L007 - Thu 5 Oct 1995 / Jeu 5 Oct 1995
The House met at 1332.
SERVICES FOR ABUSED WOMEN
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Yesterday in this House the minister responsible for women's issues, while responding to a question from the Leader of the Opposition regarding second-stage housing projects for victims of sexual abuse, delivered a very interesting answer. The minister said that when she met with a group of women about second-stage housing earlier this week, the group told the minister, "There is room for more coordination and efficiencies."
I'd like to inform the minister and this House that we've received a letter from the people the minister met with. The minister might find it interesting to know that the coordinator of the workshop for women's abuse coordinating committees had a very different interpretation of what they told the minister at that meeting.
In fact, the letter I have states that during the time the minister was at the meeting, there was absolutely no discussion about possible cuts to second-stage housing. In fact, the focus of the conference was, for various sectors involved in women's abuse, to improve coordination to be more effective in responding to abused women.
I was shocked when I received this letter. I know that while in opposition the member for London North was an effective advocate for women and children throughout the province. I'm concerned that now, as a member of cabinet, where the minister can directly influence public policy, she has forgotten her commitment to women's issues.
The minister responsible for women's issues is supposed to be a voice for women across the province, yet she does not seem to be concerned about the welfare and the suffering of abuse victims in Ontario.
I hope the minister will quickly retract and apologize to the women's abuse coordinating committees from across southern and central Ontario.
TRANSIT SERVICES FOR THE DISABLED
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Last July the Ministry of Transportation cut transit services for the most vulnerable, the disabled, yet the minister tried to blame this on the Toronto Transit Commission. But the government's cut was specifically, deliberately designed and addressed to transit services to the less fortunate, the disabled. Apparently, the government's pledge to protect the truly vulnerable in our society is totally null and void, as they have specifically focused on disabled transit for cuts.
I want to read to you, Mr Speaker, and I want to take you back to the last election campaign when the Conservatives answered a questionnaire, "A Mike Harris government would remain committed to funding fully accessible conventional public transportation, community buses, accessible taxis, and specialized transit services."
Since the election they have become indeed most economical with the truth. Many of the services are put in jeopardy. The cuts simply mean that some people may have to quit their jobs because they won't have reliable transportation. It's as simple as that.
Helping people get back to work was another Conservative promise, and yet you have broken that promise. You're using the disabled, people who don't have a voice, to fulfil your agenda. When will you restore equilibrium to give everyone an equal chance to have accessible transit?
Mr Bob Wood (London South): Sir, may I first congratulate you on your election as Speaker. I am sure that you will preside over this House with both fairness and efficiency.
I rise today to report on a very important event that took place last weekend in London; namely, the conclusion of the first phase of Jesse's Journey. As many members of this House will know, Jesse's Journey is a project of London South's Jesse and John Davidson, with a goal of raising $1 million this year for gene and cell therapy research. This research holds the prospect of a cure for several genetic disorders.
This journey started in northwestern Ontario and ended some four million steps later in Ottawa in the office of the Prime Minister of Canada. We learned last Saturday that over $800,000 of the $1-million goal has already been raised, with excellent prospects for the balance, and that Jesse's Journey is going to be an annual fund-raising drive.
I know that every member of this House will join with me in congratulating two outstanding Canadians, Jesse and John Davidson.
RED HILL CREEK EXPRESSWAY
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I would like to bring to the attention of the Minister of Transportation another broken promise by the Progressive Conservative government in regard to the funding of the Red Hill Creek Expressway in Hamilton-Wentworth.
On December 15, 1994, while leader of the third party, Mike Harris said, "A Mike Harris government will support and fund a full-fledged expressway, up to and including the six-lane model which was originally approved." On July 21, 1995, Finance Minister Ernie Eves cut the funding for the Red Hill Creek Expressway by 50% for 1995 and possibly the same for 1996.
I want to remind the Minister of Transportation that it was the NDP's cancellation of this project that delayed economic growth, that delayed construction in Hamilton-Wentworth, that cost jobs. It was the same cancellation of this project that caused five out of six members of the NDP government to be defeated in Hamilton-Wentworth during the 1995 election.
I want to remind the Minister of Transportation that this commitment must be lived up to. The promise made by the Premier was not conditional. The promise made by the Premier was not one of deferrals or, "Possibly we'll fund it"; the promise was clear and unequivocal. This delay is going to cause delay in the completion. There's no guarantee that this government will restore the funding next year or the year after, which will cause further delays both in the east-west and north-south portions.
I say to this minister: I'd appreciate it if you can live up to the commitment made by your Premier to the people of Hamilton-Wentworth. Come through with the full funding. If that doesn't happen, the same fate, I'm sure, will occur to the members of your government as happened to the government that is now third in the House.
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): This government day after day repeats in this House that the purpose of the cuts, the purpose of the policies that they are putting forward, is to force the people of Ontario to become more independent, and yet with each day we find that each of their cuts reduces the ability of people to become independent. Let me give you some examples.
The cutting of Jobs Ontario Training: One of the most successful programs ever put in place, not only in Ontario but across Canada, to make it possible for people to work in private industry at full salary while obtaining the training for themselves and for fellow workers, was cut. Sixty-five thousand people were participants in that successful program and they have lost their opportunity to be independent.
Yesterday we found that counselling in second-stage housing facilities is to be cut to women who have escaped battering situations. Again, that counselling helped those women to become independent. We hear that they have destroyed funding for homes for pregnant teenagers, again, homes dedicated to helping those young women be successful parents and maintain a productive place in their communities.
Every example we bring forward shows that in fact it is nonsense that the policies of the Conservatives will create independence for those who wish to have that more than anything else in their communities.
CALABOGIE PEAKS RESORT
Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): It is with great pleasure that I announce to this House that Calabogie Peaks Resort will be open for business this winter. The people of Lanark-Renfrew will once again have the opportunity to enjoy the excellent downhill skiing which Calabogie has to offer.
This opening will represent new jobs, more tourism and greater private sector growth for Calabogie and Lanark-Renfrew. For their efforts I would like to congratulate the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for their cooperation and the municipal council of the township of Bagot and Blythfield for passing a draft plan and zoning bylaw which paved the way for this development.
Congratulations must also go out to the management of Calabogie Peaks Resort for their true entrepreneurial spirit and their commitment to the community. You see, Calabogie Peaks has been closed since 1991. I first became involved at that time to try and assist in obtaining approvals at the provincial level for the necessary plans required.
Now, thanks to the policies and direction that this government is prepared to take, businesses in Ontario are experiencing a new sense of optimism and confidence by removing the barriers to job creation and eliminating red tape.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY PRESS GALLERY
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Tonight there will be farewell party for eight members of the Queen's Park media who are moving on. The Liberal caucus wanted to purchase a little gift for those who were departing. Obviously, we wanted to show our appreciation. We wanted something that was symbolic and of course not too expensive and we wanted it to reflect the new Mike Harris government.
We thought about that in caucus this morning, then the decision became obvious and we went out today and bartered for some tins of tuna for the departing members. We were fortunate; we were able to get it. We got eight tins of Dave's Tuna, and there's a cute little picture of a cat on here.
Interjection: How much?
Mr Phillips: Well, we couldn't find the 69-cent tuna. This happened to be 79 cents, but the Liberal caucus threw in the extra 10 cents and so we're very pleased. I think this reflects the new government for the departing members: Dan Nolan from the Hamilton Spectator, Rob Savage from Thomson News, Bob Weiers from CBC, Colleen McEdwards, Havard Gould, Annie Gagnon, Shane Roberts and John McKay. We will present this to them tonight.
It's a fine memento of the new Mike Harris government and I think it will be something they'll always remember, even though it was 79 cents instead of the 69 cents that we've been promised. We're quite prepared to throw in the extra 10 cents for the fine Queen's Park gallery.
SERVICES FOR ABUSED WOMEN
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): On Tuesday, I asked a question of the minister responsible for women's issues. I was disappointed that she chose not to answer my question related to the cancellation of birthing centres and other cuts to services to women and children. However, I did then give her the benefit of the doubt and stated that I thought she really did care.
Well, like thousands of others across Ontario, I was shocked to the core when I heard that the government is slashing millions of dollars from the budgets of transition houses for battered women and their children. I can't tell you the despair I felt when the minister responsible for women's issues stood on her feet and carefully mouthed the already tired mantra from the Common Sense Revolution.
She made no apologies for these devastating cuts and indeed suggested that they were needed and would not hurt women. We are talking about enormously vulnerable people here. In some cases, we are literally talking about life and death. To top it all off, her caucus applauded loudly and approvingly when she completed her answer.
I am disgusted with the ease and complacency with which this government is making cuts to the poor and vulnerable so they can give tax cuts to the well-off. Madam Minister, please talk to your Premier. Use your seniority, your influence, to reverse this terrible, tragic decision and do it today.
Mr Harry Danford (Hastings-Peterborough): I would ask that the honourable members, when they are at home this weekend enjoying the bounty of this year's harvest, take time to remember all those who make up Ontario's agricultural family. These are the people who work so hard to produce the food we all enjoy.
I would also like to draw attention to the advertisement I ran across in Tuesday's edition of a well-known daily newspaper. This ad placed by the Royal Bank begins: "You have a lot on your plate. This weekend would be a good time to thank the people who put it there." The ad then points out the importance of agriculture and agribusiness to our economy and closes, "Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without agriculture."
I feel that this is a fitting tribute to the great contribution our farmers make, not just to our economy but to all our lives.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The time for statements has expired.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr. Speaker, I rise to request of the House unanimous consent to note the passing of a previous member.
The Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent? Agreed.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I want to pay tribute to my predecessor as the MPP for Algoma, Bernt Gilbertson, who served in this place from 1967 to 1975, who passed away this summer after the last session was completed.
Previous to serving in the Legislature, Bernt served as a member of the school board in his area. He was very active in his community and very active in his church. He was well known for his good humour and generosity and the dignity with which he conducted himself in all areas of his life.
He lived a long, full and happy life which began as a young man working on the lakers along the Great Lakes. He later married Rose Hawdon of St Joseph Island and settled down there to raise a very large family. He became very well known as a producer of maple syrup and as an owner of a pancake house and the operator of a trucking business. As a matter of fact, he was well known in this place for supplying maple syrup every spring to most of the members of the Legislature, and when I came here in his stead, I found that I was expected to bring cans of maple syrup from St Joseph Island down here for members every year.
Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Well?
Mr Wildman: There are still some members with memories long enough who expect me to do it, but luckily for me they aren't all here yet.
One of the major issues that Bernt dealt with as a member was a need and desire to have a bridge built from the mainland to St Joseph Island, an issue that had been talked about for over a century and that came to fruition in the early 1970s after Bernt had raised the matter many times in this Legislature.
Last fall, I had the pleasure to join with the people of St Joseph Island and members of the Gilbertson family to officially name the St Joseph Island Bridge the Bernt Gilbertson St Joseph Island Bridge as a lasting tribute to the commitment of Bernt Gilbertson to the people of Algoma and particularly to the people of St Joseph Island.
In the last few years, Bernt had suffered from ill health and his passing was a great loss to everyone in the community.
Our sympathy goes out to Mrs Gilbertson and her family. They have a right to be very proud of the work of a former deputy whip and government whip in this Legislature and a real community worker.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I would like, on behalf of my party, to express our condolences to Mr Gilbertson's family as well. I noticed that the member for Algoma, being a member of the third party, did not happen to mention that Bernt was a member of the Progressive Conservative Party. You might have guessed that from his background as an entrepreneur and a businessperson. Bernt as well was a man of great generosity in terms of bringing to the Legislature each spring maple syrup for everyone. But Bernt, while he was here, also served as the caucus chairman and the chief whip of our party and so was given significant responsibility at that time.
It's also important to note that his wife, Rose, at that point in time when Bernt was a member here, served as his constituency assistant. Now, our rules don't allow any member to hire their spouse at this point in time, but it should be noted that Rose worked for nothing, and therefore there wasn't a problem with conflict between what he was doing and the other.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Why didn't you follow his example?
Hon Mr Sterling: The member for Windsor-Riverside says that he would like to follow that example, and I think he should.
Bernt Gilbertson knew many of the members. I was only elected in 1977 but was informed by many of the members when I did come to the Legislature of their love and respect for this man and the fact that Bernt Gilbertson, when he spoke in this Legislature, did not speak so much as a partisan but on behalf of the people he represented in the riding of Algoma.
I'd like to thank the present member for Algoma for attending the funeral and speaking on behalf of the members of the Legislature at that time.
Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I'm privileged to stand on behalf of our party to speak to the Gilbertson family on the passing of Bernt. There's a strong kinship one feels with a member who also lived on an island, as one from Manitoulin can say. As I looked over Mr Gilbertson's write-up in the Sault Star, I noticed that he had many of the traits that I see in my communities and the small communities of the North Shore of Manitoulin Island and indeed in most of Algoma.
He came as a person with nothing. He built a business. He worked hard. He served his community, he served his hospitals, he served the board of education. Not knowing him but having heard many things about him from people in my area, I just can sense that he was not one who thought that was anything out of the ordinary; it was just something you did. He's typical, in many ways, of the people that I represent and that many of us represent here in the Legislature in that this strong sense of community was something you just did.
He built -- and I think the most famous thing, and it's been alluded to already -- the maple syrup business. It is absolutely famous along the North Shore and in Sault Ste Marie. I would invite people to go up and tour that facility. It is magnificent. You will enjoy the syrup. This was all started by a young man who came to Canada, I believe, when he was eight years old. I think that speaks to itself.
He came to this Legislature to serve the people. He knew who he served: He served the people of Algoma. He did some remarkable things. He's spoken of the bridge. The bridge, to someone on an island, is extraordinarily important. I think that the naming of that bridge after Mr Gilbertson will be a tribute that his family can look to for years and generations to come.
So on behalf of the Liberal Party, my leader Lyn McLeod and the people in the adjoining constituency of Algoma-Manitoulin, I'd like to express our deep sympathy to the Gilbertson family.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I would like to thank all honourable members for their input, and I will see that a copy of Hansard is sent to the members of the family.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today a delegation from South Africa, headed by Dr Anne Van Der Spey. Welcome to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Yesterday, the leader of the official opposition (Mrs McLeod) rose on a point of order with respect to the failure of the Minister of Community and Social Services to provide her and other members with certain documentation. The member will know that the Speaker has no authority to compel the minister to provide such materials. However, the member may wish to make an inquiry on the subject during oral question period.
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): May I ask the following point of order? My request was to ask you to review whether or not the minister had misled the House, not to ask him to produce the budget.
ACCESS TO LEGISLATIVE BUILDING
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, the member for Renfrew North (Mr Conway) raised some concerns respecting the events of Wednesday, September 27, as well as other matters relating to the security of the legislative precinct. Several members spoke to this on that same day and on successive days, namely, the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr Cooke), the member for St Catharines (Mr Bradley), the member for Wilson Heights (Mr Kwinter), and the government House leader (Mr Eves).
I have now had an opportunity to review the circumstances of the day in question, and I must say that some of the occurrences caused me grave concern. In reviewing the situation, I have found that indeed the honourable member for Renfrew North and other members were, for a time, denied access to the Legislative Building. This was a very serious incident and not one which should be repeated.
The issue of security in this place is a challenging one. The events of last week did not develop out of a deliberate intent to obstruct any member in the performance of his or her duty but rather out of caution and a desire to ensure the safety of members, staff and public. It may be that it should have been handled differently and it is this issue that I would like to address.
Members will know that under subsection 103(2) of the Legislative Assembly Act the Speaker is responsible for establishing security guidelines for the legislative precinct. This is an onerous responsibility and not one which can be fulfilled in the absence of full consultation with you, the members of this House.
In order to ensure that consultation, pursuant to standing order 106(i), I intend to refer the matter of security in the parliamentary precinct to the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly. It is my hope that consideration of the relevant security issues by this committee will assist me to meet my obligation to establish clear guidelines that will ensure the safety of the occupants of this precinct without impeding the access of members to this chamber.
I thank the member for Renfrew North and other members for bringing these very important concerns to my attention.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Mr Speaker, just one question, if I might -- and I appreciate your statement today and the fact that you are yourself referring this matter to the Legislative Assembly committee.
I assume the commitment from the government House leader still stands, that a motion will be brought before the assembly that will refer other items around security and what happened on that particular day to the Legislative Assembly committee.
My question, though, is that there were certainly quotes in the press from the Sergeant at Arms that a report was being done for him to you on the incidents around the throne speech day that would outline some of the problems and what led to them. I'm wondering if your statement today is a result of that report, and if that is the case, whether that report would either be tabled in the House or shared with the House leaders of the three parties, because I, for one, would like to see the report and I think, as members, we would be entitled to that.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Mr Speaker, I appreciate your response today.
When I raised this matter about a week ago, I asked specifically as to who gave the order that members of the assembly would not be granted access to this building. While I listened very carefully to your response this afternoon, I can only conclude that either you gave the order, which I do not believe to be the case, or that someone in your name gave the order. As I understand the practices of this place, the only person who would be in a position to give that order would the Sergeant at Arms. Now, if my good friend Thomas Stelling did not give the order, I would still, before this process is concluded, like to know.
I recognize the difficulty of the day; I appreciate the really tough situation with which the security forces were faced on that day, Wednesday of last week. But I really would like to know who did give the order, on what authority and, notwithstanding the difficulty of the moment that day, I'd like some assurance that for whatever inadvertence, confusion, misdirection, misjudgement that might have caused that order to have been given and applied to honourable members on that day last week, that particular difficulty will be addressed in whatever reference under your very capable leadership.
The Speaker: I thank the honourable members for their questions. It's not my duty to answer questions in the Legislature, but I will be happy to make the contents of that full report known when I attend upon the legislative committee when they're dealing with that issue.
STATEMENTS BY THE MINISTRY AND RESPONSES
WORLD TEACHERS' DAY
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): It gives me great pleasure to rise today to inform this House that our government is proclaiming today as World Teachers' Day in Ontario. We are extremely pleased to support UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which has designated this day as World Teachers' Day to recognize the hard work and vital role undertaken by teachers. Education is the soul of a society, and teachers are the custodians of a very important trust.
On this special occasion, I am also pleased to acknowledge and recognize the presence today in our chambers of M. Robert, who as president of the Ontario Teachers' Federation is here representing the teachers of our province.
By declaring this to be World Teachers' Day in Ontario we show our deep appreciation for the dedication of Ontario's classroom teachers who, by working with students, parents and others in the broader community, daily demonstrate their commitment to help bring about a brighter future for our citizens.
Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I was certainly looking forward to hearing a statement from the Minister of Education today that might reflect a little bit more about the educational agenda of this province, but I at this point would just like to follow up on what my colleague had to say yesterday in terms of, yes, this being the United Nations' World Teachers' Day, and of course yesterday he indicated that the teachers of Ontario really deserve this special honour and deserve this day dedicated to them. I could not agree more with that.
As some members of the House will know, I have been honoured by being appointed a judge of a very important selection in the province; of course, that's selecting teachers of the year from across the province. That is an honour that I take very seriously.
When we go to select those teachers of the year, we have applicants who come from across the province. I must say, in this past selection, this past year, in this contest put on by both OISE, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and the Toronto Sun, we had some 1,200 nominations of very dedicated people from across this province. As I went through those very dedicated nominees and took a look at what they did and their commitment to education in this province, I cannot tell you what a difficult task it was to select those 10 teachers who have made a contribution, as teachers around the world have.
Mr Speaker, you will know as well that I as a teacher on leave, and more importantly teachers in the classroom today, respect this day to observe some of the very fine things that are going on in education. I must go back to the days of old where I attended a one-room school house, the old No. 4 school on the Redditt Road, and think of the dedication that was in that one-room school house, the dedication that came through teachers who taught me as I went up through the ranks in the Kenora Board of Education, and I think of that dedication that was extended to the students around me as well.
But education has come a long way since then. I talk of the No. 4 school, a one-room school house; it's actually a school today with a gymnasium. But we cannot just give credit to the bricks and mortar of the institutions that have been built around us; we must give the credit to those who are most deserving, the teachers.
As I travel across the province, I do hear some concern about this minister, a minister who came out in one of his major announcements that he was going to create a crisis in education. I observe those very true concerns of the people, the people I say we are dedicating this day to, the people on the front line. I must say to the minister that he must note the true value of these teachers and not just address them as a special interest in this very important institution of ours in education.
Again, Minister, I think you must act as an advocate on behalf of education in this province. It truly, truly discomforts me to know that you're a minister who began with a statement such as that of developing a crisis in education. I call upon you as the Minister of Education to work with the people you have dedicated this day to and work very closely with them.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I want to congratulate the Minister of Education and Training on his announcement of proclamation of October 5 in Ontario as World Teachers' Day in this province. One wag suggested that I should ask the minister if this was a real proclamation or one that he has just invented.
I want to say though that we all recognize that teachers are in fact the front-line service providers in education and that they do deserve recognition. As a member of the teaching profession, I guess I should declare a conflict of interest here, but I would say that all of us in this House, whatever our chosen vocation, will be able to remember one or more teachers in our school days who influenced us deeply. In most cases, I would expect that that has been a very positive influence, someone who has helped us to achieve and to understand and to become a better person. For that reason, all of us, individually and collectively, understand the importance of the teaching profession in our communities.
At a time of restraint when we are expecting to see cuts, it is even more difficult for the teachers of the province to carry out their very important role and mandate on behalf of the students of the province. So I would hope that the minister would take that into account as he gets advice from many different directions.
I know that there have even been ruminations about the virtual school and whether or not we need to have students in classrooms, whether we can perhaps, through technologies, have a situation going into the 21st century where eventually we may in fact have students learning at home and not needing to attend a school.
I hope as you look at those kinds of things, Minister, that you will understand the very important relationship between the instructor and the student and among the students, and that as we come to understand the need to adapt to the new technologies in the information age, there is nothing that can replace the teacher in education. As the royal commission indicated, the most important educational tool that we have is a good, dedicated teacher.
I want to join with all members of the House to recognize the role and importance of teachers in Ontario and indeed around the world and to congratulate Mr Robert on behalf of the Ontario Teachers' Federation for not only their work for teachers and for education in Ontario but the international role that they carry out.
The Ontario Teachers' Federation, through its international assistance program, supports teachers from developing countries in the practice of their profession. The financial support that the OTF is able to send enables teachers overseas to buy whole school sets of textbooks, supports teacher education programs in teachers' home countries and makes it possible for teachers to study overseas.
Ontario teachers recognize the importance of their role here, but also their obligation to serve and to assist education throughout the world. I congratulate the government for joining with UNESCO in recognizing World Teachers' Day and thank the minister for acting in this regard.
HEALTH CARE FUNDING
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Health, who is just about to resume his seat. Minister, for two days in a row now in this Legislature you have been asked whether you are considering cuts of 10% to even 20% to the hospital budgets across this province. You have consistently, over those two days, refused to deny that you are considering cuts of that magnitude. We understand that a cut of 20% to hospital budgets is a cut of about $1.4 billion. Will you confirm that you are indeed considering cuts of as much as $1.4 billion to hospitals across this province?
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I thank the honourable member for the question again and would simply say to her that I cannot, will not, confirm that, in terms of it's strictly speculation and the speculation certainly has not come from me or from any other cabinet minister. I don't think it's appropriate to continue to have this debate about speculation and create instability in the sector.
Mrs McLeod: We intend, day after day, to give this minister an opportunity to put an end to the speculation and create some certainty around this issue. The minister is more than willing to respond to our questions by telling us that he's meeting with the chief executive officers of hospitals, who are ready to look at efficiencies and savings. He's talked to us about the importance of restructuring, and on that everyone agrees.
But we're also very much aware that every hospital across this province has been struggling to find the efficiencies, working for a long time to find efficiencies so they can protect health care. We know that every community is trying to come to grips with the need to restructure the health care system so they can meet the health care needs in their particular community.
The pressures on hospitals, I'm sure this minister will agree, are enormous. We've even seen in recent years rural hospitals closing emergency rooms, and that's a concern that this minister has addressed in the past. Yet now this same minister appears to be considering cuts of up to 20% in the budgets of those same hospitals.
Minister, will you at least tell hospitals what it is you are planning to do? Are you going to cut their budgets, and, if so, by how much? End the speculation.
Hon Mr Wilson: Perhaps the speculation comes -- and I had a long, long meeting this morning with the Ontario Hospital Association and part of the agenda included this question -- from what the opposition's reaction is or will be to some of these hospital restructurings. I said there are 26 that are coming in very soon from around the province.
My question would be, to the honourable member, if money is saved through those hospital restructurings and we reinvest that in long-term care, for example, outside of the hospital budget, would she and her party consider that a cut or a better use of resources that aren't needed on one side of the ledger and are needed on the long-term-care side? So this is the discussion we had with the OHA. I'd be interested to note what her party's position is about reinvesting money in the health care envelope, as we promised the people of Ontario we would do.
Mrs McLeod: I would remind the minister that he is now responsible for ensuring the delivery of health care in the province of Ontario. He has the responsibilities of serving as a member of the government and it is for him to answer the question that is in the minds of hospital administrators, people who are concerned about health care across this province right now.
I say to this minister, you cannot restructure, you cannot bring about efficiencies, you cannot do any planning at all unless you know with certainty what your budgets are going to be.
I will not respond to his question to me, but I will indeed put the question directly back to the minister in a way in which he could end the uncertainty with a simple yes-or-no answer. He could give the hospitals the certainty they need. So I ask him today: Will you commit to freezing hospital budgets at last year's levels so that hospitals can then reinvest the savings they may find to ensure they are providing health care in their own communities? Will you commit to that?
Hon Mr Wilson: With some of the reinvestment initiatives that we're planning, that we're discussing right now with provider groups and front-line workers and administrators, it's very difficult to say exactly a specific answer to that question, because we're talking to hospitals. I had a meeting with the OHA today exactly about this, and we're continuing to consult.
As I said, there's some confusion out there about money that's saved, and unfortunately the previous government that launched all these restructuring studies didn't leave us a blueprint, by any stretch of the imagination, of what we're supposed to do with all these studies now that they're landing on my desk and district health council desks.
So we're having these discussions with our partners, with the hospitals themselves. At the end of the day there will be money saved, I guess, in some of these restructuring studies, and we'll want to reinvest that into things like long-term care. Those are the discussions we're having right now with the hospital sector.
Mrs McLeod: I will clearly take that as a no; the minister will not commit to flat-lining the budgets of hospitals across the province. We simply need to know now how great the cut will be.
SCHOOL BREAKFAST PROGRAM
Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I will address my second question to the Premier. I understand that the Premier has said he is going to drop by a food bank to make a donation on his way home from work before Thanksgiving weekend. But I did want to remind the Premier of another food program that he's shown a great deal of interest in in the past, and that's a province-wide breakfast program, something which this Premier has championed for years.
About a month ago the member for Windsor-Sandwich, who is our critic for children's services, reminded the Premier of his commitment to establish a province-wide breakfast program and of his conviction that that kind of a program could and should be started immediately. In fact, I think the now Premier has said it could begin tomorrow.
When my colleague reminded the Premier of that commitment, he indicated that if she wanted a breakfast program in her community she should go ahead and set one up. So I would like to ask you, Premier, whether you were indeed serious when you made that comment to our member, that if a Liberal member wants a breakfast program in her community she should set it up herself, even though it was a commitment which you made and even though in the past, I recall, you said this would take leadership from the Premier himself.
Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Let me say to the leader of the official opposition, with comments to the food bank, that I believe this is going to be a very difficult time for a lot of people in Ontario. Quite clearly, as we have had to reduce because of a $10-billion deficit -- because of the fact that if we do nothing somebody else is going to come in and tell us to cut it all out; we're going to lose this great province of ours and the ability to be compassionate -- we've had to make some very difficult decisions. There are restructurings that are taking place.
I have dropped off some food. We'll be dropping off more, both here and in my riding of North Bay. I would encourage all members and neighbours and churches and communities to be compassionate at a very difficult time for many people.
Specifically regarding nutrition programs, the leader of the official opposition will know that in the throne speech we made reference to the fact that to get programs running everywhere and to try to ensure that every school child has the opportunity, whether it's breakfast or throughout the day, to have proper nutrition, I think it is going to take more than individual effort.
I welcome the participation of the member for Windsor-Sandwich. I hope she will work with the parliamentary assistant who we're asking to coordinate on behalf of my office. I would ask the leader of the official opposition and I would ask the leader of the New Democratic Party and all members; I don't see why we cannot have 130 ambassadors for nutrition programs in every riding of this province.
Mrs McLeod: That seems to me to be a rather long way from the ringing commitment that the Premier made as an opposition leader in calling for this breakfast program to be established and for the Premier of the day to take leadership on the issue.
Nevertheless, I say to the Premier that when he directed the member for Windsor-Sandwich to set up a breakfast program in her own community if she wanted to, she took it very seriously indeed. In fact our critic for children's services has now contacted every school board in the province, indicating that she had been directed by this Premier to set up a school breakfast program in her community. She wanted to find out what already exists, what's working and what's needed. She's been in touch with community groups and she's been in touch with corporations to talk to them about their ideas for breakfast programs and what they would be willing to do to help. Through her work, Premier, she has identified an action plan for moving forward on your promise.
In opposition, you asked for the green light to go out on behalf of the Legislature in a non-partisan way to coordinate the program. Since you don't appear to be making this program a priority any longer, I'm asking you today to give my colleague the green light to start work on this project on a province-wide basis. Will you direct the Minister of Community and Social Services to work with my colleague in fulfilling your promise?
Hon Mr Harris: I think the leader of the official opposition, and I'm sure all members of the House, would know that over the last period of time there has been success story after success story. In Kitchener-Waterloo the Minister of Labour has been active over a period of time in coordinating a number of programs there. In Grey the member has been instrumental in nutrition programs.
Let me congratulate the member for Windsor-Sandwich; exactly the kind of spirit we need from all of us to coordinate --
Hon Mr Harris: -- and I do congratulate her -- in the private sector, and examples that she found out.
Let me say that I think there are blueprints and there are models. The member for Grey-Owen Sound has shared those with previous members of the Legislature on what's been done in Grey. We would encourage people to do that. I hope the member for Windsor-Sandwich will work with my parliamentary assistant, the member for Durham-York, who already has been meeting with corporations. We have had a surprising number of calls, in fact in the millions of dollars' range, from the private sector that we need to follow up on, that they would like to be involved in. This is indeed the Ontario, the Canadian, the community spirit way.
The member will know that I had always said it isn't the ministry, it isn't government dollars, it is the commitment and the will of the Premier using the Premier's office, the Leader of the Opposition using her office, the leader of the New Democratic Party using his office and 130 of us using our offices. It's starting to work, and I congratulate the member for Windsor-Sandwich.
Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I've discovered a number of important items that our Premier must have overlooked in his five years as superman of nutrition programs in Ontario. There's been no needs assessment across Ontario to determine what criteria should be included for such a program. No one knows exactly how many programs even exist, including our Premier, and how they operate. Current startup fundings for such programs do not even identify common criteria.
From my discussions with corporate leaders interested in youth, like Kellogg's, like Toronto Raptors, and service providers, I believe there is an overwhelming desire to participate in a process that will determine exactly what that program should be. Do I have the Premier's word that he will assist in this development and follow through with, quote, leadership from his office to implement such a program with little or no taxpayers' dollars?
Hon Mr Harris: Let me first of all say this: Nobody is superman in this province, nobody is superperson, nobody has a lock on compassion. What is required is indeed a coordinated community spirit, an effort from all members.
I want to say very directly that my pushing and promoting in opposition the Premier to use his office I believe was in the exact spirit, I think, of the question that's being asked by the member from Windsor-Sandwich. I accept. I will put my office, my name, my parliamentary assistant taking the lead, front and centre, and we'll do everything we can to assist, to coordinate, to get dollars, to get the private sector involved.
Hon Mr Harris: Contrary to the interjections by some other members, let me congratulate the member for Windsor-Sandwich. I think this is a great non-partisan issue. If the other members opposite wish to join in I hope that they will, because I offered this as leader of the third party in a non-partisan way and I offer it now as Premier in a non-partisan way as one of 130 of us. Let's all come together and make sure that every child attending school has the nutrition they need.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. Since Bill 40 was passed Ontario has experienced an unprecedented era of labour peace -- an unprecedented era of labour peace. That hasn't always been the case. In fact last evening many of the television news programs were showing clips of violence that has occurred on picket lines before Bill 40, and it should surprise no one that from time to time there will be confrontation when workers on strike see someone breaking their picket line and going in and virtually taking their job away from them.
Minister, my question to you is, do you support strikebreakers?
Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): To the member opposite, I would simply indicate that what happened yesterday is that we repealed the provisions of Bill 40 that were put in place by your government, so now the ban on replacement workers is gone.
Mr Christopherson: I'm not sure I got an answer to the question, Minister, but I'll push forward.
In your statements yesterday, Minister, you talked a lot about workplace democracy, yet when workers go on strike they make a democratic decision by majority vote to go on strike. When someone has voted to give up their paycheque, when many of them are living paycheque to paycheque to support their bargaining committee during the negotiations, when through the secret ballot they've had with the union they have decided through a democratic process to go on strike, why have you decided to ignore their democratic decisions, to ignore the maintenance of labour peace in this province, and why are you not continuing to outlaw strikebreakers?
Hon Mrs Witmer: What we are doing in the legislation we introduced yesterday is to encourage job creation in this province. At the same time, we have introduced democracy measures that are going to enhance the rights of the individual employee. We are going to give all employees information and give them the opportunity prior to any certification to exercise their rights through means of a secret ballot vote. Yes, we're also going to let them vote and determine whether they want to go on strike, whether to ratify a contract and whether to decertify.
I would indicate to you that this bill is going to encourage job creation and will be a benefit to all workers in this province.
Mr Christopherson: Obviously this minister is ashamed of that part of the bill because she refuses to talk about the fact that she is going to make legal again in this province the use of strikebreakers. That has been my question to you, Minister. You've refused to deal with it.
I'm asking you once again, as I did yesterday: You mentioned what you're going to do about Bill 40 in the Common Sense Revolution to the extent of 67 words, yet you've introduced a document that runs to 137 pages. We know that even different business groups have different points of view about whether or not you should do this and how quickly you should do it. I ask you again, Minister, will you commit today to ensuring the fullest possible public hearings in the province of Ontario before you ram this bill through?
Hon Mrs Witmer: I appreciate the question, and I would just like to indicate to the member opposite that already, as a result of the introduction of our Bill 7 yesterday, we have received today a letter from the Hudson's Bay Co --
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order.
Hon Mrs Witmer: -- indicating that they are proceeding with a plan over the next 12 months to renovate, expand and construct new stores in the amount of $284 million. This will create --
Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I hope you are right. Do you have the book --
The Speaker: Order. The member for Lake Nipigon has continuously been out of order, and I will not warn him again.
Hon Mrs Witmer: The introduction of this bill yesterday is getting this province back to work. This is creating 10,000 jobs for construction workers, and the indication here is that there will be over 4,000 people hired for new jobs. Our introduction of Bill 7 yesterday means new job creation for people in this province and a better quality of life for those who don't have jobs.
SERVICES FOR ABUSED WOMEN
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is for the minister responsible for women's issues. Minister, yesterday you described a meeting you attended this past Monday, and in doing so you gave the distinct impression that the meeting was held to discuss efficiency in the system that supports abused women. Minister, the organizers of that meeting say you grossly misrepresented it. In fact, Vivien Green of Metro's Women Abuse Protocol Project writes, "I am appalled at how the minister has attempted to use the workshop to justify her government's cuts to services and support for abused women." Minister, would you explain for Ms Green and all the other women of Ontario how you view your role in cabinet as minister responsible for women's issues?
Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, with responsibility for Women's Issues): I too spoke to Vivien Green today. We had a discussion about the comments that are around the province of Ontario. I clearly stated yesterday that I learned a lot in the few moments I was there -- it's never long enough in this job -- that we need to coordinate our services in the province of Ontario when it comes to initiatives to prevent violence against women. I did not distort that in the House yesterday. I've read my comments, I discussed them with her, and I think she was in agreement with me.
I will also state that I said yesterday in this House that we have a tremendous responsibility --
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Hamilton East is not in his own chair.
Hon Mrs Cunningham: -- in this government to continue to support the core services for women, and the transition homes agree with that. If they had a priority, it would in fact be to support the core services for women.
I should also state that we do not have the money to be able to add any new core funding for additional shelters, and that's a reality for us. It was also a reality for Mr Silipo, who was the Minister of Community and Social Services in November 1994. We have the same position. We both agree we have challenges, and I think you would agree with that as well.
Ms Churley: Based on my conversation with Ms Green, I believe the minister will be receiving another letter from her as a result of that answer. That meeting was set up six months ago, and you came in and spoke very briefly at the beginning.
However, let me ask you another question, Minister. Would you explain to the House the purpose of second-stage shelter for abused women and their children?
Hon Mrs Cunningham: I will take it that you also understand that second-stage housing is a support for women who, after a period of time, usually six weeks, move into this special kind of housing, which was developed in the last five or six years. It's a program that we support. We will not be cutting any of the core funding to that second-stage housing. We will continue to support counselling services to the tune of $15.8 million -- all of us in this House should know that -- to women, and their children, who have been victims of family violence in their own homes and other places.
I would implore that all members of this House understand that these times are different, that all of us are going to have to work in our own communities, as the women stated on Monday morning at the meeting I attended, the coordinating groups. Most of us have some coordinating groups in our community. I implore everyone to get out there and help us because this is a time when women do need help, and all of us have a responsibility in representing them to make sure it takes place.
Ms Churley: Second-stage housing is more than a roof over one's head; it is a secure environment where women and children are able to access counselling services and other necessary supports.
Yesterday you went to great pains to assure this House and women in need that the housing would still exist. Minister, can you tell the House how second-stage housing will continue to operate without staff -- because you said yesterday the housing would still be there -- without counselling services, without proper security -- after all, these are battered women -- and procedures?
Minister, given all that your government has done in less than four months to harm women in this province, I would like to know if you see any point in continuing in your role as minister responsible for women's issues. Are you going to start speaking up for women, or are you there simply to justify this bad news to them and continue to tell women who are victims of violence --
The Speaker: The question's been asked.
Ms Churley: -- to get off their duffs and start taking more responsibility for themselves? Minister, when are you going to start speaking up for women?
Hon Mrs Cunningham: I don't think there's anyone in this province or this House who doesn't know that the province of Ontario is facing tremendous challenges with regard to balancing our budget, creating an environment for investment so that women can become independent, so that women who are battered can leave their homes and have jobs and support themselves. In order to do that we have to have an investment in our economy.
We should also know that with these budget cuts -- and we're looking at 10% and 20% budget cuts -- in the area of violence against women we have taken a 2.5% cut and we are protecting programs to the tune of over $100 million to support 98 emergency shelters, core services in second-stage housing, $15.7 million for the counselling programs, and I could go on, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Wrap up your answer, please.
Hon Mrs Cunningham: The member knows this, and I think it's her responsibility to go out there and do a better job with the money that we have saved and that we will protect to support women.
Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I have previously risen in the House to ask the Attorney General a question with respect to the Homolka affair. I'd like to return to that topic for a moment, since the minister did not given us any effective answer last time; we'll try again this time.
Mr Minister, the Homolka case has caused great concern across this province. In the last week or so, since we've been in the House, we've received petitions virtually every day from the public asking you to review the case, as indeed we asked you to review the case at the beginning of this House.
Today, some 300,000 names were delivered to the Legislature by private citizens who, of their own volition and with their own free time and effort, gathered these from every corner of Ontario and indeed even across Canada.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Put your question, please.
Ms Castrilli: Mr Minister, I ask you, in the face of this growing concern and in the face of the fact that you risk jeopardizing the institution of justice in this province, will you call for a review at this time?
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, with responsibility for Native Affairs): As I tried to indicate to the member when she asked the same question a week ago, the issue that you wish to put to review is an issue that consists of a piece of evidence that's before a court, and the trial is still going on.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): You never accepted that when you were over here.
Hon Mr Harnick: The member from Windsor says I never accepted that. I think he should speak to his colleague the former Attorney General and she might explain this to him.
This is not an issue to make political, quite frankly, but the fact is that this matter is a piece of evidence before a court at this moment. The trial isn't finished. The sentencing is only beginning. There is an appeal coming, and for that reason I cannot commit to doing what you want to do.
I have indicated that I will be, as a member of the government, prepared to make a detailed statement, at the appropriate time, so that people understand exactly what this issue is all about, but I cannot and will not do it when it will prejudice the fair trial and completion of this matter.
Ms Castrilli: I'm absolutely appalled at the answer the Attorney General dares to give to this House. You know full well, sir, that the sentencing of Miss Homolka has nothing to do with the sentencing of Mr Bernardo, and any appeal will only deal with what's in evidence right now -- no new evidence; not Karla Homolka. The fact is that the people of Ontario require you to call an inquiry. Will you give such a commitment to the House and stop stalling us?
Hon Mr Harnick: I would very much regret if this particular case went off the rails because politicians tainted the evidence by calling it into question at a time when a court is weighing that very evidence. You, as a lawyer, more than most people in this place, should know and respect that. Accordingly, this is not an issue that I, as Attorney General, will take into the political realm. It should not be there.
The Speaker: New question, member of the third party. The member for Algoma.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
The Speaker: Question period is in rotation. It goes from the official opposition to the third party.
Mr Wildman: I apologize to my friend across the way.
Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. Could the minister explain to the House the methodology that he and his ministry are using for determining the actual expenditures on classroom teaching, classroom education, as opposed to expenditures by boards for administration and governance, as per the document the government ran on?
Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): The honourable member should be informed that there is in the ministry a working group on education finance reform that is now investigating that very question, working with the federations, who will be giving me a report later this year.
Mr Wildman: I thank the minister for his response, but I find it a little puzzling that he would say they are now investigating how to do this when he already announced a cut this summer, assuring the people of Ontario that it would not affect classroom education.
Is the minister aware that Mr Drew Nameth, from his ministry, sent a memo to all superintendents of business of boards of education and separate school boards across the province in which he said that the ministry wished to have data from the boards by September 15 that would make it possible for them to identify the expenditures in classrooms as opposed to administration, but that in the memo Mr Nameth says, "In many cases the data are not compatible with the information required for this costing framework and the ministry has had to make a number of assumptions in prorating and otherwise manipulating the data to provide the best guess in time and resources available to the ministry"?
Surely the ministry and the government are not going to make decisions on funding based on guesstimates and data which are inappropriate and that need to be manipulated.
Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm pleased that the honourable member notes that members of the Ministry of Education and Training staff are now working with boards of education in determining exactly what the costs are for in-classroom and what the costs are for administration. It's the goal of our government to spend money in the classroom, not in the boardroom, and we're making every effort in that regard.
REVIEW OF HOSPITALS
Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): My question is for the Minister of Health. There have been many upsetting reports of late that the Henderson hospital on Hamilton Mountain, the only hospital in the riding, is slated for closure. I'm wondering if the minister would please clear up this situation for all the concerned residents of Hamilton Mountain.
Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I thank my colleague from Hamilton Mountain for asking a question that I know is on the minds of his constituents. This issue, this rumour, this speculation, was first brought to my attention through the media when the member across the way from Hamilton East said he could absolutely confirm that the Henderson hospital was to close.
I want to say to all members of this House today that there is a restructuring study going on in the Hamilton area. The NDP let that study at some $2 million. It won't report until about the middle of next year, and certainly I have no indication -- no one has any indication -- that Henderson hospital will close. In fact, somebody very close to the study, Susan Goodman, executive director of the district health council doing the study, said on September 28 in the Hamilton Spectator that she knew of no list of potential hospital closings. "There has been no discussion about hospital closures at the health council or task force," she said. She goes on to rule out the rumour entirely. I've certainly not heard anything, and I trust that Ms Goodman, who's the executive director of the DHC, would know the exact status of the hospital restructuring in her area.
Mr Pettit: Back to the minister: Will the minister assure the residents of Hamilton Mountain that they will have meaningful input into the future of their hospitals?
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Give us a guarantee.
Hon Mr Wilson: Again, thank you to my colleague from Hamilton Mountain. The purpose of the district health council, of course, is to be the ears, eyes and conscience of the local community. I'd encourage members of this House from that area of the province and their constituents to have meaningful discussions with the district health council, with the task force, in this case, and to make sure they have their say. Those district health councils are not politicians.
Mr Agostino: Give us assurances they won't close.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order.
Hon Mr Wilson: They're made up of people from the community and have been in existence for some 20 years, charged with the responsibility of providing --
The Speaker: Order. Minister, take your seat, please. The member for Hamilton East is continually out of order, and I will not warn him once more. Minister.
Hon Mr Wilson: May I also say that Henderson hospital has a very, very important research component to its operation, and it's a very crucial component in cancer care in the Hamilton area. I'm confident that the district health council will consider the importance of the services it delivers in their restructuring study.
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have a question this afternoon for the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services. Minister, you have very abruptly this week made some major changes in the provincial corrections system without making any announcements about these. This week you gave our halfway houses just a few hours' notice of their demise, forcing over 400 offenders back to jails. We now hear that you're planning on closing anywhere from seven to 17 correctional facilities across the province. Minister, will you confirm today that closing of jails is part of your agenda? Which facilities are you planning to close?
Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): At the outset I want to correct something the member just said, that we forced 400 people back into jails. That's not correct at all. There were a number of residents of community resource centres who did return to jail, but to suggest that we forced all 400 is totally incorrect.
In respect to the specific question, related to jail closures, we have made no decisions in respect to those kinds of expenditures. We're looking at all expenditures of my ministry, as we are across government, trying to identify core services. We're faced with some very difficult challenges in respect to the financial situation we found ourselves in as a result of the spending practices of the previous two governments.
Mr Ramsay: It appears, Minister, that you have no plan for our correctional facilities at all. There's no consultation going on, and you don't make any announcements when you do make a decision. You're right, they all had to report back to jail. Now many offenders are back on the street, and that's part of this problem. It really appears that the system is in chaos. As you know, there's overcrowding in our facilities from time to time. So if you're planning to close facilities, where are these offenders going to go? What assurances can you give Ontarians that there is a plan for all these changes and that our communities are going to remain safe?
Hon Mr Runciman: I want to say that the number one priority of this government is public safety, not the convenience of lawbreakers. I want to say that in respect to the jail closures, I've heard that rumour; it's been around for years. When I was in opposition, sitting across the aisle, the same facts were being circulated. Indeed, the NDP government at the time did move to make some closures of some of the old jails in the province. In fact, they closed the Perth Jail and Camp Hillsdale, I gather, about a year before the general election. Then, I assume because of the negative reaction of the residents of those ridings, both held by Conservative members, no further action was taken.
Those lists were developed, I understand, as a result of recommendations made by the Provincial Auditor in 1993 indicating that Ontario's incarceration costs are the highest in Canada. But I'm indicating to you, I'm indicating to all members of the House today --
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Would you wrap up your answer, please.
Hon Mr Runciman: -- that we are reviewing all operations of my ministry. We have made no decisions in respect to jail closures. I will commit to communicating with the member and others if indeed we move in that direction --
The Speaker: Conclude your answer, please.
Hon Mr Runciman: -- prior to any decisions being taken.
CLOSURE OF HALFWAY HOUSES
Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is also to the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services. Today the minister repeated what he said yesterday, that his primary concern in closing community resource centres was the issue of public safety. He made a comment that the public wasn't as safe when people were in community resource centres because he had "no indication really of what they're doing while they're out there."
Would the minister please tell us how an electronic bracelet around someone's ankle is going to tell the minister and the staff in the Ministry of Correctional Services what they're doing out there when they're on that surveillance?
Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): As I've indicated in the House previously, electronic monitoring is going to give us 24-hour surveillance, if you will, of individuals out on temporary absences, extended TAs out in the community. Again, in terms of safety of the public, it's going to be a much safer system in respect to the criteria we've developed.
The fact is that anyone applying, and this is purely a voluntary program -- I want to stress that again: a purely voluntary program. We will be monitoring their time out in the community in terms of -- it'll be a set schedule. If they're at work for eight hours a day, we will know the time they return to the residence. If, indeed, there is a concern -- and I don't believe there will be -- in respect to the kinds of offenders who will be allowed to go under electronic surveillance, we could consider a monitoring device in a workplace as well. That's a possibility.
We feel quite confident that this system is much superior to the system of halfway houses.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Will you wrap up your answer, please.
Hon Mr Runciman: At the same time, it is going to save the taxpayers of this province approximately $9 million annually.
Mrs Boyd: I'm glad that the minister feels that this is going to be safer. Knowledge is a much better thing than feeling about something that concerns public safety.
Last night, on CBC Radio's As It Happens, we heard about the experiment in Holland around this where they started very slowly, in fact, with two very, very carefully screened prisoners on electronic monitors, and they had a 50% success rate. One of those people was monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and was conducting a very lucrative drug trade because there was no way for the bracelet to tell anybody what he was doing, only where he was. Similarly, if people have been convicted of abuse of their families and they go back home, they're in their home, are they abusing their families?
It is very clear from the Dutch experiment and from the comments of the director of that experiment that without counselling, without a clear understanding of what people are doing, not just where they are from time to time, that this won't work.
The Speaker: The question, please.
Mrs Boyd: We have a minister here who has leapt off a cliff, has closed down successful programs that got people working, got them independent in the community, for a chimera, for a possible experiment that might start in January.
The Speaker: Would the member please put her question?
Mrs Boyd: I ask the minister, again, when he's closing jails, starting road gangs, cutting the allowance of convicts and closing community resource centres, and thinks in January there might be an electronic bracelet program, where is public --
The Speaker: Take your seat, please. You've been two minutes.
Hon Mr Runciman: Perhaps the member should go and talk to her NDP colleagues in British Columbia and Saskatchewan who've been running electronic monitoring programs for some time in a very successful way.
I don't want to get into specifics, because there are some legal matters pending before the Court of Appeal with respect to decisions, court matters related to issues that I can't talk about here in this House but that also have relevance with respect to the operation of halfway houses and how effective or ineffective they've been in respect to the monitoring of residents of those halfway houses -- some very, very significant concerns. For her to suggest that electronic monitoring is going to be less efficient than halfway houses simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
I want to put on the record a quote from Mr Duncan Gillespie, a director of the John Howard Society. Mr Gillespie says: "There's nothing you're going to be able to do with inmates in six weeks or 12 weeks in a halfway house that's going to reduce risk. So either let them out now or keep them in. We're spending $10 million to $12 million a year to put them in there. It didn't make any sense." That's from a director of the John Howard Society.
We're doing what's right for public safety and we're doing what's right for the taxpayers of this province.
The Speaker: New question. The member for Etobicoke West.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Thank you. That's the second time in my life the NDP and Liberals ever applauded for me. I won't tell you the first time.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): My question is to the Attorney General. I am in receipt of the 300,000 names on the petition that were collected around the province by some petition organizers and workers. Let me just name them because I think they've done an outstanding job: Gillian Roediger, Maria Giuliette, Shirlie Eden, Gwen Hunter, Carolyn Iannoni, Cathy Johnston, Fiona Stewart and Rodney Elesie.
I just wanted to say, Attorney General, I understand your response to the first question and the question last week. I would like to pursue this on another level. We understand this case is still before the courts and I understand there could be appeals. I also understand that there are sentencing procedures to go through and I understand you can't comment on that.
What I would like to ask you is, with your knowledge of the system and the legal processes in this province, how long could this be in fact before the courts before you could potentially be able to comment on it? I guess I'm looking at an outside date to see how long it could be before the people of the province have an opportunity to see whether or not you consider a review necessary.
Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, with responsibility for Native Affairs): I thank the member for the question and advise that of course I'm aware of the public's concern over this matter and, as well, the concern of every member in this Legislature, and the question is a good one. I have indicated that I will, on behalf of the government, make a full and detailed statement at the appropriate time.
The issue is, as the member points out, when will that appropriate time be? It may be that the appropriate time will be once the sentencing of the matter is completed, if the matter of the appeal does not involve questioning those sensitive pieces of evidence. So if those sensitive pieces of evidence are not an issue before the Court of Appeal, it may well be that we can deal with this as soon as the actual sentencing and trial are over. If those issues continue to be issues before the Court of Appeal, that will make it more difficult and prolong the period of time before a public statement can be made.
But I hope and I tell the member that I will make that statement a full and detailed public statement as soon as I possibly can without jeopardizing the trial of this action.
Mr Stockwell: I appreciate the response from the Attorney General, but the rub for the public is this: The legal process is very time-consuming, and obviously a fair process for all concerned. But the concern that I hear from people around this province is this: Our process can sometimes become so protracted, and this evidence could be used in further cases against Mr Bernardo, that the fear the public has -- and it's a real fear, I might add -- is that we will be caught up in the judicial process to such a grave and utmost degree that we won't be able to have the Attorney General go on the record to determine whether or not a review is necessary until, potentially, Karla Homolka may be paroled. That, to me, is not acceptable.
I put it directly to you, Attorney General: Could this happen, and if it is possible, can we look to you to see some action before that kind of thing takes place, to think that Karla Homolka is back on the streets and we're still fiddling around, talking about a review?
Hon Mr Harnick: I say to the member, a very good question. It would be improper for me to comment about issues pertaining to this individual's parole. What I am prepared to say is that at the earliest possible time, a full and public and detailed statement will be made.
I hope that the time period will not be protracted. I would hope that these proceedings will be completed. As I've indicated, the trial is still going on, but once that trial is complete, we will have a better idea of when we can make a statement so that you can have the information that you're asking for.
IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE SERVICES
Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a question for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Minister, you've just killed a number of significant programs, including the welcome houses across Ontario which train newcomers for jobs and provide English classes. Yet, just in May of this year your boss, this Premier, stated that, "A Harris government will develop a comprehensive immigration strategy to address the fact that Ontario's settlement and integration facilities are overburdened." The Premier admitted it and he knows it.
Just this morning, when I called your staff, they told me, "Integration facilities used by thousands of arriving immigrants in need will cease to function."
Minister, are you going to make this Premier out to be a liar, or have you discussed it with him in order to develop a comprehensive settlement strategy, or is this simply a slap in the face of immigrants, that they are no longer welcome in Ontario?
Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): First of all, Mr Speaker, let me start off by offering my congratulations on your appointment, and may I say this: I will make every effort and endeavour to make your task less daunting than the honourable members of the opposition and the third party seem to want to make it.
Since their establishment 22 years ago there has been significant growth in the number and maturity of organizations providing settlement services and language training programs to immigrants and refugees. With this infrastructure now in place, the province can responsibly withdraw from this area of direct service delivery.
Mr Ruprecht: The minister is reading a text. That wasn't the question. Will you develop a comprehensive integration strategy, as promised by your Premier? That was the question, but I'm going on to my next one.
The second promise this Premier made is also in writing. It says, "We will negotiate" -- that is your government -- "with the federal government to develop a federal-provincial immigration agreement which includes a new funding agreement."
My question to you is this: Did you talk to the federal Minister of Citizenship or the Prime Minister in order to develop this federal-provincial funding arrangement, or have you decided to make the Premier bite the dust again and scapegoat him in beating up on immigrants, who are really trying to become taxpayers of this province? Will you please answer this question? Because I think you're very penny wise and pound foolish.
Hon Ms Mushinski: Let me start off by saying that this government recognizes the importance of immigration settlement needs in this province and indeed we are committed to bringing forward an immigration settlement agreement negotiation process. Once the framework for that process has been developed, I'll be happy to share it with the honourable member.
ARTS AND CULTURAL FUNDING
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): My question is to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. I congratulate her and wish her the best, but would remind her that it isn't just Bay Street that's watching, it's a whole lot of other people who are watching as well.
Madam Minister, I glanced through the Common Sense Revolution just the other day to confirm my original understanding that this document had nothing to say about culture, and it didn't surprise me. But you should know that the Canadian labour force study of 1988 and updates through Statistics Canada indicate that in 1994, in the GTA, arts and cultural industries combined employed more persons than utilities, transportation, manufacturing, business services, finance, insurance and real estate combined. Clearly, arts and culture benefit this province economically and our own cultural identity.
You have recently announced $32 million cut from Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and half of that was for culture. Minister, the question to you: Have you done an economic impact study that would tell us the effect these cuts would have on cultural workers and the economy in general?
Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Thank you for the question, Mr Speaker, to the honourable member. Let me respond by saying that this government does indeed recognize that culture has a significant economic impact on the province, but the Ontario government must ease out of the business of signing blank cheques and get into the business of creating opportunity. We are doing this in partnership with our cultural stakeholders.
Mr Marchese: I say to the minister that she has done, in an unprecedented way, what most ministers have never done in the past. She has not consulted with anyone on these cuts.
I would remind her that culture is a wealth-creating industry. Between 1988 and 1992, in the depth of the recession, the cultural sector in the GTA grew by 9% in employment. The Ontario film investment program, which you chopped completely, and the Ontario Film Development Corp, which you cut in half, have been real success stories.
With a small investment of money by the government, you multiply the economic benefit to society many times over. Every OFIP dollar equals $8.30 in total film and TV productions activity in Ontario. OFIP-supported projects spent approximately 89% of their total domestic budgets on Ontario goods, services and labour. These budgets generate economic activity across a wide range of sectors.
For a government that is interested in the bottom line, can you explain to the people who are watching the wisdom of these irrational decisions?
Hon Ms Mushinski: Let me again respond to the honourable member that the province is still spending close to a quarter of a billion dollars on culture through my ministry. I would also like, in response to his question with respect to meeting with the representatives from the cultural community, to say that indeed I have met with all of the representatives and CEOs of all of the cultural agencies under my ministry.
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have been asked by residents in the Niagara region to present a number of petitions dealing with the issue of the Karla Homolka plea bargain. The member for Etobicoke West will be presenting a large number on behalf of many people as well. It reads as follows:
"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We demand a public inquiry into the conduct of all crown and law enforcement officials and employees at the levels involved in the investigation of Karla Homolka, and in particular the circumstances of the negotiation of the plea bargain arrangement. We also demand that all day passes and other privileges be revoked and her full 12-year sentence be served in its entirety."
This would be over 1,000 names that would appear in this petition. I know there will be a large number coming in from the member for Etobicoke West.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): I have today some 300,000 names on a petition that I'd like to read into the record. It's clearly the largest petition that I have ever read into the record, or seen read into the record, at least, in my brief stint here. It's to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We demand a public inquiry into the conduct of all crown and law enforcement officials and employees at the levels involved in the investigation of Karla Homolka, and in particular the circumstances of the negotiation of the plea bargain arrangement. We also demand that all day passes and other privileges be revoked and her full 12-year sentence be served in its entirety."
I have attached my name to this petition as well.
QUEEN STREET MENTAL HEALTH CENTRE
Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): This petition comes in conjunction with an announcement to have a demonstration in front of the Minister of Health's office on Monday at 12:30. The petition reads:
"Whereas the PC government is going to open a 20-bed forensic facility for the criminally insane at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre; and
"Whereas the nearby community is already home to the highest number of ex-psychiatric patients and social service organizations in hundreds of licensed and unlicensed rooming-houses, group homes and crisis care facilities in all of Canada; and
"Whereas there are existing facilities that could be expanded to assess and treat the criminally insane; and
"Whereas no one was consulted -- not the local residents, not the business community, not leaders of community organizations, not education and child care providers and not even the local members of provincial Parliament;
"We, therefore, the undersigned residents and business owners of our community, urge the PC government of Ontario and the Minister of Health to immediately stop all plans to accommodate the criminally insane in an expanded Queen Street Mental Health Centre until a public consultation process is completed."
I have signed my name to this document.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I also have numerous signatures that I'd like to add to my friend from Etobicoke's list. I have 676 signatures, and it's a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We demand a public inquiry into the conduct of all crown and law enforcement officials and employees at all levels involved in the investigation of Karla Homolka, and in particular the circumstances of the negotiation of the plea bargain arrangement. We also demand that all day passes and other privileges be revoked and her full 12-year sentence be served in its entirety."
These signatures come from my area.
Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:
"We demand a public inquiry into the conduct of all crown and law enforcement officers and employees at all levels involved in the investigation of Karla Homolka, and in particular the circumstances of the negotiation of the plea bargain arrangement. We also demand that all day passes and other privileges be revoked and her full 12-year sentence be served in its entirety."
Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I also have a petition with a series of names to present and I attach my signature to this petition:
"A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:
"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:
"Reflect your children's future. This is a wake-up call. Transportation trailers can be made safer. We need reflective tape on all transport truck trailers. Make it mandatory; make it law.
"We, the people of Ontario, can make a change. Support the introduction of a bill. Please sign below."
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This is the same subject but a different petition coming in from a different group of people. It reads as follows:
"We, the undersigned, demand that Karla Homolka's plea bargain be revoked by the Attorney General of Ontario, the Honourable Charles Harnick."
It is signed by a large number of people in the Niagara Peninsula.
Mr Peter North (Elgin): I have a petition here that says:
"Reflect your children's future. This is a wake-up call. Transportation trailers can be made safer. We need reflective tape on all transport truck trailers. Make it mandatory; make it law.
"We, the people of Ontario, can make a change. Support the introduction of a bill."
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I believe the House leader would like to read a statement of the business for next week.
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Before we do that, could I ask permission to revert to motions?
The Speaker: That's agreed? Agreed.
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I move that when the House adjourns on Wednesday, October 11, 1995, it stand adjourned until 1:30 pm on Monday, October 16, 1995.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of October 9, 1995.
The House will not sit on Monday, October 9, because it is Thanksgiving Day.
On Tuesday, October 10, we will continue with the responses to the speech from the throne. The debate will wrap up with a vote at 6 pm. The parties have agreed that this will be a five-minute bell as opposed to the 30-minute bell in the standing orders.
Wednesday, October 11, will be an opposition day standing in the name of Mrs McLeod.
As per the motion just passed, there is agreement that the House will not sit on Thursday, October 12, for the NDP federal leadership convention, as has been the practice of the Ontario Legislature in the past.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
THRONE SPEECH DEBATE
Resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment to the amendment to the motion for an address in reply to the speech of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor at the opening of the session.
Mr Peter North (Elgin): Mr Speaker, I can't tell you what a pleasure it is for me to be here. It's certainly been a great opportunity for me to participate in yet another House, and it's certainly an opportunity to bring a bit of a different perspective to this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, as you would know, it's been some 61 years, I believe, since an independent member was elected to the Legislature and I can certainly tell you I get a different perspective as I continue to move around the House here.
I want to thank the people of Elgin for that opportunity to be able to come to this Legislature and participate in all of these debates and participate in changes in government and changes in perspectives in legislation in this province.
I think being elected as an independent has sent a message, and a message to this Legislature as well, and it's a message of change. It talks about representation and it talks about constituency, and I was hoping to see in the throne speech some opportunity of being recognized in that capacity in terms of being able to have some of the rules changed. Hopefully they will be changed to give independent members an opportunity to speak freely in the House. I appreciate this opportunity to have these 10 minutes today to speak as well.
I want to, if I can, tell all members of the Legislature that I don't believe it's my job to be here just in opposition, just simply to oppose. I don't intend to take that tack and I think my constituents don't want me to take that tack. I think they want me to be here to put forth workable ideas, plans and solutions that will give the government the information it needs from the constituents of Elgin county. After all, I believe these people from Elgin county are their constituents, as well as all members of the House.
I want to, if I can, just touch on the throne speech, because I know it's a difficult thing to do. I had an opportunity in the past to participate as a member of the cabinet and a member of the government in developing a throne speech and I know it's not an easy thing to do. Lots of times throne speeches will seem to be or appear to be somewhat disjointed, because people are trying to put as much information into one as they can. Lots of times it's the things that aren't in the throne speech that concern you the most.
I see when I look at this throne speech a group of people who are a new government who are asking for understanding.
Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Could we ask that we have some of our colleagues a little quieter, because we're having problems hearing over in this corner of the House and I'd like to hear the member's remarks.
Mr North: Then I can continue, Mr Speaker?
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Please continue.
Mr North: I appreciate your understanding.
I want, if I can, just to speak to the throne speech because I think there are certainly a number of different perspectives in it that need to be addressed. As you look through it, you can see that the government is trying to move ahead. They're trying to move ahead with an agenda that they put forth to the people of the province and that they banked on and that they won on, and I think that's reasonable to do.
But what concerns me is the speed more than anything. I think that is an appropriate concern and I think it's a concern that I pass on from the members of my constituency. They see a lot of action in a very short time and they're concerned about the thought process. They look at it and they ask themselves -- it's not so much a concern about substance as it is about style, and the style has to do with the speed.
It's very difficult as a young government to govern. It's very difficult to bring issues forward, and it's always controversial. It's always difficult to move things ahead, and change is much more difficult than anything else. So I think they're asking for, and we're trying to give, some sense of understanding.
When I look at some of the issues that are in the throne speech, I concern myself with certain items, and the first that I'll speak to is the item of workfare, the item of the diminishing of a certain allowance for people out there who need that support. I can understand that the government feels strongly that they need to diminish those dollars in order to get the house in order, so to speak. But again, I ask them to look very carefully on the effect as a result of the cause.
It's important that they understand that if people can come forward with logical solutions, with logical propositions that will meet them halfway or that can help in some way to bring the private sector aboard -- because my concern is that there's not a bridge. There's not a bridge in this workfare plan; there's not a bridge in this diminishing of opportunities for people and the support for people. There is not a bridge between that aspect and the small business sector.
I look very carefully at home, and we are now pursuing some of those bridges and will be coming to my friend the minister and asking him to look at those as well. Incidentally, at home they're calling the minister Discount Dave now, just for your information.
So they look at welfare reform. They're also looking at another aspect, I might mention, of welfare reform, the issue in rural Ontario, because it seems to be a different issue in rural Ontario. I know many of the members across the House come from rural Ontario and they will share, I think, in this concern. The idea of workfare in rural Ontario has its problems in terms of transportation, in terms of various styles of work wear and in terms of day care etc. I think it's important that we not overlook those issues when we're looking at how to structure anything that has to do with people sort of working for their opportunities to have these services and support.
It also leaves a rather large question, if you're having municipalities deal with the idea of workfare, in terms of what they've presented to me as concerns with regard to workers' comp and how that factors into this process. I think that's a concern you've already heard as Speaker and heard as a member as well.
I want to wrap my speech up here -- I didn't have a lot of opportunity to speak today, just 10 minutes -- and I want to tie all of what's been done, all of what's in here, including the concerns that have been raised with regard to Bill 40, the concerns that have been raised with regard to the agricultural sector.
I see in here there's some discussion about repealing Bill 91. That's an issue at home, where farmers are saying, "If you feel so strongly about repealing Bill 91, make sure you place the exemption back into the law." They feel very strongly about that and they hope that's not overlooked. If you're to move ahead, the government and farmers, working together to try and come up with something they think is at least reasonable, make sure you do not overlook the exemption, because I think it's vitally important.
In this House, the work we do, the idea of creating jobs and hope, will be based on confidence, and the confidence people get will come out of this House and will come out of constituency offices and the mouths of the members who work here. I think it's vitally important, if you're going to complete the goals that you've set for yourselves, that you look very carefully at what you're doing in terms of confidence. It's vitally important that there's consumer confidence, it's vitally important that there's confidence from the business sector, and it's vitally important that there's confidence from the labour sector. You're going to have to tie it all together. You're not going to be able to do it piecemeal. You're not going to be able to do it in a fashion that is exclusionary. It's vitally important that we build community confidence that we'll see across the board, and that will help ensure the productivity, the jobs and the concerns people are raising and bring them to the forefront.
As I've said, it's sometimes interesting, the things you leave out of a throne speech. There are a couple of things I want to note, which hopefully we'll be bringing in in the future.
The basic bottom line for me has been rural Ontario, and there's not a lot said about rural Ontario in this particular document. Another issue near and dear to my heart is agriculture. The minister has talked at length about the protection of agriculture, and I know he did in opposition as well. I'm hoping to hear a lot more about those protections for agriculture, because it's a huge business in my particular area.
I want to know how he's going to tie the work he's doing into property tax reform and working with Municipal Affairs and Housing. I think it's also very important that we hear from the Housing minister in terms of property tax reform, because I worked in the housing sector and I know that is one of the things that will make this economy rise and be prosperous again.
I'll end simply by saying that I look forward to this opportunity in the House. It will be an interesting opportunity as an independent member, and I hope to be able to work both with the government and with the other parties in this Legislature to do something in the way of bringing issues for Elgin forward and bringing confidence again for the people who live in the communities of Elgin county. I thank you for your time.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the citizens and voters of Hamilton Centre for re-electing me and having faith in the work I've done. I have considered it an honour over these years to represent the people of Hamilton Centre and consider myself very fortunate, in light of the political climate in which we all ran, to have been re-elected and do thank them most humbly for this opportunity.
I would like also to comment on what has happened to Hamilton as a result of the throne speech, the Common Sense Revolution and the decisions that have been made since the new government has taken power.
Our government, the previous government, made it a priority to ensure that a lot of older communities, such as Sault Ste Marie, Windsor and my own community of Hamilton, received the kind of attention and support they needed at a time when the recession in Ontario was ravaging much of the manufacturing basis that exists across Ontario, and that of course is usually particular to older communities.
We in fact invested -- not gave away, but invested -- more money in the five years we were in power than any other government in the history of this province, and we did it for very good reason. We made sure we were linking up in partnership with the community when we invested money in jobs and infrastructure so as to strengthen our community and prepare it for the future. In my own community, much credit is due to the regional chairman, Terry Cooke, and Mayor Bob Morrow and their councils for the work they had done in the Renaissance project, in Vision 2020, the very strong leadership they've shown since the outset of the recession in identifying how our community could not only survive through the changes that were taking place, but also to prosper when the good times returned.
Mr Speaker, we did this in many different ways, and I say to you, sir, with great respect, through you to the opposition, that it was extremely disheartening -- not because they were our projects, because quite frankly they weren't; they were the community's projects -- quite disheartening to see the first decisions coming out of the new government gutting those projects, eliminating those partnerships, eliminating jobs, and lowering the opportunity for our community to survive into the future.
For example, we had an opportunity in the community of Hamilton to be the first United Nations university on environmental studies in North America. We put $5 million forward on behalf of the government of Ontario and it was ultimately matched by the federal government, as well as local money, both private and public. That would have supported one of the cornerstones of the future of Hamilton; that is, environmental technologies and the application of new environmental technologies in terms of taking an older community that has a history of pollution problems and allowing it to convert that into a green economy that can be successful. This new Tory government killed it. They said that wasn't important.
They also killed a Barton Street renewal project, again the cornerstone of a community plan, supported by the regional council, supported by the city council, to turn Barton Street, in the heart of my riding of Hamilton Centre, into a hub of cultural activity, and, as my colleague said earlier in question period, creating jobs, supporting one of the fastest-growing economic centres in all of Hamilton-Wentworth, and they killed it. Not only did they kill it in terms of money that was already committed and in our budget; they now want that community group -- because it's not run by politicians, it's run by the community itself -- they want $1.1 million back out of the bank account.
This is money that was to be lent and paid back. This was money that was there to rejuvenate an older part of the city. This was a project that was there to provide jobs and to provide hope and encouragement to the future of Hamilton, its downtown core and the people in the cultural and arts community, who were prepared to roll up their sleeves and voluntarily provide the leadership that was needed to make that project work, and this government killed it.
Non-profit housing projects: I realize this government philosophically wants out of the non-profit housing business, but the fact is that there are thousands of workers, particularly construction workers, who wouldn't have had jobs through the worst days of the recession if we weren't building non-profit housing. And that's not just money spent on make-work projects, as some like to pretend it is. That's an investment too. It's an investment in community, it's an investment in people, it's an investment in families. They've killed all of them.
One, in fact, was at the very heart of downtown Hamilton, the Lister Block, which was a major project, in addition to the courthouse we built and the GO Transit centre. Mayor Bob Morrow, much to his credit, was leading the charge to make sure our government paid attention to that particular building, both because of its historical significance and its importance to the economy of downtown Hamilton, and we responded to that need. We were prepared to make sure that building was preserved, that small business was put back into that area, and we would have provided housing in the downtown, which is an integral part of a successful downtown by any study or measure that one can find. This government killed it.
In fact, every decision that this government has made has killed jobs, not created them. They were jobs that would have been good for today and provided the economic stimulation that would have given jobs in the future. Instead, after we go through the hit on the poor, the hit on children, and now it's coming out every day in question period that women are paying the ultimate price -- I'm not suggesting that's a conspiracy, but I am suggesting that the projects and programs, the public support policies of this government, have the effect of disproportionately hurting women in this society. I think we'll be able to continue to prove that as the days unfold into this government.
When we ask the government, "What is it you're going to do that's going to create all these jobs?" the answer is, "The tax cut," the 30% tax cut, that this is going to magically provide all the jobs this government promised, some 720,000. The fact is that that's been tried. It's trickle-down economics, that if you give it to the rich, the benefits will trickle down to workers. It's old Reaganomics, it's Thatcherism. It didn't work there; it won't work here.
I'm going to wrap up to allow my colleagues their opportunity. The fact is that there are growing numbers of people in Ontario who haven't been hit by your cuts but who you plan to help through the tax benefit -- and as we know, any time you change the tax rolls the wealthy benefit more than the working; that's always been the case and that won't change, particularly with this Harris Tory government -- but more and more people are saying: "I know we have to make cuts and I know we have to make decisions, and I know they'll be tough, but I don't want to be benefiting from this. I don't want money back when I see visions of children in need and families in poverty and the disabled having their services cut. I don't want that." I suspect some of them are seeing it as blood money, and they don't want that. I predict today that there'll be a growing number of people who will be telling this government day after day: "Don't continue to hurt people to give me a tax break. That's not fair."
"Fairness" is a word this government doesn't seem to understand.
Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Mr Speaker, let me also echo congratulations to you on your appointment.
I would like to take the time allotted to me this afternoon to look beyond the daily concerns that we discuss so thoroughly in this House. I'd like to address a few of the core issues that motivated me to seek this seat and also to speak to some of the very real hopes and concerns of the people of Scarborough-Ellesmere.
My riding is very much a microcosm of this province. It is rich with cultural diversity, innovative talents, skilled tradespeople and artisans. It is an intricately woven social fabric that presents its residents with an astounding array of opportunities and an inherent ability to meet the challenges that face us all. I do not believe that the people of Scarborough-Ellesmere are unique in asking their representative, as so many people have asked me over the past few weeks, what they ought to expect from government.
Everyone can see the waste, everyone can see the need for so much change, but what has become unclear to the residents of Scarborough-Ellesmere over the last decade is the relationship government has to their daily lives. Are we here to help or hinder? In short, it boils down to one simple question, asked over and over again: What are we here to do?
I think it's entirely appropriate that we enter into this discussion as we debate the government's throne speech. This agenda sets out very clearly the steps we must take and shows us just as clearly where we need to be. The cynicism that we all experienced as we brought our message to the front doors and town halls of this province is the result of politicians' unfulfilled and unfocused promises to solve any problem, in the government's domain and outside of it. These promises went unfulfilled precisely because they were unfocused. Because government failed to define its business, it could not hope to do its business well.
The people of Scarborough-Ellesmere have told me time and time again that they're tired of politicians who say government always has the answer. They've told me that government can serve them by getting out of the way more often than it can by spending more borrowed money on yet another ill-conceived, unwanted program. They've told me that government can make the way easier, but too often, in a clumsy effort to lend a hand, it clutters the path to success with insurmountable obstacles.
As a member of the cabinet I have a particular responsibility to carry the government's commonsense message to the issues that affect my ministry. The throne speech sets out very clearly some of the immediate actions that the government will take to bring its proper role more sharply into focus.
We will restore merit as the basis of hiring by repealing the Employment Equity Act and other quota legislation, getting government out of the business of telling employers who to hire and into the business of supporting equal opportunity.
We will repeal the Advocacy Act and will recognize government's proper role, alongside families and volunteers, in supporting the needs of the most vulnerable.
We will stop funding the seventh-inning stretch, because we honestly believe that people can stretch without our help.
And as we get out of those businesses in which the government has no role, we will focus on those areas where government quite properly plays a part.
In the longer term, reforms to the Human Rights Commission will improve its efficiency and allow it to better address the real cases of discrimination.
We are evaluating the constraints of overregulation with a view to encourage our agencies, like the Royal Ontario Museum, to more effectively serve its customers and to make better use of their human and financial resources.
I see my ministry as a partner in building opportunities. Government doesn't create art. We can't legislate a painting any more than we can purchase talent with tax dollars. What government can do is help to provide opportunities for the creativity and entrepreneurialism of our artists to flourish and to be recognized.
The government cannot unilaterally create jobs for women, the disabled and minorities. What we can do is support private sector efforts to recognize talent and ability wherever they exist.
The people of Scarborough-Ellesmere, like people in every community of this beautiful province, are concerned about jobs, and I'm delighted that the Premier has given me the opportunity to focus my attention and the government's attention on one of the fastest-growing job creators in Ontario: our cultural sector. This government understands that cultural industries have a significant economic impact on this province, and while we recognize the inherent value of the arts in our communities, we will not forget that cultural policy is also economic policy. Culture creates jobs.
I'm here today because the people of Scarborough-Ellesmere want major change, both in what our government does and in how it does it. They are not satisfied, nor should they be, to see deficit piled on deficit as the government drives away jobs with red tape and punishing taxes. They want to see government spend their money as carefully as they do.
As we refocus the business of government, implementing the priorities introduced in the Common Sense Revolution and reiterated in the throne speech, we must meet a higher standard of values. If we are to overcome the cynicism that has built up following a decade of overspending and mismanagement, every project must meet the test that I assign for my ministry's operations. Citizens must be able to point and say with pride, "My tax dollars paid for that."
I'd like once again to thank the people of Scarborough-Ellesmere for the trust and confidence they've shown in me, and I'd like to thank the Premier for giving me the opportunity to serve as a minister. As I conclude my first speech in this House, I'd like to reiterate my commitment to live up to that trust and to do my best to build a better Ontario.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Mr Speaker, first of all, let me thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond to the speech from the throne, but before I do so I feel compelled to thank those who made it possible for me to be the MPP for Sudbury.
To the people of the Sudbury riding, I thank you for your support, your trust and the faith you've placed in me. A very special thank you to my wife Maureen, my children Angie and Danny and our extended families, who over the years have always allowed me the opportunity to fulfil my political dreams, whether they be in the area of recreation, in the area of federation or in the area of municipal or provincial politics. My successes have always been and will always be very, very special moments of shared love and satisfaction. To the superb group of dynamic individuals and friends who have worked tirelessly to get me here, thank you for your excellence and for your dedication.
Before I start my response I would like to comment on and recognize some of the great people of Sudbury, from all three parties, who have represented Sudbury before me, those like Elmer Sopha, my next-door neighbour for 30 years, Bud Germa, Jim Gordon, Sterling Campbell and Sharon Murdock. They have provided for me an excellent example which I will try to follow.
During the next several minutes I will try to respond in a Sudbury way to the dedication that I will try to bring to this House but also to respond to the direction this government has outlined its agenda to be in the speech from the throne.
The city of Sudbury is a part of the region of Sudbury, which is the largest municipality in northern Ontario. Science North, located within my riding, is a world-class, hands-on science centre which is the largest tourist attraction north of Barrie. Our city is a major medical referral centre for northern Ontario, providing specialized services through the Sudbury General Hospital, the Sudbury Memorial Hospital, the Laurentian Hospital, the Northeastern Ontario Regional Cancer Centre and Network North, all within my riding.
The Sudbury neutrino observatory is an international high-science solar research project which invites international recognition within the world research community.
Sudbury is a city of firsts. Dr Paul Field conducted Canada's first heart bypass operation at the Memorial Hospital. The Sudbury region was the first community in Ontario to place an accessible taxi at the service of wheelchair passengers. Ours was the first city in Canada to use two-way radios in public works vehicles; the first city to use an electronically controlled traffic speed device; the first Ontario city to obtain the new telephone electronic switching system; and finally, the first Canadian city to have a privately owned television station.
Sudbury is the recipient of provincial, national and international awards, an award winner in land reclamation, including the planting of more than two million trees in the greening of Sudbury, which is recognized as an internationally successful operation.
Sudbury's Ramsey Lake was awarded the International Excellence on the Waterfront award and is the largest city-contained lake in North America, featuring both leisure living and recreational forms of enjoyment.
Our city has 30 named lakes within its boundaries and 90 within its region.
Sudbury is a city of excellence in education. Laurentian University, Cambrian College and the new Collège Boréal are all international models of educational institutions promoting excellence and preparedness for the 21st century.
My riding is a mecca of cultural diversity and the performing arts. The Sudbury Theatre Centre, Fringe North, Festival Boréal, Cinefest, the Snowflake Festival, the Blueberry Festival, the Garlic Festival and the Italian Festival provide a menu of inviting opportunities to experience the arts and culture of our city.
Sudbury is a classic example of the assimilation of multicultural groups coming together to form a common bond, a respect and tolerance of and for each other working together to be one, a strong single voice based on the strength of our different heritages and our different beliefs.
That, my fellow colleagues, is what Sudbury was and is.
Presently, the people of my riding are fearful of the direction of this government. We are fearful that the excellence of our health care services will be seriously eroded because of this government's direction, because of this government's cuts that weren't supposed to be but are. As the editorial in the September 29 edition of the Sudbury Star indicates in its title, "Harris Has No Mandate to Cut Health Care."
The Harris government's speech from the throne referred to individuals. Well, what about Michael Cousins, who's been fighting multiple sclerosis for eight years? Michael now fights two illnesses, that of MS and that of this provincial government, which is cutting his northern health travel grant.
Michael needs injections of betainterferon and has been taking part in an experimental drug trial for betainterferon since 1988. Along with this, he requires an MRI scan. Sudbury has no MRI machine because of this government's inaction and because of the unnecessary delays caused by restructuring. What about Michael, Mr Premier? Do we forget about him and those like him because they don't fit the revolution model?
The young adults and students in my riding are fearful that the excellence in education they see in Sudbury will erode because of this government's direction, that this education will be élitist and that it won't be available to the less fortunate and the average, hardworking, wage-earning student.
The constituents I represent are concerned that their municipal levels of government are going to have to bear an undue hardship because of this government's cuts to transfer payments to municipalities.
As Tom Davies, our regional chair, noted in an earlier address to the former Finance minister, "Local governments cannot plan and budget responsibly when the province downloads programs and services to the municipal level without also transferring adequate funding to manage those formerly administered by the province." It was true then and it is true now.
This government's agenda is punishing the hard work and dedication of the local politicians in both the city and region of Sudbury who have worked diligently over the course of the last 15 years to make our city debt-free and our region fiscally responsible. The agenda punishes the initiative and dedication of our local government and the people of my riding who will be punished by higher taxes or decreased services, or both, because of this government's direction.
If the Harris government does not respect the northern support or resource equalization programs, the people of northern Ontario, the people of my riding, the people of my city and the people of my region will be doubly punished. This is wrong, this is cruel, this is mean-spirited and this is the Harris agenda.
The constituents of my riding are proud of the harmony and excellence which have developed between labour and management, and this has taken years to develop. The past and present presidents of our major unions, the Dave Pattersons, the Dave Campbells, the Ron MacDonalds, the Rick Briggs and the Rolly Gauthiers, have worked tirelessly over many years with the past and present presidents or CEOs of our major employers, the Mike Sopkos, the Frank Pickards and the Jim Ashcrofts, to provide a favourable balance between labour and management and a mutual respect for each other.
The people of the Sudbury riding want this harmonious balance to continue. Change that is necessary is good. Change without consultation is wrong, is regressive, is destructive, is the Harris agenda. The people of the Sudbury riding voted for change. They voted for this representative because they wanted a brighter future and they wanted jobs. They wanted economic growth and the protection of health care services.
They feel they won't receive these in listening to the speech from the throne. On June 8, the people of the Sudbury riding did not vote for higher unemployment, higher property taxes and health care user fees, but these people are fearful that this is exactly what's going to happen after listening to the speech from the throne.
Mr Speaker, my fellow colleagues, I have been sent as a representative of the people of Sudbury to make government work better and to make government be more responsive. I implore the Harris team to strive to make this 36th Parliament an honest and unified Legislative Assembly. Let us assemble and let us legislate together, cooperatively, in the truest spirit of democracy. Clearly, the revolution needs some revisions which will reflect real common sense. The people of the Sudbury riding challenge you to work together to make this a mandate of interactive, constructive change for the people of Ontario.
The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Riverdale.
Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Riverdale; that's right, Mr Speaker. I'd like to congratulate you on your appointment and I look forward to working with you.
I'd like to congratulate all of the members in this House and welcome all the new members. A scant few years ago I was sitting over there as a new member, and a scant few years from now I expect a few of you will be sitting over here as experienced members.
Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): All the new ones will be sitting there.
Ms Churley: That's true. Mr Speaker, I'm teasing the bears, I know, already.
But I am responding to a very serious subject today, and that's the throne speech. Obviously, we have different perspectives on how we need to get the Ontario economy back in shape. I think everybody here in this House has a desire to get the economy back in shape and to get people back to work. I don't doubt that for a moment.
I believe the problem we have here is that we have different perspectives on how to do that. In fact, our government did have a deficit reduction plan that would have reduced the deficit faster than this new government, because they are going to be giving tax giveaways that benefit the richest among us the most. There's something fundamentally wrong with that. I'm afraid that we're going to have to suffer these cuts -- and when I say "we," I should say mostly the poor among us -- and find out at the end of four or five years that there's still going to be a deficit, so whoever is in in the next government is still going to have to deal with a massive debt.
I've been paying a lot of attention, and more attention than usual lately, to American politics, because there's something very interesting going on there. I would advise Mr Harris and his new government to pay attention as well. Senator Bob Dole and our friend Senator Newt are having a fight. Do you know what they're fighting about? They're fighting about how deep the cuts that they have proposed as a Republican Party should go. Bob Dole thinks that maybe they should step back a little bit. Furthermore, Senator Dole has actually suggested that perhaps they shouldn't go as far with those tax cuts. And do you know why? People have had enough time -- you're smiling; you won't be in a few months from now -- to look at the implications of those cuts, because these cuts to find $7 billion to $9 billion, as the government has already said, are just the beginning.
Look at what we already have seen happening to our social services that mostly affect women and children. This government is preparing tax cuts for the most wealthy among us on the very tiny, fragile backs of children and on the backs of women. That is unacceptable. You can sigh if you want, but look at the record and see where you have gone so far in terms of those cuts.
I know there's more to come and you say we're all going to suffer equally. There's something very wrong with this picture.
There are some people who are saying that this government is anti-woman, and I have to say -- I don't like to say it. I look across at a sea of men sitting over there and I don't like to say this. There's a couple of women over here and I'm certainly glad to see the 11 women in your caucus with us. But I do hope that you will stand up for women in your caucus and make sure that the issues that we've been fighting for for over 20 years are not torn apart by your government, because that seems to be what's starting to happen.
The thing that has, I guess, bothered me most in the last few days is the cuts to transition houses and the services they provide, because how much more vulnerable can you get than a battered woman who's been abused by her spouse, who has been perhaps stalked by her spouse, who has perhaps been threatened with death and furthermore, in many cases, who has kids to take care of, to get up in the morning, to get them to school and to protect them? How much more vulnerable can you get in this society? Where do we draw the line as we get into these cuts?
Mr Speaker, in four months this government has gone too far, and I can guarantee you that women out there, women from all walks of life, will not put up with this. Many women -- most women -- bear children. We don't like to see children going hungry and we don't like to see other women being placed at more risk in abusive situations. Women will speak out. You will hear from women about what you're doing, and you will hear from a lot of men who support women about what you're doing.
I'd like to speak briefly about birthing centres. Monday, I guess, when I asked the question to the minister responsible for women's issues, she referred it to the Minister of Health, and he talked about bricks and mortar. This is not about building new buildings; I think he knows that. The women, and some men too, who are involved and have been, I believe, for about 17 years trying to get birthing centres in Ontario and finally were there, have a very good, sound financial case. There is no question about it that births in a birthing centre cost less than half of what births cost in a hospital. These women aren't talking about building new buildings; they're offering women a choice.
Particularly with the restructuring going on that we know has to happen, it makes sense -- and I believe at one point this government talked about this -- to have people. They invited the community, they invited people to get involved, to tell them how they can save money, how communities can do things better and more efficiently. These people came to the government and said, "We have a way of giving people more choice and we also have a way of saving money," because women are going to go on having babies, and now most of them are going to be having them in the hospital and it's going to cost the taxpayers more than twice as much.
It doesn't make sense, and that's part of the problem. This is supposed to be a Common Sense Revolution. People do want real common sense. This is not common sense when you're closing down, taking money out of transition houses for battered women, stopping birthing centres that save the government money. It doesn't make sense and sooner or later that's going to come back to haunt you. People are shaking their heads, but I can guarantee it.
Like everybody I don't have a lot of time, and as also the critic for Environment and Energy I'd like to touch on some issues around that for a while. There was very little, I think no, mention of the environment or protecting our environment in the Common Sense Revolution. There is, however, in the speech from the throne and in the Common Sense Revolution, and also a statement, or maybe it was an article, in the Globe and Mail I read from the Minister of Environment and Energy, who talked about deep cuts in that ministry -- I believe up to 40%; they've already begun -- and deregulation in general across the government.
I don't think anybody argues with deregulation when we have regulations that don't make sense. In fact our government -- of course you people over there aren't going to acknowledge it -- actually did bring forward bills that cut a lot of red tape and did get rid of many regulations and processes that didn't make sense any more. And I'll say too there's probably more that we can do in that.
But the kinds of regulation cuts that we're talking about in the Ministry of Environment and Energy are frightening. There's a lot. We haven't solved the environmental problems yet, and I can assure you that people out there want the government to protect them. They want their children's health protected; they want the environment protected. They always have, for years and years. It wasn't a big issue in this election, but it doesn't mean that people don't care. They do.
You know, there's considerable concern, and you should all perk up and listen to this, about lower sperm counts in Ontario today. I've even heard that penises are getting smaller. This is not a joke.
Ms Churley: This is not a joke. I won't say anything about the people across the way, but seriously, this is a fact and for those of us who have baby boys, children growing up, it's scary. This is really scary. There are studies being done that show that there is a correlation between these low sperm counts and pollution. That's very scary. We're talking about reproduction here.
The International Joint Commission has recently come out and condemned this new government for reinstating our government's ban on solid waste garbage incineration because, again, there are millions and millions of tons of dioxins and other toxic waste in our Great Lakes, much of which they feel is coming -- I shouldn't say "they feel." The studies they have done seem to show that much of this is coming from solid waste incinerators from around the world.
These are just a few of the problems that exist in the environment today. There are many, many others. People want to make sure that there are enough inspectors out there to keep the hazardous wastes and other toxins out of our environment. People want responsible government. They have given you the mandate to be responsible, and I ask that people take a very good look at the kinds of chops and cuts that they are making and make sure that it is real common sense for the people of Ontario.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I am pleased and honoured to be a member of the Harris government, which has received a clear and compelling mandate from the electorate. It is indeed a privilege to serve in the PC caucus.
I extend my sincerest congratulations to you, Mr Speaker, and I agree with all the honourable members who have previously spoken that you wear the mantle of office with dignity and with distinction.
A Conservative member, the late Honourable Russell Rowe from Northumberland riding, also served for many years with grace and decorum as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly here in Ontario. More recently, Joan Fawcett was our MPP, and before that Howard Sheppard held the post. The Honourable Bill Goodfellow, who served as Minister of Agriculture, also hailed from our riding. I salute each one of them today, and I hope I can equal the dedication and enthusiasm that they brought to this job.
I appreciate being appointed to act as parliamentary assistant for the environment and I look forward to working with the honourable members from both sides of the House on environmental issues. May I add that it is indeed a pleasure to be working with the Honourable Brenda Elliott, Minister of Environment and Energy.
I would today like to tell the story of a young couple in my home riding of Northumberland. Not so long ago, they found themselves out of work, down on their luck and facing financial ruin. However, rather than turning immediately to the government, to keep the family going they peeled and pre-cooked French fries for local restaurants. Going door to door, my constituent sold his French fries and then returned home to peel more potatoes with his wife. Sometimes the couple worked all night to meet their customers' demands, and slowly the business grew. Eventually their hard work paid off. They now own a successful business employing nine other people, and process up to 8,000 pounds of potatoes a day. They were willing to take a chance. They saw opportunity where others only saw spuds. They knew instinctively what this province is all about: finding new opportunities for growth and making the most of them.
Think of the impact their operation has had on the nine people who work there now. Multiply that times hundreds more similar businesses that would open every year if we gave them just half a chance. This province was built by people who were willing to take a chance, to risk something. And risks must be taken, because the greatest risk of all in life is to risk nothing.
I'm feeling very optimistic today about the future of our province because of people like the couple I've just described. There are many more like them in Northumberland county and throughout the province of Ontario. With their help, we are going to turn this province around. In the years ahead, growth will be centred on companies with five employees or less. Already 80% of new jobs are created in that sector.
This government must encourage such entrepreneurship and strip away the useless bureaucracy and red tape that is holding business back. That is what my constituents have told me they want from this government, and that is what this government intends to do. Many of my constituents believe, as I do, that the best social program is a job. We must re-establish an environment that welcomes business to make our economic recovery a reality.
I was pleased this weekend to see a half-page article in the Toronto Star about my riding. It correctly described Northumberland as a quiet region on Lake Ontario's north shore, one that is also located on the doorstep of the greater Toronto area. Northumberland could be described as an island, with Rice Lake to the north, Lake Ontario to the south, the Ganaraska River to the west and the Trent River to the east.
The article spoke kindly of our developing Heritage Shores tourism strategy, and rightly so, because tourism is now a major industry in Northumberland. The waterways and rolling hills of Northumberland provide year-round recreational opportunities. However, agriculture has traditionally been the most important economic generator in our area.
More recently, manufacturing has developed a key importance in the riding. Today the manufacturing sector provides employment for approximately one third of the workforce in Northumberland. We are well positioned for major growth in the next economic boom.
Over the last several years, Northumberland has become home to an increasing number of families and retirees from the Toronto area. We welcome them and are excited about the residential growth possibilities in the years ahead.
At the same time, Northumberland is facing many of the same problems as the rest of this province: high unemployment, issues of law enforcement, highway safety, taxes, loss of physicians, educational reform, child care and the environment. But by and large, their greatest concern is for job creation.
I believe many of our problems, though complex, are within our power to control. However, the solution to unemployment can only be based on an approach which transcends selfish interests and regional demands. We must do what is best for the province as a whole. A direct confrontation with our economic problems and a unity of purpose are essential to our success. That is why I support the Common Sense Revolution.
I began my speech today by talking about a young couple in business for themselves. To conclude, I'd like to carry the business theme one step further.
On June 8, it could be said a major new business was formed in this province. A new CEO and management team were hired. This team has a plan, a four-year strategic business plan. Also new is that this management team sold the strategic plan for a full year. By being clear about what was in the plan, its goals and objectives, the new management team won the confidence of all of the shareholders. We will not betray their confidence.
We have set about the task of making Ontario a growth industry. The new government has taken over a highly complex business on the verge of bankruptcy. Ontario's previous management accumulated tens of billions of dollars in additional debt. That massive debt growth rate was unsustainable and the stockholders knew it all too well. The bond rating services knew it too. Let's face it, you can only borrow money to pay the interest on your debts for so long.
I would suggest that we could learn something from the young couple I spoke of earlier this afternoon. I believe as a government we need to be more like that couple. We need to roll up our sleeves, not be afraid to take some risks and make the changes that are necessary. We must ensure a clear future for our children and for our grandchildren and one that is as debt-free as possible. The challenge now facing this government is clear. We must bring spending back in line and eliminate the deficits that are putting Ontario's future in jeopardy.
The road back to fiscal responsibility will not be easy. To be sure, we may suffer setbacks along the way, but if there is one thing my constituents have told me, it is that they will not tolerate any detours from the chosen path. I remain committed to that path and I urge each and every member of our government to keep the faith and do what is right for Ontario.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): While the members are applauding their colleague, I welcome him to the House. I hope he looks at his speech in the next three or four years to see if he can be consistent, if the government can be consistent.
It's an honour and a privilege to speak in the House today on this throne speech debate. It is unfortunate; I would have hoped I could speak at length on the things I've seen here and to respond to our people who so gracefully and willingly, I would say, gave me the honour to represent them in Scarborough North.
I invite all my colleagues to visit the wonderful and beautiful place of Scarborough North, where people live -- and of course in your ridings -- in vibrancy, who want family life to be fulfilled, with independence, and who are hoping that we have a government that is caring, giving and understanding.
I've learned over my decade here in the House -- it sounds like a long time -- to understand the three ideologies of the parties, the Progressive Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party. There are differences, of course. They are diverse in the approach they take to address the issues that are sometimes so challenging in our country, in our province.
Ontarians have had an opportunity to see those three differences in a clear light in the last 10 years. They have seen an NDP government, which believes that labour should be the only one which should handle capital and dominate the world, pitting one against the other. They have seen what has happened, even with the bill that was introduced, the reform, Bill 40, where they had difficulty with some people operating their businesses here. They've also seen that tenants are not the only people who have an interest in housing, but also landlords, developers and tenants to make sure it is fair.
The PC seem to me to embrace big business in a rather tenacious and clutching financial embrace that comes with it. They are the only ones that can handle the economy, the only ones who understand the way of living, the trickle-down theory, "Give me all the money and give me all the things to do and I will pass it on, as we gather all this capital and gather all this money."
But we are saying that that's not the way. What we have found is one party's ideology fighting against another ideology. The Liberals, of course, as you see, do not believe in that aspect.
Mr Curling: My dear colleague -- I'm glad the Minister of Housing is in the House. I will have the opportunity to put some rather testy questions to him. I call him the minister of destruction. Housing has really gone down in a terrible way since this government has taken over.
But the Liberals believe that the private sector plus the public sector, working together cooperatively, can make this country, this province, vibrant and feel like a place to live the way all we Canadians like to know, that we are caring and giving and understanding. We can build on the economic and the social fabric we are all fighting to do, that family means something and that we can be independent and not blaming it on others.
In their few months of power, Mr Speaker -- and I know you will fully agree with me -- in just a few weeks of power we have witnessed an extremely callous, really, an unfeeling indifference within this province, a grim, morbid detachment of seeking solutions all for the bottom line.
A pessimistic view of our economy as a cloud of darkness has come over Ontario all of a sudden. The people have an insecurity about certain interest groups, the fear of interest groups. They're saying, as your leader had stated clearly, that no grass will go unturned. He doesn't care about the protests or the democratic voice of the people, who will state to you: "We are hurting. We are in pain. It's pain for us. Our families are having no jobs." He will say: "I'll turn a blind eye to all this. We shall," as the previous speaker said, "steer the course. We shall do what we have to do regardless of it all."
He calls it a revolution. With this revolution, if families are destroyed in the process, if jobs are gone in the process, we shall go to that bottom line because Bay Street said we must have a balanced budget at the cost of family, at the cost of many things that really got to the process of people who want to live decently.
It's a very pessimistic view of our economy, I would say. They have an insecurity about certain things that are happening further around here. If we bring to this Parliament some concerns of people, they then bring their letters and say: "Here is someone else who has achieved. We have kicked them out and now they're working."
You know, it's surprising, but the poor are rather confused. They are extremely confused out there now. They are saying to themselves: "How can I cause this recession? Why is it I, the poor, who have caused this recession?" All the time they were struggling to get jobs and to better themselves and their family, and the blame now of the recession, because we're in a deficit, is the poor.
So what has this government done? "We shall cut those we are supporting to the tune of 21.5%, because everybody must contribute." But we don't cut Bay Street to that line. We don't cut the banks, which are making an enormous amount of money, because they will give it back in numbers.
Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Read the red book. Come on now.
Mr Curling: My colleague in the NDP heckles me. They forgot that this was an inclusive participation of Ontario, including all, not only labour.
Sadly, they would rather blame certain people in society to get this revolutionary no sense kind of revolution they speak about. I would appeal to them that they shall learn in the process as we go along that it will not be so.
People are suffering and this has overtaken them in many ways. In their own psyches they feel feelings of rage, hunger, contempt, fear, desperation. They feel that this common sense is no sense at all.
What do I tell Tracy Tonner? Her contribution was reduced to $691 and her rent is $700. She's worried that she cannot feed her kid. Hunger comes to the forefront for her because she cannot send her child to school. She has no money for food, to pay for that. This government feels, "If we do that, she'll go out and get a job." She has been looking for a job for months, unable to find any kind of job because the economy out there tells her there are no jobs. This government stated, "If we take away her money, if we take away that contribution, it will motivate her to work."
This young woman and her child are suffering today and feel despair. She has this rage that the recession has been blamed on her and those people who found themselves in that kind of condition.
The contempt they feel in this province today -- the people of Ontario feel that this government is changing the way they live. They're forcing them to live in a different way, without any consultation, because: "We have a strong mandate and we can do whatever we want. We have a strong mandate here. We don't have to have any consultation. We don't have to speak to the people any more. We will just steer the course and we shall go on, regardless of what they do." It's a contempt for democracy. I say to you, revisit it all, consult with the people, because it's their lives, not yours. It's their lives, which they like to carry on in a very respectable way without being abused by this arrogant power that we have been seeing around this place. I just hope they come to their senses.
Our people fear whether or not they will have a job tomorrow because Mike the Knife will get up tomorrow and say, "It's gone," chopping them all off, without regard to any family and the people who are suffering because they don't know if they will have a job tomorrow. We cannot live like that. People cannot live like that, fearful of jobs and fearful of what's happening.
Some of the day care centres are closed and mothers have nowhere to put their kids, because they said it's the best way to do that: "Go and find a mother or grandmother, go and find an aunt. Go and find someone who will look after your kids."
What world are you living in? Don't you realize that today even grandmothers are working, just trying to keep up? Who's going to keep those kids? They're trying their best to go on, in other words, to release those people into the society to be productive. As matter of fact, it helps society, if you understand your economics.
The senses are inundated. This government reverberates with its growing of common sense initiatives and proposals that are frightening.
My own sense is that their sense is seriously flawed. There is no sense in cutting 3,700 housing jobs. I heard this Housing minister and for a moment I will address the housing situation. This Housing minister was saying, "We are not in the housing business any more." Let me tell you, Minister, you'd better be in the housing business.
I have spoken to all those developers who are saying: "Cut rent control. Get rid of that. Stop the social housing, because we will build it." They will not build it. They will just build at the top end of the market where the profit is. I said, "What about the bottom end of the market, those people who can't afford it?" I tell the minister they said to me, "It is not our responsibility because we're into capital gain, profit." I don't blame them. I don't see why they should go out and build houses they're not making a profit on.
You are in the housing business. You never did in any way -- no government paid out any money for housing in that respect. It is the private sector that builds it all the time, and the spinoff from that is much more than that. It is those who buy carpets and those who buy building materials, those who get jobs, and on and on. That the economy goes on in itself, that helps. When you cut all those housing projects to say, "We're not in the housing business any more," you have killed a part of the economy that would be very vibrant itself.
The problem with social housing was not the building of it all. It was the inefficiency, the incompetent way it was run. The cost there was exorbitant, of course. Don't blame those people who have no housing to go to and kill those housing projects, because it's going to cost you much more.
I hope some sense will come to the minister, if he has any influence at all. I'm going to depend on you, Mr Minister, that you will have a voice in cabinet, that you will influence your Premier, who feels, "Gone." Where are these people going to go? Today, as winter comes, there are people who have nowhere to go, nowhere to go.
Mr Curling: The heckling over there -- I'll ignore them, because they're not concerned at all about building housing for people who can't afford the top end of the market. There is none there.
I hope you will make some sense in which to bring about some sanity and some concern, some dignity. Bring back some hope to the people of Ontario. Bring back that hope. Don't kill them. Don't be like the big bully who walks into school, gets the little wimp and beats up that wimp and says, "How big and bad I am."
These people need help. That's what we have government for, that's why we pay taxes, because when they are disadvantaged and discouraged and disillusioned, the government will pick up that banner and carry them forward.
I hope, as we look forward to the next three or four or five years, that there is a change in government of more compassion. I look forward to debating this topic much more.
Mr Hampton: It's my opportunity to respond to the throne speech. I'll try to be brief, because I know a lot of members have things they'd like to say.
First of all, let me say that we all recognize the need to be careful with government expenditure. The government that I was a part of recognized that more than three years ago when in one year, through the social contract, expenditure control and some additional revenues, we managed to lower the annual deficit that year by $8 billion -- quite a substantial undertaking and, I think, quite a significant achievement.
I wish that the new government was right that simply by giving wealthy Ontarians a large tax cut the complex problems of living in the modern world could be solved and answered quickly and easily. If only there were a quick fix for our social, economic and environmental problems as we enter the 21st century. There isn't a quick fix, so we need to look carefully at the Conservative government's prescription for our problems, their so-called revolution.
At the heart, there is little new in this revolution. In fact, this is vintage 1980 Ronald Reagan, and we need to look at what Ronald Reagan left behind in the United States. In 1980, Reagan said there were three keys to solving the problems of the United States.
The first was a substantial tax cut for high-income individuals. In fact, Mr Reagan's tax cut was 30% -- 10% a year for three years. Remarkable how similar that is to what this government proposes. The Reagan theory was that if high-income earners could receive this kind of tax cut they would invest it in the American economy, they would create new economic activity and new jobs. That was the theory.
The second key in the Reagan revolution was, cut government spending, especially in the areas like education, health, housing and transfers to cities and municipalities. In other words, eliminate or downgrade the community infrastructure, the glue that in many cases holds our communities together. The message was pretty clear that if you eliminate funding and eliminate expenditure in those areas you'll have the money you need to give wealthy individuals that 30% tax cut.
The third key was, do away with a lot of the laws and rules designed to ensure protection of the environment and health and safety in the workplace. The message was that if you allow more pollution, if you allow more degradation of the environment, then industry, corporations, businesses have to spend less money cleaning up the environment and have to spend less money trying to eliminate pollution and the degradation of the environment. That money they save can then be put to use somewhere else. So you downgrade the environment and you downgrade health and safety in the workplace, hoping to save some money there and put it somewhere else.
Those were the essential messages of Ronald Reagan in 1980; they are the essential messages of this Conservative government in 1995, so there is nothing new here.
In fact, if you want to do some interesting reading, Ronald Reagan's first economic report -- and believe it or not, it's called Two Revolutions in Economic Policy: The First Economic Reports of Presidents Kennedy and Reagan -- policies for the 1980s, basically sets out the three keys: Slow the growth of government spending; reduce taxes, the 30% tax cut; and regulatory reform -- downgrade health and safety, downgrade food inspections, downgrade protection of the environment.
I would say that actually whoever wrote the government's throne speech probably should have footnoted Ronald Reagan's first economic report, otherwise somebody who was a careful academic might suggest a wee bit of plagiarism here. You can read this for yourselves. I got it out of the parliamentary library -- very interesting reading.
What did Ronald Reagan leave behind? What did the Reagan revolution leave behind in the United States? We need to look at that.
First of all, deficits. The deficit in the United States grew in 1980 from $914 billion, when Reagan assumed the presidency, to $2.6 trillion in 1988 when he left; in other words, tripled the deficit; $2.6 trillion is $2.6 thousand billions, all right? That was the success of the Reagan revolution, the big tax cuts in terms of curbing the deficit. It grew three times. That was the debt, from $914 billion to $2.6 trillion. What happened in annual deficits? It went from $73 billion in 1980 to $127 billion in 1982, to $207.8 billion in 1983, $212.3 billion in 1985, $221 billion in 1986, and so on.
The US trade deficit went from a $19.5-billion surplus in 1980 to a $140-billion deficit in 1987. The United States went from the largest creditor nation in the world to the largest debtor nation under Ronald Reagan's revolution in only seven years.
What about jobs? Well, yes, there were some jobs created by this investment, but the reality is when people looked backward in 1990 over those 10 years, 60% of the new jobs created paid less than US$7,000 a year. In fact, most of that job growth was in part-time and temporary work, not the kind of permanent, full-time, well-paying jobs you need to have in order to run a good economy.
Poverty: There was an overall increase in the measure of poverty and the widening of the gap between rich and poor. The number of persons living below the official poverty line increased from 26 million in 1979 to over 32.5 million in 1987. And where were the cuts? Well, the cuts were in the school lunch program, the school breakfast program, child care programs; $6.8 billion off the food stamp program that helped people who were in difficult economic circumstances feed themselves.
Where are the cuts happening here? Look at today's press summary. "Cuts to funding for 13 maternity homes...for young pregnant women; end of all prevention and treatment services for men who beat up their spouses; elimination of a special fund used to set up new day care centres; less money for adult counselling; end to funding for 25 neighbourhood centres." End of money generally for women. "Less money for recreation programs." It's starting to sound the same.
What about crime? Well, crime increased in the United States. There was both more crime and more serious crime. Indeed, today in the United States building jails and prisons is a new growth industry. The prison population went from 300,000 in 1980 to over 500,000 in 1986 and has exploded since then. Think about it.
I would have a plea for this government: Slow down before you take the leap of faith and think that a 30% tax cut is the answer for the economic woes. Look carefully at how badly it failed in the United States with Ronald Reagan. Before you start dramatically reducing the glue that holds our communities together -- the health care, the education, help for children, help for women who are battered and bruised -- think about what it has led to in the United States: increases in poverty, increases in the crime rate, having to make more investments in jails and prisons. Have some balance in what you're doing. Take time to take a careful second look at what you're doing before you do really long-term harm to our economy and before you do really long-term harm to our communities.
We all recognize the need to spend carefully. Our government recognized over three years ago that the kind of economic trough we ended in 1989 was not going to be a quick-fix one. We only ask that you do the same before, as I say, you do that kind of irreparable harm to this province that we all value and appreciate so much.
Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): Mr Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your most recent appointment, and I wish you Godspeed in all your deliberations. Also, I would like to acknowledge my predecessor, Mike Cooper, for his excellent representation for the riding of Kitchener-Wilmot.
The riding of Kitchener-Wilmot has been my home for over 35 years. I consider it a great honour that the people of my riding have elected me to be their member of provincial Parliament. I will strive to serve and represent their needs at all times.
Kitchener-Wilmot is a distinct and diverse riding. It includes half the city of Kitchener and all of the township of Wilmot. The fabric of the community is a blend of rural and urban living while maintaining a strong agricultural and industrial base.
Kitchener is also known worldwide for its annual Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest that, incidentally, starts tomorrow and concludes on October 14. The Oktoberfest festival has been a vibrant festival for over 27 years and has contributed over $18 million to the local economy. This festival is a superb example of a community partnership without government intervention.
I would also like to acknowledge Castle Kilbride of Baden, Ontario, on being designated a national historic site. All the residents of Wilmot township take great pride in the preservation of this landmark building. I encourage my colleagues of the House and particularly the people of Ontario to visit this fine example of Victorian architecture.
The majority of the people I talk to in my riding strongly agree that the government is too cumbersome and controls too much in their daily lives. The majority also endorses the direction which our government is taking in downsizing and improving efficiencies in Ontario. Businesses in Ontario have been providing improved customer service utilizing less people and less resources for many years. Our government must lead by example, by becoming more customer service-oriented. The meaning of "civil servant" has to be taken literally, because the people of Kitchener-Wilmot, and more importantly Ontario, expect more from their tax dollar.
My riding is an area of economic growth, cultural diversity, entrepreneurship and a tourism destination of choice in Ontario. The implementation of the government's agenda in the throne speech is necessary and most vital to the future of the riding of Kitchener-Wilmot and to the people of Ontario.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to join in this debate. Mr Speaker, let me congratulate you and the other members of the Speaker's table. A Tory from Perth: We haven't had one here, I think, Mr Speaker, since Fred Edwards some several years ago. You are, I think, the member for Perth, am I correct? So I want to congratulate you on your election and on your selection as the Deputy Speaker, and I'm delighted to see so many new members in this assembly. I think we have the largest intake of new members in this, the 36th, Parliament that we've had in many, many a decade. I sense a real mood of excitement on the part of the some 72 or 73 newly elected members.
Like the members for Rainy River and -- who else is around here? -- oh, yes, Essex South and Sault Ste Marie and Fort York, I am a returned soldier. This was my seventh campaign, my seventh successful campaign, and for that I want to thank the electors and the good people of Renfrew North, who once again entrusted their support to me to carry their concerns to this Legislature.
It seems incredible that it was 20 years ago this fall that I came here first. I was in fact looking at some of the literature of that campaign. It's hard to believe that when I came here 20 years ago one of the ablest members I've ever known, the Duke of Kent, W. Darcy McKeough, presented a budget in this place in that year that offered a $1.8-billion deficit on about a $12.5-billion expenditure plan. Incroyable. Almost a $2-billion deficit on a $12-billion expenditure plan. That was the fiscal environment into which I came 20 years ago in this Legislature.
As other members have indicated, there has been a great deal of change in the last few months and certainly over those number of years. I want to encourage all members, newly elected and those returning, to maintain a good participation in the debates of this place. I think you'll find, as I have over the years, that it is an environment of some excitement and some camaraderie. There will be days, of course, when we don't always agree. There'll probably be many days when there will be sharp disagreement. I suspect in this Parliament we will see some of the clearest lines of delineation that have been seen here in over half a century. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I believe that we are at a very significant turn of the page, a turn in the road.
The conservatism, for example, in which I have grown up was the conservatism of Les Frost, Bill Davis and John Robarts. The conservatism of Mr Harris is a very different kind of conservatism. In his absence, let me congratulate Mr Harris on a singular and spectacular electoral victory. I was saying to some of my Tory friends the other day -- I have some; I even have some Tory relatives -- that you have to reach back into the era of Les Frost to find an electoral victory of this magnitude. Needless to say, I was not happy, because I was on the losing side.
But I know something of what Mr Harris has soldiered through over the last five years and, together with his friend and mentor Tom Long, they have pulled off a truly spectacular victory, one of the most singular victories, I would submit, in the 20th century of Ontario politics. For that he particularly, Mr Harris, the leader of the government, deserves our congratulations. Winning the election may in fact be a much easier thing than fulfilling the mandate. But I say again that from where I stand and from where I observe the politics of Ontario, this is a very, very different political debate than anything I have experienced in my lifetime.
We have now a clarity of choice that has probably not been there in much of the postwar period. We have an American-styled conservatism that is radical in its orientation; is, I regret, in some of its application apparently mean-spirited. As a number of members have observed over the early days of this new government's mandate, those people who the new government has singled out for special attention are the young, the poor, the disabled, the marginalized. There has almost been a joyful enthusiasm in singling those people out for special attention, and in that respect it does reflect what I've been seeing in the United States in these last number of years.
You know, I have a great deal of respect for the Conservative tradition in Ontario and in Canada. You can't come from my part of eastern Ontario, those old towns of Kingston and Brockville and Cornwall and Renfrew and Bytown and Perth, and not understand the origins of Canadian conservatism. It is because I know something of those origins that I look at this new breed of conservatism and say, "This is foreign to the land of my birth." I wonder what Mr Frost and Mr Robarts would say if they were to return. I really wonder. I was somewhat amused to see my old friend and adversary William Grenville Davis here when His Honour read the speech, a speech that I watched from the anteroom.
Mr Baird: He voted for it.
Mr Conway: The member for Nepean says, "He voted for it." Well, Mr Davis is a very loyal Conservative. I wonder what he did in that ballot box and I know that he wonders every day what the real intent of the government is. I see the stories about the land that TVO is to be privatized; I wonder what Mr Davis thinks. We are always hearing around this place that it is one of the proudest parts of the Davis legacy.
But we have now before us in this Legislature and before the province a polarization, a delineation as between an American-styled, right-wing conservatism that is radical in its outlook, mean-spirited in some of its application, and I think as a Liberal there has never been a better time and a more important time for my colleagues and myself in the Liberal Party to advance with equal vigour a values-based Liberal alternative to what Mr Harris has offered the province and is now going to offer by way of his government's mandate.
Let me be clear and let me be fair: He has won a strong and clear mandate and as a democrat I stand here and say to you, Mr Speaker, and through you to the assembly, that Mr Harris has a right to develop a program consistent with his electoral manifesto.
I for one will watch, as will the voters and the people of north Renfrew watch, with very keen interest to see how Mr Harris's supply-side economics are going to produce the 750,000 new jobs over the course of this mandate; how it is that $6 billion or $7 billion worth of government spending is going to be taken away on an annual basis; how it is that $5 billion worth of tax cut revenue is going to be surrendered on an annual basis; and how it is that, at the end of the year 2000 or whenever it is now estimated to be by the government, the books will be balanced.
You know, when Ronald Reagan told the American public that he was going to do more or less the same thing, no less a person than George Herbert Walker Bush said, "It's voodoo; it can't be done." The fact of the matter is, looking back on the Reagan experience, George Herbert Walker Bush and many others were right in their assessment: Two plus two still equals four.
I suspect that even the government back bench is going to be stunned to find out how truly painful the next few months and years will be when people, including the government back bench, understand how deep into the muscle of extremely important government programs will have to be the cuts to effect the promises made during the recent spring campaign.
But that is for the future, Mr Speaker. I stand here today as the proud representative of the people of Renfrew to tell you and the House that in my community of Pembroke and Renfrew county the number one priority continues to be the creation of wealth and the creation of employment. We have in my community, as we have across much of the province, a level of unemployment that is simply unacceptable. The number one concern of the people I represent is to bring those unemployment rates down.
Now, the government has offered a series of initiatives -- we saw one yesterday; we will see more in the coming weeks -- but the crux of the government's job-creating strategy is the supply-side economics represented by the $5-billion tax cut. We shall see what we shall see.
I know in places like Maynooth and Stirling they can't wait because, as the honourable member from Hastings would want to agree, the unemployment rates in his communities are a concern for him, as they are for me.
Health care was certainly a major concern, and is a major issue, in the community where I live, namely, the city of Pembroke and the county of Renfrew. I watched with some interest the gymnastics of the new Minister of Health who stands here every day to tell us, "Restructuring if necessary, but not necessarily restructuring." He said some very interesting things today about his real intent, and I suspect in the coming weeks it will become painfully evident from Windsor to Cornwall and from Toronto to Timmins just what the agenda is going to be.
One of the areas of health care that is of particular relevance to my rural, small-town county is this whole question of the attraction and the support of physicians in small communities, I say, again with the member from Hastings opposite.
We read in the papers just the other day about the problems at Bancroft. The problems of rural hospitals and rural communities in their attraction of and support for and maintenance of good health care and medical providers are an issue that truly faces the province and the nation. Happily, the Minister of Health says he has answers. With my very ears, I heard him say that on CBC Radio in Ottawa just a few weeks ago. I will be very interested to hear how it is he is going to now deliver on those commitments.
In the city of Pembroke, where I live, there is a plan being advanced by the district health council to close one of our hospitals. It is not a plan that I support. My own view is that in the city of Pembroke, where we have the Pembroke General Hospital and the Pembroke Civic Hospital, two fine institutions which have served our community very well for nearly 100 years, rather than close one of the hospitals, we ought to have a proposal, we ought to have a plan that brings together a joint board with one administration offering two differentiated hospital sites. That's the commitment that I made during the election and that's the commitment that I intend to support during the course of this Parliament.
Job creation, health care, the role of government in communities large and small -- there will be much to debate in this Parliament as we go forward through this session and others between now and the next election.
One of the reasons that I'm a Liberal is that I believe in those core Liberal values of fairness, moderation, tolerance and opportunity. I do not, I say to you, Mr Speaker, see any reason why those values are any less important to Ontario in 1995 than they were when I came to this Legislature in 1975. And it is to those ideals and it is to those values that I will be turning my attention and my energy over the course of this the 36th Legislative Assembly of the province of Ontario.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I want to begin by thanking the diverse community of Fort York for sending me back into this Legislature. We have done much together and we will for certain do a great deal together as well to solve some of the community problems we will face together.
I want to begin my remarks by referring to the Toronto Star publisher, John Honderich, who in January 1995, in speaking to a new vision for the city, said that it should be founded on three pillars, and they are culture, community and commerce. I subscribe to that. I believe that what he says about a new vision for the city applies for the province as well.
I also believe that community, culture and commerce are interdependent and that when you diminish one you begin to dismantle the balance of them all. I think this government has begun to do that in ways that perhaps some people haven't quite comprehended but they will, within six months to a year.
I know that this government and the members of this government are so convinced of the infallibility of the Common Sense Revolution that I am not going to try to convince them and waste my time trying to do that, but rather talk through you, Mr Speaker, to the public about some of the things that this government is doing to them.
I want to begin by talking briefly about culture. What I say about culture is that the previous government spent a great deal of time and money to support the arts and cultural sectors. We spent money establishing the Ontario Publishing Centre. We spent a great deal of money to support the Ontario film investment program, through that program. We have spent money establishing the commercial theatre development fund. We have done the same with the sound recording investment program.
We've done this because we are constantly under threat from the Americans in particular: 97% of screen time is taken up by American film, 3% is Canadian; 80% of book publishing and magazine publishing is controlled by the Americans, to some extent the British, the rest is Canadian. The same applies to sound recording as well: 80% or so is American and the rest is Canadian. We are constantly under threat in terms of preserving our identity, and it is a very fragile thing.
So when the minister says, "We're spending a lot of money," I say to her that she has cut a great deal of money. In fact, in the last little while she's cut $16 million and in July she cut $15 million from the Ontario film investment program and cut the Ontario Film Development Corp by half as well.
When you cut this sector in the way you do, you're cutting employment and you're cutting into what shapes our identity as a province. That might be all right for them, because it's quite possible they feel very comfortable with American culture. They certainly borrow a great deal of American ideology, which is visible in everything they do, so perhaps they don't mind that the rest of what is so fragile about Canadian cultural society, through book and magazine publishing, sound recording and the rest, is taken over. But for many of us in Ontario, we're certainly very concerned about that.
When the minister says the best thing we can do is to simply get out of the way and let the private sector take care of things, she's wrong. The private sector is involved already in the cultural sector. But what's more important is that the government of Ontario is involved, and when the government of Ontario is involved with funding, the private sector contributes even more. That's clear, and the facts bear that out. So if you get out of the way as a government, the private sector will not be there to support it.
Yes, there has been growth in culture, but it's not because the government wasn't there to support it. To believe that culture has grown in employment in this province on its own is wrongheaded, and to abandon culture at this time is the worst thing they could do.
That's at the level of culture. I'm not going to convince the minister that she's wrong or the government or the Premier that they're wrong. But I urge the public, I urge the cultural workers, who are numerous in this province, to watch what this government is doing, because it is dismantling the fabric of our society.
I want to talk briefly about community and say that around welfare, this government has done its worst. I suspect they could do much more, but already what they have done against the most vulnerable citizens is, in my view, a tragedy. In my constituency, staff are dealing with suicide threats from social assistance recipients. Mothers have called my office this week to tell me that they cannot afford infant formula for their babies. Now, some people might think we're making this up and some people might think that it's all right that people should suffer this way, because they don't really believe they are suffering. I tell you, our experience shows that people are suffering a great deal in those communities. Don't disregard the suffering.
Around Wheel-Trans, the government cut in funding to transportation services for people with disabilities broke a specific campaign promise. People with disability may lose their jobs because they can't get around. Many will be unable to attend medical appointments. Many will be unable to go shopping for groceries. Many will not be able to spend the many hours necessary to locate a can of 69-cent tuna. And what's worse is that this government, through the minister, is blaming Metro government for this. They cap the funding they get, cut the funding, and then they say, "But it's their fault."
What's worse, I fear -- on page 5 of the Revolution it says, "We will work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions we take will not result in increases to local property taxes." So even if municipal governments attempt to stave off the misery they're causing by raising property taxes, they won't be able to do it because Mike Harris and their friends are going to say: "You won't be able to do that. We're going to prevent you from doing it." So municipalities that worry about their inability to take care of people in the way they want will be prevented by this government from doing so.
On employment equity, the minister says they're going to establish some equal opportunity office. They're going to get back to the merit principle. Everybody knows what that means. "Merit principle" means you're going to hire your own: the ones who look like you, the ones who sound like you, and the ones who say things like you. That's what it means.
Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Stop it, Rosario. Come on.
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): He hit a nerve, eh?
Mr Marchese: That's what it means.
On the issue about crime and safety, in the throne speech, reference was made to Mr Haghgoo, who has been robbed more than a dozen times. How many more times will Mr Haghgoo be robbed as a result of this government's actions? Do you expect that by pushing the poor to the wall, we will reduce crime? Are we to believe that releasing criminals into the community with nothing but electronic bracelets to support them and protect us is better than using trained staff to supervise them? If the Premier wants to bring American-style government to this province, he can expect American-style crimes along with a demand for prisons that can never be met.
On the issue of culture, on the issue of community, what we are creating is a great deal of human misery. What we are not looking at is the human deficit we are causing while some of you are proud to talk about how you're cutting back on the deficit.
On the issue of commerce, you've cut back the housing program. Twenty-five per cent of my community is Portuguese Canadian. They work in the construction industry. There was 69% unemployment in 1989; we reduced it by building housing. With this government's policy of cutting back, they will be unemployed. This government says: "But we've got a plan. We're going to give 30% income tax cuts to folks," which will amount to more or less a $4-billion to $5-billion cut, and that's what they're going to do to create jobs, 725,000.
I wonder if the public really believes that. I'm wondering whether they believe that. I don't. Most people don't believe it. That money will go back into the hands of the very wealthy. It will not go into the hands of the poor. We will not see the jobs. They won't be there. But we will be out $4 billion to $5 billion because we will have helped the rich get money back. It might make them feel good, it might make the members feel good, but it's certainly not going to make the victims of these cuts feel any better. It will not do it.
They are going to destroy public confidence as well. People who are fired will simply not spend and then you depress the economy even further. If you think volunteerism is going to do it, you're wrong. We're spending billions on volunteer work already. I'm not sure we can make the stone bleed any more. Maybe they'll be lucky and they can get their corporate friends to go out and volunteer even more. I'm not sure that is an appropriate solution.
Mr Harris said, "There is nothing sacred in what we do." If that is the case, I can say that everything you are doing is profane.
Mr Stockwell: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: May I ask that you review the comments made by the member for Fort York with respect to merit and employment equity? I think he was right on the very edge of possibly slandering this entire caucus and government and clearly imputing the motives. I would ask that you review that with the idea of seeing if in fact that is the case, and ask the good member for Fort York to withdraw those things. They're very intemperate.
Mr Marchese: Mr Speaker, I would urge you to do that. There is nothing in what I said that I would take back. In fact, I would say that on the issue of merit, what everyone knows is that when you're hired for a job, there is a lot that happens in that interview process. What happens is that people will hire the ones who will sound and look like them and say the things that please them. That's what I said and I stand by that.
The Deputy Speaker: Will you please take your seat. The Chair rules that on the point of order, I was listening to the speech and I do not find anything out of order in it.
Mr Ed Doyle (Wentworth East): I'm afraid that what I have to say, in light of what I just heard, is going to be a little unexciting. However, I will say it, in any case.
I'd like to first of all congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your election and I would like to congratulate the members in the opposition as well for their election, both new and old members, and I would like to do the same to the members of my own caucus.
It is with great pleasure, and I consider it a tremendous honour, to have the privilege to address this House in this new era of hope, for in fact we have entered a new era, as evidenced by the throne speech. On June 8 this province ushered in a new Progressive Conservative government, one with a strong leader, a solid team and, most important, a blueprint for hope and for prosperity.
During the election campaign I was often asked why I got into politics. Well, I can give you a very simple answer. The things that I had been thinking about for years were the things that I saw and read in the Common Sense Revolution. I had been thinking about these things and there they were before me.
Prior to reading that document, I would sit back, like most people, and wonder in disbelief at what was going on in this province. The logic often escaped me as to why the government was doing what it was doing, and I can tell you that I was not alone in my thinking. For years I encountered people on the streets, everywhere I went in fact, who felt the same way I did. We longed for a return to the point where decisions made derived from common sense. It is obvious that the people of Wentworth East believe in the vision of Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservative government, or else we simply wouldn't be here today.
I would like to take a moment to thank the residents of Wentworth East for their faith in me and our party's vision. I can tell you that I talked to people in Glanbrook, in Binbrook, in Mount Hope, in Stoney Creek and in our little corner of Hamilton as well, over and over again, and they would all say the same thing. They would say basically, "We want to believe you, we like what you've said, we like what we've heard, but we've been let down very often in the past, so just please show us that you will follow up on what you promised to do." And I think we've been indicating and showing that we are doing exactly that. So for all those people who so desperately wanted to believe our government under the leadership of Premier Mike Harris, so far they've become believers.
In particular, I would like to take this opportunity to convey to all of you here now how proud I am to be in such fine company of the Progressive Conservative Hamilton caucus. I consider Trevor Petitt, Toni Skarica, Lillian Ross here, to be not only my colleagues but my friends as well, and I extend that same comment to all members in the Progressive Conservative caucus.
It is also my sincerest hope that I will be able to represent the constituents of Wentworth East effectively and with as much warmth and understanding as the previous Progressive Conservative member from the riding, Mr Gordon Dean. I would like to take the opportunity now to publicly thank Gordon for being a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. He is a man full of fellowship and guidance and a genuine friend.
At this time, I would also like to take the opportunity to say that I would like to thank Mr Mark Morrow, the previous NDP member, who behaved like such a gentleman during the election campaign, and I say that sincerely.
I was once told that you will only hear from the vocal opponents and never from the supporters. Well, residents from all areas of my riding have stopped me in the corner stores, in the coffee shops and everywhere and said: "You and Harris and all the others are doing a great job. Keep it up. Just don't stop." Today it's a great pleasure for me, because I can talk to the people of my area and say, "Yes, you do like what you've seen so far, and we are only just beginning."
The speech from the throne and our government's actions to date have echoed what is perhaps the most often-heard comment from Wentworth East, "If a household must live within its means, then so does the government." This new government accepts and respects this philosophy. If we do not control expenditures then we will collapse under the financial burden placed upon us, our children and even our children's children.
The people of my community acknowledge that to get spending under control, it will require moral strength, it will require some personal sacrifice, some big sacrifice, but they also see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. What the government of Ontario is doing will bring hope and prosperity to families in Stoney Creek, in Glanbrook, in Hamilton, throughout the province. It will bring jobs to Hamilton, Stoney Creek, Glanbrook and again throughout the province.
Through actions started in the throne speech, the Mike Harris government is also redefining the way in which government operates, the way we do business, the way it delivers services to citizens. Too often I hear from people who have to go to four, five, six or even seven different areas for advice or for service. It's this government's intention to end this confusing maze of program delivery and duplication and offer one-stop shopping whenever and wherever possible. Again it comes back to what makes sense.
Overregulation has been and continues to be one of the biggest impediments to business. Previous governments seem to have forgotten that it is business, it is not government, that is going to be creating the jobs. Today there's new hope for business. The throne speech reflects the fundamental changes that are required to create a healthy climate in which business can grow. This growth will mean new jobs for people living in my riding and living throughout the province.
One of the first things I did as the MPP for Wentworth East was to ask small business what they needed in order to grow, and they told me in no uncertain terms that the government must scrap Bill 40, improve the Workers' Compensation Board and eliminate intrusive and unneeded red tape. This government has clearly listened and we are acting on that and more, because we are eliminating the employer health tax on the first $400,000 of payroll, ridding the province of the corporate filing fee as well as freezing Ontario Hydro rates for the next five years.
Connected to the issue of growth and prosperity, residents and businesses alike have called on our government to continue the construction of the Red Hill Creek Expressway. For some 30 years now, and even longer, our community has fought successive governments for the completion of this transportation corridor. This expressway is essential to the economic growth of the region. Many businesses have located in the industrial parks in anticipation of the economic benefits derived from this roadway.
Once the road is complete, however, we can be assured that many, many more new businesses will be coming into the area. I am delighted to say that our Progressive Conservative government during the campaign and still today has made the commitment to complete that project.
In a balanced and well-thought-out plan the Mike Harris government is putting its financial house in order and creating an environment in which business can flourish. But there is another very crucial component of success and that is lowering taxes. This government has pledged, and the throne speech has confirmed, a commitment to cut the provincial income tax rate beginning in the budget next year.
This will mean that the average household in my community will receive a tax cut of $3,000 or $4,000 over the next three to four years. This money can be reintroduced into the economy, thereby stimulating much-needed growth.
It is an honour to be in such fine company as Mike Harris and our caucus. There will be difficult times ahead -- we've never said any different -- and we must not be dissuaded from continuing with our course of action. We were elected for a reason: to restore faith and hope in this province while making it economically sound. I, along with my colleagues here today, accept this challenge and welcome working together with our communities to effect real, commonsense change.
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It is an honour for me as well today to stand in this place and reply to the speech from the throne. Although I was elected in a by-election almost two years ago, this is my first opportunity to speak to such a speech.
Also, I'm equally honoured to represent the riding of Essex South. For those of you who may not know, it's a small, urban-rural municipality, made up of a lot of involved citizens, where agriculture is our mainstay.
In the area of Amherstburg and the townships of Malden and Anderdon, they're steeped in the history when the conflict between the United States and Canada was fought. In the area of Kingsville and Gosfield South there are citizens who participate annually in the Jack Miner bird sanctuary celebration, which is called the Migration Festival. In Harrow and Colchester South, of course, we have one of the longest-running fairs in the province of Ontario, the good old Harrow Fair in the fall.
The town of Essex is bordered by Colchester North and Gosfield North and, as I said, it's rich in its agricultural heritage, and of course, my home area, from Leamington, Mersea township; we call it the tomato capital of Canada and the home of the H.J. Heinz Co, which I, like all loyal Leamingtonites, worked at when I first got out of school.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My wife's from Leamington, too.
Mr Crozier: My honourable colleague's wife is from Leamington, so we send good-quality citizens all over the province.
As well, we have the municipality of Pelee Island, which is the most southerly point of Canada. It's on the 42nd parallel, which is on the same parallel as Rome, Italy, and northern California. So we have a little bit of everything in Essex South and I'm proud to represent them.
We also, it might interest you to know, have the second-largest seniors population per capita of anywhere else in Canada. So we have a lot of fine people who come to Leamington to retire and to Essex South to retire.
But what does this all signify? Why am I telling you this? Well, I want you to know that the citizens of Essex South, like many of your communities, are average Ontarians who have dreams and needs and ambitions and skills and concerns and compassion.
I agree with what's in the throne speech, particularly on page 1, where it says:
"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."
I don't think there's anyone in this place, I don't think there's anyone in this province who would disagree with that.
But since the throne speech was given, there have been many questions asked, there have been many comments made on the throne speech. And what concerns me is not necessarily what the throne speech says but what it doesn't say.
For example, I told you how important agriculture is to my community. Agriculture only appears in the throne speech twice, and that's in connection with the labour reform. My colleague Pat Hoy from Essex-Kent yesterday gave a litany of reasons why agriculture should be an integral part of this throne speech, and it's not.
Already the government has cut $14 million out of the agricultural budget, the second-largest employer in the province of Ontario. I do wish that you'd have another look at that, that you support agriculture. Help feed our province and our country, and the world for that matter.
Seniors: I've said that seniors are an important part of my community. The word "seniors" only appears once, just once, and it's in the context of welfare benefits.
What will happen to long-term care? It's not in the throne speech. You don't tell us what you're going to do with our seniors, what they're going to do with us, what they're going to do with you. You don't tell us that.
What are you going to do with rents? A lot of seniors in my area rent; they have apartments. Are you going to take off rent control? Seniors are on fixed incomes. What are they going to do?
What about health care? We've had quite a debate in the first week or so about health care. You say you're not cutting it. We see where you're going around the province talking to people about cutting it. Seniors in my community are concerned, and they are going to help me help remind you that you weren't going to touch a penny of health care.
Jobs: Jobs are mentioned 19 times in the throne speech. What isn't mentioned, though, is a plan on how you're going to get these 725,000 jobs. In fact, you didn't even mention the 725,000 jobs in the throne speech. I hope that's something that, notwithstanding the fact that you've chosen not to mention it in the throne speech, you won't forget.
The word "fair": I happened to look through the throne speech and I think it was mentioned twice, in context of productivity and life and in a heading that said, "A Fair Chance." But I'm not so sure that it is fair, and I'm not so sure that it ensures the needs of the citizens of the province of Ontario.
In my estimation, government spending is only shifting the money. The tax cut that represents a cost, I think, of about $4.7 billion isn't as much a cut as it is an expense. It's an expenditure, if you like, or a lack of revenue that the government is going to have to make up.
You've said that we all have to pay for it. Well, if you're on welfare, we know already you're going to pay for it. If you live next to a hospital that's going to close, you're going to pay for it. If you rely on public transportation, you're going to pay for it. If you live in a municipality that has its transfer payments cut and the taxes go up, you're going to pay for it.
I want to refer you to my colleague Gerry Phillips's Treasury Watch of just this past September, under debt and deficits. I don't think the province of Ontario, the citizens, know this, so I want to emphasize that the government doesn't plan to balance the budget until March 31, 2001. I suspect that's beyond your mandate. It seems to me that at one time the Premier said it would be within your mandate.
The debt will grow, and I don't think you've told the citizens of Ontario this. I know the Common Sense Revolution doesn't tell the citizens of Ontario. You haven't told them that the debt is going to rise from its present $90 billion to $121 billion. Have you told all your residents that? I doubt it. The $31-billion increase in the debt is represented by tax cuts. You know, the extra interest on the $4.7 billion that you're going to give back over the period of time of your mandate is, amazingly, going to cost $5 billion.
Someone said earlier that a bankrupt company has to look at business a different way. The Premier has said that our province is bankrupt. Those of you who have companies and are bankrupt, do you give a dividend? Then why would you give a dividend of $5 billion?
There's a lot more to say and not much time to say it in. So I want to conclude by giving you some idea -- and I'm a businessperson, like many of you; I spent 22 years as the treasurer of a company -- why it is that I'm a Liberal and how I can define myself as a Liberal. My daughter helped me find this, and I appreciate her having done so. It's from a speech that David Peterson gave to Harvard University in 1989, and I'll conclude with part of what he said: "Liberalism is the philosophy that best tempers the pursuit of progress with the dictates of compassion." I'm afraid, my fellow members, there's not much compassion in here.
Mr Martin: When I was growing up there was a family I knew who solved their arguments by stepping outside and having a fight. Whoever was left standing when it was over was right. It was a simple answer to some often very complex situations, and as I stand here today I have this terrible feeling of déjà vu.
We have a province faced with some very complicated challenges and we have a government offering up some very simplistic answers. The real tragedy is that some very fragile and vulnerable people are about to receive a very bad beating. However, that is not what I have chosen to focus on in the few moments I have today. But the concerns that I have are very similar.
We have an offering of very simple solutions to some very complicated, sophisticated challenges that face us as a community of people here in Ontario today. I have this feeling of doom and destruction as I watch this government's agenda unfold, starting way back with the election itself, where I watched the Liberals and Conservatives face off in a poker game.
The stakes in this game were the jobs and services by and for the people of this province, not to mention the livelihood of the most vulnerable and the marginalized in our society.
On any given day the ante in the game was upped and the number of jobs to be cut rose and the level of social assistance dropped, and the spectators cheered, not realizing what the game was really all about or the scope of the pain and the hurt that would be inflicted. Everyone must recognize that nothing happens to an individual member of a community or a sector of a community that does not affect the community as a whole. When any person or group in a community is under attack we are all under attack and at risk.
With the cuts that this government is inflicting we must understand that any public sector job lost is one less job in some community. One more person unemployed is just one more person competing for fewer jobs. This makes one more person dependent on the public purse, one more person less able to participate in the local economy, one more person buying less consumer goods, paying less taxes, one more person feeling less well about themselves, not to speak of the impact on the worker's immediate family and the subsequent health issues that invariably arise with feelings of inadequacy, depression and loss of hope.
Less assistance to the unemployed and the poor means less money distributed in the community in which they live. It means less money being spent at the corner grocery store, less rent being paid, fewer clothes being purchased. Money into the pockets of the poor is flow-through. It is never saved and very seldom spent someplace else.
It's much like putting gasoline in your carburetor as well as the gas tank to get your car started when you run out of gas. Let me tell you, there have been a number of communities across this province that have run out of gas from time to time, and the local communities have been very thankful for the little bit of money that does flow through the hands of those on social assistance to keep their small businesses alive.
The social and economic health of a community are intertwined and any community doing economic development or having done economic development in the last few years knows this all too well. We already know that you cannot separate the public interest from the private interest.
There is a very important role for the individual and for private enterprise, but no less role for the collective manifested in our society and effectively through government enterprise and initiative. It's crucial that there be a healthy balance between these two entities.
In my home of Sault Ste Marie we have a forum called the Round Table. This is an event where all politicians representing the various levels of government meet on a regular basis to assess and make plans around the economic and social health of our community. We recognized early in our deliberations that the greatest asset we have is our people and the most we could accomplish was to maximize this potential. We had spent years as a community waiting for that fairy godmother in the sky to come and save us. We waited for one or two big private enterprises that would come in and create wealth and prosperity and give everyone a job. It just didn't happen; we waited in vain.
You see, in Sault Ste Marie we have a mixed economy of very valuable and important public and private operations delivering goods and services. We know what they are and we know that they are interdependent. In Sault Ste Marie, as in any other city or town in Ontario, the services that a nurse administers or that a teacher gives or a bus driver provides or a doctor delivers or a custodian performs are all equally important and invaluable as they contribute in a very important way to the overall health and operation of a community in a myriad of interconnected ways.
To look at an economy that is struggling predominantly due to outside forces and declare simply and unilaterally that the way to deal with the struggle is to downsize government and give power back to corporations is to fly in the face of the experience of all of us who have been involved in community economic development, particularly over the last five years.
Nothing positive happens to the economic health of a community by taking money away from those dependent on social assistance. Nothing positive happens by reducing the number of jobs available to the unemployed in a community. Giving money to large corporations has not created and does not create massive job opportunities.
We have a global economy all around us now that requires all of us to give the best that we have to offer. It does not get us anywhere if we walk into the school yard and pummel the hell out of the little guy. Bullying is not achieving anything, any more than it did when I was growing up.
Government is a fundamental determinant of economic activity. Cutting expenditures leads to a drop in revenue, which in turn leads to greater job losses. Blaming the problem on the victim as opposed to recognizing that the system has failed to create enough jobs just creates a double jeopardy for those most vulnerable and attacks the community, while at the same time lessening its ability to care for itself.
I would like to return for a brief moment to the experience of Sault Ste Marie and how at its darkest hour, when the forces of the marketplace had given us a very bleak prognosis of our economic future, the citizens, both public sector and private sector, worked together to put fresh air in our sails.
The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member's time has expired. Further debate?
Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): Mr Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to have this opportunity to comment briefly during the debate on the speech from the throne. At this time too I would like to add my personal congratulations on your election to the office of Speaker.
During the recent election campaign, the people of Durham-York told me our province has been on the wrong track and something has to be done about it. I believe if we are to fix the problems in this province, government must be prepared to make some tough decisions. That is the message we received on June 8. The people elected us to change the status quo, to put our problems behind us and get Ontario moving again. We asked for that job, we were given that job and we accept that responsibility.
I want to take this opportunity to voice my sincere thanks to the people of Durham-York who expressed their overwhelming support and confidence in me on June 8.
With the first sitting of the Legislature now under way, the new government has the opportunity to proceed with the major changes we promised during the election campaign. With the focus of attention now turned to the Legislature, the people of Durham-York may be wondering what course of action the new government will take. The answer is simple. We are going to do what we said we would do: restore hope and prosperity for the people of Ontario.
None of our decisions are easy or are taken lightly, but working together and drawing on the strengths of this province, Ontario can and will live up to its potential. We can and will build a better and brighter future. Getting our finances in order is not an end in itself. It is only the start of the process of reigniting our economy. We are all in this together. We must all share in the sacrifices if we are to share in the gains achieved by getting Ontario back on track.
We want people to feel comfortable with our message. We need them to join with us in a new partnership. The key to any successful partnership, whether it involves business or government, has been innovation, applying knowledge in a new and more productive way. Sometimes this has meant using new knowledge or technologies and taking a commonsense approach to business and government operations and activities. Most of all, innovation requires an attitude, a willingness to embrace new thinking, to explore new ways of doing things and never to accept the status quo as the best you can do.
I believe that kind of thinking is the key not only to our new economy but to the kinds of major changes in government operations that we have been elected to bring to Ontario. In other words, the success of this province's business sector is not only inspiring other Ontario companies to look for better solutions and new opportunities, it is also pointing the way for the public sector to achieve higher levels of service at lower costs to Ontarians.
We must stay on track because hardworking, taxpaying, law-abiding Ontarians expect our government to live up to its commitments: smaller government, job-creating tax cuts, an end to discriminatory job quotas and real welfare reform. We will not let them down. We will not let them lose confidence in us.
My constituents have told me that any change in Durham-York must be a true reflection of change that is occurring throughout Ontario. They told me they want their government, all levels of government, to balance growth with lifestyle.
Governments, business and individuals must join in a new partnership to make our province and our communities attractive places to live, raise families and do business. Rather than government formulating Toronto-based solutions to the problems of rural areas, it must recognize that small towns have concerns and issues that are distinct from those of larger urban regions, especially in the areas of planning, resource development and the environment.
The people of Durham-York told me they want their provincial government to offer a true partnership which provides more flexibility to rural municipalities. It is a partnership that gives local councils and residents more control over how they use their resources and more local input into the provincial decision-making process. My constituents told me membership on any task force examining the GTA must include fair representation from small towns in Durham-York. The people of Durham-York know that rural Ontario is not a homogeneous region where municipalities have uniform priorities. Individual rural municipalities must not be limited in their options for determining appropriate growth and development strategies.
With the speech from the throne on September 27, the government outlined its plans to restore hope and prosperity for the people of Ontario. The government is setting priorities and sticking to them. The government is charting a new course and launching a program of job creation by cutting taxes, reducing government spending and freeing the private sector to create jobs.
In the throne speech, the Premier said Ontarians are a generous people working to make their communities better places to live. He directed me, as his parliamentary assistant, to lead a government initiative to support and nurture the spirit of volunteerism in the province. I welcome this opportunity.
The mandate given this government represents a rejection of institutionalized big government and a return to the belief that we all can be more self-reliant and accept more personal responsibility. We cannot continue to expect government to do everything. Again, there must be a new partnership. Setting new directions for fiscal responsibility means there will be more emphasis placed on individual responsibilities.
Our communities could not function without the dedicated work and fine ethics of volunteers who give so much of their time and energy. Volunteers have a long-standing history of deriving personal satisfaction and a sense of wellbeing by putting aside their own interests and doing something to benefit others. Volunteers make a commitment to the less fortunate. Volunteers make a commitment to our communities. They express their commitment in a variety of ways, according to their means and abilities. Volunteers share their expertise, energy and time. They don't volunteer because they seek personal reward; they volunteer because they care.
I invite my colleagues here in the Legislature, their many constituents across the province of Ontario and the thousands of volunteers who already contribute so much of their effort, time and expertise to join me in a non-partisan effort to promote and encourage volunteerism.
Mr Baird: I appreciate the opportunity to rise in this House. If you had said a few short months ago that I could get up and give a maiden speech on the government side of the House as a Progressive Conservative, with no Liberals, it would have seemed just too good to be true.
I welcome the opportunity to rise in this House in support of the direction this government is taking over the next five years, as expressed in last week's speech from the throne. As many have commented, this direction was very clearly laid out and spelled out in the Common Sense Revolution, and it is very consistent with my own commitments as a candidate in the riding of Nepean.
Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr Speaker, on your election. As any parliamentarian knows, your leadership, discipline and good humour are all equally important to the sound workings of this Legislature, and we're very honoured to have you as our Speaker.
I also want to pay tribute to some of my predecessors as the member for Nepean: Hans Daigeler, Bob Mitchell, Sid Handleman and Eskine Johnson. Their commitment to their community and hard work on the community's behalf over many, many years has been greatly appreciated by people in my community and has provided a great benchmark for me to work hard to follow. Their character has greatly influenced my own.
Having grown up in Nepean, I want to give credit to two of our former federal members. Walter Baker, who served my riding for many years, is still greatly respected some 10 years after his death. Bill Tupper served as a great mentor to me over the years. It is a great honour to follow in their footsteps and represent the people of Nepean. It is a tremendous privilege bestowed on all members of this House, I believe, and I want to thank my constituents personally for the trust and confidence that they placed in me on election day. I'll try very hard over the next five years to work hard to earn that confidence every day.
I'd like also to thank the experienced member for Carleton, who has been a great help and advice to me over the last year, and particularly thank the members for Ottawa Centre and Ottawa West, who've been very free to provide me with advice. While we disagree on many issues, we'll certainly try to work together when it can help the residents of Ottawa-Carleton. We're all working to try to make our region and our province a better place in which to live.
The late, great former Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker once advised young parliamentarians when he said: "For the first six months after you are here, you will wonder how you got here. Then, after that, you will wonder how the rest of the members got here." I'm a big student of Diefenbakerism.
In their maiden speeches some years ago, my predecessors Bob Mitchell and Sid Handleman both made passing references to the rivers, streams, hills and valleys of the riding and a newly created and vibrant city within it, the city of Nepean.
The rivers and streams are just as blue, the hills and valleys just as green, and I believe the city is just as vibrant and fresh as it was then.
The Nepean I know, have known all my life, has been quiet, clean, decent, secure and reasonably prosperous. The standard of living and opportunities we've come to expect as a community cannot be taken for granted. Wasteful spending and spiralling deficits threaten government's ability to pay for things that really matter in our community, things like education and health care and law enforcement.
Nepean residents know that education facilities are needed to ensure that young people can get a productive start in life. This is a real problem, particularly for the community of Barrhaven in my riding, and that's an issue that has my ongoing concern, as they laid out to me so clearly during the election campaign.
You can understand the concern of hardworking taxpayers when, in the past, valuable, hard-earned tax dollars were dedicated to such things as seventh-inning stretches in major league baseball games. I was at a baseball game not long ago when a guy said to me: "Why should taxpayers pay for this? Why should I work hard to pay for a seventh-inning stretch at a for-profit baseball game?" I looked at that guy and I said, "I agree."
In a speech 15 years ago, one of my predecessors, Bob Mitchell, who's been a good friend to me over the years, also referred to the microelectronics industry emerging in the Ottawa-Carleton area. In 1981 there were 80 high-tech companies stationed in the region. Today the number has grown to almost 630, employing over 34,000 people in my region.
In a very real sense, the valleys that Mr Mitchell spoke about so eloquently years ago have really become the Silicon Valley of the north, both in my constituency and in the neighbouring constituency of Carleton. Some of these companies are among the world leaders in information technologies, biosciences and aerospace. The largest of these employers, Bell-Northern Research and Northern Telecom, have one of the most up-to-date scientific research facilities and telecommunications research centres in North America in Nepean. We're very proud of that and the jobs it brings to our community.
In the past decade, my constituents have watched Ontario's transformation from the economic engine of Canada, a magnet for jobs, investment and opportunity; they've watched it slip into a mismanaged debtor, a province that's overgoverned and overregulated and overtaxed, and they want that changed. The change this government has in store for Ontario will foster a better climate for investment, quality education to improve the skills of our workforce, less government bureaucracy and red tape so that small business can compete successfully and so that we can lower taxes to create hope and opportunity.
Repealing Bill 40 and restoring balance to labour legislation I believe will encourage investment and job creation in Ontario, something so key and so important to our future as a province. These changes will create jobs in the private sector -- the private sector, which fuels our economy. These changes that will be brought in by the Harris government will remind all Ontarians that there is reward for initiative, investment and hard work in this province.
In order to further facilitate growth and opportunity in this area, our party made a very clear commitment to building Highway 416 to Ottawa-Carleton, a project that's been talked about for some 20 years. It's amazing that a region with just under a million people would not have a four-lane highway linking it, and that's been a real concern for people in my constituency: a concern about regional development, about isolation, a concern for safety. That's a top priority for our government and one that I'm pleased we rededicate ourselves to.
But to give credit where credit is due, while this project was talked about for many years, it was only when the former government, the NDP, took power that they even began construction. The part in Nepean is just about complete, and people in my constituency were very grateful for the previous government's effort in that regard. That was I guess evidenced by the 9% of the vote they got.
As I walked back to my office from the Legislature last night, I passed a mother and her sick child going into the Hospital for Sick Children, and I wondered, if we let runaway government spending get out of control and continue to be out of control, five and 10 years from now will there be any money for health care? If we let out-of-control government spending continue, what will our education and university system look like when that child wants to go to university? When we continue to spend money the way we have over the last 10 years, I wonder what kind of future will be in store for that child and others when they graduate.
The tough decisions we're taking today to ensure the provincial government's ability to pay for things that really matter, for things that are very important like police and firefighters, these cuts we're making will guarantee long-term prosperity and protect those things that are very important to us. I want to be able to look back at this woman in 10 years' time and know we made the tough decisions that protected the services that were very important for her family and for her child.
Now, the opposition would have us believe that we're making these changes simply out of a form of ideology, and I believe that's not the case whatsoever. We're sticking to a plan that we researched and planned for many years in opposition, a plan that we presented to the people of Ontario some 18 months ago. The honourable member for Beaches-Woodbine is laughing. We presented this plan 18 months ago to tell people very clearly and succinctly where we stood, because the people of Ontario wanted a clear direction and elected our government to provide that direction. That's the plan people voted for and everyone on my side of the House has rededicated themselves to it. I'm very privileged to work with a caucus that is so committed to one mission and one goal: returning Ontario to prosperity.
I believe one of the major reasons that I personally was elected was because Mike Harris, our leader at the time, had the courage of his convictions to put out a plan for job creation and economic development, had the courage to put that plan in writing early, before the election, so a group of men and women could stand for election on that basis and be clear to people on what we said we would do. I believe the endorsement we received on election day was for real change -- not tinkering, but real change.
The people of Nepean and across this province recognize that difficult decisions, sometimes tough decisions, must be made to restore hope and opportunity and employment in this province. The people of Nepean fully understand Ontario's financial situation and the threat it poses to the quality of life in this province.
Ontario is a ship that has lost its way, and we have been asked to put it back on course. There's a very popular radio talk show host in Ottawa-Carleton named Lowell Green, and he refers to the provincial government's affairs as being in a "Mayday, mayday" situation. I couldn't disagree more. We're all dedicating ourselves to getting that ship in gear. Even our critics can see that we need to balance Ontario's budget. However, they say we're moving too quickly, doing too much too soon. I want to know how long they think Ontario should sweep its greatest challenge under the carpet. If the cuts are deep, it's because they should have been made long ago.
The people of Nepean sent a clear message every day to me: Get Ontario's affairs in order to protect our standard of living, rejuvenate our economy, create jobs and secure hope and opportunity, which was once synonymous with the province of Ontario. That's our goal, our purpose and our responsibility.
The Speaker: It being past 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until next Tuesday at 1:30.
The House adjourned at 1806.