28 OCTOBRE 1998 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
The House met at 1333.
"We as parents need to take more interest and pay closer attention to the staffing issues, the supervision of the playground and what our children are learning at school. We as parents need to show our support to our teachers that are dealing with all these educational changes and understaffing and overcrowding of our classrooms."
She wrote this after her son showed up home on his first day in junior kindergarten. The serious problem was that the young lad walked out the front door of the school, walked home and wasn't even missed at school.
All that the parent knows for sure is that it happened because of an understaffing issue. "Somebody in the system did not do their job," the parent writes, "but it sure isn't the teachers."
The Minister of Education and this government would blame everyone but themselves. The real culprit is a funding formula that doesn't provide adequate resources to provide the staff our schools require.
Maureen Doll, the caring mother of this 4-year-old junior kindergarten student, concludes: "I do respect these teachers and I stand behind them 100%. I know that the teachers involved in this situation are there because they genuinely care for our children and not just for the paycheque."
Don't we all wish the Minister of Education felt the same concern for our children. The Premier should stop sacrificing the future of our province, stop wasting taxpayers' money on wasteful and useless advertisements and fund what is really important -
ONTARIO NORTHLAND TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION
It doesn't take a rocket scientist nor one of those highly paid spin doctors in the Premier's office to know that these cuts will hurt real people: seniors travelling back and forth from Timmins to Hearst for doctors' appointments; college and university students going home for the weekend; people with disabilities; people who cannot afford to own their own car.
The Minister of Northern Development does not understand this. He's got a chauffeur-driven limo to take him anywhere, but you and I know that there are a lot of people in Hearst, Timmins, Cochrane and Kapuskasing who have no access to a vehicle, let alone a chauffeur.
The minister also throws up his hands in resignation and says that the provincial government has nothing to do with it, that the ONTC has an independent board and a president. However, this government never takes responsibility for anything. They always want to blame somebody else. When you strip away $10 million from the ONTC, then walk away and say you have nothing to do with service cuts, it is a complete insult to the intelligence of the people of Cochrane North.
We need a Minister of Northern Development and Mines to speak out on behalf of northerners, to make sure that our interests and concerns are heard at the cabinet table. When the minister continually says that it is not his responsibility, I say that it is time we get rid of this minister and elect an NDP government.
For the people of the Czech lands of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, as well as Slovakia and Ruthenia, this event was a long time in coming. Under the leadership of a university professor, philosopher and politician named Tomas Masaryk, who was named the first president, the Czech and Slovak people succeeded in their struggle for independence from the empire.
The Czechoslovak Republic had a reputation for tolerance and accommodation. Minority groups, including Germans, Poles and Hungarians, were treated well. Between the First and Second World Wars, Czechoslovakia was one of the few genuine parliamentary democracies in Europe.
In World War II, parts of the republic were seized by neighbouring countries and the remainder was occupied by Germany some six months before the invasion of Poland.
Freed from German control, the Czechoslovak Republic regained nominal independence after the war, but only as part of the Soviet bloc. For four more decades, the brave people of this country were subjected to the oppressive control of a foreign power. Who can forget the brutal invasion by Soviet tanks in 1968 and the crushing of attempts to bring democracy back to the Czechs and Slovaks?
Nine years ago this winter, freedom from Communism was obtained, finally and bloodlessly. Playwright and dissident Vaclav Havel became president of the republic.
To my Czech friends, I congratulate you on the 80th anniversary of an independence that was won, then lost, and is now renewed for all time.
At zije Ceska Republika.
HEALTH CARE FUNDING
Yesterday, in desperation, Linda Letourneau approached the Premier in London, where Donald is receiving chemotherapy today. Mike Harris would not look her in the eye or allow her to speak. She was circled and removed by staff so that she would not interrupt the government's "good news" tour. That tour is part of a $7.6-million health care advertising campaign to try and convince the public that our health care system is not lying in tatters. How can you be so callous as to ignore Donald Letourneau?
Last night on the CTV news neupogen was hailed as a miracle drug. CTV's Dale Goldhawk fought back against the government and won. After many refusals, the Ontario drug benefit plan is now paying for neupogen for his case.
How can you refuse Donald Letourneau? Mike Harris has spent $42 million on propaganda in two years. This is an insult to all who are suffering needlessly.
Linda faxed the Premier today, and I quote: "My beloved, frail husband lies in hospital battling a lung infection. I implore you, Mr Harris, as a fellow Canadian and human being, to reconsider neupogen."
Show some courage, Premier. Meet with Linda and tell her why you refuse to pay.
The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a decision by the Divisional Court that logging plans approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources for the Temagami, Elk Lake and Upper Spanish forests violated provincial laws. The laws in question include the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, the Environmental Assessment Act and conditions of the class environmental assessment on timber management. The court has again ordered the MNR to fix the plans in one year's time. Logging will continue during that time.
But the court has also ordered the Harris government to pay all of the costs incurred by the environmental groups that brought the case forward. This clearly shows the court was very unhappy with this government's misuse of taxpayers' dollars and court time to try and justify breaking the law.
The money squandered by the Minister of Natural Resources should have been used to do the forest planning work properly in the first place. But this government is more interested in trying to dodge the law than it is in properly managing our forests.
The bigger issue now is how the MNR will amend these three logging plans and the dozens and dozens of others, prepared in 1996 and after, that are no doubt in violation of the laws too. Given that this government has laid off half its MNR staff, just who will do the work needed to bring logging plans into compliance?
It's clear this government has no regard for the health of our forests or the communities that depend on them. This government -
The price that Greece paid for its ochi was as high as it was heroic. Today, all those Greek soldiers who died defending the land of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Alexander the Great are remembered and mourned by Greeks and by Canadians.
Greek culture and civilization form the foundation of our western culture, language and institutions. Our parliamentary tradition, which we observe even now in this House, and the very ideals of democracy which we are all entrusted to cherish and protect, are all descended from the genius of ancient Greece.
This is why Ontario and Canada share in the victory of the ochi of 1940. This is why we also participate in the mourning of those Greek soldiers, those modern Spartans who died in defence of the richness which is the glorious spirit of eternal Ellas, or Greece.
Long live Ellas.
HEALTH CARE FUNDING
While one is always pleased to get the attention of our government leaders, I can't help but be cynical about this gesture by the Premier, particularly as he launches another outrageous multi-million dollar advertising campaign - money that would be much better spent reversing the health care cuts in my community and northwestern Ontario.
If the Premier has any intentions of making this trip to the north anything more than a public relations exercise, I now call on him to include the following list in his announcements today: that he will cancel the upcoming cut of 15 beds to our acute care hospital; that he will provide for the long-term and chronic care beds that we need to at least put a dent in our unbelievably long waiting lists; that he will provide the often-promised $4 million to recruit specialists to our region; that he will provide the services and the beds we need in our psychiatric hospital so that people needing care are not thrown in jail instead; and that he rehires nurses laid off as a result of the cuts to our hospitals and allows our nurse practitioners access to long-promised funding.
This is a list that could go on and on. People in my part of the province are fed up with a government that makes announcements but doesn't release the funds, a government that has been responsible for an unconscionable decline in our health care standards, and a government that is more willing to spend millions of dollars on political propaganda than in caring for the people of this province.
We were dismayed to find out that under the new security rules that are being imposed in that minister's office, and I assume in other ministers' offices, had it not been for the intervention of ourselves as MPPs, only one parent would have been allowed to go up to the office to simply deliver those letters.
What I want to raise to the members' attention today is that this government is not only shutting down many of our schools but it is now continuing to put in place measures that will shut down any access to ministers that parents and the media and anyone else wants, to simply, as in this case, lodge with them the very strong disappointment, the very strong objections they have to the potential closure of that school.
I just could not believe that things have gotten so far in the Mike Harris world that ministers are afraid to actually allow parents up to the offices to be able to deliver mail. I just hope that is something the government takes into account and changes its position on.
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY
The bill now rests with the standing committee on social development. The member for Downsview, who is Chair of the standing committee on social development, issued a press release yesterday accusing the government of stalling Bill 66. This could not be further from the truth.
The government is prepared to discuss Bill 66 and all other bills on that order paper. In fact, as Chair of the committee on social development, the member for Downsview controls the committee agenda. Bill 66, An Act to proclaim Holocaust Memorial Day...in Ontario, has not yet reached her committee's agenda. In fact, the member for Downsview, who is accusing the government members of dodging committee meetings, scheduled a meeting of the committee yesterday afternoon and did not have the decency to show up. Bill 66 was not on that agenda.
How can the government be stalling when the Chair of the committeedoes not schedule a bill for discussion or bother to show up for the meeting? This action by the member for Downsview is political gamesmanship at its worst.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Bill 25, An Act to reduce red tape by amending or repealing certain Acts and by enacting two new Acts / Projet de loi 25, Loi visant à réduire les formalités administratives en modifiant ou abrogeant certaines lois et en édictant deux nouvelles lois.
Pursuant to the order of the House dated Tuesday June 23, 1998, the bill is ordered for third reading.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AGENCIES
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES AMENDMENT ACT (CHILD WELFARE REFORM), 1998 / LOI DE 1998 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES SERVICES À L'ENFANCE ET À LA FAMILLE (RÉFORME DU BIEN-ÊTRE DE L'ENFANCE)
Mrs Ecker moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 73, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act in order to better promote the best interests, protection and well being of children / Projet de loi 73, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les services à l'enfance et à la famille afin de mieux promouvoir l'intérêt véritable de l'enfant, sa protection et son bien-être.
FUEL AND GASOLINE TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1998 / LOI DE 1998 MODIFIANT LA LOI DE LA TAXE SUR LES CARBURANTS ET LA / LOI DE LA TAXE SUR L'ESSENCE
Mr Hodgson moved first reading of the following bill:
Bill 74, An Act to amend the Fuel Tax Act and the Gasoline Tax Act / Projet de loi 74, Loi modifiant la Loi de la taxe sur les carburants et la Loi de la taxe sur l'essence.
Mr Speaker, the gasoline and fuel industry, as you and the rest of the members in the province know, keeps the Ontario economy moving. The Fuel and Gasoline Tax Amendment Act would make the tax system fairer for this important industry.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
If passed, these changes will provide new rules to better protect children at risk of abuse and neglect. This means stronger tools for the courts, for professionals and for front-line workers to do their jobs.
These are the first major changes to child protection legislation in 10 years. The Child and Family Services Amendment Act is part of the government's comprehensive reform initiatives to improve Ontario's child protection system.
We know from the inquests into the deaths of children and from the report of the Ontario Child Mortality Task Force that children have been falling through the cracks. The purpose of today's amendments is to make it clear that our child protection legislation puts the best interests of the child first.
We have listened carefully to the advice we have received. Today's amendments are based on the following: 400 recommendations from six inquests into the deaths of children involved with children's aid societies in this province; 16 proposals for improvements to child protection from the Ontario Child Mortality Task Force report; recommendations from an expert panel of individuals involved in child protection and led by Judge Mary Jane Hatton; and extensive consultations with the child protection sector.
The proposed amendments focus on those areas most critical to protecting children better. I'd like to explain how.
First, the proposed amendments make it clear that the paramount purpose of the act is to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children.
Second, the proposed amendments expand the grounds for finding a child in need of protection. They do this by reducing the threshold for the risk of harm so that children are protected earlier, by explicitly including neglect in the grounds for protection, and by lowering the threshold for emotional harm and the risk of emotional harm.
Third, the bill would encourage more and earlier reporting of suspected abuse and neglect of children. Current reporting requirements for the public and professionals are confusing. The proposed amendments would clarify when any individual should report that a child is or may be in need of protection. There would continue to be a penalty for professionals who fail to report, but the penalty would be expanded to include failure to report on a broader range of circumstances.
The fourth priority which is addressed in the bill is the need to improve "permanency planning" for children who are in the care of a children's aid society. The proposed amendments would encourage earlier and more decisive planning for children by reducing the length of time that a young child could be in a society's temporary care.
The fifth objective of the amendment is to ensure that children's aid societies can better access the information they need to fulfill their mandate of protection. Court processes would be streamlined and the grounds for obtaining information would be expanded.
Sixth, the amendments would permit evidence of a parent's or caregiver's past conduct towards any child, not just a child in the person's care, and that it be used in all child protection court proceedings.
Finally, this bill would require a review of the Child and Family Services Act at least every five years.
I would like to thank all the individuals involved in child protection who provided their advice and assistance in preparing these amendments. The members of the expert panel were particularly generous in the time they devoted to assisting my ministry staff, who also deserve recognition for their hard work. Special thanks is also due to the young people who were themselves taken into care and who offered their unique insights into the strengths and the weaknesses of the system.
As important as these proposed amendments are to strengthening child protection laws in Ontario, they are only part of the solution, the solution that is needed to fix the problems facing the system. Improving child protection outcomes also requires common tools for risk assessment, effective information systems, up-to-date staff training and resources for front-line workers.
Our step-by-step approach to child protection reform is addressing all of these issues. The common risk assessment system that we mandated for all societies last year is now in effect across the province, helping protection workers make better judgments about when a child is at risk. We are developing standards for how agencies handle cases of abuse and neglect, and the ministry will monitor them against those standards. We have completed design work on a new information technology system that will link all children's aid societies together so that front-line workers can track high-risk families wherever they move and alert the system to past CAS involvement. The new database system will be in operation by spring.
Last year, we invested an additional $15 million in children's aid societies and we hired 220 additional front-line workers to support work on the new database and to improve staff training. Additional resources will be spent this year, next year and the year after that to hire more workers, to revitalize the foster care system and to improve staff training. In total, an additional $170 million will be invested to improve the system. We will also be introducing a new approach to funding children's aid societies that is equitable and better reflects workload and service needs.
These ongoing investments and improvements, combined with the amendments I have introduced today, would significantly strengthen our ability to protect vulnerable children in Ontario. They would provide children's aid societies and their workers with the tools and resources they need to ensure that the best interests, protection and well-being of children are always paramount, that protecting vulnerable children is their prime concern, first, last and always.
ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURIES
Fulfilling a pre-election commitment from our Premier, he made a significant announcement that by the end of March 1999 we would repatriate all Ontarians who were receiving acquired brain injury services in the United States of America. As you well know, in the past, these Ontarians were classified as serious brain injury cases and were then sent away to facilities outside of our province and, in particular, outside of our country. Under the Mike Harris government, people with brain injuries are no longer being sent to the US.
Responding to our challenge, groups like Dale have sprung up across the province to provide these specialized services, groups like the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities of Windsor and Essex County and Brain Injury Community Re-Entry in St Catharines, both of which I have visited, and Brain Injury Services of Hamilton, the Anagram Acquired Brain Injury Society in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Mississauga, Toronto, and Thunder Bay programs.
Since announcing our plan, we've brought 55 of these Ontario women and men home to their families and to their communities and to participate in world-class ABI programs right here in our province. Today, our plan is on track and we are bringing the remaining 21 Ontarians home so that they will be here on time by March 1999.
Yesterday, we issued a request for proposals for more organizations to expand to provide places for these people with the opportunity for daily contact with their families, their friends and their communities. By March of next year, every single one of these special Ontarians will be back home.
At this time, I would like to thank my colleague the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs for her work on behalf of Dale and its participants, and the member for Wentworth North, who has been an outstanding defender of Ontarians who are receiving these programs outside of Canada.
Acquired brain injury participants reflect our commitment to expanding access to the whole range of continuing care services that are provided in the communities, like supportive housing, Meals on Wheels, Alzheimer's programs and, of course, the visiting nurses, physiotherapy and homemaking services provided by community care access centres across Ontario. Funding for these programs has increased by 40% in the last three years to levels in excess of $1.2 billion, and it is health care restructuring that has made this possible.
Expanded access to continuing care is a result of our efforts to reform health services. We knew when we began the process of health care reform that we were walking into a political lion's den. But we also knew that if we were successful, in addition to providing world-class hospital and clinical care, we would build a health services system that would provide appropriate care for every individual and deliver that care as close as possible to the individual's home.
We are providing care that is appropriate to the individual, care as close as possible to the individual's own home, friends, family and their community, and that principle applies whether the appropriate service is acute care provided in a hospital, visiting nursing services provided in a person's own home or the kind of ongoing continuing care that Dale provides.
The people I met yesterday were perfect examples, being repatriated from as far away as Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas, not to mention one individual who was participating in our program from northern Ontario, but moved to London to be closer to his parents.
You know, as we celebrate the joy of these reunions, it is possible to lose sight of the obvious health benefits. Across Ontario, ABI participants are making tremendous progress that did not seem possible under the programs they were receiving in the United States. In part, it is a result of being closer to home. As well, the staff at our ABI centres must take credit for developing programs that are making a real difference in the lives of these Ontarians.
It is one more reminder of the strength of our health care system. As Cathy McNally, whose daughter was in San Marcos, Texas, summed it up much better than I could:
"When Irene joined Dale services she required lots of supports in all areas. After just one full year of full-time support, Irene has moved on to independent living in her own apartment, still with help and guidance on housekeeping. Irene knows she can call staff in any emergency 24 hours a day.
"I can't tell you what a relief it is to her dad and I to know that she is so happy in her new life and we know it only takes us two hours to see her instead of three days driving."
One participant's parents said they were proud of their health care system once again.
We're working very hard to build a health system in which people have names and families and friends, and a community that cares about them and respects them is restored in Ontario.
CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
I want this minister to walk the talk, and that means go to Management Board and, with $90 million that was announced in last spring's budget, ask for one cent of that $90 million to flow to 50 children's aid societies, because not one cent has been spent, and that was in last spring's budget. Some 50 children's aid societies have $100 million in contingency funds they require and that still has not come through the Management Board. I want the minister to walk the talk.
When you bring new risk-assessment tools to Ontario, it means more children in care. That means more services required. That means that children's mental health agencies need the support of the government to help the child protection workers intervene. That means the child protection workers need help to do their job.
When we see that last spring's budget hasn't resulted in one new cent of the $90 million that was announced, what does that say if we're bringing in new laws, because they don't have the resources to implement new laws?
We insist that this minister walk the talk. Don't come in here with kind words about amendments required when those same children's aids can't do the job today because today they don't have resources because this minister cannot get the announcement from a budget through Management Board and down to the children's aids where they need it.
There's $100 million in contingency funding that you have not paid from last year, never mind the new $90 million that was announced in last spring's budget; of the $100 million they're waiting for and $90 million announced in the budget, not one red cent. But I notice that this minister in particular is very adept at spending taxpayers' money on government propaganda ads.
ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURIES
Yesterday we had this minister carrying the briefcase for the Premier, who's cutting cake in London while the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines is being shut down. We have the audacity of a minister responsible for home care turning away patients all across the province and trotting out an announcement from 1995. Minister, you should be ashamed that announcement hasn't been completed by now.
In fact, when this minister talks to us about recognizing the names of the people who have been harmed by this government, we want to bring forward some names. We want to talk about Mr Ed Whitehill, who died in an emergency room hallway in Peterborough, who was not able to get the care he needed because this government has yanked $870 million out of hospitals.
We want to talk about Mrs Kaneshakumar, who died en route from Scarborough to Hamilton waiting to get a critical care bed, while nowhere in Toronto, the largest centre in the province, was such a bed available.
We want to talk to you about Shelley Lynn Penny, who is a brain injury victim in Thunder Bay and whose father, Miles Penny, has driven himself into the ground with anxiety trying to get basic services for his daughter, along with hundreds of patients around this province who are facing an infrastructure of health care that has been weakened and diluted.
Minister, to see you participate in London and to see the member from London defend the fact that you have taken out of London - $47 million more was cut out of London last year than has been brought back in. You rely on public relations and try and hide behind a three-year-old announcement that should have been enacted by now. You hide behind, quite frankly, the families of people who are desperate and anxious to have their very sick family members repatriated to this province. You hide behind public relations when what people really want and expect and have a right to demand is proper health care in this province and ministers who talk straight to them about it.
CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
I look forward to examining these amendments, Minister, to see if they address the true problems. I'm particularly interested in the area of the proposed amendments expanding the grounds for finding a child in need of protection. You will know that there have been many debates over the years about the balance to be struck between institutionalization and the supports that are needed to families to provide good parenting.
Minister, all the legislative changes in the world are not going to mean a thing when we look at your cuts to front-line services. You stood there and said there are 200 more staff. If you look at your cuts over the last three years, there are 455 net fewer permanent positions in children's aid front-line workers protecting our kids. You announced again today, with great foofaraw, your risk assessment model. In Ottawa-Carleton, where they are testing that model, the pilot project shows that while it may be a good model, it's taking six hours more per case to do it, and they will need 95% more staff to be able to implement that.
Minister, while caseloads are growing because of your cuts to social assistance, to health care, to education supports, more kids are being put at risk, more kids are in need of care and there are fewer staff to do it. So legislative change may be good, and we look forward to working with it, but put some money where your mouth is and really do something to protect the kids of this province.
ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURIES
I also have visited the Dale Brain Injury Centre in London. When I was there, the staff and the executive director met me and they said, "We want to thank the NDP government for helping us to create and fund this centre." What you left out of your announcement is that the first patient who was brought home to Ontario suffering from acquired brain injury was in 1992, when Frances Lankin was the Minister of Health. What you left out of your announcement was that the whole direction of bringing home patients who suffer from acquired brain injuries was begun under Frances Lankin and Ruth Grier, NDP ministers of health. You are trying to take credit for a program that was created and funded by the NDP government. Why didn't you put that in your announcement?
Speaker, I'll tell you why he didn't put it in his announcement: because this government doesn't have anything else it can take credit for in the health care field.
As we have seen over the last month or so, they announced $225 million to deal with the problem in emergency services. Nothing happened until we here in this Legislature exposed you and embarrassed you for doing nothing.
Then you announced $36 million to recruit and retain physicians in rural and northern Ontario in communities that are underserviced: $36 million, and what has happened? Nothing. It was a phony, empty announcement by your government.
Then there was $5 million to recruit nurse practitioners into communities that are underserviced. What has happened to the $5 million? Nothing. Another phony, empty announcement.
Then there was $60 million for mental health services. Dr Tyrone Turner goes on CBC Radio two days ago to point out that a year after you made the announcement, only $20 million of that has made its way into mental health services; $40 million your government refuses to find.
The reason this government is here trying to take credit for a program that was created and funded by the NDP government is because it's desperately seeking some way to avoid being identified as a government that issues phony, empty health care announcements.
At the end of the day, what it comes down to is this: This government has absolutely no problem finding $6 billion to finance its income tax scheme, an income tax scheme that at the end of the day is only going to benefit the wealthiest people in this province. But when it comes to mental health services, when it comes to emergency room services, when it comes to underserviced areas, this government -
Last night, Ontarians were subjected to the latest in an extensive series of taxpayer-funded, self-serving Conservative Party propaganda pieces. Let me repeat that: taxpayer-funded, self-serving Conservative Party propaganda.
You've decided to waste four million taxpayer dollars on television ads that are designed specifically to cover up the fact that Mike Harris has broken his promise not to close Ontario hospitals. To call these ads an obscene waste of taxpayers' money is an understatement. To call them a scandalous misappropriation of taxpayers' money would be more appropriate.
Tell me, Minister, why didn't Mike Harris just steal the $4 million from taxpayers and put it directly into his campaign? Wouldn't that be the more honest thing to do?
You can compare past government spending on advertising with our government spending on advertising. I think you will find they are comparable. Previous governments have done huge campaigns on programs such as Smile Ontario, which didn't eliminate one bit of fraud in the health care system, didn't improve the system.
Your government neglected to make the tough decisions to reform this health care system. All the experts talked about the need for it to be done. There's also a need to make sure the public is reassured about that and understands the direction that we're going.
Let's put this into some perspective here. You're going to spend more money in the next three weeks on advertising than any political party is allowed to spend during an entire election campaign. During the entire last provincial election campaign, your party spent $1.7 million on ads. During the next three weeks you're going to spend four million taxpayer dollars on propaganda.
It's an abuse of power. You know it, I know it, the people in this House know it, and everybody in Ontario knows it. When are you going to stop spending taxpayers' dollars? When are you going to send the bill to your party so they'll pick up the tab for this propaganda?
The province is going through some major changes. The health care field in particular is a sensitive issue for a lot of people. Government has the responsibility to inform people of the changes that are taking place, of the need for change and how it's going to be managed. This government has had the courage to address what people unanimously have said in the health care field, that there need to be reforms, that there need to be changes.
What you are doing is unprecedented. Your current $4-million spending spree is just the latest. It comes on top of millions spent on education propaganda. It comes on top of millions spent on wasted welfare propaganda. It comes on top of millions wasted on business propaganda. In total so far, and it's early going yet, early days yet, you have wasted over $42 million worth of taxpayers' money in a desperate attempt to save your own skins. Minister, why should taxpayers be involved in this plot to fund your re-election campaign?
I think everyone in this House would agree that governments have a responsibility to communicate change. They also encourage communication from elected officials, and I would encourage the leader of the Liberal Party to communicate his priorities and his policies around health care.
Let's understand what this would have meant in terms of health care dollars for patients: $42 million would have allowed you to hire almost 1,000 new nurses; $42 million would have allowed you to wipe out the entire deficit of the Ottawa Hospital, which right now stands at $41 million; $42 million would have allowed you to pay for your share of 40 MRIs desperately needed by communities right across this province; $42 million would have allowed you to pay for your full-year funding commitment to attract doctors to underserviced areas in communities right across the province.
How can you justify wasting taxpayer dollars that ought to be devoted to health care and putting them into your campaign to re-elect Mike Harris?
Governments advertise. We know that. There's nothing that I think is more important than communicating to the public about major changes that are taking place. If you want to have an honest debate about health care policy, I'd invite you to do that and tell us what the Liberal position is on health care reform and the need for this change.
You tell me, Minister, where do you get off, where do you get the nerve to use education-paid taxpayer dollars that ought to be dedicated to education to plow into your bid to re-elect yourselves and Mike Harris's government?
As well as that, for government advertising there is a role that we believe should be informing the public. There are major changes taking place; they should be informed of that. All governments have advertised. Our budget will compare with your government. In fact, these changes are well overdue and necessary.
What you are doing with the taxpayers' $42 million is wrong and you know it, and you're not going to get away with it. If Bob Rae had wasted this much money, the Taxfighter would have been swinging from these chandeliers, and you know it. Tinpot dictators would blush at your use and abuse of taxpayer dollars for self-serving propaganda. What you're doing is scandalous and an obscenity. You are diverting money away that ought to be devoted to our patients and our students, and you're plowing that into a bid to re-elect your government.
Tell me once again, Minister, how you can possibly justify taking precious taxpayer dollars that ought to be spent on our patients and ought to be spent on our students to improve health care and to improve education, and what you're doing instead is sticking them into a fund to re-elect Mike Harris.
If you want to compare our record with the Liberal record, I'd be glad to do that. If you want to take a two-year period, you were spending $94 million on government-paid advertising. That's just in two years. Over the 10-year period, between the NDP and the Liberal governments you closed 10,000 hospital beds. That equates to 35 mid-sized hospitals. But you didn't reduce the bricks and mortar, the administration or find efficiencies and reinvest those dollars -
Doesn't it bother you to suggest that the people who died before they could be treated in Peterborough, before they could be treated in Wawa, before they could be treated in Scarborough - doesn't it bother you that you had nothing for those people who died? You had no time for them, no money for them, but you've got $4 million to spend on useless, disgusting television propaganda? Doesn't that bother you?
We know for a record of five years with your government just exactly what you accomplished. You have a very extensive record of closing hospital beds but not confronting the real issues or the fact that these half-empty hospitals still required expensive administration. You laid off all those nurses. People who required those beds, the longest waiting lists in this province, predominantly for cancer care and for cardiac care and dialysis - where was your commitment to ensure that some tough decisions were made and we expanded the expenditures in health care?
This government is very proud of the fact that it has been able to expand considerably the amount of funding for health care in this province to over $18.7 billion, a record for this province, a commitment we're prepared to make -
Just the $4 million that you're spending on your latest television propaganda about health care could hire, full-time, 100 badly needed nurses. Those are the choices you're making. You lay off nurses, you refuse to hire the nurses who are needed, Yet you put $4 million into this disgusting television propaganda. I ask you again, doesn't that bother you? Doesn't it bother you that people are suffering and you're taking money out of health care to finance this disgusting television propaganda campaign?
I have to tell you, leader of the third party, that if you were that anxious to go to Dale Brain Injury Services in the last little while to talk to those residents, did you look those residents in the face and tell them why you left 76 of them stranded in the United States when you were the government?
Not this government. We're bringing every single one of them back to this province. We're doing it because we're restructuring health care and we have the courage to do it.
Minister, if we go back just to September 1 - first to your education propaganda, now your health care propaganda and then your welfare propaganda that people are receiving in the mail - it's $10 million in less than two months. That's $10 million wasted on propaganda.
As I pointed out, adding it all together, it's at least 200 full-time nurses; adding it all together, it's close to 300 classroom teachers.
Once again, how do you justify closing schools, shutting down programs, laying off nurses, underfunding emergency rooms, underfunding mental health services, underfunding underserviced areas, while you spend this money on awful, terrible, ugly partisan political propaganda?
Before everybody gets too sanctimonious in this legislative chamber about advertising, I want to remind the member opposite that I sat on that side of the House. I remember a very famous Smile Ontario program, where $10 million -
CHILDREN'S TREATMENT CENTRES
"As you know, I met with members of PACK" - that's the Grandview parents - "on August 24th."
Your letter goes to some considerable lengths to refute or explain away many of the parents' concerns. Minister, did you even listen to those parents at that meeting?
"You state in your letter that you met with members of PACK.... But, Mr Jackson, you were not there. You have never set foot in Grandview, nor have you ever met with any parents from PACK."
It's clear that you signed the letter. It's equally clear that you didn't read it, because that's not the only misstatement of fact in this letter. You also suggest that the review of the role of children's treatment centres is underway. You may be mistaken there because you listened to your colleague the Minister of Health, who said to me on June 18 in this House: "The review is underway.... This review is getting underway and we hope to complete it as quickly as possible." Another phony health care announcement. Five months later, the review hasn't started and you haven't even announced the terms of reference.
Kids and families are going without desperately needed services while you have continued the freeze on their budgets, while you await a review that you haven't even started and that's not likely to get started until January, and while your colleagues toss around this review like a political hot potato. Will you lift the freeze, Minister?
The kids, the families, aren't getting the services they need. In Durham alone, the fastest growing population, biggest percentage of kids, an increase - 900 referrals last year. They're not getting the services. You brag about them discharging people from Grandview; 150 of the kids who have been discharged simply get no services.
Minister, please, I'm asking you, under your watch and your ministry, will you at least review lifting the freeze and giving an interim budget infusion while the review takes place? For the sake of the kids and the sake of the families, will you at least look at that?
I would also like to remind the honourable member that, yes, there has been a freeze on these institutions because we need to review how best to serve the needs of those families. We have a number of reform initiatives underway to help support those families in a better way. They have special-needs children. That's why we have our reform underway in children's services in community and social services. That's why the Durham MPPs have met with these parents many times. That's why we are undertaking this review, so that we can serve the needs of those families much better than they are currently getting.
Today in Thunder Bay, as part of the political road show of Mike Harris paid for by the taxpayers of this province, and with an election just around the corner, Mike Harris ripped up the recommendations of the commission and announced a new and changed political solution for the hospitals in Thunder Bay.
Since we have exposed the fact that the commission is neither arm's length nor objective, and most certainly that its decisions are not final, may I assume that the Premier will elbow aside his commission and save the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines from the commission's swinging axe?
The people of Thunder Bay should be congratulated on working through this process that's going to improve their health care services for the next millennium, and the health care restructuring commission should be congratulated on the work that they have carried out in that community.
Will you assure the people of St Catharines and the Niagara region that the Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines, which has provided outstanding medical service to patients in our community for half a century, will receive the same treatment as the closed hospital in Ernie Eves's riding? If not, would you tell the staff and directors of the Hotel Dieu Hospital what they should do with the congratulatory scroll which Mike Harris sent to the Hotel Dieu on the celebration of its 50th anniversary?
In St Catharines - I know the member is concerned about this and so are a lot of the residents - there's a 30-day period from when they make their initial recommendations to when they make their final recommendations.
In Thunder Bay, the local people gathered around and came up with some ideas on how to improve it. I think it's something that all members of this House should be proud of.
In spite of the 10 to 15 years of inaction on behalf of this province, we're moving forward and putting the dollars to better use to serve patients in this province. In Thunder Bay that's a success story, and it wasn't always that way. If you talk to the people of Thunder Bay, there's a lot of acrimony in the community, as we looked at this for the last 10 years. Today and from here on, it's good news. They're working together to make a better health care system.
Minister, will you join the Toronto city council and declare a state of emergency around the conditions of homelessness in this province?
We had a task force that consulted with municipalities, and the message we heard loudly and clearly was that a great deal of money was already being spent, but one of the problems was with the way it was being spent. Municipalities were having their hands tied. We can see here in Toronto the creativity, the innovation, the solutions that can be brought forward at the community level. Our responsibility is to help fund that and we are indeed doing that.
Toronto is finding some creative solutions. They're actually taking vacant buildings and turning them over to provide shelter for the homeless. Your government has been busy shutting down hospitals and laying off people. You must have some vacant buildings that are available. Would you provide a list of the vacant buildings that you can make available so that people who don't have a home will at least have a roof over their head this winter? Can you do that, Minister?
I don't think there's anybody more qualified to identify buildings that may be available in a municipality than the municipality itself. The city of Toronto, for example, is doing that. They're putting together a list of buildings within their community that may be appropriate for hostels over the period in question, and when they identify those buildings, and if they provide additional beds, this government will be there to provide the support that we've always provided, and that is to pay 80% of the cost of every bed that is found.
Minister, as you are responsible for long-term care, I would like you to tell me how long-term care services in St Catharines and Niagara are being improved on the one hand while on the other hand a hospital is being recommended for closure.
That is a commitment that this government is already well in advance of with the restructuring commission, because we have allocated 646 new long-term-care beds to this region, 20% more than the restructuring commission has recommended.
Within the next two weeks, we'll be announcing the locations of the first 100 new long-term-care beds, the first for this region in 10 years. Last week, I announced the locations for 37 transitional beds. So we are building long-term-care beds for an aging society and in particular in the Niagara Peninsula, where they've been badly neglected for a decade.
Minister, community care is also a concern. My question to you is, what is the government doing in St Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake to build a more integrated community and family-based health care system?
On top of that, we've added additional community-based services of over $6 million for integrated programs like Meals on Wheels, Pleasant Manor care services, brain injury community re-entry programs, the Victorian Order of Nurses, the west Niagara community support services, March of Dimes, Alzheimer day programs. The list goes on and on.
This part of the province has the largest and fastest growing group of seniors in all of Canada. This government moved quickly, immediately, when it had its mandate to increase funding for badly needed services for the Niagara Peninsula, and we're proud of those expanded services.
In the gallery today is Chris Chmelyk, who has come all the way from Queen's University to get you to take notice of his situation. Chris wrote to you urgently. He's an engineering student at Queen's. He's going to have to leave school in January because of your tuition hikes, because you've saddled him with crushing debt.
Here's what he said to you. He can't qualify for OSAP because his parents' income is too high. His parents can only send him $200 a month. He has exhausted the lines of credit from the bank. There is no more money available for his education.
This is your legacy, Minister. This is what you've done to thousands of post-secondary students in Ontario with your cuts to student assistance. Chris Chmelyk and the rest of Ontario's students want an answer from you here today. Tell us today, Minister, why your government has decided to spend $42 million on advertising propaganda instead of investing that money in student assistance so that Chris and 500,000 -
Let's just check and see what assistance to students was during the Liberal years. It says here that the maximum amount of support during the Liberal years was about $300 million less. In terms of the total investment -
We're attempting to focus in areas of greatest need to our post-secondary students. That is our program.
Minister, you've made student assistance harder to access. You haven't explained why you've chosen to spend $11 million on education propaganda instead of spending it on student assistance.
In the gallery today as well are members of the alma mater society. They've come to demand an answer from you about how your government is going to ease the debt burden on college and university students. You told them on July 23 that you would finally have a framework for changes to OSAP by September 30 this year. It's now the end of October and all we've seen is new spending on government propaganda advertising.
Stand in your place and tell us why you've sat back and watched the average student debt rise to a level of $25,000 because of your tuition hikes. Tell the AMS representatives why you made empty promises in July. These students are going to meet you outside of the House today to hear your explanation. I want to hear it right now, here in the House.
That's why we have increased OSAP, Ontario student assistance, by 33%. During our term, we have instituted the Ontario student opportunity trust fund, some $600 million to assist students. We've insisted that 30% of any tuition increase, if an institution increases the tuition, be set aside to help those students who need that help. We've instituted the access to opportunities program to help students in those particular courses. We've increased funding to Ontario's universities that have increased access by some $29 million. On and on it goes. We've focused the need to the student -
VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS
Minister, in light of the communities' concerns about violence among students, will you reverse your ministry's directive and ensure that curriculum policy documents in each subject area include education about violence prevention?
The school officials, as they have down through the ages, have determined that these documents, because they already exist, do not have to be duplicated in each and every curriculum. But I will also say that each of the curriculum teams has an expert in terms of violence as they create the new curriculum, and are aware of those kinds of issues as they are creating the curriculum.
Let's deal with the Violence-Free Schools Policy document that was developed after consultation with over 3,000 Ontarians by our government. That document recognized the need to involve the whole community in violence prevention. But the government's cuts to education have exacerbated youth violence. The cuts have taken away the supports that students need, like guidance counsellors and social workers in secondary schools.
The Violence-Free Schools Policy document requires the ministry to review the policy and procedures after three years. The document is now four years old. It should have been reviewed last year. Has your ministry reviewed this document? When will we see the proposals for its implementation in future?
In terms of support within the classrooms for guidance teachers, for example, the amount of money within the funding formula has been increased so that there are more resources available for guidance counsellors and librarians and all the other people in that particular category, but it certainly includes guidance counsellors across Ontario.
These are all very important measures that this government considers a high priority and I hope we'll come forward in the very near future with that upgraded policy.
On October 5, I read into the record a petition that had been presented to me by two students, Moe Ajram and Kari Coish, the student council vice-president and president of the Dr G.W. Williams Secondary School in Aurora. That petition expressed the serious concerns of students who are being affected by the work-to-rule strategy of teachers in York region because they're being denied all extracurricular activities.
On Monday of this week those same students came back to see me and they're now concerned that work-to-rule is affecting them not only in extracurricular activities but in the classroom. Students are being told by teachers that they don't have the time to provide extra help when asked for explanations on lessons and results of tests are often delayed for days.
Minister, these students are looking to this government for some answers. They're looking to you as minister. What advice can you offer to students in my constituency being so affected?
Frankly, it's disappointing, it's unacceptable and it's very frustrating because these are activities that students need. These are very important in terms of their overall involvement within their schools in activities such as the Metro Bowl today. I see that the number of participants in the Metro Bowl has been reduced. It can be sports activities, science clubs, musical plays - many different activities that are most important.
I continue to believe in the professionalism of the teachers and I call on them to restore all of these extracurricular activities for the students who need them most urgently.
This action right now of these teachers is in many cases going to jeopardize the academic year and is going to jeopardize the opportunity for these students to qualify for sports programs in universities. What can we do to support the students in the classroom so they can get on with their education?
The member has raised the issue of assignments, the marking of assignments and returning of assignments. The marking and returning of assignments would be a normal requirement of the activities within a school, and this may be a matter that should be raised with the local principal or the local school board representative and addressed because these are not voluntary activities. Marking and returning assignments are part of the job and the activities within a school.
I think we all need to call on those in the teaching profession - they're professionals - and ask them to put the students first, think of the students, get back to all of those extracurricular activities -
HEALTH CARE FUNDING
I want to contrast that to the cuts. A constituent, Mr Saheed Mohammed, 68 years old, had heart surgery and was released from hospital a week later. That same evening he suffered chest pains and was rushed to the hospital he was released from. As a result of the emergency department being full, the gentleman was transferred to another hospital. Four hours later, he was en route back to the original hospital where he had the surgery and died on the way to the hospital. The wife, Mrs Mohammed, clearly believes that her husband would be alive today if it wasn't for the fact that he was turned away from the original hospital due to overflow and the emergency department being in a situation where they could not take him.
Minister, according to Mrs Mohammed, your cuts killed her husband. Can you tell me how the $4 million that you're spending on government propaganda on health care is going to help Mrs Mohammed understand why her husband died as a result of your cuts?
What we want to do with the reform is make it so these situations do not occur in this province. One occurrence like that is not acceptable to anyone. We also recognize that we have to go through change to find the dollars, to prioritize under the front-line services. Taking the Liberal approach of do nothing has put us in a situation where we've had to take some rapid action to improve the system.
In the greater Cornwall area we could have put that money to better use. In August your government finally announced after two and a half years that a Cornwall dialysis machine would be up and running in November. Here it is, the end of October, and there are a lot of questions that are not answered, such as when the facilities will be operational and what the hours will be. Many of the working-class people in my community want to know what hours this will be available to them.
Also, in the election campaign Mike Harris promised not to close any hospitals, but we had a casualty in our riding too. The residents are very worried that it will not result in improved health care and about the dollars that it will cost them for the new facilities.
My question is, what will the hours of service be for the new dialysis equipment in Cornwall and when will it be up and running?
I should point out to the Liberals on the other side that this government has increased overall health care spending in this province far in excess of what we campaigned on and what you campaigned on to meet the needs. The only government in Canada that has cut health care spending is your federal cousins in Ottawa.
But the point is that by restructuring this system, the changes that are necessary, the changes that this government information is trying to inform the public about - and this is the need for information - are those dialysis programs, those special programs, those community care programs. The dollars from that come from restructuring the acute care system.
That's why if your government had taken the action back in the 1980s when all the experts said we have a surplus of hospitals in this province, that we need more dollars out in the front-line services, then we wouldn't have that problem. The quicker we get through that, the better off our health care system will be in this province.
"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario has decided to scrap mandatory inquests as a result of fatalities in the mining and construction industries; and
"Whereas this unprecedented and callous decision sets workplace safety back 20 years;
"We, the undersigned, request that Solicitor General Bob Runciman, on behalf of all workers in the mining and construction industry, reverse his decision to remove mandatory inquests from the Coroners Act of Ontario."
Of course, I affix my signature to this United Steelworkers of America petition.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Whereas children are exposed to pornography in variety stores and video retail outlets; and
"Whereas bylaws vary from city to city and have failed to protect minors from unwanted exposure to pornography;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To enact legislation which will create uniform standards in Ontario to prevent minors from being exposed to pornography in retail establishments; prevent minors from entering establishments which rent or sell pornography; restrict the location of such establishments to non-residential areas."
I sign my name to this petition.
"Whereas most Ontario residents do not have adequate access to effective palliative care in time of need;
"Whereas meeting the needs of Ontarians of all ages for relief of preventable pain and suffering, as well as the provision of emotional and spiritual support, should be a priority to our health care system;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to resolve that a task force be appointed to develop a palliative care bill of rights that would ensure the best possible treatment, care, protection and support for Ontario citizens and their families in time of need.
"The task force should include palliative care experts in pain management, community palliative care and ethics in order to determine effective safeguards for the right to life and care of individuals who cannot or who can no longer decide issues of medical care for themselves.
"The appointed task force would provide interim reports to the government and the public and continue in existence to review the implementation of its recommendations."
My God, this is a place for public debate. It's a place to raise public questions and it's a place for people who are touched by those decisions or touched by those debates to have an opportunity to talk to the media. The security guards, who I assume report to you, are trying to force those people to leave, trying to limit their access to the media. Those can't be the rules around here.
If you'd please follow my advice, I think that would be the wisest thing to do.
Member for Scarborough North.
"Save the Dieu."
"The Health Services Restructuring Commission, HSRC, has given notice that it intends to direct the Hotel Dieu Hospital to close and to require" -
Member for Sault Ste Marie, this is not a point of order. Let's continue with the procedures. Please take your seat. This is petition time.
Member for Scarborough North.
"The Health Services Restructuring Commission has given notice that it intends to direct the Hotel Dieu Hospital to close and to require that the Religious Hospitallers of St Joseph cease to govern. If the proposed direction is made and implemented, then access to high-quality health care will be seriously undermined in Kingston and region.
"The sisters are recognized for their leadership in the health care community. They have developed the plan for and operated an efficient outpatient teaching hospital and have provided a high quality of patient care for 123 years from the same location. Their distinct values and philosophy, coupled with the sisters' tradition of compassionate care, must not disappear.
"The HSRC's proposed direction calls for the dismissal of the sisters from their role in the governance in outpatient health care at the Hotel Dieu Hospital. This is not in the best interests of the patients and families in this city and region. The people of Kingston deserve to have access to the kind of quality health care for which the sisters are well recognized.
"Those who must use public transportation to get to outpatient clinics will be seriously affected. Taxpayers should not have to shoulder any extra burden in paying for a new outpatient facility, when the Hotel Dieu site can accommodate the needs of the people of Kingston. Many downtown businesses will suffer greatly should the site be closed.
"The sisters of Hotel Dieu Hospital are asking you to help them in their response to the commission by signing this petition."
I also will put my name to this petition.
"Whereas the Harris government's `downloading' to municipal taxpayers is directly responsible for the $36.3-million shortfall to the region of Hamilton-Wentworth; and
"Whereas the Harris government `downloading' is directly responsible for creating a property tax crisis in our region; and
"Whereas the Harris government, while boasting about its 30% tax cut which benefits mainly the wealthy, is making hard-working families, seniors, homeowners and businesses pay the price with outrageous property tax hikes and user fees for services; and
"Whereas city and regional councillors are being unfairly blamed and forced to explain these huge tax hikes, Hamiltonians know that what's really going on is that they are being forced to pay huge property tax increases to fund Harris's 30% tax giveaway to the rich; and
"Whereas homeowners, including seniors and low-income families, are facing huge property tax increases ranging from several hundred to thousands of dollars; and
"Whereas the Harris government `downloading' has led to huge property tax increases for business that will force many small and medium-sized businesses in Hamilton-Wentworth to close or leave the community, putting people out of work; and
"Whereas Hamilton-Wentworth region is proposing that the Harris government share in the costs of an expanded rebate program, worth about $3 million region-wide;
"Therefore we, the undersigned, demand that the Harris government immediately eliminate the $38-million downloading shortfall that is devastating and angering homeowners as well as killing business in Hamilton-Wentworth."
I continue to support my community by signing this petition.
PROTECTION FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS
"Whereas nurses in Ontario often experience coercion to participate in practices which directly contravene their deeply held ethical standards; and
"Whereas pharmacists in Ontario are often pressured to dispense and/or sell chemicals and/or devices contrary to their moral or religious beliefs; and
"Whereas public health workers in Ontario are expected to assist in providing controversial services and promoting controversial materials against their consciences; and
"Whereas physicians in Ontario often experience pressure to give referrals for medications, treatments and/or procedures which they believe to be gravely immoral; and
"Whereas competent health care workers and students in various health care disciplines in Ontario have often been denied training, employment, and advancement in their intended fields and suffered other forms of unjust discrimination because of the dictates of their consciences; and
"Whereas the health care workers experiencing such unjust discrimination have at present no practical and accessible legal means to protect themselves;
"We, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to enact legislation explicitly recognizing the freedom of conscience of health care workers, prohibiting coercion of and unjust discrimination against health care workers because of their refusal to participate in matters contrary to the dictates of their consciences and establishing penalties for such coercion and unjust discrimination."
"We, the undersigned taxpayers, call on the government of Ontario to rethink its school reform policy.
"Your reform has thrown the education system into total chaos and the crisis your minister envisaged to create is much worse than expected.
"From kindergarten to adult education cuts have caused deep concern among parents, students, school boards and trustees.
"We call on the Premier of our province to reallocate some of the funding cuts and give us back an education system that gives our sons and daughters the best education for a good start in life."
I agree, and I will affix my signature to it.
"Whereas most Ontario residents do not have adequate access to effective palliative care in time of need;
"Whereas meeting the needs of Ontarians of all ages for relief of preventable pain and suffering, as well as the provision of emotional and spiritual support, should be a priority to our health care system;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to resolve that a task force be appointed to develop a palliative care bill of rights that would ensure the best possible treatment, care, protection and support for Ontario citizens and their families in time of need.
"The task force should include palliative care experts in pain management, community palliative care and ethics in order to determine effective safeguards for the right to life and care of individuals who cannot or who can no longer decide issues of medical care for themselves.
"The appointed task force would provide interim reports to the government and the public and continue in existence to review the implementation of its recommendations."
HOTEL DIEU HOSPITAL
"Since the Hotel Dieu Hospital has played and continues to play a vital role in the delivery of health care services in St Catharines and the Niagara region;
"Since Hotel Dieu has modified its role over the years as part of a rationalization of medical services in St Catharines and has assumed the position of a regional health care facility in such areas as kidney dialysis and oncology;
"Since the Niagara region is experiencing underfunding in the health care field and requires more medical services and not fewer services;
"Since Niagara residents are required at present to travel outside of the Niagara region to receive many specialized services that could be provided in city hospitals and thereby not require local patients to make difficult and inconvenient trips down our highways to other centres;
"Since the Niagara hospital restructuring committee used a Toronto consulting firm to develop its recommendations and was forced to take into account a cut of $40 million in funding for Niagara hospitals when carrying out its study;
"Since the population of the Niagara region is older than that in most areas of the province and more elderly people tend to require more hospital services;
"We, the undersigned, request that the government of Ontario keep the election commitment of Premier Mike Harris not to close hospitals in our province, and we call upon the Premier to reject any recommendation to close Hotel Dieu Hospital in St Catharines."
I affix my signature as I'm in full agreement.
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We, the undersigned students of rural Ontario, oppose the current Ministry of Education and Training funding formula in relation to rural boards. We believe that special consideration should be given to the fact that our population is spread over a wider geographical area. A blanket funding formula for such a large and diverse province as Ontario will not work for all its citizens equally."
I want to announce that the people in Stratford last night found out that indeed the funding formula is doing the job that it was intended to do.
"There is a new schedule of dental services for children and people with disabilities. It was introduced by the government under the Ontario Works Act and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act.
"Whereas the new schedule fails to meet the special needs of children and people with disabilities, reduces services, places barriers to accessible care, creates an environment of various different dental programs across Ontario; and
"Whereas the move away from an emphasis on prevention under the new dental schedule brings significant health risks for children and people with disabilities, who are often the least able to practise good oral hygiene; and
"Whereas the new dental schedule interferes with the patients' rights to consent to treatment by requiring administrators, and not patients or substitute decision-makers, to authorize and deny dental treatment; and
"Whereas there is no method for the patient to appeal a decision by a plan administrator to deny dental treatment; and
"Whereas pre-authorizations, called predeterminations in the new plan, will require that a higher level of confidential patient health information be disclosed to dental plan administrators; and
"Whereas the Ontario government has caused confusion among patients by introducing the plan without prior consultation and has not included any affected patient groups in consultations after releasing the new dental plan;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:
"Delay full implementation of the new dental plan until the requirement for predeterminations is removed, patient confidentiality is protected, the plan emphasizes prevention in oral health care, and the government consults directly with affected patients to ensure the new plan will meet the special needs of children and people with disabilities."
I will affix my signature to this petition, in agreement.
Whereas the Harris government has lowered the minimum age for hunting with a firearm to just 12 years of age; and
Whereas many police and victims' groups have strongly stated that putting guns in the hands of children as young as 12 threatens public safety; and
Whereas there has already been a fatal shooting involving a 13-year-old child since the Harris government lowered the age; and
Whereas the Ontario Liberal Party believes that it is more important to put books, not guns in the hands of children; and
Whereas the Harris government has also ignored police and victims' groups by fighting universal gun registration; and
Whereas universal gun registration is supported by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, CAVEAT, the Peel Regional Police Association, the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police, the Ontario Coalition of Senior Citizens' Organizations, Halton Health Services, the Niagara Health Services Department, Interval House (Ottawa), municipal councils of Etobicoke, Gloucester, Goderich, Guelph, Nepean, Lindsay, Kitchener, Peterborough, Waterloo, Brampton, Oshawa, London; and
Whereas a recent Angus Reid poll showed that the following people supported universal gun registration: 86% of Ontarians, 54% of Ontario gun owners, 88% of the people in Toronto, 85% of the people in southern Ontario, 88% of the people in eastern Ontario, 76% of the people in northern Ontario, 88% of people living in urban Ontario, 75% of people living in rural Ontario, 89% of non-gun owners, 91% of female voters, 79% of male voters;
Be it resolved that the Harris government acknowledge the danger of allowing children to have access to guns by reversing its decision to put guns in the hands of children; and
Be it further resolved that the Harris government end its fight against universal gun registration by working with police and the federal government to fully implement the federal gun registration law in the province of Ontario.
It's important to understand what, quite simply put, this motion says. It says the government should work with police to implement universal gun registration, otherwise known as gun control, and it says that the government should listen to the police and victims' groups and just about everybody in Ontario, but especially mothers, who are telling us that we should take guns out of the hands of 12-year-olds.
Gun control is a hot topic. It's a topic a lot of politicians don't like to discuss. They're afraid of the political consequences. They're afraid of the gun lobby. They're afraid of a small, but vocal and highly motivated, interest group that wants to Americanize gun culture in Ontario.
Mike Harris and the NDP are terrified of this issue. They're afraid of the gun lobby. They're afraid to express the views of the overwhelming majority of Ontarians. Undoubtedly, as the result of the position that I am taking and that my party is taking, we will become the target of the gun lobby. That's a group that wants to Americanize gun culture in Ontario.
I want to make it perfectly clear: I'm going to talk about gun control. I support gun control. I'll be working with the police and the federal government to implement universal gun registration in Ontario. I believe that if you live in Ontario and you own a gun, it is not too much to ask that that gun be registered with the police. That's the message I intend to deliver everywhere I go in Ontario. I won't have one message for the gun lobby and another message for the rest of Ontario. I have just the one message: I support gun control.
If there are problems connected with the implementation, then it's important that we address those problems. But you either have to stand up in favour of the principle of gun control, as 86% of Ontarians do, or say you're against it. If you're against it, then stand up in this Legislature today and tell Ontarians that you are against gun control, that you stand against Ontario police in their efforts to make our streets and our homes safer, that you oppose gun control, notwithstanding the fact that the overwhelming majority of Ontarians - including, by the way, the majority of hunters, the majority of gun owners. Tell all of those people who support gun control that you stand against it.
Our police have asked for gun control. They say it's going to make their jobs safer. Surely everybody in this Legislature has read enough stories about police being injured or even killed in the line of duty. They are saying that it's important for them to know whether or not somebody has a gun inside their apartment or their house. I agree. I don't think it's too much to ask Ontarians that if they own a gun, they register that gun and supply that information to the police. I stand with the police on this issue. I intend to work to ensure that we implement gun control in Ontario.
Just to review the level of support for this, 86% of all the people in our province support registry. That support, as I read at the outset when I introduced the motion, spreads right across the province. The great majority, the overwhelming majority of people who live in the south of our province, in the east, in the north, in our rural and urban areas, all those people support gun control.
But polls aside, it's the right thing to do. From time to time in our history, we have an opportunity to decide which path we're going to walk down. We've got to decide when it comes to gun culture in Ontario whether we want to walk down the American path or we want to walk down a path that's unique to us. That's the Ontario path. I choose the Ontario path.
By fighting gun control, Mike Harris has been fighting our police. He's choosing the American path. He has been fighting victims' groups, people like Priscilla de Villiers who believe gun control is going to make our streets safer. He's decided to listen to the gun lobby. For a guy who said he would never listen to the special interest groups and that he was there for the people, how is it that when 86% of Ontarians say, "Give us gun control; it's going to make our streets safer; it's better for our families," he suddenly decides that he's not going to pay attention, notwithstanding the fact that he claims now that he's going to listen, he's going to be more sensitive to the needs and the opinions of Ontarians?
Not many taxpayers know this, but we are spending thousands and thousands of dollars fighting gun control. First we decided to spend it in a case before the Alberta Court of Appeal. When the Alberta Court of Appeal - I'm not talking about the BC Court of Appeal or the Ontario Court of Appeal - ruled that gun control was constitutional, that it was lawful, what did Mike Harris do? He encouraged the government of Alberta to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and then he said, "By the way, we will send our lawyers to the Supreme Court of Canada to once again fight gun control," notwithstanding the fact that 86% of Ontarians and that Ontario police are begging for gun control. That's what he did.
Inquest after inquest, coroner's inquests, have called for quick and decisive implementation of gun licensing and registration in Ontario. Just so people understand how a coroner's inquest works, people are taken off the streets to sit on the jury and they are then provided with all kinds of information, expert and otherwise, that has to do with the incident they're reviewing - if it's a death, how that death came about - and asked what kind of recommendations they might come up with in the future in order to avoid that kind of tragedy from happening again.
Inquest after inquest has made it clear to the government of Ontario that they believe we should have gun control in our province. The 1991 inquest into the suicide of Jonathan Yeo, the man who killed Nina de Villiers and Karen Marquis, made it perfectly clear that gun control was essential to make our streets safer.
Mr Speaker, you'll be aware of the recent tragic murder of Brian Smith back in our neck of the woods in eastern Ontario, in Ottawa. The 1997 inquest into the murder of Brian Smith also provided by way of its recommendations that we implement gun control in Ontario.
Most recently, and this also happened in Ottawa, two children under the age of 10 were murdered by their father: the Kasonde children. The results of that inquest also contain recommendations that made it perfectly clear that it was essential for safety in Ontario, for the safety of our children and our families, that we have gun control implemented.
Who else favours gun registry? Just so this is on the record and so people understand, the Ontario chiefs of police do; the Canadian and Ontario associations of police boards; the Hamilton-Wentworth Police Service; the Peel Regional Police Association.
Police know the benefits of this legislation. You would think the law-and-order backbenchers of the Mike Harris government would understand that too. They talk the talk when it comes to addressing crime, which is a real issue in Ontario, no doubt about it, but they like to talk about super-jails, which is an American idea, they like to talk about boot camps, which is also an American idea, and they like to talk about their famous, or infamous, Crime Control Commission, this two-bit crime squad that they have cobbled together in an effort to lend the impression that somehow they are genuinely interested in attacking crime in the province of Ontario.
But 86% of Ontarians are directing this complaint to the crime commission and the government and they're saying, "Give us gun control." Why is it that the crime commission - I ask rhetorically, of course - can't step forward and say to the Premier, "We've listened to the people, we've listened to the police in Ontario, and we've decided to implement gun control"?
Let's understand what other groups are supportive of gun control in Ontario. First of all, Priscilla de Villiers, who heads up the group CAVEAT, has been asking this government time and time again to implement gun control. The Canadian Criminal Justice Association has spoken out in favour of gun control. So have the Canadian Bar Association, Halton Health Services and Niagara Health Services. Speak to doctors who serve time in our emergency wards in this province. They will tell you what it's like to put together somebody who has suffered from a gunshot wound and they will tell you how much they stand in favour of gun control in Ontario.
Of course I listed just some of the municipalities that have come out in favour of gun control right across this province. However, if you thought Mike Harris was a captive to the gun lobby on the issue of gun control, just look at what he did on the issue of putting guns into the hands of 12-year-olds.
I want to make it very clear that, unlike Mike Harris, Ontario Liberals do not believe that 12-year-olds should be playing with guns. I just cannot for the life of me understand how this government could possibly decide, as part of an important public policy initiative, that it was going to put guns in the hands of 12-year-olds. Hockey sticks, yes; basketballs, yes; laptop computers, yes. But guns in the hands of 12-year-olds, how is that in the interest of our children? How is that in the interest of public safety in Ontario? For the life of me, that escapes me entirely.
Everybody in this House knows that this is a bad idea, it's a stupid idea, it's a dangerous idea, and people are going to pay the price for it. Somebody is going to get hurt. Somebody is going to be shot. In fact, since the announcement of that policy change on the part of this government, there was a case in Ontario where young cousins were hunting together, a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old, and quite accidentally the younger cousin shot his older cousin. The older cousin died. It was an accident, it was painful, it was tragic, but maybe most importantly of all, it was predictable. It is perfectly predictable that if you take guns and put them in the hands of 12-year-olds, something is going to happen, an accident is going to happen. Apparently we don't have enough accidents happening with adults and guns, so now we're going to extend that right and that privilege to children.
Children don't have the physical or intellectual capacity to handle guns. They don't have the emotional self-control to handle guns. There is something that happens to us as we mature as human beings. Ideally, after your teenage years, you develop greater emotional self-control. That's the time when we say that you can vote, that's when you can purchase your cigarettes, that's when you can exercise the right to drive a car. But apparently when it comes to the use of a firearm in Ontario, this government says that children are mature enough at the age of 12 to handle a firearm. I disagree, and I can tell you that the great and overwhelming majority of Ontarians disagree as well with this government on that particular front.
We might ask ourselves, of all the things we can do to help kids in Ontario, why is it that this government settled upon putting guns into their hands? Why is this happening? Very simple. Mike Harris needed votes in a by-election in northern Ontario, so he turned to the gun lobby and he cut a deal. He said, "You give me your support at the time of this by-election, and I'll put guns into the hands of Ontario children." Was Mike Harris concerned about children's safety? Of course not. Was Mike Harris concerned about public safety? Of course not. All Mike Harris was looking for were a few cheap votes in a by-election. It was shameful, it was cynical and it was wrong, and it's going to prove to be, all too unfortunately, tragic.
Of all the things that we could and must do for our children in this province, surely recognizing that some have a right to bear arms is not one of them. What about the right to quality education? What about the right to attend a school in their own community? What about the right to quality health care? What about the right to be picked up by an ambulance and not be redirected from one emergency department to another because of cuts to hospitals and health care in Ontario? What about the right to grow up free of poverty and abuse and neglect?
Aren't those more pressing rights that we ought to recognize and that we ought to breathe life into in this Legislature instead of passing a law that says 12-year-olds will now be given the right to carry guns? It's clearly a matter of priorities, and this government has the priorities screwed up on this front. When it comes to fighting gun control legislation in the courts, apparently no price is too high for this government. When it comes to giving kids access to firearms, this government simply can't move fast enough, but when it comes to protecting our children, improving their lives, this government is plagued by inaction.
Today, after I've pressed her for over a year, the Minister of Community and Social Services introduced a child safety bill. I've been asking for that for several months, asking her to do more to help protect kids who are growing up living in abuse or neglect or in poverty. It's taken over a year to introduce that legislation, but it took just a few short days to change the law in Ontario to enable 12-year-olds to carry guns.
Over a year ago, I introduced a proposal that I put forward to this government called First Steps. It's a very substantive document that contains 41 recommendations on how we can address the needs of kids growing up at risk in Ontario. Some of the recommendations include ensuring that no newborn child and their mother can be evicted from a hospital ward prior to the 48-hour mark. Today in Ontario most newborn babies and their mothers are evicted from their hospitals at about the 24-hour mark.
It also introduces a new concept in Ontario called family medical leave. It says that parents of children who are sick and who require their attention, parents who have responsibilities in the workplace, will be entitled to take time off work in order to spend time with their children; family medical leave, something that's been on the books of the United States of America for a long time.
We also talk about a universal home visiting program, a program that would ensure that every mother and newborn child is visited by a nurse sometime shortly after being discharged from the hospital just to make sure all is well with both baby and mother.
We talk about the value of junior kindergarten and ensuring that children get everything they need to get ready to learn in the later years of grade school and high school.
We talk about restoring the welfare cut for poor children. We talk about introducing a children's benefit in Ontario. I know times are tight. There's not a lot of money flowing around. We've picked up a couple of important lessons from Ontarians. The first one we all recognize. Ontarians tell us all the time, "In our houses, if we don't have the money, we don't spend it." We understand that. But there's another important lesson that Ontarians tell us. They tell us that if things are tight at home and there's not enough to go around, and they've got to make a choice between food for the parents and food for the kids, the kids eat first. If they've got to choose between winter boots for the parents and winter boots for the kids, the kids will be clothed to meet the winter needs first.
First Steps also talks about putting kids first in a comprehensive way in government. If this government had a children first policy, if it had a real minister there advocating on behalf of children, with ministerial clout, with staff and a budget, that minister would have been at the cabinet table saying, "There is no way you're going to put guns into the hands of children."
I am very proud of some of the accomplishments of the members of our caucus in meeting the real needs of Ontario children in a positive and substantive way.
Pat Hoy, the member for Essex-Kent, introduced a bill that is going to beef up school bus safety in Ontario to protect children getting on and off school buses as they make their way to and from school.
Mike Colle, the member for Oakwood, introduced a bill that would permit our communities to install red light cameras. If you want to help kids in a real and substantive way, you don't put guns in their hands. Allow our municipalities to put up red light cameras to better protect kids who happen to be crossing at red lights at intersections.
Sandra Pupatello, the member for Windsor-Sandwich, has been working for a long time to develop school breakfast programs, because we all understand that hungry kids can't learn and we all have a responsibility to address that problem.
Joe Cordiano, the member for Lawrence, together with Dwight Duncan, the member for Windsor-Walkerville, introduced an effort in this Legislature to help deal with the challenges of international adoption and Joe Cordiano introduced a bill that put that forward.
Rick Bartolucci, the member for Sudbury, is very concerned about protecting children by putting forward a law that would create tougher penalties for pimps and johns who encourage child prostitution.
Those are real and positive initiatives designed specifically to address the needs of Ontario children.
I'm proud of my caucus, I'm proud of the effort that we put into First Steps and I'm proud of this motion we have put forward here today. Fundamentally, it's all about public safety and it's about making a decision, a rare opportunity in history where we decide what kind of gun culture we are going to have in Ontario and who is going to dictate what kind of gun culture we're going to have in Ontario. I stand with the 86% of Ontarians who say, "We want gun control." I stand with the police of Ontario who say: "We want gun control. It helps us to do our job better and it helps us to find greater safety in the course of our work."
I am proud to stand in support of this motion. It is my fervent hope that all members present in this Legislature today will stand up and support it as well.
I want to raise a concern, however, with respect to the approach, and I support all aspects of this resolution, but I know that in Mike Harris's Ontario the government of the day has made it very clear on the issue of gun control and gun registration where they stand. I disagree with them fundamentally but I know where they stand.
It is with regret that I see these two issues joined in the resolution because I know, therefore, the government will stand and will vote against the resolution even though the other very, very important part of this resolution deals with the issue of the government of Ontario policy to put guns in the hands of 12-year-olds.
I suspect there are many members of the Conservative caucus who agree with me and with members on this side of the House that this is one of the most stupid policies the government has ever brought in, is one of the most dangerous policies the government has ever brought in. I suspect they would like to vote with us to do away with this policy, but the resolution before us today, unfortunately, because there are two issues combined, won't afford us that opportunity.
I want to talk for a moment about the government's policy on guns and 12-year-olds because I've asked questions to the minister responsible for children's issues, who has ducked it and referred it. I've asked questions to the Solicitor General because of the statements that the police in this province have made in opposition to the government's policy and he's ducked it and referred it. The Minister of Finance and the Deputy Premier of the day got up and refused to answer the substance of the question and ducked behind a tragic situation that had occurred in Ontario involving the death of a 17-year-old. It was a hunting gun accident involving a 12-year-old or a 13-year-old who had the gun. He hid behind that tragic event not to answer the substance of the question.
The Minister of Natural Resources, who is responsible for this piece of regulation, this new policy, stands up and simply says: "Well, you know, nobody understands. No one in this province understand but poor Minister Snobelen what this new policy is about." I tell you, people do understand and people disagree. The vast majority of Ontarians - you can ask them any number of times in any number of ways - disagree with what the government has done.
The most shallow and crass explanation I have heard from the Minister of Natural Resources, parroted by some brave souls over there, or should I say some fools who want to pick up that line - and I suspect we might hear it today; I'm looking at the member opposite and I suspect we might hear it - is to say, "We're going to blame it on the federal government," because the federal government has a law which allows permits - they used to be called permits and it's being changed to be called licences - to minors, those being between the ages of 12 and 15. I've got to tell you, this is one of the most crass, made-up defences that I've ever heard from this government.
The fact of the matter is that the federal government law in place is a discretionary law. It allows for that to happen jurisdiction by jurisdiction. You know what the case was in the province of Ontario, in the jurisdiction of Ontario, before you guys changed this policy? Children under the age of 15 were not given permits or, as they're now called, licences for guns. Do you know why? Because the provincial regulations didn't allow them to hunt. The federal law has nothing to do with restricted weapons. It has to do with shotguns, with hunting guns, and there's no reason to give a permit to a 12-year-old child or a 13-year-old child or a 14-year-old child if the province that they live in doesn't allow them to hunt.
The OPP has confirmed this. Let me find the reference to the police officer who has made it very clear, and I think with some consternation. Sergeant Bill Hocking confirmed - and this is in a CP release so you can all look it up in the files, you can all read it. He made it very clear that despite the federal policy, which is a discretionary policy, police in Ontario have never in practice issued permits to children younger than 15, because there was no legitimate reason to give 12- to 15-year-old children permits. Why? Because they couldn't hunt.
It is your government that has changed that. It is you that has now said they can go out and hunt. The provincial regulation said they couldn't hunt. You've changed the provincial regulation and said they can hunt. Now the police are in a position in which they're going to have to exercise the federal law; they're going to have to use the discretion that the federal law gives them. So don't hide behind that. You've made the changes. You are the government that is putting guns in the hands of 12-year-olds in this province, and it is a dangerous, stupid policy and you should reverse it.
I just feel so frustrated when I hear members of the government caucus stand up and spew this nonsense, hiding behind that federal law. If you want to join with us and lobby to change the federal law, I'm sure - in fact, I'm sure even members of the official opposition would agree with us. I don't think they'd have a problem with that. I can tell you, the members of the New Democratic Party would be prepared to stand up and to say to the federal government that that law should be changed. But we never had to do it before because there was never a government in Ontario stupid enough to want to put guns in the hands of 12-year-olds.
These are kids. These are children, children in grade 6. Imagine: grade 6, grade 7. Please, members opposite, look at some of the young Ontarians who are here in the Legislative Assembly performing the role and duty of pages. Look at them, because they're about that age: 12, 13 years old. Can you imagine those children with guns, with rifles?
I remind you about the tragic accident that involved a 12- or 13-year-old with a gun and a 17-year-old who got shot.
Let me come back to the case at point, which is the children, the children who never before had access to hunting permits in this province, who were not legally allowed to hunt and now can. I don't care how many times you stand and say, "It's not us, it's that damn federal law." That federal law has been in place for a long time and the police in this province never gave permits to 12-year-old kids because they weren't allowed to hunt. I guess I said it a few times, and I'm sorry, I just want to drive home the insanity of this policy.
One has to wonder why the government introduced this by stealth. The Minister of Natural Resources, who in his former portfolio was into making crises in the province and doing it with a lot of noise, very quietly, you know, when no one was looking, passed a regulation and didn't tell anybody about it. We found out about it when the Federation of Anglers and Hunters made the announcement to their members. Because of course they're going to want to be involved in running these safety programs and, I'm sure, in encouraging all these new young hunters to become members of that federation. I suspect that might be part of what will happen here, just a natural outcome of the decision of the government.
This is a position, a policy change, that they lobbied for, and the minister quietly did it. It appears he didn't even tell the Premier, because when the Premier was asked about it by members of the media, he said, "Oh, no, I know some people have suggested that, but no, we're just looking at that." That was weeks after the regulation had already been passed.
If he didn't tell the Premier, I'm sure the members of the government caucus who are sitting here looking so sad right now weren't told about it, that they didn't know about it. I know, because I have spoken with many of you, that you don't support this in large numbers. I know the member for Scarborough West, for example, the crime commissioner - you know, the commish - is out there wanting to save our communities. I haven't seen anything productive come from him yet, but I know he doesn't think that this is a productive measure. I know he disagrees with this and I know that most Ontarians do.
There was a poll done in Sudbury during the by-election held in the riding of Nickel Belt. It may be that my colleague will address this a little bit in terms of the timing, but I want to talk about the poll that was done because that research poll, when they asked people in the riding of Nickel Belt what they thought - and this is a northern riding with a lot of hunters, a lot of people who support hunting; I'm not opposed to hunting - over 90% disagreed with allowing 12-year-old children to hunt.
They came back and they used all the government's language about: "Yeah, but what if we give them safety training and programs and what if we make sure that they're always with an adult and if they're monitored and mentored by someone who's at least 18 years of age, what if we do all those things?" which, the government seems to suggest, solves all the problems. Do you know what? About 67% said: "Absolutely not. Twelve-year-old kids are just too young."
There is no way you can get around the fact that most Ontarians have a commonsense reaction to this in saying it's nuts. We've got hospitals closing in this province, we've got schools closing in this province, we've got all sorts of chaos in public policy and community services that you guys should be attending to, and what comes out as a priority? Giving guns to 12-year-old kids.
They're too young. They don't have the critical judgment to safely handle firearms, to handle unusual circumstances that happen in the bush. Kids, and maybe others, are inevitably going to be hurt, if not killed, as a result of this policy.
Why? Would someone please explain the "why" of all of this. Not one of you ministers has done that. I've heard them stand up and say, "The federal law is there, so we're just putting in safety programs for those kids." Not one of them has responded to the fact that the police have made it clear that kids under 15 never got those permits that the federal law allows because they weren't allowed to hunt, and now they will. Not one of you has responded to that. Tell me why this makes sense. For the love of God, putting guns in the hands of children does not make sense, common or otherwise.
It is evident the honourable member from Ottawa South, the Leader of the Opposition, does not understand the regulation. Either that, or he is feigning confusion to score political points.
It would seem the honourable member himself is responsible for some of that confusion surrounding this issue. Earlier today he spoke about having one message in Ontario. Perhaps he should speak to his caucus, where some of his own members may enlighten him. In fact, the Liberal member for Timiskaming told the Enterprise newspaper in Iroquois Falls that this regulation has great merit. He told the newspaper that the government is legitimizing social norms in the north and added that the regulation requiring official instruction provides young hunters with the same legal guidelines required by older hunters.
Educating Ontarians regarding their government's position should take the spark out of any controversy. While this education of Ontarians is our responsibility, it is also the responsibility of the news media to report the facts accurately. Some have, such as the lead editorial in a recent Toronto Sun, and so I thank them.
The honourable member for Ottawa South and his party should acknowledge our government has not lowered the age for hunting but has in fact put in place tighter regulations in response to actions of the honourable member's federal Liberal comrades.
Given the young hunter issue stems from federal Liberal legislation and the honourable member for Ottawa South -
Now that we've established that the honourable member really means to support us, and given the honourable member's demonstrated difficulty in distinguishing his policies from our policies, I could call on the honourable member from Ottawa South to cross the floor and join the government. But I'd probably have to withdraw that since I'm not sure he'd fit into our political positioning.
I can understand the concern of our urban populations. However, hunting regulations are largely a rural issue. The opposition is mistakenly equating hunting regulations with personal and community safety. If all hunting were stopped in Ontario, there would still be urban violence. You cannot equate hunting with urban violence. In not one of your examples of problems with guns was the perpetrator the graduate of a hunter apprenticeship program.
No law or law enforcement will ever stop individuals from breaking laws and doing dangerous things or imperilling society. All we can do is hope to balance the needs and concerns of various segments of society with penalties for breaking the just rules society imposes.
Some people would have us oppose the federal government on the issue of young hunters. In fact, Ontario opposes many actions of the federal government. On this side of the House, we feel it is important to keep the pressure on the federal government regarding unacceptably high employment insurance contributions or cuts to federal health care transfers.
The EI overpayments are killing job growth, while provincial coffers are strained to cover shortfalls in federal health transfer payments, despite huge federal tax contributions by Ontarians. We don't want these serious issues to be lost among concerns we can deal with through provincial regulation.
Therefore, on the issue of regulations under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, we have elected to work within our legislative authority and impose realistic safeguards on young hunters, safeguards we feel are appropriate to Ontario's situation.
It is important to note that most provinces in Canada have minimum hunting ages of around 12 years old. In New Brunswick the age limit is 14, while in British Columbia it is as low as 10 years of age. Robert Paddon, manager of hunter safety programs in BC, called hunting by 12-year-olds a non-issue. He also said there are no controversy or safety problems in BC with youth participating in hunting.
When the federal Liberals committed to allow hunting privileges to 12-year-olds, they picked an arbitrary age in which many children, primarily in rural Canada, experienced hunting first-hand. Recognizing that this age is arbitrary, we determined that passing a written test better reflects the maturity and intellectual level necessary to allow the use of firearms. In addition, the regulations require that young hunters share a gun with an adult who is responsible for direct supervision of its use.
Make no mistake, in Ontario, despite the federal government's wish, 12-year-olds will not be able to carry guns or decide when and where to discharge them. First they must attend a demanding 25-hour hunter appreciation safety program and then pass an onerous written exam. Only at that point will they be able to share a gun with an adult who is strictly supervising the situation.
Frankly, I don't believe that many 12-year-olds could pass that written exam. Those who do will be eminently well-qualified to carry a gun in a mentored situation.
It is important to acknowledge the different needs and concerns of urban and rural Ontarians. It is irresponsible to suggest, as does the honourable member for Ottawa South, that we are putting guns in the hands of children. It is necessary to remember that these regulations have been an accepted practice in Canada for many years and reflect current practices in rural Ontario.
If you put wine in the hands of a 12-year-old, it is illegal. If you put rye in the hands of a 12-year-old, it is illegal. If you put a bottle of beer in the hands of a 12-year-old, it is illegal. But if you put a gun in the hands of a 12-year-old, it is legal. A bottle of beer -
The fact is that many of the members here were talking about quality time. Therefore, a member would never have a bottle of wine or a bottle of beer with his 12-year-old son. I wouldn't call it quality time, but having a gun is quality time.
It's rather interesting. What they're asking is to basically register all the guns. That, even, is a great matter to these individuals. The police have emphatically stated that we would like to know that all guns are registered, but we can't do that.
I remember when I arrived in Canada 30 years ago, if I even wanted to buy, at my age, older than 19, older than 20, a crate of beer, I had to sign my name then and put on my address. But to put guns in the hands of 12-year-olds is quite all right for these members, talking about quality time.
We just had a visitor the other day, Nelson Mandela, and one of his emphases that he spoke very eloquently and very emotionally about was about how young kids are used today to fight wars, that 12-year-olds, 11-year-olds were trained with guns to kill people. The fact is that in the hands of our children today, who need better tools, as Dalton McGuinty said, maybe a spelling book is what they need, very much so. The fact is, putting those in the hands of children is much better, not guns; not guns in the sense that you're talking about, "We're trying to find quality time."
I've spoken to many police officers, excellent individuals who put their lives on the line each day, and they tell me that if they knock at a door, they don't know what is coming next. They don't know who is behind that door. But it would be good to know somehow and understand if there is a gun behind the door, if there is someone who has registered a gun, to know what's coming up.
The fact is that somehow this Conservative government, who cherish doing things for children, if you look at their record, if you look at what they have done to young people in increasing tuition fees, they're going in the other direction. If you look at what they have done in regard to many ways of improving the quality of life for children and you look at what they have done to welfare, cutting off money from mothers who would use the money to help their children, they have taken it away. They have taken away money that is needed to feed children, but they would like to put guns in the hands of 12-year-olds. They find that is a better way to deal with the quality of life. It's pathetic; it's really pathetic.
The member for Scarborough West is always a vigilante about crime control and young people, but while he's doing that, his party is going full blast ahead putting guns in the hands of 12-year-olds. It is hypocritical, the direction in which you are going. It's rather ironic, really, to see that on the one hand you are projecting this zero tolerance of crime on young people and then putting guns in the hands of 12-year-olds. Can't you see that? Can't you see what you're doing? Can't you see the fact that we are educating our children and saying the only quality time that we can have here is to put guns in the hands of 12-year-olds? Yet they couldn't drive a car at 15, 16 or 17. They can't do that, but they can have a gun to shoot.
My feelings, and hundreds of people I've spoken to, are strongly in support of having the kind of resolution that is put forward here by Dalton McGuinty. I strongly support that we should not have guns in the hands of kids, of young people.
My last point I want to make, because my colleagues want to speak and I know we have a short time because this government has limited us and itself, if you look around the world today and find out who is fighting the wars, it's all these young people who have trained in the handling of guns. Canada may not be too far from that in using our young people to do that kind of thing. I'm totally in disagreement with what this government is doing and in full support of what Dalton McGuinty put forward today.
The vast majority of the people in my region of Ontario are hunters or anglers or both. This is one of the most important sources of recreation for people in my part of the province. We enjoy a tremendous wealth of resources in our part of Ontario, and to be able to participate in recreation using those resources is one of the most important parts of life in my part of Ontario. Ice fishing, snowmobiling, hunting, both for birds, small game and big game, moose and deer, are very important in my part of the province.
It's safe to say that a very large proportion of the people in my part of Ontario do not support universal gun registration; that's quite true. There are a significant number who do, who also enjoy recreational hunting. I fully concede that a large number would not necessarily be in favour of universal registration of hunting rifles. I can also safely say that the vast majority of those hunters or their families think that this policy move by this provincial government is one of the stupidest things they have ever heard of. What we are talking about is the protection, the safety and the security of children.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters has been campaigning for this change for some time. It was suggested some years ago that it could be lowered to 14 rather than 12, and frankly I personally would not be opposed to lowering it to 14. It makes sense. At 14, a person in rural Ontario is allowed to drive a snow machine, can drive a tractor on a road. Most children at 14 are in high school, so I wouldn't be opposed to that kind of move. But 12? We're talking about grade 6.
I'm talking about the safety and security of children. Recently in my area, a seven-year-old boy was shot and killed accidentally by an adult who was engaging apparently in target practice in the vicinity of where this young boy was fishing. I suppose it would be improper for me to comment on the foolishness of that - it's still under investigation by the police - but I keep that event in mind.
Also recently, as my colleague mentioned, a young boy who had a hunting rifle was under the supervision of a teenager, who was 17. The gun discharged, and the 17-year-old was hit. That's what we're talking about. We're talking about 12- or 13-year-old children having guns that are lethal, having weapons that can kill. What we're talking about, inevitably, is the increase in accidents.
The argument that we're going to be training these people and therefore it's going to be safer is just silly. I believe that hunter training, safe gun handling training is important and must be part of a hunter training course, but there's no reason on earth for it to start at age 12. It should start at age 15. If you wish to engage in an argument or discussion about whether it should be lowered to 14, fine, but not for kids who are still in elementary school. It doesn't make any sense.
I want to talk a little about the issue of violence in schools, which I raised in question period today. In urban Ontario, in Toronto, a recent Toronto Star survey showed that one in five students in high school in Toronto feels unsafe. That's a terrible statistic. We have seen an escalation over the years of violence in schools. We all know that there has always been some violence in the schoolyard or in schools. There are always some bullies, some kids that get in fights, and that's a serious problem. But in the past most of these fights did not involve weapons. It's bad enough for one child to be beaten up by another child using his fists, it's quite another matter when weapons are involved.
We've seen what has happened in the United States. The incidents we've seen over the last year, particularly the one in Arkansas, should be an example to everyone in this province of what we don't want to happen in Ontario, of what we don't want to emulate. That child who systematically picked off his classmates and killed many of them and killed one of the teachers was well trained in weaponry, was very well trained. He understood the use of weapons. He knew how to keep himself safe. He also knew how to aim and fire a gun. At his age and his development and maturity - his immaturity - he did not have the kind of judgment that we expect of adults who would be responsible in how they use guns. Why do we want to have this kind of thing happen in Ontario? I don't think anybody does; obviously no one does.
That child in Arkansas was not an untrained kid who didn't know how to use a weapon; the opposite was the case. He was very well trained. He just didn't have the judgment of an adult. Too many adults don't have proper judgment. But why do we want to be giving preteens, children, this kind of training, so that if they get angry at a classmate, instead of just ambushing him in the schoolyard and hitting him, which is bad enough, he may go home, steal his father's weapon and murder the child? That's what happened in Arkansas. I don't want that in Ontario.
I also want to talk a little bit about the far north. I may be treading on some difficult territory here because the Aboriginal nations do not accept the jurisdiction of other governments in determining how they deal with questions around hunting and fishing, with questions around registration of guns, training in hunting and fishing. I understand that. But I also know that accidental shootings and, even worse, suicide is epidemic in the far north. Why? There are lots of theories. If I knew the answer, then I'd be doing a great service to everyone. I don't pretend to. But I do know some things.
If a child, if a teenager, if a young adolescent has serious problems in Toronto, that child may unfortunately run away from home. They may end up on the street with all the problems involved there. They may, if they're fortunate, get the supports required from social agencies that may help to resolve some of their problems. In the tiny communities of the far north, most of those supports are non-existent. It's not possible for a child to run away from home from Muskrat Dam.
If that child cannot handle his or her problems - it used to be just among males, now unfortunately suicide is becoming just as serious a problem among female adolescents in the far north - in an isolated northern community, they've got nowhere to run. Everybody knows everybody. Sometimes, too often, they see the only choice is destroying themselves.
Bringing in a regulation that suggests that we should be training pre-teens in how to fire weapons will do absolutely nothing to help to resolve those very serious problems we have in northern Ontario and northern Canada.
I'm opposed to what I believe is one of the stupidest, most nonsensical, opportunistic regulations and political moves of a government that I've ever seen. I support hunting. I'm in favour of safe use of firearms and of hunter training. But let's do that at an age when a child has got better judgement. Let's not pretend that we can start training 12-year-olds, pre-teens, elementary school kids in how to use weapons and at the same time not understand that there are going to be more accidents, there are going to be more shootings, there are going to be more woundings and there are going to be more deaths.
The federal government, we're told, has already spent $134 million on this scheme without registering a single gun. To put that in perspective, in our recent budget Ontario announced a $150-million program to put 1,000 more police officers on the streets of our province. Once you take into account the municipal share of our program, it means that the $134 million the federal government is spending on computers could have been spent on 500 police officers, 500 officers to patrol communities in every corner of our province. Five hundred officers are enough to police communities the size of London, Oshawa and Windsor. So far we are talking only about $134 million. Nobody really knows what this compulsory registration scheme is going to ultimately cost. Will it be $500 million? Will it be $1 billion? Will it be more?
I think all members of this House would agree that this money should be spent on fighting crime. Ontario will invest money in police officers. The Liberal alternative is to use the money to register every shotgun and bolt action 22 in Canada. I think it's obvious which of these two courses is going to have a greater impact on crime. What we want of course is that the money be spent on effective anti-gun measures.
An obvious example of such measures are anti-smuggling measures, and we're not prepared to wait on that. We're already investing Ontario tax dollars in fighting smuggling. A smuggling task group has been set up to develop a national firearms' tracing capability and maintain a centralized database on seized firearms that had been used in a crime.
Ontario is focusing its efforts on tracking criminals, not law-abiding ordinary citizens. By doing so, we will effectively strengthen firearms enforcement and help to combat serious crime. Ontario is of course also fighting the Liberals' firearms registration system in the courts. We believe -
We believe that the registration provisions of Bill C-68 are beyond the constitutional jurisdiction of the federal government. The matter is of course now before the Supreme Court of Canada. These initiatives, in my view, reinforce the Ontario government's commitment to law and order. They will send a strong message to criminals that the use of illegal firearms will not be tolerated in this province. Anyone who is serious about reducing the use of guns by criminals will oppose this resolution and work to get more resources into effective measures to keep guns away from criminals.
It's already been said that one of the stupidest ideas - and let's make sure that we understand this. This government has had many, many stupid ideas over the last three and a half years. Many of the stupid ideas have been reflected in the state of health care, in the state of education in this province. There is absolute chaos out there. People want some stability in their life. They want to know if they've got a health problem that they can go to a hospital, that the emergency ward is open and the emergency room is there to assist them.
When you think about it, two weeks ago, and I know we've sort of glossed over it, but two weeks ago we had a situation here in Metro Toronto where 17 out of 19 hospitals weren't able to accept emergency cases in their emergency rooms, a totally deplorably situation and that's all caused by some of the most stupid ideas that this government's come up with. But certainly the most stupid one is the one that in effect puts guns in the hands of 12-year-olds.
I know they're trying to hide it under the guise of it's the father taking the son out and it's a bonding experience. They can do something together. There are many activities that fathers and sons and mothers and daughters could be doing other than showing a kid of 12 years old how to shoot a gun and how to go hunting. I have absolutely nothing against education programs that they're talking about in the new regulation. The education programs should be there. What we're objecting to is the whole notion that they are giving the right to a 12-year-old to in effect shoot a gun. They somehow say, you know, "The gun is shared between the father and the son," or between the adult and the younger person. The point still is, when that gun is being fired, one person does it, and it's either the father or it's the 12-year-old.
Let's deal with some of the myths. They bring out what they seem to think is a fact that the new federal legislation requires 12-year-olds to be entitled to bear a gun. That's simply not so. The federal legislation does not require the lowering of the hunting age at all. You could have left it the way it was. Don't somehow try to hide it and say, "The federal legislation requires us to implement it for 12-year-olds." You could have left it at 16-year-olds like they did in Newfoundland, for example.
It is also a fact that there's a direct correlation between earlier access to firearms and higher rates of violent death among the people in our society. Take a look at the facts. In Saskatchewan, where they have the kind of regulation that you're talking about by giving 12-year-olds the right to bear arms, you have four times more gun deaths of young people than you have here in Ontario. That's a fact. Read the statistics. The statistics in Ontario are 0.2 firearm deaths per 100,000; in Saskatchewan it's 0.9 per 100,000, or four times that of our province.
You talk about having had extensive consultation before you put in this new regulation. It's my understanding that the regulation changing the age was quietly passed by cabinet on August 14, and then two weeks later Minister Snobelen revealed the details of the program to a group of hunters at a conference in Muskoka. The Ministry of Natural Resources never released a press release on the subject. Where is the consultation? There was absolutely none. There was no consultation whatsoever.
The other myth is that the youth will be required to share a weapon meant for an adult. You cannot share a weapon. Ultimately, whoever fires that weapon is either the adult or the youth.
There's also no requirement that the mentor has any special training whatsoever. It could be anyone over 18. So don't try to sell it on the basis that this is sort of a fuzzy, nice experience between father and son, because there are many other combinations possible as well.
I've heard the government use any number of excuses as to why this regulation was passed under the darkness of night, behind closed doors, with no public consultation.
The first excuse the government uses is that somehow or other something had to be done as the consequence of this government passing Bill 139 in December 1997, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which is the act under which this regulation was indeed passed by cabinet. Because I am the MNR critic, I was the member who dealt with Bill 139 during the whole course of second reading, during the one day of public hearings that we had on the debate, and during third reading. I can tell you that nowhere during the course of the introduction of this bill or during the debate on the bill or during the one day of public hearings that we had or during third reading debate did the Conservative government ever once indicate that once this bill was passed, they would use the regulations under that bill to slip this item through - never once.
I went back to Minister Hodgson, who was the minister at the time it was introduced, to his comments about the bill during estimates in August 1997, where he talked about introducing the act. Not once during the course of the debate on estimates and during his opening remarks did he make any reference that the government might have an idea in the back of its head that they were going to do something about 12-year-olds and guns.
I went to the second reading debate - at that point we had a new Minister of Natural Resources, Minister Snobelen - and read carefully through his remarks with respect to hunting, looking for some indication somewhere in his remarks that the government might do this, and there was nothing. The only thing he said about hunting during that whole debate was, "The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act will also include provisions to protect from harassment those people who legally hunt, fish or trap." That was it.
I went to the third reading debate, which occurred in this House on December 18, 1997, and the comments by Minister Snobelen. The only reference to hunting or guns or anything like that happened in a section where he said, "We amended section 13 of the act to clarify the prohibition on harassment of people who are legally hunting, fishing and trapping." No indication whatsoever that the government had in the back of its mind an intention that they were going to use the regulations under this bill to move to what we see today, this public policy that allows hunter training for 12-year-olds and, in essence, puts guns in the hands of our children.
I can tell you that if the government had done that, the one single day that was set aside for public hearings would have had many different speakers, and it wouldn't have been one day of public hearings, I can assure you of that, because people in this province would have come out to have an opportunity to have their say. I suspect the government didn't indicate that because the government doesn't want to hear from people on this issue, because the government would find that people think what this government has done is bad, bad public policy.
The government has also tried to say that they had to bring in this regulation in order to conform with the federal law, a law which allows different categories of gun permits for minors. As my colleague from the Beaches and my colleague from Algoma have already said, and as has been pointed out by members of the Liberal caucus, the federal law is discretionary. There is nothing in the federal law which forced this Conservative government to make any change around hunting age. There is nothing in it that forces the Ontario government or the police now to make any change with respect to permits and the age at which you give those to children. So that is a completely bogus, ridiculous argument. Frankly, it's false. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the federal law that forced this Conservative government to take the action it did, so that doesn't work as a very good excuse either to bring it forward.
I've heard people say and the minister has said a number of times in a number of public comments about this when interviewed by the media, "We're doing this because it responds to the tradition that's out there of time that people spend with their children." No doubt there is a tradition of fathers in particular spending time with their sons in the bush.
But you know what? There is also a tradition of people driving their children to the hockey game, to something that's going on at school, any number of weekend excursions. Would anyone in this House then suggest that we should be allowing 12- and 13- and 14-year-olds to drive as long as they're supervised by a parent in the family van? Of course not. Would any one of us then suggest that we would allow 12- and 13- and 14-year-olds to sit in a bar and drink as long as they're supervised by an 18- or 19-year-old? Of course not. Our 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds can't vote in the province of Ontario. Is anyone suggesting that we allow that to happen as long as they're under supervision of a parent or someone over 18? Of course we are not.
There are any number of traditions which reflect time that parents spend with children, time that adults spend with minors, but on any of those other items where we have very strict age limits with respect to those activities, no one is suggesting that we should change those other things to allow for much more activity, either for driving, drinking, voting or anything else. So I think that's a bogus argument too. I think it's ridiculous. There are any number of people, it is true, who hunt with their kids, but to suggest that's the only tradition we should change the law for is just ridiculous.
I compared what happened here with what our government tried to do around driving, because we were concerned about young drivers. We were concerned about the number of accidents and the level of them in terms of seriousness that were occurring in this province.
So our government entered into a very extensive public consultation with people around the province with respect to graduated drivers' licences. Over a two-year period, my colleague from Lake Nipigon, who was the Minister of Transportation at the time, had extensive public debate with members of the Canadian Automobile Association, with insurance companies, with representatives from MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving - with any number of parent groups, of school groups, of those groups that provide driver education training to determine what would be the best and the safest program we could put in place to ensure, when young drivers got behind the wheel of the family van, that they had the best training and that we were comfortable with their level of maturity and their ability to carry out that activity.
Contrast what this government has done with 12-year-olds and guns with the requirement that we have in place in this province for 16-year-olds to get a driver's licence. If you are 16, or at any age that you want to get a driver's licence, but you have to be at least 16 years of age, you have to pass a vision test to ensure your eyesight meets provincial standards for drivers; you have to pass a written test of knowledge of rules of the road.
Level 1 - that's the first part of getting the licence - lasts 12 months. If a new driver successfully completes an approved driver ed program, the period could be reduced to eight months. But level 1 drivers cannot drive if they've been drinking; must have only one passenger in the front seat; must limit the number of people in the back to the number of seatbelts in the back seat of the vehicle; unless accompanied by a licensed driving instructor cannot be on 400-series highways with posted speed limits greater than 80 kilometres; cannot drive between the hours of midnight and 5 am; and also can voluntarily set a sign in the car that says they are a young driver, indicating their new-driver status.
Level 2 of the program, still to get a driver's licence in this province, lasts a minimum of 12 months, and again you cannot drive if you've been drinking, the number of people in the vehicle are limited to the number of seat belts and you can only drive a class G vehicle.
After completing those two levels, which could be a minimum 18 months but up to two years, then you have full driving privileges in Ontario. That's what we did to try and make our roads safer. That's the kind of change we did. The public consultation on that and the development of the bill and the passage were a process that lasted almost two years. This government had no public consultation with respect to reducing the age for safety education to be provided to 12-year-olds, and in essence allowing 12-year-olds to have guns. There was absolutely no public consultation whatsoever.
When the minister was at a conference of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters in February, he mentioned that he hoped he would soon be able to introduce a hunter apprenticeship program right down to people as young as 12. That was the first announcement. The second announcement was that it was done; that the regulation was passed. The minister made that announcement to a hunting conference that was held in Bracebridge at the end of August - zero public consultation; zero public input. This group didn't hear from anyone except the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, who we all know have been lobbying for this for a number of years. But the government chose not to talk or listen to anyone else, any other group around this very important public issue.
If the government had had some consultation, they might have found that their own backbenchers had some serious concerns about what was being proposed. The member for Kitchener on Wednesday, September 16, in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record said, "I think it's a dumb idea." In his constituency office on the day that this was announced, 25 people called to oppose the legislative changes and his constituency assistant said as well that this member was going to be talking to his cabinet colleagues about his concerns around this change. When Jim Brown, the crime commissioner, the member for Scarborough West, was up in Sudbury when this became a public matter and he was interviewed by the CBC on September 17, he said, "I don't like that idea of giving 12-year-olds guns." I'm not sure what he's going to do about it, but he certainly had concerns.
I suspect there are a number of members of the Conservative Party who feel just as uncomfortable as the member for Kitchener and the member for Scarborough West. But did any of you have a chance to comment? Were you asked for your input? Were you asked if you had concerns? Of course not. This was done behind closed doors, under cover of night, with no public consultation, no respect for the many concerns that would be out there from groups of all ages and all sizes and right across this province - none.
That is the worst part about what has happened. That this Conservative government could think so little about the public's reaction and the public's concern with respect to children and guns that they wouldn't even have any kind of public consultation process is the worst part about what happened here. The contempt you have shown the Ontario public by proceeding in this way is unbelievable. Shame on you for proceeding in such a manner.
At the heart of it, I think what really happened here - because you have to discount that somehow this had to be done because of federal legislation and you have to discount that somehow this was attached to what the government was doing on Bill 139 - the timing of this had everything to do with the by-election in Nickel Belt, absolutely everything to do with that election campaign. It is no secret that the Conservative candidate in Nickel Belt is a past president of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and it certainly wasn't any surprise that the first person who was interviewed when this announcement was made was not even the minister, but it was the Conservative candidate saying how delighted he was with this change.
Let me tell you I canvassed in Nickel Belt that same afternoon and evening after this became a public matter, in a riding where many, many people hunt and fish, and that's the same as my own riding of Sudbury East. In the 20 doors that evening at an hour where there were people home, four people stopped and said to me on the spur, out of the clear blue, without my asking: "I think what this government is doing on 12-year-olds and guns is nuts, is ridiculous. Look what's happened in the US. Do we really want something like that to happen here?"
Two of the four families hunt and fish regularly and they were quite open and forthright about telling me that, but they too thought it was nuts. They certainly couldn't believe that at a time when people have enormous concerns about health care, when people have enormous concerns about the quality of education for their kids, when people have enormous concerns about how they're going to pay tuition for their young adults, this issue of 12-year-olds and guns could be the priority of this government.
I think what happened is that despite everything the government tried to do in Nickel Belt, because certainly the caucus was there and we saw ministers of the crown who haven't been there since the Tories were elected, they all trooped into Nickel Belt during this election because they were trying to win that seat. You know what's happened? You've implemented this bad, bad public policy and you didn't even win Nickel Belt.
What was the point of all this? Why did you refuse to have any kind of public consultation, public input on a matter that is so important to people across this province? Why did you do this under cover of night, under cover of darkness, after a meeting with OFAH, who's lobbied for this for years? I understand that. Why didn't you listen to anyone else? Why didn't you have a public debate? What you've done is bad public policy, and I believe the majority of Ontarians do not agree with you.
My goal today is to explain the importance of safety training for boys and girls at a young age, in this case hunter safety for ages 12 and up. I will explain this through the eyes of a 12-year-old. In 1958 I kept a diary which I have brought with me; in 1958 I was 12.
The Liberal opposition will have you believe that providing safety training to young people even as young as 12 is a new thing. However, in 1958 I received six nights of gun safety training when I was 12, plus several hunting expeditions with our instructor, Sam Ottley, and this included practical experience with both 22s and air rifles. I wish to read from my diary:
"February 2, 1958, Sunday.
"I woke up at 6 o'clock. We saw in the paper that somebody was going to teach the Scouts how to handle a gun. At Sunday school" - I'll end here. It goes on about my friend and, at that time, future hunting companion getting in trouble for talking too much in Sunday school. I'll name my friend, Robbie Varey, a good hunting companion.
In my diary I kept a newspaper clipping from the Port Dover Maple Leaf in that year, 1958, and I wish to quote from the Port Dover Maple Leaf.
"The third in a series of six classes was held last night in the Sea Scout hut, being sponsored by the Port Dover Rifle and Pistol Club.
"Lectures and demonstrations are being given by instructor Sam Ottley, president of the junior club of the rifle and pistol association and are carried on for one hour during the regular weekly meeting of the Sea Scouts....
"The 19 scouts participating are taught proper gun handling as related to hunting, as well as basic information about ammunition and guns, especially as applied to their safe use; sportsmanship is also included...."
In an interview with the Maple Leaf, Mr Ottley reported, "The sole aim of this course...is to give these boys basic information which should enable them to avoid hunting accidents."
"At the conclusion of the course, the boys successfully passing the tests," in the winter of 1958, "will carry an Ontario Department of Lands and Forests hunter safety training program certificate of competence...."
"In 1956, said Mr Ottley, 78 fatal shooting accidents were reported in Ontario, all of which could have been avoided with proper care and precaution. These classes, which are being held in many parts of Ontario, are being organized to eliminate any such accidents in the future."
Again, I'm referring back to 1958. This Boy Scout program taught me gun safety not only in the field but in the classroom and how to avoid accidents.
Judging from the statistics, hunter education in Ontario has been doing a good job. In 1960, there were 154 hunting-related accidents and, unfortunately, 36 fatalities. In 1994, we were down to 23 accidents and zero fatalities. In each of 1996 and 1997, there was only one fatality. Now, even one life lost due to neglect of safety precautions is one too many.
Most recreational activities are statistically more dangerous than hunting. For example, there are more injuries in sports like football, baseball, fishing and golf. The mortality rate is higher for home accidents, cars, poisoning and falls. The assertion that hunters and hunting are dangerous is false, and the figures, if anyone cares about the facts, prove it.
In spite of what the anti-gun, anti-hunting crowd or misinformed urbanites say, when hunters are trained in safety measures, hunting is a safe and enjoyable pursuit. Although they likely won't admit it, what we are seeing today is another attack by Liberals on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
I've watched this debate in the media regarding 12-year-olds being able to participate in the hunter apprenticeship safety program. Just to clarify, we are not allowing 12-year-olds to own guns, we are not allowing 12-year-olds to purchase guns, contrary to what some people have been saying. Young hunters enrolled in the safety program will share a gun with their mentor, with their parent or with a safety instructor. They can only possess a firearm when accompanied by a licensed hunter over the age of 18, and they must have their parents' written consent.
The safety program takes 20 hours to complete, followed by a written test conducted by the Ministry of Natural Resources. There is also a practical exam. This course isn't easy, and again, I wish to repeat, the emphasis is on safety.
So often we see Mr McGuinty, a leader without a cause, pick up his favourite issue for the week and take shots at the government without any regard for the facts. I've spoken in this House on the federal government's gun control bill in the past, and my colleagues are slowly making the opposition aware of the fact that Bill C-68 will not help control crime. It will increase bureaucracy, red tape and fees for law-abiding citizens.
This opposition to our new hunter safety and apprenticeship program is using fearmongering and undermines safety. Hunter safety is no accident. It takes training and practical experience.
Let's go through a few facts. We know that there are people out there learning to hunt with experienced hunters at early ages. Ask people who learned from their fathers, like the members for Grey-Owen Sound or Simcoe East or Brant-Haldimand. We also know that handling firearms is dangerous if one is not trained correctly. Another thing we know is that hunting requires a great deal of skill, plus knowledge of the area, knowledge of weather, the proper clothing to wear, knowledge of the animal being hunted.
Finally, we know that the federal government has enshrined in legislation, through Bill C-68, the fact that a minor's hunting permit can be issued to people beginning at the age of 12. In fact, subsection 8(3) of Bill C-68 reads:
"An individual who is 12 years old or older but less than 18 years old is eligible to hold a licence authorizing the individual to possess, in accordance with the conditions attached to the licence, a firearm for the purpose of target practice, hunting or instruction in the use of firearms or for the purpose of taking part in an organized competition."
It is the federal Liberals' regulation that is responsible for allowing a gun permit to be issued to youths as young as 12 years of age. The federal government allows 12-year-old kids to shoot. In Ontario, we will teach them to do it safely.
In British Columbia the minimum age for hunting is 10; in Alberta 12-year-olds can hunt birds with guns and wildlife with bows and arrows. It really seems to be a non-issue in these provinces, so why all the fuss in Ontario?
Some reasons: Small portions of Ontario have been urbanized and views on guns and hunting have changed. In rural areas like my riding of Norfolk, hunters, farmers and others see guns as tools. In urban areas, city folk have been conditioned to see guns as instruments of crime. It doesn't matter whether that gun is an illegal military-style automatic pistol or a shotgun that a farmer uses to protect his flock of chickens or crop of corn.
Hunter-conservationists, as well as collectors, farmers and sports competitors, are being vilified by this Liberal resolution. Hunters, for example, come from all backgrounds: doctors, accountants, steelworkers, priests. Each year about 400,000 people venture into the field to hunt in our province. Tolerance is the key word here. The word means to be open-minded and tolerant of the lifestyles of others. It seems that this word doesn't have much meaning when Liberals talk of hunters and farming and shooting competitors.
Apparently the Leader of the Opposition thinks that the hunter apprenticeship safety program is a bad thing. Has he talked with people who actually do the hunting, people like the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, people who are members of Ducks Unlimited, and has he come up with alternative measures to ensure hunter safety?
One of the key benefits of the apprenticeship program is the amount of time that a father or mother and their young son or daughter get to spend together. I remember when my father took me hunting and explained the importance of handling firearms safely. I was taught to load my gun only when I was ready to shoot, how to be sure of my target and how to be a good shot. I learned to cross a fence safely and not shoot at water.
Since that time, I have been blessed with accident-free hunting. I believe that everything, and hunter safety habits are no exception, is best taught when you are young and willing to learn. I know that I paid more attention and was more likely to inculcate the values of my father when I was 12 years old. By 16, my thoughts had turned elsewhere, to thoughts of cars and girls.
I wish to read a letter that the Minister of Natural Resources has received and was later printed in Toronto Star. It was written by a lady named Rosanne Ellis from Havelock, Ontario. The letter starts, "My 14-year-old daughter and I have just attended the hunter safety apprenticeship course in Havelock taught by Randy Sayles."
In describing Mr Sayles, Ms Ellis writes: "He's an experienced hunter and taught us from a hunter's perspective. He actually showed us how to clean a grouse, sharpen our knives, clean our guns etc by doing it. He didn't just read out of a book how to do it. Most important, he conveyed the importance of hunter ethics and respect for wildlife."
She goes on to tell us, "The past week and a half has been fun for my daughter and me and we have drawn closer together through this apprenticeship course."
Letters like this, from real people who have participated, are a better measure of this course's merit than the fear-mongering of the Liberals.
Reading from the resolution, "Whereas the Ontario Liberal Party believes that it is more important to put books, not guns, in the hands of children," I also believe that it is of critical importance to get books in the hands of children, and that's why our education minister has announced a tremendous amount of additional textbook funding this spring.
I can also reference my diary as a 12-year-old. After hunting I would do chores, and when it was dark there was still lots of time to read, and I have a fairly extensive list of books that I read that winter as well. Hunting didn't get in the way of reading books.
Reading from the resolution that we are debating today, I see that Mr McGuinty states that "there has already been a fatal shooting involving a 13-year-old child since the Harris government lowered the age." This indeed is a terrible and heartbreaking story. I cannot believe the member would use this tragic story for his and his party's gain. The families involved can only watch and shudder to think that the member for Ottawa South needs to latch on to this type of tragedy in order to find an election platform. However, this tragedy only underscores the need for training of our young hunters in safety measures.
Forty years ago, I and my fellow Scouts were told that we should take the gun safety course because at that time, back in 1958, a Scout had been involved in a gun accident.
When I first heard about this, when I first heard the news reports on this, I thought it must have been a mistake because I didn't recall any debate in the Legislature on it and I didn't recall any bill being introduced. I thought that somebody had made a mistake; it can't be true. There's no way that this government, as Reform-minded and right wing as it is, would even for a second think of the idea of giving 12-year-old kids guns. It's just absolutely bizarre.
People have talked about it. Twelve-year-olds can't drive a car, they can't vote, they can't drink alcohol, they can't smoke, but in Mike Harris's Ontario 12-year-old kids can carry guns. Think about it. Give 12-year-old kids the right to vote. They can't kill anybody with that. They can't kill anybody with the right to vote. But, good God, they can kill somebody with a gun.
In view of what we're facing today, in view of the overwhelming evidence - stricter gun controls; gun registration works; we've seen the crime stats that have dropped and the police have attributed that to tighter gun control regulations in this province and in many areas across Canada - in light of all the overwhelming evidence that says gun control works, this government first of all decides they're going to challenge a gun registry because they don't think it's appropriate for police to know who has guns in this province or in this country. They think it's okay for police officers to walk into a home and be blindsided, not knowing if someone there has a gun. The Conservative Party thinks that's acceptable.
Are the chiefs of police wrong? Are the OPP in this province who have said they don't agree with this legislation wrong? Are the men and women responsible for putting their lives on the line every single day for law enforcement in this province wrong when they say it's not a good idea to give 12-year-old kids guns? Are they wrong when they say it's a good idea to register guns so they know what home they're walking into and what the situation is? But not according to this government.
Is this part of the ongoing Americanization agenda that we see here? You've done it in health care, you're doing it in education, now you want to move to gun control. Let's go at par with Arkansas or even Texas. There are towns in Texas where 98% of the residents carry a gun. The Tories think that's probably a good idea. We're going to give 12-year-old kids guns.
Just think about it for a second. Put the political partisanship of this decision to a private vote and I think most government backbenchers would not agree with it. Most government backbenchers, if they were given a free and private vote on this issue, would understand how bizarre it is and would not support this. You pretend you're tough on law and order. You talk the talk on young offenders. You've got your crime commission. Even your head crime commissioner there thinks it's a lousy idea. I'm sure the Solicitor General thinks it's a lousy idea to give 12-year-old kids guns. He is the man responsible for the OPP in this province and they think it's a lousy idea, but for some reason the Minister of Natural Resources thinks it's a great idea to give kids guns.
This is something that comes out of the Preston Manning era. This is something that is back to the good old days of cowboys flying around with their guns and having wonderful shootouts. This is Ontario, folks. Most people are appalled at the fact that this government would think it's a good idea for 12-year-old kids to have guns, to go hunting or do anything else with them. Most people are absolutely shocked that you would do this, that you wouldn't think this is silly and outrageous.
These are 12-year-old kids. We're talking about the kids sitting in front of us, those wonderful young men and women who are sitting in front of us as pages. As wonderful and responsible as they are, would we want to give them a gun? Would we want to give any 12-year-old in this province an opportunity to carry a gun? Think about the maturity. Think about the horseplay that goes on, the level of responsibility. Kids are kids. They're 12-year-olds.
But then you say, "It's OK because an 18-year-old has to be with them." That is nuts. As the member mentioned earlier, you won't let a 12-year-old drive a car with an adult, you won't let him in a bar, you won't let him vote with an adult but you think it's OK for him to carry a gun. I say to my colleagues, come to your senses, do the right thing, do the responsible thing: Enhance safety in this province; take guns away from 12-year-old kids.
Second, the last half of this resolution put forward by Mr McGuinty from the Liberals - and it's amazing that these provincial Liberals want to get into bed with their federal cousins. Listen to what they have here: "Be it further resolved that the Harris government end its fight against universal gun registration by working with police and the federal government to fully implement the federal gun registration law in the province of Ontario."
These guys have gone to bed with the federal Liberals. There's no doubt in my mind. This registering of guns will cost this country of Canada millions of dollars, dollars that could be spent in putting more police on the streets to protect our citizens.
This is a futile attempt by the federal government to eventually take our guns away from us and our provincial Liberals have gone to bed with them. Can you believe that? I'm shocked at it. I don't know what happened to them but that's fine; that's what they believe. They believe in the registration of our guns, and I heard a couple of the members over there say - mind you, the ones I've heard from are mostly from the urban centres - that they believe that now our police forces will be much safer because when they go to a home, that they'll be able to push it up on a computer and know who has registered guns. If they are that stupid to think that criminals are going to register guns, then there's something wrong with that party.
Then both parties over here had the audacity to say the OFAH is stupid. They called one of the best organizations in this province stupid. I find that appalling. I thank you for giving me this time. God save the Queen.
I represent a semi-rural area in Caledon and Dufferin called Dufferin-Peel, and there are a number of anglers and hunters in that area. In fact just up the road there's a club called the Anglers and Hunters Club whose members do a lot of recreational shooting, hunting and fishing, and many of their programs are aimed at safety for people of all ages.
The resolution that's before us today talks about an Angus Reid poll and says, "Whereas a recent Angus Reid poll shows that the following people supported universal gun registration...." I took the trouble of finding that Angus Reid resolution - which wasn't so recent; it was 1996 - in which 1,500 people across the country were polled, and that isn't what the resolution said, that isn't what the poll said. It's the usual Liberal trickery in putting this resolution before the House with respect to this very important issue across this country.
What they did was ask questions with respect to the new gun control legislation, quite a different matter from dealing with the issue of gun control. Everybody in this place, everybody in the province, everybody in the country supports gun control. Certainly the members in our party support gun control. We support those provisions of Bill C-68 that enhance public safety, such as limiting access to certain kinds of weapons and severely punishing those who use a firearm to commit an offence. What we're opposed to is this silly notion by the federal Liberals which their puppets here in Ontario have adopted, and that is to register every long gun and that's going to solve all our criminal problems in this country. It's a stupid notion.
To date, the Liberal government in Ottawa has spent $134 million on this scheme and they haven't registered one gun. Can you imagine what they're going to spend when they start registering guns? I guess the question my colleagues on the government side have been asking is, "Is that really going to solve the problems of crime in this province?"
We had a tragic story in the paper just recently where some young man took his father's gun. His father was a police officer. He took his father's gun to school, and someone stole the gun. That matter is still before the courts and it's a young offender situation. That's a sad story, it's a tragic story and an unfortunate story, but the gun registration that those characters up in Ottawa want to put forward isn't going to solve those tragedies.
When you look at the statistics that have come out on gun registration - I might add that handgun registration in this province has been in existence since the 1930s - handguns account for 68% of all weapons used by criminals. More than 70% of handguns used by criminals have been smuggled into Canada, mostly from the United States. What's the federal government doing to stop this smuggling of illegal guns? What are they doing? We know they're spending, what did I say, $134 million on this silly registration system when the facts still come out that say that all these guns, 70% of the handguns used by criminals, have been smuggled into Canada from the United States. I think we all acknowledge that there's a problem with guns, but that isn't the way to do it.
The registration of firearms isn't the problem; smuggling of firearms is the problem. The federal government already has a variety of methods at its command to reduce smuggling but it chooses not to use them.
For nine months in 1992 and 1993, Ontario ran a police operation called Project Gunner in which undercover police officers purchased illegal guns from individuals who make a living selling weapons to criminals. Sixteen of the 17 weapons purchased were smuggled into Canada from the United States. The other one was stolen from a Canadian home. I'm reading from an article that was prepared by Christina Blizzard, who always researches her topics well, and this is one of the facts that she has determined, facts that I believe came from the RCMP. She went on with a number of other facts, but talks about how the paperwork generated by registration would take between 10 and 15 police officers off the streets and put them behind desks shuffling registration forms.
That's what this is going to do. We know for a fact that it's not going to solve crime in this country. The registration of guns is not going to solve crimes in this country. We're going to create a bureaucracy, when the money that's going to be used for that bureaucracy could instead be spent stopping illegal guns from coming into this country and passing laws federally, under the Criminal Code, that if you rob somebody using a gun, you're going to have the book thrown at you. But no, not the Liberals. They're simply going to register guns. They're going to register long guns and that's going to solve the problem.
My friend from Oshawa, Mr Ouellette, who is much more informed on this topic than I am, is going to speak for our caucus. I'm going to close by simply saying that I'm not going to support a silly resolution from the Liberal Party which simply supports their cousins in Ottawa to pass a stupid law which registers guns which nobody wants.
I noticed with interest that while the majority of the resolution deals with a regulation change that this government made to the laws of Ontario that allowed children as young as 12 to handle and fire guns, I haven't heard anything from the Conservative caucus dealing with that specific regulation.
I want to tell you that I was in Nickel Belt the day this story broke. I will say to you that you have so politicized the issue that you chose not to send out a press release as though this were somehow about safety among kids. No, you released this in a little meeting between your Minister of Natural Resources and your hunting friends in the north, something that some members of the hunters and anglers had been asking for for a long time. It's certainly not representative of their whole organization.
You decided just to let them know, "This is what we've managed to do for you," in hopes that it might help your Conservative candidate in a by-election in Nickel Belt. Well, it certainly didn't help that candidate in the Nickel Belt by-election. In fact, we only were aware of it because the ministry's own offices leaked that information. We were able to get hold of the e-mail that had been sent out from the minister's office that told only the caucus: "Here's a little bit of information. Just tell these certain folks because it's likely going to be misunderstood by the balance of Ontario."
Misunderstood? We understand very well exactly what this means. This means giving 12-year-olds the right to fire guns, and that is completely within the purview of the Ontario government, just like every other provincial government has the right to determine that age. This government elected to lower the age.
My big question today is, where are your crime commissioners? Where is the crime commissioner from Scarborough who is out talking about safety when we are in the House talking about not having guns for 12-year-olds? Where is that crime commissioner? I want him here in the House voting in favour of this resolution.
I want to know where the Minister of Health is, where the Minister of Community and Social Services is. Where is the minister for children on this issue?
When this regulation change came before your cabinet in 1997, it was quickly sent back for further study because you knew the ramifications. You knew this was not going to be good for kids in Ontario. Why was it suddenly slipped back in a backhanded manner so that your cabinet ministers who might have fought this wouldn't have the opportunity to do so? That's what this government did.
How was your caucus discussing this resolution this week in your caucus? How were Conservatives looking at this? Are you telling me that the minister for children in Ontario would have been in favour of lowering the age to 12? Please don't tell me this.
You have the Comsoc minister today stand up and announce stronger protection for children, and today we're discussing a resolution that would not allow the regulation change to allow kids as young as 12 to handle guns and shoot them. We haven't heard from that minister, and we haven't heard from the minister for children.
That, my friends, is the real face of the Mike Harris government. You're not the least bit interested except when it's politically expedient for you to make those kinds of changes for some people.
The people of Nickel Belt were very clear. I called a member of the hunters and anglers in Nickel Belt when we learned of the change. I said: "What do you really mean by this? Could you be in favour of this?" This is what he told me: "This is the stupidest thing I have ever seen the Mike Harris government do." That, from a member of the hunters and anglers in Nickel Belt.
I ask you, who was asking for this? Every mother I have talked to since thinks this is ludicrous, has a look at her own child in grade 6 and says, "My child is not ready to fire a firearm."
Do not give me the excuse that this is part of a family experience. Children as young as 12 can go hunting with adults since the beginning of time. The fact that they are not shooting the firearms themselves takes nothing away from the family experience of a hunting outing.
You should have been more responsible to the children of Ontario. Forget your excuse of it being for education. This was purely political. In fact, you saved this change. You should have made it last spring if it was for education, so these 12-year-olds could have at least gone through the course before the hunting season opened, but you announced it on the day the season opened instead. Totally political, completely wrong for children in Ontario. Most parents agree with us, and we expect the Conservative MPPs to stand up today and vote in favour -
First of all, just so people understand the process, I'm going to try to respond to the issues as they were brought forward from the members, and I'll start with the first speaker, the leader of the official opposition.
One of his first statements dealt with the 86%, supposedly, that support this, the statistics. Statistics, in reality, in Canada can be used in any fashion. If you're asked the question, "If a prisoner who has just been arrested for armed robbery has been released, would you think it's OK to give them a gun?" a majority of the country would say no. That's crime control. Those are statistics and how they're used in these sorts of fashion.
I'm going to be going around a little bit to quite a few different issues.
As a matter of fact, I spoke with parole officers out of Ottawa. One of the biggest problems they're seeing is with the criminals who are coming in, convicted individuals who have used firearms in incidents. The parole officer asks why they are using a firearm, and the response very specifically is that, when it comes time for court, "If we're caught, the weapons offence is always thrown out. So if it's going to be discharged and thrown out at that time, why wouldn't I use a gun as opposed to a knife or something else?"
Realistically, the problem is the fact that the firearms laws are not enforced. If the courts were to follow through on what's taking place, and when the federal government was asked to follow through with stiffer sentences for the misuse or the criminal use of firearms, there would be a lot fewer incidents if somebody knew that they were going to 20 years for the use or implied use of a firearm right away. But the Liberal response at that time very specifically was: "We don't want to put people in jail for that long. Do you know how much that would cost us?" Do you know what the cost is to society when those things don't happen?
They also spoke about the number of firearms available. Why is it then that in the province that has the highest per capita firearms per household, which happens to be Newfoundland, firearms misuse is the lowest incidence in Canada?
I have no reason why nor can I explain it, but that is the statistic. The province with the highest per capita firearms to households ratio has the lowest incidence of criminal or misuse of firearms anywhere in Canada. I might add, that happens to be Liberal Newfoundland.
A number of members mentioned the incidents taking place in the United States. Certainly we do not in Canada by any means endorse or support or look to those views at all. But realistically, we have other provinces, such as British Columbia, as was mentioned earlier on - 10 years old - Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and very clearly those provinces have those younger age limits now. Yet we don't hear of any incidents out there, and I might add, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia happen to have Liberal governments.
I'm just trying to very specifically answer the questions that were brought forward. Also the Liberal leader brought forward about stand in support of the police. It just so happens that this morning, this very morning, I was with the deputy chief and the chief, and both of those individuals actually support the move that the province has taken.
We can go along to different organizations and get different positions; however, from the policing perspective, the thought of registering firearms - Allan Rock, when he was doing his provincial tour, when he was in Saskatchewan, he asked a question, "Would it not be helpful for police officers to know when they knock on a door when they're responding to a call whether or not there were firearms in the household?"
Two police officers, the tac team officer and a senior 20-year member of the Saskatoon police force, responded to that issue. They made it very clear to Mr Rock that individuals in a policing situation always approach with the idea of a problem if the firearms are registered; it's the households that don't register their firearms that are the problems. This bill will not resolve the situation.
Quite clearly, as the rules are laid out in C-68, the federal legislation, just because a person owns a firearm does not necessarily mean it has to be in that location. It could be at another location from borrowing, lending to somebody else, who also has a firearms possession certificate or an FAC. That very clearly demonstrates that it does not necessarily have to be located in that residence.
The member for Beaches-Woodbine spoke about no legitimate reason to issue permits. It just so happens that a couple of weeks ago I was with the Boy Scout training officer for the 22 range. I might add that Camp Samac, just north of my riding in Oshawa, has over 36,000 night stays where Scouts, Guides, other individuals participate in these activities. Quite realistically, they constantly have training individuals. As a matter of fact, as Mr Barrett mentioned the experience he had in Scouting, I also had extensive experience with shooting with the Scouts and it happened to be at Camp Samac. Yet I was considerably younger at that time, in the area of 12 years old.
It was clearly stated by the member for Beaches-Woodbine that we oppose the federal legislation. Very clearly, we do not oppose any legislation that will bring in more safety in, and the training aspects of C-68 have not been opposed. It is a registration aspect. What the members fail to realize is that, according to the figures that have been released, $134 million has been spent by the federal government already on this issue.
If you look, why would they spend $134 million without registering one firearm? I might add, where are the concerns and priorities? You know that the federal government has contributed $4 million for breast cancer control and $16 million in total to cancer research. How is a priority set when they spend $134 million on a process that was only going to cost $84 million? There's something not quite right here. Where are the priorities in this situation?
The member for Beaches-Woodbine spoke about over 90% opposed and spoke about the by-election in Nickel Belt, and I do admit that the communication on the program was somewhat lacking, that individuals in those areas did not understand the program and how it unfolded.
When I was in Sudbury, I spoke with the largest retailer at that time. That individual did not understand the program and had some strong concerns about it, but once explained to that individual, he made it very clear that he endorsed it 100%. Not only that, but today as well when I spoke to Roger from Albert's in Timmins or I spoke to individuals from Sault Ste Marie or I spoke to individuals from Thunder Bay, the position was very clear.
I might say a couple of things. There was 100% endorsement and they said, "You know, Jerry, if you wanted to check, just drive around the bush before this took place and find out how many parents had their kids out at that time." They were implying that the process was continuing. Realistically this is a very urban and rural issue, and I don't necessarily think that no matter what is brought forward or what is explained, urban members are going to support or endorse 100% when they have no exposure to these sorts of things.
Roger out of Timmins very clearly said, "What the urban members or the people from Toronto don't understand is that in the north we have a national pastime and, quite clearly, it's hunting and fishing." These are the things that bring their community together.
One of the other members - I'm going to have to go through my notes to find out exactly which member. However, time not remaining as it is, I am going to go quickly. I remember now, it was the member for Scarborough North who spoke about the use of alcohol and alcohol-related incidents and the realistic aspect that you don't give that to a 12-year-old. Well, this person from Timmins said that he met with the medical staff from local hospitals and they were very opposed to the entire issue. Then he asked them: "All right. I would like you to look at one aspect of this. I would like you to tell me how many firearm-related incidents you have dealt with and how much time you've spent with that issue." They said as compared to alcohol-related incidents, there was no comparison. When the medical community looked at that issue from that perspective, they had no problem with the issue at all. It completely turned it around in Timmins.
But that is the same thing I'm hearing. Quite honestly, the member for Algoma had some concerns about the expression of an incident that took place in his riding. As a matter of fact, I was at that site two days after some of the research was done and I am concerned about the way it was brought forward in somewhat of a fashion that would give concern to the public while an investigation is continuing. Quite clearly, what has been demonstrated here is, I think that it should not have been dealt with in the fashion it was.
In the time remaining, I'm going to try and explain a couple of other things. The number of incidents regarding - the member for Kingston and The Islands spoke about the statistics in Saskatchewan. In the last week I've spoken with three individuals who had deaths while they were hunting, but the way the statistics, as I mentioned earlier on, are manipulated, what the people don't realize is that those three individuals who died while they were hunting were all heart attacks and those are calculated into the statistics that say there are fatalities and deaths during hunting. When you analyze that and when you get a full picture of this entire issue, it's completely different.
All those in favour, say "aye."
All those opposed, say "nay."
In my opinion, the nays have it.
Call in the members. There will be a five-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1801 to 1806.
Bradley, James J.
Morin, Gilles E.
All those opposed will please rise one at a time.
Baird, John R.
Ford, Douglas B.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Jordan, W. Leo
Leadston, Gary L.
McLean, Allan K.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Parker, John L.
Rollins, E.J. Douglas
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Stewart, R. Gary
It being approximately 6:12, I declare this chamber adjourned until 6:30 of the clock.
The House adjourned at 1812.
Evening meeting reported in volume B.
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