36th Parliament, 1st Session

L022 - Tue 14 Nov 1995 / Mar 14 Nov 1995



















































The House met at 1331.




Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): Because of turmoil in Ontario's legal aid system, last week an Ontario judge stayed cocaine trafficking charges against four accused persons and a second judge stayed a convicted murderer's charge on prison escape.

We also have the sad spectacle of the breakdown of the traditional and cooperative partnership between Ontario's lawyers and the Ministry of the Attorney General. The Law Society of Upper Canada and representative groups of lawyers in separate actions are taking the Attorney General to court on legal aid issues. Ontario lawyers have also taken job action while representing clients in court.

The political and administrative mismanagement of legal aid has caused the loss of public confidence in the reliability and effectiveness of this key cornerstone of our justice system.

It is for these reasons that this afternoon I will be asking the standing committee on administration of justice to immediately convene public hearings and to report to the Legislature before Christmas with recommendations to quell the legal aid crisis in a manner which will maintain the "judicare" model of legal aid within a workable financial framework.

The public, family law lawyers, criminal law lawyers, civil lawyers and legal aid clinics all need a public forum to be heard on this issue, and MPPs need a forum for meaningful contributions to a solution.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I want to make the Premier aware today of yet another organization in the region of Sudbury which is a victim of Conservative funding cuts.

N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre in Sudbury was established in 1972 to help foster a mutual understanding between native and non-native peoples and to develop native leadership. The centre serves approximately 500 to 600 people per day in the Sudbury and Manitoulin area.

The friendship centre has been hit in three ways. Firstly, since 1973 a community worker has assisted native families moving to Sudbury, to help them access public services and to provide counselling to those feeling the effects of living in an urban setting for the first time. Funding for this position is now gone.

Secondly, since 1976 a daily program for native children involving cultural teachings, urban orientation and tutoring support has been in place. Thousands of children have gone through the Little Beavers program and have benefited from it; now it's been cut.

Thirdly, since 1986, pre-employment and summer employment services for native students have been offered. A counsellor provided support for 100 native students at the native alternative school. Funding for all of this, through the community youth support program, is gone.

If the Premier would visit the native friendship centre he would understand its value and keep its programs. Staff and members are inviting him to do this when he's in Sudbury on November 24. Since they can't afford to pay $125 to buy access to Mike Harris at the Tory fund-raiser, he needs to go to them. I am extending that invitation today.


Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): It gives me great pleasure today to welcome to the Legislature Niels Plaumann. Niels is a student from Bremen, Germany, and is visiting Cambridge as part of the Rotary International student exchange program. He is hosted by the Preston-Hespeler Rotary club.

Niels is today accompanied by three club members: President Bob Thiesburger, Erica Tennenbaum, and Bill Barlow, who several members will recognize as one of my predecessors as the MPP for Cambridge.

The Rotary student exchange program has given young people from around the world a chance to visit and learn about other countries and cultures. This type of program is designed to help foster understanding among potential leaders of tomorrow and to expose host families to new ideas from the youth of today.

The four Rotary clubs of Cambridge have hosted many visiting students and sponsored young people from our community as they travelled and learned. We should all be proud of the work that dedicated groups like Rotary do in our community.

I know this is just one way in which Rotarians have enriched Cambridge, the province and Canada. I would like to thank them for their continued good work.

I'm sure all members will welcome Niels, Bob, Erica and Bill.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): The Minister of Education and Training has in general steadfastly refused to meet with the constituent groups of Ontario's colleges and universities. He has to date also not advanced any plans for the sector in this Legislature. But he seems to have no difficulty discussing his views with numerous members of his own party.

The minister's actions are creating uncertainty, and stress and rumours are rampant. Two thousand University of Toronto students have delivered statements to me deploring their strong opposition to the proposed cuts. They wish the minister to know that the cuts for the University of Toronto alone will mean $53 million, or one half of the budget of the faculty of arts and science, its largest faculty. Ontario now ranks ninth out of 10 Canadian provinces in funding on a per-student basis.

I urge the minister to consider the effects on quality of education and accessibility in any actions he might take, and to consult widely and quickly with all involved.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I rise to bring to the attention of the members of the Legislature a very serious situation.

Miss Kim Butler of Blind River, in my constituency, died in an automobile accident at 11:30 am on Sunday, 20 miles west of Sudbury near, Whitefish. Her automobile was struck by a westbound vehicle. Her daughter, Amanda, is in hospital, and the driver of the other vehicle and a passenger are also in hospital.

The investigating officer, Sergeant Dan Lee of the Sudbury OPP, indicated that the roads were horrendous, "There was slush and ice over the pavement and there were no salt trucks."

According to the weather report, snow began at 2 pm on Saturday. It snowed until 9 pm. It stopped snowing at 9 pm on Saturday and yet the road, Highway 17 and the Trans-Canada Highway, was not plowed by 11:30 am on Sunday morning when the accident occurred.

I hope the Attorney General, along with his colleague the Minister of Transportation, will consider very seriously whether or not a coroner's inquest should be held into this accident to determine whether road conditions, as such, were the result of cutbacks by this government.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): My statement concerns information of a galactic nature for the residents of my riding and all Canadians.

High above the clouds, circling the earth, stands 36-year-old Milton resident Major Chris Hadfield on the space shuttle Atlantis. Educated as a mechanical engineer with a master's degree in aviation, Major Hadfield was recognized as the US Navy Test Pilot of the Year for 1991, the first time that distinction was given to a foreign pilot. He now does his nation proud once again on this historic mission aboard Atlantis.

Atlantis's primary mission is to attach a Russian-built docking port to the Mir station to make future shuttle docking safer and easier to accomplish. This marks the first time a Canadian will operate the shuttle's Canadian designed, 20-metre-long mechanical arm. Hadfield will use the arm to pluck a giant tube out of the cargo bay and place it upright into a section of the shuttle just below the cockpit.

As part of the traditional offering of gifts, which is customary when visiting Russians in their homes, Major Hadfield and the crew will give the Russian cosmonauts Canadian maple candy shaped like maple leaves.

Please join me in this House today in wishing Major Hadfield and all members of the space shuttle Atlantis a successful and safe mission on this, the latest historic journey into space.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The people of St Catharines bid a final farewell to an individual who had made an outstanding contribution to the field of education and to the community as a whole.

As a former superintendent of education with the Lincoln County Board of Education and as an individual deeply involved with education in the Orangeville, Guelph, North York and North Bay areas, Floyd White brought innovation and a commitment to children and their future to the schools with which he was associated.

In addition to his involvement in education, Floyd was an active participant in the political arena, playing a significant role in the election of the Progressive Conservative government of his close friend Mike Harris and assisting PC candidates and the Progressive Conservative Party at the local level. Floyd also made an important contribution to the election of his friend Alan Unwin to the position of mayor of St Catharines.

The overflow crowd at his funeral was a testimony to the respect and friendship that he earned during his years in St Catharines and the esteem in which he was held by people across the province of Ontario. It was revealing that those in attendance included so many of his political adversaries as well as his many friends.

He'll be missed by all who knew him, but most particularly by his wife and family. We all say a final and sad farewell to our good friend Floyd White.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): It is my great honour and privilege today to rise in recognition of November as Adoption Month in Ontario, to recognize the large number of people in Ontario who are adopted, an adopted family -- mothers, fathers, siblings; brothers and sisters -- and to recognize the extraordinary contribution the adoptive community makes to the fabric of life in our wonderful province.

It was my great privilege to attend recently the annual meeting of the Adoption Council of Ontario and to participate with them as they recognized members from among themselves and the adoptive community and the contribution they've made to making sure that people who are involved in adoption have all the services and information they need to get on with their lives.

There is an issue, however, that concerns them greatly, and that is the disclosure of information that will give some of them who are making tremendous efforts to reclaim their birthright the information they actually need to in fact do that -- something we all take for granted.

I brought forward a bill to this end, which was supported by this House at that time, but we couldn't bring it to a vote. I urge this government to revisit this issue. All the work has been done. Please move quickly to allow adoptees and their families to have ready access to all the relevant information so that they might reclaim their birthright.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I would like to honour, as the member for St Catharines has already done, Mr Floyd White in the House today. He was a friend and constituent who was well known to many members in this House. He died unexpectedly, at the young age of 58, just over a week ago, on Monday, November 6, while hunting.

Floyd White was a dedicated educator, community worker and political organizer. He retired from the Lincoln county public school board five years ago. At the time of his early retirement, he was an area superintendent who had promoted and supported cooperative education and thinking skills across the curriculum. He's remembered fondly and with deep respect for all he has done for the children of our province.

He was also a friend and mentor to people like myself. He was always there when I needed him during, before and after our most recent election. He gave of himself tirelessly for any number of community and political causes.

I acknowledge the life and tremendous contribution of Floyd White in my community, in my party and in my province. Floyd White will be remembered, as well as his family, at this difficult time.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to pay my respects on behalf of all those who knew him.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I beg to inform the House that in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to assent to a certain bill in his office.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): The following is the title of the bill to which His Honour assented on November 10, 1995:

Bill 7, An Act to restore balance and stability to labour relations and to promote economic prosperity and to make consequential changes to statutes concerning labour relations / Projet de loi 7, Loi visant à rétablir l'équilibre et la stabilité dans les relations de travail et à promouvoir la prospérité économique et apportant des modifications corrélatives à des lois en ce qui concerne les relations de travail.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I beg to inform the House that I have today laid upon the table the 1995 annual report of the Provincial Auditor.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Please join me in welcoming the second group of pages to serve the 36th Parliament of Ontario: Shannon Bailey, Mississauga South; Seth Baker, Oshawa; David Bakker, Durham Centre; Amanda Billard, Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings; Fabian Ciancibello, Mississauga West; Brianna Coughlin, Windsor-Sandwich; Barbara Dickenson, Lambton; Jack Ecker, Lincoln; Jaclyn Goodwillie, Kenora; Tobey Gullick, Peterborough; Megh Gupta, Brampton South; Nathan Haddock, Sault Ste Marie; Jenelle Holtzhauer, Renfrew North; Stephen MacDonald, London North; Lindsay Reimers, Beaches-Woodbine; Mark Reinhart, Chatham-Kent; Jonathan Schinkel, Wentworth North; Melissa Schurter, Perth; Christopher Smeek, York South; Jesse Tinker, Parry Sound; Ailinh Tran, York-Mackenzie; Paul Venditti, Etobicoke-Humber; Katie Waterston, Guelph; Karen Welch, Scarborough West.

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): Mr Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to pay respects to our friend Hans Daigeler.

The Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent? Thank you.


Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): On behalf of my caucus, I wish to convey our sense of loss at the passing of our friend Hans Daigeler. Hans served the people of Nepean in this chamber from 1987 to 1995. He fulfilled his role with dedication and integrity.

Hans was not only a political colleague; he was our friend. He was well known for his convictions and independence of mind. Because of his very special training, he would weigh his decision on his own experiences and his own research.

For many, he was perceived as being stubborn at times, but if you knew Hans Daigeler like I did, you understood why; his thinking was different. We will miss Hans Daigeler because of his uniqueness of approaching problems and resolving them. I think that I am a better man for having known him.

I recall Hans's maiden speech to this chamber on November 10, 1987. It was with regard to Remembrance Day, and in it he stated, "Learning from the past, let us accept the challenge of peace today and renew our commitment to enhance the dignity and rights of all human beings." These words typified the strong humanitarian values which Hans brought to his work and to this chamber.

Hans était un ami de nous tous. Il était une personne dévouée et respectée par ses commettants et notre groupe parlementaire. Hans va nous manquer beaucoup. Il était un homme de grande intégrité. Sa préoccupation du bien-être d'autrui était présente tant dans sa vie personnelle que professionnelle.

Hans parlait l'allemand, le français et l'anglais. Il était un francophile qui connaissait très bien les groupes minoritaires dans notre province.

Que Dieu bénisse sa famille et lui donne la force devant cette grande tragédie.

To his wife, Beverley, and to his three children, Chris, Elissa and Amanda, I say we share your loss and your grief. The riding of Nepean in the province of Ontario is a better place to live because of Hans Daigeler. May God bless his family.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): We were all shocked on our side to hear the very sad news of the passing of a colleague, Hans Daigeler, who was known to all of us, on all sides of the House, as a man of unusual ability, dedication and integrity.

The tragic circumstances of Hans's passing I think caused all of us to reflect perhaps on how little we really know of one another, but also, in my case, caused me to think of Hans's singularity as a member of the House.

I knew him as a colleague in opposition and I knew him when I was Premier. He was a fair critic. He was always determined to make a point but, having made it in this House, he would often follow up with a phone call or a letter to make clear that there was nothing personal in his comments or criticisms but that they stemmed from a very strongly held belief that he had.

Mon collègue de Vanier a parlé avec beaucoup de sincérité au sujet de son ami. Je crois qu'il sait très bien, comme nous le savons, que Hans Daigeler était d'abord et tout d'abord un grand Canadien, quelqu'un qui a cru beaucoup en le pays, un homme qui est venu à ce pays ; c'est un pays qu'il a choisi. En choisissant le Canada et l'Ontario, je crois peut-être qu'il a donné encore de son âme à notre cher pays et à notre chère province.

Words are hardly adequate to express our sense of shock and our sense of loss. I think it causes all of us to really reflect on some of the challenges and difficulties of public life as well as the difficult transitions that are involved in coming in and coming out of politics.

To Beverley and to the children we simply offer our very best, our prayers and our wishes, that they will find some strong sustenance in the memory of Hans, in the fact that his spirit, and his positive spirit, live on, that in giving to his community and giving to this House he was a man of great goodness, great charity and great foresight.

We shall all miss him. We are all strengthened by having known him and by the treasure of his memory.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Today I rise on behalf of my caucus to join with my colleagues on all sides of the House to pay tribute to Hans Daigeler, the former member for Nepean.

Hans Daigeler was, first and foremost, a very community-minded person, someone who fully accepted his responsibilities as a public citizen in our community.

Hans was a theologian by training and immigrated to Canada some 25 years ago. Here in Canada, Hans was very successful, both in his career and, most importantly and particularly, I think, in his family life. He and his wife, Beverley, raised three bright and intelligent children in Nepean and were a great asset to the entire community.

In 1982 Hans was elected to the Carleton Roman Catholic Separate School Board, where he took a special interest, as he usually did, in issues relating to children with developmental disabilities.

Mr Daigeler was a loyal and committed member of the Liberal Party and ran for the provincial Legislature five times, finally meeting with electoral success on his third attempt, in 1987. In fact, Hans is the only Liberal our riding has ever sent to Queen's Park, which I think speaks volumes for the esteem in which he was held in our community.

Throughout his life, and particularly as a member of this House, Hans Daigeler was a man of great principle, of great integrity, who was well respected on all sides of the House. Like every member of this place, Hans ran for election to the Ontario Legislature because he genuinely and very earnestly believed that he had something to offer and something to contribute to our life.

Throughout his time in the Legislature his motives were never in question. Throughout his life Hans wanted to make a very meaningful and real contribution to his community and to his country, and perhaps nothing more than you can point to was that he was part of the caravan of Ottawa-Carleton residents who travelled to Montreal before the referendum campaign to do his small part in national unity.

Hans always exhibited a genuine interest and concern towards the less advantaged in our society. Of his personal qualities, most notable were his honesty, his integrity and his high idealism.

During the election campaign he proudly put a quote in his campaign literature from my colleague the Conservative member for Mississauga South, which read that she believed he was the most honest and trustworthy of all 130 members of this place. I can say, having been here for just four short months, that there can probably be no better testament to any member of this place than to receive praise like that.

Some people said he was too idealistic. Some said there was no place for idealism in politics and at Queen's Park. I couldn't disagree more. One characteristic that I very much share with Mr Daigeler is his sense of idealism, and I firmly believe, as he did, that idealism is always in fashion.

On election night, Hans Daigeler was very gracious and personally came to see me, I think with one clear motive, simply to wish me well in my new responsibilities, and I greatly appreciated that. I believe that gracious action speaks volumes about the class and character of this legislator.

At this time our thoughts and sympathies go out to his family: his wife, Beverley; his children, Chris, Elissa and Amanda.

Hans Daigeler will be greatly missed by his many friends and colleagues and by our entire community.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I want to thank all honourable members and I will see that Mrs Daigeler and her family get a copy of your remarks today.



Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): As members know, I have previously committed to making a statement in this House regarding issues of public concern that have been raised in relation to the case of Regina v Bernardo. I made this commitment because of my strong belief that the public has a right to know the facts of this case.

As I have also stated on several occasions, this statement to the Legislature and the people of Ontario had to be deferred until the conclusion of all criminal trial proceedings involving Paul Bernardo, in particular those in which Karla Homolka could have been a witness.

Therefore, I would like to inform members that I have appointed Mr Justice Patrick Galligan to conduct an independent, external review. Mr Justice Galligan was first appointed to the bench as a High Court Justice in 1970. He was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1989. A former criminal lawyer, Mr Justice Galligan has extensive knowledge of the criminal justice system. He enjoys the respect and confidence of all those who work in that system.

I have asked Mr Justice Galligan to begin his work when he retires from the Court of Appeal at the end of this month, and to provide me with his report no later than March 15, 1996. He will be looking into the following matters:

(1) Whether the plea arrangement entered into by crown counsel with Karla Homolka on May 14, 1993, was appropriate in all the circumstances.

(2) Whether the advice given by crown counsel to the Green Ribbon Task Force in connection with possible charges against Karla Homolka arising out of a sexual assault on Jane Doe was appropriate in all the circumstances.

(3) Whether in all the circumstances it is appropriate or feasible to take further proceedings against Karla Homolka for her part in the deaths of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy and the sexual assault on Jane Doe.

(4) To inquire into such related matters, if any, which I may from time to time direct.


I would like to add a few words about why I have chosen this course.

Let me begin by saying that in my time as Attorney General I have been most impressed by the professionalism, the diligence and the high ethical standards of the men and women in our prosecutorial service. Therefore, it is not surprising to me that they support the appointment of an external review in this case.

In most cases in which prosecutorial decisions are reviewed, the Attorney General would receive advice from senior ministry officials. In this case, the prosecutorial decisions were reviewed or made by those senior officials themselves, and it would be inappropriate for them to review their own advice and decisions. I have concluded, therefore, that any examination of these matters should be conducted by an external adviser in order to ensure its independence.

I would also like to add that the decision to launch this review was made following consultation with the victims' families.

As the House well knows, the prosecutorial decisions now under review were made before I became the Attorney General. In that sense, I am independent of those decisions and have an open mind on these matters.

I also have an open mind as to the appropriate course to be taken on receipt of Mr Justice Galligan's report. I intend to make Mr Justice Galligan's report public.

As far as I am concerned, all options for further action are open. This would include an examination by the justice committee of this Legislature of any policy issue to which Mr Justice Galligan might draw my attention. Mr Justice Galligan's report itself will give us the information and advice on which to decide whether further steps are needed.

The citizens of this province have a right to a complete explanation of the decisions made and the advice given by prosecutors in this case. I look forward to putting all the facts before the public through Mr Justice Galligan's independent review.

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): The gruesome facts in this case demonstrate like no others that the hallmark of a fair society must be an equitable justice system.

The minister's own party published a Conservative Blueprint for Justice and Community Safety in Ontario, and it cites that there is a growing perception in Ontario "that sentencing in our courts is no longer providing a deterrent" or rehabilitation. This in turn "is undermining public confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system."

Let me remind the minister how long it's taken us to get to this point. It was in the summer that our party wrote a letter asking for a public inquiry. In an effort to be constructive, we pointed out the means whereby the minister could in fact hold the matter to a public inquiry, and indeed, if the inquiry found the process wanting, how the Criminal Code might be of assistance in reopening the case.

We then raised the issue again at the beginning of the Legislature, in both September and October of this year. To both questions, the minister answered that the matter was before the courts and nothing could be done until all proceedings against Mr Bernardo were dispensed with; this despite a growing body of legal opinion which indicated that the Homolka plea-bargaining arrangement was not and could not be evidence in any proceedings against Mr Bernardo.

Nevertheless, here we are. It took those questions, it took some pressure and it took hundreds of thousands of people all across this country who made their voice known to this Legislature. Three hundred and twenty thousand petitions have been received to date. We have been entering them on a daily basis.

People have been shocked, have been outraged, at the way in which this government has stalled on this matter. Now, at long last, we have some action. But let's examine the kind of action that we have.

Firstly, rather than lead, this government has shown a propensity this time to stall, and here we are stalling again. This is an inquiry that will take six months to in fact conclude its findings. Little is known of the terms of reference that this inquiry will have, nor indeed is there any explanation as to why it would take so long.

Let me just conclude by saying that there is indeed a responsibility to the people of Ontario to ensure that the justice system is a fair one. A secret process, which this is -- it is not a public inquiry, although the report itself will be made public at some juncture -- will not help to restore that confidence the public now seems to lack.

The people have a right to know, and we have a right to ask, what is being hidden here? Why cannot this be held up to public scrutiny and why should we go through a charade? I hope this is not going to be a sham. In the end, only the system of justice will lose if that is the case. We urge the minister to reconsider and to open the matter to public inquiry, as the people have demanded.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Needless to say, in the community of St Catharines there has been an extraordinary degree of interest in this particular subject. The people of our community, and I'm sure the people of Burlington and really the people of the entire province, will take a good deal of interest in the final conclusions which are provided to the public by means of this particular inquiry.

I think the minister is aware, as all members of the House are aware, of the great degree of interest and concern that people have expressed, because of the number of petitions that come forward. All of us who sit in this House know that petitions are almost routinely presented each day, and I think that the Attorney General and others in the House were all extremely impressed by the number of people who took the time to sign petitions and the number of people who volunteered to distribute petitions around the various communities in the province.

I know they, as I and people in my community, will be extremely interested in the final information that is forthcoming. We hope that it will be clear, we hope that it will paint a picture that they will understand and we hope that it's comprehensive enough to do so. That is why I think it's reasonable for the minister to include his fourth condition, and that is that any further matters that might arise should be included in this inquiry.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I rise today to say to the Attorney General how pleased our party is that he has made the decision that he has in this matter. The commitment always was, in this very sensitive and difficult case, that once all the matters before the criminal court pertaining to Mr Bernardo were complete, there would indeed be a full disclosure of the issues that went into the decision-making along the way in terms of the prosecution.

Mr Justice Galligan is an excellent choice for this kind of an inquiry. Having practised criminal law, he understands the concerns already being expressed very vociferously by those who practise criminal law in this province around the necessity, first, to build better public confidence in how the justice system works, and, second, to ensure that due process is accorded to every accused in this province and that indeed, whatever kind of public pressure is brought to bear on the Attorney General of the day, the legal process will be full of integrity and will in fact go forward in a way that does not prejudice the possibility of a successful conviction in a case of this magnitude.

Mr Justice Galligan's terms of reference, contrary to what my colleague the member for Downsview says, I think are quite clear, and clearly we can expect his report to go into all the matters that have been raised around the prosecution of this case and the decisions made.

I share the Attorney General's admiration for the professionalism and the very high standards of ethics that our prosecutorial service has. It doesn't surprise me at all that they support him in this decision. It is very important to those who work in our courts as prosecutors that the public understand better than they seem to do how the process works, and this is another step in that direction.


I'm also delighted that the long-standing effort to consult with the victims' families in this case has continued, because they have been very key to the efforts the ministry has made in this case. I'm delighted that they understand why it is necessary to reopen these matters and why it is important for these matters to be made known.

I would say that I have every confidence Mr Justice Galligan will be mindful of our need to ensure that the implications of any finding in this case are clearly laid out for us. The possible consequences of the revisiting of plea bargains that have been made are well known to the Attorney General, and I'm sure he shares my concern that the implications of any finding be limited to this particular case and the very unusual circumstances which surround this case.

In closing, this particular case -- the circumstances that surround it, the public airing of details of a gruesome crime that we seldom see in this province -- has piqued a lot of concern among the population, has raised the interest in the way in which our criminal justice system works. Although it has been painful, indeed traumatic, for many people to deal with this case, I think it is in the best interests of our population in Ontario that they have a clear understanding of how our legal system works, as opposed to other legal systems, that they have a clarity about the commitment of this government, and frankly all other governments, to ensure that the integrity of the justice system is not questioned.

I assure the Attorney General of my full cooperation as this review goes forward.



Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): My question today is for the Minister of Health. Minister, over the past weeks you have been dropping disturbing hints that your government is planning to break its key election promise, its most important commitment, that there will be no new user fees. My office and those of my colleagues, and I'm assuming yours as well, have been swamped with calls from worried senior citizens. What should I tell these people? Are you planning on making senior citizens pay for their medication?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I thank the honourable member for her question and I suggest that she tell her constituents that, consistent with the Common Sense Revolution and our commitments, there will be no new user fees on medically necessary services in this province.

Mrs Caplan: I would remind the minister that his own Premier, when he was Leader of the Opposition, said, "A copayment is a user fee." That is a direct quote. I ask him not to engage in the semantics. A user fee by any other name is a user fee. When you make people pay, as the now Premier said, it is a user fee.

Mr Minister, will you admit that you are breaking and will be breaking your two most important commitments? One, you made to the people of Ontario the commitment that you would not introduce new user fees; two, you made the commitment that you would not hurt seniors and disabled persons. These are the very groups that would have to start paying for their medications that doctors have prescribed for them.

Hon Mr Wilson: I'm familiar with my own words in opposition. I look at the record of October 8, 1992, when I was Health critic for my party and I was trying to explain the difference between a copayment and a user fee to the Honourable Frances Lankin, Minister of Health at the time. Clearly, user fees are fees that are assigned to those services deemed medically necessary under the Canada Health Act. Copayments exist now.

As the honourable member Mrs Caplan said in Hansard on November 22, 1988: "We have in place right now a system of copayment for chronic care. I believe that there may be other appropriate copayment opportunities which are not a deterrent to appropriate services." Then we saw her government and the NDP government bring in $150 million worth of new copayments in our long-term care sector.

All programs are under review in my ministry, including the Ontario drug benefit plan. No decisions have been made at this time, and if a decision to bring a copayment in is made, I can assure the honourable member that low-income seniors and people on social assistance will be well protected under any program.

Mrs Caplan: I'm now quoting Mike Harris when he was your leader in opposition. He said to then-Premier Rae: "The Premier and his cohorts can use all the euphemisms they like when they are talking about fees paid by people who use these services. That's user fees."

Minister, before and during the June election your party stated that it would not introduce new user fees. You said that it was your first and most important commitment, that health care was too important to cut. Your election bible stated, "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees."

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Do you want me to hold that up?

Mrs Caplan: Would you do that, please. I'll put it here so you can see it very clearly, right out of your own election bible.

This is a serious and critical broken promise. We are talking about sick people; we are talking about charging them for their medication. Minister, what could be more medically necessary than the drugs their doctors prescribe for them? Will you stand today and save your reputation and commit to the people of this province once and for all that when your party and your government says, "No new user fees," it means no new user fees, copayments --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The question has been asked.

Mrs Caplan: Will you make that commitment?

Hon Mr Wilson: It's one of the problems with the Canada Health Act, and it's one of the issues that the Premier has brought up with his colleagues recently across Canada, that I brought forward in Victoria recently with other Health ministers, that drugs outside of the hospital are not covered under the Canada Health Act. We certainly, as a party, committed to no new user fees on medically necessary services. We made that very, very clear.

Unlike the previous government, which actually put user fees on by delisting 20 medically necessary services, as defined under medicare, as defined under the Canada Health Act -- that was the removal of port wine stains for certain age groups, childhood circumcision, in vitro fertilization in many cases -- those were medically necessary services as defined under the Canada Health Act. The NDP government delisted those, and those became 100% new user fees. Our government will not be doing delistings like the NDP did, and we will not be introducing user fees on medically necessary services.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question today is to the Minister of Transportation. I rise on a very unfortunate matter regarding the death of a northern Ontario woman on an icy stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway this past Sunday morning in Whitefish.

Minister, I recognize that the snowplowing cuts that you authorized had not even taken place on Sunday. I lay no blame towards the ministry and certainly no blame towards the hardworking plow crews of the Sudbury region for the untimely death of Mrs Butler.

Yesterday, though, your cuts did take place in many part of the province. Mr Minister, what guarantees do you give to the families and friends of the people of northern Ontario travelling the winter roads in hazardous conditions that the roads will be safe?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I'm always saddened to hear of a tragedy on our roads, especially up north. I think everybody is kind of sensitive to the fact that things happen more occasionally up there under the circumstances, supposedly. However, I'm disappointed that the honourable member would link this government with the tragic accident. It is an insult to the families.

The Ministry of Transportation is streamlining its winter operation. It's taking advantage of the opportunities that we have to utilize the dollars. This government is not going to pay people standing around waiting for snow to fall. We have the capabilities to be able to react and perform the services and duties that this government is committed to.


Mr Bartolucci: Mr Minister, either you're incapable of comprehending a question or you weren't listening to the question. Either way, your answer is unacceptable to the residents of northern Ontario. There is a major difference between commuting from Woodbridge with either your chauffeur or by yourself and driving 60 kilometres on an icy road in the dark in the middle of winter to make the morning shift at Levack or Lockerby mine.

Mr Minister, as you should know, there is little public transit in northern Ontario. People use their cars in the north to get to work, to visit families and to bring family members to hospitals. Only God knows what the weather will bring at any given time, but you, Mr Minister, have the ability to guarantee safe roads for the people of northern Ontario. Will you reconsider your cuts to snowplowing, to salt trucks and to manpower?

Hon Mr Palladini: I think the honourable member would like this government to have winter go away. I wish we had that capability. The ministry's reputation is excellent. The people that are on the front lines know their job, and they're doing an excellent job. We have developed a system where we are able to react.

Let me ask this question: Is it working? Yes, it's working. After a recent storm in Thunder Bay last week, I got a letter -- but by the way, I do know the north and I actually have friends up in the north. I would like to tell that to the honourable member. I just would like to share this. This letter states, "We have just had" --

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): Those telephones don't work up there, Al.

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

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): And he bought a pair of moccasins, Mr Speaker, in 1933.

The Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon, order. Order. I don't know whether the members want to hear the answer or not. I would. Minister.

Hon Mr Palladini: These days we have a way of monitoring when snow is actually going to fall. I just want to make a note.

"We have just had our first major snowstorm of the season. It happened on Thursday and Friday, November 2 and 3. Even though it ended as we went into the weekend, your MTO crews had the major highways plowed, sanded and salted as soon as was possible under the circumstances. My wife and I travelled to Kenora on Saturday, and the roads in that area were just fine."

Here's an article from a newspaper -- not a letter from a friend -- "Cleanup Crews Handle Snowfall" --


The Speaker: Order. The question has been answered. Final supplementary.

Mr Bartolucci: The minister's answer is probably the worst possible answer any minister has ever given in this House. Let me tell you that the road conditions on the Trans-Canada Highway at 11:30 on Sunday contained three inches of ice with 18 inches of centre-bare pavement. Those are not ideal conditions whether you're in the north or the south. But, Minister, again your answer, which is a non-answer, will be considered a no to reconsidering your cuts.

Let me ask you another question. Recognizing, as I'm sure you do because you have friends in the north, that winter comes earlier in northern Ontario than in southern Ontario, will you commit today to a standard greater than centre-bare conditions at all times during the winter months for the highways of northern Ontario, and will you publicly state what your standard is for the winter months for the roads and highways in northern Ontario?

Hon Mr Palladini: We're still spending $130 million in winter maintenance. This is the Chronicle Journal; I would just like to quote -- I don't want to read the whole article; I think maybe I'll fax one over to my honourable member -- "Despite cutbacks in manpower and equipment, MTO employees were out in full force overnight. The storm threatened to jeopardize travel on highways leading out of the city, but the ministry staff worked and worked and got the roads cleared."

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I wanted to follow up with the Minister of Transportation the question put by my colleague from Sudbury, because that accident happened about 10 miles from my home.

I'd like to make sure the minister understands the conditions and what led up to the accident. This is according to the Sudbury Airport weather office: Snow began to fall at 2 pm on Saturday. The period of snow falling ended at about 9 pm with very light snow flurries after that until about 5:30 am on Sunday, that included some ice pellets which lasted roughly from 12 to about 2 pm on Saturday, for a total of 25 cm that fell. Sunday was ideal with very little wind and bright sunshine.

The conditions on that road cost a young woman her life and two other people are in serious condition in hospital. The accident happened at 11:30 the next morning when the conditions were horrible on that highway, and it's the Trans-Canada Highway. All of this apparently has happened before the cuts in road maintenance even have taken place, so it's hard to imagine what the conditions of the road will be after the cuts in maintenance occur.

The Speaker: Put your question, please.

Mr Laughren: Could I ask the minister why he's not prepared now to reconsider his ill-advised decision to reduce road maintenance, especially in the north?

Hon Mr Palladini: I could only inform the honourable member once again that we are committed to making sure that our roads are safe. We're spending $130 million. What we have in place is the flexibility to react and perform the duties and the services that it's going to take in order to maintain that safety. I can assure the honourable member we will make sure our roads are safe.

Mr Laughren: Not even your friends up north are going to swallow that hogwash, because it's not happening.

In the words of the OPP sergeant, Dan Lee, "The road conditions were horrendous." Neither car was speeding; it's estimated they were probably travelling at about 50 km an hour, and this is at 11:30 on Sunday morning, 15 hours after the rather intense snowfall took place.

Will you now reconsider your decision to reduce maintenance on Ontario's highways? This is just the beginning; there have been other accidents in other parts of northern Ontario as well which took lives. So I'd ask you again, why will you not reconsider this very, very horrendous decision you've made?

Hon Mr Palladini: I would like to tell the honourable member that we will provide the best service because we have the best people. Unlike the previous NDP government, we are not going to pay people to stand around.

Mr Laughren: The minister can talk about people standing around all he likes. What was needed in that part of the province was for people to be out on the highway clearing the highway, not standing around. Fifteen hours after the snowfall had come down, it still hadn't been done. How do you justify that?

Since obviously the minister and I will never agree on his policies on cutting maintenance, in northern Ontario especially, I would ask him -- I guess this would be referred to the Attorney General -- to consider a coroner's inquest to determine what really did happen on Highway 17 on Sunday morning.

Hon Mr Palladini: It is really sad that I really feel the member would like Ontarians to believe that this government is responsible for that tragedy that occurred. I would like to inform the honourable member that our people were out there before the accident happened, so it's not a question of us not reacting to deliver the services. Our people and plows and sanders were already out, so we did react.



Mr Bob Rae (York South): My question is to the Premier and it concerns the document, the Common Sense Revolution, which was released under his name. That document contains several statements about health care. It says, first of all: "We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important. And frankly, as we all get older, we are going to need it more and more." The statement also says, "Aid for seniors...will not be cut." It then goes on to say, "Under this plan, there will be NO new user fees."

I'd like to ask the Premier directly with respect to this question relating to seniors and the conclusions that seniors would reasonably draw from reading those words, would the Premier not agree with me that any senior hearing these words, "Aid for seniors...will not be cut," and that health care is "far too important...as we get older, we are going to need it more and more," and, "no new user fees," might reasonably conclude from that that the Tory government would not be charging that senior for drugs prescribed by a doctor? Would the Premier not agree with me that that's a reasonable conclusion for a senior citizen to have drawn before June 8?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): The senior citizens I've talked to have very reasonably come to this conclusion: $10-billion deficits, $100-billion worth of debt, is a tragedy, is a disgrace to leave to their children, to their grandchildren, to their great grandchildren, and they want something done about it. That's what they have told me. Universally they have told me that.

Now, the former Premier and now leader of the third party for running up those billions of dollars worth of debt and $10-billion deficits asked me this very question in the Legislature a few weeks ago, referred me to the very page that talked about the Canada Health Act and talked about the definition that his Minister of Health, that he as Premier -- the former Minister of Health, now holding up the signs, and the former Premier -- used for user fees for medically necessary services and for those items that were under the Canada Health Act. Clearly, in reference to the Canada Health Act we said it is our intention to live up to the Canada Health Act. There will be no new user fees that would apply there.

And I would say this: If there is any confusion out there, it has not been created by me, by our Minister of Health, by our caucus, by our campaign; it is being created by you, sir.

Mr Rae: I appreciate being attacked as if I were still Premier. Would that I were, Mr Speaker.

But I want to just say this to the Premier in asking the second question: I can understand the Premier's agitation, because he clearly knows that any senior citizen listening to a door-to-door salesman, and that door-to-door salesman would say to the senior couple, living at home, in their 70s, who would pay out hundreds of dollars for medication medically prescribed by a doctor for blood pressure, for whatever it might happen to be, and they hear, "Don't worry. Aid for seniors will not be cut. Don't worry. There'll be no new user fees. Don't worry. Health care is too important" -- we are looking at a door-to-door salesman who has told senior citizens not to worry, and now we are clearly told, by the use of weasel words and sucker clauses in the statements made by the Minister of Health, that now seniors are going to be paying through the nose for drugs which are medically necessary.

Let's talk about these medically necessary drugs prescribed by a doctor for conditions that are determined by a doctor. I'd like to ask the Premier how it could possibly be that a senior citizen, having been told that their aid will not be cut and that health care is too important, is now going to be charged hundreds of dollars for medically necessary drugs.

Hon Mr Harris: When we took office and we examined work in progress, we examined things like this --


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

Hon Mr Harris: Ruth Grier, June 30, 1993: "In order to expand the number of people eligible for the program ODB, there has to be some sharing of the costs."

I would assume that the former minister, Ruth Grier, was not planning to break the law or go contrary to the Canada Health Act in doing that.


The Speaker: Order. Would the Premier take his seat, please. The member for Windsor and the member for Hamilton East have been continuously out of order, and I won't warn either of one of you again.

Hon Mr Harris: Also on June 30, 1993, former Minister Grier: "The plan isn't fair at this point. It's not based on one's ability to pay. If you're over 65 you get free drugs regardless of income. If you're on social assistance you get free drugs. It's not fair," she said. "It isn't fair."

When we dusted off those proposals and we took a look at them, we agreed: There is something wrong. There is something not fair. The senior citizens I have talked to across the province agree: It's not fair. There is something wrong not only with the $10-billion deficits, not only with the $100 billion worth of debt, but there is something wrong that some poor seniors are paying, some poor people who are working very hard are paying, and others who are millionaires are not paying. So we intend to look at that.

Mr Rae: This is the picture of the door-to-door salesman. This is the picture that was relied upon and the promise that was relied upon, a personal promise made by the Premier to the senior citizens of this province.

Since the Premier has made such a point in his responses about talking about the circumstances facing the province, I want to ask him, how does he justify giving a tax cut worth thousands of dollars to people making over $100,000 or $150,000? If you're making a quarter of a million, it's worth thousands and thousands of dollars. You're giving them that money, you're handing it to them at the same time that a senior citizen couple making $25,000 a year total income is being asked to pay $348, plus a $2 copayment every time they have to take out a prescription. How do you justify that if you're really worried about the deficit?

This is a serious issue of credibility and integrity of the Premier and his government with respect to health care and with respect to the seniors of this province. That's what we're facing right now.

Hon Mr Harris: Let me read a quote from the former Premier and the questioner today, Mr Bob Rae. Mr Rae called free drugs for welfare recipients a disincentive that goes against the government's aim to get people off welfare: "We've got to deal with that when we reform the drug program and the welfare system."

You had it all right, I would say to the former Premier and to the leader of the NDP. You had all the problems identified; you laid it out there. You just didn't have the courage to bring forth commonsense solutions to solve the problem, and that is what we are going to do.



Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): This question is to the Attorney General. For many months now I have raised in this House the issue of the Homolka plea- bargain inquiry, and you will recall that over 320,000 Ontarians have petitioned the Attorney General to appoint an independent body to conduct a full public inquiry into the Homolka plea-bargain agreement.

The Attorney General has at long last reacted to the overwhelming pressure and has called for an inquiry. I would ask the minister to elaborate on the terms of reference for the inquiry, in particular the rules with respect to fact-finding and why the long deadline -- until March 1996.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): If I might first talk about the deadline, in the member's response to my statement she indicated that it would be six months till the report was completed. In fact, I indicated that Justice Galligan would be starting the report after his retirement at the end of November and that the report would be ready no later than March 15. That is not six months.

For something of this nature, I think we all want the report to be done thoroughly and properly. It will be done thoroughly and properly, and it will be delivered back to this House and made public in a timely way.

In terms of the terms of reference, I very carefully outlined the four terms of reference, and I will review those again. They are quite clear:

(1) Whether the plea arrangement entered into by crown counsel with Karla Homolka on May 14, 1993, was appropriate in all the circumstances.

(2) Whether the advice given by crown counsel to the Green Ribbon Task Force in connection with possible charges against Karla Homolka arising out of a sexual assault on Jane Doe was appropriate in all the circumstances.

(3) Whether in all the circumstances it is appropriate or feasible to take further proceedings against Karla Homolka for her part in the deaths of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy and sexual assault on Jane Doe.

(4) To inquire into such related matters, if any, which the Attorney General may, from time to time, direct.

I don't know what can be more clear. Those are the terms of reference. His lordship will deal with these and report back to us, and I will make that report public.

Ms Castrilli: I didn't ask the minister to repeat the terms of reference. I asked him to be very specific on what were the rules with respect to fact-finding and why the deadline. Minister, I should tell you that I did not say that your report was not to be completed for six months.

Hon Mr Harnick: Check Hansard.

Ms Castrilli: Excuse me; I said that it was to be made public. Now you've said that it's going to be made public in a "timely" fashion. God knows what that will mean.

But let me ask you another question since you've not answered the first question, and that is, in the interests of public justice and the fact that so many Ontarians have expressed their views that this be a public inquiry, will you commit yourself to having a public inquiry, and if not, why not?

Hon Mr Harnick: The tragedy of the Bernardo case is something that victims have had to live through, and to make victims live through another inquiry made public is something that I'm shocked about. I'm shocked the member would suggest it and I'm shocked that she would be so unfeeling towards the victims of this terrible situation.

What I have tried to do is to find the very best person to comment on what was done and to make that report public. I will also tell the member that law enforcement officials in the Ministry of the Attorney General will be available. They will be interviewed and they will advise the justice of exactly what happened. He will report and make findings, and I will make them public. Surely, that is the most caring and decent way to deal with this inquiry.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. It concerns the proposals that are apparently being considered by his ministry to drastically reduce support for child care and, indeed, to change it completely to a voucher system.

Right now there are nearly 70,000 subsidized child care spaces in the province which are vital for those parents as well as for those children. We have begun to build up a good system in the province that needs to be made better.

I'd like to ask the minister to tell us why it is that the ministry is considering such a drastic reduction in the level of service, which will close literally hundreds of centres across the province if carried out, and when it is that we will hear of the plans the minister in fact has?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): Obviously the leader of the third party is referring to this purported report that was, I guess, in the newspapers a couple of weeks ago or so. At the time, I indicated that there was no such report that has been submitted to me, and clearly that's the case.

What we are doing, and I reported it to the Legislature some time ago as well, is that we are looking at a complete review of the day care program, because obviously it's not working right now. I quite agree that we have to make sure there are spaces available to people; that's quite true. We as a party believe this. We want good, quality, affordable day care. We want to make sure there's choice out in the community. That's why we're doing this review of the day care system, ably as well, I might add, as I said before, under the leadership of my parliamentary assistant, Janet Ecker.

Mr Rae: The minister perhaps will forgive us in saying that many things we read about his ministry in the newspaper turn out to be true, and therefore we have no choice but to ask some questions on this subject. He didn't answer my question when I said when this review will be completed and when we will know of the government's new plans.

But by way of supplementary, I wonder if I might ask him for an update on the discussions with the federal government. We know that Metro council, through Chairman Tonks, has approached the federal government. We know that the federal government has indicated an interest in child care spaces. I'd like to ask the minister: What is the position now of the government of Ontario with respect to the federal proposal that would allow for an increase in the number of subsidized child care spaces in the province, considering the length of the waiting lists that are now there?

I'm sure the minister would want to take any opportunity. Can he give us an assurance that he intends to follow through on these negotiations and in fact realize something that will be of benefit to parents and to children?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: In response to the question, I have already responded back to Mr Axworthy. I've indicated a willingness for ourselves, as a government, to meet with Mr Axworthy, and discuss what he has in mind. Unfortunately, right now, we don't know what he has in mind.

Certainly, his letter to me indicated an idea that he was going to provide us with some idea of what he was proposing, which we haven't received as of yet. Until we do have an opportunity and Mr Axworthy does respond to us, it's very difficult. But I might say right now that the problem we have in Ontario is having good, affordable spaces. That's something that's a priority to us and it's certainly something we're willing to pursue.


Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): My question is for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board. I've had many calls and concerns from the workers of Hamilton Mountain regarding the state of the WCB. As we all know, the WCB is in serious financial trouble with an unfunded liability of over $11.4 billion.

Will the minister please explain to me and the workers of Hamilton Mountain what was wrong with the strategy that was followed by the previous government's bipartite board of directors in order to address this financial crisis?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): I wish to thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for his question. It's always a pleasure to get a question in the House.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Oh, that's right, this is your issue.

Hon Mr Jackson: Yes, I'm kind of looking forward to this.

It's very clear that the unfunded liability is a very major crisis facing the Workers' Compensation Board, in fact facing all workers, injured or not injured, in this province.

The unfunded liability has increased over 300% over the last 10 years, in just a decade. The previous government's bipartite board of directors was given a package of financial improvements for their consideration, in which they could help manage and bring on side some of these important changes to get their operating budget under control.

This balanced package, as I said, was balanced with concerns from both management and from injured workers, but it represented over $400 million worth of savings to the Workers' Compensation Board with this kind of unfunded liability. This was never approved. It was never approved by the handpicked bipartite board of the previous NDP government. That government sold this province on bipartism on a board that was adversarial and in a gridlock situation, and it's truly unfortunate that the previous government lacked the leadership to get the financial house in order for the Workers' Compensation Board.


Mr Pettit: The Workers' Compensation Board spent over $2.7 billion in workers' pensions and other obligations in 1994 and had revenues from assessments of $2.3 billion, yet the board reported a $130-million surplus for 1994. Can the minister possibly explain to me and the workers of Hamilton Mountain how the board could possibly manage an operating surplus when its assessment revenues do not cover its expenditures?

Hon Mr Jackson: The member is quite clear in sharing with the House the very large amounts of money that are held in trust for injured workers and paid out on an annual basis. I want to remind the members of the House, the original vision for the Workers' Compensation Board, as defined in this province, was an accident fund and it was created to ensure wage replacement for injured workers. This was a trust to be held for future injured workers.

In the last several years the WCB board of directors has approved consecutive annual transfers of $200 million and $400 million from its investment fund to its operating budget in order to cover its current expenses. This is known as drawing down from your investment and your cash flow in order to make your books look good. The fact is that this was done not in the best interests of both injured workers and the employers who create the jobs in this province.

I just want to share with the House that $130 million of the operating surplus recorded by the WCB in 1994 is a sham. It was a sham because of this drawing down of money. I simply want to say that under the leadership of this government we are prepared to make the necessary changes, under the leadership of my colleague the Minister of Labour, starting with Bill 15 and a subsequent review, that we will restore financial accountability to the Workers' Compensation Board in this province.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. I'd like to ask him if he would verify what he was quoted in the Ottawa press some time last week, indicating that he intends to abolish the Day Nurseries Act.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I haven't seen it and definitely no. I've never seen that quote. I've never said that.

Mrs Pupatello: In fact not only that, but we understand that he too is investigating the Wisconsin model of providing child care and bringing it over to Ontario. In speaking to officials from Wisconsin, we called them and we said: "Could it be true? Could our minister indeed be searching Wisconsin for the model?" The officials from the office of child care in Wisconsin told me: "You've got to be kidding. Why on earth would you be looking at Wisconsin when Ontario offers one of the best and most progressive quality child care in North America?"

Since the minister is so interested in the Wisconsin model, he probably already knows that they've had 1,200 infractions that have required investigation in the child care industry in Wisconsin, and that compares to Ontario's last year of 25 infractions that required some action. In fact the state of Wisconsin doesn't even require criminal checks when issuing certificates for child care.

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

Mrs Pupatello: I'd like the minister to respond to the parents of Ontario and to the 70% of children who are currently on a roulette wheel; all of those children, 70% of whom are currently in some form of child care: Are you agreeable to putting these children at risk?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: No, we're not willing to put children at risk. Number two, I don't know where the honourable member is getting some of these outlandish ideas that she's coming up with, but certainly I've never looked at the Wisconsin model, whatever that is, and certainly, if it doesn't work, why would we put it into place in Ontario? It doesn't make any sense. So I think there's got to be a little more pith, so to say, to some of the things the honourable member is saying these days.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): My question is also to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Could he confirm that there are a number of children's aid societies in the province that are in very difficult financial shape? In particular, can he confirm that the Halton CAS ran out of money at the end of October?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): Since it's a specific question about the Halton CAS, what the Halton CAS has agreed to do with the ministry is a review of both its financial and procedural administration at the Halton CAS.

Secondly, the ministry has also agreed to ensure that the services can be provided to the end of the year certainly, until we can see what their new budget is, and we've agreed to guarantee that.

Mr Cooke: The Halton CAS can provide services to the end of the year because your government has had to provide for emergency funding for November and December because their regular budget ran out at the end of October. So can the minister also confirm that the Peel children's aid society is in similar difficulty, that York is in similar difficulty, that the Rainy River CAS is also in difficulty, that Thunder Bay is also in difficulty? And can the minister tell us and tell the public how he can guarantee the safety of children in this province when he knows that the primary role of the children's aid societies is protection of children who are potential victims of physical and sexual abuse and that children's aid societies across this province are in deep financial trouble because of your cuts, are laying off social workers, and that those services can no longer be guaranteed and that children are in deep trouble?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: The reason why a lot of organizations around the province are in trouble is not because of our attempts to try to make things better. It's because of this mess we've inherited from the previous government, and clearly, they don't want to face up to this reality. When we formed the government, we opened up Fibber McGee's closet and we got rolled under by all the stuff that was in there. It's absolutely crazy.

But the honourable member is pointing out a very important point and what I will say to you is -- and I've said this before in the House -- but several of the organizations dealing with protection of children, including the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, have --

Mr Cooke: You haven't met with them yet, and they've been asking for a meeting for three months. You have not met with them.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Actually, I have met with them already and I would suggest that the honourable member is saying to me across the House that we haven't met with the Ontario children's aid society and in fact, we have. In fact, they've also agreed to be on my advisory committee to deal with the structure and to deal with the core services and how we're going to deal with this terrible situation that we've inherited. They've agreed to be on the advisory committee to work for the protection of the children with the government.


Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Last April, one of my constituents, James Tyrrell Jr, was tragically killed when a flying truck tire struck his car on the Queen Elizabeth Way. The coroner's inquest into Mr Tyrrell's death is over and the jury has made several recommendations to improve truck safety. These recommendations are enthusiastically supported by the Ontario Trucking Association and the Ontario Provincial Police. Shortly after the conclusion of the inquest, the Minister of Transportation promised swift action to increase existing fines and to crack down on unsafe truck drivers and owners.

Can the minister tell this House how and when he will act on the recommendations of that inquest?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to assure my esteemed colleague and all Ontarians that truck safety and road safety are a priority of this government. Since the change in government, we have stepped up enforcement and we are certainly going to continue to do just that.

We have also announced a comprehensive road safety plan that does address truck safety and we have had much OPP input and consultation and input from the Ontario Trucking Association. Many of the inquest recommendations are already in place and certainly, there are other things in there that we will consider. We are studying pretty well the jury's recommendations on what can be added to our present plan.


Mrs Marland: I thank you for your response, Minister. I'm certainly happy to hear that you will also be meeting with Paula Tyrrell to discuss the recommendations of the inquest. While improving truck safety will not ease Mrs Tyrrell's loss, it will help her to know that we are doing everything possible to prevent injury and loss of life from unsafe trucks on our highways.

I'm also pleased that the government is already acting, as you have just said, on several of the inquest's recommendations. Can you expand further on the actual contents of the road safety plan and how it will improve not only truck safety but also road safety in general?

Hon Mr Palladini: I met with the Worona family last week and I assured them that this government is very serious and we are going to get tough with bad operators.

Our road safety plan includes rating carriers. We're going to share that information with the people whom they do business with and we're going to encourage these people not to do business with the bad operators.

In our plan, there is also going to be brake training and axle weight enforcement, something, I might add, as far as axle weight enforcement, that the last two governments just failed to act upon.

We are also looking at raising fines and we are also going to be looking at implementing a demerit point system for safety violations. We are also looking at implementing a graduated truck driver's licence, and bus driver's. This government is going to do more for truck safety than the last two governments did in 10 years.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is around the Provincial Auditor's report today. The question would be, I guess, to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism.

The document outlines, I think, a series of horror stories around a program in your ministry called the Jobs Ontario Community Action fund, where about $135 million has been spent. Among other things in the report, it says there was one project where $516,000 was spent, $248,000 provided by your ministry.

The auditor said the project had only one tangible output, that was, "a total of seven days of training for a class of 30 individuals." In other words, the province spent about a quarter of a million dollars for seven days of training for 30 people, including $120,000 for organizational seed money.

It then goes on to say that your ministry was supposed to conduct follow-up reviews of those, and the auditor says, "We found no evidence that any such inspections have been completed to date." In other words, your ministry has spent about $135 million, and the auditor says that no inspections have been completed to date.

Can the minister assure the House that you have reviewed this project and that no one who has received this money has done so without a legal basis?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): To the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, I'd like to say that I have read the auditor's report concerning my own ministry. Quite frankly, I am appalled with the lack of controls and the systems that were in place to monitor how all projects were to be surveyed as they progressed.

I'm very happy to report that, as this report really was for business concluded as of March 31 of this year, and that was in the previous government's time, from now on -- and I agree with everything the auditor has said -- we will be certainly scrutinizing and accepting all of his suggestions so that nothing like this will ever happen again. It's a travesty. I'm just assuring you, Mr Speaker, and the member that I'm sure this will not happen again.

Mr Phillips: I think the minister could not have been listening to the question. I said that your ministry has the responsibility, for three years after the grant is made, to do follow-up inspections.

The question is your responsibility. Have those inspections taken place? Have you assured yourself that these grants are fair and these grants are legally done? If not, is it your intention to recover any funds that have been granted for which there is not legal justification? It is now your responsibility to do the follow-up inspections as per the agreement. Have they been done? Is it your intention to follow up and recover funds that should not have been granted, that haven't been used for the appropriately approved facilities?

Minister, you can't wipe your hands of this. You have responsibility for three years to follow up. Is it your intention to do that and will you be recovering the moneys that should not have been allocated?

Hon Mr Saunderson: In response to the honourable member's supplementary question, as he knows and as the House knows, projects that were not legally committed to were terminated -- or frozen, I should say -- by the July 21 statement by the Minister of Finance. The ones that are proceeding of course will receive our closest scrutiny to make sure that they are properly completed. At any time that member wishes to ask on progress, we will be able to report on that.

But as a chartered accountant I can assure him that the controls that are suggested are realistic. It's just a very pathetic situation that we are left with such a mess to clean up after the previous government.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Two weeks ago, your government withdrew partnership investment funding from two ethanol fuel manufacturing plants, one in Chatham and one in Cornwall. The two plants would have created over 120 new, permanent, full-time jobs and would have been a great stimulus to the agricultural sector, particularly corn producers in the province.

The president of one of the plants, Commercial Alcohols, the Chatham project, has said that your government's withdrawal of partnership investment funding is a major threat to the project and creates serious doubt about the viability of the project in Chatham. Can the Minister of Agriculture justify killing jobs and new economic opportunities in the agricultural sector, and especially in rural Ontario?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): To my esteemed colleague opposite, I am pleased to have that question. This minister and this government believe in the ethanol industry, an environmentally friendly fuel that is presently produced in Ontario and will continue to be produced in Ontario, and I and this government still very much support the ethanol industry.

Mr Hampton: We are well aware of the minister's rhetoric when he was in opposition, and he's trying to repeat that now. But this is the head of one of the companies, who was planning on making that investment, and he says -- and he says it publicly -- that your withdrawal of funding is a major threat to the project and it's a major threat to the spinoff industries that could have occurred around this.

Now, your government has found money, $12 million announced by your colleague the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, for some corporations a couple of weeks ago. You're going to give that to them, and you've indicated that you've got great tax cuts that you want to give to wealthy Ontarians, yet you're abandoning something that would have major job-producing prospects and major economic stimulus for corn producers in the province and the agricultural sector. How do you justify that? How do you justify tax cuts for some but an abandonment of the agricultural sector?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Again to my colleague opposite, the word "abandon" is not correct. This minister and this government support the ethanol industry, support the use of ethanol and support the production of ethanol here in the province of Ontario.



Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): My question is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. In my riding, and I'm sure across the province, the producers of poultry and the dairy industry are very concerned about the negotiations going on with NAFTA. As you know, and anyone in the rural ridings understands, the dairy industry especially is very dependent on the supply management program.

Minister, could you advise this House and the people of Lanark-Renfrew to relax, that the negotiations are still going on and that supply management will be saved?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): To my colleague from Lanark-Renfrew: I want to assure him and indeed the dairy and feather industry that this government and this minister support the federal government.

I have spoken recently with the Honourable Ralph Goodale. We now have a panel that will be renegotiating and indeed fighting to maintain what was signed in the North American free trade agreement. We support the federal government. The Americans want to rewrite the rules that they agreed to some years ago when they signed the deal. They don't only want to rewrite the rules, they want to be the referees of the rules, and we are going to protect the dairy and feather industry.

Mr Jordan: The people would like to know how soon this decision will be made.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: It is presently being heard with the NAFTA panel. We have two Canadians, two Americans and an independent chair, and it is presently being arbitrated as we speak.



Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the Minister of Labour has introduced legislation, Bill 7, to drastically amend the Labour Relations Act, the Employment Standards Act and other labour legislation which had been brought forward by successive Progressive Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic governments in the recognition of the legitimate rights of employees in Ontario;

"Whereas the implementation of Bill 7 will undermine the fundamental democratic rights of employees to organize and to have access to collective bargaining;

"Whereas employers have raised concerns about how Bill 7 will result in an increased number of strikes; and

"Whereas the Minister of Labour is proceeding with Bill 7 without consultation with employee groups and without conducting public hearings;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to urge the Minister of Labour to withdraw Bill 7."

I've attached my signature to this document.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Minister of Labour has introduced legislation, Bill 7, to drastically amend the Labour Relations Act, the Employment Standards Act and other labour legislation which had been brought forward by successive Progressive Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic governments in the recognition of the legitimate rights of employees in Ontario;

"Whereas the implementation of Bill 7 will undermine the fundamental democratic rights of employees to organize and to have access to collective bargaining;

"Whereas employers have raised concerns about how Bill 7 will result in an increased number of strikes; and

"Whereas the Minister of Labour is proceeding with Bill 7 without consultation with employee groups and without conducting public hearings;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to urge the Minister of Labour to withdraw Bill 7."

I will affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): I've been asked by constituents of my riding to table a petition which reads as follows:

"Whereas the Oakville Citizens' Committee on Property Tax Reform and the town of Oakville council have requested the province of Ontario to review and consider the issue of property tax reform; and

"Whereas the town of Oakville council has called on the provincial government to impose an immediate moratorium on region-wide market value assessment;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to impose an immediate moratorium on region-wide market value assessment pending the province's review and consideration of the issue of property tax reform."

That is signed by approximately 2,000 people from my riding of Oakville South.


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

"Whereas the Minister of Transportation is intent on reducing northern winter road maintenance services; and

"Whereas such downgrading places the lives of northern residents at undue and unnecessary risk;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to disallow these reductions in service and to guarantee that winter roads across northern regions of the province receive the necessary maintenance to ensure the safe passage of vehicles."

That's signed by many constituents from places like Vermilion Bay, Dryden, Eagle River, Waldhof and Kenora in my riding.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition here signed by hundreds of people from the town of Hearst. I was at a reception with about 350 people last Wednesday night, and this petition expresses our disagreement with the decision taken by the Harris government to cut funding for the services out of Jeunesse de Hearst youth services.

We feel that services at Jeunesse de Hearst, including the youth centre, the Camp Source de Vie and the Coopérative Jeunesse au Travail respond to the essential needs of youth in our community. The elimination of services of the Jeunesse de Hearst Inc will have serious repercussions on the quality of life of the local youth.

The petition is signed by hundreds of people from the town of Hearst who are opposed to the cuts of the Mike Harris government.


Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): I'd like to present a petition signed by supporters of Tigger the cat in his fight with those health officials who want to keep this friendly feline out of a local tea shop. We believe this issue pits community spirit and common sense against public health legislation that may be out of date and at the very least requires immediate review by the appropriate authorities in the Ministry of Health.

This petition is signed by thousands of constituents who beg a quick review and a speedy return of Tigger to his station at Say Tea in the heart of Bloor West village, and I'm proud to add my name to this petition.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Hamilton East.

Interjection: He hasn't behaved himself today.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I promise I'll behave tomorrow.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): The Hamilton area child care resource centres have been providing an important service to families in the community for over 10 years. The service includes community information, guest speakers for parent and caregivers with knowledge regarding parenting and child care skills, daily play groups for children, adult resource library, toy and book lending library and discussion groups. Approximately 200 parents and children use these services on a weekly basis. It's a good indication that the centre is a vital service to the community.

The individuals who signed the petition urge "the province of Ontario and the Ministry of Community and Social Services not to further reduce dollars flowed to the Hamilton Child Care Resource Centre. These centres are funded by the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the programs are preventive and educational by nature and play a vital role in supporting the informal child care sector, thus providing service to many community families. Please continue the funding."

I'm pleased to add my name to this petition.


M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : J'ai ici une pétition soussignée par des milliers de personnes des environs de Cochrane-Nord faisant affaire avec les Services à la Jeunesse de Hearst. La pétition se lit comme suit :

«La présente pétition affirme notre désaccord avec la décision du gouvernement Harris de couper les subventions des Services à la Jeunesse de Hearst Inc. Nous considérons que les Services à la Jeunesse de Hearst, incluant la Maison des jeunes (La Limite), le Camp Source de Vie, et la Coopérative Jeunesse au Travail, répondent à des besoins essentiels des jeunes de la communauté. La disparition des Services à la Jeunesse de Hearst Inc entraînera des répercussions sérieuses sur la qualité de vie de la jeunesse locale.»

J'y affixe ma signature.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I rise today to present a petition to the Premier and the Minister of Education. This petition is from the students and parents of the St Stephen's Secondary School in the municipality of Clarington. Their petition outlines and petitions the government to complete the funding of St Stephen's Secondary School, which is currently a rented facility at the cost of $600,000 per year. They are looking for a new school.



Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee has recommended that North York Branson Hospital merge with York-Finch General Hospital;

"Whereas this recommendation will remove emergency and inpatient services currently provided by North York Branson Hospital, which will seriously jeopardize medical care and the quality of health for the growing population which the hospital serves, many being elderly people who in numerous cases require treatment for life-threatening medical conditions;

"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to reject the recommendations contained within the report of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee as it pertains to North York Branson Hospital so that it retains, at minimum, emergency and inpatient services."

It's signed by many of my constituents, and I have added my name as well.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I have a petition by the Niagara Child-Adult Resource Exchange Cooperative with 65 signatures stating:

"We, the undersigned, are firmly opposed to the erosion of the child care system. We are most particularly concerned about the unregulated child care sector, which represents the choice of most Ontario families, many living in rural areas. We urge this government to make its budget reductions in areas where children and families will not once again be the target of cuts. Family resource programs support the informal sector of child care, which includes parents caring for their own children and care provided by grandparents, home child care providers and nannies."

I affix my name to this petition.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I rise today to present a petition that has been organized by the Ontario Community Justice Association of Ottawa-Carleton. The members are concerned that these programs will be seriously affected by upcoming funding cuts and petition to the Legislative Assembly as follows:

"Whereas during the 1970s the government of the day developed measures that curbed the growth of government by involving local communities in the provision of legal services; the criminal justice field began to recognize the benefits of community-based justice options; privatization was considered more cost-effective while strengthening government ministries through community participation in the justice system;

"Since this time, non-profit agencies across Ontario have developed effective programs and present a strong local face to the justice system while supporting partnerships with an ever-widening community base. Community programs have proven to be effective in comparison to directly operated government services. Community-based options reduce the cost of incarceration while promoting public safety.

"Whereas community-based justice programs such as community service orders, diversion, alternative measures, bail supervision etc have proven value; the screening and supervision of accused and offenders within well-defined programs contribute to public safety; for over 20 years community-based options have made a positive contribution to the welfare of community in Ontario;

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

"We believe these programs must not be viewed as dispensable. As with many recent cuts, short-term fiscal expediency holds no long-term value. Credible links with the community and quality programs for the citizens of Ontario must be maintained."

The petition is signed by over 700 individuals, and as a former Minister of Correctional Services I'm pleased to support it and have signed the petition as well.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): It's my pleasure to bring forth a petition of 9,000 names. These are people who are very concerned about the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council, which has put forth a proposition of closing one of Ontario's best hospitals, Northwestern General Hospital.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee has recommended to close Northwestern General Hospital and merge all programs and services with Humber Memorial Hospital on Humber's site;

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

"That the recommendation of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council to close Northwestern General Hospital be rejected by the government of Ontario and that it keep Northwestern hospital open."

I present this petition to the Minister of Health, the Honourable Jim Wilson, and to Premier Mike Harris.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the region of Sudbury's child care system provides high-quality early childhood programming; provides intervention services which identify and assist those families at high risk, thereby creating a healthier society; provides integration programs for children with special needs, thereby creating an inclusive society; works with the private and non-profit sectors, including group care, private home day care and family resource centres, all of which support the choices of working and stay-at-home parents; strives to provide parents with the child care choices that the Ontario government has identified as their mandate; ultimately saves future tax dollars by increasing high school completion rates and making our youth more employable, decreasing teenage pregnancies and drug use and lowering the incidence of juvenile crime;

"We, the undersigned, believe that further government cutbacks will jeopardize the child care system in the region of Sudbury.

"We therefore urge the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to refrain from any further reductions to child care funding in the region of Sudbury."

It is signed by 2,061 people.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I rise again today to present a petition to this House. It is from the residents of my riding, Durham East, in the province of Ontario.

"We ask that our Parliament act on our plea for an enlightened and merciful law for the unborn. Such a law would require a prisoner convicted of sadistic cruelty or convicted of repeated child molesting to submit to sterilization as part of the condition for his/her release after serving the requisite prison term."


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition that's attracting a great deal of interest and concern across northern Ontario and in fact across the entire province.

"Whereas the Ministry of Transportation is intent on reducing northern winter road maintenance services; and

"Whereas such downgrading places the lives of northern residents at undue and unnecessary risk;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to disallow these reductions in service and to guarantee that winter roads across the northern regions of the province receive the necessary maintenance to ensure the safe passage of drivers."

I'm proud to sign my name to this.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I too have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Ministry of Transportation is intent on reducing northern winter road maintenance services; and

"Whereas such downgrading places the lives of northern residents at undue and unnecessary risk;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to disallow these reductions in service and to guarantee that winter roads across the northern regions of the province receive the necessary maintenance to ensure the safe passage of drivers."

This is signed by numerous of my constituents in places like Spanish, Cutler, Sagamok and some in Sudbury and Elliot Lake.



Mr Carr moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 17, An Act to amend various Statutes to freeze Realty Taxes / Projet de loi 17, Loi modifiant diverses lois et visant à geler les impôts fonciers.

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

Does the member have a short statement?

Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Yes. This bill amends various statutes to freeze the amount of all realty taxes levied in 1996 at their 1995 levels, both in municipalities and territories without municipal organizations. That will be my private member's resolution on November 30.


Mr Chiarelli moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 18, An Act to provide for the establishment of Citizens Assemblies and the expedited consideration by the Legislative Assembly of Legislation prepared by Citizens Assemblies / Projet de loi 18, Loi prévoyant la mise sur pied d'assemblées de citoyens et une procédure accélérée pour l'étude, par l'Assemblée législative, des projets de loi rédigés par ces assemblées.

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

Does the member have a short statement?

Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): This is reintroduction of a bill which had been introduced in the last Parliament dealing with parliamentary reform, and the bill at that time received much favourable comment.

The bill establishes a pilot project whereby certain public policy issues defined by the Lieutenant Governor in Council would be examined by citizens' assemblies established under the bill with the view to preparing legislation for consideration by the Legislative Assembly in accordance with the expedited procedures set out in the bill.



Mrs Witmer moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 15, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act / Projet de loi 15, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les accidents du travail et la Loi sur la santé et la sécurité au travail.


Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I am pleased today to move second reading of this important piece of legislation which represents a very crucial first step in the government's two-stage initiative to completely overhaul the financially troubled Workers' Compensation Board.

The legislative package before us today launches the process of restoring the long-term financial viability of the Workers' Compensation Board and making the system serve the interest of workers and employers in a more efficient, caring and cost-effective manner. At the same time, the changes will improve Ontario's ability to attract new investment and create jobs.

It will establish the Workers' Compensation Board as part of the economic environment to create more prosperity for all of the people of our province.

Bill 15 has two fundamental objectives. The first is to change the governance structure. The present one has paralysed decision-making. The second objective is to put the system on a sound financial footing. At the same time, we must focus on service quality and regain the confidence and the support of all stakeholders.

The changes in Bill 15 will bring stronger management accountability and leadership to the board, and it will provide the service that is so necessary to the workers and the employers. It will also give the board the tools it needs to aggressively attack fraud in all its forms, fraud which is potentially costing the board many millions of dollars each year.

These measures will set the stage for future comprehensive reform of the WCB. Future reform will be done by my colleague Cam Jackson, the Minister without Portfolio responsible for worker's compensation reform.

His report, based on a major review of the system, will provide a comprehensive financial package that will stabilize the system over the long term and eliminate the board's unfunded liability by the year 2014.

It is clear that the government must act decisively in order to ensure that the board can meet its future financial obligations to injured workers and also provide the necessary relief to employers who are struggling under the burden of the second-highest WCB premiums in Canada.

As other provinces in Canada have done and are doing, we must gain control of our workers' compensation system. The government will fulfil its election promises to eliminate the board's huge unfunded liability by the year 2014 and to return the WCB to its original concept, as envisioned by Meredith, as a workplace accident insurance plan.

The government is moving ahead carefully and deliberately to fix the problems facing the board. We do not want to repeat the mistakes that were made by past governments. Our reforms will be sustainable and will lead to long-term stability. We owe it to the people of this province to finally fix the massive problems facing the board. A quick review of the facts shows clearly that the workers' compensation system is now on the brink of a financial crisis. The board's staggering unfunded liability is presently at $11.4 billion. In 1984, it was at $2.7 billion.

To understand the full magnitude of the problem that we have, let us examine the funding ratios of workers' compensation systems across Canada. Funding ratios are the ratios of total assets to total liabilities. In other words, they are the total assets that you have today versus what you would have to pay if all your liabilities became due today. In the WCB's case, these liabilities include pensions and future economic loss payments for injured workers. In Ontario, in 1994 the funding ratio was 37.4%. That means that if the board had to pay out all of its obligations today, it would only be able to provide 37.4 cents for each dollar it owed injured workers. Compare that to the province of Saskatchewan where the funding ratio is 113.7%, and to British Columbia where the ratio is 95.8%. Clearly, things are out of line in Ontario.

If action is not taken on the unfunded liability, the results will mean even greater increases in WCB rates for Ontario employers. And as I said before, the rates are already the second highest in Canada. In 1995, the average employer's assessment rate in Ontario was $3 per $100 assessable payroll. Compare this to the $2.60 --


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Lake Nipigon, please.

Hon Mrs Witmer: -- per $100 in the neighbouring province of Quebec. If we take a look at British Columbia, the rate there is $2.26, and New Brunswick's rate is $1.70. Because prospective investors recognize the high cost of workers' compensation in Ontario and the prospect of even higher costs in the future, this is having a very serious impact on our ability to encourage new job creation and encourage investment in this province. That has a very negative impact on all people in this province, because we want to encourage investment and we want to encourage employers to expand and create new jobs.

So despite the huge cost of our system, which I've indicated to you is the second highest for employers in Canada, things are not working well even though the costs are high. For example, the WCB has had to dip into its long-term reserves for the past few years to meet its yearly operating expenses. Again, that has put the needs of injured workers at further risk. If we continue to dip into our long-term reserves and into our asset base, we're not going to make any progress towards dealing with the unfunded liability. You put on top of that a system that does not serve injured workers or employers and you have very serious problems.


I know that every member of this House has numerous examples of constituents who are dissatisfied with how long it takes the board to process and resolve their concerns. Workers face excessive delays when they file their claims. The problem seems to be particularly severe when it comes to complex claims for workers. Employers are also having difficulties around the length of time it takes to resolve the conflicts involving the amount of their premiums. So both workers and employers have said to us that the overall appeals process is too slow, it is too cumbersome, it's too drawn out. Action needs to be taken and taken now.

I also want to address the problems that the WCB has with fraud. Just like private insurers, this board faces fraud and other abuses of the system by employers, by suppliers, by workers and by others. The board faces three major kinds of external fraud: the claimant-worker fraud, the employer fraud and the fraud of non-compliance, and service provider fraud.

Based on the private insurers' experience, fraud at the WCB could cost up to 5% of the overall cost of the system each year. With yearly expenditures of close to $3 billion at the WCB, this experience suggests that fraud may be costing us as much as $150 million annually.

I think that members will agree that after reviewing the multitude of problems facing the WCB, one might begin to ask --


The Acting Speaker: Order. There is a period which is called questions and comments. Please take advantage of that.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I want her to stick to the truth.

The Acting Speaker: Order. Otherwise I'll ask you to leave the House.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The honourable member alleged that the minister told other than the truth.

The Acting Speaker: If you've said that word, which I didn't hear because I was preoccupied with this group, I would ask you to withdraw it.

Mr Len Wood: I did not say exactly what the member accused me of saying.

The Acting Speaker: I ask you to withdraw.

Mr Len Wood: I said I want the truth. I will withdraw it, but I want to hear the facts, what's going on.

The Acting Speaker: Take your seat. Minister.

Hon Mrs Witmer: Many people ask: How did we ever get into such a mess in the first place? Why were steps not taken to deal with these problems before they reached the crisis proportions that we have today? Unfortunately, a large part of the blame for the lack of progress in tackling the WCB's many problems can be laid at the feet of the board's present governance structure. To put it simply, the governance system is broke.

Unfortunately, the bipartite, labour-versus-management approach has paralysed constructive decision-making on very crucial administrative, policy and financial issues facing the board, such as -- and this was referred to by my colleague this afternoon -- the financial improvement package that would have and could have resulted in $400 million in savings.

Unfortunately, the bipartite board was also ineffective in dealing with very crucial policy issues, such as those concerning work-related stress and entitlement, even when legislative requirements demanded action.

This government recognizes that the structure of governance is not working, just as bipartism did not work at the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. In fact, it's interesting to note that in response to the failure of the bipartite system, the NDP government in British Columbia recently also found it necessary to remove its bipartite board of governors and replace it with a panel of administrators. I can tell you that fixing the governance structure is a key component of the proposed reforms in Bill 15 and it is an important step towards all future reforms.

I now want to provide the members with some detail on the specific legislation before the House today.

The bill amends the Workers' Compensation Act to clear the way for a new governance model, a multi-stakeholder board of governors. These boards have achieved tremendous success recently in both Alberta and Manitoba. They have improved in those provinces not only the financial position but also service delivery to their clients. They have also avoided the very divisive and confrontational aspects of bipartism which often have led to deadlock within our own system.

This board must be prepared to govern the WCB as it evolves from a bureaucracy to a modern business entity. This new multi-stakeholder board will include representatives of workers, employers and others, such as the members of the medical community, the insurance community and the rehabilitation community, others who will bring a different perspective to the Workers' Compensation Board, thereby resulting in better, more responsive management and decision-making.

Until the new board is established, the WCB will be run by its interim president, Kenneth Copeland. I would also like to tell the House that recruitment for a new president is well under way, and the new president will have the mandate to completely overhaul the operations of the WCB, which of course are desperately needed.

The legislation will also strengthen financial accountability at the WCB and ensure that the board employs sound financial management practices as it begins the process of overhauling the system. We will be demanding that there be five-year strategic plans provided in order to ensure financial accountability.

Bill 15 defines the WCB relationship to government. It makes it more financially accountable to government, and therefore to the stakeholders and all Ontarians. Specifically, accountability will be strengthened through the provisions that will require the board to provide the Minister of Labour with the five-year strategic plans that I referred to, as well as a statement of priorities, as well as their investment policies. The section of the act dealing with the duties of the board of directors will place an additional duty on board members to act in a financially responsible manner. Finally, the legislation strengthens the purpose clause of the act to ensure that financial accountability is a key consideration in all aspects of the system.

The legislation also establishes value-for-money audits that will ensure the board's programs and operations are efficient, effective and financially sound. Value-for-money audits are a business practice used by well-run organizations to ensure that efficiency, economy and effectiveness are achieved in the delivery of all programs.

The amendments also include measures to stem the loss of revenue owed to the WCB, strengthen anti-fraud measures and eliminate abuses of the system. For the first time, the board will have the necessary tools to aggressively attack fraud, all forms of fraud, whether perpetrated by employers, suppliers or workers. The amendments will make it an offence under the act to obtain benefits or to receive compensation by deliberately providing false or misleading information. Persons found guilty will be subject to penalties under the act.


The bill also imposes an explicit requirement that employers who are required to register with the WCB do so. Failure to register will be an offence under the act, subject to penalties.

In addition, the amendments will give the WCB the authority to recover any overpayment it has made to both employers and workers, and the WCB will be given the right to deduct any money it is owed by a person from money it pays out to that person.

Taken together, these anti-fraud measures will help the WCB wage a much more effective campaign against fraud and other revenue losses that cost the board so much money every year. More importantly, they will ensure that the board has sufficient funds to cover the very legitimate claims of so many injured workers and that all employers who are required to fund the system pay their fair share.

The changes in this bill begin the difficult process of overhauling the WCB. As I mentioned at the outset, this sets the stage for the further reforms now under study by Mr Jackson. His report, which is expected next spring, will provide the integrated financial savings package that will eliminate the unfunded liability, and it will fulfil the government's commitment to deal with the issue of benefit levels, entitlement and assessment rates. These actions will enable us to turn the WCB around.

The changes in Bill 15 are an important first step in restoring the long-term financial viability of the Workers' Compensation Board and making the system serve the interests of the employers and the workers in a much more efficient, caring and cost-effective manner. That is the goal I urge all members of this House to support by approving this most important piece of legislation.

The Acting Speaker: Are there any questions or comments? Further debate?

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I'd like to begin today by talking a little bit about Sir William Meredith and what it is he originally established. Sir William wasn't from Windsor, of course, but what he did between 1912 and 1914 was unique, shrouded in deep study, and he incorporated four basic principles.

He was charged by the government of the day to study the issue of laws relating to the liability of employers to make compensation to their employees for injuries in the course of their employment.

Meredith studied systems all over the world. He did a comparative analysis. He held hearings. He met with the experts of his time. He studied the failings of the system, as they knew it in those days, the tort system, which would require employees to sue their employer in the event of an accident.

Sir William reported back initially to the Legislature in 1912, and his final report was established and finished in 1914. That report formed the basis of the system we have in this province today. Indeed, it formed the basis of systems that have come into place in many, many other jurisdictions since that time.

Sir William established four principles of compensation. The first was the no-fault principle, the principle that eliminated the question of negligence. It provided, in effect, protection for employers.

Sir William established also the principle of statutory benefits, a principle that emphasizes that following an accident, the need of the injured worker was the most important consideration -- far-sighted in his day. I repeat, the need of the injured worker was the most important consideration.

The third principle he established was the principle of collective liability. Compensation costs must rest solely on employers who are collectively liable. Employers insure themselves and insure one another.

The final principle he established was the notion of independent administration. At the time, he recommended and designated a three-member commission which was to be appointed by the Legislature, the Lieutenant Governor in Council, to administer the Workmen's Compensation Act and all of its provisions.

As we look at those principles today, we can indeed relate back to them. The no-fault principle: Employers enjoy relief, they enjoy protection from being sued by those workers who are injured or become sick in their workplace.

Statutory benefits: The need of the injured worker is the most important consideration the board must undertake. That's important, because I think given this government's record on Bill 7 and other areas, they really don't put the workers first and they certainly will not put injured workers first.

Collective liability: Employers pay for a form of insurance. Their assessments are an important cost of doing business and the minister is quite correct that those costs are higher in this province than in every other jurisdiction in the country but Newfoundland, I believe. But we also have the most sophisticated employment base or industrial base ranging from mines, the auto industry, the steel industry, the forestry industry, the agricultural industry, gambling -- a very important industry in this great province. It employs more than 2,600 people in my community.

The Northern Belle is floating today down Lake Erie soon to dock at the foot of McDougall Street in the great riding of Windsor-Walkerville, the riding which I have the honour to represent in this House. That initiative will employ an additional 600 people in good-paying jobs, some making as high as $40,000 to $50,000 a year, the lowest making probably in the $9 to $10 an hour range.

But back to the issue of collective liability. Employers pay those costs and the cost associated with WCB must always be at the forefront of this Legislature's consideration and at the forefront of the consideration of the board of the WCB.


The question of administration is important both to employers and to injured workers. The principle of an independent administration so that the board could be run as a true no-fault form of insurance is extremely important, and many of the problems we see today are the result of bad administration and administrative decisions that sometimes are simply impossible to understand.

Workers' compensation in this province and indeed across this country is based on the historic compromise as envisioned by Sir William, the compromise that sees workers giving up their right to sue employers at common law in return for a comprehensive, no-fault, public compensation system. "Compromise." "Moderation." Words that are not taken into consideration, certainly not into due consideration, by the government of the day.

In reviewing these principles, I think we need to say that the principle of collective liability must be adhered to, whereby in return for freedom from lawsuits brought by workers injured on the job, employers bear the burden of occupational injuries and disease collectively by paying their assessments into the central fund. The principle must be upheld, and any amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act or its regulations must always keep that principle at the forefront as well.

In the last election, our party reaffirmed its commitment to these principles. Indeed, we advocated a fifth principle, which would ensure that an injured worker has the inherent right to re-employment status and access to vocational rehabilitation. We think it's important to recognize that. We think it's important to appreciate what it is that an individual injured at work or who becomes sick at work must face.

In addition to the pain and suffering, in addition to the difficulties associated with lost income, the employee must worry about whether or not he or she can go back to his or her original job or can be trained to do another job. We think as a principle, and have advocated that as a principle, injured workers have that inherent right, the inherent right to re-employment and the inherent right to vocational rehabilitation where the injured worker cannot return to his or her previous employment.

By reaffirming our commitment as a Legislature to these principles, we in fact reaffirm our commitment both to employers and to workers -- injured workers. These principles, as contained in section 0.1 of the act, are extremely important, and as we contemplate amendments to that particular section of the act, as Bill 15 does, we must constantly and continually remind ourselves of those principles as we attempt to make the system work better for everyone in it.

And most important, and I say this to the government as sincerely as I can, as we bring about changes to the governance, to the administration of the Workers' Compensation Act and board, we must bear in mind that the system must serve injured workers as well as the employer community.

You know, Sir William was a Conservative, I believe, and when he was appointed it wasn't expected that he would bring about the kinds of reforms that he did. He showed an ability to understand and to break with the ideological thinking of his times, with the principles to which his party had come to office, and he brought forward a package that indeed was progressive and revolutionary in its time.

The approach that any government takes to the issues around workers' compensation must be a comprehensive approach. We believe that the government should not be bringing in its amendments in a haphazard way. Rather, we challenge the government to bring forward its proposed changes in their entirety and subject those proposed changes, in their entirety, to public hearings.

Public hearings are something that this government obviously wants to avoid. It avoided them on Bill 7. Indeed, the minister responsible for the WCB continues an exercise behind closed doors that doesn't allow the opportunity for public discussion of the issues around workers' compensation reform.

The government certainly had all the answers prior to the election; they outlined their 12 points of reform. Already, they're beginning to renege on one of those commitments. They said they would cut WCB assessments by 5%. Instead they froze them.

Mr Wettlaufer: What did you say?

Mr Duncan: They froze them. Let's talk about what that means for hospitals. You wouldn't have understood target rates that were established. Target rates would have actually reduced the cost to hospitals, by way of example. Hospitals this year had budgeted millions of dollars in savings because in their target rate group it would have declined by more than a simple freeze. Officials from any hospital -- hospitals in your riding -- will tell you that.

So what do you do when you take that kind of broad-based approach without thinking through and simply freeze rates? You penalize good employers at the expense of bad employers.

We will be bringing in a series of amendments to the bill which would give effect to the promises that the government made in the election. We'll bring forward those amendments and we'll see how you vote in recorded votes. We'll see how committed you were to that 5%, because we're going to give you the opportunity to vote in favour of it, in a recorded vote. We'll be happy to do that, to help you keep your commitment, and we'll see how many of you will. We'll see if you're prepared to support what it is you campaigned on in your individual ridings and indeed across this province.

I'd like to turn my attention now to the bill itself and some of the specifics that are contained in it, and address those specifics from our party's perspective, where we agree with the government and where we don't agree with the government, and the kinds of changes that we would like to see in Bill 15 that we think would make the bill more palatable and a better piece of legislation and a better piece of public policy.


The purpose section of the Workers' Compensation Act is being replaced. The minister spent much time addressing the issue of financial responsibility in her statement, but she failed to note for the Legislature the new paragraphs 5 and 6 in section 0.1, which read:

"5. To prevent or reduce the occurrence of injuries and occupational diseases at work.

"6. To promote health and safety in workplaces."

By expanding the purpose clause as she has to include these two points, we believe the minister is giving us a very clear signal about her intentions, not only with respect to workers' compensation but with respect to the provision and delivery of occupational health and safety enforcement in the province of Ontario.

I spoke to the minister in this House some two weeks ago and I addressed a very specific question to her. I addressed the question of whether or not the government was in fact considering this option or whether her review panel was considering this option.

The minister did not rule it out, indeed, seemed to indicate to the Legislature and to the people of this province that in fact the option is being actively considered and actively pursued. That is an important point to recognize because it proposes to change the very fundamental structures of the delivery of health and safety enforcement in this province and make significant changes, some of which could be positive, others of which would be of concern, I would hope, to both the government and to the opposition.

I think we need to discuss that issue separate and apart because it is such a major issue, and I would remind my friends opposite that we did not hear any of this talk during the election. It's certainly not contained in the Common Sense Revolution or in any of the ancillary documents that the government -- today's government, then the third party -- produced in the lead-up to that election.

With respect to the issue of the changes around financial responsibility in the purpose section, section 0.1, in my view they merely rework language that was already in the act. I would like to remind the government that subsection 0.1(e) in the current statute states:

"(e) to require the board of directors of the Workers' Compensation Board to act in a financially responsible and accountable manner in governing the board."

So what was all the talk about financial responsibility? It's already there. It's already there in the purpose clause. I suggest it's about politics. I think we have a situation today where a government made 12 commitments in the lead-up to the election and suddenly it's having difficulty deciding how to implement those.

In order to divert attention away from the real issues, "We'll bring forward a bill, and we'll talk about financial responsibility because we talked about that at length." Indeed, our party spoke of and understands the need for financial responsibility at the board.

The government brings forward a bill and it talks about the need for financial responsibility and makes some really minor wording changes in the purpose section, in my view and in the view of our party, and in the same breath makes substantial additions to the purpose clause with respect to the issue of health and safety and the delivery and enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in this province.

Our party is prepared to look at health and safety enforcement. We all believe and would strive to see a system that will reduce lost time, accidents and industrial disease in this province. And we're prepared to work with the government, but we need to see the whole package. We need to see why is it that you're changing the purpose section of the Workers' Compensation Act to deal with the whole question of health and safety but not telling us what you intend to do with the health and safety inspectorate. Why is it that you won't allow public discussion around that issue?

I will be asking the minister very directly if she will release minutes from the discussions of her advisory group around these issues, and I will be asking her if she will release to this Legislature and to the people of this province the full responses the government has had to its letter of August 28. Make that information public. Don't have your consultations behind closed doors.

And to the substance of the issue of health and safety enforcement, we believe frankly that if it is the government's intention to move enforcement from the Ministry of Labour into the Workers' Compensation Board, as well as moving the Occupational Health and Safety Act itself, you would be abandoning the proper role of government in administering and enforcing that particular statute. In effect, the government would be abdicating its role. In effect, the government would be abdicating its responsibility to working people in this province.

From a government-wide perspective, this initiative points to a very interesting approach. If, for instance, you move the health and safety division of the Ministry of Labour out of the Ministry of Labour and into the Workers' Compensation Board, what does that do in terms of the government's financial statements? I'll tell you what it does: It reduces the government's operating expense, which the government clearly is committed to, and it moves that expense on to the Workers' Compensation Board, which, unless the government enters into some form of purchase-of-service arrangement with the board, has the effect of transferring the cost of enforcement of this particular statute to employers through their assessments.

There's a very interesting body of literature about the pass-through of those assessments and who ultimately pays the cost associated with that. There's clearly an economic cost associated with it, but does the financial cost pass through to workers through less job creation resultant from what is in effect a new tax? So we will be watching with interest if the government, in its attempt to balance the budget, simply tries to offload expenses that currently show on its books to the expenses that show on other agencies of the government, because that wouldn't be true expenditure reductions.

But even more interesting than that is, what if the government entered into a purchase-of-service arrangement with the WCB? Would this be the thin edge of the wedge in terms of the general rates subsidizing WCB and the violation of Sir William's very basic principles? We don't know because again the government has not come clean with us in terms of its entire agenda and what the ultimate outcomes associated with these proposed changes mean. If the cost of the enforcement of the health and safety act is moved on to the WCB and on to employer assessments, then I suggest to you that this is a new hidden tax on employers and on injured workers.


We'll be watching very closely to see how the government proceeds and we may in fact move amendments to the bill that would strike the proposed section 0.1, paragraphs 5 and 6. We may bring forward those amendments to see if the government is preparing to make those kinds of dramatic changes that it contemplates in its reform of health and safety delivery and enforcement in this province. And it comes back to a fundamental question about how we govern ourselves. This is kind of a peekaboo approach: "We'll show you this little bit here and this little bit here, but over here the substantive changes, the major changes, the changes that will impact directly on injured workers, the changes that will impact most directly on employers, well, we're keeping that quiet. We're not going to discuss that. We'll wait."

The minister without portfolio will have consultations in his office behind closed doors without the benefit of public consultation, without the opportunity to discuss not only the range of policy options the government is looking at, but the alternatives and the potential impacts associated with those changes. We'll be watching very closely on that particular perspective.

The minister spoke about governance at the Workers' Compensation Board and I'd like to take a few moments to address that issue as well.

Bill 15 provides for an end to the bipartite model of governance. It proposes in its place a multi-stakeholder model. The amendments contained in section 6 of the bill, subsections 56(1) and (2) of the act, create a new board under the multi-stakeholder agreement.

We support the government. We support the change to a multi-stakeholder model. We supported that in the election, we offered an alternative and we continue to support that principle. We support governments like the government of British Columbia, which has recognized that there are more than two stakeholders involved.

We said on the debate on Bill 7, and we meant it, that government ought not to be the tool of either labour or management. Government ought to represent the broader public interest. The board of the Workers' Compensation Board in effect represents the government or the broader public interest and, therefore, it is our view that the broader public interest must be represented in the governance of the Workers' Compensation Board and its affairs.

Section 6 of the bill, subsections 56(1) and (2) of the act, creates this new board, which is proposed to consist of the chair, the president and a minimum of three and a maximum of seven members who are representative of workers, employers and such others as the Lieutenant Governor in Council considers appropriate.

As I indicated, our party supports the multistakeholder model. However, we will bring forward amendments specifying an equal number of worker and employer representatives and will bring forward amendments which will also provide the government with more specificity with respect to who the other appointees can be.

We believe that if we are going to move in the direction of a multistakeholder model, the Legislature ought to be clearer in its intention of what it means by a multistakeholder model. We think that if the board is composed properly, if it is truly representative of employers and of workers and of other stakeholders, and if that board is perceived to be fair and perceived to be acting in the broader public interest, then we believe the future affairs of the board will be held in higher regard. So the question of governance is very important and it will impact on every aspect of how the board does business.

In my home, Windsor --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): A great city.

Mr Duncan: A great city indeed -- we have always embodied the principle and we have always said that labour and management must be represented, but the broader public interest must be represented.

Let me give you an example. The municipal council in the city of Windsor has a number of civic committees that are appointed every year, and every year we take a nominated appointment from the local labour council and a nominated appointment from the local chamber of commerce, but the council itself fills the balance of the appointments.

So, in effect, we have practised that multistakeholder model for many years, and it has worked extremely well. It has brought harmony, it has got labour leaders working with business leaders, it has got the broader public interest represented and it brings forward unique solutions to difficult and complex problems.

We believe that the multistakeholder approach is the proper approach, but we believe that you should have shown more specificity with respect to the number of employer and worker representatives as well as more specificity with respect to the non-employer, non-worker representatives who will sit on the board.

The transition provisions of the bill indicate that a new president will be appointed before the bill is in fact proclaimed. I was pleased to hear the minister say that they are close to having a new president. We hope the minister will announce her choice in short order.

We would be most interested to hear the views of the new president prior to his or her appointment. We think the new president might be able to offer words that are instructive and help form good public policy to the Legislature on Bill 15 itself. So if the minister and the government have either found or are close to reaching agreement with the person they envision as the new president, we urge them to make that announcement and make that appointment so that we can hear the views of that person with respect to Bill 15 and with respect to the issue of governance of the board.

We truly hope that the government keeps to its commitment with respect to the appointment of a competent insurance executive for the post. It's a serious issue, and I know my colleagues both in the New Democratic Party and in my own party share that view. It's an extremely serious issue. There has been considerable consternation expressed by various stakeholders about which of our two WCB ministers is really in charge. It would appear that a considerable power struggle has been going on since this government was sworn in.


I remember the Minister of Labour's July press release. I call it the Alexander Haig press release, the I'm-in-charge-here press release. Right out of the clear blue on a Friday we get this press release faxed to our office that says -- we didn't raise the issue; we didn't ask if they weren't getting on or if they were having a little tiff among themselves or if somebody was stepping on someone else's toes. Right out of the clear blue this press release comes from the Minister of Labour, saying: "Look, I'm in charge of the really important things. All of the important things that go into WCB reform, I'm in charge of." The Minister without Portfolio --


Mr Duncan: Well, maybe it was, because, you know, the Minister without Portfolio was left, I think, for ordering paper clips and other things. But it wasn't clear at all, and we couldn't understand what generated it. It was a lovely summer day, the sun was shining, people were walking in the streets of downtown anxiously awaiting leadership from this government on WCB reform -- on Ouellette Avenue in Windsor they were talking about it on that day; they truly were -- and we get this press release. We didn't raise -- I know my friends and colleagues in the third party were all away, I think, because they weren't saying anything about it. They were still recovering from June 8.

The Acting Speaker: Please address the Chair.

Mr Duncan: Mr Speaker, they were still recovering from June 8.

So it appears that a considerable power struggle has been going on within the government between the Minister of Labour and the Minister without Portfolio.

Interjection: Do you believe it?

Mr Duncan: I believe it. I truly believe it. While this makes for interesting theatre, it makes for bad public policy. Interestingly, with the introduction of this bill the Minister of Labour -- who on August 28 wrote to, I believe, 200 stakeholders asking for their input on a number of issues, saying that she was going to be dealing with these issues with her fall bill -- when she brought forward her bill she now says that the Minister without Portfolio will be doing those. So apparently that power struggle is still going on, and it would appear as though the Minister without Portfolio now has the upper hand in this epic battle.

One thing the government said in the Common Sense Revolution is that you need a leader. It says you need to be clear. We couldn't agree more, which made the Premier's appointment of two ministers very difficult to understand. As we see this power battle shifting back and forth, one day one's on top, the other day the other's on top, and it just keeps changing, the fight, what it says, the message it sends out clearly is that there's nobody in charge, that we're more interested in fighting among ourselves than we are in dealing with the real problems. Maybe that's why the government hasn't brought forward its complete proposed set of reforms.

As I said, the government, the then third party, was very, very clear in the election about what they would do if only they were given the chance to do it, and how quickly they would deal with it. So perhaps this epic battle explains to the House why we have only a small part of the reform measures that the government is contemplating.

One other side amendment that came about as a result of the change in the purpose clause is that the government has removed the financial responsibility of the board from the purpose clause and added subsection 58(2) to the duty clause of the board of directors, which again in our view is merely window dressing to try and give the impression that the government is doing more than it really is in the area of financial responsibility.

Mr Gerretsen: It's superfluous.

Mr Duncan: "Superfluous." That's a good word. That's a very good word, "superfluous."

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Him. Him.

Mr Duncan: But they have to do something, because they said they would.

To the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, who is pointing to me and saying, "You're superfluous," well, perhaps I am. But we are trying to bring forward constructive amendments to what we think is a bill that (a) is incomplete, and (b), even the small things they attempt to do really don't do it very well.

I'm reminded by the minister's comments of the new duty-free store at the Ambassador Bridge, which he tried to block.

Interjection: He did?

Mr Duncan: He did, he really did, and fortunately, the board of the Liquor Control Board overruled him. They took it upon themselves to make the decision despite --


Mr Duncan: It's interesting. But I'd invite the minister -- he was down at Casino Windsor, you know, and as the minister responsible for regulating casino gaming of course couldn't partake of the casino games -- but I would invite him to come on down and see the duty-free store and to see the university students who are employed there and to see the unique relationship that's been created between the private and public sectors to fund the University of Windsor in a creative, open and positive manner. Not an ideologically driven, closed-minded, "I don't like them, I'm not going to do that" kind of response, but a very, very positive development that will help the University of Windsor --

Hon Mr Sterling: -- the federal Liberal government.

Mr Duncan: Oh, and that government's done no patronage. Oh, no. No, no. Well, we'll talk more about that later in my address.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Take your time.

Mr Duncan: I am. I'm rather enjoying this.

Interjection: This is the preamble.

Mr Duncan: This is just the preamble. I haven't even got into the substance of the bill.

But I would like to invite the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations to come on down. We'll show him some Windsor hospitality. He has been there. He did a very good job too while he was there. But he didn't get over to the Ambassador Bridge, and we'd like to take him there to see that, and we'd like again to have him have the opportunity to see what happens when the private and public sectors work together on a creative initiative.

So the issues around financial responsibility, the amendments proposed in Bill 15, really aren't that substantive in their nature, in our view. The best way to ensure that the board acts in a financially prudent way is to appoint competent members who have a track record in financial management, be it in a union or management setting. We urge the government to resist the temptation to appoint only its friends --

Mr Marchese: Oh, they wouldn't do that.

Mr Duncan: Well, you never know. We urge them to resist that temptation and appoint individuals who can contribute to rebuilding this tattered organization from the ground up: competent insurance executives.

I remember when we appointed Dr Robert Elgie to the chair of the Workers' Compensation Board, a fine and outstanding citizen of this province, a minister in the Davis government for many years, a medical doctor by profession and an outstanding chair of the WCB, appointed by the David Peterson Liberal government. So yes, indeed, there are precedents for appointing people of other political persuasions, and that was only nine years ago. It wasn't long ago, and Dr Elgie served as a competent, indeed an inspiring, leader of the board in his tenure, as he served in previous governments.


Interjection: Oh, that member doesn't agree over there.

Mr Duncan: I know. It's a shame to say that they don't even recognize the contribution of their own party -- and the strength. I look across from me and I see many people of great talent and understanding who can serve this province. Though we may disagree on policy matters, and we will disagree, I still respect them as individuals and their contribution. That's why we appointed Dr Elgie, because we knew he was a capable guy who understood the issues.

I hope your government will show the same foresight, will show the same singular determination to make the Workers' Compensation Board work, and appoint somebody without consideration to partisanship.

Mr Marchese: He may be Liberal; we understand.

Mr Duncan: I know that would be hard for the New Democrats. They poisoned the public service in this province. Right from David Agnew on down, they poisoned it. We had a competent, professional, independent public service in this province.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Oh, please.

Mr Duncan: We did. That was one of the great legacies of the Davis government; it truly was. I hope and I look forward to this government dealing with that and restoring that singular and competent and professional and independent public service to where it was, it seems, so many years ago.

There's also new wording with respect to section 65.2, the memorandum of understanding section of the bill, which takes power from the board and places it solely in the hands of the Minister of Labour. The amendments also provide that the memorandum of understanding must address certain issues as defined in the act.

Again, I express some concerns about this because the government, in the election and in the period prior to the election, spoke of the need to depoliticize the operation of the board. While we support all initiatives aimed at improving the accountability of the board, we are concerned that the board should be accountable to the Legislature, through the minister. We will bring forward amendments to Bill 15 which will give effect to this very fundamental value that we hold.

We will, for instance, amend section 13 of the bill to read, "Every five years, the board and the minister, acting on behalf of the Legislature, shall enter into a memorandum of understanding containing only such terms as may be directed by the minister and/or the Legislature." In subsection (2) of the same section, we will substitute the word "Legislature" for the word "minister" wherever the word "minister" appears. We will further amend subsections (2.1) and (2.2) to provide for that very same principle. It is the view of our party that the board must be accountable to the Legislature and not just to the Minister of Labour.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): That's really democracy.

Mr Duncan: Democracy.

Finally, we'll amend section 16 of Bill 15 to provide that the Legislature will determine where value-for-money audits will be conducted. Wouldn't it be interesting -- and I can't imagine that this government would, but some government some day may decide not to study part of the act or not to study part of the board, or do a value-for-money audit, for political purposes. So it ought to be left to the Legislature to determine where those value-for-money audits should be conducted.

If you are truly interested, if you truly believe that better financial management and accountability will result from those value-for-money audits, then I am quite certain that my friends and colleagues opposite will support our amendment, which will allow the Legislature to determine where value-for-money audits will be conducted on an annual basis.

A new subsection 108.1(1) is added which provides that employers will "register with the board within 10 days after becoming an employer."

These amendments are really interesting, and I don't think -- oh, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has left. He fulfilled one of their party's commitments with respect to corporate filing, and we applauded him and we supported him on that. He has truly, I think, been committed to relieving the burden of business in this province, trying to cut red tape, trying to make it easier to open a business and conduct a business.

But if you look closely at section 108.1 -- and I would urge my friends opposite, who I know have made commitments to employers in their communities, who I know genuinely believe what they said in the election -- you will see that you're going to be increasing the paperwork associated with workers' compensation in this province; you will be adding to the regulatory burden.

For a government that's made a lot of noise about lessening the paper burden, we find it very interesting that employers, both new and established, will be facing an additional paper burden associated with section 108.1, and we think it will be ominous. Just wait until those officials at the board get hold of these new statutes. Just think about all the fun they can have devising new forms and new paperwork.

I would urge my friends opposite to support me when I bring forward amendments to change that, because it was your commitment to get rid of unnecessary paperwork and red tape.

What you have done, and what the minister has done by simply trying to show how tough the government is with WCB fraud, is slap new paperwork, slap new burden, slap new red tape on business that will undo much of the good that the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations has done by removing the unnecessary filing and filing fees associated with his ministry.

We'll be pursuing that and we will be offering you amendments that I think you'll be very comfortable supporting because I know, like us, you are committed to reducing the paper burden that employers, both new and established in this province, are faced with.

Amendments to subsection 109(6) of the act and a new section 109.1 again break the Tory promise to reduce red tape by adding significant paper requirements to employers that really, as I thought about it and as I studied those clauses, don't amount to a lot.

Again, we will recommend that the government drop those sections of the bill. We will recommend that the government remain committed to eliminating red tape and to helping business do business in the province of Ontario in a cost-effective way. We believe very firmly that these amendments to the new section 108.1 and to subsection 109(6) and the new 109.1, when your officials in the board get hold of them and start defining the paper to give effect to these amendments, it will have the effect, in our view, of creating yet more paper for an already overburdened employer community in this province.

Our party has no strong objection to the new proposed section 130.1, which provides that any "overpayment made to the board by an employer is a debt due...." However, we hope that the new president and board will pay serious attention to overpayments to both workers and employers. The large sums of money that are involved in overpayments hinder cash flow, cost tens of thousands in interest charges alone and again impose an unnecessary administrative burden not only on the board, not only on employers, but also on injured workers, and so we believe, and we will support that section, but we'll be talking in committee and we'll be asking the new president to pay serious attention to those overpayments because they cost tens of millions of dollars every year.


Mr Speaker, sections 17 to 26 of Bill 15 -- Madam Speaker, I apologize; the Chair has changed -- while designed to reduce fraud and waste, in our view will likely wind up costing more to enforce than they will save. Again we have the spectacle of the government trying to create the impression --


Mr Duncan: I do hope you come back to Windsor. It was so nice to have you there. We enjoyed your visit so much; I know the building trades people did. It's a shame you left in such a hurry. I can't say that I blame you and I must admit I admire your tenacity, and your members and your colleagues ought to be proud. They ought to be proud. You stood there and you stuck to your guns and you told what you believed to be the truth, and we look forward to having you and indeed the Minister of Labour and any member of your party into our city. My friend from Chatham and I engaged in a most enlightening discussion just last Thursday with the leaders of our local labour movement and chambers of commerce. Again, we welcome all of you to Windsor at any time.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Have a welcoming committee.

Mr Duncan: We'll have a great welcoming committee. I'll take you to the casino myself just to show you how important it is to our local economy. We truly hope the Premier appreciates that. You know, that casino employs over 3,000 people today. Of course the Premier started out, when he got into office, saying he was going to have a referendum right across Ontario, including Windsor, and I must say I admire him for recognizing how well accepted that initiative has been in our community and for agreeing not to subject Windsor to that kind of referendum.

My colleagues from Windsor and I will be pursuing questions with respect to his commitment to give 10% of the profits to the city of Windsor. That could amount to -- well, Madam Speaker, you'll certainly be aware of that. You opposed those. You opposed giving 10% to Windsor -- cut a very tight deal that saw Windsor getting really the indirect benefits. We'll be talking more to the Premier and the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism about their commitment to that 10% they spoke so eloquently about in the election. We look forward to sharing in those tens of millions of dollars of revenue that the government receives from the operation of Casino Windsor.

Section 27 of the bill creates a new part V of the act, entitled "Offences and Penalties":

"New offences are established for providing false or misleading statements to the board and for failing to advise the board of material changes in circumstance. Directors and officers of a corporation are guilty of an offence if they knowingly authorize, permit or acquiesce in the commission of an offence by the corporation.

"Existing offence provisions are moved into" this part of the act. "Current penalty provisions are moved to part V and the level of maximum penalties is increased."

As I said earlier, fraud is no doubt of great concern to all of us. Some have suggested that WCB fraud may cost close to $500 million a year. Previously, the vice-chair of administration indicated that the figure was closer to $150 million. I noted in her statement today that the minister seemed to be concurring with that figure.

While we support the government's intention, we are also reminded that all the laws in the world will not work if they're not properly enforced. We will be asking the minister how many times the existing maximums have been imposed and enforced. We'll be exploring that in our discussions about this bill because again our overall sense is that these amendments are really designed to say a lot and not do very much. So we'll be talking at greater length about all of those issues.

Again I remind my colleagues here in the House: If you change the law and maintain the same structures for enforcement, then you really haven't done anything at all. Perhaps we'll ask the minister to use her power to direct that greater enforcement initiatives be undertaken by the board. That's a very fascinating power, and I suspect the Minister of Labour will rue the day that she ever agreed to that, because we will be coming back to her time and time again to use her powers, which she has made permanent by these amendments. We suspect that she'll some day think to herself, "My goodness, why did I ever agree to that?" We respect what she's attempting to do, but as I say, we intend to fully use that provision in our questions and in our debates today and in the future around issues involving compensation and the Workers' Compensation Board.

Finally, sections 28 to 33 of the bill give effect to the minister's August announcement with respect to the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. I would like to remind the minister and the House that because of Dr Tuohy's recommendations, and because of a report by the agency's own auditor, we do not support putting the agency under the direct control of the Workers' Compensation Board. Dr Tuohy explicitly reviewed this option and rejected it in the short term to allow the significant problems the agency was experiencing to be addressed in a systematic fashion with a set of recommendations that might help it work better. It would have been sunsetted in 1997 in any event. It was and remains our view that doing away with the agency is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Red book, page 10.

Mr Duncan: A good book it was too, I might add.

I note that instead of cutting WCB assessments by 5%, you've acted on our promise about freezing rates. We'll see how far you go in other areas, and we'll see over time the difference between ideologically driven agendas that aren't based in fact and constructive and pragmatic solutions that are offered up by political parties to address problems in a meaningful and substantive way.

Again, we on this side of the House are particularly interested to know what the government intends to do about workplace health and safety. I don't have to remind the minister that the best way to reduce WCB costs is to reduce sickness and injury in the workplace. Again, I ask the government that, given the massive restructuring that you are contemplating with respect to health and safety, we sincerely hope that you will offer public hearings on this most important topic. Frankly, we're concerned that you won't.

Interjection: They don't do it often.

Mr Duncan: They don't do it often, that's right, and it's most unfortunate, because bad public policy emerges from that kind of approach. Even if you can agree in substance with what the government attempts to do, even if you can get to that point, by attempting to amend and significantly alter legislation that impacts as directly as labour legislation or as workers' compensation legislation, you must do so cautiously and prudently and ensure that you do it right, because if you don't, we all pay a price, and mistakes are made, honest mistakes are made, when you attempt to rush through those kinds of changes.


Why, I hear the officials in the Ministry of Labour were up all night the night before Bill 7 was finally brought in, before they brought out that large document with all their changes. It was most unfortunate because, my friends, the Labour Relations Act is going to be opened up again. It will be opened up again. You're going to have to, to respond to your friends in the business community. You're going to have to because you've made some serious errors in drafting.

So even if you can get by the draconian substance of that particular bill, even if you can buy into it, you've created problems that you're going to have to fix, and we're going to be right there. Maybe we'll have public hearings on those and maybe at that point we can talk about scab labour and we can talk about rolling labour laws back to the 1940s in this province, because we really weren't given the opportunity this time around.

Again, as I noted earlier, the government was very clear in its campaign documents about what it intended to do. I mean, you can't take it away: They said what they would do and they're attempting to do it. But in the area of health and safety and the enforcement of the health and safety act, there's silence. You're contemplating major structural changes which require full public debate and discussion before you go on.

Having reviewed the bill, I'd now like to address what's not in the bill. As I noted earlier, on August 28 the minister issued a consultation letter to approximately 200 stakeholders. That letter addressed the following issues: governance, benefit levels, waiting periods, limiting entitlement, financial accountability, value-for-money audits and fraud. Of the seven points I've just reviewed, only four have been addressed. These four, which I reviewed earlier, haven't even been well done in the bill. We've found lots of mistakes. You've taken the easiest ones, you've brought them forward and you haven't even done a good job with them. It's not a question of not going fast enough; it's a question of, in a piecemeal fashion, making changes to the board.

We would suggest you take your time and you do it all at once. It can be argued, as I said earlier, that the minister has deliberately not dealt with the most difficult and fundamental issues involving the Workers' Compensation Board: the question of benefit levels, the question of waiting period and the question of limited entitlement. Going back to the epic battle, maybe one can see, after that July press release, the Minister of Labour thought: "Maybe I'd better leave this to Mr Jackson to do. Bill 7's enough for any one minister. I'll leave these tough things to Mr Jackson."

In her statement to the House announcing Bill 15, the minister said: "Mr Jackson is reviewing the current system for compensating long-term permanent disabilities, the existing adjudication and appeals structure, and alternative approaches to delivering workers' compensation services. The package will also include measures to address our commitments on benefit levels, waiting period, entitlement and assessment rates."

These are the real issues in compensation reform. Moreover, the minister's review is being conducted in secret behind closed doors, without any meaningful public input. Madam Speaker, I would suggest to you that the government is prepared to cut benefits, eliminate entitlement, establish waiting periods, without any form of public consultation prior to the introduction of legislation.

While we supported getting rid of the royal commission, we believe that the new minister ought to be holding public consultations on the proposed reforms. Thousands upon thousands of injured workers and employers have a huge stake in the government's planned reforms, yet no public consultation is happening.

So we've been presented with a bill that deals with the least contentious elements of workers' compensation reform -- it doesn't do that very well -- and we're left to wonder what the hidden agenda is; what's next. We are left to take calls from injured workers in our ridings about, "Are they going to cut me and by how much?" We're left to field calls from employers who said: "They promised us a 5% reduction in assessments. They said it could happen quickly. Well, where is it?" We're left with that dilemma, that very elementary dilemma, that touches on the lives of tens of thousands of people in our province. What are we to make of all this?

I would suggest to the government that rather than dealing with workers' compensation reform in a piecemeal fashion, you ought to be doing it in its entirety. Before you introduce legislation, you ought to be consulting publicly, and when you introduce legislation, you ought to send it out for further public hearings.

I'll remind you that the reason workers' compensation is such a difficult issue is that it touches so many people. While the government has shown its desire to deal with fraud and to deal with the bad things associated with the board, we haven't addressed the real needs of injured workers. We haven't addressed how we will make the compensation system financially viable while at the same time ensuring that our assessment premiums are competitive and that injured workers receive fair entitlement. You've avoided that.

I again assert that they have avoided it because they're going to cut benefits to the injured workers. They're going to introduce waiting periods that are longer than all other jurisdictions in this country. They are thinking about taking us to an American style, similar to Michigan or other jurisdictions, that really isn't the way we ought to be going.

When you do finally bring forward your changes, we'll be prepared to respond to them. Indeed, we presented a very substantive document around compensation prior to the election, campaigned on it during the election, and we will stand and use that as the basis for our response.

I guess I really ought not to be surprised. Proceeding without consultation in a piecemeal fashion, trying to ram through substantive policy changes without meaningful public input, going after the most vulnerable people in our society --

Interjection: It's their trademark.

Mr Duncan: It's their trademark. It is a pattern, and a pattern that attacks the most vulnerable in our society without due process, without much thought and certainly without a lot of consultation.

As I said in my reply to the speech from the throne, we all agree that the government, and indeed the WCB, must get its financial house in order. The question is not the direction we go in; rather, it's how we get there and over what period of time we take to get there. Equity, fairness, balance, moderation are the hallmarks of sensitive and thoughtful public policy which is designed to address real problems in a systematic fashion.


They've cut welfare rates. They've cut health care expenditures, despite promises to the contrary. They've not delivered on a nutrition program. They've cut subsidized child care. They've cut second-stage shelter and counselling for battered women and their families. They've cut a variety of programs and services aimed at helping the elderly, the disabled, native persons. It's the vulnerable.

Next spring, I would suggest to you, the government will turn its attention to injured workers. It will turn its attention to injured workers, and I would suggest to you that the kinds of reforms they contemplate will penalize those injured workers and hurt those people more than they're already hurt.

I'm saddened by that, deeply saddened, because we do agree that the province's finances must be brought into order. We believe very strongly that you can do that and minimize the negative impacts, but this government is practising a public policy that is polarizing all of us. It has devised and will continue to bring forward initiatives that will establish very clear winners and very clear losers.

When you practise public policy in that fashion, you abandon the political culture of this province, you abandon the advances we've made as a society and you replace them with a deeply divided and angry province and constituency. You are pitting rich against poor, north against south, women against men, labour against management. Oh, yes, you're absolutely right: There will be winners in this. There will be many winners in this. But there will be many more losers. There will be many more who are real losers.

What profit any of us at the real expense of our most poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters? How do we profit as a society? How do we gain as a people when we collectively and unequivocally create an entire class of people who will be undereducated, underserviced in terms of health care, underfed, underhoused --

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Systematically and deliberately.

Mr Duncan: Systematically and deliberately. How do we say we have achieved growth as a people? I submit that we don't, and I again reiterate, what profit any of us at the expense of our most poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters?

While we may take some perverse pleasure in attempting to make the reforms that we're making, and while we may think and we take the paternalistic attitude that this is in their best interests, I would suggest to you it's not; and I would suggest to you that each and every one of us in this province will regret this systematic attack on the most vulnerable people in our midst. We are saddened, deeply saddened, that this type of public policy can be pursued in what has historically been such a progressive society.

When we look at the Common Sense Revolution, they hold it up and they say, "We were elected. We said we'd do this," and yes, they were. But talk about tapping into society's ugly underbelly. Talk about exploiting falsehoods about welfare, talk about exploiting the injured workers in this province, talk about exploiting all of those in this province who are likely to be the most harmed. We think it's most regrettable.

Yes, you got a mandate and yes, you're acting on it. But don't be afraid to question, don't be afraid to say to yourselves, "Were we really right about this?" Don't be afraid. Just as you have said to us here that there are no sacred cows, don't be afraid to question whether or not your mantra is always right. Look at reality. Look around you. In the weeks and months and years to come, we'll see.

You've already finished your work in labour relations, and the consequences of that are only beginning to be felt. Our economy in this province is, at best, in a precarious position. Many factors are beyond the control of our provincial government. Unemployment remains persistently high, and in Bill 15 and in other bills you haven't addressed that question. You've simply relied on the old mantra that if you cut government, jobs will happen.

I hope you're right, I truly hope you're right, because you're pursuing that agenda. My fear is that you're pursuing that agenda in a climate where your own Finance department has said Ontario entered into a recession in the first two quarters of this year. They said that this quarter will be a little bit better but it's still not going to be good. So you better be right. You better be right, because you don't make the kinds of mistakes we think you're making and get away with it.

We hope that in the weeks and months to come the government and the minister, whichever minister's in charge of workers' compensation, will pay serious attention to the realities that we're confronted with. Don't attack singly the most vulnerable people in the compensation system. Be balanced. Be fair. Show moderation.

We think we can offer a number of amendments where -- in fact, as I said to the members opposite, we're going to make amendments that you had proposed in the campaign, and we'll challenge you to vote for your own promises. You likely won't.

We assert that in a society as diverse as ours the rigidity associated with their policies and their Common Sense Revolution will ultimately lead to economic disequilibrium and eventual recession. This government is practising a public policy that will create the first made-in-Ontario recession. It is a recipe for recession. It is a recipe that will undermine not only the basic fabric of our caring and compassionate society but the economic strength that this province has long been known for.

We suggest that the government think about models that have worked elsewhere, where budgets are brought under control, where finances are brought under control without unduly penalizing the poor, the dispossessed and the vulnerable.


Right in my own community of Windsor, in a highly unionized environment, our city embarked on a fiscal fitness and debt reduction plan in 1986, again in 1989, and we went from being the highest per capita debt municipality to the lowest. We are now engaged in a strategic right-sizing exercise to deal with a bloated bureaucracy. I was proud to be part of that. We did it. We did it not on the backs of the poor, not on the backs of those who had no voice or couldn't properly defend themselves; we did it fairly. We did it in cooperation with the previous government. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that. You can do it.

There is over $5 billion of new investment going on in my community, yet our unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, and we all have to work on that.

So I say to the government, we will be proposing a series of amendments to your bill. We will be proposing a series of amendments which you endorsed in the campaign and the lead-up to the campaign, just to see how truly committed you are to them and to see if in fact the members opposite will tell their government to keep its commitments on some of these. But most importantly, we truly hope that some of the amendments we provide you with and will offer up will help strengthen what is a weak bill.

We hope that you'll come clean on the rest of your WCB agenda and that we can look at what you're going to do to those injured workers and to employers, so that we can have a full debate on the issues around WCB reform and we can work together to make the system work, to work for all members.

We hope the minister will announce the appointment of a president before this bill receives royal assent, so that we can seek out his or her views on this bill.

We hope, above all else, that you will consult a broad range of people as you prepare your reforms, and when you bring in those reforms, we truly hope that you'll allow adequate public debate. Working together, we can make the system work in a financially responsible way. We look forward to the opportunity to do that.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments?

Mr Marchese: I just want to focus my remarks on the whole issue of a bipartite board versus a multistakeholder board, and I wish to disagree, obviously, with the member for Windsor-Walkerville who agrees with the whole notion of a multistakeholder board and disagrees strongly with this government that's proposing it.

The point of a bipartite board was to attempt to achieve some fairness between labour and employers, an attempt to restore some balance, because there has never been balance between labour and business. The sadness around it is that if we did try to do it, it would create some positive consequences in the end, but we've never tried that. The point of a bipartite board was to try to achieve some of that balance that, in my view, is important.

Who are the affected groups when we talk about such a board? It's the employers and the workers. These are the important stakeholders in this whole discussion: the employers who obviously have to deal with health and safety, who have to deal with injuries in the workplace, and the worker who obviously falls victim from time to time to injuries in the workplace. These are the most important players in this whole area. So there's an attempt to build collaboration. There's obviously a tension between them as they try to work together, but ultimately it was an attempt to get them to work together.

What this party is doing is creating an obvious imbalance and creating a structure that supports an ideologically bent government. Look what they did with Bill 7. It was an assault on workers and nothing less. It was clearly not an attempt to restore balance, because workers have never had that in their history. If you have any doubt about whether labour will be underrepresented, make no mistake about it, they will be.

In 1985, what we had was a multistakeholder board appointed by a Conservative government which had in large part Conservative political appointees, and that's what we're going to get from now on.

Mr Baird: I'd like to first congratulate the honourable member for the best five speeches I've ever heard him give in this place all at once; and in addition, to thank my friend from Windsor for the hospitality that he and his fellow Windsorites gave to me on my recent visit to Windsor. I really enjoyed the visit.

When I sought the nomination of my party some eight or nine months ago, we had about 150 people out at the nomination meeting, and there were more than that waiting to greet me outside the auditorium in Windsor. So I really enjoyed meeting with the citizens of Windsor.

The member has indicated his willingness to work with the government on the policy issues outlined in this bill. I think that sort of spirit is genuinely appreciated. We look forward to working with him in committee with this legislation.

The member also discussed scrapping the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. That's something that's known very well in this Parliament. Two of the three political parties in fact promised to scrap it. I was reading the red book the other day, as I do on occasion, and there the Liberal Party had pledged to scrap the agency as well. Now, all of a sudden, it's a bad idea, which is most interesting.

The member also brought up the issue of some plan to transfer health and safety enforcement to the WCB. I'd indicate that, no, there are no plans to transfer the health and safety enforcement functions of the ministry to the board. The occupational health and safety review panel is considering how to integrate the functions of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency into the WCB, but does not include enforcement activities. That will of course remain with the ministry. This issue has come up and I think it's important to put that on record.

The Provincial Auditor, in his report today, mentions that the WCB had failed to get control in terms of developing progress with the strategy to deal with the unfunded liability. This bill is the beginning of that solution.

Mr Michael Brown: I always enjoy it when the member for Windsor-Walkerville brings a brief message to the Legislature about this important bill. He's brought some insight here that I think we all can take very close account of.

I've been a member of this Legislature now for about eight years, and one of the items that seems to occupy me and my staff and my constituency office is workers' compensation issues. I think any member who has been in this place for any length of time knows the angst of having people in your constituency office bringing the problems of the Workers' Compensation Board and their entitlements thereto to your attention, and the frustration of dealing with this board that I think all of us have found.

We also know in our constituency offices the frustration that employers have had, likewise in terms of workers' compensation.

The government, in bringing this bill, and perhaps the member can comment on this when he has an opportunity, has to understand that a few changes in governance -- and the whole breadth of this bill is not particularly deep in terms of what is really going to come upon us in the spring after a kind of non-public consultation that is going on today.

I am very concerned, and I have had workers and employers come to my office, call me on the phone or see me on the street, and say to me, "What is going to happen come spring?" I think it behooves the government to come forward and put real proposals out there so we can talk about the substance of WCB reforms in a meaningful and open fashion.

I congratulate my friend the member for Windsor-Walkerville on his presentation and hope that he has more opportunity to do so in the future.


Mr Len Wood: In response to the member for Windsor-Walkerville, under comments and questions, we have legislation here, Bill 15, that is rolling the clock back prior to 1914, when the compensation was brought in to make sure the workers were protected. In the event that they were injured on the job, they didn't have to go through the courts with the lawsuits. So what we have is being rolled back.

It seems like this is very similar to the comments we heard from the Minister of Education and Training a number of months ago that in education we have to create a crisis.

Now we have the Minister of Labour saying that -- maybe it was working good. I mean, there was a board of directors, half from labour and half from business, that worked over the last six months to bring in a number of changes, and the compensation board was being brought under control. The liability was being reduced. But by bringing in Bill 15 -- I'm sure the member for Windsor-Walkerville is going to want to comment on that further -- they've created a crisis, or they pretend there is a crisis and then they have to do something about it, the same as they did when the brought in Bill 7, which legalizes scabs and replacement workers on the job. It's going to create nothing but violence, strikes and lockouts throughout the whole province and scare employers away, which in turn kills jobs in Ontario.

I believe that the Workers' Compensation Board, as it was in 1985 under the Tories, where you had all Tory appointments on the board prior to the government being defeated in 1985 -- now we see appointments day after day from Brian Mulroney's area. They're bringing them into Ontario. By firing the board of directors at the WCB, I'm sure they're just trying to make room for some of Brian Mulroney's cronies on the board.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The time's up. The member for Windsor-Walkerville, you have two minutes to respond.

Mr Duncan: Well, there's not a lot left to say, except that I've never had trouble speaking for 90 minutes, but standing up for 90 minutes is a great challenge.

I would like to point out to the people who are listening that we see here today those two extremes. We see my colleagues and friends in the New Democratic Party trying to suggest that there's nothing wrong, "Just let's keep going the way we've been going," which in my view is just absolutely wrong. There's a serious problem. I've yet to run into an injured worker who's completely satisfied with the way his or her case has been dealt with. I'm sure we've all experienced workers who we know obviously ought to be receiving comp who don't get it and vice versa.

Then we see the other extreme, the extreme right that wants to proceed ideologically without any kind of thoughtfulness.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Duncan: The member for Nickel Belt, when in government, seriously tried to peddle to the middle of the spectrum. I remember his comments as a young man about nationalizing banks and steel companies, and when they got Inco, and when they got into office they abandoned the left so quickly your head would spin. Now they're moving back there, which is very interesting. But that kind of policy doesn't justify the kinds of extremes that you take, and the side opposite.

I say to the people of Ontario that we need to restore balance and moderation in public affairs in our province. We need to look at issues in a constructive fashion. We need to reject the extremes of the left and the extremes of the right and get back to a position of moderation and balance and reality in public policy in the province of Ontario. The Liberal Party is committed to that.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate, the member for Beaches-Woodbine, and I'll have order, please.

Ms Lankin: I indicate that our lead-off speech of 90 minutes will be split and that I'll be starting off today, and tomorrow our critic, the member for Hamilton Centre, will be taking over, just for the record so that people know.

I wanted to start off by saying how pleased I was to have an opportunity to participate in --

The Acting Speaker: Excuse me one moment. Will the member take her seat, please. I believe I need unanimous consent for that to take place. Agreed? Agreed.

Ms Lankin: I wanted to indicate my pleasure at taking part in this debate. I've had the opportunity in the past to work very closely with the Workers' Compensation Board and with cases of injured workers going forward there in my experience working in the trade union movement. Then under the Liberal government I was in fact appointed as a full-time member of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, as a worker representative on the tripartite adjudicative panel, and it was quite an eye opener. It was a very interesting experience and a very enlightening experience.

I think all members of the House will agree, in fact have over the years agreed that there are tremendous problems facing the administration of the Workers' Compensation Board, and that there have been many attempts over the years to try and resolve some of these issues, and that we are all jointly responsible for the state of affairs and jointly interested in resolving the concerns that are in the system, concerns that employers have and that injured workers have and that the administrators of the board themselves have with respect to the operation of workers' compensation and that system in Ontario.

But I have to indicate my disappointment at the bill that is before the Legislature today. We know that this government has very big plans for changes to the workers' compensation system. I fear some of the changes that are proposed, but I would at least like the opportunity to be addressing those changes in one complete package so that we can see how the proposals interact with each other and what the cumulative effect will be.

The bill that is before us today deals primarily with the issue of governance. There are a few measures that the minister describes as anti-fraud measures, and I'll speak to those in more detail as I proceed, but by and large it deals with the replacement of the bipartite board. What it doesn't deal with, which I believe is the essence of the commitments that were made in the Common Sense Revolution and during the campaign with respect to reform of workers' compensation, are a series of initiatives that were set out in more detail in the minister's letter of August 28 that you've heard referred to today already.

Those in fact are very contentious proposals. They include the cutting of benefits to injured workers, workers who have in the course of performing their duties on the job experienced a workplace industrial accident or have contracted an industrial disease as a result of exposure perhaps to substances in the workplace, those workers who have seen their ability to continue as full participants in the workforce, to earn full wages for their families, who have had the devastating experience -- and believe me, I have seen many of these workers in appeal situations and realize the incredibly negative impact this can have on the lives of the individual workers and their families. These people are sitting there wondering what will be happening to them in the future, and all they know is that there is a commitment on the part of this government to cut their benefits.

Another one of the proposals is instituting a three-day waiting period, as if somehow that's going to be a measure to control the number of claims that are going to be filed. Well, again, what it is doing is insinuating that there is an inappropriate behaviour on the part of injured workers. If you are injured on the job and you are eligible under the rules of compensation to receive compensation, why should there be a waiting period for you to receive your wages? Why should you go for a number of days without being compensated? This is not taking an illness leave or taking a vacation which you don't have banked vacation days for. This is as a result of an injury in the actual workplace.

Another one of the proposals that has been promised is barring claims for stress. It's interesting that over the years there has been a documented body of scientific research and evidence that has been developed which has come to understand the relationship of people's working situations and their workload and their exposure to certain factors in the workplace and the onset of symptoms of stress, and what that can do to a person's capability to continue as a full participant in their family lives and in their working lives. And yet the very beginning steps of recognizing that and attempting to determine how to compensate those kinds of injuries of stress are being wiped away by the proposals being put forward by this government.

There's restricting entitlement in cases where workplaces contribute to a disability but may not be the only cause, so if you have some kind of back problem but you lift something in the workplace and you severely aggravate that back problem, then that's no longer, potentially, a case where you would be eligible. There's always been a balance of what is the most predominant factor. Adjudicators have always looked at that to determine whether or not the workplace incident is a contributing factor and should be eligible. But it looks like the government is proposing, wherever there is a pre-existing condition and something happens in the workplace that is related to any pre-existing condition, that this would rule a worker ineligible for compensation.

Madam Speaker, I'm not sure about you, but I know that as the years go on, the various physical frailties that I suffer would leave me in a situation of not having very many occasions, if I experienced something, in which the employer could not say there was a pre-existing condition. I really worry about the direction the government is taking with this and what the goal is, because it seems to me that in all of these there is a goal which is quite insidious, of somehow painting the injured worker as a malingerer, as someone who has abused the system, as someone who is not entitled. And I say this particularly keeping in mind the way in which this government has spoken about those who are recipients of social assistance in our society.


I don't believe that there is any member of this Legislature who would condone fraud of any system, whether it be the health care system, the social assistance system, the insurance companies, the workers' compensation system. But when you take a relatively small experience and you blow it up in its import and you cast aspersions on a whole group of people that they are somehow participating in this kind of negative behaviour, you really go a long way to debase our respect for institutions and the public's trust in our institutions, and I think that is a very serious trend and tendency on the part of this government.

Injured workers are just that. They are workers who have been injured on the job. Somehow you treat them differently in your characterization of them than you do persons with disabilities. We hear much in the Common Sense Revolution about ensuring that people who have disabilities will not be negatively affected by cuts, for example, that you're proposing to make in various ministries. And yet you're proposing to cut the benefits to injured workers, somehow or other distinguishing them from persons with disabilities.

I don't understand what that distinction is, and perhaps, through the course of this debate and when we see further legislation in the spring, you'll share with us your understanding of the difference. Many of the injured workers I have met over the years are persons with very significant disabilities as a result of their injuries, and why should they be treated differently by your standards than those persons who have disabilities that have been caused by incidents, perhaps a car accident or something that happened outside of the workplace?

I don't understand that distinction. I think it's a very dangerous distinction, because I think again you start to move towards a broad brush, painting groups of people as malingerers or people who are abusing the system, and not recognizing the true import of the events that they have experienced and what it means in their lives, in their working careers and in their families' lives.

The bill, in its limited form -- it's unfortunate, as I said, that we are not seeing this all together, but it purports to deal with the issue of governance. We heard the minister in her statement make much of the need to do away with the bipartite board, a board that was made up of primarily two parts, a group of employers and a group of representatives of workers; that somehow that system, I think she said, was broken and it had to be fixed.

I find this odd. That bipartite board was put in place in the spring of this year. They have not had a terribly long time, through to the election of this government in June of this year, to implement any of the changes, and in fact their work was essentially put on hold the day after the election, when they were informed that they would be eliminated as a result of legislation to be introduced this fall.

The concept of a bipartite board is a concept which says that governments trust that those parties who are directly involved in any area of operation should have some sense of responsibility for the administration of that.

In the case of workers' compensation, let's remember that this is not a government-financed program. This is not the health care system and a series of benefits or social assistance and a series of benefits or any other program that you can think of that is funded through the taxpayer and through government revenues and government decisions. This is a system which was put in place, the historic tradeoff which took away the right to sue from workers who were injured in the workplace and replaced it with a universal system of benefits to deal with both injuries and loss of income. It was one system which tried to bring some fairness in assessments to employers -- and there have been many changes over the years -- that tried to move towards looking at the experience of particular industries, and if they were doing a very good job in health and safety promotion in the workplace and accident preventions, then having that reflected in a lower assessment rate.

The system itself is one that relates very much to the activities of the workplace: How safe can you make the workplace, how many accidents can you prevent, and for those who are involved in accidents or are exposed to substances in the workplace that lead to industrial diseases, a system of compensation that is fair for them and their families.

This is not something which the government should reach in and administer, unless of course you want to move to a universal insurance scheme, and I'm sure your government's not supportive of that. We could talk about that as another option for you to consider. But this is a system that affects those players in the workplace, and those players in the workplace are the employers, who contribute to and finance the insurance scheme that is in place to avoid the risk of lawsuits from their employees who are injured in the workplace, and those workers, who have given up their right to sue and have been guaranteed a system of benefits if in fact they are injured in the workplace.

There is therefore an internal responsibility that should be demanded of the parties, and the concept of a bipartite board was to allow those parties to take over the administration of the system to seek the right balance, the collaboration and the right balance between the two workplace parties.

I don't understand how the minister is so enamoured with a multistakeholder board -- and this is not a new concept. I do remind you that prior to the bipartite board in this province -- in fact, when the Conservative Party was in power in the early 1980s -- we had a multistakeholder board. It didn't do us a lot of good in terms of correcting the problems in the workers' compensation system.

They weren't people who were directly affected by the decisions that were taken by the board. They weren't representative of the workers. They were more representative of the employers, but even there, there were individuals who were outside of the system, who weren't directly affected, who were involved in making decisions that would affect how much employers would have to pay for their assessment and what kind of benefits workers would have to get.

Let me tell you that it didn't do anything to control the main concern that the government puts forward, which is the unfunded liability. We should take a look at the record. I do want to indicate that I find it particularly graceless of the government not to give any credit for the work that has been done to try and turn around the situation of the unfunded liability.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Hardly a class act.

Ms Lankin: Yes, and in fact this is not unusual. Whether it be talking about the health care system or many other areas, the ministers of this government do not give credit to initiatives that had already been under way under previous administrations, and in fact somehow seem to think that the world as we know it began on June 8.

Let me just say that, with respect to the unfunded liability, the minister's statement is very carefully crafted. It refers to an unfunded liability of $2.4 billion in 1984 and contrasts that with the situation that we face today, in 1995. I'd like to inform members of the viewing public, but particularly the members opposite, that legislation that was introduced in 1985 by the then Tory government increased that unfunded liability that year dramatically, increased it from $2.4 billion to $5.4 billion. She forgot to mention that.

What's happened since then? In fact, every year the unfunded liability has grown at just about the rate of inflation. The steps hadn't been taken that were necessary to try and turn that around, but again, the minister didn't inform the House or the public of that when she made her statement.

She also didn't talk about the initiatives that were implemented over the last year and that, for the first time ever, decisions that were being taken and were being endorsed by the employers and by the representatives of workers who were brought together by the previous government and were being implemented as the first steps in turning things around, while we also established the royal commission, that those, for the first time, decreased the unfunded liability. The minister made no mention of that.

In fact today, in putting forward what I think is a pitiful little bill, she suggested that these were the first steps in turning things around in the Workers' Compensation Board. Absolutely no acknowledgement of the steps that had been taken by the previous administration or that had been worked out in consultation with and in concert with those representatives of the employer community and the worker community who came together to work with the previous government. No mention of that at all.

No mention of the fact that those changes would have eliminated the unfunded liability by the year 2014, and that in the meantime there was a royal commission that had been established to look at the larger systemic changes that were required and that there might have been -- and we all hoped there would be -- an opportunity with the recommendations from that to improve upon the time frame of the year 2014. No mention of the plan that was already in place to deal with and eliminate the unfunded liability.

Instead, we have proposals coming forward -- not before us today but that we know are coming forward in legislation in the spring -- that will dramatically reduce benefits for injured workers, will cause waiting and delays in them receiving their benefits, will limit eligibility, which casts a whole group of people -- persons with disabilities as a result of workplace incidents, accidents and exposures -- aside and leaves them without the support of the system that they were guaranteed in that historic tradeoff when they gave up the right to sue.


I've heard nothing that the minister has spoken about that has addressed that tradeoff and whether or not those people whom she is going to disallow, she's going to cast aside, are going to have restored that historic right of the right to sue. I suspect that the employer community would not be very supportive of that.

I don't think anyone believes that the best solution for this system would be to have litigation reintroduced into a system such as this. We've seen the problems in the insurance industries. We can look south of the border and take a look at systems where litigation is the course of the day and the costs that are inherent in that, both for individuals having to seek legal assistance to go through the process and the costs to employers with large payouts. I haven't seen any statements with respect to that historic tradeoff and the right to sue, and I think that's an important issue to be addressed.

The minister spoke about fraud, and the need to do away with fraud, and again I think there isn't anyone who would disagree with that. But quite frankly, what's contained in this bill is simply window dressing. I think that, again, it would have been gracious if the minister had talked about what in fact is already being done within the Workers' Compensation Board.

The Workers' Compensation Board administration has designed a comprehensive set of internal reforms which is called the financial improvements package, and this would have saved the WCB more than $400 million annually, resulting in the elimination of the unfunded liability, as I said, by the year 2014. The WCB already does value-for-money audits. It already has a department that's been set up, under our previous administration, to fight fraud. The sections in the bill don't do anything to augment the abilities of that section or the work that's going on.

In fact, some of the revelations of fraud that we have seen lately -- which by and large in fact don't involve injured workers, they involve employers and medical professionals -- the whole networks that were there that were exposed were as a result of the kind of forensic audits that were being done by the Workers' Compensation Board, but yet again that was not something that was credited by the minister.

I want to, in the last few minutes I have, talk about what these changes are really about. Whether it be the elimination of the bipartite board and paving the way for the legislation in the spring which will dramatically reduce benefits for injured workers, it really to my way of thinking is about the dramatic shift that this government is imposing on this province in the balance of power between workers and employers. I believe that it is representative of a complete lack of respect for the experience, for the wisdom and for the rights of working people in this province.

If you take a look at this in combination with other initiatives, like the changes to Bill 7 which made it more difficult for workers to organize, which in fact threaten any worker in a workplace who chooses to be part of an organizing drive by making it much easier to fire them and much more difficult for them to be reinstated; whether it be the removal of the anti-scab provisions which we believe contribute to peaceful strikes in this province; whether it be the destruction of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, which was charged with the responsibility for training of workplace health and safety committees, for ensuring that workers understood the workplace hazardous material handling system, to ensure that tragic deaths that have occurred as a result of people simply not being informed of the substances that they're working with, that those don't happen, that agency being absolutely gutted and destroyed; whether it be the cuts to the Ministry of Labour, the documents we've seen with options that include a complete gutting of the employment standards agency and their officers -- those are the people who go out and enforce the basic employment standards in this province, a piece of legislation which is at the heart of everyone's rights working in the workplace.

Collective agreements and unions may bargain on top of that, but that's the very basis that applies to all non-union workers. By cancelling supports for those officers and the number of employment standards officers, again, it makes it very difficult for people to exercise their own rights, rights that they have in law. Whether it be the cap on pay equity to working women or the rumours about freezing the minimum wage, or in fact the cuts on welfare that we've had, all of it works to diminish the earning capacity of people at the very low end of the income scale. All of these things put together disempower workers of their rights, both economic and workplace.

Madam Speaker, I think this has to be contrasted with other actions of the government. You will well know that the government has introduced legislation that will be cancelling the $50 annual filing fee for business registration.

Well, you know, it's interesting. From the point of view of having been a previous Minister of Economic Development and Trade, I understand the desire to create initiatives for businesses to expand their workforces. That's why we, as a matter of fact, introduced a holiday on the employer health tax, a payroll tax, so that if you were hiring new people, you didn't have to pay that tax for the first year or so, so that there would be an incentive to hire; it wouldn't be a disincentive.

But, you know, $50? Have any of you even asked your minister what the cost of the administration is of handling the registration in government? Do you know what that cost is? So once a year paying $50, that that somehow is a huge disincentive in this province to doing business?

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): Yes. Yes, it is.

Ms Lankin: I don't think so. I think it's an ideological position. I think it's quite symbolic in terms of what you put forward. But at the same time, the cuts you're making to all sorts of other programs that affect people --


Mr Turnbull: It's quite simple. If you brought in six inactive companies --

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Order.

Ms Lankin: -- who require services in this province and the cuts you're proposing to injured workers and to the benefits they receive -- the contrast here is very difficult for us to understand.

Mr Laughren: The taxpayers will pick up the tab.

Ms Lankin: It's okay for the taxpayers to pick up the tab for the $50 filing fee to pay for the administration costs of registration --

The Acting Speaker: The members for York Mills and Nickel Belt.

Ms Lankin: -- but it's not okay for the taxpayer to continue to support services to the public of this province.

Mr Turnbull: This is not de Havilland, this is --

Mr Laughren: No. You're giving the big ones the breaks and you're making the taxpayer pick up the tab. That's exactly what you're doing.

Ms Lankin: The contrast is very difficult for me to understand, and I think it's very --

The Acting Speaker: Could the member please sit down a moment. Could I ask the member for York Mills and the member for Nickel Belt to please come to order. Thank you.

Mr Pouliot: The cost of one parking ticket, Madam Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: And you too, the member for Lake Nipigon. Continue.

Ms Lankin: One more comment and then I'll wrap up. The member for Nepean did make reference to the auditor's report today, and he said something interesting. He said the auditor's report suggested that the recommendations that the auditor had made in the past with respect to dealing with the unfunded liability and certain other administrative matters within the Workers' Compensation Board had not been dealt with.

Interesting. I hadn't picked that up, so I immediately got out my copy of the auditor's report, turned to that section and read it, and it talked about the recommendations. In fact, there were four recommendations and the status is reviewed. One of them has been completely implemented and the others are in various stages of implementation and it's quite complimentary. So I think that was an unfortunate characterization.

But it speaks to the heart of the big lie. Whether it be employment equity legislation and quotas or whether it be the unfunded liability and no action being taken on it, this government is creating crises. It's creating a sense of ne'er-do-well out there in a whole bunch of areas, it's purporting to put things forward which, when examined by any objective observer, you can see are not accurate. I'm choosing my words very carefully. As our leader has said, it's based on the big lie, and this legislation and what will follow it in the spring is also based on the big lie.

I worry about the future of injured workers. I plead with you not to cast them aside, not to cast aspersions that they're all malingerers, to understand these are persons with disabilities as a result of exposure to substances or accidents in the workplace who have made the big tradeoff, given up their right to sue, and who require and need and deserve a system that will meet their needs and their family's needs.

Madam Speaker, it being nearly 6 of the clock, I'll relinquish the floor tonight.

The Acting Speaker: It being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 1:30.

The House adjourned at 1800.