in the best practices and the most effective techniques, and have time available to assist other teachers. These lead teachers will be available in all 4,000 elementary schools beginning this fall.
We have already launched a pilot project in April in Toronto that will see 10,000 struggling students in grades 1 to 5 get extra help from tutors before school, during lunch and after school. These very same students will also, for the first time, have an opportunity to attend literacy and numeracy camps in the summer so they can retain what they have gained from the extra help they are getting.
Earlier we provided every board in this province in this school year its share of $112 million in new resources to help children who were struggling the most. When we find an innovation that works anywhere in this province to help our students do better, we will make it available to every school and school board.
There is, as well, going to be a new relationship between boards and schools and government. Educators will be free to share ideas instead of shuffling paper, as they were too often asked to do in the past. Starting in the next school year, we will use test scores and real knowledge of the individual challenges that schools face to target resources on results, so that schools with a high percentage of low-income or English-as-a-second-language families are well served instead of being scapegoated. We will send turnaround teams of experts to struggling schools and give principals the tools they need to work together.
We are creating a new Ontario literacy and numeracy secretariat that will ensure that schools, teachers and, most importantly, students are getting the supports they need when they need them. We are setting up the literacy and numeracy secretariat this month in the Ministry of Education.
We will provide parents with additional resources to encourage and support early reading at home, and we will create an atmosphere of peace and stability in our schools. But we can only achieve what we want to achieve -- what we must achieve -- in terms of the goals we have set before us if we find the capacity in this province to work together.
As the Premier stated in his remarks last week, there are now three new Rs in education in Ontario: respect, responsibility and results. We will unabashedly, without apology, respect principals, teachers, education workers and trustees and the work they do on behalf of our children.
This government will assume its responsibility to lead. If things are not working, you will get a new education minister. You won't get somebody new to blame instead, as you did in the past. We can, and will, working together with our schools, parents and students, produce results. Results, as Dr Rozanski points out, cost money. There will be increased funding in the upcoming budget and in the budgets that follow, because education is a top priority for our government, for our economy and for our society.
We took the first step when this government kept its promise to cancel the private school tax credit. We ensured that millions of dollars that should be invested in public schools were not sent to private schools instead. We know, however, that much more needs to be done. We want to persuade parents that publicly funded education is the best education in every way for their children. Our job is to make the case for public education day in and day out, to make every week in Ontario Education Week, to make every week in the next four years one where education receives our focused attention.
Together we can bestow a real education advantage on our kids. And I say to all Ontarians: Your public educaion needs -- demands -- your support. It is our duty, not just in this House as legislators, but as parents, grandarents and ordinary citizens.
In this province, in this country, we define people not by where they came from but by where they're going, and education is what helps them get there. That has taken too much difficulty in recent years. I say to this House, let's seize what is a critical juncture in our history, a time when we recognize a problem and when the capacity is there to do something about it. Public education may be on the line, but on this side of the House we recognize the responsibility to respond.
We ask everyone in the House who hasn't done so to visit your local school and, better yet, to get involved in its success. We say to the people out there, seize this chance. It may be one of our last chances to shape the society we want and the good citizens and skilled workers that we want our children to be. We do this by making public education the best education, by dedicating ourselves to success for every one of our students.
The public education that we know deep down is needed in Ontario today, that will be as good a preparation for our students, for our youth, as anywhere in the world, is ours in this House to deliver in the years coming up.
Mr Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Ajax): [Inaudible] The questions were great too. They were asking about public life and politics. Unfortunately, some of the questions were about broken promises and integrity. It was one of the few times I was pleased to be in opposition, because I didn't have to answer those questions on behalf of the government, specifically the broken promises with respect to education.
Education is, to the opposition, about parents and students in our schools. It isn't about big government. It isn't about big school boards. It isn't about large unions either, whether they're teachers' unions or other unions. We brought in important reforms that were necessary in Ontario dealing with curriculum, dealing with standards -- standards for teachers' continuing learning, standards for students in the province of Ontario, and a standardized report card. The reason for these reforms was that it was necessary so our young people would have the opportunities and be prepared for the opportunities that are going to come their way in this great province of Ontario. The report card in particular was important to parents, so that parents would know how their children are doing in the schools and take remedial action when required.
Now we're six months into a new government -- a government that promised peace and stability in the schools, a government that promised they would help children with special needs the most -- and this morning we have a strike in our provincial schools by 240 teachers responsible for teaching some of the most vulnerable people in the province of Ontario. So much for that commitment from the Liberal government to the people of Ontario.
So much for the commitment with respect to continuing education, the professional learning program for teachers. This Minister of Education got up in December -- there's no legislation before the House, by the way, but he has said, I guess, that there will be legislation -- and said that he would discontinue the professional learning program for teachers. What profession in the province of Ontario does not have a continuing education program? Engineers, lawyers, physicians -- everyone is responsible for staying up to date. We live in a learning society. Of course we want our teachers to continue their education throughout their teaching career, and most teachers do. The concern, of course, is with the relatively small percentage of teachers who do not. It should not be a question of roulette, with parents having to guess which teachers have had continuing education, which ones have stayed up to date. The people of Ontario, the parents and the students, are entitled to be assured that all teachers are continuing with their professional learning programs, not to mention the waste of the cancellation of the program -- about $600,000 at least in lost leasing costs alone.
The Premier says he stakes his reputation on education. The people of Ontario want to try to save his reputation. They don't want him to waste $1.63 billion on a dumb hard cap for K through grade 3. It takes away discretion from principals. The Liberals said in the election campaign that you would listen.
Mr Flaherty: Mr Bartolucci knows; he was a principal. Why don't you listen to the principals across the province of Ontario, who will say, "We need discretion in the local schools"? Why do you try to run the education system from Queen's Park? Why don't you run it in the local schools? Let the principals have the say that they need, the discretion that they need in Ontario, and to use all of that money -- $1.63 billion; that's the amount of money we need to implement the Rozanski report.
That was another promise, that they would implement the Rozanski report. But no, they're going to use the $1.6 billion for a dumb hard cap, which will mean split classes; it will mean children back out in the schoolyard in portables. It will mean the money won't be there for the Rozanski reforms; it won't be there for the higher grades. The money won't be there for literacy training, numeracy training, and computer skills that our young people need. Those are important for parents and teachers across the province of Ontario, all of those literacy issues.
In today's world, education isn't something off in a corner. Education is absolutely fundamental for the future of the province of Ontario. Our young people need those opportunities. They don't need ideology with hard caps and teachers' unions. What they need is a commitment to parents and their children and education in the province of Ontario.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): It appears to me that the Minister of Education always appears to be defining the problem or redefining the problem and gives the sense that he is constantly in opposition and not in government. I want to review some of the things that he is not doing to let the public know that I don't believe they are meeting the challenge that they're putting to Ontarians.
First of all, boards are in the dark. Students and teachers and boards have been waiting for months to hear about funding so they can plan for the following year, and they still don't have a clue what they're going to get or when they're going to get it. It'll be late in May when the boards have a sense of what they are going to get, instead of months ago so that they could properly plan.
Number two, I remember this minister talking about kids at risk and fighting the loss of youth counsellors at the Toronto Board of Education, youth counsellors who dealt with kids who were in trouble. They are gone. Haven't heard a word from this minister about whether or not he's going to replace the youth counsellors, those who deal with kids at risk: the ones who would be leaving school, the ones who would be in trouble of surviving their academic years.
I remember this minister talking about curriculum casualties and how kids could not wait. When in opposition, he believed strongly that thousands of students were dropping out like flies and that we needed to act immediately to deal with the curriculum casualties. We have him in government; we haven't heard a peep about how he is going to deal with those curriculum casualties. Not yet, at least, but maybe it's coming.
We haven't heard about Dr Rozanski, why the minister mentions Dr Rozanski in passing and says, "Yes, we need to inject funding," but there's no mention of commitment to Rozanski or the implementation of Rozanski.
We know there are $674 million in catch-up money to make up for seven years without increases to cover inflation; $375 million to cover the backlog in maintenance and repairs to school buildings; updates in funding to cover inflation since 2002; a further $48 million for English as a second language; a further $19 million for special education in secondary schools; $42 million for textbooks and classroom supplies; a new funding formula for transportation, including $40 million in new funding and a separate funding policy for the transportation of special education students -- not a peep about that.
Let's go further. School closures: A couple of months ago, the minister says, he had imposed a moratorium on closures. Lo and behold, we are hearing that schools are closing and/or will be closed. So much for the moratorium that this minister has imposed.
Mr Marchese: -- listen to this, Jen; this is for you as well -- the loss of education assistants, the loss of librarians, the need for guidance counsellors, caretaker numbers that have been halved by the previous government, the need for art and music teachers -- not a peep from this government about how they're going to replace those vital, essential teacher services. Not a peep. And the funding formula: God bless, maybe it's coming at the end of May, but I haven't heard a thing from this minister about that.
I went to the Premier's remarks on school capping. I didn't hear a commitment from the Premier saying that classes will be capped in grade 3, grade 2 or grade 1 starting this September. What we heard is this: They're going to reduce class size. My feeling is they're going to reduce class sizes in some of the schools where there are inordinate numbers of students in some classes, and that's the extent of what we're going to get for this coming September. "And in the following years," this government says, "we are committed to capping." I can't wait to see whether that commitment is coming, because I don't think it is.
The Premier also said that people are going to have to make sacrifices. "We're going to put more money in education" -- we don't even know what that means -- "and we're going to have to take some money from other programs." No new money, and he said he's going to take money from other programs and put it in education. We don't even know what we're going to get for education.
I've got to tell you, Premier and minister, I am profoundly worried about all this blah, blah, blah that we're getting from you -- feel-good politics and that's all we're getting. I celebrate Education Week. I celebrate the educators for the work they do, the real heroes in our school system, yes. But your statement today, Mr Sorbara and company and others, gives me nothing to celebrate.
Hon Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): On a point of order, Speaker: I believe we have unanimous consent for all parties to speak for up to five minutes to recognize Sexual Assault Prevention Month.
Hon Sandra Pupatello (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for women's issues): May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month in Ontario. Ontario first declared Sexual Assault Prevention Month in 1988. Sixteen years later we still recognize Sexual Assault Prevention Month in this month of May. Sixteen years later sexual violence is still a serious problem in our society and still dramatically changes the lives of girls and women who are victimized by this crime. Sixteen years later we are still not speaking openly about this in our communities. And that's why this year's theme, Sexual Violence: Let's Talk About It, focuses on public education and promoting dialogue. It's why I stand here before you today with regard to this critical issue.
Sexual violence has long been shrouded in secrecy. It's an uncomfortable topic of discussion but, simply put, we must talk about it. We must take responsibility for addressing this issue in all the ways that we can, in all the ridings that we come from. We must educate ourselves and those around us about sexual violence, examine societal attitudes, and challenge the assumptions and myths about sexual violence. We have to speak out against this problem. It's only when we start to talk about it that we can start working on solutions. By talking about it we can educate ourselves and others and put to bed these myths about sexual violence, focusing on the facts -- facts, frankly, that should inspire action; facts that are both astounding and appalling.
More than one-third of Canadian women report that they have experienced sexual violence. An estimated 572,000 women in Canada are sexually assaulted in one year alone. That's more than one per minute. Young women are at the highest risk of sexual violence. Women are more than twice as likely to be sexually assaulted by someone they know than by a stranger. According to a StatsCan survey, fewer than 10% of sexual assaults are reported to police. We can only imagine what the levels truly are.
These statistics are shocking. Many are speechless when they hear about these numbers, and yet we must talk about them if we're going to try to put an end to all forms of sexual violence. Raising awareness of violence against women is a priority for the McGuinty government. Sexual violence has no place in our communities and no place in our homes. We have to work together to stop it from happening.
On April 6, we took, as a government, some dramatic steps forward in announcing steps to reduce violence against women. Our first steps on domestic violence include $3.5 million for second-stage housing that supports women and children escaping abusive relationships; a pilot project to train police officers, crown attorneys and others working in the criminal justice system to better assess the risks for abusive situations; almost $5 million in a four-year public education and awareness campaign, targeting children and youth, that's aimed at mobilizing communities across Ontario to break the cycle of violence; and a provincial conference on domestic violence that will allow community leaders, experts and service providers to share their best practices. These early actions are just the first initiatives to be implemented as part of our longer-term multi-ministry approach to a domestic violence plan.
In addition, as part of its education efforts on violence against women prevention, the Ontario Women's Directorate has a popular Web portal for youth. It includes a resource on sexual violence called "Let's Talk About It." It provides teens with a wealth of information on sexual violence, including tips on prevention and whom to call for help. The portal also includes a resource for teens on sexual harassment called "Harassment Hurts."
Sexual violence is preventable. It doesn't have to be the fate of so many women and girls. That's why part of our large public education campaign will focus on healthy relationships, so we can break that cycle. By talking about sexual violence -- getting teens, parents in our communities and people talking to each other -- we can create this positive shift in thinking. Through this public education campaign about healthy relationships, we can help to create and maintain a society where sexual violence has no place, and through campaigns such as Sexual Assault Prevention Month, we're doing more than just talking about sexual violence; we're going to do something about it.
I'd like to draw your attention to another important initiative that also coincides with Sexual Assault Prevention Month: the Daisy of Hope campaign. It was started in 1999 by Brantford's Nova Vita Women's Services and is dedicated to ending violence in Ontario. It also promotes violence-free living. May I please ask the House for permission so all of us may don our daisy symbolizing the Daisy of Hope campaign?
Ms Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Victoria-Brock): Sexual Assault Prevention Month has been recognized in Ontario since 1988. It's a way to create public awareness of sexual assault and improve the prevention of violence against women.
Statistics show that women between the ages of 12 and 24 are at a greater risk of sexual assault than any other age group. Only a small percentage of sexual assaults are reported to police, and in approximately 70% of reported cases the victim knew the assailant. These findings are troubling. They suggest that before adulthood, many women may experience sexual assault and many will likely suffer in silence. This is simply unacceptable.
Our government was committed to helping prevent domestic violence and made substantial improvements to Ontario's system of supports for victims. The Eves-Harris government committed more resources to address violence against women since taking office than any previous government; in fact, expenditures have increased by about 70% since 1995.
One year ago, our government announced its commitment to victims of domestic violence with more than $1.2 million in funding for Shelternet, an innovative Web site that links women to shelters across Canada, providing information to women seeking to leave abusive relationships. Supporting Shelternet was part of our government's comprehensive approach that focuses on protection and prosecution, support for victims, and prevention and education.
On September 5, 2002, our government announced $21.4 million in new initiatives over three years to support victims and hold abusers accountable, another important step forward in our government's approach to addressing domestic violence in Ontario.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): On behalf of the New Democratic Party, it's a privilege for me to stand today to acknowledge that May is Sexual Assault Prevention Month. It gives all of us an opportunity to reflect on some very shocking statistics involving sexual assaults, some of which you've heard, and I'll repeat them again: 38% of women were assaulted by their partners; 93% of sexual assault victims never report the assaults to the police; 50% of females, and 38% of children, have experienced at least one unwanted sexual act.
On this day, we should also have some renewed resolve to get to the bottom of this very serious issue of sexual assault and take the steps that government must to eliminate these vicious crimes. In that regard, I believe the Liberal government must do some of the following:
He said the following about a full review of the shelter system: "The 1998 coroner's report on the inquest into the deaths of Arlene May and Randy Iles recommended that the ministry review its funding for shelters for abused women and their children. In 1999, in response to the coroner's recommendation, the ministry indicated that assuming the municipal share of per diems and block funding shelters after January 1, 1998, was sufficient to address the recommendation. However, based on our work, it is clear that the ministry's current method of funding does not ensure appropriate and equitable funding for shelters that is linked to an assessed level of demand and to services provided in the respective communities."
The auditor went on to say that a full review of shelter funding was desperately needed because it was clear that the ministry, through its funding, could not even provide enough funding to ensure that core services were being provided in shelters across the province. The auditor said in his report: "Prior to 1995, the ministry defined the core services to be provided by VAW shelters as: shelter and safety; crisis intervention, counselling and support to women and their children; administration; children's support worker; emergency transportation; and crisis telephone services." These were the core services shelters were supposed to deliver.
I quote from the report: "Although the ministry is still committed to the provision of these core services, the ministry acknowledges that due to funding constraints, some shelters may not be able to provide all of them any more ... the ministry has no method in place to determine to what extent these services were or were not being provided."
That's why during the committee's deliberations I recommended that we have the ministry provide a full review of the shelter system and the shelter subsidy, but I couldn't get the majority of the government to agree to that at the time. The best I could do was to get two recommendations approved. It said the following: "That the ministry define the core services that all shelters must provide and ensure that they are adequately funded.... That the ministry develop a policy to clarify the services a shelter does and does not offer in consultation with OAITH." I say to the minister and the government, a full review of funding for shelters is needed now, more than ever before, and you should undertake it.
(3) We need to appropriately fund women's services and women's community services. We know that most women will never use the court system because they don't want to be victimized twice. OAITH, in a very powerful report that it released a couple of years ago, called Ten Years from Montreal: Still Working for Change, pointed out how many women will never use the court system.
If you want to help women and children flee from abuse, you need to support community-based women's organizations. You need to, for example, fund the equivalent of at least one additional women's direct service community support worker and one additional child and youth support worker in each shelter. That recommendation came out of OAITH's reports.
This government needs to fund affordable housing. This government needs to have a livable minimum wage so women and children can flee from their abusers. There is a lot of work to be done. I look to the budget to see that response.
Mr Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Ajax): My question is for the Acting Premier. According to your government's Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, revenue is projected to increase by $4.1 billion annually going forward, but the cost of your promises far exceeds this sum. The hard class cap alone is $1.63 billion. More teachers, more teacher-librarians, child care assistants, expanding MRIs, CTs, all of these various promises -- you've already spent in excess of $3 billion of new money in the province of Ontario.
You know that 80% of the revenue is transferred. The operating expense of government is transferred to transfer agencies, and 70% of that goes for salaries, wages and human resource costs. The Premier himself has said, "I'm asking our public sector partners to be reasonable and responsible at the bargaining table."
In your Economic Outlook, you said the only sustainable approach is to keep spending in line with income. Now, I'm assuming there's a government plan here. My question is: What is your plan to handle public sector wages in Ontario?
Hon Greg Sorbara (Minister of Finance): Let's begin with something that we're not going to do. We are not, under any circumstances, ever going to consider the funding of private schools in the way in which that gentleman did when he was finance minister, I tell my friend from Whitby-Ajax.
He suggests, quite rightly, that about 75% to 80% of all the revenues that we take in as a government goes through the government in the form of salaries and wages for the hard-working women and men within the Ontario government and within the broader public sector that delivers services as wide-ranging as health care facilities or environmental controls in the far part of the north. I simply say to him that we do have a plan to be able to finance the services that we committed to, and those plans will be more detailed in the budget. I invite him to be here on May 18.
When you say you're going to balance the budget, when you promise the people of Ontario you're going to balance the budget, and when most of the operating funds go for public sector salaries and wages in the province, when you know that and you say, Minister of Finance, the Honourable Greg Sorbara, which you said in your economic statement just a few months ago, "So we are asking our partners in health care, in education and in the rest of the broader public sector to temper their requests for more," and when the Premier talks about it and when we hear from some hospitals that they are being asked to hold down their expenses to 1% to 1.5%, that tells us that your plan will lead to wage controls in the province of Ontario.
Hon Mr Sorbara: That sounds to me a little bit like scaremongering, if you want to know the truth. I stand behind the statements I made in the fall economic statement. We have sent a message to all those who share in the tax revenues that we are looking toward moderation. My friend the Chair of Management Board has said on a number of occasions that we will honour the collective bargaining process, and I want to tell my friend from Whitby-Ajax that I do not take his question as a rhetorical question. I understand where he's coming from, and I simply want to tell him that we are prepared to enter into those negotiations as contracts become open for negotiation.
Mr Flaherty: You've been the Minister of Finance for more than six months now. You know the financial situation in the province of Ontario. You know that there has to be restraint, but you go and negotiate a collective agreement with the community college teachers that, in effect, is in excess of 4% per annum. You know that the economy in the province is not predicted to grow at anywhere near that. What that says to the people of Ontario is that you are intentionally running a deficit this year, that you are not going to address the serious issue of restraint.
Hon Mr Sorbara: I want to tell my friend, in terms of messages, that our message will not be the unrealistic, unfunded, nonsensical message that that party brought to the people of Ontario on October 2. I want to say to him, yes, I have been Minister of Finance for more than six months now and I understand the financial circumstances that this province finds itself in. I understand that those circumstances arise from eight years of what I described back then as mismanagement and misrepresentation. It's our job to turn that around now.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean-Carleton): My question is to the Acting Premier. Since coming to office six short months ago, you have done three things. First, you've broken nearly every campaign promise you made. Second, you've brought in the biggest tax increase in Ontario history. Third, you've announced $3 billion in increased and new spending for the province of Ontario. The real source of Ontario's fiscal woes is you and your government and the reckless campaign promises that you made to get elected.
The officials at the Ministry of Finance -- non-partisan, hard-working public servants -- have costed out your campaign promises and your campaign commitments. They've produced a 60-page report which details just how much these commitments and these promises will cost. Will you now admit that you've got to release this report, or would you stand in your place and explain to this House what you have to hide in not releasing this 60-page report? Will you do that, Acting Premier?
Hon Greg Sorbara (Minister of Finance): I simply tell my friend, I have not seen the report. I'm not interested in the report. What I'm interested in is, starting in our budget that we will present on May 18 -- don't you dare miss it; be here -- we are going to start to repair some of the damage that was done to this province over the course of the past eight years.
I refer, my friend, to the damage in terms of our revenue base -- eroded beyond belief. The expenditures in the last years of their administration were taking off like a rocket. That was not good public administration. That had to come to an end. It came to an end on October 2. Now, with the budget that we present, we are going to put ourselves on the road to financial health again.
Mr Baird: I say to the Minister of Finance of this 60-page report that he and his team refuse to release, if he hasn't seen it, it's violating some of the arguments that his lawyers are making right now in judicial proceedings for the opposition's attempt to get that report. That 60-page report, prepared by public servants, details the real expense of his party's election campaign promises, where they were reckless and crazy and saying anything to get elected. You, sir, are making legal representations and representatives of you personally are saying that this is a cabinet document. Your Premier says he hasn't seen it. Now we learn today that you haven't seen it.
If you haven't seen it, how can you possibly argue that it should be immune from the light of sunshine? How can you possibly argue that all members of this House aren't entitled to find out what's in this report and that it might be the real source of Ontario's fiscal woes? It details how much you intended to spend and how much you are responsible --
Hon Mr Sorbara: I simply told my blustery friend that I personally have not seen the report. I will tell him that there is a process that is well established and is to be respected, and that process will unfold. But the fact is that that document, whatever is in it, does not deal with the situation that we inherited on October 2: a deficit that rose to a breathtaking $5.6 billion in the final year of their administration and about $2.2 billion in additional risks in that year. I simply tell my friend that the process will be respected. The important document that he should pay attention to is the budget that we will present in this Legislature on May 18, and I invite him to attend.
Mr Baird: I say to the minister opposite, the process that should be respected is our access-to-information laws where this report has been deemed to be a public document and should be available to all members of the Legislature and to every single taxpayer in the province of Ontario. The reason we have a deficit in Ontario this coming year is because you and your government made reckless and irresponsible promises to the people of the province of Ontario. Since you've been elected, all you've done --
The worst tax increase that you instituted in your financial statement was your commitment to abolish the capital tax cut. Would you now admit that your plan to reintroduce capital taxes in the province of Ontario is devastating to --
I want to tell him, as calmly as I can, that the report that he is talking about was prepared by civil servants under the direction of the previous administration. It is up to the privacy commissioner to determine whether or not it is appropriate to release, not me. We're going to respect that process, and I invite my friend from Nepean-Carleton to respect it as well.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Energy. Last Friday, Brascan's chief executive officer -- Brascan is a private power company -- said that he wants to buy more of Ontario Power Generation's publicly owned hydro generating stations, and he indicated that he believes you are willing to sell.
I understand why Brascan is so eager to buy. The former Conservative government practically gave away the four hydro generating stations on the Mississagi River, stations that produce electricity for half a cent a kilowatt hour; then Brascan sells it for 5.7 cents a kilowatt hour, 10 times what it costs. It's a great deal for Brascan, a terrible deal --
Mr Hampton: That was a great deal for Brascan, but a terrible deal for Ontario electricity consumers. Minister, will you confirm today that you will not sell any hydro generating stations to Brascan or any other private power company?
Hon Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): We will not sell off assets like the Tories did. We will also not jump into the harmful policies of the Tories and the NDP. Our government is taking a balanced approach to energy policy, unlike the NDP, who insisted on cancelling all demand management-side programs.
We believe the reforms we've brought forward in the electricity sector are the right steps, taking a balanced approach to ensure that there is an adequate supply of reliable hydroelectricity available to all Ontario consumers.
We already launched an RFP last week for 300 megawatts of renewable energy, the first time in Ontario's history, and soon we'll be launching an RFP for 2,500 megawatts of new electricity in this province to help address the problem that was left by previous governments.
Mr Hampton: It was an easy, simple question: Will the minister say definitively that the Liberal government will not sell off any hydro generating stations to private power producers? During the election campaign, your Premier said he believed in public power. Well, Brascan has come calling, and I'm asking you, what's the answer? Will you rule out the further sale of any hydro generating stations to Brascan and other private power producers? Whose side are you on: more money for Brascan, or ensuring affordable power for consumers? What's the answer, Minister?
But let's see what this member had to say in other contexts. Who said, "There will be important roles for the private sector to play in the future of our electricity system, as there always have been"? Howie Hampton said that. Who said, "I'm not ideologically opposed to private power any more than I'm opposed to private restaurants, clothing stores or car dealerships"? Howie Hampton said that, and he published it in his book.
Who said, "Hydro is still too big and bureaucratic, and I'm sure could be made more efficient by injecting market principles deeper into the bowels of its organization. How to do that without imperilling quality, reliability and public accountability is a great challenge. Simplistic, ideological solutions are to be avoided at all costs"? That was Bob Rae, not Ernie Eves.
That member and his policies were rejected by the people of Ontario last fall. Dalton McGuinty and his government are taking reasonable steps to ensure that adequate, fair and affordable electricity is available for all Ontarians.
My question is for the Minister of Finance. Last week, an Ontario court decided that Mike Harris's secret tax break for wealthy sports companies was OK. If you allow Mike Harris's secret tax break to stand, it means an immediate loss for our health care system of at least $15 million, and it means that other sports teams like the Toronto Roadrunners, the Hamilton Bulldogs and other corporations will be lining up to scheme about getting out of paying the employer health tax. Will you bring in legislation immediately that will put an end to Mike Harris's secret tax break for his corporate friends?
Hon Greg Sorbara (Minister of Finance): Actually I appreciate the question from my friend from Kenora-Rainy River, because it gives me an opportunity to say in this House that, as a matter of policy, this government believes and will insist that the employer health tax be paid by all professional athletes in Ontario, working for teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays. That's our policy. That's the policy of the government.
We are looking at the decision, and we are considering the possibility of appealing that decision. We are looking at the loophole that has been created by the decision of Mr Justice Ted Matlow, and we are looking at the advisability of bringing forward legislation. I can tell you we're looking at a variety of different mechanisms, but the policy is clear: That tax will apply to those players.
Mr Hampton: If the policy is clear, then it seems to me that all it would require is about a three-word amendment. As you know, this decision turned on the definition of a permanent establishment. All you need to do is present legislation in this House that says that a baseball stadium in Texas, a hockey rink in Carolina or a basketball court in New York City is not a permanent establishment in terms of the employer health tax. I tell you, Minister, that if you want to bring in that legislation, New Democrats will pass it today.
I don't see why you have to go backwards and forwards on this. Are you going to bring in legislation? Are you going to send a clear and swift message not only to professional sports teams but also to other corporations that this is not on and demonstrate that message with clear legislation now?
Hon Mr Sorbara: My goodness, when it comes to taxes, how the leader of the New Democratic Party loves to run to the front of the line. I'm just not sure what part of "Yes, we are going to proceed" he doesn't like in my first answer.
We're looking at the decision. One model might be to appeal the decision, have the decision reversed, and then the matter will be cleared up for all time. Another approach, as he suggests, is to bring forward legislation, and we're looking at that option as well.
Mr Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Ajax): My question is for the Minister of Education, and it's about broken promises and vulnerable students in Ontario. The promise made in education, among others, was, "We will bring peace and stability to our schools." That was by Mr McGuinty and the Liberals in the last election. Mr Kennedy, the current Minister of Education, said on May 3, "Ontario students and the public education system as a whole deserve to have as much peace and stability as we can provide."
They've been the government for six months, and in the first test we have of this peace and stability, the most vulnerable students in Ontario, in the only schools actually directly administered by the Minister of Education, are out of school today. There is a labour disruption; there is a strike by 240 teachers who teach deaf, blind and deaf-blind students in the province. I'm asking the minister to explain to those students and their parents why this promise of peace and stability was broken with the most vulnerable students in Ontario.
Hon Gerard Kennedy (Minister of Education): I would say first of all, about the situation in this province, that we'll do everything we can to ensure peace and stability. We are not the party of the social contract or the party of Bill 160. We let local bargaining take place. We did find, for example, a way to make sure the process worked better than it did under your government, quite frankly, in order to ensure that a lockout was cancelled and sanctions were lifted in Windsor today. Kids are in school in Windsor today.
I know that my colleague the Chair of Management Board, who is responsible for these negotiations, will similarly apply the same principles of fairness to ensure there is bargaining, and also any reasonable effort this government can make to ensure this different environment actually comes about. We are cluttered by some of the old rules and attitudes that the previous government engendered, but there will be a different day in education and students are indeed, in all cases, being put first.
Mr Flaherty: Actions speak louder than words. This is the first test, and the Minister of Education and his government have failed it. They made another promise too when they went to the people of Ontario and asked for their votes. It was this: "We will help children who need help the most -- those with special needs" -- deaf, blind and deaf-blind children in provincially administered schools.
You can blame Management Board if you want, Minister of Education. You took the responsibility to help children with special needs in particular in Ontario. The chair of the negotiating team said, "For all their talk about education as this government's first priority, they had the opportunity to deliver this weekend and failed to do so. It is with regret and frustration that these dedicated teachers begin job action today."
Explain to those teachers, those vulnerable students and those parents why you broke a second promise, the promise to the special-needs students of the province, and what you're going to do to fix it.
Hon Mr Kennedy: I understand that today there likely will be some frustration on the part of the people involved in this particular discussion. But even the most frustrated teacher in this local of the Ontario secondary school association will not mistake what is said by the member of the House for genuine concern for the public teachers in this province. They will understand the difference.
We have an unfortunate situation that emerged his morning in our provincial schools. The deaf, the blind-deaf, the severely disabled kids, are in school today and the member opposite should not infer otherwise. There is a tremendous amount of commitment and concern for the staff in the schools and the staff that are trying to conclude the bargaining.
I stand here ready to accept the honourable member's intervention on behalf of the federation. I should let him know that the Chair of Management Board will apply all diligent efforts to bring this to a successful conclusion.
Mr Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Minister, you've said repeatedly that the health and safety of Ontario workers is your number one priority. I understand the ministry is revising the way it handles cases where workers refuse work because it's dangerous. Please tell me what changes have been adopted and how these changes will affect workplace health and safety in Ontario.
Hon Christopher Bentley (Minister of Labour): The member for Mississauga West raises a very important point. It arises from a policy change that the previous government instituted in 2001. This is the context: Last year, over 300,000 people were injured on worksites. Our priority as a government is to make safer and healthier worksites. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act there is the right to refuse unsafe work.
What should happen in situations where a worker believes that there is unsafe work? Immediately speak to the employer. If it can be resolved at the worksite immediately, that's the best step. If it can't, what happens next is that the Ministry of Labour is contacted. The previous administration allowed Ministry of Labour inspectors to resolve these unsafe work issues over the telephone. That, in many cases, was far from satisfactory. We have changed that. We now indicate that where it cannot be resolved over the phone, a Ministry of Labour inspector will attend at the worksite to protect workers in Ontario.
Mr Delaney: Having our inspectors on site to conduct inspections and promote healthy and safe workplaces will make a difference. Please tell me how this shift in policy fits within the ministry's broader health and safety enforcement strategy.
Hon Mr Bentley: This gives me an opportunity to say that our new policy with respect to workplace inspection of unsafe work issues not only will protect workers in Ontario, but it fits within the broader context. And that broader context, as I've spoken about before in this House, is a context in which we've launched the minister's health and safety action groups to bring best practices and make them apply throughout workplaces in Ontario to make them safer.
It fits within the context where we recently announced a new process for updating occupational exposure limits much. These are the exposure limits for potentially hazardous substances in the workplace. It used to be that they were only periodically revised. In fact, in one case they weren't revised from 1986 until 2000 -- a period of 14 years. We have now instituted a process where these limits will be revised at least once a year, and often more often than that, so that the workers of Ontario benefit from the best scientific and medical evidence --
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Minister, you will recall the electricity blackout that affected the northeast United States and Ontario last August 14, 2003. This unfortunate event left some 50 million people in the dark. You might also recall two things: First, every independent report on this important event exonerated Ontario from any cause. Second, our leader, Ernie Eves, made a commitment to assist our community with the costs of police, fire, health and other costs.
Minister, can you clearly admit today that this is another broken Liberal promise? As you know, you turned your back and cancelled the assistance to our municipal partners. Is this not just another broken Liberal promise?
Hon John Gerretsen (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, minister responsible for seniors): I thank the member opposite for the question. He is quite correct that Mr Eves promised money sometime in August of last year to the various municipalities that were affected by the blackout. However, what he failed to do, and they were the government at the time, was set up any program or any application deadlines. What's most important, he failed to put any money aside to fund this particular program.
We realize the difficulty that some of our municipalities had as a result of the blackout. However, there was absolutely no money allocated by the former government. It was a promise that was made by that government, and they, as usual, broke their promise.
Mr O'Toole: Clearly, the minister doesn't want to own up to his responsibilities. They like to comment routinely on the bogus budget, but this is just one more example where you cannot have it both ways. You can't have it both ways, Minister, because you admit here today that the bogus budget you continue to quote is simply wrong. You know it's wrong. You know it's less than that. Minister, you turn your back -- not only turn the lights out, but put our municipalities in the red. You're breaking another promise to the municipal partners that you're supposed to be representing.
Hon Mr Gerretsen: I certainly agree with one thing the member said, and that was that last year's budget in the Magna workshop was a bogus budget. As a matter of fact, as we well know, it was such a bogus budget that when we took office on October 23, we were in debt to the tune of $5.6 billion for one year, and there may have been another $2 billion there in additional debts and responsibilities.
The point is simply this: We sympathize with our municipalities. There was never a commitment given by this government. The only commitment given was by that government, without any kind of funding or mechanism put in place to make it happen.
Mr Mario G. Racco (Thornhill): My question is to the Minister of Energy. Friday, April 23, was Conservation Day in Ontario, and I had the pleasure of visiting a company in my Thornhill riding that produces energy-conserving devices such as smart meters. These smart meters allow energy consumers to easily and accurately monitor and control consumption under the tiered rate structure.
I understand that our government is trying to build a culture of conservation in our province so that Ontarians spend less on energy and rely less on polluting energy sources such as coal while preventing the potential of more dangerous power blackouts, as we did experience under the Tory government. Minister, what is your ministry doing to encourage the use of energy-conserving devices such as smart meters by homeowners and businesses?
Hon Dwight Duncan (Minister of Energy, Government House Leader): On April 19 of this year, Premier McGuinty announced the most broad-ranging and sweeping energy conservation program in the history of Ontario. At that time, we announced our intention to put smart meters into every Ontario home by 2010, with an interim target of 800,000 meters in place by 2007.
We've also given the Ontario Energy Board clear direction and authority to establish rates with more flexible pricing to allow Ontarians to save money if they consume electricity in off-peak hours. We'll be working with the Ontario Energy Board to develop and implement requirements for the installation of smart meters in homes and smaller businesses. Large consumers already have interval meters, a type of smart meter. We'll allow local distribution companies to begin investing approximately a quarter of a billion dollars, the largest investment in conservation in the history of the province.
Mr Racco: Minister, thank you for taking the issue very seriously and sending this important message to the people of Ontario. This issue is very important to the people of Thornhill, not only from a quality-of-life standpoint but also economically, because conserving energy will give Ontarians an extra economic advantage in our very competitive global economy. Inevitably, a culture of conservation will bring about significant positive spinoffs such as new jobs in new sectors of the economy, a cleaner environment and more money for the people of Ontario, ultimately improving the standard of living for all of us.
In my riding, construction of new homes and buildings continues at a rapid pace. Minister, in keeping with our energy conservation mandate, what initiatives is your ministry undertaking to ensure we have high energy efficiency standards in our homes and buildings?
Ontario's Energy Efficiency Act was the first in Canada. It was passed in this Legislature in 1987. It sets minimum efficiency levels for over 50 products, including the major energy consumers found in the home. This does not mean we are resting on our laurels. We are always working to improve our standards.
On March 26 this year, I announced the latest regulation under the Energy Efficiency Act, setting tough new standards for nine products, which will increase energy conservation, help the environment and result in savings for consumers. Rest assured that unlike previous governments -- the NDP, who cancelled all demand-side management programs in Ontario; and the Conservatives, who thought demand management conservation was a joke -- the McGuinty government is leading the way on conservation not only in Ontario but also in terms of the world.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): My question is to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. As you well know, TVOntario provides high-quality educational programming that is linked to the curriculum and is commercial-free. You know that. I have travelled to many cities, gathering support to prevent the sale of TVO, and many citizens told me they don't want a sell-off. They also don't understand why you are discussing a sell-off. When the Conservatives were trying to sell it off in the early period -- 1997, 1998 and 1999 -- Mr McGuinty said, "The debate is over." Minister, will you tell the people of Ontario that the debate is really over and that you won't sell TVO?
Hon Mary Anne V. Chambers (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities): I do know that the member from Trinity-Spadina is a great fan of Polkaroo, but you know, there's a lot more to TVOntario than Polkaroo. Independent learning for 24,000 students who can qualify for high school diplomas and independent learning opportunities for apprentices are just examples of the richness of the educational programming for TVOntario. I guess the member is not comfortable with the fact that we have asked the people of Ontario to share with us what they think about a number of things. I also understand that the member is not even happy that we engaged a highly regarded and respected research organization. So I guess there's no telling what we can say to appease the member.
Mr Marchese: Minister, I really think you must stop playing peekaboo with Polkaroo. I tell you that it's impossible for TVO to continue its fundraising efforts and conduct normal operations with this threat of a sell-off hanging over its head. If this is a trial balloon you're holding, all you have to do is shoot it down, admit you made a mistake and what I consider to be a political blunder. Can you assure us that TVO will remain public and that it will continue to provide children and adults with the excellent educational programs you were talking about?
Hon Mrs Chambers: Again, I will say to the member from Trinity-Spadina that we are proud of our government's interest in hearing from everyone in Ontario, even the member from Trinity-Spadina. When he asked me that question last week and I answered him, I thought he was listening. If this is another one of those pre-budget consultation questions, I guess he'll have to wait until May 18, just like everybody else.
Mr Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): My question is for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. When you were in opposition, you said the following -- and I quote from Hansard in 1997: "Gas prices all over Ontario continue to be too high and the government of Mike Harris is doing nothing about it. The Liberals have given the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations a solution, but we see no action from the Mike Harris government." Well, Minister, now you are the government and the minister charged with looking out for northern interests. Why are we experienceing record-high gas prices in Parry Sound and all over the north? My constituents and northerners across the province want to know what your solution is.
This is a very, very complex issue. There is no simple solution to it. But let me tell you, there are concerns -- I think there are implications internationally -- with regard to the amount of barrels that are produced on a daily basis. There is concern that there will be a reduction in the amount of barrels that are produced. Certainly it is very important that we make sure everyone is aware of the acute concern not only of the people of northern Ontario, but the concern that the people of Ontario have with gas prices.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham): Minister, that was then and this is now. Clearly, you never had an answer then, nor do you have an answer now, unlike the member from Parry Sound-Muskoka, who has really stood up and listened to the people of Ontario, asking you a question to which you refuse to give an answer.
Minister, I can tell you that people from Durham, and in fact all over Ontario, love to travel to the north -- Science North, Dynamic Earth, just camping and outdoor recreational opportunities. Can you assure the House today that you're not going to increase the price of gas with your new gas tax in your May 18 budget? You know that gas is an important and expensive commodity for people that's going to restrict their travel not just to the north, but in the south of Ontario. Can you tell us categorically that you're not going to increase the price of gas with your new gas tax in the province of Ontario?
Hon Mr Bartolucci: It is passing strange that the supplementary came from one of the gas-busters. Fourteen recommendations were made to the previous government. I would like the member to stand and tell the House and the people of Ontario how many of those recommendations were acted upon. We understand that the gas fighter won't do that, but it was only one. I want the people of Ontario to know that the previous government was the government that talked the talk but never walked the walk.
Mr Jim Brownell (Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Over the past decade, cities in Ontario have been struggling with the financial and social implications downloaded to them by the past Tory government. As such, numerous cities, including Cornwall, the city in my riding of Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh, have not been able to invest in much-needed downtown revitalization projects, leaving city centres a shell of what they were once were.
In Cornwall, the Heart of the City and La Renaissance projects are currently underway and are ambitious work plans which support and increase business, increase residential housing and would lure people to the beautiful downtown areas of Cornwall. These projects will support the creation of an open-air market, study the feasibility of establishing a factory outlet, proceed with brownfields redevelopment, redevelop the historic downtown and undertake a traffic study. However, the city is struggling with these projects as they move ahead due to the lack of funds. Minister, what is your ministry doing to support cities with projects such as Cornwall's downtown revitalization projects?
Hon John Gerretsen (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, minister responsible for seniors): I'd like to thank the member for the question. I'd also like to indicate to him that I've met with Mayor Poirier a number of times, and he certainly put his case forward on behalf of his municipality quite strongly as well.
I think Cornwall has to be complimented, as do all the other small municipalities in Ontario, for trying to have their downtowns as vital as possible. We all know that the vitality of our communities is determined by how the downtowns are developed.
I can tell the member that we are developing tools right now for municipalities to use themselves. We're also developing community development programs to make sure the downtowns of smaller municipalities, and the rural areas, will remain as vital and strong as possible, because we believe in strong communities. That's what this is really all about.
Recently I met with municipal representatives from across my riding who have been dealing with infrastructure issues. Many of them are in need of much-needed funding in order to update and renovate infrastructure projects such as water and waste water treatment facilities. In my home community of Long Sault, as an example, we have a massive water treatment project currently underway, but there are similar projects required throughout my riding. As the OSTAR program has now ended and is no longer taking applications, what is our government doing in order to supplement or replace this program?
Hon Mr Gerretsen: We recognize that municipalities, large and small, need help with their infrastructure. I know that my colleague the Minister of Public Infrastructure, the Honourable David Caplan, is currently working extremely hard with the federal government, as we are with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, to come up with the best possible plan, that will have input from all three levels of government, and more important, that will have funding from all three levels of government. Hopefully, a program like that can be announced in the near future.
Ms Laurie Scott (Haliburton-Victoria-Brock): My question is for the Minister of Education. In my riding of Haliburton-Victoria-Brock, there are approximately 150 students in the former townships of Carden and Dalton who for generations have taken their elementary and secondary school education with the Simcoe County District School Board. The students and their families use the city of Orillia and the eastern Simcoe county as their community of interest.
Now, the Trillium Lakelands District School Board wants these Carden and Dalton students back in their schools. They have told these students that they will have to attend schools located within the Trillium Lakelands boundaries, although these schools are much farther in distance from their homes than the Orillia-area schools.
I believe we need to put students first, the local, municipal and student school councils believe that we need to put students first, and their parents believe that we need to put students first. Minister, will you put the students first and personally intervene to work with the boards so the children of Carden and Dalton can attend the schools of their choice, the schools in the Simcoe system that were also their parents' and grandparents' choice?
Hon Gerard Kennedy (Minister of Education): I will that we are in communication now with the board. We are looking into, not taking the decision away from the board, but what the regulations are and so on that are being relied upon to make this decision. We do think that in all instances where the boards have discretionary power, they should be looking out for the interests of students.
There is a difference of opinion about this at the current time, but at the same time we do think there may be a provincial role. I undertake to the member opposite that we are exploring that now and will report back to her further on our success, in terms of both dialoguing with the board and looking at how provincial rules may have brought a part of this situation about.
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): Ms Scott and I are both agreed that the students from Carden and Dalton are best served by the Simcoe county board. In fact, the Simcoe county board has done a remarkable job of portable replacements over the last four years, in fact changing all of the schools in the township of Ramara -- Brechin, Rama Central and Uptergrove -- to having beautiful new additions, which of course accommodate the kids from Carden and Dalton.
With a large financial investment -- it's about $5 million in these schools -- and I understand the pending regulatory change in the transportation segment of the student-focus funding formula, can you assure us -- or I know you could give a partial answer there to the parents and students of Carden and Dalton -- and will you make the solution a long-term solution, if you possibly can, by working with the boards? I believe in a solution that will allow Carden and Dalton students to attend Simcoe county schools for the foreseeable future and many generations, if at all possible.
We have a point of friction between two boards, essentially, and we want to play whatever constructive role we can. We don't intend to take final decision-making power away from them, but we do see ways, and there are some changes that we think can perhaps ameliorate that, which could be announced in the weeks ahead. But again, I would say that we're looking first of all to see where the provincial responsibility is and how this may be making this more complicated.
We have in some boards a larger issue around lower populations. We have a new policy coming forward, I'll say to the member opposite now, which puts more emphasis on the academic value and performance of schools. And while this is a unique situation -- a border issue, if you like -- that principle will inform us as well in how we contribute to this solution.
Mr Lorenzo Berardinetti (Scarborough Southwest): My question is for the Minister of the Environment. Great Lakes cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Sault Ste Marie, Windsor and Toronto are members of the Great Lakes Cities Initiative. This initiative is a binational coalition of mayors and other local officials that works actively with federal, state and provincial governments to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes. What is your ministry doing to assist Ontario's Great Lakes cities in achieving the goals of the Great Lakes Cities Initiative?
Hon Leona Dombrowsky (Minister of the Environment): With regard to the Great Lakes Cities Initiative, the work they are about is very important, and Ontario also plays a role. I've been told that the province of Ontario shares more miles of Great Lakes shoreline than any other jurisdiction in North America, so we have a leadership role to play.
I'm also happy to announce that on April 12 this year, my ministry, along with the government of Canada, announced our commitment -- a $13-million investment this year and $50 million over the next few years -- to implement a plan to address the hot spots in the Great Lakes, and many of those hot spots are near some of the cities the honourable member has mentioned. This investment will fund initiatives across Ontario to clean up the contaminated sediment in the Great Lakes. It will also increase the monitoring and reporting of water and sediment quality, and will address, or look to address, a reduction in the pollutants that are found in the Great Lakes.
I also want to ask a supplementary on a related matter, which has to do with the St Clair River and the recent spill that occurred there. Along with your commitment to clean up the Great Lakes, what is your ministry doing to ensure that all of Ontario's lakes and rivers are protected?
Hon Mrs Dombrowsky: I'm very disturbed by the number of incidents that have occurred along the St Clair River. That is why I have established the Industrial Pollution Action Team, made up of scientists and municipal representatives. I'm very pleased that Maria van Bommel, the MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, is serving as the chair of that important working group that will bring recommendations to this minister on how we can prevent those accidents from happening in the future.
This government has hired water inspectors. That's our commitment to improving water quality in Ontario. We have committed to implementing all of O'Connor's recommendations. This year we initiated the white paper on source protection, and we're in the process of compiling all the very good information we've received from that initiative. In recent weeks, you would know, I introduced the Adams Mine Lake Act, another action this government has taken to protect water in Ontario.
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): My question is to the Minister of Children and Youth Services. I want to return to the promise your Premier made to autistic children on September 17 when he said: "I also believe that the lack of government-funded IBI treatment for autistic children over six is unfair and discriminatory. The Ontario Liberals support extending autism treatment beyond the age of six. "
In the gallery today, I have Donna and Joshua Currie of Barrie. Joshua has autism. He's on a waiting list at Kinark, waiting for an assessment to determine the severity of his autism and how much IBI he requires. He's been on the waiting list for two and a half years. In mid-April, Kinark told Donna that even if Joshua gets his assessment, he won't be getting government-funded IBI treatment because he turns six on May 16. Minister, why are you breaking your promise to Joshua and to other children just like him?
Hon Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration): I thank the honourable member for her question and for her commitment to this area, but I do want to reassure her that our government is supporting autistic children, from preschool right through to their school years. We are doubling the amount of money we spend on autism.
I worked with children with autism throughout my career. I know the challenges that parents face. That is why I went out, didn't do anything impulsive, and consulted with experts on our plan. We are going to be giving $30 million a year to the school system to train parents, teachers, educational assistants, speech and language pathologists and behaviour strategists on ABA. That is what we were told is the correct way to approach this problem.
We will also be infusing money for more therapists in the system by having a one-year training program at two community colleges, rather than a two-week training program, which is what the training is now for therapists, and we will be infusing $10 million more for IBI for children under the age of six.
Ms Martel: Minister, the question was, why are you breaking your promise to autistic children over the age of six, like Joshua? You see, he needs IBI. His psychologist says he needs at least 30 to 40 hours of IBI every week. He's only getting 12. And the only reason he's getting 12 hours is that his mom, Donna, went out, pounded the pavement, applied for grants, and got money from two groups in order to pay for the 12 hours a week.
Explain to me why in Ontario, in 2004, a mom has to go to President's Choice to get money for medically necessary treatment. Your Premier made a very specific promise in the middle of an election to a mom with an autistic child. He said your government was going to end the discrimination against kids over the age of six. Why are you breaking that promise?
Hon Mrs Bountrogianni: I thank the member for her question. We will be giving children and their parents and their teachers and their educational assistants specific ABA training in the classroom. That is what we are told is the necessary route.
I want to also cite another parent of an eight-year-old with autism, who is a teacher in the Niagara school system. I have permission to use her name: Linda Volpini. She agrees with us that every child with autism is unique and different in the range of their needs. Not every child requires the same type of treatment. I work with these children. They require different types of treatment. That is why we will be offering ABA in the classroom. ABA is the umbrella which includes the very discrete kind of therapy that some children need, as well as the more general consultation to the classroom that other children need.
I ask the honourable member to be patient. Tomorrow, our working group for the two ministries, children and youth and education, are meeting for the first time to plan the implementation of this program. I ask her to reserve judgment until those details are public.
Mr Tim Hudak (Erie-Lincoln): A question to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade: Minister, in 1995, the Interprovincial Lottery Corp conducted a national survey of over 3,000 Canadians when Paul Martin was considering a tax on lottery winnings. The study found an expected 20% decrease in lottery purchases as a result. If you put that across the gaming industry today, there will be a net loss to Ontario of $280 million from the McGuinty casino and bingo tax. Minister, in light of this, will you now rule out a tax on lotteries and casinos, or do you have a study that proves the opposite?
Hon Joseph Cordiano (Minister of Economic Development and Trade): What I can tell the member opposite is that with respect to a variety of views that have been put forward by various people in the public, this government is considering all of those views in terms of what we do when we move forward.
That's something you failed to do. You failed to consult with the public. You closed off all the options. You closed off any discussion. You closed off any consideration for anything that was remotely different or provided some alternatives.
We, as a government, have decided very clearly that we're going to consult with the public, and we're not afraid to hear a variety of views. That's what this process is all about. I say to the member opposite, decisions have not been made. We will take into consideration all the views that we've heard out there.
Mr Hudak: I'm surprised the minister responsible for promoting the industry would not rule this out or give his own -- I challenge you, in your consultations, to give me the name of one person who supports this nutty idea of a lottery and casino tax. It reminds me of their plan to tax meals, the soup, salad and coffee tax that McGuinty let sway in the breeze for about 10 days before he knocked it off. It's simply caused by their voracious appetite for tax dollars.
Minister, I did my own consultation at Uncle Sam's Bingo on Friday in Fort Erie. They're not receiving very well your idea to tax their winnings. In fact, the McGuinty casino-and-bingo tax is bad news for jobs and bad news for local charities. Will you just fold your hand and admit that the casino tax is a bad bet?
Hon Mr Cordiano: I say again to the member opposite that we're not afraid to hear a variety of views. We canvassed all sorts of opinions, unlike you, who cut yourselves off from the public. You didn't even listen. You never listened to anybody. You didn't listen to nurses when they told you there weren't enough nurses in hospitals. You didn't listen to the people who warned you about possible problems with water inspection. You ignored all those things. You ignored everyone, because you had all the answers. You were afraid to consult.
We've gone out and consulted with people. We've heard a variety of views. Nothing has been decided. Nothing is in and nothing is out, I say to the member. We're going to consider all those views as we move forward in a rational, receptive way.
"Whereas seniors and other qualified patients require the continued provision of physiotherapy services through schedule 5 clinics to promote recovery from medical conditions and continued mobility and good health;
"The patients of schedule 5 physiotherapy clinics request the continued support of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for provision of OHIP-covered physiotherapy treatment to qualified seniors and others in need of these vital health care procedures."
"Whereas Alexander Graham Bell, renowned inventor of society-altering technological inventions, such as the telephone, greatly revolutionized the daily lives of people in Ontario, Canada and the world; and
"To adopt and pass into law Dave Levac's private member's bill, Bill 44, the Alexander Graham Bell Parkway Act, renaming Highway 403 between Woodstock and Burlington as a tribute to this great inventor."
"Whereas adding a tax for the first time on a glass of milk, a salad, a bowl of soup or a cup of coffee will affect a total of 1.5 million Ontarians each and every day in restaurants and cafeterias across the province;
"We demand that the Ontario government immediately increase social assistance rates to reflect the true cost of living. This means shelter allowances that are based on the average local rents as calculated by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp and a basic needs allowance that is based on the nutritional food baskets prepared by local health units as well as the calculations for the costs of household operation, household furnishings and equipment, clothing, transportation and health care as reported in Statistics Canada's Average Household Expenditures."
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to uphold parliamentary tradition and hold a public presentation and debate of the 2004 budget, and every budget thereafter, by our publicly elected members of Parliament" inside this chamber.
"That the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care give his final approval of the capital request change from the Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital immediately, so those who are in need of these life-sustaining dialysis services can receive them locally, thereby enjoying a better quality of life without further delay."
"We demand that the Ontario government immediately increase the shelter portion of Ontario Works and Ontario disability support program benefits to the average Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp rent levels and index social assistance to the cost of living."
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and are asking the new Liberal government of Ontario to enact policies that will make motorcycle insurance affordable for Ontario motorcyclists and, thus, to protect the livelihood of thousands of Ontario workers."
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure the budget is not read by a finance minister who is not under investigation by the Ontario Securities Commission, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or any other law enforcement agency."
Mr Tim Peterson (Mississauga South): I have a petition today that was collected by a very active lady in my riding, Elsie Rossi. She collected over 1,350 signatures from seniors in Mississauga South that urge the government to not make any cuts to the senior services drug plan. I hereby submit this petition.
"Whereas, as part of the landfill planning process, peer reviews of site 41 identified over 200 recommendations for improvements to the design, most of which are related to potential groundwater contamination; and
"Whereas the Minister of the Environment has indicated her intention to introduce legislation on water source protection, which is a final and key recommendation to be implemented under Justice Dennis O'Connor's report on the Walkerton inquiry; and
"We, the undersigned, call upon the government of Ontario and the Ministry of the Environment to immediately place a moratorium on the development of site 41 until the water source protection legislation is implemented in Ontario. We believe the legislation will definitely affect the design of site 41 and the nearby water sources."
Mr Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): It's my pleasure today to present a petition on behalf of some members of the Peel Multicultural Council. It's addressed to the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and it says:
"Whereas the city of Mississauga has, within a generation, grown from a linked collection of suburban and farming communities into Canada's sixth-largest city, and tens of thousands of people daily need to commute into and out of Mississauga in order to do business, educate themselves and their families and enjoy culture and recreation; and
"Whereas gridlock on all roads leading into and out of Mississauga makes peak-period road commuting impractical, and commuter rail service on the Milton GO line is restricted to morning and afternoon service into and out of Toronto; and
"Whereas residents of western Mississauga need to `commute to commute,' driving along traffic-clogged roads to get to overflowing parking lots at the Meadowvale, Streetsville and Erindale GO train stations;
"That the government of Ontario, through the Ministry of Transportation and highways, instruct GO Transit to allocate sufficient resources from its 2004-05 capital budget to proceed immediately with the acquisition of land and construction of a new GO train station, called Lisgar, at Tenth Line and the rail tracks, to alleviate the parking congestion, and provide better access to GO train service on the Milton line for residents of western Mississauga."
"That the province of Ontario proceed with a program to support municipal fire services for the purchase of life-saving equipment, and that the province develop a rural response strategy in consultation with municipal fire services."
Resuming the debate adjourned on April 28, 2004, on the motion for second reading of Bill 49, An Act to prevent the disposal of waste at the Adams Mine site and to amend the Environmental Protection Act in respect of the disposal of waste in lakes / Projet de loi 49, Loi visant à empêcher l'élimination de déchets à la mine Adams et à modifier la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement en ce qui concerne l'élimination de déchets dans des lacs.
Mr Phil McNeely (Ottawa-Orléans): I'm pleased to rise today to speak to Bill 49, the Adams Mine Lake Act. Through the introduction of this act, we are taking an important step toward keeping our commitment to protect the environment for future generations. We are also assuring the people from northern Ontario that the uncertainty with which they have lived in respect to this project is over and that their communities will be protected from the negative environmental impacts that this project certainly would have caused.
In effect, we are working to stop the trend of environmental degradation we have been witnessing over the last number of years. With this legislation, we are making a commitment to protecting source water. From the lessons of Walkerton, we know too well the cost of not doing so. It was painful and, frankly, maddening that it took people dying to shock us out of complacency and to reveal the gaping holes that were created by the previous government in this essential service. People died because of lack of proper oversight of an essential service. Running fast and loose with public safety is a huge mistake. Cutbacks in that area have cost us dearly; even more, the lives that were lost. The previous government lost the public trust and brought short-term prosperity at the cost of non-renewable resources.
As my colleague the Minister of Natural Resources stated during an earlier session on second reading of this bill, there are costs involved in implementing this legislation in terms of settlements, in terms of jobs and other short-term benefits. But as he also noted so eloquently, any project that is not grounded in a sound environmental context bears too high a cost. Ensuring environmental sustainability is essential if we are to be responsible stewards of our children's birthright.
This legislation is part of a comprehensive strategy that will see improved waste management through a multi-pronged approach which will encompass waste reduction as well as diversion and deal with landfill issues. It also includes the creation of new mechanisms to increase public confidence in the environmental process, which will be made more responsive and transparent. We want to work with communities to ensure that their needs are balanced with the other pressures with which we are being forced to deal.
Residents in many communities around Ontario are working hard to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills. It is that individual and community commitment that will help make change happen. Gone are the days when we could put trash out the back door and forget about it. It really is a nightmare in the making unless we all take serious steps right now to correct it. We cannot depend on Michigan's continuing to take Toronto's garbage. That US state is getting nervous and is starting to impose increasing restrictions on what they are willing to accept. They are now turning back the truckloads of garbage that carry what in fact are recyclables. This is clearly our own issue to deal with.
I speak as an elected member from the Ottawa area, but I recognize that this is a provincial issue and that the responsibility for finding solutions to these issues belongs to all of us. Although there is confidence that the city of Toronto is doing everything it can to deal in a responsible manner with Michigan's concerns, we need to enact a long-term provincial strategy to deal with Ontario's garbage that will be responsive to the innovative strategies that can be supported by our joint efforts and resources. That means municipal and provincial resources, as well as those of the public and private sector and of individual Ontarians. We need a common will and a common purpose.
That is why we are proposing a new provincial goal to divert 60% of waste from disposal by 2008, in effect putting our own feet to the fire. We need to act now to put systems in place that will allow us to reach the goal sooner, if possible. When you think about what our ancestors did in opening up this country, in settling cities, and the sacrifice they made through their war efforts, we can fairly see ourselves as incompetents who can't look after our own business when it comes to solving the environmental problems that this complex society creates. In not facing up to the problems we have created in cosmetic use of pesticides in our cities, industrial pollution or the degradation of our personal health and work environments, we waste billions of dollars of taxpayers' money in the courts, in delays, in not acting.
Mrs Liz Sandals (Guelph-Wellington): I'm pleased this afternoon to rise in support of Bill 49, the Adams Mine Lake Act. If passed, this bill will stop any future development of the Adams mine pit as a landfill, politely put, or as a dump, to put it bluntly. It will also prohibit using any other lake in Ontario over one hectare in size as a landfill or dump.
The history of the Adams mine pit is interesting. It started out as a pit mine outside Kirkland Lake. It has been a huge pit mine, abandoned for years. Over the years the groundwater has seeped in, and in fact it is now essentially a lake, which is why the bill is entitled the Adams Mine Lake Act. What has happened, though, is that now there is a proposal to pump out the lake and use it as a dump. The concern of the local residents is that if groundwater can seep into the pit, then contaminants which inevitably arise when you use something as a dump can seep out and get into the groundwater supply.
We all know, from the painful experience of Walkerton, what happens when groundwater or well water becomes contaminated. We can have a public health disaster on our hands. I know, closer to my home in Guelph-Wellington, in the little village of Elmira, that because of past industrial dumping, a large number of wells in that community are unusable because of industrial contamination. It is this effect that we are determined to stop. It is not acceptable, in the search for sites that can be used as dumps, to endanger our groundwater supply, to endanger the communities in northern Ontario that depend on that vein of water, to endanger their safe water supply.
This act will stop any future use of the Adams mine lake as a landfill site. If you're sitting in southern Ontario and thinking, "So what? This is a pit outside Kirkland Lake. What does that have to do with me?", it might have a lot to do with you. It certainly has a lot to do with my riding of Guelph-Wellington. One of my municipalities is a little municipality called Puslinch, and it happens to have a lot of gravel pits. Of course, that's another form of open pit mining. Puslinch is dotted with pits, many of which are mined below the water table. Of course, what happens when that gravel extraction business is finished, when the pit has been mined out, is that the gravel pit operator goes away, the groundwater seeps in, and you essentially have a gravel pit lake.
This bill, if it is passed, will help my constituents because the bill will not just outlaw using the Adams pit lake as a landfill, but will also outlaw using as a landfill any lake or former pit which has filled with groundwater. So for communities all over Ontario, this will have a positive impact on protecting their safe water supply.
Then the question comes up: So what are we going to do, because we obviously do have to deal with garbage? One of the things that we are committed to doing is having an aggressive waste diversion program where 60% of our garbage will be diverted from landfills by the year 2008.
This can be done, because in my home community of Guelph we have a very aggressive waste diversion program. The people of Guelph actually sort their garbage into three streams. Organic compostables go into the green bag and go off to a municipal composting facility. Anything that can be composted must go in the green bag. The municipality composts that and then can use that to good purpose. Recyclables -- things like fine paper, newsprint, plastic bottles, glass jars -- all go into the clear blue bag and are available for recycling. The third bag, the clear bag, is only for garbage, and only the garbage bag goes to landfill.
I believe that with the leadership of Guelph and other communities that have aggressive waste diversion programs, we can move toward a waste diversion program, and that Bill 49, which will protect our groundwater supply, is going to be very good not just for the people of northern Ontario, but for all of Ontario.
In response, I appreciate the comments. I'm looking forward to this debate, because I do believe that this decision was born out of politics, that there was no science behind the decision to close down the Adams mine.
It went through the proper process, as far as I know and recall. The people of Kirkland Lake were supportive. They had an election that was basically a referendum on this issue in Kirkland Lake, where there was strong support for the new mayor, Bill Enouy, and his council. In fact, the mayor and those who opposed using the Adams mine were tossed out of office. So my recollection on this is that there was strong support in the host community and that it had gone through the proper environmental channels.
What's important too, I think, is that there does not seem to be a serious plan in case Michigan closes its border. Right now we're in a bit of a limbo where the city of Toronto and I think York region and some other areas send a significant proportion of their waste into the state of Michigan. There are state legislators there, and the governor, who are trying to bring a stop to that. There is no backup plan for what happens if that border closes.
The member for Guelph-Wellington had spoken about an aggressive waste diversion program. What is it, 60% by 2008? It's extremely aggressive. I understand the state of California has invested tens of millions of dollars in diversion over -- what is it? -- a 10- or 15-year period and hasn't come close to the targets that this government anticipates achieving. Perhaps they'll achieve the residential; it remains to be seen. But certainly for the industrial, commercial and institutional waste, there is no chance; it's an unrealistic target and they need a better plan.
This is a bill that is on the right track. It is attempting to stop what would be a disastrous environmental policy if we were to allow Toronto or anyone else's garbage to go to Adams mine. I am proud to say I was there at the city of Toronto, one of three former councillors who now sit in this room and the only one who fought the Adams mine. It was an idea that was totally wrong, to transport the garbage from this particular community hundreds of kilometres by rail and put in an abandoned pit that some now liken to a lake.
The members have spoken about what this government must do, and I am in agreement. We must do more to recycle, we must do more to compost, but what needs to be done to get the massive amounts of garbage out of the stream needs to go beyond simply recycling and beyond the 60% solution that is being talked about today. We need to aggressively ensure that products are not overpackaged. There needs to be a tax on anyone who overpackages commercial products.
We need, in this province, to do what most of the other provinces and some of the states are now doing, and that is to go back to a deposit-return system on pop bottles and wine bottles, just as they do in the Beer Store, which recycles or reuses some 98% of all the beer bottles. We need to go back to that. That is the only way, aggressively, that we're going to meet the 60% target.
Mr Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence): Certainly this Adams mine scheme was one advanced by the previous government and by the previous Premiers, especially Mike Harris, who advanced this scheme that was going to be costing the people of Ontario hundreds of millions of dollars. Can you imagine, to truck garbage from Toronto 600 kilometres north into an open mine, which is now essentially a lake, to somehow deal with a problem that has to be dealt with in terms of reduction and separation and diversion?
So this is a very positive step that the Ministry of the Environment has taken. It goes contrary to all the anti-environmental positions of the previous government, which was willing to entertain the proponents of this scheme at a cost not only to the environment but to the people of Kirkland Lake and area and everybody downstream from this Adams mine.
Also, I think it is an important signal that we have to start to invest in our waste resources. It's not garbage; it's a resource that has to be dealt with. We now have to make some tough decisions, but we can't do it by investing or wasting literally hundreds of millions of dollars on some concocted scheme that was going to ship waste to Kirkland Lake by rail. We should be using rail to move people on GO Transit, not to move waste up to Kirkland Lake. This was a crazy idea, and this bill puts an end to this crazy idea.
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): I'm pleased to make a few comments on the previous speaker as well. I understand you're probably not going to want to do a lot more debate on this bill. From this side of the House, when you were so environmentally concerned as a party, we thought you'd want to have a lot of debate on something as important as this.
Mr Dunlop: We haven't even got into 10-minute rotation yet, guys, so just remember that. There has not been a lot of debate on this bill, and we're going to drag it out; you might as well know that right now. The fact of the matter is, we need answers to a lot of issues on this particular piece of legislation.
One of them is the technical reason why your government, the Minister of the Environment, would allow this approval process to be turned down. We have not seen that. I know people who have asked for those reasons from the Minister of the Environment. Apparently, nothing exists. There are no technical reasons, from our perspective, that the Minister of the Environment has come forward with to actually show why the Adams mine would not be used as a landfill.
We think that this government and the people of Ontario need to know the technical reasons, because there are a lot of technical reasons why the Minister of the Environment tries to justify proceeding with landfills. So I'm really concerned about that as well, and we'll be looking for a lot of debate on this particular piece of legislation as it moves forward.
Again, we don't think there has been enough debate on it at this point. We'd actually like to see a few more days of debate on second reading of this particular piece of legislation over the next few days. Thank you very much. I look forward to further comments.
Mr McNeely: I was involved in environmental assessments a bit in my past life, mostly with roads and bridge projects, and I'm happy to see that we're not going to be dumping garbage into this lake up in northern Ontario. What I did know about the environmental assessment process is that some of our engineers were able to take the ones for landfills through very successfully. I think landfills are going to be part of waste disposal. I think that we have to proceed with them. I certainly hope that the ones that are called terms of reference, EAs, do continue to be used, because if you define private enterprise, when the environmental assessment is defined in a proper way, I think that excellent results can come from them.
We were successful in establishing two landfills in the Ottawa area, and they were well received by the people. One of them that I was quite involved in included the waste disposal area. But then a marsh was able to break down any of the contaminants, so that the water quality, when it reached any receiving streams, was certainly above a lot of the runoff from just the local agricultural lands.
So I think it's very important that the terms of reference, the EAs, proceed. I'm pleased to see that we won't be using a lake in northern Ontario to dispose of garbage, especially with the distance and the future with the cost of transportation, etc. We have to be closer to the source of the waste. So I'm really pleased with the bill that the Minister of the Environment has brought in for this site, and I will support it.
Mr Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Ajax): I'm pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the bill today. It's an important bill, not particularly because it deals with the Adams mine, but because of the principles that are being violated by this bill relating to the property rights of individuals and corporations in the province of Ontario. I know the Liberals don't care about that, but there are a lot of people in Ontario who actually care deeply about property rights and real property rights in the province, and about the rule of law. That's another fundamental of democratic society that many people, unlike Liberals, actually care about in Ontario.
The rule of law is being violated by this bill, just as it was violated by the retroactive legislation with respect to the equity in education tax credit. Because some of the members opposite don't understand that, I'm going to quote from Sullivan and Driedger on the Construction of Statutes, page 553, where it is said, "It is obvious that reaching into the past and declaring the law to be different from what it was is a serious violation of the rule of law.... the fundamental principle upon which rule of law is built is advance knowledge of the law. No matter how reasonable or benevolent retroactive legislation may be, it is inherently arbitrary for those who could not know its content when acting or making their plans." That is, there are issues of fairness, and there are issues of predictability for people in the province of Ontario: for people who own real property, for people who are concerned with the environmental process, and for people and corporations here in Ontario who are perhaps interested in investing, in growing and creating jobs in the province. The Liberal government doesn't understand the consequences of what they do when they bring before this House retroactive legislation, and retroactive legislation that affects finances for people in Ontario.
For example, when we look at this bill -- and we're all concerned about environmental issues. It's mainstream in the province of Ontario, and it's correct that we would all be concerned about issues affecting the environment. I'm very proud, in my riding of Whitby-Ajax, of having had a role in making sure that we preserved, protected and expanded the Lynde marsh, which is a class A wetland -- the last one, actually, all the way around the west end of Lake Ontario, from St Catharines around to Picton. I'm very proud of the role I had an opportunity to play in doing that. I think we all share that environmental concern, which is why the environmental assessment process was created.
Some people decided they would like to perhaps use the Adams site for landfill purposes. They brought an environmental application. That's the process that we legislators in the province of Ontario said was the law. They obeyed the law. They followed the process. They spent a great deal of money, with lawyers, experts, environmental engineers and all of that sort of thing. This is regardless of whether one thinks it's a good idea or a bad idea. That's not the point. The point is the rule of law. The point is that we have laws that are published, that are public. It makes us different from, regrettably, the majority of governments in the world that are dictatorial and do not follow the rule of law. We are supposed to be a government of laws, not a government of men and women. We're not supposed to be arbitrary. We're not supposed to change the rules retroactively, particularly financial rules and taxation rules, and particularly rules about the environment. We want to encourage people who invest in the province of Ontario or who consider it as something they might want to do. We want them to have certainty about what the law is and what the process is. Why? Because we want them to do business in the province of Ontario, to create jobs, and to be environmentally good citizens. How do you be an environmentally good citizen? You obey the environmental laws substantively, and you follow the process that has been laid out -- by whom? By the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario, by those of us who are elected.
A huge process was followed: experts on all sides, all kinds of evidence, the whole thing according to the rule of law, according to the rules in the province of Ontario. A conclusion was reached. Today, the Liberal government comes before the Legislature and says we should throw all that out the window.
What message does that give to people and property owners in the province of Ontario? It says that the government of the day, this government, is prepared to arbitrarily take away your rights after you follow all of the rules, at substantial expense.
Even once you've done that, they're not finished yet. Then they say, "Oh, OK, compensation. You might want some compensation, because we're changing the rules retroactively, which has substantial financial consequence. You were successful in your application when you followed all the rules back in 1998, six years ago. Now we're changing the rules. We're affecting your property rights now, six years later, because we have a majority of members in the Legislative Assembly. We're going to limit what you can do. We're going to say that you lose the fundamental right, which people have in the province of Ontario, to go to court" -- Magna Carta, redress, the opportunity, the fundamental principle of the rule of law, that people who have suffered harm at the hands of others may go to court and seek redress. But the Liberals won't even give them that. They retroactively changed the law vis-à-vis the environment, and then they said: "We won't let you go to court. We're going to tell you the kind of compensation you're entitled to. You're not going to be allowed to take legal proceedings," and so on.
So the particular victims of Bill 49 at the hands of this government, which clearly has no respect for the rule of law -- when I asked the Attorney General about it in question period the other day, he was, quite frankly, embarrassed, as he should be, being a competent lawyer who understands the rule of law and how important it is in our society -- how it makes us different from dictatorships. It's not about the substance; it's about obeying the law substantively, obeying the law procedurally and assuring people in Ontario that both those principles will be honoured.
Again, dealing with property rights, the issue there, quite frankly, is that people's property right are in danger now that the Liberals have shown they do not respect them. If you, the Liberal government of Ontario, using your majority, can take away the property rights of people in northern Ontario, southern Ontario and eastern Ontario, that means property is not safe. Property rights are not constitutionally enshrined in Canada, which is regrettable. But that means these elected members, these Liberal members, may decide they're going to take away other people's property rights in Ontario. And after they do it, they can do what they're trying to do in Bill 49; that is, not only take away rights but then say, "And by the way, you cannot have an adjudication by an impartial court. You can't have your right against the government. You'll have to be satisfied with whatever we say you're entitled to."
There is another egregious example of retroactive legislation in the tax area: the equity in education tax credit, brought in late last year, where the government decided to viciously go after the 95% of students attending independent schools in Ontario who are of modest means. After these families planned their year from January right through to the end of the year, these Liberals opposite, in a very mean way, decided they would take away from these families the benefit of the financial planning they did, looking forward to that year.
It's more sad than a cause for anyone getting upset about it. It's just sad that there's this failure of the Liberal government to understand that what we do in this place isn't so much about today or tomorrow but about the tradition of Canada, the tradition of Ontario, the rule of law, the rights of citizens and respecting them; it's not about who happens to be the government of the day. So I say to the members of the Legislature -- and I don't have much hope with respect to Liberal members who are following the directives of the powers that be on the other side of the House, but I hope the other member of the House, and even one or two Liberals, have the courage to stand up and say, "This is wrong; it violates the rule of law; vote against it."
Mr Prue: I've listened, as always, intently to the member for Whitby-Ajax. He has raised a key point that we, as legislators, must always watch; that is, we must follow the rule of law. I think the proponent of the Adams mine, Mr McGuinty, did follow the rule of law. Having said that, we have to know that the law he was following was hugely flawed.
The environmental process that resulted in the Adams mine being found to be a solution was truncated. It was stopped in mid-track. It was done in only a half-hearted way. Vast amounts of money were spent by Mr McGuinty and those who supported him in trying to convince what I can only describe -- and I worked with him for a long time -- as a very weak mayor and a council that was desperate to try to find a solution, even if that solution took them 600 kilometres away by rail to dump their garbage in an abandoned mine pit. They convinced that weak mayor and that desperate council to take a desperate solution.
The member for Whitby-Ajax talks about property rights. I agree that property rights are very important in our society, but the reason, with all respect, they have not been enshrined in the Constitution is that the property rights of an individual can never overcome that which is the common good for all people. The property rights of Adams mine to dispose of waste in that mine cannot, and never should, overcome the rights of all people to a safe and clean environment, the rights of the people of Ontario to be protected from poisoning their wells or their ecosystems, as was done in Walkerton.
Let me begin by saying that, first of all, throughout the law of the province of Ontario, indeed most jurisdictions, there are reasonable limits put on the issue of property rights. We have expropriation rights in this province, compensation rights in this province, for instance. So this is not either out of line or out of character with other laws. I think the member for Beaches-East York related that. What also comes into play is the definition of the broader public interest versus the narrow interest.
The member for Whitby-Ajax was a member of a government, for instance, that used something called King Henry VIII clauses in bills. What those are -- because we haven't used one yet -- is where you put a clause in a bill that would allow a government to amend the same legislation by regulation; that is, change a law without going back to the Legislature for debate or for voting on it.
I'd say to the member for Whitby-Ajax, the reasonable limitations that have been put into this bill to protect the broader public interest are consistent with what governments in this province and throughout this country, indeed throughout most western democracies, have practised.
What is passing strange is that a member of a party that did things like Henry VIII clauses in legislation, that did things like -- I remember Bill 26, the omnibus bill; they didn't even want to have public hearings on it. It changed most of the major statutes governing this province. They brought in a set of amendments, 200 pages at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and wanted passage at 6 in the afternoon. It's passing strange that that member would now find an interest in due process and fairness, but then he was part of a government that took the budget right out of this Legislature and wanted to have it at an auto parts firm last year.
There are reasonable limits, I say to the member for Whitby-Ajax, with respect to property rights. Number one, governments have expropriation powers that have been used before. This is nothing new, but this is an important public initiative.
Mr Hudak: I'm pleased to rise and offer comment on the remarks by the member for Whitby-Ajax, who makes an excellent point. Regardless of how you felt about Adams mine and the decision by Kirkland Lake and the city of Toronto, if members support this bill, they are supporting the abrogation of property rights retroactively on Adams mine.
They went through a very arduous, painstaking environmental assessment process, went through all the proper rules and regulations and now, several years hence, to go back in time and change a process retroactively is a very dangerous thing to do and a vote that should not be taken lightly simply because the Premier's office tells you how to vote. This is not about Adams mine specifically. It's about going back in time and abrogating property rights and changing the rule of law retroactively.
I will make that point again. There was a referendum in the host community of Kirkland Lake that very clearly said they were a willing site. There was probably no other issue of note on the agenda that year at council when the outgoing mayor campaigned against Adams mine. The incoming contestant, who won an overwhelming majority of the votes, said, yes, Kirkland Lake was a willing site. In fact, the members of council, if I recall, almost unanimously were supporters of the Kirkland Lake Adams mine project. So not only are you retroactively taking away property rights, you're overriding a legitimate vote by municipal council and the people of Kirkland Lake in support of this project.
I think there is cause for great concern with the "nanny Premier" approach that we've seen from Dalton McGuinty to date: that the Premier knows best and has taken away property rights, campaigned against individual choice and has shown a disdain for supporters of independent schools, to name just a few.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): I appreciate the opportunity to engage in this debate again. I want to bring this to the House's attention one more time to make sure we clearly understand the process. Toronto originally agreed to this. They took a vote and it went through proper channels, with the understanding that as the vote took place they would then do due diligence and do the study and negotiate what was going to happen. Do you know what we came back with? We came back with the proponent, who said, "We are not going to take any liability if this project doesn't work right."
Toronto had to take responsibility for Kirkland Lake's project if it failed, if the liner broke, if there was a disaster that took place during this. So the proponent himself said in the negotiation, "We will not take liability for this project," and put it back on to Toronto. Toronto basically said, "Not a chance. So the science that you're talking about is not going to be backed up? You're not that confident? You don't want to support this?"
They were so in a hurry to get this project through, and the proponent was absolutely convinced, with all the supposedly -- we're hearing from the people who are opposed to this bill, "Hey, wait minute. There's no science that says anything about that. There's no science that says this was a bad project or there's nothing wrong with it." Then why did the proponent go back into the negotiations and say, "We will not take any liability whatsoever for this project," and give it back to Toronto? Toronto wisely said, "You know what? We should be voting against this because something is in the air. They're not so sure about their science."
Then we had Dr Howard, the hydrologist from the Walkerton report, who said in nutshell, "This is a crapshoot. Don't take a chance on this one because it's not quite right. There's something wrong here."
So there is some science involved in this and some politics going back and forth about whether we should be doing this project. Quite frankly, this is the right thing we should be doing with this bill.
Mr Flaherty: This is exactly what the problem is. Here are these politicians who sit in this place, they vote for an environmental assessment process and they say that should be the law in Ontario. When people want to do business in the province, they follow the process at great expense, they get it approved, following the process that these politicians vote for, and then these politicians, and the member for Brant and the member for Beaches, say, "Oh, no. We don't like the result." So we arbitrarily are going to change the law retroactively. That's the problem. Don't you get it?
It's the same thing with the member for Windsor-St Clair. He doesn't understand expropriation. Expropriation is proactive. It goes forward and provides full compensation. That's the problem. We're not saying to change the expropriation rules, or least this government isn't yet saying that -- they might. We know that Prime Minister Chrétien tried to do it with a terminal at the airport. It cost a fortune to all of us taxpayers in Canada when the courts said, "Oh, no." They understand the rule of law even if the member for Windsor-St Clair does not. Clearly he does not understand the rule of law.
Listen, the principle is this: People are entitled, in Ontario, to know the rules as they're laid down by the Parliament of Canada and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and their municipalities. They're entitled to know and they're entitled to rely on those rules. They shouldn't have politicians coming to this place in 2004, saying, "We're going to retroactively change the rules that were established back in the 1990s."
Mr Flaherty: You can do it proactively; you can do it going forward. The member for Windsor-St Clair is yakking again; he's still talking about the Expropriations Act. He doesn't understand the difference between retroactive legislation and legislation that is not retroactive.
Mr Prue: It is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to stand and speak to this issue again. I take myself back to the old city of Toronto. There was a debate there; it was the longest debate on a single issue in the history of the city of Toronto council. It lasted over seven days. There were speakers on all sides of the issue. There were over 100 motions made. In the end, as has already been stated by the government whip, the majority of the city of Toronto council voted to allow the Adams mine to go through. They did so, which I think was a bit of a poison pill, on the condition that the proponents of the Adams mine, those who stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from the dumping of Toronto's garbage, would have to accept liability if anything went wrong. That was a poison pill that the proponents refused to swallow, and in the end, in spite of the city of Toronto's willingness to go along with that scheme, it floundered and failed. It floundered and failed, with the greatest of respect, because the garbage never should have been put there in the first place. It is not a location where one could feel comfortable and assured that the garbage and the leachate that result from it would not end up in the groundwater and would not destroy what is in that surrounding area: largely pristine land, forest and lakes.
Those of us at city of Toronto council who opposed this from the beginning -- and I am the only one in the Legislature here today who was like that -- did so for a reason, a very solid reason, and that is because we believe that our society is a wasteful one. We believe that far too much garbage -- in fact, more garbage per capita is dumped in Canada and in Ontario than literally anywhere else in the world. We believe there is an opportunity here to not be so wasteful. In fact, if you look at the whole history of the world in terms of garbage -- and I like to do that as an anthropologist -- if you look at garbage, if you're an anthropologist and you like digging for bones, you will always go to what the anthropologists call a midden, because it is in the midden where you find the evidence of past civilizations. "Midden" is a British word that means garbage dump, for lack of a better translation. You will go there, back to the Stone Age, to the time of Neanderthal man, and you will find layers upon layers of their garbage. The amazing thing about those people is that they didn't have that much garbage because they didn't have that much, but when they had it, they kept the garbage close to them. So when you went into the cave or outside of the cave, that is where you'd find where they dumped it.
We have not progressed, as a society, very far beyond Neanderthal man because we still do the same thing with our garbage. We still bury it. We still do the same thing that cave people, cavemen, troglodytes did all those many years ago: We bury it. But the only thing that has happened that is different today from 80,000 years ago is that we no longer bury it in our cave or outside of our cave; we truck it enormous amounts of distance and put it in somebody else's backyard.
Throughout the history of people, all of known history -- at first, after towns were built some 12,000 to 18,000 years ago, depending on which historian or anthropologist you might believe, you will find that the garbage inside the town or city was invariably put outside the wall. They didn't keep it inside the wall. They were smart enough not to keep it inside the wall of the first walled communities like Jericho. They put it outside the wall. In fact, if you look at the Talmudic tradition, you will see that there was even a prescribed distance in the number of cubits that it had to be away from the city itself.
After that, you start to look at the cities and the towns as they grew and you would see that the same thing happened, that the garbage was never allowed within the city or the town proper. It was always taken outside and buried just beyond where people could see it. You can see that here in our own city of Toronto. Toronto has over 200 garbage dumps that are now located in the new city of Toronto. In fact, 25 of them are in East York. People used to take their garbage from Toronto and bury it in East York because then they didn't see it, and then East York used to take their garbage and bury it in Scarborough, and Scarborough took their garbage and buried it in Pickering. That's all we have ever done as a society.
I will tell you, if we can send a person to the moon and we can make transistors this big and replace people's hearts, and engineers can do a million things, the only thing we can't do or haven't put our minds to is the same as Neanderthal man. All we do now is put it on a truck and send it to Michigan or we put it on a train and send it to Kirkland Lake.
What I am asking this Legislature to do is to look beyond that: look at what we can do that is realistic. We can do things that other countries do. We can actually recycle and reuse the majority of our garbage. It's not cheap. It is not like putting it in a hole and putting some dirt on top of it. That's about $56 a tonne. If you are going to source-separate it, if you are going to use it again, you are talking probably twice that price, but in the end you are doing a far greater thing for the environment.
Just to go back to East York again, today it's a lovely park; at least that's what everybody thinks: "Stan Wadlow Park; what a lovely park." And it is a beautiful park; the kids play baseball there. But we wanted to put in, and we're trying to put in, a very small garden so that people who live in apartments around there can do some gardening and grow some vegetables. But we can't -- at least, we may not be able to -- because it's located on a dump. So it may not be useful for things in a pristine area -- at least everyone thinks it's pristine -- for how they would want to use the land.
I am asking this Legislature to do the same thing for Kirkland Lake that I wish had been done for East York all those many years ago: Stop burying the garbage. This is a step that will not allow it to be buried in Kirkland Lake and will not allow it to be buried in any other lake. With the greatest of respect, this Kirkland Lake pit is hardly a lake. I want to tell you, there's one thing that I really do -- just breathe back a little bit. It is an oligotrophic body of water. That means a body of water in which nothing will grow. There are no fish. There is no seaweed. There are no insects. There is nothing that grows in it. It's dead. It's like the Dead Sea. It is dead not from salt like the Dead Sea, but dead because it is acidic and dead because it has mine tailings and dead because it's dead. In any event, please don't call it a lake. I have heard a couple of people.
We need to do things in short-term solutions. We need to put down some tax regimen here that would force people who use excessive packaging to have to pay for that excessive packaging. You know, you sometimes go to the store and buy little, tiny things in great big packages. It's all designed to make it saleable. If that's the design, to make it saleable, than people who put it in that package should have to pay for that packaging.
We need to go back to a system of returnable bottles, particularly in the liquor store, the world's largest importer of wines and spirits. We need to make sure that those bottles are returnable so that they come back and they are not smashed on the ground, as one will see; they do not end up in the garbage sites but in fact are recycled like beer bottles in Ontario, where there is a 98% return rate and they can be reused. It is a very simple matter of putting down the money on deposit and then ensuring that there are standard bottles that can be used, not once, not twice, but 20 times, just like a beer bottle is used today.
We need to ensure that composting takes place everywhere, but most importantly, we need to get to a system of source-separation. In Europe and in many places they have people with great big gloves who work there by the conveyor belts, taking out the garbage that is useful and throwing the stuff that's compostable. Yes, that costs money; yes, it's not very nice job but, yes, there are people who will do it and, yes, we need to do it. It is far better than doing what Neanderthal man and those Cro-Magnons did all those years ago. You don't just bury it somewhere else and worry that someone else will worry about it -- if not in this generation, then in the next.
We need a sea change in attitude. I see some of that attitude in this bill and that's why I am supporting it. What you are doing for Kirkland Lake should be done all across this province. We cannot be duped any longer by the likes of McGuinty -- and I'm not talking about the Premier here, but about his cousin -- and Mike Harris, who were able to prey upon a very, very weak city of Toronto council. We need to make sure in this province that all of the cities, all of the towns, all of the communities have an opportunity to do what is right, and that is to get rid of our garbage internally, within the city and the town that produces it, because, in reality, no one else will want your garbage. They may want it now, but they'll curse you in years to come.
Mr Lorenzo Berardinetti (Scarborough Southwest): I am pleased to have an opportunity to have two minutes to make some comments regarding the comments of the member for Beaches-East York. I agree, to great extent, with what he had to say. We were both on city council for the city of Toronto and dealt with this issue, I think, over seven or eight days. The debate was placed before us, the issues were placed before us, and we voted in different ways. The member from Beaches-East York voted against sending the garbage up to Kirkland Lake and I voted in support of it. The reason I did that at the time was that there was really no alternative, except to send the garbage to Michigan, which is now what has happened.
In the end, when we did approve the project, conditions were placed on it, including due diligence that had to be done by the proponent, Mr McGuinty -- no relation to our Premier. When those various conditions were shown to the proponent, he could not fulfill them. He came back and, as the member from Brant indicated, said, "Toronto, you take care of it." At that time, we killed the project, put our garbage into trucks and sent it down to Michigan. So I agree with what the member for Beaches-East York has to say. We require a long-term solution. We have to start looking at recycling and reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfill sites.
This bill is the first step moving in that direction. It's saying, "No more putting garbage into an open pit." Perhaps at some point legislation can come forward that could say, "No more shipping it to Michigan or pushing it into other jurisdictions or other places." Eventually, hopefully some legislation will come forward that supports recycling to a greater extent and also penalizes those companies that produce great amounts of packaging for their products. This bill is the first step. I'm happy to speak in support of what the member from Beaches-East York has to say and also to support the bill that is before us today.
The history of garbage goes back a long way in the province of Ontario -- and how it's managed right in our own municipality of Oshawa, where once it was always buried. Then Sault Ste Marie initiated a program where all they were doing was burning it. Then they moved forward and started burning it, and then we were into recycling and what takes place with recycling. Now, quite frankly, my God, we have four bins out there every time the recycling truck goes around. We have more recycling, which is a great way to go, but what are we going to do with the garbage we have now, and how are we going to take care of that very significant issue?
Not only that, but essentially when you are dealing with this issue, as the member from Beaches-East York said, it is a very dead area because of the tailings that take place there. Not only does the tailing issue have to be dealt with in that area, and the acidity in the water, but there are also a series of water retention dams in that area. The current owner of those dams was taking on liability and responsibility for that. The province will then take ownership and responsibility, I would expect, as it comes forward. I know the minister is listening to this, because it is going to be something they are going to have to look at: taking responsibility for those water retention dams, making sure they are in good, safe form, or they're going to have to take them apart, with the impact of what happens there.
Also, I think the key to this whole issue is, what are you going to do with the garbage afterwards? Where is the long-term plan and how are you going to implement it? Are we putting the cart before the horse on this particular issue?
Should Michigan shut down the borders, where do we, as the province of Ontario, look to dispose of the garbage? I know the region of Durham utilizes the services there. Where are we going to go at a later date, and how are we going to implement that? What sort of timelines are in place if all of a sudden Michigan, as they did once upon a time, says, "It's closed at 12 o'clock"? We've got about three and a half days, I think, of storage area before the municipalities are in big trouble.
This Bill 49 is about protecting the environment, and this bill is about respecting communities. The Adams mine landfill proposal has been draining the energy and resources of local communities too long. It's time to put an end to it once and for all, and that is what Bill 49 is all about.
This government is delivering a real, positive change to protect and maintain clean, livable communities. The government is committed to creating a more effective and efficient process for waste. We need to act on reducing waste going to disposal, because we are running out of landfill capacity. The Adams Mine Lake Act, 2004, fulfills this government's commitment, and that's why I support this bill.
Mr Hudak: I'm pleased to offer comments on those of the member for Beaches-East York and others. Of course all members agree that we need to take care of our own garbage. The point we're trying to make is that if you shut off the Adams mine option, let alone the retroactivity for this part of the debate, what is the alternative? This turns that old expression about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush on its head, because the Liberal government has chosen to go for the two in the bush, so to speak. By 2008, they hope and pray we'll have achieved a 60% diversion rate for residential and ICI waste. That's what your plan is. There's no other plan.
Mr Hudak: The member says Germany did it. I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts, or marks to doughnuts, that the Germans set aside some funding to support this or mandated it through legislation or maybe a combination of both. There is no alternative here.
You say we're going to reach 60% diversion. I understand California has been making the attempt for years upon years with tens of millions of dollars of support and they're still not there, and they're seen as world leaders in this area. If that is your only alternative, then you really have to put some resources into this. You can't just try to cajole or persuade the municipalities to hit 60%, because it's expensive.
Mr Hudak: You're just getting started. Maybe we'll see support for this in the May 18 budget, but I don't believe it, and I think it's dangerous to go for the two-in-the-bush strategy. What I think this may trigger is a resurrection of the Interim Waste Authority, where members of the Liberal side will be travelling across the province trying to find a new dump site for Toronto's garbage, and I wish them luck. That's going to be a big bonfire.
Mr Prue: I thank the members from Scarborough Centre, Oshawa, Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale and Erie-Lincoln for their comments. In the short time, I just want to talk about a couple of those comments.
The city of Toronto will find itself in a problem, because the deal that was made with the state of Michigan and with the landfill sites -- there are actually two of them in that state -- will expire in a couple of years. Upon the expiry of that landfill site, I would hazard that the government of Michigan will do everything in its power to stop the transmission of garbage to that state, as they probably should and as I would. If they were pumping garbage from Michigan to Toronto, I would be equally upset, I am sure. So this Legislature is going to have to deal with that issue.
As the member from Erie-Lincoln said, we need to find an alternative. That alternative can take many forms. It can be the 60% diversion, if we are good enough to do that, but it is going to take will and it is going to take money. It is going to take the will to insist on returnable bottles and all that entails, because a great deal of what is being sent to the Michigan landfill sites now is returnable bottles, and that is causing them a problem because they don't allow returnable bottles in their own garbage stream.
The second thing we're going to have to do is source separation. We're going to have to find alternatives to simply putting the garbage in a hole. Not to go back on what I said before, but if Neanderthal man was forced to do that, surely we are not. Surely we have a technology that will allow us to do other things with that garbage.
I am looking for some leadership from this government, because they campaigned on this. I am not looking for more landfill sites across the province. If you heard anything from me today, it's do not foist on some other community what you're taking away from Kirkland Lake. They did not deserve it; other communities do not deserve it as well.
Mr John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): I'm pleased today to speak to Bill 49, An Act to prevent the disposal of waste at the Adams mine site and to amend the Environmental Protection Act in respect of the disposal of waste in lakes. When the Minister of the Environment introduced this legislation, I was a little bit taken aback, how she acted so quickly. To me, it was acted upon quickly because it was the Minister of Natural Resources who had placed his seat on the line, so to speak, with respect to this act.
The Adams mine had all the approvals. There are some experts who say that it was the most logical, environmentally sound place to put garbage in the entire province. With respect to that, the government decided, "We've got to do something and we've got to do it quickly," particularly because of the fact that the Ministry of the Environment had done such a poor job in meeting their election commitment with respect to the Oak Ridges moraine.
The government had gone on ad infinitum about how they were going to stop development on the Oak Ridges moraine. Well, lo and behold, it turned out that they were going to be able to do no such thing. It came about that they reduced the number of homes by 900 or something on the Oak Ridges moraine. They were under a great deal of pressure by the environmentalists to do something, and do something fast, because they were losing their support and losing the confidence of that group.
So out comes Bill 49, the Adams mine act. The minister hastily decided that forever -- forever -- we will not ever be allowed to consider the Adams mine as a place to put Ontario's garbage. Forever. Not for 10 years -- forever.
I do want to compliment the Minister of Natural Resources for having that kind of influence on his government, that he was able to force them to shut down the idea of putting garbage in the Adams mine. I only hope that the minister would have put his reputation and his seat on the line with respect to the position he took, which was the same position as mine, with respect to the spring bear hunt, where he said, "I'm going to see that that spring bear hunt is reinstated." If he had only taken that position with the spring bear hunt, we would have the bear problem in my riding and many ridings like it solved or be on our way to solving that problem, because the minister would have put his reputation and his seat on the line. Either that would have happened or we'd have an empty seat across from me, on the other side of the House, and we'd have to have a by-election, probably would have had one just before the budget. Anyway, the Minister of Natural Resources didn't put his seat on the line for the bear hunt, but he did do it for the Adams mine.
The member for Beaches-East York talked about it, others have talked about it, but most recently him, because he was just the last one to do the debate. He asked, "What are we going to do with the garbage?" At any time politics is a funny thing, as the people across on the other side will know, because this whole act is about politics. It's not about environment. It is about politics. Politics is a funny thing.
The member from Beaches-East York has said that if he was a Michigan legislator, he wouldn't be allowing Toronto garbage in his state. What is going to happen on that fateful day -- and it's going to come -- when the government of the state of Michigan says no to the over 100 trucks a day hauling Toronto's garbage to their state? What is going to happen? What is the contingency plan of this government?
This government has gone ahead with this Adams mine act with no plan for the future. That is absolutely irresponsible. You have got to be prepared for the future or you're going to create more problems than you think you're solving.
This was all about placating vocal environmentalists so that they wouldn't be on their case. That is not a good solution for the people of Ontario. It's not a good solution for Toronto's garbage. When that day comes -- and it's coming; it could come tomorrow -- the city of Toronto is not going to solve its garbage problem. They're going to go right back to the provincial government and say, "What are you going to do for us now?" This government is going to say, "Well, we don't know." "What about the Adams mine?" "We can't put it in the Adams mine. We closed it forever. It's gone." Those are the kinds of things we really should be asking ourselves. What have we done, with the creation of this bill?
The member for Whitby-Ajax, a very accomplished legal mind, brought up a very good point: What about the rights of people in this province? If a government can say in this act, "Your rights are not important," who is next? Is it me? Is it my property? Is it you, Mr Speaker? Who is next? Can the government simply walk in and say, "You have no right to challenge our decisions"? That flies in the face of democracy. It flies in the face of freedom.
On the Ministry of the Environment: There's just a terrible problem going on in that ministry. As a rule, I have to tell you about regulation 170/03. This regulation -- and I know members opposite are going to go on and say, "Well, that bill was passed by the previous government. That's yesterday's news." The chickens are coming home to roost on their watch. You know the chicken? He's in, as you well know, chicken supper. But he ain't going to be served this year, because they can't run it, because the regulations are going to put them out of business. So the chickens won't come home to roost, but this government will be responsible for shutting down those great events in my riding and every rural riding across this province.
This regulation 170/03: You know, legislation sometimes can be very vague, Mr Minister -- Mr Speaker; I'm sorry. I think you should have been in cabinet. Anyway, it can be vague. But it's when the regulations are enacted that we find out what's really going to happen.
I was at a meeting last Thursday night and I am going to tell you, the atmosphere there was just wild. They'd just had enough. The Ministry of the Environment is now coming in and is going to tell them what they can drink. I mean, it's about health, and they're going to tell us they're worried about the environment. What are they going to tell us we've got to do in rural Ontario? Pour more chlorine into the ground. Are they worried about the environment? They're going to take every little campsite and say, "You've got to have a chlorination system on your little campground." They're going to tell the restaurant outside of town that's not on a treated system, "Chlorinate your water." I'm so upset about this that I'm moving for adjournment of the debate.
Mr Yakabuski: I am very disappointed with that number. I was discussing in the interim time with more people about this regulation 170/03, and it did nothing to calm me down. Quite frankly, the implementation of it is so wrong, it leaves me no choice but to move adjournment of the House.