Resuming the debate adjourned on November 28, 2000, on the motion for second reading of Bill 144, An Act to establish accountability in correctional services, to make offenders demonstrate that they are drug-free, to set rules for offenders to earn their release, to give the Board of Parole a say in earned release decisions, and to change the name of the Board of Parole / Projet de loi 144, Loi visant à instituer la responsabilisation au sein des services correctionnels, à obliger les délinquants à démontrer qu'ils ne font pas usage de substances intoxicantes, à fixer les règles que doivent suivre les délinquants pour mériter leur libération, à permettre à la Commission des libérations conditionnelles d'intervenir dans les décisions en matière de libération méritée et à changer le nom de la Commission des libérations conditionnelles.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): I'm very pleased to join the debate this evening, and I'm very pleased to see that the Minister of Correctional Services is in the House as well. Hopefully he can respond to some of the questions I have in this regard.
Speaker, as you know, I am from Kingston-Kingston and the Islands. Although Kingston was at one time the capital of Canada, it is also known to a lot of people in Canada as sort of the prison capital of Canada. Until recently, we had seven federal institutions within my riding. With the closure of the Prison for Women it has now been reduced to six institutions: the Kingston Penitentiary, the Collins Bay pen, the Frontenac Institution, the Joyceville Institution, the Pittsburgh Institution and Millhaven, which is fairly close to the Kingston area. As a matter of fact, I suppose in my community there are 3,000 people, or maybe even more than that, who in one way or another work within the federal prison system.
As the minister knows quite well, both he and I were raised and brought up within a stone's throw of Kingston Penetentiary, if I'm not mistaken. As a matter of fact, I was raised in a village called Portsmouth at the time, which is now part of the city of Kingston, and back in the 1950s and early 1960s, I would say that probably about half of the people employed in that village were working for the penetentiary system. Let me first of all say that I think the people who work in corrections, whether they are working for the federal system or for the provincial system, ought to be admired. They've got a tough job. The vast majority of them do their work in a very professional and expert fashion. I think that should be stated at the outset, because if you read the auditor's report and some of the criticism he has made of the provincial correctional system, one would perhaps get the impression that that is not so. Let me categorically state that most of the people I know from my community who have worked in the correctional system are top-notch individuals who carry out their duties, sometimes very difficult duties, in a very professional manner.
We all know that this government talks a good line in being tough on crime, and as the minister of corrections so aptly pointed out, the only individuals or inmates that he is concerned about within the provincial system are those people who have been sentenced to two years less a day. If you get sentenced by a judge to more than two years, you're automatically part of the federal system. So at the outset, let it be known that the inmates in our provincial institutions are not violent criminals. The auditor quite correctly points that out as well, and I'll have some more comments about that later on. They are not violent criminals. That's number one.
There's this whole debate between private and public sector involvement in our penal system, and I suppose there are a lot of good arguments on both sides of the issue. But let there also be absolutely no doubt that the main reason for privatizing is, first of all, to make a profit for whoever the private operater of the institution is. Let there also be no doubt that if we do privatize, as has been shown in other jurisdictions over and over again, there will probably only be about two or three different companies that will have any interest in the privatization of it and eventually you're more or less setting up a monopoly situation whereby basically the private entrepreneur that operates the prisons will be calling the shots, and not the government.
Let me also very quickly state that I do not believe our prison system, federal or provincial, ought to be privatized. The reason for that is quite simple. When we send somebody to prison, it is society that sends them to prison. They have broken the rules of our society as enacted through our criminal law and our various other statutes, and it is society that basically wants to ensure that these people are punished and that they are rehabilitated. That should be the primary purpose of incarceration, and it is the primary purpose of incarceration. That is society's function, and that is not something to be just easily pushed off to the private sector. The main reason for that is the lack of accountability within the private sector in doing society's job. I think that basically says it all.
I know the government has a different belief. They ultimately believe in the privatization of an awful lot of public sector activities. For some of them, I can even understand that there's an argument, but not in this particular case. It is society that punishes individuals for breaking our rules and it should be society, through the government, that basically oversees that the punishment is meted out, that offenders spend their time and that ultimately, and hopefully as part of spending that time, they will be rehabilitated so that they will not reoffend. That is what's totally lacking if you privatize the system. I'll have some more to say about that later on as well.
It was also very interesting to hear the Minister of Correctional Services the other night-I believe it was election night. Before I went to our own victory party for my Liberal candidate in the Kingston area, Mr Peter Milliken, I listened to him for a little while on television, around 7 o'clock that evening. There were two points he made that I found rather strange. One deals with the issue that somehow he left the impression, or he stated so categorically, that federal inmates, when they are released-there's an automatic parole provision for the time that their sentence still has to run and that isn't so in the case of provincial inmates. When they are released, they are free to do whatever they want.
Quite frankly, that's his choice. It's his choice. If he wants to make sure those people are under supervision under the provincial parole system, he can enact that. He has a choice and he can choose not to do so because, as I stated before, in a lot of these cases these people are not violent criminals etc. But he has the choice to hire enough parole officers to make sure these people do have some supervision while they serve the last third of their sentence out in the general public, and he chooses not to. Don't use that as a reason for saying, "Well, you know, somehow we don't have a choice." He does have a choice.
The other thing I found interesting is, I took the time today to review section 6 of the Prisons and Reformatories Act, which is the federal act, and looked at section 28.1, and exactly the same criteria are being used. As a matter of fact, the same wording is being used in both sections. Somehow he's suggesting you earn remissions under different rules and conditions which govern "temporary absence and by actively participating in programs, other than full parole, designed to promote" the inmate's "rehabilitation and reintegration." It's exactly the same in both acts, sir. There is no difference.
Let's take a look at the record of this government. The record of this government is shown in no better way than to review the recommendations of the Provincial Auditor that he came out with just a week or so ago. Once again, for those people who may be watching, the Provincial Auditor is an officer of this assembly. He is not hired by the opposition. He's not hired by the government. He's an independent officer of this assembly. Let us just look at what he has to say about the audit conclusions he has come to when he's looked at the Ministry of Correctional Services.
I'm going to take some time with this because, to me, it's almost as if-and I hope this is not correct-we're allowing the provincial system to get so bad that privatization would appear to be the only answer. I hope the minister is not allowing all of the problems the auditor refers to in his report to happen so that he can then legitimately or otherwise come into this House and say, "There's no other solution but to privatize." Let me just read you what he says. This is on page 74 of his report, and these are not my words but his words:
"Overall, we concluded that the ministry's systems and procedures were not adequate to ensure institutional resources were managed with due regard for economy and efficiency, nor to ensure services and programs were delivered in accordance with legislative and ministry requirements."
That is a complete condemnation of the current system. It may very well be that the current minister shouldn't be held totally responsible-although in his position he is-because I realize he's only been there a year and perhaps some of these problems the auditor talks about in his conclusions go well back further than that. But his government has been in power now for six years and they collectively have to take some responsibility for the auditor's comments and observations.
This deals with the building of a private institution that the government has allowed to happen, and he goes on to say: "The ministry's decision to finance and construct two 1,200-bed correctional institutions that cost $180 million was not supported by a sound business case assessing the risks, costs and benefits of all feasible alternatives."
This is a government that likes to pride itself on business plans, that comes in here in a very sanctimonious way annually and says, "These are the business plans for these ministries for the next year or so." What does the auditor say? Let me just repeat that again. He says that the cost of "$180 million was not supported by a sound business case assessing the risks, costs and benefits of all feasible alternatives." He says: "At the time of our audit, the cost to build the facility had increased from $5 million to $9.5 million." We have a building here, a new cooking facility in one of the institutions, that came in at twice the cost that was originally tendered out for the contract.
The other thing that's interesting is there's been a decline in the average inmate count in recent years of some-what is it again? They go into the actual numbers. I think it's from 6,000-I want to quote that correctly, and I don't want to take too much time looking for it; here it is-from 8,600 to 8,100 inmates, and yet the cost of operating has gone from $388 million to $463 million.
Now, when we come to the other program side of things-because ultimately the hope surely is that people are rehabilitated so that they will not reoffend. Surely we can all agree on that. There has to be punishment and there has to be rehabilitation so that they become good citizens, taxpayers, as the government would like to say, and at least not become a further burden on society.
What do they say about those programs? The auditor says, "The ministry had not effectively utilized its community programs, which are ... to provide non-violent offenders with opportunities for successful reintegration into the community.... The under-utilization of community programs resulted in the ministry forgoing significant potential savings of as much as $50 million a year." Fifty million dollars-not my figures, not the government's figures, but the auditor's figures.
He goes on to say, "The ministry did not ensure that its security measures were adhered to and that timely corrective action was taken in cases of non-compliance. About 60% of its 47 correctional institutions had security non-compliance problems that had not been rectified for up to two years."
The question I have is, Minister, are you allowing the system to deteriorate to such an extent that to the average member of the public nothing is possible other than privatization? This is almost unbelievable. Sixty per cent of the 47 correctional facilities that are being operated by this ministry had "security non-compliance problems that had not been rectified for up to two years." For that, surely, there's absolutely no excuse.
Further on, on page 82, "... $400,000 was paid to the contractor beyond the contract price for security custody services." This is the facility that was built as a young offender facility, you may recall, Speaker. The auditor goes on to say, "Our examination of the contract did not reveal any provision for payments beyond the contract price." There was no provision for paying beyond the contract price and yet an additional $400,000 was paid.
"The ministry was not verifying invoiced amounts against the contract. It had been overpaying the contractor by $24,000 per year for after-care services until we brought the overpayment to its attention," said the auditor.
I could go and on and on. Unfortunately, there isn't enough time. But here is just one other item. "Our examination revealed that Ontario's success rate with the temporary absence programs over the eight years remained unchanged at about 97%." So 97% of the inmates we want to reintegrate into society so they won't offend again, so they won't cost us $50,000 or $95,000 per year-97% of those programs were successful. Let me just tell you about the other 3% where it wasn't successful. It goes on to say "with the failures attributed mainly to technical violations such as missing a curfew. Ministry staff indicated that there was not one case of an offender reported to have committed a serious crime while on temporary absence."
Now let me make it absolutely clear. I know the traumatic effect that crimes can have on individuals. My own home was broken into on three separate occasions during the 1980s, and I can tell you the traumatic effect it had on my young children, my wife and myself at the time. It is not a very pleasant experience. Surely in our society we can depend, if nothing else, on the safety of ourselves and our family. So any suggestion by the other side that somehow we are soft on crime is absolute nonsense.
I would just ask the minister to take the auditor's report and implement the recommendations he's making and look at the areas that he, in an objective way, has found his ministry to be at fault with and deal with those. Let's get rid of the political rhetoric, both on my side and on his side, and deal with the recommendations the auditor has made. Many of the problems he has referred to are as a result of a situation that I can only describe as trying almost to undermine the system. I sincerely hope that is not the case, because the charges the auditor has made are very severe and very serious. There is no absolutely no assurance that by privatizing the system you're going to make any of that better. As a matter of fact, study after study indicates that it will probably get worse.
I think the first thing that has to happen, after the recommendations the auditor has made in his report are implemented by the ministry so that we don't have to look at such a negative report again where the taxpayer definitely isn't getting value for money, is to build up the morale of the people who work for you. I mean that quite sincerely. I am absolutely convinced that the more you talk about privatizing the prison system, privatizing other aspects of the public service, all you are doing is hurting the morale of the people who work for you. That isn't doing anybody any good. That is hurting society, it's hurting the people they're there to protect and rehabilitate, it's hurting the taxpayer and it's not doing anybody any good whatsoever.
Society demands that people adhere to the rules we've set through the Criminal Code and various other acts, and if they don't, I believe sincerely that it's up to society, through its various correctional services, whether federal or provincial, to make sure that the individuals are treated with respect, serve their punishment, serve their sentences, but are also given the best possible chance at rehabilitation. The auditor has clearly pointed out that is not the case. I suggest to the minister that the first thing he should do is implement the recommendations of the auditor before he gets involved in any further privatization efforts.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): The member indicated he was hopeful that the Solicitor General and the Minister of Correctional Services and the Attorney General and the government weren't trying to create a crisis in corrections. I admire his hope, but I suggest to you it's rather feckless. No matter which way you look at it, the evidence is clear: this government has gutted publicly accountable corrections in Ontario. It is creating a Snobelenesque crisis, all with one goal in mind, and that's to turn this over to their for-profit, private corporate friends-operators like Wackenhut and Corrections Corp of America-so that those operators can move in from the United States and operate corrections for profit here in Ontario.
The sad thing about Bill 144 is that it has nothing to do with corrections, it has nothing to do with rehabilitation, it has even less to do with making the workplace safer for correctional officers or, least of all, making communities safer, protecting families, seniors and kids in communities across Ontario. This Minister of Correctional Services displays a complete absence of interest and enthusiasm in corrections and rehabilitation. His sole function very much appears to be to gut corrections in Ontario, create a crisis and sign over every jail in this province to Mr Harris's corporate, for-profit American corrections operators, the Wackenhuts and the Correction Corps of America.
I do want to speak to the member from Kingston and the Islands. I want to read for him the sections of the Prison and Reformatories Act that he was referring to. These things are sometimes difficult to read as legislation, so what you do is go to the annotations, which are the editor's notes.
Hon Mr Sampson: I'm just saying that sometimes the editor's notes are helpful in understanding the legislation, so I'll just read from them. It says, "Although the Corrections and Conditional Release Act of 1992 effectively abolishes a program of remission for inmates serving sentences of two years or more, the program of earned remission established under this section has been maintained for inmates serving sentences of less than two years." When you go to that section, it says, "Where remission is credited against the sentence being served by the prisoner, the prisoner is entitled to be released from imprisonment before the expiry of the sentence." That's the federal act, my friend.
To say this is somehow an act we've built and managed-it's not. It comes right from the top, right from your colleagues who are now sitting in the seat of power in Ottawa, who have refused to listen to our pleas to change this act and a number of other acts so we can get legislation in this country and in this province that properly deals with criminals and puts victims first.
I say to the members from both sides, from Kingston and the Islands and from The Sky is Fallingville over there, that "rehabilitations were not adequately identified, planned or executed and assessed." That was the auditor's report when you were in power, sir. So you didn't do rehabilitation programs effectively then, and I say to the member-
Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): It is indeed a pleasure to comment on the remarks of my colleague from Kingston and the Islands. I think he understands rather better than the minister of corrections, who gets his marching orders from Stockwell Day. We've seen what the people of Ontario have to say about Mr Day and the agenda of the right. It's very clear that the minister wants to take us down memory lane, but we just had, within the last week, the Provincial Auditor talk about the mismanagement of the corrections system for six long years under Mike Harris. So why the minister won't stand up and talk about what his record is, what he's doing, and tries to divert attention away is absolutely mystifying-well, it's not, because it's an abysmal record. Here's the record. The costs have skyrocketed when the number of inmates has gone down. The auditor said that rehabilitation and correction programs for inmates are not available and are not carried out.
In the bill, the minister suggests developing these local monitoring boards, which are very interesting because they have a very Machiavellian purpose. The minister is going to privatize jails. We all know what a disaster that has been in the United States. We know what a disaster it has been here in Ontario, frankly, at Camp Run-Amok up in Simcoe region. So what they're proposing to do is to set up these local monitoring boards and, when things fall apart, the minister of corrections is going to stand in his place and say, "It's their fault, because it wouldn't be us." This minister and this government run away from their responsibilities. They point fingers at everybody else-the federal government, the opposition, the media-anybody but themselves. I think I should buy a mirror for the minister of corrections and for members of the cabinet so they can find out where the blame really goes.
Mr Gerretsen: I think the people of Ontario are sick and tired of having a minister of the crown stand up and say, "You should have heard what the auditor said in 1985." People are not interested in ancient history. People are interested in how you are operating the system now, and have for the last five years, and what you're going to do in the future to correct the problems that are identified by the auditor.
You talk about putting victims first. Start putting some resources into your victims' rights office. Start doing that. Oh no, you're fighting crime: squeegee bills and all sorts of other very meaningful acts. Do something meaningful for victims and put the proper resources into the victims' rights office.
I don't know what the local monitoring board is supposed to do, although I concur with my friend here from Don Valley East that it's probably just a mechanism so these people can supervise or somehow keep an eye on the privatized jails. If it's something other than that, let me tell you what has been operating within the federal system for at least the last 20, if not 25, years. There have been citizen advisory committees that act as a liaison between the inmate population, the management side of things, the warden, and the community, and they've operated extremely well in the Kingston area. I and many other people in our community have been on these various boards. If that's what you mean by a local monitoring board, then go right ahead, but I somehow don't think that's what you've got in mind.
Sir, you didn't address for one moment some of the major concerns, of which I've only identified a few, that the auditor revealed in his report. When are you going to do something about it and when are you going to do something positive for the morale of the people who work for you within the ministry?
Mr Kormos: Thank you, Speaker. It's a good thing I was here, isn't it? They would have tried to scoop the very limited period of time I have to speak to this. They would have scooped it right out from underneath me-no interest in having opposition members address their crummy legislation. No. My goodness, Speaker. Thank you kindly for your astuteness.
I'm going to tell you right now we're not going to support this legislation. This is silly, phony-baloney. This is the Son of Parental Responsibility Act. This has nothing to do with corrections or rehabilitation; this bill has nothing to do with making our communities safer; this bill has nothing to do with lowering recidivism rates. This bill is part of the groundwork that has to be laid before the private sector will take over, for profit, Ontario's prisons.
I understand the Solicitor General's sensitivity to the auditor's report-heck, never mind just corrections; half a dozen other ministries as well. This is the most damning auditor's report I've seen here in 12-plus years, and that's over the course of governments of all three political stripes-the most damning. The auditor writes with a tone of shock and horror. This isn't just a matter of, as has happened with every government that has occupied this chamber, less than appropriate standards for governmental spending, less than the most efficient operation. The auditor is effectively saying that this Solicitor General, this Attorney General, this Minister of Correctional Services, this Premier, this government couldn't organize a drunk-up in a brewery, not even if they tried on a good day.
Take a look at some of the stats that have been referred to already. I don't need to refer; the numbers are so shocking that they're etched on my mind: a 6% reduction in inmate population, yet a 19% increase in costs. That's called businesslike management or operation of anything? Give me a break. Or the cook-chill facility. Oh, Mr Sampson was going to apply business principles to the operation of corrections. He was going to build his cook-chill facilities and make inmates' meals all in one location, to be distributed to 10 institutions, wasn't it, Mr Sampson? What happened with the cook-chill operation? Original estimates of $5 million turned into $9.5 million-almost double. These guys blew $4.5 million. Even then the auditor tells us they're-what?-1,000 meals short, that the needs of the not 10, but six, institutions they ended up being able to service would have required 16,000 meals daily. All they could produce were 15,000; they were 1,000 meals short. Never mind that equipment costs for retrofitting, estimated at less than $100,000, grew into $3.9 million-an estimate of $100,000 grows into almost $4 million of taxpayers' money. It's no wonder the tone of the auditor was one of shock and revulsion, horror, at the inability of this government, yes, to organize a drunk-up in a brewery.
What about Camp Turnaround? What do you call it, my friends? Camp Run-Amok? Camp Getaway. Is that the same one I'm thinking of, Minister of Correctional Services, the young offender get-tough facility where your staff leave the door unlocked, leave the van parked, keys in the van, half a tank of gas and probably a few bucks in loonies and toonies in the ashtray so the kids have something to spend when they're out on the lam? My goodness, that's tough security. Leave the keys in the van and leave the door unlocked so it doesn't require any ingenuity to get out of your get-tough facilities. You don't need a board of parole to supervise the elimination of statutory remission. You've made release from jail automatic. You leave the door unlocked, you leave the keys in the van, half a tank of gas and enough spare change in the ashtray to get them through a McDonald's checkout drive-by. Please. It is incredible that this government, this minister can purport to have any handle at all on his Ministry of Correctional Services, never mind the fact that Camp Getaway, Camp Run-Amok, Camp Turnaround-they didn't turn around, Minister. They kept driving. They just kept driving, saying, "Thank you very much, Mike Harris and government of Ontario, for leaving the door unlocked, the keys in the van, half a tank of gas and enough loonies and toonies in the ashtray to get us through a McDonald's drive-by checkout."
Take a look at the precise management and planning around Camp Getaway. Take a look at what the auditor says. This government, this minister, paid an excess amount of 400 grand to the contractor beyond the contract price for security custody services. They were telling us all along that this was a high-security, secure operation, that that's what they had contracted for, yet they're laying out 400 grand more of taxpayers' cash because they bungled it in the first place, and they bungled it in the second place to boot. My goodness, the generosity, the largesse, Mr Sampson.
Mr Kormos: The incredible largesse of this government, that is not only prepared to lay out 400 grand of taxpayers' dollars because Camp Getaway was a foul-up from the get-go, but then this government, this Minister of Correctional Services, is gratuitously paying a little pourboire to Camp Getaway, a little tip for the waiter-$24,000 a year, two grand a month. And it took the auditor-thank goodness for Mr Peters-to discover it.
Some comment has been made about these local monitoring boards, and the minister would make a whole lot of ado about his new parole boards taking over the task of determining whether or not statutory remission will be granted or whether it will be effectively confiscated. What the minister does not tell us is that the Ministry of Correctional Services Act and the accompanying regulations create a scenario here in Ontario where misconduct by a prisoner can, has and indeed should result in revocation of statutory remission, conceivably up to the point where all statutory remission is eliminated. You see, he's not eliminating statutory remission. That's why I call this the Parental Responsibility Act, son of, part 2, because the fact is that as a disciplinary tactic, statutory remission can be revoked currently by the superintendent of the prison.
But you see, he's going to be turning over Ontario's prisons to his corporate, for-profit American friends. He's going to be turning them over to folks from Texas and Arkansas, the friends of George W. Bush, so they can run our prisons for profit. In the course of doing that, there's going to be a complete abandonment of the goal of rehabilitation in corrections. Inevitably, we're talking about inmates who are released in less than two years, because the only inmates the province has jurisdiction over are those who are serving sentences of two years less a day or less. These people are going to be back out on the street.
Where I come from in Niagara Centre, the folks down there know that's all the more reason to accentuate and to focus on rehabilitation during that relatively short period of time you've got them confined in your prisons, because they are going to be back out on the street. These aren't people serving 15-year and 20-year and 25-year sentences. This government abandons corrections and rehabilitation.
The government makes much ado about how it's going to drug-test these folks. What the Minister of Correctional Services neglects to tell you is that-once again, the Parental Responsibility Act Part 2, son of, child of, daughter of-the power to drug-test, in all but a few cases, is a power that currently exists. The bill clearly can't deal with prisoners in remand, because they're not convicted of anything yet. Persons on probation? Sure, they'll be drug-tested if indeed the probation officer imposed by the sentencing judge-it's got nothing to do with this minister, this ministry or this government. Judges, for a long time, have been imposing sentences of probation which require probationers to submit to Breathalyzer tests and other tests as determined by a probation officer or on a regular basis. Nothing new there.
Conditional sentences: once again the bill makes it clear this government is going to do drug tests of people on conditional sentences if indeed the conditional sentence contains a term that the people be drug tested. We don't need this government's bill to do that, because if the conditional sentence already contains the term that the sentence is conditional on those people being drug-tested, they're being drug-tested anyway, without Mr Sampson's intervention, the Minister of Correctional Services.
His colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services went on the same sort of urine-testing orgy a couple of weeks ago. You know, he dumps out a boxful of syringes on a desk. I expected the Minister of Correctional Services to at least show up with a few urine sample jars when he was doing his plug for mass urine testing across the correctional system, but I beg to inform him that he hasn't created anything new here.
He's exploiting-now mind you, I understand the context in which the Minister of Community and Social Services and now the Minister of Correctional Services acquire this passion for the urine of the people of Ontario. After all, these guys are suffering major fallout and they've got major recovery to do with their own constituency base over their passion for a 42%-no, that was a 32%-oh no, it was a let's split the difference and settle for 17%-salary increase. Ouch. That one hurt, didn't it, guys? It bit you. It got you-you got yourselves. The whole Tory caucus is limping because they shot themselves not just in one foot but in both feet. You watch them spread-eagled, staggering down the hallways here after having shot themselves so thoroughly through both feet with their greedy little porcine bid for a 42%-no, we'll settle for 32%-oh, let's split the difference and make it 17%-salary increases.
They were smarting from this, so they've got to distract public attention, they've got to divert public attention, they've got to do a legerdemain. They've got to do a David Copperfield to make you look up there while they're doing something down here. They hope the public might stop thinking about the greed of the Ontario Tories' 42% salary increase-oh no, let's make it 32%-we'll settle for 17%. If they start talking about all those drug addicts shooting up on their welfare cheques and, oh yes, the drug problem in our prisons and, oh yes, we're going to test the urine of every single bloody one of them, then somehow the public is going to say, "Thank goodness the Tories are back on track. They're not the little porcine porkers that they revealed themselves to be when they were ready to dip deep into the public purse, into the public cookie jar."
The minister doesn't want this to go to committee and I dearly do. I want to hear from people in corrections about what statutory remission means in terms of the power of a superintendent of a detention centre or jail or correctional facility, what the control a superintendent has over statutory remission means in terms of being able to maintain some degree of order and control in that correctional facility. I understand that he's got to take the power, because right now the superintendent of a facility has the power to take away statutory remission for misconduct by an inmate serving a sentence. The Minister of Correctional Services wants to take that power away from the superintendent. He wants to take it away from correctional officers. Correctional officers have been able to use that as a tool to maintain some level of control and safety in our prisons, but this minister wants to take it away from the superintendent and from correctional officers in our prisons. Why? Because he's going to replace those superintendents, those trained professional correctional officers with his $6.85-, $7.85- and $8-an-hour private, corporate, for-profit, American Wackenhut and Corrections Corp of America kinds of workers.
I was in his jail at Maplehurst, the megajail, the biggest jail in the country. He's worried about drugs? Well, he'd better pay attention to what he's doing in the megajail he's building in Milton, where there are going to be 400 transactions a day, that is to say, 400 inmates in and out of that prison.
The minister doesn't understand what's going on in our prisons. Are drugs a problem in our prisons? You bet your boots they are. Is urine-testing inmates going to solve the problem? Not by a long shot. Please, Minister, how do you think the prisoners are getting hold of drugs? The drugs are going in with those transactions that occur on a daily basis, and you've de-staffed correctional services to the point that our correctional officers can't adequately screen and control the inflow of drugs as it exists today, and they are going to be more understaffed with your privatized megajail in Milton, and in Lindsay and Penetanguishene, to the point where those places are going to become shooting galleries for druggies under the privatized, corporate, for-profit correctional system this minister is building here in Ontario, at great risk to the safety of communities across this province and with complete abandonment of corrections and rehabilitation.
I want committee hearings, but the minister doesn't. I want to talk about how drugs are getting into jails, why they're getting into jails and what the impact is. Trust me, correctional officers don't want drugs in their jails, because they create those incredible cauldrons of potential violence.
This minister wants fewer correctional officers. He wants them more poorly trained, he wants correctional officers who don't have the professional qualities our correctional officers in the public sector now have. I'm talking about the kind of correctional officers I'm going to be with tomorrow morning at Mimico Correctional Centre in west Toronto, when correctional officers at yet another Ontario correctional institution stand shoulder to shoulder with each other, with their families, with their co-workers, with their colleagues, with their friends, with members of the community and protest this government's abandonment of publicly accountable, publicly funded, publicly run corrections in Ontario.
I know the correctional officers at Mimico, and I know they are professionals. I know they have more concern about drugs in our jails than this minister will ever have. But they're being denied the tools to control the flow of drugs into our jails, and they're the ones who have to deal with them. They're the ones who, with their sensitivities and their skills, can see the glazed eyes and realize that somebody is hopped up or starting to get off on whatever drug or pill or other thing he or she has ingested in our prisons.
I challenge this minister to have public hearings on this bill, to talk to professionals in the area, to talk to our professionals in the correctional system here in Ontario. I challenge this minister to have public hearings and stand up and explain why he's abandoning rehabilitation and corrections. I want this minister to engage in public hearings to explain why his gross mismanagement of corrections has had the result of a hemorrhage of millions and millions of dollars from the public purse in a correctional system that's been increasingly gutted in Snobelenesque style, so that this minister can create a crisis in corrections and justify handing it over to his corporate buddies, those corporate sponsors of the Ontario Conservative Party, the ones who pay the big contributions and who stand to make the big bucks at the expense of the people of this province.
Hon Mr Sampson: I listened very intently to the member for Niagara Centre. I must say that I think I should rush out and cancel my subscription to the Comedy Channel, because I've had a chance to listen to him for a while. I'm sure people who are watching were as amused as I was.
I say to the member for Niagara Centre, you ranted on about treatment programs and rehabilitation programs, but do you know what? When you guys had a chance to change the system because the auditor said you needed to change the system, you didn't do anything.
Hon Mr Sampson: To the member opposite, I'm sorry, when you were in government for a lot longer, you didn't do a thing. You weren't even prepared to recognize the system had a problem. In fact, the member who sits behind you in this Legislature took the chance to stand on just about every soapbox he could find-he didn't leave a soapbox unstood upon-and say the correctional system in Ontario is a model for other jurisdictions to follow. He said that.
Hon Mr Sampson: He said that two weeks ago-two weeks ago-and then the auditor's report comes out and what does he say? "It's a mess." I say to the member opposite, that was two weeks from here to there, two weeks. That's tremendous. You were able to hold a position for two weeks. Usually it's two hours. Sometimes it's two minutes. Sometimes when you say something, like you did on the education bill, we have no idea what it means. "I'm going to vote for the bill" means "I'm not going to vote for the bill." Take a position. Take a lane and drive, will you?
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough-Rouge River): Each time I've listened to the member for Niagara Centre, I have learned so much because of his intensity and commitment to this cause. I really can't believe the minister, who was inside here, speaks like that. That's the same minister who, not only on his watch, but if you check the correctional institutions today, the turmoil of his personnel is appalling. They've come here and tried to address their personnel matters. The staff have been demoralized by this minister.
This minister, who from time to time has not addressed any of the issues, now thinks that if he privatizes this institution, he will have solved this problem. That's how this government behaves. If we privatize everything, then we don't have a problem because we'll have somebody else to blame. Basically that's what this government does. It finds people to blame. If it is not the federal government, if it's not the municipalities-they won't blame the private sector, because they're trying to move it in that direction.
I was very pleased when I heard the member for Niagara Centre speak about some of the issues in there. If we as a Parliament decided to go out and have public hearings, there's so much we could learn about what's happening inside there. But they don't want to hear the truth at all. What they would like to do is pass it on to their friends in the private sector and to feel they have solved this.
Mr Curling: There the member goes again, asking, what about our government? They have been there six years. They have made this thing worse. I would say to you, take the time and be more democratic in your approach. Have public hearings. You will learn so much, especially from the member for Niagara Centre.
Mr Galt: Once again I was very entertained by the member for Niagara Centre. As usual, there was no content to it. There was nothing you could get your teeth into, nothing you could follow. There was no substance to it, but it was entertaining. There were lots of places for a good laugh and good drama, and I give high marks for that.
I heard a lot of talk about morale within the system and turmoil within the system. That didn't start yesterday, and it didn't start two years ago. That kind of turmoil with the staff has been there for 10 or 20 years.
Mr Galt: No, it didn't start five years ago, as I see being signalled across. It started long before that. It's been there for a long time. Your government could have done something about it, and your government could have done something about it. You had the opportunity and you failed miserably. You didn't do anything.
They go on talking about concern. The member from Niagara Centre talked about concern about privatization. He's against privatization. It doesn't matter what comes along. He was in the government, but maybe he wasn't in cabinet when the social contract came along, when they broke absolutely every contract in the public service in Ontario. There wasn't a single contract they didn't break with that social contract. It's hard to believe he would then stand up and carry on like that about protecting the members of OPSEU. I think that's what he was doing when he opposed privatization.
I see some of the prisons being operated by private facilities. This will give an opportunity to do some comparing. There are all kinds of quotes and I'll use some when I speak a little later, about the advantages of private institutions: the experience in Scotland, in England, in various states. All around the world there have been successes. I'm quite disappointed to hear some of the comments made by the member from Niagara Centre.
First, I want to congratulate the member from Niagara Centre on his comments. He hit the nail right on the head. There seems to be a trend with the Harris government in relation to the public services: create the turmoil, create the crisis, be it in the post-secondary sector, health care, education, corrections or environment. Then, as Mike Harris or his cabinet ministers or some of his backbench sheep would say, "We're impotent to do anything about this. We have to turn it over to the private sector because government can't do this."
We've been doing it very well for decades in this province. All of a sudden this merry band of right-wing Stockwell Day and Preston Manning acolytes comes along and what happens? The province goes to heck in a handbasket and we have to turn it over to somebody else because government has no role.
There is a very serious by-product to this, and it's something called accountability. Who is accountable when the government is not running things, when they turn it over to the private sector? We've seen this government turn over records from the Province of Ontario Savings Office to the private sector. Who was accountable for that? The Minister of Finance says he wasn't. The former minister of privatization says he wasn't. This government, Mike Harris's cabinet and his backbenchers, do not like to be responsible for anything. They've got to have somebody else to blame.
We've assigned a number. They should just say, "Number 1," when they think it's the federal government. They should say, "Number 2," when they think it's one of the previous Liberal governments. Of course 2(a) would be David Peterson. They can say "2(d)," which would be Mitch Hepburn, going back about 60 years ago. Number 3 would be the awful socialist NDP government.
Mr Kormos: Part of me wants to say that the government just doesn't get it. They get it very well, though. They know exactly what they're doing. This isn't an accident, the Snobelenesque crisis. Take a look at what happened with the two new megajails, Penetanguishene and Lindsay.
The government screwed up the RFQs. The government went, "Oh my, this means we have to go ahead and build these institutions, these multi-mega-million dollar institutions with taxpayers' money so that our private political donors"-Wackenhut and Corrections Corp of America and their ilk-"can run them for a profit without bearing any of the cost of building the institution and without being exposed to any risk." That's what the auditor's report revealed. It exposed this government's plan to turn over corrections to those corporate, for-profit, inevitably American operators.
When the shareholders of Wackenhut meet once a year and address questions to the board of directors, they don't stand up and say, "Chairman of the board, how many people did you rehabilitate last year?" They don't stand up and say, "Chairman of the board, how many communities did you make safer last year?" The shareholders of Wackenhut and Corrections Corp of America, the Tory friends who are going to run our prisons for profit, stand up and say, "How much money did we make last year? Were we able to rip off the taxpayers of Ontario?" like we witnessed with Camp Turnaround, Camp Getaway, Camp Run-Amok, which have been ripping off the taxpayers, with this government's collaboration, to the tune of 24 grand a year-it's right here in the auditor's report-who scammed the taxpayers with the collaboration of this government to the tune of almost half a million, $400,000, with this overrun and overcost on security. It's right here in the report.
Mr Galt: I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this round. It was interesting to listen to the member from Niagara Centre, just a few minutes ago, talking about screw-ups. I can tell you one that happened in my riding, planned by the Liberals and developed by the NDP. It was a multicare lodge. This was for the disabled, to be wheelchair accessible. How many apartments? I think there are five or six apartments you can get a wheelchair into. This is what they built for the disabled. It's for the frail and the elderly. It's connected with the hospital. The doors are not big enough to allow a wheelchair through. That's what they designed. That was the unholy alliance between the two parties and they did a really good screw-up job in that instance.
The member from Don Valley East and also the member from Kingston and the Islands were talking about spending. Their only response is, "Spend more, spend more." Talk about a hidden agenda in that party. The hidden agenda of that party, I'm sure, is that this province would go bankrupt if they ever got hold of the treasury again. It's a scary thought with what we have been through in balancing the books. Actually, balancing the books and the economic moves and changes we've made in Ontario are why the federal government has managed to balance its books. I challenge any member of the opposition to tell me what economic policies the federal Liberals have brought in other than the reduction of transfer payments to Ontario. Name me one economic policy they brought in to help balance the budget.
Getting to the bill at hand, this bill is really about public safety and about honouring commitments, a hallmark of this government: Bill 144, the Corrections Accountability Act, An Act to establish accountability in correctional services, to make offenders demonstrate that they are drug-free-wow, something new; why wasn't that there a long time ago?-to set rules for offenders to earn their release, to give the Board of Parole a say in earned release decisions, and to change the name of the Board of Parole.
A lot of this was in the Blueprint, the things the public voted on. Eleven million people voted here in Ontario-at least a portion of them. Here it is: "Parole: When it comes to letting a convicted criminal back on our streets, we think public safety and the rights of law-abiding people must come first." That's what this is about. "That's why we've set new and tougher standards for members of parole boards and for the granting of early release. It's just common sense that parole should be treated as a privilege, not a right."
That's very different from the federal government. Their attitude is that it's a right, that you should get out. Nine months when you have a two- or three-year sentence: it's most unfortunate but it is the way it's going.
I'm very pleased to speak on this bill. Certainly I'm on the side of the law-abiding citizens of Ontario, which is most of the 11 million people we have. I remember well that in the throne speech the Honourable Hilary Weston understood as well. She is the Lieutenant Governor of our province. She made the comment that we have the right to be able to walk the streets "free from the fear of violence against their person, their families or their property", and she had it right. The opposition should recognize that somebody neutral coming out with a statement like that has a tremendous amount of meaning to it.
We feel that crime is an important issue. Obviously what we hear from the opposition is that they're on the side of the criminal, not on the side of the victim, and we see that over and over again with the comments they make here, particularly about some of the programs we have. Rehabilitation is a tremendously large part of this particular bill, the looking after, the testing for alcohol and drugs. How can you send somebody out on early release or even release them from jail if they're still on drugs or on alcohol? What are they going to do? They're going to go right back into the same kind of life, a life of crime, and I think that's indeed a shame. It's unfortunate.
This legislation will certainly contribute to increased public safety by creating more efficient and accountable correctional institutions, some of which may be run by private companies. I am quite surprised with the opposition. Every time anything comes up about privatizing-somebody might make a profit out of running something more efficiently-they get all upset, and I think that's extremely unfortunate. Reoffending rates will be lowered by the efforts of the government and correctional institutions to ensure that these individuals who are released from prison are well prepared to become functioning and responsible members of society once again. One element of that is to ensure they are indeed drug-free.
It is interesting to see some of the figures on the amount of drugs and alcohol, at least the numbers of offenders, the numbers in jail who have been incarcerated who are indeed on alcohol or drugs or at least dependent on it. Of those who are serving their sentence in the community, some 61% are drug-dependent. Of those who are incarcerated in provincial institutions, some 83% are dependent. If you're going to release people who are to that per cent dependent, that's almost like 100%-that's more than four out of five-they certainly are going to back into, at least I would think, a life of crime. Part of the reason they're there is because they got on to drugs. Then the drug dependency drove them to break and enter so they could raise the money for their habit.
We're also being criticized, and as we look at our welfare, those on welfare who are on drugs can't get a job. So I think it's so ideal that we look at this and get them off drugs so they can get a job. Similarly with those who are in prison, if we get them off drugs, I think you'll see a lot fewer people incarcerated. I think the numbers in our prisons will go down significantly if, when they go back on the street, they are not dependent any more.
I think it's most unfortunate that the members in opposition, when they were in government, would allow this kind of illegal practice to continue in our prisons, that they'd be able to take the drugs, get the alcohol, move into the prisons. This is certainly nothing new; this has been going for a very long time. With this they have to be tested, and if they either refuse the test or they test positive, then they lose that opportunity for early release.
This bill is about earning that opportunity for early release. This is a right; it is not a privilege. That should be a hallmark and it should be the way it is for parole, and is going to be the way it is here in Ontario. Certainly there have been tremendous changes since we took office in the numbers that are getting out on parole and the length of time they have to serve out their sentence. It's approaching the full sentence consistently. Compare that with what's going on with the federal government, where it's certainly going in the other direction. Those who test positive on drugs are going to have the opportunity to move in and take some of the rehabilitation programs so they can get rid of that dependency. I look at the federal government and see what's going on there. They're letting their criminals out of jail really early.
I'd like to share a bit of a story with you. This, if you want to follow up and see the actual article, was in the Cobourg Star on November 13 this year. The incident occurred on November 11 at about 10 in the morning, at about the time that most good citizens were headed off to the cenotaph for Remembrance Day service. It seemed that a young couple, aged roughly 20, 22, had picked up a young man, and I believe his age was either 20 or 22, from Joyceville, the federal institution in Kingston. This individual was in for two years plus for drug trafficking and got out at 8:30 in the morning. It takes about an hour and a half to drive from there to the west end of Northumberland. What the police observed going on in the back seat of a Volkswagen was two people wrestling, a male and a female. They were going through a construction zone, so they couldn't get the car stopped for some five miles, but the intent was rape. When they finally got the car stopped they found this young man with his pants down, his underwear down around his ankles. They got the handcuffs on him and-this is in the paper if you want to read it, this isn't something Doug Galt is dreaming up-he got free in the traffic without his pants on before the police actually subdued him and got him back into the cruiser.
He was out on early parole after serving nine months of a two-year-plus sentence. That's what the federal government is doing: soft on criminals, hard on victims. This young woman and the young man who picked him up were his friends and this is what he was doing to his friends. This is out on early parole. The federal Liberals support this, and not only do the federal Liberals support it; the provincial Liberals also support that kind of activity. I think that's just a shame.
One of the plans we have as a government is to hire another 165 parole and probation officers over the next two years to monitor and ensure that our communities are indeed safe. I see a few smiles for my story, but I'd encourage them to read the Cobourg Star of November 13. It's on the front page of that particular paper. I was horrified when I saw it. Thank heaven it wasn't somebody from Northumberland. It was actually a resident from Toronto who was being released from Joyceville and obviously on his way back to Toronto, but this happened on the 401 in Hope township.
We talk about private companies running our penitentiaries. I had the opportunity to visit Camp Turnaround about two years ago and I can tell you I was very impressed with what I saw: young men who seemed surprisingly happy there in jail. They were doing their exercises, they were doing their thing, they were being rehabilitated and they looked like a good group of young men. It's just unfortunate that they got on the wrong side of the law. But it was obvious to me that when they came out of there they were going to go on the right track, and that the private firm was going to ensure they went on the right track because, if they came back, if a high rate of return occurred, then they were going to lose dollars. Therefore it was to their advantage to make sure they were rehabilitated when they left so that the return rate would not be too high. If all of the institutions that are run by private companies are like Camp Turnaround, I think we're going to be very fortunate as we move down the road.
Certainly, it's the ethical and legal responsibility of our government and of our staff to ensure, whether it's a private institution or a public institution, that the standards are met. Standards have to be set because with the previous governments those kinds of standards were not there. There's been a significant improvement in the standards in the operations of these facilities. We're very committed to studying both systems to see how they function and to ensure that those standards of excellence and quality of operation of prisons are indeed there.
I mentioned earlier some of the other countries around the world that have being trying the privatization of prisons. I'd just like to read to you what's going on in a couple of those countries. One is in Scotland, for example: "Sources inside the Scottish Prison Service believe a dramatic shake-up of the penal system is imminent, caused partly by the success of Scotland's first privately run jail, HMP Bowhouse near Kilmarnock, which will be given a clean bill of health in its first official report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons." This "prison `has the potential to set performance levels for the remainder of the SPS' and said it `set a benchmark against which others could be measured.'" This came out in the Sunday Herald April 30, 2000.
In Doncaster, England: "Innovation, enthusiasm and positive methods of prisoner management have merited privately managed HMP Doncaster's description in a report published today as `one of the most progressive prison establishments in the country.'"
Then it goes on with another one, Altcourse: "HMP Altcourse, being a contract prison, has a number of advantages over public sector prisons in terms of its direction. Its contract lays down what is expected of it and how much that costs. To monitor that contract, there is a contract compliance monitor, or controller.... Altcourse is not the first prison that I have left with a feeling of optimism, but never before have I listed 45 examples of good practice in a report."
Another one: "The results were quite remarkably positive, and confirmed what we, as a board, have reported over the previous two hears. HMCIP said that Altcourse was `by some way the best local prison that we have inspected,' and referred to it as a `jewel in the crown' of the prison service. Such comments are, in our opinion, thoroughly justified and we take pride in congratulating all the staff here on such a marvellous achievement...." This is one of the visits that a board member was making. It just goes on.
I encourage the members of the opposition to look at some of these quotes and see what's going on around the world. Here's another one: "It is the intention of the Ohio Department of Corrections to ensure success of these two private prison operations. We have no reservations about achieving this success. If there are problems, our anticipation is that they will be minor and not unlike what we would experience in a state-fun facility." This is from the director of the Ohio DOC in a letter to Minister Sampson back in March.
We heard a lot here about morale and turmoil a few minutes ago, and certainly that is not new or unique in the prison system in Ontario. The high absenteeism, the low morale, they've been here for decades upon decades. I see something like privatization giving them an upbeat feeling and something to compare to, something to measure with, and I've certainly heard this from at least one guard.
As John Moffit once said, the issue is not public versus private; it is competition versus monopoly. I think that sums up that there's a real lack of competition in a lot of the public service, for example in the police services, and we're seeing it in my area where there's competition. They have to compete when there are new amalgamations, or at least often when there are new amalgamations. There's a town police force, some of the townships come in that have OPP, and so they open it up to that local force and to the OPP. I can tell you it's sharpened up the police services in the province. I see a similar thing here with the corrections services, where there's some competition and they're being measured by that.
In conclusion, I just want to make a few points. I think it's interesting in this bill that the members of the Legislature are entitled to enter and to inspect these prisons. I think that's part of the accountability. That's section 59 on page 10 of the bill: "Every member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is entitled to enter and inspect any correctional institution, community resource centre or other facility established or designated under this act." I believe that is accountability. Even a member of the opposition, whether it be Liberal or NDP, may just visit one of these particular facilities. I have, and it was certainly an education for me.
I see in this bill the opportunity for drug testing to ensure that we can reduce the drugs and alcohol as much as possible in our inmate population. The fact that they're going to have to earn the opportunity for early release I think is going to change the mood, the actions of our prisoners. The local boards of monitors: again, it's local involvement. The governance authority for public-private partnerships for the delivery of correctional services is long overdue. It's great that our government is bringing it in. This is the type of thing that can't just happen overnight. They say, "Run pilot projects." That's what Camp Turnaround is all about, and the fact that the name of the Ontario Board of Parole will change to the Ontario Parole and Earned Release Board.
This bill is about increased public safety. It's what we committed to in the Blueprint, our campaign platform. It's also what we committed to in the throne speech. I am very enthusiastic about this bill. It's doing what we said it was going to do. I can assure you that I will be supporting Bill 144, the Corrections Accountability Act, when it comes up for a vote in this Legislature.
M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell) : C'est un plaisir pour moi de prendre la parole et participer au débat sur le projet de loi 144, Loi visant à instituer la responsabilisation au sein des services correctionnels, à obliger les délinquants à démontrer qu'ils ne font pas usage de substances intoxicantes, à fixer les règles que doivent suivre les délinquants pour mériter leur libération, à permettre à la Commission des libérations conditionnelles d'intervenir dans les décisions en matière de libération méritée et à changer le nom de la Commission des libérations conditionnelles, qui désormais sera connue sous le nom de Commission ontarienne des libérations conditionnelles et des mises en libertés méritées.
En tant qu'ancien critique des services correctionnels, je peux vous dire que j'ai eu la chance de visiter quelques centres de détention. Je peux vous dire que durant mes visites j'ai pu constater que nos gardiens de prisons ont à coeur la sécurité de nos citoyens et citoyennes. J'ai pu constater les lacunes existantes dans notre système de services correctionnels.
It is always a pleasure to speak on a bill, especially on this one, Bill 144. Here we go again: another flip-flop by this government. Prior to the 1999 election, the Tories said the jail in Penetanguishene would be publicly run. Now they are saying it will be privately run. Also prior to the election Bob Runciman, the member for Leeds-Grenville, the former Solicitor General and corrections minister, said there were too many unanswered questions about safety, and, "We could not possibly proceed with private prisons." But guess what? Flip-flop again.
I appreciate the fact that the Minister of Correctional Services has made a commitment to fix the infrastructure of the jails and prisons in Ontario, because many of them are badly in need of repairs. In L'Orignal in my riding a prison was closed by this government just four years ago. This government was not interested in putting money into repairs. They were more interested in putting people out of their jobs. Because this government decided to close the jail, it made it much more costly because now they have to transport prisoners back and forth between the jail in Ottawa and the courthouse in L'Orignal, a return trip in every case of 200 kilometres.
I don't know where the saving was on this one. It became much more costly. What they tried to do was get the local OPP to transport inmates from Ottawa. It would have meant having officers on the road, adding cars on the road, at the expense of the municipalities. Good enough, but we had to negotiate, and finally they accepted having off-duty or retired security people to drive people back and forth. But I don't know where the saving was on this one.
There is a major problem in our Ontario jails and prisons, and that is the working conditions of the correctional officers. Morale is low. The correctional officers don't know from day to another if they have a job or where that job might be. The goal of this government is to privatize our jails at all costs. No thought has been put into how the employees are coping and, really, Minister, do they really care?
Now Minister, let's talk a little about one of your success stories. You like to talk about success stories. With this government, everything is a success, but I have noticed that since the Provincial Auditor tabled his report last week, the Premier has acknowledged that this government has made several mistakes. The bad news is that they have now been caught. I think to privatize jails and prisons without any thought of responsibility for the employees is just plain wrong. Well, back to the success story: Camp Turnaround, a very appropriate name, I must say. You go in and then turn around and run out.
Minister, I have a constituent in my riding whose name is Bob, who has worked with youth offenders for over 20 years and he tells me of your success story, Turnaround Place. Only the very best are selected to attend. I guess it is kind of like being selected to attend a private school. You have to be privileged. Bob gets young offenders-murderers, armed robbers, as well as many other young offenders that have been referred to him. Maybe, Minister, this is the type of candidate you should be recruiting for Turnaround Place.
I know also that this government is very concerned about taxpayers' money. That was evident in the Provincial Auditor's report under the Agricorp incidents. Farmers are concerned about their money too, Minister, and they count on this government to make good decisions and to safeguard their money.
Here we have another situation where the government wants to do things the American way, but the experience with private prisons in the US has shown that private prisons do not save money. Private prisons serve the bottom line, not the public interest. This government must keep the prisons full to make a profit. The Police Association of Ontario is opposed to private prisons. Correctional services are opposed to private prisons. My leader, Dalton McGuinty, and the Liberal caucus are opposed to private prisons. Also, local residents are opposed to private prisons. If the Harris government really cared about local input, they would not be making the Penetanguishene prison a privately run facility.
Listen to the people, Minister. Listen to the correctional officers. They are right sometimes, you know, and we know now by the Provincial Auditor's report that the Harris government is often wrong. Minister, the privatization of Ontario prisons and jails is wrong.
Mr Speaker, let me tell you, during my critic's role I had the chance to visit some of the jails and I remember talking to the director of one jail. I told him that this young kid that I had the chance to sit with in the cells looked pretty bright. "Oh," he said, "Jean-Marc, don't worry. The day that he comes out, he will be back in." But do you remember last year in September this youngster had escaped from the prison in Ottawa? I had talked to the director about the kid and I met the minister immediately after. I said, "How can a kid run away from a prison like this in Ottawa?" "Well," he said, "we have no system." I said, "Don't you use the fingerprints?" "No, we only look at the pictures." The picture of this kid exactly resembled another one, because I happened to be speaking to both of them. It's just to show you that you have no system in place.
Today, I think what's happening, why you're coming up with this bill, is because you've been warned by the private sector, "Clean up your mess before we take over." You people are not taking the proper action to clean up the mess you have created.
Mr Curling: I want to thank the government side for agreeing for me to just complete the 20 minutes of my able friend who has done so well in targeting the concerns about Bill 144. As you know, the problem is larger than Bill 144 itself.
As we mentioned earlier on, this government has neglected the concern of the correctional institutions for a very long time. I have had the privilege to have visited quite a few of the jails and I've seen the inadequacy. I have visited not from the point of view as a member; I visited there to see the concerns and the complaints of inmates and of prison guards too, especially of prison guards and the conditions they are working under. The neglect and the lack of resources there was enormous. Actually, it has eroded the morale of the prison guards to a state that it was almost unbearable for many prison guards. The racism that expands itself in many, many factors within the prison was something out of control.
The minister was called to address those issues. He dodged the issues and ignored them completely. We have no other alternative but to think that he was following the pattern and the trend of what this Conservative government has always done-to let it go into a crisis and then decide to address the concerns. They're at a point now that the best way to do it is to pass it on to private industry to do so.
I recall, Mr Speaker, and I think you do too, that many times when my party asked the minister there if he had any intention of privatizing the jails, I thought he said no. He said he had no intention to do so, and I took him at his word. I thought, "I think he's about to address the concerns there, from where it really should be addressed." Under his watch, he is the chief of staff for all of that, yet he let it hang there until today we're hearing they're going to privatize the jails.
We have seen south of us how privatization of jails has failed miserably. Let me speak in the language of what the Conservative party has always spoken about, profits. They are talking about profits. So therefore those who are coming into jails have one intention for their private sector: the bottom line is, "Can we make a profit off this? We will come in."
I'm sure they must have guaranteed the private sector that a profit will be made in this concern. Just like they guaranteed them in Highway 407, to save private-sector-built highways, they will make a guaranteed profit. So there they are at the trough. All their friends are saying, "Yes, we shall be a part of building jails for you."
Remember this magazine, Business Week, which I'm sure the Conservative party is quite familiar with? Inside of here, let me just quote one aspect of it. It says, "A convicted murderer serving a 220-year sentence scaled the wall of the privately run Mason Correctional Facility in broad daylight."
Now remember, here is a private institution that is supposed to do the job better, and they're complaining now they are not doing the job-a lot of evidence, all over the place; just one of the many escapes-murderers-and other mishaps that have plagued the private prison industry since they came into existence in 1983. There are warnings all over, shown to this government, that private jails don't really work. The fact is that they know they've got to make a profit, and therefore I'm not quite sure they will attend to the concerns that should be attended to if it's going to cut into the profits.
There's a wonderful graph here that says, "Crime Doesn't Pay." We can play upon the words. The private sector says, "Crime pays, because if crime continues we can make a profit off it." It takes, of course, a Conservative government to make sure that crime pays. What this is all about is that crime will pay for whom? It will pay for the private sector, which will be coming to the trough saying, "We can run it better." They will run into trouble because they may be putting shares on the market and they will find out where it's going to go. Again, it says it doesn't pay at all.
The auditor's report of public accounts tells you outright what a miserable mess this ministry has displayed in running this institution. Then he said, "If we're running it so miserably, if we're doing such a poor job, the best way to do this, then, is to pass it on to the private sector." Even though the evidence is there, they will continue to say, "That's the way we will go." It's much easier, of course, if we can find someone to blame for our problems and for our deficiencies. Then it's easier for us to escape them, because when the time comes to be accountable to the people, we'll say, "All we have to do is to make sure that those we put in charge, we just change them around. We have done our best." You have not done your best; you have done your worst. You have abdicated your responsibility as a government to spend taxpayers' money properly and to make sure the institutions you run are run properly. But what you have done is pass it on to others. I think that is a disgrace.
One of the main aspects of any parliamentary procedure or parliamentary debate or legislation is to have public input into legislation. Here we have Bill 144 before us. If we ask the government how much public input has been on this-none. We didn't have any public hearings on this. I think there's a lot to be learned from institutions and organizations that have worked with jails over the years and they can tell you how best we can improve the system. But they don't want to hear that, because there's only one interest group this Conservative party is concerned about, and that is the private sector, the profit-making individuals.
If they have nothing to hide and they are so confident about the direction in which they're going, why not have public hearings so that those individuals who have been working with jails, with inmates and with prison guards over the years are able to advise them, and then take those things under consideration? But the arrogance of most Conservative governments, especially of this government, that the people's voice should not be heard, that the input of institutions should not be heard or that organizations that support or have been guiding institutions over the years should not be heard. There's a lot to be learned from that. It is consistent with what they have done in the environment, with what they have done in education; it is consistent all over, rushing things through, having just one blind eye in one direction, with blinkers on their eyes, going one way without looking in any other direction, and they're going to run into the worst situation.
As I said, even their own interest bible, Business Week, which addresses itself to profits all the time and regularly, is saying it's the wrong way to go, that experience has shown it's the wrong direction to go. Private jails do not help the situation when you can see murderers and everyone escaping from these private institutions when it's supposed to improve it. Many of those institutions that are run privately in the States today are saying, "We want no more of this because, first, we're not making any profit and, furthermore, we are subject to too many criticisms of what's happening." The private sector likes to behave in this quiet, in-camera aspect of things without any sort of public scrutiny. But I think what is happening here, and we know what's happening, is that when the government itself is in charge of correctional institutions, when it is under public scrutiny, from time to time you will have people questioning them-and we can question them inside the House here much more openly-and they don't want that. They want to have it privatized to get it away from them so they can blame somebody else.
I think that we are worse off. While they spin around and say that crime pays for some and crime doesn't pay for others, it seems to me that crime pays a lot for the private sector. This is not the way we should go. I am appalled to know that this government continues to go in a direction that has no democratic process to it, and to think that the morale of many of those staff are suffering severely without it being addressed whatsoever. Although they have come here constantly and talked to the minister, he ignored all of those warnings and today he's breathing a sign of relief and saying, "I no longer have to have the responsibility as long as I can pass this over to the private sector. Then as long as they make some money, they won't come back to me. If there are any concerns we have, we can point our finger at the private sector." It's the wrong way to go. We should not support this bill.
It's interesting to listen to your comments, words like "flip-flop" and the hatred of privatization. I don't know how you sum up your existence as an official opposition party to the government when you continually say that in a democratic society and you continually refer to your hatred of the private sector. Everything you seem to dwell on here, whether it's road maintenance, whether it's privatization of a youth centre or privatization of a major correctional facility, over and over again you refer to the fact that these people are some type of demons, that they're only in it for profit and that there's no accountability. I'm sorry, you're wrong on that.
Just yesterday Mr Gravelle, the member for Thunder Bay-Superior North, mentioned something about the terrible state the roads were in. We've been using private sector operators to look after the maintenance of roads for the last 20 years in Ontario. It started with a few people with snowplows and sanding and eventually we found out that there was a major cost saving, and today we're using contractors such as Beamish Construction, people who build the roads we're on, people who build the bridges that we cross all the time, and they're now maintaining them. But I hear these comments continually, saying that the private sector is in it for making a profit. Well, naturally, that's what our democracy is all about. I'm sorry, it's too bad that someone is willing to make a dollar in this world, but those are the same people who have created 765,000 jobs in the province in the last five years. I have nothing to apologize for that. I believe in the private sector.
Mr Caplan: I want to congratulate the members for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell and Scarborough-Rouge River for excellent presentations in debate on this bill. I think they really captured the essence of the bill and were able to articulate what the concerns are and why the people of Ontario should be very concerned about the agenda of the Harris government and what's happening. I know the member who represents Penetanguishene is feeling very guilty about this because there were some commitments that these things would not happen in those communities, and the people there are very upset.
Mr Caplan: I have been there, my friend, and I can tell you that I hear what the people say, and no amount of radio commercials, no amount of advertising is going to sell people on an unsaleable proposal.
This is Business Week magazine. This is not a Liberal publication. This is not socialist. I think even Stockwell Day and Preston Manning, your friends, your federal leaders, subscribe to Business Week. This is what they had to say in a headline: "Private Prisons Don't Work." "In western Tennessee, a convicted murderer serving a 220-year sentence scaled the wall of the privately run Mason Correctional Facility in broad daylight." That's what they don't want in Lindsay. That's what they don't want in Penetanguishene. Don't you get it? You just don't get it. "Wackenhut's Allen Parish prison housed inmates at just a marginally cheaper rate," but public safety is put at risk.
That's what my colleagues were talking about. That's why this privatization of correctional facilities is so wrong. Won't this government understand they are putting people's lives at risk? Won't they stop now and do the right thing and withdraw this legislation?
Mr Lalonde: It's nice to see that the member from Simcoe North in his comment recognizes that the private sector is there to make a buck. As I said a little while ago, they have recognized that this government has to clean up its mess at the present time. It's nearly a fait accompli that the private sector will take over most of the jails in Ontario, but I wonder if we have established some consultation with the public and if we have established the guidelines we should be following when they take over the jails.
At the present time I'm going to give an example: the Cornwall jail. The convicted people don't even serve an hour in jail. When they are convicted, they go to jail, they sign a book and they are out immediately. Where is the security for our people in Ontario? It doesn't exist. When it comes under the private sector, it's going to be even worse, because they are there to make a buck.
I had the opportunity to attend the parole officers' association meeting in Niagara Falls. They are concerned. Most of the people are under stress at the present time. They have so many people to look after, because we don't keep them in jail, that at the present time we are lacking the number of parole officers we should have.
We know they are there to make a buck. When they are out of jail, it is a saving to the government, and this government knows that. If the private sector knows what they are going to be faced with at the present time, it is because this government told them what is going to happen. We are going to see those convicted people on the streets without having any security for our public.
One only needs to examine newspapers on a weekly basis to see the horror stories that occur, not only in our provincial system but in the federal system as well, to know that reforms to the correctional system in this country are far overdue.
We heard some comments earlier about the auditor's report. If you examine the auditor's reports, it goes back to 1992 and 1993. They specifically mention the serious problems that existed in the corrections system in our province-
Mr Dunlop: It goes back about 10 years, to be honest with you. Ten years ago the auditor reported an outdated and inefficient system. The most expensive correctional system to operate in the whole country is right here in Ontario.
Yes, reforms were needed. That is exactly why-I don't understand why you can't get this-we're building these huge facilities. There is an opportunity here. I know you wouldn't get this because you don't understand competition or choice; that's something that's very plain from the opposition. That is exactly why we want to put in a facility with a private partnership in Penetanguishene and one in Lindsay. Then you can compare them. That's what you call choice. I know you don't understand that, that you don't understand competition. That's the fact of the matter.
We have an opportunity to compare two facilities, and you don't want to hear it. Do you know why you don't want to hear it? In case the facility in Penetanguishene turns out to be more efficient and more effective, you don't want to hear it because there may be an opportunity to plan other facilities across the province. Make one thing sure; it's something I want to clarify: this is a pilot project. Every correctional facility in the province isn't going to look for a private sector partner overnight. It's going to happen in the facility in Penetanguishene.
Because you know it's already been a success with Project Turnaround and many states throughout the United States, you don't want to hear it. You just keep up this common fearmongering that happens all the time with your party. It doesn't matter whether it's roads, universities or jails. In a perfect world, you'd probably have everything operated by the public sector, but in that case it would be called Russia. You'd probably like to live in Russia.
This evening I'd like thank the Minister of Correctional Services for introducing this bill. I would like to thank all the members from our party, as well as the opposition, for their comments on this bill. I know the members of the opposition have an important role in bringing our government to a level of accountability. They're trying to do that, although they are very ineffective at it. They will use every means necessary, including fearmongering. That's really what your party is good at.
I know the member from Brant is an expert at this. I'm sorry he's not here tonight because I wanted to say a few things to him. As to the concerns you're pointing out tonight and the fearmongering I've heard, I hope you'll tell your federal cousins, because we've pointed out a number of concerns with the federal corrections system, where they have failed drastically when it comes to the correctional system in Canada. Over and over again, we point this out. They let cop killers, on a regular basis, into minimum securities.
Mr Dunlop: Absolutely. You don't understand that? It's too bad you don't. That's the problem. They don't want to hear these things. They only want to fearmonger about people who are in for two years less a day.
Since 1995 this government has made important changes to the province's justice system. It's clear where we stand. We have put more police officers on the streets, increased support for victims and set tough new standards for the parole board. We are investing $450 million to build and improve correctional facilities with superior security measures and reinforced materials to make them among the strongest and safest available in the world.
I would suggest to anyone to go and visit the site at Penetanguishene. Look at the facility we have there compared to the outdated and antiquated correctional facilities across the rest of the country. The facilities in Penetanguishene and Lindsay, I would suggest, are two of the best correctional facilities for safety and security in our complete country and probably in the whole of North America.
Let it be clear for the record: over and over we have stated that no one in Ontario should not feel safe in their homes, their workplaces, their communities and on the roads and streets of our province. Public safety and security is a priority of the Mike Harris government.
Year after year, auditor's reports show that we need to be more efficient. I would like to point out that the minister has taken a real leadership role in spearheading a reform of our system that will help lower the average re-offending rate and help ensure that tax dollars are spent more efficiently, at a savings to our hardworking citizens. All you have to do is look at the per diem cost of a prisoner in a facility in Ontario. It's the highest in Canada at, I believe, $128.75 a day, compared to other places across the country that are down at $75 and $80 a day.
Within our publicly run young offender facilities, we have an average re-offending rate of 60%, and our adult facilities have rates of 70% to 80%. This means that when a youth goes into a correctional facility, they have a 60% chance of recommitting a crime. The same can be said of adults, who have a much higher re-offending rate. I and this government feel this is unacceptable. We believe that one way of improving the quality of services is by introducing competition to the correctional system.
We are seeing success in our first public-private partnership model, Project Turnaround, which is located in my riding of Simcoe North. I stated last night that it was not in the city of Barrie, which the opposition felt it was. The contract the government has with Encourage Youth Corp of Canada, the operator, outlines performance standards based on the re-offending rates.
This strict discipline program for young offenders has been running for over two years, with promising results, with some of the most difficult young offenders in Ontario. It's not like Jean-Marc said. He felt it was like a bunch of choirboys in Project Turnaround and that was why it was successful. That's what they're trying to claim now, that we only send the choirboys there. I remember reading about one parent who wrote a letter to the Minister of Correctional Services saying, "Thank you for giving back our son," after going through Project Turnaround.
In spite of the fearmongering, I've visited that site a number of times. It is a very successful facility with one breakout in its total history, that being on the very first day. Since then there have been no other problems with Project Turnaround. Of course, they've hung their hat on that one forever. They forget to say that in other facilities across the province, the other two that I can think of, there has been a total of 11 in that same period of time.
We have seen the success of this project, now with a reoffending ratio well below the provincial average of publicly operated young offender facilities. Independent research studies over nearly three years support the fact that the public-private partnership is changing people's lives and giving them a second chance. Here's what Stephen Easton, a noted researcher in public-private prisons in the United States, said:
"Private prisons operate more cheaply than public prisons, and give at least as good service to the community, both to the inmate population and to the public. Further, private prisons are usually held to a more exacting standard than public prisons. Private prisons must meet state certification standards not required of public prisons. Private prisons often spend more time on education than comparable public prisons. In addition, jurisdictions in which private prisons have been established realized lower costs for public prisons. The threat of competition appears to work in the prison sector of the economy just as it does in other economic venues."
This government is currently building two identical facilities, one in Penetanguishene and one in Lindsay. The one in Penetanguishene has had an economic spinoff of $25 million so far to the community of Penetanguishene. The end result will be over 300 jobs for the citizens of the community of Penetanguishene. I think that's an amazing job creation for a small community. We don't see that everywhere. This is a community that has a lot of tourism businesses and they don't have a lot of good winter months. These are 300 good jobs for the young people of the town of Penetanguishene, the town of Midland and the surrounding area. I'm very proud of that. That's what I support: jobs for our youth, jobs for the people of my riding.
I'm not afraid of competition and I'm not afraid of choice. That's why I support the reforms Minister Sampson has put into Bill 144. I would expect everybody in Ontario, using common sense, would support this legislation.
Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): I'm saddened to have to comment on what the member from Simcoe North has said this evening. Everything we do in government doesn't always have to come down to the bottom line. It doesn't always revolve around dollars. That's certainly the attitude and the approach the member from Simcoe North is putting forth this evening, that it's all about dollars and saving money. We have to recognize as a government, as an opposition, that there is a role for government to play. When individuals have done wrong within society today, we as a government have an obligation to ensure there's proper rehabilitation put in place to ensure those people don't reoffend.
I think the member from Simcoe North is totally wrong and I challenge him to ask the members to call for a referendum. You're so big on referendums on your side of the House. Put a referendum forth in Penetanguishene and find out what they say about having a private jail. They don't want it. They don't want a private jail in your riding. It's not all about dollars.
Government has an obligation to play in a number of segments of our society. Government should play an important and active role in the rehabilitation of criminals, ensuring that when they leave a correctional facility in this province, they're going to go out there and become part of society and not reoffend and become part of the system again.
I think your attitude toward where you're going with privatization within correctional facilities and within so many other aspects of government is totally wrong. You can't understand and you can't realize the potential damage you're doing down the road within the province with this mentality that you can't get out of your head.
Hon Mr Sampson: I want very much to thank the member from Simcoe North for his eloquent delivery today and his support for the initiatives and the reform of the correctional system we're attempting to implement. These changes aren't easy to bring forward, which I think is why previous governments weren't prepared to do it. There are a number of obstacles to face in the change, the least of which is you have to prepared to spend a sizable amount of money on reforming the infrastructure that has been there for some time.
I see the member from Renfrew here. He and I have discussed many times, inside and outside this House, that part of the reform of the infrastructure will require some reinvestment. I've committed to him that we'll take a look and find ways to make sure the one up in Pembroke that he and I have been talking about for some time gets the appropriate amount of reinvestment so that the facility can be there to deal with the correctional needs-they happen to be detention needs in that area-of the community.
These have been challenges facing previous governments in the past. We're prepared to commit money to deal with the requirements and the changes the system needs, starting of course with infrastructure changes. But then of course you must start to change the way in which you take a look at the business of corrections as it relates to what's happening inside the institutions. That means you've got to start to look at the results of institutions and the results of the programs in institutions and how safe and secure they are. You've got to take a look at things like drug testing. You've got to look at things like whether particular programs that are offered in the institutions are indeed having the appropriate impact on inmates, because if they're not, inmates will go back and reoffend, and that frankly is not helpful to the community. What we're trying to do is improve public safety.
Mr Curling: I just wondered if my colleague from Simcoe North heard what the minister was saying. He talks about-and you have also mentioned it-improved education programs if the private sector takes it over. This is the same minister who cut money for any training and education in correctional institutions. I don't know if he understands that one of the highest rates of functional illiteracy is in prisons. He talked about improved training programs that will be delivered in institutions. He doesn't have a clue what goes on in those institutions. After coming out of the limousine, the minister struts around and doesn't understand what's going on there. If the minister and the member from Simcoe North would just take a visit and test the functional illiteracy rate within a prison institution, it would tell you one of the main problems why people are coming back to jail so often. Many of them-
Mr Curling: You don't get the point. You're saying the private sector would offer more. He reneged and created a crisis within the institutions themselves and said, "Listen, let me bring the private institutions in because they will deliver more programs." Where was the minister all this time? Where was your government all this time to deliver these programs? Now that it's inadequate and you short-supply it, you say, "Oh, yes, the private sector will do this."
Wake up, Mr Minister. You can't slide away from your responsibilities. Simcoe North, don't be brainwashed by all the briefing notes they give you. Look deeper than those notes. Go there and talk to the inmates. Go and talk to the guards about the morale. You talk about how we're going in the right direction. Wake up and make sure that we have institutions where we can improve the lives of people so that when they do come back into society, they can serve us better, not worse. Because when they got themselves in there, they had no education. Some 70% are functionally illiterate.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound): This has been a very interesting conversation. I noticed the member who just spoke said the minister didn't really have any idea what was going on. I wonder if you have the inside perspective on jails. I just don't know about that. We may have to check that out somewhere along the line.
Being that the Liberals now want to test all the members for drugs, in this House we do a lot of good work, but when we come to bills like that, I'm wondering what's happening over there with the Liberals when all they can come up with is that now they think we should check members for drug use. If this is what the opposition has come to, we're in trouble. I know a few years ago-and maybe they've kept the sample of our last speaker; hopefully they have. When he sat here all night, I'm sure he left us something that we will be able to test. I suggest the Liberals test that one first to see what's going on. I know of a member who spent the whole night here. I'm sure he left us a sample somewhere along the line.
To get back to what we are talking about here, the institutions, we have a new one at Penetang that is about to open. It's going to be privatized. We're going to have to look at that. I think there's some merit to this.
I look at the jail we have in Owen Sound. I've been there, just as a guest-not the inside perspective some other people have had. I was warden of the county. I was there to check the jail out. It is archaic. There are little wee cells that may be the size of this desk, a little bigger, that people have to stay in. The jails have to be upgraded. I don't see how staying in there would help somebody.
If the Liberals think we should allow drugs and booze and parties in the jails, I guess that's what they want to do. I guess that's what liberalism is all about; let's be liberal in the jails and let them run amok. Do we really care? The Liberals are being that way.
Mr Dunlop: It is nice to hear the comments from all those who have spoken here this evening. I have to go back to the whole issue of competition and choice. I understand that we will never convince you of that.
I looked at the original Project Turnaround that Jean-Marc referred to a little earlier and how he was so much opposed to that. He had all these negative words about Project Turnaround. I remember it when it was Camp Hillsdale. Camp Hillsdale was closed by the third party's correctional minister. It was inefficient and inadequate, or maybe it was just part of the inefficiency and inadequacy of the whole NDP government. That happened. We opened it up as a boot camp. Project Turnaround, in my opinion and in the opinion of the citizens who surround it-if you want to do a referendum, I'd suggest you do the referendum with the people who live in the 10 miles surrounding Project Turnaround. It is a very successful project.
It is run as a military-style facility. The reoffending rate is very much lower. It is down around 35% now for the people who are coming out of Project Turnaround. It creates employment in our area. I'm pleased with it.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): I want to take a few moments tonight to speak to Bill 144, both in general terms and with some specific reference to a matter having regard to the Pembroke Jail. Let me say at the outset that issues of crime and punishment are ones that have always excited high levels of interest and very real emotion, whether debated in this Legislature at this time, in the national Parliament in previous sessions or in previous centuries. It is also true to say that one does not have to be particularly creative to excite public passion around the question of crime and punishment.
I am the first one to admit that in any civilized society, at any given point in time, where one subscribes to due process of law, there will undoubtedly be miscarriages of justice in the courts and in the correctional or penal system. If one wants to make it one's life's work to highlight the miscarriages of justice, the bad judgment calls, I suspect that in a country as large as Canada and a province as diverse as Ontario, you could probably have a pretty steady diet of material.
The right of the state to incarcerate anyone is certainly one of the most powerful rights we give government. I was struck, at the turn of the century last January 1: do you remember that millennium television program that took us around the world as the new millennium dawned? The image I will remember as long as I live from that broadcast was the image of Nelson Mandela returning to the prison where he spent half a lifetime. It was empty. It's probably some kind of historic site now; I'm not sure about that. To see this remarkable human being, with such equanimity returning to that jail cell is to remind us all, I hope, that there is more about this debate than cheap and easy politics.
I am the first one to admit that there are activities in the justice system, in the correctional system that enrage me. I was driving home the other day, listening to a broadcast from CBC Ottawa. It actually had to do with the federal election campaign. It dealt with this question of what is good and what is wrong with the justice system.
The matter turned to the Young Offenders Act and to the fact that very dangerous people were walking the streets of Ontario. There was a reference made to a pedophile who had been released into the community here in Toronto. I don't need to tell you, particularly those of you who are parents of young children, just what an incredibly sensitive and emotional debate that is. I was very struck to hear a distinguished member of the Canadian bar enter that debate to say, "You understand that without any change at all, the Attorney General"-in this case of the province of Ontario-"has the right under the existing law to make an application to have that person removed from the community as a dangerous offender." I think that's the phrase.
I think most of us listening to that were surprised to find out that that mechanism existed under the law and that, for whatever reason, it was not invoked. I'm not here to complain about the Attorney General; I'm sure he has an argument. But it would be very easy for me to get on the talk shows in Ottawa or Toronto and say, "Isn't it a terrible thing?" It may have been inadvertent. I must say, I would like to know why that application was not forthcoming in that circumstance.
I simply use the point to make a broader point: any of us who wants to pick an example of something that's not going well probably would not have to go very far. We obviously have to do better. There is clearly a concern in the community, particularly with serious offenders, that we're not tough enough. I'm probably prepared to be tougher than most people in this chamber on some of these issues. The only complaint I will continue to register is that you don't have to be Charles Atlas to beat up on poor and defenceless people. I want equal treatment. I want the rich and the powerful also gone after with equal vigour.
I always remember Arthur Maloney telling me, "If you ever need an argument to oppose the death penalty, I will give it to you." I said, "I want to hear it, Arthur." He said this: "Rich and powerful people have enough money to hire people like me." At the time, Maloney was one of the most distinguished and celebrated criminal lawyers in the country. "They will hire me and, trust me, in nine out of 10 cases, I will get them off. Poor people will not have that kind of opportunity."
Mr Conway: I say to my friend from Owen Sound that I hear in the political debate today a great deal of desire to be tough and punitive, but it seems to me we are particularly focused on only part of the community. You yourself, in your intervention, made the comment about drug-testing members of the Legislature.
Just imagine being out there and listening to a lot of this debate. I said the other night-I didn't bring it with me today-that if you read the papers every day, the tabloid press will tell you about some miscarriage of justice on the front page, but go to the front page of the Report on Business in the Globe and Mail and almost every day there is yet another story about some skunk and scoundrel on Bay Street or Wall Street who has pulled a really good heist. Is there any comment, any complaint from authorities about that? I have an image, 25 years ago, of Harold Ballard walking into a correctional site. I remember Alan Eagleson being entertained at one of Her Majesty's correctional motels.
Mr Conway: Patti Starr as well. I don't remember the cognoscenti, the glitterati saying, "Isn't it a terrible thing that we're not being tougher on those people?" That's my only point, I say to my friend from Bruce-Grey, that surely you of all people, democrat with a big small d, would want equal treatment of bad behaviour. I repeat, you don't have to be Charles Atlas to beat up on poor people, on defenceless people. That is the oldest, easiest game in town.
Abraham Lincoln once invited us to follow the better angels of our nature. He gave us very good advice because he understood there was a dark side. This from a man who was a martyr to a great cause, a man who six weeks before he himself was to be shot down said to a divided and bloodied nation, "With malice toward none, with charity for all." So much of this debate in the Canadian political environment about crime and punishment is just the reverse: with malice, high-octane malice, to a certain segment of the community.
It's just a few years ago-not that many years ago, probably a couple of years ago-I remember reading in one of the metropolitan dailies in this city about a judge telling us that far too many people he was seeing in his provincial court bound for the correctional system were people who had serious mental health needs.
We've closed down the big psychiatric hospitals. I don't mean this as a criticism of your government; it's more a criticism of the Davis government and the Peterson government and other governments. We closed them all down because we were going to put better, alternative programs in place, and it didn't happen to the extent it was supposed to. It saddens me, it troubles me, and the auditor tells us this in his most recent report: that far too many of those people are in the provincial jails.
A final word about Pembroke: I appreciate what the minister is doing. When the province of Ontario was young and in the embryonic stage of providing public service in a county like Renfrew, we didn't offer much but we built a courthouse and we had a jail. Today, as a government and as a society, we can't wait to displace the mob from things like the rackets, the numbers rackets and the gaming business. Government wants to get into that. But we want to retreat from the business of providing a state-run correctional system. I think that's an odd paradox.
Renfrew county is the largest county in Ontario. It runs 200 kilometres up the Ottawa River. It has an average depth of about 100 kilometres. We've had a jail in Pembroke for 130 years. I hope and pray that with the minister's help we're going to be able to keep an appropriate service there for my constituents.
Mr Murdoch: The member from Renfrew speaks well, always does in this House, but I don't follow him, because we're discussing a bill tonight about privatization of the new jail in Penitang and about drug-testing and things like that. For the people who are already in jail, I don't think, to my knowledge, it matters whether you're rich, poor or whatever. Once you're in the jail, that has nothing to do with it.
So I think you're a bit off topic. I can agree with the things you're saying, that if somebody's rich, they might be able to hire an expensive lawyer and be able to fight their case better than somebody who's poor, but this bill's not about that. I'm sure that member, because he is a fair member, would want the things done in jail that we're talking about.
He talked about some of the exploits of the old Liberal government that brought us the casinos; I think it was them that brought those into our realm. I think he was here at that time, and he goes back to the Davis time when I wasn't here. I believe he was a member of this House.
This bill isn't about whether you're rich, poor or whatever; it's about if you go to jail, you've done something wrong and you're not going to have a party in the jail. That's what it's about, and I can't understand why you would be concerned if somebody was drug-tested in a jail. Drugs aren't supposed to be in the jail. Alcohol isn't supposed to be in the jail. When you go to jail you don't expect that kind of a life.
If we don't start to tell that to criminals out there, they're not going to care. You won't have to rob the bank to do drugs because you're going to get them in the jail. I really don't understand. I know he'll have two minutes to wrap up. Maybe he'll get on topic and explain that to me when he does that. At least I'm hoping he will, because I'm a little confused about that. I'm always interested in what he has to say, because as a rule you're pretty well on target, but today you're a little off target. Talk about how, when criminals are in there, they should be treated. I'll leave it to you for your two-minute wrap-up.
Mr Curling: It's funny how I would completely disagree with the member for Bruce-Grey. I want to focus on the member for Renfrew, who was right on target. It's who we are dealing with in the institutions, and he was right. If we look there, he points out there are existing laws and resources to make good use of what we have in our jails, but it's not been utilized.
Again, so relevant, the member reminds us, who are the residents in those institutions? They are the poor, the mentally ill people, and the people who have low education capacity, who are functionally illiterate. Most of the time, coming into the institution are those who may have some dependency somehow or maybe are on some sort of medicated drugs. However, we should focus exactly on how we are addressing this new Bill 144 and remind ourselves who we are dealing with. These are not outcasts. If we continue to deal with them as outcasts, we'll have outcasts somewhere else. There are many of them.
If they are not in an institution-as a matter of fact, this government sometimes, instead of putting people in institutions, will have them in chemical prisons. Many people are outside walking the street who are imprisoned that way.
I'll say again, the member was right on, extremely focused. Let us talk about individuals, not about profits and the bottom line. Let's talk about who we are dealing with and how we can use the resources. We have an abundance of resources in our institutions and all over, but need to use them effectively, not find out who can make a profit from them. Let's focus in that way. I think the member was right on, and if you listen more, you'll learn more.
Hon Mr Sampson: I want to respond to the member from Renfrew. He didn't have a chance to speak about the Pembroke situation much in the short period of time he had to speak to the issue. I want to let him know that as to the facility in Pembroke, because it is old and has been there for some time and really shouldn't be operating the way it is now, the current plan is that that capacity would move to Ottawa, which creates tremendous problems for the community as it relates to where individuals who are awaiting trial will be housed while their trial process is going on.
I've come to know the area over the last 20 or so years and it is a long distance from Pembroke to Ottawa and back and forth for a trial hearing. I know the Attorney General is looking at ways to consolidate the court complexes in Pembroke so we can have a far more efficient court complex. It is a beautiful building on the main street. I can't remember the name of that street; I know the member will help me. It's this beautiful building on the main street that would and could, with some modifications, be redesigned to deal with the court capacity.
As I've said to him before, as I've said to the members of the correctional services who are working there, as I've said to the local members of council, I'm interested in trying to find a way to keep a reasonable detention capacity there so we can deal with the needs of the court facility in Renfrew without having to move people back and forth from Ottawa.
I'm hoping, as he is, that we can get all the ministries involved to come to some resolution of that. Frankly, it's the right thing to do for the correctional services and it's the right thing to do for the community of Pembroke.
Mr Caplan: I want to congratulate the member from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke for his comments. The gist of his comments was the difference in treatment of some people in this province. If you're the "in" crowd, if you're supporters of the Harris regime, you're treated one way. If you're not, you're treated differently. That's the gist of the comments of the member.
In Ontario you really ought to have one rule of law, one rule of access to justice: one rule for the rich and the powerful and for the weak and vulnerable. But that's not the way it is in Ontario when it comes to corrections or when it comes to any other area.
Why is this move toward privatization so embraced? I see it as a move away from accountability. The government does not want to have itself be held accountable. It wants to place these functions in somebody else's hands and set up these local boards. When things go wrong, we'll have Mr Sampson or whoever succeeds him as Minister of Correctional Services saying, "Aha, here's the problem. It's these folks. It's their fault. It's not my fault. I don't run this any more. It's theirs."
That's a significant problem in Ontario: a provincial government which runs away from its responsibility at ever opportunity, which tries to place it in the hands of third parties in the province, private and otherwise, and refuses to stand up and say, "We're responsible. We're the government."
Mr Conway: I want to first of all say to the minister that I appreciate his efforts. I know they're ongoing. I want to say in all candour that I am encouraged by what I'm hearing. I want to say to the union and to the community leaders in Pembroke that I think there is some hope there.
I expect, Minister, that you're going to continue to work away with the relevant authorities to see if we can't resolve the issue, because there is no question in my mind that people of the Upper Ottawa Valley-Pembroke to Ottawa is 150 kilometres, Stonecliffe to Pembroke is another 80 kilometres, and out to the Barry's Bay-Whitney area, just into Pembroke, is another 130 kilometres. The geography of the area makes plain the need for some kind of reasonable detention-correctional facility in the Pembroke area.
Second, one of the things I would say to anybody interested is that there's a little book that was on the best-seller list about two years ago by Simon Winchester called The Professor and the Madman. You should read that. It's a very interesting little book about a guy who committed murder, who was in Broadmoor prison in Britain and who was a remarkable genius and had enormous contributions to make to the first Oxford Dictionary.
Third, I'd say to my friend from Owen Sound, I hear what you say and you're probably right that I wandered a bit, but I was trying to make a point about the politics of crime and punishment that are all about us, not just in Ontario but in the United States and the rest of Canada. All I say is simply this: if we are going to set ourselves up as the arbiters of behaviour-"Here's the standard and this is what's expected"-you won't get a quarrel from me on that. But I want to say on behalf of a lot of the people I represent, we work in a place where there is supposed to be no smoking and no drinking. As members of the Legislature, we get to fill out expense accounts on the honour system. Let's hope and pray that we are as good in our compliance with the rules around this place as we expect, on a minimum, that people are going to be in the correctional system.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): I'm pleased to talk for a few minutes on the subject of what this legislation is really all about. It is interesting that when the government introduced this bill they called it-and I use the words "called it" deliberately-An Act to establish accountability in correctional services, to make offenders demonstrate that they are drug-free, to set rules for offenders to earn their release, to give the Board of Parole a say in earned release decisions, and to change the name of the Board of Parole.
Nowhere in that extensive title, nowhere in that agglomeration of words, does it say anything about privatizing jails, about privatizing the corrections service. But when you actually get into the bill, there are two or three pages dealing with the parole board and some of the other matters mentioned and then there are no less than six pages dealing with privatization. It would almost lead one to say there ought to be a law that requires the government to set out in the title of the bill what the bill is really about. Instead, what we have here is a government using doublespeak, trying to deny what the bill is really all about.
The bill is really all about taking a corrections system which is now publicly supervised, publicly maintained, publicly administered, and turning it over to private operators so that private operators can make a profit. That's really what we ought to be debating here tonight, not all the camouflage and not all the propaganda this government has tried to throw in to cover up their real tracks. We ought to be debating the pros and the cons, the experience of other jurisdictions with respect to the private operation of jails.
For the benefit of the public at home, I just want to go through some simple comparisons. These comparisons exist, these comparisons are valid, whether you're talking about maintaining the highway or maintaining the jail or offering, say, a hydro service.
The government is going to say to people, "Privatizing the jails will allow you to run the jail for less," and then they're going to give, as they do here, a bunch of bafflegab about, "Oh, it's going to result in better corrections."
I want to deal with the "for less" part. There are certain things, certain costs that have to be paid in the operation of any kind of enterprise. If you're going to have vehicles, you have to purchase insurance for the vehicles. But if you're a rather big entity, you can get fleet policies. You can actually get a discount on the insurance. So when the government of Ontario has thousands of vehicles, they get a discount on the vehicle insurance. As soon as you privatize something, unless you're privatizing it to an operation that is as large as government, they don't get that discount on insurance. They have to pay more.
Similarly, there are things like workers' compensation or, as this government likes to call it, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. You have to pay premiums for workers' compensation. So you see, government, having to operate this number of public services, actually gets a discount there too. Size matters, so they get a discount in terms of the cost of WSIB. Unless the government is turning jails and corrections over to an organization that is as big, you're going to find that the WSIB premiums for the private operator actually go up. It's going to cost them more.
So it is with a number of other things. When it comes to purchasing vehicles, because the government is able to purchase a fair number of new vehicles at a time, they get a discount. Whether it's from General Motors or Ford or Chrysler, they get the vehicles cheaper. It's called fleet purchases. Unless the government is going to privatize the jail to an equally large organization, when that organization goes out and buys vehicles, whether they be vans or cars or whatever, they're going to pay more.
I can just as easily refer to this comparison in size in terms of private corporations. Bell telephone, which in the past has purchased thousands of vehicles at a time, gets a fleet discount. So unless you're going to privatize to an organization that is, say, as large as Bell telephone, they're not going get the fleet discount. Bell telephone, because they have thousands of vehicles, gets a fleet discount on the insurance. Unless you're going to privatize the jail facilities to a very large entity, you don't get a fleet discount on the insurance either. I just want to say to people out there who are forced to listen to this government's balderdash about how privatization will be cheaper, go out and make the comparisons. Bell telephone gets vehicles cheaper, gets insurance cheaper, gets a cheaper rate of WSIB than does someone else who is much smaller.
So here we have a government that is going to take part of the public service and turn it over to a private operator. The private operator is going to incur higher costs on all of these items, yet the government is going to say to people, "It's going to cost less." There's only one way it will cost less, and that one way is if the private operator so dramatically reduces the wages and the benefits of the people who will work in the privatized corrections facility that they find the money there. There's a problem with that. If you're only going to pay the people who work in the corrections facility a very small amount of money, if their wages are going to be substantially reduced and their benefits substantially reduced, we know that the people who are going to come forward to work in those jobs probably aren't going to be very qualified and probably aren't going to stay very long. In other words, security is sacrificed and the quality of the working environment is sacrificed.
People don't have to take my word for this. They can go look at how the majority of privatized prisons in Great Britain have operated, or privatized prisons in Australia have operated, or the great American experience. Which prisons, which corrections facilities in the United States have the worst record in terms of escapes? It's the privatized ones. Which ones do public police forces have to run around and in effect subsidize by recapturing the escaped individual? Privatized ones. Police have to fundamentally take on a larger role.
The history of privatized corrections in North America, as practised in the United States, has been a disaster. It has cost in most cases more money, it has resulted in most cases in a sacrifice of public security and it has similarly resulted, in most cases, in a sacrifice of the very kinds of rehabilitation strategies and rehabilitation plans that should form the part of any corrections system, especially a provincial one, since people there are limited to crimes that are of a less serious nature. People can only be sentenced to a provincial corrections facility for two years less a day, so their rehabilitation is important. But I would suggest to you that these are the very things that have been sacrificed in other jurisdictions and will be sacrificed here.
If it costs more and delivers less, why would anyone go down the road of privatized corrections facilities? I think we can refer to the Police Association of Ontario, good friends of this government who, when confronted with the question, why are they doing it, can only come up with one answer, "It's part of the government's ideological regime." It's part of what this government truly believes, no matter what the facts say. It's part of their ideological message, part of their ideological fervour, because when you look at it from the practical aspect of financial cost it makes no sense, when you look at it in terms of security for the community it makes even less sense, and when you look at it in terms of rehabilitation and bringing people back into society, it makes no sense at all.