AMENDMENT ACT, 2004 /
LOI DE 2004
MODIFIANT LE CODE DE LA ROUTE
Mr Milloy moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 129, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act / Projet de loi 129, Loi modifiant le Code de la route.
If passed, Bill 129 would require all Ontario cyclists to wear helmets on public roads. It would also extend this to in-line skaters, skateboarders and other individuals using muscle-propelled vehicles, such as scooters.
Members may be aware that in 1995 a law that had been passed by this Legislature came into effect, making it mandatory for all cyclists in Ontario to wear helmets. The government of the day decided, however, to pass regulations exempting those individuals 18 years of age and over. Bill 129, if passed, removes the government's power to make these exemptions, meaning that the original intention of the bill would come into effect. In short, this bill will fight that unfortunate human weakness that makes us act irresponsibly.
I imagine that every member of this Legislature recognizes the risks associated with these activities. In Ontario, for example, there are about 1,500 bicycle accidents a year, and about 20% of them result in head injuries. But statistics only tell part of the story. Since becoming interested in this cause, I've heard countless stories, even from members of this Legislature who have been touched by the horror and tragedy of an accident, of the tragic loss of life, of hopes shattered, of countless hours of rehabilitation. In fact, studies show that the cost of treating someone with a head injury over the course of their lifetime can be between $4 million and $9 million. I can guarantee you that not a single one of those victims thought that they were going to have an accident when they set out on their bicycle ride or their skateboard or their in-line skates. The real tragedy, of course, is that many of these injuries could have been prevented. Studies show that 85% of head injuries can be prevented by wearing a helmet.
The simple recognition that we can prevent tragedy has led to incredible support for the bill by many groups across this province, many of whom are here today in the gallery. Mr Speaker, with the permission of the House, I'd like to introduce them and perhaps invite them to stand. From the Ontario Brain Injury Association, joining us today to show support for the bill, are Scott Southwell, Patti Lehman and John Dumas. We're also joined by Dr Charles Tator of the ThinkFirst Foundation of Canada, John Prno of the Emergency Medical Services of Waterloo region, as well as two individuals who survived accidents because they were wearing helmets: April Ferguson and John Webster.
I'm also pleased to report support from the Ontario chiefs of police and the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, to name just a few. I also want to take a moment to pay a tribute to one of my colleagues, who could not be here this morning, the member from Brant, Mr Dave Levac, who shares a similar passion for this cause and was instrumental in the preparation of this bill.
At its core, this bill is about creating a culture of safety, and I think you can draw the analogy to the seat belt legislation, which came into effect in early 1976. Despite my youthful appearance, I actually remember when seat belts became mandatory in this province. I remember the debate, and I remember the discussion and the resistance. I can fondly remember my father, when seeing a police car approaching, putting the shoulder strap of the seat belt over his shoulder so that he wouldn't be pulled over. He wouldn't put on the seat belt, but he'd put the shoulder strap over.
Stories like that seem ridiculous nowadays. At a shopping mall when you move 500 feet from one store to another, what's the first thing you do when get into your car? You put on the seat belt. We have created a culture which makes seat belts second nature. To a lesser extent, we've had success when it comes to drinking and driving. Once merely the topic of jokes, it is today something which is frowned upon and is socially unacceptable.
When you look, too, at the whole bicycle legislation, as it has affected people under the age of 18, I would argue that we've started to create a culture of safety. One of the most interesting statistics I found in doing research on this bill was a study that was put forward by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. It showed that in Ontario, since the helmet safety legislation had come into effect, head injuries among children, those whom it pertains to, have dropped by 26%.
There are those who say that this bill will interfere with basic human rights and freedoms, and I guess there are a number of arguments to address that. The most obvious one is that we have a public health care system, and the cost of treating someone in that system who's had a preventable accident is something that we should not bear; it's something we should ask people to prevent.
But I think there's a more subtle argument. I don't believe that anyone who has suffered a head injury as a result of a bicycle, rollerblading or skateboarding accident fully realized the risks they were taking. As I meet individuals who have themselves been in accidents, lost family or loved ones or are caring for someone who suffered a profound injury, I know, like all of us, when that victim got on their bike or their rollerblades or their skateboard that morning, they had no idea of the risk they were taking.
In my own hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, we held an event yesterday at the brain injury association. Patti Lehman, whom I introduced a few moments ago, spoke about her task of trying to find an individual who had survived an accident not wearing a helmet and who could speak out in favour of this bill. She looked and looked and unfortunately could not find one, because the fact is that they usually died.
At the same time, we have heartening stories like that of April Ferguson, who spoke this morning just before this debate started. Five days before her wedding, she was going off on her bicycle to see her wedding photographer, and I think a few minutes into it, she got hit by a car -- a tragedy a few days before her marriage, a few days before she was to graduate from her graduate studies, yet the fact that she was wearing a helmet meant that her life was saved.
I can also point to Stuart Connell, a gentleman whom I met yesterday at the event with the brain injury association. Stuart is an avid biker who has been in five accidents. In one of the most serious, he was thrown off his bike right on to his head. He broke his back, suffered severe damage, but the fact that he was wearing a helmet means that he is alive and well and participating fully in our province.
We need to create a culture of safety in our province. This bill is not a panacea, but it's a first step. It's a first step to creating a situation where no one, regardless of age -- let's face it, head injuries and brain injuries don't discriminate on the basis of age -- would think of going for a bike ride, going out in-line skating or going out skateboarding without wearing a helmet. If we move forward with this bill, if we make it mandatory to wear helmets on our public roadways, it sends a signal to this province, it sends a signal to young people of this province who have to wear a helmet while their parents don't. It sends a signal that this government, this Legislature is concerned with safety, that it wants to have a society where the tragedies that have befallen us are avoided. We want to make sure that we have this culture of safety. I believe this Legislature has a responsibility to act, and I believe the time is now. I hope I can call on my colleagues here today to support Bill 129.
In Ontario, we have a long-standing position to ensure that basic safety standards are met by people who use our roadways. That is why we require seat belts in cars and why it has been the law for bike riders to wear helmets for more than 10 years.
Many may view the content of this bill as common sense, and I think that's the challenge in terms of dealing with this: How far does the government -- especially this government, which likes to intervene in people's lives -- go to deal with what people should be doing out of common sense? But if we look at history, often people need a legal reminder to maintain a minimum level of personal safety. Just 20 years ago, it was commonplace to ride a bike without a helmet or drive a car without a seat belt. Times have changed and, frankly, for the better.
But I would caution the member and the government about moving forward with a bill that provides for exemptions from this legislation under any circumstance. I think we're doing the right thing by eliminating the ability to regulate exemptions under the act, but the broad, sweeping exemption provided in this legislation should be revisited. At the end of the day, personal safety crosses all religious and cultural boundaries, and everyone should take strides to ensure they are protecting themselves appropriately when skateboarding, rollerblading or biking on our public roads.
I think the member should take that seriously. I think he has done a lot of good work on this bill in terms of talking to different organizations. I did notice, though, that he had not mentioned the support of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. Certainly they have a relationship with the police boards they are involved with and also their own bylaw enforcement agencies, which some municipalities use to maintain the roads.
But I think we have to look at the intent of the bill the member is bringing forth. Who could go against the intent of the bill and what he's trying to accomplish? What's important here is enforcement. Whatever bill you have, if you can't enforce it or you don't have the resources in place to enforce it, it's not going to be good law, because it's not going to protect the people. I think that's something the member is going to have to look at. Sure, there are mechanisms there to enforce it, but you need people out there to do it, and you have to have the resources to do it. So if you're going to tell the municipalities this is another thing they're going to have to do, hopefully they're going to have the money in place and the people in place to be able to do it.
So enforcement is obviously the key to any piece of legislation, especially when you want to regulate how people conduct themselves in public and especially on our roadways. But I think it goes back to the argument in terms of the common sense of individuals. If this is going to be something that is dealt with for public safety per se, common sense would dictate that you're trying to protect everybody in this society and that your exemptions have to be carefully thought through. I think they have to be thought through in terms of balancing what you're trying to accomplish. If the accomplishment, the goal, is to protect the public for their own safety, that has to be balanced, obviously, against their individual rights. I don't know whether you're taking a safe road out or whether this would stand up against the charter in terms of people saying, "Well, you're infringing on my rights."
As a lawyer, I would say it would be a very easy argument to make that the public safety, the public protection, obviously would override any individual rights with respect to what you're trying to accomplish here. I think you probably would share that. But the exemptions you have out here, which are very broad, have to be, I think, revisited. I don't know what you're trying to accomplish in terms of public safety if you provide for exemptions to something that you seem to be suggesting is common sense, that people would wear helmets to try to protect themselves from head injuries in circumstances where they go on the roads, where there is some risk. So I think you have to be responsible in terms of what you're trying to address across the board.
I'm certainly prepared to support this bill at this particular stage of the proceedings. Obviously, if it gets to public hearings, there will be more input from the public in terms of how this should be enforced, and we'll go from there.
On May 27, 1996, for the first time in my life, I lost a very good friend, Carl Gillis. He was killed while in-line skating. In fact, sadly, Carl was the first in-line skater in Canada to be killed. A few days earlier, Carl, just 26 years old, had gone out for a skate on a beautiful May day in the Dow's Lake area of Ottawa. Regrettably, he was not wearing a helmet and his skates got caught up in some gravel. In a matter of seconds, he hit his head on the pavement, and he was immediately knocked unconscious. I had the sad task of identifying Carl, and it was a moment that I will never forget.
I met Carl when, in his first year, he was a parliamentary page at the House of Commons and attending Carleton University. He was an individual who you knew was going to leave a big impression on everything he was involved with. He was the president of his student council in East Bay, Nova Scotia, vice-president of the Carleton University Students' Association, and eventually became chair of the Canadian Federation of Students. He was a born leader, and his hundreds of friends who knew him knew that if he were alive today, there is no doubt he would probably be well on his way to becoming Premier of his beloved province of Nova Scotia or sitting in the federal cabinet. Yet because of one mistake, we can now only imagine what the future would have held for Carl.
Some 83% of in-line skating accidents treated at hospitals, according to Health Canada, involve individuals who were not wearing appropriate safety equipment. You increase the risk of brain injury by 88% by not wearing a helmet. Since Carl's death, I've kept a file of articles I've come across about cycling and in-line skating accidents. The Globe and Mail, on March 20, 2003, quotes Alison MacPherson, an injury researcher at the Hospital for Sick Kids, as saying, "Our research on children tells us that helmets and helmet laws really work." World champion figure skater Paul Duchesnay nearly died in-line skating in Gatineau Park in June 1996, and he said it was a miracle he wasn't killed, because he wasn't wearing a helmet. In November 1997, in Calgary, a five-year-old in-line skater was saved as a result of wearing a helmet. In August 2003, a cyclist's life was saved when struck by a car on Bronson Avenue in Ottawa. An Ottawa police sergeant, Denis Charbonneau, said, "Helmets do save lives." The examples go on and on.
The previous government made it mandatory for individuals under the age of 18 to wear helmets, and I commend the previous government for this initiative. But let us continue with that logic and that good public policy, because obviously, when one turns 19, the brain and the skull still need protection. It does, as the member for Kitchener Centre pointed out, send a rather mixed message when you see young children out with their helmets, but cycling with their parents who are not wearing helmets.
Now, what about in-line skating? It's perhaps even more dangerous than cycling, yet the law doesn't apply to these individuals. The most difficult speech that I have ever delivered in my life was the eulogy at Carl Gillis's memorial service. Passing this bill and sending it to committee will allow us to prevent future senseless deaths like Carl's.
I assume that some of the opponents of this proposed bill probably would, in another era, be arguing against seatbelt laws. Yet today no one would argue against the need for seatbelts. One of government's most important responsibilities is to protect its citizens. This is not about becoming a so-called "nanny state," but it is about keeping people safe, secure, and healthy. Helmet laws exist in jurisdictions around the world and in several provinces in Canada, and the simple truth is that they save lives and prevent serious injuries. Medical officers of health like Ottawa's Dr Rob Cushman know the positive impact of a comprehensive helmet law, that it would save lives, prevent serious injuries, and reduce costs on our health care system.
I congratulate the honourable member for Kitchener Centre, who knew Carl Gillis as well, and I would urge members to do the right thing and support this bill.
I think in his comments he mentioned some of the things that we've done in our province over the last few decades, and it was reiterated by some of the other speakers as well. The fact of the matter is that we looked at seatbelts originally, when they first started putting them in cars, as something that was an optional type of thing. Of course, now I think most people have adjusted to the use of seatbelts. Cars now come with airbags. I think they're mandatory in vehicles today; I'm quite sure of that. I had a private member's bill that introduced ignition interlock device for impaired drivers. I've had a lot of people from the stakeholders who are against drinking and driving who have, in fact, asked for that type of rule, ignition interlocks, to be completely mandatory in all vehicles.
When you look at things like bicycles or scooters, I can't see a problem with that. I don't think it's going to be a hard sell to the general public in our province. There will always be people who will find some faults with some areas, but we're already seeing it in skiing. I take the two oldest of my three little granddaughters skiing, and they wear ski helmets today. All parents don't wear them, but you know what? I'm seeing more and more parents on the hills with ski helmets, because they don't want to risk any kind of an injury. I see bicyclists etc, out now.
A few weeks ago, I was actually babysitting my three little granddaughters. I had them on the laneway, and they all had their helmets on. I was going to take them for a ride down the little concession road because it's paved, and I couldn't remember whether or not it was mandatory for the adults to have them on at that time. From that perspective, I think there is already some confusion in that area. So I don't see any problem with this actually becoming law and slowly being implemented.
Enforcement could be a problem, because it will take additional time from police officers etc to enforce this. But all of us are in favour of adding additional police officers to the rolls in our province, and I think that's something I'll look forward to seeing.
One of the things I'd like to bring up this morning -- and we're going to go into a House leader's meeting in an hour or so -- is the fact that we've had some really good ideas in this Legislature, always on private members' business. If there's any area in democratic renewal that I think we can move forward on, I think we have to do more with our private members' time. A lot of people, like Mr Milloy and Ms Broten, who will be up next, have put a lot of time and effort into their private members' bills. I think in the last session, only Mr Wilkinson's, Mr Parson's and Mr O'Toole's bills passed -- but three quick ones, you know?
There's been a lot of work done here. I think if there's any direction the government can go on democratic renewal, it is for this House to accept more of the hard work private members have put into these pieces of legislation. Many of us can go to committee with these bills, or they can be sent to committee, and if there are adjustments and if the stakeholders are more interested, they can add amendments to it. We can work sort of in unison, as opposed to being always opposition versus government, because I think there's been some really good ideas come out of here that could be implemented fairly easily in this House. So I want to put that on the record this morning, because I think both these bills this morning are fairly good bills, and I have no problem implementing them.
I was curious when the minister stood up, though, and made some comments, because I immediately thought of Bring-your-own-wine Watson, and I wondered, if people are going to be riding around on bikes now after they've got their bottle of wine in their hand, they're definitely going to need a helmet, right? Was that the main reason you really brought that up this morning? He's not responding to that, but maybe he can in the end.
By the way, I have to use up the rest of my time, unless Mr Miller gives me a nod that he'd like to say something. Would Mr Miller like to say something later on?
I just want to say in conclusion that, overall, I think any time you can save injuries, you save our health care system. I know we've got a very active brain injury service in Simcoe county. I visit there once or twice a year, and they always take me and introduce me to people who have had different types of brain injuries.
If this bill saves one life or if it saves injuries, then it's well worth the implementation. I think our health care system is approaching $30 billion this year. The public will probably demand $32 billion or $33 billion next year, and it'll continue on in that pattern. It's just growing at an alarming rate. Anything we can do in this House that will save injuries, save lives, save the health care system, is an area that we absolutely have to take a serious look at.
Again, I'll be supporting the bill. I want to make it clear that I think your biggest challenge, to the member from Kitchener Centre, will be the implementation process, working with the police services to see just who will be the enforcement body that will look after that in our communities.
With that, I thank you so much, and Mr Miller will be speaking a little later on and sharing my time.
I want to share with the House and, I guess, more importantly, with the people across Ontario who are listening to this discussion, that I really like the phrase "a culture of safety," because that's what this bill is all about. You've already heard, and I just want to reiterate, that at the present time there is no legislation that makes it a requirement for inline skaters or skateboarders etc to wear helmets. It's pretty common now that, when you're out and about at a shopping mall or walking around the street, it has almost become normal to see kids on a regular basis floating around the city on their skateboards. I know, myself, as someone who rides a motorcycle, it's normal for me to wear a helmet. There are many days when I'd prefer not to. You kind of say it would be neat to ride around without a helmet on a motorcycle, but you also realize the consequences if you ever considered them.
I think it was in June that I had the opportunity to make a statement in the House, recognizing the fact that June is Brain Injury Awareness Month. I specifically mentioned Brain Injury Awareness Month for a couple reasons. One is because a very close personal friend of mine -- and I made reference to her in my statement -- Jacqui Graham, suffers from brain injury and has become a spokesperson back in my riding of Niagara Falls.
One of the phrases associated with brain injury is, "Brain injury can hurt forever." It's been said, and I want to reiterate, that brain injury can happen to anyone, whether young or old. The legislation that's being proposed, I think, is appropriate. It recognizes the fact that, specifically, younger kids are much more active. They're using types of equipment to get around -- as I said, skateboards, inline skating, things that we hadn't seen when I was growing up. The statistics are starting to show that injuries are occurring from the use of that type of equipment.
Is there a cost to this legislation? Yes, there is a cost, and the cost is a helmet. I looked up some figures. The average cost of a bike helmet is $32 and the average cost for a skateboarding, rollerblading or inline helmet is about $60. Is that a lot of money? No, that is not a lot of money, because you're talking about a child's future, their life. One of the speakers mentioned an individual who was killed. That's the investment you're making. You're ensuring that as they're moving around through the community, they're properly and safely equipped with a helmet.
I also heard a bit of concern -- and I sat on city council for 13 years -- about who's going to enforce this. Is it going to be passed down to the municipalities? Well, it will be. That's the reality. You have to use the local resources. But I think the most important message this bill is sending to the parents -- and I'm a parent -- is that when you're letting your child go out on to the street and they're skateboarding or in-line skating, they're properly and safely equipped so that if something unfortunate happens, they trip, there's a crack in the sidewalk, or something just happens and they fall, the most important part of their body, their head, is safely protected.
I certainly am going to be supporting this. It's not something that doesn't exist in other jurisdictions. British Columbia and Nova Scotia have initiated this, and it's long overdue here. I want to congratulate the member and some of the previous speakers as well. This is a great opportunity.
Let me just close quickly by saying I did like the comments of the previous member about the private members' time. I've had the pleasure of being here on many occasions, and there have been some wonderful and very non-partisan bills brought forward. I'd like to see more time dedicated, not only to private members' bills, but some emphasis on ensuring that those non-partisan bills have the opportunity to get through the House on a much more regular basis than we've seen in the past.
I would like to comment that you can't make the people use common sense, you can't regulate common sense. I'm from Parry Sound-Muskoka and in just the last couple of years have been in the big city of Toronto. I'm amazed at the way people bicycle around this city, especially at nighttime. You see them going the wrong way up streets, you see them not wearing helmets, no reflective gear and no lights, and crossing over intersections. I'm sure there are rules about how you're supposed to ride a bike, but people basically ignore them. So you can't regulate common sense.
I was just with the member from Beaches-East York on a committee up north, travelling around in many remote communities, where there are more ATVs than there are cars. I know there are laws that you have to wear a helmet on an ATV. Well, I can tell you, on the whole northern trip -- the hundreds and hundreds of ATVs I saw -- I didn't see one single helmet. So you can make rules, but it's very difficult to regulate common sense. But, hopefully, this will encourage more people to do the right thing and wear protective gear and helmets, and it will save lives. I will be supporting the member from Kitchener Centre on this private member's bill.
In 1995, we watched as the government introduced legislation to require people to wear helmets when riding a bicycle. We also saw that same year that an exemption was made through the Lieutenant Governor in Council to exempt those who are over 18 years of age. There were many complaints we read about in the paper. There were many people who stood up and talked about their personal freedoms. There were many people who said we shouldn't do this. And in the end, the government, in the wisdom of the day, caved in. The government said they felt that those over 18 should be free to make their own decisions.
Gone were the arguments about the seat belts. We heard that: You have to wear a seat belt; they never made an exemption for those over 18. Gone were the arguments about those who rode motorbikes. You have to wear a helmet, and you've had to do that since the 1960s. The exemption was made for bicycle riders.
Thereafter, in the couple of years that went by, I would often see families with children, a husband, a wife on their bicycles, no helmets, and the kids, of course, all in helmets because that was the law. Canadians are very law-abiding people. You would think that was a strange thing, but the law was the law, and adults thought they were somehow exempt from injury. I thought that was very strange, but it was a fact of life that the law exempted adults.
This all came home to me and to my family in 1998. My brother Derek, on a bicycle, one day fell off, hit his head and died three days later. He was not wearing a helmet. He was a wonderful man, a hard worker. He had two great kids. There isn't a day goes by that I don't think about him. There isn't a day goes by that I don't see someone on the streets of Toronto, an adult, with no helmet on their head, and I want to get out of my car or off the sidewalk and I want to grab them and I want to shake them. You can't do that. But I want to tell them that this was an absolutely wrong thing, a bad thing to happen. I know my mother cries every day, thinking about him. I wonder about his children, although they've been very successful in university and getting on with their lives, and his widow, whom I call very often, just to see how she's doing.
But it was a sadness that did not have to happen. It did not need to happen. He was one of those statistics of those who are killed. I read the statistics in 2001, and 88% of those people who died did not have a helmet on and succumbed to their injuries. Only 12% were actually wearing a helmet and had a brain injury that resulted in death.
This bill is absolutely right. I, quite frankly, am not going to bear any arguments. I'm not going to hear them, I don't want to hear them, about whether we have enough police to enforce it. We need it to be enforced. We need to do it for rollerbladers, in-line skaters, anybody, any contraption. It needs to happen.
The same year my brother was killed, I was invited, as a councillor of the new megacity of Toronto, to do something I had done many times as a mayor. That is, I was invited by Big Brothers to go out to High Park and to get in the go-cart and do the downhill election race. That's what they called it. That year, we were all there -- the councillors, the mayor. I don't think Mel Lastman actually got in the go-cart, but the councillors were there to do what we had done for so many years, which was to support the Big Brothers. We were there to help them earn some money, to get some publicity and have the downhill go-cart race.
When I saw that go-cart that year, I told them that I did not believe that we should be racing any longer without helmets. Nobody had ever worn a helmet before. Not me, not anyone else had ever worn a helmet before. I refused to get in the go-cart until they found me a helmet, and in fact some of my colleagues did exactly the same thing. We had to scrounge around and we had to find kids who had helmets because they had come on their bicycles. We had to borrow helmets and try to find one that was big enough to fit my head -- because most of the kids were quite young -- before we finally got in the go-cart.
Big Brothers learned very fast, because the next year when I went to the downhill race in High Park, there was a helmet for every single person who raced. They realized that was a dangerous thing to happen. You hit speeds of 39 kilometres an hour by the bottom of the hill, and if you were thrown from the go-cart, if you fell over, if you hit a tree, because there are lots of trees in High Park, then you could suffer injury. They recognized, because of my insistence that one year, that in fact what they were doing was dangerous, and they were putting people's lives at risk. I don't know if they still have that. I haven't seen it for a couple of years now. But if they do, I will guarantee you that they are wearing helmets today.
I travel around this city a lot. I've lived here all my life, with the exception of one year that I lived in Ottawa. This city is telling people that we need to get out of our cars, that we need people to get on bicycles to travel downtown, and they're right. In East York, every day I travel, I usually come along Cosburn Avenue. Three weeks ago, the city of Toronto designated Cosburn Avenue as a bicycle lane route, and there are now bicycle lanes on both sides of the street.
If we are going to do this, and I believe we should, then we need to make sure that those people who travel along the routes in this city, and in fact in any city and in any town, are wearing helmets. There are simply too many cars. There are simply too many diversions. There are simply too many drivers trying to go too fast. And I see them, to my horror, not wearing helmets.
When I stopped at the corner of Bay and Wellesley for the light this morning, I saw two cyclists, one coming each way. Both were women. One was wearing a helmet, one was not. There it was: 50% exactly -- at that corner, anyway -- were not wearing a helmet. Think about the amount of traffic at the corner of Wellesley and Bay. You will know that there are thousands of cars that go through that intersection. There are hundreds or thousands of pedestrians who are crossing. There are literally hundreds of cyclists who cross that intersection every single hour. Of the two of them, one was not wearing a helmet. That is not acceptable to me. It is far too easy to fall off a bicycle.
We need to enforce the laws. We need to ensure that police officers are there and that they don't take this as a minor crime. This is not a minor crime. It is not a matter of individual choice. It affects all of us, and I for one think this bill should pass. I know it has to go to committee, but I hope it comes back very quickly.
I remember my brother. My family remembers my brother. If this bill passes, none of your families will have the sadness that I experience even to this day. Thank you very much.
The members who have spoken previously have certainly very eloquently pressed forward the concerns and how the behaviour can be changed through legislation as well. But I felt what needed to be brought forward was to understand the balance between, as the previous member stated, a nanny state and common sense. This bill speaks specifically to amendment on our public roadways, and that is the balance.
But I want to take the opportunity to speak about a part of the bill that has not had a lot of discussion. That portion of the bill is the amendment to the Highway Traffic Act that will extend the prohibition against towing a person while wearing roller skates, in-line skates or skis, and this will be a prohibition on all public roadways. I can tell you that around our neighbourhood we have many children, and constantly you see them hooking on to a car with either a rope or their hand. The speed that they can start to increase to is just incredible. I cannot think of a more dangerous way. I know part of the thinking that goes into a lot of these sports is the risk factor, which is important, but for the public safety and the safety of our children, to me, one of the most important facets of the bill is to impose a prohibition on it. This is common sense, and the other portions of the act are as well.
As I have said previously, I could not add any more words than the members have added to the stories you have heard today. I can only say that the courage it took to stand up and speak about such close family members and friends is very moving.
This bill needs all of our support and the support of the municipalities to move it forward. It strikes a balance between common sense and the nanny state. It's my pleasure to support this bill.
I just want to say to Mr Prue, our hearts go out to you. I've known about this issue. We've talked about this a number of times together and I know Michael dearly misses his brother. This is an opportunity for us here in this Legislature, for his brother and everybody else's brothers, sisters, sons, daughters etc, hopefully to be able to make them safe in the future. So I just wanted, for the record, to commend Mr Prue for his words, because I know that is not an easy thing to do when you bring that on a personal level.
I also want to put these comments on the record. I think, at this point, the way the debate is going, this bill will pass, and that's a good thing. I just want to remind members and anybody who is watching the debate this morning that we've been down this road before on a whole bunch of occasions. I was a motorcyclist when I was a lot younger, and still am today, and I remember the debate in this province back in the early 1970s, I guess, when we introduced legislation to wear helmets when riding motorcycles. I was one of those young, macho guys who thought, "Boy, that's a really sissy thing to do, run around on my hog with my motorcycle helmet." I thought to myself, "My God, what's the world coming to?"
It's funny how things go, because eventually we start realizing that that indeed was the right thing for the government of the day to do. How many people are still with us today or how many people have prevented serious injury as a result of the government of the day and the legislators of that day passing that legislation? Now we're at the point -- I can speak personally. When I jump on my bike, I feel absolutely wrong and bare-naked not having a helmet on. I just would not do it. I wouldn't even think of it. I won't get on my bike and ride out of my driveway at the lake without a motorcycle helmet. It just doesn't make any sense; the same with snow machines and ATVs. So to those people in the public who say, "Well, it's going to be a real pain, a real downer, to have to wear a bicycle helmet to ride your bike once you're past 18," I just say, let's reflect back on what we saw in the debates we had around motorcycles.
I'll bring you to another debate that a lot of us maybe have forgotten about, the seatbelt debate -- again, the same thing. We are all old enough to remember when this province passed legislation that we all buckle up. Again, there was a big cry of opposition in the province: "Who is the government to tell me to put on my seat belt?" I remember the debate in our community, and I'm sure it was the same in every other riding. People said, "No, I'm not going to do that. That's not a good thing, and I'm opposed for all the following reasons." Again, how many people are still with us today and how many people have been saved serious injury as a result of buckling up?
I'm one of those. I remember one particular day when I was making the transition, because I drove for about a year or two not buckling up. I was one of those headstrong people of the day. I remember one day I went to pick up my sister-in-law Gail Beauchamps. She was in real estate at the time and I was bringing her out to a showing. Her husband had taken her car and she had called for a ride. So I gave her a call and said, "OK. I'll pick you up." I got to her place and told her, "Buckle up." She went, "What do you mean, `buckle up'?" I said, "Gail, for God's sake, buckle up." She said, "You never put your seat belt on." I said, "You're not leaving unless you buckle up." I don't know why I got into this argument with her. It was just something to do. I'm one of these guys who likes a good argument. That's why I ran for Parliament; eventually, I can find all the arguments I want here and all the people to argue with. But we got into this argument -- funny thing -- and finally we both put our belts on.
We go down the highway and I'm doing 55 miles an hour down the Airport Road. Another car comes whipping around the corner -- black ice -- and that one's doing 55, 60 miles an hour. The oncoming car loses control and smacks into me head-on. Now, I don't know, maybe I would have survived, maybe Gail would have survived. Who knows? Maybe the other person would have survived if they didn't wear belts, but I very much doubt it. There was nothing left of the Toyota. The whole car, the one that hit me, was gone, except for where the driver sat. I was driving a great big station wagon and I hit this small Toyota or Datsun or whatever it was, and the driver was able to walk away from it, and so were both of us in our car.
I say you can try and debate on the other side of this stuff as much as you want, but at the end of the day it only makes sense. I commend the member for bringing this bill forward. Why, as Michael Prue said earlier, we didn't deal with this when we initially brought the legislation in -- originally it was Elizabeth Witmer's private member's bill that was brought into this House, back before 1995, which all members in this House supported and passed into law, and eventually the Conservatives brought in a bill. But we never dealt with the after-18 issue. I want to commend the member for bringing that forward, because, God only knows, sometimes we have to protect ourselves from ourselves, and this is maybe one of the ways we can do that.
Again, my condolences to Michael and his family for the loss of his brother. That's a tragic thing to go through. I hope I never have to experience something like that. I just don't know how people deal with those type of tragedies. To Michael, my heart goes out to you.
This place is about the public good and the law. This is where the public good and the law come together. The law says if you're an adult, you don't have to wear a helmet, but just because you're an adult, you are not exempt from the laws of physics. A bicycle accident or an inline skating accident is the equivalent of jumping out of a one-storey building head first. The laws of physics say that you will be injured. Our society says that we will care for you. Our society says that we will pick up that cost. It is not in the public good for the individual or for our society to have needless injury when it can be prevented.
Over the years, we, as a society, through this place, have come to the point where it is important for us to stand up for the public good. This is the only place. In the debate we've had this morning, the member from Beaches-East York, the member from Ottawa West-Nepean and the member from Niagara Falls have shared personally the tragedy that has befallen them. I know a similar situation has happened in my riding, and I don't have enough time to share it with you, but this is compelling.
The member from Simcoe North is absolutely right. This is the time for us to rise above partisanship, join together and, for the public good, change the law.
I was heartened by the bipartisan support that's been shown in this Legislature. I think what's perhaps most interesting about the history of this cause is that it does have a bipartisan nature.
My understanding is that it was Dianne Cunningham of the Conservative Party who was extremely passionate about this bill and put forward the original private member's bill, which I believe was passed by the New Democratic Party when they were in government and then enacted under the Progressive Conservatives. So I just want to say how heartened I am that individuals have come forward from all three parties to support it.
I also want to thank all the groups and organizations who have expressed their support, the ones who are here today and the ones who have sent letters of support: the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, the West Park Healthcare Centre of Toronto, and the list goes on.
But most of all, this bill, as I started my speech, is about that weakness we have as human beings that we believe this cannot happen to us. And I want to pay a special tribute to the member from Ottawa West-Nepean and the member from Beaches-East York for having the courage to share the personal tragedy that happened in their life. I think more than any arguments or debates or statistics, comparing what happened to Mr Watson's friend and the horrible tragedy that befell Mr Prue's brother, all you have to do is contrast that with April Ferguson, who's with us today, who, because she was wearing a helmet, has gone on to lead a productive life, is married and has a child.
If we can prevent the tragedies that have happened and make sure that all the stories are like those of April Ferguson, then I think this Legislature has done a great service to the people of Ontario.
KIDS FIRST LICENCES ACT, 2004 /
LOI DE 2004
SUR LES PLAQUES D'IMMATRICULATION
EN FAVEUR DES ENFANTS
Ms Broten moved second reading of the following bill:
Bill 130, An Act to support children's charities in Ontario / Projet de loi 130, Loi visant à aider les oeuvres de bienfaisance pour enfants en Ontario.
From the front lines to the offices, Ontario's children's charities aim to provide important programs and services to our children. They innovate, they respond, they guide and they dream of a day when perhaps their services will no longer be needed. But until that day comes, they open their doors and provide emotional support for children who have been abused, they provide nutritious food to help start the day, they provide recreational opportunities and essential rehabilitation services, and they provide opportunities for youth to develop their academic studies to their full potential -- and so much more.
They are organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ontario; Variety -- The Children's Charity; and Horizons for Youth. They're organizations like the Gatehouse and Equally Healthy Kids, two organizations that are very close to my heart and who I am honoured to have represented in the members' gallery today to represent the great work done by so many in our province.
The Gatehouse Child Abuse Advocacy Centre is represented by Jan Handy, the executive director, and LAMP's Equally Healthy Kids breakfast program is represented by Jasmin Dooh and Trish Plant. I want to take a moment to tell you about those programs.
Equally Healthy Kids breakfast clubs has programs in John English, Second, Seventh and Twentieth Street schools in my riding. Each program feeds 35 to 120 children every day, with a total of 250 to 300 children served breakfast each day. For that, they raise $45,000 every year.
The Gatehouse, an organization that I know members in this House have heard a lot about, is one that is very close to my heart. It provides a centre for people whose lives have been affected by child abuse to come forward and tell their story in a comfortable setting, but at the same time a state-of-the-art videotape facility is tucked away in a back corner of a house.
Organizations like those mentioned, and so many more, work quietly day in and day out on behalf of all of us to make sure Ontario is a better place to live. For this, they deserve our recognition and thanks. But as we all know, they need more than recognition and thanks to keep the lights on and the telephone ringing. That's why I'm very proud to be speaking to the assembly today about Bill 130, An Act to support children's charities in Ontario.
Bill 130 proposes an optional program allowing Ontarians to make donations to support the work of registered children's charities in Ontario when paying for licences, permits and number plates issued under the Highway Traffic Act. The funds would be collected by the Ministry of Transportation. The funds would then be forwarded to the Minister of Children and Youth Services, who would in turn establish a trust fund and develop and maintain the criteria for the distribution of the collected funds to worthy children's charities across our province.
It is my vision that a volunteer board of directors would be established by the trust, and a trust indenture and bylaws put in place. The board would establish clear, transparent guidelines for an application process, evaluate proposals and put in place reporting and audit requirements so that we could all be assured that we are getting the most from the dollars delivered.
I know that Ontarians are very generous. In fact, Canadians gave $5.8 billion to charities in 2003, up from $4.9 billion in the year 2000. Bill 130 can serve as a catalyst to enable Ontarians to work together to enhance the quality of life for the children in our communities, and to allow children's charities like the Gatehouse and Equally Healthy Kids to enhance and expand services and programs, to develop new partnerships, to increase the number of children reached, to address community needs and to build on their success.
Some might ask, why do we need Bill 130? Certainly Ontarians can seek out a favourite charitable organization and donate. Certainly they can and certainly they do. But according to a recent survey by the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy, there is a clear divide between the resources available to large not-for-profit organizations and smaller organizations which are operated with a high dependence on volunteers as well as gifts and donations. These non-profit and volunteer organizations are the cornerstones of each of our communities across Ontario, enabling our communities to come together and address important needs by finding diverse and innovative solutions.
That is why these worthy organizations deserve the financial support and recognition from a newly created Kids First Trust. That is why it would mean so much.
If enacted, Bill 130 would greatly improve access to donations for registered Ontario children's charities. I want to take a moment to talk about my experience as a fundraiser, as the chair of the board at the Gatehouse. Seeking out those initial funds from a recognized, named foundation provides opportunities for charities to get the needed funds to keep their lights on, expand their programs and continue to do that work. But it also comes with some recognition, recognition from somebody who has looked at the work you are doing, acknowledged it and given you a stamp of approval. I can tell you that in the last number of years, with the unfortunate abuse and fraud in the children's sector in terms of raising money for children's charities, we have seen a need for that stamp of approval and recognition for some of our most worthy children's charities across this province.
I want to talk for a minute about where this idea comes from. In 1994, the state of Indiana's General Assembly established the Indiana Children's Trust Fund, and since that time over $10 million has been raised and distributed to community programs that promote the health of children and address the prevention of child abuse and neglect. In 2003 alone, over $2.3 million was raised.
This idea has been championed in Ontario by the Child Abuse Prevention Council Windsor-Essex County. I want to thank Tina Gatt, the coordinator, and Travis Hughes, a volunteer with the organization, for their commitment to children across Ontario and their tireless efforts to date. I know they said they'd be watching at home in Windsor. I also want to acknowledge my colleague the Honourable Dwight Duncan, the Minister of Energy and the member for Windsor-St Clair, who first brought this innovative idea to the Legislature in Bill 79 in 2003.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge some other guests that I have in the audience today, students from all the high schools across Etobicoke who are participating in the Lakeshore Scholars Program that we have implemented in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. They are Michele Butcher, Dylan Cohen, Elaina Mastrilli and Margaret O'Keefe. I hope that coming to the Ontario Legislature today for the first time, they will see at first hand the good work that can be done by a member in this province and the debate that can happen when all parties talk about issues that are important to all of us in each of our own communities.
Bill 130 will allow each of us to provide that additional support for worthy organizations in our communities that are doing the good work that we thank them for. Now we will be able to do just a little bit more than thank them.
Non-profit and voluntary organizations which seek to improve the lives of children across Ontario are an expression of our values as a community, as a city and as a province. Supporting and increasing the capacity of these very important community organizations and supporting Bill 130 will, I know, make our province a better, safer, healthier and richer place in years to come. In order to accomplish that end, I very much hope that I will receive support for Bill 130 from across the Legislature. I look forward, as I know all of you do, to a day when the Kids First Trust will be able to help those fledgling and innovative organizations in each of our communities as they do the good work that we would like to be on the front lines doing: the good work of feeding our children for a breakfast morning, the good work of helping those children who have been abused and the good work of so many other organizations across this province that make sure that the next generation's life is just a little bit better, a little bit safer, healthier and richer.
I was at a reception last night when the member from Etobicoke-Lakeshore asked me about this bill and gave me a good sales pitch on it. It was obvious in that sales pitch that this is very much from her heart and means a lot to her. She's had many years' involvement with children's charities and is using her private member's bill to try to assist them. I fully recognize that and I will be supporting this bill.
I do, of course, have some questions, which is fairly normal. I would question the cost of the administration of the program. I gather that, as you buy your licence fee, you would choose to make an optional donation, so it is a means for children's charities to fundraise. I see in the bill that the money goes, I gather, into general funds and then it's forwarded to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services in a trust fund. I would certainly question that the administration costs don't eat up the cost of the donation. I also note that the Minister of Children and Youth Services may distribute funds from the trust fund to children's charities, so I would also worry a little bit about this becoming political when it's a minister who is deciding who gets the money from the trust fund.
I know that children's charities are very near and dear to the member from Etobicoke-Lakeshore, but I wonder, why not all charities? Why not have all charities able to participate in this fund and have it open to all the many good charities out there, not just children's charities?
I note that in my constituency of Parry Sound-Muskoka, many issues have been coming up to do with youth, especially speech and language pathology; the closing of early years' centres, which was an issue this summer; the funding for programs like the YWCA and the Muskoka/Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services program, Girlz Unplugged -- which unfortunately the government decided not to fund, but they were luckily able to go to the district of Muskoka to replace that provincial funding -- and the prevention of violence against women's programs as well. Unfortunately, I saw on the news this morning that a tragic murder in Huntsville recently occurred, so obviously we need to see funding. That's a role where the government should be playing a direct role, in assisting funding of those worthwhile organizations.
I do have some questions, but I support the principle of this bill, and I know that the member is doing what she can to assist children's charities, and I will be supporting this worthwhile bill.
I think one of the bigger, broader principle issues that we need to think about is, is this yet just a continuation of what we've seen by way of governments across this country, and I would say across North America, to more and more put the onus of supporting organizations in our community that do good community work on to the backs of people and taking it from the perspective of doing it by way of taxes themselves?
Let me explain. I probably didn't explain that well. I was a bit thrown off as I started that. What we've seen over the last --
We have seen across this country, over the last 10 or 15 years, a move on the part of government to take services that used to be provided to people by way of government, either in health services, children's services, mental health, developmentally handicapped etc, and move those services from being supported by way of government, through the taxes that we pay, to relying more on charitable donations on the part of private individuals.
That is a trend that, quite frankly, disturbs me, because what we're seeing more and more today is very valuable services in our communities basically move off of being a service that is there for the common good, that is basically borne by the taxpayer, to being divested off to a stand-alone agency that deals with having to fundraise to be able to provide services.
Let me give you a good example: the deaf and hearing-impaired people in the community of the city of Timmins. We have, for a number of years, been in a situation where originally they had been funded by the province to run an office in Timmins in order to support the very much-needed work they do in and around the community. For whatever reason -- it's a bit too long to explain -- over a period of time, we saw the government funding for services for the hearing impaired in the community dry up and, as a result, they had to rely entirely on charitable activities within their organization to provide services.
Luckily, we managed to intervene. I've got to say that George Smitherman, the Minister of Health, came through when we asked him to re-fund this service. I want to put on the record that George did an excellent job in hearing the cries of the city and this local member to get that organization funded, and we're now working toward reintroducing it as a core service paid by the Ministry of Health in the city of Timmins.
But I raise this because that's just but one example of what we've seen, where organizations in our community that do very valuable work are having to struggle to stay alive and, in many cases, having to close their doors because they can't survive on charitable donations. There are just too many people, too many organizations in our communities, in some cases small communities, which makes it even more difficult for them to fund themselves.
For example, in Timmins, the AIDS committee has basically closed up shop. They originally got some Trillium funding in order to set up a place they could operate out of in the city of Timmins. They did a lot of good work in our city. Our city, like other cities across the province, has people with AIDS, and we need to allow those people to come together to deal with what is a very tragic disease and do the kind of advocacy work that needs to be done in our communities, to make sure other people don't become infected with AIDS, and also to let people know that people with AIDS are people like anybody else but they just happen to have a disease. We need to reinforce that message out there.
Unfortunately, at the end of their Trillium funding, they just could not survive on charitable donations and, as a result, had to basically close down their storefront. I think that's tragic, because I think there is a role for government to play in these types of services. We need to do advocacy and prevention in order to make sure people are able to live longer and more healthy lives. What we're finding more and more is that those responsibilities are falling on the backs of individuals who deal with charities.
So when it comes to this particular initiative, I think the member is trying to do something right, which is, how do we find money for children's charities? And I agree with you; we need to do something because, quite frankly, there is not enough being done on the part of federal and provincial governments to be able to support the services that are much needed for children.
I guess I'd ask the question: Doesn't government have a responsibility to a certain extent to make sure that some of those things are done? That's why we pay taxes. The whole principle behind the tax system is, rather than having a user-pay system where people individually have to pay whenever they want a service or have to rely on the good graces of donations of individuals, we basically distribute the cost of the service over a broader number of people and we collect that in taxes in order to provide those services. Then I would just say I would want to see this House and members of this assembly put as much pressure as we can on the Minister of Children and Youth Services to make sure that we give proper supports in our communities, because, God only knows, we need it.
I represent the riding of Timmins-James Bay, and our riding is not immune to child poverty, by any stretch of the imagination. In some cases, in some of our coastal communities up along James Bay, it is pretty desperate. So I'm not sure what this is going to do to assist those children, but again, I'm going to vote for it because I think it needs to go to committee and we have to have that debate.
Then we get to the practical side of this, away from the need to support children's services. The thing that came to mind for me is, all right, we do this for children's charities. We say that when you go to renew your sticker for your licence, you can get a special licence that says, "I support children's charities," and the money from that is then put into a trust fund to be distributed by the minister by way of application by people who want the money. Well, at some point, every member in this House is going to get called by some charity. I'm going to get a call from the Legion, because the Legion in downtown Timmins is closing down. They've had to sell their building and they probably need more money. They're going to come to me and say, "Give us an opportunity to put a checkmark on the driver's licence renewal too, so we can show that we support legionnaires." And all of a sudden I'm going to get one from le Centre culturel LaRonde and I'm going to get one from the Dante Club, and I'm going to get one from les Filles d'Isabelle. The list goes on and on and on.
What we could end up with, technically, if we expanded this to its ultimate end, is everybody driving around with a plate where they've got a number and they belong to some charity. If we want to advertise charities on our drivers' licences, I guess that's a fair debate, but I think we need to go to committee to talk about where this is going to go. I think, again, there is a role for government, and secondly, is that a good way to deal with our licensing system? I'd certainly like to hear from the public at committee in regard to that particular issue, and from the people who issue the licences.
The other thing is, when we get into the actual bill itself -- and again, I don't disagree with what the member is trying to do. Who's not going to support having more money for children's charities? But here's one of the things: We're going to establish by way of this legislation a trust fund, and the money that is then collected will go into the trust fund and those people who want money are going to make application. Then I guess at the end the minister will decide, or by way of regulation will create a board that's going to decide, who gets the money. So I'm a children's charity in a large urban centre somewhere in Ontario -- Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, wherever it might be. I make application. You probably have better chances than some charity up in Moosonee or Moose Factory or wherever. Everybody is applying for a very small pot of money, and how equitable is the distribution going to be? Again I want to say to the member, I don't disagree with your idea. I just want to make sure that, if we do this, at the end of the day there is some equitable formula for how the money is going to be distributed, if we ever do pass this into law.
That brings me to the other point, which is, I presume we're going to vote to send this to second reading. I know I'm voting for it. But I'm just saying that once it gets into committee -- first of all, is it ever going to be dealt with at committee? I don't know. There are going to be a lot of bills at committee to deal with, and I don't know to what committee this particular bill is going to go. I don't know how far up the order it's going to be. But if it ever gets dealt with and brought back into this House -- I kind of doubt this thing will ever get back into the House.
So I just say to the member, as a friendly suggestion, that when you do get it into committee, we need to think about how we establish a mechanism where people can do an automatic check-off to be able to give to the charity of their choice. That's a fair debate. But maybe we need to broaden that so people can decide if they want to donate, when they go to the licence bureau, to the Legion or to les Chevaliers de Colomb or to the children's charity, that people be given that option, and that gets really complicated. So I'm just raising it as debate. It's a fairly difficult thing to deal with, and I'm not quite sure that's the best way of being able to get money for charities. I would support that we in this House attribute by way of the budget an adequate amount of money to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to make sure that children's services in this province are properly funded. At least when we do that by way of ministry, there is a mechanism to make sure that we give services that are somewhat standard for all children across the province. I'm not so sure that at the end of the day this particular initiative is going to meet that test.
I want to make just one other point, and I think my good friend Mr Prue would probably like to speak.
The bill also has a special significance for me as I had the privilege to first introduce the Kids First Licences Act on June 4, 2003. The idea was actually not mine; the idea was brought to me by two constituents who were very involved in local children's charities. They came forward with this idea based on research they had done in the United States and had identified this program. I want to take a moment to thank Travis Hughes and Tina Gatt -- Tina is the coordinator of the Child Abuse Prevention Council Windsor-Essex County -- for bringing this idea to the Legislature for consideration, and of course to Laurel for again bringing the matter up today.
The optional program will allow Ontarians to make a donation when paying fees for licences, permits and number plates issued under the Highway Traffic Act. Donors may request specifically designated number plates in recognition of their donations. Perhaps, Mr Speaker, with the consent of the House, I can hold up the sample licence plate and what it might look like should this bill be passed into law. That was done by the Child Abuse Prevention Council Windsor-Essex County.
If the bill passes, the Minister of Children and Youth Services will be responsible for establishing this trust fund into which donations will be made, and developing and maintaining criteria for the distribution of funds to the registered children's charity.
When the program began in Indiana in January 1995, $25 from specialty plate sales went to the Indiana Children's Trust Fund, the title of which has recently been changed to the Kids First Trust Fund. In that first year in Indiana, the program raised over $1.9 million.
Children's charities are competing for funds in a very tight market. These organizations are an integral part of our socio-economic network, and we must find innovative ways to support them so they can do their job the best they can. Ontario's children's charities provide an invaluable service. They seek to improve the lives of those most vulnerable in our society.
According to Indiana figures for 2003, the Kids First Trust Fund assisted 86 agencies throughout the state with over $2.3 million. From 1994 to 2001, over $14.3 million was raised.
I am pleased to rise in the House today to support the bill as we look at new and innovative ways to support the important work of children's charities in Ontario so they can continue to do the work that is so important to all of us. I think it needs to be said that there has always been a presence of children's charities in this province. This doesn't shift the burden from government to charity; it simply provides another mechanism to various children's charities, particularly, as Ms Broten indicated in her discussion, those charities that are smaller and don't have the ability to raise the bigger sums of money. Indeed, when this idea first surfaced in Indiana and again last year, that was the whole purpose. In my view, it functions not unlike the Trillium Foundation in some sense, but it will be targeted to children's charities.
The member earlier said, "Why just children's charities?" Well, let's start it up and see what happens. These children's charities are in need of help. I think we can all agree that these are worthy causes. All of us, I'm sure, have an identification or affiliation with one or another children's charity in our home riding, whether Timmins, Windsor, Etobicoke or Ottawa -- anywhere in the province.
I am pleased to join my colleagues in the House who will be supporting this bill. I look forward to it being moved to a committee, and I look forward to our colleagues in the NDP and Conservative Party allowing bills to get through committee in a timely fashion so we can get bills of this nature to the fore for discussion, so that, as many other private members' bills in the past have, they can see the light of day and become government policy.
My congratulations to Ms Broten. I look forward to the opportunity to vote in favour of this bill approximately 30 minutes hence. Thank you very much.
I too would like to see a lot more bills go through the House, go through to third reading, and I can think of eight or 10 bills that I've seen, starting, I guess, last spring, proceeding right through to today, that I think merit time in committee. I think they would save the government and the taxpayers a lot of time if we could move some of those bills forward.
If there's anything we can do with democratic renewal, it's private members' time and private members' hours. Maybe we should double the amount of time or something. Mr Wilkinson suggested to me earlier that maybe we could do something along the lines of co-sponsoring a lot more bills so we don't have the partisanship involved in it. I think this is a great way of proceeding, and I will be supporting this.
I can't say enough about the fact that the children are our future. The House leader mentioned previously that you have to start somewhere, and I believe that children's charities would be a good place to start what I consider to be a very innovative way of thinking on raising funds. We have had some negative comments from people who thought that this may be just be another opportunity for the government to do a photo op when they distribute the money. Yes, that would probably be the case, but I think we can live with that.
However, I want to compliment the member, and I don't very often sit here and compliment the Liberals on anything, because my job is to oppose, but I've sat somewhat on the report on the review of emergency management in the province, and Ms Broten, of course, has been the lead on that bill, along with Mike Colle, who's here in the House as well. I know that during the debate on that report, she put a lot of time and effort into that. I don't know if her caucus knows how much time she really put into the bill, but I think it's important that she be thanked for that.
As well, I want to compliment her because we have something in common. I've been a former parliamentary assistant to the Premier, and I always feel sorry for anybody who has that job. I think she's probably doing a great job, in spite of the fact that no matter where you go, if you're a parliamentary assistant to the Premier, you're supposed to answer every question the Premier can answer. If she goes to estimates committee or she's on a talk show, because she has that job, she's expected to know all the answers that the Premier has in his House book, and she probably doesn't have a House book. So it's not an easy task to do that job, and I think when they put her on the lead on the report on the review of emergency management, they picked someone who's very competent.
So I'll be supporting this bill. There's been a lot of debate already, and I think the fact that there's been a case, an example in Indiana, has set a path for Ontario to follow. One of the things that government has done in Ontario -- we took the lead on it, and so did the federal government -- is the Early Years centres. I hear some people still making negative comments, but I can tell you, in my riding, I have two Early Years centres -- one in Orillia and one in Midland -- and I just can't compliment them enough on the work they do. I think they receive $500,000 a year from the government. There are programs throughout the little rural communities, and I can tell you that that money is well received and well spent by those Early Years centres in our ridings.
I'm going to leave a bit of time for my colleague from Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford. He's of course got some early years centres in his riding. I don't know what his opinion is on this bill. But as we move forward, I want to re-emphasize the fact that I think this is a fairly innovative way of doing this transferring of money.
Second of all, I really hope we can talk a lot more and discuss a lot more in our own caucus meetings and even in this House and in some of our Qs and As and in the debates we have -- let's move forward with some democratic renewal in private members' time. There are really some good thoughts coming here. We can't keep burying these great ideas in committee of the whole or in some committee and it will never be brought forward. It is our responsibility as backbenchers and as caucus members and as MPPs to go our caucuses and say that we want to spend more time debating private members' business and we want to spend more time getting this legislation through.
It is something that we owe the public. There is good legislation here, and there is no reason why the public shouldn't deserve some of this legislation to be passed on and not sit on a shelf year after year after year as we proceed through our political careers. Let's support this bill, and let's see if, along with a number of other bills, it can't be moved to actually be implemented here in our province.
With that, Mr Speaker, I'll thank you for this opportunity today. My colleague from Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford will wrap up in a few minutes.
First of all, it is trite to say that government should be funding these organizations. If we cannot fund children's services first and foremost in this province, then I would think that we're probably in worse shape than we all hope. We're hoping that the finance minister will stand up today and tell us the economic future is rosy, and if in fact it is rosy, then we should commit ourselves to making sure that our children are looked after in this province.
The second problem I have with this bill is that it is somewhat cumbersome. The example has been given about the state of Indiana. I did a little research on the computer about the state of Indiana and how their program works. I find that it is bureaucratic, top-heavy and expensive.
The example was given of the Indiana Kids First Trust Fund licence plate. Well, here are the details of what Indiana does. The total fee is $40, it is available at all licence branches, and $25 of the fee is a donation to the Indiana Kids Trust Fund toward programs for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
That's all well and good, but $15 is an administrative fee for the state of Indiana. So what you are doing when someone donates $40 is that 30% of the money given is skimmed off the top and goes to the state of Indiana for general revenues, for the state to issue the licence plates. No charity -- I shouldn't say no charity -- no reputable charity in this province skims 30% off the top for administrative fees. Certainly that's not the case with the United Way, which is out there collecting money now, and most of the children's charities that I know have about a 10% to 15% administrative fee for the hiring of their staff, the keeping of accountants and those things that are necessary. This is much, much higher than we would allow any charity to do.
The second problem if you look at what is happening in Indiana, which was given as the example, is that it's not just this licence plate. Do you know, because they started with this in 1995, how many licence plates they now issue? They issue 23 separate licence plates for colleges and universities, ranging in fee from $12 to $150 to get the licence plate to help your former alma mater. They issue military-related plates for those who are in the military. They issue plates to the American Legion, the Fraternal Order of Police, Freemasons, Indiana Black Expo, the Breast Cancer Awareness Trust, the Food Bank Trust, and the list goes on and on and on.
I am a little bit worried that this very good idea, doing what Indiana set out in the first place to do, will grow in the same way that the Indiana plates have. It is a boon not to the charities, not to the organizations, but in fact to the government, which, in each and every case, charges $15 administrative fees in order to pass on money which people can pass to all these organizations by simply writing a cheque. If that's what the intent is here, I think we have to have a very close look at not doing what Indiana has done.
The third and last is the minister's role in clarifying -- and we need clarity here -- who is eligible. As I read the bill, it says that the only eligible groups -- "Its primary objective is the improvement of children's lives in the province of Ontario." Many of the institutions are Canada-based. Many of the funds that are collected for children's services are not unique to Ontario. They do give money to Quebec; they may give money in the Maritimes or in western Canada. It is Canada-based. I would not want to deny a Canadian citizen the opportunity to make sure that the money goes to charities which help children all across this country.
We need to take better care of our kids in Ontario and we need to better support those charities that make the lives of our kids better. Many kids, indeed all kids, need more than their families are able to give them, and they need more than government is able to give them. That is why we need our communities to provide the support, the encouragement and the opportunities to explore new adventures, to master new challenges and to learn the leadership skills that will serve them well into adulthood. It truly does take a village to raise a child. This bill will give the village more resources so they can serve more kids and provide more intense supports for kids who need them the most.
In my community of London North Centre, I have seen firsthand the magic that can happen when kids get a chance to be kids. I've seen little girls flourish under the mentorship of Big Sisters, thrive when they have someone in their lives who believes in them and who encourages them to be the very best they can be. I have seen the faces of kids light up when they pour off the buses as they arrive at the Boys and Girls Club, where they can play in a safe, positive environment. This bill, if passed, will let more kids have that opportunity.
Tomorrow, I celebrate my birthday.
What I find interesting, though -- and perhaps the member can respond to this. Looking at this legislation the way it's drafted, if you look at subsection 1(2), it says, "The Minister of Transportation may...." There's the word "may," which gives the minister the discretion -- "collect amounts donated under subsection (1) and, on collecting an amount, shall ensure that" -- which goes to very direct and mandatory language, the word "shall," -- "a receipt for the amount is issued to the donor."
What I don't know is, is it strictly a receipt or is it a taxable receipt that is going to the donor for having given for an organization? It is an indirect method, because it is going to come through another ministry and it is going to go to a charitable organization, with the primary objective of supporting children's lives. So the section there deals with the Minister of Transportation being given a prerogative to collect the amounts. I would think, if the amounts are donated and the minister is going through with this, that the minister has an obligation under law, once he or she has collected the amounts, to ensure that they go toward the purpose of this legislation.
Then it goes on under subsection 3, "The Minister of Children and Youth Services shall" -- that's very strong language. It's mandatory, the minister has to do the following: "(a) establish a trust fund into which shall be paid the amounts donated in accordance with the section; and (b) develop and maintain criteria for the distribution of funds from the trust fund to children's charities." There is no minister's prerogative for the Minister of Children and Youth Services. The minister is required to do what is said in the legislation whereas the Minister of Transportation may collect amounts donated.
Now, we've got a situation where the amounts have already been donated, and they say they may collect. That may be the drafting. Maybe the member has an explanation for that and maybe we can deal with it, but I don't like the way it's drafted and I'm questioning whether the person who is making the donation is going to get a taxable receipt. If they did give directly to the organization, they would get a taxable receipt. So I don't know what's going on here. Is it a taxable receipt or is it not? Let's be fair. If it is going through to a charity, the normal provisions would apply.
I'd like to say, Minister, that children's services are an important issue. I have been dealing with the Minister of Children and Youth Services and also through the Minister of Finance, because he's affected in his riding with respect to a children's treatment centre in my particular riding. We're the only area, Simcoe county and York region, that doesn't have access to a children's treatment centre. Because we're debating improving the lives of children, I think it is important that the Minister of Children and Youth Services start to move on the petition. There are approximately 23,000 children and youth in Simcoe county and York region who have special needs. Approximately 6,000 of these children have multiple special needs that require a range of core rehabilitation services. We have right now, through the Simcoe county organization that deals with children with special needs, a location where this facility could be put. It wouldn't have to be constructed at the cost of the one that was constructed in the millions of dollars in North Bay. We have a facility right now. All you have to do is approve that funding and we can improve the lives of children in my areas right now.
Some may say, "This isn't going to eradicate world hunger. This isn't going to stop the nuclear arms race." But it's going to make a significant contribution in a very important area.
We who ponder our activity here from time to time often think about the work we do. I know others think about it. They frequently talk about career politicians and what have you. I was thinking last night that a career perhaps seeks to be successful by making money -- we have certain measures about what success is -- whereas a calling seeks to be valuable by making a difference. I think the member from Etobicoke-Lakeshore has a calling to this place, and I'm really proud of her in this initiative. She clearly has a passion for the possible. She is taking a few moments on a Thursday morning to declare that passion for the possible and to say that we in this place can do something hopeful. So thank you, madam, for that.
One of the attributes of power is that it gives those who have it, especially on Thursday mornings in this place, the opportunity to articulate values and define certain realities, and with that, I suppose, the power to help others believe in some new definitions. I think that's happening in a very real sense here today as well.
Before coming to this place, I worked as a professional fundraiser, not a very well paid one, by the way, but you don't go into it for the money. It really is a calling. There are a couple of truisms about fundraising, particularly in the charity sector. I note, and I want to footnote this, that the member's bill talks about registered, legitimate charities, not the kinds of charities Minister Watson is talking about in his fraud calendar, where you get ripped off, but about legitimate charities for which an income tax receipt can be given.
But I am wandering. I'm making the mistake of actually talking to the bill. Forgive me for that. I didn't mean to do that.
Back to the task of fundraising, there are two core truths around successful fundraising. First, it's a TSA strategy. First, you have to effectively tell the story. After telling the story you have to do something else that most of us have difficulty with -- certainly in the political arena I have a lot of difficulty with it -- and that's making the ask, asking for the donation. A lot of people are reluctant to do that.
Some charities need help with their storytelling. Hopefully, by passing this bill there will be an incentive for them to get on with that work. A lot of them have trouble making the ask. I think it's here where we as a government have an important role to play, because people want to give. Ms Matthews raised the fact that it's her birthday and she'll be renewing her licence. She could make another important contribution when she does that. It's called organ donation. It's optional, just as this would be optional, and it's very important that we do that. When you renew your vehicle plate or your vehicle licence, you have a vehicle to make an organ donation. We will have a vehicle here to make a donation in a very focused way to a series of charities that can certainly use our help.
I mention that because people do want to give, but they need that vehicle to facilitate that giving. I reference that because some said, "Why not everybody?" Well, sure. I mean, why not have a donation on the licence to eliminate world hunger? Sorry, but I don't want to see excellence become the enemy of the good.
What the honourable member is doing is good, it's right, it's timely and it is a great contribution. The bill is proposing that funds will be collected and put in a trust and that the minister will get advice from a separate board as to where that can best be invested.
We have some evidence that it works. In the state of Indiana it works very, very well. Kids First has helped innumerable young people. There's been a lot of rhetoric lately about, "Leave no child behind." I think this would be a good start.
The interfaith council is here today. Lois Wilson, the former moderator, quoted the prophet Amos about letting justice flow down like a mighty stream. I agree with that, but we'd better have politicians around to make sure we're building the irrigation system.
In my vision of the future in Ontario, this bill would build upon the good work our government is doing with respect to children's charities. We have seen direct increases for funding of community health centres -- the folks who are here today -- increased funding for the Gatehouse from the victims' justice fund and recent increased funding to Variety Village and children's mental health.
But we need to build partnerships in our community, we need to work, both private sector and public sector together, to make sure children's charities, which do have a special place distinct from many other worthy charities across the province -- it is not unusual for foundations to direct their funds to children's charities because, as has been said by many members across the Legislature, children are our future.
The good work we can do is to ensure that not-for-profit organizations can spend a little bit less of their time, money and resources trying to raise money, and that generous Ontarians can have a mechanism to donate money and know that someone else is double-checking the i's and crossing the t's and that their money is being well spent.
I certainly look forward to the debate at committee about what the contents of the bylaws and the contents of a trust indenture would be. I left my law practice about a year ago, and so, in combination, I did not draft a trust indenture, but certainly we would need to do that. I look forward to seeing this go to committee so we can talk about how we, as a Legislature, as people in this province, can work together to make sure we provide more support to the children's charities that are doing incredible work on behalf of each of us every single day in communities across this province.
AMENDMENT ACT, 2004 /
LOI DE 2004
MODIFIANT LE CODE DE LA ROUTE
Pursuant to standing order 96, this bill is referred to the standing committee --
KIDS FIRST LICENCES ACT, 2004 /
LOI DE 2004
SUR LES PLAQUES D'IMMATRICULATION
EN FAVEUR DES ENFANTS
Pursuant to standing order 96, it is referred to the committee of the --
Just before I leave the Chair, I want to say that I listened very carefully to the debate and I think the debate was of very high quality this morning. You're to be complimented on it.
All matters dealing with private members' public business having been dealt with, I do now leave the chair, and the House will resume at 1:30 of the clock.
The House recessed from 1200 to 1330.
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