LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 6 November 2008 Jeudi 6 novembre 2008
Resuming the debate adjourned on November 4, 2008, on the motion for second reading of Bill 119, An Act to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 / Projet de loi 119, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1997 sur la sécurité professionnelle et l’assurance contre les accidents du travail.
Resuming the debate adjourned on November 5, 2008, on the motion for third reading of Bill 85, An Act to permit the issuance of photo cards to residents of Ontario and to make complementary amendments to the Highway Traffic Act / Projet de loi 85, Loi permettant la délivrance de cartes-photo aux résidents de l’Ontario et apportant des modifications complémentaires au Code de la route.
Mr. John O’Toole: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the earlier acknowledgement, but our critic, Frank Klees, has said to me to continue to press for a review and some strengthening on Bill 85. My last remarks yesterday, at the end of this, were talking about what the bill does and what it doesn’t do. Bill 85 is An Act to permit the issuance of photo cards to residents of Ontario and to make complementary amendments to the Highway Traffic Act. Now, what this does—Mr. Speaker, I would like to call a quorum.
Mr. John O’Toole: Thank you, Speaker. What Bill 85 does, if you get an enhanced card, one of the three cards—there’s a basic, an enhanced and a combination, which would be a driver’s licence with the enhanced features on it. That card would allow you to cross into the United States by land or sea, but it would not allow you to travel into the United States by air; you’d still need a passport.
The other part that I’m still wondering about is that if you wanted to encourage freedom around the border a bit, unrestrained access, there’s a Nexus card, which I don’t know a lot about, but the Nexus card is used by people who are frequent flyers, people who cross the border, I gather, Americans going into Canada or Canadians into the United States. If that could not have been a solution that’s already in place to some extent and strengthened—I wonder if that option was examined. But more importantly, we do want the solution on the American side—you understand?—for Americans to have a much more convenient way to get into Canada, so they can go to Stratford, to Niagara-on-the Lake, to Durham region—to go to Jungle Cat World, as well as the wonderful museums and archives that we have in my riding of Durham.
I would only say this: The bill is a good step; we agree with that. We expressed our concerns on the issue of the privacy of information and we talked about the technology implications and we didn’t get a very clear answer on the cost of implementation.
I guess the other thing that really comes up when you’re in this discussion is that we’re discussing a bill that we generally are going to support—we tried to move amendments—but here’s the deal: This morning Bill 114 is before the finance committee, and that is a very important and significant bill.
Mr. John O’Toole: What I was trying to establish is the significant content of Bill 114 versus Bill 85. That was the point, and that’s an appropriate comparison, for the public to understand that here we are discussing a bill, basically using time in this august place, when it could be more importantly spent on Bill 119, which has just been time-allocated. Look, Bill 114 has a lot of content that affects my riding; I’d prefer to talk about that. Bill 119 is about small business; I’d prefer to talk about that. Yet here I am, I’m required to speak on Bill 85. Bill 85 is an act that institutes some more red tape, technically. Do you know what I mean?
If you want to get down to it, we asked a question: How much is this new secure photo card going to cost? Mr. Brown, the parliamentary assistant, gave the answer, which I thought was polite—at least we got an answer; usually we don’t—but I don’t really trust the answer.
Mr. John O’Toole: Look, it’s a matter of trust here. I can only go on the history. If history is any way of predicting the future, then they break a lot of promises; that’s all I’m saying. He said that the cost of this new licence would be less than the current one. I question that. Then I went on to say, “Look, what is this face recognition or the software and hardware required to put this in place to receive all these new applications?” Again, there are three types of cards: There’s the basic one, there’s the next one and then there’s the enhanced one. I think we’re going to have some clerk there with some files—maybe they’re going to be different colours. Who’s going to receive the information? It can’t be done on Service Ontario, online, because you have to verify that the picture is actually the member from Halton, Mr. Chudleigh. There’s his picture; we’re going to put that in the system, and he’s going to disclose certain information to them. Hopefully, it will all be honest. I’d expect it would be, knowing Mr. Chudleigh’s history.
I would say, though, that I do have every understanding that we were compelled to come up with some solution. This really doesn’t come into force until June 2009. What’s missing here is a really unilateral agreement from the United States to agree with our solution. What if they cause a problem with that? They’re going to have to be able to read the card when it’s presented.
Bill 85 doesn’t do a lot to solve that problem. What it does is allow us to get into the States more easily, but it doesn’t allow the Americans to come into Canada more easily. That is a worthy question. It’s on the record now, and I’m raising that issue in the limited time I’ve been given.
I think there is more to be said on this bill, and my own impression is that there are some bills here that are more interesting than others. This one here—there are a lot of very good notes here that I have found helpful—this is the bill itself, which I have tried to read into the record, almost all of it actually.
It may seem like a small, trivial bill, but it’s one more thing where the devil is in the detail. There are really 27 sections to this bill. I read some that are really interesting, and this one here—any time I see in a Liberal bill “Collection and Disclosure of Information,” I read that thoroughly. Do you know what collection is about? Money. It’s like a tax. This is a new revenue generator.
If you want to look at it, it might solve the $500-million deficit, which could easily have been solved. I said in a public meeting—I spoke during Small Business Week—that the $500-million deficit could have been solved. In a $100-billion budget, that’s 0.5%.” The Ministry of Transportation probably spills more paint than that.
There’s got to be some waste in some ministries. Don’t tell me there’s no waste in government. For instance, look at how few people are here this morning; that’s waste. Our small caucus is out focused on committee work—
I know there are probably cabinet meetings and things going on, and that is important, but the fact is, I know our members from our caucus who were here this morning to stand to force a vote on Bill 119, the time allocation motion, have gone off now to committee work, trying to hold the government’s feet to the fire. There’s money going out the door in this place that I think could have solved the deficit.
“There are three kinds of photo cards: basic, enhanced and combined. A basic photo card contains the holder’s name and photograph and other prescribed information about the holder. An enhanced photo card contains the holder’s name and photograph, a notation to indicate that the holder is a Canadian citizen, and other prescribed information about the holder; it also has security and other features that may allow it to be used for travel.”
Whenever you say that “may” I like to see “shall”. That’s an affirmative word. This “may” is like we’re hoping that Barack Obama agrees with us. That’s not very strong. And we’re spending all this time talking about it.
The other very important policy thing in this is that it is not mandatory. We talked about the mandatory portion because I can disclose that information—my citizenship and other things—or not. It’s not mandatory—very important. But that’s not really in this bill. What it says specifically in the statute is, “There is no obligation under this or any other act for an individual to have a photo card.”
That’s the slippery slope theory, technically. Because if 85% of the people see it’s convenient to do it, some bureaucrat in their lofty chamber with expensive leather furniture and stuff like that will be saying, “Ah, 85% are doing it? Why don’t we just make everybody do it?” They’ll say, “Well, it’s implied consent. The majority want it.” So they’ll force it. Then what have we got? We’ve got 13.5 million Ontarians with this data on them. The data itself then becomes a little tool to do some data profiling, to say how many people of different cultures, different languages and different ages. Now we start using this database as a marketing tool to say, “How do we get our messaging out on this so-and-so?” Data has value, and I don’t like government to have too much of that data stuff. Stats Canada has enough of it on us. They start profiling stuff on people, and you combine that with their criminal record, or combine it with their other transactions going back and forth over the border, and pretty soon you could start to do a profile of a person that’s going back and forth. You could see that they’ve had some traffic violations, and you could start to see that potentially they’re bringing over the allowable limit all the time for alcohol or whatever it is. All I’m saying is that this disclosure stuff is something that I’m glad to see. I want it firmly in the bill, that it’s no obligation or pressure on people to do it.
Resolving disputes: Because of the important hearings on Bill 114 that are ongoing—soon-to-be truncated hearings; they’re going to be an hour-and-a-half hearings. It’s embarrassing. The amendments had to be in yesterday and they’re having the hearings today. How sensible is that? Doesn’t that sound a bit like they’ve got the cart before the horse? I don’t know, it’s a bit suspicious. We’ll leave it at that because I’m trying to be polite today, and non-combative or confrontational, whatever. It’s the gentler person that’s here today, the gentler John O’Toole.
Anyway, in the limited time left I would like to get down to Bill 114 because my mayor, Jim Abernethy, and Nancy Taylor, as well as Dennis Hefferon, who’s the legal counsel for the municipalities down there, are making a statement of great concern for my municipality, the community I live in—Bowmanville and Clarington generally. This affects their prosperity in the future. They’ve been nixed. They’ve been treated unfairly. I’m there to support and represent them, and I’ll be sending a copy of Hansard to them. Mayor Abernethy is a new mayor and is doing quite a good job, not having been elected before. He has taken on a difficult task; we have challenges. But it should be on the record that Bill 85 won’t directly affect them—I’m supposed to mention that, every once in a while, to stay on topic. Bill 85 is a bill we likely support.
In the meantime, Bill 114 does affect them. It’s a bill that I think should be brought back to this House to have a full discussion on the state of the economy, but they’re not willing to do that. Our leader, John Tory, tried to have public hearings on it, and here we are, having hearings on things we don’t need hearings on. Our leader, John Tory, is a person of integrity. He reminds me a lot of Barack Obama.
Mr. John O’Toole: He does. He’s inclusive, consultative and visionary, and these are the qualities of hope. I don’t see any hope in Ontario. Do you know what I see in Ontario? A deficit—and growing. I see an economy in terrible shape under the current leadership, blaming—with all due respect, the finance minister is out flailing his arms blaming Stephen Harper, blaming George Bush, blaming everyone, not focusing on the job at hand and getting the job done.
Now they’re going to spend more money implementing Bill 85. Imagine the computers and facial recognition technology that has to be bought, the staff that have to review all these applications, the big file boxes for keeping all these records and original seals. Check section 20. There are going to be a lot of filing cabinets used. Section 20 says that all these records with the original signature are going to be kept. Imagine. There are going to be enough filing cabinets to take up some of the offices in this building.
It says right here in section 19, under records: “The Minister shall keep a record of every photo card that is issued, renewed or cancelled, and of every application”— holy smokes, they’re going to keep the picture and the application—“made for a photo card and shall keep a record … of each issuance, renewal, cancellation….”
Gee, I hope you don’t have to renew it every week. What if people lose their hair and the picture doesn’t match? Do you have to get a new one? There are some questions that aren’t resolved on this. I think we need hearings on Bill 85.
With digital enhancement, I’m sure that some of the pictures will not be quite reflective of how the person actually looks, but we’ll see that in the future. Not to trivialize Bill 85, I’m going to stop—there are almost six minutes left.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I always find it informative to listen to my colleague when he raises these issues, because he has a style that I respect, in the sense that he likes to use some humour and bring facts together in a way that’s not only entertaining but informative. I think he has raised some issues that, quite frankly, need to be listened to.
None of us in this House, I want to say up front, are opposed to the idea of having photo cards. I said at second reading, and I think the Conservatives took the same position at second reading, that indeed there is an argument to be made, that there are a lot of citizens in Ontario who lack photo identification because they don’t have a driver’s licence. That certainly is something we need to repair, because more and more you need to have photo identification for all kinds of reasons, everything from getting a library card to renting a movie. Many people, because they don’t drive, don’t have photo ID other than maybe their health card, and at times that’s not acceptable.
We also said that we understand the need to move forward in trying to find ways to ease border congestion as people cross to the American side and back into Canada again. We, as New Democrats, understand it’s not only an issue of making it more convenient for the individual but also an economic issue.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I would just say that I’ll get a chance to speak to this more fully, but there are really grave concerns in regard to the privacy aspects of this bill, in regard to the information that’s going to be collected, how that information is going to be stored, how it’s going to be shared and what that means for the privacy of individuals. I’ll speak to that a little bit more fully.
When 9/11 happened, George W. Bush turned this into a must. Why? Because he switched the customs and immigration responsibility of the border crossings at Canada to homeland security. With the new creation of homeland security, they came in and introduced the WTI—what is it?
I want to compliment the Minister of Transportation. At the time, he was the Minister of Tourism and brought to our attention that this was a very serious problem and we needed to work on it. He was actually mocked, he was ridiculed, he was criticized for taking on George Bush. He was one of the first ones to come forward in the country: not Stephen Harper; Jim Bradley. When Jim took this on, he tried to educate people and the other side was basically saying: “You’re being silly. It’s not going to happen. They’ll do what they want to do. Get over it.” Now we’re debating that very same need from the very beginning.
I was on the executive committee of the CSG/ERC, which is the Council of State Governments/Eastern Regional Conference, and I was bringing him updates on the discussion of the very fact of this very bill, the fact that we needed to get photo IDs out there because we needed to make a harmonization of our capacity to bring the United States to us for tourism and our capacity to travel there and come back in again. I want to compliment the minister for bringing this forward, and also for the things that he’s done in this bill; he’s also had constant and continual information sessions with the Information and Privacy Commissioner, who has shepherded us along the way. All of that’s happening.
Some of the things that people are talking about are the four separate products that don’t demand you to take any single one. You’ve got the regular driver’s licence, enhanced driver’s licence, photo ID for non-drivers, which includes people who don’t have sight, who don’t drive; they love this bill—
Mr. Ted Chudleigh: I would like to congratulate the member for Durham, who spoke so eloquently on this bill, bringing out all the concerns that we have concerning this bill, and for giving up his duties in committee where his mayor and several members of the council are from Oshawa—or from Claremont, I think it is.
Mr. Ted Chudleigh: Clarington, and that’s where he should be, with his people. He gave that up to finish a truncated speech, which is split—we seem to have more and more of those under the new House rules here that don’t seem to take into consideration the flow of a speech. When it’s interrupted like that, it loses a lot of its punch. In a speech, you tend to build a number of points until you come to a conclusion, and when it’s truncated, you don’t have that same flow. That’s one of the problems of the new House rules we have around here, and Bill 85 had that happen to the member for Durham and that’s unfortunate.
He did point out the fact that this new bill talks about three new photo ID cards. I have some of the same concerns and my constituents have expressed those concerns. Although it says they may be optional, the wording is not as strong as perhaps we would like to see in a bill such as this that would protect privacy and individual knowledge about people. This is traipsing along the edges of a very sensitive subject when people’s most important and most private information is being subjected to this kind of—
I was listening to him speak for almost 20 minutes. He spoke about many different elements. But the most important thing in this bill is to create security and put security in place, and to give options to people, many different options: if you want a photo card or enhancement card or a photo card without driving. All these elements are to protect our security.
As you know, it’s very important to allow people to move between Canada and the United States. This issue has been brought to the House many different times, talking about how many people find it difficult to cross over to the United States without a passport or without any ID. So I think it’s a very important step. I want to congratulate the Minister of Transportation for bringing forward this important element to this place, to allow the people of Ontario to move across the border without hesitation and without any problem.
I think the debate is going to continue, and I hope all the members from this House will support this bill, because it’s very important for all of us: important for the drivers and important for the people who want to cross the border and cannot drive.
We have options, and it’s not mandatory. I know the member opposite was criticizing the government because we didn’t implement an enforcement mechanism to force all the people to have this card. We don’t believe in enforcement in this House; we don’t believe in dictatorship. We believe in democracy and allowing people to choose. This way, they have the choice, and I think that’s a very good element. Hopefully, at the end of the day, all of us will support this bill.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): I just want to remind honourable members that when you’re speaking, try and remember not to have your BlackBerries near the microphones. It’s quite a jolt in the ears of our translators and our broadcast service people.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I didn’t think it was a BlackBerry; I thought it was a moose walking by here. I was looking for Sarah Palin, actually, but that’s a whole other line. I’m sorry, I had to take my shot; I saw the pictures.
I guess it would be appropriate, before starting this debate, to congratulate President-elect Obama. I want to say that because it relates to what we are going to be talking about in this debate. What has happened in the United States with a lot of people is one of those issues where it’s a moment in history. The real challenge now will be, is he one of those leaders who finds his moment in time and recognizes the mandate that he’s been given? He is inheriting, I think, some very tough issues that he’s going to have to deal with, and this is not a partisan or non-partisan issue. The reality is, the American economy is in a shambles. There’s the whole issue where the country is still not feeling secure when it comes to the issue of terrorism, and that relates to this bill.
What’s going to be interesting is, will President-elect Obama continue down the road that President Bush has set with homeland security? Because clearly, the part that offends me about this entire process that we’re going through—I don’t mean this from a Liberal, NDP or Conservative perspective—is that our country has enjoyed for over a century, 130 years or whatever it is, since 1867, a unique relationship with the United States.
We have the longest undefended border in the world, and as citizens of the United States and Canada, we have been able to cross over each other’s borders to visit, shop, exchange commercially and do all those things that we do as a civilized nation. It has never been an issue in Canada and never been an issue in the United States that we don’t trust each other. The unfortunate part of what President Bush has done—and I understand why he did it, but it’s very unfortunate—is that I think part of the message is that he doesn’t and he didn’t trust Canadians as much as maybe he should have.
We are a peaceful people. We, as Canadians, value our relationship with the United States. We have a unique relationship with the Americans. They’re like the big brother. Sometimes we’re a little bit envious and sometimes we’re a little bit mad, but mostly we’re glad, because we know that the United States shares a lot in common with Canada, and that in the end it is to our mutual advantage—economically, culturally and from a security point of view—that we maintain good relationships with each other.
I don’t think there’s a member in this House who is not related to somebody who’s living in the United States today. My mother’s sister is married to a gentleman in Philadelphia, Uncle Tom, and they’ve been living in Philadelphia now for 50 years. In fact, my aunt, who’s French, sounds more like an American than a French Canadian because of living there for all those years. Our relationship with that family is strong; they see Canada very positively, and we see the United States very positively. It’s unfortunate that we, as a nation and as a province, find ourselves in a situation of having to react to what President Bush has set up.
Now, I say again, I understand the fear that Americans have when it comes to security because there’s a lot, sometimes, to be fearful of. The Americans, as a large imperial power—and I think that’s how people see them in many parts of the world—have got their thumbs, as they say, in various pots around the world and that has made a lot of people uncomfortable. As a result, they become a target. So the question becomes, how do they deal with making sure that the target is smaller and smaller and that people are not mad at them?
I hoped that President Bush would have learned something from the old colonial powers. The British, the French, the Germans, the Dutch, the Spanish and the Portuguese were all colonial powers at one time in the history of our world and they understood, after a while, that you cannot subjugate people and you cannot impose your views, your politics and your culture on other people because, in the end, people will do what they naturally do.
We look at India as an example. India was the crown jewel of the British Empire. For 300 years, I believe, they were under British rule and for all those 300 years, the people of India basically did what they did naturally and then they decided at one point that they wanted independence. The British understood, after the war, that it was not a good idea to stay there as an imperial power and that they had to transfer control back to India so that Indians and Pakistanis could determine for themselves what their country should look like.
What’s interesting, after 300 years of colonial rule in India, is that the British were probably more affected, as far as learning from the Indians the wonderful things about their culture and their country, which they brought back to England. But the point is, England learned, France learned and other countries learned that you cannot be interfering in other people’s lives when it comes to what happens within their own borders. Yes, we have to have good relationships. Yes, we have to be able to trade economically. Yes, we have to be able to share culturally and we have to be able to travel freely. Those are all important. And yes, we have economic interests and yes, we do have political interests, but once we take the view that we are trying to control, by way of might, what it is that’s going on within those borders, you end up becoming a target. I think the British, the French and others learned over the years that economically they could not keep on doing that; it was bankrupting their countries and in the end, they would not be able to win hearts and minds. So they pulled out and they developed a whole new relationship with the world.
If you look at the Americans—and this is the part that I find quite sad. They are the largest power in the world, but they’re a great people. You look at what happened after the Second World War. The reaction of that administration under Truman was not to try to hold what military gains they had after the Second World War. Their approach was, how do we allow the Japanese and the Europeans to go back and do what they do best and build their own economies? And through what was called the—well, under Truman, the former Secretary of State for FDR—
Mr. Gilles Bisson: The Marshall Plan, under what was the former Secretary of State. The Marshall Plan, under Truman, through his Secretary of State, took a very different approach. They said to the Japanese: “Go and do what you do best. Be proud to be Japanese. Build your own economy. Build your own democracy.” And yes, the American military stayed there for some time, but they were not there as long as people would remember and the size of their military power in Japan was scaled back fairly quickly. As a result, Japan became one of the strongest economies in the world, it became one of the most secure democracies in the world, and we saw the same thing happen in Europe.
The part that I really have a hard time with is the reaction that President Bush had to 9/11. You needed to understand—it’s unfortunate what happened, the thousands of lives that were lost on that tragic day certainly needed to be responded to in some way. But we didn’t learn from the history of what had happened before. Instead, they tried to build up more military might around the world, such as we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to become much more paranoid within their own boundaries about how they protect citizens and how they protect themselves as a nation. We are unfortunately affected by that because now we’re going through this whole debate in this Legislature about how we will react to what is an American agenda when it comes to how we cross the border one side to the other.
I just want to say up front that I think it’s rather sad that the President has responded in that way. With the election of President Obama, there may be a change of thought about how some of this would work. It would be nice to see us return to the relationship we had with our American friends, which was that we are two great nations, we share the principles of democracy, we’re fiercely protective about our own culture and language, and we basically understand at the end of the day that we need to coexist and do it in a peaceful way. There’s no threat from Canada and no threat from the United States when it comes to military intervention or to us trying to undermine the American government in any way. I would hope we don’t have to do this type of legislation. Hopefully, President Obama, under his new administration, will see fit to try to resolve this issue from another perspective.
The issue we’re dealing with in the House today, under Bill 85, is one that was originally started in the House of Commons. People might forget that after 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security set up the WHTI as a way to figure out how to secure their borders. They asked the Canadian government to enter into some sort of system that would basically allow the Americans to more vigorously screen Canadians and others crossing from the Canadian side of the border into the United States.
When the federal government looked at this—I might be wrong, but I believe it started under the Liberal government and the previous federal minority Parliament also looked at it—they came to a very different conclusion than we did here in Ontario. They looked at it from the perspective of how much information they wanted to make available to people out there. They started to recognize that in Canada one of the things we hold very dear is our ability to protect information that people have on us. The whole issue of privacy is a principle within our society that’s important. If I give my information to the driver’s licence system in Ontario or to the federal passport system, that information is not shared among other people who don’t need to see it.
One of the things the federal House quickly realized, as the Americans were making this request for us to have a streamlined process for them to be able to screen people going from Canada into the United States and toughening up the borders, was that if we started doing what they asked, which was to start linking our databases together in such a way that the border security people, as we cross the border, could find out a lot about us—the alarm bells rang federally. They understood that it was going to be an issue of people having more information about you than they needed to see. For example, currently, if I cross the border or go anywhere in the world, I have my passport. But my passport has limited information tied to it. It has a photo of me, it has information about who I am, the country I reside in, the address I live at, my date of birth, but they’re not able to determine from my passport a whole bunch of other things in regard to information that other provincial or federal databases have. There is not a system that says, as you cross over, “Here is my credit information,” through a passport or, “Here are my convictions,” through a driver’s licence. There is a whole bunch of information they are not able to access by way of a passport.
As I understand it, the way the passport system works internationally is that, yes, governments have ways of sharing a certain amount of information that sets a flag if you cross the border and use your passport. If I’m known to have a criminal conviction against me, there’s a flag that is set. Then it makes the physical search important in regard to border security checking with the Canadian authorities: “We have this person. We have held him because it shows a flag that the person has a criminal charge that’s pending against him.” But the actual detailed information is not given to the people at border security, because those are issues of privacy. So the federal government decided, “No, we’re not going to go down this road,” because it becomes very dangerous when governments start to share information among various databases at the provincial and federal levels and make that information easily available, not only to border security but to anybody else who can tamper with and hack into the database or read it through one of these RFIDs, which I’ll talk about a little bit later.
Earlier, I heard one of the members get up and say he wanted to congratulate Mr. Bradley on leading the way. I’m not so sure that’s something we should be thumping our chests about, to be quite blunt.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: No, I’ve got to say I have great respect for Minister Bradley. I’ve served in this House for some 18 or 19 years, and he is a very honourable gentleman; I have nothing but respect for Mr. Bradley. But let’s understand what’s going on here: We’re adopting a system that our federal Parliament would not adopt. Our federal government said, “We’re not going to go this way because we already have a mechanism; it’s called a passport.” A far larger number of people in Canada have passports than any other nation, as compared to the United States. They took the position of, “We already have a passport and we need to come to some sort of other agreement, because once you start linking these databases together, it becomes dangerous.”
Let me try to explain the problem that we have. Under this particular bill the provincial government, through, I imagine, the Ministry of Transportation, is going to collect information on these photo ID cards; it will either be an enhanced driver’s licence or one of the enhanced photo ID cards. In that, they’re going to be linking information from various databases to it. They’re going to know my driving record because, obviously, it’s going to be based on the Ministry of Transportation’s licensing system. They’re going to know, because they’re going to be tied into the CPIC system, any criminal charges that I may have—that’ll be tied to it as well—and information around citizenship, which means to say they’re going to tie me into the passport system. So there are going to be three or four large databases that have lots of information about individuals that will be tied together through one provincial system.
Now, the first problem is, these are standalone systems that have a fair amount of security that are built into them. We do know that at times there are people who are trying to hack into these systems. We’ve seen in the past, for example, instances where people have hacked into the databases that are run by large department stores and gotten all kinds of information about individuals, which is really scary because they can charge up your credit card, they can find out where you live, they can also tell the types of things you like to buy so that they can profile you in some way. It’s very, very scary when you think that people are looking very hard to be able to hack these systems. The Canadian passport system and the CPIC system are very secure systems; there’s a lot of money and effort spent, as much as humanly possible, to make these systems as secure as they can be. But it doesn’t mean to say that nobody can break into them. The problem is, once you start to link them all together in the way that we’re suggesting under this bill, you’re opening more opportunities for people to hack into the system by the back door. And if they get in, they will have all kinds of information on you.
For example, if it was just the passport system, the only thing they’ll be able to get about me, if the person hacks into the database that deals with passports, would be information about who I am, my picture, my date of birth, where I live—and that’s about it. That’s bad enough in itself. But if all of a sudden you start linking all of this together, now the person has a backdoor entry into the passport system, the person has an entry into the CPIC system—the CPIC system is the federal database that collects all the information about you and any criminal charges you’ve had, any time that you might have been surveyed by the police for being at a protest somewhere and had your picture taken because you’re holding up a sign saying, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, time for”—it was not Bob Rae, it was, “Mike Harris has got to go.”
They track all this information, right? So now we start linking the database for the passport system with the database of the CPIC system and we now have quite a bit of information that’s available. Next, you bring in the driver’s licence system and you tie that into the system as well. The person who hacks into the system is going to have access to all kinds of information that, quite frankly, as an individual I don’t want anybody to know—and it’s none of their business.
There’s real concern, not only when it comes to the issue of privacy. Do you, as an individual, do you as a citizen of Ontario feel comfortable that somebody can hack into the system and find out all kinds of things about you? I think the answer’s no. But the other thing is, it allows people that have minds that are much more devious than all of us put together to possibly do some pretty scary things. They could, if somebody hacks into that system, find out a lot about a person in regards to being able to track them, being able to profile them, being able to prey on them for either economic issues or criminal issues. I think that is really dangerous. One of the things the privacy commissioner tried to warn us about as we were going through public hearings on this bill is that if we’re going to do this, we need to make sure we set the databases up in a way that, as much as humanly possible, we do not allow that information to be hacked into.
She had some very specific suggestions, and one of them is, the only thing that you could possibly do, if you’re going to have a database like this—I’ll get to the technology later. The point is that the only thing the border security would be able to know is that I’m Gilles Bisson, I’m a citizen of the country of Canada, I reside in Ontario and there’s no flag to indicate that I’m a terrorist, a potential terrorist or a criminal. In other words, the actual information about me that resides in a CPIC database or the passport database is not revealed. All it is, is a flag, and that’s what she was trying to tell us. The only thing that’s important for the person to know as you cross the border, the only thing that the border security people need to know, is that I am who I am, I’ve identified myself as who I say I am, that I’m a resident of Canada and there are no flags in the database to say that there is a problem. That’s what she was trying to say to us, that you have to have a flagging system. In fact, that’s how, for example, the CPIC system works. If you cross the border, the Americans are already able to look at our CPIC system. If they suspect that Gilles Bisson, who is crossing the border at Sarnia, may be somebody who’s suspicious, they can ping the RCMP CPIC system and that CPIC system will say, “Gilles Bisson, resident of Canada, no flags.” That’s the end of it. They know that I’m clean, there’s nothing about me that’s suspicious and they let me go by.
If they ping the RCMP CPIC data system and they say, “Gilles Bisson, citizen of Canada, flagged criminal activity,” they then have to call our authorities and it’s up to the Canadian authorities to deal with Gilles Bisson who is trying to cross the border. Maybe I’m trying to evade capture for a criminal charge that’s against me or maybe it’s something I was charged with seven years ago and I’ve done my time, but they do not reveal to the American border security the information of what it is that I’ve done. All it is, is a flag.
So there has been a lot of work done on our databases—the Canadian passport system and CPIC system—that is already in place in order to give security authorities within Canada and the United States the ability to check someone out. The danger with this database is that we’re making available the actual information and it’s not going to be a flag system. They’re going to be able to say, “Gilles Bisson, citizen of Canada, resides in Timmins;” what my address is; my driver’s licence information, which includes my driving record; and whatever other information that they’re able to put into the database. There will be far, far more information available.
To me, it becomes two issues, or actually three issues. One, as a Canadian citizen, I really cherish that my privacy is respected, and I think all of us as Canadians understand that. The other principle is that there’s only a certain amount of information that the government should be making available about me. We should not be sharing information in detail with the Americans, because then it becomes an issue of sovereignty. We as Canadians are a sovereign nation. Why should we allow the American authorities at border security or police or whatever to see information about us that, quite frankly, is none of their business? Yes, flag that I might be a suspicious character of some type. I don’t have a problem with that. I understand that. But they should not have access to details that will be obtainable through the system.
Mr. Gilles Bisson: I hear the parliamentary assistant saying it’s not. I’m telling you it is. I’ve talked to a lot of people about how this works. I understand security measures far more than you realize, and all I’m saying is that it is a real concern.
Now, the privacy commissioner came before our committee because that was one of the conditions that I put on second reading debate, as the MTO critic for the New Democratic caucus. We support the initiative. We think it’s a good idea in order to enhance border crossing. We understand that. It’s an economic issue as well. I said, “Bring the privacy commissioner before us so we can hear what she has to say.” I know the parliamentary assistant will get up at the end of the speech and say, “Oh yes, but she said she’s working with us, she wants to work with us and she likes the relationship that she has with the ministry.” I agree. Of course she has a good relationship with the ministry, and I hope the ministry has a good relationship with her. But she came before the committee and had some very, very serious concerns about how these databases were going to be structured, and one of the points she was trying to make is that the way this legislation is going to allow the databases to be structured is scary from the perspective of an individual’s privacy rights. She said, “I support the initiative,” as I said I support the initiative. However, if we’re going to do this, we really need to think through what kind of information people are going to be able to have access to. So I just want to make—
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Well, no. You guys don’t get it. Anyway, just let me—it’s my time and you guys can debate ad infinitum. You’ll have all your opportunities at third reading ad infinitum. I’m just passing on the concerns that I have and others have, that I’ve been dealing with this.
First of all is the issue of the databases being tied together. The more you tie databases together, the more they are open to the possibility of somebody hacking in. If they hack in by the back door and we have more databases that are linked, people have access to far more information than we would ever want to give away.
All I’m saying is that what we should have done is have, yes, a security card but something that only flags the authorities to know there’s something they need to call authorities about on the Canadian side in regard to an individual. They don’t need to know the details about what’s in the CPIC database system or the passport system etc. It just needs to be flagged. It’s green or it’s red; you can go through or you can’t. That would be my first point.
The other concern that the privacy commissioner had—she said that a lot of what’s in this bill, as far as the detail, is going to be left to regulation. Now, is that abnormal? Obviously not. For years there have been bills written in this House and the details were left to regulation, so this is not a new concept. I’m not going to attack the government and say, “Oh, my God, you’re leaving this all to regulation, and this is different than anything that’s ever happened in the past,” because quite frankly, a lot of bills are written that way, where the details are left to the bureaucrats to write up by way of regulation that is then approved by cabinet.
But the point she made was—and I think this was an important point—because this is an issue of privacy information of individuals, there should be an ability to have public hearings on what happens with the regulations, that if the privacy commissioner or others out there see the regulations coming out and they are cause for concern, there should be an automatic right for public consultation so that we can get it right. One of the amendments we put forward is that we should have the ability to vet all of those regulations that will be made by way of this bill so that we do get it right.
Again, I want to say, as the critic for the New Democrat caucus, that we are not opposed to the concept of what the government is trying to do. We understand what this is all about. The Americans on the other side are going to tighten up their borders and we need to figure out a way for us to be able to continue that flow that we’ve had with the Americans for so many years. I think it’s unfortunate they’ve done that, but I can’t control what the United States does; all I can do is control what we do.
I understand what the government is trying to do. All I’m saying is that the method by which we’re getting there and the process leave a lot to be desired. One thing that could have been done, that would have satisfied at least 50% of the concerns around this bill, would have been to allow the amendment we put forward to pass. That was recommended by the privacy commissioner; it wasn’t me who dreamt this up. The privacy commissioner herself said before the committee that we need to have a process such that regulations, as drafted, would have public hearings around them so that any concerns about what’s in the regulations could be vetted by a public process.
Again, we’re talking about the private information of individuals, and we need to take that very, very seriously. We cannot allow ourselves to not do due diligence in making sure that at the end we get it right.
Let me propose this: Has anybody in this Legislature always gotten everything right? There’s not an individual here, including myself, who can say, “I know exactly what needs to be done and I’m going to get it right 100% of the time.” Not one of us can claim that. None of us collectively can claim that, either. We as legislators try the best we can. And I understand—
The point is, collectively, we don’t get it right all of the time, because sometimes there may be something that we’re not seeing in the way a regulation is drafted. Sometimes it’s somebody out in the public who has an interest in this who flags that there’s a problem, or it’s a privacy commissioner or others. Why shouldn’t we benefit by having a process that’s transparent, that allows the public to know what’s going to go on when it comes to regulation and to say to us as legislators—and to cabinet, more importantly, because it will be cabinet at the end that will agree or disagree, and will approve the regulations—“You got it right” or “You got it wrong.” This is a really serious issue. It’s around the issue of privacy. I worry that without proper scrutiny of the regulations and the ability of the public and others to scrutinize and view and go through the regulations, we may get things wrong.
I’m just going to take a couple of bills to prove my point. I remember when the Conservatives first got elected in 1995, they came in with a revision of the Municipal Act, and they tried to undo what work had been done by the previous NDP government in regards to changes that we had made to the Municipal Act. The government came in and they had an ideological approach. I’m not arguing that this bill is ideological on the part of the Liberals. My point is, they came in and they changed the Municipal Act in order to be conforming with their political views. I remember standing in the House saying, “You’ve got this wrong; you’ve got this wrong; you’ve got that wrong. This section’s a problem and it’s not going to work. You’re going to have municipalities up in arms over various issues of planning” etc. Do you know how many more bills we brought in during the time that the Tories were here to fix the original bill? We had seven bills come to the House afterward. You were here; you remember. There were seven bills that had to be introduced by the Conservative government to fix the problems with the initial bill. What we had said as opposition, and my friend Mr. Levac was there, was, “Hey, listen. God bless. You’ve got a majority government and you can do things as a majority government in regard to putting your stamp on things, but at least get it right.”
We said to the government of the day under Mike Harris, “You’ve got to give this thing more time in committee. We need to fix the problems that we now see with the bill.” Many people who sat on the committee had municipal experience or had planning experience and understood. People that came before our committee worried that what the government was doing wasn’t going to work. I would argue that we still have problems with that act today, right? Because even the Liberal government has had to bring in some amendments to that act since they’ve become the government. Should I form the government after the next election, I’m going to have the same problem.
The point that I make is that none of us, collectively, always get it right. Collectively, we don’t get it right, let alone individually. What is wrong with a public process that allows the public and those that are more knowledgeable on an issue to say, “Let’s look at the regulations and in the end address the problem if a problem exists”? If the government chooses to ignore the advice of the public, that’s their right. You know what the final outcome of that is? That’s what we have elections for. If people are so upset that the government got something wrong, they’ll turf them out in the election. That’s the beauty of democracy. But at the very least, I think at the time you’re in government, you’ve got to give the public an opportunity to give scrutiny to the issues.
The technology being used: I want to speak to that for a few minutes. I understand what the approach here is. The approach is, they want technology that is going to speed up the crossing of the border. The idea is that you would have, in your wallet, a driver’s licence that would have embedded within the driver’s licence some technology that’s a tank circuit. A tank circuit is a passive circuit that, once it gets within the range of the reader, activates your card and transmits a signal that allows the reader, some 10 metres away, to read the information that’s contained on your card. The idea behind that—and I understand why this is so appealing—is that you don’t have to physically stop at the border crossing and say, “Here.” The idea is that as you’re driving up, border security can sit there and look at their screen and say, “Green, green, green—red. Pull them over.” I understand the technology and I understand why you’re doing it.
If it was only read at the border and we could absolutely ensure that nobody else could read the information, well, maybe there’s an argument for RFID technology. But here’s the problem: There’s all kinds of people out there for all kinds of different reasons—economic reasons, for issues just because people like to gather this information and like to hack systems, or people who have criminal intent—who will develop technology that will be able to read this card as I walk by them. Here’s how it’s going to work. I’ll have this RFID card in my wallet, I’ll put it in my pocket, and I’m going to walk along the street and somebody is going to have one of these units that tries to activate the tank circuit. It’s basically a process of induction on the tank circuit that will transmit the information to the individual.
Now, there’s a lot that has to happen for this hacker to make it work. First of all, you’ve got to figure out the frequencies, but people can figure those things out. If the person’s going to get information, it’s going to be an identifying number. It’s not going to be the person’s name. I understand that. But identifying numbers can be cross-referenced back in the database if you open the back door. That’s the problem. This is why I was saying that the hooking up of all of these databases at the end is not as good an idea as we might think it is at times. Stand-alone databases serve a purpose when it comes to protecting the information within them, so that you’re not basically having information flow from one database to the other.
What you’re going to end up with in this technology is the possibility that somebody will basically be able to activate your card from a distance while you’re not knowing, walking through the shopping centre, walking down the street, wherever it might be. That person might be able to—I’m not saying will be able to—read the information on your card. They’re going to have this card and an identification number that’s unique to you, and they’re going to have some basic information, right? The problem is that now they’ve got the ID number, they can cross-reference it back into the database if they break in from the other side. That was one of the concerns that was raised by the privacy commissioner, that you could end up in a situation where somebody, for whatever motives, is going to be able to get information about the individual for all kinds of different reasons that they can use it for.
The suggestion was made that what we need to do is, at the very least, have a different type of technology, that rather than having an RFID transmitting technology we have a card that’s more like our bank cards—you have a little magnetic strip on the back—so that this thing is dormant; you cannot turn it on unless you put it into a reader. The only time that you are physically taking the information from your card and into the system is when you put it into the machine and it turns on the machine to read your card and it turns off when you pull it out—the same idea as a bank card or a credit card.
The reason the privacy commissioner said to, at the very least, do that is it diminishes the ability of people to hack the system. It’s not that this is perfect either, because we all know that the more information we put on cards and on readers, the larger the risk is that somebody is going to break in. But the point she was making is at least limit the ability for people to hack the system. So move away from RFID technology, which is a transmitting device embedded in the card. Instead, go to a system that’s more in kind with a credit card or a bank card that activates when you put the card into the reader as you’re driving up to the border station. The border person looks, it shows green, and the person can go. Away you go. You’ve driven into the United States—no problem.
The issue is—and this is why I started with President Obama. It all links together. The parliamentary assistant is correct that the Americans have dictated what type of technology and what methods we should use. I would say it’s a question of sovereignty. We, as a nation, and we, as a province, should be determining how this information is going to be shared or not shared by people in the crossing of the border. We do have a new administration in Washington under President Obama, and I have to think that he’s going to do things differently than Mr. Bush did. I think that basically this legislation is not going to become enacted until, what, 2012 by the time it’s done?
The point is, it’s not as if we don’t have an opportunity to get a sign that the President of the United States is prepared to change the Homeland Security policy on this issue. I think we should be doing some effort towards saying to the Americans, “We understand your need to protect your borders, but we have some issues with what you are suggesting and how that is to be done.”
I would concur with what the privacy commissioner has told us, and that is, we should be looking at technology that limits the ability of people to get access to the information that we may have on our cards. I say to the government, that’s something that quite easily could have been done.
I want to remind people that this card is totally voluntary, which is the first and most important part of the identification. It is true that we are, as Canadians—as people in the province of British Columbia, in the province of Quebec and in many of our provinces—quickly moving to provide a card to people of our province who wish to use an identification card at the border. Under the homeland security legislation, under WHTI, we have to be able to provide a passport or an alternative document acceptable to the US by June 1, 2009. No Canadian needs to do this. Any Canadian who wishes to go to the US, or any Ontarian, can always use a passport under their legislation. There is no need to have this.
I am interested in some of the concerns about the technology. We in the government are concerned about the use of technology in this effort, because it is a requirement that the RFID be installed—that is the radio frequency identification chip—that it be put in the card if you want to identify for citizenship. That is a concern of ours. But if it is to be accepted by the US, it has to have that.
The requirement is that the card we issue has a sleeve which would keep it from being read by any RFID reader, if it’s in the sleeve. We are looking at a way to turn them off. Unfortunately, at the moment—we have made the inquiries with the privacy commissioner; she is aware of this—we do not yet have a commercially available switch on these cards.
It will be most interesting. Of course, the Minister of Transportation, in his previous role as Minister of Tourism, certainly forged a very good relationship, as he mentioned his remarks yesterday, with representative Louise Slaughter from Upper New York state. Indeed, I understand he had discussions with Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, the other Senator from New York state.
It really provides the opportunity, with a new administration coming into Washington. Perhaps somebody like Louise Slaughter will be the new head of homeland security in the United States. That would be an excellent idea, because she has what I would describe as a more flexible view of the integral relationship that Canada and the United States has, particularly border states and border provinces such as Ontario and New Brunswick, Quebec, and other provinces that border the United States.
We’ve seen that there are communities in the eastern townships in Quebec where the boundary goes right through a kitchen in some people’s homes. To facilitate people going back and forth for commerce, for visitation, is certainly important to the total health of both the border states in the United States and Ontario provinces, for commerce and economic well-being.
The member does make some legitimate observations about technology. We do know that no technology has ever been invented that’s foolproof. If someone wants to get at it, they will get at it. They’ll come up with sophisticated ways of doing it. But I think we need to move forward on this initiative.
Mr. Dave Levac: I listened carefully to the member in his expression of concerns regarding the technology. There’s no question that he brings our attention to the details of how this is going to work. But what I want to do is to try to assure him that those very questions have been asked, not just by the opposition, but by us as well, and as this was developing in front—because these discussions were taking place in the committee that I expressed to you that I was on, in terms of the Council of State Governments, when we were moving from Ontario down to the States—Philadelphia, Washington—to discuss the very issue that he is talking about a couple years ago.
Those very questions have been brought up not just by us in Ontario, but by many of the states that were asked to participate in this. So to give him some solace that this is being discussed and dealt with should help him a little bit.
On the other point he mentioned with regard to Mr. Bradley, I don’t think he is wrong on this one. I think if you take a sober second thought and step back from it, he was engaged in that conversation that you’re having and he was making the judgment based on what was good for Ontario. You’ve identified that, and I appreciate that. You’ve identified the fact that on the economic side, we are definitely going to be left out of the loop completely if we don’t get on board. As the parliamentary assistant said, we are talking about initiatives that the United States is employing, whether we like it or not. If we did not move from our 48% use of our passport, we had to come up with some alternative.
My last comment to him was, on the optional side, there’s another phase of this card that I’m extremely proud of—I’ve brought that up in this House many times—and that is the non-driver driver’s licence issue for the people who do not have access to that. I think that’s a good-news story as well.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: They’re going to be filing in any moment now, but we are going to have with us today Graham Flint, who is the chair and spokesperson for an organization called FORCE, Friends of Rural Communities and the Environment; 40 to 50 folks from the communities of Hamilton, Flamborough, Milton and Burlington, including Councillor Margaret McCarthy from the city of Hamilton, and Councillor Jan Mowbray from the town of Milton.
Hon. George Smitherman: I hope that members of the Legislature will join with me in welcoming the Honourable Mike Harcourt, the former mayor of Vancouver and Premier of the province of British Columbia, and Brad Graham, an assistant deputy minister from the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. Yesterday, they helped to lead our growth plan summit up in Vaughan.
Hon. Monique M. Smith: I have two introductions this morning. My good friend Jacob Rudolph is here with his mom, Jan Whitelaw. I don’t think they’re here yet, but they will be shortly. Jacob is about four or five and excited to be here at the Legislature today.
Mr. John O’Toole: I’m pleased to introduce guests from my riding. They include the mayor of the municipality of Clarington, Jim Abernethy; the director of finance for Clarington, Nancy Taylor; and the solicitor for the municipality, Dennis Hefferon. Welcome.
Hon. John Milloy: I think members will be pleased to know that we’re welcoming visitors from the Council of Ontario Universities today at Queen’s Park. With us, including a number of university presidents and senior officials, are Celia Ross, Kim Fedderson, Robert Bourgeois, Peter George, Dennis Mock, Sarah McKinnon, Richard Marceau, Susan Marlin, Ranjana Bird, Paul Genest and Jennifer Grass.
Hon. Michael Gravelle: Although my colleague already recognized members from the Canadian Diabetes Association, I just want to point out that we have two very special people from northwestern Ontario: Suzanne Stirling from the Canadian Diabetes Association in Thunder Bay, and Stacey Woods, who is the first woman in northwestern Ontario to be able to access an insulin pump as an adult under our new program and funding. So, Stacey, welcome. Thank you very much.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome a guest of mine in the Speaker’s gallery today, a good old friend from my riding of Elgin–Middlesex–London, Christine Paterson. Chris, welcome to Queen’s Park today.
Mr. Ted Chudleigh: My question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Minister, you’re fairly new to the economic development portfolio, but I trust by now you are in the full swing of things. Certainly you were shuffled into your new position at a very difficult time, but at the same time, you have been given a great opportunity to prove yourself as an economic leader. You have an opportunity to be creative, bold and innovative.
I’ll say that certainly one of the jobs of the Minister of Economic Development today is to administer the existing Next Generation of Jobs Fund, the advanced manufacturing loan program, the regional programs that are in existence, and to coordinate amongst all the economic ministries—to assist those economic ministries—in the delivery of those existing programs. We are talking about programs that have leveraged jobs and leveraged investments in this province. At the same time, obviously, we want to work with those businesses that are facing new challenges as a result of the events, particularly of the last few months, and I’m happy to elaborate on that in my supplementary.
Mr. Ted Chudleigh: There’s nothing new. The minister is still apologizing for the five-point flopped plan. In fact, it sounds like the minister is just regurgitating the same old lines that his predecessor tried to feed to the people of Ontario.
Minister, if you have nothing new to offer, wasn’t the cabinet shuffle just meaningless? Don’t you think that given all that’s happened in our province and our economy, you should start adjusting, rearranging and changing the old approach? Or are you just a new face for the Premier’s five-point flopped plan?
Hon. Michael Bryant: It is quite right that the government is engaging with industry leaders, with companies and with the federal government—we’ve spoken to the new federal industry minister and are meeting him as well—to in fact make those adjustments. You are seeing already in the investments of the Next Generation of Jobs Fund—the point being that they’re investments in the next generation of jobs; in other words, those jobs with the creative class skills, those jobs with industries that are, in fact, in a position particularly right now to be growing.
Those adjustments are being undertaken on an ongoing basis. They are reflected in the decisions made on the administration of these programs. They are also reflected in the economic policy, as it is unfolding in this government. As you will see, in the weeks and months to come and of course leading up to the budget of next year, in fact that emphasis on the next generation of jobs becoming even more intensified. This is, yes, a crisis with challenges—
Mr. Ted Chudleigh: I find the answer disappointing. We’re well into the difficulty that this province is facing and you’re only now just starting to think about those things. There’s no promise for the future.
For instance, I wonder what he makes of the recent statements made by the Minister of International Trade. She said that Ontario needs the United States to recover, that our fortunes are forever linked. But the TD Bank says that we can’t rely on the US, that what we need to find is our own ways to write our own economic destiny.
Hon. Michael Bryant: Firstly, the Premier right now, as we speak, is in China, leading an Ontario and in fact in many ways, a national delegation. But let there be no mistake: If the member is suggesting that Ontario no longer needs to have a positive trade relationship with the United States of America, then he’s wrong. TD is certainly not saying that. Certainly, our fabulous Minister of International Trade is absolutely right that, as our relationship and trade and exports with the United States grows, so will Canada.
I’m happy to speak with the member about these issues, but more importantly, to talk about the millions of dollars that have been invested in Ontario by businesses and those jobs that have been created because of the programs that have been in place under this government for several years. And there’s more to come.
Mr. Tim Hudak: A question back to the Minister of Economic Development. On October 22, the Legislature learned that Ontario, under Dalton McGuinty, has returned to deficit financing. Two weeks later, Ontario families were greeted with the news bombshell that for the first time in Confederation, Ontario would be on the receiving end of equalization payments. In other words, under Dalton McGuinty, the province of Ontario is now on the welfare rolls of Confederation. As Minister of Economic Development, what new initiatives are you bringing forward to cabinet to ensure that Ontario is not a have-not province for one, single more year?
Hon. Michael Bryant: The first thing that we’re doing is standing up for the people of Ontario. As the member knows well—and I’m sure he commiserates over this as well; I’m sure he does—the fiscal federalist formula today sees bales and bales of hay being paid into the equalization formula and Ontario getting barely a litre of milk out of it. It is a formula that is broken. It is a formula that needs fixing.
Ontario continues to be the engine of the economy in this country. Ontario continues to seek out changes to the fiscal federalist formula that will see a reflection of the contribution that Ontario makes to the rest of the country and the number of dollars that ought to be going out, yes, but also the number of dollars that ought to be going in. I look forward to speaking about this further in my supplementary.
Mr. Tim Hudak: That was bales and bales of something, but it certainly wasn’t the facts Ontario citizens want to hear. Minister, those same old tired lines won’t work any more, this notion of blame the formula, as opposed to blaming the high-taxing and high-spending policies of Dalton McGuinty that have put Ontario dead last in job creation and in economic growth. The notion of Ontario being a have-not province and receiving equalization payments is shocking and weighs on the hearts of all Ontario residents. To make matters worse, the McGuinty government is sleepwalking through this tragic point in our history.
Where is the plan, Minister? Will you draw the line here and say, “This year and no more”? Will you stand in your place, will you come forward to cabinet with a new plan to get Ontario off the welfare rolls of Confederation?
Hon. Michael Bryant: I know the member wouldn’t want to be running Ontario down and I know the member wouldn’t want to be talking Ontario’s economy down. I know he wouldn’t want to deny that, in fact, the Ontario economy does continue to be the engine of the Canadian economy. It does. If the member disagrees, I would love for him to take a look at the budgets and the books of this country, and I know he would want to stand up and applaud those businesses that have made this province the engine of Canada’s economy.
We will continue to administer those programs that have brought success. We will continue to build on that success. We will continue to build on success that has led to investments in the member’s own riding. I’ve seen the picture with the big smiling face of the member with a company that received investments in his own riding, that led to investments there and that led to jobs. We will continue to do that. Yes, we will continue to build on our success—
Mr. Tim Hudak: First the minister blames the formula for Ontario being on equalization; now he’s saying we’re leading the country in growth. The minister needs a reality check, just like Scotiabank’s report from the other day: minus 0.9% Ontario growth rate for 2009, Minister—dead last in all of Canada. Two hundred thousand well-paying manufacturing jobs have left our province. Some 36,000 talented Ontarians have left our province to work in other provinces. No doubt, we have tremendous resources in our province, tremendously talented and innovative entrepreneurs and businesses, but your high taxes, your high hydro rates and your runaway spending have shackled our business class and chased entrepreneurs out of our province, so now we’re dead last. Minister, one last time: Ontario on the welfare rolls no longer. What plan are you bringing forward to cabinet?
Hon. Michael Bryant: Well, there we go. The approach of the Ontario government is an activist approach that sees investments, by way of grants and loans, regional and strategic, directly into companies and directly into people through our Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. The member can’t have it both ways. You cannot get rid of those programs, you cannot get rid of those investments and you cannot, in addition to that, cut taxes and expect to have a sustainable economy. The member is leading a race to the bottom.
The province of Ontario under Dalton McGuinty is in fact leading the charge, building on our success. That’s why in July of this year the government announced a $2.85-million advanced manufacturing loan to Stanpac Inc. to support a $10-million investment in the member’s riding. He stood there at the press conference with a big smile and congratulated the government—
Mr. Howard Hampton: My question is for the Attorney General. Over the past weeks a number of questions have been raised about the administration of justice in Ontario under the McGuinty government. My question today concerns a police discipline hearing being conducted against two senior OPP officers. In the course of the hearing, evidence was presented that OPP Commissioner Fantino stated, “Are you going to execute the disloyal one, or am I?” My question is this: Does the Attorney General find it troubling that the OPP commissioner appointed by the McGuinty Liberals would refer to another senior OPP officer in terms of, “Are you going to execute him, or am I?”
Hon. Christopher Bentley: What is a bit surprising is that a former Attorney General would ask about testimony that may have been given or may be given during the course of a hearing where findings have to be made by the adjudicator. We respect the fairness of all proceedings. Whether an individual likes or doesn’t like what he or she hears, agrees or disagrees with the position being advanced, takes a particular position on the result of the hearing, the foundation of our system of justice is that we let hearings conclude, and conclude fairly, according to the principles of natural justice and the rule of law. That’s what should happen—not only in that case, but in every case.
Mr. Howard Hampton: Perhaps the Attorney General and the McGuinty government don’t find these remarks troubling, but I think most people would find them troubling. Most Ontarians might feel that that language might appear in a Third World country but certainly not in a legal system, in a justice system, such as our own.
But what is equally troubling is this: When the counsel acting for one of the senior OPP officers pointed out that Commissioner Fantino appeared to change his testimony from one part of the hearing to another, the judge hearing the matter was immediately told by counsel for the OPP—
I just do caution the honourable member on the direction that he is going. I encourage him to bear in mind the sub judice rule. Certainly, from what I have seen in the newspapers, this is a hearing that is ongoing.
Mr. Howard Hampton: When this is remarked upon by the justice hearing the case, he is immediately asked to recuse himself from the hearing. Not only that, but the hearing is then told that senior counsel in the Ministry of the Attorney General are going to support the motion for the justice to recuse himself. This sounds like even the Ministry of the Attorney General is interfering in this hearing—
Hon. Christopher Bentley: Again, it is, with respect, surprising that the former Attorney General would be purporting to quote from an ongoing hearing and asking for commentary. With respect to the specific allegation, I understand that the result of the motion is not yet made. Obviously, whatever the commentary, no decision has been made by the ministry because no result of the motion has been made. So I would ask the member to remember when he was the Attorney General and to remember the principles which he had to uphold then and which still apply today: the principles of fairness of hearings, regardless of what you may want the result to be.
Again, I ask the Attorney General: Counsel for the OPP actually names the senior counsel in the Ministry of the Attorney General. He names Dennis Brown, general counsel, Ministry of the Attorney General, as supporting a motion for the justice to recuse himself from the hearing and says that if the justice doesn’t recuse himself from the hearing, the Ministry of the Attorney General will support a judicial review application.
All the justice is trying to do is hear the evidence, but it sounds as if lawyers, counsel representing the Ministry of the Attorney General, don’t want him to hear the evidence. What is going on here?
Hon. Christopher Bentley: You’re wrong, period. What’s trying to happen at the hearing is that they’re trying to have a fair hearing, a fair hearing on the basis of what is going on in the proceeding and a fair hearing that is not being assisted by the extracted commentary of the member today. Let’s let the hearing proceed and continue according to the principles of fairness which govern hearings in all courts in all forums everywhere in the province of Ontario.
Mr. Howard Hampton: To the Attorney General: What is troubling about this is I think that the justice hearing the case would like to hear the facts. But when he hears that if he does not recuse himself—and by the way, counsel representing the OPP is not some freshman counsel; he is someone who worked many years in the Ministry of the Attorney General. When he stands and says, “I move that the justice recuse himself,” and, “I have to tell the justice that I have spoken with a senior crown counsel in the Ministry of the Attorney General, and they are prepared to support the motion that you recuse yourself,” how can a fair hearing happen under conditions like that?
Hon. Christopher Bentley: The member is not correct to be commenting on an ongoing proceeding. Fair hearings are not assisted by commentary on their evidence, testimony submissions outside of the fora. The member knows that; you’re a former Attorney General. You should respect the proceedings, you should respect the fairness and allow those in charge of the proceedings to make the decisions they must, without the commentary that you’re making here today.
Mr. Howard Hampton: This is not my commentary. This is from the transcript of the hearings. A senior lawyer who worked many years in the Ministry of the Attorney General, now representing the OPP commissioner, says: “Well, I can indicate, sir, that the discussions have been had with the director of legal services branch at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Ms. Anne McChesney, and with general counsel to the Ministry of the Attorney General, Dennis Brown,” and then goes on to point out that if the justice doesn’t recuse himself, doesn’t withdraw from the hearing, the Ministry of the Attorney General will support a judicial review ordering the justice to withdraw from the hearing.
Hon. Christopher Bentley: The former Attorney General is wrong. There will be fair hearings, as long as we allow them to proceed according to the rules of natural justice and the legal principles that apply. This one should be allowed to proceed without commentary by the honourable member.
Mr. Howard Hampton: Well, I could accept what the Attorney General is saying if the justice hearing the case were allowed to make a decision one way or another. But in this case, the justice hasn’t even been allowed to take into consideration the motion, whether he should recuse himself, before he is met with the information that if he doesn’t recuse himself, the Ministry of the Attorney General will support a judicial review application ordering him to recuse himself.
Again, as the administrator of justice in Ontario, who is supposed to ensure that hearings and trials are conducted fairly, how can this be a fair hearing when these kinds of tactics are being employed—actually mentioning senior counsel in the Ministry of the Attorney General supporting judicial review before a decision has even been arrived at?
Hon. Christopher Bentley: That’s right. The hearings should be allowed to proceed according to the principles of natural justice and the rules of law which apply. This one should be allowed to proceed without the commentary.
Mr. Norm Miller: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. By now, you must realize just how flawed your Bill 119 really is. No one is buying your argument that it will improve worker safety or uncover the underground economy.
Let me tell you what I’m hearing from small businesses around the province. I’d like to quote: “It is concerning to hear that the Liberal government would like to push this legislation through without first allowing committee hearings throughout the province to take place and to consider other options to mandatory coverage by WSIB. This will not be any benefit to small business, but will only benefit large unions.”
Hon. Peter Fonseca: I want to let all the members here know that a lot of comments and letters have been read into the record by members opposite and I’d like to read one about the member’s party leader.
This is by Ron Johnson, deputy director of the Interior Systems Contractors Association of Ontario. Here is what he had to say about Mr. Tory: “You visited us last year, Mr. Tory. You assured the construction industry in the spring of 2007 that you understood the WSIB reform was essential to the health of the construction industry.” I’d like to know if this member agrees with his party leader. I’d like to know who’s running the show over there. You talk about flip-flops. Mr. Tory is the biggest flip-flopper we’ve ever seen.
Mr. Norm Miller: Minister, small businesses in all sectors are afraid. You have raised the spectre of mandatory WSIB coverage across all types of businesses. Let me read what another constituent wrote to me: “Let me add my voice to those who are concerned about the current plan to add mandatory WSIB coverage to construction company owners. This seems to be the thin edge of the wedge to me. As you well know, the tourism business can ill afford to be hit with another ‘tax.’ I realize that we (tourism operators) are not under the gun right now, but the chief of the WSIB has said that he would like to see more industries covered.”
Hon. Peter Fonseca: I say to this member, you’ve got to track down your party leader and find out where he stands on this. Here are a few more comments from Ron about John Tory’s position on this. Here’s what he had to say: “At the same time, I understand that he insisted that a level playing field should be created throughout the bidding process and that any unfair advantage to the underground economy should be eliminated.” We agree with that. We want a level playing field. We want to make sure that those construction workers are safe.
I don’t know where that member or that party stands, but all I see is a big flip-flop here. I would hope that they would retreat back to the comments that Mr. Tory made to the association about understanding the need for this legislation, understanding the need to protect construction workers and to level the playing field, understanding the health and safety of the construction industry—
To the Acting Premier: With each passing day, it becomes clearer that this government has no idea how to deal with Ontario’s growing job crisis. Yesterday, Navistar International announced the layoff of 470 employees, including plant workers, office staff and management, at its truck plant in Chatham. The job cuts start January 31 and will leave the plant with about 400 employees. Sterling Trucks, owned by Daimler Trucks North America, is closing its St. Thomas truck plant, throwing 1,300 workers out of work.
Hon. Michael Bryant: I just want to speak to the Navistar situation. There was an investment made in the summer of 2003 by the previous government, just before the 2003 election, to provide funding for the company, at the time facing closure. We have also just learned of this news and are obviously very concerned. We are looking at the agreement. It is an agreement that we expect Navistar to honour. We want those jobs to be here. We want those investments to be here. We want to do everything we can, working with the workers and management, to keep those jobs here. But we do also have a contract in place, and the fact that it was undertaken by the previous government does not mean that we will not enforce the contract. We will enforce the contract.
Mr. Paul Miller: Minister, Ontario is shutting down, and your government has no plan. Manufacturers are saying that thousands may lose their jobs in the next few months because of the credit squeeze. Workers at the CAMI Automotive plant in Ingersoll are fearful of major layoffs and output stoppage by the end of this year, when they have already suffered an eight-week idle period.
Will you admit that your government has absolutely no idea what to do about the growing economic crisis gripping Ontario and that you have absolutely no plan to create and sustain jobs in our province?
Hon. Michael Bryant: The approach is to make investments in human capital, to make investments in training, to make investments in companies, to make investments through the advanced manufacturing loan program to leverage more investments, and to make public investments by way of grants to leverage more investments. It is that approach that not only deals with the need for greater innovation, which I know the member wants to have, but also deals with the challenges facing a particular company, whether it be around liquidity, whether it be around the credit crunch or otherwise, so we can work with these companies to provide the dollars they need. But we do so in the context of an agreement, an agreement that says that if a company does not meet its standards, there are clawback provisions. I can assure you with respect to Navistar that we were looking closely at those clawback provisions.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I would just ask the honourable members: I know that there are discussions taking place, and it’s nice to see those discussions taking place in a civilized manner, but I would ask that you take those discussions to either the east or west chamber or outside the door so that all members and our guests who are here can hear the questions being asked.
Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: My question is for the Minister of Health Promotion, the Honourable Margarett Best. Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is the leading cause of death in our province, and every year, unfortunately, more than 7,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest. More than 40% of us will actually develop heart disease over the course of our lifetimes, which is nevertheless largely preventable. How? By making healthy food choices, by being active every day, by avoiding excessive alcohol, by being smoke-free and by having blood pressure levels checked regularly.
Unfortunately, many Ontarians are not even aware of their predisposition to sudden cardiac arrest. November is national CPR Month—cardiopulmonary resuscitation—and in fact, today is CPR day at Queen’s Park. What has the McGuinty government done in terms of prevention and awareness to combat this group of cardiovascular conditions, or heart disease?
Earlier today, I had the pleasure of attending an event with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, where we announced that Toronto’s emergency medical services will be receiving 40 public access defibrillators for their cardiac safe city program. The cardiac safe city program helps to increase both awareness and access to defibrillators throughout the city through funding from the Heart and Stroke Foundation. As the health promotion minister, my goal is to provide Ontarians with access to services, tools and education to achieve and maintain good health. That is why the McGuinty government provided $3 million to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario to place—
Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: I understand that defibrillators, coupled with ongoing CPR training, are having a positive and salutary benefit regarding the prevention of cardiovascular deaths. I trust we will continue to work with community partners on the placement of the thousand defibrillators program. As well, there is also a great need, of course, to focus on cardiovascular risk factors. So a series of questions: What is the McGuinty government doing in terms of risk factor management? What are we doing to support people in making healthy lifestyle choices? What is the McGuinty government doing to assist people to avoid tobacco use, maintain a healthy diet, and stay active and well?
Hon. Margarett R. Best: I’d like to advise our member, the member for Etobicoke North, that we are in fact continuing to engage in providing investment in defibrillators in Ontario. I would also like to highlight that in addition to providing defibrillators, the Ministry of Health Promotion has been investing $3.4 million a year in initiatives designed to promote heart health across the province through the Ontario heart health program. The Ontario heart health program is part of the Ontario government’s comprehensive cardiac strategy which includes health promotion and disease prevention. The—
Mr. John O’Toole: My question is to the Deputy Premier. At the current time, you have time-allocated two bills. Bill 119 is a tax on small business. And now, Bill 114 has been time allocated, some would say, in a rather treacherous manner. The public hearings were this morning for about an hour and a half. However, the amendments, as you would know, were due yesterday at noon, even before the public hearings. This afternoon we will be doing clause-by-clause to finalize the bill. I’m asking you, why have you time-allocated Bill 114, which you know amends regulations retroactively?
Hon. George Smitherman: I do appreciate very much that the member used the reference “as you know” twice in the question on matters which, frankly, were it not for the member’s invigorated activity on this at committee, I wouldn’t have known. The responsible minister will be in a position soon to address the particular circumstance that the honourable member raised earlier in committee. I regret that I’m not in a position on the substance of the matter with respect to the retroactivity of regulation to be fully cognizant of the member’s issue. I will work with the Minister of Finance to ensure there’s a timely response to the honourable member relating to his issue raised at committee this morning.
Mr. John O’Toole: I appreciate the response, Minister. That is quite genuine. You would know that the legal counsel and the mayor are here, as well as the director of finance. Really, they know and I’m expecting that the people who drafted the bill in your ministry, or your government’s ministry—they amended schedule A, section 2, which amends retroactively the Assessment Act, which changes the exemption status of limestone which has been widely held under the Assessment Act. The amendment, in fact, destroys their current legal argument, which is before the courts.
Minister, I’m asking you today—as you’ve suggested you might, and I commend you for that—to instruct the minister to at least withhold and allow this case to proceed before the courts before this legislation destroys the legal case on which this municipality spent a considerable amount of money to get before the courts on November 14. Would you do that for the municipality?
Hon. George Smitherman: No, I’m not in the habit nor the position to be giving advice to my colleague minister on that matter. But I do think that through the honourable member’s raising of this at committee and here in the House, I will take the question under advisement, seek to work with the Minister of Finance, and to produce, in a timely manner, for the honourable member and indeed for the community and the people of Clarington, a response to the specific case that’s been brought forward.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Minister of the Environment. The McGuinty government is well aware of St Marys Cement’s proposal to develop a massive new greenfield quarry in the Flamborough area of the city of Hamilton. The proposal is for an open-pit mine in the middle of the natural heritage system of the greenbelt, where ground water is crucial to the provision of clean, safe drinking water to more than 3,000 residents of Carlisle. Two thousand people from the area sent postcards asking the McGuinty government, once and for all, to stop this quarry, which is a serious threat to residents’ water safety.
Hon. John Gerretsen: First of all, I appreciate the question very much from the member. I would just like, for the record, to note that we are very proud of the accomplishments that this government made with respect to the greenbelt, something, by the way, that your caucus—only half the members supported the greenbelt at the time.
But as the member well knows, the permit that has been issued is simply for a pump test. There are many other permits that may be required if the pump test proves to be adequate and meets the ministry’s requirements. There will be municipal approvals that are going to be required from the municipality. There will be approvals required from the Ministry of Natural Resources as well with respect to a permit.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: This government’s greenbelt is turning into a greed belt, from what we can tell. The availability of safe drinking water is at stake here. Doesn’t anybody remember Walkerton? I remember when the first water restrictions and bans hit the Carlisle community when I was still sitting on city council in Hamilton. Advisers to the government have called quarries a man-made threat of provincial concern because they create a direct pathway to the aquifer for contaminants. They recommended that new quarries should not be situated too closely to a municipal wellhead protection area. The Environmental Commissioner himself has clearly told the government to screen out development proposals exactly like this one, which put the interests and profits of the aggregate mining industry ahead of the public’s water supply and environmental protection.
Hon. John Gerretsen: Let me repeat, once again, that this is a pump test; this is not a permit for a quarry. A number of safeguards have been built into this. Let me remind you and the members of FORCE who are here today.
The safeguards include that the quality and quantity of water will be extensively monitored by the ministry. Secondly, the project will receive independent oversight and reporting. Also, the rate of pumping has been reduced by 50%, and the permit has extensive consultation and reporting requirements. In order for the second test to take place, we will once again be placing the matter on the EBR for 30 days.
We are interested in protecting the greenbelt; we are also interested in making sure that there is quarry material available if and when required. But no quarry will be opened up there unless the testing that is being done here will meet our qualifications. And the other approvals from both the municipalities and the Ministry of Natural Resources have to be—
Mr. David Orazietti: My question is for the Minister of Labour. When most Ontarians think about the health care sector, they think of the well-being of patients. But there’s another group that we should also consider. Health care workers in my riding of Sault Ste. Marie and across the province not only provide high-quality care and treatment for Ontarians, but also, at times, put their own lives at risk.
Minister, earlier this week you announced that our government will be creating a new, permanently funded team of specialists to help improve workplace safety for health workers in Ontario. What was the reason behind the establishment of the Ministry of Labour’s health care unit? Can you please explain how the health care unit is funded and whether or not this is new funding or money taken from other workplace health and safety inspection activities?
Hon. Peter Fonseca: I would like to thank the member for Sault Ste. Marie for his advocacy on the safety of our health care workers. We have 480,000 health care workers in this province who protect us day in and day out. It’s only right that we protect them.
I want to say that after the final report of the SARS commission, Justice Archie Campbell said that hospitals are dangerous places, just like mines and factories. What we did at that time was put a temporary health care team in place after that SARS report. With this announcement, what we’ve done is made this health care unit permanent, a team that will go into those health care sector workplaces and make sure that they can take a proactive approach to the health and safety of those health care workers. They now have new, permanent funding of $2.1 million. This involves hiring and training 17 full-time equivalent specialists—
Mr. David Orazietti: Until the formation of the Ministry of Labour’s health care unit within its occupational health and safety branch, can you tell us who is responsible for monitoring workplace health and safety in hospitals and other health care workplaces?
As well, Ontarians would like to know whether the health care team contributes to the ministry’s overall Safe at Work Ontario strategy. As well, what are some of the other initiatives that the Ministry of Labour has introduced since the time of SARS?
The Ministry of Labour staff is responsible for inspecting the health and safety regulations in provincially regulated industrial sector workplaces, looked after by what is now a special team in the health care sector. So this unit will be doing that.
In terms of the overall Safe at Work Ontario strategy, the health care unit will also provide support to all provincially regulated work places. We have added an additional 200 inspectors to bring our inspector levels to over 400. We’ve provided updated infection control training for the ministry’s 233 industrial inspectors. We’ve established an advisory committee for the health care sector under section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We’ve done a lot to help in this field.
Ms. Laurie Scott: My question is to the Minister of Health. I quote the Thunder Bay Chronicle from September 15, 2007. Dalton McGuinty says, “It’s essential to cover the PSA test for men.” In light of the statement by your leader and your predecessor’s promise, will you fulfill your promise and ensure that the costs of prostate-specific antigen tests for all men over 50 will be covered by OHIP beginning January 1, 2009?
Hon. David Caplan: As was laid out not only in the election platform, but by my colleague the Minister of Finance in the recent budget—which I would add that this member voted against—we will be covering the cost of PSA testing in Ontario, in keeping with our commitments, starting January 1.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Minister, OHIP already covers PSA tests when a man has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. In many cases, it’s simply too late and the cancer has spread. So I want to be specific with you on the fact that the Ontario director of the Canadian Prostate Cancer Network met with one of your senior advisers and she said that the Ontario government is not going to implement coverage of PSA screening tests on January 1, 2009. Instead, meetings will be set up in January 2009 to decide what will be happening re the PSA tests. My constituent Hans Vanderkley, of the Lindsay Prostate Cancer Support Group, is concerned. Minister, are you going to cover the cost of PSA testing for all men over 50 on January 1, 2009?
Hon. David Caplan: I say to the member from Simcoe–Grey, who really doesn’t care about these matters—I repeat to the member who wants and wishes to cut a further $3 billion out of health care, which I adamantly oppose, that it seems the member has a hard time taking yes for an answer. The government’s approach generally supports informed decision-making between the physician and the patient, making the best determination of the appropriateness of tests for each individual. That’s the approach that we’ve taken as a government, those are the commitments that we’ve made, that is what I reiterate here today, and I hope that this member will, in fact, inform her constituent of this answer when she has a chance to be back in her riding during constituency week.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: To the environment minister: The 72-home hamlet of Colgan is situated on the Oak Ridges moraine and has had poor water supply for 12 years due to high-volume water use at a local golf course and decreased rainfall. The community is accessing water from the moraine’s aquifer and has been on water restriction since April. However, the local township, which includes Colgan, has recently approved a development that will bring 2,300 people, a 170-bed nursing home and a strip mall to Colgan. The aquifer will be tapped even further to provide water. Why has this government created a moraine act that protects the right to build golf courses and developments but doesn’t protect its water supply?
But the greenbelt basically protects all those environmentally sensitive areas as well as good farmland in those 1.8 million acres of land. There were some infilling provisions that were allowed in existing municipalities and it may very well be that the kind of development he is talking about is infilling within that municipality. I’m more than prepared to get back to the member on this particular issue. I’m just not familiar with the details that he’s described here today.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: It isn’t simply a question of details, it’s whether or not you’re going to protect the water supply. The question was asked by my colleague and I’m asking you. Are you going to take action, legal action that you can take, to reform the act so that the water supply is protected on the moraine and so that homeowners aren’t in a position where they’re going to be living with water restrictions for decades or be in a situation where people who bought homes will have incredible difficulty selling them because people will ask where the water will come from?
Hon. John Gerretsen: We take any issues with respect to drinking water very seriously and certainly, if there are issues here that need to be resolved by the provincial government, we will do that. I will just leave it at that. We will look into this situation and get back to the member in the near future.
Mr. Dave Levac: My question is for the Minister Responsible for Seniors. As you know, Ontarians courageously protected the freedom of our province, our nation and, indeed, the world by serving in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and conflicts worldwide. More than 1.5 million Canadians, many of them Ontarians, bravely fought in the wars but, sadly, more than 110,000 soldiers did not return home to their loved ones and to our province.
As we approach Remembrance Day, we must remember the service and sacrifice of our veterans, which I know all in the House do. We should all take the time, not just on Remembrance Day, to honour and thank our veterans, their spouses, and the widows and widowers.
Hon. M. Aileen Carroll: Thank you to my colleague for a very thoughtful question at this important time. Remembrance Day is indeed a time to pause and reflect upon the sacrifices our veterans made to protect our shared Canadian values. I often think of my uncle, who served as a sea captain in the Canadian Merchant Marine during World War II. Honouring our veterans is important, not just on Remembrance Day, but year-round and it’s important to provide our veterans with opportunities to share those stories with Canadians, and Ontarians especially, and particularly our youth. The memories my uncle shared with us were remarkable and they moulded much of our understanding of the real sacrifices that young Canadians made during those war years.
Mr. Dave Levac: Thank you to the minister for starting to tell us about what else is happening beyond Remembrance Day. I’m sure that Ontarians generally and also the veterans and their families will be pleased to hear that the government does indeed support events that honour our veterans not just on Remembrance Day, but throughout the year.
You also mentioned in particular the importance of engaging our young people. As a former educator, I made it a point to ensure that our schools were involved in participating in Remembrance Day ceremonies, and also, in the school or outside of the school, anytime we had an opportunity to honour our veterans, so that they learned about the service and sacrifice. Many of the kids that I taught were of the age where people actually lied about their age to serve in the war: 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds.
We must continue to show our veterans that we want to protect those freedoms that we have and enjoy today. Can the minister explain what the government is doing to engage the public, and especially our young people, so that they can better understand and appreciate our province’s proud history?
Hon. M. Aileen Carroll: Again, I thank my colleague. What is important, I think, to share with the Legislature is that in addition to the $100,000 that the McGuinty government is giving to the Dominion Institute, there will be an additional $150,000 given to them through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, again for the institute’s veteran appreciation project. This project, as my colleague has mentioned, will engage thousands of community members over the next two years, including educators, students, libraries, Legion branches and veterans’ associations. The project encourages these groups to compile the important stories of our veterans from their communities so that they can create a unique online resource for all Ontarians.
Mrs. Julia Munro: My question is to the Minister of Energy. Residents of my riding are concerned about the peaker plant which your government has ordered built in northern York region. We have now found out that you have added Bradford to the list of proposed sites. How many more proposed locations in my riding will you add to your list? And since you are adding more sites, why will you not restart the local consultation process with people in my riding?
Hon. George Smitherman: I want to thank the honourable member for the question. We do have a responsibility to provide a reliable supply of electricity to all residents in Ontario and to the high-growth area of northern York region, where hospitals like South Lake, as an example, have grown exponentially as a result of investments from our government.
With respect to the process that the Ontario Power Authority is running, proponents are given the opportunity to select sites. I don’t do that. In the case of the site that the honourable member mentions, that came forward from a proponent. The opportunity for proponents to propose sites has ended. I believe there are six, and more information will be forthcoming soon about those six that have made application to be considered as the site for a peaking plant, the advantage of which is that it can meet the demand that is there on particularly cold or particularly hot days when there’s behaviour on the part of our constituents that seeks additional electricity use.
Mrs. Julia Munro: The Ontario Clean Air Alliance says that your proposed plant will use the least efficient gas technology to generate power and that its greenhouse gas emission rate will be double that of a high-efficiency, natural-gas-fired plant. Will you tell my constituents exactly what emissions this plant will put into our air and precisely what effect these emissions will have on our local environment and health?
Hon. George Smitherman: Considering especially that any emissions with respect to any form of gas-fired plant are so substantially below those related to coal, we can tell your constituents right from the starting point that the net impact in improvement is very, very beneficial indeed.
We have to recognize that northern York region has a peaker plant headed there to meet the needs of the people because the same communities overall rejected reinforcements to the transmission grid and they are a growing area with rates of growth about three times the average in the province of Ontario.
I do believe that the relative efficiency has to do with the amount of time that such a plant would run. These are plants that are designed to respond to the demand; that is, when people flip the switch as they demand air conditioning, or heating in particularly cold winter weather. But I’d be very, very happy to get even more environmental information to the member so that she can distribute it to her constituents.
Mme France Gélinas: Ma question est pour la ministre responsable des aînées, the minister responsible for seniors. It has been almost two years since the government finished consulting Ontarians on regulating the care provided in retirement homes, yet Ontarians have seen no improvement. In these consultations, stakeholders called on the province to establish mandatory province-wide standards of care and create an independent agency that could enforce these standards.
Hon. M. Aileen Carroll: I thank the honourable member for her question. In fact, we have taken considerable action and have been very preoccupied with the file, both within my ministry and the secretariat and in conjunction with the minister and his Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Actually, I’m quite pleased with the progress and looking forward very much to what will be announced in the months ahead, and I think the honourable member will be pleased with the outcome of our work and discussions.
Mme France Gélinas: As it stands today—I mean, on September 7, 2007, just before we ran for election, the McGuinty government had a press release that said we could expect retirement homes to be regulated. It is now November 2008 and care in retirement homes in Ontario is completely unregulated.
Especially with the government’s new initiative encouraging vulnerable alternate-level-of-care patients to move from hospitals to retirement homes, we need to have clear standards of care. This government knows that there are problems in unregulated retirement homes. She has the solution; she should address the issue. Yet Ontario seniors have seen no action. We’ve seen empty promises.
One has to move forward with considerable study and with considerable consultation. There was extensive consultation with the stakeholders, with seniors, with organizations. In fact, I have a meeting shortly after question period and we’ll be meeting with very important stakeholders in this regard.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Minister, as you know, I represent a large downtown riding and I have the pleasure of hearing from many new Canadians, especially foreign-trained medical professionals. On a regular basis, I hear from them about the issue of capacity in our health care system. As my constituents in Ottawa Centre can attest, these individuals are eager to begin to practise medicine in Ontario at a time when we need to increase capacity in our health care system.
While I know that our government has made tremendous investments in the health care sector since 2003 to increase capacity in our medical schools and the health care system, my constituents were surprised to learn about the bill we have introduced to address the issue of foreign-trained medical professionals.
Our government has more than doubled international medical graduate spaces. There are currently over 630 IMGs training in Ontario, and over 1,000 foreign-trained doctors have entered into practice in Ontario since 2003. In fact, in Ottawa, that number is currently 431 physicians.
But there are barriers to registration to practise for internationally educated health care providers, and they do persist. That’s why Bill 97 was introduced. If passed, it would change the mandate of all of Ontario’s 23 regulated health professional colleges to acknowledge that access to health care is a matter of public interest.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: Thank you, Minister, for that information. My constituents in Ottawa Centre will be pleased to hear that we are working hard in our efforts to harness the skills and talents of these internationally trained professionals.
Minister, you mentioned specifically that our government is working closely with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to address the issue of foreign-trained medical professionals. Along with our investments in the health care sector, working in partnership with health care organizations is certainly a positive way to address this issue of increasing capacity in our health care system.
One other organization that I hear from on a regular basis is the Ontario Medical Association. I understand that our government recently signed an agreement with the OMA. Could the minister please share with this House how the recently signed agreement with the OMA will benefit Ontarians and our health care system?
Hon. David Caplan: The member is astute to point out the recent agreement that was signed with the Ontario Medical Association because this agreement is an important part of our government’s plan to improve access to family health care and to reduce wait times in our emergency departments. The agreement provides incentives for family physicians in partnership with the government—and this is especially important because it’s the first time that we have been able to achieve this—to attach a minimum of half a million unattached patients within three years of ratification of the agreement. It includes a new program that will defer interest on medical resident debt. It will fund up to 500 nurses, making it easier for doctors and nurses to work together in family practice. It provides doctors with the tools they need to help their patients better manage their chronic conditions by using an online registry and self-help tools. It also increases access to community mental health services for high-risk patients.
Earlier in question period, the member from Durham raised the issue that on this bill the deadline for amendments was actually in advance of the date of the public hearing. Those public hearings took place this morning; clause-by-clause is taking place this afternoon.
We know that the purpose of public hearings is to provide stakeholders and members of this House with an opportunity to make input into legislation so that amendments can then be formulated as a result of those public hearings. For the government to have drawn a deadline for amendments to be submitted before the public hearings can even take place, that makes a farce of the process.
I would ask that you consider this issue and that you rule on whether it is appropriate for the government to consider amendments before the public and members of this Legislature have even had an opportunity to make their submission. I understand fully that the government inserted that right into its closure motion, that this place voted on that and that the government has a majority. I understand that. What I want to point out, however, is that notwithstanding the government’s majority, to deal in this way with the privileges of a member of this Legislature is undermining our role in this place, and it is wrong. It should never be done again
Hon. Michael Bryant: I submit it’s not a point of order, and I would submit that it’s not one which requires you to rule, but that is at your discretion. I will echo what the Deputy Premier said, which is that we undertake to work through the House leaders if there is in fact anything appropriate that needs to be done. We will do that, and that is the form in which that ought to be worked out.
Mr. John O’Toole: On the same point of order: I would support the observations by Mr. Klees based on my participation in the committee hearing this morning, where even the input for a question was denied. I think it is a good review for you and the table, and I look forward to an objective look at the legitimacy of that time allocation motion.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I want to thank the members who spoke on this point of order. As we all know, this was an order of the House that was put forth as a motion and was voted on by this House. The requirements for the filing deadline were established by the decision of the House, thus forming an order of the House.
It was not a point of order, but I do remind the member that that motion that had been put on the floor was an amendable motion and that any member of this House could have brought forward an amendment.
Hon. David Caplan: This is Medical Radiation Technologists Week in Ontario, and we have members of the Ontario Association of Medical Radiation Technologists here with us today. I have the pleasure today to welcome to the Legislature Dr. Robin Hesler, Greg Toffner, Eleanor Roppel, Judith Baranowski, Valarie Kelly and Rory Demetrioff. Welcome to Queen’s Park, and I hope you enjoy your day here today.
Mr. Dave Levac: Joining us today in the gallery are Mr. Bob Brown and his mother, Susan, from the riding of Brant. Bob is the president of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians. With him is his guide dog, Boon. Boon is a Lions International-trained guide dog. He comes from the United States. He doesn’t have a working visa, and his master says if he doesn’t behave himself, he will send him back home.
Once again, this year’s symposium will have a full slate of presenters and exhibits covering all aspects of the energy generation spectrum, from carbon sequestration to natural gas combined cycle power generation, biomass, geothermal, wind power, solar, clean air technology, nuclear and conservation.
Those speaking and presenting will travel to Jarvis from all parts of the province, representing Farmers for Economic Opportunity, Competitive Power Ventures, Ontario Power Generation, Norfolk Energy, the Clean Affordable Energy Alliance, Grand Erie Energy Quest, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Canadian Nuclear Workers Council, Bruce Power, as well as individuals.
After writing the Premier twice for answers and requesting consultation with our area residents before energy-generation decisions are made without those being impacted being allowed to have a say, I’ve taken it upon myself to, yet again, hold the consultation and have the symposium. So I invite all—the Premier, the Minister of Energy and the Minister of the Environment—down to our area for a lively evening.
Mr. Peter Kormos: Speaker, my constituency office down in Welland—just like yours, I’ll bet you—has been getting phone calls and e-mails from people in shock when they open their assessment notices. The Liberals thought they were oh-so-clever by freezing assessments for two years to carry them through an election without doing anything to fix the problem. So they froze assessments for two years, haven’t fixed the problem, and assessment kicks back in. Talk to Bob C.—we’ll leave it at that for the moment—down in Port Colborne. He’s got an assessment that jumped from $154,000 to $191,000.
You have to understand that it’s not as if there’s a big market down there. Factories are shutting left and right. Workers are losing their jobs, just like in the rest of Ontario. So folks down where I am are mad as all get-out at the Liberals, just like folks where you are, Speaker. They want no more to do with them, because the Liberals have failed homeowners across this province, especially the seniors and people on fixed incomes, for Pete’s sake.
New Democrats understand, because we know that market-value assessment is an incredibly flawed process. We didn’t like it then, and we don’t like it now. The Liberals objected to it when the Conservatives introduced it but seem to have embraced it as government. We believe that assessments should be fixed under real market value and survive until the next purchase.
The Ontario Association of Medical Radiation Technologists is the official voice for Ontario’s 5,000-plus medical radiation technologists, who provide all of the medical imaging and radiation therapy across the province in hospitals and independent health facilities.
The Ontario Association of Medical Radiation Technologists is the voice of the four health profession specialties in medical radiation technology: radiological technology, radiation therapy, nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance imaging.
There are currently 6,000 medical radiation technologists in Ontario who ensure that patients in Ontario receive quality, effective and efficient health care in our province. Medical radiation technologists are a key focal point in health care and use their skills to help patients receive the diagnostic images that make it possible for physicians and nurses to determine appropriate treatments. Also, MRTs use radiation therapy to treat cancers and diseases, helping Ontarians to live longer and healthier lives. MRTs are certainly one important note that make health care in Ontario a world-class system.
On behalf of MRTs’ strong commitment to our patients and for their continuing support for interprofessional collaboration within Ontario’s health care system, I rise in the House today to recognize and congratulate medical radiation technologists this week.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I’m pleased to rise in the House to talk about an important issue that affects people across Ontario. As many of you know, Canadian Blood Services has announced a shortage in their blood supply. In the last two months, the national blood inventory dropped by over 40%. Last week, Canadian Blood Services only had enough blood supply for two days’ worth of transfusions.
The reality is that nearly half of Canadians say that they or a family member has needed blood at some time and the demand has been rising over the past several years. One in two Canadians is eligible to give blood but, in the past year, only one in 60 has actually done so, even though just one donation can save up to three lives.
Blood donated in Canada is used every day for routine operations and emergency services. Some cancer patients require up to eight units of blood every week, and up to 50 units of blood may be needed for victims of a car accident.
Yesterday, in response to the call put out by Canadian Blood Services, John Tory and I went with a group of people from Queen’s Park to donate blood. The process was simple, quick and incredibly rewarding. It only took less than an hour to give, and it is one of the easiest things we can do to actually save people’s lives.
The need is urgent. This isn’t something that can wait. I encourage everyone, if you are able to give, please make an appointment and go as soon as possible to ensure that Canadian Blood Services can continue to help those in need.
Ms. Sophia Aggelonitis: Last evening, the late Dominic Agostino, a dear friend to many and former MPP for Hamilton East, was inducted into Hamilton’s Gallery of Distinction. With this, Dominic joined 150 other distinguished members who have made a significant contribution to Hamilton. His induction is a fitting tribute to a life lived with unrelenting passion for and inspiring dedication to his family, his friends, his community, Hamilton and his province.
The Gallery of Distinction itself has done great things for Hamilton. It has presented to Hamiltonians of all backgrounds the stories of a series of inspiring individuals who have made their city the wonderful place it is today.
Dominic Agostino’s portrait and biography will now hang at the Hamilton Convention Centre. For those who knew him, it will serve as a reminder of the great things he accomplished and the energy he brought to Hamilton. For those who did not, it will tell a story that with hard work and dedication to your community, combined with a strong vision and enthusiasm, great things are possible.
Mr. Ted Chudleigh: I rise today to talk about leadership. The republic to the south just elected a new leader. Despite what you think of his policies, Barack Obama has those qualities that make great leaders. He has fresh ideas, a bold vision and the courage to create change. Compare that to the current leadership of this Liberal government. It is a bleak contrast.
Great leaders shine during periods of transition. They adapt, they bring innovative ideas and thay do what’s right, even if it means admitting their mistakes. Poor leaders shrink away from responsibility. They blame others, stubbornly hold on to old ideas and evade questions. I’ll leave it to the people of Ontario to decide what kind of leadership the McGuinty government is providing.
Ontario’s economy is in a painful flux. Just today we heard about hundreds more job losses at Navistar in Chatham and at CAMI in Ingersoll. We wish that we could give hope to those working families, that we could provide them with leadership during hard times. I wish we could show them a recovery plan. But this government is so mired in self-righteousness that they refuse to change. The Premier is so married to his talking points that he won’t acknowledge the crisis before us.
Mr. Khalil Ramal: I would like to honour the efforts and success of ReForest London, an organization that is helping London keep its reputation as the Forest City. Along with the Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre, ReForest London is planting 1,000 trees at schools, businesses, parks and other public areas in the Glen Cairn neighbourhood.
Over the next two weekends, ReForest London, along with youth from Glen Cairn community centre, will plant 100 trees in yards throughout the city of London. Next spring, they will host a discount tree sale.
This Re-leaf Project was funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and an Evergreen grant. I would like to thank them and all the participants for their great efforts to maintain our image in the city of London as the Forest City.
In its new format since 1998, local veterans, spouses and widows and widowers from Brant, Brantford and Six Nations/New Credit have been invited as honoured guests to enjoy a delicious hot meal, greetings from various dignitaries, music from the era and a time to share and renew friendships. On November 1, this luncheon saw over 675 guests being honoured as a small way of expressing our community’s gratitude for their sacrifices.
I had the honour of chairing this committee from 1999 to 2004. This year’s co-chairs, Scott Clare and Bill Chopp, and vice co-chairs, Heather Gaukel and Mike Rafferty, deserve kudos for a great event. Check out www.thank-a-vet.ca.
This, to our knowledge, is the largest event of its kind in Canada. To each and every supporter of this luncheon—the volunteer servers; the caterer, Sherwood Inn; students; donors of in-kind services; monetary donors; and particularly the 56th Field Regiment and the organizing committee—we say thank you.
Mr. Raymond Cho, a Toronto city councillor, received the award from the Republic of Korea: the Order of Civil Merit for his distinguished service to the Korean Canadian community. Also receiving an award was the For You Telecare Family Service. It is a Canadian Korean family services agency. Mrs. Lee accepted the award on behalf of that organization.
The award is given by the Republic of Korea through the President of the Republic to a number of very distinguished Korean Canadians every year who have made a contribution to the Canadian Korean community, and I’m very pleased to be able to recognize those members and that organization in this chamber today.
Bill 125, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act to regulate industrial facilities that use, store or treat hazardous materials / Projet de loi 125, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection de l’environnement pour réglementer les installations industrielles où sont utilisés, entreposés ou traités des matériaux dangereux.
Mr. Dave Levac: This bill, if passed, amends the Environmental Protection Act by requiring that industrial facilities that regularly use, store or treat significant amounts of hazardous materials prepare and submit every five years a publicly available environmental report on their property. A facility that ceases operations will be required to submit a final environmental report. Owners of the industrial facilities will be required to be responsible for any environmental damage that occurs on their land while under their care. This speaks specifically to eradicating brownfields forever.
“Whereas the Minister of Community and Social Services has launched a blatant attack on our province’s grandparents raising their at-risk grandchildren by cutting off access to the temporary care assistance program;
“That the Legislature call on the minister to overturn her July 2008 directives outlining the temporary care assistance program and grant all grandparents raising their at-risk grandchildren access to this much-needed financial support.”
“Whereas the Minister of Community and Social Services has launched a blatant attack on our province’s grandparents raising their at-risk grandchildren by cutting off access to the temporary care assistance program;
“That the Legislature call on the minister to overturn her July 2008 directives outlining the temporary care assistance program and grant all grandparents raising their at-risk grandchildren access to this much-needed financial support.”
“We, the people of Ontario, deserve and have the right to request an amendment to the Children’s Law Reform Act to emphasize the importance of children’s relationships with their parents and grandparents, as requested in Bill 33, put forward by MPP Kim Craitor.
“Whereas subsection 24(2) contains a list of matters that a court must consider when determining the best interests of a child. The bill amends that subsection to include a specific reference to the importance of maintaining emotional ties between children and grandparents; and
“Whereas subsection 24(2.1) requires a court that is considering custody of or access to a child to give effect to the principle that a child should have as much contact with each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child; and
“Whereas subsection 24(2.2) requires a court that is considering custody of a child to take into consideration each applicant’s willingness to facilitate as much contact between the child and each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child;
“We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act to emphasize the importance of children’s relationships with their parents and grandparents.”
“Therefore, be it resolved that the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure take the necessary steps to ensure timely approval and construction of the expansion to Milton District Hospital.”
“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 all provincial Ombudsmen first identified child protection as a priority issue in 1986 and still Ontario does not allow the Ombudsman to investigate people’s complaints about children’s aid societies’ decisions; and
“Whereas the Minister of Community and Social Services has launched a blatant attack on our province’s grandparents raising their at-risk grandchildren by cutting off access to the temporary care assistance program;
“That the Legislature call on the minister to overturn her July 2008 directives outlining the temporary care assistance program and grant all grandparents raising their at-risk grandchildren access to this much-needed financial support.”
Mr. Bob Delaney: I have a petition addressed to the Parliament of Ontario, signed by a number of people within the Polish church in Mississauga on Cawthra Road, that I’d like to read. It reads as follows:
“Whereas, as one of the great spiritual leaders of contemporary times, Pope John Paul II visited Ontario during his pontificate of more than 25 years and, on his visits, was enthusiastically greeted by Ontario’s diverse religious and cultural communities;
“Whereas the population of Oakville continues to grow as mandated by ‘Places to Grow,’ an act of the Ontario Legislature, and is projected to be 187,500 in 2012, the completion date for a new facility in the original time frame; and
“Therefore, be it resolved that the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure take the necessary steps to ensure the new Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital be completed under its original timelines without further delay.”
“Whereas the current system, practice and arrangement of retailing and distributing beer in the province of Ontario—and more specifically, the ‘near monopoly’ of The Beer Store—severely restricts the accessibility, convenience and choice for retail consumers of beer in Ontario; and
“Whereas The Beer Store ‘near monopoly’ is controlled by ‘for-profit, foreign-owned companies’ and these companies are not accountable to the people of Ontario, and these companies do not act in the best interests of the people of Ontario;
“That legislation be introduced that will permit the retailing and distribution of beer through alternative and additional grocery and supermarket retail channels that will fairly compete with The Beer Store, thereby allowing an accessible, convenient, safe, well-regulated and environmentally responsible retailing environment for beer to become established in the province of Ontario.”
“Whereas no new safe and effective drugs for lupus have been introduced in more than 40 years. Current drugs for lupus are very toxic and can cause other life-threatening health problems that can be worse than the primary disease;
“We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to assist financially with media campaigns to bring about knowledge of systemic lupus erythematosus and the signs and symptoms of this disease to all citizens of Ontario.
“Whereas whatever one-time money that has flowed to municipalities from the McGuinty Liberal government has been neither stable nor predictable, and has been insufficient to meet our infrastructure needs;
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: It is indeed an honour to rise and present my first private member’s bill for second reading. Each member of this House has the privilege of being able to introduce legislation that can, if passed, help to shape the Ontario that we all love. Today, I bring forward legislation entitled Bill 113, Diabetes Awareness Month, which I believe will raise awareness about the serious nature of the disease known as diabetes.
Diabetes is often diagnosed when one’s pancreas is unable to produce sufficient levels of insulin, the hormone that enables the body to control glucose levels in the blood. There are three main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in childhood or early adolescence. Type 2 diabetes generally develops in adults over the age of 40, but lately an increasing number of children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. Complications resulting from diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and blindness. In extreme cases, it can even lead to the amputation of limbs.
The statistics are clear: 246 million people worldwide are affected by diabetes. Nationwide, over two million Canadians are living with the disease. In Ontario, 900,000 people, that is, 8.8% of our population, are living with diabetes, and it is expected that this number will grow to 1.2 million by 2010.
Diabetes is now the sixth leading cause of death in Ontario and costs Ontario’s health care system over $5 billion a year. Evidence confirms that food habits of different communities predicate and define the incidence of diabetes. This disease affects certain cultural communities at higher rates compared to others. Statistics show that diabetes rates are 30% among South Asians, aboriginals, Hispanics, Asians and African Canadians.
The statistics about diabetes are telling. However, the real story comes from those who live with the disease and their families. This summer, at my community barbecue, I met Deborah Gibson, a constituent of mine, who told me about her son Trevor, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three. Trevor learned at a very early age the serious effects of diabetes. Growing up, Trevor had to carefully balance his food intake and exercise, and often required as many as six blood glucose tests a day and five insulin injections. For Trevor, this meant that he was unable to take part in many of the activities that his peers took for granted.
It is my hope that a month dedicated to diabetes awareness will help educate those who do not have the disease about some of the challenges that diabetics like Trevor face on a daily basis. Due to lack of awareness of the seriousness of diabetes, some children with this disease have been denied orange juice to address their glucose needs during class, and there are others who have been left alone to test their blood glucose in a school washroom or closet.
Trevor and his mother, Debbie, are here with us today, so I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Trevor and his mother for their endurance, determination and for being a role model to others living with diabetes.
The exact causes of diabetes are unknown. However, based on the evidence, we know that lifestyle changes can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes, and people can live long, healthy and happy lives. The key to fighting diabetes is timely awareness and prevention. If children are taught the benefits of a healthy diet and physical activity at an early age, diabetes can often be avoided later in life. By changing a diet, an adult with diabetes can dramatically improve his or her quality of life.
Take, for example, Siva Swaminathan. Siva was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2005. By changing her diet and lifestyle, she was able to improve her health. Since then, she has been a dedicated advocate for diabetes awareness. In addition to being the chair of the South Asian diabetes chapter, Siva has used her culinary training to design healthy meal plans for diabetics. Siva hosts “how to cook healthier” workshops for South Asian women. Siva Swaminathan is one of Ontario’s great community heroes who brings hope to those affected by diabetes.
It is my hope that by declaring November as Diabetes Awareness Month in Ontario, we can help educate children about the potential long-term effects that can result from an unhealthy lifestyle. I believe that by encouraging our young people to make healthy choices at an early age, we can reduce the number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This will encourage people to understand the serious nature of diabetes and the effects it has not only on those who have the disease but on their families and on society as a whole.
Shawn Shepheard was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1997, but instead of letting this disease beat him, he decided to fight back. He has since become a motivational speaker dedicated to diabetes awareness. Shawn is so passionate that he has successfully run three marathons and five half marathons in support of the Canadian Diabetes Association and diabetes awareness.
This bill will help Ontarians understand some of the early symptoms and risk factors associated with diabetes. These include high blood pressure, pre-existing cardiovascular conditions and a family history of diabetes. I’m very proud of the steps this government has taken in helping to ensure that those living with diabetes can enjoy a higher quality of life. Expanding the province’s insulin pump plan, creating a new electronic diabetes registry and several education programs demonstrate this government’s commitment to helping diabetics manage their condition. But it is important that we do not stop there. We must continue to raise awareness of the disease and promote appropriate care and prevention. This is why I have brought this bill forward.
I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the staff and volunteers of the Canadian Diabetes Association, who work tirelessly to advocate for increased awareness surrounding diabetes. I can tell you that their passion for this issue is truly inspiring. Many volunteers from the Canadian Diabetes Association are seated in the public gallery today. I would like to take a moment to recognize and thank them for their continued dedication to diabetes awareness throughout Ontario and throughout Canada.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I appreciate the opportunity this afternoon to speak on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus with respect to Bill 113, An Act to proclaim the month of November Diabetes Awareness Month in Ontario. I certainly want to say, from the outset, that I appreciate the member from Mississauga–Brampton South’s bringing this forward. I can tell from her opening remarks that she views this as a tool in bringing some more awareness about the disease of diabetes that will bring forward what can be done to prevent, manage, treat and live with diabetes. We from the PC caucus certainly welcome the bill and fully support it.
I have nursed for over 20 years, and I can tell you that since I have been in the Legislature we’ve had many discussions about diabetes and have worked with the Canadian Diabetes Association. We certainly appreciate that information advocacy being brought forward. I’ve actually learned a lot more about diabetes from them than in the hustle-bustle of nursing—you had certain parameters and it was very technical. Since I’ve been in the Legislature and learning from the Canadian Diabetes Association advocates in my riding, I have learned a lot more, especially on advocacy and how we can make changes. I thank them for that.
Bill 113 draws attention to the fact that for the 900,000 Ontarians living with diabetes, it’s a daily reality. The further reality is the fact that the number is projected to increase to 1.2 million people in the next two years. That would be approximately 10% of Ontario’s population—significant, to say the least. When the Canadian Diabetes Association had their luncheon at lunch time, which I appreciate them hosting, it was a special event, and I was able to meet more of their members. But the inspiration and the volunteers that they brought forward—I think they had 55 people with diabetes there who were volunteers today—to come out and be advocates for people living with diabetes and the changes they’d like to see—I know Catherine Millen and Anne Rink, who are from my riding, are in the gallery, and also the member from Peterborough, if I can introduce your guest, if that’s OK? Islay Bromley is from Ennismore. They’re recognized here, as well the many other members who are in the galleries this afternoon.
There are many consequences that people living with diabetes incur: the heart attacks, strokes and kidney failures. November is kind of unofficially Diabetes Awareness Month, so this bill gives it that official status.
Earlier this week, I know many members of the Legislature went to attend the Optometrists of Ontario reception at Queen’s Park, and we had high-density pictures taken of our eyes. One of the reasons for this test is that it can help diagnose symptoms of a number of other potential health concerns, including diabetes. I know that in my riding of Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock, the Lindsay and district branch of the Canadian Diabetes Association we have there does a wonderful job of raising awareness, raising the funds and raising the spirits when it comes to diabetes. The co-chairs there now are Katherine Forgaard-Pullen and Nancy Pullen-Howe, and they certainly have a busy month planned. I take the opportunity to say they’re having a bake sale in support of the Canadian Diabetes Association at the Lindsay Square mall this Saturday; the Diabetes Health Fair on November 13, with Dr. Garth Hanson as the keynote speaker; the Unite for Diabetes and Celebration of World Diabetes Day on November 14 at the Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsey, where they’ll be serving diabetes-friendly cake and coffee; the Coffee for a Cure event on November 21, another great fundraiser for the association; and the Health Check Clinic on November 28 for blood pressure and blood glucose tests by the First Health Team of Ross Memorial Hospital. They’re all great events that help raise the awareness of this cause. I know my colleague from Peterborough and I also share the Peterborough branch of the Canadian Diabetes Association, which does great work in our ridings.
Cementing diabetes awareness by officially declaring November as Diabetes Awareness Month, as Bill 113 suggests, will certainly help enhance consciousness about Ontarians at risk. November 14 is recognized by the United Nations as World Diabetes Day. Some of us are wearing, and we have unanimous consent to wear the pin in the Legislature, that nice blue circle. That was the resolution by the UN General Assembly, which I have here. It’s dated January 18, 2007. Events throughout the world will be held, and I’m proud to say many in our province and in my riding, to recognize that special day on November 14.
The aim of the World Diabetes Day campaign includes raising awareness of the warning signs of diabetes, encouraging initiatives to reduce diabetes and distributing materials to support these initiatives and promoting healthy lifestyles to help prevent type 2 diabetes in children. One of the key messages of the 2008 campaign says the following: “Diabetes brings different challenges at different ages.” Another key message is: “People with diabetes, including children, can live full, healthy and productive lives.” I agree, and we met a number of these very people this afternoon at the reception.
One of the key points we have of living full, healthy and productive lives is access to care and access to medical tools, such as the insulin pump and supplies that those with diabetes need. I know that Catherine’s son has had an insulin pump and the great change in lifestyle that that has brought for him as he’s gone through university and pursued his career of choice. I think that those are wonderful personal stories that we can bring forward to say that was the right decision we made in the Legislature to help first children 18 years of age and younger, and now, this afternoon in the gallery, we had the first adult to receive the insulin pump. Those are our accomplishments that I think we can all be proud of in the Legislature.
Earlier this year—I know that other members will be aware of this—I received a number of e-mails and letters from constituents to expand the free insulin pumps to those living with type 1 diabetes over the age of 18. As I said, when the lady was here today, it was a great moment for us.
I know that my colleague the member from Waterloo, the critic of the Ministry of Health, along with myself are going to be watching the government and the Minister of Health closely. I teased him a bit at the lunch about their diabetes strategy, and we’ll be watching closely to make sure that the timelines and deadlines for his diabetes strategy do move forward.
Another matter we’re certainly going to be watching is the electronic health recording and e-health system, which is critical to chronic disease management and, in our view, must be a priority in order to deal with wait times and proper access to care. The Ontario Health Quality Council suggests that the province needs to speed up the implementation of electronic health records to better manage patient care.
The statistics show that some 20% of instances in emergency, especially the wait times and all that, are caused by people not taking their medications properly. If electronic medical records can help with that, you can see that a patient’s life is going to be enhanced and visits to the emergency room are going to be down. But when they come to the emergency room, we can get on top of the problems they’re having more quickly and treat them appropriately, because it’s very hard to diagnose without an appropriate list of the medications people are taking.
We are a little concerned about the 150 promised family health teams, and that now, with the projected deficit of $500 million, some of the health teams are going to be slowed in their progression. I’ve been a big advocate of family health teams; community health centres in our ridings; access to primary care with multidisciplinary teams, whether they be nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers or chiropodists; and diabetes clinics that come in. Certainly, we’ll need to be taking that forward and watching that closer, because in rural Ontario especially, we certainly have a lot of orphan patients, as we call them—patients without doctors and without access to medical care.
In respect to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, they affect over 30% of the Ontario population—one in every three people. So it’s fair to say that a chronic disease strategy is of great benefit to all the people of Ontario, but also to the Ministry of Health and to the budget, because, if I can put on my health promotion hat for a moment, prevention and education are key.
It’s very hard in politics. The life cycle is shorter than is really needed to implement a lot of the health needs we have, education and prevention being just two. So it’s very important that we look at this at all levels. We’re enhancing people’s lives. We’ve come this far with the diabetes strategy management, with the insulin pumps with the under 18 and over 18 with the chronic disease strategy.
The numbers projected, going forward, are large. We’re going to have to get on top of it. I think we all have to take our partisan hats off and see how we can manage with programs in the Ministry of Health that help all the community groups, the volunteers and the people living with different chronic diseases—we’re highlighting diabetes here today. That’s how you move forward with those things.
I know there is an awareness campaign going on right now for treating children with diabetes in school, and how sometimes they are not allowed to take advantage of all the school programs that are available because of their diabetes. We can highlight things like that and maybe work with the school boards or volunteer parents so that children, in this case with diabetes, are not prevented from going on those extracurricular activities or extra programs offered by these schools.
Preventing diabetes from developing is important. Treating existing cases is crucial. That’s why we need immediate steps, going forward, for the Canadian Diabetes Association to assist people living with diabetes and those yet to be diagnosed, with statistics showing that a huge group of people are yet to be diagnosed with diabetes.
It’s been a great privilege for me to speak today to the bill that has been brought forward by the member from Mississauga–Brampton South. I want to end with a Canadian Diabetes Association quote: “For those who have diabetes, if they take action now to manage the disease, through healthy meal planning, physical activity, smoking cessation and medication when required, they may delay or even prevent the serious complications associated with diabetes.”
Mme France Gélinas: It is my pleasure to rise today to talk about Bill 113, An Act to proclaim the month of November Diabetes Awareness Month in Ontario, an act that was brought forward by the member from Mississauga–Brampton South. I want to congratulate her for bringing this act forward. I certainly support the intent of the bill, which is to make diabetes awareness something as common for every resident of Ontario.
I would also like to thank the Canadian Diabetes Association for the excellent work and leadership they have shown in bringing issues related to diabetes forward. They are a dedicated group of volunteers who work tirelessly in all of our communities throughout Ontario to make sure that the voice of people living or affected with diabetes is heard. I would like to commend the work of Gary O’Connor, their executive director and a good friend of mine, who has been with the association for the last five years, and who is doing an excellent job.
Certainly, the NDP has been pressing for a free insulin pump for type 1 diabetes for a long time. At the luncheon today, my predecessor, Ms. Shelley Martel, was recognized for her tireless effort to try to bring that forward. For people living with diabetes, it makes a big difference. A friend of mine was able to get the insulin pump. For the first time in her life, she’s able to sleep in in the morning with everybody else on Saturday. For the first time in her life, she’s able to have a late dinner with the rest of us, not having to worry. Some people with diabetes did that kind of behaviour before, but it was always with dire consequences. With the insulin pump, this becomes possible and makes for much more of what people know of as a normal life—so certainly, a step in the right direction. An insulin pump is close to $6,000 just to purchase, and the supplies can run just as much on a yearly basis. For most people, those costs were prohibitive, until now, when it is being covered in Ontario for everybody who needs it.
Another step in the right direction is the new Ontario chronic disease management strategy that focuses on diabetes. As we’ve heard, there are dire consequences if diabetes is poorly managed. We’ve talked about people needing dialysis because of kidney failure. We’ve talked about people having limbs amputated related to diabetes. We talked about strokes and heart attacks, all of these being elevated in people with diabetes. We talked about blindness. But people have to realize that those terrible consequences only happen when diabetes is poorly managed. If you manage it right, then we can prevent those from happening in the first place. This is what the new chronic disease management strategy is all about. It’s to help manage the disease so that we prevent those types of very negative consequences from happening.
Everybody knows that the chronic disease management strategy is directly linked to access to interdisciplinary care; that is, when physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, nutritionists, dietitians, social workers, health promoters, chiropodists—I would add to this optometrists—all work together toward the best practice of managing the care of people with diabetes. Those interdisciplinary teams are found in community health centres, in aboriginal health access centres and in community-governed family health teams.
Unfortunately, in the economic forecast that Minister Duncan released a couple of weeks ago, we know that the implementation of 50 new family health teams has been delayed for a year. This is not good news for people living with diabetes, because in order to provide them with the best practices that will make sure they don’t end up with the consequences I’ve named before, they need access to interdisciplinary teams. If those teams are not in place, those people’s health is at risk.
Another population I want to talk about is the aboriginal population, the First Nations, the first people of this province. The rate of diabetes within the First Nations is skyrocketing. In certain age brackets, one in three will develop diabetes. It is rampant.
The best practice to tackle diabetes for our first peoples is through aboriginal health access centres. I have risen in this House time after time, asking the Minister of Health to adequately fund aboriginal health access centres. Right now, those centres are second-class citizens. They don’t get the same amount of funding for their physicians, they don’t get the same amount of funding for their nurse practitioners, and they can barely afford to hire nutritionists or dietitians because their budgets have not kept pace with everybody else’s in the health care system.
When we talk about a revolution in primary care, when we talk about interdisciplinary care—if you’re a first people in this province, this care is delivered through aboriginal health access centres, but those centres’ budgets have been cut back so far that it is very hard for them to live up to their mandate.
What does that mean? That means that if you are a first people living in Ontario, chances are your diabetes won’t be properly managed. What happens to First Nations people when their diabetes is poorly managed? They go blind. They have amputations. Their kidneys fail. They go on dialysis. Their eyes fail. It’s horrible. It shouldn’t be happening, and there’s no reason for it to happen. This has to change.
The toll of diabetes is also awfully high in the Hispanic and the black Ontarian populations. Those people usually receive services from the community health centres in their communities. I would like to praise the government for the announcement of an increase in the number of community health centres as well as the number of satellite community health centres in our communities.
The announcement has been made, but the rolling-out of those community health centres is extremely slow. They run into bureaucratic red tape, a nightmare of giant proportions, which means that, here again, people with diabetes, who need those interdisciplinary team practices in order to manage their diabetes and stay safe, don’t have access because the government is so slow in coming through on its promise to increase the number of community health centres in our communities.
The last point I want to make—and I realize my time is running out—is that in order for people with diabetes to stay healthy, they need access to healthy food; they need access to safe communities and places to exercise so that they can maintain a healthy weight. In order to do this, their income has to be high enough to afford them the time, the money and the energy required to manage and prevent diabetes.
Every day or so, every week, my colleague Mr. Prue rises in the House and asks the minister in charge of the poverty strategy, “When are we going to hear about this? When are you going to table the strategy?” Every one of those days that goes by is another day when hundreds of thousands of Ontarians are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, because type 2 diabetes is directly linked to your diet.
The Minister of Health attended a Canadian Diabetes Association luncheon today, and said, “We expect the number of Ontarians living with diabetes to rise to 1.3 million Ontarians”—1.3 million people. This is a lot of people who will have a serious chronic disease. We could prevent a lot of those people from developing diabetes in the first place if we had a strong anti-poverty strategy that allowed those people to eat proper food, to manage the stress in their lives, to have time aside from the three jobs to go and exercise and stay fit, so they can maintain a healthy weight, but we have to continue to wait.
In closing, I want to say that An Act to proclaim the month of November Diabetes Awareness Month in Ontario is a good thing. The work of the member from Mississauga–Brampton South has to be commended. We need to raise awareness about diabetes in this province, because chances are, if it doesn’t affect us directly, it will affect a member of our family or one of our neighbours, sometimes with dire consequences. So I certainly support this, and the New Democrats will be voting in favour of the work that the member from Mississauga–Brampton South has done.
I want to close in saying that I want, once again, to congratulate the Canadian Diabetes Association for the work they have done. It is through their constant advocacy that we have insulin pumps available to the people of Ontario. It is because of their hard work on the ground that we now have a chronic disease management strategy for diabetes that is rolling out in Ontario. They are leaders in protecting their members, they are leaders in keeping the people of Ontario healthy, and they deserve to be praised for the good work they have done.
Ms. Laurel C. Broten: I’m very pleased to join in the debate today and give my wholehearted support to Bill 113, which has been brought forward by Mrs. Mangat, the MPP for Mississauga–Brampton South. Bill 113, as others have said, would establish An Act to proclaim the month of November Diabetes Awareness Month in Ontario.
I’m also very proud to be part of a government that is tackling the growing health care challenge that many Ontarians face. As some of you in this House will know, this government is investing $741 million in new funding dollars to develop a comprehensive diabetes strategy over four years: to prevent, manage and treat diabetes.
Like the speaker before me said, the issues that those who struggle with diabetes face are significant. It is an illness that many of us have had impact our own families. In my own family, I think about my great-grandfather. My mother talks about her grandfather, who struggled with his sight, lost his legs and ultimately died struggling with diabetes.
Being able to prevent and help someone learn how to better eat, how to better manage their own health, is something that I think An Act to proclaim the month of November Diabetes Awareness Month will go a long way to doing.
Monsieur le Président, le diabète est une maladie chronique, comme vous le savez, et évolutive, dont les répercussions touchent un nombre croissant d’Ontariens et Ontariennes. On doit aider ceux qui auraient peut-être de la difficulté dans leur vie avec le diabète, ainsi que sensibiliser ceux dans la communauté à peut-être savoir comment mieux manger, comment on peut avoir une diète qui nous aiderait à prévenir quelque chose comme le diabète.
That’s really what makes me very proud about the government’s strategy with respect to preventing diabetes, to see the strength of support that we’ve received from, amongst others, the Canadian Diabetes Association, which says: “This new strategy will provide an estimated 900,000 Ontarians with diabetes the tools they require to effectively manage their disease.”
Similarly, Dr. Catherine Zhan, the chair of the diabetes expert panel, said, “The diabetes strategy takes the most up-to-date research and best practices from around the world and matches them with the needs of patients in Ontario.”
So the work that we are doing at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the leadership by the Ministry of Health Promotion, go a long way to helping us make sure that, in the future, treatment will be better available for those with diabetes, but most importantly, that we will be able to prevent the onset of the illness amongst some Ontarians, help those who have it to better manage and raise awareness. That’s what today’s debate is about.
Mr. Bas Balkissoon: I’m pleased to speak in support of Bill 113, the private member’s bill designating November as Diabetes Awareness Month in Ontario. I want to thank and congratulate my colleague, Amrit Mangat, the member from Mississauga–Brampton South, for her efforts in bringing forward this bill to raise awareness of diabetes, a disease that affects more than 900,000 Ontarians today. This figure is expected to grow over the coming years.
The exact causes of diabetes are unknown. In most cases, family history and lifestyle play a part. Certain treatable risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption, also accelerate the progression and the severity of diabetes. Raising awareness of this disease, which is the cause of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, limb amputations and eyesight complications leading to blindness, is important. It is important because current research and the tools available to us make it simple for individuals to manage the risk of the complications associated with this chronic disease.
Also, prevention of the onset of diabetes needs to be communicated to those with a high risk of diabetes. Some of those affected people could have avoided or delayed the onset of these complications if they were aware of the modern-day research and made some simple dietary and lifestyle changes. I say this from personal experience. I have lost two members of my family, my mother and my sister, to diabetes. Had they known about the impact of their diet, the need for daily exercise early in their lives, and had the benefit of in-home blood glucose testing, they may have lived longer.
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the young age of 36, and it’s only at this point in my life that I really became aware of my dietary problems—a common problem in the South Asian community. My wife and my children learned that certain lifestyle changes had to be made. A healthy, balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise as well as taking oral medication properly, would maintain proper glucose levels in my blood and help me reduce the risk of complications to live a normal, healthy life. I have managed for 19 years, well above average, on oral medication and only recently resorted to insulin injections.
More than 50% of Ontarians with type 2 diabetes are not at the recommended blood glucose targets and are at high risk of developing complications. It is essential that we, as a government, increase awareness of diabetes, the risk factors and the related complications through public education.
We also need to encourage those who are already diagnosed with diabetes and their families to better manage their condition and improve their quality of life by making those dietary and lifestyle changes early, because it’s absolutely necessary.
The Diabetes Awareness Month Act, 2008, if passed, is just another means to help raise awareness by officially declaring November as Diabetes Awareness Month in Ontario, and it adds to the good work already being done by the Canadian Diabetes Association.
The Canadian Diabetes Association, one of the key stakeholders in this area, has been public with their appreciation for the actions taken by the Ontario government on diabetes treatment and prevention.
Diabetes is a complex, serious chronic disease that impacts both the individuals affected and the larger population. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in Ontario and Canada. We, as a government, should be doing everything we can to make Ontarians healthier. This bill just adds to all other programs, and therefore, I will be supporting this bill.
Have we done enough? We’ve done a lot. Can we do more? Yes, we can. I think this bill is just another piece of the work that we need to be doing, and I thank my colleague for bringing this bill forward.
Ms. Helena Jaczek: It certainly gives me great pleasure to rise in support of Bill 113, introduced by my good friend and colleague the member for Mississauga–Brampton South. It really is a pleasure because, for once in this House, instead of the somewhat fractious debate that we so often are engaged in, we seem to be developing a consensus from all sides that this is a very important step forward. I think a lot of the credit must go to the Canadian Diabetes Association and the good work they’ve done with all of us to bring their issues forward.
As a public health professional myself, I think that this is a disease that really poses a major burden on society, not only because of the physical impact on individuals but, in fact, the social and emotional burden that this disease can bring. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—raising awareness so that people, when they go and see their physician, can pose the question: “Are you going to check my blood glucose? I need to know. The incidence of diabetes is rising in our society. What can I do to prevent myself from becoming one of those many people suffering from this disease?”
It is a fact that many people have no symptoms whatsoever. In the early stages of the disease, some 35% to 44% of people with diabetes don’t know they have it. This type of bill is going to increase the general population’s knowledge and index of suspicion, and I would like again to congratulate the member for bringing this forward.
Mrs. Amrit Mangat: I would like to thank all the members from all three parties for their thoughtful comments about Bill 113, the Diabetes Awareness Month Act, but I would like to give special thanks to the members from Etobicoke–Lakeshore, Scarborough–Rouge River, Oak Ridges–Markham, Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock, and Nickel Belt.
This bill is all about education and, in the fight against diabetes, education is the key. If this bill is passed and the month of November is designated as Diabetes Awareness Month, this bill will help to educate Ontarians how to manage, treat and prevent the disease. This is all this bill is about; this is all about education. By making November Diabetes Awareness Month, we can create a platform for our future educational campaigns.
Diabetes is becoming increasingly prevalent in the province of Ontario. It is vital for those who are suffering from this disease to get more involved for their own self-management. This bill will help to educate those who are not impacted or suffering from the disease. This bill will enable them to understand the challenges that diabetics face on a daily basis.
I have no doubt that the day will come when we find a cure for this disease. The day will definitely come, but until that day we must continue to raise awareness so that we can improve the quality of life for those living with the disease and we can prevent the onset of disease.
Our society is becoming increasingly aware of the impact of human activities on the natural environment. Ontario is a beautiful province and Ontario is a bountiful province filled with beauty and opportunity. Opportunity for commerce and industry comes from the natural bounty, but only if it’s managed responsibly. If we want to keep our province beautiful and a healthy place to live, we must be responsible stewards. Of course, as a government, we also desire that Ontario prosper, and we need business and industry to help us. We look to business and industry partners to assist us in making Ontario the best place to live in terms of economic opportunity and healthy living.
Bill 112 is An Act to prohibit the sale of single-use plastic bottles of water in Ontario. This bill speaks to what I and some of my colleagues believe to be unsound business practices. The sale of single-use plastic bottles of water offers a convenience to consumers, but one with a significant impact on our environment. The sale of water using this form of bottle undermines some of the basic services offered in our communities, that is, the provision of clean, affordable, fresh water from the taps in our homes and workplaces.
Bill 112 does not set out, in any way, to abolish the bottled water industry. I am fully aware of many instances when industry and businesses have assisted our communities in this province in times of need, through philanthropy and donations in money and products. I’m also very thankful that the bottled water industry has chosen to establish itself in my riding of Bramalea–Gore–Malton. Their presence as an employer is valued by my constituents, many of whom work at various plants to produce bottled products.
As a father and a consumer myself, I’m also aware of the values and importance of preserving consumer choice. In fact, as elected officials, the members of this Legislature know something about consumer choice. Bill 112 does not stop the sale of water bottles, except in a specific form: non-reusable, single-use plastic bottles.
The reason for seizing upon this particular product is twofold. First, it is because of the great amount of energy that is consumed in the production, transportation and recycling process. As you know, the availability of energy in our province is a great challenge. Our Premier has often spoken of the need in our society for a culture of conservation. The first rule in conservation is to reduce the waste, then to reuse the waste, and then to recycle. Most Ontarians know about recycling and make use of the programs offered in our communities, in our municipalities, in partnership with industry, including the bottled water industry. Recycling as the industry’s sole resource does not solve our energy problem or do enough to make Ontario conservationist. Recycling may be considered a second-last resort to sending our plastic waste to landfills and incinerators. Industry would be helping our society in a more meaningful way if it concentrated on a creative solution to this problem. From reusable containers that can be filled at taps, to selling water in larger vessels from which reusable containers could be filled, there are so many options.
The second reason I feel this form of bottle should be banned in this province is due to the effect this product has had on our public health and also on our public confidence in our municipal water systems. Ontario is blessed with abundant natural water resources, most of which are quite clean. Our municipalities are also highly regulated and provide for their residents, in the vast majority of cases, the cleanest drinking water in all this province.
Consumers may, on one hand, not realize this because government is not in the business of advertising, as business does. Every year, bottled water industries are able to spend millions of dollars on advertising. The result is that the sale of bottled water in North America produces profits that vastly outstrip the sale of soft drinks, the other products of many of these big companies.
The bottled water industry has not intentionally eroded public confidence. This has happened because of a lack of dialogue in our society on this problem. That’s why I feel that Bill 112 should contribute to that debate. The debate is under way throughout North America, in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago and St. Louis. It has been under way in Canada in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.
Recently, London, Ontario, banned the sale of bottled water at its facilities. Bottled water is banned in all city facilities in London with an alternative to bottled water, such as drinking fountains and taps. It was reported in newspapers that school boards throughout Canada were also considering bans, including in the Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa-Carleton areas. Bottled water will be banned in Waterloo region schools as of 2009. Many university student groups are also creating bottle-free zones to address this issue.
The opposition to this bill from some consumers and the bottled water industry must be acknowledged. They have been doing a fantastic job so far. In many ways, I think this legislation makes sense. Our province must continue to support recycling initiatives. We cannot rely only on recycling. I think there is an opportunity for business and industry to become more conservationist if we pass this bill. Marketing green solutions to problems that arise from consumerism is something that the bottled water industry should explore. The production and sale of reasonable drinking containers, even plastic or biodegradable plastic containers, is a possible source of revenue.
Bill 112 will not affect consumer choice, as tap water is the best consumer secret in this province. It’s estimated that the cost of tap water in the city of London is just 13 cents per litre. The average cost of bottled water is estimated to be $1.20 per half-litre. It’s more than gasoline.
The other secret to consumers is that much bottled water is actually reprocessed tap water which their tax dollars pay for. The industry also suggests that consumers must choose their product because the taste and quality of bottled water is superior. If the bottled water industry spent no money on advertising their product and consumers were left to make up their own minds, they would choose the tap water provided by municipalities, which is already extensively used.
It’s estimated that producing bottled water creates 150 times more greenhouse gases than does tap water. Torontonians alone consume 100 million plastic bottles a year, 65% of which end up recycled and the remaining 35% in landfills. That means an estimated 35 million bottles end up in a landfill or in an incinerator. The risk of drinking contaminated water from the fountains is minimal. The International Council of Bottled Water Associations estimates that in 2000, 820 million litres of bottled water were produced for Canadian consumption. By 2003, this figure rose to 1.5 billion litres.
These are some of the issues I wanted to put before my colleague legislators. I would expect that they will give it due consideration and support my bill banning single-use plastic bottles in this great province of ours.
Mr. Toby Barrett: Bill 112, titled An Act to prohibit the sale of single-use plastic bottles of water in Ontario, I consider the latest in a long list of McGuinty nanny state style bans designed to divert our attention from this government’s lack of attention to what’s essentially driven this province from first to worst, from have to have-not, from a province formerly of job creators to now job killers. This bill would put even more strain on the businesses that are attempting to remain in Ontario and maintain jobs in Ontario while this provincial economy continues to spiral downward.
At the same time that small businesses and large businesses are struggling, we see a government that once again makes doing business in Ontario more difficult. I think of the bull-headed attempt to ram through that WSIB legislation, once again hampering those very employers who have long aided in ensuring the strength of our economy.
In opposition, we believe there are often better ways to care for the environment without putting more people out of work and putting more people out of business. I look forward to hearing the position of the environment minister, John Gerretsen, with respect to a water bottle ban in Ontario.
As I mentioned, there are alternatives. I think of the possibilities through a return system; it has worked well in ensuring the diversion of waste in other sectors. Bottom line: I feel that if this government were truly concerned about plastic bottles, their time would be perhaps better spent consulting with stakeholders. We see a government that ignores consulting with those particular companies that this legislation would impact directly. We do ask the other side: Try thinking of incentives. Consider education and information programs, something beyond a simple ban.
On another note, there is a long history of human beings carrying water around with them. For example, I think of skins and hollowed-out gourds. In the summertime, I always make sure I’ve got a one-gallon jug of water in the backseat of my car, in the backseat of my truck, and oftentimes on my tractor. I use this for hydration; I use this to wash my face, to wash my hands. I think it’s very, very important.
This past summer, my wife and I spent some time in the Mojave Desert, and in other deserts in western Canada. We would set out at 4 o’clock in the morning—a much more reasonable temperature—but we felt it was imperative to have two one-gallon jugs of water in the back of our car. That’s something that I have learned over the years in desert travel.
I think of the canteen, this concept of a portable means of carrying water. It’s a time-honoured tradition dating, obviously, far past military use of the metal canteen. I think of the frontier cowboy, who would use a leather or metal container, and back to, as mentioned earlier, the early use of a hollowed-out gourd to carry water. It’s very difficult for this Legislature to change some of that thousands of years of human behaviour.
We fast-forward to today and the modern canteen, exclusively made now out of plastic, polyethylene or PET, the kinds of bottles we’re discussing today, or polycarbonate, obviously much lighter than their metal equivalent—very resistant to developing leaks, for example, if they’re dropped. It brings us once again full circle, back to the plastic water bottle that this government, through its heavy hand, is looking to remove from thirsty consumers.
I make note again that if you are out hunting, for example, at this time of year when it’s very warm, you don’t carry a couple of cans of pop with you. It gets warm. You don’t want to drink warm pop, for example. Warm water is something much more palatable; hence, the plastic water bottle or any version of the canteen.
We’ve all received feedback and e-mails from the Pepsi Bottling Group, and I quote: “We are shocked and outraged that anyone would introduce a bill that places an entire sector and over 11,000 Ontario jobs at risk. We are surprised that the Legislature would consider making such a sweeping and arbitrary intervention in the marketplace, with the resulting and significant impact on jobs and investment.”
Food and Consumer Products of Canada wrote me a letter, saying: “Access to bottled water in public buildings, institutions and recreational facilities is equally important to ensuring people stay hydrated. Many communities recommend that people keep bottled water on hand in case of an emergency. PET water bottles”—the bottles we’re talking about here today, which are not made from bisphenol A, I might add—“are 100% recyclable and are recycled in Ontario single-family homes at average rates around 70%.” The numbers are “closer to 90% in some large urban” areas.
Food and Consumer Products communicated with me: “The industry has contributed millions of dollars to supporting the blue box recycling program in Ontario municipalities and it continues to invest in innovations that result in new packaging that uses fewer materials.”
Here’s a note from a group called Refreshments Canada: “When considering the energy used in the production of packaging, PET plastic bottles offer a number of benefits. PET is very light and strong, and requires only a small amount of packaging material to be used.... Recycled PET plastics retain a very high portion of the energy used to create the material in the first place. By continuing to recycle at a high rate, consumers are not only reducing the amount of materials that go to landfill, they are minimizing much of the energy used to produce new packaging.”
So, all that said, I continue to question the need for a government member to continue to chip away at removing consumer choice, and to further hamper Ontario businesses and bring in other, kind of heavy-handed McGuinty-style bans.
Instead, if they’re concerned about plastic bottles, consult with the people who manufacture them and consult with the people who are being impacted. Let’s look at improving some of this through incentives, education and information.
It’s a most interesting proposition, and I think the member for Bramalea–Gore–Malton, Kuldip Kular, is to be congratulated for bringing it to this chamber. I like him—the member, that is. I find him a very conscientious and diligent member of this chamber, and I find him to be a responsible and constructive member of this assembly. He serves the assembly well; he serves his constituents well.
Mr. Peter Kormos: Well, it addresses multiple concerns or interests. Firstly, this proposition, this weird proposition, that we find ourselves in, in 2008, of paying money for drinking water, something that you too as a kid—because you’re not that much older than I am, Speaker—would recall as well. You’d recall a day when it would be absurd to talk about buying bottled water to drink at the dinner table or during the course of the day.
The marketing of it has been phenomenal. The corporate interests have a huge stake in ensuring that people drink bottled water when in fact the biggest chunk of it is tap water that’s put through any number of processes—osmosis and so on.
I remember—I think the Toronto Sun did a bit of an exposé on how members at Queen’s Park were being coddled with mineral water in those coolers out in the hallway. They published a story with a picture of those water coolers. Little did they know that hard-working Legislative Assembly staff cart those empty containers down to the basement and they’re filled with a green rubber hose out of a tap in the basement—it’s true. Toronto happens to have very good water; I think it does. Toronto has very tasty water.
I don’t go to high-end restaurants, but I’m told by people that you go to one of those places—I don’t know, Truffles. Did I get the name right, Ms. Best? Truffles? Or Prego, or places like that. The first thing they do is put a bottle of water on your table and want you to pay $6, $7, $8 for the bottle of water. I have sympathy for the restaurateur, because it is a tough business, but it’s a huge mark-up item. I was pleased to read in the New York Times—I think it was around six months ago—that the trend in New York, of course the trendsetter, is for people to ask for tap water. You see that starting to spread here in Toronto. Waiters and waitresses—service people—like it because what that means is that the customer is probably going to spend the money on a dessert, or on a couple of extra drinks before dinner, and so their tip, if anything, is not only the same, but it’s increased.
I’m told by friends of mine—not close friends but people I know who go to high-end restaurants—that that’s starting to become a trend here. Yet at the end of the day, I’ve got to tell you, that once a week as I leave Welland on Sunday afternoon, I stop by the Celi & Presti Supermarket down at the end of Crowland Avenue. That’s the Ramundo family. They’ve been in Canada for a good number of years now. It’s great. The Ramundo family is just great. It’s probably one of the best Italian delis in Ontario, if not the best. So I stop by there and I pick up a case, a carton, eight bottles of sparkling San Benedetto, because the member doesn’t speak—for San Benedetto at Celi & Presti you’re paying around eight bucks for eight bottles. You go down to Celi & Presti in Welland, Crowland Avenue, and you’re going to get the bargain of your life when it comes to San Benedetto sparkling water.
Having said that, I acknowledge that my friends tell me if you go to Pusateri’s in Toronto, which is a high-end store, that you can get the San Benedetto in glass bottles. Now, it’s not the same price that you pay for it down at Celi & Presti on Crowland Avenue in Welland, the best Italian deli, bar none, in the province. But it is the same content.
What I’m saying is that this bill should go to committee. I heard the previous speaker and the objections, but the bill should go to committee. If the bill is about banning plastic bottles, and there is a case to be made for that, well, fine, then let’s ban plastic bottles—if there’s a case to be made for that—across the board. I think we’ve got mixed messages here, because on one part it’s designed to encourage people to drink tap water; easily enough said if you live in Toronto or Welland. If you live down in Wainfleet, along the lake shore, where the public health department, because of a dispute about a sewer line that’s going to cost those 400 or 500 homeowners $30 million to $60 million, which they cannot afford, those folks would far sooner spend money on bottled water than on paying for that sewer infrastructure, because they’re not getting any support from the province and the feds.
You go up to northern Ontario and bottled water is very important to some of those communities. You go to communities that are hit from time to time with boil-water orders, and a bottle of water is very important. So I hope that the focus of the concern is on the plastic bottle, and that the issue of commercialized water is secondary. That’s a whole different argument about the Great Lakes and access to water and so on.
I’ve got concerns about this. I think it is an interesting argument and debate. I look forward to this going to committee and having all sorts of data, and I’m sure the member, Kuldip Kular, will provide us with that.
Mr. Vic Dhillon: I rise before this House to support the principles of Bill 112. This is an ambitious bill introduced by my colleague from Brampton–Gore–Malton. I am pleased that this bill has started an important environmental dialogue in our province.
We as a province cannot take the environment for granted. As leaders, we should be encouraging citizens and businesses to recycle. Recycling should be as automatic as putting on a seat belt when we get into our cars. It should come as second nature. I will admit that I’m not the best when it comes to recycling. I do try my best and I believe that everyone else also tries their best. I believe that it’s imperative that businesses take the initiative and recycle.
Relying solely on recycling single-use water bottles does not fix the problem of pollution caused by water bottles. The energy required to recycle and remake materials from plastics is not without pollution as it consumes more energy that is largely produced from fossil fuels. It is estimated that producing bottled water creates 150 times more greenhouse gas than tap water. This is a huge figure. Not only must we reduce the waste produced in our society, but we must reduce the need for recycling, as the processing of materials itself requires significant amounts of energy.
The bottled water industry thus far claims that recycling is a sufficient activity to deal with waste produced by single-use plastic water bottles. However, there are alternatives that the industry should be encouraged to foster and develop. We need to engage in this dialogue. We need to continue to look at the alternative ways of delivering products so that they are environmentally friendlier. There are biodegradable plastics out there that would not be a complete solution to the single-use plastic water bottle; however, it would have a significant impact from a public health and environmental point of view.
Once again, I would like to thank the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton, who has brought forward this very thought-provoking bill, and I encourage continued debate both in this House and in homes and businesses across our province.
Mr. Bill Murdoch: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak on Bill 112. Right off the bat, I had a concern with this bill. It’s another bill banning something in this province, and this government has done a lot of that in the past.
I’m wondering if, over there, you will be appointing a new minister on banning. You’re going to have a lot of trouble enforcing all these new banning rules that you have, so I would think you would need a new minister to look after that. I’ll be looking forward to hearing that from the Premier when that happens.
But also this bill will have a very negative impact on my riding of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, because we’re the home to Ice River Springs, which is in Feversham and employs over 250 people. I just want to put some of the facts on record on what this bill would be liable to do.
The Canadian bottled water industry provides over 11,000 direct and indirect jobs for Ontario citizens alone. In this time, we don’t need to be losing jobs. These jobs are not only in the manufacturing industry, but also transportation, distribution, special trades and administration. Single-use bottled water supplies are important in emergencies like the 2003 blackout or an evacuation like the Sunrise Propane explosion. How would you get water into an area? If you had a problem and you needed to get water in there, and a tanker couldn’t drive in, then you could send bottled water in—these little plastic bottles of water that we have—but if you take them away, that won’t be able to happen.
There are thousands of plastic packaged products that are not being recycled properly, no doubt. Would this bill or the following bill be in place for such items as soda pop bottles, plastic shampoo bottles and coffee cups?
Bill 112 will shut down water-bottling plants, there is no doubt that’s what’s going to happen, or lay off many employees in this industry. We don’t need this in this time when we’re losing jobs all over in our industry sector.
Ontario has recently introduced an aggressive, new Be a Hero recycling campaign. In the past, similar recycling programs had funding from the Canadian bottled water industry; they’ve helped do this. Now you’re trying to take a swipe at them.
Water bottles are made out of PET plastic, which is meant to be recycled. What’s wrong with recycling? It can be used to make new water bottles or clothing—they do it with clothing and also lawn furniture.
Brand owners pay 50% of the cost of recycling in the Ontario drinking water stewardship program. I want to put that on the record. The PET plastic gathered, which includes water bottles, is sold to an active and lucrative resale market—now that market won’t be around if we pass this bill—that provides additional funds for municipal recycling programs. There is a high level of demand for this recycled PET, as it’s called, and the water bottle is the most valuable in this stream.
I wonder if the member who brought this bill in thought of putting a cost on the bottle, like 10 cents. I don’t know why we haven’t done that with cans. We do it with beer bottles. We do it with wine bottles and liquor bottles now. Why can’t there be a cost put on these bottles? Then, if you’re worried about them being all across the country or on highways and that, there would definitely be people picking them up and putting them back into a recycling program, which is what a lot of industries are built on.
I would hope that the member who brought this bill forward would maybe have thought about something like that. Rather than putting people out of business, we could create a better business. If you put a few cents—it doesn’t matter what it would be; 10 cents on a bottle—then they would be picked up by people and we wouldn’t have this problem with littering. I can’t understand why we haven’t done that a long time ago, but it hasn’t been done. I think that would be a better idea than just banning it.
I have concerns that this government likes to just ban things. We have another bill banning cellphones, and we’ve banned pit bulls; whatever else they to come to, they like to ban it. I will be looking for the announcement of the new minister banning when that takes place.
Mr. Ted Chudleigh: Small business and business in general in this province is under siege from this government. The first thing they did when they got elected some five years ago was increase their taxes. In some cases they increased taxes on small businesses by 34%. Currently, there’s a bill going through the House—the WSIB workers’ insurance bill—that will increase taxes in certain areas by $11,000 for small businesses. Those are enough dollars to send a company out of business. The private businesses in this province have been suffering through this for five years now, and they are coming to the conclusion that they have no friends in the Liberal government.
You wonder about the research this bill went through. There were no public hearings about it and no public input to it; it was just another bill that comes along and perhaps grabs a headline or something. This government’s whole method of operating is to simply grab a headline, almost regardless of the consequences.
There was some experience in the province. The city of London banned water bottles in their provincially run facilities. Over this past summer, there have been any number of exemptions. For instance, on golf courses, water bottles are needed on the carts, because they don’t have facilities there for water, and the city of London has granted exemptions for that. As far as arenas and baseball diamonds are concerned, some of them have exemptions. It’s obvious that these kinds of things don’t work when you remove or ban this type of product.
I don’t know why we would ban water, which by and large is good for you. I don’t think anyone would argue that water isn’t a very healthy thing for you to drink, and yet soda pop, which has very questionable health standards, hasn’t been banned at all.
It’s interesting that this bill comes along and bans things. It’s also a philosophical difference that the Liberals have. They want to tell you how to live your life. They want to ban things they don’t think are good for you. They don’t want you making any decisions about your own life. If there’s one thing that is philosophically different between a Conservative and a Liberal, I think that’s it. To talk about some of the bans they’ve had, the ban on cosmetic pesticides is an interesting one. They banned cosmetic pesticides, but they didn’t ban Roundup. I can tell you that the regulators who are writing the regulations around that bill are having a—
The member from Mississauga-Streetsville makes this point quite often. The Chair does listen very carefully to the speeches in this Legislature. While I appreciate your point of order, it’s made far too often and is becoming a distraction.
Mr. Ted Chudleigh: There have been over 27 bans this government has implemented in Ontario; most of them grab headlines, not doing anything to help the people of Ontario. It’s an attack on the private businesses of Ontario. Banning the ban on clothes lines—that was a great one, when you ban the ban; banning pit bulls; banning plastic bags. And banning school contracts: This government has no hesitation in placing itself in the private sector business, so when there’s a contract between a school board or any other organization and a private company, this government places itself between that contract and bans those things from happening.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Thank you. I just remind honourable members that during private members’ public business, the Chair does give some leeway to the comments because it is private members’ time.
I’m impressed with the initiative because I’m convinced most Liberals today probably will not support you, and for that reason alone it’s bold. I suspect that if they do support your bill, it will die, because it is bold as an initiative. But I, quite frankly, believe that the idea is a good one, because it seems to me the purpose is to encourage public confidence in the water that is treated by the city and supplied by municipal water systems. The objective appears to be to reduce the waste and consumption of energy associated with the production and recycling of plastic bottles by proposing a province-wide ban on the sale of single-use plastic bottles of water. In my view, that is a good thing.
We have, today, close to one fifth of the population in Canada that drinks only bottled water. That’s an astounding figure, in my mind. One fifth of the people drink only bottled water, mostly from plastic. Probably some drink out of a bottle, but most of it is plastic. We have a mass withdrawal of water which undermines the limited water supplies, diverts resources from municipal water systems, emits massive amounts of greenhouse gases, and produces vast amounts of waste, which we citizens have to pay for.
We know that municipal water systems are among the safest and strongest in the world. We know that. I believe it. Meanwhile, bottled water costs more, is less regulated, consumes more energy and releases more harmful toxins into the environment than tap water does. We know that, and we know that the industries, such as Nestlé, Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola and Danone have created an estimated $50-billion-a-year business by convincing us that bottled water is better tasting and purer than tap water, none of which we believe is true. It’s less regulated than the water that comes out of the tap, yet people somehow believe that this magic water that comes in these plastic bottles is safe, clean and regulated. While they may be tested from time to time, which could be once a year or longer, some Conservative members don’t seem to mind that kind of thing. All they talk about is whether it’s business: “If it’s business, it’s okay,” and that worries me as an argument. It does.
But citizens and governments—at least some governments—are fighting back against this environmentally dangerous privatization of public water. I really did believe a while ago, a couple of years ago, that the Liberals, who five years ago said that they would stop the reckless giveaway of Ontario’s precious water and start charging water companies for the water they take, actually were going to do something about it. This is what they’ve done: The big fee that they’re charging these water companies is one penny for 3,000 litres of water. Man, that has them shivering in their boots. One penny for 3,000 litres of water—that’s scaring business away, I’m convinced. That’s how tough you Liberals have been on these private companies that extract a precious resource from our aquifers.
One of these days in the not-so-distant future, we’re going to be fighting over water. We’re seeing a water shortage all over the world, and rather than thinking about how we protect our water, we’re talking about, “Oh, we’ve got to protect jobs or we’ve got to protect these poor companies earning billions of dollars for water as they charge tremendous amounts of money to buy a little plastic bottle of water.” We charge them one penny to extract 3,000 litres of water and they charge 600,000 times the rate at the corner store, or any corner store for that matter. And we think that’s okay.
Yes, it’s true, as the member for Welland says, we’re not talking, and this bill doesn’t speak, to the commercialization of water. I am, and that’s part of this debate. It is part of the debate. That’s why I support it going to second reading, because I think we can have that good debate if it goes through second reading. I want to tell you that only 18% of the water bottles are actually recycled—18%. Where do the rest go? In landfill sites. Do we force these corporations to deal with that particular waste? Do they pay for that recycling in any way? Do we force them to make sure that, at the source, the corporations find a way to make sure those bottles are recycled? Not one penny, not one cent.
Mr. Shafiq Qaadri: With your permission and indulgence, Speaker, I’d like to offer some arguments which I think could be termed a little more on the biological or the health side. First of all, to enter into the record the names of two or three chemicals which I think we, as a Legislature, will become more and more familiar with: One is PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, one is PTA, terephthalic acid, and one is MEG, monoethylene glycol.
Before I get into the biology in a moment, I would simply like to mention that this issue, for example, of particular chemicals that are leaching out, leaking out slow and steady, in microscopic quantities from things like plastic bottles or plastic toys or many of the other synthetic oil petroleum derivative products that we surround ourselves with, are slowly but surely being recognized as having biological effects. I hope that it will not take all of us, as a society, the same amount of time that it took, for example, to recognize and implement the changes and policies with regard to smoking or alcohol or helmets or seat belts.
Having said that, I would like to offer to this Legislature for its consideration that these types of chemicals are, first of all, being recognized of course as affecting young bodies, meaning children, meaning infants. Why is it being picked up? Why are the signals being recognized in those biological systems? Well, because small chemical amounts are able to disrupt early forming young bodies because, first of all, matters of concentration. As well, only certain amounts of chemicals are required to exert those effects.
But if we as a nation, as a society, pursue these, whether it’s plastic bottles or plastic toys or other gadgets, all sorts of things—slowly but steadily these are influencing our bodies as endocrine disrupters. The government of Canada has recognized this. For example, they have just recently moved to ban one of the chemicals that, by the way, does leach out of these exact plastic bottles known as bisphenol A. What does this chemical do? It is a stealth estrogen, a stealth, secret female hormone, extracorporeal—not extraterrestrial; that means off the planet, but extracorporeal, outside the body—hormone. These are having real biological effects, whether it’s the increase of breast cancer, early puberty in young women, decreased fertility rates in men or quite a whole host of other conditions, which is extremely important.
In America, the most recently acquired motto is, “Yes, we can,” and as part of that, of course, the litigators are now launching a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against a number of the manufacturers of these products, specifically right now to do with kids—Gerber, Playtex, Evenflo, Avent and others. I hope it will not take us as a society too long to realize that these types of plastics, some of the chemicals that I mentioned, are having real and significant biological effects and we should not wait another generation, as we have done so far, unfortunately, with things like smoking, alcohol, seat belts, helmets and so on, to recognize this and to implement it.
Mr. Khalil Ramal: I’m pleased to add to the debate on Bill 112, which was introduced by my colleague the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton, Dr. Kuldip Kular. As you know, it’s important, when we come to this place as a member, to have the right to introduce a private member’s bill. Most of the time, we debate those bills freely on both sides of the House and with no partisan ideology behind it. We openly speak about those issues, freely, and it’s important. The member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton today brought to this House a very important topic to debate—bottled water: the health aspects of it and also the pollution, recycling, diversion and many different aspects.
I want to tell you something: In my past life I was a distributor. I used to distribute bottled water, juice and many different other things. I used to distribute almost a trailer load a day, and also I used to package the bottled water. I know it is a very important argument, and today I had the chance to meet with the bottled water association, who came to Queen’s Park when they heard about the bill. They tried to talk to all the members and tell them about their initiatives and their job to protect the environment and their contribution to diversion, and also to pay some taxes on the usage of water.
As I mentioned, it’s an important debate. I know the member is a doctor, a physician. He knows the health aspect of many different things, and he spoke eloquently and presented his views. Also, I listened to the member from Etobicoke North, another doctor, who spoke about the health effects on this front. Also, the member from the NDP spoke eloquently, expressing his views and ideas about this issue.
It’s important, as I mentioned, to bring this issue forward to this House to be debated. Hopefully, this issue goes to committee and we get more ideas and more visions and more information from both sides—the people who use the bottled water, the people who produce the bottled water, and also the people who think that it shouldn’t be banned from being used in the marketplace.
As I mentioned to you, I used to distribute those products. But water is not the only substance in those plastic bottles. There’s juice, there’s pop, and many different elements being bottled these days to be shipped from place to place. I’m not sure if my colleague is inquiring, is requesting, to also ban all plastic bottles, including the juice we buy from the market from time to time, which is bottled in plastic bottles. Also, as he mentioned, in many different areas like the north and many contaminated areas where they cannot use tap water for some reason—their water is polluted. As we know, not a long time ago everybody experienced the tragedy in Walkerton, where we saw the water was full of E. coli and many people died. Many Ontarians had to ship water to Walkerton. Also, the tragedy in New Orleans: In New Orleans, many people from Ontario and from Canada volunteered and gathered many bottles to ship to New Orleans to support the people there.
I’m an expert in that field. As I mentioned to you, I used to sell that stuff by the container, by the trailer, on a daily basis. Now we hear, from time to time, doctors and journalists speaking about the effect of those bottles when we use them. I don’t know; I’m not an expert in that field. I’m just here to participate in the debate and to express my views.
Before we pass this as a law, with rules and regulations, we should exhaust all efforts to know more information about it. I think it is worth going to committee to listen to the stakeholders, the users and the people who claim this is dangerous to people’s health.
In the end, it’s a good exercise. My colleague, Dr. Kuldip Kular, is an able person who represents his constituency very well. He is expressing his ideas and exercising his right today in this House. I wish him all the luck and success, and I’m looking forward to hearing more debate on this issue.
Mr. Kuldip Kular: I want to thank all the members who spoke on this bill: the members from Haldimand–Norfolk, Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, Welland, Trinity–Spadina, London–Fanshawe, Etobicoke North, and my own city colleague from Brampton West.
If passed, this bill will force industry to change a convenient business practice, but the decision to lay off employees and close a plant rather than refurbish the plant to produce multiple juice bottles or bottles that offer more than one serving of water is one for the industry to make.
The objective of this bill is not to punish industry or workers, nor to eliminate the water bottling industry, but to end an unnecessary and wasteful business practice that negatively impacts all Ontarians in the long run. Whether it’s our environment, our public health or our energy, it costs us a lot more, and that’s why I have put this bill before the legislators at Queen’s Park so that they can support this bill. I think, in the end, that this province will definitely have a healthier environment and healthier people, and people will not have to spend so much money, having municipal water systems that already supply healthier water from their own taps.
Bill 109, An Act to provide a tax credit for the purchase of equipment or devices for persons with disabilities / Projet de loi 109, Loi prévoyant un crédit d’impôt pour l’achat d’appareils ou de dispositifs pour les personnes handicapées.
Mr. Bill Murdoch: As you know, our times come up for private members’ bills; I actually thought of this one back when I was out campaigning for the election about a year ago. I went to one home in our area and met some parents and their daughter, who actually lived in this place, and they asked me what our policy was on people with disabilities.
At that point, a little book that shows you what we’re supposed to say mentioned that information was still coming. It was about halfway through the election, so I was a little concerned that we didn’t have a lot of policy on that. I did know, though, that we did believe that people on disability do not get enough to have a proper life. There’s no way that the little bit of money that they get from the province and the feds is good enough. People with disabilities didn’t ask for the disabilities; these things happen sometimes, sometimes they’re born that way, whatever. So I thought about this.
Then this couple mentioned to me that their daughter needed orthopaedic shoes, and they’re really expensive. She definitely would have had a hard time walking. They bought these shoes for her, but being that she didn’t live at home, there was no way—there didn’t seem to be any agency or any group that could help. They were concerned that maybe we should have something like that. You know, at least we should allow them to claim on their income tax the money they spent to help someone out. It’s just a simple thing. It’s not a hard, big, long bill with a lot of explanations; it’s just that if you know somebody who has a disability—either related or not related; it doesn’t even have to be related—and you want to help them out and buy the device or something that will make their life better, at least there should be some way of recognizing that. I thought, well, why couldn’t you just claim at least up to $4,000 on your income tax? It’s very simple.
That’s why I brought this bill forward today, so that this House can debate it for second reading, vote on it and hopefully pass it. I really can’t see anybody who would be against something like this, because I know everybody who sits in this House wants to help people with disabilities if they can. This is just a small way of doing that.
The bill got some news coverage, and some information was sent out across Ontario, and we’ve had a lot of people who have sent letters and support for the bill. Michael David, director of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, says:
“This bill will provide every Ontarian with a disability with additional significant savings in their purchase of equipment or devices, and in some cases, give them the ability to actually purchase the device instead of forgoing it because of financial need. This bill will save money for families, seniors and individuals.”
And it will. A lot of times people in Ontario just can’t afford the devices they need, for whatever disability they have, to make their lives much better and to live as normal a life as they can. There are a lot of agencies that do help out, and we’ve got to appreciate them, but it’s sometimes the paperwork or just getting through to an agency to ask them for help. They have many people asking them for help. Sometimes that’s just onerous on a person or families, and it doesn’t happen. In this case, at least they could claim it on their income tax.
As I say, we had many other agencies, such as the March of Dimes—and Janet Macmaster and Judy Williams are here from the March of Dimes. We appreciate your being here today listening to this debate. As I say, I hope that all parties in this House will support it.
William Adair, executive director of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Ontario, is also writing to say in regard to Bill 109 that he thinks this is a good bill and would support it. He goes on to say, “specifically to ask that Ontario allow our citizens with disabilities to take advantage of this opportunity, to alleviate the barriers of undue hardship.” That’s what I mentioned. Sometimes the barriers are there, but people just can’t get the help that they need. If somebody has a friend and they want to help them, as I say, this would enable that friend to claim up to $4,000 on their income tax if they help somebody with a device that makes their life much better.
I have a letter from Penny. She’s an adult who is deaf and blind, living in Ottawa: “Technology moves at such a rapid pace that keeping up with it is a challenge.” So for her to buy other devices to help her out—it’s important that she’s able to do this. If somebody helps her or her family can help her, then again, they can use this as a way of helping them out and being able to claim it. She goes on to say how this would really help her in her situation.
As I say, many other agencies have written to us. Michelle Gold, senior director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, is another one who has written to us. It doesn’t give us time to read all the letter fully here, but: “This letter is in support of Bill 109.... The Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario division, is a provincial association that is committed to improving services and supports for individuals with mental illness and their families, and to the promotion of mental health in Ontario.” They go on to say, “Bill 109 would increase an individual’s access to assistive devices needed to carry out the usual activities of daily living, which in turn supports their mental health.”
We also received many e-mails from people who work in the accessibility coordination field, helping people get equipment they need to function, like Jeanette in Kingston: “As both a person with a disability and someone who works towards improving accessibility for persons with disabilities, I know intimately the many struggles that folks like myself face in navigating an environment designed without due consideration of our needs.
“The ability to transcend some of these significant barriers often depends on access to equipment and technology. I know, for example, that my life has been nearly transformed since I got my cochlear implant in 2004. On a very basic level it afforded me considerable independence and success in almost every area of my life, but especially in my professional life and as a mother.”
Here’s another one: “I support your private member’s Bill 109. I myself am hearing impaired and have been waiting to be able to buy hearing aids, and passage of your bill would go a long way in helping me and likely hundreds of others in doing so. Good luck.”
I also have signed support from staff and volunteers from the following organizations based out of London and surrounding area. I know the good members who live in London will be glad to hear that these people also support this bill: the community care access centre; Victorian Order of Nurses; Community Living London, Hutton House, London; autism dog trainers; Regional Support Associates; Thames Valley Children’s Centre; and the Epilepsy Support Centre of London. I also mentioned that the March of Dimes are here to support this bill.
Hopefully, everyone else in the House can throw their support behind it and we can get on with this bill, moving forward, so that in the future, in the new year, people will be able to claim it on their income taxes. It’s a simple little amount that would help people out in their way and make their lives that much better. I appeal to everyone here today to support this bill so we can move it along through this House.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Before I ask for further debate, I just want to explain the rotation this afternoon. Normally, in a regular Parliament that had room, the independent member would sit between the third party and the government. Because of the rump, we’re unable to do that, so the Speaker, after the independent member speaks, looks to the government side to speak next in the rotation.
Mr. Bob Delaney: It is a pleasure to follow the address by my colleague from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound. I do have to say from the very outset that I support the bill. The member is on to a good idea here. Frankly, I think he might be a little ahead of his former party. In fact, if his former party had listened to him and maybe worked with this issue instead of the one that they did bring to the last election, things might be a little bit different in the House today—but that’s just water under the bridge.
Let’s talk about some of the people who from this proposed measure, whether it passes in this or another format—because this is private members’ time and the member has proposed a private member’s bill, and what we’ve seen here, even this fall, have been two examples of issues that were first brought up as private members’ bills. The member for Durham brought up more than once his proposal for a cell phone ban, which is now a government bill, and he has been suitably recognized for his contribution. The member for Sault Ste. Marie brought up his idea on the apology, which is in fact now passed as the Apology Act. So whether it be this private member’s bill or whether the measures proposed by the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound resurface in a different way, I thank him for bringing this measure to the House.
Some of the people who are likely to benefit most from the type of things that he’s proposed are people very much like us who stand here today, members of the baby boom generation born between the years 1946 and 1966. We would now be between the ages of 42 on the young side and 62 on the elder side. It is often said that, especially among men, everything you truly value about your body in time thins out, wears out, spreads out or falls out.
As this enormous baby boom demographic moves from middle age into old age, we will all increasingly need assistive devices. The member, somewhat inaccurately, refers to the province of Ontario’s support for assistive devices as a pittance. Just to ensure that we put this in its proper perspective, Ontario has what is called the assistive devices program. It covers some 8,000 separate pieces of equipment and supplies, and it pays—now get this—up to 75% of the price for most devices. So let’s just repeat that just to make sure everybody grasps it: Ontario’s assistive devices program can pay you up to 75% of the price for most devices. Now you say, “So what kind of devices are we talking about here?” Prosthetic devices, wheelchairs, mobility aids, specialized seating systems, feeding supplies, monitors, test strips for insulin-dependent diabetics, insulin pumps, supplies for children, hearing aids, respiratory equipment, braces, garments, pumps, visual and communication aids, oxygen and oxygen delivery equipment such as concentrators, cylinder, liquid systems and related supplies—the list is a very extensive one. I won’t read all 8,000 items on it.
I’m going to leave time for some of my colleagues to discuss this measure. As I said before, I think most of us are very much in support of what the member is trying to do with his private member’s bill. We’re glad to see it brought to the floor. It’s very much congruent with the direction the government is headed in, and I thank you for the time to stand up and discuss it.
Ms. Sylvia Jones: I’m pleased to rise on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus, and as the community and social services critic for our caucus, to talk on Bill 109. I would like to acknowledge the work and the background that the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound put into this bill. I think it has some great ideas, great suggestions, and I would like to talk about some of the specifics on it.
The bill, of course, amends the Taxation Act to provide a credit to individuals who purchase equipment or devices designed for persons with disabilities for use by the individual—and this part is important—or by a member of his or her family. I think the reality is that there are many family members who would be more than willing to participate in the purchase of assistive devices that aren’t covered by the assistive devices program if they had the additional incentive of the tax credit. That’s a good move forward on the part of the member.
There are, of course, many organizations in Ontario that would support such a move. I think, right off the top of my head, of the CNIB, the MS Society and Autism Ontario—the list goes on. The reality is that every day there are new programs and new devices that can make the lives of people across Ontario with a disability easier, and anything we, as legislators, can do to encourage that innovation and ultimately encourage the use is a good thing. So I’m pleased to support it.
You know, when we go back to our constituency offices we all talk. We often hear of family members and individuals who have gone through the assistive devices program, and we all know full well that many devices and many individuals are not fully covered for this program. So this is a good move by the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, and I applaud him for that.
I think of a mother I had come in. Her son went through the school system and was given a special computer that he was using in his classroom to assist him and to allow him to be included in the regular stream of the school. The sad part of the story was that the computer was not allowed to go home. So if the child had any homework, or if the child had any kind of initiative where he wanted to do some additional work at home, he didn’t have the specialized computer to use.
The mother said she would look at purchasing it, if there were some kind of support. I think that Bill 109 is a perfect example of something that maybe would be the tipping point to allow her to purchase that computer to match what she had been able to get through the school system.
I guess we could get into a bit of a discussion about why the computer wasn’t able to be transferred home to allow him to do homework, but we won’t get into that at this point; we’re talking about Bill 109.
Of course, on December 11, I am bringing forward a private member’s bill that I trust everyone will be debating and supporting: Bill 94, the Social Assistance Statute Law Amendment Act. It would allow Ontario residents to set up a registered disability savings plan and not have that additional money clawed back through ODSP. I look forward to debating that bill on December 11, and I trust that the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound will be back to support me on Bill 94.
In closing, I think it’s a great idea. I would like to acknowledge the work he has put into it. I hope we get an opportunity to debate the bill further, because it has a lot of benefits that I can see in both my riding of Dufferin–Caledon and, of course, across Ontario.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I’m happy to speak to the bill presented by the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound. I think it’s a good bill. A tax credit for equipment or devices up to $4,000 is a good thing, and it speaks to the inadequacy of income supports for people with disabilities in Ontario. That’s what it speaks to. It’s an admission that people with disabilities have ongoing problems as it relates to their ability to live well and adequately, and to be able to pay for things that they need. That’s what this bill is all about.
I appreciate the brief history that the member for Dufferin–Caledon provided about the good things that Mike Harris did. It was a good reminder that Mike Harris left us a very interesting and important legacy. So I found it useful, just as a reminder.
A single Ontario disability support plan recipient has to live and survive on $1,000 per month. That is money that puts them below the poverty line. While $1,000 seems like a lot of money, it’s not a lot. It’s not a lot for anyone. While it is true that the federal government provides a disability tax credit, which provides relief for extra everyday expenses incurred by persons with disabilities who suffer severe and prolonged mental or physical impairment, while that is helpful, people with disabilities still find themselves in very difficult positions.
While it is true that we have an assistive devices program, as the member for Mississauga–Streetsville was talking about, and, yes, it helps residents with long-term physical disabilities to access personalized assistive devices appropriate to their needs, while that is true and while that is good, it is inadequate in terms of what it doesn’t do for people with disabilities. While it is true that it provides up to 75% of the cost for equipment such as artificial limbs, as the member was talking about, orthopaedic braces, wheelchairs, breathing aids and other things—it only provides for up to 75% of the cost, which means they have to pay for the extra cost on their own. When we’re talking about hearing aids, which the assistive devices program supports to pay for, it only provides for 50% of the cost. We know there are more and more people in our society who are having difficulties in hearing, me included. I’m not there yet in terms of needing the device but there are more and more people who need this device, my brother being one. It’s very costly. The government pays $500 for these devices; I know that my brother had to pay $2,000 to get it, and some may be more. That means people on ODSP, the Ontario disability support plan, have to pay that extra cost for that device.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: If you’re on ODSP. The point is, if you’re not on ODSP and you are low income and need that device, the assistive devices program pays for 50%—that’s about it. So there are a lot of people who need the additional support and they’re not getting it.
The point of this bill is, how do we help people who have a disability to get a little more support so that their needs are looked after? It speaks to obligations of governments; it speaks to our desire to help people who are in need. It speaks to a collective spirit, doesn’t it, Bill, of helping each other? That’s why Bill is independent. We want to have a collective, communal sense of what we owe to each other; isn’t that it? It’s part of that spirit that Bill embodies, and it may not be true of all Conservative members but it is true of Bill. That’s why I want to support him in this initiative, because it’s about looking after those whose needs are different than ours, who are unable to pay for the things that they need to be able to live happily and adequately. It’s for that reason that I, for one, as a New Democrat, will be supporting it. I know my colleague from Welland will be speaking to this as well, and he’ll share his ideas in a few moments.
Mr. Khalil Ramal: First of all, I congratulate the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound for bringing such an important bill before us in the House to be debated today. It’s a very important subject, a subject that’s important to be discussed and to be supported. I know the member, who called himself the leader of the independent party or the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, he told me the other day—I want to congratulate him.
We talked many different times about different issues. I know of his passion about supporting disabled people in Ontario, and I know his daughter is very active in London in supporting people with disabilities on many different fronts. We meet with her pretty often. She comes to our office, and we discuss many different issues. It seems like the whole house, from the father to the children, established some kind of passion for people with disabilities, which explains why he had been expelled and banned from the Conservative Party—because he has a conscience about disabilities.
He talked about support for people with disabilities. I think it’s very important. I was listening to the member from the third party, Mr. Marchese, speaking about the need and obligation to support people with disabilities, because we as a government, as a community, as a society, are obligated to support the people who live among us, and for some reason have some kind of disability.
So our government, of course, invests a lot on this front. We support more than 8,000 pieces of equipment and assistive devices programs. I believe our investments are important, but we are still far from establishing our need and our goal, which is to support every person with a disability across the province with whatever they need, because, as I mentioned, we are obligated to do so.
My colleague the member from Mississauga–Streetsville spoke eloquently about the details and the elements and how many pieces of equipment we support—up to 75%—especially with the people on ODSP and also some people who need it badly.
I think it’s an important initiative and it’s worth it to discuss and to debate. I commend the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound for bringing this issue forward, and I hope this initiative will see the light and go to committee, and the committee will debate more, and we’ll see how we can establish it and how we can make it a law and benefit all the people with disabilities across the province of Ontario.
I said it many different times. I had the chance, in my past life, to work with people with mental disabilities and intellectual and developmental disabilities, and also to work with people with physical disabilities. I know how many challenges they face on a daily basis. I think some kind of support—tax relief—would be important to give them the ability to survive; especially if they are on a low income, they don’t have much money to spare in order to buy certain equipment. And as we all know, that technical equipment is very expensive. Some of it is between $1,000 to $10,000 for one piece of equipment.
Ms. Laurie Scott: I’m pleased to have the opportunity to add some comments on the legislation before us today, Bill 109, An Act to provide a tax credit for the purchase of equipment or devices for persons with disabilities. This is certainly an example of something that we can offer to those who require specific devices in order to live active lives and hopefully to stay in their own homes as long as possible.
I am also pleased to follow up on the comments from my colleague from Dufferin–Caledon, whose commitment and dedication to her role as critic of the Ministry of Community and Social Services has been nothing short of top-notch. I thank her for her input on this bill and the work that she does in criticizing—and there’s a lot to criticize these days—the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
She brought forward Bill 94, with respect to social assistance amendments. I appreciate her work on that front, and I know that that’s coming up soon in November, so it’s advance warning to members on the opposite side that they might think they should be supporting Bill 94, registered disability savings plans, because that certainly helps those with disabilities.
The other bills that were brought forward, which the Progressive Conservative Party has attempted to introduce in this Legislature, that would help persons with disabilities were mentioned: The Homestead Act, 2007, the Blind Persons’ Rights Amendment Act, the Property Tax Deferral Act and the Social Assistance Statue Law Amendment Act. I say that especially for my colleague from London–Fanshawe, who seems to think that we do not have a good record of giving a hand to people who need a hand.
I also want to remind him that it was his government in 2004—Minister Sorbara’s budget—when the Liberals cancelled the RST, or the provincial sales tax rebate, on motor vehicles purchased for a person with a permanent physical disability, which was a maximum of $2,400 for vans and $1,600 for cars. That was cancelled. I get lots of calls in my office on that. I just want to remind the members opposite that we can do more for people with disabilities; this is what this bill that we’re discussing this afternoon is about.
I want to focus on another particular aspect that this bill would address. I’ve spoken on the proposed legislation from the member from Beaches–East York, and even the member from Pickering–Scarborough East has brought forward a bill about visual fire alarms to help Ontarians who have hearing challenges. Certainly, that concerns and deals with people such as seniors and those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing in all of our communities. We know that sound alarms are inadequate for these people. What would be more effective is providing them with strobe alarms, visual alarms or similar devices in order to be alerted to the dangers that may occur in an emergency situation. This is where Bill 109 makes good sense, as these are certainly costly pieces of equipment, especially when you consider the fact that these devices need to be on each floor in numerous areas of a home. I’ve certainly had the opportunity to speak many times to Maggie Doherty-Gilbert, who represents the Canadian Hearing Society in the area that I represent of Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock, but also in the Peterborough area and part of Durham, and she does a fantastic job in that.
She’s been working closely with the Durham Deaf Accessibility Committee and she’s met with many MPPs, besides myself. In May, she came to see me again and she brought an individual named Rusty, who is a senior and who is deaf. Rusty and Maggie both indicated the level of fear experienced by those who can’t hear, with respect to their safety. They also fear the fact that they can’t afford the fire alarms. When the fire department comes, they could get charged. Rusty was very scared that he was going to get charged by the fire department for not having a smoke alarm in his house.
Statistics show that as many as 40% of the seniors in our community are either deaf or hard-of-hearing. They can’t hear fire alarms, sirens from emergency vehicles or even the door when the neighbours knock and say, “There’s a safety concern. Please come out of your house.” To most of those people, an audible fire alarm isn’t sufficient to make them aware of the potential danger that they may be faced with. Strobe alarms are what’s needed in these cases. As I said, we spoke several times in the Legislature about the need for strobe smoke alarms to be installed and the help that people do need with installing them. It’s not just the alarm; they have to have them wired in properly and they have to be on different floors in different rooms. It can go up to over $1,000 quite easily.
As legislators, we are certainly all given the responsibility of working to provide seniors and people with disabilities with the dignity and independence of staying in their homes. That is partially addressed, certainly, in this bill that has been brought forward this afternoon. I know that the member from Mississauga–Streetsville brought forward the fact that there are 8,000 separate pieces of equipment or supplies that are covered. I say, there’s another assistive device that should be covered, and that’s certainly been brought up. As I said, the Canadian Hearing Society have been strong advocates, and they’ve brought that to us several times. The private member’s bill—this is the third time, I think, I’m discussing the assistive device program with respect to strobe lighting. We’re trying to help the government. It would be a good thing for the government to do.
I want to congratulate the member from Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound on the fact that he’s bringing this forward, this tax credit bill that could help people who need the assistance that’s not being covered now. I think it’s a really tangible bill. We can go to committee, we can discuss it, and I’m sure the Canadian Hearing Society would certainly be there.
Ms. Laurie Scott: Well, the government says it’s motherhood. It is a good idea. They’ve got the power and they can bring it to committee and they can pass it in legislation. So bring it on; we’ll certainly support it.
Mr. Peter Kormos: Thank you kindly, Speaker. The member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, Bill Murdoch, has produced a bill that is obviously supportable by every member of this Legislature and represents good policy. It reveals a sensitivity to the difficulties faced by persons with disabilities here in the province of Ontario. I applaud Mr. Murdoch for this legislation and I appreciate the chance to speak to it here, along with my colleague from Trinity–Spadina, Rosario Marchese.
The bill is going to pass; I’m convinced of that. Mr. Murdoch is going to stand up when the bill passes and ask for it to be referred to a committee, and I’m sure that this assembly is going to agree to that.
However, what happens then? What happens to private members’ bills when they are referred to committee but find themselves—that is to say, the bills—constantly blocked by government business? If a bill sort of rises to the surface because of the completion of government business in that committee, the government will then refer bills that don’t belong in that committee to that committee.
So my fear, Mr. Murdoch, is that notwithstanding that the Liberals are going to stand up in here and applaud this bill, and they’re going to applaud you—where were they when you needed them?—I am fearful that the bill could be sent off into legislative orbit, that the bill could disappear in Stephen Hawking’s black hole.
I despair about that. I find it a very problematic thing, especially from a government that just recently forced through amendments to the standing orders that included, oh, such fluffy, warm and fuzzy things as co-sponsoring bills. Oh, co-sponsored bills, my foot. You can co-sponsor bills until the cows come home. If you stand up here and you talk about it being a good bill, then make sure it gets dealt with in committee, referred back to this House, and called to third reading.
You see, a private member’s bill is really no longer the member’s bill once it has been referred back to the House by a committee on second reading, because only the government can call it. The private member, Mr. Murdoch, has no power, no authority whatsoever, to use any time that he might have available to him to call the bill for third reading. Let me make another observation: In this government, things don’t happen unless the Premier’s office wants them to happen.
And let me say this. One of the things that I would want to see addressed in committee is to ensure that the range of devices for which there will be tax credits is a wide range, because the types of devices that are used by folks—I mean, every day there are new observations, new developments, new technology.
One of the things that we encounter—at least I do, down where I come from—is the need for seniors to have retrofitting in their homes, everything from the handrails in the bathroom to perhaps different-height toilets to accommodate them; handles on the sink taps, because arthritic hands—you don’t have to be real old to have a problem opening and closing those faucets that don’t have adequate handles.
Mr. Peter Kormos: The various elevators and other devices that use stairways to ascend to the second floor; the installation of a bathroom on the first floor, a small lavatory and water closet on the first floor—
Mr. Peter Kormos: Some members want to treat this stuff frivolously; I treat it very seriously, because we deal with folks who suffer because of their inability to finance these sorts of things themselves.
We talk a big game about accessibility, but when we’re put to the test by Mr. Murdoch, as he does with Bill 109, we fail those very folks we talk a big game about. You can’t just talk about accessibility; you’ve got to make it happen. This bill, among other things, guarantees accessibility in the most sacred of places—in someone’s own home. This bill can be used to ensure that people, as they age and become seniors and older and older, live in their own homes longer and longer. What a delightful thing to do, and quite frankly, what a pragmatic thing to do, because it saves the taxpayer a whole lot of money at the end of the day.
I applaud Mr. Murdoch, the unbeatable Mr. Murdoch. There’s a story going around that Mr. Murdoch offered to give up his seat for John Tory to run. The only condition was that Bill Murdoch was going to run, as well, as an independent. John Tory didn’t take him up on the offer, because I have no doubt that Bill Murdoch would beat John Tory up in Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound in a New York minute, standing on his head with one arm tied behind his back.
If you ever go up there, folks—and I encourage you; it’s a really beautiful part of the province—if you want to get a smile out of somebody, an acknowledgement that you’re an insider, just say you know Billy Murdoch, because there’s nobody up there who doesn’t know him and doesn’t like him, and it appears there’s nobody up there who doesn’t vote for him.
Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn: It’s a pleasure to join the debate today. I’ll say right from the outset that I think this is a bill that should be supported by all members of this House, and I think it’s one that really shows the sort of innovative thinking that we need in this province.
We look back to our forefathers, those people who decided that perhaps we should have a medical system that was different from the rest of the world and that if you got sick, we would look after you; if you got sick you didn’t go to the bank first, you went to the hospital or you went to the doctor. The people who came before us, like Tommy Douglas, Pearson and J.S. Woodsworth, put into place a health care system that we should be proud of.
Since that date, we’ve had debates, we’ve talked to all aspects of this, and one challenge has always been the affordability. How do we match that expectation from a health care perspective with affordability from a taxpayer perspective? I think the type of innovative thinking that’s being shown today by the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound is something that’s worthy of consideration and should move forward.
A previous speaker talked about private members’ bills that don’t make it. Sometimes we should focus on the positive, and that’s those private members’ bills that do make it. You think of the member for Brant, for example, who brought forward a terrific private member’s bill that dealt with allergies, anaphylaxis, and that became government policy; Firefighters’ Memorial Day, for example, the same member from Brant. You look at the member for Sault Ste. Marie, who brought forward the Apology Act and something that prohibited smoking in cars with children. You look at the member for Willowdale, who brought forward some excellent legislation on boating. So it really proves that private members’ bills can change things if they have substance behind them, and obviously, if they get the support of this House. I think this government has shown the willingness to include that. Mr. O’Toole just had some success the other day with cellphones.
The last time I checked, Mr. O’Toole was not a Liberal and didn’t plan on becoming one. The last time I checked, the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound wasn’t a Conservative either. So we’ve got some people moving around here.
If you see a bill like this that comes forward, a private member’s bill that has the support of such organizations as the March of Dimes and the Canadian Paraplegic Association, regardless of the party membership of the member who has brought it forward—he’s probably the most private member in this House right now. He certainly should have a private member’s bill attached to his name. This is one that is worthy of support. This is one that I think is going to find support among service clubs, community initiatives, people who want to help out their neighbours, people who want to help out their friends, families and people in the community who perhaps need some help. This, to me, seems to be an extra incentive that would allow somebody to perhaps put their hand in their wallet, make a donation, make some sort of a charitable initiative that would allow somebody to have a much better life. It’s that simple.
I think there’s been a change in the way that society is looking and thinking about disabilities. This type of innovative thinking brought forward by the member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound is an example to us all of the type of thinking we should be undertaking as we look for new ways to make our health care system the best in the world, but also affordable and efficient. This is right in line with this.
First, I’m going to start off with the member for Mississauga–Streetsville. If you took out of my earlier remarks that it was just a pittance that we pay, I’m sorry, because that’s not what I meant. I do understand that we have many programs within the government that help people out. Sometimes it’s hard to get through the red tape, and that’s what I was talking about. I know you did mention only up to 75%. That’s why part of this bill, though, will help out because if they got that much, then someone else could help them with the rest and it would top it up and they would be able to claim it. So that’s the reasoning behind this bill.
Also, I’d like to mention that all three governments since I’ve been here have supported things like this, so it’s not that one government can take claim on helping out people with disabilities. I believe all three parties have done that. I have had the privilege of sitting with all three parties, so I just wanted to mention that also.
We also had the members for Dufferin–Caledon, Trinity–Spadina, London–Fanshawe, Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock, Welland and Oakville. All those members spoke in favour of this bill. I was contemplating here that maybe, since we all support it, we could have gone for third reading and forgotten about going to committee, but that may not happen. So when we get to which committee, we’ll certainly work hard and I will be here to remind you that everyone supported it. If it doesn’t come to a committee, I’ll be here to remind you that it’s not coming along. We hope this bill does get passed in the near future.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): We will first deal with ballot item number 52, standing in the name of Mrs. Mangat. Mrs. Mangat has moved second reading of Bill 113, An Act to proclaim the month of November Diabetes Awareness Month in Ontario. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): We’ll now deal with ballot item number 53, standing in the name of Mr. Kular. Mr. Kular has moved second reading of Bill 112, An Act to prohibit the sale of single-use plastic bottles of water in Ontario. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard some nos.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): We will now deal with ballot item number 54, standing in the name of Mr. Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch has moved second reading of Bill 109, An Act to provide a tax credit for the purchase of equipment or devices for persons with disabilities. Is it the pleasure of the House that motion carry? Carried.
Mr. Bill Murdoch: It seems that way. I don’t know whether I have any time to talk to the whip over there, who seems to be wanting to put this into another committee. That’s why we talked around here—I would have even liked to ask for third reading, but I didn’t because I thought we would pick a committee that had lots of time.
Mr. Bill Murdoch: You’re saying the general government would work. I’ve seen that happen before, and we sat here for three weeks. I guess if that’s where we’re going to have to put it—you’re going to out-vote us anyway, so—
Mr. Peter Kormos: On a point of order, please, Speaker: unanimous consent, notwithstanding the vote and the Speaker’s referral, as a result of the vote, to committee of the whole, to allow this bill to go to the social policy committee.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): We’ll deal with ballot item number 53, standing in the name of Mr. Kular. Mr. Kular has moved second reading of Bill 112, An Act to prohibit the sale of single-use plastic bottles of water in Ontario. All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remained standing.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: On a point of order: The Speaker will be aware that this morning, or sometime today, we had a debate on a closure motion on Bill 119, the bill that inflicts upon all small businesses in Ontario an extra $11,000 charge per year for compensation.
The challenge is that that closure motion had a number of items in it that were to occur, and the times when they were to occur. One of the things that was to occur was a subcommittee meeting to discuss the procedure of how we would get to the hearings process and get the bill back into the House in record time.
The challenge, of course, is that a subcommittee meeting was held with the absence of one of the parties in this Legislature. I have here a page from the manual for the committee on social policy. It says: “That subcommittee on committee business be appointed to meet from time to time, at the call of the Chair or on the request of any member thereof, to consider and report to the committee on the business of the committee, and that the subcommittee be composed of the following members—the committee Chair,” and then the three, “and that the presence of all the members of the subcommittee is necessary to constitute a meeting.”
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): Order. I’d say to the member from Oxford that Speakers have consistently ruled that matters arising from the committee should be dealt with in the committee. They are not matters for the House unless the committee reports those matters formally to the House. So I rule it is not a point of order.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: My question is not about the subcommittee or the committee. My question is about the rules that were passed today, in record time from the House, telling the committee what to do, and the House’s rules are not being followed. That’s the challenge we’re facing here—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Jim Wilson): I apologize to the member, but it is still a matter regarding committees. It should be dealt with at committee. It’s not a matter for the House or the Speaker at this time.