LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Thursday 7 June 2012 Jeudi 7 juin 2012
ADDRESSING ONTARIO’S DEBT
TO PUBLIC SECTOR LAYOFFS
AND PROGRAM CUTS ACT, 2012 /
LOI DE 2012 VISANT À S’ATTAQUER
À LA DETTE DE L’ONTARIO
SANS RECOURIR À DES MISES À PIED
DANS LE SECTEUR PUBLIC
ET À DES COMPRESSIONS
DANS LES PROGRAMMES
ADDRESSING ONTARIO’S DEBT
TO PUBLIC SECTOR LAYOFFS
AND PROGRAM CUTS ACT, 2012 /
LOI DE 2012 VISANT À S’ATTAQUER
À LA DETTE DE L’ONTARIO
SANS RECOURIR À DES MISES À PIED
DANS LE SECTEUR PUBLIC
ET À DES COMPRESSIONS
DANS LES PROGRAMMES
ADDRESSING ONTARIO’S DEBT
TO PUBLIC SECTOR LAYOFFS
AND PROGRAM CUTS ACT, 2012 /
LOI DE 2012 VISANT À S’ATTAQUER
À LA DETTE DE L’ONTARIO
SANS RECOURIR À DES MISES À PIED
DANS LE SECTEUR PUBLIC
ET À DES COMPRESSIONS
DANS LES PROGRAMMES
Bill 75, An Act to amend the Electricity Act, 1998 to amalgamate the Independent Electricity System Operator and the Ontario Power Authority, to amend the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998 and to make complementary amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 75, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1998 sur l’électricité pour fusionner la Société indépendante d’exploitation du réseau d’électricité et l’Office de l’électricité de l’Ontario, modifiant la Loi de 1998 sur la Commission de l’énergie de l’Ontario et apportant des modifications complémentaires à d’autres lois.
All right, so, Bill 75, the Ontario Electricity System Operator Act: On the surface there’s a tiny, weeny little part of this bill that sounds pretty good to me. That’s the part where there will be a merger of the Ontario Power Authority and—I’m warning you right now, Mr. Speaker, there will be a lot of short forms. The Ontario Power Authority is referred to as the OPA. We will be merging that with the Independent Electricity System Operator, which is also known as the IESO. OPA and IESO would get merged. On the surface and even in practice—
Mme France Gélinas: My colleague is making me laugh here—it’s something that the NDP has been asking for, and it’s something that we would have no problem supporting. I would even say that we would go a whole lot further. There is an alphabet soup of energy producers, distributors and planners, and we say there could be some opportunity for reduced waste if we were to merge more of those agencies.
But for now Bill 75, the Ontario Electricity System Operator Act, is designed to implement the merger of the Ontario Power Authority with the Independent Electricity System Operator. The problem with Bill 75 is that the government is also introducing many, many other changes that have to do with energy planning and procurement. This is where we disagree with what the bill has to say.
Make no bones about it: The NDP supports the consolidation of Ontario’s fragmented hydro agency system, and we certainly agree with the government intention to reduce waste by merging those two agencies, the OPA and IESO. However, the way they have gone about Bill 75 is that it will remove the independent planning and review required by the present supply planning regime. This is something that we cannot support. We’re sort of surprised that it has been put in there, because recent events would show you that, when you take away the opportunity for people to be engaged in planning for energy, it doesn’t lead to anything too good. One needs to look no further away than some of the backlash associated with something good: Green energy is something that we can all agree to. But then, when we look at the way it has been implemented, where those wind turbines are being put in places where people feel that they did not have an opportunity to be heard—they wouldn’t have done it that way if they had had an opportunity to be heard. Some of this, I would say, cost the Liberals quite a few seats in rural Ontario, yet here they go again, coming forward with a bill that would further reduce the opportunity for Ontarians to have a say in the plan.
Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Speaker: We all know energy is at the core of making Ontario work. We need energy to be reliable and available throughout Ontario. We need this to be part of a government plan so that present and future businesses, as well as people, know that there is a plan in place and that energy will be there when they need it so that we can plan new expansion.
I can talk for my riding, Mr. Speaker. We have been selected as the case base for Cliffs resources to develop a new plant that would process the chromite that comes from the Ring of Fire, bring it to my riding of Nickel Belt and process it into ferrochrome. This type of processing plant requires a tremendous amount of energy in the transformation process. They felt that they could do the planning to set up this kind of processing plant in Nickel Belt in part because they knew we had a strong, secure, reliable energy supply coming to that part of my riding, to that part of Ontario, to that part of Nickel Belt. Are we in agreement that you need to have a strong plan in place, a plan that plans for the future but also gives reassurance to business and people that we will have a strong energy system?
Here we have the merger of the Ontario Power Authority with the electricity system operator, and it will form a new agency, Mr. Speaker, called the Ontario Electricity System Operator, a new acronym called OESO. I hope you haven’t lost me already, because there are many more of those acronyms coming in our future.
This is well-intentioned. The merger is well-intentioned and something that I think we can all rely on and we can all support. But what it also does is eliminate the current integrated power system plan. This is referred to as the IPSP. Really, think of it as, this is the plan; this is how we plan as to how much energy we will need, how we will produce that energy, what type of energy form it will be—will it be green energy, will it be water power, solar, wind, will it be a gas-fired power plant, run of the river? This is the plan. This is something that is important to the people of Ontario.
Unfortunately, with the merger, the opportunity for public and stakeholder participation in energy planning will be greatly reduced. We already know that Ontarians care about their energy supply, that Ontarians want to be engaged in the making of those plans, because it affects them, it affects their neighbourhood, it affects their livelihood, it affects their business and their business decisions. We know that Ontarians want to be part of this dialogue, but unfortunately, this bill, with the integration of the Ontario Power Authority and the Independent Electricity System Operator into the Ontario Electricity System Operator, will take away the opportunity for the people of Ontario to have a say in this plan. This is highly problematic for us.
There will be changes to energy planning, as well as energy procurement. Bill 75, the bill we’re talking about this morning, removes the Ontario Power Authority’s power and duty to develop an integrated power system plan for approval by the Ontario Energy Board—another acronym, the OEB. If you think there are too many, I agree wholeheartedly with you. I would merge the whole thing together and do like Manitoba does: have one power planner, supplier, operator and distributor, and have it in the not-for-profit, public domain.
But that’s not what we’re doing here today. What we are doing is that Bill 75 removes the power and duty of the OPA for approval of that plan. Basically, the Ontario Energy Board’s duty to review and plan for economic prudence, cost-effectiveness and regulatory compliance will be greatly reduced. The IPSP, which, as I said before, is the integrated power system plan, is replaced by a ministerial energy plan. What does that mean? It means that the minister must consult with the OEB on the impact of the energy plan on consumer electricity bills and on methods of managing that impact. It also means that the ministry must also refer the plan to the OEB for review of the estimated capital costs in the plan, in accordance with the referral.
This is really different from an independent review of the plan by the OEB. We have limited the amount of oversight. We have limited the ability for stakeholders to test, to be heard, to influence, and basically to be respected in the government’s energy plan for procurement, as well as the consequences of that plan on the rate that we pay.
Make no mistake. It doesn’t matter who plans it; we end up paying this lovely little bill that you urban folks get every month and we northern folks get every two months. But it doesn’t matter; we still get our bills and we will still have to pay for that energy.
We have a system in place right now that gives people some opportunity for shaping that plan. Ontarians have proven that they want to help shape that plan, but now we have a bill in front of us that will limit the amount of consultation that stakeholders will be able to do.
It also continues a trend that was already apparent before Bill 75 for the government to try to put control over the activities of the OPA and the OEB by a combination of policy imperatives and directives. We see more and more ministerial control of our energy plan, whether we’re talking procurement or planning, and less and less of an opportunity for the people of Ontario to be heard on those plans. It doesn’t matter where you go—certainly in northern and rural Ontario—people have proven that they want to be engaged. I would say that certainly the people of Oakville, before the election, said they also wanted to be consulted on those energy plans, and they did not want this little gas power plant to come to their city. People have proven over and over again that they want to have a say. They want to be consulted, but we’re taking that opportunity away from them.
I would also say that Bill 75 blurs the distinction between the functions of the OESO and the OEB, so I would like to use the six minutes left to talk a little about the integration and the potential for conflict.
Once we start to have overlapping function between the OPA, the Ontario Power Authority, and the IESO, the Independent Electricity System Operator, it will present a new set of problems for the OESO, the new agency we are creating. Although the short- and long-term forecasting functions of the IESO and the OPA should integrate well, it will be more difficult to integrate the planning and procurement function of the OPA, Ontario Power Authority, with the IESO’s responsibility to administer and enforce market rules.
We in the NDP feel that the creation of an electricity market was a mistake in the first place, and in the short/medium term it has proven to be a mistake. Therefore, we have to be careful to make sure that there is a separation between the generation procurement and the market operation.
Let me give you an example, Mr. Speaker. The OPA currently has the responsibility to make and implement a procurement process for its IPSP, for its plan. The IESO regulation of market participants includes potential parties to OPA procurement. Therein lies the potential for conflict of interest.
I must say that Bill 75 recognizes it and tries to cure the potential for conflict of interest in different ways. Some of those ways would be that the minister take back responsibility for procurement decisions, or that the board of directors of the OESO is required “to ensure that there is effective separation of functions and activities of the OESO relating to its market operations” and “its procurement and contract management activities.” The OESO is prohibited from conducting itself in a “manner that could unduly advantage or disadvantage any market participant or any party to a procurement contract or interfere with, reduce or impede a market participant’s non-discriminatory access to transmission systems or distribution systems.”
We already know, Mr. Speaker, that there is lots of conflict right here, right now in Ontario when it comes to access to transmission systems. I can tell you of what I considered—I’m no expert—really good green energy projects in my riding that had been given the okay under the FIT program, the feed-in tariff, but couldn’t connect to the grid. I can give you the example of a church in Capreol that was facing the perfect way, had a perfect piece of land to have a few solar panels—quite a few, actually—installed on the roof of the church as well as the grounds of the church. They did all of their research, they got a FIT contract and then they found out that they could not get access to the grid. So all the work they had done and money they had put out was for nothing.
You can see, I’m sure, Mr. Speaker, that this quickly becomes a source of conflict. If you are creating a new merged identity where those conflicts will be harder to tear apart, then you are just multiplying conflicts. I don’t know what you think, Mr. Speaker, but I don’t think a piece of legislation should be put out there that will be causing more conflicts than we already have. Let’s face it: The energy file is a file that can be very divisive. I have many, many run-of-the-river or modified peaking green energy contracts going on in my riding, and the opportunity for people to be heard is something that people take very, very seriously. The opportunity for conflict at the local level—conflict that sometimes pits one neighbour against the other, the worst kind of conflict—is alive and present. Here we are bringing forward Bill 75, which has the possibility to make those conflicts worse.
Another way that conflict can be avoided is, the board of directors right now is required to ensure that confidentiality is maintained. However, the OESO will still have the power and responsibility to implement the minister’s procurement decisions. It is not clear right now how the board of directors of the new OESO will keep these conflicting functions separate without, in effect, keeping the two former organizations separate under one roof. There is a tension between this obligation and the absolute imperative to reduce waste and duplication and bring back coherence in hydro planning that was lost in the disastrous Harris era experiment of privatization and deregulation of Ontario’s electricity system.
The NDP is not convinced that this bill will reduce those tensions, and we’re certainly not convinced that this bill will put out what the government said: a saving in the range of $25 million a year. I would say frankly that this remains to be seen. There are too many opportunities for conflict in this bill as it is now. Although it starts with a good first step of merging some of the operators, it also creates its own set of problems.
This bill was introduced on April 26, 2012. The Independent Electricity System Operator is the system operator—this is a little bit confusing, such a large organization with four or five operating bodies. The OPA is the Ontario Power Authority. There was overlap with these two. This is what this bill is about: It’s about bringing these together. It’s not the only thing that is being done in relation to energy, but they’re being brought together to get rid of this overlap and make the system more efficient, because of conflicting duties when it comes to energy. That $25 million is one of the savings, but I’m sure there will be larger savings in the future as the planning of our energy system in Ontario has more control of the detail. You don’t have two organizations trying to do two different things when really their objective is the same. We’re going to have one. This is an important step.
We can all be negative about it as well, but there are other things that are happening in the energy sector. The panel has been set up with Murray Elston, Floyd Laughren and David McFadden. They’ll be looking at some of these issues too. I’ll be glad when they come to Ottawa, because Ottawa has had an issue for a long time to do with hydro. We’ve got Hydro Ottawa, which charges about 7% or 8% less than Hydro One. I happen to be in the 7% or 8% higher, and my people there, about 40,000 homes, are paying too much for energy. I’ll get back to that as we move forward, and I’ll be speaking next.
Mr. John O’Toole: I did listen carefully to the member from Nickel Belt. I do respect—she spends a fair amount of time on issues. More importantly, what I think she was saying, and I tend to agree with her observation, is there’s a deliberate conflict here. If you really look at the structure of what they’re doing first, the amalgamation of an organization that our leader, Tim Hudak, said was completely unnecessary—the Ontario Power Authority was set up originally to develop a supply mix proposal for the province of Ontario: Where does the generation come from? I think they’ve done the job. People argue with the commitments to renewable or gas or—you know, this is a government that promised to close the coal plants in 2007.
Mr. John O’Toole: They’re laughing over there. But I’m disappointed—because there’s a report here by the Environmental Commissioner called Restoring Balance: A Review of the First Three Years of the Green Energy Act.
What I am saying here is that if you look in to the bill itself—and I think the member from Nickel Belt mentioned it—it says, “The OESO is not an agent of the crown and is composed of its board of directors.... appointed by the Minister of Energy.” I can’t believe it. Even in the preamble of the bill here, it says that there’s a procurement relationship between the two bodies.
I’m always the person that will try to put a positive on things. Yes, this was a cornerstone of some of the asks that during our campaign we were asking for: to eliminate a lot of the repetitive services. Eliminating a lot of those repetitive services will bring savings to the consumer. This takes us to that step.
Let’s not forget where these services and where the privatization of hydro—where it all began 12 years ago. It’s important to remember how that began. It’s frightening to hear those types of words still coming out today, where we’re talking about privatization.
This is a small step forward. The other issue that it deals with is that, yes, it will deal with overlapping services and administration costs and responsibilities that are there. Once again, it’s a small step forward that will start bringing benefits to the consumers. This is a good step forward.
But one of the things it doesn’t do is that, although the IPSP was far from perfect and could have used some improvements, at least through that process it provided a very formal and informative way to guarantee that stakeholders and individuals from the public can actually participate in the discussions of consultation and bring their views forward. If we are going forward with this and we’re going to have those discussions, we need to find a way to provide all stakeholders and our general public with the opportunity to provide their input fully to this process to make it very effective.
Mr. Reza Moridi: It’s my pleasure to participate in the discussion on Bill 75. Bill 75 is the act to amend the Electricity Act, 1998. I’m glad to hear that the third party, the NDP, is supporting amalgamation of the Independent Electricity System Operator and also the Ontario Power Authority. As we all know, the Independent Electricity System Operator is an organization responsible for the operation of the system, and the Ontario Power Authority is an organization responsible for planning. The operation and planning of industrial institutions are closely related to each other, so that’s why we want to amalgamate these two organizations. This amalgamation is going to eliminate duplications, it’s going to save $25 million a year for the ratepayers of Ontario, and it’s going to streamline and coordinate the efforts and responsibilities of these two organizations.
I want just to make a comment about the comment made by the member from Durham asking us to comment on his comment. I must mention, Mr. Speaker, that when his party was in office for eight years, our electricity system was really in a shambles. They made no investment in our electricity system, two or three nuclear reactors had been shut down because of mismanagement, and the price of electricity was deregulated. As a result, there was an $8-billion increase in the stranded debt of the former Ontario Hydro, and now we are paying for this debt retirement on a monthly basis.
Mme France Gélinas: First, I’d like to thank the member from Ottawa–Orléans. The part he talks about—the overlapping between the two agencies and the positives that will come out of merging the Ontario Power Authority with the Independent Electricity System Operator, merging that bureaucracy—certainly is something the NDP can and will support. We see value in having less of this alphabet soup of energy procurement, planning, operating, distributing etc. Look at your hydro bill and you will agree that if there were a few less lines, we would all be happier. We agree with that part of the bill.
Then the member from Durham showed the other part of the bill where the possibilities for conflict do exist and will be made worse by some of the provisions in this mix. The OPA is there to look at the supply as to, how will we generate power? Will it be green? Will it be run of the river? Will it be coal-fired? Many, many promises have been made over many election campaigns but very few have actually been rolled out.
Mr. Phil McNeely: I’m pleased to stand in my place in this Legislature to speak to Bill 75, the Ontario Electricity System Operator Act, 2012. As I said before, and it needs repeating to make sure people know, this bill, introduced on April 26, 2012, will join two organizations together: the IESO, the Independent Electricity System Operator, which is the system operator, as has been mentioned, and the OPA, the Ontario Power Authority, which, as my colleague has just said, is the planning function. Bringing these two together is certainly going to accomplish the efficiencies we need to have in our electricity system in Ontario. It’s going to be a step in that direction.
It is not only being done in isolation. As I mentioned in my two minutes, I look forward to the panel reporting, because they’re going to report on a range of issues: long- and short-term financial savings associated with consolidation, benefits for ratepayers, long- and short-term operational efficiencies, potential risks. The Ontario Distribution Sector Panel will report back to the Minister of Energy within a year. All of these issues are very important as we find efficiencies in the energy sector.
I hope they’re looking at a city like my own, which is Ottawa. Was it in 2000 when the city of Ottawa brought together 13 or 14 municipalities, I believe? I attended the last meeting of the group that had put the plan together. I said, “What are you going to do about hydro?” At that time, the municipality that was coming in was Cumberland, and the city of Cumberland at the time did not have their own individual hydro. They had Hydro One providing that. Most of the municipalities had their own. There was Gloucester Hydro, Nepean Hydro, Ottawa Hydro. They were just bringing those together. We were left out. I asked a question at that last meeting—I think the meeting was in January, and the election was over in October. When I was elected as councillor, I asked, “What are you going to do about having two electrical utilities in one city? It’s not going to be efficient. It’s not going to be fair.” We were bringing all the sewers together, all the water lines together, all the roads together. We were assuming all of those, but they left us with the higher Hydro One—Hydro One rates were higher.
Cities are easy to service, but when you get to the great outdoors in the north and the small communities, it’s expensive. With that 5% or 6% or 7% additional cost on our hydro, we’ve been subsidizing rural Ontario and northern Ontario, as compared to other utility users in the province. We got caught with that.
This is a time, when that panel is going there—that will be some of the discussion. Some of the discussions will be around some of the things that the member for Nickel Belt mentioned: How do we get the community input? How do we make those decisions so that the decisions are made for the people? Those things, I think, will be worked out. I really think it’s important that that panel does their work. I really think it’s important that this legislation goes ahead, as well, and we’ll have a better system here.
Mr. Speaker, I believe it makes a lot of sense to update the structure of OPA and IESO, and it’s the right time to do it. When the OPA was set up, it had the important task of renewing our aging energy infrastructure, eliminating coal and moving to a cleaner energy system. The OPA has done a lot of important work over the past eight years, but now we have a responsibility to ratepayers to take a look at our energy sector and ensure it’s as efficient as possible. I think that’s all part of what this is about.
We are proposing to implement a similar phased approach that has successfully merged GO Transit and Metrolinx, Infrastructure Ontario and the Ontario Realty Corp. These mergers were a success, saving taxpayers money and providing better services to Ontarians, and that’s what it’s all about. Examining every aspect of the energy sector will allow us to provide the best possible value for Ontarians. Merging the OPA’s planning knowledge with the IESO’s operational expertise will make for the most efficient organization possible.
The proposed new agency would be responsible for procurement and market operations, providing opportunities to align contracts, and market rules to benefit consumers. Streamlining the system to reduce the burden on local utilities will ultimately save ratepayers money. Creating an electricity system that is more responsive to changing conditions is part of it.
I’ll go back to the Ottawa situation, which is one of the situations that I’ve been involved in. We’ve had many attempts to have Hydro Ottawa take over all the electricity in the city of Ottawa. That would be to their advantage. Right now, Hydro One has the growth areas of Ottawa. One of the growth areas, of course, is Orléans sector; others are in Manotick, for instance, which I think is still Hydro One, and West Carleton. So a good part of the growth areas do not have the advantage of having Hydro Ottawa working with the city to work these things out.
The issue on trying to get one hydro utility in Ottawa, including the service and support of 50,000 residents outside who are serviced by Hydro One, is always a willing buyer and a willing seller. The municipality wants to get it for nothing; Hydro One wants the full commercial value plus. Over 10 years, it has been fought back and forth. I hope that part of this panel discussion looking at the local distribution companies etc. will look at this. It’s not efficient to have a city the size of Ottawa being served by two local distribution companies. It just doesn’t work. The outages in Orléans were 6% or 7% more. At one time they were two or three times as bad as the city of Ottawa was. Hydro One has put a lot of investment in our east end, and that has improved it, but it’s not the way to go—one city, one hydro utility. We don’t have two sewer utilities, we don’t have two water utilities, we don’t have two road utilities. Why should we have one service coming in from two suppliers that have different rules and different objectives?
One of the things I’m very proud of that we have done—and it was mentioned by the member opposite that we hadn’t done it—we’re 90% out of coal. When we came in, it was something like 23% to 25% of our energy generation was coal. The estimated cost of that, just from a health perspective—and this was from an independent study—was $4 billion a year. We didn’t get it done when we thought we could get it done. A lot of things intervened. It was a bigger problem, I guess, than we thought, but we accomplished 90% of it. In 2014, when the carbon dioxide in the world, in parts per million, as has been measured for 40 years in the same way, will have reached 400, which is a disaster area—it’s now 393. When it reaches 400, Ontario will be out of coal. We’ll be the first jurisdiction, certainly in North America but I think in the world, that has taken the coal issue and resolved it. It cost Ontario ratepayers a lot of money, but they did it for the health reasons. They did it to protect our children and grandchildren against climate change.
You know, sometimes with climate change—it’s a buried issue now. Nobody can talk about it. You’re not supposed to. I was disappointed, but Senator Brown, who I happened to take a plane ride from Ottawa to Toronto with, is up there on taxpayers’ money, with Nancy Greene, and they’re working as the deniers of climate change. It’s not happening; there’s no such thing as climate change. It’s very, very important, and anybody from BC—I would like to ask if maybe Nancy Greene would write me a letter and explain to me why she’s not worried about the environment. To have two senators working as a deniers’ team—it was in the paper. I think Minister Kent may be the lead on that; I don’t know. But climate change is so important.
Ontario did what they had to do. Ontario got out of coal. We should be a leader. We lose some of that leadership because of who the other nations meet at the conferences. Canada has won the fossil award at so many—from Copenhagen to Mexico to South Africa, and we’ll be doing it again. It’s unfortunate.
The Alberta oil sands is controversial, but I know how much it adds to our economy. I know how much it adds to the jobs. But if those oil companies could just take a little bit of the percentage and say, “Well, look, we’re causing 10,000 megatonnes of greenhouse gas a year. What we’re going to do is reduce energy use in your homes in Alberta and across the country. We’ll take that money and we’ll put it toward energy retrofits in our homes,” which are expensive, but which are needed and which have paybacks normally under seven or eight years. They could do that, rather than taking out page ads showing a beautiful mother, a biologist—it just happened to be a biologist—looking after all the sins of that—
Mr. John O’Toole: According to the standing orders, I think the member is supposed to be addressing Bill 75. I’m not being rude, but he’s talking about tar sands and oil sands, and I can’t see where any of this relates to this bill, which is a restructuring of the service provisions and administration of the energy of Ontario. I would ask him to stick to the topic.
Mr. Phil McNeely: Speaker, I can understand where it’s coming from. I mean, these people did not want us to get out of coal. They did not want us to bring in these smart meters. They have been consistent. They didn’t want us to have tobacco bylaws. They had a bill last week promoting pesticides. So I’m not surprised where that comes from.
We have accomplished a lot. We’ve rebuilt the distribution system for the 21st century—we’ve invested $7 billion to rebuild it—and we’ve brought on 9,000 megawatts of new and refurbished clean energy. Of course, the party opposite would be against clean energy. It’s the same as taking smoking out of bars or airplanes. It’s the same as not spraying pesticides on lawns. So they’re against clean energy, and that’s hurt the clean energy industry here, but the Green Energy Act has created 20,000 jobs and is doing important things. We’re a North American leader, and we all know—or at least people who read the scientific reports know—that within 10 to 15 years you’ve got to be away from coal. It’s going to be difficult for the US and for China, but they’re going to have to get out of coal. Green energy is what’s going to be the new energy—and conservation—and we’re going to have to do that.
So we’re phasing out of coal with its $4 billion in health and environment costs. This was great. This was the thing to go on, and Ontarians have supported us. I’m pleased that Ontarians have supported us. Ontario is the leader in the world in getting out of coal, and that’s where we all have to go.
Joining these two organizations together will let them plan more efficiently, will save taxpayers and customers money. In addition to combining the organizations to form the Ontario Electricity System Operator, the OESO, we’re asking OPA and Hydro One to cut costs. We’re undertaking a review of the feed-in tariffs. We are benchmarking the OPG and Hydro One against national and international peers.
And something I want to see is that we will, through an Ontario Distribution Sector Panel, be reviewing Ontario’s local distribution companies. I think that’s extremely important. That will be important for Ottawa.
I’m proud to be part of the government which is leading North America in greenhouse gas reductions. You know, all countries must get out of coal in the next 30 years; it’s absolutely necessary. Twenty would be better, and 10 would be even better. It’s going to take a long time for those economies to adjust to that.
I think this bill that is in front of us is the right direction. It’s just part of the changes we’re making in the energy sector, and it will be important. I hope that the members of this House will support it.
Mr. John O’Toole: I think the member for Ottawa–Orléans—I want to set the record straight here right now—was impugning motive. He was in violation of standing order 23(i), which says he should not impugn or imply false information on another member. He should know—he’s a very clever gentleman—that the only coal plant that’s ever been closed in the province of Ontario was closed by Elizabeth Witmer.
Now, the truth of it is—this isn’t really relevant to the bill—that in the election in 2003 they promised they were going to close the coal plants by I believe it was 2011. Now, the Minister of the Environment is here, and I know he has been Minister of the Environment a couple of times. The fact is that they’ve changed that and they still haven’t closed the coal plants.
Now, we’re using less coal, and the reason we’re using less coal is because there is no economy. The economy of Ontario uses about—67% or 68% of all the electrons are used by industry: refining, pulp and paper, steel, manufacturing. Those are the very sectors of the economy that have gone off the cliff. I don’t blame it all on Premier McGuinty, but he’s got to take some responsibility for the plight of 600,000 families without jobs. All he’s done—
Mr. Michael Mantha: Now I’m really looking forward to hearing the prior speaker’s comments. I’m going to be listening quite attentively to what he’s going to be highlighting to this House when he speaks shortly.
Again, this really is maybe taking a small step forward, but when you’re taking that step forward, you can’t forget the good that was there in the past by having those checks and balances to make sure that the proper decisions are going to be made, going forward.
When we’re saying that, we really need to make sure there is a process in order to have all of our stakeholders and all of the individuals sit down and really scrutinize where this is going and what this act is supposed to do. It’s eliminating a process, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t weaken it, that it actually strengthens what we’re trying to do.
From where I stand, the benefit needs to be to the consumers. The consumers need to benefit from this—not only benefit through a reduction or a clarity on their hydro bill or their consumption bill, but also with the environment and also with other checks and balances that need to be there. We really need to make sure that those flags are there to be raised when they need to be raised.
It’s really important that we take the time to scrutinize this. I look forward to having those discussions, to making sure that—a lot of what we campaigned on, as a party, during the campaign was to eliminate a lot of the repetitive services and the administrative costs that are there, because that will definitely bring benefits to the consumer.
I look forward to hearing some of the comments that I’m going to be hearing from the prior speaker, because a lot of the reasons why we’re here today are because of actions that that government took then. I’ll sit and listen now.
Mr. Reza Moridi: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, it’s a pleasure to talk to Bill 75. My colleague the member from Ottawa–Orléans very eloquently explained the reason why we are bringing this bill forward, and I’m glad to hear that the third party is supporting the amalgamation of these two Ministry of Energy agencies, the Independent Electricity System Operator and the Ontario Power Authority.
The member from Durham has commented on the burning of coal for the production of electricity. I must indicate that when his party was in power, the burning of coal increased by 127% in Ontario. I must tell you, Mr. Speaker, that burning coal costs $4.4 billion to our health care and the environmental system. It is the worst method of electricity production. We made a policy decision some years ago to shut down all coal-fired plants in the province of Ontario, and we have already shut down several of those plants.
Burning coal is the worst way of producing electricity. Instead of coal, we have introduced clean, renewable energy. Now we are producing electricity using energy from the sun. We are producing electricity using energy from the wind. Also, we have introduced biogas and biomass energy into our energy mix in Ontario. This is 21st-century energy-production technology, and we are using that and we have put Ontario on the map as far as renewable energy production goes in the whole continent.
Mr. Rob Leone: I listened intently to the member for Ottawa–Orléans. In his comments today, I noticed that he spoke for about 14 and a half minutes on Bill 75, and about 14 minutes of those were actually not on the bill itself, so I’m going to take the liberty of addressing some of the comments he made.
He also says, and the member for Richmond Hill states, that consumption of coal went up and all this sort of fun stuff, but what he doesn’t say is that in Ontario, when we were in office, we created one million new jobs. Jobs, Mr. Speaker, are part of what we’re talking about here, and we’re treating energy policy as part of economic policy.
What he also didn’t say was some of the issues that we’re having with the energy file. I sit on the estimates committee. I notice the member for Richmond Hill also sits on the estimate committee. At estimates, we’re asking the government to table some documents with respect to the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants, documents that are not forthcoming. Certainly, they simply didn’t come when we asked for them and now we’re mired in procedural wrangling. They’re delaying the work of the opposition to hold this government to account and to actually be transparent, which would be to actually table the documents that the committee has requested. This is what’s going on in estimates today. This is what Minister Bentley, the Minister of Energy, is taking part in. He doesn’t want to reveal the bad, black holes in energy policy in Ontario, and I say that this House had better see those documents soon.
Mr. Phil McNeely: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Durham. I’d just like to let him know that the Conservatives may have promised to close that coal plant and they may have done that for several years, but that coal plant was closed after 2003, when we were the government. I’d just like to mention that to him.
The member for Algoma–Manitoulin—I can understand where he’s coming from. He’s concerned with some of the consultation and checks and balances that are in the system. I’m not aware of how those are going to play out, but certainly he’ll be able to get that information from our minister.
The member from Cambridge—a green energy leader. But I think you have to remember that manufacturing has that 30-cent, 40-cent wage in the Third World. I think that had something to do with it. The downturn in the US has something to do too; they were taking 70% of our products. Sure, energy costs are a cost of manufacturing, an important cost, but the environment has to be higher up the scale in that. To continue with cheap coal is not the solution to manufacturing in Ontario.
I want to thank them all for this. I’m pleased that there’s a good discussion going on in this House about where we’re going with energy and how we can save those dollars. I think that’s what the intent of this bill and this panel is: to bring together these two agencies, make them more efficient and then have a look at the whole system across the province. I’m looking for a good answer for Ottawa when that panel reports in a year.
Mr. John O’Toole: I wasn’t really sure, at the start of this morning, that I was going to be speaking on this, so I’ll try to stick to the topic. I was going to seek unanimous consent to stand down my rotation, but I don’t think that would be supported.
I do want to start clearly by saying to the previous two speakers, in no respect is this personal in any way. One is an engineer, and the other has a Ph.D in physics, so I know they’re qualified individuals. But at the same time, I know they’ve been given notes that I’m sure they don’t even believe themselves. Because if you knew much about it—in fact, Mr. McNeely said—and he was, I believe, an Ottawa councillor at one time, as I was a councillor. Most of the people here, a lot of them, were; Mr. Leal was, as well, in Peterborough. The local utilities really only serviced urban areas, where there was density. Hydro One—back then it was called Ontario Hydro—serviced all the hard-to-service areas, where there was no density. It’s very expensive to have 100 miles of wire and only one customer, and servicing that wire in storms and all the rest of it is very expensive.
There were, I think, almost 400 municipal utilities, and they all had different bills, different rates, whatever. But let’s be clear: Utilities do not set the rate. The Ontario Energy Board basically sets the rate for electricity per kilowatt hour, but they do add on charges and services charges, and that is where there were differences. But the rate itself was uniform; in fact, it still is today, pretty much.
At that time for hydro, during the NDP era, it was chaos as well. A lot of it was the expensive solution of generation, which was nuclear. Nuclear energy is very capital-intensive, and it’s a big-footprint type of set-up. I may not agree with it, but that’s the decision that the Ontario Power Authority has made, that over 50% of our energy is going to come from nuclear. All parties have bought into that; there’s not a question about that. Back then, the government had a lot of trouble. In fact, they got to nine cents a kilowatt hour, then they froze the rates. Actually, during the completion of Darlington, the project went from $4 billion to, I think it was $15 billion by the time it got completed. They could never service that debt until they started to generate electrons. So for the years and delays—the NDP stopped it, the Liberals under David Peterson stopped it. In fact, it was stopped and started quite a bit, until the project finally got completed. Then they could put into the rate the recovery of the $14 billion.
The set-up at that time—it was called the Macdonald commission. Donald Macdonald was Trudeau’s finance minister—a brilliant guy. We’re not into politics here. They realized that the whole Ontario Hydro was in serious trouble. The assets could not generate revenue to pay off the debt. They were, by any measure, bankrupt. The Macdonald commission looked at it and decided to put it into profit centres: the generation side, which was hydroelectric, coal and nuclear—that was basically what they had at the time—and a couple of gas plants. They looked at the supply mix. At that time, the generation capacity was around 25,000 or 26,000 megawatts. Then they took the wires, the transmission system—these are the big wires—and set up a company for that. That’s a natural monopoly. Whoever gets on the big wires to transmit power, high voltage, it’s a monopoly. You have to be on the wires to get somewhere. The small wires were the utilities. The utilities were a real mess. But we did merge a lot of them; there’s no question about it. In fact, you have a paper out now that you’re going to try to merge them again. I commend you for that, quite honestly, because there should be a seamless relationship between the consumer and the bills they pay, whether it’s in Mississauga or in Burlington or wherever else. We shouldn’t have all these municipal utilities with different bills. They’ve gone a long way to harmonizing the bills, so you can see what the electrons cost, what the delivery costs are.
I would suspect, to anyone listening, the debt retirement charge is quite problematic. People don’t get it. That’s dealing with the debt that the Macdonald commission talked about. In fact, your revenue from the debt retirement charge, per year, is around $900 million—about $1 billion. Just to keep it simple, it’s $1 billion. You’ve been collecting that $1 billion for eight years. There were reports by economists that said the residual stranded debt of that $25-billion hole in the ground, there was part of it—that’s the residual stranded debt that wasn’t supported by the assets. That’s where that charge came from—and it’s not me. Look, Donald Macdonald’s commission report explains it to you. I had someone explain it to me, and I took the time, over many years, to read it and ask questions. That gives you a thumbnail sketch of the history.
We committed, in the same election in 2003, to cancel the coal plants, and we said 2014. That’s documented proof. Here’s the issue—and I said it during the election, because I’m fortunate enough to represent the riding of Durham, which is the largest nuclear generation area in Canada. I have a lot of experts who tell me how this system works, and they’re very helpful to me in that way. In fact, the real issue is that the organization right now of the whole system has been kind of messed up a bit. The debt retirement, I believe, is paid off, yet we have the highest rates in North America. The reason we do is the way you’re trying to pay for the feed-in tariffs. What happens is that renewable energy, wind and solar—and both these engineers understand that—is called non-dispatchable energy by the professionals. In other words, you can’t generate electrons when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, but you need electrons all the time. So when you have electrons being generated when you don’t need them, like at night when everybody is asleep and low demand, what do you do with those? You actually have to get them off the system, but what your contract says under the FIT tariff is that you’ve got to buy them. The province has committed for 20 years that whenever you’re generating electrons from renewable energy FIT contracts, you get paid for them. You’re not only getting paid, you’re getting 80.2 cents a kilowatt-hour for microFIT installations.
Now, that 80 cents, if you think of how the system works—and the engineers know—the system, the wire, is like a garden hose. If it’s full of electrons going from the generation—the nuclear plant which is running—and nobody is taking the electrons off the system, the system shorts out. Like a garden hose that was plugged, eventually it would break. So you’re giving those electrons away to Quebec; in fact, you’re paying them to take them.
Now, the problem with the system we have is that there’s not enough interconnect capacity. We have only got about 3,000 megawatts of interconnect capacity with Quebec and Manitoba. Quebec and Manitoba have hydroelectric power. That’s the cheapest form; they’re not going to buy our expensive electrons, especially renewable.
I think the renewable program is a good idea. As far as the coal goes, it was our plan, remember, in 2014. You still haven’t closed them and I put to you now you’re not going to close them. You’re going to be using biomass. The reason is, when you have generation of 5,000 megawatts at the Nanticoke plant, a huge coal plant—it’s all been tooled. The mercury is out of it. They’ve got particulate matter under control. They’ve got a lot of stuff that they could do there. You’re going to actually convert those plants to, I believe, biomass. Because how do you get the electrons out of the plant? With a transmission system. That grid is worth billions. There’s not enough gas in the area to gasify the plant. I believe those plants will be used. I put that on the record here today. It’ll be another broken promise.
You shouldn’t promise things which you don’t deliver. Now, here’s the deal: You say, “We didn’t know.” Well, if you didn’t know, you shouldn’t have promised. If you promised and you knew, then you lied. That’s how it works. In this system here, there are experts who have said these very things I’m saying.
Now, what does it have to do with this bill? If you want to start on the bill that we’re talking about, Bill 75, it would be important to read a couple of other documents. Our plan during the election was to eliminate the Ontario Power Authority—not discredit it but cancel it. Why? Its mandate was about 70 people, experts, Ph.D.s, and all the rest of it, to figure out what the supply mix should be. They’ve presented the supply mix report.
But the Environmental Commissioner had a few things to say about it in his recent report. It’s worth looking at. It’s Restoring Balance: A Review of the First Three Years of the Green Energy Act. It’s very much worth reading. The reason I say that is that there are a few disappointments in there. I should say this is not me, this is Gord Miller. They’ll probably fire him now. This is what it says—and the Minister of the Environment is here. It starts at Ontario’s “culture of conservation.” Remember that fancy term they used during the election, the “culture of conservation”? They completely failed—completely failed. Read his report; it tells you. But it goes on to say that there are a few reports that are missing. He’s looking for them—and now they’re never going to be seen.
I’m going to read this here because it’s worth looking at. It’s near the back of the report. Here it is, on page 46, under “Electricity.” It says, “In February 2011, the Minister of Energy issued a supply mix directive (replacing previous supply mix directives of 2006 and 2008)”—so they said there was a supply mix. Now it’s so screwed up, they don’t know what’s going on. Technically, they have way too much renewable. In fact, that’s another whole fiasco. We’ve got people who have invested money and now they’re going to lose it—“directing the OPA to prepare an updated integrated power system plan (IPSP). In a February 2011 letter, the Minister of Energy indicated he anticipated that the plan would be delivered to the board later in 2011. At the time of writing our report, the IPSP”—integrated power system plan—“had still not been filed with the OEB.
Here’s what the preamble of the bill says, which causes me great concern in the context of us asking questions for the last two months or more on the Ornge helicopter affair. Here’s what this Bill 75 says. It says, “The bill amends the Electricity Act, 1998”—which I made all my remarks about—“by amalgamating the Independent Electricity System Operator (‘IESO’) and the Ontario Power Authority (‘OPA’) and by continuing them as the Ontario Electricity System Operator (‘OESO’).” So the OPA and the IESO are gone.
I believe they should just get rid of the OPA. Here’s the point: These companies, these employees—and you’ve gone from about 75 employees to, I think, 400 employees with the OPA. What are they doing? They can’t even get the report in. I think there’s way too much meddling from the ministry itself. The OPA is integrating all this renewable energy and now you’ve got a glut of it and you can’t get rid of it. You can’t actually balance the system, if you know what I’m saying. The system has to be in balance. You can’t run your system on wind turbines. It just doesn’t work.
In fact, I’ll tell you what’s new. There’s an academic report; you might read it. I had someone call me from the University of Toronto. I had lunch with them and they explained it to me. The future is this: They’re going to take off-peak renewable energy at night and create hydrogen or some other gas. The issue then is, how do you store hydrogen? Now they’re talking about the pipelines being part of the ability to store some of this stuff. That’s innovative, and that I support, because why? You can’t store electricity, and this physics professor over here knows that. And you can’t run nuclear up and down; you run it or it’s off. It’s either on or off; otherwise, you wear the system out.
If you look at this thing here, what it says is that the board of this new organization, the OESO, is required to ensure—listen carefully, now—“that there is an effective separation of functions and activities of the OESO relating to its” marketing and “procurement and contract management activities.” Uh-oh. Look at it. They’re even saying it in here. They’re telling Premier McGuinty and his cabinet—hopefully it will be Tim Hudak and our cabinet by the time this thing gets unwound. I’d say there’s a problem here; it’s called subrogation, and you need to separate—it’s like the Ontario Securities Commission setting the rules and doing the enforcement. It’s a natural conflict. You’ve got to subrogate the two functions, actually. In fact, I think you’re going wrong here because the Ontario Energy Board is the rightful quasi-judicial body to make these decisions. I think you would find some support for this openness, transparency and accountability from Tim Hudak and our caucus.
I say that openly because we believe—we have a document out, and I put this document out for discussion. It’s very important. I encourage people, if you can’t get one, to go online. You can get it. Or give me a call; I’ll get you one—or our critic Vic Fedeli, a marvellous guy and very into this. In fact, he’s responsible for this report. It’s called Pathways to Prosperity.
Mr. Michael Harris: I’d like to welcome this morning, all the way from Punkeydoodles Corners, in the riding of Kitchener–Conestoga, Garry Ruttan and Sheila Hannon, proud parents of our legislative intern, Craig Ruttan. Welcome to Queen’s Park today.
Hon. John Milloy: I’d like to welcome the family of page Andrew Johnson, from the great riding of Kitchener Centre. We have Angela and William Johnson, Andrew’s parents, and Luke and Emma Johnson, Andrew’s brother and sister, who I believe are former pages. So we welcome them to Queen’s Park today.
Mrs. Laura Albanese: I would like to welcome to Queen’s Park Ashokkuma Patel, who is the father of Gopi Patel, a legislative page here at Queen’s Park from the great riding of York South–Weston. I would also like to welcome Shawn Cabral, also a resident of York South–Weston and a student at Dante Alighieri high school. Welcome.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: I’m very pleased to introduce today Wayne and Sandra Martin, who are here from Guelph and who won lunch with me at a charity auction for the wonderful Guelph General Hospital foundation.
Mr. Yasir Naqvi: I want to introduce two members of my family who are visiting from New Delhi, India, today here at Queen’s Park: Triveni Naqvi and Iman Naqvi, and they’re accompanied by my parents, Anwar and Qaisar Naqvi. Welcome to Queen’s Park and to Canada.
Hon. John Milloy: Mr. Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent that every party be allowed to speak for up to five minutes in tribute of 35 years of service for the member for St. Catharines, the Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Jim Bradley.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Speaker, 35 years ago this Saturday, James Joseph Bradley was elected to this Legislature to represent the people of St. Catharines. That day marked the beginning of a truly remarkable political career.
The member for St. Catharines has won 10 consecutive elections. In those elections, he has captured, on average, 50% of the votes cast. He has served in six different critic responsibilities. He has served as House leader in government and in opposition. He has been minister in six different portfolios, and he has been our party’s interim leader.
While Jim has technically served for 21 years in opposition and 14 in government, in reality, during all those years, he has been in opposition. Speaker, you will know that Jim’s trademark way of weighing in on a caucus discussion around any new government initiative is to begin by saying, “At the risk of being seen as the skunk at the garden party....”
Jim was first elected at a time when it seemed the only thing protecting Liberals in Ontario were the game laws. But Jim’s constituents saw something in him they never lost sight of: a man of good character, someone who, over the years, has only grown in judgment, perspective and good humour. Jim takes his responsibilities seriously, but not himself. He’s proud to serve in government, but he’s most respectful of the role of opposition. Jim embraces his responsibilities here at Queen’s Park, but his devotion is to the people of St. Catharines.
Jim’s mind is always as open to new ideas about progressive politics as it is tightly closed to progress in technology. For Jim, progress in information gathering is to keep adding individual sheets of notes to the yellowed stack he stores in his breast pocket.
I believe the responsibility of those of us lucky enough to serve in this place is to represent Ontarians at their very best. Jim has been doing that every day for the last 35 years. He has been decent, hard-working and respectful. He has been helpful to those in need, demanding of the strong, and determined to build a strong and caring society for all Ontarians. He has resisted cynicism and steadfastly embraced the noble ideal of public service. More than that, he has nurtured that idealism in others.
You may know, Speaker, that every year Jim hosts a dinner for current and former staffers. As many as 40 show up. Some worked for him 30 years ago. They return to remember a special time in their young lives and to thank Jim for teaching them values that sustained them throughout life.
Jim’s entire adult life has been devoted to helping people—not to getting, but to giving. Jim loves this Legislature and the workings of democracy, and he believes that we in this place can make a difference. And he has a record of achievement to prove it.
Mr. Speaker, if we look around the world, it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that we Ontarians are privileged, and with that privilege comes responsibility—the responsibility to keep making our communities, our province, our country and hopefully our world a better place. For 35 unbroken years, Jim Bradley has assumed that responsibility with enthusiasm and with integrity.
He has proven to be invulnerable at home, and he’s closing in on venerable here. You’ll notice I didn’t say that he is venerable; I said he was closing in on venerable. The problem with being venerable is that it puts you beyond the reach of the leader.
Let me close with this: Cicero said that nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable, than faithfulness and truth. Jim, on behalf of your colleagues and the people of Ontario, I thank you for 35 years of service, throughout which you have been faithful to us and true to yourself. Thank you.
Mr. Tim Hudak: I’m pleased to rise today on behalf of the Ontario PC caucus to recognize the member of St. Catharines on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of his election to this place. It was 1977 when Jim was first elected here. Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Knowlton Nash was on The National. Donna Summer dominated disco. A single computer would fill an entire room—in fact, the last bit of technology Jim Bradley invested in. Monte McNaughton, Rob Leone, Michael Harris, Jagmeet Singh—I don’t think they were even born yet. And Jim’s favourite hockey team, the Buffalo Sabres, were only one or two seasons away from winning the Stanley Cup—still are.
After 1977, Jim Bradley rose through the benches very rapidly, and of course for good reason. He was a man very much dedicated to public life as a teacher, a city councillor before that, always involved in his community, caring very deeply for the good people of St. Catharines. He’s a good and decent man. Coming from Niagara, a bordering riding, and following the politics before I even got here, to me as an individual, Jim Bradley’s name always stood in the Liberal ranks among that pantheon of celebrated Liberal names and cabinet ministers. I think of folks like Ian Scott, Sean Conway, Bob Nixon and Jim Bradley. They were among the major political lights of the Peterson government, and I count Jim similarly as a man of stature and dignity.
The Premier mentioned the blue box program. When Jim Bradley advanced the blue box program across the province, it was highly controversial at the time. Now it’s a program embraced right across our province and part of everyday life. The acid rain debate was also controversial at the time. Those were victories here under Jim Bradley’s leadership as environment minister, as were “polluter pays” fines, to name a few. Jim has taken on a number of cabinet portfolios, but I think the smile on his face is always widest when he’s carrying his environment briefing binder. And look at the many accomplishments he’s had.
Ian, Sean and Bob—great careers; no longer here. Jim Bradley still is. He has not just dedicated the most productive years of his life to this place and his constituents, but he’s dedicated virtually all his adult life to public service, and despite our occasional differences, we’re all the better for it.
I’m going to let this secret out a little bit here, too, Jim. There was a bit of a—“troika” is probably not the right word—detente between Jim Bradley, Peter Kormos and myself: three different parties, and we all served area ridings for some time. Of course, in our discussions Peter Kormos was the model of centrist moderation, Jim was the wild-eyed gambler, and I was always the soft-spoken guy smack in the middle trying to reach compromise wherever I could. But you know what? I appreciated that.
I don’t know a better term for it, but Jim also comes from that old school. No matter what your political party, if there’s an announcement in Niagara, for example, in my riding, Jim always gives credit to the local member. He respects their position and the honour we all share here, the unique 107 in the entire province of Ontario to have the privilege of sitting in his place. Jim would never let party colours get in the way of that. I respect that, and I appreciate that. That tells me there’s still honour in this place, there’s still dignity in this place, and there are still people who understand the importance of the role we play, no matter what party we represent. Jim embodies that. We appreciate that, and we respect that.
At times, when folks will be watching at home, those in the audience today may lose faith in the political process, may get a dose of cynicism about politicians. They need look no further than Jim Bradley and his career for reassurance. There is decency in this place. There is honour. There is dignity.
On behalf of the Ontario PC caucus, I thank the distinguished member for St. Catharines for all these things and more. On behalf of the Ontario PC Party, Jim, congratulations on 35 years of making an incredible impact on St. Catharines, Niagara and our beloved province of Ontario. Congratulations.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I speak on behalf of the New Democrats in the words that I want to offer on behalf of the member from St. Catharines. I have known Jim for the last 22 years. That is a long, long, long time. I want to say that—I am careful, because we’re not speaking about a man who has retired; he’s still here. As I listened to the Premier and Mr. Hudak, the leader of the official opposition, I thought, “You’re giving him praise for a man who’s just retired,” and I say, “But he’s still here.” So my comments are related to the member who is still here. I say the reason why he’s still here is because we have no pension. It does take about 50 years to have a pension that is half of what the federal members earn. People make fun of this; I understand. A whole lot of people in the audience think that we do have a pension—God bless—but we don’t. So we are still here, earning a wage, trying to make sure that when we retire we have a decent pension, whatever we’re getting from the government.
One of the things that Jim and I have in common is that we’re not very good with the latest technology—we’re not. But at least I have a BlackBerry over your black book, which I have learned to use ever so painfully and slowly, but I’m getting there. You realize that without it, we’re in the Dark Ages. Jim, please, you’ve got to get on to it, like I have.
Jim is a man who respects opposition, and we have been in opposition together. We respect government, and we respect the role of opposition members. That’s something that we all have in common here—at least, Jim and I and many others in this place: We know that in a democracy, we need all the different players to do their job. Government has a job to do and the opposition parties have a job to do. He used to remind us of that every time he was here, and he reminds us of that every time he is there as well. For that, I respect you, Jim.
I want to say that longevity has a lot to do with intelligence, sensitivity, resilience, knowing how to respect the people in the riding, knowing how to respect the people here. One doesn’t last that long unless you have those abilities, those rare abilities, to be able to reflect your constituents over the years, to be able to change with them, and to be able to work in a way that allows you to resist all the political changes—including the changes of the 1990s and the changes of 1995. That has a lot to do with your personality, the respect that you give to the people in your riding and the respect you have for this institution.
Jim, on behalf of New Democrats, we respect the work that you do. You are a good Liberal, and I want to say that, because there are times when I don’t say that of many Liberals. You are one of the finest Liberals this government has. On behalf of us all, thank you.
Hon. James J. Bradley: I’ll take a moment to respond. I know we are eager to get to the cut and thrust of question period, where all the nice things that the people in the gallery have heard today tend to disappear into the background.
I want to simply thank the members of the Legislative Assembly for the very kind round of applause that you accorded me a couple of days ago and again today, and to thank the Premier for his very kind words, the Leader of the Opposition, and my friend Rosario representing the New Democratic Party.
I have actually sat in this Legislature with five different people whose parents have been in the Legislature. John Yakabuski’s father, Paul Yakabuski, was one of them; Frank Miller was another, Norm Miller’s father, who served as a Premier of this province as well; Dalton McGuinty Sr., the father of the Premier; I remember Elinor Caplan, who is the mother of David Caplan; and Shelley Martel, whose father was Elie Martel. It’s interesting, if you are here for a certain period of time, you see the next generation serving in the Legislature, and each one of them having the marvellous attributes that brought their parents to the Legislature and that desire to serve others.
I’ve also—I’ll put it this way; I don’t want to insult the Premier—gone through seven Premiers now, from Premier Davis to Premier McGuinty, and again, I have an admiration for each one of them. It’s fascinating, though, when people ask about a perspective. I have a good deal of admiration—and people, usually when they’re Premier, have been in the opposition, but not in Mr. Davis’s case, because the Conservatives were in power forever in those particular days; the people across would say the good old days. But I have a great admiration for opposition leaders. Our Premier would tell you this as well, and anybody who served before they became Premier: One of the toughest jobs that you can have is as an opposition leader. You may be speaking to four people in some basement on a Friday afternoon. You may be going to a lot of events that you are obligated to as the leader of a political party, and it would be nice to be home with your feet up and with members of the family around. So I have a great deal of respect for all members of the Legislature.
My observation has been that regardless of affiliation, regardless of riding, overwhelmingly, the number of people who run for public office are good people. We often don’t know each other in our initial days in the Legislature. The more you learn about people—the more you sit down with them informally, the more you learn about their life story—the more you recognize what good people they are.
We are partisan in this House; that’s part of being a member of the Legislature. But what you find is that people rally around one another in times of sickness, in times of death, in times of stress within family. You’ll find that members of the Legislature gather together and pay tribute to those and are assisting those and understanding those who go through what human beings go through.
All members here recognize as well—and I can tell you, I most assuredly do—the importance of good staff. We are the ones who appear on television, we are the ones who may be on the front page of a newspaper, but we are very reliant upon good staff. I have been blessed with extremely good staff here at Queen’s Park as an MPP, in my ministerial duties and, as we all know, back at the constituency office, where they do a yeoperson’s job there. It is the front line. Many of us would figure we could not do the job that our constituency office staff do. Actually, the Premier has been annoyed because I plant them all over the government, people who have once worked for me, even in the Premier’s office, as spies, and they tend to do a very good job—not of spying.
The other thing I want to mention—this is hard to believe as well—is that there have been members of this assembly who have been pages before. In the last Parliament I was sitting in, two of the people sitting here in cabinet with me were actually pages when I was elected. They were bringing me water back in those days. One is the government House leader, who’s sitting beside me today. He was a page in those days. I had a feeling he might well be a member of Parliament at one time.
But again, I’m extremely grateful to all of you. Speaker, I should tell you there have been at least 12 Speakers since I have been in this position as well, and they’ve all been very dedicated to the job and we’ve enjoyed having them.
It’s a privilege to serve. It’s a privilege few people have. I think the Leader of the Opposition mentioned this. We have something a little different in the Niagara Peninsula, perhaps—I don’t know; it may happen in other places that Tim made reference to—and that is that those of us who represent the Niagara area, you don’t hear us attack one another personally. We certainly have different views on different issues, but you’ll find that we rally together when trying to defend the interests of the Niagara Peninsula. So when Cindy would be at a meeting or Tim would be at a meeting or Kim or Peter Kormos who was there for a number of years, and Mel Swart before that, a number of us—by the way, a person some of you here would know, although he’s been gone for a period of time, is Bob Welch. Bob Welch held a lot of portfolios: He was Deputy Premier; he was government House leader. He was a mentor to me. He sat on the opposite side. I sat most of my time in opposition, some of it in government, but Bob Welch took me under his wing. There’s no need to do that, because in politics—one of the detriments of this job is that one of our jobs is to make the other person look bad. None of us like that, but that’s part of the responsibility. Bob Welch took me under his wing and gave me a lot of good advice, and I’m extremely grateful to him for that. He’s passed on. By the way, when he did pass on, there was a huge funeral, with people from all political parties there.
So thank you very much for your very, very kind words. I enjoy this place. I hope to be here for a period of time into the future. That is always determined by the electorate or by health or something of that nature. I like each and every member of this House and always have. I wish you all well in your personal lives and your career. Thank you for your kindness.
I just wanted to do a quick echo, and that is to simply say that I personally thank all the members for their very kind words. Their representations are because of the member from St. Catharines’ personal dedication to the job, and I thank you for that. It’s on behalf of all of us that we speak, and for all of us, in terms of the dedication that you all give to this job, day in and day out—not just in this House but outside of the House. So thank you so much.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Premier, this entire week I’ve talked to you about our concern over the hollowing out of the manufacturing sector of the province of Ontario under your expensive energy policies, higher taxes and increased red tape.
Yesterday, Premier, General Motors briefed the PC caucus on why they decided to move production of the Impala to Michigan and the Equinox to a reopened plant in Tennessee. They detailed for us input costs increasing, particularly electricity and regulatory administration.
Premier, under your government, electricity rates are now the highest in competing states and provinces for industry. Isn’t it time to get off that course and embrace our ideas for more reliable, affordable hydro so that businesses will create jobs again?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I’m delighted to take the question. I had been hoping my colleague was going to ask that we dispense with question period today, given the tone and the mood that we had set a moment ago, but that is not to be, and probably rightfully so.
I’m very proud of the fact that Ontario remains the number one producer of cars in North America. That is a standing we have achieved on our watch. We have worked hard to achieve that particular status, especially when the auto sector found itself up against it, in the context of this most recent and terrible recession. When they looked to us for support, Speaker, and we looked to this Legislature for support, we did not find that within the ranks of the opposition. So we worked with Prime Minister Harper, we worked with the Obama administration and we put forward a support package that ensured the continuing survival and growth and continuing prosperity of our auto sector here in Ontario.
Mr. Tim Hudak: The Premier misses the entire point. The reason we have the largest auto production in Ontario is because we had reliable, affordable hydro; we had a productive workforce; we had competitive taxes; and we had a regulatory environment that was pro-jobs and pro-growth. I was proud to be part of a PC government that was number one in North America in job creation and investment.
We’re on the wrong path. It’s time to reverse course, Premier. We put out good ideas: reliable, affordable hydro; to get away from your expensive Feed-in Tariff program; to say to business that we’re open for investment again; and to change the attitude of government that says, “Get out of their way, get behind them and make Ontario number one again in North America for job creation.” Why won’t you take up our ideas?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I want to remind my honourable colleague that we did cut corporate taxes, we did eliminate the capital tax in Ontario, we have reduced small business taxes, and we eliminated tens of thousands of regulatory burdens that confronted our businesses.
To be specific with respect to our auto sector, since the recession, GM has invested in a new transmission line in St. Catharines, GM has invested to expand capacity at their CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Toyota has invested in 400 new jobs at Woodstock, Ford has invested in a third shift at the Essex engine plant, Honda has added 400 jobs, and Chrysler has invested $27 million in the Etobicoke casting plant. That represents hundreds and hundreds of new jobs.
The real reason that we’re doing so well in Ontario when it comes to auto production is in fact the quality of our workforce. We are without compare in that regard, and my honourable colleague should acknowledge that.
Mr. Jerry J. Ouellette: Premier, the government’s function is to create an environment that attracts jobs. Wednesday last, I met with the senior management of General Motors, who stated that there are two key areas that make Ontario non-competitive. They stated that the price of energy and the levels of taxation make Ontario non-competitive.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: As my honourable colleague might imagine, I’ve had several opportunities over the past several years to meet with representatives of all of our auto companies here in Ontario. I’ve also travelled south of the border and travelled to places as far as Davos, Switzerland, in order to secure new investments here in Ontario.
There are competitiveness challenges around the world; we’ve entered into a new era of globalization. But I can say once again: The reason—and I would ask that my honourable colleagues opposite acknowledge this—that we are number one in North America and that we’ve held that position for nine years running is because we have an outstanding workforce, a competitive business environment—but, I would argue, most importantly, we have a strong partnership between this government and the auto sector here in Ontario.
It’s not simply GM; that’s bad enough. Caterpillar in London shed jobs and moved to Indiana; Xstrata in Timmins, across to Quebec; John Deere outside of Welland moved down to Wisconsin; BF Goodrich moved out of Kitchener-Waterloo, I believe, into the States.
Premier, Ontario’s wage growth for families has gone up 0.1% from last year. One tenth of one per cent: That’s dead last in all of Canada. Premier, isn’t this evidence of Ontario’s economic decline under your failed economic policies when wage rates have gone up 0.1%? Isn’t that the definition of failure and misguided economic policy?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I’m just a lot more positive about our province, about its state today, and very optimistic about our continuing growth long into the future. The fact of the matter is, we’ve created 340,000 net new jobs since the recession.
I’ll give you just one example. Back in 2003, they had 250 people working in the Bombardier assembly plant in Thunder Bay; today they have 1,300 people working there, and they’re looking for about 160 more. That’s just one example of one business that continues to grow here in Ontario.
I’d ask my honourable colleague to take a look at that particular example and take a look at the dozens of others that are there and demonstrate that, working together, we are continuing to grow this economy, and on the whole, we are continuing to create net new jobs for Ontarians.
Mr. Tim Hudak: You know, the Premier’s Pollyanna attitude about Ontario’s private sector economy demonstrates a man who has become dramatically out of touch with what’s happening in communities across our province and at kitchen tables.
Saskatchewan, for the first time in history, has now moved ahead of Ontario when it comes to average incomes. We’re falling farther and farther behind. Wage growth in Saskatchewan, 6%; British Columbia, 3.8%; Newfoundland, 4.7%; Prince Edward Island, 3.9%; Alberta, 3.3%; and Ontario, dead last, 0.1%. It’s actually even behind inflation in Canada, and inflation is at low levels.
I can say as well, by way of an additional specific example, let’s take a look at Telus. In 2000, Telus employed I think fewer than 100 people in Ontario; today they employ 8,000 in Ontario. Last Friday, they made an announcement—
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: They don’t like to hear good news, Speaker; I understand that. Apparently, they’re well educated with respect to what’s happening in other provinces, but they might want to learn a thing or two about how we’re doing so well here in Ontario.
Mr. Tim Hudak: —those at John Deere. We’ve lost 300,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector under their economic policies. It is being hollowed out. It helps to build a strong, secure middle class when you have good jobs in resources and manufacturing.
They’ve created 300,000 jobs in government, and we on this side are very concerned about the reality out there of public sector haves and private sector have-nots. Just the other day, an arbitrator gave TTC workers an 8% wage increase. So much for his public sector wage freeze—8%. It’s not fair. It’s not right.
We need to stimulate the private sector. We need to grow jobs. We need a public sector wage freeze. That’s the way forward for our province so we can grow again, we can create jobs and make Ontario number one in North America for job creation, not number 10 in Canada.
Hon. Dalton McGuinty: My honourable colleague purports to speak on behalf of the auto workers and their families. I think we should listen to a representative of the CAW, who in fact represents auto workers and those families. This is what he said. Ken Lewenza said the following: “Mr. Hudak’s approach puts ideology before economics.... If this policy were actually implemented, Ontario would never win another major capital investment by” any “major automaker. That would be a disaster for every auto-dependent community in the province....
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Premier. Last week I raised concerns about the government’s 300-page omnibus bill that grants cabinet sweeping powers to hold a fire sale of public government assets.
Hon. Dwight Duncan: I did in fact indicate the precise opposite yesterday in scrum. The third party particularly have expressed concerns with the language in one part of the budget. With respect to that, we will be bringing forward amendments which I think will satisfy the concerns raised by the leader of the third party.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Last week, when I raised the same concerns that the Minister of Finance dismissed at the time—he dismissed them, and he said that my arguments were full of holes. This raises serious concerns about the changes that this government is still planning to go ahead with. Is the government planning to sell off ServiceOntario? If so, we would like to know to whom.
Hon. Dwight Duncan: I would refer the leader of the third party to the 2011 budget, where we outlined a process to determine if in fact we could provide better service to the public. In the 2012 budget, we tabled as part of that our decision to move forward with the privatization of the final one third. I’d remind the leader of the third party that approximately two thirds of those services are delivered privately in Ontario. We require an additional $3 billion in investment to enhance intellectual and computer technology. Accordingly, having done the first two thirds, we’re proceeding with the last third.
Yesterday, the committee got a legal opinion that was offered that if ServiceOntario was sold to an American company, “personal information of Ontarians could be provided to US national security agencies under compulsion of the US Patriot Act.” Can the government confirm that American companies won’t be able to buy up ServiceOntario?
I can’t predict who will or will not be successful in that process. It would start with a request for information. It would be followed by a request for proposals. Any proposal would go through a significant scrutiny that would likely address the types of concerns the leader of the third party has raised. We would ultimately make a determination, based on bids, as to which one would be successful.
This is an appropriate process to transform the way we’re doing government. Our preference is to keep money focused on hospitals and schools. Where service can be better delivered privately, it should be delivered privately.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: My second question is for the Premier. This morning, a security breach at ServiceOntario kiosks has people across Ontario thinking about these very issues. They need to know that their personal information is safe and that it’s secure. Today, the minister is telling them that in some of these privatized kiosks, it actually might not be. Why should people support further sell-offs?
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: ServiceOntario was advised by debit card partners of security violations at kiosk locations in the GTA. It is suspected that the attempts made were to gain access to key credit and debit card data that allows replication of debit and credit cards. There is no indication that any personal details held by the Ontario government have been compromised. I directed our officials to temporarily suspend all 72 kiosks across the province. This was done as a cautious measure to allow staff to inspect all kiosks.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, it sounds like the minister is saying, “Just trust us,” and that the government is saying, “Just trust us.” But people across Ontario have a hard time doing that and justifiably so.
Yesterday, in a written submission, Ontario’s Ombudsman noted that his office has been losing its power to provide oversight and to protect the public for years under this government’s administration. He said, “Bill 55 is the latest stage in devolution.”
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: Let me make it very clear: Kiosks are owned by the Ontario government. They are not private kiosks. As soon as we found out that there was a security violation we took very concrete action. As a cautionary measure we suspended all the kiosks, and I directed all of my staff to go and inspect all kiosks in Ontario before they will come up again. That was taken as a cautionary measure. Based on the information that we have, there’s absolutely no violation of personal details held by the Ontario government.
Ms. Andrea Horwath: Over the last week, people have seen a government that seems to care a lot more about themselves than the people that they’re supposed to be representing. They’re spending millions and millions of dollars scrapping private power deals in Mississauga and Oakville but won’t tell the public exactly how many millions. They spent millions more in the mess at Ornge and hid information about salaries and expenses from the public.
Is this government ready to finally admit that real oversight protects the public and the treasury? If so, will it back off short-sighted schemes that erode public protection and leave people paying more?
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: We take security issues very seriously. As soon as we found out, we took very concrete action. We shut down the kiosks, which are publicly owned kiosks, and I have directed my staff to actually inspect each and every kiosk so that there is no violation of those kiosks. We will continue to make sure that the privacy of information of all Ontarians is protected at all times.
Mr. Frank Klees: To the Minister of Health: In a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the report of the growing number of emergency calls that Ornge cannot respond to because of understaffing of paramedics and pilots, Ornge issued a media release late yesterday afternoon. That release boasts of a new team at Ornge. It gives inflated information about the number of paramedics and the number of pilots that have been added to the front line.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I just caution the member that last part was quite close to impugning motive, so I would caution him on that. And a reminder, when I give you the wrap-up, to please wrap up.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I know it’s hard for the member opposite, but there’s very good news at Ornge. I’ve been talking about the progress that we are making, and I’m very pleased to be able to say that Ornge continues to add to its front-line staff team. There’s now a team of 217 paramedics at Ornge. That’s 10 more than there were this time last year. We’ve also got very good news that Ornge currently has 38 airplane pilots; seven more will be coming onboard by mid-July. At that time, they’ll be at 98% of their full complement of airplane pilots. In addition, Ornge has 69 helicopters and has recently hired five more, bringing the total to 74 by July. At that time, they’ll be at 95% of their complement.
Mr. Frank Klees: The minister didn’t hear my comment and my question to her. Do you know how many of those numbers that are inflated in that release are actually people on long-term sick leave and who will never be on the front line?
But, Speaker, the spin gets better about this new team. As we know, first, the minister appointed, as president and CEO, a civil servant who has no experience in air ambulance. It’s no surprise that the same release the minister read from spoke about a new roster of people: Bruce Farr, who never worked in an air ambulance service in any capacity and, according to the Ornge news release, will be “indispensable” at Ornge; Robert Giguere, who has never worked anywhere near an air ambulance service in any capacity but who managed to chart Skyservice Airlines into bankruptcy, is now a key player at Ornge; and Wayne Howard, who has no experience in any emergency service, is now the VP.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I am frankly astonished that the member opposite would not think that Bruce Farr will make a tremendous contribution to Ornge. Let’s just see what his history is—a long history of working with the Toronto Emergency Medical Services, EMS. He started as an ambulance driver in Scarborough, moved into the training division, and was eventually promoted to the position of chief of Toronto EMS, a position he held before retiring after 39 years. This man knows ambulance service, Speaker. We’re very proud that he has chosen to join the team at Ornge.
Jamie Lynn Ingham needed to get from Windsor to London for emergency surgery. The hospital called for an air ambulance. They waited for three hours for an Ornge helicopter that never came. The system let down Jamie Lynn, it let down her family, and it let down the dedicated paramedics and pilots at Ornge.
I attended Jamie Lynn’s funeral service last July, and I saw the devastation on the faces of her parents, her family, her twin sister, and the devastation that this has caused our community in Windsor.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: We owe the families that have been affected the truth, and I can tell you, the truth can come only with a thorough investigation by people who are non-partisan, who have no political advantage to be gained, people who are committed to the safety of the people of this province.
We know that the coroner of Ontario is informed whenever there is an investigation that results in a death. The coroner is informed. We trust the judgment of the coroner to make professional decisions on which cases warrant further investigation. We know that the coroner does do that, and we respect that.
Mr. Taras Natyshak: My question is: Will the Premier initiate a call directly on this specific case; take the evidence at hand and address this specific case that happened in Windsor? The CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital is voicing his concerns about the patterns that seem to be emerging. David Musyj said:
“My concern is we had nine Ornge cases in the past year and in two of them we were given inaccurate information. For those (hospitals) who have not brought forward cases, they should be asking for reviews. We are finding out information a year later that is shocking and disturbing and needs to be fixed.”
Speaker, if hospital administrators don’t have faith in the government and Ornge to solve this problem, does the Premier agree that the coroner should be called to investigate and will he initiate that call immediately today?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Speaker, the coroner is an independent officer. The coroner gets the information, can request further information and often does request further information. He has the information he needs. He makes a professional judgment.
I urge the member opposite to speak to the member from Nickel Belt. Read the Sudbury Star. The member from Nickel Belt understands what the coroner means when he says of the completed investigations, “There have been no cases in which issues with air ambulance transportation materially affected the course of the patient’s illness or injury.”
Mr. David Orazietti: My question for the Minister of Finance. Minister, as you know, the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton has introduced a private member’s bill that may make it cheaper to purchase auto insurance in his own riding, but at the expense of all other ridings in Ontario, particularly in the north, where this would cost much more.
By removing the use of geographic rating factors in determining rates for auto insurance, the bill would have a huge impact on rural and northern drivers in Ontario. If the bill passes, it’s estimated that my constituents would end up paying 30% more for auto insurance. That’s an additional $380 a year. It’s clear the bill does not get at the root causes of higher auto insurance rates and was poorly thought out.
Hon. Dwight Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from Sault Ste. Marie for his question and for his passionate opposition to a bill that will raise premiums in the southwest, in the north, in the east and, frankly, won’t be of any assistance in the greater Toronto area.
The member for Sault Ste. Marie and other members of this caucus have worked over the years on auto insurance reforms that have stabilized the price of auto insurance and kept increases below the level of inflation. In fact, just in this most recent quarter we had another regulatory rate reduction—a very modest rate reduction—and we’ve appointed an anti-fraud task force.
The steps we’ve taken are steps in the right direction that will keep insurance premiums reasonable for all Ontarians, unlike the NDP, who wants to raise premiums for most Ontarians in a plan that frankly will be a total wreck for the delivery of insurance in Ontario.
Mr. David Orazietti: Minister, I want to thank you for the work you’re doing on auto insurance, but I’m also very concerned that this flawed bill poses serious safety concerns. Specifically, the legislation limits the definition of “driving safety record” to actual accidents, which would mean that if a driver were stopped for impaired driving, running a red light or street racing but did not get into an accident, their premium would not be affected.
In addition, the bill does not take into account the make, model and year of the car, so that drivers with less expensive, more modest vehicles will end up subsidizing the premiums of those with luxury vehicles and sports cars. Given the proposed elimination of geographic ratings, the safety concerns, and shifting costs to drivers with more modest vehicles, I fully expect northern NDP MPPs, like the member from Algoma–Manitoulin, to vote against this flawed legislation.
Hon. Dwight Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Sault Ste. Marie, who has kept this fight alive to try to prevent an increase in insurance premiums for northerners, for people in the southwest and for all Ontarians.
The chorus of people who are supporting him is growing every day. I’d like to read to the House a quote from the president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association when speaking about this particular bill, the NDP insurance bill: “Safe drivers subsidizing dangerous drivers is an outcome that the OPP Association cannot support. If successful, this bill will punish law-abiding drivers so that dangerous drivers and drivers with poor driving habits can pay less for insurance in this province.”
I urge the NDP members from the north, don’t punish your constituents. Stand up for your constituents. Don’t support a 30% increase. Agree with MADD and agree with the Ontario Provincial Police Association and the strong member from Sault Ste. Marie.
Mr. Monte McNaughton: My question is for the Minister of Health. Speaker, by now the minister should be aware of the heartbreaking and tragic situation in Windsor of the death of Jamie Lynn Ingham. Jamie was a six-year-old girl who died while waiting for Ornge air ambulance to respond. While Jamie Lynn’s family waited frantically for an Ornge air ambulance to transport Jamie to London for emergency surgery, we now know Ornge air ambulance was never even dispatched. After a three-hour delay, doctors at Windsor hospital were shocked when Ornge’s medical transport team arrived from London in a taxi. Dumbfounded after losing three crucial hours that could have saved Jamie’s life, doctors had no choice but to send Jamie Lynn to Detroit via a municipal land ambulance, where she, sadly, died.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: That is why we owe them the answers to their questions. We owe them an answer. We owe them the truth. I am not qualified, the member opposite is not qualified, to give the answer to that family.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Speaker, I rely on people who have no partisan interests, who are not looking for political gain. I rely on the chief coroner of the province of Ontario to use his professional judgment to determine what the cause of death is.
Mr. Monte McNaughton: Speaker, in the minister’s own words, she isn’t qualified. I honestly do not know how the minister can sleep at night. It’s clear that the minister’s failure to oversee Ornge has left Ontario’s air ambulance service in shambles. It’s unconscionable to think that critical-care air ambulance paramedics are taking taxis to respond to life-and-death situations. This would be laughable if only the consequences were not so serious and tragic. The minister not only owes the Ingham family an apology or an explanation, but she does owe some words for her failures.
I ask her, now that we know of the death of a child on her watch due to Ornge’s inability to respond, and since she refuses to listen to front-line emergency workers or our party, will she now at least listen to the CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital? Will she admit that she owes an apology to the family and will she write to the coroner under her signature and ask for a coroner’s inquest into Jamie Lynn’s untimely death?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Speaker, the coroner of the province of Ontario, the chief coroner, is informed of every single case that the ministry is required by law to inform him of. We inform the coroner. The coroner collects all of the facts. I challenge the member opposite. He cannot possibly know all of the facts. Mr. Musyj, the CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital, has written to the coroner, has requested more information. That is exactly the process that should be followed. This is not a political debate. This is not about political gain. This is about human lives and working to make the system stronger.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: My question is to the Attorney General. Toronto and the province watch in disbelief as more details emerge surrounding the Eaton Centre shooting and the perpetrator. We’ve found out that Mr. Husbands was out on bail and under house arrest for a sexual assault charge since 2010. Two years later, and Mr. Husbands has not gone through the court system. As a matter of fact, he was due to appear in court on those charges in June of this year. Why is this government allowing for justice to be delayed?
You know the matter is before the courts. It’s my understanding that the trial you are talking about actually started last fall and is set to continue again this June and, for a variety of reasons, has not continued in a more active fashion mainly due to issues related to the fact that the accused simply wasn’t able to be in court on a number of different occasions.
As you know, bail is set by judges and JPs in this province, based on criminal law set by the federal government. I can assure all Ontarians, by the way, that our hard-working police know exactly who is on bail at any given time. As a matter of fact, our bail enforcement units—
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Minister, this calls into question the quality or efficiency of the Justice on Target program. It has not reached its targets. In fact, at Etobicoke, Old City Hall and College Park, the number of days to reach the disposition in a case has actually increased. At College Park, for example, the figure jumped to 290 days in 2010 from 221 in 2007. So we have seen a substantial increase of about 31%.
We’re also concerned about who is on bail and whether or not the minister knows who is on bail. Is the minister willing to admit that instead of improving the court system, the delays are getting longer and longer and the system is simply not working here in Ontario?
Hon. John Gerretsen: The reality is that for some 18 years the number of appearances required in the average case rose dramatically. It was four years ago that the Justice on Target program was adopted in most courts, where the judiciary worked together with the crown attorneys, worked together with the defence bar, worked together with the legal aid lawyers who are in court and worked together with the victims of crime, and the numbers are actually coming down. Province-wide, there were 500,000 fewer appearances last year for the same number of charges than before. The numbers perhaps have not reached where we had wanted them to be, which is a 30% decrease over the four years, but they are tracking down in most jurisdictions. I’ve visited a fair number of the larger court facilities, and the co-operation that exists between all of the individuals involved in our criminal justice system is making a difference. The number of appearances, generally speaking, is down, and we want it to go down even further.
Mr. Reza Moridi: My question is for the minister responsible for women’s issues. Minister, poverty remains a serious problem in Ontario. I know that we can’t break the cycle of poverty unless we utilize the dedication, resourcefulness and talent of Ontario women.
I know that this government is committed to providing services and support for women to help lift them out of poverty, like the Women in Skilled Trades program and the information technology training for women.
While these initiatives support women in finding employment at established companies, they don’t directly support entrepreneurship. Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, what else could the government do to help low-income women achieve economic security?
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I want to thank the member for Richmond Hill for this question. As members of this House will know, the Ontario Women’s Directorate has the responsibility to develop programs to increase women’s economic independence, because we know that if women are economically independent, they can build a better future for themselves and their children.
Recently, I was very pleased that the Ontario Women’s Directorate issued an invitation for the very first time for proposals for a new microlending program. Last fall, I was very pleased to meet with microlending experts from around the province to seek their advice about what role the Ontario Women’s Directorate might be able to play to ensure that women had more access to capital, more access to support, to start their own businesses.
The Ontario Women’s Directorate is now inviting applications from microlending projects to increase or improve the knowledge base of microlending, to address service gaps, and to establish new microlending programs.
As we all know, these have been challenging economic times. We have seen the worst recession in a generation. While Ontario has weathered this recession better than most jurisdictions in Canada and around the world, we know that women are often most adversely impacted during economic downturns.
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Although it does not have the lead responsibility for the poverty reduction strategy—that rests with the Minister of Children and Youth Services—the Ontario Women’s Directorate plays a key role in seeking to establish a better future for women and their children.
We have increased a number of investments in local training programs—full-day kindergarten, obviously, is of assistance—minimum wage increases and clear support for child care. The Ontario Women’s Directorate has led the way when it comes to economic security for Ontario women.
Since 2003, we’ve trained more than 1,500 low-income women to secure high-paying jobs in the skilled trades and IT sectors. We’ve also trained more than 1,600 abused or at-risk women, allowing them to develop skills.
Mrs. Christine Elliott: My question is to the Minister of Health. Minister, on May 29, I asked for your assistance for my constituent Liam Reid to obtain out-of-country treatment for a rare eye disease known as PFVS/Norrie’s. You refused him assistance on the basis that “when there are doctors here in Ontario who can perform services, that work must be done” and “we must have care provided in Ontario when that care is available in Ontario.”
Minister, Liam, his mother, Kristina, and his father, David, are here in the gallery today, and they want you to know that they’ve searched around Ontario and have been unable to locate a pediatric retinal specialist with sufficient expertise to treat Liam. In fact, the surgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children who unsuccessfully operated on Liam’s right eye supports his application for this treatment by Dr. Trese and said, “We certainly do not have the same amount of expertise as Dr. Trese. His innovative management in pediatric retinal disease is unmatched in his field.”
I cannot intervene in specific cases, but what I can do is assure the member opposite and assure the family that the out-of-country program is there for people when expertise is not available here in Ontario. The out-of-country program is a pressure valve. There is a process that one must go through to get approved for out-of-country coverage. There is an appeal process and an appeal, actually, of that appeal is also available. So there is a process that a family can go through to get out-of-country coverage if they feel that the expertise is not available here. But we must support the Ontario doctors when in fact there is expertise here.
Mrs. Christine Elliott: Minister, Liam needs your help. You cannot continue to hide behind excuses. There are no specialists in Ontario who are able to treat this child. The appeals process—you know or you should know—has been completely exhausted. It’s finished. Only you can help in this situation. We’re advised that another Ontario child with exactly the same condition is receiving treatment by exactly the same doctor. Why won’t you get involved in this case and do what’s fair to ensure that Liam has the opportunity for sight? It’s the right thing to do.
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I would be more than happy to meet with the family after question period and ensure that all of the steps in fact have been taken. There is, as I have said, an application process for out-of-country coverage that can be appealed by the Health Services Appeal and Review Board. If a family is not happy with that result, they can request an internal review, if in fact there is more information to be offered. Speaker, the HSARB is an independent body. It is made up of people who have the expertise to make a determination about whether or not out-of-country is appropriate, and the family can in fact refer this to the courts if they so choose.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Changes to Ontario’s Drive Clean program require local, independent garage owners like Gino Sciscente, of Lakeshore Garage, and Sam Vukadinovic, of Auto Experts, who are here in the gallery today, to spend $20,000 each in new equipment. They also have to pay extra fees for reaccreditation and monthly maintenance. This unfairly targets independent garage owners across Ontario at a time when the economy has not recovered. Does the minister plan to drive independent garage owners completely out of business?
Hon. James J. Bradley: Drive Clean continues to be play an important role in protecting the air that we happen to breathe in the province. Beginning in 2012, Drive Clean is phasing in a new, more accurate testing technology that is expected to reduce emissions from on-road vehicles by 20% over what can be achieved with the current test. There will be no additional cost to the consumer. The testing fee will remain the same. Also, all vehicles, cars, trucks and buses less than seven years old no longer need to be tested when the registration is renewed. Passenger cars, vans and SUVs no longer need to be tested for the following: transfer between family members, coming off lease and being purchased by the person who is leasing the vehicle or renewing registration—
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: With all due respect, that’s not comforting to Sam or Gino at all. The government, without any consultation, brings in new regulations, forces garage owners to invest in new equipment even if the old equipment is still working well, and forces them to buy from only one supplier, Parsons. The ministry has also been late in getting information to businesses at every step of this so-called modernization program, leaving them with little time to come up with a financial plan and with no financing for the program.
Hon. James J. Bradley: And to answer the interjection from my friend from Stoney Creek, to promote stakeholder awareness and invite input, Drive Clean stakeholders, including all Drive Clean facility owners, were sent notifications about the posting. The ministry received a total of 128 comments. Most were submitted by Drive Clean facilities. All comments received during the comment period, whether by email, regular mail or environmental registry, were considered by the Ministry of the Environment as part of the decision-making process.
Ms. Tracy MacCharles: My question is also for the Minister of the Environment. Yesterday the minister introduced important legislation that, if passed, will ensure that Ontarians can enjoy healthy, vibrant Great Lakes that are drinkable, swimmable and fishable, now and in the future.
Speaker, as an MPP with a riding with Lake Ontario as one border and another body of water called Highland Creek, I know first-hand how important this issue is. My constituents in Pickering–Scarborough East want us to conserve our water supply and protect our water quality in order to ensure the health of our families, our communities and our economy.
Despite the fact there have been some significant successes, new challenges are overwhelming those old solutions, and that’s why we need new initiatives to help the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Protection Act would provide new tools to restore and protect priority areas.
The act would create a Great Lakes guardians’ council to bring together government and interested parties to identify priorities and focus actions to address them. The province will also be offering grants to help small local groups undertake improvement projects in their corner of the Great Lakes.
Protecting and restoring the Great Lakes will enhance the quality of life in Ontario and is part of our government’s plan to help spur the growth of innovative technologies and economic opportunities for Ontario’s water sector.
I understand that, in combination with this bill, the ministry will also be producing a Great Lakes strategy for public review and comment. Speaker, through you, I’m wondering if the minister could explain to the House this strategy that ties in with the Great Lakes Protection Act.
Hon. James J. Bradley: Again, the member asks an excellent question. The Great Lakes strategy describes our current understanding of the challenges to the Great Lakes’ environmental health, and it’s going to be updated periodically. The strategy will help us draw a road map, so to speak, of actions that should be taken using the new tools prescribed in the Great Lakes Protection Act.
Released yesterday for public comment on the Environmental Bill of Rights website, the strategy is built around goals which are consistent with the purpose of the act, such as: to create opportunities for individuals and communities to become involved in protecting the Great Lakes, to protect human health and well-being by protecting and restoring the health of the lakes and also to provide the kind of new initiatives that are going to be available to not only individuals but various sectors of government, which will enhance and improve the quality of life in our province.
Mrs. Jane McKenna: My question is for the Minister of Government Services. Minister, last night after the news cycle ended, you quietly released some alarming news. This speaks once again to your government’s complete incompetence and contempt for Ontario’s privacy.
Several weeks ago, the Liberals allowed personal data of Ontario’s anglers and hunters to be stored in a US database. Last night Ontarians were told of security violations of numerous ServiceOntario kiosks. The cycle of Liberal incompetence never ends.
Minister, when did you know about this violation, and why did you fail to inform Ontarians until most people were in bed? What was the nature of the security violation? Was it a breach of personal or financial information—or, just both?
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: I’m sure the member heard the answer that I gave before, and if she is aware of this information, I’m sure she heard it because I announced it. Otherwise, she would not know about it.
I want to make it very clear again: There is no indication that any personal details held by the Ontario government have been compromised. Our information is that the attempts were made to gain access to key credit and debit card data that allows replication of debit and credit cards. I heard it at 2:30 and the kiosks were down at 3 o’clock.
Mrs. Jane McKenna: Minister, when you spoke about it before, you didn’t give us any details or any information on when breaches occurred. Speaker, the minister’s own press release said, “There have been security violations at a few ServiceOntario kiosks. Police have been advised and investigations are under way.”
A few? That’s reassuring to Ontarians. If the minister was really concerned about protecting Ontarians’ private financial data, he would have acted decisively, as opposed to sneaking out a press release at 10:45 last night. We have come to expect this behaviour from you, but that doesn’t make it right. When did these breaches occur? How many kiosks? What kiosks? Where were they? How many accounts were compromised? When did the minister learn of the breach? Does the minister have any answers to any of these questions?
Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: This is really interesting. I think I answered all the questions. There were four kiosks, to the best of our information, that were compromised, and the police have been informed.
I also want to say, with regard to the story of the data in the US, that I think that question was answered yesterday, but also the privacy commissioner made it very, very clear. So I think maybe, once in a while, you should start listening to the answers that are given in the House as well. It will help.
Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Yesterday, London Health Sciences announced that they are making cuts totalling $30 million next year. That’s going to mean further cuts to patient care and outsourcing of back-office jobs that used to be done by London workers, while CEOs continue to earn sky-high executive salaries. Can the minister explain to the people of London why her government is making cutbacks that are forcing local hospitals to cut services?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Thanks to the member for the question. This is one hospital that I’ve been looking at closely. What I can tell you is that our budget was very clear. Our action plan on health care is very clear. Our highest priority, when it comes to health care, is getting people out of hospitals. If they don’t need to be in a hospital, if they could be cared for at home, we will provide the care at home. This is the right thing to do for the health care system. It’s why we have frozen the base funding for hospitals at 0% and it’s why we’re freezing the compensation for physicians at $11 billion: so we can invest more in the community. This is part of the transformation of Ontario’s health care system that is vitally important if we want to have universal health care in the years ahead.
Mme France Gélinas: It is my pleasure to introduce one of my constituents who drove all the way down from Nickel Belt this morning. Her name is M.J. Lamoureux, and she’s here to testify on behalf of horse racing at the hearing this afternoon.
Mr. Mike Colle: With us today we have members of the sickle cell awareness committee from across Ontario. I’ve got Mr. Andy Anyaele and Ms. Comfort Anyaele, the parents of a child with sickle cell disease. I’ve got the renowned doctor from Sick Kids hospital, who is also heading the United Nations task force on sickle cell disease. Dr. Isaac Odame is here.
I’d also like to welcome Mr. Bodun Macaulay, who is the chair of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada and also very involved with Camp Jumoke; and also Ms. Lanre Tunji-Ajayi, interim president of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Canada and the founder of the Sickle Cell Awareness Group of Ontario. I’d like to thank them for being here with us today.
Mr. Rob Leone: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to welcome to Queen’s Park a school in my riding, St. Elizabeth Catholic School, who are visiting here with their parents and teachers. Hopefully, they have a good stay at Queen’s Park and enjoy the beauty of this place and certainly the democratic process.
Today I’d like to congratulate a young lady in my riding on her outstanding contributions to her community. Mackenzie Oliver founded the I Love Me Club when she was in grade 3. She was trying to help one of her friends who had trouble with her own self-esteem. Inspired by her mother, Mackenzie formed the I Love Me Club to reach out to youth around the world. The club initially consisted of Mackenzie and several close friends, and has bloomed into a group of more than 600 members across communities in Ontario.
The I Love Me Club focuses on empowering youth through peer and emotional support. Moreover, the club raises money for local charities by selling T-shirts, blankets and jewellery. The club has donated over $20,000 for Gilda’s Club of Simcoe Muskoka. Also, Mackenzie and her friends have organized six haircut charity drives to help cancer patients.
On March 8, Mackenzie was presented with the Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award from the Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable David Onley, for empowering her peers and for her outstanding contribution to Ontario communities.
Mme France Gélinas: Tomorrow, June 8, it will be one year since Mr. Jordan Fram and Mr. Jason Chenier were killed at work at Stobie mine in my riding. Speaker, it has been 30 years since the 1981 commission of inquiry on mining, and a lot of things have changed since then. In addition to the abundance of new technologies, ownership of mining has become international; environmental issues and knowledge have changed dramatically.
There have been 182 documented fatalities in Ontario’s mines, eight last year alone, three in my riding: Jordan Fram, Jason Chenier and Stephen Perry. The deaths of our brothers and sisters in Ontario mines should not only be a cause for sadness, but a catalyst for change. We can learn from the lessons that took so much from us.
After 30 years and 182 coroners’ reports, it is time to take a step back to look at the recommendations of the coroners as a body of evidence, to identify trends, and to motivate change. So, Speaker, I request today, on behalf of the 10,000 people who have signed postcards, that the Minister of Labour commission an inquiry into the state of mining in Ontario and into the ministry enforcement of the Ontario health and safety act and regulation in mining.
Mr. Reza Moridi: I rise here today to welcome the students of St. Robert Catholic High School and to share with all of you their outstanding accomplishments in this year’s robotics competition, where the team was acknowledged for their outstanding achievements.
Team number 4001 was made up of 30 students and teachers who built a robot that was small in size, performed defensive skills, and was able to balance itself on a bridge. Due to their robot’s impressive small size and ability to perform all of the required tasks of the competition, the team was awarded the rookie all-star award and was sent to compete at the world championship, competing with 20,000 other students.
Team 4001 worked endlessly for months, focusing on pitching their product, developing a website, programming the robot, and creating and distributing promotional material. Team 4001 managed to place themselves 67th out of 400 teams in the world competition in St. Louis, Missouri, at the end of April.
These students from grades 9 to 12 have given us hope and have shown us how innovative and creative our youth are today. On behalf of all Ontarians, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the support staff and teachers at St. Robert Catholic High School for making us so proud.
Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: I’m very pleased to rise today to give recognition to an alumna of the Ontario 4-H program, Cristy Nurse, an elite athlete who is vying for a position on Canada’s Olympic women’s eight rowing team to compete at the London Olympics later this summer.
I was at home on the weekend, reading my Leadership in Action 4-H Ontario Magazine, where there was a feature article on Cristy. I was just so proud of her. Cristy credits her 4-H experience for teaching her the skills and lessons that she has carried with her, including self-motivation, sportsmanship and the drive to succeed.
Cristy was an avid 4-H member in Halton. I remember Cristy as a little girl in pigtails, showing 4-H dairy calves almost bigger than she was. She has completed 45 4-H livestock and life skills clubs and has won many awards for her contributions to 4-H, including the President’s Cup dairy showmanship competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Cristy actually started her athletic career as a basketball player at the University of Guelph. While at law school in Ottawa, she decided to take up rowing. After competing in her first regatta, a former New Zealand national coach encouraged her to take up the sport full-time. In 2010, she made the Canadian women’s eight rowing team and won silver at the World Championships in New Zealand. Last August, she made the team again and they won silver at the World Championships in Slovenia.
As a member of the Olympic selection camp, Cristy will find out this month if she’s made the Olympic team. If Cristy is selected, I know that 4-H alumni and members across the province will be cheering her on. And as a proud 4-H alumnus myself, I want to wish her all the best.
Mr. Michael Mantha: I would like to take this opportunity, as we are nearing the end of session, to invite all of you and all Ontarians to my beautiful riding of Algoma–Manitoulin. The summer months up north are some of the most exciting times.
Manitoulin Island is a magical place. Some of the most culturally rich events in the riding are the many powwows, such as Aundeck Omni Kaning, Sheshegwaning, Sheguiandah, Sagamok, Zhiibaahaasing, Wikwemikong, Whitefish River, M’Chigeeng, Michipicoten, Serpent River, Garden River, Thessalon, Batchawana Bay and Rankin.
If you’re looking for community events, we have the Massey Fair, the Blind River days, the White River Winnie the Pooh days, the Thessalon and Iron Bridge Heritage community days, and Haweater weekend in Little Current. Goulais River, Chapleau, Manitouwadge and Hornepayne all have a little something for you.
Come to St. Joe’s Island, where we will be commemorating the War of 1812 at the fort. In addition, there are community parades and festivals in Hilton Beach and Richards Landing. And their maple syrup, Mr. Speaker—mon Dieu.
Mr. Mike Colle: The United Nations has chosen June 19 as Sickle Cell Awareness Day in the world. On Saturday, in my own riding of Eglinton–Lawrence, we’re going to have the Sickle Cell Walkathon. Thousands of people are going to be there to raise awareness about sickle cell.
As Dr. Isaac Odame, who’s here from Sick Kids and from the United Nations task force on sickle cell, has said, “Sickle cell disease and thalassemia are inherited lifelong disorders requiring a coordinated provision of a broad range of services, including early diagnosis at birth, education, genetic counselling, management of acute crises, prevention of infections and organ damage, chronic blood transfusion and long-term health maintenance.”
As you can see, there’s a lot of work to be done with sickle cell disease. In fact, there is a dearth of attention paid to this disease. It’s a silent killer. It’s too silent in Canada; it’s too silent in Ontario. Too many young people suffer needlessly day after day because there isn’t enough attention paid to this hidden, silent disease.
I ask all of you to see what you can do in your community to be more supportive of more research, more attention, more resources to fight and combat this disease, which affects so many fellow Ontarians. Please join us on June 9 for the walk. June 19 is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day.
triOS College has evolved over the past two decades to become the largest independent Canadian-owned and -operated career college in Ontario. With annual enrolment exceeding 2,500 across more than 30 programs in nine campuses, triOS College serves a diverse audience of students. Students tend to be more mature than those served by community colleges. They are typically looking for skills retraining—for example, back-to-work moms, new Canadians and injured or unemployed workers.
Since their inception, triOS College has graduated over 20,000 students into rewarding careers across Canada. triOS College has been named one of Canada’s 50 best-managed companies two years in a row, was awarded the Mississauga Board of Trade Business Award of Excellence, and was given the 2012 Brampton outstanding achievement award for community contribution.
Ms. Tracy MacCharles: As the MPP for Pickering–Scarborough East, I was very pleased and honoured to attend the Frenchman’s Bay Yacht Club’s 50th anniversary this past Saturday. It was a great day to celebrate and honour current and past executives of the Frenchman’s Bay Yacht Club. Many members of the community were there too. It was wonderful.
I want to specifically thank Ed Fulton—I understand a former member and cabinet member of the Ontario Legislature—and also thank the fantastic group of volunteers for their hard work and dedication to make the 50th anniversary a great event.
Mr. John O’Toole: I’m very proud today to get up and share with members of the Legislature a document that was released recently—in fact, just in late May. There was a special supplement of the Globe and Mail on that day which outlined and featured a book entitled Canada: Winning as a Sustainable Energy Superpower.
I’m very proud of this because the principal contributor to this particular book—this isn’t the book; this is just the executive summary—is actually the provost and VP of academic studies at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. He has taken it upon himself, working with his peers in the industry, to develop solutions in the future with renewable energy and sustainable energy.
I’d like to give some recognition to his partners in the project. Certainly, I would have to mention Clement Bowman. Also, the sponsors of the project were Alberta Innovates: Energy and Environmental Solutions, and the Bowman Centre for Technology Commercialization.
The actual theme here is the working together of academics and business to look to the future, and the future of energy itself. I would encourage people—they can get a copy of the text online, and through my office certainly. I’m looking for the email address where you could probably get it. Here it is here: clembowman.info/EnergyPathways.html. Get a copy of this very important, very forward-looking academic paper.
Bill 104, An Act to amend the Taxation Act, 2007 to provide a tax credit to farmers for donating to Ontario food banks certain agricultural products they produced / Projet de loi 104, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2007 sur les impôts pour prévoir un crédit d’impôt pour les agriculteurs qui font don de certains produits agricoles qu’ils produisent à des banques alimentaires de l’Ontario.
Mr. Robert Bailey: The enactment of section 103.1 of the Taxation Act, 2007, provides a non-refundable tax credit to those eligible Ontario farmers who donate certain agricultural products they produce to Ontario food banks. The tax credit is 25% of the wholesale value of the donated agricultural products, and those unused tax credits may be carried forward and deducted in any of the following five years. If the tax credit is claimed in any year, no charitable tax credit may be claimed.
Bill 105, An Act to establish Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Care Ontario and to proclaim Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Awareness Day / Projet de loi 105, Loi créant Traitement des affections drépanocytaires et des thalassémies Ontario et proclamant la Journée de sensibilisation aux affections drépanocytaires et aux thalassémies.
Mr. Mike Colle: This bill, if passed, would set up a comprehensive program of care and supportive services for individuals in Ontario who suffer from sickle cell disease and thalassemia. It would also do what the United Nations has just done, and that is to proclaim June 19 as Sickle Cell Awareness Day in the province of Ontario.
Bill 106, An Act to amend the Election Act to prevent electoral fraud by requiring electors to provide certain kinds of proof, by providing for independent reviews of the permanent register of electors and by making other amendments / Projet de loi 106, Loi modifiant la Loi électorale dans le but de prévenir la fraude électorale en obligeant les électeurs à présenter certains types de preuves, en prévoyant des examens indépendants du registre permanent des électeurs et en apportant d’autres modifications.
Mr. Bas Balkissoon: The bill amends the Election Act to deal with the proof that an elector must provide in a number of circumstances, including when applying to have his or her name added to the permanent register of electors. Rules are added related to what constitutes proof, and a requirement for proof of citizenship is added. It also requires the Chief Electoral Officer to appoint an independent party to conduct a review of the permanent register of electors every five years. It also provides added opportunities for scrutineers at the polling stations, and it requires the returning officers and revision assistants to complete a certificate of addition when an elector’s name is added to the polling list on polling day.
I am now required to put the question. On June 6, Mr. Miller of Parry Sound–Muskoka moved adoption of the report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts concerning its request for the issuance of a Speaker’s warrant for the appearance of Dr. Chris Mazza before the committee on July 18, 2012.
Mr. John O’Toole: I’m always pleased to present petitions on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Durham. These particular ones arrived in my office late, but out of respect—because the issue has been passed. The petitions were presented to me by Teresa Pierre, a Ph.D. person representing the group Parents as First Educators. The petition is with respect to Bill 13, and reads as follows:
“Whereas legislation is not the way to implement equity education (this should rather be addressed by teacher training, after wider parental consultation, in a way which respects the views of people of faith);
“Whereas the Liberal Party under Dalton McGuinty has undertaken unilateral cuts of $360 million without negotiations to the delivery of patients’ health care this year and the Ministry of Health under Deb Matthews proposes a further cut of $1.1 billion over the next three years that will cause a devastating and irreversible reduction in the quality and amount of health care to the people of Ontario;
“All existing imposed cuts to the provision of health care should be put on hold until the Ontario government enters into real negotiations with the Ontario Medical Association and that the people of Ontario need to be involved in the decision-making process if major changes are to occur in the services provided as a result of deficit cuts so that their voices are heard.”
Mr. John O’Toole: I’m pleased to present another petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, which reads as follows. This is from the doctors in my riding. There’s quite a few of them, and it reads:
“That the McGuinty government release its patient health impact study on the recently announced Ontario health insurance plan changes or, if such a study has not been conducted, that one is immediately undertaken and made public.”
“Whereas tourism is a vital contributor to the economy of northwestern Ontario, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into the province’s economy from other provinces and the United States, unlike other regions in the province whose target demographic is people who already reside in Ontario;
“Whereas northwestern Ontario’s tourist economy has been under attack by government policies such as the cancellation of the spring bear hunt, the harmonized sales tax … the strong Canadian dollar and difficulties passing through the Canada/United States border; and
“Whereas studies have shown that tourism in the northwest nets significantly more money per stay than other regions of the province, in part due to visitors frequenting historical sites, parks and other roadside attractions that they learn about through travel information centres;
Mr. Rob Leone: I’m pleased to present this petition on behalf of folks from Cambridge, and I also notice on this list that there are some folks actually from the Ottawa area, Laperriere Avenue in Ottawa. I don’t know if that’s in the Premier’s riding or not. But that being said, this petition is to the Premier and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
“Whereas these provisions will also impact tenants who are not in arrears with their utility payments but who will now face rent increases and/or increases in utility payments where such payments are pooled as landlords attempt to recoup these outstanding liabilities; and
“Whereas a number of municipalities, including Penetanguishene, Bracebridge and Niagara Falls, have reversed such policies as a result of the demonstrated and unprecedented negative impacts on landlords and tenants; and
“Whereas municipalities and utility providers in Ontario already have at their disposal a number of means by which they can control or collect outstanding arrears, including by requiring deposits for the utility service pursuant to the Public Utilities Act and by seizing personal property in the possession of the ratepayer;
“Repeal section 398(2) of the Municipal Act, 2001, and amend Ontario regulation 581/06 accordingly, to ensure that property owners are not responsible for the payment of outstanding utility arrears where they are not the consumer.”
“Whereas investing in cycling infrastructure in Ontario will create jobs and benefit the economy, reduce traffic congestion and pollution, protect those sharing the road, encourage active transportation, and improve public health;
“That the province of Ontario release a comprehensive bicycling strategy for Ontario that facilitates the development of policy and legislation relating to bicycling in Ontario. This policy would include dedicated funding to match municipal investments in cycling infrastructure, education initiatives to raise awareness about the rights and responsibilities of all road users, and a review and update of provincial legislation, including the Highway Traffic Act and Planning Act, to ensure roadways are safe for all users;
Mr. John O’Toole: I have to read my petition on Bill 13 here. Again, it’s from Teresa Pierre, Ph.D., representing Parents as First Educators. Many, many people I recognize on here need to be commended as well for recognizing the role of parents in educating their children. This reads as follows:
“Whereas legislation is not the way to implement equity education (this should rather be addressed by teacher training, after wider parental consultation, in a way which respects the views of people of faith);
“Furthermore we, the undersigned, ask that bed and breakfasts operated within a private home with a drinking water supply meeting all the requirements of a private home not be subject to regulation 319/08.”
Bill 94, An Act to address Ontario’s debt through alternatives to public sector layoffs and government program cuts while reducing the fiscal pressure on the people of Ontario who are having trouble paying their bills / Projet de loi 94, Loi visant à s’attaquer à la dette de l’Ontario sans recourir à des mises à pied dans le secteur public et à des compressions dans les programmes gouvernementaux tout en allégeant le fardeau financier des Ontariennes et Ontariens qui peinent à payer leurs factures.
I’ll begin with a quote: “We can’t manage the deficit without addressing what is the single biggest line in our budget—public sector compensation.” Who said that, Speaker? None other than Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
Speaker, the total amount paid to public sector workers now accounts for 55 cents—actually, over 55 cents of every dollar spent by the Ontario government. We all in this House know that Ontario is facing a projected $30.2-billion deficit and a $411.4-billion debt by the year 2017-18. Again, over half that shortfall is the result of civil servant labour costs.
We also know that people are upset about the spectre of program cuts to valued government services, and people, particularly the over one million people who work for the public service, don’t want to see mass layoffs. I propose Bill 94 as a step towards realizing and dealing with some of these conflicting goals, and I’m sincerely committed to talking to anyone who will listen about some viable options.
Bill 94 stresses the requirement for meaningful public sector consultation and negotiation among all parties, while moving forward on a number of proposals. Number one: limit public servants’ compensation to the rate of economic growth; consider unpaid furlough and defined contribution pensions—Speaker, I will point out that both these measures are included in this proposed legislation, but they are not mandatory.
Speaker, financially strapped Ontarians are tired of paying higher taxes to cover the costs of what many see as an increasingly bloated and ineffective governance. I door-knock: People can’t afford it, and neither can their kids.
I feel it’s time for a transformation in how we do business through our Ontario government. We are at a crossroads, and the road of unconstrained spending is running headlong into the road of fiscal and economic reality, paving the way—and I will repeat this—toward the predicted $411.4-billion debt. Speaker, I feel it’s time to hit the brakes before we slam head-on into this massive wall of debt, and I do ask people: Turn around. Take a look. Take a look in the back seat. Your children, your grandchildren are riding in that vehicle with you.
Ontarians have always been conflicted, railing that their taxes are too high but demanding the broadest possible and highest quality services. This is what we deal with in this Legislature. And politicians of all stripes have exploited this conflict by making sweeping promises to provide all things to all, and then, in many ways, manipulating the system to postpone the payment of that inevitable bill.
The bill is coming due, Speaker, but every generation has that incentive to borrow money from the future and spend on itself. As our natural aversion to debt has diminished over the years, politicians found they could buy votes with borrowed money as people became comfortable with the red ink. Now we’re living in a fiscal bubble. People are beginning to understand that that bubble, as in many other jurisdictions, is about to burst.
This bill, to be more specific, proposes seven initiatives aimed at reining in compensation. The first step called for in Bill 94 clearly recognizes government’s duty to consult with its public sector partners. Following a union challenge, the Supreme Court has ruled that government employees have the “right to unite, to present demands to ... employers collectively” and to work together to pursue workplace goals. Government employers, on the other side, have a corresponding duty to listen and discuss workplace concerns. This bill recognizes that duty, recognizes that right, and in my view, it’s really all about mature, mutual respect and having a say in one’s destiny.
Bill 94’s call to limit total compensation to Ontario’s economic growth is the next point I want to make, specifically growth of the per capita provincial gross domestic product, or GDP. This is the lynchpin of this proposed legislation.
Politicians have for years approved generous contracts for their public employees, in many cases in exchange for support at the polls and campaign contributions from unions that represent those employees. You know, over the years, as I think my neighbours to the left could attest, it’s been a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship, but as we see in the headlines, the chickens are now coming home to roost.
In the past, the common view was that voters don’t want to face the consequences of their own spending demands and that they’ll throw you out of office if you start making tough decisions. But people know about that debt. People of Ontario, in my view, really want us to finally stand up and make some tough decisions. They’re getting tired of politicians who have talked about things like deficits but never fixed them, and it’s important to do both, obviously. So in this age of tough choices, one bedrock principle has to be that we’re all in this together, given the present economic and fiscal realities.
That’s why Bill 94 suggests—and I stress that the proposed legislation does not make it mandatory—the concept of public sector furlough. Many of us remember the Rae days. However, what I recall most about those days, and in some years previous, was the very real sense among those of us who were on furlough that we were doing it voluntarily and we were helping to protect the jobs of others.
Also, Bill 94’s suggestion—again, it’s not mandatory—is to allow a change in public sector pensions to defined contribution from the present defined benefit in many cases. You know, we struggle with pension promises that should never have been made. Baby boomers ranging in age from 45 to 65 are approaching retirement, and those generous pension plans approved over the years are coming due. Given that MPPs are included in this legislation, I feel it’s fair, it’s equitable, to bring pensions in line with the defined contribution model that we as MPPs adopted 17 years ago. Again, defined benefit helps to control government’s bottom line while giving public sector employees more control, more involvement, obviously, in their pension package. I know the member from York Simcoe has some thoughts on pensions we may hear this afternoon.
Here’s another issue: Multi-year locked-in compensation increase agreements have prevented government from reacting in a timely fashion to address some of these urgent financial and economic concerns, thus again furthering our deficit and debt accumulation. Government needs that flexibility to react to changing economic realities. As budgets are crafted year by year, so too could government contracts with public sector employees be crafted year by year.
Bill 94 also proposes a long-needed call to consider the full compensation package, the package in its entirety. As Don Drummond has suggested, while we often concentrate on wages, we ignore the millions spent on benefits, on pensions—creep up the grid. Beyond the growth of base wages, other factors—overtime, shift premiums, merit pay—obviously have a significant cost.
People getting paid by taxpayers shouldn’t get a better deal than the taxpayers themselves. Ontario public sector workers earn something like 27% more than their counterparts in the private sector. Following from that, this legislation will mandate stricter criteria for compensation awards and researching private versus public comparables. This would be achieved through a provincial wage board.
While temporary wage moderation will meet short-term fiscal targets—whether it be, for example, the wage freeze proposed by both the government and the official opposition—longer-term action is obviously required, obviously with a co-operative approach involving all sides, an approach that takes that long view, an approach that can truly drive institutional and system-level change. At the beginning of my remarks, I used the word “transformation.” If not, moderation in total compensation out of necessity will ultimately give way to excessive reduction in the size of the government workforce and excessive guts—cuts to government programs. I might say “guts” to government programs—a Freudian slip on that one.
And I sincerely believe, Speaker, the people of Ontario understand this. They are calling for action. They’re calling for a plan. It’s time for all of us in this House to take a stand for the people we work for, because the voters and the taxpayers are ahead of the politicians on this one. For that reason, I feel it’s time to take a look at some of these ideas in Bill 94.
Mr. Rosario Marchese: I will vote against Bill 94 when it comes to a vote; there’s no doubt about that. I do agree with him that we have a deficit problem, and on that, we all, I think, find common ground. Yes, in 1990, in that recessionary period, we had a huge deficit. It was up to $11 billion. The Conservatives and Liberals attacked us ferociously, some more vicious than others. The Conservatives attacked us pretty ferociously at that time, without recognizing that both the Mulroney government of the time, who started that, and then the Liberals in 1993—both of these parties at the federal level cut the level of support that we used to get to support welfare recipients. Our welfare bill went from $1 billion to $6 billion. There was not one Tory or even one fine Liberal at the time that said, “Isn’t that shameful,” that in such a recessionary period, when we needed the federal government most, they cut back the transfer payments. Where we used to share the cost, at a time when we needed their help the most, they slashed that support, and not one member of the opposition said, “Ontario’s hurting, and it’s hurting because of that.”
So, yes, we had our fair share of deficits at the time, and we were making up for it. We were dealing with it as the economy improved. The economy improved so much that good old Mike Harris ended up with the benefits of a better economy. God bless. That’s the way it goes. Had we maintained the corporate tax levels and the income tax levels of that time, the deficit would have been gone in one or two years after 1995. It would have been gone.
What the Tories refuse to accept is that we have a revenue problem. They keep saying, as the old Harris regime—and I remember Chris Stockwell being more or less right there, and every day he would stand up and say, “We’ve got a spending problem.” It was almost rhythmic. You could hear it. You could just wait for that wave: “We have a spending problem.” Who would remember? We’ve got a couple of Tories of the old days that would remember that. And they’re still saying, 20 years later, “We’ve got a spending problem”—it doesn’t go away. You market fundamentalists have it all wrong. You have it all wrong. And you, in a good economy, left us with a $5-billion, $6-billion deficit, and you still deny that you did that in a good economy. God bless; I don’t know how you do that. You, good managers of the economy, left a $5-billion, $6-billion deficit. I know they’re the enemy. I know they’re in government. I understand. But some historical little facts wouldn’t hurt you.
So when you have a good economy, I would think the Tories, who are well known for being able to manage the economy—yet could leave us with such a deficit. How do you still have credibility with 30% to 35% of the Ontario public? I just don’t get it. But that’s the way it goes. That’s the reality. We deal with that. We accept it.
But we have a revenue problem. That’s why we pressed the Liberals to accept a surtax on those who earn over 500,000 bucks. And the Liberals finally relented; many quietly, cautiously, quietly in caucus, said, “We’ve got to support this, I know.” Dalton McGuinty, the Premier, was balking, saying, “No, we can’t.” Then, finally, at the end of it, he said yes. God bless again. Reason prevailed. Reason prevailed, and now we’ve got a new tax on those who have the money to give a little. I’m not asking for a lot, just a 2% surtax. Some of them are quite happy to give, and many of them will be happy to dodge the tax. Why can they do that? Because the laws still allow them to manoeuvre from one place to the other so they can pay less. As a result of those great earnings they have, the loopholes allow them to be able to escape paying taxes, and they will find them, because there are laws here and in other provinces, Canadian laws, that will allow them to do that. Until we close those loopholes, some of them will get away with paying less and less each and every day, each and every year. Something is wrong with that.
When wealthy people refuse to pay their fair share, we’ve got a problemo. When Tories keep thinking, provincially and federally, that they can depress wages, depress benefits, as this bill tries to do, freeze wages, as the member Elgin–Middlesex–London tried to do—these schemes do not work. When workers do not earn good wages and benefits, but particularly good wages, they will not spend. If they do not spend, market fundamentalism will see capitalism go down the tubes. And why it is that some of you just don’t see it, I don’t know. Like, for me, it’s quite simple. But some of you have degrees in the field. So I get puzzled by what manner of degree some of you got in the field of finance. But if they do not spend, the economy crawls.
Capitalists, those who own companies, corporations, manufacturing, they will lay off workers. When they lay off workers, we’ve got a problem. It means more and more people will be unemployed and left at the mercy of a federal Conservative government that says, “You’ll have fewer unemployment benefits.” God bless the federals again—Conservatives. God bless. I’m telling you, bright people up there.
These schemes do not work. Here’s my concern: The Liberals have a problemo, too. Now, Dalton McGuinty, the Premier, says freezing wages is bad. But I’ve often heard him say, “Either negotiate or we’ll legislate.” That left me a bit puzzled. What does it mean? He says to Tories that legislation doesn’t work. We say that. He says to you it doesn’t work, but at the same time he says, “Negotiate or legislate.” How does that work? When people—teachers—are not at the table, is that negotiation? Is there a reason why they’re not at the table? Yes. It’s because what’s on the table, not the public table but the secret table, is talking about the grid, changing the grid that allows teachers to be able to get incremental increases every year for 10 or 11 years or whatever boards negotiate; they’re talking about changing that grid, changing it radically, not even freezing it for one or two years but probably and possibly changing it all together. That would be anathema to most teachers. Worse, they’re talking about changing the pensions, i.e., à la Conservative form, possibly, moving away from defined pensions to a defined contribution plan, which is what the Tories are proposing.
Now, in the end, I am hoping that the Liberals, either the minister or the Premier, are going to come to their Liberal senses and realize they will be politically massacred. I am hoping they will come to their senses, but I don’t know. So when they say “negotiate or legislate,” I find that to be a confused Conservative position—meaning Conservatives in a hurry. So Liberals have to deal with this perplexing, paradoxical contradiction that they seem to face day in and day out, and it doesn’t seem to go away.
I want to be able to say to the member—who I like, by the way—that his proposal that we move civil servants away from a defined plan to a defined contribution plan, à la MPPs in this Legislature, is not something that I suspect is going to find too much support from many people. You might have heard me say today to the member for St. Catharines that the reason why he’s been here for 35 years is because he’s got no pension, and he’s got to continue working until he drops.
This kind of plan, a defined contribution plan, means, my fine Conservative friends, that you’ll be working till you drop, because a defined contribution plan means, at the end of it, you don’t have much of a wage. Only up to 35% of people have a defined contribution plan—private pension plan; the rest don’t have it. Those who do not have a defined pension plan are seriously in trouble as pensioners. That’s why you see more and more pensioners—
Mr. Rosario Marchese: Well, you, former mayor, can speak to it in a second. But that’s why more and more seniors are working longer than ever. More and more seniors are going back to work because they realize that being pensioned off isn’t enough to have a decent life. So they’re going back to work. Why? Because their pension plans are not that good. Once you retire, you realize that costs in this country are not easy; it’s not cheap. So a defined contribution plan—at the moment, I’ll tell the member, I’ll tell you publicly, member from Haldimand–Norfolk, I don’t know what your numbers are, but I would be making $18,000, if I retired today, with what I’ve got now—$18,000 for life.
Now, you might think that’s okay. After 22 or 23 years of work, you might think that’s okay, and maybe some of your Conservative members think that’s okay too. I don’t know. I want to hear others speak to it, because I’m excited to learn their position on that one specifically. But I’m telling you, these schemes don’t work. They’re going to hurt our economy and they’re going to hurt people in particular. I’m going to, with eagerness, vote against this bill when it comes to a vote in a couple of hours.
Mrs. Donna H. Cansfield: I’m pleased to rise and speak about this bill. I’m going to take this from the perspective that I think everyone else has: We have a deficit and we have a challenge, and we need to find ways and means and opportunities to address that. But I would like to think that we need to explore all of those opportunities, not just some of them. So I’d like to share some thoughts with you.
Part of it is to deal with the fact that, in a recovery, actually, GDP tends to rise more quickly, so that in fact there would be some costs associated with this particular bill in terms of attaching it to GDP.
But I’d like to share something else with you that may give you some food for thought. It’s interesting to note that the CIBC chief economist, Jeff Rubin, has actually endorsed an entirely different approach to these types of issues. It’s the German approach, and I’m going to use the name, if you’ll excuse my German. I think it’s called Kurzarbeit. What it in fact means is it’s the government that uses wage subsidies to encourage firms to actually hoard their workers during recessions rather than shedding them. When Siemens, for example, faces a 30% drop in demand for its products, it’s just as tempted as an American firm would be to lay off 30%. However, in Germany, the customary practice is actually to retain those employees while reducing their hours and their wages in this particular system. It makes this job-sharing system work and it helps out the affected employees, and the government actually pitches in with up to maybe as high as 60% of their lost salary. So despite a global recession and despite a European debt crisis, the German unemployment rate is lower than it was in January 2009.
The result of this approach is to make sure that everyone who can work actually does work. This reduces unemployment and much of those social costs and the pathology of unemployment and poverty that we heard about before. Part of the challenge when someone is unemployed is it not only affects that individual but often their families. Then you get into that whole cycle of poverty, and as you heard, it raised the cost to $6 billion, during the recession many years ago, on the social service side. But if you can keep someone working and reduce those costs, it makes far more sense. The result of this approach, as I said, is to make sure that those who can work, do work. It reduces the unemployment.
But it also relates to what can be done to keep those unemployment numbers down. This is an issue that is particularly interesting to me. One of our challenges is, yes, we have an unemployment rate of about 7.8% or 7.9% here in Canada, but our youth unemployment rate is 14% to 15%. Now we have a federal government that’s actually looking at increasing the years, and as you heard the member from Trinity–Spadina say, people who are older wish to work longer, to ensure that they have the earnings to be able to retire. But what it does do is increase that youth unemployment.
If you look around the world—heaven forbid we should get to where Spain is. Spain has 46% youth unemployment, and with that also comes anger, angst and anarchy. You’re going to find that those young people who have a lot of time on their hands and nothing to do are really angry and will turn that around towards the government. It makes more sense to find a practice that actually works.
As I said, I’m particularly interested in what Jeff Rubin is suggesting, and I’m also interested in Edmund Phelps. I don’t know if you know Edmund Phelps. He’s a Nobel prize winner and a free-market economist, and probably as right-wing as they come. He was saying as well—he was sort of fed up with the fact that the market was not solving the poverty problem and that in fact it was increasing the ghettos of poverty and wasted human potential. He felt that the folks who had the opportunity to work weren’t able to work. He actually endorses a whole new approach to how we deal with unemployment, rather than just the traditional approach.
What I would suggest is that, although my friend is well-intentioned in his approach, I find some of the things too punitive. I also find the GDP that’s attached to it—as I said, in a recession, you go back historically and you’ll find it increases in the recovery. Even the nominal that they come out with—it usually is above the nominal, so we would find ourselves paying out more than we had hoped to be able to save.
The other is that if you’re actually going to find a solution to some of these issues, it’s not going to be through a piece of punitive legislation. It’s going to be by bringing the people together at the table to solve the problem, to turn around and say we can’t afford the kinds of pensions that we’ve had, that everybody had contributed to, multiple governments etc., over the years. We must deal with a wage freeze. We have to deal with the deficit, or our problem will exacerbate itself. But you have to be part of the solution, not just part of the problem or the challenge, and what do you think you can do and what do you think you can contribute to help us solve that problem? I really believe that that is an honest approach to saying how do we actually get around an extraordinary deficit, before we find ourselves in a position where there will be no choices.
I’m also concerned—I think you heard the Prime Minister. Usually, what he says is pretty straightforward, and his words of caution warrant, or merit, a good deal of listening. What’s going to happen in Europe, if it unravels, will ultimately ripple across the pond and impact us here. He has been clear, very clear—unequivocal. He has said, “We will not bail out a second time.” That means, in fact, that there will be potential job losses. That really means that we here in this Legislature must put our collective heads together and find a way to build some consensus around how we are going to save this province from this extraordinary deficit that we have and be able to move forward.
This bill raises many important issues, issues which the McGuinty government continues to refuse to resolve. How can we continue to afford massive increases in government spending, huge increases in the size of the public service, with the number of public servants rising by almost a quarter of a million people under the Liberals, and how will we pay for it all?
We know that Ontario is heading for a $30-billion deficit and $400 billion of debt. This is the result of almost a decade of Liberal government overspending. In better financial times, the government could mask this overspending by a growing economy and higher taxes. But now the bills are coming due, and they have no plan to deal with them.
One of the issues my colleague raises is the necessity to change from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans. Let’s just remember what this means. A defined benefit plan offers guaranteed benefits that are low risk for the employees. Contributions are made by employees and employers, but the employer is responsible for any shortfall. In a defined contribution plan, the employer commits to a specific contribution rate and employees absorb the financial risk and/or benefits of the plan. The private sector has now moved overwhelmingly to defined contribution plans because defined benefit plans are so unaffordable.
Why are they unaffordable? Well, there are three reasons. The first one is the demographics. People are living a lot longer than they used to, and the baby boomer cohort is starting to retire—so a combination of a greater number and a longer life expectancy. The third issue is multiple years of low interest rates on investments, which, then, also strains pension funds. This combination makes pensions unaffordable.
We will soon face an Ontario where public servants will actually collect pensions for a longer time than they worked for the government. And with defined benefit plans, taxpayers are on the hook for every penny. Unless we make changes to our system, it cannot remain sustainable, particularly with the government adding a quarter of a million new public servants.
We also hear constantly about the unfunded liability of public pension plans, billions and billions of dollars in a multitude of public pension plans, and the government won’t tell us the total unfunded liability. In fact, the CFIB says that no one knows the total. What we do know is that Ontario’s taxpayers are on the hook to pay for this, and if the government doesn’t get control of this, future taxpayers will face massive increases to pay the pensions of public sector workers, increases they may not be willing to pay.
The government needs to get control of costs today. For almost a decade, they have used tax money to buy labour peace in Ontario. We simply cannot afford this any longer. We need a system that provides, on the one hand, the public services people expect and that pays fair wages and pensions, but it has to be sustainable.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the private sector can look forward to little or no pension earnings beyond CPP and OAS. They should not have to pay more in tax to support expensive public sector pensions.
I think it’s really important to see this from the standpoint of the unfairness to everyone. Obviously, the question of those recipients who look at the fact that there are a growing number of people sharing a smaller pot in terms of the pension plans themselves—those younger workers who are contributing to pension plans and looking at the future with some concern, and also the public, the general public, that is on the hook for public sector pensions.
In this environment, in this landscape, if you like, I think it is an opportunity to have a public discussion about the way in which the government of whatever political stripe should move forward, so I’m pleased to support the bill from my colleague.
I think it may be worthwhile to spend a few minutes looking at what the bill actually says. What it does is, it says that, “Starting on the day when a collective agreement or other agreement that sets the annual compensation of an employee employed in the public sector expires, the bill limits the increase in the employee’s annual compensation to the annual rate of change in the real gross domestic product of Ontario,” and then it goes on and says a lot of other things.
We all agree that we’ve got a deficit and we need to manage public sector wages, so I don’t think that that’s an issue; it’s: How do we manage to do that in a way that is respecting both the employees and the taxpayers? But what’s really interesting is, when you start actually reading the bill, it only applies to amending the crown employment—sorry; let me take another run at that—the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act.
If you think about where we pay most of the money, we pay most of the money that goes to the public sector in the education and health sectors. In fact, people who work in school boards, people who work in colleges, people who work in universities—that’s the education sector—are not crown employees. They don’t bargain under this act, Speaker; they bargain under the Ontario Labour Relations Act. Similarly, the people who work in the health sector are not, for the most part, direct crown employees. They don’t bargain under the crown employees act either. In the health care sector, you’ve got lots of people who maybe are unionized in hospitals and places like that, who bargain under the Ontario Labour Relations Act, or, if they’re doctors, don’t really bargain at all because they nominally don’t belong to a union; they’re nominally individual private businesses.
When you look at who this applies to, it actually does not apply to most people who work in the public sector, so it’s a very oddly structured bill. There are a whole bunch of little oddities like that, but one of the things that strikes me as particularly peculiar is that it limits the term of a collective agreement to no more than one year. If somebody had said, “I want to be able to do the math,” I could structure a collective agreement in my sleep to do this math for multiple years. It’s not all that difficult. I’m asking myself: Why would you want to impose on people a one-year collective agreement? People who have done management or union-side bargaining know that, in many circumstances, it’s to the mutual benefit of both the employer and the employees to have a multi-year agreement, because it tends to turn the thermostat down in the workplace when you’ve got a multi-year agreement. I had always thought that it’s better to have good employee relations than to have bad employee relations. That seems to me like a no-brainer, whereas saying, “You must do this every year and have only one-year collective agreements” seems to me very odd.
The other thing is, it seems odd to me that when we have a government that is saying, “We really need to keep our compensation budgets to zero or to very small increases,” and in fact we’re looking in our budget at taking billions of dollars out of compensation increases, and when, as far as I know, the Leader of the Opposition is saying one should legislate a wage freeze, I see it as very odd indeed that this member of the Conservatives is saying “legislate increases.” It actually costs more than what his own leader wants or what we want. I don’t get it.
There’s been a great deal of talk in the House lately about how we’re going to avoid a collision with a $411-billion provincial debt after nine years of wild Liberal spending. Truly, that’s where we’re headed now. It’s a collision course that spells disaster for Ontario, an event that will turn us into Canada’s Greece.
The first is that we tie total compensation packages for our public sector workers to the rate of Ontario’s real economic growth per capita. Put simply, we ensure that compensation per public sector worker is not vastly outstripping our province’s gross domestic product.
Speaker, this isn’t a glamorous issue, but it is an important one. Pay per public sector employee is now over $10,000 more than Ontario’s per capita GDP. That means that for every citizen’s share of our province’s revenue, we’re paying $10,000 on top of that to our public sector workers.
That’s not meant to vilify the hard-working men and women of Ontario’s public sector. In fact, Speaker, I believe that if you talk to any one of them on a one-to-one basis, they will understand the need for getting our province’s finances under control. A measure like Bill 94 is crucial to the continued success of strong government programs for our families and to the success of our public sector employees. They want to see their pensions protected, not frittered away by a government that can’t understand how to properly read a balance sheet. They want to see programs strengthened, not cut because this Liberal government has been too ready to open its wallet at every available opportunity.
We need to be clear about what this bill is accomplishing. This is not about slashing the public sector, although I don’t doubt a few of the members opposite may try to spin it as such. This is about finding a fresh path for Ontario that will ensure the security of the programs the government provides, not spending everything we have now and hoping it turns out okay, because that has been the approach for too long.
Fifty-five cents of every dollar this government spends is spent on public sector wages. It’s a rate that is simply not sustainable in the long term. It never has been, and it has precious little chance of ever being a workable scheme when the members opposite are content to keep us on a path to a $30-billion deficit.
Also in the interests of immediacy, my colleague has crafted another feature of this bill that will allow for a quick response to financial crisis just like the one this Liberal government has placed us in now. Multi-year compensation increase agreements are what have chained government spending to rising wages at times when we cannot afford to do so. Collective agreements will be limited to one year, after which wages are frozen until the budget is in fact balanced.
What we need, Speaker—and I think we can all agree—is a more agile, more mobile form of government, one that is no longer bloated on spending that comes at the cost of the great economy, one that can respond quickly in times of need and have the fiscal stability to do it.
Our side of the House has already introduced a number of bills designed to meet those ends, including legislation to get an $11-billion red tape burden under control or start paying down the principal on our massive debt.
Finally, I applaud the bill for recognizing that our province’s entire deficit could be erased if we brought public sector compensation in line with private sector realities. Currently, our public sector wages far outstrip those of the private sector: a disparity of about 27%. If we brought that number in line with the realities of the private sector, which nobody here needs reminding is the true engine of the economy, we could save $16 billion a year—$16 billion, Speaker; erase the deficit; and get Ontario back on to the path of prosperity.
I say to my colleagues opposite: This is long-term planning. Short-term solutions will in fact be required, it’s true, but we do ourselves a disservice as legislators and do the people of Ontario a disservice as taxpayers if we refuse to take the necessary steps today to strengthen the Ontario government of the future. That’s why I fully support this bill.
I was mayor of a city, as my friend, who negotiated with CUPE from a defined benefit to a defined contribution, and saved the pension plan—the fellow I negotiated with is now the national president. It’s sustainable, so I don’t agree with you on that.
The issue is: Tying it to GDP growth is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. When I was mayor of Winnipeg, when I got elected, we were at 6.2% of the city’s GDP; when I left, it was 4.7%. What you’re going to do is build in a cost structure that will drive taxes up and services down. You should do the exact opposite. Government should shrink, over time, as a percentage of GDP.
Mr. Toby Barrett: I really appreciate the discussion this afternoon. The NDP stressed the importance of consultation and negotiation, and I extend that into further discussion. In fact, we don’t have much choice in Canada now, because of the Supreme Court rulings and that kind of discussion. Backroom deals and legislated mandatory ramming through proposals usually backfire down the road.
The NDP also addressed the proposal for a defined contribution pension plan and had some misgivings about public servants following provincial MPPs in going down that road, although we just recently heard from the Liberal side talk about negotiating just such a deal, taking a very large union in the municipal sector to defined contribution and indicating that it has turned out to be sustainable.
Another Liberal member talked about the German approach: government wage subsidies to retain private sector workers during tough times, and helping with unemployment. In the context of the public sector, that’s really not necessary, because they don’t really lose their jobs during a recession.
I thank my Progressive Conservative colleagues. The concern was raised that this government is not telling us where the unfunded liability of public sector pensions lies. We make the statement that you can no longer use tax money to buy labour peace, and it is high time to bring the public sector in line with the private sector.
Bill 93, An Act to amend the Liquor Licence Act in relation to serving liquor in certain places / Projet de loi 93, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les permis d’alcool relativement au service d’alcool dans certains lieux.
Mrs. Laura Albanese: I will start again. It’s an honour to rise in the House today for the second reading of my private member’s bill, Bill 93, the Liquor Licence Amendment Act, serving liquor in certain places, 2012.
This bill is the result of attending many community meetings, of much consultation and input from my community of York South–Weston. I would like to especially thank the two city councillors in York South–Weston, Frances Nunziata, of Ward 11, with whom I’ve worked very closely on this issue, and councillor Frank Di Giorgio of Ward 12. I want to thank them for their dedication to combating the danger presented to our community by booze cans.
Also I would like to welcome to the gallery a member of the 12 Division Toronto police, Superintendent Mark Saunders. Welcome. His input and that of the other members of 12 Division have been crucial in forming this bill. I hope that together we can make a difference on this issue.
What is a booze can? Before I continue, I know that some of my colleagues here in the House may be asking, what is a booze can? Booze cans are places where alcohol is illegally sold, either at an establishment that has a liquor licence and then proceeds to sell alcohol after permitted hours, or at an establishment that does not possess a liquor licence at all.
A booze can can thus be your local neighbourhood bar or restaurant operating after hours or, as is often the case in my riding, the back room of a barbershop or a music store. I am explaining this to my colleagues here because I know that not many of you have seen a barbershop open at 2 a.m. every day of the week in your riding. Sometimes these businesses only act as a front for booze cans. A music store may close its doors and only let in trusted clientele after certain hours. They are sort of like the speakeasies of the 1920s, where a password could get you through the door. Inside, alcohol is being sold illegally, or after hours. Owners of such establishments will often claim that they are throwing a private birthday party and that alcohol is being served, not sold. It is therefore very difficult for the police to gain entry to such booze cans in order to collect the necessary information for a warrant.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what is the problem with a private birthday party at a barbershop at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday? They are a public nuisance and often residents and local businesses complain about the noise they emit and the fire hazard they pose as too many patrons cram into small, unsafe rooms. But the truth is that alcohol and noise are not the main problem here. The problem that we are facing in York South–Weston, but also in other urban ridings, is that these booze cans attract a criminal element. They are a magnet for gang members and for crime, like drug trafficking, prostitution and gun violence, and they negatively affect the quality of life for the residents in the area by making them feel less safe, and afraid in their own backyard.
What will this bill do? Allow me, Mr. Speaker, to go into the details of Bill 93. The bill seeks to curb the illegal sale and service of alcohol and the operation of booze cans by giving police more tools needed to deter offenders.
As we all know, the Liquor Licence Act regulates the licensing and the possession of alcohol in the province of Ontario. It already sets out offences and penalties for infractions of the act, such as selling to minors or selling liquor after hours, for example.
Firstly, it creates an offence of serving liquor in any place other than a residence, premises with a liquor licence or a private place, as defined by the regulations. This is important, because it will help police address those booze cans that are run in establishments like hairdressers’ salons. Once a business closes its door to its customers, it practically becomes a private place. This is why police have difficulty prosecuting these booze cans that masquerade as private parties at a salon.
As I mentioned previously, these establishments are often very difficult to infiltrate. Often, the doorman will only let in people that he knows or that are brought in by trusted friends, making the job of the police to get inside, undercover, extraordinarily difficult. In order to prove that an offence is taking place under the current provisions of the Liquor Licence Act, a police officer needs to get inside and document that alcohol is being sold. It can take months to gather the necessary evidence.
With this amendment, it will be an offence to serve alcohol at such so-called private parties, making it much easier for police to shut down these operations, given their already strained resources. Again, to repeat, truly private places like homes and backyards will not be affected by this amendment; neither will legitimate operators operating within a liquor licence.
Secondly, Bill 93 provides for penalties and bail conditions relating to the new offence, and a similar offence under the regulations. I heard from the community that many of the people running booze cans are repeat offenders. If they are caught running a booze can one day, they will often set up shop elsewhere the next. They may, for example, not sell the alcohol directly but act as a doorman or a manager. The offender may have their brother selling the alcohol, while they continue to bring their clientele with them. If passed, an individual caught illegally selling or serving alcohol would be subject to new, more stringent bail conditions. If this person is then caught again, procuring or being in possession of alcohol for the intent to traffic or being on premises where alcohol is illegally served or sold, the offender would be liable for additional penalties. The penalties for a conviction of this new offence would be a fine up to $100,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both. It would be possible to immediately suspend an establishment’s liquor licence for at least seven days.
Mr. Speaker, this piece of legislation is important for making communities safer. Since having been elected in 2007, there have been a number of very disturbing incidents of violence in my riding. Allow me to give you a few recent examples of how booze cans can become the breeding ground for crime.
In February of last year, a man was shot in the head at a booze can on Weston Road and Lawrence. In early 2009, an early morning shooting at a suspected booze can claimed one man’s life and left two other people wounded. The booze can was being operated in a small shop that sold CDs, movies and T-shirts. In 2008, a man was convicted for the 2006 murder of a young father, shot at close range in a booze can.
Not only are booze cans dangerous places, this danger can spill out onto the streets and affect innocent bystanders. Just this March, a man stumbled out of a booze can at around 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning and fired at least four shots through the windows of a condo building at 1 Hickory Tree Road in my riding. Luckily, nobody was injured, but you can only imagine the fear of the residents and what they must have felt. Enough is enough.
I know that other ridings in Toronto also suffer from problems of booze cans, although they differ in scale. Last July, in the riding of Trinity–Spadina, police laid charges against a booze can that hosted 200 patrons a night after receiving a flood of complaints from area residents and businesses. That booze can was also operating under the front of a legitimate business during the day. It had been licensed as a yoga studio. The police had issued numerous tickets before then, but the booze can would just reopen the next day.
This is why it’s so important to keep away repeat offenders from the premises of booze cans. The truth is that some of these booze cans can turn into more than a public nuisance; they can be life-threatening. It is paradoxical in some ways that municipalities have often lobbied for the relaxation of liquor laws, such as the extension of last call during certain festivals, but this approach does not work in all neighbourhoods. These pockets of crime affect the quality of life of local residents, and they paint a negative picture of otherwise lovely neighbourhoods. It makes people feel less proud and more fearful to walk down the street at night.
I hope, Mr. Speaker, I have painted a sufficient picture of the need for this bill. I understand that some stakeholders may have some concerns on certain aspects of this legislation and how it may affect them, but I can assure you the intent is not to penalize good operators or to unduly punish first-time offenders of otherwise legitimate establishments. This bill is not about shutting down a restaurant or withdrawing a licence because its last patron was sold a drink at 2:15 a.m.
As I learned through my consultations, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission already has not enough boots on the ground when enforcing the Liquor Licence Act. Thus, this bill is meant truly to empower our police forces to target the bad operators, the criminals, the booze can operators. It’s about making sure a small group intent on operating a criminal enterprise can’t bring their crime and their clientele into the wonderful neighbourhoods of York, York South–Weston, and elsewhere.
Toronto needs this bill because it is in a unique position in Ontario, and quite possibly in Canada, in that it has a third generation of gang culture, and this is the element that we want to go after.
Recognizing this fact, a motion has been put forward to Toronto city council by Councillors Frances Nunziata and Josh Colle to support my private member’s bill, and it is being debated this afternoon. I hope that the result of the vote will be positive.
So, Mr. Speaker, I strongly believe that our neighbours have a right to feel safe on their streets, on their property and in their homes. We need fewer people under the influence of alcohol selling drugs or stolen property. We don’t want bar patrons discharging firearms after they stagger out of a bar.
I want to thank everyone for listening to me and for giving me the opportunity to speak to my bill, the Liquor Licence Amendment Act (Serving Liquor in Certain Places), 2012. I hope that every member of this Legislature, although maybe not facing the same challenges that we face in our area, will be supporting my bill.
The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, “Covenants, without the sword, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.” Hobbes speaks to the need to have sufficient and enforceable penalties attached to deterrent laws so that government is properly empowered to protect its community.
This is what the Legislature, I think, is trying to do. I don’t mean to speak for the member for York South–Weston, but I think that’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish here today with this bill, and by passing Bill 93 I think we’d go a long way towards doing that.
The bill imposes tougher penalties and more stringent bail conditions on offenders, including not being able to attend places where liquors are being served, not being able to attend places where liquors are licensed to be sold outside of the prescribed hours of operation, and not being able to possess more liquor than is deemed reasonable for their personal use, except at their residences.
I’ve spoken to our own police department in Barrie about this bill—they actually approached me originally to talk about it—and they certainly are supportive of it. I know that for many people in the GTA especially, this is of concern. I went to university here, and I know of booze cans. I know what they do. I may or may not have ever been to one, but—
Mr. Rod Jackson: I’m just saying—but they can be a place where nefarious things do happen. Without the controls in place to make sure our children are safe from the types of things the member explained can happen at these places—I think we really need to keep an eye on that and make sure that our police forces have the right tools to deal with these problems when they arise.
I know that Toronto city council itself has also tabled a motion—I’m not sure where it is at—in support of this, because it is also a problem in Toronto. I did mean to mention earlier that in Barrie it’s becoming an issue more and more. As Barrie grows and is a little bit uncomfortable in its skin and is turning into a little bit of a larger urban area, this is becoming a problem, and it’s becoming a problem at hours when we don’t normally have problems in a city like Barrie.
Hopefully, this will start to nip those things in the bud, where we actually are able to deal with the growth we see in some of our communities that we all represent around here. It’s not just a Toronto problem; it’s one that’s growing into other communities around the area.
One big benefit of this bill is that it boosts the protection against underage drinking as well. Underage drinking is becoming more and more of a problem. An independent study shows that one in five minors who enters the LCBO can walk out with alcohol—one in five minors. That seems to be kind of astounding. If government agencies like the LCBO can’t stop all underage youth from buying alcohol, imagine how easy it is for them to get alcohol if they go to a place where they’re not even checking IDs. They’re not interested in the ID; they’re more interested in who you are and who you know and whether you know the password to get in.
The level of compliance is going to be much higher if we can control a little bit more who’s selling alcohol. That’s not to say that we can’t expect total compliance from those people either. People who don’t bother obtaining a liquor licence will never bother to check ID. They’re already breaking the law, and it’s not even an issue for them. It’s just going to become a danger for our youth. Let’s face it: Most of the people attending these booze cans in many cases are youth. They make a lot of money at these booze cans too. They’re not selling beer for $5 a bottle; it’s going for at least double or more—so I hear.
In doing so, we’re going to save a lot of lives. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, two out of five youths killed on the road have been drinking. If this does anything to stem the tide of the problem of drunk driving in our communities, especially when it comes to youth awareness, we’ve made some ground on this issue.
I do have a couple of comments of warning that we need to be careful about. We need to ensure we’re not overburdening our legitimate vendors. We need to make sure that law-abiding vendors and establishment owners aren’t overburdened. I’ll give you an example. In Barrie, Miss Miranda Fox owns a salon called Three Small Rooms. It has become quite a well-known success story in Barrie, where she has become licensed and is selling wine and, I think, champagne and maybe beer—I’m not sure—to her clients while they go to the salon and are having their hair done or their feet manicured or whatnot. It’s certainly not intended to be a booze can; it has never been accused of being a booze can of any sort. They close at regular hours. There’s nothing nefarious going on after hours. Her business is succeeding very well as a result of being able to offer alcohol to her clients responsibly and in a licensed environment. We need to be very careful that we don’t limit legitimate vendors’ ability to make a good living from selling alcohol legitimately.
It’s also worth noting that the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association observes major concerns with strengthening penalties and making sure that—I guess they’re worried that first-time offenders are being punished more harshly without the opportunity to become fully compliant. So they do have some concerns around how this bill will be implemented. I don’t think their concerns are something that is not easily addressed, and I’m not at all sure that that’s what the bill is trying to address anyway. But I think it’s important that that discussion happens, whether it’s at committee or here in the Legislature: that we make sure we’re not overburdening people who are actually responsible vendors of alcohol and that we help small business do what they do best and create jobs and provide services to our residents.
With that said, thank you very much to the member from York South–Weston for bringing this forward for discussion. I enjoyed speaking to it and I hope that we move forward and have good, productive discussion and make sure that we, like I said, move ahead in a way that doesn’t burden current business owners in doing business.
Mr. Jonah Schein: It’s my privilege, as always, to stand and speak on behalf of my community in Davenport. It’s also my great honour and pleasure to welcome my dad to the House today. Please, if you could give him a welcome. Thanks.
I will be speaking in support of Bill 93 today. The member from York South–Weston and I share a common boundary and a common part of the city and many similar issues. I think that the bill identifies a real issue in our community. We do have after-hours drinking establishments, booze cans, after-hours parties, and it is a problem that we do hear from community members.
I think that we should note, however, that booze cans are already illegal, and so in some ways this is just doing a little bit, but perhaps what we really need to do, in my mind, is further community engagement in our neighbourhoods, working with police officers—I’m glad to see we have local police here today—but also working with community groups, with BIAs, with young people and neighbourhood leaders to identify this issue, to co-operate and make sure that we have safe communities.
I think that we have a lot of issues, whether it’s in York South–Weston or in Davenport. There’s a lot of people struggling in Davenport, and in York South–Weston as well, people who are new to the country, people who are struggling on low incomes. I’m a little bit concerned that we aren’t looking at really the key issues here, the root causes that lead people to get into trouble after hours. In my experience, when I speak to folks, what they’re looking for, particularly young people—and the member from Barrie was commenting that there’s a lot of young people using booze cans. Young people in Davenport are looking for opportunities, and I think when we look at gang violence in this city and we look at it only from a law-and-order perspective, we fail to take note of what’s going on in the minds of young people in Toronto. And what’s going on in the minds of young people that I talk to are real concerns about a lack of opportunity, going forward.
People have record student debt when they graduate from school. They have huge barriers because we have the highest post-secondary tuition in the country right now in Ontario, and young people know that when they do graduate, they graduate with very poor job opportunities and jobs that hardly pay. I think that these are some of the kinds of underlying things that we need to address in Davenport, that we need to make sure that people do feel hopeful, that they don’t despair, and that we have community supports in place as well, because there’s a lot of young people I speak to who don’t have anything. They don’t have recreation programs; there’s nothing to do after school. These are the things I think we must address.
But the important thing is around community engagement. We’ve had some success where communities are engaged, and that’s an important part of it. We need to make sure that police have the tools that they need and that police resources are allocated in a way that makes sense. Particularly in Toronto, sometimes we see police officers working at construction sites, where we could be allocating those resources to much more pertinent needs like after-hours establishments.
I do think that in the end it is about re-engaging our communities and making sure that people don’t despair, that people do feel hope, and making sure that people do have job opportunities. So whether it’s in Davenport or York South–Weston, seeing leadership on the ground, seeing positive leadership, is really important. We’ve been doing things in our community in Davenport to try to re-engage people. We just had the largest soccer festival in the history of this city, I think—or the largest soccer game, I should say—where 120 people from every nationality in the riding, from every age group, men and women, boys and girls, came out to play soccer together on a Saturday night. To me, it’s about getting to know your neighbours, and when you know your neighbours, you act responsibly in your neighbourhood. That’s the kind of thing that I think we need to be doing.
We need to be creating employment opportunities in our communities, and that’s why I think it’s absolutely vital in the west end of the city that we get good transit so that people can get into our communities, that we have an electric train on our air-rail link, that Davenport should be served by good transit, that York South–Weston should be served by good transit, and we need to promote the things that already work—community outreach around the streetcar in our community. Few people know you can get on and off the St. Clair streetcar for the price of one ticket, a two-hour transfer. That’s something that hasn’t been promoted well enough in the past, and it has to be promoted more, going forward.
Overall, I think that the bill is good. As I said, we already have booze cans that are illegal, and the important thing is that we have a chance to support law enforcement to get in there, but also to make sure that young people have better things to do. So we’ll be supporting this bill, but in some ways I would rather spend time in here talking about some of those root causes. We’ve seen the effects of a war on drugs in North America, and we can open a new front in the war on illegal alcohol, and that’s fine, but what we should be talking about is good employment in Ontario, good jobs, creating good transit. Those are the things that I would rather focus my attention on.
Years ago, I was in Chicago, and I actually went to a school that was around the corner from where the famous Valentine’s Day massacre occurred. Of course, they had a lot of booze cans back then. I didn’t think about the impact that a booze can actually has on a community today; I thought it was something of the past. Then I read—and I’d like to put this in the record. I’m sure Superintendent Mark Saunders of 12 Division will allow me to do this:
“As unit commander I receive many complaints concerning the negative impact on quality of life and safety concerns due to the residual activities that occur due to booze cans in their neighbourhood. MPP Albanese has attended many community meetings and heard first-hand how these booze cans have increased the fear of victimization in the neighbourhoods that they exist in. This amendment would grant the police service with a strong sustainable approach in reducing and eliminating the criminal activities and regain public safety in our communities.”
So, in essence, what’s happening is that either a legal bar is opening up after its normal closing hour of 2 o’clock—and not everybody who goes to a bar is unemployed. So it’s an illegal activity that is occurring and is aided and abetted by the owner, or it’s an illegal activity where someone isn’t permitted to sell any booze because they don’t have a licence, and it’s still an illegal, criminal activity. People are participating in this, and it is victimizing the neighbourhood. It’s making a difference in the community in terms of safety, and there are not the tools in place to allow the police to deal with these two very difficult situations.
You would think there might be some responsibility from the people who own the establishments legally, but obviously not, because they get to sell more and so they get to pocket more. So they need to be punished for that illegal activity. And then you have those who just knowingly do it and it’s illegal, and who knows if they’re even selling to people of legal age? The police need the tools so that they too can be shut down.
Every community deserves to have an opportunity to have a safe community, one in which they feel they can walk around, where their children can play, where there isn’t a fear of not being able to get to their front door in a safe way.
We support our police services and give them the responsibility to ensure that safety in a community. They can only do it if they have the tools with which to do it. MPP Albanese has identified a big gap in that responsibility that we’ve given the police, and it’s time to fill that gap by supporting Bill 93 and ensuring that they are able to do the job. We are so very proud of the work that they do—and I have to say that I don’t even have a police station in my riding. Go figure. I have one on either side of me—I’m surrounded—but none in my riding. But I do count on those gentlemen and ladies to ensure that there is safety in my community.
Mr. John O’Toole: I also applaud Ms. Albanese, the member from York South–Weston. The intent of the bill is very clear, as our critic, Sylvia Jones, has mentioned in briefing caucus here. It is an attempt to curb the illegal sale and service of alcohol and the operation of establishments that do so, commonly known as booze cans. What it does is it creates a special offence for serving liquor in a place other than your home or currently legal possession. No one wants that in their neighbourhood, for the very reasons that have been stated.
I would only say that on our side, I think the police have the tools today, in many respects. I would say that I’m happy that a member of the Toronto force is here. I can’t say, in my 17 years here and in my 10 or 15 years on local or regional council, I heard it.
Today, one of the things I want to put on the table is, what I see is these cars driving around that will deliver the booze to your house. I don’t know how they do it, actually. I guess they phone the person, and the person trusts you and they go to the liquor store and buy the booze and deliver it to your house. How do you know they’re not minors? That’s something there.
I would suggest that this bill should pass. I would suggest that it should have hearings, because, as some of the other speakers said, they really weren’t sure what a booze can was. I’m old enough to have probably gone to them, in the old days, I guess. I would say that the bill should probably go for a bit of public hearings. It’s the right thing to make our communities safer. But I don’t want people visiting my home when I have a few people over for cards and there’s money on the table. You could say that they’re buying their booze. They could be, in fact, supporting that person that’s hosting the card game or something.
I just want to point out to the member a few ways of, maybe, dealing with the problem that, perhaps, have been not tried in York South–Weston; I don’t know. I can tell you what we do in Parkdale–High Park—and kudos to the police. I would say, first of all, that our major problem is not booze cans in Parkdale–High Park; our major problem in Parkdale–High Park are those who are licensed to sell liquor and who over-serve and who don’t check identification. The problem there is, as we all know, it’s very, very difficult in this province to get a liquor licence; it takes a long time. But once you get one, it’s almost impossible to get that away from the owner of the liquor licence, despite everything that they do. I’ve talked to our police about this, both 14 and 11 divisions. Really, unless you have a pretty solid vice division in your police force who can literally sit there until they break the law—you have to catch them in the act, as the officer will know. Police have better things to do with their time than sit in a bar that’s serving booze illegally, even with a licence. That’s our problem.
The way that we dealt with it, and I hear from our small business—and to me, this is also a problem for small business because, if you are on either side of either a booze can or a place that’s serving liquor illegally, even if they have a licence, you’ve got problems. You’ve got problems with your own business very, very quickly. It’s very, very frustrating because it’s kind of the ministry’s responsibility; it’s kind of a police problem. In short, it’s a community problem, as my friend from Davenport said.
What we’ve done is, we’ve set up a problem property task force. That’s the name of it, Mr. Speaker. Guess what they do? The councillor sits down with the police, and they sit down at regular times and look at just that: problem properties. It could be a meth lab. It could be a booze can. It could be someone who’s running an illegal rooming house and not living up to fire codes etc. It could be many things, but it works. That’s the bottom line: It works.
Does adding stiffer penalties work? You know what? In just about every other realm of law enforcement, we can pretty well show that they don’t, unfortunately. Stiffer penalties aren’t deterrents to people who want to sell booze illegally. What is a deterrent is if you’ve got your councillor, your municipal staff, your police all sitting around a table and you’ve decided that for this time you’re going to focus on one problem property and you’re going to fix it.
I can tell you that it worked extremely well in Parkdale–High Park: A meth lab was busted in our community, and it was busted because they worked together. The councillor, the municipal staff and the police worked together to focus on getting rid of this one problem area. Now we’re doing the same thing with our problems of over-serving or not checking ID in some of our liquor establishments, or sometimes it’s just pure noise levels that become a real problem in communities.
Yes, booze cans—unfortunately, I have to say that despite this bill, and I know it has very good intentions—they’re going to be with us. Booze cans will be with us always. You heard it here first. They’ve been here all through my life, and I’m sure through another few lifetimes they’re going to be there, too. So we really do have to look at the broader way of dealing with issues like this.
I want to just add to what my friend from Davenport said. We have to remember that, for example, the LGBT community—guess how they started? All the clubs in Toronto at a certain point—I’m old enough to remember when there were still some pretty debilitating laws around LGBT people. They gathered in places that were illegal, because that’s where they felt safe. So I’m just saying that we have to be very careful. That’s why I’m hoping that when this goes to committee we’re not targeting racialized communities, people who just don’t understand the laws, but that we’re really making this broad enough and looking at maybe some amendments to strengthen the way we look at this, for example, the liquor licensing laws and enforcement themselves.
I can tell you that if other communities have the problems my community has in just cracking down on those who have licences, we’re never going to be able to get to those who don’t have licences. The first thing we have to do is to be able to enforce the laws we have, and we’re not doing that very well. We’re simply not doing that very well.
My suggestion to the member, if you haven’t tried it yet, is the problem property task force—a really good thing to try; a very, very good thing to try. It works, and we’ve proven it works in Parkdale–High Park. I’m sure we’re not alone in that, but it has worked there.
Yes, let’s get it going. I think she has highlighted an issue that needs addressing. There are lots of aspects of that issue, so it would be good to have hearings about it so that we can hear the breadth and depth of the problem.
Finally, just to buttress what the member from Davenport said, surely there are bigger fish to fry, as the saying goes. Especially in York South–Weston, especially in Davenport and especially in Parkdale–High Park, we have problems of poverty; we have problems of joblessness; we have the problem of youth encumbered by debt, with no prospects. That’s the source of the other problems that end up becoming criminal problems.
Hon. Linda Jeffrey: I’m pleased to rise in the House today to speak in favour of Bill 93, An Act to amend the Liquor Licence Act in relation to serving liquor in certain places. This bill endeavours to put new and effective tools in the hands of our police officers as they battle the problem of after-hours booze cans and the illegal sale or service of alcohol in the greater Toronto area and beyond.
While some may see this as a problem more prevalent in the downtown core, there are pockets of this type of activity occurring in communities across urban sectors. They may operate for months without an incident, but we all know that these after-hours bars frequently have other criminal activities that associate and collaborate with this operation. They become hangouts, and they become a meeting place for gang members, drug dealers and prostitutes. These places then also become a source of revenue, which further escalates and perpetuates these problems.
To make matters worse, these dens of criminal activity are frequently located just down the street from neighbourhoods where families and their children should be feeling safe and secure. I know that as a government we all want to find ways to discourage activity that makes our communities and our families feel threatened. A booze can can be in a basement apartment, it can be near a main street; it can be in the back of a local store or a nearby restaurant when the blinds are drawn after the legal hours of service of alcohol are over. These places where the activities occur can be anywhere. They don’t differentiate between what one may characterize as a good or a bad neighbourhood. They spring up where money is to be made.
As we’ve heard, in MPP Albanese’s riding, York–South Weston, there have been numbers of incidences relating to the operation of booze cans that have shocked and frightened law-abiding residents. Just this weekend, Toronto’s sense of security was shattered by a senseless act of violence with alleged ties to gang activity. Suddenly, the downtown core didn’t seem so safe any more. Our city’s reputation as a peaceful place was shattered.
Gang culture cannot be allowed to flourish in our city. Our police officers are on the street every day, working hard to keep us safe, but they need our help to be certain that they have the authority and the resources they need to do this. We have to do everything we can to prevent youth from becoming part of these groups, to deter criminal activity and to cut off the sources of revenue that are the incentive for individuals taking part.
To achieve this, my colleague from York South–Weston went to her community, city councillors, 12 Division of the Toronto Police Service and her local business improvement areas to find out what they needed to make their community a better place. Bill 93 is a direct result of that outreach.
If passed, I can see this bill having a very positive effect across the city. The harsher penalties and bail conditions contained in Bill 93 can help ensure that the illegal sale and service of alcohol becomes less lucrative, even for a new offender. This bill makes it an offence for a person who’s been arrested and charged, once released, even to be on the premises where alcohol is being served or sold illegally.
We need legislation like this because it will make people think twice and understand that there are serious consequences. This bill sensibly sets out a thoughtful and researched approach on how to provide law enforcement with a more substantial method of achieving a better quality of life for all of us.
Mr. Jack MacLaren: I rise to speak against Bill 93, the act to amend the Liquor Licence Act in relation to certain places. I oppose this bill. I do not condone illegal activities, but this bill is over-policing. It is excessive penalization; it is redundant, unnecessary legislation.
We already have legislation and regulations and enforcement people to control these illegal activities, these booze cans and the like. We don’t need any more rules. The temptation to write more legislation, as in this case, does nothing but create more unneeded red tape and tends to take away from our rights and our freedoms.
We must never forget the most important thing about being Canadian. It is defined in our Constitution as our right to life, liberty and justice. As we write more laws and regulations, we confuse justice with policing. We infringe upon our liberties. We lose our freedoms and, consequently, we reduce the quality of life for Canadians. We must be very careful that what we do in this House does not reduce or restrict the freedoms of Canadians, regardless of how good our intentions are.
In this case, we have been advised by the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association that they are afraid that the severe penalties of this legislation will have the unreasonable and unfair effect of putting some small or new enterprises out of business. For any establishment, a temporary withdrawal of their liquor licence would be devastating. We need to be helping small businesses, not putting them out of business.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: I’ve always sort of enjoyed the sort of extremist kinds of property rights views, but I’ve never understood defending the right to illegally sell alcohol after hours. And I don’t think we have, Mr. Speaker, any laws right now that effectively restrict what are quaintly known in the back alleys and neighbourhoods of Toronto Centre as more than booze cans; they’re called after-hours clubs. The only thing that’s true about them is they are after hours. There’s no formal club or anything like that. I live in the Distillery District, which is sort of legendary, because Joe Kennedy and Al Capone made various visits there to what is now a parking lot—it used to be the edge of the lake—and illicitly took booze across the border to there.
So we can get into a debate about Prohibition. If we want to really talk about excessive legislation, I would certainly agree that completely banning alcohol is probably the heavy hand of the state gone too far.
I also find it kind of interesting: I remember there were gay after-hours clubs. I don’t remember that we ever had to—I mean, you have to go back. I think my friend from Barrie—I thought I was the only bad boy in the House. Obviously, I’m not alone. It’s reassuring to know that. I don’t remember our community ever having a really difficult time in those communities, getting liquor licences, but we did find some very creative ways to find places to drink, unfortunately sometimes at the expense of our neighbours. If you ask me, when I was 18 or 17—of course, I would never admit that I was ever drinking alcohol at that age, but I’m sure there were people who were. There are certain scales of breaking the law, and then there are chronic problems.
The challenge that we have is over-service of alcohol. It’s something I agree on with the member from Parkdale–High Park. We’ve often had huge problems with Brewers Retail in my constituency, where I have some that operate very professionally. I have others where selling singles very legally is as much of a problem because the audience for that, or the constituency for that, is people with severe chemical dependencies. That kind of practice can make a neighbourhood almost unliveable because people are throwing up, invading people’s backyards and making the basic enjoyment of the liberties and freedoms that my friend talked about almost impossible. I think if he actually represented or spent maybe more time in an urban constituency, the freedom to enjoy one’s property or to have your children out in the backyard in the evening and feel safe is important.
One of the things I give my friend from York South–Weston a great deal of credit for is listening very carefully to her community and working with Councillor Nunziata and others, Councillor Colle, bringing these very basic, meaningful neighbourhood issues to the Legislature. One of my favourite times in this Legislature is private members’ time because it’s the time, I think, when it brings out the best in us. It allows us to be a little bit more complete and whole to our values and less restricted by the partisan discipline that’s required to maintain government and opposition—and that you actually see things where real community need is being met. I think my friend from York South–Weston is bringing one of those very basic building blocks. It reflects, quite frankly, her personal integrity and her humility.
I have met very few people in my public life who have such a small ego, who are so gracious and generous to their constituents and who spend more time standing beside and behind their constituents to get the things done that she needs getting done. She said to me a few times, “If you don’t worry about who gets the credit, you get a lot more done.” That’s a rather unusual streak of character in a politician and one that makes me very proud that she’s a member of our team. I hope that we will be inspired by that spirit. Though this isn’t—you’re right—going to end every social problem, it’s one of those small building blocks that just make life a little more liveable. And thank you very much because my time has run out.
Mr. Jeff Yurek: I’ve just got a few seconds left here to speak. I applaud the member for bringing forward her bill and I also applaud members here. It helps bring debate and other points of view. I support this bill because I think it’s going to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road, and anything we can do to ease the road from drunk driving is a plus in my book. Congratulations and thank you to both of you for your opinions.
I want to thank all the members that have spoken to my bill: the members from Barrie, Davenport, Etobicoke Centre, Durham, Parkdale–High Park, Brampton–Springdale, Carleton–Mississippi Mills, Toronto Centre and Elgin–Middlesex–London. Thank you for your input. It’s interesting to learn that, however concerning, the issue affects places that go beyond Toronto. Yes, it can help with underage drinking. It can help with drunk driving, we hope, in any way. The intent, again, is not that of targeting and penalizing the regular restaurant or the good establishment; absolutely not. I look forward to improving this bill in any way possible through the committee process.
I want to also say that the community groups in my community, the BIAs, have all been supportive of this bill, and I wanted for a moment to address the community engagement component that has been brought forward. Yes, our young people and residents in general need the opportunity for good jobs, but how does that begin if you don’t even have a safe neighbourhood? You need to have the opportunity and the freedom to live in a healthy neighbourhood where you can take your kids outside to play, where you can feel safe and not feel that you’re going to be the target of crime and of a bullet.
Bill 45, An Act to amend the Insurance Act with respect to risk classification systems for automobile insurance / Projet de loi 45, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les assurances à l’égard des systèmes de classement des risques en assurance-automobile.
Mr. Jagmeet Singh: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I’d like to acknowledge a number of constituents who are here today—senior clubs, youth, some of my staff from the constituency, some of the Italian community as well—all in support of this bill.
I want to address essentially an issue, at its fundamental core, of fairness, and it’s the fairness in setting auto insurance premiums here in Ontario. Before we begin, a couple of facts to start it off with. The way the auto insurance system works here in Ontario is, there are 10 territories based here in the greater Toronto area and about 45 territories outside of the greater Toronto area. Rates are set based on these territories. A good driver with a clean driving record on one side of the street may pay as much as 100% more for their insurance than a driver on the other side of the street. Across the GTA, including the city of Toronto, there are differences of more than 100%. That means that people are paying more than twice the rates of another driver of the same age, same driving record and same make and model of car. This is something that is simply unfair.
To put it clearly, these drivers are driving the exact same roads. They’re driving on the same 400-series highways. They’re driving through the same cycling and pedestrian traffic. They’re driving in the exact same weather conditions. There’s no difference in weather conditions within the GTA. They’re driving in the exact same conditions but for one difference: their neighbours are different. And because their neighbours are different, because their neighbourhoods are different, they’re paying twice as much as another driver.
Just imagine: You decide to move your family closer to your aging parents or you decide that you want to get a bigger house so that your children have their own bedroom. Just by moving a couple of blocks down the road, just by moving a couple of streets away, did you become a worse driver? Of course not. That doesn’t make you a worse driver, but this is exactly what’s happening. People are being treated as worse drivers simply by moving some blocks away, some kilometres away.
We received an email from Nina Silver, and she wrote that she moved from North York to Weston—she moved because it was closer to her work. Here’s what she said to us, “When I went to update my car insurance papers after my move, I discovered that my new car insurance premium was going to cost me $850 more for the year simply because of a change in my home address.” She also adds, “I am a mature driver, with no accident record,” and “have never made a claim.” She’s never made a claim in her life, yet her insurance went up $850 just by moving a short distance away.
Jacqueline Chouinard recounts a similar story. She had a spotless driving record. She also lives in the Weston area. She writes, “I moved here two years ago from Milton, Ontario. I now pay twice the price for insurance that I previously have. I also drive half of the kilometres than I” previously drove, “along the same roads as everyone else who lives in the greater Toronto area. I was also told I now live near Jane and Finch, the worst postal code in Canada for insurance rates. I actually live several kilometres away from that intersection. I don’t see the justice in this, it is clearly discrimination.”
And just to be clear, some might cite that different neighbourhoods have different crime rates, perhaps car thefts and vandalism, and that might account for the difference—absolutely not. At most—and these are records that you can confirm through the government regulator statistics—vehicle thefts and vandalism account for between 3% and 4% of the premium costs. So that does not substantiate the differences in premiums.
Even if you look at claim rates, the insurance companies’ own records will show you that at the extreme level, the most difference is 33% between different ridings or different territories—33% in terms of claim rates. But our premiums are 100% different at most. That’s simply not substantiated; it’s not fair. There is something else going on here, something that simply isn’t fair and, quite frankly, something that has to change, because the status quo in Ontario is not working.
The purpose of this bill is very simple. The purpose of this bill is to ban the discrimination on the basis of the neighbourhood that you live in. In other words, what’s happening is, bad drivers who have a bad record, who have accident claims, who have convictions, who live in the right neighbourhoods—so bad drivers who live in the right neighbourhoods—are getting a discount for living in that riding, for living in that discounted area, but good drivers with clean records, who have never made a claim in their life, are unfairly facing a discriminatory increase in their rates simply based on where they live.
And here is the heart of the matter—this heart of the matter is this: 80% to 90% of people in Ontario never make a claim in their lives. Let me just repeat that again so we understand—these are statistics that the Insurance Bureau of Canada will gladly release to you: 80% to 90% of people here in Ontario will never make a claim in their life, and despite that, if they live in the wrong neighbourhood in the GTA or the wrong neighbourhood in Hamilton, they’re going to pay twice the amount that another driver pays who is the exact same in terms of their driving record, in terms of their accident claims, in terms of their age, in terms of their vehicle. These drivers don’t cost the insurance industry a penny, they don’t cost the industry anything, yet they’re still being charged unfairly high premiums.
Now, there has been some misunderstanding about the bill, and I want to clarify this right now. This bill doesn’t mean that there will be an equalization of rates across Ontario; rather, the bill will require an equalization of rates within the same demographic area, the same census metropolitan area—simply stated, the same city. So within the greater Toronto area, you would be ranked or you would be rated based on your driving ability, based on your convictions, based on your driving record—not based on who your neighbours are, what neighbourhood you live in, what street you live on.
We understand very well that the Golden Horseshoe and other high-density areas in the south cost the industry more money. They can continue to create those regions; however, they can’t further subdivide a region unfairly. We have built ample opportunities in this bill to allow insurers to recover the costs of providing coverage to GTA drivers. We want to ensure that these cost measures are done in a fair manner.
The point of our bill has been validated by the experts. We’ve received testimony from experts, and we received a letter from an expert who clarifies this point dead on. I have a letter with me from Professor Mary Hardy; she is a CIBC professor for actuarial studies at Waterloo. She confirms this point in no uncertain terms, very clearly, that, “An individual who moves from one area of Toronto to another, with similar driving exposure, does not suddenly become a worse driver but their premiums may double.” She also notes, and this is an important note that I want people to pay close attention to—contrary to the claims made by some people that northern members or rural Ontarians will be negatively impacted, she writes to the contrary very, very clearly, as an actuarial scientist, as an expert in the field, “There is no reason why the premiums outside the major” urban areas “should change.”
In fact, we also heard testimony at the auto insurance committee from another actuarial scientist that, based on the language used, it can ensure that the premiums would remain affected only in a localized area, only within the GTA or in Hamilton, and would not impact those outside those areas.
MADD has raised some issues—MADD Canada specifically has raised some issues. I want to address the concerns here and now. MADD has claimed that drivers who have a bad record will somehow be let off the hook, that bad drivers who are convicted of offences will somehow get a benefit and they would be subsidized by good drivers. That is absolutely not true. The way the bill is written right now, it’s not true, but if there is any concern about that, the first rating criteria was driving safety record. If there is any confusion, I am more than happy to include an amendment that would clarify the language to include a conviction, because that’s what it should read. It should be understood to be that a driver with highway traffic offences that are related to their driving, a driver with Criminal Code convictions related to driving, should have a higher rate. That’s simple. That’s common sense. But those who have a safe driving record—no convictions—should not have to suffer.
Brian Patterson, the president of the Ontario Safety League, was presented with the president of MADD Canada’s comments. In the committee, he responded to the concerns of the president of MADD Canada. He stated, “I’m not sure on what basis he drew those conclusions. Those would not be consistent with the conclusions we’ve drawn,” and “I don’t see the risks,” when responding to MADD Canada’s concerns that this would somehow subsidize bad drivers. So Mr. Patterson, the president of the Ontario Safety League, has responded in that manner.
The bottom line is this: The status quo here in Ontario is not working. It’s not working for the people; it’s not working for the drivers. We’re open to constructive criticism, but let’s have a dialogue that puts people first, puts the drivers first, and doesn’t put the insurance companies first.
We’ve received a number of very positive suggestions, so let me pre-empt your suggestions now. We know that make, model and car are important criteria that should be added. We know that the language around convictions can be clarified so that convictions are clearly stated, both Criminal Code and highway traffic offences. We know that the regional issues can be clarified further with the right language.
But let’s agree on this one point: It’s simply wrong to charge the exact same driver more because he or she lives on a different street or in a different postal code. That’s the matter. We don’t want a system that’s based on unfairness, and that’s the way it is today. Let’s change that.
I’m very pleased to speak on Bill 45, introduced by the member for Bramalea–Gore–Malton. I’m not going to mince words. Bill 45 is a bad bill. It deals with the symptoms, not the real root cause. I cannot support it. If passed, it will divide Ontarians.
On April 26, 2012, the member for Bramalea–Gore–Malton, in this House, asserted, “What I’m saying is that fraud is not the majority cause of the increase in our insurance rates.” However, he did not support his assertion with any reliable survey or any concrete data. When I say this, I mean, has the member opposite conducted any survey himself or has he collected any data himself and analyzed it? If indeed he has such data, I urge him to share that with this House.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, “For every $1 that the constituents of Bramalea–Gore–Malton pay into the auto insurance system, $1.28 is paid out in claims.” I would like to ask the member for Bramalea–Gore–Malton, can he explain why? He may pretend not to know, or he may not like to explain it.
The Auditor General of Ontario, in his 2011 annual report, clearly explained the why: “Claims payments are the largest driver of the cost of auto insurance premiums, and with the average injury claim in Ontario of about $56,000 being five times more than the average claim in other provinces....”
Mr. Speaker, auto insurance fraud is the most dreadful beast that must be tackled first and foremost. I urge the member opposite not to waste more of his time, and devote his attention on how to tackle the real problem: auto insurance fraud. This is why I introduced my own private member’s bill last year and earlier this year that would deal with auto insurance fraud.
According to the interim report of the anti-fraud task force, fraudulent activity, and in particular, premeditated and organized fraud, has been on the increase, especially in the greater Toronto area.
Bill 45 proposes to ban the practice of territorial rating. It would hardly be fair to many Ontarians and especially to people living in northern Ontario whose claim costs are only 30% of the costs in the GTA. Has the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton spoken to his colleagues from the north? Are they supportive of increasing insurance rates for their constituents?
Mr. Speaker, the reality is that there are many factors that determine insurance rates. Where you live is only one factor. The car you drive has an impact. Your driving record has an impact. Where you live and where you drive has an impact. Whether you drive to work has an impact. The rate of accidents, fraud, vandalism, and theft all have an impact on your rates.
I would be pleased to say that the member opposite hasn’t done his homework. Today, in the Windsor Star, he admitted and acknowledged that driving records not being included in the original bill was an oversight. The bill is so flawed that it will reduce rates for people convicted of drunk driving and who drive luxury cars while raising rates for responsible drivers and for those who live in northern and rural areas.
Look at what Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada stated, “The bill will force responsible drivers to subsidize the insurance premiums of dangerous drivers ... in our view, the bill sends all the wrong messages, punishes responsible drivers, rewards dangerous drivers, and will increase the risk to Ontario road users.”
Mr. Speaker, Jim Christie, president of the OPP Association, said “Safe drivers subsidizing dangerous drivers is an outcome that the OPP Association cannot support. If successful, this bill will punish law-abiding drivers so that dangerous drivers and drivers with poor driving habits can pay less for insurance in this province.”
Mr. Speaker, the record of respective governments tells the whole story. Our government has kept insurance rates below the inflation rate. Instead of pitting one group of people against another, we are addressing the pressure of premiums head on, and the reforms our government introduced in 2010 are working. On April 17, 2012, the Toronto Star reported that auto insurance rates were stabilizing, and they fell in the last quarter. When the NDP was in power, the rates went up by 27%, and under the PCs by 45%.
According to information provided by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, my constituents in Mississauga–Brampton South would pay, on average, about $500 more a year under Bill 45. I cannot support it, and I will not support it.
Mr. Jeff Yurek: I rise today to speak to Bill 45 from my colleague for Bramalea–Gore–Malton. I admire my colleague’s commitment to his constituents. Auto insurance is a big issue across Ontario but especially in the GTA. However, when I look at Bill 45, I can’t help but think that we can do better in this Legislature.
This bill has been touted as restoring fairness to the auto insurance system, but I think in my colleague’s haste to get a piece of legislation drafted, he’s made some glaring oversights that render his bill fundamentally unfair.
Let’s consider the factors that the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton has mandated that insurance companies use. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about the first three factors, which are, number of years without an accident, annual mileage driven and the insured driver’s years of licensed driving experience.
What is really interesting, however, is that the fourth, most important factor that an insurance company must use, as laid out in this Bill 45, is the population of where the driver lives. Now, according to statistical studies, population is a very poor predictor of whether or not a claim will be made. In fact, statistically speaking, only 2.2% of a predicted loss cost can be attributed to population, and yet in my colleague’s bill population must be, given his weighting schedule, the fourth-most-important factor. That is, the insurance companies must attribute the population factor a weight lower than the first three factors but greater than the pooled weight of a number of other factors. What this means is the other factors that are more indicative of a driver’s record, like the number of traffic violations and convictions, must be considered less important than the population of where a person lives.
So while the member’s aim with this bill was to restore fairness and ensure that premiums only reflect the driver’s record, he unfairly dismissed the factors that indicate whether an individual is a risky driver or not. Essentially, this means that a good driver anywhere in the province will see their rates increase in order to subsidize lower rates for a riskier driver. Even if certain areas in the GTA experience an overall decline in their rates—which, by the way, will come at the expense of other areas—good drivers will not receive the discount reflective of the driving record relative to risky drivers. In a bill that claims to restore fairness, this unequivocal and inevitable outcome is fundamentally unfair.
There are real issues playing in the auto insurance industry. The member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton rightly quotes the Auditor General when he says that we have the highest auto insurance rates in Canada. However, that seems to be where the member’s reliance on the Auditor General ends, because if one looks at Mr. McCarter’s report—and remember, he is the official in the province that undertakes the most in-depth, non-partisan examination of Ontario’s most pressing issues—nowhere does he cite geographical rating factors as a problem in Ontario’s auto insurance. So to have Bill 45 make geographical rating considerations its primary focus is to divert people’s attentions away from what the Auditor General outlined as the true issues. These include high claims costs, which are primarily the result of fraud, and the structure of the statutory accident benefits. The Auditor General also noted the extreme backlog in the mediation and arbitration process. These are the issues that need to be addressed. Bill 45, unfortunately, diverts our attention away from attacking the real reasons for high rates in Ontario.
Finally, I know that my colleague, prior to this debate, sent around a list of amendments to address some of the oversights in his bill. This is indicative of the haste in which it was drafted. The process lacked adequate consultation. Despite the amendments proposed, we are starting with something that is fundamentally unfair and does not come close to addressing the real issues. It’s merely sweeping it under the rug.
This summer, the PC Party will be going to town hall meetings throughout Ontario to hear what the people have to say about auto insurance before we craft regulations to fix auto insurance. To people in Brampton: We’ll be there in July, and I hope you come out and share your views.
Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Mr. Speaker, I’m not going to take very long, because I want to cede that right to the author of the bill, and that’s the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton. My goodness, you would have thought that he had drafted a bill condoning child labour from the response here. And, my goodness, the incredible wrath with which the insurance industry has attacked him. Whoa; methinks they doth protest too much. Obviously he has hit a nerve here, and I think the nerve he has hit is exactly the one that should be hit, and that is on behalf of his constituents.
By the way, talking about town halls, he has already had them. He has consulted with people. Two hundred people show up because people have this problem and people want it redressed. That’s why. There’s absolutely no good reason and there is no fact behind why somebody living on one side of the street with exactly the same driving record should be charged way more than somebody living on the other side of the street. That’s what the bill is about. There is nothing illogical about that. In fact, Mary Hardy, a professor of actuarial studies at the University of Waterloo, condones it. So, come on. You’ve got professors condoning it. You’ve got town halls full of people who need it. And guess what? Surprise, surprise: You’ve got insurance companies and those who speak for them here fighting it. I get it. It’s pretty clear.
The member is also trying to be conciliatory. He has said to other members, “Let’s take it to committee. Let’s work on amendments. There is a problem here.” There’s obviously a problem here. Let’s address the problem; committee is the place to do that. It’s not a question of the hastiness of drafting the bill; it’s a question of the member trying to open up a discussion and doing it in the best legislative forum possible.
Finally, all I’ll say is: This is not anything new. British Columbia, Manitoba, California—other jurisdictions have already acted on exactly what the member is putting forward. This is not anything new.
I don’t understand the anger, I don’t understand the rancour, I don’t understand the hysteria with which the member has been targeted. I say, good on you. It’s a very, very brave move. It’s a very good thing when all of a sudden you’ve become the target of multinational corporations. I think that’s a badge of honour in this place, quite frankly. So I say bravo to the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton. Way to go—up against the giants. Keep going.
The member opposite talks about a badge of honour. I don’t think when MADD Canada is standing up saying that there’s a problem at this, and the OPP is saying that there’s a problem with this, that that’s a badge of honour anybody in here wants to be wearing.
No one would say consumer protection measures are not measures we should be taking. That’s why we introduced legislation to protect consumers with respect to cellphones. There are ways to get at this. This is not the way.
Point number one: geography, eliminating the geographic rating factors: The impact on regions outside of the GTA is absolutely horrendous. People are outraged because in northwestern Ontario, rates would go up 38%; in northeastern Ontario, 30%; in Sarnia, 25%; in Ottawa, 27%. These are the rates that would be impacted by this bill moving forward. Those rates in other jurisdictions, in jurisdictions outside of the GTA, would be negatively impacted. That’s problematic, I think, for many members of this Legislature and many MPPs. The idea is not to pit one region against another in this place; it’s to find solutions that work for all Ontarians and all residents, and that’s not what this does.
The driving safety record is also a problem. I think it’s a problem when we use what is supposed to be an expert individual, Ms. Hardy, with respect to her letter, and a press release is sent out by the member from Algoma–Manitoulin that says the expert is commenting on and backing up Bill 45 when, quite clearly, the letter that was sent by Ms. Hardy says with respect to the “proposed amendments” to Bill 45, which nobody has seen. Those amendments have not been proposed in the Legislature. No one has seen them. It’s top secret. They’re not out there.
Ms. Hardy is commenting on something else. She’s commenting on a very different bill, not Bill 45. It is intellectually dishonest to get out there and say that Ms. Hardy is supporting this legislation. If I was Ms. Hardy, I would be furious that my information was used to support Bill 45, because it is not—
The comment that Ms. Hardy makes is clearly about a bill that has not been shown to the Legislature. It’s not in debate right now. Bill 45, the original motion, is what’s being debated, and I think that’s a problem.
The other aspect of the bill is with respect to the driver’s safety record. MADD Canada’s Andrew Murie clearly talks about the issues around the driver’s safety record: street racers, somebody running a red light, someone pulled over and stopped for impaired driving—as long as they didn’t get in an accident. These are risky drivers that we do not want to see benefit from lower rates at the expense of other drivers. Somebody who might lose their licence because they are a riskier driver should be taken off the road. If they end up having a claim, what does that do to good drivers?
MADD Canada is very clearly opposed to this, and so is the OPP. The association president, Jim Christie, said that safe drivers subsidizing dangerous drivers is an outcome that the OPP Association cannot support.
I think, Speaker, it’s very, very clear that the experts that have come forward, that have commented on Bill 45—not some imaginary version of Bill 45—oppose it. I’m urging all members to do that. It’s not the right way. There are other solutions to reducing auto insurance, and we’re working on those.
Mr. John O’Toole: All of us commend the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton with respect to recognizing, first, that the insurance industry is an important component of the cost of operating a vehicle, no question about it, and it has to be done fairly.
The industry itself does try to bring fairness to it. There’s always going to be disputes, and I think having the government set the policy by doing consulting—but I want to make sure of a couple of things quickly. I want to recognize Tony Irwin, who is a member here—he’s been a staff person here. He knows the business very well. And I want to recognize the work by the IBC and a letter that we all received from Ralph Palumbo. I think it outlines clearly some of the problems that we have with this particular bill.
My colleague has just spoken. I think the member from Elgin–Middlesex–London, our critic on this file, has explained quite thoroughly our position on this. There is no perfect solution because it’s a mandatory product legislated by the government and so it’s a monopoly to the respect that the pricing of it—you have to have insurance. Now, there are lots of other fraud and other stuff in the system. I’m going to let my colleagues share the rest of the time. Thank you.
I don’t blame the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton, however, for bringing it forward. He’s a new member and he listened to his constituents. Obviously, it’s a huge concern for constituents in his area, in his part of the province, and it’s natural that those people would go to their MPP with their concern, and it makes sense that their MPP would want to act on those concerns. So I commend him for that.
Insurance, though, is about risk and it’s about cost. Like many other financial services out there, if it costs the company more to insure drivers in a certain area, that’s a function of there being higher fraud or accident benefit claims in that area. The risk is spread out over drivers in that area.
As the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton will know from sitting in on the auto insurance study that we did last week in our general government committee, you don’t have to be complicit in a fraud scheme to be a victim of it or to have claims arising from that fraud scheme.
If I could just turn my attention to the current state of auto insurance rates in the province, I’d like to show why this is bad for constituents in Prince Edward–Hastings, where I’m from. And using numbers provided to me by the great folks at Mackay Insurance on Dundas Street, in beautiful Belleville, I’d like to tell the story of a 32-year-old married driver of a 2008 Dodge Caravan—a soccer dad or hockey dad.
In Bancroft it would cost him about $1,200 a year—a little bit less in Belleville and maybe a little bit more in Prince Edward County. That same driver, if he had the same postal code as the constituency office for the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton, would be paying $2,700. It’s $1,500 a year more. The reason for that is because that’s where the fraud is occurring. That’s where the big benefit claims are. They’re in that area. It’s not a fault of the people who are there necessarily, but that’s where the risk occurs.
So for the member to pretend that spreading the cost and spreading the risk over all of the province won’t create higher rates in rural Ontario is a bit naive. I can’t allow Bill 45 to pass on the backs of my constituents in Prince Edward–Hastings, so I’ll be voting against Bill 45 today.
Mr. Paul Miller: Well, Mr. Speaker, I listened to some of the intellectual discussion here and I’m a little confused. I believe there’s a lot of scare tactics going on here. The member from Sault Ste. Marie stated that he feels that his rates—and of course, the Liberals and Conservatives have been spreading rumours up north that the rates will go up. Why will the rates go up? The rates are based on an area now. What’s that got to do with the north when you’re talking about the GTA? Is it because the companies won’t make as much profit so they have to move the profit-making to somewhere else? Is that what he’s saying? If that’s the case, that’s wrong.
You know, it’s amazing how they come to these conclusions. Okay, we talked about MADD. It doesn’t matter, a driver is going to drive. He gets his licence, he goes on the street. If he decides to do racing on the street, or he decides to drink and drive, we have laws that govern those kinds of things, and he’ll be dealt with accordingly. I don’t know why MADD would think that this is going to increase worse drivers because more people—anybody can get a licence until they’re convicted. So if the guy is not convicted, why are the rates going to go up because some guy decides to run a red light or speed up? He’s going to get nailed anyways, and if he doesn’t get nailed, he would have done it anyways.
So that absolutely makes no sense at all. This is simply bolstering the insurance companies by the Liberals and the Conservatives because they’re their buddies and they’re going to help them out. It’s the bottom line; it’s about money and big bucks for companies at the expense of the people of Ontario. That’s what it’s about.
Mr. Victor Fedeli: I rise to speak to Bill 45, An Act to amend the Insurance Act. I want to thank the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton for bringing this bill forward so we can have an opportunity to have these discussions. But I, too, have concerns that have been brought to my attention on how this bill would impact auto insurance rates for northern Ontario drivers. As a result, I’m compelled to speak against this piece of legislation.
I do believe the member has good intentions bringing this bill forward. He’s aiming to keep insurance companies from charging higher premiums to good drivers because of the neighbourhood in which they live. The goal is to make the auto insurance rates more equitable in larger southern Ontario centres, and I do understand that. I want to say it is a noble aim, but it cannot come at the expense of northern Ontarians.
It proposes a risk classification system based on four mandatory factors in decreasing order of priority: the record of the insured person where they’re found to be at fault, the distance they drive annually, years of driving experience, and the population of the area where the driver primarily resides. It’s that last factor that seems to be where the rubber leaves the road.
I have to rely on the analysis of experts in the industry, and I will cite a study done for the Insurance Bureau of Canada by J.S. Cheng and Partners just last month. The key conclusion includes the following: “The end result of Bill 45 would be to compel drivers in northern territories to subsidize drivers in high loss cost southern territories, and drivers with inexpensive vehicles to subsidize drivers with expensive vehicles. Furthermore, the cost of implementing a new unproved rating system will increase the premiums of all drivers.”
In northern Ontario communities, driving isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. The only way to or from work or to a doctor in the next town or two towns over is by car. Further increases in the cost of driving for northerners may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some of them. It could simply make living in the north unaffordable for them, and we can’t have that. I’m quite sure the member from Bramalea–Gore–Malton would have seen this as an unintended consequence, would have looked at that in the legislation.
The bottom line for me is ensuring that any legislative change regarding auto insurance cannot cost northerners one more single penny than we’re paying now. Based on the evidence before me, I’m very concerned that Bill 45 will cost additional money for northerners. For that reason, I cannot support the legislation. I do believe it’s a mistake, Speaker, to impose a one-size-fits-all solution that makes sense in Toronto, but, according to the experts at the Insurance Bureau, makes no sense for northern Ontario.
Let’s begin with, first, the honourable member from Nipissing. I greatly appreciate his remarks, in a very measured and very thoughtful manner, addressing the concerns, which are legitimate, about whether or not this will impact the north.
Let’s make it very clear. I started off by addressing the fact that there are 55 territories in Ontario. Ten of those territories are in the GTA. The bill does not mean that they would wipe out all the territories. Replacing the territories with a different definition, a statistical metropolitan area—what that would do is reduce the further subdivision. So the areas that are currently regional, like the GTA, like London, like the north, like Thunder Bay, would remain, but the further subdivision—in the letter that I did circulate widely, from Ms. Hardy, the professor, the term used is “granulization”—would be banned, so that in the GTA there wouldn’t be a difference from one street to another, but there would still be a difference between the GTA and Windsor or Windsor and the north. Those regions would still exist, but the further granulization or subdivision would no longer exist. That’s what the bill is about.
To address my honourable colleague from Sault Ste. Marie, the amendments were very clearly indicated in the letter that was widely distributed regarding Ms. Hardy’s comments. In those comments, the nuts and bolts of the bill remain the same. There was a minor modification to the categories that were listed that all the members have spoken to, the at-fault claims, including convictions—that clarification was made. The car-make-and-model clarification was made. Annual kilometres driven and years of driving experience were all maintained, and the statistical area of primary residence was also there.
The nuts and bolts were essentially the same. There was a minor modification. Ms. Hardy clearly indicates that we’re not banning the use of geography; we’re banning the subdivision of a riding. In California, this was a major issue. There were so many communities that were feeling the discriminatory practices of the insurance industry that were charging higher rates in regions that, consequently, very similar to Ontario, are the very same regions where there are low-to-medium income; there are more new Canadians—those are the community members that are being impacted by this and those are the community members that would benefit from more fairness.
In fact, the fairness issue is this: Why is it the case that, while claim rates and accident rates differ by only 33%, insurance premiums differ by 100%? That’s the issue, and that’s the issue we need to address.
The member from Mississauga–Brampton South had a lot to say about fraud. Let’s be very clear here: Any measures that reduce fraud are good measures, but if you reduce fraud there is no guarantee that that would reduce our premiums. That would benefit the insurance companies for certain, but where is the guarantee that if we reduce fraud, we would get a benefit from that?
A direct example, and I’ll cite this for the member from Mississauga–Brampton South, is the 2010 benefit reduction. In 2010, regulations were passed that cut the benefits that we receive as consumers here in Ontario by more than half. What we’ve seen is, we now have the second-worst coverage in all of Canada in terms of the benefits we receive when injured. We have the second-worst benefit coverage in the country but we still have the highest insurance premiums in the country. Despite the fact that our claim costs have gone down significantly and despite the fact that, in the previous year, insurance profits have gone up significantly, our insurance premiums have remained the same.
The member from Mississauga–Brampton South talks about the Liberal track record with respect to insurance. Let’s talk about this track record. In the previous six years, insurance rates have increased 26% under this Liberal government. That’s the track record the member from Mississauga–Brampton South wants to applaud as the track record for this government.
I’m open to suggestions. I’m open to improving this bill. But what I’m not open to is the mentality that puts insurance companies before people, that puts profits before the hard-earned dollars of citizens of this province, of this region of the GTA. Let’s start implementing bills and regulations and laws that put people first, because we see what happens when we implement the 2010 regulations: We increased the profits of corporations. Have we reduced the premiums for the consumer? No. Have we reduced our benefits? Significantly. But we haven’t made life more affordable.
Touching on fraud again, a number of people indicated that fraud is the driving factor. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has indicated that claims costs are certainly the driving factor. But, with respect to fraud, the anti-fraud task force testified in committee hearings and indicated a couple of very startling conclusions; one, that they were not able to say conclusively where fraud was occurring. I was very concerned by this comment, because I’ve heard this fraud argument used to say that certain regions of the GTA have higher fraud and that’s why their rates are higher. I asked point blank, “Can you determine, can you pinpoint, where fraud is occurring in the GTA?” The answer, conclusively, and I welcome everyone to check Hansard, was, “No. We can’t pinpoint.” In fact, I asked, “What types of fraud are there?” “Organized fraud, premeditated fraud, opportunistic fraud.” “What are the statistics? How much is it costing? What is the rate of this?” “We don’t know”—the anti-fraud task force doesn’t know themselves how much fraud is occurring, what the total cost of fraud is in the province and where it’s occurring. If they don’t know where it’s occurring, how can that be used against us?
Let’s get back to the point here. We need to make auto insurance more fair here in this province, we need to make it more fair here in the GTA, and it’s simply wrong to have a system that impacts your insurance premiums based on where you live. Ten kilometres, five kilometres, across the street does not change whether you’re a good driver or bad driver. We know that 80% to 90% of people never make a claim in their life. Those innocent drivers are being had. Their rates are increasing for no reason, and that’s why we need to address this issue. If there are amendments to be made, let’s make them. If there is clarification that needs to be made, let’s make that. But let’s address the issue. Does anyone in this House disagree that it’s wrong to charge rates differentially from one street to another in the same geographic area in the same city? That’s simply unacceptable, and I hope you all agree with me.
The Auditor General made a number of comments and his comments were referred to. He addressed the fact that high claims costs is a serious issue. We’ve seen that the 2010 amendments have reduced our ability to make those claims, but we haven’t seen yet the impact it will have on our premiums. We do know that the Auditor General said that fraud is 10% to 15% of the cost associated with claims in this province. Now, if they’re only 10% to 15%, again, the argument of talking about fraud again and again is not substantiated in the numbers. It only impacts 10% to 15%, according to the Auditor General. He’s an independent, non-partisan representative, and we respect his work.
It comes down to, again, the issue of fairness. Can anyone in this House say that it’s right to charge more for a driver who has a clean record in Rexdale, in Brampton, in Brampton–Springdale, in Brampton West, in Mississauga–Brampton South? How will you face your constituents and tell them that we don’t support the idea of fairness within the same region? How are you going to look at them and say, “I voted down a bill that requires insurance companies to treat their insurees fairly?” How are you going to look at them and say, “You know what ? I don’t like the idea of giving you a fair deal. I like the idea of you having a higher rate versus your cousin that lives in Lawrence Park or that lives in Rosedale. That’s a good idea”? How are you going to say that to your constituent?
You can’t, because it’s wrong. You can’t say that, because it’s wrong, and that’s why you have to support this bill. Because if you don’t, you’re supporting the notion that there’s some justification to increasing your rates by driving down the street, that there’s some reason that you are a worse driver because you moved to Brampton, which is a beautiful city, and we shouldn’t have that happen.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order, please. It would be really nice if you guys would remain quiet during the vote because Mr. Singh actually missed his name being called by the Clerk when it was called first. I would ask that during a vote that you kind of keep your voices low.