ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Tim Sale (Crescentwood) --
1. (a) Between 1990 and 1994, how many spousal travel requests were made by cabinet ministers, how many were rejected and how many were approved?
(b) Who were the cabinet ministers who made these requests, and what were the dates and destinations of the travel?
(c) What was the cost of this spousal travel, itemized by type of expense?
(d) Since 1994, when the spousal travel policy changed, how many trips have cabinet ministers made with their spouses?
(e) What were the dates and destinations of these trips?
(f) What were the itemized costs of these trips, for both the cabinet ministers and their spouses?
Hon. Jim Ernst (Government House Leader): Madam Speaker, I would like to announce that the Standing Committee on Agriculture will meet tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. to consider Bills 5, 6, 23, 24, 30 and 31, all of which were passed through second reading last week. If you can hold off for one sec. I wonder if I might have leave to move--
Madam Speaker: Can I do the committee announcement first?
Mr. Ernst: Oh, sure.
Madam Speaker: The Standing Committee on Agriculture will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, October 1, at 7 p.m. to consider Bills 5, 6, 23, 24, 30 and 31.
Mr. Ernst: I wonder if I might have leave of the House to give Bill 75, The Commodity Futures Act, second reading.
Madam Speaker: Does the honourable Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs have leave to give Bill 75, The Commodity Futures Act, second reading? [agreed]
Bill 75--The Commodity Futures Act
Hon. Jim Ernst (Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs): Madam Speaker, I move, seconded by the Minister of Environment (Mr. Cummings), that Bill 75, The Commodity Futures Act (Loi sur les contrats à terme), be now read a second time and referred to a committee of this House.
Mr. Ernst: Madam Speaker, I firstly want to thank the members of the two opposition parties for agreeing to allow The Commodity Futures Act to remain after first reading on the Order Paper and receive second reading during the fall session. We had discussed the issue with respect to the Commodities Exchange and their desire to expand their horizons and the need for regulatory authority to be in place. So both the members of the official opposition and the members of the Liberal Party co-operated to bring this bill before us today.
The Commodity Futures Act will be a very important step forward for the administration of the commodities business in Manitoba and in Canada, and we are very proud to introduce this legislation. In 1978, Manitoba was one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to adopt legislation governing trading and commodities futures. The legislation was rather limited in scope and expressly excluded the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange from its jurisdiction. At that time, trading on the exchange was limited to futures contracts on grains which were governed by the federal grain futures act. In the years since then, Madam Speaker, the business of the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange has expanded and evolved into several new areas that are beyond the scope of our legislation. These include options on a number of existing contracts as well as new futures contracts on commodities such as feed peas which are outside its traditional scope.
As a result, the exchange needs a legislative framework that can keep pace with this growth and movement into new areas, and this is the reason for the bill. Since our act came into force, other Canadian jurisdictions have adopted comprehensive commodity futures legislation. Our new legislation follows these other acts. The intention is to give the Manitoba Securities Commission regulatory responsibility for trading in commodity futures contracts and options in general, and the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange in particular.
Madam Speaker, under Bill 75, the role of the Manitoba Securities Commission will be one of supervision. Like the similar legislation elsewhere in Canada, Bill 75 divides the responsibility for regulating commodities futures markets between the commission and the exchange. The bill is based on the premise that the exchange will continue to have primary responsibility for regulating its members. However, the Manitoba Securities Commission will be required to approve the internal rules and regulations of the exchange and act as an appeal body from its disciplinary and other decisions. As I said earlier, we are proud of this legislation which, together with our bills on the Commodity Exchange itself and the Winnipeg Stock Exchange, constitutes an important strengthening of the basic laws governing our major financial markets and the organizations that operate those markets.
We have consulted with a wide body of stakeholders in preparing Bill 75, and there is broad support in the industry for this bill. We are confident that the bill and its companion acts will enable our major financial markets, and especially the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange, to move forward and to meet the needs of its clients. This in turn will strengthen the position of Winnipeg as a participant in stock and commodity futures activity in Canada. So, Madam Speaker, again I commend Bill 75 to the House, and I again thank my honourable colleagues for allowing this bill to come forward.
Mr. Steve Ashton (Thompson): I move, seconded by the member for Wolseley (Ms. Friesen), that debate be adjourned.
Motion agreed to.
Hon. Jim Ernst (Government House Leader): Madam Speaker, would you call Bills 18, 47, 70 and 49.
DEBATE ON SECOND READINGS
Bill 18--The Payment of Wages Amendment Act
Madam Speaker: On the proposed motion of the honourable Minister of Labour (Mr. Toews), Bill 18, The Payment of Wages Amendment Act (Loi modifiant la Loi sur le paiement des salaires) standing in the name of the honourable member for Wellington (Ms. Barrett).
Is there leave to permit the bill to remain standing? [agreed]
Mr. Daryl Reid (Transcona): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to add my comments to Bill 18, The Payment of Wages Amendment Act, that the Minister of Labour (Mr. Toews) tabled in this Chamber back during our spring sitting.
This piece of legislation will make some changes that will allow for an expansion of the powers of the provincial government through the Department of Labour and Employment Standards, for the continuation or the exchange of and enforcement of The Payment of Wages Act in the province of Manitoba and other acts that may be enforced in other provinces, territories and now, with this legislation, with jurisdictions, because that is the word that is being brought into play here.
It is my understanding that this piece of legislation will allow for changes and that will allow the Lieutenant-Governor now to make by regulation and designate other jurisdictions as reciprocating jurisdiction for the purpose of enforcing in Manitoba an order or a judgment made by another jurisdiction.
It is my understanding that this piece of legislation, currently in effect in the province, has reciprocal enforcement provisions that we share with our other sister provinces and territories in Canada.
It is my understanding that we have four provinces and two territories for which we have those reciprocal arrangements for enforcing each other's payment of wages, orders that may come forward.
It is my understanding that, as the minister has pointed out here I believe in his comments some time ago and through our research, we have been able to determine as well that the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan are the provinces, as well as Nova Scotia, which we have reciprocal arrangements made for the enforcement of each other's payment of wages orders.
It is also my understanding that we have similar arrangements with the Northwest Territories and Yukon. The minister has indicated during his comments here that we have, through the Department of Labour, Employment Standards been working on also having agreements in place with the Province of Ontario. It is my understanding, work may be being done presently with other Canadian jurisdictions as well to allow for enforcements of each other's payment of wages orders.
Madam Speaker, I think that this legislation, to allow for that is probably a move in the right direction and that we can, of course, seek where there are orders that are handed out through Employment Standards, through the director's orders or through Labour Board orders to allow for other jurisdictions to enforce those orders on our behalf for employers that may not be in this province or for orders for people who are living in this province now that have come from other jurisdictions, asking us to assist in the capturing of those wages that are due and payable to the employees, being that the employee would have earned those monies through employment with the employer in question.
Madam Speaker, I think it is important to go back and to take a look at the Payment of Wages Fund itself and to take a look at when this fund came into practice and some of the discussion that has been taking place with respect to this act over a number of years and to take a look at the history, the real history of the Payment of Wages Fund itself and the monies that have been associated with The Payment of Wages Act over the number of years through successive governments and also some of the problems that have been encountered by the fund and when the fund and the act have come into being.
It is my understanding that the Payment of Wages Fund was established through the Schreyer government back in the 1970s. I believe it was 1975 that The Payment of Wages Act was established. The purpose of the act was to help those employees, those working people of our province that have been working for a particular company or for a particular employer where the employer has by various reasons failed to pay the employee the monies that are due and payable to the employee for the hours that were worked.
Now, the reasons can be varied and many, could also involve bankruptcy or receivership of the company, but it also can take into account the fact that there are employers that are still currently in business and just, for whatever reason, refusing to pay their employees the wages that are due and owing. Now, one would think that most employers of our province, or we would like to think that most employers of our province, are reasonable people and that they would treat their employees fairly, but I can tell you that I have cases in my files downstairs in this building where employers have not been treating their employees very fairly. I think these cases, from what I am told, have been referred to Employment Standards. In some cases, the employers have been found to be in contravention of the act.
(Mr. Marcel Laurendeau, Deputy Speaker, in the Chair)
Now, with The Payment of Wages Act, when it was established, I think Howard Pawley was the Minister of Labour at the time. Howard Pawley was the minister responsible for labour. Howard Pawley, as the Minister of Labour, came forward with the legislation to bring into being The Payment of Wages Act itself, and I think it was a good move. I think working people of the province of Manitoba really appreciated that progressive step. It was some time later that a subsequent government--and I believe it was under the Lyon government at the time--
An Honourable Member: Lyon or lying?
Mr. Reid: Lyon, L-Y-O-N. There is some interpretation as to the spelling of the Lyon government, but we will leave that to others to debate at a later point.
It is my understanding that, through the Lyon government, recognizing the importance of The Payment of Wages Act, went the next step and established the Payment of Wages Fund. Now the Payment of Wages Fund, when the government of the day recognized, in looking back through Hansard, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that while The Payment of Wages Act was a good step and would allow employees to proceed through Employment Standards for the collection of wages owing, especially in cases of receivership or bankruptcy or wages in dispute, where employees would have to go a number of weeks, in fact, in some cases, up to years before they were able to collect any monies that were owing to them by way of wages--now the government at that time, from my understanding, in looking through the Hansard comments, recognized that further steps had to be taken and the government of the day brought into being the Payment of Wages Fund.
It is interesting to look back at some of the comments that were made with respect to that fund and some of the debates that take place, and I know that looking through Hansard, one Gerry Mercier had added his comments a number of times on issues respecting Payment of Wages Fund. He was quite bold in his comments in saying that when we were in government, we introduced the Payment of Wages Fund and goes on to speak highly of the program itself and how it served the people of Manitoba and that they were quite proud to support it. Looking at the history of the Payment of Wages Fund and The Payment of Wages Act, we can see demonstrated quite clearly that this was an act and a fund that has served and continues to serve the people of Manitoba very well. I noticed that at that time the Conservative Party, Mr. Mercier goes on to say, had the interest of workers at heart in situations involving the working people of the province of Manitoba.
Now, it is interesting to note that members opposite continue to say that they support working people of this province, but if they just turn on their thinking caps for a moment and think back to April of this year when they introduced their most recent provincial budget, they will recall, through the Department of Labour Employment Standards, this government totally eliminated the Payment of Wages Fund.
Now, it is interesting to note that the member for River Heights (Mr. Radcliffe) says here today that that act and that fund has not been fulfilling its mandate to the people of Manitoba, and I will get to his comments in a few moments, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when we look at what this fund means to working people in this province that have been short-changed their wages because of different circumstances involving their employers, whether it be receivership, bankruptcy or failure to pay.
I want to look back to some interesting comments that I came across by Mr. Mercier, at that time, when he says, and I quote, the Payment of Wages Fund was set up to compensate employees for wages that they had lost.
It did not say that these employees should have to wait the extended periods of time. It did not say that these employees should be short-changed their funds and should have to endure hardship for themselves and their families by waiting weeks and quite often as long as years for these cases to be resolved through the courts for the more serious cases and that these families should have to wait that.
That is not what Mr. Mercier was saying. He was saying at the time that this fund was set up to compensate employees for wages which they had lost, and it was not set up to wait over six months to provide some compensation to employees. That is a further quote from Mr. Mercier at the time. It was to provide some payment of wages to these employees under this fund which the government established and was not just sympathy, it was not social assistance, it was not welfare and it was not sympathy as is now being claimed by this government for the elimination of the Payment of Wages Fund.
So we have to take Mr. Mercier's comments, and these come from the April 5, 1983, Hansard, which we have researched out because, quite frankly, I wanted to educate myself on the history of this fund and The Payment of Wages Act so I could have a clear understanding of what it meant to the governments of the day, the circumstances under which they were bringing forward this legislation in this fund and what they were trying to do to help the people of Manitoba.
What we are seeing now is that the government of this day, the Filmon government, has eliminated totally that fund and it will create, Mr. Deputy Speaker, hardship for the working people of this province. Well, it is interesting to note that the government over a number of years, successive governments, I might add too, both New Democrat and Conservative governments, have continued with that fund since that time, and there was no need, no willingness and no reason to withdraw funds, the Payment of Wages Fund itself.
You take a look at some of the cases that have come before the Labour Board, and I have before me statistics right out of the Department of Labour's document. If you take a look back to, for example, 1989-1990 year, out of The Payment of Wages Act, statistics relating to the administration of The Payment of Wages Act, we find that the number of applications filed was 331 at that time and that there were orders issued by the board for 302 and there were 62 cases pending. So you can see that there were a significant number of cases where working people came forward because they could not find any way that was available to them to pursue and obtain the payments of wages to them to which they were legally entitled and had earned.
If you take a look at the Department of Labour's document for the year 1991-92, you will find that there were 154 cases carried over that year from the previous year and that there were 215 new cases that came forward that year for a total of 369 cases that had to be dealt with and had to be resolved under The Payment of Wages Act. The board had issued orders on 283 of those cases; 40 were carried over to the next year. Then, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if we take a look at the year 1994--again, under the Department of Labour's documents, statistics relating to the administration of The Payment of Wages Act--there were a total of 211 cases for the most recent year for which I have documents in front of me. Of those, 99 were resolved and 69 outstanding, and there were a few of the cases that were withdrawn.
Now, if you take a look, it is obvious that there are employers in the province that are refusing or failing to pay their employees for wages that have been earned; and, if you take a look at the number of cases, as I have explained here, there is not a significant decline or change in the number of cases that come forward. Working people of this province have been disadvantaged and need to have some way to recover their wages. It is my understanding, and looking at the amount of monies that have been involved, the historical high for this fund has been in the range of about half a million dollars in annual budgets for the province, and that the most recent year that money had been reduced to about $225,000, from a half a million dollars down to a quarter million dollars. Of course, this year that fund has been totally eliminated.
Now, the minister says--getting back to the comments for the member for River Heights (Mr. Radcliffe)--that the Payment of Wages Fund is no longer necessary. He says it is because unemployment insurance funding kicks in first before those funds can ever be paid out to working people of the province of Manitoba; therefore, it justifies in his mind and gives him reason enough to eliminate the Payment of Wages Fund. What the minister does not tell us here, and I have had the opportunity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to talk with people that work in Employment Insurance commission--I think that is the new name for it, EIC, now--for the federal government. Quite frankly, the federal government was not even informed by this provincial government that they were withdrawing and eliminating the Payment of Wages Fund, and that it was going to have negative consequences and repercussions for the working people of our province.
Now, you would think that there would be some communications between governments, especially where it is involving working people whether through Human Resources Canada and the Department of Labour or some other means through government mechanisms that we have in place to communicate the changes that are taking place. The unemployment insurance people, after I had called them and asked them what would be the role of unemployment insurance if an employee came forward and said, I have worked these two weeks or I have worked this month and my employer refuses to pay me for a reason, whether it be receivership, bankruptcy or just refusing to pay, unemployment insurance informs me that the employee would not be eligible for that period for which they have worked and for which the employer has not paid them. Now, that seems to be contrary to what the Minister of Labour (Mr. Toews) has been saying in his comments and his colleagues here have been saying in the Chamber.
So what is happening here is that the government has not informed the Human Resources Canada of the changes, the elimination of the fund. Human Resources Canada has received complaints which they told me about in a general way. People coming to them have been unable to collect monies, the people coming to them for unemployment insurance have been unable to collect monies for that period of time for which they had worked. They came to unemployment insurance thinking that that plan would pick up the slack, and were being told that is not the case, unemployment insurance through Human Resources Canada will not pay for the period for which employees have worked and the employer refuses to pay. So unemployment insurance does not kick in for that period of time.
What does that mean to the families that are involved here? What that means is that the working families of this province, the working people of this province go to work day in and day out for an employer, and they put in the hours and the honest effort on behalf of the employer in the performance of those duties. The employer refuses at the end of that period to pay, for a variety of reasons which I have already indicated here, and then the Minister of Labour (Mr. Toews) says he is going to eliminate this fund and say to those working people: Go to unemployment insurance, put in your waiting period of two weeks--I believe that is still the waiting period--but nobody is going to help you with the two weeks or the one month that you worked and did not receive any wages.
So what that minister is saying is that we are going to leave you to hang out there to dry, and it is up to you as individuals to process this through Employment Standards and/or to proceed to the courts on your own to try and recover those monies if, as a working person, you can afford to do that.
The minister says that unemployment insurance funds would kick in before monies could be given out through the Payment of Wages Fund. Well, I wish to correct the minister on that. He knows full well that the Payment of Wages Fund allows for and regularly gives discretionary powers to the of Employment Standards, the ability to make on-the-spot decisions to give funds to workers who have not been paid by their employers for periods of time that they have worked and earned those monies. It is a standard practice of Employment Standards through the Department of Labour to pay those monies out to working people in those cases, and this minister says that monies do not flow. Well, I wish to tell him he had better go back and talk to the people in his own department, because his words do not jibe with the actions of his department and have not for a period of time balanced or equated to what the department is doing versus what the minister is saying. So the minister is obviously either misinformed or he wishes to distort the facts with respect to the payment of funds out of The Payment of Wages Act.
Now I think that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you take a look at the employment standards, it has not changed--
An Honourable Member: We used to have employment standards.
Mr. Reid: We used to have employment standards, that is true, we did. If you take a look at some of the infractions that have been happening under Workplace Safety and Health, some of the claims--[interjection] These are not my words, these are real life situations that are coming to me from working people in this province. So what the Minister of Labour is saying now is that working people are going to have to wait, that there is no longer any discretionary power on the part of the Director of Employment Standards to issue monies. Even in hardship cases there will be no discretionary power, because the money has been totally eliminated.
Now if you take a look at a quarter million dollars, to a lot of people that is a lot of money, to working people that is a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things, if you equate that quarter million dollars that was in the fund compared to the $5.5 billion that this government expends in a year, in a fiscal year, it is a very, very small amount of money but provided an immense amount of reassurance and financial relief for those people that had the opportunity to make use and receive payment of those funds under The Payment of Wages Act and Fund. Now if you take a look at the various Estimates books over a number of years, you will find that it does not change from year to year under Employment Standards and the way they define the fund, but the Payment of Wages Fund was the payout of an estimated--and it would give the annual amount and that is the way they would spell it out in their document. The annual documents for the Department of Labour would pay out monies to wage earners who are unpaid as a result of bankruptcies and receiverships, so that the likelihood of individuals to capture any of these monies--now, I do not know if members opposite are concerned about their constituents who are now no longer going to be able to receive this money without having to wait an extended period of time and maybe never receive any money because, in cases of receivership or bankruptcy, the chances of recovering any of those monies are probably slim and none, that the employees themselves will have to go without and their families will have to do without any wages for that period of time that they worked and did not receive funding.
And therefore, the bills still rolled in for the families at the same time, but the government has chosen to disregard the real impact on the families by the elimination of the Payment of Wages Fund. It is interesting to note that the Payment of Wages Fund had reasonable limitations on it, that it would only compensate employees once during the fiscal year up to $1,200 of lost wages and was usually done for employees who had worked at businesses that had gone under, in other words, to receivership or bankruptcy.
Now, this program has been around for about 15 years and there have been quite a number of claims, as I have already spelled out here. What the government is now saying is that the Payment of Wages Fund was a tool but it was not its most effective tool and that they could go after the bank accounts of directors and companies. But what they do not tell you is that if you are in receivership or bankruptcy you can try to go after them, but your chances of success are very, very slim and that the people, the working people themselves, would be significantly disadvantaged having to wait that period of time knowing that the bills were continuing to pile up.
Now, if you take a look at the headlines, it seems that the media understand the impact on the working people of this province even if the government does not understand. Take a look at the headlines here. It says, Tories kill wage liferaft, and that the fund provided cash for workers unable to collect from employers. So the media understand what the impact of this is going to be on working people in the province here.
The minister says by his own comments that he viewed the Payment of Wages Fund as a form of social assistance. The minister says that this is welfare for the working people of this province, the people that were legitimately owed monies.
I do not know how he can say that, because the people went out and they worked their regular shifts in good faith with their employers and no doubt worked very, very hard trying to meet the needs of their employers, and then their employers defaulted on the payment of those wages.
The minister says, by the government having a very meagre fund that they had in place, that he viewed that as social assistance for the working people. He does not understand the concept of hardship obviously for the families that went to work for those periods of time, had expenses related to workplace, going back and forth to work, they had bills that were coming into the family for that period of time for which there were no wages coming into the household to pay those bills--the minister says it is social assistance to hand out those funds.
Perhaps it was. If you take a look at the minister's words, and maybe I am misreading what the minister says, maybe he is right. Maybe it was social assistance, but it was not for the working people of this province, it was for the businesses of this province. That is where the social assistance came in. That is maybe what the minister was saying he did not agree with.
I can tell the minister, if that is what he meant by his words, it was social assistance for the business community, then I say that while on principle I disagree with that form of subsidy for business, and I hope that the business community would in general disagree with a subsidy for business from government, that it was a small price to pay to help the working people of Manitoba meet the needs of their family in cases where employers refused or failed to pay wages that were owing.
So I hope the minister, when he looks at his Payment of Wages Act and his Payment of Wages Fund, because this fiscal year is now proceeding along and we are at least six months through the fiscal year, that this minister will look at bringing back into the budget next year the Payment of Wages Fund that will allow for discretionary powers on the part of the director of Employment Standards to recognize the hardship cases that come before him and to make the necessary payments to the families that are disadvantaged by employers who refuse to pay for wages that have been earned by the employee. I seriously hope that the Minister of Labour and the government will review--
An Honourable Member: Do we have a Minister of Labour?
Mr. Reid: Well, perhaps he is not a Minister of Labour. Maybe he is the minister of anti-labour, I am not sure, judging--
An Honourable Member: He is the minister of bashing unions and workers.
Mr. Reid: Well, he seems to be taking that tack these days where he does seem to bash unions, but I will not go down that road here today.
This bill, if you take a look at the reciprocal arrangements, will allow for exchanges of information and the enforcement orders between various jurisdictions and provinces. Now, the minister references the fact that it will include other jurisdictions into the United States, and we will have reciprocal enforcement orders with the United States and perhaps other jurisdictions in the world as well.
On a positive note, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with respect to this bill, I think it is a move in the right direction. It will help, I believe, working people recover the monies to which they are entitled, having performed their duties in good faith in working for their employers, and this government, having brought forward this bill, should recognize that they have an obligation to the working people of this province, not just on an interjurisdictional position but also with respect to the Payment of Wages Fund, and that they should reinstate that fund in successive years and recognize that that fund does provide relief to families and is not social assistance for working people of this province, even though it may be social assistance for the business community in Manitoba.
With those few words, I look forward to going to committee with Bill 18, The Payment of Wages Amendment Act, and I look forward to hearing any public presentations that may come forward at that time and having the opportunity to ask questions of the minister with respect to this legislation.
Thank you for the opportunity to add my comments here today.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: As previously agreed, this matter will remain standing in the name of the honourable member for Wellington (Ms. Barrett).
Bill 47--The Public Schools Amendment Act
Mr. Deputy Speaker: On the proposed motion of the honourable Minister of Education (Mrs. McIntosh), Bill 47, The Public Schools Amendment Act (Loi modifiant la Loi sur les école publiques), standing in the name of the honourable member for Transcona (Mr. Reid).
Stand? Is there leave that this matter remain standing? [agreed]
Ms. Jean Friesen (Wolseley): Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is the second in a series of education bills presented to the House in this session. In introducing this bill in June to the House, the minister argued that this bill aimed to restore public confidence in the public education system. It would enable local communities to make decisions that have a positive impact upon their students and will create ways for all parents to be involved in their children's education.
The minister believes her bill lays out the rights and responsibilities of parents and children. Her bill, she believes, also aims to require standardized reporting of financial accounts of school boards and specifies more ways in which the minister expects school boards to be obedient to the party in power. There is, as is so often the case with this government, a large gap between what is said and what is done. To suggest that this bill will restore public confidence in education suggests that the minister has not understood the public perception of the Filmon education system and believes that school choice that she is proposing here and different accounting systems can undo the damage that has been done by her government.
In considering this bill, we should remember the role of the Filmon government in undermining the public school system. Their first step after they achieved a majority government was to systematically begin to cut the funds to public schools. Instead of fulfilling an election commitment to move to 80 percent provincial funding for education, they began to cut back until today it stands at 63 percent, with more than $400 million having been withdrawn from the grants to school boards. The Filmon government then required the boards to spend their surpluses, encouraged them to cut professional development days to meet the Filmon Friday wage cuts, reduced transportation grants and cut the number of clinicians available to school divisions. All of this was accomplished within a short period of time. At the same time, the government used the power of the state to channel more funds to private education. Until last year, this was done through a formula agreed to privately with the private schools to pay them 80 percent of the provincial grant to public schools. However, as the grants to public schools declined, the grants to private schools increased at a slower rate than the private schools had anticipated. Thus, a second agreement was reached, again, in private.
Indeed, for several days, the minister refused to answer questions on it in the House, and this agreement has now tied private school funding to the total expenditure on public school pupils, an amount that includes both the provincial grant and the sum of local taxation. Public school trustees are now aware that as they increase the amount of local taxation to deal with increased costs of transport, building maintenance or the high cost of supplies, they are inevitably and irrevocably increasing the amount of public money going to private education and by some calculations thus diminishing the amount of dollars available in the education envelope for the public schools of this province.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the government is quite consciously using the power of the state and public money to tip the balance in favour of the private education system. As my colleagues for St. James (Ms. Mihychuk) and for Radisson (Ms. Cerilli) and I demonstrated in a press conference last week, public schools are being forced to draw more and more of their income from private sources, including fees and fundraising by parents and children. The cost differential between the public and private systems is narrowing, and it is setting the province on a dangerous path. The evidence in school financing is very clear. This government has deliberately chosen to erode the funding of public schools. The minister has a very long way to go to convince anyone of the likelihood of any bill of hers restoring confidence in the public education system.
There is much more to be said on the role of this government in undermining public education, and I do not have time here to list all the ways. The approach to curriculum changes is a classic example of invented crisis. Manitoba had a co-operative approach to regular and consistent assessment of curriculum. The minister wanted to join the western consortium. There were some good reasons to do so, but one of the difficulties with the minister's approach to new curriculum is that in fact it became much more centralized, much more distant from the classroom teacher, was introduced at a very rapid rate with many reversals and in fact has been very destabilizing for some elements of the public education system, and, as in so many areas, centralization has been at the heart of the exercise.
It is so disturbing, I find, that the minister would have us believe that such changes encourage local decision making. It is the very opposite. It is very distressing that this is a government who chooses the language of local democracy and decentralization to try to mislead. Government must say what it means and mean what it says or it will not be trusted. This government is smooth and practised at dissimulation, and it has opened up a gulf between the governors and governed which does not serve our society well.
The gulf between school boards and the government is evident. For three years, the government kept the school boards in turmoil as they proceeded to full steam ahead with plans to amalgamate school divisions. They knew it would be a difficult political sell, particularly in rural Manitoba, where communities rightly believe that they were being asked to sacrifice either their school or their community. They made their voices known, but the government could not believe that they had spoken so forcefully. Eventually, after three years and more than a million dollars, the Minister of Education backed off a full frontal attack on the school boards. It should be noted, however, that this government, as is so often the case, was not prepared to do this with a statement in the Legislature but deliberately chose to wait until the Legislature had risen before making any announcement. A minister who is afraid to face the House to answer public questions on a policy, which she had twice asked the advice of thousands of Manitobans, does not give one great confidence. It is difficult to accept at face value her belief that she is enhancing local decision making.
Finally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, can we really put any credence in the words of a minister who publicly argues that Manitoba teachers are overpaid, overeducated and underworked? Her discussion paper for the Render-Dyck hearings suggested clearly that these were the assumptions of her government. This is hardly the basis for a good relationship, and I suppose one can only say matters have deteriorated ever since. Several of the bills in this session take steps to undermine the position of teachers, whether it is in the sections of Bill 33 which enable the minister to determine all methods of assessment in all classrooms or in Bill 72 or in Bill 54 which extends to teachers' associations the requirement for financial reporting but deliberately excludes them from all the protections of The Labour Act.
It is the hallmark of an authoritarian government isolated from reality and undeterred by reason that it believes that it can effect any kind of change in the classroom without the co-operation of teachers. This government has a long journey to make to begin to regain the trust of the province's 12,000 teachers. I urge them to begin taking those steps now for the sake of the public interest and the future of Manitoba families.
This particular bill contains a number of proposals which are relatively noncontroversial. The provisions for particular kinds of accounting practices are a little puzzling to the many divisions which already practice them, but perhaps there is an argument to be made for continuity and standardization of the reporting of financial accounts. The provision for an annual report to the residents of the school division by the board also has merit, although the bill takes a rather narrow view of the range of reporting requirements.
The sections dealing with pupil records is sensible, and there are many school divisions which already have appropriate records policies. It might have been helpful if the minister had identified such best practices and assisted school divisions to examine them. It is perhaps quite typical of this government that they would choose to take a high-handed approach even in a good cause where example and persuasion would have been as effective, particularly given the present gulf separating the minister and so many school divisions.
It is important I think to point out too that good record keeping and storage is an added financial cost to school divisions at a time when the government has cut funds so severely. I look forward in this to the comments of the school trustees when we come to examine this at committee. I shall also be interested in the disposition of the documents after the student has graduated or left the school division. What is the future of these records? How long must they be stored by the division? What role will the Provincial Archives play in their future? And has indeed the government got any kind of plans for this?
A second group of provisions in this bill are a little more puzzling. The rights of the pupil are defined in an unpleasantly narrow way: the right to be tested; the right to see one's record if one is over 18 and the right to be accompanied by an adult to make representation to the school board before a decision is made to expel.
I find that very narrow, even for this government, and I was drawn to make comparisons to the international Declaration of the Rights of the Child. I want to read some of those rights of the child into the record and invite members of this House to compare them and to compare the vision that is offered there for a child, for its education, for its protection and for its development, and compare that to the narrow perspective of this government: the right to be tested, the right to be represented before one is expelled.
The United Nations, however, proposes 10 principles, and I will not read them all. I will pick those that are relevant more directly to education. Principle 2, for example, says that the child shall enjoy special protection and shall be given opportunities and facilities by law and by other means to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration. The response of this government is the right to be tested.
Principle 4 says that the child shall enjoy the benefits of social security. He shall be entitled to grow and develop in health. To this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to him and his mother, including adequate prenatal and postnatal care. The child shall have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services. The response of this government is to reduce the amount of money available to mothers with young children on welfare, and the right to be tested.
Principle 5 of the United Nations Charter says that the child who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required by his particular condition. The response of this government is the right to be tested.
The child in Principle 7 is entitled to receive education which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him on a basis of equal opportunity to develop his abilities, his individual judgment and his sense of moral and social responsibility and to become a useful member of society. The response of this government is to reduce the funding for school boards so that fees are indeed being charged and to respond with the right to be tested.
Principle 10 says that the child should be protected from practices which may foster racial, religious and any other form of discrimination. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood and in full consciousness that his energy and talent should be devoted to the service of his fellow men. The response of this government is the right to be tested.
If we were to take all of the principles, I think the contrast between them and between those of this government is remarkable and perhaps needs little further comment upon my part. The government also in this bill looks at the responsibilities of pupils. This I think is even more puzzling. It is not, and I want to emphasize this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that anyone would quarrel with the sentiments expressed that students have a responsibility to attend regularly and punctually or that they complete their assignments and that they treat school property and that of others with respect.
But what on earth does the government think it will accomplish by putting this into legislation? Surely this is an expression of values, not laws. Surely it is part of the job of the school to impart these values. Surely this is the journey which young people take as they begin school. Punctuality, responsibility, respect--these are the things that we attempt to develop both in the home and the school, but here is a government which intends to enforce this by law.
Is the government truly intent on criminalizing the absence of homework? Who will decide whether or not a student has treated property with respect? What does it mean anyway to treat with respect? Does the government mean thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not deface? Surely these are dealt with in the general law of the land.
Is the government intent on creating a separate kind of offence for dealing with school property and lack of respect thereof? It is difficult to believe how this one got by the legislative drafting procedure. Is this one of those bills which was sent out to be done under private contract as so many were this time? What on earth is Mr. Justice Sterling Lyon going to make of this when the first child, age five, is brought before him for not having done his homework?
Mr. Deputy Speaker, it brings to mind both Charles Dickens and Monty Python, pathos and farce at the same time. Come to think of it, it might not be a bad epithet for the government as a whole.
So I sincerely hope that the government takes the time to rethink this one. The attempts to balance rights with responsibilities is helpful. The desire of parents and teachers everywhere that assignments be completed is worthy, but the enshrinement in legislation in this manner is ill advised.
More fundamental to the Manitoba education system are the sections of this act which set out criteria for school choice. Now some elements of school choice have been present in Manitoba for some time. Since the expansion in educational diversity of the 1970s, Winnipeg schools in particular, but not just Winnipeg schools, have been able to offer specialized programs such as French immersion, German, Hebrew and Ukrainian immersion, advanced placement, international baccalaureate and aboriginal language programs. This in itself leads to a form of school choice where parents are able to choose or sometimes must choose schools outside their regular catchment areas. The school, however, must accept the children who apply. Only where there is not enough space can the schools select children, usually using criteria such as the presence of siblings, or on a first-come, first-serve basis.
In addition, some school divisions, and the one I am most familiar with is Winnipeg No. 1, also have a policy of open boundaries for all programs generally instituted in the 1980s. Across Manitoba there is also a continual moving back and forth across school boundaries with transfer fees being paid in some cases and not in others as the divisions so arrange between themselves.
In the boundary report of Mr. Norrie there is a useful compilation of this movement and the financial arrangements accompanying them. So at one level, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is nothing new about school choice, but there is something new about the proposals of the government in the education legislation of this session.
When you take all the bills together, particularly this one and Bill 33, you can see that the government is perhaps moving to a fundamentally different approach to education. I am not convinced that Manitobans will react to it in the precise market terms the minister hopes for. Experience indeed in Winnipeg suggests that they will not, but that will remain to be seen, and we shall maintain a watching brief on this.
I want members of this House to remember that this comes as part of a pattern. First, the government reduces funding for public schools. It requires trustees to put pressure on the local tax base. It attacks the educational quality of public schools. Remember the discomfort of Mr. Manness when he found out that in national testing Manitoba students did better than he expected.
It increases the funding for private schools. It destabilizes by the rapid introduction of new curriculum. It forces some school divisions to reduce programming. It forcibly attacks the teaching profession and tries wherever possible to rule education without the encumbrance of the locally elected school boards. In fact, the one piece that went awry in the master plan was the energetic and successful defence of local decision making by the school boards themselves.
The government had originally planned to eliminate half of the school divisions this year. The system as a whole would have been in the throes of amalgamation as this piece of legislation as well as Bill 72 was in process. Indeed in the Norrie report itself is the blueprint for choice. The plan to amalgamate the schools boards was in fact combined with the proposals on eliminating boundaries in transport and parental choice.
This bill sets out those same principles. It permits parents to choose any school in the province. Many parents will welcome this. But they should be aware that this bill also puts in the hands of the school principal or perhaps the superintendent but certainly not in the elected school boards the criteria for selection by schools of the children they will accept. Parents should be aware of this.
In the end it will be the schools which select the family and not the family which selects the school. This bill recognizes this. Its main provisions in fact are for the principal to have the right to reject children on the grounds of behaviour, disability, space or indeed any other reason or circumstance that the minister has yet to consider in the regulations. The principal can do this without any formal evaluation, merely, as the act says, on the basis of his or her opinion.
Most distressing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that there is no appeal process, and there is a reason for that. School choice has been introduced in other jurisdictions, and if you look at the experience of the last five years--and I am most familiar with the practices in Great Britain--there has been a huge increase over the last five years in the number of appeals around the boundaries and the issues of school choice.
There is a reason that there is no appeal process, and it is not just that this government thinks it is infallible. The limits on school choice are in fact many, and parents and schools should be aware of them. It is unclear at this stage what effects such changes will have. They may have little impact as they did in the city of Winnipeg, where the largest proportion of our population lies.
In some rural areas the distribution of population and the challenge of distance will make choice of school irrelevant for most of the population. School choice will, as it always has been, a prerogative of the rich. Where it will make a difference is in border lands, places where schools are small and the removal of one or two families from a local school will in effect mean the end of that school, so that one or two people will have removed the choice for others and may have inadvertently undermined the local community by reducing the level below which a school can be maintained.
In earlier sessions, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have asked the minister what kind of planning safeguards she is prepared to put in place in these conditions. The answer, of course, is none, because this is an ideologically driven change, and there is no place for this government for the regulation of the market. I draw these concerns to the Legislature again. It should be of great concern to those who represent the bedroom constituencies around Winnipeg as well as those in more sparsely settled areas.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, what is really intended by these changes is to create a market system in education. The government believes that the market is the only efficient distributer of goods. The apparent choice in schools, the encouragement of competition in teacher wages suggested in Bill 72, the proposals in Bill 33 to allow the minister to require school boards to publish exam results, thus creating league standings of schools, the continuing increases and funding, and consequently enrollment in private schools all are part of a plan and of a context to bring what Tories would see as the discipline of the market to Manitoba's education system.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, as social democrats we would argue that the market may distribute some luxury goods in an efficient manner. We do not believe it is the appropriate mechanism to distribute social goods, health or education in a fair society in an equitable manner. Since the 1950s Manitobans have tried under various governments to distribute education resources fairly. As a province we have tried to equalize the opportunities for rural and urban school divisions and for poor and wealthy neighbourhoods. We have tried to pay teachers equitably across the province. We have tried to find additional assistance for those students who are especially disadvantaged. We have offered across the province innovative programs, whether in languages, in aboriginal education, in physical education or alternative education, through in-services and through the work of the curriculum specialists and their committees and the department. We tried together to make the best practices available in each field to all parts of the province. Co-operation between department and divisions, between classroom teachers and department specialists, between parents and teachers, were an important factor in the kind of equitable and fair education system and professional practice we all built.
My concern, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that all this is being lost as the government takes us down the market path to a system where competition, not co-operation, will rule. The Filmon government tends to create a market between private and public education, and as Hayek would have advised them, they are using the power of the state and the public's purse to enable the private system to compete on a levelled playing field.
The Filmon government also intends to create an internal market within the public system. This is what their program for school choice is all about. It is part of a broader, ideological plan to create competition between individual public schools across the province. The shame of it is that it is being done without a clear articulation of such goals by a government which is intensely ideologically driven.
How will this competition be expressed? What are the means of competition in a business where the assets such as school buildings are fixed and expensive and where the contents, the curriculum, have been standardized? Bill 33 will require the publication of exam results at four grade levels. These will become the primary standards, perhaps the exclusive standards, by which the new consumers will be encouraged to judge schools and teachers. Competition will also be fostered through the lowering of teachers' salaries. As divisions move to much greater differentiation in salaries, such as we had before the 1940s, resources will thus be made available for other facilities to attract the new consumers. Schools will be encouraged to find corporate partners to fund high-cost programs. This is already happening in the technology area, where grants of $40,000 have been made available by the province only to schools who can secure a matching grant from the corporate sector. Some schools are already devoting considerable resources to searching for grants from charitable foundations and with some success.
What is changing, however, is the extent to which government policies will now require this of every school. Recently, for example, the department appointed a new assistant deputy minister whose responsibility, some believe, is exclusively to find corporate partnerships for education. The ability to have access to such external funding will become a significant factor in enabling schools to compete successfully in the new environment. Social and educational needs will take a back seat to public relations. School success may in some areas become dependent on corporate charity.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, a school which becomes successful under this regime will, first of all, want to ensure that the students it accepts are going to do well in exams. Schools will also look for parents who have access to additional financing, perhaps through corporate connections. They will look for parents with the time and expertise to offer help in budgets or in advertising. Some schools will inevitably do better than others under such selective conditions.
There are several major concerns with the Filmon government's overall policy, and my first is that no Minister of Education--and we have had four in eight years and my guess is we are destined for another one--and certainly not the Premier, no one has articulated the direction these so-called reforms are taking Manitoba education. Insofar as they have articulated any policy, it has been limited to vague references to standards or parent power or deliberate attacks on what the government arbitrarily has deemed as lazy and overpaid teachers.
Secondly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the government's public emphasis on local parent councils and school choice has disguised the tremendous leap they have taken to centralize control of education. It has amounted to what one school division in the heart of southern Manitoba has called the trustee proofing of education. It has taken place without public input and I believe without any electoral mandate. Public responses to the Norrie commission on school boundaries, however, show that Manitobans are deeply attached to local responsibility in education.
Thirdly, the attempt to create a market in education is likely to be very divisive, if not destructive. Parents who are now being led to believe that they will be able to choose schools will eventually discover that it is the school who will choose them. Better schools will be able to select from long waiting lists. The standing and the examination culture will inevitably improve, and the economic, social or the class divisions implied in this will become more marked. The equity and sense of fairness that has been the essence of Manitoba will suffer.
Keith Joseph, the British Education minister who inspired much of this movement in different parts of the world, was, unlike his counterparts in Manitoba, unafraid to state his case. He argued, and I quote, the blind, unplanned, unco-ordinated wisdom of the market is overwhelmingly superior to the well-researched, rational, systematic, well-meaning, co-operative science-based forward-looking statistically respectable plans of governments.
It is a great irony that neither he nor his Manitoba disciples, Clayton Manness or the present Minister of Education (Mrs. McIntosh), dare leave their plans to the unplanned, unco-ordinated wisdom of the market.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the introduction of the discipline and the market in Manitoba Education has been accomplished by enormous centralization, not decentralization. It has been accompanied by an unprecedented extension of provincial powers and is being achieved through extensive regulation and legislation, not as one might have anticipated through the noninterventionist's withdrawal of government that the free marketeers idealize. As social democrats, we believe that the market does not distribute social goods fairly. It will not ensure equity, nor will it maintain inclusion. It denies our society the opportunity to enable schools to serve as one of the means of maintaining social harmony and social cohesion in an increasingly fragmented and unequal society.
In conclusion, this bill has some uncontroversial elements, it has some farcical elements. It extends school choice and, in conjunction with other bills, may be taking us down a road from which there is no return.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.
As previously agreed, this matter will remain standing in the name of the honourable member for Transcona (Mr. Reid).
Bill 70--The Animal Care Act
Mr. Deputy Speaker: On the proposed motion of the honourable Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Enns), Bill 70, The Animal Care Act; Loi sur le soin des animaux, standing in the name of the honourable member for Swan River.
Ms. Rosann Wowchuk (Swan River): Mr. Deputy Speaker, this bill, the Animal Care bill, was brought forward by the Minister of Agriculture after some work done by a committee that was established a year and a half ago to review and recommend methods of dealing with puppy mills and other unsavoury facilities. If you will remember, some close to two years ago now, there were some horrendous incidents exposed when there were some investigations done as to how some people were treating animals, in particular, puppies. If you will recall, it was a horrible treatment and animals were found in very poor condition; unfortunately, this does not only happen with dogs, as was the incident now. As a result of those incidents that were exposed, the committee was struck, as I had indicated, to come forward with some recommendations.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, if we look at how people treat their animals, I think that there are many cases where animals are not being treated properly, in particular, pets. At the present time we do not have the strength in any existing legislation that has enough teeth in it to deal with this. In particular, I look at a real problem that exists many times that people decide to buy their children a pet, whether it be a dog or a cat or other animal, without any real consideration of what is really required to look after that animal properly. We hear many times, particularly after the holiday season when people have chosen to buy a pet for their children as a Christmas present or a birthday present, and then we find out that all of a sudden the little puppy is not as cute as it used to be and/or people do not realize how much work is required to look after those animals. In many instances, you end up seeing these animals out on the street and in the hands of the Humane Society looking after them--I refer to part of it from the urban setting, because that is where we hear most of the problems. Unfortunately, it does happen in rural Manitoba as well, but in the cases sometimes in rural Manitoba there is the ability for the animals to fend for themselves a little more. However, I have seen in many rural communities where there are pets that are not properly looked after, dogs that are in a desperate situation, and at the present time the legislation does not exist to allow for the proper treatment--for the people who are not properly looking after their animals to be disciplined properly.
I guess, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the same problem exists in the livestock industry. Although most farmers who have livestock and make a living from raising livestock treat their animals very well, there have been incidents where we have seen that livestock has had to be seized and taken away from the owners because these animals are not being treated properly.
So it is a good thing that this legislation is being brought forward because currently, as I said, there are no standards or licensing requirements for dog or pet breeders to operate in Manitoba and I believe this is the first piece of legislation that there is in Canada. The new legislation is planned by government as a way to deal with this and bring under control the abuse of animals.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think that one of the things that the government did wrong in this legislation was to combine the legislation to deal with pets along with the legislation to deal with agriculture livestock. It is our feeling that the government could have separated the two pieces of legislation, put one forward that would deal with the so-called puppy mill industry and the treatment of pets and had a separate piece of legislation to deal with the agriculture aspect of this bill, because by combining the two, there could be much misunderstanding, and there are some problems with the bill.
Part of the problem that we have with the agriculture livestock is a lack of understanding in the urban community as to how livestock is treated by farmers. One thing that is lacking in this bill is that nobody talks about education. I think one of the ways to address this problem is that we have much more education out about how pets should be treated in the urban centre, but also there has to be much more education as to the values of the livestock industry and how animals are treated within the farming community. Certainly, we hear many times criticism of how animals are treated within the farming community, and I think that many times it is a lack of understanding of what is really going on.
Another section of this bill also covers--just as with other bills, the government has put in the definition of wildlife that can now be kept in captivity and animals to be considered livestock for farming, and, of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this fits in with the government's plan, with The Livestock Diversification Act, just as we saw with The Agricultural Credit Corporation Amendment Act, where there is a change in the definition of what are agriculture animals, and this fits in with the government's plan to domesticate elk and other animals.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is a part of the bill that causes concern to people, and I think that the government should have looked at how they could spelled it out more clearly. In one section, they describe what are unacceptable practices, and then they exempt all of these practices for agricultural practices because they come under the codes of practices, and it is acceptable then to--and I quote one of them, it is subjected to conditions that cause the animal to suffer acute pain, not to provide food and water sufficient to maintain the animal in a state of good health. There are more of these--not to provide appropriate medical attention when the animal is wounded or injured; unduly exposed to cold or heat.
Then the government in the next clause says, under agricultural practices if it falls within the code of practices, these are acceptable. Again, this is the place where I think that we have to do much more on education, on educating the public about what is acceptable codes of practice and what are not acceptable codes of practice to ensure that we do not run into conflicts between the urban and rural community and that they understand what has to be done.[interjection]
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the minister asks us for his approval. I want to assure the minister that what we are trying to do is offer him a suggestion that he can enhance this bill, and it will be approved. Certainly, this bill is better than what we had before, and we support the bill on that part of it, that it is better, but I am very pleased that the minister is listening to our recommendations that we have to do more to educate the public. I look forward to him working with his department so that we do not have conflicts between urban and rural members as to the role of livestock within the industry.
I look at this bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I see that there is now more strength put into the authority of the inspectors, who have the responsibility of carrying out, inspecting the safekeeping of animals. I think that is a good move. I see that the minister has the ability to appoint people as animal protection officers. With this bill, I think that there could be an awful lot of inspection and activities that will have to be carried out. When we see the direction that the government is moving, we see fewer government employees. I wonder whether the government will actually increase the numbers of inspectors and new employees that will be needed to carry out the activities, such as licensing, administration activities and inspection, as spelled out in the legislation.
The government has not been prepared to put resources into many other areas that we need, and I hope that this is just not lip service, and that in actual fact we will see the inspectors appointed to carry out these responsibilities that are needed, because certainly we want to see, no matter what, whether these animals are domestic animals or whether they are pets, that they should not be subjected to unnecessary cruel treatment. When they are, the people should be in place to ensure that there will be no undue stress on animals. One of the sections increases the fine from a maximum of $500 under The Animal Diseases Act to $5,000 for the first offence and $10,000 for subsequent offences. Currently, fines must be applied through the Criminal Code of Canada proceedings, taking many months in court. Under this bill, if it proceeds, it should take no more than two months and would much speed up the process, but certainly the fines should curtail people from activities that are considered an unfair treatment of animals. I think that this should curtail the activities that we have seen with the breeding of animals in such things as the puppy mills.
Again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think that we must do much more to educate, and there is no education component in this legislation, which may, in the end, be more effective and cheaper in dealing with animal cruelty than trying to convict people. This is something that the government should be looking at along with this bill. Again, I am looking at this part of how pets and dogs and cats are treated. We must do more education, and I think we must do more education with respect to educating the public rather than taking an incident and trying to hype it up as we had previously by members of the government saying somebody is pro-industry or against an industry in the livestock industry. Instead of taking that attitude, let us take the attitude where we are out there to educate the public and make them understand why certain things are done in a certain way, and that is not what we have heard from this government.
This bill also deals with the licensing of people who are able to establish facilities for raising--for breeding stock and also deals with the penalties for people who abuse animals and spells out quite clearly the terms and conditions of how a person will get a licence and what steps can be taken to appeal. So certainly those parts of the bill are good. It spells out the licensing of kennels and how breeders should set up their operation.
But I have concerns when we get letters from urban people, and this is where I think that the government has a weakness in this legislation where they say acceptable practices, and that, I tell the minister, will cause problems. For example, in a letter here I read about someone who has written expressing concern about what is acceptable: The Animal Care Act, I am greatly disturbed by the section dealing with protection of animals which upon reading provides nothing of the sort. As I understand it, this act is designed to protect only those animals fortunate enough to be bestowed with the coveted title of pet from the most horrendous and gratuitous of cruelties, but it does not even do that.
This person goes on to say that, if a person was to tie a dog behind her car, thus breaking the animal's leg and committing a horrible act of cruelty, however, if she claims it was to be discipline for the dog, it would then come under acceptable. So those are the kinds of concerns that the public have with this legislation. I know there are going to be presentations at committee, and I am sure the minister will hear those things and will spell out to the public more clearly what can happen. I hope he will say that these things are not acceptable, even though under the exemption it says that if it is for discipline or training, then it is acceptable.
There is a concern as well with the way things have been broadened and the clauses that have been added as to which specifically what is considered an acceptable practice. We look at the bill under the definition Accepted activities, the sections that the Humane Society has concerns with are exhibitions and fairs, animal discipline, and sporting activities. They will be calling for the removal of these activities because they are considered dangerous. It is my understanding, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that these three activities did not come from the suggestions of the Law Reform Commission or the Advisory Committee, but rather it was this government, for some reason, added in animal discipline and training and sporting activities. I look forward to having the opportunity to hear the minister's explanation of why they chose to expand this list when we get to committee.
As I said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there are parts of this bill that we think are good and certainly better than anything that we have had before. So we support that, but we think that the bill should have been divided up into two bills, where we would have had a bill to deal specifically with the puppy mills and the pet side of activities and then had another bill that would deal with livestock and agricultural activities. That would have made it easier to deal with for the public.
I encourage the minister that when this bill is passed, he consider the recommendations that are put forward, that he does put in place the people that will enforce, because it is one thing to set up a committee and put in place guidelines, and then it is another thing to have these enforced. As we look at this legislation, it appears that it will be necessary to have a large number of inspectors and officers to administer this. So I would hope that the minister will do that and have in place the people to ensure that we do not hear the horrific stories that we heard a few years ago with the abuse of animals, and particularly dogs, in that particular incident. I urge the minister also to do more through his department to educate the public about the role of livestock in the agricultural industry, because that is certainly one area where we have heard conflict or lack of understanding between urban and rural people as to how livestock is treated.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I also think it is important that when this legislation is passed, this legislation is acted on. I want to say, again, put on the record that we do not--the section of legislation that we have a problem with, of course, as we have told the minister previously, we do not support this government's decision to now legalize, to bring forward, domestication of wild animals. Of course, this legislation also covers off--that is included. We want to put on the record again that we do not believe that the wild animals, particularly elk, should be put into captivity. They should have the right to remain wild. That is the one section, when we see those definitions in here of wild animals being part of now domestic animals, that we do not support the government in that. Certainly, we support the parts of the bill that result in better treatment of animals.
I look at the parts where the officer has the authority to come in and take dogs or cats or other animals that are left in vehicles. We see this many times during the heat of summer, Mr. Deputy Speaker, where a person will leave a dog or a cat in the car, particularly dogs we see this way, and go off and do their shopping. Under the existing legislation there is no authority to go in and take that animal. Now this is much strengthened.
I know that there are other of my colleagues who will also have comments to make on this bill. I hope the minister will consider seriously the concerns that have been put forward by The Winnipeg Humane Society about the expansion of the acceptable activities that have been put on the list, but certainly we look forward to hearing those comments and we will be raising more issues with the minister when this bill goes to committee.
Mr. Stan Struthers (Dauphin): Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am glad to be able to rise today in the House and speak on a bill that I think is very important. I know that the people who live in my constituency also consider the fair and proper and just treatment of animals a very important matter that needs to be taken seriously by the government. Let us not have any misunderstandings here, if this government is looking to provide greater protection for animals, be they small or be they large, this side of the House will support them.
(Madam Speaker in the Chair)
In that vein, Madam Speaker, there are certain parts of this bill that this side of the House, myself included, can very heartily agree to and we will support. There are several things though that I wish to take a few minutes to point out to the House that are some concerns, I think, that need to be taken seriously by the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Enns) and his colleagues on the other side. These are concerns that have been brought to us by constituents. These are concerns that have also been brought to us by different groups who are concerned with animal care in our province, including the folks over at The Winnipeg Humane Society.
It is also my belief that the different farm groups in the province have expressed concerns to elected officials in regard to the way animals are treated on farm sites and farm operations across the province. In the community in which I live, and the communities of which I have lived in the past in rural Manitoba, there is hardly a crime taken so seriously as the animal owner who does not feed his animals and leaves them in pens to the point at which they become emaciated, the point in which they become ill, and sometimes to the point at which they actually die. I know that the cases that have come before us in rural Manitoba that deal with the predominantly larger animals, the people who have been convicted and penalized for these kind of atrocities against animals have been certainly ostracized in our communities and their standing in the community is knocked down significantly by the way they have treated their animals. So there is an importance attached to the care of animals in our province which means that it is important that we get it right when we pass Bill 70.
To that end, Madam Speaker, I would like to point out a couple of concerns that we have. First of all, as my colleague from Swan River has pointed out, we would prefer that we would deal with this act in two bills rather than lumping all of the problems into one Bill 70. It seems to me to make sense to deal with the problem that has been raised concerning puppy mills separately from the problems which we have seen in terms of the larger agricultural animals and the abuse that has been foisted upon those animals in the rural parts of our province.
So we would prefer if there were two bills--one with the puppy mills and one with larger agricultural animals--because there is a significant difference in the problems and the way the problems can be rectified when you deal with large animals on one hand and small animals on the other. I am worried that by taking this Bill 70 approach that the government is putting forth now that we will be able to create a gray area between the problems that exist with large and the problems that exist with smaller animals. So I want to make sure that it is understood that we do have a preference for two bills as opposed to one in this area.
Madam Speaker, I am concerned about the lack of a proactive, preventative education plan to help people in this province from one end to the next understand and learn more about the care and the protection of animals. People in this province who decide, who make the choice, to own a pet or decide to get into farming and raising livestock as an occupation have to understand that they have a minimum responsibility to provide for those animals which they take under their care. They ought to know that if they do not provide that minimum of responsibility, that minimum of care, that they face penalization, that they face the wrath of this government's law.
But first, before we get into that, we have to make sure that people have all the opportunities that we can possibly put together for them to learn the proper care and maintenance of animals. This is something that I believe, and maybe this is my former schoolteacher background coming out in me, but I believe that young children should be made aware and through practice be taught some very, very important lessons and important skills in the maintenance and protection of animals whether they take them as pets or whether they take animals of a larger size through programs. I want to give credit to one program here in particular, a program which I have a little bit of experience with, and that is the 4-H program throughout the province right now.
Mr. Mervin Tweed (Turtle Mountain): Great program.
Mr. Struthers: The member for Turtle Mountain finally agrees with me on something by saying that that is a great program. Unfortunately, I question his own government's commitment to that great program that he talks about, and, Madam Speaker, I think the 4-H program offers a very good way for rural kids and others to learn some of the necessary skills in maintaining and protecting cattle, horses and other animals that the 4-H are involved with.
I think there are a lot more things that the government can do that can help kids and their parents understand the importance and some of the skills required in the raising of animals. As I said before, when you decide you are going to take a pet or an animal that you are going to make a living from, you had better know how to take care of that animal or face the consequences.
The other concern that I want to point out entailed here in Bill 70 is the attitude that suffering is okay as long as it is done within an accepted activity. Now, that to me sounds pretty subjective, Madam Speaker. The government to its credit in Bill 70 is trying to take away some of the subjectivity in one of the sections that lays out what it sees as an acceptable activity, and that is Section 4(1). It points out that fishing and hunting and trapping research as acceptable activities.
Now, Madam Speaker, my worry there is still the subjectivity that is left in determining, No. 1, the amount of suffering that the animal is going through; and No. 2, what exactly are the rest of the possible activities that could be accepted as being acceptable. Other terms within the bill that cause me concern when it comes to subjectivity is a quote that says: it does not cause needless suffering.
I would like to know what the government thinks is needless suffering. I would like to know if the government can tell inspectors that they are going to hire what exactly is needless suffering and what activities can these animals be performing in order to incur this needless suffering. So, as much as they can, I think the government has a responsibility to be as objective as it can and try any way that is possible to reduce the amount of subjectivity involved in The Animal Care Act.
Madam Speaker, one section that I want to point out and support in this bill is the combination of Section 8(1) and Section 9(1) where the government has given inspectors a fair amount of authority in providing protection for animals. Section 8, for example, gives inspectors the authority to enter premises or stop and search vehicles, and allows the inspector to require the homeowner to produce an animal from within the dwelling so that the inspector can do his job, can inspect, can survey the animal and decide whether the animal should be seized, which is the power that is given to the inspectors in Section 9(1). In that section the inspectors do have the right to seize an animal that they believe has been abused by the owner.
Section 34 is another part of The Animal Care Act that I think is a legitimate part of Bill 70 in which it talks about an increase in fines and moves the cases from the criminal courts to the civil courts. That suggests to me, and I am no Philadelphia lawyer, that it would speed up the process, which is something that I am certain would get support in the province and within this Legislature as well. The other part, the sort of punitive actions that the government is looking at is found in Section 35 where, if somebody has abused an animal, that person could be prohibited from owning an animal or possessing an animal for five years, or 10 years on any subsequent conviction.
Those are all well and good, Madam Speaker, but if this government is not going to be committed to hiring people to go out and actually implement this bill, to enforce the laws that they are putting forward, then the whole bill is not going to be worth the paper that it is written on. My concern in this area is spurred on by this government's general track record when it comes to laying off the very people who have been hired to enforce the laws that this Legislature puts forward in its bills at this time every year. I do not have to look any further than the Department of Natural Resources where they have taken on all kinds of regulatory responsibilities at the same time as they are laying off all kinds of people who were supposed to be enforcing the law. You take a look at the number of conservation officers left in this province out there to protect our wildlife, and I do become worried. You take that same kind of approach and apply it to what we see here with Bill 70, and you are not going to be catching anybody abusing animals. You will not provide the least bit of protection for the animals that are out there right now.
My hope is that this government will take this kind of a concern seriously, because it is not just my concern. It is the concern of others who say that this government has to put its money where its mouth is. It is not good enough just to pass Bill 70, The Animal Care Act, but it has to come through with the money necessary to enforce their law or the law will not be any good.
Madam Speaker, the government, in Bill 31, the elk ranching act, has added a new dimension to Bill 70 as well, because now we are dealing with a government who sees no problem in taking animals from the wild, putting them into captivity, and now how are we going to treat those animals that we have in captivity?
If the capture and the transportation of these elk are any indication of how they are going to treat these elk once they have them in captivity, then I do not hold a out a whole lot of hope for this government through this act in protecting the elk that they have caught. Already we have had at least two elk that were killed in the transportation of the elk from the mountains during the capture to where they are now being stored in the minister's riding, and the amount of elk that were sick along the way because of this move was great.
If that kind of a record is going to be held over into the elk ranching establishments that we set up across the province, then I do not think those animals are going to get the kind of protection that they need in Bill 70, not because of Bill 70--that is okay--but because of this government's lack of desire to come through with its word and provide the necessary resources to enforce Bill 70.
Just to kind of wrap up my comments, I want to commend the government for at least bringing this much forward in the protection of animals. I want to restate my preference of having two bills put forward toward the House, as opposed to one bill. I would prefer one bill to deal with the puppy mill problem, which I believe everybody wants to put an end to. I would like to deal with that separately from the larger agricultural livestock problems that we face in Manitoba.
I hope that the government takes seriously some of the recommendations that we have made on this side of the House, and I hope that they accept those recommendations in the spirit of co-operation and that we can improve upon the legislation that is put before us. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Mr. Neil Gaudry (St. Boniface): Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to add a few comments on this bill here, which I think is long overdue, and the fact that this sets out the duties of the owner and the standards which animals must be kept in the province of Manitoba.
To this end, the animal must have adequate food and water, medical attention when wounded or sick, in addition to protection from extreme cold or warmth. This bill is primarily aimed at stopping puppy mills and other irresponsible breeders of domestic animals which we have had complaints over the last few years. I think it is the reason that finally this bill will come forward in the Legislature.
In the past, showed like regard for the condition in which they raised their stock. It will have no impact on responsible commercial breeders, so it is meant for the ones that abuse animals. The act also gives animal protection officers the power to seize the animal in distress in order to order the destruction of the animal, because the minister is also given the power to decide what is acceptable practice.
The member for The Maples (Mr. Kowalski) here is saying that it is comparable to police officers. I would not comment on that. I have to be very careful what I would say to my honourable colleague, Madam Speaker.
The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Enns) I hope is listening very attentively, because he said he had not heard from me yet. So I hope he turns on his audio so that he can listen, because we will support this bill to go to committee. I know there will be some amendments that should be brought forward because there is some concerns that have been expressed in some of the parts of the bill.
Like I have said before, this legislation is much needed. You do not have to be an animal rights advocate to understand that Manitoba needs some sort of regulation to protect our animals, our wild animals or whatever. [interjection] I think my colleague here should get up and apologize, Madam Speaker.
The bill also gives animal protection officers the powers they need to ensure animals are not mistreated. The human society supports this bill; so should we, except for the parts that they have concerns. I am sure the minister will want to listen to the people that will make presentations. We know that there are presentations that will be made, because most animal rights activists would argue that this act does not go far enough. But in fact, this legislation is a happy medium at this time.
With these few comments, we would like to see the bill go to committee and listen to the people, what they have to say and what they have to recommend to the government so that we make this legislation better for our animals. Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.
Mr. Doug Martindale (Burrows): I move, seconded by the member for Swan River (Ms. Wowchuk), that debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 49--The Regional Health Authorities and Consequential Amendments Act
Madam Speaker: To resume debate on second reading of Bill 49, The Regional Health Authorities and Consequential Amendments Act (Loi concernant les offices régionaux de la santé et apportant des modifications corrélatives), standing in the name of the honourable member for Brandon East (Mr. Leonard Evans).
Is there leave to permit the bill to remain standing? Leave? [agreed]
Mr. Doug Martindale (Burrows): Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on the regional health authorities bill, Bill 49, and I think I would like to begin by asking why was this bill necessary, why is the government doing this at this time? I think there are two fundamental reasons: the first is that they are planning to cut $100 million from spending in health in rural Manitoba between now and 1999; and secondly, they are supposedly passing on accountability to the regional health authorities, however, without giving them the ability to raise taxes to pay for the kinds of services that they want, so I believe that this will have a number of effects.
First of all, the government will be able to achieve its fiscal goals by having this new system of regional health authorities in place and giving the regional health authorities less money to carry out the existing services. At the same time, whenever issues come up in the legislature regarding health concerns, whether it is waiting lists for surgery or whether it is any kind of health-related problem--we know that health is an important concern to Manitobans. Almost every day in Question Period our critic the member for Kildonan (Mr. Chomiak) has questions about health and so indeed do many other members, but once this bill is passed, when we come back probably for Question Period in December during the throne speech debate, if the system is up and running by then, if not, when the system does get up and running, whenever we ask a question about an issue of health in rural Manitoba, the minister will be able to say, well, I do not make those decisions; I am not involved in the day-to-day operation of hospitals; in fact, I do not even set the policies; please direct that question to the chair of the board of a regional health authority, or the CEO, the chief executive officer, so then politically the government gets off the hook for unpopular decisions made by the health board.
Surely there will be unpopular decisions because, when they have less money, they are going to be looking at closing hospitals and reducing services. I believe they also will have the authority to bring in user fees. Surely that will be unpopular with some people, but whenever people in rural Manitoba raise those concerns or get us to raise them on their behalf in the Manitoba Legislature, the minister will be off the hook and will be able to say that he did not make those decisions, the local health authority made that decision, and therefore we should direct our concerns to the local health authority.
Now the first part of this bill that concerns us, besides the rationale for why it was brought in in the first place, is the fact that the bill allows for elected or appointed boards. However, it is entirely at the discretion of the minister as to whether the boards will be elected or appointed, and we know that they are going to be appointed. In fact, the first boards are appointed. Who will be on those appointed boards but people that primarily have pretty good connections to the Conservative Party?
In fact, there is also evidence that the staff may be political appointments. For example, the Conservative candidate who ran against me in Burrows last time, Bill McGee from Beausejour, a nice gentleman--I met him several times--probably recruited and encouraged by the member for Lac du Bonnet (Mr. Praznik), was unsuccessful in the election, and now he has been hired, I understand, as staff to help set up the regional health authority. No real surprise there. He got his reward. I have often wondered why other Conservative candidates who ran against me in Burrows did not get a government appointment or a commission. They seem to have been neglected, perhaps because they lived in Burrows. They did not live in a Conservative riding. Maybe it was Bill McGee's good fortune to live in the riding of the member for Lac du Bonnet. So we can see that not only are the board members political appointments, but the staff appointments, some of them at least, are political appointments as well.
So what we see in this bill is certainly a centralization of power in the cabinet. There is a very good parallel, and that is the Manitoba Housing Authority. Previous to the centralization by one of the previous ministers, there were 98 local housing authorities in Manitoba of which the current minister is aware, and all their board members were volunteers. There were about 650 of them, and what does this government do? Well, in throne speeches, they like to talk about volunteers. I remember there was one throne speech where they talked about quilting bees and barn raisings and how important and valuable volunteers are, but what did they do with Manitoba Housing Authority volunteers? They abolished them all. They laid them all off. They said, we do not need you anymore, and instead they set up one centralized bureaucracy, the Manitoba Housing Authority. I think this minister is going to continue that centralization and amalgamate it with the Manitoba Housing Rehab corporation.
So this government does not really believe in local control and local autonomy and volunteers and local community input. They believe in bureaucratization and centralization, and we see that in this bill in spades, because there will be no hospital boards or nursing home boards. They are all gone.
My colleague from The Maples gives another example of Child and Family Services in Winnipeg who also
Madam Speaker: Order, please. When this matter is again before the House, the honourable member for Burrows will have 24 minutes remaining, and as previously agreed, this bill will remaining standing in the name of the member for Brandon East (Mr. Leonard Evans).
The hour being 4:30 p.m., time for Private Members' Business.