LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 18 June 2008 Mercredi 18 juin 2008
This morning to 10:45 a.m.: debate on the motion for third reading of Bill 64, An Act to amend the Pesticides Act to prohibit the use and sale of pesticides that may be used for cosmetic purposes. Should debate on Bill 64 collapse before 10:45 a.m., the House will recess until 10:45 a.m. and the vote on Bill 64 will take place when the House reverts to orders of the day;
Mr. Peter Kormos: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Not to belabour the point, I want us to be perfectly clear, because one interpretation of that could be that when the House reverts to orders of the day there shall be a vote with no further consideration, and the motion does not contemplate equal sharing of time, for instance, in the one hour and 45 minutes this morning. I would seek clarification from the government House leader with a view to determining that this allows for all three parties to at least have equal time to participate in the bill or that the debate shall continue until it collapses.
Bill 64, An Act to amend the Pesticides Act to prohibit the use and sale of pesticides that may be used for cosmetic purposes / Projet de loi 64, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les pesticides en vue d’interdire l’usage et la vente de pesticides pouvant être utilisés à des fins esthétiques.
Hon. John Gerretsen: I’m very pleased today to lead off debate on third reading of Bill 64, a bill that proposes a province-wide ban on the use and sale of cosmetic, non-essential pesticides. Why did we propose this ban? We proposed it because all Ontarians, particularly young children, have a right to live in a healthy environment. They deserve to breathe clean air, drink clean water and know that the land they live on is healthy and sustainable. All of us, including young children, deserve to be able walk in the parks and enjoy the gardens and watch themselves and their parents playing outdoors without worrying about the risks of unnecessary pesticides.
Over the past four and a half years, our government has taken historic steps and been highly proactive in protecting and preserving the environment for our benefit and the benefit of future generations. The proposed Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act is another positive step in this commitment, another step in the right direction.
If passed, this act would ban pesticides for cosmetic purposes on lawns, gardens, parks and schoolyards across Ontario. It would make exceptions for agriculture and forestry, and for public health or safety reasons. Golf courses would also be excepted, but subject to strict conditions that would require pesticide use reduction over the year, and those exceptions would only be granted upon the filing of an acceptable pesticides management plan with the Ministry of the Environment, according to the regulations, which are still to be determined.
We want to ensure consistency of law and give all Ontarians equal protection from potential exposure to cosmetic pesticides, no matter where they live in the province. That’s why last fall, during the election campaign, we made it quite clear that we wanted to ban the use of cosmetic, non-essential pesticides and we wanted to have consistent application of that law throughout the entire province.
We all know that current municipal bylaws vary greatly; there are different requirements at home, at work and at the cottage. We will study the various municipal bylaws as part of a regulatory regime we will be bringing in if this act is passed. We will consult on the regulations with municipalities and with all others who have an interest in this. At the end of the day, we know that we will have the toughest law and the toughest regulations against the use of pesticides for cosmetic, non-essential purposes.
One law would ensure that all Ontarians are protected equally, that it’s clearly understood what is against the law and what is not, and that we’re not confused by competing requirements. It will also be clearly understood what the penalties are for not following the law, and that enforcement is consistent, predictable and equal across this province.
We have gone much further than banning the use of cosmetic pesticides; we are also banning the sale of cosmetic pesticides. Banning the sale of the product in the province of Ontario is the best way to eliminate the use of it.
I know that municipalities have some concerns about this, particularly those municipalities that have stronger bylaws with respect to use. But we’ve said right from the very beginning that if we were to implement a ban on the use of cosmetic pesticides, we want it to be equally applied across the province.
In that regard, let me quote from an e-mail I received just within the last half-hour from Jan Kasperski, of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. It’s addressed to me and to Kevin Flynn, my parliamentary assistant. Before going any further, let me just thank him for shepherding the bill through second reading in the House, and through committee. Indeed, I want to thank all the committee members who were involved in listening to deputations and in the clause-by-clause that followed earlier this week.
“The Ontario College of Family Physicians and the 8,400 family doctors who are members of the college, on behalf of the patients we serve, are very grateful to both you and the terrific public servants who have worked tirelessly to bring Bill 64 this far in such a remarkably short period of time….
“For 10 long years, the OCFP has been made a target by the pesticides industry. Our credibility has been questioned repeatedly. We faced up to them by reaching out and touching the hearts of Ontarians with our sincere desire to protect children from harm.
“As for the OCFP, we will celebrate with you tomorrow”—meaning today; this e-mail was sent last night. “We are realists. We know that the best strategy is to take five steps forward…. Regulations will get us” there.
“Thank you so much for what you do. You are both deeply respected and we greatly appreciate your hard work in driving this bill forward. Please give our best to the Premier and thank him on our behalf.”
I’m not reading this for the personal comments she made about Mr. Flynn and myself, but for the fact that the College of Family Physicians is on side with what we’re doing here today. They know we’ve gone further than we said we were going to. We said we were going to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides. By banning their sale, we’re doing something much better.
As I mentioned before, numerous groups, including the Ontario College of Family Physicians, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Canadian Cancer Society, have been calling for a ban on cosmetic pesticides as a prudent measure to protect our health. The renowned David Suzuki Foundation is a strong advocate as well; I received an e-mail from them as well overnight.
By banning the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides, we have an opportunity to eliminate a potential threat to the health of our children, our parents, our friends and neighbours, our water supply, as well as to future generations.
As you know, our government consulted extensively with stakeholders and the public in developing the proposed legislation. We have received approximately 11,000 comments from the two postings on the Environmental Registry. We’ve met with environmental groups, health organizations, and the municipal, agricultural, golf, turf, retail manufacturing and production sectors. I would like to thank all of those individuals and organizations we have met with over the past few months. Their viewpoints and suggestions are valued and the legislation has benefited from their input. At the standing committee as well we heard many insightful comments. Having heard all the submissions, we are confident that we have brought forward the best possible legislation.
In addition to exceptions to the ban for uses related to agriculture and forestry, the promotion of public health and safety and golf courses, Bill 64 is drafted to allow exceptions for other prescribed uses in regulation. This would allow the government to deal with things like endangered species or the preservation of urban trees, which may not fall clearly within the health and safety exception. We have listened to the concerns of stakeholders with respect to the “other” exceptions and have strengthened Bill 64 to make these exceptions conditional. This means that in order to use pesticides that have been prohibited under the use ban, these “other prescribed uses” must meet all conditions placed on them as specified by regulation. Failure to meet those regulatory conditions means that these other uses would lose their exception and be prohibited.
If the bill is passed, we look forward to engaging Ontarians once again to make sure that the strongest possible regulations are put in place to protect our health and environment. We will meet with those municipalities that have passed what they regard as stronger-use bylaws and we will take a look at those bylaws to see how they can be implemented in the regulations.
I would like to add my personal thanks to everybody who has worked so hard on this, both from a stakeholder and from our staff and ministry viewpoint. I also want to thank those who have worked so hard for many years to ban cosmetic pesticides in communities. They, and particularly those municipalities that have been involved in this for many years, have laid a strong foundation that has allowed us to introduce a province-wide ban. We will continue to work with them and with the Ontario Pesticides Advisory Committee, and they will help us on the details to be outlined in regulations.
If passed, my ministry would also consult with stakeholders on draft regulations that list the specific pesticides and ingredients to be banned. Currently on the proposed list, we have some 80 different ingredients and over 300 products, which is much more extensive than any other jurisdiction in this country. I also want to make it clear that if the bill is passed and the regulations put in place, time will not stand still. We are committed to continuing to work with our municipal partners to ensure that we have the strongest possible regulations in place across this province.
As we look ahead, if Bill 64 is passed and the regulations are developed and put into place, the ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides could be in effect as early as next spring, 2009. That’s what we’ve always been aiming toward, even though other jurisdictions have taken as long as two or three additional years. If we want to protect our children from unhealthy risks, then we should implement that as soon as possible. In communities across the province, families and children would be protected from the harm of pesticide use on the lawns, gardens—I might note gardens are not included in the province of Quebec—parks and schoolyards that they live on, pass by or play in on a day-to-day basis.
Our government is not the first to recognize the hazards or the needlessness of the cosmetic use of pesticides. As I mentioned before, Ontario municipalities—some 33—already have shown leadership in banning or restricting them, and I salute them once again for their great work. Through them, approximately 46% of Ontarians are already better protected from harm. A province-wide ban would ensure this protection is extended to all diverse communities in this province, whether urban or rural. We recognize that including rural communities in the ban moves away from our original view that we would not focus on restricting those areas. However, rural residents and children deserve every opportunity for good health and our government simply will not leave them out. We want a uniform law across this province, whether it’s urban or rural.
We want all parents, no matter where they live, to have the security of knowing that their children are not subjected to these chemicals. As I mentioned before, Quebec has implemented a prohibition on the sale of pesticide fertilizer mixes and other pesticides for domestic use by the general public. Ontario proposes to take one of the toughest stands against cosmetic, non-essential pesticides in North America and, certainly, it would take the good work of our municipalities one step further because we’re not only banning use, we are banning sale, which is the best way to ban use.
Our legislation would prohibit the use and sale, as I mentioned before, ensuring not just consistency and clarity in law that would apply to all municipalities equally, but also making sure that products containing banned ingredients would not be available for purchase in Ontario. We chose to go beyond our original commitment during the election campaign last fall in this regard because we believe that taking these products off the shelves in the first place is the single most effective way to reduce their use. This step is strongly supported by environmental and health groups, as well as the general public.
Taking this thought a bit further, let’s look again at the economic impact of our proposed changes. Here in Ontario, we are proud to be home to an environmental industry that contributes over $8 billion a year to our economy and is at the leading edge of the burgeoning green economy. We are confident that, if passed, our proposed legislation would provide another boost to this important sector and a new direction for growth, as our innovative businesses create new, pesticide-free products, new services, new jobs and economic growth. We are absolutely convinced that the industry is capable of coming up with these new, pesticide-free products.
In our recent budget, our government allocated over $10 million over four years to support our proposed plan to ban the use of non-essential pesticides. These funds will help support Ontario-based research to foster development and commercialization of green alternatives that are better for the environment and for the health of Ontario families. This also has the potential to position Ontario as a research and development leader, as more provinces, states and countries ban the use of cosmetic pesticides and begin to look at alternatives. These funds are also targeted for education and outreach.
Our government continues to be gratified by the number of stakeholders that have expressed interest in working with us to ensure that the general public is aware of alternative methods of lawn and garden care. These include educational institutions, municipalities, retailers, service providers, health units and organizations ranging from the Canadian Cancer Society to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. With their help, we propose to focus on education and outreach as the principle means of ensuring compliance with the ban. Fines will be a last resort. The most important thing is banning both the sale and use of the product.
This bill is the first step in our government’s commitment to reduce toxins and tackle the environmental cost of illness. If passed, it will ensure that our children and all Ontarians are no longer exposed to cosmetic, non-essential pesticides that can harm their health. It would provide a new avenue of growth for innovators and entrepreneurs who are propelling Ontario’s green economy, and it would promote natural, organic solutions to lawn and garden care that are better for our environment and would help improve the health of our planet.
This is the last day in the Legislature before September, obviously, and I know that some of the members and people watching us on television are already well engaged in the golf season. I can play more now—maybe not well, as some members know, but I can play more now.
Have you ever heard the expression, “Drive for show and putt for dough”? It means that the big drive is easy: One smash with that big-dog driver and you’re two thirds of the way down the fairway in one flashy shot. What has this got to do with a bill on pesticides? Bear with me. The hard work in golf is on that third, fourth, fifth, sixth shot in the final 100 yards getting to the green and then in the putting. The devil is in the details, and in golf the details are in that short game, that last 100 yards.
So it is with McGuinty legislation: Drive for show, but the short game and the details? They’re just not there. “Let’s ban pesticides. No one likes pesticides.” That’s the big drive. That’s the drive for show. “Do we have the science to back it up? No. But who cares? We’ll grab everyone’s attention with that first big boomer shot off the tee.”
Liberal strategy interprets public opinion like this: “Yeah, pesticides, they can’t be good for us. McGuinty’s right.” But people are not stupid. Pesticides used properly protect them from West Nile virus and termite infestations and provide worm-free ears of sweet corn in the summer and large luscious fruit as soon as the season starts a couple of weeks from now.
I will not be supporting Bill 64 because it will not accomplish what it claims. I told this Legislature a few days ago that bills designed to grab the attention of people for a few seconds and have them say to themselves, “Sounds good to me,” were about all the McGuinty government could come up with in the session now ending, and here we go again.
There are three distinct kinds of bans in legislation we deal with here. An essential one would be, for example, a ban on handguns. Most everyone agrees with that. But we know what a problem enforcement is despite significant police efforts on this issue, and still we persevere on a ban like that.
Another kind of ban is the type inherent in something like Bill 69, passed here on Monday: no smoking in cars with kids. We pretty well all agree it deals with a few stupid people who do that, and we know it won’t really be enforced due to manpower resource issues. But the government thought it looked good, so now we have that ban in Ontario.
Then there’s a bill like this one. The McGuinty government says, “Hey, let’s ban pesticides.” The instant response from people goes something like, “Pesticides are poison; poison is no good. Great idea.” That’s all the thought they give to it, but that’s instant and it is also false. “Wait a minute,” says the government. “We can enforce it, and it’ll look great.” If you want to talk about a cosmetic ban, indeed that’s what this is. It’s a perception that you’re selling, not a reality.
Why am I against it? No science backs this up—zero, none. You talk about timely? Read Terence Corcoran’s piece in yesterday’s National Post on this very problem. Before anyone tries to characterize my stance as pro-pollution, pro-big business or devil-may-care, stop. Abuse of pesticides and irresponsible use of pesticides must be stopped. There are few who would argue with that—I certainly wouldn’t—but this legislation does not distinguish at all between the use of pesticides and the abuse of pesticides.
Bill 64 targets responsible users of pesticides. In fact, based on no scientific fact, it punishes them for acting responsibly. It is short-sighted. It is unfair. It is irresponsible. When we act as responsible legislators, we need responsible and factual support data, and Bill 64 is not based on scientific fact. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture wrote: “OFA would like to voice our very strong objection to the limited hearing time allocated to Bill 64 (four hours), and to the incredibly short application time afforded those wanting to address the standing committee .... The fact that Laurel Broten, a committee member, reported that the committee clerk was to ‘post information regarding the hearings ... in major newspapers, if possible,’ would be comical if it was not so disrespectful. It was preposterous to suggest that notification could possibly have been provided through newspapers, when the clerk was only informed on Thursday that the deadline for application to attend the hearing was 5 p.m. the following day.”
When we, the official opposition, assess any proposed legislation, we consider a number of factors, including: (1) Does the proposed legislation speak to the needs of Ontarians; (2) Is the proposed legislation effective in achieving what it sets out to achieve; (3) Is the proposed legislation informed, based on knowledgeable sources; (4) Is it fair and responsible; and (5) Has there been sufficient attention paid to its enforcement?
The McGuinty Liberals would have Ontarians believe that this bill is about protecting the environment, but there has been no evidence presented. “My God,” said one deputation in committee, “pesticides killed 1,600 people last year and half were children.” So I questioned them: “Was it exposure, or did they drink the stuff because dad left the cap off on the front steps?” Answer: “Don’t know.”
If the McGuinty government were serious about protecting the environment, they would take real action on closing inefficient and harmful coal plants, smog and toxins. They would take action that has its basis in science and good government, not headlines and hearsay. Health Canada, the definitive authority, has over 500 experts who set standards for our pharmaceutical drugs and we can’t trust their views on pesticides? Give me a break.
Allegations of responsibly used pesticides causing cancer and poisoning children were made before the committee, but the evidence was never presented. Groups that needed to be heard were not, like Petro-Canada, with an entirely new and promising approach to pesticides, using products which are the equivalent of baby oil. If you drank baby oil, the only result would be a longer than usual visit to the bathroom.
“A selective herbicide that has eliminated approximately 85% of the active ingredients (with the goal to reach 100%, similar to the fungicide). Again, scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that this product maintains its effectiveness when measured against other leading brands with full concentrations of active ingredient.”
The product commonly known as Roundup is banned, despite Health Canada classifying it as a reduced-risk product. In this legislation, the McGuinty Liberals chose to ignore science and, indeed, our own Canadian scientists from Health Canada. Why are they there? Health Canada scientists are the gold standard in terms of testing and protecting us from chemical or pharmaceutical formulations. It’s a fact that proper use and administration of proper quantities is, arguably, the single most significant determining factor of health risks. Scientists from Health Canada have concluded that if used according to instructions, pesticides do not harm children or pets or the very people who apply them.
Every one of the people in this chamber benefits from the pesticides this city uses to control mosquito infestations to prevent the spread of West Nile virus. Everyone here eats Ontario fruits and vegetables, grown with the aid of judicious and responsible applications of pesticides. That’s legal under this bill. If our crops were grown without it, we’d have a yield of 30% to 40% less than what we get. So pesticides work. Like any chemical, they work best and are beneficial only when used correctly.
The government chose to rely on a report by the Ontario College of Family Physicians—the Pesticide Literature Review—which had a great many limitations, including selective reporting of data, ignoring Health Canada’s role in pesticide registration and rolling all pesticides into one definition. That’s like saying all medications are bad. Anyone here take no pills whatsoever? I think not.
This McGuinty government runs a public relations machine. First it builds misconceptions, then it plays on fear and then it pretends to propose solutions—kind of like an arsonist who sets a fire and comes back 10 minutes later and extinguishes the fire so he can be hailed as a hero. The problem is that the McGuinty Liberals’ idea of solutions is just to ban things. Indeed, I’m not sure what they would do in this House if they ran out of things to ban. Maybe they could ban bans for a while and deal with real problems by bringing real solutions. Our economy comes to mind, but never mind that today.
I’m quite worried; perhaps the next time I have a headache I won’t be able to take an ibuprofen because they’ll decide to ban it. Following the logic that was applied to this bill’s development, they could easily do that as their next ban. They’ll say if I take 100 capsules I could cause serious injury to myself or even die, and they’d be right, but I don’t plan to take 100 capsules. I read directions, and so do pesticide users.
Both medication and pesticides are reviewed for proper use by the very same Health Canada. Does this government seriously believe that people operate on the lowest common denominator? In other words, is their legislation designed for someone who may take 100 ibuprofen pills or inhale or drink pesticides? The comparison is fair. Why? Because these things are ably and rigorously tested by Health Canada. Used as directed, they’re safe—not maybe safe, they are safe. For the sake of my head, I hope sincerely that ibuprofen will remain a legal product to sell and use, not abuse, in Canada, and in Ontario particularly.
The truth is that this is yet another piece of smoke-and-mirrors legislation which pretends to accomplish something while it really achieves nothing. I have to ask what general is leading this army, because the battle is in the other direction. Meanwhile, the troops are fighting imaginary skirmishes, looking for an enemy that just isn’t there.
Bill 64 only targets a few people who are basically using pesticides responsibly. It exempts agriculture, forestry, golf courses. That leaves people and properties, accounting for only 2% of pesticides used. Yes, I said 2% of the total. Stakeholders across Ontario wanted to make these points—responsible people who were not heard because of location and time. The government rejected our request to take hearings on this bill on tour, and the total time for hearings was about four hours. The McGuinty government neglected to seek input on this legislation from experts and responsible users of pesticides.
“OVMA is seeking an exemption for the use of pesticides for industrial vegetation management. Herbicides used to control vegetation in industrial situations are an essential component in maintaining the integrity of the infrastructure that the Ontario public depends upon for safe and reliable services. Control of brush and conflicting vegetation is necessary for the safe operation of economically important facilities (eg. power lines, gas pipelines, oil pipelines, railways, roadways), prevention of catastrophic failures and life-threatening emergencies. Pesticide use in these operations is not a cosmetic use and should therefore be exempted from the proposed amendments to the Pesticides Act.”
“Bill 64 makes it very complicated for those of us who use pesticides to understand who we answer to. The PMRA—a federal body respected internationally as a tough regulator—can approve a product based on a thorough scientific evaluation. The municipality up till now has had the power to ban its use, claiming it is harmful, and yet Bill 64 hasn’t banned it. How confusing is this? We need to have one regulatory authority—the PMRA—that has the power to evaluate and approve (or reject) products based on the science.”
In conclusion—and I state emphatically—there is no science to back up Liberal rhetoric here. This bill was not introduced with the health of Ontarians in mind. It was introduced with the goal of distracting people from the fact that this is a do-nothing government that specializes in meaningless, token gestures.
I close as I began. I will not be supporting Bill 64 because it will not accomplish what it claims. We are stuck in a bad movie. Ontarians are getting what passes for leadership and protection from the Wizard of Oz: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
My message to this government is: Go back to Kansas; get the courage to make the right choices; get the brains to give us smart legislation, not fluff; come back to reality to deal with Ontario’s real challenges.
There are a number of serious flaws with Bill 64. At the hearings on Monday, those flaws were highlighted in detail by a wide variety of stakeholder groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Toronto’s medical officer of health, Ecojustice, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, Pesticide Free Ontario—a wide variety of submissions with many common themes, both supporting action on pesticides and expressing concern with elements of this bill that undermine its effectiveness.
The questions we have to address first are how we came to be here, how we came to have this debate today, how this society came in any way to act on the question of pesticides and, frankly, the dispersal of toxic chemicals throughout our environment.
We can go back to Rachel Carson, if you want, in the 1960s, talking about the broad dispersion and use of new technologies that were developed after the Second World War—organic compounds that could be used to kill plants, to kill insects, but to kill in a very non-discriminatory way and pose human health threats.
Those concerns have led, over the decades, to action by governments ranging from Richard Nixon’s in 1970 to Hudson, Quebec, in 1991, to the city of Toronto, to Oakville, Markham and a variety of others that understand that the whole field of organic, chemistry-based toxins used to control plants and other pests is an extraordinarily powerful technology and needs to be reined in. At this point in this society there is broad support for taking action, at a minimum, to get rid of those uses that are generally seen as unnecessary. So it’s the organizations that I cited and a number of others, along with municipalities, that have taken action. In the case of Hudson, Quebec, and the city of Toronto, they actually went all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for their rights to protect their citizens.
We do need action and I just want to cite a few commentaries on the real issues before us. The city of Toronto put out a fact sheet a few years ago, explaining to people what the health effects were of pesticides and what the concerns were. They noted scientific studies done by epidemiologists, some studies of men and women who work with pesticides, including pesticides used on lawns and in gardens, suggesting they have increased risks of fertility problems, spontaneous abortion and miscarriage. It’s not solely a question of cancer. It’s not solely a question of more subtle effects. Fertility problems, spontaneous abortion, miscarriage: These chemicals affect our ability to reproduce. Some studies, mainly of workers, suggested that maternal exposure during early pregnancy to pesticides used in gardening is associated with increased risks of several types of birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, spina bifida and limb anomalies.
Brain and nervous system effects: Researchers conclude that there’s reasonable evidence for an association between exposure to pesticides and a moderately increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. More research is required to establish which pesticides contribute to the increased risks.
Cancer: Recent studies show increased risks of testicular, prostate and cervical cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma among those exposed—particularly farmers—to pesticides through their work. In children, several studies have shown moderately increased risks of some cancers, particularly leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and neuroblastoma, and some birth defects, with pesticide exposure around conception in the womb and early infancy.
I think the studies are out there that show a connection between the use of pesticides and incidence of cancer, birth defects and reproductive problems. I don’t think that the scientific establishment in this country would dispute that. In fact, I think they would support that. The Canadian Cancer Society then goes on, in another paper, to talk about what the costs are. I talked about the human impacts, and for individuals and for families, those impacts are substantial. Those impacts are enough to justify restrictions on the use of these chemicals, particularly in situations where there’s broad agreement that their use is not critical and not necessary.
The Canadian Cancer Society, in their submission, stated: “Cancer is a leading health issue in Ontario. While cancer treatments have improved and mortality rates have fallen, cancer incidence is expected to increase drastically due to Ontario’s aging and growing population. It is estimated that by 2020, cancer cases in Canada will increase by two thirds.
“Cancer is a major cost driver in provincial health care budgets and affects the ability of all levels of government to collect revenue and pay for services. As of 1998, Ontario was spending approximately $2 billion directly per year on cancer care. The indirect costs associated with cancer, such as loss of productivity, costs Ontario approximately $5 billion per year.”
I would say that on the face of it, simply looking at epidemiological studies presented by credible authorities, such as the medical officer of health for the city of Toronto and other medical officers of health, and looking at the data produced by the Canadian Cancer Society as to the real cost to this society in financial terms—not human terms, not family terms, not community terms but raw dollars—that burden is substantial. For those reasons alone, the environmental groups, the citizens’ groups, the health groups and the nurses’ associations who have campaigned, literally for decades, are justified in bringing this forward, and the cities that have taken on this fight deserve the gratitude of the people of this province for having taken the risks.
I’ve been on city of Toronto council when it has taken initiatives beyond where a provincial government was willing to go, and I know that they carry the burden of the heavy fight. The member for Oakville, I’m sure, is well aware of the fights that went on in his council and community. So for me it makes sense that those pressures, those campaigns and those pioneering efforts to protect the population should be rewarded with legislation that is broader, stronger and more encompassing, and that we should be moving in a direction that phases out these uses wherever possible—and let’s start with the unnecessary ones.
I have, however, three substantial problems with this bill, problems that are substantial enough that I won’t vote for the bill, because I think there are elements, in particular the one I’m going to address now, that undermine the ability of cities to act and take the lead in the future. If cities had not had the power in the past to act on smoking or on pesticides, we would not have a Smoke-Free Ontario Act. We would not have any legislation on pesticides before us today. We would be in trouble. The initiative of this government to push back the power of the municipalities is a profound error.
We brought a number of amendments to committee on Monday for clause-by-clause consideration. The one that was fundamental for us, the key, was the removal of the section of this act that took away the power of municipalities to act independently, essentially to let them take the floor provided by this bill and build from there. In fact, what this legislation has done is put a ceiling on the power of municipalities to act. Stakeholders called for this government to get rid of that amendment.
The government claims that it has changed the way it works with the municipalities. John Gerretsen, when he was Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said, “Under the leadership of Premier McGuinty, a new, positive tone has been established in provincial-municipal relations.… We know municipalities are accountable, mature orders of government that can ably represent themselves and their citizens with the federal government.” I suggest to the Minister of the Environment that he should have listened to himself as Minister of Municipal Affairs and amended this bill so that cities continue to have the right to pioneer and go further. We in the NDP believe that cities do have the knowledge and the political courage to go further than provincial governments and that that knowledge and courage should not be restrained.
We remember the debacle after the Premier said in an April news conference that municipalities would be able to improve upon the pesticide ban. My sense is that the Premier did that knowing full well that was the correct position to take politically. He wasn’t corrected at the time. He should never have been corrected. The bill should have reflected his comments. He said that because any reasonable person would think municipalities should be able to pass bylaws that are closely connected to their cities and citizens.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, which was represented by Markham councillor Erin Shapero, who is here today, said, “We are concerned about a clause in this bill which would render municipal bylaws inoperative and would like to see that clause removed from the proposed legislation.”
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Then remove it. So we moved at committee, and we were turned back. That amendment was not adopted. I asked for a recorded vote. The government members unanimously voted against that amendment. They voted to restrict the power of municipalities.
The Canadian Cancer Society agrees with maintaining the ability of municipalities to act and to be leaders. I will read an excerpt from their note on the pesticide legislation: “The evidence linking pesticides and cancer is still growing. As the scientific and health communities are continually learning more about the risks associated with exposure to pesticides, municipalities should not be prevented from enacting bylaws stronger than provincial law if the community and city council support stronger protection.” In fact, they recommend that if there is a conflict between municipal and provincial pesticide legislation, the stricter restrictions should prevail. This is what exists in the smoke-free Ontario legislation.
Given the similarities between the two in terms of levels of government moving to improve public health, we should have the same legislation. We put forward an amendment to that effect. Again, the amendment to actually retain municipal power to protect the public and move forward the environmental struggle was defeated.
Municipalities have been leaders in introducing pesticide bans. They tend to be closer to public health concerns. In fact, 33 municipalities have enacted pesticide bans of some form affecting almost half of Ontario’s population. This legislation ends the ability of municipalities to respond to real concerns brought forward by their health officers and their citizens.
From the David Suzuki Foundation: “Interfering with municipal powers to regulate the use of pesticides to protect public health is unnecessary and unjustifiable.” This was reiterated in a joint letter to the Premier from Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association. They fought tooth and nail to defend the rights of municipalities to enact local bylaws against big pesticides. Their opinion was set aside; their commentary was not heeded; their words were simply pushed off the table. They wrote, “We recommend that this section”—referring to restraint on municipalities—“be deleted entirely and that the bill remain silent on this issue. Section 14 in the Municipal Act, 2001, and the developing body of case law are more than adequate to deal with any conflicts arising between municipal bylaws and provincial regulation of pesticides. Further, provincial regulation of pesticides ought to be the floor from which municipalities can regulate further in accordance with local needs. We believe that such a direction would be consistent with the intent of the Legislature when the Municipal Act was most recently amended, bolstering local regulatory powers to protect human health and the environment.”
So I have to ask, why was the Municipal Act amended to reflect the maturity of the municipal level of government, the recognition of their ability to actually take on these issues in advance of the province, when at the first opportunity to actually put things into effect, to put a floor in effect upon which municipalities could build, that power was taken away from them?
I just want to note that the city of Toronto board of health actually brought forward a resolution at one of the recent meetings, and I’ll read it out, concerning this overturning of their powers. First of all, they passed the motion requesting the Ministry of the Environment to amend the wording of the proposed Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act, so that if there’s a conflict between a municipal bylaw and the act, the provision that is most restrictive of the cosmetic use of pesticides prevails—and note: requested the medical officer of health to submit a report to the board of health on what legal options might be available to the board of health and the city of Toronto to preserve our right to protect the health of the public if Bill 64 is adopted without the amendment proposed in recommendation 1(a).
In other words, that city is not prepared to simply roll over and have its powers to protect its citizens abrogated. It is now investigating, as it has in the past when it’s dealt with the pesticide industry, what its legal rights and powers are to protect its citizens. The action of this government to put them through that is a dereliction of their duty and responsibilities and a dereliction of respect for the municipal level of government.
The second part I want to address: The legislation provides the government with too much flexibility to exempt certain uses. Subsection 7.1(2) lists the exemptions for the cosmetic pesticide ban: golf courses, agriculture, forestry, to promote public health and safety, and then, finally, “other prescribed uses.” In other words, the ministry can indiscriminately regulate exemptions to the act. This is a dangerous precedent. With one stroke of the pen, the pesticide ban can be made completely ineffective. I don’t think that this should be left to regulation. If there were particular exemptions that the government wanted to have in the legislation, they should have been put in the legislation so that we in the opposition could have debated those exemptions, so that those in the environmental movement and the environmental health movement could have made their representations as to the adequacy, inadequacy, fairness or unfairness of what was put forward. But, in fact, that didn’t happen.
What’s been put forward is the blanket ability to declare an exemption for any other purpose. I don’t think we can leave this to regulation. In fact, beyond that, we shouldn’t leave this to regulation. The ability of the public to intervene in the regulatory process is very limited. The ability to lobby, get media attention, exert real pressure on the government to make a difference when you get to the regulatory phase, is not the pressure lever and attention you have when we’re going through the legislative phase. It gives the government far too much room to manoeuvre and gives it far too much discretion.
We have a situation where the municipalities, which have acted effectively as the safety net for this province in terms of protecting people from pesticides, have had their power taken away; then the government has taken upon itself the ability to regulate away all the protections that it says will be in this act.
An argument was made in committee: Let’s assume this government is pro-environment. I don’t say that, because I think this government has had a very sorry record on the environment, but let’s say for a moment that they consider they are. There’s always the possibility that another government will be elected and use the powers that they’ve put in place to undermine even the small steps they consider they’ve taken.
The Canadian Environmental Law Association and Ecojustice made their point quite eloquently in their letter to the Premier: “Subsequent governments could, through prescribing excepted uses, render the purpose of these amendments to the Pesticides Act meaningless. We recommend that this subsection also be deleted from the bill in order to ensure that pesticide use in Ontario is reduced over the long term.”
It is very clear to those who are deeply concerned about the use of pesticides in this province, those who fought for a long time for strong legislation, that this particular section of the bill gives carte blanche to any future government to throw it all out the window without any need for public hearings.
The Toronto medical officer of health: “I am also concerned that the bill authorizes unspecified exemptions ... described as ‘other prescribed uses,’ which could be used by future governments to reduce the health protection of the legislation without legislative debate.”
We in the NDP proposed an amendment to strike this line entirely. The government voted against those amendments. In doing so, they voted against a cross-section of public interest advocates and public health experts.
I want to turn to the third problem with the bill: The legislation bans certain pesticides rather than allowing certain pesticides. The bill allows all pesticides to be used for cosmetic purposes unless they are specified by regulation. We have suggested, and a number of groups have suggested, approaching it very differently, to prescribe only the pesticides that are, in fact, allowed.
The reasons are straightforward. Simply put—everyone recognizes it—pesticides are powerful and they can be dangerous. The evidence on that is clear. There’s a positive association between exposure to pesticides and a number of types of cancer: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, brain cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer. There is strong evidence that children may be more vulnerable than other population groups. A British study found that 50% of pesticide poisonings involved children under the age of 10.
We simply recommended in our amendments that we have a precautionary approach. Put that in place, decide what is clearly safe. Allow that, in what we’ve all agreed are cosmetic, non-essential uses, and go from there. Those who are familiar with the Krever commission on the contamination of the blood supply in Canada are well aware that Justice Krever argued, and I think very well, on the basis of the evidence that where there is potential for risk, caution is certainly in order. In this case, where we’re dealing with non-essential uses, why do we lack any caution at all? Why do we not put in a more restrictive regime than the one put forward by the government?
I have to ask myself why the government is putting so much power into its hands on the regulatory side. I know the argument that will be made, and has been made in the past, is, “We like to get into the detail and make sure you are protected. We enable ourselves, but then we get into it and make sure that things are done well.
I just want to note two reports. Neglecting Our Obligations, by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, talks about the fact that in Ontario, environmental protection, time after time, is not there. If it’s contaminated landfills, if it’s water pollution, he notes time and again that the government doesn’t enforce, does not follow up. In fact, he even brought out a report about a year ago—I think the title was Doing Less with Less—talking about amendments to the Nutrient Management Act in the regulations that essentially made it unenforceable. The Auditor General for Ontario in his 2007 annual report talked about hazardous waste, and how hazardous waste management in this province time after time is not followed through on; how the reports of waste coming out of generators do not match the report of waste received by receiving stations. Very commonly, more than 10% of that waste seems to have evaporated from the time it left the generator to the time it reached the receiver.
So when the government says to us, “Trust us. We have this enabling legislation. We’ll go further, we’ll be tougher, we’ll make sure things are fine,” I don’t think there’s a basis for that. I think for us, on the opposition side, to accept the government’s protestations that leaving it all to regulation and their goodwill is going to result in environmental protection would be folly. This government has taken away the safety net of municipal powers to deal with this issue. It has done it against the protests of the municipal sector, against the best advice of those in the environmental sector, and is simply asking for a blank cheque. I don’t think we can give it.
Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn: It’s a pleasure to follow the previous speaker, it’s a pleasure to join Minister Gerretsen today in my remarks and it’s a pleasure to join third reading debate on Bill 64. I’ve been privileged to be a part of the development of this legislation from day one. The intent, obviously, is to ban the sale and the use of cosmetic pesticides in Ontario. I’ll tell you, I’m very proud to stand in support of this bill today, and I think we all should be. We’ve heard some views today—that’s what this place is for, and I certainly don’t want to diminish that—but it’s time perhaps to inject some balance into the debate today. Some obviously feel—when you listen to the member for Thornhill—the bill exceeds—
The Canadian Cancer Society in its remarks before the committee said that if this bill is passed, Ontario will have the strongest legislation in the country. I believe we’ll have the strongest pesticide legislation in all of North America. That, to me, is a good thing. That is something that should be viewed as being a progressive step forward; we should be seizing this opportunity.
You talk about the value of the regulatory system and why you would leave certain decisions to the regulatory system. What I don’t think we can underestimate, or we shouldn’t underestimate, is that there is still a desire within Ontario for people to maintain their properties—their flower beds, their lawns, their vegetable gardens. They want to do that with safer products. Using the regulatory system, you’re going to allow for the approval of those products—safer products, green products, organic products—in a much more expedient way than if you were to enshrine that in legislation. So I can see the value for this in that process.
I would probably associate myself with some of the sentiments that were expressed by the member for Toronto–Danforth. At the end of the day, we may not agree on the process or the strategy to achieve those, but certainly some of the sentiments—I was in the trenches with my own council in Oakville trying to develop legislation that mirrors what we have before us today. When I look back and I think of the reasons for that, we were doing that in the absence of provincial action. We were doing that simply because, as a council and as a municipality, we had very little experience in the enforcement or development of pesticide bylaws. We were forced into that position. We were put in a corner because the province and the federal government simply refused to act in that regard. My preference at the time, had we had a bill that had come forward similar to the bill that’s being proposed today, was that I wanted to see that protection extended to all the people of Ontario. It seems to me what we need is a level of government that’s prepared to take responsibility for the reduction of pesticides and allow that toughest protection to be extended to all people in the province of Ontario and not in select municipalities. If there’s a reason a product shouldn’t be used in Oakville, the product shouldn’t be used in Markham, North York, London or Thunder Bay either. That seems to me to be the end game in this. We need to get tough legislation within the province of Ontario. I believe that this does that.
We’re committed as a government—I think we’ve proven that, despite the remarks from the member for Toronto–Danforth—to both the health and safety of the people of Ontario and to preserving and protecting the environment. When you look at some of the environmental legislation that has been brought in over the last five years of the McGuinty government—take a look at the greenbelt legislation and Places to Grow—I think you’ve seen significant improvement. I know it’s the role of the opposition to oppose, but I think even begrudgingly you have to admit that we’ve made some progress in the last five years, and I think we should be proud of that. This legislation blends those two goals together, the one of health and safety and the one of preservation and protecting the environment. Now, why would you do this? Why is it such a popular bill with the people of Ontario? Simply, it’s going to ban the sale and use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on lawns, gardens, parks and schoolyards across Ontario. It’s a reasonable, prudent and practical step that’s going to stop the unnecessary use of pesticides.
We know that all pesticides pose a risk. We know that when Health Canada says pesticides are safe, they’re not saying they’re safe. They’re saying they pose a risk and then they classify the degree of that risk. It’s an entirely different concept than saying that something is safe. What we want to do is protect Ontarians from the potential exposure they have from the use of products similar to this, to toxins, and particularly in this regard, the exposure of children who have greater exploratory behaviour. They’re just curious little creatures who want to get down on the ground and pick up things and put them in their mouths. They’re more likely to come in contact with pesticides than people who are playing on a golf course, for example. It just makes them more susceptible. I think we’re really aiming at the young people.
It protects the environment. I think other speakers have talked about the cumulative effect of pesticides, or the combination of pesticides that are used, and that’s a grave concern. We know that after a storm occurrence or rainfall, pesticides can run off. They flow into the tributaries, the rivers, and eventually that runoff makes its way into our drinking water supply. We often forget that what we put on the ground and what flows down into the rivers and the creeks from our community ends up in the Great Lakes and Lake Ontario, where Toronto, Oakville and a number of municipalities in the greater Toronto area draw their drinking water supply.
Many Ontario municipalities, some of which are represented here today, have already taken a stand against cosmetic pesticide use. I think they deserve to be applauded for that, because, as I said in my earlier remarks, they were prepared to step forward when no other level of government would. When the province of Ontario, under previous governments, wouldn’t take that move and when the federal government was keeping the same old regime in place, municipalities stepped to the floor, and I think we do owe them a lot. My own community of Oakville is one of those communities that has regulated its use. When I talk to constituents within my own community, they’re glad that we’re doing this. They’re grateful that a decision was made by the town of Oakville to implement a pesticide bylaw that came into effect at the beginning of this year. They feel that they should have a restriction on the use of pesticides and that the necessary protections are now in place for them and for their families.
We’re joined by some members in the east members’ gallery who have been stakeholders in this process. I think they deserve to be recognized or at least noted in Hansard. We’ve got Farrah Khan and Gideon Forman from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment; Sari Merson is here, joining us from Pesticide Free Ontario; and Erin Shapero, a councillor from Markham who has been very active in this issue, has joined us as well to see the passage of this bill today, something that’s long overdue.
As we move forward in this—and I do hope the bill passes today and we can get to work on the regulations—people are going to ask, “How do we safely dispose of the pesticides we have if we can’t use them anymore?” I’d like to remind all members of the House and certainly all members of the public that you should never put pesticides out in the garbage and you certainly should never pour them down the drain. They should be stored safely. Whatever municipal collection you have for household hazardous waste, you should put the products into that stream.
The ban that we proposed today I think makes sense. Cosmetic pesticides are simply not essential. We use them to make our lawns and our gardens more aesthetically pleasing, but that’s not the only way we have to accomplish that aim. There are plenty of environmentally friendly alternatives.
In talking about the agriculture and forestry sectors, there has long been a focus on the safe use of pesticides. Farmers in the agricultural sector are required to take pesticide safety training. They’re governed on the strict use and storage of pesticides as well. They’re reducing pesticide use. If you look at the records of the agricultural community, surveys show a 52% reduction in pesticide use on agricultural crops in Ontario since 1983. That’s almost half. Our farmers in the agricultural community want a safe, healthy and clean rural environment for their families, their crops and their livestock. Increasingly, and of their own volition, they are switching to lower-risk pesticides and they’re starting to implement more and more integrated pest management programs, and that’s beginning to reduce the reliance that the entire industry has on pesticides.
Like farmers, those workers and employees who are engaged in the practice of forestry are also required to meet stringent rules on the use, handling, storage and safety of pesticides. It’s a collective responsibility. It’s a trust we bear for our generation and future generations.
Currently, some pesticides are required to protect our forests from a range of native and, it seems increasingly, non-native insects and pests. We’ve seen the Jack pine budworm and the Asian long-horned beetle infestations in recent years. Even more, we’re starting to understand that healthy forests really mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change. They’re important, obviously, to the Ontario economy and to the national economy. The forest products industry in northern Ontario is a valued partner in our government’s commitment to long-term forest health, and it includes the responsible use of pesticides.
As the minister mentioned, if Bill 64 is passed, the public and the stakeholders would be consulted extensively on regulations that establish the uses related to forestry, agriculture or any use that is proposed to be excepted from the proposed ban. Our government is going to bring in some regulations and conditions for the golf sector that don’t exist today, so that any pesticide use on courses would have to meet a much, much higher standard than it does today. For example, some things we should be considering in the regulations: We could potentially ask these operations to obtain IPM accreditation. IPM is currently a voluntary program. We’re saying that perhaps it shouldn’t be. Today, Ontario is home to 800 golf courses and counting, including 12 of the top 20 in Canada.
What I’m saying is that this piece of legislation is the start of a process that allows us to work together. It’s one that I think is deserving of the support of all parties. I would hope, when the vote is taken, that all parties stand up for health, safety and a clean environment in Ontario.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I’m pleased to say off the top that while my colleagues and I support the concept of eliminating non-essential use of pesticides to protect our health and environment in this province, having sat through committee hearings and having read the legislation, I have a number of concerns.
First and foremost, the word “cosmetic” has not been clearly defined and is left open to interpretation. Bill 64, the Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act—I’ll just say that for those at home who have maybe just tuned in—would see the government ban the cosmetic use of pesticides. Does this bill refer to cosmetic pesticides or does it refer to a cosmetic ban? What is cosmetic, the pesticide or the use? I’m not sure the minister or the folks on that side can answer that question. They certainly haven’t answered the question to date, and the three pages of Bill 64 don’t contain the answer. I would imagine it depends on which side of the issue you want to discuss.
Many of the presenters we heard from felt the same. Wendy Fucile, the president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, began her testimony by saying that “Bill 64 has the potential to be an important step in the right direction, but we’re not popping the champagne corks yet.”
Gideon Forman from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment suggested three amendments to the bill and spoke at length about the government limiting cities’ ability with regard to pesticide use.
Sheila Clarke of the Canadian Federation of University Women, Ontario Council, proposed seven recommendations to Bill 64, while the Canadian Cancer Society made it clear that the bill is not sound in its current form.
Two days ago, a news release was issued from the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario. The headline reads: “Health and environment groups sound alarm about pesticide bill.” The news release says:
“Bill 64 will ban the use and sale of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. However, as the bill winds its way through committee hearings and reading in the Legislature, a group of”—more than a dozen—“prominent health care and environmental organizations says the government must act on the bill’s weaknesses.”
Words and phrases like “shortfalls,” “undermines public protection,” “significant concerns,” “disappointed,” “gravely worried” and “loopholes” are rampant throughout a news release written by the very people this government was supposed to have listened to and consulted with.
What is Bill 64 based on? I have a few guesses, and I’m confident that it’s based on political science, not on real scientific facts. There’s been much doubt cast over the lack of scientific proof to support the Minister of the Environment in his banning of the use of cosmetic pesticides.
First, we heard from the Premier that municipalities could go above and beyond the legislation. Now we’ve heard that that wasn’t true. That was an interesting contradiction of opinions—a nice way to start off this legislation. For months, the Premier and the minister have stated that this is about public health, but we’ve heard from the government’s own health officials that this isn’t the case.
“When I asked if this would change the government’s view of the safety of 2,4-D, he responded ‘It’s not a safety issue.’ Huh? Practically every statement the McGuinty government has made about the ban includes the claim that it will ‘protect human health, especially children’s health.’ And that’s not a safety issue?
We’ve heard on a daily basis from municipalities, Health Canada and health experts who are seriously questioning the legislation. The minister has told the Premier that he is wrong. He’s told Health Canada that they’re wrong. He’s told municipalities, farmers and small businesses that they’re all wrong. Experts across the province have legitimate concerns about Bill 64 and they deserve to be heard through province-wide hearings on the regulations of the bill. So I question the minister’s integrity if he refuses that democratic opportunity for experts across the province. Frankly, if this is about protecting the health of children, I think we should take this opportunity to get it right through expert advice, proper science and real facts. I think our children deserve that. They deserve to be given the facts when it comes to their protection.
My colleagues and I believe that we must immediately begin reducing the amount of toxins that Ontarians come in contact with each and every day. However, we also feel that Bill 64 duplicates work already being done at federal and municipal levels, while other environmental issues such as smog go unchecked by this government.
Lorne Hepworth from CropLife Canada summed things up best when he said, “We want to capture the benefits, but we too do not want to have any unnecessary risk, any unacceptable risk, to the public’s health or the environment. We have children, we have grandchildren, we have pets, and we like to play on the lawns and on the sports fields too, so I think from that standpoint we share in the goal of this legislation and the committee’s approach to it.
This issue of banning pesticides is a very complex one. I can’t stress enough that it needs to be based on science. We’ve seen this government, in their haste to please special interests, shut out other approaches and actively work to ensure that science doesn’t get in the way of a great headline or a great photo op. Many would agree this bill does not appear to be based on anything close to consensus or any examination of neutral objective research, evidence or science.
As the bill stands, it suggests that there’s something inherently wrong with the pesticide products currently for sale in Ontario. One is left scratching one’s head on this because Health Canada and other internationally known research organizations disagree with the idea suggested by the government that there is something wrong with various herbicides, fungicides, algaecides and insecticides that control pests in our environment. Up until now, the province has become content with the fact that Health Canada sets the standards on pesticides in this country.
The Premier and the minister are implying that they now know better than Health Canada. It’s a very similar theme from the McGuinty Liberals: They know better. If this government thinks Health Canada is wrong when it comes to pesticides, do you also think they are wrong when it comes to other areas of jurisdiction such as pharmaceuticals? If members opposite are sitting on information suggesting that we can no longer trust Health Canada, then I think it’s time they brought that information forward.
Bill 64 also establishes a double standard for health of urban residents compared to rural residents as well as those working on golf courses and those on farms and in the forestry industry. Scotts Canada made a submission to the Environmental Bill of Rights that I’d like to quote in part: “A ban focusing on towns and cities while ignoring rural areas would be seriously flawed. To introduce a ban on the use of Health-Canada-approved pest control products in urban centres while permitting their use in rural settings establishes two standards of health and safety for Ontario residents. Clearly where our health and the health of the environment is concerned, a double standard is neither desirable nor acceptable.” That says it all.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Ontario’s largest farm organization, said, “Banning pesticide use in urban settings while maintaining they are safe in agriculture undermines the public’s confidence in farming, the safety of our food supply and Health Canada’s regulatory safeguards.”
Prior to the provincial election last fall, the Premier was on the Bill Carroll Show on CFRB. While on the show, Premier McGuinty was asked about the pesticide legislation and was reported to have said that banning pesticides for cosmetic purposes is the first step. So I question: What is the next step?
Those in the forestry and farming sectors are allowed to use the chemicals because they are bound by stringent training on the application and storage of pesticides. Farmers are required to be certified under the grower pesticide safety course before they can purchase pesticides, let alone use them. Recertification is required every five years. Common sense should tell you that a product is not more or less toxic depending on where it is applied. Therefore, perhaps this government will examine the benefits of educating and training. This certainly may be a more effective route to take than trying to enforce this legislation. Enforcement is something we’ve heard very little about from that government side.
Exemption for the agriculture and forestry industries is a good thing, but I’ve spoken to representatives from both sectors who fear that the bill has the possibility of becoming a slippery slope. Rural Ontarians are well aware of the government’s track record. It has them worried.
There is a place for pesticides in Ontario. Without them, farmers would be hard pressed to grow consumable products. What about infestations of emerald ash borer or gypsy moth? What about infestations that could wipe out many trees and tree cover that provide cooling effects? During committee, we heard from municipalities that admitted to using larvicides, which are pesticides, to control mosquito populations that can cause West Nile virus. The members opposite like to talk about the risks associated with pesticides because it’s politically friendly to the ear, but there are many benefits as well if used properly. That’s where education and training come into play. This is where public hearings could be so important; to hear what the experts have to say in how best to proceed.
I agree with Craig Hunter from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, who told the committee that he supports “the elimination of misuse, overuse and unnecessary use of any pesticide in any venue. It is essential that to be able to do so, one must know what safe use, appropriate use and justified use are. It takes education and training, like any other complicated issue we deal with in society today.” I think we all agree that protecting human health and the environment are paramount.
Bill 64, at the mere three pages that it is, is short on facts, big on rhetoric; the Ministry of the Environment has been as well. If this bill passes, there is a lot of work to be done, as there is the potential for the devil in the details. I’m not sure that the minister wants the devil to be ousted from those details.
I want to refer to the Endangered Species Act and the forestry sector, which certainly feels that the government has double-crossed them as it moves through the regulatory process. The government gave the forestry sector a commitment in writing to recognize their forest management practices, which have long been a world-renowned platinum standard for excellence in forestry. Our forest management practices have worked in support of endangered species, and the science proves that species have been brought back from the brink under current forestry practices: species like caribou, red-shouldered hawks and bald eagles.
A few weeks ago, under the regulatory process, with the Endangered Species Act, the McGuinty government sent a clear signal to the forestry sector that it would not honour its commitment to provide for long-term regulation under the new Endangered Species Act. That sets a very scary precedent, that the regulations and the process that are going to take place with this bill have taken place with the Endangered Species Act.
It was mentioned about the short notice for committee hearings and how people just did not know in time. Some people actually flew, on blind faith, from Ottawa hoping to get on the schedule. That is not the proper way to conduct public committee hearings. The government, again, was doing this all quickly; not enough details, not really wanting to hear from the people, especially people from rural Ontario.
Let me quote from the member from Huron–Bruce on Bill 64 from May 26. I just want to make sure she’s listening. “I look forward to the hearings, and they should come to rural Ontario, where they will be very graciously received by the McGuinty government.” You can check that Hansard from May 26. I don’t know if she has been sleeping or a little slow at the switch because, as sincere as she tries to let on, I say to the member for Huron–Bruce, your own McGuinty Liberals haven’t graciously received rural Ontario. As a matter of fact, the environment minister shut them out, and you can read the letter from Geri Kamenz, the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, in that respect.
Yesterday I asked in question period to the Minister of the Environment if hearings would be held across the province and in rural Ontario: no answer; lots of the usual rhetoric; lack of facts. It’s regrettable that a bill of this level of importance has been rammed through the House and committee.
The parliamentary assistant for the environment, the member for Oakville, has said he has faith in the agriculture sector. So I say: Why are you shutting them out? Why didn’t you give more time for them to appear? I ask again to the Minister of the Environment: Will you take the hearings on these regulations to rural Ontario, take them public and across the province? The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs: Where has she been in this whole picture? This is important legislation and it has not had its open hearings for the public across the province. One day of hearings in Toronto just does not cut it.
I’m running short on time. The devil’s in the details, as we’ve said about this bill. I’m calling on the government to do its due diligence and open transparency. I want the Minister of the Environment to go on record that he will take the regulations across the province for hearings.
Yesterday’s National Post carried an article on the lack of validity of this bill: “When Ontario’s environment minister, John Gerretsen, was asked last week about Health Canada’s finding on the safety of 2,4-D, he raised another issue. Health Canada, he said, was looking at pesticides on a ‘product-by-product’ basis. That’s not good enough.”
Another quote from the article: “It’s easy to lay the charges and mount a campaign, to convey fear and uncertainty, compared with the dry business of actually conducting a science review.... You make stuff up, exaggerate the risks, politicize the subject and spin it into a corporate and ideological battle. And, above all, you ignore the facts.”
That seems to be nailing what’s happening here right on the head. Ontarians and children certainly deserve real action from their environment minister. If the health of Ontarians and our environment is truly to be taken seriously, then we should have serious legislation that will improve the health of Ontarians, and this legislation certainly does not cut it.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): Further debate? Debate having concluded, in accordance with agreement in the House earlier today the question on the motion of third reading of Bill 64 will be put forward following petitions.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The Administrator of the government transmits estimates of certain sums required for the services of the province for the year ending 31 March 2009 and recommends them to the Legislative Assembly.
As well, on behalf of the member from Thornhill and myself as Speaker, we’d like to welcome in the Speaker’s gallery today grade 7 and 8 students from Henderson Avenue Public School and my good friend, one of their teachers, Malcolm Crawford. Welcome to Queen’s Park today.
As well, in the Speaker’s gallery, I would like the members to recognize the outgoing chief administrative officer from the Police Association of Ontario, Mr. Bruce Miller, and the incoming chief administrative officer, Ron Middel. Bruce, thank you for everything you’ve done. Welcome, Ron.
As well, we’d like to welcome back our guests who are visiting from the Imo State House of Assembly in Nigeria. Joining the delegation this morning is the Right Honourable Goodluck Nanah Opiah, the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, and his guests. Mr. Speaker, welcome to Queen’s Park today.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): As Speaker, not to presume anything, but since this might be the last day that the House meets—not to presume anything—I’d like to take this opportunity to thank this wonderful group of pages for the fine work that they’ve done on our behalf. We wish them a safe summer and thank them all very much.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: As we embark on what may be our last question period for this session, my question is addressed to the Minister of Health. Yesterday, the Ombudsman described the almost 300 known C. difficile deaths in Ontario as a tragedy. He said that perhaps the government is hesitant to call an independent external investigation into the deaths because it is trying to contain an embarrassing situation. Minister, is that why you continue to resist the public call for an investigation into C. difficile?
Hon. George Smitherman: I think it has been said in this House many times that there’s a lot of information in the public domain about C. difficile. There has been a lot of information in the public domain about C. difficile. Indeed, hospitals in Ontario obviously grapple with its challenges every single day and with a variety of other known risk factors for patients.
Our sympathy is with people who experience less than ideal circumstances, for sure, but we have the opportunity to take action in a very, very swift way. The transparency associated with what we’re bringing into place on September 30 will be a powerful influence for patients, under the leadership of Dr. Michael Baker from the University Health Network, who will emerge as a very public spokesperson on behalf of patients for the circumstances. We think that this is the most appropriate way to move forward and to make effect in the most swift circumstances.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: The fact is that this minister is unwilling to do what other ministers of health throughout the world have done; that is, when there are a significant number of deaths occurring and no explanation for them, there’s an inquiry held. I have no doubt that Dr. Baker, in the future, will do a job that needs to be done. However, we’re going back. We need to find out what happened and why and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I don’t want to hear any more excuses from this minister as to why he will not address this tragedy. I told you yesterday that I had received letters from people who have either had C. difficile or who had lost loved ones to C. difficile. They want answers. They realize you’ve had four years and done nothing. You didn’t heed the warnings. You haven’t even yet brought in mandatory reporting. I ask you today, will you listen to the call for an inquiry from—
Hon. George Smitherman: There she goes again, saying that the people in health care in Ontario have done nothing; that the hospitals in the province of Ontario, who run their facilities and have the obligation for cleaning them, as an example, have done nothing; that the deployment of infection control practitioners across the province of Ontario is nothing; that forming the Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee, that’s had circulars and given advice to hospitals, was doing nothing; that creating 14 infection control networks is to do nothing.
But not to mention that this issue has been studied substantially: A coroner’s report on offer, an investigation into circumstances at Jo Brant, gives us the information that we need and that hospitals require to do the appropriate things in the circumstances, along with the public reporting regime, which will dramatically enhance the transparency associated with patient-safety circumstances in hospitals across the province of Ontario.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: There’s only one individual who has not taken decisive action: the minister. Our health providers, our people in hospitals and elsewhere, have done the best they can without strong, coordinated leadership from the top.
This minister can no longer divest himself of responsibility and accountability for this tragedy. He has turned his back on the victims and their families. He’s turned his back on the opposition and requests from the Ombudsman to address this tragedy and call an inquiry.
As a result, today we have filed a motion of non-confidence in the government for failing to take action on behalf of Ontarians to address this issue. I give you one more opportunity to acknowledge that you will establish an independent inquiry into the deaths.
Hon. George Smitherman: It’s interesting that the honourable member uses the expression “turn her back,” because we remember the circumstances when Mike Harris did that to the former chief medical officer of health in our province. He’s a CMOH still in our province, Dr. Richard Schabas, and here’s what he said on the matter of an inquiry: “I’m not sure a public inquiry is necessarily the logical next step. They often make for good theatre but they don’t get us where we need to go, which is to address this problem in a vigorous and effective way, and I think largely we already know what the underlying problems are with C. difficile.”
It’s not that the information is unknown, it’s that the honourable member wants to take a few years and engage a lot of lawyers in an investigation, where we think it’s more important to engage clinicians and the people who are on the front lines of health care to take all the appropriate, necessary and available steps to address this circumstance, which has been a known commodity in hospital environments for many, many years.
Mr. Frank Klees: To the Minister of Education: Yesterday, the minister finally acknowledged that, unlike failing to report suspected abuse at the hands of a parent, currently there is no offence in legislation when school officials fail to report student-on-student assaults to parents and police.
It begs the question: Why should it matter who assaults a child before the very people who are entrusted with the responsibility for their safety are required to act? So can the minister explain how she can justify standing by and doing nothing, knowing that there is a clear double standard in law when it comes to the protection of Ontario’s children?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Just to be clear, as I have been as this question has been asked over the last few days, our interest on this side of the House is to make sure that every child in the publicly funded education system receives the oversight and the service that they need. There are police/school board protocols in place that require reporting in particular incidents. We’re looking at those protocols. We’re also looking at the various pieces of legislation that have reporting mechanisms in them to make sure that we have the correct mechanisms in place.
I’m sure that the member opposite is aware of a letter that has come from the Ontario Principals’ Council that says, “Be very cautious about changes that you make to reporting mechanisms because, as we know, principals in our schools need to have discretion in dealing with the children in the system.”
Mr. Frank Klees: The minister admitted in the House yesterday that there is a serious gap in the law. Because of that gap in the law, the charges against the principal of C.W. Jefferys school in Toronto for failing to report a sexual assault are going to be tossed out by the court, and she knows it.
I suspect that the minister has known about that for more than a year and has done nothing. The situation at C.W. Jefferys and at the York region school were not minor shoving matches; they were serious acts of violence.
If the minister is really on the side of students and on the side of parents, she would close that glaring loophole today. And if she isn’t on the side of children and of parents, whose side is she on?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: It is quite clear to me that in the instance that the member is talking about in the York Catholic board, there were breaches of protocol. It has been very clearly stated by the board that that happened, and there has been action taken by the board. There was a protocol in place and that protocol was breached.
It is the responsibility of the Minister of Education to make policies that are reasonable and rational and that address the issues across the system. The fact is that the reason the safe schools action team is looking at the reporting mechanisms across the province in all pieces of legislation is so that I, as the minister, can make recommendations about changes to legislation if that’s necessary so that those gaps can be closed.
Mr. Frank Klees: The fact is that parents across this province are absolutely shocked to know that there are no legal consequences when school officials fail to protect their children, and they’re becoming increasingly concerned to see this minister’s lack of concern and lack of immediate action.
Yesterday, perhaps the minister gave us an insight into why she’s not acting. She said this: “It will come as no surprise to anyone in this House that I, as the Minister of Education, am not going to endorse policy on the basis of the member opposite’s recommendation....” Well, if she won’t take my recommendation, will she listen to parents across this province who are appealing to her? There is no more need for studies, Minister. There is no need for drawn-out consultations. What we need is a minister to act. I ask the minister again: Will she bring in immediate legislation and put children and parents first, and if not, what lobby has managed to get her ear?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Since we came into office in 2003, we’ve been putting children and families first on this side of the House in every piece of legislation that we have introduced. Our raison d’être as a government is to make sure that children and families in this province have the protections that they need. We were elected to restore publicly funded education in this province because it had been ravaged by the members opposite.
He is absolutely right: I will not take the advice of the member opposite alone. I have already said that it is of great concern to me that the parents in this case did not get the information that they needed. One of the reasons that the safe schools action team is looking at the reporting mechanisms is to make sure that that does not happen again.
Hon. George Smitherman: The Ombudsman has substantial involvement in a variety of oversight responsibilities related, as an example, to the Ministry of Health. In the case of hospitals in particular, these are organizations that have a community governance model. That’s a very special feature of the Ontario health care system. It varies substantially from the model of regional health authorities in other provinces, where community-based individuals, people selected from the local community, are not involved in providing governance. Accordingly, that has been a very substantial distinction.
In the case of long-term care, a very substantial and different compliance regime is in place, which allows for timely response to concerns about the care that people are receiving. We believe that it’s necessary to continue to offer that on a real-time basis through the 1-800 action line and that this offers substantial assurance of quality to the people of the province of Ontario.
Mme France Gélinas: Boards of directors of hospitals are there to provide good governance to their local hospitals. That has nothing to do with the third party, independent investigating skills that the Ombudsman brings. There’s nothing in governance that even relates to investigating complaints. We’ve had community governance for a long time, but Ontarians still have questions. They have questions about C. difficile that haven’t been investigated.
Ontario’s Ombudsman says that C. difficile deaths would have been investigated by his office if the government had not refused. Some of the 260 deaths could possibly have been prevented. Knowing that Ontario is the only province without Ombudsman oversight, what excuse does the government have to continue to refuse Ombudsman oversight of hospitals?
Hon. George Smitherman: Why is it that the honourable member accepts some oversight but not others? Why is it that the coroner, with substantial powers backed up in law to investigate these matters, has thoroughly done so in the circumstances of Sault Ste. Marie? Does that not prove to be a satisfactory mechanism in the very specific circumstances that the honourable member raises?
We feel, and other experts from the coroner’s office to the chief medical officer of health to local medical officers of health agree, that the information that hospitals need to address circumstances related to patient safety is in their hands. We’re going to be adding a very significant degree of transparency, which will be a very powerful influence for all people in the province of Ontario to have very timely information about a wide variety of patient safety circumstances in their hospital environments.
Mme France Gélinas: Those other ways of bringing accountability do exist in other provinces, but they still have Ombudsman oversight. They have this third party, independent Ombudsman who brings closure to complaints.
Ontarians deserve better than a government that chooses to hide embarrassing situations instead of doing the right thing. Ontarians deserve to have their individual complaints about hospital care investigated by an independent, neutral third party, as every other province in Canada does. Why won’t the government do the right thing and allow Ombudsman oversight of hospitals and long-term care?
Hon. George Smitherman: We think that on matters related to the clinical performance in a hospital, it’s far more relevant that we take advantage of the information that we have to have clinicians—Dr. Michael Baker in this circumstance—lead us forward in a way that dramatically enhances the transparency that’s available with respect to the performance of Ontario’s hospitals.
In addition, through things like wait times, we’ve dramatically enhanced the amount of information that people have about the performance of their hospitals. We’ve added the powers to the Auditor General to do value-for-money audits of the hospital sector in addition to others.
These are all examples of how we’ve dramatically enhanced the transparency and accountability of the hospital environment. I think this is a very substantial way to move forward to deliver on the better-results performance that we anticipate will be possible and that we expect from our hospital environments.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: This is to the Deputy Premier: More often than not, the government’s Child and Family Services Review Board closes the door on families who have complaints about Ontario’s child welfare protection system. This board in no way substitutes for the truly independent avenue that is available from the Ombudsman’s office.
Why does the McGuinty government continue to block the Ontario Ombudsman from looking into children’s aid societies, something that the Ombudsman himself has been requesting, in fact most recently in yesterday’s report?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: As the member opposite well knows, we do require CASs to have clear, transparent and consistent complaint processes. We established the Child and Family Services Review Board as the authority to hear complaints and review decisions made by the CASs. This board is subject to investigation by the Ombudsman and judicial review by the courts. In addition, we have created the independent office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: The Ombudsman is actually quite pointed: The McGuinty government’s way has failed miserably. Even the government’s own appointee to the Child and Family Services Review Board told us that the board’s scope is inadequate. Here’s what Sheena Scott, the government’s own appointee, said on May 27 about bringing Ombudsman oversight to the CAS: “Arm’s-length independent oversight is something that is consistent with international and domestic law.”
If independent Ombudsman oversight is the preferred model in the eyes of so many experts, including the government’s own appointee, the Ontario Bar Association, justice stakeholders and the Ombudsman himself, what stands in the way of bringing Ontario into line with international domestic law and allowing families to appeal children’s aid society decisions to the Ombudsman?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Let me repeat: There is a process in place where complaints to the CAS can be dealt with. We have required CASs to establish a clear complaint process so that family members and others know exactly what steps they must take and how to lodge appropriate complaints. They are dealt with at the CAS level. We also have a Child and Family Services Review Board. It has the authority to hear the complaints and review decisions made by CASs. The Ombudsman can also review these decisions, as well as the courts.
Last week, I actually introduced legislation once again that would enshrine the Ombudsman’s oversight of children’s aid societies in this province. Why won’t the minister endorse this idea of bringing Ontario into line with many other jurisdictions across Canada? It’s the very least that children and families deserve. In fact, it would be interesting for everyone in this chamber to know that even children are calling the Ombudsman’s office, which is in his report, asking for him to have oversight into their complaints.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I don’t know quite how to answer this any differently than I’ve already answered it. Every CAS must have a clear and transparent complaint process. CASs are administered by community boards of directors. There’s a clear and transparent complaint process in every CAS across the province.
We also have the Child and Family Services Review Board, which has the authority to hear complaints and review those decisions. The board is subject to investigation by the Ombudsman and judicial review by the courts. There is a process; the process is clear and transparent.
Mr. Ted Arnott: My question is once again for the Minister of Tourism. A survey released this morning from Harris/Decima shows that more and more Ontarians are choosing to stay at home rather than dine out, a growing trend which hurts our hospitality industry. Consumer confidence appears to be plunging, and confidence in this government is sure to follow.
As gasoline prices, food prices and the cost of living soar, the McGuinty government is doing nothing to help struggling families this summer. Will the minister move immediately to implement John Tory’s plan to remove the retail sales tax from accommodation and attractions for this summer?
Our government has worked very, very closely with our partners in the tourism industry over the last five years. Our plan includes short-term initiatives as well as a long-term strategy and road map for tourism here in Ontario. We’ve invested in festivals and events across this province to boost local economies to make sure that people have attractions and experiences within their local place. We understand that 80% of our tourism market is domestic; it’s Ontarians travelling within Ontario. That’s why we’ve had a very successful campaign that was launched last year called “There’s no place like this.” Compared to a year before, the time that this campaign ran, we actually saw a 5% jump in our—
Mr. Ted Arnott: Data from the ministry show that hotel performance in the province in the first quarter of 2008 declined substantially relative to the same period last year. No doubt the minister will hear the same thing when he meets with the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario later today. Our caucus has given you an answer. Support for John Tory’s proposal continues to grow.
Beth Potter from the Ontario Private Campground Association tells us that her members experienced a minuscule 14% occupancy rate for overnight stays in May, as compared to an almost 100% occupancy rate last year over the May long weekend. In fact, this year several campgrounds had not even a single camper in their parks for the long weekend.
Hon. Peter Fonseca: I am here to champion Ontario tourism. Unfortunately, the member in that party over there wants to talk down Ontario, wants to be negative on Ontario. What we’re here to do is champion all the great things there are to do and see across this magnificent province. We want to talk about Muskoka. We want to talk about the Niagara region. We want to talk about the north. We want to talk about our border communities like Windsor. We want to talk about great cities; about Prince Edward county.
We are here working with our partners, and I will be meeting with the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario later today. They have told us that our plan is the right plan for this tourism sector today and for the future.
Mme France Gélinas: Ma question est pour le ministre de la Santé et des Soins de longue durée. Can the minister tell us what in the Sharkey report prevents him from bringing in minimum standards of long-term care as he’s repeatedly promised before?
Hon. George Smitherman: I want to say to the honourable member, and she was there yesterday, so she knows the answer to this, that there is nothing that prevents the implementation of a minimum standard. In fact, we passed legislation that allows us to be able to do so.
I would be interested to know her views, once she’s consumed the report, on the premise that the report offers, which is that, on investigation, a number alone is not what ensures quality performance in the long-term-care sector. I said yesterday that that’s still an option, but the report pushes us further and says that numbers alone do not ensure the quality outcome that we wish on behalf of our residents. I’m very interested to know the member’s views about the report and I encourage other people to read it and pass along their views.
Mme France Gélinas: We realize that the minister can and should put into regulation a minimum standard of care. A minimum standard of care is the safest way to make sure residents in long-term-care facilities get what they deserve. After a lifetime of building our province and caring for their families, our seniors deserve better. Over and over again, this minister promised that a minimum standard of hands-on care would be there in regulation. Why is he breaking a promise? Why is he letting the most vulnerable down? Why won’t he put it in regulation right now?
Hon. George Smitherman: I want to say to the honourable member that everyone in this House agrees on one thing: More staffing in long-term care is the answer. That’s why our budget continues to deliver on advancements in care: over the next three years, 600 million additional dollars to provide for 4,500 additional workers. We all agree: More workers is the answer.
I would really encourage the honourable member to move beyond the rhetoric which she has just used in her question and to read the report and give me her view, because Ms. Sharkey challenges us to a spot further along than the rhetoric that you just used. We all agree that these are vulnerable residents. We all agree that they’ve built our country and our province. But the report says that a number alone doesn’t cut it. It encourages us to be more sophisticated. I ask the honourable member to take a bit of time and engage the report. We can bring in a minimum standard, but that alone is not the best way to the quality that we all seek. The report challenges us to reconsider that. I really want the honourable member to give me—
Mrs. Linda Jeffrey: My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Minister, as you know, I’ve been a proponent of residential sprinklers since arriving in this Legislature. In January of this year, the Premier expressed a desire to make high-rise buildings safer by harmonizing our building code with the model National Building Code of Canada and with the requirements in force in other Canadian and US jurisdictions. Minister, my question is: When do you foresee some building code changes coming forward based on the consultations your ministry began in February and ended in May of this year?
Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not require sprinklers in residential buildings over three storeys. That’s why today I am pleased to announce that effective April 1, 2010, all high-rise residential buildings over three storeys will require a fire sprinkler system in them.
Minister, because we want to continue to move forward on making our buildings safer in the future and to continue the dialogue we began with our stakeholders in February, how can municipalities, builders and other interested groups like the Ontario Municipal Fire Prevention Officers’ Association and the Ontario fire chiefs provide recommendations to your ministry in the upcoming building code review in 2010?
I can tell the member that there will be a wide consultation process in advance of the 2010 building code review—a wide cross-section of the public, from developers, municipalities, firefighters, fire chiefs, the fire marshal and others, and great co-operation from my colleague Minister Bartolucci. We will ensure that all these consultations go into the process. Members of the public can also contact us through our website, ontario.ca/buildingcode, or by calling our ministry office. We’re interested in the public’s input. We’re interested in the public’s point of view.
Mr. John Yakabuski: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, you’ll know that the British Columbia government has recently partnered with the federal government to provide lumber and expertise needed to build temporary and permanent shelters to help the beleaguered earthquake area in China. This is not only going to help the victims of the earthquake and those survivors, but it’s going to help the BC lumber industry, which is suffering, as you know. But here in Ontario, our lumber industry in northern Ontario, in my riding of Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke and all across the province is hurting as well.
My question is simple: Will you step up to the plate for our beleaguered industry and sit down with the federal government to negotiate and work on the same kind of deal, so that our lumber industry can benefit by sending that kind of expertise and quality Canadian product over to China as well? Will you do that?
Hon. Donna H. Cansfield: I thank the member for the question. Without doubt, we’re open to all possibilities in working with the federal government. I’d be more than happy to continue to make the call to the federal Minister of Natural Resources, who for some unknown reason doesn’t answer the phone and doesn’t call back. But I’d be more than happy to follow through, any time that we can be of support and benefit to the forest industry, to sit down and have a discussion.
Our challenge, obviously, is the issue of transportation and distribution. We do not sit on an ocean; we actually have to go through the Great Lakes. Having said that, I think it’s well worth following through with and I’d be more than happy—maybe the member could help me by asking Mr. Lunn to pick up the phone.
Last week, Thunder Bay passed a resolution calling on your government to enact a long-term regulation that recognizes that the primary objectives of the Endangered Species Act are met through the Crown Forest Sustainability Act and forest management plans. Kenora is poised to pass a similar resolution. All this because you broke another promise to the people of Ontario.
Hon. Donna H. Cansfield: I’m more than pleased to respond. I find it fascinating that the member is not prepared to accept what the Canadian government, our government and the government of British Columbia have determined; that is, that the forest-dwelling woodland caribou is a species at risk, and has been for the number of years that we’ve been working on a caribou recovery strategy.
Having said that, the Premier was very clear in the letter to the industry that we would be incorporating the Endangered Species Act in the forest management plans. We have a good standard on which to build a good foundation, and we will do that. Our first meeting will be on July 8, when we have invited the industry to come and sit down with us and work towards finding a solution that works for the forest industry. That’s the way we work over here. We bring people together: We have a problem and we find a solution. That is exactly what we intend to do.
I remember a time when you and so many of your colleagues used to rail against government obfuscation. The minister seems to have forgotten that her party promised a standing committee on education spending. Since the minister is unwilling to turn on the light on education finances, when will she allow the Ombudsman to do the job?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: What’s really important is that we have public accountability mechanisms in place. That’s why we require boards to provide detailed and ongoing budget reports. In fact, since we’ve been in office, the number of reports and mechanisms that have been put in place has increased.
A good example comes from a report that the Auditor General put in place, questioning the expenditure of ESL—English as a second language—dollars. What has resulted from that is that we now require boards to explain to us where those English-as-a-second-language dollars are spent, what the programs are and what the benefits to students are. So quite the contrary: I think what we’ve done is increased accountability. That’s what people need to know, that the public accountability is in place.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: When the minister wants the Ombudsman to look into select school board finances, she lets the watchdog loose. But when parents want their complaints investigated, she holds the watchdog back. How convenient.
The public has a right to know what, how and where education dollars are spent. That is why five other provinces have allowed Ombudsman oversight over school boards. When will this minister turn on the light and give the Ontario Ombudsman oversight over school boards?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: The fact that the Auditor General has the right to investigate and goes into school boards is absolutely important oversight. I guess the question is why one measure of oversight is better than another. You’re talking about board finances. The Auditor General looks at school boards and gives us recommendations and makes a critique of how board finances are managed.
The fact that there has had to be supervision in a board recently in the Toronto area, I would suggest, is demonstration of the system working. We know that when those systems are not working, when the accountability is not in place, when there are breaches of protocols and guidelines, then there needs to be action taken by the government. That’s what we’ve done. The public accountability measures are in place and are increasing.
Un moment historique a eu lieu hier pour les francophones de l’Ontario. Le Commissaire aux services en français, Me François Boileau, a déposé son premier rapport visant l’accroissement de la qualité des services en français offerts par l’ensemble des ministères du gouvernement de l’Ontario. Suite au dépôt de ce rapport, j’aimerais demander à la ministre déléguée aux Affaires francophones, l’honorable Madeleine Meilleur, quelles sont ses réactions initiales face à ce tout premier rapport.
Le rapport contient des recommandations sur l’état des services en français en Ontario, les principaux enjeux qu’il a relevés et les réalisations dont il a été témoin depuis sa nomination. Le dépôt de ce rapport est le fruit d’un long processus visant à accroître la transparence et la responsabilité au chapitre des services en français en Ontario, envers lesquels le gouvernement demeure engagé. Il marque aussi le début d’une nouvelle collaboration constructive entre les ministères et le commissaire, un partenariat qui misera sur les progrès faits jusqu’à présent dans le domaine des services en français.
M. Jean-Marc Lalonde: Dans son rapport, le commissaire souligne le fait qu’en apportant des amendements à la Loi sur les services en français, le premier ministre a fait preuve de leadership politique et a voulu donner un souffle nouveau à la loi. En Ontario, le citoyen a le droit de recevoir un service en français de qualité des institutions gouvernementales. Elles doivent les offrir activement pour susciter la demande de services en français.
En vue d’améliorer les services en français offerts par la province, dans son premier rapport le commissaire a formulé trois principales recommandations. J’aimerais demander à la ministre déléguée aux Affaires francophones comment le gouvernement entend y répondre.
L’hon. Madeleine Meilleur: Premièrement, je tiens à préciser que nous allons continuer à travailler en étroite collaboration avec le commissaire et les ministères afin d’explorer plus à fond l’impact des recommandations plus globales visant l’élargissement de la définition de « francophone » en Ontario. Le gouvernement accueille de façon favorable les recommandations du commissaire de moderniser le rôle des coordonnateurs de services en français, qui n’a été revu depuis 1970.
Finalement, j’ai demandé au comité consultatif provincial sur les Affaires francophones de formuler des recommandations sur la meilleure façon de remédier aux lacunes quant à la prestation des services en français par les organismes de paiements de transfert. C’est une très bonne chose, une très bonne recommandation. Je voudrais réitérer l’engagement de l’office des Affaires francophones et du gouvernement à collaborer avec le commissaire pour assurer aux Franco-Ontariens les services en français auxquels ils ont droit.
Ms. Sylvia Jones: My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. For the past five years, the Family Responsibility Office has consistently been highlighted—or should I say lowlighted?—by the Ombudsman for their failure to enforce court orders. What are you doing to deal with the huge backload of cases with arrears at the Family Responsibility Office?
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: I thank the member for this very important question. The Family Responsibility Office is a very important service. We know how important it is for a family to be able to enjoy a decent standard of living and for our children to get a good start in life.
Our government believes that a child should not suffer because parents refuse to live up to their family responsibilities. That’s why we have invested more than $46 million in the Family Responsibility Office over the past four years to improve the operations, improve customer services and improve enforcement. Some examples of the continuing progress include the introduction of a more personal, client-friendly case management model delivered through a small, dedicated group of people who are responsible for specific case files. In the supplementary, I will continue—
Ms. Sylvia Jones: My research shows that the backlog of parents with outstanding support payments is in excess of 121,000 people. Clearly, when two thirds of the people are trying to raise their children without money that a court order states they are entitled to, your changes mean nothing. How are you going to address this issue so that parents receive the money they deserve to house, feed and clothe their children?
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: First of all, we have moved forward with introducing more personal and client-friendly cases. We have introduced tough new enforcement tools, and we are moving forward with collecting the arrears.
I’m very surprised to have a question from that party, who, when they were in power, did almost nothing to collect these arrears. Over 80% of the current arrears are over four years old and 42% are over 10 years old. So when your party was in power, your party did nothing to collect the arrears. On this side of the House, we are working towards progress. We are putting tools in place to collect more of these arrears, and we will continue to do so.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is for the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. The proposed restructuring of Hamilton Health Sciences is causing no end of concern in Hamilton. Adults could lose their only emergency department in west Hamilton. Objections have been raised repeatedly with the hospital administration to no avail, and concern is rising.
Hon. George Smitherman: The honourable member, I think, does a disservice to the debate that has gone on in the Hamilton community with respect to some alteration in their emergency rooms. I think that the debate has been a very honest, open and transparent one. The hospital has put forward a proposal which does the best with the resources that are available to them, including important health human resources. Where the honourable member can talk about some impact for adult emergency room access in west Hamilton, she doesn’t acknowledge that, at that very same site, will emerge in the Hamilton community a specialized pediatric emergency room very similar to the kind of capabilities that people experience with Sick Kids hospital.
I’m very proud of the work that’s been done in Hamilton. I realize that change can be wrenching for people. I think they’ve been exemplary in their transparency around these proposed changes, and I think they’ve made a very strong clinical case. I’m disappointed that the honourable member hasn’t absorbed much of that.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Unfortunately, the debate is actually still ongoing. That’s my understanding. The minister has now said that this new model will emerge. My understanding is no final decision has been made. In fact, that’s the crux of the problem.
I have a letter dated June 6 from the chair of our LHIN that puts the whole issue back onto the hospital administrators and doesn’t acknowledge any role at all, but the debate continues to rage in the community. The community feels like it’s being played like a bit of a bolo bat. Yes, it’s true. It’s difficult, and residents are up in arms. Doctors at the hospital are concerned. They’re saying that this restructuring could hurt patient care.
What I want to know is, what is the minister going to do to make this process more transparent and accountable to the citizens of Hamilton? Ultimately, the buck does stop with him, and I just want to make sure he’s prepared to handle it.
Hon. George Smitherman: I fully support the debate that’s going on and I fully support the capacity of the local community, between their hospital and the local health integration network, to land in the right spot.
The Hamilton community, from the standpoint of access to emergency rooms, enjoys very good emergency room access, and even after the changes that are in place, they will enjoy very good emergency room access. I think that Hamilton has a very exciting opportunity to see emerge a pediatric-focused emergency room. While the member can talk about community unrest and people up in arms and outrage, she is, as usual, speaking for a small number of people when, overall, I believe that the work Hamilton Health Sciences has done to outline these circumstances has been met with a very good degree of acceptance in the community because it’s based on a very strong foundation, which is clinical service and the safety of patients. I think this is something that’s been well handled and can be determined appropriately in the local community.
Mr. David Zimmer: My question is for the Minister of Children and Youth Services. Minister, I recently had the opportunity to co-host a town hall on poverty reduction in Toronto. We heard from community service organizations, people living on low incomes, business persons and religious leaders. A wide range of perspectives and solutions was suggested to this problem. In fact, I sensed a common drive to work together to reduce poverty.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Let me start by thanking the member from Willowdale for his ongoing, thoughtful advocacy for those who are facing challenges and need a better opportunity to be the very best they can be.
I have had the opportunity to meet with people across this province, and it’s critical to us that our poverty reduction strategy reflects the voices of people who have participated. That includes the voices of people who have attended the MPP consultations, such as the one that the member opposite heard, in collaboration with the members from Don Valley East and Don Valley West. I was happy to be there and happy to hear the ideas.
I’ve now held 12 consultations myself, with another one tonight and the 14th one in Kitchener-Waterloo on Thursday. I’ve met with people on low income. I’ve met with community advocates, those with agencies, business people—
Mr. David Zimmer: Yesterday I was very surprised to hear the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, John Tory, taking up the issue and talking about poverty reduction. I found it surprising that he would admit to the media that his caucus had discussed the possibility of only beginning their own conversation on poverty reduction—
Mr. David Zimmer: I found it surprising that he would admit to the media that his caucus had finally begun to discuss the possibility of beginning their own conversation on poverty reduction. It seems rather late, considering that we haven’t heard anything through all these months, this past year, from Mr. Tory about how to address poverty.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I think we would all agree that it’s a special day in Ontario when a member of the Conservative Party—not necessarily a member of this Legislature but a member of the Conservative Party—speaks about poverty in this province.
I am urging all members from all sides of this House to participate in the poverty reduction strategy. I was very happy that the member from York–Simcoe attended one of the consultations. I urge all of you to do the same. Trust me: You will learn something.
When the Premier appointed the committee on poverty reduction, it was very clear from the beginning that this strategy had to be grounded in the reality of people living in poverty. That is why we have multiple ways to participate, including consultations such as the member had with his constituents; a 1-800-number, 1-866-5953; the website; direct consultation with me; and—
Mr. Peter Shurman: My question is for the Minister of the Environment. As Minister of the Environment, one would think the minister would take an interest in science. Health Canada approved use of 2,4-D-based pesticides if used as directed on the product label. I quote from the Health Canada website: “The PMRA has determined, based on the available scientific information, that 2,4-D is acceptable for use on lawns and turf when label directions are followed.”
Hon. John Gerretsen: Let me first of all say that it’s our hope in this House that for the benefit of our children, the health of our communities and the people in Ontario, that member from that party and the NDP will join us in voting in favour of Bill 64, because it’s all about protecting the health and welfare of children.
Health Canada never says whether or not a particular product or ingredient is safe. All they say is that there’s not an unnecessary risk. What we are concerned about and what all of those in the environmental community are concerned about is the cumulative effect of all these various products that have been used on our lawns, our backyards, our front yards and in playgrounds and parks. That’s what this is all about.
Mr. Peter Shurman: It’s all about the children, but so is the Wizard of Oz. Ontarians trust Health Canada with their food, medicine and indeed their health. The minister is saying they are wrong. PR seems to be more important to this government than sound policy. Belief that Bill 64 is based on sound scientific fact is tantamount to believing you can turn lead into gold. I can’t tell if it is coming from the Minister of the Environment or the minister of alchemy. Why has the minister of alchemy—sorry, the Minister of the Environment—and the McGuinty nanny-statist government chosen to follow pseudo-science and burden Ontarians with baseless legislation rather than follow the testimony of expert Canadian scientists?
Hon. John Gerretsen: This member just doesn’t get it. Health Canada looks at it on a product-by-product basis. What we’re talking about is the cumulative effect of a number of these different products that are used on our lawns, clear across Ontario. Nobody knows exactly what the long-term health effect of these products together is. That’s why we’re doing it: to protect the health and welfare particularly of our young children who are likely to play on the various lawns and parks in this province. That’s what this is all about. It’s based on good science.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: To the Minister of Culture: Knowing full well the Hamilton community’s deep interest in heritage preservation, why did the McGuinty government withhold the Ontario Heritage Foundation report on the Lister Block that recommended designating this Hamilton heritage landmark a bona fide historic site?
Hon. M. Aileen Carroll: The government and my ministry work very closely with the commissioner. We respect the privacy rules. We have no issues at all. In the past, the Ontario heritage reports have been of a confidential nature. In this case, the decision was rendered by the commissioner to make them open, and I’m perfectly satisfied with that.
The minister ignored the report that she refers to. It was commissioned, but no actions were taken. The Lister Block is still not designated. It’s not a heritage site under this government’s watch. That was recommended in that very report a couple of years ago.
Hon. M. Aileen Carroll: The Lister Block has been designated municipally. We have encouraged the owners of the Lister Block to work well with the municipality. The provincial government has provided $7 million to the municipality. There’s an excellent accommodation. All of this has been moved through the process with the OMB.
Minister, in my riding of Pickering–Scarborough East I have an extensive range of small businesses and entrepreneurs who own and operate their businesses there and also throughout Ontario. They’ve faced some very unique challenges, not the least of which, Minister, is the need to comply with a variety of government regulations.
I understand, Minister, that you and your ministry are undertaking some particular initiatives that seek to make it easier for businesses in my community to comply with these regulations. Could you provide us with some details on this and tell us how it’s going to be of benefit to business owners throughout the province of Ontario?
One of the things that really pleases me with my ministry is the fact that we are communicating a lot more than used to be done in the past with small business, to ensure that the work that we’re doing in assisting small businesses to comply with our regulations is being done in a way that small businesses can handle.
One of the most notable successes we’ve had is the creation of a one-stop-shop system that we call compliance information centres. We’ve targeted two key industries: the autobody sector and the plastics products manufacturing sector. These sectors can now go online and find out every regulation that would apply to them within the government. It really is of help—
Mr. Wayne Arthurs: I want to thank the minister for that information. It’s great news for businesses in the province of Ontario, particularly those in my riding. Measures that will assist small businesses to operate more efficiently and more effectively help support that very positive business attitude which we all enjoy.
Hon. Brad Duguid: An act was passed in the Legislature toward the end of the term called the Regulatory Modernization Act. It didn’t get a lot of public attention, as members who were involved in that act know, but it does have a huge impact on our ability as a government to break down the barriers between the compliance ministries across the government and provide a more harmonized and better level of service to our business community. So I think that’s helped a great deal in our ability as a government to respond to those concerns.
“Whereas the supervisor recommended changes to the governance of the hospital to eliminate community memberships and the democratic selection and governance of the hospital board and directors based on an ideology and not on the wishes of the community;
“Whereas the provincial government does not, at this time, have a funding program that provides financial assistance to owners and occupants of mobile home parks to assist them in complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002; and
“Whereas Mini Lakes Park is a year-round, resident-owned-and-operated non-profit residential community that has fully complied with the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, at great expense to each individual resident;
“We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to retroactively amend the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, to include financial assistance to year-round, resident-owned-and-operated non-profit communities.”
“Whereas wait times for access to surgical procedures in the western GTA area served by the Mississauga Halton LHIN are growing despite the vigorous capital project activity at the hospitals within the Mississauga Halton LHIN boundaries; and
“Whereas ‘day surgery’ procedures could be performed in an off-site facility, thus greatly increasing the ability of surgeons to perform more procedures, alleviating wait times for patients, and freeing up operating theatre space in hospitals for more complex procedures that may require post-operative intensive care unit support and a longer length of stay in hospital;
“That the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care allocate funds in its 2008-09 capital budget to begin planning and construction of an ambulatory surgery centre located in western Mississauga to serve the Mississauga-Halton area and enable greater access to ‘day surgery’ procedures that comprise about four fifths of all surgical procedures performed.”
“Whereas wait times for access to surgical procedures in the western GTA area served by the Mississauga Halton LHIN are growing despite the vigorous capital project activity at the hospitals within the Mississauga Halton LHIN boundaries; and
“Whereas ‘day surgery’ procedures could be performed in an off-site facility, thus greatly increasing the ability of surgeons to perform more procedures, alleviating wait times for patients, and freeing up operating theatre space in hospitals for more complex procedures that may require post-operative intensive care unit support and a longer length of stay in hospital;
“That the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care allocate funds in its 2008-09 capital budget to begin planning and construction of an ambulatory surgery centre located in western Mississauga to serve the Mississauga-Halton area and enable greater access to ‘day surgery’ procedures that comprise about four fifths of all surgical procedures performed.”
“Whereas harassment and violence need to be defined as violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act so that it is dealt with as quickly and earnestly by employers as other health and safety issues; and
“Whereas Bill 29 would make it the law to protect workers from workplace harassment by giving workers the right to refuse work after harassment has occurred, requiring the investigation of allegations of workplace-related harassment and oblige employers to take steps to prevent further occurrences of workplace-related harassment;
“Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to treat workplace harassment and violence as a serious health and safety issue by passing MPP Andrea Horwath’s Bill 29, which would bring workplace harassment and violence under the scope of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”
“Whereas it is important to ensure that the new birthing unit at Centenary hospital, a $20-million expansion that will see 16 new labour, delivery, recovery and postpartum (LDRP) birthing rooms and an additional 21 postpartum rooms added by October 2008, will not cause any decline in the pediatric and maternity services currently provided at the Ajax-Pickering hospital; and
“Whereas, with the significant expansion of the Ajax-Pickering hospital, the largest in its 53-year history, a project that could reach $100 million, of which 90% is funded by the Ontario government, it is important to continue to have a complete maternity unit at the Ajax hospital; and
“Whereas ‘day surgery’ procedures could be performed in an off-site facility”—sounds like private health care to me—“thus greatly increasing the ability of surgeons to perform more procedures, alleviating wait times for patients, and freeing up operating theatre space in hospitals for more complex procedures that may require post-operative intensive care unit support and a longer length of stay in hospital;
“That the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care allocate funds in its 2008-09 capital budget to begin planning and construction of an ambulatory surgery centre located in western Mississauga,” or eastern Halton, “to serve the Mississauga-Halton area and enable greater access to ‘day surgery’ procedures that comprise about four fifths of all surgical procedures performed.”
“Therefore we, the undersigned, demand that Bill 75, which passed the second reading unanimously in the Ontario Legislature ... be brought before committee and that the following issues be included for consideration and debate:
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The time for petitions has ended. When the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly meets this summer, they may want to look at the issue of the length of petitions.
Deferred vote on the motion for third reading of Bill 64, An Act to amend the Pesticides Act to prohibit the use and sale of pesticides that may be used for cosmetic purposes / Projet de loi 64, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les pesticides en vue d’interdire l’usage et la vente de pesticides pouvant être utilisés à des fins esthétiques.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): The matter before the House is Bill 64. The debate having concluded, I will now put the question. Mr. Gerretsen has moved third reading of Bill 64. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome, on behalf of all members, Lyn McLeod, the former member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan and Fort William in the 34th, 35th, 36th and 37th Parliament.
I want to take this opportunity to wish all members a safe summer and to thank all of our table staff, all the staff within the building and Hansard. I wish everyone a safe summer and safe journeys home.