36th Parliament, 1st Session

L031 - Tue 28 Nov 1995 / Mar 28 Nov 1995





















































The House met at 1333.



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): On Saturday, November 4, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the Armenian Community Centre of Hamilton. The Armenian community in Hamilton is one of the oldest Armenian communities in Canada. Records of Armenians in Hamilton-Wentworth date back to the late 19th century.

Two very important organizations stemmed from the settlement of the Armenian communities: the ARF VRAMAIN in 1908 and the ARS in 1915. Each of these leagues has worked diligently over the years to ensure that the Armenian community in Hamilton remained strong and vibrant.

The strong sense of community felt among the Armenians reached a milestone with the completion of the Armenian Community Centre in 1950, but now, in 1995, a new community centre has been built to meet the ever-changing needs of a flourishing and vibrant Armenian community.

Many individuals worked diligently to ensure that the new community centre became a reality. I would like to congratulate the members of the community centre building committee for their outstanding efforts. They have done a great job in putting together a first-class building that's going to serve the community well.

Ontario is a diverse province where people from many different cultures come to live and celebrate their heritage in an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Events such as the opening of the new Armenian Community Centre of Hamilton present a wonderful opportunity for all Ontarians to become involved and familiar with the traditions of their fellow citizens.

Congratulations once again to the Armenian Community Centre of Hamilton. I wish them the very best in the future.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Today I want to bring to this government's attention the concerns expressed by a number of individuals and groups in my riding about what this government is doing in its cuts and how those are hurting children.

Last week I had the chance to present a petition in this House from Stella Maris public school, a Catholic school in my riding in which parents and teachers of the school, some 350 names, expressed their concerns about the impending cuts to kindergarten.

On Friday of this past week, I had the chance to come down to Queen's Park on one of two buses which came down from the Sprouts child care centre at McMurrich Junior Public School in my riding, two busloads of people -- parents, staff and children -- concerned and worried about the cuts to child care that this government has begun and no doubt will continue.

Earlier in the week, in taping my cable program, I had on as one of the guests the executive director of the Earlscourt Child and Family Centre, a children's mental health centre in my riding which is renowned throughout the province for the good work it does with troubled young people. Again, I heard very directly the worries they have about what this government is doing.

I attended also a meeting at Palmerston Avenue Junior Public School, where parents were very worried about what this government was doing to education.

All of those people, individuals, are concerned that this government, in its provision to pay for the tax cuts, can find money to pay for tax cuts but doesn't seem to be willing to find money to pay for children's services.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I've had numerous requests from constituents asking for my assistance with the family support plan in collecting arrears for child support. At times this has been a frustrating process, as many non-custodial parents have devised elaborate schemes to beat the system.

As parents, the most important job we have is raising our children. Today, with the high number of family breakdowns, this job takes on greater importance. However, today we find too many non-custodial parents are ignoring their financial responsibility in raising their children. This disregard has resulted in tremendous financial costs to the province of Ontario and social costs to the children who find themselves in this situation.

It is important that all members of this House cooperate to find workable solutions to the problem of delinquent child support. Non-custodial parents have a responsibility to their children and they must live up to it.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I rise in the House today to address a problem which is of concern to many citizens in my riding. Funding for community health centres has been frozen for this year, and with the government's economic statement looming, there is a very real fear that this freeze will be extended to next year.

Most of the 56 existing community health centres are located in urban centres, yet, for example, in the city of Toronto the ratio for family physicians only, not including specialists, is one doctor to 669 patients. In my riding, in our catchment area, there is one doctor for 2,800 people. We need doctors.

The Tilbury and district community health centre steering committee has completed its needs assessment for a community health centre and has been approved by the local district health council. They desperately are trying to bring doctors and services to our community, yet we all fear that the economic statement will extend the freeze on community health centres and that my community will lose this important project.

I urge the government and the Minister of Health to ensure that this freeze does not affect community health centres in underserviced, rural and northern areas which urgently need health services.



Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Last week, in response to a question raised by my colleague the member for Algoma, the Minister of Education and Training refused to give a commitment to ongoing government funding of junior kindergarten programs across the province. Trustees and parents should conclude then that this Conservative government has no interest in supporting early childhood education initiatives and will offload on to school boards both the decision and the cost of continuing to provide the same. That represents a huge step backwards for Ontario education and for Ontario children.

The Royal Commission on Education spent much time studying the results of full-day junior kindergarten projects in Toronto, Ottawa-Carleton, Michigan, France, Britain and Sweden. Those children who entered the school system at an early age consistently demonstrated lower failure rates in school later on, had better language, attentiveness and interaction skills, achieved better employment at higher rates of pay, were much less likely to ever be involved with the law, and generally were ahead in numerous other fields than their peers who started school later on.

All of the evidence reviewed time and again demonstrated the benefits of early childhood education, which is why the commission recommended strengthening of the early years program.

In Sudbury, both school boards have offered senior and junior kindergarten programs for some time. The majority of senior kindergarten programs have been full-day, and in the numerous studies that parents and teachers have responded to, they have been highly successful. Indeed, the separate school board was in the process of preparing an application to the ministry for a pilot project.

Making JK optional and refusing to fund the same is a huge step backwards for kids and for education in Ontario.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): Not too long ago I had the pleasure to rise in this assembly to announce 100 new jobs at Ronal Manufacturing in Stevensville, Ontario, home of the Tim Hudak Action Centre.

Today I rise again with a similar announcement. First Delaware, the sister company of Great Lakes Bureau, the third-largest receivables management firm in the US, will be coming to Fort Erie, Ontario. Beginning with 50 new well-paying jobs, Great Lakes hopes to expand to over 100 paid personnel within a year.

I remember not too long ago the flight of jobs from Ontario across the Peace Bridge into the US. Those were the days of successive tax hikes, job-stifling labour legislation and an explosion of government debt. Those were not great days for Niagara South, but what a refreshing change today.

Most importantly, in Niagara South today we have reversed the flight of jobs. We have 100 new jobs coming into Fort Erie from the US for a change, not the other way around.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm pleased to rise to speak today about the importance of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to the people of northern Ontario. I'm sure I need not explain to the members of this House the realities that affect this special part of the province: our reliance on resource industries, our scattered population base, the significant distances between our communities.

While many of these conditions are simple realities of life in the north, much progress has been made in diversifying economic activities, developing stable networks and bringing northern Ontario into the global economy. Many of these gains can be traced directly to the involvement of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, particularly over the last 10 years of its present mandate. However, it is now increasingly clear that this government is prepared to strip away years of proactive ministry involvement and community support in the name of government downsizing.

This government promised greater consultation with northerners, yet it's provided little indication that this commitment will be met. This government has shelved, frozen, cancelled or spun into review limbo most ministry programs, including the northern Ontario heritage fund.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is a unique one and one that has traditionally functioned as a hands-on agency for and with the people of the north. This government's lack of consultation, lack of leadership on northern issues and lack of regard for the conditions that have made this ministry important are of serious concern to northerners.

I urge this government and this minister to work creatively with individuals, municipalities and others on this issue. The needs and passions of northerners are too important for this ministry to slip away --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member's time has expired.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Yesterday I asked a question of the minister without portfolio responsible for WCB reform, if he indeed would commit to province-wide public hearings on the consultations that he's having. At that time he said, and I quote from yesterday's Hansard, "I'm surprised at the member opposite's suggestion."

If that's the case, let me say to the honourable minister that he has a much bigger surprise coming if he believes that he can just hijack the royal commission process that was public and upfront, that allowed everyone an opportunity to have input into important decisions that affect the lives of working people all across Ontario and not answer for that.

The fact of the matter is that as I travelled across the province in the last couple of weeks talking to hundreds of workers, one of the key issues that came up time and time again was, what's happening with WCB? There really is not a factual answer to give because the government's gone underground with the process.

Their pals and buddies are getting all the input they want in the back room, and maybe they're meeting with some labour groups, but nobody really gets to see what's going on, to hear the options that are available. It's all done in secret and he does that in secret because he knows that if the people of Ontario knew what he was contemplating, there'd be an outcry. They're trying to slam it through the same way they did with Bill 7. I'm here to tell him it's not going to happen.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): This summer the government held discussions on alternatives to the multiservice agencies. We were looking for ways to improve the access and coordination of community-based, long-term care services.

This is another example of our government doing what it said it was going to do. Because of the huge amount of opposition to the MSA model, we made a commitment during the campaign to change it, because it did not consider the community needs, it did not consider the volunteer network and it hurt the quality of care by driving the career providers and volunteers out of the provision for service.

This government met with many organizations representing the 1,200 agencies and they were invited to share their perspective with us. We also received over 50 different written submissions. These contributors included people who provided a variety of services, programs and facilities for elderly persons, adults with physical disabilities and people who needed health care services at home.

Any new model to improve access to and the coordination of long-term care, community-based services must meet six principles. It must have access, good-quality service, reduced duplication.

I am pleased to inform the House that we have listened very carefully to what we heard and we'll be acting on many of the recommendations provided to us during these discussions.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I'd like to bring a matter to your attention, part of which I think you're aware of.

This morning, outside my office on the third floor, I had called a press conference, a press availability session, to demonstrate for the gallery a children's petition of children in child care centres that had been brought to my office late last week and the beginning of this week.

The posters, which had children's handprints, were put on the floor and some on the wall for the purposes of demonstrating to the press the participation of literally thousands of child care students or children who had participated in this process.

Before we could even begin the press conference, security guards came up to the third floor, told me that they were sent up at your instructions, and I was told that I was not able to do this on the third floor, that the petitions could not be put on the walls, could not be put on the floors and that I had to take them down immediately or they would be taken down for me by security guards.

Then the Sergeant at Arms came up and he at least gave me 15 minutes to talk to the press. They then had to be removed. There were three MPPs who were participating: myself, the member for Riverdale and the member for Lake Nipigon.

What was even more offensive was the fact that there were four staff members, legislative assistants, who were there with me to assist, and a plainclothes security officer was there with a camera taking pictures.

Now, three MPPs and five legislative assistants and some members of the gallery, and this required a plainclothes officer to be up taking pictures? I think this has gone way overboard. I'm highly offended at what's occurred this morning and I want an explanation as quickly as possible.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Thank you. I am aware of some of the observations the honourable member has made. I will be reviewing the policy that we have within the building. I want a copy of that to be distributed to all the members of this House so that all members know what's going on. I would anticipate having that some time this afternoon and I will be reviewing it and sending every member a copy so that we do know what we're allowed to do and what we're not allowed to do.




Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Premier. Premier, during the election campaign, you said that your policies would lead to the creation of 725,000 jobs over the life of your government, a commitment that was repeated yesterday by the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism.

Premier, you will be well aware that Ontario has actually lost some 14,000 jobs, net, since the beginning of this year, and that we can trace thousands of those jobs to the cuts in capital spending that were included in the $1.9 billion in cuts that you announced in July. The cuts that your government is planning to announce tomorrow are expected to exceed some $3 billion, and that will lead to an additional job loss in the tens of thousands.

Premier, on numerous occasions when you were in the opposition, you asked the previous government to assess the impact of NDP policies on job creation and the economy, so I ask you today, on the eve of your financial statement, has your government done a job impact assessment of tomorrow's cuts, and how many jobs do you estimate will be lost by the withdrawal of more than $3 billion from Ontario's economy?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Let me say to the member that, yes, we are very concerned about the impact on jobs of actions of our government, both positive and negative, and yes, there will be some public sector job losses as a result of stopping the spending of the $10 billion a year that we don't have. However, we are very confident that balancing our budget, moving in this direction -- I think in the red book you were quoted as saying it in the campaign -- the number one thing that the government could do for job creation would be to balance the budget and to get our affairs in order and to have a solid financial plan. That would be the number one thing for private sector job creation.

As you know, yesterday the minister responsible for Management Board announced that there would be some job reductions in the public sector and clearly, as the statement comes tomorrow and as we take a look at the impact, we freely acknowledge there will be a downsizing of the public sector, because we can't sustain those jobs and the size and cost of the public sector.

But as we indicated in the Common Sense Revolution, balancing the budget, reducing the tax burden, getting our legislative affairs in order, eliminating the red tape -- this package over five years, we believe, will create at least over 700,000 new jobs for the province of Ontario, and that's our goal.

Mrs McLeod: You know very well that nobody is disputing the need to get the financial situation in order, but the draconian level of cuts which you will be introducing tomorrow is being driven by one thing and one thing only, and that is your absolute determination to bring in a 30% cut in income tax for the most well-to-do in this province.

Premier, based on the estimates you've provided about civil service cuts, reductions in capital spending and the cuts that are coming tomorrow -- and all we can do is guesstimate if you have not done a job impact analysis -- we think it's safe to estimate that just the first two rounds of your cost-cutting will mean the loss of at least 80,000 jobs in Ontario, and that is just direct job loss as a result of your cuts. It doesn't even speak to the host of jobs that will be lost indirectly because of the economic effect of those kinds of draconian cuts.

Those kinds of cuts are coming, as I'm sure the Premier must know, at a time when every independent observer agrees that Ontario's economy is in a very precarious situation. We've seen that new home construction is at its lowest point --

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

Mrs McLeod: -- since the onset of the recession. We're seeing media reports that people are planning to spend less money on Christmas because they're concerned about keeping their jobs, and in this climate this Premier's prepared to sacrifice 80,000 direct jobs to pay for his tax cut.

Premier, these policies are a recipe for recession. I ask you, as you talk about the importance of creating private sector jobs as if they were somehow better than public sector jobs which you will sacrifice tomorrow, whether you do not agree that a nurse's job is important to the economy, that a firefighter's job --

The Speaker: Would you put the question, please.

Mrs McLeod: I'm asking the question, Mr Speaker. This is the question to the Premier: Does he not believe that jobs in the broader public sector, the job of a nurse, of a teacher, of a firefighter -- those jobs are all important to the economy, and will you acknowledge the drastic effect on jobs and the economy that you are going to create in the name of your income tax cut to the most well-to-do?

Hon Mr Harris: Perhaps what's been different about our campaign, the Common Sense Revolution, the election and post-election is that yes, we admit, and we were first to come out and say, we can't sustain the size and cost of government that we have today. Four years of $10-billion deficits simply are not sustainable, a run-up now to $100 billion of debt from $30 billion. That's just in the 10 years that you and the NDP, either jointly together or separately, have been running this province. We acknowledge that we have to change. We can't do that.

We do put forward that there will be some job losses in the public sector to get the uptake in jobs in the private sector. So I would ask the member this: In the red book, pages 7 and 8, it says, "We'll cut $4.1 billion in spending." Could you tell us where you planned to cut that?

Mrs McLeod: After tomorrow nobody's going to be talking about the CSR; it'll be the CCR, the Conservative-caused recession, because that's the impact of the kinds of cuts that you're going to announce tomorrow. I ask you to remember, Premier, the impact of what you're doing: $5 billion in cuts resulting in a direct loss of at least 80,000 jobs at a time when we can least afford it in this economy.

Do you not agree, at a time when our economy is in a precarious state by every assessment, that sacrificing 80,000 jobs is a grave error; at a time when middle-class people need confidence in the economy when they're not spending, massive cuts to pay for an income tax cut for the wealthy is a gross mistake; and at a time when you should be thinking of the entire province and all of its people and not just the most well-to-do, that the draconian cuts you're going to bring in are indeed a recipe for recession?

Hon Mr Harris: I think you will find that the reductions that have to be made in the size and cost of government are not far off the reductions that were proposed in the red book and that the member herself campaigned upon in the last election. I can tell you this: Given the mess we inherited, they're the size of reductions that need to be done to balance our books.

Now, if you want to talk about tax cuts, the member campaigned on $2 billion in tax cuts; we campaigned on $4 billion. I heard your campaign, that $2 billion in tax cuts will create jobs and stimulate the economy; $4 billion will create twice as many.

Mrs McLeod: There's only one party that campaigned on a 30% cut in income tax: this government and this Premier.

The Speaker: New question, the leader of the official opposition.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Wait till your local municipalities get hold of you.

Mrs McLeod: And when the laid-off people are coming into the constituency offices to express their concern.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): The second question is to the minister of colleges and universities, because I'm sure, Minister, that your party remembers the campaign promise to see 725,000 jobs created in this province and that you might have some concern for the kinds of policies that will help to create jobs or policies that will in fact destroy jobs.

We remember the former Education critic of your party, who is now a minister, stating in this House on October 13, 1992, "Without the resources to produce a highly skilled workforce and advanced research facilities, Ontario will be unable to compete in today's global markets." I think you would agree, and we would agree, that that's true.

She went on to say, "Ontario universities make a major contribution to this province's competitiveness and they play a vital role in the development of highly skilled human resources," and I think you would agree, Minister, as we would agree. Yet, as our economy continues to be plagued by high unemployment, it appears that you are prepared tomorrow to slash funding for our colleges and universities, and this despite the publication of a recent report for the Council of Ontario Universities that concluded that a 20% cut in grants to universities would translate into the immediate loss of 14,550 jobs in Ontario.

I ask you, are you willing to jeopardize the viability of our post-secondary education sector, the foundation on which we all agree we have to rebuild this economy, and are you willing to jeopardize thousands of public and private sector jobs and throw almost 15,000 people out of work simply in an effort to bring in a 30% cut in income tax?


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): We share many of the sentiments that the Leader of the Opposition has expressed in the House today. I do believe that universities are part of the key to the growth of Ontario, to opportunity and vitality in Ontario, as is an economy that works in Ontario. But I can assure the Leader of the Opposition party that the way to that future, to have excellent universities and to have excellent post-secondary institutions in the province, is not through not changing those organizations. They are now going and will continue to go through a process of change and re-engineering, as every other knowledge-based organization on the globe is doing.

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I find that very interesting as a response. I think what the minister is saying is that he's prepared to demolish universities and colleges in order to improve them; rather odd. Minister, let me remind you of your party's Blueprint for Learning in Ontario. It acknowledges: "In too many cases, classes are overcrowded, equipment is obsolete, library facilities are inadequate, and buildings are deteriorating. Ontario currently ranks ninth out of 10 provinces in operating grants per university student.... The need for increased funding for Ontario's post-secondary institutions is obvious."

Furthermore, on June 29, 1992, the honourable member for London North stated as follows: "What the universities really need is a long-term plan for reinvestment, rejuvenation and ongoing support for the most important institutions when it comes to training our young people so that Ontario and...Canada" -- as a whole -- "can be competitive."

I ask you, Minister, in light of the above, do you accept your colleague's conclusion, and what are your plans for rejuvenating and improving the universities and colleges of this province?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm pleased that the honourable member brings up our 1992 report which looked at post-secondary education, in fact all education across the province. This party and this government have been concerned for some time about the quality of education in the province, and we understand its importance to the future of this province.

I'm very pleased that the honourable member opposite has raised the issue of changes in universities and colleges. Obviously there need to be changes in universities and colleges. Some of those changes we pointed to in 1992, and others have become evident now. We intend to work with our partners in universities and colleges to bring about those changes that will improve the quality of post-secondary education in this province.

Ms Castrilli: I didn't hear anything about a plan. I heard no details. So let me try to give the minister a sense of what people think the government is really doing. Your short-term plan is clearly to slash without any kind of concern for the quality that you speak so much of; without any kind of concern for access, which is critical to the success of universities and of this province. Your long-term plan, quite frankly, is to allow colleges and universities to increase tuition when students have already seen increases of 42% in this province in the last five years. All this, sir, is happening in order to be able to justify a 30% tax rate reduction to the wealthiest Ontarians.

This is a minister who is supposed to be fighting for colleges and universities at the cabinet table. We've seen no evidence of that to date. So I want to ask you very plainly, how do you justify the deterioration of our colleges and universities and the deterioration of our economy and an increase in tuition fees which will be the result of a tax cut?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The honourable member opposite, just to be clear -- let's be very clear about this -- while universities and colleges around the world face enormous changes now, our universities and colleges in Ontario are of excellent quality today, and it's our job to make sure they're of excellent quality in the future.

The member has quoted a number of 42% or so as a tuition increase under the previous government. My understanding is that number is closer to 50%. But the honourable member has forgotten that when her party formed the government in the province of Ontario it raised tuition fees 30%.

The honourable member wants to hear about planning for the universities and colleges sector. I think that's critically important for the future of this province. That's why we intend to enter into dialogue with those partners to create that future and to create that plan, not to do it unilaterally as a government.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. It follows from the exchange that we had yesterday.

The minister yesterday in his answer spoke with great praise of the views of the Dominion Bond Rating Service. In today's Financial Post, the analyst for the Dominion Bond Rating Service is quoted as saying: "It would be easier to balance the budget without the tax cuts. The cuts would not have to be as deep."

I wonder if the minister could comment on this view of the Dominion Bond Rating Service, since it seems to reflect -- what shall I say? -- common sense.

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I can understand why the leader of the third party refers to the Dominion Bond Rating Service so many times; he probably heard so much about it in his term in office because our rating was downgraded four times while they were in office.

However, if this issue really concerns the leader of the third party, he should realize that our government is cutting regulation, cutting taxes, cutting spending, and we're going to create an attractive investment environment in Ontario so that all Ontarians will invest in Ontario and not look offshore.

Mr Rae: I have developed a very intimate relationship with all the rating agencies.

The question I keep coming back to is this one: Yesterday, the Chairman of Management Board was quoted outside the House as saying, "As a result of the tax cut, there will be a lower revenue stream" -- common sense -- "and that translates either into a higher deficit or more expenditure reductions." Let me repeat that: "that translates either into a higher deficit or more expenditure reductions."

I'd like to ask the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism how this plan, so-called, of which he's such a strong advocate makes any sense when we're now being told that we're on a downward spiral in which either the deficit is going to go up, which is contrary to what he promised us yesterday, or alternatively, we're going to have even more expenditure reductions, more even than the $3.5 billion we're expecting tomorrow. Could the minister answer that?

Hon Mr Saunderson: In response to the leader of the third party's first supplementary question, I would like to remind him that economic studies show that while government spending creates more instant jobs, tax cuts create an equal amount of jobs over the long term. Furthermore, if matched with spending cuts, tax cuts create jobs without increasing debt, deficit spending and borrowing. If government spending created jobs, as I said a few weeks ago to the honourable member, we'd all have three jobs.

Mr Rae: Building a subway creates jobs; building hospitals creates jobs; building schools creates jobs.


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

Mr Rae: My good friends in the government are shouting at me, "With borrowed money," to which I would simply ask the minister one more time: If it is wrong, which you have been telling us with such vehemence and such Victorian morality, to borrow to build a hospital and to build a subway, can you explain to me why it is right to borrow to give a millionaire $50,000 in a tax break? Why is that right in our current system?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm always disappointed when I hear someone whom I respect and would think that he would know better than to start preaching after his record after five years as the leader of the government.

As I said earlier: our credit rating down four times; our accumulated deficit has gone from about $35 billion to almost $100 billion; 32 new taxes; 82,000 lost jobs -- I repeat, 82,000; our welfare rolls have tripled. His economic record as the Premier is a complete failure by any measure and any standard.

Mr Rae: That's the kind of personal attack that really hurts. Somehow I've still got it in me to ask three more questions.



Mr Bob Rae (York South): I wonder if I could ask now a question of the Minister of Community and Social Services. In the gallery today there are many parents of children who have very special needs, children who are severely disabled and who rely on extensive public support for their future.

The Premier seemed to imply yesterday in his comments that the people who were concerned or who were opposed to the government's direction were exclusively made up of powerful special-interest groups who were all being paid to demonstrate outside, and that he was not intending to cave into those people.

I want to ask the minister, there are 2,700 individuals who are described by his own ministry as unique, as needing very special and intensive care at all times. Many of these children are now being told by children's aid societies and others who have supported them that there no longer is the budget to support them, that there no longer are the supports in place that these children with very special needs require.

I wonder if the minister would not agree with me that these people are not a special-interest group, that they do not represent some powerful interest protesting outside, they represent people whose futures very much depend on our sense of justice and our sense of solidarity with them. I wonder if the minister can tell us, why are these people being affected by your cuts?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm not quite sure what the leader of the third party was getting at, because there were two matters that he brought up. In the first part I think he alluded to the CASs, and I believe in the second part he was dealing somewhat with the disabled community, if I got the gist, because I think he was talking about children protection at one point in time.

It really is a matter, once again, of our government indicating what our priorities are, and our priorities are assisting the disabled community and certainly children in need of protection.

To that question, once again, I have to say again that in order for us to deal with this problem within the envelope that we have in which to deal, quite frankly, it's not like the good old days when the leader of the third party was in power, when all he needed to do to get more money was to send down another bucket into this well of taxpayers' money, forgetting of course that this is accountable somewhat and this is money that's not their money, it's the money of the taxpayers of this province.

In order for us to deal with this properly, I've already indicated some of the steps we are taking in order to consult with the disabled community to make sure that in fact they are serviced properly, that we are consulting with the service providers and the families.

Mr Rae: I wonder if the minister would just reflect on what he's saying and on the situation that the government has created.

There are 282 children on special-needs agreements according to the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies. These are kids, one of whom, Jake Edelson's situation, has already been described in the Toronto Star. Jake's mother is in the gallery today. But there are many, many other children, the 281 other children who are also on special-needs agreements that have been negotiated between the government and the children's aid societies, in which the children's aid society agrees that it will take some responsibility for ensuring that Jake receives the kind of care that he needs. He has been kept alive over the last five years by virtue of the care that has been provided. The children's aid society in this case has indicated to Jake's parents that they are no longer in a position to provide him with the support he needs and that they therefore have to look somewhere else for very intensive and special care.

There are literally hundreds of young people who are in this kind of situation, Minister. They rely on a government that has a sense of priority with respect to the most vulnerable to deal with them. I'd like to ask the minister again, why would you not fashion your savings and your cuts in such a way as to ensure that the most severely disabled among us are not affected by them?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I have to say, first of all, that I'm not saying that -- there are some people who have some difficult times for us to deal with, but what we are trying to do right now is to consult with the community. We have to find out what priorities the community actually has itself. We want to work closely with them to ensure that the priority of the disabled community is dealt with in a very caring way by this government because we feel that it is a priority for us.

Mr Rae: The problem with the minister's answer is that it doesn't fit the situation that we find. When the minister goes back to his office and asks to be briefed by his staff, he will find and he will be told there are hundreds of people who are in this situation and that children's aid societies, whose budgets you have cut by 5%, will say, "This is not part of our mandate; this is part of someone else's mandate." So they will say, "Oh, we're going to get back to our core service," and you're going to say you're going to get back to your core service.

The only problem is, hundreds of kids who are very severely disabled, who literally have no voice other than their parents and their families to speak on their behalf, are going to pay the price for these cuts which are taking place in a random, across-the-board and in many, many instances literally mindless fashion.

If we can all agree as a House, and I think we would agree in five minutes, five seconds, that the disabled should be given priority, why wouldn't you give that a higher priority than providing a $50,000 tax cut to somebody who's making $1 million a year? Why isn't that more important to your government? Why have you got things so wrong?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: It's very unfortunate that the leader of the third party is going through some short-term memory loss here. It's pretty evident, once again, and we've said this many times, that one of the reasons why we had to deal with the very difficult problem which we inherited was because of the mess that you gave us.


Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Oh, it certainly is true. In fact, if we did not address the extra $1.9 billion, which you somehow foisted upon this government, and you have the audacity to stand up and look at me and say why are we --

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): The big tax cut to the rich and famous, never mind the kids, that's your priority.

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

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: -- the proper way. I think that this government is trying to deal with this in the best and most compassionate way possible by consulting with the disabled community to make sure we do make them our priority.

We do care about this, but on the other hand I think that the leader of the third party must certainly recognize the part he played in this play of the absurd.

The Speaker: New question, the member for Scarborough-Agincourt.


The Speaker: Have her removed, please. Take her out.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): She's the mother of a child. The child is severely disabled.

The Speaker: Order. Stop the clock, please.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): She's here because she's got a disabled child.

The Speaker: Order. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt.



Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier and it's about the fiscal statement tomorrow. No doubt tomorrow we will see the very significant cuts that you've promised. Probably with tomorrow's statement at least $5 billion will be cut from the government's spending.

We know the justification will be that we face an enormous deficit and debt problem, and every one of the government members will be provided with all sorts of visual aids to demonstrate that we have a singleminded problem to tackle, the deficit and the debt, and that's why we're doing these cuts, the $5-billion cuts.

At the same time, however, you have promised a $5-billion tax cut. That's straight out of your Common Sense Revolution, a $5-billion-a-year tax cut to the best-off of the people of this province.

My question is this: If the deficit is such a huge problem that all of us have to suffer and tackle, how can it be that at the same time as we are forced to cut $5 billion in expenditures, the province can afford a $5-billion tax break?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I am happy to answer the question and I'm glad to get the question. In the Common Sense Revolution, we talked about a $4-billion tax cut, 30% in the basic Ontario rate, which is about 10% of the income tax rate, to get us back to where we can be competitive with other jurisdictions, and, as you know, a fair share health care levy that meant at the high-income end the rate would not be 30%. In fact I think there are some economic -- I think Peter Cook's article in the Globe and Mail says the Common Sense Revolution tax cuts will make the tax system more progressive. That was his analysis.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Oh, yes, progressive.

Hon Mr Harris: Well, talk to Peter Cook. I'm saying what he had suggested.

Clearly, up until you lost the June 8 election, the Liberal Party thought that a $2-billion tax cut would help create jobs and stimulate the economy. Maybe now you've changed. You've gone back into the opposition mode, you and the NDP, the way you joined in coalition to bankrupt the province over the last 10 years.

Maybe you've changed, but I want to tell the member, we have not changed. We have not changed. We agree with those economists: union economists, university economists and other economists who have said that the last 10 years of high taxation have destroyed jobs, have lost us jobs, have cost us opportunities, more than the government spending they've been able to create.

So we are going to take a different path from the last 10 years that led to record unemployment, record welfare rates, record loss of opportunity and we are going to proceed to make sure we move towards tax rates that are (a) competitive and (b) will stimulate the economy and create the jobs and growth that we all want.

Mr Phillips: Tomorrow thousands of people will be laid off. We understand that. That's what you say is the price of fighting the deficit. Those people in the gallery that you accused of being simply public servants were here to express their outrage at what you're doing. These cuts are impacting everyone in the province, Premier, and you are saying we have to do this because we are faced with a deficit. That's why all of this pain. That's why you have to do it.

I go back to my question, which you still haven't answered: If the deficit is that important that you are going to lay off 13,000 people, you are going to cut social assistance, you are going to slash support to colleges and universities to fight this dreaded deficit, if it's that important, how can you possibly afford a $5-billion tax break to the best-off in this province at the same time?

Hon Mr Harris: It's not our intention to give a $5-billion tax cut to the best-off in this province. It never has been our intention. It is our intention, and the Common Sense Revolution said it is the steelworker, it is the cab driver, it is the people who are out there working who are to receive the maximum benefit from our tax reductions.

Shortly, the Minister of Finance, the finance committee, will be having pre-budget considerations leading up to our first budget. I noticed in the red book you campaigned on a $2-billion tax cut. Maybe now you think we shouldn't do that. Maybe that was then and this is now. That's how you've campaigned traditionally, in the past. I had hoped maybe you had changed. I'm disappointed you have not.

Clearly, the answer, you know, is this: Our tax cut will be designed to put more money into the hands of the working people of this province, to give them more purchasing power so they can buy cars and create jobs, so they can buy houses and create jobs, so they can stimulate job growth and creation in this province of Ontario.

We tried your approach for 10 years; it was a disaster. Now we're embarking on a different approach clearly and we're proud of it.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Would the House come to order, please.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): In the widely watched and well-regarded television program Focus Ontario -- I've got to get on that program somehow -- the Minister of Education and Training is quoted as saying, in answering a question about private universities:

"Well, we've said that's something that will likely happen. I believe frankly it's inevitable in Ontario, as the university structure changes, that some of that will come on. I have no timetable for that at this point in time, but my understanding of the university community is they expect private universities to become a reality as times change for universities."

Can the minister confirm that it is in fact now the policy of the government of Ontario to create private universities in Ontario?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Just to remind the leader of the third party, and this must have slipped his mind: Universities in Ontario are autonomous organizations that are publicly funded. It's the intention of this government to protect those autonomous organizations for all of the obvious reasons and for all the reasons that have traditionally been that way.

Mr Rae: No, but the universities in the province are autonomous organizations that are operated on a not-for-profit basis, that are operated on a basis of a fee structure that has a status in law and on a fee structure that is regulated by the province of Ontario.

Mr Davis's government, Mr Robarts's government, Mr Frost's government all made the clear decision that we were not going to go the way of the United States and have one university system for the rich and another university system for everybody else. I'm asking the minister whether that still is the basic policy of the government of Ontario.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm pleased to inform the leader of the third party that it's the intention of this government to ensure that quality, best-in-the-world, post-secondary education is available to every person in Ontario who would like to access it, to have an equality of access for the people of Ontario. That remains a priority for this government. It certainly has been a priority of this province for many, many years.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The city of Barrie is fortunate to have a new hospital under construction. The new Royal Victoria Hospital is creating many jobs for the region and will improve health care services in Simcoe county.

The continued construction of the new Royal Victoria Hospital is in jeopardy as the city awaits approval of the secondary plan and plans associated for the hospital. When can the city of Barrie expect to have these plans approved by the ministry?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'd like to thank my colleague for the question. I know that the Royal Victoria Hospital is of great importance to all the residents of the Barrie area. Ministry staff are working with the municipality to finalize the secondary plan. This should happen very, very shortly.

I would like to assure my colleague that it has never been this government's intention to delay this project. In fact, this is exactly the type of scenario we've been trying to avoid. This process has been going on for far, far too long. It's caused too much conflict and concern for the residents of Barrie, for the municipality and for the provincial government, and we're going to make a lot of changes in this process.

Mr Tascona: The city has been told by your ministry that it opposes the city planning time horizons. As a result, approval of these and other plans and even the city's official plan have been delayed, the result of which is the potential loss of economic development in the area. I ask the minister if it is his intention to provide municipalities with more autonomy in the approval process as part of his planned changes to the Planning Act.

Hon Mr Leach: Yes, I can confirm that we do want to give municipalities more autonomy. We want to create a faster, cheaper, more understandable system, guided by clear and concise provincial policies that will deal with issues that should only be under the jurisdiction of the province. We also want to allow local planning decisions to be made by people who best understand local circumstances. That's the municipalities. The recently announced changes in the planning process include a fundamental review of provincial policies. We will be reviewing the planning time horizons that are currently in these policies.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Energy. It was reported today, "Ontario Hydro says divulging reviews it has conducted on the performance and safety of its nuclear plants would alarm the public unnecessarily and undermine the utility's `economic interests.'" Also, "The request was denied `because release of the reports could generate unjustified negative opinion that would affect the economic interests of Ontario Hydro,' the corporation said in a letter," to the requester. Minister, do you believe the economic interests of Ontario Hydro should take precedence over the public safety interests of the people of this province?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I thank the honourable member opposite for the question. Clearly, the safe operation of nuclear reactors in Ontario is important to this government, and we are concerned when any issues of safety are raised in any way.

I would remind the member opposite that the Atomic Energy Control Board is a federal agency and is responsible for licensing and regulating the safety of Ontario Hydro's nuclear reactors. I would also remind the member that this is a management decision for Ontario Hydro and it is standard practice across Canada not to release the results of peer reviews.

Mr Bradley: Madam Minister, I want to be fair to you.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): When did you change? No, no.

Mr Bradley: I really do. I want to give you a choice. I even put it down on paper for you and I'll send it across to you.

Do you believe that Ontario Hydro should hide the report on the safety and performance of its nuclear reactors the way it used to do in the good old Tory days, or do you believe that Ontario Hydro should share this vital and urgent information with the people of this province, and if so, what are you prepared to do to ensure that the report is released? You are the minister responsible for answering that question in this House.

Hon Mrs Elliott: The real issue at the heart of this question is the safety of the operation of the nuclear reactors of the province of Ontario. That is the issue that the people of Ontario are concerned about. The honourable member opposite, as do all members in this House, has my assurance that we are very cognizant of any issues of safety with regard to the operation of these facilities, are vigilant and will use these peer review reports to improve the efficient operation of these facilities.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I have a question to the Minister of Community and Social Services. The minister will be aware of the demonstration that took place out in front of the assembly and right across Ontario last week with regard to access to regulated child care in this province.

Last week, we were given a children's petition which I would like to demonstrate for the minister. This children's petition is only a small sample of thousands of expressions from children across this province who have demonstrated their desire and their parents' desire to maintain regulated, quality child care in this province.

I would like to ask the minister whether he can assure the parents and the children of this province that after tomorrow's budget there will still be regulated child care in this province and that he will not introduce a voucher system for child care which will destroy access to regulated child care in Ontario.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm not necessarily going to agree with the consequences of the honourable member's speculation. That's really all that is at this point in time: speculation.

I'd like to once again reiterate that we are undergoing a child care review under the leadership of Janet Ecker, my parliamentary assistant, and we're looking at a number of issues. Once again, I'd say to the member that his comments today are based on speculation.

Mr Cooke: Last week when the demonstration was taking place, the minister was quoted both on TV and in the print press across the province as saying that there was no reason to worry about the voucher system, that this was speculation, and he gave the impression to people that this was not going to happen.

Can the minister assure parents and children in this province that there will not be a voucher system introduced in this province? Does the minister understand that if a voucher system is introduced, this system will limit choice, not increase choice, to regulated and quality child care in this province?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I also indicated before that we are looking at a number of issues with the child care review; a number of issues are on the table. Certainly we are looking to increase the access and the choice of the parents across this province and to improve the child care area, and that's the reason for the review.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Mr Speaker, I see the Premier is still in the House. I wonder if he would entertain a question.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): He's hiding.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): You'll have to address it to somebody else.

Interjection: Goodbye, Mike. Nice little wave there, Mike.


The Speaker: Order. I've got nothing to do with it; it's nothing to do with me. Ottawa Centre, who's this question to?

Mr Patten: In the absence of the Premier, on his departure with a wave of his hand, I will address my question to the Minister of Transportation. Minister, yesterday I observed in my riding of Ottawa Centre, obviously with some interest, a visit by the Premier. The media reports on his speech at the Chateau Laurier yesterday I found quite interesting, but it was interesting also for no report on an area that I know is of concern to the people of Ottawa-Carleton and southeastern Ontario as far as Highway 401. It's called the 416. Some of the members with the Premier yesterday may have heard him say something, but there was nothing reported.

Given the situation that we will hear about tomorrow, I ask if the Premier will stand by his statement -- I'm sure he's communicated this to you, Minister -- and if therefore you will, when on June 1 he said: "There is one specific issue which I know is of particular interest to the people of the Ottawa region, and it's Highway 416. A Harris government will honour our commitments: no ifs, no ands, no buts, no tolls. We will accelerate this project and we will finish four-laning Highway 416."

This project was first started by the Peterson government. I ask you, Minister, will you continue this project?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to say this: This particular project was started a long time ago, but it is going to be finished by the Progressive Conservative Mike Harris government.

Mr Patten: Thank you for the elaborate answer. I appreciate that you are committed to the project. During the election we saw many of the members of the Conservative Party beside a huge billboard. We have some members here in the House after that election. Will the minister acknowledge that the billboard said, "We Will Begin Now," and it had "now" underlined? Does "now" actually mean now, or when does it mean "now"?

Hon Mr Palladini: Since day one we've been working on 416. As a minister, I have certainly taken it upon myself to make sure things progress to the point we are basically at. The Premier did say, and this is not the first time -- the Premier has said on a couple of occasions and the minister has also said on a few occasions that we are going to go ahead with 416. We are in the process of finalizing the situation, and very shortly, I would like to say, the Premier will indeed be cutting the ribbon to get this project going.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is for the Attorney General. Does the Attorney General support and encourage government workers to perform the much-needed volunteer work his government has been promoting?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I believe the question is whether I in general support volunteer work, and the answer is yes. But obviously you have something coming in your supplementary, and I'll wait to hear that.

Mr Martin: If indeed the Attorney General does support volunteer work, then why is there a courtroom registrar in Sault Ste Marie being suspended for the second time for performing volunteer services? In fact, this individual established a volunteer program in 1987 which helps victims of crime and their families. On April 7, 1995, she was released from work because of a perceived conflict of interest. She subsequently returned to her job with full pay after filing a grievance. Three months ago she was released from work for the second time on the basis of conflict of interest.

Your ministry has forced her to choose between a part-time job and volunteering for the victim/witness assistance program. Would you look into this situation and offer an apology to this individual who has been publicly centred out? I have a letter from her that I will send over. I would also like to ask the minister --

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

Mr Martin: I would also like to ask the minister if there are any plans to provide funding to the victim/witness assistance program in Sault Ste Marie.

Hon Mr Harnick: It would probably have been preferable to ask that in two questions instead of trying to get cute with the opener.

At any rate, the issue is one I am familiar with. It involves an issue as between the management of the court services branch and the individual involved. There has been a conflict of interest as between her duties to the court and her outside involvement. The court services management within the system is dealing with the problem, and I have every confidence that they are dealing with the problem appropriately and properly. That is the way I will leave it.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. I understand that recently you have begun to review child care in the province. Understandably, some of my constituents have expressed some concerns about how this is carried out and who is leading this review. Can you provide me with information that addresses their concerns?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): It's nice to receive a question from someone who may actually listen to my answer.

As many members might be aware, I've recently charged my parliamentary assistant, Janet Ecker, with the responsibility of reviewing Ontario's child care programs. During this process, she will consult with stakeholders throughout the province with the view of bringing forward options for child care that both parents and taxpayers can afford. Following her review, she'll be making a recommendation on how to proceed with this most important issue.

Mrs Munro: I thank the minister for this answer. I would press him, however, that there has been considerable speculation in the press recently that these decisions have already been made. My constituents are concerned, and I would ask him, at what stage in his ministry is this child care review?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Again, I really do appreciate the question. It really does allow us, for a change, to actually get an answer out.

Contrary to speculation which has been fuelled by a lot of fearmongering by the members opposite, the child care review is in its very preliminary stages and no policy decisions have been made at this point. I've asked Janet Ecker in her review and her dialogue with the stakeholders to be open to options that use our resources as effectively as possible. This is intended to ensure that there is parental choice, a quality of service, affordability and a levelling of the playing field between the public and private methods of delivery.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I have a real question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Minister, I'm continually astonished at your continuous attack on the disabled across Ontario. Last week we were advised that vocational rehabilitation staff who help disabled people get back to work have been cut by 50% in a Metro Toronto office and by 50% in the city of Windsor.

We've now been advised that your regional ministry offices have notified the Canadian Hearing Society in Hamilton and in Windsor that you will not fund sign language interpreters for job interviews and meetings with placement counsellors. In effect, you're prohibiting deaf individuals in Ontario from seeking employment by denying them this essential service. That has been confirmed by the directors both in Hamilton and Windsor.

Minister, can you explain to the House the rationale for denying this essential service to deaf people across Ontario, particularly as it relates to job interviews and meetings with their placement counsellors?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): Once again, this really touches the crux of the issue in terms of the disabled community and how we're trying to address these items right now. Frankly, there's not a much better way in trying to decide which services the disabled community needs right now than to consult them, and that's the process we're going through right now. I think it's a very important process.

Mr Agostino: I'm not sure what the minister was answering. It's not a question of consulting the disabled community. The question and the issue is very simple: Vocational rehabilitation services in Hamilton and Windsor will no longer continue to fund sign language interpreters that the Canadian Hearing Society provides when individuals they are working with who are trying to get back to work have to either go to a job interview or meet their placement counsellors.

We have an example in Windsor where an individual could not have the service provided to him. He did not go to the interview. His supplemental benefits were cut -- he's under the Futures program -- as a result of that. It is very clear, Minister. This is not a question of sitting there and trying to justify some cut or some consultation process. It is simply a decision that those two offices, on your behalf as minister, have made and have notified.

Can you assure the House today that you will immediately move to ensure that right across this province deaf individuals can continue to receive those essential services that are provided to them, particularly as it applies to job interviews and job placement interviews they need in order to do what you've asked people to do, and that is to get back into the workforce?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: First of all, I believe that the honourable member is probably referring to a number of issues involved with the constraints of the 2.5% reduction for this year in which many organizations have been forced to make some very difficult decisions themselves.

Certainly, we do believe we should be assisting the handicapped and disabled community in as many ways as we can, and certainly there's no better way -- once again I have to emphasize this -- than to actually consult them. I can't see any other way we can approach this.



The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today the Honourable James Downey, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism for the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba. Please join me in welcoming our guest.



Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Mr Speaker, in the absence of the House leader, I believe you will find that I have unanimous consent to pass the following motion:

I move that on Wednesday, November 29, the House shall recess immediately after routine proceedings; and

That the House shall reconvene at 4 pm for an economic statement by the Minister of Finance; and

That the House shall adjourn immediately following the Minister of Finance's statement that day; and

That on Thursday, November 30, and Monday, December 4, under orders of the day, the House shall consider replies to the economic statement.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Do we have unanimous consent? Agreed.

Shall the motion carry? Carried.



Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition that reads:

"To Mr Harris:

"Please keep your hands off our child care."

It's signed by the children of the Dryden child care program at 113 Albert Street in Dryden, people like Danny, Katie, Shea, Ashley, Christa, Robbie, Merle, Adam and Matthew. Mr Speaker, you can see that they've all given me their signatures through a handprint. I'd like to present that to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have again today hundreds of names, people who have signed a petition which reads:

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to abandon, reduce or delay the provincial government's proposed 30% tax reduction in order to maintain needed funding and services for the two million people of Metro Toronto."

These are all signatures, of course, from people who live in Metro Toronto, many of whom live in my riding.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I have a petition signed by over 4,000 constituents from my riding. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"We demand that the provincial government take a serious look at the idea of installing a safety median between the east and west lanes of the 401, from Highway 115 to at least Colborne in the east. Too many people are dying from vehicles crossing the median in this area compared to other areas with medians."

I add my signature to this petition.


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

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a further petition from my community, signed by over 500 citizens.

"Whereas the funding for social services in the centres de santé communautaire of Hamilton and Niagara has been cut by 100%; and

"Whereas the French Language Services Act ensures the delivery of French-language social and health services to francophones in designated cities, such as Hamilton, Welland and Port Colborne; and

"Whereas the needs and feasibility studies carried out after the implementation of the French Language Services Act recommended the establishment of community health centres in the regions of Hamilton-Wentworth and Niagara to ensure delivery of French-language services; and

"Whereas the health centres are the only organizations ensuring the delivery of social services in French, since there are no designated bilingual positions in the other organizations of these designated cities;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly as follows:

"We demand that the Legislative Assembly immediately stop its attack on French-language services in Ontario. The Centres de santé communautaire of Hamilton and Niagara are the only agencies offering French-language social services, because there are no bilingual designated positions in other agencies in our communities.

"We expect the Legislative Assembly to demonstrate clearly that Franco-Ontarians are an integral part of the province of Ontario, to immediately review the cuts which have affected those health centres and to re-establish the funding of social services and ensure the future of social services and health services in French in the Hamilton-Wentworth and Niagara community health centres."

I add my name.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I have a petition signed by hundreds of people from the city of London, and specifically at the University of Western Ontario.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas post-secondary education is a critical building block of Ontario's social and economic fabric;

"Whereas the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of our colleges and universities depend upon the provincial government's true commitment to and financial support for these institutions;

"Whereas the Mike Harris government has initiated a process of severe budget cuts to post-secondary education that jeopardize the viability and accessibility of our colleges and universities; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government avoids direct consultation with the many stakeholders affected by these budget cuts;

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

"That adequate funding for our colleges and universities be maintained at a level that protects the quality and accessibility of Ontario's post-secondary education sector and that the Minister of Education be directed by the Premier to meet directly with students, faculty, administration and other stakeholder representatives across the province to discuss the future of post-secondary education in Ontario."

My signature is affixed.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition that has been signed by 94 people in Sudbury and area. It is being submitted on behalf of the People's Law and Rights Organization. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the government of Ontario has decided to resubmit 30% of provincial income taxes to the general public; and

"Whereas this government has stated that its purpose for doing so is to improve the economic situation; and

"Whereas economists would agree that stimulation would be achieved by way of greater spending; and

"Whereas social and welfare recipients must spend all of their moneys in order to survive;

"Therefore, be it resolved by this organization that the government resubmit 30% of the tax increases to social and welfare recipients, in order that they might stimulate the economy, all the while having the dignity in receipt of decent payment for themselves."

I agree with them and I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): My petition carries over 1,600 names and there are more to come from my riding of Prescott and Russell. I invite my fellow members to use their earphones, since the text of my petition is written in both of the national official languages.

«À l'Assemblée législative de l'Ontario :

«Attendu que des soins de garderie de haute qualité contribuent de manière significative au développement sain de tous les enfants ;

«Attendu que des recherches ont prouvé que les éducateurs d'enfants qui ont des bonnes conditions de travail fournissent des soins pour enfants de très haute qualité ;

"Whereas the best child care system for all Ontario is one that is accessible, affordable and regulated for quality; and

"Whereas recent cuts to child care are destabilizing the entire child care system in Ontario;

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

«Que tous les financements publics pour les soins de garderie soient remis en place, incluant les contributions, les fonds capitaux et les subventions opérationnelles ;

"That all existing commitments regarding wage subsidies, pay equity, grants and any other funding program and/or policies that help to stabilize high-quality child care for children and families in the province of Ontario be retained.

"Que des audiences publiques soient tenues dans le cadre de la revue des services de garderie."

Je suis fier d'ajouter ma signature à cette pétition.



Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I want to mention that this petition is signed by 969 people from Windsor-Sandwich.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas during the 1970s, the government of the day developed measures that curbed the growth of government by involving local communities in the provision of legal services. The criminal justice field began to recognize the benefits of community-based justice options. Privatization was considered more cost-effective while strengthening government ministries through community participation in the justice system. Since this time, non-profit agencies across Ontario have developed effective programs and present a strong local face to the justice system while supporting partnerships with an ever-widening community base. Community programs have proven to be cost-effective in comparison to directly operated government services. Community-based options reduce the cost of incarceration while promoting public safety;

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

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

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

I hereby affix my signature.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ministry of Transportation is intent on reducing 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 will affix my signature to this.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Another one of many petitions to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas research and experience support that early childhood education programs result in children staying in school longer, improved reading, math and language skills, increased opportunities for future employment for youth, and a decrease in teen delinquency;

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

"Do not stop funding school boards for junior kindergarten programs. It saves society millions of dollars that would later be spent on remedial social programs. Our children's future is worth it."

I've proudly affixed my signature to it.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas all students in Ontario deserve equal educational opportunities; and

"Whereas we understand the importance of controlling costs; and

"Whereas reductions to core grants severely impact assessment-poor boards;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, petition the Legislature to effect reasonable reductions in the education system and to ensure that the reductions are shared in a fair and equitable manner."


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): This petition is for Northwestern General Hospital.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I have a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents in Downsview.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Toronto Transit Commission is considering the elimination of the Calvington bus 120A, which serves over 500 residents of the Downsview riding who will be required to walk for as long as 35 minutes to the nearest bus;

"Whereas the Toronto Transit Commission's decision adversely and unreasonably burdens these residents, a large part of whom are senior citizens and high school students;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to take the necessary action to not bring about the elimination of the Calvington bus route, 120A, or at least provide rush-hour service."

I have signed my name to this petition.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): This is from the Ontario Catholic Teachers' Association and the teachers of Our Lady of Peace, St Raphael and Our Lady of Victory school in the Halton separate board.

"We, the undersigned, are writing to you as constituents in your riding to inform you that we are opposed to the proposed College of Teachers which your government is intending to legislate. As some of the 130,000 members of the Ontario Teachers' Federation we feel that the College of Teachers is the creation of another level of bureaucracy, the last thing the teachers of the province need.

"The government could be spending its time more productively on the real issues of education such as providing funding for junior kindergarten, a thorough investigation of the amalgamation of school boards and better vocational and technical programs for secondary school students.

"The proposed College of Teachers does not provide for a fair representation of teachers on its governing council. The proposed College of Teachers does not provide for a fair representation of francophone teachers on its governing council.

"The teachers of Ontario have never asked for a College of Teachers. The Ontario Teachers' Federation, with certain enhancements, could fulfil the powers and functions of the proposed College of Teachers.

"The proposed College of Teachers would impose an annual fee on teachers as well as certain user fees. Most teachers already follow professional development programs and do not need additional bureaucracy to mandate such programs.

"We ask you, the Legislature, to oppose the proposed College of Teachers and make all of your colleagues aware of our position."


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition sent to me by a single working mother in Thunder Bay, the parent of a three-and-a-half-year-old and a five-and-a-half-year-old, who is very afraid that she may be forced to leave her job if the feared child care cuts come into effect. The petition reads:

"Whereas the Ministry of Community and Social Services is apparently intent on replacing child care subsidies with a voucher system; and

"Whereas this voucher system will discriminate against families presently utilizing subsidies and child care centres across the province;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to disallow these cuts to this critical economic investment in our communities across the province and to guarantee the current child care subsidy system remains funded and supported."

I'm proud to sign my signature to that.



Mr Boushy moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 25, An Act to provide for the Observance of Remembrance Day / Projet de loi 25, Loi prévoyant la célébration du jour du Souvenir.

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

Does the member have a short statement he'd like to make?

Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): Just a short one. The bill establishes November 11 as a provincial holiday, bringing Ontario in line with every other province except Quebec.



Ms Castrilli moved opposition day motion number 4:

Whereas the Conservative policy document New Directions II, A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario reports that tuition fees should represent 25% of the operating costs of a post-secondary education; and

Whereas a recent Statistics Canada report shows that university tuition fees already represent more than 26% of the cost of education; and

Whereas the former NDP government was responsible for a 42% increase in tuition fees and the elimination of the grant portion of the Ontario student assistance program; and

Whereas Ontario ranks second-last when it comes to per-student expenditure on post-secondary education; and

Whereas the Conservative government has failed to act on their promise to establish an income-contingent loan repayment plan; and

Whereas it is immoral to force students to pay the price of Mike Harris's income tax cut to the wealthy through higher tuition fees;

Therefore this House calls on the Mike Harris government not to impose or allow any tuition increase without first demonstrating that students are not paying their fair share of education costs, which according to New Directions II, was set by the Conservatives at 25% of operating expenditure; ensuring that no student is denied access to a post-secondary institution as a result of their ability to pay; significantly expanding existing student aid programs; consulting with all stakeholders; and establishing an income-contingent loan repayment plan as promised.



The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Before we proceed with opposition day motion number 4, I'd like to inform the House that, pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Hamilton East has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Community and Social Services concerning funding cuts to the VRS and funding of sign language interpreters. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): We requested an opposition day on post-secondary education today precisely because of the critical importance of our colleges and universities to Ontario's social and economic wellbeing. We believe these institutions play a pivotal role in providing the economy with a skilled workforce that contributes directly to the province's and the nation's productive capacities and abilities to compete internationally. The Liberal Party believes it is necessary to ensure that our post-secondary education sector remains vibrant, innovative, accessible and competitive.

The world has been undergoing a transformation over the last couple of decades in which the barriers of distance have been obliterated, creating in many respects a much smaller and more accessible international community. This process has been spurred by a rapid advancement of high technology, particularly in the telecommunications and transportation industries, that has on its own wiped out the main significance of both geographical distance and international borders.

The result has been a continual movement towards a modern, globalized economy. Because the significance of distance has been reduced, many of the world's developing countries are now in a position to compete in the international export markets more than ever before. This has offered the developed nations a real economic challenge, requiring new and innovative philosophies, approaches and skills in order to remain competitive.

Our success at meeting this challenge will depend primarily on our ability to generate and sustain a highly skilled workforce that will ensure not only economic stability but indeed continued economic expansion. The vehicle by which we achieve this is post-secondary education.

A review of the Progressive Conservative Party policies and prior statements in this House would suggest at first glance that the new government fully believes in the pivotal link between post-secondary education, job creation and general economic prosperity.

In fact, the Tory policy paper New Directions, Volume Two: A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario acknowledges that by the year 2000 half the new jobs in Canada will require more than five years of post-secondary education. It states, "Post-secondary education has never been more important for the future of Ontario's young people." I couldn't agree more, and I would add that post-secondary education has never been more important for the future of Ontario.

The former Conservative Education critic and current member of the new cabinet explained to this House in October 1992 the real significance of our colleges and universities to the broader economic picture. I believe her comments are consequential, for they not only support my vision of the post-secondary education system but further strengthen the Tories' pre-election contention that the system requires increased provincial support.

The member stated, "Without the resources to produce a highly skilled workforce and advanced research facilities, Ontario will be unable to compete in today's global markets."

She went on to argue: "We should be supporting competitiveness and commitment to a well-educated workforce through our universities. Ontario must remain in the forefront of scientific and technological development and educational achievement if it is to maintain its competitive position in today's global economy. Ontario universities make a major contribution to this province's competitiveness and they play a vital role in the development of highly skilled human resources."

The Conservatives have acknowledged that the key economic role of our colleges and universities is in jeopardy because of a lack of funding. Their document New Directions, Volume Two explains:

"...our colleges and universities have been weakened by a decade of underfunding. In too many cases, classes are overcrowded, equipment is obsolete, library facilities are inadequate and buildings are deteriorating. Ontario currently ranks ninth out of 10 provinces in operating grants per university student.... The need for increased funding for Ontario's post-secondary institutions is obvious."

As we have seen so often with this government, that was then and this is now. The Conservative record upon gaining power is a completely different story from its pre-election agenda. Now the Conservatives have made a complete about-face on post-secondary education policy.

The pre-election Tory expression of post-secondary education as the centrepiece of the economy now has been washed away. The pre-election Tory statement that our colleges and universities suffer from severe underfunding now has been wiped out. The pre-election Tory assertion that the system requires full moral and financial support has now disappeared.

In fact, it seems like both the Premier and the Minister of Education have disappeared when it comes to post-secondary education. There have been no major or even minor public announcements or discussions of this sector. There has been no consultation with the schools or the many stakeholder groups to discuss the future of the system or even the government's funding intentions. Where is the college and university component of the Education ministry? And where is the minister?

The only area within the sector in which the government has been active is funding. Shortly after taking office, the government departed with lightning speed from its former role as supporter of our colleges and universities in favour of its new role as executioner. The government's true views about education, its lack of commitment to education, innovation and skills development, were made immediately and abundantly clear.

Direct operating spending for colleges was reduced by $6.8 million while universities received $16.8 million fewer. Program spending was slashed, including the elimination of the high- performance computing commitment, for a total reduction of $149 million. Soon after, the province backed out of a prior provincial commitment to support the United Nations university at McMaster University, an initiative that would have focused the world's attention on Ontario.

Yet there are strong data in favour of strong government financial support for post-secondary education. Consider the facts.

Fact: Ontario now ranks ninth out of 10 provinces in its per-student spending and intends to spend even less. In comparison, public institutions in the United States receive one third more money than similar Ontario institutions, while 49 out of 50 states intend to increase university funding even more this year. At a point in time when competitiveness is so crucial to this country's ability to sustain our standard of living, it appears once again that we will choose not to compete, to make choices that will clearly place us at a severe disadvantage. If we choose not to compete with our closest neighbour, how can we expect to compete internationally?

Fact: The higher the educational level one attains on average, the more likely that individual is to gain employment and the higher that person's income will be. In real numbers, this translates into almost a 4% difference in unemployment rate and approximately a $17,000-a-year income variation between those who attained secondary school and those who have achieved university degrees. This means that a university degree improves one's possibility of finding a job by almost 50% over the rest of the workforce and by almost two thirds over those with only an elementary education.

It is also important to note that between 1989 and 1994 the employability of university graduates increased by 16%, while the employability of those without a degree actually declined by 4% during the same five years. But the government has apparently decided to overlook these facts. It pays mere lip-service to the importance of employment and personal income.


Fact: The Ontario government already underfunds post-secondary education. The Tories themselves have admitted that. To place this in context, though, even though student enrolment has increased by 40%, universities' share of the provincial budget has declined by one third during the last 20 years, falling far behind growth of the economy.

When one takes inflation into consideration, provincial operating grants to universities for each student have been slashed by roughly 25% during that same period, ensuring that institutions have much fewer resources in order to prepare students for the competitive world. This leaves Ontario, as I have stated, ranked ninth out of 10 provinces in terms of per- student spending.

Compare these figures with what has happened in other government sectors: Spending per persons served by hospitals over that period has gone up by 76%; spending for elementary and secondary students has increased by 42%; and spending for institutionalized adult offenders has risen by 9%. Thus, in terms of total spending per person, post-secondary education has been disproportionately attacked: 14% reduction for universities and 25% for colleges of applied arts and technology.

These data suggest that our post-secondary education sector is not only falling behind other sectors but also behind other provinces and other countries. This is a very dangerous trend that does not bode well for Ontario workers, employers or the economy as a whole.

As bad as this situation is, it will pale in comparison to what will develop after the funding cuts that the government is expected to announce tomorrow and after they take effect. Not only will the entire post-secondary education sector be thrown into chaos by these unilateral cuts, but the economy will also suffer very directly and immediately.

The Conservative government campaigned on the position that students should not be required to bear, through tuition, more than 25% of institutions' operating costs. Yet Statistics Canada reports that tuition already represents 26.2% of general operating income, and the government apparently is considering further substantial increases. This not only represents an additional burden on students but also a further drain on disposable consumer income.

Professor Atif Kubursi, a faculty member from the economics department of McMaster University, recently authored an economic analysis for the Council of Ontario Universities entitled The Economic Impact of a 20% Cut in Ontario Government Funding Grants to Universities. This report highlights the fact that our colleges and universities are themselves major net contributors to the economy, as both major employers and consumers.

Professor Kubursi concluded that a 20% funding reduction to universities, or $376 million, which is what that 20% represents, would translate, through the trickle-down effect, into a $1-billion reduction in the gross provincial product, a $1-billion loss to the economy.

This massive decline in provincial output would lead to employment losses equivalent to 15,000 person-years, 60% of which would be lost outside of the universities. This would have devastating results for all parts of the province, but particularly for those areas and communities that have few other economic strengths or that are vulnerable to economic fluctuations from reliance on the resource sector.

This process of jobs losses and consumer spending reductions would then lead to a decline in government revenue of approximately $317 million. Therefore, the total net saving to the provincial government would be at most $60 million, and could be much lower; that is, they are taking $376 million out of colleges and universities to at best achieve a real saving of $60 million. I therefore ask, is permanent damage to our colleges and universities, 15,000 lost jobs and $1 billion out of the economy, worth all this?

The government is attempting to convince the public that its 30% tax reduction will on its own create 725,000 new jobs. This is a farce. Because of the poor economy, a large portion of this money will not be used for consumer spending but rather will be saved, because people are worried about the future, they're worried about their jobs, they're worried about their children. This has been the experience in other jurisdictions that have tried this method, and there's no reason to believe that it'll be any different in Ontario. Therefore, there will not be a positive impact, nor will that impact be felt immediately.

Let us contrast this with the government's spending cutbacks. The billions of dollars the government is intending to pull out of the economy will have a direct and immediate impact on Ontario. There is no way this government will create 725,000 net jobs simply by providing a tax break to the rich while devastating Ontario's economic infrastructure. To believe otherwise is not only idealistic, it's foolish.

The people of Ontario expect a rational plan, a substantive strategy that will lead to an improved education system that will assist in creating a long-term solution to the province's economic difficulties and ensure that Ontario remains competitive in the global economy. So far, we have seen no indication that this government even intends to grapple with these critical issues, let alone solve them.

This government's plan for Ontario colleges and universities can be characterized as follows: Their short-term plan is to slash funding to colleges and universities, despite the fact that these cuts will damage the quality of Ontario's colleges and universities and make post-secondary education less accessible; their long-term plan is to allow colleges and universities to increase tuition when students have already seen tuition rise by 42% in the last five years. Beyond that, they have no plan. There is no indication that colleges and universities are important to the economy, that they're important to academic learning, that they're important to Ontario.

This is not acceptable. It's not acceptable to us as Liberals, it is not acceptable to colleges and universities and it is not acceptable to students, their families and their parents. It is not acceptable to the people of Ontario, and I urge all members of this House to support our motion.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I will be brief but I have a few comments with respect to this resolution today.

I first of all have to make a comment with respect to the Liberal position on this particular issue, especially with regard to the position just taken by the previous speaker, who I remember very well was chair of the board of governors at the University of Toronto at the same time that that particular organization -- and I assume that she supported the position that was taken by the president, because I know the president of the University of Toronto quite well and he would never take a position that was not supported by the chair and the board.

That university took the position that the Council of Ontario Universities always takes, and that is significant increase in tuitions. In fact, the COU took the position of a 50% increase in tuitions in one shot, which our government did not accept. The previous speaker, the Liberal spokesperson, will know that the University of Toronto took the position that tuition should be completely deregulated.


I certainly understand the view the Liberals take on these particular issues, but it's important that all of us in the Legislature constantly remind the Liberals and constantly remind the member for Downsview that her position has been terribly inconsistent. I really wonder how much credibility the former chair of the board of governors at the University of Toronto has, knowing her history of asking for massive, massive tuition increases when she served as the chair of that board of governors.

Not wanting to dwell on that particular issue any longer -- but I certainly hope other members will build on that thought -- I want to turn for a second to the comments and the question asked by my leader today of the Minister of Education and Training. I want to again read the quote from the program Focus Ontario. I remember watching this program and thinking to myself that the current Minister of Education and Training must have spent a fair amount of time talking to Bette Stephenson, the former Minister of Education under the Conservative government, because it's been almost a crusade of Bette's to push for private universities in the province of Ontario.

I want to read again the quote from the Honourable John Snobelen: "Well, we've said that's something that will likely happen," referring to privatization of universities. "I believe frankly it's inevitable in Ontario, as the university structure changes, that some of that will come on. I have no timetable for that at this point in time."

There is no confusion about the current public university system we have in Ontario, where a significant level of public taxpayer dollars, federal dollars and provincial dollars, go into funding our university system; that the tuitions are regulated by the provincial government; and that through organizations like the Ontario Council on University Affairs, advice is offered to the Minister of Education and Training and the government of the day. The institutions we have in Ontario right now are public institutions and there is public policy set by the provincial government of the day.

Private universities are quite different. The tuitions are completely unregulated. No public dollars go into those institutions. They would set all the criteria for their own universities and would restrict access to those universities.

There's no confusion at all on our part, but I certainly hope the minister today will explain what he meant. I think he would agree that it would be a significant and massive change in public policy in Ontario if we privatized any of the universities in Ontario. There are fundamental questions like, what would happen to the infrastructure that we as taxpayers have paid for? Those are institutions the public owns, not the individual institutions, not private investors. The public owns those institutions and that's been the commitment in this province for many, many decades. We've never accepted the privatization of universities.

I think it's absolutely essential, when we talk about the post-secondary education system, that we talk about our college system, fundamental to training, fundamental to the links between the private sector, to the needs of business and the training made available; fundamental if there's ever going to be the training that needs to be made available to the unemployed, to the welfare recipients who are employable and can get back into the workforce. There needs to be those training options and the college system needs to be a fundamental and major part of the training system.

We did some of that. I would suggest that we need to do more of that. We cannot reduce the amount of funding to our college system. We need to increase it so that more spaces can become available and more people in this province who need retraining and training can access that.

The Ontario Training and Adjustment Board is also a post-secondary training system in Ontario. It's in its infancy stage, but there is a partnership in the way that organization is run, and for the first time it depoliticized the way dollars for training are allocated. It has in it the infrastructure to have a long-term training strategy in Ontario once and for all, with true partnership between business and labour.

Tens of millions of dollars have already been pulled out of that system by the current government. I say to the Minister of Education and Training that that cannot continue to happen, not if you're serious about getting the unemployed back to work.

When it comes to our university system, research and teaching are fundamental, and access to those institutions is fundamental. Currently, tuitions pick up 26% of the cost of a university education -- 26%. I repeat that number because I still hear Conservative members talking about tuitions picking up only 15% and 16% of the cost of a university education. Well, 26% is what tuitions now pick up in our university system. There's not much room for flexibility.

The Ontario student assistance program provides some level of accessibility. It's not a perfect system, but I think the minister would agree with me, because I'm sure he's had the same briefings I've had, that when you raise tuitions now in the system about 75% of the increased cost for tuitions then is borne by the provincial taxpayer through increased costs of the Ontario student assistance program.

That's a tough reality, but that is the reality. If you're looking tomorrow at massive cuts to the university system, the fact is the taxpayers are going to pay for it through OSAP, the student aid program, and the only way of controlling those costs would be to put absolute caps on how much money can be spent on OSAP. If that's the case, you're going to have a real negative impact on accessibility to our college and university system.

There is another option, the income-contingent program, but our government rejected that in the end because we looked at the long-term cost of an income-contingent program, and the long-term cost to the taxpayers was phenomenal. It was going to be a very expensive program, and we felt that to be fiscally responsible we could not put in an income-contingent program, even though philosophically I totally agree with it. The deferred interest, the deferred cost that the taxpayers pick up is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, when you look 20 and 30 years out, it gets into tens of billions of dollars in one model that was looked at by the ministry when we ultimately rejected the plan. Unless those costs were very much controlled and shared by the federal government, it simply would be unaffordable at the provincial level.

I really encourage the minister to fight hard in treasury board or Management Board and in cabinet for improved accessibility and improved spaces in our college and university and OTAB systems. This is the future for our province. Every labour market study shows that the need for more post-secondary training and education is fundamental to the growth of our economy in Ontario. If we don't keep up with that investment, it may reduce the deficit in the short term, but it will increase the deficit dramatically in the long term. It will decrease our competitiveness in this province compared to other jurisdictions. This is one area where investment makes sense, both for jobs and for individuals in our province, and I encourage the minister to fight hard for education.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the Minister of Education and Training, from Mississauga South.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Mississauga North, Mr Speaker. Mississauga South is a fine riding and well represented, but I represent Mississauga North.

It's my pleasure today to rise in the House to speak about an important subject for the future of Ontario, the education system, particularly the post-secondary education system, in the province of Ontario.

I've taken note of the remarks of the honourable members opposite and I must say -- I don't think this will surprise the members opposite -- that I was particularly taken by the member for Windsor-Riverside's comments regarding the sudden transformation of the member for Downsview from being fully in favour of deregulation of tuition fees to whatever the current position is, although I wasn't able to discern completely what that position is.


In the past few months, our government has been moving quickly to make significant reforms that will enhance the quality of the education Ontario students receive and will make the system more accountable to the public that pays for it.

As part of our reforms, we established the Ontario College of Teachers to regulate the province's teaching profession. The college will develop and enforce rigorous standards for teachers and help to improve accountability to students, parents and, equally important, taxpayers.

We also introduced a comprehensive testing program to provide information on the students' performance to help them improve. Province-wide tests will be conducted by an independent agency, the education quality and accountability office, which will dedicate itself exclusively to the quality of Ontario's education system and will be able to respond to the public's demand for closer scrutiny and greater accountability.

Yet another of our reforms will better equip students to go from secondary school to university, college or directly to work. We have started to develop a more focused, relevant and meaningful four-year secondary school system that will be driven by rigorous standards, high levels of expectation, and better career preparation for all students. This new system will focus on the needs of all students, not just those going to university. After all, two thirds of Ontario's students take another avenue. My colleague Toni Skarica will elaborate on this later today.

I'm pleased to have this opportunity to talk about post-secondary education. Post-secondary education has never been more important for the future of Ontario's young people. We know that by the end of the century, almost half the new jobs created will require more than five years of education beyond high school.

Our government has made a clear commitment to develop an education system based on excellence in student achievement, accountability to all taxpayers and affordability, and to have a training system that is geared to Ontario's needs for economic renewal.

The honourable member for Downsview has made reference to our policy document called New Directions, Volume Two: A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario. I must point out to the honourable member that we're the only party to have put out such a thoughtful, detailed document long before an election. This was not a last-minute red book, but proof of our true commitment to education.

We've said that education reform is essential if Ontario's next generation is to find high-paying, productive jobs in an increasingly competitive world market. We believe this is true now more than ever before. Our priority is to prepare our young people for the future, but we must also prepare the future for our young people.

For too long, Ontario has been spending way beyond its means. An $8.7-billion deficit is not a sensible way to run a province. We are spending enormous amounts of money just carrying that debt. In fact, Ontario's interest bill translates into almost $800 a year for every man, woman and child in the province.

Let me put that in another context. Currently, this government's total debt is $100 billion, with interest charges piling up at the rate of more than $1 million every hour. That means that this year we'll pay out $9 billion in interest costs alone. That's a staggering amount of money.

The member for Downsview raised the issue of morality a few moments ago. I say it is immoral to force our present students to carry the burden of that huge debt into their futures -- immoral and unfair. Unfair because, if not reduced, in 10 or 15 years that huge debt would force the government of the day to eliminate social programs that we enjoy today. So they would be betrayed on two counts. We are not going to let that happen.

Our first priority, therefore, is to get our province back on track financially. We must reduce Ontario's crippling debt to improve the climate for job creation. Only with a healthy economy can we achieve the growth necessary to protect essential services.

My ministry spends nearly $9.2 billion a year to support education operating and capital requirements in this province. Of that $9.2 billion, almost all of it is paid out in transfer payments to colleges, universities and school boards.

We intend to make the education system more accountable, so we must ensure that our resources are well deployed and efficiently used.

The taxpaying public has told us they want better value for their tax dollars, and the education system can certainly improve in this area. They want to know that we're providing a first-class education to our young people, and they want and expect a highly educated, well-trained populace that is ready to meet the challenges of our new economy.

In the post-secondary sector, it's clear that the future fiscal environment is going to be quite different from what it has been in the past.

In 1995 the federal Minister of Finance announced a new funding model which will lead to a $3.6-billion cut in transfer payments to Ontario. Coupled with Ontario's need to reduce expenditures, this means our colleges and universities must look at restructuring. Like other educational institutions, they will have to come to grips with the reality that there is simply less money available and that there will continue to be less money available for the foreseeable future.

The challenge will be to keep in sight the fundamental goal of the post-secondary education system, which is to deliver education that meets the needs of today's students who will be shaping tomorrow's world. By restructuring, working cooperatively at local levels and streamlining operations, I am confident that the post-secondary education community will be able to reduce overall costs while maintaining and in fact enhancing high quality education for all students.

We need to enter into a real dialogue with the post-secondary sector to come to grips with the issues that are critical for the future.

In the next few months, we'll be focusing on such challenging issues as student and provincial shares of post-secondary funding, accessibility and program rationalization within each of the sectors. We will also look at opportunities for coordination between colleges and universities and between the post-secondary and secondary sector.

In terms of program rationalization, for example, we will have to identify labour market trends. We'll have to work out a geographical distribution of programs that makes sense and make sure there's demand for our graduates.

Tuition fees will continue to play an increasing role in the funding of colleges and universities. In order to bring about a healthy economic environment in Ontario, we will have to make some tough decisions, including allowing flexibility in tuition fees so that they reflect a fairer share of the actual cost of education a student receives.

Let me point out, however, that over the last 10 years tuition fees have increased significantly. The member opposite has made reference to something like a 42% increase under the NDP government. My office tells me that it's actually closer to 50%, and the Liberals, as I said earlier in the House, raised tuition by over 30% when they were in government. I'm now led to believe that the member for Downsview would have had us totally deregulate tuition fees a matter of a few months ago.

With the staggering debt we have inherited from the two previous governments, along with cuts to federal transfers, our government is facing a financial situation much more critical than ever faced before. We believe tuition fees represent a real investment in the future, both from an individual and a societal point of view. Statistics show that those in post-secondary education are more successful in the job market than those without a higher education. They earn higher salaries and are less likely to be unemployed.

In the Common Sense Revolution, we proposed a partial deregulation of tuition fees so that students pay a fairer share of the cost of the education they receive. This is an area we'll explore in the upcoming months.

Currently, students in college pay about 19% of the total cost of their education, while students in university pay about 25%.

Tuition is an area which we will address with our post-secondary partners, including the students. As the direct beneficiaries of post-secondary education, students should be involved in decisions that affect the quality of their education.

We're also looking at ways to make post-secondary education affordable for everyone. We have a commitment in the Common Sense Revolution to implement a new income-contingent loan program similar to others being introduced around the world.

My colleagues and I were delighted when in September 1994 the Ontario Ministry of Education and the federal government, together with the Council of Ontario Universities and the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario, cosponsored a national symposium on income-contingent loans. We were, however, greatly disappointed when discussions fell apart because the previous government backed away from this approach. We believe the approach can be made successfully.


Several months ago I met with the federal Minister of Human Resources Development, the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy. We agreed to start working on the feasibility of implementing an income-contingent loan program. We have initiated discussions with federal student aid officials to determine how the federal and provincial student loan programs can best be harmonized to improve services to students and also to eliminate existing overlap and duplication.

My caucus colleagues and I are supporters of an income-contingent loan program because students can repay their loans after graduation based on their income. For people who start out their careers earning very little or have difficulty finding a job at first, their loan repayment will reflect those circumstances.

There are obviously major issues that need to be resolved in income-contingent loans, not the least of which is how the overall program would work and who would deliver it, and how much it would cost and how it would be funded. But those issues can be addressed and can be overcome.

What is needed is a new framework for developing policy on post-secondary education to make sure that everybody's needs are met and that we have the best education and training system we can afford, and in fact the best in the world. Improving Ontario's education and training system remains a major priority of our government while reducing overall spending in this sector. There will be tough choices to make, because these tough choices were not made yesterday. In the end we'll have a better education system that meets the needs of the people it serves: the students and the taxpayers of Ontario.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I am proud to rise in the House today to support this important resolution put forward by my honourable colleague from Downsview, and certainly saddened to hear some of the comments of the Minister of Education and Training, particularly when he talks about a consultation process that will potentially take place after the cuts have come down. That certainly does not seem the way to go.

The students attending Lakehead University and Confederation College in my riding of Port Arthur are more than concerned with this government's focus on cost cutting at all costs. There are some issues that are too valuable to the wellbeing of this province and its future for the government to arbitrarily undermine them, and our post-secondary education system is one of them.

A report released Monday by the Canadian Council of Ministers of Education says it all: Unemployment decreases as education levels increase. This puts increased pressure on young people to attain post-secondary education. While the reality of the current economy and labour force has resulted in increased enrolment, the support that students receive is now in dire jeopardy.

According to the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, in the last five years alone the number of students forced to take out student loans has increased by 76%. Now this government has pledged to put even further pressure on students to pay for their education, without ensuring that there are sufficient mechanisms in place to provide support to those students who may not be able to finance their education independently in the face of cuts to programs and increases in tuition.

What such a decision fails to consider is the economic status of most students. As young people, their employment is restricted to summer jobs and, at best, part-time work during the year. We are all aware that most of these jobs provide little more than minimum wage, and certainly their part-time or seasonal nature cannot sustain an individual for the duration of a school year, regardless of one's affinity for Kraft Dinner or tuna. With the future of youth employment programs also on the government's chopping block, a student's ability to finance his or her own education is further jeopardized.

The government's concession to students, an income-contingent repayment program, certainly not yet in place, is one thing, but while this might provide relief for graduates once they enter the labour force, it will do nothing to alleviate the financial pressures during the time when the students are in school. We, as elected representatives and legislators, need to proceed with extreme caution. We owe our students more than quick solutions that serve ideology before they consider the human factor.

The basic fact is that the future of any society can be measured by how it treats its youth. This government needs to understand that access to education cannot become an élite privilege. Opportunity and admission to our post-secondary institutions allows young people from across the province to capitalize on their potential and achieve their goals. In return they become our future.

I'm proud to read a message I've received from a constituent of mine in Thunder Bay, a Lakehead University student named Colin Parent. He writes, and I will quote him:

"We students and our families are the present and future taxpayers in the province of Ontario. We too want the best value for our tax dollars. I believe that present level or stable funding to post-secondary institutions is an excellent way to maximize the value of our tax dollars. Affordable education allows more people to become productive citizens and reduces their chances of becoming a future drain on Ontario's services. Educated people become for the most part responsible and productive citizens and good decision-makers. Investment in post-secondary education benefits Ontario economically. Accessible education is the lifeline that contributes to an individual's success in later life. If the lifeline is cut, the lives of future generations will be mortgaged in the name of deficit reduction.

"Remember that we young people will inherit the damage created from your short-sighted policies. Ontario cannot be governed by ideology alone. Modern societies are far too complex for old-fashioned solutions.... Education" may be "a hand up, not a handout." But "affordable, accessible education has certainly benefited my life. I hope it will benefit others as well."

Well-spoken words I'm proud to read, because we cannot afford to gamble on the future. Of all the resources that Ontario has in abundance, none is more important than the minds and talents of our young people.

Consider as well the many spinoff effects that post-secondary institutions bring to our communities. Dr Robert Rosehart, president of Lakehead University, is quick to point out the positive influence of having both Lakehead University and Confederation College in Thunder Bay. He estimates that the total economic impact of Lakehead University on the city of Thunder Bay is somewhere around $182 million, with an employment of almost 2,000 people. This is being threatened by these potential cuts.

Let me give you a sample of some of the further benefits at Lakehead University. They offer courses and programs in 18 different communities in northwestern Ontario and they extend programming to the rest of the region and Canada through their distance education department. Their applied research and education in the fields of health and gerontology are particularly valuable to northwestern Ontario, where services and resources are limited.

The expertise, the energy and the enthusiasm of students, staff and faculty is an extremely significant contribution to the volunteer power of the community. Research support to business and government has been significant, and mutually beneficial liaisons continue to develop. All these things are threatened.

Let's face it, if you impede students from attaining post-secondary education, you strangle the institutions and eradicate the positive benefits that these institutions have on their communities. Nobody wins.

This resolution urges the government to move in ensuring that all Ontario students have equal access to a post-secondary education. I proudly throw my support behind this resolution and urge all the members in this House to do the same.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): It's a pleasure to speak today on the motion that has been moved by the member for Downsview. I'm going to say some kind things about this motion and some unkind things about it. I will begin by making some remarks about what the federal Liberal government is doing, moving down to what the provincial government might have done, then getting to the motion as briefly as I possibly can.

The federal Liberal government has been gutting many of our services for quite a number of years, in fact abdicating its responsibilities for quite a number of years. The federal Conservative government began these cutbacks against this province, being unfair to Ontario in particular by capping the Canada assistance plan many years ago and by reducing federal contributions to post-secondary education that had begun a long time ago.

The federal Liberal Party and government have continued unrepentantly with those cuts since they got into power. I regret that and I think it's a shame and it needs to be mentioned. I know that the taxpayers out there, as the Conservative folks speak about them, say we shouldn't be blaming any particular government, we're all one taxpayer and we should do what we need to do as government.


The point I make is that the federal government is cutting $1.4 billion in 1996-97 and $2.2 billion in 1997-98, and that is particularly harmful to this province. It should be talked about. My only hope is that the member for Downsview and her other Liberal friends from Ontario will call Jean Chrétien and say: "Jean, why are you doing this to us? Why are you cutting back so severely in a way that is killing this province?" My feeling is they're not going to call Jean Chrétien, their Liberal friend. They might call Sheila Copps and try to talk to her about this. But it won't happen.

So as a reminder, the federal Liberals are abdicating the important role the federal government has played in funding post-secondary education over the past 30 years. It's a shameful act. I needed to remind them because they never talk about it.

What would the Liberals have done? We don't know. We have lots of promises here. They made thousands of promises that would have cost millions, if not billions of dollars. They made thousands of promises, of course, that would have cut millions and billions of dollars. It's difficult to understand the Liberal position around anything. It is certainly a very slippery thing, but people need to understand the particular Liberal slippery philosophy and policies. They're all in here and I advise the folks to read that.

I want to say, as it relates to this particular issue of tuition fees, the increased demand for social assistance no doubt will be a major challenge to this government as we deal with tuitions, because as they destroy this province and as they impoverish a whole lot of people out there, there's going to be a great demand for support in order to be able to get to university. It's a challenge. I'm not sure that this government cares about how it's going to deal with increased demand for student loans, but I'm sure that this government will deal with that as the demand comes up.

The federal government is doing the following: The interest rates on Canada student loans now begins accumulating the minute the student graduates. In Ontario, the student loans are interest-free until six months after they begin working. We think this particular thing that we've done in Ontario is fairer to students because it gives them a chance to find a job. What the federal Liberal government is doing through their kind of system of loans is to make them pay right away irrespective of whether they have a job or not.

The federal government has also privatized the student loan system by making exclusive deals with the banks. The Ontario student loans are collected by the government, not by the banks, as the federal Liberal government is doing. We have shown through our own programs that the default is lower in Ontario and that they're cost-effective because they're run by our government, by civil servants.

What I worry is that the Conservative friends of mine on the other side are likely to do the same thing as their federal Liberal counterparts. That's my fear, so I urge the people of Ontario to pay attention to what is likely to happen, because what the Liberals are doing at the federal level, these Conservative members at the provincial level are likely to do the same, and they should fear it.

The income-contingent loan program is an interesting program. I particularly find it interesting because it says that students should pay, once they graduate, according to the kind of money they're making. It makes sense; it's based on ability to pay. My colleague from Windsor-Riverside said that would be very expensive for governments. I appreciate that. I understand the concern that he raises and that we as a government have to pick up on those costs if we get into such a program.

On the other hand, I argue that that would be a fairer way to have students pay their student loans, because it says if someone is making $100,000 once they start work, they should be paying accordingly, and if someone is only making $20,000, they should be paying accordingly. So it's a fair system that, in my view, we might want to address or look at by referring such an issue to the standing committee on social development for further discussion because, in my view, it's appealing.

That's not a solution. It will not solve our problems. It's a fine idea to be explored, but that is not a solution to the problems of student loans. The solution is certainly not to give the income tax cuts that you're proposing.

The Minister of Education says it is immoral to have our students pay for this huge debt we have. I put to him and to the members gawking on the other side that what is immoral is that these fine members on the other side have to take $4 billion away from needed programs to give $4 billion to their wealthiest friends. That's immoral, not what the Minister of Education is saying. They've got it all wrong.

But again, they're infallible, they have all the answers. Their smugness is intriguing, but the people of Ontario will read through that, will understand very shortly, the next day, once they cut another $4 billion, what it really means to them and what it means to give $4 billion in income tax cuts when they take those $4 billion away from much-needed programs. They will learn and they will tell these fine members, these smug, infallible members, what it really means to them.

Students will have to suffer permanently because of those income tax cuts. They will suffer permanently. When they cut drastically to university education, a number of things will happen. Because of this foolish move by this government, a number of things will happen: It will make access to post-secondary education more difficult for students who cannot afford to pay, because tuition fees will skyrocket, there's no doubt about that; it will have a disastrous effect on jobs in the universities, on programs; and it will have a disastrous effect on the very quality of education that our Minister of Education so proudly speaks of. It will erode it, there's no doubt in my mind about that.

We say to the Liberals with this motion, go after M. Chrétien. We say to you, be clear about what your position is so we understand how you would have solved all these problems. We say to you, we agree with you on the income tax cuts the Conservative government is implementing as being a fundamentally immoral thing that will hurt everybody in this province.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): As the minister has stated, Ontario has been spending beyond its means for too long, and we cannot in good conscience continue to run a province with a $9-billion deficit. As a government, we are spending enormous sums of hard-earned taxpayer dollars just to carry that debt. That's not what I want to leave behind to the next generation.

Speaking of future generations, I've been talking with many young people around the province these past few months. They've told me that they don't want the debt; they want to be part of the solution.

Managing this debt means not only spending fewer dollars or cutting transfer payments; it means getting better value for our tax dollars and providing our services more effectively and more efficiently. We are clearing the way for a better, brighter economic future for our children. As the minister has said, we must not only prepare young people for the future, we must prepare the future for our young people.

There are many concerned and caring educators and administrators in our colleges and universities. They also believe in our young people and want to do whatever is necessary to deliver not only excellent education for learners but a promising future for our youth.

This afternoon in the House and this morning at her press conference, the member for Downsview said that there have been no consultations. Well, I say to the member for Downsview that I've had the privilege of meeting with many members of the educational community over the past few months. I have visited many of our colleges and universities, and it is my intention to visit all of them. Everywhere I've been I've made a commitment to continue the dialogue that has been started.

I met with people at Lakehead University, the University of Toronto, York University and at the University of Western Ontario. I've been to Confederation College, Northern College, Collège Boréal, McMaster University and Ryerson. I've travelled to Canadore College and Nipissing University and the universities of Waterloo and Guelph. I've met with students, with representatives of faculty associations, with members of the administration and with the boards of governors.

At Seneca College I spoke to 150 students, teachers and staff during a lunchtime speakers series. The crowd of 150 people stayed after my speech and asked questions for 45 more minutes. I think that's a good indication of interest, of concern and of the dialogue going on in the institutions and between governments and the people we serve. That is consultation.

I'm heartened by these visits. What I've witnessed is people gathering together to ensure that post-secondary education is accessible and affordable.


People are aware that tighter fiscal management is necessary and students are aware of the need for the inevitable increase in tuition fees. They know that the provincial debt cannot continue to grow. These people have been searching their hearts and minds for solutions to ensure that their colleges and universities continue to provide excellent education. There is a wealth of ideas and creative thought in our colleges and universities. People are offering up solutions, from special bursaries for students with limited financial means to innovative ideas on restructuring and partnerships.

Our colleges and universities are committed to helping develop a new financial framework of shared funding responsibilities among students, post-secondary institutions, taxpayers and other community and business partners, and they will continue to offer an abundant range of educational opportunities to all learners in the province. They're building upon past successes, and as a government, we are facilitating their future successes.

Let me give you an example of one means we have recently established to do that: the Advanced Training Consortium. Our ministry is working with the Council of Ontario Universities and the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology, as well as the Franco-Ontarian Education and Training Council, to set up the Advanced Training Consortium to improve student mobility between institutions and promote joint college and university programs.

This consortium will promote and coordinate education and training ventures among colleges and universities. It is especially interested in joint ventures that can play a key role in Ontario's economic growth. It will facilitate the transfer of course credits between colleges and universities and it will also help clear the way for students to move more freely from college to university and vice versa. The Advanced Training Consortium will open doors for learners and educators.

Another success story in Ontario is distance education. This province's distance education service has been held up as a model for other jurisdictions to follow. We are continuing to add on to it and to open it up to more and more students. Distance education can help colleges and universities expand their options for delivering courses. For students, distance education offers more choices on methods of study. Students in remote communities, students whose lifestyle demands more flexible study and classroom time, and students who work best independently will all benefit from distance education programs.

One example of a new and exciting distance education initiative is the Franco-Ontarian distance education network, a collaborative project of the three French-language colleges, la Cité collégiale, Collège Boréal and Collège des Grands Lacs, and the four bilingual universities, the University of Ottawa, Laurentian University, Collège universitaire de Hearst and Glendon College of York University. These institutions are using videoconferencing and other distance education technology to increase access to education across the province.

Universities and colleges are looking at the new advances in information technology to help them serve more students. At Atkinson College at York University this fall, courses were offered via the Internet for the very first time.

The engineering faculties of McMaster University and the universities of Waterloo and Toronto have teamed up on a video link that connects classrooms on three campuses. It's known as the McWaTor project and is another excellent example of collaboration where everyone wins. Graduate engineering students and lifelong learners in business and industry will benefit from the superior education that the McWaTor video link will provide. This private initiative of open learning is one which this government will continue to encourage.

Let me share some further information on developments in the post-secondary sector. Since 1993, colleges of applied arts and technology have been developing a prior learning assessment system to open up their institutions to increasing numbers of mature students. Through prior learning assessment, adult learners are given credit for previous work and life experience so they do not have to duplicate their learning efforts in the classroom. This is a tremendous benefit to many mature students.

These are some of the initiatives we are pursuing with our college and university partners to continually maintain and build upon the quality of post-secondary education offered in this province. In spite of the province's heavy debt load and in spite of the many demands on the system, we are committed to make use of developments in information technology and developments in our understanding of students' learning to open new doors for Ontario's learners.

I'm proud to be part of this exciting transition in post-secondary education and I am enthusiastic about the accomplishments we will achieve in these next few years in Ontario's college and university system.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise in support of --


Mr Agostino: Thanks, Chris.

I rise in support of the resolution by the member for Downsview. This debate today is about the future of post-secondary education in this province. I think it is a shaky future. It's about the future of thousands of young people in this province who are striving to receive a university education.

Often it's going to be about how it impacts individuals, in that university and post-secondary education becomes a way for a better life, becomes the element that breaks an existing cycle of poverty. What is happening and what will happen from this government is going to impact and hurt lower-income individuals across Ontario more than it ever has before.

When it's a question of affordability, it isn't a question of affordability for someone who comes from a fairly well-to-do family and has the ability to pay the cost that accompanies that university or college education. It impacts the sons and daughters of people who are working at jobs that pay minimum wage, jobs that don't pay $50,000, $100,000 or $150,000 a year, people who are struggling but always have a hope and a dream that their hard work is going to give their children that opportunity to go on to college and university and, hopefully, make a better life for themselves.

We all, from all three parties, know a number of cases, dozens and dozens of young people who have taken advantage of that opportunity and have provided a tremendous life for themselves and their families. That opportunity generally has been there in Ontario for many years in the past. I'm afraid it may not be there in the years to come.

We have to ensure that when we talk about the cuts in education, we also realize there's not only the impact on the students, not only the impact on the tuition fee increases and the ability of young people to afford to go to school. I would hope we never have an educational system in Ontario where only the rich, the wealthy and the powerful can afford to send their kids to university and everyone else has to stand on the sidelines and hope for the best and hope they don't get the door slammed in their face because they can't afford to go to the university or college of their choice.

We also have to look at the impact the cuts and reductions are going to have on the university communities. This government likes to talk about jobs, likes to talk about job creation, likes to talk about the private sector, the spinoff effects of the tax cut. This government has to start looking at the spinoff effects of their operating grants and their cuts to the universities across Ontario.

Let me give you an example from McMaster University in Hamilton, in my own community. A reduction of 15% in provincial operating grants to McMaster would translate into $17 million from the operating budget. This would be the equivalent of the entire faculty of engineering plus the Michael DeGroot School of Business at McMaster. A reduction of 20% would result in a decrease of $22 million, equivalent to the salaries, benefits and operation budget of the faculty of science at McMaster.

McMaster is the seventh-largest employer in Hamilton, and a 15% reduction will significantly impact the region of Hamilton-Wentworth. A recent study concluded that if a 15% cut to McMaster University occurs, 750 jobs will be lost. These are jobs that are now there, people who are now being employed -- 750 jobs simply from the impact of a 15% cut to McMaster University. That's only McMaster. Look across Ontario and add that, and realize the impact your decisions are going to have.

Reduced business income -- and you'll like this, because these are your friends, the business community, the people you were elected to represent. This reduced business income, just in Hamilton-Wentworth, as a result of this cut to McMaster, will be $48 million. Local tax revenues will be $1.5 million. Provincial tax revenues, the revenues you're going to use to offset your 30% tax cut, are going to fall by $4.5 million annually.


When McMaster University suffers, the entire Hamilton-Wentworth community suffers. Students at McMaster are not a cost; students at McMaster are clearly an investment in this province, are an investment in Hamilton-Wentworth. Tuition fee increases are going to have an impact. Of the 10 provinces, Ontario ranks second-last in its per-student spending on universities. The Conservatives said that tuition should represent 25% of the cost of a post-secondary education; it already makes up 26.2%. Therefore, according to your own government position, there should be no need for a tuition fee increase. It is immoral to make students across Ontario pay the cost of a tax cut for the wealthy.

There should not be an increase in tuition until the government has examined and done the following: demonstrated that students are not paying their fair share of education costs, which, according to New Directions, Volume Two, was set by the Conservative government at 25% of operating expenditures -- it's already above that; ensured that no student is denied access to a post-secondary education as a result of their inability to pay that tuition fee; consulted with the stakeholders, because an increase in tuition fees will dramatically affect accessibility to post-secondary education.

Higher tuition fees will prevent young people from getting the education they need to enter the workforce. Higher tuition fees are just another example of the Tory assault on the poor and the disadvantaged in Ontario.

This government has to understand very clearly that when you have large increases in tuition fees, when you have large costs added to universities and to young people going to school, the people that are affected are not the rich and powerful, not the people that this government represents, but they are the young people across Ontario, young people who come from families that don't have the wealth, that don't have the power and often are struggling to get by.

If you want to break that cycle of poverty and you want to have productive people in the workforce in years to come, then you don't do it by increasing tuition fees. What you're doing there is ensuring that the gap between the rich and poor remains, and this polarization of Ontario that you are doing so well, this huge gap that you're creating, a larger gap between the rich and the poor in Ontario, is going to grow even further, and you're going to deny tens of thousands of young people from very difficult families and from families that are struggling in Ontario the opportunity to better themselves.

I hope that this government will consider that and I hope you will consider that university education should be universally accessible to all despite income. We don't live in a province or in a country where your ability to go to university depends on the size of your wallet; it should depend on your ability to go forward, on your ability to produce and on your ability and your drive to better yourself, not the size of your chequebook. I hope this government understands that and takes the steps to ensure that doesn't happen.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm glad to have a chance to speak briefly to this motion. This being a motion presented by the Liberal caucus today, it's not surprising that we would view it with mixed feelings because of the approach that it presents on the important issue of tuition fees.

We will, on balance, be supporting the resolution and the motion because it does, at the end of the day, make the basic important point, which is to call upon the Mike Harris government not to impose or allow any tuition increases, and because it does bring to the fore -- I think in fairness to the Liberal caucus and particularly the member for Downsview, who has brought this motion before us -- that very important point, which I think is going to result in a little bit of a dilemma for the Harris government as they try to mesh their various commitments in the Common Sense Revolution with this.

I see the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs shaking his head. Maybe they've got it all worked out. I'm sure that tomorrow all will be clear.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Tony, you created the dilemma with a $10-billion deficit.

Mr Silipo: But here's what I mean, if the Minister of Agriculture would be interested in listening. The Tories have said, in their Common Sense Revolution, that they are going to be cutting this area of expenditure, that is, transfers to post-secondary education, to colleges and universities, by 20%, as they are going to be cutting elsewhere. Perhaps it'll be even more, as we'll see tomorrow in the economic statement. But they also continue to talk about wanting to maintain access to colleges and universities, and the two things just don't mesh. The two things just are not going to be possible.

I think we will see that in their continuing wish to take anywhere from $4 billion to $7 billion, and again we'll have a sense over time to see the exact amounts, take that amount of money, to borrow a lot of that money to be able to provide the wealthiest citizens in the province with a tax cut to a far larger proportion than they will the average Ontarian in the province, in their rush to do that, one of the groups that will be hurt in this process and will be asked to pay that price and that cost will be young men and women who want to go to college and university.

I represent a riding which has people of all different backgrounds: ethnically, racially, certainly even economically, although it is predominantly a working-class riding. I know that the experience that I have personally lived of coming from a working-class background and having had the opportunity to go to university is one that many of the people in my riding want to have for their children. It's certainly something that I want to see for my son.

I know that as they look at what is happening, they're scared because they don't know what is going to be happening and how much more tuition fees are going to be increasing and whether in fact they'll be able to afford the tuition fees that are going to be certainly increasing under this government as a result of the actions they are taking.

It's interesting because the other part of what I think is going to cause a bit of conundrum for the Tory government is the fact that they have set in their Common Sense Revolution a target of some 25%; that is, that tuition fees should represent roughly 25% of the operating cost of post-secondary education.

I think this is where the "whereases" in the motion correctly point out that in fact we're already at that level. So how are they going to deal with this dilemma of saying they're going to cut spending to post-secondary education but they're not going to increase tuition fees beyond what they've already said should be the level, when we're at that level already?

My colleague from Fort York has already pointed out part of the cause of this problem, that is, the federal government having abdicated its responsibility to post-secondary education by cutting, certainly in the next fiscal year, some $1.4 billion, and I think over $2.2 billion by 1997-98, something I hope our federal cousins, our Liberal cousins here to the right of us, would not forget. It was interesting that we didn't see in this resolution a "whereas" that also called upon the federal government to play its role, as it has historically done, to fund post-secondary education.

We understand some of the pressures this government is going to have to deal with, because quite frankly they were pressures that we had to deal with when we were the government. But the dilemma, I think, is going to be, as I want to continue to emphasize for them, how they're going to mesh the commitment that they have to cutting funding with the fact that they say they don't want to raise tuition fees beyond the level that is really already there now, at the 25% or 26% level, which is where we are now.

I think the Minister of Education and Training, although he didn't want to admit it today it seemed, was giving one potential answer when, on Focus Ontario the other day, he clearly acknowledged that one of the things that this government was looking at was privatizing universities, deregulating universities, allowing in effect for the privatization of universities.

I think that is something that should scare us and should concern us greatly. We need only look to the south of the border to see what that means. What that means is that the average Ontarian will not be able to go to university. What that means is that for many people in my riding, their sons and daughters will not be able to go to college and university because the increased level of tuition fees will be far, far greater than anything that can reasonably be paid by most people in this province, and indeed any other pieces of this, including the income-contingent repayment, which I think has some merit.


I listened on this point to both my colleague from Windsor-Riverside and my colleague from Fort York, and I must say that it is certainly an area that I know we looked at when we were the government, and something I think is worthwhile taking a look at, but I think with all of the cautions that the member for Windsor-Riverside pointed out about the long-term costs that it has, not just for individuals, but indeed for the taxpayers as a whole.

I know that in looking at this that I have to keep asking myself, and I have to keep reminding myself in bringing before this House, what will higher tuition fees, however they are going to come about, do to people in my riding? What they will do to people in my riding, and I know throughout the province, is they will limit, even more greatly than is the case now, the opportunities for people to go to college and university.

I think if we want to develop in this society and in Ontario a society in which there is greater equity, then what we need to also be doing is increasing the opportunities for people from working-class backgrounds, indeed from all backgrounds, to be able to access post-secondary education.

The system that we put in place, we believe, has improved the situation, because what we did was to ensure that there was a maximum placed on the amount of loan that young people would be asked to repay by saying that no one would be forced to repay more than $6,000 for each year that they are in school as part of the repayment of the loans they would be receiving, so that there would be a forgiveness of loans beyond that amount to make sure that the burden that's placed upon young people was not unduly harsh, and in fact it was an amount that they could, over a period of time, be able to repay.

That is the kind of approach that we think needs to continue, and it is because this motion from the Liberal caucus essentially addresses that fundamental point of not increasing tuition fees that certainly I for one, and I know many among my caucus, will be supporting it.

We could take issue, as I think we've already done in our previous comments, with some of the points that have been made, certainly in terms of one of the "whereases," the one that says that the NDP government was responsible for a 42% increase in tuition fees. I don't know if the math is correct; I assume that it is. But I do find it a little puzzling that it is the member for Downsview who's raising this issue in this particular way because, as has been pointed out, she was one of the ones that was leading the charge for the government to increase tuition fees.

I know that there is a broader context and I look forward to the reply from the member for Downsview, as she has pointed out that she will do, because I'm sure that she has found a way to rationalize the seeming inconsistency in the position that she took then and the position that she's taking now.

But I have to say, on balance, the point that I think is being made here, and while I think it's appropriate and fair that we point out the inconsistencies that our Liberal colleagues bring to this Legislature on this and many other issues, it's important that we continue to stress that whatever differences we may have today on these issues, they pale by comparison to what the Conservative government is doing, what the Mike Harris government is doing, which is to, piece by piece, dismantle the structure of this province, the services in this province, and even in this area of education, to turn to privatization and to deregulation as the solution, that is, to getting out of the role of governing, to getting out of the responsibilities that historically governments in this province have played, whether those governments have been Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat, and that is a frightening thought.

That is a frightening thought as we look to the future, that we will have not just less government, because less government is something that I think we could agree on, but that we will have the role of government diminished to the point where we will have handed over to the private sector every instance of what has built Ontario as a fundamental part of Canada into the best place to live in in the world.

That is what is at stake here at the end of the day, and we talk about these things, I know, in their pieces, in their parts. Today we're talking about education, post-secondary education in particular, but that is really what's at stake when we deal, piece by piece, with the Tory agenda.

It is an agenda that says, "We need to get out of governing; we need to get out of what have been traditional responsibilities of government," as I say, regardless of party stripe, and they add to that the basic economic piece that says, "We're going to create 725,000 jobs in this province by giving tax cuts, by borrowing money to provide tax cuts to the wealthiest citizens of the province, but we can't borrow money to provide a good education system for our young people; we can't borrow money to provide a good set of social services for our young people; we can't borrow money to provide good early childhood education, good kindergarten, good child care," which, together with higher tuition fees, we know is at the heart of who is going to get to college or university at the end of the day, because study after study has shown us, if you want to see who's going to go to university or college, take a look at how they're doing in the early years of schooling. That will give you as close an indicator as anything that you can track throughout their years of schooling.

That is something this government does not want to hear and that is why we continue, as New Democrats, to point out the importance of taking care of our young people through child care, of taking care of our young people through providing them with good kindergarten programs, with good education in the early years and with affordable education through, yes, a level of tuition fees as they get into post-secondary education, but a level of tuition fees that is reasonable and that makes it affordable for people from all parts of society to be able to go to college and university, because it's in that access to university that we lay the foundation for a good and healthy society. That is why, despite some of the nitpicking that we can have and I think even some fundamental differences that we may have with parts of this resolution, on balance we will support it, because it's that fundamental point that we need to keep making to this government and to the people of Ontario.

Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): The motion put forward by the member for Downsview reminds me of the old days of politics when politicians did not offer any alternative solutions following on criticism. In fact, the honourable member will know her party offered no alternative policy during the election.

Nobody wants tuition increases -- nobody. To raise these fees would be like raising taxes, which we know, thanks to the 33 tax increases during the Liberal reign, is clearly a Liberal solution. We cannot take easy steps to difficult problems.

Universities and colleges must be part of the solution. They must be partners to better management of our public finances, not part of the problem. We cannot sit here as the government with the responsibility for the good management of taxpayers' money and at the same time transfer money to universities and colleges without expecting that they find savings within their administration to avoid raising tuition fees.

Recently, the leader of the third party spoke at a Convocation Hall rally, University of Toronto, to condemn our government's dedication to spending money wisely. Time and again we hear opposition politicians and student leaders criticizing the government for trying to spend money as efficiently as possible. What is troubling is that I've yet to hear the leader of the third party, the official opposition or, more importantly, student leaders in Ontario, question the manner in which universities and colleges spend public tax dollars.

Are presidents, faculty, administrators of our universities and colleges immune to public scrutiny? Where are the efforts by special interests to uncover any wasteful overspending in universities? We must ask ourselves, do our universities spend our tax dollars appropriately? Should salaries be made public? While the government is trimming its operations and finding efficiencies, and Ontarians are struggling to live within their means, our transfer partners must also work to find the most cost-effective way of investing our tax dollars in post-secondary education.

I've had an opportunity to look through the Liberal policy document and cannot find one option for reforming the structure of university or college funding. Liberals must have thought the current transfer structure and lack of accountability by post-secondary institutions was acceptable.

The Liberal Party of Ontario never offered any concrete solutions during the election and now they complain that universities may choose to raise their tuition fees. But they offer no solution of their own to help keep the fees down. The people of Ontario voted for action, not inaction.

When the Liberals governed this province, tuition fees rose by 34.8%. They rose by 12.4% in the two years Lyn McLeod was Minister of Colleges and Universities. Did the Liberals ever once during this time ask the universities to be more accountable in their spending or to find alternative means of raising funds, instead of raising tuition fees? No, you did not. You did what Liberal governments do best: You raised taxes. You raised them 33 times in all corners of the economy.


Education is important to our government. We are getting our fiscal house in order and are improving the economy to provide graduates with jobs. Thanks to excessive taxes and overspending, the increase in interest costs this year alone, close to $1 billion, is greater than our government's budget for community colleges.

The total interest on our debt this year, close to $9 billion, is much greater than our government's total education budget. The Liberal-NDP legacy is what is hurting the accessibility to our post-secondary education system.

This motion before us today proposes only one possible outcome: If you read the lines that are missing, you can see that the proposed solution to holding tuition is to raise taxes. The Liberals may think that is a solution; they obviously thought that was a solution when they were in government. But their tax plan not only failed to stop escalating university tuition fees; it took money out of working students' pockets. They never established an income-contingent loan program when in power, which we will do. They shied away from the income-contingent loans proposal of their federal cousins.

I'd like to talk a bit about fair share, as raised in this motion from the member for Downsview. In 1994-95, Ontario tuition fees were among the lowest in the country. Only Quebec universities on average and Memorial University of Newfoundland have lower tuition fees. However, if the opposition wants to play the numbers game, then let's inspect the numbers a little closer.

In Ontario, from 1984-85 to 1994-95 under the Liberals and the NDP, undergraduate arts tuition increased by 92%. This is according to Statistics Canada.

Both the members for Downsview and Hamilton East stated that Ontario ranks second-last, ninth out of 10 provinces, in student expenditure, having Ontarians believe that this is some new reality afflicting students under our government. The important reality is that Ontario ranked last under Lyn McLeod when she was Minister of Colleges and Universities in 1989-90.

Instead of demanding the government spend more on university education, we should be recognizing that our tuition fees for students attending our universities in 1994-95 were among the lowest in the country. So I would ask the opposition, stop the fear-mongering with students, use the numbers that truly matter: the cost to access university.

The amount of gifts and private contributions to universities in Ontario has also increased in recent years. From 1983 to 1993, contributions from the private sector, not including endowments, almost tripled in Ontario. This helped keep our tuition at relatively lower levels than other provinces. This trend must be encouraged to continue.

While universities must be given more freedom to raise funds to support their operations and hold the line on tuition fees, students who attend university, especially in programs with better-than-average job opportunities, should be asked to contribute more to their education. Further, the cost of tuition must reflect more closely the actual cost of that education and the income potential of that graduate. A degree or a diploma is essential in today's job market. As the member for Downsview has pointed out, your job prospects and your salary increase with a higher education. These students have an obligation to pay their fair share.

The Liberal red book states, "We will not support any measures that would force students to shoulder a disproportionately greater financial burden for their college or university education." What does this mean? What is the correct proportion? For Liberals, does this mean having a factory worker or a farmer pay a disproportionate amount in taxes to fund a post-secondary education he or she may never receive? To this, I say no. A post-secondary student's fair share of tuition prices should not rely on an unfair share of tax dollars from working Ontarians who have no interest in going to university or college.

I used to teach high school agriculture and environmental science. Most of the students I taught were only attending high school for four years and had no intention of post-secondary education. These students needed a good grounding in high school. They needed on-the-job training. They were good kids and wanted to work in their home community in my riding and ended up working in our tobacco fields, our factories, our retail sector and heavy industry.

Why does the motion introduced by the member for Downsview fail to recognize the importance of this sector in our economy? These people need accessible, private sector, on-the-job training, not a tuition structure that is alien to their needs.

When we talk about paying a fair share of university tuition, we must ask why we are burdening others with taxes to pay for post-secondary education these people may never pursue. Why would a high school graduate who works in my riding's industrial or agricultural sector be footing the bill through taxes to the extent they do for other young people to attend university?

My son recently finished four years of university without any grant or loan. He worked every summer and also relied on family. While not all students can rely on family to help with the cost of education, it amazes me, coming from the riding I represent, that people say there's no work for university students during the summer. Every year farmers in my riding of Norfolk cannot get reliable workers for planting and harvest. Many students living in urban Ontario do travel to rural areas to work or go up north to plant trees, for example. This is what is necessary, in my mind, if you want a post-secondary education today.

I also have children in grades 3 and 4. They may or may not go to university, but my wife saves now in case we need the money for this. What concerns us, as with many people in my riding, is the danger posed by not getting our fiscal house in order. Today, given our close to $100-billion debt, if action is not taken, children of those of my age, my children's age and even the unborn will suffer the consequences of our generation's spendthrift ways.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I'm pleased to join the debate today on this extremely important issue. This is one of extreme importance to my community, as we have three institutions of higher learning in my riding: of course, the well-known Queen's University, which rated either first or second in almost every category in the Maclean's survey just recently; St Lawrence College; and also the Royal Military College, which is a federal institution and not part of this debate today.

While the opposition day motion speaks specifically to tuition fees, I would like to make a few general points about the importance of universities and colleges in our province. They are more important than ever, for they play a crucial role in the modern economy. Universities provide students with opportunities to learn new knowledge and skills and with credentials to further their careers.

As a society, it has long been our goal to produce an ever more educated population. We know that university and college graduates are half as likely to be unemployed as are members of the general labour force, and also that university and college graduates earn more than double the money of people who have not attended university and college.

We know too that the jobs of the future, the jobs that we want to attract and keep in Ontario, require more education, not less. Jobs that used to be skill-based in the manufacturing sector, skill based on experience, are now knowledge-based, based on education. Business, government and industry not only receive the benefits that come from a highly educated citizenry, they receive tremendous benefits from the research conducted by our universities and colleges as well.

In the global economy infomedia revolution, we need more research and development. Sadly, given their significance, universities and colleges are receiving less money for each student enrolled now than they were in the 1970s, in constant dollars, about 12% less than they received in 1977 and 1978.

Using the other nine provinces in Canada as a benchmark, only one other provincial government provides a lower subsidy per student enrolled than Ontario. Even Alberta, which is going through a de-Kleining right now, provides 10% more for each student than does the Ontario government. On a per capita basis, university operating grants in the province of Ontario are the lowest in Canada.

Public education is an investment. I think it's interesting to note that over the last two years, support for higher education increased by 7% in Michigan, by 8% in Pennsylvania and by about 14% in Ohio. These states are our neighbours in the NAFTA trade zone. These states are investing in their economic future. Ontario must do exactly the same. If it were not to do so, Ontario's ability to attract investment will be seriously impaired.


Whether the cuts are 15%, as set out in the so-called Common Sense Revolution, or 20%, as more recently rumoured, the impact will have serious implications in the regions where universities and colleges are key economic players. The impact of funding cuts will be severe and will not only have an impact on the universities and colleges themselves and their students, but also on the contribution to both the local and provincial economies.

These cuts will be felt by businesses and individuals. Universities in Ontario contribute over $4 billion to the economy each year. For every dollar in government funding that universities and colleges receive, they return $4 to the economy. Therefore, a 20% cut in the total grants would represent a loss of $376 million from the operating budgets, and that would translate into a loss of salary and benefit expenditures of more than $300 million.

The spinoff effect for business would be an estimated $1 billion per year of loss in sales, the equivalent, as the member for Downsview has already stated, of over 15,000 jobs.

These employment reductions translate into over $750 million in lost family income. Obviously, there would be a ripple effect in the private sector in lost sales and employment.

Total tax losses are estimated to be over $317 million to all three levels of government. In eastern Ontario alone, the economic impact from the expenditure reductions represents losses of $232 million. Let me share with you a headline in the Kingston Whig-Standard yesterday that says, "College Cuts May Close Campuses." In this particular case, they're talking about the St Lawrence College campus in Brockville. It talks about closing the campus, a number of jobs being lost in that area. You can well imagine the tremendous disruption that is providing on that particular campus today, as they await tomorrow's results of the economic statement. The effect it would have on a city like Brockville, which is just down the road from Kingston, as we all know, would be just devastating.

Unfortunately, despite these statistics and despite the value of universities and colleges, it seems that this government is determined to go ahead with these cuts, cuts which will have a significant impact on our communities, our children and our future, cuts that will harm the ability of Ontario to respond to the economic and social challenges ahead.

Let me state just once before I sit down, to make it quite clear to the government, that any tax cut before the deficit is reduced to zero is paid for by borrowed money. There is no other way to look at it.

We in the Liberal Party call on the government not to allow tuition fees to increase without establishing an income-contingent loan repayment plan. Everyone who is capable of attending a university or college should be allowed to do so, and any economic impediment that stands in that person's way should be dealt with in a reasonable loan repayment program.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to join in this discussion. I won't be speaking for long; I have other colleagues who want to join. But I have a few thoughts I would like to add to the debate today.

First of all, it's always fascinating and interesting to listen to the Liberals pontificate on how much they care about the average person and explain, while they're in opposition or on the campaign trail, that their interests and those of the average working person are indeed one and the same. Yet we know from experience here in Ontario, and most recently we see the experience with the federal government -- the federal Liberals have at this point in their mandate been far more right-wing in their fiscal policies than even Brian Mulroney.

The fact is that much of the pressure on our post-secondary education system is the result of very arbitrary, sweeping changes to the funding relationship between the federal government and provincial governments. I grant you, that has to be dealt with by whomever finds themselves in power here in Ontario. But the singlemindedness with which the federal Liberals have approached their need to hit the fiscal bottom line over and above everything else -- they're prepared to jeopardize not just the post-secondary education system here in Ontario, but they're also prepared to jeopardize our health care system, they're prepared to jeopardize our transportation system, and in a country as vast as this that's one of the most crucial infrastructure and economic levers we have.

I point this out, and I will turn my attention to where it rightfully belongs, on the government, but I am not going to let the Liberals off that easily. That is not fair either, because it is very frustrating as a New Democrat to listen to the Liberals constantly speak as if they and working people were one and the same in this province. The reality is that when they govern and they get into power -- just take a look at the red book. Let's not forget the red book and let's take a look at what Chrétien and the federal Liberals are doing. In my opinion, at that point they are exposed for being a poor reflection of the Tories.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: John, and you thought they were your friends.


Mr Christopherson: You're going to have to decide for yourself, my friend from the Tory back benches, whether you or the Liberals have been insulted more by that particular piece of rhetoric on my part.

However, in addressing the issue as it relates to this government, the Mike Harris Tories, let's bear in mind that this government has no vision on any of the critical issues that affect us in this society, save and except the bottom line, and even on that one their position does not hold. They've heard it time and time again today and they need to hear it further. The fact is that the length and the depth and the severity of the cuts that this government is making --

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Is to save this province, thanks to you.

Mr Christopherson: -- is so they can pay for the tax cut.

One of the honourable cabinet ministers, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, is saying thank you.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Thanks to you.

Mr Christopherson: Well, we'll read that Hansard back. You read that Hansard back in a couple of years when the results of what you've done have been seen, the devastation that will exist in our society as a result of what you've done in the indiscriminate cutting, and then I doubt you'll be so quick to take credit for those things you're so very, very proud of today. We'll just wait and see.

I spent two weeks talking to hundreds of workers and activists in our communities across Ontario. I can assure you that the issue of post-secondary education and its funding and its future is very much linked with all the other concerns people have in this province.

There was a young woman when we were in Kingston who came before my committee and spoke of the real fear and uncertainty that young people now have as they look into the future. They wonder what it holds, because we know this government has killed hope for so many people.

It goes right by them, as to the number of people and the depth of the fear and concern they have. It's real, it's legitimate, and if they went out and talked to people besides just their pals, broadened their discussions a little, they would find that there are growing numbers of Ontarians who are worried about the future. They are worried about the future for their parents, they're worried about the future for themselves, and I would think, as a parent myself, they're worried most of all about the future of their children.


For those who see their position in society slowly dropping as this government dismantles the very programs and initiatives that make this a great place to live, people wonder and worry: "How will my children climb out? We don't have huge inheritances. We don't have six-digit incomes. What I am faced with, as an average Ontarian, looking around, are closures, massive layoffs in the private sector and in the public sector. I see jobs being created, if there are any, at the low end of the wage scale."

When we talk about education and listen to what this government talks about -- and we'll know more tomorrow -- then they also worry: "What is the ability of my children to build a better life for themselves than I had? Where is the hope for that?"

Hon Mr Villeneuve: To pay off the debt.

Mr Christopherson: The Minister of Agriculture and minister for francophone affairs says, "Pay off the debt." I ask anybody listening today, do you honestly believe that if the Tories had any discretionary money, this is where they would invest it? Do you believe they would invest it in child care? Do you believe they would invest it in post-secondary education for the children of working families?

You're going to nod your head up and down. I'm trying to talk beyond you to the people who are at home. Ask yourself, do you believe that's what they'd do, or would they continue to give huge tax breaks to their wealthy friends, which they're prepared to do now when we don't have the money? They're going to borrow $5 billion, not to take care of child care -- in fact they're cutting that -- not to support post-secondary education, which they're also going to cut; they're borrowing $5 billion so they can give that money to their very wealthy friends.

That's what they're doing now. Do you honestly believe, if they had a choice, that suddenly they would become the friends of working people, the champions of the poor? Do you believe this government would be the champions of the poor who are trying to send their kids to a school that will allow them to have a future? Do you really believe a government that's doing this is going to set that as their priority? I think not.

Unfortunately, in communities like mine, where McMaster University is an important part of our future and Mohawk College is a major player in our economy, the truth and the reality will not be seen until after they've done their damage. At that point, none of us really knows what it's going to take to try to put --


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Order. There should be only one speaker on the floor, only one. The member for Hamilton Centre, you have the floor.

Mr Christopherson: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would just wrap up by saying to you that unfortunately, I think that picture will only be clear after a tremendous amount of damage has been done, and for those of us looking beyond the term of this particular government, we ask ourselves, how much of what we now have can we get back and how much can we save? There's no doubt that they're out to destroy those things in the interests of a very small percentage of this population, and that is a travesty.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I rise in the House today to address the opposition day motion concerning the financing of education. I believe this must be a resolution very carefully prepared, as the member for Downsview wades into the post-secondary debate. I think it took some time for the Education critic to painstakingly put this carefully conceived motion together. I say this because I'm struck that after almost 40 days in government, after 40 sets of question period, until today the Education critic had not yet asked one question about post-secondary education. Maybe that's not fair. Maybe I shouldn't criticize the member for Downsview, who strikes me as a very talented, well-informed member. Instead, I think I should criticize the opposition.

It is my understanding that while the previous government raised tuition fees by 42% and cancelled the Ontario student assistance program --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I know the member for Niagara South would not want to provide misinformation to the House, and he would be if he were to suggest that the Liberal Education spokesperson had asked only one question. That would be misinformation.

Mr Hudak: Again, it's the opposition that I wish to talk to this about. It's my understanding that while the previous government raised tuition fees by 42% and cancelled the OSAP grant program, the Liberal Party failed to produce a single policy document on post-secondary education. Five years without a solution, five years the Liberals sat silent while the NDP squeezed post-secondary students in Ontario. But perhaps silence is understandable.

I think we should look back to the late 1980s for some answers. I entered the University of Western Ontario in 1986-87. As a freshman member of Saugeen Maitland Hall, I faced tuition fees then of roughly $1,200 while I set about the first of four years towards an economics degree. In my senior year, tuition fees had risen to about $1,600. During my undergraduate studies, I, as well as my graduating class, saw tuition rates rise by 35% under a Liberal government.

Ironically, while Mrs McLeod, the current Leader of the Opposition, sat in the chair of the Minister of Colleges and Universities, she personally oversaw a 12.4% jump in tuition fees. I remember that government, I remember the Peterson years and I remember the tuition hikes, and I also remember that, among many other reasons, at the age of 22, I made a firm commitment to support Mike Harris and the Conservative Party.

Perhaps the five years of silence from the Liberal policymakers during the NDP tuition hikes reflects the fact that the previous Liberal government had little credibility on the tuition issue. Granted, the member for Downsview was not a member of that government. I cannot fairly guess her opinion on the Peterson-McLeod tuition hikes; fair enough. Her thoughts today are contained in this motion before us and they are very well put. She correctly condemns the previous government for its 42% tuition hikes.

Mr Bradley: How much?

Mr Hudak: Forty-two per cent tuition hikes, and scuttling of OSAP grants. The member's motion is accurate in describing the substantial increase in the costs imposed on hardworking and ambitious students who sought to improve their economic situation.

However, this motion omits a very important consideration in a student's decision to undertake post-secondary education. That consideration is the value and dignity of a job upon graduation. Many students unfortunately may have dropped out of school after the Liberal-NDP tuition increases; however, I know many who reluctantly took on that extra burden because they assumed the extra investment would be worth the sacrifice once they had entered the job market with a diploma in hand. Tragically, this is not the case.

It was the pursuit of a job, a good job, that pushed those students to complete their degrees. A job is their number one priority, and long-term job creation is a priority of this government as well. Therefore, when the member opposite rightly condemns the NDP's tuition hike, what she neglects to mention is that a large contingent of students, possibly the largest contingent in the history of this province, came out of school without jobs.

Essentially, the previous government failed at both ends: Students saw their costs rise substantially during school and were greeted by the most barren landscape for job growth when they returned to their home towns.


I believe that students make the following rational decision when they choose to invest in post-secondary education. The student weighs the cost of entering school against the expected benefits a degree will confer. Costs would include not only tuition, but books, materials and living expenses as well. Also costs should include wages given up by sacrificing work opportunities to attend school. Obviously, this can be a very substantial investment.

All the same, every year, hundreds of thousands of Ontario residents choose to attend college or university. They feel the benefits outweigh the costs of education. They believe that a university or college degree will better prepare them for the job market and significantly enhance their earning potential. Statistics have borne this out.

As I have said, every year hundreds of thousands of students weigh the costs and benefits of post-secondary education and choose to make that substantial investment, eager to graduate with high expectations of finding work, high expectations that government will follow through on their promises.

But think of those students of the early 1990s. Who among them expected that their previous government would raise taxes 32 times? Who among them expected the NDP to run nearly four consecutive $10-billion deficits? Who among them expected a flight of opportunity caused by Bill 40, Bill 79 and other job-killing legislation?

This group of students graduated to discover that unemployment had jumped from 6% to 9.3% and that 80,000 fewer jobs existed in this province. Not only did this group of students face a 42% tuition hike during school, they faced the worst job market since the Depression when they did graduate. The previous government failed them at both ends of their decision.

I think of the group of students in school today. Last night, as I prepared this text, I spoke with my friends Courtney Leyland, a Ridgeway resident and University of Toronto student, and Elizabeth Berger, a resident of Fort Erie and Guelph economics student. They continue to invest in their education because they have faith that a better job awaits them upon graduation. They have faith that the plans of this government to lower taxes, not raise them, to eliminate barriers to job creation, and to balance the budget -- they have faith that this government will restore hope and opportunity and prosperity to Ontario once again and faith that their investment will pay off. This new government will not let them down.

I remember as well some of the students who graduated in that contingent in the early 1990s, students who played by the rules. They attended school, graduated, worked hard in the summer to raise enough money to finance their education, but when they graduated in the early 1990s, when they returned to the Niagara Peninsula, they found a barren job market. They worked hard and sometimes they took jobs like working in a grocery store, but not the kind of jobs they expected when they graduated.

There were three very close friends of mine who, like I said, played by the rules -- worked hard, saved for school, graduated -- and returned to the Niagara Peninsula to find no jobs for them. I'm happy to say that in 1995, today, they're doing well. But my problem is that my friends now -- Donna is doing well in British Columbia, Chris is in Japan, and Bob just bought a new condominium with his job, but Bob bought this condominium in Colorado.

Mr Bradley: Bob who?

Mr Hudak: A large group of my friends had to leave Ontario, had to chase the jobs out of Ontario to the west coast --

Mr Bradley: They are not patriotic.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): The member for St Catharines.

Mr Hudak: -- overseas or the United States. I miss my friends and I want to make these changes to bring jobs back to the peninsula and bring my friends back as well.

The tax cut: The opposition enjoys disparaging the tax cut we will deliver to all individuals and families in Ontario. They don't like this economic tool that will be the single greatest job creation program in the history of this province by reinvesting in people, allowing taxpayers to spend more of their own hard-earned money, through consumption and investment, more money in Rossman's in Port Colborne, more money in Canadian Tire in Fort Erie. The economy will grow and we will restore a healthy economic environment for job creation once again.

The opposition discourages the tax cut because they have no job creation program. The NDP is faced with a record of 80,000 fewer jobs, $100 billion in debt and a 9.3% unemployment rate. The Liberals' red book called for 12,000 layoffs for civil servants with absolutely no plan to create jobs in the private sector.

I would say to them that without a growth plan, without a significant tax cut, you will condemn future graduates like Courtney and Elizabeth to the fate of trying to survive in a barren job market or chase them to British Columbia or the States again, to the point where their families will only know them across long-distance telephone lines.

This motion correctly speaks to one half of a student's decision, the cost, but completely neglects to consider the importance of job creation. This is a vital consideration and a tragic omission in the motion. Only we, the Conservative government, have the plan to restore hope, opportunity and job creation in Ontario, jobs for Courtney and Liz and your own daughters and sons once again.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate, the member for St Catharines. You now get your chance.

Mr Bradley: I appreciate the opportunity to offer just a few remarks this afternoon, because I want to share the time with some of my colleagues.

I want to compliment first of all the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for assuring members of the House on a question from M. Lalonde from Prescott-Russell that the Alfred agricultural college would be preserved as it is and continue to provide graduates for Ontario, and I'm very pleased to hear that.

I do want to address, however, the other problem that has been highlighted by the excellent resolution put forward by the member for Downsview. I want to say that I don't totally condemn the government for everything it does. I understand the difficulty they face.

Indeed, I am sure the NDP did not want to raise tuition fees by 42% after it had promised to abolish them. The NDP didn't want to do that, and I want everybody in this province to know that, but they had to do it. I know they appreciate the difficult times. I appreciate the difficult times we're in. I was critical of it because of the magnitude of the increase, but I understood that there had to be some increases.

I listened with interest to the former Premier at the provincial council. They showed him fighting the cuts on the weekend, and I'm glad that he now sees that those cuts were damaging to the province. The NDP and the Liberals both understand now the difficulties faced by the government.

I want to say first of all that my great concern -- and it's been said, but it has to be repeated -- is that the government is not moving simply to address the problem of the deficit but of course is concerned that it must deliver a 30% provincial income tax break --

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): For the rich.

Mr Bradley: Well, it would go to all the people of Ontario. It would benefit the rich and the privileged most of all people in the province.

If you were simply addressing, over there, the deficit, I think people would understand that. I am talking to more and more people who voted Conservative last time, who generally like some of the things that you are doing, who cannot for the life of them figure out why you would be borrowing money to give a tax break, accumulating further debt to give a tax break. They understand addressing the deficit, they really do understand that, and they're probably supportive of many of the things you're doing. They simply believe you're moving too quickly, too drastically and that you shouldn't be borrowing money to give a tax break.

These are small-c conservatives; some of them are even big-c Conservatives. But I want to put that behind. What it really means then is that you're going to sock it to students in the province. One of the circumstances we want to have in this province is a situation where, if a person is qualified to do so and willing to work, that person has an opportunity at post-secondary education.


What I fear is that you're going to deregulate. I know some people in the universities might well applaud this, because they're caught between a rock and a hard place. I know this will present some difficulty. All I ask is that you ensure that not just the rich and the privileged will be able to afford a post-secondary education in Ontario.

The last thing I want to mention is that Brock University, under the present funding formula, does not get the appropriate amount of money it should, its fair share. I want the Minister of Colleges and Universities to address that as well.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I feel honoured to stand and speak this afternoon on this important issue. I want at the outset to say that I agree with both the spirit and the intent of this resolution. When you think of what the Conservative government has done so far to the people of this province, particularly those who are weakest and most vulnerable, and we anticipate what they're proposing to do by way of the announcement that will come this week on Wednesday and what they've said they will do by way of the Common Sense Revolution and other documents they've shared with the rest of the province over the last couple of months, it has to give all of us great concern.

However, I find it passing strange that it is the Liberals who are moving this motion forward. During the election, as I experienced it in my riding, it was really a high-stakes poker game going on all the time between the Liberals and the Conservatives, each one upping the ante and being more draconian than the other, making statements about the tax cuts they would make, about the cuts in the number of people who would work in Ontario and the amount of money spent on the services we all depend on and rely on for our daily existence and our good health and education and all those kinds of things.

To have the Liberals today bringing this motion forward, given their track record during the election and what they proposed in their red book, in partnership with what their federal brothers and sisters are doing, leaves one somewhat amazed.

Mr Gerretsen: We call them "cousins."

Mr Martin: Cousins -- whatever.

In addition to cutting back on health care, gutting unemployment insurance and discriminating against Ontarians by refusing to fairly share the cost of the Canada assistance plan, the federal government is cutting post-secondary education. Liberals are doing that. The federal contribution to post-secondary education is being significantly reduced. It's important that we all know that. That's one of the reasons we're going to be facing such a tough challenge in our attempt to keep the college and university system, which is in fact doing quite well in Ontario right now, alive and actually improving.

The federal government is cutting $1.4 billion in 1996-97 and $2.2 billion in 1997-98. The federal Liberals are abdicating the important role the federal government has played in funding post-secondary education over the past 30 years.

Before I speak directly to the question of students and tuition fees, I want to talk for a few minutes about the college system in Ontario and how it has progressed significantly over the last four to five years.

The university system, even though challenged in many ways and struggling with questions about how to be relevant in today's changing economy and how to provide opportunity to a vast number of students with a range of needs and potentials, is doing quite well in spite of that. They need at this time in their history more encouragement and more resource and more opportunity to enter into partnership with this government as we make decisions about how the changes will happen, not to wake up one morning and find out that they've lost another $1 billion in their funding or lost another opportunity to enter into a partnership of some sort with some organization to provide programs for students in this province -- to have the rug pulled out from under them.

Almost 30 years ago, Ontario's Minister of Education, Bill Davis, created the community college system. Ontario's college system has been a true success. In 1989, the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Lyn McLeod, commissioned the Vision 2000 report to create a renewed mandate for the college system. The changes in the community college system in the five years since that report was completed demonstrate how responsive, flexible and cost-efficient the community college system really is.

Between 1990 and 1995, as recommended by Vision 2000, the government made many important changes -- our government made many important changes. A system of prior learning assessment was introduced to ensure that students receive full credit for their academic and non-academic experiences. We created the College Standards and Accreditation Council so that system-wide standards and outcomes could be guaranteed. A voluntary consortium on advanced training has united colleges and universities for the purpose of providing advanced applied technology.

At the same time as these changes were being initiated, there was an explosion in community college enrolment and a reduction in public funds available to the community college system to really make them happen. So we as a government sat down with them. We sat down with our partners, we sat down with students, we sat down with people across this province, anybody who wanted to talk about this challenge we faced.

Yes, we did raise tuition fees, but we raised them in a way that saw us take into account the impact that would have on both the student and the institution they were about to attend, and the community within which that institution was placed.

Mr Pouliot: They're about to tear the heart out of that.

Mr Martin: They're about to tear the heart out, that's right. They're about to make decisions that will affect all the progress that has been made, in ways that will not just take it back five years but 10 and 50 years, the same thing as they're doing with the Labour Relations Act. They're taking this province on a backward trip to a place where we really cannot afford to go, and even if we went there, we'd find that the picture wasn't as rosy as is being painted by this group across the way.

I want, for the last couple of minutes I have, to talk specifically about the question of student assistance and tuition. The increasing demand for student assistance will be a major challenge for this government. Our hope is that the rush to give tax breaks to the wealthy will not result in cuts in student assistance and will not threaten access to colleges and universities.

The federal government has made some unfortunate changes to student assistance which we hope will not be copied by the province of Ontario. Interest on Canada student loans now begins accumulating the minute the student graduates. Ontario student loans are still interest-free until six months after graduation. Let's give young people a chance to get out and find a job in a very challenging environment.

The federal government has also privatized the student loan system by making exclusive deals with a few banks to provide student loans. This is the Liberals, not the Conservatives; this is the Liberals in Ottawa. The federal government claims to be doing this as a way of improving collection. Ontario student loans are collected by the government of Ontario, not collection agencies, and the default rate is significantly lower -- public servants performing an important public service and doing it in a cost-effective way. It's common sense.

The NDP government did not just eliminate the grant program, as suggested by the Liberal motion. Our government replaced the grant program with a loan forgiveness plan to make sure that limited resources were targeted at students with the highest debt loads, students without family resources to help them through university or college. As long as the program we put in place remains intact, no student will be forced to repay more than $6,000 for each year they are in school. The Tory government would be well advised to maintain the loan forgiveness plan we put in place.

I've got a lot of other things I'd like to put on the record today, particularly where it concerns the student loan program and what we did as a government versus what the Liberals are doing in Ottawa and what is being proposed by the Liberals here in Ontario. But I won't do that, because I want to leave a little time for my colleague from Timmins to take a run at this as well.

I just want to say, in wrapping up, that we support this motion because we agree that it is immoral to force students to pay the price of Mike Harris's income tax cut to the wealthy of this province.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): In the couple of minutes I have to stand in my place and speak to this issue, I'd like to take a different perspective. I'd start by talking as a father who considers that job one for me right now is making sure my three children who are in university at this time complete their schooling, because for me that's the best investment I can do in their lives. I'm fortunate enough, though; I can generate the income so that I can help my children through that, and they certainly pull their weight through their summer jobs.

Yet I'm very concerned, with the very fast escalation of tuition fees, that a growing majority of families in Ontario are going to start to find university unaffordable. If that becomes the case, that would be one of the biggest tragedies this government could ever bring upon the people of this province.

In all our thinking and opportunities and planning and programs as governments over the years of how we're trying to equal opportunity, some of the things we've tried, like a redistribution of income, have actually failed. But one of the great levellers in society, and something we can be very proud of as Canadians and as Ontarians, is the equal opportunity to education that we have in this country. It's through a highly trained and well-educated population that Canada has been able to reach the heights it has in the world economy and to have been rated by the United Nations as the best place to live in the world.

That is something we have to fight for, that we have that equal opportunity for education for all our children, regardless of income, based solely on ability, because the future economy out there around the world, if we would have a place in it as a country, is going to depend upon the training and education of our children.

This is something where we should not be cutting. We have to make sure this is affordable, that all our families can send our children and, after that, that our children have the opportunity to work in our economy in Ontario. I would certainly stand in my place to support this motion and hope that the government members will do so also.

Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): First of all, I might say that I was not surprised when I first read the motion for this debate. As the member for Norfolk has indicated, the member for Downsview has chosen to focus in this debate on university tuition, ignoring the 70% of students who do not go to university.

I have become somewhat familiar with this other 70% in my role as parliamentary assistant to the very able Minister of Education and Training. I've spent the last few months looking at training programs in the province, and one thing I have noticed is that there needs to be a reform in the secondary school area. It basically needs to be reformed to allow those students who don't want to go to university, don't want to go to college, but who want to enter the workforce, to do so in a way that they can do so and still make a good income.

The first step in some of the reforms that our government is taking is that we're going to reduce the number of secondary school years from five to four years. This is a commitment made in the Common Sense Revolution. Every source, including the Royal Commission on Education, which I concede the third party initiated --

Mr Ramsay: What does that have to do with tuition fees?

Mr Skarica: It'll come. Every source indicates that the school years should be reduced from five to four years. We're the only province in Canada that has five years of secondary school education, and now we will have four like every place in Canada and like every jurisdiction in North America.

New graduation requirements will encompass clear statements about what grade 12 graduates must know when they graduate, regardless of whether they are headed into the workforce, to college or university or further training.

Another crucial initiative -- and this is one particularly important to me, based on my own experience in Ontario's education system -- is in the area of guidance in career education. I remember one of the members of the third party indicated they were from a working-class family. So was I, and it entered into my mind at one point that I wanted to become a lawyer, for reasons that escape me now.

I remember I went to the guidance counsellor and I said: "You know, I'm thinking about becoming a lawyer. What do I do?" He told me, "You've got to go to university and law school." It sounded like a good plan. I went to university, and then I started hearing words like "articling" and "bar admission." I had never heard those words before --

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Oh, David will tell you about bar admissions.

Mr Pouliot: And crown attorneys.

Mr Skarica: For people who are watching on television, it's hard to speak when you're new at this game, because you're constantly interrupted. It's hard to stick to what you have to say.

Another initiative that our government intends to get involved in is cooperative and work experience. Many students in high school have a plan to do a certain type of job but have no way of getting involved in it and getting the experience. We intend to expand cooperative and work experiences in the high school setting. Today some 60,000 students in Ontario are enrolled in co-op programs. This number will rise when the ministry extends co-op opportunities through 25 new projects in various school boards across Ontario during the next school year.

Another new program that is an indication of the government's commitment to all high school graduates is the Bridges program. It reflects our belief that students who intend to go to work directly after graduation need training programs to ensure that their transition is a smooth one. Similar to the Ontario youth apprenticeship program, it goes one step further in that it will create pathways to a wider range of occupations and industries not included by current programs.

Now that I have a few minutes left, I'd like to direct my mind and my comments to the income tax cut. I've heard time and again over the last few months that the purpose of the income tax cut is to provide money to the wealthy. In fact that is a totally irrelevant consideration, and that is not why the income tax cut is being proposed. Quite simply, the income tax cut is necessary to make Ontario economically competitive in the global economy.

I had direct experience of this when I went to Stelco recently in the Hamilton-Wentworth area. I viewed the factory, and what I saw shocked me, in that I didn't see people covered in grime or anything like that. I saw workers in consoles that looked like airplane cockpits that were full of computers. The computer age has totally arrived in our factories. The effect of the microchip revolution is evident in Stelco: 7,000 people work there now instead of the 15,000 that worked there years ago.

I saw billions and billions of dollars of high-tech equipment. In one new area that I went to, I was in one area of the factory and I looked down and you couldn't even see the other end of the factory, but it was full of approximately $2 billion of high-tech equipment. When I asked the people there, "Why did you do that? Why have you spent all these billions?" they told me: "We have no choice. We have to do it to stay competitive with the Japanese."

I have a brochure here from a Japanese steel factory, and I'd encourage all the members here to look at it. When you open up the brochure, if you take a look at the Japanese factory, there's no pollution there at all. You can see the entire factory.

Mr Pouliot: The place has been shut down for a few years.

Mr Skarica: No, there are 8,000 people that work here as well.

The Acting Speaker: Could the member take his seat, please. Just for a moment, take your seat. Stop the clock for a moment. The member take his seat. There are far too many conversations going on in the House. I cannot hear the member speak, so would people please try to keep it down. Thank you.


Mr Skarica: If you could take a look at this brochure, and I encourage anyone to do it, there are 7,000 people working in this Japanese factory, the same as Stelco. They produce 30,000 tons of steel; Stelco produces 8,000 tons of steel. They're four times more efficient. The only reason I'm pointing this out is that this company has spent billions and billions of dollars on high-tech equipment. If you take a look at the brochure, you can see a man inside one of the consoles. It looks like Star Wars. He's wearing slippers and white socks. The floor there is cleaner than the floor in the washroom in this building.

When you talk to these people at Stelco, they tell you that they have to invest billions of dollars in order to compete with those people, and they're doing it here because they already have a substantial investment. But what about companies that don't? What about people that you try to attract from outside the jurisdiction? Why would they come to Ontario when our tax rates here are among the highest in the country and also the highest in North America?

Linda Leatherdale in her article in the Toronto Sun on October 19, 1995, reports that the taxes in the United States are 30% less, on average, than in Canada. So if you were in a business and you wanted to invest money, why would you invest here when you can invest it elsewhere, in the US for example, and make 30% more?

There's a study done in the United States which examined what happened in the top 10 tax-increasing states in the 1990s and compared it to what happened in the top 10 tax-cutting states. In the top 10 tax-increasing states, from 1990 to 1993 -- and this is not Linda Leatherdale; this is research, and this is during the time when the NDP indicated that we were going through a recession, which we were, and they had to increase taxes in order to pay for all their programs -- the top 10 tax-increasing states in the US during that period created 3,000 jobs. The average family lost US$500. However, the top 10 tax-cutting states at the same time period, and they include sparsely populated states, produced during that time period 653,000 jobs and the average family made US$300 more.

In Canadian terms then, if you were in one of those tax-cutting states, you would have been $1,000 better off, and in those states they created substantial employment, while in Ontario what we did is we increased taxes, and just like the tax-increasing states in the United States, very predictably, we lost jobs and we lost income.

The honourable member for Downsview indicated that she looked at StatsCan and indicated that students shouldn't pay more tuition fees and that type of thing. However, there are other statistics that nobody in this House has quoted, and I'd like to do so at this time.

In an article dated November 3, 1995, entitled "Biggest Welfare Drop Ever," it indicates that in the last few months welfare rates have dropped every month. In the last month there was a record drop, the biggest welfare drop ever, of 36,000 people. At the same time StatsCan reported -- and that was the biggest welfare drop ever -- and this is significant, in the last two months 27,000 positions have been created in Ontario. That's in the last two months, and that's Statistics Canada; that's not Linda Leatherdale or anyone else.

Now, 27,000 times six is 160,000 jobs times five is 800,000 jobs, so in fact we're doing better than our campaign promise of 725,000 jobs.

Interjection: Is the math right?

Mr Skarica: The math is right, and you can tell I've gone to university because I'm able to multiply. Thank you very much.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): It's my pleasure to speak today to the motion --


The Acting Speaker: Could I have order, please.

Mrs Pupatello: Thank you, Madam Speaker. It's my pleasure to speak today in support of the opposition motion put forward by the member for Downsview. I wanted to tell you something about the university community that is in the Windsor community. The University of Windsor has been around since the 1960s and is a significant part of our greater community. We have 10,000 to 13,000 full- and part-time students, almost 1,400 full-time staff people, which generates $75 million in payroll and benefits, $75 million which is then compounded throughout the community.

When we speak about this government's actions that will in effect increase tuition fees for the people who wish to attend post-secondary education through the University of Windsor, it will have a very negative impact on our community as a whole.

Student rolls obviously will decline, because while the government campaigned on putting certain things in place before they would touch tuition or force tuition increases, those things in fact have not happened, and I have to tell the people who come from Windsor that this is a recurring theme of this government. What they promised to do was that tuition would be 25% of operating expenditure. It'll be more than that now.

What they promised to do was that they would expand aid programs for students. They have not introduced any of those things. But the tuitions will indeed rise. What they've also not done is establish an income-contingent loan repayment plan, and you'll recall all of the press they received on those wonderful ideas. I ask the government today, where are these things that were promised? In fact tuitions will go up and none of these things that the government promised will happen.

I'd like to speak in a particular way. Dr Ron Ianni, the president of the University of Windsor, said it best. What he said was, "We are eating our seed corn," and for those members opposite, I would submit to you to consider that carefully, that when you eat your seed corn you have very little left for your future.

We need to compare also the kind of investment that other provinces in Canada make to their university communities. Even if we look next door to the province of Quebec, the level of investment that they pour into their universities is significantly higher as a percentage than we do in Ontario. Not only that, but the dollars that they invest in research, which is obviously linked to economic development, are significantly higher as a percentage than what we do here in Ontario. They seem to have recognized the link.

For the University of Windsor, what does that mean? The Great Lakes Institute, a research centre in Windsor, is obviously tied to our university, but what this government did through the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism was cut $3 million which would have funded the expansion of the Great Lakes Institute, which was mostly required because they already had secured contracts to do further research which was linked to the greening industry in our area, the whole Great Lakes area. The greening industry is one which is on the up and up and we wanted to capture that market, but our Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism didn't see that that made any sense at all and they cut that.

All of the sense that I see is something that we just have got to get away from, and I can only encourage the members opposite to reconsider the kinds of cuts that they're bringing in where it significantly impacts on our youth. We're already looking at the highest youth unemployment rate that Ontario has ever seen. It stands currently at 30%. We speak to our youth and we realize that they feel they have no hope and no future. We've got to make moves to correct that.

Our Minister of Education and Training announced changes in the last couple of weeks and what he did was he said he's basing his changes on the fact that only 30% of students go on to post-secondary school anyway. I would submit to the members opposite that what we should be striving for is to move that 30% higher, not base the changes in the Ministry of Education and Training on the fact that only 30% now go to post-secondary education.

If we were to compare to European countries where far significantly more than 30% go on to post-secondary education, clearly they found out what we have yet to learn. What we realize in Windsor and area is that our competitors aren't next door in the provinces necessarily, they're in Europe, and the workforces we're competing against are European markets. If our workforce is not built to respond to that, then we'll never go any further. I would submit that the members opposite are encouraging that kind of workforce for the future, and that is not what I had in mind for the future of Ontario.

I'd like to allow time for our member for Downsview to wrap up for us on a most significant motion that's being brought forward today, that will significantly affect the students of Windsor.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I'd like to take the three minutes left in this debate to speak on the motion brought forward from the Liberal caucus, particularly "ensuring that no student is denied access to a post-secondary institution as a result of their ability to pay." In other words, the Liberals are saying they don't want the Tories to increase tuition fees.

There's an old axiom in the retail sector: "Buyer beware." If most people had taken the time to read the Common Sense Revolution -- in fact, it's probably into about seven different printings -- there is a very clear indication of what the government did intend to do back at the time of the election.

I just want to read for the people watching. It said that in 1992, tuition fees represented only 19% of the cost of university education, down from 35% in the 1950s. "We propose to partially deregulate tuition over a two-year period, enabling schools to charge appropriately for their services." To me, that sounds like when the Conservatives were putting together their election platform they said, "We believe we should have a system of education based on your ability to pay." That's clearly what it said. They want to move a school system where if you have the bucks, you can go. The more money you've got, the better school system you'll be able to get; the less money you've got, the less ability you've got to go.

If we're worried about where the Tories are going and our argument is that we don't want them breaking an election promise, I would say please break your election promise. This is one time that I will not demand the resignation of the Premier if you break your election promise and keep a publicly funded school system in the province of Ontario that's not for profit, that's supported by the taxpayers of the province with good policy, making sure that in the end we have a system that reflects what is needed by the people.

There's something where they are breaking their promise, but on this one I think the Premier will have to resign fairly quickly. I remember watching him sign his oath of allegiance to the Common Sense Revolution, the bible of the Conservative Party, when he sat there and said, "If I break these promises, I will resign."

I just want to read one promise: "Classroom funding for education will be guaranteed." That's what it says in the bible, the Common Sense Revolution. It's right here. It says, "Classroom funding for education will be guaranteed." Does that mean that when, finally, the Minister of Finance comes before this House tomorrow and announces the transfer cuts we're going to see to school boards across the province and to post-secondary education, and when we've listened to the answers of the Minister of Education that, "We're not going to support the college and university system as is," that they'll be breaking their election promise? It sounds to me like they're breaking an election promise.

Resign is a very simple term. I say break your promise; don't increase tuition fees. We'll keep you accountable, but please, this is a heck of a thing. You're going to take away money from education. Shame on you.

Ms Castrilli: As I rise to conclude, I'd like to touch on something that was said earlier by the former Minister of Education, from Windsor-Riverside, and the Minister of Education. I was rather surprised at their comments that they felt my views in private life were in any way inconsistent with my views now or indeed with this resolution. In fact, if they had bothered to read the resolution carefully, they would have found that nothing could be further from the truth.

We have asked the government to focus on demonstrating that students are not paying their fair share. Frankly, the government has presented nothing to that effect. We have asked that no student should be denied access because of inability to pay. I would ask the members to consult the records of various universities across the province, all of them. None of them would disagree with that statement.

We've asked the government to significantly expand existing student aid programs and establish an income-contingent loan repayment plan. Again no inconsistency.

We've asked the government to consult with stakeholders. Again no inconsistency.

It's really too bad that the former Minister of Education didn't read very carefully what we've put before this House, and it's too bad that the current Minister of Education relied on the incorrect interpretation of the former minister. That, I submit, is part of the problem affecting the Ministry of Education now, this continuation of error.

Let me, however, suggest to the House that we should not engage in personal attacks and obfuscate the real issue before us. The real issue is that this government views post-secondary education as a drain on the public purse instead of an opportunity, indeed a tool, to get the economy back on track, to have that kind of skilled workforce that will make us competitive in this century and in the next century.

Let's not have any more of these silly personal attacks and not deal with the real issue. The challenge for this government, as it was for the last government, was to deal with universities and colleges in a responsible way that guaranteed quality of education, that guaranteed accessibility. Those are still the challenges before us. I urge the minister to look at those things very carefully and to rise to the challenge before us and give the students and the people of Ontario the hope they deserve.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): It's a great honour to speak in favour of this motion. St Clair College, a great community college, is in the heart of my riding, a great community college under attack by that government. The students of this province -- shame on all of you -- are under attack by that government. You're undermining the fundamental principles of access to post-secondary education. You all ought to resign, not just the Premier.

Our post-secondary institutions are absolutely vital to the economic health and prosperity of this great province, and each and every one of us in this House has an obligation, a fundamental obligation, to defend the interests of our post-secondary institutions and our students.

The member for Downsview is to be applauded for bringing forward such a powerful resolution. If any of you have any courage, you'll vote in favour of it and renounce your own pledges.

The Speaker: Ms Castrilli has moved opposition day number 4.

All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."

All those opposed to the motion will say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. There'll be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1758 to 1803.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): All those in favour of Mrs Castrilli's motion will please rise one at a time.


Agostino, Dominic

Cooke, David S.

Martin, Tony

Bartolucci, Rick

Cordiano, Joseph

McLeod, Lyn

Bisson, Gilles

Crozier, Bruce

Miclash, Frank

Boyd, Marion

Curling, Alvin

Morin, Gilles E.

Bradley, James J.

Duncan, Dwight

Patten, Richard

Brown, Michael A.

Gerretsen, John

Phillips, Gerry

Caplan, Elinor

Grandmaître, Bernard

Pouliot, Gilles

Castrilli, Annamarie

Gravelle, Michael

Pupatello, Sandra

Christopherson, David

Hoy, Pat

Ramsay, David

Churley, Marilyn

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Sergio, Mario

Cleary, John C.

Lankin, Frances

Silipo, Tony

Colle, Mike

Marchese, Rosario

Wood, Len

Conway, Sean G.

Martel, Shelley


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


Arnott, Ted

Hudak, Tim

Ross, Lillian

Baird, John R.

Johns, Helen

Runciman, Bob

Barrett, Toby

Johnson, Bert

Shea, Derwyn

Bassett, Isabel

Johnson, David

Sheehan, Frank

Beaubien, Marcel

Johnson, Ron

Skarica, Toni

Boushy, Dave

Jordan, Leo

Smith, Bruce

Brown, Jim

Kells, Morley

Snobelen, John

Carroll, Jack

Klees, Frank

Spina, Joseph

Chudleigh, Ted

Leadston, Gary L.

Sterling, Norman W.

Clement, Tony

Marland, Margaret

Stewart, R. Gary

Cunningham, Dianne

Martiniuk, Gerry

Tascona, Joseph N.

Doyle, Ed

Maves, Bart

Tilson, David

Elliott, Brenda

Munro, Julia

Tsubouchi, David H.

Fisher, Barbara

Murdoch, Bill

Turnbull, David

Ford, Douglas

B. Newman, Dan

Vankoughnet, Bill

Fox, Gary

O'Toole, John

Villeneuve, Noble

Gilchrist, Steve

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Grimmett, Bill

Palladini, Al

Wilson, Jim

Guzzo, Garry

J. Parker, John L.

Young, Terence H.

Hardeman, Ernie

Preston, Peter


Hodgson, Chris

Rollins, E.J. Douglas


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 38, the nays, 61.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.


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

Mr Agostino has filed notice of dissatisfaction with the answer given by the Minister of Community and Social Services on funding cuts to VRS. The member has up to five minutes, followed by five minutes' rebuttal from the minister or his parliamentary assistant.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I'm here because the minister today failed to understand or acknowledge the --


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Could we have order, Mr Speaker? A little order, Mr Speaker?

The Speaker: Order, order.

Mr Agostino: The minister today failed to acknowledge or respond to the question as it affected the disabled and hearing-impaired in this province.

Disabled people are having their funding and services cut at the expense of a 30% cut. The latest casualty we learned about today is an attack on the hearing-impaired across Ontario, an attack on the hearing-impaired who are seeking jobs, who have job interviews but are denied access to these interviews because of a cut by this government.

Mike Harris and the Tories have cut funding for translators. As a result, those who are hearing-impaired can no longer meet with job counsellors. Mike Harris has cut funding for translators and as a result prohibited those who are hearing-impaired from participating in job interviews and entering the job force.

This is the ongoing all-out assault that this government has launched on the disabled across Ontario. It is an assault that is motivated by the pursuit of a tax cut in total disregard for the consequences. It is truly frightening to examine the examples of broken promises and attacks on the disabled in this province. Four glaring examples come to mind.

Interjection: Keep your promises.

Mr Agostino: My friend says, "Keep your promises." I certainly hope that you can explain to disabled people across Ontario what I'm going to talk about.

The reduction of vocational rehabilitation services: Staff level at the Metro VRS office has been cut by 50%; eight staff positions eliminated. These are counsellors who help disabled individuals get back to work. Two staff reductions have taken place in Windsor.

These staff cuts include job placement officers who are essential to the VRS program and function in trying to help individuals get back to work. Their actions have a direct result in reducing government expenditures in the social assistance field. We now learn that deaf individuals will not have access to translated job counselling, a truly shameless act by this government.


They have cut disabled people on welfare. Thousands of disabled cases were reduced by 21.6% on October 1 and were not protected from the cuts as promised by this government. This government is keeping $10 million a month by cutting the benefits of seniors and disabled. The minister has pledged to move individuals into FBA. No additional resources have been allocated to protect and move these individuals from welfare to family benefits, as promised.

The government has cut the benefits and has failed to deliver on the new income delivery program that it promised during the campaign in the election document.

It appears that the actions of the ministry are a further attack on the disabled people of this province. They cut funding for Wheel-Trans; then they turn it into a political football and blame Metro for reducing the service. This government must start taking the responsibility for the cuts and how they affect the disabled.

They have talked about redefining the disabled community. The minister is moving to define the definition as it applies to his ministry. He has stated that he will change it so that "people who are truly disabled can get benefits." By that assumption, it means there will be a reduction in the number of people who are today eligible for a disability pension across this province, and particularly the permanently unemployable category, as the government moved to cut in that drafting error that we're all well aware of last month.

We have no idea what this new definition will be, but I can tell this House today that this definition is going to mean that there are going to be fewer people eligible to receive disability pensions in Ontario when that change comes about than there are today. Those individuals will be shifted to the welfare rolls of local municipalities and those individuals will receive not a 21% cut, but in effect will result in over a 40% cut because the rate that they are in right now is significantly higher, and you're talking about cutting the benefits of over 40% of disabled people across this province and shifting that burden on to local municipalities.

This government has made a number of errors in dealing with the disabled. These errors have occurred because they have not consulted with the disabled community before the cuts were made. Had they spoken to the disabled community, they would have realized that it takes six months, a year, a year and a half, to move people from welfare to family benefits. Had they spoken to the disabled community, they would have realized that by cutting services for the hearing-impaired, you're denying access to job interviews, you're denying access to vocational counsellors. Isn't this what this government has talked about since it has taken office: a hand up, not a handout; the opportunity to access the job market; the opportunity to get out of the cycle of welfare; that opportunity to break the cycle that they've been stuck in for so long?

Maybe the minister can explain to this House how a hearing-impaired individual who requires a translation service to attend a job interview can break the cycle, can get into the workforce, when your ministry has cut the funding and does not fund, in Hamilton and Windsor, those services today.

The Speaker: The minister has up to five minutes for his reply.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): It's hard for me to discern today which member we have here from Hamilton East, whether it's the gentleman who was the hard-liner when he was in charge of social services for Hamilton, or whether it's this new character who's appeared on the scene since the Legislature's opened. In fact, as I understand it, there was reference to the honourable member in the Hamilton Spectator as the master of flip-flop during the election, so that's kind of interesting. So I'm trying to determine what his point is. One day it's one thing; one day it's another.

However, services for the disabled are a high priority for this government. We're committed to effective and efficient employment supports for the disabled. Ministry staff are currently developing a new framework of employment services for people with disabilities. This was our commitment during the election and it's consistent with our restructuring agenda.

Vocational rehabilitation services and many other employment services for the disabled were developed over 30 years ago and are in need of improvement. Clearly, consulting with the disabled community about what it believes to be the problems facing it is an important part of developing a new framework. This is why we have a meeting with members of the disabled community: to get their input and help us develop what our core services should be and how to improve these services.

We continue to provide funding for this service and help people with disabilities through approximately 138 vocational rehabilitation counsellors. In 1994-95, $21.5 million were spent on VRS, providing services to approximately 12,500 people.

Vocational rehabilitation generally refers to the provision of vocational assessment and guidance, vocational training and placement, and follow-up services to enable disabled persons to overcome vocational handicaps and become or remain employed. These services currently funded under VRS include: assessment, workplace-based assessment, restorative devices, training, job placement and vocational crisis job restructuring.

The ministry staff have currently undertaken the redesign and improvement of employment services for persons with disabilities. We plan to develop a new system in the area of disabilities and employment with greater emphasis on employment outcomes and labour linkages.

We also continue to fund interpreter and intervenor services, over $4.6 million this year, to help the deaf. Yes, we're asking people to do business more efficiently. We need to get our finances in order and decrease our debt.

We're currently reviewing all of our employment-related programs for persons with disabilities. We look forward to implementing a system that helps the disabled by working with the disabled community.

The Speaker: There being no further matter to debate, the motion to adjourn is deemed to have been carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1816.