36th Parliament, 1st Session

L009 - Wed 11 Oct 1995 / Mer 11 Oct 1995











































The House met at 1331.




Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): Yesterday at 12 noon a number of residents from Parkdale and Fort York demonstrated in front of the Minister of Health's office. The purpose: to stop the opening of a new jail at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre.

Why would ordinary citizens want to sacrifice their time to demonstrate? They were promised by the Conservative candidates that a Mike Harris government will not open this jail for the criminally insane in a residential neighbourhood near 12 schools and 15 day care centres. We are reminding the new Minister of Health, the Honourable Jim Wilson, that by adding this jail he will hamper our progress towards rejuvenating our community.

The minister should know two facts: First, anyone with a mental health problem as far away as Peel is brought to the Queen Street Mental Health Centre and then as quickly as possible released on to the streets of our community. Over 70% of the patients are readmitted a few weeks later. Literally thousands of patients are walking around as though our community is a ward without walls. Second, police reports indicate that in 1994 the police were called over 300 times to find escaped patients from this centre.

Surely all of us realize that the present policy is already causing the destruction of our community. Adding a jail cannot be beneficial. I hope the minister will keep the promise and stop this insane policy.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Residents of Terrace Bay, in my riding of Lake Nipigon, continue to live in fear: fear brought on by the total lack of understanding of this government vis-à-vis safety along Highway 17.

The highway runs through the heart of this picturesque community; 70% of Terrace Bay residents live along the southeast side of Highway 17 and yet the public, separate and secondary schools are all located on the northwest side of Highway 17. Simply put, children must cross this very busy and truck-congested highway on a daily basis just to get an education.

The Ministry of Transportation promised it would address the situation once and for all by last spring, and yet to this day nothing has been done. Surely the ministry can provide solutions in this regard and help to alleviate the daily, legitimate concerns of the parents.

The ministry and the minister, and he has that power, must act now before one of us rises in this chamber and charges the minister for having blood on his hands. He has that responsibility.


Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): The citizens of this province are being ill served by the auto insurance system currently in place. Bill 164, which was introduced by the previous NDP government, is a costly, complex and unfair piece of legislation that is not working for Ontario drivers.

It is not working because premiums have risen by 20% in the past few years and will continue to increase by double digits under this present system, it is not working because auto accident victims do not have the right to sue for damages above the no-fault benefit, and it is not working because the number of fraudulent claims is increasing, jeopardizing the economic viability of many small insurance brokers. The affordability and accessibility of auto insurance for Ontario drivers is at risk if we do not reform the present system.

We must begin by repealing Bill 164 and introducing or restoring measures to ensure that the drivers of this province have access to affordable auto insurance. This should include restoring victims' right to sue for significant economic loss above the no-fault benefit, making certain that we facilitate the availability of optional excess coverage, modifying payments for rehabilitation and decreasing the administrative costs of the Ontario Insurance Commission.

It is our duty to the drivers of this province to make certain that they have a fair and affordable auto insurance system. The current system is not working. The many letters and complaints that I have received from Hamilton Mountain residents bear witness to this fact. I would like to see our government make this issue a priority during this 36th Parliament.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I would like to acknowledge the fact that today is National Students' Day. Traditionally such a day has represented the beginning of student election campaigns and a means to communicate student information and focus attention on student rights. Today it represents much more.

National Students' Day has been formalized by the Canadian Federation of Students, and by universities and colleges right across Canada. It is a symbol of student aspirations, opportunities and potential.

However, the Conservative government's post-secondary education agenda, or lack thereof, is threatening the very fabric of student life. The uncertainty surrounding funding and commitment levels by the government, tuition increases and deregulation, student loan restructuring and institutional reorganization has created a very stressful and gloomy environment for students. Students are demonstrating on campuses across Ontario today to focus attention on these critical issues.

The lack of leadership from the Minister of Education and Training, his failure to establish a cooperative approach to education planning and his blind faith in the virtues of budget slashing threaten to jeopardize the accessibility, integrity and quality of our colleges and universities.

This National Students' Day should be a time for students to celebrate the future opportunities that education will provide them, not to contemplate the very future of that system itself.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I'd like to direct my statement today to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. On the eve of the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association meeting in Hearst, I would like to take this opportunity to raise the issue of cuts to municipalities.

Yesterday, in my response to the throne speech, I mentioned briefly that in my riding of Cochrane North the town of Cochrane and the town of Hearst will receive considerably less money in this year's subsidies to maintain and construct roads in the area.

Hearst was to receive $130,000 for the design and engineering of Highway 11, the main artery in the area. Now they will only receive $65,000, a reduction of 50%. Cochrane was to receive $50,000 for road construction. Now they will only receive $6,500. Add to this the Ministry of Transportation plans to cut the use of snowplows and sanders on the highways in my area, and it will create a real problem.


Perhaps municipalities should get into creative financing, Mr Minister. Perhaps this is what the municipalities are going to have to do, with the cutbacks your government is proposing.

Many more in the north will be hurt by these actions, with a possible cut of $9.8 million on highway improvements in northern Ontario. The construction and maintenance of roads in the north is a priority. Without ongoing funds from the Ministry of Transportation for this purpose, the movement of goods and services and people in the north will be stymied.

With the federal government's reduction in transfer payments to the province and now with this government's proposed reduction of 20% in funding to municipalities, a disastrous situation will occur in the northern part of this province. Essential services to the north will be cut and people will be laid off creating even more unemployment in an already high unemployment area.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It gives me great pleasure to rise today to advise the House of a very special event to be held in my riding this weekend in Bowmanville, the festival of apples.

I am extremely pleased to invite all members of the Legislature to attend the sixth annual celebration, to be held on Saturday, October 14, from 9 am to 5 pm in Bowmanville. Fresh apples, hot apple fritters, unique crafts, quilt demonstrations and farm machinery are just some of the attractions. You will find Applefest and the community of Bowmanville a wonderful host, and I invite you to join us this weekend.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Last week the community volunteer centre serving Kingston and Frontenac county received notice that its provincial funding of nearly $18,000 will be terminated. This decision to cut funding to this and eight other volunteer centres across the province is a glaring contradiction to the message in the throne speech, which said that the government will lead, promote and encourage volunteerism in this province.

Ontario's network of volunteer centres is the primary resource for volunteerism in the province. In my riding, the volunteer centre is the keystone to the infrastructure required for supporting local volunteerism. Over 225 agencies rely on the centre, and it's supplied nearly 700 volunteers so far this year.

Volunteer centres across the province supply over 8,500 agencies and last year interviewed over 60,000 volunteers. In addition to providing volunteers, they provide management consulting on a cost-effective basis to volunteer organizations, including screening criminal record checks on potential volunteers.

Local demand for volunteers will escalate as a result of this government's cuts to social service agencies. The centres will not be able to meet this increased demand now. It makes no real common sense for a government that promotes volunteerism to at the same time cut funding from organizations that provide agencies with quality volunteers to carry out their activities. I urge the government to restore financial support to volunteer centres so that they may meet their mandate.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): A recent political cartoon had Mike Harris and caucus members dressed as Roman gladiators charging with swords swinging. The caption read "Women and Children First." That best describes the cuts now being made to counselling services at second-stage housing.

The minister responsible for women's issues said the government's only mandate is to provide core services. Surely she can't mean only the bricks and mortar of a shelter or second-stage housing. If women and children are to live independently and free of fear in the community, they need support services too.

The YWCA in Sudbury operates a shelter and second-stage housing. In 1994, 381 women and 256 kids used the shelter. Another 21 families lived in second-stage housing; 1.5 social workers provided counselling to the latter group, and one of these counsellors also helped at the shelter. The elimination of counselling services affects women and children in both facilities.

Unlike London, which the minister used in her reply, victims in Sudbury just can't go and shop around for services elsewhere. There are only two other agencies in the community which specifically help abused families.

The Sudbury Family Service agency has one full-time social worker. The CAS has one full-time worker who counsels children and coordinates services for child witnesses. Ironically, last Friday staff at CAS were told by the Ministry of Community and Social Services that this funding was not guaranteed for next year.

The government's letter to the YWCA said, "We are getting out of service areas we simply no longer can afford"; a far cry from your own blueprint for justice when you said the issue of financial costs paled in comparison to the moral demand. This government's action will only serve to send women and children right back to the violence they were trying to escape.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): It's my pleasure today to speak about a unique tourist attraction in my riding, the Bala Cranberry Festival, which occurs this coming weekend. As I speak, people in Bala are standing knee-deep in bogs carrying out a rich local tradition, the annual cranberry harvest. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the 11th annual Cranberry Festival will be held in Bala in the heart of my riding.

Bala is the home of the only two cranberry bogs in Ontario. Although the commercial cranberry harvest has been taking place in the Bala area for a little over 30 years, the market for cranberries and their related byproducts has grown dramatically. The Bala Cranberry Festival has become a major tourist attraction for central Ontario, attracting up to 25,000 visitors to Muskoka, some from as far away as the United States and Europe.

The cranberry industry and the festival provide an extraordinary boost to the local economy, and they're examples of how to make Ontario a popular year-round tourist attraction.

I would like to extend an open invitation to anyone to come to Bala this weekend to enjoy the cranberries, some friendly Muskoka hospitality and the beautiful autumn colours. In the wake of the recent Oktoberfest celebrations, why not try a fresh glass of healthy cranberry juice.



Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): This afternoon I will be introducing a bill to repeal quota-based employment legislation in Ontario. When passed into law, the bill will signal the restoration of the merit principle in our province's workplaces.

That will be good news to the workers and entrepreneurs of this province, including those who have taken the time to be with us today: Sam Singh, Judith Andrews and Sam Hundal.

We are introducing this bill because we believe legislated hiring and promotion quotas are unnecessary, unfair and ineffective.

They are unnecessary because discrimination in the workplace is already against the law in this province under the Human Rights Code.

They are unfair because they interfere with an employer's ability to hire the best qualified candidate for the job.

They are ineffective because they do not address the root causes of discrimination.

And job quotas result in significant costs, both for employers, who must comply with the legislation, and for the government, which must administer the cumbersome bureaucratic system that kind of legislation creates.

Our approach to workplace fairness is to develop a sensible, cost-effective, equal opportunity plan that will support employer and employee efforts to remove workplace barriers and share equal opportunity expertise. We are now working on the development of a plan which will promote fairness in the workplace for all Ontarians. In the longer term, we will reform the Ontario Human Rights Commission to ensure that it fulfils its mandate to help victims of discrimination more effectively and more efficiently.

When it is passed by the Legislature, the bill will be a major step towards building a province in which all Ontarians are afforded equal opportunity in employment.


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): As part of the government's commitment to repeal legislative hiring quotas, related provisions in the Education Act are included in this bill.

It is also my intention to revoke related Ministry of Education and Training policy/program memoranda 92 and 111 once the repeal bill comes into effect, as they will no longer apply.

The Ministry of Education and Training is now working on an equal opportunity plan for the education sector that will have two components. First, it will include a policy statement for school boards, colleges and universities, designed to promote equal opportunity in employment and freedom from workplace discrimination and harassment. The second part, an anti-discrimination education program, will build on policies such as those encompassed in the Common Curriculum and the harassment and discrimination policy for Ontario colleges and universities. This program will promote an educational environment that accommodates the needs of all students and reflects the life experiences and viewpoints of a diverse society.

I look forward to working with members of the education sector on these important initiatives.

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): My honourable colleague the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation has introduced a bill to repeal legislated employment quotas in Ontario.

I am pleased to announce that related sections of the Police Services Act will also be repealed as part of that bill in order that all Ontarians, including our police services, are not constrained by unfair, unnecessary and ineffective quota-based hiring and promotion practices.

Police services across this province have adopted race relations policies and put into place barrier elimination practices. Moreover, they are achieving their transition to community policing in part by reflecting the diversity of the communities they serve.

It is clear from these achievements that police services do not need the heavy hand of legislation to accomplish the goal of a barrier-free, discrimination-free policing service in Ontario.

We will ensure that police services continue, as they have so admirably done over the past few years, to operate in accordance with the Police Services Act, which stipulates that police services be sensitive to the pluralistic, multicultural and multiracial character of Ontario society and that they be representative of the communities they serve.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome a few individuals in the east gallery here for today's announcement: John Miller, the chairman of the Police Association of Ontario and a director of the Ontario Provincial Police Association; David Griffin, the administrator of the Police Association of Ontario; and Brian Adkin, the president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association. Welcome, gentlemen.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): If you used it, you'd have one more McCormack on the police force now. There are only four now.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order, the member for St Catharines.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): My colleague the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation has told the House how the government will replace legislated job quotas with a plan to promote fairness in the workplace for all Ontarians.

The Ontario public service will show leadership as an equal opportunity employer by developing and implementing a plan that will ensure that merit is the basis for hiring, promotion and other employment decisions; prevent discrimination and harassment and respond to it in a manner consistent with a zero-tolerance policy; eliminate barriers to equal opportunity; ensure that employees, including those with disabilities, get accommodation on the job, as required by the Human Rights Code; and include measures to ensure effective implementation.

As a first step, Ontario public service job ads have begun carrying the message that the Ontario public service is an equal opportunity employer.


The Speaker: The member for Oriole is out of order.

Hon David Johnson: To make sure our equal opportunity initiatives are cost-effective, we are building on the work already done on removing barriers, providing employment accommodation and preventing discrimination and harassment, and we are seeking advice within the Ontario public service to ensure our equal opportunity plan is both achievable and effective.

As the details of our plan are finalized, I look forward to communicating them to the House.


Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I am very pleased to announce that this government and my ministry, the Ministry of Health, are today reinvesting $15.5 million to significantly strengthen paramedic emergency services across Ontario. This money has been saved through administrative efficiencies, reducing waste and eliminating duplication in the health care system.

The measures I am announcing today will provide more paramedic emergency services and, we expect, will save many lives in the province.

I have approved additional paramedic training in London, Kingston and Peterborough as part of our continuing support of a major research project. This training will introduce and evaluate improved paramedic services in up to 21 communities.

Once again, Ontario has taken the lead in evidence-based research, which we expect will determine the impact of advanced paramedic services on the health care system. This project is known as the Ontario Pre-Hospital Advanced Life Support project or OPALS.

We are carefully evaluating these services to make sure they are effective in helping to save lives. Basic paramedic skills include defibrillation. Advanced skills involve such things as providing medication under medical supervision, and intubation to help people breathe easier.

There are currently 121 land paramedics with these advanced skills in Ontario. The OPALS project will increase this number by almost 400, including 24 in London, 18 in Kingston and 12 in Peterborough.

The OPALS program is already under way in Ottawa. Windsor, Sarnia, Niagara Falls and Cambridge are expected to be involved very soon, and other communities are in an earlier stage of this project.

This $15.5-million reinvestment of health care savings into paramedic emergency services is consistent with the government's stated position of supporting and preserving the delivery of front-line services in this province.

On a final note, I wish to congratulate members of the first graduating class of paramedics in Ottawa-Carleton who are involved in our major research project on paramedic services. They will be honoured during graduation ceremonies this coming Friday, and I hope that while I'm in Ottawa on Friday I'll be able to drop by and bring the congratulations of all the members of this House.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Once again on this matter of employment equity, the government has demonstrated that it is ready to stop something but that it has absolutely no constructive plans for action. It is prepared to repeal the employment equity legislation -- that's really all it has announced today -- but it's doing nothing to ensure that there is an active program to deal with what are very real barriers to truly equal opportunity in the workplace.

The government is talking about a plan, but all it is talking about today is that it is going to develop a plan. I find that a little hard to believe, because during the election campaign they seemed to have a six-point plan for employment equity in the workplace, and I wonder what's happened to the six-point plan. If this government really were prepared to go ahead with an active approach to dealing with barriers to equal opportunity in the workplace, it had a plan in place. I seriously question that employment equity is going to be a priority for this government at all, at any point in the future.

We have never supported guaranteed access to jobs, we have not believed, ever, in a quota-based approach to employment equity, but I do not believe that you have to repeal this legislation in order to ensure that it is not a quota-based approach to implementation. You can amend the legislation to ensure that the merit principle is still regarded.

The government has said today, shockingly, that employment equity legislation is not needed because, after all, discrimination is against the law. It is not enough to ensure that there is no discrimination in the workplace; that of course is basic to equality. It is surprising that the government will address the problems of the Human Rights Commission only in the longer term, as they say today, because surely discrimination at least must be dealt with actively now.

I call on this government to act now, to strengthen the Human Rights Commission so the commission can ensure that we have discrimination-free workplaces. More than that, I call on them to present a clear plan to address real barriers to equal opportunity. Without this plan, there is nothing. There is no plan, there is no legislation, there is no commitment. There are only empty words.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I was totally shocked to learn that Minister Snobelen's statement would not include his response to the Ontario College of Teachers' report that was issued this morning. Instead, he has agreed to be a cheerleader to another minister's statement.

I had the opportunity this morning to meet with Margaret Wilson and Frank Clifford regarding this report. Here it is, and every member will receive a copy some time today. It's a very good report; it's an excellent piece of work. The creation of a college of teachers and the changing of teaching into a self-regulating profession affects over 170,000 teachers across the province. I would like to know from the minister when he proposes to bring in legislation on this particular matter.

Our Liberal caucus agrees with the Royal Commission on Learning and its recommendations regarding the creation of a college of teachers. I feel we should focus on the quality of learning, and the best way we can ensure that students are receiving the highest standard of education is to prepare our teachers as well as possible and provide them with significant in-service training throughout their careers. That, to my mind, is the raison d'être of the college, and I think it's a good one.

I will anxiously await any response from this government, and so will 170,000 teachers, I'm sure.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): The minister of Management Board today wants us to consider him an equal opportunity employer. I think what he really is is an equal opportunity unemployer, because as he's handing out the pink slips all over the place, he is at the same time saying, "I'm going to bring forward job ads that tell the public and tell thousands of people who are unemployed out there in the province of Ontario that the government is hiring once again."

Is that what the minister is saying today, that he's going to go out and actively hire new people for the civil service? Or what is it he's saying today? This is nothing but puffery, Mr Minister.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): The minister's statement today on emergency services, while it may be welcomed by the up to 21 communities that will benefit from paramedic services, certainly is inadequate to all those communities that have been expecting a response to the Graham report on emergency services across this province. Mr Speaker, $15.5 million is a very small amount compared to the $132 million that this government has cut, primarily from community services across the province.

Emergency services are important, Minister. We're expecting a response that will deal with the emergency needs of communities large and small across the province. While we all acknowledge that OPALS, the Ontario Pre-Hospital Advanced Life Support project, has been very effective in saving lives, there are more communities that would like to see this project in their community and other communities that want their emergency services intact and available to them.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): The statement made today by the various ministers is no less repugnant today than it was then, in statements they made during the election.

The Conservative government, during the election, made it appear that the reason some people were not employed was because some person with a disability was taking it away from them, some aboriginal person was taking it away, some woman or some other visible minority. That's the impression they left with the public.

It's unemployment that causes these problems in society, but they turned that all around and got the worst of people in terms of responding to what they now call the quota system. They know there is no quota system; they know that. I think it's parliamentary enough to say that they are not telling the truth on this matter.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Dufferin-Peel is out of order.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): That should be out of order, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West is out of order.

Mr Marchese: What did our bill do? Our bill analysed the workforce, addressed barriers, and said that the workforce should reflect the makeup of the community. That's what it did. It tried to bring some equality in the workplace which we did not have. They talk about merit. If merit were applied, generally speaking, in any workforce --

Mr Stockwell: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think he said that the government was not telling the truth. I know by the rules that that is truly out of order. I ask you to ask the member to withdraw.

The Speaker: Take your seat. I did not hear anything out of order. Continue.

Mr Marchese: As I say, if merit were the basis of employment, so many of those people who do not have access to those jobs would have gotten those jobs. So when they say merit should be the principle, I say to them that if merit were applied consistently in the past and now, those people we designated would be getting the jobs. That's what merit is all about. It means that these people will now not have the equality of opportunity they would have had before.

On the issue of guaranteed access, as the Liberal leader said, Bill 79 did not guarantee access; it did not do that either. They're both playing with this issue. It guaranteed the possibility for people to get a job.

Mr Stockwell: The NDP government was lying.

The Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West is out of order.

Mr Marchese: And on the issue of human rights, are they saying they're going to give more money --

Mr Stockwell: They were lying.

The Speaker: Order. I will not warn the member for Etobicoke West once more. Continue.

Mr Marchese: He needs to be a minister, to keep him quiet. Make him a minister.

On the issue of human rights, are they saying they're going to give them more resources, more money, to make it fairer? What are they saying? I was chairing the committee on justice for quite a long time. They were in that committee and I heard them speak a lot about this issue. Are they saying that to make it fairer they're going to give more resources and money? That's about all they're going to do. Are they saying they shall redress systemic barriers in the workplace? They're not saying that. How are they going to bring equality to the workplace? This statement is repugnant today, as it was in the past.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Mr Speaker, I appreciate the fact that you've allowed the member for Etobicoke West to stay and hear my comments.

I want to respond to the statement made by the Minister of Health, who has, after taking in excess of $130 million out of the health care system, put about $15.5 million back into the system.

I understand that the Minister of Health is under enormous pressure, enormous pressure, because when he took the position he was told that his ministry would have no cuts, that the envelope was sealed. So of course he felt very secure when he took the position, feeling that he could be the hero in the Tory cabinet.

As it has turned out since then, however, events haven't quite unfolded that way. Not only has he taken well over $100 million out of the health care system; he's got a lot more to take out of the health care system. The Minister of Health knows very well that his government cannot deliver the tax cut to middle- and upper-income people without taking a lot of money out of the health care system.

I do not believe for one minute that the electorate in this province, when they listened to the siren song of a tax cut, believed that tax cut would come out of health care services to people all across the province, because that is where it's going to have to come from. You cannot deliver the tax cut you promised to your friends unless you take money out of the one third of the budget represented by the health care budget. It simply cannot be done, and we'll wait to see the minister squirming in the days and months to come.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Minister of Health. On Friday, the government released the details of how it planned to break its promise not to cut health care. Since the summer, when the cuts were first announced, this Minister of Health has been telling us not to worry, that they weren't really cutting health care, they were simply making administrative cuts. Now we see clearly that it is indeed health care services, for people who need the services, that are being cut: home oxygen programs, community health centres, long-term care, birthing centres and of course hospitals.

The minister has tried to camouflage the cuts, and certainly to camouflage the cuts to hospitals is something he calls cash management. What he is really doing is offloading about $20 million in costs to the hospitals themselves, yet this minister wants everyone to believe this is somehow not going to affect hospital services.

Yesterday in this House the minister said that none of the cuts will affect front-line services. I ask this minister today, how can you guarantee that? How can you guarantee that more people will not have to wait for the health care services they need because of your cuts?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I certainly answered this question in full yesterday when the member for York South asked the question. I don't know which one of the administrative savings you want me to explain, but they're all quite explainable.


For example, the home oxygen administrative savings: I don't understand the motive or where the Liberal Party comes from on this. I can certainly understand, with the bookkeeping the NDP did in the past, how they misunderstand this.

You didn't spend $8 million in that program last year that was projected to be spent, so it is pure savings. I don't intend to spend it this year, so it is clearly an administrative saving based on the criteria the previous government brought in. I don't know how you explain that.

In spite of all the best efforts of the bureaucrats to spend the $8 million, they couldn't. So it shows up in the books as an overpayment, as an item that you couldn't possibly spend if you tried, and we're taking that and reinvesting it in other priority areas within the Ministry of Health, one of which I just announced in this House.

Mrs McLeod: I simply can't consider it an administrative cut when reducing the funding for the home oxygen program means that people will be discouraged from using liquid oxygen, which basically means that their mobility will be reduced and their illness will become more crippling than it already is.

I can't accept that it's an administrative cut only that this government makes when they simply wash their hands of cuts to hospitals and assume the hospitals will find a way of guaranteeing that front-line services will be protected. This minister's taking no responsibility for that at all.

Besides that, the Common Sense Revolution never said, "There'll be no cuts to health care funding by a Harris government except for those cuts we cleverly refer to as administrative cuts." It says, "No cuts to health care." Now you're saying that you're not really cutting because you're going to reallocate the money, and again the minister has just said that in his response.

We've seen the cuts, we've seen the details of them and now we think we should see the details of the reallocation that this minister keeps saying he's going to make. If you can detail the cuts, you should be able to detail where you're going to reinvest the dollars. I challenge you today to provide all the details of your reallocation plan. Will you give us a detailed listing of where you are going to reinvest the dollars you are cutting from health care?

Hon Mr Wilson: I appreciate the question from the Leader of the Opposition. Unlike previous governments, we think it makes good sense, and in fact common sense, to identify those savings first, to make sure you have them in hand, before you go out making reinvestment announcements.

We have to date made two reinvestment announcements in this Legislature: One was $25 million of administrative savings reinvested into dialysis services in this province; today I announced $15.5 million to expand level 2 paramedic services in up to 21 communities across this province.

The throne speech talked about cancer care investments that we will have to make; we've talked about a vaccination or immunization program that we're currently developing for school-age children across this province which will be a major public health initiative in this province; and the throne speech outlined other initiatives that we are currently planning.

We are methodically going through all of the programs we deliver in the ministry, trying to prioritize. The previous government left us some very serious gaps in services. We're all aware of the waiting lists for cardiac services in this province, and that's another area that the throne speech said we will be reinvesting. So in the fullness of time all members will be aware of how and where we're reinvesting our health care dollars.

Mrs McLeod: The minister says very smoothly that they think it makes sense to find the savings first. That means one thing and one thing only, and that is cuts now from a government that said there would be no cuts to health care. Until this minister actually shows us where these dollars are going to be reinvested, where the services are that are going to benefit people, all we have is empty words and we have cuts, because we see the cuts right now; we see the services being cut right now.

I suggest that it is just not good enough to tell people that we are going to make the cuts now and replace the dollars some time maybe four years down the road, because people need the health care now. They cannot wait for that care till some time four years from now.

Minister, I'll ask you again quite simply: Will you guarantee that the budget for health care spending will stand at last year's level of $17.8 billion when your government presents its first budget, and will it stand at $17.8 billion in the next budget and the next budget thereafter?

Hon Mr Wilson: I've been around this track before with the honourable member and made it clear that the Common Sense Revolution, the commitment to the people of Ontario, was a $17.4-billion health care budget to be sealed over the term of the government's time in office. That's the commitment we are living up to. We will be finding duplication, we will be finding waste and fraud and efficiencies within that envelope and reinvesting within that envelope, as I've described.

That's the commitment we made to the people of Ontario, that's the measure by which they will look to us prior to the next election and we are fully meeting that commitment. Anything that you've seen in the media in the last few days -- I can assure the member that there are no cuts to front-line health services in this province. In fact, what we've seen is administrative savings directed to some very, very positive and helpful programs, and I don't know how you could possibly complain about the approach we're taking.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Is the minister of social services aware that two weeks ago the chairperson of the Social Assistance Review Board, a certain Maureen Adams, wrote to members of the Social Assistance Review Board saying, on that day, September 25, 1995, that there would be significant reductions to the budget and the membership of the Social Assistance Review Board because of the fiscal situation in which the province of Ontario now finds itself?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): With respect to the honourable member's question, I'm not accountable for what the chair of the Social Assistance Review Board says or does not say without any type of authority from the ministry.

Mr Conway: In Ms Adams's letter of September 25, 1995, 16 days ago, she writes in part: "As you know, as part of the overall downsizing of government, the minister advised this board that our budget would be significantly reduced. As a result, there will be reductions in staff and board member positions."

Given that clear advice and direction from Ms Adams, the chairperson of the Ontario Social Assistance Review Board, on September 25, 1995, how, Minister, is it possible that scarcely 10 days later, four new vice-chairs were appointed to that selfsame board, bringing the board complement above its normal level?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: First of all, I must add that these were vacancies which were there to be filled. They are not above any complement.

I will say this, though: Our ministry, as well as all other members of this government, have put the challenge to our ministries to find efficiencies in the ministries, more efficient ways, and to be more innovative in the way we do things. Certainly it is not out of order for us to look for all our agencies to try to be more efficient, to do more with less.

Mr Conway: For the next number of weeks, your Social Assistance Review Board will be above complement. Now, given what we all know to be the case facing the government, and given your stated aims as expressed in the chairperson's letter about downsizing, how is it possible that on this day when we celebrate, according to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, the merit principle, you've not only appointed a twice-defeated provincial Tory candidate, the famous and flamboyant and often extreme Evelyn Dodds, to this position, but you have also appointed a certain Dan MacDonald, a well-known Mulroney organizer, to the same board?

Minister, are you and your friend Mike Harris telling Ontario that we now have a two-tiered welfare program: a pared-down offering to the poor and the needy, and a deluxe program to the friends of Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I'm sure that the --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member for Hamilton East is continuously out of order. I will not warn him again.


Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Mr Speaker, I'm sure I wouldn't be surprised that we haven't got much support from the member for what we're trying to do to try to make things more efficient.

But I must say this: If we look at the prior government, what had happened during that time, surely the members of the third party know this -- because the SARB was operating under their auspices at the time -- the Social Assistance Review Board was only sitting two days a week. That's an excellent question, because this is how the prior government was operating things; people were working two days a week. Now, to me, that's not efficient, and what we're trying to do right now is make sure that people do things more efficiently. Two days a week is not efficient.

Secondly, I have to tell you this: There were vacancies on the board. These vacancies were filled at the prerogative of the Premier, on my advice, and I'm pleased to inform you that these vacancies were filled by four very competent people. These appointments were done on the basis of principles, not politics. We wanted individuals who would take a tough stand on welfare and welfare fraud.


The Speaker: Order. New question, the member for Windsor-Riverside.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I have a question to the Minister of Community and Social Services. The minister has just said that there were four vacancies and those vacancies had to be filled. Can the minister tell the House, if that's the case, why is it that the four people were let go on September 25, because as the chair of the Social Assistance Review Board says in the memo, their appointments were not being renewed because of budget cuts? Why were those four people let go? What was wrong with these four people? They had served on the Social Assistance Review Board and they were let go simply because the minister told the Chair that the budget was being cut. What changed between September 25 and the day that you decided to appoint Tory hacks to the Social Assistance Review Board?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I'm afraid that the message isn't getting across here. The message that we have is: The challenge in government right now is to do things more efficiently, to do more for less.

I'm sorry, it doesn't take much courage for someone to sign a blank cheque all the time. It takes courage to try to correct the system.

I'll tell you something: We need individuals on the Social Assistance Review Board who will take tough stands on welfare fraud. It's difficult for me to understand how anyone could possibly say that any fraud is good fraud. Any incidence of fraud takes money away from people who truly need it.

Mr Cooke: I think now we've got to the heart of what the government has done, when the minister uses language like "courage...to correct the system," or "tough" decisions. I'm glad the minister said in answer to the question from the Liberal Party that he takes responsibility for this appointment.

I'd like to ask the minister if, in making the recommendation to cabinet, he looked into some of the positions that Evelyn Dodds has taken.

Let me just read a couple of quotes from the Thunder Bay paper, October 27, 1993: "The plain fact is, some of us don't want to pay $2,500 for a social service funeral," or -- this one was referred to -- "The right of the public to protect its money must outweigh the right of individual privacy," or "Single mothers living in subsidized housing who allow their boyfriends or ex-husbands to move in -- this is tantamount to a subsidized bordello."

I'd like to ask the minister: As Minister of Community and Social Services, did he approve this appointment? Did he review the positions that this person takes and has taken in the past, and how could he appoint somebody like this to the Social Assistance Review Board? You should be ashamed.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I did say before, these appointments were made with the prerogative of the Premier on my advice, so clearly I was involved in the decision-making. There's no question about that.


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: The individual at hand will have to answer to any alleged statements that have or have not been made. But I must say that, of the four individuals who were appointed, the one whom the honourable member was speaking about has a track record of leading efforts to crack down on welfare fraud. Two individuals have experience on the immigrant refugee board and the other person is a lecturer and has experience with human resources. These people were appointed for their abilities and their professional abilities.

Mr Cooke: The minister may not be aware of the fact that in 1985 there was a total reform of appointments to the Social Assistance Review Board. In fact, under the previous Tory government it was known basically as the senate for defeated MPPs and defeated candidates.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): We're obviously returning to that.

Mr Cooke: Now we're going back to that; that's very clear. I'd like to ask the minister a very simple question. The chair today is quoted in the Toronto Star as saying that the first she heard about these appointments was when the press release was put out. Could the minister spell out for the members of the assembly and for the public, what is the process to be appointed to the Social Assistance Review Board?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: The merit to be appointed to any board in this government is to be competent and have professional qualifications.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of -- I almost said "Consumer and Commercial Relations," but I mean Community and Social Services. Minister, you have consistently stated that people on social assistance whose benefits have been cut will be able to earn back the difference.

I'd like to know today what he has to say to the about 100,000 people who are already working under STEP and are receiving benefits. Their incomes, as he well knows, have been substantially cut. Even though they are doing everything the minister says they should do to help themselves get off the system, everything that's stated in this document, the Common Sense Revolution, on page 9, what is the minister saying today to those people?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): Clearly, whenever I've referred to the earn-back provision, I've always referred to being able to earn back the difference between the old rate and the new rate -- old basic rate, new basic rate. That's what we've been talking about.

This is a program which encourages people to break that cycle of dependency. That's what's important about the earn-back provision. That's why we have it in place.

Ms Churley: I don't think the minister himself understands exactly what he is doing over there. That is not the way it's working.

I have another question for the minister: Let me give you a very concrete example of the kind of ludicrous and ridiculous situation your welfare cuts have created. Margaret, who is a real person, is a participant in a six-month training program for single mothers receiving assistance. She gets a training allowance; she also gets child support. Before the cuts, she was getting a general welfare top-up of $177 a month. But with the cut, she is no longer eligible for general welfare because her other income is too great and therefore she is no longer eligible to be in the training program. So, Minister, with one month left for her in the training program, she will probably have to leave, which means she no longer gets a training allowance and she will have to reapply for welfare.

Minister, what do you have to say to Margaret today about the situation you have put her in?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: First of all, I find it difficult to understand how the honourable member can take exception to a program that will encourage initiative and create opportunities and get people to break the cycle of dependency. Certainly we have to take a fresh approach to this.

Once again, it's very easy, and it has been easy for the last 10 years, to write blank cheques. Unfortunately, one day these cheques are going to amount to something and you're going to have to pay for them, and that day has come. This government at least has the courage right now to try to fix the system.


Ms Churley: I truly don't believe I just heard what the minister said. He is forcing this woman back on to welfare. Don't you understand? This is the very thing that you said in your Common Sense Revolution, you all said over there, that you wanted to give people a hand up and help them get off the system.

This woman -- and may I add there are others: Kathy lost more than $300 a month; Yvonne lost $200; Jane lost almost $400; Becky and her husband who work full-time at minimum wage can barely pay their rent and feed their children. These people are doing what you asked them to do: get off the system with our help. That's what you said you would do.

I advise the minister to have a look at the STEP program and see how it works. What is he going to tell these people about their future? They have no future if he doesn't right away get together with his officials. He simply must look into this situation and help those people like Margaret who are being forced back into the welfare system against their wishes.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I would invite the honourable member to try to broaden her perspective in this matter. It's important for us to keep in mind the working poor of this province who receive no help from the government as they go about their lives. Unless we correct this system, there will be no help for anybody. The working poor in this province deserve our support as well.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Attorney General. He may recall, as you may, Mr Speaker, that Richard Brennan, the president of the press gallery, and Jim Coyle of the press gallery were investigated by the police, supposedly at the behest of a previous government, and that has still not been settled, whether they've been cleared or not.

But it brought to mind a matter which is troubling to me and may be troubling to the Attorney General, and that was a report which indicated the following:

"Metro police will no longer issue media passes giving reporters access to accident and crime scenes unless the force is authorized to do formal criminal checks.... Since September 29, Metro police have required any media member asking for a pass to fill out a form that includes a waiver allowing the police to check on whether the reporter has a criminal record," and further, "Media members must also give police their home address...home phone number and driver's licence number."

Is the minister concerned that this requirement is perhaps an invasion of privacy -- and I know he has great concerns in this area, the minister does -- and possibly an attempt to control what the media prints about stories?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I have not spoken to the police about this. Of course it's an issue that we all can be concerned about in this place, where we value the issue of freedom of speech and freedom of expression as we do. It is not a matter that has been brought to my attention, nor is it a matter that is necessarily within my purview, and the member for St Catharines understands that. Certainly it's a matter that I appreciate his bringing to my attention. I did read the media account of it, and it's something that I will inquire into.

Mr Bradley: I believe that the individuals in the news media who cover the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of the province of Ontario do not have to go through such a check, and many of them are concerned about the ramifications of this policy. Some believe that the police could use the personal information against reporters who file stories unflattering to the force, others believe that it smacks of an attempt to control media coverage, and yet others say they cannot understand why the police need such personal information if the passes do not cover any special rights or privileges. Some have said that it strikes them as an attempt to get information that they could use for reasons other than to grant access to crime scenes.

As a person who is very concerned about privacy, freedom of the press, concerned about the judicial system as a whole -- and I recognize it's more in the purview of the Solicitor General -- would you undertake today to consult with the Solicitor General and with the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force to have them review this policy with a view to eliminating some of the personal information which is required before someone can cover a story?

Hon Mr Harnick: I will make those inquiries that the member requests. The other thing that I'd point out -- and the member is very fair when he asks the question. He says that someone covering the events that the Premier or the Prime Minister would be at doesn't have to go through that check. But the other side of the coin is that there are people investigating criminal issues, criminal matters, and it's a very different kind of reporting, I suppose. It's a very different atmosphere and a very different subject matter than when you're covering a story based on a speech that a Premier or Prime Minister makes. But I will undertake to make that inquiry, and I will get back to the member.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I'd like to go back to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I'd like to ask the minister again specifically what the process is for appointments to the Social Assistance Review Board. The minister will know that in 1985 a new process was adopted whereby the chair of the Social Assistance Review Board and others were involved in the process and that the appointments were non-partisan appointments based on the needs of the Social Assistance Review Board and the capability to sit on that board. In this particular case it is very clear that the chair was not involved at all. In fact the only way that she found out was when you put out a press release announcing the appointments. My question is very simple: What is the process for appointments to the Social Assistance Review Board?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): It's very interesting, and I guess very ironic, to hear the honourable member speaking about non-partisan appointments to the Social Assistance Review Board. Very clearly, and once again, the process and the qualifications for people: We pick the best people available who apply. We pick them on the basis of their knowledge of the issues and their professionalism.

Mr Cooke: If those are the criteria, I'd like to know how Evelyn Dodds fits into those criteria other than the fact that she is absolutely determined, as this government is, to dump on the poor of this province. That is absolutely the agenda of this government and why Evelyn Dodds has been appointed to the Social Assistance Review Board. Why don't you be up front and tell people?

I'd like to ask the minister for an absolute commitment that the appointment of Evelyn Dodds --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): A Tory.

Mr Cooke: -- a Tory; the appointment of Pauline Browes, a former MP from 1984 to 1993, now vice-chair of the Environmental Assessment Board; David Nash, who's the Tory hack from London who's been put on the Ontario Casino Corp, that all of the appointments that have been made by your government since June 8 will be referred to the ABCs committee for review, even before the committee has been set up.


Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Oh, tell him to get a grip.

Mr Cooke: Will you make that commitment to the Legislature today?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Clearly the honourable member is asking about appointments --

Mr Stockwell: Oh, tell him to get a grip and take Agnew and Reville and all you guys with him.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The minister take his seat, please.

I would ask the member for Etobicoke West to leave the chamber.

Mr Stockwell left the chamber.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Clearly I can't comment on any appointee other than someone who has been appointed under the auspices of our ministry. I will say a word or two about the individual in question, because her qualifications somehow are being questioned. This particular candidate for the position had been a councillor in Thunder Bay. Many councillors and many people in municipal government have experience in dealing with welfare and welfare issues.

Clearly, once again, the difficulty we've had now is that the welfare rolls have swollen about 300% over the last 10 years. Clearly there's a need for us to crack down on fraud. I can't believe that somehow the principle of cracking down on fraud is considered by some as being bad.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): This is not a judicial body any more.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Crackdown on kids.

The Speaker: Order. The member for Lake Nipigon and the member for Algoma, I will not warn you once more.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): Mr Speaker, I would like to, as many members have already done, congratulate you on your election as Speaker. I wish you well as you use great wisdom, understanding and fairness in this House.

My question is directed to my colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Last week the Minister of Labour introduced Bill 7, which repeals the NDP government's Bill 91, the Agricultural Labour Relations Act.

As the minister knows, my riding involves the south section of St Catharines and all of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara-on-the-Lake consists of some of the most prestigious farms in the province, and indeed in all of Canada. As we all know, the horticulture and agriculture sections are extremely sensitive to time and climate conditions as they directly affect production. My question to the minister is, what impact will the repeal of Bill 91 have on the Niagara agricultural industry?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I want to thank the honourable member for St Catharines-Brock for his question, reflecting many of the statements that were made during our table talks several weeks ago. What will occur with the repeal of the labour law, Bill 40, and its companion, the Agricultural Labour Relations Act, Bill 91?

It will bring harmony back to rural Ontario. It will guarantee that when the tender fruit crops are ready for harvest, they will be harvested. It will guarantee that there is communication between the employer and the employee, as opposed to having a private body come in and dictate to both of them. It will bring harmony back into the agricultural relations and all of those very important things to very, very sensitive crops which must be harvested when they are ready.

Mr Froese: I would ask the minister, does he think it will be a net benefit to the family farm in the Niagara region?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Quite obviously, it will be a positive not only to farms in the Niagara area but to farms across the province of Ontario. That's what the agricultural community wants, and we are providing what they need and want.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. The city of Toronto has one of the worst air quality problems in Canada, and the people of Toronto want to clean up their air by passing a bylaw controlling the idling of vehicles in their city. Madam Minister, your colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs has now told the people of Toronto that he will not permit them to pass their clean air bylaw. What I want to know is, as our province's advocate for environmental concerns in cabinet, our chief advocate for clean air, how could you have possibly agreed to this?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I'd like to thank the member opposite for the question. That particular issue was in fact a municipal request for a bylaw change and was most appropriately directed, and certainly the Minister of Municipal Affairs spoke to it at the time. There are a number of initiatives that the Ministry of Environment and Energy is undertaking and work ongoing to deal with better air quality for Ontario.

Mr McGuinty: That answer confirms the deepest and darkest suspicions we have over here. We have a Minister of Environment and Energy but in name only. She has the trappings of the ministry. She has the car. She's got the parliamentary assistant. She's got the offices. But it's quite apparent that at the cabinet table there is nobody there fighting for environmental concerns, there's nobody there fighting for clean water and there's nobody there fighting for clean air. My question is quite simply: If the Minister of Environment and Energy is not sitting at the cabinet table fighting for environmental concerns, who is?

Hon Mrs Elliott: I would like to take this opportunity to assure the member and all members of this House that the Minister of Environment and Energy is very much committed to the environmental protection of this province, be it land, air or water.

This ministry is working on a number of initiatives, not only this ministry alone but in coordination with the Ministry of Transportation and with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. We are regulating emissions from gasoline fumes, working with the dry cleaners of this province in the safe handling of dry cleaning fluids, and we are presently involved in a joint project such as vehicle emissions for the province of Ontario towards the betterment of air emissions in this province.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member for Algoma.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I might be tempted to go to that minister and ask her what she has done since the change of government, since all of the ones she mentioned were previous government initiatives.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Instead I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. I've searched through this document and also through the document that had the picture of your colleague from London on the front of it and I haven't been able to see any reference to collective bargaining reform. So perhaps the minister could clarify for the House: Do you intend to bring in legislation or regulatory change that would require teachers in this province to bargain collectively on a province-wide basis?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): In answer to the honourable member's question, I have no intention of bringing that legislation forward -- today.

Mr Wildman: I'm sure all of us in this House find that very reassuring. Could the minister expand a little and explain if he intends to bring it in some time in the future?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Mr Speaker, it just occurred to me that I've been somewhat negligent in the past and haven't yet congratulated you for being elected as Speaker. I'd like to take this opportunity to do so.

In answer to the honourable member's question, it's my intention and the intention of this government to make sure that we have relationships with the bargaining units in the teachers' federations across this province that'll make sure that our children in this province get the proper quality of education that they need and deserve, and we undertake to take every action towards that ultimate goal.



Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): Mr Speaker, I stand before you to stand behind you and congratulate you.

My question is to the Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet. Recently, there have been suggestions that the $772 million in expenditure reductions that you announced last Friday spells the end of the courthouse program. Brampton's courthouse budget is losing $1.5 million in 1995-96. Can the minister please clarify the status of the courthouse program for the House today?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I would like to clarify that the reductions -- the capital reductions, the operating reductions -- of $772 million have not impacted, have not affected, the five courthouses that are under review at the present time in the province of Ontario, and the planning is carrying on as normal in all five. I can say that the five involved include Brampton, Hamilton, Windsor, Durham and Cornwall.

I can understand the member for Brampton North expressing this in the nature of a question, because there has been some concern from those communities, not only because of the reductions but because in many cases these courthouses have been in the planning stage or in the construction stage for many, many years. Many people are expressing concern that the previous government in particular was dragging its heels and people could not get an answer with regard to the progress of the courthouses.

Mr Spina: Can the minister please assure the House, then, that the government is studying all the options with regard to the courthouse programs and we're not singling out any community in the province?

Hon David Johnson: The member for Brampton North has spoken today and in the past most firmly on behalf of his constituency and the courthouse in Brampton. All five courthouses are being reviewed at present by the Attorney General. The Attorney General is looking fairly at the five courthouses.

The member will realize that because this government, when it took office, was left with a forecasted deficit of $10.6 billion, all options had to be looked at in terms of reducing expenditures in the province of Ontario. That sort of deficit is not sustainable, and that's the source of many of the problems that are being debated here today.

The courthouses are being looked at. All expenditures of the province of Ontario are being looked at. I expect that review to be complete within about a month. I expect Management Board to be looking at all options with regard to the courthouses, and I hope we'll be able to satisfy the people of Brampton North and the other people of the province of Ontario.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): My question was for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board. I see he's not here, even though it was indicated he'd be here. I'll direct it to the Minister of Labour, who's going to make all the real answers anyway.

Earlier this month, your government announced that WCB assessments would be frozen. In the Common Sense Revolution, on page 15, you stated quite unequivocally that those premiums would be cut by 5%. Is it still your government's intention to cut those assessments by 5%? If so, when will that be implemented and how will it be implemented?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): Certainly it is our intention to reduce the assessment rates, as we indicated in the Common Sense Revolution. That will be part of the medium-term reform plan that is being undertaken by the honourable member responsible for workers' compensation reform.

Mr Duncan: Short term, medium term? Let's take, for example, hospitals, rate group 853. They were expecting a 5% decrease already and had adjusted their budgets to accommodate for that. I spoke to officials today from the Ontario Hospital Association and they indicated to me that your decision to freeze assessments is going to cost them millions of dollars in the short term, irrespective of the medium term.

Does neither one of the ministers realize that your actions to date are not only not helping employers but are penalizing employers? They're penalizing good employers at the expense of bad employers who haven't addressed serious problems with health and safety.

Will you give us your assurance today that those employers who have made a consistent and honest effort at reducing workplace health and safety incidents will in fact be the largest beneficiaries of cuts in assessment rates and not simply pay the price for those employers who haven't?

Hon Mrs Witmer: The member is obviously aware that we have in this province an unfunded liability of $11.4 billion. This has been of enormous concern to people throughout the province, both employers and the employees and injured workers. Obviously, the first issue we need to address is to ensure that we eliminate the unfunded liability and are able to ensure that injured workers do receive the benefits they are entitled to, so we are taking a look at the overall financial picture of the WCB. I'm sure you would agree that with that approach you would get the complete picture. Once you have the complete financial picture and you determine how you can ensure that benefits will always be available for injured workers, then you determine how you can deal with the reduction in the assessment rates, you take a look at the target rates. You do that after you have taken a look at the overall context.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): New question. The member for Cochrane South.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): That was an awful condescending answer to the question.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. On July 25, you, as the Minister of Housing -- what's left of it -- along with the Premier of this province, cancelled 385 housing projects. At the same time, you put out a press release and said 113 of those construction projects would be going ahead because of various stages of commitment. Some of them were further ahead than others. Within the 113, there were 26 for supportive housing projects.

Members of this assembly all know, but for those people watching at home, supportive housing projects are designed to support the needs of people coming out of institutions who no longer have a place there because there's been a policy for some years of depopulating those institutions. We would build these supportive housing projects and allow those people to move into them and have a place to live in our community.

My question to you is a very simple one. Are you still committed to go ahead with those 26 housing projects that were designated for the supportive housing needs of the people of Ontario?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): We've stated quite clearly that it's the intention of this government to get out of the non-profit housing business and get out of the co-op housing business. We believe we should put our support behind providing shelter allowances to people who need it and not throwing it into bricks and mortar.

I can tell you, the thing with "non-profit" is that it's the biggest misnomer I've ever heard. Nobody in the non-profit business doesn't make a profit.

Mr Bisson: What amazes me in this House is how ministers of the crown can stand up and absolutely refuse to answer questions. This period is called question period. We ask the questions; you give an answer. That's the idea.

I'm going to ask the Minister of Housing again, very specifically -- this is very clear, this is very easy -- there are 26 projects which your government said, after you axed 385 --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Willowdale is out of order.

Mr Bisson: -- would be going ahead and you would be building those projects to support the needs of the people within the disabled community. Your own press release said, if you would at least read your press releases, "Of the 26 supportive housing projects, there are 13 that did not have final commitment but were tied to the closing of institutions or dedicated to people who otherwise require long-term care within those projects."


The question is very simple: Are you going to live up to your commitment? Will these units be built? Will those people coming out of institutions have a place to live or will they be on the street?

Hon Mr Leach: I can tell you that this government intends to live up to all its commitments, every commitment it's made, far unlike the previous government, but we do strongly believe that the interest should be put where the needs are. We intend to develop a shelter allowance program that will provide subsidies to those individuals in the province of Ontario who need them, including the disabled and the elderly.

There are a number of projects going ahead that will support people who are coming out of institutions, and we intend to keep that commitment as well. Anything this government has said about non-profit housing, we intend to carry out on non-profit housing.


Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): I would like to direct my question, if I could, to the Attorney General. I'm aware that this government will be introducing legislation to amend the Substitute Decisions Act. Could the minister please inform this House of the reasons for these amendments?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I thank the member for Mississauga West for the question. The current legislation allows the government too much power for unnecessary intrusion into people's lives and financial matters. This government wants to restore privacy and protection to the individual while still allowing the transfer of powers of attorney to trusted people. We will be tightening up the legislation to ensure that an individual's choice of who will look after their affairs is guaranteed. We want to ensure that individuals decide who will look after their affairs.

Mr Sampson: Many of the constituents in Mississauga West and across Ontario have expressed concern that, under the current legislation, bureaucrats could be running their affairs. In this amendment, will the minister address this concern?

Hon Mr Harnick: We will be addressing that concern. We intend to introduce amendments to the Substitute Decisions Act which are intended to streamline procedures for appointing substitute decision-makers and reducing hurdles for family members, and -- I say this very categorically -- to make the public trustee the last resort to take over the estates and management for individuals who have powers of attorney.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a question to the Minister of Transportation. I wonder if you could help me, Minister. I'm trying to figure this out. Last week, you again threatened to take over the TTC and put it under the province's wing. You second-guessed them about the cuts they were making. You accused them of copping out because they were trying to make cuts to meet the cuts you've made. In the same breath, when you're advising the TTC on what to do and what not to do, you're saying: "Well, I don't know anything about your operation. I'm not even privy to your books." You're proclaiming your ignorance on one hand, yet you're recommending solutions for public transit in Metro. On what basis do you come up with these firm, firm ideas about public transportation when you're proclaiming your own ignorance?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): The TTC is responsible for managing its own house; however, I did ask the TTC to look at its house and see if it was in order. That was the intent of this government, to see if we could help that particular house help itself get in order.

Mr Colle: You categorically stated that they were making the wrong decisions, and you were saying that the province would now create this mega-agency to take over public transport.

I ask you again, how are you so sure that this new mega-agency which you're going to head is going to put riders back on the TTC, is going to bring back Wheel-Trans customers? How is it going to make transit better by creating a bigger agency under the provincial government? How are you so sure of this when you again say you know nothing about the TTC? You haven't even looked at their books -- which, by the way, are open to the public. You can either walk down the street to Metro Hall or up the street to Yonge Street. You can look at their books.

Hon Mr Palladini: As everyone knows, this particular government is trying to find ways we can get our transportation system integrated to a point that it will become sufficient and affordable for every Ontarian. So at this particular time I would like to tell the member that we have no immediate plans to take over the TTC.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Mr Minister, with respect, I feel that your briefing notes will refer to the 3,000 bridges over which you have jurisdictional capacity, a responsibility indeed, and 23,000 kilometres of highways in the province of Ontario. Add to it 136,000 kilometres of road and the reality that winter will soon be upon us in northwestern Ontario, our special part of Ontario, where we measure distance on a different scale.

Over the years the residents of Lake Nipigon and northwestern Ontario have become accustomed to and felt secure that winter maintenance was never in jeopardy. Will you give us the assurance that at least the very same money will be spent in northwestern Ontario for winter maintenance as was the case in previous years? Yes or no, Minister?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to assure the honourable member, my predecessor in the Ministry of Transportation, that this government is committed to maintaining the safest highways and it is a priority of this government to do exactly just that.

Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, you will allow me to thank the minister for not yet having learned to kill the clock.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order.

M. Pouliot : Monsieur le Président, est-ce qu'on peut avoir quand même un peu de sérieux ? This is a very serious question. We're talking about the necessity to go to work, the necessity to attend much-needed medical appointments. We're talking about hundreds of kilometres that have to be travelled quite often on a monthly basis, not a situation with a sophisticated public transit system -- simply put, no alternative.

You're perhaps concerned, Minister, with the conditions of the soft shoulders where you live. We are concerned with the conditions between the soft shoulders where we live, and we ask you to make the commitment now. You could be a hero by saying, "Yes, we will spend the same money."

Hon Mr Palladini: The Ministry of Transportation will continue to clear the highways as soon as possible. I want to assure the member that this ministry is also committed to doing better for less. We will monitor the road conditions and make the changes necessary when it's needed. But this government is committed to maintaining our highways at a safety regulation standard that's just as good as any other province across the country.

The Speaker: The time for oral questions has expired.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): A point of information, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: There's no point of information.




Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I have a number of petitions here that have come in the last three or four months since the House wasn't sitting. There are hundreds of names on this petition, which reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas 81% of all driving fatalities are alcohol related;

"Whereas 59% (or 18,000) of the 30,000 total convictions for drunk driving in 1992 involved repeat offenders;

"Whereas the Drinking and Driving in Ontario Statistical Yearbook released by the Ministry of Attorney General's Drinking/Driving Countermeasures Office confirmed that drunk driving is on the rise;

"Whereas drunk driving is the number one killer of young people;

"Whereas the existing measures and penalties have failed to deter chronic drunk drivers from reoffending;

"Whereas driving is a privilege, not a right, and chronic drunk drivers have failed to take their driving responsibilities seriously;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to enact Margaret Marland's private Bill 195, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act, or similar legislation prior to the recess of the Ontario Legislature on December 8, 1994."

I will sign this petition.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I have with me a petition, signed by 2,177 people from Chatham-Kent, against the mandatory requirement for individuals to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.

"Whereas we, the undersigned, support the voluntary use of bicycle helmets promoted as part of a comprehensive bicycle safety program; and

"Whereas we, the undersigned, oppose the province's plan to mandate the use of bicycle helmets as being an excessive restriction of personal rights to choose for ourselves, as guaranteed under the Constitution;

"We respectfully submit this petition for your consideration."

I have added my signature to this petition.



Ms Mushinski moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 8, An Act to repeal job quotas and to restore merit-based employment practices in Ontario / Projet de loi 8, Loi abrogeant le contingentement en matière d'emploi et rétablissant en Ontario les pratiques d'emploi fondées sur le mérite.

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


Mr Hudak moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr12, An Act respecting Canadian Niagara Power Company, Limited.

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


Mr Sampson moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr37, An Act respecting the City of Mississauga.

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

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): Mr Speaker, I believe that we have the consent of the House to defer any division, if required today on the opposition day motion by Mrs McLeod, until Monday next. It would be taken immediately after the deferred divisions on the throne speech debate.

The Speaker: Do we have the unanimous consent of the House to do that? Agreed.



Mrs McLeod moved opposition day motion number 1:

Whereas the Common Sense Revolution states that a Conservative government "will not cut health care"; and

Whereas, during the 1995 election campaign, the Conservatives clearly promised to defend the health care system by protecting ministry funding, stating in a campaign backgrounder, "there will be no cuts to health care funding by a Harris government," and calling this their first, and most important commitment; and

Whereas the Premier repeated this promise throughout the campaign; and

Whereas the public accounts for 1994-95 show the Ministry of Health budget at $17.8 billion; and

Whereas the Conservative government has said that it is committed to funding health care only to the level of $17.4 billion; and

Whereas this represents a cut to the health care budget of more than $400 million; and

Whereas the Conservative government has already cut $132 million from the budget of the Ministry of Health when, on July 21, 1995, the Finance minister announced a series of spending cuts designed to reduce the deficit; and

Whereas the Common Sense Revolution clearly states "every dollar we save by cutting overhead or by bringing in the best new management techniques and thinking will be reinvested in health care to improve services to patients"; and

Whereas the $132 million in funding has gone directly to reduce the deficit and therefore cannot be reallocated within the health care system; and

Whereas this government is considering introducing user fees to the Ontario drug benefit program; and

Whereas there have been suggestions that hospitals will face a reduction in funding from this government when it cuts its support to all transfer partners next year; and

Whereas, according to media reports on the premiers' conference in St. John's, the Premier of Ontario "wouldn't rule out user fees"; and

Whereas the Premier has stated that "a signal has gone out to the (Health) ministry that there are no sacred cows," suggesting that further cuts may be planned to health care funding; and

Whereas the recent actions taken by this government contradict election promises and have confused a concerned public still coping with the negative impact of the previous NDP government's mismanagement of the Ministry of Health; and

Whereas the NDP government was the first government in the history of the province of Ontario to reduce the budget of the Ministry of Health in real dollars; and

Whereas the NDP government inflicted chaos upon the health care system with the introduction of the social contract, which resulted in a deterioration in the quality of care provided in Ontario; and

Whereas the NDP government attempted to introduce user fees to the Ontario drug benefit program and then removed more than 230 drugs from the Ontario drug benefit program without first consulting with those affected by this change; and

Whereas the NDP government reneged on its funding promises for hospitals in the province of Ontario and reduced the budgets of provincial psychiatric hospitals; and

Whereas, faced with the detrimental effects of the NDP government's assault on the health care system and the threats being made by this Conservative government to continue the attack through cuts in funding and the introduction of user fees, the province requires real leadership for the protection of the health care system and a commitment to maintain stable funding for the Health ministry at $17.8 billion;

Therefore, this House calls on the Minister of Health to restore the $132 million that was cut on July 21, 1995, in order to maintain the promise made by this government to protect health care funding and not cut health care; to reaffirm this government's commitment to no new user fees; and to ensure that the health care budget will stand at $17.8 billion for every day of the life of this government.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Quite clearly, there were many issues of concern that we could have addressed on this first opposition day of this session of this Parliament.

There is a great deal that this new government has already done in its first four months that sets a direction for this province, a direction on social policy in particular, that none of us in our caucus wants to see and that I believe increasing numbers of people across this province are concerned about.

We have chosen to focus this opposition day on health care for a number of reasons: firstly, because the preservation of a universal quality health care system has always been a priority for Liberals, and we as Liberals will challenge any attack on the basic principles of that system; secondly, because maintaining our health care system is indeed a priority for Canadians and certainly for the people of the province of Ontario.

When people identify Canada's strengths, the fact that we have one of the finest health care systems in the world always comes to the top of the list. People value their access to a health care system that ensures high quality of care without regard to ability to pay. We compare our health care system to that of the United States, where more of the GNP, the gross national product, is actually spent on providing health care but where there is limited access to care for those who cannot pay and those who can pay can be bankrupted by illness. We say categorically, as Canadians and as Ontarians, that we do not want to follow that path.

Thirdly, we look back to an election campaign where the party that now has the responsibility for governing made clear and unequivocal promises that health care in this province would indeed be protected. We questioned, during that campaign, the ability of Mike Harris and the Conservatives to deliver on that promise. We believed then and we continue to believe that they could not deliver a 30% cut in income taxes, balance a budget with a $10-billion deficit and still protect health care. But they said they would and people in this province believed them. Now they have an obligation to the people of this province to keep their promise on this most critical and most important issue.

Did the Premier in fact not say that the promise to protect health care was his first and most important commitment? The Conservatives certainly stated, because we have it stated in writing, that they would not cut health care. They broke that promise on July 21 in their first financial statement, when the operating budget of the Ministry of Health was cut by $111 million and the capital budget was cut by $21 million.

Then on Friday, as you will know, just before Thanksgiving weekend, when the members of this Legislature were back in their constituencies, the Conservatives struck at health care again. This time they detailed where the cuts would come from: drugs for seniors, oxygen support for those with respiratory illness, long-term care, community mental health and, of course, hospitals.

I recognize that the Premier and the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance all insist that they've not really broken their promise, that they've not really cut health care, that this only looks like a cut. They actually intend at some point, perhaps just in time for the next election campaign, to put the money back that they've cut, to reinvest it, minus perhaps about $480 million which was being spent on health care last year but which the Conservatives just don't want to take into account in keeping their promise.

But the fact is that the health care dollars are being cut now and they are being cut as part of this government's deficit reduction plan. They are used to make the deficit lower. We say again, as we have said before in this Legislature, you can't have it both ways. You cannot reinvest dollars and still use them to reduce your deficit.

So when does the government actually intend to reallocate the dollars that they're cutting from health care today? Are they going to reallocate them at some promised future time, when there's going to be a surplus in their budget? And what happens, I wonder, if there never is a surplus and they still need to use those health care dollars to keep their deficit down?

The fact that we face today is that the cuts to health care are being made now. Health care is being cut now. People who need care need it now or they may need it tomorrow. They cannot wait until it is somehow politically opportune for this government to decide to reallocate its health care dollars.

I think we have seen in this Legislature that it is going to be very tempting for the government and the Minister of Health, very tempting and perhaps too easy, simply to say, "We're not really cutting health care service, we're just going to do things more efficiently, we're going to cut down waste and abuse," and they say that knowing they then have no responsibility whatsoever for what happens to people who can't get the health care they need. Someone else will just be at fault for not having used the health care dollars wisely.

It would be absolutely irresponsible for this government to reduce the dollars going into health care without knowing what the impact of the cuts will be, and yet that is exactly what is happening. How will hospitals cope with a first funding reduction of about $20 million when they have already been struggling to keep the surgical waiting lists down and emergency rooms open in the face of earlier cuts and the pressures of the social contract?

Does the finding of this $20 million through something that the Minister of Health calls cash management mean the hospitals will still have the same money they had last year or not? Clearly not, if the government's going to use $20 million to reduce its deficit. Hospitals are forced to take out short-term loans to pay their monthly bills. The dollars they have will be going to interest payments, not to health care. And I ask, is this a good use of health care dollars? This is quite simply a $20-million offloading on to the hospitals and it will come out of the hospitals' budgets for patient services.

I find it absolutely amazing that the Minister of Health can say in this Legislature that their cuts will not affect front-line services, as indeed he said yesterday, because this minister cannot guarantee, could not guarantee today when we asked him the question directly, that he can ensure that there will not be front-line services cut because this government is cutting funding.

The list of cuts goes on. The minister says, "We're not really cutting back on front-line services to those people with respiratory illnesses who need oxygen programs." He says no one is going to be taken off the home oxygen program; all he says is that they'll be discouraged from using liquid oxygen. Now, that the minister describes as being an administrative cut. I suggest it is not an administrative cut to say to people, "We're not going to fund the portable oxygen tanks, so you are going to lose your mobility and your illness is going to be even more crippling than it already is."

I wonder whether this government has really looked at what its cuts will mean to health care and to the people who need it, or is it just cutting blindly, in such a hurry to demonstrate that it's going to make the tough decisions that it doesn't particularly care whether decisions can be implemented successfully or whether they make sense even in economic terms, let alone human ones.

My intention today is not to detail all the cuts that the government has made. My intention is to call clearly a cut a cut and to demand that the Premier and the members of his government take some responsibility for what they are doing to health care in this province.

My concern too is with what's coming next. We do not know what the transfer payments to hospitals will be next year. The minister still does not deny that he's considering cuts of as much as 20%. The government cannot defend large cuts to hospitals by claiming that restructuring will protect services. The restructuring indeed will be necessary in order to use our dollars effectively, but the savings from restructuring are still a long way down the road and I would suggest to the Minister of Health that the restructuring itself that every community is trying to come to grips with cannot be effective if the basic funding for health care is insufficient to maintain essential hospital services. If the government has any intention of keeping its commitment to protect health care, it will have to start dealing with realities, not abstract notions and empty words.

If this government is serious about protecting the health care system that Canadians and Ontarians value, it will have to rule out once and for all the temptation to buffer its cuts by bringing in user fees. We thought they had ruled out user fees. It said very clearly in the Conservatives' campaign material that there would be no new user fees under a Conservative government.

But we know too that the Premier has always believed in user fees. We know that he ruled out new user fees for one reason only, and that is because he understood that any talk of new user fees would hurt his bid to be elected. Well, now he's Premier, and he's talking about user fees again. He went to St John's and he said he wouldn't rule them out, and now his government is considering introducing copayments for seniors' drugs, a new user fee by any other name.


Introducing new user fees would be another broken promise, and it would also be a step towards a two-tiered, American-style health care system. We do not want our access to health care to be determined by wealth and we do not believe in this province and in this country that people should be financially penalized for illness.

The Premier has said that there are no sacred cows as he carries out his war against the deficit. Surely the promise not to cut health care, that first and most important commitment, is as close to entering into a sacred trust with people as you can get. The promise has been broken already, and I believe the trust has been destroyed along with the promise.

The question today is, how much more will our health care system suffer and the people who need it suffer before the promise is finally honoured or, indeed, will the Conservative promise ever be honoured? I think it has become only too clear in four short months that when it comes to health care, you cannot trust the Tories.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I am glad to have the chance to lead off this debate for our caucus. I want to say at the outset that I hear some mumblings from some of our colleagues, and let me assure them that I'm only going to speak for a few minutes today.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Congratulate the new Speaker, Tony.

Mr Silipo: Seriously, I did that yesterday. I did congratulate the Speaker yesterday.

Mrs Marland: Oh, I'm sorry.

Mr Silipo: I'd be quite happy to congratulate her again and the entire presiding team.

But let me just very briefly, because there are a number of my colleagues who want to join in this debate, say that I and they, our caucus in fact, will be supporting this motion presented by the Liberal caucus. We do that because the issue that's been raised is a very significant one, a very serious one, and we do that notwithstanding some of the "whereases" that are in here which we take great exception to.

We believe that what this government is doing is hurtful to people. We've had occasion to make our points and our views known on that issue on several occasions, and no doubt we will have many more occasions on which we can do that.

But within the area of health care, which this motion today addresses, we will unfortunately be able to come back time after time and point out to this government and to the people of the province how in fact on what they claim to be one of their sacred grounds of no cuts to health care they will in fact not maintain that promise, because we've seen already from the decisions that they have made that in fact they have taken out $132 million from the health care system, claiming that it is going to be redirected.

So far we've only seen an indication of some $15.5 million finally today in an announcement from the Minister of Health of those dollars being redirected. It's clear to us that the balance of those funds is going to be used to deal with the budget and the deficit and in part to go towards funding the tax cuts that this government seems to be so intent on bringing about.

We know that there is more to come, because we know that time after time when the member for Nickel Belt, our Health critic, questioned the Minister of Health about his commitment to funding to hospitals in this province and to other health-related services in this province, we did not get a clear answer from the Minister of Health around his commitment to funding and to maintaining the level of funding. That tells us at best that there is some jeopardy, at worst that in fact there are many, many more cuts to come in the area of health. If the area of health is going to be cut, then I think it's fair to say that none of the commitments that this government has made are really worth the paper that they are written on.

I do want to say very briefly in conclusion that we know that when we were the government we had to start to look at the whole area of expenditure in the area of health care. Despite some of the "whereases" that are in this motion, I think it's only appropriate to point out that although we did bring down the overall government spending in the area of health care from what it had traditionally increased to in previous years, over the life of the government -- we were the government -- we did in fact increase spending in the area of health care from, I believe, some $15 billion in 1990-91 to $17.8 in 1995-96.

I think that's the record, and we could go on and detail many of the improvements that we made. The only one that I want to mention today in particular is the Trillium drug plan, which certainly I know in my own riding people are beginning to see as a real benefit, as something that helps people of low income and middle income be able to meet some of the high medicine costs that they have which are not otherwise covered. That is something that I hope survives the cuts that are coming from this government.

As I say, in conclusion, despite the inappropriate and I think unfortunate "whereases" that are in this motion which do not cast the right light on the kinds of actions that we took when we were the government -- and I regret that the Liberal caucus has chosen to take that approach to this motion -- we will, none the less, be supporting the motion because the essential point is calling upon this government to restore the $132 million that was cut on July 21 of this year and to maintain their promise to the level of health care funding that we've had for some time now in this province.

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): As the newly elected member from Huron county, I am pleased and proud to have the opportunity to speak to the debate today on funding for health care services in Ontario. As most of you know, this is my maiden speech, and so I'd like to spend a moment and just say that I am very pleased to be here.

The House will remember that in the Common Sense Revolution the Progressive Conservative Party promised to seal the health care spending. Premier Harris said he was going to seal that envelope in May of this year at the amount budgeted for by the previous NDP government: $17.4 billion.

But the NDP government so badly misjudged and misspent the taxpayers' money that the NDP's actual spending exceeded that budget -- and it exceeded it substantially, I might add. It exceeded that very healthy figure of $17.4 billion, spending valuable taxpayer dollars not for patient services, not for direct care, not for the needs of the rural communities of Ontario, but for ideology, for the destruction of volunteerism in this great province and for wasteful duplication.

For the past 10 years the government has thrown money at problems, duplicating services in an unplanned, uncoordinated and unsystematic display of waste and inefficiencies. Where was the strategic plan of these last two governments? What were they thinking about? The fearmongering that we're talking about today makes me wonder how we got into this financial mess in the first place.

As a parent of young children in rural Ontario, I am concerned about this blatant abuse of public funds that has resulted in the substantial debt that we have incurred. My young son, as a result of this debt, has a burden of uncontrolled spending on his shoulders that is approximately $9,000. This government is committed to not burdening our children and to relieving some of the financial burden that they have borne as a result of the previous two governments.


We, as taxpayers of Ontario, pay $8.8 billion on interest payments every year, and it is rising every year. Premier Harris and the minister, Jim Wilson, are committed to bringing this province's increasing debt under control. They are committed to enhancing the health care system by managing the system and bringing it into the 21st century. The status quo in health care is no longer acceptable. We have changing needs and we have to allow the consumer, the taxpayer, the user of health care in Ontario, to decide what health care services they want, and it's going to happen with this government.

This government vows that it will not create layers of bureaucracy. The government will promote volunteerism through a program initiated by the Premier and undertaken by Julia Munro, our member for Durham-York. Let us be clear. As a result of implementing the ill-conceived plan, Bill 173, this government is able to save money that was budgeted for by the previous government.

Approximately $33 million will be reinvested into long-term care and other health issues. The previous government took away volunteerism. The previous government took away the good things that are happening in communities such as mine. The previous government took away flexibility within the system of long-term care. The previous government took away the ability for health services to compete and thereby bring forward to every taxpayer the best service at the best possible price.

I intend to explain fully the path this government has taken in terms of the long-term-care reform, since it seems to be such a big issue, this reduction in spending that we're having in this area, to try once and for all to end the fearmongering that is going on in this House to date.

For the last two years, long-term-care costs to the taxpayer of Ontario have increased by 12%.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): People are getting older.

Mrs Johns: We cannot afford these increases without allocating funds from somewhere else. Right now, we have an aging population -- you're quite correct -- but people are coming out of hospitals sicker and quicker. We have to find a way to reallocate funds within the health care system.

In July and August of this year this government met with over 65 agencies. They represented the 1,200 agencies that give the taxpayers and the people of Ontario long-term care in our province. These agencies represented disabled seniors, disabled people, children with disabilities and seniors. It tries my patience to hear in this House the Liberals and the NDP talking about us not consulting. We spent days consulting about long-term care. We do consult. I personally chaired these discussions and heard everyone's comment on them from organizations from across the province. I listened to their concerns. They were legitimate concerns about how the system was working, what was good and bad about the system and how services should be provided within the long-term-care area.

It was stated by these groups that we consulted with that they wanted the system to be significantly flexible, to develop models that fit their unique circumstances. They talked about things like clear access points so that people know how to get services within Ontario. They talked about accessibility, of there being services in their area. We don't all live in greater Toronto. They talked about accountability, that we knew we were getting good service at a good price. There's no way to rationalize that now, to know what's happening in the system.

They talked about the consumer being involved, consumers being asked what they wanted from the system, something that hasn't been done in a long time in government. They want to decide what the core services are that we're going to have within this system. They want clients to be able to say that they like the system or they don't, that things are working well or they're not getting the services they need. These are all important things to them.

They needed an assessment stage that was common throughout the system. Right now, what we have is you go in and you're assessed. You're assessed to death, and they want these things changed. They want volunteers. They like their Meals on Wheels. They want it kept in the system. They want some information systems. They want partnership with their governments; they don't want to be told what to do. They want the government to act as a partner with them. All they want is to be able to have flexibility and to be able to tell the government the system they want that's changing with the consumers' needs.

For the most part, the people I talked to agree that we have to improve the access of the system that's in existence now. We have to have high-quality service at the best possible price. We have to cut duplication and red tape and we have to be accountable for how the money is spent. They want to be accountable for how the money is spent. We want consistent eligibility so that I can get this service in Toronto or I can get it in Huron county. My constituents deserve to have this service also and there has to be consistent and eligible funding.

These people don't want more bureaucracy. They do not, for the most part, want MSAs. They do not want the government to consult any more, they want the government to make a decision, get on with it and manage it. We have been consulting with these poor people for eight years. Two different governments -- we're the third government to consult on long-term care. Surely we can make a decision and get a system that works implemented. We will not use ideology to influence how services are provided, we're going to use common sense, and we will seek the highest possible quality at the best available price.

Another pressing issue that affects the people in my riding, the areas of rural Ontario, is the ability to provide adequate rural health care services. The previous two governments had been unable to solve these issues, that taxpayers and the residents of Huron county are geographically dispersed and they deserve to have doctors when they need them. They deserve to have emergency care when they need it. The last two governments have not done this and they have failed to address this urgent matter that affects a lot of the population. The government is dealing with these problems.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): It's all yours.

Mrs Johns: You're right. They're dealing with the problems. We have introduced Bill 50. We have brought doctors in to solve part of this problem. This was not done in the last government. We plan to practise in the underserviced areas, reinvest taxpayers' dollars where they are needed: on the front lines, not in the bureaucracy.

This government is looking at ways to keep emergency services in rural Ontario and in Huron county. We are committed to health care for everyone; not just the greater Toronto area, for rural Ontario and northern Ontario also. This government is committed to rural health care and to maintaining its integrity.

I am proud to be part of the solution to the problems facing the taxpayers of Ontario today. I am proud to be participating as a representative of the people to ensure that there will be money available for health care in the future by changing the way we do business today. We have to do business different today to ensure that health care will be here tomorrow: health care for my growing children, health care for my parents, health care for all Ontarians.

We must preserve and we will preserve health care as a result of our policies and our management of the health care system. Status quo is no longer acceptable. If we stay with status quo, mediocrity will come into the system. Mediocrity in this health care system of Ontario is not what any of us want.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Regardless of what area we speak of in northern Ontario, whether it be Sudbury or Wawa, North Bay or Timmins, Espanola or Fort Frances, Manitoulin or Thunder Bay, the same concerns manifest themselves over and over again. The people in northern Ontario are now convinced that this government will not do the corrective surgery on the crisis in health care being experienced in all areas of northern Ontario.

Northern Ontario is significantly underserviced when compared to other areas in the province. The impact of inadequate funding is evidenced by the lack of medical technology and the lack of facilities and infrastructure, as well as the lack of human resources.

Recruitment and retention of health care professionals continues to be a challenge for northern communities. The quality of patient care is at very serious risk as the direct result of the lack of health care professionals in the north. Long-term solutions are required to attract health professionals and keep them in the north. This is not happening.

Simply put, the Ministry of Health is not meeting the health care needs of the residents of northern Ontario.

The ratio of doctors to patients in southern Ontario is often three times that of the north. For example, in my home town of Sudbury we have one physician for every 582 people, while the ratio in London is one for every 317. This figure does not take into account the shortage of specialists that the north continually experiences.

I could quote from a number of studies to illustrate my point on the crisis situation with respect to northern health care, from the recently released Scott report, the Provincial Coordinating Committee on Community and Academic Health Science Centre Relations -- PCCCAR -- report, to a number of very valuable studies done in Sudbury, including Operation Equity, conducted by the regional municipality of Sudbury, and the valuable work done by the northern outreach program. But the very fact that the Ministry of Health has in its jurisdiction an underserviced area program I would think suggests that the north in fact is underserviced.

Of particular concern with respect to the delivery of health care to northern communities is the retention of physicians. Currently, a number of communities are in immediate need of not only specialists but general practitioners as well. Again, the Scott report quite clearly concluded by stating, "The Ministry of Health should be responsible for bringing the underserviced areas up to their complement of physicians."

The PCCCAR report, prepared by experts within the Ministry of Health and released in May of this year, in its executive summary claims, "Underserviced areas...suffer from ongoing recruitment and retention" problems "which compromise access to quality health care services."

This problem, and the apparent shortsighted solution, is why we're in the state we're in today. The problem requires real solutions, the problem requires real direction from this government, and we are not getting it.

None of what I have said so far is news to anyone in northern Ontario, and it certainly should not be news to the minister. What concerns me today are the recent cuts to health care announced by the current government.

The eligibility criteria for the northern health travel grant that was designed to assist those who have to travel a long distance to see a physician or specialist have been changed, thereby denying many northerners access to this valuable program. Drugs for seniors and the disabled have been cut. A vital component of the air ambulance services -- the multipatient transfer unit that primarily serves the north -- has been eliminated. The list goes on and on and on to include $132 million in cuts that this government said would not happen if elected.

I would like to quote from page 6 of A Voice for the North. This is the mini version of the Common Sense Revolution that was distributed in the north. It was a mini version because it didn't go over very well. But there was one line that even I was impressed with, at the very top, where it says, "In order to preserve and enhance health care services for the people of northern Ontario, a Mike Harris government will guarantee current levels of health care spending," and in big letters: "Not one penny will be cut."

What is clear today is that this government has an agenda that will severely impact in a negative way on the quality of health care in the north, because of the cuts that weren't going to be, because of the 13.2 trillion pennies this government has cut from health care. That's why we find ourselves in the dilemma we are in at this moment.

I will admit that I did see a glimmer of hope from the current minister when he arbitrarily exempted eight physicians from Bill 50 in an effort to attract doctors to the north. On that day the minister said, "I will use this measure when necessary to ensure the people get needed medical care." I would like to know what the minister's definition of "necessary" is. Clearly, the government's own documents claim that immediate action is still necessary to ensure that the north obtains the number of physicians it requires to meet desired standards.

This all begs a further question of the minister: What are those standards? There seems to be no clear direction from this current government with respect to the kind of standards it is committed to protecting.

In conclusion, the crisis in health care in northern Ontario is at the critical stage. There is no doubt about the diagnosis: It is serious and it needs surgery to fix it. There is no doubt about the surgery or medication necessary to cure the problem. There is, though, doubt about the chief of staff. He continues to avoid the surgery because there is some risk attached to it. While he ponders and procrastinates, the patient -- the people of northern Ontario -- continues to suffer.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I appreciate the opportunity to stand today in this House and put a few thoughts on the record with regard to the state of health care and what we, particularly on this side of the House, see as the mistake of health care that's beginning to happen across the province as this government takes hold and begins to unload its agenda on those of us who work and breathe and eat in communities and regions across the province that are so important to the overall economic and social health and wellbeing of all of us.

You're going to hear from others some very detailed figures on just exactly what this government has done already by way of health cuts to the system and what it is proposing to do, because it is becoming very clear: The pattern is being established and in fact it is breaking its promise. Money is coming out of the system, and coming out of the system in ways that are in some instances quite devious. It is being couched in language that makes it seem like it's not really a cut but a moving of money from here and putting it over there, except that we don't know where the "over there" is yet; that is still to be defined and laid out for us. Many of us on this side of the House are quite sceptical about all of that.


Certainly, as a government we are on the record as having done some very progressive and forward-thinking things in the area of health care. I guess the biggest disappointment to me, having been involved in some of that in my own community in northern Ontario, is that I see a lot of what has been built up by governments over the years, the Liberal government from 1985 to 1990 and our own government, by way of answer to the very difficult challenge of providing good health care in places like northern Ontario -- and providing health care in northern Ontario at the best of times is a challenge. Anybody who's put their mind to it or spent any time talking with people, having town hall meetings or the myriad things so many of us have done over the last few years, will tell you that in the best of times it is difficult. Given the kind of times we're in now, with the cutbacks we're beginning to see and the trend that is being set, I suspect it will be even more difficult.

However, in order to really talk about health care in an intelligent, progressive way one has to look at it in some context, and that's the context of community and how everything nowadays is interconnected: Economic health is tied to social health is tied to health in general. We all know from some of the studies that have been done, again by previous governments and the Premier's Council and our own Premier's Council, that there are some very clear determinants of health, and they're not necessarily tied to whether there's a hospital in a community or whether there's a health care clinic in a particular place or the number of doctors. Determinants of health are many.

The most obvious and most serious one, as far as I'm concerned, is the question of what poverty does re a community of people's ability, a family's ability, in fact an individual's ability, to look after themselves. Poverty has a very direct and serious impact on whether persons can stay healthy, and when they're unhealthy to get better more quickly, and once they've gotten better to actually maintain their health over a long period of time.

Certainly, as we look at this government and its record re the question of poverty and people in poverty, we know very clearly where it's coming from. The first thing they did in taking the reins of power was to grab by the scruff of the neck the weakest and the most marginalized and the poor in our province and give them a good pummelling.

I ask you, anybody out there who has any sense of intelligence about them or concern re the question of health care, does this make any sense? Does it make any sense to take money out of those people's pockets in our communities who are least able to afford it, particularly where it concerns their ability to pay for the kind of program, for example, that will keep their kids healthy, the recreational opportunities we all need out in the wilds, whether it's skiing or playing soccer or swimming? There's a certain amount of resource that's required.

This government, in cutting back on the amount of money to the very poorest among us, has caused a dilemma, a real crisis in the life of ordinary people just around paying for food, just around paying for housing and putting clothes on their kids, never mind the opportunity to go out and enjoy some recreation so they might in fact be healthier and therefore be less a burden or a cost on what we've so narrowly come to define as the health care system in our community today.

Mr Pouliot: Unless you're rich, like the Tories, you can't afford all this.

Mr Martin: Exactly, and that brings me to the next part of this equation that the member for Lake Nipigon so rightly points out, and that's the issue of control over one's decisions. If you don't have a job, if you don't have money in your pocket so decisions can be made, you get unhealthy and are not able to make good-health life decisions that will behoove your standard and opportunities and therefore leave you less a draw on the system and able to promote good, healthy lifestyles for yourself and your children.

In a world where every day we're hearing of -- just this past week 1,400 jobs disappeared from the public sector of our province. Those people will be out there in the unemployment lines, adding to the already large number of unemployed people in communities, as I've said so often before, in places like Sault Ste Marie and Manitouwadge and Hamilton. We have more people now who are not employed, and add to that the multiplier effect: One good job in the civil service puts money into the pockets of the small businessman who owns a corner store, who pumps petrol at the local gas station, all those kinds of things.

When you take that kind of economic life away from a community, you don't give to individuals the freedom they need, the power they need to have control over their lives, to make decisions about who they will be, how they will be together, what kind of house they will live in and what kind of recreational opportunities they will have for themselves.

So we see in this province things beginning to unfold by way of the general agenda of this government that will have direct impact on the health agenda that will not be good. It will not be good in the area of trying to prevent disease from happening, it will not be good in the area of trying to provide the kind of resource that's needed to keep hospitals going, to keep clinics going and all those kinds of things, and of course in the end it will not be good in terms of whether we're able to promote healthy lifestyles and do those kinds of things as a community that we were coming to expect and see as very positive contributions to the overall health of the province.

I would say this is nowhere more particular and relevant and crucial anywhere in the province than it is in northern Ontario. In northern Ontario, any of you who have been paying attention, we have a particular problem of trying to get doctors up into our area and working at that kind of thing. The answer, as we heard from the opposition in that particular sense, was one of trying to throw money at it -- "If we give the doctors more money, they'll come up" -- and we know that is not going to happen. The now Minister of Health is buying into that approach to bring doctors to the north, and if he takes a look at some of what we did as government, which, I have to say, built on some of what the Liberals did when they were in government, he might find that an answer was beginning to show its head re the question of how we provide health care to the folks who live in northern Ontario.

Certainly all of that has to be done, as I've said before, in the context of making sure that people who live in the north have good jobs and that those who can't get jobs -- because there just aren't enough jobs to go around -- have enough money in their pockets so they can afford the services they need and put their children, for example, into the opportunities that are particularly available in northern Ontario but, like any place else, cost a few extra dollars to really get involved in.

As a government, we took in the north a more holistic approach to how we might resolve the problem of health care in our region. When I look at Sault Ste Marie and the contribution that, for example, the group health centre has made over the years to answer difficulties we've faced, it's actually quite extraordinary what they've done, the chances they were willing to take, the risks they were willing to take, going out on a limb to bring professionals together in a way they've never been brought together before and to provide service in a holistic approach that I think needs to be looked at by this government.

This government, if it's going to do anything in northern Ontario, needs to build on some of what's already there, some of what we've done by the way of community health organizations: the Wawa example, the Fort Frances example that's now there. I would hope that there would be no attempt by this government to cut back on those things.

Certainly as a government we did some interesting things in the area of wrapping up a very long and arduous legislative package called the Regulated Health Professions Act, which put professionals on a level playing field so that we could use the abilities of other health professionals, as opposed to always counting on and overtaxing our doctors.

The introduction of midwifery, some of the work we've done in the area of prevention in diabetes, and certainly the internship program in Sudbury and Thunder Bay re the question of a family doctor internship program have helped out significantly.

I present those few thoughts, asking the people of this province to consider health care in the larger context. Have a look at the impact that the agenda of this new government is having in that larger context as well as what you'll hear from the rest of the members today, probably the specific cuts to health care. Recognize, as I have, that it just is not good news for anybody and that we should be doing all that we can to challenge the folks in the new government to rethink their agenda and to put people, particularly, at the centre of it.


Mrs Janet Ecker (Durham West): I'm very pleased to address the House today in support of Premier Mike Harris and Health minister Jim Wilson in this debate on the health care budget.

This government was elected to do the will of the people, to protect health care and front-line services. The Premier sealed the health care envelope at $17.4 billion, a sum of money that the previous NDP government promoted as the budget in 1994-95. That was our commitment to the people of Ontario. But in order to do that, we knew that the status quo could not remain, and we were very clear with the voters on how we would do that.

My honourable friends across the way were very fond yesterday of quoting from the Common Sense Revolution. Well, let me quote it today.

We said that "health care spending will be guaranteed." We said that "As government, we will be aggressive about rooting out waste, abuse, health care fraud, mismanagement and duplication," that "Every dollar we save by cutting overhead or by bringing in the best new management techniques and thinking will be reinvested in health care."

We were very clear, and the voters were very clear in their response to that pledge. We were elected to get rid of waste and duplication of service, to eliminate inefficiencies in the administration of taxpayers' dollars, and that is what we are doing.

Minister Wilson stopped funding the bricks and mortar for new birthing centres when hospitals are recommending existing wards close. The money saved can be reinvested in front-line services. The midwifery program continues to be funded to provide choice for Ontario's women. I've worked with the regulatory college of midwives and I would commend them for their efforts in establishing this profession in Ontario.

Minister Wilson recognized the waste in the NDP photo card and he put the brakes on it immediately. He has saved the taxpayers million of dollars. He cancelled the advertising budget so there will be no glossy, unnecessary brochures like those that were used to advertise the photo card. That was $5 million, $5 million that could have paid the debt of my hospital, which suffers under a debt because of the mismanagement of the two previous governments.

The minister has begun discussion with other ministries to coordinate smart-card technology for this government to take advantage of the newest technologies available today. The government will coordinate the information systems in health care, systems that the NDP and Liberal governments never refined, reviewed or improved, systems that allowed fraud to creep in, that allowed misuse and abuse which is wasting taxpayers' dollars, that allowed programs to begin without any accountability built into them.

This government will implement a smart-card technology system replacing the wasteful programs brought in by, first, the Liberal government, with its overproduced and hastily introduced red and white health card, the red and white card that was given out to all and sundry in more numbers than were even living in the province: 12 million cards produced for 10 million people.

And when the NDP had the opportunity to correct this problem, did they do so? No. They took five years to develop a system that was outdated before the first picture was even taken. The NDP system won't provide the information that health care planners and providers need, information so that planning can take place quickly and easily, so that taxpayers can get a better return on their valuable dollars.

The government of Ontario today spends over $1,700 per person for health care, more than the national average. We spend almost 20% above the national average for physicians' services because of the disastrous social contract designed by the NDP government, which alienated physicians even more than the punitive actions of the Liberal government.

Minister Wilson is repairing the government's relationship with physicians. They are being treated with respect, as partners and team members in the provision of health care. Discussions are taking place designed to build new partnerships with physicians.

This government has charged all health care providers to recognize the financial ruin that the unfettered spending patterns of the two previous governments have created. We have asked all who provide or who are concerned with the provision of health care to investigate partnerships, improved management practices, restructuring, amalgamation and the sharing of services.

I am pleased to report that my region has already taken up this challenge. Representatives of hospitals, the community and health care professionals work together to develop a regional plan for health care in Durham region. It is a plan which will remove duplication from the regional system. It will improve the quality of care in the region. It will improve its accessibility and its equity for all its residents. It involved making some very difficult and tough choices, but the community was prepared to make them because it knew that the status quo is no longer acceptable. I was very pleased that the minister was able to approve their recommendations and suggest that the community move forward with implementation planning.

Changes must be made in our system to ensure that every dollar is being used effectively for front-line services. Whether they are hospital CEOs, nurses, physiotherapists or physicians, they all recognize the need for that reform. It is unfortunate that the members opposite do not.

The professionals in the system know that we need to look for creative solutions, to begin to change the way we all do business in the health care field, and that is what we must do now. We must level the playing field and bring in those parties that have been driven from the game, those members of the private sector that may be able to contribute to the growth and development of newer technologies and that will help patients on the front lines so they can improve the services that doctors, nurses and other providers can offer.

In the long-term care field, the minister scrapped the 80-20 rule that the former NDP government brought in because it would not allow for creative partnerships for the private sector to participate in the provision of health care. But the minister also added another proviso to that, that of highest quality and best price if any company or service provider wishes to make a proposal to the ministry. I understand that the ministry has received many proposals from the public and the private sector to deliver dialysis services across the province.

Twenty-five million dollars will be reinvested in direct care this year, money that has been saved by more efficient spending and better use of taxpayers' dollars. That is what this government and the Ministry of Health is all about, providing the best possible front-line services where they are needed and when they are needed, and within the budget, for all Ontarians.


Mr Crozier: It is my pleasure today to rise to speak on this opposition day motion. I want to say at the outset that there's really no difference between my riding and many of those that are represented in this Legislature. I do want to say too that even though those concerns are the same, we all looked at your government and its pledge that the $17.4-billion envelope will be closed, or sealed. It says in the Common Sense Revolution, in fact, under "Health Care" on page 7:

"We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important. And frankly, as we all get older, we're going to need it more and more.

"Under this plan, health care spending will be guaranteed. As government, we will be aggressive about rooting out waste, abuse, health card fraud, mismanagement and duplication.

"Every dollar...will be reinvested."

As I looked over the cuts as we see them, because the only thing that's been presented to us are reductions in spending -- we did hear about some reinvestment today, but we don't know whether there will be any reinvestment over the next four or five years. In fact, let's assume that you took $132 million out of health care spending each year, and you say that's not a reduction. Perhaps at the end of the fourth year there'd be in excess of $500 million that you'd have reduced health care spending by, recalling that your solemn oath is that you won't reduce health care spending. So at the end, when it's ready for an election, $17.4 billion will reappear as magically being the figure that they're going to budget that year. But in the meantime, health care spending will have been reduced and I think health care will have been reduced.

But let me speak to something that's particularly of concern to the constituents of Essex South, and that's long-term care. In this document alone, the one that the Management Board sent out the other day, the long-term care spending reduction in 1995-96 will total $36.6 million. Right now we know that long-term care is critical. In fact, the member for Huron said that she had spent days looking into this. Quite frankly, I have spent months, if not the last few years of my years as mayor, visiting elderly people in long-term care facilities. There are waiting lists and it is critical. I don't think this is a case where you can reduce that kind of funding or delay that kind of funding. It's needed now.

As a matter of fact, as I look over the 28 cuts that are listed in the year 1995-96, nowhere does it say what your Common Sense Revolution says. Nowhere in this list do you cut waste, do you cut abuse, do you cut health card fraud, mismanagement and duplication. So I assume that when you cut those kinds of costs, it's even going to be greater than you're saying now. As a matter of fact, the member for Durham West said that the health care cards were misused. Nowhere in here does it say they're going to spend money on a new and improved system. All it talks about is taking money out. I can't believe it.

I have a letter here dated September 18 from the South Essex Community Council. It says:

"The Minister of Health recently facilitated seven consultative meetings with 63 organizations. It is unclear how meetings with these 63 groups were facilitated. No province-wide invitations were issued, particularly to community-based organizations and agencies. Moreover, long-term-care funded agencies in the Windsor-Essex county area, including the district health council, became aware of the consultations after the process was almost finished."

If that's the way this government is going to treat long-term care and, I think in turn, health care, I don't see how they can possibly stand there and say that this is for the benefit of the citizens of all of Ontario.

So today, members of this House, through you, Mr Speaker, and to the minister, I'm going to plead. That's all I have, a simple plea: Don't play with people's fears. Don't use smoke and mirrors. Don't play with their fears. Don't play with people's emotions. Don't play with families and loved ones. Please, Minister, don't play with people's health and with people's lives. I plead to you today, keep your word on this one most solemn promise, that you won't play with health care funding.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to add my thoughts to the debate today. First of all, I would like to perhaps point out the hypocrisy in the resolution today from the Liberal Party, which put forward during the election campaign a platform not unlike that of the government that was elected. On top of that, they promised some 350 new things they were going to do in addition. So, again, when they try to be a pale imitation of either the Tories on the right or us on the left, they end up obliterating themselves and becoming transparent. I think that has a lot to do with why they went from 52% to where they ended up.

However, we will be supporting the final position of the resolution because, indeed, we are united in conflict to the extent that regardless of how we got here, we do very much agree that the government is going in the wrong direction. We know that this government is in one heck of a bind. They're in a real bind. As time unfolds -- we don't have to deliver the knockout punch today in the debate. The proof will be there as the months and the years unfold and a lot of the smirks that exist today across the way will slowly start to disappear and as the frowns begin to form on their foreheads as they think about going door-to-door on this course that they've set now and realize the disaster that'll be there when they go back to the people some three or four years hence.

What they're facing is an obligation to give a 30% tax cut, reach their extraordinary deficit targets and yet promise to maintain one third of the budget as being a no-go zone -- they don't go there at all. However, there are those who have made the argument today, and I think quite effectively, that they've already broken that promise. We're going to be watching very carefully whether you're sustaining that amount, $17.4 billion, every year along the way or if you will be playing games with that money until the end of your term and then suddenly, magically it appears back at $17.4 billion and then you say you met your commitment. I think most people expected that you would be keeping it at $17.4 billion every year. We'll be watching that very closely.

But when I point out the dilemma they face, read the financial papers. Even their own fellow-travellers in articles and columns and analysis pieces that are written are recognizing they're in some trouble. In fact, one of them, a very prominent individual who has a great deal of influence in these areas, is saying this government ought to go back to the people right now and get permission to break its promise on health because it's not going to be able to do everything. I doubt very much that the politics of the day will allow that to happen. But there's no question that you've got a big-time problem, and we're watching every day and every penny. It's not going to work the way you suggested.

I only want to make a few comments, but there are two points I do want to mention before I take my place. The first is that my colleague the member for Sault Ste Marie talked a bit about health determinants, and I want to focus on that also, because it has been argued that historically the greatest benefit to public health was not the creation of hospitals, was not the purchase of any particular machinery, was not any particular operating procedure or magic medicine, for that matter. No. It has been argued by experts in the field that the greatest benefit to health care for the public was clean water.

Clean water, providing clean water to the public, was the single greatest advancement in keeping people healthy. Yet I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that this government, under the Common Sense Revolution, would say it doesn't have enough money to build water treatment plants and sewage treatment plants. So had they been in government in those days, we'd still be back in the Dark Ages, because that doesn't fit the narrowly defined idea of what common sense is. If it's not in the book, it doesn't exist.


My last point is to say very directly to the people of Ontario on this issue of health care, so far all they've got are promises -- broken promises, we would argue, but promises none the less -- and I would ask people to think very carefully about what the agenda of this government has been to date.

They have cut benefits to workers who are injured on the job. They've already announced they're doing that. They have cut money to families in poverty, which means children already in poverty will be poorer because of this government. They've introduced labour legislation that is meant to decimate the rights that workers have gained over the years.

They are creating an Ontario that I think most people will reject when they begin to see it actually form in reality. When the public take a look at what this government has done so far and ask themselves, "Do I believe this government is committed to protecting health care for ordinary citizens?" it's like the used car salesman kicking the tire and saying, "Trust me; just trust me."

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I appreciate the comments from my colleague across the floor in the NDP caucus, and I find it passing strange, I want to say at the introduction of my remarks, that the member would in any way be supporting, and I understand his caucus is going to support, this Liberal motion on health care today.

The motion reads in part:

"Whereas the NDP government was the first government in the history of the province of Ontario to reduce the budget of the Ministry of Health in real dollars; and

"Whereas the NDP government inflicted chaos upon the health care system with the introduction of the social contract, which resulted in a deterioration in the quality of care provided in Ontario; and

"Whereas the NDP government attempted to introduce user fees to the Ontario drug benefit program and then removed more than 230 drugs from the Ontario drug benefit program without first consulting with those affected by this change; and

"Whereas the NDP government reneged on its funding promises for hospitals in the province of Ontario and reduced the budgets of provincial psychiatric hospitals," and it goes on and on.

So I say it is strange indeed that the NDP have decided to get in bed with the Liberals with respect to today's opposition motion, given that it's highly critical, and highly truthful, of the way the previous government conducted itself in the area of health care over the last five years.

Now, yes, they did inherit a bit of a mess. We had a health card system with some 12 million health cards floating out there for a population of 10 million people.

I know the honourable member for Beaches-Woodbine will likely remind me, as the hecklers behind her were before, that I somewhat made a bit of a name for myself, I suppose, in this chamber anyway, for criticizing the previous government for the amount of fraud that was in the system. And I agree, the NDP inherited the red and white health card system, which, by the way, doesn't tell us in any way what's happening in our health care system; it's simply a nice red and white card with a number on it and a magnetic strip on the back. It has no relation to a central database whatsoever, and today the Minister of Health can't possibly tell you how many hips are done in the province of Ontario.

Lo and behold, Visa does a better job of keeping track of its customers than we do our customers, the people and the taxpayers of the province of Ontario. If we could at least get to the level of Visa and MasterCard in this province in terms of information systems, we would be doing a great thing for the future management and in the ability to find future savings and administrative savings within the Ministry of Health budget and in the ability we would have to reinvest those savings in high-priority areas, because we'd know better where our priorities are.

Currently, the health care system relies -- and this is some good work the NDP did do in setting up the joint management committee, which the OMA walked out of a few months ago, but out of that came ICES, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, and Dr David Naylor. All members will recall that Dr Naylor and his team produced an atlas last year, which gave us, for, I would argue, one of the first times in the history of health care in Ontario, a snapshot of what was happening in a particular time period in the system.

With respect to health cards, which the previous government did inherit from the government before that, I say to members that we are working, I am working very, very hard, with other ministries because we require this type of tombstone data: the name, address, birthdate, sex and some other information of citizens of this province by other ministries. So I'm working very hard to come up with a central database between ministries so that for the first time in this province, when somebody fills out a death certificate, the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations could actually notify all the other ministries that you no longer need your driver's licence, you no longer need your health card, you no longer need a number of other privilege cards because you're dead.

Now, when I explain this to my constituents back in Simcoe West they assume all of the government's computers talk to each other, and it's mind-boggling. They find out and they wonder why people get health cards six months after they're deceased. They wonder why they get these things in the mail. It's because our computers don't talk with each other. So I ask all members to be patient for a little while longer as I continue to work with my colleagues in an earnest way, in a way that hasn't been done before, to try and come forward with a common database, try and get our computers talking to each other and try and get a system in place where we can actually know then for the first time what's happening on a daily basis in our health care system.

We have a model to go by, I should mention for the information of members: Manitoba. I had a meeting recently with the Health minister from Manitoba. He is able on any given day to tell you what's going on, the transactions that are occurring in the health care system. The future savings in health will come from knowing what's happening in the system, from good people like Dr David Naylor and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in terms of writing physician protocols, health provider protocols and guidelines so we can be delivering the right service at the right price by the right provider. That will be a big step and something we're working on.

I also find it passing strange that the leader of the official opposition would have the nerve to bring forward a resolution that calls on this government to continue to spend $17.8 billion on health care when the true budget of the Ministry of Health is supposed to be $17.4 billion, when the red book -- remember this red book? This is the thing they ran around the province with.


Hon Mr Wilson: On page 30 of the red book. It is astounding that this resolution today says we're not living up to our health care commitment when we sealed the budget at the known and proven figure of $17.4 billion in May 1994. When we wrote the Common Sense Revolution we went on Mr Laughren's word, the Treasurer's word of that day who said that budget was sealed. It will either be flat-lined or reduced by 1%, and when we wrote the CSR we said $17.4 billion. That's our guarantee to the people of the province of Ontario.

Page 30 of the red book says, "Are taxpayers getting good value for the $17 billion spent each year on health care...?" That's just one. I just had a minute to look at this thing, because surprisingly I didn't vote for these people and I really didn't spend a lot of time reading this book. But I also noticed on another page, if I can find that very quickly here --

Mr Crozier: It's under the next little yellow tag.

Hon Mr Wilson: Ah, page 37. This magical figure of $17 billion is repeated again. Let me just tell you, "Ontario now spends $17 billion a year on health care -- 32 cents of every dollar the province spends." I think the leader of the official opposition has the audacity to put forward this resolution today when her commitment to the people of Ontario was a $17-billion health care budget, very clearly spelled out. She accuses us of somehow cutting health care when we guarantee it at $17.4 billion, $400 million more than the Liberal Party was obviously able to pay, going to pay, for health care in the province of Ontario.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): You know that's not true. You know that's not true.

Hon Mr Wilson: The member for Oriole in her usual wonderful interjections suggests it isn't true. Read your own book at pages 30 and 37, and I think there are other references to it, when I find time to find it.


What we've been doing in health care and what as Minister of Health I've been doing on behalf of my colleagues in government over the past 14 to 15 weeks, is taking a very serious look at how we spend that $17.4 billion. As are other colleagues in cabinet, and caucus colleagues are helping, we're going through the budgets of our ministries. I'm going through the health care budget and I'm trying to find administrative savings.

What we've seen through the media in the last few days I think has been an overreaction. It's been an overreaction in that we have not cut front-line health care services in this province. Yes, we've delayed, on a cash-flow basis, some of our capital projects. Yes, we don't plan to spend $8 million on the oxygen program this year, because it wasn't spent last year. It's sitting there in surplus.

Now, the question I got today from the leader of the official opposition seemed to imply that whether people need $8 million more worth of oxygen, I should go out and spend the $8 million anyway and have no accountability to the taxpayers of this province. That is wrong. That is the status quo. That's what got the NDP thrown out, that's why you got thrown out before that, and we do not intend to behave that way.

We are moving forward with an evidence-based approach, and that's why the information system is so key, the need for information about our health care system is so key. Today's announcement on pre-hospital paramedic care is a good example of how we're proceeding with an experimental project, a project that will provide level 2 paramedic services to some 21 communities across the province at a reinvestment cost of $15.5 million to provide that service.

But at the same time, before those communities were permitted to go ahead and bring in paramedic 2 services, they had to meet some criteria. I grant it: The criteria were set up by the previous government; the only problem is that they didn't fund it. In spite of all their overspending in health care they didn't actually get around to funding any more than the 12 students who are graduating this Friday in Ottawa-Carleton. There was no envelope sitting around with money, so I had to find the $15.5 million, and I've done that by finding administrative savings, by not spending money that I didn't have to spend on certain items, and I've been reinvesting that.

The criteria that these communities had to meet in order to do paramedic level 2 services required, for example, that they keep track, over the past few months and years, of their survival rates right now, so that when we bring in paramedic 2 services we'll know whether there's an improvement over the last three years, for example.

That's moving towards evidence-based. It's not saying that because somebody out there thinks we should go province-wide with paramedics, we do that overnight and find the X millions of dollars that might cost. We're moving forward in a systematic way, in a sensible way, to bring those services to the people of Ontario, in a way that we committed to with the people of Ontario.

We said in the Common Sense Revolution -- and it goes back to the commitment, because the commitment is subject to some distortion depending on what side of the House you sit on. The commitment was very clear. We said we would seal the health care budget at the $17.4 billion at the time we wrote the Common Sense Revolution, and we said it is sealed over the term of the government.

Colleagues on the opposite side of the House have argued -- they want to see every day -- that it's $17.4 billion or $17.38 billion or whatever. There will be some to and fro. There is no other way to describe doing what other governments didn't do, and that was to find the savings first, not to do what Mr Laughren said, and I was in the House when he said it as Treasurer, "Oh don't worry, colleagues, that budget is sealed; in fact it might even go down 1%," and then find when we get to office that you overspent, didn't claw back on physicians when you were supposed to.

Most of the overspending is $225 million owed under social contract and other agreements with the doctors of this province, and I can't forgive that. Other people have paid their social contract. I don't think it would be fair to nurses or teachers or front-line workers, so I'm having to recover that from the physicians. It shows up on the books as part of the $17.8 billion, but it's $225 million that's owing on those books, which would bring you down to below $17.6 billion. All of the other overspending that the NDP did, and I've explained it in extreme detail to the media and to members of this House, to get us back down to a $17.4-billion budget is fully explainable.

There's no monkey business here. I don't think any other government gave the level of detail on the administrative savings that we released last Friday. The Chairman of Management Board released line-by-line detail, the likes of which I hadn't seen in my 12 years in public life, that enables you, as opposition critics and the public at home, to see exactly where we're saving the money. Announcements like the paramedics today, the $25 million worth of dialysis service, which my colleague from Durham --

Mrs Ecker: Durham West.

Hon Mr Wilson: Durham West. Sorry. Durham's such a lovely area they had to divide it up; a couple of MPPs had to represent it. My parliamentary assistant, Helen Johns -- who, by the way, did an absolutely fantastic job there, clearly a better job than I'm doing -- was supposed to take more time, so I'm filling it. But both my colleagues are working very hard. Ms Ecker, the member for Durham West, is the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Together, we're trying to find those administrative savings and we're plowing them back in.

The dialysis announcement: I'm very proud of that. Members who were in this House from 1990 to 1995 will know that I fought very hard on a personal basis on behalf of constituents in my riding that we expand dialysis services. The NDP did a bit of expansion, but it did that expansion in a different way from the way I and this government are proceeding with expansion. They did the expansion around current sites, so those of us who live in rural areas still had our constituents driving -- in the case of my riding, several people having to drive a couple of hours each way, three times a week, down to Wellesley or Toronto Hospital. That gets to be pretty precarious when you're getting into the winter months. You're not alone, members from northern Ontario.

We're trying to drive those services closer to where patients live and work. We had to find the $25 million. When you've got overspending of the previous government on one hand and you've got a set of books that don't make any sense whatsoever -- it does take a few weeks to make some sense out of the darn things. I don't even think the auditor actually signed your books when you were in office.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Yes, he did.

Hon Mr Wilson: He did finally get around to signing them? We certainly went through a period of time when the auditor himself wouldn't sign the NDP's books. Having now had a look at them, I can understand why he might have had some hesitation to put his professional reputation as a chartered accountant on the line.

So we find the savings and we reinvest them. We have other reinvestments that we know we have to do. The situation in Ottawa, where there are over 300 people on a cardiac waiting list, is absolutely unacceptable. That one I want to explain to the people of Ottawa and the members of this House, Mr Speaker. You yourself would be quite interested in this in terms of the fact that we have a bit of a problem there. We have a problem in that Ottawa Civic Hospital, which is responsible for the Heart Institute -- and I hope everybody will pay attention to this -- has a surplus of several million dollars.

Now, no Minister of Health owns hospitals in this province. Actually, communities are quite shocked when you tell them that they own their hospital. They are public hospitals, private public corporations owned by the community, whoever takes out a membership at the hospital and gets themselves elected to the hospital board or appointed to the hospital board, as the case may be.

In the case of Ottawa Civic, I sent probably the strongest-worded letter possible a couple of weeks ago to the chair of that hospital board, saying, "You've got a surplus, but because of turf war reasons and others, you won't spend it on the patients in need, over 300 patients on the cardiac registry who need services." That sort of status quo, that sort of approach to problems or the inability to come to solutions because of turf wars or whatever, is not acceptable to this government.

I acted immediately when I saw that. I'm doing everything I can to ensure that the people who are on the waiting list in Ottawa-Carleton receive the services they need. The money's there. In that specific case it's not even a case of us needing to find the savings in my ministry and reinvest the savings; it's a case of inability to cooperate in the front line. The previous Health minister, Ms Lankin, is here. I'm sure she ran into that from time to time when she was Minister of Health -- a pretty frustrating situation.


Other administrative savings: As I wind up, because I think we might have a couple of other speakers who may want to say something, there were some very disturbing things when I came to office. Two things come to mind. One is that I met with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and one of the esteemed members of that body said to me that it had been five years since they had been in to see a Minister of Health. Here is your self-regulating college for the largest profession in the health care community, and a prominent member of that college had not been in to see a minister for quite some years.

Ms Lankin: But that's not true.

Hon Mr Wilson: Well, that's what they told me, and I was astounded. Between you and I, apparently the minister, by the name of Ruth Grier, didn't meet with the CPSO.

Ms Lankin: You said five years.

Hon Mr Wilson: Well, that's what they told me.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): This is not a question period.

Hon Mr Wilson: That particular individual, who is the president today, made it very clear. I was astounded.

The message, regardless of the time line, was that they didn't feel very welcome, and one thing we want to do is send out a message to the physicians of this province that they haven't heard in 10 years. Do you know what it is? That doctors are important to the health care system in this province. Ten years: In 1986, the Liberal government throws them out on strike, and they've never recovered from that; their morale has been through the floor since then. The NDP get in and it's: "Hammer doctors. Set them up as rich fat cats and tear them down" -- old-style politics.

I'm not afraid, as Minister of Health, to say that physicians are important to the health care system in this province, as are our other 22 regulated health professions. But somehow, and I think it was intentional, we saw the previous government and the government before that always taking a jab --


Hon Mr Wilson: Don't get me started. I could quote Murray Elston, who said in 1986 that he wasn't going to buy any more Cadillacs for doctors. That sort of throwing mud at them all the time doesn't do much for morale when you're trying to ensure that their productivity stays up, that they provide quality service to the people they have to look after on our behalf.

Part of the message too that I've said to physicians and to all members of this House is that politicians and doctors don't own the health care system. Mr Harris, when he was leader of my party and now as Premier, has said it quite often, reminding people that, as we take decisions, we don't own this system. We simply are here with the public trust to manage the system during the time we have the privilege of serving in this House. That's something I'm mindful of, it's something all our providers are mindful of, and it's something that I don't think previous governments -- I might be a little unfair here, but I don't think they took enough care and paid enough attention to that particular principle.

When you're yelling at me -- and that's my job as Minister of Health, I suppose. You're supposed to yell at me every day. By the way, you're asking me the same questions over and over and over, but if you want to ask the same questions, you'll get very consistent answers from me. You'll get very, very honest answers from me, you'll get very frank answers from me, and you will get answers.

You may not always like what I'm going to have to say. I don't think anyone is looking forward to the next period of time when some 26 hospital restructuring studies are landing on my desk and the desks of the district health councils, and there are some 60 studies in progress in this province. But I will say to the people of Ontario, we have studied long enough. Some of these studies go back 10, 12, 15 years, they've been sent back to the drawing board so many times. Millions and millions -- and that is not an exaggeration. Do you want to know where your money's going? Millions and millions and millions of dollars worth of studies have been farmed out by the Ministry of Health. If you couldn't make a decision in the past, you farmed out another committee and you did another study. Those days are coming to an end, very clearly.

We will move where we have good evidence-based medicine, where we have the data. The studies starting to come in are being worked over by the district health councils to provide the data, and in some cases they're data we've never had before with respect to the services we're providing in a community versus services we're providing in an institution, what balance we should have. Some of the answers to those questions are contained in those restructuring studies.

I'm going to have to ask for the cooperation of all members -- keeping in mind that we don't own the system; we're here to manage it, to do that with the trust of the public -- we're going to have to ask members to be understanding and to support us in restructuring.

I do want to give credit on that note to both leaders of the opposition parties. Mrs McLeod said in a question to me the other day that it was quite obvious that everybody understands the need for restructuring. Mr Rae, the member for York South, quite eloquently in his remarks the other day to this chamber talked at length about the need to get on with restructuring. So I appreciate that support. There are some tough decisions coming up.

I also need your ideas. We shouldn't have so much politics in health care. Some of the waste that we have -- previous deputy ministers used to sit down with groups and they'd buy them off with research grants and stuff like that. We just can't do that any more. We have precious dollars. No one's argued that $17.4 billion isn't enough to spend on health care. The member for Durham West pointed out some of the statistics in terms of how much we spend per capita. We rank up there in the world with any other jurisdiction. We're spending enough money on health care in this province. We need the help, though, of all members to ensure we spend that money wisely. Take the politics out of health care. Stop the individual lobbying for your particular piece of turf and look at the whole system in your region. That would be very, very helpful for us to get on with truly restructuring and re-engineering the health care system.

You consider the facts: $8.8 billion we spend today on just interest, much of it to foreigners, to pay for an almost $100-billion debt in this province. To put that into perspective, that's twice what we spend on OHIP in this province. So if people are wondering why we have to find savings, reinvest, keep the envelope sealed, and why other colleagues have to find real savings and pass them off to treasury, the fact of the matter is, we are broke. So we said in the Common Sense Revolution, we said in the campaign, that health care is the top priority of the Mike Harris government. We did that by sealing the budget. We said in addition we would be aggressive in rooting out fraud, waste, duplication, to bring efficiencies and the best management techniques to the system, and we're doing that.

All I ask today is that we have cooperation from members of the House. Pick on all the other portfolios, put your politics there, but don't put it in health care. It's far too precious and there's far too much constraint on all budgets to be fooling around.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This lecture's too much from you. We have listened to you for five years in the House.

Hon Mr Wilson: The member said, "We listened to you for five years." I never once got up and asked for more money in health care. I got up and when I talked about dialysis, who gave the government more time to respond? Two and a half years? It took me two and a half weeks. How in the world? They sent it out for study three times. This is what I'm talking about, Mr Bradley: absolutely ridiculous.

Mr Bradley: Then you blame them when the people died.

Hon Mr Wilson: I agree it wasn't fair the other day in the House to blame them for the deaths of my seven constituents who have died since I started this issue. That's a little unfair. However, if they had moved two and a half years earlier, I can say with certainty that my constituents, the seven who passed away during that period of time, would have had a higher quality of life, would have been able to get services in their community. A couple of these people just gave up driving to Toronto. They just said: "Forget it. It is not worth it getting up, spending my entire day on a bus going to Toronto." Some people just gave up because the government, I think it is fair to say, wore them down.

It wasn't that difficult to put out a tender process that I put in place shortly after coming to office. It wasn't that difficult to find the administrative savings. You didn't need 23 bloody political staff on the floor of the NDP Minister of Health's office. I've got 23 desks up there -- 23 desks. It is immoral, absolutely immoral, what they did.

Do you know what they did? Do you know why the bureaucracy was so demoralized around here? They ran a completely parallel policy process, a minister-knows-best type of policy process on that floor, and then they'd walk over to the deputy once in a while and say: "Here's your marching orders for the day, Deputy. I know you're a professional civil servant of 29 years' experience, but your opinion doesn't matter. I've got 23 kids up here sitting in desks who all know more about health care than the bloody bureaucracy." That is wrong.

I've cut it down to eight. I don't intend to hire any more and I can run one of the largest corporations in North America with eight staff. The rest of them on the floor are seconded senior bureaucrats who have been dying for about 10 years to have their input into health care, because that's what they were trained in. They've got good ideas. They're out there talking to people every day. We're going to respect them, and that's what we're doing.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Maybe you should talk to Snobelen about respecting civil servants.

Hon Mr Wilson: I'm sorry. Was this something valuable you wanted to add to the debate?

The Acting Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Wilson: Mr Speaker --

The Acting Speaker: Minister, order, please. I would ask the House to refrain from heckling. The minister has the floor.


Hon Mr Wilson: I'll just wind up by saying a couple of things, and that is, I want to sincerely thank my parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health, Mrs Helen Johns, the MPP for Huron, not only for her splendid remarks today, but also Helen, on behalf of all members in this House, has been chairing a process where we're trying to come up with a new model for coordinating and accessing long-term-care services in this province.

We're quite proud of the decision that we took very, very early on in coming to office, just a few weeks ago, to scrap Bill 173, to scrap the 80-20 rule, to scrap the multiservice agency, which would have given us a bunch of government agencies and bureaucracy at $33 million. When I cancelled that and I saved $33 million, the leader of the official opposition, who has this motion before us today, criticized me for that.

Give me a break. You know, we saved money. I thought we agreed, as Liberals and Tories, that those MSAs were a waste of money. I saved the money, and in spite of all the explanations we've given to her and her office and other Liberal caucus members, she's still critical of the fact that we saved those dollars. It's mind-boggling and it leaves me without much to say to try and explain that.

Mr Bradley: Why are people getting less care today?

Hon Mr Wilson: People aren't getting less care today.

Mr Bradley: Tell Mrs Boudreau on Else Street in St Catharines.

Hon Mr Wilson: Well, you know, as I said, the argument is there's not a penny less being spent on health care today than was being spent. We spend on a per-capita basis right up there with the best in the world, more than most jurisdictions in the world, and higher than all Canadian jurisdictions. We cover more on OHIP, almost twice as many services, as the next province to us. We cover hundreds of more drugs than any other province. We cover all kinds of services that aren't covered in the medicare plans of other services. Ontario has a very generous, a very good world-class health care system, and our job, our job as members in this House, is not to inject politics into that system; our job is to work with each other to bring efficiencies to that system, to drive the dollars to front-line services and away from the bureaucracy and administration.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I am pleased today to have the opportunity to stand up and speak in support of this motion and to follow on the comments of both my leader and my colleagues.

I must remind the minister that it is his government that is responsible for providing quality and accessible health care to all of the people in Ontario. He will know that I will speak in my brief comments here today about the provision of services to the northerners.

I can tell him at the present time that northerners do not get the same services that are provided in other parts of this province. I would like to remind the minister that Dryden, Red Lake, Kenora, Balmertown, Vermilion Bay and Ear Falls are not getting those services, the same services that are guaranteed to the people across this province, as in North York, London and places like Ottawa.

We may ask ourselves, why is this that we are not getting those services? That is one of the basic principles of the government of Ontario, no matter what party it be. I must say it's not because of the physicians or the health care workers in the north, who are extremely dedicated, and we have probably some of the best and the most dedicated in all the province. But what is the problem here? There is certainly a problem in northern Ontario when it comes to health care.

I just take a look at what happened on Friday in terms of the slash-and-burn approach that the present Conservative government has taken to health care management. I take a look at an already broken promise, something which doesn't surprise me: the cut of $400 million to health care services. For the minister to stand up and suggest that this is not going to affect our services not only in northern Ontario but across this province is just too much.

I must say that the government must gain the ability to recognize and respond to the needs of northerners. When we take a look at the northern issues and the specific issues that are common to northerners, we'll find out that there are a good number of problems within the system. I would like just to address a number of those problems that are unique: unique to us as northerners, unique to northern Ontario.

I'd like to start off with the underserviced area program and something I've already mentioned, and that of course has been the recruitment of physicians, retention of physicians in northern Ontario.

It will come as a surprise to many of the new members in the House today that many of our communities in northern Ontario are without the services of a family doctor, many are without the services of specialists, and we must know that we do have very clear needs in northern Ontario.

Up until recently, the Lake of the Woods District Hospital, the hospital in my own home town, has been without an internist, in need of an internist. For more than three years now, the town of Dryden, another community in my riding, has been in need of a general surgeon. Again, many new members of the House will not believe this, but these are some of the real issues that we in the north face.

The Minister of Health will also remember the issue in terms of the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital, where a crisis was created. We have the Minister of Education talking about creating a crisis. Well, I must tell you that this particular institution in Red Lake was in a crisis.

Again, to the members in the House who may not realize, we were without emergency health services in that community on a 24-hour basis. What I'm saying is that when the doctors went home at 5 o'clock in the evening, there were no emergency health services in an area serving approximately 6,000 people.

These are just a few examples that I refer to. These are examples that allow us to take a look at the situation we face.

Let me speak a little bit more about the Dryden situation. As I've indicated, at the present time Dryden is without a surgeon, and both the medical community and myself have been working for months trying to get the minister to realize that he is going to have to help us in this very critical need. We have a fantastic burden that has been placed on both the family practitioners and the surgical services in the area. We are in need of a surgeon in Dryden at the present time, and I call upon the minister to take a close look at what is happening there and address this problem, which we, again, have brought to him many, many times, immediately.

Let me go back to emergency room services. Of course the minister will recall the Red Lake situation. He and I spoke at length as we sat in opposition, in the two opposition parties, about this. I indicated earlier that in the Red Lake area, 6,000 people went without emergency services for a good number of months. I must call upon the minister to not allow this to happen again. We know these services are extremely important, and we know he must listen to the people of rural communities, because if he does not, many more communities will go without this very vital service.

I would just like to quote from the CEO, the chief executive officer of the Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital. He indicates here that:

"Emergency departments in small, remote hospitals, such as the Red Lake...are a vital community service and must stay open on a 24-hour basis. However, the flow of patients is low in comparison to large urban hospitals. The current system for physicians covering emergency services penalizes doctors in small rural hospitals."

This is a problem that is not unique to Red Lake. We have over 150 hospitals that were surveyed by the OHA, the Ontario Hospital Association, to which the minister referred earlier, and we found out that at least 50 were having problems staffing their emergency rooms on a stable basis; 44 of these were subsidizing doctors to ensure the continuation of emergency room services; and 42 were facing the threat of withdrawal of services by doctors. Again, similar to the Red Lake situation, 14 of those hospitals were forced to curtail emergency room service because of government's failure to deal with the problem and find a workable and acceptable solution for all the parties involved. So again I bring to the attention of the House that this is not a problem for northern Ontario; this is certainly a province-wide problem to rural communities.


Another problem, which has to be the worst-managed government program that I have encountered in my tenure around this place for the last eight years: I refer to the northern health travel grant program. This is a program that needs to be fixed and it has to be fixed immediately. I call upon the minister to take a look at the many complaints he gets about their famous 1-800 number. Now, we've heard about many 1-800 numbers. Here is just another 1-800 number where applicants to the program are unable to speak to anyone, to get through on that line. The processing time for applications is well over four months at the present time, something which we have to look at in terms of processing applicants, people in need in northern Ontario.

Let me refer to a real case, again in my constituency. This is a constituent who has had to travel, on the advice of her physician, to see a heart specialist in Winnipeg. She indicates that she's had numerous calls to the travel grant office and has had to go back to her doctor for follow-up visits, just to satisfy the ministry paperwork. Mavis Chambers, whom my staff spoke to earlier on, has suggested that she has found that this system is just not working for her.

She was told on September 27 by a ministry bureaucrat that they were still working on July applications to this program. Furthermore, in response to her concern -- she had been waiting since May 18 for a response -- a ministry employee told her: "That's too bad. You will just have to wait your turn like everyone else." This is a ministry employee speaking to one of my constituents who has had to travel from the community of Kenora to Winnipeg for specialist services in relation to her case.

The principle of the northern health travel grant is excellent. We know we have a program there that services the needs of constituents in my small communities, that services the needs of constituents in other northern communities and allows them assistance for services that they have to get outside of those particular communities. But I must say that the minister must take a look at what is happening in that particular program and ensure it's going to meet those needs, ensure it's going to service the needs that it is set out to service.

The report of the Ontario Hospital Association recognizes the unique challenges in the north. This is one report that I took a close look at and found that it reflected a good number of my views. This is the 1993 report. Let me just quote some of the things that they reported:

"The northern area of the province is unique and distinctive, constituting virtually a subculture of Ontario. Planners and policymakers need to understand and realize this before trying to bring about change."

The report goes on to say, "Studies have shown that the first nations have their own distinct health care needs and requirements." I must remind the minister of that.

The following quote, if I may, best sums up the difficulties and challenges of health care in the north. It too is from the OHA's northern task force:

"Dealing with the `northern factor' must go beyond development of suitable guidelines for services and care in the north. What is needed is a vision for the north.

"Today,...guidelines are still developed in the south and applied to the north, without sensitivity to the circumstances of the north. The 850 patient days per 1,000 population guideline set out in the government's 1992 Health Services Planning Framework is an example of this.

"It was developed without consideration of these difficulties in providing health care in the north due to distance, population diversity, distribution, resource limitations or the characteristics of small, northern hospitals."

I think that sums up exactly what we in northern Ontario face on a regular basis. All we're doing as northerners is looking for equal treatment in the province. I want to say that we are fed up with made-in-Toronto solutions.

The Minister of Northern Development and Mines, who is here with us today, has indicated that this government will search out solutions to problems in small-town northern Ontario. I suggest he tell the Minister of Health exactly what he has stated in a good number of releases, what his throne speech has indicated, and that they do get out and actually look for solutions from people who know best: the people who are in need of the services throughout northern Ontario.

I ask that this minister only take examples that I have given him here today and take a look at the very uniqueness that we have in northern Ontario and that before he makes any more of his cuts, or his solutions, as he may call them, he consult with us in the north.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): In speaking to this motion I wanted to first say, in relation to what the Conservative government is doing around health, and to reiterate what Bob Rae has said, that Mike Harris should resign based on the promise that he made in his blue book. It's a question of honesty and integrity, because of course the Premier said that, the minister said that and all of the Tory caucus said this, and of course they have argued that they would be different when they get into office and that if they didn't do as they said they would do in the blue book, they would resign.

No one in this part of the world believes that he would do that or that he will ever do that. So on this particular issue, we ask him to resign. We know fully well that he won't, even though the rest of the public knows the promise he made all over Ontario during the election; everybody's heard it. He broke that promise and he's not going to be able to keep it, but I'm sure that he won't resign.

What he is doing, with the rest of his caucus, in my view is that he is ripping the floor from under us plank by plank. What they're doing is breaking all the canons of civil society by so doing. When you take away the floor of the social services that people need, that makes us different, that makes us Canadian, then you're no longer the same. The face of Ontario is changed. This government is changing it, and by the end of the term nobody will recognize it; I can guarantee it.

They're preying on the most vulnerable citizens of this society and they're asking us all to share the burden. What's happening, however, is that we're not sharing the burden equally. This burden is shared disproportionately by members of our society, and the ones who are shouldering the major responsibility for this problem that the Conservatives are identifying are the vulnerable: are women, are children, are people with disabilities and so on.

They may not think they're doing anything wrong. In fact, they're asking us to look into this bright future where they will create an economy that works, where the private sector will make this economy work, where by giving people more money back they will make this economy work, but it won't work, and I think we all know that. It'll work for some but it won't work for most of us. And that's what they're doing. They're changing the face of Ontario.

They've broken the promise already and taken $132 million out of this health budget. And they will take more, that I can guarantee, and we'll see more of it. They will justify it under the name of efficiency, proficiency, making it work better, but what they're doing is killing programs. They will make it better by killing programs, and none of us believe that.

They're telling us that government should get out of the way, and I argue, what is the role of government if not to take care of the most needy and the most vulnerable? If they want to get out of the way, then they should step down, because a government's role is to take care of those who most need, and they're not doing it. They're ripping the floor plank by plank. That's what's happening in Ontario.

As to the Liberal motion, I have a few things to add to that. For me, every time they introduce something it's like an Ionesco play. It's theatre of the absurd. In theatre of the absurd there is no beginning, there's no middle and there is no end in their plays. There is no identifiable structure. There is no punctuation in a lot of that literature. That's how I relate to the Liberals quite often.

I bring you back, Mr Speaker, to the days when we were in power and the Liberals were in opposition. For me it was like seeing Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde over and over again. They would say: "Government should spend; government should cut." "Government should cut" and "Government should spend." It was back and forth, back and forth, over and over again.

You could never quite pin down the Liberal Party. You never knew where they stood. If there is a philosophy of the Liberal Party it's vacillation, it's inconsistency. That's what I get when I listen to what the Liberals often propose in their statements, and this motion clearly says that. You recall during the election they vowed to balance the budget; they vowed to reduce personal income tax; they vowed to protect health care spending. They want to cut and they want to spend.


Mr Bradley: The government is there, Rosario: friend here, enemy there.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for St Catharines will come to order and will stay to order.


The Deputy Speaker: Excuse me, I have the floor. The member for St Catharines will come to order.

Mr Bradley: I most certainly will, Mr Speaker.

Mr Marchese: So that's the problem: The Liberals want it every which way. They want to spend and they want to cut, over and over again. In my view, I don't see the consistency in Liberal policies, Jim. I'm sorry to say that, but that's my experience of what I've seen in my many years in this House.

If Lyn McLeod and the other Liberal members want to help us, what they should do is call M. Chrétien. Call him up and say, "M. Chrétien, restore the health budget, restore the health spending," education and so on. They're not doing that. I haven't heard one Liberal member saying: "M. Chrétien, send the money. We need it for our health care system." They haven't done it; they never will. But I urge them to do that.

If there was part of this motion I could support, it would be something like that. I would see some sincerity in that, but I don't see it. So it's with some distress -- and to some extent I agree that Mike Harris should resign -- that I can't support this Liberal motion in the way that they have presented it.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I just want to speak very briefly and somewhat in a saddened way. I heard the minister earlier today speak about the need to rationalize service and the need to deal more competently with the dollars that we have.

You know, in our community of Windsor we embarked on a reconfiguration project some three years ago, a project that ultimately has led to the recommendation that two of our four existing hospitals be consolidated into two others, the number of acute care beds be reduced from roughly 1,200 to approximately 800, a number of recommendations that would save approximately $22 million a year out of the operating budgets of our hospitals.

Our community worked for three years to achieve consensus. We had consensus of the medical community; we had consensus of the hospital workers; we had consensus, broad-based consensus, throughout our community. In an attempt, and in good faith, our community met with the Minister of Health and presented him with the conclusions of our multimillion-dollar task force report, the so-called win-win model.

There were a number of people in our community who were sceptical that we could ever come up with the type of consensus that we arrived at, a consensus that would provide better service to those who need acute care service, better service for those who need community-based services and a rationalization of the money that's in the existing envelope, to use their terminology.

What did the minister do? The minister said, "We can't go ahead with this."

Interjection: Terrible.

Mr Duncan: Terrible; that's right. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, all of you. You sanctimoniously -- that minister sat there and stood there and lectured both sides of this House about not being committed to the better use of health care dollars.

In our community we got a consensus not only to rationalize our hospitals, but to reinvest in the very types of services that we all agree need to be invested in. What did your government do? Your government sent them home and said, "We can't act on this." There's no consensus left in our community because that minister and that government don't understand. Their agenda is to cut. Their agenda is to dismantle all that our community and others have worked towards.

I can assure you, the ultimate test will be in three or four years, because that minister didn't once talk about the old person in Thunder Bay who's home-bound and is afraid that she won't have access to home care. He didn't talk about our aging population and where those folks will get service in the next few years. He talked rather about cheap political points.

It saddened me to hear the minister today. This resolution's the proper resolution. The minister was hypocritical when he told our community that our reconfiguration project wouldn't work. Shame on you.

Ms Lankin: It's an honour for me to participate today in the debate of this opposition day motion. I'm doing so in the absence of our Health critic today. It is certainly a subject I don't mind at all subbing in on. I think that many people in the House will know the passion I feel for our health care system and for the restructuring and reform that I believe needs to take place in our health care system. So it's always a particularly pleasurable opportunity for me when I'm afforded the chance to speak about changes I think need to be made and comment on the approaches of various governments to really tackling these very large and very complex problems.

I note that the Minister of Health, when he was speaking, expressed some surprise that the New Democratic Party caucus would be supporting the Liberal opposition day resolution today. In doing so, he correctly pointed out that the resolution itself, in all the "whereases," contains many points that are very critical of the former NDP government and our handling of the health care system. I would have to say, having been Minister of Health for a couple of years, that many of those criticisms were directed at my personal handling of the health care system.

I can assure you that I, and I think most of my colleagues, don't agree with the "whereases" of the resolution of the Liberal Party, but when you vote, you vote on the "Therefore, be it resolved," and I can say that we stand absolutely united with them in our belief that the "Therefore, be it resolved" portion of this resolution is appropriate, is important, should be debated and hopefully will, I think, afford the listening public an opportunity to hear some of the positions of the various parties on the health care system.

One of the things that always disturbs me when there is a debate about health care, particularly in this forum, are the accusations that get thrown around and the sanctimonious sense of a holier-than-thou approach to, "We're better at caring about people than you are," or, "Your mistakes have led people to die." All three parties have engaged in this over the years, and I think that should be acknowledged by all members.

What I would urge, as someone who for two years had the incredible honour of being the Minister of Health in this province, is that we actually try and start to understand the complexity of the system, the complexity of the challenges and the urgency of dealing with those challenges, instead of throwing around a lot of partisan rhetoric, which happens all too often, I believe.


When I look at the resolution itself, and I commented on the fact that in the text of the "whereases" leading up to the resolution of the motion being put forward there are a lot of attacks that are flung out at the government of the day and at the previous government, it would be only too easy to revert to pointing out to the Liberal Party some of the statements they made during the election campaign and some of the inconsistencies with what they've been saying in the House lately. But I actually want to step back a little bit before that and talk about where we were at when, in 1990, the NDP government was elected, then when we started to try and understand ourselves the management of the health care system, and in 1991, when I became Minister of Health, the challenges as I saw them.

We had, all members in this House, experienced a period of growth through the 1980s and the demand from our constituents for more and better health care and a demand from all political parties to improve the health care system. I think as members we equated that with putting more money into the system. There was tremendous growth in health care for a decade under Tory and Liberal governments, budgets that grew by 10%, 11% and 12%. It was double-digit growth every year for over a decade in what is a third of government expenditures. You have to remember that when you're talking about trying to control government expenditures you have to talk about health as a third of the budget -- the services it provides, the needed resources to people in the communities and the costs attached to that. One out of every three government dollars is spent on the health care system, and that was growing, and growing rapidly.

There was never a sense that we really were getting a hold of the health care system, and I'm not at this point in time laying partisan blame. It's almost temporal. There was an understanding beginning to grow, across this country, of the need for restructuring our health care system, of the need for moving from illness treatment to illness prevention, from expensive institutional-based care to health promotion at the community level and delivery of services at the community level to a concept of wellness, to dealing with determinants of health, many of which lay outside of the actual health care system in the direct expenditure of health.

That's an important point for the members opposite who haven't had an opportunity perhaps to be exposed to some of the work of previous premiers' councils on determinants of health. I urge you to get those documents and read them because you will actually see that much of which determines our population's health status falls outside of our expenditure in health care.

So we were faced with growing fiscal pressures. We were faced with a need for restructuring and reform in the health care system and a lot of vested interests that wanted to protect where they were at, and yet a beginning of an acknowledgement that there needed to be change. I'll be quite frank with you: I think it was the fiscal times that allowed us to start the process of seriously getting restructuring going and seriously trying to make the shift happen that many had talked about.

We well may have made some mistakes along the way in the choices that we made, but it was always with a commitment to try and improve the quality of care, to try and shift the balance of what was happening in the health care system, to try and ensure that we were, in our government's approach, having the fiscal room to deal with other issues which were the determinants of health as well as ensuring a quality and fully accessible health care system. It was always with that goal. I just don't accept from any member in this House on any side accusations that others care less about people's health. It's what you do in terms of your overall approach and whether you can achieve the goals that you've set for yourself that we may question of each other from time to time, but I think questioning on the basic goals is probably irrelevant and not a very honest portrayal of the issues that face us in the health care system today.

During that period of time, the fact that essentially our backs were against the fiscal wall allowed us to examine where we were at in the health care system, and I would argue it was at a set of crossroads with respect to the future of medicare. It's almost like being suspended in time. I think we've returned to that point again, and this is a point that I want to make with members opposite because I am very concerned about the direction where we're headed.

In the resolution itself there's some back and forth about whether the health care envelope is $17.8 billion or $17.4 billion. I think that's sort of silliness. What I heard in terms of the commitment from the government, leading up to the campaign and during the campaign, was a commitment to seal the envelope at the $17.4 billion. So whether it's another $400 million or not, I think if you leave it at $17.4 billion you've met your commitment. And I did hear a commitment that if there are administrative savings, those would be reinvested, so I expect that there will be savings found and they will be reinvested. I wonder whether or not we will see those reinvestments made in a timely fashion. That is a real concern.

I'm pleased to see expansion of dialysis, and I say to the minister directly that I was immensely disappointed when he made his, I think, untrue accusations of the previous government. I remember working very hard to expand dialysis services at a time when money was very tight. I think these first steps we've made have allowed him to build on that, and I applaud him for building on that. I think the cheap shots that he's taken were unnecessary.

I think the same with respect to emergency services and that reinvestment. That's good. Those are first steps and I hope to see that continue. I fear it won't, and I fear that the repositioning that I've heard of the commitment -- you know, in all the questions we've asked, we've never got a straight answer from the Premier or from the minister as to, first of all, whether or not those health dollars that are saved are truly administrative savings and, second, whether or not they're going to be reinvested in a timely fashion.

When I look at the list of cuts, I am very concerned when I see things like birthing centres on that list. I don't see that as an administrative saving. Let me tell you the work that I personally did, building on the work of a former Liberal Minister of Health who started birthing centres in hospitals. I did work taking it a step further to look at community-based birthing centres. Let me tell you that all of the work we did showed that we could deliver that service of delivering children in a much more cost-effective way for normal, healthy births.

This isn't administrative, this isn't duplication. You know, because you have birthing centres, you're not going to have more women having babies out there. It's a replacement of service from a high-cost, institutional-based service to a lower-cost community; more friendly, affording women a choice in terms of birthing. That, to me, is wrong to call that administrative. When you're stopping the expansion of community health centres and delivery of primary health care services through that network of community health centres, that's not an administrative saving. You're making a decision about where health care resources should be spent and where they shouldn't, and the decision that I hear is to support the institutional-based side and to pull back on expansion on the community side.

With cuts that are being proposed to the hospital side, if you don't build up the community side first, you run the risk, and we've seen this before in this province -- I ask you to remember, way back when Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital was closed, what happened to those people you deinstitutionalized in this province, where the people were put out where there were no services in the communities. We have neighbourhoods and people who have suffered the effects of that.

I fear that this is happening again. I see a commitment to reduction in efficiencies across the board, the cutting of front-line services in the community, not building that up, and nowhere for people to go to get the services they need if you continue down that track.

But I think, if I step back, the bigger concern I have is that even if you did reinvest that money -- and I ask when you're going to do it; I think the first steps that I've seen from the minister on the two announcements he's made have been positive -- but even if you are committed to doing that, I believe profoundly that once your cabinet starts to take a look at putting together next year's budget and you have to deal with the lost revenues from the tax cut, the income tax cut that you've proposed and that you're committed to, you will be in one heck of a position trying to maintain that health care envelope. The pressure on you will be tremendous in terms of the cuts that will have to be made to make up that lost revenue.

I say this from having spent so many hours sitting around a cabinet table trying to deal with recommendations coming forward on the fiscal side of things to try and deal with deficit reduction, to try and look at expenditure controls. We went through multi-year expenditure reduction plans, called MYERPs; we went through an expenditure control program called the ECP; we went through round two of that. We went through the social contract. Believe me, it's not like this isn't a group of people who didn't have experience in looking at every line of government expenditure in trying to make determinations about where cuts could be made.

The size of the income tax cuts that you're proposing and the loss of revenue to the government is going to put such an incredible strain on your promise to also balance the budget, and in order for you to find those cuts I fear that you will not be able to protect fully one third of government expenditures from the chopping axe. I don't know how you can do it. Having gone through this so many times and having looked at all the unpalatable choices -- and I know you're making many of them; I don't agree with many of them, but there you are, you're making them -- I still say you're not going to be able to continue to do that without touching that health care budget, and I fear the results of that.


I ask you to consider what it means, in terms of the cuts you're making, in terms of the services that are being cut and, I would argue, in health care -- bless you if you reinvest it some time in the future, but I would argue there are cuts there -- as well as so many other places across necessary services. The fact that you're doing that in order to provide income tax relief which will primarily benefit the wealthiest people in this province, and your argument that somehow that's a job creator, that that's going to stimulate the economy -- please step back and examine that.

If wealthy people get a few thousand dollars' break on their income tax, do you think they're going to go out and buy that new car, new fridge, new whatever that your Premier listed off the other day? Every economic study that's been done of consumption patterns says that with those people at the wealthy end of our income scale, that money goes into investments, often offshore. This is not a stimulation to our own economy.

The people who spend every cent they have are the people at the low end of the income scale. In fact, when you think of the cuts you're making in welfare, think of the money you're taking out of the economy, the money that won't be spent at the local grocery store or the kids' clothing shop.

Your economics I don't believe will work. I don't believe you're going to get the job stimulation, I don't believe you're going to get the economic growth, as a result of that. I believe you're going to put much more pressure on your revenues. The economic drag you're going to see as a result of all the cuts you're making, the money you're taking out of public expenditure and the civil servants you're laying off and all the layoffs in the broader public sector, all means that the economic growth will slow down, your revenues will not grow as fast as you have predicted because that hasn't been built in adequately, and your tax cut on top of that, and you still want to balance the budget within a period of time.

It isn't magic. I ask you to consider, I ask you to reconsider, your commitment on this specific tax cut and the way in which you proposed it and the timing you proposed for it, because I believe you can't help but threaten the health care system.

All the way through the election campaign, I spoke to so many people, in my own riding of course, and on occasion when I went to other parts of the province, and said: "Don't believe that promise. Don't believe that they can cut all these expenditures and cut revenues by cutting taxes and still balance the budget and not touch health care."

From my point of view, at least, it wasn't just a simple mantra or a simple knee-jerk reaction to the platform of another political party; it was because I'd been there. I'd been at the cabinet table, I had tried to make those difficult decisions, I had examined the health care system, I was trying to implement restructuring and reform, that takes time in a complex system to accomplish the end results, and I knew that the proposal didn't add up and that it really did threaten, in the end run, that health care system.

The resolution before us today urges you to keep your commitment of sealing that health care budget, and it says to reinvest that money -- and forget about whether it's $17.8 billion or $17.4 billion; I'll be satisfied with $17.4 billion -- and urges you to recommit to your reinvestment day after day after day. I don't even mind a month here and there in your lag time. What I worry about is whether the budget is going to be that much next year or whether you're going to be forced to take cuts and apply it to the bottom-line deficit reduction, whether it's going to be that much in year three, whether it's going to be that much in year four, or whether we're going to see a steady decline, a steady cut into that health care budget in which, miraculously, at the end of your term, as your Premier and your Minister of Health seem to indicate with the answers they have given most recently, in a pre-election budget, with all the cynicism that the public knows and expects from governments, you're going to be true to form and throw back in those figures, going into an election, and say, "See, we've protected health care; see, we've lived up to our commitment."

If that is what happens, that is not the promise you made during the election. I don't believe that's what any of you meant, that you could cut and cut and cut for one, two, three, four years, and then, in a very cynical move in a pre-election budget, throw the money back in and say, "See, we kept our promise." I don't believe that's what you said to your constituents when you were running or that that's what you meant, and I hope that's not what we see. I fear that's what we're going to see, but I hope, for the sake of the health care system and the health of the people of this province, that we don't see that.

But I say to you, what are your options? I believe your options come back to having to reconsider the particular tax break that you proposed, the timing of that tax break.

There's a member who's just arrived -- I won't name the riding -- who's shaking his head. I wish you'd heard all my other arguments, because I'm sure I would have convinced you. I'm sure I would have convinced you that you can't do it all.

The health care system is in a state of change, not just in this province but across this country; in fact, not just in this country but in many jurisdictions. The need to invest in community alternatives that focus on health promotion, that focus on illness prevention, that focus on wellbeing and that focus on the determinants of health, those things that make our populations healthy, is the only way in the long run we will be able to afford a universally accessible health care system. It's the only way we will be able, as Canadians, to protect medicare. If you believe in protecting medicare, if you believe in the essence of that program, then you've got to be making that shift.

The reallocation of dollars that takes place has to be from institution to community, from illness treatment to illness prevention, from institutional-based care that takes a look at the end result of all sorts of health problems to the community supports and the health promotion supports that start at the beginning, the determinants of health that keep people healthy in the first place. It has to go in that direction or we won't be able to afford the system.

I urge you to consider the cuts you're making now in the name of administrative cuts. I don't ever suggest that you can't find administrative efficiencies. I was the one who argued that 30% of what we did in the health care system had no proven value. I was the one who argued that we should set up the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and should have evidence-based population health statistics to take a look at and be able to make decisions about directions in health care.

I don't argue that you can't find administrative efficiencies. Go for it: Find them, reinvest them. But some of the cuts you've made are not administrative efficiencies, and I've already alluded to those and named some of them. Don't call community front-line services administrative savings. Don't cut those and think that you're building a healthy health care system, because it's shortsighted and it's the wrong way to go.

And don't continue to box yourself in with these sets of promises that you can cut income tax and lose that revenue to government, that you can balance the budget in the time frame you've set out and can do it without affecting health care, which is fully one third of all government money that is spent. You've got a dilemma in terms of the elements of your plan. There are real problems in terms of the elements of that plan, and if you continue in that line, I suspect that health care and the health care system are what will suffer.

Let me tell you that this party, and I am sure the Liberal Party, will be fighting you every step of the way if that's what happens. If you reconsider the nature of the tax break and look at who benefits -- the wealthy -- and look at redistributing that wealth by keeping it in government and putting it through the services, then you'll see support from this side of the House. I urge you to rethink it.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): This government's integrity is on the line. It was elected on the basis of no health cuts, and the moment it walked into Queen's Park, the health cuts began.

If we had to rewrite how health service was to be delivered today, given the massive changes in rural and urban settings across Ontario, health service delivery would be so different. What we need is to encourage communities to come up with how that difference is going to come about. We need government to be the lightning rod for that.

The government so far in the Windsor community has failed us. It went into it three years ago with the assumption that the government would be that lightning rod. Today we're waiting for a response, and we're still waiting for a response. Windsor was prepared to go into that unknown with the assurance that the provincial government was on our side. I expect to find them on our side and I don't expect to see health cuts.

Mrs Caplan: I'd like to congratulate the members of my caucus who participated in this debate. They all made a very important contribution.

As I start the wrapup of this opposition day, I think it's important that when we talk about health care and medicare and health services and restructuring and all of that, what we're really talking about is the people in this province who are sick, those in need of health care services, those who are also in need of compassion, but we're also talking about the health of our population.


That's why we have seen the development of our medicare, of health care services in Ontario as a part of the values of our society and that which clearly makes us different from our neighbours to the south, where they have a two-tier system, where they have user fees and copayments, one system for those who can afford and another for those who cannot afford, and a system -- if you want to call it that -- that spends 40% more than we spend and yet people are uninsured and underinsured. If there was ever an example of what we do not want for Ontarians, it is to go down that American road of a patchwork that just doesn't work.

I think my leader, who's arrived for the wrapup debate, was very eloquent in her passion that the Harris Conservative government can simply not be trusted. They cannot be trusted not to lead us down that American road, because clearly that is what we fear is the agenda.

I hear them talk about the fact that with the election of June 8 and the change of government at the end of that very same month they inherited a health budget in the $17.8-billion range. That is what the public accounts say. While they stand up and say that they promised during the election no cuts to health care spending, sealing of the envelope, the expectation of this public and what everyone heard them say was that they would protect health care, protect health care services, not see any cuts in spending.

I think what people believed was that they would protect what they inherited. That's why we've used the $17.8-billion number.

In our own document, as the minister pointed out, we referred to the $17-billion budget because we recognized that it was in that range, and the total is in fact important because of the five principles of medicare: universality, public administration, comprehensiveness, portability and reasonable access.

Comprehensiveness is very important. When you stand in your place and you say that you are prepared as one of the first orders of business to accept an almost half-a-billion-dollar cut, a $484-million cut in health care expenditure as your commitment, what we fear is that means that you are going to try and make someone else pay.

I heard your minister today stand and say we have enough money in health care. No one is arguing that, and I would agree with him. As a percentage of GDP and as per capita expenditure, we all agree that there is enough of our wealth and our resource. When you talk about GDP it doesn't matter who pays, and therefore deinsuring and delisting and all of those user fees and copayments that you are considering, all of those will actually increase health expenditure.

It is very important for you to guard that envelope in its entirety, and that's why we make the point that $17.8 billion is the sacred trust. I'm using that word. It was used by the Conservative candidate who ran against me when he stood at an all-candidates meeting and said, "Health care and health services are a sacred trust." I poked some fun at him as I reminded those present of another politician who used the words "sacred trust." I said that I hoped Mike Harris and the Conservatives would not follow down that path of Brian Mulroney, but I fear that they have.

We also all recognize, as we've heard today, that there is a need for restructuring, for reinventing, for re-engineering, for health reform. As a former Health minister I was proud of the efforts that I made and that we made as we started down that road.

But I can tell you that reform, re-engineering, reinventing and restructuring do not mean dismantling, and the test for long-term care, the test for mental health reform is, are people going to be able to get the care and the services that they need when they need it? That will be the test that you are accountable for.

That's why we have been pressing you for a plan for your reallocation and your reinvestment. That's why when we see a list of cuts that includes cuts to community-based services, to long-term-care services, to programs in the community like birthing centres, I could not agree more that you simply do not understand if you consider that as a duplication.

Then you are making a huge mistake, because one of the ways that will save you money is by shifting services to a location where they can be provided with the highest quality at the best price.

That was the reason that the Independent Health Facilities Act, which I shepherded through this House, was brought into being, and it was to be used first to fund birthing centres, because you know there are finite numbers of births in this province. Whether they are delivered in the hospital or whether they are delivered in the community, in a birthing centre, there are only so many women giving birth in this province.

So the good health policy, the good public policy is to say, where can we provide the service most appropriately with the highest quality at the best price? You send the wrong signal when you make those cuts to community services that would be the true restructuring, the real shift. Community mental health programs such as the liaison program for the Toronto Hospital have been cut, and your minister says no front-line services have been cut. You've sent the wrong signal to Windsor and to other communities when you say: "We recognize that you can save a lot of money. We recognize that you can do things better for less, but we're not prepared to provide the few capital dollars."

I'm not saying it's insignificant, but given a $17-billion, almost $18-billion health care non-system that we have today, surely you should be using your capital dollars to help create that system and create that network in supporting communities that have made the tough decisions and are working hard.

There's no topic that I feel more passionately about, and I put this government on notice that with the opportunity I've had in the past as a former Health minister I understand the challenges that are facing you. I stood in this House and I pleaded, as your minister has, that these issues should not be partisan issues. When you do something that protects the essence of medicare as we know it, when you do what you say you were going to do, which is to protect every penny in the health care system and bring in a plan for true restructuring as opposed to dismantling, then, I can tell you, you will have my support.

But if you try to dismantle medicare as we know it in Ontario, if you bring in user fees or delist or deinsure or bring in copayments for drugs, you will rue the day because, I tell you, I will stand firm in my place to do everything that I can to raise the clarion call in this province to tell them that you can't trust the Tories when it comes to health.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Mrs McLeod has moved opposition day motion number 1.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

As previously agreed by this House, the division bell will take place next Monday.


Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of October 16, 1995.

On Monday, October 16, we will begin the second reading of Bill 7, An Act to restore balance and stability to labour relations and to promote economic prosperity and to make consequential changes to statutes concerning labour relations.

Tuesday, October 17, will be an opposition day standing in the name of the leader of the third party.

On Wednesday, October 18, and Thursday, October 19, we continue with the second reading debate of Bill 7.

There's also been an agreement among the House leaders that private members' business on Thursday, October 19, will be cancelled. A motion to this effect will be moved on Monday.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): It being almost 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 1:30 of the clock. Agreed? Agreed.

The House adjourned at 1759.