36th Parliament, 1st Session

L025 - Fri 17 Nov 1995 / Ven 17 Nov 1995










































The House met at 1102.




Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of 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.

Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I would like to join the debate by voicing my support for the Minister of Labour in second reading of Bill 15, An Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

I support Bill 15 because of two key factors. I believe Bill 15 will put the WCB back on track to becoming accountable to all of its stakeholders, and I believe it will ensure that the WCB gets value for its money. I believe that by reforming the board, my government will be able to ensure the board can answer to the people it serves today as well as the people it will serve tomorrow and in the years to come.

My honourable colleague the Minister of Labour has correctly stated that the WCB is on the brink of a financial crisis. The past decade has left the board in a very vulnerable position, with an unfunded liability of $11.4 billion. We cannot sit back and watch this unfunded liability continue to skyrocket as it has in the past 10 years. As a government, we have the responsibility to restore accountability and plan for future needs.

It is crucial that the board be accountable to all its stakeholders: employees who depend on it, employers who pay into it and all Ontarians who need to know the system will be there when they need it.

Many of the issues addressed in Bill 15 will help restore the desperately needed accountability. The proposed multipartite board of directors will ensure the interests of all parties are considered. Anti-fraud measures will crack down on abuse of the system and help bring about some much-needed fiscal health so that the money is there for those who need it. Value-for-money, and it's performed by an external auditor, will make sure money is being spent effectively and wisely. Restoring the board to its original mandate as a workplace accident insurance program will streamline the processes of the board and make it easier for workers to obtain the service they need.

I support Bill 15 because it will start the first phase in a two-part process to reform the WCB to what it should be: a fiscally responsible insurance plan that is accountable to its clients and users.

Bill 15 is the first step in eliminating the board's unfunded liability by the year 2014. Such a huge unfunded liability is unheard of in the rest of Canada and has the potential to permanently cripple Ontario's WCB. We must not let this happen. We owe it to the people of Ontario to turn the WCB around.

I've heard numerous complaints and concerns about the WCB since I became the MPP for Simcoe Centre. Many constituents have written or phoned to give me their suggestions about how we can make WCB better. I have listened to concerns from all sides of the table, from workers who wait too long to obtain service on their claims, to employers who simply cannot afford the high premiums and the time-consuming processes related to dealing with the WCB.

Employees call my constituency office and tell me they wait too long to receive benefits from accident and injury claims. They complain that the process is too complicated and difficult to understand, that it takes too long to get straightforward answers from the board.

The WCB has lost sight of its root purpose: to provide insurance to Ontarians for injuries caused by work. Bill 15 will begin the task of fixing that.

Other employees have written to tell me they know it is difficult for their employers to pay their WCB premiums. Employers have told me that the WCB premiums they must pay are too onerous. Ontario employers already pay the second-highest workers' compensation premiums in the country, yet we still have this huge unfunded liability. We must solve this problem.

These high premiums employers now pay are especially difficult for small and medium-sized businesses, which are the economic backbone in many communities. These small and medium-sized businesses, or mom-and-pop shops, as one constituent described her family's butcher shop, want to know there is a mechanism in place to care for their employees should an accident happen on the job. But they also deserve to know the premiums they must pay are set fairly and are being spent wisely. High premiums also make it difficult for mom-and-pop shops to compete, let alone stay open.

My constituents are already telling me that their taxes are too high. I do not want to live in a province where businesses are closing their doors because they cannot afford to pay their Workers' Compensation Board premiums. I also don't want to tell my constituents that the WCB closed its doors because it had no money left to support the future needs of injured workers, or that my government sat back and let that happen.

I regret, however, such circumstances could be a reality if we don't make the board fiscally responsible. We must redesign the board so that it is able to meet today's requirements and plan for the future. I know the board has already had to dip into funds set aside for future demands and that must not continue. We must make the WCB more responsible. We must make it more accountable and responsive to its stakeholders. We can do this by bringing Bill 15 into law.


Bill 15 will ensure that value-for-money audits, like those you would find in any publicly held corporation, will make the board operate at optimum effectiveness and stay financially sound for years to come. Past audits haven't necessarily focused on critical program areas where efficiency is needed. Such efficiency is greatly needed in the claims delivery system which generates many of the board's costs.

Bill 15 will provide for a provision so that the minister can direct that specific areas be audited. Under our proposed changes, audits will be regular and mandatory and will respond to the changing needs of the board and its clients.

The WCB will also be required to act on recommendations. As a result, the WCB will operate more economically. The board will also become more financially accountable at all levels thanks to a stronger purpose clause in the Workers' Compensation Act. There will also be provisions in place that will require the board to provide the minister with a five-year strategic plan, a statement of priorities and investment policies.

Bill 15 will get tough on WCB fraud and make both employers and employees who cheat the system answer for their actions.

We all know the people of Ontario work hard, but we find ourselves in a situation where organizations like the WCB have lost their sense of direction. WCB staff work hard to serve their clients, but the current process makes it difficult for them to do that. We are in a situation where businesses work hard to stay competitive, but are saddled with outrageously high WCB premiums and payroll taxes. We are in a situation where employees who work hard to put food on the table today can't count on an injury insurance plan being there if they hurt themselves on the job tomorrow.

I urge my colleagues to vote to pass Bill 15 on this its second reading. We need to make the WCB answer to the people it serves so that we can ensure its health and viability for those who will need it in the future.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Questions or comments?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I'd just like to take this short opportunity in order to comment on the speech made by the honourable member. I note in the speech we're hearing something coming up over and over again on the part of the government members whenever they want to effect change in any direction from what was already the practice in the province of Ontario.

It started last summer when the Minister of Education and Training went and spoke to all of his senior ministry staff and said, "Listen guys, I want to make changes within the Ministry of Education in order to fit the ideology of the Progressive Conservative Party, so therefore we will create a crisis." That was the first time.

Then we heard it a second time through the Premier himself and through the Ministry of Community and Social Services when they talked again about the crisis they're having to deal with in their particular area.

Now we're hearing the member opposite talk about the crisis at the Workers' Compensation Board in regard to the unfunded liability as the reason why we have to, quite simply, attack the injured workers of this province by taking away their benefits and their ability to be able to collect workers' compensation in the event they become injured.

I want to remind the members of this House that the reason we have a workers' compensation system in this province is to do exactly that: It's to compensate injured workers in the event of accidents. You cannot legislate away accidents by changing it through the workers' compensation system the way you're doing it now.

I predict that accidents will go up, because you're taking away the ability, through the Minister of Labour, for workers and employers to work towards better safety practices in the workplace by doing away with the health and safety agency, by doing away with the powers of employees through Bill 7. For you to come into this House and all of a sudden say, "We're doing this because there's a fiscal crisis," I think is way off base and quite frankly I think is -- I can't say "lying" in the House. I won't use the word.

I would remind members that there is a plan to deal with the unfunded liability of the Workers' Compensation Board. It was done under the New Democratic government, and in fact the unfunded liability will be gone by the year 2014 as it is. So the crisis is much an invented one.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I will respond to the comments made by our member, the member for --

Interjection: Simcoe Centre.

Mrs Marland: Simcoe Centre. Thank you. You know what I've just discovered? I guess we're saving money in how we print these seating plans, because the print now rubs off them. That's why I couldn't --

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): You need bigger glasses, Margaret.

Mrs Marland: I'm going to take them off, Shelley, for your sake.

What really concerns me is that there are members in this House who can't see the big picture. I think when a member says as a result of the comments of our member for Simcoe Centre that what he feels is going to happen is, yes, he predicts accidents are going to go up, he predicts -- not today did he say this, but we've heard a lot about the threats and the doom and gloom, violence on the picket lines because of strikes.

If we were to sit back and do absolutely nothing -- there will always, tragically, be accidents in the workplace. The fact is that when protection of workers was established in this province, it was not established by a New Democratic Party government; it was established by a Conservative government; and when we established the protection of workers, it was also established by a Conservative government. So these idle threats about what is going to happen as a result of Bill 15 or any other actions that we take that simply are improving workplaces in this province -- because ultimately what's going to happen is we're going to create jobs for everybody in this province.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I was interested in the comments of the member for Simcoe Centre. I merely wanted to add to them, and the member for Mississauga South helps me put it in perspective because she mentioned the big picture.

During your comments, you mentioned that many businesses are closing their doors because of workers' compensation premiums and the cost that it adds to payroll. I think the big picture is that certainly that's one of the overhead costs, there's no question, but more often than not it's because the business doesn't have the revenues to support these costs and perhaps even on occasion it might be the management of the business that causes them to close.

To only say in instances where it's workers' compensation costs that cause their business to close I think is really painting the big picture. What we really need is an economic plan for the province. We've seen this government move very quickly on a number of fronts that they promised to do, but one of their promises was that we're going to create jobs and we're going to improve the economy.

This may be part of it, but I think there's a more important issue here that we should get at, creating the jobs and improving the economy and putting a plan before this Legislature to do that, a plan that covers the big picture.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I just want to comment briefly on the presentation or the speech made by the member for Simcoe Centre, as a member whom I've had the chance to talk with privately on a couple of occasions. I know him to be certainly a well-meaning individual and I don't think that any of us as we comment or debate these points question people's intentions. Besides the fact that this would be against the rules, I think it's also just common decency not to do that. But I have to say that in listening to his comments, I see very clearly and not surprisingly a recurring theme that comes out of this government, which my colleague from Cochrane South I think accurately pinpointed.

I believe the member for Simcoe Centre's opening comments were that the WCB is on the brink of crisis. Those were words almost identical to the words that came out of the minister's mouth when she introduced the legislation and when she began debate on second reading of this important piece of legislation.

That is the approach this government has taken on issue after issue in order to paint the situation in the starkest way possible, in the most negative way possible, and thereby to justify the draconian measures they are taking to hurt the people of this province -- in this case to hurt injured workers.


I don't know well enough the riding of Simcoe Centre and what the honourable member deals with in terms of workers' compensation issues, but I could certainly tell him that in a riding like mine, and indeed I'm sure in many across the province -- where I have, and I know many members have, injured workers as their constituents -- there is a great deal of pain, there is a great deal of frustration with the board, there is a great deal of pain that comes from not just the injury that people have suffered but all they have suffered since that first injury in terms of trying to get the Workers' Compensation Board to adequately recognize the loss that they've had.

The Speaker: The member for Simcoe Centre has up to two minutes for a reply.

Mr Tascona: I'd just like to say that this isn't an attack on workers' benefits. This is basically the first step in the government's program to bring accountability and more effectiveness to the WCB. Yes, we're reforming board management and we're dealing with the fraud, and it is a reality that there is $11.4 billion in unfunded liability. I think that is something that should concern all of us and I think that this government, by taking the steps it's taking at this first step, is laying the groundwork to set up an effective system.

We have to be cognizant of the fact that employers are paying the second-highest premiums in this country and we have to be cognizant of the fact that workers deserve to have a plan in effect when they are injured, so I will say this: The government program, which is a first step, is a progressive step; and the second step that we have to take will address the concerns of all the stakeholders in terms of the benefits and in terms of the premiums the employers pay. But we're talking here about a management structure that is in a financial crisis and needs direction from this government, and we're giving it.

The Speaker: Further debate.

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I'm pleased to have this opportunity to comment on the reforms on the Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In doing so I wish to point out that Bill 15 leaves no doubt of the government's anti-worker agenda.

Just as Bill 7 eroded the rights of some of the weakest members of the workforce, just as Bill 8 obliterated even the notion of an even playing field in employment for the most disadvantaged in our society, so now Bill 15 seeks to promote an environment which penalizes those who have the temerity of being injured on the job. What we see once again is an attack on the hardworking people of Ontario. What we see once again is an approach that favours those who are in no need of protection. The government is so deeply concerned with creating the appearance of satisfying election promises in a timely manner that it has failed miserably in terms of substance. Ontario's employers and employees expected and deserve far more than this bill has to offer.

Bill 15 demonstrates again quite clearly how seriously out of touch this government's priorities are with the real needs of Ontario. Minister Witmer announced that one of the main objectives of this first stage of WCB reform is the creation of a strong financial footing. Nevertheless, the minister has failed to ensure that Bill 15 adequately addresses even this very serious matter.

What we need is a government that is willing to take the initiative and implement innovative methods to create a much-improved Workers' Compensation Board that is committed to five key areas: financial stability, administrative efficiency, reduced fraud, fair adjudication and occupational health and safety. But what we see instead is an ideology that is hollow with rhetoric and that victimizes real people.

First the minister states that the unfunded liability currently facing the board jeopardizes, and I quote, "the long-term financial viability of the board and its ability to provide future benefits to injured workers." What the minister ignores is that the unfunded liability is actually money owed to injured workers by employers as a result of workplace accidents. I would remind the minister that workers' compensation legislation was introduced to bring about labour peace. Employees gave up the right to sue their employers for work-related accidents in exchange for payment by employers into a plan that rehabilitates and compensates injured workers as necessary. Employers and employees alike chose to avoid costly litigation and instead channelled the savings into constructive uses.

The real question for us now is not how to avoid our responsibilities to those who have already paid a high price for their injuries but rather, how do we keep costs down without victimizing those who have already given so much to society?

It seems odd, then, that the government has given no indication of any real solutions. In fact, it appears that the government has chosen to postpone at least until next year any meaningful discussion of alternatives. The strong financial footing the minister has promised will certainly not develop from Bill 15. I would like to remind the House how quickly the government moved to reduce social assistance to the most needy sector of society in the name of fiscal responsibility and how it now fails to act quickly in this matter.

Second, the government must take steps to address, in a useful fashion, the WCB's administrative deficiencies. In unveiling this bill, Minister Witmer stated that the board's service delivery needs improvement, particularly in terms of the excessive delays through the injured workers' claims process. I am in total agreement that there is urgent need for immediate reforms that will further streamline the claims management systems. This process is the most important function of the board. On its efficiency depend hundreds of thousands of injured workers and their families, yet the minister paid mere lip-service to reform and decided that less significant changes should receive a higher priority.

Third, fraudulent use of the workers' compensation benefits is another serious concern. Ontarians are a fair people. Our hardworking men and women do their best every day to earn a living for themselves and their families. They would not deny assistance for those in need, but they resent those who abuse our existing safety nets. Yet rather than implement substantive, proactive improvements that will attack the very root of any existing fraud, and rather than work towards curtailing existing fraud, the government has decided simply to increase the penalties for such abuse. Let me suggest that this is simply not enough and that more attention must be paid to joint WCB and private sector investigative methods that seek out fraudulent use of the plan.

Fourth, there is a need to ensure that fair adjudication of claims remains the primary raison d'être of the board. One wonders whether this will continue to be the case. Bill 15 sets out a statutory requirement that the WCB conduct value-for-money audits on an annual basis. These audits are to be undertaken by an external auditor. I will not question the need for such a requirement. It is certainly desirable to conduct annual audits. But why not expand this requirement to include an effectiveness audit as well?

Such an audit, as described by the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation, would include, for instance: a review of whether the organization is meeting its mandate; the extent to which goals and objectives have been realized; whether the organization has appropriate and effective performance measures; whether the data used in evaluating performance are reliable and accurate; the extent to which the organization has the ability to adapt to change; and most importantly, how well stakeholders, such as workers and employers, think the organization is working.

Any audit undertaken must not forget the purpose for which the board was created: to deal effectively with human suffering and to return the rehabilitated worker to productive service. An effect of this audit would help ensure that this is the case and that the human element of workers' compensation is not ignored.

The final issue I would like to discuss today is that of occupational health and safety. I submit to you that this is a key area for consideration when seeking meaningful and successful change of the workers' compensation system. Bill 15 unfortunately misses the point.


What Bill 15 proposes to do is amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act retroactively to August 23, 1995. It will revoke the order-in-council appointment of the board of directors of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency and will instead appoint an executive director to administer that agency. This move may on the surface appear merely an administrative change. It is in fact much more than that. Eliminating the board of directors means that there will be no representatives of both employer and employee groups to speak and give direction on matters of occupational health and safety. It means that there will be no public input in this critical area. An executive director, no matter how well-intentioned or qualified, will not have the benefit of the advice of those who are experienced in the field. He or she will be directed solely by government dictates and that means, with this government, that the only consideration will be financial.

The experience of employees in the representatives will not be at the table. The experience of employers such as Inco and the Body Shop, who have an excellent reputation in the field of occupational health and safety, will not be there. This is very worrisome indeed.

Let me suggest to the government that there are ways to deal with workers' compensation to make it effective and less costly. This begins with an understanding of the true purpose of workers' compensation legislation, which I've outlined previously. It means not ignoring the fact that people are hurt every day. In 1994 fully 370,444 Ontario workers were hurt on the job. This isn't just a statistic; it represents real people, real suffering, real social and economic consequences for themselves and for their families. It also means that focus must be placed on effective controls, aided by effective audits, while ensuring that abuses are rooted out. It means as well centring attention on issues ignored by this bill. Let me touch on some of these issues.

There must be strong occupational health and safety legislation. It must, for instance, take into account new workplace illnesses and diseases and seek to prevent them through education and training. There must be a partnership with employers to assure the constant upgrading of the workforce. Penalties for negligence of both employers and employees must be swift and severe. There must be no room for creating negligent situations, and maximizing profits must never be a defence.

There must as well be real emphasis on rehabilitation. The 1992 report of The Chairman's Task Force on Service Delivery and Vocational Rehabilitation described vocational rehabilitation as: "The heart of a successful workers' compensation system, and is a vital element to the system's economic viability. Successful medical and vocational rehabilitation of injured workers and early return to meaningful employment will result in a cost saving for the system through reduced duration of claims."

The WCB's own strategic planning report, entitled Planning for the Future: Strategic Plan 1994, noted that both the task force report and the standing committee on resources development's report on service delivery at the WCB concluded that the WCB's programs are seriously flawed. It explained that of pre-Bill 162 cases -- which requires most employers to re-employ workers following full or partial recovery from their injuries -- 40% of injured workers with permanent disabilities were not employed. The report concludes that this is clear evidence of vocational rehabilitation's weaknesses.

The current workers' compensation system is one that attempts to deliver services to people who have given their bodies to perform society's work and have become casualties, both of workplace accidents and of clumsy, cumbersome and costly bureaucracy. It is clear that the system is not working.

The solution, however, lies not in blaming injured workers and penalizing them, but in looking seriously at effective solutions: strong health and safety legislation, education, meaningful enforcement and rehabilitation. This will make the system better and this will undoubtedly make it less costly as accidents are avoided and people are returned to work more quickly. Bill 15 addresses none of these issues. The minister has stated that the government is "moving ahead carefully and deliberately," but that should not mean ignoring the real priorities in an effort to win political points and buy additional time.

Minister Witmer stated that "despite the mounting crisis, little has been done in our province to tackle the problems." I suggest to this government that the crisis continues for the WCB and Bill 15 offers little hope for a reversal.

Mr Bisson: In regard to our friend who just got up and gave comment on the workers' compensation, I just want to pick up on the one point she made to say that I agree partly with what she's saying.

However, I did have difficulty, in our time in government here and the lack of support that we got, in moving away from a multi-stakeholder agency such as what we're moving to under Bill 15. I wish that her colleagues would have been a little bit more progressive on the issue. But anyway, none the less you're here and that's fine.

Mr Crozier: I got that shot.

Mr Bisson: You like that, eh? Anyway, the point is that people need to understand that what's happening here under Bill 15 is that we're moving back to a system we've had in this province before, where the Workers' Compensation Board, in its structure in regard to its membership, will be handpicked by the government based on what the government decision of the day might be in regard to the direction they want to take on the board. We call that, in technical terms, a multi-stakeholder agency, but what you really end up with is a board that reflects only one point of view in regard to how the Workers' Compensation Board should operate and how to be able to approach solutions in the board.

What that really does, and what we've learned over a period of a number years at the workers' compensation, is once you have that system where the employer has an upper hand at the board, you're really setting up a system of confrontation where workers have no other choice, and injured workers particularly through their agencies, to be able to be more confrontational in order to address the issues that are important to injured workers, and quite frankly, that system has not served us well. In fact, it is what gave us the problem with the unfunded liability over a period of time.

What we had done under the changes to the Workers' Compensation Act when we, the New Democrats, were in government was to move to a system where there was a fair balance between employers and injured workers through the organizations so that they together are able to find the solutions, and in fact had done so. Under this system we had for the first time, in many years in this province, the Workers' Compensation Board report an actual surplus in their budget last year and reduce the unfunded liability to what it was the year before.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I listened to the comments from the member for Downsview with some interest regarding whether in fact she has really looked at the bill and some of its clauses. I'm actually quite surprised that she came to the conclusion that overall this bill is going to do hardly anything except attack injured workers. I don't see anything in any clause that would do that.

I'm quite surprised also that she still seems to want to persist in using cliché thinking to deal with the item. For example, she talks about innovative solutions. I don't see anything innovative about her particular solution about having financial stability. Of course we want financial stability. That's why we're going to try to change the composition of the board of directors, so we can get there.

She says that there won't be any effectiveness audits because the actual word isn't in there, but in fact if you read the clause we're dealing with, the board can, as a whole each year, designate specific programs to test them for how effective they are, how efficient they are or inefficient.

In terms of dealing with financial stability, I'm quite surprised she came to the conclusion that nothing could occur there. I didn't hear anything from her as to how she specifically wants to get a handle on the $11.4 billion, when I suspect -- I hope I'm wrong -- that it's going to be a financial black hole. I think it's probably going to be much, much higher and that many more changes will be required, as she did allude to, in substantial proposals that will be made in the spring session.


Be it as it may, I think this particular bill is simply a first stage to getting a handle on the major crisis created by the other two --

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member's time has expired. The Chair recognizes the member for Essex South.

Mr Crozier: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I'll certainly make my comments within my given two minutes. I won't rattle on.

Far be it from me to defend my colleague from Downsview, because she's quite capable of doing that herself, but one thing I do want to point out -- and the colleague across said he was listening. I have found, in the short period of time that the member for Downsview has been in this House, that she looks at legislation and she comments on legislation with what I think is a reasoned and well-thought-out plan. There may be differences with the way we look at it, but to simply say she hasn't read the act and that her comments aren't relevant I hardly think is fair, because she did make some comments with regard to workplace safety.

I just want to point out from my own experience that I was the chief financial officer and a shareholder in a retail lumber business for some 22 years. As a matter of fact, it was during that period of the very severe 1982 recession where we had to manage our overhead costs, one of which certainly was the workers' compensation costs. We were committed to workplace safety, and I think that's one place that not only should the government's legislation emphasize, but that all of us should be interested in: working at the root cause, and that is avoiding accidents. My colleague certainly addressed that part of the issue very admirably.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I wanted to rise to make a couple of comments with regard to the remarks of my colleague from Downsview, and I must say that I am in complete agreement with the last comment from my friend from Essex South. Frankly, the way that we deal with the serious costs of workers' compensation for the business sector in this province is by lowering the number of accidents, and that's what the agency was for. That's why the agency was set up, a bipartite agency to work together, employers and workers, to lower the number of accidents, to educate worker representatives and employer representatives in ways that they could work to lower the incidence of accidents and injuries in the workplace. That is what our aim should be.

It seems to me that this government, which has no institutional memory, can't seem to remember that there was a Conservative government in this province at one time, a Conservative government that had to grapple with the problems of workers' compensation, just as all other governments have had to do, and which faced a very serious increase in the unfunded liability.

Instead, this government would like to pretend that the problems at the compensation board only began in the last 10 years, without recognizing that this has been an ongoing problem for governments, employers and workers ever since, frankly, the WCB was established in 1915. What was changing in the last five years was an attempt to bring workers and employers together to deal with the issue of safety in the workplace so that we could bring down the number of accidents and thus the cost of workers' compensation in this province.

I commend my colleague from Downsview for a thoughtful presentation. It's unfortunate that the people on the other side didn't listen to what she had to say.

Ms Castrilli: Let me respond firstly to my colleague from Etobicoke-Rexdale. It really is unfortunate that he wasn't paying attention to what I was saying. I often get the sense that when he speaks, he's so entrenched in a particular line of thought that he's not open to the debate at hand.

I thought we had agreement that financial stability of workers' compensation is a goal -- it's a desirable goal. The problem is that Bill 15 doesn't address it, despite the minister's stated intention. That's clear, and I would defy the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale to point anywhere in the bill where there is any suggestion of how we're going to attack the unfunded liability of which he so fondly speaks. Even the minister herself has acknowledged that there is an existing plan, which this government didn't put in place, which is to resolve this unfunded liability.

As for the suggestion that there are no innovative solutions, I thought, again, I was very clear and as has been demonstrated here before, there are some creative solutions. We just have to be able to work with them, don't we?

The issue is how to prevent accidents, how to prevent those almost 400,000 accidents that occur every year in Ontario. That's the real issue. That's how you get at it. You don't get at it by tinkering with the incidentals of workers' compensation. You get at the root of the problem, and that this legislation does not do.

As for my suggestion with respect to effectiveness audits, mine was simply a suggestion. You seem to believe, sir, that the value-for-money audits would include an effectiveness audit. I hope that's the case. In any event, I think it is extremely important that we also focus that when you're talking about WCB you're not just talking about money, you're also talking about people.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Ms Martel: I am pleased to participate in the debate, and I suspect members will understand that in the riding that I represent and the area that I come from, workers' compensation issues are very important. Between the people who work at both Inco and Falconbridge and all their operations, between people who work at CN and CP, between people who work in the forestry industry, compensation issues are very important.

We have a number of people who have been injured in the past, people who continue to be injured. In my own office, for example, I have one full-time staff person who does nothing but workers' compensation claims. So I have an interest in what is happening at the board and in the proposals the ministry is putting forward. I'm interested as well in some positive change.

But I have to tell you that Bill 15 does none of that, and as a matter of fact is probably not worth the paper that it's written on. I don't understand why we're here today tinkering with the compensation system in the way that we are with this bill when we should have been here talking about some progressive, meaningful change we can bring to the system that will help injured workers instead of attacking them, as this government is so wont to do with its labour legislation.

Obviously, the members of the Tory party have got a stock speech that they were faxed out from the Ministry of Labour which says, "Get in there and tell people how bad the unfunded liability is, tell people how awful the situation is for injured workers and how this bill is going to fix all that."

If the lemmings on the other side had read the bill, they would have understood that the bill does nothing like that. All it does, at the end of the day, is retroactively give the Minister of Labour the permission that she needed to axe the labour members and the other members from the board. Those folks got a pink slip. They got a pink slip when in fact the legislation was still in place that there was supposed to be a bipartite board.

All that this bill does is now give her the permission she should have had in the first place to say to those people: "We don't want your input, we don't like your input. There's not room for organized labour at the WCB. There's not room for organized labour at the health and safety agency. We don't want to hear what working people have to say. We want the long arm of the Tory government to be able to go into the WCB again and appoint Tory political hacks to the board, to continue to run an operation that we got rid of, that same kind of operation, in 1985."

That's all this bill does. It allows the Minister of Labour and the Premier and the Tory party to find yet another place, another body to put more political hacks on to. That's really unfortunate, because now more than ever we need some positive change at the WCB, and that's exactly what the bipartite board was in the process of doing.

I heard the minister say very clearly that we wait for the rest of the reform package from the other two-headed Minister of Labour, Cam Jackson, who was here yesterday; he isn't here today. Anyway, he's going to bring in some reform in April. We know that at that point --

Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: This member has been in this House long enough to know the House rules. The unwritten etiquette is that you do not comment on the presence or absence of another member. I would ask that member to observe that rule when speaking about the member for Burlington South.


The Deputy Speaker: Your point of order is well taken. I will ask the speaker to go by that rule.

Ms Martel: Mr Speaker, as I look around in the House, I see neither the Minister of Labour nor the minister responsible for workers' compensation nor the parliamentary assistant for Labour. Who is here carrying this bill?

The Deputy Speaker: Excuse me. I was wondering if the member would observe those laid-out traditions and long-standing policies.

Ms Martel: Absolutely, Mr Speaker. It's unfortunate that they all aren't here, all three of them.

Mr Wildman: Who is carrying the bill, Mr Speaker? The parliamentary assistant and the minister are not here.

Ms Martel: They are supposed to be here, but that's all right.

If I might, I want to say that the real reforms, and I use the term loosely, that are to deal with the system are coming, we understand, some time in the spring. That is when this government will really put the boots to injured workers. Then you will see how this government attacks injured workers by reducing the benefits that they are to receive, by implementing a three-day waiting period for benefits that should accrue to injured workers, by barring stress claims and by also restricting entitlement in a number of other areas that injured workers are entitled to.

We await all of that with interest, because I have no doubt that the attack on injured workers and the attack on working people that this government has started will continue and will be very evident in this piece of legislation too.

With respect, there are some things that the Minister of Labour said that I think are worth repeating and, frankly, are worth clarifying or correcting. Because in some way, shape or form, by some omissions that I'm sure she didn't purposely plan to make, she certainly left the impression in the minds of the public that there is something dramatically wrong with the unfunded liability that the Tories, when they were in government in 1985, had nothing to do with, and that in fact we're going to be far better off when we return to the 1985 system where we had a multi-stakeholder board instead of the bipartite board that we had put in place. So I want to correct some of the things she said and perhaps add some information that I know she just forgot to mention when she spoke.

First of all, let me talk to you about the unfunded liability itself. The minister was very clear in saying:

"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.... The board's staggering unfunded liability is presently at $11.4 billion. In 1984 it was at $2.7 billion."

Now, Mr Speaker, if you were listening out there, and I'm sure a number of people would, they would say: "My God, what's happened in the last 10 years? What happened when the Tories were thrown out of office in 1985 and the Liberals and then the New Democrats were allowed to run things at the WCB?"

I'm sure it was just an omission on the part of the minister that she forgot to mention what actually did happen in 1985 with the unfunded liability at the board. The fact is -- the fact that the minister forgot to mention, of course -- that the unfunded liability was $2.4 billion in 1984, but legislation that the Tories put in at the end of their regime pushed that unfunded liability up to $5.4 billion in a single year, $5.4 billion by the time the Tories were finally thrown out of office. In a single year, a $3-billion increase. That was the highest increase in a single year from 1985 till now.

Now, I wonder why the minister forgot to mention that, and I wonder why the parliamentary assistant from Nepean, when he was responding to comments by one of my colleagues, forgot to mention that too and had to be reminded of that very fact by my colleague the member for Rainy River. I think it's most unfortunate that the minister and the parliamentary assistant forgot to mention that, because if they did, the public out there who are watching would clearly understand that the real problem we had came as a result of the multi-stakeholder group that was at the board, and the single biggest increase in the unfunded liability came under a Tory government in 1985. I think it's shameful that she forgot to mention it.

Let me talk about funding ratios as well, because this was another important point that the Minister of Labour forgot to mention. She said, with respect to funding ratios:

"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...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%," and she went on and compared it to some other provinces. "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." In Saskatchewan it's 113%; in British Columbia, 95.8%.

If I was someone out there watching this on TV, I would say: "How shameful. Isn't that terrible that Ontario is in such an awful position? How did that happen under the 10 lost years that the Tories are talking about? It must have happened under the 10 lost years between the Liberals and New Democrats."

So I thought to myself I should go back and compare Ontario's statistics, 1995, perhaps with 1985 in Ontario. Mr Speaker, would you like to know what I found when I did that?

Mr Bisson: I do. I do.

Ms Martel: Let me tell the members of my caucus and let me tell you, Mr Speaker, what I found. The fact of the matter is, in 1985, the funding ratio in Ontario, in Tory Ontario, was 31.8%; in 1995, 37%. As a matter of fact, in 1985, we were in a worse position in this province in terms of ratios and assets and liabilities than we are now.

I have to ask myself, why did the Minister of Labour neglect to tell us that? How did she forget? I'm sure she has very competent, very talented speechwriters over at the Ministry of Labour. I'm sure her political staff would have checked her speech before she got in here to give it. So I have to ask myself, how did she neglect to mention to the House and to the public that very important point?

The fact of the matter is, under the Tory regime, when there was a multi-stakeholder group, when you had a bunch of Tory hacks on the board, the situation in terms of ratios, assets and liabilities was worse. Now the Tories are returning to that very same position, which suggests to me that we are going backwards and not forward.

The minister said a few other things and I think she neglected to mention a few other things that I want to raise here today.

She tried to have the House believe, of course, that one of the major problems we are dealing with is the appeals process and the long time it takes for injured workers to get any response to their cases. That is true. Everyone recognizes this. Everyone who does compensation, like we do in our office, and I'm sure for many other members, there is a problem in terms of cases being heard. But she also tried to suggest that somehow this bill was going to fix that problem.

This bill doesn't speak to the problem of appeals or complex cases at the WCB. As I say, all it does in effect is give her the permission that she needed in the first place to take those worker representatives off the board. The fact of the matter is, if the minister took a look at the compensation system today, you don't need legislation in this House to actually change the appeals system. The only time the House has dealt with a matter like that was in 1984-85, when a third level of appeal called the WCAT was instituted, and that was because it was an independent agency outside of the board.

The board, at any point in time, can change its appeal process. As a matter of fact, if the minister had had her speechwriters check this, or maybe her parliamentary assistant who has joined us -- thank you for coming -- they would have found that the board has moved in the last year to change the appeal process to deal with complex cases, to try to get at the very heart of the matter that the minister tried to use as the excuse for changing this legislation.

The fact is that under our government the board did change and put in a mediation process for rehabilitation and re-employment issues. That was done early this spring. As a matter of fact the board, beginning October 2, also moved to a new appeals process for claims issues.

As a matter of fact, despite what she said in her comments here about how we need this legislation so we can deal with complex cases, so we can deal with appeals and make them easier and streamline it, that has nothing to do with what this bill is all about, and it has nothing to do with the reality of the board today, because the board is one step ahead of the minister. They are 10 steps ahead of the minister. They already have the change process in place.

I don't know why she added that bit of information gratuitously. In any event, it's irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the bill and certainly nothing to do with the reality at the board. I find it strange that she added some stuff that really meant nothing at all in terms of the bill and left out some stuff frankly that was very important bits of information that the public should have had if they were to understand fully this debate.

A couple of other things I want to deal with: I want to talk about the bipartite board, because that's really at the heart of this bill.


Mr Bisson: I think you should be the Minister of Labour. You seem to know your stuff.

Ms Martel: Oh, well. And I don't even have a speechwriter.

Let me tell you what the minister said about the bipartite board:

"Unfortunately, the bipartite, labour-versus-management approach has paralysed constructive decision-making on very crucial administrative, policy and financial issues facing the board....

"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."

If the minister really wanted to tell the public all of the information, she would admit that her government is not going to allow stress claims. Don't blame that problem on the bipartite board, because we know in the spring of 1996, when the minister responsible for workers' compensation brings his so-called reform forward, he will no doubt say that there will be no entitlement to stress.

But what really bothers me is the impression the minister leaves in the minds of the public out there that somehow this board had been working for such a long time, they were at an impasse, they couldn't work well together, that there was such an impasse that something had to be done.

How come she didn't tell the public in this province and the members of this House that that board was only put in place in April of this year? Why did she neglect to point out that very important fact to the people who are out there watching, and to you, Mr Speaker? Because I think it was ridiculous, frankly, of her to suggest that in the short time the board has been in place there has been such a problem and such an impasse that she had to come in and throw them all out so she can put her Tory hacks on to that board. I think it was a very unfair characterization of the members of that board, five from labour, five from business, who were doing very important and very good work and who had the interests of the compensation system at heart.

I think the problem is that the minister doesn't like the kind of approach we took, which was to say to organized labour, "You appoint five reps," which was to say to business, "You appoint five reps. The government will keep its long arm out of your business and will allow you to put the nominees forward." They were in the process, as a matter of fact, of actually nominating their own chair. The minister would rather have the Tory government, her government and the Premier, go in and handpick, hand select Tory hacks to put back on the board so that we're back in the position we were in 10 years ago.

That's really regrettable, but it does remind me, very clearly, of where the government is coming from, because for those of us who were there before, I remember this government, when they were over here and we were over there, and I remember the attitude they took to working people and organized labour.

In places like Kapuskasing, at Spruce Falls, in places like Algoma Steel in Sault Ste Marie, in places like Provincial Papers in Thunder Bay, where organized labour worked with the government and worked with management to save those plants and save those communities, this government, at the time that party, was not in accord at all with what we were doing. I remember Tom Long, who was a strategist for this party during the election, say that if it had been up to this government to deal with Algoma, they would've let it go down the toilet. They would've let 3,000, 4,000 and 5,000 people in Sault Ste Marie lose their jobs and watch that community go down the drain.

As a matter of fact, Mr Speaker, you weren't here so I'll just give you this bit of information. When we were in government and when we brought forward our worker ownership legislation to allow people to have an investment and to have a say in their workplace, the Tories who were sitting on this side of the House at the time voted against that legislation.

Mr Bisson: Why?

Ms Martel: Because they don't want workers to have input in the workplace. They don't want workers to have a say in health and safety. They don't want workers to have a say in important issues like workers' compensation. They don't think workers in this province have any role or any right to have a say in the economic future of this province, and that's shameful. It's the same kind of approach we saw from the Tories when they were in opposition between 1990 and 1995 that's manifesting itself now in this bill, certainly with respect to throwing the worker representatives off that board.

I think it is shameful. I think it is ridiculous that this government cannot or refuses to or somehow holds in disdain the contribution that working people and organized labour can make, not only in their workplaces but in the health and safety agency and in the workers' compensation system.

So I shouldn't be surprised that the position we find ourselves in today is a position where the Minister of Labour and this government say: "There is no role for workers. We don't want to have them have their say. We don't want them to participate. We want the long arm of the Tory party again to be able to handpick Tory hacks to sit on that board so they do what we want them to do, so they say what we want them to say and so they run the affairs the way we want those affairs to be run." That's not the way we should be dealing with workers' compensation reform in this province.

Let me also talk a little bit about the value-for-money audit and the fraud, because I have heard a number of members, in the stock speech that was supplied to them by the Ministry of Labour, say that this legislation allows for value-for-money audits and allows the board to get at the issue of fraud. Please. You know, the minister ought to go back and find out how the board operates, because the fact of the matter is that for a long time the board has been doing value-for-money audits and as a matter of fact for a long time the board has been able to deal with fraud issues. When a worker has been involved in a fraud case, the Workers' Compensation Board now has the right to deduct ongoing payments from that injured worker in order to recoup and refund that money.

I say again that what is going on, what the minister has talked about in her little document here, in her speech, is in fact what is already going on at the Workers' Compensation Board. All you have throughout the whole document, throughout the whole bill, is some window dressing to try and get around the real fact that what the government is really trying to do is just get rid of the bipartite board. They've got to do it now instead of waiting until the major reforms that the minister for workers' compensation will bring in, because they are already in contravention of their own law, the law we put in place that said the board would be bipartite.

I remain really concerned about where this government is heading with respect to workers' compensation. We have a bill before us where, although it has been trumped up as one which will address a number of concerns that both injured workers and their reps have, that employers have etc, the fact of the matter is the bill does nothing of the sort. All it does at the end of the day is change the composition and allow for Tory appointees to be put back on the board in a manner we ended when we were in government.


Ms Martel: Absolutely. The members are laughing. They know very well that under this particular bill labour selected five representatives, the business community selected five representatives and those were the people who were the members of the board. I know the members don't like to hear that because they like the process where they get to pick everyone and where people who fund-raise for them and people who are defeated Tory candidates who are looking for some kind of home and some kind of job in Ontario can go.

It's not as if we haven't already been in the process of trying to find jobs for all the Mulroney folks who got thrown out of Ottawa who are coming to Ontario now looking for jobs. Our party, in the last number of weeks, has raised those cases again and again. Now we have yet one more board where we can have more Mulroney hacks come and work in Ontario and have the public of Ontario pay for that.

It's really shameful that that's the situation we're moving back to after 10 years. It's a regressive step and I don't believe for one moment that it's going to do anything to help the plight of injured workers, do anything to deal with the unfunded liability or do anything to deal with the very serious concerns that injured workers and others have with respect to the system in place in this province.

In conclusion, it is true that Bill 15 doesn't encompass all of the regressive changes that we know are coming in the spring, but what it does do is probably be the first boot to drop and the second big boot to workers will come in April. It really just follows on the kind of pattern that has been put in place by this government, a pattern which says very clearly: There is no role for injured workers in this province; there is no role for workers; there is no role for organized labour. Workers don't have a right to talk to us about health and safety issues. They don't have a right to make a contribution.

Time after time, on legislation dealing with labour matters in this province, we have seen that kind of attitude manifested, whether it's the health and safety agency, where the bipartite board was taken out; whether it's pay equity, where women had the payments capped they should have received for the work they do that is of equal value to men; whether it is with the wage protection fund, where people who had worked already and who had money owed to them will now not see that money in the way they would have under our bill; whether it's with the very regressive changes we saw under Bill 7.

This government is interested in one thing, and only one thing, and that is to attack injured workers, to attack workers in this province and to attack organized labour. I think that's regrettable, because that means for the next five years we're not going to be going forward in this province; we're going to be going backwards.


The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mrs Marland: I never thought I would hear anything as hilarious as the comments by the member for Sudbury East, who just said: "The second big boot to drop on labour in this province will be next April." That is the end of the social contract. I thought the biggest boot ever to drop on workers in this province was when you passed the social contract three years ago and all of us voted against it.

I would like to remind the member for Sudbury East that we did vote against the social contract, and the reason, probably the single biggest reason you're sitting over there now and not over here as government, is because your own labour voted against you because of the social contract.

I would like to remind the member for Sudbury East that the masterful appointments by her party in government as far as political hacks -- it's the book on it. There were many of them and I watched all of them because I chaired the committee that approved all the political appointments.

The best one was Mr Gord Wilson. I think if there's one name in this province that absolutely everybody knows, it's Gord Wilson. Gord Wilson was appointed to the Ontario International Trade Corp. When the member for Sudbury East says they appoint people who are looking for some kind of a job, I hardly think that Gord Wilson needed "some kind of a job," and he had the unmitigated gall to ignore the process which was, if the committee selected him to come for an interview about his appointment, he was to come for that interview. He had so much gall that he ignored the process and refused to come before the committee for an interview on his appointment. Further, David Agnew, the secretary of cabinet, the first time that position, the top bureaucratic position in this province, has ever been politicized was done by that government.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I want to respond to the member's comments. I appreciated her raising the issue of the unfunded liability in 1985. I think one of the great myths is that the Conservatives actually know how to manage finances, and frankly nothing could be further from the truth.

I think you're going to find that Mr Harris and Mr Eves, as you look back on their last record -- the member indicated one and that is the unfunded liability. The last time they were in government they were custodians of a record of 15 straight years of deficits. The last Conservative government never balanced the budget for 15 straight years. As a matter of fact, the last five years the Conservatives were in government they took taxes up every year, six taxes every year, 30 taxes in the last five years of their record. The average deficit was $2.7 billion; every year $2.7 billion when they were last in charge of the finances.

It was this government that bought Suncor and cost the taxpayers of Ontario hundreds of millions of dollars. It was this government, when they were last in office, that started Darlington, that really I think most people would now say is the root of Hydro's problems.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Thirty-three tax increases.

Mr Phillips: Well, he says 33 tax increases. The Conservatives took taxes up more than any other government and the record will prove that.

I just wanted to go over that because we now have a new government here and the people of Ontario I think will begin to realize that a government that says it is going to cut $5 billion out of tax revenue is going to create a fiscal nightmare for the province. We have only got to look back at the last time they had their hands on the cash register and they ran 15 straight years of massive deficits.

Mr Bisson: I'd like to comment on the speech by the member for Sudbury East. I just want to say that as always in this House, the member demonstrates her ability in understanding issues thoroughly and coming to this House prepared in order to be able to let the people know exactly what's going on. It was most interesting. A couple of figures to repeat are what she was talking about, that a big problem of what we have in regard to the unfunded liability of the board, the Conservative members need to understand, was caused because of the changes the government made back in 1984 to the Workers' Compensation Act which resulted in the unfunded liability of the board increasing.

The member for Sudbury East is bang on that the members are coming in here now, the Tories, saying, "Oh, we've got to do this big change because the bad old Liberals and the bad old New Democrats caused the problem." In fact, the problem was etched in stone a long time ago. It was the Tory government. In 1984 when they introduced that legislation, basically what it did was change the ratio between the amount of money the board was collecting to the amount of money they were paying out in benefits. That's a big part of the problem. She points out correctly that the unfunded liability increased -- the single largest amount was in that period of 1984 and 1985 -- by $3 billion.

The other point she points out which is really a good point -- I had forgotten it -- is the funding ratio. That's the amount of money the board has to be able to pay out all its claims should all those claims come due. It actually was in a worse case back in 1984 and 1985 because of the changes the government had done at the time. It actually has got better over the years.

On the last point in regard to the change in the composition of the board, the member is right. I think the Tories need to understand what bipartite is and what a bipartite board does. It means to say your friends in business have an opportunity under our system to appoint their five people to the board who they feel will best represent their views in regard to workers' compensation, the same way as do the unions, and together they work at trying to solve the problems, not through fighting, but through cooperation. What you're doing is going to polarize the board. It'll end up costing us in the longer term.

Mr Baird: I think it's important to put some facts on the record here. In 1985 the funding ratio was 31.8%. This exercise is not about laying blame. This problem was caused by all parties and this government was elected to clean up that mess. But for the nerve of this government -- from 31.8%, and I'll give some credit to the Liberals, it went up to 40%, which was some positive measure. Oh, but then it went down again when the NDP came in. In five years it went down a full 3.5%. So I think it's important to put that on the record, that this is not a manufactured crisis.

I hear my friends in the official opposition talk about this bill, and I read the red book. It says they wanted to "freeze WCB rates." Done it. They said they wanted to "change the makeup of the WCB board of directors." Done it. They said we should "improve the administration of the WCB by hiring a chief executive officer...." Doing it. It says "cut down on fraud by creating an investigative and internal audit department." Done it. "Put the WCB on a sound financial footing by eliminating overpayments to injured workers." Done it in the bill. It says -- this is the one I like the most -- "disband the Workplace Health and Safety Agency and put it under the WCB." That's the one I like. I must admit it takes nerve.

This bill is about putting the WCB on a sound financial footing. It's not about laying blame. There are problems in the WCB. This government doesn't tinker; it takes real action on this. This legislation will be the first step to put the WCB on a sound financial footing, to meet the challenges of the next century and to make real change, not to simply tinker with change.

Ms Martel: I have to respond. Let me say to the member for Nepean and the member from Mississauga that the reason I raised the ratio was of course because the minister has selective amnesia when it comes to raising the facts about what we are dealing with. The reason I pointed out the ratio is because nowhere in her statement did she refer to what the ratio was when your government was in power in 1985. I thought that was important to do, because the fact of the matter is we're in a better position now than we were in 1985 and she should have told people that.

The member for Mississauga South is developing the same disease that the minister has, which is selective amnesia. Let me remind her about a couple of things. She came in and said her government voted against the social contract. She didn't say why. That was because when she was over here, Mike Harris stood up on the day we started to deal with it and said: "Lay off more people, more people. Bring in the bill. Lay off thousands more." The problem for the Tories was it didn't lay off enough people, and that's why their government voted against the bill. We tried to bring in place a bill that would keep people working. Yes, it would mean that they had to give up something, but it kept them working. Under this government, you're not going to see that happen. There have already been massive layoffs in the public service, and there are more to come.


Let me also ask the member if the name Ed Stewart rings a bell, because members of this House should know that Ed Stewart was a political adviser to Bill Davis. Mr Ed Stewart became the secretary of cabinet under the Davis regime. It was a political appointment, done by Bill Davis. He handpicked Mr Stewart, who had been one of his advisers, one of his election strategists, one of his campaign managers, and put him in place as the secretary of cabinet. So I have to remind the member for Mississauga South about that one Mr Ed Stewart.

Finally, with respect to political appointments, no one is doing it better than the government that's in place right now. You have four at the SARB, three of them defeated Tory hacks -- Tory candidates -- one at the Ontario Casino Corp, one at the Environmental Assessment Board and a whole host in everyone else's ministries. All the Mulroney people are coming to work here. Will we have enough money to pay them all? I don't know.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired. The Chair recognizes the member for Brampton North.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I stand today to share with my colleagues here in the House the need for WCB reforms in Bill 15. As the parliamentary assistant for small business, I can tell this House that enormous and often unnecessarily high WCB premiums is yet another factor that is strangling small business in Ontario. It's also another factor which the previous government failed to get under control, much like the province's debt.

In conjunction with high taxes, endless red tape and regulations, Bill 40, extravagant WCB premiums put the small business sector, frankly, out of business. The WCB's unfunded liability has gone out of control. The $11.4-billion liability threatens the board's financial stability and its ability to honour future claims of those needy workers. Our government will eliminate the $11.4-billion enigma and put the WCB on a sound financial foundation, much like we are doing with the inherited debt.

Potential investors have been scared away by, among other things, a group of people within WCB that felt the continuous need to waste away working people's hard-earned dollars. The WCB was presented with reforms not long ago that would have decreased its unfunded liability by $400 million. The decision not to pursue this course baffles me. It is a clear indication of the poor leadership and mismanagement of those WCB executives.

The coup de grâce demonstrating the lack of leadership and mismanagement is that Taj Mahal building that the WCB calls home. That WCB office tower was built at a time when premium office rental space was available at substantial discounts. Construction of that building is a monument to the failure of the former governments to keep the WCB under control. The move and the construction of the new office was approved by the board itself, without cabinet approval. The WCB executives said cabinet approval was not required because they were not actually buying the property on which the building was erected.

In fact, in November 1992, the standing committee on public accounts passed a motion asking the Provincial Auditor to review the WCB plan to build a new building. The auditor found that the WCB had not done enough research to show that the project was good value for money spent and that the project was not in accordance with the spirit of the legislation requiring the WCB to receive cabinet approval.

The Liberals were asleep at the switch when the WCB launched this real estate fiasco, and the NDP said it was powerless to stop it. Yet the NDP-controlled standing committee on public accounts voted to delay the review of Ontario's WCB headquarters until -- guess when -- 1996. To compound this problem, in August 1994 the diligent PC caucus exposed up to 330 WCB staffers who were -- are you listening to this? -- squeezed out of the WCB Taj Mahal due to a lack of space, which was the reason for building the tower in the first place.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: With apologies, with respect, not once, sir, but twice a parallel, an analogy has been drawn with the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal, located in Agra, India, is a place of worship, so the parallel is out of place and therefore out of order.

The Deputy Speaker: I don't find for that. Would the member for Brampton North please continue.

Mr Spina: Let's ask, why did the NDP delay its decision? First of all, they knew they were not going to form the next government, so they figured, why make an unpopular yet necessary decision? They probably did not have the courage to tell the hardworking taxpayers of this province that they would have to make decisions that would have alienated the only people who openly supported their cause. Sometimes in life we have to have the courage to make these tough decisions, and that is exactly what our government intends to do with this bill. Our government is making changes that will ensure this fiasco does not happen again.

As has been stated many times during the debate on Bill 15, we have two objectives. The first is to change the governance and the accountability structure of the WCB. The second objective is to put the system back on a sound financial foundation so that we can protect the future needs of the injured workers that the member from Sudbury indicated. Concerning our first objectives, changes in the WCB governing structure in the past decade have been undermined by mismanagement and a bipartite structure that has not worked. Like many other of the NDP's bipartite structures, it just simply did not work; it created a gridlock that scarred the WCB for years.

For example, I've mentioned that the WCB could not agree on reforms that would have saved $400 million because the board was paralysed due to the bipartite structure. Furthermore, the unfunded liability increased by $8.7 billion. Let me repeat that: $8.7 billion. I ask myself, what were the WCB leaders and previous governments thinking? Obviously the answer is that they weren't thinking.

It sounds like the WCB has the same tax-and-spend ideology as the NDP.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Ideology.

Mr Spina: Yes, that's right -- ideology. For months now, we've heard this word. However, for someone as schooled as the leader of the NDP, I'm baffled by his constant use of the word because all parties are based on an ideology. So please stop trying to create fear in the public's mind by saying that only ideology drives our agenda. He is totally incorrect. Ontario employers pay the second-highest premiums in this country -- not this province, in this country. These premiums act as a major barrier to investment and job creation in Ontario. It puts the province at a competitive disadvantage in relation to other jurisdictions.

Mr Pouliot: This is a vicious attack on the previous regime.

Mr Spina: It can be considered that way, sir.

Over the past several years, the compensation system has moved away from its original mandate as a workplace accident insurance plan. It has begun to compensate ailments that may not be directly work-related. For example, stress has been a condition under which one is entitled to benefits. If stress is grounds for compensation, then I think everyone in Ontario and probably most of the people in this Legislature should be on WC.

Overall, Bill 15 will strengthen the leadership and the management at the WCB while ensuring the board operates according to sound financial practices. The new multi-stakeholder board -- I want to note that -- includes representatives from labour, employers and other specialists in the field. This structure will provide stronger leadership, more effective decision-making and a wider representation on the board of directors.


Bill 15 also takes a three-step approach to regaining financial control of the indebted WCB. Any decisions made by the WCB will support the goal of maintaining a sustainable workers' compensation system. These measures would include a mandatory five-year strategic plan and requirements for board members to act in a financially responsible manner. Secondly, the WCB will also be required to conduct the annual value-for-money audits. The audits would be conducted by an external auditor to ensure that efficiency and effectiveness is achieved in the delivery of the WCB programs, but more critically, the objectivity that it ought to have.

It can be argued that the WCB already conducts these value-for-money audits as a matter of administrative practice. The WCB has been conducting these audits over the past decade, as was indicated earlier. However, the WCB has not conducted any since 1993 -- two whole years with no value-for-money audits. Furthermore, past audits have not necessarily focused on the critical program areas where efficiencies are needed. For example, efficiencies are needed in areas such as the claims delivery system where the vast majority of the system's costs are generated. Bill 15's amendments make these value-for-money audits mandatory. The WCB will be bound to act upon recommendations for the improved efficiencies.

In the past, the board's approach to program evaluation has been sporadic and not always responsive to stakeholder service delivery concerns. Program reviewers have not always concentrated on the key service delivery areas such as adjudication, benefit payments or rehabilitation. The requirement for annual value-for-money audits as well as the provision that the minister can direct that specific areas be audited will ensure that audits are regular and responsive to changing needs and subject to stakeholder scrutiny.

The last provision in the bill to ensure financial stability includes measures to stem the loss of revenue owed to the WCB and prevent fraud. Any individual who obtains benefits or compensation by deliberately providing false or misleading information would be subject to penalties under the Workers' Compensation Act. But also, to balance that, employers who are required to register with the WCB and fail to do so will also be subject to penalties under the act. The WCB will be encouraged to share information with other organizations and jurisdictions to detect the abuses in the system.

Like any other private insurer, the WCB faces fraud and other abuses of the system. It is estimated that up to 5% of the costs of the overall system is lost due to fraud. With yearly expenditures of close to $3 billion, what that translates to is about $150 million a year lost due to fraudulent activities. One hundred fifty million dollars a year.

From a small business perspective, the workers' compensation system was originally designed as a workplace accident insurance plan to help employees who were injured on the job. It has grown into an employer-funded universal system that goes far beyond its original mandate and now seems to compensate anyone for anything.

For example, the number of accidents and the rate of workplace injuries has declined, yet the WCB continues to spend more and more money on benefits, but more importantly, the WCB has increased premiums on the backs of employers, many of whom are the small business owners of this province. As a result, Ontario's WCB premiums have become a major impediment to the ability of small businesses, particularly new ones, to create and, more so, to sustain jobs. In fact, Ontario premiums, as I mentioned, are the second-highest in this country, and it's safe to say that small businesses view the WCB as totally out of control.

The last part of Bill 15 disbands the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. We are not eliminating the WHSA to punish workers. However, we do feel there are more effective and efficient ways to provide health and safety training in the workplace. Like many other good things, it takes time to develop.

I want to add a personal note here. A close neighbour and constituent of mine, who is a high-level individual with the United Steelworkers of America, wrote a letter to me protesting the disbanding of the WHSA for the appropriate reasons that he felt. I responded by inviting him and recommending him to be a member of the consultation process that the minister is engaging in now for the restructuring.

The interesting part was that the union executive very clearly forbade him from participating in this process -- no reasons given. When we invited this man -- who I thought was always, and I still to this day feel that he is, a fair and reasonable man and would have made a great contribution on the part of labour -- to that consultation process, he was actually forbidden by the union executive from participating in the process. They want to accuse us of being confrontational; they are the ones who are creating the confrontation.

The current WHSA, created by the Liberals in 1990, became a bureaucratic job killer. It did very little to improve workplace safety for the money that the employers spent on training. Employers across Ontario, particularly small business owners I've talked to --

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Section 23, paragraph (d), of the standing orders.

The Deputy Speaker: There's nothing out of order. The member for Brampton North will proceed.

Mr Spina: As I mentioned, I've spoken to many small business owners in the past few months and they've told me that the complexity and the costs of the current program are so onerous that 70% of businesses could not comply even if they wanted to.

It's been argued by the opposition, "How can the WCB provide effective health and safety training?" Under its current structure, I agree: It can't provide cost-effective training. However, that is why we have Bill 15 before us today, as well as the report the minister responsible for the WCB, Mr Cam Jackson, will provide early next year.

The cost of the core certification program varies according to the length of the program. The registration fee for a one-week course costs $535; two weeks cost $765; three weeks cost $995. The employers are responsible for paying those certification costs and must also pay the salaries or wages of the managers and workers while they participate in the program.

The complexity and the cost of that program has resulted in a low compliance rate. As of January, 2,995, or about 30%, of the employers in Ontario have registered employees in core certification programs. That's 23,243 people.

Small business told me that the bipartite system has become a textbook example of how the structure can fail, as the small business sector feels that the agency and the process have been hijacked by the labour unions. Small business owners in all sectors are upset by the excessive costs of the agency.

Of particular concern to the small business community is the power given to the occupational health and safety adjudicators, the right to grant certified health and safety committee members the authority to stop work unilaterally, a loose process that is too open to abuse. We feel there is a right for a person in a labour environment to be able to rectify a dangerous situation to their health, to them and to the other workers, but not to have the totally arbitrary authority to shut down the work process. Furthermore, if the investigation reveals that the claim is unfounded, there is no course for retribution, for the lost money that that corporation or that company incurs.


People everywhere are being asked to live within their means. Is it too much for government to do the same? I don't think so.

Mr Baird: Too much for some.

Mr Spina: Too much for some. You're right, my friend.

Bill 15 will begin the process of reforming the WCB into a lean, efficient compensation system. The WCB will be able to deliver top-quality insurance for the best possible price: A key word, "insurance," because, you see, if it's run like an insurance agency, it will function efficiently.

Our government will ensure that this goal is carried out, not because of our ideology but because we have the courage to do what is necessary for the long-term benefit of the Ontario worker.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I listened with interest for the 20 minutes my colleague spoke to the merits of Bill 15, and what I found amazing is that during those 20 minutes there was not one reference to injured workers. What he spoke about was value for money, efficiency, fraud, top-quality insurance, insurance agencies. Somewhere in this debate, what this member and this government have lost is the fact that WCB is there to help and protect the injured worker.

I've listened to opposition members go on at length. I think we're talking about some sort of outer-space concept here, with a system that is somewhere out there, without making any reference whatsoever to the human price that people and workers across this province have continued to pay day after day. It is some bottom-line accounting number for them. The WCB is some bottom line. That's all that really matters, and how, with who, it crunches along the way and who pays the price for it.

I'm amazed that someone could go on for 20 minutes, talk about WCB reform but fail to talk about injured workers. Isn't that what the system is all about? Isn't that what WCB was all about? Wasn't it there to protect and help injured workers? But my friends across the floor don't seem to realize that. My friends across the floor seem to think the only thing that matters is to bring the cost down and it doesn't matter how injured workers are impacted by this.

I think this callous approach to this reform is only the beginning. I think we'll see a lot more. I think top-quality insurance is exactly where this government is moving to. They want this to become another private little toy they can hand to their friends to make millions on the backs of injured workers, and I can tell you we're not going to allow that to happen.

Mr Silipo: I too listened with interest to the comments by the member for Brampton North, and I think as has been pointed out, was struck a little bit by the lack of discussion about what the workers' compensation system is all about at the end of the day, which is to provide for the needs of injured workers. The member for Hamilton East pointed out that omission, I think quite accurately, and I could only concur with his comments on that. But I also want to touch on a couple of other points.

The member for Brampton North talked about fraud, and I think it's legitimate for us to say that in fact whatever level of fraud exists in the WCB should be addressed and should be eradicated. I don't think any of us would disagree with that.

But I think people would understand also why we are somewhat puzzled as to why it is that this government puts so much emphasis on fraud when it comes to the WCB, why it puts so much emphasis on fraud when it comes to supports like the social assistance system of this province, and yet it runs away from the big problems that exist in terms of tax fraud.

They pretend that it doesn't exist, and they'd like to pretend that it's not there. The Premier's even gone as far as almost suggesting, if not saying, that in fact if only we had lower tax rates, that wouldn't happen, as if that is the way to deal with the tax fraud. I think that says volumes about where this government is putting its emphasis, and it clearly is not in the interests of injured workers in this case.

I think it's telling that when we talk about the financial picture, when the member talked about the $400-million plan, the savings plan that came before the board, he omitted to tell us that the people who did not go along with that plan were not the worker representatives but the business representatives. That also is a telling sign of the kind of intent that's behind this bill.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): In response to the member for Brampton North's comments, I'm sure he would agree when I say that we are all indeed concerned about safety in the workplace and the plight of the injured worker. That's fundamental to this entire Bill 15.

I think we also have to look at the sustainability of the WCB and its current unfunded liability of $11.4 billion. It was clear why action had to be taken: the current board was in gridlock. We've opened it up so that there's a multipartite board which indeed could allow injured workers to be part of the process, not just political appointments or union presidents.

The solution recommended by the NDP has always been to increase the burden of the problem on the backs of the employers. We view that as a blockade or a barrier to growth. Minister Jackson will bring in some fundamental restructuring. This may include, but does not necessarily include, an extended waiting period. We are still awaiting the minister's decision on that issue.

I think, in all honesty, our approach to have a multipartite board to address the fundamental sustainability of the Workers' Compensation Board is why we've tried to rescue the current gridlock that's in the system.

Mr Crozier: As we all know, this period of 10 minutes after a speech is given according to standing order 25(a).

Mr Baird: What does that have to do with this speech?

Mr Crozier: If you'd listen for a second, you'd know.

"Following the speech of each member, a period not exceeding 10 minutes shall be made available, if required, to allow members to ask questions and comment...."

The question I would like to put to the member for Brampton North is: Where in Bill 15 does it even go beyond the support for injured workers but get to the root of the problem of accidents in the workplace? Where in Bill 15 do you address that very fundamental problem?

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Brampton North has two minutes for rebuttal if he chooses.

Mr Spina: I apologize; I didn't catch the entire question that the member gave. Perhaps he can ask it.

The first issue that I want to respond to is the one that was made earlier by the member from Hamilton and also the member for Dovercourt. The basic point is that the focus must be on the injured workers. Yes, we understand that and we appreciate it, but we also have to understand that fraud steals money from those who really need it, and when you eliminate the fraud, then those who are in need of it, those who deserve it, will be able to get in their entirety the benefits that they in fact deserve.

Furthermore, I would say that the previous governments had abrogated their responsibility to ensure that those injured workers they are talking so much about did get their just day and their just compensation for the injuries that they received because they in fact, by sitting back, allowed the fraud to take place when they knew it was taking place in the WCB, and I accuse them of abrogating their responsibilities as previous governments in charge of that particular board.


Mr Kormos: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: As you just heard, the rules provide for up to 10 minutes for comments and questions and answers. The speaker used two minutes, which is the last fifth of that. That meant there was eight minutes. There was one minute and 14 seconds that was a remnant. The rules do not refer --

Mr Baird: What section's that?

Mr Kormos: Section 23(a). Read the book. The rules clearly indicate that it's up to 10 minutes. It doesn't indicate any number of speakers. It says up to 10 minutes. I'm standing to further the comments and I recognize the requirement for rotation because there's a minute and 14 seconds left.

The Deputy Speaker: Would the member take his seat, please. Each member may speak for a maximum of two minutes.

Mr Crozier: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Under section 54 of the standing orders it says:

"Except as otherwise provided in these standing orders, government business will be taken up in the discretion of the government House leader or a minister acting in his or her place."

At the present time I don't see a minister in the House. Could you help me with the interpretation? Does that mean a minister has to be present?

The Deputy Speaker: No. I'm sorry. It's not a point of order.

Mr Crozier: Well, it was a point of order, but you explained it for me. Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Agostino: I rise on this with some real mixed feelings because it is a very difficult issue and an emotional issue for many of us in discussing and dealing with the WCB. What I've found, as I mentioned earlier, is a pattern where opposition members have spoken strongly, eloquently and passionately about injured workers and where government members have spoken passionately and strongly about efficiency, fraud, insurance companies and value for money.

I want to commend members of the opposition of both parties who have spoken out so strongly in the defence of injured workers, members of our caucus, and particularly I listened with great interest yesterday to the member for Welland-Thorold as he, I think, said it better than any of us could. He spoke about the impact of injury, the impact and the damage that workplace injuries had on working men and women across this province, and I want to talk about that today.

One of the Tories continued to talk about fraud and value for money and efficiency, and those things are important, but that is not the reason for the WCB existing. The reason the WCB in this province exists is to protect workers who have had an injury on the job, is to protect individuals who often have given up their lives, who often have given up their ability to be able to take care of their families as a result of workplace injury.

When the WCB system came into place, it was a tradeoff. Workers gave up the right to sue. Workers gave up those rights that any of us would have in most other injury situations in order to ensure that there was a fair compensation package given to them, and that is a right that this government is trying to take away from injured workers across the province.

I can tell you, both from personal experience and from professional experience, that I have seen the devastation that workplace injury has had on working men and women across this province. I've seen it in my own family where my father spent 23 years confined to a wheelchair, till he died 16 months ago, as a result of a workplace injury, as a result of the fact that 23 years ago he could not refuse to work on an unsafe construction site, could not refuse to work on an apartment building 40 feet up and could not refuse to work on a site where the employer did not think it was worth $2 to put up some wood around an elevator shaft. He spent 23 years in a wheelchair, a man who had worked since the age of 13. He came to this country from Italy and a year later was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life because he could not protect himself on the work site.

That has had an impact on my life. That has had an impact on my family's life. That is maybe why I feel so strongly about the role that workers' compensation has in this province. I've seen relatives killed on construction sites in this province. I've had men and women come into my office, previously as a councillor and in the work I did earlier with the March of Dimes, who had lost their husband, their wife, on the work site. How do you explain to a six- or seven-year-old child that Dad's not coming home any more because he got killed on the job today?

I've seen those real-life experiences and they've impacted my views. And, yes, I am biased towards helping injured workers, and, yes, I'm biased towards believing that the compensation system is there to protect injured workers across this province, and it's a bias that I make absolutely no apologies for to anyone across this province.

The changes that we're starting to talk about today are changes that are going to ultimately lead to a massive revamping of workers' compensation away from the protection and the helping of the workers. We're talking ultimately about fraud. When my friend talks about fraud, of course, he's talking about faking injury. He's talking about people who are on compensation who are somehow feeling that this is a great cash cow and they can rip it off for life. There is some element of that, a very small element.

But also, when you start talking extensively about fraud, as my colleague has, as the members across the floor have, what you're telling me is that the injured construction worker in my riding is not really injured; that the injured steelworker is not really injured; that the woman, a recent immigrant to Canada, who's worked in a mushroom factory and has had a serious back injury is faking it; that the cleaning lady who works for minimum wage 12 hours a day and injures her back or arm is faking it. You want to put everybody in that category. You want to be able to create this crisis in order to allow --

Mr Hastings: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member for Hamilton East continually creates the implication that members on the government side are totally anti-worker, not sympathetic, that we blame all of them. That's totally reprehensible on his part.

The Deputy Speaker: I didn't hear anything that I found unparliamentary.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would only say this to that point of order. I totally agree with the member for Hamilton East that those members in government are opposed to supporting workers in this province.

Mr Agostino: Mr Speaker, thank you. And just in case my colleague across the floor didn't hear properly: Yes, members across the floor are opposed to injured workers in this province, yes, members across the floor are anti-worker, and your track record shows that clearly.

I'm amazed at the sensitivity that the members across the floor continue to show for men and women across this province who have been injured on the work site. I would like to ask some of the individuals to maybe pop in and speak to the worker advisers across this province in offices such as Hamilton's worker adviser's office, to people in McQueston Legal and Community Services in my riding that every single day are committed and are driven to continue to help injured workers despite this government's regulation.

Speak to them about the pain and suffering. Speak to them about men and women who all they want to do is be able to go to work in the morning, come home at night and look after their family, but are often crippled, are often seriously injured, are often killed on the job site through no fault of their own, through accidents that occur often as a result of negligence by the employers who do not believe they should spend those extra few dollars to ensure it's a safe workplace.


You talk about fraud and you talk about a three-day waiting period. I find that interesting. Members have talked about this three-day waiting period that's going to occur at the top end. Is that to suggest that people are faking it and maybe if you wait those three days at the beginning they won't go on compensation, maybe they'll try to continue to work and injure themselves even further? If that is not a point of mistrust, if that is not a point of saying to injured workers, "We don't trust you and maybe you'll get over it in three days," what is?

Reform of the WCB has to happen within the context of helping injured workers. Reform of the system has to be with keeping in mind that, first of all, what we have to ensure is a fair compensation package; we have to ensure a system that works. I have seen some tremendous changes and some tremendous improvements over the last 23 years in how the WCB has functioned. It has improved, but it still needs a great deal of work.

We know that rehabilitation often occurs by early intervention and that process must be streamlined. We know that workplace health and safety is very important and the legislation must be strengthened to help and to give workers that opportunity to refuse work if they feel it is unsafe and feel it puts their life or their health at risk as a result of having to carry out that work.

The system is bureaucratic. The system needs to be changed. The appeal mechanism often is very difficult for workers to access and the length of time that workers must wait for appeals and decisions to be made is very difficult and drives many injured workers into welfare, into bankruptcy, into losing their homes and being unable to look after their family. That is the type of real reform this government should undertake. The real reform has got to be always focused to help injured workers, not to ensure that the bottom line looks better, not to ensure that the business community is happy with you because you've been able to cut a little bit of their cost at the price and on the backs of injured workers across this province.

If you're serious about reform, those are the types of initiatives this government should undertake. I don't see any of that in Bill 15. I don't see any of those types of initiatives whatsoever. What I see is the continuation of an attack on working men and women across this province, but even worse, on injured working men and women across this province.

You must get those people in your constituency office, because I know I do in my riding of Hamilton East. Ask those individuals who come in to see you about their WCB claim, who come in to see you about their pension, who come in to see you about their denied appeals time and time again, how the system should be reformed. Ask the injured workers what you can do to make the system more efficient, more fair, more balanced.

But you're afraid to do that because you might not like the answer you're going to hear, because that is not the bureaucratic approach you want to take. You don't want to consult with real people. You don't want to talk to people who are hurt, who are injured, and ask them how you should reform the system. You want to do it within the bureaucracy and the ivory tower of Queen's Park. You want to do it within the advice of the Premier and a couple of his flunkies who believe this is the road this province should take.

I can tell you that the pain and suffering you are continuing to inflict on working men and women across this province is going to come back to haunt you. But injured workers are not going to forget the start of what you have done to them. The families of injured workers are not going to forget what you have done to them: that you have started a process that you're going to privatize the compensation board. You want to make it an insurance company in the sense of the word as other insurance companies exist today. You want to make it based on profit. The only way you do that and the only way insurance companies make money is to charge higher premiums and to cut off benefits as quickly as possible without thinking of the consequences. That is what you want to do. That is exactly what you want to do.

Why don't you ask injured workers if they think you should restructure WCB into an insurance company. See what injured workers tell you. Ask them about how long it takes them to get a claim approved, or how long they have to wait when they go into a WCB office to see a counsellor, and then you'll get the real answers.

Yes, it's important to talk to the business community. Yes, it is important to hear from them, but it is important, and it is more important, to talk -- because the decisions you make today are going to impact injured workers more than anyone else across this province, and how dare you make those changes without talking to them?

It is brutal politics. It is a throwback to 100 years ago. It is a throwback to those that have the might are always right. It is a throwback to an Ontario we thought we had long left behind.

This government doesn't seem to understand that. In opposition, the Tories claimed they had a plan to reform the WCB. It is now clear they don't. It must have been a shock to Mike Harris when he realized that there was more to reforming WCB than just talk about selling an office building.

Bill 15 is just another example of an election bumper-sticker solution that fails to meet the real needs of Ontario today. Business was looking for leadership and confidence, and they got a bumper-sticker solution. Injured workers were looking for care and compassion, and they got a slap to the side of the head by this government.

I can remember Mike Harris, the Taxfighter, in the 1980s when he was part of a Conservative government which raised taxes 22 times for a total of $1.8 billion. Then I remember Mike Harris in opposition when he talked about cutting, by 5%, relief to employers.

But I also remember Mike Harris during the election. What did he talk about in the Common Sense Revolution? He was going to cut the benefits of injured workers by 5%. Injured workers are too wealthy, according to Mike Harris, in Ontario. Their pensions are too rich. They get to take home way too much money as a result of their injuries. That is the Mike Harris Ontario and that is the Ontario the members across the floor, who sit there with smirks on their faces, believe.

Face the injured workers in this province, if they come into your office, and I don't know why an injured worker would want to walk into a Tory office in this province anywhere today. Ask them if they feel their benefits are too rich. Ask them if they feel they're getting compensated much too much for literally risking their life on the work site and having injuries that obviously are crippling and the pain and suffering, not only for them but for their families, every single day.

But this government believes that the rates are too high and that injured workers are getting way too much money and that they're riding this gravy train across Ontario. That is false, that is scare politics and that is the type of image you are trying to portray in order to dismantle the system and create a crisis on the backs of injured workers across Ontario.

There's nothing in this bill to end the mismanagement, and I can tell you that from this day forward, this minister -- whichever minister Mike Harris decides on the particular date -- in charge of the WCB is going to have to take responsibility for every single case of additional injury that occurs in this province, for every single denied claim, for every single case of pain and suffering on the work site. You want it, you have it. You can appoint your flunkies to these boards. You can appoint your defeated candidates. You can appoint your hacks to these boards and help dismantle the system. But it's going to be on your shoulders every single time an injured worker across this province has to suffer more because of the changes you've made.

Rather than tinker with the system, we believe it is incumbent on the government to bring forward its entire reform package to the Legislature, allow public input and allow a full debate on how the WCB should be turned around.

This government should listen to injured workers as well as their friends on Bay Street. Injured workers should be allowed to give their input. It is absolutely essential. Governing is about balance. It is about bringing change with compassion. Despite promises to clean up the system, the compensation board and the patronage that goes on, we'll continuing appointing senior managers and their boards through orders in council, ensuring the old Tory-Mulroney proverb, "It's not what you know, it's who you know," continues. It's simply another opportunity to continue rewarding their friends without taking into consideration what injured workers are going through in this province.

I urge, I beg this government to be sensitive, to be compassionate and to bring about reforms with real care, and I've based that on personal experience, the experience of my family, my friends, my constituents. I urge this government and I beg this government to please go out and talk to injured workers, understand their pain and suffering, understand that their life, in one split second, gets turned around as a result of an injury and that they look to us, they look to government to help and they look to government to give them the assistance they need, not to give them another kick in the head once they've been injured on the job.

I hope this government comes to its senses. Please reach out, talk to these individuals and make the changes that are going to help injured workers, not strictly continue to drive injured workers further into the ground.


The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Silipo: I'm happy to reply briefly to the comments made by the member for Hamilton East. What I appreciated very much in his comments was his emphasis on the needs of injured workers. I know in my own riding there are many injured workers who have been injured years ago and continue to take their case before the Workers' Compensation Board. I know also from that perspective the frustrations they feel on a day-to-day basis and the reality of that frustration as they try to get some recognition in an adequate way for the suffering they have endured and continue to endure with their families.

It's important in this whole debate that we remind ourselves constantly, and that particularly we remind the government members, that what we are talking about here are not just bottom lines, but we are talking about injured workers. We are talking about people who have built the roads and the highways and the buildings of this province, people who have worked in the mines and the factories, and people who have been hurt doing those jobs and who ask for nothing more than to be able to get some adequate compensation for the fact that they can longer work.

What we see instead from this government is taking away all of the measures. They dismantled the health and safety process that would have prevented some of these accidents from happening, and they are putting an emphasis on dealing with the problems, which are real, at the Workers' Compensation Board, but dealing with and resolving those on the backs of the injured workers of this province, and that is what is so fundamentally wrong about what this government is doing.

We know this bill is only the backdrop to what is going to come later on, because the review that is under way now will result in a reduction of benefits, at least by 5%, to the injured workers of this province. It will mean that people will be forced to go to work earlier than they can, which in and of itself will cause greater injury, not to mention greater cost at the end of the day. That is also what is fundamentally wrong in what this government is doing.

Mr Baird: The previous speaker, the member for Hamilton East, talks about the motive of this government, that it's somehow anti-worker, that it's somehow out to get injured workers. The members opposite know that nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality and the fact is that over the past decade our WCB system has been undermined by mismanagement and a bipartite board of directors, which is a recipe for confrontation. It is not a recipe for creating solutions. The WCB's unfunded liability has grown rapidly over the last decade, from $2.7 billion in 1984 to an unsustainable level of $11.4 billion.

This government acknowledges that there have been some constructive solutions done over the past number of years, but a small amount of tinkering simply won't solve the long-term problem. To the member for Hamilton East, that's the motive of this government: to bring about the real change this system really needs.

There is a crisis in the WCB. It's existed for some time. If you look at Ontario's WCB unfunded liability, it's gone from $2.7 billion in 1984 to $9.1 billion in 1990, when his government left office, and rests at $11.4 billion today. That's unsustainable. The government can't sustain that. The job creators in this province can't sustain that. The injured workers who depend on this insurance plan for protection can't survive on that sort of financial circumstance when their insurance company is facing that sort of a crisis.

Ontario employers pay the second-highest WCB premiums in Canada. We can't continue that. The average employer's assessment rates in Ontario are $3 for every average $100 assessment payroll. In Alberta, it's $1.99; in British Columbia, it's $2.26. Is there any wonder why the economies are doing so well in these communities?

This bill is about creating jobs and about restoring hope and opportunity to our province.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I want to congratulate the member for Hamilton East on his passionate and eloquent defence of injured workers in this province. The member for Hamilton East knows full well that there has to be meaningful reform of the Workers' Compensation Board. Where he differs is that he knows it can't be done at the expense of injured workers alone. It can't be done on the backs of the poor.

You talk about a 5% cut in assessments, a promise you broke already. But what does that mean? You're going to cut injured workers' benefits while you're cutting assessments. It's an agenda that doesn't recognize balance or the need for everyone in the system to contribute to the solution.

The members of the government should listen to the words of balance and moderation and compassion spoken by the member for Hamilton East and recognize that meaningful compensation reform involves more than simply slashing benefits to injured workers. It means more than simply turning on them.

The member for Hamilton East spoke well of the need to recognize the limited income these people survive on, and "survive" is the word. While you contemplate all the giveaways you're going to give to those who least need them, think about injured workers, think about their survivors, think about their families and don't act in a knee-jerk fashion that's designed to penalize those people who can least afford to be penalized.

I congratulate Mr Agostino for a very good speech.

Mr Bisson: In response to the member for Hamilton East, it is not too often that I agree with members from the Liberal Party, but I agree with the member's assertion in this case in regard to one comment he made that I think is very important, that governing is all about finding a balance between the different people in the province of Ontario when it comes to a number of issues.

I think, quite frankly, that is what had been happening for a number of years in regard to changes that were made at the Workers' Compensation Board, but more importantly what had been done in the health and safety agency.

We know that the best way to be able to save money, if you want to reduce the unfunded liability at the board, is to reduce the amount of accidents. That's the easiest way to do it. One of the ways you reduce the accidents is that you make sure all the stakeholders within the workplace -- the employer, the supervisors and the workers -- clearly understand what the rules of the workplace are, clearly understand what good health and safety practices are, so that when there is a danger of an accident occurring, we're able to identify it immediately and take action.

One of the things we've done -- great strides in this province over a number of years, dating probably about from 1985 -- is the work that we did in being able to move forward with more progressive health and safety legislation and, more recently, being able to put together the Workers' Health and Safety Centre, which is out there training and certifying workers and employers so that they be qualified in being able to address those problems of safety in the workplace.

One of the things this bill is doing is that the bill is taking away the ability of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency to do its job, because they want to go to a system where only the Tories and their friends will have the ability to educate the workers of this province.

I say to the members of the government, if you really want to reduce the amount of accidents, there's really only one way to do it, and the best way is to make sure that the workers in this province, first of all, have the protection under the legislation necessary to report an unsafe work condition and, second of all, to allow the health and safety agency to carry out the job that has been so admirably done the past number of years.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton East has two minutes to wrap up.

Mr Agostino: I'm pleased that the minister in charge of the WCB is now here, because I want to make that same plea and appeal I made earlier. Before you go ahead with the changes you are talking about in Bill 15, before you go ahead with the further changes, I would ask the minister and this government to go out and talk to injured workers across this province.

Spend some time in some of the WCB offices, not in the back rooms with the directors, but in the lobby. You all have offices in your communities. Spend a few minutes in the lobby and talk to the injured workers as they come in. If you can't find any injured workers in your community, come to Hamilton East. I'd be more than happy to introduce you to some injured workers. I'd be more than happy to have you talk to people who have been impacted by decisions, and are going to be impacted by decisions to be made by this government.

I urge this government to move with care, to move with balance, to move with compassion. We're not talking about some institution removed somewhere; we're talking about an institution that serves injured men and women across this province, people who have done nothing more than simply having gone to work and having tried to take care of their family and have often paid the ultimate price as a result of that.



Mr Agostino: My friends across the floor don't seem to understand that. Many of the backbenchers are smirking and making stupid comments. I ask you to go out and talk to injured workers. Across the floor, go talk to them. Find out the pain, the agony that is going on and what you're going to inflict before you sit there with these smart-ass remarks.

This government is out of touch with reality. Those members are out of touch with reality.


The Speaker: Order. I think the honourable member has used some choice words that are not acceptable in this Legislature.

Mr Agostino: I will withdraw those comments. I would ask the government to go out and consult and show some care and compassion when it's dealing with this issue.

The Speaker: Time has expired.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I wish to bring up a certain standing order of this House as well as previous rulings of the Chair of this chamber that the reference to absence of a specific member is considered unparliamentary. I want to assure the member opposite that not only was I listening to his portion of the debate but I was engaged in discussions with the mayor of Hamilton's office with respect to looking into matters of concern to that city, which I know the member opposite -- and why I explain that to the member, and with the permission of the Chair for a brief second --

Mr Crozier: What's the point of order?

Hon Mr Jackson: The point of order is the unparliamentary reference to attendance in this House. I know the member opposite wishes always that matters of concern to his riding are raised, but that is why it is the custom not only in this Parliament but in all Parliaments in Canada that the references are offensive and inappropriate. I know he's a new member in this House, but there is a reason why that has been a previous ruling, and I appreciate now that perhaps we could be more sensitive to that issue.

Mr Silipo: On the same point of order, Mr Speaker: I think that the member for Burlington South is quite correct in his assertion that the rules are clear in terms of us not pointing out or any member pointing out the absence of another member. But I think that it would also be appropriate to point out that it is also a custom and a tradition, if not explicitly stated in the rules of this House, when important pieces of legislation are before this House that there be present in the House a minister or a parliamentary assistant responsible for that legislation. Mr Speaker, I think that you would understand certainly the frustration that we had at times in the debate when that did not take place.

Mr Agostino: Speaker, a point of order.

The Speaker: Under what section is your point of order?

Mr Agostino: The same section as the member referred to. Basically, just to the member across, the point was not meant to be in a derogatory manner --

The Speaker: You can't debate across the floor with another member. That's out of order.

Further debate. No further debate?

Mr Silipo: I would be happy to continue further debate, but I believe we had agreement to call --

Mr Kormos: Debate. Debate. We want to hear what you've got to say.

Mr Silipo: I would seek some guidance, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: There's been no agreement to my knowledge.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): There was an agreement at the House leaders' meeting this week that the debate would end at a quarter past 1 and that there would be a five-minute bell and that we would be voting on this issue at that time.

The Speaker: Nobody has announced that to me. Further debate.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Just to support the chief government whip, in fact that was the agreement that was arrived at by all three parties.

The Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent of the House to proceed with the vote? Agreed.

Mrs Witmer has moved second reading of Bill 15. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members; it will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1326 to 1331.

The Speaker: All those in favour of Mrs Witmer's bill will please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Guzzo, Garry J.

Parker, John L.

Baird, John R.

Hardeman, Ernie

Pettit, Trevor

Barrett, Toby

Harnick, Charles

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Boushy, Dave

Hastings, John

Ross, Lillian

Brown, Jim

Hudak, Tim

Runciman, Bob

Carroll, Jack

Jackson, Cameron

Sampson, Rob

Chudleigh, Ted

Johns, Helen

Saunderson, William

Clement, Tony

Johnson, Bert

Shea, Derwyn

Danford, Harry

Johnson, David

Sheehan, Frank

DeFaria, Carl

Johnson, Ron

Skarica, Toni

Doyle, Ed

Jordan, Leo

Snobelen, John

Ecker, Janet

Kells, Morley

Spina, Joseph

Elliott, Brenda

Leach, Al

Stewart, R. Gary

Eves, Ernie L.

Leadston, Gary L.

Tascona, Joseph N.

Fisher, Barbara

Marland, Margaret

Tilson, David

Flaherty, Jim

Martiniuk, Gerry

Turnbull, David

Ford, Douglas B.

Maves, Bart

Vankoughnet, Bill

Fox, Gary

Murdoch, Bill

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Galt, Doug

O'Toole, John

Wilson, Jim

Gilchrist, Steve

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Witmer, Elizabeth

Grimmett, Bill

Palladini, Al

Young, Terence H.

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


Agostino, Dominic

Crozier, Bruce

Pouliot, Gilles

Bartolucci, Rick

Curling, Alvin

Pupatello, Sandra

Bisson, Gilles

Duncan, Dwight

Rae, Bob

Bradley, James J.

Gravelle, Michael

Ruprecht, Tony

Castrilli, Annamarie

Kormos, Peter

Sergio, Mario

Christopherson, David

Lankin, Frances

Silipo, Tony

Churley, Marilyn

Martel, Shelley

Wildman, Bud

Colle, Mike

Martin, Tony

Wood, Len

Cordiano, Joseph

Phillips, Gerry


Clerk of the House: The ayes are 63, the nays 26.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Committee of the whole.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): No, it's going to the standing committee on resources development.

The Speaker: The request has been to the standing committee on resources development. Carried? Agreed.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm very proud to rise today to salute the work of the Thunder Bay district branch of the Canadian Diabetes Association and to introduce you to my friend here.

As part of a celebrity challenge, I attended a training seminar last week to learn what is involved in the day-to-day management of diabetes. Over the next week, participants like myself will be monitoring the amount and type of food that we consume and testing blood sugar levels at regular intervals.

My friend here will be subjected to injections similar to what diabetes patients undergo for insulin on a day-to-day basis. My bear was specially made by Mrs Jackie Hill, a member of the Thunder Bay diabetes board. Her daughter Cathryn has dealt with the difficulties of juvenile diabetes since the age of eight.

Each of us faces challenges in our day-to-day lives and we deal with those challenges in our own way. This awareness campaign by the Canadian Diabetes Association is aimed at helping those of us fortunate enough not to be confronted with diabetes understand the daily challenges faced by the one in 20 Canadians who are. While the discovery of insulin in 1921 was significant in managing diabetes and slowing its progress, it did not provide a cure.

The Thunder Bay district branch has been tremendously active over the past year. Through fund-raising initiatives, public health fairs and children's camps, they have been promoting public health and awareness across the community.

I would like to challenge all of you here to help fight diabetes. Volunteer or participate in one event or program offered by your local CDA branch this year. Working together, we can make a difference.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): This most urgent statement is directed to the Minister of Health concerning the Gaster family and the need for adequate home care for their 21-year-old son Enosh, who lives with a complicated epilepsy disorder which is not controlled by medication. He suffers from frequent life-threatening pneumonia.

Enosh's condition is such that a momentary deterioration, for even several moments, could be life-threatening. Enosh requires 24-hour monitoring. Over the years, through a combination of family care, home care and registered nursing care, the family has been able to ensure that someone was at Enosh's side when he needed help. However, this arrangement is no longer working because he is no longer receiving the registered nursing care he needs at night due to cuts.

Enosh is non-verbal. He requires that a trained medical professional be at his side at all times. Home care has stretched the number of service hours available as far as they can. The family, feeling that they had no other option, accepted what is available. They have at this time accepted an arrangement which his doctor feels is unacceptable and could endanger his health.

This is a heartbreaking and extremely complex case. I can't get into all the details of it here, but it's something that I've been working on, and my predecessors before me, with this loving, caring family. I would ask that the minister personally look into this case and find a way to provide the necessary resources to safeguard Enosh's health and life.


Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): I am pleased and honoured today to stand and inform the House of a teacher from a school in my riding who has been recognized as a co-winner of the Humber Valley Kiwanis Club's 1995 Teacher of the Year award. Dave Oliver, head of the science department at Scarlett Heights Collegiate, received the award last night, along with Anne Birch, an English teacher at Silverthorn Collegiate. That is also in Etobicoke.

Mr Oliver has taught at schools in Etobicoke for almost 30 years, of which the last six have been at Scarlett Heights. In addition to teaching biology, Mr Oliver sits on the school's anti-racism committee and is active with the intramural sports, including his role as coach of the tennis team.

The co-winner, Mrs Birch, in addition to being an English teacher, moderates the school's debating club and gives guidance to model Parliament and United Nations competitions.

I congratulate Mr Oliver and Mrs Birch for their exemplary work and for making a contribution to the education system that has had a positive impact on a great many children.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): The Toronto Raptors basketball team has started its inaugural season in the National Basketball Association. The hard work of all the staff of the Toronto Raptors has paid off, as they are about to historically embark on their quest for an NBA national championship.

As part of the team's commitment to the city, the province and the country, the staff and players of the Raptors are diligently working to improve the lives of children and teenagers. In fact, earlier this month the staff and players of the Toronto Raptors unveiled a program aimed at keeping kids in school. To complement this are numerous community outreach initiatives which seek to warn children of the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse, as well as enlightening students on the benefits of education and a healthy, active lifestyle.

Add to this the significant impact the team's presence will have on the local economy, then we are looking at major spinoff benefits for the city of Toronto. The construction jobs associated with the building of the new stadium, the infusion of tourist dollars into the city and the positive impact the presence of the team will have on the small business community make the Toronto Raptors a welcome addition to the city.

I look forward to following the progress of the Toronto Raptors as they begin their historic journey towards success.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Once again, northern residents are being hit hard by this government. "Cut and cut again" will only serve to widen the gap between the services provided in the north compared to what southern Ontarians are taking for granted and enjoying.

This time it's the work of the Solicitor General. An unprecedented number of OPP detachments in Lake Nipigon are under review and at risk of closing. The proposed amalgamation of detachments, for example, in my home community of Manitouwadge -- add to it the communities of Schreiber and Upsala -- will mean less direct access to police services for residents of my riding, along with an increased workload for an already overworked workforce.

Simply put, the north has been penalized and has received nothing since this government, took office a mere five and a half months ago.

With these proposed cuts, officers will have to travel greater distances to respond to calls.

I urge the minister to maintain the existing number of OPP, the existing number of detachments. I urge him to look at ways of increasing the police presence in areas which already have been hit hard indeed by this callous government's heavy-handed cuts.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I rise today to share with the members of this House some good news that's taking place in the great riding, indeed the great county, of Perth.

A $22-million development project has been announced in the city of Stratford. The old CN engine shops in the heart of Stratford will be transformed into a 240-room hotel-resort and spa. The Ramada Plaza Stratford Hotel will be the flagship of Ramada's Canadian operations. It will create 350 jobs in my riding, with an estimated annual payroll of $3.4 million and an economic impact of $100 million in the local economy.

The best part is there is no government money used. With the government out of the way, the private sector can and will create jobs.

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

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): It's good to hear some good news for a change.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Earlier this week, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing met privately with the chair of the Golden task force and was briefed behind closed doors on the findings of the task force. However, the recommendations made by this task force will not be shared with the taxpayers until some time in 1996.

Restructuring of the GTA will affect over four million taxpayers, from Burlington to Bowmanville, and will result in dramatic changes in everything from property taxation to policing and to every aspect of the socioeconomic life of 40% of Ontario's population.

The taxpayers paid for the task force and the taxpayers have a right to know what is being recommended behind closed doors. Why is this government hiding behind this secrecy? Why are they waiting for months before giving the public an overview of the recommendations? Why are they afraid to share the findings of the Golden task force with the ordinary taxpayers? Why must those most directly affected by the most significant changes in local government in the GTA in this century rely on media leaks and speculation to see how they might be affected by a new property tax system, for instance?

Let us hope that this secrecy and speculation are ended and the public is allowed to be part of this decision-making process without any further excuses about reports being too complex for the public to understand. Silence in this case should not be golden.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I stand here to speak on an issue that is of concern to many people, and that is around the issue of day care. There was a meeting at the Toronto Board of Education a week and a half ago. At this meeting there were approximately 900 people -- that's a lot of people -- talking about an issue that concerns them. It was in fact the largest meeting that I have ever attended.

There was not one Tory to speak on this issue; the minister wasn't there and somebody sent a letter on behalf of the parliamentary assistant saying whatever it is that they were saying. My feeling is that they're afraid to come and talk to the people about the effects the cuts have on individuals and on families and on the people of Ontario.

The points they made were the following. They cannot find volunteers to look after their children; it's not possible. People are working, and if they don't have a system as we have to give them access to a day care centre, those people will not be working. They don't want a voucher system, because it doesn't work and it will not work.

We don't need another system that will create further inequities for women. We don't need another system that you're about to embark on that will create further hardships for individual families and for people in this society.

This is a tragedy that is about to happen. I hope that we can avoid it. I hope that these Conservative members will rethink their strategy around child care, because it doesn't work, it will not work and will create further hardships for everyone.


Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): I rise today to recognize three exceptional young residents of the great city of Mississauga. Janine Smazick, Raymond Lim, both of whom are here today, and Mimi Nguyen were recently all awarded the Young Citizen of the Year honours for their outstanding contribution to their community and the province of Ontario.

Despite the individual demands of their own busy lives, these three individuals have given generously of their time and energy in support of numerous worthwhile efforts within the community while volunteering at hospitals, distress centres, coordinating campaigns and organizations for various causes or just simply getting involved because things need to be done. These three individuals provided the type of role model that the youth of today can look up to and would do well to emulate.

The residents of Mississauga are proud, indeed very proud and fortunate, to have in their midst these three citizens committed to improving our community and their community. On behalf of all the residents of Mississauga, I would like to congratulate them on their achievements.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: It's my privilege to inform the House that I took up the challenge of the member for Lake Nipigon this week and travelled from Timmins to Thunder Bay. I want to inform the House that the roads were in excellent shape. The people who they said would not --

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

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker --

The Speaker: That was not a point of order. He was out of order.

Mr Bisson: Mr Speaker, a number of people have died on the northern highways --

The Speaker: Order. The member will come to order or I will have to name the honourable member.


The Speaker: I name the honourable member. He would not come to order. He has been named. Would the member please leave the chamber.

Mr Bisson left the chamber.




Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I'm pleased to advise members of a development that occurred yesterday concerning the land cautions in the Temagami area. This development will restore hope and opportunity for residents of northeastern Ontario. The court made an order that the land cautions, which froze all progress in the area, have ceased to have effect.

The government of Ontario believes that this stalemate has lasted too long. For too many years, these cautions have had the effect of inhibiting the growth of the economy and the lives of the people in the region. The court's decision is a welcome development that allows everyone concerned to continue to move forward.

The government is now in a position to engage in the responsible administration and use of the lands for the benefit of all Ontarians, for both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities.

I want to assure this House that the government is committed to an orderly reopening of the lands in an environmentally responsible fashion. The government is committed to preserving old-growth heritage areas as well as the aboriginal sacred and cultural sites.

And I want to stress this point: The protection of the environment will be a top priority. Any development in the area will be subject to the same stringent environmental requirements applied throughout the province and no immediate action will take place in the area.

It is not our intention to open the entire region to mining at once. Instead, staking opportunities will be provided in an orderly manner, opening different townships up for staking at different times.

With regard to the outstanding issues of the aboriginal community, my door remains open to further discussions.

This resolution has been a long time coming and is the culmination of a lengthy court process. Now we can begin to work together in a non-adversarial manner that benefits all residents of Temagami region in the steps towards the restoration of economic hope and prosperity.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The minister speaks of an area which has been a great difficulty for many people and the many stakeholders in the area, including the residents of the area, others who have a specific interest across the province in the special attributes of the area, and of course the native population in the area, who have had an extremely special interest in developments that have taken place.

I find it interesting that the minister in his statement uses the word "progress." He says, "The court made an order that the land cautions, which froze all progress in the area, have ceased to have effect." I would say that he is equating in that the word "development" with progress, and sometimes development is progress and sometimes development isn't progress.

I note that in the statement he has also made reference to the fact that any development that might take place will be in a manner which is environmentally desirable, or words to that effect. He says that "Any development in the area will be subject to the same stringent environmental requirements applied throughout the province." My concern is that this government is going to reduce those environmental requirements throughout the province.

The minister gives an assurance, which I think is an assurance people would look for, that there will be not a different set of rules applied to this. But our concern would be, as expressed by the Environment critic for the official opposition, that the requirements that are in effect at the present time across the province are in fact going to be reduced.

If we look at the dismantling of the Ministry of Environment that is taking place and of course will take place to an even greater extent when the Treasurer, now called the Minister of Finance, makes his report to the Legislature -- not a budget, as we would like, but a financial statement -- on November 29, I think we will see that to enforce these stringent measures there will be fewer members of the Ministry of Environment available for those purposes. I think we will note that the word has gone out to the Ministry of Environment that it's to be more business-friendly. I think in the Ministry of Environment everybody knows what that means. It means reverting back to the good old days, as you would say, back when the polluters called the tune in so many of those cases.

So of course there are going to be rounds of applause taking place. As you reduce the staff, as you reduce the resources, as you reduce the environmental requirements, you will find that there will be some people very happy in this province. I know who they are, and they've been unhappy. But there will be a lot of people, average citizens across this province, who will be unhappy. But I am pleased that the Attorney General has included this in the statement, at the very least, because that's an important component.

It mentions, about mining, that "It is not our intention to open the entire region to mining at once." My concern again, if we look at the field of mining, is that the Minister of Natural Resources, who I understand in this government also has responsibility for mining, is changing the Mining Act again to reduce the requirements of mines in terms of the impact they have on the environment.

I know that sounds good when you start out. I know it can encourage some development, those changes in the Mining Act, but what happens is down the line when there is a desecration of the environment, when there is damage that is left, instead of those specifically responsible, those who derived profit from it, assuming the responsibility, all of the taxpayers of Ontario have to assume the responsibility. Those who know what's left after some of the mines are left and abandoned know there can be great difficulties unless there is appropriate government supervision and action.

This will be received in different ways, I'm sure, by different people. Some of the residents of the area will be pleased to see that there's a resolution of sorts. I think the minister is appropriate in stating that he has his door open to further discussions and negotiations. I think that is positive. I like to find something positive in a statement at all times, and that statement is positive, and his suggestion that there will be strict environmental requirements applied throughout the area is a positive statement. When we see the final action, however, when we see the plan unfolding, all of us will be able to render a better judgement at that time.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): In response to the statement that has been made this afternoon by the Attorney General, let me say this on behalf of our party.

Firstly, the court decision that was rendered yesterday on this issue really deals only with a very small piece of what has been a very large and complex and, frankly, a very divisive issue for a long time. In fact, the caution has been in place for well over 20 years now. There has been a freeze on development, certainly on the side of mining and prospecting, and there have been a number of conflicts back and forth between the native and non-native communities about how best to use the land and who could benefit by it.

I wanted to say that the former government, to their credit, did try, after the court rendered a decision with respect to the land caution, to put together a package that they hoped would be acceptable to the first nation and to the Teme-Augama Anishnabai to deal with issues of compensation around land, money etc. Unfortunately, that package was not accepted by the TAA and the first nation.

When we came to government, we as well, after many months of negotiation with the first nation, with the non-native communities, with the mining industry, with the forestry industry, also tried to put together a package. Again, after two votes, both by the band and by the TAA, it was not acceptable. We found that very regrettable, but we also at the time said that our door would be kept open and if at a certain point the first nations wanted to come back and accept that package, we would be prepared to honour the contribution we were prepared to put on the table.

So I say to the minister today that with the lifting of the caution, I really do encourage this government to move slowly, to deal with all the environmental concerns and to certainly deal with the concerns that the first nations have around sacred burial sites etc.

When I was at the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines we did put together a package. Some very good work was done internally by the staff to look at the orderly opening of the northern half of the area for staking purposes. I would certainly encourage the minister to talk to his colleague the Minister of Northern Development and of Natural Resources to again bring out those plans and take a look at them, not only to convince the first nations that it will go slowly, but also frankly to deal with health and safety concerns of people who want to go in and do work in an area where there hasn't been prospecting for some 20 years.


I would also encourage the minister and his government to really encourage the mining industry as well to make it clear to the first nations what kind of positive opportunities there are in this region for both prospecting and development. The OMA, certainly when I was minister, tried to have some meetings with the nations and did have one, that I recall, to encourage them to be partners in some development. I would encourage the minister to go back and have those discussions again.

Finally, I'm sure the minister knows full well that the original court decision on the land claim by the Bear Island band and by the TAA of course did not recognize the claim that was put forward. But it is also very clear that the court, when it rendered a decision on this issue, said that the government did have a fiduciary responsibility with respect to this first nation and recognized the very long time that this first nation has lived in the Temagami area.

That is why we entered into the negotiations that we did and that is why I am very hopeful to hear that the minister will keep the door open. He will know very clearly that there was a package on the table -- yes, a package that was refused, but none the less a package for compensation: financial, land and some participation in resource development. I hope that will be the same kind of package this government is prepared to keep on the table if and when and should the first nations and the TAA come to negotiate again with the government.

While we are pleased to see that one piece of a very complex and very divisive issue has been put to rest, there are many important issues which still remain outstanding and which will require very much the sensitivity of this minister and this government to deal with. I hope he will address them in that way.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): My question is for the Solicitor General. This morning, the Solicitor General would likely be aware, because he's obviously been briefed on this, Priscilla de Villiers and members of CAVEAT released their annual report card on the Ontario government's actions with regard to crime and safety. These are recommendations contained in a document known as Safety Net in the final report.

Surprisingly, the Ontario government received one of the lowest marks of all governments in Canada. In the area of crime prevention, a very important area, the Ontario government actually received an F, a failing grade. According to CAVEAT, while the government speaks a great deal about public safety and law and order, its actions speak louder than its words.

Minister, CAVEAT says that your cuts to welfare, your cuts to women's shelters, your cuts to halfway houses and your cuts to job training are all jeopardizing crime prevention efforts, and particularly the safety of children. Do you agree with CAVEAT that your policies will create more crime rather than less crime?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I agree with the member that D+ is not a very favourable mark; I haven't received a mark that low since grade 3. But I want to remind the member that we haven't even completed our first semester and I think the mark is unfair. I will be appearing before the CAVEAT conference on Monday to speak in the evening. At that point I'll be appealing for a higher mark.

Mr Bradley: It's unlikely the minister is going to receive a higher mark, because some of his colleagues will be effecting even further cuts to the areas about which CAVEAT has expressed some considerable concern.

CAVEAT said today that your policies "run counter to all known research on social development approaches to crime prevention." They go on to predict that your policies will have "a profoundly negative effect on the next generation." CAVEAT says that if the government continues along the path it is taking now, the results will be tragic.

Minister, will you listen to Mrs de Villiers and the members of CAVEAT, who know too well the pain of crime, and will you act on the concerns they have raised, or will they be dismissed as simply another interest group looking for money and consideration from the government?

Hon Mr Runciman: I've known Mrs de Villiers for some significant period of time and we've worked together. I've been involved with CAVEAT for some time as well in my role in opposition as critic for the Ministry of the Solicitor General, and certainly I'm quite prepared, as are other members of this government, to sit down with Mrs de Villiers and members of CAVEAT. We have a great deal of respect for the job they're performing, for the role they play and for the concerns they represent on behalf of victims in this province and we're prepared, in an ongoing way, to work with them. We want to work together. We share the same goals and objectives and I think, working together, we can achieve them.

Mr Bradley: I think the concern they would have is the concern I have, that the financial statement that will be presented to the House on November 29 from the Treasurer of the province, the Minister of Finance, will in fact not reflect that kind of concern.

CAVEAT says in the report card that the only contributions of the Ontario government to crime prevention are in the areas of reducing the luxuries of prisons and increasing deterrent measures. These, they emphasize, are the least effective methods of preventing crime. We're talking about crime prevention, as opposed to dealing with it when it has already happened.

Minister, Mrs de Villiers and CAVEAT are extremely critical of your actions. Like CAVEAT, we would like to know today what specific actions you will take to improve your failing grade in the field of crime prevention and, more importantly, what you will do to make our streets safer for our children in the years to come.

Hon Mr Runciman: That's one of the elements of the report card that we certainly are not supportive of and we will be discussing this with Mrs de Villiers and other members of CAVEAT.

I think that in terms of initiatives undertaken by this government in its short term in office, we stand up to scrutiny with any other government in this country, certainly in the last 15 or 20 years. We've made significant changes to the parole board. Prior to the changes we made there, there were no justice appointees with any justice background serving on the parole board. We have now Douglas Drinkwalter, a very well respected Ontarian, reviewing the parole board operations.

We've initiated a new risk assessment tool to assess individuals released out into our communities. We are looking at the development of a protocol to assist police forces with best practices on information sharing with respect to serial killers. We are working on the establishment of a release-of-names protocol to assist police officers and police chiefs in this province in terms of releasing names of dangerous offenders when they come out into their communities.

We will be introducing shortly a Victims' Bill of Rights which his party and the NDP refused to bring in during their terms in office. We will soon sign a proceeds-of-crime memorandum of understanding with the federal government. We're shortly going to be announcing a task force to deal with young offenders.

I can go on and on, but the reality is, the bottom line is that CAVEAT and other victims in this country will not find a more supportive government than the one currently in residence at Queen's Park.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Premier. Four weeks ago, the Right Reverend Walter Asbil, the Anglican bishop of Niagara, wrote you an open letter, a letter which said in part that Bishop Asbil, on behalf of the 116 parishes in that Anglican synod, were increasingly concerned by the appearance that your government was leaving with the people of Ontario in the early part of your mandate.

Quoting directly from the bishop's letter to you of October 24, 1995, "What I perceive...in the first months of your mandate as our Premier is that your government is singling out the poorest segment in our society, the ones with no champion in your cabinet, and you are asking them to bear the brunt of your efforts to reduce the debt."

Going on, he says, "The face your government is presenting to Ontario increasingly is one that shows heartlessness, no compassion, callous disregard and an attitude towards the poor that is perceived as mean and patronizing."

What have you had to say in response to the right reverend Anglican bishop of Niagara?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I thank the member for the question, because there has been, I would suggest to the member, efforts by some to portray getting our finances in order, to portray paying on average 10% higher than the rest of Canada and virtually almost any jurisdiction in the world, as somehow mean-spirited on behalf of this government, this administration. It's been repeated by some members of the opposition over and over and over again, I think with a view to try to get it into print and try and get the perception out there.


I think that the bishop, who is a bishop -- not my bishop but a bishop of the church to which I belong -- said in his letter that this is the perception that is being portrayed and he has concerns with this perception.

I just want to say this to the member: I have concerns with that perception too, because I want to tell you that making the tough and difficult decisions we have made, making those decisions we have made, not only is morally right but is the most compassionate thing that could possibly be done for the people of Ontario, for those who do not have jobs, for those who are currently on welfare, for those who are currently struggling along on minimum-wage jobs, and that the cruellest thing that could be done would be to do what was done for the last 10 years, nothing, and let this problem escalate.

Mr Conway: My supplementary to the Premier is as follows. On November 2, 1995, Rabbi Dow Marmur, in an address to Holy Blossom Temple here in Toronto, said in part:

"The triumph of the Common Sense Revolution illustrates what happens to society when religion is relegated to the private realm, where God sense is banished from common sense."

The rabbi goes on at some length to raise very real and deep-seated concerns on his part and on the part of members of his faith about the unjust and, dare I say, perceived immoral aspects of some of what you are doing to some of the most defenceless people in this society.

I say to you, Mr Premier, it's not Conway the opposition member speaking here. This is the Anglican bishop of Niagara, a very respected rabbi here in Toronto and scores of other church leaders in this province who represent the moral leadership of our community. What do you have to say to their growing criticism that what you are doing to the poor, to the disabled, to the disadvantaged is unjust, unfair and increasingly immoral?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me say that it concerns me if even one rabbi or one priest believes for one fraction of a second that doing what is responsible, doing what is right, correcting the massive overspending, particularly by the Liberal Party when it was in office, and then the massive borrowing by the NDP to pay for it when they were in office, it concerns me greatly if there is even one member of any clergy of any denomination who for some reason or other wishes to impugn a motive or accept a motive as being immoral or as being cruel.

Because I want to tell you and all members of the Legislature, to all Ontarians -- it's a very important question -- why is it we are trying to correct this massive overspending, this mess? Why is it we want to bring fiscal sanity back to the province?

It is something I intend to continue talking about. I'm happy to meet with members of the clergy, as with others, and explain to them how cruel it would be to do nothing and to carry on with the mismanagement of the last 10 years that has led to massive unemployment, to increased numbers on welfare, to loss of hope, to dependency, and to explain to them that I am confident the programs we are bringing in place will benefit the poor, the homeless, those without jobs, those on welfare, absolutely the most. That is our motive and that's why we're doing what we have to do.

Mr Conway: Premier, given the fact that you and members of your government have said repeatedly in recent months that it is your expectation that the community and certainly church and church-supported groups are going to have to do more to meet the social obligations of our community; and given that a growing number of these church leaders -- I have as well a statement from a multi-faith church council here in Ontario which indicates that the Lutherans, the Buddhists, the United Church and a score of other of these churches are saying increasingly that they are scandalized at what you are about these days.

Given that you expect these people to do more, and given that they are saying, more frequently and more loudly, that they are very alarmed by what you're about, will you give the House today an undertaking that in the very near future you, as leader of the government of Ontario, are going to meet with the church leadership in this province to allay their growing concerns about what you're doing and to satisfy, more particularly, some of the very real issues that they have raised in this correspondence which I have highlighted this afternoon?

Hon Mr Harris: I think it's a good question. There are some -- I don't believe the majority in the various church communities -- there are some, though, who have bought the bogus line that members of the opposition have tried to sell them that somehow or other what we are doing -- paying, for example, 10% on average more than the rest of Canada for welfare recipients, giving them a hand up, letting them earn back the difference -- that somehow or other this is cruel; that we are trying to reduce the expenditure of dollars that aren't our dollars in the first place, or these mythical dollars that you were able to borrow from abroad over a period of time.

Anything I can do by way of answering this question, or responding to correspondence, or meeting with members to assure them that the game plan and the motive is to abandon the failed policies of the last 10 years that have abandoned the poor, that have contributed to the number of homeless, to the need for food banks, to the numbers of people on welfare -- and that we would move in a new direction to create jobs and hope and prosperity and opportunity.

I might add, although it wasn't part of the question, we do count on those more fortunate in society and those who wish to help those who need a hand up, the churches, the service clubs, communities, neighbours -- we do call on them and ask them to assist us in this very difficult challenge.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is also to the Premier. In a sense it follows on your comments because it's about that hand up.

As I heard you during the election campaign, I think most often you referred to that hand up as your workfare program. And I have to say that I didn't find it terribly surprising today to read in the media that in fact what you were planning was a fairly minimalist approach to workfare, because we've been hearing for several weeks rumours from the ministry that they were scrambling to try to put meat on what was really a skeleton of an idea called workfare.

You referred to community organizations and volunteer organizations and, in fact, the article today said that's your plan, moving to Rotary clubs and others. The Premier will know that the majority of those organizations are, in fact, volunteer; they don't have a cadre of staff. In fact, this morning when we called the Rotary club and the Lions club to try to get some response from them, we got disconnected lines and answering machines. They didn't have staff there -- we figured they wouldn't -- to answer the phone. We did reach someone at the Kiwanis. In fact, they have two staff for all of eastern Canada and the Caribbean.


My question to the Premier is: How does he expect these organizations that are volunteer organizations to take on the burden of what should be the government's responsibility with respect to their plans for workfare and deliver this hand up in our communities to the people who so badly need it?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): The very direct answer to the member is, we don't expect them to take on all of this program or the government's responsibility, but we are responding to a number of those in service clubs who have written, who have phoned, who have volunteered, who have said to me and to members of our cabinet and to the minister very directly: "We can help. We have the ability, through our fund-raising, to assist." Quite frankly, many of them have told us: "You know, we have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank from fund-raising, and in many cases we weren't so sure that the project we were planning to put the money towards" -- in some cases it was a rink or it was recreation -- "perhaps we should reassess the priorities. Perhaps giving them a hand up could be part of it. Perhaps we could assist in this way."

So I say very directly to the member, if she knows of other community groups or service clubs or churches or non-profit groups or profit groups that are willing to provide some work experience, some jobs, we'd be very interested in hearing from them because we're looking at all options and all ways to put our workfare program into place and give people some work experience and a true hand up.

Ms Lankin: We'd appreciate it if perhaps the Premier would table the list of those groups that have written to him, the lists of the thousands of projects. We're interested if in fact this is part of the plan that you are moving forward with in terms of workfare. We think you should be out there consulting with these groups and finding out if this is actually real, because we've done a bit of research.

In speaking with the Elizabeth Fry Society, for example, in Peel region, they operate a community services program, and you know they have a 180 community agencies on register, the very agencies that you're talking about, the very kinds of community groups that want to be involved in helping out in this way. In that community service program, as they work with those 180 agencies, they are always struggling to try to find enough work for people who are ordered by court to do community service.

Sometimes the community service program coordinator has to go out and supervise. They know it makes more work for their agencies. They're already stretched. They're out there; they have to supervise these people who come in. There are liability issues. If they're out building that rink for you and they fall and get hurt, who covers their workers' compensation? What's the liability to the organization? Questions of suitability: The first two people on the list get sent over, and if they don't show up or if they can't do the job, they get cut from benefits.

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

Ms Lankin: There are a lot of issues here. I'll put my question. I would like to ask him how he thinks his government workfare program is going to find placements for tens of thousands of people in a way that is any easier than the task that's already faced by groups like the Elizabeth Fry Society.

Hon Mr Harris: I can tell you one thing. If we simply do nothing, if we give up, if we abandon these people who are able to work but don't have jobs, who are currently on welfare, as the former government did, if we insist that we'll just pay them to sit home and do nothing, if you think that is acceptable, then we won't be able to help anybody.

Now, are we going to be able to get every able-bodied person on welfare to work tomorrow or even in the first year? Of course not; we understand that. In the campaign, in the lead-up to the campaign and post campaign I said very clearly we're in uncharted waters because for 10 years the Liberal Party and the NDP did nothing here. They insisted that paying people to sit home and do nothing was better than having them do something.

So we are on uncharted waters. We don't have a lot of experience, we don't have a lot of expertise but I'm going to tell you this: One person getting a job and getting work experience who previously was condemned to sit home and do nothing will be a victory and will be a success, and we are confident that we can help many people.

Ms Lankin: If the Premier of this province truly believed that, he would not have cancelled Jobs Ontario Training; he would not have cancelled Jobs Ontario Youth. People were getting back to work. People were getting job experience. Your government, sir, cancelled those programs.

I want to come back to the promise that you made to the people during the election, the promise of a workfare program. You weren't going to just cut benefits. You were going to give people a hand up; you were going to put in place workfare. Where is it? You have cut the benefits, you have not put workfare in place and now you're saying to community organizations, voluntary organizations, not-for-profits, many of whose budgets have been cut and will be cut further by your Finance minister's economic statement, that they're going to have to take on more responsibility, they're going to have to help you implement your workfare program with no resources.

This doesn't come cheap. We agree people need to have training. We agree people need those opportunities. We want to see them get back to work. You're doing nothing to implement a real workfare program. Please share with us, what are your plans and how are these community agencies that are already stretched going to be able to take part in them?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me say that we are consulting. We are listening, as we've been asked to do. We are talking to all kinds of groups: community groups, service groups as well.

I want to say this very directly to the member, that instead of criticizing workfare, instead of knocking it, instead of looking at all the barriers, all the reasons why, "No can do, can't be done, so don't bother trying," that type of negative, defeatist attitude is why we're in the mess we're in in this province, why we have a $10-billion deficit, why we have a $100-billion debt.

Might I, Mr Speaker, by way of two final comments to the member say this: Number one, if you want to ask for a reason for Jobs Ontario, check the auditor's report on what a boondoggle and a waste of money that was.

And let me challenge the member to do this: Help us. Work with us. Perhaps when the NDP party is out of the hole, you'll help hire some people and give them a hand up.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I have a question, Mr Speaker for, well perhaps a more compassionate minister, that of Transportation.

In a speech to the Ontario Motor Coach Association, Mr Frank D'Onofrio -- what Frank does for a living is as follows: He's an employee of the Ministry of Transportation in the capacity of associate director of passenger transportation policy at your ministry, Minister -- and I quote, said: "Municipal Affairs Minister Al Leach" -- your seatmate -- "recently announced a major overhaul of the Municipal Act, citing that municipal laws are too prescriptive and inflexible."

He goes on to say, "In terms of transportation, this reform has obvious implications for the provision of municipal transit services and for the extended role your industry" -- we're talking about the private sector, Ontario Motor Coach Association -- "could play. The government wants these changes in place before the next municipal election of 1997" --

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

Mr Pouliot: It's coming, Mr Speaker.

You will be aware, Mr Speaker, that the Municipal Act under subsection 210(104) gives sole jurisdiction vis-à-vis municipal transit to the municipalities. Minister, are you going to allow the private bus industry to grab the most lucrative routes and leave many passengers stranded without service?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I want to thank the honourable member for the question. Simply to answer the question, definitely no. Just because we are going to deregulate a system that clearly is not working doesn't mean there's going to be losses of routes. You're losing routes now with regulation. So I want to assure the honourable member that this deregulation is going to be done in a very orderly fashion, and we will do probably better, like I said the other day, than what presently you have in place.


Mr Pouliot: Every tenure has its compensation. I sure would not wish to be in the shoes of Mr D'Onofrio. I'm asked to believe who is telling the truth. Is it Frank? Is it the seatmate, Mr Leach? Is it the other minister? Who's telling the truth? I trust Frank is.

I know the minister doesn't use public transit for he is chauffeur-driven. I know that the minister thinks that everyone has a cellular phone. I'm asking by way of a question --


The Speaker: Order. The member's supplementary?

Mr Pouliot: Will you please endeavour to cap the bottles, Mr Speaker?

Will the minister commit that before anything gets done, any changes vis-à-vis public transit, that we will have public hearings and that the customers, the client group, as citizens will be given the guarantee that the service will not be negatively impacted?

Hon Mr Palladini: I just want to say that people who are insinuating or saying that small towns are going to lose their routes should take a look because small towns have already been losing a lot of routes and there are a lot of examples out there. If the honourable member would like to have a list of the routes that have actually been abandoned, I would be more than happy to share that information with him. I'll be happy to send him a letter and tell him exactly how many.

Mr Pouliot: "They should take a look because they're already losing their routes." This is a message of confidence from the chief of transportation in the province of Ontario? It's absurd; absurd indeed.

My final supplementary concerns GO Transit. The minister earlier this week admitted that his government was deregulating the industry. What database are you working from, Minister? What is your plan of attack? What consultation have you had with people who no longer will have the service? Will you please table in this House the database that led to this unbelievable and impractical decision?

Hon Mr Palladini: There has been a lot of collaboration and conversation with the people involved in the industry, the experts who have been presently servicing the province of Ontario. Clearly, the regulations that are in place have not worked for the betterment of Ontarians who do need bus transportation.

Deregulation will open up a lot of barriers and give smaller municipalities the opportunity -- give someone the opportunity to be able to -- instead of using a 40-passenger bus, possibly a 12-passenger bus would be a lot less costly and still maintain the services of small communities.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Last evening there was a very serious toxic gas emission from Inco's acid plant into the Gads Hill, Lockerby and west-end communities of Sudbury. This leak was so severe that emergency patients had to be bused literally by the busload from the memorial hospital to the general hospital. Sadly, one person admitted is still in critical condition. Doctors performing complicated surgery had to use oxygen masks in order to complete the surgery.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Who's the question to?

Mr Bartolucci: My message is simply, through you, Mr Speaker, to the Ministry of Environment and Energy. Although I'm confident that Inco and the Steelworkers will investigate this accident fully, I am concerned about the provincial reaction and response to this incident in light of the government's intention to relax environmental standards.

My question to the minister is, what provincial standards are in place to protect against this type of toxic gas leak so that the workers and the public at large in Sudbury can be protected from poisonous gas leaks?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I thank the honourable member opposite for the question. I would like him to know that my ministry is aware of the unfortunate situation yesterday. My staff and officials are looking into it and we do not yet have all the details available to us, but I will be very pleased to get back to you in the House with the information that you request.

Mr Bartolucci: I believe my request, Madam Minister, is simply for provincial standards. All the investigation in the world in Sudbury isn't going to give us the provincial standards; they should be in place.

But my supplementary concerns the fact that the leak continued for almost 45 minutes. Why did it take so long for the ministry officials to react, what are the standards for reporting the spewing of these life-threatening toxic chemicals by the ministry and will the minister please explain what the procedure is for reaction to these?

Hon Mrs Elliott: Any circumstance such as this is a concern to this government. The health and the safety of the citizens of Ontario is very important to us, and we are concerned when incidents like this occur. The member opposite very likely knows that we have a Spills Action Centre that is available 24 hours around the clock. As I said earlier, we are looking into this matter, and I will be very pleased to share with the member any information that is forthcoming to me with regard to the situation.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the minister responsible for native affairs. Minister, your government has cut funding to 29 native friendship centres across the province. Your cuts have focused overwhelmingly on operations and programs that benefited young children and teenagers. As a result, friendship centres across the province are having to lay off staff and they're having to abandon some of those very important services that they provided to young children and teenagers.

At the same time, your government is working away preparing a very large tax cut for higher-income earners. Can you, as minister responsible for native affairs, tell us how you can justify these cuts to kids and to teenagers where there are no other services available for them while you're working away on the tax cut?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): As you have heard repeatedly in this Legislature, the debt that this province has been left with, this legacy of debt, is going to affect every Ontarian. As we struggle to bring the debt down and into control, we are looking at every single program that the government operates. Unfortunately, that includes programs that involve the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, which all deliver programs to native peoples.

I have been personally to several native friendship centres. I have met personally with the directors of those centres, and they understand very much the situation that the province is in. They also are very concerned to make sure that the government recognizes that native friendship centres deal with problems of native peoples off-reserve.

As we develop a native affairs framework, we have indicated to them that they will be very much part of that development. I am very much aware of the fact that they are trying to keep programs going and in fact are doing so and that they understand the predicament that we have been left in because of your economic policies.

Mr Hampton: Members of the government can talk about deficit and debt all they want. Everybody in Ontario knows it's the tax cut that is driving everything else; it's this desire to hand out money to their wealthy friends that means that injured workers, native people, people on social assistance and people unemployed take less. Everybody knows that, so give up the game.

Minister, you've obviously been to different friendship centres than I've been to. The friendship centre in my home town is having a beans-and-baloney supper tonight to show the kind of diets that you're inflicting on the most vulnerable people in this province. The friendship centre in London is in fact closing its doors. It's going to reopen, but it's closing its doors to show people exactly what's happening.

So I would say to you that people are angry, and the friendship centres are angry. They're angry because their program to help little children has been wiped out; their programs and operations to help teenagers stay out of trouble with the law, to stay out of gasoline sniffing and to have a better future have been wiped out.


Let me ask you again. We know it's all about tax breaks for wealthy people. How do you justify -- especially as Attorney General, supposedly having some concern for crime prevention -- essentially abandoning these people when you know what very well may happen in terms of further involvement with law enforcement in terms of gasoline sniffing and all those problems? How do you justify it?

Hon Mr Harnick: There have been cuts that have been imposed by the Ministry of Community and Social Services on these programs and those cuts are cuts that have been felt in many sectors across this province.

I have a lot of trouble being lectured to by a person who was a member of a government that, before any talk of any tax cuts even arose, was on line to be bringing in another deficit of $10.5 billion in one year. If we hadn't taken the steps that we have taken to bring that deficit down to $8.7 billion in the year and to start to deal with this, we would be on our way to have interest payments in this province, by the turn of the century, of $20 billion. I tell you, Mr Speaker, that if we had interest payments to pay of $20 billion, we wouldn't have any social programs in this province.

So we are doing what's necessary to ensure a future for every one of these programs that you would have destroyed, and I won't take any lectures from you as a result of the way you left this province.

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

Hon Mr Harnick: And native peoples to boot.

The Speaker: Order.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Earlier today we had the vote on the second reading of Bill 15, the reform of the WCB. My question is to the minister responsible for workers' compensation reform, the Honourable Cam Jackson.

In September 1993, the Workers' Compensation Board undertook a review of a complex system which rewards employers with good safety records. It was called the new experimental experience rating system. It is my understanding that this situation had a direct influence on the very large unfunded liability of the WCB. Can the minister indicate for me how this impacts on the unfunded liability?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): I want to thank the member for Durham East for his question. It's another example of the very difficult financial situation that the workers' compensation system in this province finds itself in.

The NEER system which is referenced in the question is a process where the board grants a rebate on the assessment premiums paid by companies with good safety records. Unfortunately, we have a problem that has been arising in this province where the rebates have been far greater than the penalties, and it has created an off-balance. That off-balance was $156 million in 1993 and it is projected to be almost a quarter of a billion dollars for the 1994 accident year.

This is a serious revenue leakage for the board. It is a serious problem because the current bipartite board failed to balance off the penalties with the rebates. It has created a terrible operating problem for the board's operations and has hurt the unfunded liability goals of getting that down from its current $11.4-billion unfunded liability position.

Mr O'Toole: As a previous employee of General Motors, I've worked with injured workers and I'm very concerned by the comments of the minister. People from my riding are concerned about the issue and want to see this financial drain on the system addressed. Can the minister indicate that he will continue to address this issue and make it a priority in his review?

Hon Mr Jackson: This government was elected in order to make very positive changes to the Workers' Compensation Board to reverse the direction of this unfunded liability.

I want to say at the outset that we support the concept of experience rating. We think it contributes to safer work environments for the men and women in this province. But we also believe that we need now to respond to the changing nature of work and the need to encourage effective practices for workplace health and safety in this province.

I want to assure the member, who has raised the question on behalf of the working men and women in his riding, that this quarter of a billion dollar off-balance problem, this revenue leakage, will be dealt with by our review and that it will form part of the consultations this government is going to undertake on this very important compensation program for injured workers in Ontario.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance. We were interested yesterday to see that you're planning to institute a snitch line for tax cheaters and I guess we'd like to get some more details on this.

Clearly, the model you've given to Ontario is the one you've used to try and hunt down welfare fraud. We know you've prepared this bulletin, that you want it stapled up in post offices and arenas and government buildings around, and you've got a very catchy 1-800 number here. So we know you've perfected this process for tracking down welfare fraud. Can we assume that the program you will institute for tax fraud will carry the same type of poster and will you have a similar kind of catchy 1-800 number so that people can attack tax fraud in the same way you want them to attack welfare fraud?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): What I said yesterday when I was scrummed after question period was that we would consider a hotline, along with a whole host of other measures, so we can come back with a comprehensive plan to respond to the Provincial Auditor's report, and that's exactly what we plan on doing.

Mr Phillips: The reason we pursue it is that tax fraud, according to the auditor, is 10 times more serious than welfare fraud. Now, you've put the government resources behind attacking welfare fraud. In fact, what the Minister of Community and Social Services, Mr Tsubouchi, did, just so the minister will remember, is he sent a letter out to all of his colleagues around the province.

Among other things, it said: "Listen, we've got this poster here. We want you to go out in the neighbourhood, in the public buildings. Get it stapled up. Hunt down those welfare fraud people." It says, in addition, it isn't just people who you know are committing welfare fraud; it's people you suspect of welfare fraud. Even the suspects have to be hunted down.

The auditor said tax fraud is 10 times the size of welfare fraud. You have said that you are going to institute a full program for it. Can we assume that the program you instituted for welfare fraud, the well-tested program you believe in strongly, with a letter to the colleagues, can we assume we will see the same program and can we assume that we will see a "Dear Colleague" letter from you going out to the chambers of commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Albany Club, urging them to post the same sort of posters around the community that you ask people to post to go after welfare fraud? Can we make that assumption?

Hon Mr Eves: If I were the honourable member, I wouldn't assume anything. As I said, we are looking at a comprehensive response to the Provincial Auditor's report to respond to his concerns, not only to retail sales tax but to other concerns as well. We will look at what the Provincial Auditor's report said very seriously and come back with a comprehensive package to address it.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. The citizens of Flamborough, the Hamilton-Wentworth regional government, and last but not least at all, the member for Wentworth North, have all expressed their strong opposition to the proposal by Redland Quarries to build a mega-dump in their community. The Environmental Assessment Board ruled against the dump, citing, among other things, and I quote, "unacceptable risk to local groundwater and surface water resources." Redland Quarries has appealed this decision to cabinet. I'd like to ask the minister, could she tell us if she thinks the board decision on this EA should be overturned?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): The Redland example the member opposite speaks of is another example of the kind of searches for landfills that have plagued this province for the past few years: expensive, unpredictable and very distressing to all residents involved, as well as troublesome to the municipalities. Redland has submitted an appeal to cabinet -- she's quite right as to that -- and asked for a review of the board's decision in this matter. As she is aware, the matter will be dealt with at cabinet level. It has not yet come before cabinet.


Ms Churley: I find that answer really alarming in two aspects. Number one, she's already made a comment on her position on the decision cabinet should make, and on September 9 she made several comments to a newspaper on her position on what should happen in this decision before it ever comes to cabinet. She's gone public with that. She's made comments here in the House today.

When the Premier was asked this question a while ago by my colleague from the Liberal Party, the Premier said, and I'd like to quote him, "If there has been a request, a petition to cabinet, then cabinet must receive that petition and in a judicial way rule on it." I would say to the minister that she has already prejudiced the outcome of that result today. She may not have broken any law here by making her feelings known about it.

I would also say to the minister that whether or not she thinks the decision made sense in terms of the process, if she looks at the ruling, they made very good environmental reasons why it should not ever be approved.

But what I'd like to ask her is, doesn't she think she's already influenced the decision by making a comment already on this?

Hon Mrs Elliott: I have not made a decision as to how that issue should be dealt with before cabinet. Cabinet will review that issue carefully, I'm very confident of that, and the members of cabinet will make a thorough and thoughtful decision with regard to this appeal.


Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. The auditor's report identified a number of serious concerns with the way the previous government administered the Jobs Ontario Community Action program. Will the minister inform the Legislature what this government is doing to ensure that the committed JOCA money is being properly spent?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'd like to thank the member for Etobicoke-Humber for the question, because it's something I do wish to inform the House about. I'm sure the official opposition will be very interested in my response and I would imagine that the third party could be quite embarrassed.

Having said all that, the auditor did identify some very appalling deficiencies in the whole JOCA programs. It identified such things as undefined project goals, undefined obligations, inadequate or non-existent cost estimates and weak project monitoring.

My ministry has strengthened its monitoring procedures to ensure that all projects are in compliance with the individual grant agreements, and as the lead minister of JOCA, I have asked the other ministers involved in the program to ensure that, first, project monitoring is brought up to standard; second, no further payments are made until individual legal agreements are reviewed to determine compliance; and third, but not least, that taxpayers' funds are recovered wherever possible and wherever appropriate.

Mr Ford: In light of the auditor's report and its recommendations, how will this government administer its programs and projects differently from the previous government?

Hon Mr Saunderson: In reply again to the member for Etobicoke-Humber, I wish to tell him that sound business principles will certainly be applied, that strict accounting procedures will be followed completely, that careful and thorough monitoring of all new and ongoing projects will continue, and unlike the previous two governments, we will show some respect for the hardworking Ontarians and the tax dollars they have paid.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Premier. When you announced the makeup of your cabinet and with a good deal of fanfare your speech from the throne, you talked about the fact that Ontario was open for business, and Ontario being open for business, we're going to have all kinds of plants coming to Ontario and the exodus of plants, it was presumed, would end.

Today Foster Wheeler in St Catharines, a very major concern, announced that it was moving its industrial steam boiler products division to Dansville, New York, with 180 full-time jobs disappearing. Could you tell me what you are prepared to do to reverse this decision on the part of the plant, or are we simply to allow it to move to the United States with 180 permanent jobs, many of the people involved being long-time employees of Foster Wheeler?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I very much appreciate the question, and obviously we weren't elected soon enough to stop the exodus completely out of the province of Ontario. There is no question that hundreds, if not thousands, of companies and CEOs had said to me for the previous two years before the election: "If the government doesn't change, if the policies don't change, we are out of here. We're going to a jurisdiction where we can make a buck, where our investment is welcome, where the red carpet is thrown out instead of red tape."

I want to say to the member, we regret we weren't elected sooner so we could have stopped some of these plans by all companies. We know we have stopped the plans by a number of companies and have seen reinvestments by some. If the question is, will I call the company, yes, I will. I will tell them our plans for the future, and once they know that, perhaps if the decision isn't irreversible on the basis of the last 10-year record, we can do something.

But indeed it distresses me if one company believes that we are not going to reverse the direction of the last 10 years and before we finish make sure that Ontario is the number one jurisdiction in the world in which to locate and invest and create jobs. That concerns me.

Mr Bradley: I don't think that answer will be very comforting to the member for St Catharines-Brock or the member for Lincoln or the other members for the Niagara Peninsula, with a lot of bravado being introduced and blaming somebody else. You've been in power now for five months and it seems to me -- one thing I want to give you credit for, Premier -- you have clearly indicated the direction in which you wish to take the province, and the corporate sector in this province would recognize that direction.

You're making changes to various acts, you're removing some of the legislation that you believe was detrimental introduced by the NDP, and yet you have a major concern in St Catharines taking a hike to Dansville, New York, and consolidating its operations there.

Premier, will you instruct the minister of industry, trade and technology, or whatever name we use today, Economic Development, to meet immediately with the company to provide any assistance in terms of logistics and any arguments that are necessary to try to persuade the company to retain its 180 jobs in St Catharines, jobs that are of great concern to anybody regardless of how they voted in the last election?

Hon Mr Harris: I'll do better than that. I'll call the company myself, personally. Because perhaps, if the reason they're moving is the slightest bit of doubt that we're serious about balancing the books, about getting our affairs in order, about reforming WCB, about removing all those barriers that the NDP and the Liberal Party put up in the last 10 years, I want to make sure we correct that record.

Let me say two things to the member. Your leader said on May 19, 1995, "Balancing the budget is the single most important thing we can do to create a climate that will attract investment...encourage job creation in the private sector." Yet every time we cut five cents out of a $10-billion deficit, you, your members, your leader, are on your feet saying: "Don't cut this; don't cut that. Spend more here. Don't balance the budget. Don't get the finances in order. Carry on the irresponsible ways that we and the NDP did."

There are a number of companies down your way that do understand the agenda, companies that are talking in the Niagara region economic development department. Things are looking up: Niagara Parks Commission, started an $11.5-million concern in Niagara Falls; Ontario Hydro; Cyro Canada; Iona Appliances; Atlas Specialty Steels; Whiting Equipment of Welland; Port Weller Dry Docks; Neville Classic Candles; Canadian Tire Acceptance of Welland; Alliance Call Centre Services --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order, the question has been answered.



Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): My question is to the Minister of Finance. Minister, you will remember the infamous videotape of your colleague the Minister of Education and Training when he was recorded speaking to some of the senior ministry staff. It was reported on September 13 in the Windsor Star and other papers.

In that tape, he points out to senior ministry officials that it is the goal of businesses to avoid paying taxes. He said: "You know, the goal of private business, a privately owned business, you know what it is? To break higher and higher each year, and I can tell you I did that for a while. I've been fighting taxes for years."

Let me say to the minister, you say you take the problem of tax cheating quite seriously. Will the Minister of Finance confirm his commitment to collecting unpaid taxes in the system and audit the three companies of which the Minister of Education was president?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I think the honourable member knows quite well that her question is quite inappropriate, to start directing individual companies to be audited. I think there's a big difference that I should point out to the honourable member. There is a big difference between tax fraud and cheating on taxation and trying to make more and more money to improve your bottom line every year.

Ms Lankin: As soon as the minister institutes his snitch line I'll call him with that recommendation and then maybe he'll send his auditors to the minister's three companies and audit them.

I want to say to you that the minister yesterday said the Provincial Auditor was concerned about the collection of taxes, and that he was in fact. I reviewed that report, and the Provincial Auditor said that in fact progress was being made but more had to be done, and I agree with him on that.

Project Fair Share was in place and in its first two years of operation the increased number of auditors who were there collected over $81 million more in taxes. Project Fair Share had budgeted for more auditors and the hiring plans were in place. You, sir, in July put that on hold and cancelled that expansion of staff. The unified reporting program was to come in in January 1996. That would have streamlined remission of taxes for business. You, sir, put that on hold.

I want to know how committed you are to going after the collection of unpaid taxes. Will you commit to us that you will reinstate both Project Fair Share and the unified reporting system?

Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member talks about Project Fair Share and she's quite correct with respect to the fact that her government initiated the project and put it into place. She also will be quite aware that 35 of the 107 positions were set aside for retail sales tax auditors, and her government didn't bother to fill 21 of the 35 when they were in office. She will know that she didn't bother to do that when she was --

Ms Lankin: That's not true.

Hon Mr Eves: It is true. You did not fill 21 of the 35 positions and you know that is a fact. I know it's an unacceptable fact for you, but you didn't fill them.

There's a difference also between the positions that your leader was talking about yesterday in the memo that he subsequently set aside. Of the positions he was talking about, not a single one has to do with retail sales tax auditors -- not one. Yet he left the impression, and asked the question yesterday, as if every single one of them did. He knew that was totally factually incorrect and left a totally false impression.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Miniser of Finance and Government House Leader): I move that Mr Conway and Mr Agostino exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business.

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



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

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

I have affixed my signature to this petition.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas six women present at a meeting held by minister responsible for women's issues Dianne Cunningham at her constituency office on October 25, 1995, agreed that they heard the minister state, `Within the context of this government, you need to understand that groups or agencies that are seen not to be working with this government, providing an oppositional voice...will be audited and their funding eliminated;' and

"Whereas the minister responsible for women's issues denies having made this statement; and

"Whereas the minister's credibility and all future actions and statements will be clouded by these discrepancies;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, request that the government establish a legislative committee to determine whether the minister responsible for women's issues abused her authority as a minister of the crown by making threatening and intimidating remarks at the meeting described above."

I will affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I have a petition to the Parliament of Ontario.

"Whereas Ontario seniors, upon reaching the age of 80, are currently required by legislation to take written and practical examinations by the Ministry of Transportation in order to continue driving; and

"Whereas these examinations have placed unnecessary stress and anxiety upon seniors which have resulted in heart attacks and even heart failure; and

"Whereas medical doctors and family members are fully able to assess the health and driving abilities of seniors above the age of 80 relative to highways below the 400-level series roads;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"That the Ontario government permit senior citizens who have reached the age of 80 to continue driving on roads under the 400 series provided they have obtained the approval from either their family members or their physician."

I affix my signature to that petition.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I will read it as is.

"We, the undersigned, feel that removing the designated smoking area which was located in front of St Cinnamon in the Centre Mall located in Hamilton as of Friday, June 30, 1995, is unfair and should be changed back to a designated area.

"As staff and customers of the mall, we have abided by the laws and use this area for smoking. Those who do not smoke feel there should be an area provided for those who wish to smoke. We understand the owners of the establishment requested a designated smoking area in front of their store and purchased tables and chairs to serve their customers, over a year ago. This service is greatly appreciated by all of us as we are on our feet all day. It is nice to be able to sit down and relax with a cup of coffee for a few minutes and have a cigarette if we choose to. We also understand, through information provided to us, that we can go to Mmmuffins if we choose to, as they are being allowed to maintain their smoking area. This is unfair and unjust. The law is allowing one establishment, at the other end of the mall, to maintain their customers and provide them with a service which you are moving from us. We feel this location is now at a disadvantage both saleswise and also in maintaining the business of customers who frequent this location daily," and we urge that the legislation to be changed.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'd like to present a petition on behalf of 1,372 residents of the riding represented by the member for Parry Sound. This petition concerns the issue of Skerryvore road access. I'll read the applicable paragraphs.

"Skerryvore residents, denied access to their properties, are asking the Ontario government to provide them with a new road into Skerryvore.

"Residents are asking for your support on this issue. By signing this petition you are indicating that you support the residents of Skerryvore in this endeavour."

I have affixed my signature.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The people of northern Ontario continue to be outraged by the cuts to winter road maintenance put forward by the Minister of Transportation. My petition reads:

"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 am proud to sign my signature to the petition.



Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a petition from the secondary school teachers of Dufferin county.

"We, the undersigned, as educators of Dufferin county secondary schools and members of District 48, OSSTF, petition the government of Ontario and the members of the provincial Parliament of Ontario to oppose the recommendations of the implementation task force on the Ontario College of Teachers. We find the recommendations contained in the aforementioned report are not made in the best interests of education and sound paedocology.

"The recommendations put public accountability ahead of good professional practice by removing the responsibility for professional growth and conduct from our federation. Indeed, we find the proposals made by the Ontario Teachers' Federation to assume the governance of the college of teachers to be quite appropriate. We find it ironic that the report from the task force would create a college of teachers as a multimillion-dollar bureaucracy at a time when restraint and cost-effective management are emphasized as the foundation in the Common Sense Revolution. Surely these recommendations do not constitute practical reforms.

"We therefore respectfully submit this petition to the Legislature of Ontario as an expression of our concerns for the future integrity of education in Ontario on this date, the 6th of November 1995."


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): The petition is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth has helped nearly 130,000 people since 1986; and

"Whereas more than 35,000 youths have come to the centre for various services; and

"Whereas nearly 10,000 people have filled casual, full- or part-time jobs; and

"Whereas 372 youths have returned to school; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario has decided to close community youth support programs, including the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth,

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

"That the government of Ontario continue to fund the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth."

I have proudly affixed my name to this petition.


Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a petition from the elementary school teachers of Dufferin county.

"We, the undersigned, as educators of Dufferin county elementary schools and members of OPSTF, Dufferin district of the Dufferin Women's Teachers Association, petition the government of Ontario and members of the provincial Parliament of Ontario to oppose the recommendations of the implementation task force in the Ontario College of Teachers.

"We find the recommendations contained in the aforementioned report are not made in the best interests of either public education or teachers. Indeed, we find the proposals made by the Ontario Teachers' Federation to assume the governance of a college of teachers to be quite appropriate. We find it difficult to accept that the report from the task force would create a college of teachers as a multimillion-dollar bureaucracy at a time when restraint and cost-effective management are clearly emphasized in the foundation in the Common Sense Revolution. Surely these recommendations do not constitute practical reforms.

"We therefore respectfully submit this petition to the Ontario Legislature as an expression of our concerns for education in Ontario."


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Again, I'm happy to present this petition on this very, very serious concern we have with regard to northern Ontario highways.

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."

I proudly affix my name to the petition.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have another petition on the same subject, a different petition.

"Where as 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 signature to this as well.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

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

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

The Speaker will know that part of this has been acted upon in the statement of the Attorney General. I affix my signature to this petition.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Further petitions? Seeing none, we will move on to reports by committees. Reports by committees? Introduction of bills?

Seeing none, as previously agreed by this House, routine proceedings having been completed, this House stands adjourned until Monday at 1:30 pm.

The House adjourned at 1516.