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Ontario Hansard - 19-February2015

PRIVATE MEMBERS’ PUBLIC BUSINESS

PROTECTING INTERNS AND CREATING A LEARNING ECONOMY ACT, 2015 / LOI DE 2015 SUR LA PROTECTION DES STAGIAIRES ET LA CRÉATION D’UNE ÉCONOMIE D’APPRENTISSAGE

Ms. Sattler moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 64, An Act to amend the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act and the Employment Standards Act, 2000 / Projet de loi 64, Loi modifiant la Loi sur le ministère de la Formation et des Collèges et Universités et la Loi de 2000 sur les normes d’emploi.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.

Ms. Peggy Sattler: I’m very pleased to rise today in this House, on behalf of the people I represent in London West, to speak to Bill 64, the Protecting Interns and Creating a Learning Economy Act.

Some of you will know that before I was elected, I was director of policy at a research firm that specialized in post-secondary education. Since my election, and in particular since taking on the critic role for training, colleges and universities, I’ve been given an opportunity that few policy researchers have been given before: a chance to put policy into practice, to draw on my own research, to inform legislative change and shape the public debate.

This private member’s bill is based on findings from a research study I led for the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario between 2010 and 2013, which involved surveys of more than 10,000 Ontario students, 3,600 faculty and a telephone survey of 3,300 randomly selected Ontario employers. As well as being evidence-based, my bill is also strongly supported by stakeholders across the post-secondary labour market and economic development sectors. I’m very proud to have had the support of those stakeholders in developing and refining this bill.

I want to particularly thank and recognize three of those stakeholders who joined me here this morning at a media conference: Claire Seaborn from the Canadian Intern Association, Naguib Gouda from Career Edge, and Peggy Jarvie from the University of Waterloo, the world’s largest co-op provider, who joined me here this morning and Claire and Naguib are in the gallery to support my bill.

The purpose of Bill 64 is to expand high-quality work-integrated learning programs for post-secondary students and end the proliferation of exploitative, unpaid internships.

Work-integrated learning is the umbrella term for co-ops, internships, field placements, practicums and other kinds of work-experience programs that are offered at Ontario colleges and universities. They can be mandatory or voluntary, they can last a few days or up to a year, but the important thing is that they are integrated into a student’s program of study and include a strong pedagogical component, enabling the student to critically reflect on his or her workplace experience.

By providing more opportunities for post-secondary students to gain relevant work experience while they are studying, my bill will help reduce unethical and often illegal unpaid internships that exploit graduates’ desperation to get career-related experience after they finish school, and simply provide free labour for employers. Too many graduates feel that an unpaid internship is the only hope they have of getting a job in their field. They know that work experience matters and is perhaps the most important factor in determining whether they’ll be able to get a job.

As Ontario continues to struggle from the recession, youth unemployment remains higher today than it was in 2007, and young people face significant barriers entering the labour market. One in five young people who are not working today has never held a job, and that includes increasing numbers of post-secondary graduates. This creates a vicious cycle of “can’t get a job without experience and can’t get experience without a job.”

To address this crisis, business organizations like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Conference Board of Canada are leading the call for a much greater focus on post-secondary work-integrated learning programs. Last October, the chamber urged government, education providers and employers to work together to allow more students to reap the benefits of work-integrated learning. Progressive think tanks like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have made similar recommendations, urging much greater use of innovative work-integrated learning programs to address youth joblessness.

There are two parts to my bill. The first schedule is about college and university work-integrated learning programs, and the second schedule is about unpaid internships.

Schedule 1 brings together students, post-secondary institutions and employers, as well as stakeholders from the economic development and labour market sectors in a provincial advisory council on work-integrated learning.

The council’s mandate is to make recommendations to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities on how to engage more employers in providing paid work-integrated learning experiences; how to improve oversight of unpaid work-integrated learning and better support post-secondary institutions to deliver quality work experiences; and how to ensure that qualified students are able to access these programs across faculties and fields of study. By increasing the number of paid opportunities, students will be able to earn while they learn, helping to offset tuition fees that are higher in Ontario than in any other province.

Finally, the bill defines work-integrated learning and establishes criteria to ensure quality workplace programs. This is a response to concerns that are raised when students on placement are asked to do filing or similar menial tasks, work that does not provide any educational benefit to the student and simply offsets payroll costs for the employer.

Section 2 of my bill amends the Employment Standards Act to protect students in work-integrated learning programs and prevent illegal unpaid internships. Currently, the Employment Standards Act does not apply to secondary or post-secondary students who are doing work experience, and it also doesn’t apply to individuals who are receiving training that meets six very narrow conditions. While the Premier and the Minister of Labour have said publicly that this is enough to prevent unpaid internships, unpaid interns know better. Too many employers are using the training exemption to avoid paying their interns, regardless of whether the conditions for exemption are met. Just take a look at Kijiji or Craigslist or Reddit, and you’ll see hundreds of ads for unpaid positions.

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New Democrats strongly supported the legislation that was passed in the fall that brought these groups under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to allow students and trainees the right to refuse unsafe work. We believe, however, that more is needed to protect students in work-integrated learning programs.

Under my legislation, secondary and post-secondary work-experience students and trainees will be covered by basic Employment Standards Act protections, such as limits on hours of work, guaranteed breaks, leaves of absence and vacation days. They will continue to be exempt from the minimum wage provisions of the ESA, which is exactly the model that is in place right now in the Alberta Employment Standards Code.

In addition, my bill introduces new requirements to ensure that employers aren’t illegally using unpaid interns to do the jobs of paid staff. Like many of you, I was shocked to learn last summer that a Ministry of Labour enforcement blitz found that 42% of employers with interns were not meeting their legal responsibilities under the Employment Standards Act.

My bill takes proactive measures to protect interns by requiring the publication of a poster about interns’ rights to be posted conspicuously in Ontario workplaces, and requiring employers to provide written notice to both the intern and the ministry about conditions of work and whether the act applies. This will allow the collection of data on the extent of internships in Ontario, which is a huge gap in our knowledge and something we simply do not have access to right now.

Finally, the bill creates a clear and transparent system to allow anonymous and third party complaints about contraventions of the act. Right now, we have unpaid interns who fear that if they report their employer for a violation of their rights under the Employment Standards Act, they will be blacklisted from ever being able to get into the career, which is why they were doing an unpaid internship in the first place.

Economists know that unpaid internships are bad for the economy. They privilege those who can afford to work for free, who have families who are able to financially support them. Employers who rely on unpaid interns as their talent pipeline risk losing out on an enormous pool of potential talent because they are excluding those who can’t afford to work for free.

This legislation is critical to my riding of London West, a region that has been hard hit by the collapse of the manufacturing sector but is home to two of the largest and finest post-secondary institutions in Ontario: Western and Fanshawe. Our young people in London are bearing the brunt of the recession. There was an 11.2% decline in the proportion of youth who were employed in London between 2007 and 2014, a decrease greater than any other Ontario city.

We recognize that our economic success relies on our ability to attract and retain young talent, and there is no better retention strategy than making sure there are jobs for graduates after they complete their diploma or degree.

The evidence is clear. Local employers who invest in training paid co-op students or interns are very likely to offer employment after the work placement ends, which keeps jobs in our community. It connects young people to the employers and the workplaces where they’ve done their placements.

This week, the government launched a review of the Employment Standards Act and indicated that they were interested in knowing what kinds of changes need to be made to protect precarious workers. What better place to start than with unpaid interns who are perhaps among the most precarious and most vulnerable workers in our province?

It’s time to end the exploitation of young people in illegal, unpaid internships. It’s time to create a better system of oversight for students who are doing work placements through their post-secondary or secondary school of study, and it’s time to give trainees and students the basic workplace protections that we all have and they deserve.

Ontario students need more opportunities to gain relevant workplace experience while they are studying so they don’t feel compelled to take an unpaid internship after they graduate. This bill will make a huge difference for people in my riding of London West and across this province, and I urge all MPPs on all sides of the House to support this legislation.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mrs. Marie-France Lalonde: I would like to thank the member from London West for bringing forward this bill and for her concerns around internship and the importance of experiential learning in Ontario. I’ll be sharing my time with the member from Davenport.

As a previous employer, I understand the benefits of working with students, both in high school and in post-secondary. At Portobello Manor, I had the opportunity to work with a variety of students working towards becoming nurses, personal support workers, recreation leaders and even chefs. Because of this experience, I realized the importance of hands-on work in preparing students for their future careers.

As an employer, the responsibility of properly filling out paperwork, caring for the students’ well-being and providing livable conditions was always important to ensure that interns and co-op students remained engaged, healthy and safe. This was not a burden when weighed against the benefits of mutual growth.

Our government is interested in taking a more in-depth look at this private member’s bill presented by the member of London West. I am sure that we can all agree with the overall objective of protecting interns and creating more opportunities for experiential learning.

Je suis certaine que nous pouvons tous nous entendre sur le fait que tout travail mérite une compensation financière.

There is a narrow exemption in the Employment Standards Act for co-op students, trainees and the self-employed. This exemption is for accredited university and college programs to give their students valuable workplace experience while pursuing their degree. These rules have been in force for many years, and our government has been active in terms of increasing awareness.

J’ai toujours trouvé que pour mieux profiter des programmes d’alternance travail-études et de stages, il est nécessaire que l’employeur laisse la chance aux étudiants de vraiment vivre l’expérience pratique de leur travail. Il ne faut pas seulement leur donner les tâches subalternes, mais plutôt créer un environnement où le dialogue et l’exploration sont possibles. Ceci apportera le meilleur résultat pour l’étudiant ainsi que pour l’employeur.

With Ontario’s youth unemployment and underemployment rates, it is important for our government and institutions to concentrate on work-integrated learning. The hands-on approach to education allows students to learn in the environment of their future career and to get acquainted with the realities and practice of their chosen field.

It is important not only to look at what needs improvement, but also to acknowledge the positive actions that have been taken.

In recent years, Ontario’s universities and colleges have increasingly started offering a variety of experiential learning opportunities to combine traditional classroom teaching methods with hands-on collaborative activities. They have partnered with industry, professions and government to enhance students’ post-secondary experience.

An innovative and exciting business which I had the pleasure to meet with a few months ago has demonstrated a serious desire to help the employees of the future. GasTOPS, which stands for Gas Turbines and Other Propulsion Systems, works closely with Carleton University’s aerospace engineering program and brings in around five students every year for co-ops. This helps train the next generation of high-calibre professionals in the field and allows students to gain real experience in their domain.

La Cité, située à Ottawa, sert aussi d’exemple en tant qu’établissement d’enseignement postsecondaire qui se préoccupe des carrières futures de ses étudiants. À La Cité, il y a deux types de stages à faire : les stages en milieu pratique et les stages en milieu coopératif. Ces stages offrent aux étudiants une précieuse expérience en milieu de travail.

Pour notre part, le gouvernement travaille étroitement avec le Conseil des universités de l’Ontario pour offrir de l’appui aux 40,000 étudiants en placement coop dans nos établissements d’enseignement postsecondaire.

We have also expanded the 30% Off Ontario Tuition Grant to cover the final year for students who are enrolled for five years due to co-op programs. This not only gives an additional $1,780 in financial support, but also the incentive to take the time to develop practical skills while pursuing post-secondary education.

This expansion means that there can be more integration of students in the workplace and they will have a better understanding of their options after graduation.

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Another initiative of the government is the Productivity and Innovation Fund, which supports a number of projects that are redesigning courses to have more experimental learning opportunities for post-secondary students. We know that employers are not simply looking for candidates with credentials such as certificates and diplomas, but the ability to thrive in the hands-on work that is done.

En tant qu’adjointe parlementaire au ministre du Développement économique, je sais très bien que l’Ontario a besoin d’une main-d’oeuvre hautement qualifiée pour réussir dans le contexte d’une économie de l’avenir. Avec la mise en oeuvre de plus de programmes d’apprentissage par l’excellence et avec la collaboration entre le gouvernement, les établissements d’enseignement postsecondaires et les industries, nous pouvons atteindre nos objectifs et ainsi créer un climat favorable afin de permettre une meilleure compréhension et une meilleure synergie entre les étudiants et la main-d’oeuvre.

We’re always open to hearing what we can do to protect our vulnerable workers, and look forward to debate on this bill.

Merci.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Rick Nicholls: It’s my pleasure to rise this afternoon and to add to the debate for Bill 64, An Act to amend the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act and the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

A previous version of this bill was then known as Bill 172. It was introduced into the Legislature during the previous session and was in fact the member from London West’s first private member’s bill.

Schedule 2 of the bill deals with the protection of interns and vulnerable workers, and this portion of the bill was introduced by the former member for Davenport in the last session as Bill 170.

It’s incredibly important that we are discussing these sorts of issues right here in the Legislature.

With Ontario’s economy reeling under the so-called steady hand of this Liberal government, which is currently embroiled in three ongoing OPP investigations, more and more young Ontarians are having difficulty entering the workforce, even with post-secondary education. My riding, Chatham–Kent–Essex, and the surrounding area have lost over 10,000 jobs in the past decade. We have been incredibly hard hit by the job losses that have been characteristic of this government’s reign. But among the hardest hit by Ontario’s fragile economy are our province’s youth. More and more young Ontarians are pursuing college and university educations, and that is certainly a positive trend. However, youth unemployment remains troublingly high. We must ensure that young people of this province not only have an opportunity to attend post-secondary education, but are also ready to step into the workforce.

Right now, my Chatham constituency office is interviewing to have a co-op student from a high school in my riding who is interested in politics in order to give that student the experience that they need. We’ve never had a co-op student in the office before, but we were recently approached by the school due to the student’s enthusiasm to gain expertise and experience. These sort of real-world learning opportunities are invaluable.

Prior to politics, Speaker, in my training and development company, I actually had several co-op students working with me to gain that valuable experience. It was always my goal for these students to leave feeling that they had made a difference and picked up real-world experience. I’ve actually given many motivational talks to co-op students in preparing them for the workforce from the perspective of an employer’s point of view.

Just this week, St. Clair College down in my area hosted a private job fair at their main campus in Windsor for industrial mechanics students which featured 25 local employers. St. Clair College also has a beautiful campus in Chatham. The college has hosted these types of fairs for a number of years in an effort to help put their graduates into the workforce. This helps the school attract future students who look at the employment rates of graduates, and of course it makes a world of difference for students who are able to transition into a job more easily.

St. Clair College’s chair of skilled trades, Rob Chittim, was quoted by Blackburn News just today about the initiative, and I quote: “We hear the negative all the time of the largest rate of unemployment in the country, here in Windsor, and the largest rate of unemployment for 18-to-30-plus-year-olds.” He also said that 80% of St. Clair College’s students in the pre-apprenticeship programs—clearly the college is offering an excellent program that is delivering results for its students.

However, not all work-integrated learning programs are created equal. All too often, we hear of the horror stories from students who claim their work activities are simply performing menial and unpaid routine tasks that do not add relevance or best practice experience for future employment.

Schedule 1 of Bill 64 addresses these concerns. By amending the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act to include a definition of “work-integrated learning,” some structure will be added to the process.

The bill states, “(c) in the case of a co-operative education work term, a job description for the work term has been approved by the post-secondary institution, or, in the case of any other work placement, the work, the learning outcomes and the extent of supervision are agreed to in writing by the post-secondary institution, the employer and the participant before the work placement begins.”

By requiring a college or university, the employer and students to essentially get it in writing ahead of time, it’s more likely that all parties will receive true value from the work-integrated learning program.

The bill goes on to say, “(d) in the case of a co-operative education work term, the work is consistent with the approved job description, or, in the case of any other work placement, the work is consistent with the agreed learning outcomes.”

This requirement will help to ensure that students are in fact given the opportunity—the learning opportunity—that they signed up for, instead of finding themselves performing work that is of little relevance to their area of study or their career ambitions.

Schedule 1 would also establish an advisory council on work-integrated learning that would report directly to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. The mandate of this council is to advise the minister on issues regarding work-integrated learning in general.

While we’re concerned that this council could simply become just another voice among the sea of advisory panels that are often ignored by this government, this panel has the opportunity to make post-secondary school education in Ontario stronger. It also has the potential to use taxpayer dollars with little end result or benefit. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that the minister will actually listen.

The last thing we want to see is the creation of yet another report that collects dust on the shelf in a minister’s office. The Liberal government has a rich history of completely ignoring reports or picking and choosing from recommendations based on, perhaps, political expediency. Their disregard for the Drummond report comes to mind, and surely the generation of that report must have cost the province’s taxpayers a fair amount of money. We support the goal of the council, but our lack of confidence in this government has us concerned about its ultimate efficacy, or in other words, the ability to bring about change.

Another problem area that the bill seeks to address is the decentralized nature of information about work-integrated programs. Currently, employers who are interested in participating in work-integrated learning programs such as co-ops must contact individual institutions to see which programs are available. While this set-up works for many employers, it could certainly be more efficient.

Bill 64 also calls for the creation of a website for sharing information about available opportunities. Importantly, this would provide information regarding the supports and resources available to employers interested in participating in these programs.

Speaker, for many employers, cost is a deterrent for participating in work-integrated learning programs. If information is hard to find, one cannot expect a business to go out of its way to look for it. It’s hard enough for businesses to keep their doors open in this province after over a decade of disastrous financial mismanagement by the Liberal government. We must make it easier, not harder, for interested businesses to participate in valuable work-integrated learning programs.

One of the other goals of this bill is to ensure that no student enrolled in a post-secondary program that includes a work-integrated learning program is denied the opportunity to take part. Essentially, the member for London West argues that if a student has the grades and meets the criteria, they should be able to benefit from work-integrated learning. This is a noble goal, but it may be more of an ideal goal rather than a practical one. More must be done to ensure our students are able to enter the workforce with job-ready experience, and aspiring to this goal will certainly help.

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In 2013, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance produced a policy paper addressing youth employment concerns. Now, Speaker, I’ve met with student representatives from this group on several occasions, as well as other student advocacy groups and other stakeholders, to discuss the challenges facing Ontario’s youth as they step into a very rocky economy. One of their recommendations called for an anonymous reporting system whereby unpaid internships suspected to be in breach of regulations can be identified. Members of this House, and certainly members of the opposition, know the importance of whistle-blowers. Without the courage of whistle-blowers, we may have never learned about the Ornge air ambulance scandal.

One of the biggest concern about this issue goes beyond the scope of this bill. Our caucus is incredibly concerned over the lack of a jobs plan from this government. No matter how work-ready the youth of Ontario are, if there are no jobs for them to pursue after they graduate, it will be of little help. This government must recognize that our province is experiencing a jobs crisis and our youth are suffering because of it. Hundreds of thousands of Ontarians are out of work today, and more must be done to get this province back to work.

Speaker, on the issue of unpaid internships, perhaps there could be something other than just paying these students. Something could be done to help, perhaps, offset some of the costs that they incur. I’ll give an example of one that comes to mind: perhaps providing them with transportation so they can get to and from, or letting them know about dress codes so they can buy nice suits, like the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport has.

Again, salaries sometimes come with problems. But you know what? For example, TAs earn between perhaps $10,000 and $15,000 a year. That was never intended to be a salary that they could live on. So perhaps what we need to do is find more ways to be more creative to compensate these students.

In conclusion, it’s my sincere hope that more jobs will, in fact, start to be created here so that our best and brightest will no longer be forced to move to other provinces or states to find gainful employment.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It was a pleasure to address this bill.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I want to start by saying how very, very proud I am to stand in support of the member for London West’s private member’s bill that will help end illegal unpaid internships and bring meaningful work-integrated learning opportunities to the young people of Ontario. I want to commend the tireless effort of the MPP for London West in this regard, as well as, in fact, one of our colleagues at the federal House, the member for the riding of Davenport, the MP named Andrew Cash. He has been working on some of these issues as well, and they have been making a fantastic team.

There are other folks who have been involved in this effort, Speaker, and I think it’s important to acknowledge the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, the Canadian Federation of Students, and advocates, like Andrew Langille, who have been fighting to end the exploitation of vulnerable interns in this province.

The unfortunate thing is that the Premier really hasn’t lifted a finger to fix this problem. Her Liberal government is failing miserably when it comes to supporting students and young Ontarians who are struggling to get a start in the work world. A whole generation, in fact, is facing a future without a lot of options these days. They’re not just seeing the kind of opportunities, frankly, that many of us saw when we were in their shoes, the kind of opportunities that their parents saw back in the day. Those opportunities just don’t seem to be there for folks.

I’m not talking just as the leader of the Ontario New Democrat Party. I have a son who’s part of that generation. He has also been someone who has seen post-secondary education costs skyrocket in the last couple of years as so many young people have been struggling with that issue. In fact, his generation is paying the highest post-secondary tuition fees in the entire country. Not only will they graduate with the most debt, but they will also have the fewest employment opportunities in Ontario’s history. It’s a sad commentary on the lack of effectiveness of this Liberal government.

The lucky few may graduate to find paid work where they can apply the skills they’ve learned while they were in school, but that’s, unfortunately, the lucky few. The sad truth is that many will be lucky to find any minimum wage job, and many of them will end up, for example, in the service industry. We know that’s what happens these days.

More and more graduates are bogged down with education debt. They’re stuck in their parents’ basements because they simply cannot afford to find a place of their own. A fact that the government would rather sweep under the rug as well is that as many as two thirds of Ontario students aren’t even eligible for the Liberals’ tuition grant that has been touted by the members across the way. The bottom line is, many, many kids don’t actually qualify to receive that tuition grant.

The official youth unemployment rate, as people in this chamber probably know, is nearly 15% right now. That’s double what the provincial average is in terms of unemployment for everyone else. Students and new grads are one of the fastest-growing groups of people using food banks in this province. What kind of sad commentary is that on the situation here in the province of Ontario: that students and young people, recent graduates, are the fastest-growing users of food banks? It is quite something to be horrified by. I hope the Liberals are paying attention.

The reality is that, to add insult to injury, because there is no oversight and no accountability for employers in this province, many of them are taking advantage of these desperate young people, people who are desperate for opportunities. Too often, young workers are forced, if they want to get any kind of experience whatsoever, to provide their labour for free—another practice that the Liberals have allowed to proliferate here in Ontario.

Too often, the entry-level jobs that once existed in Ontario are now unpaid, illegal internships. Young people aren’t asking for the moon; they’re just asking for a fair chance to be valued and respected and compensated for their skills and their labour. They deserve that respect. That’s the very least they deserve.

They expect that the government of Ontario will protect their rights to earn a living instead of protecting the interests of, in some cases, very exploitative corporations and employers.

With the member from London West’s private member’s bill, New Democrats are actually offering protection for vulnerable workers in this province and some badly needed hope for young people and their families.

I hope this government will set aside its partisan interests and ensure that this bill is actually passed today, and not only that, Speaker; that it actually moves through the legislative process and becomes law in this province. Why? Because we owe it to our children and our grandchildren. We owe it to them to end illegal, unpaid internships in this province, and we owe it to actually update our education system and its connection to work by bringing fairly paid work and work-integrated learning into the province of Ontario.

These initiatives are long past due. We’ve seen too many kids losing hope and unable to make their way in life. That’s unacceptable, and I look forward to all parties passing this legislation today.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mrs. Cristina Martins: I’d like to thank the member from London West for bringing this bill forward—this very important bill. She’s absolutely right that experiential learning opportunities are of significant importance. The on-the-job training these programs provide can have enormous benefits, both for youth and employers.

Co-ops and other work placements give students a chance to understand the ins and outs of the profession they’re pursuing. They provide exposure to the work environment at some of the companies that the students are interested in.

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Experiential learning also gives employers a chance to develop the skill sets that are needed in their field and see how well their student employees fit in with the company. Students who graduate with work experience seem to have an advantage, an extra edge academically and professionally. Indeed, some companies end up hiring the students they have employed in co-op programs after graduation.

I agree with the member from London West, and our government agrees, that these programs are of vital importance. I myself participated in a paid placement or co-op program when I was a student at Ryerson in the applied chemistry and biology program. While I had my colleagues, my friends at U of T, reading about high-performance liquid chromatography, a technique used in analytical chemistry, I was actually using a high-performance liquid chromatography instrument in my placement.

I know that our government is working hard to engage stakeholders and hear their feedback on Bill 64, a process that we began back before the 2014 election when this bill was first introduced. We are already working closely with the Council of Ontario Universities and with Colleges Ontario, two groups specifically mentioned in Bill 64 as members of the proposed advisory council on work-integrated learning. We do this in order to support the 40,000 co-op students at post-secondary institutions across the province. Moreover, our Productivity and Innovation Fund supports a number of projects across the province to include more co-op and work-integrated learning opportunities for our post-secondary students.

Again, this bill is in line with the government’s perspective on experiential learning, and I certainly agree with providing more provisions to protect co-op students, interns and other vulnerable workers. It’s important to note some of the work our government has already been doing on this important issue.

In November, just five months after we came back, following the June election, Bill 18, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, received royal assent. This bill pays particular attention to co-op students. It ensures that they receive the workplace health and safety protections that are laid out in the Employment Standards Act.

The Ministry of Labour has also been using social media to reach out to help everyone, including young workers, understand their rights under the Employment Standards Act. I know that the Ministry of Labour recently invested an additional $3 million in proactive enforcement, with a special focus on cracking down on unpaid internships across a variety of sectors.

All of this is to say that many of the policies in Bill 64 build on the government’s vision that if you perform work for someone, you’re covered by the Employment Standards Act and you deserve to be paid.

There is a narrow exemption for co-op students, trainees and self-employed that has been on the books for many years and is intended to allow accredited post-secondary programs to give their students valuable work experience. But it seems that Bill 64 speaks positively to this point as well, and aims to increase paid work placements for students, similar to the one I participated in as a student.

Indeed, the bill’s proposed advisory council on work-integrated learning would—and here I’m quoting from the bill—“advise the minister with respect to ways to increase work-integrated learning opportunities, particularly paid opportunities” and “make recommendations for improving the regulation and oversight of unpaid work-integrated learning opportunities.” I agree that these are valuable goals that deserve our consideration.

The Protecting Interns and Creating a Learning Economy Act also makes a number of valuable points when it comes to the dissemination of information on workplace rights. It proposes that a poster be displayed by employers who have students working for them, and that this document would clearly explicate the rights of the student and obligations of the employer. In the same vein of providing as much information to experiential learners and interns as possible, Bill 64 proposes that trainees who do not meet the definition of “employee” under the Employment Standards Act are given written notice on the following four points: first, the sections of the act that do and do not cover the individual; second, the reasons that the individual is not considered an employee; third, the length of the placement and description of the work to be performed; and fourth, how many hours the individual will be working.

All of these points make sense to me. It’s valuable to ensure that this information is provided to trainees and co-op students, and it’s important that we protect vulnerable workers from exploitation.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m proud that our government has been cracking down on unpaid internships.

Again, I’d like to thank the member from London West for bringing this bill forward. I know that our government is always looking to ensure that we protect Ontario’s vulnerable workers and to increase opportunities for young people to get valuable work experience, as I did.

I’m sure that my colleagues the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities are going to have their staff look at this bill very carefully and will continue to consult with their stakeholders about its content.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member for Kitchener–Waterloo.

Ms. Catherine Fife: It’s a pleasure to stand up in support of Bill 64 from the member from London West.

She believes that research and evidence should inform policy. She believes that the evidence should actually make legislation stronger, and I think that we can all agree that that’s an admirable goal.

There are 300,000 people in Canada who are currently working in unpaid internships. Bill 64 will prevent the exploitation of unpaid internships in Ontario by increasing employment awareness of obligations under the Employment Standards Act.

Earlier today, some you may have seen that Peggy Jarvie, the ED for Co-operative Education and Career Action at the University of Waterloo, was here in support of this bill. That has a lot of weight, Mr. Speaker, because the University of Waterloo is truly a national leader around paid co-operative student learning programs. It is a model that should be replicated across this province and across this country. When I’ve done student round tables at the University of Waterloo, students have told me that because they are paid for their co-operative experiences, this allows them to go to university. So it is very much a program which lends itself to equality.

The value of experiential learning cannot be questioned. The evidence is there. It has already been cited by the member from London West. The value to our economy cannot be questioned either. There is a macroeconomic effect when students are paid in the workforce, which has a trickle-down effect on the entire economy. And if there was ever an economy that needed more assistance, it would be the economy of the province of Ontario.

I want people to remember something. There is a greater weight of responsibility that we have, as legislators in this place, when a piece of legislation like Bill 64 comes before us. Three young people died last year. They were unpaid interns; they were co-operative students. They did not know their rights. They did not know their rights because they were not in a paid position in the province of Ontario. This is a very common issue. This is a worker safety issue.

We want young people to have these experiential learning opportunities. We want them to go to work in the morning and come back to their families at the end of the day. This piece of legislation, if adopted by the Liberal government, would ensure that that actually happens.

There’s a moral responsibility for us to do the right thing today by supporting Bill 64. It obviously has our support. If there was ever an opportunity for us to reach across the aisles and work together, it would be on this piece of legislation.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Taras Natyshak: It is a pleasure to join the debate today. It’s an exciting day for New Democrats, as we have anticipated the introduction of the bill from our colleague the member from London West. I want to congratulate her on her efforts. She has been a champion for young people and for the issue of advocating for unpaid interns and those who find themselves in precarious work positions in the province of Ontario. Unfortunately, she has had to do a lot of work and a lot of consultation.

A lot of data exists on the nature of precarious work in the province of Ontario. Go figure. This economy that is touted by the government to be progressive, innovative and responsive—but, needless to say, there is a glaring gap in our employment standards when it relates to young people and their attempts to join the workforce and labour market entry.

The bill proposed by the member from London West identifies that issue, plugs those holes in the legislation and gives young workers in the province of Ontario an opportunity and hope and a reasonable level of expectation that they will find gainful employment and enter into a career, to be productive members of society.

Some of the most important parts of this bill, which I believe fix some of those issues, are the areas in the Employment Standards Act—those glaring gaps in protection for young people.

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They would seem so reasonable in developed countries that you wouldn’t even expect them to exist in the province of Ontario. However, simply informing members of their rights, informing young workers of their rights as interns and as unpaid workers or co-op students, would be reasonable. That sounds like something we should be doing, although it is not a provision within our Employment Standards Act; something that would be so minuscule in terms of the efforts put forward by the province. And I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the members of the House, that it is the most important part of a young worker’s experience: to enter the work site and know their rights, to know they are protected under occupational health and safety legislation and the Employment Standards Act.

The bill is reasonable in every metric and every scope. It also, of course, codifies work-integrated learning with specific criteria that outline why, and how beneficial it would be to create a pathway for co-op students and post-secondary students to be able to enter the workforce and have gainful employment.

The arguments have been made, well-nuanced. We have submissions and support from some well-recognized organizations that have studied the issue, I believe, to exhaustion. They include the Ontario Undergraduate Students Alliance, the Canadian Federation of Students, Students Against Unpaid Internship Scams and the Canadian Intern Association.

Many stakeholders understand that the time is now to protect young workers in the province of Ontario. These issues are before you. The resolutions are before you. Please accept and understand that this is done in good faith and that you can actually achieve the results that young people and young workers in the province are looking for.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I now recognize the member for London West. You have two minutes for a response.

Ms. Peggy Sattler: I want to sincerely thank all the members who participated in the debate today. It was extremely gratifying to hear the kind of support that exists for this legislation and also the recognition of this issue as one of the most important challenges of our generation in ensuring that we’re not leaving young people behind as we try to move this economy forward.

There were a couple of points that were made that I think deserve to be highlighted. The member for Chatham–Kent–Essex and also the member for Essex talked about the definition of work-integrated learning that is included in the legislation, and that to me is something that is very important.

We don’t simply want our post-secondary institutions to take the job of training our workforce. Our post-secondary institutions have to provide students with meaningful opportunities to gain workplace experience but also to learn. This is not just a training program; this is a learning experience for our students, and we have to make sure that these programs that are brought into post-secondary institutions are high-quality and have a strong pedagogical component.

There was also a reference to anonymous reporting for unpaid interns. This is one of the biggest challenges. Unpaid interns who feel they have to work for free in order to get into the labour market don’t feel that they have an option to report to the Ministry of Labour. The current mechanisms are completely inadequate, completely ineffective, and we need to enable young people to have a mechanism to exert their rights or insist on their rights.

I appreciate all the comments that have been made and look forward to seeing this bill move to legislation.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you very much. We’ll take the vote at the end of private members’ public business.

SERVICE CLUBS


Mr. Jim Wilson: I move that, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Finance should immediately move to have a standing committee investigate the legislative and regulatory barriers and burdens facing service clubs in Ontario who serve their respective communities and conduct ongoing community service which helps alleviate the demand for publicly-funded services.

The committee shall focus on the following topics: (1) financial audits; (2) restrictive regulations surrounding fundraising; (3) taxes and fees; and (4) declining membership.

That the committee shall have the authority to conduct province-wide hearings and undertake research, and generally shall have such powers and duties as are required to investigate the issue.

That the committee shall present an interim report to the House no later than September 1, 2015, and a final report no later than January 1, 2016.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Mr. Jim Wilson: I want to thank the overwhelming number of my colleagues that are here today. It’s an important—

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Huge support.

Mr. Jim Wilson: Thanks, Lou. I know I’m going to get your support too.

We’re here today, colleagues from all sides of the House, to talk about an important issue. It’s an issue that I don’t think has been given enough attention over the years. It’s an issue that I would think this government, in particular, considering the amount of debt that they have, would be keen to address because of the vast benefit these organizations bring to our economy. The issue we’re talking about, of course, is the important role service clubs play in communities across Ontario and the role the government can play to assist these clubs to maximize their full potential. A lot of people think service clubs have the same tax benefits and rules as registered charities. The fact of the matter is, for the most part, they don’t. That’s what I’m going to discuss now.

Centred around such mottos as “Service Above Self,” Rotary; “We Serve,” Lions; “Serving the Community’s Greatest Need,” Kin Canada; “Friend of Youth,” the Optimists; “Serving the Children of the World,” Kiwanis; and “We Share,” Quota International, we can all agree that these service clubs and others bring vast benefits to our communities.

First and foremost, they are social clubs. They bring fellowship and fraternalism to their membership, which in turn strengthens the communities they serve. For young professionals or people who are new to a community, social clubs bring those people together to maximize a community’s potential gain both socially and economically.

Second, beyond fellowship, these volunteer organizations serve the community need. Made up of people who live and breathe in the communities they serve, service club membership best understands their community’s intrinsic values and needs, and fills the fiscal holes that government and other agencies can’t. It’s important to remember that the charitable work that these organizations do helps to alleviate financial burden on government coffers. Governments can’t and shouldn’t pay for everything.

In Ontario, the debt has become the highest in the country. The deficit is more than all other provinces combined. On top of this bleak fiscal reality, population projections are forecast to shift the province to an older age structure, which will certainly bring with it additional financial pressure. According to the Ministry of Finance, Ontario’s senior population is expected to double over the next 25 years.

Ontario already spends 41% of the provincial budget on health care, and according to TD economists, this is projected to increase to 80% by 2030. It’s unsustainable. To prepare for the future, we need to consider alternatives like fostering the working relationships we already have in our communities.

Service clubs relieve the financial burden while providing intrinsic social benefits to the communities they serve. They are a win-win, which is why it is so important that we as legislators make it as easy as possible for them to continue the good work they do in our communities.

I chose to do this motion on service clubs after I hosted a local round table in my riding last April. People from various organizations attended, and frankly, I was surprised to learn about the multitude of issues and challenges they deal with on an ongoing basis that hinder their everyday operations.

Immediately following the meeting, I wrote to the Minister of Finance to articulate as best I could the challenges identified. To date, my records show that I have not received a response, but to give the minister the benefit of the doubt—the issues are complex—I will presume that the government is still thoroughly investigating the matter. I’m also looking forward to hearing from members of the government side and the NDP, and hopefully we’ll get some answers from the government today.

I brought that letter with me today, Mr. Speaker, as it identifies many of the challenges and issues that service clubs face; I’d like to read it into the record.

“April 25, 2014

“Dear Minister:

“I am writing to you today after meeting with local service clubs in my riding concerning a number of issues they have identified that are hindering operations. The main message that came out of the meeting was a concern with the cost of doing business as a result of increased regulations, taxes and fees. Let me briefly touch on each of these issues.

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“The first issue discussed was financial audits. If the service club earns more than $50,000 after expenses on a fundraiser they must pay $4,500 for an audit. If a service club earns less than $50,000, the audit is $450. As a result, service clubs limit their fundraising. Minister, forcing charities to pay nearly 10% of their profit on fees is ridiculous and I question why this $50,000 threshold is not higher and why they are being asked to pay such costly audits.”

“Another problem is unnecessary regulations. At one time, service clubs were allowed to sell tickets out of province and over the phone. Today, regulations restrict these sales, leaving them unable to access the lucrative American market and other provinces. Service clubs also have problems with lottery licences as municipalities limit the number of licences issued at any given time. This inhibits them from working on more than one project.

“A third problem is taxes. Service clubs question why they have to pay so much in tax when they are a charity. For example, on a car raffle they have to pay close to $10,000 in taxes for that vehicle. They are also charged lottery licence fees costing up to $9,000. On top of this, service clubs that own their own building must pay property taxes. You can see how these taxes add up.

“A fourth problem is costs associated with being a volunteer. Directors of the club must have liability insurance. Members must assume the costs of volunteer police checks and many other items. Enticing membership is already a problem for a lot of these groups; the cost of living is making it hard for people to even volunteer. This is a big problem across Ontario.

“Another concern raised was the OLG’s plan for a new casino in the community. The service clubs are concerned that this will take away from their profits. One suggestion was to create a revenue-sharing program, similar to what already exists in Alberta, where the service clubs provide volunteers in the casino and receive a small fraction of profits. I would appreciate it if you would find out more about this option.

“Minister, frankly I was surprised by the amount of issues these clubs identified. It’s important to recognize that these are charities working hard to pay for a variety of projects within our communities. That said, I would appreciate it if you would review these problems and respond. In the meantime, I would ask that you advise what tax exemptions or assistance is available to help service clubs.

“Thank you for your attention and please accept my best wishes.

“Sincerely,

“Jim Wilson, MPP.”

Mr. Speaker, following my decision to draft this motion that’s before us today, I sent a letter and questionnaire to as many service clubs as I could from right across the province, and the response has been tremendous. Over 100 service clubs responded to the questionnaire, many of them representing several service clubs across the district or area. I think that reveals the extent of public interest for changes to be made.

In fact, one letter was from the Lions Club multiple district A, which represents Lions and Lions clubs across Ontario. The multiple district A governors’ council held a special meeting to discuss this motion and passed the following resolution:

“That the governors’ council hereby endorses and supports the resolution presented by Jim Wilson, MPP, Simcoe–Grey, requesting the Ontario Minister of Finance to immediately move to have a standing committee investigate the legislative and regulatory barriers and burdens facing service clubs in Ontario; and further, that council hereby authorizes the MDA secretary to forward said resolution to the Premier of Ontario, the interim leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the leader of the New Democratic Party and the Ontario Minister of Finance.”

Colleagues, I have brought photocopies of all of the responses and I’d like to bring them to Liberal and NDP representatives to use as a reference while working on this issue, and I do that in a non-partisan way.

The questionnaire asked five questions, but because many of the responses mimic the issues and challenges I already touched on in the letter I just read, in the time I have left, Mr. Speaker, I want to focus on the fifth question, “What changes could the provincial government make to better facilitate the outstanding work that you and other service clubs do?” That was the question. Here’s a list of the grassroots suggestions directly from the service clubs.

In terms of regulations, the clubs suggested less administrative burden, particularly for clubs with a proven track record. Some of the clubs note that licensing reporting requirements are required at all levels of government for the same project.

Other clubs suggest implementing a simpler tax system that volunteers can easily navigate. One club noted that the tax department was even baffled by the complexity of the regulations.

The clubs suggest the government review the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp’s dominance in Ontario’s gaming industry and the pressure that it’s putting on clubs. They note the provincial government is both the regulator, through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, and the primary operator, through the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp, often creating unnecessary red tape and duplication.

Clubs want more flexibility. One club described spending months to secure approval for a simple river race of logs and rubber turtles because the guidelines only allow rubber ducks. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission took months to approve the fundraiser. They noted that the approval process for that single application required the approval of the municipality, police, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment.

In terms of taxes and fees, the clubs suggest tax rebates for non-profit organizations, particularly on HST and property taxes, allowing the clubs to utilize a percentage of fundraising towards their administration.

Changes to insurance coverage: Many noted that they often need multiple policies to cover the same event. Service clubs suggest the province give municipalities the ability to grant property tax relief to non-profits, not just registered charities. Also suggested is a tax rebate on the HST. Finally, they would ask that the government make them aware of available grants and programs that might assist them in their daily work.

In terms of recruiting volunteers, service clubs suggest—and I would like to thank the Wasaga Beach Kinette Club for this suggestion—making membership fees tax-deductible or creating tax incentives for volunteers. Other service clubs asked for help with a campaign to promote volunteerism and membership drives.

Keith White from my riding, who’s an honorary Lion and a Legion associate member, along with being a councillor in Essa township, suggests that better training on how to recruit and retain volunteers would benefit many clubs. He suggests simply collecting educational material now available and finding ways to disseminate it across the province.

Another idea was the creation of a provincial service club awards program like apparently they have in Saskatchewan.

I hope it’s clear that there are a number of issues that need further examination. I anticipate that this is only the beginning of an in-depth discussion. My motion asks that the Minister of Finance move to have a standing committee investigate the legislative and regulatory barriers and burdens facing service clubs, and I hope the government will agree to do this today.

I welcome and encourage the support of all members. I realize that this is a complex issue. There are many departments of the government involved, but I think we should get moving on it. We need service clubs now more than ever as we face the challenging fiscal climate we find ourselves in in the province of Ontario.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Wayne Gates: Thank you for allowing me to rise and speak on the motion today. I’m happy to say that I support the motion to call on the Ministry of Finance to look into the complex regulations that surround our service clubs.

As we all know from our constituents, these clubs do great work in our communities. My office in Fort Erie is space that I rent from the Lions Club of Fort Erie, a group that’s done excellent work for seniors in that town. Regardless of income barriers, the Lions Club of Fort Erie reaches out and engages the seniors in that community. I’m proud to say they’ve been welcome in my office with my staff, providing space for seniors to remain active and healthy, engage one another and engage the public in services. They are truly the hub of our communities.

I say all that without even mentioning their fundraisers, which I’m very glad to say I participate in. They cook some of the best food you can find in Ontario and raise money for good causes. If you are ever in my area, I highly recommend stopping at one of our Lions Club’s fundraisers. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

It’s just not the Lions Club that has that kind of community spirit. Service clubs throughout my riding show the same passion. Take, for example, the Ridgeway Kinsmen. They started with a group of 12 members who themselves rebuilt their club and opened a new facility just a couple of weeks ago. I’m proud to say I was there for the club’s opening in Ridgeway. They’ll continue to have my support, including at their breakfast coming up this weekend.

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I’m honoured to speak highly of the Ridgeway Lions from my riding, people who do great work like my friends from Ridgeway, who carry out incredible outreach and put on equally fantastic fundraisers in my riding. I’m really blessed to have such an active and talented group putting on these fundraisers in Niagara.

These aren’t the only service clubs that we should all admire. There are our great Legions across the province. We have a number in my riding. Each are as dedicated as the next. They teach proper respect for our veterans and are never afraid to give back to our communities. I’d like to personally commend the Niagara Falls branches—479, 396 and 51—130 in Fort Erie, 124 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and 230 in Ridgeway, for everything they give back to our veterans and to our community. They support those who fought for us, and we can do our part to support them here in this Legislature, and I’m glad to support them, and I’m sure everybody else here today is.

Mr. Speaker, this is the same of all the clubs: the Kinsmen, the Lions and the Kiwanis clubs, Mr. Wilson talked about the Rotary clubs—we all have Rotary clubs in our areas as well; again, in Niagara Falls, my riding. They’re incredibly respected in our community, both by our constituents and by myself. I’m also glad for the Knights of Columbus as well. My brother-in-law is a member—Andrew Howcroft—and he does great work in the city of Niagara Falls.

These groups all have a mandate to give back to their communities and to make their hometowns and their cities a better place to live. They absolutely embody the spirit of giving back to where one comes from. In the past two years—and this is important for everybody to listen to—these groups have been punching well above their weight. Around the province, so many of these clubs and groups are being faced with declining membership. On top of planning for their work, they have to worry about membership and they have to navigate through these complex regulations at the federal and provincial levels.

We can help to remove some of this pressure by addressing these regulatory issues, especially at a time when these groups need our help. Budget cuts by this government and by the PCs before them have left a lot of people struggling to make ends meet. These groups have done an incredible job of filling in the cracks created by these cuts.

These groups have all facilitated and continue to see—and think about this, and this is important for service clubs. I know a lot of people aren’t paying attention right now, but you should. These service clubs are facing hydro bills that are putting their entire clubs in jeopardy. We have to take a look at that and help them.

We need to make regulations for these service clubs so we can help with their fundraisers. We hear the same message everywhere we go. The hydro rates are putting these facilities in jeopardy. I know that we heard from Mr. Wilson, my colleague. He raised the very same thought of what is going on around hydro rates.

When they’re out there working in our ridings, we should be working here. When they’re in our ridings, we should be working here to support them in every way that we can.

As you can see, these groups represent some of the most caring aspects of our community. If they are caught up in red tape and complex regulations at the provincial and federal levels, then I think an appeal to the Minister of Finance to strike a committee to look into solving this is a good idea.

I’d also like to quickly stress how important volunteering is for those listening here today. These groups around the province are facing declining membership, as I mentioned. We need to encourage more volunteers, both young and old, to join these clubs and make sure their great work continues long into the future. These groups and clubs support our community, so let us support them.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Northumberland–Quinte West.

Mr. Lou Rinaldi: Thank you—I was ready to say “Madam Speaker,” but I’m late.

Let me first say I congratulate my friend from Simcoe–Grey for bringing forward this motion today. I think it’s honourable that we think of people who give a lot of time to our communities.

A saying that I always say when I meet with volunteers or service clubs—I look at them and say, “Wow, what would our communities look like if you weren’t here doing the work that you do?” That goes across all the service clubs and all the volunteers. Speaker, I think it’s very, very important that we make sure the service clubs stay alive, and I know they have been struggling.

I’m a Rotarian, a Brighton Rotarian, for the last 14 or 15 years. When I joined the club, we had over 70 members for a small community of less than 1,000 people. We’re down to about 30-some-odd now. The reality is that not all participate; they do come out to help. That goes across all the service clubs. We’re part of district 7070 in Rotary, and they tell me that right across the region, which goes from Newmarket to Belleville, they are suffering. I’m sure it’s the same across the province.

The motion outlines some of the stuff, as the member brought forward, that frankly is more of a federal jurisdiction. I think we should not just focus on what we can do here at Queen’s Park within these walls, but also beyond with our federal cousins. So I think some pressure needs to be put there.

I would say to the member that, as we progress through this—and I know he’s already started to give some good statistics today, some good examples of surveys that he sent out. Our club, by the way, has received one. I’m not sure if it has been responded to yet. But that is, I think, a good measure to try to get the message of what people really think out there. The interesting part about that is that when you task people to do something, that you ask for some information, if they take the time to fill those blanks, that is really worthwhile information; it’s not just something that they want to speak about.

Speaker, in the few minutes that I have, I just want to touch on some of the good work that the service clubs—some of the service clubs, because I don’t have enough time to do all. For example, coming up on March 14 and 15, Warkworth, a beautiful community north of the 401, is having its annual Maple Syrup Festival. For two days, I tell you, they draw 4,000 or 5,000 people. I normally end up helping for half a day to serve fresh maple syrup right off the tap and boiled right there, along with fresh pancakes. So I smell like a pancake for about a week after that, but it’s worthwhile.

Interjection.


Mr. Lou Rinaldi: It’s excellent.

That’s a service club not affiliated to any national service club. They just do it to help their community.

The Kiwanis Club of Quinte West, of Trenton, have a one-day lunch just before Christmas to raise funds for the Salvation Army. Can you imagine: Over lunch, about 100 people raise over $100,000 for the Salvation Army. I’m not sure how else you could do this and help the Salvation Army do the good work that they do.

As I mentioned, we have Rotary Clubs in every community in the riding I represent, and they all do good work; for example, along with Bill Gates, who matches dollars that the clubs raise to eradicate polio. Speaker, we’re almost there. If it wasn’t for Rotary International and Bill Gates, we’d still be facing polio issues.

Mr. Speaker, we, once again, because I’m more familiar, for the last 14 or 15 years—we sponsor exchange students. We take in students from all over the world and also pay for students going out to other parts of the world. It’s a program that’s unbelievable, the benefit that these kids get from these exchanges.

I guess I’m trying to point out how valuable service clubs are in our communities, how valuable volunteers are.

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Once again, I cannot refrain from saying: What would our communities look like without service clubs, without volunteers? We need to encourage that, Speaker.

What the member is asking on this resolution, the best way to describe it—although we need to do everything we need to do, and I know he has already done a lot of work through his questionnaires, we’re almost trying to kill a fly with a huge sledgehammer. I think we can do the same thing. I think he set a good example of how we can do that already, and I think maybe we need to support that kind of initiative. Frankly, in travelling the province, I think clubs will be able to give us that information. I know he has had a good response, and that’s a good indication.

I would encourage the member to take that approach and bring it to the House here. Let’s see if there are ways that make sense of how we can address the issues that he has brought forward, which are very, very valid.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Victor Fedeli: Thank you, Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to this motion today from the member from Simcoe–Grey, my boss.

I think all of us in this House recognize the importance of service clubs and charitable groups in each and every community across the province. They fill meaningful roles and gaps within our social fabric and enrich our quality of life. In fact, without these clubs and groups, important services, projects, events and activities just wouldn’t be there. That’s why, when they speak, it’s our job as legislators to listen, especially when they have such serious concerns as we’re discussing here today.

We simply believe that the Minister of Finance needs to listen to these concerns, review them and take action. We want them to address them so that our service clubs and charities can continue to do the vital and necessary work they do, day in and day out, in our communities across Ontario.

I will quickly sum up—again, to repeat some of what the member from Simcoe–Grey said—the areas that not us, but the service clubs and the groups themselves have highlighted to us. These are the areas and issues of concern.

The financial audits: Forcing these charities to pay nearly 10% of their profits on fees is ridiculous. As you’ve heard, if a service club earns more than $50,000, after expenses, on a fundraiser, they must pay $4,500 for an audit, but below that, it’s $450. It’s a disincentive for these service clubs to fundraise. Surely we can come up with a better solution.

When I think of Nipissing University or Canadore College, and I look at the donor wall and I see all of the service clubs that have stepped up; when I walk into our new hospital in the city of North Bay and I see the donor plaque with the service clubs that have built rooms—in fact, wings in the hospital, wings in the university, wings in the college—and this money is all earned through their charitable donations—for the province to take their slice, to dip their beak in so generously, is ridiculous.

These unnecessary regulations are also a point. Why are we restricting service clubs from selling tickets out of the province and over the phone, and they’re unable to access funds in the US and other provinces? Municipalities limit the number of lottery licences issued at a time, keeping them from working on more than one project. Again, these are areas where we can do better.

When you drive down Lakeshore Drive and come over the overpass in North Bay and you see this bridge that crosses, it was built by one of the service clubs. It’s a trail that runs through our entire city. It’s not built by the municipality; not built by the province; not built by the feds. It’s built by the money from these service clubs that have fundraised—and funded these very important projects throughout our communities.

When you think about taxes, it’s a wonder service clubs are able to undertake any of these fundraising ventures at all. When you hear that service clubs, on a car raffle, for instance, have to pay close to $10,000 in taxes for the vehicle, and then a lottery licence, costing them up to $9,000—throw in the property taxes for the clubs that own their own building, and what’s left?

When I go down to the waterfront in North Bay, when I go to the waterfront in Callander, when I go to the waterfront in Chisholm, there are parks and beaches that are built by these charities. These are the most generous of groups. They work so hard. They run bingos, they have lotteries, they have fundraisers that raise nothing but money for other people to share.

Lastly, volunteer costs: The directors of a club must have liability insurance, and members must assume the cost of volunteer police checks, among other items. The cost of living makes it hard enough for those to volunteer. These other costs deter membership. Again, we here in the House simply have to do what the member for Simcoe–Grey is asking: We have to do better.

I should add that there is a valid concern, in communities where OLG is planning to locate casinos, about the impact this would have on the ability of charities to fundraise. Again, this is a question that needs to be addressed before any of these go forward, so that clubs can prepare, react and adjust to what they can contribute to their good work.

All we’re asking, through this motion today, is for the minister to consider ways to address the hurdles facing our service clubs, our fundraising groups and our charitable groups across the province. They’re vital, they’re crucial, they’re important and we can’t do without them.

I’m proud to support this motion. I would urge members of this House to do likewise, and I thank you for this time to speak in this Legislature again.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mme France Gélinas: It is my pleasure to add to motion 16 on red tape review for service clubs.

Comme pour tous ceux qui ont parlé avant moi, c’est évident qu’il y a plusieurs clubs sociaux qui sont dans Nickel Belt. Aujourd’hui, je veux vous parler plus précisément du Club 50, un club qui est à Chelmsford, dans Nickel Belt, juste pour vous donner une idée des difficultés que l’on met sur les épaules. C’est un centre pour personnes âgées. En anglais on appelle ça un « elderly persons centre ». Ils reçoivent un petit peu de financement, 21 000 $ par année de financement, du ministère des personnes aînées. Et parce qu’ils reçoivent ça, ça ajoute à tout ce qu’ils ont besoin de faire.

Parce qu’ils font plus de 50 000 $ de revenus, ils devront charger la TPS. Bon, charger la TPS sur les locations de salles, c’est assez évident, et sur les consommations, parce qu’ils ont un bar, ça aussi, c’est assez évident.

Mais là, qu’est-ce que tu fais avec—ils ont des espèces de dîners communautaires et tout le monde donne cinq dollars, qui défraye une partie du prix du dîner, mais vraiment c’est un dîner communautaire. Est-ce qu’ils devront commencer à charger la taxe de vente harmonisée là-dessus?

Même chose : il y a des groupes de leurs membres qui se réunissent pour jouer aux « darts », pour jouer aux cartes, pour passer le temps, faire des activités, et eux, ils vont chacun payer un petit montant pour se réunir au club. Est-ce que le club devra commencer à charger la TPS là-dessus? À un moment donné ça devient tellement difficile à comprendre qu’ils finissent par dépenser des sommes d’argent faramineuses qui n’ont rien à faire avec les buts du club. Les buts du club, c’est de s’assurer que les personnes aînées restent engagées dans leur communauté, ont la possibilité de passer de bons moments ensemble et demeurent actives.

Mais là, tu regardes : ils doivent faire faire une vérification générale. Le vérificateur charge 9 000 $. Ça, 9 000 $, pour un club qui reçoit 21 000 $ du ministère, c’est beaucoup d’argent. Non seulement qu’ils ont tout ça à faire, mais avec le nouveau projet de loi que l’on a passé, le projet de loi pour les corporations à but non-lucratif—cette affaire-là a 210 pages d’épaisseur. Là, eux autres ont reçu ça, les 210 pages. Ils l’ont imprimé. Ils ont commencé à lire ça, puis là ils se sont dit : « On s’en va tous. Peux-tu me dire ce que ça veut dire? »

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Pourquoi est-ce que le gouvernement n’a pas mis en place un mécanisme pour aider les clubs? Ça, c’est un gros club, mais j’ai des petits clubs aussi dans Nickel Belt, le club à Azilda, le club à Hanmer, le club à Gogama. Il y en a qui sont très petits.

Là, quand ils reçoivent ça, un projet de loi avec toutes ces explications et qui est long de 210 pages, êtes-vous surpris, monsieur le Président, qu’ils aient de la misère à recruter des membres? Êtes-vous surpris qu’ils aient de la misère à recruter un président ou une présidente? Quand tu vois toutes les responsabilités qu’on a mises sur ces petits clubs-là—les clubs, tout ce qu’ils veulent faire, c’est du bien. Puis là, on leur met un paquet de règlements, un par-dessus l’autre, qui sont difficiles à comprendre.

Donc eux, ils ont été obligés d’embaucher un avocat pour leur expliquer comment ils devraient s’assurer qu’ils sont conformes à la loi. Ils n’ont pas l’argent pour payer un avocat. Ils se sont mis ensemble. Un groupe de clubs de la région se sont mis ensemble. La FARFO s’en est mêlée pour essayer de les aider. Mais lorsque le gouvernement fait des nouvelles lois comme ça, pourquoi est-ce qu’on ne prend pas le temps de donner les outils nécessaires pour que les clubs à but non lucratif ne soient pas obligés de payer des vérificateurs, des frais d’avocat, de consultants, de ci et de ça?

La proposition qui a été faite par le Parti conservateur a du bon sens. Prenons le temps de les écouter, prenons le temps de voir ce qu’on pourrait faire de mieux, parce que ces clubs-là, quand ils voient arriver des piles de règlements de 210 pages, ils perdent leur exécutif, ils perdent leurs membres, puis c’est la communauté en entier qui perd.

Merci, monsieur le Président.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Trinity–Spadina.

Mr. Han Dong: Thank you, Speaker.

Mrs. Cristina Martins: Happy New Year.

Mr. Han Dong: Happy New Year to you, too. Happy New Year to all.

I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to discuss this very important bill. First of all, I would like to say to the member from Simcoe–Grey that this is a fantastic bill, and I look forward to supporting it. It’s a very important bill.

But I also want to point something out. The member mentioned that he sent correspondence to the Minister of Finance and didn’t hear back from him. In fact, there was a response, to Mr. Wilson’s attention. I would like to take this opportunity to read it into the record, and I’ll walk across after, to give him the hard copy.

“Dear Mr. Wilson:

“Thank you for your letter regarding issues identified by local service clubs in your riding. I apologize for the delay in responding.

“With respect to your concerns regarding a new casino in a local community, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is modernizing gaming in Ontario to optimize revenue from its gaming assets in a responsible manner. OLG’s modernization plan was designed to maximize the commercial viability of land-based gaming across the province, and ensure the success of each gaming site while balancing social factors such as responsible gaming. When fully implemented, the OLG modernization plan will increase net revenues to the province by approximately $1 billion annually. These revenues will be used to fund vital public services that Ontarians depend on, such as health care and education.

“It is important to note that the government will not impose a gaming facility on a municipality that does not support one. A decision regarding the location of a gaming site will depend on an OLG business case that reflects municipal support and demonstrates the commercial viability of a gaming site in a particular location and region.

“Every year, the provincial budget outlines how gaming proceeds are allocated. The 2014 Ontario budget indicates that in 2013-14, gaming proceeds provided to the province by the OLG are to be spent in the following ways:

“—about $1.75 billion to support the operation of hospitals;

“—$115 million to the Ontario Trillium Foundation”—actually, many of the associations in my riding are enjoying the support of that foundation;

“—$10 million to Ontario amateur sports;

“—$119 million for other general government priorities, including horse racing; and

“—$39 million for problem gambling and related programs.

“OLG’s support for the Trillium Foundation and amateur sports is an effective revenue-share program that benefits charitable and not-for-profit organizations.

“With respect to the municipal charity licences, that is the responsibility of the AGCO, an agency under the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG). I have taken the liberty of copying my colleague the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Attorney General, so she is aware of the concerns you have raised.

“Your comments on the financial audits and the HST that service clubs must pay on the purchase of a vehicle for a car raffle are the responsibility of the federal Minister of Finance, the Honourable Joe Oliver. Accordingly, you may wish to direct your comments on that issue to” the minister responsible for that file.

“With respect to your concerns about property taxes, special provision is made under the property tax system for non-profit service clubs. Under Ontario regulation 282/98 (a regulation made under the Assessment Act), land that is owned and occupied by a non-profit service organization is taxed at the residential rate, rather than the commercial rate that would otherwise be applicable (commercial properties are typically taxed at a higher rate than residential properties).

“As well, under the Municipal Act, 2001, and the City of Toronto Act, 2006, municipalities have the option to provide property tax rebates to charities and non-profit organizations, based on parameters determined by the municipalities (there is a minimum rebate requirement for qualifying organizations, and there are optional rebate provisions at the discretion of municipalities). You may wish to speak to your local municipal office to determine whether specific non-profit service organizations are eligible for a property tax rebate.

“Thank you again for writing.”

I took that opportunity to read this letter because I do think it responds to some of the concerns that the member raised.

I want to say that service clubs are extremely important in my riding as well. Today, I went to the Wong Association to see how many people they’ve helped over 100 years. I look forward to supporting this bill and further debating this bill as it goes through the legislative process.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate.

Ms. Laurie Scott: I’m quite pleased today to speak on this very important issue that has been brought up by our interim leader, the member from Simcoe–Grey: “That, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Finance should immediately move to have a standing committee investigate the legislative and regulatory barriers and burdens facing service clubs in Ontario....”

A lot has been said already today. Service clubs in our communities are certainly the backbone for the work that they do in our communities. We all know that they’ve played a long, vital role across the province. They strengthen our communities. Young people join them. I know the Rotary Club sponsors young people to go to different countries for a year. In fact, the MP who is representing Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock now did that Rotary exchange and continues to go out to speak of the merits of that program. These young people and people in general—they gain both socially and economically.

I think there’s nothing better than service clubs which are made up of members of communities to best understand the needs of their communities. They also fill the fiscal holes that government and other agencies can’t fill and maybe shouldn’t fill. In rural Ontario, with our smaller communities, there’s nothing truer said than that.

A lot of problems have been highlighted. I will give you a few examples, if I could. For example, the Rotary Club of Haliburton wanted to give funds for a band shell to be built—they got some Trillium money, too—to assist for a band shell in the park. But the park was owned municipally. So they couldn’t use their proceeds from lottery tickets for that; they had to have another venue to try and fundraise money separately—again, you can only ask the community so much—for a specific project.

I know that there are many, many Rotary clubs that I have in the area and I have at least a dozen Lions Clubs. Since I’ve been an MPP, and you’re out to these events more, you notice that their membership is declining. It’s hard to get volunteers, and as the cost of living goes up, it really costs to volunteer out there.

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I want to bring up that these service clubs—there are no administrative dollars. They all pay for their service clubs through memberships in their organizations. We ask a lot of them and we should not be throwing up more barriers to them. When the member from Simcoe–Grey brought this up as a motion, I thought it should be done as soon as possible.

It is complex. I’m going to highlight a few of the problems. For example, in the lottery—if you make a certain amount of money, the cost of your audit has gone from $450—if you make less than $50,000—to up to $4,500 to get an audit done.

I know that when clubs want to enhance their own structures—for example, curling clubs or Legions—their lottery monies cannot be put back into their aging buildings. I know that in Woodville, for example, the curling club needs a new ice plant but the money from a raffle cannot be used for that purpose. Legions face the same dilemma, and we know that our Legions are aging.

There is the opportunity to be able to sell tickets online to different provinces and different countries. We can look at that. Insurance was brought up, the cost of insurance for them; a simpler tax system they can navigate; and just more flexibility in general to have fundraising events that can then be used to further help their communities.

We could talk a long time about this, and I’m out of time. I just wanted to say to the member for Simcoe–Grey: Well done. We’ll be supporting this and look forward to the government’s action.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound.

Mr. Bill Walker: I’d also like to commend Jim Wilson, our interim leader, for doing this and picking up the torch and really bringing an issue that’s big in all of our communities.

Volunteers build a better society. They serve their neighbours, their communities, their regions, their province and their country. Service clubs, Legions and all charitable organizations raise money for such things as hospital equipment, such as an MRI, to rejuvenate cenotaphs to support those valued veterans of Our Majesty’s forces, and to help families afford access to lifesaving drugs. In other words, they help to fill the gaps left by government.

As the MPP for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, I hear first-hand accounts all the time about these challenges and barriers they face in regard to financial audits, taxation, regulations and declining membership. Not long after I got elected, a fellow by the name of Terry Julian from Lion’s Head, Ontario, on behalf of the hospital auxiliary, came to me and raised a very similar issue. I wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance at that time and, to be honest, I got nothing of any kind of interest to pick up the torch and change this. It was similar to that letter: “There are all kinds of plans; we’re going to do better.” It’s not enough.

We have small-town groups and organizations that are doing this. In this case, Lion’s Head, a community of 500 people, and the hospital auxiliary for many, many years, raised funds for that hospital and all kinds of good initiatives across the community. They’re raising $500 because $500 is the cap for penny tables. The OLG then warned the auxiliary volunteers to stop fundraising too much money. That means going over the $500 raffle cap for their local hospital. It’s ludicrous. The $500 cap was set in 1970 in the days long before we had to do the type of fundraising we have to for our hospitals, and all charitable organizations out there do the same thing.

Did anyone in government, especially when we brought it to their attention, ever consider updating these regulations to promote and permit these organizations that are so valuable in our communities to continue?

Mr. Speaker, the current regulation and red tape cannot remain status quo. What is happening is that I have people coming to my office saying, “If they’re going to keep putting us through this, if they’re going to take away our ability to truly be helpful and take my energy and passion, then I’m going to walk away,” because they’re not going to go through all of this.

I congratulate Terry Julian, the auxiliary and all of the volunteers. I want to ensure that we change this regulation to allow all of our charitable sector to be able to do things in the current day to continue to support the communities that we so richly need and value.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I thank everyone for their comments.

I now recognize the member for Simcoe–Grey.


Mr. Jim Wilson: I want to thank all the members who appear to be supporting this resolution and I call upon the government, if it does pass today, to please implement it. Please set up a committee so that we can begin the discussion on how we can better help service clubs.

Again, the impact of new casinos on the profits of service clubs, financial audits: The minister in his letter suggested he’d take that up with the federal government. It’s also something we should deal with in the committee, though, and if we got a strong resolution from the committee to do something about it, that would help pressure the federal government, but I will take the minister up on his suggestion.

HST; the need for rebates; property taxes; selling tickets out of province and over the phone, as they used to be able to do, so they could expand their ticket sales into bigger markets; taxes paid when holding a car raffle; charges amounting to thousands of dollars for lottery licences; costs associated with being a volunteer; the cost of insurance; the taxes they pay on the prize for those lotteries, often a car—the list goes on and on.

It’s probably best summarized by Bill Roskar from the Kinsmen Club of Stayner when he noted that relaxing some of the red tape and tax implications would make his club’s operations easier and result in members being able to concentrate on fundraising rather than administration. He suggests that the satisfaction of being part of a social club is being able to give back to the community, and a lessened administrative burden would help to attract more volunteers. Well said, Bill, and thank you for those comments and for filling out the questionnaire.

The fact of the matter is that there’s a lot we can do. I think the best way to do it is through an all-party committee. One of the technicalities in this resolution is that the opposition doesn’t control the agenda at committees, so I need the Minister of Finance, a minister over there or somebody in the government to make sure we can put this before a committee and study the issue on an all-party basis. I ask that we do that.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): We’ll take the vote at the end of regular business.

HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT (OFF-ROAD VEHICLES), 2015 / LOI DE 2015 MODIFIANT LE CODE DE LA ROUTE (VÉHICULES TOUT TERRAIN)

Mr. Vanthof moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 46, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act in respect of off-road vehicles / Projet de loi 46, Loi modifiant le Code de la route en ce qui concerne les véhicules tout terrain.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Mr. John Vanthof: In the spirit of full disclosure, I’d like to tell everyone that I would personally benefit from this act, because I own a Polaris Ranger 500 side-by-side—the spirit of full disclosure.

For those who are wondering what this amendment is and actually why this act is so important and this change is so important for the people of rural Ontario, I’d like to go a little bit back in history. In 2003, legislation was passed in this House to allow ATVs to go on trails, and go on the shoulders of certain highways—not the 400 series—and secondary roads. That was passed through a lot of work. This vehicle had evolved from go-karts and from three-wheelers to a safe vehicle that had become a part of rural society.

That change, in 2003, made a huge difference to people in northern Ontario and all of rural Ontario. It made a huge change, because they had been using these vehicles, and now they could actually use them for their work and for their leisure. A lot of people go to work on ATVs. Actually, in my neighbourhood, a lot of kids go to their part-time jobs on ATVs. There is no public transportation where I’m from. In a lot of places in rural Ontario there is no public transportation, so in many cases, the ATV is a lot cheaper than having to find a second car for your 16-year-old to go to their part-time job. It makes a huge difference.

Over the years, the ATV evolved. Like everything else, it evolved, and now, more people use UTVs than ATVs. The difference is that you can have more passengers on a UTV. An ATV can only legally have one passenger. With an ATV you have to straddle the gas tank and you have to have handlebars. A UTV usually has a bench seat and a steering wheel. It’s a four-wheel-drive golf cart, for lack of a better word. It’s an all-terrain golf cart. More people use these, and they basically do the same job as an ATV.

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The big difference is, as our population gets older—and the same thing is happening in rural Ontario as in the rest of Ontario—it’s easier to use a UTV than an ATV. You don’t have to straddle the gas tank; you can use a steering wheel. It’s much easier to learn how to drive a UTV. The problem is, the legislation governing these vehicles hasn’t evolved along with the vehicle. That’s the problem.

Rural Ontarians have been pushing for a long time. My colleague from Algoma–Manitoulin has been pushing for this; my colleague from Parry Sound–Muskoka has been pushing for this; my colleague from Nickel Belt—all my rural colleagues from all parties have been pushing for this. We thought we’d reached a pinnacle where we were going to be successful when the member from Glengarry-Prescott from the government side—on November 7, 2013, we all supported his resolution to change the regulations so that users of UTVs would be allowed the same regulations as the users of ATVs. A lot of people thought that we’d reached it.

Imagine our surprise when here we’re now in 2015 and nothing has changed, despite—


Mme France Gélinas: I wasn’t surprised.

Mr. John Vanthof: But imagine the surprise from people who still actually had faith in the government at that time.

This isn’t costly; this isn’t groundbreaking; this is basically a recognition of the needs of the people of rural Ontario. That’s what this is.

After we did all kinds of petitions and letters—I would like to read the response from the then Minister of Transportation after his party passed this motion. This is from Glen Murray, who was, at that time, the Minister of Transportation:

“I followed the debate on MPP Grant Crack’s (Glengarry–Prescott–Russell) motion and understand that members of the Legislative Assembly, various municipalities and ORV users feel very strongly about increasing the on-road access for various ORV types. The ministry is aware of some of the additional safety features of other ORV types compared to single-rider ATVs, but I would be interested in hearing about how to mitigate our safety concerns as these vehicles are designed for off-road environments, not highways.”

Well, to the minister of the time, so are ATVs. ATVs are designed for off-road environments, not highways, yet they are permitted under the act. If anyone is going to tell you that an ATV is safer than a UTV, they’re wrong. A UTV has roll bars; a UTV has seat belts.

I’ve got a couple of letters here. I really like this one. It explains, in plain, common English. Someone from my riding:

“Dear John Vanthof, MPP Timiskaming–Cochrane:

“My wife and I are excited about the proposed changes to regulation 316/03 allowing side-by-sides and two-up ATVs the same privileges as regular ATVs. We have been riding ATVs since 2007”—actually, they’re not from my riding—“and are members of the Haliburton ATV Association. Three years ago, my wife cut her finger ... and severed a tendon. She had three unsuccessful surgeries to repair her finger, and unfortunately she wore a cast on her arm for about a year and a half, on and off. Wearing a cast made it impossible for her to ride” her ATV “until one day she had an opportunity to ride as a passenger in a side-by-side. We were so impressed with how safe this vehicle is. It has a full roll cage, seat belts and mirrors. My wife was perfectly safe, even wearing a cast. Two weeks later, we traded in her ATV for a new side-by-side, and we are having a ball. A pregnant woman could safely ride in one of these vehicles. We have seen families with young children riding in these buggies just enjoying the great outdoors with the rest of us.

“John, ATVing is a great recreational way to spend time with family and friends, and side-by-side or two-up ATVs should be included so more people can ride together and have fun. I really hope this ... passes for the betterment of the sport.

“Thank you for your time,

“John Vonk.”

The problem is that these people were breaking the law. When people are forced to break the law for no real reason, that points to the law needing to be changed or updated. It’s a big problem. What’s most frustrating about this issue is that this could have been changed. The government is in full power. I would like to have my name on a bill saying that this passed, but what I would like a lot more is for the government, in the next month, to say, “You know what? We’re going to change this regulation.” My folks who use UTVs and rural people across—


Mr. Gilles Bisson: And people in Glen Murray’s riding.

Mr. John Vanthof: I’m sure a few people in Glen Murray’s riding use UTVs. So the people in rural Ontario, when the snow goes, or even when the snow is still here, can actually use UTVs where they are using them now illegally. That needs to be done.

Something I’ve heard a couple of times—I’d like to close with this—is that we have to be careful, because when we allow these machines we’re going to have all kinds of new traffic problems. Well, ATVs have been legal for longer than a decade, and by and large the users have been responsible. People across rural Ontario have been very responsible. They’ve taken the privilege of using ATVs on roads very seriously. These same people are now asking for the right to use UTVs, and there is no reason to believe that they would take this right any less seriously.

This case is strictly about respecting the needs of the people of rural Ontario. I get more calls and more petitions, as do my colleagues, on this issue than on almost any other issue.

Interjection.


Mr. John Vanthof: I’ll give you an example, okay? We have lots of snow in northern Ontario, right?

Interjections: Yes.

Mr. John Vanthof: So, in my riding—

Hon. Glen R. Murray: I didn’t know that.

Mr. John Vanthof: Give me a second. In my riding, someone put a blade on the front of the UTV to clean snow. Everyone has these, okay? He was charged. You cannot use a UTV on a street, so technically cleaning snow out of your laneway and backing onto the street is illegal. You can do it with an ATV; you can do it with a tractor; you can do it with a four-wheel-drive pickup; but lo, you can’t do it with a UTV. Now, by far the majority of police officers are very understanding and look the other way.

Interjection: They have to.

Mr. John Vanthof: Right? But, at the end of the day, if something goes wrong, you are breaking the law. It’s time that that changes. This government has the full power to act. They could do it. They may not be able to do it this afternoon, but they could do it on Monday. We need to change it, so that law-respecting, law-abiding people in rural Ontario can use these things without being forced to break the law.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate.

Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: I want to thank the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane for his passionate remarks on Bill 46. I’m really pleased to be able to speak to this bill today, and I hope that, when I hopefully someday come through your riding, you’ll be able to take me out for a ride on that.

Interjection.

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Mrs. Kathryn McGarry: I’ll hold you to that. Okay.

As the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Transportation, I am particularly interested to hear what all members have to say regarding this topic. There has been a lot of interest in this topic of late. I know that at least right now, there are three private members’ bills tabled relating to off-road vehicle use.

This is not a surprising fact when you take a good, close look at the figures. In 2013, there were 407,585 off-road vehicles registered in Ontario. According to the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council, over 11,000 of these were new ATVs that were sold in Ontario just in 2013 alone.

Every year, more and more people seem to be buying and using these types of vehicles all across the province. It’s important that we balance this increase in usage with road safety.

I know I’ve said this a number of times in this House, but I really do believe that our government is truly proud of our record of having amongst the safest roads in North America. But we also know that there is more that we can do to improve road safety.

As always, keeping our roads safe is the highest priority for our government. That’s why our government has taken a number of concrete actions to keep both drivers and ORV riders safe. MTO staff continue to work closely with more than 150 road safety partners to develop and implement public education initiatives at the community, regional and the provincial level. These partners include police agencies, injury prevention practitioners, ORV clubs and trail organizations from around the province. MTO staff and these partners attend annual trade shows, make public presentations, develop and distribute public education material, create community displays and deliver interactive programs to young riders in partnership with local secondary and elementary schools.

I’m particularly proud to say that a large component of these initiatives is promoting young rider safety. My son Alex, at age 12, decided at his first ride that he would shoot across a farmer’s field with his friend in a side-by-side vehicle, and they immediately crashed. He has learned, during his first lesson, that having a road safety tip or two before he gets on a vehicle is an essential thing. He was unhurt.

It’s well known that by educating youth on road safety early on, we can ensure that it becomes a habit for them as they become adults. Ontario’s second annual ATV Safety Week will take this place this year, in May 2015. MTO has actually launched four ATV safety videos to assist the public in learning how to safely operate their ORV. An online knowledge assessment tool has also been produced to allow riders to test their safety IQ.

All of these initiatives work in tandem with Ontario’s first Smart Ride Safe Ride ATV guide, which was created and launched in 2011 to educate riders on the legislative requirements for both on-road and off-road use, and to promote safe and responsible riding practices. The guide is already available on the MTO website.

Many members of this House have already spoken in favour and contributed to the debate on Bill 31, the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer act. This bill not only serves to protect drivers on our roads; it also introduces a number of provisions that will keep pedestrians and cyclists safe in Ontario. I’m really pleased about the support that I’ve heard on all sides of this House for Bill 31.

If passed, it will also remove a legislated equipment requirement for ORV tire pressure that may affect the ability of municipalities to pass future bylaws. The bill, if passed, will eliminate the prescriptive definition of low-pressure-bearing tires that could affect the future off-road bylaw authority of the municipalities.

With all of this in mind, I want to discuss more specifically Bill 46.

Bill 46 seeks to establish a requirement that regulations passed cannot restrict an ORV from being driven on a highway if it’s designed to carry more than one passenger and where there’s more than just a driver on the vehicle.

Currently, single-rider ATVs are permitted limited on-road access to slightly under 7,700 kilometres of provincial highways. All ORVs, including ATVs, in Ontario can directly cross a public road where permitted.

Ontario also allows single-rider ATVs the opportunity to travel along permitted provincial highways. Municipalities have the authority to determine whether or not single-rider ATVs should be allowed to access roads under their jurisdiction.

There are, understandably, safety concerns related to using ORVs, as there are when anyone attempts to drive any kind of vehicle.

MTO has identified some safety concerns with extending on-road access to all types of ORVs. However, we also recognize the importance of balancing these safety concerns with the potential economic, tourism and enhanced mobility benefits associated with the increased use of off-road vehicles.

That’s why, at the direction of the Minister of Transportation, MTO has already been conducting extensive consultations on ORV use. In fact, our most recent consultation in mid-January saw MTO staff joined by almost 30 different stakeholder groups representing enforcement, municipalities, public health, industry, agricultural groups and trail organizations. I was there for that. A lot of the comments were very, very positive.

Based on the consultations, it’s clear that stakeholders want government to be an active partner in the development of a modern ORV regulatory framework. That’s why our government will continue to take positive steps forward on this issue. We’ll continue to work with our municipal and road safety partners, as well as our industry and stakeholder partners, to ensure that we develop strong solutions for outstanding ORV-related issues, including extending on-road access for things like two-up ATVs, side-by-side ATVs and UTVs.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Norm Miller: I’m pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill 46, which is An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act in respect of off-road vehicles. It has a similar objective to a private member’s bill which I’ll be debating at this time next week, which is Bill 58, but it has a different approach. This bill would restrict permission to drive an off-road vehicle on a highway to vehicles that are designed to carry only a driver and no passengers.

Just a little bit of history, as was mentioned by the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane: Back in 2003, the Highway Traffic Act was amended to allow ATVs on some designated provincial highways and to allow municipalities to decide if they want to allow ATVs on any of their roads or some of their roads. The definition of an ATV is very specific: It’s one-person; you straddle it; it has four wheels. Since that time, we’ve seen all kinds of different vehicles developed. Typically, they’re called UTVs: utility task vehicles.

As the member mentioned, he has a Polaris Ranger, which is a very popular UTV. It has a bench seat that three people can sit on. It has a pickup box in the back, so it’s, as he mentioned, probably safer than an ATV. It’s probably more popular with people who want to work with the ATV, because it can carry firewood. A senior who might have trouble using an ATV probably feels more comfortable on a UTV.

The way the rules are now, if you live in rural Parry Sound–Muskoka, say in one of the rural municipalities, even if the municipality has decided that they’re fine with allowing ATVs on their roads—and these, in most cases, are dirt roads not very highly travelled. Say a resident owns a woodlot a kilometre down the road and wants to use his Polaris Ranger to access that woodlot; it’s technically against the law. They’re breaking the law to go a kilometre down the road to get on their woodlot to be able to cut some firewood. I’ve certainly heard from residents of Parry Sound–Muskoka who would like to see that changed, and it’s something that I absolutely support.

The member mentioned something I hadn’t thought of. I have a Kubota RTV with a blade in the front that I plow my driveway with, out in rural Bracebridge, about half an hour from the closest town, on a small dirt road where you don’t see much traffic. As he pointed out, it’s technically illegal for me to back on to the road to plow the opening to the driveway, something I hadn’t thought of, which brings up another grey area, where you have a vehicle like a Kubota RTV, which is really tractor-based, and it could be considered an instrument of husbandry and have a slow-moving-vehicle sign on it, and may be legal, depending on the interpretation of the officer.

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I know we have two other members who would like to speak to this. I would simply say that in the intersession I went around to quite a few municipalities, particularly in the Parry Sound district—the more rural ones—and they’re in favour of updating the rules. I’ve heard from lots of people who are in favour of updating the rules. We had a motion passed by the House last year.

My experience in Quebec is that they’re generally way ahead of us on trails policy. They actually plow trails for ATVs in the wintertime. I’m not sure how much sense that makes, but they do that—I’ve witnessed that. They allow UTVs in their small towns. You can drive down to the restaurant, and I’ve seen that. But they also seem to be ahead of us on cycling trails. They have the Route Verte and the transprovincial trails.

I’m going to stop now, because we have two other members. I’d just say that I am supportive of this, and I look forward to speaking further next week as well to my own private member’s bill.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: I am rising, of course, to support the legislation that was tabled by the member for Timiskaming–Cochrane.

This is an issue that I think all members of this House have agreed needs to be dealt with. It is something that rural Ontarians have been talking about for some time. People around here say they have been listening to the voices of rural Ontarians. The problem is, they don’t act on the voices of rural Ontarians.

Next week, in fact, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association and the Ontario Good Roads Association are meeting here in Toronto. They’re coming from all across Ontario to talk about rural issues and rural concerns. We know that this issue has come up every time those folks have talked to us for the last several years, and yet here we are with a government that continues to drag its feet on this particular change.

A UTV is pretty much the type of vehicle that is utilized by all kinds of folks in northern Ontario and rural Ontario. In fact, I had the opportunity myself, through the good graces of the MPP from Timiskaming–Cochrane, to drive a UTV. It was something that was necessary for me to be able to undertake a particular task that needed to be undertaken when I was in rural Ontario. For me, I see this as no big deal whatsoever. There is lots of foot-dragging, lots of barriers being put up, but no real action on something that’s quite easy to address.

I want to thank the member for bringing this up yet again here in the House. I would hope it gets not only the support it had from every party the last time it was here, but that it gets support from the government and the government actually moves on it.

I remember when the current Premier decided she was going to be the critic for agriculture and rural affairs—the minister, rather, not the critic; the minister for agriculture and rural affairs. I thought it was oh-so-cute when she donned her little red boots in the photo op, because she was now going to be the minister of agriculture and rural affairs. Well, Speaker, I think it’s time that that Premier dusted off those little red boots and kicked some butt over on the other side so that this piece of legislation can be passed and we can finally deal with the anomaly that exists here, where UTVs are not allowed to be used and utilized in the same way as ATVs are in this province.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Hon. Glen R. Murray: I also want to commend my friend from Timiskaming–Cochrane. This is a very equitable bill, and I appreciate your bringing it forward.

I’ve said many times in this House that I’ve always believed this place is overly partisan. I always try to get my House duty on Thursday afternoon, because it’s that one time we can be MPPs first and work on things that I think are of concern to all Ontarians.

If you look at the history of this very fine place, back to the days of Agnes Macphail and Robert Baldwin, this place used to have a very different character—

Interjection.


Hon. Glen R. Murray: —and there was a time when you could actually make a speech without a party leader interrupting you. But I want to go back, because this is an important issue.

Interjections.


Hon. Glen R. Murray: You’ll notice I sat quietly and listened when you guys were speaking this afternoon. I have a non-interference rule, because God knows we do that to each other. It’s a good thing.

Interjection.


Hon. Glen R. Murray: It’s a good thing.

The member, right now, sits beside the member from Parkdale–High Park. We worked together very well on things like the one-metre rule for cyclists. We’ve worked very well with the member for Parry Sound–Muskoka. Those things are now working their way through the House, right? We all understand, because we all share responsibility—when we use words like “foot-dragging,” we should be careful how we do that.

When we did that road user safety bill that’s now before the House again—I think it has got five private members’ bills in it, if I remember correctly. Only one of them is from the government side. Right now, as environment minister, I’m going through all of the private members’ bills that have been tabled by all members of this House. I’ve started meeting with some of you one-on-one—the same thing I did when I was transportation minister—to bring these things forward. As I said privately—and I won’t repeat it, because there are some issues with doing this exactly now. There are some environmental concerns; there are some safety concerns.

When I was transportation minister, I held a series of round tables at ROMA and AMO. We had, I think, about 17 municipalities, both rural and urban, participating in that. Some of them are looking for some things that have some complexity to them.

Not only will I vote for this today—because this is the third bill like this—because I think it’s fundamentally right, but I also went over and talked to the member one-on-one. I am very happy to work with you and the Minister of Transportation to sort that out.

We do have some other overarching issues that I know are of concern to the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane and his colleagues. One of them is climate change. We’re rapidly heading for four degrees Celsius. We’ve had some discussions with members opposite. You look at what happened in the UK or New Zealand or Norway, where they decided that climate change, as an issue, was too important to be a partisan issue and they started working at that.

We did this on cycling. We’ve done this on a number of issues. I’m quite sincerely offering to support that. Maybe we can work together to work out some of the environmental concerns, some of the municipal concerns and some of the safety concerns.

I want to say that we’re working right now—I think, again, it’s another thing we agree on, your seatmate from Parkdale–High Park and the member from Toronto–Danforth—we worked on electrification. We celebrate now that we’re now moving, over the next decade, to completely electrify all of the GO system. That’s now under way. That plan is being staged. That’s very, very exciting, I think. It’s not just Union Pearson Express now; it’s the whole thing. That’s also now moving forward in this budget.

I always think we treat each other as intelligent people and we try to work on these things together. Those are not things that happen in months. Have we been working hard on this? Yes. Is there a reason that the law hasn’t been changed instantaneously? It’s because there are still some substantive issues that have to be worked out, and I think, working together, we can do that.

As my Jewish friends say, mazel tov—a good thing. I plan on voting for this today. I hope we can try and improve the environmental performance of some of these vehicles.

I just want to say one last thing, Mr. Speaker. This is not a rural or urban thing. Do you know how many people who live in my constituency actually drive ATVs and snowmobiles and have cottages? I lived in Alexandria on a dairy farm. I couldn’t get around. These aren’t recreational vehicles. For a lot of folks, these are vehicles. You can imagine living in Manitoba, with all that flat land.

The leader of the third party—I give her credit for riding in an ATV. Sometimes you have to do it, but it’s darned fun to go fast. There’s something about it. I feel like I’m an eight-year-old kid, like when you played Hot Wheels and you sent them zipping. You actually get to drive one of these things. It’s kick-ass fun, Mr. Speaker, and there’s nothing wrong with having kick-ass fun times. It’s important.

Let’s work together on this. Good leadership. Thank you very much to my friend across the way.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Bill Walker: I’ll start off by saying I’m going to support my good friend from Timiskaming–Cochrane on this, and also my colleague Norm Miller from Parry Sound–Muskoka, who will be bringing out a similar bill next week which will have pertinent and normal information that we want to pass and get on with this.

I want to start off—the parliamentary assistant said she’d like to be able to go up and take a ride with the member at some point. I think maybe if she’d do this right away and we’d get charged by the OPP, this might become a priority of the government on the opposite side to actually change and see how ludicrous it is.

Just before the former minister leaves—I think it’s interesting to know that he talks about working together, but it was him that didn’t get this done when it was passed. Back in 2013, motion 48 was put forward by the good member from Glengarry–Prescott–Russell and had the right intention. Regrettably, that Minister of Transportation ignored it and didn’t get it passed. Now, today, he’s saying it’s a wonderful thing and we should have passed it at some point. Why isn’t it there? The rubber needs to hit the road.

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Here we are debating something that this government should have done, could have done and we wouldn’t even be talking about it. It’s ludicrous that people in areas—like in my riding of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound, we have lots of farmers, hunters, fishermen, people from the city who come up for tourism purposes to do this and they may need to go on to the road to get to their bushlot. They may need to use it to get to a farm from another piece of property. It’s unbelievable that we’re playing games with stuff like this at the end of the day.

We have people who ride two-up ATVs, side-by-side UTVs and, as I said, many people coming from the more urban areas, who come to an area like the beautiful Bruce Peninsula to be able to ride their ATVs, to be able to clear snow like we’ve heard today—a safety issue for emergency personnel to get in and they’re going to get charged because they back up onto a gravel road. How ludicrous is it that we actually play these types of games?

At the end of the day, we have to stop putting motions forward and putting bills forward that we say we’re going to pass and then we find ways to drag our feet and not make it happen. I’m hopeful that this government will be sincere and truly look at the safety perspective, look at what the impingement of this is on people’s rights.

At the end of the day, if you can ride an ATV, why can’t you ride a UTV in the areas where there are needs to get to other properties, where you have to cross a road, travel on a road to get to a trail, to get to that recreational opportunity? We need to be able to do that.

This is about families. Don Calvert, a paraplegic father from Sault Ste. Marie, and his daughter, Brittany, are one such family that’s looking forward to the day when this Liberal government will make it legal for them to just turn on their side-by-side and head to the trails. I certainly hope the new minister will be mindful of his duty to protect all road users, including those people such as the Calverts.

Mr. Speaker, it’s pretty simple. We have an ability here to change something that we all agree is wrong. Let’s expedite it. Let’s move it through the House and make something of value for the people of Ontario and maximize our time here to get on to the other issues that we need to be speaking about.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mme France Gélinas: I will add a few minutes to the debate. I can tell you that in my riding, ATV trails are really a source of tourism. We have some beautiful trails in Nickel Belt. I encourage you to come and visit Nickel Belt. You can rent a UTV right there. They will show you how to drive it. It’s easy. You will go to places in the bush that you will never have had the opportunity to see before. Especially when the ground is frozen, you can go over mush. You can go over all sorts of places and see the beauty of what northern Ontario looks like. In the summer, the fall, the winter or the spring, it makes no difference. Those vehicles have really opened up tourism opportunities, and we are doing good.

I must say, though, that the ATVs, the first of those that came out, were not that safe. They were meant for one person, but you could buy a seat to make it a two-person, which a lot of people did. There had been quite a few accidents, unfortunately, because they were made for one person, but two would ride on it and bad things have happened. But with the UTV, they are so much safer. They are easy to drive. You don’t need any strength. You don’t need any special anything. You just need to see where you’re going and away you go. They don’t go that fast. In the bush, they will climb anything.

So why don’t we do this? Why do we keep saying you have to keep using the more dangerous vehicle if you want to be able to do something as simple as cross the road, because when you go through the bush, every now and again you will come to a road, and if you cross the road, you are breaking the law? If you’re on an ATV, you’re not breaking the law; if you’re on a UTV, you are breaking the law—not obvious.

Why don’t we change this so that those vehicles don’t break the law? Will there be restrictions on them? Absolutely. I don’t want them on the 401. That would make no sense whatsoever, but on Regional Road 55 in Walden, absolutely. There’s no question that they would be welcome.

For tourism reasons, for safety reasons, let’s pass this—the sooner the better.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock.

Ms. Laurie Scott: Thank you, Speaker. I’m pleased to rise today—

Applause.


Ms. Laurie Scott: —and to receive a round of applause from the government side—on the issue of amending the Highway Traffic Act for off-road vehicles. It has been a huge topic in my riding of Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock. I know that the member from Parry Sound–Muskoka has brought it up before, and members from the government side have brought it up before. Basically we’re saying that it’s time to modernize the Highway Traffic Act so that these vehicles, whether they be called just off-road vehicles or utility, task and all-terrain vehicles—as you said, people have been fined for plowing.

The member from Timiskaming–Cochrane has done a great job of this with the examples he gave of someone plowing out their driveway, backing out into a highway and being fined. That’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s something that has taken several years, and we’ve advocated on so many occasions in the Legislature. Now all three parties sound supportive.

Just the fact that more and more people are using these, whether it be farmers or people on their way to work—you can use them up in our neck of the woods, as I can say. Hunters, riders, accessing recreational purposes—I am the critic for tourism, culture and sport, and we need it for tourism.


Interjection: It’s huge for tourism.

Ms. Laurie Scott: It’s a huge tourism catch.

Argos, I know, are made in my colleague from Kitchener–Conestoga’s riding. They won many, many awards. They’re hardly legal to be used. They’re a very good Canadian company, and we’re very proud of that and the jobs they produce, so it is definitely overdue.

It’s a regulation change. I know that the Minister of Transportation spoke in favour of it—well, the former Minister of Transportation, now the minister of climate change. He spoke to supporting it, but when he was the Minister of Transportation we would have given him praise for bringing that in. It was something that we all agree on. I think it’s time when the example has been brought up that the province of Quebec has already allowed this to take place. Then we get into vying for tourists, people who are hunters, or anything that they can use these vehicles for legally in Quebec that we cannot here.

I know that my colleague the member from Parry Sound–Muskoka is going to debate a similar bill next week here in the Legislature, maybe with a different angle as to how to get to the end result, but we’re all in agreement. We’re all on the same side today.


Interjection: They both benefit.

Ms. Laurie Scott: They both benefit. I say that this would be extremely helpful. I know that I have ATV associations up in Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes that have both been very vocal on seeing this go through. I’m just trying to find their names here—I might be able to in a second—but they have been promoting this use. They have been getting petitions signed. I would hazard to say that those who use the off-roads have all broken a few laws the way they stand, and we’re in the good graces of the OPP and the municipal police forces, that just turn the other cheek so that they are not compromised for an outdated law that exists. An update would help and benefit all of us.

Mr. Bill Walker: The Bruce and Grey ATV clubs really want this.

Ms. Laurie Scott: Yes. The Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound ATV clubs mentioned by my colleague behind me are fully supportive of it; obviously all ATV clubs are. I don’t have a current statistic, but at one point all-terrain vehicles were outselling snowmobiles five to one. I think that’s just a reality of the times in which we live, and they are allowed to come onto some of our roads in some of our municipalities—not all. It has enhanced the tourism dollars, the adventures that can take place up in Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock.

So, all parties being in agreement today, if we could put a due date for the government to act on this, it doesn’t even have to be debated anymore—after next week, of course, for the member from Parry Sound–Muskoka, but it’s just a regulation change. I commend the member from Timiskaming–Cochrane for bringing this forward again. Let’s see how many times we can strike it lucky. I hope today is your day, that we’ll pass it, but let’s see if it gets into law. Thank you for bringing that forward.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate.

Mr. Michael Mantha: As critic for northern development, mines and transportation for our party, it is with great pleasure and honour that I add my comments to this debate. I always stand wholeheartedly to speak on behalf of individuals across Algoma–Manitoulin. The one city, 37 municipalities, 15 unorganized areas and 24 First Nations that are there are all asking for this bill. It is so important to the area, and I speak about this—

Interjections.

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The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Can I get a little bit of order, please?

Mr. Michael Mantha: —from a perspective of tourism, I speak of this in regard to economic development and I speak about this wholeheartedly from small-town recreation and family activity that will really bring people and communities together.

You have to understand that these trails, these roadways, are arteries across northern Ontario—actually, quite frankly, across this province—arteries. They’re the bloodline. When these individuals travel—and at one time they were on their ATVs and you would have groups of anywhere between 20 people to 25 people on their ATVs. That means hotel rooms; that means gasoline; that means gift shops—that means people spending money in your community. That’s what we need across northern Ontario right at this time, because it is difficult to attract people up there.

But here’s the gift that this could do—here in the greater Toronto area you’re blessed with having beautiful museums, beautiful recreation facilities. You have the Rogers Centre, you have movie theatres, you have Canada’s Wonderland. Do you want to know what our Wonderland is? It’s our parks; it’s our woods; it’s our forests; it’s our trails; it’s our lakes. That’s what we have.

When you have individuals who are being restricted as far as accessing these areas, that’s a problem in itself, but accessing them legally is also a big problem for individuals across northern Ontario. This will change that. You have individuals who have got to an age in their life where they physically cannot drive the ATV. Thank goodness we have the UTVs now so that many grandpas and grandmas can actually jump in their vehicles, bring their grandchildren with them and have an activity they can all go out and enjoy. It is such a pleasant family event that people can go out and have a beautiful and wonderful day doing.

What I do want to tell you is that the police officers, particularly in my area, are very lenient with individuals. Although they make sure that the people are abiding by the laws, they make sure that if they observe a violation, they actually follow that individual home. Here’s the kicker, Mr. Speaker: They’ll follow that individual home, they’ll get to his driveway, they will get out of their vehicle, they will walk up to this individual and they will inform him that he has broken the law. Most of these individuals are basically saying, “Well, why? What did I do?” So the explanation goes out.

Do you want to know what they’re saying? The police officers of this province know that we are trying to solve this problem. They’re telling them, “I want you to go tell your MPP, I want to you go tell Michael Mantha, that I came to your driveway today, observed you, watching at your home, so that they know that we know that this needs to be corrected.”

We talked about this extensively, under Bill 31, with the Minister of Transportation. I was quite pleased to hear that there’s a particular part under Bill 31 that is a cleanup that addresses the issue in regard to the pressure that is within the tires, which is apparently going to lay the path in order to change the regulations to get this done.

Let’s get it done. This is a no-brainer bill. This is not a difficult task. The minister can do this. It’s a regulation change. We should look at doing it as quickly as possible. I appreciate the consultation that has gone on, which the member from Cambridge alluded to earlier. She keeps saying, “We’re taking steps forward.” Heck, let’s take a leap. Let’s get this done. It should have been done a long time ago. Let’s get it resolved, because it’s that important to communities across northern Ontario.

Again, I say that the tourism industry is a very fragile one in northern Ontario. This is something where people can actually help with their communities, create jobs and improve economic development. That, Mr. Speaker, is a very important issue across this province.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

M. Gilles Bisson: Monsieur le Président, j’ai écouté attentivement le débat, puis je pense que c’est clair que la plupart des députés dans l’Assemblée sont d’accord avec ce projet de loi. Ils disent, « Écoute, la situation est telle que ça n’a plus de bon sens. » La loi courante ne reflète pas les réalités de la situation avec ces véhicules.

Moi, je le sais. Quand je parle au monde dans mon comté, à Hearst ou à Kap ou à Timmins, c’est toujours le même. Ils se disent : « Écoute, j’ai mon ATV. Je peux aller n’importe où avec. Mais quand ça vient à mon side-by-side »—c’est comme ça qu’on parle en français : « ATV », « side-by-side ». Ils se disent : « Ça ne fait pas de bon sens parce que le side-by-side est beaucoup plus sûr qu’un ATV et aussi beaucoup plus pratique. » Il y a bien de monde qui s’en sert pour charrier un peu de bois, qui met une pelle en avant pour nettoyer la neige, ou qui se transportent d’un point à l’autre quand ça vient à la chasse ou la pêche sur les chemins au nord de l’Ontario.

Donc, je suis content que ça a l’air de la majorité ou même peut-être l’unanimité de la Chambre, les députés. Si c’est le cas, je demanderais, comme M. Vanthof l’a demandé, que le gouvernement fasse ça vite. Écoute, ce n’est pas une question d’avoir besoin d’étudier la question pour bien longtemps. C’est une question que le gouvernement peut changer un règlement et être capable de changer l’autorité nécessaire pour accéder aux demandes de M. Vanthof.

De la part de tous les citoyens de mon comté, on veut le remercier pour avoir amené ce projet de loi devant nous.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I now return to the member for Timiskaming–Cochrane. You have two minutes.

Mr. John Vanthof: I’d like to thank all my honourable colleagues who spoke on behalf of this issue. I heard lots of agreement.

There was one interesting comment about how this has an environmental connotation. I have the, I guess, opportunity of living right next to the Quebec border. If someone in Virginiatown on my side of the border, on the Ontario side of the border, wants to go hunting with his UTV, he needs to go over half a mile of highway. To be legal, he has to pull out his truck, hook up his trailer, put the UTV on the trailer, move the truck a mile, start and stop, while the guy on the Quebec side starts his ATV and drives. Now, which is more environmentally friendly? I’d say: the people on the Quebec side. If you really want to talk about environment, that’s more environmentally friendly.

But the issue, again, and I don’t think I can reinforce this enough: We can’t be standing here year after year saying something’s a problem and we could easily fix it, and not do it. And study it. And say, “We have to look at safety.” Well, Quebec has already looked at the safety concerns. They’re doing it. This is an issue about respect for the tools that people in rural Ontario need.

Here we’re talking about electrifying trains. In Timiskaming–Cochrane they just announced they’re closing the bus stations in Matheson and Englehart. If we’re not careful, UTVs will be the only thing we have left. In rural Ontario, we’re sick of listening to people talk about our concerns and then turning around and ignoring them. You want to show that you have concern for rural Ontario? The things that can be fixed easily without a massive amount of study should be fixed, and fixing the UTV situation is one of them. A majority government could do it now.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.

PROTECTING INTERNS AND CREATING A LEARNING ECONOMY ACT, 2015 / LOI DE 2015 SUR LA PROTECTION DES STAGIAIRES ET LA CRÉATION D’UNE ÉCONOMIE D’APPRENTISSAGE


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): We will deal first with ballot item number 25, standing in the name of Ms. Sattler.

Ms. Sattler has moved second reading of Bill 64, An Act to amend the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act and the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I declare the motion carried.

Second reading agreed to.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98(j), Ms. Sattler?

Ms. Peggy Sattler: Legislative Assembly, please.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member has requested that the bill be referred to Legislative Assembly. Agreed? Agreed. So referred.

SERVICE CLUBS


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Mr. Wilson has moved private member’s notice of motion number 16.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I declare the motion carried.

Motion agreed to.

HIGHWAY TRAFFIC AMENDMENT ACT (OFF-ROAD VEHICLES), 2015 / LOI DE 2015 MODIFIANT LE CODE DE LA ROUTE (VÉHICULES TOUT TERRAIN)


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Mr. Vanthof has moved second reading of Bill 46, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act in respect of off-road vehicles.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I declare the motion carried.

Second reading agreed to.

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The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98(j)—Mr. Vanthof?

Mr. John Vanthof: I’d like to refer to general government.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member has requested that the bill be referred to general government. Agreed? Agreed. So moved.
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