LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 4 March 2010 Jeudi 4 mars 2010
Resuming the debate adjourned on March 3, 2010, on the motion for second reading of Bill 231, An Act to amend the Election Act and the Election Finances Act / Projet de loi 231, Loi modifiant la Loi électorale et la Loi sur le financement des élections.
Resuming the debate adjourned on February 24, 2010, on the motion for second reading of Bill 235, An Act to enact the Energy Consumer Protection Act, 2010 and to amend other Acts / Projet de loi 235, Loi édictant la Loi de 2010 sur la protection des consommateurs d’énergie et modifiant d’autres lois.
Resuming the debate adjourned on March 2, 2010, on the motion for second reading of Bill 242, An Act to amend the Education Act and certain other Acts in relation to early childhood educators, junior kindergarten and kindergarten, extended day programs and certain other matters / Projet de loi 242, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l’éducation et d’autres lois en ce qui concerne les éducateurs de la petite enfance, la maternelle et le jardin d’enfants, les programmes de jour prolongé et d’autres questions.
On February 23, 2010, Ms. Dombrowsky moved second reading of Bill 242, An Act to amend the Education Act and certain other Acts in relation to early childhood educators, junior kindergarten and kindergarten, extended day programs and certain other matters. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
Mr. Bob Delaney: It’s my distinct pleasure to welcome some very special guests to the House this morning—making their first visit, I might add. I’d like members to join me in welcoming Pandit Roopnauth Sharma, the spiritual leader of the 3,000 families comprising the Mississauga Ram Mandir, who is accompanied by Jay Patel from Zimbabwe and my constituency assistant, Humaira Hamayun. Welcome.
Hon. Leona Dombrowsky: I’m delighted to welcome to the assembly today the parents of the page from my riding, Brady Parcels. We have with us Erin Ivey, Ryan McNaught and Gary Parcels, and they are in the members’ gallery. Welcome.
Mrs. Donna H. Cansfield: It’s my pleasure to announce that Scarlett Heights entrepreneurial school is touring the Legislature this morning and will be joining us at 11 a.m. to see how this House works.
Mr. Tony Ruprecht: I’m delighted to introduce to the Legislature a group of people from the Canadian Intercultural Dialogue Centre, who are here today to present each MPP with a nutritious, delicious pudding called Noah’s Pudding. All those members who do not have an office here in the Legislature, please come by my office to pick them up. They’re here, and I’m delighted to see them. Congratulations.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): On behalf of page Arusa Mithani and the member from Mississauga–Brampton South we’d like to welcome her mother, Nadia Mithani, and her father, Amin Mithani, sitting in the public galleries. Welcome to Queen’s Park.
Mr. Bas Balkissoon: It is my pleasure to welcome the grade 10 civics class from Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute in my riding of Scarborough–Rouge River, who are going to be visiting with us shortly in the gallery.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: My question is for the Premier. This is the last day before you prorogue the House. There are only a few hours left for the McGuinty Liberals to accomplish the priorities that were set out in the 2007 throne speech before they promise new ones on Monday. On page 4 of your last throne speech, you said you would require the school funding formula to be reviewed by 2010. But like so many other throne speech promises, you did not do what you said. What makes you think that Ontario families will trust you to act on your new promises?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I just want to confirm to the good people of Ontario and the members of this Legislature that we will, in fact, be proroguing in a few hours. It may be the shortest prorogation in the history of the province. We will complete work today, and we will start afresh on Monday with a speech from the throne delivered by the Lieutenant Governor. We’re proud to be so brief, so succinct and so determined not to interfere with what’s going on in this Legislature—we’re very proud of that—on behalf of the people of Ontario.
My honourable colleague is very much aware of the successes that we have enjoyed with respect to the 2007 throne speech and the achievements that flowed from that. One of those—I know she is very interested in education—is full-day learning for four- and five-year-olds, the first program of its kind in North America. It starts in September in 600 schools for some 35,000 children.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: Premier, we’ve heard this week about countless promises that were in your 2007 throne speech that have been broken. It’s obvious that Ontario families cannot count on you to do what you say you will do.
The funding model was developed in 1997, a time when student needs and demographics were very different. While enrolment has generally declined, it has exploded in areas like Peel, forcing some boards to choose between a guidance counsellor or a librarian or none at all, and that doesn’t even take into consideration the desperate needs of the increased number of children with learning disabilities and special needs.
I would remind my honourable colleague about some of the progress we have made working together when it comes to education. We have gone from an era of stress and labour strife to peace, stability and continuing progress—that’s measurable progress—in terms of reductions in class sizes, increased higher test scores and higher graduation rates. We’ve got more teachers than ever before—more teacher-librarians, principals, vice-principals—more books and more investments generally in public education. I think that’s real progress.
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: Premier, in your throne speech of 2007, you promised that it would be done by 2010; it is now 2010. It’s a broken promise, and if this continues and we continue to see more broken promises, you might as well stay prorogued.
You told families that the funding review was a priority, but now the Globe and Mail is reporting that the education ministry is evasive about the fate of the review. Ontario families who have counted on you feel let down because there has been no review, as promised, by 2010.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: My honourable colleague may want to recognize that if we had not been continuously changing the funding formula, as we have in fact been doing, then schools would be receiving $650 million less today than they were in 2002 and 2003. In fact, they’re getting $5 billion more today than they did before.
We have smaller classes for 540,000 more children. We have made staying in school until the age of 18 the law, and 13,500 more high school graduates are happening every year. Test scores are up 11%. We’ve hired over—
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Minister, Premier McGuinty is set to announce a new set of priorities in his next throne speech, but Ontario families in farming communities are still waiting for him to deliver on what he promised them in the last throne speech. On page 6 of that throne speech in 2007, you said you would help grain and oilseed farmers deal with foreign subsidies. You said you would help farmers but you haven’t. Why should Ontario farmers trust you now?
One of the things I want to talk about is risk management. We understood that the suite of programs that were available, quite frankly, weren’t working. We came forward with a three-year pilot program. That gave the opportunity to our grain and oilseed farmers to begin the work to get our federal government on board. Three years—we recognized that, but that did not happen.
We know that the suite of programs that are available today need work. That is why the previous agriculture minister began with a coalition and talking about risk management. That, then, came forward at the federal, provincial and territorial—there is more work to do, and quite frankly, if we had the help of the other side of the House in working to get our federal government—
The former agriculture minister directed Ontario commodity groups to come together to create a consensus proposal for a risk management plan. The plan has been modelled on the grain and oilseeds program that you referred to. For the last three years, it was jointly funded by the province and the farmers. Unlike other programs to help farmers, this one actually works, but you cancelled it, leaving farmers without protection.
Hon. Carol Mitchell: I really am pleased to be able to respond to this. We made a commitment for a three-year pilot project. That commitment was honoured. Part of that understanding, from all sides and from every member, was that the federal government had to come to the table. This is based upon historical funding in a 60-40 split. It is totally understood by the agricultural community.
We have more strength with one voice coming forward in recognition of programs that are needed to strengthen not only our agricultural communities but our rural communities. We get it. They get it. We need help to get our federal government on side. That is the only way that our programs are going to work for our farmers now and in the future. We need your help to get the feds on side.
The McGuinty Liberals have no one to blame but themselves for failing to honour the commitments they made. Instead of keeping the commitments he has already made, the Premier finds it easier to make new promises. Ontario farmers are not looking for more promises of support. They don’t want processes; they expect you to keep the promises you’ve already made.
For the last three years, grain farmers have paid premiums into this program, making it almost revenue neutral and at no cost to the provincial government. Why doesn’t Premier McGuinty care about rebuilding some of the trust he has already lost in rural Ontario? Minister, why don’t you stop making excuses and take action to help Ontario’s agricultural community?
Hon. Carol Mitchell: I really am very pleased to respond once again; I could talk about this all day. Why do I want to talk about this all day? Because it’s critical to our agricultural community. We recognized that the suite of programs, quite frankly, don’t work. That’s why we came forward with the three-year pilot program.
I quote specifically from the throne speech in 2007: The government established a risk management program in 2007 as a three-year pilot “to help our grain and oilseed farmers cope with internationally subsidized competitors….” We met that commitment, and we met that commitment because we recognized that we had to lead by bringing forward the pilot program. It gave three years for our grain and oilseed farmers to work with our federal government. The coalition is working with us to bring that forward.
Earlier this week, the Premier gave a sneak peek of Monday’s throne speech to friends with $950 to spare for his party. Amidst the empty promises, there was no plan for the people struggling in these tough economic times.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I know that my honourable colleague is referencing an opportunity I had to speak a little bit about what we want to do through the throne speech. Fundamentally, it’s about strengthening our province, strengthening the economy so that it generates more jobs and maintains our capacity to support good-quality public services.
My honourable colleague says that there’s nothing in our plan, and I’d ask her to wait for it in its fullness. But I want to reassure her and all Ontarians that we will not take our eye off the jobs ball. I think the single most important thing that we can do today for Ontarians, given the state of our economy, is to put in place the conditions that create more jobs for the people of Ontario. I want to assure her that our throne speech will speak to that in extensive detail.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Ontario families are concerned about the state of their hospitals. Surgeries are being cancelled. Nurses are being fired. Emergency rooms are being closed. The Premier says he has controlled costs, but somehow he has managed to find $4.5 billion in corporate tax cuts. Now there are reports that the government plans to make hospitals actually compete with each other for cash.
Will the throne speech explain why the Premier is handing out billions and billions of dollars in corporate tax giveaways when our hospitals don’t have the funds to provide front-line services to the people of this province?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I want to remind my honourable colleague that in addition to reducing business costs so businesses can invest more in technology and in jobs, we’re also reducing taxes for people by over $10 billion. I think it’s important to keep that in mind.
As well, I think my honourable colleague knows—and I’d love to get her advice and support, as we come to grips, as a generation of leadership, with the challenges presented by the ever-escalating costs associated with delivering health care to Ontarians. That’s an important conversation we’re going to begin to engage Ontarians in: What do we need to do to ensure that health care doesn’t crowd out our capacity to deliver good education, supports for our vulnerable, investments in environmental protections and in economic development and the like? What do we need to do together to manage that? I’m convinced that, working together, we will find all the answers we need.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: While the Premier was regaling his well-connected friends at his $950-a-plate dinner with promises of new jobs, real people were losing theirs. In communities across Ontario, jobs keep vanishing. The latest are in Timmins, where Xstrata is moving operations out of Ontario.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to meet with representatives of Xstrata just yesterday in my office, including the senior exec from Switzerland. We had a lengthy conversation about the future of that particular business in Ontario. There are a number of reasons behind the reduction of their business activities in Timmins and a number of reasons for the enhancement of their business activities in the Sudbury region.
The fact of the matter is, we’re going to continue to find a way to work with the Xstratas of the world. We look forward, with particular interest and optimism, to developing that section of the north called the Ring of Fire. We think there’s tremendous opportunity to be found in mineral resources in northern Ontario. We’ll continue to work with northerners and industries as well to ensure that we have those jobs.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My second question is also to the Premier. Two years ago, Grey Bruce Health Services found one of their pathologists had an error rate of 6%; 36 cases misdiagnosed; 600 patients received a worrying phone call about possible misdiagnoses. Can the Premier tell Ontarians what the government did about that?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I’m happy to speak on the situation at Grey Bruce, the pathology review that was done there. The Grey Bruce hospital pathology department does have a quality assurance process in place where they conduct a second analysis on critical cases before they proceed to surgery. It was their system of checks and balances that actually caught the issue in the first place. They launched a review of the cases and they did find some discrepancies. They reviewed the cases and what they found was that there were no adverse effects. The hospital followed up with doctors and patients in all cases.
They took the right steps to inform patients and the doctors of the review taking place, and now they have implemented even more checks. They’ve got a regular process of peer review in their department, where they sample cases from each—
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Here’s how Dr. Andrew Padmos of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada characterized the pathology system after the Grey Bruce story surfaced: “It’s problematic in so many places.” Concerns with cancer tests have been “a concern for a number of years,” he said. “There are projected shortages of medical and technological staff.... There are problems with quality control programs that are not uniform in all jurisdictions or of the same high quality.” That’s what he said.
Two years ago, Dr. Padmos said that the problems were systemic. If this government didn’t learn from mistakes discovered two years ago, why should Ontario families trust that these horrible tragedies are going to actually stop now?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I just caution the member opposite that she take the advice of her colleague and not try to use fear for her political gain. I think it is not the right approach or the approach that anyone in this House thinks is appropriate for people.
We are concerned about the situation in Windsor. That is why we have sent in three highly respected physicians to look at what’s happened in Windsor, to review the cases, to look at the surgical procedures, to look at what went wrong. I will take their advice very seriously when they report back to me. I have asked for frequent updates. I have asked them to complete their work as quickly as they can, and if they think we need to go beyond Windsor, I will take that advice very seriously.
Four months ago, in fact, the OMA and the Ontario Association of Pathologists held a symposium about the state of pathology in Ontario. Their report found that a comprehensive framework for quality management was missing, and said that the “approaches to specific tests, guidelines development, [and] accreditation” were “ad hoc.” They also found that resources were simply insufficient.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: The member referenced the shortage of pathologists in this province, and she’s quite right in saying that. When we took office in 2003, there were seven or eight graduating every year from pathology and entering practice. We have actually quadrupled that number. We have made targeted investments to make sure we get the right mix of professionals in our health care system. It does take some time to do that, but we’re seeing the results of that now.
I think the member opposite should understand that one of the three people that I have sent in to look at Windsor is in fact Dr. John Srigley. He is the president of the Ontario Association of Pathologists. He is the clinical leader of the pathology and laboratory medicine program at Cancer Care Ontario. He is a person who is extremely well positioned to give us advice on what we need to do, and we welcome that advice.
Mr. Norm Miller: My question is for the Premier. During the pre-budget consultations, the London Chamber of Commerce said: “... our members were chiefly concerned about the size of the debt, the size of the deficit and the lack of an articulated plan to eliminate the deficit.”
They have good reason to be concerned. At the rate you are on now, you will have doubled the debt by 2012-13. So I ask: What is your plan to address this structural deficit and massive debt that your government has created?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: My honourable colleague will know that all Ontarians have a real concern with respect to the size of the deficit. I think all Ontarians understand, as well, that the deficit here in Ontario, like deficits elsewhere in much of the world, was created by our collective response to the recession and our decided effort to invest in economic stimulus to create jobs in the short term, and new roads, bridges and the like to enhance our productivity over the long term.
With respect to specifically how we’re going to address that deficit, obviously that falls within the purview of the Minister of Finance’s responsibilities, and he will be speaking to that later on when he presents a budget in the House, but obviously that is something we will come to grips with. It will take some time for us to eliminate this deficit—I don’t think I’m revealing anything there—but we will do it in a way that is in keeping with the values of Ontarians. They want us to get rid of the deficit, but they don’t want us to compromise their public services.
Mr. Norm Miller: Premier, your budget track record is awful. In your past budgets, you set all kinds of benchmarks and targets, and you failed miserably at hitting them. Why should we believe this budget will be any better?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: One of the things we are determined to do is take steps that will help us grow the Ontario economy. Ultimately, we don’t create wealth in government. We recognize that and accept that.
It leads me to wonder why the honourable members opposite stand against the HST when they know that will lead to enhanced productivity and growth, and 600,000 more jobs; and why they stand against the cuts we are making to business taxes so businesses can further invest in productivity-enhancing technologies, new jobs and training for existing workers. It leads me to question why they are standing against so many of the initiatives we put in place that would strengthen this economy, that will grow the pie and that will enable us not only to create more jobs but to eliminate the deficit.
Mme France Gélinas: Ma question est pour le premier ministre. We understand that the McGuinty government is considering a patient payment plan that would see hospitals compete against each other for public money. Ontario families are concerned about any plan that could take important health services away from their community, bring inequity of access and pit rural and northern hospitals against urban ones or hospitals in wealthier neighbourhoods against those in poorer ones.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I thank the member for the question. It’s important to acknowledge that we have increased hospital funding year over year since we have been in office. Our track record is as strong as a record could be. Hospital funding is up by 42% over the past six years; this year alone by 4.7%.
We came to office from a Conservative government that was starving our health care system. We have been able to stabilize our health care system; we have been able to strengthen the foundation. Now, it is time to innovate. We need to make sure we are getting the very best value for the money we spend on health care.
Our wait times strategy has proven to be a tremendous success for the people of Ontario. Under our hospital wait times strategy, we’ve been able to bring wait times down substantially for people in this province and the—
Mme France Gélinas: I would say that the NDP has provided this government with many suggestions on how to eliminate the waste in health care. We have brought forward many suggestions as to how to keep people healthy and make sure that every health care dollar goes to care, not to consultants.
But there are reasons to be worried. Ontario wouldn’t be the first to try this plan. The UK actually tried it in 2002, but scaled it back after a major study found that hospitals were manipulating the system to make more money. Another study showed that the cost of administering competitive bidding associated with the plan took a big bite out of the savings, if there were any.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Let me start by saying that I would welcome what those suggestions are. I have to say that I’m not aware of any suggestions that have come from the third party that would help us create the kind of health care system we need, not for our generation but for generations to come.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: What we have seen through our wait times strategy is that we now have centres of excellence that are providing better care for people and specialized expertise. They can see more patients, and what that means is that wait times are shorter. People wait less for those important procedures.
Mr. David Orazietti: My question is for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Recently, headlines in the media have appeared suggesting that a hike in the United States passport fees could keep tourists away from Ontario and that new rules could hurt Ontario border cities. Whether you’re a resident of a border community or not, it seems US passport fees will have a negative impact on tourism in Ontario. Communities across Ontario depend on tourism, especially those at or near border crossings, such as my riding of Sault Ste. Marie. We attract thousands of US visitors and, on average, the daily traffic at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge exceeds 7,000 vehicles.
Hon. Michael Chan: I want to thank the honourable member from Sault Ste. Marie for the question. Yes, the global economy as well as the increase to US passport fees may present challenges, but we will emerge stronger and more competitive. Allow me to tell you why. It’s because we are moving forward with the implementation of the 13 new tourism regions. This will help us better market Ontario communities. It will mean higher efficiency and better coordination. As well, we are also investing a total of $65 million to support the industry. Our vision includes expanding into new markets that include Middle Eastern countries, China and India. At the same time, we remain focused on strengthening our domestic tourism.
Mr. David Orazietti: The cost of obtaining a passport in the US will increase from $100 to $135 for adults, and for children it will be increased from $85 to $100. A family of four would end up paying at least $470 in passport fees. These increases will create further obstacles for tourism operators and local businesses and deter US visitors from Ontario. I need to assure residents in my riding that we’re working together to reduce these challenges. We also need to ensure that we reach out to new markets and make strategic investments in communities across Ontario, so that we can attract more international visitors and continue to help support our domestic market. These steps need to be taken to ensure that tourism is strengthened in Sault Ste. Marie and across Ontario, as the global tourism market expands.
Hon. Michael Chan: Ontario has very important assets. We have an abundance of natural beauty, multicultural cities, welcoming towns and thriving cultural attractions. Communities such as Sault Ste. Marie add both vibrancy and beauty to Ontario. We invest nearly $5 million each year to support the marketing of northern Ontario. Since 2007, we have also supported 46 festivals and events in the north through Celebrate Ontario.
Sault Ste. Marie needs to remain competitive in order for Ontario to remain competitive. This is why we are committed to working together to continue these investments and strengthen tourism in Sault Ste. Marie, in northern Ontario and across the province.
Mr. Ted Arnott: My question is for the Minister of Labour. The Minister of Health’s assertion that genetic test samples are the reason for the 450% increase in Ontario patients headed to the United States is laughable. The labour minister would know this because according to a Metroland report on cross-border health care, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board is a big user of American health care. The health minister says she’s trying to repatriate Ontario patients getting American health care, but we now know that WSIB chair and former Liberal MPP Steve Mahoney is one of the Premier’s US health care brokers.
What that agency does is, when a worker is injured in the workplace, they receive treatment through that insurance, through the WSIB. We want to ensure that the WSIB is sustainable and that the WSIB is able to provide and assist with services and benefits to those injured workers. We will continue to work with the WSIB to ensure that they can do just that: provide services to those injured workers.
Mr. Ted Arnott: This is proof again that Ontario families simply cannot trust what the Liberals say. Again, the health minister says genetic testing explains the 450% increase in Ontario patients billing OHIP for American health care. But the WSIB is not paying for genetic tests, and Metroland’s investigative report reveals that patients, not tests, make up the bulk of cross-border care.
And it’s not just the WSIB. In the past year, Ontario has become a bulk buyer of American health care, signing contracts making 40 US hospitals and clinics “preferred providers.” Why would the Premier and his ministers say that they’re trying to stem the tide of Ontario patients getting American health care when they are down in the States negotiating bulk discounts?
When a worker is injured in the workplace, they need to know that they have an insurance provider, the WSIB, there for them to ensure that they have access to the services and supports they need. The WSIB does that in a very comprehensive way. They do that, also, in consultation with those that fund those programs. Those are employers, through premiums that are paid through work. They will continue to do that.
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: This is a good question. Especially just before the budget, it’s a good question. The special diet has been in place for quite some time and has been modified through the years. It’s no secret that we have been looking at this benefit to see if the benefit is reaching the goal that it was developed for, so I cannot speak more about it. We’ll have to wait and see what will be in the budget or not.
Mr. Michael Prue: I think the minister has already answered: It’s going to be in the budget. A February 25 memo, circulated by directors of Ontario Works and ODSP, has fuelled the rumour—and now you’ve just compounded that—that this government will eliminate the special diet allowance program.
The McGuinty government has already slashed the program, arbitrarily excluding many medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and lupus. Cutting the special diet allowance would be disastrous and runs counter to last week’s Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruling that special diets need more, not less, support.
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: I cannot speak about what will be in the budget, but something that I can say is that this government is always looking at improving services for those who need our help. To say that this government has cut the special diet—I will correct the member by saying that, in 2003-04, the budget was around $8 million, and today, the budget is over $200 million, so this government has not cut anything.
Mr. Ted McMeekin: My question is also for the Minister of Community and Social Services. This week is National Social Work Week. I’m aware of the great work social workers do throughout our province as advocates of social policy and in assisting the most vulnerable, but I wonder if you’d take a couple of moments to inform this House why it’s so important for us to recognize social workers in a week like this for the work they do throughout Ontario.
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur: I want to thank the member for his question. I know that the member was, in his previous life, a social worker, so I wanted to acknowledge that. I want to take a moment, during National Social Work Week, to recognize the valuable work social workers do across the province.
Permettez-moi de vous dire que c’est un sujet que notre gouvernement a pris à cœur en annonçant la première stratégie de réduction de la pauvreté de l’Ontario, intitulée Rompre le cycle, et en adoptant la Loi de 2009 sur la réduction de la pauvreté, scellant pour toujours l’engagement à long terme de réduire la pauvreté en Ontario.
Mr. Ted McMeekin: I’m very happy to speak on behalf of my constituents in thanking all social workers throughout our province for their tireless and dedicated work. However, in order for social workers to be able to carry out the work they do, they need to have appropriate recognition for the unique skills they have.
D’ailleurs, notre gouvernement a écouté les représentants de la profession, qui nous avaient demandé que les travailleurs sociaux ayant un doctorat soient autorisés à utiliser le titre de « Docteur » dans le cadre de leur travail, et pas seulement dans le cadre du domaine de la santé. Depuis cet automne, c’est devenu chose possible.
Nous sommes à l’écoute des travailleurs sociaux. Nous considérons que c’est important d’encourager les travailleurs sociaux et de valoriser leur éducation. Les travailleurs sociaux ont un rôle essentiel dans notre société.
Mr. Garfield Dunlop: My question today is for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. There has been a 450% increase in the number of Ontario patients travelling to the United States to get health care. Minister, what are you doing to assist patients with visas and passports, or is this something you leave up to Dalton McGuinty’s US health brokers?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I’d like to thank the member opposite for the question. As he well knows, the issues of immigration, visas and entry to the United States are federal government matters, but it does give me the opportunity to remind the member opposite what the government has done for newcomers and immigrants in Ontario. Since 2003, the McGuinty government has invested more than $700 million in programs and services to help newcomers settle and get job-ready and licensed to work. That includes more than $60 million a year for English-as-a-second-language training for more than 120,000 newcomers. We’ve invested—in this economy it’s particularly important—more than $145 million into almost 200 bridge training programs to help these same individuals find work in the Ontario economy.
Mr. Garfield Dunlop: I just want to point out to the House that Minister Hoskins wasn’t even at Queen’s Park very long before he was appointed to cabinet. He may not recall that one of his predecessors in his portfolio had a slush fund and doled out $32 million to Liberal-friendly organizations. You may recall that. In fairness, he’d just got here when the auditor dropped the bombshell that Dalton McGuinty wasted $1 billion in the eHealth scandal and has overspent tens of millions of dollars on assistive devices. But now he’s at the cabinet table.
Minister Matthews says she wants to repatriate Ontario patients who are getting American health care in record numbers. Minister, what are you doing to recover the $32 million that the former minister handed out to Liberal-friendly groups so it can be used to bring Ontario health care patients back home to Ontario?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I am absolutely committed to repatriating out-of-country procedures however we can do that. We’ve got a plan. We’re bringing back bariatric surgery. We’ve got centres of excellence across this province that are now providing pre-care, the surgery itself and post-care. It’s the right thing to do for patients. It’s the right thing to do for the taxpayers of Ontario.
We’re bringing back genetic testing. Over half of the out-of-country services that are provided by OHIP are genetic testing, and we’re bringing that back to Ontario. We’ve got the people who can do it, and we’re building the infrastructure so they can do it. It’s the right thing to do, and we will continue to do it.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Minister of Health. The people of Six Nations are very concerned about health care services in their community. Last year, Six Nations’ paramedic services were finally upgraded to advanced care, yet the Minister of Health is not allowing Six Nations EMS staff to administer procedures for which they are actually trained.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I appreciate the question. In fact, this afternoon I am going to Six Nations to meet with Ava Hill to talk about this issue in particular. It is one that I care about. It is one that I am determined to find a resolution to. I am going there to hear from the people at Six Nations about this issue.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Paramedics working in Six Nations are not permitted to administer a series of cardiac and airway interventions, interventions that could be life-saving, even though they are fully trained and can use their training in every other community in which they work. This government is setting health policies that have no logical explanation and that pose a threat to the health of the people of Six Nations.
When the minister visits Six Nations later on today, will she guarantee full EMS services on the Six Nations reserve by the people who are actually trained to provide those services, not only on Six Nations but in any other community in Ontario?
I am going to Six Nations this afternoon. I am meeting with Ava Hill and other members of the Six Nations community to discuss this issue. I’m also very interested to hear directly from people at Six Nations about what else we need to do to improve the quality of the health of people who live at Six Nations. I think I speak for all of us when I say that there is real concern about the differential in health outcomes between those First Nations people and the rest of Ontarians. It’s an area where we need to do better, and I look forward to my visit this afternoon.
Mr. Lou Rinaldi: My question is to the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure. Last year, the government passed the landmark Green Energy Act, a bold step that places Ontario at the forefront of the renewable energy industry and makes Ontario a hub of green energy investments.
The Green Energy Act was the pinnacle of our efforts to bring green energy and green jobs to Ontario. In 2003, there were only 15 megawatts of wind power being produced in Ontario; today, there are 1,100 megawatts of power.
This winter, the Premier and you, Minister, announced a historic agreement with a consortium led by Samsung. This consortium wants to invest right here in Ontario, thanks to our Green Energy Act. Minister, what will this investment mean to communities like mine across Ontario?
Hon. Brad Duguid: I thank the member for the question. He’s quite right: Samsung and the Korea Electric Power Corp. will be investing $7 billion in our green economy here in Ontario. And what will that do? It’ll create 16,000 jobs over six years. It’ll bring with it four green manufacturing plants. It’ll generate approximately 110 megawatt hours of emissions-free electricity over the lifespan of the contracts, enough power to supply every home in Ontario for three years. It also displaces a lot of CO2—the equivalent of removing every car off Ontario roads for a full year.
All communities and all Ontarians are going to benefit from this investment. Many individual communities will see economic development opportunities open up as these feed-in tariffs are awarded, projects begin to take shape and manufacturing, servicing and construction needs develop.
Minister, many companies are looking at Ontario as a destination of choice for renewable energy investments thanks to the feed-in tariff program included in the Green Energy Act. There is clearly a great desire to invest in renewable projects in Ontario, from domestic to foreign companies alike.
Hon. Brad Duguid: Absolutely. I think President Obama said it best when he said that the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. I think he’s right.
I think Ontarians are getting excited about the fact that Ontario is way out in front. This investment creates jobs, it kick-starts our green energy economy, it provides 2,500 megawatts of green power for Ontario’s energy supply and it also contributes to Ontario’s ability to build local expertise and manufacturing capability that could open up an exciting opportunity south of the border.
We’ve developed the most comprehensive feed-in tariff in North America. It’s gaining attention across the world; it’s seen as best in class. We’ve received over 2,000 applications for contracts, and the Ontario Power Authority will be offering these contracts up very, very soon.
Mrs. Joyce Savoline: My question is for the Minister of Transportation. Minister, we’ve heard today that there has been a 450% increase in Ontario patients driving to the United States for health care. Given that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has no plans to help Ontarians with their passports, will you be expanding the enhanced driver’s licence to include the OHIP card, too?
But I think underlying the question is really a health question, and I will refer the supplementary to my colleague—the issue being that we are doing everything we can to repatriate services to Ontario. I think the member opposite heard that.
Mrs. Joyce Savoline: The Minister of Health’s assertion is that genetic test samples are the reason for the 450% increase in traffic that’s headed to the United States clinics, and I really think that’s laughable, because I think people are going there too. But whether it’s patients travelling for their procedures or couriers dropping off tests, that is still a lot more traffic on the 400-series highways.
The health minister said moments ago that she’s interested in adding infrastructure to address the Ontario patients getting American care. Do you have any plans to expand the HOV lanes to accommodate the rapid growth of numbers of Ontario patients who have to travel—have to travel—to the United States for health care?
We’re doing a number of things to improve the flow of traffic on our roads. We are investing in public transportation. We are investing in the building and rebuilding of our roads. We are increasing the number of HOV lanes on our highways in Ontario.
We understand how important it is to help people and goods move around this province. We are working on a project in Windsor to improve the flow of traffic through the Windsor corridor and across the border.
On a number of fronts, there are things that we are doing to assist the movement of people and goods in this province—investing billions of dollars in transit and in highway and bridge reconstruction.
This afternoon, the House will prorogue and Bill 156, the Healthy Decisions for Healthy Eating Act, will die. In spite of the fact that we are looking for savings and there is $2 million at stake annually for the health care system in Ontario, and in spite of the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, this government has chosen to sit on their hands rather than allow a proactive, important public health bill to move forward.
Hon. Margarett R. Best: I wish to tell this Legislature that the government of Ontario is certainly very committed to the health of Ontarians, and we are in fact committed to creating a healthier Ontario.
We have developed a very strong foundation for healthier families by promoting good food choices, addressing childhood obesity and promoting physical activity. To help Ontarians achieve healthier lives, we’re also supporting healthy eating through the Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act. As well, we announced new nutrition standards for food and beverages that are sold in schools.
We established the EatRight Ontario service, which provides nutrition information and advice on healthy eating. We have a registered dietitian who is available to talk to Ontarians about healthy food choices.
Mme France Gélinas: I want you to know that there are now two dozen—count them, 24—American states and municipalities that have passed the exact same legislation. They realize that point-of-purchase calorie labelling is an important step in healthy eating, in healthy populations, and saves health care dollars.
Hon. Margarett R. Best: I have to say welcome to the young people—and they’re leaving—who are in the gallery today. Our government certainly is committed to the young people in this province and the health of the young people in this province.
Hon. Margarett R. Best: Thank you. Yes, we are. We have a number of programs in the school system and outside of the school system that are raising awareness and also educating young people about how important it is for them to eat healthy and to remain physically active.
As a matter of fact, our athletes, who have done tremendously well in Ontario and in the Olympic Games recently, are funded through our government in the province of Ontario. We saw how spectacularly they did in the Olympics, and they are great role models for our young people in this province. We expect that we will continue to see improvement as we move forward.
Mr. Charles Sousa: As I was saying, Minister, Canadians were treated to a spectacular Olympic Games in Vancouver. Despite personal struggles and strong opposition, our athletes had the third-highest medal count of the games and the most gold medals ever earned by a single country at the Winter Olympics.
Hon. Margarett R. Best: I thank the member from Mississauga South for his question. I’m sure he’s indeed a proud supporter of Jennifer and of all our athletes, who did tremendously well at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Our government continues support for amateur athletes at all levels and we continue to encourage all Ontarians to live by the example of all our Olympians and athletes to lead healthier, more active lives.
Jennifer and 32 other Ontario athletes competed at the Vancouver Winter Olympics with the benefit of support from our government’s $10-million annual Quest for Gold program. This program funds our high-performance athletes.
I must tell you, I get many letters and cards. As a matter of fact, I have a card here that I received from Jennifer in which she sent me her picture. It says, “Thank you for your wonderful support. The Quest for Gold program and funding has helped me tremendously. It’s been an important part of my journey.”
Out of the 26 medals that we won at the Winter Olympics, seven were won by Quest for Gold athletes. That is 27% of the nation’s total medal haul. Of the 14 event gold medals won by Canada, four were won by Quest for Gold athletes, and we are very proud of all of them. I’m confident that all of you across there share the pride we have in our Olympians and our athletes.
We are so proud, and we’re looking forward to hosting the best Pan American Games ever. We’re also looking forward to the Paralympic Games that are coming up this month as well. We fund 13 of the 14 hockey players on the Paralympic teams. As a result of the 2015 games, we can look forward to upwards of—
Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, I’ve met with farmers, outdoor enthusiasts and livestock evaluators, and I’d hope you’re aware of the explosion in the coyote population in Ontario and the imbalance that it’s causing, especially as a result of what has taken place recently in Pickering.
Last night, I spoke with Councillor O’Connell from Pickering. They have put forward a bylaw shutting down hunting in Pickering, specifically. The concern is that the reason they’re moving forward is because, according to Councillor O’Connell, the Ministry of Natural Resources is refusing to enforce the fish and game act in Pickering. As a result of that, they’re moving forward with a bylaw to completely shut down the hunting that could effectively alleviate some of the coyote problems.
Hon. Linda Jeffrey: I appreciate the question. This is a very important issue. Certainly some communities in southern Ontario have been experiencing problems with coyotes, and they have been dealing with my Ministry of Natural Resources staff. We’ve been working with many municipalities, and certainly we would be happy to work with your municipality to resolve any issues that you’re experiencing with the coyote population.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I’d just like all members to join me as we take this opportunity to say thank you to this great group of pages for the wonderful work they have done on our behalf. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.
Deferred vote on the motion for second reading of Bill 235, An Act to enact the Energy Consumer Protection Act, 2010 and to amend other Acts / Projet de loi 235, Loi édictant la Loi de 2010 sur la protection des consommateurs d’énergie et modifiant d’autres lois.
Deferred vote on the motion for second reading of Bill 242, An Act to amend the Education Act and certain other Acts in relation to early childhood educators, junior kindergarten and kindergarten, extended day programs and certain other matters / Projet de loi 242, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l’éducation et d’autres lois en ce qui concerne les éducateurs de la petite enfance, la maternelle et le jardin d’enfants, les programmes de jour prolongé et d’autres questions.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I beg to inform the House that I have laid upon the table a copy of an order in council appointing the following members as commissioners of the Board of Internal Economy: the Speaker, who shall be Chair; the Honourable Christopher Bentley; the Honourable Brad Duguid; the Honourable Monique Smith; Wayne Arthurs, MPP; Elizabeth Witmer, MPP; and Gilles Bisson, MPP.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): I beg to inform the House that His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has issued a proclamation proroguing the Legislative Assembly as of 12:30 p.m. today. The Lieutenant Governor has also issued a proclamation convening a new session of the Legislative Assembly at 2 p.m. next Monday, March 8, 2010.