25 AVRIL 1991 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
The House met at 1000.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1991 / LOI DE 1991 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES ACCIDENTS DU TRAVAIL
Mr Wessenger moved second reading of Bill 68, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act.
M. Wessenger propose la deuxième lecture du projet de loi 68, Loi portant modification de la Loi sur les accidents du travail.
The diseases which I have just listed may be transmitted from the infected individual when blood or certain other bodily fluids are exchanged. Because it is the exposure to the blood or bodily fluids that carries the risk of infection, individuals whose occupational duties place them at risk of blood exposure are also at risk of becoming infected with these blood-borne pathogens, developing the disease and, in some cases, dying.
In the last decade, thousands of persons with these diseases have been treated in the health care system in Ontario. We have no reason to believe that there will not be many more. At this moment, for example, we are powerless against the fatal disease of AIDS. It is a deadly disease with no vaccine and no known cure and is threatening that section of our population we depend on the most, our young and middle-aged adults.
As a government, it is our responsibility to ensure that not only the safety of our workers but, should they fall victim to any of these dreaded viruses, their livelihood as well is protected.
The incidence of hepatitis B in Canada is hard to determine because only a fraction of the cases are reported, but testing donated blood indicates that 5% of all Canadians have had hepatitis B at some point in their lives and some of these people continue to be carriers. There is a high risk with respect to carriers of developing liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.
As far as the HIV virus is concerned, we in Ontario have had some 200 reported cases of occupational exposure and they are at present under surveillance by the Workers' Compensation Board. Although as of this moment none of these cases have sero-converted into full-blown AIDS, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta have documented thoroughly some 25 such cases. They include such occupations as dentists, dental assistants, surgeons, nurses, ambulance drivers, morticians and laboratory technicians, as well as blood plasma and tissue workers. Virtually all those confirmed infections occurred after an accidental injury, such as a needle stick, cuts with sharp objects, puncture wounds, splashes in the eyes or mouth or contamination of open wounds on skin.
Studies have indicated that the risk of a person contracting hepatitis B from exposure to blood products is up to 30% and HIV is up to 0.9%, while other blood-borne pathogens I have mentioned studies show fall in the range between 10% to 35% from exposure to blood-borne products.
The ever-increasing prevalence of reported exposures has led to a publication called Guidelines for Prevention of Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Hepatitis B Virus to Health Care and Public Safety Workers, which gives recommendations for precautions to take while dealing with not only AIDS patients but all patients suspected of having a contagious virus.
While I applaud the intent of these guidelines and appreciate the necessity of following them, the bottom line is there is still a risk in dealing with hepatitis B, HIV and other blood-borne pathogens, which will always be a real risk despite exhaustive precautions.
Over the past 10 years, when HIV was first identified, its various clinical manifestations have infected thousands of men and women, all of whom ultimately face death as a result. Our initial lack of knowledge about this disease has allowed myth, rumour and innuendo to flourish. However, research has made staggering progress in providing new information today. With a better understanding resulting from an ever-expanding base of knowledge, we are better able to address associated health care issues, and one of these health care issues is the risk of infection while trying to help those in need.
This piece of legislation I am introducing in the House today is designed to recognize this risk and appropriately deal with it under the Workers' Compensation Act. Workers' compensation legislation has its roots in the inability of workers to sue effectively for work-related injuries through the courts. It is basically a provincially based, no-fault insurance scheme which covers most workers who have accidents or develop illnesses through their job.
The current Workers' Compensation Act is based on the model implemented in 1915 and over the years there have been amendments which were necessary for their times and circumstances. I would suggest that we need this amendment today to meet the present circumstance of blood-borne pathogen disease. We can no longer hide our heads in the sand and hope this problem will go away.
In the last few years, even the insurance industry has recognized the problem with respect to terminal diseases and we have seen it rise to the occasion and make pre-payments on insurance policies in the case of such situations. Surely the Workers' Compensation Board should also respond to the threat of blood-borne pathogens to health care workers.
We must educate our workers, we must instruct our employees, we must make everyone aware, and most of all, we must protect them. We have always protected the interests of workers and believe in them in this party, and we believe we should continue to do so. This piece of legislation is only a small step, but it does make an improvement in the Workers' Compensation Act by changing the burden of proof with respect to these diseases. I ask for members' support.
I cannot support the proposed amendments because they leave out so much that is necessary for us as legislators to know before we can support an amendment of this nature. Too much is left unsaid. Too many profound questions are not addressed, and as such, unless I and, I would suggest, though certainly without knowing at this point, other members of this Legislature, have answers to questions, then it could not be supported in good conscience.
I want to use some of the time today, and I think it is only fair and proper to do so, to indicate what some of those questions are, what are some of my concerns in terms of the position, after a great deal of thought and discussion, that has been taken.
I think that we recognize, in terms of that part of the amendment which talks to the diseases indicated, that these are diseases which have a tremendous impact, a devastation not only on behalf of the person but for his family and his friends, that in many cases these particular diseases are in fact fatal, and it is one which I believe all of us want to address as best we can. It is one which we truly do understand in terms of its impact, in terms of its extension into the lives of so many other persons. Families are affected, friends are affected, relationships of all kinds are affected, and of course we must do what we can do.
But as I talk about this particular amendment, I note that it creates a presumption that if a worker in a health-related field who comes into contact with a human bodily fluid and contracts -- and I take away the words "as a result" -- a particular type and form of disease, then it shall be presumed that the contraction of that disease is as a result of the employ of the worker, and the scope of occupation is one which is severely limited to the health field.
Hence, my first question: What about those fields outside of the health field? What about the police officer? Not included. What about the firefighter? Not included. What about a teacher? Not included. What about a variety of other persons in other occupations not included in this amendment who in many ways come into contact with bodily fluid as is suggested in this amendment -- a question I pose which is not addressed in this amendment, which until it is addressed cannot be supported by myself.
The next aspect to this amendment which, after some serious deliberation, causes me not to support it is the whole question of the presumption. I recognize and read from the amendment that it states, "the disease shall be deemed to have been due to the nature of that employment unless the contrary is proved." We must recognize that this creates a presumption, which is rebuttable.
My second form of questions: If it is a presumption, and if it is a presumption which is rebuttable, then what is the mechanism suggested to rebut the presumption? What is the tribunal, the hearing, and who are the persons delegated with the authority to determine whether the presumption is rebuttable? Who are they? Where do they come from? What type of evidence will they be permitted to accept? Will there be cross-examination? What protections have been put in this amendment in terms of the inquiry around rebutting the presumption not stated in this amendment?
The amendment to the legislation is one which at first reading sounds quite proper in its direction, but that is not enough in this Legislature. We have to look beyond that. We have to say: "If this were in fact agreed upon, how could this presumption be rebutted? What degree of proof is necessary? Who listens? Who advocates? Is there an authority, an entrance into the personal and private lives of those persons before this tribunal? How far is the inquiry allowed to extend? What protections in terms of evidence, in terms of a myriad of other legislative acts are there to protect individuals?"
In good conscience, I cannot even in principle stand in favour of a piece of legislation, an amendment, which does not answer or even come to address these particular questions.
It is a serious amendment and for that reason we have to ask serious questions dealing with the protection of privacy, of secrecy. We have to ask questions as to whether decisions made by a deciding body, which is not indicated here, are appealable, and if so, to where, and if so, on what basis, on what grounds? What balance of authority is required to change a decision or indeed, for that matter, to make the case at first instance?
These are things which are not indicated in this amendment. It is for that reason that as I believe I have indicated twice before, I have large problems in accepting it. I think it is only fair and proper that we ask these questions. I think it is our responsibility to demand these types of answers before we can, even at first instance, accept this amendment.
An amendment of this nature in dealing with the subject matter, in dealing with the scope, in dealing with its ramifications must and should have included the decision-making body that has been set up to rebut the presumption, must and should have included the type and weight of evidence required to rebut the presumption, must and should have included, potentially, individuals not just related to the health field. That is something which is outside and not addressed in this amendment and it is something which I believe is crucial to the core of this amendment.
I believe we must address some of the issues which have been spoken to in the amendment, but do we do this in terms of this type of amendment or do we do it in the area of making certain that the workplace is safer for all persons? I believe that is the direction we must take. I believe we should not limit the concerns underlying this amendment just to those who are in the medical field. We must expand those concerns to all persons in all workplaces. But to do so in a comprehensive, fundamental fashion requires us to look not at amending the Workers' Compensation Act, but rather to making certain that the workplaces for all persons are as safe as possible in that regard, if that be a slogan, a phrase.
We just last year passed a new piece of legislation, the occupational health and safety legislation. That is a major step towards ensuring the safety of the workers in the workplace. It is a major step to addressing the underlying concerns as founded in this amendment. It is, in my opinion, the direction in which we should go. The occupational health and safety legislation is an important piece of legislation. It is a piece of legislation which is working. It is a piece of legislation which carries with it the support of employer and employee. It is a piece of legislation the previous government was very proud of. It is a piece of legislation which must be used in terms of addressing the underlying concerns in this amendment.
But it is this amendment to which I speak, and I believe that as a result of the questions posed by myself, after some great thought by myself on this matter, I cannot support this amendment. I cannot support it because it does not speak to other persons in other areas of employment. It does not speak to the type of decision-making tribunal decided on to hear these matters. It does not speak to the burden of proof required to rebut this presumption. It does not speak to the evidentiary guarantees for those who are called before the tribunal. It does not speak to the privacy of individuals who may have a relationship with individuals who are before this tribunal.
These are important questions which have not been addressed in this amendment, questions that require and demand answers before I can support such an amendment.
In first looking at the amendments, I thought it was relatively simple. However, the more I look, the more I ask, the more questions this piece of legislations asks and I found no answers to my questions. This amendment has far-reaching implications for individuals and the rights of individuals throughout this province.
I have some great concerns and I have some reservations about this bill because of the impact it has on individual rights. I also question the timing of this bill. I question why it is a bill as opposed to a resolution. I question what the impact will be of this bill. Unfortunately, in this amendment, there is too much being left unsaid. It is very complex.
In dealing with the appropriateness of a bill versus a resolution, it could have been dealt with as a resolution. We could have called on the Minister of Labour to place these occupations and these diseases in schedule 3 of the Workers' Compensation Act. That is already allowed for at the present time. In dealing with it in the manner that is being done today, it opens up the question of how to deal with other diseases in the future. We will have to determine whether the relationship between a disease and a place of work should be covered through legislation and added on to the section to which we are currently debating amendments or whether the ministry should add it to schedule 3.
I also question the timing of this legislation. We know that the whole area of workers' compensation is currently under review by the Workers' Compensation Board and the Ministry of Labour. We also know that this House is dealing with a review of workers' compensation. Why is this issue being dealt with now at this time in isolation of the complete review? Why is it being dealt with now at a time when we do not have all of the answers to a very, very complex piece of legislation?
Another concern I have: The presumption in this legislation is that it occurred in the workplace. If this is enacted, obviously employers will be very anxious to confirm the health status of their workers prior to extending employment opportunities. What impact on the worker? What impact on the rights of workers? What impact on the rights of employers? How could the presumption be rebutted? Will there be a tribunal? What body is going to be set up to deal with the rebuttal? I am concerned about the possible invasion into the personal and private lives of the individuals involved, but the one question that is left unsaid is, what will the procedure be? What will be the process for the rebuttal? How is it going to be dealt with?
There is another thing I am not sure of. When I look at this list, I do not know how this list of blood-borne diseases was developed, because the transmission of these listed diseases is varied and it includes contact with dog, cow or horse ticks; diseased bats and rodents; the ingestion of infested meat, milk or cheese; contact with malaria-carrying female mosquitoes; and sexual contact with infected persons. Was there -- and this is a very serious question -- any workplace risk analysis completed? The answer is probably no. That is why I say there are many, many questions that are left unanswered. Therefore, I feel it is extremely important before passing this bill that we obtain the answers to those questions. It is simply not a simple bill. It does invade the rights of the individuals. It can invade their personal lives. It raises more questions than it answers.
I would suggest that this issue be addressed in the complete review of the Workers' Compensation Board. It is an important issue. There is a need to protect all of our employees in the workplace and I am not convinced that this bill includes all of those individuals. We do need to compensate workers for occupationally acquired diseases and I am not convinced that this amendment will do that. So at this time I would indicate to members that I cannot support the amendment as it is without receiving the answers to the questions that I have raised.
I certainly am very much in favour of the principle of this bill. I think it serves a valuable purpose by recognizing that there are these diseases which are occupationally related and are a hazard to health workers. It is an interesting list of diseases, and although I think some people have thought that this was primarily about AIDS, we have a number of viral conditions here. I must admit that some of them are things which I was not trained in, that were not recognized when I trained a number of years ago. I think that this is one of the things which was in mind when the bill was drafted, that new viral diseases have occurred. We certainly never imagined that there would be a disease like AIDS, totally unknown 20 years ago. I think that we have to recognize the possibility that there could be other viral diseases, many of which have a very long period of incubation.
In my experience in general practice, of course, I have had to deal with workers' compensation cases many times, and one of the problems of compensation in the past has been the accident-related nature of the claims. I think there is recognition that we have to change this to more presumption of work-related illnesses where one cannot find a particular accident. I think members of this House, in their constituency business, will have spent a great deal of time in relation to the claims about the accidents, and I think that in health care we very much have that problem. When a needle stick does occur, is it reported and can one know for a considerable time, in many cases, what the consequences are, what viral illnesses will come from it?
In my research, I got a copy of Harrison's textbook of medicine, which is a standard textbook, and there they list in the contents health workers' precautions in relation to hepatitis B and AIDS. I think these are the most important diseases, and certainly in my experience the most common ones, but I think there is value in the list of diseases that we have here.
As I say, AIDS is the one there is the most concern about, but perhaps I can say something about hepatitis B, again something on which the technical work is relatively recent. When I was trained, hepatitis was less clearly categorized. There is now clear understanding of the nature of hepatitis B, which is a blood-borne virus, and where there are distinct risks for health workers. I think perhaps this is the one which brought most concern about occupationally related diseases. Members of the House may be interested to know the history, that this was found to be quite common in workers in renal dialysis, kidney dialysis, and I think this is a very good example of the latent, unrecognized risks of viral diseases.
The member for Mississauga North raised questions about how one would be showing the presumption. I do not believe that it is nearly as much a problem as he suggests. I think this does go along with procedures that exist in workers' compensation and, as I say, I think this can well be part of the thrust towards a greater recognition of compensability of work-related conditions, as opposed to accidents, which I think is something which clearly is going to be developed in relation to workers' compensation in this House.
So, as I say, I am in favour of the principle of the bill. I have no hesitation in supporting it and I would like to commend my colleague for bringing it forward and raising the House's awareness of the significance of these viral diseases.
I commend the member for Simcoe Centre for raising this issue, which I know is and must be a concern to every member in this House. Blood-borne diseases are a reality that often manifest themselves in the workplace, therefore injuring workers. I think we would all agree on that.
But like my colleague the member for Waterloo North, and the member for Mississauga North who spoke earlier, I have some concerns with this bill put forward by the member for Simcoe Centre. First, I call into question the real commitment of the government to enhancing compensation in the workplace because of the nature of this statutory amendment. The revision is not being put forward by the Minister of Labour, but through the forum of private members' legislation.
It seems to me that if the government were truly serious about this issue it would not put this amendment to the Workers' Compensation Act through the private members' bill process when we all know that very, very few private members' bills in history ever make it or are enacted into law. It seems to me it would have been better for the Minister of Labour to use the current provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act to either put it through order in council, which would be a very fast and efficient way of amending the act, or to pass a resolution in this House which would amend the schedule 3 or 4 and again be much faster than the private member's process.
But that said, I am still uncertain as to what would be accomplished if the legislation that we are debating today were to pass. As I have mentioned, the proposed amendment provides a presumption of work-relatedness to health care workers who contract blood-borne diseases. It is in response to this bill that the Workers' Compensation Board has stated: "This type of presumption is available through the regulation-making provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act. The presumption of work-relatedness for industrial diseases is applied when a disease and a corresponding process is entered in schedule 3 of the regulation 951." So what it is saying is there is already a process in place. We have schedule 3 and schedule 4 of the current act, and it seems to me that this bill put forward today, Bill 68, is redundant in the extreme.
The Workers' Compensation Board has already made it policy to consider claims for the infectious diseases delineated in this proposed amendment as put forward by the member for Simcoe Centre. I would ask the member for Simcoe Centre to simply contact the Workers' Compensation Board -- he may have done that -- to find out and have clearly spelled out for him how the board now handles this critical issue. The board has general procedures within its complex case unit (diseases) section that covers infectious diseases. Within its complex case unit (diseases) branch the board handles all industrial claims and all claims from infectious diseases. In addition, blood-borne diseases are also covered by this section of the board.
This brings me to two additional concerns with this private member's bill. Why were these blood-borne diseases spelled out specifically within the amendment that we are debating today when they appear to be encompassed within the existing Workers' Compensation Act and are covered by the Workers' Compensation Board's current operating procedures?
Secondly, I fear that this bill is not a progression but a regression. I once again quote from the proposed amendment, subsection 122(9b), the amendment we are debating today: "If the worker contracted a blood-borne disease and at or before the date of the disablement was employed in or by a hospital, clinic, treatment centre, medical or dental office, school of medicine or nursing, sanitarium, convalescent or nursing home, home for the aged, medical laboratory, visiting nursing service, ambulance service or any similar institution, facility or service, in any process in which he or she handled or came into contact with human bodily fluids, the disease shall be deemed to have been due to the nature of that employment unless the contrary is proved." That is the end of the quote from the amendment today.
Why does this bill limit the right to compensation in the workplace for those employees who contract a bloodborne disease to health care employees only? It is disturbing, and I think the member for Mississauga North made that point very clearly. Currently, the board does not discriminate against non-health-care employees like policemen and a number of other professions who, when they come across a traffic accident, may come into contact with contaminated blood. The board does compensate, currently, all employees, regardless of profession, who are stricken with a blood-borne disease in the workplace.
I am also having trouble with the inclusion in subsection 122(9b) of this amendment of the term "human bodily fluids" as causing blood-borne diseases when handled by health care employees. "Bodily fluids," in this amendment and in any subsequent proposals brought forward by the government, needs better definition. What does it entail? As a result of subsection 9b of this amendment we have a restricted statement in terms of eligible employees for compensation.
As I mentioned, it covers only health care employees, and we have vague wording in terms of employees contracting blood-borne diseases by handling and coming into contact with human bodily fluids. I think it bears mentioning that out of approximately 100,000 HIV/AIDS cases reported in Canada and the United States none have identified bodily fluids such as saliva, urine or tears as the means of transmission of that infectious disease. I feel the wording of 9b creates more problems than it actually solves.
In the end, I would like to say I think that this was a poorly thought-out amendment, although I agree and my party agrees with the principle and its intention. I would ask the member for Simcoe Centre to wait until the reviews now under way by the Workers' Compensation Board, both an internal review and there are currently plans for a complete review of these sections of the act.
The board itself acknowledges that it is handling blood-borne diseases and the compensation thereof and I would ask the member and the government to do their homework with the board and become completely briefed before proceeding with this legislation because I feel it is redundant, and if they are very serious it should be done through order in council if at the end of the review there is a need.
All of us in this House have at one time or another worked to help our constituents represent themselves in workers' compensation cases, some more often than others. In my riding of Sudbury, while I worked with both Elie Martel and the government House leader, many of my cases, too many, dealt with occupational disease. Particularly I recall my personal battle for recognition by the board for the hand-arm vibration syndrome, and too well do I remember the jubilation when the gold-dust miner cases from Timmins were finally recognized by the board. Hundreds of workers left widows or widowers and their children to collect whatever compensation the board provided.
The process to have a work-related disease recognized by the Industrial Disease Standards Panel is long and arduous. In the case of hand-arm vibration syndrome, or white hand as it is often called, the battle for its recognition by workers who use vibratory equipment started long before my arrival on the WCB scene. Elie Martel had fought for years with the board to admit it as an occupationally induced disease, and even so it was over two years of my time before the board's policy was changed to reflect the realities of the working world. The cost for all parties while a case goes through every level of appeal is heart-rending, while the process is slow.
With recognition of a disease accepted, the workers and families of those workers do not have to beg. The presumption is that they contracted the disease in the course of their employment, and such recognition can only be rebutted by showing that their work did not cause the disease. That is why I support this bill. It should be a given that health care workers may contract blood-borne diseases in their work, and no health care worker in this province should have to wait two, five or 10 years or more before such a reality is accepted or presumed.
I would also point out that the board in relation to this kind of thing has resorted to workplace-specific criteria rather than process-specific criteria. For instance, Inco workers in Sudbury would be eligible for compensation for nickel-related diseases, but nickel exposure for workers in other fields would not be eligible unless proven, and hence you cannot have the police or the firefighters included in this particular piece of legislation.
Some will say that this bill is not necessary, that this is why schedule 3 is in the act and why do we not use that, and that the board of directors could easily amend the act to quickly include such obvious cases and then, of course, get cabinet approval for the amendment. That in itself takes time and would be speedy only if a majority of the workers on the board of directors agreed. It also does not account for the internal dynamics of the board itself. While it is true that adding to schedule 3 would be the simpler way of achieving the member for Simcoe Centre's purpose, the truth is that no additions to schedule 3 have been made since 1950, and even then, only 15. In terms of schedule 4, there have been no additions made by the board.
I commend the member for bringing forth this amendment, but at the same time I feel very saddened that legislation seems the only route at this time. Hopefully, when the occupational disease task force reports back on Ontario's methodology and process of recognizing occupationally acquired diseases, and the Workers' Compensation Board acts on the report, amending the act by a private member's bill will no longer be necessary. There is a message here. When this bill is passed, the WCB will be alerted to seriously adding other categories to schedule 3.
Many of these medical conditions take some time to incubate, and it is quite likely that people when they start their employment would not even know whether they had some of these types of diseases, so blood tests would not be a reasonable way or a bona fide way of being able to determine whether these conditions were apparent at a time people began their employment. We always have to keep in mind a person's right to privacy and also the fact that he should not need to be required to provide samples of his blood as a condition of obtaining his employment.
I am constantly reminded by my assistants that the Workers' Compensation Act requires several changes in legislation and policy. I am certain that our assistants, who administer the Workers' Compensation Board claims, would find it less complicated and more beneficial if changes were made to the Workers' Compensation Act. I believe this piece of legislation is a stepping-stone in making the Workers' Compensation Act more attractive to the citizens of Ontario.
Blood-borne pathogens pose an enormous threat to the safety of our health care workers. Subsequently, it is the potential transmission of these diseases that poses a threat to other citizens of the province. Since most of these diseases often are not detectable for periods of up to 36 months, it is critical that this legislation put the onus on the employer to prove that an employee did not contract the disease from the workplace, rather than have the employer prove that he or she contracted the disease from the workplace.
It would indeed be difficult for a health care worker to prove that he or she contracted a disease from a needle prick that occurred, say, six months previously. It is the employer's duty to provide workers with a safe place of employment. All hazards must be considered and where there is a potential hazard, protective equipment must be provided. Employees should be educated on these potential work-related risks. This is a basis of health and safety. If these checks fail, it is the duty of the government to support, console and, most important, compensate workers.
I see my time is running out, so I will close by saying that this legislation is both responsible and humane and, as I mentioned earlier, a step in the right direction to improving the much-flawed Workers' Compensation Act. I call on all members from both sides of this House to vote in favour of this bill.
On the whole question with respect to why health care workers only, first of all I would like to state that by creating a rebuttable presumption we are not excluding other workers from benefits. The reason for including the health care workers is that the probability of establishing a cause-and-effect relationship between employment and occupational disease is highest in the health care profession, and we feel that these workers should be subject to a less onerous burden of proof and that therefore the onus should be placed on the employer. This is in fact borne out by the evidence that there have been cases in the health care area with respect to the whole question of HIV which had been established through the occupational.
Last, with respect to the whole question of what I would call the red herring raised by the member for Mississauga North with respect to the question of how privacy is going to be interfered with in the inquiry process, I would like to point out that right now a person can make a claim for proving industrial disease under the Workers' Compensation Act and has to go before a tribunal. That same inquiry would be made of the person making the claim whether there is a rebuttable presumption of proof or not. In my opinion, it is completely irrelevant as far as the inquiry into the individual is concerned. In fact, it would probably be just as onerous in both cases.
I therefore ask that members support this legislation as a spur to getting changes in the Workers' Compensation Act as a recognition of the high risk that health care workers face and the devastating effect of these particular illnesses.
LEAD ACID BATTERIES RECYCLING ACT, 1990
Mrs Sullivan moved second reading of Bill 26, An Act to require the Recycling of Lead Acid Batteries.
The BCI model has been accepted and implemented in 30 US states where it has been found to be practical and workable. It is the very pragmatic nature of this bill which I suggest makes it one which ought to be accepted by the government for implementation here.
The key points of the bill are: first, to prohibit any land disposal of a lead acid battery and mandate delivery to a retailer or some other agency in the battery recycling loop; second, to require retailers and other parts of the battery loop to take back spent batteries from customers at least equal to the number of new ones purchased; third, to require a posted, written notice informing the public about the recycling of lead acid batteries; and fourth, to use fines as part of the enforcement provisions.
We know that lead batteries are a principal source of starting, lighting and igniting power for automobiles and boats. They are the sole power source for vehicles such as fork-lifts, golf carts and wheelchairs. Lead batteries also support a wide variety of backup power systems for computers and rechargeable products such as hand power tools. Backup power for hospitals and other institutions also relies on lead battery.
Lead batteries are readily recyclable and are in fact recycled today.
An average battery available for recovery weighs about 36 pounds. It contains 18 pounds of recoverable lead, one gallon of sulphuric acid -- about nine pounds -- almost three pounds of polypropylene casing, about three pounds of polyvinyl chloride, PVCs, in the rubber separators and, finally, three pounds of sulphates and oxides to which the lead is bound.
Between 1975 and 1985, the average weight of batteries fell from 42 to 36 pounds. However, with new demands for cold-cranking power, the amount of lead has increased to an average of 22 pounds in those batteries. In the same period of time, the average battery lifetime has also increased by some 11% to close to three years.
Lead acid batteries enjoy high recycling rates today that are the envy of other materials. Market demand is not a problem. A well-developed infrastructure of lead smelters, battery breakers and battery manufacturers consumes all the batteries that are collected. This is a benefit not only to the manufacturer but to the environment as a whole.
But many people do not understand that batteries are readily recyclable and find alternative means for disposal, including placing them with their household waste for municipal pickup and landfill. The increasing concern over lead in the environment has put a greater focus on products and manufacturers that are associated with this toxic heavy metal. This bill is designed to close the loop and to capture those batteries which now miss the recycling circle.
In preparing this bill, I have had the assistance of battery manufacturers, retailers and trade associations, who have reviewed its provisions and commented on its content. I visited a battery factory to further understand the process and the follow-up after recycling.
Many legislatures in the United States have provided me with copies of their own legislation which has been enacted in their jurisdictions. I have been able to review legislation from many states, including Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, North Carolina, Iowa, Tennessee, Maine, Florida, Louisiana, Wyoming, Oregon, Illinois, Connecticut and Minnesota. The majority of those states use the BCI model and adjust it to their local circumstances. Most report, as did the Department of Environmental Resources for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, that there have been, "no significant problem(s) with the procedure."
Many other states have adopted similar legislation, some including a deposit such as we see with bottle recycling. The US Environmental Protection Agency is now reviewing a proposed federal bill that would make all battery legislation consistent through that country. Those states that I have named and who have recycling provisions for their lead acid batteries are our competitors. It seems to me that we should have no less environmental protection here than they do there.
I hope that this bill will be accepted by the House this morning. Similar legislation has proven to be effective in other jurisdictions and it should be enacted here. If accepted at second reading, any amendments which may improve the bill further can be put forward at a later stage of consideration.
Mr Speaker, I am going to reserve time to the end to speak further to this bill. I am urging members to accept Bill 26.
The concern I have is that it is too bad it did not come from this Agenda for People that the Minister of the Environment has been so proud of. I think the member has been very kind in her remarks, but I do not have to be. She is talking about a government that says it is everything to the environment, yet when it comes to coming up with specific legislation, this government has not -- maybe the member can correct me -- but I do not think that the new government has brought anything forward to this House on environmental legislation since it took power.
They have made all kinds of regulations outside the House. They make announcements outside the House that they are opposed to incineration. They come along with illogical ways in which they are going to handle the garbage. They say, "Well, we can ship the stuff from Kingston to Ottawa-Carleton but we can't do anything from Toronto to Kirkland Lake." We have a government that is really confused on its own agenda.
The Liberals at least have someone who is still alive, who is coming forward with an act to recycle lead acid batteries, and I compliment her for it. None the less, I would not want to leave this House today and let the honourable member think that it is a perfect bill, because it is not. I think there are a number of things that should be considered in its consideration.
Why not a provision, even though the member has addressed it in her remarks, for a deposit? It works with beer cans. Now that we get 10 cents a can, I think that people will even be picking them up on the beach and the side of the road because they can get a dime out of it. I do, and I do not think there is anything the matter with that. Any one of us -- well, my Scottish background told us to be frugal and be careful and not to waste anything, and I will bend over for a penny if there is one on the road. Maybe that is why I am stooped over half the time.
I think we have got to do everything we can -- when I look around this place, all there is is dirt from the NDP, so I do not want to keep my head too low.
A deposit on batteries makes sense because if I can get a dime back, then that deposit is something I will go back for. It really does not matter what it is, if someone is going to go and look for that deposit. These young people up in the gallery know what it is when there is a deposit on pop bottles. They are inclined to use pop bottles rather than cans.
The deposit provision is something that is worth looking at. It is a way in which we can encourage people who are not presently involved in the whole recycling program but who are looking for dollars. There are people who will then find a way of making a dollar out of collecting the old batteries.
I realize that is not part of the bill because you are not allowed to move batteries from one person to another. None the less, it means that industry and business will at least have a way of getting that money back and it will force the batteries into a recycling program.
The second thing is the collection facilities. I wish there was a greater definition of what the member really means by collection facilities. Maybe in her closing remarks she could elaborate on what she means by that.
My third point has to do with large batteries. When we think of a car battery, which is a lead battery, it is just a heavy, small battery about a foot square or smaller. Then you start getting into industrial batteries, which will also be covered by this legislation, which are a couple of tons in size. What does the honourable member suggest be done with those? I would think that they are already looked after and maybe there should be a special provision that deals with them.
Oh, oh, more money coming in. I am going to be on my knees today. I can just see it coming. I will go off the TV camera if I bend over for that coin.
I have one final issue. Why do we not begin to look at household batteries? I realize the batteries are one part of the equation, but household batteries become a matter of great concern when they end up either in incineration or in landfill sites or in anything. When you consider what they are full of, they are really full of toxic substances. When you look at the different kinds of batteries we have, zinc carbon batteries, alkaline manganese; the button cell batteries contain substances that if they are allowed to go into a landfill site -- you have got lithium batteries. All I can say is that household batteries consist of a large number of different kinds of substances, and if those substances are allowed then to just break apart, end up in a landfill site, we are doing something in long-term damage to the environment.
Why not begin to look at a program that educates the public on what to do with their household batteries, what they use in a flashlight or their radio or anything else? If we did anything right, we would try to get people off batteries. If we could, we would find other ways of finding power, because when you look at the energy it takes to just have a rechargeable battery and some of these methods, if people could just hook up to an electrical line when they can rather than using batteries, we would have another way of solving this.
The automotive companies have spent millions of dollars to try to find substitute power for gasoline. They have come up with different kinds of batteries. Let us continue to invest in research to find other methods of power. We have got solar power; we have got other kinds of power. Why can we not do more in this?
The small calculators that we use now are energized by light. Maybe I am opening up another can of worms because I do not know enough about it because it is another kind of battery, but are there other forms of energy that we could be using that will have no or a more limited negative effect on the environment over the long term?
That becomes a question that this government could begin to address with some of the moneys that are coming in from other forms of taxation which could then go out to fund it. The Ministry of the Environment has picked up over $150 million just on the tire tax which has not been spent. I personally would take a certain amount of pleasure in seeing some of that money invested in research and development, to find ways of protecting the environment in the long term.
None the less, there are many other things to be said. I am most fortunate in having the member for Mississauga South, who is a learned person on environmental matters, who will be speaking on this issue as well. I wanted to share part of the time with her in response to this bill.
The bill is a beginning. It is too bad it did not originate from the most honourable Minister of the Environment. That is where some of this leadership was expected to be coming from, but instead it comes from the remnants of the Liberals. We will take it wherever it comes from. We are willing to support these things because we believe in it and it is right. I thank the honourable member for at least making an effort. Who knows what is going to happen? If it is a whip vote, it might be defeated, but at least we will be in support of it from the Progressive Conservative side of the House.
After reviewing Bill 26, An Act to require the Recycling of Lead Acid Batteries, I would like to commend the member for Halton Centre for putting forth creative solutions for the disposal and recycling of these lead acid batteries which are primarily used in cars and trucks.
As all members of this House are fully aware, the Minister of the Environment has enunciated her aggressive 3Rs waste reduction strategy. I am pleased that the member opposite has shown by her efforts today the realization that we must all work together to achieve this. This bill is an example of our ability to do so.
I am pleased to say today that I support this bill in principle and will vote in favour of its passage at second reading. However, I do have serious reservations about the finer points of this proposed legislation.
It is simply common sense for all of us to recycle our old used car and truck batteries. By doing so, we do indeed reduce the waste going into landfills. We must develop a conserver society. Recycling our old batteries not only reduces the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills but also promotes the development of secondary industries. Old batteries, while not functional in our vehicles, are still of great value.
Evidence of the worth of old batteries can be found in the fact that several recycling facilities already exist for lead acid batteries. Old batteries mean profit for those who are in the recycling business, and we have certainly come to a point in our history when we must stop thinking of products that no longer serve our needs as garbage. We must now understand the value of our formerly discarded products and make a conscious effort to thoughtlessly discard them no more.
While we must ensure continued recycling of our old batteries, we must also ensure that lead acid battery recycling facilities meet the stringent standards of existing environmental legislation. One of my chief concerns with the proposed legislation before us this morning is the fact that it only deals with one specific product. Passage of the bill in its present form would set a precedent for legislation on a product-by-product basis.
I think this approach, especially at this time, is not the direction we should be taking. It would, in my opinion, be a mistake. While I agree that recycling of car and truck batteries is a step that we must certainly take, I would also point out that a more comprehensive waste reduction-recycling strategy would be more effective.
Another concern I have is the fact that this bill is aimed primarily at the consumer. The onus of compliance is placed squarely upon the shoulders of the consumer of the product. While it is true that we must all take responsibility for the protection of our environment, I do not believe that the responsibility lies only with the consumer.
The honourable Minister of the Environment has stated that industry must take the lead in product stewardship. What this means is that industry must ultimately be responsible for the products that it produces, especially when these products have the potential to damage the land on which we live, the air which we breathe and the water that sustains us.
This bill fails to address the issue of industry product stewardship. I would like to have seen such an inclusion from the member for Halton Centre. It is essential that all members of our society understand and put into action the 3Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle, and this includes recycling lead acid batteries.
Despite the fact that I have numerous reservations with regard to the proposed legislation, I agree wholeheartedly with the basic principle put forth. For this reason, I will support the bill from the member for Halton Centre.
I do not think any of us here can fail to recognize and understand the important role that the 3Rs can play in terms of reducing waste in the province. Reducing, reusing and recycling are now well known to all of us here and to, I am sure, our population in Ontario. What this bill does is it provides us with an opportunity to put into practice one of the 3Rs, and that is recycling. It deals with a particular form of pollution, lead and acid batteries.
Now, criticisms have been levelled at the bill as a result of its failure to be more encompassing, at the fact that it is not comprehensive in terms of its approach with batteries and, further, that it is not comprehensive in dealing with other forms of pollution which also could be addressed in a similar manner. That is a legitimate criticism. However, if we are to approach all problems on an omnibus basis, problems which arise in this House and particularly problems relating to pollution, whenever we delay something, damage is continuing to occur in the interim.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we prepared to allow this damage to occur? I think the priority we must lend to our approach to all pollution is one which leads us to deal with it effectively at the earliest possible opportunity. That is what this bill is attempting to do and I think it will successfully do so if we give it a chance.
The parliamentary assistant to the Minister of the Environment raised a concern that industry must take primary responsibility for dealing with the problems created by forms of pollution, and she made reference to a phrase the minister has used a number of times, "industry product stewardship." There is some legitimacy to that concern raised by the parliamentary assistant, but I would reply that our greatest strength in this province in terms of dealing with pollution lies with the individuals and not with government or business.
This places a responsibility not only on individuals, the consumers, but on the retailers, manufacturers and distributors. It provides a comprehensive approach to a specific problem and I think it deals with it in a very effective way. In fact, all of those groups are charged with special responsibility under the terms of this legislation and the theme that is evident here is that everyone has a role to play.
Another very attractive feature of the bill is that it creates a closed-loop system. I guess it is a variation on the cradle-to-grave theory and it effectively, again, deals with the product from the onset of purchase until it returns into the hands of the appropriate party who can deal with the product.
Something I would encourage the member for Halton Centre to do is to ensure that ultimately when this bill meets with success, communications, and particularly those that are going to be made to the public, to the consumer, the retailer, the manufacturer, are given some time in order to ensure that people are not caught off guard with respect to this legislation.
The member for Markham, I believe, made reference to deposits. It is my understanding that the deposit approach -- that is, where a deposit will be paid on the battery, in return for the spent battery at a later date the deposit will be returned -- has been less than successful, given the experience of other jurisdictions, particularly American jurisdictions. Although he has raised a valid point, I think that experience has shown -- and it is no longer necessary for us to reinvent the wheel on this particular case -- that it was proven that this approach is more successful than the deposit approach.
I think we should recognize too -- I have mentioned this before and the member for Halton Centre did -- that given the experience this type of legislation has met with in other jurisdictions, particularly American jurisdictions -- it is my understanding this bill has been put into effect in one form or another in 30 of the states -- It is based on a model bill which was put forward by the Battery Council International and this bill has been endorsed by the Canadian Battery Manufacturers' Association. So all of those factors, I think, commend themselves to us.
In closing, I would recommend that this bill be given very careful consideration. I am very pleased to hear that the Minister of the Environment is going to consent to the passage of this bill on second reading. I assume that she will be making her reservations known more fully to us when third reading comes around, but I am sure that the member for Halton Centre, if I can go out on a bit of a limb here, is open to improvements to her bill. I do not think any of us have laid claim to perfection in terms of our ability to draft legislation which will meet all of the needs in specific area, and I am sure that the same would apply here.
I think I have said all I can in terms of providing intelligent contribution to this debate and --
If the members would listen to the comments, then they will understand that the rebuttal which usually follows, "Well, you were the government for 42 years; you didn't do that," I want to tell members that when we were the government, first of all, the technology that now exists did not exist then, and even so, in 1979, which is the latest figures that are accurate about recycling this type of lead, these kind of batteries were recycled to the maximum of 90% of the batteries produced.
I think the incentive of the bill is great. I think if anyone wanted to research Hansard for the last five years, he or she would have heard me asking the Minister of the Environment of the Liberal government to initiate recycling of batteries and to encourage the use of rechargeable batteries. In fact, I remember one day specifically suggesting in a preamble to one of my questions that we should have a once-a-month, routine dropoff in schools of all the other types of batteries, because first of all, it would be an educational experience for children to start to recognize that with all their toys and games and the small appliances which are used in their homes that are battery-operated, if they do not have rechargeable batteries, then there has to be a safe disposal for their batteries as well. That suggestion to the Liberal government was never picked up.
So I think it is great that this bill is here this morning at the initiative of the Liberal Party, and of course as an environmentalist, I support it wholly. I think we have to be sure that we make an amendment to this bill when it comes back to the House or to committee to ensure that there is an incentive, because at the moment the recycling of any batteries containing lead is limited to the market requirement for the end product.
I noticed in the bill it refers to secondary lead smelters. Now, there are only five in Canada. One of those secondary lead smelters is in my riding. It is also an operation that has done in the past a great deal of damage to the environment from the process of recycling those batteries. They are now, with new equipment and new regulations and enforcement by the ministry, down to 99.98% efficiency in terms of trying to achieve zero discharge. However, zero discharge is not going to be possible with recycling of these batteries. But frankly I think the control of where these batteries go is more important than the deterrent of the fact that we cannot achieve zero discharge in the process of their recycling.
I think when we are looking at something as heavy as automobile batteries, we have to be very sure that whatever the regulations are to implement this bill, they are very practical. There are a whole lot of people who are simply not able to carry a 25-pound battery into a store when they go to buy their new one, and they are dependent on the person in the store to take the new one out to their vehicle.
I think the limitation about not transferring one battery from one consumer to another should be closely looked at, because the fact that you would have to bring a battery in to buy another one is perhaps going to be difficult to enforce if that is the thrust behind a regulation following this bill. Obviously a lot of people take their batteries out of their cars and put them in their boats and therefore there are other uses that they give to a battery for which the purpose in their car has been completed.
I think also that with this bill the government should look at increasing the market for the end product so that the incentive can be there because of the value of these used batteries. Unless there is a market at the end, then we do not have an incentive for anyone to comply with those regulations, and obviously the policing would be very difficult. When you think about the fact that a battery contains almost a gallon of sulphuric acid, it is pretty scary stuff if you think about what happens to those batteries when they are not properly disposed of. I think when we look at the record of where we are currently, with only 50% to 55% of all batteries being disposed of safely, obviously something has to be done to reverse that trend.
I think also that when we even look at a good secondary lead smelter and, as I said a few minutes ago, consider the risks of what happens in that process and recognize that the gas that is emitted is a greenhouse gas, we have got to be very sure that where these recycled batteries end up is a safe alternative. Landfilling them is not a safe alternative, but also secondary lead smelters have to be very closely monitored to make sure, because there are a lot of batteries, that we are not simply lowering the standards. As long as everything is conducted within close guidelines, it will work.
Under this bill it would be unlawful for a consumer to "dispose of a battery except by delivery to a battery manufacturer, a battery retailer, a battery wholesaler, a secondary lead smelter or a collection facility designated by the director." The other thing that I think is good about this bill is that it says that there can be no emissions that flow from the battery either into the air or the water.
I want to talk about why those things are important. First of all, recycling, as we know, is an absolute priority with this government. The Minister of the Environment has been clear about the need for us to move in the direction of the 3Rs that we have put forward. We are supportive also of the fact that this bill prevents a resource being lost to waste. Also, it is important that we as consumers, and this bill helps to provide for this, have the opportunity to take seriously our role in society, that we have to know the effects of our consumption. So it puts the onus on the consumer here. The proposed bill is very stringent, and I say "stringent" in the sense that it prohibits emissions in the disposal of these batteries, and that is a good thing.
In terms of some of the negatives that we see in this bill, I must say that it is a difficulty today, as we look at the environmental problems that we have, that much of the onus more and more is being put on consumers. That is a good thing because, as I say, we have to take responsibility for our environment and our role in society. But I have to caution the members here, and also caution my own government, that we need to be clear about the role of producers and manufacturers. We need to ensure that there are enough attempts to ensure the producers and manufacturers themselves take seriously the environment, that when we produce things that are potentially hazardous to the environment we are not helping our community or society, and in these terms the bill does not really deal with that kind of issue. That is a concern I have and so I would raise that problem.
Section 2 of the bill talks about the disposal of the battery. It does not really go into any great definition of disposal of the battery and I think that needs clarification. I would hope that perhaps in the future, either through the Minister of the Environment or through another bill, we might have that spelled out, because there are many ways of disposal and I think that needs to be focused on.
I also want to say that in terms of section 13, the fine of $500, I really believe that is not a particular help, that it is too small a sum of money. Our environment is so important that if we are going to establish penalties and attempt to monitor the kinds of infractions that may occur, there has to be some sense in which we are going to make a strong statement when anyone breaches the law. I think we need to increase the penalty.
On the whole, those are the main remarks I want to make. I want to applaud the honourable member for Halton Centre and indicate how much I appreciate her bringing forth this bill. I again say that I will support it and ask my fellow members of caucus to support it as well.
I am not here necessarily to join in any rebuttal with respect to my friend the member for Mississauga South. She raised the issue of mandatory recycling. I think, though, it bears some comment. Very briefly, I wanted simply to say that is an issue that I think deserves to be considered and revisited again from time to time. Simply let me say that the philosophy of the previous administration, since the member for Mississauga South raised it, was that very much was being done in general terms with respect to recycling. Indeed, the tremendous response from all communities across this province was indicative of that, and I think the willingness of communities and, more important, the citizens of this province to get involved in recycling speaks for itself.
One of the things that my friend the member for Victoria-Haliburton mentioned was that there are always, in any bill -- none of us is perfect and anything, therefore, that we craft requires change from time to time. Indeed, one of the strengths of this whole process is that collectively we assist one another in refining and improving and adding on and making changes as necessary and as deemed advisable by the majority of members who are present at any given time. I am pleased that he is prepared and has stood in his place and said that he will be supporting it, together with his colleagues on the government side, because indeed in so doing, if this would move forward to the appropriate committee, amendments that I am sure would be very helpful would be forthcoming from members such as the member for Victoria-Haliburton and others, and in so doing would build on the basic principle of this bill, which I think is laudatory.
I might add that one of the things that my colleagues on all three sides of the House have not mentioned as an integral component of this bill is the issue of communications. A lot of people do not know what they can do. I meet from time to time with citizens' groups, as we all do, and meet with students, and they will say, "What can I do to help?" In fact, I know that a number of members opposite have done some very fine work -- on all sides of the House, for that matter -- and sent out householders to their constituents and said, "The environment, how can I help?" And they articulate a series of items that we can do in our households from day to day to assist, in practical terms, the improvement of our environment and the preservation of our environment for generations to come.
This bill has a communications component built into it that I think is very, very important, because is it identifies the potential. It very clearly has standard signage that allows the consumer at the point of purchase, and subsequently built into the process of the recycling of the batteries, to become aware of what they can do.
I need not go into some of the difficulty created by the inappropriate disposal of lead batteries. Many members, particularly the members from the Durham region -- I notice that our friend the member for Durham Centre is here today -- would be well aware of the tremendous difficulty with respect to the development of Canada Homes with the inappropriate disposal of lead batteries. A generation later, the health and the wellbeing of an innocent community was put into jeopardy because batteries were inappropriately disposed of. The pollution, the poisoning of soil that is caused by the inappropriate disposal of lead batteries is just tremendous in its magnitude.
The other difficulty, of course, is that lead migrates from place to place as it percolates through the soil, given the water tables, and is very, very hard to trace. Environment is not only a dollars-and-cents issue but is a very real issue, because it depletes resources that would otherwise be available for the things that we need to do. The cost of cleanup of lead contamination is simply astronomical. We are literally into the millions upon millions upon millions of dollars to clean up lead-contaminated soil. Moreover, it has been clearly indicated by those in the scientific community that lead contamination has a tremendous debilitating effect upon the mental capacity of young people, that it in fact impairs cognitive skills. Lead poisoning has that effect. So I really believe that the substance of this bill is to be pursued and to be pursued rigorously.
I would like to indicate one small point. I had asked my research assistant, the member for Ottawa South, to provide me some information, which he has just done. The member for Victoria-Haliburton indicated that he felt the fine was too low. It is my understanding that the limit for the Provincial Offences Act was $500. I am wrong. My friend from Ottawa South indicates that the maximum fine under the Provincial Offences Act is in fact $2,000. I would simply say that is indicative of the constructive nature of this kind of debate. The member opposite has brought to our attention something that could in fact be changed. It is the kind of amendment that I would encourage my friend to bring forward should this proceed to committee, as I believe it will and ought to do.
Let me say one thing in conclusion: People will say from time to time, "What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things?" I am not here, and do not have the opportunity, to go into the vast difficulty that can be attributed to lead contamination. The magnitude, both in terms of potential harm and the scope of lead contamination of our soil and water through lead batteries, is just profound, it is absolutely incredible. But people want to do something. People in Brampton North, in my constituency, want to make a difference; people in Victoria-Haliburton want to make a difference; in Middlesex; in Halton.
Moreover, I look at the pages who are sitting in front of Mr Speaker and the kind of world that we are going to leave for them. The responsibility that I have, the responsibility that each one of us has and the people whom we represent, I think, is significantly addressed through the legislation that has been put forward. I commend the member for having put forward this bill. My colleague the member for Halton Centre has done a lot of good work with this. We are delighted to speak in support of it and wish her well as it proceeds to committee and is improved with the constructive input of my friends opposite.
It has always been my belief, and maybe it is not correct, that used batteries have valuable materials in them and are desired by companies that are involved in lead smelting and for that reason are collected by them. Something that concerns me is that at one time, my friend the member for Huron tells me, $5 was paid for people who turned in their old batteries, because these were items that were collected by persons who wanted the materials in them.
I think, rather than having mandatory incentives placed on people who are going to be dealing with batteries, that this incentive should come about some other way. I say that because the bill sets up what looks like a complicated process to deal with what may not be a serious problem, that is, reusing materials that are in used batteries. It seems to me that there are more problems involved with the storage of these types of batteries and that does not really seem to be addressed in the bill.
It was mentioned earlier about contamination of land from lead and this bill, in subsection 2(4), indicates that you cannot dispose of a battery in such a manner that chemicals may be emitted into the air or water, but it does not deal with contamination of land. That is something that causes me some concern.
I do agree with the comments that were made by my friend the member for Markham, who indicates that he is concerned about other types of batteries. Specifically batteries that we need to be concerned about are ones that are used in flashlights and lots of small electronic appliances and gadgets that are so popular these days, and those generally have mercury in them. I know it is a problem down in my area because of the Detroit incinerator being across the river.
My friends in the opposition will know about the problems that have been caused by that. In fact, a lawsuit was commenced against the state of Michigan because of the problems from the incinerator, and mercury contamination is a serious problem in emissions from that incinerator, to a great extent because of batteries that are incinerated there. I think we need to pay some attention to those types of batteries as well and that there does need to be some sort of incentive to deal with those.
I find, on Thursday mornings, being here when we debate private members' bills is so exhilarating to me. I often wonder whether perhaps this is the way governments should be run, because we all seem to have such wonderful ideas and it almost makes me use the analogy of being in church. The best part of being in church is to get the opportunity to sing and the best part of being here on Thursday is that we get to debate these wonderful, sensible suggestions that all parties bring forward.
I know that I am very glad to see the retailer has to take back the battery. In my own circumstances, I had a battery installed a short while ago and I drove the car home and I thought he had taken the battery. I opened the trunk and there was the battery. We wonder what to do with these things, and I am sure this is repeated all over the province. I have a battery now at the back of my shed, and I am sure there are thousands and thousands of people like me who have batteries polluting the earth and the soil all over the province at the backs of their respective sheds.
I congratulate the member. It is not often that I can stand here and support Liberal ideas, but today I am very pleased to stand here and support her.
The member for Markham and the member for Windsor-Walkerville both spoke relating to the deposit system, which may be something we ought to be looking at. I have looked at that alterative, and one of the things that drew me to leave that particular alternative out of this bill was that this bill must be implemented all across Ontario.
As a consequence, we are looking at an industry-specific situation where a deposit, particularly for small retailers and particularly for those in communities that are smaller than Toronto, may increase cost, may increase the bureaucratic paper burden for the retailer and make it more difficult for that retailer to participate. We have also looked at statistical data from the United States experience and discovered that in fact where there is a deposit system, it does not work as well as where there is not.
The member for Markham asked me to be more specific about the collection facilities. I think we understand that because of the industry-specific nature of the bill, we are looking at a situation where indeed there is a collection cycle. It begins with the customer who may be an industrial or a retail customer and proceeds right back to the manufacturer. That is a long-term process and one which is very efficient.
I hope that when the vote is taken, it will pass. I believe that we can improve the bill in committee as it is taken forward and that it will become a good part of our legislation in Ontario.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1991 / LOI DE 1991 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES ACCIDENTS DU TRAVAIL
All those in favour will please say "aye."
All those opposed will please say "nay."
In my opinion the "ayes" have it.
Pursuant to standing order 94(f), the recorded vote on this ballot item is deferred.
LEAD ACID BATTERIES RECYCLING ACT, 1990
Motion agreed to.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1991 / LOI DE 1991 MODIFIANT LA LOI SUR LES ACCIDENTS DU TRAVAIL
The House divided on Mr Wessenger's motion for second reading of Bill 68, which was agreed to on the following vote:
La motion de M. Wessenger pour la deuxième lecture du projet de loi 68, mise aux voix, est adoptée:
Abel, Boyd, Bradley, Cooper, Coppen, Dadamo, Drainville, Duignan, Fletcher, Frankford, Haeck, Hansen, Harrington, Haslam, Hayes, Hope, Jamison, Johnson, Klopp, Kormos, Lessard, Martel, Mathyssen, Mills, Morrow, Murdock, S., O'Connor, Owens, Silipo, Sutherland, Ward, B., Ward, M., Waters, Wessenger, White, Wilson, G., Wiseman, Wood.
Arnott, Callahan, Caplan, Carr, Cousens, Cunningham, Curling, Fawcett, Harnick, Jordan, Marland, Offer, Sullivan, Turnbull, Villeneuve, Wilson, J., Witmer.
Bill ordered for committee of the whole House.
Le projet de loi est déféré au comité plénier de la Chambre.
LEAD ACID BATTERIES RECYCLING ACT, 1990
The House recessed at 1205.
The House resumed at 1330.
BROADCAST OF QUESTION PERIOD
For the three years that I was a member of the governing party, Question Period was always broadcast between 11 and 12 pm. This was late enough but still reasonable for people going to work the next day. In fact, over the years I have met many constituents who mentioned how often they followed the Queen's Park proceedings on television and how much they enjoyed them.
Why did TVOntario change this practice? Does it have anything to do with the new government's inexperience in handling public accountability? Who made this unfortunate decision and on what advice?
I will send a copy of this statement to the chairman of TVOntario and ask him to explain. But I will do more. I will urge Mr Ostry to reinstate the usual broadcasting hours for Queen's Park question period.
ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, after the famous baseball player who died of it. It is a relentlessly progressive, irreversible disease of the nervous system. It has been said that having ALS is like being buried alive.
George Lawrence, an ALS patient himself, has held many executive positions with the society and is currently president of the Metro Toronto society. He was the sparkplug behind the Buried Alive public awareness campaign for ALS in 1987-88. In 1987, George was responsible for starting the National Iron Man Luncheon to honour the Blue Jay who best exemplifies the characteristics of good sportsmanship and gentlemanliness of Lou Gehrig. Although George lives with the effects of ALS every day, he devotes all of his time and energy to publicizing the disease and helping others cope with its debilitating effects.
I would ask the House today to join with me in recognizing Mr Lawrence for his courage and sense of responsibility to the disabled community. He is a concerned humanitarian and I congratulate him on his award.
DAY OF MOURNING
Just two days ago, the member for Leeds-Grenville told this House that he did not like workers having a chance to be a part of the changes at the Workers' Compensation Board.
Well, I came from a plant to this House to represent all the people from my riding, including the workers. I hope that I speak for all the members in this House as we make a strong commitment to health and safety in the workplace.
Durham labour council wants 28 April to be an annual day of mourning to remember all Canadians killed, disabled or injured in the workplace and workers afflicted with industrial disease. The Durham Regional Labour Council will begin its march at 10:30 am Sunday at the United Steelworkers hall at 115 Albert Street in Oshawa. They will march to city hall, where there will be one minute of silence, the flag will be lowered and the official ceremony will take place.
I am proud to have been part of the labour movement in Ontario. I am proud to be here today to honour the men and women who have been killed, injured or disabled while in the workplace.
CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF YORK REGION
This dramatic decision was taken in direct response to inadequate government funding. The York Region Children's Aid Society has refused to take responsibility for the funding decisions taken by the Minister of Community and Social Services. York region is the lowest-funded CAS in the province on a per capita and a per child basis, yet it serves the fifth-largest population base in Ontario. This year the minister has allocated $900,000 less than the York region CAS needs to meet its obligations to children.
Children's aid societies are in a unique position in this province. They are mandated to investigate allegations of abuse and to protect our children when necessary. These are functions that they are required by provincial statute to carry out.
The minister's inaction has sent a message to children's aid societies across the province, some 46 of which are forecasting a deficit this year. She has shown that she does not place value on their work.
Earlier this week we heard that the impasse in funding for Metro child care had been resolved because the minister said she would consider the actual cost of providing child care services in Metro when calculating funding.
The children's aid societies ask for nothing more than the same treatment. It is time the minister placed some importance on their work and recognized the actual cost of providing child welfare services in Ontario and funded societies to that level. The place to begin is York region.
Much to his shock and dismay, the owner of the pharmacy, John Smart, was told that there was no 24-hour police coverage for the village. Through no fault of their own, members of the Stayner OPP detachment, which polices the village of Creemore, go off duty and go on call for a three-hour period.
Not only is the Solicitor General aware of this policing shortfall, but so are the criminals in the area, who are making their rounds regularly after officers go off duty. Because the town of Stayner and the village of Creemore represent the gateway to the four-season Georgian Triangle tourist area, the amount of traffic in this district is tremendous and the need for a fully staffed police force is acute.
Residents in the Stayner-Creemore area deserve full value for their tax dollars, and this does not translate into part-time policing. The Ontario government must move quickly to reestablish effective deterrents for our policing system. What is in place to deter crime when budget and staffing shortages force the OPP to cut policing forces, resulting in criminals running wild the moment the officers go off duty?
I want the Solicitor General to address this staffing deficiency and send a clear message to victimized residents in my riding that Ontario's police forces are on duty 24 hours a day. My constituents and the people of rural Ontario deserve nothing less.
It seems to me that the key to the success of their efforts is to think of waste materials as goods ready to be reused and not as garbage. If we as individuals and organizations start thinking and acting like these award winners, then the garbage crisis will become a thing of the past.
John's Cartage Ltd of Lindsay was selected as an outstanding recycling program operator. The recycling operations only started in 1988, but since then it has moved forward by expanding and automating its operation even in tough economic times.
Winning the outstanding community under 20,000 is the town of Lindsay. This town has achieved an incredible 27.2% waste diversion in its blue box program alone. In addition, there is the Student Action for Recycling program in area schools and the pickups of fine paper and corrugated cardboard from local businesses. Mixed plastics, tires, batteries and scrap metal are separated out for recycling. Composters are provided for backyards, and leaves and Christmas trees are collected for composting and shredding.
I am proud of my community of Lindsay and the two awards that have been given, both to the town of Lindsay and to John's Cartage.
The Conservation Land Act, also known as the "untaxing nature program," was introduced on 14 December 1987. It provides tax relief to owners of valuable natural habitat, such as wetlands, areas of natural and scientific interest and nonrevenue-producing conservation authority lands.
This act and its funding program were universally applauded by every group with an interest in natural habitat protection in this province. Organizations such as the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, the Conservation Council of Ontario, conservation authorities, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the Sierra Club, Pollution Probe, and municipalities, individual farmers, birders, hunters and other concerned citizens saw this as a most positive initiative. This even included the Minister of Natural Resources in his role as critic.
We expect there might be some reduction in this rebate program, and consequently less incentive to protect these important pieces of Ontario's natural heritage will exist.
Clearly, the benefits of this program far outweigh the costs, and tampering with this program is not environmentally friendly. Any cuts to this program would be unwise and would serve as a clear indication of the desperation of this government and its lack of commitment to conservation and habitat protection.
Don't do it, Floyd.
"Balance the budget, don't use the recession as an excuse."
"I'm fed up with working for the government."
"The NDP government should listen to the taxpayers."
"Please, no more taxes."
"It has to stop. We can't pay any more."
"Leaving Ontario, due to high taxes."
"Fed up with the permanent job losses."
"Also ticked off with nutty fringe appointments."
"I'd strongly advise your workers and unionists to stop or you'll end up with no business in this province and the workers won't earn enough to pay their union dues."
"Enough is enough! Can't you feel it's out of control? Slow down and put your house in order."
"The Ontario government must cut its own spending drastically, even if this means layoffs."
"Government must also become far more efficient. Unless absolutely necessary, programs must be slashed. Taxes cannot increase."
"It's difficult to stretch retirement dollars any further."
"Rae has already shown himself to be just like Peterson. Quite a feat in only 6 months."
"You're perhaps even worse than those dreaded Libs."
Participants in the week-long Earth Day activities in my riding came from all sectors of the community, including business, developmental, labour, educational and political.
But perhaps the highlight of this year's celebration was the introduction of the Earth Day/Everyday Home Audit. This questionnaire will be distributed to enough households in Kingston to provide a model for similar-sized communities across Canada in their attempts to be more environmentally responsible. This project is the initiative of Sandra Beattie, co-ordinator of Earth Day Kingston.
The Earth Day/Everyday Home Audit was developed by environmental experts to help each of us reduce our personal impact on the environment. It is designed to enable Earth Day Canada to chart our progress and to deliver the tangible results our individual environmental actions create. When the audit is returned to Earth Day Canada, it will assess your household's position in the environmental spectrum. Based on this assessment, Earth Day Canada will give usable information on simple ways to reduce your environmental impact without any radical changes in your lifestyle. The program will help save money while it helps preserve Canada's natural resources.
Everyone makes a difference. By including all our citizens in environmental awareness programs, we will build the support for the social changes we must make to save our planet.
I would also like to ask all members of the assembly to recognize in the Speaker's gallery today the second vice-president of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia, Andrejs Krastins. Please join me in welcoming our special guests.
STUDENT NEWSPAPER ARTICLE
As members of the government, we are prepared to listen to the opposition's questions and demands daily, as we should. However, I do not condone what would appear to be a sad attempt at humour by a member of the Liberal Party. The mock article went beyond poking fun at a few honourable members. No, it made a sexist reference to a female member of our cabinet. I will not read out the member's name, Mr Speaker, but I will give you some information.
The article referred to her as the minister in charge of state censorship and it portrayed her in a stereotypical light at a time when all members of the Legislature are trying to make progress with regard to sexism. It described her as using a red polka-dot handkerchief to wash "the puddles of tears running down her lightly tanned face." The mock story goes on to attribute fairly graphic quotes to the member. Out of respect for this House and the member, I will not recite those quotes.
I am not suggesting that the member for Mississauga West wrote this article and I will not accuse him of distributing it. I will say, though, that stapled to the article was a compliments card supplied to us by the Legislative Assembly. That being the case, I would, if the member for Mississauga West had any involvement in this tasteless prank -- this is a sexist piece of work. Public funds have been misused as well. We may all have our philosophical differences, but I would like to believe we share a common respect for this House and its members. I would like to believe that a member of this House played no part in distributing such material.
DAY OF MOURNING
Today we all wear black armbands to recognize these senseless deaths. This observance is more than symbolic. Every year in this province there are hundreds killed and tens of thousands injured through the course of their working lives, and for years in this House and elsewhere, I have expressed my outrage and anger at the sacrifices made by Ontario workers.
In proclaiming 28 April the day of mourning, I want to make sure we recognize the contributions of these workers and honour their memory. I also want to ensure that the day of mourning serves as a spur to action, a catalyst to make sure that we continue to work towards improving workplace health and safety.
This government is committed to workplace health and safety. We are committed to ensuring that the workers who have died on the job, and there were 205 of them last year, did not die in vain, and that these fatality figures do not reflect the true toll taken by occupational disease, which is estimated to be as high as 6,000 Ontario workers each year -- 205 lives, 6,000 lives. We are all acutely aware that we are talking about more than numbers. We need to comfort their families, co-workers and friends and assure them that we will do everything in our power to prevent any further waste of life.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act now calls for equal participation from workers and employers to work together to improve health and safety. We are committed to this shared effort and are determined to make it work effectively. This should instil a sense of equality and common purpose between labour and management when it comes to health and safety.
It is really simple logic. Why should an employee not have a say over matters that can result in injury or death? Is there any job so important that a worker has to risk his or her life? Why do some companies not hesitate to halt production if products are defective, but balk at stopping production when workers' lives are in jeopardy? Who is better equipped to know of the hazards of the shop floor than the workers who spend a good part of their waking hours on that shop floor? Have we reached a point in this province where products, deadlines and money are more important than the health and safety of people? For all our sakes, I hope not.
The black armbands I and all of my fellow members wear today are a signal that we intend to fight to ensure that workers are guaranteed the right to a safe and healthy environment; and to those who have lost family, friends and co-workers as a result of workplace accidents, these armbands are our way of saying that their loss is neither in vain nor forgotten.
Ontario has a history of leading the way to protect its workers, but we must continue. We must continue to enhance the protection of workers in the workplace. Worker fatalities average a total of over 200 a year in Ontario. Even one work-related death is too many. Hundreds of thousands more workers are injured each year.
Efforts must be expanded in the area of worker and employer education. We must continue to fight to eliminate dangerous substances and chemicals-related injuries by ensuring that employers and workers are aware of safer, less dangerous alternatives and we must encourage them to use them. We can improve on our efforts to educate workers and employers about other potential hazards in the workplace by developing innovative methods of education which do not rely solely on the written word.
This is an important day. This is an important moment, a moment where we reflect on those who have lost their lives in the workplace and a moment where we reflect upon those who have been injured in the workplace, and we collectively commit ourselves to making certain that efforts continue and are enhanced in terms of safety in the workplace.
On Sunday 28 April, as has been mentioned, workers throughout this province will be joining together to honour their colleagues who have lost their lives or who were injured in the performance of their jobs. It will be a day of mourning and a time to remember. Only if we take the time to remember those men and women whose lives were so tragically cut short through accidents and disease which occurred in the workplace can we ensure that as legislators we will remain dedicated to the task of reducing the risk of future deaths and injuries.
As we mourn the men and women who have died and been injured, each one of us should reflect on the work that has been done by our predecessors in the establishment of the workers' compensation system, the passage of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the other measures which this Legislature has taken over the years in an attempt to minimize the risk of death or injury to workers. However, although much has been done, there is much, much more that must be done in the future.
Today, workers face a variety of job-related injuries that our predecessors would never have imagined. It is our task to provide as safe a workplace as possible. The workers' compensation system, which is over 75 years old, is in need of fundamental reform, and our occupational health and safety laws must be kept up to date and relevant to the changing nature of the workplace.
As we observe this day of mourning to remember and to honour those who have died or those who have been seriously injured and we remember their families, let us, in this House, together with management and with labour, renew our commitment to work together co-operatively to protect all the men and the women in this province from serious injury and death in the future.
The House observed one minute's silence.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY
Ontario truckers are angry and frustrated. They have been waiting far too long for government action, and I am now in a position to begin taking action to address their needs and concerns.
Our government is committed to rebuilding the trucking industry in Ontario. Many of the economic problems confronting the trucking industry stem from federal fiscal and monetary policies, policies which are not only beyond our control but which hamper our ability to assist the trucking industry. Issues such as deregulation, high interest rates, fiscal policies, and enforcement of customs and immigration matters have all taken their toll on the industry. I will continue to bring our concerns to the attention of our federal counterpart.
During these past months, I have done my best to listen and respond to this troubled industry on issues which are within the jurisdiction of my ministry. Today, I am pleased to announce a package of initiatives aimed at stabilizing the Ontario trucking industry.
The trucking industry today simply has too many truckers for too little work. The situation is getting worse every day as more truckers enter the business. In response to this oversupply of services, effective immediately I am proposing a moratorium on the issuing of any new carrier licences to operate within Ontario. This moratorium will be in effect for up to two years or until the longer-term solutions are devised and implemented. This limitation of licences will help to curtail the decline of the industry and will provide my ministry with time and opportunity to address further measures which can be taken in future to promote the viability of the industry.
As well, we will register and require bonding for Ontario-based load brokers. Too often, truckers pay the price of failures and unfair business practices within the brokerage sector of the industry. Registering and bonding load brokers who make their living contracting freight shipments will help protect truckers from economic hardship.
It is crucial to remember that regardless of the assistance our government can provide, the Ontario trucking industry must be in a position to compete. A viable Ontario trucking industry has a vast economic impact for our province. It is an extremely important link in the manufacturing and service component of our economy.
We will continue to work with the trucking companies, with the owner-operators, with labour groups and users of trucking services to increase productivity through the improvement of business and management skills. We will extend this to include possible technological and legislative changes to enhance the ability of our truckers to haul freight more effectively.
We are responding to issues facing the industry. Provincial actions to date include increasing enforcement measures to ensure that US- and Ontario-based truckers comply equally with existing regulations. The Ontario government has implemented a fine of more than $300 for violations of fuel tax laws and we have laid more than 2,000 charges since I became minister. We have placed increased emphasis on highway enforcement, with special attention to inspection stations, particularly those near border points. And we have completed 40 audits of American trucking companies since last summer to ensure that all carriers operating within Ontario comply with our regulations.
I recognize that these initiatives will not by themselves solve the dire problems facing the Ontario trucking industry. Among the most serious of industry problems are the transborder policies of deregulation and free trade which make it almost impossible for Ontario truckers to compete fairly with their American counterparts.
The federal government simply must re-examine its policies as they affect the Ontario trucking industry. We recently experienced a very tangible manifestation of truckers' anger and frustration in border blockades. In failing to assist truckers, the federal government is in effect jeopardizing the Ontario-based trucking industry and the provincial economy.
In my ministry, we are in the midst of an intensive transborder competitiveness study which will give us a clearer indication of future directions. This government cannot shelter the trucking industry from the current economic turndown and we cannot protect the industry from federal actions, but we are taking significant steps. I call on my federal counterpart to do the same.
We can and we will work with the Ontario trucking industry and restore it as a strong, viable component of Ontario's economy.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG TREATMENT
The Drug Helpline is an innovative new service funded and co-ordinated by the provincial anti-drug secretariat. It has been done with a great deal of help from the distress centres in five Ontario communities. The helpline is accessible to all people in Ontario at all hours of the day and night, seven days a week.
It is important to note that the Drug Helpline is staffed by experienced and dedicated volunteers, people who have extensive training. Volunteers also learn where they can refer callers wanting to know about local treatment and referral services, all of which have been co-ordinated by the anti-drug secretariat.
The Drug Helpline will provide many different kinds of services to Ontario residents concerned either about their own problems with substance abuse or about problems friends or family members may be having. Callers to the Drug Helpline can receive basic information about drugs and alcohol and their abuse. They will also be able to receive sympathetic and supportive telephone counselling. If the caller's need is urgent, the Drug Helpline can initiate crisis intervention. The trained volunteers can also refer callers to appropriate local community resources.
Thanks to the new telephone technology developed by Bell Canada, it is possible to call one telephone number, 1-800-567-DRUG, to reach the Drug Helpline throughout most of Ontario. The new smart-switch technology enables all callers to be linked immediately to a distress centre in their own region. This allows the Drug Helpline to respond to local issues and to identify the right community resources for the caller. Metro Toronto region callers can dial 486-DRUG and be connected to volunteers at the Metro Toronto Distress Centre.
Funding for the Toronto Drug Helpline is being shared in a unique partnership among three levels of government, including the city of Toronto, the city of North York, Metro Toronto and the province.
I believe this new telephone helpline is an extremely important addition to our ongoing efforts to reduce the impact of drug and alcohol abuse in our society. For example, a worried mother in North Bay, with a call to a single province-wide 800 number, can get essential information about the drugs she thinks her child may be taking. She will learn about what symptoms to look for and what effects the drugs may have on her child. Or a young girl in Ottawa, worried about her father's drinking, can call that same 800 number and be connected to a kind, carefully trained volunteer in her own area. Both callers can also learn where to find help in their own communities.
The Drug Helpline is a two-year pilot project. It will be carefully evaluated to ensure that the goals we have set are indeed met. We want to make sure that the Drug Helpline is an invaluable service in our continuing efforts to deal with drug and alcohol abuse.
The impetus for a province-wide Drug Helpline originated as a result of basic grass-roots requests from communities throughout Ontario. Mayors' task forces in several communities, including Toronto, Ottawa and London, identified the urgent need for a readily accessible, 24-hour-a-day source of information and assistance to all residents of their communities. One phone call to a distress centre can change or even save a person's life, and a substantial percentage of calls to Ontario distress centres arc already related to drug and alcohol abuse.
I am delighted to be able to inform all members that this important service is now operating. I hope all mem- bers encourage residents in their communities to use this valuable service.
Mr Speaker, I want to remind you, sir, because I know you will recall, that during the administration of the last government, 2,000 permits were provided so that Ontario truckers could have longer trailers. Under the Liberal administration those permits were given exclusively to Ontario truckers. When the NDP took over there were approximately 700 permits left, and they gave them exclusively to American truckers. That competitive edge was given exclusively to our American competitors.
I want to remind the minister, who makes a statement today, one day after -- and the Minister of Health shakes her head. It is true, I say to her. She and her cabinet gave those permits to American truckers. They took away the advantage that we tried to give to Ontario truckers. That is a fact.
I want to remind the House that a number of important initiatives were put on the table by the Ontario trucking industry. The government of Ontario and the Ontario Trucking Association formed an adjustment strategy committee, it reported to the minister prior to his taking office. He has had seven months to look at their report.
This is what they have asked him to do: They have asked him for the reintroduction of temporary exemption from provincial sales tax on heavy trucks and trailers. They have asked the minister for a temporary one-cent-per-litre reduction in the provincial diesel fuel tax. They have asked the minister to establish an interest rate assistance program for the trucking industry similar to what Ontario farmers receive. They have asked the minister to establish Ontario current cost adjustment tax incentive programs for the trucking industry similar to the ones which the Ontario manufacturing sector receives. They have also asked the minister to become more proactive in analyzing and challenging US state taxes with respect to impact on international trade. They have asked the minister for a wide variety of things that all fall under provincial jurisdiction.
We ask the minister to respond to the report that he has had in his hands for well over seven months and meet the needs of our industry.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG TREATMENT
My colleague the member for Scarborough-Agincourt called our attention last fall to the need for treatment facilities. We know that some $50 million, and the amount is growing, is being spent in the United States for drug and alcohol programs. What is the use of having a phone when you phone and the answer is going to lead you, in all probability, to have to seek treatment in the United States?
What we were expecting and what we want to see, what indeed the former Minister of Health in the last government had said, is that treatment facilities would be opened in Cornwall and in Elliot Lake, but we have heard no announcement about that. We have seen no signs that in fact these facilities will be available.
We all recognize that enforcement, treatment and education are all part of the anti-drug strategy. But increasingly those who are expert in the field are saying that what Ontario must do is turn its attention to ensuring that we have facilities here in this province where we can send those who need drug and alcohol treatment. Are we going to see it in the budget? The Treasurer may tell us that on Monday, but so far we have seen no action and indeed, just a number of words saying, "Yes, we are going to move in this regard."
What I would like to say to the minister is, we understand there is a review right now of the activities of the anti-drug secretariat and there has been comment and speculation as to whether it would be better to place that secretariat within the Ministry of Health so that we could co-ordinate more effectively this combination of programs.
We would like to know, and again various community groups and others have asked us, is there going to be participation from those who are involved in this broad area, in talking about what the future should be in terms of these programs and where the focus for the co-ordination of all of our programs against drugs and alcohol should be focused? This is but one step, and I would remind the minister and indeed the cabinet that what we need is movement on Monday with respect to treatment.
In my own consultation with trucking groups, carriers and individuals in my own riding it became apparent to me that there was more that he could do. Certainly the minister was aware that there was more that he could do as early as two months ago when I wrote a letter to him asking for some specific, constructive suggestions as to what he could be doing to help the trucking industry, but I did not get a response. The minister has been having some difficulty responding to letters. Certainly the copy that he received from the Solicitor General's office he has not responded to as yet either.
I have a couple of questions with respect to the specifics of the announcement. I wonder, will this moratorium on new carrier licences apply to people who have already applied or to applications that are presently in the minister's office? Will there be a review within the next couple of years as to whether or not the moratorium needs to continue over the two-year period that he has initially given the moratorium period for?
The transfer of licences: If an individual company wishes to leave the business, is it allowed to sell the licence? Will there become a market in those licences? That raises some measure of concern, I think.
I am also concerned about the aspect of the bonding for Ontario-based load brokers and I wonder whether or not that may in fact reduce the competitiveness of our shippers and our manufacturers if it will increase the cost of transportation. I am concerned about that.
The minister also indicates that he will take "further efforts to allow the ability of our truckers to haul freight more efficiently." I hope he will review his initial position as stated on the longer trucks issue, because there have been studies and studies that have been demonstrated to me that the 25-metre tandem trucks are in fact quite safe. I hope that he will review that again.
There are more things that the minister could do and he knows it, and specific things that the Ontario PC government in the 1981-82 recession did, to help the trucking industry. Number one was cutting the diesel fuel tax; number two, providing a full rebate on the retail sales tax for the purchase of new trucks and big equipment.
Those are the things that our government did, and I think that the minister could review this. I hope he will raise it with the Treasurer to include some of those measures in his budget, because we do need tax cuts. If the minister wants to get talking about competitiveness, he has got to start looking at tax cuts.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG TREATMENT
We read reports where as high as 31% of the blue-collar workers at General Motors are afflicted and are seriously impaired, and 20% of the white-collar workers. Statistics that are in the paper are dramatic, and we need to make sure that something is done in that area. It is literally costing us billions of dollars in lost productivity on top of the human tragedy that is out there. I see this as a step, but unfortunately we are not making much of a dent in the problem.
I have seen and had firsthand experience while I went out with the undercover agents in the Halton area and saw while drug deals were being made. In fact, I spent some time up in the Premier's own riding in the Jane-Finch area and watched while drugs were being dealt. That will not help the situation. We need to address that in terms of enforcement.
I also spent some time with regard to treatment at the Donwood Institute. They tell me there that for a cost of $6,000 they can have a very, very high success ratio at treating drug and alcohol and prescription drug people. Instead of $6,000 we are spending $439,000 to treat one individual when in fact at the Donwood in our own area they say the success ratio would be very high and we could treat probably about 70 more people.
When the hotline numbers come in, what we have got to do is make sure there are more fine facilities like the Donwood. I would encourage the minister to take some time to go up there and speak to the director who had some creative ideas, to spend the time on the front lines with drugs, our men and our women, the two officers who put together this report on how to deal with the drug strategy.
There is a lot that needs to be done, and unfortunately we are just scratching the surface. I would like to be able to participate and help with some of the thoughts on that and will be working very, very quickly to do that.
I know that there is no formal way that the Speaker can introduce him as the tradition is that he introduce parliamentarians. However, I would want to bring to the Speaker's attention that Mr Bean is here and I know that all members of this House would want to be aware of that fact. I believe it is a very important point of order at this time.
I would call the Solicitor General's attention and the attention of the members of the House to certain facts which have been given the House by the minister and others and which are certainly not in dispute.
One fact is that he knew nothing of the letter and did not sign it and did not know that it was sent. That is accepted and is not in question.
Second, the Solicitor General has admitted that he authorized his staff to sign routine correspondence on his behalf. I have already commented on the unusual aspect of that permission.
Further, he himself has stated that letters with his name attached in similar fashion were sent out by his office on at least one other occasion. He has not released this letter to the members of the House or publicly, as far as is known. He has also told the House that these letters were approved and authorized by senior staff members.
My question to the Solicitor General is as follows: Can he comment on those facts and accept that they have been put before the House by himself, by the Premier or by some other of his colleagues? Can he indicate how many of these letters have been sent out by his staff, and will he table specifically the letter he referred to in his own answer?
Now what I did do was this. I handed over what correspondence came to light to the Attorney General. I also indicated that all of the correspondence, all of the documentation, everything in my office was available to the investigation so that they could investigate the incidents. I have met with the investigating officers of the RCMP. I was offered the opportunity of having legal counsel, which I declined, basically because I want to be as open and as frank as possible about this issue. I have nothing to hide. All of the evidence is with the investigating team, and that is where the matter stands at this time.
The Attorney General has asked the RCMP to investigate the incident because, as he said yesterday, he felt he would otherwise be pilloried for not having ordered an investigation, probably the weakest excuse for inaction by an Attorney General that has ever been put forward in the annals of this House.
The Attorney General has also stated that the material he reviewed with senior legal advisers, independent of any of his political colleagues, was of sufficient complexity to require a police investigation into these matters. The Attorney General clearly believed that there were enough facts surrounding the incident to require a police investigation into the activities of the Solicitor General's office.
Can the Solicitor General indicate why the Premier in his answers has repeatedly said, "This is a simple matter," and the Attorney General in ordering in the RCMP has indicated there is sufficient complexity? Since the minister must know about the simplicity and the complexity, can he justify the decision taken by his colleagues in this regard?
I want to say that this issue has nothing to do with parking tickets. It has nothing to do with poorly recruited or instructed staff or even with a vindictive opposition. It does not even have anything to do with the problems that the head of the government has been experiencing in recent weeks and may continue to experience in the future. The situation, however, has everything to do with ministerial responsibility and the real or perceived interference by a cabinet minister -- in this case, the chief law enforcement officer in the province -- with the course of justice and with the responsibility of the minister for his staff and their activities.
The only question I can put to the minister is: Does the minister himself not realize the gravity of his situation, the fact that his renouncing of responsibilities sets a precedent not only for this jurisdiction but elsewhere? Then he must surely, on a personal basis, accept that responsibility and step aside until the Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation is completed or, more properly, resign his office.
The Solicitor General has said that he did not know anything about that, although he did authorize these two people to sign routine correspondence. The matter is one of complexity, as the Attorney General has said, and raises important issues to which my leader has referred. An RCMP investigation is now under way and the Solicitor General has told us that he has already been interrogated by the police. The Solicitor General is the direct employer of thousands of police officers in the province of Ontario. Indirectly, as Solicitor General, he is the employer of thousands of others.
What I want to ask the Solicitor General to explain to that police officer and his brothers and sisters across the province is why he thinks he should be dealt with differently. He should tell that police officer in Milton how he explains this.
I want the minister to speak directly not only to the police officers that he supervises in Ontario but to that police officer in Milton who tried to help a friend with a $40 speeding ticket and who is now by his mandate suspended with pay even though he may be completely innocent. I want the minister to explain to him why the minister gets the benefit of a different rule than he does.
Can the Solicitor General tell us today how it is that not one, not two but three members of his staff wrote not one but two letters that we know of to two different justices of the peace? How could that happen?
My supplementary to the Solicitor General is again very direct. Did he inquire of his staff how this came about -- they are his staff -- and did he inquire whether there had been any other instances than these two that he has informed the House about?
The member for Cambridge became the Solicitor General of this province on 1 October. On 12 December, the Premier issued his guidelines. The Solicitor General has stated in this House in the past couple of days that his constituency office staff did not receive a copy of the guidelines until 4 March.
Any knowledgeable individual would know the day that he was sworn in on 1 October that he should convey this sort of information to his staff about keeping at arm's length from the judicial system. Can he explain why it took a Solicitor General of this province six months to talk to his staff before they got a copy of these guidelines and almost three months after the Premier issued the guidelines?
The Attorney General has taken it upon himself, he says, to call for an RCMP investigation. I would like him to tell me please, will he not admit that allegations exist? I am not asking him to admit the validity of allegations. All I want him to do is come clean and tell this Legislature that allegations do exist.
That press release stated that the investigation was into the incidents in question. It did not identify anybody. It simply said the incidents were being investigated. I should say this: The RCMP will take the information it receives and it will investigate it. I do not control who they investigate. I do not control who they interview. They will follow the information they have.
The Solicitor General says that he did not give authorization for this letter, but the fact is that he has given an authorization for his staff. Having delegated such authorization, he must be responsible for its ramifications.
I want to make it very clear that both in writing, through the conflict guidelines, and verbally through myself, I have consistently repeated the principle by which I work. The principle that I hope I am the example of and that I want my staff to emulate is that there is arm's-length distance between my office and any member of the judiciary. Of course there can be no authorization for contact with a justice of the peace.
The reason the Solicitor General is under investigation is specifically because this was not an isolated mistake. It was confirmed yesterday in this House by his colleague the Attorney General, who had stated, "Just on the material I have received and I have reviewed, there is some complexity to the matter." We have at least three staff and two direct interventions with the administration of justice and an investigation by the RCMP. There is, at very best, a perception that the legislative wing of government has touched the judiciary. There is an investigation going on. I ask the Solicitor General, even on the basis of this perception of the touching of the legislative side with the judicial side, should he not step aside until such investigation has been completed?
The point of the fact is and I have to reiterate this again and again, that I did not know about the letters; I did not give authorization for the letters to be sent; I did not give authorization for my signature to be attached to a letter going to a justice of the peace. In fact, I am not the subject of the investigation; the incidents are the subject of the investigation. That very fact that there is an investigation is very clear that I hold this a very serious matter. So does the government. The investigation is taking place.
In fact, he showed me on the wall the portraits of solicitor generals who had infringed upon that arm's-length distance. In fact, it was ingrained in my consciousness that a Solicitor General cannot be in any way associated with the judiciary. I have from the very beginning transmitted that message to everybody I come into contact with.
This government has made clear that it is a top priority to negotiate and address the issues of self-government and land claims. We would prefer the federal government to be involved, but if not, we are prepared to proceed on a bilateral basis. I believe that the time is for action, not for further study. Aboriginal people have been studied for too long. If the royal commission leads to the possibility of involving aboriginal people in the next round of constitutional talks, then I suppose it will have been worth while.
We are not clear as to how this authority was circumscribed. The Solicitor General has said he authorized the signing of routine correspondence. We do not know the Solicitor General's definition of routine correspondence. More important, we do not know what the staff members' understanding of routine correspondence was at the time the letters were sent.
The Solicitor General indicated in his statement made in this House that the first letter was written by a probationary staff member who, in the words of the Solicitor General, "sought direction from a more experienced staff member." He also said the second letter was written by yet another constituency staff member. We now have three people, acting in two separate incidents, who for some reason felt they had authority to send out these letters.
If the Solicitor General contends that his constituency staff did not have authority to send these letters, why is it that three constituency staff members felt they had this authority, or is he alleging that they deliberately disobeyed his explicit instructions regarding letters to judges? And when and where specifically did he give these instructions?
Does the Solicitor General think it fair that these two employees, acting independently of one another, unless he is alleging somehow that they conspired together, acting with a legitimate --
It is my understanding it is not my staff who are being investigated, it is the incidents that are being investigated. I await the outcome of the report.
Is he telling us that this incident does not involve him as Solicitor General, with his name on it, and it does not involve his staff who signed the letter? Given the fact that we know that the Attorney General, who has called in the RCMP to investigate the incident, has suggested that the Solicitor General retain counsel, that his staff retain counsel -- he did not suggest that the incident retain counsel; he suggested that the Solicitor General and his staff retain counsel -- would he not assume from that that he and his staff are part of this investigation and he ought to step aside while this investigation is going on?
I as well make the allegation that his staff are under investigation as to why they signed his name, whether they understood his directions clearly, whether in fact he emphasized that directly or he talked about some arm's length which obviously they did not understand. Clearly, in my view, that is the substance of what is being investigated. I am comfortable to say that in the House; I will say that outside of the House.
Given that these are the allegations that are being made, not just by me but by the Attorney General, who called in the RCMP --
NORTHERN BANKING SERVICES
As I had started off, residents of some of the communities in my riding of Cochrane North, and I named them -- Peawanuck, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Kashechewan -- have to travel hundreds of miles because there are no banking facilities in their communities. Those who cannot make the trip to Timmins or Moosonee must rely on local retail stores to write cheques and pay bills.
My question to the Minister of Revenue is: What banking services could this government provide to such remote communities?
At present offices of the Province of Ontario Savings Office have been opened in five communities in the north: Pickle Lake, Virginiatown, Armstrong, Killarney and Gogama. I am proud to say that this government hopes to deal with this problem by establishing new savings offices.
I have sat here over the past many days on a matter of great distress, because I have served on committees with the minister over a lengthy period of time. He just does not seem to realize, I suggest, nor does the Premier of this province realize, that he is dealing in an area that is very sensitive. It is the question of justice in this province. It is not one such as perhaps befell the Minister of Health. It is not one that befell the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. It is a matter of justice.
What does the minister think went through the mind of the justice of the peace who received that letter when he got it? Does the minister think that sends a message to other justices of the peace in this community that before they act on instructions from a minister, particularly that of the Solicitor General, they should call up and find out whether or not he authorized the letter?
I suggest to the minister --
However, I did not write a letter; I did not sign a letter; I did not give authority. How many times does it take? I had no part in a letter going to the justice of the peace.
The minister has been asked by one of my colleagues to table the second letter that he sent, or his staff sent, to a justice of the peace. In answer to that, he rambled and got all around it. Circumlocution is the name of the game. We have not seen that letter. I implore the minister, even though he feels he has done nothing wrong and feels that the justice system has not been fractured at all, although I disagree with him and I think most people in this province disagree with him, would he table the second letter so that we can see whether it is in the same format as the first one or does it in fact go further and intimidate a justice of the peace to a larger degree?
I want to ask the Attorney General this: Yesterday, Richard Johnston -- well known in the NDP, a former colleague of the Attorney General -- said on CBC: that if the Solicitor General had not made it unequivocally clear to his staff that they were never to sign his name to a letter to a justice of the peace, he should resign. I assume this investigation is to find out whether that was communicated clearly enough so that three members of his staff understood that. The Attorney General would assume, would he not, that this would be part of that investigation?
Mr Speaker, this issue has been going on for three days. We have listened on this side, not only to the questions but to all the editorial comments from the other side, as well as to opinion. We would like you to examine whether or not the questions that have been put today, particularly by the leader of the third party, are in violation of subsection 32(e).
Further, I would like to suggest, due to the repetitive nature of the questions and the answers, in the interests of time, if this is to continue, perhaps we can assign a number to the question and a number to the answer in the interests of time for the members of this House.
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Noting the increase in the number of jobs lost through layoffs, the rising unemployment rate, the increase in the social assistance case load and in the cost of social assistance programs and noting the deterioration in the province's financial position, urge the government to ban the tax and spend approach to financial management which has dominated the province's fiscal policy for the past five years, an approach which has added to inflationary pressures and reduced the competitiveness of Ontario's industry, and to adopt a policy of restraint to control costs and to provide the opportunity for tax relief."
In short, I say to the Treasurer of the province, read my sign, "No new taxes."
"Whereas the cancellation of out-of-province contracts has resulted in more than 2,500 job losses in the mining community of Elliot Lake;
"Whereas the unemployment rate in Elliot Lake is at more than 62%;
"Whereas economic diversification efforts require time before results can be experienced, and without a strong anchor industry in Elliot Lake, any diversification effort becomes tremendously difficult;
"Whereas Ontario Hydro, which is ultimately responsible to this government, made commitments to Elliot Lake and its mining companies which resulted in the community's rapid and widespread expansion in the early 1980s;
"Whereas Ontario Hydro has the means to stabilize the economy of Elliot Lake; and
"Whereas Premier Bob Rae and his New Democratic government made a specific promise to this community,
"We petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"To fulfil that promise to the people of Elliot Lake by instructing Ontario Hydro to purchase all of its uranium requirements from within the province of Ontario, namely, Elliot Lake, until economic diversification efforts in the community are successful."
This is signed by a large number of my constituents. I have been presenting these for four days and have many more to present.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INFORMATION AND PRIVACY COMMISSIONER
Miss Martel moved resolution 19:
That an humble address be presented to the Lieutenant Governor in Council as follows:
To the Lieutenant Governor in Council:
We, Her Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario, now assembled, request the appointment of Tom Wright as Information and Privacy Commissioner for a term of five years, commencing on a date to be named by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, as provided in section 4 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
We look forward to working with him because, having discussed this over many years and having come forward with appropriate legislation and regulation, we now are putting the protection of privacy under this statute in the hands, I am told, of an extremely competent and capable person, and experienced as well.
All I can say on a personal basis is that personal friends of mine know him well and recommend him highly. On that basis, the friends of my friends are my friends, so I welcome him to this important responsibility and wish him well.
I want to say that, while I am not speaking in any kind of meagre way about the ability of Mr Wright, there were a significant number of other candidates who put themselves forward who were very qualified to take on this position. It was a new process in terms of the three members from the three different parties signing a joint letter on their choice as Tom Wright.
Actually, no one would know this, but Mr Wright was my second choice. I had applied for the job but could not get the other two votes. That is not true, actually, although I did look with some envy when I compared the various pay scales between the two jobs, but notwithstanding that --
As you know, Mr Speaker, I have had a long, involved career associated with freedom of information and privacy. Sometimes I thought it was becoming too long and too involved, but at any rate, we have proceeded over the last number of years to a point where the information and privacy commission is blossoming into a more credible, a more substantial instrument of this Legislative Assembly and for the people of Ontario.
Many of the people who might be watching this, or even members of this Legislative Assembly, would perhaps not appreciate, but the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario has more power within his hands than any other freedom of information or privacy commissioner in the world, that I am aware of. He has absolute binding power to release information to a member of the public if he sees fit in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Therefore, it was very important to all members of the committee that we pick a person of high moral integrity, a person who knew the act and who also had significant experience in this area.
Mr Wright has served as the assistant Information and Privacy Commissioner under the former commissioner, Sid Linden. I have every confidence that Mr Wright, and not only Mr Wright but, I think, the excellent staff which Mr Linden has assembled in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, will do the office well.
The second stage of the whole function of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is now coming into blossom, and that is the extension outside of the provincial boundaries to our municipal governments. Members of this Legislature should be comforted by the fact that Tom Wright, before coming to the city of Toronto practised law in a small rural area of Ontario. I believe that he will not only serve the role well in terms of his ability to deal with a very complicated, a very sophisticated piece of legislation, but I feel that he will also be able to understand and appreciate how small municipalities operate and how they are going to be able to treat the new act which has been thrust upon them by this provincial Legislature.
So I want to congratulate Tom. I want to congratulate all of the candidates whom we interviewed. Tom, it was not an easy choice, but we were very happy with your candidacy. We were impressed with your record at the commission and we think that you can carry the excellent start which Sid Linden has put forward for this province. All the best to you. I hope you have all of the staff that you have had with you before. You have an excellent working team. The best of luck, Tom.
In this technological age, I learned that many issues of privacy and information will be coming before us about which the new commissioner will have to have the skill and the foresight to make timely and wise decisions, and we believe that Tom Wright brings us these skills. His experience within the commission from its onset, his administration and management skills will no doubt facilitate much of the predicted load in the future. We want to congratulate Mr Wright, who is up in the Speaker's gallery, and welcome him.
First of all, we would like to divide the remaining time that is left, which is about two hours and 54 minutes, equally between two ministries, the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of the Environment. Second, we would like to take the time that has been allotted to each ministry and divide that time three ways, so that each party will have an equal opportunity to participate in that debate.
As well, we had hoped to proceed as we had earlier on when we had this debate, which is to not have comments or questions, but allow as many speakers as possible to participate. I understand we only have about 27 minutes apiece, so if that is agreeable to all sides, perhaps that is the best way to proceed.
Motion agreed to.
CONCURRENCE IN SUPPLY, MINISTRY OF ENERGY
Ms Carter moved concurrence in supply for the Ministry of Energy.
Ontario's traditional approach to meeting rising demand for energy has focused mainly on adding new supplies. As long as new energy supplies were relatively inexpensive and readily available, the simplest answer was to buy more energy or build more power stations.
Today, we recognize that while we were looking for ways to add energy supplies we should also have been looking for ways to use energy much more efficiently and to find renewable sources of energy that would see us into the future.
Ontario is currently one of the most energy-intensive societies in the world. We use 10% more energy per person than the United States and twice as much as Japan and most European countries.
The timing of these new directions could not be better. Recently, demand for all forms of energy, and particularly for electricity, has slowed considerably. This is due partly to the recession and partly to the savings from Ontario Hydro's demand-management programs. We have a breathing space which offers us a valuable opportunity to see what efficiency and conservation can accomplish when they are vigorously pursued.
The lesson from the recession of the early 1980s was that economies that use energy efficiently perform better. They are less vulnerable to cyclical economic downturns and to the shifting sands of the global political scene. The government's goal is to accelerate efficiency improvements in Ontario to enhance our economic performance in both good times and bad.
There is another very pressing reason to adopt energy efficiency: Our current energy consumption rates are not environmentally sustainable. We all want a healthy, prosperous economy and we all want a cleaner environment. Reducing our energy use can take us a long way towards achieving these goals.
Changing Ontario's energy directions requires a concerted effort throughout our whole society, and the government must do its share. In the coming months, my staff will be developing new or expanded policy and program initiatives. Our goal is to encourage efficiency in energy use right across the board, in transportation, industry, commercial and institutional buildings and in every home. We have introduced measures to improve the energy efficiency of government buildings and operations. This will enhance the government's cost-effectiveness, reduce environmental impact and set an example for people and businesses throughout the province.
My ministry is moving to extend and improve regulations for energy-efficiency standards in household appliances and other energy-using products. These regulations are being developed in consultation with industry to maximize their potential economic benefits.
Recently, the Ministry of Housing joined me to announce a decision to minimize the use of electric heating in non-profit housing and to move to more energy-efficient, cost-effective heating technology. This effort will cut operating costs for those homes as well as reduce the need for expensive new generating stations. As well, the Minister of Transportation recently announced a $5-billion commitment to energy-efficient transport with increased use of subways, light rail transits, bus ways and ride-sharing.
I now want to say a few words about the issue of nuclear power. The throne speech imposed an immediate moratorium on spending on new nuclear facilities. Ontario Hydro will not spend the $240 million it had allocated for new nuclear development. Instead, it will redirect that money to electricity efficiency programs. It has reassigned its staff to other duties and renegotiated its contract with Atomic Energy of Canada to ensure that provincial funding is used only for maintenance and improved safety at nuclear stations.
The nuclear moratorium has been widely welcomed, but some have seen it as a threat to the province's energy security. Spending on energy efficiency and parallel generation can now be expected to enhance security far more than spending on new nuclear facilities. The fact is that both the government and Ontario Hydro are concerned about the performance of existing nuclear plants. Our Candu reactors began well. Eight years ago, seven of the eight units at Pickering A and Bruce A were in the world's top 10 for performance. Now, none of them are.
Ontario Hydro's recent business plan reported that nuclear performance has been deteriorating at an increasing rate for the past nine years. The availability of nuclear plants dropped from 90% in 1981 to 62% in 1990. Ontario Hydro plans to spend more money to try to reverse this trend. That and paying for Darlington are the main reasons electricity rates are rising.
In the light of these problems, it is prudent to review the nuclear program and to assess its economic, environmental and social costs before the government commits itself to building more nuclear plants. The Environmental Assessment Board hearings on Hydro's 25-year demand supply plan are reviewing the nuclear options and all other options for supplying Ontario's future electricity needs. To ensure a secure supply of electricity, I have asked Ontario Hydro to give priority to early environmental assessments of new and existing hydroelectric projects and to give more emphasis to the development of parallel generation and demand management.
These measures generally have much shorter lead times than the 10 years or more needed to build new nuclear plants. Substantial progress has already been made. Centra Gas and Boise Cascade are working together on a 100-megawatt co-generation facility in Fort Frances. Northland Power is building a 100-megawatt plant in Kirkland Lake and McDonnell Douglas is building one in Toronto. Transalta is building a 65-megawatt co-generation plant in Ottawa.
Independent power producers are investigating many small hydraulic projects all across the province. These can supply significant amounts of power to the province. In all, Hydro has received proposals for 6,000 megawatts of non-utility generation. It has now increased its estimate for the year 2000 from 1,600 megawatts to 2,100 megawatts. My ministry thinks even more can be done and I have asked Hydro to increase its efforts.
Ontario Hydro has also estimated that it can achieve 6,000 megawatts of demand reduction eventually and 2,000 megawatts by the year 2000. Here again we think Hydro can do better and I have asked for greatly increased efforts.
Ontario Hydro has already announced a long string of new energy efficiency initiatives, from a program to improve the efficiency of the entire town of Espanola to a discount on engine block heater timers and its very popular discount on compact fluorescent lights. The municipal utility commissions are working with Ontario Hydro on some of these initiatives. I am especially proud that my home town utility in Peterborough is a leader in promoting energy efficiency and demand management. To reduce peak demand, most of Peterborough's water heaters are controlled and there is a similar program for residential plenum heaters. There is also a water heater tune-up program and a low-flow shower head program.
Overall, I am very encouraged by the support our new energy directions are receiving from Ontario Hydro, the municipal electrical utilities and the general public. The compact fluorescent lamps at Loblaws sold out faster than the manufacturers could make them. To me, this is an indication that the people of Ontario are ready and anxious for new energy directions. The government's initiatives will point the way.
My ministry is taking the lead role in the government's promotion of energy efficiency. We will carry the message to all sectors of the economy and to every energy consumer. We will use our budget allocation strategically to create awareness, encourage change, remove market barriers and measure success. We will continue to work closely with other ministries like Transportation, Housing, Environment, Agriculture and Food, Municipal Affairs, Government Services and Industry, Trade and Technology to ensure all of them are practising responsible energy use and to help them contribute to the government's new energy directions through their own mandates.
In conclusion, I want to re-emphasize the government's basic tenets about energy. Ontario's high rate of energy consumption, and with it the attitudes that individual consumers bring to energy, must change. We must all become aware of the close connection between high energy use and environmental degradation and the economic renewal that can come from energy efficiency.
In the future, we must discover how to create high-quality jobs and rising living standards in ways that are compatible with prudent, efficient and sustainable energy use. Technology, innovation and individual commitment will play important roles in helping Ontario meet this energy challenge; so will government leadership.
My commitment is that my ministry will lead the way to this new era. We can meet the challenge successfully. Together, we can transform Ontario into a truly energy-efficient and sustainable society.
But for the purpose of those who are watching us, although they are technically set out in order to allow us to review the spending patterns of a particular ministry, the estimates hearings enable us to explore the general policies, directions and goals a ministry is taking. They can be extremely helpful in helping us understand what is going on within a particular ministry.
I am going to offer what I hope to be purely constructive criticism today and I am hoping the minister will receive my criticisms in the spirit in which they are intended. Before I begin, I must also thank the minister for her honesty and forthrightness in providing us with answers on the occasions of the estimates hearings, and furthermore, for following up with written responses to written questions I submitted at the end of those hearings, as time did not permit me to present them during the course of the hearings.
With respect to the information I have obtained, both through the estimates hearings and as a result of statements made by the minister in the House in response to questions and through press releases, I think I can fairly indicate that I am somewhat comforted, but mostly disappointed. I am comforted because the ministry continues to place, and rightfully so, a very high priority on energy conservation and efficiency as a means of reducing demand in the province. The minister also places a very high priority on parallel generation as a means of increasing our supply without having to resort to Ontario Hydro.
To put this in the proper perspective, this is really a continuation of the previous government's policy directions.
It is not, as some might have us believe, a radical departure from what the previous government was doing. I just wanted to read some of the initiatives taken by the previous Liberal government which fall into the area of energy conservation and efficiency and parallel generation.
Some of the things the former government did: It established the Energy Efficiency Act; there was improvement made to the government fleet's average fuel economy; there were amendments to the Power Corporation Act to make Hydro more responsive to public priorities, including conservation and parallel generation.
We released a parallel generation policy statement. We implemented a requirement that Ontario Hydro submit a conservation plan, 3,500 megawatts by the year 2000. I note the minister has increased that. We strengthened provisions of the Ontario Building Code and there were future proposals for the next revision round. There were conservation programs implemented, like the municipal building energy efficiency program and the energy-efficient street lighting program, the industrial energy service program, EnerSearch, the grants and the commercial building energy management program. Parallel generation programs were implemented, like the wood energy program and a co-generation encouragement program.
There were increases in Hydro's buyback rate implemented. There was an end to Hydro advertising for space heating and the establishment of incentive conservation programs. For instance, the Loblaws light bulb program was implemented.
I think it is quite fair to indicate that the minister, and I am very pleased to report this, is in fact continuing along the same path on which the previous government set out when it comes to matters of energy conservation efficiency and parallel generation.
I am also comforted because the minister, like the previous government, realizes that the matters of energy and the environment are inextricably intertwined. Our extraction, transportation, processing and consumption of energy all have associated with them environmental costs. Our obligation is to minimize and control these costs to the greatest degree possible.
With respect to the production of electricity, and that is a crucial issue in our times, we should keep in mind that there are environmental costs associated with whatever method we use. Hydraulic generation has associated with it floodings, problems caused to flora and fauna and generally to the ecosystems present in the areas. There are also problems associated with native land claims which must be rightfully addressed.
There are problems associated with burning of fossil fuels. When I talk about fossil fuels I am talking about oil, coal and gas. As we all know, there is carbon dioxide emitted by the burning of those fuels. These lead to the production of global warming, which is arguably the greatest environmental problem we face today. Of course, there are acid gases produced as well.
Sometimes we lose sight of these environmental costs. Let's speak about nuclear energy and the environmental costs associated with it. There is always the problem of safety in dealing with radioactive materials, and there is the problem of disposal of radioactive materials.
It would be irresponsible of us not to recognize that there are environmental costs associated with any means of producing electricity, whether hydraulic, through the burning of fossil fuels or through nuclear energy. If we had a choice we would not use any of these, but at the present time the technology is not available to produce the electricity on the scale required by our province, and we have no such choice.
I want to register now some of my concerns about the minister's directions. Conservation and energy efficiency, and parallel generation, deserve priority, but never to the exclusion of our recognition that even our most optimistic results in conservation efficiency cannot stave off the inevitable. We are going to need more generation, and we are going to need more generation beyond what the private sector can provide. The question is not whether we are going to need more generation, but when we will need more generation. I might put it this way: future generations will require future generation.
The question of timing here is absolutely crucial. The continual, reliable supply of electricity has gone hand in hand with the development of the way of life we have come to enjoy in our province. I think it would be stating the obvious that for industrial and commercial sectors found within this province, keeping in mind their role as employers, those sectors simply could not function without a continual, reliable supply of electricity. The quality of life we enjoy in our homes, our lighting, operating washing machines and heating in many of our homes are all dependent on electricity.
In a nutshell, the continual supply of electricity is essential to Ontario, and it is this government's responsibility, this minister's responsibility, to ensure that supply is maintained. It is my view that this government and this minister are failing to take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that we have a reliable supply. I intend to discuss this further.
There was a very attractive theory advanced in the 1970s by a couple of Americans, Roger Sant and Amory B. Lovins, US conservationists. They talked about two ways to produce more energy: One, we build new generation facilities or, two, we use the existing supply of energy more efficiently so that we end up with extra energy available for other uses.
Sant and Lovins rightfully maintain that it is cheaper to produce electricity by using it more efficiently than by building more generation facilities, and the minister, to her credit, has referred to this on numerous occasions. And the distinct advantage as well of efficiency is that there are no environmental consequences associated with the energy produced or saved, so to speak, by energy efficiency.
There is no question regarding the theory; there is no question regarding the success engendered by the practical application of that theory. The only question is, and it is a question which arises in every jurisdiction: How much electricity can we actually save through energy conservation and efficiency? That is an extremely important question, given how vital it is to maintain the reliable supply of electricity in Ontario.
To answer this question we would require empirical studies. We need cold, hard facts from which we can establish realistic targets. To my knowledge, the minister has not provided targets. We need a monitoring mechanism to monitor and revise those targets on a regular basis. To my knowledge, there is no such monitoring mechanism run by the minister. We need specific deadlines by which we can commence construction on new generation facilities, and those deadlines should be very conservative given the stakes, ie, that this province could find itself without sufficient electricity if we ever make a mistake.
Politically, it may be wise not to set targets because then you cannot be accused of not meeting them. But realistically, we need targets, monitoring mechanisms and deadlines by which alternate plans must be put in place. Now, to be fair, the minister has asked Hydro to meet certain goals for energy efficiency in conservation and parallel generation, but she has not established any goals for her ministry. We are going to practise conservation without specific targets. I might put it this way. Conservation without calculation is clearly a cause for consternation. It shows a lack of appreciation for a situation which calls for careful consideration, anticipation and preparation.
The goals imposed by the ministry on Hydro are not based on empirical studies. The minister has not commenced any such studies, to my knowledge. The problem is we do not know if the goals that have been created for Hydro, that have been imposed on Hydro, are realistic. If the minister has overestimated our ability to conserve, our ability to produce additional electricity through collateral generation, then we would be in serious trouble.
I think it is important to recognize that there are several United States jurisdictions where targets were based, as well, on a hope and a prayer and met with failure. In one particular jurisdiction they achieved 10% of the target. What we have, in essence, is the minister conducting a grand experiment where the entire province is a laboratory. We do not have deadlines by which the construction of new generation facilities must begin, and apparently the minister is going to play this by ear, as well.
I am going to make reference to a quotation assigned to the Premier in Ascent, a magazine put out by AECL. On page 9 of this particular magazine, fall-winter edition, 1990-91, the Premier is quoted. It says:
"Commenting afterwards on his government's new energy directions, Premier Bob Rae elaborated on the challenge the moratorium poses the province. 'Frankly, the next few years are going to be the test as to whether we can get the demand forecast down, he told reporters. 'It seems to me that the ball is now in the court of everybody in the province. Everybody in the province will see that if we are serious about energy efficiency and conservation, we can really make it work. That is what the moratorium is all about.'"
The Premier, the minister and myself all have tremendous faith in the power of the people of this province to get involved in matters of concern such as this and to play a crucial role. I think that we have a responsibility, nevertheless, to consider the possibility that things may not work out the way we want them to.
I want to refer to what I call the Big Green lesson. I made reference to this in the House yesterday. Big Green was a proposition advanced in California in the recent elections. Big Green at the outset was very attractive to the California voters and it met with much praise at the outset. However, as time approached for the election, it lost its popularity and, in fact, in the end it failed miserably. Big Green would have had Californians and those located in particular areas -- for instance, it would have prohibited them from using barbecues within city limits. It would have prohibited them from driving cars on fossil fuels in certain districts. In short, it intruded severely into their private lives.
I think there is a lesson to be learned there. I do not want to ascribe any loss of faith in the power of individuals to deal with social concerns such as matters of conservation and energy efficiency, but we have a responsibility to look to that example and to recognize that people may ultimately not be prepared to go as far as is required in order to achieve a dramatic impact in the area of energy conservation.
Concerning the goals that the minister has set for Ontario Hydro, or that Ontario Hydro has set for itself -- I am not sure which -- with respect to energy conservation and efficiency, as I originally read about the Hydro target, it had set itself a target for 2,000 megawatts by the year 2000. The minister has revised this target from 5,000 to 6,000 megawatts, I believe. With respect to parallel generation, Hydro established a target which initially was 1,000 megawatts by the year 2000. Then it was 1,650. Then it was 2,100 megawatts. Now this, too, has been revised by the minister to 6,000 megawatts.
Now, the minister has, to her credit, admitted that these goals are very ambitious, and I believe she indicated in the House today that she hopes they can even surpass these targets. It is significant that we are talking about the equivalent here of three Darlingtons when we talk about 6,000 megawatts. But it is one thing to be ambitious and it is another thing to be realistic. Let's look at some of the very real problems that the minister must address in determining whether these goals are realistic.
First of all, I hope the minister recognizes that with respect to Hydro equipment, failure has been and will continue to be a problem. Some failure is not predictable. Nuclear stations have been touted to have a production capacity or production reliability of 80%. In fact, I believe they are hovering near 60%. Darlington has two units which should be up and running and neither is up and running.
The question I would have for the minister is, in setting her goals for Hydro, has she accounted for the possibility of equipment failure? Hydro has indicated that 28% of its plant is to become obsolete over the next 25 years. That is another factor the minister must consider.
We have to look at the time lag, as well, for the construction of new facilities. It takes 10 to 14 years to construct a nuclear plant. If the minister's goals are too optimistic -- and by that I mean we cannot save as much electricity as planned and we cannot generate as much electricity via parallel generation as we planned -- the question is, will this 10-year to 14-year cushion still be available?
That is assuming, of course, that the nuclear option was one that we wanted to exercise. The nuclear option is one which is surrounded by emotion. I would encourage the minister to ensure that in bringing her approach to the issue of meeting the supply of energy to be provided and maintained in this province in future years, we not allow emotion to interfere with any of those decisions. That is a luxury we simply cannot afford. The issue is too important.
If this 10-year to 14-year period were not available to us, or if the government of the day does not permit the construction of nuclear, we are going to have to build something else, and logically that would be a gas turbine one. That is the technology which seems to be available to us at this time and which is cleanest in terms of environmental costs, apart from Hydro. It certainly burns cleaner than coal or oil. The problem is that these facilities are considerably more expensive to operate on a day-to-day basis. They produce carbon dioxide emissions and acid gas emissions. We should also account for the fact that controls over carbon dioxide emissions are going to be strengthened as time goes on, and there will be a very real question as to whether we will even be able to run our gas turbines in the future under what I hope will then be stringent controls.
It is interesting that in 1990 Hydro purchased power from the United States in order to slip under the acid gas emission limits. The problem, I would only assume, will be even more aggravated in the future. Again, that will pose an additional hurdle to be overcome by Hydro if it was compelled to only consider the fossil fuel option.
The other problem we would face is the matter of gas pipeline capacity. If we had to build another gas pipeline in order to supply us with the fuel required for the gas turbines, that is a project which requires considerable funding and years to build.
The minister has estimated that the load growth, and I understand it is based on Hydro's estimate, will be 2.5% per year. I am sure the minister understands that this business of estimating load growth is an extremely inexact science. We had 5% growth per year in the past. The average annual load growth during the past 25 years, I believe, has been 5%. In 1979, when it made a 10-year estimate, Hydro completely missed the boat in that it did not account for a recession which occurred in the early 1980s and it did not account for the rapid growth which occurred in the late 1980s.
Also, as an indication of some of the difficulties that can be encountered in making estimates, Hydro originally estimated Darlington would cost us $3.9 billion. My latest count was $13.3 billion. To be fair to Hydro, some of that was due to delay and policy decisions of governments, but nevertheless this is a considerable increase.
We have to ask ourselves whether some of the goals that have been set for Hydro in fact are based on the assumption alone that we are energy-wasteful. I do not think there is any doubt that we are energy-wasteful, but "wasteful" is a relative term and the thinking is, "Since we were so wasteful, then there must be lots to save." But there are a couple of reasons which have to be factored into the fact that we are so-called wasteful. One is based on our climate, our position in terms of geography and the globe. Second, some of it is due to the fact that we are energy-intensive in terms of the resource industries which are located here.
There is an optimistic projection with respect to parallel generation. That places a very heavy burden on private industry. The question I would have is, is this an unrealistic burden? The minister is asking private industry to produce from 5,000 to 6,000 megawatts of electricity. Again, for purposes of perspective, Darlington, a $13.3-billion facility, produces 3,500 megawatts net. So what we are going to have is a case of entrepreneurs producing electricity.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, how reliable is this source going to be? Businesses have been known to fail, to fold up, to go bankrupt. Owners can lose interest in businesses. In short, the business of electricity production will become subject to the same vagaries as other businesses. Businesses come and go. That may be acceptable for other forms of business located within our province, but I do not think it will be acceptable and I think it could potentially cause disaster if our people living in the province, if our Ontario industries, are relying on energy which is based to a great degree on private enterprise. I think that is a question I would implore the minister to consider carefully and thoroughly.
I think the point I am trying to make is that the minister's projections are extremely optimistic. I wish her every success, but high hopes are simply not good enough when we are talking about electrical energy, something which has kept this province moving in the past and which will play a tremendous role in getting it moving again. What we need here are reasonable goals. We need targets with respect to our conservation capability and parallel generation. We need more research. We need empirical studies that back up those targets and confirm that they are realistic. We have to take advantage of the experience of other jurisdictions. We need cold, hard facts.
With respect to NDP government initiatives that have been advanced to date, I have been, in one word, underwhelmed. I made reference to a number of initiatives in the past in the House. I am just going to refer to a few of them. There is the matter of block rates. The NDP have advocated in the past, prior to the elections, an inclining versus a declining block rate, something which is very worth while of exploration. It is my understanding that this matter is under review. The matter of a general rate increase which was advocated by the minister in the course of the estimates hearings is also under review. Time-of-use rates, another idea worthy of exploration, is under review. The matter of gasoline prices is under review. The matter of energy from waste is under review.
The matter of the nuclear phase-out is an interesting and peculiar promise made -- "peculiar" is not the right word -- interesting promise made by the NDP in the course of the election. When Darlington is up and running, 62% of electricity produced in this province will be nuclear based. It is interesting to consider the possibility of phasing out nuclear power in the province.
The matter of buyback rates is also worthy of exploration. The minister will know to what I am referring when I refer to buyback rates.
We are eagerly anticipating the minister's release of the white paper on global warming and regulations to the Energy Efficiency Act, the matter addressing carbon dioxide emissions. We are looking forward to a rebate program for fuel-efficient cars. We are looking forward to a position with respect to the sale of tritium outside the province.
In 1971 an advisory committee on energy appointed by order in council recommended the creation of a separate ministry to develop a comprehensive and co-ordinated energy policy for the province. The Ministry of Energy was established under the Ministry of Energy Act in 1973. The purpose was to ensure that Ontario had an adequate and secure supply of energy that met the needs of Ontario residents and industry at reasonable prices in a manner consistent with environmental protection. In 1973, that was the purpose of forming a separate Ministry for Energy.
I find it a bit difficult today, as I see it, that we have the Ministry of Energy and Ontario Hydro at a so-called Y in the road. We all want to see conservation, efficiency and good management, but we do not want to see a province that looks like an industrial wasteland. Industry needs that direction that was given back in 1973, which guarantees it, not in thought, not in word, but in facts, laid out in a plan it can accept so that it can afford to invest the kinds of dollars that have been invested in Ontario over the years.
I do not think I can make a mistake in reminding this House and the people of Ontario that it was in fact this good planning, good foresight, over the past years that had a great effect on the development of the province of Ontario. Now, industry in this province has fared as well for many years. It is hard to believe what is happening today, that industry is actually going elsewhere because there is no guarantee that there will be power here 15 years from now. This is hard to accept.
I congratulate my colleague the member for Ottawa South on his presentation. I must say he has used many of the points that I had considered reviewing, but I have others that I would like to put forward to the minister, because I know she will be listening and perhaps, with the new chairman of Ontario Hydro, will consider implementing some of these suggestions.
We are fortunate in the province of Ontario that we have a utility such as Ontario Hydro, its research team, its professional engineering staff, its planning department, its own environmental assessment that it does for transmission lines, for hydraulic sites, for nuclear sites, or whatever. We are paying for that all now in our Hydro rates. It is all over there at 700 University Ave.
Under this government we have brought a good sector of that to a halt under the word "moratorium." One hundred engineers who are qualified to do research, to implement programs relative to nuclear development in this province, have been rechannelled to conservation. I am sure the type of abilities that they have are not going to be such that they are going to feel comfortable to stay in the employ of this utility. There will be other utilities that will be only too anxious to have them on their staff. If we should continue on this route and lose this trained technical staff and then find in 10 years that we have to start over again, we have lost our connection with Atomic Energy of Canada, which has been working very well, this is a very serious thing. The industry is not only in Ontario; it is in Canada, and the amount of money that we have spent on research to be able to use it in the manner and safety that we have, we should be very proud of. I think, rather than be looking at changing the habits of Canadians, we should be able to stand up and say proudly that:
"I am a Canadian. I live in the province of Ontario. Yes, I have a higher kilowatt-hour-per-person use than some of the European countries, or even some of the Americans, but that is all right. There are many things that cause that. First, I am a Canadian. I am not an American. I am not a European. I have my habits. I have my characteristics," and I can tell members from experience, they are not easy to change. We tried this back in 1967 and we found that we could make the programs, we could do the advertising, but we were dealing with people, not furniture, and to get them to respond and measure the response is very, very difficult. You cannot do it to a degree that you can give to industry a guarantee that you will in fact have the energy when required.
Now, instead of trying to shrink an industry and turn us back to an electrical service, we are now really an electrical industry. If we go back to a minimum service of lights, the computers, the televisions and so on, that type of loading does not give a return on the investment. It costs the same amount of money to come to my house, install the necessary equipment and transformers, metering and so on to get 1,000 kilowatt-hours as it does to get 5,000. There is the difference in the unit cost.
Once you make the connection, you might as well have your market. You are already there, you have your equipment there. Along with that is to have your markets diversified enough that you are not just building generation to meet peak demands that probably last for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. I think you have to have a positive marketing program that concentrates on the loads that fill the valleys in between. You have to invest in the generators to meet the peak.
I say your marketing program should be directed at what is often referred to as off-peak loads. I can tell the minister that if she uses that approach, her unit cost will be less than if she tries the conservation approach. We have the capital investment and we have to meet our peak demand. We have to come up with our market directed at loads that are used at off-peak periods.
One very good one that used to be used was the heating of schools, because in the daytime when loads were required for other uses, the schools were full of students and very little heat was required. At night time we monitored them, we had them send in reports to the then government and the Ministry of Energy, and it was a very good program. The accumulation of loads such as that gives you a market for the times when you have the generation available but the demand normally is not there relative to industrial load, commercial and manufacturing.
My suggestion to the minister is that the money she is spending, $240 million I believe, to try to turn the habits of Canadians into the habits of somebody else be directed to promoting the off-peak loads; that, in conjunction with attempting to shift the peak demands, as I think her present program is working towards -- and to shift demand time is not easy.
It is not easy to tell people, "You must go and shop at a different time," or "You must start to work at a different time and everyone should go to lunch at a different time." That certainly will level out your demand curve, but again, it is not a program that you can bring in with a positive effect that will attract industry to this province. It is a program that we should be working with all the time, but to do business with other businesses, as one industry to another, we have to sit down and have a real plan of supply for the future, which I would like to draw the minister's attention to. Her people at Ontario Hydro spent a good many dollars of the people of Ontario preparing a demand supply plan, which is now before the assessment board for hearings.
For this government to take one of the main anchors, one of the main supplies, out of that supply plan or just ignore it and pull the staff away from doing any preliminary engineering or whatever on it and direct them into another field for which they were not trained, I can imagine the efficiency that she is going to have from working on nuclear plans going over to conservation. It is some adjustment, I can assure her.
If we consider the staff that we are paying for with this utility, they have looked into all aspects, all the different options, and they have looked into the economics of it for the people of Ontario. It has been suggested that it is approximately 10 cents per kilowatt-hour for gas-fired, compared to 3.5 cents for nuclear. There is a publication in the office -- I do not happen to have it here -- that covers that as relative cost per kilowatt-hour.
Ontario Hydro, in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Control Board has not only studied the efficiency of this, it has not only studied the safety of the Candu system, it is ready to bring on the Candu 3, which is a modular plant which can be set up where the energy is required and you are not spending millions of dollars on transmission lines to run 200 miles from where the plant is to where the industry wants to locate. The Candu 3 can be set up in the same proximity as the industry wishes to locate. So there is a lot of working together there, to work with industry over that period of time so that in fact the Candu 3 could be located in the proper areas of this province. It takes a lot of working together.
If the minister is looking back at why the Ministry of Energy was formed in the first place, it was not to fly in the face of the utility. It was to confirm that the utility had the ability to guarantee a safe supply and dependable supply at reasonable cost to the people of Ontario. I suggest that we would be saving the people of Ontario a lot of money, we would be saving ourselves a lot in relationships with industry, this province would have a future if we would once again get in step with the utility, because to turn a ship in the direction that we are trying to turn it and not be able to give guarantees of results is making negotiations for industry coming to Ontario very difficult.
The idea of blaming the lack of industry in Ontario on the recession or using the recession the other way, for the minister to say, "My conservation program is working," is very dangerous. We do not know, and the minister and the member for Hamilton Mountain, my recollection is, stated at the estimates hearings that they would be monitoring very closely their conservation program. In fact, it was even stated to the then chairman and president of Ontario Hydro, "We plan to monitor this on a monthly basis and be able to advise if we're not getting out of conservation what we had planned to get."
We have asked the minister in the House for those figures. Her answer then was, "It is very difficult to measure conservation." That again is the answer that industry interested in locating in the province of Ontario cannot accept.
I would hope that the minister could see clear to review again the research and studies that went into this 25-year demand-supply plan and really assess it and not fly with a philosophy that nuclear is bad, that it is dangerous, that we should not have it. That is sort of a scare tactic, because there really are no figures or nothing in reality in the province of Ontario to try to try and tell people that nuclear is not good and not safe.
The minister knows herself, when she says it drops from 90% to some 60%, that the vice-president of Ontario Hydro told us at the estimates that they had made the mistake in the beginning in assuming that a plant could be 90% efficient and that the record across the continent was about 65%. They admitted to that, as I recall it, at the estimates hearing, that their original plan that a plant could be 90% was not feasible. So for the minister to say now that it is not acceptable because nuclear energy rather than being 90% has slipped to 65%, when in effect my understanding is that 65% to 75% is about the level of operation when you take shutdown time for maintenance and so on --
If you were just going to run it continuously that is a different thing, but maintenance is required of any system, and many of the reasons for shutdown were not related in any way to the nuclear or the method of creating the steam to run the turbine. The defects were mechanical defects -- in tubing, in shafts, in the generator itself -- which could happen on a water-driven unit. It could happen because of the size of these units.
I say to the minister, in the interest of the future of Ontario, that we should try to review this 25-year demand supply plan that is before us, try to look at it in a positive way, look at the nuclear part as an industry, not as something that we are trying to get rid of. We have the raw material, we have the technology, we have the safety built in and we have the waste disposal site, which the minister visited recently, which I understand is ready for approval as a method of storing the waste from our Candu system.
All the bases are covered. We have the energy. We have it right in our province, the raw material, if we want to use it. I believe the Premier indicated during the election that he would in fact, if he were elected Premier, make sure that Ontario Hydro did use uranium from Elliot Lake. If the minister takes that into consideration, along with the time saved and the dependability that we can project out to new industries, that we do have a plan and we can supply them, I think we will see the economy of this province turn around very quickly.
I would like to assure the member that we intend to ensure that the demand-supply plan has a complete and thorough review, but it is difficult for us to consider it positively, even based on some of the things the member has set out for us this afternoon. The member should understand, for example, that although Hydro has admitted problems in the operation of the Candu nuclear reactors, all of the planning that is now before the EA is still based on average operation over their lifetime of 80%, not 62% or 60%. If that is good and responsible planning and I am supposed to feel positive about the province's long-term energy future being reliable in that kind of setting, then I do not think that I am being honest with the people of the province of Ontario.
The new energy direction that this government set out in the throne speech last fall is a direction that is designed in fact to create the reliability that we have been rapidly losing over the course of the last decade in Ontario. It is also a direction that is designed to make this province significantly more efficient which, at the same time, will make this province significantly more environmentally appropriate and significantly more competitive in its industrial sectors.
I will turn my comments now to some of the positive aspects of the new energy direction and relate them to some of the things that were said by the member for Ottawa South in his comments a while earlier.
Energy efficiency is and has to be the primary, first, number one priority of this government and any other government in this province in terms of a future direction. The member for Ottawa South suggested -- and he was kind enough to come over after his comments to tell us that he had to leave but he would look at our response in Hansard and I appreciated that -- that this government was merely following along with programs that had been initiated by the former Liberal administration. I want to suggest that is far from the truth, but some of the things he said are very true and there is a reason why they happen to be true.
For example, the member suggested that we have not set any conservation efficiency targets for the province yet and that we do not have any empirical, factual data. There is a reason for that. It is true that we do not. We will very shortly. The reason we do not is that in 1986 the select committee on energy suggested that a number of pilot projects be done in the province: one in the residential sector, one in the commercial sector and one in the industrial sector. In four years the former administration failed to proceed with those pilot studies that would have given us the empirical data on which to proceed to set targets and specifically design programs.
Now we have begun that process. In six short months we have begun that process. There will be an entire retrofit of the town of Espanola to analyse the retrofit of residential and commercial buildings.
Just before its demise the former government set up an industrial efficiency program. Unfortunately, somebody forgot to tell them they should monitor the program as it proceeded. Ministry of Energy staff were out there doing their job along with Ontario Hydro staff as best they could. The program was only capturing 50% of the available energy efficiency. When we got into office, we very quickly noticed that fact and are now proceeding to find out how to get the other 50% that the former government was leaving behind. Interesting concept, to go after it all, try and get all of the energy efficiency and put it all into the system instead of just half of it. Not a bad concept.
The member for Ottawa South discussed a number of other matters, and they are all very valid and important matters. Unfortunately, they do not take into account the fact that this government is proceeding with serious initiatives around more than just energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency is important. Why is energy efficiency important? Because it is clean, it is totally environmentally benign, but it also accomplishes a number of other things. A megawatt of efficiency is as valuable as 1.35 megawatts of any other form of generated electricity, at least the Hydro form of central generation which has to be transmitted. That includes the delivery of a megawatt, the reserve margin that Hydro requires and the 10% losses it suffers in its high-voltage transmission.
Efficiency is important, but so too are a number of other initiatives that this government is pursuing. One of those initiatives is parallel generation, and specifically -- and the government and the minister have said this repeatedly -- very specifically cogeneration.
Why is cogeneration important, and where do you focus cogeneration? Members of both opposition parties have talked about global warming and the need to reduce emissions from combustion of fossil fuels -- all very well and true. What does building nuclear plants do about reducing emissions? There are literally tens of thousand of megawatts of potential cogeneration out there in industrial plants that are burning fossil fuels already today. They are already burning the fuels, and if we are not prepared to pursue that cogeneration to use the fuels that are already being burned, and at the same time, because of the profits you create from that cogeneration, to clean up the emissions from that industrial operation, then we are not prepared to take on the global warming problem, and we all know we have to.
The member for Ottawa South also mentioned that the Minister of Energy had said that Ontario Hydro started out with 1,000 megawatts of parallel generation in its plan, increased it to 1,600, then increased it to 2,100, and now the Minister of Energy has increased it to 6,000 megawatts. I have to correct the member for Ottawa South. It was not the Minister of Energy who increased anything to 6,000 megawatts, it was the private sector, which the member for Ottawa South was so concerned about. The private sector has put that 6,000 megawatts willingly and freely on the table. It is not a myth. Some of it may be environmentally unacceptable, and we will have to make those decisions through the environmental process, but the private sector that the member for Ottawa South was so worried about has freely and willingly put those 6,000 megawatts on the table.
It is fair to be pessimistic and it is fair to criticize and there is nothing wrong with that. I spent many, many years over on the other side doing precisely that as a critic. All of that is fair. That will not change the reality that we have started the initiatives to define in clear, hard terms the real potentials so that we can nail down the specifics of programs in the very near future, programs that will be designed to achieve specific targets for conservation, for parallel generation, specifically for industrial cogeneration, and we will also pursue a whole range of other energy supply alternatives.
I will not have time this afternoon to go into any great depth around the potential for alternatives, but I would like to quickly say, because I see a number of out-of-town rural and northern members sitting in the House today, that when it comes to cogeneration, the members from those small towns and rural areas should take the time some time to drive around their town and just identify -- I found it interesting last fall as I did a couple of tours to discover that in every single small town in rural Ontario there is at least one but there is at least one good potential site for cogeneration. In many of those small towns, there are more, some of those towns have four or five, but they all have at least one.
If we were to actively go out and talk to the councils and the local industrial officials about the potential of each of those little sites, think about spreading the jobs that are associated with energy production all across the province instead of having them all at Darlington or at Pickering or at Bruce, spreading them all across the north or all across eastern Ontario or all down through southwestern Ontario. Think about the potential of eliminating the need for high-voltage transmission. Think about the thousands of acres of farm land that we would not have to disturb with those God-awful, ugly transmission towers.
At any rate, the potentials out there in the province of Ontario, and especially in small-town Ontario, to produce power right where you need it are huge. This government will pursue those potentials aggressively.
I want to say that I did have the opportunity of hearing some of the minister's colossal answers during estimates, and frankly, I think that if the public was aware of the mentality and thinking of this government on the issue of supply of energy for the future of this province, if they really knew what was going on, they would be very concerned. Unfortunately, the public in this province will not know what is going on until they experience frequent brownouts and possibly blackouts.
It is great to have a theory, it is great to set goals, but when they are based on ignorance, there is no excuse for it, and frankly, what we are dealing with here is sheer ignorance. And not only that, we are dealing with a Minister of the Environment who does not even listen when she is given -- sorry, Minister. I did not mean the Minister of the Environment, I meant the Minister of Energy. I would not want to say this about the Minister of the Environment. The Minister of the Environment does deal with facts. She does not always consider them the way that I would like them considered since she has become the minister, but I am dealing with the Minister of Energy.
It is interesting, because a nuclear moratorium sounds ideal, and in theory, until you get into the technicalities of what that means, it still sounds ideal. But in reality we have to have a supply of electricity that is guaranteed in this province. I believe that the approach of the New Democratic government today in Ontario might as well take us back to the age of oil lamps and candles.
This minister in estimates contradicted the chairman of Ontario Hydro. That is fine, she does not have to agree with Ontario Hydro, it is an independent, arm's-length organization. But how can a Minister of Energy disagree with Ontario Hydro when she does not even know the differences between different types of nuclear generation? I asked her in estimates whether she knew if there were any similarities between -- she was referring to the hazard of nuclear generation by referring to Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. I asked her in estimates if she could tell the committee what, if any, were the similarities between Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and the Candu reactors used in Ontario. The answer of this minister was -- and I do not blame her for not knowing -- "I cannot go into technical discussion. I know that in some ways Candu reactors are different, but in a lot of ways they are not. I was just using this as an example."
The thing is that you cannot use something as an example unless you know what you are talking about. I would be willing to respectfully suggest that the chairman of Ontario Hydro does know the difference between the reactors at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and the Candu reactor. If this minister is disagreeing with the chairman of Ontario Hydro, on whom we depend for our supply of electricity, she had better know as much as he does. That is the area where I have the greatest concern in this ministry in this government today, because we are dealing with a thinking that is not based on the actual facts. We are dealing with a minister, for example, who I understand has about $52 million in her budget. She has 38% of that set aside for energy from waste.
The Minister of the Environment is in the House today. I wonder what she thinks about 38% of $52 million being allocated for energy from waste when she has just announced that there will be a prohibition on energy from waste, from burning municipal solid waste. Is this not interesting? We have two ministries in conflict. One is saying you cannot burn municipal solid waste; another minister has 38% of her budget allocated for energy from waste.
But more important, it is the lack of security in meeting the demand for electricity in the next decade in this province that is at risk here. Security means everything to the economy that drives this province. This is the government of the party who says it protects the workers and it has to make sure that the jobs are there. They can forget about that because the jobs will not be here if industry cannot be guaranteed the security of the supply of their electricity. The fact is that the government cannot guarantee to meet the load demands for electricity in this province in the l990s based on how much people are going to conserve. It is a pure gamble. We might as well go to Las Vegas and throw the chips in the air. It is an absolute gamble for this Minister of Energy to say, as she has now said on a number of occasions, that the energy we conserve will meet the load demands, and ignore totally the fact that the chairman of Ontario Hydro and his analysts, forecasters, engineers and actuaries are saying: "That is totally untrue, it is totally baseless, it is absolutely false. We will be in a crisis for electricity if we do not have new plants built."
Motion agreed to.
CONCURRENCE IN SUPPLY, MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Mrs Grier moved concurrence in supply for the Ministry of the Environment.
Those estimates were adopted by the committee, and I would like to take the opportunity afforded by today's debate to touch on some of the issues that I know were of concern to members in the debate at the committee, and to share with the House some of the actions and the programs of this government that have been put in place, initiatives that have been begun, all of which speak to this government's commitment to the environment.
I think there are very few people who would disagree that, in the change in government that occurred last September, the public's awareness and consciousness of environmental issues played a very real role. People felt it was time for a change, time for a new approach, time for environmental issues to be part of all the decisions made by government. Certainly, in my responsibilities as minister, I take that responsibility very seriously and I take those demands and those expectations very seriously, as does the whole government.
Our government has started really with four major policy directions when it comes to environmental issues. First and foremost, this is a green government in which environmental concerns will be taken into account in virtually every policy and program. Second, we believe that everyone has a stake in the environment, a right to share in it and a responsibility for its protection. Third, for a sustainable environment, we must shift our direction from a consumer to a conserver society. Finally, we believe that we must focus on prevention strategies to head off pollution of our environment, as well as action programs to clean up existing problems. I want to touch on those four principles very briefly.
When I say that this is a green government, it gives me great pride to serve in a cabinet where there is not just one Minister of the Environment, but where there are a number of other ministries that share my concern about environmental protection and that bring forth policies and programs that take the environment into account. I know that members of this House have heard the Minister of Transportation, in actions that he has taken, indicate that to him the environment is part of the decision-making that goes into his day-to-day functioning. We have just had a debate on the Minister of Energy, who is putting conservation and energy efficiency at the top of the agenda of that ministry.
We have heard from the Ministry of Natural Resources about its initiatives with respect to sustainable forestry and to a greening of the province from its area of responsibility, and we have a Ministry of Municipal Affairs that is examining the Planning Act and seeing how planning and land use decisions in this province can be looked at from an environmental perspective and whether in fact we could have a green Planning Act.
The first major initiative of my government was to initiate a consultation process around a paper that had been prepared for my predecessor and that looked to the Environmental Assessment Act. The Environmental Assessment Act is a very fundamental tool in the decision-making around new projects and in the prevention of environmental degradation as we look at the approval process for various projects, making sure that anything that is approved is approved and designed in such a way that it will not cause problems for future generations.
The Environmental Assessment Act and the values underlying it, that it is important to look at alternatives to a particular project and that it is important to look at alternative ways of proceeding with a project -- are something that have been in use in this province for many years but have also been abused in this province for many years, abused because the way in which the act was functioning was not effective, was not efficient and contributed to a slowing down of the decision-making process and to people finding ways around the Environmental Assessment Act instead of its functioning as a tool for better planning and for better decision-making. I give full credit to my predecessor for having initiated a review of that legislation. I was very pleased to be able to put out for consultation the paper that had been prepared on the environmental assessment program involvement project, and to seek public response to the improvements in the legislation that were recommended by that paper.
The Ontario Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee has been holding public meetings, has been receiving briefs and has been discussing these recommendations broadly across the province. We have got back a great deal of response and a great deal of evidence that certainly have reinforced the need for changes to the act, but as always happens when one undertakes a consultation process, we have also got a lot of comments back on a very broad range of issues and on issues that were not particularly addressed or specifically addressed in the consultation paper. When I receive the report from the EAAC, which I understand will be available to me within the next couple of months, I will then review that report and hope I will be able to bring amendments to the legislation before this House before the end of this year, because there is certainly a broad body of support for seeing amendments that will make the act, not undermine it in any way; not take away from the principles and the values underlying that act, but make it a more effective tool for environmental protection.
I think the wisdom of the Premier in appointing me both minister responsible for the GTA and Minister of the Environment is most obvious when we talk about greening the land use planning process, because of course much of the responsibility of the office of the GTA is in looking at the urban structure of this growing urban area and looking at the kinds of land use decisions that are going to be required of all of us as we plan for the next two decades in this area.
The work that was done by David Crombie in his role as royal commissioner to the federal government and to this government, the reports he has made and the work of our former colleague Ron Kanter in looking at the Oak Ridges moraine and the greening of this area, all of that builds into the amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act and the work the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is doing in looking at the Planning Act, and I think it will take us some distance to changing the way in which we make planning decisions in this province.
Let me just mention in passing that I know these are the estimates of the Ministry of the Environment, but obviously a very important part of the decision-making around the Crombie commission's recommendations was the waterfront trail and the overlaying on the GTA of more green space and linkages. I was very pleased to be able to announce just last week the optimum route for the waterfront trail.
The final thing I want to mention under the greening of government is the work of the round table. The Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy is one of a number of provincial round tables and a federal round table that were established after the release of what has come to be known as the Brundtland commission, the United Nations commission on the environment. That recommendation from that commission talked about the need to integrate environmental and economic decision-making. The challenge paper that had been issued by the round table is now again something that is being widely discussed and on which consultations are occurring across the province.
I think it is worth reminding the House of that challenge paper and of the six principles in that paper that are the subject of discussion groups, by a native circle, by sectorial task forces that are looking at agriculture, at transportation, at urban development and at the various sectors of our economy and trying to focus on these six principles and looking at how they can be applied within each sector. Those principles fit into the principles of this government that I enunciated when I began these comments.
The first principle is anticipation and prevention of potential environmental degradation; the second principle is full cost accounting; the third is informed decision-making. That is where the concept of a sustainable economy, of the integration of the environment and the economy, come into play. The fourth principle stated in the challenge paper is interesting. It is described as living off the interest, doing better with less, looking at sustainability and how we can avoid using up all of our limited natural resources and how we can make sure that we leave enough for those who come after us. The fifth principle is quality over quantity, one we can all understand; the sixth is respect for nature and the rights of future generations.
I think these are six very important principles and I have been very heartened by the response we have had across the province, by the participation in the discussions of the round table and by the very sincere interest by all segments of society, from the chief executive officers of corporations to municipalities, to individuals in really trying to put the concepts enunciated by the Brundtland commission, by the national round table and by the provincial round table into practice and coming down and getting down to serious consideration of what it actually means, not just in a philosophical way but in a practical way.
The other principle of this government that I want to touch on briefly is the principle that everyone has a stake in the environment, a stake in protecting the environment and a responsibility for protecting the environment. I think we have developed that principle through the consultations that I have described and through our linkages and partnerships with municipalities, with individuals, with community groups and with industrial groups, because only by working together, by building on those linkages and by expanding those partnerships can we make it a reality that we have a healthy environment and a healthy economy.
Of course, the centrepiece for me in that principle is the environmental bill of rights, which I moved in opposition in this House on a number of occasions and which, as members know, the government committed itself to in its throne speech last fall.
I just want to bring the House up to date on the progress of the consultation I embarked upon last December, which has been very intensive, very interesting, and as consultation always is, very illuminating. But again, as one often finds with consultation and as one hears when one asks for consultation from a broad range of spectrums of opinion, it does tend to complicate the issues.
We heard during that consultation process that there were a number of concerns with some aspects of the bill, that there was a great consensus about the need for such a bill and about some aspects of the private member's bill that I had initiated in opposition, but that there was also a need for some further examination of some of those principles and the definition of the environment; for example, the definition of "public trust" and what "protection of the environment" means when you look at it from the perspective of a bill of rights. That consultation has proved very fruitful and has been ongoing, and I am looking forward to being able to have a bill before the House before the end of this session. Let me continue to put it that way.
The third principle that I want to touch on is one that I think has been of most interest to members of this House and certainly the focus of most of the dialogue during question period, and that is moving from a consumer to a conserver society. I will not reiterate at this point my initiatives with respect to the 3Rs: waste reduction, reuse and recycling. I think all members of this House have heard them on many occasions. I just want to report that the initiatives and the moves that we have taken have been, in fact, very well received, that there is a lot of work ongoing, that there is a lot of support for the directions in which we are moving and that there are many excellent and very worthwhile initiatives happening in municipalities all across this province.
I hope that we can move very quickly to build on the blue box program, to expand it to apartments, to move into the industrial, commercial, institutional sectors, and see a real reduction in the amount of waste that is being produced. I am really pleased with the initiatives that have happened within the greater Toronto area. The statistics of the last couple of months have shown a very real reduction in the amount of waste that is going to landfill. I do not presume to take total credit for that through our 3R programs. The economy and various other things have had a role to play, but I think we have turned the corner and I see a very real response on the part of individuals, industries, institutions and municipalities to getting serious about recycling, reuse and reduction. Recycling has always been easy. Reduction and reuse are harder, but we are getting there.
One thing I do want to touch on is waste management master planning, something that I know many members have been concerned about in their own communities. Like the Environmental Assessment Act, it has been a very open-ended and at times unending process. I know in your own constituency, Mr Speaker, there have been some requests for changes, to which we have been happy to respond, and there has been frustration across the province about the fact that waste management master plans seem to go on for ever and not come to a resolution. I have heard those concerns and I certainly have been working with my ministry, have asked my ministry to review that whole process and to see what we can do to make it more specific, more efficient and less open-ended. I hope very soon to be able to have some discussions with the AMO and with other interested groups around that whole process.
Finally, the principle of prevention and protection is one that I take very seriously. I think that the principle of protecting our environment is something that has to overlay all of our other actions. As I said during our discussion of our estimates, I have asked my ministry to review the programs that were initiated by my predecessor -- the municipal-industrial strategy for abatement, the clean air program and many of the programs that I felt had very long time frames and that perhaps were not effective enough to in fact prevent, but were more controlling programs. That has been an ongoing exercise within the ministry and something that I think will prove very fruitful and will in fact move us closer to elimination of toxic discharges, to remediation of many of the problems that have existed in the past and to a true prevention program.
I was very pleased on behalf of the government to be able to announce that we did not see incineration as a solution to waste management problems. Incineration typifies the blinkers that have been in place in many jurisdictions, the feeling that you could get rid of one problem by transferring it to another, that instead of having a landfill site, you could spew it into the air and then have a toxic landfill site. That is in direct contradiction to waste reduction and waste reuse, but also with an ecosystem approach to planning. I think it is only that kind of an ecosystem approach that will bring us to the point in this province when we do not have to spend our time cleaning up problems of the past, when we can say proudly that we have prevented problems, not just reacted and tried to cure them, and when we can stand tall and say, "Yes, we're leaving behind us an environment that is clean for our children and for our grandchildren."
I know that is the objective of all members of this House, and I look forward to hearing their comments on this resolution as the debate continues.
I also want to thank the member for Renfrew North for participating in the committee on my behalf, acting as Environment critic. I think that he added not only charm but an incisiveness in his questioning, and expressed for all of us what is a clear commitment to environmental matters, to environmental protection and to the concept of sustainable development. I think that he also provided to the committee an indication of the kind of balance that we hope to achieve in opposition on these environmental matters: to support government actions where those actions are valid; to oppose when there are shortcomings and/or where there is fantasy or perhaps inaction; to propose potential solutions, as we did this morning through private members' hour; and to criticize deficiencies.
I think that our goals on all sides of the House are really environmental protection and enhancement. The understanding we want is that we will have environmentally sensitive economic development and that what is passed on to the next generation is driven by values that are transcribed into policies and legislation today.
I was also pleased to note, in the Hansard of the estimates committee on the Ministry of the Environment, the minister's recognition of the contribution of the member for St Catharines, the past Minister of the Environment. He had, in my view, been a proactive minister who had taken matters of the environment to the front of the agenda, and I appreciate her remarks relating to his performance.
One thing that I think is interesting, as the minister has pointed out, is that these estimates are of the 1991 fiscal year and there is some irony in debating them less than a month to year-end. But in fact I think that this allows us a scrutiny as the ministry embarks on a new fiscal year, and indeed the minister has indicated some of the directions that she is going to be pursuing over the next period of time. I will want to address some of those as I go through my remarks.
One of the things that I do want to point out and to put on the table to the minister is that during the Liberal Party's stewardship of the environment, the budget increased 208%, from $312 million to $650 million. In the 1990-91 fiscal year, the budget increased 22% over the previous year. That gives an indication of the kind of commitment that we put into the environment and the kind of increasing share for the environment that was achieved as budgetary decisions were made.
Naturally, we will be looking forward on Monday to seeing a similar kind of proportional change in the allocation to the Ministry of the Environment under the Treasurer's new budget. Through the past years, the minister has maintained that the environmental budget should be substantially increased year over year, and we will be watching very closely on Monday to see the effectiveness of her advocacy in that area.
The minister came to her position with substantial expectations that were put forward through various documents placed by her party, through the Agenda for People and through a letter of 14 August co-signed by herself and the Premier to major environmental groups in the province.
I would like to just mention some of the issues that were included in those documents and put them before the House today.
The Agenda for People contained the following key promises: immediate passage of the environmental bill of rights; immediate passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act; establishment of a zero discharge rate by the year 2000 for discharge of toxic chemicals into Ontario's lakes and rivers; the reinstatement of a system for refillable pop containers of all sizes; the imposition of packaging taxes on packages that are not recyclable or reusable; the extension of the acid rain program to control all sources of acid gas and to establish a post-1994 program; and a complete overhaul of air pollution laws mandating zero discharge of toxic chemicals into the air by the year 2000.
On 14 August 1990, a letter which was sent, as I have indicated, to environmental groups reiterated all of those previous matters and contained the following additions: a reference to improvements to the motor vehicle emissions program; a ban on toxic organochloride dumping by the pulp and paper industry by 1993; immediate ban on municipal garbage incineration; an assurance that all beer, ale, wine coolers and Ontario-produced wine and liquor would be sold in refillable containers; an immediate ban on CFCs, with inflexible furniture foam and rigid foam insulation, with a complete ban on all CFCs by 1995.
Those are some of the promises that were made by the government before it became government. The expectations were very high and they were maintained by early statements the minister made in the House. I believe the minister will have to live with that politically, with all of those promises, because frankly she made it all sound easy.
Six months into her mandate she has in fact backed off some of her promises. She has made early and perhaps hasty decisions that I believe she will live to regret, and already I suggest that although she is enjoying being able to work with her people in her ministry with specific expertise, she is not having quite the fun she thought she would have when she took over her new responsibilities.
What looked simple from the outside has become more difficult when dealing with the complications and the complexities of the questions involved, and the evidence of that is very clear on the order paper. There is no bill from the Minister of the Environment. There are bills from the official opposition but nothing from government. The minister has said, "Just watch me." We are. What we see is that there is not a lot there.
What we have heard -- and I want to talk specifically about the waste management issue -- is what the minister has described as a crisis, where indeed she has added to the crisis. Most reasonable analysts and experts in the waste management field believe that she has botched the job and indeed contributed to the crisis, because we are not seeing an integrated waste management strategy. The minister has approached the issue in bits and pieces, letting her preconceived notions dictate a policy that will not prove to be sustainable.
I would like to just walk through the series of disconnected and inconsistent and contradictory statements the minister has made.
In October of 1990, the minister indicated that the interim sites which were being used in a process to ensure that there would be space during the garbage gap for waste to be put were being taken off the table. At that time, the minister encouraged Metropolitan Toronto to pursue a deal in Kirkland Lake.
In November, the minister said she was going to set up a greater Toronto area authority to identify long-term waste sites for GTA garbage. At that time she indicated she would speed up the environmental assessment process. She also indicated that if there was a garbage gap she would be prepared to use her emergency powers to put waste wherever she wanted it to go. At that time she issued an order for North Simcoe to ship its waste to Wasaga.
In December, she also provided an emergency exemption to the Storrington landfill to end in April while it found a site to ship its garbage to. On 12 December, the minister refused in this House to table sites which were on the solid waste environmental assessment plan list which were now going to be looked at by the authority. She said the authority would have to deal with that list and only the authority would know.
In February, the minister went to a New Democratic Party convention and said that municipalities should not ship waste from one region to another in a debate on a party resolution. She supported that resolution. On 21 February, she introduced what she called, in a speech, a waste reduction plan that called for source separation and reduction action programs. At the same time, however, she said that there would be no regulations in place, no further guidelines or instructions, until 1992.
Think back to February, at which point she spoke at her party's convention indicating that municipalities ought not to ship waste beyond their boundaries. She applied that rule in April, indicating that the search for long-term waste disposal for the GTA would not be met outside the GTA. Then she turned around 10 days later and indicated that Storrington and the Kingston area can ship their garbage to Ottawa-Carleton and that she would provide a bill in the Legislature to enable them to do that. Once again, no consistency, no bill.
Also in April, on 10 April, the minister issued a news release indicating that the Smithville PCB incineration project met all air emission standards for the province. The following day, the minister turned around and banned municipal solid waste incineration on no environmental or technical grounds but on a philosophical point.
On 12 April, the minister indicated that a wood waste inventory was going to be completed and brought forward so that chipboard and other alternative uses could be put into effect for wood wastes. At that point and in that statement, there was no mention of energy-from-waste alternatives, which her colleague the Minister of Energy is clearly pursuing and funding in terms of the use of waste wood.
The series of inconsistencies has continued from the day that the minister became a minister and, frankly, makes it absolutely impossible for municipalities, for industries, for business, for people who are involved in the waste management scenarios to do any planning at all.
We know that every year 10 million tons of waste is generated in Ontario. We know that close to 50% of that comes from Metro Toronto. We support 3Rs programs and we believe that they would have not become successful had it not been for the eager pursuit by the previous Minister of the Environment.
We will support the minister as she moves into areas that will ensure the expansion and further emphasis on 3Rs programs. But the leadership and the intervention of the minister so far has virtually assured us that we will not be able to deal with our garbage question.
In taking over the responsibility for dealing with waste from the municipalities, the minister has indicated to us that she will have an authority under her direction at some point in time to look after the issues on behalf of the greater Toronto area. None the less, she has still not been able to provide to the House any specific details of that authority's mandate, how it will be funded, at what level, who will be on the authority, who will chair it, and how it will report to the House.
The minister has also said that if Metro's existing dumps become full by 1993, as they are scheduled to do and as every expert has indicated they will do, the minister will simply use emergency powers to pile the garbage even higher, with no environmental assessment. That is a complete reversal of what the NDP said it would do and demonstrates a shocking disregard for the health concerns and other concerns, quality-of-life concerns, of the people who live near the dumps.
The minister has also said she does not think she will have to use those powers. She is confident that her waste reduction programs will allow the dumps to operate within capacity long enough for the waste management authority to find a new long-term dump.
The minister announced, as I have indicated, in Belleville in February, waste reduction programs that have no teeth at all. We know that we will not see the first regulation for up to two years. There is no specific deadline or guideline to meet the source separation and reduction targets which she is demanding. There is no indication of enforcement provisions. There are no guidelines at all, no indication on how individuals or municipalities will conduct waste audits. There is no indication of any expansion of the waste exchange, of commercial and institutional packaging requirements, of the cost of the 3Rs and who pays for them; no indication of any standards or guidelines regarding composting for either large sites or for municipalities; no indication of any requirements that she will put into place regarding the use of the Möbius loop symbol; no indication of any recycled-content standards; no indication of any consultation on these processes; no indication, if material is moving from one industrial site to another for recycling or for recovery, that those materials could be designated as industrial materials rather than waste, to eliminate the regulatory deterrents to cross-sectoral reuse and recycling -- none of those things.
As a consequence, people who are attempting to become involved in these programs and industry involving itself in waste and environmental audits have no guidelines, have no assurance that if an environmental audit is completed, it will not be used, by example, as part of a prosecution by the ministry. None of these things have been made clear. All of them are up in the air, and no one can plan.
One of the other things that has been raised by municipalities, particularly in the greater Toronto area, relates to the authority of the garbage authority to grab the reserve that exists now at the municipal level. The minister told Metropolitan Toronto a few days ago not to use its $5-million reserves to reduce taxes, but none the less the minister had no power to do that, other than the power of persuasion, I suppose. But the issue has been raised by members of the Metro council as to whether that authority will be given the responsibility to usurp municipal reserves that municipalities would otherwise put into 3Rs programs. Municipalities need to know that.
Part of the uncertainty that has been created has been because the minister has not been specific and has not been precise, and because of the uncertainty that she has created there is a sense that to do nothing is better than spending money and energy when the action may not meet the latest whims of the minister. We know that is happening in many communities.
There has been an appointment of a waste reduction office and a waste reduction office director and an interim manager, we are told, of the garbage authority, but once again the House has not been told who will chair the authority, nor when it will be up and running, and there is also no understanding of how these two offices will be staffed and how their work will be co-ordinated.
Members will recall that in November the minister said that the authority would be responsible for landfill siting, not for 3Rs. Recently there was some speculation that there may even be duplicate mandates here, a duplicate bureaucracy, duplicate processes and duplicate rules, when what is needed is in fact an integrated approach.
In other areas, there is also uncertainty. Members of the cabinet, one no longer a member of the cabinet, plus the Minister of the Environment, have openly speculated about the creation of a deposit system for liquor and wine bottles sold through the LCBO. The uncertainty surrounding those speculations is of major concern. We would like to hear, in fact, a statement in the House from the minister about whether she concurs with some of the recommendations which have been made by her former colleague or whether she concurs with the position of Ontario Multi-Material Recycling Inc that in fact this kind of action would jeopardize the blue box program. Is she concerned, by example, about some of the questions that have been raised by Consumers Glass about the continued operation and viability of its plant in Etobicoke? We need to hear the minister's response on these issues, because without specifics and a clear and precise plan, industry cannot plan and the programs will fail.
There is another area that is of some concern, because the minister in April apparently ruled out all municipal incineration, including energy from waste and resource recovery as part of an integrated waste management study. She appears to have done that without any impact analysis, without any review of the full effect of that decision on the energy and environmental cycle. The Premier, we know, appeared to have written a letter to a person indicating that the energy-from-waste option is under active review. He later withdrew that letter and indicated that it was signed by an autopen.
None the less, the Minister of Energy, in appearing before the standing committee on estimates, was far less clear about where the government stands on energy from waste, and as the member for Mississauga South has pointed out, 38% of the Ministry of Energy's budget is devoted to energy from waste. The Minister of the Environment, however, indicates that she will not approve and will not allow municipal solid waste incineration. Where does that leave the municipality of Peel, in which a $54-million energy-from-waste facility will be up and running and complete in 1992, scheduled to burn 364 tons of garbage per day, with the energy created from that project to be sold to Ontario Hydro? Will she not allow that project to continue? Is she going to stop construction in midstream? Surely the people in Peel deserve a response to that question.
There are too many voices speaking here. The result is clearly confusion and uncertainty. The minister spoke today about her clear desire to improve the environmental assessment process. She has indicated that she is hoping to receive from the Ontario Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee a report in about two months relating to how to improve that process. That is a project that I concur with, having gone through very difficult and trying circumstances, costly circumstances, in Halton in relation to our search for a landfill site. The enormous costs which have been placed on our taxpayers in Halton clearly are such that they cannot be borne in most communities.
One of the things that we are concerned about, though, as we look at how this environmental assessment process is going to go through, is how the time lines will in fact add up. She has indicated that there will be a report to her in two months from the Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee. Presumably after that there will be more consultation. Then the minister will have to enter into draft legislation and preparation. Then the minister will be introducing legislation into the House. Presumably there will be public hearings subsequent to that. The legislation would come into effect, and presumably any regulations would be put into effect subsequent to that period.
By mid-1993, there is going to be no landfill site for the entire GTA. The minister has indicated that the garbage authority will not be up and running until legislation comes into effect, after which time it would be able to use a streamlined environmental assessment process. The time lines do not add up. We have not yet even seen legislation relating to the garbage authority and we have seen no legislation relating to the laws, the rules that it will have to follow once it is in operation. It does not add up. The time lines are such that we will be guaranteed that there will be garbage on our doorsteps.
There are many other areas that can be addressed in these environment discussions. I indicated originally, at the beginning of this session, some of the kinds of commitments that the New Democrats made and that the Minister of the Environment has made specifically relating to environment matters. As we proceed through the session, I am hoping that we will be able to debate some of the other things that the minister has indicated she would like to have on the table.
But in fact we have nothing to debate. We have not heard what the timetable or the process is for the development of final clean air regulations. We do not know because the minister, even in the estimates committee, could not define what zero discharge meant and how she would reach that target. We have not heard from the minister what her planning is for the post-1994 sulphur dioxide reductions in the Countdown Acid Rain program. We also do not know what process she is going to put into place to ensure that the next phase of Countdown Acid Rain is implemented. We do not know what new vehicle emission standards will be coming forward, what the process will be for them to come forward and what her timetables for implementation are. We do not know when the minister will reveal her plans and timetables for implementation and regulation of the federal-provincial NOx/VOCs agreement. We have not heard what new action the minister is contemplating on CFCs in flexible-foam and rigid-foam insulation. What are her timetables, what are her regulations? We have heard nothing from the minister relating to the decontamination and decommissioning of existing sites.
I raised in the House the issue of X-Pert Metal Finishing in my constituency last week. We have other sites to look at: old landfill sites, abandoned mines -- we have seen problems in those areas already -- and other industrial sites.
The real test of environmental responsibility is not nice words and lofty goals; it is the action that is taken to achieve those goals. People are prepared to take environmentally friendly action, but they need specifics as decisions are made. Uncertainty must be reduced and action must be clear.
I applaud the minister. You cannot help but like the honourable Minister of the Environment as a person, but the job she is doing and what she has to do really is something where she has to have a balanced understanding of all the needs of the whole community. What I see happening is that the minister will arbitrarily, in her own wisdom, say that Metro's garbage will go into York region. That is a subject I want to spend some time on.
What is the thinking behind this when in fact Kirkland Lake is waiting there to accept garbage from Metro Toronto as an option? Instead of letting there be a full environmental assessment on Kirkland Lake, the minister, in her wisdom, has made the decision that would be made by an environmental assessment. That is wrong, and to compound the wrong is another one. The minister has said, "Well, Kingston can send its garbage to Ottawa-Carleton." Now I have trouble working that one through in my own mind, because on the one hand she is saying it is unthinkable to ship garbage from Toronto to Kirkland Lake, even though Kirkland Lake largely wants it, and yet it is thinkable and her thought process allows for Kingston and The Islands and the Kingston area to send their garbage to Carleton.
There is something very, very seriously wrong when the minister can come along and make these inconsistent announcements outside of the House. We are not seeing the opportunity in this House to come forward and debate these issues. The minister seems to go into the protection of a scrum outside where the opposition does not have a chance to listen to exactly what she says and to come back and counter it with other arguments.
The minister goes outside the House and says, "I am opposed to incineration," and instead of allowing incineration to go to environmental assessment, so that the scientists can look at it, we have what you call techno-peasants at work. Techno-peasants are ones who allow a policy to be made by themselves without at least opening up the same issues for serious consideration by all the thought processes that people in Japan, or Sweden, or Switzerland, or other countries, or other jurisdictions have gone through when they look at incineration as a possible alternative.
No, we do not have that option in Ontario. Instead we have a minister who says, "We will not have incineration." Now she may be right. I am not one who can question a good authority on this thing, but it is not the minister who is the authority. She is not a scientific fount of knowledge. Why not then throw it out to an environmental assessment? Why not throw out Kirkland Lake to an environmental assessment? Why not open it up to debate and discussion instead of having a close-minded Minister of the Environment who is making decisions on her own and not using the House and the Legislature for that opportunity?
As we go through the decisions that are being made by fiat out of the ministry, we are beginning to see a ministry that is not responding to the kinds of questions we are asking in the House. I now know for sure why we call it question period -- because we never get answers. We can ask all the questions we want. When those guys were in opposition they also asked lots of questions. I had some hope that there would be an opportunity for us to hear great things from them. We have heard nothing.
We are waiting for the environmental bill of rights. I do not know when we are going to get it, and maybe we should never get it. Perhaps if it comes out it will be exactly the same thing the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore provided when she was in opposition; I understand it is going to go through a few changes. But that was then, this is now. The environmental bill of rights is an issue that really has to be dealt with.
There are a number of issues we are all faced with that will come through this government in the due course of time. What I want to know is what its priorities are. There are priorities for the environment. There are priorities that we all have to take seriously within this House, but we do not have the opportunity to discuss them, not just in a half-hour that is allocated to us now on concurrences. The issues are far greater than we can just deal with in a few minutes' time. Certainly the business in York region is. Certainly the issues right around the province are. Certainly the issues with the 3Rs are. We as politicians and as concerned people -- it is Earth Week -- want to be involved in this discussion and debate. There is so much to be done that we are in a position to begin doing a great deal of it now.
I would like to go into a number of issues today that have to do with the Countdown Acid Rain program. I want to get into the environmental assessment review program, the whole PCB issue, and there are a number of unanswered questions on that one. The scrap tires continue to pile up or are being buried. This government is collecting the taxes from the province of Ontario, $5 a tire, and yet what are we doing with the money? It is well over $150 million now. Less than $10 million has been spent on the whole business of recycling and experimentation.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
On Monday 29 April at 4 pm, we will have the presentation of the budget by the Treasurer.
On Tuesday 30 April, we will begin the budget debate. The speaker will be on behalf of the official opposition, the Leader of the Opposition.
On Wednesday 1 May, we will continue with the budget debate. This will begin with the leader of the third party.
On Thursday 2 May, we have two private members' projects, the first standing in the name of the member for Dufferin-Peel, the second in the name of the member for Downsview.
On Thursday afternoon, we will continue and conclude the debate on the concurrence of estimates. We will do first, second and third reading of the supply bill for 1990-91 and then we will continue with the budget debate.
The House adjourned at 1801.
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