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Ontario Hansard - 13-June1990

ORAL QUESTIONS

CHILDREN'S SERVICES


Mr B. Rae: I want to ask the Premier a question very directly. Can the Premier tell us, is it the intention of the government of Ontario to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Premier will know was signed by the federal government on 28 May 1990?

Hon Mr Peterson: The Treasurer tells me that the minister is right up to date on that, but he is not here.

Hon R. F. Nixon: There he is.

Hon Mr Peterson: I am going to rag the puck until the minister gets over here to answer that question. He has just had it interpreted to him and he can assist.

Hon Mr Beer: In defence, I was discussing the upcoming debate this afternoon on that same issue.

The answer is, most emphatically yes. As the honourable member knows, the Treasurer participated last week in a ceremony here at the Legislature. I think it is terribly important that we indicate our support and that we look at our various programs and policies to ensure that in fact they do meet the standards of the United Nations declaration.


Mr B. Rae: I am glad to have the answer from the minister. I had hoped the Premier would be able to answer.

Hon Mr Peterson: I did not know.

Mr B. Rae: Perhaps he should find out about what is going on with respect to children.

Article 24 of the convention established the children's right to the highest attainable standards of health through access to proper nutrition, clean drinking water, health care and health education, yet we now know that the death rates in 1986 for poor children in Canada, and indeed in Ontario, were 56% higher than those of higher-income children. We know that babies born into poverty are at an increased risk of being of low birth weight. We know that they are more likely to have psychiatric problems and problems in school. We know, as well, that children are twice as likely as adults to be fed by food banks.

I want to ask the minister how the government intends to avoid the charge, the accusation, of real hypocrisy on its part when we contrast its being a signatory and participating in a ceremony celebrating the rights of the child with the fact that for poor kids in Ontario today there is nothing short of a health care crisis and, indeed, even a life crisis?


Hon Mr Beer: Over the last four or five years I believe this government has taken a number of major initiatives and has made great strides in trying to provide much greater protection for children and ensuring that they have much better health care, social services, educational services and what have you. Clearly, while much has been done, much remains to be done. I do not for a moment suggest that we have been able to obliterate the ravages of poverty and how that affects children.

But I think if the member looks at the specific areas of our activities in terms of children's services, he will see that what we are putting in place and the direction we are going will lead to a tremendous improvement. Whether we are talking about the Thomson report and the initiatives in that area or whether we are talking about programs for the developmentally handicapped or the physically disabled, in any of those areas of government action, I believe that our programs and policies are moving in the direction that the United Nations declaration sets before us. I do not think there is anything hypocritical in that whatsoever, and we can and do make a firm and clear commitment to meet the standards set in the charter.


Mr B. Rae: Quite contrary to what the minister has said, since the Liberal Party took office, the gap between rich and poor has grown in Ontario; the number of poor kids has increased. The overwhelming evidence, and it continues to grow, is that while the wealthy have done very well by the Peterson government, and indeed wealthy kids will always have opportunities, the fact remains that poor kids are more likely to get sick, are more likely to drop out of school, are more likely to have to go to food banks and, bluntly put, are more likely to die. That is the overwhelming evidence from every study that has been done in the last five years.

How can the minister have the gall to trumpet his signature on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, while at precisely the same time preside over this kind of child neglect?


Hon Mr Beer: I think it appropriate to remind the Leader of the Opposition that it is terribly important that we sign this agreement, and sign it because we are moving in the direction that is going to lead to better lives for children. We need to recognize that the actions this government has taken are having a positive impact on children, while at the same time recognizing, as I said before, that there is much to be done.

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What this declaration from the United Nations serves to do is to remind us of what remains to be done, but if the member looks at the various programs and activities, not only of my ministry but of all of the ministries of this government, that relate to children, he will see that we have been not only increasing the funding for various programs to meet precisely the issues he raised, but that we have been doing this at a time when the federal government has been cutting back on its commitment. There is no gall, no hypocrisy in what this government has been doing to help children over the last four or five years. We are going to continue to do it and we will meet the standards that are set out here.

PATRICIA STARR


Mr Kormos: I have a question to the Premier. According to today's Toronto Star, the now Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology drove a Pontiac provided by Budget Rent a Car in Etobicoke during the 1987 election campaign. The value of that car rental was about $1,400. That donation was not reported, and probably for good reason because it was twice the maximum allowable. As well, his campaign chief financial officer has now been charged in connection with the provision of that car. The same newspaper reports that Patti Starr was charged with paying $500 for the oil, gas and maintenance of that Pontiac car used by that candidate for campaign purposes.

We are told the minister felt that as to the Mercedes-Benz he owns, it was not a good idea to be driving around in that kind of expensive Mercedes-Benz while he was campaigning, so they opted for a Pontiac from Budget Rent a Car. The decision to hide the Mercedes is consistent. The Liberals hid their real agenda on auto insurance along with a whole lot of other things. In view of the current Liberal Party standards for the behaviour of cabinet ministers, does the Premier think the minister should resign?


Hon Mr Peterson: As the member knows, charges have been laid and it is before the courts.

Mr Kormos: That is precisely the point. Charges were laid against the chief financial officer. Charges were laid against the riding association. Charges were laid against the minister of industry and trade's riding association and his chief financial officer. Charges were laid against Patti Starr. The minister has avoided criminal charges or quasi-criminal charges. He is going to avoid going to jail. Yet the response from the Premier is that the Premier simply does not understand what is at stake here: the integrity of the members of cabinet. This is a clear case of Budget Rent a Cabinet Minister.

Why is it okay for the minister of industry and trade's campaign chief financial officer to be charged, for his riding association to be charged, for Budget Rent a Car to be charged, all in connection with that minister's election campaign while the Premier does not see that minister as being responsible?


Hon Mr Peterson: I am not sure if there is a question. I think the member pointed out that the minister has not been charged. For a lawyer, I am very surprised that he would stand in this House and be so thoroughly irresponsible.

Mr Kormos: The former Minister of Culture and Communications gets dumped by the Premier for the mere possibility that her actions in pursuit of renomination might constitute a perceived conflict of interest. We have a situation here where the minister of industry and trade -- never mind that he wants to hide his expensive Mercedes-Benz, built in Germany -- fails to report $1,400 worth of donation and a registered charity picks up the tab for gas and oil costs of a campaign vehicle. Is this not the sort of mistaken and unacceptable judgement that cannot be allowed on the part of a minister of the crown? Is that not the height of dishonesty?

Hon Mr Peterson: I think I have answered the question. The honourable member is in an increasing state of irresponsibility.

Interjections.


The Speaker: Order. The member for Parry Sound is waiting patiently. I hope you will give him the opportunity to ask a question. Agreed?

CONSTITUTIONAL ACCORD


Mr Eves: I have a question of the Premier as well. Yesterday in the select committee on constitutional and intergovernmental affairs I asked the Attorney General if the companion resolution or Constitution agreement of 1990 had to be passed by 23 June this year. His response was that he did not know and that we should ask a constitutional expert.

As luck would have it, the next witness was Professor Hogg, who is one of the signatories to the opinion attached to the agreement, who said that we have three years from the date that the first legislative body in Canada passes the 1990 constitutional agreement to approve or ratify it. Does the Premier agree with Professor Hogg in that regard? If he does, why are we trying to pass this within the next week?


Hon Mr Peterson: I do agree with Professor Hogg. That was absolutely accurate; we do have three years to pass that. I discussed this yesterday in the House and I will tell the honourable member my view on the matter. It does not technically have to be passed for another three years. Obviously I would prefer that it was passed in this particular time frame we are talking about. The reason really is, just as a sign of good faith to the other provinces.

As the member knows, we were involved in a very difficult negotiation. As I said, my preference would be that way, but it obviously needs the co-operation and assent of the members opposite. It is not legally a requirement.


Mr Eves: I would like to talk to the Premier a bit about the process of constitutional reform. When the Premier stood in the House on Monday he criticized the process, and I think rightly so. I think that almost every Canadian would agree with that. The statement he made in the House on Monday afternoon was, "We must create a process that allows for a much broader and more involved public consultation and sharing."

He will recall the previous deliberations of the constitution committee in this province where we sat for some months. Here are the results of the public hearings only. It went on for several months with many, many days of public hearings and deliberations. We heard over 152 witnesses. We had 288 written submissions. I think this is a very significant step in Canada's future. I think the Premier has made a commitment to a more involved and open process of public consultation.

Does he not think that this is somewhat inconsistent with trying to ask this body to have rushed public hearings, "Get as many people as you can within the next week, but let's get this passed"?


Hon Mr Peterson: Certainly I understand the view of my friend opposite in that regard, and I do not want to be argumentative in any way. He is quite right that when we did the Meech hearings there was very extensive committee work. I can say that the committee work done by this Legislature was exemplary, and a lot of the results of the report here formed the intellectual underpinnings for a lot of other reports. It was referred to often, I should say to my friend opposite, in New Brunswick, in the federal hearings and many others. It was an extraordinarily good piece of work. I know that on analysing that piece of work, the member will find a lot of those considerations in the agreements just passed. So it has had an influence; there is no question about that.

Now we are in a unique situation because of the 23 June.deadline that certain decisions have to be made by. My honourable friend also, I know, is aware of the fact that each Legislature and the federal Parliament has to pass an identical resolution in order to effect constitutional change.

I also agree with my friend opposite, and I refer to some remarks of mine, that we can improve this process. I can tell him that I think it was at Ontario's insistence, in this document we signed, that we would change the process. We have a number of ideas. I think it is one of the things the committee on constitutional reform could be dealing with, putting before the other first ministers ideas on how to build future constitutional change in partnership with the public. So I think my honourable friend makes a good point.

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Mr Eves: I appreciate all the remarks the Premier has made. Indeed I sat through every one of these days of hearings that the previous committee did. Is there some reason other than the fact that it would be morally right, in the Premier's opinion, or wise to send a signal to other provinces? Did the Premier make a commitment or give an undertaking to the other first ministers that this would be passed in the Ontario Legislature by 23 June? If he did, I think we can understand the position the Ontario Legislature is in. If he did not, what better time than the present to take the lead in a meaningful step to a more meaningful process of constitutional reform in this country?

Hon Mr Peterson: I said I would present this to the Legislature as quickly as possible. There was no commitment on when this thing would be passed. Professor Hogg is absolutely correct that it could take another three years, but I think we should put this in context as well.

The member recognizes that each legislature has to pass an identical amendment. He also realizes, I am sure, that one of the problems with Meech Lake was that it was dealt with three years ago and then a number of governments came and changed their minds in this respect. That led to the subsequent negotiations and the subsequent agreement that came forward. It was Mr Wells who came forward. His number one agenda was not Meech Lake or bringing Quebec into the Confederation; it was Senate reform. Those were his priorities. We tried to address those in a sensitive way. We have advanced the constitutional agenda; there is no question about that. We have lots of work to do in the future to give expression to some of those legitimate voices from the regions, adapting our institutions to better serve Canadians.

My honourable friend is also aware of the fact that this has to conform with the other legislatures, so it is not possible in that sense to change it. My honourable friend has to rest with his own judgement in that regard. All I can say, for the reasons I have expressed, is that I would appreciate having his co-operation.

MEMBERS' TRAVEL


Mr Runciman: I also have a question for the Premier. It has to do with an Ottawa Citizen article which indicates that the Premier and his fellow Liberal jet-setters spent approximately $310,000 of taxpayers' money on a nine-day trip to Italy, staying in five-star hotels, suites at $1,000 a night, very lavish expenditures. Does the Premier feel this was an appropriate use of tax dollars?

Hon Mr Peterson: Mr Speaker, the minister can give him all the details on this.

Hon Mr Kwinter: The question is, does the government think this was an appropriate expenditure of tax dollars? I am sure members will want to know that this was the largest trade mission ever to go to any foreign jurisdiction. We had almost 140 people there. They should also know that in the whole scope of my ministry we have found that the most effective way to encourage trade is to take groups of people who have a cultural and a language relationship with the jurisdiction that we are going into. I should tell the member that when we were in Italy, we not only made a lot of contacts, we not only did business, but we had an opportunity to visit every single major area in Italy.

As a result of that, we signed agreements with Lombardy. The member will see the results of those agreements when we host the Four Motors of Europe here in two weeks. We had arrangements with other countries, other companies that are using Italy as a conduit to Europe 1992. We had an opportunity to establish an office in Milan that will have long-term, positive benefits for this jurisdiction.


The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mr Kwinter: I am just getting going, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: I have to allow a supplementary and then you may continue.

Mr Runciman: That was nothing more than killing time, a real non-answer. I find it curious that the Premier refers this question. The Ottawa Citizen article also says that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology said Tuesday that he was asked to go at the last moment. That is why his travel costs were so high. It would be nice to hear him make reference to that.

The auditor made a report last year that was very critical of high-flying bureaucrats in this Liberal government, spending tax dollars lavishly. Now we have their leaders, the elected officials, setting this kind of an example, spending $1,000 a night, lavish expenditures. At the same time in the province they are increasing taxes at over 100% in the brief time they have been in office. I would like to hear from the minister the justification for why he and his Liberal colleagues feel it is necessary to spend $1,000 a night to stay in a hotel room. Would he please justify that.


Hon Mr Kwinter: The member has zeroed in on one isolated incident and he has given the impression that the 140 members who were on this trip all spent that amount of money. That is absolutely not true. The member has to understand. If you are travelling in these particular jurisdictions, the member will know that in the hotels we felt Ontario should be represented in -- we are the 11th-largest jurisdiction in terms of economic power in the world. When we attended those particular functions we were putting Ontario's best foot forward, entertaining people with whom we hope to enter into a business and governmental relationship. We had a situation where we did what we felt was the proper thing to do. I will say to the member that it was money well spent. The long-term benefits that will accrue to this province exceed by far any expenditures that were made on that trip.

Mr Neumann: Why don't you come up with real issues?

Mr Runciman: One of the members was saying, "Come up with real issues." I think this is a pretty significant issue when you look at the waste of tax dollars. Time and time again we have looked at the kinds of lavish spending by this government -- expensive parties, a kind of high-flying government. At the same time, they are mouthing off to the public that they are trying to be responsible with the use of tax dollars. That just simply flies in the face of the facts. Half of the expenditures, half of the $310,000 was spent on hotel, food and entertainment.

The Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has apologized. He has reimbursed $700. His room cost $1,000 a night. He was embarrassed by that. He has paid $700 a night himself. Where is the responsibility on the part of the other members of the Liberal group that travelled over there at taxpayers' expense? Why do they not have the same sense of responsibility? Why do they not reimburse the taxpayers of this province?


Hon Mr Kwinter: I am sure all members in this House will accept the fact that this is a major jurisdiction in the world and that when we travel we derive benefits and we sign contracts. We had contracts signed by Litton. We had contracts signed by Ontario Hydro. We had contracts signed by a number of the members of this particular delegation. But more important, we sowed the seeds for long-term benefits, long-term business relationships, and you do not do that standing on a street corner. We hosted receptions for these people. We brought people in. We had an opportunity to speak to them to show them what Ontario --

The Speaker: Thank you.

Interjections.


The Speaker: Order.

Mr Mackenzie: I have a question to the Premier, which he will probably refer to the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology as well. I do not think anybody objects to a trade mission and does not object to one of our leaders going and does not object to business people going. But I would tell the minister that what disturbs me is the junket-like aspects of this particular trip. It took him six months to come up with the answer to the question, so obviously it was carefully done. Why were wives included? Why did it take 10% of the Liberal caucus to attend that particular trip? Why was there a cost of $312 per day accommodation, $12,377 per participant and total per day cost of $34,003.82 on this trip? It does raise serious questions, I think, in the public mind.

Hon Mr Peterson: There were 140 people on the trip. One of the greatest assets we have in this province is a number of members of Parliament who speak different languages, who are comfortable in different cultures. It is one of the greatest strengths we possibly have. We used that to our benefit. Good Lord, the member should not be so provincial. We are making major inroads into Europe of 1992. We covered all parts of Italy day and night, from Milano to Friuli to Catanzaro to Abruzzi to Rome.

Mr B. Rae: It's a tough job at the top.

Hon Mr Peterson: My friend opposite says, "It's a tough job." He enjoyed coming to Tokyo, I will remind him, and he enjoyed coming to China and so did the member opposite so he should not stand up on his high horse. Let me tell him something: We are happy to share these kinds of things, and everybody can make a contribution, but there is not anybody who understands this business who does not understand that this is part of our deliberate strategy to push Ontario out into Europe of 1992, as well as into the Pacific Rim, and we are making real strides at it.

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Mr Mackenzie: We have competent Italian-Canadian citizens in business and in the ministries. We did not need a total of nine members of Parliament on that particular trip. The Premier will know that $100,000 can fund a community economic development program for 20 people with disabilities, that the children's mental health centres across this province are desperate for relatively small amounts of money to keep their programs going, that $50,000 would fund the Wellesley program for 30 children with handicaps, and here he has spent $309,440 on this. Some of it may be legitimate, but I ask the Premier to justify the nine members as other than a straight political con job on the people of Ontario.

Hon Mr Peterson: My friend, if he is going to stand up and say that, is going to have to justify why his leader came to China or why the member for Nickel Belt came to Tokyo and then flew on to New Zealand. He is going to have to justify that.

Interjections.


Hon Mr Peterson: Let me tell the member something: Because they are a real asset. That is the answer to the question. They have contacts, they have knowledge of the community, they were all working extremely hard, and I consider this one of the great assets that we possibly have in this province. We have got to use the strengths of this multicultural province to reach out around the world and try to understand it. So I honestly say, if my friend had anything to offer, he would have been invited on the trip.

CUSTODY AND ACCESS


Mr Jackson: I have a question for the Minister without Portfolio responsible for women's issues. The minister would be aware that Bill 124, the Children's Law Reform Act, offers new and increased rights to non-custodial parents, who are usually fathers in this province, for custody and access enforcement. The minister would be aware that women's groups across this province objected and were against this bill. The minister would also be aware that now this bill is in place the judges have been increasingly using the section on supervised access and awarding that in increasing numbers for victims of abuse and violence, but also they have increased the criteria for non-custodial parents who may abduct their child and for cases of alleged but not proven abuse.

There is concern that there is a gulf between the promise in the minister's legislation and the enforcement access which judges are awarding and that there are no programs available. My question is simply this: What is she doing specifically as the minister responsible for women's issues so that women and children caught in abusive situations and caught in this situation of no supervised access programs are properly supervised under this legislation?


Hon Mrs Wilson: I thank the member opposite for that question because it is an issue that is of concern to many women across the province of Ontario. Women are concerned that their children will have the opportunity to have two parents even though they may be in a situation where there has been a separation in the family. Certainly women's groups were invited to and did participate fully in the discussions and consultations that surrounded the bringing into force of that bill.

As minister for women's issues and on behalf of my ministry, the Ontario women's directorate, I will certainly be monitoring how that bill works in practice. It is my view that supervised access is something that we need to be discussing, and in fact I am discussing that with my colleagues the Attorney General and the Minister of Community and Social Services.


Mr Jackson: It is rather frightening that the minister actually agrees that this legislation is not working and agrees with women's groups that they have not been served by this piece of legislation. She has been entrusted with the responsibility to advocate with her cabinet in this growing crisis. Women in this province rightfully feel that this government's support of Bill 124 was a concession to divorced and separated fathers, that it gave them increased rights and that the women's and children's rights in abusive situations have been severely compromised by this bill.

Now we have seen clear evidence. I am told of reports where the Ministry of Community and Social Services is blaming the Attorney General who has responsibility here and the Attorney General's office is saying: "Well, don't look at us. It's Comsoc's responsibility."


My question is, in light of the fact that nobody in the minister's government will take responsibility for implementing these programs, will she as the minister explain to this House why her government is denying funds to organizations that have come forward to present these very programs that women and children in abusive situations are calling for?

The Speaker: Thank you.

Mr Jackson: Why is she denying funds to these organizations?

The Speaker: You have already asked it.

Hon Mrs Wilson: It is significant that Bill 124 does address the issues of wife assault. It addresses them in two places. First, it says that domestic violence has to be considered by the court when it determines the ability of the person who has committed that violence. We know, however, that violence continues in many families following divorce and separation.

I have committed to women's groups in this province, and I will commit to this member, that I will closely monitor this bill and will continue to meet with women's groups. It is a new bill, it is just very new. I will continue to monitor it and will continue to work with my colleagues to be certain that women and children in this province are protected following separation of families.

SOCIAL ASSISTANCE


Mr D. R. Cooke: I have a question for the Treasurer. There is a group called Basic Poverty Action Group which apparently is going to descend on Queen's Park tomorrow by the thousands. They have a theme: "Return to sender, Mr Nixon. Your budget is no good." The theme basically suggests that the budget does not do anything to fight poverty. Could the Treasurer tell us what the budget does, if anything, to fight poverty?

Hon R. F. Nixon: I saw the news report of the group coming to Queen's Park. Like all groups, they are perfectly welcome and I will examine their message as carefully as I can.

I think the honourable members would know, having perused the budget rather carefully, that social assistance spending will increase by over $400 million this year. It really means that Ontario's benefits, however insufficient they may appear, are the best in Canada in all respects. I am very proud that we have achieved that.

Also in the budget, a particular initiative that pleased me is the strengthening of our tax reduction program, which meant that another 115,000 families would receive $200 off their taxes for each child they are rearing, with special advantages doubling that reduction if there is a disability associated. It really brings to over 600,000 the people who are being assisted in this connection.


Mr D. R. Cooke: That sounds very satisfactory to me. The Treasurer would note, though, as well -- and this seems to concern this group -- that there is no chapter in the budget referring to affordable housing. Could the Treasurer perhaps enlighten us as to what in the budget assists in the establishment of affordable housing?

Hon R. F. Nixon: It is true there was not a heading entitled "Housing," because the programs that have been put in place over the last four years are now moving rapidly, not only through construction but the utilization of public funds. There is an additional $200-million increase. The increase is $200 million this year, and it really means that the construction of housing of an affordable type, and most of it of a non-profit nature, is reaching proportions that are beginning to meet the needs, at least in many communities. There are 32,000 affordable homes that have been built since 1986, with another 40,000 planned for 1993; that is, they will be completed by that time.

The statistics and numbers probably are not as significant as they should be, but the Ministry of Housing has enjoyed the greatest growth in its budget of any of the provincial responsibilities, a 245% growth in the last four years. We feel that that shows the commitment of the government to these important programs, and I believe that we are now seeing the benefits at the community level of these accomplishments.

ABORTION


Mr R. F. Johnston: My question is for the Premier. Shortly after the federal abortion bill passed in the House of Commons I raised with the Attorney General the concerns that doctors were expressing about whether or not they would be liable for prosecutions and concerns people were having about what was going to happen to access to abortion. We now have two situations, publicly confirmed, of backroom or self-inflicted abortions, one which damaged a young 16-year-old in Kitchener and the other which killed Yvonne Jurewicz here in the city just yesterday. I wonder why this government has not made a statement in this House about third-party actions or about access to abortions and started to quiet some of the fears which are causing, I believe, some of the tragedies that we are now seeing.

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Hon Mr Peterson: I appreciate the honourable member bringing this to my attention. I was not aware of it. I wish I could give my honourable friend an answer. He knows the policies of this particular government, the things that are going on, but he has brought serious matters to my attention. I will discuss them with the Attorney General and with the Minister of Health as well. I appreciate his sharing that with me.

Mr R. F. Johnston: I appreciate that. Perhaps, in the discussions with the two ministers, the Premier might discuss the notion of the discussion among the attorneys general which is taking place in the next couple of days here in the city with the federal minister as well as all the other provincial ministers. It seems to me this might be a very good time -- and I am asking if he will concur and will take this message to the Attorney General -- for big-man politics to assert itself in Ontario to say that we will refuse third-party prosecutions on abortion matters in this province in the coming months and therefore allay some of the fears that are out there.

Hon Mr Peterson: I think that is a constructive idea, that the Attorney General discuss those with his counterparts. Frankly, I am not sure of the agenda on those meetings today or tomorrow, but I will convey to him immediately after I leave question period the member's ideas and get the reactions of the other attorneys general across the country. I thank him for his idea.

PATRICIA STARR


Mr Cousens: A question for the Premier: A serious allegation has been made that a senior member of his cabinet has been principal of the Patti Starr school of election financing. Who was that person and what action is the Premier prepared to take?

Hon Mr Peterson: We dealt with this question yesterday, the day before, the day before that and several other times. My answer is the same.

Mr Cousens: The question is going to continue to be asked and it is a serious question. It has everything to do with the role of the Premier and his cabinet in this scandal. I ask him again, does he know the identity of the individual who apparently orchestrated this affair, and what does he plan to do about it?

Hon Mr Peterson: I do not know of anyone and I repeat my answer.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY


Mr Owen: I have a question for the Minister of Labour.

The minister will no doubt remember that last year the former employees and the families of former employees at the Robson Lang Leather factory in Barrie were very concerned with possible revelations that they might have had contact with certain chemicals at the plant when they were working there that have led them to a situation of cancer.

In October of last year, the minister caused an inquiry to be made into these problems. Today's media are now reporting that the officials in his ministry could not find any link between the working conditions and cancer and that the minister has closed the inquiry or investigation. The people involved do not know what is going on. They are concerned about these media reports today. Could the minister enlighten us? What is happening?


Hon Mr Phillips: When I saw the report, I knew instantly that the member for Simcoe Centre would be concerned, as I was, because I know of his deep interest in the subject. I would like to assure the member that the study is continuing. My understanding is that our officials found that the original study that they had planned to do, which would have involved sampling all of the former employees, has become impossible because we are unable to get a list of all the former employees.

We have, I am told, been able to gather a fairly large list, so the study will involve the list of people we do have. Just to assure the member, because I know he has an intense interest in it, the study will continue. It will not be the study as originally envisioned, because we simply were unable, in spite of our best efforts, to find a complete list of former employees of that particular tannery.


Mr Owen: First of all, I cannot help but observe that the media's reporting of wrong information, and its having had the effect it has had on these families, is very unfortunate. But given that as it is, I know that the ministry has had problems getting a database on which to base any conclusions whatsoever. In light of these difficulties that the ministry has had, has the ministry any idea what direction the study will now take, and whether there is any time frame as to when some indication will be made as to whether or not there is a link with these health problems?

Hon Mr Phillips: Just on the first part of the question, I do not mean to blame the media because I think that our officials probably explained that the original study they had planned to do was impossible. I can understand how some confusion could take place.

I will say a couple of things. We committed to ensure that we would consult with the workers, the community and the industry. The first thing I would like to assure the member is that, as we had promised, my understanding is there is a meeting planned for this month, June, where the plans will be reviewed with those parties. Second, my understanding is we will conduct in the area what I guess is known as a proportional study, where we will take the names that we do have and conduct the study using sampling techniques.

So I want to assure the member on the two points. One is that it is the intention of the officials who are conducting the study to convene that meeting in June, where they will review their plans with the affected parties. Second, my understanding is the study will, as I say, involve using all the names that we do have and conducting the study to determine whether there are any linkages between deaths and possible causes as a result of having worked at the tannery.

PLANT CLOSURES


Mr Mackenzie: I have a question of the Minister of Labour. Yesterday Fruehauf Canada, which produces truck trailers and vans in Brantford, announced the closure of its plant with 334 workers losing their jobs. Last summer, the Mississauga plant shut down with 300 jobs gone. Many of these workers had 25 to 30 years of service. On Monday, the workers at Crown Cork and Seal, formerly known as Continental Can, demonstrated here at Queen's Park over the announced closure of the plant in Etobicoke with 400 jobs lost. Many of these workers are also long-service employees.

Both of these are the result of free trade and higher interest rates. The directors of both unions, the Canadian Auto Workers and the United Steelworkers of America, have written to the Premier asking what action is being taken to protect workers' jobs and plant closures. What is the minister willing to do, other than the usual platitudes we get about retraining and so on, to help workers in these plant closures?


Hon Mr Phillips: The member acknowledged that the reports we had on Fruehauf were that high interest rates, a high Canadian dollar and competition out of the United States were some of the things causing that. The Premier, as I said in an earlier response in the House, anticipated some of the challenges as a result of free trade. That is one reason why the Premier's Council was set up. We invested about $1 billion in the technology fund. As the member knows, I think, the Premier's Council is also looking at the personal side of it, the human side, the side of how we ensure that we have in our educational system, in our training system, in our labour adjustment system, plans to accommodate and handle situations like that.

So what are we doing? The Premier's Council is, first, looking at ways that we can develop more jobs and, second, looking at labour adjustment, training and educational programs to help work with workers who are affected by such plant closures.


Mr Mackenzie: I heard an awful lot of looking. What we are looking for is some action. The minister will know that the service jobs that are replacing these jobs are paying $300 a week. The manufacturing jobs we are losing are paying $559 a week. The minister will also know that these two plant shutdowns are only a small portion of the almost 50,000 manufacturing jobs gone this year. The Liberal government is the one that said it would protect workers from plant closures before the last election. Is it not time that the minister kept that promise?

Hon Mr Phillips: Again, I remind ourselves that we have in this province the most progressive severance legislation of anywhere in Canada. We enacted that legislation to help protect workers. We are participating in the program for older worker adjustment. As I think all members know, we felt POWA could be more effective. We attempted to get the federal government to make it more effective, but in the end we are participating in POWA, and that is helping some workers through the tough transitional period.

In the end, the most important thing we can do is to create jobs. We are fortunate in this province that we have been able to have jobs created; as I said before, about 700,000 in the last five years. That is what we must continue to strive to do. Having said that, we have some programs in place to help assist those workers who are tragically affected by plant closures and we will continue to try to help those workers.

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HOME RENEWAL PROGRAM FOR DISABLED PERSONS


Mrs Marland: My question is to the Minister of Housing. Yesterday I asked the minister about the status of the Ontario home renewal program for disabled persons, which I thought had been cancelled based on the information in his ministry's estimates book for 1990-91. The minister assured me that the program had not been discontinued. In fact, he said that five times yesterday afternoon.

The minister should know that in a footnote to the expenditure details on the program it says, "This program terminates in 1990-91 and the appropriation represents the cash flow requirement to complete outstanding commitments." A few pages later, a table and graph on the program show that the target units to be modified for 1990-91 are zero, compared to 1,000 for 1989-90.

To me, the term "terminated" means discontinued. How can this minister explain the contradiction between the answer he gave this House yesterday and the information contained in his ministry's estimates?


Hon Mr Sweeney: I indicated to the honourable member yesterday that the program of assisting disabled people to rehabilitate their homes had not been cancelled and I repeat that today. There is not a specific budget amount in the estimates. The honourable member is correct on that. However, there are a number of ways in which the program is being continued.

The member will be aware of the fact that we do have a rehabilitation assistance program of a general nature, in which case many municipalities in this province have a trust fund to draw from for that program. They may use that trust fund for the disabled and for the non-disabled. That is open to them. Therefore, there is a source of funds for that particular program. It is not specifically identified as such, but there is a source of funds for that program.

I can also tell my honourable colleague that we have built into all of the affordable housing components in our programs a section for the disabled. The member will be well aware that while there were 1,000 units specifically identified in an earlier budget, in fact we are well over 5,000 units by incorporating that into a number of programs rather than isolating it into a specific program.


Mrs Marland: I am disappointed because usually this minister gives very direct answers. I was not asking about affordable units. Our government started building affordable units into our housing programs. I was asking about a specific program. That specific program, no matter how the minister answers it, is terminated. It says so in his own estimates book.

I do not want to know what the minister is doing in other areas because in any case for the disabled people in this province it is not enough. What I want to know is what he is going to do to replace this specific program under Ontario home renewal for people with disabilities, the very program that he has said is terminated in his estimates book. Show us where the money is and how much money it is that the disabled can expect.


Hon Mr Sweeney: I have tried to indicate to the honourable member that our general home renewal program is one where we flow funds to municipalities. Each municipality has a trust fund in which those funds are placed. They keep them and they can hand them out to a range of people. That program is available to the disabled and to the non-disabled.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE


Mr Tatham: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Food. A few weeks ago, the United States House agriculture committee voted to spend $53 billion on subsidies over the next five fiscal years. As the minister is aware, the Uruguay round of multilateral trade negotiations was launched in 1986 on an ambitious agenda for reforming the international trading system.

I am concerned about the apparent lack of progress in the Uruguay round in finding workable solutions for improving global agriculture and food trade. It appears that the positions of the United States and the European Community are dominating these negotiations to the detriment of the success of this round and perhaps to the detriment of the interests of the Ontario agrifood sector.

What is the Minister of Agriculture and Food doing to ensure that the interests and concerns of Ontario farmers and food processors are heard?


Hon Mr Ramsay: I share the concern of my honourable colleague about the success of the Uruguay round of the current GATT discussions that has agriculture on the agenda. I am taking a multidisciplinary approach on many fronts on how we are to enhance a successful and very positive outcome to this.

In fact last week I met with Michael Gifford, who is the senior agricultural trade negotiator for the federal government, not only to reinforce our view in Ontario of what Canada's position should be and how forcefully we should be presenting that position, but also to get a sense from him of what the potential for success is of the latest GATT round.

I would assure the member that as we get closer to the conclusion of this Uruguay round by the end of this year, we will be stepping up our efforts to reinforce Ontario's strong position for a strong Canadian position at the GATT table.


Mr Tatham: I wish the minister success.

I am also aware that the federal government recently tabled a proposal that brings greater strength and clarity to article 11. What progress has the federal government made in its bid to seek positive revisions to article 11 on behalf of all Canadian supply-managed industries?


Hon Mr Ramsay: Let me indicate to the member that I have continually pushed the federal government for a strengthening and clarifying of article XI 2(c), as the member refers to the GATT agreement. Article 11, as the member knows, gives Canada the authority to impose import controls on those items and commodities that we have supply-managed in this country. I am encouraged by the growing support for Canada's position by the Nordic countries and the European countries. I am starting to feel hopeful that we may be successful in having a strengthened and clarified article 11.

I will continue to update the House on Ontario's progress and the federal government's progress in these negotiations.

EGG PRODUCERS


Mr Wildman: I have a question of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Could the minister inform the House what, if anything, he and his ministry are doing to ensure the ongoing success and prosperity of the egg producers in northern Ontario, to enable them to compete with the larger producers such as Gray Eggs in southern Ontario that have relationships with retailers and wholesalers that make it difficult for northern producers to get their eggs on to the shelves of the supermarkets?

Hon Mr Ramsay: As the member knows, all the feather trade in this country is under a national quota system. The egg producers of Ontario also are part of that and the Egg Producers' Marketing Board has its orderly marketing and also negotiates price with its customers, the retailers. Northern Ontario farmers benefit from that, as do those from the south.

Mr Wildman: The minister should be aware that recently Loeb-IGA suppliers in Sudbury discontinued their contract with the largest producer in Algoma district because they had an agreement with Gray Eggs for a larger so-called rebate for their product.

What is going to be done to ensure that the egg producers under supply management have the same protections that the milk producers have in northern Ontario, to ensure that they can supply the market in their part of the province?


Hon Mr Ramsay: I thank the member for giving me notice of this particular issue in his constituency. I will be contacting the egg marketing board about this matter.

ALCOHOL AND DRUG TREATMENT


Mr Pollock: I have a question for the Minister of Health. The minister is well aware of the lack of drug and alcohol abuse centres here in Ontario. The people of Bancroft are interested in establishing a drug and alcohol abuse centre in that area to service eastern Ontario or possibly all of Ontario. Would her ministry staff work with these people to see if that could become a reality?

Hon Mrs Caplan: I do not agree with the member opposite at all

when he asks his question and suggests that there is a lack of facilities. In fact, we have seen a tremendous growth in the number of opportunities and programs in the area of drug and alcohol abuse over the course of the last few years, since this government assumed responsibility.

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I can tell the member that there has been significant change. For example, we have seen an increase in both numbers of programs and numbers of dollars available. This year, the amount spent in that area will be close to $50 million, which is a significant increase.

The member asks how someone interested in providing a program should apply. I suggest that, of course, one can always have discussions with ministry officials. Local district health councils are involved in planning for future programming. But I would say to him that while our plans are under way for the future, we should be very proud of the services available in Ontario today.


Mr Pollock: How come so many people have to go to the United States for treatment then? It is my understanding that there are a lot of people who have to go to the US for treatment. That is why I feel there is a lack of facilities here.

Hon Mrs Caplan: I am quite surprised that the member opposite would ask this question. I have answered it before in the House.

We have seen very specifically an increase over the last few years which reflects the commitment of this government, particularly when his party had the opportunity and did virtually nothing in this area. We are making enormous progress with the establishment of an anti-drug secretariat to ensure that our program is comprehensive in its scope and in its nature.

The member knows as well that many people choose, for a number of reasons, to seek services outside of Ontario. Drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, and it is treated under OHIP policy as any other disease is treated. We are always working to improve the services here in Ontario.

I can assure the member that I appreciate his advice on this matter.

LONG-TERM CARE


Mr Elliot: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Concern has been expressed that the minister's announcement of the long-term care initiative will result in neglect of the important provincial-municipal social services review. Would he care to comment on the state of that review?

Hon Mr Beer: I think we have right now before us two very important reviews, the one on long-term care, which sets out some strategic directions for the province and invites discussion, and the provincial-municipal social services review, which has attempted to look at the management and funding of our social service system.

I have met with the executive of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and announced a parallel six-month consultation period for both those documents, in order to ensure there is plenty of time for input and to allow AMO at its August meeting to be able to respond to both those reports and to look at how they are each involved with the other.


Mr Elliot: The minister indicates that funds will soon be flowing for the long-term care initiative. Can he give the House a time frame?

Hon Mr Beer: As we announced in the statement, this year we are going to be flowing an additional $52 million for a variety of services in the long-term care area. They will be focused on providing more attendant care spaces as well as providing more funding for homemakers' services and the like. That $52 million, as the honourable member knows, is part of what will be some $640 million which will be added to the overall system of long-term care.

During the six-year implementation period for the whole program, approximately $2 billion will be spent by this government to ensure better services in the community and in the home for those with physical disabilities and those who are seniors.

It is our belief that we will be doing this in partnership with municipalities, community groups and organizations. That is why we have set up this consultative process. But we will be making sure that those new dollars will start flowing as soon as this September.

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