Mr. Philip: Today we celebrate Vaisakhi. Vaisakhi celebrations go as far back as 1699. It is the New Year’s Day for the Sikh cultural calendar. Vaisakhi is, in a sense, the origin of the Sikh nation. Governments must recognize the right of Sikhs to their five Ks.
Sikhs have emigrated throughout the world more than any other visible minority. In each country, they are noted for their hard work, their peacefulness and their charity towards anyone less fortunate than themselves. These important personal attributes are found in their strong religious beliefs. As one of the great religions of the world, Sikhism stresses equality of man, the fatherhood of God, to live by earnest earning, to share with those less fortunate, tolerance of others and an ecumenical acceptance of universal values irrespective of their source.
Mr. McCague: On Monday of this week, the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr. Eakins) stood in this House and announced Local Government Week. He said: “Local Government Week...provides local government bodies...with an opportunity to tell their constituents about the important role played by local governments in Ontario.”
There is an irony and also a strong message in the sequence of events this week as it relates to local government. On Monday, the minister spoke about the importance of local government. Tomorrow, according to the press reports, the provincial government intends to introduce legislation forcing municipalities to contend with the Sunday shopping issue, this in spite of the fact that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has clearly stated they do not want that responsibility.
This government’s attitude towards local government and local councils was made even more obvious by the Premier (Mr. Peterson) in his remarks yesterday. When asked what his government intended to do about the need for increased day care services in London if Sunday shopping goes through, the Premier said: “...the city council in London has had one of the worst records in the province in providing child care....The member will want...to persuade city council of its responsibility in providing child care.”
Mr. Ruprecht: Every April 13 since 1699, Sikhs throughout the world celebrate Vaisakhi, the New Year’s Day in the Sikh cultural calendar. Vaisakhi is the origin and birthday of the Sikh faith as practised today.
Joining us in the House to mark this special occasion are distinguished members of the Sikh Canadian community: Dr. Gurcharan Jauhal, Jagtar Singh Mann, Manohar Singh Bal, president of the Metropolitan Sikh council, and Mohinder Singh Chahal.
A strong community of 250,000 Sikhs depicts a bright fabric in the multicultural mosaic in Canada. Sikhs came to Canada at the turn of the century and are found in every part of our country. They have contributed to the growth and development of Canada and continue to play a vital role in all walks of life.
That is why it gives me great pleasure to extend our heartiest congratulations and best wishes, on behalf of the Premier and my colleagues, as we recognize April 13 as Ontario Sikh Community Day. We commend its observance to the people of our province.
Home care services have deteriorated over the past three weeks since 15 home care coordinators were forced to go on strike at Home Health Care-Algoma. More than l,000 Algoma residents currently in care are affected, while acute medical beds in our hospitals are being held up because patients cannot be assessed and services arranged for their safe discharge back to their own homes.
The home care program is 100 per cent funded by the Ministry of Health, but the ministry appears to abdicate any responsibility for reaching a settlement in this dispute. Registered health care nurses in the Sault want to know, does the Minister of Health (Ms. Caplan) not have an obligation to provide funds to pay her employees fairly and to direct the board of the Algoma District Health Unit to settle this dispute without delay?
I am forwarding to the minister directly the written concerns of registered nurses in the Sault. For the sake of the sick, the infirm and the elderly throughout Algoma, I ask the minister to investigate this serious situation and to intervene to ensure a quick and fair settlement of this dispute.
Mr. Jackson: On March 25, the Minister of Education (Mr. Ward) announced with much fanfare that he was increasing operational grants to our schools. What we saw was really a clever shell game. Most of the money is allocated on a per-pupil basis, so when enrolment rises in Ontario, so do the grants. The so-called increase of $50 million was the result not of government largess, but rather enrolment figures which exceeded projections.
It is appropriate, on a day when students from the United Nations Club of Aldershot High School in the riding of Burlington South are here in the gallery, to look at the general legislative grant just received by their board, the Halton Board of Education.
As a result of Liberal underfunding, local taxes in Halton region will rise by an average of $96, while the elementary panel receives a modest increase of $241,000 and the secondary panel will lose $1.8 million. This year in Halton region, the share of educational costs borne by the provincial government will be 32.4 per cent. That is a drop of nine per cent since the Liberals took office and is just over half of their election promise of 60 per cent.
Mr. Daigeler: Together with representatives from all three parties, I had the privilege from February 24 to 26 to visit the Quebec National Assembly. On behalf of the six MPPs who travelled to Quebec City, I wish to congratulate the Ministry responsible for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs for having organized this trip.
I specifically wish to thank Don Stevenson, our Ontario representative in Quebec, for the extraordinary care he took to introduce us to the political climate of our neighbouring province. At a time when strong forces exist across Canada to focus on one language group at the expense of the other, it is imperative to develop personal contacts between political and other leaders from different provinces, especially from Ontario and Quebec.
I encourage the government and this House to repeat this initiative. Continued and enhanced exchanges between parliamentarians and other groups will help us build a stronger Canada, a country proud of its rich cultural heritage and willing to promote this treasure unique among nations.
Mr. Sterling: I would like to associate my comment with both the members of the Liberal government and the New Democratic Party in celebrating the occasion of Vaisakhi day, which is the commemorative of the founding of the Sikh faith. I speak with some personal knowledge of this, having had the very great opportunity of visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar and meeting the first minister of the Punjab in 1979.
I understand the importance of the Sikh faith to their people. I understand the tremendous contribution the Sikh people have made to the Ontario multicultural community. My party wishes to wish them many more successes in our country. We wish the strengthening of their presence here in our province and we give them our good wishes for the future.
The Ministry of Tourism and Recreation will fund more than 500 projects for the promotion of sport, recreation and fitness opportunities for all Ontarians. Municipalities across the province will enjoy new recreation facilities, while our commitment to existing facilities is reinforced with these funds. In keeping with my ministry’s goal to encourage all Ontarians to take part in recreation, the allocation of these funds takes into account the special needs of groups such as older adults and the physically challenged.
These funds are more than an investment in the bricks and mortar of our great Ontario recreation system. They are a sound investment in the continuing good health of our province. Recreation is at the heart of our community life. These grants will help keep that heart beating strong.
Hon. Ms. Hošek: I am pleased to take this opportunity to inform members of the provincial framework for the development of government lands. This approach will apply to the Housing First sites to be developed throughout the province.
To assist in the creation of housing for low and moderate income earners, the province is prepared to lease or sell land as required, site by site, at below market value. This represents a significant departure from past practice.
Beyond shelter, we have a number of objectives related to our Housing First lands. We will work to satisfy social, economic and urban design objectives. Furthermore, we are committed to the creation of integrated housing communities sensitive to surrounding neighbourhoods.
To ensure that these objectives are met, project by project, the province will work closely with municipalities and the local communities. We will seek out supporters of affordable housing goals to work together with us as local advocates for these projects. We will move responsibly and with sensitivity but also expeditiously and with determination.
Hon. Mr. Patten: As my colleague, the Minister of Housing, has just said, the throne speech of last spring announced that a Housing First policy would be applied to all provincially owned lands surplus to government needs, to create more housing for low and moderate income earners.
Provincially owned surplus lands not appropriate for affordable housing are to be sold and the proceeds applied to a housing development fund. As a result of my ministry’s ongoing review of the provincially owned surplus lands, I am pleased to announce today a series of sites in Metropolitan Toronto to be made available for the Housing First policy.
The sites are as follows: in Etobicoke, a 10-acre site at Burnamthorpe Road and the East Mall; also in Etobicoke, in conjunction with Humber College, a 50-acre site, which includes 32 acres of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital grounds; in North York, a 24-acre site at Keele Street and Falstaff Avenue; in Scarborough, a nine-acre site at Ellesmere Road and McCowan Road; and in the city of Toronto, a half-acre site at 70 Lombard Street.
It is the government’s intention to proceed now with the negotiations and planning work, so that the development can begin on these identified sites. It is our expectation that, with the full co-operation of all parties, construction could begin within an 18-month period on some of these sites.
We believe these sites will permit the development of up to 2,000 housing units. For understandable reasons, details of provincial proposals for individual sites will be a matter of negotiations with the municipalities and others immediately involved.
I expect the government to be in a position shortly to state our plans for specific sites. Nevertheless, I am pleased to announce that requests for a proposal will be issued today for a project consultant to develop site plans for the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital site in Etobicoke.
Last week I had a productive and congenial meeting with Metro Chairman Dennis Flynn, Etobicoke Mayor Bruce Sinclair and the chairman and president of Humber College. We agreed on this next step. The consultant will be asked to determine optimum land uses on some 50 acres, including lands on an adjacent lakeshore site owned by Humber College.
This will take several factors into account. Heritage buildings on the site will be preserved. Existing health services will be retained. We also want to examine the potential of this site for mixed housing development, in accordance with the province’s Housing First policy.
Developing surplus provincial lands is just one part of the solution to the current housing situation, but it is, I believe, an important demonstration of our recognition of the need and our political will to act.
We intend to make further announcements regarding other sites throughout the province, including additional sites within and around Metropolitan Toronto. My colleague the Minister of Housing and I will be approaching other government owners of land to see whether they as well can contribute more to the Housing First solutions. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Eakins: I am announcing today that our government has declared the flooded Goulais River valley a provincial disaster area and will provide financial help through the Ontario disaster relief assistance program.
Last Saturday I had the opportunity, along with my colleague the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio), to visit the Goulais River area north of Sault Ste. Marie. Ice jams in several locations along the river caused extensive flooding, the worst in many years. Fortunately, there was no loss of life or serious injury. The water has since receded and those evacuated have returned to their homes.
I know the minister would join me to commend the Goulais volunteer fire and emergency services for its excellent rescue work during the flood. The local staff of my ministry and that of the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ontario Provincial Police and many local agencies such as the Red Cross are also to be commended for their excellent work during the emergency.
The Ontario disaster relief assistance program helps alleviate the hardships suffered in cases such as this when a natural calamity occurs. My ministry administers this program, but the real work is done by the people in the communities who have suffered. They set up a disaster relief committee and spearhead the local fund-raising. I am confident that all members of this House will support the efforts of the residents of Goulais River, as they recoup their regrettable losses.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: In January 1986, the then Minister of Labour announced the appointment of the Task Force on Hours of Work and Overtime to study and make recommendations on all issues relating to permissible hours of work and overtime under the Employment Standards Act.
Phase I of the report contained the task force’s major recommendations and it was tabled in the Legislature last June. Since that time, extensive consultations have taken place between the Ministry of Labour and a wide range of interested groups in other government ministries.
Today I am pleased to table phase 2 of the report submitted to me by Dr. Arthur Donner, chairperson of that task force. His final report focuses on special treatment for construction workers, truckers, agricultural workers and domestics. It also examines exemptions and special treatment in the broader context. It is my understanding that, owing to an inadvertent error in my ministry, some copies have already been distributed and I regret that error.
Last June the government introduced legislation to enhance the basic working conditions of domestics. That legislation, which came into effect October I, 1987, entitled full-time domestics and nannies with special training in child care to standard overtime pay. It also required that they be paid the provincial minimum hourly rate, a benefit that was also extended to part-time domestics.
The minimum pay and overtime provisions and all other rights of live-in domestics are also provided by the legislation to full-time and live-in sitters. This was done to end situations in which ordinary domestics were being classified as sitters by some employers wishing to avoid paying overtime and benefits.
This final phase of the Donner report will enable us to more fully examine the issue of overtime as it affects domestics and the other special groups that were the subject of the study. Specifically, this report contains an analysis of the issues and offers 20 recommendations. Let me share some of the highlights with members.
First of all, the report suggests the establishment of a small group within the Ministry of Labour to review, with public consultations, the exemptions and special-treatment cases every five years with priority given to the review of the 26 industry permits.
It also calls for an updating of the definition of “emergency,” which may be excluded from excess hours worked. In such cases, the task force recommends that the information supporting the decision to exclude such hours be shared with unions and other affected workers upon request. Among the other recommendations are the following.
Donner recommends that agricultural workers be eligible for paid vacations and paid public holidays. It recommends full-time live-in and live-out domestics and full-time live-in sitters should have the right to refuse work after 50 hours per week.
It recommends that the provincial government should approach Ottawa to seek changes in the income tax provisions to make child care expenses fully deductible. It recommends that maximum hours for truckers should be set in the National Safety Code and enforced by the Ministry of Transportation.
It finally recommends that the overtime trigger for local cartage drivers and highway transport should be 50 hours, while for private fleets it should be 40 hours. It suggests that a driver should have the right to refuse work at the point the overtime trigger comes into effect. It recommends the establishment of a uniform 50-hour standard work week for overtime premium pay in the roadbuilding and sewer and watermain sectors, with a right to refuse after 50 hours; and finally, the right of other employees in the construction industry to refuse work after a standard 40-hour week.
This report will become a part of the ongoing consultations arising out of the first report and will contribute greatly to the review of the Employment Standards Act that is presently under way by the ministry.
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: Before concluding, and if I can have the attention of the member for York South (Mr. B. Rae) for a moment, I would like to place on the record the government’s appreciation of the thorough job done by Dr. Donner and his task force colleagues, Fitz Allison, Judith Andrew, Sam Gindin and William Stetson. I feel confident that the consultations arising out of these reports will prove extremely meaningful in assisting the ministry to bring forward major revisions to the Employment Standards Act.
Mr. Breaugh: I cannot tell the members how happy I am to warmly endorse and agree with the statements made by the Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek) and the Minister of Government Services (Mr. Patten) today, just as I endorsed it when we said it during the last election campaign and when they said it during the last election campaign and 10 years ago when a guy named Claude Bennett was Minister of Housing for this group over here.
We have all said that and we all agree with that, so I think it is useful to take a look at some of the specifics. There are those around who are cynical enough that they will actually do that. They will look at where the problem is most difficult in all of Ontario. They will say it is in the city of Toronto, and they will examine very carefully what the government has done today: half an acre of land on Lombard Street.
They will look at the fine print, where it says they will get leases or sell the property just under market value, and they will remember that yesterday this government set the record, $160,000 for a 40-foot lot in Malvern, and today it says it is going to turn to others in the private and public community and give them a break: $159,095.
Mr. Mackenzie: I cannot even be as kind as that to the Minister of Labour (Mr. Sorbara) with the report he has just filed in this House. Just as a little aside, I wonder why he will not consider agricultural workers under the Employment Standards Act, as we have asked for years. It would do more to protect them and give them the coverage they do not yet have than he has done in his recommendation or in anything he has done.
What has the minister done in terms of the Stelco workers or some of the other more obvious plant examples in terms of overtime? There is absolutely nothing here that deals with the problem that resulted in the committee he set up in the first place. Instead, he has now set up another small interim committee in the ministry to take a look at the industrial permits. It is a pile of crap.
Mr. Wildman: I want to congratulate the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr. Eakins) for his successful fight with the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) to persuade the Treasurer that we should provide $4 for every $1 to assist the community of Goulais River, rather than the normal $1 to $1. I welcome this statement and express my appreciation to him and to his colleague the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio).
I also join with the minister in congratulating the local community, in particular the fire team at Goulais River, as well as the ministry staff. The assistance provided by the ministry staff to the local services board has been most helpful, and I look forward to the local services board’s being able to use the money raised locally and from the province to assist the community and the people who have suffered flood damage.
I hope the government, though, will not just rest here but will look at some method of alleviating future floods and avoiding having to provide this kind of assistance to the flood victims every three or four years. We should be doing something to ensure that there is flood control on that river valley.
Mr. McLean: Briefly, I just want to say I am pleased to see that the minister has followed the great example set by the previous administration in order that sports facilities and recreation facilities will exist and continue across Ontario. Not only that, but I am pleased to see the part with regard to the physically handicapped and older adults that is included in it. I think it is great, and I am pleased to see that the minister has followed the example set previously.
Mr. Jackson: I am pleased to respond to the statements made by the Minister of Government Services (Mr. Patten) and the Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek), Ontario’s newest tag team, as they wrestle the price of affordable housing to the ceiling in Ontario.
It is passing strange that over a year ago this government leaked to the media a plan that would involve many of the component parts which now, a year later, we are hearing about in this House. It is also passing strange that today they have seen fit to announce only five sites, yet 12 sites were mentioned in an article in the Globe and Mail on March 15, and last year I believe there were even more sites mentioned in an article in the Toronto Star.
If you analyse these sites more carefully, what is interesting is the size of the land which is integral to the amount of density and therefore the number of affordable units which can be built. Whereas in Toronto right in the core of the community where this building stands, where the most acute shortages of housing exist in this province, the government has seen fit to release a half-acre site at 70 Lombard Street, it is silent about a 6.3-hectare property occupied by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, a property which we understand a certain newspaper in this community has expressed some interest in acquiring.
Where is the real degree of commitment when the minister knows full well there are at least 18,000 people in this city who are in critical need of housing? Will the minister have the courage to stand in this House two and a half to three years from now to announce that she has handed over the keys to those tenants or to those purchasers? We know she will be there to cut a ribbon, but will she be able to stand in this House and state not the announcement but the completion and the delivery of those units?
As I say, it is passing strange that we have an interesting new tag team in Ontario politics for the housing problem, when we can have a statement such as this in the House, which saves the Minister of Housing from her three count just moments before the Premier (Mr. Peterson) throws in the towel.
If these are the solutions which this government thinks are going to remedy the affordable housing crisis, they do not. They do not produce the kind of assurances that persons without housing in this city and across this province badly need. It is important, as well, to note that at least our party has stated its concern with the fact that a back-bench member of the government has been making statements to constituents and elsewhere prior to the statement being released in this House. We feel that is an unfortunate and inappropriate set of circumstances and we would hope that the minister would exercise a little more discretion and a little better judgement in future in the treatment of these announcements.
Mr. McCague: In relation to the statement made today by the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Mr. Eakins), I am sure he is waiting for me to say something nice about him after the exchange we have had in the last few days. I intend to do that any time the minister does something that is good and right.
I know the people of Goulais River will appreciate the disaster relief assistance. I congratulate the minister for providing it to them. I can only relate that to the relief we received in our area from the tornado that went through, and to again congratulate him, which sort of balances the scale.
Mr. B. Rae: My question is to the Premier. The Premier has stated on a number of occasions that it is his view that if a store owner does not want to open on a Sunday, he or she does not have to open on a Sunday. That is the basic protection for small business which the Premier is providing.
Can the Premier confirm today that the only protection a small business in the province has from losing its market, from having to work on a Sunday, the only protection the Premier is providing, is simply to say to those employers and, indeed, to employees across the province, “If you do not want to work or you do not want to stay open, you do not have to”?
Mr. B. Rae: We have had very different information. The House leader gave us some information with respect to when the bill would be forthcoming. The Solicitor General (Mrs. Smith) gave some information to the House, and then she proceeded to give different information yesterday to the press about when the bill was forthcoming. We understand now that it is her intention to bring forward the bill on Thursday, which is not the information she was telling the House when she spoke in the House yesterday.
I am sure the Premier is aware of the very substantial debate that took place in the United Kingdom, in the House of Commons in 1985, with respect to the question of shop hours and the protection of Sunday workers. I wonder if the Premier would care simply to take note of the fact that one major difference between the vote that took place in the United Kingdom in 1985 and the vote that we anticipate will take place some time within the next few years in Ontario with respect to Sunday shopping is that the vote in the House of Commons was a free vote and, in fact, members were allowed to vote their conscience because of the implications for questions about working on a Sunday and the changes to the law on Sunday.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: The member is quite right. This has been a matter of some considerable debate in a number of countries such as Britain and in other provinces in our own country. When I was recently in Germany it was the major issue there and I had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Chancellor.
I think what one has to do before one becomes too alarmist about this situation is to look at other provinces where it is operating under local option. A lot of the alarms my honourable friend has had and a lot of the questions he has raised have been answered in very practical and real terms there. The dire social consequences that he predicts did not, in fact, happen. Some people open, some people do not open; some communities are open, some are not open. It is tailored very well to the community.
Look, I am not a dictator. I can tell him that we have had lots of votes in this House when some of my colleagues have not agreed with me, and presumably if they do not they will stand up and express themselves accordingly.
Mr. B. Rae: Does the Premier not see a contradiction between saying that shop owners have a conscience with respect to whether or not they stay open, that municipalities have a right to choose under the approach which he says he is going to be putting forward, and that, indeed, the Minister of Labour (Mr. Sorbara) is supposed to bring forward legislation which we understand, according to what we have been told by the Solicitor General, is going to say something about workers? Does he not think he ought to make a similar statement in this Legislature that clearly states to his own members that they have a right to choose, too, in terms of how they are going to vote?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I accept the challenge. If he lets the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr. D. S. Cooke) vote the way he wants to and the way that he has expressed in the past, we will happily do the same here.
Mr. B. Rae: Done. All right, that is it. There we are. All it depends on is whether or not the Premier is prepared to exercise his freedom and do in public what he has been saying he wanted to do in private. That is what it all depends on.
The Premier will know that when Michael Wilson introduced his tax reform changes, the first $100,000 of a capital gain -- that is to say, the sale, for example in real estate, of a nonprincipal residence, a house which you do not live in, that sale would be tax-free for the first $100,000. The Premier, if he chooses to peruse any of the multiple listing directories with respect to real estate, will find literally dozens of properties across Metropolitan Toronto which trade hands after having been owned for a few short months.
Can the Premier tell us why he remains so opposed to a tax on speculation, which would simply ensure that people who are in the real estate market in order to make a quick buck on a quick flip are not able to do so, which would inevitably take some of the heat out of the real estate market which is now so clearly there.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I think we should just be very fair the way we characterize federal tax reform with something the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) and this government disagreed with. When Mr. Wilson -- was it two or three years ago? -- introduced a $500,000-tax-free, lifetime capital gains, we thought that was an unfair way to tax. It started with $100,000 in the first year. That applied not just to houses but to art and to a variety of other so-called capital transactions; it was not directed just to houses.
We all know your principal residence can be traded tax-free in any circumstances. But anybody who is engaged in the business of speculating or trading in houses or apartments, art, cars or anything else is taxed on the basis of capital gains which, as my honourable friend knows, is one half of the income rate. There is taxation on that, on people who carry on business that way.
In addition to that, my honourable friend will be aware that there is a land transfer tax applied every time there is an exchange of property. I think my honourable friend, understanding taxation as he does, realizes that people who speculate in houses are taxed on a capital gains basis.
Mr. B. Rae: If the Premier wants to play games, all right. You are taxed on a capital gains basis above the $100,000 level, which is tax-free, which he did not mention. So $100,000 is tax-free, half your capital gain is also tax-free and half your capital gain goes into your income, which then, if you have flow-through shares or whatever else you may have, may also be subject to reduction in tax.
Specifically on real estate, the Premier must know now that the average price of a home in Metropolitan Toronto has increased by 68.2 per cent in the last two years. There is substantial evidence with respect to speculation in property in this city, because of the way in which prices are going up.
I would like to ask the Premier why he rejects the very sensible suggestion which has been made by my colleague the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren) on a number of occasions, and made again yesterday by Councillor Pantalone in Metropolitan Toronto, that we have a spec tax in Toronto, which will take the heat out of speculation, out of the flipping, out of the sales and the resales which are contributing to an overheated market and which are driving prices out of the range of ordinary working families in Toronto?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I understand my honourable friend’s philosophical commitment to that kind of taxation, but he has to understand that if someone only turns a few houses, that could very well be a capital gain, but anybody who speculates in houses would be taxed at income rates; it is a business of trading in houses. In fact, there is taxation in addition to, as l said, the land transfer tax.
My honourable friend thinks that would work. It was tried before in this province and repealed. The evidence, looking back, is that it did not accomplish a great deal. It is something the Treasurer has reviewed and presumably will continue to review. The Treasurer was good enough to hand me an article just now, which says, “Toronto real estate market warm but not as hot as before.” There has been some cooling off in that particular regard.
It is a function of the high growth of the area, the enormous economic activity here, the people who are moving here, and my honourable friend is aware of that. At the same time, when one looks at the initiatives undertaken by the Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek) and her ambitious plans, I think we are going to make some difference along the way.
Mr. Laughren: Surely the Premier admits there is a problem when, between February and March of this year, the average resale price in Metro went up by $6,000. Surely the Premier understands that those are not normal market forces at work; those are speculative forces at work.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: First, the member draws the conclusion that it is speculation, as opposed to people moving into houses, as opposed to people moving into the Golden Horseshoe and wanting to buy houses. The member assumes they are speculators. As I said, if they are speculators, they are taxed through other ways.
The question is, on reasonable analysis, would the member’s kind of solution cool out that so-called speculation, if it is the problem, which he has not established? I do not think there is any evidence there, from past experiments in that regard.
Mr. Brandt: My question is to the Premier as well and it is with respect to the issue of Sunday shopping. On this side of the House, we have had some question in our mind as to why so many of the Liberal members of this House object to Sunday shopping and have indicated quite publicly that they are opposed to seven days of commercial activity while at the same time they seem to be supporting the government’s plan. Perhaps we have an answer to that, which I would like to share with the Premier.
The member for Guelph (Mr. Ferraro), a small business advocate as well, has stated publicly that Sunday openings will harm small business, the very group he speaks for. He stated publicly that he opposes Sunday shopping, as do the majority of his constituents. His reason for supporting the government policy, according to the December 30, 1987, edition of his local newspaper, is, and I quote: “It’s a two-way street, he said. A member of the Liberal caucus who wants money for hospital redevelopment, for example, must also realize what the party will want on some issues.”
Will the Premier disabuse the House that he is using some form of coercion or threat to whip the Liberal back-benchers into line by perhaps refusing to fund some of the badly needed projects they need in their ridings?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Absolutely not. We believe in the sheer power of ideas and leadership, and I think people will respect that. The honourable member asked me why members would say they are not particularly in favour of Sunday shopping in their communities but would support the legislation. The answer is quite simple. They understand the legislation and the member does not. That is the reason.
This legislation is not about wide-open Sunday shopping. It is about a local option adapted to local situations. If the member for Guelph does not feel it is appropriate for Guelph, that is clearly his opinion, but he may well, when asked -- and the member is entitled to ask him -- think that if the people in Niagara Falls think it is a good idea, he would respect the rights of the people in Niagara Falls to make their own decision. That shows how sensitive the members of the Liberal Party are, that they do understand the distinction of something that has not yet registered on the honourable member opposite.
The question then becomes, if so many Liberal back-benchers are in support of this legislation, it is interesting to note the numbers who have spoken out against it. We all know the municipal option is wide-open Sunday shopping through the back door. In spite of that, the member for Guelph, the member for Peterborough (Mr. Adams), the member for Cornwall (Mr. Cleary), the member for London South and Solicitor General (Mrs. Smith), the member for Perth and Speaker (Mr. Edighoffer), the member for Kingston and The Islands (Mr. Keyes) and the member for St. Catharines-Brock (Mr. Dietsch), just to name a few, who all campaigned against wide-open Sunday shopping, are now being forced to vote against their beliefs.
Can the Premier tell us what he means when he says he has a wide-open and responsive government, when his very own members campaigned against the position he is now putting before the people of Ontario?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: Again, my honourable friend, I think, draws conclusions that are not correct. I apologize for not being able to look at him with a straight face. That is a problem a lot of us have when we face the member.
The conclusions that my friend draws with respect to wide-open Sundays, I say factually are nonsense. Personally, I could take up a collection from the honourable members on this side of the House, the Liberal Party members, and we would have enough money for a bus ticket for the member to go to Calgary or Vancouver and examine the situation there. Frankly, he could take as much time as he would like, but if he examined the situation he would find that his fears are not warranted and that the construction he puts on the exercise is factually wrong.
I think the members on his side of the House, the members of this party, understand that. The member opposite, on reflection and study, should listen to members like the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr. Villeneuve) and some of his colleagues who have shown the insight to understand what we are doing on this side of the House and do favour what we are doing. I am sure if he listens to the grass roots in his own party, he will come to the conclusion that we are doing the right thing and he will stand publicly in this House and recant.
In response to the Premier, I would like to comment on the fact that the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry will be able to vote freely according to his conscience on this issue. I join with the leader of the official opposition by saying to the Premier that, as of this point, the members of this party are free to vote on this issue as they wish. We will have a free vote in our party. Is the Premier prepared to do the same in his party?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I am not a dictator here. All the matters we discuss here are discussed with my colleagues. We have seen it before in this House where this government had a position but other members have stood up and disagreed with the government. That has happened and that is the nature of democracy. All these members speak for themselves.
If the member for Sarnia with his oratory can persuade these members to change their minds, thoughtful as they all are, sensitive to the needs of a progressive and dynamic Ontario, then I am sure they will, on their own, stand up and say, “I agree with the member opposite.” It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
Mr. Brandt: My question is not to the Premier. It is to the Minister of Housing. I would like to ask the minister when the government intends to have section 91 of the Residential Rent Regulations Act proclaimed. She quoted from section 91 at the time she was addressing the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, I believe.
I would like to quote, if I might. When the minister was addressing the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, she commented at that time: “That situation should change when we get another section of the new legislation proclaimed,” meaning section 91. “It allows for a much quicker increase over a number of years to try to bring those rents up to the market.”
So the minister’s statement to home builders is, “Just hang in there and give us an opportunity over a short period of time and we will be able to get those rents up in a real hurry.” That is not the message the minister is giving to the tenants of this province.
Mr. Brandt: The question the minister is raising with the tenants of this province is that she is going to regulate rents. Which is it, the message she gave to the home builders or the message she is giving to the tenants?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: The member opposite knows very well that section 91 of the legislation deals with a particular kind of building with particular problems. What I said to the home builders was that, in order to be able to regulate that section, we would need to do some more work. We are doing it, and when we are ready we will announce it.
Mr. Brandt: We hear the same story with respect to all phases of housing. Bill 51 is obviously not working. The former minister brought that bill in and indicated to the people of this province that it would clear up the difficulties as they relate to landlord and tenant problems. That has not happened.
When is the minister going to be prepared to take some action within her ministry to bring some kind of order out of the current chaos that relates to the very lengthy rent review hearings, the delays, which are getting worse all the time, and her budget, which is getting higher all the time? What action does the minister intend to bring about in order to clear up the mess we are in at the current moment?
Hon. Ms. Hošek: If the honourable member is saying the legislation has some problems, I could not disagree with that. It is a complex statute. I know that not every member in the House supported it. I am looking at the way in which it is working and monitoring its results in a variety of ways.
The work we are doing, I think, is most important because, as part of its package, this legislation has protected tenants all over the province. Just this week I announced the way we are going to protect tenants who are concerned about the conversion of parts of their buildings into suite hotels. In relation to the Rental Housing Protection Act, we are working to protect tenants as well.
Mr. Mackenzie: I have a question for the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. Can the minister bring the House up to date on the recent purchase of the Firestone plant in Hamilton, particularly in relation to the future of the Firestone workers and whether they will have first priority in the event of any production possibilities?
At the same time, can he tell us if he is aware of the current rumours the union has picked up in the last two days that Firestone is about to remove from the plant the key equipment that would make that a possibility and can he assure us that will not be allowed to happen?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: The only thing I can tell the member is what I know. It is a private sector deal. I should tell him that the plant has been sold. An investor from Toronto has bought it. He has bought it primarily as a real estate investment. He is anxiously pursuing opportunities that could be in place to utilize the equipment that is there. I cannot tell the member how that is progressing. I can tell him that my understanding is that he has bought the plant with all of its equipment, and Firestone has no longer any lien, any interest or any proprietary right in that equipment. Firestone has sold the plant unconditionally with all of the equipment in it.
Mr. Mackenzie: I am pleased to hear that comment for the record. Will the minister give this House a commitment that there will not be $1 of taxpayers’ money going either to the Firestone operation or to the new Goodyear initiative in Napanee unless we have written in some hard guarantees that there is some right of work and protection to the workers who have paid the price in the closure of both of those particular operations in the past couple of years?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: In regard to the Firestone plant, there has been no request or no commitment from this government to get involved in any way. As far as the Goodyear plant is concerned, we will be making an announcement on that project in due course.
Mr. Sterling: I have a question for the Premier. The Premier must have read with interest recently of Ms. Adrienne Clarkson’s criticism of his government’s failure to appoint an agent general in Paris. Adrienne Clarkson has done in the past a tremendous job for Ontario and Canada in Paris. The Premier has left that post vacant for over two years. When is he going to take some action in this area?
Hon. Mr. Peterson: We have a very excellent person in charge there who is assuming all of the function and role of an agent general. In due course, we will be trying to make an official appointment. All the functions are being looked after. If my honourable friend is applying for the job, then we will happily look at his application.
Mr. Sterling: Unfortunately, it is a serious concern. One commentator has suggested that as a result of this government’s inaction, the French government has been given the impression that Ontario intends to decrease its business activity with that country. I want to ask the minister how he can justify that in view of Monday’s announcement with regard to his trying to look to wider world markets and yet taking no action when action is called for.
Hon. Mr. Peterson: I appreciate the member’s advice on the matter. As I said, all the functions are being fulfilled at the present time. Things are going very well. The honourable minister was in Paris and France not too long ago. I am sorry the member was not able to join him on that trip, but I can tell him that business is proceeding apace and things are going very well in our relationships with France and many other European countries.
I am not sure whom my honourable friend is quoting. Criticism is often levelled in this business, but that is completely ill-founded and I know he will go to the source of that, whoever did it, and say that really is not correct and is not substantial in the circumstances.
Mr. Neumann: My question is for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Most Ontarians possess birth certificates which are wallet-sized and laminated in plastic. These certificates are durable and easy to carry around for day-to-day use. I am sure that most members of this House have possessed one of these certificates.
Citizens who have had to replace birth certificates in the past few years have been surprised to find that newly issued birth certificates are now printed on flimsy Canadian Bank Note paper and are voided if laminated. I have been informed that lamination is not allowed because it would eliminate some of the security features of the birth certificate.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The honourable member is correct. The wallet-sized birth certificates were laminated until, I believe, the middle of 1982. Since then, and as a result of discussions with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the vital statistics office, in Ontario and, I understand, in all other jurisdictions of Canada, the lamination is no longer the way of producing these birth certificates for the use of our citizens.
The problem is a security problem. One of the things that was done to solve that problem was the use of Bank Note paper, which is now being used, but if we were to laminate the Bank Note paper, in checking it, in having to do a check, the various kinds of images, the various kinds of numbers that are actually on that Bank Note paper that is used to produce the birth certificate could not be seen in terms of that kind of a check, and that is why the laminating of those birth certificates would now void those birth certificates.
Mr. Neumann: I understand that programmable microdots on these new birth certificates can be used to store personal information about the individual to whom the certificate has been issued. Will the minister indicate whether these microdots have been used for this purpose to date in Ontario, and furthermore, can the minister assure this House that such use is compatible with provisions of right-to-privacy legislation and the Charter of Rights?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: I say to my friend that the Bank Note paper is shipped here to Toronto and the certificates are printed at random. I certainly understand the implications of the honourable member’s question in terms of right to privacy and the placing of information on microdots on one of these birth certificates, which would be quite improper.
I will make inquiries for the honourable member and get back to him, but I must suggest that, since people in our ministry are doing the ultimate printing of the birth certificates, I would be very surprised if there were any chance of that kind of misuse of the birth certificates occurring.
Mr. R. F. Johnston: My question is for the Minister of Education and regards the 80,000 profoundly deaf individuals who live in Ontario. I guess I want to ask the minister about whether or not he thinks they have been receiving quality education or whether they have been grotesquely failed by our education system in Ontario.
Is he aware, for instance, that the Canadian Hearing Society believes it is highly unusual for a deaf child to receive an education which provides him with anything better than a grade 4 reading capacity and that an Alberta study shows that only five per cent of the deaf across this country test above the grade 10 level?
If he has concerns, could he tell me whether or not he has any studies of our schools for the deaf to check the quality of education or whether he accepts their premise that they are in fact producing good graduates?
Mr. R. F. Johnston: As part of his investigation, I wonder if the Minister of Education could respond today, perhaps, or in the future, as to why it is that we have half as many deaf teachers teaching the deaf in Ontario today as we had in 1929. That is to say, we have only eight deaf teachers in the whole province.
Mr. Harris: I have a question for the Treasurer. The Treasurer will know that federal income tax reform will result in lower taxes for 80 per cent of households in Ontario. A family of four earning $30,000 will enjoy a tax break of $500 this year, thanks to Michael Wilson.
Can the Treasurer give Ontario residents his assurance that, whatever he does in his budget next week, he will not introduce measures that will rob Ontario taxpayers of this $500 in tax relief provided by Ottawa?
Mr. Harris: I find it ironic that, after three years of spending double or triple the rate of inflation, health care is worse in this province, the housing situation is worse, the education shortfalls are worse. The government has had increases from Ottawa of 8.2 per cent, 7.1 per cent, 6.7 per cent in transfers. It has increased taxes. It has spent over 10 per cent a year increases for the last three years.
I guess what I want to know is, when will the Treasurer admit that throwing money at these problems perhaps is not the only solution, that it is not the quantity of money he throws at them -- because he has thrown quantities of money at them -- perhaps it is how the money is being spent?
I will ask the Treasurer, since he will not control expenditures, or cannot, why did he reject the minority report that our members provided to the committee to help him look at how he is spending all that money and help control expenditures here in the province?
Hon. R. F. Nixon: I am sure the critic for the third party would be aware that because of initiatives taken by the government of Canada, the transfers for established programs, including post-secondary education and health, have not been increasing at the rate that was originally agreed to, which was close to 50 per cent. As a matter of fact, in that period of time the transfers from Ottawa have gone from about 52 per cent of the costs of health down to about 38 per cent.
To tell the truth, I certainly cannot find it in my heart to blame the Minister of Finance, because his problems are very great, except that he seems to be building up his resources to buy $8-billion worth of nuclear submarines, and we are trying to build a hospital, even one in North Bay.
Mr. Matrundola: My question is to the Minister of Health. Her ministry has just completed an inquiry into the high number of deaths at the Bayview Villa nursing home at Cummer and Bayview Avenue in my riding. I believe the investigation concluded that the deaths were due to natural causes and were not related or linked to poor care.
However, some complaints put forward by the group Concerned Friends of Ontario Citizens in Care Facilities were found to be justified. These problems included not properly recording food and beverage intake, rushing residents through meals and other poor feeding practices.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: I want to acknowledge the member’s concern in this area. As he knows, inspectors did follow up with the problems that had been identified. In most cases, no evidence was concluded to confirm the complaints. However, some problems were identified and nursing home branch inspectors as well as dietary inspectors will be returning to the home to ensure that their recommendations will be complied with.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: As the member knows, and I hope all members in this House know, this government is committed to quality of life and quality of care for senior citizens in nursing homes and I think we have made considerable progress. We have increased resources for food and staffing in nursing homes. We have rewritten the Nursing Homes Act to give the Ministry of Health greater authority, and I can assure the member that a number of steps have been taken to ensure the high standards of care right across this province. I thank him for his question.
Mr. Reville: My question is to the Minister of Health and, strangely enough, it is on the same subject as that raised by the member for Willowdale. The minister has alluded to this flimsy report by her nursing homes branch. I think members of the House should be aware that there were 32 deaths at this establishment in four months, a rate of death far higher than at facilities of comparable size. Is it not the minister’s view that a much more serious investigation should be undertaken, including epidemiological studies, so that in fact some factors can be looked at that would account for a rate of death at Extendicare Bayview that is fully two or three times higher than at similar facilities?
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: I thank the member opposite, my critic, for the information. All deaths which take place in nursing homes are investigated by the coroner. In this case, the coroner investigated all of those deaths and determined that they were because of natural causes. Ministry officials have had preliminary discussions with the coroner. I understand an additional meeting will be taking place and an epidemiologist from the ministry will be in attendance.
Mr. Reville: It is quite correct that the ministry investigation did include extensive consultations with the coroner, as is quite proper. Twelve of the deaths were put down to pneumonia. In fact, the minister will know that one of the contributing factors that will lead to contracting pneumonia is inadequate fluid intake. Her inspector demonstrated poor feeding practices and poor liquid supply practices in this nursing home. There were 12 deaths from pneumonia out of the 32, and we have had another one just recently. Does the minister not think it is time to do a more serious study?
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: I do want to thank the member opposite for the question. Whenever we see an inordinately high number of deaths, there is always cause for concern. I understand that the coroner will be meeting April 21 at the home with members of the families involved. I invite the member opposite, as well as the concerned friends group, to attend that meeting to satisfy themselves of the coroner’s findings.
Mr. Wiseman: I have a question to the Minister of Agriculture and Food. I am sure the minister is aware that the honey producers ran into a problem in 1987 by following the ministry’s guidelines and the directive from the ministry in late 1986 suggesting to them that they be sure to feed sulpha along with the sugar and water to control American foul brood. They did not find there was a problem with doing that until well into the 1987 crop year, when another bulletin came out saying that they could not sell that product if it had more than one part per million.
The federal government, I understand, has said that it would allow blending, and many other provinces have allowed their honey producers to do just that. Will the Minister of Agriculture and Food say in the House today that he will allow our farmers to do that when, in fact, they were following his ministry’s direction in 1986 and did not know there was a problem until they got the report in 1987?
Hon. Mr. Riddell: This is the first this particular matter has been drawn to my attention. We will certainly have a look at it, but this province has certainly tried to discourage the use of sulpha in the bee colonies. I quite agree that we have been running into a problem. I have been contacting the federal Minister of Agriculture to try to take steps to see that we do control the use of sulpha in the bee colonies and that we do control the importation of honey from colonies that have had sulpha fed to them. I will see if I can go it alone in Ontario and what implications that will mean for Ontario.
Mr. Wiseman: I am really surprised the minister has said he was not aware, when he said he has already had discussions. I would have thought he would have known that streptomycin has been the drug they now are using instead of sulpha and that he would have known, from talks with his provincial counterparts across the country, that Manitoba already has a blending machine.
Because they were following the ministry’s guidelines and because the federal government will say there is no problem if it is below one part per million, all these farmers are asking is, will the minister allow them to do this, as they have in other provinces? If he will not, and he is using it in some sorts of feeds, will he say today that he will purchase that and save many of the farmers, who have up to $30,000 or $40,000 --
Hon. Mr. Riddell: When I responded to the honourable gentleman’s first question, what I said was that the matter of blending honey that has had some sulpha included has not been brought to my attention. The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association has not requested that I permit the blending of honey. That is the point I want to make. If the beekeepers’ association wants to come to me with a recommendation, I will certainly be prepared to consider its recommendation.
Mr. Callahan: This morning I had a call from a constituent of mine who indicated to me that he had entered into a contract with a health club, a numbered company, that took from him, by way of consideration for the contract, a series of post-dated Visa slips, with an understanding under the contract that those Visa slips would not be negotiated until the dates on the particular slips came up. I understand from the constituent that, in fact, what happened was that these were presented to Visa and Visa honoured all of them, even though they were post-dated.
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The use of post-dated Visa slips is not, in a sense, unlike the use of post-dated cheques. The kind of problem the honourable member refers to has come to the attention of the ministry in the past and has been investigated by the ministry. I would have to hear the specifics of the case and have a look at the specifics of the contract in order to advise the honourable member, and through him his constituent, whether the cashing of those Visa certificates before the dating on them was, in fact, proper or not.
Mr. Callahan: If I send the minister the particulars, I wonder if the minister’s department, in investigating that, would look into the activities of the company that cashed the slips; and would also look into the question of Visa’s response to my constituent, that because it was in a matter between them and the constituent that they deemed it appropriate for them to cash those slips without the dates actually having become current?
Hon. Mr. Wrye: The member raises actually an important point. I have been told by my ministry officials that this method of payment, particularly for health clubs, some of which are charging very expensive monthly fees, is very much on the upswing. The member raises an important point which goes beyond the individual concern of his constituent and into the whole practice of Visa payment and the treatment which not only Visa, but other credit card companies, are affording these post-dated payments.
We have in the past addressed the issue of post-dated cheques. I think the member raises a very important concern and I give him a commitment, if he will send me all of the pertinent information we will look at it and give him a response.
Mr. Wildman: I have a question of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. Considering the fact that taxpayers’ funds from the federal level have been used to develop the axial flow technology for combines and considering that Massey Combines will likely be sold in sections, which means that the axial flow combines technology might be spun off separately by the receiver, will the minister indicate what he is doing and what this government is doing, what steps it is taking either by itself or in conjunction with the federal government, to keep this state-of-the-art technology in Ontario and Canada?
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: We are in a situation, as the member knows, where they have closed down the combines operation and we do not know what is going to happen to that facility. It is in the hands of a receiver. We are hopeful something will come of it whereby we can not only maintain the technology but put that plant back into production. Unfortunately, I cannot give the member any assurance at the moment that any one of those things is going to happen.
Mr. Wildman: Surely the minister is aware that Peat, Marwick is advertising widely for possible buyers and that the technology in itself is probably the most valuable asset. Once the debt problems have been dealt with through receivership, it would be an attractive buy. Of the potential purchasers, whether it be John Deere, Ford, Kloecker-Humboldt, Case or Mr. Sinclair, only one is Canadian.
Hon. Mr. Kwinter: I repeat again that we are very aware that the receiver is trying to sell some of the assets of the company. We are in close touch with him. We are monitoring the situation. Until we see a specific offer, and I have no indication that there will be an offer or what is happening, I cannot respond. I share the member’s concern. We will do whatever we can to try to keep that technology here, but until we see where the offer is from, whether or not we have any right to interfere with that offer, in light of the fact that the receiver has control of the assets, I cannot tell the member.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: My question is to the Minister of Government Services. As all members of this House should know, commencing May 1 Ontarians celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary or 80th birthday will be eligible to receive a congratulatory plaque from the province.
It is my understanding that the style and format of the plaque has been redesigned and that after April 30 the scroll will no longer bear the name of the MPP who is presenting it, but will continue to be signed by the Premier.
Mr. J. M. Johnson: On March 22 I sent the minister a letter requesting information on this. I realize that is only 23 days. As the minister is in charge of the mail service as well, maybe I can ask, while he is checking on the other, can he determine why it takes 23 days to send a letter from my office to his office, or at least to get a response?
Mr. Mahoney: My question is to the Attorney General. Across this province, there have been a number of complaints raised by young people and minority groups in public areas, most notably in shopping malls, who have been evicted and, in many cases, banned from coming back into those malls for reasons that have not been properly explained to them.
Hon. Mr. Scott: I thank the member for his question, which I know is a matter of lively concern in the Mississauga area and elsewhere. As the member knows, the government appointed Raj Anand, who is now the chairman of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, to look into this problem. His report was recently made. It reveals that while most mall owners behave with perfect discretion in exercising the unrestricted rights they have under the Trespass to Property Act, there are a significant number of instances of discrimination.
Mr. Anand recommended a number of courses of action. We are considering the matter and we hope very shortly to be able to announce the approach of the government to this very sensitive but very important question.
Mr. Mahoney: This problem extends even beyond young people and minorities. I have had complaints in my community of senior citizens who have simply stopped to rest and who have been hustled along and not allowed to enjoy the atmosphere that is created in these wonderful new shopping plazas and, once again, not given proper reasons why.
I understand the shopkeepers’ and the mall owners’ concerns that the primary purpose of being in a mall is to shop, but on the other hand, they do invite the public in. I wonder what recourse the public might have under present legislation, where they could take their complaint to get some satisfaction?
Hon. Mr. Scott: The short answer to the honourable member’s question is that at the present time in the state of the law, the person who is aggrieved by being put out of the shopping centre has no rights at all, though there is a case called Regina v. Layton in which someone who wanted to picket inside the Eaton’s plaza but outside the stores asserted his charter rights. That is one of the cases that gave rise to the Anand report.
One of the things Mr. Anand recommended is that there should be a modest restriction on the plaza owner’s right, which would require him to give to the person about to be expelled a reason in conduct inconsistent with the nature of the space that the plaza owner controlled. That would be a protection for senior citizens of the type the honourable member refers to, and young people, members of minority groups who from time to time regrettably feel this problem. It would also provide full assurance to mall owners that they will be able effectively and properly to police their property in a reasonable way.
Mr. Hampton: My question is for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health was in the House the other day when we talked briefly about the integrated home care program and it was disclosed that this was not an ideal program by any means.
The Minister of Health will also know that her ministry signs decentralized contracts with local branches of the Canadian Red Cross Society and these decentralized contracts are, in effect, there to provide for homemaker services for many elderly and sick individuals, so that they may be cared for in their homes and not have to go into nursing homes or hospitals.
Mr. Hampton: The minister will also know there is a severe problem in terms of the wages these people are paid. This has been studied and a promise has been made that the situation is going to be dealt with. Yet so far nothing has happened.
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: The Ministry of Health’s home care program provides services which include homemaking, but also professional services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, nutritional services and respiratory therapy. It is very successful in helping people stay in their homes. In fact, the home care program within the ministry has gone from a total cost five years ago of some $67 million to some $200 million presently, and we are finding the demands are ever-increasing. We are always concerned, as the member knows, about having fair wages paid to people, but on the other hand, we have to look at the demands for expansion of programs. Those are two interests which we try to weigh when we determine how we target our resources.
Mr. Hampton: It seems to me that, on the one hand, the minister acknowledges that by having these people perform these services her ministry is saving a great deal of money, because it certainly costs a lot less for them to do the work than it costs to put somebody into a hospital or a nursing home.
What does she have to say to someone like Louise Shine, who says: “I am a homemaker. I have a valid registered nursing assistant certification. I have a licence to drive to my work, which costs me a certain amount of money every year. I have to pay insurance. I have worked under the homemaker program for 14 years and I am paid $6.08 an hour with no benefits, no pension plan, nothing.” What does the minister say to someone like that?
Hon. Mrs. Caplan: The Ministry of Health representatives participated in an interministerial committee along with the Ministry of Community and Social Services on the whole issue of home care. There are a number of issues that have arisen from that. In 1986, we know the home care program served some 95,000 senior citizens in this province. I do not think there is any question but that it delivers a valuable service and the demands for expansion of that service are very great.
The Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney), my colleague, has also addressed some of those issues in response to questions. It is always a very difficult question to resolve, how to expand those services to meet the needs, at the same time ensuring that people are fairly compensated for their efforts.
Mr. Pope: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. Can the Minister of Labour indicate to me whether or not he, officials of his ministry or representatives of the Workers’ Compensation Board have met with the Quebec Minister of Labour, the Quebec Ministry of Labour representatives or the Quebec workers’ compensation board representatives with respect to lung cancer among gold miners?
Hon. Mr. Sorbara: Speaking for myself, I can tell my friend the member for Cochrane South that I have not yet had an opportunity to meet with my Quebec counterpart Pierre Cadieux, the Minister of Labour in Quebec. I anticipate meeting him in the very near future to talk about a whole range of issues. As to whether or not representatives of the Workers’ Compensation Board or officials within the Ministry of Labour have had meetings with their counterparts from Quebec, there are no meetings that I know of. If my friend wants me to investigate that matter further, I would not have any trouble doing that.
Mr. Pope: The purpose of my question was that, as the minister may or may not be aware, widows and children of miners who have died from lung cancer are being denied benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled, because they, like so many others in northeastern Ontario in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, worked for Ontario companies that were contracting companies in Quebec and Ontario. Because they had the misfortune to spend some time in Quebec, one of our sister provinces and part of Canada, the minister’s officials in the Workers’ Compensation Board are denying them compensation they would otherwise be entitled to.
What I am asking the minister to do as Minister of Labour for all of us is to sort out this problem with the Quebec workers’ compensation board and make sure that where you work in this country is not a determining factor in whether or not you get compensation that you would otherwise be entitled to for a lung cancer death.
To take up from where my friend the member for Cochrane South left off, let me tell him that the study the Workers’ Compensation Board did resulted in some 400 people becoming eligible for compensation as a result of work in gold mines in Ontario. The study into the relationship between working in gold mines and the development of lung and stomach cancer is the subject of ongoing study and obviously a very serious issue.
“As concerned citizens of Ontario, we are gravely concerned about the rights of the unborn child. We believe that an unborn child must be accorded every right to protection as given to those who can speak in their own defence.
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
“As members of the legal profession and professional title searchers, we understand that the government of Ontario plans to discontinue its operation of a paging system handling incoming telephone calls in the Brampton registry office. The Brampton office services one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in Ontario.”
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
“We petition the Ontario Legislature to call on the government to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest without prejudice or harassment.”
Mr. M. C. Ray: I too have a petition regarding naturopathy, signed by 72 residents of Windsor, petitioning the Ontario Legislature to introduce legislation that would guarantee naturopaths the right to practise their art and science to the fullest extent without prejudice or harassment. It too is addressed to His Honour the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
In 1987, the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly issued a report concerning the service of process in the precincts of the Legislative Assembly. The report was not dealt with in the last parliament. The present committee is of the opinion that the current practice is ambiguous and recommends amendments to the Legislative Assembly Act for greater clarity.
The committee’s report proposes a new section 38 to the act which would designate as a contempt of the House the service of a civil process upon any person in the Legislative Building, in any room in which a committee is meeting and in the legislative office of a member that is designated by the Speaker for the purposes of the bill.
To ensure awareness of these new provisions, the committee also recommends the circulation of an explanatory statement to members and their staff, staff of the Office of the Assembly, deputy ministers, process servers in Ontario, police forces and the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Mr. Swart: The purpose of the proposed section 1 in this bill is to provide that the Legislature sit part of every month during the year instead of the current policy whereby it may sit continuously for a four-month period in the spring and two months in the fall and be recessed or adjourned the rest of the year.
The proposed section 2 declares that the designations “member of the Legislative Assembly” and “MLA” are the official designations of persons who are elected to the Legislative Assembly. The intent is to have the designation conform more closely to the designation used in other provinces and to eliminate confusion between the designations “MPP” and “MP.”
Mr. Epp: This bill arises out of the report of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly which I presented to the House a short while ago. I believe this may be the first time a chairman of a committee has introduced a bill for first reading at the request of a committee.
The bill would prohibit the service of civil process in the Legislative Building, in a room or place in which a committee of the assembly is meeting or in an office of a member of the assembly, other than a constituency office, that is designated by the Speaker. Breach of the prohibition would be dealt with as a contempt of the assembly.
Mr. Charlton: I will attempt to pick up where I left off my comments yesterday. Perhaps I could say at the outset that it is not my intention to go on too long this afternoon. But the Speaker may recall that some of the government members across the way were being rather rambunctious yesterday afternoon throughout a number of the speeches during the course of the afternoon, so perhaps I can tell them that I will tailor the length of my comments commensurate with their behaviour.
When I adjourned the debate yesterday afternoon, I was talking about Ontario Hydro and the problem which was announced some three weeks ago about the newly discovered need to retube reactors 3 and 4 at Pickering, the associated $800 million cost and the concern that has grown out of that, which is that ultimately Ontario Hydro is going to have to retube all of its currently existing reactors, as well as the new reactors just about to come on stream at Darlington, at a fairly substantial cost, a cost which is going to distort the whole picture of Hydro’s view and the government’s view of what the real cost of nuclear power is in Ontario.
The concern I was expressing when I adjourned the debate was that the government and the Minister of Energy (Mr. Wong) appeared not to understand the importance of this issue. At the time Hydro made its announcement, the minister stated clearly that he supported Hydro’s announcement to retube reactors 3 and 4, but he has taken no action to really look into the implications of the matter for the larger system.
I see the former Minister of Energy sitting across the way and he understands. He is one of those who understands the potential implications of that announcement and the potential cost of some $7 billion to $8 billion, which Hydro had not anticipated in its planning process. I am saying in this debate, and I am almost pleading if you like, that this government announce and take some action to have a very careful look at the real implications of that announcement of three weeks ago.
The potential consequences for Ontario and for Ontario’s economy are horrendous. I do not hear anything, at least to date, coming from government and I want to see some kind of full investigation with a report to this House on the implications and costs of that announcement some three weeks ago.
The first one deals with health, and I am happy to see the Minister of Health (Mrs. Caplan) still in the House this afternoon. Members will recall that in June 1986, we passed the legislation in this House banning extra billing in Ontario. Throughout the fall of 1986 and throughout all of 1987, we raised in this House on repeated occasions a number of other new twists that some doctors in this province were taking to get at extra charges to their patients.
One of those new twists was the advent of doctors who were asking their patients either to subscribe to an annual fee that was to cover services not normally covered by the Ontario health insurance plan, services such as the writing of medical reports and so on, or in the absence of paying that annual fee to their doctors to be billed directly and personally for a service OHIP would not cover.
That issue has been raised dozens of times here in the House. To date, we have had no effective response from the Minister of Health on that issue. I guess the reason I am raising it here today is that I have just received in my constituency office a new round of letters from constituents in my riding who are patients of doctors who have very recently chosen to go that route. We have been raising this for the last 18 months.
I am making an assumption here: I assume that this new flurry of activity of doctors moving to this new charge against their patients all of a sudden is, in part, a result of the lack of response from the Minister of Health. In other words, in round one, 18 months ago and a year ago, the doctors who were most determined to find a way around the ban on extra billing were the first into this game. Those who thought, “Maybe, if this works, I will get in,” but were reluctant to be the first to jump in, are now jumping in because of the lack of response from the Minister of Health.
I would encourage her to please have a serious look at either covering the kinds of charges that are being billed directly to patients or being charged to patients through an annual fee, or to specifically name them as banned in the legislation we passed a year and a half ago.
I would like to move now just very briefly to the issue of auto insurance. I see that the Treasurer (Mr. R. F. Nixon) is not here at the moment, but his parliamentary assistant is here and I am sure the honourable gentleman will pass my comments along to him. I just want to make a couple of brief comments on the auto insurance issue since the Treasurer is also the Minister for Financial Institutions.
I guess, basically, the reason I have chosen to make these comments this afternoon is a response the minister made to my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold (Mr. Swart) during question period yesterday or the day before. When the member for Welland-Thorold raised yet again the question of public auto insurance, the minister’s response was that he seemed to recall an election campaign last summer and in September, and that he seemed to remember this party advocating public auto insurance during that campaign. His statement went something like, “I took the other position and there are more of us over here than there are of you over there.”
I want to suggest that as I recall it, it was not the Treasurer and Minister of Financial Institutions who set Liberal Party policy on auto insurance during the campaign last year, it was the Premier (Mr. Peterson). If I recall correctly, there was some serious confusion in Ontario about what the Premier’s position on that issue was. In some speaking engagements in Ontario, he took the position that public auto insurance was not the answer. On the other hand, in a speech he made down in the Niagara Peninsula, he said to the people of this province: “I’m not convinced that public auto insurance is the answer. On the other hand, I’m not ruling it out either.”
I recall that constituents in my riding and in other ridings where I was present during the election campaign were honestly confused about the issue of public auto insurance, and not only honestly confused but also asking the question, just a few days before the election, “Do you really believe that if the Liberals win they will do something about public auto insurance?” They had very clearly been left with the impression that this was one of the options the Premier was considering.
I guess I am just trying to say that the response of the Treasurer to my colleague the member for Welland-Thorold the other day may have been a perfectly honest response in the mind of the Treasurer and Minister of Financial Institutions in terms of how he perceived the issue of public auto insurance during the election campaign, but it was not quite as clear, in terms of the Premier’s position and the Liberal Party’s position, in the minds of the public of this province during that election campaign. As a result, the votes that were cast in that election were not as decisively as the Treasurer would lead us to believe a vote for or against issues like public auto insurance, which the Premier in my view very clearly and intentionally tried to confuse during the course of the campaign.
Having said that, there is just one last issue I would like to make very brief comment on, and that is the issue of housing. As members are aware, this has been a very heated issue on a daily basis here in the House for some months now, leading up to Christmas and since Christmas.
I am someone who came from a sector, prior to my election, where I was involved in the appraisal of property and got to watch the events of the late 1960s and early 1970s in terms of land speculation, which prompted the former Conservative government in this province, a government that at least the members of the Liberal Party and the ministers of the Liberal government would say was not as progressive as they are here today, to bring in a land speculation tax.
There have been questions raised a number of times here in this House about the reintroduction of a land speculation tax. In response to the question put today to the Premier by my leader and by the member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Laughren), the Premier stated the obvious, which was that the land spec tax that was implemented in the 1970s by the Tories was later repealed and had not worked. I suggest the Premier is recalling the repealing of the act fairly well, but he has not taken the time to check Hansard in terms of both the government justification for repealing that bill and the reasons for which he and members of the Liberal caucus supported the repealing of that bill.
I was the Revenue critic for our caucus at that time and I was rather intimately involved in that debate. We opposed the repeal at the time. The government justification and the Liberal Party rationale for repealing that piece of legislation had nothing to do with its failures. In fact, the rationale was precisely the opposite.
The Bill Davis government stood in this House, and at that time Stuart Smith, Liberal, stood in this House and used as a justification for repealing that bill the fact that the land speculation tax had brought speculation in the real estate market to its knees. The real estate market had been dead flat as a result for four years at that point. There had been no more speculation going on in Ontario and there was no longer any need for that piece of legislation.
We, of course, argued the opposite. If the legislation had in fact brought land speculation to its knees and had been one of the major reasons for four years of fairly stable real estate prices in Ontario, to remove that safeguard was stupid and to leave it in place would prevent what we went through in 1985, 1986, 1987 and are going through in 1988 and on into 1989, 1990 and so on.
As a matter of fact, the rate of land speculation that evolved late in 1987 and early in 1988 is as high as the serious land speculation of the early 1970s, which prompted the introduction of that legislation in the first place. If we just look at recent weeks in isolation and they turn out to really point to the new trend as opposed to the average over the last year, the rate of land speculation resulting in the coming period will be about one third higher than the excessive land speculation of 1972, 1973 and 1974, which prompted the introduction of that land speculation legislation in the first place.
I suggest that it is time the Treasurer, the Minister of Revenue (Mr. Grandmaitre) and the Premier sit down and look a little more carefully at the record in terms of the debates that went on in 1978 and 1979 around the repeal of the land speculation tax and get a little clearer fix on whether they were saying in those days that the legislation had failed or that it had been a resounding success and therefore was no longer needed.
They need to think very carefully, if they have any real interest, as the reform government that they claim to be, in starting to get at and solving the problems in the housing sector in Ontario. It is no different in 1988 than it was in 1972 and 1973. Providing affordable land for housing in Ontario will be the key component to making any serious dent in the housing crisis and the housing shortage that we have in Ontario.
I think it is time that the Treasurer, the Minister of Revenue and the Premier sit down and very carefully think that through; and then go and have a talk with the Minister of Housing (Ms. Hošek) about what her officials are finding around the issue of being able to implement the very programs they have created in Metropolitan Toronto, in the Durham region, in the region of North York, in Hamilton-Wentworth and in many other urban municipalities across the province, where land speculation over the next year is going to outstrip all of the price guidelines in every single housing program they have.
It is a very serious issue, and l urge that they seriously reconsider the position they have taken, because it is one of the only effective ways of bringing the price of land under control. Having affordable land for housing is the major component of any housing program that is going to have any significant impact.
With that, I will wrap up my comments, although I will probably have some further comments to make on Ontario Hydro and energy matters during the course of the estimates discussions over the next few days.
Mr. Faubert: Some of my remarks to the member may seem naive in that I am not sure what some of the debate and some of the comments of members commenting on interim supply are actually about, because it seems that one has the privilege of rambling through the whole gamut of everything the government does when one is commenting on this. But there are two brief comments I would like to make.
Mr. Faubert: That is exactly the point. The member states that local option only serves to guarantee inequities when it comes to that reform, and it is a reform long overdue and very much needed. I am not sure whether he is suggesting that it should be imposed by the Minister of Revenue or that, for some reason, it should simply be imposed by this government on the Metropolitan region as pure market value assessment, with all its basic negative impacts, with all its impacts on those on fixed incomes, homes of inequitable location or age of property.
It seems to me that the minister is doing the thing that everyone has asked him to do; that is to negotiate. The solution to taxation equity must and should be negotiated, however difficult in the light of the fact that Metropolitan Toronto with the member’s own New Democratic Party colleagues on the city council and on the Metropolitan council, is on the leading edge of opposition to taxation equity. I wish he would take that into consideration with his remarks when he puts it forward that somehow it is his party that is leading reform in taxation.
I have one other quick comment. I just wonder what the member is referring to when he talks about Sunday shopping. I think this is the third member who has got up on this debate and talked about Sunday shopping. I just point out that it is really the Retail Business Holidays Act he is referring to, not Sunday shopping. He falls into the press trap of it consistently.
Mr. Charlton: I would like to respond to the member. I will start with the last issue first and say that in the same way the Premier has responded here to questions on the Sunday shopping and Sunday working issue, we have not fallen into any trap at all. We just have a significantly different view of the issue than the member does.
On the property tax issue, the member was asking me what, in reality, I was saying. First of all, the member should be clear that the New Democratic Party has a distinct policy on property tax reform, which does not in any way resemble the present program which this government is afraid to implement but says it supports.
If the government is afraid to implement it, then it must be the wrong program. This game of throwing it to the local option is doing two things, and this is what I was trying to address yesterday. First, it ensures that there will be no property tax reform of any kind in Metropolitan Toronto. Second, in the rest of the province, it ensures that what property tax reform does go on will not be fully equitable among municipalities.
Those are the two things the government is accomplishing with a policy that it says it supports as a government and yet is afraid to implement. If it is the wrong policy, they should get off their behinds and develop the right one and implement it. If it is the right policy, then they should proceed to implement it instead of playing this silly local option game.
If the member would like to sit down with us and discuss the policy we would implement if we were the government, it is set out in our policy book and we are prepared to talk about it any time he likes.
Mr. Mackenzie: I am pleased to rise and participate in this debate. I do not feel under any pressure. I understand it is the first time I have been able to get into a debate on interim supply like this at 3:40, when I have the option of going right through until we adjourn if I so feel.
I want the House to know that I am a compassionate man and I want to apologize in advance that the Liberals have to keep close to 20 members in the House just so that we are not stuck with a series of quorum calls. Some of the members are going to have to put up with whatever comments I may have over the next period of time.
When we talk about interim supply, there are so many things -- and what is it? -- $9 billion or $10 billion now of money already spent. Eleven months ago really we should have approved some of the estimates. I forget what the debate was, but it is not too long ago that others in this House, myself included, were raising the question of the absolute insanity of the kind of a procedure we have here -- it is worse now than it used to be, since I was elected 12 and a half years ago -- where we have been debating the estimates and the expenditures of government money long after the money has been spent.
It does not make a heck of a lot of sense and it also, I think, opens up a couple of cans of worms that the government should think about. Why should anyone of us want to vote for interim supply, other than the old saw that, “Well, surely you want to see the civil servants get paid, or the government be able to pay its bills”? But why should any of us want to approve interim supply and the kind of money we have already spent in this province without, as I say, approval of the estimates of the various ministries when there are so many things the government has not done and so many things it has backed off on and so many things that are certainly not the priorities that at least some other members in this House would have?
I see the member for Muskoka-Georgian Bay (Mr. Black) shaking his head. I wonder if he really knows what our priorities are and what his own priorities are. I know they have some difficulty with their own priorities when I look at the promises we had during the election and what has happened since. I recall the member for Brampton South (Mr. Callahan) getting up and feeling a little bit exercised in yesterday’s debate. I think my colleague the member for Algoma (Mr. Wildman) was the previous speaker who had raised some of the concerns about the lack of action in certain areas in northern Ontario. He gave us one of those real rah-rah pitches and said: “Hey, just wait and see what a wonderful program we have coming up for northern Ontario. You will not have any chance to have any reasons to be dissatisfied with it.”
Well, I could start off with the comment that we have been waiting two or three years to see this wonderful program for northern Ontario, but I think even more to the point and more telling would be simply to say, what about the northern Ontario heritage fund and the commitment that was made to it? We have gone over a year where we have spent nothing and done nothing about it.
Mr. Mackenzie: I would like to simply say that it would be great if we had any feeling and any confidence that the remarks of the member for Brampton South meant anything. Certainly the commitment to the heritage fund did not mean anything. Certainly most of what we have asked for in terms of the changes in the north, as my colleagues pointed out very well, have not meant very much. Certainly the Sunday shopping issue was a complete reversal. Certainly we did not get the kind of expenditures that were promised specifically in terms of education. I could go on and on and on.
Mr. Mackenzie: Oh, I will. I have until six o’clock. I am going to do fine here today. It makes you really wonder why we should think that there might be any reason to accept a comment of a member, “Just wait and see what is coming.” I guess you learn a little bit from history. We look at what has happened in the past right up until now and we do not see any action.
I want to list just a few of the things I think are wrong with what we are doing and on which we have not seen any action in Ontario. I do not know about the rest of the members here, but one of the things that struck me in the last couple of months in my constituency office -- and I can honestly say that mine is a busy constituency office -- is the number of people who are coming in once again with funding problems in terms of the skin disease that Dr. Kozak’s clinic treats in Germany. I forget the name of the actual malady, but I have had three in my riding in the last six or seven weeks.
It is difficult and the work we are doing so far here in Canada is not resolving the problem. Yet some people are spending a small fortune to go over to Germany, or now to Spain where I believe Kozak has a clinic, and they are getting some relief from this particular problem. We have not dealt with that, and there were days in this House within the last five or six years when, because of the tremendous effect it has on individuals, that was a fairly major issue in this House.
Would one of the government members pray tell me what single initiative the Ministry of Health has taken in regard to this problem? I do not know of an initiative it has taken. We can go after them to see if they will allow up to $300 a day, as New Brunswick now does, to send somebody over for treatment in Germany. We may be able to win the odd case on it; I am not sure. As I say, I have two or three we are involved in right now and I have not seen that initiative.
I thought one of the Liberal promises was some action in terms of additional dental coverage. I think that needs to be broadened considerably in this province. I guess the answer on this, like so many other things, is going to be the lack of money; but I do not see any new or interesting or exciting initiatives in regard to additional dental coverage in a country as great and as wealthy as ours, in spite of some of the problems we may have. I do not see this happening at all. As I say once again, I think it was one of the initiatives I heard this government talking about before the last election.
The whole question of medical prosthesis is one that still comes up, over certain ages and under certain circumstances. It seems to me that for somebody who has had a pension established or is not able to work or is in a seriously handicapped situation, there should be some kind of automatic response in terms of the need for hearing aids, the need for a change, or a new leg or a socket or the number of different things which happen, where that person is one of the really disadvantaged people in our community. In the last couple of years, there have been some very small movements in that area, but not enough really to make a mark.
It seems to me that this is an area where we -- I am sorry the Minister of Labour (Mr. Sorbara) has to leave, because about an hour of my remarks are dealing with his ministry. Nevertheless, we will get at him another time, in the estimates, maybe; it seems to me we have not dealt with these areas.
Another issue is acute care. There is not one member in this House who does not recognize that we have a problem with extended care: the number of people in acute care beds who should not be, who should be in extended care or nursing home beds, the difficulty we have in trying to move them out; the difficulty we have if somebody is in a hospital bed and is a terminal case but has been moved into a nursing home. The situation is so bad: I had one case recently where the person wanted to go back into a hospital but the hospital would not take him, so he was stuck for his remaining days in the establishment he was in.
Maybe, if you want to really swing your weight around with the doctors, you can make some arrangements, but it is not easy. The case is really there and the situation is really there because we do not have the adequate facilities. Sure, other than education, there is nothing like health in terms of the cost to Ontario; but are we always going to measure everything we do in terms of the cost? I recognize that it is important.
Mr. Mackenzie: We have not been willing to deal with some tax fairness issues, I remind my colleague, that might make it a little easier to deal with issues like this. It seems to me the mark of a really caring, civilized society is how it takes care of the least able, the most disabled or the older people in that country. We have not done the best job in that area.
We have been hearing in this House, over the last few weeks, a real developing concern over the issue of home care and homemakers and some of the arguments that have been made by my colleagues in terms of the wages. There are some who have been working for a number of years who earn even less than $6, but $6 to $6.50 seems to be about the average range if you really have some experience. Was it proper for the Minister of Health to simply say, “Money is the issue,” to make a comment like that when we were needling her about it a bit this afternoon, when we have people who do help keep our health care costs down?
That is one of the services, homemaker services, which probably, for the older people -- we have a growing older population, and the members are all aware of that -- does more to give people some dignity in their last years and to keep them out of institutions which are much more costly than home care. Yet in home care we have difficulty finding enough people to take care of the people who need it and we have, with the people who are doing it, one of the highest turnover rates of any job in this country.
I do not have them before me, but I saw some of the figures just recently on that and it is almost unbelievable. The only occupation I have seen where there was a higher turnover rate was, believe it or not, in Wheel-Trans, the handicapped drivers’ program. The turnover there is almost beyond belief if you get the figures over the last two or three years in Metro Toronto.
This is an area where we are providing a direct, needed service that cuts down on our costs in this province and this country of ours, and we are willing to carry it on the backs, usually, of people who are a little older too -- the majority of them in this field are older workers -- who are getting usually very few, if any, benefits and $6 or $6.50 an hour. Where are our priorities, when we say that this kind of a cost, this kind of a program, this kind of a necessity is one where the dollars to expand it are a heck of a lot more important than seeing that these people are paid even the beginnings of a decent wage?
I look at the need for wheelchair ramps. I was at a meeting of my local stamp club. I do find the odd hour to get out and do some of the things that I like to do as well, and in my community the other night I had a lady in a wheelchair come up to me and tell me about her frustrations in her building in using the wheelchair ramps. They had finally put one in, but they had it controlled so that it was only usable at certain hours and she had to make special arrangements with the caretakers and the owners of the apartment building if she wanted to get down at other than a certain two- or three- or four-hour period a day. They are some of the lucky ones whose building has the facilities.
The other thing we have heard a lot about in this House in the last few weeks, and legitimately, is the housing issue. I think rather than go into some of the cases we have had here in the House that we have presented in the last few weeks, I want to go back for just a moment to something that I think Hansard will show I raised a fair amount of concern about. That was the flipping of land in my community. We had two or three cases we documented a number of years ago, and each single flip resulted in a fantastic increase in the price of land.
The real problem in housing, as I think most members will admit if they are serious and will stop and think about it for a moment, has more to do with land speculation than it does with any other costs. I think the figures are beginning to show that, and I think the cost per lot in Toronto that we were talking about in the past couple of days in this House, $160,000, tells us very clearly that we have a serious problem in terms of ever being able to provide affordable housing as long as we allow the kind of speculation and the kind of profiteering that goes on in land.
I want to ask all members of this House who will spend even a minute thinking about it to tell me seriously what their priorities are. Does any member really believe that a marketplace system that gives you the right to flip land and make that kind of profit, even if it is only one of the reasons why we cannot provide affordable housing for people, can any member tell me that is legitimate in our society? I do not think so, and maybe that sets me apart from some others and maybe it is one of the reasons I belong to the political party I do.
I sort of like what they now have in Stockholm. They have had a real problem there too. That city is close to 2 million people. I think most members will realize that you cannot and do not purchase the land in Stockholm, it is all leased. It is a policy they have followed for some time now.
I have a suspicion that if we took a look at that approach -- and I am not saying that is the only answer either, but there are other places that are looking at different answers to it -- we might find not nearly the interest in somebody trying to get hold of that and make their fortune on two or three flips of some land they have been able to pick up.
I think we have to do a lot of things in terms of housing. The speculation tax that we were talking about today is obviously one of the major tools we could use to fight this particular problem, but I happen to think that maybe we should be making a few fundamental changes or looking at some fundamental changes, one of them being that we are not going to allow profiteering and speculation in land, period, when it has an effect on housing.
Other than health and education, what is next most important for most people, and what really do we exist for as a government? I think it is to provide for our people; to provide the best jobs we can, the best care we can for our people. It is to educate them, give them a job, keep them healthy and see that they have housing.
While we have never had the real threat in this country that some other nations may have had in terms of fascist or communist threats to their governments, let me tell you, one of the things that keeps us separate from many other nations in the world is that we have, up until now, at least put some of our priorities towards seeing that we are enough of an interventionist government, enough of a concerned government, to say that the things I just mentioned, a decent job, health care, education and housing, are really a right of people.
But I also ask all of the members in this House right now to stop and think for a minute. They may not want to, but think for a minute. How many people today, unless there are two working in the family or unless they have some real assistance, in that inflated market in Toronto can afford to go out and buy a house?
It was much easier in my day when I bought my house. It was much easier for me to afford the kind of a price for my house than it is for my kids today. Only one of my gang of six has a house of their own. The only reason they got it was they were lucky enough when they first got married to get into a house that they were able to turn over for a substantially higher price seven years later when they moved up one house. That is the money they used for the next one, otherwise, they have made it very clear, and they have looked at their income, they could not begin to cover the cost of that house they bought about a year ago.
I went out with my wife to a couple of private housing developments in Hamilton. There is nothing under $100,000. You might find an older, small, used one, but the small, used ones that used to go for about $40,000 in Hamilton are now $80,000, $90,000 or $100,000. I am talking about the north end and the small houses you would never expect that to be happening to. If you think you are well enough off or you are silly enough that you think that maybe it is time -- you know, the empty nest syndrome -- to get out of a house because it has too many stairs in it, and get into a single floor plan that the wife and you might enjoy and you take a look at a new house to retire in eventually, and think maybe you can get enough out of your house to really start to cover it and get the kind of things you want in a new house: you ask can you afford it?
I was amazed. I was into the Wellington Chase development. I was into a number of the developments on Hamilton Mountain looking at housing a couple of weekends ago. It was not a real fancy house, but the closest thing in a new house that I could find with a single floor plan, which should be one of the cheaper ones, was $157,000. Most of them that we looked at were in the $170,000 to $173,000 range.
I am simply saying, how many people find it easy to go out and start in a new home and buy it at that kind of price? Unless we are willing to do something about the speculation and the profiteering on land, and unless we are willing to take a look at some drastic changes, one of which may be leasing and not allow the sale and profiteering on land, we are not likely to really resolve the serious land problem we have.
I will not say too much about the Sunday shopping issue simply because most of us had a chance the other day to speak our few words on it, but on this issue as well I want to make the same appeal that I did to the government members just a week ago. For heaven’s sake, there are some of the members -- and I have talked to two or three of them, and we have seen the comments in the paper -- who are not happy that this is the right route to take. What is it -- I guess I am just asking as strongly as I can -- what is it that makes this issue so important or so fundamental to the Liberal Party? What makes it so important and so fundamental?
Mr. Mackenzie: Politically, I hope the member stays where he is. I am being as blunt and as open as I can when I make these comments because I think they have a loser on the issue. I think it starts to cut some of the sheen from the façade of this government.
But let me simply say that if the government members had any guts and if they wanted to make a name for themselves, if they took an issue like this, unless -- if they would give me the fundamental reason, explanation or principle behind it, I might understand it a little better, but unless one of them is willing to do that, tell me what would be so wrong with backing off on this issue? I suspect they would cut the legs out from under a lot of our work in this House. I suspect they would look like a government that was willing to listen, that they were willing to do so in terms of a people issue and something that is not a straight principle issue.
I guess in terms of the small shopkeepers, most do not want the open hours; in the case of the workers they are almost unanimous in not wanting these additional hours, in the case of many of the owners they do not want them. What is involved? Why can they not take a look at this issue and say “Hey, maybe we can back off.” If they cannot back off totally, why do they not say, “OK. Let us leave it till the next session and put it on the back burner for six or eight months and listen to people a little more”?
You know, I am being straightforward and honest with them on that one. They stand to gain more than they stand to lose, and they will probably do a bit of a job on both opposition parties politically. So why in heaven’s name are they so ideologically committed? We were supposed to be the ideologues in this House. Let me tell members, on this issue it is not us, it is those people. I have not had a good reason yet, and I guess that is what concerns me.
Now, they have a cabinet meeting coming up. Some of them can pressure them a bit and say: “Hey, back off this issue. It doesn’t make any sense.” Do they feel they would be so embarrassed? I do not think so. I think they are going to be more embarrassed if they continue with it.
I have not had a chance to talk to my friend and colleague the member for Hamilton Centre as yet, the Minister of Culture and Communications (Ms. Oddie Munro), but I saw a piece in the paper where she was announcing or saying something in the Hamilton paper about what a wonderful bicentennial bash we were going to have this year, some time in the next few months.
Let me just put on record very clearly, because it has not been raised, I do not think, up until now, that surely with the problems we have in the inadequacy of some of our pension and health and safety legislation; the problems we have with housing, which are becoming very, very obvious; the problems we have in terms of the needs of people in area after area in our economy, surely we are not going to budget several million dollars for our second bicentennial bash in about three or four years. During the last Tory government there was a big argument over whether they had the right dates or not. We just finished with one. I am telling them right now, talk about the Roman circuses trying to distract the population. If those people are going to spend a pile of money on the second bicentennial bash in Ontario in about two or three years, then they are absolutely nuts, and they certainly will not get much support, I do not think, from opposition members to spend that kind of money on that kind of frivolity when we have already had one in Ontario.
I would ask them, and I hope the Treasurer takes a look at that. When you talk about not having the money, as the Minister of Health was doing a little earlier today, there are some areas in which they had better take a look at what they want to spend what money they do have on.
Let me spend a minute or two also on the shortcomings that we have in the transportation system. I am not going to go into the municipalities’ complaints about the money that is needed and about the deterioration of some of our highways. I think they have a legitimate case. We certainly had one of the better cases made before the standing committee on finance and economic affairs of this Legislature on the need for additional funding for upkeep of highways or roads and the problems the municipalities and the counties were having.
But just take a look at one of my favourite saws, and I will admit it is a favourite saw, but a legitimate one. Many members, not just myself, do travel almost every day of the week back and forth between Hamilton and Toronto. Some members go all the way down to the peninsula; some go to Oshawa. They know that we have not only a disaster in the making but a disaster already in place in terms of the traffic load that is on that Queen Elizabeth Way. I do not use Highway 401, but I understand it is just about as bad in the north end of the city.
Surely we must recognize that we have got a situation now where, if you do not leave at the right times; from my house normally it is a 55-minute drive, but I have been two hours and as long as three hours on that particular stretch of the highway. It does not make any sense. It is an area we have to start looking at. It should be one of the biggest priorities in this government.
I am willing to look at any suggestion in that area, but I suspect the only answer that is really going to work is the rapid train system from downtown to downtown between the two cities. I do not know how much of the traffic that would take off the road, but I suspect as much as 10 per cent or 15 per cent if it were rapid and if it were constant.
Sure, that is one hell of a big expenditure; I know it and everybody else knows it. But have they ever thought of trying to twin? I do not think they could do it. The land costs alone would be prohibitive. I do not know how they would get control of the property. Have they ever thought of trying to twin or even add a couple of extra lanes to the Queen Elizabeth Way? And is that really the answer we want in terms of the traffic, the agitation, the additional health problems I think it causes, the environmental concerns you get when you get that kind of concentration on a highway like that? I do not think it makes sense.
But have we seen any real step up in the move to the rapid transit system into Hamilton and into Oshawa? We hear talk about it. We had as much done by the previous Tory government, which was not a lot, as we have had done by this government since they took office. I am simply saying, why should we be happy with and passing their interim supply when we do not see action on something as important and as vital and already almost a disaster as the Queen Elizabeth Way between the peninsula and Toronto and Highway 401 on to Oshawa?
It does not make sense. That should be a much higher priority, something that should be a priority with some urgency. I guess it is not just a question of priorities, because we can all list our priorities and put them in any kind of order we want, but a priority which means something and has some urgency in terms of dealing with it.
We have a minimum wage problem, as far as l am concerned. For the first time, the National Citizens’ Coalition and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business are starting to squawk about not being able to get people unless they pay them more money. Until a few months ago, if you had even talked about a slightly higher wage, you would have been on their hit list for ever and a day. It is interesting that because at the moment the employment situation is a little better and they find that at minimum wage they cannot get the people they need, they recognize there is a problem there.
We cannot have people living at the current minimum wage, which is less than $10,000 a year, and expect that we are going to get any kudos from anybody. I think it is time we took a look at some alternatives. I do not happen personally to think a guaranteed annual wage is the answer, and I have a lot of reasons for it, but that is not a debate I will get into today. I will get into it if and when this government ever comes forward with any suggestions to deal with the inadequacy of wages for workers.
The government is going to have to look at a formula. It may not ever want to accept ours, which as members know is 65 per cent of the average industrial wage in Ontario. It would put you about or maybe slightly above the poverty line. I am not sure; I have not worked it out for the last year. It is certainly not the fortune people are thinking about, yet it is at least some kind of approach.
The government should come up with its own approach, or is it going to come in, in one more year’s time, with another 25-cent increase in the minimum wage in Ontario? What is that really going to do and what does that tell anybody about whether that party and that government is really a caring and progressive government? I do not think it says anything about it.
So why do we not take a serious look at something like the minimum wage as dealing with the problem of redistribution, because that is what it is. Our problem is that we have a society that really is looking at production for profit and not for human needs. That is an old socialist saw, I know, but I do not think it has ever changed. I do not think the validity of that kind of argument has changed or is likely to change.
Do we really want to organize our society in Ontario and our jobs and our production and the way we distribute what we can produce in this province, which is probably beyond any other province or country on the face of the earth, do we really want to gear it to what makes the most profit or do we want to gear it to what our people need?
If that is radical and if that is socialist, then I have never hidden from it. There is no question of where I stand on it. But stop and think for a minute. I know many members have small business connections and all the rest of it: what do they think?
Do we take the bottom line as production for profit, the more we can produce the more efficiently for the more profit; or do we take as the bottom line what we are trying to do to see that everybody in our society -- not paid the same; I understand the need for initiatives and incentives as much as anybody -- has a level below which he is not going to go and has some guarantee that with a little extra effort on his part he can get out of the kind of box he might be in; that in terms of health care, the use of our resources, the use of our highways, the availability of housing, the additional care for people who are really up against it in terms of handicapped people, that their rights to a better shake, to a better deal, are what it is all about in terms of organizing the priorities of the government of Ontario?
Is it so radical or so crazy or so totally out of whack with business to take a look at whether that might be a little better approach to doing things in Ontario, or is it always impossible because the powers that be and the powers in control are telling the government what to do and it does not dare buck them, because they say: “Hey, that’s not the way to do business. It’s much better to let the marketplace do business”?
I have to go back once again. We would not have had hydro all over rural Ontario if we had used that approach a good many years ago; but, not under a New Democratic Party government, we decided we had to be, wanted to be and needed to be an interventionist society, that we had to direct that some of the efforts, some of the use of our funds, some of the things we did, were done with the interests of ordinary people in mind.
I have difficulty with how people so quickly get labelled with the ideological labels, or with how the arguments come so fast and furious that somehow you are going to upset the whole community and the whole way we do business, the whole bottom-line, business-oriented decision-making process in this country if we spend a little more time saying, “Really, it is the people who count.”
Let me take a look for just a minute at our pensions. We have not dealt with minimum wages. We have not yet dealt with the pensions. We have not yet decided whether or not those surplus funds really do belong to workers. I think the government’s decision is going to be that they do not. I am sorry to say that and I hope I am wrong on that, but it certainly sounds to me as though that is the way it is coming.
I will not go into a long comment on this, but once again some of the government’s own people sat on that select committee on pensions, as l did, in 1979 and 1980, and while we could not reach agreement on the amount of indexing or how we should index pensions, or even if it was something the government should be doing, there was unanimous agreement on that committee, among the Tories as well as the Liberal members, back only some eight or nine years ago, that at least the surpluses that had built up in a fund were, in effect, deferred wages and did belong to the workers.
Where, all of a sudden, did we get the retreat that we have seen in the last two or three years such that, as long as the provisions of that plan are fully funded, that money should go back to the companies? If that is the government’s philosophy, I guess that is the government’s philosophy. It is certainly not what was pretty well accepted, certainly not what was believed by those who are involved with workers in negotiating these plans and certainly not the belief we had on the committee. But today we have a government, I am almost certain -- and I really hope I am wrong on this one as well -- whose decision is going to be that as long as a plan is funded, if that plan has been invested well enough that it makes excess money, that money really does not belong to the workers.
I have extreme difficulty accepting the principle that the Treasurer seems to have accepted right off the bat. That is that it is not really skimming a surplus off the plan if a company decides, as Ontario Hydro has done and as some of the hospital plans are trying to do now, that while the workers may still be making their payments into that plan, if there is a major surplus in that plan the corporation can withhold its contributions to the plan for that year.
I think that is basically and fundamentally dishonest; and it is based, of course, on the fact that there is enough money in the plan to do the funding. But that is not an understanding that was widely held out there, and I do not know how one talks to a Hydro worker and says, “You have to continue your particular contribution to this plan for the coming year but the company does not, because there is enough money in it to more than fund the provisions of that plan.”
Whichever side of the issue the government comes down on, I think it has some really serious questions to start asking itself in terms of fairness and what we are doing. Probably the biggest one of all is what we do in the way of the pensions. Local option seems to be a big thing with the Liberal Party today. We can throw all the onus on private industry and say we are going to require that there be certain basic standards, and they will be very minimum standards in private pensions because fewer than a third of the workers in Canada have a private pension.
We can say that and use that approach if we want. I personally do not think it is going to be the answer. What I would much rather see is this government showing some really progressive initiative in this country by saying, as the trade union movement tried to do, I guess a good eight or nine years ago now when it had a major coast-to-coast campaign, “Hey, we have to go back to the federal government.” That does not mean they have to carry all of the costs, but what we have to do is reopen the need to substantially improve the public pension plans. Because of portability, because it covers everybody regardless of the province one is in, that is obviously the best way to deal with an adequate income when somebody finally retires. There are many weaknesses to the private pension plans.
What is causing me the most heartache are the various plant closures at Inglis, ConsolidatedBathurst -- which I have mentioned in this House so many times -- Arrow Co., Allen Industries, and Firestone Canada Inc. I am not going to go into the figures right now, but already this year -- I think we are now up past last year -- we are seeing an escalation that should scare the devil out of everybody in terms of plant closures.
What is happening to the workers in those plants? They are losing decent jobs at decent wages, usually after they have worked for a number of years at a later part of their life; and a surprising number of these older workers do not get reaccommodated or find a new job, especially if they have worked for 17, 18 or 20 years in a plant. They have lost that part of their lives that they understood; the job they had, the work they had, which I think is so important to working people. The fact is, they are losing that job and they now have to upgrade their skills or find something new and try to get into the job market, which they have not been in for 20-odd years. What they are losing, and we had better all think about it for a minute, is a substantial chunk of their future.
They are losing the pension they would have accumulated in the last few years of their working lives, a pension that, instead of being $200 or $300 a month, if they were in a better plan might very well have been $500, $600 or $700 a month if they had been able to work that last five or seven or 10 years of their working lives.
We are sentencing them, as I have said before, not only to the loss of their jobs and the kind of dignity that goes with that job, but also to a future reduction in their standard of living -- a substantial future reduction. That is why I personally believe that the real answer to this has got to be a vast improvement in the total overall public plan.
The fact that this is not Ontario’s jurisdiction does not mean that Ontario could not show some progressivity and take the lead in this country, coast to coast, by making that a major campaign, understanding that that would do more to answer the problem than we are able to answer with trying to improve the individual private pension plans, which cover only a third of the workers in Ontario in any event. I ask them, why have we not seen this kind of approach?
Bankruptcy legislation is something that once again is largely federal. We had a committee from a previous Minister of Labour. I hate to go back this far now. It was Bob Elgie, as a matter of fact -- and some of the members who have been in this House as long as I have or longer will remember the debates and the arguments we had with the Tories across the floor of the House on this issue -- who said that if we could not get the federal government to move with adequate changes in federal legislation to deal with workers’ rights in a bankruptcy, he and his government were prepared to bring in such legislation.
I cannot remember -- my memory fails me on this -- whether or not this government, in the two and a half years or whatever period we have now had it, has made the same commitment. I was under the impression that we were at least working towards the same aim. I could be wrong on that, but I do not think I am. But I want them to know that it is almost three years since they were elected, and I have not seen anything done that adds to the protection of workers.
This is a small case, but I think it underlines more effectively than I can just exactly the point I am trying to make. Some of the members from parts of Toronto here will know that one of the many plants that has gone out of business and closed down just in recent days is the Trigild copper products plant. It is very small and there are only 13 hourly rated workers in that plant, but I have a series of letters between the union, the employment standards branch, the company, the bankruptcy trustees.
In effect, the problem is that the employees in this plant were given three days’ pay in lieu of layoff notice. Under the Employment Standards Act there should have been two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice. As members will note in the correspondence, the receivers indicate there will not be any money left after paying off the priority claims, such as those held by the bank. The employment standards branch indicates the same bad news. The workers are not even getting what is required under the law in terms of the two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice. They are getting three days in that particular plant. There is a fight going on between them and the ministry and the trustees now, but from the correspondence it looks as if they are probably out of luck.
I am simply saying that whatever was there is protecting the banks. It sure as blazes is not protecting even the most basic right of those workers, the right to at least two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice.
I could bring in all kinds of examples. That just happens to be one that is current right at this moment, and I use it only to underline an issue. We have brought similar cases before this House time and time again where we have seen, I am sorry to say, absolutely nothing done to come to grips with the problem.
It is pretty obvious that we have not come to grips with it, because the negotiations that I know have gone on with the federal authorities, even with this government, whether it made the commitment or not, have not resulted in changes to the federal legislation that would give workers at least the basic protection in these kinds of benefits that they were owed.
If it has not, why has the government not taken a look at some provincial legislation? It can be done. Unless he was dead wrong, one of the previous ministers of labour, Bob Elgie, made it clear that, while he did not want to go that route, it could be done and he was prepared to do it. Fortunately or unfortunately, and I have feelings both ways on it, he did not stay in the government and that government did not stay in power.
If that was a good idea, why are the Liberals now playing a role even less hopeful or helpful than the Tories played? Why will they not take a look at something that would allow that kind of thing, or do they really believe that the banks should have first priority and, even though the law says they get two weeks’ pay, they are going to get only three days and that is quite all right? Is that what the government is saying to us? Is that what he is saying to those workers at Trigild? If it is, we will send them the Hansards and show them very quickly. We will send them the Hansards, anyhow.
I am simply saying that the minister has not dealt with this problem. He has not tried to deal with this problem. He has not looked at it seriously, at least in so far as anything we have been told, and we keep asking him when he is coming up with new packages of legislation or new things that will protect workers. Where is the protection on something that we have waited for now for years in terms of the basic protection of workers in bankruptcies?
I think the plant closure explosion, and that is what I call it, that we are seeing in recent days is a result, to some extent, of the free trade talks. I have to tell members right off the bat that I would feel much happier if I had a sense that there was a real and permanent commitment on the government side to making sure that this agreement did not go through.
I thought one of the most telling comments was one that was made to our committee of 11, and most of them will remember it, by Sam Gibbons in Washington just a week ago when we sat down in his office for almost 40 minutes. He was gracious enough to give us more time than most American congressmen or senators. He has not always been that supportive. He has been supportive of some of the protectionist sentiment. He has been for 20-some years a congressman for the state of Florida. What did he say? He started off by telling us what a wonderful deal this free trade deal was, which made me suspicious. I think every single senator and congressman we talked to on this last trip to Washington said to us what a great deal it was and how beneficial it was for both of our countries.
Then some of us disagreed, and I think I first took him on in terms of the energy part of the package, but the member for Guelph (Mr. Ferraro) and the member for Brantford (Mr. Neumann) did too, as I recall. There were others who raised questions with him about how this was not necessarily such a good deal for Ontario. We went through what we understood as the energy provisions of the agreement. What did he say to us? At first he said, “I don’t think that’s what the deal really says, does it?”
I do not think he had been that well briefed on any of the details in the agreement. That was his first question. We said, “Well, we sure think it is, and that’s the way even our Ministry of Energy has explained it to us in the presentation it made to our committee in the Ontario Legislature.” His comment then was, “Well, surely no government would be stupid enough to sign an agreement like that.”
I heard some even worse comments from some of the other American senators and congressmen about what we are buying. I think I sense a little toughening of the resolve on the part of this government on this free trade issue, but I do not have a sense that it is absolute and that the government is ready to go to the mat on the issue. I think we are really looking at the future of our country.
Why did we have a bill today? I got angry and I should not have blown my stack, but once in a while it gets a little frustrating, when you have been intimately involved with some of the labour issues, to find that we have some provisions made to cover agricultural workers. Once again, I have nothing to do with farming, but in terms of agricultural workers it is an issue that I can say a fair bit about. I know the fight that the United Food and Commercial Workers went through in Picton, Ontario, after they organized, with 70 or 80 per cent of the workers signed up at the Campbell’s mushroom soup plant and the mushroom plant where they had them working on the conveyors. It was a production job where they clocked in and out each day. They had three shifts and everything else, but they were denied the right of a union. Even though they signed up a majority, they could not get certification, because they were classed as agricultural workers, and they are not covered under the Employment Standards Act.
I have had a private member’s bill asking for agricultural workers to be covered. I would be perfectly willing to listen to amendments to that bill or to have the government bring in its own bill that took care of their concerns -- I do not have the same concerns -- with regard to individual workers on farm operations, which I know has been the concern that has been raised by certain people on that issue.
How in blazes does the government allow whole factories to be excluded from any rights simply because they are classed under the act as agricultural workers? I moved the first private member’s bill on that about 10 years ago in this House. I have moved it every year since. I have raised it with every Minister of Labour since. One in the House here knows that, in the person of the former Minister of Labour, the member for Windsor-Sandwich (Mr. Wrye).
Today we get some provisions to try to protect them a bit on the kind of hours they work and to see that they get statutory holidays. Why in God’s name are they not included under the Employment Standards Act? If the government has any opting out to do, it should do it there. Why do we have to try to cover them under something they are probably not going to have because they are not organized, in any event, and cannot organize to effectively look after themselves or to police that particular part of the overtime hours announcement that the minister made today?
It does not make sense. I do not think there are many members in this House who are going to argue with me that what I am saying on that issue does not make sense or is difficult to understand. The point I am making is that we have pushed the government literally for years on that issue and have got absolutely nowhere. So why all of a sudden should I think it is in my interest to quickly put through interim supply when we have gone a year on this issue without approving or having a chance to develop and debate the individual issues that I have raised here?
My colleague raised the whole issue of Hydro expansion and the nuclear power issue. I was a little surprised at the comments of the Premier on that, because my question right back to him in terms of transporting around nuclear waste, or what they are trying to develop, is that I can recall when it was policy not to further the expansion of nuclear plants in this country. Unless I miss my guess, the growing policy in the United States is not to go ahead with any further nuclear plants and, indeed, to cut back to an extent that we are not doing in Canada. Why? I suspect because they know they will likely be able to buy our power from our nuclear plants.
When you get into the kind of costs where you are talking about $1 billion for each of the units now in terms of rod replacements twice in their lifetime, not just once; when you look at the fact that to this day we have not come up with a solution to the waste disposal problem and we have no idea what that is going to cost us in the long term; when you look at what we are spending on the development of nuclear plants -- Darlington is a perfect example -- I have not been on that committee or looked at the actual cost, but I know we are up in the billions on that. When we look at what we are spending and the fact that some other countries, and the US particularly, are cutting back, really who is it that is putting all of their eggs very rapidly in the nuclear basket? Does it make sense?
Are we going to become just a supplier of that raw power with the cost to us? They say it is cheaper. I have never been convinced of that yet but maybe the verdict is not in on that totally. But when we are seeing the additional cost to upgrade and change the rods in those reactors; when we are looking at the fact that we have not come up with a solution as yet to the cost of disposal of nuclear waste, and at the years and the generations that are going to have to look after that problem in the future, I am suggesting to members that an honest bit of accounting might very well say that the costs here are going to be much higher than what we are led to believe and that the nuclear power option may not be anywhere near the panacea we think it is in this country.
Is there a serious look at that? I do not see it going on in our society. I really have to wonder. I think it is time to take a look at upgrading some of our basic standards. Why are we sitting with only seven paid holidays in Ontario? There are other provinces that do better. Why do we have only two weeks of vacation in this province? There are at least two other provinces that have three or four weeks by law now. Once again, by law in Sweden you have six weeks. It may be after two years, but I think it is one year of employment wherever you are working. Most of the European countries have better holiday provisions than we do in Ontario in terms of mandatory holidays. Why are we so slow in taking a look at not only additional statutory holidays but also additional paid vacation, and why are we so slow in a changing society to take a look at the hours of work, which is really what is crucial to this whole overtime issue? We still have a 48-hour workweek in Ontario. When the government has not even dealt with that, then what we got today was a pile of garbage in terms of the overtime issue that came from the Minister of Labour.
Why do we not have political rights for all of our civil servants, except maybe at the top or deputy minister level? Why did my colleague the member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Charlton) have to risk his job and have a really difficult time in his first two elections? Because he happened to be an assessor and a government employee. He finally had to take the gamble in terms of running politically. Tell me why or how that is right or how it can be justified in society today. I do not think it can.
I talked earlier about the need for devices and the need for assistance for the handicapped in our society. Why are we in a situation today where the figures have not changed very much? They are slightly better these last two years than they were the first time we raised it, about 1977. It may have been raised many times before that, before my time, but when we raised it in the Labour estimates, we found that almost 85 per cent of those with a serious disability or a handicap were not gainfully employed, and in a matter of six or seven years it had not changed. If that is the case, if we either do not have the will or cannot find the ways to change it through voluntary action, is it not time we took a look at affirmative action? Maybe it is time we take a look at what they have done in Japan and a number of other countries.
I have to tell members also, very honestly, that many countries honour it more in the breach than in the fulfilment of it, but there are many where they have specific employment quotas, with a tax-back arrangement if you want to get out of that handicapped provision. Most of them run between one and a half and -- the highest I know of -- four per cent. What is wrong with saying that a firm has to hire three per cent of the people, and not at giveaway rates but at the going rates, three per cent or three out of 100?
If you are in some kind of heavy industry or some kind of plant where that might really be a difficulty, allow some kind of tax break where that money could be used to assist somebody else who could handle maybe five, six or seven people.
Why do we not take a look at some kind of quota system? I did not start out wedded to that and I am not to this day. I have just become so frustrated that I do not see any progress in this particular area. I am saying to the members on the Liberal side of the House that unless they just do not consider this a factor at all, and it does not matter that we have tried for 10 or 12 years to get better than the 55 per cent employment rate, why do they not come up with a proposal of their own that makes some specific progress, and see if we cannot get some agreement on it?
Mr. Mackenzie: I did not really expect to get the minister clapping for those kinds of things. I suspect they bother him a bit, or he thinks he is really on side on them, but I have never seen his action on them yet. I guess that is my difficulty.
Mr. Mackenzie: I am reminded of the contracting out. I was provoked. I should not have even listened to my colleague the member for Cochrane South (Mr. Pope), but he did raise it. I still chuckle to this day about the last election, where some 263 businesses in my riding got a letter from the Canadian Federation of lndependent Business, signed by John Bulloch himself, and then another one that came to me from Mr. Jim Bennett, who I think is the vice-president of the organization, in which they told these 263 businesses in the Hamilton East riding that they should not be voting for their member, Bob Mackenzie -- and they named me and that they should understand I had voted against their best interests.
The three issues they raised were my bill on contracting out, the pay equity bill for women, and safety and health votes that I had taken in this House to make healthier and better workplace provisions. Because of those three items being against their interest -- this was the Federation of Independent Business -- I should be opposed. It was quite a strong letter.
I do not think they expected that I was just not going to take that kind of nonsense. We took it to the labour council and all the local unions, and their first reaction was, “What do you want us to do; picket these businesses in the riding?” They were themselves quite taken aback by it. We said, “No, we do not want to do that.” Our own checking found out that over half of them threw it in the garbage and had never even read it to begin with, the letter from their own organization, but a few of them had read it and a few of them were embarrassed when we pointed out, of course, that what they were doing was voting against the interest of almost every worker in my riding if they supported that kind of approach.
I suspect, although I have no way of proving it, that Mr. Bulloch’s organization -- I raised it with him in one of our committee hearings just recently -- has had some feedback on it, although he says he has absolute support of his members on it. When you get that kind of agenda, that kind of approach, in terms of people who try to raise issues that protect workers’ rights, and then when we raise these things with the government people and we do not see action on issue after issue I have raised here, I have to ask if they are afraid they might get the same kind of letter from Mr. Bulloch. Has he got a heck of a lot more say than those workers who did not buy his line of reasoning in my riding, did not buy it at all? That was obvious from the results.
I am simply saying that members have to forgive me -- I guess that is all I am saying; they can forgive me -- for asking why we cannot seem to get the government moving on some of these issues that certainly are of some concern to the working people in Ontario.
I have a lot of other issues I wanted to raise here. I have not got into the comments that are before our standing committee on finance and economic affairs, which maybe we will get a chance to debate at some length in this House and the kind of recommendations we were trying to push within that committee for reform of taxes and fairness.
But, because I understand there are a couple of my colleagues who also want to make a few remarks, I will consider relinquishing the chair at this point in time and tell members that, under the estimates, I will get the other half of my remarks in as best I can with the appropriate ministries.
Mr. Polsinelli: Quite frankly, I am disappointed in the member for Hamilton East (Mr. Mackenzie). He indicated at the beginning of his speech that he was going to speak for an hour on labour issues and it took him only 55 minutes to cover the full gamut of issues that he wanted to handle.
The member for Hamilton East started his speech by saying that he was not quite sure what he was doing standing on his feet talking about interim supply, about $9 billion or $10 billion that the government has already spent. Through the whole of his speech, I think he indicated that he was not even sure we should approve it today because, if the government has already spent this money, then what is the use of dealing with it after the fact?
I would like to point out to the member that, in fact, what we are talking about in interim supply is not money that has been spent but money that will be spent. We are talking about future spending, money that has to be spent by this government between April 16 and June 30. I am going to give him a couple of examples.
If interim supply is not passed by this House today, we may have a number of programs that are in jeopardy, a number of transfers that are in jeopardy. On Monday, the government is scheduled to make $31 million available to municipalities in unconditional grants. We are scheduled to make $140 million in general legislative grants to school boards. We are scheduled to give $12 million to hospitals for mental health facilities.
These are real payments going to school boards, to municipalities, to hospitals, to people. Because of the lead time that is required to make these payments, if this assembly does not approve the government’s authority to spend this money by today, some of these payments may be deferred and there may be real people on the other end expecting to receive these funds.
Mr. Harris: I want to congratulate the member for his remarks today. While I do not quite want to blanket-associate myself with everything he said, I want to say that I thought he spoke very eloquently and put his position forward in a very forthright manner. I understand and am sympathetic to his concern that he has not had, nor have any members of this chamber had, the appropriate amount of time to look at how the government spends the money that it is going to spend. I believe the member’s comments were directed in that way. I do want to ask a couple of questions, though.
I heard the member, at the start of his remarks, talk about the land speculation tax for the city of Toronto and the housing problem. I really do, in a very sincere way -- because we are all concerned about the housing problem in Toronto -- want to also a couple of questions.
What concerns me with what is being proposed by the New Democratic Party is that there is a housing problem. One of the symptoms of the housing problem is speculation. The approach the member has come up with to attack the problem is to attack the symptom.
When the member attacks the symptom and not the problem itself, some of the concerns I have are, first, that it was tried once before by my government and did not work. Second, if we do anything to discourage people from being in the housing business or the land business or being active in that field by attacking the symptom, my concern is that we will make the problem itself even worse. Third, I guess I would ask, in sincerity, is the reason the member is proposing this to get more money? Is it a tax increase to get money or is it to try to solve a symptom of a problem that we have in Toronto? I would be interested in the member’s view on that in particular.
Just briefly, in terms of the land speculation tax, I think part of the problem with his government’s proposal was the provisions and the way it was written, as we have said very clearly. I do not think anybody should be allowed to profit more than once in terms of a flip of a piece of property unless he has held it for a number of years and used it for a number of years.
I think also, as he will recognize, I have made it very clear that I think you go beyond just the profiteering. If he takes a look also at the cost of land, that may mean leasing rather than sale, which would take it out of the profitability factor, and I know he and I are going to differ fundamentally in philosophy on whether or not the profit that can be there in housing is something that is good for our society. I do not believe it is.
I want to say to the member for Yorkview, fairly simply and straightforwardly, that he knows very clearly we have not had a chance through the estimates to question the previous expenditures of these ministries in recent months. He knows as well that we are spending on programs -- and maybe a member cannot do a good job in the estimates but it is one of the things you try to do -- and we have not had a chance to question these various programs. It does not matter whether he is talking about what we have already spent or what we are now spending; it is money that is already locked into programs that we have had no input into whatsoever.
The unfortunate thing today with this government, the change that has come about since the majority, is that it is pretty obvious the government is not really interested in the kind of communication and co-operation that was there before. I understand it. They have the majority and do not need it now.
Miss Martel: I am pleased to participate in the debate this afternoon. I am just sorry, as my colleague from Hamilton is, that the Minister of Labour chose to leave, because I am going to focus attention on his ministry and an institution that is under his responsibility, an institution we all know and love in this House, I am sure: the Workers’ Compensation Board. I see some Liberals here who on many occasions have mentioned to me some of the specific problems they are having with the board and I hope they will have the same sentiments that I do in terms of this institution.
First, the minister last week made a statement concerning the report of the Ontario task force on vocational rehabilitation. That will be the document I am going to focus my remarks on. I want to say, though, that in his rather flimsy document he made a comment that the minister and the ministry, this government and the WCB itself, shared an underlying principle of the compensation system, and that is that all three believe it is a system which is “sensitive, humane, rational and efficient.”
I must say I was amazed, quite frankly, to hear the minister say that, because for those of us who have to deal with this institution on a daily basis -- and in my office we do, and much against our better judgment -- it is anything but a system that is sensitive, humane, rational or efficient.
I want to say that since this seems to be a priority and a commitment of this government and it is supporting this underlying principle of the compensation system, then I also assume that this minister is going to recognize his responsibility to workers in Ontario as far as the Workers’ Compensation Board is concerned. It must also mean, if he made this grand statement in the Legislature last week, he is concerned that if those principles which he says he is committed to and which this government is committed to are not indeed upheld or carried out, then he is going to intervene into that system to ensure that they will be.
l must say that when he brought forward his statement concerning the report of the Ontario task force on vocational rehabilitation, I was absolutely appalled by the statement he made concerning that very, very important document, concerning how the system of rehabilitation under the Workers’ Compensation Board is in fact run. For those of us who sit back here who have to deal with the board again and again and who are most frustrated by it, it was really difficult to take a look at that as his response to an extremely important document. Here it is, triple-spaced half-pages; all of two paragraphs concerning the rehab system itself.
I was amazed; quite frankly, I was appalled. If that is the response by this minister and this government, then we have some definite problems that are going to continue under the workers’ compensation system in this province.
Most of the members in the House are going to know that the task force itself was established in 1986 to look at some of the problems, to carefully review rehab services being offered by the WCB to injured workers. The task force reported in September 1987 in a report which confirmed what most of us already knew, but in fact what we also discovered was that it was far more condemnatory than most of us had ever expected. The performance by the board in providing “quality rehab services” in Ontario is absolutely dismal. The performance is completely inadequate, and it lacks any compassion or sensitivity to injured workers or their families.
I have to say that the conclusion reached by the task force in its final statement really sums it up. I know my leader quoted it in his response, but I am going to quote it again for the members in this House. The task force concluded by saying:
“The experience of the task force in the past year was long, painful, and emotionally wrenching. The tales of injustice, neglect and rejection recounted by the injured workers throughout the province were so harrowing as to leave the task force members disgusted and frustrated.” The WCB “has failed to recognize the emergence of a society that is more understanding of the needs of the disabled. It has failed to become responsive to the fact that hundreds of thousands of workers have become partially or totally disabled in the past years and that society could not reject or ignore them.”
Those are some pretty strong words by a group that spent over a year studying the system, looking into it, talking to injured workers, talking to rehab counsellors and trying to make some sense out of the whole system. I must say that when they point out that the system is completely unresponsive to workers or their families, then we have some definite problems in this system that it does not appear this minister is willing to look after or try to make changes to.
It reminds me of this latest report that the board actually put out yesterday as its response to the Majesky report and was much of the same garbage we have seen from it in a number of other programs. In fact, when I went through it, they are talking about some of the recommendations that they are now going to implement. If you read through it and if you know anything about the board, and I do know a little bit, having worked there, this does nothing to change the rehab system.
The problem is, the system that is in place is not working. What this does is reaffirm the board’s commitment to try to put a system that is out of control back in place. It does nothing concerning the recommendations in many ways made by the Majesky committee.
There are over 84 recommendations listed in this report as to how the ministry could make changes, changes that are needed in the system, and I did not hear the minister say one thing about what kind of changes were going to be coming forward from his ministry -- not a word. He said there was much to be done. He gave us no idea of what he was going to do.
He then had the audacity also to say that the board was moving in the right direction. I tell you, as someone who has to deal with this and with injured workers every day, that had to be the biggest and probably the cruellest joke I have heard in a long time. This rehab system is doing nothing to respond to workers, and I was appalled that he actually stood in the House and said that.
Before I get into the particulars of the Majesky report and some of the fundamental issues that it raised and some of the changes it believes have to be made, I want to just quote the board policy on vocational rehabilitation and some of the points that the board makes concerning this policy and how it should be rendered in Ontario.
Let me give members an idea of how the board defines “rehabilitation services.” It is important that they understand these, because I am going to contrast them to what the task force actually found in terms of the same type of definition and objectives.
The board says, in terms of the definition of rehab: “A very acceptable but sweeping definition of ‘rehabilitation’ in the broad sense is that it is the cultivation, restoration and conservation of human resources, assisting those who are handicapped by disease, disability or social maladjustment to achieve a state of maximum wellbeing.”
Some nice words. I do not know if many of the injured workers out there would understand it. People working at the board cannot understand it. There is not a lot of substance behind the words, as members will see when I get into the report that the task force made.
I want to point out, second, the objectives, because I think members are going to note that the objectives in this regard are indeed not being met under the present system and the task force has confirmed that. Let me read them anyway.
The objectives, under board policy, are these: “(1) to develop and promote understanding and the active participation of industry, unions, treatment agencies, the medical profession, government agencies and ministries, community groups and the public at large in the vocational rehabilitation process; (2) to maintain progressive and responsive vocational rehabilitation services; and (3) to undertake the responsibility of helping the industrially injured worker to help himself or herself toward the restoration of renewed confidence, independence and the achievement of self-realization.”
First of all, I want to look at what is the philosophy of the rehab policy, and I am going to compare it to the board’s guidelines. If we look at the intent of the act in 1914 when the system was established, it was to provide no-fault financial compensation to injured workers in order to save against possible litigation by either employers or employees. There was little rehab offered in the system at that time in order to pull a life together, a life that had been affected by a traumatic or serious injury. The report stated, and the task force confirmed, that this 1914 model is still driving the rehabilitation system today. Not only is it driving the board policy in terms of claims adjudication; it is driving the rehab policy.
The report said that this 1914 model is based on four principles. The first is: “Rehabilitation services to workers injured on the job in Ontario are offered only as a last resort.” That means, of course, that if you are hurt on the job and if you perhaps cannot return to your employment, it does not necessarily guarantee rehab services in Ontario. That is up to the claims adjudicator and it is up to the ability of the worker to, in quotes, co-operate, and to want to participate in a retraining program or to want to participate in rehab. But it is not offered to all workers injured in Ontario. Indeed, the criteria in order to obtain rehab services are very vague.
Furthermore, the other problem I noticed, in the Sudbury regional office in particular, is that it is difficult to get across to workers what is expected of them if they want to participate in rehab and what kind of job they can return to, because for the most part if they were involved in the mining industry at all, they cannot return to that industry. The services are limited in this regard and they are offered very much as a last resort, as a cost-saving mechanism by the Workers’ Compensation Board. I think that is an unfortunate situation. It is a terrible way to treat people who have been injured in this province.
The second principle that is driving the board in this model at this point is: “The definition of rehabilitation is restricted to medical and vocational rehabilitation” only. There is no regard at this point in time under the system for any of the emotional, personal or social trauma that workers go through when they are hurt in this province. There is no response to their families, who suddenly have their whole source of livelihood cut off, who are ill and do not have treatment for months at a time. There is nothing that responds to that kind of trauma.
The board’s rehab policy is directed to two things: to get the doctor to say the worker is fit for some type of modified work and to get the board to look at what kind of modified work the worker might go back to, if indeed the employer cannot take him. If he is lucky enough to get into a program where the rehab counsellor is trying to find some alternative or modified work, then it is very unlikely that if the worker does not co-operate, does not take the first job that comes along, he will be offered services again.
That is the sum total of what kind of rehab is offered to people in this province. To people whose lives have been upset, who have experienced a major upheaval because of a serious injury, this is a totally inadequate response, a totally inadequate way to bring their lives back together and to get them back into the workforce, if indeed that can be done.
The third rehab principle the board is operating under is: “Only job placement is acceptable as a successful outcome of rehabilitation.” If you cannot go back to a job, then the board will not consider you for any further rehabilitation. I go back to the point that the rehabilitation is not total. There is no look at psychological problems that may result, no trying to give any kind of social work assistance so that people can deal with the changes that come into their lives, so that they can deal with their families and their families can deal with the emotional problems surrounding a serious injury.
In this regard, rehab does not look at that kind of training or assistance. The medium, the measurement of success, is getting that worker back to a job as soon as possible, getting him off your case load and going from there. It does not matter that most of the people who go through the system are off injured again six months later because they were never fit to be in that job in the first place; that does not matter. “If we can close it down and get rid of it, that is one less case to worry about.”
I must say that on the other side of it, because I deal very well with the rehab counsellors in Sudbury, the other major problem they face is that the case loads are out of control. They are so high that the counsellors cannot deal adequately with people. They now see people once on an eight-week basis. Once every eight weeks, they are able to bring their workers in and see how they are progressing, if they are out looking actively for jobs and what kind of success they have had in that. They cannot deal adequately with people. It is extremely frustrating for them, it is extremely frustrating for us and it is terrible for the workers who are caught in the middle of that situation.
The fourth and last principle -- which I can relate to, having been an employee at the WCB -- is: “Paperwork is more important than people work.” If there was ever a system that is out of control and that has to be brought quickly into line, it has to be this one. You can go far beyond the rehabilitation principle and look at what is happening in claims adjudication and in the health care end of it. The paperwork is absolutely phenomenal. It is no wonder to me at all that the doctors providing medical services do not want to deal with the board.
For those of us who had to sit on the other end of it and fill out the paperwork, it went on and on and the backlog went on and on. You could never get to the top of it and you could never get your head above it the whole time. In fact, the whole time I worked there I was never caught up. It was the most frustrating thing for me and it was the most frustrating thing for the workers I had to deal with. That principle not only drives the rehab policy; it also drives all of the policy at the board.
I want to go back and compare those four principles with what I said originally about the objectives of rehab, which was to promote understanding and active participation of the community in the rehab process, to maintain progressive and responsive rehab services and finally, to undertake the responsibility of helping the injured worker to renew himself and to achieve independence and self-realization. If these are the four principles that are driving that system, then it is no wonder we have a problem out there and it is no wonder injured workers are not getting rehab services and are not getting back to work in this province.
The second major area that the task force centred on was that of who was actually receiving rehabilitation services in this province and those people who are fortunate enough to get in. What kind of class of people are we dealing with and what is the likelihood of their ever being employed again in Ontario? The first problem is that the board commits such a pittance to vocational rehab in this province that this itself undermines the number of people who can be served under the program.
In fact, if I go back to figures from 1986 that were provided from the task force, members will see that the WCB assigned 3.3 per cent, or $24 million of its total budget, to rehabilitation in 1986. Contrary to that, there were 426,880 claims in 1985, a 9.6 per cent increase in serious injuries in 1986 as compared to 1985, and the number of those has increased by another 7.9 per cent. On the one hand, we have people suffering from serious injuries or injuries that keep them off work for an extended period of time increasing dramatically across the province in all areas and, on the other hand, we have a budget from the WCB for rehab to respond to those people which is a disgrace.
The first problem that workers have in the system is that the area is so narrow for them to move into rehab because the funding is just not there. The board has to get into its head that it will have to make a complete overhaul of where it is spending its money and put it where, in many areas, it is needed most, that is, in sensitive and realistic means to get people back to work, if indeed they can return to work.
The people in rehab at this point in time are usually males in their mid-40s, with lower levels of education. They have problems with English as a first language and most of them have always been involved in labour-intensive jobs. By far the vast majority are suffering from severe back injuries. They have probably been on compensat1on on more than one occasion, probably three or four times, and they probably have three and four back claims. They may or may not be receiving a pension. The type of modified job they can return to includes, under doctor’s authorization, no prolonged lifting, no prolonged bending, no prolonged walking, no lifting over five kilograms.
Their story is very similar in many cases, and we saw it in Sudbury. The first time most of these people ever came into contact with rehabilitation services was 18 months on average after their injury: 18 months before they were even assigned to a rehab counsellor to help get them back or at least start to look for a job in the community again.
Most of them, by far the greater number with serious back injuries, had been to Downsview, that other horror story that goes on and on. Anyone who has been there, in terms of the workers we dealt with, said they came out of there in worse shape than when they went in. I will not go into Downsview, but most of them have been there. What is happening at Downsview is that the orthopaedic specialists there are overruling the specialist report from these people’s own family doctor who treats them and sees them on a regular basis. They go down to Downsview, where the doctors run a few tests, and suddenly they are fit for modified work.
There is something wrong with a system where the injured worker’s own family physician, his own specialist’s report and diagnosis count for nothing in this system. It is no wonder people who go to Downsview are frustrated. It is no wonder that MPPs and people who have to deal with the system are frustrated. There is something very wrong.
Let me go on to their story. They are unlikely in many cases to receive any kind of retraining from the board. In fact, what we have seen happening is that less than a quarter of all the referrals to rehab services in the last five years have had a chance to participate in retraining programs. We have people in there who, due to the nature of their back injury -- and in many cases the back injury is the major problem -- can never return to their former employment. We cannot put these people in a modified job in the mining industry because there is no modified work in the mining industry. But the board does not want to offer them retraining. We are sitting with people 40 years old, who have at least another 25 years in the workforce, with no chance of retraining. What do they do? What do we do with these people?
The board’s answer has been to try to get them back to the accident employer, to try to get them into low-paying minimum-wage jobs in many cases. “Get rid of them, get them out of sight. If they get hurt, we will deal with it again,” and they start the circus again and it goes on and on. We have people in my office again and again who have been on benefits four and five times and every time when we get back to the point of rehabilitation, the board refuses to consider retraining as an option, to put them into either a desk job or some type of job that they can adequately handle.
An injured worker, first injured in 1980, foot injury: He is in the position that the foot was almost amputated at one time. He also has a serious back injury. When this gentleman was first hurt in 1980 under the back claim -- it was only the back claim at that time -- he wanted to go back to school and the board said, “No, we will put him back underground,” which is where he was hurt in the first place. He went back underground and, four years later, he suffered a serious back injury.
They took him out again and he was on benefits for a number of months under the back claim. The foot is still bad at this time, and he has a 25 per cent pension for the foot. Anyone who knows about the meat chart at the WCB knows that is fairly significant. He recovered from the back injury. He now has a back injury and a severe foot injury, and we asked for retraining. Actually, my predecessor asked for retraining. The board said no and the board found him a modified job. Modified? He was moving crates and huge boxes off the back of a truck. No dolly, no cart; he was moving them by hand. This is the board’s idea of modified work. The guy was off again within two weeks and has not been back since.
We are getting to the point now that we got him off. We went back to the board. The guy is 40 years old now so he has a long way to go before he is going to be able to retire. Certainly his pension from the WCB is not enough to live on. We all know that. So we are now in the position that we want some formal training for this gentleman. Send him back to school and put him in another position so that he can find a job that is suited to his injuries and he can provide a useful service both to himself and to his family back in the community, which is what he wants to do.
This is a gentleman who is highly motivated. He also has some serious injuries. Now we are waiting because the board would like to send him back but is not sure. We are hoping that they are going to consider school but we do not have a definite answer on that yet. That is the kind of thing that is happening out there to workers in this province.
The task force also raised a very important question about who is not receiving rehab. In 1986 alone, 41 per cent of all cases were referred to vocational rehab. All the cases were closed and were marked “No further action.” Of that 41 per cent -- and we take away those where people recovered and returned to their jobs or the cases where some of them had died -- a full 33 per cent of those closures were due to the fact that the counsellor declared that the injured worker was unco-operative with rehab, did not want to work with rehab, did not want to go back to work, did not want to participate fully in finding a job he was suited to that enabled him to return to the workforce.
A full 33 per cent, and I say the problem with “unco-operative” is that it is extremely subjective. It is based on the counsellor’s determination of “co-operative.” It rarely takes into account whether the gentleman can actually meet the job qualifications. What are his restrictions? Can we find anything that meets those restrictions? Is it realistic? Is the job demeaning? Is it too demanding? We have all kinds of those cases where it is closed down because the counsellor decides this man does not want to co-operate.
Let me mention some of the reasons. I will give two cases in particular that we are dealing with in our office, cases where the worker was cut off benefits after working with rehab because he was unco-operative.
The first case involves a gentleman in his mid-30s. His injury happened in a mine shaft. They were going down to the lower levels and the cage immediately stopped. Three of them were thrown to the ground and hit the sides of the cage because it just came to a complete and sudden halt. He has a severe back injury and leg injuries at this point. He has been off for quite some time but the doctor has now given him a list of restrictions, no prolonged lifting, bending, etc., but says he can return to some form of modified work.
The rehab counsellor goes back to the accident employer, which happens to be at Hemlo. Hemlo decides that, yes, it can find a desk job for this gentleman. They are not going to put him back into the mine, which was good for Hemlo. I congratulate them. They are pretty good about taking their people back. The problem is that the gentleman has his family in my riding. He is going to have to drive back and forth from Hemlo every week. This man knows and his specialist says that he cannot be sitting in a car and driving to Hemlo every week like that. He cannot do it. Physically, he will get out of the car and not be able to walk.
The gentleman tells the rehab counsellor he cannot participate. He cannot go to Hemlo because he cannot do the driving back and forth every week, so he is cut off. In the meantime, because he is highly motivated, he goes and finds a job with an employer who is in a wheelchair and who has his whole shop modified in order to respond to that type of problem -- the problem of people who cannot lift, who cannot sit for a long period of time but who can do desk work.
He goes to the board and says: “Look, I have found this job. This employer is willing to take me provided that you provide a supplement for 12 weeks because my wages are going to be much lower than they were.” The board says: “No, you had your chance. You could have gone to Hemlo. We had it all set up for you. We did get you a job with the accident employer and you did not want to take it. You were unco-operative and we are not going to offer you a second chance.”
I have to say there is something a little bit wrong with that. We have a guy who is highly motivated, who has a job guaranteed where he does not have the problem of driving back and forth, where he can meet the restrictions that were provided by the doctor, and the board says no.
I will give a second problem we had with another injured gentleman, a little bit older this time. He has a severe left foot injury. As a consequence of that injury, he cannot be near cold because the cold both affects his left ankle and goes up into his leg to the point where it almost paralyses movement in the leg. So the board finds him a job at a dairy. He is working on a conveyor belt, so he is sitting down, which is what he should be doing.
But there is a problem; there are two problems in fact. First, he has the fridges just a couple of feet down from him. The temperature is so cold that his foot is starting to freeze during the day as he works in there. Second, he has a left foot injury and the pedal he has to use to make the conveyor belt move is operated by the left foot.
We have a real problem here. We have a job for the gentleman, but no one considered the restrictions that he had in terms of the left foot that he could not use constantly and the problem of the temperature. So he was cut off because he could not do the work and he asked the rehab counsellor to please go in and check out the environment so the board would understand why he was having such a problem.
The rehab counsellor refused and the board refused. It was not until our office called and pointed out how absolutely ridiculous they were being and how ridiculous the situation was that the board finally moved and made the modification so that he uses his pedal with the right foot and he is moved further from the fridges. But the gentleman had to be cut off because he was unco-operative.
Those are only two cases and we have hundreds. My predecessor had hundreds and my colleague the member for Nickel Belt has hundreds in the Sudbury area. It is all the same type of thing again and again. It is awfully frustrating for us and it is frustrating for the people we are trying to deal with.
The end result for these people who do get rehab services is that many end up hurt again because the job is not suited to them, or for those who do not qualify for rehab services because they are unco-operative, the end result is poverty. We all know they cannot live on pensions from the Workers’ Compensation Board and those are getting harder and harder to obtain anyway.
They end up on social services or Canada pension plan if they can actually qualify and be considered totally disabled. The cycle goes on and on and on. What is happening, the reality, is a far cry from the theory of the board.
Let me just point out to you what the theory of the board is in terms of voc rehab. “At the Workers’ Compensation Board, our rehabilitation philosophy is predicated on the concept that we see the injured worker settled in the community and employed at the job which is entirely suitable. It is basic that we consider the whole person, that we examine what the disabled person can do rather than what he or she cannot do. This type of evaluation enables the disabled person to ascend the social scale and prevents automatic assignment to a lower status and economic plane. Our belief is that rehabilitation is not complete without employment in a suitable job for which the person is suited.”
Finally, perhaps I can look at the third area the task force concentrated on. It was the area of why rehabilitation services are failing injured workers in this province. Let me point out to you a number of examples and a number of concerns the task force raised in this regard.
First, they said that the goal the board had set for rehabilitation is all wrong, that the whole model is wrong, that the manner in which the board goes about rehab is all wrong, that re-employment at the place of employment where the worker was injured or at some other type of employment that is almost the same is the whole goal.
The board does not seem to be able to get beyond that, to look at the fact that the total person has to be considered. You have to consider all the effects a serious injury has on him and on his family, but the board chooses again and again to opt for the least costly process of rehab, and that is to try to get the worker back to the former employment. Nine times out of 10 you get him back; he is in there for a couple of months and he is hurt again because he just can no longer do the job because of the injury he has sustained.
Second, there is a large problem in terms of the counsellors dealing with injured workers. The task force noted that rarely did the counsellor have any kind of academic training, any kind of learning in dealing with people who are disabled or people who have suffered from traumatic injury. As a consequence, it appeared that there was little comprehension on the part of the rehab counsellor to just what actually such an upheaval in someone’s life meant, meant to them mentally, meant to them socially, and what kind of effects were on the family.
There was no kind of method for dealing with those types of social problems, with emotional problems, with psychological problems, and in many cases the real problem that happened was that there was a complete lack of communication between the counsellor and the injured worker. In many cases this was because of the fact that there was little sensitivity or little compassion as to what was happening in that injured worker’s life.
The third problem -- I go back to this; it is a situation we know well in Sudbury at least -- is the incredible delay in the ability of the worker to receive rehab services -- 18 months on average, the task force concluded -- 18 months before a worker who was injured actually received any type of rehab servicing or was even moved over to the rehab division.
At that point in time, you have a worker who has been off for so long that he is used to being sick and his mind is set in that pattern. Suddenly you get a rehab counsellor who calls and says, “We want to know if you are willing to look for modified work, if you are willing to go out and bang on some doors and find a job that is suited to your requirements, suited to your limitations.” No wonder a worker is confused, no wonder he resents that kind of attitude and no wonder he seems reluctant to do that. So the rehab counsellor can say, “Well, this person is unco-operative.”
It is 18 months that he has been sick. You cannot just pull someone in off the street, a worker, and say to him, “We think you are ready to look for modified work now, and this is the plan of action and away you go.” You cannot deal with people like that, you just cannot. There is something seriously wrong in terms of the whole process of when services are being delivered and who is delivering them and what type of plan is being provided, so that the injured worker can work with a counsellor and work with the medical profession and get back to a job that he can actually perform.
Finally, the task force said that the current services that were being offered by the rehabilitation department focused only on medical and vocational rehab, that it did not look and does not attempt to look at rehabilitation of the whole person.
I go back to the five points: economically, they are restored to some type of area so that they can be financially sufficient again; there is regard for their emotional problems associated with the accident; there are the social problems associated with that; there are the psychological problems associated with that, and with their families.
The definition has become so narrow in terms of offering only medical and vocational, that is, job-search rehabilitation, that most workers cannot benefit. In fact, the system is not responding to by far the vast majority of workers out there who need adequate rehabilitation in order to return to the workforce.
I have mentioned a bit of the conclusions of the task force, but I want to make another point on what the task force concluded. It concerns the philosophy and their findings in terms of the vocational rehab process. The task force said:
“Clearly the principles underlying the present structure and process must be altered if any significant change is to be made. New principles must be established that reflect a more caring attitude towards, and empathy for, people who are injured on the job or contract an occupation-related disease. The value of human life must be respected and the preservation of an individual’s dignity and quality of life must be at the core of our treatment of injured workers in Ontario.”
To that end, the task force also went on to present at least 84 recommendations to the Minister of Labour, 84 viable recommendations on how they felt the system could be overhauled and improved and actually respond to injured workers in Ontario.
Those range from a whole restructuring of the system itself to improving the internal communication within the board, which is a major problem within the board for any of those people who have ever worked there, to giving to every injured worker that right of total rehabilitation, rehabilitation provided by a case manager who would be responsible for following that injured worker from the time he was injured to the time he returned to the workforce, if indeed he could return to the workforce.
Much of the problem in the board now is that these people, injured workers, move from adjudicator to rehabilitation counsellor to another adjudicator to 15 different people who do not know their case, and every time they get their case, have to spend weeks on reviewing it again to find out where they are at. It is a frustrating process because there is no one there the worker can trust, to say: “This person is going to help me. This person is going to be with me and move with me through this injury and help me get back to work.” That is not happening at the board.
They also said, in terms of the north, and I point this out in particular, that there had to be decentralization of the rehabilitation services offered. We have a tremendous problem in Sudbury now, that workers who are trying to get into physiotherapy are waiting three and four months at least before they can get any type of physiotherapy at the hospitals.
It is no wonder that people get into their minds that they are sick, because they really cannot get any type of treatment in the case of our own town, and they really cannot get any help from a rehabilitation counsellor because it is 18 months before they are seen at all in that regard.
After reading this report, and this was only the summary itself, and it was horrifying enough, I say there is a real tragedy going on in this province. I must say that the Minister of Labour did not respond in any way, shape or form to this tragedy when he made the statement concerning this report Tuesday last. There is little being done in this province by the Workers’ Compensation Board and, and by rehabilitation services in particular, to help workers and to help families to plan some kind of future where they will be productive and be restored.
There is a serious problem in the way and manner in which the board is treating these people, who in many ways need the help most, in order to get them back to work. It has been a failure of the WCB, a failure of the Ministry of Labour which has the responsibility for this mess, and quite frankly of this government to ensure that the principles the minister outlined in his statement Tuesday last, those principles of sensitive, humane, rational and efficient -- they have not met this, and the government has not met it and neither has the ministry.
“Clearly there are unions, employers and groups of injured workers who have taken a leadership role in attempting to change the system. However, there are far too many who do no more than is required by law.
“Changing a monolithic system such as the WCB requires involvement by caring persons at all levels. But, first of all, it requires the government to enact new legislation and translate it into change throughout the system.”
I hope, for the sake of injured workers in this province, that the Minister of Labour will finally move to do something about this report and to do something about this system, which is completely out of control in this province.
Mr. Hampton: I consider it a privilege to be able to take part in the debate today. I am also pleased to see that the Minister of Northern Development (Mr. Fontaine) is here, because some of my comments are going to be aimed directly at him and to him.
Also, the Treasurer is here. He could benefit from these comments perhaps more than anyone, since he is the person of poor pay and tight purse-strings. So many ministers, when we say, “Look, if you had some money to spend here, you could do something,’’ always answer, “I have to take it up with the Treasurer and there is not much chance.” I am glad to see that he is here.
I want to address, first, the fact that many members of this government are from southern Ontario. They believe, unfortunately, that all parts of Ontario are booming. They believe, unfortunately, that all parts of Ontario have an unemployment rate of four per cent or less. I want them to know that this is definitely not the case. There are all kinds of communities in the northern part of this province that are struggling.
Indeed, yesterday, I put the question to the Treasurer how much money had gone from the softwood lumber export tax to communities like Kapuskasing, Thunder Bay, Keewatin, Hudson and Longlac, all communities that have been hard hit by the softwood lumber export tax. He knows I was not satisfied with his answer and we are going to have an opportunity to talk about it a little later.
The point is that many communities in the northern part of our province face incredible economic difficulties and some of those economic difficulties have to be addressed. I am not talking about a series of megaprojects. I am not talking about the need to invest $50 million here or $50 million there. We are not talking about more grants to a Toyota plant or more government grants to a domed stadium. They are not things of that magnitude. They are particular, specific things that can be done to help the economy of northern Ontario.
Let me give members an example; I think it is probably an example that holds true across much of the northern part of the province. At the very western end of the province, many communities are trying to survive on the basis of the tourism industry. For example, the community of Morrison, Ontario, at the end of a secondary highway, Highway 621, has somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 tourist camps. They are tourist camps that have traditionally done a good business. They are tourist camps that traditionally employ a number of local people.
The problem all of these tourist camps face is not a failure of the commodities they have to offer in terms of good fishing and hunting. It is not a failure of the accommodations they have to offer. It is a failure of the 31-kilometre secondary highway that leads to those tourist camps. That highway is in such bad shape that many tourist clients are unwilling to travel over it.
It is a very simple thing, I suggest, to apportion funds to fix that kind of secondary highway. We are not talking about the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway. We are not talking about repairing the Trans-Canada Highway from one end of the province to the other or even about doing partial repairs on the Trans-Canada Highway. We are simply talking about small secondary highways that need to be redeveloped.
Mr. Hampton: Yes, we do have the Noden Causeway; that is correct, and there are people there who are quite appreciative of it. But I want to tell the minister that the Noden Causeway is 20 years old. If he wants to refer to something that is 20 years old and take credit for it, none of us is going to believe that. He was only a rookie here then when the Noden Causeway came in.
Mr. Hampton: He was still a rookie, even though it was his third term. Since I have the attention of the Treasurer, let me tell him that the situation that exists with Highway 621 exists with several other secondary highways. All you have to do is apportion a little bit of money. You would have much better secondary highways and the tourist camps at the end of the road would not be referring to you as the minister of poor pay.
In 1950, large sections of northern Ontario were developed through special hydroelectric developments. The government at that time said there was a need for special funds for hydroelectric development. Indeed, what happened following the building of rural electrical transmission lines was that large areas of rural farm land were settled, and they have gone on to become fairly well developed and economically feasible communities. That was in 1950.
Now we are headed into 1990. If northern Ontario is to develop even further, what is needed is a second attempt at rural electrification, an extension of the rural electrification that took place in the 1950s. If that kind of rural electrification were undertaken, we would see even more farm development. We would probably see greater logging development. We would see even greater tourism development. Even now, there are tourist camps that exist along Highway 11 or Highway 17 that attract a good number of clients and provide a fair amount of employment, and yet they have to do it without the benefit of hydroelectricity.
Again, we are not talking about thousands of kilometres of rural electrification. We are talking about 30 or 40 kilometres on one highway and 50 or 60 kilometres on another section of highway. We are talking about filling in the gaps which have been left from the 1950s development of rural electrification.
There is another example that needs to be addressed, as well. We have said time and time again, particularly to the Treasurer -- in fact the Treasurer wrote me a letter during the recent election campaign on the issue of gasoline prices across northern Ontario when I raised with him the whole issue of the disadvantage that occurs to industries in northern Ontario because of the high cost of energy. The Treasurer at that time wrote back and said, “We cannot consider it.” Yes, I want to say to the Treasurer that even he found time during his busy election schedule to write a letter.
Mr. Hampton: Yes, I believe the Treasurer did sign it “Bob,” which struck me. If I knew then what I know now, I would have expected him to sign it “Minister of Tight Purse-strings.” Then I would have identified him very well.
The point is, and I hope the Treasurer is able at this late hour of the day to take cognizance of this, that all industries across the northern part of the province are disadvantaged by the high cost of gasoline and other forms of energy.
If the Minister of Northern Development and the Treasurer are really interested in seeing enhanced economic development across the northern part of the province, that is another area where even a minor adjustment in gasoline and energy prices would enable all sorts of economic activities to better compete and further develop themselves and further provide greater employment opportunities.
Having said that, I want to move on to some other particular situations that even the Minister of Mines (Mr. Conway) might like to take cognizance of, even though I am not sure the Minister of Mines has any mines in his area. That was one of the things that puzzled me.
He indicates he has one. I have at least four or five and at least four or five that were recently closed. Maybe the Minister of Mines would want to take note of that and become aware of some of those situations.
One mine that is going to close very soon is the base metal mine in Ignace, Ontario. Ignace is a fully developed community. It has a large, integrated school. It has a clinic. It has all kinds of recreational facilities. It has modern, well-developed housing. What is going to happen if we do not find alternative employment for the people who live in that community is that many of them are going to move away, and a lot of public resources are simply going to be wasted or lie there empty.
Meanwhile, a few hundred kilometres to the north in Pickle Lake, several mines are going to open. The community of Pickle Lake does not have the housing resources, the other public resources -- things like hospitals -- to provide accommodation or services that those mines will require in terms of housing their employees. Those employees are going to have to live somewhere else and are going to have to travel to Pickle Lake.
Why does the minister not approach those mining companies and say to them: “We already have a developed community 300 kilometres south of here. It has an airstrip. We will be happy to try to accommodate you in terms of the transportation of workers in and out.” Why duplicate what has already happened to the community of Ignace? Why not use Ignace as the jumping-off point for new mining development that is naturally located, to take advantage of what resources and what community assets already exist in the township of Ignace?
Finally, I want to say something which I hope the Minister of Northern Development will take note of once again. This government insists that it wants to promote new types of entrepreneurship across the northern part of the province. It insists it does not want to see government intervention. But the fact of the matter is that there is not the capital in a part of the province which has historically exported all of its capital, in a part of the province where we have historically taken the resources and then sold them off somewhere else and kept the profits either in southern Ontario or outside the country. There is not the capital necessary to finance some of the things that need to take place.
One example of a resource that is probably not being used to its optimum, one example of a resource that could be used to a much greater level, is the wilderness park known as Quetico Provincial Park. Studies indicate that there are all kinds of people who live in cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit or even Toronto or Winnipeg who want to have access to a wilderness park. However, this government spends very little money and very little in terms of resources promoting Quetico park or making the existence of it known to people who live in those kinds of cities or making available to them the kinds of information that exist regarding the park and the kinds of information that would draw people to the park.
Instead what happens is Ontario taxpayers pay for this park. We pay for the people who work in it. We pay for a lot of the services that exist in it and yet most of the people who use the park enter through American entry stations and purchase all of their outfitting supplies through American outfitters. So we have a classic situation. The taxpayers of Ontario pay for the park and entrepreneurs who live in Minnesota derive all the economic benefit from the park.
The Minister of Northern Development will say, “That is something that happened under the ancient regime, the Conservative regime that used to exist here.” This regime has been here for three years and it is time that this regime did something about it.
Mr. Hampton: -- and discretion is certainly not his forte either. But there is even time for old dogs to learn new tricks and I expect he will be around here long enough that he will learn a few new tricks.
The fact of the matter is that later this summer a jet aircraft will actually take off every Saturday from Chicago and will fly to Dryden. It will carry a planeload of tourists from Chicago, who will disembark in Dryden and then go on week-long fishing trips. At the end of the week they will come back to Dryden and be flown back to Chicago. It is an innovative way to approach tourists who maybe otherwise would not take the time to come to our part of Ontario and enjoy what we have to offer in terms of resources.
The fact of the matter is the same thing could be undertaken on behalf of the community of Atikokan. There are all kinds of individuals who live in communities like Chicago or Minneapolis or Winnipeg or even Toronto who would in fact enjoy the opportunity to come to a park like Quetico park, who would in fact pay a very fair price to be able to come to a park like Quetico park to enjoy a wilderness holiday. If they could be flown to Atikokan and enter the park through Atikokan instead of entering it through Ely, Minnesota, or International Falls, Minnesota, the economic benefits of that park would accrue to Canadian entrepreneurs and to Canadian outfitters and to Canadian taxpayers rather than to American entrepreneurs and American outfitters.
It is a very simple thing to undertake. It is a very simple thing to do, and yet no initiative has come forward from this government. No intervention has come forward by this government and yet, again, it is not something that would cost the $50 million that it has to give to Toyota to build a new car plant or the $50 million that it gives to a domed-stadium consortium to build the new domed stadium. It would not cost anywhere near that. Yet the economic benefits and the meaningfulness of those economic benefits that would come to a community that has 20 per cent unemployment are incredible. The appreciation of that kind of community would also be incredible for that kind of initiative.
Finally, let me give another example of the kinds of initiatives that could be used and could take place to promote enhanced economic development of the northern part of our province. I repeat what this government has said several times: it wants to promote new forms of entrepreneurship in northern Ontario.
There is a young entrepreneur in Atikokan who wants to open a fish farm. In fact, he has taken what I consider to be an excellent conservationist opportunity. He has taken an abandoned open-pit mine that is now filling up with water, he has had it tested and he has been able to conclude that the open-pit mine, which is now essentially a man-made lake, would support fish farming. He is going to make use of a resource that the mining industry has abandoned.
He wants to take some fish and put them in there. In fact, he has located in Manitoba the freshwater institute of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and it has Arctic char which it would be happy to provide him free of cost at this time so that he could transplant the fish immediately.
But he has been told by the Ministry of Natural Resources that he would have to bring the fish -- fish that have already been quarantined and certified as being disease-free by the freshwater institute -- from outside Winnipeg to southern Ontario and have them quarantined for one year and recertified as being disease-free. If the Minister of Natural Resources (Mr. Kerrio) could see his way clear to sweep that bit of what I would call useless bureaucracy out of the way -- in other words, sweep aside the repetition of quarantine and certification that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has already done -- that young entrepreneur could get under way this summer and by next spring we would have a harvest of very good Arctic char that he would be able to market.
The market exists. He has already done the market studies. The markets exist in Thunder Bay, in Winnipeg, in Toronto, in several communities and several cities in the United States. So he has done his market study, he has prepared a business plan. All he needs is for the Ministry of Natural Resources to move and to allow him to bring in the fish, a simple request but one that could result in the creation of five or 10 jobs, again, in a community that suffers from a 20 per cent unemployment rate.
Mr. Hampton: No, I believe it was addressed, “Dear Mr. Hampton, I understand you are a candidate in this election.” It was addressed that way, to refresh the Treasurer’s memory. He ought to read his own correspondence more often.
Mr. Hampton: No, I am sorry, it was not addressed in such a way, although I understand that the Treasurer does quite a lot of householder mail hoping to get the right answers sometimes. He should address me some of his householder mail. I will be happy to provide him with some answers that he might find quite enlightening.
Since we have the attention of the Treasurer and the Treasurer has said at different times that he does not consider the issue of gasoline prices to be worthy of provincial intervention, I wonder if he knows that in the last provincial election, the election of last summer, the Liberal candidates in northwestern Ontario were going to all-candidates meetings and were talking about just that.
They were talking about lower energy prices. They were talking about lower gasoline prices and they were talking about a northern Ontario tax credit, a tax credit for northern Ontario citizens so that if gasoline prices were not lowered and if energy prices generally were not lowered, this northern Ontario tax credit would swing into effect and would provide, in another way, the type of relief that is really necessary if we are concerned about greater economic development in the northern part of the province.
Since the Liberal candidates -- a number of whom were not successful, but that is beside the point now -- spoke so long and so glowingly of this kind of tax rebate, I want again to say to the Treasurer that we are not forgetting that. Just because some of those Liberal candidates were not elected does not mean that the Treasurer can now forget that those kinds of promises or those kinds of comments were ever made.
Mr. Hampton: The Treasurer says that the people have spoken. Indeed, the people have spoken, but that does not relieve the Treasurer of his obligation to at least attempt to live up to the kinds of comments that those Liberal candidates made.
Mr. Hampton: The Treasurer is muttering something about assurances. I just want to make sure that I reinforce the message so he does not forget tomorrow about those assurances, because, as we saw yesterday in the House, the Treasurer forgot about how the funds that were collected from the softwood lumber export tax were supposed to be spent, according to the comments of the Minister of Natural Resources and according to the comments of the Premier.
The first priority was to provide adjustment funds for those communities in northern Ontario which suffered as a result of the imposition of the softwood lumber export tax, to provide adjustment funds, to provide retraining funds. To date, those communities have not, as I understand the Treasurer, received any of that money; at least they have not received it in the way that was originally designated.
I want to remind the Treasurer again that those were the kinds of campaign promises that Liberal candidates were making across northern Ontario or at least across northwestern Ontario in the election campaign of last summer, and if the Treasurer is really interested in promoting the enhanced economic development of northern Ontario, he will follow up on some of those promises.
He will follow up on things like devoting some money to enhanced rural electrification. He will follow up on lowering the price of gasoline across the northern part of the province. He will follow up on devoting some funds to the redevelopment of secondary highways across the northern part of the province. Indeed, perhaps the thing to do is to invite the Treasurer to pay a visit to the northwestern part of the province so that we can take him over some of these secondary highways and he can experience that for himself. He can come to know exactly what we talk about when we indicate to him that people are reluctant to go to some of these tourist camps because some of the highways are in such bad shape.
Mr. Hampton: I say to the honourable member that many of these highways are much worse than in southern Ontario; much, much worse than in southern Ontario. The sad fact is that so much of the economic activity depends on the state of those secondary highways. That is a really sad state.
I want to conclude by merely reiterating to the Treasurer, to the Minister of Natural Resources and to the Minister of Northern Development that these are not megaprojects. They are small things that can be done that require, I would suggest, a minimum of government intervention and perhaps even a minimum of government innovation, if the Treasurer is worried about that element of it. But if these kinds of things received the due attention that they should have, the Treasurer would see a lowering of the unemployment rate in many communities across the northern part of this province and he would see industries and entrepreneurs who indeed would be able to develop more in terms of the economy of the northern part of the province and who would be very proud to co-operate with him in the enhanced economic development of the northern part of this province.
I invite the Treasurer for a visit. I invite the Minister of Natural Resources. This time he can do more than just fly over, as he did during the election campaign. I invite the Minister of Northern Development.
Mr. Hampton: The Minister of Northern Development tries to make a joke. I invite him to visit once again and we will take him to some of those secondary highways so that he can see it for himself and he can see exactly how bad they are and how much attention they need.
If the Minister of Mines wants to come and see things, we invite him too. Since he has only one mine in his community, we will show him a riding that has five or six, and he can indeed then be called the Minister of Mines with some justification.
Mr. Cousens: The honourable member did not mention Highway 407. Highway 407 is certainly an important road that we are looking for in South York region. I would be interested if he could do a little bit of research on that one.
Mr. Harris: I am delighted to comment on the member’s remarks, particularly as they pertain to northern Ontario. One of the things that we are continually faced with in the north is high gasoline prices, and I would be interested in the member’s reaction.
I have been keeping track of gasoline prices in the last couple of months. I have been to Windsor, where they were about 42 to 43 cents last week. I was in London a few weeks ago; they were around 41, 42 or 43 cents. I have bought gasoline between Toronto and North Bay for 38.8 cents, I believe, about a month ago and then again somewhere around 37 cents. I have seen gasoline posted under 40 cents along that strip just about every trip I have taken between North Bay and Toronto. On average, to be fair, it is around 41, 42 or 43 cents and the average in North Bay over that period was 50 cents. Now it is down to about 48 cents.
I guess l would be interested in what the member thinks of this, because there was $30 million in a northern heritage fund, and this government could not find one single thing over the last year to spend a single cent on. I mention gasoline prices as one area we have suggested. The Treasurer could have moved to equalize gasoline prices. There was $30 million that this government got in the forestry tax on softwood lumber that it did not spend one single cent of. While they are dreaming up all these things, they could have spent $60 million and equalized gasoline prices in the north and the south. I would be interested in what the member has to say on that as it pertains to northern Ontario.
Hon. R. F. Nixon: Since we are not in any rush, I just want to tell the honourable member that if we are going to compare bad highways, the worst King’s highway in the province is in the riding of Brant-Haldimand. If the member can get himself organized to come to the riding, I will take him on a drive over Highway 54 and, in return, I will come up and he can drive me from Fort Frances to Emo. I can assure him that when it comes to potholes and bad alignment and broken edges and no shoulders, I have him beat 10 ways.
He is talking about the costs of gasoline, and this is a matter of concern on all sides, but I was glad to hear the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr. Villeneuve), who is always in step with his colleagues, indicating clearly his concern, for example, with the continued use of leaded gas. This was something that really struck me. I have heard members of the New Democratic Party bring to the attention of the honourable Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) as well that something should be done about the depredation of lead on the environment.
It has to do with the price of gasoline, and it is something of significance that we should be aware of. I just thought the honourable member from the north ought to be aware of that. I suppose the easiest thing in the world to do would be to send a cheque for $100 to everybody who lived, let us say, north of the district of Nipissing. That is one way, I suppose, to buy some popularity in the north. But far, far better than that is to have a co-ordinated program such as this government has for the improvement of job opportunities in the north, for the improvement of the road system, for moving full-time government jobs into the north, as we have done with a commitment of resources that has been unmatched in the history of Ontario.
Mr. Hampton: I certainly want to take the opportunity to respond very briefly to the Treasurer, to say that everyone acknowledges that the transfer of some government jobs out of Toronto to communities like North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay is certainly long overdue and it is certainly going to be appreciated by those communities.
But the Treasurer ought to know that northern Ontario is a much larger area than just the communities of North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Thunder Bay, and that doing those kinds of things for those communities leaves out all sorts of communities such as Ear Falls, Ignace, Longlac and Kapuskasing, all sorts of other communities across the northern part of the province that do not need millions of dollars and new government buildings in order to stimulate their local economies. They simply need some very specific, very particular, very well planned types of activities, which I have outlined for the Treasurer today.
Hon. R. F. Nixon: I just want to thank the honourable members for their indication of support for interim supply. This gives us $9.3 billion. l will look after it until after the end of June and I will be back to speak to members then.
Hon. R. F. Nixon: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I neglected to mention that my adviser from Treasury during this debate was Andy Nethery, who is sitting under the gallery. Before members break into applause, he is the director of the financial information and accounting branch. He is, in fact, our chief accountant. He does a marvellous job and has kept us out of the clutches of the Provincial Auditor. Also, he is finishing his active career in the civil service at the end of May and he feels very badly that this is the very last interim supply he is going to be supervising.
Mr. Conway: I would just like to make a brief business statement that might be of interest to the House. The business of the House tomorrow following routine proceedings will be a matter of great interest, I know, to my friends across the way: that is, the House will debate the nonconfidence motion standing in the name of the member for York South (Mr. B. Rae).