36th Parliament, 1st Session

L011 - Tue 17 Oct 1995 / Mar 17 Oct 1995























































The House met at 1331.




Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): On Saturday, October 14, it was my pleasure to attend the inauguration of the Canadian Hockey Association for the Developmentally Challenged. This hockey association will provide children with the opportunity to develop, to their fullest ability, their love of the game of hockey. By tapping into their learning potential through hockey, these children will come to recognize that the only real handicap is that which others put on them.

The first game between the red and black teams on Saturday demonstrated the valuable contribution of promoting the full acceptance and participation of children who are developmentally handicapped or challenged in our community.

This House should applaud the officers and committee members for their unselfish dedication; in particular, the president of the association, Mr Adriano Salvati. Also to be commended are the volunteers and parents for their support. But most of all we should praise the efforts of these children for accepting the challenge of sports participation.

I'm sure that all members of this House join me today in relaying the message that we, as a community, take pride in this significant accomplishment.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): This is the first of a series of reports which I intend to make to describe the devastation that the cuts of this government are having in my constituency of Fort York.

Over the years, my riding has been the first home for hundreds of thousands of new Canadians. In any school in Fort York as many as 25 to 30 languages would be spoken.

Today, over 100 demonstrators gathered together to protest the closing of Ontario Welcome House. Since 1973, when the Davis government established Ontario welcome houses, they've acted as a networking service for new immigrants, helping to fill out forms, referring to the appropriate agencies, finding employment, offering counselling, and offering translation and English classes. For 22 years, in 35 languages, this agency has eased the settlement process and helped to make sure that the energy of new Canadians is captured and channelled into productive lives.

The governments of Japan, Germany, Australia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia and Sweden have all sent delegations to Welcome House to understand how Canada settles people successfully.

In April, these centres will be closed because this government has decided that this investment in people is a luxury. Fifty-four staff members will be out on the street searching for work, along with those they used to be able to help.

Some 80,000 of Canada's 250,000 immigrants settle in Toronto each year. Of these 80,000, 63,000, predominantly non-English speaking, rely on welcome houses. We cannot make savings by making it more difficult for new Canadians to access services, employment or their legal rights.

In closing welcome houses, we have an example of, "If it's working, destroy it."


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Honourable Al Palladini, Minister of Transportation, on his recent announcement regarding Ontario's new bicycle helmet law.

Effective October 1, the completed regulations for Bill 124 state that the law which makes wearing a helmet mandatory in Ontario applies only to cyclists under 18 years of age. In my opinion, which is in keeping with the opinion of many residents from Grey-Owen Sound who took time to write or phone my office, the regulations make common sense.

Make no mistake about it: I am concerned with the issue of bicycle safety. However, although I believe that adults should show leadership and set a positive example for our youth by wearing helmets, I don't believe we need new laws to force this type of responsibility. As adults, we should always be positive role models for our children and we should have the capacity to make responsible safety choices for ourselves.

In addition to helmets, preparing young people to ride safely and avoid unnecessary mishaps is vital. In this field, the municipal police services in my riding have proved to be exemplary. Owen Sound, Hanover, Meaford, Thornbury and Durham do an outstanding job promoting bicycle safety through annual bike rodeos and safety seminars.

It is this type of cooperative community effort combined with the new bicycle helmet law that will allow our children to enjoy years of accident-free cycling in our communities.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I rise today to bring to the attention of this House a very serious matter. As reported in both the Ottawa Sun and the Citizen today, officials from the Ministry of Health stated last night at a meeting of the district health council, and in a letter from the ministry, that "the ministry will establish a management team...that will institute a separate process and structure for the next phase of the reconfiguration report."

This council has been meeting and advising the government for the past two years on the hospital reconfiguration project. The region was to release its recommendations in January. You can imagine the confusion that this has caused on such an important regional issue.

In discussion today with the chair of the district health council, Dr Soucie, he stated: "People felt shafted. Thousands of professional and volunteer hours have gone into the planning process. This has undercut our credibility."

To add further fuel to the fire, I understand that the Minister of Health stated this morning that he was not aware of this action by his own bureaucrats and was sending out a letter of apology, as he said, on behalf of his officials "who acted unilaterally, without my knowledge or consent."

If the minister is not aware of what is happening in his own ministry, then who the heck is? The issue here is very simple: Who is in charge? This is the second time the minister has admitted to being blindsided by his ministry staff, who have had their own course which the minister finds out about after the fact.

The confusion has to end. I call on the minister to investigate this matter and report back to the House. He must act decisively to restore the confidence, hard work and reputation of the district health council. I look forward to hearing his response.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): In August of this year, representatives of the community of Marathon in my riding, that of Lake Nipigon, met with the Minister of Health to alert him to the fact that the medical infrastructure of northwestern Ontario is indeed in danger of collapsing.

The longstanding issue -- and this is a perennial, a residual -- of doctor recruitment and retaining for the north continues to plague our communities.

In the case of Marathon, with only one full-time doctor, there's been an announcement by the Wilson Memorial hospital that, because they have no alternative, effective November 10 this year, in a few weeks, they will close their emergency service. How can one full-time doctor service more than 10,000 people at the regional level?


If it does happen, if this calamity, this catastrophe, because of really what is the lack of concerted effort, is allowed to happen, we people up north in our special part of Ontario have no alternatives and we shall be left holding the bag.

We've established a fund. We passed the hat around and we raised $15,000 so we can keep locums. That has been insufficient. So we beg the minister, because there's a human dimension to this, to please give us the opportunity to keep our emergency department open.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): We're most fortunate in the riding of Northumberland to have recently opened two new libraries in the towns of Campbellford and Cobourg.

Libraries are indeed an important resource for any community. They are an essential monument to our past, and new libraries are a vote of confidence in our future. They are a symbol of what we hold important in our society: knowledge, education, and the sharing of ideas and information.

Although the library of today incorporates computers and high technology, the purpose hasn't changed very much over the years. Libraries are still places of learning, and of fun, as our two new libraries have clearly shown.

Both libraries in my riding are bright, open and inviting. They are high tech with computers, a large selection of videotapes, talking books, and much more.

I was particularly pleased to have the Honourable Marilyn Mushinski assist with the recent opening of the library in Cobourg. The library in Campbellford was opened by local elected municipal politicians.

The development of facilities such as libraries represents large quantities of time by volunteers. A big thank you and congratulations to all of the volunteers who have worked so hard to enhance the quality of their community by having modern library facilities.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): In 1985, the Bethlehem housing project of Niagara was launched through the efforts of a Christian service group known as Outreach Niagara, local churches and concerned citizens of all political stripes and representing a wide cross-section of St Catharines.

The provincial government has withdrawn $160,000 in annual funding used at Bethlehem Place to provide support services to residents. It is very likely that this will put an end to one of the most successful community-based efforts to help end the cycle of poverty and welfare dependency.

Current programs within Bethlehem Place are aimed at residents taking control of their lives, developing self-confidence and skills needed to cope with their situations. They have seminars which provide a forum for learning how to deal with basic life skills, addictive patterns and family life; support counsellors who help residents determine their goals, how to achieve them, and give necessary support and encouragement to move on to a productive life; a relationship with more than 30 social service agencies throughout Niagara that refer residents to Bethlehem Place for housing and support.

Bethlehem Place shares the government's concern about welfare dependency, and Bethlehem Place works to end dependency on welfare by getting at the root causes. Productive lives are built that are able to contribute more than they receive.

I call upon the government to change this unwise decision to remove the $160,000 annual grant and to restore it so people can turn their lives around and so an essential service can be provided to our community.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I wish to bring to the attention of the members and citizens the continuing saga of the remarkable partnership that is unfolding in Ontario, a partnership based on politics, commitment, friendship and money. That partnership is manifested by the remarkable list of Mulroney political hacks being hired, at public expense, by this government. There are many.

Today, I bring yet another one to your attention. Mr John Toogood comes from the office of Mulroney cabinet minister Doug Lewis. It is obvious that Mr Harris owes Mr Mulroney something. Why else is he hiring a bunch of hacks from the discredited Mulroney administration?

It's time Mr Harris told us more about this remarkable partnership. After all, he is using public dollars.

Mr John Toogood is a Tory party activist and, of course, a Mulroney loyalist. Mr Toogood has been hired as the executive assistant to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. At what cost, God only knows, but I suspect it's closer to $100,000 a year than $50,000.

After all, Mulroney and his gang didn't come cheap, and you all know that. If you don't know it, I suggest you read a book by Stevie Cameron called On the Take -- Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years.

So we know Mr Toogood is a Mulroney loyalist, but I suspect his loyalty to Mr Mulroney pales beside the degree of loyalty being demonstrated by Mr Harris. Why? We all respect loyalty. Let's just hope that the list of Mulroney loyalists is a short one.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): My statement concerns the announcement made by the Labour minister on October 4, the introduction of Bill 7 repealing the job-killing Bill 40 labour legislation. I received a letter the morning after its introduction, the first in what I am sure will be a long string of testimonials for our actions, from the Milton Chamber of Commerce:

"The Milton Chamber of Commerce and its member businesses support the repeal of Bill 40. The implementation of Bill 40 resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs as well as the loss of many billions of investment dollars." It was signed by Michael Bourgon, president, Milton Chamber of Commerce.

Since that letter I have received others, voicing their enthusiastic support for our government's actions, notably, the Halton Hills Chamber of Commerce, Acton Precision Millwrights Ltd and members of the agricultural community, referring to Bill 91.

Amid all the condemnation and criticism from the opposition with respect to this government's amendments to this legislation, we have now heard from the business constituents of Halton North, people who helped elect this member and who are in full support of our actions on this side of the House.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I beg to inform the House that I've laid upon the table the individual members' expenditures report for the fiscal year 1994-95. The members will find a copy in their desks in the chamber.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Yesterday, the member for Windsor-Riverside (Mr Cooke) rose on a question of order to seek my advice concerning another member's connection with a lottery that was held in that member's constituency.

If the member for Windsor-Riverside is indicating or has been informed that the situation raises a criminal matter, I have to say that I cannot advise the member as to what course of action he should take. Our precedents here indicate that the Speaker is not in a position to render legal advice or an opinion. I refer the member to rulings at page 4,257 of the Hansard for June 13, 1988, page 692 of the Hansard for April 23, 1990, and page 213 of the Hansard for April 22, 1993.

Nevertheless, I thank the member for the concern that he has raised.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Yesterday, the member for Algoma (Mr Wildman) rose in the House on a question of privilege before question period. The member requested that the Speaker determine whether or not the Minister of Community and Social Services (Mr Tsubouchi) was "deliberately misleading the members of this House" when he indicated in last Tuesday's question period that the government had made no decision on a matter concerning his portfolio.

This member also requested that the Speaker determine whether or not "the Premier did counsel the minister to make misleading statements...."

The leader of the third party (Mr Rae), the leader of the official opposition (Mrs McLeod), and the Premier (Mr Harris) spoke to the question of privilege.

Later the same day, the member for Beaches-Woodbine (Ms Lankin) rose on a question of privilege that was separate from but related to the question of privilege raised by the member for Algoma.

The member requested that the Speaker review the record concerning a document that the Minister of Community and Social Services had indicated earlier he would be willing to make available.

I have had an opportunity to review the Hansard, our precedents and the relevant authorities concerning the issues raised in these various submissions.

Let me say several things at the outset. First, because members -- all members -- are presumed to be honourable, no member should suggest otherwise.

Second, it is not the responsibility of the Speaker to determine the veracity of statements that are made in the House. In this regard, let me refer members to two precedents.

On June 7, 1988, a member rose in this House on a question of privilege concerning an alleged inconsistency in a minister's response to an oral question. The member requested that the matter be referred to a committee "to determine whether the minister intentionally or whether the minister inadvertently lied to the House." Speaker Edighoffer responded by making the following remarks (at page 4101 of that day's Hansard):

"It is not the Speaker's duty to judge the validity of the words used. I cannot make a judgement on whether any member has stated the facts correctly."


In a similar vein, Speaker Warner made the following remarks on November 18, 1993 (on page 4140 of the Hansard for that day) in response to a member's claim that a minister was misleading the House:

"The veracity of statements is not to be tested by the Speaker. Those are matters to be dealt with by members of the House in orderly debate."

Let me turn to the extract from page 119 of the 21st edition of Erskine May that was mentioned by the member for Algoma. The authority for the proposition in Erskine May that making a deliberately misleading statement in the House may be grounds for contempt is a 1963 resolution of the House of Commons at Westminster. That resolution found a member guilty of grave contempt for making a personal statement in the House that he later admitted was not true. The circumstances raised by the member for Algoma -- and the similar set of circumstances raised by the member for Beaches-Woodbine -- cannot compare with the very serious circumstances associated with that incident.

That 1963 resolution is the only authority in Erskine May for the proposition that the making of a deliberately misleading statement may be treated as a contempt. The circumstances surrounding the resolution are explained in greater detail on pages 704 and 705 of the second edition of House of Representatives Practice. This authority indicates that although many claims have been raised -- as a matter of privilege or contempt -- that a member has deliberately misled the House, no Speaker has ever accepted such a claim.

These statistics suggest an obvious point, namely, that it will be a rare situation indeed in which there can be a finding of contempt. The incidents that were brought to my attention yesterday are not suggestive of contempt.

On a separate but related matter, the member for Mississauga South (Mrs Marland) rose on a question of order concerning the way in which the member for Algoma had framed his question of privilege. My review of Hansard indicates that when the member for Algoma used the words "deliberately misleading" and "misleading," he did so in the context of a request that the Speaker review the circumstances. As the member for Algoma himself indicated, he was not suggesting that the minister had misled members.

I thank the various members who made submissions on the matters addressed in this ruling for their contributions.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Yesterday, Monday, October 16, the member for Dufferin-Peel (Mr Tilson) introduced a bill entitled An Act respecting the rounding of the Penny in Cash Transactions. It has been brought to my attention that this bill is in unilingual format only, which is contrary to subsection 3(2) of the French Language Services Act, 1986. I must therefore advise the House that this bill contravenes standing order 38(d) and must be removed from the order paper.



Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I am very pleased to announce today the appointment of Graham Reynolds as director of the special investigations unit. The special investigations unit is an independent body that investigates police actions which result in serious injury or death from alleged criminal activity.

Since his call to the bar in 1976, Mr Reynolds has worked in the administration of justice for the federal and provincial governments at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada. During this time, he has gained a high level of knowledge and experience with policing and investigative agencies. Since 1988, he has managed 48 lawyers and 23 support staff who are responsible for federal legal administration in southern Ontario. Prior to that, Mr Reynolds was a senior counsel and section head of the federal tax litigation office in Edmonton. He has also held the position of special prosecutor with the Attorney General of Alberta.

An excellent lawyer and administrator, Mr Reynolds brings to the job an effective, fair and balanced approach to decision-making. Mr Reynolds will serve as SIU director on a one-year secondment from his current position as general counsel and section head of prosecutions in the Toronto region with the federal Department of Justice.

He replaces Dana Venner, the acting director, who has worked diligently to eliminate the chronic backlog of cases that was crippling the SIU's effectiveness and reputation as an oversight body. Ms Venner agreed to take over the director's job last March on a temporary basis.

In seven short months, her commonsense approach to management resulted in the SIU's backlog being reduced by 35%. At the end of February there were 70 outstanding investigations; she has now reduced that number to 45. She quickly wrapped up the four investigations that dated back to 1992. In addition, Ms Venner eliminated 60% of the case backlog from 1993. Currently, there are only two cases left from that period of time. Since her arrival, Ms Venner has also quickly dealt with the 1994 case backlog, reducing it by almost 77%. When she arrived there were 39 outstanding cases; now there are nine.

Her efforts demonstrate that the legislation works and, with proper management, the SIU can function in an effective manner. The government owes a debt of gratitude to Ms Venner and thanks her for her efforts.

The SIU is responsible for the most sensitive cases involving police and public. To be effective, the public must have confidence that the SIU is conducting impartial investigations. With the appointment of Mr Reynolds, the people of Ontario can be assured that the SIU will continue to operate in an effective, fair and efficient manner.

In the members' gallery today are Mr Reynolds and Ms Venner. I thank them on behalf of the people of Ontario.


Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I rise today to acknowledge a serious mistake made by my ministry. I would like to fully disclose to the Legislature the chronology of events that led up to the issues raised in the House yesterday.

On August 29, staff of my ministry drafted a series of amendments to regulations regarding social assistance eligibility. When these regulations were brought to me, I gave explicit instructions that any regulatory changes that affected the disabled be removed. Regrettably, my instructions were not carried out and the incorrect regulations proceeded through the approval process.

In response to questions in the Legislature raised last week, I said that no decisions had been made. I had not been informed at that point that the incorrect regulations had proceeded. I regret any confusion this might have caused.

I have spoken with the officials involved and their superiors. I am satisfied that this was a human error and not deliberate. Mistakes do happen. When they do, the proper course is to acknowledge them and to correct them immediately. This is what my ministry has done.

The official who made this mistake and the deputy minister have apologized, and I have accepted their apology. As the minister, I apologize to the House and to the people of Ontario for this mistake, with the commitment that it will not happen again.

I'm making this statement because I want the House and the people of this province to know the facts. We are strongly committed to protecting the benefits of the disabled. At no time were steps taken to implement the change. No change took place to any benefits provided to the permanently unemployed people of Ontario.



Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): I will comment on the Attorney General's statement. First of all, I'm very happy to share with him in congratulating Ms Venner on the job which she has accomplished in such a short time period, and I certainly want to congratulate Mr Reynolds and wish him well in his new responsibilities.

But I am concerned about one aspect of the minister's statement, when he indicates -- and I think he's accepting the fact that the SIU's structure at the present time is satisfactory and the minister is under the impression that with administrative improvements and good administration from Mr Reynolds, the present regulations and law will suffice. I want to differ with him. I want to remind him about his comments when he was in opposition questioning the structure of the SIU.

In particular, there is one underlying problem with respect to the SIU which cannot be resolved by good administration, and that's a structural weakness in the composition of the regulations themselves. The Police Services Act requires police officers to answer questions and cooperate with the SIU. On the other hand we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which permits individual citizens not to incriminate themselves.

We have seen the experience of police officers refusing to cooperate with the SIU because they did not want to incriminate themselves. In fact, last week in the Legislature I brought to the attention of the Attorney General a case in point, the Moses case, where the police officer was not cooperating with the SIU, taking the charter defence. That cannot be improved or changed by administration.

I urged the Attorney General at that time to conduct a court reference on this issue, to find out the parameters of the Police Services Act's obligation for an officer to give information and his or her rights under the charter. That is still an outstanding issue, and unless and until the Attorney General resolves that judicially, and I'm urging him to do it by way of a reference, there will always be this flaw in the legislation at the present time. So I'm urging him to correct that flaw, and that is something which he is burdening his new director with. I wish that he would assist him by changing the law in that regard.

The other thing I would say to the Attorney General is that he's making this announcement out of context. The people in the province of Ontario, in fact the legal profession, are looking for leadership from the Attorney General on where the justice system is going. I'm sorry that he did not have anything in the speech from the throne. He has not made a major speech on this issue and I encourage him to do so. I think he has the ability and the capacity to show leadership and I am encouraging him to do so.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I want to respond to the comment made by the Minister of Community and Social Services. I am absolutely astonished at the comments made by the Minister of Community and Social Services. What is in front of us today is not a question of a drafting error; it is a question of who's in charge. It is clearly a question of who's calling the shots in this ministry; it is a question of a ministry that is out of control; it is a question of a ministry that doesn't know one part of the day from another.

We have a committee made up of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, a lawyer; the vice-chair, the Attorney General, another lawyer; the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, an experienced legislator; the ministers of Transportation, Citizenship and Environment. This legislation and regulations committee of cabinet must approve every single change that comes through. How can such a blatant error occur?

Is it a coincidence that the minister stood up last Tuesday in the House and made reference to changes in the definition of "disability" and then we see this in front of us? Is it a coincidence that it had to be the opposition and the media to bring this to the government's attention? Had that not occurred, 115,000 seniors and disabled would have had their benefits cut.

Minister, this is not good enough. To say this was a drafting error is to suggest that the Titanic hit an ice cube. It is wrong. It is not good enough.

This continues to be one of many errors that have occurred daily in this ministry. Minister, if you cannot control the actions of your staff, then you must question who is calling the shots. The government members and the ministers must be responsible. The accountability must stop with the minister. It is not good enough to pass the buck to the staff, to the deputy minister and to the people who drafted this regulation.

This must fall clearly in the lap of the minister. It is a question of competence. It is a question of the direction of this ministry and this government. It is out of control, and disabled people and people who are on welfare in this province are paying the price as a result of this incompetence.

Mr Bob Rae (York South): The issue is partly the one which has been mentioned by my colleague from Hamilton, and that is the question as to how a mistake of this magnitude could have been made. But there is another question which I don't think the minister has addressed in his statement today.

He starts out by saying he wants "to fully disclose...the chronology of events that led up to the issues raised in the House....

"On August 29, staff of my ministry drafted a series of amendments to regulations regarding social assistance eligibility."

How would they do this? By spontaneous combustion? How would it be that the staff at the ministry of Comsoc would come forward with regulations? Who would have instructed the staff at the ministry to come up with regulations affecting eligibility for social service if it is not the minister? Why wouldn't his fingerprints be inserted prior to August 29? How would it be that on August 29 -- and I ask all these questions knowing now that the Leader of the Opposition will get the first chance to ask them herself when the time comes for questions. So I speak with candour and with some frustration. But it strikes me that that's a reasonable question to ask.

All of us recognize that mistakes are made and all of us recognize that public servants do their best. None of us wants to point the finger at any unfortunate official and say that they are responsible. I certainly don't want to do that. What I do want to do is say that the minister and the cabinet have to take responsibility for the steps that are taken. It is not possible, it defies credibility, to suggest that the ministry, on its own, came up with a series of regulatory changes as drastic and as severe as the changes which were eventually approved by cabinet.

We also know, and it's not mentioned anywhere in this document, that in order for a regulation to go through to the next stage of the process -- perhaps the member for Hamilton East isn't fully familiar with this, but if my memory serves me correctly, and it's not that long ago that I presided over a cabinet -- the chairman of cabinet has to sign a document on the basis of a cabinet discussion, on the basis of a submission by the minister. The minister has to sign, the deputy has to sign, all that documentation has to be there.

For a mistake of this kind to have been made, instructions have to have been made to the staff of the ministry to prepare regulations. Those regulations have to have been submitted, discussed in the leg and reg committee, then discussed in a full meeting of cabinet and then signed by the chairman of cabinet upon approval. That's how it works, and that chronology is not even recognized in the minister's document.

I would say to the minister, in all candour, if you're going to come clean, let's have a complete exposition as to how it could be that these regulations came to be drafted in the first place and how it could possibly be that the permanently unemployed would be so singled out for discrimination and for action by your government.

I do not subscribe to the view that it was sheer inadvertence that led to this taking place. That is not an adequate explanation as to what has happened and the minister still has some explaining to do.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): With reference to the statement today from the Attorney General, I want to rise to congratulate Mr Reynolds on his appointment. It's unfortunate that it's only a one-year secondment, because I know that stability in the SIU is very important. I hope that the support he will find from the ministry and indeed from all of the players in the area will enable him to continue that work.

I'm very pleased to join with the Attorney General in congratulating Ms Dana Venner on the work that she did as acting director. Having appointed her in March, I know how reluctant she was to take on that job. What she has done is to act with the very best traditions of the public service and we all stand to be grateful.

The minister is quite right that the SIU needs the confidence of both the community and the police community. It is going to be extremely important as time goes on, in dealing with the issues raised by the member for Ottawa West, that we all work together to ensure that civilian oversight of the police has its very best traditions in the SIU.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question again today is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday, we heard from this minister how concerned he was about the lengthy waiting list for heart surgery in Ontario. His sympathy and concern are of course appropriate and welcome, but they do not do much for patients and their families who are waiting for surgery and who are worrying about whether they will make it to the top of the list.

Minister, I suggest to you today that they do not need your sympathy; they need your action and they need it now. You should be in a position to make a specific commitment as to when you're going to fix the problem.

My question today again is a simple one: Will you stand up today and announce when and how you will reinvest in cardiac care? How many days will cardiac patients have to wait for their surgery while they wait for you to act?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I appreciate the question once again from the leader of the official opposition. I reiterate to her and to the people of Ontario and the members of this House what I said yesterday: I'm working very hard, I'm talking to front-line providers, and we are currently putting together the dollar amount that may be needed to patch up what is a very serious problem in the province of Ontario, and I hope on behalf of the government we'll be making an announcement in the very, very near future.


Mrs McLeod: That response is simply not good enough. It's not good enough for patients who are waiting for surgery, it's not good enough for their families, and it's not good enough coming from a minister who has a plan, a plan that was submitted to him in the summertime as to how he could respond to this crisis.

Dr David Naylor of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences has made it quite clear that he gave you such a plan last summer. That plan would cost $20 million. You say you're looking for the dollars to be able to respond to this crisis, but that $20 million is less than a third of the money left in what you have referred to as a reinvestment fund. There's $67 million left in that reinvestment fund, you've got a $20-million plan, and I just don't see what the problem is.

We know that you know how to cut; you can do that instantly. We know that you're sympathetic to this situation. Now we want to see some action. I ask you again, will you commit to acting immediately on the plan that was submitted to you last summer, a plan that could already have saved lives and relieved families and patients of anxiety and pain?

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member leaves the impression that last summer was last year and that this plan's been around for a long time. It's only been around for a few days, and I know Dr Naylor will be pleased to confirm that. It came in towards the end of September, which was only a few days ago. I immediately began working on reviewing those recommendations with officials. I went to Ottawa last Friday, in an unprecedented move, and sat down with Dr Wilbert Keon to ask him --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Oh, wow. We didn't see you there.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): We didn't see you in Ottawa.


Hon Mr Wilson: No, honourable members should know that he thanked me very, very sincerely for coming to see him, for asking for his advice as a front-line, world-leader cardiac surgeon on how we best invest the dollars we have. I'm looking forward to making that announcement in the very near future to help the people who are on our waiting lists in Ontario.

Mrs McLeod: There is no need for the minister to make the superhuman effort of going to Ottawa to discuss the situation. Minister, you have a plan. You have a plan that tells you exactly how you can deal with the situation, a plan presented to you by the very body that has been put in place to tell you how to effectively use our health care dollars. You've got the money and you've got the plan. Don't talk to us about days, that you've only had it for days, because every day you delay makes a difference to that patient who is waiting for heart surgery.

We see that the hospitals in this province are struggling to cope with the crisis, and have been struggling. I mentioned yesterday the situation at Sunnybrook hospital. Let me tell you today about the situation at the Toronto Hospital, where the provincial adult cardiac care network recommended that they increase the number of heart surgeries they were doing by 150 for each of the next three years. Now, that is a 20% increase at that one hospital alone, and that is just to meet growing demands, not even to shorten the waiting list. That hospital decided it would go ahead with those additional surgeries at the recommendation of the cardiac care network. But you have not indicated and your ministry has not indicated whether you are prepared to guarantee funding for the operation.

I suggest to you, Minister, that the hospitals are doing their job to the best of their ability and to the limits of their resources and beyond.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Put your question, please.

Mrs McLeod: It is now time for you to do your job. We need your action, not your sympathy today, Minister. We need to see money flowing to the hospitals so they can do what everyone agrees needs to be done. When are we going to see some action, and how many patients will have to die on the waiting list before you act?

Hon Mr Wilson: I don't think it's helpful that the Leader of the Opposition raise the anxiety of patients, of their families, of the people of Ontario and front-line providers in cardiac care.


The Speaker: Order. Come to order.

Mr Pouliot: They are like jackals. They never stop --

The Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon is out of order, I must remind him.

Hon Mr Wilson: I say to the honourable member that this is a serious issue. Making a political football out of it does nothing to help those patients.

I am working very hard on behalf of yourself, this government, the people of Ontario, to ensure that we reinvest the dollars available, that we reinvest those wisely, that I take the advice and wisdom of the front-line providers themselves so we don't have to keep coming back and raising these questions in the Legislature. I want to bring in a more permanent solution to this problem, which has recurred over the years. We owe that to the patients on the waiting list, we owe it to their families and we owe it, in the name of good management, to the people of Ontario.

We will be making that announcement in the very near future. I need to hear from just a few more front-line providers and then we'll make that announcement, I assure all members of this House.

Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, I would like you to note for the record that it is Dr Naylor himself who has said that we can expect to see patients die on the waiting lists if this minister does not act.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My second question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. It's becoming apparent during this minister's reign of error that we're going to continue to see him make serious mistakes. This minister told people on welfare that they could earn back the cuts he had imposed on their benefits. Well, that is not the case, and we are still waiting for the minister to make good on his commitment to fix that mistake.

We've also seen the minister make what he calls a drafting error, which would have reduced benefits for some 115,000 disabled people and their families. The minister acknowledges that that was a mistake, even though he takes no responsibility for it, even though he gave instructions to his ministry to redefine "disability." But we assume he has made a commitment to fix that mistake.

Today I am asking this minister to correct another serious mistake that affects hundreds of abused women and children across this province. Yesterday the member for Ottawa Centre asked the minister for women's issues about the government's decision to eliminate funding for Harmony House in Ottawa, which provides second-stage shelter and services for abused women and children. In response to that question, the minister for women's issues replied, "I can assure you that the core funding to Harmony House has not been withdrawn."

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): And your question is?

Mrs McLeod: I ask the minister, can he tell us whether what his colleague said yesterday in this House was accurate? If what the minister for women's issues said was accurate, can this minister tell us his definition of core services, and can he tell us what is left of those core services to Harmony House and other second-stage housing projects?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): We are continuing to fund and spend over $60 million to support women's shelters and other services for victims of family violence. This funds almost 100 shelters -- I believe it's 98 -- to help women and children in need. These shelters will ensure that women will have a place to go where they can be safe and protected, and not just a place to go but a place where they can receive the support they need to get through this difficult time.

Mrs McLeod: Clearly neither the Minister of Community and Social Services nor the minister responsible for women's issues gets it, again. I was not asking you about your funding for emergency shelters; I'm sure that will be an issue for another day, Minister. I'm asking you about core funding for second-stage housing projects, the core funding that your colleague the minister for women's issues assured us had not been cut.

I suggest to you that it is the Ministry of Housing which provides funding for bricks and mortar for second-stage housing, and that it was your responsibility to provide the core funding for services for abused women and that that core funding went to staff and services. And I suggest to you that your policy is rather like a neutron bomb: The building may still be standing but everything else has been wiped out; the staff and the services and the program are all gone.

I have a copy of a letter dated October 5, 1995 --

The Speaker: Do you have a question?

Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, I will place the question based on the letter that I present to you and to the minister, the letter from the area manager of the ministry's Ottawa office, and it's written to the president of the board of Harmony House. The letter states, "I am writing to advise you the second-stage housing for abused women program has been identified as one which the government is no longer able to continue funding."


Minister, I ask you, how can you or the minister for women's issues suggest that you are continuing to provide core funding for second-stage housing projects when the funding for staff and programs has disappeared?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I think that to categorize the core services of my ministry as not serving the purpose is a little bit of a stretch. The funding we are providing, the $60 million in women's shelters, does include much programming to actually fulfil these needs. As the Leader of the Opposition correctly pointed out, this government, through the Ministry of Housing, does continue to support residences in the second-stage women's shelters.

Mrs McLeod: I simply can't follow the minister's answer. I don't know whether he's still telling me that he hasn't cut the funding for emergency shelters and just wants to ignore the fact that he has cut the funding for second-stage housing projects, or whether is telling me that this letter from the area manager of the Ottawa office is some sort of new drafting error or bureaucratic error and we'll have an apology tomorrow for the mistake that particular manager made.

I suggest that if this minister and this government are not providing the support services for abused women in second-stage housing, they are not providing funding for core services. There is no way around that. Your minister of women's issues said you were not cutting core funding, and you are. You don't seem to feel you are closing second-stage housing projects, but you are. Minister, if you didn't mean to cut the core funding and if you didn't mean to close down second-stage funding projects, if this is another transcribing error of some sort, will you act now to fix the mistake? Will you restore the real core funding for Harmony House and for scores of other second-stage housing projects across this province which are threatened by your cuts?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I certainly hope the Leader of the Opposition is not suggesting that $60 million is somehow an insignificant fund to include in terms of programming and counselling.

The only services affected through the reduction with respect to the second-stage women's shelters were those of counselling. We're very confident that, out of that $60 million, there is sufficient programming and counselling. Our idea right now is to protect the core services. Core services are for women in need, and we certainly have been putting in $60 million to assist. Certainly I think the programming is there, and we're trying to eliminate what may be some duplication.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): I want to ask the minister some questions arising out of the statement he made in the House today. He states, "On August 29, staff of my ministry drafted a series of amendments to regulations regarding social service eligibility." I wonder if the minister can tell us, under whose instructions did they make these changes and under what cabinet order did they make these changes?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): On August 29, the date the leader of the third party is referring to, a series of amendments that had been suggested were going to cabinet. As I indicated before, when these regulations were brought to me and I saw that the definition of "disabled" or regulations that might affect the disabled were included, I asked explicitly that they not be included in the package. Certainly we have not made a decision on the definition of "disabled" at this point.

Mr Rae: No, this won't do, Minister. You have to answer the question or try to answer the question that's put to you. It's a very simple question.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): You can check the five-year record.

Mr Rae: If the Premier wants to answer some questions, he can try to do that.

I want to ask the minister again, how is it that on August 29 the staff of his ministry would have drafted a series of amendments to regulations? How could that have happened? Did it happen on the basis of instructions from the minister?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: This government had made a commitment already to move the elderly and disabled out of the welfare system. It's our intention to develop a program of assistance to protect income support for the elderly and the disabled. As I've stated previously in the House, we intend to bring more clarity to the definition of "disabled persons" as part of that process.

Also, I must add that in my statement I have already apologized to the House for the mistake that was made.

Mr Rae: The minister commits himself in this statement, quoting from his words in the second paragraph, "I would like to fully disclose to the Legislature the chronology of events that led up to the issues raised in the House."

All I'm asking the minister to do is to fully disclose something that's not in the statement. Staff of ministries do not prepare regulations by spontaneous combustion. They respond to instructions from ministers, from deputies, from cabinet secretaries, from somebody. I want to ask the minister, how would it be that the staff would have prepared regulations regarding social services eligibility if the instructions did not come from the minister?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: As I indicated before, at that time we were looking at a series of amendments dealing with eligibility, but we were also looking at a program to take the elderly and the disabled out of the system. Frankly, this is all part of what we were looking at. I can't believe that it is appropriate for the disabled or the elderly to be on the welfare system, and certainly when we saw that the definition of "disabled" was included among the regulations, we made explicit instructions to take them out.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): New question.

Mr Rae: Let's keep going here and just try and deal with how it would be that this could have happened.

Again, I'd like to ask the minister to confirm: Did he sign the cabinet submission that had the change to the thousands of people on permanently unemployed? Did he sign that recommendation, and is that the recommendation he took to the cabinet discussion with respect to the changes under way?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Once again, I apologize to the House for the error. It was regrettable. It was never intended. But I think the leader of the third party is also raising an appropriate question. It's one I've also asked of my officials, how this error occurred. I'm satisfied that this particular case is one of human error and not of intention. As a result, we've directed our staff to put in safeguards to ensure this does not happen again.

Mr Rae: I want to ask the minister again, did he sign the recommendation to cabinet that contained the regulatory changes? Did you sign that document?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Clearly, the process we have to go through in order to sign any submissions to cabinet -- and certainly I signed the submission.

I've also indicated already that a mistake was made and I've already apologized to the House. Certainly there was a mistake made; we've admitted it. I think the best solution at this point in time is to correct the mistake, which we did as soon as it was brought to my attention.

Mr Rae: Can the minister tell us whether he signed the document before he read it? Did he read it before he signed it?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: As I indicated before, there was a series of regulations in the package that had been sent back for amendment. The instructions were clearly given to take out any reference to the disabled in this matter. Unfortunately, it was not done.



Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): My question is for the Chair of Management Board. The Windsor Star reports today that a Toronto law firm with close ties to the Tory government has been given a lucrative government contract. In fact, a former member of the firm, Guy Giorno, a close aide to the Premier, was on paid leave of absence from the firm to work on the Tory campaign team before he moved to the Premier's office. Now we learn that the firm has been given a $15,000-a-month contract to lead negotiations with OPSEU.

Minister, is this the new Tory tendering process, where you only get a contract if you have Tory connections and have contributed to the Conservative Party? Minister, will you confirm whether Hicks Morley Hamilton was the low bidder for the contract, and will you release details of the government's request for submissions for this contract and the responses from the firms that participated?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): The situation that this government encountered is, number one, we are facing 12 tables in terms of negotiations this year as opposed to five tables previously. Consequently, the negotiation process is much more complex.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Have you got 12 Tory hacks?

Hon David Johnson: Secondly, one of the directors involved, in a key position, changed positions just before the negotiations were to start. The staff came to me at that point and indicated that assistance was needed in terms of the negotiating process.


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

Hon David Johnson: As a result, we approached three firms, three firms well recognized in labour law, and we accepted the best and lowest price from those three firms, which is the firm in question.

I can also indicate to you that this firm, which is well recognized in labour law, also performed services for the Liberal government prior to 1990, and this same firm, a well-recognized and highly regarded firm, provided services for the NDP government between 1990 and 1995.

We think we've made an excellent choice and that we'll get excellent service from this firm.

Mr Cordiano: It's very clear, however, that the minister misses the point of the question, absolutely misses the point, because the real exercise in all of this is that only friends of the government, only with Tory connections, and those who have contributed to the last campaign for the Tories are going -- that's the message the minister is sending out; that's the message this government sends out.

At the end of the day, Minister, there is no tendering process that you followed, and if there is in fact, then you should lay that before this House for us to examine. The tendering process is an obscure one, if one does actually exist. We want to know what tendering process you're going to bring forward as you dismantle your government, as you sell bits and pieces of it to the private sector. We want to know what process in fact you're going to be following, or is it going to be, as I say, only the friends of the government who benefit from the exercise of privatization that you're now engaged in?

The Speaker: Put your question, please.

Mr Cordiano: Certainly it seems to the public, the appearance is such that you're only going to favour Tory cronies and Tory friends as you privatize every part of the government. That's the impression that you're leaving with the public.


The Speaker: Order. The member will put the question.

Mr Cordiano: Can you tell us the exact procedure by which you're going to privatize government services?

Hon David Johnson: The member has indicated that I missed the point. I think the point to the general public, the people who are watching this Legislature, is: Did we get the best firm for the best price? I'm happy to indicate to the member for Lawrence that the answer is yes. We put out requests for proposals, we sought the best firms, we took the lowest price and we got the firm with the best experience; a firm, I might say, that has had direct experience in dealing with OPSEU, the union involved.

This is a firm which apparently was good enough to be employed by the Liberal government during its period; it was a firm that was good enough to be employed by the NDP government during its time in office. I think the point is that we are getting excellent value for money and the people of Ontario are well served.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): I want to ask the minister again some questions with respect to not only the statement that he made today but answers that he's given me and other members concerning the issue of benefits for the disabled. The minister says it was a mistake that the category of "permanently unemployable" was taken out of the range of benefits. He's also said that the government is considering making changes to the definition of "disability."

I'd like therefore to ask the minister how we are to take the statement that he makes on the bottom of page 2, where he says, "We are strongly committed to protecting the benefits of the disabled." I'd like to ask the minister, can he tell us, is it the intention of the government to change the definition of "disability" and/or change the definition of "permanently unemployable"? Is that now under consideration by the government?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): As I indicated before, what we're looking at is a new system, an income supplement, to get the disabled and the aged off the welfare system. As such, that's why we're examining what a person who is disabled is. We're looking at the options. We have not made the decisions on this matter, and that's the same statement as I gave before.

Mr Rae: Therefore, I'd like to ask the minister, when he says, "We are strongly committed to protecting the benefits of the disabled," can people who are now receiving benefits as disabled people and as permanently unemployable people -- can you give the assurance to each and every one of those persons that they will continue to receive disability and social assistance benefits from the government of Ontario? Can you make that categorical assurance to those people today?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I want to assure the people of Ontario that we will move on these issues with sensitivity and that the needs of current recipients will be met.


Mrs Janet Ecker (Durham West): I have a question to the Minister of Education and Training. Some days ago the Ontario College of Teachers Implementation Committee released its report entitled The Privilege of Professionalism.

I've had several questions from both teachers and parents regarding our intentions and the recommendations of this report, so I would like to ask the minister what his intentions are regarding the future shape and direction of a proposed college of teachers.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'm pleased to advise the member for Durham West that I have received the implementation committee's report. As you know, the implementation committee was established in February and submitted their report last Wednesday.

I think it's a very thorough report. It addresses all of the items the implementation committee was asked to address, including making some suggestions about training and professional development for teachers in the province of Ontario. It talks about pre-service for teachers and in-service for teachers, and it also makes suggestions about establishing a register for teachers.

I believe the college of teachers that's been proposed will be one that helps teachers develop a sense of professionalism in this province which I'm sure they'll all back.

Mrs Ecker: What time line does the minister have for perhaps introducing legislation or changes along these lines?

Hon Mr Snobelen: No final determination has yet been made about the college of teachers. However, I'm pleased to inform this House that we will be working with the implementation committee to spell out the details of the implementation and also to talk to the members of the Ontario Teachers' Federation, the representatives of that organization, about a plan that they have submitted to the ministry, that I have committed to them that I would review that plan and review the proposals from the implementation committee.

I would like to note that we are pleased that the member for Ottawa Centre spoke highly of the implementation committee's report and I am sure the member for Windsor-Riverside is equally pleased with the report, so we would expect some great cooperation from the House when we bring forward ultimately the college of teachers.



Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): To the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations: Minister, you are aware of the overwhelming evidence that people from every region of this province do not trust how gasoline prices are set and have become very cynical, not only of the gas companies but of governments, on this particular issue.

You are also aware of the private member's bill that I will be introducing this afternoon, which is designed to ensure that gas companies will be held accountable for the prices at the pumps. The public wants this debate to be held and will continue to be very cynical of the gas companies and of governments unless the issue is addressed.

Minister, my question to you is this: Will you acknowledge that there is a recurring problem with gas pricing practices across the province and will you take the necessary steps to send this bill to committee for public hearings so that the problem can be responsibly addressed?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I asked Bob Elgie about this.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): With regard to gas pricing, it's interesting the member for St Catharines says he asked the Minister of Energy, I believe, the Honourable Robert Elgie, this question some time ago.

I can remember the former Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations in 1988, the Honourable Bill Wrye, was asked this question. In fact I asked the Treasurer, the Honourable Floyd Laughren, this question in 1991.

I think that the answer all of those ministers would give to this question is that we would love to find a solution to this problem, we would really love to find a solution to this problem. If the member has a good suggestion on how to address this, we will listen to that suggestion.

Mr Chiarelli: Indeed, the bill has been very well received by many people across the province, and there is a lot of interest in it, but I do want to remind the minister that in the last Parliament your Premier, the MPP for Nipissing, had this to say to the NDP government: "I know you share my concern on the difference in gasoline prices. I ask the minister if he does not agree there is a gas price problem, and why are you so silent on that problem?" That's your Premier, several years ago, of the NDP government.

Of course, the MPP for Carleton, namely you, Minister, in the last Parliament had this to say: "What is the Rae government going to do to stop the gouging of eastern Ontario consumers paying too much for their gasoline?"

My question again, Minister, is this: Are you now saying that you and your Premier were wrong then? Have you changed your mind and will you seriously look at the provisions of my bill?

Hon Mr Sterling: I think I did indicate in my opening that in fact we would look at constructive ideas. Several other provinces have attempted to regulate gasoline with limited success.

The province of Prince Edward Island, for instance, has regulation of gasoline prices, and has the highest prices in Canada as a result of that. Nova Scotia got out of the regulation of gas prices in 1991, after having 50 years of regulation of gas prices, and their gas prices now are lower than they were when it was regulated.

Consequently, to the member for Ottawa West, I, like my government, a new government, am open to fresh ideas on how to approach this problem. We look forward to reading your bill and to debating your bill in private members' hour so that we can fully understand the implications of it.

However, I must say that this is a government that is not looking for extra regulation, extra red tape, and if your bill requires a great deal of that, it would be looked at with some scepticism.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the Minister of Labour. Now that the opposition, as well as the people of Ontario, has good reason to be concerned about whether or not you and your colleagues are reading and understanding the laws that you are enacting in this province -- as we've seen with your colleague the Minister of Community and Social Services -- I am asking you today, in light of the fact that Bill 7 is an extremely complex, complicated, lengthy document running some 132 pages, would you today agree finally that province-wide public hearings are needed, if for no other reason than so we can be comfortable that what's signed here will work in light of what we've seen with your colleague who's made a major disaster and hurt potentially tens of thousands of people? Minister, will you today finally agree to province-wide public hearings on Bill 7?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): Mr Speaker, through you to the member for Hamilton Centre: As I have indicated to you, we have certainly indicated that we are willing to respond to any concerns. We're willing to have meetings. In fact at the present time I'm actually meeting with some unions regarding some changes that we are quite prepared to make. We have been consulting with individuals. Our door is always open for those individuals who have information that they want to share with us. Certainly we would agree to meet and to listen to all of the concerns out there.

Mr Christopherson: The minister will know that the answer she's given here today is in complete contradiction with the position that she took when she stood right here as the Labour critic for the third party. There were extensive consultations before Bill 40 was brought into the House, and indeed there were public hearings in London, Kingston, Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Windsor.

Yet you said at that time, Minister, on August 4, 1992, the day the debate on Bill 40 began: "I can understand the government's desire to see some changes made to our labour laws, but you know, in something as sensitive as labour relations, it's important that you cooperate, consult and build consensus."

We agreed with you then. We ask that you agree with yourself and us now and again call on you for province-wide public hearings before you ram this draconian piece of legislation through this Legislature. Minister, I'm calling on you again to give the people of Ontario a chance to have a say before you change the way labour relations exist in this province.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Mr Speaker, through you to the member for Hamilton Centre, yes, I agree. I believe very strongly in the need to cooperate, I believe in the need to consult and I believe in the need to form consensus. Unfortunately that's exactly what your party did not do.

You pretended to cooperate, you went all over the province consulting, but in the end let me just remind you of what happened. Your minister, Mr Mackenzie, the Minister of Labour at the time, when he got three people from management, three people from labour, said: "Here are 30 issues related to the Labour Relations Act. Take a look at them. We need some changes." Management came back and said, "We don't need any changes." Labour came back and said: "We like these 30 changes. In fact give us 61 more."



Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): My question is to the Minister of Environment and Energy. The constituents of Niagara South have been very concerned about excessive increases in Hydro rates and the negative impact they have had on employment opportunities in my riding. For example, recently, Mr Russ Davies from Robin Hood Multifoods of Port Colborne, Ontario, asked me some excellent questions about this issue.

I told Mr Davies that this government is following through on its Common Sense Revolution promise of a five-year freeze in Ontario Hydro rates, which was confirmed both in the throne speech and then again in an official statement by the minister herself on October 3. What can the minister tell the House and Mr Davies about what follow-up there has been to her announcement in the House?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I would like to thank the member for the question. A few weeks ago, in response to our promise in the Common Sense Revolution, we did commit to a five-year rate freeze for Ontario Hydro rates, and at the throne speech and again in the House I did give notice that we had requested Ontario Hydro to follow through on that request for a five-year rate freeze.

It is my pleasure to announce to members of the House today that in fact Ontario Hydro, following its board of directors' meeting, has agreed to a five-year rate freeze for the following year.

This is very good news for Ontario. It's following our plan for making Ontario competitive again and for keeping businesses competitive and in this province.

Mr Hudak: I am very pleased to hear that Ontario Hydro is responding so positively to the direction received from this government. Could the minister further explain to the House and to the constituents of Niagara South what this rate freeze really means to our economy and how this rate freeze will benefit the people of this province?

Hon Mrs Elliott: This rate freeze applies to the direct users, to the municipal utilities and to the customers all across this province. What it really means is, taking inflation into account, an actual decrease of 15% in Ontario Hydro rates. This is good news to keep those businesses in Ontario competitive and here working and supporting and employing taxpayers of Ontario.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): Today I have a question for the Solicitor General. Minister, on October 5, two days after you closed the halfway houses across Ontario, I asked you about your plans to close jails. You dismissed the question out of hand, saying there have been rumours of lists for years and that there were no such plans.

Well, Minister, I have a copy of your communications plan from your ministry that outlines all of your closure plans. It is dated September 29, 1995, seven days before I asked you that question in this House. This plan outlines the procedure to be followed to close Camp Dufferin, and you have done that; to close the halfway houses, and you have done that; and it also outlines procedures to be followed to close the jails.

Minister, I have difficulty, and I'm sure the general public would have great difficulty, in reconciling what you said in this House to us and your actions. Minister, did you mislead this House?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): With all respect, I think the member has known me long enough to know that I'm not going to come in here and deliberately mislead him or any other member of this Legislature.

I want to indicate that what I said in my original response holds true today. I have not seen this document. What I have done, as all other ministries have done, is ask our officials to go back and look at efficiencies, recommendations in terms of how we can meet our operating targets.

I have indicated to you and I have indicated to others who have concerns in respect to the list that was originally published by the Provincial Auditor, I believe back in 1993, that I will talk to you, consult with you, members of the opposition and members of the government, with respect to any closure decisions prior to their being taken. I remain true to that commitment.

Mr Ramsay: Minister, on that day, October 5, you said to me, "We have made no decisions in respect to jail closures," but in fact your plan is two-thirds completed already, and it details very precisely exactly what procedures you would entail and would be involved by all pertinent ministry officials when jails are closed.

For example, regional managers are to contact the local OPP detachment commanders. The judiciary has to be contacted, the crowns, the defence bar in the affected communities, by fax letter. The minister's office has to call the mayors of the different municipalities where the jails are going to be closed, the OPP commissioner -- I mean, the details are here. So you're telling me you have no decisions, except you've got such a detailed plan to do it without making the decision, I'm surprised that you would have gone to this length and this detail.

Minister, why don't you come clean and tell the people of Ontario that you have made a plan to close the jails of Ontario?

Hon Mr Runciman: I have come clean. We have no plans to close jails in the province. What I'm trying to indicate clearly to the member and other members of this Legislature is that I realize that recommendations are coming to me within the next number of weeks and that in all likelihood, based on the recommendations of the Provincial Auditor in 1993, they will indeed include the possibility of jail closures. I've never suggested otherwise.

I am not being critical of my staff in respect to preparing a full presentation, in respect to all of the questions that might arise, if indeed we make a decision to close a jail or a number of jails. They're talking about the consultation process, they're talking about the communications plan, and I think that's the appropriate way to deliver a package to a minister, so if you're making a decision or a recommendation to cabinet and your colleagues you'll have all of the information, all of the details, a fully detailed plan in front of you before you make that kind of a decision.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Health, the man who's in charge of his ministry. The minister would know full well that there are district health councils across the province working very hard on hospital restructuring recommendations.

I'd ask the minister how it is that either he himself, as in the case of Sudbury, intervened in that local process, therefore jeopardizing the possibility of a local solution, or sends his officials to Ottawa, unless of course they went without him knowing. I think a man who runs his own ministry well would know if his officials went to Ottawa and claimed that they were taking over the process for hospital restructuring.

Could I ask the minister: Exactly what is going on? Are you intending to continue to intervene in the hospital restructuring process, where local people have worked extremely hard for many years to bring it to fruition? Indeed, I would think that the minister would want local solutions to hospital restructuring. Why are you intervening in this way?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I think the honourable member for Nickel Belt's question is precipitated by a meeting that occurred in Ottawa last night with the Ottawa-Carleton Regional District Health Council and Ministry of Health officials. It's my understanding that indeed there was a misunderstanding of what this government's policy is.

We've made it very clear, I've made it very clear -- the policy in the four and a half years I was critic remains -- that we believe that district health councils are the ears, eyes and conscience of the local community. We want them to conduct the hospital restructuring studies and in no way do we want to interfere in those studies.

I'd be happy if a page would come here, please, to provide the member with a letter I faxed to the chair of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional District Health Council just this morning, clarifying and reaffirming that it is not the intention of this government to interfere in a local process. I'd ask the honourable member to take a look at that letter.

Mr Laughren: I have seen that letter. I appreciate the copy from the minister, but it doesn't answer the question of why he intervened in the Sudbury hospital restructuring that the district health council is trying to accomplish there.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): He sent a letter there too?

Mr Laughren: He wrote a letter there but didn't deny that he was intervening. As a matter of fact, it's just a given that he's already intervened in the process in Sudbury.

Could I ask the minister if he's going to honour the commitment to the district health councils and to the hospitals and to the communities, the commitment that was made by the previous Minister of Health, that savings that are achieved in the restructuring process will be reinvested in health care in those particular communities?

Hon Mr Wilson: The commitment, indeed the planning framework set out by the previous government, isn't as specific as the former Treasurer wants to let on. That is, the commitment of the previous government and indeed the commitment of this government is that dollars saved from those restructuring studies, once they're fully implemented, will be reinvested into health care.

I have no problem saying that we will not necessarily invest dollar for dollar back in those exact communities. The understanding of the district health councils -- and I've clarified this with a number of them -- is they know that the dollars will go into health care in the province of Ontario. It's part of our commitment to reinvest.

For example, the issue raised by -- and it's a concern of all members: the cardiac waiting list, for example. There is no restructuring in Metro Toronto. You're saying I have to take those dollars, reinvest them strictly in Toronto when all the people of the province benefit from people like Dr Tirone David, when they benefit from those world-class surgeons who happen to be located in Toronto.

So we will be taking reinvestment dollars that we've already identified that come from the health care system and reinvesting them in priority areas. That's our commitment and we're very proud of that commitment.



Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): The Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation recently announced a number of spending reductions in programs administered by her ministry. My riding of Scarborough East is one of the most culturally diverse in the province, and based on the feedback from a number of my constituents, I'd like to know exactly what the minister's position is on cultural diversity in this province.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): To the honourable member for Scarborough East, this government recognizes the cultural diversity and benefit that this diversity brings to this province. But given the economic climate that we all find ourselves in today, the province can no longer afford to fund the kinds of programs and groups that we have done traditionally in the past. Many of the cultural groups in this province are well established and well suited to play leadership roles in the advancement of their own cultural diversity.

Mr Gilchrist: I thank the minister for her response. That being the case, will the minister please inform this House the ways that her ministry will continue to support cultural diversity in Ontario?


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

Hon Ms Mushinski: We will work with cultural groups in this province to continue our support of their diversity. For example, we'll support those groups that are in the best position to help new residents of this province, community-based organizations which are best suited to help newcomers fully participate in the province's society.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I would like to mention that it's National Co-op Week and I would especially like to applaud Seaway Valley ethanol cooperative in our area, which has 2,000 members and $5 million in shares. Their goal is to construct a $40-million to $45-million facility for ethanol and byproducts. Many jobs will be created, along with hundreds of indirect opportunities and transportation and private sector jobs.

The project was made possible by a $3-million commitment from the former government in April, which all parties supported. However, I have heard the new Minister of Agriculture say that he's not 100% certain he will honour this agreement but he will look at the ministry.

One week ago the minister commented in the House that he was surprised no opposition members had made any comments on agriculture. Well, Minister, my first question is -- and I have lots of them -- can you provide a firm answer here and now: When will you honour the $3-million commitment to the Seaway ethanol co-op?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I want to thank my colleague from Cornwall for his support. I have been a promoter and a very, very strong supporter of the Seaway Valley energy co-op for many years. As a matter of fact, I was in the farm kitchen the night it was initially thought up. It was in Glengarry county.

I have been supportive of that industry, as the honourable member knows, for many years and I continue to support the industry. I certainly hope that in the near future there will be an announcement that the $3 million is indeed going to go to Seaway Valley. I do not have the legal interpretation of that today.

Mr Cleary: Before the election I worked with the former Minister of Agriculture and Food to make sure that this project became reality. Prior to this minister getting that position, when I was in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in 1989, we had people up from the States telling us how to go about an ethanol project. My only regret is that the former minister's commitment did not happen more quickly.

Since June 8, I have gone back over the records to make sure the new minister's commitment is there. I was relieved to note that when in opposition, the minister said:

"Fuel ethanol has recognized public benefits."

"It would boost employment in the Cornwall area."

The project "has my full support and encouragement."

"I strongly urge your support for the proposal."

And even -- and this is a direct quote from the letter:

"As the only vocal supporter of fuel ethanol in the Ontario Legislature through the late 1980s...."

I assume then he won't have a problem, from the then member and now minister, to maintain his support.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Put your question, please.

Mr Cleary: It's time to put your money where your mouth is. Exactly when can the group expect the government's commitment?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I'm quite sure that the honourable member for Cornwall will know that I was at the co-op meeting last night and I spent some time with Mr Atkins, who happens to be the president of the Seaway Valley Farmers' Energy Co-operative, and he knows he has my full and unadulterated support.


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: It's amazing, Mr Speaker. These people spent money in a way that was unbelievable and now they're trying to go the other way. I have difficulty understanding, particularly as the official Leader of the Opposition, when Minister of Energy, was not all that supportive of the ethanol industry, and I have correspondence to that effect.

I want to assure my colleague from Cornwall that indeed the ethanol industry has my total support.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is for the Solicitor General and the Minister of Correctional Services. The minister is well-known for his belief in the essence of protecting public safety and he has made speech after speech about the necessity for a law-and-order approach that protects public safety. Yet a couple of weeks ago, without warning, he closed the halfway houses and seemed surprised in this House that anyone would be concerned.

The public is concerned about its own safety and it's concerned about the issue of recidivism; it's concerned about how prisoners are reintegrated into society. The Common Sense Revolution itself said, "With more cooperation and support to private sector initiatives such as the John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies, more offenders are likely to be successfully integrated back into society."

This minister and this government have slashed support to the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society, they've cut grants that have been available to those societies, they've cut the halfway houses, and I want the minister to explain how he thinks this is going to be protective of public safety.

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): If you compare the track record of the previous government with respect to its commitment to public safety and the initiatives we've undertaken in a very few weeks in office, I think you'll find that the public, very much so, supports the initiatives that have been undertaken by this government with respect to public safety.

I can simply reiterate what I've said in the past with respect to the closure of halfway houses, CRCs, that they represent only one half of 1% of the offender population in the province on any given day; about 398 beds, I believe. We believe we've come up with a system in terms of the electronic monitoring, plus the risk assessment process, plus the criteria for consideration for electronic monitoring, that is much safer for the public of Ontario, and we feel very comfortable with that position.



The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Lake Nipigon has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Transportation concerning winter maintenance of highways. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.

Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Within the context of question period today we had two ministerial statements delivered. I seek unanimous consent of the House for us to respond in the usual fashion to the statements we received today on multiculturalism and on hydro rates.

The Speaker: He's asking for unanimous consent. There is not unanimous consent.


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I would seek unanimous consent of the House to strike committees of the Legislature, move their membership and set up a schedule with regard to committee meetings.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Do we have unanimous consent of the House to do that? Agreed.


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I move that, notwithstanding standing order 110(a) and for the duration of the 36th Parliament, no standing or select committee shall consist of more than 14 members.

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


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I move that the membership of the standing committees for this session be as follows:

Standing committee on administration of justice: Mrs Boyd, Mr Chiarelli, Mr Conway, Mr Doyle, Mr Guzzo, Mr Hampton, Mr Hudak, Mr Johnson (Brantford), Mr Klees, Mr Leadston, Mr Martiniuk, Mr Parker, Mr Ramsay, Mr Tilson.

Standing committee on estimates: Mr Barrett, Mr Bisson, Mr Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin), Mr Brown (Scarborough West), Mr Cleary, Mr Clement, Mr Curling, Mr Cordiano, Mr Kells, Mr Martin, Mr Rollins, Mrs Ross, Mr Sheehan, Mr Wettlaufer.

Standing committee on finance and economic affairs: Mr Arnott, Mr Brown (Scarborough West), Ms Castrilli, Mr Chudleigh, Mr Ford, Mr Hudak, Ms Lankin, Mr Kwinter, Mr Martiniuk, Mr Phillips, Mr Sampson, Mr Silipo, Mr Spina, Mr Wettlaufer.

Standing committee on general government: Mr Carroll, Mr Danford, Mr Flaherty, Mr Grandmaître, Mr Hardeman, Mr Kells, Mr Marchese, Mr Maves, Mrs Pupatello, Mr Sergio, Mr Stewart, Mr Tascona, Mr Wood (Cochrane North), Mr Young.

Standing committee on government agencies: Mr Bartolucci, Mr Crozier, Mr Ford, Mr Fox, Mr Gravelle, Mr Johnson (Perth), Mr Kormos, Mr Laughren, Mr Leadston, Mr Martin, Mr Newman, Mr Preston, Mrs Ross, Mr Wood (London South).

Standing committee on the Legislative Assembly: Mr Arnott, Mr Bartolucci, Mr Boushy, Mr Cooke, Mr DeFaria, Mr Froese, Mr Hastings, Mr Grimmett, Mr Johnson (Brantford), Mr Miclash, Mr Morin, Mr O'Toole, Mr Silipo, Mr Stewart.

Standing committee on the Ombudsman: Mrs Caplan, Mr DeFaria, Mr Doyle, Mrs Fisher, Mr Froese, Mr Galt, Mr Hoy, Mr Jordan, Mr Lalonde, Mr Marchese, Mr Parker, Mr Stockwell, Mr VanKoughnet, Mr Wood (Cochrane North).

Standing committee on public accounts: Mr Agostino, Mr Beaubien, Mr Boushy, Mr Carr, Mr Colle, Mr Crozier, Mr Fox, Mr Gilchrist, Mr Hastings, Ms Martel, Mr McGuinty, Mr Pouliot, Mr Skarica, Mr VanKoughnet.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Would the member take his seat please. The member for Windsor-Riverside has a point of order.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order, in that the government can choose to do what it wishes, but it was clearly communicated to the government House leader's office that we were not prepared to proceed with this motion today on unanimous consent, that this is a substantive motion that requires the motion to be filed and printed and that we were going to proceed with that.

I was not in the chamber. The acting government House leader knows that, knows that this was communicated to the government House leader's office today.

If they want to proceed this way, I can tell you this is going to cause great problems. They can proceed the way it was agreed to on the phone, that there was not going to be unanimous consent, and we can have that kind of straightforward, open relationship where we communicate our views with one another, or we can constantly not communicate with one another. If that's the case, the current member who's speaking knows what that means over the next four years.

The Speaker: I've heard the honourable member. I asked for unanimous consent as Speaker; I heard unanimous consent. The member can proceed.

Mr Cooke: Mr Speaker, I am asking for unanimous consent that the acting government House leader proceed with the agreement we had, that this was not going to proceed --

The Speaker: The member is out of order.

Mr Cooke: I'm asking for unanimous --

The Speaker: You're out of order. I recognize the member for Carleton.

Hon Mr Sterling: In accordance with rule 106, the committees are to be struck within the first 10 sessional days of the Legislature. This is the 10th sessional day, and therefore I feel obliged to continue, as consent was given by this Legislature.

Standing committee on regulations and private bills: Mr Barrett, Mr Bisson, Mr Boushy, Mr Hastings, Mr O'Toole, Mr Pettit, Mr Pouliot, Mrs Pupatello, Mr Rollins, Mr Ruprecht, Mr Sergio, Mr Shea, Mr Sheehan, Mr Smith.

Standing committee on resources development: Mr Baird, Mr Carroll, Mr Christopherson, Mr Chudleigh, Ms Churley, Mr Duncan, Mrs Fisher, Mr Gilchrist, Mr Hoy, Mr Lalonde, Mr Maves, Mr Murdoch, Mr Ouellette, Mr Tascona.

Standing committee on social development: Mr Agostino, Mrs Ecker, Mr Gerretsen, Mr Gravelle, Mrs Johns, Mr Jordan, Mr Laughren, Mrs Munro, Mr Newman, Mr Patten, Mr Pettit, Mr Preston, Mr Smith, Mr Wildman.

The Speaker: Mr Sterling moves that the membership of the standing committees for the session be as follows -- dispense?

Interjections: No, read it.

Mr Bob Rae (York South): If you guys want to play these games, that's what it means.


The Speaker: Order.

Standing committee on administration of justice: Mrs Boyd, Mr Chiarelli, Mr Conway, Mr Doyle, Mr Guzzo, Mr Hampton, Mr Hudak, Mr Johnson (Brantford), Mr Klees, Mr Leadston, Mr Martiniuk, Mr Parker, Mr Ramsay, Mr Tilson.

Standing committee on estimates: Mr Barrett, Mr Bisson, Mr Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin), Mr Brown (Scarborough West), Mr Cleary, Mr Clement, Mr Curling, Mr Cordiano, Mr Kells, Mr Martin, Mr Rollins, Mrs Ross, Mr Sheehan, Mr Wettlaufer.

Standing committee on finance and economic affairs: Mr Arnott, Mr Brown (Scarborough West), Ms Castrilli, Mr Chudleigh, Mr Ford, Mr Hudak, Ms Lankin, Mr Kwinter, Mr Martiniuk, Mr Phillips, Mr Sampson, Mr Silipo, Mr Spina, Mr Wettlaufer.

Standing committee on general government: Mr Carroll, Mr Danford, Mr Flaherty, Mr Grandmaître, Mr Hardeman, Mr Kells, Mr Marchese, Mr Maves, Mrs Pupatello, Mr Sergio, Mr Stewart, Mr Tascona, Mr Wood (Cochrane North), Mr Young.

Standing committee on government agencies: Mr Bartolucci, Mr Crozier, Mr Ford, Mr Fox, Mr Gravelle, Mr Johnson (Perth), Mr Kormos, Mr Laughren, Mr Leadston, Mr Martin, Mr Newman, Mr Preston, Mrs Ross, Mr Wood (London South).

Standing committee on the Legislative Assembly: Mr Arnott, Mr Bartolucci, Mr Boushy, Mr Cooke, Mr DeFaria, Mr Froese, Mr Hastings, Mr Grimmett, Mr Johnson (Brantford), Mr Miclash, Mr Morin, Mr O'Toole, Mr Silipo, Mr Stewart.

Standing committee on the Ombudsman: Mrs Caplan, Mr DeFaria, Mr Doyle, Mrs Fisher, Mr Froese, Mr Galt, Mr Hoy, Mr Jordan, Mr Lalonde, Mr Marchese, Mr Parker, Mr Stockwell, Mr VanKoughnet, Mr Wood (Cochrane North).


Standing committee on public accounts: Mr Agostino, Mr Beaubien, Mr Boushy, Mr Carr, Mr Colle, Mr Crozier, Mr Fox, Mr Gilchrist, Mr Hastings, Ms Martel, Mr McGuinty, Mr Pouliot, Mr Skarica, Mr VanKoughnet.

Standing committee on regulations and private bills: Mr Barrett, Mr Bisson, Mr Boushy, Mr Hastings, Mr O'Toole, Mr Pettit, Mr Pouliot, Mrs Pupatello, Mr Rollins, Mr Ruprecht, Mr Sergio, Mr Shea, Mr Sheehan, Mr Smith.

Standing committee on resources development: Mr Baird, Mr Carroll, Mr Christopherson, Mr Chudleigh, Ms Churley, Mr Duncan, Mrs Fisher, Mr Gilchrist, Mr Hoy, Mr Lalonde, Mr Maves, Mr Murdoch, Mr Ouellette, Mr Tascona.

Standing committee on social development: Mr Agostino, Mrs Ecker, Mr Gerretsen, Mr Gravelle, Mrs Johns, Mr Jordan, Mr Laughren, Mrs Munro, Mr Newman, Mr Patten, Mr Pettit, Mr Preston, Mr Smith, Mr Wildman.

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

Those in favour, say "aye."

Those opposed, say "nay."

Mr Rae: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't know why it wouldn't be possible for us to have a debate and a discussion on this question. The question of the establishment of committees of the House and the approaches being taken by members opposite towards the work of these committees I would think is an extremely substantive matter and one which I'm sure the House would, in due course and after a substantive reflection, want to consider.

I certainly plan to speak to this question because of its importance for members of the House.

The Speaker: We'll have a debate. The member for Carleton, anything?

Hon Mr Sterling: Yes, I do have something to say, Mr Speaker. Both the government and the loyal opposition had the membership of their committees ready for some period of time, and we were waiting for the third party to strike their membership. Therefore, as a matter of courtesy we waited for them to put forward their names.

They were hesitating in giving us their names, and then they said yesterday that they would prefer to have them considered at caucus meeting this morning. This did not leave the necessary time for us to give notice as required under the standing orders and that is why I asked for consent.

When Mr Cooke was asked yesterday by one of the assistants of the Legislature if he would consent to this order being considered, he agreed that he would allow it to go on consent. He changed his mind this morning. I assumed, when I asked the question today, when I asked for unanimous consent, that he again had changed his mind back to giving consent to have this motion called.

Therefore, the reason we were unable to give notice -- and I would not have had to ask consent -- was in fact caused by the New Democratic Party caucus itself.

I felt obliged to complete the order and move the next motion -- as you know, I have consent as well to move the times for when the schedule of these committee meetings will take place -- because under our standing order 106 it says, "Within the first 10 sessional days following the commencement of each session in a Parliament the membership of the following standing committees shall be appointed for the duration of the session."

Therefore, I believe it is incumbent upon the government House leader, and I'm speaking in his absence, to live within the spirit of the standing orders. This being the 10th sessional day since we began this session, I thought it prudent that we go ahead with naming the committees, naming the committee schedule and setting it forth.

That is the background behind this particular matter. I believe that members of this Legislature want to know what committees they're sitting on and therefore it should be placed in the form of an order, which has been put forward today, which you have read and I have read, and upon which there is now a debate.

Mr Rae: I want to take this opportunity to raise some questions that we have on this side of the House with respect to how it is that this government intends to proceed with the program called the Common Sense Revolution and the amount of consultation and discussion it plans to carry out in response to questions and concerns that have been raised by many members of the public with respect to their program.

One of the most frequently heard criticisms I hear, and not only from tried and true New Democrats or members of the Liberal Party, with respect to the approach that's being taken by this government, is not only a concern about its ideological direction, a concern which I spoke to directly --

Hon Mr Sterling: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like the honourable leader of the third party to speak on the motion with regard to the people who are involved on the committees.

The Speaker: The leader of the third party has the floor.

Mr Rae: Mr Speaker, the member for Carleton and I go back a long way, and if he wants to harass and prevent me from speaking by virtue of constant interruption, I can handle that. I've been around this game long enough. But I do want to raise directly on the floor of the House today for the consideration of the House some of the concerns people have with respect to the willingness of this government to listen and the willingness of this government to use the membership of the committees as a way of informing itself about the concerns people have with respect to government legislation.

The concern people have about this government, as I said before I was interrupted, if only briefly, by the intervention from the member for Carleton, is not simply a concern about ideological direction. It's also a concern about process. When we discuss the establishment of committees and the working of these committees, above all we're dealing with questions of process, questions which the member for Carleton himself has been involved in for many years as an opposition member, as a new minister in the Davis government when he was one of the main protagonists on behalf of freedom of information legislation, and on many, many occasions when I know he's expressed his personal interest and concern about the workings of committees, about the responsibilities of committees and about the willingness of governments to listen to concerns and to criticisms which come from the public with respect to legislation.

I think this question of the style, the temperament, the willingness of this government to listen in the face of concerns which are being raised is going to prove to be one of the major, major issues in the politics of this province in the years of the Harris government to come.

I have heard it said by the Premier, I've heard it said by ministers in government, I've heard it said by many individual members: Their view is that the process of consultation is one that took place prior to June 8 and that there is now no need for the government to use the committees of the House to listen to the concerns of the public. I've heard it said that this is why the government's feeling is that it can move, it can cut welfare rates by nearly 22% without a breath of consultation, without a breath of discussion; it can deal with labour legislation, which is, as my colleague from Hamilton has pointed out, some 132 pages long, without for an instant considering the need for a full public debate and an active public consultation.


I want to deal directly with this process and this question of how it is that the committees are going to work; for example, the standing committee on resources development, which would in the ordinary course of events be the committee that would deal with the issue of Bill 7.

I want to take issue with something that the Minister of Labour said today in response to questions from my colleague the member for Hamilton Centre. The Minister of Labour said, "Well, the former government didn't listen, and we're not going to listen." I want to take some issue with that, because I want to say directly to the members opposite that if you look at the process which was followed by our government with respect to labour relations reform, you will see a striking and startling contrast to the process which is being suggested by the government with respect to the establishment of committees, to their membership and to their willingness to listen.

We started out with two drafting committees, from labour and from management. We asked them to come forward with particular recommendations. Those recommendations were published. They became public documents. They became a matter of public concern and public debate.

We then had a process by which the ministry brought forward some suggested changes in a white paper, which white paper was considered, discussed, debated. Efforts were made formally and informally to try to reach a broader consensus. Efforts were made in response to the concerns that were present to try to find a consensus.

The government then produced legislation, and what did the Conservative Party in opposition insist on the very day that legislation was brought down? The opposition at that time, the Conservative Party which is now in government, insisted at that time that there be a process of discussion, that there be hearings, that there be committees, that there be consultation, that there be research, that there be studies and that work be done.

My friend from Etobicoke, who has magically moved his chair so he can be closer to the centre of power, something which we all understand his aspiration to do -- and we can share his frustration at being outside the pale, outside the sacred circle in which all decisions are made. It's a circle which we understand is very small indeed, very tiny. I say with respect to the members who are in the House listening to what I have to say that I share, I'm sure, their sense of frustration as they see things happening and wonder how it could be that it took place, what was the source of the information, how could it be that it happened.

To come back to the point on the standing committee on resources development, our response to this was to establish hearings; our response was to let people come forward. Upon a conclusion of hearings in which people's views were heard on all sides, the legislation was amended.

My colleagues who were with me in caucus and in cabinet at that time can recall the very intense discussion and debate which took place within us as to which amendments we should consider, as to how they would be considered, the pros and cons, the back and forth. That is the process by which decisions are made.

Now it's a messy process. It's not perfect, because it's not driven simply by one authority, it's not driven simply by one sacred document, it's not driven simply by the holy text of the Common Sense Revolution; it's one in which people listen, in which there is give and take and in which there is part of a public discussion.

I well remember when the Minister of Finance in our government brought forward his first budget. The members of the Conservative Party insisted that that budget be subjected to public hearings, and we agreed. We agreed in a move that was unprecedented. We said: "We have nothing to fear from public hearings. We have nothing to fear from a committee that travels, that gets around the province, that listens to the concerns of people. We have nothing to fear of that at all. In fact, we have everything to gain from that."

So it is that I think the fundamental question which is going to come back to haunt this government and the members of the Conservative Party again and again and again is, there is no point in establishing committees of this House and there is no point in establishing the membership of the committees of this House if the government is not prepared to let those committees do their job: to listen to the public and to respond to the concerns which the public has about the workings of government.

We have asked repeatedly with respect to the first major piece of legislation, Bill 7, of this government that it respond, that it tell us what it is intending to do, that it allow the committee to travel, that it allow there to be hearings, that it allow the process in which it will admit, "Yes, that was a mistake. Yes, we need to correct it. Yes, there was a drafting error. Oh yes, there was something done by inadvertence," or, "Now we understand that there are unintended consequences to the changes which we're making, and these unintended consequences need to be dealt with in a process of give and take," which is what the parliamentary process is to be all about.

I think all of us share a concern, not simply with the ideological direction of this government, a concern which I think is going to be increasingly shared across the province of Ontario, but about the willingness of the government to listen.

We had today a minister of the crown who was not prepared to admit in a written statement in which he intended to fully disclose the issue surrounding his misleading comments the week before -- he was not prepared to disclose in the document itself a couple of very simple facts. He was not prepared to disclose, and still isn't, as far as I know, though he may be because there's no time limitation on questions in the scrum. He may in fact eventually come to the conclusion that he has to come clean.

He still hasn't told us how it would be that a group of civil servants would get together on August 29 and decide to draft a series of changes to regulations, as if they would simply get around and have a pizza party and say: "Oh, we've got a good idea. Let's change some regulations." They obviously acted on the basis of instruction. They obviously acted on the basis of direction. Civil servants in the middle of the summer aren't going to be thinking of ways of dreaming up regulatory change unless they're instructed to do so. Everyone knows that.

Why wouldn't the minister have the courage, why wouldn't he have the straightforwardness to say: "I asked the staff to prepare changes and it was on my instruction that these changes were made. I'm the person who signed the document that went to cabinet and I carry and take full responsibility for the fact that I made this mistake, that this mistake was made not simply under my watch, but I signed a document that I hadn't read, I signed a document that I didn't fully understand and I carried that document through cabinet"?

Why wouldn't the Premier stand up and say: "I participated in a cabinet meeting that approved a series of regulations. I wasn't aware what was in them. It was a mistake. I will personally ensure that it doesn't happen again"? Why wouldn't he say that? Well, they haven't said it, and what concerns me is that because of the determination of this government to act on an ideological basis, the mistake -- and clearly it was a mistake -- that was made by the Ministry of Community and Social Services is going to be repeated again and again and again, because this is a government that will not listen, this is a government that is not prepared to listen, this is a government that has made up its mind; and there's nothing more dangerous than a government that has made up its mind and is not prepared to listen.

A welfare cut of 22% across the board -- greater than even their own officials said was necessary to reach the financial targets -- in which they went out one day and said, "We'll do it. We won't affect disabled people," and now we have people who are disabled in their teens who are being cared for by their parents, and their benefits have been cut.

Did they intend to do that? I don't know. Were they advised by their officials that this would be the effect of the regulatory change? I don't know. But I can say to members opposite who are listening to this discussion, these are very, very basic questions about how wise governments act and how it is important to at least attempt to establish a consensus.


Having said that, let me be the first to admit that at the end of the day the government has to govern. But the question is, what is the end of the day? Is it at the conclusion of a process in which everyone's had their say, or is it because people have simply sat down and said, "Well, this is what's in the CSR and that's the way it's going to be"?

As I said in my response to the speech from the throne, this is a very, very fundamental question as to how we are going to be able to get along in this House for the next several years. How are we going to be able to carry on the public business of this province if it is the view of the army across the way that they've got the votes, they don't need to listen, they don't need to learn, they don't need to consult, they don't need to talk, they don't need to bring people in, they don't need to change their minds, they don't need to admit that there might be something wrong in the Common Sense Revolution? They are simply going to plow ahead regardless of the consequences.

When I look down the list of the membership of the committees, when I look down the considerations that have been made and when I look down the list of the understandings that have been reached with respect to the membership of these committees, I still question the willingness of this government to really listen and learn.

We know that my colleague from Nickel Belt is going to be a member of the standing committee on government agencies, and he'll be joined by my colleague the member for Sault Ste Marie as well as my colleague from Welland-Thorold, and that'll be a happy and effective trio. My colleague from Mississauga is enjoying the thought of those three together. I look at some of the other membership of the committee and I think it'll be a very lively set of discussions that take place, knowing the affection and high regard that all these members have for each other.

But I would say to you, Mr Speaker, already in response to the charge of the 10 wasted years -- which is one of the great myths, one of the great pieces of mythology that is being persistently spread and repeated by the members opposite -- look at the contrast in the membership already of people who are being named to patronage positions, to government appointments in senior government agencies, already the changes that have been introduced, already the things that are being put in place which clearly indicate that in 10 years the Conservative Party in this province has forgotten nothing and has learned nothing.

I look at the member opposite from Mississauga and I think of the questions that she raised about every single appointment that was made. I would ask her, on a fairminded basis, she will know perfectly well that when it comes to the Social Assistance Review Board, we established a process, as we did with every single government agency, in which, at my personal insistence, I said to the person whom I appointed as in charge of appointments -- we set up a process of consultation which was literally unprecedented in the history of the province.

In a book that went out to every library, to every municipal council, in which jobs that had previously only gone to the anointed Tories or the anointed Liberals, we said that, yes, there will be New Democrats among them because, Lord knows, there are some New Democrats who we believe are qualified to do certain jobs and we believe it should be permitted and permissible for them to be appointed.

But we also said that there will be Conservatives, as we appointed a former Conservative to head up the Liquor Control Board of the province of Ontario, my colleague Mr Brandt, who served with us in opposition, and he's done a very effective job. I look forward to hearing from him, for example, when it comes to the question of the privatization of the LCBO, which is to be found in the Common Sense Revolution.

I contrast that, where we said to every chairman, "We want your views, we want your list, we will agree to put forward any names to you, you put forward any names, and there will be a full discussion of the acceptability of who they are." We appointed Liberals, we appointed Conservatives, we appointed New Democrats. For the most part, we appointed people who had no particular party affiliation whatsoever, because most people in the province don't necessarily subscribe to any particular political party and see themselves as neutral.

Instead of which, what do the members opposite do? What did the minister do? The Minister of Community and Social Services decides to appoint some of the most partisan, some of the most strong-willed --

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Well, somebody did.

Mr Rae: Well, we don't know whether it was him or not, or whether he signed -- perhaps it was another mistake. I thought perhaps he'd come forward and say: "I hadn't actually read that name. I wasn't sure it was coming forward. I was promised that she wasn't on that list."

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Evelyn Dodds.

Mr Rae: Evelyn Dodds, the other Conservative appointments that have been named: former candidates, defeated candidates.

At some point, the concern is not only the fact that this is a government that is determined to return to the bad old days in terms of partisanship and in terms of patronage appointments. We've seen it again with respect to the way they handed out the contract on the government negotiations, where we insisted that the grievance work be handed out fairly. We said to the law firms that had been there for a long, long time, that had had a monopoly on it: Under our government, no monopoly. Government advertising, no monopoly. In every case, a rigid process; in every case, a tendering process.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): You were doing extremely well at the beginning. I'd like you to stay on topic, which is on the motion. Thank you.

M. Rae : Monsieur le Président, je suis déterminé de rester, mais il faut que je vous parle directement.

J'espère que vous êtes d'accord avec moi que la substance du travail des comités et de l'approche du gouvernement face à son programme et sa volonté d'écouter les membres de l'opposition, sa volonté d'écouter les gens de la province, est une question substantielle dont nous avons le droit comme membres, comme députés, de discuter. Nous avons le droit, même l'obligation comme députés, de parler directement sur cette question, et je crois qu'au moment où le gouvernement décide de présenter les noms des députés qui seront les membres de ces comités, il est permis au chef d'un parti de parler directement sur la question du travail de ces comités.

La question, c'est, est-ce que le gouvernement est vraiment prêt à nous écouter ? Est-ce que le gouvernement est vraiment prêt non seulement à écouter les députés, mais à écouter le public qui veut s'exprimer sur ces questions ? Je pense que c'est une question qui est dans le cadre de notre débat. Si j'ai tort je suis prêt, naturellement, à accepter le jugement de M. le Président, parce que j'ai le respect non seulement pour lui personnellement mais pour son travail et son poste. Mais je pense que la question que nous touchons aujourd'hui est absolument fondamentale.

Let me return to this question. We have, over the so-called 10 lost years that the members speak of opposite -- what did we do in the 10 lost years?

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Just the last five.

Mr Rae: The member from Kingston is a little uneasy about that as well, but he should know that back in 1985 --


Mr Rae: No. Again, the Liberal Party did not form a government in 1985 because of spontaneous combustion, I say to the member. It was not a process in which miraculously the Liberal Party was elevated to office. The Liberal Party was put in office in 1985 because the membership of this party decided that it was time to make a change and because we could agree on a program.

A substantial part of that program -- and I've had no thanks for that move for the last 10 years, not a word of gratitude from the Liberals for that move, but I'm used to that. I do not expect that in my lifetime. But what I do expect is for members to recall that a good deal of what was determined in 1985 was that we would change the way the House did business, that we would open up the membership of committees in the House.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): And we did.

Mr Rae: And we did it. That we would open up the process of nomination to committees, and we did it; that we would accept a democratization, and we did it; that the names of those appointed -- and I see the member for Carleton listening intently. He will know, because when he was in opposition he was totally in favour of this, that every single name that was proposed by the government would go to the committee and would be considered. That's a process that's been well accepted and well understood as to how that would take place and how it would happen: that there would be a process of negotiation and discussion; that we would give members of the House a role and a real job to do.


I say again, as I said last week in the speech from the throne, I am enormously proud of the fact that we ended 42 years of one-party rule in this House in 1985, and I am truly saddened by the extent to which these people opposite don't really believe in a Common Sense Revolution. What they really believe in is a commonsense restoration. It's like the return of the Bourbons in 1815 or in 1830. As I said, they have learned nothing and they have forgotten nothing. There isn't a thing that's happened in the intervening years that they are prepared to recognize has a moment of goodness, and yet I see the Minister of Health opposite -- imagine. How would it be possible? Ten lost years and today he opened the greatest cancer hospital ever built in the history of the province of Ontario, a leading research centre. Somehow the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, and all the planning that we did for health care, we managed to build that hospital in those 10 lost years, and I'm very proud of the fact that we were able to do it and that we did it. No thanks to many of the comments made opposite.

Mr Speaker, I want to say to you, sir, as I've said before, the fundamental question --

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): When are you going to pay for that hospital, Bob?

Mr Rae: The member opposite, Mr Ford from Etobicoke, is expressing his concern and he and I share a riding. We share a boundary and we share the mellifluous river of the Humber. It is the border between our two ridings.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Could you explain "mellifluous"?

Mr Rae: Mellifluous. The member for Mississauga would perhaps be more familiar with Sixteen Mile Creek as a similar such estuary, but I would say to the member from Etobicoke, who's going to pay for it? The answer is, we all are. Through our taxes we will pay for that hospital, as we shall pay for all the other things that need to be done. I would say to the member --


Mr Rae: -- if he's shaking his head, then let him speak directly to those who will benefit from that research, not just the hospital, but the research centres that we've established across the province, the work that's been done to expand service and treatment for cancer patients in every single part of the province. These are things which need to be done, these are things which must be done and these are things which we did and which, if the government opposite wants to maintain any sense of trust with the public, it will have to do as well.

The question the government has to answer and the question the Minister of Labour has to answer is why, given the fact that we were prepared to carry on a process of discussion, we were prepared to try and find a consensus, we were prepared to refer matters to groups of people, to have intensive discussions -- I had them in my office; I had them privately; we had them publicly; the Minister of Labour had them privately and publicly as we strove to find that conclusion -- why it would be that the membership of the committee on resources, which membership we are considering today, would not be willing to give the committee the instruction that it will travel, that it will open itself to a genuine hearings process and that it will be prepared to consider amendments and proposals which come forward because of the unintended consequences of the propositions that are being made by the government in its legislation.

The Minister of Labour made a very interesting admission today in the House. In answer to a question from the member for Hamilton Centre, she said, "Oh, I'm already meeting with people and we're already making changes." Well, which changes --

Mr Laughren: Which people?

Mr Rae: -- and which people is she meeting with --

Mr Pouliot: Why is she unwilling to --

Mr Rae: -- and why would she be unwilling -- if she's willing to meet with these people privately, why wouldn't she be willing to have these people come to the committee? If they're in Ottawa -- I know for the Minister of Health Ottawa's a long, long way and that for him a trip to Ottawa is an absolutely unprecedented step, but for most of us it's a very natural thing to do. I met with Dr Keon on a number of occasions. I'm sure that my colleague the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, when she was the minister, met with Dr Keon. He's a great physician, a great doctor, a heck of a hockey player --

Mr Laughren: A great senator.

Mr Rae: A great senator. But I say to the members opposite, this committee, which is going to be considering Bill 7, a matter which is now before the House and will be again tomorrow -- we know the subject matter -- is going to have to listen to the members who are affected. It is going to have to listen to the women who work in Sudbury and who work in Thunder Bay and who work in Kingston, who are concerned because they're working in industrial plants that are not large and who know what the impacts on them will be of the steps that the government is planning to take; who know that if people can be bused in to take their jobs away, there will be great trouble for them, that their security will be affected.

I must say directly, because I'm convinced that the government has produced this legislation not out of a spirit of wanting to listen to the people but out of a spirit of pure ideology, that once the members are exposed to the arguments and to the facts on the subject of this change, they will listen again.

What would the objection conceivably be to allowing Dr Meltz, Professor Gunderson, the experts from Kingston -- and my colleague from Kingston is listening patiently; he will know that there is an excellent centre for industrial relations in Kingston --

Hon Mr Sterling: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I didn't realize that there would be this much opposition to a pretty routine motion of the House. If the opposition gives me the opportunity, I will withdraw the motion.

Mr Rae: In light of the comments that have been made by my friend from Carleton, I certainly would be prepared to adjourn the debate and return to this discussion, which I'm just getting into, at your earliest convenience.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Rae moves the adjournment of the debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Hon Mr Sterling: I will also not bring forward the motion on which I have consent with regard to the meetings of the committee.


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I will, however, move the motion, that I believe is a routine motion, that notwithstanding standing order 8(a), the House shall meet at 1:30 pm on Thursday, October 19, 1995.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I move that notwithstanding standing order 96, private members' public business not be considered until Thursday, October 26, 1995, and that the requirement for notice be waived with respect to ballot items 1 to 4, inclusive.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.



Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:

"We, the undersigned, petition the Conservative government through the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"That the government of Ontario hereby stop cutbacks. Funding cutbacks will affect the availability of professionally run child care programs, resource centres and services for children with special needs."

I have attached my name to that petition as well.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I have a petition signed by a large group of people upset with tobacco legislation passed in this House. This petition is signed by over 9,250 people from my riding and neighbouring ridings and reads as follows:

"Smokers, are you tired of being discriminated against? Are you tired of being made to feel like second-class citizens? Are you not using a legal product? It's time to stand up and demand equal rights.

"Bill 119 has been passed banning smoking in barbershops, hairdressing salons, old-age homes -- many of the elderly residents of these homes fought in the world wars and are now losing their rights they fought for: hospitals etc.

"Do you agree with this happening? If you would like equal areas for smokers and non-smokers in all buildings, please sign below. Perhaps united we can once again feel free. Kill Bill 119."

I sign my own name to this petition.



Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition which is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and it states:

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

"We demand a public inquiry into the conduct of all crown and law enforcement officials/employees at all levels involved in the investigation of Karla Homolka and in particular the circumstances of the negotiation of the plea bargain arrangement. We also demand that all day passes and other privileges be revoked and her full 12-year sentence be served in its entirety."

I affix my signature to that.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My petition is 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 member's Bill 195, An Act to amend the Highway Traffic Act, or similar legislation, as soon as possible."

Mr Speaker, had the Legislature sat in the spring I could have tabled this petition then, when I received it, but I'm happy to add my signature to it at this time.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): This is a petition that's directed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario; the Ontario School Board Reduction Task Force; the Honourable Mike Harris, Premier of Ontario; the Honourable John Snobelen, Minister of Education and Training; and myself. It reads:

"We, the undersigned, are opposed to the amalgamation of the Kenora Board of Education with any of its neighbouring public boards. One size does not fit all.

"The distances between communities in northern Ontario are too great for school boards to function properly if they are amalgamated as proposed in the interim report of the School Board Reduction Task Force. The increased costs for travel and communication alone will more than likely offset any savings realized through amalgamation.

"We do not believe amalgamation will improve the quality of education in our schools; in fact, it may do more harm than good. We want to retain the local control of our schools through our elected board of trustees."

I have attached my name to that petition as well.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I have a petition signed by 129 employees of the regional Niagara public health department regarding the plea bargain of Karla Homolka. It reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, are in agreement with the introduction of a motion calling for Karla Homolka to be brought before the courts again for her role in the sex slayings of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. We also support the proposal that her prior plea bargain with the crown be declared null and void."


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition, again to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, which reads:

"We, the undersigned, petition the Conservative government, through the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, as follows:

"That the government of Ontario hereby stop cutbacks. Funding cutbacks will affect availability of professionally run child care programs, resource centres and services for children with special needs."

It's signed by a good number of constituents from Kenora and I too have attached my name to that petition.



Mr Chiarelli moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 10, An Act respecting the Price of Motor Vehicle Fuel and protecting Whistleblowers in the Motor Vehicle Fuel Industry / Projet de loi 10, Loi concernant le prix du carburant pour véhicules automobiles et visant à protéger les dénonciateurs dans l'industrie du carburant pour véhicules automobiles.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Do you wish to make any statement?

Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): I'll read several paragraphs from the explanatory notes. It'll be very short.

The main purpose of the bill is to ensure that retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers of motor vehicle fuel be accountable to the public with respect to the pricing of the fuel. The bill would establish the commission on motor vehicle fuel prices to monitor and report to the minister on pricing practices in the province with respect to motor vehicle fuel and to conduct inquiries into pricing practices on order of the minister.

Section 6 would prohibit a person from conspiring to increase or decrease the price of motor vehicle fuel or the retailer margin with respect to motor vehicle fuel.

Section 7 would require retailers of motor vehicle fuel to sell a type of motor vehicle fuel at the same price at every retail outlet owned or operated by the retailer in the province.

Section 8 provides for exceptions to the province-wide pricing rule upon order of the commission.

Section 9 provides whistleblower protection to employees.

Lastly, sections 12 and 13 would create certain offences for contravention of the act.



Mr Rae moved opposition day motion number 2:

Whereas the Common Sense Revolution states that "our obligation to those in need is even greater in the case of our children"; and

Whereas the Common Sense Revolution also notes that "children living in poverty suffer from significantly higher infant mortality rates, lower life expectancies and tend to receive poor nutrition and education"; and

Whereas Mike Harris's government is hurting kids who live on welfare through cuts in welfare benefits, because 41% of the people living on welfare are children; and

Whereas the 22% cut in welfare benefits hurts children most of all -- children who will have to do without the food, clothing or adequate housing they need, children who have no way to fight back against the cuts; and

Whereas Mike Harris's government is hurting kids who need day care by cutting the funding for day care provided through Jobs Ontario Training, so parents can't look for work or take job training; and

Whereas this punishes families trying to help themselves and makes safe and dependable day care for their kids less accessible; and

Whereas Mike Harris's government is hurting kids who need extra help -- abused children, children with disabilities, children from troubled homes -- by cutting the budget for services like children's aid societies, children's mental health centres and second-stage housing for women and children seeking refuge from domestic violence and abuse; and

Whereas Mike Harris's government is hurting kids and their families by eliminating jobs, by making it harder for them to make ends meet and harder to get training to get back to work; and

Whereas Mike Harris's government is cancelling early childhood education pilot projects and making junior kindergarten less accessible for children across the province, despite a generation's evidence that education supports in the early years pay huge positive dividends later in children's lives;

Therefore, this House calls on the Mike Harris government to stop hurting Ontario's children, primarily by restoring the benefits it has seized by means of welfare rate cuts, but also by restoring the funding cuts it has made to child care provision, to training, and to social service agencies in the Ministry of Community and Social Services.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): I rise in my place to speak on this motion, and I do so with the determination to make not simply a case that's based on the needs of children in this generation and the fact that what the government is doing is making the condition of our children worse, certainly than it's been and far worse than it needs to be, but I do it in the name as well of the long-term economic health and wellbeing of the province of Ontario.

I think there is a growing consensus in our society, as opposed to some other societies that I can think of, a consensus that I've seen at work in the work of the Premier's Council of this province, a council which was gotten rid of by the Tory government, a consensus that has emerged I think in a great many businesses, a consensus that has emerged in the many, many places of work and a consensus that I think we need to try to find in this House. It's a consensus that was partly expressed even in some of the words of the Common Sense Revolution when it stated, "Children living in poverty suffer from significantly higher infant mortality rates, lower life expectancies and tend to receive poor nutrition and education."

I think the most damaging charge that has been made, is being made and will be made against this government is that in its determination to follow the iron letter of the Common Sense Revolution, it is making life worse for the most vulnerable citizens in the province, and those most vulnerable are our children.

I said at the close of the speech that I gave in response to the speech from the throne that we can only define and find true prosperity in this province when the least among us has nothing to fear, and I think it's fair to say that the great debate which needs to happen in Canada and in many countries, but certainly with us, is not so much a broad philosophical debate between different systems of government and systems of economic thought and systems of economic organization, but rather the issue must be as to how it is that we can build an economy that is efficient, that respects the market, respects the need to be efficient, respects the need to find a balance and at the same time not abandon our most vulnerable people to even greater inequality and greater hardship.

I think it's fair to say that the economic world in which we live is one in which, if allowed to work without any attempt to make it work better, the rich will do very well, they will continue to get richer, and the poor and the vulnerable will continue to be left on their own, and I think if you look at the evidence from the United Kingdom, the evidence from the United States and now the evidence coming in for Canada, the evidence is overwhelming that in the 1980s and indeed in the early 1990s, the gap between the rich and the poor did not diminish, it grew even greater, that the condition of those who were vulnerable deteriorated and the condition of those who were well off dramatically and substantially improved.

Members opposite would like us to believe that the last 10 years reflected a time in which the government sector grew exponentially, in which the wealthy were somehow held back and in which there was all sorts of largess distributed to the poor, in which their condition was dramatically improved.

Would that that were so. When the record of the last while is looked at, I think what will be said is that in a period of very difficult economic change, we held the line on behalf of those who were the most vulnerable and we prevented them from completely going under in the face of very substantial change in our economic life, but I think it must also be said that there is still much that needs to be done to ensure that our children are protected, that our children are taken care of and that our children do not suffer as a result of the economic condition which is affecting our society.

What will be said of the last six months, six months in which a government was elected on the false premise that it was possible to carry out the tax promises of the Common Sense Revolution without dramatically affecting the condition of life of ordinary people?

The government was elected on an illusion, an illusion that: "People, you can have your health care; you can have all your programs. Children will be better protected; children will be taken care of. All of this will be done, but we will still proceed with the cut" in areas which were described as, quote, non-priority areas, in which non-priority funding alone would be affected. The government opposite promised that they could find billions and billions of dollars in government waste, but no one would really feel it because there are only a few who are benefiting from the, quote, waste that was out there.

In one of their more shortsighted moves, one of the first things the government did was to abolish the Premier's Council, which council was at work on an agenda for children, which council was at work in bringing business, labour, the universities and government together in an understanding that the cuts that are made in children's services today are the cuts that will hurt our economy tomorrow.

Whereas the Tory mind sees the economy in one corner and society and social problems over in some other, what we continue to need is an understanding that we are all part of one another and that if we create more poverty among our young people, if we create more despair among our young people, if we create more hardship among our young people, we are sowing problems and we are sowing difficulties and we are creating antagonisms and hurt and injury for which we will pay in subsequent generations.

Every single study that has been done, every analysis that has been made, shows clearly that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to get sick and to get ill. They are more likely to do poorly in school. They are more likely to lose hope in their teens. They are more likely to drop out. They are more likely to take to crime. They are more likely to be marginalized in the economy. They are more likely to become a net cost to all of us and to continue a pattern of pain and injury which is now inflicted on them.

That evidence is overwhelming. It is hard, factual evidence. It is not simply an appeal to emotion that we are making; it is an appeal to the self-interest of each and every one of us. Do our businessmen want to live in a world in which they will have to live behind guarded gates? Do our businessmen want to live in a world where they cannot go downtown in the evening because of fear of the contrast between rich and poor?

It was a great Conservative, Benjamin Disraeli, who spoke with eloquence of what was taking place in the Victorian England in which he was living and working. He spoke with eloquence of the fact that around him there were growing up two nations, rich and poor, and there were two nations who were living more and more separately and apart. He understood that the historic task of the Conservative Party in his lifetime was to produce one nation in which rich and poor would understand what it is they owed each other, what their connection was to one another, and that they were all members of the same family.

I see in this province a Tory party which has not learned the lesson of Burke, which has not learned the lesson of Disraeli, which has not even learned the lesson of William Davis, and that is that unless you maintain a sense of proportion and balance and care and compassion, you will create two provinces. You will create a province for the rich and a province for the poor, a province in which the poor are increasingly marginalized and set aside and in which the rich continue to do very well.

In fact, under the tax policies introduced by this government, of which we are told and promised we're going to see the first instalment in the new year, we will see wealthy parents and wealthy families receiving windfalls in the thousands of dollars. All those windfalls will not save one shelter, all those windfalls will not pay for one children's aid society social worker to be able to do the job that he or she needs to do. This is where we part company. We part company with a government which says that its first priority is to give a tax cut of some $7,000 to someone making over $75,000 and to take food off the table from some of the most vulnerable in our society.


I want to say this to the members opposite: If they had said, "We want to cut the benefit to the single employable and we want to put all that money into a job creation program, we want to put all that money into putting people back to work," I might have said, "Well, I don't agree with the determination to cut back on people's living benefits, but I can understand the logic of what they were trying to do." I would say: "Well now, at least they're heading in a direction that I can understand. At least they're doing something that makes sense."

If they were even to have said: "We're going to cut the benefit, but we are going to ensure that we're going to expand child care, we're going to expand training, we're going to expand Jobs Ontario, only we won't call it Jobs Ontario because that was an NDP program; we'll give it another name," I wouldn't even have objected to them changing the name as long as they understand that in every industrialized country there is a consensus that for those who are now on unemployment insurance or on welfare, you've got to do something to get rid of the incentives that keep people on welfare, which we did with the drug program, which we did with our housing programs, which we did with the direction that we were taking on employment. You've got to provide incentives for employers to hire, which we did through Jobs Ontario Training, which we did through the efforts that were made to keep people at work, and you've got to put more money into training, more money into education and more money into child care.

That is the consensus. People say nothing works. Well, some things do work and we know they work. We know that if we deal with the child care needs, if we deal with the training needs, if we deal with the housing needs, if we deal with the education needs, we know that people will choose work every time. Nobody wants to sit at home and get paid for doing nothing for the rest of their lives. That's not the Canadian way. That's not the Ontario way. That's not the common view of most of the people of this province. Most of the people in this province have an urgent desire to work and to provide for their children, and their children need that.

What is so clearly the mark of an ideological government is that this group of people does not understand the self-destructiveness of what they are doing. The money you cut from children today, the services you deprive children of today will come back and hurt and hit all of us tomorrow.

I say this not to appeal to your compassion, because I'm not convinced that there is a surplus of compassion on the other side. Where I want to put the emphasis is on the self-interest. I talked to businessmen, I talked to a senior businessman who acted as an adviser to the Liberal government in Ottawa on their reforms to unemployment insurance and his advice to me --

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise on a point of order because I would think that the present speaker, above anyone else in this House, knows the rules of this House; that is, we are not permitted to impugn motives. He has suggested that the people on the other side of the House do not have compassion and I think that's an unjust impugning of our motives.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Mr Rae.

Mr Rae: Have you ruled on the point of order?

The Acting Speaker: You have the floor.

Mr Rae: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I would simply say to members, and I return to the point that I made quite simply: You look at the range of cuts that have been made, you look at their indiscriminate nature. You look at the fact that you have a Minister of Community and Social Services whose advice upon cutting the benefits was first of all to say, "You'll be able to earn it all back" -- not true -- then, "Oops, sorry. That was a mistake, didn't know that"; then turns around and says, "You can get tuna for 69 cents a can, so buy it in bulk." People whom I know on welfare are not exactly out there buying lots of stuff in bulk these days. Oops.

Then he says of the benefit cut that if it endangers children, the answer would be for the children's aid society to move in and presumably take the children into its care -- oops -- then turns around and says that the budgets of children's aid societies are being cut in real terms by some 10%, because you've got to take into account that it's happening in the middle of the year. So the very people who are being asked to police the impacts of his welfare cuts he's now saying are going to have their budgets cut.

He's cutting the budget -- oops -- of the children's mental health centres. He's cutting the budget of second-stage housing, and in his answers today to the questions from the Leader of the Opposition, it was crystal clear to me that he didn't know what second-stage housing was. His answers only referred in a rote form to the shelters which are being funded still by his government -- they haven't completely slashed them; they're still being funded though their budgets have been cut and are being held back -- but he doesn't understand that at issue is what happens to people once the shelters are full, a problem which again, if I may say so, we dealt with during the accord when we reinitiated and reinvigorated the housing programs of the government and when we carried on with the work that needed to be done.

The Common Sense Revolution says they want to end dependency. They're going to expand dependency. They say they want to improve the condition of children. They've slashed the benefits of children by some 20%. Of the people on welfare, 40% are children -- 400,000 children. Those are the incomes you've cut by some 20%. How can you stand in your place and say that somehow you have a plan for children? The plan for children that you've demonstrated -- 400,000 of the neediest among them, 400,000 of the most vulnerable citizens in this province, 400,000 children who are living on $1,000 or $1,200 or $1,500 a month, those are the people this government has decided to single out and attack. And the money they save on the backs of those children they're then going to transfer next year to the people making more than $40,000 or $50,000 or $60,000 or $75,000 a year. It's a disgrace.

The member for Mississauga South can stand up all she wants and talk all she wants about how she feels personally. I don't know how she feels personally. All I know is that this government is throwing hundreds of thousands of children deeper into poverty, deeper into misery, and we will all reap the impact of that change.

I want to say to members opposite that the price will be paid. We know, for example, from all the studies that have been done that infant mortality rates are double for poor neighbourhoods over wealthy neighbourhoods. We know that death rates due to accidents, suicides and homicides are 10 times greater for poor children than they are for wealthier children. We know that the rate of childhood disability is twice as high for poor children as it is for rich children. We know that school-aged children from low-income families are twice as likely to have a psychiatric disorder, three times as likely to have a conduct disorder than children from other families. We know they're more likely to break out of school, we know they're more likely to have difficulty in school, we know they're more likely to be seen as failures in school and we know that they're more likely to be labelled that way by the world.

These are the people, these are the children who will not have a big impact in terms of their voice. Who speaks for them? They don't attend the banquets and dinners which the Minister of Community and Social Services attends. They don't go to the golf clubs and they don't go to the country clubs. They don't go to the places where the Tory party raises its hundreds of thousands of dollars. They don't have access to a special phone line to a minister's office or a minister's staff. They don't have access to the Premier. They are the most vulnerable and they are the most open.

What does "vulnerable" mean? It means even that their cause may not be that politically popular. We have young kids who are involved in prostitution. We have young kids who are on the street. We have people of whom it's very easy to say, "These are bums, these are the marginals, these are the vagrants, these are kids who should be taught a lesson, these are the young kids who should know better." These are precisely the people for whom a government should say, "We need to support the agencies that are doing this work." What is the evidence we see all around us? Agencies that are being cut, not by simply 2% or 5% or 8%, whose whole core funding is being slashed, whose very reason for survival is being slashed; homes that provide care for single mothers of children who are looking for a way to get back into the workforce, young girls of 16 and 17 who've had kids and who have no means of support for those children.


Have they done the right thing? Governments shouldn't act as some kind of nanny state. Our object as government is not to pass moral judgement on each and every one of us in terms of our private lives or what we've done and what we haven't done. Government has an obligation to ensure that people have a way of getting work, that they have a way of getting education, that they have a way of getting training. Do people have responsibilities themselves? Of course they do. Do people have responsibilities to provide for their own? Of course they do. But do not go back to the rhetoric of the 18th and 19th centuries and try to impose it on the world today.

So in conclusion to my remarks, because I want to give others a chance to participate in this discussion, I say directly to members opposite and to my colleagues, the children of this province are being hurt by this government; they're being hurt directly, they're being hurt intentionally, they're being hurt in a cruel fashion, and they are being hurt so that this government can give a tax benefit to the wealthiest people in our society.

It is the most callous, disgraceful redistribution of wealth away from the vulnerable that this province has ever seen. We've never seen, in the history of this province, a government that deliberately set out to emiserate a section of the population in the name of giving a handout to the wealthiest. It is the most singularly disgraceful thing that a Minister of Community and Social Services and a Premier have presided over in living memory. They should be ashamed of themselves. It's high time we had all the facts out on the table as to what the real impact of these cuts is really going to be.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm delighted to have this opportunity today to speak to you about something that's precious to all of us: our children. I'm concerned about our children and their future. The Premier and every member of this government care about our children and their future. They deserve a future filled with opportunities. They do not deserve a future where the opportunities have been wiped out by a legacy of debt.

It's because we're concerned about our future and our children that we're not following in the footsteps of the previous two governments. We're not going to continue the practice of writing blank cheques on our children's futures. Instead, we're very carefully balancing the needs of our children today and tomorrow.

My ministry continues to fund over $2 billion of community services which help countless thousands of children and their families. We are spending about $550 million on child care services alone, over half a billion dollars to help meet children's needs today. Some of our money provides about 70,000 subsidized day care spaces for our children. Over 70% of the child care budget, or nearly $400 million, helps low-income parents to continue to work rather than to rely on welfare.

My government also realizes that services for the most vulnerable children must be protected. My ministry will spend over $750 million on services for those children in close to 400 separate agencies across the province. This includes funding for children's aid societies, children's mental health facilities and young offender services.

Our ministry also provides over $60 million to help children and women who are victims of violence. This funding supports 98 emergency shelters, crisis telephone counselling, emergency transportation, outreach to women living in the community and longer-term counselling. Furthermore, this government, through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, continues to fund second-stage shelters for women.

This government recognizes the importance of community-based support services for children and adults with developmental handicaps. My ministry is investing about $380 million in those services this year.

It is not easy to raise a disabled child. That's why our government strongly supports the special services at home program and the handicapped children's benefits program. Both help families to care for disabled children at home.

Special services at home extends a helping hand to over 10,000 families with disabled children. This program provides families with funding to purchase the services and support their children need while being cared for at home. The average family receives about $2,700 annually from this program. Our government is committed to protecting services for disabled children by continuing to spend $37 million a year on these special services.

It is clear from the spending commitments I've just outlined that the essential core services for children and their parents are being protected. At the same time, we're taking steps to bring our spending under control. Our children's future is at stake. Borrowing money to spend on Band-Aid solutions only delays the inevitable. Sooner or later we have to face the facts and begin to work towards solving the problems.

If simply throwing money at the problem were the solution, child poverty, poor nutrition and children in need would have vanished long ago. Facing the facts was something --


Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am sitting beside the minister and I cannot hear what he's saying. My point of order is that interjections are out of order, and I ask you to bring this House under control.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): You're not in your seat, Margaret.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member from Mississauga will sit in her own seat.

Mrs Marland: All right. I will do that right now.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the minister.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Facing the facts was something previous governments refused to do, and we're paying the price for that now. Had they kept their spending in check, had they been a little less free-wheeling in their ways, in their borrowing habits, we wouldn't be faced with making the difficult choices we are today. We wouldn't be paying billions of dollars in interest charges. Instead, we would be spending more money for the benefit of children.

It's very clear to me in a letter dated December 5, 1994, by my predecessor, the Honourable Tony Silipo, who was then the Minister of Community and Social Services -- this letter was sent to MCSS-funded agencies -- that he too recognized the need to reduce spending, that even while his government was trying to tell people that it was not cutting, he was telling agencies, including the children's aid societies, that their budgets would be reduced by 1% to assist with ongoing pressures.


Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm almost a city block away from the minister speaking on this important subject, and I ask you to bring the House to order and prohibit the interjections, particularly from the third party, from veteran members who know far better than to behave as they are behaving this afternoon.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Mr Speaker, I just want to note -- I follow the lead of the member from Mississauga -- that their having been in opposition for five years was no example to this side of the House.

The Deputy Speaker: To the member from Mississauga, the Chair will maintain the order that it feels appropriate, but thanks very much for your attention. The minister may continue.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Even while this government was trying to tell people there would be no spending cuts, Mr Silipo was indicating to agencies, including the children's aid societies, that there would be a reduction of 1% to assist with ongoing pressures. With a deficit of approximately $10 billion, "ongoing pressures" would seem to be the understatement of the decade.

There's a need to reduce costs. We can't continue to create the illusion of wealth by borrowing money. We must live within our means. The people of Ontario have recognized this and rejected the habit of putting off paying for programs and foisting this huge debt upon our children and grandchildren. It's with taxpayer support that we are using some common sense to tackle overspending and other problems facing parents and their children today. For example, the previous government spent $55 million on a child care conversion program that didn't create one new child care spot. That was a waste of money, and we stopped this after being in power one month.

We also plan to help children by giving parents more choices in child care. Parents will decide what kind of child care is best for their children, not governments. This means we'll have a system that gives real choice to people, a choice between commercial, non-profit or informal child care. This is the way it should be and this is what parents, both rural and urban, believe and want throughout Ontario.


We're levelling the playing field. We're inviting the private sector back into the child care business. It means more choices for parents. Maintaining child care options for working parents is vital, but by far the largest number of children today are being looked after not by the formal day centre service, but by families, friends and neighbours.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Nickel Belt is out of order.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: It's important to remember that over 75% of people in Ontario rely on informal child care arrangements.

Better child care is only one aspect of our commitment to children. With leadership from the Premier and with private sector and volunteer support, we'll launch a nutrition program for needy children. We cannot allow children to go to school hungry. We'll take the best of what exists today and build a new program that works and can be implemented at little or no cost to the taxpayer. We need to do more looking at what has worked well in the past and build on it.

The government is also committed to introducing homework assistance centres. Volunteers will serve as tutors and role models to students. Expanding on the Hack House program, a successful project in North Bay, these community-based centres will help motivate students to improve their school work, increase their appreciation for learning and enhance their opportunities.

Inexpensive ways to help parents and their children do exist. One which I'm pleased to say that both the honourable member for Hamilton Centre and I agree on is the First Step project. As members may recall, Project First Step is operated by the Catholic Family Services of Hamilton-Wentworth. This program provides advice on work and school opportunities. This program is designed to assist young, single mothers to enter or re-enter the workforce. When people get jobs through this program, it helps children and their parents.

This was raised by the honourable member several days ago, and I was delighted to point out that we agree that this type of program is exactly what we need in Ontario today.

Sadly, social assistance caseloads have more than doubled since 1989, and too many of those who have come on to the system are parents. They have become trapped in a cycle of welfare dependency. We are trying to break that cycle of dependency by giving people the incentive and opportunities to earn back the difference between the old social assistance base rate and the new base rate.

But we must do more than help people break their dependence on welfare. It's important for children to have parental role models where they are actively participating in the workforce or their communities. Our plans for mandatory workfare and learnfare programs will help achieve that goal.

Furthermore, we plan to introduce other programs to assist parents. We will develop a learning and earning and parenting program. This initiative will help single parents on welfare stay in school so they can complete their education.

Finally, there was a time when helping your neighbour was the norm, when people looked to the community, to the churches and to their families for help before looking to their government for help. Instead, we seem to have lost that resourcefulness. We must turn around this feeling that the government has to do it all and think of those in need as our collective responsibility. It's society's responsibility, not the government's.

The failure of governments to act over the past decade has placed our children's future in jeopardy. Upholding the status quo and failing to reform the welfare system has forced us to make some very difficult decisions. But it would be even more difficult to explain to our grandchildren why we failed to act, particularly when we had the opportunity. Our government will not miss the chance to protect our children's future.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): There are few subjects that are impacted by government in significant ways that are completely apolitical, and today's subject is one of them. We're talking about children. If we want to judge how successful a country is, we need to look at that country's children.

I'd like to ask our government to take a look at the children of Ontario, all of them. Today, I've got to echo the call from our colleagues on the NDP caucus to this Conservative government to stop hurting Ontario's children.

I find it interesting to follow the Minister of Community and Social Services today. You can't help but become emotional when you listen and wonder just what decade he thinks he's in, or has he just stepped out a Norman Rockwell painting? Ontario is not what it was in the 1950s. He's just not living in reality, nor is he directing policy out of that ministry to deal with the realities that families are facing today.

Important items to recognize: One in five children require some type of specific service; 18% of all youngsters have psychiatric problems. The government's response has been to cut, and cut without thinking of the costs. Never has there been such a need for a voice in government for children. The Ontario Liberal Party was the only party to recognize the need for such a voice and was prepared to appoint a minister of children's services.

One would not have to look far to determine real change is required in government's approach to how we care for our children. Currently, three separate ministries do various things, sometimes the same things, for children. Agencies are forced to administer the access of funding from separate ministries, each with their own set of guidelines. Moreover, ministries don't talk to each other. Instead of breaking down these barriers to better management of scarce resources, this government has elected to simply cut funding. Since this government has described its cuts as cuts in non-priority areas only, we can only surmise that children are simply not a priority with this gang.

The Liberal Party is on record as advocating a better way to do this business, not doing less business. Today, all over Ontario, all agencies and organizations that deal with children are reeling. Over the last few years, and especially since the recession of the early 1990s, demands on children's service agencies have been outstripping their ability to cope and to serve children in need.

We need not go far to prove that children are highly impacted by what goes on in their families. The more families we have in crisis, and in many instances poverty, the greater the need for intervention, the greater the need for prevention.

By this government's own admission, Ontario is in crisis: too much debt, too much unemployment, too much welfare, not enough education, a need for a better-skilled workforce. All of these things are true, and decisive action by government is long overdue. The people of Ontario were looking for a leader who would act responsibly, who would cut with a surgeon's precision, one who would be farsighted in determining the effects of the cuts and if indeed those cuts would cost us more in the long run.

What we got instead was an axe-wielding leader with no regard for our most precious commodity: our children. In fact, sweeping cuts across the board have scooped up the most needy of children, scooped them up and out. Too bad they're not like cats, where we know they'll land on their feet.

Since June: immediate cuts to ministries serving children in the middle of their fiscal year and the need to find an additional 5% to cut next year. All children's aid societies, for example, are meeting to determine what services they can't provide. Some 41% of all people receiving welfare are children, 500,000 of them; a city like Mississauga, for example, all children, and their families' benefits have been slashed.

Almost 50% of all people currently using food banks are children. The Toronto food banks couldn't keep up with the demand over Thanksgiving weekend, despite our Premier dropping off his donated can.

All studies have indicated that children derive a huge benefit from some form of early childhood education -- improved cognitive and scholastic performance, decreased use of welfare assistance, decreased delinquency, lower arrest rates, even higher enrolments in post-secondary education -- yet this government cut child care subsidies to families who required the most. I have got to say I resent sitting and listening to the minister tell me now everything they are doing for children. It's like telling half a story to the people of Ontario, not telling us what they are not doing for children.

Such shortsightedness, when we know that for every dollar spent on quality preschool education, the government saves $7 in costs to special education. Public assistance, costs associated with crime, all drop. According to Social Services Minister Tsubouchi, there is a large, untapped source of child care: stay-at-home moms "like we used 20 or 30 years ago when your mother had to get out." In this minister's mind, these women can and will provide care that's cheaper and perhaps better than licensed centres that are being devastated by the subsidy cuts. Perhaps the minister should pick up the Globe and Mail, I'm sure a paper no minister can do without, and read the horror stories that parents tell about the kind of people providing unregulated care.

I'm sure there are a lot of people, lots of moms, who do provide loving, unregulated care. I don't want to have to be the one who explains to a parent that an accident's happened because their babysitter didn't really have the time or energy to keep a mindful eye on their children. These are the obvious cuts that affect children.


What about the others? Cuts to education, with a mandate that those cuts be to administration. By the minister's own admission, we have yet to define the definition of "administration" versus "classroom." Meanwhile, we still have children in portables instead of classrooms, without adequate washroom facilities for the number of students attending, and capital funding has been squashed. My own riding is an example of that.

We hailed the report For the Love of Learning by the commission on education. Where did those findings go? They reflected what parents truly were concerned about. This government has been strangely silent, considering that they too were in favour while in opposition.

The government eliminated funding for programs for male batterers and prevention and outreach services in violence-against-women programs. Did the government recognize the impact this would have on children? Most women who suffer abuse have children.

Let me tell you about a gentleman from Windsor who was a batterer. He himself was abused as a child and became an abuser himself. He had several children. Before he got help through the program which this government has now cut, his children became abusers. He's trying to get his daughter into a program so she'll stop abusing her child. His son is in an abusive relationship now. His other children are receiving help for anger management. They learned this behaviour from him. This fellow asked me what other batterers are going to do now. This man now counsels other batterers and there's a waiting list. He asked me, "How are we going to break this cycle of violence?" We may pity the women, but is anyone thinking about the children?

This government didn't differentiate between ministries when calling for cuts. Community and Social Services funds the bulk of our children's mental health agency budgets. Has a member from government ever visited one of our children's mental health agencies? The focus has changed over the years to family intervention, recognizing the important role that family plays in reversing the negative behaviours of the child. These people who work in this field have been under the gun for years, scrambling to provide more and more with less and less.

While the government wants to refer to everything in business terms, the "end users," the product we're talking about is children. Some 85,000 of Ontario's children right now are in some form of mental health service, with 8,000 more on waiting lists. They can get the help if their community happens to provide the service. There's no mandate to provide mental health services. This must change.

May I put this in perspective for you? Children's mental health agencies in Ontario have 85,000 children in treatment right now, at an average cost of $3,000 per child. In the worst-case scenario, the child going untreated may become dysfunctional for the balance of his or her life. How many people currently in our prisons didn't get the help they needed as children? The average cost of prison is $45,000 a year.

We're currently spending $220 million for 95 children's mental health agencies. The annual budget for the Toronto General Hospital -- one hospital -- is $500 million.

This government promised to protect the most vulnerable people in society and promised not to impose cuts that would threaten their wellbeing. I used to be involved with developing new and innovative ways to fund-raise for the Easter Seal Society. It was there that I saw how government cuts by our last government affected children; specifically cuts to the assistive devices program, for example. They've already forced families with disabled children to find new sources of funds to help them cope with their needs. While a group like the Easter Seal Society does everything that it can, how much can it do? Surely you can't expect them to do it all. They need to know that government is going to be there to fund programs for children with disabilities.

The most enlightening research ever done on the subject of the need for children's services was the result that indicated that need was directly linked to the state of the economy; specifically unemployment rates, welfare numbers, the consumer price index as an inflation indicator and so an indicator to financial pressures on families.

"This government will help children by creating jobs, moving the economy." There's been so little attention to jobs and the economy so far. If only as much energy was spent in this area, you'd indirectly be helping every child in Ontario.

Patrick Holland, the director of the Essex county Catholic children's aid, put it best when he said: "Children -- they are keepers of our future."

I'm not about to wait four years in opposition to see that you finally do something good for the children of Ontario. I'm calling on the government to change legislation so that children's mental health services are mandated in Ontario. I'm calling on the government to assign children's services as a priority to a minister. Improve the funding mechanisms that are inadequate. I'm calling on this government to restore funding that allows our children agencies to properly serve our children. I'm begging the government to stop trying to balance the books on the backs of the children.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I join this debate because it's something that's very close to my heart. I think it should be and probably is close to the hearts of all members of this House, of no matter what political stripe.

The greatest obligation we can have as members must be the protection of those who are young. I have listened very carefully to the debate and I have attempted to understand the positions taken by members on all sides of the House.

I noted in the Conservative campaign manifesto that is touted around this province that the now government recognizes: "Our obligation to those in need is even greater in the case of our children. Children living in poverty suffer from significantly higher infant mortality rates, lower life expectancies and tend to receive poor nutrition and education."

That's quite true, so I look at the government's record in regard to those statements in its manifesto. I listened to the Minister of Community and Social Services, who justified the government's cuts that are affecting children and are hurting kids in this province by saying we must recognize that we must cut back on expenditures today in order to protect the children of tomorrow.

If you listen to that argument, even if you accept it, what the minister is really saying is that we must hurt the children of today in order to protect the children of tomorrow. Just think about that. It doesn't make sense either, because if you do indeed hurt the children of today, if they do not get the kind of education and training they need, if they are abused, if they suffer from poverty, as is recognized by the Conservatives themselves in their own manifesto, we will all pay in the future -- all of us, our whole society.

It is impossible for us to meet the needs of children by hurting the children of today. It is impossible for us to protect the future of our children by saying we must deny those of today. It is just impossible.

The fact is, the future of our children is the future of our society. What we sow today we will indeed reap tomorrow. We will reap it in greater costs, if you must evaluate it in terms of dollars and cents: greater costs in terms of incarceration, hospitalization, lack of productivity, abuse, crime and harm in the future.

So even if you follow the Conservatives' logic, you understand that there is an innate dichotomy, a contradiction. You cannot and must not argue that you are protecting the children of the future by harming the poor, the children of today.

To deny early childhood education which would ensure that children would benefit throughout their educational career and become, more likely, productive people who can provide for themselves and their families in the future, you are harming the children of tomorrow, the whole society of tomorrow.


I ask the government, I beg the government, to realize that this is not just a bit of political rhetoric, what we have put before the House today, that we are indeed sincere. You must understand that you cannot proceed on the basis of short-term desires to transfer wealth from the poor to the wealthy today, even if you accept the trickle-down theory that if the wealthy have more money they will invest it and that will somehow produce more employment. You cannot transfer from the poor of today to the wealthy in our society without harming those children today, or even the wealthy will be more endangered in the future: They will be vulnerable to crime in the future, and we all suffer.

I've spent a lot of time in this House and I have argued on many occasions for good child care and for improved assistance to those who are in need because of the need to ensure that children will benefit. I think all members of the House understand that, but I'm receiving far too many letters from single mothers who are in school doing what this government wants them to do -- to obtain education so they can become productive and care for their children and to work, get off of the welfare cycle -- who are now telling me that because of the cuts to welfare they are going to have to quit school and remain on welfare at the lower rates because they can't afford child care.

I repeat, we cannot harm the children of today in order to benefit the children of tomorrow. It just doesn't work. I urge the government to rethink its position and to take what we have put before it today as seriously as we've intended it to be taken.

Mrs Janet Ecker (Durham West): As the minister has stated before, our government's commitment to the children is clear. That commitment was spelled out in the Common Sense Revolution and was supported by the Ontario voters in June.

We said we would implement a community nutrition program for school-age children, and we will. We said we would encourage the development of more day care spaces with more choice for parents, and we will. We said we would end the nationalization of our child care system, and we will. But most importantly, we said we would restore economic prosperity to this province by getting our financial house in order, and we will. That is the best guarantee for the future of our children.

The people of Ontario want this government to protect children in genuine need and they want us to create affordable programs for children who are at risk through community-based initiatives that protect their health and wellbeing. But the best way to begin doing that, the best investment we can make in our kids, is to make sure that their parents have jobs; it's to make sure that every hard-earned dollar that their parents make doesn't get taken away in taxes. That's what our government's agenda is all about: jobs and economic prosperity. That's why we must get our financial house in order.

Previous governments have been using the Visa card to pay the mortgage, and we've hit our limit. The result is a debt that costs us $9 billion in interest just in this year alone. That is more than we spend on our hospitals. That is more than we spend on social assistance. That means each and every one of us, including each child, is paying $800 a year to finance that debt. That is the legacy of my honourable colleagues across the floor, and that's just this year alone. In five years it will be $1,700. I believe that previous governments have mortgaged our children's future, the future of every child in this province. That is the real threat to our children.

The NDP's response was to blindly throw taxpayers' money at an unsustainable system. They committed millions we never had in order to convert private day care spaces into non-profit spaces. All told, over $50 million was wasted without creating one new child care space. The previous government, at a time when it claimed to be cutting back, was actually wasting millions on conversion. After actively trying to drive the private sector out of the field, they then spent our tax dollars to try to buy out the survivors.

With quality and parental choice in mind, we've invited the private sector back into the field, to put an end to discrimination against non-government enterprises. We will not succumb to the premise the third party has tried to establish, one that says that if it's not state-run, it's harmful to children. Ontario cannot afford that narrow view. We don't have the money to keep funding programs that are less effective and affordable than the people of Ontario demand.

That is why we are reviewing the overall child care program that we have, to ensure that taxpayers' dollars are being spent in the most effective way. The issues we are looking at include parental choice; the quality of services; whether it's possible to streamline or simplify the programs if possible; and we are also looking at the affordability, because we cannot have a system that taxpayers cannot afford.

We will continue our role in licensing centre-based and home-based child care under the Day Nurseries Act, and we will make sure that standards for quality, for safety and child nutrition are met for all operators and by all operators.

As we make our funding and policy decisions in this area, we will work with municipalities and other key players needed to help us develop an appropriate strategy in these difficult economic and financial times.

In its motion, the third party has the audacity to state that we are hurting children by changing the Jobs Ontario Training funding formula -- or should I call it the Bob's Ontario training funding formula -- which subsidizes 14,000 day care spaces. If there is pain which is inflicted, it has been inflicted on the taxpayer who has to bear the cost, those hardworking parents who are trying to put a roof over their heads and food on the table without a dime in government assistance.

By reverting to the 80-20 cost-sharing formula with municipalities, our government has done the only financially responsible thing. We believe that elected municipal officials, our colleagues, will do what is best for their communities and support social assistance recipients in meeting their child care needs while they work or train. Municipalities will be able to use the savings from social assistance rate reductions to fund their 20% share for the day care spaces.

When we talk about formal child care, let us be sure we know what we are talking about. Studies have estimated that between 75% to 90% of children are cared for in the informal child care sector. According to Statistics Canada, there are just over a million kids in Ontario under 13 whose parent or parents work. This means that only 10% of our children have parents who use the formal child care sector.

The third party would like us to believe that formal day care is appropriate for all kids at all times. They want us to believe that without universal day care, all of our children will be at risk. Yes, we do need good-quality day care for our kids, but we also need good parents, parents who can provide for their children because they have jobs, parents who can make choices for their families because all of their income is not being taxed away by a government that has been carried away with its debt.

Let us not forget that we, in this fiscal year, are already spending almost $550 million on the 10% of children whose parents use the formal system, and 71% of that child care operating budget, almost $390 million in subsidies, goes for low-income parents. The remaining parents who use the informal system have been helped by family members, neighbours and friends, and that too can be an appropriate system.


The ministry is the first to recognize that too many children throughout Ontario will be the innocent victims of past government overspending, their future mortgaged by our spendthrift colleagues across the way. We have to fix this. We are prepared to do so, to make the difficult decisions today so that our children will have a financial future.

Having explained our government's commitment to children and belief in their future, I will close with a message about the fundamental difference between our way and the previous status quo, and there is a fundamental difference. The big difference is in this government's approach to the wellbeing of Ontario's children is that we are not willing to bankrupt this province with irresponsible spending sprees. That alone shows the support that we have for the younger generation. We want them to grow up in a province that is stable and financially responsible. We want them to grow up with a bright future and a job, and we are prepared to do that.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise in support of the motion, by the third party, in front of us today. This issue is not one of partisan politics. This issue is one of betrayal, a betrayal of children across this province, a betrayal by a government that has decided to launch the most massive attack on children in the history of this province.

This government feels it is acceptable, morally and politically acceptable, to fund a tax cut on the backs of children. This government promised protection for disabled children, and what we've seen in this House has been a comedy of errors, disabled children being left vulnerable, being left on their own and often being left and forced to end up back in institutions as a result of the cuts.

When this government said that it was not going to affect disabled people and their families, it somehow failed to make a connection between a family of a disabled child and a parent who is looking after a disabled child. If you cut the benefits of that parent, you are cutting the benefits to that child. This government doesn't understand that. They get around it by saying, "We didn't cut the support we're giving the child." What you are doing is cutting the support you're giving the parents and the families to look after this child. That is brutal politics.

This government is doing that because they think they can get away with it, because they think that the cuts to welfare, they think the cuts to the disabled, they think the cuts to the children are politically favourable today,. Maybe the polls are showing that, and maybe that is why they're continuing this massive attack.

What I want to remind this government is that what is politically right may not be morally right, but I can tell you that what is morally right would ultimately be politically right and what you are doing is wrong on a moral level, it is wrong on a political level, the legacy you are going to leave, the trap that you're going to put children into.

This government talks about breaking the welfare cycle. How do you break the welfare cycle by punishing 41% of the dependants? Forty-one per cent of the people who rely on welfare in this province are children. How do you break that cycle by continuing to punish them? How do you break it by giving their parents 22% less to feed them, for shelter, for coats, for shoes? How do you break that cycle?

What you do is you ensure that these children continue to become welfare dependent for the next generation and the next generation after that. You are taking away their hope. You are taking away any real possibility that these children can have to break this welfare cycle and this welfare trap.

The government doesn't understand the need that is out there. This government doesn't understand that children are hurting as a result of its cuts, and you can stand there and pound your chest and talk about the lazy welfare bum that you like to stereotype.

As said the other day, how fair is it for you to cut by 22% the benefit that the laid-off construction worker or steelworker in my riding gets and those benefits that that individual uses to feed his children? That is what this government believes is the right thing to do, because their rich friends who make $90,000, $100,000, $200,000 a year can't wait for payday, can't wait for the cuts that you're making to their taxes, can't wait for the 30% tax cut you promised them on the backs of disabled children, on the backs of kids who can least afford it.

When was the last time this government made a move that affected the children of people who are making $100,000 or $150,000? When was the last government legislation that your members brought across that affected the children of wealthy people? There hasn't been any.

We have a government that doesn't understand what it's like to live in poverty. We have a government that doesn't understand what it is like to be trapped. We have a government that is driven by polls, any lack of compassion, any lack of understanding. And we have a government that doesn't know what it is like for a child to be hurting, for a child to go to school hungry in the morning, for a child not to have a pair of shoes or a winter coat. I know that may not be the reality of your world, but I can tell you, it is the reality of the world of a lot of people in this province, and you are going to continue to inflict this pain and punishment as a result of these cuts.

I would ask the minister and the members of this government to spend some time going out. Go into the schools where these children attend. Go into some inner-city schools, instead of the wealthy suburbs, once in a while. Go into the inner-cities; go into downtown Toronto; go into some of the schools in downtown Hamilton, downtown London, downtown Ottawa. Talk to the children in those schools, talk to the parents in those schools, and see if you come away with that same sense of chest-pounding and that same sense of bravado that you're showing in this House as a result of the impact that you're making.

Unless this government changes its tactics and its approach to the punishment it is inflicting on people, it is going to ensure that we have hundreds of thousands of kids without any help, any opportunity, without any future. At the end of this mandate, that will be your legacy. It won't be a legacy of a 30% cut to the rich, to the people making $100,000, $200,000, $300,000, to your supporters. It will be a legacy of dooming a generation of children to another generation of poverty, to a generation of hell and to a life and an existence that is already miserable and that you're going to make more miserable.

I would hope that this government comes to its senses, shows some of the compassion and understanding that is out there. Once in a while, look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, "How fair are we being with these cuts, and how badly are we punishing children?" Whenever you think of making another cut in welfare to the disabled, to people who need help, look at yourself in the mirror and ask, what have those children done to deserve the punishment that you're inflicting upon them?

The Deputy Speaker: Mr Cooke?

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): It's our motion, so I should probably wrap up the last five minutes. If they want to finish up, it's okay.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Brantford.

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): I can't promise to be nearly as melodramatic as my colleague from Hamilton East, but I'll certainly get to the point.

It gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise in the House today as the first Conservative MPP from Brantford since 1987. Some of my colleagues may in fact remember Phil Gillies, the last PC member who sat in this Legislature, from 1981 until 1987.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, Mr Brad Ward, a distinguished member of our society, an NDP member. Although we disagreed philosophically on a number of issues, he served with dignity and he ran a clean, honourable campaign. I can tell you that Brantford was well represented by Mr Ward.

If I may, I'd like to take a moment just to tell you a little bit about my community before we address the motion of the leader of the third party. Brantford is a city with a population of 82,000. It is 118 years old and named for the crossing in the Grand River discovered by native chief Joseph Brant, hence Brant's ford.

It is the city where Alexander Graham Bell first conceived of and later perfected the telephone, and it was the point of origin for the first long-distance telephone call, all the way to Paris, Ontario.

There are people in Brantford who are very proud to say it is also the home of hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

Brantford's most recent accomplishment was winning the national Communities in Bloom contest only a few weeks ago, and it was an honour for me to mention that in this House then.


Brantford was once a thriving industrial centre until the recession of the last 10 years gouged our industry to the very core. I can tell you that with the disappearance of our industrial base went much of our retail sector as well, resulting in a downtown core that today stands at about 80% empty.

Brantford is the only city of its size in Ontario without its own college or university as well, and it is the only city of its size not connected to the Ontario 400 series highways, which we hope to rectify in the near future with the completion of Highway 403.

I can tell you that Brantford has taken its share of knocks in the past, economically, somewhat more than a number of the other municipalities in this province. In light of this, I think I'm in a unique position today to be able to comment with some authority on the resolution by the leader of the third party.

I must say that as a new member of the Legislature I've been struck by the number of times the leader of the third party to date has condemned the CSR as being ideological. But this subtle form of attack by the former Premier of what was Ontario's first -- and many Ontarians certainly hope it's the last -- socialist government betrays his own left-wing agenda, which holds that there is no such thing as political fence-sitting. Therefore, in the context of his own perspective, this ideological accusation is meaningless.

What a majority of Ontarians also find meaningless is the kind of socialist rhetoric and policies they've endured for five years coming from the former NDP government. Bob Rae's legacy in this province is a large part of the reason why on June 8 the Harris Tories were given a solid mandate to effect needed changes in the direction Ontario was going.

We didn't hide what we were going to do during the election campaign. In fact, we explained in great detail months before the election was ever being talked about and we explained in the Common Sense Revolution what we were going to do. We outlined the direction we were going to take to restore prosperity to Ontario, to reduce the deficit, to cut government spending, to make Ontario open for business and jobs so that families, and especially our children, could learn to hope and have confidence in the future.

Bob Rae can't pretend, as he often likes to do, that the government of Premier Mike Harris suddenly got up one day and decided to bring in spending cuts and attack the deficit that the NDP helped balloon so much when it was in power. More importantly, Bob Rae can't pretend that the people of Ontario aren't behind the Common Sense policies, that somehow he is now the self-appointed indignant voice of the people.

On June 8, we heard the voice of the people. We listened to what they told us then. We listened during the months before the election, when we travelled the province to hear the views of the average hardworking Ontarians who told us their sense of betrayal as taxpayers, that government had become too large, too bureaucratic and too expensive and that it was time we returned to traditional values of hard work and economic independence.

We heard this perhaps most loudly from those on social assistance as well. For Bob Rae, being on welfare is not only apparently a great thing, but also a measure of social progress. Well, the leader of the third party should listen to those on welfare who say they want to be economically independent. They want a job so they can have their dignity and self-worth restored. Our government believes that we have social progress when people have a hand up rather than a handout. The social safety net should never become a hammock for the people on social assistance.

A strong, vibrant economy that attracts business investment and generates private sector jobs is the foundation for a secure future for ourselves and our children, who do not deserve to be left with the legacy of Bob Rae: a legacy of debt, of bloated government bureaucracy and a huge deficit.

I'd like to talk for a minute about the cuts to welfare and specifically address the concerns of the leader of the third party. In his resolution, he states:

"Whereas Mike Harris's government is hurting kids who live on welfare through cuts in welfare benefits, because 41% of the people living on welfare are children; and

"Whereas the 22% cut in welfare benefits hurts children most of all -- children who have to do without food, clothing or adequate housing they need, children who have no way to fight back against the cuts," and he goes on.

What hope do the children of this province have if they are to be condemned to spending their childhood growing up dependent on a welfare cheque? They are not taught the value of hard work or being able to get ahead as a result of that hard work or being able to purchase the things they like as a result of that hard work.

The third party can sit over there and they can talk about being the guardians to social programs, but it's their own inability to control their spending while in government, to control the province's finances while in government, that is leading to the very destruction of those social programs they claim to defend, and that's the reality of this House.

I'd like to cite the dramatic drop in welfare rates in the last couple of months: some 24,000 fewer people on welfare in September than there were in August. This isn't because the economy has suddenly turned around. This isn't because all of a sudden there are a whole lot more jobs and economic growth out there in a couple of months. Mind you, I would suggest that there will be in due course with our plan. But at this point I would suggest to you the reason we have a reduced number of people on social services in Ontario is because lower social assistance rates means less of an incentive not to work in lower-paying jobs. That's the reality of the initiatives we've taken so far to create jobs.

For too long people have had the luxury of turning their noses up at minimum wage because in some cases it has been more profitable to be on welfare and doing nothing for their cheques, and frankly, who can blame them? It doesn't make a lot of sense to go to work when you can make more money or as much money sitting at home doing nothing. What we've done with our cuts of 21.6% is level the playing field between lower-paying jobs and social assistance benefits.

There is no greater disservice to minimum wage earners than to tax them and then turn around and use those very taxes to subsidize people on social assistance to a higher degree or a higher level than they earn in their very own jobs. That's the legacy the NDP and the Liberal governments have left this province.

I want to make one more point as well: that there are more children on welfare today as a result of the NDP and Liberal policies than in the history of this province, and that's a number that they know is true and it's a number they cannot refute.

Our critics are fond of quoting the Common Sense Revolution, accusing us of turning our backs on those who need help the most and breaking the campaign promises --


The Deputy Speaker: Would the member for Brantford take his seat for a minute. The member for Essex South is out of order. I will ask for your attention that is becoming to members of this House.

Mr Ron Johnson: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I've got to tell you, you took the sting out of my conclusion.

As I was saying, our critics are fond of quoting the CSR and accusing of us of turning our backs on those who need help the most and breaking campaign promises, when in fact the Common Sense Revolution promised that a Mike Harris government will take $500 million of savings from welfare reform and reinvest it in the system, with the lion's share going towards a series of first-step programs designed to help young single mothers on social assistance and their children take the first steps towards independence; in essence, to give children on welfare the best opportunity they've had in a long while to lead productive lives.

That's a real plan of action that will ease the plight of children on welfare and it's certainly not the vague and nebulous campaign promises of mandatory opportunities made by some of our critics.

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): During the election the Conservatives were fond of stating that "the goal of Mike Harris's reforms and changes to Ontario's welfare programs is to target support to those most genuinely in need of help" -- that's a quote from their revolution -- and moreover "to open more options for parents to choose the kind of care they want for their children."

It is clear that the government has already broken those promises. Instead of showing leadership by creating a strategy for improving the welfare of our children and underprivileged citizens, the government has launched a systematic campaign of program and benefit obliteration.

Already this year we have seen massive cuts that attack the basic needs of children and the less fortunate. The list is heartless and includes a 21.6% reduction in social assistance rates, slashed funding for day cares, reduced funding for Jobs Ontario Training child care; cuts to Youth in Care network; elimination of the child welfare foster care demo project, children's services coordinating advisory groups, the child care program development fund and community youth support; the reduction of maternity homes, and the list goes on.


We all know that it is easy to go through itemized lists and cross out programs forever. But it takes real guts, compassion, commitment and imagination to develop rational, realistic policies and alternatives. It is clear that this government has chosen the easy route. It is also easy to speak of funding cuts when they are dehumanized. However, I want to press upon the government that it is dealing with real people, and in this case real children.

I have in my hand just a few of the many letters I have received from parents in my Downsview riding that express true concern for the welfare of their children who rely on day care and outrage at the government's decision to turn its back on the children of this province.

All of these parents now face losing their child care spaces. Their options are few. They may be forced to unregulated facilities, which will put their children at risk. They cannot always afford the higher fees, which leave little money for necessities. Food banks in my riding are already unable to serve the existing needs. One can only imagine what will happen in the future. The only other choice is for parents to quit their jobs or, if they're in school, to leave school in order to look after their children.

Is this the type of results that the government truly believes will bring about a stronger, healthier economy and a more productive society? Is this fairness? Can anyone truly believe that?

I urge the government to reconsider and to listen to the people. I urge it to focus not just on the bottom line but on the consequences of the draconian, ill-thought-out measures it is considering. The people in my riding have urged me not to abandon children and child care. I assure them that I will not, and I urge the government to do likewise. Do not abandon the children of this province. Their future and ours is at stake. Above all, do not abandon the children in the name of giving a tax break to the rich. No one, not even the rich, will thank you or forgive you for the irreparable damage that you will do.

Mr Peter Preston (Brant-Haldimand): I'd like to start this off in a novel way by congratulating you and your associates, Mr Speaker, and through you I'd like to congratulate all those elected on June 8 from the whole House.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the citizens of Brant-Haldimand, one of the largest ridings in southern Ontario. I will endeavour to do them proud. It is a privilege to represent such a diverse riding; it stretches from Lake Erie in the south into the Cambridge city limits in the north, from Wainfleet in the east to Burford in the west.

Brant-Haldimand is a predominantly rural riding, encompassing seven municipalities, a native reservation, three regional governments and represented by two federal MPs. The farms of Haldimand, Dunnville and Brant county provide the crops that feed our province. We know what hard work is, and we're not afraid of it. We expect to reap the benefits of what we sow.

Brant-Haldimand is a riding which from 1919 to 1995, 76 years straight, was a Liberal riding. The people of Brant-Haldimand decided it was time for a change, and here I am. Why? The answer is quite simple: For the last 10 years we have watched while the government of Ontario continued to penalize the hardworking with higher and higher taxes until Ontario was one of the highest-taxed jurisdictions in North America. They also discouraged the unemployed from finding work by inflating welfare benefits until they were not only the most generous in the country, but also a full 30% above the national average.

The people living on welfare have come to define those benefits as their income. All we are asking -- and as a society of taxpayers I know we have the right to ask -- is that those receiving these benefits do something -- anything -- in return for their handout. And let us be clear: Welfare has become a handout, not the hand up it was designed to be. It is thought of as an entitlement, a paycheque even, to those receiving it. Rather than an emergency source of funds, it has become a way of life. The opposition would have Ontario believe that we are mean-spirited, cruel and heartless, even though our welfare rates are still among the most generous in the country and 10% above the average of the other nine provinces.

Ontario has been referred to as the engine of Confederation. Ten years ago, the present opposition left the station with that engine. Admittedly, they had some baggage to carry from the former government, but rather than showing restraint and trying to fix the things, they ran helter-skelter through the night, picking up more and more fiscal freight.

When Ontarians had had enough, they changed engineers and the leader of the third party took over. For the day the freight he inherited was enormous, but the same scenario again: Instead of repairs, he pushes the stick to the throttle full out and adds freight with abandon. He continued this irresponsible flight through the province, throwing unearned money -- deficit money -- at all the problems.

Well, the inevitable has happened.

The Deputy Speaker: Excuse me. The time for the government speeches is complete.

Mr Preston: Thank you. I will give the second part of it next week.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I wish we had more time on the clock to speak to this particular issue. I am in support of the resolution today, but because of time allocation I would like to address one aspect that is of concern to me.

I would like to begin by identifying that 39% of children whose mothers are abused witness the violence and are in need of counselling and a safe haven, which is an astounding figure.

I'd like to share with the members of the House, because I know most members do care about what happens to children -- we have to remember that no one is disagreeing that these are tough times and that we have to make some very tough decisions, but when we talk about the most vulnerable, when we talk about women who are abused, we talk not only about women who are abused but who are threatened with their lives. They have to leave their homes with children and try and make a new life in fear. What happens to their children?

I'd like to refer the members to a report on the health of Canada's children, a profile by the Canadian institute of health, and I'd like to identify three aspects that I think are worthy of some serious consideration.

Children who are exposed to violence may internalize their feelings and become depressed and withdrawn. Others externalize their feelings and become involved in delinquency acts and aggressive behaviour. Some children who live with violence may experience difficulties in school, resulting in poor academic performance, behavioural difficulties and frequent absences. Some adolescents who live with violence demonstrate severe psychological and emotional distress, culminating in running away, attempting suicide, or abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.

I point this out this afternoon because I know that every member in this House cares about children, yet when we had discussions through question period and we asked this government, by way of the minister for women's issues and the Minister of Community and Social Services, about second-stage funding for helping the women who have been abused and threatened, the most, most vulnerable with their children, what was the response?


I won't impute negative motivations, that the intent was to see that children would indeed suffer. I believe it's because the realization of those impacts and those decisions was not understood. So I will take the minister responsible for women's issues at her word when she says that the centre for second-stage housing, Harmony House, which serves all of eastern Ontario, will indeed retain its funding, because I know it's so important that these little kids who are with their parents -- by the way, I might point out that these are women who have to start new lives, women who have been threatened with their very lives, and that's why they have to leave. If they stay an average of four and a half to five months and get counselling, receive some protection and find jobs, that's why they're able to leave, because they find a new life and find employment. I know the members would want to support that.

So I hope that when the ministers reflect upon the decisions and report back to the House on the impact these cuts have, they will say that the children, especially those who are most vulnerable, at a particular stage -- and we're not talking about a permanent situation; we're talking about helping people in time of need, to help them deal with a crisis, to help them get back on their feet so they may begin to live fruitful lives again.

Any government with any compassion, any kind of understanding of the importance of helping our children to grow up to be full, rich and psychologically healthy, will know that that investment is absolutely minuscule; that if we take resources away from helping children who are abused or children suffering from threats of violence, we will dearly pay for it economically, socially, medically, in terms of our justice systems etc.

I would like to wind up my comments by supporting the government in its particular deal with second-stage funding. The resolution as proposed is a good one and I support that, but I know in particular that the government will do the right thing, in the final analysis, because everyone does care about our future, which means they care about our children.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My concern, in wrapping up this debate for our caucus, is that children have no place on the agenda of this government, absolutely no place at all.

The motion from the third party calls on the government to stop hurting children, and I certainly support that call, as do all members of my caucus. In fact, who would not support a call that we stop hurting children? Surely no one other than the sickest in our society would deliberately set out to hurt our children.

I don't believe that anyone in the government would deliberately hurt children. The problem is that no one in this government gives a single thought to children. Children don't vote, they certainly aren't taxpayers, and we know that voters and taxpayers are very high on this government's agenda.

Children aren't part of the business crowd or the old boys' network and they certainly can't protest at Queen's Park. Children are largely silent and they cost a lot to support, so they make an easy target and a too easily forgotten one.

Some of the cuts that this government makes are hard to hide, even though the government is trying its best to hide them. When the waiting list grows for cardiac surgery, you know you've got a crisis in health care. When you shut down halfway houses and send people who are working back to jail, the economic stupidity of the decision is readily apparent, and even if the human cost is a little harder to measure, it is immediate.

But the effects of cuts on children are less direct. The costs are longer-term and the biggest price to be paid by individuals, by their families and by society itself is somewhere down the road.

But some of that pain that children feel is immediate. If a child is hungry because the welfare support to his parents is cut, that's immediate pain. The pain of being teased at school because you're not dressed like the other kids is a very immediate pain. The embarrassment of not being able to go on school outings or buy a hot dog on hot dog day because there just isn't an extra dollar -- I suggest that is very immediate pain to a young child. But the long-term cost of hunger and family tension and social isolation is indeed harder to measure, and 500,000 children have been hurt by this government's cuts to welfare.

We know that children's agencies have all had their funding cut too, because the government says that everybody has to share the pain of the government's tough decisions and why should agencies that serve children be exempt? I'll tell you why children's agencies should be exempt from these cuts: because our children's aid societies cannot meet the need with the resources they have now. They will not be able to act to protect children from abuse, let alone prevent the abuse from happening, if these cuts are made.

The pain of abuse is real and it is all too immediate. Surely we are not a society that is ready to pocket a few more tax dollars knowing that children are being abused and that we don't have the resources to stop it because children just weren't counted when the cuts were made.

It is not just today's children who will suffer the pain of abuse. As my colleagues have said, it is their children and the children after that, and that's why there has been such a strong commitment to act now to stop the abuse.

This government is not deliberately letting children be hurt; it is just blindly cutting its budgets. If they would just look, just stop and look for a moment at what these cuts are doing, surely they would stop because surely they don't want children to be hurt.

Surely they know too that we are still a long way from meeting the mental health needs of children and their families. My colleague I think has indicated a waiting list of some 8,000 families for children's mental health services.

Now, maybe this government really does think that troubled kids are bad kids. Maybe they think that if you could just get some discipline into them, maybe if you could get them into boot camp a little bit earlier, there wouldn't be so many problems.

If you believe that, then you might not think you're actually hurting kids when you cut the resources for assessment and counselling. Well, I've worked with these kids, and I'll tell you, the troubled kids will just get more troubled if they don't get help. Putting them in boot camps when they get older and they break the law -- because troubled kids who don't commit suicide very often break the law -- is just going to make things worse.

There is so much more that this government is doing that our children will pay the price for. There may be some nurturing grandmothers and some at-home neighbours around to provide care for the children of working parents, but there are far more informal arrangements for child care that are inadequate and are temporary and contribute nothing to a child's healthy development. What alternatives are there going to be, when this government is finished, for those less well-to-do parents who simply can't afford quality child care for their children?

What will happen, as this government struggles to find some $5 billion more to pay for its income tax cut, to the Better Beginnings program for disadvantaged children, which we know has had such remarkable results, or to the special education services for children with special needs? I met with a woman in my constituency last week who was almost desperate because the child she has supported so fully throughout his elementary school education is not going to get a special education program in high school because the school board simply can't afford to make the special education resources available any longer and that same board is now trying to cut $17 million more from its budget.

What happens to developmentally delayed children as funding for the community agents who provide support care for them is slashed? Again in my own riding, I know there was the closure of an institutional setting for developmentally delayed children; the community agency accepted the responsibility for providing for their care, and their budget is now being slashed.


What will happen to the special services at home program? Will it be able to offer the kind of support and assistance and respite that parents need so they can continue to care for their severely disabled child? We know that area has been in crisis, yet this minister refers to it as the panacea as his response to the parents of disabled children.

I wonder if anybody over there will be willing to open their eyes to see what is happening. I know if they do, they will have to care. Nobody wants to deliberately hurt children, but children are being hurt, and if this government does not stop, we will all pay a huge price somewhere down the road. This is not a place where you can save now and reinvest later. If you don't invest in children today, it will be too late, and for children who are hurting, the pain is all too real today.

We wholeheartedly support the motion and the call to stop hurting our children.

Mr Cooke: Listening to the debate this afternoon, it makes me feel like it's another issue where we're going back to the 1960s. I have never heard more of these right-wing, conservative comments than I've heard since this assembly has come back together. I encourage the members that I think still do have some feeling for people, like the member for St Andrew-St Patrick, to take a look at the debate that's taken place in this House this afternoon, look at some of the comments that have been made. There's got to be some sanity brought back to this government and the social policy of this government before it's too late.

Those of us who have been in the Legislature for a number of years remember that in the 1970s one of the greatest debates on children's services took place in this Legislature over a number of years. We had a leader at that time, Stephen Lewis, who led the fight for reform in children's services across this province. If you take a look at the public inquiries that were held, the coroners' inquests, and take a look at what happened in some of the children's services in this province, we had suicides, we had kids coming out of training schools in worse shape than they went in, we had facilities that were just not doing an adequate job, we had no coordination of children's services, and there were public inquiries, there were coroners' inquests. That's why there are no training schools in this province: because they hurt kids. They ended up doing more harm than good, and we ended up having suicide after suicide. It seems that we don't learn anything from the past.

Why are we now talking about boot camps? Boot camps, as I understand them and have heard the minister talk about them, are just training schools in another way. We are just going to set up more programs and institutions in order to appeal to public opinion to get tough on so-called crime. I know in 10 or 15 years we will go through exactly the same process we went through with training schools, but in the meantime there will be victims from one end of this province to the other.

It's an absolute shame that this government won't look at history that isn't that long ago. Talk to Keith Norton; he was the minister who brought in many of the reforms. Talk to Bill Davis; he presided over many of the reforms. Don't do some of the things you are doing because of ideology. Take a look at the practical application of what you're going to do and see what we learned in the 1970s.

I fear, though, that they won't. Instead we see cut after cut after cut, and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition: You can't cut children's aid societies. If on one hand you're saying that the police in the province have to enforce the law because you believe in law and order, how can you say on the other hand that you don't believe in the enforcement of the Child and Family Services Act, an act that is there to protect vulnerable children? People who abuse kids are breaking the law. The agencies that have the responsibility to enforce that law are the children's aid societies of this province. You're cutting them back. That's putting kids at risk. They're not able to fulfil their mandate under the act, and you're putting children at risk. There will be victims: sexual abuse, physical abuse. There'll be individual victims and the entire province will pay the price.

Why are we doing this? Why are you doing this? It's not because you want to balance the budget or that the Liberals spent too much or that we spent too much, although I always get a chuckle out of that coming from Tories, when Bill Davis presided as the Premier and didn't have one balanced budget the entire time that he was Premier. But let's be honest. What you're doing is you're engaging in the biggest single expenditure in decades in this province, a $5-billion tax decrease. Don't tell people in this province that you have to cut back on children's services because of deficits. You're cutting back on children's services because you've made a choice, and the choice that you've made is a tax decrease that will go primarily to those who have incomes of $75,000 and more.

The fact is that it is a cruel policy decision. It's cruel because the people who are paying the price more than anyone else are the children of this province, as I said: children's aid societies, children's mental health facilities. We have waiting lists in this province for kids who desperately need help from psychologists, speech pathologists, social workers. Those waiting lists are going to grow. You know that and I know that and you're doing it and it's going to happen because of your determination to impose the biggest expenditure in decades in this province, a $5-billion tax decrease.

I beg the government to reconsider, because the children of this province need that investment.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Mr Rae has moved opposition day motion number 2. 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.

Five members standing; call in the members. There will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1757 to 1802.

The Speaker: Would the members take their seats, please.

We will now vote on Mr Rae's opposition day motion number 2. All those in favour will please rise one at a time.


Agostino, Dominic

Duncan, Dwight

Miclash, Frank

Bartolucci, Rick

Gerretsen, John

Morin, Gilles E.

Bisson, Gilles

Gravelle, Michael

Patten, Richard

Brown, Michael A.

Hoy, Pat

Phillips, Gerry

Castrilli, Annamarie

Kwinter, Monte

Pouliot, Gilles

Churley, Marilyn

Lankin, Frances

Pupatello, Sandra

Cleary, John C.

Marchese, Rosario

Ramsay, David

Cooke, David S.

Martel, Shelley

Sergio, Mario

Cordiano, Joseph

Martin, Tony

Silipo, Tony

Crozier, Bruce

McGuinty, Dalton

Wildman, Bud

Curling, Alvin

McLeod, Lyn

Wood, Len

The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Guzzo, Garry J.

Preston, Peter

Baird, John R.

Hardeman, Ernie

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Barrett, Toby

Harnick, Charles

Ross, Lillian

Bassett, Isabel

Hastings, John

Runciman, Bob

Beaubien, Marcel

Hodgson, Chris

Sampson, Rob

Boushy, Dave

Hudak, Tim

Saunderson, William

Brown, Jim

Jackson, Cameron

Shea, Derwyn

Carroll, Jack

Johns, Helen

Sheehan, Frank

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, Bert

Skarica, Toni

Clement, Tony

Johnson, Dave

Smith, Bruce

Danford, Harry

Johnson, Ron

Snobelen, John

DeFaria, Carl

Jordan, Leo

Sterling, Norman W.

Doyle, Ed

Kells, Morley

Tascona, Joseph N.

Ecker, Janet

Leadston, Gary L.

Tilson, David

Elliott, Brenda

Marland, Margaret

Tsubouchi, David H.

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Turnbull, David

Flaherty, Jim

Maves, Bart

Vankoughnet, Bill

Ford, Douglas B.

Murdoch, Bill

Villeneuve, Noble

Fox, Gary

Newman, Dan

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Froese, Tom

O'Toole, John

Wilson, Jim

Galt, Doug

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wood, Bob

Gilchrist, Steve

Parker, John L.


Grimmett, Bill

Pettit, Trevor


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 33; the nays, 67.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made.

The member for Lake Nipigon has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to a question given by the Minister of Transportation. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter, and the minister or his parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.


The Speaker: Order. Would those members leave quietly, please. The member for Lake Nipigon has the floor for five minutes.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I rise today simply because not once but twice in this House I asked the Minister of Transportation to clarify his policies vis-à-vis winter highway maintenance standards and conditions.

Mr Speaker, you're very much aware, as we all are, that as surely as the river flows and the sun shines, winter shall be upon us very soon.

This is what the minister had to say when I quizzed him on this very real issue last Wednesday, October 11, and I quote from Hansard: "This government is committed to maintaining the safest highways and it is a priority of this government to do exactly just that."

While the minister was making that commitment, the knights of the long knives were slashing and gutting the very heart, the very soul, of the allocation, to the point where a good Samaritan, the good soul, committed an act of conscience: He leaked a ministry document to us, the opposition; a person with a social conscience. This brown envelope appeared and there was something in it. This is it, and I quote:

"Attached are the questions and answers which were prepared for briefing cabinet ministers on the proposed changes for winter 1995-96. As most of you already know, the changes have been agreed to by Management Board, but must still go to cabinet for final blessing. A communication strategy is being developed by" so-and-so. "I trust that these Q & As will be of some assistance."

What's at stake? Another document comes in. You can look at it on page 1, you can look at it on page 14. This is a caravan of misery. This is their intent. This is what they shall do. Oh, my God. Patrols across Ontario will be cut from 24 hours per day to 16; 40% fewer patrols. Think of yourself, think of your loved ones. We all have to drive the highways in the province of Ontario.


Sand and salt spreaders -- we're talking about an essential service -- will be reduced by 12.3%. My God, may they never reach the riding of Lake Nipigon, because you don't wish anyone harm, but can you imagine the potential for fatalities? But their appetite -- for they wish to reach what they refer to as a balanced budget with a very short-frame timetable -- becomes insatiable. They're not satisfied. They go further. The number of plows on the road will fall by 10.6%. This will result in 125 fewer seasonal staff.

The province has a budget of $57 billion. With this action directe, with this court of last resort, they will cut all of $6.5 million, a fistful, and they will scare the living daylights out of many of us. In fact, at times when we don't have the proper maintenance and we attempt to pass a transport and we have a hazardous driving condition, we will begin to die. There will be people who will be maimed. Mayhem will result, because people did not stop and say: "There are things that you do and there are thresholds. There are things that you don't do." You don't cut your budget for a forest fire, and realistically you don't cut the budget when it comes to snowplowing. It's inevitable. It's a given. It's part of doing business in this province of Ontario.

I would ask that the minister reconsider this decision and wish him success in finding the money elsewhere.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Just as a matter of courtesy to the member, surely the minister could've been present to respond. He had the opportunity to. Perhaps as a new minister, he didn't know the rules, that he should be --

The Speaker: The member's talking out of order. Order.

Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I'd like to inform the House that the minister is not able to be here today because he is in Ottawa on behalf of the province of Ontario appearing before the House of Commons committee on transport Bill C-101.

Bill C-101 is a significant piece of transportation legislation, and it has particular significance to our recently introduced shortline rail legislation.

I am pleased to speak on behalf of the minister today and answer the concerns of the member for Lake Nipigon. I would like to assure the member, as well as all members and the public, that safety is our absolute priority.

The Ministry of Transportation will continue to clear the roads to a standard that will allow the public to get to work, to school, and to all other destinations they need to drive to in winter.

As most members will know, doing better for less is one of the key components of the Common Sense Revolution. The voters told us that over the past five or 10 years, taxes have gone up but government service does not seem much better and in some cases is worse.

They want us to be more careful with their hard-earned dollars, and so we have found a more economical and cost-effective way to provide winter maintenance in Ontario. Instead of hiring for peak conditions, we are going to hire for the average snowfall and extend service for peak snowfall.

We believe this is the proper balance between using taxpayers' dollars efficiently and ensuring safety. This year the Ministry of Transportation has budgeted some $130 million for winter maintenance. We have restructured that budget, resulting in a saving of approximately 5% or $7 million.

Better technology and management means that the ministry can operate with fewer staff and less equipment. Over the past five years, even when the member was minister, the ministry spent some $130 million to $140 million on winter maintenance. Within a budget of some $130 million, we will monitor road conditions and make the changes that are necessary.

The minister insisted on having that flexibility to ensure safety standards are met. The ministry will pay particular attention to snowbelt areas to ensure all safety standards are met. To help meet those standards, we have 2,400 staff, 519 sand and salt spreaders, and 846 plows.

Patrolling for two shifts is a practice that has been going on for a number of years under the previous governments. It has been used in areas such as Kingston, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie, even on parts of the 401.

In summary, we want to assure all members and the public that safety is our number one priority. We'd like to take the opportunity to remind everyone to keep their vehicles well maintained, to check on the weather and the road conditions before heading out on the road and to exercise caution when driving. And remember: Public safety is our paramount concern.

The Speaker: There being no further matter to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1817.