36th Parliament, 1st Session

L002 - Wed 27 Sep 1995 / Mer 27 Sep 1995









The House met at 1400.

His Honour the Lieutenant Governor entered the chamber and took his seat upon the throne.

Hon Henry N.R. Jackman (Lieutenant Governor): Pray be seated.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): May it please Your Honour, the Legislative Assembly has elected me as their Speaker, though I am but little able to fulfil the important duties thus assigned to me. If, in the performance of those duties, I should at any time fall into error, I pray that the fault may be imputed to me and not to the assembly whose servant I am and who, through me, the better to enable them to discharge their duty to the Queen and country, hereby claim all their undoubted rights and privileges, especially that they may have freedom of speech in their debates, access to your person at all reasonable times and that their proceedings may receive from you the most favourable consideration.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Speaker, I am commanded by His Honour the Lieutenant Governor to declare to you that he freely confides in the duty and attachment of the assembly to Her Majesty's person and government, and, not doubting that the proceedings will be conducted with wisdom, temperance and prudence, he grants and upon all occasions will recognize and allow the constitutional privileges.

I am commanded also to assure you that the assembly shall have ready access to His Honour upon all suitable occasions and that their proceedings, as well as your words and actions, will constantly receive from him the most favourable construction.


Hon Henry N.R. Jackman (Lieutenant Governor): Mr Speaker, members of the Legislative Assembly, ladies and gentlemen:

I have the honour of welcoming you to the opening of the first session of the 36th Parliament of the province of Ontario.

Today's speech could have been among the shortest in Ontario's history. The agenda is already clear, and it might suffice to say simply, "Your government is doing what it said it would do, and it will continue."

It will continue because...

People want jobs -- for this generation and the next.

Ontarians want value for their tax dollars and an end to government waste.

Families want safe communities.

We all want a sound health care system.

Parents want schools where children learn.

We want every Ontarian to have a fair chance at a productive, independent life.

On June 8, the people of Ontario voted for major change. The new government accepts that responsibility, and will deliver.

It does so mindful of the enormous and difficult task ahead.

Over the past decade, Ontario has lost its way. Workers fear for their jobs. The jobless despair for the future. Public debt and deficits sap the strength and vitality of our economy and threaten the legacy we leave to our children. Taxes are too high -- government spending too great -- yet services have deteriorated.

This administration is charting a new course, setting priorities and sticking to them, restructuring to ensure we can live within our means and making major change, fundamental change, in the way government works.

Through these actions spelled out in The Common Sense Revolution, the new government will restore prosperity, free the private sector to create jobs and meet the challenge of renewing Ontario.

A Prosperous Province: The foundation of prosperity is jobs. Economists know it. Business knows it. People know it.

A good paycheque allows every person to provide for his or her family, and to save for the future. Consumer spending creates more jobs. Saving provides capital for new, job-creating enterprises.

Job creation requires dual action -- cutting taxes, and unshackling business, especially small business that creates most new jobs in Ontario.

Your government will encourage private sector job creation by honouring its pledge to cut provincial income tax rates, starting with its first budget. Every dollar of reduced taxes is one more dollar the factory worker in Oshawa and the forestry worker in Cochrane can spend on their families, and in doing so they are reinvesting in Ontario's economy.


Working Ontarians share many of the same concerns -- like Lindsay Mason, who is here today in the chamber, and Greg and Cathy Hart. These people work hard to keep a roof over their heads, place food on the table, and put something away for the future. And like most Ontarians, they've tightened their belts, but wonder when government will start to do the same.

Ms Mason and the Harts already have plans for the dollars the tax cut will return to them. For Ms Mason, it's home improvements; for the Harts, it's replacing an appliance, or new clothes for their children. Their spending and saving, multiplied by that of millions of Ontarians, will provide a direct boost to private sector job creation this province very much needs.

Another boost to job creation will be reducing payroll taxes on business -- making it easier for companies to create new jobs and hire more people.

Your government will stimulate job creation by eliminating the employer health tax on the first $400,000 of payroll, reducing Workers' Compensation Board premiums by 5%, and abolishing the annual corporate filing fee.

Ontario's economy will also benefit from the new government's commitment to freeze the average rates charged by Ontario Hydro for five years.

During this session, your government will initiate a "red-tape review" of regulations affecting business. Restrictions that cannot be justified will be eliminated within 12 months of the review.

These measures will stimulate job creation across Ontario and bring renewal and growth to all regions of the province. While many keys to prosperity are the same province-wide, your government recognizes the distinct character and needs of each region.

The government will work to ensure the needs of all Ontarians -- urban and rural, east and west, north and south -- are accommodated in the delivery of services and that all Ontarians share in renewed economic opportunity and jobs.

To demonstrate its commitment to northern Ontario, your government will give northerners a greater voice by refocusing the mandate of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to reflect more local input.

A Climate for Job Creation: Prosperity depends on a cooperative environment that encourages job creation and new investment. To trigger economic growth in Ontario, your government will introduce legislation to repeal the previous government's labour legislation, Bill 40.

Gradual evolution over a half-century established labour laws that struck a careful balance between the legitimate rights of employees, trade unions and employers.

Bill 40 upset that balance, replacing it with uncertainty and tension between labour and management. Bill 40 drove jobs out of Ontario, stifled expansion, and discouraged employers and investors from locating here in the first place. To ensure strong economic growth, that delicate legislative balance must be restored.

As part of the process, the new government will introduce legislation to empower individual workers by ensuring their democratic right to a secret ballot vote prior to certification, contract ratification, or strikes.

Recognizing agriculture's importance to the provincial economy, the legislation will also protect family farms by repealing the Agricultural Labour Relations Act, Bill 91.

These steps come as no surprise. The new government's intentions were announced during debate on Bill 40 in November 1992, again when The Common Sense Revolution was released in May 1994, and again during this year's election campaign.

The people have spoken, and this government will deliver. Business and labour must respect the will of the electorate and work cooperatively to ensure stability and labour relations harmony. Only in this way will everyone benefit. Only in this way will Ontario's economy be strengthened and grow.

Your government will also reform the Workers' Compensation Board. The board was created to protect injured workers, but as a result of poor organization, inefficiency and an unfunded liability of over $11 billion, these original objectives have been lost or forgotten.

Ensuring safety in the workplace is a key priority of your government. A reorganized and solvent board will better protect Ontario's workers. At the same time, it will allow the government to reduce WCB payroll taxes in order to encourage job creation.

These measures and others will send a positive message across the province, through the nation and around the globe: Ontario is open for business again.

Value for Taxes: Prosperity also depends on a healthy economy offering confidence to the investor and encouragement to the business owner considering expansion.

Each year, interest payments on the accumulated provincial debt consume billions of dollars of taxpayers' money. Public debt interest has grown, on average, more than $1 billion a year for the last five years, diverting billions of dollars that otherwise could be spent on programs. The burden of debt has damaged Ontario's credit rating and threatens the province's ability to attract investment and stimulate the economy.

People know that it does not make sense to borrow more money just to pay the interest on money they already owe. Yet that is what Ontario is doing.

Parents know that growing government debt endangers the security of their children's future.

We must get government spending under control. We cannot ignore the threat to our children's future, to our province's future. To balance our books, Ontario must continue the spending cuts begun in July.

Your government's expenditure control will enable it to balance the provincial budget by fiscal year 2000-01, and put Ontario back on the road to sound financial management.

When families are short of money, they make hard choices so they can pay the rent and keep food on the table. They live within their means. Now government must do the same.

To rescue this province from the trap of debt -- to renew confidence in the economy -- government must make hard decisions about what lies at the core of its responsibilities.

For example, government must ask whether Ontario taxpayers really need to own and operate their own TV broadcast network.

Government has no business using your tax dollars to lead the seventh-inning stretch at major league baseball games.

This government will not spend millions of taxpayers' dollars funding groups whose only purpose is to lobby for the expenditure of even more borrowed dollars on narrow vested interests.

Already your government is assessing which of its activities are unnecessary and which others are best left to individuals, communities or business.

It will pursue alternatives such as partnerships between government and private businesses and opening government operations to outside competition.

Two thirds of our provincial budget consists of transfer payments. A large part of these transfers fund services delivered by institutions other than the Ontario government. These organizations, which spend more provincial tax dollars than Queen's Park, have the ability and the responsibility to restructure, to control their own spending and to reduce costs. This is the only way Ontario can get its finances in order.

The new government invites its partners in the broader public sector to identify the tools they will need to increase flexibility, improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Your government is committed to introducing a new Municipal Act, and this session will launch consultations with municipalities. It also intends to dismantle Bill 163, the Planning and Development Reform Act, eliminating red tape, expediting the planning process, empowering municipalities and balancing economic and environmental interests.

Your government is serious about reducing its own size and cost. This year $1.9 billion will be saved, but even after these savings, the province's deficit for 1995-96 will be $8.7 billion. The new administration has only begun to meet the challenge of reducing the size and cost of government; much more remains to be done.


As it reduces costs, the government will move to reduce internal duplication, offer one-stop access to services and improve delivery.

During this session, the new government will also launch a review of public agencies, boards and commissions. Agencies will be put to the test: Bodies that no longer provide value for tax dollars or whose mandate is obsolete will be eliminated.

Working people have seen the value of their paycheques dwindle over the past decade and know that politicians should not be exempt from sacrifices. Your government agrees and will lead by example.

Starting here in this chamber, the new government intends to reduce the number of politicians in Ontario. It will introduce legislation so that in the next general election voters will elect a much smaller Legislature. Your government's goal: to reduce the number of seats from 130 to Ontario's representation in the House of Commons, currently 99. This session the government will initiate talks with the federal government about common boundaries.

Your government will also introduce legislation based on the recommendations of the recently announced commission on MPP compensation. This reform will scrap the gold-plated MPP pension plan, eliminate tax-free allowances and take responsibility for setting MPPs' pay away from politicians.

As it restructures and reduces costs, your government acknowledges that Ontario is not alone in this exercise. Canadians everywhere recognize that the status quo is not working for them any more. Canadians everywhere seek major change.

To our fellow Canadians in all parts of the country: Ontarians want to be part of a national solution to the current economic and fiscal challenge.

To our fellow Canadians who are also Quebeckers, citizens of our sister province: We appeal with an open heart and with generosity of spirit to remain within Confederation so that we might continue to work together for prosperity and equality of opportunity for all.

Safe Communities: A "justice system" that forgets victims of crime is unworthy of the name.

Feeling unsafe in our homes and on our streets makes victims of us all. There are too many stories like that of Mr Pat Haghgoo, who is here today. Mr Haghgoo is a Toronto convenience store owner who has been robbed more than a dozen times.

He puts in long hours and works hard to serve his customers and succeed in his business. He asks little of government, but he does expect government to make sure that the streets are safe and the punishment for lawless behaviour fits the crime.

The new government is committed to shifting the justice system's focus away from concern only for the criminal to include concern for the victim. It will ensure that our justice system is up to date, is more efficient and concentrates on serious crime.

As the first step in righting the balance between those who live outside the law and those who depend on the law for protection, this session your government will introduce a Victims' Bill of Rights.

A Sound Health Care System: To the office worker, the pensioner, the single parent, the farmer -- to all Ontarians -- a sound health care system is fundamental to the quality of our lives.

Everyone knows that simply throwing more money at health care is not the answer. The public and professionals who work in the system agree that the government does not need to spend more on health care; it needs to spend dollars far more effectively.

Within the health care budget are the potential for savings and opportunities for reinvestment. We will continue to redirect savings in ways that maximize outcomes and provide the greatest benefit to people.

Already this government has reinvested in improved dialysis treatments for kidney patients. We will improve access to care for northern and rural Ontarians who have faced the reduction or loss of hospital emergency room coverage. We will take the lead in coordinating, streamlining and better integrating the delivery of cancer care services in Ontario.

Your government will reinvest in targeted public health measures, such as immunization of children against early childhood diseases, that will keep people healthy and out of hospitals and doctors' offices.

To achieve savings and permit reinvestment, government, hospitals, providers and private sector partners must work together to manage the system efficiently, work within resources, prevent duplication, eliminate waste and combat fraud.

A Fair Chance: In the past 10 years, the number of people trapped in the welfare system has nearly tripled, while welfare expenses have quintupled. Businesses continue to receive government handouts, although businesses say they don't want them. And employment equity legislation enforces discrimination and hiring quotas in the workplace.

Previous governments spent billions of taxed and borrowed dollars on these programs and sank deeper into debt, while jobs disappeared and the economy dragged.

Ontarians know this is wrong. They want a welfare system that doesn't create dependency, but ends it. They want businesses to grow through hard work and creativity, not tax-funded freebies. And they want equal opportunity in the workplace, not legislated quotas.

Your government has already initiated changes designed to give all Ontarians a fair chance at a productive, independent life.

In July it announced that social assistance rates will be adjusted so that on average they are 10% higher than the average of the other nine provinces. To encourage initiative, current recipients will be able to earn back the difference between the old and new rates without having this income clawed back.

Your government promised to support the most vulnerable in our society; welfare benefits for seniors, persons with disabilities and their families have not been reduced.

The new government is implementing waste and fraud control measures, including tighter requirements for eligibility. Welfare eligibility for 16- and 17-year-olds has been curtailed and will be phased out.

The centrepiece of this government's strategy to convert welfare from a handout to a hand-up is mandatory workfare and learnfare -- a reform to which your government remains as committed today as ever.

During this session, the new government will begin to require able-bodied welfare recipients, except single parents with small children, to perform community service or enrol in work or training programs in exchange for their benefits. Those who refuse to participate will lose their benefits.

Condemned to a life of hopelessness, the children of welfare are the greatest casualties of the system. To ensure a brighter future, your government will establish programs, including a school nutrition initiative, to provide children the support and encouragement they need.

To restore fairness in hiring, in this session the Legislature will be asked to repeal legislated quotas, including the Employment Equity Act. To help employers maintain discrimination-free workplaces, the new government will implement a non-legislative equal opportunity plan that supports education and training, the elimination of barriers to equal opportunity, and sharing expertise and experience among workplace partners.

In the longer term, your government will reform the Ontario Human Rights Commission to ensure the commission fulfils its mandate to help victims of discrimination effectively and efficiently.

A fair society protects the interests and autonomy of vulnerable people and treats them with dignity. This must be done without unduly burdening service providers and families or creating a costly, complex bureaucracy.

Your government will introduce legislation to repeal the Advocacy Act and to streamline the Substitute Decisions Act and the Consent to Treatment Act. A new and better system will support the interests of vulnerable people.

Ontarians are a generous people. Today, thousands of volunteers, from Cornwall to Kenora, work to make their communities better places to live. The parliamentary assistant to the Premier will lead a government initiative to promote and encourage this volunteerism in our province. Neighbours helping shut-in seniors, corporations sponsoring nutrition programs for children, service clubs funding community projects, private sector employees and executives volunteering for public service -- this is the spirit of Ontario. Your government will support and nurture that spirit. All members of the Legislature are invited to participate.


Excellence in Education and Training: Ontario taxpayers annually spend more than $14 billion on elementary and secondary schools. But the quality of our education system ranks behind countries such as Japan, Ireland and Germany.

We have too many children who can't read, too many children who can't use a computer, too many children who don't have the skills required for today's jobs.

Recognizing the importance of education to Ontario's future, your government is committed to providing value for parents and taxpayers, while ensuring excellence in teaching.

As promised, the new government will honour its commitment to classroom education. However, funding this priority means school boards must make responsible choices in allocating their resources.

By restructuring, working cooperatively at local levels, streamlining top-heavy administration and bureaucracy, reducing the number of politicians and removing waste and inefficiency, school boards will be able to reduce overall costs while maintaining high-quality classroom education for students.

For its part, your government will give communities the flexibility they need to make these choices and improve efficiency. This session it will introduce legislation to restore junior kindergarten as a local option, starting in the 1996-97 school year.

Within the classroom, the Harris government will ensure a demanding core curriculum, regular testing of students and standardized report cards.

Renewing Our Pride: The decisions made by your government since the election have not been easy, or taken lightly. But action will continue as long as necessary to restore prosperity through a balanced budget and job-creating tax cuts.

The new government has been open about its intentions. It wants to work cooperatively with all Ontarians to build a better future. Greyhound bus mechanic Earl Smith, who is with us here today, spoke for many voters when -- two days after the election -- he reminded Mike Harris that people expect this government to live up to its promises, and will be watching.

Your government acknowledges this, and invites everyone to become a partner in the agenda for change. To obtain a copy of this speech outlining the new government's direction, Ontarians can call 1-800-668-9938.

Your government's goal is to make Ontario a place in which we can once again take pride.

Ontarians won't get there by clinging to the status quo. We stand at a decisive moment in the province's history. Major change points the course to a better future.

The path to a renewed province is difficult and demanding. But this government is prepared.

Prepared to work hard.

Prepared to give total commitment.

Prepared to set priorities and stick to them.

Prepared to lead by example.

Today, your new government rededicates itself to the restoration of hope and prosperity to Ontario -- rededicates itself to The Common Sense Revolution.

May Divine Providence attend your deliberations. In our Sovereign's name, I thank you. God bless the Queen and Canada.

His Honour was then pleased to retire.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I beg to inform the House that to prevent mistakes, I have obtained a copy of His Honour's speech and will now read it.

Interjection: Dispense.

The Speaker: Dispense? Agreed.



Mr Eves moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 1, An Act to amend the Executive Council Act / Projet de loi 1, Loi modifiant la Loi sur le Conseil exécutif.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): By long-standing tradition, the first bill introduced in the Legislature is an initiative that has not been mentioned in the speech from the throne.

This practice, which dates back hundreds of years, symbolizes the assembly's independence from the crown and reflects the collective right of members to address the Legislature's own priorities before attending to other business.

While the custom has fallen into disuse from time to time, the member for Nipissing, before he became Premier, defended its importance as a symbol of the rights of all members in this chamber. I am confident that the members from both sides of the House would agree that the Bill 1 convention is worthy of respect and should be preserved.

This bill amends the Executive Council Act to recognize the streamlining of ministries and the reduced size of cabinet, which members know is the smallest in recent years. As the law passed by this House to establish the cabinet and its structure, the Executive Council Act is itself a symbol that the government and the cabinet are accountable to the Legislature.

The amendments that I propose this afternoon would strengthen the accountability by confirming the Legislature's approval of a smaller, less costly cabinet and, ultimately, of a smaller, more efficient government.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I move that the speech of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor to this House be taken into consideration tomorrow, Thursday, September 28, 1995.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I beg to inform the House that Mrs McLeod, the member for the electoral district of Fort William, is recognized as the leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I beg to inform the House that the Clerk has laid upon the table the roll of members elected at the general election of 1995.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): On a matter of privilege, Mr Speaker: I will be brief, and I certainly don't want to interrupt a party, and a party it appears to be today, but on I think a very fundamental matter of privilege, Mr Speaker, I want to report to you today that a number of members from a number of political parties who tried to gain entrance to this building -- in my case, at about 1:30 today -- were blocked and denied access by several security people, who have a difficult job, and I understand that. The difficulty I had was that today, for the first time in 20 years, I faced staff of this place who know that I am a member here and who would not let me or some other people who they know to be members into this building to take their seats for His Honour's address today.

I can't imagine a more fundamental point of privilege. I know it is your first day and I don't want to add to your burdens, but I must say that over my 20 years of experience in this place I've seen my share of demonstrations and I've participated in some, but I do not recall a time when honourable members who presented themselves well before the hour that proceedings were to begin were denied access to the building, having shown their identity cards to people who knew them.

I simply say that for me that is a fundamental matter of privilege. I don't know how it happened. I would ask you and your good staff to investigate, to give myself and others who were denied the right to hear His Honour's address in person today a full explanation as to how it happened and to give us every assurance that it will never happen again.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member from Windsor, on the same point of privilege?

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Mr Speaker, if I might, when you're looking into this matter, I would like to add that there are a number of questions about security around this place in the last couple of months. I'm amazed that even when there are now scrums before and after cabinet that access is very much protected by the security guards around the Legislature, which has never been the case in the 18 years that I've been around here.

In addition, we had a number of calls from individuals who were participating in the democratic right to protest out in front of this Legislature today who, again the first time in my time around here, were denied access to the public address system and the normal facilities that this Legislature provides demonstrators who are demonstrating in favour of or against governments. These decisions were never consulted on with House leaders or members of the assembly, I understand, or the government House leader. None of the members were consulted on these rules. I'd like to know who is setting policy for security around this place, and I want to make sure this remains the people's Parliament and not just the Parliament of the government.

The Speaker: I want to thank the members for bringing it to my attention. I will take it under advisement and I will study it and report back to this House.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I move that notwithstanding standing order 8(a), the House do now adjourn until 1:30 pm tomorrow.

The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

The House adjourned at 1445.