The House met at 0900.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
AMENDMENT ACT, 2010 /
LOI DE 2010 MODIFIANT LA LOI
SUR LES RÉGIMES DE RETRAITE
Resuming the debate adjourned on April 27, 2010, on the motion for third reading of Bill 236, An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Act / Projet de loi 236, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les régimes de retraite.
Look, this is serious stuff. The government is purporting to engage in pension reform. As I say when I mention the communities that I represent, the issue out there is really quite simple. As the celebrity chef on TV says, "It ain't rocket science." We've got a growing population of people in this province and across this country who are fearful of reaching their senior years, not because of the effects of old age or aging, and not because they know that they're closer to their end than they are to their beginning. As I've had occasion to comment so many times, when I was a kid growing up in the 1950s, I recall clearly that people used to worry about not living long enough. Now, as I meet people, whether it's at the constituency office or, probably even more frequently, in the church halls or the Legion hall over on Morningstar, at the Welland market or the Port Colborne market or from time to time up at the St. Catharines market, which is a fine farmers' market in itself-Thorold has a small one and Pelham has a small one-I talk to seniors who are fearful of not being able to afford to live in their senior years, who are literally losing houses, losing homes, losing income, and they are sad and find it tragic that they're unable to assist their grandkids-or some, now, great-grandkids-who are pursuing post-secondary education, or perhaps beginning young families.
There's a crisis, and the crisis is one of pensions for people in their retirement years. Now, the government, some time ago, purported to address that crisis by saying, "Well, we'll simply extend the retirement age. No more of this nonsense of people retiring at 65. What nonsense"-as if 65 were the prevailing number. We were defrauded by the advertising of Freedom 55.
The anecdote that Worthington told-I'm sure it's not germane at all to this particular issue-was about the senior who was a Walmart employee into his 80s who was well liked by the customers and well liked by the other staff and was very good at his job but was perpetually late. The store manager simply couldn't take it anymore, and this 80-plus senior citizen was called into the office after being late once again. The manager said, "Look, we like your work, your co-workers like you, the customers like you, but you're always late." The fellow said, "Yes, it's been a problem all my working life." The manager said, "What did your co-workers say to you before you retired when you showed up late at work?" He replied, "They usually said, `Good morning, General. Can I get you a coffee?'" I don't know whether that story is apocryphal or not-it's amusing-but I think it does speak to the phenomenon of seniors being compelled to work.
Most of the seniors I talk to-as a matter of fact, I was over at the Legion hall on Morningstar Avenue down in Welland on Sunday, and who did I run into but Mike Bosnich. Mike told me he's 92 years old now. He's a veteran and also a leader in the progressive trade union community down in Welland. He was with the United Electrical Workers, which was the dominant union in Welland before they merged with the CAW. I remember him as a kid. He was one of my mentors; he and John Trufac and Bruce Smith from the UE hall. He decried the fact that he's 92 years old. But he was the sort of senior who, upon his retirement, didn't want to have to go and work. He wanted to be occupied, he wanted to be able to do things, but he would have much sooner, and in fact did, volunteer and work with people who needed driving back and forth for various medical treatments and so on.
We're down to, what, 30% of the workforce with pensions? Of those, only a fraction are defined benefit pensions, and the number with defined benefit pensions is decreasing regularly. More and more workers, when they do have unions, are being forced into signing contracts that create two tiers. One was just recently signed here in the province of Ontario-a rather large workforce-where new hires are forced into a defined contribution plan and only the senior workers are eligible for the defined benefit plan.
I suppose you do have to read the morning papers, the financial papers-we thought we were just recovering. You see, if you have a defined contribution pension plan, you're a victim of the markets. There may be a few people left with faith in the markets-the Randites, who believe that the markets, in and of themselves, will order things in a way that's to the benefit of the greatest number of people-but how many more lessons do we need?
Defined contribution plans are effectively RRSPs. The banks make a great deal of money on them, and the various people who do financial advice make a great deal of money on them with their hidden trailer fees. What are trailer fees? Trailer fees are kickbacks. For the life of me, this government takes on small-town pharmacists about what the government implies are kickbacks from the pharmaceutical industry, but where is this government when it comes to protecting people and providing disclosure when it comes to kickbacks from the mutual fund industry to financial services advisers and so on?
The kickback is a percentage that they get. What that does, of course, is create a motivation. It takes the financial adviser out of the position of being entirely neutral and devoted solely to his or her client, to the point where they have a serious conflict, a real conflict of interest, because it's in their interest to sell the funds that have the largest trailer fees, even though those funds may not be the most stable funds. Why do funds have large trailer fees? Because they want to give salespeople-financial advisers-an incentive to sell them and promote them. As a matter of fact, what you'll find is that the funds with the largest trailer fees are almost inevitably the funds with the largest management fees. How else do they afford those trailer fees, right? Yet the funds with the largest management fees are rarely the stablest funds or the funds with the best returns. So that's what people are forced into with defined contribution plans.
Again, we thought we were recovering from a crisis. People whose investments, however modest or large-let's face it, if you have millions of dollars invested and you lose 10%, you're still going to be okay. If you lose 20% or 30%, you're still going to survive; you ain't going to be at the food bank. But if your life savings, and it does for so many hard-working people, consists of $80,000 or $100,000-that's a lot of money where I come from. To lose 20% or 30% of that is devastating. It's the difference between some modest decency during retirement and the indecency of lining up at food banks and soup kitchens and having to wait in a line for housing that has subsidized rent.
So that's the crisis. There was a Premier back in the early 1990s, another Liberal, who designed-or adopted; he didn't design it-the phrase, "too big to fail." At the time, he was probably right; nobody disagreed with him. But we've learned in a very dramatic way that that Liberal Premier's adoption of "too big to fail" was a serious error, because we learned-
So I say this: You had a Liberal Premier who, back in the early 1990s, adopted the "too big to fail" model and said, "We can forgive these companies their top-up obligations, because their pension plans will surely be around five and 10 years from now." Now, one of the problems was that it was never designed to be a permanent measure, but nobody got around to rescinding the exemption that these too-big-to-fail companies had; nobody-not to the present. But by now it's too late, because those big companies in fact did fail, and of course the taxpayer then invested huge amounts of money.
I think most Ontarians support that type of investment, but I've got to tell you, my Atlas Steel workers in Welland-and I probably know 98% of them personally-their too-big-to-fail company failed: specialty steel, stainless steel; it was the only manufacturer of its type in the country. Governments of the day-and by now we're into 1995-plus-had no interest in helping Atlas Steel survive. Some 600 or 700 employees lost their jobs. But the biggest tragedy was that the pension plan collapsed, not just for potential pensioners but for the de facto pensioners. The de facto pensioners saw their pensions slashed in half, and they weren't particularly big pensions to begin with, because you see, one of the problems with pensions is that even defined benefit pensions-and there are fewer and fewer of them, and the ones that are left are being wrapped up relatively rapidly-unless they're the very, very good ones-and they're rare, the very good ones-they fail to keep pace with the cost of living. So a pension income erodes naturally, never mind when it's slashed by 50%.
The real absence of an amendment to the pension benefits guarantee fund legislation in this bill is of concern. New Democrats have been arguing for a good chunk of time-I've had bills before the House on behalf of the NDP, and other New Democrat members have-for increasing the pension benefits guarantee fund coverage to $2,500 a month. A rather modest proposal, ain't it? That $2,500 a month doesn't buy a whole lot anymore: $2,500 a month probably doesn't allow you to stay in your home, especially when you see property taxes and electricity rates going through the roof, natural gas rates going through the roof, and then when you're confronted, come July 1-Happy Canada Day-with Mr. McGuinty's HST, beating up once again on the lowest-income people, beating up once again on seniors, beating up once again on people.
See, in Toronto people live in apartments for any number of reasons. When you get to smaller-town Ontario, like Welland and Thorold and Port Colborne and Wainfleet and south St. Catharines, housing prices are relatively modest, compared to Toronto or Ottawa or London. People live in apartments by choice, but more often than not people live in apartments because they can't afford to buy a house. When you can't afford to buy a house in Welland, you're struggling. So when the landlord gets confronted with new costs like HST etc., and the government might say that the cap on the annual rental increases is going to be maintained, what will a landlord do? He'll simply cut back in other areas of service, won't he? He's got to make up the difference somewhere.
Even the most benign landlord-and again, down in smaller-town Ontario, where landlords are known in the community, we don't have the big high-rises and towers. We've got local people who-more often than not it's a woman whose husband has passed away. She's a widow; she's renting the top floor of her house, which has been converted into an apartment. That's what most landlords are down where I come from. Oh, we've got a few of the developer landlords, but even they are probably far more careful about how they treat their tenants than some of big corporate landlords in Toronto, because they're known in the community. They belong to the Club Richelieu or they belong to the Kiwanis or the Kinsmen. They shop at Pupo's, just like everybody else does, or at Sobeys, so they can't get away with this stuff. And they have no intention, no desire to.
Of course, there are some bad landlords, and we deal with them as best we can. But even the most benign and benevolent landlord is going to have to make up that increased cost somewhere, somehow. And mark my words-no, don't mark my words; just pay attention after July 1-it will come from tenants. There's nobody else for it to come from, is there? Whether it means cutting lawns half as often, whether it means increasing the rates on the laundromat downstairs-what about that? That's not controlled by rental increases, is it? Again, it ain't rocket science to figure out the places and spaces where landlords are going to have to make up the difference. So the tenants will pay. Mark my words: The tenants will pay; the tenants will pay; the tenants will pay. And in most of smaller-town Ontario, those tenants tend to be lower-income people. People live in apartments for other reasons as well, but they tend to be lower-income people.
The absence of any reasonable topping up of the pension benefits guarantee fund limit is an atrocious omission. The failure to condemn defined contribution plans but rather to implicitly endorse them and encourage them by this government is another huge failure. The fact that work has changed dramatically-because this government, of course, has destroyed, what, 250,000 or 300,000 value-added manufacturing jobs, industrial jobs, good-paying jobs, wealth creation jobs? See, casino jobs don't create wealth; they simply stir it around. It's like the butter churn: Centrifugal force takes the money to the outside, and other people pocket it, including the government. The poor sucker who blows his paycheque in there pays. So casinos don't create wealth. And even at that, I have to tell you, down where I come from in Niagara, the casino jobs are disappearing. That speaks volumes. Recovery? Sure, there's a recovery. There's a recovery for the people who are playing the market; there's a recovery for Bay Street. There's not a recovery for Main Street, because it is, as so many have noted, so apparently a jobless recovery.
The absence of this government to address its role in government-sponsored public pension plans is another serious and atrocious omission from this legislation. The reality is that increasingly people are relying upon CPP, if they're entitled to it. A whole lot of elderly women aren't entitled to it, because they worked at home, raising kids. That's not to say they didn't work; by God, they worked.
I think there are two things when we look at the pension benefit: the legislation under the Pension Benefits Act that requires that single-employer pension plans are entitled to this guarantee, if you will, that a fund have some assurance of money being there, but multiple-employer and joint pension plans are not entitled to the pension benefit. I think the member from Welland stood very strongly along with the people that these are troubling times for investors, and more importantly for pensions, which are long-term investments.
This bill doesn't really do a heck of a lot, technically. We would be supporting it primarily because of the amendments in it, but I think we're waiting for the other shoe to drop. Every time I hear a question raised on this, they try to blame Stephen Harper. So let's listen to the full debate and see what the province actually does.
What the people of Ontario need to see and need to hear from this government is, what is the pension strategy? The bill that we're debating now is very thin; it is very meagre. It is the thinnest of gruel, and it doesn't answer most of the important questions. I think that's what the member from Niagara correctly spelled out here.
This is one pension bill. The minister has indicated there will be a second pension bill later this year. This addresses a number of technical matters. I was pleased yesterday when the member from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek spoke to the matter and said that there were a number of provisions in the bill that even he, as a New Democratic member, felt were important measures, although for him not going far enough.
As the member from Welland was saying, he would like to see more. We would anticipate that, with a subsequent bill, there will be more discussion around pensions, but this is a very good beginning that's been long overdue, some 20 years since we've addressed this matter here in the Legislature.
I know that this government chose to bail out some individuals; in particular, $4.3 billion was given to the General Motors pension holders as part of the bailout, between the United States and Canada, of some $70 billion. Unfortunately, in my reading that $4.3 billion will not necessarily save the pension holders of General Motors, either in the United States or Canada. General Motors unfortunately just lost more money in the past year. Even though some $70 billion worth of debt was removed from their books, they still lost money.
I hope that they continue, become profitable and perhaps solve or alleviate the problem of their pension funds, both in the United States and Canada, because no one wants to see individuals who have worked so hard for a corporation, knowing full well that they would be able to retire with adequate income, find out that in fact they're going to get little or nothing.
Surely, in the midst of this crisis we can gather the political will to address this very fundamental issue-and none of this bullfeathers of saying, "Oh, it's up to the federal government to do something pan-Canada." The federal government has pension jurisdiction; so does the province of Ontario. I depend upon federal legislators to deal with theirs, and I know that the New Democrats in Ottawa are working very hard in trying to make sure that the federal jurisdiction is being addressed by the federal government. They, again, have limited success because there's a paucity of support for that proposition up there on Parliament Hill. But here in Toronto we have jurisdiction as well.
New Democrats have made some very clear proposals: (1) increasing the pension benefits guarantee fund to $2,500, as Arthurs recommends-end of story; and (2) develop a publicly sponsored defined benefit pension plan to which workers and non-traditional workers make contributions. The province can do it, and they should.
I appreciate the opportunity here, only because I think the important part here is that our party is being supportive of this issue. We want to be clear that part of what we try to do here is educate each other by listening to each other's comments. None of us here are experts on this; let's be very clear on that.
We could start by just clarifying some of the preliminary explanation notes in Bill 236. I think, for the general public, which would include my constituents in the riding of Durham, pensions are a big issue, but a lot of people glaze over it and just skip over it; they don't really pay too much attention until it affects them, and it's now starting to affect people who worked for General Motors.
I see in northern Ontario some of the plant closures and the reorganization there. It's a big issue there, where these plants-then you'd start dealing with worker-related issues, severances and other entitlements. If companies go over the cliff, often there's no money there to deal with these issues, which is tragic. The government has a role here to ensure some minimum amount of coverage.
I guess you could say that the big issues on pensions-pension liabilities and corporate responsibilities-really lie with the federal government under the bankruptcy protection act. The claimant's position of the payroll, basically, or anyone on a pension, is very low down, if at all, on the list. Also, the creditors, who either supplied services or materials, would be-and banks etc. Banks would be first, I guess, if they had loans outstanding. As you go down the creditors list, you find that the payroll is basically at the end, if there's anything left.
We're finding in Nortel that, if they go under CCAA protection, the payroll is finished. They just scoop up all the money, and there's nothing left. That's a problem, and I think the federal government should work on it without changing the rules dramatically and instantly to affect the investment in the province as well as in the country. These are important rules.
I would say that governments, at all levels, have a culpable responsibility here. What I mean by that is, the previous speaker from Welland and certainly the other members of the NDP were here as cabinet ministers when the real regulation change occurred under the Pension Benefits Act. That change was the funding and the actuarial formula for funding pensions. This is where you get the glaze over the eyes. Again, I qualify anything I say as more or less just from reading recently, because this is such an important thing.
The Algoma Steel pension had a large surplus in the early 1990s, as did many pensions, actuarially. In fact, I would say that all the actuarial assumptions on pensions are wrong. I'm not a mathematician or anything close, but they're all wrong because the assumptions are based on a 7% return on equity. If you're getting 7%, you ought to double your money on that one. They're based on life expectancies in the 70s, and now people are living into the 90s. People are basically going to be retiring at 50 and living to 100. They may have only worked 25 years, so they're going to be retired twice as long as they actually worked. It doesn't work. It simply does not work.
Return on equity, life expectancy, and the third assumption, actuarially, is the number of people contributing. Corporations used to be shaped like a pyramid: one person retired and 10 working. A nice little logical-10 people paying and new people coming in all the time. The companies of the future are flat. They're corporate, they're integrated globally and they don't have what you called successor employer relations. The young people, especially the pages here, who are very bright, will live in a completely different world. I worked for General Motors for 30 years and I worked for another company for a period of time before that.
There's no pension in Ontario that's funded-none. Even HOOPP, the hospital plan. They say it's funded; that's baloney. It's not funded. And then they say there are surplus declarations. Well, a surplus means you have paid out all the money that you're liable to pay out. Not based on age, the demographics and all these models they build-I believe that there's no such thing as a surplus until a company is completely wound up and all debts and credits have been balanced.
When you get into the current definitions of pensions, it's very important to start with a good understanding of the actuarial assumptions. There are really two basic types of pensions, and the pension being discussed here is the defined benefit plan. A defined benefit plan is really problematic.
Now, let's look-it's easier to work with round numbers-at the sunshine list, the $100,000 list. If you're making $100,000, the way pensions work is that it's basically a factor times years of service. Let's just take the 30-and-out scenario; let's take the 85 factor. How does this all work? You have a defined benefit plan, which means you get a percentage of your best three to five years of employment. The factor is usually around a 60 to 70 factor, so you're going to get about 60% of what you earned. So if you're making $100,000 and you have an 85 factor pension-you start when you're 23 or 25-let's make it easy; 25-work for 25 years, which makes you 50. When you're about 55, you're entitled to retire. Can you imagine retiring at 55 on a fully indexed pension? The pension would be around $62,000 a year, for life.
Now, if you're making $200,000 a year, which some of the hospital administrators are-some of the very high-end people are making $200,000. On a defined benefit plan? Wait a minute here: If you're making $200,000, that means you're making about $130,000 a year on pension. Wait a minute here: 70% of people don't have a pension, let me assure you of this. That's the defined benefit. So really we should take a look at what's being proposed here today.
What is actually being proposed around the world-I listened to a lecture when I was in London, England recently. I went to the House of Lords to listen to the esteemed debate there, and the debate, believe it or not, was all about pensions. They have a huge problem, worse than ours. It's called legacy debt, way worse than ours. Europe is riddled with it. This is not unique to Ontario, period. We're unique in the fact that we're so young. It's called legacy debt, and they're all terrified of it because these obligations are contractual.
You can't blame the employees. I don't ever want to leave that impression. They, it could be argued, forgo certain kinds of rewards called payroll, called hourly rate, called benefits, so they can take a pension, which is income after they leave. So this is a huge issue globally.
But the world is moving to an argument called a defined contribution plan. The defined contribution plan is when I start with a company-it's mostly contract employees-where pension mobility becomes a big factor. This is where the Canada pension kind of comes into this thing. I think there needs to be an overarching structure to regulate this thing.
Here's how it works: The employee contributes $5, or whatever the amount is, and the employer contributes $5, and that goes into a fund. That fund is your future pension. Usually they have an array of benefits or plans that you can invest in, like mutual funds. There are very few options on the equity side. It's mostly leveraged funds, monetary funds or mutual funds of some sort. They're managed. You've got to watch the management fee. Often today, the management fee is outpacing the income on the fund. And some are front-end-loaded, meaning you pay an administration fee. And some are rear-end-loaded-you don't see it until you pull out the money, and then you pay the fee. Now that administration fee, by the way, is going to be taxed under the HST, which is, I think, a mistake, personally, when we're trying to encourage people to invest, to protect themselves.
I do sort of support that, but it's the idea of changing these rules like that. That's just wrong. I think the employers and the employees and the government interventions and regulation need to take time to let this soak through.
We likely will move to a plan where there's pension mobility and it will likely be a plan similar to a defined contribution plan. What's missing in these plans is this: a separate fund that is a guarantee. I think we need a minimum amount, as said by the member from Welland earlier, so that people aren't left stranded. That simply is wrong. It's, in some respects, unethical when bank guys are making millions of dollars in bonuses and stuff like that and the poor person who was working as the teller or something has nothing. That is simply unethical and wrong, whoever's government at any level.
So I think there needs to be some provisions put in so that-for instance, let's say that you had a provision that you would make no less than a certain amount. This gets into the current problem that Ontario has. The pension benefits guarantee fund-I'm going to repeat that: the pension benefits guarantee fund-PBGF, is funded by the employers as an insurance against a downward market. It is completely inadequate, by the way, but it is a tax because it's self-insuring. It's debt risk attenuation.
Here's the issue, though: The government sets those rules and they know full well when they go back to the 1993 decision on Algoma-I'm trying to make this come together here-they allowed them not to fund the plans. The government intervened. They became culpable right then in 1993, when they said that they're too big to fail. Any commercial court would say, "Look, who changed these rules of the game?" Well, it was the government. The government allowed them to retool Algoma by using the pension funds surplus. It turns out the surplus wasn't a surplus. It vanished, meaning the money that was used to retool was taken out, there was no money and the employee portion of the contribution had shrunk because they retooled and modernized the plant. So they prevented a rule because it was "too big to fail," which meant they could borrow. Ford did it, General Motors did it, Algoma did it, Inco did it-all of them did it. All of the big companies too big to fail did it. They took the money out, the surpluses.
What is the problem with Vale Inco in Sudbury? Pension debt is what it is-simple. They owe about $4.5 billion to $5 billion to the pension fund, and the new company-I think Spanish or Russian-Vale is saying, "Hey, wait a minute here. We didn't buy the debt. We bought the ore in the ground and all of the tools on the top of the ground that crush the rock and make it into whatever it is." This whole thing at Vale is about trying to switch them from a defined benefit plan-which was fairly honest, I guess, and generous, I guess; I don't know-to a defined contribution plan where the employee shares the risk. This is a huge problem.
I remember sitting through some commercial hearings on these things when I was assistant to the Minister of Finance, and this is where I really got engaged in the issue. I sat through and listened to these actuaries arguing back and forth. What it comes down to is this: The big issue starts with who owns the surplus. Let's say there is a windup in a company-and this Bill 236 does cover some of this-a partial windup or what they call a grow-in option. It gets too fuzzy to explain here. If I could have more time I would go on a bit; if people allowed me to, I would. I'd like to, actually.
But here's the real issue: The provisions in these plans simply will not work today. You can't explain any more than that. Companies are shaped differently; relationships with employers and employees are different. The employer itself, whether it's GE or GE Capital or GE's investment group-they're multinational, integrated, subdivided groups. You'll spend more time in court trying to find out who owes the money. So the employee and the employer both contribute an amount and it moves forward in some fund that's regulated, probably by the federal government.
Canada is a very small market, actually, in terms of pools of capital. You saw yesterday what happened. The euro dropped. Canada dropped. Everyone ran to the US. It's a big capital market. They may be in debt, they may be shaky, but there is more money moving there in a day than the rest of the world combined. When people get nervous they run to two places: They run to the US dollar or they run to gold. Watch gold in this whole market. It usually trades at a 50-to-1 ratio, so it's important to keep your eye on it.
The point I'm trying to make is, government intervened in 1993, and under the defined benefit plan-there was the pension benefits guarantee fund. Most people don't understand that most employee groups aren't entitled to that fund. The only one entitled to that fund is what they call a SEPP, a single-employer pension plan. The MEPP, the multi-employer pension plan, isn't entitled to that fund. Most people haven't got this much understanding of the issue, period. That would include me, as well. That's why I think continuing this debate is very important.
The substance of this bill is marginally important. The bigger debate is between Dwight Duncan and Jim Flaherty. There have been four or five meetings. One of them was in the Northwest Territories this past winter, headed by Flaherty and other finance ministers. I believe Minister Duncan was there as well. There has been a subsequent meeting. Now there is an expert panel group, and there was an expert panel report here in this province. So we know it's a problem.
I think, in realistic terms, if you load it on to the employers, they're going to run and hide. They're going to go to other jurisdictions where they're not required to have these things. If you load it all on the employee, that's unfair. So I think there's a role for government here, and I think you will see some of the recommendations in the expert panel's report. The expert panel, federally, I think is a very important point-because any government that moves to saying, "We're going to protect your income so it will allow you to invest it," is going to lose the payroll income tax paid on that money. And if they do, they're going to lose revenue. Governments right now are all in deficit, which is future debt.
I'd also be very careful about debt itself and how it's moving around today. These are fundamental questions. In Ontario, today's budget is about $117 billion. Servicing the debt is about $10 billion a year. We spend more on that than we do on pharmacy products-the big argument about that is 90% baloney. Here's the deal: If the interest rate goes up, we have a serious problem. It's going to be the same problem that Bob Rae had. The more they borrowed, the bigger the debt, the more the interest-and start paying more in interest to foreign investors or bondholders-
When I look at your budget, I personally think it's irresponsible. I think it's completely irresponsible to be accumulating debt. Yesterday Mark Carney from the Bank of Canada said, "Watch how much debt you're carrying." He did.
These people with these huge mortgages: Get ready. Get a "for sale" sign and put it in the garage, because if it goes up and your insurance companies don't want to cover that debt, you will have a designed conclusion.
Ending on a positive note, I think there is a real willingness on the part of the province and the federal government to try to find solutions without shaking up the world. If you have large pools of capital, large investments, you'll get a better return on your investment.
Canada should have one investment fund. They say the teachers' pension fund is the best because it's our biggest. Our fund should be a Canadian fund, and that fund could leverage against the larger US funds and actually attract better returns and safer investments. So we don't want to buy Greek bonds at 21%. It sounds good, but the liabilities are very high on those kinds of investments with Greece, Portugal and Spain. They're going to collapse. This is going to be like a house of cards going over the cliff. My sense, though, is that in Canada you have a better system of controls. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you were in this business at one time yourself. I believe others in the House were as well-Mr. Wilkinson was, I think, as well.
So it's a very interesting time, but we all have a responsibility to make sure that we protect the people that we're elected to represent in some way, at sort of a minimum amount. That's my argument with the defined contribution: It's a minimum threshold.
Of course, how we get to it in terms of the solution is obviously very different, but at least we're talking about the fact that a majority of Canadians have no pension whatsoever. We need to deal with that. The member correctly says that the battle is at the federal level, and in his view it should be at the federal level. New Democrats disagree with that, because while the larger battle happens there, if nothing goes on-because it's a meaningless pretense of a fight, or at trying to arrive at some conclusion-then you bring that battle here to the provincial level, is what New Democrats argue. If they are unwilling to do it at the federal level, we should be doing it. And I think we must.
So there are points of similarity that we have with the Conservative members, and points of disagreements as to how we get there, but at least we are both stating a concern, and that is that 70% have absolutely nothing. There's a lot to be worried about. Until we deal with that, the insecurity will get worse-and indeed it is getting worse. They have every right to be feeling insecure and to be worried about it. No one is proposing suggestions except that we, the New Democrats, have put out a modest proposal that we think they should look at. Monsieur McGuinty said, "Yeah, it's a good idea," although he hasn't moved to support it. I'll be speaking to that in about six minutes, and I'll elucidate a little more.
There was some considerable criticism of our provincial government when we came to the assistance of General Motors and Chrysler, to help get them through a difficult time because of-and this member understands this probably more than most-the great impact of the automotive industry in the province of Ontario. Certainly in his region and in my region, we both recognize how important that is. So I was very heartened to see that that investment is going to be made at the engine plant in St. Catharines, securing up to 400 jobs. Of course, there's also confirmation that the six-bead transmission work that is planned for St. Catharines is going to be implemented as well.
In both cases, this is new equipment; this is something that moves to the future. The member and I both know that when General Motors moves to the future-more fuel-efficient and more efficient overall-it is positive for the products that are going to be sold. All of this helps, because there are people who make contributions to pension plans. It allows the company to be able to do that. It allows for the viability of the plan. So I was pleased to see that the policy of this government had a positive impact on General Motors.
What I'd like to do in the brief time I have is talk about something that I think is maybe just as important as the bill, and that is creating the appropriate response within the community at large. I don't think that there has been enough understanding within the general public of the whole issue of pensions-defined benefits and otherwise. People have grown up feeling a security that I think isn't matched by their bank accounts. The kind of thing that I'm talking about is looking at, for instance-I think it's Saturday mornings in the Globe and Mail-the continuing series on taking individuals and looking at their finances and projecting, "Are these people able to retire?"-giving, then, the readership an opportunity to have a look at how others are organizing their money. Very often, people in these series have totally unrealistic ideas about their ability to retire and maintain a lifestyle that they think would be appropriate.
I also had a conversation with a woman who does financing at a car dealership. She came to me with a real concern about the number of young people-I'm talking late 20s, early 30s-who've already declared personal bankruptcy, and then think, "Okay, now I've got myself straightened out and paid my charge cards off; I need to borrow money to buy a car." And they have no concept of the implications of personal bankruptcy. They have no idea what lies in store for them-
The member for Durham, you have up to two minutes to respond.
In my remarks, I forgot to adequately thank the contributors to the Arthurs report, the expert panel in Ontario. Their work is very important, and I think it sets a benchmark where we can all learn a lot. I would recommend that people get a summary or a briefing on it.
It's really important to put this in context as well that in Ontario, 70% of people-those are our constituents-don't have a pension and maybe don't think about those kinds of things, but it's very important that we set some sort-as the economy-for a lot of worthy reasons, often.
Ontario's a big player in the overall scheme. There are 11,000 defined benefit plans in Canada, of which 4,100 are right here in Ontario. We need to make sure we carry our load on the redesign of whatever the solutions are, going forward. I think, retroactively, people under the best of understanding and the best of intentions did not deliberately choose a pension that would be bankrupt and then find themselves living under the bridge. I think of Nortel, but I also think of General Motors. When we read the headlines-I'm looking at one here this morning; this is under my search called "favourite stocks," and this headline today that I'm reading says-
There are two ways of valuing pensions. The two ways, the solvency rules, are as a going concern or as a windup. If it's a going concern, the rules for funding it, actuarially, are not the same as if it's a windup, and the federal government has a provision as well under the-
This is one big issue, I've got to tell you. I come from a family where my mother worked at home all of her life and had no pension, which was the case of many women in the past: They had no pension whatsoever for the work they did for a long time in the home. My father worked in construction. The pension he had, being in the union, was $70 a month-not a whole lot.
People are very insecure about their future. They were insecure in the past and they are more insecure now. You see financial markets melting and people are saying, "What's going to happen to us?" and, more specifically, "What's going to happen to me?" They have every right to be worried.
In Ontario, occupational pension coverage has eroded from a high point in 1985 of just under 40% of Ontario workers to about 34% in 2005. We're in 2010; it's probably about 31% or 32% at this time. It's going to get worse, in my view.
Many observers predict a further significant decline in defined benefits coverage in the near future, especially in light of the decline of the unionized sector during the current recession. And a defined benefit plan is a plan that every worker should have access to.
No one understands "defined benefit," "defined contribution." If you ask a young man or young woman of age 25, 26, 27, 28, they don't have a clue what it is. Most young men and women believe they are going to be working, and they're going to be working for a secure future of sorts; they are going to have a job and it's well paid, and you don't have to worry about pensions, because you're never going to get there until you get there. So they don't understand a defined benefit plan, where the contributions of workers and employers are put together in an equal manner so that by the end of 25 or 30 years, you have a defined plan based on years of work, and you've got a defined sum of money based on those contributions. It's a good thing for workers. It's a good thing for men and women who toil in every workplace in this province.
"Defined contribution" means the employer gives you a few bucks-maybe $1,000, maybe $2,000, maybe $3,000, maybe $4,000-and then you put that away into your own investment account. If the markets work well, God bless; you'll have a few dollars. If they collapse, you're in trouble.
Most of the defined benefit plans work well. Some have lost money, as la Caisse de dépôt in Quebec did, because they invested in those derivatives in the US. They lost close to $38 billion. Some have made some bad investments. The majority of our investments-while here the teachers' pension fund lost some money, it wasn't so bad. They're still good, well-managed pension plans that give a greater benefit to workers than any other contribution plan that we have, that we have seen and that we have witnessed in the collapse of our markets in the last year or two.
We have seen a desire by employers to whittle away at pensions. They are eroding those pensions. They're saying, "We can't afford defined benefit plans anymore." Oh? What can you afford? And what is good for workers? Insecurity? Less than they had? Less than they are entitled to, to be able to retire with some dignity, with a few bucks, to be able to say, "I feel okay; I can survive"?
It's okay for the employer to say, "We can't afford it." It's not okay for the men and women who have to rely on paltry sums after age 60 or 65 and after working for a lifetime to be able to receive some benefit that they can feel good about, so they don't have to stress about where their money's coming from.
What we as MPPs have, thanks to Mike Harris, is a contribution plan. God bless him; he left with a healthy sum of $800,000 or so. He was able to invest that. I'm sure he's doing okay. I understand he's earning $80,000 a month or something by serving on 10 boards at a time, because they pay former Premiers to be on the boards, just to sit there and say, "Hi," and things like that. He did okay, and some of the old members didn't do too badly. I only had four years and a half of vested money. If you add up what I might have if I retired now, I would probably have $15,000 a year in my pension for up to 20 years of service. The new members-
The new members get absolutely squat. If you don't have your own wealth, God bless you. Those who have a contribution plan, whether it's in this place or somewhere else, are out of luck. With some good luck, assuming you're still working and you're able to put a few dollars aside, assuming you do that or assuming you can, it might not be so bad.
We might be better off than those seniors who have nothing but the Canada pension plan. If you've worked for 35 or 40 years, the maximum is $11,000 a year. The old age security maximum, I think, is $5,500. The guaranteed income supplement-I don't know what that is, but that's for people who are absolutely poor. But for those who have worked, your maximum pension is $11,000, assuming you're entitled to the max, and the old age security is close to $5,000. You've got $16,000 a year to pay your home taxes that are rising every year, to pay your gas bills and hydro bills that are rising every year, to pay for your cable, to pay for your telephone, to pay for just basic things. The majority of people just can't make ends meet anymore.
I'm with those people who worry. I have been a supporter of the unions because at least with unions, the majority of them have managed to squeeze out a pension from their employers. They're able to, through collective agreements, make sure that there are benefits and pensions. The majority of those who have pensions are in the unionized sector. God bless, because if they weren't here, there wouldn't be a pension for many of those workers. Because of the pension workers and what they negotiate, those who are not in unions get the same benefit for sitting down and waiting for the unionized sector to get slapped around by the media and the corporate sector and everybody else for doing what they should be lobbying for as well, to deserve the benefits that unionized workers fight for. Unionized workers give those who are not unionized benefits that they don't have to sweat for.
This bill is an act to amend the Pension Benefits Act. Okay, we agree with a few things; we disagree with a few other things, but it doesn't touch on this big, big topic: that close to 70% have no pension. Monsieur McGuinty, the Premier, and others say, "No, we're lobbying the federal government." Oh, yeah, that's great; you're doing a great job. They sure are listening to you at the federal level. Boy, you have a lot of clout at the federal level, because they're sitting at the table, they meet every six months and they meet again every other six months. There are elections, and then there are more meetings. Oh, yeah, you have such powerful suasion with the federal Conservative Party. It's called motionless motion; nothing happens as we move.
Speaker, you know that the health care that we have at this moment wasn't initiated by the federal Liberals or the federal Conservative Party; it began because Tommy Douglas fought for it in Saskatchewan. We have a health care plan because a New Democrat from Saskatchewan made it happen, and the Liberals, so afraid were they that he would get re-elected as a federal member, said, "We have to do something. We have to institute a national plan." Now, God bless, the Liberals take advantage of that fact and say, "We did it." Thank God the Liberals have New Democrats to push them; otherwise, they would be in constant motionless motion, pretending they're moving and never moving anywhere except standing still. That is the legacy of Liberals.
I say to you, provinces have the power to lead. McGuinty, mon ami the Premier, has the power to do something. That's leadership. Leadership isn't to say, "Yes, we're pushing the federal Conservative Party," that doesn't want to do anything on this issue. That is not leadership; that's motionless motion. Leadership means, "I will do something for my folks here in Ontario. I will bring in a plan and force the Liberal government to respond," as the Liberals did with Tommy Douglas in the early 1960s.
He doesn't want to admit that it was Tommy Douglas who did it. It just doesn't want to come out of his mouth. He can't help himself.
Anyway, I say to you, we've got big things. We've got to do some more serious stuff. We've got to introduce our own pension plan that should be flexible, that should be portable. Our fund, the one we propose, would be a defined benefit plan-not a contribution plan; a defined benefit plan with a guaranteed benefit, much like the CPP. Every worker in Ontario who is already enrolled in a good-quality workplace pension plan would be automatically enrolled in the plan, but would have the freedom to opt out. All workers who have opted out would be automatically re-enrolled in the plan three years from the day they opted out, and would have to formally opt out again if they wanted to remain outside the plan.
Workers and employers would be required to contribute to the new plan equally. The full contribution rate would be phased in over time and employers would be required to contribute to the OPP as long as the employee remains in the plan. In other words, it would be voluntary for the employee but compulsory for the employer, should the employee choose to participate in the plan. Employees could top up their minimum contributions, but employers would not be required to match the top-up. There would be a cap on the maximum that an employee could contribute in any given year. We can do this.
Time is running out. It happens all the time.
We need some leadership. Our plan is a good plan for McGuinty to take. Just take it and make it yours. Take it and make it yours and lead. Don't wait for Harper to do something, because he's not.
Third reading debate deemed adjourned.
The House recessed from 1018 to 1030.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
I'd like to this opportunity on behalf of page Carrington Knight and the leader of the third party to welcome Carrington's mother, Jean Lewis Knight; father, Steven Knight; and brothers, Devan Knight, Nelson Knight and Spensir Knight, to the members' gallery today. Welcome to Queen's Park.
We think it's really important that we pursue clean energy opportunities in Ontario. We're a little late, frankly, when it comes to this. They started harnessing the power of the wind in order to generate electricity, they tell me, in the 1880s. But I'm glad that we've gone from, I think, some 10 wind turbines to 700.
I look forward, in the supplementaries, to outlining in a bit more detail why I think it's important for all of us that we find a way to move forward on this.
If he had seriously changed his ways, Dalton McGuinty would listen to families from Prince Edward-Hastings, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, Nipissing, Essex, Scarborough Bluffs and Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock. They want input into where you put your industrial wind farms. They want an independent study that shows your industrial projects are safe for them and safe for the environment. Can you do better than offering the word of Samsung or Minister Gerretsen?
But I want to say that we've taken a long time to consider the policy that we have put in place. The choices aren't all easy when it comes to electricity. We've decided that it's important to eliminate coal-fired generation. That's something that compromises the health of our children and contributes to global warming, so we want to shut that down. Gas-fired generation is not easy either. It does contribute to global warming. But when it comes to wind turbines, we now have in place the most aggressive policies in all of North America when it comes to location, noise emission levels and all those kinds of things-in fact, they're some of the strongest in the world. More than that, we're now funding a research chair devoted to putting in place a longitudinal study so we can ensure that we are in fact not compromising the health of Ontarians. I think we're doing exactly what we need to do at this point in our history.
Will you show that your humiliation of Minister Pupatello was not in vain and that you've truly taken to heart the need to consult families and support my opposition day motion today?
Let me tell you about one of the other benefits, apart from us harnessing the clean power of the wind for Ontario families in a way that does not compromise their health. In addition to that, so far, the investments that we have landed-and they total over $16 billion-will translate into 36,000 clean energy jobs in the province of Ontario.
Some of the strongest support we have for our wind turbine program comes from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, which is a really important constituent group in rural Ontario. We've given this a great deal of thought. We've listened to a lot of people who think it is important, as part of a progressive energy plan, to ensure that we're harnessing the clean power of the wind.
Last month the Premier said that he believed municipalities were "a mature, responsible level of government." But apparently he did not mean when it comes to the fundamental role of municipalities, which is local planning. He dismissively waves off health and environmental concerns, but his massive industrial wind projects have barely begun and already media reports that blades of a windmill killed an eagle and local experts say that industrial wind farms are scaring animals from their habitat.
Why does the Premier think Dalton knows best when it comes to putting large industrial wind turbines in place?
Will the McGuinty Liberals support our opposition day motion and restore public accountability and public confidence in planning for industrial wind farms?
"Something has to be done immediately to get the province, and the world population for that matter, to stop polluting the planet. And to that end, the McGuinty government is pushing through the Green Energy Act....
"But to make the change to green power from such old polluting technologies as coal, planning must be on a large scale."
Unless the Tories can come up with another plan to get renewable energy producers up and running quickly in Ontario, they should accept that the government is doing what needs to be done. We are doing what needs to be done. We're cleaning up the air of this planet so that future generations have cleaner air to breathe, so that we can improve the health of future generations, and we're creating a green energy hub here in this province to create jobs. That's in the interests of Ontarians, not the plan that you-
Why is the McGuinty government allowing this carnage to continue?
Human suffering-often we may talk about it in this House or in policy as a statistic, but behind every one of those statistics is a life story. That's why our government has doubled our efforts. We've doubled the number of inspectors we have out in the field to ensure that employers are adhering to their responsibilities, employing the best practices when it comes to health and safety. We want to make sure that anyone who goes to work in the morning does their work and comes home safe and sound to their family. That's what we're working towards every day. That is my number one priority at the Ministry of Labour.
The member, I believe, is speaking to the Westray bill, which is federal legislation. Under that legislation, he would know that it speaks to criminal charges. It's the responsibility of police and crown attorneys to determine when criminal charges are warranted for a workplace injury or fatality.
Hundreds of workers have been killed on the job and millions injured in Ontario since the Criminal Code was amended in 2004. Holding employers responsible for workplace deaths is the only sure way to improve workplace safety. It's this government's Attorney General, Minister of Labour and Solicitor General who are responsible for ensuring that the Criminal Code is enforced in the province of Ontario.
Why won't the government make full use of the Criminal Code and stop the needless and tragic killing of Ontario workers by sending bad bosses to jail?
That is why we have a strong strategy, a plan. It's called Safe at Work Ontario. We work with labour groups, we work with employers and we work with employees, because it's everyone's responsibility to make sure that people are safe when they're at work and that they do come home safe and sound at the end of the day.
We've also launched an expert advisory panel led by Tony Dean. We're doing a comprehensive review of our health-
With respect to Toronto itself: $3.5 billion since 2003. In addition to that, we've turned over a portion of our gas tax. It's a provincial gas tax. We've turned it over to our municipal partners. In the case of the city of Toronto, they've received close to $700 million over the first five years of the program. We are at present investing $870 million to extend the TTC subway to York region. I think that's real, solid evidence of our continuing commitment to public transit in Toronto.
I can only assume that the reason the Premier didn't answer the question is that the answer is, in fact, no. The planning work on this vital project is complete. Eglinton residents shouldn't have to wait any longer. Will the Premier commit to having the shovels in the ground on the Eglinton LRT by the end of this year, or is he prepared to go down in history as the next Mike Harris of transportation?
"To be fair, McGuinty has done more to advance the transit agenda in this region than any Premier since Bill Davis. He has given tangible leadership to the idea that transportation is a regional issue and that it requires regional solutions."
We want to continue to find ways to invest in public transit. In fact, we are doing that as we speak; that is, there are jobs that are under way right now. We look forward to working with Metrolinx and making sure we get the best possible responsible schedule in place when it comes to investing in these new projects.
The Premier can make things easy for his Toronto colleagues and Toronto commuters. Will he commit to having shovels in the ground on the Eglinton LRT by the end of this year? Simple question, simple answer; will the Premier simply say yes or no?
I want to reassure my colleague, her constituents, the people of Toronto and all Ontarians that our resolve when it comes to investing in public transit remains as strong as ever, and we will find a way forward, notwithstanding the fact that we are challenged when it comes to some aspects of our finances right now.
After refusing to engage parents, the Premier flip-flopped, hanging his Acting Premier and education minister out to dry in the process. He said the curriculum would be shelved, and on Monday, the education minister added that the sex ed curriculum would not be ready for fall because, "What's important is we take the time to do it right." But yesterday the Premier did it to his minister again, insisting guidelines will be in place for this fall.
Why would the Premier keep important details about his plan from the minister and, more importantly, from parents?
We listened to parents, for example, when it came to smaller classes. We listened to them when they said, "We want peace and stability in our schools; we are sick and tired of the labour strife that characterized our schools under the Conservative government." They said, "Help ensure that our children graduate from schools," and I'm proud to report that we have 16,500 more graduates on an annual basis. They said, "Help us get our test scores up." We're doing that; they are up 13%, on average.
We think it's important to listen to the parents to ensure we are getting the education of our children right.
Why should parents trust anything that you say about your sex ed curriculum?
We want to listen to parents to make sure we get the curriculum content just right. That's in keeping with the approach that we've brought to education generally. Parents told us, for example, they wanted more textbooks, so we've invested $500 million more, on an annual basis, in more textbooks. They said they'd like to have more music, art and drama in the classroom, so we've hired 3,700 elementary specialty teachers in those areas. They said they want clean and safe school buildings, so we have built 400 new schools and there are 12,000 repair and renovation projects complete or under way. It's important to listen to parents when it comes to education.
A decade of underfunding has driven the care workers out on strike. Will you commit to proper funding of this centre so it can settle the strike?
As I have said, given the nature of the current labour dispute, I'm not able to intervene at this time, but I do continue to encourage both sides to work out and resolve this dispute as quickly as possible. As a mother myself, I want to say that I understand the importance of child care. It was very important to me.
I know it's important to the members in this House that the child care centre at Massey is open and it will continue to serve the preschool-aged children. The prenatal residential program will be closed for the duration of the strike, but the Massey Centre has arranged alternate accommodation for all residents to ensure that they continue to get the supports that they need.
We believe in child care. Just yesterday, we announced $51 million in investments to stabilize the child care-
We all know that a collective agreement is a stable agreement, a productive agreement and a fair agreement. This is what we want so that the Massey Centre can continue to do the great work they do every day.
I want to be sure that my constituents and all Ontarians understand that the proposed drug reforms will benefit them. Seniors in my riding are especially concerned about the level of care they receive from their pharmacists. Minister, can you tell us how the elimination of professional allowances will affect Ontarians?
We're also committed to supporting pharmacists in rural and underserviced areas. That's why CARP, the seniors' advocacy-
There has been much discussion around consultation and negotiations with pharmacists. We've heard that the pharmacists want to talk about the proposed reforms. Our pharmacists are important members of our community and many people rely on their medical advice. Minister, what are we doing to ensure that pharmacists also have a chance to be heard?
Ontarians have been asking me, "Why are we paying up to five time as much for drugs in Ontario than in states in the United States?" I want them to know that it's unacceptable. We are determined to move forward with our plan to lower the price of drugs in Ontario. It's the right thing to do-
I just heard the member opposite say that there is going to be a 13% increase on the price of energy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would remind you to go to our website, where the facts are clearly laid out. I know that perhaps you weren't speaking to your federal member, who obviously does not agree with you since he voted for the fact that on July 1, the federal government will be the sole tax collector in regard to sales taxes in the province of Ontario.
What the people of Dufferin-Caledon want, what the people of Guelph want and what the people in my riding want are jobs. This tax reform is all about ensuring that our companies can compete for jobs in the 21st century. That's exactly why we're doing it and that's exactly why we'll-
I asked a very basic question. The Minister of Energy has already added increases to energy bills. My question is, are you going to tack on to that the additional HST that is scheduled to start on July 1? Simple question, simple answer.
With respect to our commitment to full-day learning in schools, we have phase one that is rolling out in the fall. You know that that does include some 597 schools, so for families in the catchment of those schools, absolutely there will be full-day learning available for all of the students, the four- and five-year-olds, who are registered in those schools.
We are hoping to announce phase two schools very soon, and we expect that in 2015-16, all schools in Ontario will be providing the full-day learning program.
Pascal's seamless day means that parents drop off and pick up their child at one location-the school. It does not mean kindergarten in one location and before- and after-school care at a different location provided by a different system or different provider.
Your announcement yesterday will produce a patchwork of services and a hit-or-miss approach across the province. Some children will have before- and after-school care and others will not. Some children will have continuity of programming and others will not. Some children will remain at the school for the full day and others will be moving between two locations, the school and the daycare, twice a day. Some daycares might provide transportation between the school and the daycare; others may rely on parents to find their own transportation. Why are you creating this logistical nightmare for parents?
We do want to do everything we can. Our expectation, of course, is that the before- and after-school programs will take place, operated by school boards, in a school location. We do know that there are some locations in the province of Ontario where, at the present time, other providers are providing the wraparound services. What we've said is that we want it transitioned so boards will be required to provide four- and five-year-olds programs, but we understand that there may be contractual agreements that they must respect for the-
This transition rule is the same rule that will apply in British Columbia. It's the same rule that was applied when the HST came into Atlantic Canada and is two months shorter than when the federal government brought in the GST.
Minister, quite specifically, what are you doing to help and to ensure that business is ready for the HST and that the transitional rules are widely understood by business?
What we've been doing is reaching out to business. I've been able to criss-cross Ontario. I've been to over 90 events and spoken to over 13,000 business stakeholders myself. I can tell you that some 1.3 million Ontarians have already gone to our website, www.ontario.ca/taxchange, where there is an accurate portrayal of what the current and new rules are. We encourage people to do that.
I know that the federal government, which will be solely responsible for the HST after July 1-the Canada Revenue Agency has been proactively calling out, particularly to rural businesses: some 80,000 calls to business owners. As well, small businesses are going to receive all of their input tax credits now at 13%. We're cutting the taxes for small business from-
More than a year later, there have been no answers. Premier, the Attorney General promised justice. This delay creates injustice. Why isn't the review of these shaken-baby death cases a priority with your Attorney General?
Listen, we will tell you that in the justice ministries, we are very supportive of moving forward, and we are, in a very expeditious manner. We will continue to move forward clearly and carefully. Justice Goudge is very pleased with our implementation and the way we are rolling out his recommendations.
Premier, families were torn apart by Dr. Charles Smith's flawed reports. Premier, for too long, these families have waited. I ask for them: When will they have answers?
We're implementing the recommendations of the Goudge inquiry. We're doing that in a very proactive but expeditious way. We will continue to do that.
I am proud of the changes we've made to the chief coroner's office. I am very proud of the changes we've made with regard to death investigation and oversight. I am very proud of those recommendations that we've put in place to develop a system so that history will not repeat itself.
He should be very proud, as we move forward, that the government of Ontario has listened carefully not only to the people of Ontario but also to Justice Goudge.
If the Premier thinks that businesses will pass on all their savings to consumers, as he has said in this place many times, will he advise consumers to ignore this "buy now" message?
I say, as the taxman of the province of Ontario, we have set out one set of rules, and they're very clear. If businesses want to use that as a reason to accelerate their sales, we welcome that, but again, for those businesses it's April 30. After May 1, if you're selling something and invoicing something for your customer and it falls after July 1, then the HST rules and the tax will be payable to the federal government after July 1.
This government has gone to great lengths to stop people from knowing how much the HST is going to cost them. They've refused questions and have blocked freedom-of-information requests. Now the HST is nearly here-coming Saturday. Will this minister finally tell Ontario families how much the HST will cost them on big ticket items like gasoline?
Coming out of this great recession, the most important thing we can do is have a great recovery. That's why we've decided to harmonize our sales tax, something that governments in the past have not been able to do. I want to thank the federal government, because they have worked in partnership with us to ensure that Ontario will be even more competitive than it is today, generating the jobs, the wealth and the taxes that pay for the public services we value so much. It's why it's important for businesses to get ready for the HST, to understand those transition rules and to ensure that consumers understand what those rules are. We'll continue to work our very hardest to make-
Last January, the previous Minister of Transportation announced the government was building an extension of Highway 407 from Pickering to Clarington. The Highway 407 extension would provide a faster and easier option for my constituents to get through the Durham region and into Toronto. Would the minister please provide an update on the status of the Highway 407 project?
We do understand that it's important to have a strong network of highways and roads in place, and we know it's important that we relieve the congestion in the Durham area. That's why we're moving ahead with the 407 east extension.
Here's where we are: Last August, the Ministry of Transportation completed the environmental assessment for this project and submitted it to the Ministry of the Environment. The Ministry of the Environment is looking at that, reviewing the EA. Once the EA is approved and the necessary property is purchased, we'll begin construction of the highway.
MTO is continuing to do some of the other support work that needs to be in place, including archaeological investigations, mitigations for species at risk and utility relocations.
I want to thank the member for Peterborough for his advocacy on this. This will make a huge difference to the congestion in the eastern part of the region.
I know my constituents will look forward to hearing more about the 407 extension as it moves forward.
Highway 7 is another important road for many people of Peterborough. It provides a direct connection between the Peterborough region and other municipalities. I'm happy to say that since we've been in government, much has been done to improve highway conditions and safety on this very busy highway.
With the arrival of spring, many of my constituents are anticipating the beginning of the construction season and want to know if any further improvements are planned to Highway 7 this year.
Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, can you please tell us what projects will be going ahead in my riding of Peterborough this summer?
We've already done a lot of work on Highway 7, as the member said. In 2006, we invested $1.2 million for intersection improvements at Parkhill Road, and we have also invested $7.2 million for resurfacing, intersection improvements and passing lanes from Fowlers Corners west to Omemee. Last year, we invested $18.4 million for the resurfacing and the addition of a left-turn lane from Drummond Line to Peterborough. We're going to continue to maintain.
This year, we're going to continue our $16.7-million expansion project from Highway 28 to Drummond Line. We're currently widening Highway 7 east of Peterborough from two to five lanes; that's four through lanes and one centre left-turn lane, as well as undertaking entrance improvements and resurfacing.
The other issue here is, this creates 112 jobs, which is also important for the community. We look forward to that continuing work.
You promised in this House that Bill 115 would help prevent the injustices that occurred in the past-and you know how serious they were. Minister, why are you breaking your promise to Ontario families on this very important issue?
Minister, why have you weakened a process of accountability that you promised to strengthen with Bill 115?
For example, the independent pharmacies in Red Lake, Emo and Rainy River, if they were forced to close, would have literally thousands of people having to travel, in some cases, 100 kilometres or more to the next pharmacy. They are concerned that they may have to close, because they see your scheme as a one-size-fits-all strategy that ignores communities in northern Ontario. Why are you ignoring these communities and putting their pharmacies at risk of closure?
We are absolutely committed to supporting those pharmacies in small towns and underserviced communities. We are proposing that we increase the dispensing fee for those pharmacists by up to $4. Pharmacists across the province will have an increase in their dispensing fees. I'm talking about the fees that we as a government pay for people on the Ontario drug benefit plan.
In those small communities, because we value the work they do, we want to make sure that they remain viable. We will increase the dispensing fees in those communities.
These reforms are important for all-
But I have to ask, does the NDP support reducing the prices of drugs for vulnerable people in this province? Are you opposed to the changes that we are making that will bring down the prices of drugs for people who are living on the edge?
Let me quote Susan Eng. She's the vice-president of advocacy for CARP, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons: "Lowering the cost of ... prescription drugs is a major priority for our members, regardless of whether they are covered by the Ontario government, private drug plans or paid out of their own pockets. They and all Ontarians will benefit from the direct savings in drug costs and the redirection of the public savings"-
TOURISM AND CULTURE
Minister, what can I tell the cultural groups in Guelph that our government is doing to increase awareness and promote greater participation in the cultural industry?
The task force will be developing and promoting Culture Days. They will also represent Ontario on the national stage. The Ontario Arts Council, an agency of our government, is playing an important advisory role. The Ontario task force on Culture Days is embarking on a new journey that will celebrate the arts and increase participation.
Quebec has been very successful in this venture. Culture Days started in Quebec in 1997 as Journées de la culture. Last year, more than 300,000 individuals participated in activities in 331 cities and towns throughout Quebec. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Tourism and Culture: What specifically is our government doing to lend support to culture and Culture Days in Ontario?
The Ontario Arts Council supports artists and arts organizations. Their annual budget is almost $60 million, an increase of 140% since 2003. In 2009, the Ontario Arts Council supported over 1,400 individual artists and over 1,000 organizations in 200 communities across Ontario. The Ontario Trillium Foundation also supports non-profit organizations in the arts and culture. We are investing $120 million this year in the Ontario Trillium Foundation. These investments enrich the arts in communities all across Ontario.
The House recessed from 1137 to 1500.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
The Canadian Navy was born when the Canadian Parliament passed the Naval Service Act, which came into effect on May 4, 1910. Officially known as the Naval Service Act of Canada, this new entity created a permanent volunteer force that included a reserve. In its early years, our Canadian Navy featured one single cruiser patrolling the waters of the west and east coasts. The British cruiser HMS Rainbow was the first ship commissioned into the Canadian Navy, on November 7, 1910. By the end of the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War, the Canadian Navy had grown to be the primary navy in the northwest sector of the Atlantic Ocean.
The individuals who served and died for our country at sea must be remembered, not just today but every day. They fought for our country so that we could enjoy our democracy and live with the freedom and liberties that we do today. For that, I salute the members of our navy, past and present, and say thank you.
Does anyone share the outrage of senators-Democrats and Republicans-at how ruthless, unethical banks like Goldman Sachs fixed the odds in their favour no matter whom they hurt? These are the people Dalton McGuinty hired to advise him on privatization.
I don't know about you, Mr. Speaker, but the tens of thousands of Ontarians who lost their jobs thanks to banks like Goldman Sachs deserve better-and better from this government, which should monitor the astonishing goings-on in Washington and act on them like Ontarians expect them to act by sacking Goldman Sachs. Anything else is a dereliction of duty.
It is an incredibly bright place to visit. I often go to the Good Companions centre to just talk to seniors, and to serve them tea and lunch once in a while. It's incredible to see how engaged and active the seniors are at the Good Companions centre. It's full of volunteers who provide services. They have things like fitness and dance classes, Spanish lessons, cards, bingo, crafts, and informative sessions on health and wellness that go on on a daily basis.
I just want to congratulate them for the great service they are providing to our seniors in the Ottawa area and the good work they do. Special thanks to all the volunteers who are involved at the Good Companions centre. Thanks to the president of the board, Rock Falardeau, and his board for the good work they do; to the executive director, Louise Martin; and to all the staff at the Good Companions Seniors' Centre for their dedication to our seniors and the service they give to them. Congratulations on your 55th anniversary.
Listen to this: Garry competes among athletes who are over 85 years of age at shot put, discus, hammer throw, weight throw, pentathlon and javelin. Imagine that at 85. That's Participaction. He received five gold medals and a bronze at the World Masters Games held in 2007. Garry is living proof that the spirit of athletic excellence is not defined by age. He describes himself as a non-conformist who follows no diet regime or training schedule. He's just a great, physically fit person. He prefers to learn from other athletes as well as reading, watching videos and, above all, getting plenty of practice.
Garry Bachman is a worthy addition to the hall of fame, and I know that members here will wish him well. More importantly, the message for young people today is, believe in yourself, do your best and stay focused on what the purpose is. I commend Garry, and I'm sure all members do as well.
Marc Shroetter, the curator of the Crowne Gallery, a fine art gallery and art supply shop, has been working on a unique project to support our troops in Afghanistan. Marc has enlisted local artists, as well as artists from across Canada, to paint postcards of Canadian scenes in a variety of formats-watercolours, oils, acrylics-with positive messages handwritten on the back. When Marc has collected 40 to 50 of these original works, he packages them up and sends them to our troops overseas. It provides them with a piece of home and a message of appreciation from the arts community in my riding and beyond.
I had the privilege of visiting the Crowne Gallery this past weekend and was able to see first-hand the works that have been sent in to date. Many of the paintings are representative of the beautiful lakes and hills that surround Minden and the rest of Haliburton county. This is the area of Ontario that borders on Algonquin Park. It's part of the landscape that inspired the paintings of the famous Group of Seven artists. Their influence can be seen in many of the postcards that I saw.
Imagine what it is like for one of our soldiers to be sitting on the dusty reaches of Kandahar and to be able to look at the picturesque beauty of a loon landing on one of our gorgeous Ontario waterways, seeing the brush strokes and knowing that someone back home has taken the time to brighten their day.
I want to thank the artists from Haliburton county and, indeed, from across Canada who are contributing to this wonderful project. Special thanks to Marc Shroetter, curator of the Crowne Gallery in Minden, for creating such a unique way to brighten the days of our brave soldiers so far from home.
It is a measure of five robust accountability ideas that we think can be done today, here in the Ontario Legislature. Those five issues are: expanding the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and its scope so that it hits every public sector body-that means that it would open it up to hospitals, which is an idea that has been put forward by the Ontario Hospital Association as well as Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner. We also have four other initiatives there that talk about full, proactive disclosure in all public sector bodies. That means that we would ask for full disclosure, quarterly, on websites of the following things: any contribution or grant given that's $10,000 or more will be known to the public; any contract that is tendered, over $10,000, would also be made available in public; all hospitality and travel expenses will be made public; and we would ask that all reclassifications of public sector jobs be made available so the public, media, third party watchdog groups and the opposition will all have an opportunity to see what's in government so we can restore truth in government.
I'm calling on all members of the Ontario Legislature to support Tim Hudak and the PC caucus's plan for truth in government.
OF WOUND CARE
As a physician, I can speak from first-hand experience that both education and proper care for wounds is essential if patients want to be on the steady road to recovery. Wounds from surgery, pressure ulcers and bedsores can often lead to infection and amputation if they are not properly cared for. Over two million Ontarians are seriously impacted by their wounds, at a cost of over $1.5 billion to our health care system.
I would like to recognize the work of the volunteers, patients and health care professionals at the CAWC. Their tireless work in providing training to hospitals, long-term-care facilities and to home care providers is helping to reduce the incidence and impact of wounds, therefore relieving some of the burden from our health care system.
I ask this House to recognize the work of the attending members of this organization, as well as Patricia Coutts, board chair; Karen Philp, chief executive officer; and Emily Wills, government relations and communication coordinator.
MARCH OF DIMES
I am proud to rise in the Legislature today to recognize and give my heartfelt thanks to the participants, families, caregivers and staff members from the March of Dimes conductive education program. Members may not know that conductive education is a unique teaching system that maximizes the independence and mobility of children and adults with neuromotor disabilities, like stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, acquired brain injuries and Parkinson's disease.
Conductive education takes advantage of the brain's neuroplasticity: the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize neuro-pathways based on new experiences. So no matter how severe the disability, people can learn and improve when they are motivated.
Conductive education has the potential to make a significant life-changing impact on the mobility and independence of close to nine million people in North America, and is operated from the offices of our very own March of Dimes, an organization that has been helping improve the lives and livelihoods of Ontarians with disabilities for nearly 60 years. Conductive education helps individuals learn their way to greater independence.
I hope the House will join me in congratulating our guests from the March of Dimes for their commitment to inclusion and accessibility. I ask all members to support the March of Dimes' conductive education awareness day.
10 DAYS ACROSS CANADA
Over a 10-day period last September, four filmmakers from Cornwall, Ontario, managed to travel through 10 provinces and three territories. During their journey, they met celebrities and hundreds of everyday Canadians, from dogsledders in the north to CFL players in the west and First Nations leaders in the east. Their goal was to find out what it means to be a Canadian.
The film includes appearances by celebrities such as astronaut Marc Garneau; actresses Geri Hall from This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Sheila McCarthy from Little Mosque on the Prairie; former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Doug Gilmour; and musical artist Natalie MacMaster, to name a few. There is also a very special appearance by our very own Premier of Ontario, the Honourable Dalton McGuinty.
The film debuted at Galaxy Cinemas in Cornwall on April 7, and it will make its national debut in 20 Cineplex theatres across Canada tonight, and right here in Toronto at the Varsity Cineplex in the Manulife Centre at 55 Bloor Street West.
This is the fourth film from Frank Burrelle and John Earle of FishRizzo Productions. Previously, the two have collaborated on 86400, Treasures of the Lost Villages and Submerged.
I would like to invite all my colleagues here in the Legislature to make sure they see 10 Days Across Canada, as it supports our local filmmakers in the province of Ontario and, of course, in my riding of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES
STANDING COMMITTEE ON REGULATIONS AND PRIVATE BILLS
Bill Pr29, An Act to revive 962 Bloor Street West Limited.
Bill Pr30, An Act to revive the Durham Region Classic Mustang Club.
Bill Pr31, An Act to revive Deepa Gas Limited.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BUSINESS
Motion agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
I guess there are many things that you would want to say about George Kerr. You could go on for 15 or 20 minutes. He always reminded a lot of people of being the sheriff when he arrived: He was a tall, distinguished-looking individual with a bit of a stern manner. But of course, if you knew him, he had an excellent sense of humour and he fit the title of Solicitor General when he was there.
Something interesting about George that a lot of people don't know-perhaps if they didn't know him personally and don't know the history of the province-is that he was, to my recollection, the first environment minister in the province of Ontario. He served under two different Premiers, Premier Robarts and Premier Davis, and was well-liked by his colleagues. I know that. But he also did a lot of great committee work. A lot of people think that they remember George as a cabinet minister, but before he got into cabinet, and subsequent to that, he was a great asset to the Progressive Conservative government of the day for the committee work that he did.
Some of us come from the municipal field, and he came from the municipal field. We probably all have something in common somewhere along the way. I remember, in 1971, moving at St. Catharines city council that we secede from the Regional Municipality of Niagara, which will be celebrating its 40th anniversary. I'll be at the dinner when they do so, commending them of course. George did not want Burlington to be part of Hamilton-Wentworth. He was very successful: He managed to persuade Premier Davis and others. Municipal Affairs Minister Darcy McKeough was around at that time, and Darcy had a lot to say about these things. George managed to persuade them that, indeed, he should be able to keep Burlington out of the clutches of Hamilton-Wentworth, and today it has been that case as part of Halton.
He was first elected as a member for Halton in 1963, I believe, and then it became Halton West, and as the area grew up in terms of the number of people there, he became the member for Burlington South. If you're from the Burlington area, from Halton, you would recognize him as a giant. There's one thing that was made reference to-and Joyce will probably make greater reference to this and I won't steal her thunder on it and she will probably elaborate on this. There was a great speech he made-I think it was at your nomination, Joyce, that he made that speech, or victory night, one of the two-when he was well on in age and he had many health challenges, but he still rallied the troops on that special Progressive Conservative occasion.
He was very loyal to the party, and very loyal to the Premiers that he served with, but he was a no-nonsense person. He was not the kind of person that could be bullied around easily; he had his views and they were pretty clear views. Now, Norm Sterling and I have both been Minister of the Environment at one time or another, and I remember he did something neither one of us did: He went for a swim in Burlington Bay to demonstrate, perhaps, that the water wasn't as dirty as people thought. When he got in there he may have changed his mind somewhat, but he actually got in with an old-style bathing suit, and went into the bay. It was quite an event. There was a lot of media around.
He was very focused on the environment. Remember that he lived in an area that was impacted, and in those days there may not have been as many environmental controls as we see in our society today. He had those huge booming smelters in Hamilton from Stelco and Dofasco, and the smoke-as it was called then; we call it pollution now-in those days, before a lot of the environmental controls were put on, was pretty pronounced. George recognized that we had to improve a lot of things, but he recognized that improvement of the quality of air and water was very important.
As a personality, he was extremely well-liked in his riding. He was elected over and over again. Anybody who was challenging him in an election recognized that it was very much an uphill battle, not just because Burlington had a significant history of electing Progressive Conservatives, but because George himself was a man who got along with everybody. He truly was an individual who, as Rudyard Kipling said, could walk with kings and keep the common touch.
We send our condolences to the family. Even though he passed on a few years ago now, I think the family can be justifiably proud of him. We thank them for allowing him to be with us for as many years as he was, about 21.
Now, I want to say I didn't serve here-Mr. Kerr left in 1985; I got here in 1990-but who could grow up in the 1970s-never mind, I was grown up by then. But who could go through the 1970s-I wish I grew up in the 1970s-and pay attention to Ontario politics and not know the name of George Kerr? He was one of those people who was a little bit bigger than life because he marched to his own drummer. He was a proud Conservative who served under various Premiers in the Conservative Party here when it was government, but he understood that he had certain things that he wanted to do and that at the end of the day independence is not a bad thing as long as it's measured within the confines of the political party. This is something that I understood very early on, because I remember being a young adult at that time in the 1970s, when the first Minister of the Environment to be appointed in Ontario was George Kerr, and it was fitting because he moved the envelope forward beyond where it was at the time and started setting up some of the debates that we're having today in regards to issues around water, air and emissions that go on.
From 1963 to 1985 is a long time in politics. Obviously, along that time his family, his wife and kids, three children that they had together, paid the price for him to be here. There are very few people who are fortunate enough to serve in this place over 20 years, and obviously 22 years in the Legislature means to say that often he was not there for his children when they needed him at particular events or issues going on in the family. We have all suffered that in this Legislature, as we well know. Often his wife was left alone to deal with some of the issues that had to be dealt with. To his family we say, thank you for lending us your father, not just to the Legislature but to Ontario, to the politics of Ontario and making this province a much better place.
George, as I said at the beginning, sort of lived to his own drummer and he sort of set something up. He may not have been the first one, but he's the one that I first remember. I don't remember the details to this, so I may be corrected by other members of the assembly, but I remember that when he was Solicitor General there was an issue about impropriety. I don't remember what it was all about. George Kerr did what ministers of the crown should do, and George Kerr said, "I will step aside and allow an investigation to happen," and he went around to make sure that an investigation did take place. Eventually his name was cleared because it turned out there was no impropriety, but he understood that, as a minister of the crown, ultimately he had the responsibility to do the right thing. As I remember it, he was one of the first, if not the first, elected official in cabinet to have done that that I can remember. I don't know if it happened prior, but I can tell you that in my early memory he was one of the first. He went back and served again as Solicitor General and served in a number of other posts in the Conservative government, and understood that at the end of the day, the buck stops here. I think that's something that we should all remember.
So to his family, to his friends, and to Deborah Frame, who is here, who grew up with him and knew him as a personal friend over the years, certainly a person of memory, a person of integrity and a person who served this Legislature and the province for a long time and left one real big legacy to the people of Ontario-we say to George Kerr: Thank you and God bless.
Today, I stand here with all of you to remember the life of George Kerr. In Mr. Kerr's own words in his maiden day speech, he said, "It's with a feeling of privilege and some pride that I am able, as a new member, to speak for the first time in this assembly." We all know what that feels like. To George, it meant the world. He was passionate about it.
Mr. Kerr served the residents of Burlington South from 1963 to 1985. That's an era that we will never see again. Mr. Kerr had a tremendous record of accomplishments. These were times when visionary and creative leaders like George Kerr could trail-blaze, and trail-blaze he did. He was the first-ever environment minister not only here in Ontario, but in Canada. In addition, he served as Minister of Colleges and Universities, the Provincial Secretary for Justice-I have the Bible he swore on when he became the minister that day-and also as Solicitor General.
Some may say that George Kerr is best remembered for his Ministry of the Environment tenure. I can tell you that his constituents remember George Kerr best for what he did for them, each individual person in Burlington. George Kerr always had time for his constituents, and there wasn't anything you couldn't talk to him about. George was just a great listener. He was a tremendous advocate for our community. Time doesn't allow me to go through the long list of examples, but I will give you a couple.
Mr. Kerr successfully resisted the inclusion of Burlington, as Minister Bradley said, in the formation of the Hamilton-Wentworth regional government. As great a city as Hamilton is, that accomplishment was a great piece of influence that led to the success that Burlington is today.
In 1975, Mr. Kerr infamously wore that old-fashioned, horizontally striped bathing suit with the shoulder straps and all-if I remember the picture, I think he may even have had one of those rubber caps on-and he dove into Burlington Bay for a swim. The swim was as a result of a pledge he had made, and he was a man of his word. He had made that pledge five years earlier. He had said that the bay would be clean enough to swim in in five years, and although he publicly admitted afterwards that the bay wasn't clean enough to swim in, if you knew George Kerr, you knew he wasn't the type of person to go back on his word. So, clean or not, he went in for his swim.
Aside from all his accomplishments as an MPP, George was a kind and compassionate man. He and Mim were a loving couple, and they were inseparable.
The happy couple had three children who Mr. Kerr involved in all his campaigns. Campaigning was in George's blood. Just a couple of months before he passed, it was a thrill to have him show up on a cold February morning at one of my by-election rallies in 2007. He then followed me to make visits to long-term-care homes and spoke passionately about what he knew government should be.
I can still see him slouched in his chair with his ever-present pipe in his mouth, the smoke circling around his head, and his dog nearby.
He served with honour and integrity, and it was my great privilege to call George Kerr my MPP, but also my friend.
I got to know George quite well. He was a cabinet minister, a party man, but, as Mr. Bisson has said, he had an individuality about him. He was almost impish at times in terms of what he might do or might say.
One story I want to tell you was when he was Minister of the Environment; I was told this story about six or seven years after it happened in 1977. In the 1977 election, as Jim and I would remember better than others, the Wabigoon River in northern Ontario was a big issue. There was the discovery of significant mercury poisoning in that river. George Kerr was the environment minister at that time, and I was told this story by his former deputy, who became my deputy in 1983.
George was approached by the press about this mercury in the Wabigoon River. George said to the press, "Don't worry about the mercury. It's going to flush out in 21 weeks." His deputy minister came to him after he made this statement to the press and said, "Mr. Minister, where did you get this information that the mercury is going to be flushed out of the river in 21 weeks?" George said to his deputy minister, totally disregarding whether or not it would be flushed out, "Well, if I had said it was going to be flushed out in one or two years, they would never have believed me."
He was a real character in terms of what he did, but he absolutely loved his life here, loved what he was doing and loved the people. When his daughter, Margot, was asked about him when he passed away in 2007, she said, "He treated everyone equally and listened to people. He always had time for anybody. We could have a dog catcher and the Premier over for dinner the same night, and he wouldn't have thought there was any difference."
Mayor Cam Jackson, who succeeded him as MPP for Burlington, said that George Kerr thought about people first and politics second, and it's in that vein that I want to talk about the problem he ran into in August 1978, when he ultimately asked to step down as Solicitor General.
During that period of time, as you may remember, or as people who were involved in politics may remember, federal minister John Munro was embroiled in a tremendous publicity-oriented scandal where he had actually phoned a judge to give a character reference with regard to somebody who was appearing in front of that judge. The papers were full of it at that time.
What happened to George Kerr was that he had a constituent come to his office. This was a member of a visible minority who was suffering from mental illness and who didn't have any kind of influence in the Progressive Conservative Party and didn't have a great influence in George's community or whatever. But the kind of guy that George was, he wanted to help this particular individual-he was charged with an offence; I believe driving while under suspension.
Even though he was Solicitor General and should never have done it, George picked up the phone and phoned the Milton courthouse asking to speak to the prosecuting attorney, to warn him about the fact that this particular individual had talked about taking his own life and George was very, very concerned for him.
Unfortunately, the request to find the crown attorney went over the loudspeaker, someone picked it up and the news got out that George had called the prosecuting attorney. Along with the scandal that was taking place with regard to John Munro calling a judge, the stories got mixed and the press was relentless, as was the opposition at that time.
I was also involved in the following inquiry that took place. It was kind of an odd inquiry. I don't think we've had one ever since. It was actually a parliamentary inquiry, in camera, headed up by Arthur Maloney, who was then the Ombudsman. I was inside the room as a member of our caucus dealing with that inquiry. I never felt so sorry. I guess I learned about how mean this process can be to a politician who, in my view, should have been admired for what he did for somebody who was struggling tremendously in his community. He went to bat for that particular individual.
His resignation coincided with a Progressive Conservative annual meeting that was taking place here in Toronto. When George Kerr was introduced, I had never heard such a standing ovation and cheering. It went on for 20 minutes for George Kerr. That's how much he was loved by the party and respected by the people.
I can only say that, although those of us who have practised law, as I have, and George, who practised law-maybe he should have known better, but I don't think that I have witnessed in my almost 33 years here in the Legislature any resignation in which anybody, as a cabinet minister, could have walked away more proud than George Kerr did in this situation.
He was one of my heroes and remains one of my heroes, that he could put aside all of his political ambitions to help out a constituent who was in deep trouble. He's a man to be admired. I loved him very much, and we thank his family for his contribution to this Legislature.
NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING
On this day, we all remember. We pay our respects to the workers who have been killed, who have been injured, or who suffer illness as a result of work-related incidents. We honour the families who also have been deeply affected. It's also a day for us to reflect on ways to prevent these tragedies so no other worker or family suffers again.
As Minister of Labour and as the father of twin boys who will no doubt one day enter the workforce, it's my personal pledge to make sure that this government is doing all it can to make Ontario's workplaces healthier and safer.
Across Canada, hundreds of workers die from work-related incidents and illnesses every single year, and thousands of others are injured on the job. Many must take time off work to recover. Others are so seriously injured that they are never, ever able to return to work again. The human toll of these workplace tragedies is enormous.
Yes, there are risks and hazards in most of our workplaces, but the reality is that the vast majority of these incidents could have been prevented. It's our job to minimize those risks and make sure that every worker returns home safely to their family at the end of each working day. That's why our government has a Safe At Work Ontario strategy and why we've launched an expert review of our health and safety system, doing a comprehensive review of occupational health and safety, both enforcement and prevention, in the province of Ontario. We're working hard. We're working hard to prevent workplace incidents on a daily basis. We're targeting young and new workers. We're cracking down on workplace violence and harassment. We're conducting safety blitzes across the province in all workplaces: at mines, construction sites, industrial shops, retail and warehouses.
This day and these tragic incidents remind us that we must never, ever be complacent when it comes to worker safety. We all must play a crucial role in preventing workplace incidents from happening. When I say "we," I mean all of us: government, safety organizations, labour organizations, employers, workers-everyone. By working together, we can make Ontario a safer place for our workers.
Today, people and organizations across this country will mark the National Day of Mourning in their own way with vigils, services and candlelight ceremonies. I know that here, in the city of Toronto, the CN Tower will be lit in yellow as the day of mourning colour for hope. Many flags will be flown at half mast. I see that many here today are wearing black and yellow ribbons in honour of the National Day of Mourning, the black representing our mourning and, as I mentioned, the yellow representing the hope we have for a brighter future. Together we're working to ensure a bright future for the thousands of workers in this province and for their loved ones.
In a few moments we'll observe a moment of silence to remember all those who have suffered as a result of a workplace incident. I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to think about the many workers and families who have been affected by work-related incidents. Let us pay our respects and honour their memories. Let us also reaffirm our commitment, our determination, to prevent workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses before they occur.
This morning I had an opportunity to stand hand in hand with injured workers; with advocacy groups like Threads of Life and IWAC; with employers and labour and workers. We all must stand together to ensure that all our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our uncles and aunts, our family members, our loved ones come home safe and sound at the end of the day.
Today we honour each of the lives lost. We extend our condolences to the families, friends, co-workers and community leaders, and we mourn their loss along with their families, whether it's a father, a mother, a brother, a sister-but a child would be the worst. We also recognize the tragic loss of injuries and illness in other workplaces.
At noon today in Durham region, hundreds gathered at the workers' day of mourning monument at Oshawa City Hall. This ceremony included participation by Mayor John Gray of Oshawa and my colleagues the member from Whitby-Oshawa, Christine Elliott, and the member from Oshawa, Jerry Ouellette.
William Stratton is chair of Durham Region Labour Council day of mourning committee, and Jim Freeman is president of the labour council in Durham. I know that most community leaders from across Durham region were in attendance. Similar ceremonies were taking place throughout our province, our country and indeed in 80 countries around the world.
The Ontario Nurses' Association is among the organizations that pay tribute to their colleagues who have lost their lives or were injured on the job: nurses such as Heather Taylor, Tecla Lin, Nelia Laroza and Lori Dupont. These nurses died at work or from infectious diseases acquired while caring for others.
I might say that I met with members of the Dupont family in the course of preparing my private member's bill to honour the courage and sacrifice the family has made.
In the late 1990s, Sean Kells was just 19 years old when he was killed in a tragic accident on his third day on a part-time job. In response to the tragedy, his father, Paul Kells, founded Safe Communities Canada, an organization whose intent is to educate and prevent other families from experiencing the loss and pain that results from needless deaths, especially of a child.
We must turn this day of mourning into years of action on behalf of working families across Ontario. This day of mourning is a time to renew our commitment to the prevention of occupational injury, illness or death. It is time to reaffirm our collective support for healthy workplaces from across Ontario on this national workers' day of mourning. You have our pledge.
In 1984, the Canadian Labour Congress set this day aside to remember workers whose jobs exposed them to hazards and risks to their life and health. In 1988, an NDP resolution here in the Ontario Legislature was passed unanimously, recognizing April 28 as a provincial day of mourning. In 1991, a private members' bill sponsored by the federal NDP was passed to proclaim April 28 of each year as a national-Canadian-day of mourning. The House of Commons and many provinces and municipalities now recognize the April 28 day of mourning with a minute's silence, and many flags fly at half-mast.
It's suitable, it's appropriate, it's essential that we remember those lost and broken lives on this day, yet it isn't right to do this only once a year. This pain suffered by those who have lost family members and friends to a workplace injury should be remembered constantly, vigilantly, on every day of every year as a caution against the future abuse of human lives. While we mourn the dead, it's also essential that we continue to fight as hard as ever-harder than ever-for the living, and prevent this terrible and unnecessary toll.
Pallbearers carried 342 Ontario workers to their graves last year; 342 Ontario workers buried in this province last year as a direct result of workplace conditions. Between 1999 and 2008, work-related deaths increased by almost 50%. In 2009, there were 479 fatality claims and 253,000-plus injury and disease claims here in Ontario. In the first two months of 2010, there have been 86 deaths-in but 60 days of 2010; 86 deaths and 38,000-plus claims for work-related injuries and diseases reported to the WSIB. These fatality figures, in fact, don't reflect the true toll of occupational disease: 9% to 40% of all cancers are occupational. In Ontario, this means that between 2,200 and 9,800 workers die of cancer each year as a result of their exposures at work. In addition to the human suffering, the health care costs of these cancers are as high as $500 million a year.
This human suffering could have been prevented if more was done to prevent injuries in the workplace. Indeed, the government has the primary role of ensuring that that happens. One important step would be to step up criminal proceedings against employers who are responsible for the deaths or serious injuries of workers.
We've had the Criminal Code amendments since 2004 enabling prosecutors to charge corporate executives, directors and managers who recklessly disregard the safety of workers. Hundreds of workers have been killed on the job and millions injured in Ontario since that law came into effect. Holding employers responsible for workplace deaths is the best way to improve workplace safety. It's as simple as this: You kill a worker, you go to jail. Yet this government refuses to take the measures needed to ensure that police and crown attorneys are sufficiently aware of these Criminal Code provisions and that they act on them in all investigations of workplace deaths. In fact, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services refuses to meet with the Ontario Federation of Labour to explore ways to ensure that the Westray law is fully acted on.
The Ontario government should ensure that it makes full use of the Criminal Code to stop the needless and tragic killing of Ontario workers, and the Ontario government should also ensure that every worker in this province is covered by WSIB. We still have 1.3 million workers who have no WSIB coverage whatsoever, including workers in some very hazardous workplaces. If they lose their jobs as a result of injury, they don't receive workers' compensation-WSIB. They end up relying on food banks with no job, no income and no help from the McGuinty government.
The procedure is simple. If this government had the political will and the political gumption, it could guarantee within two weeks that every worker in this province had WSIB coverage, and this government, with the political will, could ensure that if you kill a worker, you go to jail. If we really respect those dead workers and those injured workers, we would commit ourselves to those two goals immediately.
The House observed a moment's silence.
"Whereas the government of Ontario has dedicated new funding of $100 million in addition to the $50 million already available for professional services;
"Whereas the government is increasing the dispensing fees in the public system to help properly compensate local pharmacists for their valuable contribution to community health care;
"Whereas the opposition who are against these reforms are only interested in helping the big pharmacy chain companies increase their bottom line;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To continue to increase the money that is invested in Ontario's public drug system and to ensure that a higher quality of care is delivered, particularly for families and seniors."
I will affix my signature to that.
"Whereas Ontarians pay more for popular generic drugs for diabetes, high blood pressure and other common health issues than patients in other jurisdictions; and
"Whereas Ontarians deserve fair prescription drug prices so that families and seniors are not charged more than those in other countries; and
"Whereas some members of the opposition have sided with large corporations to preserve the status quo rather than make prescription medications more affordable for Ontario patients by supporting the proposed drug reforms;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That all members of the Ontario Legislature support Ontarians by passing the government's legislation to lower the cost of prescription medications."
I agree with this petition and I'm going to sign it and send it to the desk with Mitchell.
"Whereas multiple sclerosis ... is a debilitating disease affecting a great number of people in Ontario; and
"Whereas there has been a new treatment discovery called the liberation treatment, which addresses chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency ... and that has been seen to provide relief for many MS sufferers,
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That the government of Ontario invest in research regarding this new treatment and make it available to victims of MS in Ontario as a listed procedure in a timely manner."
I agree with this petition, and will sign it and send it to the table with page Darcy.
"Whereas the government of Ontario has dedicated new funding of $100 million in addition to the $50 million already available for professional services;
"Whereas the government is increasing the dispensing fees in the public system to help properly compensate local pharmacists for their valuable contribution to community health care;
"Whereas the opposition who are against these reforms are only interested in helping the big pharmacy chain companies increase their bottom line;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"To continue to increase the money that is invested in Ontario's public drug system and to ensure that a higher quality of care is delivered, particularly for families and seniors."
I agree with this petition, affix my signature, and send it to the table via page Zachery.
"Whereas to cover the cost of reconstructive surgery when a patient has had extreme weight loss after bariatric surgery, as these surgeries are not covered under OHIP and are at present considered cosmetic;
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"That when patients have bariatric surgery and lose the required amount of weight and keep it off, they also have another set of health care issues that can be very costly to take care of. As these individuals lose weight, they end up with so much excess skin and fat pockets that no amount of exercise will take care of it. This excess skin and folds in the skin can cause anything from boils, cysts, skin infections and more that have to be cared for constantly in hospital emergency rooms and cared for by agencies like community care access centres. If preventative reconstructive surgeries are not approved, the constant medical care will cost the taxpayer much more money as said health issues would cost over time."
I have read the petition as I have received it, and I will affix my signature to make the House aware of this particular petition.
I move that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario calls for a moratorium on all wind farm projects until an independent, comprehensive study of the health and environmental impacts of wind farms is completed and Premier McGuinty restores the planning authority governing them to municipalities and local boards.
Mr. Yakabuski moves opposition day number 3.
When the Green Energy Act was introduced, the part of the Green Energy Act which we believed as Progressive Conservatives was total unnecessary was the stripping away of the municipalities' right to make decisions on behalf of the people who elected them to their respective offices.
Recently, the Premier has talked about how important municipal governments are and how responsible they are. They're an integral part of the governing process in the province of Ontario. We have the federal government; we have the provincial government; we have municipal governments. Why this government would feel the need to strip away those powers of municipalities in order to advance its own agenda is beyond us.
One of the things that the Minister of Energy spoke about today: that in the act, they must consult with these municipalities. Consulting with municipalities on the building of large wind farms in Ontario reminds me of the old Wild West, where, after the sheriff apprehended someone, he would say, "All right; hang him." Someone would protest and say, "Isn't he entitled to a fair trial?", to which the sheriff would reply, "Yes. That's right. Let's give him a fair trial and then hang him." That's exactly what's happening with the consultation process with regard to municipalities in the province of Ontario. Yes, they put it in the act where they have to talk to these people, but it's meaningless, because at the end of the day, they're going to make the decision that they're going to build the projects they want.
I want to talk about the fact that it's not even really happening. I spoke today to George Lawrence, who's the deputy mayor of Tiny township in the riding of Simcoe North. He told me that they were not even informed of two contracts until they were announced. Under the recent 184 contracts that were announced by the Minister of Energy, two of them were in Tiny township. They didn't know a thing about them. What kind of consultation process is that? The consultation process must go on after they're announced; that's the kind of consultation that is going on with municipalities.
I want to talk about the health issues surrounding wind turbines. I don't know. I'm not a scientist, but neither is the Minister of Energy, and he has categorically dismissed any studies that have shown that there are health effects as a result of establishing wind turbines. In fact, I heard him tell the press today, "Any studies we've looked at, we haven't agreed with." Just because you don't agree with a study doesn't mean that it's not valid. That's the way they look at studies. They don't like what it says: Apparently, it's not a very good study. We're asking this Legislature to stand today and support what we consider to be a reasonable proposition, a reasonable motion: that they stop and put a moratorium on these large wind developments until such time as these questions can be answered.
I want to know from members of this House on the opposite side how they're going to respond to this motion and to the people in their ridings, many of whom are here today, who have indicated to them and have not had any satisfactory response from them as MPPs. I want to know what the member for Prince Edward-Hastings is going to say today, if she's going to be here for the vote or if she's going to speak to it. I want to know what the member for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock is going to say today, because I know that there are people from Manvers township here today who have expressed strong concerns about these wind farms. I want to know what the member for Essex and the member for Chatham-Kent-Essex are going to say today. I understand that one member won't be able to speak, obviously. But I want to know: Who's standing up for those people? Because their MPPs are AWOL; they're missing in action when it comes to speaking for their municipalities and their constituents on this issue.
It's a simple motion. It's very clear. I'm asking all members of the House today to support it. It is the right thing to do-to take a step back.
We're not even talking about how the government has messaged this whole wind development issue. They have not been straight with the people. They've implied that somehow this is going to get us off coal. There's nobody in the industry who would ever make that statement. If we get off coal, it'll be because we have built enough gas plants, not because we've got wind turbines that run intermittently. Even the Premier himself has said, on the record, in this House, in his own words, that wind is unreliable. Check the record. That's what the Premier said. You're not going to shut down a dispatchable form of energy for something that is inherently unreliable, but that's what the Minister of Energy is trying to sell to the people of Ontario.
It's about time that the Minister of Energy, the government and the Premier got honest on this subject. Maybe they can start today, by supporting this motion.
I'd like to recognize Gary Chandler and Dan Scharf, who have travelled across the province, making a five-hour trip from my constituency in Nepean-Carleton just to be here today. They did this to bring their views to this Ontario Legislature because this Liberal government has taken away their voice with a made-in-Toronto plan for our small community. The proposed development of 10 very large wind turbines-and, as I learned today, it could be as many as 28 wind turbines-is contentious with residents, raising many legitimate and valid concerns.
This debate is not about wind power as an important component of Ontario's energy planning. There's no argument that Ontario must continue to diversify and investigate ways of shifting to clean and renewable power, because we know we need to act to protect the environment and, yes, we need to act to reduce our energy consumption and find greener ways to produce power. This debate is about forcing rural communities across Ontario to accept made-in-Toronto solutions to problems in our bigger cities.
The Globe and Mail of April 7 agrees, because they suggested that wind power is "not simply benign, and the potential impact of wind turbines on the environment, the landscape and people's health need more attention."
That is what this motion is calling for: to ensure that we're paying attention to the people who are here today, and the people who couldn't come here today, who have concerns with the Green Energy Act.
The Green Energy Act forces communities like mine, like the member from Dufferin-Caledon's, the member from Wellington-Halton Hills's, the member from Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound's-I could go on. It forces our communities and our municipalities to accept made-in-Toronto planning solutions by removing local planning authority from them. Wind turbines and other green energy initiatives are able to bypass the consent of local citizens and their councils.
Let me put that into perspective. Municipalities have a say on what gets built in their communities, and that is whether it is a housing development, whether it's a shopping centre, whether it's a road or whether it's a transitway. But in this case, when it comes to wind turbines, local voices are shut out of the debate.
The residents in Nepean-Carleton have been left with little opportunity to have their say on a wind farm that this Liberal government is forcing on our small community of North Gower. It's yet another example of how this government consults with few while implementing legislation which could have such a far-reaching impact on the health and well-being of our citizens. It's yet another example of how, after six years in power, the McGuinty Liberals are so focused on subsidizing their green energy schemes and giving away sweetheart deals that they've forgotten about protecting the views of democratically elected local governments.
It's time to hit the rethink button, just like you did last week on another issue, and it's time that he supports my colleague from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke's motion calling for a moratorium on wind farms until the studies are in and the municipal authority is restored.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to debate today.
I will start, at the outset, by saying that I really can't believe that we, in the 21st century, 10 years into the decade, are having this debate, that we are having a debate and questioning whether or not we should be using renewable sources of energy to meet our demand for energy. I think it's about time that we move away from carbon-based, coal-based sources of energy and ensure that we're creating energy in our province which is sustainable and which is renewable through renewable resources. Wind, solar, biothermal, biomass and all these other sources of energy are good alternatives. There are ample signs and there are ample studies that have been done.
We in Ontario are not the first ones to engage in this exercise. Europe has been doing this for a very, very long time, and that's what the impetus was behind the Green Energy Act. It's a progressive piece of legislation which ensures that we reduce our dependency on carbon-based, fossil-based sources of energy. It tries to ensure that we engage in a culture of conservation by which we cannot use as much energy as we are accustomed to using. That's something that we, as North Americans-that's the kind of lifestyle we live, but I think we need to reconsider that. It also provides incentives and an opportunity for all of us to be able to generate renewable sources of energy.
The Green Energy Act has been incredibly revolutionary in terms of where we're taking our province, in the manner in which we create energy in this great province of ours, to the point where it has made us a leader in North America. Other jurisdictions, like British Columbia, for example, are literally engaging in a cut-and-paste exercise to adopt the kind of scheme we have come forward with-a progressive, modern approach to ensure that we promote the creation of renewable sources of energy in the province of Ontario.
I can tell you, from my community's point of view in Ottawa Centre, how much excitement there is for the use of this particular legislation to make sure that we use the mechanism of feed-in tariffs, or microFIT, in a smaller capacity, so that we can all participate in the creation of greener energy. We can all engage, individually and collectively, in the exercise of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases to make sure that we are not impacting the environment, to make sure that the energy we are using in our homes is sustainable, that it's created by a mechanism that is depending on renewable resources.
I think study after study has shown that. That is the direction our government is taking. It's the right direction to take. Wind is a big part of it. There are studies that have been done through the World Health Organization which have found no negative impact on health. I think, through this legislation-
Member for Ottawa Centre.
I can't identify who's speaking out, and I certainly don't want to clear the galleries. I don't want to have to do that. So, please, co-operate and listen to the debate.
The member for Ottawa Centre.
The member for Ottawa Centre.
I will be voting against this particular motion because that is not the right approach to take.
There's no mandate for municipalities to listen to people. This government is not listening to people. In fact, they've already indicated that they're not going to let this motion pass.
When it comes to the health impacts, both sides of the debate can produce studies to support their claims, but that said, I have received a deluge of disturbing reports of the effects down in my riding of Haldimand-Norfolk. We have hundreds of wind turbines along Lake Erie. I spoke with two constituents just this morning who again explained to me the symptoms that they attribute to turbine sickness.
One resident is here today, a former Green Party candidate, a former wind supporter, who is now depleting her resources to rent an apartment in town because she cannot remain in her home and get a decent night's sleep.
Given the reported plans locally for another 200 wind turbines in Haldimand and Norfolk-we all know about Samsung and their plans to set up adjacent to Lake Erie-I suspect I will be hearing more input. I'm told the Samsung development will be the largest of its kind in all of North America. That impact on my riding deserves input from municipal councillors. It was a mistake to take away those oversight powers. In one fell swoop, the legislation removed all rights from my constituents and their locally elected representatives.
We all know that the impact is on rural areas, as with my area, not so much the urban areas, other than-and I've met a number of people from Scarborough this morning as well. Again, the Scarborough Bluffs development requires study, as with the Leamington developments that would be placed on crown-owned land under the waters of, first, Lake Ontario and also Lake Erie.
I should add that these democratic powers should be restored. Representatives should have a chance to hear these personal accounts first-hand. I will indicate that down my way, Long Point is on a major bird migration route. I am now hearing from duck hunters concerned about the flyways from the Prairies, Long Point across Lake Erie to the United States. We've had one very recent avian casualty, an eagle-a so-called careless eagle wiped out by a turbine. Again, we don't know the impact on flight paths. We need more study. We need a moratorium.
I recently received a call from Pennsylvania state representative John Hornaman with respect to a bill he's putting forward with respect to large turbines on the United States side of Lake Erie. This would be the Erie ridge, the Clear Creek ridge-shallow land under the lake. They are bringing in legislation. Ontario already has to permit the lease of the land under the water. Again, what impact will this have? Or perhaps this is a positive.
Just to wrap up, we know the interest is there. I get the phone calls and the emails. There has to be a better structure in place for decision-making.
I will mention as well for anyone present: Please contact my office. Every year or so I host a symposium on energy and our environment. I will be hosting another one down in Jarvis this fall.
The member's motion suggests, by implication, that the health effects of wind turbines are not sufficiently understood. I propose that we start, then, by talking about what we do know, and we can do that with numbers, like the number 668. That's how many premature deaths are directly caused by the dirty fumes belched out by coal-fired generating stations every year in this province. Or 928: the number of annual hospital admissions we can blame on dirty coal. Or 1,100: the number of emergency room visits coal gives us annually. And 333,600: the cases of minor illness we have over the course of 12 months thanks to coal plants. They cause up to $3 billion in yearly health damages. And how's 30 million for a number? That's the number of tonnes of dangerous greenhouse gases historically pumped into the air by coal plants in Ontario each and every year.
This is to say nothing of the massive damages that are being caused even now by global climate change, which, as I've said many times before in this chamber, is the greatest challenge we face today as a province and as a planet. The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has already passed the safe and stable limit of 350 parts per million. Many scientists suggest that this will already increase the temperature of our earth by two degrees. Today, it's at 387 parts per million, and it is steadily creeping toward 450, a level that many scientists say will be a catastrophic concentration.
We may be there in as little as 20 years. By then, summer Arctic ice cover, which 30 years ago covered an area roughly the size of Canada, will probably be gone. Already, we've lost an area of summer ice almost the size of Quebec. Is this happening because of what the deniers say, that it's the earth's orbit around the sun, the tilt of the earth's axis, or cosmic rays? Of course not. It is happening because of what we're doing to our atmosphere. According to James Hansen, one of the world's most renowned climate scientists, a lot of the problems come from coal burning.
So let's be clear: What the opposition is suggesting today isn't simply delaying the implementation of wind turbine projects-because electricity they would generate has to come from somewhere, and right now it's coming from coal. So the possible negative impacts of wind turbines have to be stacked up against the clear, documented negative impacts of coal. The comparison is very clear, because there is simply no scientific evidence that suggests that there are any negative health impacts from turbines at all. There are no published data that confirm the anecdotal claims of non-experts that the low-frequency noise generated by turbines is harmful. In fact, no less an authority than the World Health Organization has concluded that there's no evidence of such health risks. We know this because we have done our due diligence. Our government has consulted with the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion and Wind Concerns Ontario. We're establishing funding and an academic research chair for the ongoing study of renewable energy technologies and health, and we welcome the selection of Dr. Siva Sivoththaman from the University of Waterloo to this position. We've established a minimum setback of 550 metres so that noise levels are limited to 40 decibels, and as the number and loudness of turbines increases, so does the setback. In establishing this minimum setback, we used the most conservative modelling available. Out of all the jurisdictions in the world with wind programs, we're the only one with such a stringent setback.
We're being careful-
We're being careful about this because our government is concerned about the health and welfare of all Ontarians. But we shouldn't trade caution for paralysis-
Renewable energy sources will be the key to this strategy, like the 1,200 megawatts of wind energy we have brought online since 2003. But there are many members opposite, I'm sad to say, who have stood firmly against this. Ontarians have rejected their climate change denial, and their attempt to stop progressive green energy legislation has been defeated, so now they try to delay. But I wonder how long we have to wait. How many studies producing no evidence of health risks will it take? And how many thousands of people will suffer in the meantime?
We know that the risks of not building wind turbines are urgent and real, and that this motion, however well intended, is much more likely to harm Ontarians than to protect them, which is why I will not support this motion.
It was during second reading debate in March 2009 that I first highlighted the health and planning concerns that families and municipalities had with the Green Energy Act. Municipalities were concerned that the Green Energy Act stripped away their planning powers for wind turbine projects, which, of course, it did. The health concerns centred around the adverse effects that wind turbines were having on residents who live with wind turbines 24 hours a day. Residents feel let down that the McGuinty government is moving forward with these projects without any independent, third party health study effects that wind turbines have on people.
Some 55 councils across Ontario have passed resolutions asking for exactly what the Progressive Conservatives are advocating today: a moratorium on wind projects until a comprehensive health study is complete and to return municipal planning control back to their communities.
In my own riding, the townships of Mulmur, East Garafraxa, Melancthon, East Luther Grand Valley, Amaranth and the town of Caledon have all passed resolutions in support. As elected representatives, we have a responsibility to respond to these people.
Two weeks ago I tabled a private member's bill which, if passed, would return the planning power for renewable energy projects back into the hands of municipalities. Municipalities do not want to abolish renewable energy projects; they want to control where they are in their municipalities. They want the ability to plan, to take into consideration their own unique needs. Municipalities know what is best for their community. Why not let them continue that work?
Since I introduced my private member's bill, I have been flooded with emails and phone calls of support. I encourage my colleagues across the floor to have a look at the 55 councils that have passed resolutions. I assure you that you will find councils from your ridings there.
Municipalities, those who attended the rally today, and the galleries full of people listening to this debate are counting on your support. Families who have been driven out of their homes because wind turbines caused them sleep deprivation and headaches are counting on your support.
A comprehensive health study is needed before these projects can move forward, and municipalities want to assure that planning control for these projects rests with them.
There is one other history lesson I would like to remind the members of the Liberal Party about. The last time a provincial government removed planning authority from the municipalities was under NDP Premier Bob Rae, or as my colleagues to the left like to call him, the great Liberal Premier Bob Rae. He formed the IWA, the Interim Waste Authority. He formed an interim waste authority whose sole responsibility was to remove the ability of municipalities to choose where landfill sites would go. And we all know what happened to Bob Rae in 1995.
The intervening months have revealed just how this government, through its Green Energy Act, is running roughshod over municipalities, communities and individual families right across the province.
From my own riding of Wellington-Halton Hills, the Oppose Bellwood Wind Farm action group has organized, joining Wind Concerns Ontario and other community groups from over 50 municipalities. They're here today in support of our motion, and I want to thank them very much for coming to Queen's Park today.
My colleagues Tim Hudak, John Yakabuski, Sylvia Jones, Jim Wilson, Elizabeth Witmer and others have worked hard in standing up for common sense on this issue.
I also want to thank another member, Bill Murdoch, who was the first to introduce a resolution calling for a moratorium on wind farms until such time as the necessary health studies had been completed. Unfortunately, every Liberal present at the time voted to defeat Mr. Murdoch's resolution late last year.
At least on this side of the House, there are many MPPs who believe we need to take another look at this. We believe it because it's the right thing to do. We believe it because it's what our constituents rightly want.
We know that municipalities across Ontario agree with us. The county of Wellington and the township of Centre Wellington, among others, have passed a resolution originating in December with the township of Mapleton.
The Premier should be aware of the many legitimate concerns, both in terms of possible health effects and in terms of ignoring local municipalities' concerns for a long time. In fact, last week during question period, I sent him my copy of Dr. Nina Pierpont's recent book, Wind Turbine Syndrome, which documents many of the health concerns. I urge him to read it with an open mind.
With regard to those health effects, CTV News quotes the Premier as follows: "We do have a responsibility in Ontario to make sure that we take advantage of all the experiences out there and the very best medical advice," said the Premier in April 2009. That would seem sensible, except that the Premier's own policy today stands in direct contradiction to that responsibility, which he had apparently accepted.
Since that interview of one year ago, what has changed? Certainly not the McGuinty government's policy. They continue to forge ahead, pulling out all the stops to install wind turbines wherever possible, regardless of the health effects, regardless of the cost, regardless of the long-term economics and regardless of local concern.
Now the Premier is appointing a research chair to study health effects, and he has talked about that in the House. He's spending public money to the tune of $300,000 a year for five years. But if the Premier really believes that a study is necessary, surely he recognizes the legitimacy of the health concerns. If there is in fact a chance of health risks, how can he possibly plow ahead with his "wind farms at all costs" policy without first knowing the conclusions of such a study? By the time the research chair completes his work, the wind turbines will be up and in operation, and the study, regardless of its conclusions, will have been moot. It will have been a waste of money. That's the glaring contradiction in this government's policy. It's totally irresponsible and potentially reckless.
I trust and believe that there may be some Liberal members who recognize that too, Liberal members in whose ridings wind farms are likely to go up. Their constituents must surely hope that they will take those concerns directly to the Premier in order to change this wrong-headed policy. Even if the government forces its members to vote against our motion today, we are not giving up. In fact, next week I plan to begin tabling a petition with many hundreds of signatures from my riding in support of the spirit of this motion, and I urge all members of this House to support it today.
Many of the people living in the Guildwood Village area in her riding and elsewhere along the Scarborough Bluffs believe that wind turbines are not a healthy public policy and do not create a healthy environment. Her constituents would like to hear what the minister has to say about this issue, both as MPP for the riding, which is facing the possibility of an offshore wind farm, and as the Minister of Health Promotion. Has the minister undertaken any studies with regard to the health effects of wind turbines? Isn't that her responsibility?
Since no one on the government side is standing up for those Ontarians who live near wind farms and are concerned about the possible health effects, we in the Progressive Conservative caucus are doing that in our resolution today, our motion. Our motion calls for a moratorium on all industrial and wind projects until an independent study of the health and environmental impacts is completed. We are also calling for the government to return planning authority where it belongs-to the municipality-in this matter. It's time for the member for Scarborough-Guildwood and other Liberal government members to make their position clear on this issue. I submit they can do that today by voting in favour of this motion.
As I said at the rally today, as a former energy minister, I can tell you that we absolutely have to question these large industrial wind turbine projects. The honourable members across the way say this is going to be the saviour in order to close down coal-fired plants. That's bunk, and that's bunk whether you live in Europe or any other place in the world that you can point to where there are a significant number of wind turbines. It's a very small part of the electricity mix.
You've got to move forward and start talking about further refurbishing the nuclear fleet and bringing in nuclear power. The only reason your power demand is down by 33% right now is that most people seem to be unemployed. Some 350,000 people in the manufacturing sector in this province don't have a job, so the factories are closed. That's the only reason you've kept pollution at par in the last few years. The only coal-fired plant that ever was closed in this province was done by the PC government under Elizabeth Witmer as environment minister, and I was energy minister at the time.
I'll also say, as a former Minister of Health, that absolutely-a local example: A public medical officer of health in Grey county said last year, and kept emphasizing it with the government and was totally ignored, that you absolutely should put a moratorium on it until the health effects are known, because she has had, as I do-I have people coming into my office who look quite sick to me. I may be no Dr. Phil over there, but they look quite sick to me. They live near these projects, and you have to believe them. You should at least give them the benefit of the doubt.
Finally, as I said at the rally today, you're not being fully truthful with the public in terms of the actual costs. When you're awarding 20-year contracts that are 40-cents-plus per kilowatt hour for wind power and up to 80 cents for solar, when that is factored into the mix, people are going to have sticker shock. In fact, the Green Energy Act, we estimate, will cost consumers about $350 a year, and we're told by some people that that's off by several factors. So it could be hundreds more per year by the time we're all done.
The other thing is, and it has been mentioned by all colleagues, when over 50 municipalities had the courage against the Liberal government-you might take away their funding for a road or something, the way you guys operate. The fact of the matter is, they had the courage, like the 16 municipalities in Simcoe county, including Clearview township, which I asked the Premier about a month ago in this House-and the Acting Premier that day, Brad Duguid, answered as he always does every day, that he really doesn't care what the municipalities think; he's going ahead as energy and infrastructure minister and getting rid of any local say. As has been pointed out, the last time that was done in this Legislature, that Premier didn't survive very long.
I ask Liberal members here today, many of them facing large projects in their ridings, to take the time, have a moratorium, say no to these companies right now until you get your facts straight, because right now your facts aren't straight and you're not sticking up for your constituents. This resolution gives you an opportunity to do that today.
We have also had the opportunity previously, courtesy of the private member's bill from the member from Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound that was brought in at the end of last year, and I was happy to enter into that debate to focus specifically on the health concerns related to wind turbines. At that time, I reviewed what had been done in terms of investigation of these potential health effects, and certainly I was very satisfied that in fact our government had taken serious steps to review the health concerns raised by residents who feel that they may have been impacted.
We have many, many years of experience in Europe in relation to potential health effects. They have been studied.
We are particularly fortunate here in Ontario that we have the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, established by our government, which is a repository of excellence in terms of environmental epidemiology. One of the individuals there at the agency is Dr. Ray Copes. He's the director of environmental and occupational health. He presented a full and very thorough scientific review of the potential health hazards of wind turbines in a webinar on September 10, 2009. His review-this is a totally objective individual with tremendous expertise in the area-concluded that there is no evidence of noise-induced health effects at levels emitted by wind turbines. The literature reviewed did reveal that there were anecdotal reports of symptoms such as sleep disturbance, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, concentration and learning problems, and ringing in the ears, but there was no scientific evidence to date to demonstrate a causal association between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects. There were a few Swedish studies that reported that noise from wind turbines was certainly annoying to some people.
There has been a concern expressed that turbines produce sound commonly referred to as low-frequency noise and that this can be harmful. However, there is no published data that confirm the claims of adverse health effects for low-frequency sounds of low pressure.
The House recessed from 1651 to 1709.
As a former medical officer of health for the region of York, I'm not unfamiliar with the type of anxiety that people have when it comes to their health, which was demonstrated here today. However, as I always did as a medical officer of health-I used science in terms of the decision-making that I made in that position, which was often quite controversial as well. So I'm happy to reiterate the statement I made that we do not see any health effects from wind turbines after a full and comprehensive review that has been undertaken.
However, notwithstanding that there is no evidence of harmful health effects, our government does take public concerns regarding renewable energy technology seriously. We have taken a cautious approach when setting standards for wind setbacks and noise limits to protect Ontarians. We have established a minimum setback of 550 metres so that noise levels would be limited to 40 decibels at the periphery, the equivalent of the noise in a library or quiet office. Setbacks increase with the number and loudness of turbines. So we have established the setback based on science and we've used the most stringent modelling available nationally and internationally. Of all the jurisdictions in the world with wind programs, we are the only one with such a stringent setback.
We are going even further as a precaution and we are developing the science to monitor and measure low-frequency noise, either audible or felt as vibration, as currently there are no established and accepted protocols. Energy proponents will also be required to monitor and address perceptible low-frequency noise once these protocols are established.
So in summary, I would like to simply say that Ontario has taken a cautious approach to setting standards for wind setbacks and noise limits to protect Ontarians. Ontario is a leader in establishing clear setbacks for renewable energy projects that are protective of human health and the environment.
I would advise this government that you'd better sit up and listen, because what you've done has eroded the democratic rights of people in this province, not only with this piece of legislation and your actions here today, but some of the others. This is an issue that is real; it's serious. I first raised it as health critic in 2009 and you still continue, to this day.
Listen to the people who were here today in front of Queen's Park and the people in this Legislature. As you probably heard, their concerns are real. The health risks are real. It's time for you to give the voice back to local communities when it comes to planning and it's time for you to put a moratorium on these projects until such time as we have a study of the health risks.
What I want to comment on particularly are those people who have come forward to me on the issues of a complete sense of abandonment by government, by the ministry, by the people who they trusted would make the right decisions.
I received an email this morning that came from Sandra Hackenberg in my riding, and she said, "Please make my voice heard on April 28." She wanted me to know about her friend who now has had to live outside of her own house for a year. And there are others who can tell that story. There are others who are facing that kind of financial burden in a situation they never imagined themselves to be in.
Another friend of mine who lives in the next riding over has watched the turbines go up and the value of her land go down. She was widowed very suddenly, and this piece of land is her financial future.
When we look around us and see the kind of people this government is impacting, it's most important that, on this side, we tell them that we are here today to demonstrate, by this motion, our commitment to give them the kind of government they deserve, if not today, then in October 2011.
I also have to say to those who are protesting in the galleries today, for people who engage in civil disobedience, they also showed restraint. They were non-violent, and for that-people standing up for their beliefs-I have to have respect.
Having said all of that, today we're considering a resolution from Mr. Yakabuski that calls for a moratorium on all wind farm projects until independent, comprehensive study of the health and environmental impact of wind farms is completed, and further, that the Premier restore the planning authority governing wind farms to municipalities and local boards.
I'll go further in, but I want to say, just on the face of this resolution, if you're going to restore planning authority, it should be restored with regard to nuclear power plants and gas-fired power plants. That is far more substantial and significant, in my mind, than wind turbines, and I will address that in the course of my 35 minutes.
Secondly, there are many health studies that have been done in Europe, in the United Kingdom and here in Canada that, in terms of the responsibilities we have as legislators, I think, give us sufficient confidence to proceed with investment in renewable energy.
The reality of this resolution being put forward by this member is to stop the installation of wind turbines in this province. I know the member will talk about the fact that it restores the planning power of municipalities. When we debated the Green Energy Act, I opposed the withdrawal of power from the municipalities because I felt that the goals the government wanted to reach could be reached without taking that step. But today the reality is that this resolution is directed against green power, using municipal authority as a tool, not as the principle that's being put forward.
It is being argued that we should not build wind turbines because we haven't done full health studies and, thus, there may be a risk to people. I see this resolution as being very similar to the sorts of delay tactics I have seen over the last two decades to stop action on climate change: It might be a threat to our economy if we take action on climate change; we don't know all the science yet, so let's back off on taking action. I think that the motion, fundamentally, is flawed right there. If, in fact, there is a deep concern about health, noise, emissions, why is there not a resolution calling for the end of road building in Ontario? I can tell you right now, without a doubt, that the more roads and expressways that are built, the more cars that are on the roads, the greater the health problems that we face. Why not a call to end any airport construction or expansion? Because the reality when you look around the world is that air travel causes significant impacts on the health and well-being of the people who live under those flight paths.
I think the reality is that we are not in the end talking about health; we are talking about a motion to push off, to do away with, one of the more significant tools, one of the more significant instruments that can be used to reduce pollution-causing electricity generation in this society.
Let's talk for a minute about the health issues, because the very foundation of this argument is that, in fact, there is a profound health problem-a health problem that no one understands, that has to be addressed, has to be taken on-as if there is no one who has looked at this issue, thought it through, and presented conclusions.
Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Arlene King, last October said, "There is no scientific evidence, to date, to demonstrate a causal association between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects." I have to say, the chief medical officer of health for the province deserves some respect. She is a credible source of opinion on these matters.
Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa's medical officer of health-his quote: "The Ontario government has fulfilled the request by Ottawa city council to conduct a comprehensive review of the available peer-reviewed medical literature regarding wind-turbine-related health issues. The review did not find evidence of health effects that would warrant public health interventions...." Or Quebec public health.
If you look at people who work in the field of epidemiology and public health, you will find that they, on the whole, either see negligible impact or no impact. And where they see negligible impact, that will be related to night-time noise, and that is an issue and that does have to be addressed. I will get back to that as we go through.
If we look at the European experience, Denmark has been a leader in wind power since the 1970s. They have an industry in that country, a country with a population of the GTA, that creates thousands of jobs and adds significantly to the country's export earnings. Denmark is 10,000 square kilometres-that's smaller than Nova Scotia-and it's got as many people as the GTA. We do not have, from Denmark, a wave of illness related to wind turbines. That is not part of the literature. That is not part of the experience of that country.
Germany, where wind turbines are the second-largest consumer of German steel: Germany is three times smaller than Ontario, with eight times the population-three times smaller, eight times the population, and lots of wind turbines.
I have to say, I've had opportunities over the last decade and a half to work at some length with environmentalists in Europe, to talk with them, those who, since the early 1980s, have lived in a situation where more and more wind turbines have been deployed in some areas of Denmark at a level far denser than anything we see here in Ontario. I've talked to people whose primary focus in their environmental activities is looking out for environmental threats to health, people who have worked on toxic chemical issues, people who have worked on new developments, and, frankly, people who have not seen wind turbines as a health issue, but rather as an instrument for reducing health problems in societies.
I won't argue that there are no disputes in Europe on the siting of wind turbines; that's a simple reality. There are very different views on how the landscape should look. There are people who live in a rural setting now who don't want any change in that rural setting. That's a fair basis for making an argument. It's a very different argument from a health argument. There are different feelings about how wind turbines should be owned, but when I talked to people, when I go to the legislative library and ask for research, ask them to get reports from the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Lancet, to do wide-ranging research of the literature, I don't see some mysterious illness or syndrome that arises from wind turbines.
What I do see is that wind turbines can make noise, although, to be honest, living in a city and going up to wind turbines, they seem awfully quiet to me. If that noise is not mitigated by proper siting, then you could have disturbance of people's sleep at night. That can be an issue. I have to say, as someone whose riding abuts the Don Valley expressway, and having lived in an apartment building that overlooked the Don Valley expressway, there's no question that people in urban settings hear a fair amount of noise. People in rural settings may not encounter as much. But there is no mysterious issue here. There's an issue of making sure that the noise levels are such that people are able to sleep well, and that means that wind turbines have to be properly sited.
If I go to the literature from the World Health Organization, there was a fourth ministerial conference held by World Health Organization Europe in 2004. In Energy, Sustainable Development and Health: Background Document, they look at the number of cases of bronchitis per terawatt hour of power produced in children. Terawatt hours-let's just say, a lot of electricity. If you look at the comparison between the different sources of electricity and how they can be compared in terms of their impact on bronchitis, there's coal followed by oil, followed by biomass and gas, followed by waste incineration. At the very bottom are hydro energy, wind and photovoltaic-almost imperceptible on this graph.
So if someone wants to ask about the health impacts of wind turbines, look at the comparison between the different forms of electricity generation in Europe and see that if you're concerned about bronchitis and asthma-and I have to say that in my riding there's a lot of asthma, and parents are very concerned about the issue-then wind turbines are far safer, far cleaner than the other technologies that are available.
If you go to the conclusions of this World Health Organization study, they have to say that, "The different forms of electrical power production are associated with varying health effects on industry workers and the general population.... The European Commission ... found that the effects are greatest from the coal cycle, followed by the oil and gas cycles. Renewable sources, such as photovoltaic and wind energy, are associated with fewer health effects."
They go on to say in their conclusions, "The increased use of renewable energy, especially wind, solar and photovoltaic energy, will have positive health benefits, some of which have been estimated. Studies show that the health and the environmental benefits easily make up for the higher costs associated with renewable energy use."
I would say to Mr. Yakabuski, if you're curious about health studies, look at what the World Health Organization in Europe has produced as a comparison between the different sources of power. It is very clear. It is very clear to those who work with epidemiological evidence, who look at the generation of electricity, which is the safest source of energy.
There's the discussion about noise. World Health Organization Europe produced a study, Night Noise Guidelines for Europe, a few years ago. They looked at the noise that disturbs people. They looked at what the major sources are, and they show a graph in their executive summary that comes out of the Netherlands. Road traffic, neighbours, air traffic and recreation were at the top. They didn't do wind turbines in this study, generally speaking, because the noise issues there are fairly small, but in their recommendations they say that if you're going to have a night noise guideline for Europe, their recommendation is 40 decibels, a way of measuring noise levels-about the sound in a quiet office or a quiet library. That's the standard that's been set in Ontario. That's why there's a setback for wind turbines.
So if our standard in Ontario is the same as that of the World Health Organization in Europe, and they have had a few decades of working with wind turbines, then I would suggest that the authors of this motion we're discussing today look at the literature for the World Health Organization and withdraw the motion they've put forward.
One issue that comes up when you talk to people who are concerned about wind turbines is something called infrasound: the vibration from the wind turbines. The Journal of Low Frequency Noise, Vibration and Active Control published an article, Infrasound Emission from Wind Turbines, by Jørgen Jakobsen of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, one of the documents that was provided to me by the library here at the Legislature. I'll quote from their abstract:
"A critical survey of all known published measurement results of infrasound from wind turbines has been made. The survey indicates that wind turbines of contemporary design with an upwind rotor generate very faint infrasound with a level far below the threshold of perception even at a rather short distance.... When longer distances are considered, neither downwind nor upwind turbines are capable of violating assessment criteria for infrasound."
In the UK, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform produced a report by the University of Salford in July 2007. In their conclusions, they note:
"The number of noise complaints about wind farms has been compared with complaint statistics for other types of noise. The total number of complaints about noise generally exceeds those from wind farms by between four and five orders of magnitude, indicating that wind farm noise is a small-scale problem in absolute terms. In relative terms, about 20% of wind farm installations have been subject to complaints, but no data is available to compare this figure with that for other types of noise such as industrial noise."
I'll go back to my point, and that is that wind turbines, like roads, can create noise and thus, if you're going to site them in an area where people live, you have to site them with adequate setbacks so that the impact on those who are living near them is at 40 decibels or lower. If you're doing that, then you are acting in a responsible way, consistent with the health findings of a variety of jurisdictions. If you do something other than that, then you may well cause problems. But that's the threshold. There is not a mysterious health issue that exists beyond that. I don't think there's a problem with studying it further. It's probably a good idea. I would think, at the same time, one should invest in studying the impact of nuclear power, gas-fired power or any other source of power that has an emission or a radiation. To single out wind, I don't think is useful or particularly rational.
I want to speak a bit about other elements that tie into this. I think that we could do better in meeting residents' concerns. This government is focused on corporate-owned wind farms, and they might benefit from involving or setting up more wind co-ops, as they have in Germany and Denmark, where they have found that because people locally own the wind turbines, the complaints about the turbines are dramatically lower. If people are making money from them, they see them as theirs. They see the noise, such as it is, as something that they're willing to make a trade-off with. As you well know, wind turbines are being located on farms in Ontario by farmers who are getting lease or rental payments from those wind turbine companies. So there are people who are making money, as farmers, from those leases, from those rentals. If in fact the ownership was spread around so that more people in an area were making money, rather than have corporations extract the value from a community, there would be much less resistance.
In the United States, in Iowa, there has been tremendous support for wind turbines. It's referred to as the second harvest for many farmers.
I had an opportunity a number of years ago, to meet with farmers from Pincher Creek, Alberta. Those farmers told me that the location of wind turbines on their cattle farms made the difference between staying on the land and being driven off the land. That steady source of revenue made a huge difference to them. You can look at the state of Victoria in Australia. They too are in a situation where farmers make money from the wind turbines that are located on their land.
If we were to follow this resolution, we would fall into a trap. We would miss the opportunity to build an industrial base that reflected 21st-century needs and opportunities. We would miss out on an energy source that is far less impacting and damaging than any other energy source that we would get, such as uranium, nuclear power or gas.
I want to cite a few other health sources.
Wind energy has a much smaller human and environmental impact than coal or nuclear. Dr. Cornelia Baines, a University of Toronto epidemiology professor, states: "Large and well-designed comparative studies have examined the health effects of wind turbines in Holland, England and the US. There is no evidence of any significant negative impact on health."
A recent study by researchers at Stanford University concluded that wind had less impact on human health, water supply, land, wildlife and water pollution than even solar power, geothermal, tidal power, wave power, hydro-electric power, nuclear power and coal.
A September 2009 report by Dr. Ray Copes, director of environmental and occupational health at the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, concluded that, "There is no scientific evidence to date to demonstrate a causal association between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects," although it "sometimes may be annoying to some people, which may result in stress and sleep disturbance." Thus the need to site wind turbines properly so that the noise impact on people's homes is relatively small.
In June 2009, the acting medical officer of health for the Chatham-Kent Health Unit concluded that, "There is no scientifically valid evidence that wind turbines are causing direct health effects, although the body of valid evidence is limited. It is unlikely that evidence of adverse health effects will emerge in the future because there is no biologically plausible mechanism known by which wind turbines could cause health effects."
Yes, there's noise, but after that there is not some mysterious force that causes problems for people. Again, if there is noise, build properly, set back properly, and make sure there is adequate allowance. The standard that we have in Ontario is 40 decibels on average. That's consistent with the night noise guidelines for the European Union and with World Health Organization recommendations.
We don't have a major health problem with wind. We do know we have to site them properly, but I have to say, when we look at the impacts of turbines on the environment-and it was Mr. Barrett who spoke about that, spoke about dead birds-well, frankly, in this city that I'm speaking in right now, there are bank towers and apartment buildings that kill large numbers of birds regularly, and I have not heard yet from this caucus, from the opposition, that they are going to oppose all new construction because it will lead to the death of birds. That is the simple reality: Large glass towers lead to the death of birds.
The National Audubon Society "strongly supports properly sited wind power as a clean alternative energy source that reduces the threat of global warming."
So I've tried to cover off the health issues that this resolution is focused on, but I want to say that we are trying to deal with a variety of issues in this society that are quite substantial. We have to deal with climate change. The member from Ottawa-Orléans spoke to that, but I just want to add this: The simple reality is that this world is getting hotter and we do not know at what point that increasing warming will lead to very substantial negative effects. We don't know at what point it will lead to a change in rainfall patterns so substantial as to dramatically reduce the amount of food that's available. We don't know at what point it will lead to changes in the weather that will make some areas far less habitable than they are now.
There are many other impacts that are there, but that issue is one that has to be dealt with, and the introduction of renewable power is a critical piece of coming to grips with that. If we were to say, "We won't go forward with one of the most developed, cost-effective renewable energy technologies that's out there today," we would be saying, in effect, that we are accepting that climate change is something that we can't do anything about and we're just going to throw up our hands. That is not a credible position-not a credible position for a Legislature or for a party.
We're dealing with smog in this province. We're dealing with deaths from coal. That is not debated any more. The Ontario Medical Association, a number of years ago, came out with their report that over 9,000 people a year in Ontario die from smog. That is of consequence to us. Introducing technologies that produce electricity without producing smog is extremely important to the health and well-being of the people in this province, and yet we don't have a call for action to stop the development of any new gas-fired plants in this province because of health concerns.
When I introduced a resolution, a private member's bill, a year ago calling for a ban on the construction of a large gas-fired plant in northern York region, I didn't have the support of the Conservative caucus, and yet the people in that region wholly reject that gas-fired power plant. They called on this province for action. They called on this province to give them the power at the municipal level to reject a plant that's being built on a floodplain. I didn't see a resolution around that.
We have those two substantial problems, and we have a third, and that's that we are facing, in the next few years or few decades, a peak in the development or production of oil and gas, and that will have substantial, economically disruptive impacts on our society. It is very important that we rapidly move away from the need for oil and gas. We don't use much oil to make electricity in Ontario; we do use increasing amounts of gas. If we don't have the investment today in cost-effective technologies to produce electricity, we will put ourselves and our society's stability in jeopardy in the years to come.
I've talked in general terms about health and about other technologies. I want to talk a bit more about coal itself because, in fact, that is one of the substantial alternatives to building green power. Wind turbines are part of a spectrum of investments that can be made in green power. We have a crisis of air pollution that is not just a Toronto issue. It's bad in Windsor; it's bad all the way through southwestern Ontario. In fact, there are smog days in Muskoka. That comes with a cost: a cost in lives, first of all, to be sure, and that's the most important, but a cost in medical care and lost productivity in the billions of dollars, according to the OMA. Where are the calls for an accelerated shutdown of coal in this province? I have to say I haven't heard it from the energy critic for the Conservative Party, and frankly I haven't heard it from the Liberal government either.
While we're debating the building of wind turbines, we're continuing to burn coal that we don't need to burn and we are not putting in place the steps that we need to put in place to actually make the transition to clean up our air. We don't have rules enforced for energy efficiency for buildings that are going to make the difference that has to be made. I've raised this issue before. We had presentations to that effect in the hearings on the Green Energy Act. That is a critical element, and yet I'm not seeing any action, nor am I seeing opposition day motions on this.
In Portugal, people are required, when they build new houses, to incorporate renewable energy technologies into those houses. We could be doing that. We build inefficient homes. We burn coal. We continue to allow sprawl. All of those things are having a huge impact on human health, but I am not hearing any expressions of concern about that.
I have to say to the government-I have to say to the Liberals and the Conservatives that I am not hearing you call for a 40% reduction in electricity consumption in this province by investing in energy efficiency. Some $60 is being spent on generation for every dollar being spent on efficiency and conservation. It's upside-down priorities. If we want to save money and have an affordable electricity system and rapidly and cost-effectively clean up our air, that's where we have to go. But I have to say, that's not where we're going. That should be the centre of the debate, not a debate about whether or not we're going to invest in renewable energy.
At the same time we're considering nuclear-and the member from Renfrew has called for more and more nuclear regularly-what about a review of the health impacts of nuclear energy? That's a substantial issue. It's a very substantial issue.
Instead of getting really serious about efficiency, the Liberals are serious about just one thing: spending more money to get us more in debt by building new nuclear reactors.
Let's talk about health studies and nuclear power. Durham region's radiation and health study in 2007 looked at health outcomes in the vicinity of the Pickering and Darlington nuclear reactors. Authors found statistically significant increases compared to Ontario levels in combined cancers-breast cancer, thyroid cancer, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, leukemia-and congenital and neural tube defects. I would say that's enough to trigger some action. That's enough to say, "We have to have a moratorium on refurbishing nuclear power plants or building new ones," because in fact when you have studies that look in any depth at nuclear, what you see is cancer.
The German government did a series of studies based on British studies done in 1987 and 1989. The British studies done in that period showed a significantly elevated rate of leukemia in children under 15 within a 10-mile radius of nuclear plants in England and Wales.
In 2008, the Germans' KiKK study was carried out. It was a case-controlled study looking at individual cases of leukemia between 1980 and 2003 for children living near one of 16 nuclear power plants and matching them with children with similar characteristics who did not have leukemia. Residential distance to nuclear power plants was the only measured variable. The research question was, "Are the places of residence of children with leukemia closer to the nuclear power plant than the matched control children?" Studies showed an unequivocal positive relationship between a child's risk of being diagnosed with leukemia and residential proximity to the nearest nuclear power plant. This was statistically significant in the zero-to-five- and five-to-10-kilometre zones, and continued as a trend up to 50 kilometres from the nearest nuclear power plant.
So if, in fact, we're concerned about health; if, in fact, we want to make sure that we have the best electricity system possible, I would say that we need to reject this motion from the Conservative Party and we need to reject the nuclear push from the Liberal Party. We need to build an electricity system that is extraordinarily efficient, that conserves power, one that takes advantage of 21st-century technologies and rejects those technologies that have shown, through their health impact and their cost, not to be good for Ontario.
I will not be voting for the Conservative resolution and I urge everyone in this House to reject it as well.
Today, they called me and said, "We understand the intent of the PC motion, but we're extremely concerned. We rely on wind power as business. We employ 140 people at our wind tower manufacturing facility in Fort Erie. We're a serious contributor to the economy. We bring in millions of dollars from employees and their families maintaining residence, as well as subcontractors and other businesses. If this legislation halts or hampers further wind energy development, it not only threatens our community but it also threatens investments of over $30 million that we made in anticipation of opportunities for growth by wind projects in Ontario.
"The Green Energy Act has already attributed to some new productions at our facility. The immediate results have been encouraging and we would anticipate steady improvement going forward, with the potential for hiring even more people at our facility"-hiring more people into good-quality jobs.
I've indicated that I would put this into the record for them.
Mr. Yakabuski has moved opposition day number 3. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, say "aye."
All those opposed, say "nay."
In my opinion, the nays have it.
Call in the members. This will be a 10-minute bell.
The division bells rang from 1753 to 1803.
Mr. Yakabuski has moved opposition day 3. All those in favour, please stand one at a time and be recognized by the Clerk.
The House adjourned at 1806.
ORDERS OF THE DAY / ORDRE DU JOUR
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS / PRÉSENTATION DES VISITEURS
ORAL QUESTIONS / QUESTIONS ORALES
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS / PRÉSENTATION DES VISITEURS
MEMBERS' STATEMENTS / DÉCLARATIONS DES DÉPUTÉS
REPORTS BY COMMITTEES / RAPPORTS DES COMITÉS
PETITIONS / PÉTITIONS
OPPOSITION DAY / JOUR DE L'OPPOSITION
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