The House met at 0900.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Shall we pray?

Prayers.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

HEALTHY HOMES RENOVATION
TAX CREDIT ACT, 2011 /
LOI DE 2011 SUR LE CRÉDIT D'IMPÔT
POUR L'AMÉNAGEMENT DU LOGEMENT
AXÉ SUR LE BIEN-ÊTRE

Resuming the debate adjourned on November 30, 2011, on the motion for second reading of Bill 2, An Act to amend the Taxation Act, 2007 to implement a healthy homes renovation tax credit / Projet de loi 2, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2007 sur les impôts en vue de mettre en oeuvre le crédit d'impôt pour l'aménagement du logement axé sur le bien-être.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further debate? The member from Beaches-East York.

Mr. Michael Prue: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. If I might preface my remarks, as you were reading out the Buddhist prayer this morning, I wonder of the need for a Legislature at all; if things are just going to unfold as they should and if we just need to watch the waves come in and go out, whether we need one at all. But I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about it, notwithstanding the wise words that were spoken by you.

If I might also preface my remarks, this last couple of weeks since we've come back, I have heard so many of the new members give their inaugural speeches. I have heard so many of them talk about their ridings, their friends, their families and how they got involved in politics, and I lament the fact, as the Clerk will rightly point out, that I am probably the only person in the modern history of this place who never gave an inaugural speech.


Interjection: How did you get away with that?

Mr. Michael Prue: I don't know. And I don't know whether, after 10 years here, it's timely for me to do so, but I'm going to think that it's not and therefore just go ahead with my debate on this bill.

This bill, of course, was a major plank of the government-probably its only plank, along with reducing inflated and really unfortunate fees that students pay for post-secondary education. It was a government that ran on two planks, this being one of them. So I suppose it's inevitable that we will be talking about this in the very first couple of weeks of the session and that the Liberals will want to show that they are somehow making good on what they had to say during the election on an economic issue. But I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this is pretty small potatoes in terms of a whole economic agenda and how to get the province moving. It's pretty small potatoes. It amounts to, I think, some significant dollars-$130 million-but the effect it will have on the majority of Ontarians is absolutely tiny.

They want to show, this government, that they are taking action on their plan and that they are willing to take and spend $130 million of taxpayers' money in an effort to show that they're trying to do something. They're trying to do something for that very, very tiny portion of the population who are over 65 years of age, who have $10,000 in available cash, who are in need of repair in the home and who are thinking long-term about what they need to do in order to stay in that home. I would think that this is a pretty, pretty small number of people: maybe 1%, maybe less.

We know, from statistics of home builders and home renovators in many places, including, most recently, what I saw from Sudbury, that of all the home renovations that are done by people, only 1.7% of home renovations are done by those over the age of 65. The big renovations are done primarily by young people who are renovating or expanding their home because they're expecting children. So, here we are: At the most, we're looking at 1.7% of the people who are doing home renovations, and those that have the $10,000.

This government says that this bill is essential and absolutely necessary because it's going to create 10,500 jobs and keep seniors in their homes. That's what this is all about. I'm all in favour. I think everybody in this entire room, this entire Legislature-whether you're on the government side, the official opposition or the third party, we all believe that seniors should stay in their own homes as long as is practicable, and we all want to help people to do that. But we also know that most seniors are very content and comfortable in their own homes, and very few of them are willing or able to expend the amounts of money that this bill envisages.

I am also extremely skeptical about any claim that this is going to create 10,500 jobs. I listened through the entire last Legislature as government member after government member stood in this place and talked about the jobs that were being created: the 10,000 here or the 50,000 here or the 60,000 here, or the 300,000. It just keeps coming and coming and coming, and the unemployment rate is at 10%. If you live in a place like London or Windsor, you know full well that 10% of the people are unemployed, in spite of all the claims that are being made over there. Every time they dole out money to a company or a factory, they say, "We're creating 100 jobs, 200 jobs," and then we see that factory close without creating a single thing. So when you talk about 10,500 jobs, I think we all need to take that with a grain of salt.

Will it create some work? Of course it will. Any expenditure of money by anybody, whether it's government or private or individuals-any expenditure creates jobs. Even if you go into the dollar store and buy something made in China, you are creating a job here for the salesperson who sells it and for the stockperson who puts it on the shelf. Any expenditure of money does that, but this is, quite frankly, not terribly believable.

Let's take a close look, Mr. Speaker, at this bill. Most seniors, in my view and in the view of most economists, cannot afford the $10,000 to begin with in order to save $1,500. Most seniors, if you look at the level of poverty and other things, have a difficult time, because with pensions failing, with pensions in many cases not indexed or not existing at all, it becomes very, very difficult, as prices increase, for them to maintain the standard of living that they expected.

For those who retired 10 or 15 years ago, they have seen a total erosion of their spending ability, a total erosion as things like home heating and electricity and transit and gasoline prices and food and everything keeps rising at a rate faster than their ability to pay it.

0910

So, I am highly skeptical, as I said at the beginning, that there are that many seniors out there who have $10,000 that they are willing to expend in order to put in a new bathroom or in order to put in a ramp or an elevating or lift device to take them up the stairs. Are there some? Of course there are some; there are some seniors who can take advantage of this. But can the majority do it? I would think not, and I would think that even if they want to have it done, they will be reluctant to spend that much money. I know them; I talk to them. I talk to seniors all the time. They don't want to spend the money.

They are happy to live in their home, even though it may be in need of repair, because they are mindful of the necessity of keeping that little nest egg as long as they can. Also, many of them want to leave it to their children. Quite frankly, they'd rather leave it to their children than put in a new bathroom.

So, how many can afford the $10,000? That's the first question we have to ask ourselves. If you look deep in your hearts, government members, you will know there are not many who are going to have this money or want to spend it.

I would think, even though this may cost $130 million if fully farmed out, you are going to find out that the number of people applying for this, given the criteria you have, will be far fewer than that, and the actual expenditure from this government will be far less than that. Now, that may be a good thing, because I don't think this bill will have the consequences you think it will.

The second thing: Every single cost borne by the senior who spends up to $10,000 is subject to tax, and we know that the majority of the tax on a home renovation will go to the people who come to build it. Yes, there are costs for supplies like new sinks and taps; yes, there are costs for supplies like elevating devices that will take them up the stairs. But the majority of the costs that will be borne are those of the workers who will come to put them in, the tradespeople who will come to put them in. This is all subject to HST.

Here is a government that says, "We're going to give you $1,500," but that same government is going to make as much as $800 back in HST from these same seniors. Maybe that's not a bad thing if you're an economist and you're looking at the cost to the taxpayer. You dangle the carrot out there that you're giving $1,500, but you know full well that you're going to get up to $800 of that back in taxes.

So, how much is the senior really saving? I would think they will be a little bit skeptical of this as well.

The third thing you need to know is that a senior who does have the funds may have them locked. Very few of them will have $10,000 simply sitting in a bank account or in a bank account that is protected from interest. Very few of them will have that. If they have to take the money out, more than likely it will be locked into things like RRSPs. A senior who wants to take advantage of this and removes the money from an RRSP, which will be a lot of them, is subject to have that taxed at a higher rate. They will have to pay income tax on that money to take it out in the first place. So if they think, "Well, I need a new bathroom; the government is going to give me back $1,500 if I spend $10,000," they're going to have to take probably closer to $15,000 out of the RRSP in order to have the $10,000 in the first place to take advantage of the program. They are going to have to pay tax of up to $5,000 from their RRSP to do it.

I think you're going to find that a whole bunch of them are not willing to do that. You're going to find a whole bunch of them are going to say, "This is not a program that works for me. This doesn't do anything to alleviate my problem. It actually may even make it worse." I think that the take-up from those people who have to take the money out of a secure deposit, an RRSP, will limit the effectiveness of this program.

Next, anybody who does a major retrofit of their home-I'm talking about electricity, about plumbing, about things that are just not cosmetic; not just putting a handle on the bathtub, but things that are of major import and have to be done-requires a building permit. Building permits are good things. Building permits ensure that the contractor who has been hired makes the job professional, well done and safe. It makes sure that the electricity, if it's being put into the walls, is safe and that it does not cause a fire. It makes sure that the plumbing that is put into the walls does not leak and cause damage to a house, damage that can be more expensive than what the original repair was. Municipalities across this province have the authority to go in and issue permits and make sure the work is done, and seniors, of course, are going to have to pay for those permits.

But having paid for those permits-all well and good-those permits are subject to MPAC; they are subject to the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. And when you do a major retrofit of your house, particularly if you put a basement in your house, an in-law apartment; if you put in new washrooms, a new kitchen; if you do those kinds of things, you increase the value of your house-of course you do-and then it's subject to increasing the tax on the house. We all know, those of us who are property owners, that every time you do a major renovation, MPAC will come around. They will reassess your house, your property taxes will rise, and then you have to question yourself: Was this program that I intended to get $1,500 back from actually working for me? Did it actually have the desired effect?

I would think, not so much seniors, but those who are trying to keep Mom and Dad at their home are going to wonder whether this program works for them, because in the end, with the combination of the HST, with the combination of fees for permits, with the combination of property tax increases, people will say that this is not the type of expenditure that works best for them. They will do what countless other people do, so sadly, in this province: They will go to the underground economy, because you can get the work done more cheaply, you can do it without permit, you can do it without MPAC knowing about it in the first place and you can build it. They will forgo and not even use this grandiose scheme-which maybe, as a taxpayer, is a good thing. Maybe people out there will say, "I don't like this program, but it's not going to cost me very much."

I think government needs to look at this. This is a much-ballyhooed program. It was only one of two principal ideas you floated in the last election. But, quite frankly, I think it's not going to be taken up at all.

We then wonder: what, why, how? What made the government decide to do this? Did they look to some other jurisdiction and say, "Another jurisdiction has had success with this. This is how we came up with this plan. This has been working brilliantly in Quebec or Manitoba or BC or someplace in the United States"? I don't think so. Because as we look around to those other provinces, we see that they have far superior programs to this, ones that are actually taken up by the poor, by the old, by the disabled; programs that actually help them to retrofit their homes without all of the worries and all of the bother and all of the concerns that I've outlined.

In Quebec, they made a conscious decision many years ago to target and to help their poorer seniors, especially those seniors who were disabled or potentially may be disabled as conditions in old age worsen. They made a decision to work in conjunction with their regional municipalities and that those regional municipalities would assist in helping seniors to stay in their homes.

0920

They have a program which sounds, at the outset, very much like what this government has put forward. They will fund access ramps, remodelling of bathrooms, the widening of doors, elevation devices or anything else that will make mobility inside the home for seniors, disabled seniors, the disabled, those in need-they will make them work. But the difference between Quebec and Ontario is that Quebec is willing to put its money where its mouth is and not play some kind of shell game which, in the end, will absolutely negate the benefit that is expected to go to seniors.

In Quebec, for instance, there are grants for seniors. Any senior who is disabled can get up to $16,000 in a grant to remodel their home-not spend $10,000 of your own and get $1,500 back, minus all the taxes and permit fees and everything else you have to pay, but $16,000 in grant money-because Quebec understands that most of the seniors who will be applying for this do not have the economic wherewithal and that the $16,000 that they're expending is absolutely essential to keep people in their homes. It's clearly far better to spend that money up front than to have seniors go into retirement homes or into old age homes or to have other costly government programs. So they spend up to $16,000 if you are a senior who is disabled.

Also, an ordinary senior can get up to a $3,500 grant right off the top. Now, is that getting $10,000 worth of repair done to your home? No. It's getting $3,500. But the $3,500 is cash that they get without expending their own hard-earned money that many of them don't have. So if you need something relatively minor, like a walk-in bathtub or grip bars or a kitchen put on a lower floor that is going to assist you to stay in your home, that's what the Quebec government pays up to $3,500 for. That's for any senior-$16,000 if you're a disabled or potentially disabled senior-and that keeps people in their homes, and it's well taken up. They've been doing this since 1991, for 20 years. The program works.

So I have to ask myself: Why does the government of Ontario go out and do something which is diametrically opposed to the most successful seniors' program to keep them in their own homes in the country, which is just a couple of hundred kilometres to the east of here, of this building? I mean, it works. For those who come from Ottawa, it's across the river. From the Cornwall area, you can see Quebec. You can see what they do and how they do it. At least once or twice a year, we meet with our counterparts in Quebec. Sometimes they come here; sometimes we go there. We meet with them and we talk about their programs, our programs, how we can mesh them, how we can make them work. We're supposed to learn from them, and in fact we've learned much through that interparliamentary committee that meets through the aegis of the Speaker's office.

But I don't think the government learned anything on this one, because instead of doing what Quebec does, they've gone out and done something different. Not only does Quebec give $16,000 to disabled seniors, not only do they give $3,500 in grants to seniors who are not disabled, but they also have other grant programs that the disabled and some seniors are eligible for. The municipalities with whom they work also have grant monies available that can, in special circumstances, be given as well.

The municipalities have the authority to go in and to look at the homes and make assessments and make recommendations. Does every senior get the money? No. Every senior who applies gets the $3,500, provided it's done by a registered contractor. But if there are special needs, the municipality has people who go in and look at it. They say, "We think that there's something more that needs to be done to help this individual."

Municipalities can also give grants of up to $7,000 to keep people in their own homes and, in absolutely exceptional circumstances, where there is specialized equipment that is required as well, have the authority to give a further $10,000 grant. So it is quite conceivable that a disabled senior in Quebec trying to stay in their own home can get the full government-of-Quebec grant, the grant from the municipality in which they live, and a specialized grant to help them stay in their own home amounting to $23,000. And this government here is talking about maybe $1,500, subject to tax, and that's what is being given away.

Now, are these tough times? Sure, they're tough times. Does the government have a lot of money? No, the government doesn't have a lot of money.


Mr. Rosario Marchese: They're giving it away to corporations.

Mr. Michael Prue: Well, they're giving it away to corporations, but I'm not sure they're giving it away to the seniors and those who need it the most. This is the whole point of this. Is this a bad bill? No, it's not a bad bill. But is it doing what the government says it's going to do? No, it is not.

Mr. Rosario Marchese: She missed your speech. I can't believe it.

Mr. Michael Prue: I think the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is perhaps missing some of what I have to say-

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I've been here the whole time.

Mr. Rosario Marchese: He's going to repeat it; hold on.

Mr. Michael Prue: Maybe I should start again; perhaps in French.

But this is what is happening in terms of this bill, and the government ought not to stand up and say how proud they are of this bill because it is not a particularly good one.

Is it going to cause any grief? I don't think so. Is it going to cost a lot of money? I don't think it's going to cost what you say it's going to cost. Is it going to help a lot of people? Absolutely not. It's not; you need to know this. A year from now, two years from now, when the auditor looks at this and says, "How is this program working?" they're going to say, "This $130 million that we're supposed to spend: There's hardly any take-up on it," and somebody's going to come along and recommend that it be done away with because it's simply not working. In the meantime, we have a whole lot of people out there who watch these programs and who look at the government's spin and think that something is actually being done to help them, and in reality nothing is really being done to help them, save and except that approximately 1% or 1.5% of seniors-those over the age of 65 that actually have this kind of remedial work done in their homes.

So here we have it: We get a $10,000 bill and we get a $1,500 grant, if you're lucky, and this is limited to people who are over the age of 65. Now, I wonder; there's a whole bunch of boomers out there, including some in this room. There's a whole bunch of people out there who are planning for their retirement and, if they're careful, are planning for their older age. They know that over time, their health may deteriorate. Some of them may already be in circumstances where their health is deteriorating, with bad backs, with slipped discs, with any number of things that will require. But is there anything in this bill that helps them? Is there anything in this bill that helps somebody who is 55 or 60 years of age, who is trying to plan ahead while they still have some employment, while they still have equity, while they still have some money that they want to expend? No; it's not there. So even those people who are less than 65, who are thinking about retirement and are thinking about staying in their homes and are thinking long-term about what needs to be done-this program is useless to them.

People need to know: This is totally useless to the majority of Ontarians. It will not help them even if they're thinking ahead, even if they're trying to do the right thing, even if they're trying to, in future years, not be a burden on the government. Nothing at all. Nothing at all. I think we need to take a close look at this.

In Quebec, if you are less than 65 years of age but you have some type of infirmity that is likely to grow worse over time, you are eligible for some of the grants. I think this province needs to do the same thing, because if we are serious about keeping people in their homes, we cannot do what is contained totally within the body of this bill. We have to think beyond that box. That's something that is not happening here.

0930

You know, in the final analysis, hardly anyone is being covered. In the final analysis, they might get a $1,500 grant. In the final analysis, this is limited to a very small number of people of those who are over 65 years of age. In the final analysis, there is nothing that is going to limit the property taxes of those people who expend money on major renovations, including bathrooms, kitchens, plumbing and electricity. As soon as they spend that money, their home taxes are going to go up, and it's going to make them reluctant to do it. In the final analysis, it's going to make it very, very difficult.

I've sat here through the economic statement of the Minister of Finance. I've sat here and I've listened to him in press scrums, and I've listened to the Premier, and they're talking about what the budget is likely to contain next March. There are those who would commend this government for saying that somehow health care and education are sacrosanct, for saying that they will not be touched, for saying that health care can go and rise as much as 3% in terms of expenditure and that education can rise as much as 1% in terms of expenditure.

But as the finance minister and the Premier have said repeatedly, every other government department is going to see major cuts. They're going to see major cuts that are going to have a devastating impact, I would put it to you, in many fields: impacts on the environment, impacts on municipalities, impacts on transportation, impacts on how we get around and transit for municipalities. They're going to be cut by some 33%; that's what he said. When those are cut, where do you think people are going to get those services, especially seniors? How are they going to do it?

We see in the city of Toronto all the machinations down there at city hall, all the infighting, all the right-wingers saying, "Well, we're going to raise taxes by 2.5% to cover this off. We're going to increase transit fees by 10 cents or a quarter a ride in order to cover this off. We're going to lay off 2,600 people-firefighters, police officers, transit workers and librarians-in order to cover this off," because they know full well that there's going to be no money from this government. They know full well, and they're taking the finance minister to heart, that in all these places other than education and hospitals, there are going to be reductions.

So you have to expect that those same seniors that this bill is intended to help are also going to face those impacts. They're going to see their property taxes rise. They're going to see their transit fares rise. They're going to see life being a little bit more than miserable. They're going to see user fees on a whole bunch of other things.

I think this government needs to look at its priorities. Is this the best priority? I'm not sure. That's the decision you've made, and I think the Legislature has to debate it and has to spend some time with it. But I'm not sure that this is the best priority on how to spend potentially $130 million. Will I vote against it? I don't know. I would do almost anything to help seniors, but I want you to look into your heart of hearts: Is this money (a) going to be spent, and (b), if it is, is it going to have the same effect on helping the senior population that you think it is and that money spent somewhere else would have?

I know that the government has said they will not support the motion put forward by the NDP, and voted on in this Legislature with the support of the official opposition, to take the HST off home heating fuel. I will tell you, if the HST went off home heating fuel, every single senior in this province would benefit. Every single person in this province would benefit who heats their home or has their apartment heated by their landlord, because they pay it. Every single person would be the beneficiary.

When you have this bill, how many people will be beneficiaries? I know it costs only about one third as much. I know it's $130 million versus $350 million. I know that. I read the numbers-with all the catcalls over there. But how many people are going to benefit from this? Ask yourself. Look at it. Who is going to benefit? Those 1% of seniors who actually do renovations? Maybe. And all the rest? No.

If we are truly trying to help the people of this province, you have to think more broadly. You have to be more inclusive. You have to look at what is being done. Certainly, the taxpayers expect that any time this amount of money is spent, there is a desired effect. I don't think it's here.

You know, the government says that this program is intended to help more than homeowners. I'm not sure that that's the case. I looked at it, and I searched my heart of hearts because I know they say that if you are a tenant you can apply to have your landlord repair your building, and the landlord might be able to get some kind of a grant out of this. I don't know how many tenants out there who are watching this have ever had much success in trying to get their landlord to redo their bathroom because they're old or have grab bars put in it to help them get out of the bathroom or put in a new kitchen because the kitchen is that bad or do anything else that will provide mobility, like taking out the door frame around their apartment so that they can get a wheelchair into it or changing any other thing inside a tenanted building.

Landlords aren't anxious to do that. They're not anxious to spend this kind of money. They're not going to spend $10,000 to get $1,500 back. They're not going to do it. And if they do do it, they're going to raise the rent of the tenant. We all know that that's exactly what happens. So, how many tenants-and there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of seniors who are tenants because some of them aren't able to maintain a home with the grass cutting and the snow shovelling and all the inherent things of homeownership, and so they choose, quite rightly, to live in apartments, to rent at that stage their life. It makes economic sense, and it makes social sense, and it makes sense in terms of their abilities to carry out the work.

So how many tenants are going to benefit from this? Any? Can anybody over there tell me that they think landlords are going to pick this up and start making all the renovations to their apartments?

There is a guy shaking his head-a brand newbie over there-who thinks that this is going to happen. He thinks that landlords are somehow going to find this a magic elixir. "I'm going to get $1,500 back; I'm going to do $10,000 of renovation for Mrs. Brown who is increasingly in poor health. I'm going to redo her whole bathroom so that she can stay with me another year or two in this apartment before she goes to an old age home, and I'm not going to raise her rent after I do it." Wow; there is a dreamer over there and a true believer if I have ever seen one, shaking his head in the affirmative. I don't know. I don't know. But if you think that's going to happen, I'm waiting for the auditor in a year or two to say, "How many tenants have actually been helped with this program?" because the answer will be zero-zero.

So, here's a government that's saying that tenants are eligible, but are they? Not at all. Are the poor eligible? Those who live in substandard housing, who have slum landlords and all those who barely make ends meet who would never have $10,000 to expend in the first place: Are they eligible? Absolutely not. They don't have the money, so they can't get the rebate. If you don't have the cash up front, there's nothing for them there.

Are those who have to take money out of the RRSPs eligible? I guess they are, but at some considerable cost to themselves-much more than the rebate will actually be or that they would ever afford. So are they going to take their money out? Probably not. So they're not eligible either.

Are the property tax increases going to be worth it for the majority of people who are left? Probably not. So it's no surprise that when contractors and home builders and other people show us the list of who makes repairs to their homes, seniors are at the bottom. Those 65 years of age and older are in the 1% or 2% range of all the work that they have. Will that increase if you give them $1,500 as a rebate? Maybe. It might go from 1% to 2%, or from 2% to 3%, but it's not going to make any kind of major difference.

0940

I think that the position taken by the opposition parties is much more practical. You know, we talked about removing the HST from heating costs. We grant that it's more expensive. We know it's more expensive than what is being proposed here. But it is infinitely universal. Every single person, regardless of their station in life, their age, their infirmity, gets relief. Every single person gets an opportunity to pay less for one of life's necessities.

I will tell you: Look across the country and at those provinces that have embraced the HST, and you will see that all of them have no HST on home heating, except us. Why is it that in Ontario this is a necessity that Liberals say cannot be changed, where they don't pay HST in Quebec, they don't pay it in Nova Scotia, they don't pay it in BC-and pretty soon they won't have an HST at all? They don't pay it in any other place. They don't pay HST on home heating.

So I have to ask: Who is being helped? Are you really helping those in need? When I see seniors, when I walk door to door-and I know all of you did in the months of August and September and until October 6. Was that not an issue? Was that not an issue, particularly for those who are struggling, particularly for those who are trying to hang on to their homes? They brought out heating bills to show me. They brought out electricity bills to show me. They asked, "How can the government help me? I can't afford this anymore. Every time the costs go up, every time the HST is added to it, it spikes and costs me an extra $50 or $100 a month. It's money I don't have." If you can help them, they won't be coming to you looking for home renovations. They will be happy to stay in their own home in the condition that it is.

When those days come when a person can no longer live in their own home-they come. I'm sad for that day. I watched when my mother-in-law could no longer stay in her own home. I watched when my mother could no longer stay in her own home. We did all kinds of things to try to help them and keep that going as long as possible. In my mother-in-law's case, we went to Community Care East York, a wonderful agency. That agency came in every single week, did home cleaning, looked after her, helped her with the groceries at the little corner store, brought some stuff, made sure things were tidy, went through the fridge to make sure that the old food that wasn't any good anymore was thrown out, and a hundred things that people have to do. Community Care East York did a wonderful job for her. They will be celebrating, by the way, Mr. Speaker, their 40th anniversary next week, on Thursday.

Applause.


Mr. Michael Prue: Except, before you clap-the same newbie member is clapping about this. It's also their last anniversary, because although they were founded in 1971, they no longer have sufficient revenues from government and other sources. They're being forced to be subsumed by a larger organization. The larger organization is a good one; it's called WoodGreen, and it's in the east end of the city of Toronto. But Community Care East York, which has served the people of East York and north of the Danforth for 40 years, will be no more on January 1. Some of the workers-or most of the workers, I'm assured-will find work with WoodGreen, but they are being forced to amalgamate and join together to cut costs and administration, and the whole neighbourhood feel will be gone from this. But I'm thankful that there are still people like Community Care East York and WoodGreen that go out and help.

I think we need to make sure that the money is there, but I'm not sure, when the finance minister stands up and says that there's going to be a 33% reduction in some ministries, that they're not going to be affected as well. Before we start spending money in the way the government is proposing here, I want somebody to assure me from over there that we won't be cutting the other services that so many seniors rely upon every single day-things like Community Care East York.

My mother-in-law stayed in her home for an extra seven years after my father-in-law died, with the help of Meals on Wheels. Because they came every day to deliver her a hot meal, I didn't have to worry about her. I didn't have to come every single day and make sure she had something nutritious to eat, because the people from Meals on Wheels showed up every single day with a hot meal for her. They knocked on the door, made sure she took the meal, asked her how she was doing, and otherwise were sort of the eyes and ears of the community so that she continued to be safe.

I remember one day, Mr. Speaker, when I took her out for lunch. We went to one of her favourite restaurants for lunch at the same time that the Meals on Wheels came to deliver the meal. When I got home, there was a call for me on my answering machine, saying that they were worried about my mother-in-law because she hadn't come to the door; that they had left the meal there but she hadn't come to the door. Was I aware? Was there anything wrong? Should I go down and check it out?

When I assured them that the reason she didn't come to the door was because I took her out for lunch, they were assuaged. But I was happy that they did that kind of thing and continue to do that kind of thing.

But I'm also worried that seniors' services like this one may be on the chopping block. There may be $130 million for those who wish to renovate their homes, but I am also mindful that everything other than health care and education is now on the block. Community services are on the block. They will potentially have reductions. That's what the finance minister and the Premier have said, and the finance minister has said it can be up to 33%.

So I ask the government, in putting forward this bill, and when it goes to committee, as it invariably must-I'm asking the government to make sure that us spending $130 million is not going to be to the detriment of all the other seniors' programs that are out there, because there are hundreds of thousands of people who rely on those. I would think that if these seniors out there see that their programs are being cut in other areas in order that a very select few-1% or 2%-who want renovations to their homes are given prominence while they are being cut, this government will hear a lot of ire.

I will tell you, there is nothing so woeful, nothing so strong, nothing so concerted in an effort as seniors who are roused, because they vote. They vote, and they are not afraid to tell you what they think of your program and of you as a politician, and whether you're helping them or not.

So, Mr. Speaker, I see I still have about 15 minutes left. Maybe I should do my maiden speech now, but I think, after 11 years, I won't do that. I won't talk about my family and the wonder of Beaches-East York, or even the wonders of Don Valley West and that wonderful community of Thorncliffe, which is part of it-


Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: That would be okay.

Mr. Michael Prue: Oh, now the minister wants to hear that. No, no, I think I'm going to wind it up. I think I've said what needs to be said.

When this goes to committee-


Mr. Rob Leone: What committee?

Mr. Michael Prue: Well, that's a good question. Good questions have been asked. What committee? Because we don't have any committees operating yet. We don't have any committees operating here or anybody appointed to any of the committees, to date. We have been here now for two weeks. We are only going to be here for another four days. I've been told that, as the finance critic, I'm likely to be on the finance committee when it gets structured-I think that's a pretty safe assumption-but it has not been structured.

We are going to be sent out, as we are every single year in the month of January and February. We're going to be sent out across this province to hear from people about what they hope to see in the budget, how they hope that the money is going to be expended; whether this is a good way to expend it or whether there are other programs that should maybe get the money instead.

How can we do that? How can we plan for that? We don't even know who's on the committee. We don't even know who the chair is. We don't even know when they're going to be given authority, when there's going to be a subcommittee meeting and who's going to be on it.

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I've heard some nasty rumours around here that the government is playing hardball and that they may only want one or two committees to actually operate. There are nine committees that are set out by statute for this place, and they all need to be working. We all need to be working to do that which is right for the people of Ontario, particularly for our seniors.

If this bill passes second reading, and it very well may, then it's going to have to be sent to a committee, and that's going to have to be done next week. I would hazard, since it is a finance bill, since it is a change to the taxation policy, that in all likelihood it's going to have to go to the finance committee. That's going to be added to all the things we already know: not only the budget consultation but this bill and, we've been told by the finance minister, the consideration of Don Drummond's report on where we go.

That's just what the finance committee is going to have to do in January, if it is ever structured. I don't know about other committees, but that's what's going to have to happen. So I ask the government members: You have one more caucus meeting next week. Talk about this issue. Talk about whether this is the kind of bill that needs to go forward. Maybe you should just hold back on it for a while and see what other seniors' programs are potentially at risk if $130 million is spent in this way.

I also ask that we structure and get on with the work of government. We have a minority Parliament. The government does not have a majority and cannot expect to have a majority on the committees. It cannot happen; it will not happen. So let's get on with it. Let's work together.

I am willing to give consideration to this if the government can show me that what I have said today is somehow not correct, that there is going to be a much greater uptake, that there is a clamour out there for this kind of program and that nothing else will be hurt in its wake. I'm willing to give due consideration.

But we need to do that after hearing the people of this province. We need to have public deputations, as we always do in committee. We need the committee to look at the bare bones and make amendments. We need the amendments to come back and be debated before this House. This can only happen, Mr. Speaker, if we have properly functioning committees and a government that recognizes that we are in a minority situation and that the opposition needs to be heard.

For the new members: You may not have seen it yet, but there are two things up there. There's an owl over there and there's an eagle over there. We look, on this side, at the eagle. The eagle is for the opposition to always remain vigilant so that we know what the government is doing, we keep the government to account and we ask the appropriate questions.

The owl is over there for the government members to always remember that you need to be wise. So, be wise. Think about this. Do the right thing. Set up the committee. Discuss in detail whether this bill is going to have the desired effect. If you think it is, then vote for it. If you think it needs to be changed, change it. If you think it's going to be deleterious to other government programs, make sure they are not hurt, because they are more sorely needed than this and they are much more important to the majority of seniors in this province.

I think that's enough time. I thank you very much for everyone's attention and thank you, Mr. Speaker, for yours.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? Questions and comments? The member for Scarborough Southwest.

Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I want to start off by congratulating you on your new position as Deputy Speaker-First Deputy Speaker, I think. It's nice to see a fellow Scarborite in that position.

Interjections.


Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: Scarborite? I'll provide Hansard with the spelling for "Scarborite" later on.

I only have two minutes to speak or critique the member from Beaches-East York. I have a question: Why is your riding called Beaches-East York when it should be The Beach-East York? I think it's officially now known as The Beach. So if he could explain that to me in his comments, I would really appreciate it. But anyway-

Interjections.


Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti: I'm very close to The Beach, and my wife and I go there quite often. Sorry; I'm getting off topic.

Just briefly, the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit was one of the first items that we introduced when this session started. It's Bill 2. I listened carefully-as finance critic, the goal of the critic is to criticize or point out any failings or shortcomings of this bill. We are here to defend the bill; the government is here. I just want to say a few points about the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit. It does help seniors stay in their homes longer. If they renovate their homes, they can get up to $1,500 for expenses that are related to a permanent modification of their home.

I think also there are a few other things this government has done-a lot of things this government has done-to support seniors. I only have a little bit of time, but we have enhancements to energy and property tax credits for seniors, and seniors can get a maximum credit of $1,025 annually. There's also the Ontario senior homeowners' property tax grant. The maximum grant was doubled in 2010 to $500, as announced in the 2008 budget. That's another way of helping seniors. There's the Ontario sales tax credit, an annual-


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mr. Rob Leone: I want to thank the member for Beaches-East York for his comments and telling the government that they definitely have to look at that owl for that wisdom. We'll see whether, over the course of this term, they're going to follow that.

I wanted to touch upon a couple of points that were raised throughout this debate. This is going to involve a $10,000 commitment on the part of seniors, those over 65, to retain the $1,500 tax credit. Now, I know that in talking to seniors, going door to door during the campaign, they always talked about the fact that their main concerns were about how they're going to actually stay in their homes-not by a ramp that might be built, not by a lift that might be installed, but by the fact that their taxes have gone up, the fact that their property taxes have gone up.

Someone has to actually have the $10,000 to be able to take the tax credit. Not a lot of people who are seniors on fixed incomes have a disposable amount of $10,000 that they can put into home renovations to retain this tax credit. That's why I think that our proposal, the proposal by the member for Algoma-Manitoulin in his bill last week, to reduce the HST on home heating, benefits everybody, not a select few. I think that if we had a choice between the two, we should be doing something that benefits the most amount of people, which is why we support the bill that was proposed by the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, and that's why we have difficulty supporting a bill that very few seniors will actually qualify for.

I think the government should understand that we are here to represent all Ontarians and that this bill and whatever we do with tax policy should reflect that.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments?

Ms. Cindy Forster: Now, I'm not the health critic, but I'm going to raise a seniors' issue under this bill that is uncomfortable-

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Excuse me one second.

Ms. Cindy Forster: Oh, excuse me. I'm not-

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): You had me confused there for a few seconds. The member from Welland.

Ms. Cindy Forster: Thank you again, Speaker. I'm going to raise an issue, a health issue of seniors, that probably would be better addressed than the bill that's before us today. It's a topic that many seniors are uncomfortable speaking about but that 30% of them report being afflicted with, and that is the issue of incontinence. Both men and women-seniors, over the age of probably 60-suffer from incontinence, and it costs those seniors up to $3,000 per year to buy incontinence products. That is a lot of money. It also increases health care costs, because if seniors don't have the money to change those products on a regular basis, they develop infections and bed sores and rashes. Then they have to seek medical care and sometimes hospital care.

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There is a gentleman who lives in my community; his name is Jack O'Neil, and he is the president of Niagara Gatekeepers. That is an agency that kind of looks out for seniors, as a watchdog for seniors. He's asked me to bring forward this important issue and to ask the government and the Minister of Health to investigate this problem and to provide some relief, under the health portfolio, to assist seniors across the province.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Questions and comments?

Mr. Michael Coteau: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and congratulations on your recent appointment as the Deputy Speaker.

I'm very supportive of this bill, Bill 2, the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit. When I was in my community talking to people during my campaign, there was a lot of support for this particular item in the platform. You know, it allows seniors in our communities to stay in their homes later in life, it helps families who share their homes with seniors to invest in their property to better accommodate the seniors in their homes, and also it supports over 10,000 jobs.

I know that this whole strategy-I'm very proud of this particular bill and the Liberal platform and, in addition to that, what's happened over the last eight years in regard to supporting our aging population. This is the government that's invested into the cutting of generic drug costs, which I believe is a strong indicator that it wants to make sure that this is the best province in the entire country where one can age. I think if you look through the platform, if you look at the track record of this government, you can tell easily that it's a government that truly wants to invest in making sure that we deliver on that promise.

My community, Don Valley East-and particularly Don Mills-has a higher percentage of seniors than the national or provincial average, and when I was knocking on doors, talking to people, there were different points being brought up by members of my communities. Seniors would say things like, "If we invest in our homes, we can live here longer."

The environment has a particular effect on health, and it causes less of a burden on the health care system, so I think this is a fantastic bill. I support it and I hope the other parties opposite will do the same.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member from Beaches-East York, you have two minutes to wrap up.

Mr. Michael Prue: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I was unaware until you were congratulated. Is, in fact, this correct, that you are the new Deputy Speaker? You are. Well, congratulations, then. I wish you much success in this position, because we go back a long way, back to city of Toronto days.

In any event, to answer the members, thank you very much to the member from Scarborough Southwest and the members from Cambridge, Welland and Don Valley East. The member from Scarborough Southwest asked a question: Why is it Beaches-East York and not The Beach-East York? It's because this is set by federal statute, and Maria Minna, who was then the MP for Beaches-East York-it used to be called Beaches-Woodbine-changed the name to reflect East York but left "Beaches" as it was. Since this province has adopted the federal boundaries, the name remains the same. Perhaps one day it will be The Beach. I'm not sure. But that is not up to me, nor even this Legislature; it is up to our federal counterparts, and maybe we'll ask MP Kellway to take a look at it.

In any event, the other members are relatively new. I had hoped that there would be some discussion on what I had to say rather than government members reiterating their support for the bill and members in the opposition talking about other issues. Really, quite frankly, I think that what needs to be said here is: Is this bill one that is going to get broad public support, in view of the economic circumstances we have and in view of the fact that there may be other programs at risk if monies are cut?

Seniors are going to have to answer that, and it behooves all of us to send this to committee, to listen very intently and carefully to what seniors want and to try to help the majority. Not the minority of seniors, who live in nice homes and want to repair them, but all of the seniors, including those 100,000 who live in poverty and those that simply don't have the economic wherewithal to benefit from this particular bill.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.


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

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment of the debate.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The minister has moved adjournment of the debate. Does the House agree? Carried.

Second reading debate adjourned.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): This House stands recessed until 10:30 a.m.

The House recessed from 1005 to 1030.

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS


Mr. Steve Clark: I'm pleased to welcome to Queen's Park today Georgia and Victor Braney, grandparents of page Madeline Braney, who are here from the member for Whitby-Oshawa's riding to watch their granddaughter. Welcome to Queen's Park.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: I would like to welcome in advance Marnie Kloppenburg from Arva, Ontario, in my great riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, who will be joining us soon. Marnie is the mother of legislative page Lila Kloppenburg, so we'd like to say "welcome."

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I'm pleased to introduce and welcome Mary Gordon, the founder and president of Roots of Empathy, who is here today to support the work we are doing to prevent bullying. Thank you, Mary.

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: It's my pleasure today to welcome Jim and Judy Gowland, to my left. They are proud sponsors of Team Farmall. They are from Teeswater, Ontario, but more importantly, they're the aunt and uncle of page Alli.

Hon. Glen R. Murray: I believe we have unanimous consent that all members be permitted to wear red ribbons in recognition of World AIDS Day. Today is the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. I just want to congratulate the Canadian AIDS Society; it's celebrating its 25th anniversary today.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The minister has asked for unanimous consent. Agreed? It's agreed.

Mr. Ted Arnott: By way of introduction, I'd like to introduce constituents of mine who are here in the visitors' gallery: Janet Vallery and Dave Hurlburt from the township of Centre Wellington.

Mr. Toby Barrett: I wish to introduce Gary Nichols, president of Nichols Gravel. He has operations in your riding, Speaker, as well as mine, and he's here to get some redress and address some issues of justice.

Mr. Garfield Dunlop: I'm pleased to introduce constituents of mine who worked on my campaign as well: Ann and Michael Parsons from Orillia.

M. Grant Crack: C'est un grand plaisir pour moi ce matin de présenter notre ancien député provincial de Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

It's a great pleasure for me to introduce our former MPP who served our riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell so well and who was so well respected by both sides of the House: Mr. Jean-Marc Lalonde.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Indeed a very warm welcome to our former colleague. On behalf of the Speaker, I get to say thank you for being here, and welcome.

Further introductions?


Mr. David Zimmer: It's my great pleasure to introduce two guests of mine in the audience: Corporal Shum, who's with the 32nd Canadian service battalion, and Second Lieutenant Ju, who's with the Canadian combat engineers.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further introductions?

We have two delegations in the Speaker's gallery today as guests. Please welcome our first delegation, from the National School of Public Policy in Lahore, Pakistan, led by Mr. Naeem Aslam. The delegation is accompanied by the Consul General of Pakistan at Toronto, Mr. Sahebzada A. Khan. Welcome them, please. We're glad you're here with us. Thank you for joining us.

Our second delegation I would like to introduce-our visitors in the Speaker's gallery are hosted by the Association of Former Parliamentarians. Today in the Speaker's gallery, we have members from the Quebec Association of Former Parliamentarians: Madame Cécile Vermette, the president of the Quebec Association of Former Parliamentarians and a former MNA in the riding of Marie-Victorin from 1985 to 2007; and Madame Marie Tanguay, the executive secretary of the Quebec Association of Former Parliamentarians. Welcome.

From the Manitoba Association of Former Parliamentarians: Ms. Linda Asper, the chairperson of the Manitoba Association of Former Parliamentarians and the MLA for the riding of Riel from 1999 to 2003; Ms. Muriel Smith, a member of the Manitoba Association of Former Parliamentarians and the former MLA for the riding of Osborne from 1985 to 1988; and Mr. Clif Evans, a member of the Manitoba Association of Former Parliamentarians and the former MLA for the riding of Interlake from 1990 to 1999.

From the Ontario Association of Former Parliamentarians: the Rev. Canon Derwyn Shea, the chairman of the Ontario Association of Former Parliamentarians and the former Ontario MPP for High Park-Swansea from 1995 to 1999; Mr. Gilles Morin, the former Deputy Speaker, the vice-chair of the Ontario Association of Former Parliamentarians and the former member for Carleton East from 1985 to 1999; and Mr. Murad Velshi, the secretary of the Ontario Association of Former Parliamentarians and the former MPP for Don Mills from 1987 to 1990; the former MPP for Etobicoke North, Mr. John Hastings, 1995 to 2003; and the former MPP for Perth-Wellington and Deputy Speaker, Karen Haslam, 1990 to 1995.

Welcome our guests. Thank you for being here.

Applause.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Such a very warm welcome to our House.

It is now time for oral questions.

ORAL QUESTIONS

APPRENTICESHIP TRAINING


Mr. Tim Hudak: My question is to the Premier. Premier, we've brought forward a number of good ideas to help restrain runaway government spending and create jobs for the people in the province of Ontario. We've called for a public sector wage freeze to help us balance the books and preserve essential services. We've called for fixing the arbitration system to make sure that agreements are in line with the ability of families to pay. And we've called for modernizing the apprenticeship system to create 200,000 jobs in the skilled trades. We're observing over there, Mr. Premier, that you have Don Drummond giving you advice from one side and you have Patrick Dillon, who has opposed all three of our ideas, on the other.

I guess it's fair to say that Mr. Dillon is the one who's calling the shots. Why else would you oppose our three good ideas?


Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I always appreciate the opportunity to respond to my honourable colleague's questions.

I want to introduce a new piece of information here which I think will be illuminating. Here is a quotation: "We have an upcoming, looming shortage of skilled tradespeople in the province, and I see the college having a very big role to play in the promotion of skilled trades to young people." That statement was made by Ron Johnson, former Conservative Party MPP and chair of the Ontario College of Trades.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Tim Hudak: Okay, so Ron Johnson is calling the shots; it's not Patrick Dillon after all. Now we understand. But do you know what? It should be the Premier calling the shots. It should be the cabinet making the decisions.

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Premier, not too long ago I met with a young man named Ryan who desperately wanted to be an electrician. He even had a job lined up with an employer in Cornwall, but he couldn't get the position because of your outdated apprenticeship system. Basically, the ratios meant that his employer couldn't hire him. So he got a part-time job working in the warehouse at Walmart. He's at least earning a cheque and paying the bills, but it's not what he wanted to do.

I'm going to stand with Ryan. I'm going to stand with those young people who want to get jobs in the province today. You stand with Patrick Dillon and his associates who spent $9 million in attack ads against the PCs. Premier, will you do the right thing and help people like Ryan get jobs as electricians, as plumbers and as HVAC operators?

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Premier?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: If my honourable colleague is genuinely interested in helping us create more jobs, then he'll support our Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit which, among other things, is going to create, on an annual basis, 10,500 jobs for construction trades. I'd ask him to support that initiative that is before this House at present.

On the matter of the college, again, I would implore my honourable colleague to have faith and confidence in the new College of Trades. It is something that we have established to inspire confidence among all Ontarians, but especially in our young people and in our families, so they see the trades as a viable alternative career for themselves.

Again, I want to bring to my colleague's attention that the college is evenly divided between representatives of employers and employees and is chaired by a former Conservative MPP.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Mr. Tim Hudak: Well, Premier, let me bring something to your attention, then. Walter Pamic, from the Ontario Electrical League, a group of small and medium-sized businesses, says about your determination to keep the trades in the 1970s, "To be frank, there is no justification for Ontario's current three to one apprenticeship ratios. It's not a matter of safety. It's not a matter of a lack of work. It's politics-plain and simple." And we understand that. We understand your cozy, incestuous, you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours relationship with Patrick Dillon and his special interests.

But if we have a spending crisis in the province of Ontario, if we have a jobs crisis in the province of Ontario, it's time for you to stand up and act like a Premier. Say no to Patrick Dillon; say yes to Ryan and the young people who want jobs in the province of Ontario. Will you do the right thing and say no to the special interests?


Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Speaker, you will not be surprised to hear that I don't see it that way.

Under the previous Conservative government, they refused to change any of the ratios. On our watch, we have changed eight ratios. Now we have put in place an independent, arm's-length college. Its responsibility: It has been specifically mandated to review 34 ratios during the coming year, 2012.

I say it again to my honourable colleague: We should have confidence in the college. It may be headed up by a Conservative, but I have confidence in its objectivity. It is evenly divided between employers and employees. Nonetheless, we should have confidence in our college.

MUNICIPAL PLANNING


Mr. Tim Hudak: Back to the Premier-of course, just like employers across the province, we don't have confidence in the fixed deck that you have at the College of Trades. You basically sold it off to special interests. I understand that.

Let me ask you another question about confidence, Premier. Eighty municipalities, representing two million people in the province of Ontario, have called for a restoration of local decision-making when it comes to massive industrial wind farms that you're putting across the province like pins in a pin cushion.

Premier, you've said that you've listened. You've said that you got the message in the last campaign. Will you do the right thing and support the bill, standing in the name of Mr. Smith, the member for Prince Edward-Hastings, and restore local decision-making like the 80 municipalities have called for?


Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I appreciate the question. It is indeed a very important issue. What we have set out to do here in Ontario is to seize an exciting new opportunity in renewable technologies and clean energy. We're now at the forefront in all of North America in terms of the pace at which we are proceeding to build up this new sector. We have created 20,000 new jobs so far, we received some $26 billion in new investment in the province of Ontario and we now have clean air. In fact, my honourable colleague will shortly be announcing the closure of two more of our coal-fired plants.

So that's what we're talking about here. It's a very big undertaking. We're not claiming that we have it perfect, but we're absolutely committed to ensuring that we have in place the kind of structure that makes sure that we can continue to grow and create jobs and continue to clean up our air.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Tim Hudak: Premier, nobody believes your fictions anymore when it comes to these jobs that last only as long as their rich subsidies.

But let's get back to the essence of the question that you skipped over. Later today, Mayor April Jeffs of the township of Wainfleet and Mayor Doug Joyner from the township of West Lincoln will be here, as well as hundreds of other families from across the province of Ontario. Mayor Jeffs and Mayor Joyner oppose that you're bringing in the largest industrial wind farm in the entire province in West Niagara and the Glanbrook area as well.

Premier, will you look Mayor Jeffs in the eyes and will you look Mayor Joyner in the eyes and tell them that Dalton McGuinty knows better what's good for their community than they themselves do and than the people they represent do? Or will you say, "Yes, we'll support Mr. Smith's bill and restore local decision-making when it comes to these massive industrial wind farm projects"?


Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Speaker, what I will say is that we will not waver in our commitment to continue to upload $500 million in costs which were downloaded onto Ontario municipalities by the previous Conservative government.

We've uploaded $1 billion so far; we have half a billion dollars to go. We will not let our municipalities down, as my honourable colleague proposed to do in his platform.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Mr. Tim Hudak: Speaker, the incredible arrogance of the McGuinty government: He says, "We will not waver," "We will not listen," "We will not care," "We will not listen to local people from across the province of Ontario," because Dalton McGuinty believes he knows best.

John Wilkinson is no longer here. Leona Dombrowsky is no longer here. Carol Mitchell, Maria Van Bommel, Rick Johnson, Lou Rinaldi and Pat Hoy did not stand up for their constituents; they didn't do the right thing. I'm proud to say that now Conservative members represent each and every one of those constituents, standing up for local residents, saying no, saying, "Restore local decision-making."

That same song and dance cost you all these members, Premier. Have you heard the message? Do you get the music? Will you actually do the right thing and restore local decision-making and let local neighbours have their-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Premier?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To return to the matter at hand: No, I cannot support the initiative put forward by my honourable colleague, because in truth, it would spell the end of a very important public policy, an initiative that is broadly supported by the people of Ontario, and that is that we find a way to move off dirty coal and find a way to seize exciting economic opportunities in renewable technology.

If there is another way that we might explore to ensure that we strike a proper balance, I am open to that, Speaker. But the proposal put forward by my honourable colleague would introduce so much uncertainty and create such a patchwork when it comes to securing investment in our province that it would run counter to the determination expressed by all Ontarians.

The final comment I'll make, Speaker, is that the single greatest source of applicants for initiatives in the feed-in tariff program comes from rural Ontario.

TAXATION


Ms. Andrea Horwath: The question goes to the Premier. In these difficult times, I would submit that the government needs to focus on the challenging times that are facing families: making life more affordable, creating more jobs and improving our health care system. But the Premier insists that we simply can't afford these measures. Why does he believe, though, that we can afford massive tax cuts to corporations?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Speaker, in fact, I say to my honourable colleague-and of course I'm pleased to receive the question-that we are trying to bring a very deliberate and balanced and responsible approach to dealing with our finances. That includes our Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit. That does provide benefit to our families in their homes.

We're responding to a demand made by seniors for a long time now. They're saying, "If at all possible, we'd like to live out the remainder of our lives, or as much of our lives as possible, in our homes." So we're going to create a tax credit, it's up to $1,500 every year, to allow seniors to make renovations to their homes to make them more user-friendly, safe and accessible. At the same time, Speaker, that will add $800 million in economic activity to us on an annual basis and create some 10,500 jobs.

So I say to my honourable colleague that it's a specific measure designed to help families in their homes.

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The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, the Premier says we can't afford relief for families to take the HST off of home heating but he insists that the biggest banks do need a break in this province. Quarterly profits at CIBC soared 59% today, to $800 million. You know, that's over $6,000 a minute in profits. That's good news for the bank, Speaker, but does the Premier really think that they're the ones that need a tax break?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Speaker, the banks are always a fun target, but they do employ over 400,000 people in the GTA. They're the only sector that continued to grow throughout the recession.

Speaker, the other thing I want to mention is that we have put in place an Ontario Child Benefit. We have put in place a Clean Energy Benefit, Speaker. We do want to move ahead, both with our Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit and we want to reduce tuition for Ontario students. These are all good examples of specific measures designed to help people in their homes, and I would ask my honourable colleague to give some consideration to supporting the new initiatives that we're introducing here to help families in their homes.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, Toronto Dominion Bank also reported quarterly earnings. In three months, that bank earned $1.6 billion, an increase of 58%. So just that we're clear, that's about $12,000 a minute. Again, excellent news for the bank, excellent news for the shareholders, but do they really need another tax cut?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Speaker, again, I think we're pretty lucky that Canadian banks headquartered in Ontario are recognized as the strongest banks in the world. I think that's a pretty good thing. I think the fact that they employ hundreds of thousands of Ontarians is also a good thing.

But having said that, Speaker, we've been working hard as a government to strike a balance in terms of supports we lend to growth in our business sector and support for our families. I say again to my honourable colleague: There are two specific initiatives that we are going to bring in this Legislature. One is already on the floor, and that is our determination to put in place a Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit to help families in their homes. Beyond that, Speaker, we want to reduce tuition by 30% for our families. We think these are important, practical, pragmatic, sensible initiatives, and we're finding the money from within.

TAXATION


Ms. Andrea Horwath: Back to the Premier. I hate to burst the Premier's bubble; profits are soaring in the financial sector but employment is not. In fact, Statistics Canada reports that there are 20,000 fewer jobs, fewer people working in the financial sector this year. So why, Speaker-it begs the question-why do we continue to cut taxes for companies that are recording record profits and shedding jobs?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I'm going to encourage my honourable colleague to take a look at the experience of the government of Manitoba. Speaker, they cut corporate taxes in 2003; then they cut them in 2004. They cut them again in 2005, then they cut them in 2006, then they cut them in 2007, then they cut them in 2008 and then they cut them in 2009, all with a view to ensuring that we bring a balanced approach to our competitiveness. I wouldn't be surprised if they also married that with supports for families, but I encourage my honourable colleague to take a lesson from our next-door-neighbour NDP government, where we bring a balanced, thoughtful approach. We want to make sure our businesses are competitive so they create more jobs while we provide opportunities for our families for supports in their homes.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, the banking sector is the single largest recipient of the Premier's corporate tax giveaways. By 2013, the province will be handing that sector over half a billion dollars each and every year. How can the Premier tell families that he cannot afford to take the HST off of home heating while giving banks making $12,000 a minute a tax break?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Speaker, I want to remind my honourable colleague that we have in place an Ontario Clean Energy Benefit. It is valued at about four times the value of the proposition put forward by my honourable colleague. Her proposal costs some $350 million.

We have a different choice. Our choice, the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit-not only does it cost less, not only have we found the money from within, but it will create 10,500 jobs, it will create $800 million in economic activity in the province of Ontario and it will relieve pressure when it comes to the health care budget as we help families stay on in their homes for a longer period of time. That's the choice that we are making as a government. We're comfortable with that choice and we think it's in keeping with the balanced approach, the steady-handed approach that Ontarians want us to take.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, Speaker, more banks are going to be reporting their earnings over the next couple of days, and analysts are expecting the exact same results across the board: higher revenues, higher profits.

How can the Premier tell families, on the one hand, that they have to expect cuts from everything from child care to health care-something that Manitoba is not doing, by the way-while at the same time this Premier is saying that they're okay to make record profits and give them huge tax cuts? Because that's the priority of this government: tax cuts to banks, not services for families like child care and decent health care.


Hon. Dalton McGuinty: I'll remind my honourable colleague that in our 2010 budget we put out a pretty dramatic package of tax reforms. That included about $5 billion in reductions for our businesses, but it was complemented by $12 billion in reductions for Ontarians themselves, for families. It includes 93% of Ontarians, who now have a permanent tax cut. Families are receiving an average of $355 less by way of income tax that they're paying this year and every year going forward. Some 90,000 people will no longer pay personal income tax in the province of Ontario because of the changes that we have made.

Again, I remind her of our Ontario Child Benefit: It's $1,100 per child; a support like this does not exist in any other province. We put it here in Ontario to help our most needy families.

MUNICIPAL PLANNING


Mr. Todd Smith: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has already said today that he won't listen to rural Ontario, so let me try the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Minister, this afternoon, my private member's bill, Bill 10, the Local Municipality Democracy Act, 2011, will receive second reading. This bill will restore to Ontario municipalities the local planning control that was stripped from them by amendments your government made to the Planning Act.

Municipal councillors, mayors and the people they were elected to represent are demanding a say when developers propose an industrial wind factory in their community. Your government shut them out of the planning process. I'm asking you today, Minister: Will you support the bill that's being presented this afternoon that will give them their voice back?


Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I can't tell you how happy I am to have this question from the member opposite, because we are a government that-actually, one of the tenets of our term has been to restore the relationship between the provincial government and municipal governments. That's what we're about. Many of us are here because of the complete disarray of that relationship before 2003, between amalgamation and downloading of services-

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): This isn't the moment in which things get quiet to interject.

Minister?


Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I know that for many of the members opposite, this is a painful reminder of years when there was such friction and such conflict between the provincial government and the municipal governments. We believe that that's not the way that provincial government and municipal governments should operate. The municipal government is a level of government that has-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Supplementary?

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Mr. Steve Clark: Back to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: Minister, you can't pass the buck on this one. We on this side of the House already know where the Minister of Energy stands. He doesn't support treating municipalities as true partners, and that's why your government lost so many seats in rural Ontario.

It's your job to represent those councils, some 80, that have passed resolutions asking for the powers back that Mr. Smith's bill will provide. They deserve as much respect in the planning process for massive wind or solar projects as they do for any other type of development, and you know that.

Don't hide from the issue, Minister. I'm asking you: Why won't you do the right thing and stand up for local democracy by supporting this legislation?


Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, it's almost irresistible for me to resist the urge to think about the days when I was sitting in that gallery, fighting for some respect for the voice of the local democratic municipal governments in this province when hospitals were being closed, when cities were being amalgamated, when-

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order. It was relatively quiet to ask the question; I'd like to hear the answer.

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I do not need the interjections now.

Minister?


Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to make two final points.

I think the members opposite know that it is mandatory under the renewable energy approvals process for proponents to consult with municipalities. It is mandatory.

Secondly, as the Premier has already said today, what we will do is what the party opposite did not commit to do: We will continue to upload the services that were downloaded by that government when they had the opportunity-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question?

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order. We did such a good job yesterday. One moment, please. I did hear a few very-close-to-personal comments to individual members. I really do want you to resist that. If you've got a comment to make, make it about policy. I do resent any member being accused of being anything but honourable in this place.

ABORIGINAL HOUSING


Mr. Gilles Bisson: My question is to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. Minister, you'll know that there are people in Attawapiskat today, at 17 below zero, living in tents and backyard sheds-something that Ontarians and Canadians should never stand for.

We watched with horror yesterday the federal government say, "The solution is to blame the community. It's all their fault." They're trying to accuse the community of not being able to manage the money, and, quite frankly, that flies in the face of reality. The community's problem is one of policy on the part of this federal government, of underfunding and also inaction on the part of the federal government.

So I have a simple question to the Ontario government: Does Ontario support the federal government in blaming this community?


Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I think that blame in this situation produces no good result. What I have been doing for the last week is talking to the chiefs who are involved. I actually did talk to the federal minister last week, working with my colleague in MCSCS to make sure that Emergency Management Ontario and our officials from the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs were on the ground. We were there as of Monday morning and we have been working as part of a team. We're now aware that there are some remedies that we can work on in terms of helping people to move into some of the structures that are in better shape.

But Mr. Speaker, the long-term solution is not going to be found unless First Nations, the federal government and the provincial government work together, and the federal government has a responsibility-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Supplementary?

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Well, Minister, meanwhile people stay in tents and people stay in backyards. My question to you was this, and I'm a little bit hopeful in the answer that you gave: that what we have is the blame game going on, and at the end of the day people are still in tents and people are still in backyards. My question to you is a really simple one. Is the province prepared to do the heavy lifting that needs to be done in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with the community to take on the federal government so that we can actually get them to do what needs to be done, and we take our responsibilities as well?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We are, right now, standing shoulder to shoulder with the First Nations. We are there. There are provincial officials on the ground. They are working with the community to do everything that we can do to respond to the crisis.

It is the easiest thing in the world for this whole situation to devolve into a fight. That is the easiest way out. That is the path of least resistance, to point fingers and blame and distract from the issue, which is that there are layered and complex problems that affect the lives of children and men and women living in these isolated communities. Attawapiskat is not the only community; it is not the only situation that needs attention.

What I'm saying to my officials is, where are the other issues? Where are the concerns that are going to come forward as winter sets in?

We've got to work with the federal government. We've got to make sure that we hold their feet to the fire-absolutely. But as a nation, we have to take responsibility-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVES


Mr. Michael Coteau: My question is to the Minister of Education. Minister, yesterday you introduced anti-bullying legislation. As a former school board trustee representing Don Valley East, I know first-hand how pervasive bullying is and how tough it is to eradicate.

I'm so pleased that all parties in this House agree that something needs to be done. We're all aware of the heartbreaking stories of kids taking their own lives in part because of bullying they face from their peers. And we know this is an issue that we have to pull together to support-political leaders, schools, parents, teachers and kids. But legislation alone will not end bullying in our schools. Minister, what additional steps are you taking to change the culture in Ontario schools so they can become accepting schools?


Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Thank you to the member for Don Valley East for that question. I was also very proud to be in this House as all members across took a stand on ensuring that Ontario schools would be accepting schools.

But, Mr. Speaker, the member is exactly right. Legislation alone is not the solution. That is why I was so pleased this morning to announce that the Accepting Schools Act is just one part of a comprehensive action plan to combat bullying. This plan will include a public awareness campaign to engage every Ontarian in standing up against bullying. We'll seek the advice of experts to ensure that resources in our schools for parents and for the community are the right ones. We will be establishing an Accepting Schools expert panel. We'll be reaching out to those with knowledge about curriculum and Ontario's curriculum council to report back on strengthening equity and inclusive education, and we will look to the Children's Mental Health Strategy funding of $257 million over the next few years to support students in schools.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Michael Coteau: Speaker, I thank the minister for her response. I'm so proud to be part of a government that is working to make things better for children when it comes to bullying. I'm proud to be a member of this Legislative Assembly. I think this is an issue that we all agree on.

Minister, many of the devastating stories we've heard about bullying have to do with homophobia. In 2011, a national climate survey by Egale found that 64% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students and 61% of students with LGBTQ parents felt unsafe in schools. This is unacceptable. I am proud that our Premier spoke directly to kids who suffered from this type of discrimination in his It Gets Better video.

Minister, what would the Accepting Schools Act do to combat bullying for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students in our schools?


Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Speaker, those statistics are haunting, the statistics that my colleague has put to this Legislature.

We know that student-led organizations give LGBTQ students and their allies the space to feel safe. They're a critically important part of making our schools accepting. That's why we are being absolutely clear in legislation that, if passed, any student who would like to form an organization to promote respect for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including organizations with the name "gay-straight alliance" or another name, must be supported by their board and school to do so.

I'm listening to experts like Jeremy Dias, the founder of Jer's Vision, who says, "By working with boards to provide a Rainbow Alliance, GSA or other similar group, the province is ensuring students will get the support they need."

It's about the support to students, Mr. Speaker, and that's what we are focusing on.

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WORKERS' COMPENSATION


Mr. Randy Hillier: My question is to the Premier. Mr. Premier, last session your government passed Bill 119. This bill will raise WSIB rates on contractors and force them to insure secretaries and office managers as if they were the ones working on the construction sites. These employers have told us that in these tough economic times, they will have to lay off workers or close up shop entirely, because the cost of doing business is just too high. We are in the midst of a job crisis, and the construction sector is getting slammed.

Premier, you still have not proclaimed this bill. Will you put the construction industry at ease by committing to repeal this job-killing legislation?


Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Labour.

Hon. Linda Jeffrey: I'm pleased to answer a question from my critic on the issue. This government believes in taking into account the needs of Ontario's workers and our businesses. Bill 119 was passed back in November 2008. It amends the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act to extend mandatory WSIB coverage to independent operators, sole proprietors, partners in a partnership and executive officers of a corporation carrying on business in construction.

The legislation will improve health and safety in the construction industry and reduce underground economic activity. The underground economy puts our economy and businesses at a competitive disadvantage and denies Ontario revenues to support our critical public services, such as health care and education.

With this legislation, Ontario will be better equipped to prevent workplace accidents and diseases and in our efforts to combat the underground economy.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Randy Hillier: Back to the Premier-because, Premier, the Ontario PCs have made it clear since you introduced this bill that it would kill jobs and raise taxes, but you didn't care. Despite opposition from all quarters, you passed Bill 119, but you still haven't proclaimed it into law. The Ministry of Labour says that Bill 119 will come into effect January 1, 2012. In a letter that you wrote to the CFIB, you said that it would come into effect sometime in 2012. Yet the Office of the Employer Adviser claims that Bill 119 won't come into effect until January 1, 2013.

Premier, why won't you just fess up, be honest and give us a straight answer, so at least these contractors can pre-order a large stack of pink slips for their employees?


Hon. Linda Jeffrey: Our legislation will come into effect in 2012. The three-year passage between the passage of Bill 119 and the proclamation is allowing the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to work with our construction stakeholders, to assess and to develop the necessary policies, systems and administrative process needed to implement the amendments and the related regulations.

In preparation of the anticipated coming into force of amendments in 2012, the WSIB consulted with our stakeholders to develop new policies and, as well, systems to implement the legislative amendments. We listened to people's concerns and provided exemptions based on those conversations. We want to help small family businesses run, where one family member provides office work, where only one executive officer of a corporation or one partner does not perform construction work. We tried to provide those exemptions. We listened to our stakeholders and took the time-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.

HEALTH PROMOTION


Mme France Gélinas: Ma question est pour le premier ministre. Yesterday, the Chief Medical Officer of Health tabled her report. Dr. King's report is clear: The rate of chronic disease, obesity and cancer will not be reversed until we develop a healthy public policy. That means a health promotion lens across every ministry, every policy, every program and every service.

Speaker, as our Chief Medical Officer of Health is sounding the alarm on health promotion, why did the Premier get rid of the Ministry of Health Promotion?


Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Speaker, to the Minister of Health.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: I welcome the report from Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health. Dr. King has been a long and strong advocate for addressing the social determinants of health, for addressing prevention, so that people actually don't get sick. We do have an aging population. It's more important than ever that people stay healthy as long as possible.

Speaker, we actually had some good news this week. We saw that the incidence of smoking amongst our young people has come down dramatically, by 25% in the past two years.

We are seeing progress on some fronts. On others, the success is not so promising. Our rates of childhood obesity indicate that we have a serious problem now and in the future. That's why our government, in the election, committed to tackling childhood obesity. Our target is to reduce the number-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Supplementary?

Mme France Gélinas: Back to the Premier, Mr. Speaker: I'd like to quote from Dr. King, who says that it is time to shift our focus from health care to prevention. She writes that the greatest threats to health in our society are obesity, tobacco and alcohol abuse, and she talks about poverty reduction-all things that have very little to do with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and all have to do with health promotion.

If you want to save money, if you want to save medicare, we need to take actions today. Instead, Mr. Speaker, what did the Premier do? He eliminated the very ministry that could do this. He eliminated the Ministry of Health Promotion.

Again to the Premier: Why did you eliminate the Ministry of Health Promotion?


Hon. Deborah Matthews: From my perspective, bringing health promotion into the Ministry of Health is absolutely the right thing to do because we need to focus more on prevention. We need to see prevention, early intervention, as part of the continuum of care. That will keep people healthier.

Our government has a strong history of working collaboratively across ministries. Our poverty reduction strategy involved people from many different ministries. Our Mental Health And Addictions Strategy, as the member opposite knows, involves contributions from many ministries.

We must work collaboratively to achieve the healthiest population we possibly can. In fact, we aspire to Ontario becoming the healthiest place to grow up and grow old in.

RENEWABLE ENERGY


Mr. Jeff Leal: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Energy. This fall, many of my constituents were concerned about the instability injected into Ontario's clean energy economy due to the opposition's constant rant about ripping up the Green Energy Act. Clean energy is helping to replace dirty coal-fired plants, cleaning up the air, protecting the health of Ontarians and reducing our province's environmental footprint. This means that our children and grandchildren have a prosperous future.

In my riding of Peterborough, people want to ensure that the benefits of clean energy are around not only for the next two or three years but also for the next 20 to 30 years. Minister, what is being done to ensure that Ontario's green energy program is sustainable and prosperous for the long term for all Ontarians?


Hon. Christopher Bentley: The member from Peterborough is absolutely right: Ontarians have made a lot of progress cleaning up the air since 2003. We're almost 90% out of coal, and the green energy initiatives and the Green Energy Act are driving that; they're really driving it.

We want to make sure that the clean air, the jobs and the investment that go along with the Green Energy Act are sustainable in the medium and the long term. We've launched a review of our approach over the past two years with a view to strengthening it, getting input where we need further input, making sure that we have the smoothest approach possible to hooking up these projects, and making sure we have a firm foundation for jobs in all communities and investment coming into the province of Ontario in the years to come. It is the right thing to do for today and for our children tomorrow and in the future.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Jeff Leal: Thank you very much, Minister. I know that our Green Energy Act is helping farmers and rural Ontarians to make money off of clean energy while helping us to get off dirty coal-fired generation.

The Green Energy Act has brought millions of dollars of private investment to Ontario and made the province a global leader in green manufacturing. But all of this is at risk because of the opposition's private member's bill. I'm concerned that this bill will signal that Ontario is not a place to invest, and I'm concerned that it will deprive farmers and rural Ontarians of the means to earn extra money off their land, leading to decisions being made by the Ontario Municipal Board upon appeal.

My constituents believe in our clean energy economy and the jobs and investment they have created. Minister, can you tell us what the impact of the feed-in tariff review will have on Ontario's green energy economy?

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Hon. Christopher Bentley: Well, the member is right. Many thousands of these green energy applications and contracts are from rural Ontario. Thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of investment are flowing into rural Ontario from the green energy initiative at a time when every part of Ontario is anxious for more investment and more jobs. The feed-in tariff will make sure that we have a strong foundation for the future.

We don't want to burden any community or business with process, procedures, extra steps and extra costs. We want an approach where we can tell people that they can or can't, early on. We want an approach which signals to the investment community that Ontario is a great place to land jobs and investment. And we want an approach which will continue to clean up the air and protect the health of Ontarians today and into the future.

HYDRO TRANSMISSION


Mr. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Energy. Minister, the Ontario Power Authority was created by your government as a transitional agency. But not only have the OPA costs grown by a whopping 465% in the last five short years; now these Queen's Park bureaucrats are making job-killing decisions that are jeopardizing Ontario's rural families.

Earlier this week, we heard the finance minister commit to reviewing the Leamington transmission line project, which the OPA cancelled after three years of preparation. In jeopardy are the 2,300 construction jobs and the 1,000 permanent private sector jobs.

I ask the minister, why are you allowing these faceless OPA bureaucrats to continue to waste money and make decisions-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Minister of Energy.

Hon. Christopher Bentley: Thank you very much, Speaker. You know, we want to make sure that Ontarians have the power they need where individuals or businesses need it, that it's safe and reliable and that it's clean, and we've been doing a lot of work the last eight years.

The party opposite, when they were in power, let generation lapse and we had an increasingly unreliable system, so we've greatly increased generation and we've been repairing and modernizing the very transmission system that he speaks of. The people who have been hard at work at this-OPA, Hydro One and others-take a look at issues such as down in Leamington. We want to get the best advice from those businesses that want to bring on jobs-and many of them will be clean energy jobs-so that we can land the investment, we can land the jobs. We'll be working with the community on the real business prospects here.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Rick Nicholls: Mr. Speaker, my riding of Chatham-Kent-Essex has been hit hard by job losses; certainly one of the hardest-hit areas in the province. The Leamington transmission line project was supposed to be completed in 2013 and bring desperately-needed jobs for families in my riding. Yet, the minister allowed these faceless Toronto bureaucrats at the OPA to cancel this project three years in.

Minister, your fondness for review-I hold in my hand an email from the OPA stating that they will not be moving forward with this project. I would ask page Lila to deliver this to the minister.

The families of Leamington don't need-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Minister of Energy.

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. When I stand, you sit down.

Minister?


Hon. Christopher Bentley: Thank you, and I want to thank the member from Chatham-Kent-Essex for his question-a very important question. The Minister of Finance raised this issue about the transmission with me and spoke to me very directly. I know he's having discussions with the people from Hydro One and the OPA as well. My expectation is that wherever there are job opportunities, we take the realistic economic look to find out what they are and make sure that those get the power they need.

Jobs are invested in the Green Energy Act, which the others are going to put an end to if their bill ever gets passed this afternoon. Jobs are invested in the southwest economic development fund, which the side opposite has said that they're not going to support.

It's time to stop talking about the possibility of jobs and start supporting the jobs that are all over rural communities and will come into Chatham-Kent-Essex, will come into Essex and will come into southwestern Ontario-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.

DOCTOR SHORTAGE


Ms. Andrea Horwath: The question is to the Premier. Essex county is concerned about being able to fund their doctor recruitment program after Windsor decided to pull the funding. The county says they're experiencing a shortage of doctors, with 1.2 doctors for every thousand, compared to Ontario's average of 1.8.

The province needs to be involved in recruiting doctors to underserviced communities, Speaker, so my question is: Why is the Premier ignoring the doctor shortage in Essex county and other Ontario communities?


Hon. Dalton McGuinty: Speaker, to the Minister of Health.

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Speaker, this government is doing anything but ignoring the doctor shortage. In fact, 2.1 million more people, according to the OMA, are now attached to primary care physicians than when we took office. The fact that we've got more doctors working means more people are getting access to primary care. We're proud of the progress we've made.

There are still parts of the province where access to primary care is not sufficient. There are other parts of the province where, actually, we've got doctors looking for patients instead of patients looking for doctors.

We've made tremendous progress, and I'm more than happy to hear more about what's happening in this particular community.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, Speaker, according to the county warden, some area doctors in the region have 6,000 patients. I think they're actually looking for more doctors, not the other way around.

The Windsor Regional Hospital CEO says he's worried about the situation, and he says, "Right now the situation is stable, but it would take very little"-very little-"for it to start going backwards."

During the election campaign, New Democrats proposed a plan to recruit doctors to underserviced communities like Essex and others. When will we see the Premier's plan to bring doctors to underserviced communities like Essex?


Hon. Deborah Matthews: Speaker, we have made tremendous progress: 3,400 more doctors are working in this province now than in 2003; by 2013, we will have doubled the number of new doctors who are ready to practise every year. We've made tremendous progress: 200 family health teams and 25 nurse practitioner clinics, including one in Essex.

We've made terrific progress. More to do, of course, but we're on it.

PAN AM GAMES


Mr. Bas Balkissoon: My question is to the minister responsible for the Pan Am Games. My constituents watched the excitement as our athletes competed in the recent Pan and Parapan Am Games in Guadalajara. Our athletes gave their all and made our country proud by bringing home 182 medals, including 43 gold medals.

Excitement is building again as we look ahead to hosting the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. A lot of work has to be done to prepare to host this huge event; that means new jobs and more economic activity. Minister, how will Ontario's economy benefit from hosting the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games?


Hon. Charles Sousa: I'd like to thank the member for the question. Our government is very excited to host the Americas at the 2015 Pan and Parapan Am Games in Toronto, and I appreciate his concern regarding Ontario's economy. After the worst global recession in a generation, growing the economy and creating jobs is a top priority for our government.

The member is correct: hosting the games will provide a significant economic boost for Ontario. Experts estimate it will create 15,000 new jobs directly related to the games and many more spin-off jobs in the construction industry, hospitality, retail and tourism sectors. It will trigger investment of more than $700 million in new and existing sport and recreation infrastructure; attract 250,000 tourists, along with their money spent in our economy; and showcase the province internationally as a great place to invest and conduct business.

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Mr. Speaker, we're all working very hard to deliver a great event, one that enables job creation and economic growth.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Bas Balkissoon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Over the next four years, the work to get ready for the games will be a great source of new jobs for people in Ontario and in my riding of Scarborough-Rouge River, which is next door to where the pool will be built.

But we also need to plan for the future. The games offer the tremendous opportunity to develop our local infrastructure and to benefit our communities for generations to come. After 2015's games have come and gone, what will be the lasting impact on Toronto and other communities, Mr. Minister?


Hon. Charles Sousa: Thank you again for the question. The member raises an excellent point. As we develop the facilities and infrastructure for the games, we must also ensure that our investments will continue to pay off.

Take the athletes' village in the West Don Lands. It will become home to approximately 10,000 athletes and team officials during the 2015 Pan Am Games. Following the games, the athletes' village will become a new mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly community that will revitalize the West Don Lands and Toronto's waterfront.

It will also include a multi-use facility with access to sport and recreation, as well as much-needed student and low-income housing. As well, this project brings new jobs and economic growth, but also long-term benefits through revitalization and new assets to the local community. It is just one example of the exciting opportunities gained by hosting the games, and our government is pleased to continue to work hard to deliver these kinds of projects in advance of the Pan Am Games.

MUNICIPAL PLANNING


Ms. Laurie Scott: My question is to the Minister of Energy. I have two of my municipalities in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, the city of Kawartha Lakes and the municipality of Cavan Monaghan, that have both passed resolutions to restore local autonomy in respect to the renewable energy projects. One of the industrial wind turbine projects would be erected in the Oak Ridges moraine.

Minister, do you support erecting a 40-storey wind turbine in the protected Oak Ridges moraine?


Hon. Christopher Bentley: I thank the member for the question. We have a province-wide approach to renewable energy projects, which help clean up the air and bring in investment and jobs; a province-wide approach which requires input from municipalities, requires a number of environmental and related assessments and requires consultation, including public consultations.

These approaches and procedures need to be conducted in order to get the best input, and then decisions will be made by the Ministry of the Environment on the right approach.

We're conducting a review right now to see whether we can strengthen the approach, whether we can get additional input, but we're not going to waver from the requirement. There needs to be a strong, province-wide approach so we can clean up the air, bring in the investment and locate the jobs, many of which are in rural Ontario.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary? The member from Huron-Bruce.

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Speaker, I find it hard to believe that the Ministers of Municipal Affairs and Energy continue to be out of touch and ignore the positions taken by municipal councils across this province.

For instance, in Port Elgin, the council of Saugeen Shores has objected to the CAW industrial wind turbine because it does not comply with the rules you created, meaning the 550-metre setback.

Residents in my riding of Huron-Bruce want to know why you're allowing the CAW turbine to be exempted from the rules that you created. The rules you created-you're ignoring them now.

So my question is: When will you do the right thing and start listening to the 80 municipalities that have passed resolutions for an immediate moratorium?


Hon. Christopher Bentley: Thank you. When we brought in the Green Energy Act, we heard that there should be a province-wide approach to the location of green energy initiatives. We heard that from many. We heard it from municipalities, we heard it from individuals and we heard it from those who were looking to invest in the province of Ontario.

Now, if there are ways to improve this, if there are ways to strengthen it, if there are ways to get further input, we'd like to do that. This is a very exciting, evolutionary initiative. It has located over 20,000 jobs, direct and indirect, in Ontario and $26 billion worth of investment. We want that to continue because we need it. But what we can't have is an investment climate which depends on different resolutions by different councils or communities at different times, because that will never attract-


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. New question.

ABORIGINAL RIGHTS


Mr. John Vanthof: My question is to the Acting Premier. The Wahgoshig First Nation has repeatedly expressed concern about the lack of consultation regarding the activities of Solid Gold Resources on their traditional lands. Your own ministry, in a letter on November 8, has stated: "The ministry continues to believe that consultation to date regarding your exploration program has been inadequate given concerns that the WFN has raised about potential impacts on its aboriginal and treaty rights, and we must repeat our earlier request that Solid Gold suspend its drilling program immediately." The ministry said that.

The First Nation is here today, protesting and forced to launch court proceedings because the company refused the ministry's request. My question is simple: Is the government actually going to fulfill its obligations, or is it just rhetoric on a piece of paper?


Hon. Dwight Duncan: To the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

Hon. Rick Bartolucci: Thank you very much for the question. Speaker, we take our duty to consult very, very seriously. We understand that in order to achieve that which is possible, we cannot do that in isolation, without any of the partners, with regard to mining. So in short, the answer is that duty to consult is paramount. We believe in that. We have a ministry that is dedicated to that, and we will continue to ensure that everyone understands the importance of the duty to consult.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Vanthof: Minister, by ignoring First Nations at the outset of the exploration process, the government is, in fact, slowing down mine development.

Once again, from November 8: "The crown is obligated to ensure that adequate consultation occurs."

My simple question is, why are they still drilling?


Hon. Rick Bartolucci: As part of the modernization of the Mining Act, we ensured that we inform any company of their duty to ensure that they have meaningful consultations with First Nations. We will continue to ensure that the modernization of the Mining Act's implicit definition that duty to consult be adhered to takes place.

AIDS TREATMENT


Ms. Helena Jaczek: My question is for Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. One of the most significant events during our lifetime has been the spread of HIV/AIDS and how it has affected millions of people across our planet.

Speaker, today is the 23rd annual World AIDS Day. I think we can all agree that the elimination of HIV/AIDS is of the utmost importance, and World AIDS Day is a great way to raise awareness of the struggle against this challenging virus.

In Ontario alone, this disease still affects far too many of our citizens. More than 26,000 Ontarians are living with HIV/AIDS in Ontario, and we see an estimated 1,600 new infections every year. We are fortunate that the treatment of the disease has improved immeasurably these past decades, but there's so much more to do.

Mr. Speaker, would the minister tell us what the government is doing to support people living with AIDS in Ontario and how we are working to help prevent its spread to more Ontarians?


Hon. Deborah Matthews: Thank you to the member from Oak Ridges-Markham for this important question.

Today is World AIDS Day. Thirty years ago, the first patient was diagnosed with AIDS. Today is a day when we take time to remember those who have lost their lives due to AIDS. It's also a time to look forward, to look at the progress we have made and to share our hope for a better future.

As we heard, more than 26,000 Ontarians are living with HIV/AIDS today, with an estimated 1,600 new infections every year. About 30% of people are in fact undiagnosed. That's why we're working very hard with the AIDS Bureau to support a large number of programs and initiatives targeted towards gay men, injection drug users, African, Caribbean and other populations at high risk.

Speaker, we've come a long way. More to do.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): There are no deferred votes, and I would like to ask our former parliamentarians if they miss this.

They don't.

There are no deferred votes. This House stands recessed until 1 o'clock this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1140 to 1300.

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS


Mr. Randy Hillier: I'd like to welcome to the Legislature today-they'll be here in the public gallery a little later-residents from my riding, from Amherst Island. They're here in support of our colleague's bill this afternoon. They are members of Save Amherst Island and the Association to Protect Amherst Island, and I'll just read a few of the names: Bruce and Bonnie Caughey, Janet Grace, Karen White, Hugh and Claire Jenney-quite a number of people here from Amherst Island to support this municipal restructuring-

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you, member. Further introductions?

Mr. Rob Leone: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce Andrew Johnson, who is a constituent of mine. Welcome to the Legislature, Andrew.

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS

TIGER JEET SINGH FOUNDATION


Mr. Ted Chudleigh: The Tiger Jeet Singh Foundation was created by world-famous wrestling ambassador and philanthropist Tiger Jeet Singh and his son Tiger Jeet Singh, Jr., to raise awareness about human suffering and to support the needs of our schools and hospitals.

For the past two years, the foundation and Troy Newton, owner of Troy's Diner in Milton, have hosted a December toy drive in support of Ontario's children. In 2009 and 2010, the toy drive donated over 10,000 toys, and we are hoping to raise even more in 2011 in support of children at Halton's Women's Place, Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, McMaster Children's Hospital and the Salvation Army.

The Tiger Jeet Singh Foundation and Troy's Diner will be hosting the 2011 Troy's Toy Drive. I'll be joining Troy's Diner and the Tiger Jeet Singh Foundation at the 2011 toy drive on December 19.

In support of Ontario's children, I would like to encourage members of this chamber and people from across Ontario to donate to this praiseworthy event. I would also like to thank Tiger, Tiger and Troy for their continued work in support of Ontario's children. Your dedication has made a difference to children in Halton and across Ontario, making Christmas a very special time both for those who give and for those who receive. Thank you.

COMMUNITY CENTRES


Mr. Rosario Marchese: Given the uncertainty facing many community centres in the city of Toronto today, I would like to take a few minutes to address the important role that these community hubs play in our neighbourhoods.

In my riding, we have two unique institutions: Scadding Court Community Centre and Harbourfront Community Centre. Last year, Harbourfront Community Centre alone welcomed almost 350,000 visitors and offered over 1,800 programs to neighbourhood residents. This is an outstanding feat for any organization, let alone one so dependent upon grants and fundraising. Yet both the HCC and Scadding Court continue to offer these services in a proven, cost-effective way.

Incredibly, their programming is currently at risk. The proposed 10% cut to Toronto's community partnership will seriously hamper the ability of these institutions to play an important community role. There's no longer any excess to excise. Losing these centres would mean the end of vital social programs, such as after-school camps, snack programs for children, and programming for the elderly.

I urge the MPPs sitting here today, the mayor of Toronto and Toronto city councillors to recognize the inherent value of community centres. I call on the citizens of Toronto to contact their elected officials and demand better for their neighbourhoods. We cannot afford to lose the valuable services offered by our neighbourhood centres. Thank you.

JOURNÉE MONDIALE DU SIDA /
WORLD AIDS DAY


M. Shafiq Qaadri: Comme un médecin et aussi un député, j'ai le plaisir aujourd'hui d'attirer l'attention de cette Assemblée à la lutte contre le VIH/SIDA. Nous devons ensemble intensifier nos efforts pour éliminer le VIH/SIDA.

As a physician and parliamentarian, I feel duty-bound to recognize in the House today the 23rd annual worldwide AIDS Day.

Today, Speaker, more than 26,000 Ontarians live with HIV, and we see an estimated 1,600 new infections every year. That's why our government remains committed to helping those living with HIV/AIDS by providing community services and supporting organizations like Casey House.

Since 1988, Casey House has provided compassionate care to those affected by HIV/AIDS. This past summer, our government gave the green light to go ahead with a major capital expansion project at Casey House. The new building will incorporate a new health program, as well as Casey House's existing in-patient, home care and outreach program. Today, Casey House cares for over 200 people each year.

We have also made it easier for such patients to receive transplanted organs. We have made a half-million-dollar investment that will give HIV-positive people a chance to receive the gift of life. In fact, Speaker, two patients have already received organs and another one has been scheduled.

I would like to offer my support and congratulations for a successful World AIDS Day campaign to all of those who have dedicated their time towards this worthy cause. Merci, monsieur le Président.

WIND TURBINES


Ms. Laurie Scott: I rise to discuss an issue that has become a lightning rod for concerned citizens across rural Ontario: the relentless and arbitrary building of wind turbines. When the Green Energy Act removed local authority from the planning and approval process for wind turbines, it unleashed a firestorm of discontent across the province. The government has refused to acknowledge that tangible health risks exist for both humans and animals, despite growing evidence to the contrary. However, when the citizens of Liberal-held seats in Scarborough voiced concern about the proposed wind turbines for the Lake Ontario shore, the government heard them and virtually killed the proposal.

However, the concerns of citizens in rural Ontario, such as those in my riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, obviously don't count with this government. Many constituents from my riding made the trip to Queen's Park today to again voice their opposition to these proposals.

This government has been caught up in its own ideological rhetoric: If it's green, it's good, and they know more than the rest of us. That might be an effective approach at a Liberal Party policy conference, but it doesn't work with the residents of this province.

Since the introduction of the Green Energy Act, the McGuinty government has denied municipalities the right to reflect the concerns and needs of their communities. It's time for this government to renew its arbitrary policy on the proliferation of wind turbines and start listening to the very people that must live with the aftermath. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

BRUCE CROZIER /
PAT HAYES


Mr. Taras Natyshak: I rise today to pay tribute to two former members of this House that we sadly lost this year.

The honourable Bruce Crozier represented the riding of Essex for nearly 18 years. Bruce was first elected in 1993 and served as Deputy Speaker and Chair of the committee of whole, as well as serving as a member of the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction. He was also widely known in this House by his trademark bow ties. More so, he was known for his class and being a consummate gentleman.

We also suffered another tremendous loss with the passing of my good friend and political mentor Pat Hayes. Pat was first elected in 1985 and again in 1990. Pat taught me much about what I know of politics today. He taught me to never drive a car as a candidate during an election campaign, because you are distracted and you will hit somebody. He taught me that people might not always agree with what you say, but they will respect the fact that you have the guts to say it.

Both these men served my community in this House with dignity and diligence. When Pat was ill this past December, Bruce stopped in to visit him and to wish him well. That visit meant a lot to Pat and to his family. It shows the character of the people that the riding of Essex sends here as their representatives. Above all else, humanity and decency should reign in all of our actions as members of this assembly. Pat and Bruce epitomized those qualities, and it is an honour to have known both of them. Thank you.

BAXTER CORP.


Mrs. Amrit Mangat: Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of Baxter Canada's new headquarters in my riding of Mississauga-Brampton South. Baxter has been one of the leaders in providing sustainable health care solutions. Baxter's new state-of-the-art headquarters is designed and built to LEED specifications, with efficient water and energy conservation systems. Baxter is at the cutting edge of ensuring clean and green solutions to their energy needs.

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Baxter's focus on environmental sustainability and paving a path for the future echoes our government's own commitment to providing a sustainable path to the future through the Green Energy Act.

I would like to thank Baxter for their focus on a sustainable environment. I would also like to express my gratitude to them for choosing my great riding of Mississauga-Brampton South for their new corporate headquarters and for bringing jobs to my community.

DURHAM REGION


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Durham.

Mr. John O'Toole: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Applause.


Mr. John O'Toole: I'm very thankful for the applause. I want to remind the House of our vision for Durham, to lead to its success.

Mr. Speaker, we need to move ahead on completing the many promises made by Premier McGuinty over the last eight years-for instance, Highway 407 east to Highway 35/115. Building half a highway just isn't good enough for the local municipalities, the businesses, tourism, commuters and Ontarians who counted on Premier McGuinty's promise being delivered.

We need the promised refurbishment and the new build at the Darlington nuclear station, not just for Durham but for all of Ontario.

We need the long-promised GO rail extension, to strengthen the transit connections developed by the region of Durham-promised by Premier McGuinty.

We need co-operation and leadership at all levels of government. Tim Hudak encourages us to work co-operatively with our mayors; it appears that Premier McGuinty does not. We need co-operation, not opposition, to encourage agriculture, home entrepreneurs, business, small business, investment opportunities and jobs. When it comes to jobs, a strong economy, respect for taxpayers and accountability in government, it's Durham's priority and it should be Ontario's priority.

In this House, recognize the vision for Durham; work with us. I urge the House to allow Durham region to reach its full potential. It is now Durham's time.

CHURCHILL TROJANS


Mr. Bill Mauro: I rise today to congratulate my old high school football team, the Sir Winston Churchill Trojans, the Thunder Bay senior champions, who were in Toronto on November 29 to compete in the Northern Bowl.

I was able to attend the first half at the Rogers Centre Tuesday morning to watch and cheer our team. After a difficult first half, Churchill mounted a furious comeback in typical Trojan fashion, only to come up just short, 34-28.

I want to offer my congratulations to Eh Gae Moo, Justin Fui, Jarred White, Jesse Inman, Stephen Manduca, David Tamarzov, Adam Vance, Kwe Lay Lo, Robbie Nistico, Dan Wirta, Matthew Steele, Taylor Auger, Alex Abbey, Devyn Chenier, Robby Posthumus, Cam Claridge, Jason Blekkenhorst, Mitchell McCall, Isaac Veurink, Brenden Condie, Remmington Steadwell, James Perry, Alex Armstrong, Kurtis Toivanen, Landon Gagnon, Mitchell Zemenick, Mitchell Halow, Josh Hurdon, Devon Ward, Brendan Doyle, Chris Cooke, Hunter Janssens, Julian Schultz, Rory McConnell and Chris Dunbar.

Also, Speaker, I congratulate coaches Doromko, Crocker, Stevenson, Poole, Jesperson, Gamble and Gamble, as well as team managers Emily Quarles, Julie Becotte and Vanessa Makinga.

The players, coaching staff and parents who travelled to Toronto did a great job of representing their high school community and the city of Thunder Bay. I thank them very much. They made us all very proud.

ABILITY ONLINE


Mrs. Christine Elliott: I am pleased to rise today to pay tribute to Ability Online. As you may know, this Saturday, December 3, is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This lends itself as a fitting time to highlight the fantastic work Ability Online has been doing for 20 years now; to congratulate them on their successes and the differences that they make in people's lives every day; and of course, to wish them a happy anniversary.

Ability Online is a free Internet community where young people with disabilities and long-term illnesses are able to access 24/7 friendship, support, information-sharing and skill development opportunities in a monitored and family-friendly environment. Regardless of the nature of the issue, Ability Online has members of all ages and abilities waiting to answer questions and provide support.

Of particular interest to the members of the Legislature this week is bullying support through Ability Online. Bully-bouncers are waiting online 24/7 to help anyone who needs help dealing with on- or off-line bullying.

I commend the work that Ability Online has been doing for the past 20 years and wish them continued success in the future.

PETITIONS

WIND TURBINES


Ms. Laurie Scott: A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Energy Farming Ontario Inc., Settlers Landing Wind Park LP and/or Snowy Ridge Wind Park LP are proposing to construct 10 wind turbines within the city of Kawartha Lakes in order to produce up to 20 megawatts of power (the proposed wind parks); and

"Whereas the proposed wind parks will adversely affect wildlife populations, wildlife migration patterns, human health and the natural environment; and

"Whereas the proposed wind parks are to be located, in whole or in part, on the Oak Ridges moraine; and

"Whereas the location of the proposed wind parks is not in keeping with the Ontario government's vision for the Oak Ridges moraine, which is the protection of the `ecological ... features and functions that support the health and well-being of the region's residents and ecosystems';

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Immediately put a moratorium on all industrial wind proposals; fund an independent epidemiological health study to develop safe setbacks; legislate those findings; develop stringent regulations based on science and local planning."

This is signed by hundreds of people within the riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, and I'm going to hand it over to page Lila.

MUNICIPAL PLANNING


Mr. Steve Clark: I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the people of Lombardy, specifically on Bay Road, for providing me with this petition. It's to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas municipalities have always had control over planning matters in their communities; and

"Whereas community consultation and engagement is essential for successful green energy projects; and

"Whereas local residents should be actively involved in all discussions about green energy projects in their community;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"That the Liberal government return planning power for renewable energy projects to municipalities and local residents by passing Bill 10, the Local Municipality Democracy Act, 2011, as introduced by Todd Smith, MPP for Prince Edward-Hastings."

I agree with the petition, will affix my signature and send it to the table with page Danica.

DIAGNOSTIC SERVICES


Mme France Gélinas: It is my pleasure to present this petition. It's from the people of Nickel Belt.

"Whereas the Ontario government" is making PET scanning "a publicly insured health service available to cancer and cardiac patients...; and

"Whereas," since October 2009, "insured PET scans" are available and performed "in Ottawa, London, Toronto, Hamilton and Thunder Bay; and

"Whereas the city of Greater Sudbury is a hub for health care in northeastern Ontario, with the Sudbury Regional Hospital, its regional cancer program and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine;

"We ... petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to make PET scans available through the Sudbury Regional Hospital, thereby serving and providing equitable access to the citizens of northeastern Ontario."

It is my pleasure to affix my signature to it and ask page Theodore to bring it to the Clerk.

WIND TURBINES


Mr. John O'Toole: I'm presenting petitions here on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Durham, as well as the constituents of the riding of Huron-Bruce and Lisa Thompson. Her petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the 200-foot-high CAW industrial wind turbine being built in the middle of Port Elgin residences and cottages does not comply with the provincial law requiring 550-metre setbacks (to preserve people's health and safety); and

"Whereas it was rejected by the democratically elected municipality" and council "and local residents, who were not adequately informed about the project;

"We, the undersigned, petition" Premier McGuinty and "the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"To immediately halt construction of the turbine and require it to be moved to" an appropriate "site that does not violate provincial legislation as passed under the Green Energy Act in 2009. We also petition that area residents be adequately informed" by law "about the siting and not surprised by sudden construction of" wind turbines illegally.

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I'm pleased to sign and support this on behalf of the constituents in the province of Ontario and present it to page Bernadette.

WIND TURBINES


Mr. Michael Harris: I'm pleased to table this petition on behalf of my constituents of Kitchener-Conestoga.

"Whereas there is a growing body of evidence confirming industrial wind development has serious adverse effects on host communities;

"Whereas over 135 people in Ontario have reported serious negative health effects from industrial wind development, and at least a dozen families have been bought out of their homes;

"Whereas Ontario's Green Energy Act has ended local planning control by stripping municipal councils of their rights;

"Whereas 80 municipal councils, representing two million Ontarians, called on the government to put in place a full moratorium on industrial wind development until an independent epidemiological health study is completed, proper environmental regulations and protections are put in place, and local democracy is restored;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Immediately put a moratorium on all industrial wind proposals; fund an independent epidemiological health study to develop safe setbacks; legislate those findings; develop stringent environmental protection standards for natural areas; and require all projects to comply with regulations based on science and local planning."

I am pleased to sign and support this petition on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga.

CREMATORIA


Mr. Jagmeet Singh: I have a petition here from constituents from my riding. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly.

"Whereas strict regulations on emissions of crematoria exist in Europe, and health experts have stated that crematoria should not be located in residential areas due to concerns about emissions of mercury, dioxins and other particulate matter;

"Whereas regulations under the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002, are silent on restrictions and leave municipalities without assistance in determining the health impacts of crematoriums in residential communities;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health should immediately conduct a review of crematoriums, studying the health impacts, and make recommendations on minimum setbacks to ensure there are no health risks for neighbouring residential properties. Appropriate guidelines following this review should be included in the regulations coming into effect July 2012. A hold should be placed on the siting of new crematoriums in Ontario in order to protect residents from toxic exposure until the review is conducted and appropriate guidelines are set."

I fully agree with this petition and will affix my signature.

WIND TURBINES


Mr. Rob Leone: I'm pleased to present this petition on behalf of concerned residents of Ontario. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas there is a growing body of evidence confirming industrial wind development has serious adverse effects on host communities;

"Whereas over 135 people in Ontario have reported serious negative health effects from industrial wind development, and at least a dozen families have been bought out of their homes;

"Whereas Ontario's Green Energy Act has ended local planning control by stripping municipal councils of their rights;

"Whereas 80 municipal councils, representing two million Ontarians, called on the government to put in place a full moratorium on industrial wind development until an independent epidemiological health study is completed, proper environmental regulations and protections are put in place, and local democracy is restored;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Immediately put a moratorium on all industrial wind proposals; fund an independent epidemiological health study to develop safe setbacks; legislate those findings; develop stringent environmental protection standards for natural areas; and require all projects to comply with regulations based on science and local planning."

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to deliver this, through page Theodore, to the table.

WIND TURBINES


Mrs. Julia Munro: My petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas there is a growing body of evidence confirming industrial wind development has serious adverse effects on host communities;

"Whereas over 135 people in Ontario have reported serious negative health effects from industrial wind development, and at least a dozen families have been bought out of their homes;

"Whereas Ontario's Green Energy Act has ended local planning control by stripping municipal councils of their rights;

"Whereas 80 municipal councils, representing two million Ontarians, called on the government to put in place a full moratorium on industrial wind development until an independent epidemiological health study is completed, proper environmental regulations and protections are put in place, and local democracy is restored;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Immediately put a moratorium on all industrial wind proposals; fund an independent epidemiological health study to develop safe setbacks; legislate those findings; develop stringent environmental protection standards for natural areas; and require all projects to comply with regulations based on science and local planning."

I affix my signature, as I am in agreement, and give it to page Theodore.

WIND TURBINES


Mr. Michael Harris: I am pleased to table this petition on behalf of my colleague Todd Smith, MPP for Prince Edward-Hastings, and his constituents.

"Whereas there is a growing body of evidence confirming industrial wind development has serious adverse effects on host communities;

"Whereas over 135 people in Ontario have reported serious negative health effects from industrial wind development, and at least a dozen families have been bought out of their homes;

"Whereas Ontario's Green Energy Act has ended local planning control by stripping municipal councils of their rights;

"Whereas 80 municipal councils, representing two million Ontarians, called on the government to put in place a full moratorium on industrial wind development until an independent epidemiological health study is completed, proper environmental regulations and protections are put in place, and local democracy is restored;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Immediately put a moratorium on all industrial wind proposals; fund an independent epidemiological health study to develop safe setbacks; legislate those findings; develop stringent environmental protection standards for natural areas; and require all projects to comply with regulations based on science and local planning."

I am pleased to sign and support this petition on behalf of the constituents of Prince Edward-Hastings, and I am going to give it to page Michela to table.

WIND TURBINES


Mr. John Yakabuski: You almost need a separate petition just on the word "epidemiological" in this place some days.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas there is a growing body of evidence confirming industrial wind development has serious adverse effects on host communities;

"Whereas over 135 people in Ontario have reported serious negative health effects from industrial wind development, and at least a dozen families have been bought out of their homes;

"Whereas Ontario's Green Energy Act has ended local planning control by stripping municipal councils of their rights;

"Whereas 80 municipal councils, representing two million Ontarians, called on the government to put in place a full moratorium on industrial wind development until an independent epidemiological health study is completed, proper environmental regulations and protections are put in place, and local democracy is restored;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

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"Immediately put a moratorium on all industrial wind proposals; fund an independent epidemiological health study to develop safe setbacks; legislate those findings; develop stringent environmental protection standards for natural areas; and require all projects to comply with regulations based on science and local planning."

Speaker, I support this petition and affix my name to it.

WIND TURBINES


Mr. Ted Arnott: I have a petition as well to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and it reads as follows:

"Whereas there is a growing body of evidence confirming industrial wind development has serious adverse effects on host communities;

"Whereas over 135 people in Ontario have reported serious negative health effects from industrial wind development, and at least a dozen families have been bought out of their homes;

"Whereas Ontario's Green Energy Act has ended local planning control by stripping municipal councils of their rights;

"Whereas 80 municipal councils, representing two million Ontarians, called on the government to put in place a full moratorium on industrial wind development until an independent epidemiological health study is completed, proper environmental regulations and protections are put in place, and local democracy is restored;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"Immediately put" in place "a moratorium on all industrial wind proposals; fund an independent epidemiological health study to develop safe setbacks; legislate those findings; develop stringent environmental protection standards for natural areas; and require all projects to comply with regulations based on science and local planning."

I support this petition at well, Mr. Speaker, and have affixed my signature to it.

PRIVATE MEMBERS'
PUBLIC BUSINESS

ONTARIO ONE CALL ACT, 2011 /
LOI DE 2011 SUR ONTARIO ONE CALL

Mr. Bailey moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 8, An Act respecting Ontario One Call Ltd. / Projet de loi 8, Loi sur Ontario One Call Ltd.


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

Mr. Robert Bailey: I want to announce at the start that I will be sharing my time today with the member from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.

Mr. Speaker, before I begin I would like to draw your attention to the west visitor and members' gallery. Seated there you will find supporters of Bill 8, the Ontario One Call Act, 2011, representing industry, safety organizations and municipalities. I would like to pay special attention, special recognition to Jim Douglas, president of the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance, who is sitting in the west members' gallery with the other board members, of the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance. They're here today representing, and not exclusive, Toronto Hydro, Avertex Utility, Vivax Inc., Landscape Ontario, the city of Toronto, Aecon Utilities, the WSIB, TransCanada, AECOM, Hydro One Networks, Enbridge Gas Distribution, Union Gas, Bell, ACI Survey Consultants, G-Tel Engineering and the Ontario Home Builders' Association. I would also like to welcome Kevin Easey, past president of the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association, who flew in from Ottawa especially today for my bill. They have shown tremendous leadership by championing the issue of safety for Ontario residents. Thank you to everyone for your support.

Mr. Speaker, my riding of Sarnia-Lambton is home to Ontario's oil, gas and chemical industry, an industry that I devoted over 30 years of my life to. In fact, just prior to my election to this House, I worked at the Nova Chemicals' St. Clair River works facility, where I was the contractor coordinator, and I was in charge of issuing excavation permits as well as safety permits. When working in Sarnia's chemical valley, the first lesson that I learned and that any new employee learns there today is that safety is always priority job one.

I'm proud to say Sarnia-Lambton is 25 times safer for an employee in the construction industry or any other industry; it's 25 times safer working in Sarnia-Lambton because of the work between the unions and the management and the local community. If you talk to any of the hard-working employees involved in Sarnia's petrochemical industry, they'll tell you that knowing what dangers you face on a job site is the only way to know what sort of precautions you need to take. This is even more important when your job site is made up of a vast underground network of pipes that connect all of our plants, factories, businesses, and even our homes.

Today, homeowners and excavators alike must rely on a patchwork system that is outdated, complicated and cumbersome to locate underground infrastructure. To be frank, Ontarians are left with a system that is compromising the safety of homeowners and excavators alike.

For example, before you landscape or fence your lot, excavate a patio or pool area, upgrade your driveway, repair your home's foundation or add a porch or another room to your house, you as a homeowner, or an excavator, are expected to call for the locates of underground infrastructure on your property before you dig. In other words, you the homeowner, or the excavator, are expected to call for the locations of the wires, pipelines, water mains and anything else that might be under the ground where you are about to dig. Then your utilities, hopefully, will arrive to mark the ground above where this infrastructure exists.

The problem in many communities across Ontario is that you may have to call up to-count these-13, that's right, different phone numbers to ensure that you have covered everything that may be under the ground in your particular location. So before you start your project, you need to account for electrical power lines, cables, street lights, traffic signals, gas and oil pipelines, sewers, telecommunications lines etc. Industry experts estimate that there is over $100 billion worth of buried infrastructure in our province, and yet there is no one source of complete or detailed information about the location of all these critical assets.

This is what I mean, Mr. Speaker, when I say that Ontario has an outdated, complicated and cumbersome system in place. So I don't think it will be much of a surprise to you when I say that some homeowners and excavators, I'm sad to say, simply aren't bothering to call for locates before they dig. Thirteen phone calls is simply 12 too many.

Without easy access to complete and proper information about underground infrastructure, damage regularly occurs to natural gas lines, electrical wiring and water mains. At the very least, this means increased costs to homeowners, excavators, municipalities, taxpayers and the province. In fact, in Ontario last year there were 3,200 natural gas pipeline strikes alone.

Accidental damage to underground infrastructure is not only expensive, but it can be deadly. Today, the number of emergency calls that result from damage done to underground infrastructure in Ontario is on the rise, and each and every one of those pipeline strikes has the potential to end in tragedy.

Consider, for example, what happened on April 24, 2003. A construction company working at an Etobicoke strip mall ruptured a gas line, sparking a massive explosion that killed seven people, levelled a two-storey building and destroyed several storefronts and apartments located in that vicinity.

In 2008, a landscaping company accidentally ruptured a propane line on a property in Niagara Falls. The propane leached through the earth into the adjacent basement, causing an accident.

Just this past September, two Ottawa-area residents sustained first- and second-degree burns after rupturing a gas line while drilling postholes in their backyard. Neighbours in the townhouse community were able to escape without injury but have been left to deal with the cost and stress of significant fire and water damage.

In each and every one of these cases, Mr. Speaker, it was discovered that the companies and people at the site did not call to locate any of the underground infrastructure.

Development across the province and in our communities has made the business of excavating very risky. Sitting idly by and doing nothing is no longer an acceptable option. The well-being and livelihood of the residents of Ontario cannot be taken for granted. I, along with MPP Miller and the many stakeholders here today, believe that it's long overdue for our province to have a mandatory one-call system. That is why the member from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and I have introduced Bill 8, the Ontario One Call Act, 2011.

Bill 8 will create a single call centre for all underground locates for use by homeowners and excavators alike. So instead of having to call up to 13 numbers to receive all your locates, homeowners and excavators would make one-count it, one-free call. Mr. Speaker, this is a simple solution that cuts red tape. The organization and capacity to implement this system is currently available.

Ontario One Call is already operating as an industry initiative out of a central call centre in Guelph, with 130 members representing 700 infrastructure agencies in Ontario, including over 40 municipalities that represent nearly 60% of Ontario's population. Unfortunately, industry analysts estimate that there are still about 400 organizations with assets in the ground that have not signed up.

For those members wondering if this sort of system can work across a large jurisdiction such as Ontario, the answer is yes. Currently, each and every US state has in place a mandatory one-call system. The federal government of the United States thought it was such a good idea that they mandated a national number: 811. When you dial 811 anywhere in the US, you are automatically connected to your call centre that has access to your area's information. As a result, the 811 system incidence of infrastructure and utility damage has decreased by close to 70% between 2004 and 2008.

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That's the sort of result that the good people of this province want when the House passes this legislation, if and when it should pass. I hope that all members of this House will recognize the need to implement this simple yet effective one-call solution. In conclusion, I ask that the members of this House please vote in favour of Bill 8 today and help to move our province one step closer to creating a comprehensive one-call system. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker, at this point I would like to remit the remainder of my time to the member from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Member from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.

Mr. Paul Miller: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I sit here and listen to my colleague MPP Bailey talk about Bill 8, I wonder what has taken us so long to bring a bill like this before this Legislature. It just makes good sense to simplify a system to reduce the possibility of devastation to workers, families and communities. It's our job as elected representatives in this province to put aside partisanship and to focus on the real needs of each of our communities. Bill 8 does that.

In this first instance, it addresses what I see as one of the most significant problems with our current system. We have a variety of timelines and methods, municipality to municipality, which an individual or company must know about before even thinking of making the changes or improvements they envision. It really never crossed my mind that a landscaper would need to be so fully aware of underground infrastructure. We forget how deeply they must sometimes dig to make the change a homeowner wants.

Sadly, there are too many examples of accidentally severed propane and natural gas lines, telephone lines etc. The delayed effect of this severed propane line leaves one with the mistaken assurance that everyone is fine when nothing happens at the time the line is severed. I also fully support mandatory carbon monoxide detectors in every dwelling and workplace; these detectors should not replace the requirement that all underground infrastructure must be easily identified before any work is done.

I worked for 32 years at the Stelco-US Steel mill as an industrial mechanic/welder/fitter, so I'm quite aware of the absolute need for tradespeople to know where and what every line and pipe in the entire facility is, how it is used, who to call and how to fix the problem. But even with that intimate knowledge, I would not assume to know what and where every utility that services my home is, and how long to dig or work around them.

It is clear, when one considers the various organizations that support Bill 8, that it's long, long overdue. It is already partly in place with the voluntary Ontario One Call organization, so expanding this to a not-for-profit mandatory system will not be the onerous task that starting from scratch could be.

The business leaders, who know this industry better than any of us, are fully in support of Bill 8. Even the few concerns or hesitations that have been raised can be addressed during the committee process so that we can have the best system possible with the least negative impacts. We will need to address the financial impacts on all parties, including municipalities, and be sure that the insurance companies are fully aware and onside.

But we can do this. We can work together to get this good piece of legislation referred to committee for public hearings in the intersession so that we bring Bill 8 back to the Legislature for third reading and royal assent as soon as possible in the spring session. I encourage our Liberal colleagues to stand with us and put your full support behind Bill 8. Let's make this happen. Let's work together for all Ontarians. This is a new era in this Legislature, and we're going to do things for the people of Ontario.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from Etobicoke-Centre.

Mrs. Donna H. Cansfield: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and congratulations.

I stand today in support of this bill. April 23 was a spring day in Etobicoke. Many of us were thinking about an election. I had a friend who had just gone to a hair salon, popped in and picked up some cleaning; they made it as far as the set of lights just down the street when an extraordinary explosion occurred. Seven people lost their lives. The greatest number of lives lost in a pipeline explosion in Canada was in Etobicoke Centre. Seven people, seven families-from some digging that was happening down the street. Those people are still impacted, because today, we're still before the courts.

So when you think about the opportunity that is presented here enabling us to make a difference in the lives so this doesn't happen to others, it really behooves us to actually work together to find what I have always called the art of the possible.

Sure, there are some technical difficulties-no question-and there are some other people to bring to the table. But I believe people of goodwill want to do this. I believe, and I've heard from each of the associations, that they want to do it.

You can make the economic business case of $39 million that has been lost by one industry or another-1,100 digs from one; 3,200 from another, where there's been damage. For me, it was seven people in my community who lost their lives over somebody digging and hitting a gas pipeline.

Fortunately, one of the things that did come out of this from the engineer, Peter Roy, whose mom was lost in this, was a backup valve that now one of the gas pipelines actually uses, that would help prevent this as well. So there were some lessons to be learned.

I really think that what we need to be able to do is say to ourselves: How do we prevent this in the future? How do we work with people in an old infrastructure system?

I've been involved in infrastructure through three ministries, where you know that there are three different sets for your Bell, your gas pipeline, your cable, whatever is beneath the surfaces, much less your sewer infrastructure. It's time to be able to say to someone who is going to do that intensification in that building, "We can help you before you hit that impediment. Simply call one number instead of 13," because you and I both know people will not call 13 numbers, but they will call one.

So, yes, there's education that needs to be done. There is work that we can do by working together. Going to committee makes some sense. Listening to the industry that says, in fact, this is free and they'll absorb the costs-these are the things that make a difference.

Today I'm asking you to consider this in memory of Dora Carambelas, Tina Kirkimtzis, Robert Fairley, Irene Miyama, Adele Brown, Elizabeth Roy and Lillian Guglietti, all of whom lost their lives in a gas explosion that I believe was totally, completely and utterly preventable.

I'd like to share my time with my colleagues from Niagara and Willowdale. Thank you very much.


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

Mr. David Zimmer: I want to commend the member for Sarnia-Lambton for bringing this matter before the House. Really, what it does is it's going to codify, if you will, the voluntary practices that are already out there, and by the act of codifying the voluntary practices that are out there in most jurisdictions, it's going to make it clearer for everybody to understand both their obligations and what they can expect by way of information when they're beginning a dig.

Simply put, this is what the act requires, if it's passed. The act is going to require every municipality in Ontario, Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation, every gas distributor, every gas transmitter, every operator of an electrical distribution system, every person or entity regulated under the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act, every person that owns or operates a pipeline and every person that owns or operates an underground infrastructure that crosses a public right of way-those persons are going to have to be members of the corporation.

Then, once they're a member of the corporation, this is what they have to do, and it's very, very simple. When a member of the corporation receives information from any of those persons that I've just referred to about a proposed excavation or dig, the member is required to mark the location of its underground infrastructure that is in the vicinity of the excavation or dig site, or indicate that its infrastructure will not be affected by the excavation or dig.

It's very simple. Essentially, it says everybody that's making a dig that could create some harm or danger, if a line is ruptured or cut or something like that-if you're in that category, you join the corporation. When you join the corporation, your obligation is to provide information about what's underground there and what a digger should watch out for.

I can't think of something simpler than that, that would provide great protections, both for the people around the excavation, the people who may be exposed to the harm if there's a rupture or a gas line is cut or an electrical line is cut.

The beauty of codifying this legislation, as the member for Sarnia-Lambton's bill does, is in its simplicity. When you balance its simplicity against the great protections that it provides, I can't think of a reason why anyone, or any thoughtful person, would reasonably want to oppose this safety initiative. As the speaker before me made reference to the tragic circumstances out her way, I think of what might have been the situation had a piece of legislation like this been in effect at the time.

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So I'm very happy to lend my support to this bill and I commend the member for Sarnia-Lambton for bringing this forward. I'm very, very impressed with its simplicity and the effect, the payoff, that that simplicity is going to have. In my view it's a model piece of legislation.

I might add another thought. The last little while, we've heard a lot about members of this Legislature, in a minority government situation, reaching out and finding ways to co-operate. We've heard from the member from Sarnia-Lambton, we've heard from the previous speaker from Etobicoke Centre, and I expect that we're going to hear from the member from Niagara Falls. I expect we're going to hear from-we've heard from the member for Hamilton Mountain-


Mr. Paul Miller: Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. Did I do something to you?

Mr. David Zimmer: Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. I have trouble. That was your predecessor. But it's an example of this Legislature, in a minority situation, working together. I am pleased to support the legislation.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Elgin-Middlesex-London.

Mr. Jeff Yurek: Thank you, Speaker, and congratulations-first time I've had you sitting in the chair for me.

I stand here today to support my Sarnia-Lambton colleague on his bill because the people in my riding sent me here to make Ontario better and safer. With this proposed bill we have something that homeowners, builders, landscapers and utility companies all support and something that has proven widely effective for our neighbours to the south. In short, what the member from Sarnia-Lambton is proposing is simply good public policy.

I'm also proud to be working with my NDP colleague from the riding of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. It is wonderful to be able to work together across political stripes to put forth a piece of legislation that is good for Ontario. This is what the citizens of Ontario expect: for us to work together to implement policy that's good for our province.

There are two reasons why this bill is good for Ontario. The first is purely from the dollars-and-cents perspective. We know that property damage resulting from line strikes totals almost $39 million a year. This is an easy to measure, unambiguous cost of line strikes. But you must also consider the following: When a gas or electrical line is struck during a construction or landscaping job, work has to stop. The construction crew is sidelined until the problem is fixed and they can safely return to work. Further, let's say a phone line is clipped and shuts down service to a business. Suddenly the people cannot use their phones, their Internet or fax machines. So line breaks not only cost millions of dollars in property damage, but they're also responsible for reductions in productivity and efficiency for utility companies, contractors, landscapers and the other businesses that are unfortunate enough to be affected by the inadvertent line strikes.

The second reason is more important, and that's for safety. We all know the dangers of mistakenly striking a gas or power line. Serious injury and, unfortunately, death can occur from these strikes, but it's simply avoided by locating the proper utilities. In fact, about 40% of utility line damages is due to digging without locates. It raises the question: Why does underground infrastructure go unlocated despite the potential dangers? The unfortunate answer is that locating all underground infrastructure can be long and burdensome. The result is that contractors and landscapers can cut corners, and this ultimately leads to line breaks that can potentially put people's lives in jeopardy.

Doug Tarry, president of the Ontario Home Builders' Association and member of my riding, fully supports this bill. He's an award-winning home builder. He knows that safety is job one and realizes the job is demanding enough. Given that locates are avoided due to the cumbersome process of identifying all the underground infrastructure there might be, the one-call system drastically streamlines the process to encourage locates to be performed. One call gives a single point of contact for anyone to call to locate underground infrastructure.

Now, the one-call system already exists as a voluntary body, and 60% of Ontario residents live in an area served. Many of you may think this is adequate or sufficient; sadly, it's not the case. South of the border, in New York state, which has a mandatory one-call system, there are roughly 2.33 utility strikes per 1,000 locates. In Ontario, with a voluntary system, our number of utility strikes per 1,000 locates is double this figure. It's unacceptable, and we should strive to do better.

In all, it is not enough to have a voluntary system that only covers part of Ontario. We need a legislated mandatory one-call system which has already proven itself south of the border. This policy saves money, reduces service stoppages due to line damage and, most importantly, enhances the safety of all Ontarians.


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

Mr. Kim Craitor: I'm extremely proud to have an opportunity to speak on Bill 8. I want to congratulate the member from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and, of course, the member from Sarnia-Lambton. You notice I put the member from Stoney Creek first because he was a little upset that he wasn't mentioned a few times.

I wanted to say a couple of things. My first experience-and it just kind of hit me when I was sitting listening to my colleagues speaking. One time I was chair of parking and traffic for the city of Niagara Falls, as a councillor, and one of the things that we looked after was the determination of putting in stop signs.

I remember early in my career, we passed a couple of locations for putting up stop signs, but they didn't seem to go up as quickly as I expected. When I was talking with the director of parking and traffic, he explained to me that there were a number of calls that he had to make before he could put up a stop sign, to make sure that underground there wasn't anything that would be affected. I remember I said to Karl, "Well that's kind of odd." He said, "Kim, you have to understand there are"-I think he said 12 or 13-"phone calls we have to make, so it takes time."

I really didn't click into it at the time, until this bill came forward. As well, a number of the agencies, like Enbridge, had come to speak to me about this. That's when I realized how complex it was for something so simple as having just one location; you make the one call.

In my riding, and it was mentioned by the member from Sarnia-Lambton, we too had a very unfortunate incident where an individual, because of some excavation that had been done-it didn't cause the sad results until the homeowner came home and was in their home that evening. Something sad happened in the home-the homeowner was killed-a very sad situation, but it was exactly what's been talked about.

So this isn't just about property, this is about lives. You've already heard that mentioned, and some very sad names were mentioned, about what happened to them.

The passage of the Ontario One Call Act would significantly reduce the risk of damages to the underground infrastructure in the province due to digging without proper locations. Can you imagine that you just make one call? It seems so simple.

It seems really odd to me, sitting here as a member of the Legislature, that we have to go through a bill and a procedure and we have to have all of this debate. It seems to me that we would just say, "Yes, let's do it." I'm certainly in support of it. Can we just move the bill along quickly?

I have not had a negative phone call from anyone saying this is something we shouldn't do. I just haven't had that kind of phone call. Even some of the homeowners who I've circulated the bill through to say, "What do you think?" even in my office-some of them said, "I didn't know you were supposed to call anybody, Kim." Somebody even said that to me.

So I'm really pleased to stand up and say to my two colleagues: Congratulations.

I want to make one last comment, because we hear this working together as if it never happened before. So I want to mention, because this is a great opportunity to mention to my colleague from Sarnia-Lambton, where the two of us were able to work together to help a very important industry, and that's the duty-free industry. We were able to make some changes in that industry. We both have heard the positive results: jobs were saved; money that was leaving our province and being spent over in the United States is spent here by Canadians who went through the duty-free shops.

I think for the public watching that it's not the first time and it will not be the last time that the three parties work together. It's not new. It's refreshing to hear it mentioned more often; that's really exciting to hear. It's been a great week to kick off a minority government, and I'm really excited about us working together.

I'm pleased to support the bill. Thank you very much.

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The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.

Mr. John Yakabuski: 'Tis I. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It's a pleasure to join the debate on Bill 8.

I want to congratulate my colleague from Sarnia-Lambton and also my friend from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek for bringing this bill to the Legislature for the second time. The first time, my colleague from Sarnia-Lambton brought it on his own. I applauded him at that time, and I applaud him again. I certainly thank him for his tenacity and his stick-to-it-iveness in ensuring that this got returned to this Legislature at the earliest possible time under his schedule and the rules of engagement that exist here with respect to private members' business.

I've heard, on the other side, the member for Niagara Falls and also the members for Etobicoke Centre and Willowdale coming at it from different angles. But particularly, the member from Niagara Falls talked about, "What's taken so long? This seems like such an automatic. Why are we debating this? Why are we not acting upon it? Why does this not exist already?"

If you listen to some of the statistics from my colleague from Sarnia-Lambton, Mr. Bailey, all 50 states have this implemented. In Canada, we like to think we're sometimes maybe a little more advanced when it comes to safety issues and things like that, a little more progressive than the Americans. Well, here they are: All 50 states-not 40, not 46-all 50 states have implemented this. So what's the problem here in Ontario? We need to get on with it. Thirty-two hundred natural gas breaks last year.

My heart goes out to the families of those people in Etobicoke Centre, and I thank the member for refreshing our memory. We live in such a helter-skelter, crazy, wild world that we tend to forget about yesterday's disaster as soon as we hear about today's. But it goes without saying that we need to remember those families and the loss of life in that gas explosion. And as she said, that was something that was eminently preventable.

So what can we do here today? Well, number one, we can begin by passing this bill. It's clearly been shown in other jurisdictions that it works. What was the statistic I heard my colleague say? A 70% reduction in infrastructure damages when a similar regulation was implemented in other jurisdictions. So from a cost point of view, it's a no-brainer.

The loss of life is obviously the starkest example you can have of the need for changes and improvements in regulation. One life lost-a preventable life lost-is one too many. But not only that: There wasn't loss of life in all 3,200 gas breaks, and thank God for that. But I guarantee you one thing: There was inconvenience suffered by our citizens.

Every time there's a utility break, for whatever reason-and obviously we must have 13 of them, when you have 13 calls that you've got to make, which could be replaced by one call-we inconvenience our citizens. And there is no reason whatsoever to do that when we have within our grasp a piece of legislation that would allow-I'm not saying there would never be a mistake made; good Lord, we don't live in a perfect world. But we know one thing: Statistics say that it would lead to a 70% reduction in infrastructure damages, so we have to believe that the improvements would be immeasurable, and the removal of that inconvenience for our citizens in this helter-skelter, crazy world we all live in.

You know what? Just yesterday-I live up in Barry's Bay, and of course we had freezing rain up there. I'm here in Toronto where the power never went out, but my wife was without power for about 12 hours. She and the cat were getting cold. That's an inconvenience. Whenever you lose one of your services, that's an inconvenience. Now, that power outage couldn't have been prevented by this one call, because of those acts of God, acts of nature, when you have storms of that kind and your power is out in rural areas. We accept that and we understand that. But when there are things we can do to prevent that, we should be doing them.

So this is a bill-and based on what I've heard on the other side of the House, it looks like we've got support there. But I need to remind them, too-there is all of this talk about co-operation; there is all of this talk about working together, like we've formed some new partnership-I haven't seen a whole lot of evidence of that in the agenda of the government to this point.

But I would ask those members, not only those who have spoken, but the silent majority over there who have not spoken but definitely agree with my colleagues, that the point must be made not to John Yakabuski and not to our good friends-and I thank all of them for joining us today, to bring that support and graphically show how this is needed-but to the man in the corner office. No, I don't mean Pat Dillon today-I know he's running the show-but I do mean the Premier. The point must be made to the Premier, that this is so good-in fact, why is Bob Bailey bringing this forward along with Paul Miller? Why are they bringing it forward? Because the government didn't see fit to bring it forward. This should have been a piece of government legislation; it shouldn't have been a private members' bill. But they're more concerned with divisive policies like this healthy home tax credit that's going to benefit just a small smidgeon of the population and not supporting, for example, an HST cut on people's home heating. We didn't get credit on the HST yesterday on our home heating; we didn't have the home heating because the power was out.

That's where we need to be taking this Legislature, so that the government should be leading the way on good pieces of law and legislation like this one from my colleagues sitting beside me here today. So I would ask that not only do we support this bill today-and I hope we have this co-operation in the House when my friend Todd Smith from Prince Edward-Hastings brings his bill that represents people in this province, again, against the scourge of government just running roughshod over municipalities. I hope we have that same support today.

I'm running out of time, so I'm asking you, please, please, when we leave here today, take a visit to the corner office on floor 2 and say, "Premier"-


Mr. Kim Craitor: Tim Hudak's office?

Mr. John Yakabuski: It will be Tim's eventually, Kim, I assure you of that.

But, "Premier, don't let this languish. Let's get on with the job. This is good legislation; let's do it."


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

Mr. Paul Miller: Mr. Bailey, you might want to talk to that guy later.

It's my pleasure to co-sponsor Bill 8, the Ontario One Call Act, with the member from Sarnia-Lambton.

The fact that this bill establishes a non-profit organization that will provide a single point of contact for contractors and for individuals to locate underground oil and gas pipelines, telecommunication cables, electrical and transit signal wires, and sewer and water pipelines on a property makes it extremely appealing.

The organization, as it exists today, has 130 volunteer members, representing 700 infrastructure agencies, including major utilities. A mandatory system would also capture federally governed systems, such as the TransCanada pipeline, which must participate if the system is mandatory. Although 60% of Ontario's population is covered by these members, we need to ensure that 100% of Ontario's population has this same coverage, safety and security, Mr. Speaker.

As energy costs go higher and more municipalities are included in the natural gas system, we need to ensure that greater protection is afforded to all Ontarians. Not only do we have increasing natural gas lines, but we have an increasingly complex underground infrastructure from many utilities. US states already enjoy the benefits of a mandatory one-call system, which has proven in itself a real life and accident saver, as well as of significant monetary benefit to their communities.

Even to get the most basic information about underground utilities can take as many as 10 or more telephone calls, which for the average homeowner is far too complex and onerous. It is easier to simply go ahead and dig. The one-call system would make it so simple: Just call a short number like 811, and get all the information you need to get started on your garden or home renovation project.

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An added feature of the one-call system is that it operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week: a service that allows homeowners to deal with these issues when they get home from work and not have to take their lunch hour for days on end just to get through the myriad of organizations currently required

One of the concerns I do have about the system is that we bring all insurance companies on board with no excuses from them. We want to know that they fully support the system and will consider one phone call to Ontario One Call as complete due diligence in the case of a claim. But that's a detail that could be ironed out during public hearings and contact with insurance companies.

Ontario One Call is an industry-led initiative that makes the business of digging in Ontario easier for homeowners and contractors alike, but it's an initiative that should have 100% provincial government support. It's a bill that should pass second reading, be sent to committee for public hearings and be sent directly to third reading and royal assent. This is no-brainer, Mr. Speaker.

I was surprised to learn that a full 40% of all damage to underground infrastructure is the result of digging without knowing exactly where the underground infrastructure is located. The cost to your construction or home renovation project from these accidents is a stunning $39 million a year, some of which is passed on to each of us through our property taxes and utility bills. When one adds the cost to businesses, it is easy to see where the costs of construction are so high and often why projects run over the estimated completion time.

It is compelling to know that the States' damage caused by digging without knowledge of underground infrastructure was reduced by 70% when the one-call system became mandatory. That is absolutely huge, Speaker-70% in America.

One of the most visible underground infrastructure projects is the TransCanada pipeline, but we often don't think of its impact through the province. Some of the most expensive cottage properties in Muskoka have the TransCanada pipeline as their neighbour. Consider the damage that could be done and the delayed emergency response times in these less-serviced areas. Then consider the route this pipeline has travelled just to get to Muskoka and how well- or not well-serviced those northern communities are by comparison. It just makes sense to get the Ontario One Call system implemented as soon as possible.

I am pleased to see the organizations that have come on board to support this bill. The Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance, a not-for-profit 400-member-driven organization dedicated to ensuring public safety, environmental protection and the integrity of underground infrastructure by promoting damage prevention practices, stated in its press release supporting Bill 8: "Public and worker safety are at serious risk when utility lines such as buried pipelines or hydro lines are struck or damaged because homeowners, building contractors and other excavators do not obtain the precise location of these lines before they dig." I agree wholeheartedly with the alliance's statement, "Safety cannot be a voluntary exercise."

Another organization lending its enthusiastic support to Bill 8 is the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association. Their president said, "There is an urgent need for a mandatory one-call system that extends across the province to ensure the safety of our workers and the safety of our general public."

And one of Canada's largest natural gas utilities and a long-time advocate of this kind of mandatory legislation, Union Gas, stated in its press release, "Ontario should move to pass the Ontario One Call Act-a bill that would improve safety, save money and increase productivity."

Union Gas also stated that, "In addition to the risk of a public emergency and the inconvenience of utility outages, economic analysts conservatively estimate that damages caused by excavators who don't call before they dig cost utility customers, municipalities and taxpayers about $39 million a year." We could do a lot with that $39 million, Mr. Speaker. There's a lot of other projects in this province that could use that kind of money. "There are significant additional costs related to dispatching emergency services"-which we forgot about-"to incidents, liability related to injury and/or fatalities and interruptions to businesses."

Just to be sure that the full impact of this bill is understood, let me tell you about just one incident where One Call could have saved a life. In the fall of 2008, Speaker, natural gas service began in Owen Sound. A subcontractor for the gas company was to install the lines at a home which had been serviced by propane and had propane lines and buried storage tanks on the property. The natural gas line was installed using an underground plow, which inadvertently severed a propane line without any immediate reaction. The propane leaked into the ground and through the foundation of the house, and the next day, when the homeowner lit a candle in the basement, the accumulated propane ignited, causing an explosion and fire. The homeowner was blown out of the house and suffered third-degree burns, leading to death. The subcontractor was fined this past March after pleading guilty to failing to ensure that the homeowner had marked the propane lines and tank prior to the subcontractor excavating.

This bill has many strengths, but to be fair, some concerns have been raised, and to address these, full consultation is needed to ensure that it doesn't have unintended negative effects. We can deal with that in committee.

We need to fully understand the impacts on our municipalities. Municipalities need to be assured that the creation of a province-wide system outside of the municipal purview will not compromise the safety and role of municipal permit providers. They also want to ensure that this extra requirement does not add to the administrative burden of already-stretched municipalities. For example, would there be financial implications for the municipalities?

There is also uncertainty about what will happen to the employees who staff current municipal-level one-call services. Will there be job losses?

Finally, some municipalities will still need to be reassured that making the one-call system mandatory is necessary.

I could go on, Mr. Speaker, but I'm going to leave some time for one of the other members, the member from Essex. But I must tell you that this is long overdue, Mr. Speaker. I am so pleased that our two parties have worked together, and I'm sure that the government will join in to make this a reality, because we certainly don't want any more fatalities because of these types of situations in our province. Thank you.


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

Mr. Taras Natyshak: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm really honoured to lend my support as a colleague of my counterpart from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, and I commend his partnership with the member from Sarnia-Lambton.

Through the lens as the critic for infrastructure and labour and also as a former construction worker-a young construction worker on heavy construction sites in and around the Windsor-Essex area-I can tell you that you're no more vulnerable on a construction site than when you're just about to dig and you're around that machine. So you're always questioning your safety. You're questioning the parameter. You're questioning if the appropriate services have been located and if the job was done right.

I'm pleased, again, to lend my support to this initiative. It makes sense; I think we're finding that out through consensus, through all parties. I'll remind everyone that this is the first time that we have agreed, throughout this Legislature, in all senses. It really is refreshing to hear that, because the bill does make sense. It provides measures of safety and assurance for construction workers and for contractors, mitigates their liability and really streamlines the process. Of course, we've seen facts and figures that indicate that this is the right thing to do, but now it is our opportunity and incumbent upon us to do it as quickly as possible.

So I trust that it will move its way through the process, on to second reading and third reading and eventually become a measure of law as soon as possible, so that young workers like myself can feel safe and comfortable when they're on the job. I look up to the stand and I see a group of young people, young students. Someday, maybe they will be workers in the construction sector, and they'll know that the work that was done in this House today was to ensure that their safety was safeguarded into the future.

I'll mention as well: I commend the group coming together, the association of 100 or more different stakeholders that have decided that this is the right thing to do. Mr. Speaker, shortly after my election in October, I was called by my cousin Lawrence Arcand, who is in the stands today; I'm pleased to see him. It was his first order of business to inform me about the need for this bill, not knowing that it was already in process as well. So, it's refreshing to know that my colleagues were already working on this initiative prior to my joining the Legislature.

Of course, it is a pleasure for me to add my support to this bill today. I think it is high time that we streamline the approach for contractors and make this country safer, in terms of worker safety legislation, as well. This plays a part in that. We know that they come together in a variety of ways-not only in construction, but there are other ways that I'm sure this bill will make sense in other aspects of our labour force as well.

I think it shows that our Legislature can work together, and I'm certainly pleased to add my voice and my support to this today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member from Sarnia-Lambton has two minutes to reply.

Mr. Robert Bailey: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Let me begin by thanking all the members who have participated in the debate today. I appreciate all of your comments and your support, and I'd like to especially mention the members for Etobicoke Centre, Niagara, Willowdale, Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, Elgin-Middlesex-London, Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke and, of course, Essex.

To recap, the Ontario One Call Act, Bill 8, will create a single call centre and database for all underground locates that can be accessed by homeowners and excavators alike. Access to utility locate information in an efficient, timely manner will decrease the unnecessary cost of damage and lost productivity that results from the thousands of inadvertent utility strikes each year.

Mandatory participation by organizations with underground assets will increase the awareness and understanding of the need to properly locate buried infrastructure before a project is undertaken. This awareness can and will save lives in our province, protecting residents and workers alike.

Ontario One Call is an initiative that was created and brought forth by the utility industry and contractors as a solution to the ever-present problem of injury, infrastructure damage and lost productivity. As a homegrown solution, the Ontario One Call Act, 2011, has the broad support of industry and over 40 municipalities, thanks to a fair, inexpensive approach that ensures participation and service delivery.

It is my hope that this piece of legislation, if passed, will lead to a safer, more productive and prosperous environment.

Again, I would like to thank Jim Douglas and the board of the Ontario Regional Common Ground Alliance, as well as all the other members, municipalities, excavators and utilities for giving their support to the Ontario One Call Act-I have two pages of names. I would never have gotten them read in.

It is time that all of Ontario's infrastructure agencies and underground asset owners work together to create this smart, comprehensive system for our province.

Safety should not be voluntary; it should be 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I ask the chamber to pass Bill 8, the Ontario One Call Act, and always, always, remember to call before you dig.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you very much. For those in the gallery, we will be taking the vote on this bill at a later time today.

WIRELESS PHONE, SMART PHONE
AND DATA SERVICE
TRANSPARENCY ACT, 2011 /
LOI DE 2011 SUR LA TRANSPARENCE
DES SERVICES DE TÉLÉPHONE MOBILE,
DE TÉLÉPHONE INTELLIGENT
ET DE TRANSMISSION DE DONNÉES

Mr. Orazietti moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 5, An Act to provide transparency and protection for consumers of wireless telephone services, smart phone services and data services in Ontario / Projet de loi 5, Loi prévoyant la transparence des services de téléphone mobile, de téléphone intelligent et de transmission de données et la protection des consommateurs de ces services en Ontario.


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

Mr. David Orazietti: Thank you, Speaker. I'm pleased to have the opportunity this afternoon to discuss this issue. As members of the Legislature know, a similar form of this bill, Bill 133, was brought forward in the fall of 2010. It received first reading, and second reading in April 2011, and received all-party support. I want to thank members of the Legislature for that.

We are back at it, because this issue is still not resolved and there is much more we can do to ensure that consumers are protected when it comes to the use of wireless telecommunications in the province of Ontario.

I will be sharing my time with the member from Oak Ridges-Markham, the member from Oakville and the member from Eglinton-Lawrence.

Speaker, I want to try to take folks through the legislation and the implications of passing such a bill. There are about 10 key points that I'd like to raise here. I'll try to do that as concisely as possible. This legislation is needed because this is a pocketbook issue for consumers. Eighty-one percent of households in the province of Ontario subscribe to wireless phones, smart phones and other data devices, and rely on these types of services.

First of all, the bill calls for clearly disclosing all mandatory and optional services that are included in any such agreement. Any specific fee, whether it's an activation fee, additional charge or the so-called government regulatory fee that the companies like to say is an imposition on behalf of the province-all these fees that are part of the contract need to be clearly disclosed for individuals and consumers that are signing such contracts.

Number 2: It's important that we have contracts in plain language, to make them more understandable for consumers. There was a survey done some time ago, talking about the number of consumers who actually understand their contract. It's a relatively low number. It's indicative of the fact that these contracts are written in a very legalistic framework. They're quite lengthy, and they are not written clearly for consumers to understand. This is another item that the bill calls for.

Number 3: One of the key issues around wireless phones and services is the excessive and exorbitant cancellation fees that go along with wireless phones. The fees are substantial; they go on for months of a three-year contract. It seems that, with such a monopoly in this sector, this is the only way you can get a plan.

Right now, most other services that individuals subscribe to would require a cancellation notice of 30 days. That's what this bill would require.

Obviously, we recognize that there are upfront discounts for smart phones and equipment. The company would be able to recoup that. I think everybody recognizes that, after a couple of months of a contract and you're purchasing a smart phone at a cost of $400 or $500, you can't simply cancel the contract two months later and walk away with the equipment. Everyone recognizes that. What we're talking about is the month-after-month-after-month-after-month cancellation fee that is foisted upon consumers and is substantially excessive. There's a formula in the bill to reduce that.

Improving transparency with respect to automatic renewal and ensuring that there is the express consent of the consumer before the contract is renewed: Individuals who may be within months of their contract being completed make a minor change to their plan, whether it be adding a conference calling feature or call waiting or call display, or perhaps they've changed jobs and have a new requirement, and they're now into the contract for another three years, and they were not aware of that. This automatic renewal issue is a significant problem in this sector, and there needs to be more transparency around that.

The notification to consumers around additional charges and exceeding usage limits is also important. The bill would include language around notification on behalf of the providers for usage limits. Whether it be voice limits, data or texting, when you hit 90% of your limit, you're notified. This is going to reduce bill shock, and also it gives consumers the understanding, if they're outside of their particular geographical area-these geographical areas, or your home area code in which you're calling, are often reworked by the companies. Some consumers are aware of it; some consumers aren't. It's important that that is transparent.

Ensuring that consumers are not liable to pay for services while their phone is being repaired: If they've got a problem with their smart phone and they bring it back to their supplier and surrender it to their supplier, who keeps it for three weeks, they can't be billed for the three weeks of service while they don't have the use of the phone. That's an important adaptation. It's being considered as part of legislation similar to this in Manitoba right now-unless, of course, the company were to give you another phone to use, with which you would have access to the service; then they could continue to bill you.

Elimination of the activation and expiry dates on prepaid wireless service cards, much like we've done with gift cards: You pay the company; they've got the money; you should be able to get the service. It shouldn't expire at some point down the road. You shouldn't need to activate it within a certain time period or you lose it.

I've talked to many consumers who said, "I had $400 on that card, and I missed that payment by an hour and my $400 is gone." This is a real windfall for the companies. It's unfair to consumers. In this House, we all think it's fair, I think, to eliminate expiry dates on gift cards. This is a similar element in the bill around wireless prepaid cards.

Making costs more transparent-very important: This also helps to reduce bill shock. Advertising is not always perhaps as legitimate and forthright as it could be, when it comes to these providers, around what they are marketing. Phones, $29.99; get into this plan; voice, data, texting. You get your bill and it's $150 a month. How did that happen, right? So we're going to require that the providers ensure that the all-in cost is provided up front and is also the most prominent feature of any advertisement. Let's be honest and fair with consumers. Let's ensure that they know exactly what they're getting and what they're paying for. This is another way that we can improve these contracts.

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Unlocking the devices: This is an important feature in the bill. Some companies have decided since we introduced the bill last year that, "Okay, we'll unlock it, but guess what? It's another $50 surcharge on top of your bill." Look, if you buy your phone outright, and you own it, or you complete your phone contract within the timeframe, once you have purchased those goods and you've got them in good standing, you should be able to take that phone, if you wanted to go to another carrier, and use it. You shouldn't have to worry about whether or not the phone is actually technologically disabled so you can't use it anywhere else. Unlocking would be at no additional charge to the consumer. That would be part of the agreement: Either if you bought the phone outright, or if you finished the contract in good standing, the company would be required to unlock it.

The last point is providing paper billing statements at no extra cost. This is kind of interesting. Quite honestly, there are parts of the province that are more rural, more remote, and don't have access to high-speed Internet and the ability to receive these services. Part of it, you have to wonder, is whether or not the companies actually want you to buy their Internet services to pay for it online as well. The idea of having to pay for your bill to pay your bill seems a bit bizarre, and the consumer should be able to decide how they want their bill, and that would be at no additional charge.

Speaker, we've received some great support from PIAC, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, and Michael Janigan, the executive director. Michael Buonaguro was here today at a media conference earlier. We were talking about the importance of this. Their organization is supporting the changes in this legislation. Mel Fruitman, the vice-president of the Consumers' Association of Canada, supports this legislation. Ken Whitehurst, the executive director of the Consumers Council of Canada, supports this legislation. The Better Business Bureau supports this legislation. Folks, there's ample support for this legislation.

I should tell you that there are a couple of jurisdictions that are moving forward with this. As you know, Quebec is the only province in the country that has provincial legislation reducing cancellation fees, dealing with automatic renewal and making sure that these contracts are written in plain language. That bill passed in July 2010-last year. Manitoba has a bill on track right now that has a number of these provisions included in it. It is on track to pass this spring or summer.

Speaker, it's an $18-billion industry we're talking about. Contrary to comments made by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association that this is somehow going to create some government bureaucracy, it is quite clearly not going to do that. In fact, the Wireless Telecommunication Association, which really represents Bell, Rogers and Telus-the big corporations-their complaints have gone up 114% this year alone. So their voluntary code of conduct which they subscribe to, their self-regulating industry that they profess is dealing effectively with consumers, is quite clearly not dealing with consumers.

There is no government regulatory burden attached to this. The reality is that if you don't pay a fee to unlock your phone, you eliminate the pre-paid wireless card, you reduce the cancellation fees, you make the contracts in plain language-can someone from the Wireless Telecommunication Association tell me how this creates more red tape and a government bureaucracy? Clearly it doesn't. This is smoke and mirrors, and it's fear-mongering around the profit margins, quite frankly, that these large companies have.

There's not the level of competition that we need in this industry. That's why, in a New America Foundation report in 2010 comparing 11 countries, Canada has by far the highest cellphone, wireless phone and smart phone service charges of any of these countries. We need to do something about that, folks. We need to do something about that right now. Consumers are being gouged. It is unfair. We're looking for some levelling of the playing field. These contracts are clearly one-sided.

Perhaps there will be a day when there will be adequate choice in the marketplace, when there will be more market share by different companies. But for the major companies to create other brands and try to create an illusion that there's competition in the marketplace is really misleading and unfair to consumers.

So, Speaker, I'm hoping members of the Legislature will support this legislation. It's good policy and it's good for consumers who are being charged far too excessively for their cellphones and their smart phones in the province of Ontario.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from Prince Edward-Hastings.

Mr. Todd Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and congratulations on your appointment.

I'd like to thank my colleague the member from Sault Ste. Marie for bringing this bill forward. It calls attention to an issue of growing concern across the province. There are thousands of Ontarians who are signing up for wireless phones. There's always some kind of new innovation or smart phone out there. We witnessed a couple of weeks ago, actually, when Ontario residents lined up to get the new iPhone 4S for hours and hours and hours. So I thank the member from the Soo for bringing this issue before the House today.

I speak to this as the PC critic for small business and red tape reduction. I do have a few concerns about this bill, however. To start, I have to admit I find it somewhat hypocritical to have the member for Sault Ste. Marie stand up and propose a bill that changes existing contracts when his party has spent the better part of two weeks in this Legislature telling members of the official opposition that they won't change existing public sector union contracts to implement a mandatory public sector wage freeze. I suppose that only Working Families' allies are subject to having their contracts upheld.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague the member from Sault Ste. Marie has raised many important issues with regard to the reliable delivery of wireless and smart phone services in the province of Ontario. Another concern I have is that, traditionally, telecommunications regulation has been federal jurisdiction in the province of Ontario, and I have a concern that this bill would increase red tape and regulation in this province and increase the overhead for telecommunications companies in billing and activation that will increase costs for the average consumer.

There are some technical details regarding the activation of prepaid calling cards that will require further study and exploration as we examine the total implications of implementing such policy. They'll also have to look very closely at the advertising provisions to ensure that no one's right to free expression is shortchanged in the name of increased regulation.

By the way, Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the members from York-Simcoe and Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

Now, with that having been said, I do believe that I'll be able to find some common ground with my colleague the member from Sault Ste. Marie on this issue and on many of the concerns of this bill brings to our stage, and we'll take it to the committee stage.

Back home in Hastings county we've got a saying that "No idea is so dangerous that it can't even be talked about." I believe that my colleague the member from Sault Ste. Marie is a reasonable man who wants to work with the opposition in committee and wants to ensure that we have legislation that succeeds not only in protecting consumer interests, but also in keeping the costs of doing business in the province of Ontario down while we work through this troubled economic time that we're in right now.

I'll be supporting this bill at second reading because I believe in compromise. I believe that the people of Ontario sent a minority government to this Legislature to achieve compromise. While the members on the government benches will demonstrate later this afternoon that they don't believe in compromise and they refuse to work with the opposition, they'll find no such closed-mindedness from me on this bill.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from Timmons-James Bay.

M. Gilles Bisson: Merci beaucoup, monsieur le Président. C'est avec plaisir qu'on a finalement l'occasion de parler dans cette Assemblée d'un projet de loi d'un de mes collègues du nord de l'Ontario. Je veux dire félicitations. On a tout fait pour être capable de s'assurer que t'es pas là, mais t'as gagné. Il faut accepter que t'es là.

That's what's so much fun, saying that in French.

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Donc, c'est pour dire une couple d'affaires. Premièrement, que nous, les néo-démocrates, on va voter en faveur de ce projet de loi, parce qu'on voit ça comme une opportunité d'être capable de protéger les consommateurs quand ça vient aux abus qui existent quand le monde signe avec les compagnies de communication pour leurs portatifs. Donc, on pense que c'est une bonne idée. Mais c'est rien de vraiment extraordinaire. C'est pas quelque chose comme-j'entends le débat un peu aujourd'hui, puis le monde est en train de dire, "Oh my God, this is this, this is that." Écoute : on a de la législation qui est un peu la même dans d'autres secteurs de l'économie ontarienne.

Par exemple, ceux qui vendent des autos dans nos municipalités à Sudbury, à Timmins et à Toronto, eux-autres sont le sujet d'un projet de loi qui dit qu'il y a des règles pour la manière que tu peux faire des publicités envers ventes en automobiles, parce qu'il y avait toujours la situation où certains mettaient pas tous les frais de transportation, les taxes et autres dans le prix quand ils mettaient ça sur papier, à la radio et à la télévision. Puis les personnes disaient « Ben, je peux acheter ce char-là pour 15 000 pièces, puis 22 000 pièces quelque part d'autre ». Mais la raison c'était à 15 000 pièces, c'est parce que les publications disaient pas, « Il faut que tu payes tous ces autres frais au-dessus du prix de l'automobile au détaillant ».

Donc, c'est rien d'extraordinaire, c'est rien de nouveau. C'est quelque chose qui existe déjà, puis je pense que c'est quelque chose qui est parfaitement logique.

I was just saying to members, in case they weren't listening to the translated version of my great oratory-I'm just joking, because it wasn't all that great. I just want to say, there's nothing earth-shattering with this particular bill.

First of all, members may remember or may not remember that not too long ago we passed legislation in this Legislature that does similar things when it comes to the automotive industry. There were dealers' associations in Toronto and dealers' associations across Ontario who represent car dealerships who were really mad because some of the dealers would say, "Hey, I got a great deal on a car: $15,000 for this new car," and they wouldn't list all of the various fees in the advertisement. So I'm a Ford dealer and she's a Ford dealer, and I decide I want to get the customers to come into my place first. She advertises the full sticker price and I would go out and advertise just the basic price without transportation and all the other fees put on automobiles when it comes to the sale. So it was a mechanism by which you try to attract people in the door so that once you got them there, you could sell them the car. Was that fair? Was that right? Absolutely not, because this particular dealer-and I'm pointing to my good friend the member from Nickel Belt-is the honest one, right?


Mme France Gélinas: I would have been honest.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: She was honest. I know that my good friend France Gélinas would be honest-

Interjection: That says something about you.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: And it says something about me. Exactly. Have you been to my fundraisers lately? That's an inside joke. Honest-but, you know, I'm not afraid of them.

Anyway, so the point is, she was doing the right thing in trying to inform the consumer, "Here's the all-in price when it comes to the sale of my car or truck." I, on the other hand, might be just advertising the base price without all the add-ons.

We passed legislation in this House, and the minister will remember-I think it was under you when you were minister, actually, sir, that we brought in legislation that we supported and we thought made a lot of sense, because now the dealers across this province have to put, in the sticker price, what it costs. I think they don't have to put in the tax, but I think at least they've got to put in all of the other costs.

We still have a problem, because we know we have, for example, that company that sells cars on the Internet, where they're not selling cars-where they're actually advertising the price of the car at a particular price that is not actually the full price. But we can deal with that with amendments to the legislation.

So the member is trying to do something that I think is perfectly logical, and that is saying, "Listen, tell the consumer what they're in for." All they know is, they walk in and they say, "Listen, I want a cellphone," and most people either haven't got the time or the inclination to figure out what's in the fine print, including most of the people in this assembly. If you think we have a monopoly on smartness in this place, I would say that's probably not the case, because I would venture to think that some of us signed cell packages, at one point in our lives, where we got caught in exactly the same web that the member is trying to fix. So I'd just say, we're supportive of that.

The other thing I just want to say: I heard the comments in regard to, "This is like the stripping of collective agreements." Well, it's a little bit of a stretch; come on. I've got a lot of respect for my colleague on this side of the House, but there is a difference here. This is a protection for consumers when it comes to what the sticker price should be. My collective agreement is pretty clear. It says in it, "You get paid so much per hour, and here are the benefits," and everybody knows that there are not three different rates that the employer can hide on you, saying, "You're going to get paid a different rate; I just don't need to talk to you about the other two." The collective agreement is essentially the same concept as the member puts forward. So I thought, very good argument, though. I have to say the member learns quick. He was really trying to make a good point there, but I just wanted to make that point.

I would not be complete in this debate if I didn't talk about cell service in two parts of my riding, because most of you know that if the phone isn't ringing, you're probably in my riding somewhere.


Mme France Gélinas: Or mine.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Or France's. There are plenty of areas where there is no cell service-and where there is a fairly large population-in ridings like Nickel Belt, Timmins-James Bay and, I would imagine, Timiskaming-Cochrane and others. I just want to say that we've been doing fairly good work with an organization called NEOnet, which is funded by both the provincial and federal governments, in order to be able to try to increase services in those ridings, and I'm told that as of about two weeks ago, we can drive up the 144 and we can have a chat with each other on our hands-free-

Mme France Gélinas: No. From the watershed, Westree and Shining Tree-dead.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: Ah. There we go. See? We've still got areas of blackouts. So I want to say, we still have work to do in northern Ontario when it comes to closing the gap.

But I do have some good news. The community of Val Rita, where there is a great big black hole between Val Rita to about just shy of Opasatika on Highway 11, on the way to Hearst-it's been a pretty dead spot for a long time, and it looks like we're finally moving forward and trying to get that hole filled by cellular service within the next 12 months. So that's good news.

The last point-because I know my colleague wants to speak, and I'm going to do this really fast.


Mme France Gélinas: That's fast.

Mr. Gilles Bisson: That's fast? Okay.

Moose Factory: I've got to tell you, the Moosonee-Moose Factory cell service system is the most frustrating thing I've ever had to go with. Can you imagine: We own a company through Ontario Northland, the ONTC, called the Ontario northern telecommunications corporation. We're the ones who installed the cell service up there, brand new. We just put it in two years ago-no, a year ago-and it doesn't work with anybody else's technology. What is going on? I go up there and, literally, because I have a digital phone, it won't ring. I can't text out, I can't email out, but I can dial out. But it won't ring. So I'm just hoping that one day Ontario Northland is going to finally figure out how to make cell service work on the James Bay, and I'm just talking about the very south tip of the James Bay. It's not even in the James Bay, it's on the Moose River between Moosonee and Moose Factory.

With that, I know ma collègue wants to say a few words. I thank you very much for the opportunity to give the speech, and I'm going to stop now so my colleague has the time left on the clock.


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

Ms. Helena Jaczek: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and it's a great pleasure to see you in that chair. As a former member of the rump, I think we're all delighted to see you in such an august position.

It really gives me great pleasure to speak to the member for Sault Ste. Marie's bill today. I spoke on it when he introduced it previously, and in fact I think I've spoken on every single one of the member's bills since I was elected in 2007. I think our new members here, our colleagues, will soon realize that he has put a great deal of thought into each of his bills, and this one in particular, when you see the detail that is comprised within the bill.

I think probably just about everybody has a cellphone story. We've heard that some 81% of Ontarians use cellphones, and I was interested to learn that the Consumers Council of Canada has done a report on the fact and did some surveys to find that "wireless service is a source of confusion for consumers: 40% of cellphone users are unsure of fees that are contained in their monthly bill."

Now, normally I would be someone who believes in buyer beware: You look at the product, you analyze whether it's worth the price and you go ahead and make your purchase or not. But this is one, clearly, where it's a little more complicated than buying a new pair of shoes. There are so many options, there are so many hidden fees.

I know in the case of my own family, as my father was in his mid- to late 80s, we decided he really needed a cellphone so that when he went out for his long walks, and as he insisted to continue to do the grocery shopping himself, he would have a phone so he would be able to contact one of us if he didn't feel well, or even perhaps access his physician or some emergency assistance. When it became obvious that he was not going to be able to continue to use the phone-I remember trying speed dials and so on to make it as simple as possible-we looked, finally, into that cancellation fee and we were just astonished at the expense that would be incurred in a situation like that, where he clearly was not going to be able to use the phone for the full three years. So one of the important aspects that the member brought forward is to limit that cancellation fee, that there be simply a 30-day notice and a limit to the cost of the cancellation.

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Some of the conditions that he's put in this bill are things that some cellphone companies have responded to: as an example, to notify the consumer when they may incur additional charges as a result of exceeding usage limits. I know that, in my own case, certainly I get the message, but some do not. Clearly, we want to level the playing field and ensure that that provision is a mandatory one. In some jurisdictions, I understand that when you reach a certain limit, you will actually have your phone cut off so that you are absolutely sure that you will not use to the extent over your planned budget.

I'd simply like to say in closing that the member has received a number of endorsements. One that I think really summarizes things and I hope will, in fact, result in us passing this bill at second reading is a quote from Mel Fruitman, the vice-president of the Consumers' Association of Canada. He says, "This protection for consumers is necessary and long overdue. We can see no reason why this act would not receive all-party support and be quickly passed." I certainly hope that that happens a little later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wish to compliment you on your position today. It's good to see you in that chair.

Anybody who has had the benefit of knowing anybody who owns a cellphone has heard of many problems. I had the challenge of having three students in university who all had them. I think that this bill is important because it lays out exactly what the charges are and looks at some of the issues that many of our consumers have. As the consumer critic, I think it's important to look at those and work with our members of this Legislature relating to improving the service.

Cancellation fees: Anybody with children has heard numerous stories of how the cellphone was damaged, not working, whatever happened to it, and then be forced with some of the charges because you're locked in. I think we just need to clarify that.

We also need to clarify some of the rates. When you're signing up for these things, whether it be a family plan, I think it's important that people know what they're buying, and the length of term. It's a matter of getting an overall good package.

I look at some of the data that's been provided. Our cell rates are certainly not the cheapest in North America; they're some of the more expensive. I know there are some reasons for that. Again, I would like to see some local input into some of the coverage areas. I see some of these towers up-the neighbourhoods have to put up with them, and three miles away from the tower there's no cell service. Obviously, the technology allows for it. It's a blind spot that, with a little help from the cell companies, could cover these areas, because cell service is becoming almost an essential service. Many of the younger generation don't have a land line anymore. So it's important that, in the case of emergencies, the infrastructure is used to its maximum.

I come from a riding with in the neighbourhood of 25 to 30 cell towers, and we have many dead spots very close to these towers. Again, I think that if the cell companies were forced to work with municipalities-and I'm not saying to drive up costs, but where there's infrastructure, trying to leverage it.

We're looking here at an overall package to improve the enjoyment of the cell service to our consumers. It's an important service, it's an essential service and, in many cases, it's the only alternative. So I will be supporting this bill. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from Nickel Belt.

Mme France Gélinas: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and congratulations on your new position. It suits you.

I, too, will be pleased to add my voice to Bill 5, a bill that I think will be very useful. What we have right now is self-regulation of an industry, and the results speak for themselves: Self-regulation does not work. How do I know this? I have statistics coming out of everywhere.

The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunication Services, better known as the CCTS, reports that complaints about wireless carriers comprised 52% of the complaints it received in 2009-10. More than half of all of the complaints had to do with cellular phone providers, and 75% of those complaints about post-paid wireless services received by the CCTS fell within the following categories: billing errors; termination disputes-the member sure talked at length about people terminating their contract but still paying for it months and sometimes years later; and consumer service grievances on terms and conditions, that is, a package that you did not want suddenly gets added on to your bill etc.

The cellular phone service is also the business category for which the Better Business Bureau in Canada has processed the most complaints this year. This is an industry for which self-regulation does not work. Complaints about cellphone and long distance charges consistently appear on the Ministry of Consumer Services's annual list of top 10 consumer complaints. It doesn't matter where you look, if people have an opportunity to complain, they will complain about the contracts that the cellular industry has forced them into. It needs to be regulated, and I think this bill will do that.

What will the bill do? It will clearly disclose the cost of all optional and mandatory services. It will include service agreements in plain language, making them easier for you and me to understand. It will reduce cancellation fees charged to the consumer. It will improve transparency regarding the automatic renewal that sometimes happens when your contract is finished. It will notify the consumer when they may incur additional charges as a result of exceeding usage limits. The member talked about signing on to a package that was supposed to be 20 bucks for voice, data and text and then the bill comes in at $120-no more of that. It will make costs more transparent when advertising the price, and make sure that you can unlock a device that you own.

Ça me fait extrêmement plaisir d'ajouter mon appui au projet de loi 5, parce qu'en ce moment, l'autoréglementation de cette industrie ne fonctionne pas. Ça ne fonctionne pas parce que, peu importe où on regarde, les gens font des plaintes. Ils font des plaintes en masse et ça ne change rien.

L'industrie essaie de nous dire : « Oh, on a mis en place des nouvelles façons de communiquer avec nos consommateurs qui sont plus claires et plus faciles à comprendre. » Bien, tout ce que j'ai à répondre à ça est : pourquoi est-ce que le nombre de plaintes continue d'augmenter plutôt que de diminuer et que les gens continuent à se faire avoir, quand une compagnie va nous faire accroire que vous pouvez avoir autant les appels, les textos, les courriels, tout ça inclus dans un paquet de 20 $, mais que lorsque la facture arrive, la facture est vraiment de 120 $? Essayer de te sortir de ça devient très, très compliqué. Je pense que Fort Knox était plus facile qu'un contrat de cellulaire.

Donc, c'est un projet de loi qui est dû. J'espère qu'il sera accepté bientôt. Merci, monsieur le Président.


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

Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Thank you, Speaker. My congratulations to you on your appointment. You look great up there.

It's a pleasure to join the debate today, and I really want to express my admiration for the member from Sault Ste. Marie, because the private members' bills he brings forward often meet with the approval of the House and turn into good policy that's adopted by the government or is put forward to benefit the people of the province of Ontario.

In the past, he has brought forward initiatives that have resulted in increased breast cancer screening and spoken to the need for more civility in our society, with the Apology Act. He also brought in a bill regarding second-hand smoke in automobiles, which is something that I think we would all agree we want to see a lot less of.

When he brings forward a bill, I think it's always well prepared, as this one is, and it always speaks to issues in a very practical way that allows you, as a member of either of the parties represented here, to put yourself in a consumer's shoes in this respect. I think we've all made those phone calls-I would imagine we've all got cellphones in this House-where the first thing you hear is, "We're experiencing a period of high call volumes." I don't know when they experience a period of low call volumes, but I haven't met it yet, and I don't think I will. I think you really start to feel that you as a consumer don't stand on an equal footing with the three sort of main providers in Canada.

I think the initiative that's being brought forward today by the member from Sault Ste. Marie allows consumers in the province of Ontario to feel that they do have equal footing when they enter into that contract.

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Cellphones are a part of everyday life now. I think it is something that is a basic service; it's not a luxury anymore. It's something that we all employ in our daily lives, but for some reason the marketing of that service, the enticement to purchase that product, often has far-reaching ramifications into the contract in the future. Often you don't realize the ramifications until something happens, until you lose the phone or until you want to change your service or until you think you're being charged too much. And when you start to make those inquiries of the phone company or the cellphone company at that time, you realize that at the period when you signed up you didn't ask the right questions, you didn't get the right information, and that information was not offered to you either, or, if it was, it was in very, very small print.

Now, if you talk to the cellphone companies themselves, I think they'll tell you that they think they are doing a pretty good job, that they've got the best customer service, that their customer service is better than their competitors'. I think it has been raised today by other members that the facts tell a much different story, that complaints over cellphone service in the province of Ontario and in Canada are way up. I think somebody mentioned they were up over 100% this year alone. That tells me that something needs to be done. That tells me that it's not a partisan issue. That tells me that just as an ordinary person in the province of Ontario, you'd like to know you've got protection when you enter into a contract on such a basic service.

I think the advice given today by the member from Sault Ste. Marie is sound advice. As I said earlier, I think it's practical advice and I think it deserves the support of the full House. I'll be supporting it, certainly, Speaker, and would urge all other members to as well. Thank you.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from York-Simcoe.

Mrs. Julia Munro: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I'd certainly want to echo those sentiments that have already been expressed on seeing you in the chair. It certainly looks like the right place.

I'm pleased to be able to have a few minutes to rise and make a few comments on Bill 5. The member for Sault Ste. Marie has again introduced an interesting bill in this House which deals with a very important, yet in some areas complicated, subject.

I think today comments are in agreement on the fact that we would all say that cellphones are certainly believed by many to be an almost universal necessity, and I always find it amusing when my more urbanite acquaintances can't believe that there are dead spots. Well, there are even dead spots on my way home in northern York region, and so it's a kind of reminder about the fact that the technology, while it's a huge boon to most people, still obviously is somewhat compromised by the fact of the dead spots. The member for Timmins-James Bay, of course, can refer to areas much larger than mine. Nevertheless, I think it's important to note that it's there.

If this bill passes second reading today, we will need committee hearings to hear from consumers' groups on the benefits of the bill. As well, we need to hear from the industry whether this bill would help or hinder the growth of a strong telecommunications industry in Ontario. Therefore, I will be supporting this bill at second reading, because I want to find out more about what it means for consumers and for the industry.

I think there are a couple of principles that we have to look at here in this discussion, and the first one is that we must strongly support consumer protection with clear and transparent rules dealing with wireless phone contracts. Others have mentioned the importance of plain language in contracts and the importance of full disclosure, that you find out what it is in terms of the full price. I think those are extremely important examples of the need for strong consumer protection.

But secondly, we should strongly support an open market for wireless services, allowing individuals to make their own choices in a competitive marketplace that keeps prices low.

There are three issues I would just like to highlight and that others have in some way referred to as well but I think are important points about the bill. The question of the contractual provisions-we've already seen reference made to the importance of plain language. That particular issue has meant that the variances in packages that different providers promote can lead to some difficulty for consumers in terms of comparison-shopping. I think that the efforts on plain language particularly, and full disclosure, will go a long way to making sure that those contract provisions continue.

The second is the danger of patchwork regulatory regimes. The member for Sault Ste. Marie referenced the fact that work has been done in Quebec and is under way in Manitoba. My concern is that we don't want to have a patchwork, and I don't see any indication here that the bill contemplates working towards a common national framework.

Finally, I would just say that the question of the application in this new bill, where the bill would make every wireless contract subject to new regulations, is a concern to me, for two reasons. One is that it appears to contemplate retroactive regulation, which is not usually done-it's usually grandfathered-and I don't want it to be ultimately in a more complex environment than currently exists. I think that would be a contradiction of the purpose of this bill.

From the brief comments I've made, I think it becomes obvious that more discussion and analysis is required, such a process that committee hearings would provide. We all want to do what is best for consumers, but we must make sure that this bill is the best option. We cannot damage the ability of our wireless industry to compete. If we harm the industry, it will only harm consumers in the end.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from Eglinton-Lawrence.

Mr. Mike Colle: I want to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker. You're the first member from Scarborough to ever sit in that seat, so Frank Faubert would be proud.

Anyway, I just want to get to the bill. This bill is very important, and I heard the member stand up and say that this might harm the Canadian telecommunication wireless companies from competing. They don't compete; they're basically a monopoly that works together. They don't compete. This is like the big oil companies. Competition in telecommunications and the cellphone industry? They don't compete, because the CRTC basically holds their hand. They do what they want, and people pay $60, $80, $100, $200-$5,000 a month sometimes-for these cellphones. It is just out of control.

Six million, seven million, eight million cellphones in Ontario alone, probably-there are no controls. Everybody complains about hydro bills, gas bills. These guys are getting away with murder and nobody says anything. Thank God the member from Sault Ste. Marie has the guts to stand up to these monopolies and say that we've got to stand up for the consumers of Ontario. We can't allow this to continue.

I hear my Conservative friends saying, "We've got to be careful with this poor industry. We've got to be careful with these poor cellphone companies." The cellphone companies are doing very, very well. They're advertising. They've got young people in a frenzy. What do they have now-these iPhone 4s or something? They're going to shopping malls with their pepper spray, lining up to buy cellphones.

We have to slow it down so that at least the contracts are in simple Canadian Tire English. God forbid that you need a team of Bay Street lawyers to read a contract to have a cellphone. Try and go through that contract. It is impossible. And every contract is the same, whether it's one of the big three-they all have the same mumbo-jumbo, and we accept that.

Will it cost these companies any money to write a contract in simple English? I don't think so. It will at least allow the consumers to understand what they're signing. And they're not only signing it for themselves; in many cases, as one of the members said, it's for your children and your family. So you can imagine how we could at least save some aggravation by understanding what we're getting into.

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Then there's always the bait and switch. Thirty-five bucks gets you a cellphone for life. Then, when you start getting the bills, you basically have a second mortgage on your house almost, because you signed this contract that nobody read. And then you try to get them to explain it on the phone, then you're waiting on the line: "We'll get a customer service person for you." Five, 10 people later, then you get the brush-off and you're back at it again. This bill would at least try to bring some transparency.

I can't believe the former Premier of New Brunswick there standing up and saying that this is going to add cost and more regulation. Well, what kind of cost will it be to the poor telecommunications giants to lower their cancellation fees? What cost will it be to require them to unlock customers' phones? What's the cost there? And what cost will it be to eliminate that bait-and-switch thing with the prepaid phone cards that shouldn't have a date on them-because we did that with the old Christmas card scheme, remember, a few years ago, where you would have a gift card and then they would scam you at the end.

Let's stand up for consumers. Let's not worry about our poor friends in the big monopolies. Stand up for the consumers.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member from Sault Ste. Marie, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr. David Orazietti: Thank you, Speaker. I want to thank the members from Oak Ridges-Markham, Oakville, Eglinton-Lawrence, Prince Edward-Hastings, York-Simcoe, Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, Timmins-James Bay and Nickel Belt for speaking to the legislation today.

Folks, clearly we need to get this into committee. I'm certainly interested in seeing a national framework. In the absence of that, we cannot allow the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, which has basically brainwashed the CRTC to ignore consumers, to not care, like they're in some cozy club in Ottawa asleep at the switch, saying that it's okay to have these types of contracts for consumers. It's unacceptable, Speaker. It's unacceptable, it's price gouging and it's unfair to consumers. We've got the stats. They're right here: 11 countries surveyed. We are the highest by a mile; it's not even close. We need to get these contracts into a level playing field.

I'm certainly happy to see this bill go to committee and see the companies come here and have that discussion with the folks, and also have consumers and consumer association groups come here and have that discussion. The consumer association groups are onside. They support it. One after another after another, they all agree that we need to do something. There is not competition in this sector in Canada. There's the illusion of competition with many brands; the licensing in the spectrum is very, very narrow. There's not competition, and in the absence of that we need to make sure that we protect consumers, who are suffering from ridiculously excessive cellphone rates, cancellation rates and all kinds of other hidden charges, fees and misleading advertising that are playing havoc in this industry.

Folks, I really call on your support today to take action to protect consumers from this price gouging. It's a pocketbook issue that consumers want addressed. The time for action is now. Let's get this into committee. Thank you.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The vote on Bill 5 will take place later today.

LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
DEMOCRACY ACT, 2011 /
LOI DE 2011 SUR LA DÉMOCRATIE
AU SEIN DES MUNICIPALITÉS LOCALES

Mr. Smith moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 10, An Act to amend the Green Energy Act, 2009 and the Planning Act / Projet de loi 10, Loi modifiant la Loi de 2009 sur l'énergie verte et la Loi sur l'aménagement du territoire.


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

Mr. Todd Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm rising in the Legislature today so that my constituents can be heard. I'm here, Mr. Speaker, because as far as the people of Prince Edward county are concerned, what's transpiring on their south shore has gone on long enough.

They have different reasons for being upset. Some are lifelong county residents, fiercely proud of its history and its landscape, and determined to maintain the tranquility of the south shore against industrial development. Some are newcomers to the county. They have made a retirement investment in the region as a place where their grandchildren can visit them. Their real estate values are crashing because of the proposed development on the south shore.

There are citizens concerned about the long-term health side effects from these turbines as well. They've sent countless studies to my office to make me aware of what the emergency room in Picton could be dealing with, should these turbines go in. There are naturalists who monitor the designated important bird areas on the south shore of Prince Edward county. The examples set by California and nearby Wolfe Island are telling in this regard, as rare bird fatalities have skyrocketed in these jurisdictions.

Because he's so popular with members on the government side of the House, allow me to quote Dr. David Suzuki in regard to the placing of these turbines in important bird areas: ". . . we've got to choose our sites so that we don't endanger wildlife. If there are aesthetic reasons, we've got to take that into account. If there are setbacks that are needed, we've got to take that into consideration."

I'm not here as a naturalist or a retiree. I'm not here as a lifelong county resident or a health care professional from Picton. I'm here as their representative, because for a very long time, Mr. Speaker, there was no one bringing the voice of Prince Edward county to this chamber.

Several of my colleagues are set to speak later today, because this issue goes far beyond the borders of Prince Edward county. On Ontario's beautiful west and south coasts, these massive industrial wind factories are pockmarking the landscape. Fortunately, we don't have any yet in Prince Edward county.

A farmer can't erect a barn on his property in North Hastings without jumping through nine kinds of municipal and provincial hoops. The municipality of Centre Hastings, in my riding, has been battling the Ministry of Transportation for months to get a McDonald's put in at the intersection of two major provincial highways. Wind developers, however, aren't required to get municipal permits, petition to change municipal plans or work within municipal bylaws. To justify the out-of-control spending and unrealistic notions of this government, they've given wind developers and solar developers the ability to bend, break and ignore municipal bylaws in a way that many other businesses would be whacked rather severely for.

Mr. Speaker, if there was an industrial park going in on the south shore of Prince Edward county that was the size of the proposed Gilead and White Pines developments, with the same health and environmental concerns, not only would the municipality of Prince Edward county be justified in forcing them to comply with municipal bylaws and permits, but the provincial Ministers of Health, the Environment and Municipal Affairs would be in an uproar in this very chamber.

There are more than a dozen municipalities in my riding, and from the south shore of Prince Edward county all the way to Hastings Highlands, the message of my municipal counterparts is the same: They want their planning authority back so that they can deal with the green energy nightmares imposed on them by the government in the same way that they would deal with any other industrial project.

Mr. Speaker, there are plenty of renewable energy projects that those municipalities want. There are files on the Marmora pumped storage facility-


Mr. John Yakabuski: Good project.

Mr. Todd Smith: -great project-Bancroft Light and Power and Bancroft biomass, which have sat on a desk at the Ministry of Energy for the last eight years. Those facilities are going to create real, high-paying jobs for the people of Marmora, North Hastings, Centre Hastings, Peterborough-the list goes on and on.

We're talking about three facilities that together will create more than 200 jobs. Even the most ideal estimates surrounding the wind factory plan for Prince Edward county state that the project will create maybe eight jobs. It's tough to understand why a government that keeps crowing about its job creation numbers doesn't realize that 200 is bigger than eight.


Mr. John Yakabuski: But they have trouble with numbers.

Mr. Todd Smith: I know they do.

The government will call this NIMBYism. They'll try to convince citizens with a right to be environmentally conscientious that this will lead to municipalities en masse rejecting renewable energy projects. They'll do that because that's the history of this government: destroy, denigrate and flat-out deny.

That's not what my bill accomplishes. This bill just allows a municipality to maintain setbacks from the road so that they aren't creating a visual obstruction and a traffic hazard. This bill allows a municipality to draft an official plan for these projects so that wind developers aren't killing endangered birds en masse on the south shore of Prince Edward county.

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This bill makes sure that the legitimate health concerns of citizens can be expressed to their municipal council and that council can then actually do something about it.

I'm imploring my colleagues in this chamber to act in the best interest of local democracy. When these developers leave these communities, they're leaving a legacy that damages the landscape forever and endangers the health of those who have to literally live in the shadow of the turbine. These people will have to live with the consequences. They ought to have a say in the decision.

Yesterday, the Ministry of the Environment put the Gilead Power project for the south shore of Prince Edward county on registry. Just consider that for a second: The Ministry of the Environment is promoting a project-I wish the minister were here. The Ministry of the Environment is promoting a project that will kill rare birds-


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Excuse me. I would remind the member that you're not supposed make any indication that someone is not here.

Mr. Todd Smith: Thank you. I'll take that into consideration.

The Ministry of the Environment is promoting a project on the south shore of Prince Edward county that will kill rare birds. It will sabotage the habitat of endangered species and forever mar the landscape of Prince Edward county. Why is this ministry doing this? They're doing it to protect the environment. That's what they say. Allow me to speak for the people of Prince Edward county when I say that they could do without this government's idea of protection.

As I've said previously, this issue does extend far beyond my riding of Prince Edward-Hastings, and I look forward to hearing from my colleagues who are also dealing with this issue in their ridings. But allow me to just broaden the scope slightly and leave the shores of beautiful Prince Edward county for a moment.

A package was sent from my office to the members this week. In it, I'm proud to say, this bill had the proud support of the mayor of Bancroft. Bancroft is about as far away from the south shore of Prince Edward county as you can get in my riding. So why is the mayor of Bancroft supporting this bill? The answer is simple: The mayor loves the idea of conservation and being environmentally conscious, but she wants Bancroft council to have the power to establish setback restrictions from the road in North Hastings. As in many rural communities across the province, narrow roads and rough terrain are enough of a traffic hazard without adding another obstruction at the roadside. Businesses can't put a sign too close to the road without a municipal permit; however, the Green Energy Act, as it currently is written, means that a solar developer has rights that no other business has.

I think our colleagues on the other side of the House forget that our municipal politicians are elected representatives as well. They share a taxpayer with us, they share the same constituents we do, and they expect us to treat them as partners in our democracy. Why, then, has the government allowed the Green Energy Act to turn them into lawn jockeys on this particular issue? This, sadly, is not uncommon when we're talking about the tactics of this government.

I know that there are members on the government benches that have municipalities in their riding that have passed resolutions asking for the very powers that this bill would give them. I know that those members would love to vote with the expressed wishes of their constituents, and I would urge those constituents to remember how those votes were cast today. I'd urge those constituents to have very long memories about how the votes were cast, if they end up living in the shadow of a turbine.

The government has said on many occasions in this House that the economy is in an unstable situation. The economy is indeed in an unstable situation. According to the president of the Brampton Real Estate Board, houses in proximity to industrial wind factories will suffer from the same negative property assessments as those homes which are located in proximity to garbage dumps and quarries.

So what we have is an environmental policy that kills rare birds and destabilizes the habitat of endangered species, we have an economic policy that devalues homes, and we have an intergovernmental relations policy that totally ignores the other affected level of government.

Other members have asked me, "Why should municipalities have any input?" Well, if this government refuses to protect the wildlife in Prince Edward county, then the government of Prince Edward county should be able to. And if this government refuses to protect the homes and the investments made by these families in their own futures, then the government of Saugeen Shores should be able to. And if the government refuses to treat municipal governments like able partners, then they refuse to acknowledge the democratic franchise in every Ontarian who voted in a municipal election about a year ago.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to conclude my remarks to this chamber by reading some remarks that my friend the member from Beaches-East York made in the last session of this House:

"The screams may not be coming because everybody's got their fingers crossed. I know they've got their fingers crossed: `Please don't let it be me.' They're just hoping that of the 450 municipalities, it happens to somebody else. But I will tell you, when it happens, as it has to the city of Toronto and the port lands, there are going to be screams. When it happens, Mr. Rinaldi, in your riding, there are going to be screams. In yours, Mr. Lalonde, in yours, Mr. Flynn, and in yours, Mr. Brownell, there are going to be screams when the municipality has no say whatsoever on the siting of energy plants. People are going to wake up and they're suddenly going to start asking why and how this has happened. We're going to be able to point the finger pretty bluntly...."

Mr. Speaker, it's worth noting that of the four members mentioned in this quote by the member from Beaches-East York, only the member from Oakville still sits in this House, and only the member from Oakville had the power project scheduled for his riding cancelled. Amazing.

Mr. Speaker, the screams that the member from Beaches-East York was talking about were out in front of the Legislature today. I'm in the Legislature today to point the finger, as my friend the member from Beaches-East York said we would eventually have to.

I'm urging my friends in the NDP to heed the call of their colleague the member from Beaches-East York and vote for Bill 10 today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


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

Mr. David Zimmer: Thank you, Speaker. Well, I'm opposed to this bill, and here's why. Eight short weeks ago, the PCs over there lost the election. One their key election messages was to scrap the Green Energy Act, and they wanted to move us away from dirty coal and-and we want to move to clean energy. So today what they're trying to do is to scrap the Green Energy Act by stealth.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Point of order, Mr. Speaker-

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): There's no point of order during debate.

Mr. John Yakabuski: You haven't even heard my point of order. You haven't even heard what I have to ask.

Interjections.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Member from-

Mr. John Yakabuski: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Go ahead, state your point of order.

Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you very much. You'll shortly be able to tell me it's not a point of order, I'm sure, but at least give me the opportunity to tell you what I'm asking.

The member cannot make statements like that when he knows full well that it's not the truth. Thank you very much, Speaker.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member from Willowdale.

Mr. David Zimmer: Thank you. Anyway, back with my truthful comments. Look, here's the flaw in the legislation-they were opposed to it during the election. The people of Ontario spoke, and they got 37 seats. Now they're trying to sort of do it by stealth, by nibbling away at it. Here's the flaw in the legislation: There are 444-

Mr. John Yakabuski: How much did your numbers go up?

Mr. David Zimmer: Are you going to listen? Speaker-

Interjection.


Mr. David Zimmer: There are 444 municipalities-

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, come to order, please.

Mr. David Zimmer: There are 444 municipalities in Ontario. What the bill proposes to do is to give each one of those municipal jurisdictions, in effect, a veto, because they'll have their own approvals process. So what's going to happen then, we're going to have 440 applications by way of appeal, so whoever-you know, the municipality is going to set up their approvals process under this bill, so somebody wins, somebody loses, and the loser ends up appealing it. It's going to be an administrative nightmare.

Here's what we've decided to do. As a part of the FIT review program, which was announced last month, we are in fact looking at a process for more local input and changes that we might be inclined to make to facilitate the approvals process. But we are not in a position to accept a veto by 440 municipalities that is going to create a nightmare patchwork existence throughout Ontario. Nobody will know what's happening.

Now, my friend talked-

Interjections.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Can I ask those on my left-I think that when your speaker had the floor, the House was very quiet-that you would offer this speaker the same opportunity?

1530


Mr. David Zimmer: The FIT review process that I've talked about started October 31, 2011-just last month. At the end of that review process, we are going to make, I expect, some adjustments and refinements.

But talk about respect for municipalities: During the election campaign, our promise was to continue with our uploading of expenses from the municipalities to the province. It's a program that we started a number of years ago. It's about $1.5 billion; we're $1 billion into it. The leader of the PC opposition's position-


Mr. John Yakabuski: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Get to your point of order quickly.

Mr. John Yakabuski: The member is expected to speak to the bill in front of the Legislature. That is the standing order.

Mrs. Liz Sandals: You brought up disrespect for municipalities.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member from Willowdale.

Mr. David Zimmer: You brought up disrespect for municipalities. Talk about disrespect for municipalities: We're in the process of uploading $1.5 billion; we're $1 billion through the project. The leader of the opposition showed up at AMO and made this commitment. He said: "If we're elected, if we form the government, that's the end of the upload. The municipalities can eat the remaining $500 million."

Interjections.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order. I would ask the member from Willowdale: Would you please speak through the Speaker to the bill?

Mr. David Zimmer: Speaker, I was addressing the point that they raised about respect for municipalities.

Interjections.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order. The member for Oxford.

Mr. David Zimmer: To quote Shakespeare, methinks the lady doth protest too much over there.

Now, let me say a word about the science, because they're over there, trumping up this thing that everybody's in bad shape, that they're going to have terrible diseases and so on. In fact, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health has conducted a detailed study of the health effects of the wind turbines, and she's concluded that there's no causal connection between the turbines and adverse health conditions.

Here's the quote from Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health. It's quite clear and specific: "There are no direct links between wind turbines and adverse health impacts."

So now we're back to this point of their so-called wish to empower municipalities. This is the same government, when they held office, that forced amalgamation on municipalities. They did all sorts of things. They stripped the money out of municipalities. They downloaded expenses that the province usually carried-court costs, everything else you could imagine-and downloaded it onto the municipalities.

We want to take back those responsibilities. We're prepared to take back $1.5 billion. And again, I repeat for the second time: The leader of the PC Party stood-imagine standing in front of AMO, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and saying to the municipalities, "You eat the $500 million." That's respect for municipalities.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

Mr. Monte McNaughton: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased to rise in support of Bill 10, the Local Municipality Democracy Act, 2011, put forward by my colleague Mr. Smith from the fantastic riding of Prince Edward-Hastings. This is an important bill and one that I proudly support on behalf of my constituents in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, some of whom are here today.

The Local Municipality Democracy Act will amend the Green Energy Act and the Planning Act so that local municipalities can return to their traditional planning processes. You see, Mr. Speaker, as a former three-term municipal councillor, I understand and respect our municipal partners and I support the rights and responsibilities of municipalities to pass bylaws and make these important decisions locally.

I've said this before, and I'm certainly not alone in saying that the greatest injustice of the Dalton McGuinty government is that his bureaucrats are here in downtown Toronto, making decisions about where to locate industrial wind turbines in my riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex and throughout the province of Ontario.

The meat of our debate today is that since the implementation of the Ontario Green Energy Act, municipalities no longer have the ability to incorporate specific requirements within their official plans and zoning bylaws as to appropriate locations and setbacks for these types of facilities. It's an absolute disgrace that the government continues to ignore the will of local residents in the 80 elected municipal councils who have demanded that their local decision-making powers be restored.

For Dalton McGuinty and the government of the day sitting here in Toronto to think that they know what is best for a municipality and its elected council is at best arrogant, but more likely is outright wrong.

In my riding, we've already had resolutions passed by many municipalities and we've heard from residents, families and small businesses. All of them are concerned with the lack of input from town councils in regard to these types of facilities.

This bill addresses these concerns and will make sure that our municipalities, our partners in democracy in government, have a voice and a say in how land within the municipality is developed and utilized.

I have been pleased to work with MPP Smith to help with this important piece of legislation. I look forward to supporting this bill here today and encourage all of my colleagues in this House to support the bill today as well. Thank you.


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

Mr. Reza Moridi: Richmond Hill, Mr. Speaker; Richmond Hill.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Richmond Hill.

Mr. Reza Moridi: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and congratulations on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. I'm pleased to rise in this House to speak on Bill 10, An Act to amend the Green Energy Act, 2009 and the Planning Act.

This act, in essence, is nothing except another attempt from the Conservative Party to kill the green energy initiative of Ontario. When, in 2009, we brought green energy-

Interjections.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): I would like to ask the members in the opposition benches to offer the member the opportunity to make his presentation. If you noticed, with previous speakers on your side of the House, the House was very quiet. Also, I would like to hear the debate.

Please continue.


Mr. Reza Moridi: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In 2009, when we brought the Green Energy Act to this House and it was passed by this Legislature, the Conservative Party opposed this legislation and they have kept opposing this legislation since then. Even in 2011, in the recent election, killing this initiative became one of the pillars of their platform. We all heard about the stories and also discussions about scrapping clean energy and green energy initiatives. So that's not surprising. This is another initiative on the part of the Conservative Party.

But when you look at this Green Energy Act, Mr. Speaker, this is the second major public policy initiative in the history of energy production in this province since the 1950s, when this province introduced nuclear energy into this province. Since then, as we all know, nuclear energy has become one of pillars of energy production of this province-and not only this province, but around the world. Today, we know that our Candu reactors-made-in-Ontario Canadian reactor technology-are producing electricity on three continents. They are safe, they are reliable and they are also inexpensive.

In the same way, the Green Energy Act is producing energy and will become one of the major sources of energy production in this province for the years to come. Within 18 years, wind energy is going to contribute more than 10% of our energy mix in this province, and it's contributing $26 billion of investments. We are in the process of creating a new industry in Ontario, a green energy industry, an industry which didn't exist in the past.

We are getting rid of coal-fired plants in the province of Ontario. Before 2003, 25% of our energy came from burning coal. Now, coal consumption has been reduced to only 3%. So we are making progress in that area.

I urge every member of this House to oppose this legislation because this is against the interests of this province in the area of energy production. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The member from Perth-Wellington.

1540


Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's a real privilege to speak in the Legislature today.

To those who put their confidence in me, I want to say thank you. I want to assure all my constituents, wherever they live, that I will do my very best on their behalf at Queen's Park. As MPPs, we must never forget one of our most important responsibilities, and that is to speak up for those who believe that the government is not listening to their voices and is ignoring their concerns.

That is what I want to do today in speaking in favour of the Local Municipality Democracy Act. My colleague the member from Prince Edward-Hastings deserves enormous credit for introducing this bill, which would restore local municipal control over green energy projects. This is not a debate about green energy itself; it's about the need for the McGuinty government to start treating its municipal partners with respect and recognizing the critical role in the planning process which is rightfully theirs.

I'm told that no fewer than 80 municipal councils have passed resolutions, motions or bylaws regarding industrial wind turbine development and the Green Energy Act. Those include the townships of Mapleton and Wellington North, the municipalities of North Perth and West Perth as well as the county of Wellington-all in my riding of Perth-Wellington. If the government were to really listen to these municipalities, there would be no good reason for them to oppose this bill.

Over and over again, we've heard that the process governing wind farm approvals lacks openness and transparency. That's what I heard on Friday, November 18, when I met with several of my constituents in Wellington county. They have seen first-hand a process that isn't open, isn't transparent and isn't fair. The McGuinty government's policy is pitting neighbour against neighbour, municipality against municipality, and a great many people against the provincial government.

Here's my position, Mr. Speaker: We must restore the municipal planning authority that the McGuinty government stripped away. That's exactly what my colleague's bill will do, and that's why it has my strong support and the strong support of so many of my constituents. So again I congratulate the member from Prince Edward-Hastings, Todd Smith, for bringing forward this bill, and I thank all of my colleagues who have called on this government to do the right thing.

To all my constituents who believe they haven't been heard, there is reason for hope: I hear you, the PC caucus hears you, and we're going to do what we can to make sure that the McGuinty government finally starts listening.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate? The Minister of Government Services.

Hon. Harinder S. Takhar: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I want to congratulate you as well. You look really good sitting in that seat.

I am pleased to speak on this bill today. I want to talk a little bit about a great project that was done in my riding for a green project. Just this past Sunday, Erin Mills United Church invited me to participate in the dedication ceremony for their most recent investment. Under the church leadership-this is one of the first of its kind of project in the city of Mississauga. Under the province's microFIT program, they now own 52 Sharp solar panels. The project took only about nine months for completion, and they went live on November 23. They raised $70,000 locally to actually do this project. They are now tied to the grid through Enersource Mississauga. This project will not only enable them to meet their own electricity but it will actually make the whole church sustainable too.

Mr. Speaker, really what I want to tell you is that the FIT program is working. It is helping the communities. It's making them stronger. But more importantly, what I want to say to you is that the municipalities already actually have the opportunity to make input into these projects that are carried on in our communities. If we let this bill pass, what will happen is that we will have different rules and regulations applied by different municipalities to actually implement these projects, and that will not be fair. I think it is important for us to have consistent rules and regulations in all municipalities and that they continue to make the kind of input that they make.

I'm very proud of the project that was carried out in my community with the help of the members of the community, and it actually is making the church very sustainable in my community. So I'm actually very, very proud of the way that this FIT program is working, and I will not be supporting this bill.


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

Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to speak in support of my colleague the member from Prince Edward-Hastings today. Today he is doing the right thing in debating the Local Municipality Democracy Act. This is not the first time I have spoken publicly about the need to return planning control for renewable energy projects back to municipalities. It has been stripped away by the Green Energy Act, and this is not acceptable.

In just the few days since this bill has been tabled, I have received many emails and letters of support to bring control for renewable energy projects back to municipalities. In fact, I receive emails daily from citizens from my riding of Huron-Bruce-some of them are here today-who are concerned that the McGuinty Liberals and the Green Energy Act have left them without a voice.

I can give you a further example: In Port Elgin, the CAW is erecting a turbine at their family education centre in the centre of the town. This project was given approval six years ago. At that time there were no residential homes surrounding the project. Since then, Port Elgin has grown into a vibrant tourist community and a weekend home to many from the GTA. Six years later, this turbine is now being erected 150 metres away from some of these homes: unacceptable. This is wrong. The Saugeen Shores council have had their hands tied because they don't have any say, and residents are concerned about the implications this turbine will have in terms of their health.

I am concerned, but don't get me wrong: I am not opposed to renewable energy. However, I'm opposed to these projects being railroaded through communities who are not willing hosts.

Speaker, understandably, municipalities are concerned as well, and they have every right to be. For instance, if wind development continues in Zurich, a small town in my riding, the area will be landlocked and the community will be unable to grow. But then that leads to the fact that the Liberals continue to be out of touch and they don't care.

An example of them not caring is that last year, the previous Minister of Energy met with representatives from the Kincardine council. They expressed the same landlocking concern, and guess what he told them? They were appalled when the minister said, "Rural Ontario isn't growing anymore anyways." How's that for arrogance and turning a blind eye? It's absolutely appalling.

I have seen first-hand in my riding, particularly with the development of wind farms, how communities and families are being torn apart and salespeople for these companies are hustling-and I underline the word "hustling"-landowners and pitting neighbour against neighbour. This has to stop. The evidence that rural Ontario wants their voice back was heard loud and clear on October 6. It was also observed and recognized by the PC caucus on the front lawn of Queen's Park today. I was very proud to see rural and urban Ontario standing together to send a message to the McGuinty Liberals. My question, Mr. Speaker: Are they going to receive it or continue to ignore it?

Thank you, Speaker.


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

Mr. Peter Tabuns: Thank you, Speaker, and a pleasure to be here today to debate this matter.

Speaker, I stand to speak against this bill. We owe it to ourselves, to our children and our grandchildren to rebuild Ontario's economy. We need to bring back manufacturing. We need to give people hope again that they will be able to get good jobs. This bill will block that economic development.

We need action to avoid dangerous climate change, to make sure that we have clean air to breathe in this province-

Interjections.

1550


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): If the behaviour continues and I can't hear the speaker, we may have to be here for a long time. I've asked all of you to allow the presenter to present so we can all hear it, and I would like to hear it, too. Please.

The member from Toronto-Danforth.


Mr. Peter Tabuns: Thank you, Speaker.

This bill doesn't do the things that Ontario needs to build greater acceptance of green energy. This bill does not provide for improved consultation. This bill won't increase community ownership of renewable power. This bill hands a veto on green energy development to local councils-

Interjections.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Order.

Mr. Peter Tabuns: It's always nice to know that other members are listening when I speak, Speaker.

Councils will be bombarded with attacks by well-funded lobby groups to stop the development of renewable energy. Ultimately, this bill will be used to slow down and stop the development of green energy in Ontario, it will slow down and stop action that needs to be taken on climate change, and it will slow down-

Interjections.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): To the opposition party: I would say once again-you know, during this entire week I listened to every one of you on the opposition benches talking about co-operation and working together, and you were praising your friends over in the third party. So-

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: He's missing the mark on this one, Speaker. He's missing the mark on this one.

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Speaker, the clock.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Can we reset the clock?

The member from Toronto-Danforth.


Mr. Peter Tabuns: This bill will not give us the new industrial jobs that the people of this province so desperately need. This bill is a step backward, and the NDP opposes it.

Ontario depends for its very existence on a supply of energy. Total spending on energy in this province exceeds $40 billion per year; that's over $100 million per day. Every year, billions of those dollars flow out of this province into other economies, into other jurisdictions. That means that billions of dollars go to build other people's economies and not ours. That means we have less money in Ontario, fewer jobs and diminishing prospects.

When the Liberals commit to diesel trains instead of electrification of the GO system, they ensure that we have to import fossil fuel energy to get around. My colleagues Jonah Schein, Cheri DiNovo, Rosario Marchese know that we have to build Ontario's economy by generating and using made-in-Ontario energy. The Conservatives and the Liberals don't know that.

We can look at other examples in the economy. Just this week, we called for the processing of chromite in this province, not shipped abroad, because we knew domestic use of domestic resources created jobs and built our economy. When we support agriculture in this province, when we support our farmers and our food processors, we keep jobs and wealth here in Ontario-domestic production, domestic food, domestic jobs.

The reliance on energy from Alberta, the Middle East and the United States is a huge drain on our economy, and it can only be reversed by exploiting our domestic energy sources: the sun, the wind, water, the heating and cooling beneath our feet, those vast stores of energy that need to be exploited here in Ontario with renewable energy. We need made-in-Ontario energy, and it's going to be renewable energy.

A made-in-Ontario energy policy means more jobs and more wealth. For autoworkers in Windsor and the GTA, it means working in plants retooled to make components for wind turbines and solar panels. For electricians and labourers, it means construction work. For steelworkers, it means making the steel for wind turbine towers. For farmers, it means income. All this is critical. This bill undermines domestic energy, it undermines jobs for Ontarians and it undermines our prospects for a bigger economy. It needs to be defeated.

Speaker, when we talk about energy, there are those who argue for a non-renewable energy path forward. Let us be clear about the other generation options.

Burning coal kills people. Air pollution from coal plants has been identified by the Ontario Medical Association as a direct contributor to deaths in Ontario. We don't need to debate that. All three parties in this Legislature are now committed to shutting down coal.

Nuclear power generates waste that we will have to pay for and store for many thousands of years, beyond the lives of our great-grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. By continuing to invest in nuclear power rather than green energy, we are saying to countless future generations, "We had a great time. Good luck with the toxic waste."

We say to you that when we look at the health impacts of the different sources of energy, we find far fewer health and environmental impacts from renewable energy. In 2009, researchers at Stanford University concluded that wind had the least impact on human health, water supply, land, wildlife and water pollution. A September 2009 report by Dr. Ray Copes, director of environmental and occupational health at the Ontario Agency for Health Promotion and Protection, concluded, "There is no scientific evidence, to date, to demonstrate a causal association between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects," though it sometimes may be "annoying to some which may result in stress and sleep disturbance." I say to you, Speaker, that that is true in this very city we're in today from traffic noise and the noise of air conditioners.

The World Health Organization considers that renewable power has the least impact on human health, compared to other power generation options. If we want to build an environmentally sound electricity system, we need to build a renewable electricity system. This bill undermines that purpose.

Speaker, this bill is before us today because the Conservative Party rejects renewable energy. This bill does not give power to municipalities to address the siting of gas-fired power plants. In fact, the power of municipalities to do this has been taken away. Did they forget about that? Was that not part of their calculation when they said, "Let's give the power to municipalities"? Clearly not. Their target is green energy. Does it give municipalities the power to reject nuclear power plants? Clearly not.

When I brought forward a private member's bill to stop the construction of a gas-fired power plant in York region, this caucus voted against that private member's bill. They do not support municipal concerns when they are in favour of that kind of power generation. The target of the bill is clear.

This bill is also here today because the Liberal leadership is not willing to take the actions needed to build acceptance and support for renewable energy. During the debate on the Green Energy Act, the Liberals ignored NDP amendments to ensure that renewable energy projects were publicly owned, community owned, municipally owned. They ignored the experience in Germany and Denmark that local community ownership dramatically changed public acceptance of renewable power projects. They didn't provide the funding to promote community control or provide access to capital. They didn't act to ensure that community and publicly owned power would be a dominant part of the mix, actions that would have made support for green energy far more profound than it is today.

The Liberals have not monitored the consultation process in Ontario. When developers have not followed best practices, they have not addressed that. Thus, they've undermined the credibility of green energy. They have not paid attention to developers who played games with the project.

1600

In Essex county, a solar developer put in 42 solar panels and pretended that they were microFIT projects, when in fact it was one contiguous power plant. They got a bonus in terms of payment. They didn't have to go through approvals. They undermined green energy and the Liberals have turned a blind eye on that. They have turned a blind eye.

Speaker, the New Democrats want an electricity system that responds to the needs of Ontarians, that is democratically controlled. We want industrial development that gives people decent-paying jobs.

This bill will not do that. It will instead lead to a suffocation of green energy projects in this province. It will pave the way for more gas-fired power plants like the one proposed for York region and the one cancelled in Oakville. This bill will not answer our environmental or economic needs. This bill deserves to be defeated today.


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

Mr. Rick Nicholls: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's my pleasure to speak to the bill from my honourable colleague from Prince Edward-Hastings.

My riding of Chatham-Kent-Essex is a rural riding, and it's been subjected to a significant number of industrial wind farm developments. Currently, there are hundreds of turbines erected in my riding, with hundreds more in the proposal and approval process. I can assure you that while going door-to-door during this past campaign, the issues surrounding wind installations were top-of-mind issues with my constituents.

First of all, many residents are concerned about the health impacts of industrial wind developments. They are concerned because the proper protocol of studying the potential effects these installations have on human health was not followed.

Secondly, they are concerned about the very real prospect of diminished property values. We have realtors telling us that properties adjacent to turbines have sold for between 20% and 40% less than comparable properties out of sight from turbines. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs admitted that the ministry had no studies or information about the potential impact wind turbines are having on rural property values. They don't seem to care.

Thirdly, I spoke with a local agricultural consultant. He, too, was concerned about the impact of these green energy installations. He told me that in his field there is growing evidence that low-frequency vibrations created by industrial wind farm installations are adversely affecting the reproductive capabilities of livestock. Such a decrease will significantly impact farmers' livelihoods in my riding and across Ontario.

I'm here today because the people of Chatham-Kent said, "Enough is enough." They don't support Dalton McGuinty's view that he knows better than local officials.

I encourage you all: Think clearly, think hard on the fact that you must vote in support of Bill 10.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. The member from Prince Edward-Hastings, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr. Todd Smith: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I can't believe it. We've been debating this for an hour. There have been reasonable claims. There have been many, many people that have signed petitions. They've written letters. Surely they've blasted emails to all of the members on the government side-and I know they've blasted many emails out to former members of the government side. I can count four ministers that are gone because of this, and I really worry about the current Minister of Energy. I really worry about this.

We just had an election where that side was downsized because they weren't listening to the people of Ontario. There are people here today. There are mayors here today. Mayor Joyner of West Lincoln is here and Mayor Jeffs of Wainfleet, and Councillor Robert Quaiff from Prince Edward county is here today, because they're concerned about what is happening in their communities and the lack of listening that's occurring on the other side. People are getting sick. This doesn't make economic sense. You can keep throwing bags of money at people if you want, but it doesn't make economic sense. The health impacts are real. The environmental concerns are substantial. Property values are going down. It's having an adverse effect on jobs. It's not creating jobs.

And for the member from Toronto-Danforth to say that we don't support green energy goes to show that he wasn't listening to anything I said, because we have renewable energy projects sitting on a shelf here at Queen's Park that haven't been acted on for eight long years-real renewable energy projects. Renewable energy projects will create real jobs for the forestry industry. Maybe you didn't hear me: real jobs in the Marmora pumped-storage project. And I know communities across Ontario have green, renewable energy projects in their community.

It's time to listen to the people of Ontario, and we can do it today.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The time provided for private members' business has expired.

ONTARIO ONE CALL ACT, 2011 /
LOI DE 2011 SUR ONTARIO ONE CALL


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): We will deal with the first ballot item, number 4, standing in the name of Mr. Bailey.

Mr. Bailey has moved second reading of Bill 8, An Act respecting Ontario One Call Ltd.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Second reading agreed to.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The bill is referred to the Committee of the Whole House.

Mr. Robert Bailey: Speaker, I move that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on General Government.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Agreed? Agreed.

WIRELESS PHONE, SMART PHONE
AND DATA SERVICE
TRANSPARENCY ACT, 2011 /
LOI DE 2011 SUR LA TRANSPARENCE
DES SERVICES DE TÉLÉPHONE MOBILE,
DE TÉLÉPHONE INTELLIGENT
ET DE TRANSMISSION DE DONNÉES


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Mr. Orazietti has moved second reading of Bill 5, An Act to provide transparency and protection for consumers of wireless telephone services, smart phone services and data services in Ontario.

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

Second reading agreed to.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The bill shall be referred to the Committee of the Whole House.

Mr. David Orazietti: I move that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on General Government.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Is it agreed that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on General Government? I heard a majority. So be it.

LOCAL MUNICIPALITY
DEMOCRACY ACT, 2011 /
LOI DE 2011 SUR LA DÉMOCRATIE
AU SEIN DES MUNICIPALITÉS LOCALES


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Mr. Smith has moved second reading of Bill 10, An Act to amend the Green Energy Act, 2009 and the Planning Act.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1609 to 1614.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Members take their seats, please.

Mr. Smith has moved second reading of Bill 10. All in favour, please rise and remain standing until recorded by the Clerk.

Ayes

Arnott, Ted

Bailey, Robert

Barrett, Toby

Clark, Steve

Dunlop, Garfield

Elliott, Christine

Fedeli, Victor

Hardeman, Ernie

Harris, Michael

Hillier, Randy

Hudak, Tim

Jackson, Rod

Jones, Sylvia

Leone, Rob

MacLaren, Jack

McDonell, Jim

McKenna, Jane

McNaughton, Monte

Milligan, Rob E.

Munro, Julia

Nicholls, Rick

O'Toole, John

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Pettapiece, Randy

Scott, Laurie

Smith, Todd

Thompson, Lisa M.

Walker, Bill

Wilson, Jim

Witmer, Elizabeth

Yakabuski, John

Yurek, Jeff


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. All opposed, please rise and remain standing until recorded by the Clerk.

Nays

Albanese, Laura

Armstrong, Teresa J.

Balkissoon, Bas

Bartolucci, Rick

Bentley, Christopher

Berardinetti, Lorenzo

Best, Margarett

Bisson, Gilles

Broten, Laurel C.

Cansfield, Donna H.

Colle, Mike

Coteau, Michael

Craitor, Kim

Damerla, Dipika

Delaney, Bob

Dhillon, Vic

Dickson, Joe

DiNovo, Cheri

Flynn, Kevin Daniel

Forster, Cindy

Gravelle, Michael

Hoskins, Eric

Jaczek, Helena

Leal, Jeff

MacCharles, Tracy

Mangat, Amrit

Marchese, Rosario

Miller, Paul

Milloy, John

Moridi, Reza

Murray, Glen R.

Natyshak, Taras

Orazietti, David

Piruzza, Teresa

Qaadri, Shafiq

Sandals, Liz

Schein, Jonah

Singh, Jagmeet

Sousa, Charles

Tabuns, Peter

Takhar, Harinder S.

Taylor, Monique

Wong, Soo

Wynne, Kathleen O.

Zimmer, David


The Clerk of the Assembly (Ms. Deborah Deller): The ayes are 32; the nays are 45.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I declare the motion lost.

Second reading negatived.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Orders of the day.

Hon. John Milloy: Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment of the House.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

This House stands recessed until Monday at 10:30 a.m.

The House adjourned at 1617.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

ORDERS OF THE DAY / ORDRE DU JOUR

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS / PRÉSENTATION DES VISITEURS

ORAL QUESTIONS / QUESTIONS ORALES

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS / PRÉSENTATION DES VISITEURS

MEMBERS' STATEMENTS / DÉCLARATIONS DES DÉPUTÉS

PETITIONS / PÉTITIONS

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS / AFFAIRES D'INTÉRÊT PUBLIC ÉMANANT DES DÉPUTÉS

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