The House met at 10 a.m.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
MUNICIPAL-INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY FOR ABATEMENT
Mr. Gillies moved resolution 17:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government's MISA program, which only covers companies dumping industrial effluent directly into the province's waterways, should be extended to now include the additional 97.5 per cent of water polluters in this province that are dumping into the province's municipal sewer systems.
The basic philosophy of the MISA program, which is in the implementation and design stage by the ministry, is "the virtual elimination of persistent toxic contaminants in municipal and industrial discharges into Ontario's waterways." What are we talking about? The traditional approach to industrial effluent and of past control programs has been aimed at the conventional pollutants such as biodegradable wastes, suspended solids, ammonia, phosphorus, some metals, oils, grease and phenols.
As our knowledge of water pollution has increased and as industrial processes have become more sophisticated and employ a much wider variety of chemical substances, we now have growing concerns about toxic metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic, and about toxic organics or carbon-based compounds, such as dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls and chlorinated benzenes.
The regulations that are being developed currently by the Ministry of the Environment to implement the MISA program are going to require dischargers to monitor effluents and to comply with strict effluent limits based on best available technology economically achievable.
I will resist the temptation in the next number of minutes to get into a long string of jargon. If I might, I would like to put this in terms of some very basic goals, which anyone in the province following this debate might be able to relate to.
The basic philosophy of the MISA program is that industrial wastes should be treated at source. In the past we have had other types of controls placed, but unfortunately the past experience has been that industrial pollutants have been discharged either into municipal sewer systems or directly into our lakes, rivers and streams.
There has been some attempt to clean up. Certainly there is the expectation, or implied expectation, that our municipal sewage treatment plants would have a part in removing such chemical discharges before the waste water goes back into our province's water system. In terms of direct polluters, perhaps we had little or no expectations at all of what would be done to protect our people from increased water pollution because of industrial discharges.
The ministry's own figures, and indeed the best estimates of anyone working in this field, are that there are some 12,000 water polluters in Ontario in terms of industrial sources. Some 300 of those sources are what we call direct dischargers, discharging directly into the lakes, rivers and streams of our province and finding their way into the ecosystem. The vast majority of these sources of chemical discharge, however, some 11,700 or so, are not direct dischargers; they are discharging into the sewer systems, which are then expected in one form or another to either contain or treat the waste chemical.
The MISA program, which defines and recognizes these two types of polluters or dischargers, is really geared specifically to those 300 industries which are direct dischargers. It has very little to say and very little to offer in terms of the cleanup required for the vast majority of water polluters who are discharging into the sewer systems.
It is estimated that about 50 per cent of waste chemical pollution is originating from those 300 or so direct dischargers and that about 50 per cent of the pollution is originating from the other sources, for the most part smaller but much more numerous, discharging into the sewer systems.
The MISA program philosophy, as I indicated earlier, is basically a good one and one that I am sure all of us in this House would support. The basic philosophy is to clean up these industrial pollutants at the source. In other words, the 300 direct dischargers are to be expected to control and regulate and as much as possible eliminate the discharge of industrial chemicals right there at their plants before they get into our province's water system.
The same philosophy should apply to that vast majority of industrial polluters who are discharging into the sewer systems, but here is where I believe the MISA program being implemented by the minister fails and fails badly. It fails inasmuch as the MISA program's philosophy would have us thinking that a municipal sewage treatment plant is a source of pollution and that the cleanup at the municipal level should be there. I am pleased to say my resolution parallels the initiative currently being taken by the Pollution Probe organization.
Pollution Probe says it best, I believe, when it indicates that a municipal sewage treatment plant is not, of course, a source of water pollution. It is rather a mechanism put in place by society in an attempt to clean up pollution which is originating upstream from that plant. I believe that in order to be effective, the MISA program should recognize that in fact the 11,700-odd polluters who are putting waste chemicals into our sewer systems are the sources, just as much as the 300 or so direct dischargers are sources.
I would like to quote briefly from a document Pollution Probe has released in recent weeks, which very succinctly sums up the problem in terms of the industrial situation within the municipal systems. It is under the heading "No More Dilution," and it says:
"MISA makes clear that one of the main flaws in Ontario's existing pollution control program is that it allows polluters to dilute waste with cleaner water so that the same total amount is discharged in a more diluted form. MISA is supposed to begin capping the total load of pollutants to receiving waters."
I believe this is most important: "Sewage treatment systems are giant dilution mechanisms. The fastest way to lose track of an industrial effluent is to dump it in the sewer. Toxics discharged to sewers may be immeasurable at the sewage treatment plant or in its effluent; yet they are still being discharged. Once in a system, they are indistinguishable from toxics from other dischargers.
"If the effluent were discharged directly," -- in other words, if it were being directly addressed by the regulations in the minister's program -- "it would be unacceptable, but when dumped into a municipal sewer, along with everyone else's cleaner waste water, it flows to and out of the sewage treatment plant mixed in the large volume of other waste water and will be diluted enough to not violate water quality objectives."
There is the problem. These sewage treatment plants in all our municipalities are not sources of industrial pollution. They are but one attempt to treat such pollution and they are wholly inadequate to that job. The same philosophy that industrial pollutants be cleaned up at source must be applied to that vast majority of companies dumping into the municipal systems.
The MISA program speaks at length about the determination of the best available technology and the setting of standards for the regulation of these industrial effluents. While I guess we could go on at length about those standards, about their adequacy or lack of same, I will leave that for another debate. The point I am trying to make through this resolution is a very simple one indeed: simply take the standards and the philosophy that have been developed for MISA and apply them across the board.
When the minister puts before this House a program designed to lead to "the virtual elimination of industrial water pollution in our province," we have to ask ourselves: how can the minister follow through with that commitment when the program he has announced will cover only two and a half per cent of the industrial sources of water pollution? The minister's program does not speak to the vast majority. It does not speak to 97.5 per cent of the sources of industrial water pollution in our province.
I call upon the minister to amend the MISA program directly and as quickly as possible so that the standards which have been developed will apply to all sources of industrial water pollution in our province. I call upon the minister to recognize that it really makes no difference whether those waste chemicals are being dumped directly into our rivers, lakes and streams, or indeed whether they are being dumped into municipal sewer systems where, after a wholly inadequate and technologically basic treatment, those industrial effluents will find themselves, diluted perhaps, but once again in those same lakes, rivers and streams.
I take some encouragement from the response of the minister to a question in this House in recent days on this subject. I take it from the minister's answer to the question posed by my friend the member for Lakeshore (Mrs. Grier) that he is, in fact, sympathetic to this resolution. I take it from the minister's answer that he recognizes the very major flaw in his program. The recognition is not enough; we need action from this government. I would ask all members of the House to put some impetus behind this initiative by supporting the resolution, which I would hope, once passed unanimously, would then give the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) the clout in cabinet he needs to take this very major and positive step.
I think it is perhaps worth noting that this is the first occasion upon which this House has had an opportunity to debate the MISA program. Anyone who reads the minister's speeches, as I am occasionally forced to do, or listens to his answers in the House, might be forgiven for thinking that somehow MISA was a fait accompli, because the minister has been quoting MISA as the answer to many of the problems of pollution all across this province ever since he first introduced it in 1986.
But, in fact, the MISA program is just that: a program or a scheme. It has as yet achieved no actual reductions in the levels of pollutants entering our waterways. It has a very long time frame before the regulations it contemplates will be put in place. In fact, the first regulation, the one that monitored industrial discharges in one sector, was expected to be available last month, and we have not yet seen it.
When the program was first announced by the minister in June 1986, I raised in this House the question of the 12,000 industries that were uncontrolled by MISA. I asked the minister to tell the House why he is not imposing stringent limits immediately on these 12,000 industries. The minister's reply was somewhat diluted, but the burden of it was that he was essentially leaving it to the municipalities to upgrade the sewage treatment plants.
I find reviewing that answer very interesting in the light of his answer to my question this week when I raised the issue again that there were 12,000 loopholes in the program, at which time the minister replied, "...everyone would agree...that the sewage treatment plants...even with modifications and upgradings, would not deal as effectively with the discharges as if they were dealt with at source."
The minister has come some distance from the position he took when he first introduced the MISA program. But if, as he says, everyone would agree -- and I know the members on this side of the House would agree -- that it is more effective to control these discharges at source, it begs the question. What is the minister waiting for? Why does he not get on with it? Not only are the majority of industries uncontrolled by MISA as it now stands but also 50 per cent of the total discharge is uncontrolled, because it is now being indirectly discharged into the sewers of the system.
If the minister is changing his position and is coming to the point of contemplating pretreatment, then I find it passing strange that as recently as last November he put $1.5 million into a study of the discharges from sewage treatment plants in connection with the MISA program. That indicates to me that the thrust, the impetus and the burden of his funding is going towards controlling the outflow from sewage treatment plants, not, as the member for Brantford has explained, what is required, which is to cut down on the inflow.
The MISA program itself says that industries discharging into municipal sewer systems may be required to pretreat. That is a very weak commitment on the part of the minister. I hope, as a result of the resolution today, that we will see a much stronger commitment and some definitive action, because one of the other things the minister said in response to my question on Tuesday was that by raising the issue of the loopholes I was perpetuating the myth that the MISA program had flaws.
The only myth that is being perpetuated around this place is the myth that this government is striding boldly forward to protect the environment. In fact, when you look at the reality of the actions of this government, you see that the steps it is making towards protecting the environment are hesitant, faltering and slow, and that in every step it is being supported and pushed by the environmental community and by the opposition in this House. The reality of its performance does not match the rhetoric of its press releases.
Let me remind members of some examples of that. Countdown Acid Rain, a wonderful program introduced in December 1985, was lauded across the continent as being a progressive step forward; but it had a major flaw. That major flaw, of course, was the provision of a banking provision for Ontario Hydro. It took months of pressure in this House, pressure from environmental groups and eventually a recommendation from a select committee before that major loophole was closed and the Countdown Acid Rain program could be given some reasonable credibility.
The soft drink container regulations proclaimed by this minister were supposed to set us on a new road to recycling and recovery of waste. What was the flaw in that program? The flaw was that as well as controlling some of the soft drink containers, it allowed the enormous polyethylene tetrathalate bottles, the big plastic containers, to be introduced into the market. Those containers are not reusable, are not recyclable and are in fact not being recovered. So that program too was not as good in reality as it was made out to be.
We have heard much from the minister about his increased enforcement and prosecutions for violations of the environment. I think my question yesterday showed that in the case of the Lucan landfill site outside London, the minister's officials had not even shown up in court when subpoenaed in a prosecution initiated by a citizen because the ministry had failed to initiate prosecution. This shows that the record of enforcement and prosecution is not as good as the minister would allow us to believe. One is tempted to think the same old gang is running the ministry.
Of course, in the MISA program the loophole of the 12,000 industries that discharge indirectly was not the only loophole. There was the whole question that provincially owned facilities were exempted from prosecution under the Ontario Water Resources Act. The minister was persuaded to close that loophole.
The point I am making is that so many of these programs are flawed that we find it very frustrating. It takes months of raising these flaws and pointing out the inadequacies of the programs before suddenly the minister says: "Yes, I agree with you. Let us do it right after all." How much simpler it would be, how much better it would be for the people of this province if when the programs were initiated they did what they purported to do in the first place; that is, to really cut back on the discharges into the waterways of this province and really force industry to begin to clean up its waste.
That is what we are asking for in this resolution. That is what I hope the government will do as a result of the passage of this resolution. I say to the minister and to those who are going to read his prepared speeches in this debate that I think the people of this province are demanding of their government a far greater commitment to strong action and to immediate action than we have seen so far. The issue we are debating here today is just one example where I think it is time that strong action be taken now and delayed no longer.
The resolution states that the MISA program "only covers companies dumping industrial effluent directly into the province's waterways." This is factually not true and I am sure the member knows it. What is true is that the vast majority of industries in Ontario are indirect dischargers located in municipalities and the practice of discharging into municipal sewer systems is quite widespread.
I remind the member that MISA stands for municipal-industrial strategy for abatement. The municipal sector is one of nine sectors -- eight are industrial -- covered by the program. The municipal sector includes 400 sewage treatment plants that collectively handle waste water from some 12,000 industries as well as domestic and commercial wastes. MISA is a regulatory program that will develop two different regulations for the municipal sector.
Initially, the municipalities will be subject to a monitoring regulation that will require them to identify and measure the toxics in their very own effluent. This self-monitoring program will be audited by the Ministry of the Environment. Municipalities will then be subject to an abatement regulation that will specify clearly what the allowable concentrations are, as well as total amounts of loading of toxin pollutants and which ones are acceptable. The specified levels will be based on the best available technology economically achievable at the time.
The municipal sector has entered the preregulation phase of this program. Regulations will be applied to municipal sewage treatment plants, or STPs, on a staged basis. Municipalities will begin to come under the monitoring regulation in the beginning of 1988, with all municipalities covered by the end of that year. Municipalities will then be covered by the abatement regulation by the end of 1989.
It should be clear to all members that this resolution is absolutely redundant, but because we Liberals are a positive group of people, we regard it as at least one source of Conservative support for our efforts to better the environment and I salute the member for Brantford.
The MISA program does cover industries and municipalities, direct and indirect dischargers, as well as new and established sources of pollution. It is a new and comprehensive approach to controlling point-source water pollution. The real and meaningful issue that should be addressed in this resolution is whether the MISA program can effectively and efficiently control municipal pollution and therefore also the pollution arising from the indirect industrial dischargers. That would be a useful resolution to discuss.
Let me address that question, one also raised by Pollution Probe and addressed by the MISA program. At present, the municipal sector has insufficient data on the quantity of the hazardous contaminants discharged into the sewers and their removal in the treatment process. That fact alone speaks volumes for the inactivity of the previous governments of this province.
There are concerns that the STPs are unable to efficiently remove tonics present in the estimated 12,000 indirect industrial discharges in Ontario's sewer systems. Municipal sewage treatment plants are currently designed for biological wastes and not toxic wastes. There is also concern that sludge disposal could cause harmful effects to the environment.
Comments such as these were explicitly requested from the public by the Minister of the Environment when he announced the program in June 1986. We believe in open and responsive government and we have addressed those concerns; for example, the lack of information. A joint committee -- the Ministry of the Environment, federal and the Municipal Engineers Association -- is currently carrying out several projects aimed at gathering data to support the development of the municipal sector regulations of the MISA program. A province-wide survey of 40 representative sewage treatment plants is being carried out to identify and measure about 170 toxics in raw sewage and in the final effluent and sludge. The survey will cost an estimated $1.6 million. MOE and Environment Canada are developing a method to control the fluctuation of contaminant concentrations in STP effluents.
Another project is a monitoring program to measure the rate at which volatile trace organic contaminants are removed from the aeration basins during secondary sewage treatment at three to five STPs. The purpose of these studies is to get the information required as quickly as possible so the MISA program can be applied to the municipalities without delay.
Another concern is the use of municipal sewers for industrial discharges. When the abatement regulations come into effect, the sewage treatment plants not complying with the effluent limits will be able to choose from the following: upgrade their sewage treatment plants; or require individual direct dischargers to pretreat their effluents or, better still, adopt process changes that eliminate the production of toxic wastes.
We believe most municipalities will comply by adopting a balanced approach tailored to their individual situations. Historically, the past sewer control strategy, based on a sewer-use bylaw developed by the former government, has been thoroughly ineffective. This government and this Minister of the Environment are committed to finding a better way, a better sewer-use-through-control program.
As a result, the MISA white paper last year clearly committed the MOE to developing more efficient sewer-use control options for the municipalities to adopt and committed the MOE to developing these in parallel with the effluent monitoring and limits development of the municipal sector. The options will be ready when the abatement regulations come into force in the municipal sector.
One of these options is the suggestion of Pollution Probe that on-site treatment before discharge into the sewers be required. The MISA advisory committee, on which a member of Pollution Probe sits, is reviewing the suggestions made by Pollution Probe on how to deal with indirect discharges. The committee's advice on this matter is expected to be tendered to the minister in the near future.
MISA will not tell the municipalities how to meet their abatement requirements -- that is their choice -- but it will ensure that a wide range of options based on best available technology is available for the municipalities to use and this will ensure that the municipalities will have all the necessary government resources available to do the job. This will include all options suggested by Pollution Probe and others.
In conclusion, may I say that MISA is a vast improvement on the way we deal with pollution in Ontario. For the first time, we have a program that will solve the problem. I find it passing strange that the member for Brantford is now criticizing imaginary shortcomings in a program that his own party, when it had the power to do so only a short time ago, never had the stomach to adopt because it was too strong.
However late and however opportunistic Tory support for the environment may be, we are pleased to support this resolution not for what it says but rather for its underlying principles, goals and aims, principles the minister has acted upon, goals the minister has made attainable through MISA and aims this minister actively pursues through effective action, not empty rhetoric.
Clearly, there is no issue more important in our society today than cleaning up our hazardous waste problems, particularly the persistent toxic substances that are appearing daily and are contaminating the tremendous natural water resources of this province. We see 800 chemical compounds in the Great Lakes system alone. Even in low concentrations, these toxics are posing risks to fish, plants and wildlife through persistent intrusions into our system. They go much further than that. The accumulated contaminants get passed on in our food chains. Over the long term, the cumulative adverse effects of these contaminants bode ill for our environment. They pose very serious problems, not only to our environment but more particularly to our way of life, and indeed to our very existence.
I noted that Charles Pryer, the president of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, in the summer issue of Seasons magazine, made the comment: "We discharge our wastes, pouring them down our sewers or directly into our rivers and lakes. We do not know exactly how these chemicals are affecting wildlife or humans, but it is imperative that we come to grips with the problem before it is too late."
This concern is even further highlighted by two recent occurrences in the Niagara region. One is the contaminated mist that appears at the great, world-renowned Niagara Falls. Perhaps it is becoming world-renowned for the toxic contaminants it contains, some 60 tons a year. More recently, we have heard of the contamination of sediments in the sand bars at the mouth of the Niagara River, the sand of which is used for many purposes, including sand boxes that children play in. That is another issue of great concern to us.
The goal of the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement is defined as the virtual elimination of toxic contaminants from municipal and industrial discharges into waterways. That goal is consistent with the United States-Canada Great Lakes water quality agreement of 1978, wherein it is stated that Canada, and thus Ontario, is committed under that agreement to a goal of virtual elimination of persistent toxic substances in the Great Lakes ecosystem. The goals of the Canada-US agreement and the goals of the MISA program are the same, but if we are to achieve the elimination of persistent toxic substances, the MISA system must be changed and must be broadened along the lines of the resolution the member for Brantford has introduced.
MISA is a reasonable, well-intentioned first step but it really does not go far enough. The loopholes are there to be easily seen. The program covers only 400 companies over eight industrial sectors; 11,700 are left to channel waste through municipal sewage systems and eventually into provincial waterways. The indirect discharging into the sewer systems will continue to rise. Although the breakdown between direct and indirect discharges is approximately 50 per cent in each category, the indirect discharges into the sewer system will continue to create the greater threat to the environment. Of course, there are no standards that have been set for the 11,700 indirect dischargers.
There are only 400 treatment plants to service our municipal waste, that of 11,700 industries. The Minister of the Environment has admitted that it will take billions of dollars within the next few years to keep the degeneration of the sewer and water systems from developing into, as he puts it, a serious health threat. That is apart from the burden the MISA program, as it is currently suggested, will place on the municipalities. Of the cost estimate of $1.5 billion just to revamp existing sewer systems for current needs, $100 million alone is required in the Niagara region to stop the overflow of huge volumes of raw sewage into local waterways.
We have recently seen in Niagara and Fort Erie the effect that an overloaded, historic, degenerating sewer system can have on our environment. In that case, of course, there was an overflow directly into the Niagara River. At a time when we are trying to impress on our American friends the importance of their being committed, it is even more important that we be committed here.
As the member for Brantford pointed out, the MISA program as suggested by the minister will not properly deal with toxins that will be introduced into the sewer system. All that will have the effect of doing is diluting the pollutants as they enter the lake system, but the same volume of pollutants will enter our system with the same very deadly, very awesome, very terrible results.
The other point is that the municipalities will have a difficult time dealing with this, with their shortage of funds and the shortage of standards and with the commitment they will have to make.
Actually, the MISA program as suggested by the Minister of the Environment reminds me quite a bit of the Countdown Acid Rain program. That was also a program dealing with acid rain. On the surface it looked like a tremendous plan, but in that plan Ontario Hydro had banking privileges which would have permitted it -- probably commencing in 1993, because it will be under the limits until then -- to exceed the standards then set by up to 500,000 tonnes, a tremendous gap in the plan.
After hearings, the select committee on the environment made a recommendation to the Minister of the Environment that the loophole be plugged and that the banking be deleted. The minister, after some consideration, agreed. He saw the light, if I might say, and did delete the banking provisions from the Countdown Acid Rain program.
I would similarly see here that we have MISA, on the surface a very broad, very well-intentioned program, but just like the banking provisions of the Countdown Acid Rain program there is a big hole here, a big weakness. That big weakness is the failure to have these 11,700 industrial polluters required to monitor and abate their pollutants at their source rather than through a municipal system.
Actually, it is interesting that this MISA plan was adapted from American jurisdictions that initiated the MISA program; but in the American jurisdictions, as I understand it, they do not deal with these 11,700 polluters through the municipal system. Just as they do with the direct discharges in the rivers, they have in their program made the other 11,700, as in this case, deal with their pollutants at source.
I wonder why Ontario, as it adopted most of the MISA program from our American friends, did not stick with the American program of directly dealing with these 11,700 indirect polluters at the source of the pollution. I wonder why. I hope the minister will be able to provide us with that answer.
We must stop the pollution of our environment. We must meet the goals of the US-Canada water treaty agreement. We must adhere to the goals set out in MISA. In doing so, l hope the minister will follow the urging of the member for Brantford, take the resolution seriously and amend the MISA program in accordance with the urgings of Pollution Probe and in keeping with the way it was originally intended.
I would like to start my comments by saying to the member for Prescott-Russell (Mr. Poirier) that although I very much enjoy his sincerity and the approach he generally takes to political issues here in the House, I do not like to see sincere people get fooled by the rhetoric of politics.
It is fair to say the former government did not deal with the problems the MISA program intended to deal with. By the same token, it is not fair to say the legitimate problems with the MISA program are myths. There are real problems with this program.
When it comes to the environment, the fact that this government is doing something a little bit better than its predecessor does not mean it is dealing adequately with the problem. As we know, with the environment everything has a threshold. If the government does not deal with beating the threshold level in terms of the downside, or staying under the threshold where damages result, then its program, even though it has reduced whatever is going into the environment -- perhaps even substantially -- means very little if it does not achieve that goal of breaking the threshold and getting those contaminants to acceptable levels and keeping them there. One of the major flaws with the MISA program is that it has absolutely no way of ensuring that will happen, although it is a step in the right direction.
One of the major problems we found with both the former government and with the present government was that it did not provide leadership in the sense of determining what has to be done, taking that out and presenting it to the public, selling the package; having to overcome difficulties because some economic sectors will complain about the dollars and cents involved and, therefore, some people will complain about the jobs involved, and so on and so forth. We have to start seeing the absolute leadership of government.
What we are seeing in this province, what we saw with the former administration and what we are seeing with the present administration, are some small steps in the right direction and then the government having to be pulled along to the next step by public demand, by outcry, by groups such as Pollution Probe, which will go out and canvass door to door to sell an issue and raise a public profile for that issue, put public pressure on government to take the next step.
That is not the way this system should operate. There is nothing wrong with having public pressure in the system, but we should not be in a position of always having to take the next step only when public pressure reaches the point of forcing us to do that. We have to get to the stage in Ontario politics where we have the courage and the understanding to take the next step ourselves and go out and explain to the public why we have done it and why it was necessary.
One of the things that really bothers me about what is going on here is that on the one hand we had the minister getting up in the House last June and tabling the MISA report and then, as my colleague the member for Lakeshore has suggested, getting up more recently and saying: "You're right. Just regulating sewage treatment plants is not enough." He is now admitting that sooner or later we are going to have to get to that source control.
It is an evolution instead of an understanding of where we have to go, and it is an evolution that is led by a chain of pressure. You start to understand that when you understand that on the one hand the minister can say there are problems with dumping into our sewer systems and on the other hand the ministry is out there actively encouraging some industries, which now dump directly and which under MISA would be directly regulated, to stop dumping directly and to start dumping into the sewer systems, where we are going to have some form of regulation at the sewage treatment plant but no direct regulation on the industry.
Is that the shortcut to our goals of getting below those danger thresholds or is that the long road? Ultimately, we know the government will be forced to go out and check the point sources that are dumping into sewer systems. We have a Ministry of the Environment that says: "We have a landfill site problem on Upper Ottawa Street in Hamilton. The regional municipality has to go in and monitor that site, and wherever it can collect leachate that is leaking out of that site." What does it tell the regional municipality to do with that very toxic mix of leachate that is coming out of what was, albeit a residential waste dump a dump site that is loaded with very toxic industrial waste? The leachate that is coming out is not the banana peels; it is that very toxic industrial waste. What does the ministry say they have to do with that toxic waste leachate they collect? "Dump it into the sanitary sewer system," which is totally inadequate to deal with those very toxic wastes. This is the ministry setting that down as a regulation, knowing full well it is not going to adequately deal with that waste.
Then we get into the situation where the Ministry of Labour becomes involved, because all of a sudden somebody discovers we have got really high rates of sickness among sewage treatment plant workers. Now we are having to do health studies on those people to determine the extent of the effect that working in a sewage treatment plant, where toxics from industry are coming through all the time, is having on their health, the range of diseases being caused; and then attempt to determine how many of those people ultimately we are going to have to compensate because we have not protected them, because we have not thought through properly how we approach the whole question of the environment and control of toxic chemical wastes. It manifests itself in almost everything we get into talking about in terms of the environment.
There are a number of suggestions which Pollution Probe made in its release, which the member for Brantford referred to earlier, and these are ultimately necessary if we want the MISA program to work, to get us to those goals below the threshold levels where the chemicals are no longer presenting a danger to the environment and to human health. We have got to get into setting the same kinds of standards for the industries dumping along the sewer system as we are setting for those direct dischargers, and that means the best available technology at source.
We have got to get into something other than self-regulation. Perhaps initially it is going to mean some combined form of self-regulation under strict criteria set by the ministry, where the ministry is monitoring at least the approach that the industry takes to that monitoring, but ultimately we have to get to the stage where this government can provide the absolute assurance to the people of this province that the regulations it sets are being met.
We have to arrange for the most effective mechanisms to make that work. One of the problems with MISA is that it is dumping responsibility down to the municipal level where they have neither the expertise nor the funding to adequately ensure that any regulations that are set will be met.
We have got to get into some serious discussions about money, about cost-sharing, about providing not only the authority to municipalities but also the means to the municipalities so they have the capability of enforcement. They do not have that now, and they will not unless the government, in addition to setting up the program is prepared to talk about the dollars that are required to make it work.
We feel that even with the concerns expressed by the member for Brantford, the approach to date has still been myopic; it is still preoccupied with sewer systems. At this point none of us -- I suggest even the opposition -- knows the answers to one of the basic problems; that is determining the percentages of these toxins and exotic materials that are coming from various sources and are ending up in our waterways.
I suggest that sewers are only one of these sources. We have the wastes from our smokestacks. What amount of the problem is coming from there? We have leaking dumps and disposal areas. What percentage of the problem is coming from there? What the sewers are discharging into our waterways can be considered as only part of the problem.
The members have indicated the need for adequate funding and adequate staff. I would remind the opposition that when this member introduced a resolution with regard to an environmental improvement fund, the opposition opposed it. This fund was going to be based on charging everyone who discharges into our waterways a few cents per 1,000 gallons and using this money to adequately fund a program like this.
Funding is the very essence of all these programs, because when this government starts to introduce a program, whether it is in regard to problems with the industrial sector getting adequate inspection staff to see that safety standards are adhered to or something else, it is that party over there that is immediately harping and yapping about increases in the number of civil servants. They cannot have it both ways. That is real political opportunism at its worst. This program will require staffing.
I submit to opposition members again that if they were not such political opportunists and would be a little more positive, it would not be necessary for this government to seek a majority. We are going to the polls. We are going to get a majority. We are going to do unilaterally those things that have to be done in this province to clean up pollution. We will not have to sit and be beholden to a bunch of guys who do not have the vision or the foresight to play the big game and take the high roads.
If I may, I will very briefly recap several points and draw members' attention to several points. First, I thank all members who have spoken, including the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of the Environment, have indicated their support for the resolution, with various reservations that have been expressed. I can only hope that the support offered by the parliamentary assistant is indicative of the direction that his minister will be moving in. Then we will know indeed that the passage of this resolution will have accomplished something.
Very briefly, I want to quote to the members something that Pollution Probe has said on the subject of sewage treatment plants. I could not say it more succinctly than Pollution Probe has done.
"The current MISA plan treats sewage treatment plants as sources of toxic water pollution. They are not. Sewage systems are gigantic conduits and collection systems which carry toxic pollutants from thousands of different sources to one giant outfall pipe at the sewage treatment plant. The sources are the companies upstream which dump toxic chemicals into the sewers. This is where the controls ought to be, if MISA is to be most effective."
That, very simply put, is the point. The philosophy of the MISA program is one we can all support: treat at source. The great failure with the government's program is that it treats a sewage treatment plant as a source, which it is not.
Very quickly: in terms of health problems, as Labour critic for the opposition I recall raising the question of problems being experienced by sewage treatment plant workers at the Ashbridges Bay plant here in Toronto. The workers there were experiencing various kinds of health problems and discomfort. Work was stopped at that plant on several occasions, and it is very difficult at that end of the conduit, if you will at the sewage treatment plant, to determine what the chemical problems are that are causing these negative health effects. So it makes entirely good sense to eliminate the problem before then.
In conclusion, this government cannot foist a large part of the problem over to the municipalities. They do not have the money. We have talked about the hundreds of millions of dollars that are needed so that towns like Fort Erie are no longer dumping raw sewage into the lakes every time it rains. If we do not have the money and resources to bring those sewage treatment plants up to a very minimal standard, how can we expect those sewage treatment systems to treat very hard-to-detect chemical problems?
I thank honourable members for their support. I urge the minister to act on this resolution, once passed.
Ballot item 13.
Mr. Runciman moved second reading of Bill 75, An Act to provide an Opportunity for the Electorate to express its views by means of Referenda in Ontario.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak on what can only be described as significant and far-reaching legislation, Bill 75, An Act to provide an Opportunity for the electorate to express its views by means of Referenda in Ontario.
At the outset, I want to stress that Bill 75 calls for nonbinding referenda. I will repeat that: nonbinding referenda. Based on my experience in the past few weeks, I am prepared to wager that I could mention the nonbinding provision a dozen times, yet any opposition that might be expressed here today will more aptly apply to binding referenda. I am resigned to that fact.
In Bill 75, I have opted for nonbinding referenda because the mechanics of binding referenda legislation are difficult, to say the least, and because there is a strong case for the purely consultative character of nonbinding referenda. The moral impact will be enough.
I am going to try a bit of a pre-emptive strike here and discuss briefly some of the predictable concerns that some honourable members may be expressing during this debate.
1. Referenda legislation could disable the Legislature from exerting its legal authority. This does not apply, as Bill 75 mandates only nonbinding, consultative referenda.
2. We will be subjected to frivolous referenda. Section 4 of Bill 75 reads: "A question shall not be placed on a ballot unless the petition contains the signatures of a number of electors equal to eight per cent of the electors who voted in the last election." Based on the turnout in the 1985 election, we would be looking at a requirement of approximately 300,000 signatures. I believe that requirement eliminates the concern about frivolous questions ending up on the ballot.
3. A general election is the only referendum required. If we believe that, ask ourselves how much input voters have into the selection of candidates or into the choice of issues that divide parties at elections. It just does not hold water.
4. Referenda legislation will erode the influence and authority of ordinary members. That is a good one. How much influence do we as private members have; and as a result, and more important, how much do our constituents have through us? I suspect not as much as most people think. One of the reasons for that is rigid party discipline. To imagine that members of this Legislature are in some serious sense independent is to fly in the face of political reality. Bill 75 can help to turn this situation around.
Moving away from possible concerns, I would like to inform you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, that I have introduced this legislation because of a very real concern I raised some time ago in a speech at Queen's University; a concern that has not been allayed in the intervening years, and that is the growing menace of the missing vote.
It would appear that our political parties are turning off the electorate at an increasing rate. We are frustrating the undecided voter and making the hard-core voter less sure of his or her allegiance to any particular party. It has to do with credibility and voter trust of the politicians, as our parties in this assembly too often play eeny, meeny and me too.
Let us take a look at some of the no-show statistics. In the 1971 election, 27 per cent of the electorate did not bother to vote. In 1975, 33 per cent stayed at home; in 1977, 37 per cent. In the 1981 and 1985 elections, it levelled off at approximately 40 per cent. We are getting close to almost half of the electorate failing to exercise the franchise. That should be a disturbing bit of information for all members.
Those statistics do not provide much solace either for those who believe in majority rule. In 1981, a majority government was elected with a little over 25 per cent of the total eligible vote. The current government holds office with about 23 per cent of the eligible vote.
It is safe to say that many citizens do not feel they are getting fair representation from those they elect and are turned off by politics and by politicians and see no point in participating in the electoral process. I for one believe that far too much of their disillusionment is justified.
As a member of this Legislature, it does not take long to learn that one of the problems with representative democracy is that it is not always representative. Free votes are rare indeed. Newcomers to this House are in for a rude but early awakening. Earlier this year, in his first term, the Liberal member for Humber (Mr. Henderson) very eloquently expressed his frustration when dealing with the question of party discipline. I quote from Hansard of January 22, 1987:
"Feelings of intimidation are not uncommon. That type of pressure does not belong in a democratic Legislature. All legislators are elected to represent constituents in this assembly. People doing what they are told are not involved in democratic government."
Another quote from that same speech: "Electors might be surprised to know how little their elected representatives feel free to represent their views."
No doubt all members can empathize to some degree with the comments of the member for Humber, but perhaps no one in the current House any more than me. Some members will recall that in my first term I disagreed with Mr. Davis's decision to acquire an interest in Suncor. I was opposed to the purchase, but I was even more opposed to a decision-making process which saw much of the cabinet and caucus, let alone this Legislature, bypassed and ignored, with virtually no consultation with the people's elected representatives prior to a decision that cost taxpayers in this province millions and millions of dollars.
Regrettably, my opposition to the Suncor purchase accomplished nothing: not for me, not for the beleaguered taxpayer and not for the decision-making process.
Party discipline and whipped votes remain the reality around here. All too frequently, on controversial issues, we see all three parties singing from the same hymn-book. Separate school funding, Bill 8 and now Bill 154 are recent examples. On these issues and others, large segments of the electorate feel shut out. They feel that no one is speaking on their behalf.
Bill 75, an act to provide for nonbinding referenda, has the potential to lessen that sense of alienation from government which many Ontarians now profess. No doubt my friends to the left are fully aware that one of their gurus, Ralph Nader, is a strong advocate of public referenda. Nader believes, and I share his belief, that referenda can politically activate people who ordinarily would not be part of the political process.
Members of the New Democratic Party will no doubt also be interested in a pertinent quote from a publication, The Citizens' Guide to the Ontario Legislature, whose author and also a special contributor are not strangers to the NDP: Paul McKay and a fellow by the name of Donald MacDonald. I quote from the publication:
"Certainly reclaiming public control of our government is a formidable task. It will require a virtual revolution in the way people think of politics and in the role citizens have traditionally played in the political process. It will also require wide-reaching structural reforms to ensure that we have a government which allows, and demands, real participation. Active citizenship is the greatest challenge and the most compelling obligation for Ontarians to meet in the future."
Donald MacDonald and friends convincingly call for real, active citizen participation in the political process. Ralph Nader contends that referenda will accomplish just that.
Based on the views expressed by Messrs. MacDonald, McKay and Nader, and based on the NDP's own history of attempting to have questions placed on municipal ballots, I am very optimistic that members of the third party will support Bill 75.
As for the temporary governing party, I hope there are enough populists and free thinkers over there to recognize the merits of this innovative initiative and, despite what their whip might advise, give Bill 75 their support. Time will tell.
In conclusion, I am not suggesting that nonbinding referenda will provide a cure-all for the deficiencies of the current system. However, consultative referenda can help in a significant way. It can make democracy more democratic. It can make representative democracy more representative. It can make people, by having responsibility given to them, become less apathetic and more responsible.
I urge the careful consideration of Bill 75 by all members of the House.
I want to confess that when I initially read the bill, my first instinct was to say: "This is not a bad idea. What is wrong with a referendum? What is wrong with letting people voice, on a ballot, their opinion about something?"
What is wrong with the bill is the specifics of it. Members will know that I am a bit of a junkie on the political process. I have a tendency to study, talk and listen a great deal about how political systems work and do not work. One of the things that has been brought really vividly to my attention is that in the United States, for example, where without question this concept would be very popular and is used a great deal, they have encountered some difficulties with it.
In Massachusetts, for example, any citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a constitutional right to cause legislation to be brought forward. Of course, that ends up, usually every year in their state Legislature, as being 2,000 or 3,000 pieces of legislation that never go anywhere; but they do have a right to get it started.
In many of the states, of course, they have this type of concept worked into their political system where virtually any citizen can start a referendum or a proposition, the most famous of which is proposition 13 in California. Usually it starts with something that would fall right nicely into this mould, where one puts on a ballot paper a question to which one must be able to answer yes or no. Of course, that dictates that the question is put in very simple terms. "Are you in favour of a reduction in taxes?" Find me a citizen out there who is not. Find me a member in here who is not in favour of cutting taxes in some way.
The problem is that politics is not about yes-or-no questions. It is about decision-making. It is about defining the grey areas. It is about making the political choices. If one asks people on my street, "Do you want your taxes reduced?" they all say yes; but if one explains to them that means the taxpayer does not get the road paved in front of his house, we do not remove the snow in the winter or the garbage in the summer, then they might have a different answer. If one puts it in a context of a political choice, one gets a totally different answer to the question.
I think that is the problem that is involved here. It is not that there is a great fault in the principle. It is just that it runs against the parliamentary system. It fits nicely into a congressional system. It is not comfortable there and it poses immense problems. For example, in California, when we visited there last year, they are still feeling the ramifications of that very simple question, "Do you want your taxes reduced or not?" because that question carries with immense resonance among the population. Where it does not have the resonance is in the aftermath when the government starts to close the hospitals because it does not have the funding to run them. When it stops building roads and bridges collapse, people start to say: "But that is not what I meant. I just meant I am fed up with paying taxes."
If there was a crying need, for example, to elicit opinion from the general population, this would be a technique; but as one who regularly reads public opinion polls, as one who regularly mails to my constituents, who listens to them as I walk down the street in Oshawa; I sit in my constituency office and hear them there, l listen to them on the telephone, I have a whole lot of devices for telling me what people think in my constituency. I use them all and I do not need this one to embellish that process.
For example, in my latest little riding report I did a questionnaire to ask them about driver-owned auto insurance. I am amazed that only 90 per cent of the people who responded to that in Oshawa are in favour of a driver-owned auto insurance plan. I do not know what is the matter with other 10 per cent, but it points out to me that I have a problem. Ten per cent of my constituency has its ideology in front of its common sense. I will have to go to work on them and explain to them what the problem is here. Why do they not understand that three of our 10 provinces do this and do this well and we could do it well here? I have lots of devices at my disposal to gather up information. I have all kinds of public opinion polls that are published and that are done by my party, newspapers and everybody else, to tell me this kind of information.
What is wrong with the proposal here is really the specifics of it. The member for Leeds (Mr. Runciman) is one whom I usually admire, despite what the mayor of Brockville says. He is one of the last people in here with that fervent 17th century ideology on his sleeve all the time. We know where he stands and I like that kind of political enemy. He is never confused with facts or anything like that. He has a straight opinion. Right there, one knows where he is coming from all the time. Did he really mean to say in this bill, as he did, that he wants this Attorney General (Mr. Scott) -- this one -- to decide whether or not something can legitimately be put on the ballot for a referendum? I do not think he did.
How will that work? Will people in my riding who are unhappy with the amount of money they get on social assistance programs be equally able to hire a lawyer and go to court, as would Imperial Oil, the tobacco companies or any other major corporations? In the eyes of the law, the rich and the poor have equal access to the courts; but in reality, do they? No, they do not. We all know that.
The basic problem he has put in front of us this morning is an American concept; and I am very much a pro-American member in my own party, probably one who would be criticized as being too positive towards the United States. I admire their political system, but it is not ours. We have a different system at work, I believe the parliamentary system is a better system. There are some things that the Americans do in their congressional system that I think are usable for us, are useful lessons to be learned, but this is not one of them. This is one that I would point out as a flaw in the American process of government.
It is theoretically nice to be able to say to the American people, "You have the constitutional right to do all these things; to cause a proposition 13 to be put on a ballot; to instigate legislation; in this instance to start a referendum." He is right. Ralph Nader would be a proponent of this, I suppose, because in the American political system this would fit very nicely. But I believe it is a flaw in that system.
In our parliamentary system, we elect political parties and politicians to listen to the population and to make the fine determinations of political choices. They are not easy all the time. They rarely come to the point where we can put a simple yes or no question in front of the Legislature. We often do that, but then we often spend days, in fact weeks, discussing all the niceties of what a no vote means and what a yes vote means. Most of us who have been in the Legislature for a while wish it was this simple, but it is not. It is almost deluding the public when we put questions on a referendum and say: "Give us a yes or no. Do you want us to build this road? Do you want us to build this arena? Do you want us to build this school?"
In American jurisdictions where this is prevalent -- and this is done a lot through a variety of techniques in the United States -- the problem really becomes simply this: people say, "We do not want to pay taxes and so we do not want to build a new school unless it is a new school that my child goes to." The problem is that each time the question is put we are talking about something which is not real, and so people say, "I want you to cut taxes;" but the schools do not get built, the roads do not get built, the hospitals do not get funded and the universities are under siege.
That is the problem with this particular bill. It offers in a sense almost a false promise, that people could vote on a referendum and they could actually resolve issues. They cannot. As much as I would like to support the bill, I cannot. I believe it is an American idea, which does not work in our system of government at all. I believe it would cause more problems than it would resolve; it would raise a good many false hopes; and it would serve no useful purpose. For those reasons, as much as I would like to help an endangered species this morning, I cannot support the bill.
In expressing my point today, I thought I might research the use of referenda in other jurisdictions, and what I found were some interesting facts I would like to share with this House.
The use of referenda for approving constitutional amendments has been extensive in other countries, in Australia, Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland. Even the United States, as pointed out by the member for Oshawa (Mr. Breaugh), in the case of amendments to state constitutions, provides for the use of referenda in determining constitutional amendments. However, the use of referenda for general issues of concern really has little precedence. Aside from the occasional examples of referenda used in determination of boundaries of a new state and those mentioned above for constitutional amendments, the only other significant use of the referendum has been in the decision to join or withdraw from a federation, and I am sure that every member of this assembly will recall that exact situation in a referendum in Quebec a number of years ago.
Notwithstanding this, some countries like Switzerland permit referenda on practically any subject as does the state of California. Members may ask where else would this be allowed. But, in general, the practice in many countries has been to limit the possible subject of referenda questions to questions on the constitution, political institutions or political sovereignty. Historically, ancient Greece is often cited as an example of a state governed by direct democracy. Citizens actually proposed, discussed and voted on all issues of public concern.
However, our western democracies are governed by the principle, as mentioned by the member for Oshawa, of government by representation. We choose our representatives, who then develop policy based on the interests of their constituents, the interests of their province and the interests of their country. It is because we govern by the principle of government by representation that referendums in general on matters are unacceptable.
Referenda provide for a system of majority rule. On the contrary, government by representation provides for a system of government by consent. C. O. Sharpe in his book, The Case against the Referendum, states:
"Under a system of majority rule, the only right possessed by a minority is that of complete submission. A system of government by consent, on the other hand, recognizes the claim of any minority to be granted all such rights as do not seriously conflict with the rights of an equally important nature of the majority."
Governments often reach a policy decision after having listened to both sides. Often the decision represents a compromise. A good example of this is that given by Richard Theoret in his article, "Experience with Referendums Elsewhere." Theoret says that if you take the issue of smoking, one that most members of this assembly are familiar with, then the minority, the smokers, will be deprived of their pleasure if the majority decides against smoking. Government by consent, however, can provide for the accommodation of both, the result being that we have smoking bylaws which provide for both smoking and nonsmoking sections. Theoret points out that both solutions are democratic; however, the government-by-consent decision is better as it recognizes both the interests of the majority and minority groups.
Referendums also threaten responsible government. For example, what would happen if a measure adopted by the Legislature is then rejected by the people in a general referendum? Does the government have to resign or should it continue, given that referendums under this bill are in effect nothing but nonbinding consultation?
Also referenda are potentially divisive mechanisms. Theoret cites the example of the 1942 plebiscite on conscription. Instead of giving the government a mandate, what, in fact, that referendum did was merely serve to divide the country even further on a very highly emotional issue.
It is also to be recognized that the question that is put to the people in a referendum, once it is decided, cannot be modified. An ordinary bill or even legislation can be altered or amended to deal with the various concerns once review begins.
What happens if the question put in a referendum is vague or contains an error which is not realized until after the question is put to the people? This bill and indeed referenda by their very nature have no way of dealing with this kind of problem.
Finally, it has been argued that referendum is a very expensive way to find out the opinion of the people. Often, it is clear from the start what side the majority will support and the potentially costly process proposed by this bill will more likely than not become a redundant exercise.
I hate to get partisan and political in this, but as I recall in the previous Conservative administration, there was a saying that it used to govern by polls. That is not the way we want to do things in this government. We want to govern by consent and we want to govern by compromise. It seems to me that the position put forward from the Conservative member for Leeds is a natural extension of governing from polls because rather than taking a public opinion poll, its natural conclusion is to ask every citizen in this province what their opinion is in perhaps a very simplistic way, and then try to follow that decision.
I have come to the conclusion that regular use of referenda can sometimes do more harm than good. As a matter of fact, I believe that regular use of public opinion polls often does more harm than good. I believe there is evidence that in a modern, democratic society, consultation may be warranted at times, but regular use such as that proposed by this bill is costly, inefficient, redundant and I am sure harmful to our ability to govern effectively.
Having listened carefully to members opposite and in the third party to what they had to say about this bill, I realize that there is a sense of history that we have to realize, that we are proud of here in Ontario. We go back many, many years to the beginning and origins of democracy. We certainly have to be proud of the fact that there were people who stood up and could be counted and through a direct form of democracy and through their own way of dealing with issues in Athens, Greece, it was the beginning of a democratic government.
Many things have happened since those early days because, either through evolution or revolution, we have come to where we are now in Ontario, basing our parliamentary system very much on the British model. But we also know that this whole business of referenda is something that is important to the people of any kingdom and any jurisdiction because through referenda -- as Webster defines it -- it is "an initiative as to the procedure or device by which legislation may be introduced or enacted directly by the people."
A referendum is defined as "the principle or practice of referring measures passed upon or proposed by a legislative body to the body of voters or electorate for approval or rejection." There are a number of governments today that use this form of referendum. In Switzerland, it is almost the exclusive way in which government business is processed and it has referenda on whether there is going to be an addition to a hospital, a new road or on different financial matters.
There have been some very key referenda in the world front. In Spain, the Spaniards voted, through a referendum, to stay in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Denmark had a national referendum on whether it would block the European common market, and it decided not to.
For those who have said it is not a model that can be at all based on the British Commonwealth procedure and the British parliamentary procedure out of Westminster, there was a referendum in Britain in 1975 on whether it would enter the European common market. There was a second referendum in Britain in 1979, and that had to do with whether they would have the devolution of Scotland and Wales. So there is a precedent in the British parliamentary procedure for referenda.
We, in Canada, witnessed a very significant and important referendum that was announced by the Parti Québécois in 1976 as a method to resolve whether they would go for a sovereign state. We watched that, we witnessed it and we were part of it as the rest of Canada looked on and saw Quebec going through this very difficult yet important procedure in which the people had a voice.
There are problems with our legislative process right now. As the member for Leeds referred in his own speech that more and more people in this province are feeling disfranchised. They feel they are shut out from the parliamentary process, from the decision-making process. They believe that when they elect someone they are there to do what they want. It is almost as it was in 1912, when Mr. Henders, who was president of the Manitoba Grain Growers Association, made this statement about referenda. I think it applies today.
He said: "The sovereign people have no direct efficient control. They are sovereign de jure but not de facto, except at election time. The actual powers experienced by the people consist chiefly in the periodic choice of another set of masters who make laws to suit themselves and enforce them until their term of office expires, regardless of the will of the people. We are governed by an elective aristocracy of wealth. Behind the government and Legislatures are the corporations and the trusts. Behind the political monopolists are the industrial monopolists, and the principal remedy is direct legislation."
He goes a little far, but he brings out the point that the people have somehow been disfranchised and do not feel a part of it. As the member for Leeds said, the statistics point to the fact that 37 per cent or 40 per cent of the people of Ontario --
As one who has sat in this House for the last six years, I have come to realize, from my three different seats, as I sat as a back-bencher in the government, as I sat as a cabinet minister for a short time and I now sit in opposition, and in all three seats --
The concern that I had was that there is more power in that chair than there is in any of the three that I am talking about. It has to do with the fact that how much does a back-bencher, either in opposition, or within the government, or even a cabinet minister effect change and make change. We can affect it more than the general population, but I think our own voters and our own constituents sometimes bestow upon us the honour that they think we have more power than we really have.
We in this Legislature have tried to make some minor revisions to the House, but they have been so minor that they have not really come to the thrust of allowing people to speak out. We are in a position where more and more governments are using polls, but who knows how scientific and how accurate they are. There really has to be a better system to address the needs, to respond to the desire by the people of this province to be heard and to influence change.
The reasons against having a direct referenda, to me really boils down to the fact that some people do not trust the people to make a good decision, and that is poppycock. Some people think that ordinary people may be too stupid, ignorant or lazy, and I have not heard that said by any of the speakers this morning, but behind their words I sense that lack of trust in the general population.
Possibly the main reason for people in this House opposing, and I hear the other two parties opposing this motion, has to do with Howard Jarvis, the Californian who, in 1978, presented proposition 13, a bill that had something to do with property taxes, a bill that was opposed by both parties in the Legislature of the State of California. In the teeth of that opposition by the two parties in government, this referenda took place and forced government to change its thinking. Now I think that we in this province should be prepared to change our thinking by virtue of allowing the public to speak.
Referenda can pass a judgement and help laws to be more in tune with the thinking of the people. They can require the Legislature to create laws that more respond to the needs of the people; such referenda become an important thing in that they consult the people. People now are left out of that parliamentary process.
I believe that if this bill presented by the member for Leeds is passed it will allow the public to be more democratically involved. Representative government will become more representative. People will become less apathetic.
There are a number of instances in Canada where referenda have been used. There are two classic cases where, in Canada and the federal government in 1898, there was one general referendum on the prohibition of liquor. On April 27, 1942, another referendum was used by the government of Canada. It had to do with releasing the government from the 1940 promise of no conscription for overseas service.
Newfoundland would not be part of this Confederation had it, with its parliamentary background, not come together. In 1948 it had a referendum on whether it would join Canada. That vote was taken and people voted against joining Canada, but on July 22, 1948, they decided to become part of this great Confederation.
The western provinces have used referenda a great deal. Seven were used in Alberta from 1915 to 1971. British Columbia has had two referenda. Manitoba has had seven of them. Nova Scotia has had two, one in 1920 and one in 1929, both dealing with liquor sales. Ontario has had two referenda, one in 1902 regarding the prohibition of liquor and another in 1919 regarding the Temperance Act. So have Prince Edward Island, Quebec as we just described and Saskatchewan.
We are at the crossroads of allowing democracy to move with the times. Let there be more evolution. Let there be more of an opportunity for the people who care about this province to speak out and have an effect on that change. Through this kind of bill, that change can take place.
Out of a little curiosity, I wonder whether the member who has put forward Bill 75 can tell me whether this bill is the result of a referendum he ran in his riding. Perhaps when he has a few moments at the end, he can tell us.
I think we need to separate the two major suggestions that have been put forward. One is the idea of a referendum, which of course runs somewhat counter to the notion of representative government and to the evolving of a party system, which we have in this country. In fact, some may argue we do not have enough political parties. We have three major parties in Ontario. Across the country, of course, you can add Social Credit in British Columbia and the Parti Québécois in Quebec. Coast to coast we are looking basically at five parties and perhaps our political scene would be enhanced by the addition of other parties. Rather than watering down the party system as the member is suggesting, reducing the role of representative government and moving away from a British parliamentary system, perhaps we should look at ways of strengthening our system.
The member raises some very legitimate points about the role of MPPs and the concern that is expressed by many members around the whole area of party discipline and the whole area of how members can participate and to what extent they can participate in debates. Just as a candid observation, it is no secret that when the member for Brampton (Mr. Callahan), who is a member of the government party, gets up in this House to ask a question in question period, a lot of people start hooting and hollering. Quite frankly, that is inappropriate. The member has every right to ask a question. Whether the question is sensible is something else, but he has every right as a private member to get up and ask questions. People should not make fun of that.
To a large extent, I think the system in Britain is more mature than what we have here. I recall quite vividly that one time when I was visiting Britain, I listened to a heated debate on the radio between two members of Parliament who were diametrically opposed on an issue. At the end of the debate, I learned that both MPs were from the same party; both happened to be Conservative MPs. They were engaged in a public debate on radio, taking opposite positions on an issue. I think that is very healthy. It is something that seems to scare a lot of members in Ontario. I doubt that we have ever really had a debate between two members of the same party in a public way. It is always done behind closed doors. Maybe that speaks a bit to our insecurity as members.
We have a party system and it is a good system. We could find ways of strengthening it, but party discipline is important. The public wants to know what a party thinks about an issue. It wants to know whether a party is prepared to make a commitment on an issue and to stand by it, or when the issue is put to a test, whether certain members do not have the courage to follow through. Party discipline is important but we have to have party discipline and at the same time find a balance that allows members to speak their own minds, particularly on the really serious issues that are matters of conscience; I suggest around the issue of abortion or of capital punishment. These are issues on which members have to have the opportunity to speak their minds.
If the member for Leeds is seriously concerned about strengthening our system so the public has greater access, then perhaps he should turn his attention to how we can have greater access for the public to our committees and to the legislative process. One of the things that needs to be considered is the opportunity for committees to formulate legislation. Maybe our committees should have that opportunity and should do so by way of public hearings, so that committees of this assembly could deliberate over the formulation of legislation and during that process take their little travelling road show to various communities around the province.
Perhaps there should be some way for private individuals to propose legislation that would be debated. I am not suggesting we should have it as wide open as they do in Massachusetts, which my good colleague the member for Oshawa has mentioned. In fact, I believe they have a total of 10,000 bills per year that must be processed because if a citizen walks in off the street with a proposal, there is an obligation to deal with the bill from start to finish. I am not suggesting it be that wide open, but perhaps there should be some avenue whereby citizens would have an opportunity to propose legislation to their legislators and have it dealt with in a serious way.
The member for Oshawa is right. If members were to be totally candid, we have at our disposal a lot of ways of finding out how our constituents feel about issues, whether it is through newsletters, questionnaires that are sent out regularly or through riding office hours or the telephone. I remind members -- perhaps they do not need reminding -- that in Ontario we have one of the most accessible Legislatures that exists anywhere. Members are accessible. If they are not accessible to their constituents, it is the members' fault; it is not the constituents' fault.
In summary, the idea of moving away from a representative form of government and moving to a populist, referendum form of running government bothers me. I find it very unsettling. Quite frankly, l find it a bit scary because it means that very simple yes-or-no questions, run on a populist front, can rule the day. Instead of deliberate, thoughtful discussion with an opportunity to bring forward all the nuances, all the details and deal with all the complexities of whatever suggestions are put forward, that goes by the board and that bothers me.
I would like to see our system enhanced so that members of the general public have a greater opportunity to bring forward their suggestions, but I think we are well served by a party system and by a representative system. I am opposed to the bill and yet I appreciate the sincerity with which it is brought forward, and of course, the risk that the member for Leeds is running by this American invasion, being from a territory that is well known for its United Empire Loyalist roots.
We as legislators have been elected to represent the people in our ridings. We have been entrusted by them to act on the questions and issues of the day. We have that obligation. I believe the use of referenda would, not only in the long run but also in the short run, very much erode the trust the electors put in us or give to us during elections. They rely on us. They rely on us to meet their needs and to be there, not in any partisan manner when we are talking about our constituencies but in a manner that is sensitive, reflective and compassionate to their needs, to be accessible at all times. If we are not, we of course are accountable to those people who have exercised their votes.
We have at our disposal a number of ways in which we can better get in touch with our constituents on any issue. We have the use of newsletters, for instance -- "householders" as they are called -- with which we can not only inform our constituents of some of the issues of importance but also elicit from them, if they want, their opinions with respect to those same matters, or if we wish, any other matters they may wish to use.
We have better-equipped constituency offices than ever before. We have more funds available. All the members have more funds available to them to run more efficient, more adaptable constituency offices for the purpose for which they were created: constituents; for constituents to call, to write letters to, to voice their concerns to their member and to elicit from their member his or her opinion, his or her position on the issues of the day.
We have our own creativity in going from community to community. There are public meetings, called to hear from those people what is of concern to them and to us, and why we want to hear them. We have all these items at our disposal to be used as we want, to be used to create a greater representative capacity for the people we ought to represent, our constituents. I see this as a way of eroding that, a way of almost absolving the members of that responsibility by saying to the constituents, "This will be part of a referendum." I think this could cause a lot of harm.
In the history of this province, there has been a time and a place for referenda, but we are not a plebiscitary type of democracy. We never have been and I suggest never will be.
In deciding whether one ought to or ought not to support this bill, we have to ask what our responsibility is to our electors. I believe the responsibility that we as elected officials have to our constituents is to be accessible at all times, to provide to them the forum for them to come to us or for us to go to them, to hear their comments and concerns. That is a personal relationship between the member and his or her constituents. I think the constituents very much judge the member on how he has attempted to provide these public forums, how he has attempted to elicit responses on a myriad of issues.
I am speaking against this bill. I believe we are not a plebiscitary democracy. I believe this runs counter to protecting, maintaining and safeguarding the interests of minority groups across this province and as such I vote to oppose Bill 75.
One of the gentlemen across the floor was talking about cost, that the cost would be assumed by the petitioners, when we are talking about it taking place only at a general election.
Much of the argument and the views of the member for Oshawa can only be described as inane. I am not going to comment on them at length but there are a number of points. He described himself as the most pro-American individual in his caucus. I think that is like describing Caspar Weinberger as the most pro-Russian in the Reagan cabinet. The reality is that many people on the left are well aware that a referendum is likely to reflect the conservative instincts of the community at large and they are very fearful. As in most New Democratic Party positions, there is a strong element of hypocrisy. The people running around this province urging municipalities to place questions concerning nuclear-free zones on their ballots were members of that party. I guess referenda are okay if the NDP can shape the questions; otherwise, forget it.
I think all of us in this House know that large segments of the electorate feel shut out and feel that no one is speaking on their behalf. My bill, Bill 75, has the potential to lessen that sense of alienation from government which many Ontarians now profess.
The member for Scarborough-Ellesmere was talking about representative democracy. Bill 75 has the potential to make democracy more democratic, it can make representative democracy more representative and it can make people, by having responsibility given to them, become less apathetic and more responsible. I urge that members not vote in party blocs. Let us show some independence and free thought here. They should ignore their party whips for a change and support Bill 75.
MUNICIPAL-INDUSTRIA L STRATEGY FOR ABATEMENT
Motion agreed to.
The House divided on Mr. Runciman's motion for second reading of Bill 75, An Act to provide an Opportunity for the Electorate to express its views by means of Referenda in Ontario, which was negatived on the following vote:
Andrewes, Barlow, Cousens, Dean, Eves, Harris, Henderson, Jackson, Lane, McCague, McLean, Partington, Pope, Rowe, Runciman, Turner.
Breaugh, Bryden, Caplan, Charlton, Conway, Cooke, D. R., Cooke, D. S., Fontaine, Fulton, Gigantes, Gillies, Grande, Grier, Haggerty, Hart, Hayes, Knight, Laughren, Lupusella, Mackenzie, Mancini, McClellan, Newman, O'Connor, Offer, Philip, Poirier, Polsinelli, Smith, E. J., Warner, Wildman.
Ayes 16, nays 31.
The House recessed at 12:11 p.m.
The House resumed at 1:30 p.m.
I would also like to inform the House that we have another guest who has not travelled quite as far. I would ask all members to join me in recognizing and welcoming the Minister of Agriculture from Prince Edward Island, the Honourable Tim Carroll.
In my previous six years in this Legislature, we have annually had a meeting of the press gallery with our caucus and, as always in those previous six years, the press gallery has come out on top. As well, we have daily gatherings with the press gallery and they consistently come out on top of those as well.
However, last night there was a trend perhaps developing as part of our comeback. For the first time in six years, the Conservative caucus defeated the press gallery in the great ball game of the year. I would like to report that the star of the game was the member for St. Andrew-St. Patrick (Mr. Grossman), who redeemed himself for some fielding problems when he drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
As members know, the member for Lincoln (Mr. Andrewes) was on the disabled list last year. I want to report that this year the member for Cambridge (Mr. Barlow) is on the disabled list, as members will notice.
We send our very best to Stan Oziewicz, who was involved in the play of the game, the run of the game that tied the score, that forced us into that dramatic ninth inning. As a result, he is now on the long-term, permanent disabled list with a badly broken wrist, and we send our very best to Stan.
Inclusion of feed grain under the stabilization program in Ontario would at least help counteract the current unfair situation. If this program is not approved provincially and federally, we will see some arrangements being made among farmers which will not be in the best interests of agriculture in Ontario, but will allow them to qualify in some way or other for existing programs.
The problem is that when I came down here this week and asked the Minister of Northern Development and Mines (Mr. Peterson) about this project, he indicated he knew nothing about it. The Minister of Transportation and Communications (Mr. Fulton) seems to know about the same amount about the project.
What we would like to know on this side of the House, and have been trying to get some answers about, is whether the government is intending to launch a massive planning project for these two highways or whether it intends to announce a project to four-lane the highways. At this point we do not know whether the government intends to simply do some long-range planning or whether it intends to build some highways, and we are not getting any answers from the government ministers.
We all know there is work being done on Highway 401 and the Gardiner Expressway, but this morning I saw the way this government is accelerating the refurbishing and repair of the Don Valley Parkway. As I was travelling southbound -- of course, the parkway is narrowed down from three lanes to two -- l could see 12 people around the site, three people were working and the other nine were walking around, a ratio of four to one.
Is it any wonder we had a traffic backup that went halfway up the parkway? This government says it is an accelerated job. Here is a highway that is a major thoroughfare in and out of Metropolitan Toronto and there is just nothing happening on it. It is narrowed down to two lanes and there are three people working on it.
I cannot believe the minister is taking that little interest in the communications problems, the driving problems and the travelling problems of the people around Metropolitan Toronto who want to come in here for some crazy reason such as to make a dollar or to run a business. What is this minister doing to help them? He has three people working on the Don Valley Parkway; meanwhile, it is closed down. The number of man-days that were lost this morning by people sitting in their cars is more than we should tolerate. I am getting sick and tired of it.
FIRESTONE CANADA INC.
Firestone workers have lived with these recurring rumours of the plant's demise for years. The heavy federal investment in this plant, $15,250,000 million of taxpayers' money in 1983, as well as the acknowledged efforts of the workers themselves to improve and increase production, was intended to protect the future of the plant and the workers.
Some of us, myself included, raised concerns over the deal that was negotiated because we bought a bias-ply operation when the move was to steel-belted radials. We were also concerned about the job guarantees.
There are 1,300 jobs involved in this plant, and this Liberal government must decide now whether the Goodyear pattern is to repeat or whether it has the guts once and for all to do something to protect these workers.
With the advance warning we have, what is the Peterson government prepared to do in terms of the 1,300 Firestone workers in the city of Hamilton? Is it prepared to protect these workers' jobs?
The event itself was focusing on Portugal Day. The music that was provided was excellent. The turnout was excellent. I commend the people who put it together as a recognition of the very strong and very vibrant Portuguese-Canadian community that I have in Brampton.
The Simcoe District Health Council has completed its health needs and services study and submitted a list of recommendations to his ministry. Since that time there has been much discussion and speculation regarding the future of the hospital, or if there is to be a future at all for this health care facility.
A phase two addition to the Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital was initially approved in 1985, but since that time, discussions have centred on the possibility of funding an entirely new facility because there is no room for expansion on the existing site in Orillia.
I believe the time has come to instruct the hospital's board of directors to proceed with the new facility or at the very least to get the new addition under way if this government does not want to put health care at risk in Simcoe county.
The time for an announcement regarding the ministry funding or a new or expanded hospital in Orillia is long overdue. The hospital's board of directors and administration are ready, willing and able to launch a major fund-raising campaign to cover part of the anticipated costs of construction, but direction is needed from the Minister of Health before anything can proceed.
The time is now for the minister to approve this facility in the Orillia area for the necessary treatment for the people there. I urge him to proceed immediately.
Oshawa This Week, the newspaper, always sensitive to the needs of our community, knows for sure there is that need. They were appalled at the ignorance of the Treasurer, who seemed to know nothing of all the petitions and questions and statements and speeches that have been made in here.
They are good communicators and they are going to help the Treasurer overcome his ignorance. They are going to collect a petition informing the Treasurer and the Premier (Mr. Peterson) that there is a need for GO Transit to Oshawa which will allow the government to use all the land it has optioned in that area and to make use of all the engineering studies it has done and all the busy little things the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has been doing all these years.
I would like to be the first to present the Treasurer, since he forgot, with this petition. Just in the interest of better communications in the cabinet, I will give any member of the cabinet a copy of this petition as well.
Over the last 28 years, my colleague has faithfully served his constituents and has been faithfully returned by his constituents to this august assembly. I know all my colleagues would wish to join with me and honour my colleague the member for Windsor-Walkerville, and let him know how much we have appreciated the work he has done in this assembly.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Members will recall that one year ago this month the government released its white paper entitled A New Agenda. Much of the thoughtful advice we received from seniors during the consultation process on the white paper had a consistent theme, namely, the pressing need to simplify and improve access to community services and to provide a more comprehensive approach to service delivery. In short, we were challenged to replace fragmentation with coordination, and in so doing, to strengthen the government's commitment to enable seniors to remain in their own homes and to reduce the prospect of unnecessary institutionalization.
As a result of further consultation this spring in 24 Ontario communities, I wish to announce today that the government is introducing a community-based program known as one-stop access. It is a fact of life that many seniors who now seek out community services must do so on their own. This can be difficult, time-consuming and frustrating for seniors and their families. Too often, the result is that their needs are neither properly assessed nor fully met.
This problem is due to two factors: community services are not sufficiently developed, and delivery is often fragmented and inadequately co-ordinated. However, this government is now moving to address both of these issues. We are continuing to expand and improve community services and care alternatives. We also intend to address the problem of fragmentation and coordination by providing a comprehensive approach to community services through one-stop access.
One-stop access will offer appropriate functional assessment and will take responsibility for bringing community health and social services to senior citizens in their own homes. To put it another way, one-stop access will do the legwork in obtaining services on behalf of seniors. Further, responsibility for planning, development and delivery of these community services will be vested with a designated local authority such as regional government or expanded boards of health.
Our intention is to introduce one-stop access in two phases. In this fiscal year, pilot projects will be established in the regional municipality of Waterloo, in Huron county and the district of Cochrane. In the next fiscal year, pilot projects will be introduced in the borough of East York in Metropolitan Toronto, and in the counties of Prescott-Russell and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
To facilitate this second phase, I am announcing today on behalf of the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr. Sweeney) that the integrated homemaker program will be introduced into East York and the counties of Prescott-Russell, and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry this year. I understand that the Minister of Community and Social Services, in keeping with the throne speech, will be announcing additional integrated homemaker sites in due course.
While one-stop access primarily will serve the needs of seniors, it will also benefit other population groups, such as disabled persons, who are now eligible for home care and the integrated homemaker program.
Before proceeding with one-stop access, we consulted widely and listened to the comments we received. We were told constantly that local needs vary across the province and it was not feasible to take a cookie-cutter approach to this new development. Accordingly, each pilot community will be invited to develop its own plan for one-stop access within the context of provincial criteria. Consumers and service providers will be involved in the local planning process.
This government recognizes that the development of a one-stop system requires new expenditures and that there will be a need to improve and expand community services in these communities. Consequently, our intention is to provide enrichment funding to meet these needs. At this time, we estimate the initial cost of the five pilots will be more than $5 million in new money. It is also our intention to evaluate these five pilots.
This initiative will be undertaken in close co-operation with and with the assistance of my colleagues the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston), the Minister of Community and Social Services and the Minister without Portfolio responsible for disabled persons (Mr. Ruprecht). It is yet another first for Ontario and a major step forward in the delivery of quality community service to Ontario's seniors.
-- Waterloo, held by the member for Waterloo North (Mr. Epp),the riding held by the member for York East (Ms. Hart), the riding held by the member for Prescott-Russell (Mr. Poirier) and the riding held by the member for Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (Mr. Villeneuve).
Five of the six ridings get Liberal money. Five of six ridings are receiving this Liberal money. Did members hear me? Five out of the six places are getting this Liberal funding.
What is the minister trying to do? What happens to the seniors across the rest of the province? What is the minister really trying to do? I cannot believe he would say this is bold, except that he is feeding his own riding associations. He is feeding only some Liberals, only some people, only those who happen to live in Liberal ridings.
I have never seen such a blatant statement. It is going right into the coffers of their own voters in their own areas. What about the people who are seniors in other parts of the province? There is not one New Democratic Party riding mentioned in the announcement -- and the New Democrats are his friends, up until June 25. They are his friends and he does not even have an NDP riding in it. Why does he not? No wonder they are becoming unhappy with him; we always were.
I say that for the minister to come along and list only six -- and he is starting off -- when he could be doing 16, and five of the six are Liberal ridings, is a disgrace of the first order. I do not know who put him up to it, because he is too good a man to do this kind of thing. Everybody around the province likes him, but they are not going to like this. They are not going to like that kind of approach to it.
Who is the Liberal in there who is forcing this kind of thinking on the member for London North (Mr. Van Home)?
We cannot afford this kind of political grandstanding, flim-flammery, doing it for only one party. What happens to all the rest of the province? I would like to know. I want to do something for my riding. I want to see something happen in my neighbour's riding. I would like to see something happen in the riding of the member for York North (Mr. Sorbara), but he is a Liberal, so that would mean six out of six.
Let us see what we can do to help all the people of this province. The seniors are looking for leadership. If they are going to see leadership that only looks after Liberal ridings -- is that what the minister is saying? Does he only look after Liberal ridings?
I could go for 20 minutes on this subject. This is a party that is leading this province to a misconception of what it is really capable of doing. It is not understanding the people of this province. Our seniors are the most important people we have in this province. They have built the province and made it what it is today. Here we have a chance to give something back to them and the government is giving it back only to Liberal ridings, except for one little Conservative riding, and it does not even come into effect till the second year. It is going to do it for one Conservative riding in the second year.
This is the best reason I have ever seen for the Liberals to lose the election. At last they have shown their colours and they have shown why the Conservatives -- who would at least include a couple of NDP ridings and a few of the Liberal ridings; there would be a mixture -- would never be as blatantly obvious about something that is as devious --
As a group, we will do it to serve seniors and to be fair to all seniors. To come along with that blatant, obvious move that the government has now taken of serving only itself is something that should cause it to think again or maybe even resign.
I would like to make just a couple of points about this government's lack of progress. We welcome today's announcement. Six pilot projects is very, very small -- very, very modest; but none the less we accept the fact and we congratulate the minister for moving on this, finally.
I particularly want to congratulate the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere (Mr. Warner), who brought this matter to the Legislature a couple of years ago with a private member's bill and really got the communities talking about the need for one-stop shopping, which then forced the government of the day to act.
But we will never make adequate progress on developing and emphasizing community support programs until we put the dollars into the system and properly pay the employees who are in the system on the same kind of scale we pay the institutional employees.
As long as we continue to take the approach of "If you are in the community, we do not care as much, we do not pay as much, we have staff turnover, we pay at minimum wage," then the reality of the situation is we are going to continue to have a system that is dominated by the institutions. We need to increase vastly the community-based services, not just on pilot projects but so that the one-stop-shopping approach actually has something to refer people to so that there are services to access.
We also need to look at the whole area of property taxes, because right now one of the problems seniors are having is that they just cannot afford even to stay in their homes because property taxes in this province have been escalating to such a high level.
We congratulate the minister. We expect more and we expect it more quickly, and we hope that some time in the very near future there will be a recognition by the ministers responsible that home-support programs have to be funded at the same levels as institutional programs.
Finally, once again, I want to congratulate the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere for initiating this.
Mr. Speaker, you are probably aware that one member, with the assistance of one researcher, was able within less than a year, drawing on the experience of 26 different countries, to draw up a plan that could be implemented and should have been implemented by now. But after an additional year, this government, with hundreds and hundreds of civil servants at its disposal, comes up with five pilot projects. Big deal.
The reaction of this government can be likened to the blazing speed of a runaway glacier. All I can say to the minister is I am disappointed that, after two years in office, the best the government has to offer is five pilot projects.
TRADE WITH UNITED STATES
Yesterday in the Legislature and as reported in the Toronto media this morning, the minister indicated a list of industries in which jobs would be lost as a result of trade legislation and trade negotiations currently under way. He gave a specific list to the member for Eglinton (Mr. McFadden) in response to his question. We and the people of this province are entitled to get specific information from him as our Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. What industries are we talking about? How many jobs would be lost? What regions of the province are we talking about?
LENNOX GENERATING STATION
There was heavy pressure, and the member for Prince Edward-Lennox is very pleased that we are seeing fit to open Lennox to provide the jobs and the opportunities around there and to get a balance on that grid with the extra 1,000 megawatts of power where there will be low voltage and difficulties if we do not take that initiative. I am quite surprised he has not shared that with the member.
I want to refer the minister to a press release from Ontario Hydro of October 30, 1986 entitled "Ontario Hydro and Hydro-Québec Reach Power Deal.'' The final paragraph reads:
"`This agreement with Hydro-Québec is cost-effective and is a more practical option than the other plan we considered, restarting the oil-fired Lennox generating station, west of Kingston,' Campbell says."
Campbell is the chairman of Ontario Hydro, Tom Campbell. I think the minister is familiar with that gentleman.
The statement the minister made yesterday mentioned several reasons why he was restarting the Lennox plant.
One has to make some important decisions as to what this government has seen fit to do. The other options are already under way. I explained as recently as yesterday that we opened three new hydraulic plants in northern Ontario -- that is an option that was not considered a good one not long ago -- and a cogeneration plant in Chapleau that is going to burn wood waste to generate electricity. We are looking at the options of efficiency and other options of generating power.
The member has only seen the start of what this government is going to do over the next 20 years to provide the kind of power for Ontarians to keep the manufacturing base sound and jobs flowing, as that member is describing as a problem. We are going to do everything we can to provide the jobs in this province, and I am going to help to do that.
By way of supplementary, I wonder if the minister might consider another option, and that is the option of restarting the mothballed R. L. Hearn generating plant, where 1,200 megawatts of generating capacity can be fired by environmentally benign natural gas, which could be obtained under arrangements approved by his Ontario Energy Board at a good deal, a fair price, resulting in reduced sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions, jobs in Ontario and security of supply. Why did he not consider that option?
The member really does not understand the problem and that is why it is difficult for him ever to come up with any kind of answers -- as we are, on this side -- to provide a continuous supply of power to the residents and the manufacturing base of this province.
ACCESS TO HEALTH SERVICES
I would like to ask the minister if he is aware of the practice at a place called the Park Plaza Surgical Centre -- which is apparently a privately operated facility for people with eye problems and needs for eye surgery -- where patients of Dr. Harold Stein, who is the chief of ophthalmology at the Scarborough General Hospital, are given a surgery option sheet which I have just shown and handed to the minister?
This surgery option sheet gives the patients of Dr. Stein three options. They can either have their surgery done at the Park Plaza Hotel at $700 an eye -- in the case of the patient who brought this to our attention, it would have cost him $1,400 in three or four weeks -- or they are told there will be a waiting list of between three to four months for healthy patients and six to seven months for people who are inpatients. In fact, others have been told it will be even longer.
I wonder if the minister can tell us, is he aware of this practice and what does he intend to do about it?
As a result of that, I can tell the honourable member that I am aware of this particular form. It is a copy exactly of what I received yesterday. I have made some preliminary inquiries, but I have not yet received any further feedback, with the exception that I do understand there are a sizeable number of operations which are performed at this location, a location which is a private facility, as the member has rightly identified.
Further than that, I am unable to provide the member with more specifics on this particular clinic.
This seems to be a classic case of Thatcherized health care right here in Canada where those with money in their pockets, those who are willing to pay, are told that they will get care far faster and far speedier than they would under the public system in which this doctor also practices. I would like to ask the minister, is he not concerned about this practice, and what does he intend to do to stop it?
I think the honourable gentleman rightly raises the question of the opportunity for conflict between the roles of someone practicing at public hospitals and also operating a private facility. I can tell him I have not been able to come to a conclusion at this stage with respect to the manner in which a resolution might occur to what appears, at least on its face, to be a conflict.
Given that the minister now is telling us he is fully aware of the extent of the problem and is aware of the fact that patients are being asked to pay upfront money in order to get quicker health care, just as we have learned over time that patients with more money can get into chronic care facilities more quickly than patients without money, what does the minister intend to do to introduce some equity and fairness into this situation and to make sure we do not have a province where the quality and speed of care depend on one's willingness to pay?
Surely we do not want to enter into a kind of Thatcherized world in this province where those patients with money in their pockets are going to get better and different care from patients who cannot afford to pay anything.
I can tell him that the operation of private clinics is a matter of discussion. It is a matter of concern with respect to what the impact and effect are on the operation of public hospitals in this province and in other areas. To be quite honest, I think it shows that it seems these issues are far more easily and quickly raised with me via these third-party messengers than they are in the Legislative Assembly.
For instance, I think perhaps they would like to make a suggestion. If they have all the clever answers, perhaps they could provide them. I am always open to suggestions and perhaps the member will do that in his next round of questions.
NATURAL GAS PRICING
I wonder if the minister could explain why Ontario residential consumers are now paying as much as $6.10 per 1,000 cubic feet of gas when we now know that the province of Alberta, in terms of its sales to the United States, is selling that same gas south of the border and to some other places for as little as $1.80 for the same amount.
Ontario played a vital role in deregulation when we agreed we would make it quite convenient for direct purchase from the industry in Ontario to enter into contracts with producing provinces in western Canada. That has been done and they have entered into excellent agreements to protect the feedstock in many important industries in this province.
The Ontario Energy Board has directed the distributors in Ontario to go back and renegotiate the prices for residential and small commercial users, who are considered the core consumers in Ontario. We are also fighting the problem we have with the streaming of prices from the producing provinces. Those are being taken into account by Mr. Masse. We have written to Mr. Masse and Mr. Webber. Of course, the initiative that is taken by Manitoba is an excellent one. We here in Ontario are doing everything that can be done to protect the consumers in this province.
I was asking the same kind of question, and I am surprised the minister would take such offence at that question since his own very loyal and effective deputy minister, who is well known, has said exactly the same trend is taking place.
What is the minister doing and what is the government of Ontario doing to ensure that the average residential home owner and user in the province -- the people of the province, not the big people who can pool their utilities and not even the school boards that can pool their resources -- what is he doing for the little people of this province to make sure deregulation starts meaning something to them and not just to the big guys he is so keen on helping?
The fact of the matter is that the distributors have been directed to renegotiate the contracts with western Canada. It was not Ontario that decided to deregulate the gas industry; it was the federal government and the producing provinces.
The member must recall that he stood in that very place and quarrelled with my request to sit at the bargaining table. He thought I was being quite unfair. That is the result of this. Ontario was not a party to those agreements and now we have to do what we can to protect the residential users of this province of ours. I want to tell him that it is being done.
What we are telling him is that the federal government has a role to play when gas leaves the producing province. It has seen fit to let it go to the United States cheaper than it goes to other parts of Canada. We are there to defend the situation to the degree that we can so that it does not happen. The member is paying that kind of bill on his home, but I want to tell him that if he were farther down the pipe he would be paying $7.82 at the end of the pipe.
That is a reaction that is happening across here, and we are having the people who distribute gas in the province go back to the producing provinces to renegotiate contracts they were stuck with when the federal government and the producers deregulated the gas market. That is not something Ontario did or had anything to do with. I am explaining to members precisely how it happened without being an apologist for anyone.
This morning the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations held a press conference at which they made it abundantly clear the minister's new funding formula is resulting in a record number of academically qualified students being turned away from Ontario's universities.
Why has the minister adopted a policy that does not provide a place in our university system for all academically qualified students?
At the very same time or at about the same time, I was making an announcement that the government intends to fund at the full average cost the increase in the university system that the university system will experience as of September 1987. My friend was just in the wrong place.
"So much smoke and mirrors. In the last budget, and indeed in a series of funding announcements since the Liberals came to power, they have made a mockery of those commitments. By putting a cap on funding, the effect was indeed to put a cap on enrolment. We have an increase of seven per cent of qualified applicants and a cap of three per cent. Four per cent of students will not gain admission this year."
Good idea. Which community are they starting with? The Italian-language community. How very interesting.
The truth is that we are taking every step necessary to ensure there are places. We are providing the funding. Not only that, for the first time in years and years and years, we are providing the dollars necessary to build the buildings the students are going to use to study their courses.
I wonder who is playing politics with this question. The minister knows that he has instituted a formula which does not just cap enrolments; it also rewards universities if they go as far as three per cent below existing enrolments. If one adds that three per cent to the seven per cent applications now, one has a 10-percentage-point question, and one is not talking about 2,000 students but about 5,000 students whose places are at risk.
I ask the minister whether it is not because of his genuine concern about the application of that formula and the fact that the universities may have taken it seriously that he has not only written a not-so-friendly letter to the presidents of the universities but also, 10 days ago, had breakfast with them and pleaded with them not to give him a political hot potato on the accessibility issue this fall.
There are five separate components to the funding formula. One of them, the basic operating component, provides a corridor. The second component provides an accessibility envelope.
Two and a half months ago, before I met with the presidents, I was advised that we may have an increase in applications. I sought the advice of the Ontario Council on University Affairs, an independent advisory body, as to how to deal with an increase in enrolment through the accessibility fund. The council reported back to me with its advice. We accepted that advice with one exception. We said it did not go far enough, we had to do more, and we included graduate students, so we would be sure as well that no graduate students would be denied admission because of a lack of funds.
If the minister wants to have the accessibility issue in his office, let me ask him this question: When and how much is he going to use in the course of this year and next year to help not only those students we have talked about get into the university system but also the Italian, Greek, French-Canadian and Portuguese students and the low-income students in this population, who have approximately half the level of accessibility as the average population?
The member has read my letter to the chairman of the Ontario Council on University Affairs on this matter. He knows that the corridor approach is to dampen that kind of destructive competition among universities that would have them make grabs for students from other institutions. He knows full well that is the purpose of the corridor approach. He also knows that it is consistent to have an accessibility envelope when the system, in its entirety, is going to expand, and that is what will happen in September 1987.
The member says: "We have solved that problem. What about all the other people who are not going to get in?" He should know, because I have told him on a number of occasions, that this very year we increased funding for the Ontario student assistance program by some 17 per cent. That has never been done before in this province, and I am proud that we were able to do it for those very students he has mentioned.
I want to ask him what he means by his own quote, which he made in this House on June 4, and it is only one sentence. Specifically what is he doing? He said, "We are also working closely with labour and the federal government to make sure certain things are put into practice that will enable us not to have that overcapacity." He was referring to the automotive industry.
Can the minister tell me what things he is doing to protect against overcapacity --
As the Premier mentioned the other day, basically there are three things we have been talking about with the federal government. The first is to resume the monitoring and controlling of vehicle imports into this country. The second is to obtain a commitment from foreign producers established in Canada to meet the protection and value-added safeguards in the auto pact. The third is a commitment from government, industry and labour to improve the technological capability and efficiency of Canada's auto industry.
I will read him a quote, which says, "The person applying shall submit with the application a cheque in the amount of not less than the amount enough to cover the first and last month's rent" -- which is $480 plus $480 -- "and the cost of decoration, which is $600 for painting, and $1,000 security deposit for carpet installation."
Next, would the minister begin to do the educational work that he committed himself to do when Bill 51 was passed over six months ago, so that tenants are knowledgeable of their rights and obligations under the law?
I would like to ask the minister what he can indicate in terms of how this will be gone about in order to alleviate some of the concerns of my residents.
It would be my hope that the time delay between those two initiatives would be as short as possible.
It is true that there has been an agreement among the participants, through the Council of Faculties of Medicine and the Council of Teaching Hospitals, with the Ministry of Health, that there be a reduction in residencies. In fact, there is, I think, over the next five years, an anticipated reduction of residency positions of about 200.
It seems to me the member also forgot to indicate to the public that we had increased funding to hospitals. It also seems he has forgotten to indicate to the public that there has been an increase in the activity to provide a framework for new professionals in Ontario to become active partners in the supply of health care in this province. He has probably also forgotten that we are continuing to expand our role in providing assistive devices for the people of this province, and in other areas we have likewise expanded our activities.
I know the member would not want to ask me to stand up after I sit down and fail to answer the rest of the question. The member would likely also want me to say that our budget has increased to more than $11 billion, at 32 per cent of our budget, a very strong commitment to quality health care.
ACCESS TO HEALTH SERVICES
Recently Braxton Suffield, PhD, a neuropsychologist, has indicated to families of brain-damaged children that there will be approximately 325 people needing rehabilitative services in southwestern Ontario alone.
What rationale can the minister give us for the lack of services here in Ontario?
I had indicated to him that we are examining the ramifications of establishing programs for people with acquired brain damage and that we were analysing the results of programs outside our boundaries, which were being accessed by some residents of Ontario. I was not specifically aware of the programming that was available in the care centre in Alberta that was mentioned. I had indicated that we were seriously considering what benefits might be made available to the people of Ontario by the introduction of programs but that I could not at that stage indicate that we were in any position to introduce new programs.
"I believe that such letters, as sent out by your ministry, can only create annoyance on the part of the receiver. The families of head-injured patients are undergoing unbelievable psychological stress, to the point where patients are committing suicide, spouses are threatening or actually murdering spouses, patients are ending up in penal institutions and being placed in psychiatric facilities when they are not mentally ill."
When will this minister act to stop this kind of outrageous treatment of our fellow citizens in Ontario?
ONTARIO STUDENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The answer to the question is no. The issue that was raised by Ms. Wilson yesterday on Metro Morning is an important one. We provided an additional $4 million in funding specifically for sole-support parents to assist them with funding so that they could be in a college or university. The issue that was raised had to do with access to loans after the grant eligibility period.
I said to Ms. Wilson then and I say it to her now, and I say also to my friend the member for Parry Sound, if there is a problem, an impediment now to continuing her education after the four-year grant eligibility period, I am going to change it.
Is the Minister of Transportation and Communications aware of the announcement I am talking about and can he tell us whether his government is prepared to four-lane those two highways to the north or whether he is just talking about a study?
What the member does not seem to understand is that the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines contains the highways budget for northern Ontario. It was very appropriate for the parliamentary assistant to make that announcement for both the planning programs on the two highways the member alludes to and the 10 substantial projects that were also made mention of in that announcement.
Can the minister confirm then that what he is really talking about and what the parliamentary assistant was talking about is simply a study about whether there would be four-laning of those two highways?
If that attitude had not been used on Highway 401 near Windsor, we would not be stuck with a major repair bill because the planning was not done properly.
Will the minister confirm one of two positions that we have heard from his government? The parliamentary assistant to the Premier has stated that the government is committed to expending the dollars and four-laning Highway 11 and Highway 69 from Parry Sound and North Bay, respectively, to Toronto. Yesterday, the Premier said: "No, they are projects we are looking at. They are under consideration, along with other priorities for northern Ontario."
Since he is the Minister of Transportation and Communications, can the minister tell us which it is?
I ask the minister whether the commitment to $10 million or two thirds of the cost -- which was made by the previous government, which is now three years old and which was reconfirmed by this government -- is going to be met in actual terms. That three-year delay has meant that the cost -- and I think the minister referred to it -- is now very close to $12 million.
Is the minister going to commit himself to the project they went after, or is he trying to undermine that and pay less than the previous government was willing to pay in terms of the total cost of the project?
I would like the minister to assure me and this House that, in conjunction with the Attorney General (Mr. Scott), he will bring forward to me the reports of the various inspection panels so that, as critic, I may review those reports.
TABLING OF INFORMATION
I, other members of my party and members of the third party have raised this matter several times during the last two sessions. We find it appalling that the government continues this flagrant abuse of the members of the people of Ontario. Surely, with an ever-growing bureaucracy of 80,000 civil servants and fast growing -- it will soon be 100,000 I guess -- this "open" government can provide some answers.
Mr. Speaker, you appear to have the powers to enforce all the standing orders except 88(d). I ask you to consider, over the summer months perhaps, making recommendations to this House or to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to give the Speaker the powers he needs to prevent this flagrant abuse by this government of the rules of the House which prevents this assembly and the public from having access to information and to give him the power to enforce standing order 88(d).
While the member would know that I have tabled the answers to scores of questions that have appeared in the Hansard report, and the members have access to that, it is interesting that any questions or any follow-up by members of the opposition is rare, if it occurs at all.
It is not for me to judge the quality of the questions put forward, but I do want to tell the House, in a defence that is not sufficient but that is what I have to put forward, that many of the staff of the various ministries, a significant number of them, spend almost full-time trying to get the information together. It then disappears into the maw of the opposition, never to be heard from again. As a matter of fact, there is every indication that they never even read the answers.
My own expression of regret --
I am being switched off and that is the end of my defence.
ANIMALS FOR RESEARCH
"To the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"Each year, under the Ontario Animals For Research Act, approximately 4,000 unclaimed dogs and cats are released by impounding agencies to research facilities. These pets can be used in any form of teaching, testing and experimentation. Research facilities are exempted from the provisions of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
"Many municipalities and animal welfare organizations believe that animal pounds/shelters should operate as sanctuaries for lost and abandoned pets and are, therefore, opposed to the sections of the act requiring pounds/shelters to surrender pets.
"Therefore, we the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to pass into law a bill introduced by Ed Philip, MPP, Etobicoke, entitled An Act to amend the Animals for Research Act, inasmuch as this bill allows municipalities to decide whether or not to surrender unclaimed pets to research."
The letter from the group that collected and sent this petition signed by over 20,000 people says as follows: "Premier Peterson purports to preside over an open and democratic government but there is nothing open or democratic about the Liberal government's decision to kill Bill 21, which was passed in the Ontario Legislature."
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
Hon. Mr. Nixon moves that, notwithstanding standing order 71(h), the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 16 and 17, by way of allowing the rules to be flexible enough to accommodate the opposition.
Motion agreed to.
SELECT COMMITTEE ON HEALTH
Hon. Mr. Nixon moves that the terms of reference of the select committee on health, established by an order of the House on July 10, 1986, be amended to provide that the final report of the committee be presented to the assembly on or before December 31, 1987.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Mr. Nixon moves that the provisional standing orders be extended to remain in effect until 12 midnight on Thursday, December 31, 1987.
Motion agreed to.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
BEEF CATTLE MARKETING AMENDMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Riddell moved second reading of Bill 77, An Act to amend the Beef Cattle Marketing Act.
When a person sells beef cattle through an auction market or directly to a packer, a licence fee of one fifth of one per cent of the selling price is deducted and forwarded to the Ontario Cattlemen's Association. The association is designated to represent beef producers under the Beef Cattle Marketing Act.
The Ontario Cattlemen's Association has done a lot in recent years for the betterment of beef producers and the beef industry as a whole with the funding that this checkoff provides. It has meant support for product promotion, market information, research and other worthwhile programs.
The checkoff has helped ensure that standardized procedures are in effect at slaughtering plants, including uniform methods of weighing cattle and carcasses. It has helped fund the administration and costs associated with the organization's computerized market information system. This information network will eventually see the Toronto stockyards and 13 country sales barns wired together, eventually incorporating 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the sales volume in this province. The province and the Ontario Cattlemen's Association also worked together to establish the beef cattle financial protection program.
These are just some of the ways that the checkoff collected by the Ontario Cattlemen's Association has worked for the benefit of the overall beef cattle industry in this province; yet the current Beef Cattle Marketing Act leaves this organization under a financial cloud. The present act permits the refund of these licence fees at the request of those selling cattle, and currently about 20 per cent of licence fees submitted are refunded.
The Beef Cattle Marketing Amendment Act would revoke this provision. It would make these licence fees nonrefundable, as the majority of cattlemen all across the province have requested. Nonrefundable fees were discussed by interested beef producers at meetings of county cattlemen's associations across the province last December, January and February.
At the Ontario Cattlemen's Association meeting in February, 85 per cent of the delegates voted in favour of making licence fees nonrefundable. With a nonrefundable checkoff, the Ontario Cattlemen's Association would enjoy greater financial stability. It would be better able to plan for the future for the benefit of all producers. There would be additional funds for beef promotion, market information services, research and program administration that would benefit all cattlemen in Ontario. The Ontario Cattlemen's Association would be in a better position to face and respond to the very real challenges that the future presents to both the association and the industry.
At the Ontario Cattlemen's Association's annual meeting in February, I challenged the association to bring this industry together, to strive for co-operation and consensus among all the players. There are pressing demands, marketing and others, that need to be dealt with right now. These require the organization to work much more closely with all the cattle producers in this province. The nonrefundable checkoff will provide greater financial stability to help them do this.
In addition, the bill also adds regulatory powers permitting the collection of information on cattle sales to assist in marketing and promotion activities. It further restricts ways in which this information can be used to ensure it remains confidential when it comes to individual producers or processors. Having been granted special status through the Beef Cattle Marketing Act, the Ontario Cattlemen's Association has been given the responsibility for providing sound leadership to the cattle industry to truly represent all of Ontario's cattlemen.
The changes proposed in the Beef Cattle Marketing Amendment Act will spell long-term benefits for the industry as a whole in this province, and I urge the honourable members to endorse this worthy goal with their support for this bill.
In my 90-second statement at the start of our session this afternoon, I mentioned the problem beef producers and others are facing in their inability to get stabilization on fed grains. I referred to how producers in western Canada have been able to get around that problem with the Western Grain Stabilization Act and the additional $13 per tonne which is being paid on fed grains there.
That is having a very profound impact on the feedlot industry here in Ontario, and the effects of those western programs are really just beginning to be seen. If this unevenness of support continues, it is going to have a very profound effect on the feedlot industry here, particularly in western Ontario.
In any organization or organizations that try to represent an industry as complex as the beef industry in Ontario or Canada, undoubtedly there will be wide differences of opinion. It is never easy but it is easier in a situation such as corn, for example. The Ontario Corn Producers' Association has a relatively uniform end product sold by somewhat simpler methods and the opportunities for a great diversity of opinions on how things should be done are not as great in an industry with more uniformity.
Still, there is lots of room for arguments and differences of opinion and so on, but not quite as much as in an industry such as the beef industry where you have livestock being sold into the marketplace from a matter of a few weeks old to a few years old. So there is great diversity in the type of livestock going to market, the size of that livestock, its age, the end product, the type of meat and the type of cuts that are going to be produced from the various animals being sold. This contributes to the great diversity of opinion on how the marketing of these products should be handled and how an organization trying to represent those various producers and that diversity of opinion should be organized and funded.
The diversity of opinion and some of the splits in the beef industry have existed for some time but there is no doubt at all that the handling of the lead-up to this bill by the minister has contributed in a very great way to the degree of split we now have in the beef industry in Ontario. In fact, it is rather difficult to imagine how he could have handled the situation much worse than he did.
I refer to an article that appeared on May 26 in Farm and Country. There is a picture of the minister and it says, "The beef checkoff law is stalled." This of course was prior to when it was introduced in the House, while it was still being discussed in cabinet.
It is rather interesting that in just a matter of a week or two we have seen this bill move ahead. The House leader has come over to our House leader and this side of the House in the past few days to see whether we could move this up in Orders and Notices and how quickly we would be prepared to discuss the bill. I think it is passing strange that at this particular moment the Beef Producers for Change have been putting their position together. Indeed, I believe last night was the final meeting where their presentation was finalized to go to the farm products marketing people. I believe the date is July 7 or July 8; in that area.
One wonders whether the minister is trying to get this bill off his plate before the situation opens up any more. Certainly, the Ontario Beef Producers for Change will be coming forward with some ideas on marketing, and I imagine on financing of beef organizations in Ontario. It is somewhat unfortunate that the position paper has not been made clear to us before we have to debate this bill. I understand the end of the session is coming up and it seems reasonable that we might at least try to get this through the House before we leave here. Again, it is very unfortunate, the way this has been handled and the timing of this coming forward relative to other events going on.
In general, as a party, we accept the use of checkoffs for the support of agricultural organizations. Of course, we have various forms of checkoffs and fees used in all sorts of professional organizations, unions and other agricultural organizations, and various arrangements other than just simply a membership fee. It does not go against the principles of this party that the people producing various products and who particularly stand to benefit by the promotion of those products and end products arriving therefrom, also the benefit from producer groups and organizations lobbying government and dealing with the consumer groups and so on -- have no problem in supporting this type of funding in most situations. Indeed, I have asked the minister why he has not moved more quickly in some other situations.
I guess a very good example would be the Ontario Canola Growers' Association, which asked for a checkoff many months ago now; no action was taken. That group is suffering quite considerably right now because of its inability to get funding due to troubles in the industry at the moment and a tremendous acreage reduction in Ontario this year. Yet it is a commodity that has tremendous potential in Ontario; a commodity which will in the future, I am sure, provide a very significant alternative crop to producers in Ontario. It has the potential of very significant income for cash croppers in Ontario in an area where there are more limited opportunities, let us say, less diverse cropping systems available, in some of the shorter growing season areas, particularly in central Ontario and eastern Ontario.
I might mention the proposal that appears to be going forward for a checkoff for the general farm groups across Ontario. I know they are putting a lot of work into it. I have heard some early reports on it and I have seen reports in the farm media on that sort of checkoff. Again, the early proposals look fairly promising.
We do not really have any particular problem with the checkoff and the fact that it is going to be made nonrefundable. We just wish that the procedure leading up to today had been handled in a very different fashion, a fashion that may well have led to more compromise among the producers in the industry, a fashion that would not have contributed to the same degree of split that has occurred in the industry, particularly in the last few months.
Although it is not part of this bill, I wonder if the minister will take time to respond to how he sees the results of the passage of this bill affecting further discussions on the definition of a "beef producer." It seems to me, with the passage of this bill, that we are going to have producers selling beef animals and paying a checkoff, and then they may well not be eligible to vote as beef producers at some future vote that may well be held.
That is just one example of the complications that could be faced in future discussions, and there are a number of other interesting examples I could give. I would be curious as to the minister's response to some of the interesting complications that I suspect are going to result from some of the future discussions in trying to define a beef producer, and who might vote and who may be paying fees or checkoffs.
With that, I think I will terminate my discussion by giving support in principle to the bill but expressing my displeasure at the way the minister has brought this forward to the Legislature.
We feel there are a lot of questions out there by the beef producers in Ontario that have not been answered and also, when we talk about the vote, the procedures that were used across this province at the various counties and regions, there are still a lot of questions about that. For example, some counties never charged for a membership; others did so by a form of a compulsory checkoff when cattle were sold in the county. Some paid membership as part of a banquet ticket at the county annual; others collected a formal membership of $1 to $5.
The 35,082 people who voted certainly include many who are not beef producers. According to Statistics Canada, there were 21,046 votes cast for or against the nonrefundable checkoff: 15,092 for and 554 against. On this basis, the vote passed. However, in some cases -- according to the information I have received from beef producers -- some of the negative votes were not even counted or included.
The fact of the matter is that the Ontario Cattlemen's Association is concerned, and probably rightfully so, about the number of producers who want refunds, and there is a fairly large number of them. Why do they want their refunds? It seems obvious to me that the reason they want their refunds is because the Ontario Cattlemen's Association, at the present time, is not really fulfilling the wishes of all the beef producers in Ontario.
They seem to be afraid to speak about supply management, for example. Just to get back to where I was talking before of not being opposed to the idea of nonrefundable dues checkoff, the people who are opposed to it are saying: "First of all, I want a definition of an Ontario beef producer. That should be established. That has not been established as of today."
All bona fide producers should be registered. We could start by requiring the registration of all checkoff contributors.
They also want a constitutional voting procedure that could be established under proper supervision. This is one of the things that I asked the minister to do a while back in the Legislature because there are still a lot of questions as to the method by which the votes were taken across this province.
The other thing that is wanted and is needed is an organization. The organization that would receive a nonrefundable checkoff has to represent all producers in Ontario, not just certain producers.
There is no doubt there are more requirements that need attention and should be met before a decision is made. My colleague, the critic for the Conservative party, indicated to the minister that either on July 7 or July 8 the Beef Producers for Change has a meeting with the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Board. I think what should happen here is, before we even attempt to amend this act, we should at least give the Beef Producers for Change the opportunity to meet with the Farm Products Marketing Board to try to resolve some of the differences between the Beef Producers for Change and the Ontario Cattlemen's Association.
I do not think there is any question as to the type of job that the Ontario Cattlemen's Association is doing in advertising. I do not think anyone is really arguing that particular point, but they are arguing that it has not really addressed certain problems like marketing efficiencies, development of a cost of production formula by actual survey and related to stabilization income insurance, efficiency payment pricing and the implementation of production quotas with no value, issued and controlled by an all-beef commission and then also attached to the land and premises.
I am standing up in opposition to this bill because I think there are a lot of questions out there that have not been answered. I think when we make legislation here for the benefit of the beef producers we should be doing it for all the beef producers in Ontario and not just one particular group that the minister feels he has to listen to. I think we have to take in all the beef producers' concerns before we even attempt to amend this act.
If he wants to have fed grains included in stabilization, surely the member should take a trip to Ottawa, knock on the door of his colleague and friend, I am sure, John Wise, the federal Minister of Agriculture, and say, "Mr. Wise, I think it is time you decided to include fed grains under stabilization." If Mr. Wise agrees to do that, then I will look at our top-up program, the farm income stabilization program, but we want to walk in lock-step on this whole business of stabilization. The stabilization program by and large is the responsibility of the federal government. Surely, the honourable member knows his way to Ottawa and knows his way into the federal minister's office. He can sit down and talk about this very thing with the federal Minister of Agriculture.
The member for Durham-York said he thought the situation was handled badly by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. I guess that is his opinion. When I became minister and this thing first surfaced, I indicated to the Ontario Cattlemen's Association that I wanted to make sure it was representing a majority of the cattle producers in its request for a nonrefundable checkoff. I sent them back to the county organizations and I said, "I want an expression of opinion by every county association on this very matter." I think there were something like 18 county associations that had not expressed an opinion on a nonrefundable checkoff and I was not going to pursue this until I heard from those 18 county associations. So they got those associations to express their opinions and I have to say that a large majority of the county associations voted in favour of a nonrefundable checkoff.
Then when they came back to me, I said: "Okay, now I want you people, the Ontario Cattlemen's Association, to publicize widely what I am prepared to do," and that was that if they indeed got a large majority of cattle producers to vote in favour of a nonrefundable checkoff, I would introduce in the Legislature this session an amendment to the Beef Cattle Marketing Act to do away with that section of the bill that indicated that the licence fee could be refundable upon request.
That is the procedure I went through. It is what is called consultation, something the previous government knew nothing about, something I would hope the third party would know something about. It is called consultation. It is making sure that all beef producers had an opportunity to know exactly what I was intending to do if, indeed, the beef producers voted by a large majority in favour of a nonrefundable checkoff. If that is what members call bad handling of the situation, then I make no apologies for handling it the way I did.
There is the organization known as the Beef Producers for Change, which the member for Durham-York alluded to. I would have to tell the honourable member that any presentation made by the Beef Producers for Change for a different marketing system has absolutely nothing to do with this amendment for a nonrefundable checkoff.
I have met with the Beef Producers for Change on several occasions, as I have with the Ontario Cattlemen's Association. I told them there is a procedure to go through if they want a different marketing system. If they want a central agency or supply management, they petition. They petition the Farm Products Marketing Board, which operates under legislation and which has been established now for a good many years, and then it will recommend to me that a plebiscite be taken. Once that petition is made, if there is 15 per cent of the beef producers on that petition, then I am quite prepared to go to the cattle producers in this province and have a plebiscite. That procedure is one that has been laid down for some period of time, and all they have to do is follow that procedure. It has absolutely nothing to do with this nonrefundable checkoff bill.
The honourable member for Durham-York went on, and he talked about canola. If somebody can tell me what canola has to do with beef cattle, I would sure like to know that. I do not know whether the honourable member knows what canola means -- I would hope he does -- but it has nothing to do with this bill, nor does the Ontario Federation of Agriculture checkoff have anything to do with this bill, so I am not going to waste the time of the House to comment on those issues.
The last question the member asked was, how does this bill affect further discussions as to the definition of a beef producer? I have told the cattlemen's association and the Beef Producers for Change to get together and come up with a definition of a beef producer, and I have to tell the members that they are getting together. They are presently discussing the definition of a beef producer. Once they come back to me with the definition of a beef producer, then we should be in business.
I have to tell members -- and I have told the cattlemen's association and the Beef Producers for Change -- that if the Ontario Cattlemen's Association is charging a licence fee to carry out its various responsibilities, then as far as I am concerned, anyone who pays a licence fee and can no longer get it back has an opportunity to voice his or her opinion at future cattlemen's association meetings. I have made that clear to the Ontario Cattlemen's Association and the Beef Producers for Change, so there is no reason in the world that anyone who is selling cattle should not have an opportunity to express his opinion at future cattlemen's association meetings.
To get to the member for Essex North (Mr. Hayes), I think the greatest surprise I have had since coming into this business was hearing the New Democratic Party get up and oppose compulsory checkoffs. I cannot believe it. My goodness, what does the NDP operate on if it is not compulsory checkoffs from the paycheques of the employees?
Likewise, unions are democratically elected to make decisions and to carry out their mandate. Surely the member is not suggesting that government interfere with the mode of operation of unions. That is exactly what he is asking me to do with a democratically elected body such as the Ontario Cattlemen's Association.
I find it unbelievable that the NDP party -- the NDP -- is opposing this bill. I am pleased that the members of the Conservative Party have seen the wisdom of supporting the bill, and I congratulate them for it.
The House divided on Hon. Mr. Riddell's motion for second reading of Bill 77, which was agreed to on the following vote:
Ashe, Barlow, Bradley, Callahan, Cooke, D. R., Cordiano, Cousens, Cureatz, Elston, Epp, Eves, Fontaine, Fulton, Gillies, Gregory, Haggerty, Harris, Hart, Henderson, Jackson, Knight, Lane, Leluk, Lupusella, Mancini, Marland, McCague, McLean, Miller, G. I., Munro;
Newman, Nixon, O'Connor, Offer, O'Neil, Partington, Poirier, Pollock, Polsinelli, Pope, Reycraft, Riddell, Ruprecht, Sargent, Smith, D. W., Smith, E. J., Stevenson, Sweeney, Van Horne, Ward, Wiseman, Yakabuski.
Allen, Breaugh, Bryden, Charlton, Cooke, D. S., Grande, Grier, Hayes, Laughren, Mackenzie, McClellan, Morin-Strom, Philip, Rae, Reville, Warner, Wildman.
Ayes 52; nays 17.
Bill ordered for third reading.
Hon. Mr. Nixon moved resolution 10:
That the Treasurer of Ontario be authorized to pay the salaries of the civil servants and other necessary payments pending the voting of supply for the period commencing July 1, 1987, and ending October 31, 1987, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of supply.
I understand the honourable members would like to use the motion as a vehicle for some general debate. I regret to inform them that I may have to absent myself from the House very briefly, but I can assure them that I will read their words carefully at the very earliest opportunity. I will be back as soon as possible. If you insist on adjourning, you will not break my heart.
It is regrettable that the Treasurer opted for further large spending increases in his budget rather than capitalizing on an expanding economy to reduce the deficit. The Treasurer has indicated that expenditures will increase by 6.9 per cent, and that is on top of a whopping 11.4 per cent last year. The Treasurer has noted that this is the fifth straight year Ontario has experienced economic expansion. That translates into faster economic growth over a two-year period than any other major country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
He has painted a rosy picture of the coming year: 82,O00 housing starts; the creation of 125,000 jobs; continuing moderate inflation of 4.2 per cent; real gross provincial product predicted to grow at a rate of 3.5 per cent; the unemployment rate reduced to 6.5 per cent; private sector spending increasing to 7.2 per cent; a 7.5 per cent rise in consumer spending in retail sales; and personal income growing by approximately 7.1 per cent.
I would think that when times are good like these, a government displaying fiscal responsibility calls for the running of a budgetary surplus. This government's failure to do so shows that it has sadly lost an opportunity that will undoubtedly come back to haunt the taxpayers of this province should economic hard times return. When this government took power two years ago, total budgetary expenditures in this province amounted to some $28.86 billion. If the Treasurer had held his spending increases to the rate of inflation, the total for this year would be $31.3 billion and Ontario would now be running a $980 million surplus rather than a $2.06 billion deficit.
The Treasurer points to five years of unprecedented growth in Ontario. What he does not point out is the fact that the indebtedness of every man, woman and child in Ontario has steadily increased from $2,700 to a staggering $4,000. Can the Treasurer even imagine what will happen if the economy suffers a downturn? Does he care or is it good enough for him and this government that good times last only until the next election?
This government took power two years ago, loudly promoting a sense of newness. It said policies and initiatives would be future-oriented, but this budget, the budget the Treasurer just brought down, sadly indicates to me and to the taxpayers of Ontario that this government has only short-term goals in mind by focusing most of its attention on the next provincial election rather than concentrating on providing the residents of this province with direction and a vision of tomorrow.
This is a stand-pat budget. It does nothing to alleviate the pressing problems of overcrowded and underfinanced health care, youth unemployment, job retraining for youth and older workers alike. The housing crisis is part of it as is education underfunding. Students in this province are undoubtedly pleased to hear this government's plans to dole out $100 million in capital funding, but I say that is only half of what they possibly require and the allocation of $25 million, bringing the total of the Ontario student assistance program to $171 million, does not address the problem of grant eligibility periods.
If students are being denied a college education because of a lack of assistance, then I support the extra $25 million, but I find it a little difficult to support spending $5 million on reducing tuition fees for graduate students from outside Canada. I would call this more a foreign aid expenditure than an educational cost. Students in my riding of Simcoe East deserve the additional support announced for the Ontario student assistance program before this government takes any steps to increase foreign aid expenditure for tuition fees for those from outside the country's boundaries.
This government is starving education by tossing cheaper hamburger to students rather than providing them with more computers in their classrooms. This government has to put more into education. There is no doubt about it. There should be no debate stronger than what we can do with regard to education, yet, the total education tax bill paid by the province has steadily declined over the past two years. If this pace continues, I am seriously concerned that our students will not be able to compete for jobs when they graduate, if they graduate at all.
The Treasurer called education a top priority in his budget yet shrank provincial funds, leaving more than 55 per cent of the cost of education squarely on the backs of the local taxpayers. This budget's 5.5 per cent increase in school operating grants barely holds the line of the existing provincial support level of 44.9 per cent. If I remember correctly, it was this same government that promised to return the province's share of school funding to the 60 per cent level. So much for promises under this government. As a direct result of the latest budget, education's share of provincial spending has slipped to 12.3 per cent from 13.2 per cent.
There are numerous other examples of failure in the last budget of this province. The Treasurer was quick to announce that there would be no increases in taxes this time around. What he failed to do was to lessen the incredible tax burden he placed on the back of the average person in the province over the past two years. Of course, there were no new taxes. There could not be because this Treasurer has already taxed everyone to the limit and in many cases even beyond.
The people of Ontario have already been taxed to the tune of $900 million and they will continue to pay those same taxes this year. The Treasurer has inherited tremendous income through taxes. With the economic expansion we are currently seeing, this would have been the ideal time to cut personal taxes by at least 10 per cent. There were no tax cuts, however. The Treasurer has mortgaged the future of our children and they will be forced in future generations to struggle with the increasing debt of this province.
The senior citizens of this province, those people who built what this generation is now enjoying, were counting on this government to come up with some innovative programs to meet their needs. What did they get from this budget? The Treasurer said he was going to increase the tax grant by giving them $600 to write off their income tax instead of $500. If the government really wanted to increase the tax grant effectively from the $500 granted them some seven years ago by the previous government, then the tax rebate should have been $750, more generous than what it was.
I cannot let the opportunity pass without pointing out that the skills training and development programs under this government have been a disaster. Although this province faces a shortage of skilled labour, this budget has no provisions for new skills training programs for young or experienced workers to try to keep pace with technological change. If they cannot adapt to the new work place, they have no choice but to try to scratch out an existence on welfare.
In this government's budget two years ago, the Treasurer promised to help 230,000 young people during the first year of the Futures program, but now this same government comes back two years later to reveal this program has assisted only 50,000 young people. That translates to only 21.7 per cent of the original target. What are the remaining 180,000 to do, with the so-called help the government is providing'?
The Treasury also announced a $290-million, two-year program to construct and repair roads throughout Ontario, but $130 million has already been announced, leaving a paltry $53 million for new projects. Approximately $20 million has already been allotted for northern Ontario in the coming fiscal year, so this leaves only $33 million for the remainder of the province, or enough to construct maybe 30 miles of highway.
The parents in my riding of Simcoe East and throughout the rest of this province were disappointed to learn that the Treasurer has failed to come forward with a comprehensive and innovative proposal on day care. He has come forward with a partial program, even though the Liberals made an accord commitment with the New Democratic Party to make day care a universal right. Those who are desperately seeking day care in this province look at this budget and ask: "Where is this government's initiative? What is its overall plan and strategy?" A comprehensive day care policy was to be revolutionary, but the promise has not kept pace and parents have been betrayed.
The government has managed to increase the guaranteed annual income system for disabled support, but the Treasurer is still refusing to pass through the $150-a-month increase provided by the federal government. For every $2 this government gets from the federal government to help the disabled, it keeps $1. I find it scandalous that any government would even consider pre-empting a federal increase in pensions to disabled people in Ontario. This displays a considerable lack of compassion and concern on the part of this government.
The availability of housing has reached a crisis point in Ontario. In Orillia, the vacancy rate stands at less than one per cent. In fact, seven of eight Canadian cities with a vacancy rate of less than one per cent are located in this province. The budget acknowledges the major changes presented by Ontario's acute shortage of affordable rental accommodation. Having said that, the Treasurer then turns around and does nothing about it. The only increase in the housing scene in my riding is the cost of that housing, and that is not acceptable to me or to the people in this province desperately searching for an affordable roof over their heads.
We see an increase in the cost of housing and a startling increase in the numbers in administrative spending on the ministry's bureaucrats. The money used in administrative spending -- and I am talking about the increase, not the total -- could have been used to construct at least 200 new rental units in this province. That is misdirected spending, if there ever was a case.
In health care, this budget offers no new money for community-based health services, no new money for paramedic program expansion and no new money for mental health, most important to the people in my riding of Simcoe East. I see no new money for expansion or the construction of a new hospital in Orillia. The Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital has been put off time after time by this government and by the Minister of Health (Mr. Elston), who claims to need more time to decide on this health care facility's future.
Everyone has come to the point where he wonders whether there will ever be a future for this hospital. By not providing any capital funding in this budget for hospitals like the one in my riding, this government is showing a lack of concern for the delivery of health care in Ontario.
It has been said before and it needs to be said again: this budget is a missed opportunity. There was an opportunity to reduce a debt that future generations will be carrying with them, and it is really through no fault of their own. That is a missed opportunity. There was an opportunity to reduce taxes, to make young or inexperienced workers better trained to deal with technological changes in the work place; another missed opportunity.
There was an opportunity to increase education spending as one way to invest in a generation that could lead this province into the future; another missed opportunity. There was an opportunity to announce capital spending programs in the health care field to ensure that residents of Ontario receive the treatment and care they justly deserve; another missed opportunity.
This budget confirms my belief that this government has no interest in reducing the tax burden on the people of Ontario when the economy is experiencing unprecedented expansion. Certainly, this is another missed opportunity and one that could have shocking repercussions in the future if the economy fails to perform at the current rate. This government's tax coffers are filled to the point of overflowing but there appears to be no interest in sharing this wealth with the taxpayers of Ontario. After all, it was their money to begin with.
The people have an opportunity to build their own futures with tax cuts, by investment, purchases of goods and services or strengthening the industrial base, but this government has ignored them.
I believe what really matters during times of prosperity, such as we are in and are currently experiencing, is how a government plans for a defence against times when prosperity is no longer with us. By bringing down this budget, the government has shown us it believes in miracles. It believes the economic miracle we have had for the past five years will continue, but there are just too many external influences that can easily turn that economic miracle into an economic nightmare.
With this budget, I have learned to keep my hand on my wallet and I urge the taxpayers of Ontario to keep a tight grip on their wallets too, because over the past two years this government has increased taxes by up to 30 per cent. This government refuses to listen and to lessen the tax burden on the people of Ontario, even with a Treasury that is bulging at the seams.
Two years ago, the Liberals announced a $100-million northern development fund. To date, only $17 million has been spent. Again, the Liberals received the headlines while the people of northern Ontario last year received less than half of what had been promised. Last year's budget allocated $30 million to an expanded small business development corporation program. Actual cost flows for the year amounted to only $16 million.
Community economic transformation agreements received a budget allocation of $5 million. Against that, less than $0.5 million was actually spent. On skills development, the Liberals spent $56 million less than the budgeted $456 million. One of these is the Futures program that was announced to assist 230,000 young people with job training. In fact, by the government's admission the program has assisted only 50,000 young people.
What is the record over the past two years? Total provincial revenues have increased by nearly $9 billion; 34.4 per cent. Personal income tax revenues have increased by more than $3.7 billion. Retail sales tax revenues have increased by $1.6 billion. Land transfer tax proceeds have increased by an incredible 223.7 per cent. The huge increase in government revenues clearly shows that the government has been the primary benefactor of the economic boom and reflects the impact of the tax increases the government enacted through its 1985-86 budget.
On the expenditure side, the Liberals have increased government spending by nearly 30 per cent since taking office, an indication that spending controls have eroded and that three Liberal budgets have increased government spending by about 10 per cent annually during a period when the inflation rate was averaging 4.1 per cent. The provincial civil service, which under the previous government had been gradually reduced, went up by almost 5,000 people from March 1985 to March 1987 at an estimated annual cost of over $200 million.
With the policies this government has in place and with what it is asking for today in this resolution, approval of over $10 billion, it is not too hard to see where the taxpayers in this province are getting off.
We talk about agriculture. We talk about the change in the policy with regard to the tax being taken off the farm land and buildings and just paying taxes on the home. They feel they are putting about $17 million back into the pockets of the farmers. How much would they put in the pockets of the farmers if they had increased the 60 per cent to 70 per cent and left it as it was? I believe that for the farmers in this province, still the backbone of the country, a 70 per cent rebate would have increased relief and left the criteria the same.
The government brought in a policy of $2,500 per farmer to encourage farm safety and improved farm management. But you must have an income of $12,000 a year to be involved in that program.
I am amazed. When this government came to power it indicated it would double the budget in agriculture. That certainly has not happened -- another commitment not filled.
The Ontario tax grant for seniors: As I indicated in my earlier remarks, what the government should be looking at is a new system. School tax should be deducted for senior citizens; the rest should be paid on the property. If the government took off what they pay in school tax, which is 70 per cent in the case of many municipalities, seniors would be receiving a better return than they are getting now.
Transportation: I look at what is in the budget for transportation and what we heard in question period today with regard to Highway 11 and Highway 69, where one of the parliamentary assistants indicated that the government would be proceeding with the four-laning of those highways. During question period we were given to understand that neither the Premier (Mr. Peterson) nor the minister was aware of what money was being spent -- another study that is being done.
I want to say briefly, and I have said it before, the money the Treasurer is raising has increased drastically over the last two years. When we are in good times and the government has plenty of revenues, that is when it should be getting rid of its debt. It budgeted for a $980-million deficit. They say, "The deficit is coming down. It went down from $2.3 billion to $1.5 billion; now it is down to $980 million." That is a deficit that is budgeted for within the budget.
The total debt of the province, as we said, is about $4,000 for every man, woman and child; so we have a total debt in this province of about $37 billion. What is this government doing? It is adding almost another $1 billion to the debt. When people say they are reducing the debt, they are not reducing it at all; it is still being increased by almost $1 billion.
There are a lot more things I would like to discuss with regard to tourism and what is taking place within my riding, but I know there are a lot of other people who would like to speak. I will cut my remarks very short by saying that I am pleased to have had the opportunity to put on the record some of the concerns I have with regard to the budgetary process and why the Treasurer wants the approval for the more than $10 billion that this resolution is all about today.
The member for Simcoe East spoke about mortgaging the future of our children. In fact, if he looks back at what his own colleagues in the predecessor government did, he will find deficits of $2 billion and over in a number of their budgets. Now he is complaining that there is a deficit of less than $1 billion in this budget. What he should do is compare what is happening now with some of the budgets that were presented by some of his own colleagues and try to be a little more objective in his criticism and a little more positive about what is happening in the province, rather than being very negative. I just find it incredible for the fine member for Simcoe East to say these things.
I indicated that until two years ago the debt in this province for every man, woman and child was $2,700. Today the debt for every man, woman and child is $4,000. The deficit in this province is about $37 billion. The government is adding another $980 million to it. The budget the Treasurer brought in was not a budget that was clear of debt; he is adding $980 million more to the deficit of the province.
When the member spoke about the $2.2-billion deficit in the previous government's budgets -- yes, in 1981 and 1982. When times are tough, that is when you accumulate some debt; when times are good, that is when you reduce your debt. Back in 1981 and 1982, the total deficit of this province was way down at $11 billion to $12 billion. Now it is up, as I said, at more than double that.
The member talks about no tax increases. Why should there be one this year when, over the last two years, we have had an almost 30 per cent tax increase? Why would the government want to increase it again? There is only a 4.1 per cent rise in the economy. This is the year there should have been a balanced budget, with the extra revenue the Treasurer has. Once you budget for those and raise people's income tax and receive the extra revenue, it never goes down; it always seems to keep going up. I just wanted to clarify that for the member for Waterloo North because of my budgetary experience.
Under this supply motion, which is a traditional opportunity to raise budgetary problems and financial concerns, I wish to raise four items. First, I am becoming increasingly concerned with what is happening to our community colleges. We are getting conflicting messages. We know there are problems. The government claims it has been quite generous to the colleges and that it recognizes some of the colleges are in a position where they should be expanding.
In my own area, for example, they announced that $9.5 million over three years would go for the expansion of the Progress campus of Centennial College of Applied Arts and Technology, an expansion which the Speaker knows is needed. I do not think anyone questions the need for the expansion. The government is not providing the amount required for the expansion. The expansion, I believe, will cost approximately $14 million; the government is prepared to spend $9.5 million.
But leave that aside for a moment. On the very day they announce the expansion, based on increased enrolment, overcrowded conditions, greater demand for courses -- on the very day they announce that money, the college announces the firing of 50 staff people.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, you are reputed to have a very logical mind --
How on earth can the government justify expansion of a college based on increased enrolment and at the same time lay off 50 staff people? I do not understand that.
The question that was raised here to the minister, to which he could not respond, was, "Is it because of fiscal mismanagement in the college or is it because the government is not supplying a sufficient increase'?" The minister says it is neither. He is satisfied that the college is being run properly and he is also satisfied that sufficient money is being provided.
Again, I test the Speaker's sense of what is reasonable and logical. It has to be one or the other. Either they are not managing the money properly or they do not have enough money. It is one or the other. Why is it that they are laying off staff? They have experienced an enrolment increase and they have experienced a demand for more courses.
I know the member for Waterloo North says, "Maybe that is an isolated case." What is the current terminology, a little blip on the screen? It is just an abnormality.
Hold on a minute. Let us take a look at Durham College, where we have a similar type of situation. Durham College has experienced an increased demand for courses. It is serving a high-growth area and there is an increased enrolment. I think there were only two colleges last year that experienced an enrolment increase. Durham was one and Centennial College was the other.
Again, lo and behold, 25 staff people were fired. The college claims 17 but the actual figure was 25. There were eight staff members who were threatened that if they did not sign the resignation form they would be fired, so they signed it and, as of that date, they did not have to count these folks.
What is really bizarre in this case is that last September the college hired an extra 70 staff people and did not tell any of them that this could be an opportunity of less than one year at the college. Sure enough, later, out of the 70, 25 were let go.
To me that looks like bad management. The college claims it is not getting enough money. The increase that came through from the ministry was something in the neighbourhood of 4.6 per cent and its increase in expenditures was 7.3 per cent, so there is a shortfall. Again, it has to be one or the other.
The minister does not have any answers. He is quite happy that things are running smoothly and the government is handing out lots of money.
Are there just two examples'? No, there are more. We turn to Sheridan College.
The minister just sort of blissfully says -- in fact, his precise words to me were, "Everything is going swimmingly in the colleges." That is what the Minister of Colleges and Universities (Mr. Sorbara) said. I have news for him. There are a few folks about to drown.
The students are unhappy at Centennial and a number of other places because of courses that are being cut and because of the reduction in the student instruction hours, and staff are quite disturbed by the firings.
Worse than that, and I think what probably is the heart of the whole problem, is that the college is not a place where the fresh air of democracy has blown through the corridors. For the most part, the colleges are run by the administrators with no opportunity for the staff -- when I say "staff," I mean the teaching and the nonteaching staff -- or the students to be involved in a meaningful way in the setting of the budget, in how the courses are put together, in determining what is appropriate in terms of the student-teacher ratio, etc. The basic nuts and bolts of running a college are, for the most part, fairly secretive processes very firmly controlled by the president of the college and senior staff people, in some cases with some involvement of the boards of governors.
It is not an open system. That is no secret to anyone. When we look at the Skolnik report and the Pitman report, we realize there has been a hue and cry for some time to democratize the college system. This government has failed to take it seriously. The best the minister could offer was that a staff person and a student should be sitting on an advisory council with a voice but no vote. The last time I looked up any sort of treatise on democracy, it involved voting. I do not know how on earth one would expect a democratic system in any enterprise to function without a vote, but somehow this minister feels that students and teachers can have meaningful roles in the running of their colleges without having votes.
There is more on this and as time goes on I think we will find, in virtually every college across this province, a lot of very upset people. The college system is in need of repair. The minister just sits on the sidelines and whistles about things going swimmingly.
I should not leave the college area without at least a brief remark regarding the minister's failure to protect the Centre for Labour Studies at Humber College. He has taken the rather bizarre position that it is entirely up to the college and whatever it decides is fine. What he fails to remind himself of is that the colleges have a mandate to be responsible to and to respond to the community. That is their function, and that is really carefully spelled out. When a college fails to respond to the community and the community's needs, the minister has a responsibility to make sure the college responds.
The example I used was the dental hygienist program at Durham College, which the Durham College administrators, in their so-called wisdom, decided they were going to eliminate. The minister was convinced, I assume not just by myself but by others, especially in the community and from the Ontario Dental Association, that what the college was doing was irresponsible and that it was not responding to the needs in the community. Based on that, the minister interfered and told Durham it would not be allowed to cut that program.
The member for Simcoe East, who spoke ahead of me, touched on a couple of points under skills development. I want to also mention that I am quite disturbed by what the new government has not done. There is no question that the former government would never bring in an apprenticeship agreement in which all employers were obligated to participate. That idea was tested year after year. The Progressive Conservative government rejected that notion. Obviously, it was their independence to do that.
We know the success from West Germany in terms of involving all employers and all unions in an apprenticeship program. We know how successful that has been. This government rejects that notion too.
Part of the price of rejecting it is that while we have high unemployment, especially in northern Ontario, we will continue to import skilled workers from offshore. We will continue, and the government will allow employers to advertise offshore for carpenters and bricklayers, tool and die makers and other trades while we have a college system with 22 colleges and while we have high unemployment, especially among our young people.
Youth unemployment, I remind us all again quite painfully, is approximately double whatever the unemployment rate is for an area. In some areas, especially in northern Ontario, we are looking at youth unemployment rates in the neighbourhood of 15 to 20 per cent.
Care of seniors: When the government made an announcement today, I will tell all members I did my best to control my anger. Words fail to describe how disappointed I am with the government's approach. I do not particularly like to stand up and say, "I did this and I did that," but one member -- in this case myself -- with the assistance of a researcher from the legislative research department spent the best part of a year canvassing and pulling out information from 26 different countries, mostly western European countries. We picked and chose out of the vast array of programs available from those countries and put them together in a format which seemed to fit what our needs are in Ontario.
I came up with a bill, and I dare say that bill could be implemented as it is. It is off at committee and, of course, a committee in its wisdom, based on public hearings, could adjust the bill in whatever way seems appropriate. Basically the structure is there. It took two people to do it.
The Liberal Party is the government. It has thousands of civil servants. It has the ability to tap into some of the brightest and sharpest minds in the country. It has resources at its command that I do not have and the best it can do after two years is to come up with a pilot project, and a pilot project, I remind all members, that is limited.
I do not know how, in the name of anything that is reasonable, this government could be satisfied with that. It should be ashamed. The minister should be ashamed for standing up and making the announcement he made today. After two years, that is the best he can do.
This is not a new problem. The solutions I presented in my bill are not new solutions. These are solutions that are tried and tested in other jurisdictions, and we know they work. All this government has to do is to co-ordinate it.
I am flabbergasted that after two years that is all this government could come up with.
The problem is not going to go away. The problem is going to get worse. We look at the demographics and we know we have more elderly people and people living longer. The percentage of elderly people in our communities continues to increase, and the best the government can come up with is a pilot project in six ridings, five of them Liberal ridings, and that is not by accident. We know that. I guess when the Tories left office they must have left their little administrative manual on pork-barrelling behind, and these folks have updated it.
The last item I wish to raise -- and I am pleased to see that the Minister of Health is here because this is a message directly for him. By now, perhaps he has received my report based on three visits to Scarborough General Hospital. I spent a total of approximately 10 hours on three separate occasions visiting the hospital and interviewing staff and patients; doctors, nurses, administrators, board members and patients. Two and a half hours of that time was spent in the emergency ward documenting the serious problems there. When the minister reads the report I imagine that, like me, he will be horrified by what is happening.
Scarborough General, as the minister probably knows, has the second busiest emergency ward in Canada. More than 100,000 people go through that emergency ward per year and, clearly, five per cent of those 100,000 people require urgent care. They are mostly cardiac patients. That emergency ward is operating in a dangerous situation, and they know that. Comments were made to me by staff to the effect that: "I am surprised that no one has died simply waiting for care. I am surprised that there has not been a major catastrophe here. We have up to 45 people in one night on stretchers in an area that will accommodate 15 people. The situation is critical."
The hospital -- and I give the hospital credit -- came up with a plan, not just on its own but in conjunction with the three other Scarborough hospitals on a co-ordinating committee. They used outside consultants. The plan is very imaginative in that it not only provides hospital services that are located there but also provides services that go out into the community. There is a community outreach, which I know the minister supports. I know he supports that concept. It is not simply institutional care.
Among other things, when I visited the Crockford Pavilion there was not even a privacy room where the family --
The problem the minister faces, quite frankly, is with the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council, because it has some old thinking on it. They do not seem to realize and appreciate that Scarborough is a city of 500,000 people. They seem to believe that the services should be provided in downtown Toronto.
I am not suggesting for a moment that those services have to be delivered next year or next month. What I am asking for is a commitment and a timetable, to say: "Yes, we agree with the plans. Yes, we are prepared to pay X dollars over this period of time." I do not think that is unreasonable, but I have heard nothing from the government, and that is what bothers me.
I know other members wish to participate in this debate, so l will be taking my place but, in conclusion, I wish to emphasize in regard to these four items I have raised, the colleges, skills development, care of seniors and the Scarborough General Hospital, that there are many, many more. The list is long of where this government has talked reasonably well, but there is very little action and the dollars do not match the words. I find that terribly disturbing. I guess all we can say is that we have two Tory parties in the House.
I take his advice and the stand of his party that, in fact, we should be expanding our institutional sector, namely, the Scarborough General Hospital, and expanding the role of the institution in providing health care. I might indicate that it does provide us with some interesting questions to ask ourselves as we attempt to make our funding system more flexible and direct more money into community-based services, where we believe there is a genuine and real benefit for patient care.
It might be helpful, if the member, in making his point that we should allocate much more money -- in this case I think it is about a $110-million project that he speaks about -- might suggest to us how we find, at the same time, the flexibility to add more services in the community. I know there have been some good words spoken by his party about its commitment to community-based services, but his intervention here seems to indicate that its position is quite the contrary.
I would ask and invite his intervention to try to remedy the not only apparent but also rather obvious contradiction in the position of policy as between the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere and, often, the words spoken by his colleague, who is present with us today, the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr. D. S. Cooke).
By the way, we have also heard on occasion the leader of his party indicate that we should not be putting any more money whatsoever into hospitals. In fact, I remember a bit of a criticism that was levelled at this minister not that long ago when we funded the operating budgets of hospitals at a higher level. Perhaps this fine gentleman could provide us with some insight into the obvious conflict he has just raised.
The minister in his little intervention seems to be abandoning hospitals. Is the member in agreement with him? Does he think the minister is actually suggesting we are going to put a dialysis unit out in the community now? I wonder whether he has some idea of maybe putting it on the back of a pickup truck and running it up and down Highway 401. Maybe that is what he is trying to get at.
The Park Plaza Hotel is now becoming a hospital, I am told. I would like the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere to take a moment and try to compare what he is trying to do for his own local hospital, which seems to me to be quite a reasonable thing for a member to do. I understand that the Minister of Health is attacking him for trying to support his local hospital. I understand that the Minister of Health is abandoning the hospitals in their time of need and really has no time for the people of Scarborough-Ellesmere and their needs.
I would like the member to respond and try to get on the record again today the need for the dialysis unit, the need for proper funding for the hospital and the need for a good mix of community-based care and institutional care. Maybe he would like to put on the record some comments about the total abandonment now of the hospitals by the Minister of Health. That is quite a phenomenal thing. I suppose he is up with a $200-a-plate dinner now at the new hospital at the Park Plaza. I would like the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere to respond to some of those interventions by the minister.
I do not want to knock the member for Scarborough-Ellesmere's efforts to get a haemo-dialysis machine in his area, but let us face it, in Scarborough they can get public transportation right to downtown Toronto. It is a lot different ball game to come all the way from Peterborough. Even the people from the Oshawa or Durham area could go north once they get Highway 115 fixed. They could drive north on a four-lane highway to one of the Peterborough hospitals and get that service there. I think there is a real need and I think Peterborough is the place it should be.
I urge the Minister of Health to take that into consideration and study it carefully. I have already presented petitions to this Legislature to have that haemo-dialysis machine in one of the Peterborough hospitals. I understand one of those hospitals is going to be expanding in the near future and that is where that haemo-dialysis machine should be.
At the same time the minister says, "We support community-based programs," but we do not see any money for those community-based programs. Now we are left with the worst of both worlds; no money to repair a hospital that is in desperate need of repair and does not have the capacity to serve this blossoming population in Scarborough.
I remind the minister that it has been a very short period of time in which the population has gone from 100,000 to 500,000, and the services have not kept up. We have an emergency ward where people literally cannot be served and are there for two or three days. Heart patients, people who have had heart attacks, are lying on stretchers in a hallway for two or three days. Not enough monitors; there are more patients than there are monitors.
The member is right about the renal dialysis program. The proposal that was put forward is one that is community based. The proposal is for a 10-bed unit that serves 100 patients. They are shown how to use the equipment and they can use it at home. We are talking about a program that serves the community and that is using a hospital as a place of interaction.
We have the plans that involve the community and make use of the facility. We need the money. The government is not prepared to give money to either the hospital or the community-based program. We have had nothing out of this government.
I would like to concentrate on a number of initiatives this government has taken. I am particularly happy to see the great number of improvements and reforms that have been initiated by this budget and that are inherent in the budgetary supply motion before us.
I speak on behalf of the residents of Waterloo North, who are very supportive of what they have seen this government doing during the last two years with respect to the raising of moneys, and particularly with respect to the way the expenditures have taken place.
In the field of agriculture, we know that a number of people in our rural areas continue to face difficult times. Our government and my colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Riddell) are continuing to address the ongoing financial concerns of the agricultural community. Although the leader of the official opposition chose to ignore it in his address a few weeks ago, a 72 per cent increase in farm funding since our government took office two years ago has been implemented.
Our government has again shown courage by replacing the 60 per cent tax rebate on farm property tax with a 100 per cent rebate on farm land and outbuildings. I know that a certain former minister under a certain former government had at one time accepted a similar proposal but, unfortunately, he did not have the courage to carry through with that proposal in the face of opposition from some of his colleagues.
In addition, we will be continuing to provide benefits under our highly successful family farm rebate interest rate reduction program by maintaining support at the 100 per cent level. This will go a long way to assist those farmers in need to continue their operations while weathering these tough economic times. Also, the new $50-million farm management safety and repair program is an initiative whose time has come. The feedback I have received from the rural areas of my riding has been very positive indeed with respect to the particular budgetary measures of this government.
I notice you nodding your head in agreement, Mr. Speaker, so I do not have any difficulty proceeding with my comments.
The new $50-million farm management safety and repair program is an initiative whose time has come. The feedback I received from the residents of Waterloo North has been most positive and most supportive. I know the people in your riding, the great riding of Oxford, are also in support of it. I have also spoken to some of those farmers who are in support of it, so you will understand this, Mr. Speaker. Farm safety is a priority of this government, and assistance in paying for often costly machinery repairs will be a welcome area of support to those farmers.
I would also like to salute today the Treasurer's initiatives which continue to build upon our educational system, which is presently second to none. Again, in criticizing the budgetary measures of this government which the opposition wishes were their own, they have selectively ignored the raw facts.
For instance, there is $9 billion this year budgeted for primary and secondary education alone, equivalent to $47 million every school day. I ask the members opposite to let that figure sink in for a few minutes and tell me that this government is not addressing the improvement of the quality of education in Ontario as a top priority.
Of particular significance to me and my constituency is the major increase in capital spending for colleges and universities. Having two world-class, post-secondary institutions in my riding alone -- Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo -- l can tell members that never have they been happier with the kind of support they are getting from the provincial government. They are two great universities, which are tremendously happy with this support.
Let me tell members that, since I have been in this hallowed place for 10 years, there have been complaints about every previous budget that ever came forward and about supplementary supply motions. I never heard one this time and I have been in my riding many times. You can appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. They have never been happier to see $100 million for capital spending allocated for the current fiscal year, double the funding provided as recently as two years ago.
This money is well appreciated and will be well spent on much-needed renovations and repairs to buildings and facilities which were never before possible due to the former government's neglect. Never have they been happier than to see $5 million to reduce the tuition fees for highly qualified foreign graduate students. As world-class institutions, this government takes great pride in the fact that students now flock from all over the globe to attend our schools to receive top-rate instruction in top-rate universities. Indeed, the University of Waterloo, whose motto is "You and the World," clearly epitomizes the relationship this government has with the post-secondary institutions, a relationship in tune with today's educational needs and a relationship that also recognizes education as essential to our long-term economic growth.
Small business continues to be an economic stimulus as a vital source of employment growth and opportunity throughout Ontario. Indeed, small businesses currently account for 98 per cent of all companies and 50 per cent of private sector employment in this province. Of the 304,000 small businesses presently operating in Ontario, 92 per cent are in the service sector alone.
Recognizing this, the Treasurer has expanded the small business development corporation program to include a broad range of corporations that provide business services to other businesses. Employment agencies, advertising agencies, management-consulting services and accounting and bookkeeping services are among the many service-oriented businesses that now may take advantage of the SBDC program in raising much-needed equity capital, particularly in the early stages of their operations.
Mr. Speaker, I know that you, a person very learned in the law, having dealt with numerous, countless, small businesses and having advocated to some of them that they should get involved in small business development corporations and other small businesses, are proud of the program this government has supported for so many years and the kind of advice our fine civil servants are giving to our businesses out there.
In striving to achieve the healthy balance of which I spoke earlier, the balance between stimulating Ontario's long-term economic viability and responsible social reform, our government continues to support a thriving and accessible health care system. I am proud to be a part of a government that has committed more than $11 billion this fiscal year for health care programs.
Earlier, I commented on the $9 billion that is going to education. Now $11 billion is going for health care programs, almost two thirds of the budget of this great province of ours. I know the members opposite are in support of what this government is doing with regard to education, health, small businesses and numerous other areas of concern.
Again, I must refer to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) selectively ignoring the bottom-line facts; in this case, the fact that this amount represents more than $1,200 for every man, woman and child in Ontario, a tremendous figure of expenditure that this government is supporting. Instead, the one-time master of negotiation chose to channel his energies in arguing about how the government was going to settle current fee negotiations with the medical profession. We all know how he settled it and every taxpayer in Ontario is still paying for it.
My colleague the Minister of Health is to be heralded for how he has responsibly managed our health care over the past two years. Maintaining quality care in the face of rising demand is indeed a great challenge and I am confident that our government is already making great strides in ensuring that a cost-effective system will be maintained over a long period of time.
One such avenue towards this end is the encouragement of further expansion of community health centres across the province. The 12 existing community health centres currently operating in Ontario have a proven track record in providing cost-effective, high-quality treatment. In many areas of the province, community health centres allow an accessible alternative for a number of health care services traditionally provided in institutional settings. My riding of Waterloo North, for example, although located in fair proximity to hospitals in Kitchener, would be well served by a community-oriented centre for those in outlying areas requiring medical treatment.
I know the Minister of Health is paying close attention to the concerns Waterloo North has. I know the minister himself is a major proponent of the further development of this community-based approach, as evidenced by his recent announcement of $500,000 to community health centres to review how we might develop specialized programs for seniors. Such reforms are important to me and to the people in Waterloo North. The further development of such community-based facilities in my riding as well as other areas across the province represents an initiative I wholeheartedly endorse.
It makes me particularly happy because it makes the citizens of Waterloo happy to support these particular budgetary measures, both the interim supply that is before us today and the budget that we will be voting on some time in the future. It makes me particularly happy that everybody in the province is benefiting from the kinds of measures this government has brought forth, whether they be in health care, education or helping small business; in measures or responsibilities in the Ministry of Community and Social Services; in reform measures introduced in the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations; in higher education, recreation, natural resources or northern development -- whatever the case is.
I know the responsible members of this Legislature see the budgetary measures of this government as being both creative and supportive of the kind of lifestyle that the people of the province want. I therefore encourage them to support the motion before us today.
I am very surprised to see, as I always am, the opposition we receive from members across the floor whenever there is good news to be told. I can understand their criticisms over things with which they disagree on a philosophical basis, but when the Treasurer is able, in a fiscally responsible way, to increase the funding of the very valuable and important institutions we have here in the province, as was explained very well by my colleague in his speech just a few moments ago, I am surprised at the opposition he receives from the members across the floor. I am surprised at the way in which they always seem to deride good news when the government is able to pronounce good news. I want to congratulate my colleague from Waterloo North for being able again to state very clearly many of the things this government has been able to do.
Along with the member for Peterborough, there are people such as the member for York Mills (Miss Stephenson), the member for Kenora (Mr. Bernier), the member for Grey-Bruce (Mr. Sargent), the member for York West (Mr. Leluk), the member for Algoma-Manitoulin (Mr. Lane) and all those others who have made a real contribution to this assembly.
I would also like to mention that I was surprised at the member for Renfrew North (Mr. Conway) when he gave the wrap-up speech on the speech from the throne. He spent practically all his time ridiculing the Progressive Conservatives rather than dwelling for some time on that speech from the throne. It is not really that member's style to make comments like that.
Getting back to the budget, there are several points I would like to touch on.
Now I would like to talk about the government's spending priorities for a moment. To further economic development in eastern Ontario, the Premier has created yet another bureaucracy to "co-ordinate business-related programs." The eastern Ontario community economic development program has been allocated $25 million to spend over the period of the next five years. Most of this money will undoubtedly go to pay bureaucrats. In contrast, the Liberals have given $30 million to help build the domed stadium in downtown Toronto.
In the transportation budget, eastern Ontario again saw how little the Liberal government cares. Of the $290-million, three-year program to "upgrade and expand the transportation system," the greater Toronto area received close to half, much of which will be used solely for the Highway 407 project that is to build a road across the top of Toronto.
The Treasurer allotted $50 million to provide assistance to agriculture in several fields. Some of that was to provide assistance for grain storage, which is not totally new. The previous government, at one point in time, had assistance for grain storage facilities and farmers are still able to purchase these units and claim the sales tax rebate on them.
This assistance is $2,500 per grain unit, and in rough estimates this program would not cost over $1 million. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food decided to subsidize only grain storage units. What about storage facilities for other crops? I am sure that those people who build blue silos, Crophandler and Harvest Store, would also appreciate some assistance. Those who build sealed cement silos and ordinary silos for crops such as corn and hay silage would wonder why they got left out.
Another part of this program is to subsidize safety equipment. I am in support of this particular program. I have lobbied for six and a half years and I think this money would be well spent, although again, we have little information on the program.
I have said that I am very concerned about safety. I supported the private member's Bill 149 brought forward by the member for Sudbury East (Mr. Martel), who wanted this bill to go to committee so we could discuss these deaths in the work place. There is approximately one worker who gets killed every working day in the work place and I agree that this bill should go to committee so employers and employees could present briefs so we could cut down on the deaths in the work place.
I am certain you would hear some startling comments. I have seen men use cutting torches and welding equipment without safety goggles, many machines being operated without safety shields, and the list goes on and on.
The forest industry, in conjunction with the Workers' Compensation Board, has a program called the new experimental experience rating program. This program states that if an employee has an accident, the employer's rate of workers' compensation goes up. Some loggers have had their rates increase 300 per cent. If employers are rated this way, why not have some mechanism in place to rate employees also?
If you are an employer and have an employee riding in your car or truck with you and he is over 16, he is responsible for using his safety belt. If you have an employee who is 10, 20 or 30 miles away on a job, the employer seems to still be responsible.
The subsidizing of safety equipment on farms could well be a step in the right direction because in 1981, 40 people were killed on the farm; in 1982, 45; in 1983, 48; in 1984, 50; and the list goes on.
I am looking forward with interest to see what criteria are used for the safety equipment subsidy. I question whether it will cost the $50 million allocated for this program.
During the debate on my resolution on the farm property tax rebate program to raise the rebate to 70 per cent -- which passed unanimously, by the way -- some of the flaws in that current system came to light. The Liberal member for Haldimand-Norfolk (Mr. G. I. Miller) made mention of the fact that corporations which lease out land for farm use receive the rebate. I agree that it is questionable that corporations such as Stelco should receive in the neighbourhood of $55,000 in tax benefits.
However, under the new system, if Stelco owns a lot of farm land and no houses, it will receive a lot more than $55,000 in rebates.
Farmers with a large house and small acreage will lose on this new system being proposed by the government. There is no question that if you have a small house and a lot of land, you will be the winner.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food has estimated that this program will put an additional $18 million back in the hands of farmers. Under the new proposal, with the increased rebate of 70 per cent, the farmers would have got back more than $20 million and this money would have been distributed in a more equitable manner.
Finally, the Minister of Housing (Mr. Curling) went on at great length about the contaminated soil in his riding. He said that according to tests, the soil was safe, but continued to pat himself on the back for the removal of it. He also stated that the former member for the riding congratulated him for moving the soil. The former member felt it was his divine right to take that particular contaminated soil up and dump it in my riding. The member seems to get a kick out of telling people the soil was safe, yet it had to be removed.
It seems to be the attitude of a lot of urban people that they have the right to dump their garbage in the rural areas, pollute the wells in our rural areas and cause all kinds of problems and hardships for the rural community.
It is my understanding that the ministry bought these houses in the Malvern subdivision and then turned around and rented them out to people.
We have the Minister of the Environment (Mr. Bradley) promoting landfill sites and, at the same time, the staff of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications telling people that if a well is damaged by highway construction, they do not recommend that a new well be dug within one mile of a garbage dump or landfill site. It is no wonder that people oppose having a landfill site near their property. When the economy is reasonably good, the government should have taken a major step into recycling garbage.
That concludes my debate.
The Treasurer will be aware of the letters I have written to him and indeed the research I have tabled with both him and the former Minister of Revenue, the member for Mississauga East (Mr. Gregory), which showed that not only are taxes inequitable in the city of Etobicoke, but when it comes to condominiums, that condominiums are overtaxed and indeed that moderate-priced condominiums are more heavily overtaxed than those of a luxury nature. Following the extensive research I tabled in the House and, indeed, a number of lawsuits, the former minister had to make certain changes, at least vis-à-vis condominiums, but despite these changes we still have tremendous inequities in the system.
I want to deal with those in a minute but I would simply like to deal with the fact that in opposition, the Liberals, along with us, called for various forms of property tax reform, and yet we still have not seen that. We have seen one paper after another, one study after another and indeed the member for Waterloo North has just been supervising and co-ordinating still another study for the present Liberal government.
There have been various proposals made over the years, some of them fairly simple to implement, that I have talked about with the present Treasurer and Minister of Revenue, such as the fact that if a person shows the initiative to improve his own house and is staying in that house, provided he improves it up to a certain dollar amount -- it could be $10,000 or it could be $15,000 -- it would not be reassessed. In my area, I have many people who work in the construction trades, and to me, an improvement in the home certainly does not indicate any improvement in family income. Indeed, it is often when the worker is unemployed that he has the free time in which he can improve his home.
If we look at the property tax system in Etobicoke, we see a grave inequity between those areas in which the middle-class people live and those in which the more affluent people live. Indeed, if we were to take the 1984 market values in Etobicoke, using option 2, which was proposed by Metropolitan Toronto, we see some interesting figures. Ward 5, namely Etobicoke north or, if you want, the Rexdale area, and ward 1 are the most heavily taxed as a proportion of market value. Indeed, if we look at those figures and if we take class 1, for example -- I have so many tables here that I have just misplaced one of them -- essentially, what we will find is that if there were a reassessment within Etobicoke, we would have an 81.5 per cent decrease in ward 1, with 18.5 per cent of the units being increased. In ward 5, which covers most of the riding I represent, we would actually have a 97.5 per cent decrease in property taxes, compared to a 2.5 per cent increase.
It is interesting to compare that with the affluent middle part of Etobicoke, where we would see that in ward 2, which would be the Kingsway area and Bloor Street, where the $1-million homes are located -- and there are a few of those; certainly $500,000 homes -- we would find there would be a decrease of only 57.1 per cent, as compared to an increase of 42.9 per cent.
If we contrast the tax increases that would result, in ward 2 we have a 42.9 per cent increase compared to a 2.5 per cent increase in ward 5, Etobicoke north or Rexdale. If we take those figures, it seems fairly clear what has happened is that we have grave inequities in our system. If we look at Etobicoke, there are inequities not only in condominiums versus other forms of housing but also in areas; namely, that the very north end and the very south end are overtaxed. I suggest to the Minister of Revenue that remedies have to be taken to alleviate that.
Even if we accept that some gains have been made for condominiums, we still end up with some of the inequities that are left over from the previous government because of the bureaucratic system.
On March 17 -- this happened to Islington 2000, which is a fairly affluent condominium; one can imagine what is happening to some of the others -- Mr. Walker, the chairman of the assessment appeals committee, wrote to the Treasurer and said: "Attached is a copy of our file concerning the partial refund of taxes for 1981-82. These refunds arise because of a reduction of the assessments following the ministry's abandonment on December 8, 1986, of its appeal to the courts made in March of 1985." I was referring to that earlier. "The city of Etobicoke is unable to process these refunds because the Ontario Municipal Board has not yet issued an order to do so. That board is delayed because your ministry" -- in other words, the Ministry of Revenue, the Treasurer's ministry -- "has not calculated the revised assessments."
We have a system where not only are inequities perpetuated, but where, even after some remedy is found, the bureaucratic system helps to prevent the paying out of moneys that are owed to home owners. I suggest to the member that, as we have done in the western provinces, the property tax system is the most inequitable of all forms of taxation.
On motion by Mr. Philip, the debate was adjourned.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
On Monday, June 15, we will deal with third reading of Bill 62, retail sales tax; Bill 63, income tax; Bill 154, pay equity; Bill 190, mental health, followed by committee of the whole on Bill 34, freedom of information.
For the remainder of the week we will consider legislation from the following list as time is available: second reading of Bill 81, Metro Toronto police commission; Bill 56, auto insurance; Bill 79, occupational health and safety, with committee of the whole dealing with Bill 170, pension benefits.
There may be changes and additions to this order of business following the usual consultations among the House leaders.
The House adjourned at 6 p.m.
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