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Ontario Hansard - 10-October2001
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): It was my understanding, Mr Speaker, that the Minister of Energy would be here, and I have a question for him.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Just so we know, we did finish the introduction of bills a little bit quicker than normal, so we'll give a little bit of time for some of the ministers. We're a little bit early. We'll reset the clock and start at the beginning. I think we should be ready.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, three weeks after September 11, a man walked unchecked, unimpeded, on to the grounds of the Bruce nuclear site. You've now had a full day to look into this. Can you tell us -- because Ontarians are very concerned about this -- how could this have happened three weeks after the most horrific terrorist attack that ever took place in North America, that a man could walk unimpeded, without being checked, without encountering any security measures whatsoever, on to the grounds of a nuclear generating site in Ontario?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Energy, Science and Technology): The facts are exactly as I outlined them yesterday. The gentleman went through a perimeter fence, which is a short fence. It is a fence that marks the --
Hon Mr Wilson: Excuse me. It is a fence that marks the property line. It's some three kilometres away from the actual security fences that surround the reactors. A phone is on the administrative building inside of this little fence, and it is meant for exactly what the gentleman used it for. It's for people who are in distress to use and to phone the security of the plant, who did respond right away and brought him into the building to warm him up, because he and his friend were suffering from hypothermia. They were transported to the hospital.
I would say to the honourable member that you have had overnight to go up to the Bruce and to see for yourself that the facts are exactly the way I have been describing them.
Mr McGuinty: Perhaps the member would invite all Ontario families to visit the site at the same time.
I can understand why the minister would be anxious to quickly dismiss this concern and to get it behind him. But let me tell you what the Solicitor General said yesterday. He said, "Clearly, there was a breach, but nobody contemplated anybody coming in from the water." You will know, as the Minister of Energy, that all three of our nuclear sites are situated adjacent to water.
So the question I have for you, Minister: three weeks after the most horrific terrorist attack in the history of North America, how can it be that, when it comes to the security measures at our nuclear sites, there are no security measures in place beside the water?
Hon Mr Wilson: This particular area is a boater-safety area. It's a sluice in the water, and boaters, local duck hunters and fishermen know that's an area where they can go to access the emergency telephone. As of today, we've moved that telephone closer to the water so that there's no perception of them getting through any security fence, which did not happen.
If the honourable member would attend the site, as, I will tell you, most of the media here have done -- they've gone up and taken pictures, and they're very satisfied. This is a small perimeter fence like you'd see around a schoolyard; it is not our big, huge security fences, which are some three kilometres away. It's a small administrative shack. The phone is there for the purpose that it was used for. We're now making more phones available, so there's no perception at all that someone broke into the nuclear facility. That did not happen. It would not happen, because we are very confident that the measures that we've taken, that Bruce Power has taken, are making our plants very, very secure.
Mr McGuinty: One of the reasons Ontario families are wondering about this is that in the expensive political propaganda they paid for in today's papers it says, "Since September 11, we've taken swift action to protect our people." Three weeks after September 11, this man ambled on to the site of a nuclear plant in Ontario -- three weeks after September 11.
Minister, yesterday you said, "Our plans are as good or better than many of the plans in place for US nuclear sites." So we contacted the Fermi II plant in Michigan to see if they had any suggestions on securing nuclear plants from the water. They refused to discuss specific details, but they insisted that at minimum they have to have the US Coast Guard there establishing a security zone.
So my question to you is, four weeks after September 11, on the same day you tell us that since September 11 you have taken swift action to protect the people of Ontario, why have you not established a secure perimeter zone around nuclear sites in Ontario?
Hon Mr Wilson: We don't discuss the details of the actions we've taken.
The Speaker: Order.
Hon Mr Wilson: You should know that the federal Liberal government is actually responsible for the security at our plants. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission --
The Speaker: Stop the clock, please. Order. It's time to proceed. Sorry, Minister.
Hon Mr Wilson: Ralph Goodale, the federal minister, and I have spoken about security in our plants. The federal government is very satisfied with the quick action we took to ensure proper security at the plants. Again, the only person in Ontario today who is fearmongering about this incident, which had nothing to do with security at our plants, is the honourable member.
The Speaker: Order. The minister's time is up.
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Deputy Premier. Minister, I want to talk to you about this wasteful, expensive, partisan political advertising you've run in today's Ontario papers. I just want to set the scene and the context a little bit for you.
Our families today feel a tremendous sense of insecurity. They want a sense of personal and economic security to come from this government in real and concrete ways. They want much to be done in terms of improving our security provisions -- and we've just heard from this minister that you're failing to do that. They want to know that you're dealing with the economic downturn. In addition to all that, they want to know you are still protecting health care, education and the environment. Given all that, all those pressing priorities and urgent needs on the part of our families, can you tell us how you've decided that your greatest priority today is to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into wasteful partisan political propaganda?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I know the Chair of Management Board would like to answer this.
Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): Clearly this ad is very important for two reasons. First of all, it's important for us to recognize the contributions of Ontarians, who have contributed in many ways. Whether they're firefighters who went down with the effort, whether they're construction workers, whether they're ordinary Ontarians who donated blood, who certainly assisted in some way in the effort when this tragedy occurred, it was very important for us to thank them.
I appreciate the question from the Leader of the Opposition, but if I could quote: "The events of September 11 were devastating tragedies and the people of Ontario responded generously, lending heartfelt support to those suffering sorrow and pain.
"To everyone who reached out with condolences, who donated blood, who gave money or found other ways to help the victims and families of these terrorist acts -- thank you.
"If ever there was a time when America needs a friend, it is now.
"You didn't hesitate. You responded immediately. So did your government."
Mr McGuinty: This time you're not going to walk away with this. There are urgent and pressing priorities in the minds of all reasonable people today in Ontario, and this kind of investment, this kind of waste, does not fall within those priorities.
Let me tell you something about our families. They are sick and tired of the fact that there aren't enough textbooks in our schools, they're sick and tired of the fact that the air is making their kids sick, they're sick and tired of the fact that we don't have enough beds in our hospitals, they're sick and tired of the fact that this government is doing nothing in concrete terms when it comes to protecting their economic and personal security. So I ask you again, in light of all of that, Minister, how could you possibly decide that the best way to invest taxpayer dollars is in this political partisan propaganda?
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Obviously the Leader of the Opposition has not been talking to the same Ontarians that many of us on this side have been. I know that people out there are concerned. People out there need information. Many ordinary people in our communities have certainly asked, "What is the Ontario government doing to make sure that we in Ontario have proper measures in place to assist us?" This is certainly something that people are talking to us about. Obviously, he either doesn't know that or he doesn't care.
Certainly, in this ad as well, which is very important for us to convey, there are a number of protective measures that we are taking for the province of Ontario. First of all, as you know, we have appointed Norman Inkster, retired commissioner of the RCMP, and also retired Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, as provincial security advisers. There are a number of measures that we have taken in Ontario to ensure the safety of people in this province. It's very important for us to convey that message to them. That's what Ontarians are asking for, and that --
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I'm afraid the member's time is up. Final supplementary.
Mr McGuinty: Minister, I want to bring you from the abstract to the immediate. Last week a man walked on to the grounds of one of Ontario's nuclear generating facilities. He was able to do that because there were no security measures in place. I would think that one of the places Ontario families would want you to start to invest is in security measures at our nuclear sites. People are afraid of losing their jobs. People are concerned about what has happened to the markets and their loss of retirement savings. They're concerned about what's happening at our border and the fact that there's a slowdown in terms of getting our goods across the border. Those are the kinds of things that our families are concerned about. So I ask you one more time on their behalf, because you have yet to justify this, how, in light of all of this and all of these pressing and urgent needs, could you have possibly decided that the best way to spend hundreds of thousands of precious taxpayer dollars today was on this kind of partisan political propaganda?
Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I appreciate the question. The Leader of the Opposition talks about the abstract, he talks about the real. I'll tell you what's considered real to me and probably all people on this side: Ontarians, real people out there, who are concerned, who want information. That's what's real to us. I don't know what you're talking about.
Secondly, since the Leader of the Opposition is holding up his copy of this ad, I must say in this ad we talk about many security measures. If I can outline a few, thank you for the opportunity.
"We are undertaking a thorough review of Ontario's emergency response plans.
"We will require all municipalities to maintain emergency response plans and train their employees.
"We will work with owners and operators of large buildings and public facilities to develop appropriate emergency response programs."
These are concrete, real examples of how this government is committed to public safety in this province, something that you certainly don't know anything about.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Acting Premier, and it concerns why this government is waging a campaign against our civil liberties. Your government appointed Norm Gardner to the Toronto Police Services Board as chair of the board. Now he says Toronto police are compiling a list of hundreds of people to target for surveillance. People are put on the list because -- quoting Norm Gardner -- "They may have said something that might lead the police to raise their eyebrows." Deputy Premier, is this your government's policy? Do you support Norm Gardner running a thought-police operation?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'm not really sure why he's asking us this question. Isn't the chair elected with another body and accountable to another body?
Hon Mr Hodgson: The member from Etobicoke knows full well who the person that he refers to reports to and how they're elected, and he should know that as well.
I can tell you that our province takes our responsibility very seriously in protecting Ontario's citizens and also balancing that with our fundamental rights and freedoms that we enjoy in this province.
Mr Hampton: He is your appointment to the Toronto Police Services Board. What I want to know is this: does he represent government policy? Is it the policy of your government that someone would be put on a police surveillance list where they can be watched, pulled over, requested to attend and answer questions based upon -- and I quote Mr Gardner again -- "tips from informants, from suspicious or disgruntled neighbours or hearsay"? Is that government policy in Ontario today, that someone can be put on a police surveillance list based upon hearsay? If that's not your policy, then please disown it.
Hon Mr Hodgson: That's not what the leader of the third party said. He talked about us appointing the chair. As the member for Beaches-East York might be able to inform you, the chair is elected. The majority of the members on the police services board of Toronto are appointed by the municipality. I just reiterate that your member from Beaches-East York -- you've got him newly installed in the caucus -- might be able to inform you on how that institution works.
Mr Hampton: Acting Premier, he is your appointment to the Toronto Police Services Board. He is now the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board. He says that people will be placed upon a list for police surveillance based upon hearsay, based upon whether he believes people have "hate in their heart." We haven't seen this kind of trampling on people's civil liberties since the FLQ crisis based upon, apparently, no evidence.
My question is, is this your government's policy? Is it your government policy that people will be put on a police surveillance list based upon hearsay, based upon somebody simply calling up and saying, "I'm suspicious of this person"? Is that your government's policy, that people's civil liberties in Ontario today are worth so little?
Hon Mr Hodgson: The answer is no. I think the member knows that.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): New question. Leader of the third party.
Mr Hampton: Also to the Acting Premier: then you should disown the comments of Mr Gardner and you should do it now.
Mr Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My next point is this: we know Ontario's economy is in trouble. Your Premier has admitted as much. About a year ago, we had a blizzard of announcements about SuperBuild, how SuperBuild was going to be out there and it was going to be making construction things happen. But since all of the hoopla, virtually nothing has happened. Meanwhile, we have community after community that needs to fix up their water treatment plant or needs a new water treatment plant or has a capital project that they need to get to work on, but your government isn't there.
Can you tell us, why are you sitting on SuperBuild money? Why in a time when the economy is in difficulty are you so far behind and so delayed in terms of bringing meaningful municipal capital projects forward?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): SuperBuild, as you know, is a way to coordinate capital spending and try to leverage it to the maximum benefit for the people of Ontario.
The Minister of Finance, along with the SuperBuild Corp, has been doing an excellent job on behalf of the province of Ontario. They've invested $906 million in provincial highway programs, $200 million in hospitals and $48 million in post-secondary education facilities. It's also part of the Canada-Ontario infrastructure agreement and we have approved a number of projects that are waiting for Ottawa's approval as we speak. We hope that we will have these projects announced soon under the protocols that have been reached and that you will see construction on a lot of the projects right across Ontario to benefit the communities we all care about so deeply.
Mr Hampton: The Acting Premier recounted some announcements. We checked out some of these announcements. On June 15 you boasted that Sudbury would get $15 million to improve their water treatment system. Well, we're now into October -- and no money. The communities actually had to call and ask you not to enforce the clean water regulations because you don't come up with the money. You announced on August 16 a project for Niagara-on-the-Lake. We called them -- no money. Red Lake, in my constituency: $10.5 million for a water treatment plant because five communities are boiling their water -- no money. Sioux Lookout: $5.5 million for a water treatment plant so people don't have to boil their water -- no money.
You've made all the announcements, but for some reason these communities aren't receiving the money to do the capital works. At a time when people are losing thousands of jobs in Ontario, tell us, please, when are you going to address the needs of these communities on these important issues and also ensure that much-needed construction projects can go ahead so that people can continue to have a job?
Hon Mr Hodgson: I think the leader of the third party would be well aware that this government is setting aside large amounts of money for infrastructure investments that are long overdue due to neglect that happened under your government and the shortfall in capital that was required to keep our infrastructure current, modern and safe.
As to the announcements you talk about, there was a series of announcements around the studies that are required to make sure we get the proper numbers. In Sudbury you're talking about the millennium partnership; in the other small towns you're talking about OSTAR led by my colleague from rural affairs in conjunction with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
There are announcements. There are actual projects beginning in a serious way to start construction. You will see a lot more announcements and you will see a lot more construction because we believe in rebuilding this province. We have to make up for a lot of lost years and the neglect of Liberal and NDP administrations, which did not invest in the infrastructure of this province.
CHILDREN'S HEALTH SERVICES
Mr Dalton McGuinty (Leader of the Opposition): The question is to the Minister of Health. I put the question to the minister on behalf of parents of southwestern Ontario who are very concerned about the future availability of specialized health care for their children.
In recent days, Minister, you have told those parents that you can't find any more money for their specialized burn unit for children, that you can't find any more money for their cardiac centre specializing in children's care, but it turns out today that this minister and this government found the money to run a full-page ad in the London Free Press. The question I have for you on behalf of southwestern Ontario parents, and particularly those living in the community of London: why is it you can't find money to maintain an adequate level of health care services for southwestern Ontario children, but you can find the money for partisan, political propaganda?
Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): Let me set the record straight for this House. I've said on the record already that the sum total of all the decisions made by an independent board of directors represented 1% of their activity. The two activities the honourable member mentions: pediatric burn unit had two cases per year on average over the last three years, and cardiac transplant pediatric was two cases per year on average. So, yes, those programs can be transferred to other facilities, because, do you know what? The clinical outcomes will be better. The patients will get better service, they'll get better treatment and that's better for the patients in Ontario.
That's the kind of thing the London Health Sciences Centre agreed upon. It's the kind of thing we support. It's the kind of thing that means we'll have better outcomes for the patients he seems to be so concerned about.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Supplementary.
Mr Steve Peters (Elgin-Middlesex-London): Minister, shipping patients and their families to other centres without assurance that there's space in those centres is totally irresponsible of you and your government. Citizens of southwestern Ontario don't want to hear your platitudes. They want to know why this government is turning its back on children and families in southwestern Ontario.
Do you know what the problem is, Minister? It's you and your ministry. Yesterday, I spoke to the chairman of the board of the London Health Sciences Centre, and do you know what he told me? He said your ministry approved and signed off the proposal before it went to the board. They were required to do this as part of the renewal plan. So don't stand there and say your government had nothing to do with it and blame it on the local board. You and your ministry are the ones who decided to abandon these children and these families.
Minister, the London Health Sciences Centre is, or at least was, a world-class medical and major academic centre, a centre of excellence. Could you please tell this Legislature when your ministry made the decision to approve the plan that would downgrade the London Health Sciences Centre to a community hospital?
Hon Mr Clement: Nothing could be further from the truth on a number of different accounts. I can tell this House that we certainly want the best clinical outcomes for our children when they need the services of a burn unit, when they need pediatric cardiac care. We want the best services in the best location for our children to get those kinds of services.
If the honourable member doesn't believe me, that's his right. I can merely read from the local paper, the London Free Press, which said that the plan is to boost core medical services locally, while passing off others that lack the critical mass of patients to those that can supply the service.
We want the best services for our kids, the best services and all the range of care that was hitherto available, in the best location. If the honourable member wants to play politics with that, that's his right, but we want the best results for the people of Ontario.
Mr Frank Mazzilli (London-Fanshawe): My question is to the Minister of Education. Yesterday you announced the government is committing $5 million --
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. Stop the clock, please.
Thank you. I'll run it. You're House leader; you run yours. I'll be the Speaker. If you want to run for Speaker, run for Speaker next time.
Order. The member for London-Fanshawe.
Mr Mazzilli: I will pass on to my constituents the disrespect the opposition has for London and the questions coming from members who are from London.
Minister, yesterday you announced that the government committed $5 million in funding to improve students' reading skills. In the first year, 16 schools --
The Speaker: Member, take a seat. Order. We'll start having to name people. He has a right to ask a question; he's asking a question. We need a little bit of quiet. Sorry, member for London-Fanshawe.
Mr Mazzilli: Minister, in the first year, 16 schools have been selected, including Franklin Roosevelt in London. Can you tell me how this program will benefit students?
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education, Government House Leader): The initiative I announced yesterday -- I know the opposition doesn't want to hear about something that's going to help improve student learning and improve how well our children are able to get those early literacy skills. This program is part of our plan to do that. It's part of an almost $200-million initiative we have. We've put investments into smaller class sizes from kindergarten to grade 3 and more money for literacy specialists, training for teachers, more teachers for the early grades and more resources in the classroom for early literacy initiatives.
This is part of that investment, and this piece is dedicated to those schools that have been having the most challenge meeting the grade 3 testing standards over the last two or three years. In our consultations with the sector, they thought some intensive support for that family of schools would be helpful, so we are indeed doing that.
Mr Mazzilli: Minister, my understanding is that besides the 16 schools that were selected in the first year, there will be additional schools selected in the upcoming two years, yet it won't include every school in Ontario. Can you tell me how all of Ontario's students will benefit from the new selections?
Hon Mrs Ecker: First of all, all elementary schools are benefiting from these initiatives through the investments in smaller class sizes from kindergarten to grade 3, the investments in early literacy and also the investments for the early reading strategy. All schools are benefiting from that funding.
We've asked all schools to set improvement goals for grade 3 reading over the next three years, to put in place improvement teams to do that. And for the small number of schools that have been struggling the most, we're putting intensive support in for those particular schools, to assist them in helping their teachers teach their children better, to meet the standard. The best practices and the experience we're gaining in those schools is going to be available for all of our elementary teachers across the province.
This responds to best practices in other jurisdictions, it responds to what the research shows will improve student learning, and that's why we've made these investments and are moving forward.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Thunder Bay-Atikokan): My question is for the Minister of Health. Minister, Jill Dean is a profoundly deaf child. She has had a measure of hearing and a certain capacity for speech restored to her through a cochlear implant. This wonderful development has necessitated 29 visits to an audiologist over seven years. The cost to Jill's parents under your new plan for audiology services would have been $1,740.
Minister, you should know that Jill's parents already manage significant costs to travel 800 kilometres to the implant centre and to pay for new speech and hearing devices. Now they have to pay for every reassessment of her hearing. Many families could not bear the burden of these new costs, not even for something as important as their children's hearing. I ask, will you reverse your decision and let audiologists work with children like Jill Dean at no cost to their families?
Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): Let me assure this House that certainly those kinds of procedures are still listed under OHIP. They are still available under our health plan. They are available either via the hospital or via the medical specialist.
I don't know the particular circumstances of the individual the honourable member is mentioning, but we can certainly provide that information to her directly.
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): Order. The Minister of Health.
Hon Mr Clement: I believe I completed my remarks, Mr Speaker.
Mrs McLeod: Minister, put the facts on the table. You've set out to save $50 million by removing some services from basic health coverage. That's a fact. The other fact is, you're expecting to save $7 million by charging children and seniors for hearing tests. The other fact is that you would rather spend that money fighting the audiologists in court than using that money to protect children's and seniors' hearing.
Minister, I have dozens of letters from families and seniors who have exactly the same concerns as the parents of Jill Dean. I also have a letter that was written back in 1993 by the then assistant deputy minister of health, Margaret Mottershead, providing an assurance that if government went ahead and delisted audiology services so that you were no longer paying for them through the OHIP schedule, you would provide alternate funding. Your ministry had intended to do this; they knew how to do it. Why did you, Minister Clement, decide that you would not provide the funding for hearing assessments for children and seniors?
Hon Mr Clement: The facts of the matter are that this is a procedure that is still listed under OHIP. It is still available by medical specialists and audiologists working with medical specialists. It's still available in hospitals and other treatment centres. Those are the facts.
I find it quite passing strange, if I can use that term, that the honourable member lifts a piece of paper up dealing with something in 1993. If the honourable member wants to compare records on how we are committed to health care, to the right kind of health care, to the right kind of people, I will put our record against her record in government any day of the week.
You closed 10,000 hospital beds. You kept the hospitals open; you closed the beds. You call that a health care policy. I call that a shame and a blight on the people of Ontario. You should be ashamed of yourself.
OAK RIDGES MORAINE
Mr Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and it relates to the issue of the Oak Ridges moraine. For years now, successive governments of all political stripes have studied the issue of development on the Oak Ridges moraine. The previous Liberal government commissioned a study, to their credit, but ended up doing nothing by way of legislation. To the credit of the previous NDP government, they also commissioned a report but never did bring in legislation. Development applications have continued to be approved on the Oak Ridges moraine, without a comprehensive framework of provincial policy.
To your credit, Minister, and to the credit of this government, you introduced legislation to freeze development approvals on the moraine, a clear signal that at least this government would deal with this issue once and for all. That freeze is scheduled to be lifted on November 17. Can you tell us when can we expect to see the proposed legislation?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'd like to thank the member for the question. As he mentioned, we appointed the advisory panel because this House unanimously approved legislation dealing with the Oak Ridges moraine for a six-month time out to try to see if we could reach a consensus on what should be protected and what should be developed, and to see if that could be achieved.
The member correctly referenced that people have been arguing about this issue for a generation now. The advisory panel worked very hard over the summer. They built upon the region's and the conservation authority's public forums, they held numerous public forums themselves, and they came out with a document entitled Share Your Vision for the Oak Ridges Moraine. They consulted on that with a number of open houses.
Right now, in answer to the question, we are analyzing that input to see if they have found a reasonable course to move forward at this time.
Mr Klees: With the lifting of the freeze a mere five weeks away, that doesn't leave a lot of time for members of this House, for members of the public and for stakeholders to provide input to whatever the proposed legislation is that you'll be bringing forward. Can you give us your assurance that this House will see that legislation in sufficient time so we can have reasonable input, so stakeholders can provide you with their views on implementation issues and so the public can have an opportunity to review that proposed legislation, so that it will in fact be meaningful and effective?
Hon Mr Hodgson: It is a good question, and I would like to report that over August and September extensive consultations were held with stakeholders and the public on the future of the Oak Ridges moraine based on the advisory group's report. Approximately 2,100 people attended the public meetings. A total of 165 stakeholders attended four workshops held by the interministerial team, and it has been posted on the EBR Web site for 30 days. To date, we've received about 400 written comments from public stakeholders regarding the future of the moraine.
Prior to the public meetings, the advisory panel incorporated the consultations that were done by the three regions of York, Peel and Durham into the Share Your Vision paper. Certainly the member from Oak Ridges will agree that we have had comprehensive consultation. He referenced the fact that both governments had initiated studies. No action followed up from that, but there were studies that were done. There has been a lot of talk about this issue.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Acting Premier as well. The announcement of your flip-flop on public transit funding was welcome, but people with disabilities are very concerned because they're left out of the public transit equation. Right now, they can't access most public transit across Ontario. For example, only 20% of Toronto's bus routes are even partly accessible. The Ontario Human Rights Commission says that may violate the Human Rights Code. Will you require all new buses to be accessible to the disabled and provide funding accordingly?
Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I would like to thank the member of the third party for the question, because he's right. It was an historic announcement where the province is going to make a tremendous investment to improve our transportation systems in terms of both highways and transit. In the consultations in the Smart Growth sessions that were held across Ontario, we heard that we needed more of both.
The Minister of Transportation will be leading consultations and setting up a GO operating agency to make sure we deliver better transit. Our government has committed $300 million in new funds. Municipalities are looking forward to matching that; they're paying 100% right now. We, as partners -- the municipalities and the province -- are calling on the federal government to live up to the commitment it promised in the red book to match that, three hundred million new dollars year over year for 10 years, to have a $9-billion transit investment in this province. That's tremendous news for this province.
Mr Martin: Minister, I asked what you were going to do to make sure the system was accessible to the handicapped. Your government has repeatedly broken the promise to pass an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Legislation is badly needed. The ability to move around our cities freely is something most of us take for granted. But for people with disabilities, that's far from the reality. This transit announcement is a chance to put your money where your mouth is. Will you require accessible buses, or is your commitment to an Ontarians with Disabilities Act just so much hot air?
Hon Mr Hodgson: The Minister of Citizenship wants to answer this specific part of the question.
Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister of Citizenship, minister responsible for seniors): This government pledged to work co-operatively and consult not only with persons with disabilities in this province but also with AMO and all municipalities. Those discussions have been occurring rather intensively on the part of the Minister of Transportation and myself, as the Minister of Citizenship responsible for bringing in an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, an act we have committed to, which will be on the floor of this Legislature this session, something we've committed to do and will do, something your government failed to do on behalf of Ontario's 1.5 million disabled persons.
Mr Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park): I have a question for the Minister of Education. In the face of the changes to, and mismanagement by your government of, the education system, some 1,900 schools are going to lose their principals over the next five years. Surely the minister has known this. The minister has been aware that the lack of success of this government in schools is chasing away the leadership. The very people who would bring positive learning experiences to students are saying, in the study released by Queen's University, that they're leaving.
Minister, you have not been able to maintain the confidence of educators in this province. I would like you to tell the parents and the students of this province today that you have a plan, that you will make sure something is done to change abruptly the way your education reforms have gone so we don't lose the leadership of our schools in Ontario.
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education, Government House Leader): What the honourable member obviously has missed is that in education, as in health, in business and in many other sectors, we're facing a significant demographic challenge. As the population ages, we have more people retiring than we have coming in in a whole range of areas. Unfortunately, education is no more immune to that than every other sector.
We've done a lot of work with the principals' council and the other two principals' associations, because we quite recognize the importance of principals. They're very key individuals in our schools, key leaders, key managers of our schools, key communicators with our parents. We've been working with the principals' associations through more money for training, more money for supports. For example, we had a specific initiative where we invested money to hire more principals for schools, especially small schools.
So we take the challenge quite seriously. We've been working with them very closely to make sure we have that leadership in our schools.
Mr Kennedy: The answer from the minister is no answer at all. Half of the principals are going to be lost in the next number of years. It's a massive vote of non-confidence in what you're doing. What the study found is that they're leaving at the exact second they're eligible. They won't wait five minutes, because they have no confidence in what you're doing. The minister obviously doesn't wish to be the Minister of Education, doesn't want to work on behalf of students, but maybe she can be brought to listen.
Sandy MacLean is a principal who retired last year from Mowat collegiate. She's the chair of the east regional secondary principals. She says to you, Minister, that she would not have retired if it wasn't for the Harris government.
This is what principals in schools say today, those who have left: until your approach took away support, resources in the schools, gave bigger class sizes, took away a lot of the things that they had to have success, principals were working.
Minister, this is a study. It reaches over 1,000 principals. It represents the actual situation in this province. I give you another opportunity, Minister, to tell us today: what will you be doing?
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I'm afraid the member's time is up. Sorry. The Minister of Education?
Hon Mrs Ecker: It's unfortunate that the honourable member wasn't listening to what I said earlier in terms of the work we're doing with the principals' associations, because we quite recognize the importance of qualified teachers in our classrooms, of qualified principals in our classrooms. That's why we've put additional monies in to support principals, additional training. That's why we've expanded the number of spots in teachers' colleges so that we can start having more people coming in as teachers.
But one of the concerns: I know in Durham region, for example, the school board actually was working with teachers to try to have training positions for more principals, teachers who were interested in moving up the career path, and the biggest barrier to that happening was the local union that said they would blackball any teacher who did that.
So if the honourable member is concerned about this, and I'm assuming he certainly is -- it's an important issue and we need to meet this challenge in our classrooms -- it might have been helpful if he had taken a stand when that union blackballed those teachers who wanted to be principals --
The Speaker: The minister's time is up. New question?
ONTARIO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): My question is for the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. It was a proud day for the entire region of Durham Thursday last as we celebrated the new opening of the Ontario Institute of Technology, a new concept for a university that is to be built on the Durham College site.
It was clear during the ceremonies that the OIT is not only the first new university created in Ontario in more than 40 years, but it is also very unique.
As a former board member for Durham College and a graduate of Durham College, I certainly have an idea of what OIT is going to do for the region of Durham. But, Minister, can you tell my constituents and the members of the assembly what will make the Ontario Institute of Technology such a unique institution?
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, minister responsible for women's issues): I'm pleased to respond to the question from my colleague from Durham. Obviously this innovative and new Ontario Institute of Technology, with an extremely unique mandate to meet the needs of the job market and our economic growth here in this province, will offer a mix of courses, both university and college courses, to ensure that our graduates have the right skills and the knowledge of course to succeed.
The OIT will link the education and the skills training with the demands of the marketplace, and they'll ensure a responsive, timely, up-to-date program. With this seamless transition from college to university right on the campus of Durham College, they will be focusing on the needs of the job market.
It's a very exciting time in the history of our province, and I was proud to be there along with my colleague.
Mr Ouellette: It was indeed a pleasure to join the minister as well as the Minister of Finance, Mr Flaherty, and Mr O'Toole, the member for Durham, whose riding it's actually in, at Durham College last week at the ceremonies. We look forward to seeing them all there in 2003 when the students are expected to arrive.
The institution will serve the needs of the citizens of the region of Durham very well. When you look at the innovative programs that are there that this new university will offer, I'm certain that students from all across Ontario will want to come to study in the region of Durham.
Minister, can you explain what role you see OIT playing in Ontario's broader educational university system?
Hon Mrs Cunningham: I think one of the priorities of our government, and governments across this country, is to address the skills shortages and to ensure that we've got the skilled workforce necessary to attract both the investment and jobs. Durham is one of the fastest-growing regions in our country, both in terms of population and the economy.
When I attended the Council of Ministers of Education for Canada last week, ministers across the country were working to ensure that they've got these innovative new kinds of programs. One of the objectives was a closer working relationship between our colleges, our universities and our apprenticeship training programs.
At Durham, they have been discussing the possibilities of applied degrees in health sciences, nuclear technology and safety, and information technology. They're looking at the shortage and, of course, they're looking at unique programs.
We're very proud that we will have an institution that is, and will be, an even greater national leader along with other colleges' and universities' apprenticeship programs and community-based programs in the province of Ontario.
COMMUNITY CARE ACCESS CENTRES
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Minister, you know that personal safety and security is a concern of all Ontarians and so it is with our seniors, our frail and elderly, and those people who are sick and released from hospitals sicker and quicker than ever before. They need the security that upon being discharged from hospital the community care is there for them, which you promised them when you closed hospitals and shut down beds a number of years ago.
Across the province, $175 million is needed so that our sick and elderly, our frail and elderly, can get the necessary nursing and home care services that we deserve to give them, which will make them secure and safe in their own house. When are you going to ante up the money -- Kitchener-Waterloo is short $12.7 million, York region is short $12 million and Windsor-Essex is short $2.8 million; I could go on and on -- so that the people in those areas can get the necessary services that you promised them and that you're denying them right now? When are you going to ante up the money?
Hon Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Long-Term Care): To the associate Minister of Health.
Hon Helen Johns (Minister without Portfolio [Health and Long-Term Care]): Let me say that this government is committed to the highest quality of health care for the people of Ontario. To show you what this government has done, let me remind you that we have invested an increase of 72% in CCAC funding since 1994-95. That's a substantial average increase across the province, and we've continued to work with CCACs to ensure that they provide the best-quality care.
I also need to remind you that many of the CCACs that you talked about today have a far larger dollars-per-population base than other areas across the province, and we need to look at that to make sure that there's equity all across the province so everyone in the province gets the care that they need and deserve when it comes to community services.
Mr Gerretsen: Minister, you are giving up on our seniors, our elderly and our sick that are released from hospitals. You've got $175 million available for a corporate tax cut right now. It didn't take more than one day to decide to accelerate that corporate tax cut of $175 million. Why didn't you put that money for the hundreds and thousands of people out there that need that help on a day-to-day basis? You've given up on the seniors, and we on this side of the House demand that you immediately restore the funding of $175 million so that those people who are released from hospitals sicker and quicker can be helped today, not tomorrow but today. When are you going to live up to your promise?
Hon Mrs Johns: The member opposite knows as well as I do that there has been no money taken from CCACs across the province. When you compare the base budget last year to the budget of this year, there's an increase across the province.
Let me also tell you that his area of Kingston, for example, has 34% more dollars that they're using to fund CCACs than other areas in the province, and still they can't provide the services. I think we have to ask questions about what some CCACs are doing with their money and what they're not. That's why this government has put a review together. We believe that it's very important to ensure that quality services are being provided in every area. That's why we went into Hamilton, for example, and did an operational review, because we knew that services weren't being given to the people of Ontario. We're continuing to do that because we believe that quality services and community --
The Speaker (Hon Gary Carr): I'm afraid the member's time is up.
MENTAL ILLNESS AWARENESS WEEK
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): My question is also directed to the associate Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Minister, as you are aware, this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of recognizing the significance of this designated week and what it stands for. For many years, mental illness was a disease that, quite frankly, people were afraid to discuss. For many reasons, some quite irrational, people did not feel comfortable or have the ability to speak about it freely. Many Ontarians who suffered from mental illness had limited information on how to get help.
Minister, you mentioned yesterday in your statement that it's essential that the stigma of mental illness end. It is important to create an environment where it is acceptable to discuss and to seek information, treatment and support for mental illness. It is equally important to have these services and treatments available at every stage of life and as close to home as possible.
Can you please indicate what our government has been doing to create successful mental health reform?
Hon Helen Johns (Minister without Portfolio [Health and Long-Term Care]): I'd like to thank the member from Northumberland for his question. This is a really important question because each of us knows that one out of four Ontarians is struck with some form of mental illness. So it's very important for us during this Mental Illness Awareness Week to talk about mental illness, to talk about how we can move to mental health and to help others battle this disease. I called upon all the members of the House to do what they could in their constituency over this week.
Since 1995, this government has been putting additional dollars into mental health services, and we have put in $377 million. What that means is that of the total funding that happens in the province now, we spend about $2.7 billion in mental health. We ensure that we have institutions or the general community facilities to ensure that people can move out into the community. We have homes for special care, mental health homeless initiatives, and we have a lot of programs to ensure that we try to strengthen our mental health in the province of Ontario.
Mr Galt: Thank you for the response. As we're seeing a shift from institutional care to community care, it is indeed necessary that task forces be there to represent and interconnect the various sectors and health care providers. I have great confidence that the mental health implementation task force in my region of central east will bring about the changes needed to ensure that people with serious mental illness have access to a wide range of client-centred services and supports close to home.
Minister, could you please tell us about these nine mental health task forces that have been established to help the Ontario government improve mental health services delivery across the province, including the status of the mental health reform implementation task force, its time limits and how much our government is investing in them?
Hon Mrs Johns: I'd like to thank the member for the question. I'd like to say that there's a commitment, I'm sure on all sides, to mental health, even though there is a large rumble in the Legislature today. Let me remind people that the Premier went to talk to the task force representatives from each of the different regions to talk about his commitment to mental health and mental reform. He did quite a good job. He reinforced at that time the need for these task forces to take into account local considerations, to tell us what they needed in their own communities so we could strengthen the network all across the province of Ontario.
I've had the opportunity to meet many of the task forces, and I have to tell you that as impressive as yours is, Dr Galt, so are all the task forces across the province. We have brought together some of the best people who have education and knowledge about mental health, and they have come together to ensure that when the task forces do their reports, which will happen about 18 months after they begin their initial consultation, they will truly be making a difference to the people of the province.
COLLÈGE DES GRANDS LACS
M. Gilles Bisson (Timmins-Baie James) : Ma question s'adresse à la ministre de la Formation et des Collèges et Universités. Ma question porte sur la fermeture du Collège des Grands Lacs de Toronto, qui est le seul établissement postsecondaire pour les étudiants francophones du centre et du centre-sud-ouest de l'Ontario.
Lundi dernier, la direction du collège a annoncé officiellement la fin des opérations du Collège des Grands Lacs. Concrètement, cela veut dire que les étudiants de la première année, qui sont la majorité, devront continuer leurs études au Collège Boréal à Sudbury. La plupart d'entre eux ont déjà fait savoir qu'ils ne sont pas intéressés à aller à Sudbury, et ce matin la direction a eu ce message très fort.
Madame la ministre, je demande la question suivante : pouvez-vous nous donner l'assurance que les étudiants pourront compléter leur année cette année-ci à un établissement à Toronto ?
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, minister responsible for women's issues): The students' needs are at the top of the agenda for the members of this Legislative Assembly. There are discussions going on. I wasn't aware of what you've just told me, but I am aware that we are trying to meet the needs of the students, and we will meet the needs of the students.
As I said to the member yesterday, we do know that we have initiated discussions with Collège Boréal. If there are plans where the students can finish their education right here in Toronto, which was my understanding, then of course I think what he's saying is that everyone will be happy. But if there are other arrangements that have to be made, they will be made with the students, working with the officials, to make sure they get what they need; in fact, to have the best education as francophones in the province of Ontario.
M. Bisson : Madame la ministre, ce qui est important, je pense, entre les deux, c'est d'être d'accord sur les besoins des étudiants. Et le besoin des étudiants, c'est non seulement l'éducation en français mais de s'assurer qu'ils font cette éducation ici à Toronto.
Justement, comme vous le savez, le Collège des Grands Lacs a un nombre d'étudiants qui sont venus de l'Europe. Ils ont payé 12 000 $ pour venir faire leurs études ici à Toronto. Nous, la province de l'Ontario, on les a attirés à venir ici. Pour nous autres de dire tout à coup, après tout ces arrangements que les étudiants ont faits, « Allez-vous-en à Sudbury, » c'est suffisant, je pense. C'est quelque chose qui n'est pas acceptable pour nous dans la province de l'Ontario. Mais, plus important, ça envoie le méchant message aux étudiants en Europe.
Je vous demande de prendre les étapes suivantes : premièrement, on a besoin d'assurer que les étudiants continuent leur éducation ici à Toronto. Si ce n'est pas fait sous le Collège des Grands Lacs, on demande au moins que le Collège Boréal opère un satellite ici à Toronto pour s'assurer que ces élèves ont l'opportunité de finir leur éducation ici à Toronto, soit sous la titulaire du Collège des Grands Lacs, ou sous le Collège Boréal.
Hon Mrs Cunningham: It's my understanding that it is Collège Boréal that is working with the administration of Grands Lacs, and I'm definitely listening to the member. I think others will be reading what his question is. The focus is going to be on what the students need, and I'm sure that we can meet the requirements of both the students and Collège Boréal as they work along with Collège des Grands Lacs. We're all interested in the same bottom line.
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