36th Parliament, 1st Session

L034b - Mon 4 Dec 1995 / Lun 4 Déc 1995




Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Mr Speaker, I haven't had a chance to tell you how well you look in the sartorial splendour of that new uniform of yours, and I want to congratulate you in that way.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the government's fiscal and economic statement of 1995. As you know, we were anxiously waiting for a budget, but we were denied that. We thought a Conservative government would have brought about a budget in order to show some balance of how it will go about creating jobs and dealing with the fiscal situation we are in today, the economic situation we are in today in Ontario. I was disappointed in that, but I presume we have to deal with this financial statement.

I will also take the opportunity to speak on the government's ever-famous, power-grabbing Bill 26 which has sweeping powers now given to some of the ministers. I find it so undemocratic. I'm actually a bit shocked, because I have worked with quite a few of the members over there whose mindset is not like that.

Someone said today that absolute power corrupts absolutely. I hope that between the point of this absolute power they want to grab for themselves, that will not corrupt them absolutely, that the opposition on this side will be able to bring to them some matter of sense or maybe bring to them the real common sense that they seem to be seeking and understand that the power doesn't lie in the elected members but really lies in the people, in the consultation process, in the input that we can get and sometimes even, surprise, the wisdom that we can get from our people. So I will be making some comment as I go along in my comments here.

As I see it, we have a democratic process that allows representation to be elected by the people, and what that does is it accesses the vision and allows the people to give the vision of where they would like to go to create their own destiny, to carve their own career and their own aspirations for their family and their children: a vision of equality, a vision where they can see themselves as a part of society and can play a role and celebrate some of the wealth that we have, and sometimes some of the frustrations that we have to bear with each other as we go along; in other words, able to express themselves into that and hope we get representatives who are able to understand that.

I see too that people would like to express their vision of liberty, their vision of freedom, enabling this wonderful province that they can speak and work and play in a place where it is freedom. A vision of justice they would like to express within their members.

But I feel, on that day when they had given the mandate to this government, that each day they're feeling, "Have I done something wrong?" I hope they're not wrong. I really hope they're not wrong in giving the mantle to the Conservative Party, because that's the choice of the people and we respect that.

I respect that wholeheartedly, that the people have chosen, of the three parties, the Progressive Conservative Party to rule them for the next four years, that what will come about is some prosperity, some sanity as to how we handle our economy, and that people do not see themselves as a power unto themselves.

But alas, I think some of this has been shattered because of some of the decisions that have been made just in the couple of months that this party has found itself as the government, and that in itself has triggered many, many calls to my office, and to many members' offices, of concerns.

One of the recent examples, if you've read on the weekend, there are over 300 families that were in homes and hostels who find themselves not able to have a home, and the government itself is paying almost $1,300 a month just to accommodate them because of fear of non-affordable housing. They cannot find affordable housing, and this is rather frightening.

Therefore, as I sat here that day, arriving late to listen to the Minister of Finance make his financial statement, I was further perplexed by the fact that we were hurrying over from the buildings across the road to get here in time, meaning that we were shut out, as a matter of fact anxiously waiting to hear the statements, but he had already started upon his financial statements. I had hoped at that time that the Speaker of the day, which wasn't you at that time, Mr Speaker -- and I know that it's quite possible you may have been quite attuned to the fact, that you'd say, "There must be something wrong here as to why the Leader of the Opposition is not here."

Many opposition members weren't here yet, because what happened was we were locked away over in the buildings across the road and told we could not move. As a matter of fact, I had the statement telling us -- we had to sign it -- that if we were in that lockup, we couldn't come out. There were police guards to tell us we could not leave until they told us to do so. But when we arrived, I saw that the minister had already made his statement and furthermore that the Management Board chairman had already delivered his stunning Bill 26, the power-grabbing piece of legislation.

I just wanted to mention a couple of things that are so frightening that have been happening to our province. He has a right, that Minister of Finance, to make his statement, what he has cut. I would say to the constituents of mine out there and many people in Ontario who may be listening or may be watching, somehow flicking that little lever and finding out that their hospitals have been cut by $1.3 billion -- I'll get to that later on, where $1.3 billion is to be cut from the hospital budget -- there was a promise made by the Premier, or the leader of the Conservative Party at the time, that he would not touch it, not one cent he would have touched on that budget.

But the fact is -- it's just a matter of emphasis, Mr Speaker; I know you don't like the props -- not one cent would have been touched from that budget. It's all placed right in there. I don't know if you'd call it a prop too. It's the Common Sense Revolution document, and it's stated in there emphatically that you would not cut from it. But again, there he was: $1.3 billion. He didn't stop there. He went further and cut another $225 million from the Ontario drug benefit plan, and in a rather creative way. Therefore, almost $1.5 billion is to be cut from hospitals and medicare.

Elementary schools and secondary schools had a cut of $400 million; colleges and universities, $400 million. I'll go back to those, because I want to emphasize to the people what impact this will have on them. Municipalities, $658 million. Just think about it: higher taxes, maybe putting your garbage out. They're going to ask the municipalities to be rather creative. The fact is that you may be charging more to the people, the same one taxpayer.

I think you recall, Mr Speaker, when the Premier of the Conservative Party was speaking, and at one stage he said, "It's the same person that we keep taxing all the time." So what did he do? Although he did not flow any more money to the municipalities, he said he was going to give them more powers in order to tax the same individual he had been taxing all along. Then he can go on for the next four or five years to say: "I did not tax those people. It wasn't I who did that. It was the municipalities."

I'm telling the folks out there, be prepared for higher taxes: higher property tax, higher taxes in the sense of garbage collection, higher taxes in the sense of recycling. Look out for those kinds of creative things. The municipalities too will be concerned, very much so, as to where they are going to get the money to do most of the stuff. But we will see their creative nature.


Let me go into detail about colleges and universities, the cuts there. Students actually, on average, pay about $2,000 for tuition fees. They have seen increases in tuition fees over a couple of years. As a matter of fact, previous governments promised to almost eliminate tuition fees. That was a promise of one election some time ago, and that did not materialize. As a matter of fact, the reverse happened to those folks.

What happened was that tuition fees were increased, OSAP grants were eliminated and OSAP loans were reduced, so the individuals going to school had an increase in tuition fees, in costs to get education, one of the greatest investments we have.

We will be seeing people paying about an additional $400 per year. The permission this minister has given to the colleges -- he said an immediate 10% increase to tuition fees and he is giving the power to the colleges so they can increase fees another 10%.

Just think of those people who are the middle class, fighting to try to send their kids through university, because today, if you don't have a university degree, the possibility of your getting a job to maintain yourself in a decent way is very difficult. But here we are making it more difficult. This government promised to have a fairer system, and that did not work.

Let me deal with the cuts to health care, which pain us. Mr Speaker, I saw your face as it cringed a bit when my leader for the Liberal Party was so frustrated as she watched the Premier going against his word, which was, I remind you, "Not one cent will I cut from that health care plan," not one cent.

What happened? He sat there and looked straight in our faces as he cut $1.5 billion from it. He said, "I would resign if I did a thing like that." So what do we do? I could ask him very kindly to step down to bring some credibility back into the political process, so we could trust politicians. But I don't think he will resign.

I think he'll be there, because he feels: "So what? I'm in power now, and the process tells me I can continue to do what I have to do and proceed with my plan because it's good for the people" -- good for the people who maybe will be lining up to get into emergency, lining up to get health care. The fact is that we can't blame anyone, because he will say at the end of the day, meaning at the end of four years, "I will put back that money."

I thought that's what I heard him say: "I didn't take out the $1.5 billion. You wait until the end of the time, in the next four years, to see if I will put it back. Therefore, I did not take it out."

I'm a bit confused. I thought that when you take something out, it's gone. He said, "I will not touch one cent," not a cent of that money, and he went so far as to take $1.5 billion out of that account. It's extremely painful to see what goes on.

I want to make some comments on that wonderful Bill 26, the bill we are dealing with. We should read it very carefully to see what it says. It's An Act to achieve Fiscal Savings and to promote Economic Prosperity through Public Sector Restructuring -- some very popular words here -- Streamlining and Efficiency and to implement other aspects of the Government's Economic Agenda.

As members have said, that sounds good. I think it's the right approach. There's nothing wrong with that. If you want to restructure and streamline, fine. Go to the people and ask them how they would like to see that.

You know what the Premier said today? "We got a mandate on election day and we'll act on it. We don't have to consult any more. We have consulted enough. We don't need to consult any more because we have listened to the people and that's it." That's dangerous. That is something I've heard in countries that have dictatorships, those who feel: "I am the power. I am the almighty. I don't need to consult any more with the people. I have all the wisdom here, so I will proceed."

We have said: "Just wait a second, Mr Premier and members of the Conservative Party. You were not the only people who were elected. There are people of the opposition who were elected and have a role to play." What he has done is to make sure that he takes away all those powers from us.

People outside may say, "Why is the opposition making so much noise about this bill?" I hope the members in the opposition -- the backbench of the Conservative Party is so silent -- will shout out and say, "They sent us here to speak." Let me tell you something, backbenchers. I've been there and I've been in cabinet too, and I'm telling you, where is your input? These decisions will be made by ministers sitting at the cabinet table, without even any consultation with you or any member in your constituency, not one.

Interjections: Caucus.

Mr Curling: Those poor individuals said, "Caucus." I ran through this bill and I saw nothing about caucus in here at all.

Take, for instance, part II, Amendments to the Public Hospitals Act. "The minister is given the broad power to fund hospitals in the public interest." Listen to this part: "The minister is given the power to reduce, suspend, withhold or terminate funding to a hospital if the minister considers it in the public interest to do so."

I don't know if those backbenchers who were shouting "Caucus" there saw that in it. I haven't seen anything about caucus. Where is your consultation? You mean that because you are privy to sit beside the minister in caucus you feel you've been consulted? That's not the way it's done. Consultation means listening to your ideas; you hope you can give some better views.

Part III "authorizes the Minister of Health to revoke the licence of a private hospital if the minister" -- not the caucus or the people -- "is of the opinion that it is in the public interest to do so." Talk about power. It "authorizes the Minister of Health to reduce or terminate any private hospital funding...."

I want to say to the backbenchers, I don't have a lot of history in here, just 10 years, but I can share that with you. Consultation doesn't start and stop with caucus members. It may start with the caucus members, and then you spread out to your constituency.

I'm going to appeal to all those who may just happen to turn on the tube. Get to know your member, call that member and ask if they can they have some input, some public consultation, about the changes they want to make in this very broad, sweeping, dictatorial, power-grabbing Bill 26. Ask them that. I don't know if the 1-800-MIKE line is still alive, but if 1-800-MIKE is there -- maybe it's all shut off because he felt he had listened already and he doesn't need to listen any more.

But there is hope about all this. My House leader and the House leader for the New Democratic Party have made a suggestion to the House leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, because those are the three people who get together to arrange the agenda of the day and see how we can make the democratic process work more effectively. They have agreed, the House leader for the New Democratic Party and the House leader for the Liberal Party, to stay here.

We know we like to go away at Christmas; we know the House was supposed to end on December 14. But we felt there is so much work to be done because the government has put us to work -- and we're happy to do that work -- that we said we can't do it in 14 days. We are prepared to go on, right to December 21 maybe. We know the work will not be done by that time either, even though we may sit till midnight. We were prepared to come back immediately in January after the holidays to sit down with this bill, to send it out for public hearings so that people can have a contribution.


I'm going to appeal to you, Mr Speaker, and I know some of your pals are there and you can appeal to them to act in a democratic manner. But I'm going to appeal more to the backbenchers, not the ministers, who have their marching orders and stick to a script; if you notice how they answer questions, it's the same thing all the time. I'm appealing to the backbenchers that they themselves approach their ministers. And I'm going to carry the appeal beyond that: I appeal to the people outside to call the constituency office of your member and insist that you'd like to have input into this very wide omnibus bill that has so much power without any public consultation.

That's the beauty of democracy. The beauty of democracy is that you feel a part of the government, by the government, for the government. But what is happening? We don't have any input into all this.

I think there is hope. I have a strong belief in humanity, in people. I do, regardless of the stiff faces I see over there and the firmness: "We will not blink. We're just going to go straight on with our agenda," regardless of who dies in the hospitals, regardless of the hundreds of people who are homeless, the hundreds of people who are lining up who have no Christmas, who are saying to themselves today that they have to spend their time in some motel because the Minister of Housing has cut and slashed and cancelled all the non-profit housing that was being built and giving hope to people. Now they feel they are five and six and seven in a family in one room, the government paying $1,300.

The government has closed its eyes to that, talked about privatization. They say they will sell off all the interest they have in non-profit housing and give it to the private sector, which will build -- voodoo Reaganomics. They will build, and when the private sector is finished building on the top end of the market, sooner or later they'll come down and build affordable housing for people like you and me, Mr Speaker, you and me, who are struggling, and other people and friends you know who are earning within a family maybe $25,000, $35,000 a year, who can't afford to buy a $500,000 home or a $300,000 home or rent for $1,500 or $1,200. They hope that the government, because of its large assets of land and its economic structure, is able to support mortgages to build affordable housing. But this government wants to sell it off to the private sector like a fire sale, scrambling around.

I had calls in my office, at least 30 calls today, from people saying: "Am I going to lose my little place that I'm living in? Am I going to be thrown out? Is rent control going to go?" The minister has announced that he's going to sell them off to the private sector and let the market take its course, the market that only caters, if it has no regulations and control, to the top end of the market. I'm sure they have their friends out there who are lining up to buy them and I'm sure they may cut some sweetheart deals with them, but what happens to those people? What happens?

They said shelter allowance, telling the private sector: "We're going to guarantee you by propping it up. Buy these buildings and don't worry about it, because we will give shelter allowances." But watch out for that. I tell the people, watch out for that.

The fact is that they'll do it like what they did with the day care system. They will put the money in there and reduce all the support and say: "I have now given to more people. Go and rent from your uncle and your sisters and your aunt and your friends. Go and negotiate with the people in the basement." That's a lack of understanding altogether about what's out there in that market. You don't want to regulate that.

Let me tell you, even when the Conservative Party brought in rent control, it was in a haphazard manner, such an awful manner, that we had to say, "No, it has to be controlled all across the line." The fact is, they made a mess of it.

Rent control is important; rent regulation is important; rent review is important. If you leave it to the market there, they never even built that private sector, not one unit. They didn't build one, neither did they fix it and they want to blame it on that.

I want to quickly make one other point. I notice inside this document it says that job quotas were the main cause of why jobs were not created -- so unfair, not recognizing the fact of employment equity itself, the systemic discrimination that goes on for the disabled, for women, for natives and for the minorities, that you completely ignore that, and I don't believe we should have employment equity only for those. It should be for the white male and the white female, everyone; it must be fair for all.

When you ignore the fact that discrimination is in the system, that tells you're going back to the old game, the old status quo, the fact that things are fine and we can get on. If there are any jobs left over, we can give them to those people because they are impediments in our society; they're in the way. If only they could just go away; if all those disabled people could just go away, we can get all those jobs -- and they don't have to perform in our economy that has so much to do, so much to offer.

It's so unfair to think that job quotas, which you try to hide behind, the employment equity, were the cause of jobs not being created. People are looking to you for protection. That's why you collect their taxes. You collect their taxes so you can redistribute them in a manner of fairness and they can participate, not for you to have your few colleagues and those who are part of the loop participate and then you can dish it out accordingly.

I hope, in summary, that when we look back in the next three or four years some sense will have come to this Progressive Conservative Party -- this kind of coldness that they have brought about in this government, in this province, this very rich province which has lots of money -- how we distribute it. It's not the poor and the middle class that brought us here; it's not the poor at all that brought us here.

When you talk about the expenditures of the previous government, you were in power for 42 years and how many times did you balance the budget? How many times? Then in your own diagram right here, this balanced budget was at a time when the Liberal Party was in power. We balanced the budget at that time, so don't go out spreading the propaganda in any way.

It's not the middle class, it's not the poor, it's not the disabled, it's not the natives who have caused this recession. If that was the case, why are all these big companies still making these wonderful profits? What's happening? If there was a recession around, the recession really only lies in the middle class and the poor. They are the ones who are suffering and they expect their government, they expect you, the ministers, to be able to distribute this wealth in an equitable manner, not in the discriminatory manner of the old boys' network.

We need a fair system. We need a democratic process. We need public input. We need something to say, "I am proud to be Ontarian and I'm proud to be a part of this government." I tell you I will fight as long as I'm here to make sure of this democratic process. So while we on this side are shouting at you, "Respect the democratic process," and you think we're going to go away, we won't go away; we'll be there reminding you. I hope we can get some consent and some sort of sense of humanity, especially from the backbenchers, because the ministers have their walking orders, so one day we can come back to sanity and democracy.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comments and questions in rotation.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I just have one area that I would like to comment on in the member's speech. I know that the member is a former Minister of Housing and so am I, so I think we know a little bit about the state of the public housing stock in the province. When he specifically raised the issue of selling off the public housing stock I wondered if he had the same reaction I did when I read this in the paper. I'd heard of it from the Conservatives before but then heard about it again. I'm sure that his government looked at many of the options as we did, and one of the options we looked at very seriously was the conversion to co-op housing for some of the public housing projects.

I still think that's a good idea. We moved to one of the downtown projects to do that, and there are a couple of other projects in the province that would be ready to move in that direction now because there have been millions of dollars invested in those projects to bring them up to a level of acceptability.

I guess I'm curious in knowing what the member remembers and what his feelings are about how you would be able to sell those units, because I think he would agree with me that before you could sell any of those projects or any of those units, it would take millions of dollars of reinvestment to bring them up to a satisfactory standard. If the government was silly enough to sell them off to the private sector, which I think the member would agree with me would be a terrible loss to the province, even though there's a need of reinvestment of a very valuable asset for the province, again you would have to invest millions of dollars to redesign those units, to reinvest in those units, to bring them up to a satisfactory standard before anyone would be interested in buying them.

I think there are a number of areas where ideologically the government can say, "We're going to sell them off because privatization is the mantra that we follow," but realistically it won't work and it would be a tragedy to lose that public investment that we've all contributed to over the years.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Mr Speaker, may I congratulate you on your new accoutrements; they look magnificent.

The only general comment I would make, having listened to the members opposite for a while, is I was trying to think when there will be a scintilla of a new idea, a creative solution to anything. We talk about the generalities of, "Everything is pretty good the way it is"; the theme of the member opposite for the Liberals was basically: "Never change a thing. Everything's pretty good the way it is." No wonder we have an omnibus bill in which the equation has been made that it's the economic terrorism of the War Measures Act, the usual scaremongering, not by this particular member but by one of his brethren we heard earlier today, the Finance critic.

You look at the omnibus bill, you look at one item: the capital investment plan dealing with toll roads and whether the tolls should continue. I don't see how that in itself is an equated form of economic terrorism. I think we need to look at trying to find some new changes. That's why we have this omnibus bill. As for public consultation, yes, we've had public consultation. We're still doing public consultation.

I am the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education, who was speaking with students at Humber College this morning about the Ontario student assistance program. I know that lots of other members of the government -- ministers and parliamentary assistants and other fellow MPPs -- have done the same. So much for the mythology that there's no consultation going on, at least in the grand scale of where they want to go out to large public consultation. The whole design of their proposal is to simply slow down what needs to be done, and what needs to be done is to get a handle on our fiscal problems. Of course they only say there really isn't a fiscal problem, just an invented one.

Mr Speaker, may I congratulate you again on your new accoutrements. You look fantastic.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have to really congratulate my colleague the member for Scarborough North for speaking truly from the commonsense side as it should be from the government's side. It was very interesting to hear my colleagues speak, not on the content of the bill, because I think at the end of the day, given the majority that we have on the government side, they will be going through with whatever they wish to push. I think the attention has to be placed on exactly what the member was saying: The process itself is the most important, the most fundamental thing that is missing from the debate as we go through in this very minimal period of time that is allocated; the fact is that the democratic process is not being followed, is not being afforded to not only this House but the people out there.

We are here for the particular reason which the member for Scarborough North has alluded to: to speak on behalf of those people who cannot speak for themselves. When the democratic process is curtailed in such a way that we cannot represent the people out there, then democracy is not in action, democracy is not working and democracy is not alive and well in this particular House. This is the most unfortunate thing.

The bill is so huge that it affects practically every sector of our communities. I think it's incumbent upon each member of the House, regardless of party lines, to let the people out there know exactly what's in it for them, how they're going to be affected on a day-to-day basis, from hospitals to drug benefit programs to schools to health services and stuff like that. I hope we will have the chance to speak for our people, on behalf of our people, in this House.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): To the member for Scarborough North, congratulations on your presentation, but I would like to make reference to your comments about the consultation. Certainly it has been unprecedented. Our party went out and for at least three years discussed and visited with people in the cities and in the towns and in the country to find out what their opinions were. We then put it in writing, put it before the people of Ontario and that's what they elected us on. I think you should recognize that there's been that kind of consultation going on. Our caucus is in fact very democratic in how it operates. Maybe that isn't how your caucus acted, but in fact our caucus does perform in a very democratic sort of way.

The member made reference to powers of the ministers, powers of cabinet. This happens to be a British system that we're functioning in and they do have tremendous powers. What you're referring to really isn't anything new in the British system.

He made comments about, "The poor didn't cause this problem with the debt; the naked didn't cause it." Well, that's quite true, but I can agree with him that all the parties probably have contributed to some extent to the debt. But I think if we were to really look at where the debt started and how this whole evolution began, we could look to the father of the deficit, the father of the debt, a Liberal: Mr Trudeau. He was the one who really triggered the whole thing, set it all in motion back in the early 1970s. Laugh if you want. Go back and have a look at how it all got triggered and how it got rolling along.

We were in an economic boom at the time that you say you balanced your budget, but if you look back and think about it, you didn't plan to balance it; you actually planned for a deficit. It was by good luck that extra revenues came in from the federal government. If you look at economics and how you should have been operating, you should have been saving some money so that when the NDP got in, to try to bail themselves out of the deficit, out of the debt problem, out of the recession, they would have had some dollars to do it with.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr Galt: They had a better idea than you did.

Mr Curling: In my two minutes I would say, in response to my colleague the member for Windsor-Riverside -- as he said, we shared the same portfolio of Housing -- yes, the Liberals did visit the fact that if we should ever sell off non-profit housing and co-op housing, what would happen.

I took a trip around and I looked at England. The Thatcherites wanted to sell off their co-ops, which they did, and what happened? Even today they have all these ghettos sitting around in England because they sold off the good stock, and now they are wondering, should they have done this?

I think it's the wrong direction to go. I think today, as you can see even from the 302 homeless families that are living right now in motel rooms, they would be able to look forward to something that the government would have owned or have an interest in, but you want to sell it off. I think it's a wrong direction and I hope you reconsider that. I think the minister should be told that in hard terms.

My last couple of seconds is, again, my appeal to those members who feel that they're in -- what do they call it? The British democratic process? I don't know what that is, but the fact is I'm telling you, forget all about the British and all that. Just make sure of your participation, that your people are told about the draconian situation happening here and they can have some input into Bill 26, which will change the way we conduct business in a democratic process in this province.

I think it's wrong, it's wrong, it's wrong, and that it will come to haunt you. The only reason I'm appealing to you is that I love this province and this country as much as you, I hope, and I'm not as selfish in my approach as they are in proceeding this way with Bill 26.


The Deputy Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Cooke: I want to begin by responding to a couple of issues that have been raised in the last couple of minutes. I'm not quite sure what the member's reference to the British parliamentary system is all about. I don't believe there's any tradition in British parliamentary history that says it's appropriate for the Legislature or the legislators to give all power over to cabinet.

In fact, it's one of our major responsibilities as members of the Legislature -- government members or opposition members -- to hold the executive council accountable and to not give them so much power that there's no accountability left here. It's our responsibility, it's our job to hold the government accountable, and that goes for all members of the Legislature who are not members of the executive council.

I also just briefly want to refer to the comment that was made by one of the Conservative members about the father of all deficits. I'm obviously not a fan of and wasn't a fan of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but throughout those years, yes, there were very large deficits developed at the federal level. But let's be realistic. Here in Ontario, in the entire time that Bill Davis was the Premier of this province, he had not one balanced budget. The deficits got bigger and bigger and bigger and the debt got bigger and bigger and bigger. In fact, we didn't have unbalanced budgets in this province until I believe the late 1960s.

If memory serves me correctly, the entire budget for the province didn't reach $1 billion until 1967, and then it began to double very quickly. Of course when we developed a medicare program in the province, the cost of government increased. When there was more of a commitment to public education, the cost of government increased. But we don't need a lecture from Conservatives about balancing a budget. Bill Davis, the last Tory Premier, with the exception of Mr Miller, who was only there for days, never had one balanced budget.

So don't lecture us about fiscal responsibility at all. It doesn't make any sense, it's not accurate, it doesn't reflect -- if you take a look at the deficits of the early 1980s, when it reached nearly $4 billion, when Mr Miller, a very conservative Conservative, was the Treasurer, that happened because of a very deep recession. As a percentage of the budget, as a percentage of our gross provincial product, the deficits in the beginning of the 1980s were comparable to the deficits that we ran in the beginning of the 1990s. That is a fact.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): How much were you paying on interest then and how much now? Why don't you tell us?

Mr Cooke: I think it's realistic to take a look, Charles, at the deficits that Mr Davis ran over the years, and don't point all of the time --

Hon Mr Harnick: How much were we paying on interest then and how much are we paying now

Mr Cooke: Well, the fact is that under the laws that we have in this province that your government established, even at the municipal level, as a percentage of the total expenditures at the municipal level, the Municipal Act says you can spend up to 20% on debt repayment. That's the guideline that's used for municipalities. We're not there provincially. We're not there as a percentage of our deficit, we're not at 20%, so we're not in bad shape in this province.

Coming through what was basically a recession, a depression in this province, where expenditures do go up, that is a reality. I think that it's a good line for the Conservatives to use in an election, and they always tend to. They always used to run campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s saying, "We're the party that's going to get our financial house in order."

Davis never did it, and I guarantee you that when you take a look at the numbers that were presented last week in the budget statement, you will see that the deficit is not coming down and, as was revealed on Thursday afternoon, the numbers that Mr Eves presented of an $8.7-billion deficit next year did not include the $2.5 billion in tax decreases that he's got for next year.

When you add the two together, as the credit rating agencies said at the end of last week, the deficit is going to be at $10.9 billion next year. That's going to be the deficit figure. If they then take some money and reinvest it in health care, as they've been saying they're going to do, we'll be at a deficit of over $11 billion.

Let's not forget the experience of Ronald Reagan in a country not too far from here. He was the one who was going to balance the American budget. What did he do? He doubled it. He got them up to $4 trillion of accumulated debt. He did exactly what this party is planning on doing. He said, "We're going to cut down on expenditures, we're going to give a big tax decrease, and somehow that's going to result in a balanced budget," and what it did was it resulted in the largest budget deficits in the history of the US. They doubled the accumulated debt for the federal government in the US. We'll see what happens here, but that's the exact direction that we're heading in, very clearly.

I also find it very interesting to hear from this government when we're talking about this omnibus bill that has been introduced into the Legislature, Bill 26. I remember hearing, when we were in government, lectures from Mr Eves and from Mr Harris that we needed to consult the public, that the public had to be involved, that there should be more referendums.

What do we see in this omnibus bill? We don't see anything in terms of democracy. We don't see anything in terms of community involvement. We see the biggest power grab from communities in the history of this province, and it's being talked about from one end of this province to the other end.

I know that many of the members, especially from outside of Metropolitan Toronto, when they went home on the weekend heard loud and clear from their constituents that this power grab by the provincial government is not on. This is not something that is supported by the people of this province.

How can you on one hand say that you support community empowerment, that you support the people of this province being decision-makers, that you support communities being able to take more control over their own lives, and then say in an omnibus bill: "We're going to take back control of who's going to close hospitals. We're going to take back control at the provincial level over who's going to draw the boundaries for municipalities. We're even going to go to the extent that if the GTA, the greater Toronto area, is going to be redesigned, we can do that in cabinet by order in council. It's not going to be done by the Legislature; it's not going to be done with consultation."

Then the most bizarre statement today, from the Minister of Health again, in a scrum, saying, "Yes, we're going to take over this control to close hospitals, to say where doctors can practise, to say who can practise, take all of that control over centrally, but we don't plan on using it." That was a clip on the TV news tonight.

That is the most bizarre, stupid statement I have heard from a minister in a long time. "We're going to pass a law giving me all the power, as the Minister of Health, but we're only kidding. We're never going to use that power. We're not going to use it. We just want the power there." What? To dangle over people's heads? To threaten them and say to the doctors, "You either do what we want you to do or we're going to use that power that we've now got"? That's intimidation. That's an abuse of power.

In fact, the whole process on this omnibus bill is an abuse of power. I ask the Tory backbenchers, how many of you were consulted on the omnibus bill before it came into the House?

Mr Peter Preston (Brant-Haldimand): All of us.

Mr Cooke: If all of you were consulted then, why were so many members coming to my office asking for a copy of the bill last Thursday afternoon? We actually gave out copies of the bill, loaned out copies of our bill, to your own backbenchers who wanted to read the legislation.

Mr Preston: Name one.

Mr Cooke: I can name one from Etobicoke for sure, and there were others. If you want to say on the record here today that, yes, you had copies of the bill, then fine, but we know different and you know different. The fact of the matter is that you weren't consulted on the omnibus bill at all.

I can tell you, with some pride, whether you like the policies that our government brought in or not is irrelevant, but the process that we used with our own caucus was one whereby legislation could not come into the Legislature unless it was presented to caucus and it was endorsed by caucus. It had to get caucus approval, and that was built into the approvals process. You can ask the members of the public service and the ministries where you might work as parliamentary assistants.


The fact is, the approvals process was slowed down and it was slowed down because we insisted that after cabinet made a recommendation to caucus, caucus had to approve all pieces of legislation before they were introduced into the House. If they didn't have caucus approval, they couldn't be introduced into the House. The only exceptions were tax bills that were part of a budget, because that is obviously always subject to the budget approval process and a Treasurer has to have that ability, because no one can be told about tax measures before they're announced in a budget.

But I'm telling you that you cannot argue on one hand that you're going to have a more democratic process and then say, "We're going to grab power from the communities," and the caucus members in your own party were not even consulted on this omnibus bill before it was brought into the House.

I'm also going to say --

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): They have to come to caucus to get consulted.

Mr Cooke: If you can say with a straight face that you were actually aware of the omnibus bill and all the details in the omnibus bill before it came here, then I'd like you to say that, but I don't believe it's the case because I've had too many of your own backbenchers come and tell me quite different, that they weren't involved in the approvals process.

I can tell you also when we brought in a program called the expenditure control program, which was a $2-billion cut in expenditures in the province, we had a weekend whereby cabinet went off after all the ministers had reviewed their expenditures in their own ministry. They then made recommendations for cuts, because we were all assigned targets in our own ministries to achieve.

We came up with those recommendations, we went to cabinet, they were then reviewed. Some were accepted, some were rejected. Before the expenditure control program was announced to the public, it had to go to caucus and we had to explain every one of the cuts and caucus had to approve of those cuts. Some were approved, some were rejected. If they were rejected, then cabinet had to go back and find the dollars that caucus rejected.

Are you going to tell me that you were consulted on the $6 billion worth of cuts? Nonsense. Absolute nonsense. You were not consulted at all. You're expected to go back to your ridings and defend those cuts, but you're not part of the process at all. This was the party that tried to adopt the Reform-style philosophy that members were to come here and to fight for their ridings and fight for the people they represent, and I'm telling you, you're not doing it. You're not doing it at all. You're a bunch of hypocrites who said one thing when the election was on --

Mr Murdoch: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe that's unparliamentary and I would request that the member withdraw his remarks.

The Deputy Speaker: I didn't see anything unparliamentary about the general nature of the comment.

Mr Cooke: There isn't. There was one thing that was said when you guys were in opposition, that you were going to be a different governing party, that your members were going to be empowered, that you were going to come here and represent your constituencies, that you were going to be real MPPs who could voice your opinions, not have to follow the party line, and on the two biggest announcements that have been made so far, the expenditure control program, the $6 billion worth of cuts and the omnibus legislation, you were not involved at all.

You were completely out of the loop and you weren't part of the process at all. But when it comes to voting on the legislation, your Premier's going to turn around, your whip's going to look at you and they're going to say, "Stand up and support us." It's just the same way that it always was in the 42 years that your party was here before. You're all taken for granted --

The Deputy Speaker: Maybe the member would address his comments to the Chair.

Mr Cooke: -- and if you don't speak up in caucus now, if you let them get away with this now, without any involvement, you're going to have it this way for the next four and a half years.

It may be easy to accept it now, when you're at 50% in the polls; you're down 8% in one month. It might be easy, you might feel good about doing it now, but when times get tough and you're down to 30%, down to 25%, then they're going to say: "Sorry, that's not the process. That's not what we've done in the first few years in government." You're not involved now. They've made all the decisions for you. They get to make the decisions which will determine your future as politicians in this place.

I'm going to tell you, there are parts of decisions that have been made by this government that I hope some caucus members will begin to take a look at. The omnibus bill is really one of the most outrageous pieces of legislation ever introduced in this place, and the process they're going to follow of saying that this bill has to pass in its entirety before Christmas is an absolute smack in the face of democracy in this province.

Take a look at those powers. We'll go through it in more detail when we debate this bill, but you take a look at the powers in that bill. There is no way that should happen without public hearings. There's got to be public hearings.

I'm not saying that every power being looked at, every provision in that legislation, is something I disagree with. There are things I agree with. The sunshine legislation is something I agree with. I'm even prepared to take a look at some of the provisions in the Municipal Affairs area, trying to streamline the process for defining boundaries and reorganizing local governments. But I think it's important that there are some other provisions. There's got to be a process that guarantees community involvement. When I was there, we were looking at an arbitration process that would go out and have hearings, listen to different points of view, and there'd eventually be an arbitrator who would then make the decision on the boundaries.

Some of the processes in place in the past are ridiculous. The Sarnia-Clearwater annexation took 23 years. That's ridiculous. You can't update and modernize local government when it takes nearly a quarter of a century for one change. The London-Middlesex annexation/amalgamation, I might point out, the member from Grey county fought tooth and nail, saying it was dictatorial, wasn't democratic. The fact of the matter was that it took 12 years to get there. After an arbitration process took place at the local level, there was a piece of legislation. We debated it here for second reading, we had public hearings in London, and then it got third reading.

Now that member's prepared to support a process that says that if London-Middlesex ever occurred again, it wouldn't even come to the Legislature. It wouldn't even be debated in the Legislature.

Mr Murdoch: You wasted time and didn't even listen to us. You didn't prove anything by debating it.

Mr Cooke: You don't even know what's in the bill. The fact is, if there were ever a London-Middlesex annexation/amalgamation again, there would never be a need for public hearings, there would never be a need for legislation. It would all be done in cabinet by a motion in cabinet called an order in council.

That is undemocratic, that is unfair, and if the member opposed the London-Middlesex bill that involved the public and took 12 years, then surely to God he cannot support that provision --


Mr Cooke: Maybe the member wants to get on the list and give his maiden speech instead of doing it by interjection. Mr Speaker, opposition members are allowed to interject. Government members have to sit there and be calm. Those are the rules of the game. Believe me, if it's not in the standing orders now, it will be.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): We'll put it there.

Mr Cooke: Yes, I'm sure you will.

All I'm saying is that when you take a look at the positions some of the returning Conservative members took, when we looked at some of the same issues under different circumstances, they said something quite different. Now their government's bringing in legislation that will centralize more power with cabinet than has ever occurred before, has ever been the case in the history of this province. They cannot say one thing when they were over here and now say something over there while they're in government and say there's a big change. This is dictatorship.

That's exactly what this bill will do. By putting so much power with individual cabinet ministers, it cuts everybody out. It cuts all the opposition members out. It cuts all the Conservative backbenchers out --

Mr Murdoch: Talk about dictatorship. Let's talk about the time that you and Ruth Grier came to Grey county.

The Deputy Speaker: Would the member for Grey-Owen Sound come to order, please.


Mr Cooke: More important than keeping the members of the Legislature involved in the debate -- and I do think that is very important -- what concerns me as much or more is that this government is cutting the people of the province out of the debate.

There's no doubt at all that the timing of this omnibus bill was planned, no doubt at all. It comes in on the second-last day that you can introduce legislation before the adjournment for Christmas. That's when it comes in, and then they say they want it done in eight days before Christmas. They've got all these powers that will now be centralized, the reason being that there are two weeks to debate it, and they know it takes a lot longer for municipal councils, for hospital boards, for doctors, for general members of the community to understand what's in the legislation, so they can ram it through, adjourn the House and the public never becomes aware of it.

And they had the gall to lecture us when we were in government about democratic processes. What a pile of crap, to be quite blunt about it. What a pile of crap we got from these people for four and a half years, lectures from them about what the democratic process should be all about, and then they have the gall to bring in this piece of legislation which is the most obnoxious, anti-democratic legislation ever in this House.

Are the members of the opposition upset? You're damn right we're upset. If you go home to your communities and talk to people -- talk to doctors. Talk to them and they'll say, "We never believed we would get this from a Tory government."

I met with the executive of the Windsor chamber of commerce with my two Liberals colleagues last week. To a person, the chamber of commerce executive in Windsor said they were opposed to this legislation and they're opposed to the budget because it's based on a tax decrease. As one member said -- and I will not repeat her name, and she's a card-carrying Tory, perhaps one of the last red Tories in the province: "I don't want the tax decrease. It's blood money that I want no part of. I do not want tax rebates when I see people in my community living on the streets, when I see people I've worked with as a lawyer losing their homes because their welfare benefits have gone down so dramatically that there's no ability to pay rent." They've got a choice to make: to buy food and clothes for their kids or pay their rent.

Those kinds of choices mean that if a person who's got a decent income is going to get additional money because of a tax decrease, it's blood money. It's at the expense of the kids of the province, it's at the expense of the most needy in this province, and it's absolute shame. It's not in the long tradition of Conservative governments, Liberal governments and our government in this province of caring for the poor in one of the richest societies in the entire world. It's wrong. It's immoral and it's something we've all got to speak out against.

This government is anti-democratic. This government is disadvantaging the poorest people in this province and the kids of this province.

There are other things in this bill, other things in the budget statement last week, that the Tory backbenchers have to raise with their cabinet ministers. I'm going to raise one. I don't represent a seat in Toronto, but I used to be Minister of Education and Training and I know how the grants are distributed in this province. There's $400 million coming out of the general legislative grants for schools.

When the social contract came in there was a provision that money from those cuts in budgets would come out of the Metropolitan Toronto School Board and the Ottawa school board, that they'd get nothing or very little in the way of general legislative grants. Nearly $100 million, under the social contract, came out of Metropolitan Toronto's educational resources so the cuts in the budget were spread out across the entire province.

Last week this government cut $400 million out of the general legislative grants. There is no provision to share those budget reductions with Metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa. The end result is that all $400 million has to come out of all the school boards in the rest of the province. Metro Toronto and Ottawa are exempt. That means the Windsor board, the Hamilton board, the London board, all of your boards, are going to be paying the costs of Metropolitan Toronto. That's the reality. You're going to see millions of dollars of additional cuts to your school boards.

You're going to see the Hamilton-Wentworth separate school board come to near bankruptcy, if it doesn't go bankrupt. They already had a big debt.

You're going to see the York separate school board, that went through a massive restructuring -- and you remember those cuts -- to deal with budget cuts now get cut more. They're going to go back into debt.

There are about 20 school boards in this province that have annual deficits because we don't share the commercial and industrial assessment equally at the local level. That's been one of the difficulties flowing out of the extension of funding in 1985. We took some steps towards it and the Liberals did too, but it was not enough and we said that. There needed to be more work done on education finance reform.

But what you have done by cutting the $400 million out and not including the Metropolitan Toronto public school board and the Ottawa public school board is that you have taken a massive step backward from education finance reform. You now have disadvantaged every other child in this province to a much greater extent than anything in the past. You can't allow this to happen. There are going to be school boards that go bankrupt. It's going to come home to roost in your communities.

The Metropolitan Toronto School Board will be able to afford to continue with junior kindergarten, special education programs, lower class sizes. Who's going to pay the cost? Your kids and my kids, because there's no sharing of the reductions and the expenditures.

You can't allow this to happen. The only way it's going to be changed is if you raise these matters in your caucus meeting. You've got to go in and you've got to say, "This is unfair." It's not proper that the biggest city and the richest city in terms of commercial and industrial assessment is going to continue to have an advantage. They spend nearly $9,000 per student in Metro. There are boards in this province, in eastern Ontario in particular, that spend around $4,500 per student. The inequities are incredible, and the inequities now are going to grow. They're going to grow by $400 million. You can't allow this to continue.

Mr Shea: So are the special requirements going to grow. You should know. Shame on us.

Mr Cooke: I can understand why you would defend it. Any Metropolitan Toronto member, and he is one of them, is going to say: "Don't listen to them. Don't touch Metropolitan Toronto. I represent Metropolitan Toronto." That's what he'll say to you.

But you can't allow this to happen. We had this discussion in our caucus when we were in government and we came to the conclusion that if you're going to cut back on school boards, you have to cut back across the board, that every board has to experience the pain and contribute to the solution. Metropolitan Toronto's share should be about $90 million. If you don't change that, that means all the others boards in the province are going to have to pick up that $90 million.

I'm going to finish by making a couple more comments about this omnibus bill. As I said earlier, I may agree with some of the provisions in this legislation. I do, as I said before, agree with the sunshine legislation. I even think it would be appropriate to talk about some of the provisions in here dealing with restructuring and whether there can be a process put in place that leads to -- I look at my own community, the process that's been used by ministers of Health as an example all across Ontario, of how we've gone from four hospitals to two hospitals.

The process is in a bit of chaos now because the current government has said that the saving in the operating grants due to going from four to two, about $22 million, that was going to be reinvested into community supports is now going to be put towards deficit reduction instead. You can understand why that has resulted in the labour unions pulling out of the restructuring process and many in our community now saying, "We don't want to have anything to do with it."

But it can be done at the local level and I agree that there are some processes and tools the minister might need to make sure that happens across the province. I don't think the right way to go about it is to drop a piece of legislation in this House on the second-last day that legislation can be introduced and say: "We want it passed before the House adjourns. I want these powers and that's the way it's going to be, and I don't give a damn what the people of the province think, what the opposition thinks or even what the Tory backbenchers think."

I look at the Ontario Drug Benefit Act. I have serious concerns about deregulating any controls on drug prices in this province. I was involved in the debate -- I think Murray Elston was the Minister of Health at the time -- when Bills 54 and 55 were introduced under the Liberal government: extensive public hearings, very controversial. I'll give the Liberals credit; it was a very controversial subject. There were full public hearings. There was no effort to try to shove that stuff through the House. They had the majority. I think they had 95 members, 13 more than you've got. They didn't try to do it with their majority and whip it through the Legislature. There were public hearings.

I ask the members of the Conservative caucus to take a look at this bill. When you hear your Premier and your Deputy Premier say, "There's no precedent here. There have been omnibus bills in the past that amend 50 pieces of legislation, or 100," take a look at what those amendments were. You'll see they weren't nearly as significant. They weren't major pieces of legislation. This is the time for the Tory back bench to speak up now. The people of this province are relying on you to see that the democratic process is preserved, and that has to be done tomorrow.


Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): I just want to spend a few minutes speaking to my friend from Windsor-Riverside's point. One of the few things I've learned so far in the House is that we can always count on that member to give us a rather stirring and I think very thoughtful presentation. But I do want to speak to some items he was talking to when he was focusing on the debt and deficit, which I think is the crux of the discussion here tonight, as opposed to Bill 26.

He was concerned that during the 1980s and perhaps prior to that, during the 1970s, there were indeed some operating deficits that were raised by Conservative governments. In fact, he's correct; in a couple of years there were. I'm looking at numbers here from 1973, for instance, until 1985. There was an operating deficit run in eight out of those 12 years. But I should tell --

Mr Cooke: Oh, oh. Now we're separating operating from capital.

Mr Sampson: I should tell the member that that is what you did numerous times when you took a look at your best statements.

Mr Cooke: You said that was the wrong thing to do.

Mr Sampson: But let's look at what these numbers were, and the magnitude of these numbers. The largest was about $1 billion and change in 1982, which at that point in time was 0.6% of the GDP of Ontario. That's to be compared to a number such as -- oh, let's just pick one here -- $11.7 billion in 1993-94.

Mr Cooke: That's capital and operating.

Mr Sampson: Okay, you want to talk about capital and operating. I'll do that. That number was a total of $3 billion. That would change the GDP number to debt to about 1.1% as opposed to the 5.9% that their government engineered. So we're talking about orders of magnitude completely different.

By the way, when that deficit was at $3 billion, that happened to be the depths of the 1980 recession. In the depths of the 1990 recession, these people chose to run up $11 billion.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I know that the member wanted to mention the situation with Bethlehem Place in St Catharines. He alluded to it when he talked about the overall expenditures of the government. It's an extremely effective second-stage housing development in our community which was established initially with the strong support and with a lot of the legwork being done by the council of churches and all the individual churches in St Catharines. The member was mentioning the cuts that have taken place and included in those, of course, are cuts to second-stage housing in terms of the counselling that is provided.

This has been a very successful operation in our community. In fact, there's a great cross-section of people of all political backgrounds who are strongly supportive of the efforts of those who established and operate Bethlehem Place. It meets what the government is looking for and what I think all people are looking for, that is, one important criterion of moving people from dependency on social assistance and in some cases dependency on substances that are illegal and some that are legal. It has turned the lives of many of these people around, yet the government has announced that it is completely removing the funding for the counselling services at Bethlehem Place.

There are even those in our community who have suggested that the churches take up the slack, that the churches take over in terms of this funding of social assistance. Everyone knows that churches themselves are often struggling to keep out of the red ink because they're asked to do a lot of things within a community. I hope that the government -- and the Minister of Community and Social Services is here this afternoon -- will restore that funding which is so important to second-stage housing in our community.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I just want to comment on the speech made by the member for Windsor-Riverside, the House leader of the NDP caucus. I want to speak specifically to what he talked about in regard to the legislative approval process, because I was a member of the government from 1990 to 1995, where we as a caucus in entirety had a legitimate process established by which all members of our caucus worked at legislation that was being brought forward in the House and at the end the caucus had an approval process.

The strength of that was that I was forced as a member, because of that, because of the responsibility put on me through that process, to go back to my constituency of Cochrane South, to meet with the people in my constituency, to talk to the mayors in council, to talk to the average citizens, to talk to all people that were concerned with issues that were going on within the legislative requirements of this assembly, so that I could bring back into my caucus and eventually on to the floor of this House their particular concerns.

What greatly disturbs me about what this government is doing is the unilateral process that they've taken upon themselves to be able to move legislation forward in this House. What we have is a small circle of people around the Premier -- the House leader, the Minister of Finance, the Management Board person, Mr Wilson, the Minister of Health -- who make a whole bunch of decisions about how democracy and how programs will --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Don't forget the Minister of Community and Social Services.

Mr Bisson: I don't think he's even in the circle, quite frankly. He's been out of the loop for a long time.

The point is that these people are making decisions about how programs are going to be modified in this province and about how the processes of democracy are going to work. What disturbs me is that when backbenchers within the government are not involved -- because I was there -- it means that democracy is not well served.

I would hope that the Conservative members on the back bench recognize something: that your political futures as members of this assembly are very much tied to what your leader does and to what the cabinet does. I would hope that the members of the Conservative back bench would at least try to bring forward into the centre the views of the people of this province and not just sit there like a bunch of trained seals.

Mr Cooke: With respect to my colleague the member for Cochrane South, I don't particularly see any problem with House leaders and leaders being very close to one another. I've always found it to be quite a useful process. But I do want to make a couple of comments, especially about the comments made by my Conservative colleague who spoke first.

I think you've got to take a look at the fact that the deficit situation has been a little more complicated than he might indicate. First of all, he's comparing apples with oranges when he talks about the Conservative budget deficits on the operating side and neglects the capital deficits and then says the NDP deficit was $11.7 billion, which includes figures, quite frankly, from some crown corporations.

Yes, the Provincial Auditor has been arguing about this, but I happen to disagree. When you take a look at the American jurisdictions and how they report their deficits, Michigan, Florida, everybody has a balanced budget. The reality is that none of them have a balanced budget. They all have capital debts, they all carry capital debts, but they never report them that way at all.

For the member on one hand to be comparing Bill Davis's record of never having a balanced budget and talking only about the operating deficit and then comparing that not just with our capital and our operating debt but also with the debt of crown corporations is to compare apples and oranges. The fact is that there are crown corporations that even Bill Davis didn't report that had deficits. The way the auditor wants it reported, I guess that's the way it will be done.

The other thing is that there were increases in the operating debt, and part of that was because the federal government withdrew from social services under the Canada assistance plan and put a huge burden on this province that, quite frankly, we still haven't recovered from and treated us differently than Quebec, Manitoba, virtually all of the other provinces with the exception of Alberta and British Columbia.


The Deputy Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Sampson: It is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak to the economic statement debate because to a large degree it represents the principles and the very reason why I chose to put a career in the financial services industry on hold and enter this rather interesting world of politics.

The economic statement also happens to reflect the principles of the riding that I represent in the city of Mississauga and the way in which that city and that riding have operated financially and fiscally over the last while.

But before I get to the economic statement specifically, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge a few people and give a brief overview of my riding.

The area we now call Mississauga West has a long history of strong representatives. My immediate predecessor, Steve Mahoney, represented this riding both in government and opposition for eight years and worked hard for his constituents. Steve was very helpful in ensuring a smooth transition for the residents of Mississauga West after the June 8 election, and I want to thank Steve for his help and support and for waging a very tough but fair campaign.

Mr Bisson: I didn't like his position on labour stuff.

Mr Sampson: I didn't like his position on labour stuff either.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mr Doug Kennedy, a man whom I respect and whose advice and experience have been invaluable to me in my short career in politics. Mr Kennedy represented the area when the riding was called Peel South, from 1967 to 1985. Throughout the election and in the period I just mentioned and, in going forward, I hope Doug will be around to help me and give me a wealth of knowledge and experience that I can use and I will use. I would like to thank him in this House for his help and his service to Mississaugans.

With the exception of three years, Mr Kennedy's great-uncle, Colonel Thomas L. Kennedy, was the member for Peel from 1919 to 1959. These gentlemen, these Kennedys, have set very high standards indeed but none the less a tradition I am determined to live up to.

Through the time of Colonel Kennedy, Mr Kennedy, Steve Mahoney and myself, Mississauga has changed considerably. It has been transformed from several rural towns to a large, vibrant but viable and, yes, even a debt-free city. Both small and large businesses consider Mississauga a favourable place to do business. While the rest of the province was in recession, Mississauga was doing well, and the question remains why.

Mr Gerretsen: Because of Hazel McCallion.

Mr Sampson: That's right. My friend from Kingston, who once was a mayor and will understand the difficulties of being a mayor, will understand that much to the credit of Mayor Hazel McCallion and city council, the city of Mississauga is indeed debt-free. They have balanced their books and established the city as a place encouraging investment. If only the province had been so lucky.

Many people still consider Mississauga a suburb or bedroom community and, although many residents do work in Toronto, Mississauga has its own thriving business community. I would like to take a few moments to outline just a few examples that have occurred since June 8 of how this business community is indeed thriving.

The benefits of a business-friendly government can already be seen in my riding. Xerox Canada has recently announced expansion plans and adding to its research and development facility, facilities that will deal with research and development activities for Xerox globally. The expansion will create 300 construction jobs and will employ 200 technologists and engineers, in addition to the existing 750 employees.

Xerox is not only the success story in the riding, nor the only company to see the advantages of locating in Mississauga. I recently had the opportunity of attending a Consumers Distributing retail store opening which will create 100 full-time and part-time jobs. This is the expansion of retail in a period where economic progress seems to be flat.

However, Mississauga's business community consists of more than just big business. There is a thriving small business community in all areas of the economy, from the local variety store to the small manufacturer, and they are all looking forward to the changes that I campaigned on in the past election. They're all geared and they're all anxious for us to create a friendly business climate that will help create jobs. That's what employers, employees and the members in this House all want, I believe.

Now let me turn to the economic statement presented by the Minister of Finance the other day. This document represents our government's response to the frustrations of Ontarians. Like a number of Ontarians, I was indeed frustrated with what we were getting out of our government. I felt abandoned by the previous leaders of this province. As a consumer, I felt abandoned and I was concerned that these leaders had no vision of what the future of this province should be. I was fed up with the disregard for the way in which my tax dollars were spent and, frankly, I was concerned that there was no outlook for the businesses that were plagued by the mismanagement of the Ontario economy.

I saw similar frustrations in my day-to-day dealings with clients as I went to work on a daily basis in the financial services sector. I witnessed the accelerated pace of not only the exit of business from Ontario but of foreign investors who, when they came and looked, very quickly left -- chose not to invest in this province.

No one can quarrel with the intention of governments to attempt to manage the gap between those who have and those who don't have or to try to manage the level of economic wellbeing of a people or a province. These, I think, are fundamental principles of what a government should do. However, there are generally two ways in which governments can achieve this.

The first is to tax and then spend on various programs and initiatives primarily focused on the lower-income levels of society. Or governments can borrow and spend on the various programs and initiatives for the lower-income levels of society. Both are attempts, firstly, to improve the overall economic wellness of a province, and that's good, and, secondly, to decrease the spread between those who are well off and those who are less well off, and that's good.

Let's take a look at these two approaches and see how, when they're pursued aggressively and when they're pursued perhaps ideologically, they may go off the rails. Let's take a look at the tax-and-spend which, by the way, can generally explain and describe the approach of the Liberals in the late 1980s.

Between 1985 and 1990, program spending increased 8.8% in 1985-86, 11.9% in 1986-87, 8.8% again in 1987-88, 11.5% in 1988-89 and 7.5% in 1989-90.

Mr Gerretsen: What about inflation?

Mr Sampson: My member over here asks, "What about inflation?" He is correct, inflation was quite strong, but the late 1980s also happened to be a period when there was significant economic growth. In the terminology of the community that I came from, they were called the go-go years, when there was a tremendous amount of economic activity and GDP was at its highest. But in that period the Liberals chose to increase program spending, on average, in the neighbourhood of 10% per annum, each year.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): How much?

Mr Sampson: Ten per cent. Okay, all right, so they were trying to do the spend part of it in a period of economic activity that was perhaps the largest we've seen in Ontario for some time. Let's take a look at how they financed it.

From 1985 to 1990, revenue increases, ie, taxes, were, on average, 10%? No, no, they weren't 10%. Well, they must have been less. No, no, they weren't less either. Would you be surprised if I told you they were in the region of 13.5% each year? In 1985-86, 10.2% increase in revenue, ie, taxes; 1986-87, 13.3% in taxes; 1987-88, 10.1%; 1988-89 -- hold on, this is the big one -- 15% increases. In the last year of the largest economic growth in this province, tax increases.

Mr Gerretsen: And we balanced the budget.

Mr Sampson: My friend from the other side from Kingston asks me whether they balanced the budget in that period. Of course, you balanced the budget. You couldn't help but balance the budget. You jacked up taxes to balance the budget. That's what you did. You spent it like crazy and you jacked up the taxes. He, from Kingston, should know they have the highest tax base in this province. He should know.

Mr Gerretsen: But I was the mayor then.

Mr Sampson: My friend tells me he was the mayor, he had no control over it. I'm not too sure that was the case.

By the way, Ontario achieved somewhat a rather dubious record in that period, because no other province in Canada matched this growth in program expenditure or revenue increases. Again, this was a time when disposable income increased by 6% to 8%, on average, each year between 1985 and 1990.

So what's the big deal? I'm sure my friend from Kingston would say, "Yes, so what's the big deal?" The big deal is that when you jack up taxes, the tax-and-spend pattern has a tendency to scare away investment. Investment yields are eroded because of higher taxes. Investors are scared away. This begins to erode employment levels, which in fact starts to increase the need to spend on program spending. It becomes a cycle, a cycle that you can't get off. In fact, the Liberal government over that period of time started the cycle, sped up the belt and never got off.

This was when we were in what I called the go-go years, when there was absolutely no reason to be doing this, when in fact what the province should have been doing was to save for the rainy days. The rainy days did come, and they came in spades -- to a large degree precipitated by what the Liberals had done in the late 1980s, but they came in spades.

In fact, the Liberal tax-and-spend policy eroded the base earnings of Ontario so much that when the recession finally hit in the 1990s, Ontario's share of Canada's GDP, which is effectively how much we as a country are producing and adding to wealth in this country, fell two percentage points and unemployment moved up sharply, from 6% in 1989 to 11% in the depths of the recession by 1992.

The normal spread of 2% between what Canada's unemployment rate and Ontario's unemployment rate usually are was effectively eroded to zero, which meant that Ontario lost its position as an economic engine of this country. The Liberals did it to us and then they handed the mantle over to the NDP, who chose to take the other way to deal with general economic levels, general social levels and the difference between those who have and those who don't have. What did they do? They spent an average of 12.2% from 1990 to 1994. But they didn't increase the taxes at the same rate; they picked the other route. What was the other route? Borrow.

No, the taxpayer was at the limit. Oh sure, they did jack up taxes 4% from 1990 to 1991, and then basically flat for the remainder, if you average it out. But they didn't flat-growth debt. We know what they did in debt. We all know the economic side of this story. Debt doubled in the last five years. That's $50 billion in 51 months. What? Just under $1 billion in additional debt each month of their rule -- $1 billion in additional debt each month. But the problem with debt financing is not necessarily, by the way, the principal portion of the debt you borrow; it's the cancer of the interest charges, especially when part of what you're borrowing is to pay interest.

Now, we all borrow from time to time to finance the purchase of a home, and we use a product called a mortgage where repayment --

Mr Gerretsen: A mortgage?

Mr Sampson: There was some question here about a mortgage. If the member from the NDP caucus would like to listen, it may be the first time you've heard that concept, but I'm prepared to explain it. Oh, I'm sorry; it was the member from Kingston. I'm not surprised.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Order. Please address the Chair.

Mr Sampson: I'm not surprised the member from Kingston doesn't understand what a mortgage is.

Mr Gerretsen: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I do know what a mortgage is.

The Acting Speaker: Please take your seat.

Mr Sampson: I hit one, I guess, there. We all borrow, from time to time, a mortgage. A mortgage, by the way, is simply an instrument to repay the principal amount over an extended period of time; 20 to 25 years is the norm. Some people can handle less. But if you take a look at a mortgage payment, you'll see that in the first part of the mortgage most of it's interest. Very little money goes to retire the principal amount, and in fact this is the case well into the term of the mortgage, but over time the fixed payment of a mortgage allows you to catch up to the principal amount. You begin to build equity in a home because you significantly start to reduce the principal amount that you borrowed. It's like being on a treadmill, but over time the treadmill slows down.

In Ontario's case, we didn't have the income to pay the interest, so we simply added the interest on to the principal amount each year. By the way, this novel concept got us to the point where the treadmill didn't slow down each year. We weren't able to catch up to the principal amount. The treadmill sped up and, as a result over those five years, while the debt went up double, the interest costs went up more than double. We kept adding it on to the bill.

Interest costs 1990 to 1991, 3.8%; 1994 to 1995, 8.8%. The growth between the two: 211% growth. So instead of building equity in this province, like we do when we gradually repay our mortgage, we continued to borrow from our future and we had to devote more and more of what Ontario produces, this gross domestic product I talked about before, or this GDP, to spend on non-productive interest. Tax-supported debt, by the way, as a percentage of GDP, ie, the total debt that we were borrowing as a percentage of the value of all the goods and services we in Ontario produced, was about 16.4% when the Liberals handed this financial disaster to the NDP. It went, by the way, to 31.6% by the end of 1995. That tells you that of every dollar this province produces in goods and services, 31.6% is going to have to go to pay the principal.


In the few minutes I have left, I want to speak to some of the statements I've heard in this House from members of the opposition that we are borrowing to pay for our growth plan.

When the Liberals and the NDP ran up deficits, they chose not to increase taxes to pay for that expenditure. They gave a tax deferral. They said, "I'm not going to increase your taxes to pay for what I'm spending; I don't want to do that." The NDP didn't have much choice, because we were up against the tax wall, but the Liberals said: "No, I'm not going to increase your taxes this year. I'll borrow. I'll give you a tax break."

They're the ones who financed the deficit on the tax breaks. They're the ones. Both parties did that, NDP and Liberals, because for every dollar that they chose to borrow, they chose not to tax. So it's not our deficit and it's not our tax cuts that you should be barking about; it's yours, your very own tax cuts. You chose not to raise taxes.

Mr Gerretsen: You can't have it both ways.

Mr Sampson: You chose not to raise taxes to pay for what you were spending. We've got to get it back. We're the government that has to get it back. We've got to deal with the fact that you've already given the tax cut. You've already done it to the tune of $11 billion, to the tune of a total of $50 billion between 1990 and 1995, the biggest tax cut in history. You gave it away and the NDP did. There's no question about that, because if you hadn't given away the tax, if you hadn't not taxed, you would have had a balanced budget.

You borrow because you don't want to raise taxes. That's what the borrowing concept is all about. That's why you borrow, because you're not prepared to raise taxes, because you're prepared to give a tax break. So it's not our tax break that we're dealing with here, it's yours, and we've got to find a way now to finance that.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): By giving a bigger one.

Mr Sampson: You gave $50 billion. The member from the NDP caucus says, "By giving a bigger one." You gave a $50-billion tax break to the province of Ontario. You chose not to increase taxes by $50 billion.

On June 8, the voters of Mississauga gave me and our party a mandate to deliver major change in the way that government works, to make government work for them, not the other way around. The voters of Mississauga West voted for real change, change that would bring hope, new jobs and new growth, not only to Mississauga, but to the rest of this province. The people of my riding want a future in this province. I want a future in this province. I believe my children deserve a future in this province, and we could not have that future if we had continued to do what the previous two governments did. It wouldn't have worked. We were on our way down, and I was not prepared to hand that legacy to my son and my daughter and their sons and their daughters. I don't believe any member of this House is prepared to do that.

We laid out a plan to the province of Ontario. The voters said, "I like your plan; now get to work," and we are getting to work.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Listening to the pious musings of the member for Mississauga West has been a phenomenal experience for me. Here we have a government that basically less than a week ago unveiled a document, a financial and economic statement, that talks in essence about survival of the fittest. They're not concerned about the people who are more vulnerable. They just simply want to see who can cut it and make it in this world of ours.

The member speaks of abandonment. I think of the thousands of people who are being abandoned by the economic statement and I think also in terms of the next day, when the government sneaked through the introduction of Bill 26, a bill that encompassed 43 separate acts. It repeals two acts and creates three new ones under one piece of legislation. This is legislation that is for a full session, and we need to discuss this in great detail. It's awful to be living in a time when a government takes pride in taking things away from people and not caring about what really matters to people. It's hurting the students of our province. It's hurting the parents who are trying to get their students through university. There's just a whole variety of things that are happening under the economic statement, followed by this remarkable, frightening bill, Bill 26, that simply cannot be done.

If this government has any respect for the electorate, it simply has to be willing to come back, as we have offered -- and we continue to offer. We will be back here over Christmas. We'll be back here in January and February. There are so many things that need to be discussed. We can't do them all in one fell swoop. I'm telling you, it's the most frightening piece of legislation. The people of my riding have told me that. The people across the province have made that incredibly clear. We need to have the opportunity.

The member talked about being on a treadmill in the past. Well, the treadmill now is a treadmill leading us down the path to disaster and we have to fight as best we can, all of us on all sides of the House, to recognize that this cannot be dealt with by simply pushing something through the House before Christmas. We need more time to discuss this matter.

Mrs Boyd: The last speaker, towards the end of his speech, claimed that in fact this government was doing what it went to the people and promised to do, and of course that's exactly the point.

The people of Ontario did not expect this government to take unto itself the kind of draconian powers that it has assumed under Bill 26 at all. There was never any mention of that. The people of Ontario voted for the Conservatives because they were promised that not one cent would come out of health care under the Conservatives, that there would be no user fees in health care, that classroom education would not be touched and, miraculously, they would get a 30% cut in their taxes.

Mr Bradley: It's zero for four.

Mrs Boyd: Yes, zero for four, as my colleague the member for St Catharines says. But people of Ontario did not believe when they elected this government that they had elected a bunch of people who did not follow the fine Tory tradition in this province of having a democratic legislative process that determined the important issues of the day.

It is true that the people of Ontario, like every member in this House, were concerned about debt and deficit and how that is managed without destroying the economy of a province. But the people of Ontario do not believe that the way you have managed keeps your promises, and that is exactly the issue. Had they known that you were going to take the kind of machete that you've taken to the programs of this province, had they known that you were going to take that machete to health care and raise user fees, as you promised not to do, had they known that you were going to waffle around about whether or not the tax decrease was going to happen, they wouldn't have elected you. So don't tell us in this House or the people of Ontario that they elected what they got.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'd like to congratulate the member for Mississauga West for his comments this evening. I think the gist of his going through the economics of what has been going on for the last number of years really is that we don't have a choice in this province other than what we're doing. Now, the Liberals and the New Democratic parties may say: "Well, we do have a choice. We can remain the same." The Liberals of course during the election pretty well adopted our philosophy in the famous red book; they appeared to adopt it. Now they're saying, "Well, yes, we said there would be cuts, but our cuts are going to be better; our cuts are going to be better than your cuts."

Mr Bradley: Fairer.

Mr Tilson: No, that isn't what you said. Your cuts were going to be better, and I can't agree with you on that.

The fact of the matter is we put forward our policy two years ago, aside from criss-crossing this province, listening to people, indicating the concerns of the people. This isn't new stuff. The people in this province are concerned with the way the economy of this province has gone -- the debt, the interest. It's out of control. There has been absolutely wild spending, as we all know, for the last decade, and the whole purpose of this economic statement and statements in the future is to get rid of the debt, get rid of the interest, so that we can get on with doing real programs in this province that we can afford.


I always like reading Lorrie Goldstein, and he came up with a wonderful gem I'd like to read to the House. This is what he said several days ago with respect to the financial statement:

"To be sure, it's a gamble made inevitable by 10 years of wild and irresponsible spending by successive Liberal and NDP administrations in Ontario, which made all the crocodile tears from lame-duck Liberal leader Lyn McLeod and former NDP Premier Bob Rae yesterday that much harder to take.

"Between them, their parties while in office hiked taxes 65 times, doubled spending, tripled the provincial debt and left us with three times as many people on welfare.

"Their shameful legacy is that Ontario now spends $1 million more than it takes in every hour of every day. Nice goin' guys."

The Acting Speaker: Your time has expired.

Mr Bradley: I'd be happy to complete that column, Mr Speaker, because I read that column with a good deal of interest. Indeed, what he was doing was being critical of the Conservative government. He's very fair. You'll find out that Lorrie Goldstein, though quite right-wing in his views, is always fair. He's not simply a shill for the government. He's a person who will make his criticisms where he feels they are appropriate. I've always admired Lorrie Goldstein, when he was here at Queen's Park and now with the newspaper as a columnist. Even though I disagree with what he says sometimes, I think he's a fairminded person.

I just want to give a little history to some of the people in the House, some of the newer members who seem to be under some misimpressions as a result of the speeches that their research staff are writing. One of them is that the Conservative Party was always for not spending money. I can assure you that virtually every question the Conservative Party directed to me in five years, three months and four days as the Minister of the Environment was one which either asked for more spending from the ministry or had spending implications. The same could be said for virtually every other minister of the government of those days. They kept asking for those expenditures because they were expansionary times and there was a need for some of the programs to be developed.

I understood that and I recall being disappointed that I could not fulfil the wishes of many of the Conservative members who said: "Would you please spend more money? Would you please develop a new program? Would you please initiate this project? Would you build Highway 416? Would you build these new hospitals?" I understood that, and the Premier, who was a member of the government which never had anything other than the deficit from 1971 to 1985 -- it was a government that wanted to buy a new airplane for the cabinet and that bought a new oil company for the province of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired.

Mr Sampson: The member for St Catharines is quite clear. I think to a large degree this is a new business for me, but I'm told that to a large degree one of the things you've got to try to do is to make sure that the environment for your constituents is better than when you started; so when you leave, you'd better make sure it's better than when you started. So I can understand why there might have been a row of people one after another at your door, and I'm sure the Liberals were there knocking at the door of the NDP.

The difference, I guess, between the way in which our government operates and the way in which yours did is that we've learned a two-letter word: no. We're prepared to say no. It's a tough word to say sometimes, but we're prepared to say no. We're prepared to say no to mortgaging the future of this province any more. We're prepared to say no to spending money we don't have and we never had. We're prepared to say no to allowing interest costs to potentially destroy our ability to pay for any social services. We're prepared to say no so that in the future we can say yes.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate.

Mr Gerretsen: I am very pleased to join this debate and to first of all say to my friend the member for Mississauga West that the one thing he didn't mention in his speech is the fact that he's from a very prominent and well-thought-of family in Kingston. I certainly think highly of all the family members who are still in Kingston.

It was interesting when he reviewed the financial figures and all the different data about who is responsible for what. I had determined to myself, some time ago, that I wasn't going to get involved in that game, but when I hear all these comments about the 10 lost years, which the Premier, who's now in the House -- we welcome you, sir -- has stated over the last two or three months, I can't help but at least make some comment to it. We've got to remember that when unemployment rates are high, when inflation rates are high, then obviously the public purse and the expenditure of same are going to be higher as well. It stands to reason.

The point still is that from 1971, when Bill Davis took over in this province, he did not have one -- not one -- balanced budget in those 14 years. As a matter of fact, during the years 1981-85, as I've indicated before in this House today, the debt of the province rose by about $13 billion to $14 billion, or an average of $2.7 billion per year. During the Liberal five years after that, it rose by an average of $2 billion per year, and we all know that during the NDP years it rose at a rate of $10 billion per year.

That's bad for all of those governments -- all of them. I'm not excluding any one of them. They should have done better, because I too find it totally unacceptable that right now in this province we spend $1 out of every $6, and probably more so today, on paying the interest on the public debt. That is unacceptable, because that money could be better off in people's pockets, could be better off on programs, could be a heck of a lot better off than paying it on interest costs.

I don't know how many of you have actually looked at the corporate tax situation in the province and how that has changed over the last number of years -- I haven't got the exact year here -- but not too long ago about 17% of all of the provincial revenues were raised by way of corporate taxes; currently, it's about 6%. Of course, we have the same problem federally, quite frankly. The amount that's been paid by corporations in this country into the public purse of either the provinces or the federal government has declined dramatically over the last number of years. I think that's where one of the problems lay.

The other issue, of course, is this whole notion of giving people an income tax cut when we're still as much in debt as we are in this province. I've said throughout the campaign, and I know I did not agree entirely with my party's position on this, that we shouldn't be giving anybody a tax cut until we've got the books balanced in this province, until we don't have a deficit any longer.


Mr Gerretsen: I hear my friend across the room snickering about that. We talked about a 1% annual tax cut for five years, which I think my colleague will agree is quite a bit different than talking about a 30% tax cut.

Mr Hastings: You don't believe in any tax cut.

Mr Gerretsen: I personally don't believe in any cut, and I think that is the wisest and most prudent position to take: No tax cuts for anybody until such time as we have the deficit under control and reduced to zero in this province.

I know that over the last couple of days an awful lot has been said in the House with respect to the broken promises. I would just like to repeat that one more time. I know that the Premier and the other members of his team campaigned on the strength of this document, and I know that only one particular line has been used out of it with respect to the health care costs. That's the line that simply states, "We will not cut health care spending." It goes a little bit further, though. It also states, on page 7 of the CSR: "It's far too important. And frankly, as we all get older, we are going to need it more and more. "Under this plan, health care spending will be guaranteed."


I don't care how you cut the cake, whether it was $17.4 billion when the pledge was made or whether it was $17.8 billion when they actually took over in government. To now suggest to the people of Ontario, "Well, yes, we're going to get to our $17.4-billion bench line again in the year 1999 or 2000, but in the meantime we're going to take some moneys out, like we're going to take $1.3 billion out of the hospital budgets for the next three years," simply is not saying the same thing. If you are really going to reinvest it, why don't you take this money and set it aside in a separate reserve account in order to utilize that money for the restructuring that's obviously going to have to take place?

I'm as much of a realist as anyone and truly believe that we need to restructure our system, whether we're talking about our health care system, whether we're talking about our educational system or whether we're talking about the way our municipalities carry on. We're in an ever-evolving society, and obviously the kinds of institutions and the kinds of mechanisms that we've had in the past are always, constantly subject to change, especially as we head into the 21st century.

It's very interesting, whenever a question was asked of the Minister of Health and various other cabinet members specifically on the "no cut to health care" policy that's contained in the CSR, the comment always came back, "You know, we're taking that money and doing restructuring with it." We were never given a complete answer until we got the financial statement, and then of course we realized, as did other Ontarians, that in effect $1.5 billion, if you take the cutback in the drug funds into account, will be taken out of the system.

It reminds me of something that somebody told me during the campaign, somebody who claimed to be non-partisan but who said to me only one thing about the health care situation. That person basically said, "You cannot trust the Tories when it comes to health care." I've often thought about that as the debate has unfolded over the last two months. You simply cannot trust the Tories when it comes to our health care.

The second document that I just want to talk about very briefly is Bill 26. As many of you know, I've spent most of my public career in the municipal area, for 16 years. I know there are many other people here as well in the House who, at one time or another, have served in municipal government, served on school boards. We've all tried to serve our communities in one way or another. I don't know how many members on the government side have actually taken a look at this document and read it word for word. Think back to your municipal years, whether or not you would try to do anything like this at the municipal level without some form of public consultation, without some form of public hearing or public meeting. I think if you look down in your deepest heart of hearts, you'll agree that you would never try to do anything like this at all at the local level.

I've heard in this House on a number of occasions, "We consulted on June 8." That is probably one of the biggest fallacies that I've heard in the House over the last three months. We all realize that we all stood for election, all for different parties. We all brought different programs forward, different proposals. To suggest that the 82 constituencies that elected you people, the government people, that those people somehow got it right and that they somehow endorsed each and every promise that you made in your document and that the other 48 ridings got it wrong I think is totally ludicrous.

Yes, it's quite obvious that the people of this province decided to go in a particular direction. I give you full credit for that and I realize that sooner or later, whatever your plans are for particular areas, you're going to get your way. But you know, there's another side to public consultation and the public process, not just the notion that it may delay the actual passing of this legislation by a month or two or three. The other side of it is that all of you, particularly those of you who have been involved in municipal government and school boards, know that quite often you learn something from the public process. There are actually people with ideas out there that are different than your own, and you may actually learn something from them, something you hadn't thought about as yet.

If you're saying that's simply not so, that this bill's got everything you could possibly think of, then just think back to Bill 7, the labour law. Do you remember the charade that took place in this House when it was referred to the committee of the whole, when 60 of your own amendments were introduced? None of the amendments came from either our party or the third party; they all came from your side, presumably because of erroneous drafting of the documentation. It took the Deputy Speaker -- and I timed him -- an hour and 20 minutes to mumble all the amendments while he was acting as Chair of the committee of the whole.

The other thing that was very curious about that situation is that none of us, other than the two critics, was provided with any of the amendments until about an hour or so before the hearings -- none of us. There were three people here who had seen the amendments: presumably your own House leader -- maybe the cabinet to some extent -- and the two opposition House leaders. You know as well as I do that you would never have allowed anything like that to happen at the local level; you simply wouldn't. That whole process was totally flawed, which could have been overcome by perhaps public hearings, some further public debate.

We had a briefing on this document, to some extent, earlier today. I don't think the general public out there realizes the extent to which some of the changes in this omnibus bill actually go. I'll just deal right now with the area of municipal affairs. It says, for example, under part I, the Municipal Act, schedule M, in section 1: "The minister is given the power to make regulations restructuring municipalities. Upon receiving a proposal from a municipality..., the minister shall make regulations implementing the proposal if the proposal meets the requirements set out in the section." Then it goes through a number of different ways in which a restructuring takes place.

The other thing that it says is that the minister may appoint a commission to look into it. Once the commission is formed and the question has been formulated that the commission should take a look at, then the commission can make a final decision with respect to the matter that's brought before the commission, without any power of review from anybody -- neither the minister, the cabinet, nor anyone else. I would suggest to you that this is giving an awful lot of power to a so-called independent commission that the minister may set up.

Just dealing with the whole area of municipal affairs, I also think it's very interesting that the minister and the Premier went before AMO this year and basically told the people, all of the municipal leaders who were there, "We're going to cut your taxes by around 20%." Of course, what's really happened is that they have been cut by over 57%. You can say it isn't so, but let me just tell you why.

Currently what's being spent, and this is according to the ministry's own documentation, by the way, that was provided by way of a fact sheet and a schedule -- in the past year $1.3 billion has been spent on the programs which now constitute the new program, the Ontario municipal support program. In your document you state, "All right, next year, we're going to lower that to $997 million," which is about a 30% cut.


What's very interesting about that is that $100 million of that has already been spoken for. I don't know how many of you saw this schedule. If you tell your municipal friends, "This year you're going to divide $997 million," you've got to take $100 million off that -- this is from your own document -- because here it states $100 million of it is transition funds for existing program commitments and for projects of provincial interest. So don't tell your municipal friends that there's a 20% or a 22% cut this year in the municipal grants that they're getting; it is 32%, and next year it's going to be cut by a further $70 million.

In the text of this book where it states in effect, "We're going to give you $735 million next year," $70 million of that has already been committed to projects of provincial interest; so there's only $665 million to be divided among the rest of the municipalities. In actual fact, the grants that you're taking away from municipalities have been cut not by twice 20%, or 43% if you put them together, but by closer to 57%.

Check that one out, because this document came from the ministry office itself. Of course the other thing that's very interesting is that in the economic statement it talks about the fact that really the province is only cutting 2% of the total amount of money that is being expended by all municipalities, which is something in the neighbourhood of $16.5 billion. In actual fact of course, it's closer to the 50% out of the share that the province is providing. I think it's a little bit fallacious to say, "Now we're also going to put into that equation what the municipalities raise themselves through taxation and through user fees etc."

Then we have the statement that the government believes that by using the tools and flexibility for which municipalities have asked they can adjust to these reductions by restructuring their operations and without increasing local taxes. This is the traditional downloading model. "We're taking up to 50% of the grants that we used to give to municipalities away. But, municipalities, you'd better not increase taxes." As I say, it's very easy for you to say.

The other thing that has occurred in the House, and a number of questions have been asked of the Minister of Municipal Affairs, is, "Are you going to cut this program or that program?" The answer that has always come back is, "We're going to give the municipalities more autonomy." That's great. They've been asking for greater autonomy for years. I can remember when I was involved with AMO, year after year after year, they wanted more autonomy.

But please do not equate the giving of autonomy with the fact that you're cutting off half their grants over the next two years. The two topics are completely separate and apart. Smart political move, I'll grant you. It's a smart political move to give to municipalities greater autonomy and to say, "But we're also cutting the grants that we're giving to you in half."

But I'll tell you, once the municipalities start doing their budgeting and they start realizing how much money they have to raise, we may hear some other comments from them. Back in January and February, in the case of my own municipality, the city of Kingston, for example, we're talking about $3 million, and if nothing else was done, they'd have to increase their taxes by something like 7% or 8%.


Mr Gerretsen: I'm glad I'm waking the members up again. I hope you enjoyed your siesta.

The other one is, "We want to be in partnership with the municipalities." That's always a good one. I used to hear it for years and years. Every AMO conference you went to, every minister -- Tory, Liberal, NDP minister -- they all said, "We want to be real partners with you." The argument always used to be, "If you want to be real partners with us, give us greater autonomy." You've got the autonomy now, but don't look for their money, okay?

I'm not sure whether they want the kind of autonomy that you're giving them without -- because the argument always used to be, "Give us greater autonomy but also give us the resources to do the kind of things that are required by municipalities to do."

Mr Hastings: Which means more tax increases.

Mr Gerretsen: There may very well be tax increases. Look, either one of two things, and maybe you could tell the Minister of Municipal Affairs this, the answer is very easy. If you're cutting their grants and you don't want them to raise taxes, only two things can happen: They can have user fees, but I assume that that is included in not wanting to raise taxes, or they can spend less and you're going to take programs away. We've all heard the minister's answer to that: "Well, they can be more efficient."

I have a great belief in our local municipalities and I believe that many, if not most, of the local municipalities, started the process towards greater efficiency and better use of their funding well before any of the senior levels of government. For you as a government to start patronizing the local municipalities by saying, "You could use your money a little bit more effectively" or "You could do the things that you're doing a little bit more efficiently," I think that's exactly what it is, patronizing, and it's not very beneficial.

Let me just make a couple of comments with respect to a couple of editorials that appeared in -- I believe it's a well-known paper -- the Kingston Whig-Standard.

Mr Sampson: What?

Mr Gerretsen: Yes, you've heard of the Kingston Whig-Standard -- we all have -- a paper that has won many awards over the years.

On one page, they have two editorials, and I'll just relate a bit of those. Those editorials were written on Saturday, December 2. One of them is called "Stop the Tory Compact." It states:

"Dictatorship by Premier Mike Harris's cabinet does not make common sense. Yet rule by cabinet decree, without public debate in the Legislature, is the disgraceful purpose of the Tories' Savings and Restructuring Act, 1995.

"Never heard of it? Neither did most MPPs who were in the mini-budget lockup on Wednesday while Harris's Tories sneaked the omnibus bill through first reading. And they insulted democracy by making no provision for public hearings and by limiting legislative debate to three days....

"Massive change requires maximum openness in government. Ontario's autocratic Family Compact of the 1800s should not be replaced by the new Tory compact in the Harris cabinet."

I might say this paper is a good paper and it hasn't always been my supporter by any means, but that's their view.

The other view that they have on the same page is, "Say No Thanks to Income Tax Cuts." "Here's a deal you can't refuse: Mike Harris wants to cut your provincial income taxes by 30% over the next few years." Then it goes through the whole thing: how many dollars people will save at different salary levels etc.

But it ends up by saying:

"Let us forgo the tax break. That would stop, or at least reduce, the all-out assault on civil servants and the services they provide" to needy people. "Those people are certain to churn their incomes back into the economy. And without having to offer tax breaks, the government will arrive more quickly at its deficit-cutting goal."

That's the point that I'm trying to make to you backbenchers. "By accepting the tax relief, too many of our friends and neighbours will be hurt," and that's the bottom line.


I just want to say one other thing about a very pious sort of statement that is contained on page 23 of the economic statement, and it deals with encouraging volunteerism. You would think that this is something that has been dreamt up since June 8, since you people came to power, and that now all of a sudden we're going to turn Ontario into a great society of hundreds of volunteers doing beneficial work in their communities.

Let me tell you something. From having been involved in municipal government and in many other activities in my community, there already are thousands upon thousands of people across this province who are involved in volunteer work and --


Mr Gerretsen: I'm sure the same thing can be said about your ridings as well, because I'm convinced that this province and this country would not be the great country that it is or that it has been if it were not for the hundreds and thousands of volunteers that are involved in health activities, that are involved in community service-related activities, in numerous activities.

To suggest all of a sudden that you're going to start something new by encouraging volunteerism is absolutely absurd. Talk to some of these organizations. In order for volunteers to work effectively and efficiently, especially if it's done in a larger way where you've got numerous volunteers involved in a particular community activity, they need direction. They don't just all of a sudden show up one day and say, "Here, I'm ready to volunteer."

But what you have done with the cuts that were imposed this past summer is that in many of the social service agencies that are serving each one of our communities you've in effect cut out that one community coordinator who is required for a particular volunteer organization and who coordinates the activities of the volunteers.

Now you can shake your head and say it isn't so, but go and talk to these people. I know that in Kingston and The Islands there have been at least 39 positions cut in situations where people acted as coordinators of particular volunteer programs. It doesn't happen by osmosis.

Mr Wettlaufer: Paid coordinators.

Mr Gerretsen: Paid coordinators of course, because if you want to effectively utilize dozens of volunteers in a particular area, quite often you do need one or two paid individuals to actually organize it on a full-time basis.

Mr Wettlaufer: And unpaid volunteers can't do the job.

Mr Gerretsen: Sure, a volunteer could do the job.

Mr Speaker, I see that my time is almost finished, but let me just --


Mr Gerretsen: I know that you enjoyed this just about as much as I enjoyed giving it to you, but let me just finish off by saying something about the attitude of this government.

You've set up a snitch line, Minister, where people who are fraudulent with respect to welfare can be reported, and I totally agree with that, and I'm not sure that everybody in my community agrees with that. But to be fair, why don't you as a government also set up a snitch line for those people who are part of the underground economy and aren't paying any taxes at all? What's good for one is good for the other.

The Acting Speaker: Your time has expired. Questions and comments.

Mr Bisson: I want to commend the member on his speech here in the House in regard to some of the effects. I notice that he limited his comments to what's happening in the municipal sector. I want to tell you, Mr Speaker, as I'd like to tell members of this House and people out there who are watching, that I had the opportunity on Friday to phone a number of municipalities around northern Ontario in order to try to find out exactly what all of these cuts to the municipalities mean.

Especially to smaller communities that don't have the industrial tax base in order to be able to deal with the massive cuts of up to 45% that you're making in their transfer payments, it's going to mean that either they're going to have to increase taxes, and quite frankly they don't have a lot of room to do that, or they're going to have to reduce services entirely. The problem with that is that in fact you're going to be jeopardizing a number of communities in northern Ontario, as across the province of Ontario, when it comes to being able to provide safe and secure communities for the people who live within them.

One of the things we've always prided ourselves on in this province, as we have in this country, is our ability to offer to the people out there wanting to invest safe communities that have a strong infrastructure, that have a system of services there to be able to support the private sector to come into our communities across Ontario and invest and create jobs and provide work for the citizens of our province.

What a lot of people are telling me in the municipalities, the administrators and the mayors whom I spoke to, they said in the short term that's not the concern. But over a period of five, six or 10 years, as the effects of these cuts come into place, it will jeopardize, quite frankly, our communities across this province, make them a lot more dangerous for people to live within from a security perspective of having less policing and higher unemployment, with more people out there who would despair; the second point being that municipalities will have to let go entire systems of infrastructure -- our roads, our sewers etc -- which will put at risk, quite frankly, the economic recovery that this government is looking at.

I urge this government to reconsider and to try to really do some reforming of the system rather than doing slashing and burning, as it's doing.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

Mr Bradley: Is this Ed Philip?

Mr Hastings: No. I don't know who that gentleman was.

It's rather refreshing to hear some insightful comments for a change from my friend the member for Kingston and The Islands. At least he has a realistic grasp of some of the things facing us, but I must redirect him to think about the whole consultation issue. He says we never consult with anybody. This is a growing mythology going on on the other side from members opposite. We are consulting with people. Simply because we're not holding large public hearings, teleconferencing, spending piles of money, we are still consulting.

How? We're consulting through the parliamentary assistants, through the ministers, through all the interest groups that continually approach us on an individual basis and on a cabinet basis.

This morning I had the opportunity to go with my colleague the member for Halton Centre, Mr Young, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education and Training. We spoke to the people at Humber College regarding the reductions in expenditures for community colleges and how they're going to handle it. We talked to the students and how they know the pressures we're facing and that they're having as well. So to keep repeating the point that there's no consultation going on is completely erroneous and misleading, completely inadequately talking about what the problem is, the major fiscal debt facing this province.

The municipalities, the hospital sector, the social agencies are well ahead of you folks across the way in terms of trying to deal with the budgetary problems. They have made their budget cuts on a 10%, 15%, 20%, 30% basis last summer, well ahead of all of you in that regard.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I would like to congratulate my colleague the member for Kingston and The Islands. I thought it was an excellent speech and, as identified by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, it was insightful and it did provide some detail that one seldom hears. Indeed, it's good to see some good debate and the concept of, what do we mean when we talk about consultation?

Our colleague the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale says there is a form of consultation. Well, now we're into it; now we're talking about, what do we mean? What do the people of Ontario expect in terms of a form of consultation? I think what they mean is they would like to know, not be involved in post-consultation after the decision has been made and the door is closed, which is what will happen with Bill 26, which is irrevocably linked to the economic statement, which of course was not a budget. It was simply, "Here's where the cuts will take place with our transfer partners."


Like the member for Kingston and The Islands and I'm sure a number of other members, I had some consultations with people, anybody who was interested, from a municipality, from a university, from a hospital, any particular group that was affected: What are the impacts of this? I must tell you that people are scared. Everybody agrees we have to address the deficit; everybody agrees. But there was one point that the member for Kingston and The Islands did make which I thought was very important and I think my colleagues opposite me will agree: that there is a difference between saying, "You have more authority or flexibility to deal with sharing and how we are more frugal and how we operate government at whatever level," and confusing cuts with authority.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I just wanted for a couple of seconds, for the two minutes that I have here, to talk a bit about the assumptions that are being made and that the member spoke about just a few minutes ago. There are a lot of assumptions being made by the government re the statement that it presented on Wednesday and the omnibus bill that is attendant to that, but one of them is that somehow the province is not doing well financially, that there's an economic depression-recession of sorts happening.

I was listening to the CBC the other morning on my way home from this place and an economist there from Laurentian University was talking about how in fact the economy of Ontario is not doing badly. As a matter of fact, if you look at the statistics that are coming out these days, and they come out every quarter, most of the large corporations are generating quite handsome and significant profits. The problem is that the profit being generated by the corporations is not working its way down into the system so that we can continue to provide the services and supports that people need and to create the jobs that we all want to create out there for the constituents that we represent.

So in fact we do not have the crises we are being told we have, and because of that, we don't have to do the very damaging things that are laid out in the financial statement that we're speaking about here tonight. If the government weren't so committed to giving to the working people, the wealthy in the province, the tax break that they're talking about --

Mr Wettlaufer: And the working people.

Mr Martin: Yes, the working people too, that's right. The working people don't want it. They're talking about it more and more now as blood money. They don't want the blood money. They want the services that money represents to them and to everybody else in the community.

Mr Gerretsen: I guess, to the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, he and I will never agree as to what proper consultation is. The public consultation process, for example, could take place within the committees that we formed. Remember the committees that all of us are on, at least one or two? That's what they're there for, so that we can conduct public hearings into a lot of these areas. We on this side have been cut out of that system because the committees have only just recently been struck, and so have you.

You know, this whole notion that you have all the truth sitting within those 20 individuals and all of their henchmen who sit behind them in their different departmental offices is totally erroneous. They're all well-meaning people. All the cabinet ministers mean well and all of the people who work for them mean well, but they are not the fountain of all truth with respect to these matters. That's why you consult, to find out how you can make a law, that you've got every right to pass because eventually you're going to get your way, better. That's the whole process behind it.

The other very interesting thing is that in this fiscal and economic statement, I don't know how many of you noticed this, but they spend about 40 pages dealing with the fiscal outlook, but there isn't one projection in there with respect to revenues. The only really distressing thing is the fact that in the Common Sense Revolution you talked about creating 145,000 jobs per year over the next five years. In this document, all of a sudden, you've toned that down to 81,000 for next year and 100,000 for the year after that. You are going to be in a serious financial revenue shortfall situation.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate. The member for Sudbury East.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I want to begin by saying that I am pleased to participate in the debate this evening because I have been looking forward to the opportunity to clearly get on the record what the focus of this Conservative government is. It is very clear from the slash and burn policy that we saw exhibited on Wednesday that the government is interested in only, firstly, cutting essential services like health care, like education, like social services, cutting thousands and thousands of jobs that are attached to all of those social services and services like health care and education, because all of those people who deliver those services are going out the door.

Why are we doing this?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Because you guys spent us into oblivion.

Ms Martel: Why is the government engaged in this slash and burn policy? The answer is very simple: Because the priority for this Conservative government is to give a big tax break to the rich and famous in Ontario --

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): That's what it's about.

Ms Martel: -- a big tax break to the people who already have the most in Ontario --

Mr Marchese: And they're not going to spend it.

Ms Martel: -- a big tax break to the people in the province --

The Acting Speaker: Order. There's too much noise.

Ms Martel: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I know they don't want to hear about the big tax break going to the rich and famous, so let me continue along that same line.

The priority is a tax break to those people who have the most, who are going to take that tax break and hide it in RRSPs or buy condos offshore, who are not interested for one moment in some kind of trickle-down effect which is supposed to create jobs in the province of Ontario. The fact is that Reagan tried to do the same thing in 1980 in the United States, big tax break to the rich and famous because all of that money was going to trickle down. Thousands and thousands of new jobs were going to be created in the economy.

What happened? The gap between rich and poor grew, the deficit grew, public services were slashed and burned and the unemployment rate rose in the United States. That's the same kind of philosophy and the same agenda that Premier Mike Harris would want to transplant from the US to here. The fact is, it didn't work in the States and it ain't going to work here.

By the time we finish, five years from now, we will see in this province thousands and thousands of people who will have lost their jobs because of the cuts, thousands of public services that are very important to people in the province being lost and the rich and famous with even more money in the province of Ontario to hide in RRSPs and to hide offshore. I think that is a shameful priority for this government. They should be ashamed.

The way that I want to talk about these cuts is to focus on two things: First, I want to talk about the litany of broken promises that the government has engaged in. I want to talk about the Common Sense Revolution, because of course this government, which is obsessed by the Common Sense Revolution, which has seen this as its bible, has come in and had all of these kinds of cuts in order to comply with what's in that document. I'm going to show tonight how many of those promises have been broken and where.

The other thing I want to focus on is the particular hit for my special part of the province, that is, northern Ontario, because the fact of the matter is, the minister who should be responsible for protecting northern Ontario, the minister who should have been standing up to his colleagues to say the cuts in health care, the cuts in education will have a much more serious impact in northern Ontario and we have to think about that, was hiding when these cuts were made. I don't know where he was, but he certainly wasn't around the cabinet table trying to protect the special interests of the people from the part of the world that I'm here to represent.


Finally, if I do have time, I want to comment a little about the omnibus bill, because I have had the opportunity to work with the government House leader, and frankly I am appalled at what he is engaged in, because it is quite contrary -- quite contrary -- to everything he stood for when he was on this side of the House and when I worked with him when I was the government House leader.

But let me talk about the litany of broken promises by this government that came to fruition on Wednesday. In fact, they came to fruition before Wednesday, because in the first round of cuts in July, we saw a number of promises that this group campaigned on, that the Tory candidate in my riding campaigned on, to be broken.

Let's deal with health care first. In the Common Sense Revolution it was clear. The Tories said, "We will not cut health care spending." "We will not cut health care spending." The candidate in Sudbury East went to a number of public forums, a number of election forums, and said very clearly to the people who were in the room: "We will not cut health care spending. A Mike Harris government will not cut spending this year, will not cut health care spending next year, will not cut health care spending in the year after that." He made it very clear to the people who were coming out to listen that this government was going to maintain health care spending at the same level that we have in 1995.

He did not go out and say to the people: "Oh, we will maintain health care spending. We will bring it back up to the level that it was at in 1995 in the year 2000 when we head into the next election." That's not what he said to people. He was very clear at the all-candidates' forums: "We will maintain health care spending this year, next year and the year after."

Do you know what, Mr Speaker? I think that's why a number of people voted for him, because it is true, people in Ontario are very concerned about health care. It is a priority for people in the province of Ontario. They want their health care spending to be maintained, they want spending for hospitals to be maintained, and I have no doubt that a number of people who were in that room that night, a number of people who read the leaflet from the Conservative Party candidate, believed him when he said that a Mike Harris government would not touch health care spending.

And what has happened? Well, in July we saw the first of the cuts to the health care budget, $132 million worth of cuts in July by the Minister of Finance. Then we saw most recently, last Wednesday, another massive cut to health care spending, the same budget that the Tories promised not to cut, and the magnitude of that cut is about $1.3 billion to hospitals over the next three years, an 18% cut to hospitals across this province over the next three years.

What happened to the promise? What happened to the Tory candidate in my riding who went out and knocked on people's doors and said, "The Mike Harris government will not cut health care funding"? Mr Speaker, who lied to whom?

So we are in this chamber today, and we are dealing with a very significant broken promise, one of the reasons that people in this province voted for this government, because they believed. They believed Mike Harris in the Common Sense Revolution and on the campaign trail when he said he would protect health care funding, and they have been let down by this government.

In Sudbury alone, Mr Speaker, just so you understand the magnitude of the cuts, $28 million will be taken out of a $160-million total budget for all of the three hospitals combined -- $28 million -- and all of those hospitals, in responding to the cuts, made it very clear that if left on their own to deal with it, their hospital was at risk and would probably be closed. That's the consequence of the first of several broken promises that was reinforced in the announcement that was made by the Finance minister on Wednesday.

Let me go back to user fees. Health care's important; I want to focus on this again.

The Tories said in the Common Sense Revolution, "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees." In fact Mike Harris, in this House, had made it clear that a copayment was a user fee. And he went out and this group went out and campaigned very clearly on a specific promise that there would not be user fees. The Tory candidate in my riding made it very clear, when talking to the seniors, that they would not be affected by a user fee, that under the Ontario drug benefit plan they would not have to pay a copayment. They would not have to pay for their medication, and I have no doubt that in my riding, and a number of other ridings of members in this chamber, many seniors voted for the Tories because of that.

They believed this government. They believed Tory candidates who were out on the hustings making these promises. I have no doubt about it, because seniors in this province, especially those on low incomes, and many are, because many do not have indexed pensions, are very concerned about the cost of medication and took the government for its word and took Tory candidates for their word when they came to the door and said there would be no new user fees.

And, lo and behold, what do we have in the statement on Wednesday? Here we were. I thought that Mike Harris would never, ever introduce user fees in the province, and what do we see? That in fact on Wednesday the government introduced copayments, or user fees, to the Ontario drug benefit plan. Seniors on low income; social assistance recipients, who have already been attacked by this government with the cuts to payments; disabled people, who this government promised to protect during the election as well: All of those fine people can now expect a $2 fee on every prescription. Some who earn a little bit more, if you're a single person and you make over $16,000, you can also now pay for the dispensing fee and a $100 deductible. These are the people who went out on the doorstep, who were at all-candidates meetings, who made it very clear that the Mike Harris government would not do these kinds of things. Mr Speaker, who lied to whom?

Now, let me talk about classroom funding, because the Common Sense Revolution says the following, and I want to quote so there will be no misunderstanding, "Classroom funding for education will" not be cut. Will not be cut. I know the Tory candidate in my riding went to one of the forums that the teachers held and made it very clear to them -- made it very clear to them and the concerned parents who came out to that meeting -- that in fact education would not be cut, and I suspect some of those people probably voted for the Conservative candidate based on that promise.

And what do we see in the financial statement but in fact a cut of some 9%, or $400 million, from school boards across the province. In northern Ontario, we're looking at about 186,000 students who will no doubt be crowded into even bigger classrooms, and a number of northern boards, 74 in total, that are now facing the prospect either of cutting services even more and not delivering the education services that students need or in fact having huge tax increases at the local level to pay.

You don't have to take my word for it, Mr Speaker. I want to tell you what the chairs of the two boards said up in Sudbury. The vice-chair of the Sudbury Board of Education said:

"Ontario Finance minister Ernie Eves is misguided and sadly mistaken in his musings that school boards can absorb millions of dollars in lost revenue while avoiding tax increases and not compromising in-class programs.

"In fact, the opposite is more likely to occur.

"`I don't think it's realistic,'" Vicki Kett said.

"`It's going to be incredibly difficult' to absorb funding cuts, Kett said. `It's a whopping amount of money.'"

The Catholic school board chair, Louis DeLonghi, said the following: "He `can't see how we can avoid (a tax increase in 1996), if we're going to offer the programs that everyone wants, when you're looking at a 10% cut.'"

He said, "`One of the province's commitments is that none of the cuts would touch the classroom, but I don't know if that can be realistically done.'"

Well, of course, it can't, because cuts of that magnitude, especially to northern boards, will make it impossible for them to continue without going back into the classroom and without having to cut.

What did this government say to municipalities? This government said in the Common Sense Revolution, and out on the doorstep, "We will work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions we take will not result in increases to local property taxes."

Based on a projection of a 20% revenue cut, which the regional municipality of Sudbury took to heart when Minister Leach was at AMO earlier, the regional municipality of Sudbury looked at what a 20% cut would mean. At the local level, it means a 12% increase in municipal taxes this year -- 12%, to try and continue to deliver the services that people in our community want and need. At the city level, it's not quite as high, but I think what's most interesting are the comments that came from the mayor of the city of Sudbury, one Jim Gordon.


Now, I don't know how many of the Tories in this chamber know who Jim Gordon is, but maybe I'll remind all of them. Jim Gordon was a former Progressive Conservative MPP, from 1981-87. He was also the Minister of Government Services at that time. Let me tell you what Jim Gordon, card-carrying Tory member, said about this government's cuts:

"Gordon said regional councillors will have to brainstorm to avoid being as `medieval' as Mike Harris's Progressive Conservative government.

"The mayor said an increase in existing user fees and the addition of new ones will have to be part of the city's approach."

He said, "The balance between a `blood-letting' and cutting deeply enough to maintain a tax freeze...will be difficult."

He also told people locally, "`This year you've got to act like Scrooge.'" I think I'm going to send him one of those Christmas cards that we've got, which amply reflects what's going on in this place.

But I think the most important thing is his comment on the philosophy, that is, the philosophy of having to have a tax cut and of framing every action of this government around the tax cut:

"Gordon said he `would have no problem at all' forgoing the tax break if it meant Ontarians didn't have to pay through the nose to support the Tory `philosophy.'"

This is a former cabinet minister, a former Tory cabinet minister, card-carrying.

He also said that the plan that the government has "just doesn't wash with me because there's too much pain in 1996 and 1997."

This is the same Jim Gordon that rumour had it went down to meet with the Premier at the Tory fund-raising dinner that occurred in Sudbury two weeks ago. He paid $150 a plate to go and have access to Mike Harris, no doubt to talk to him about his concerns around the cut. He's a card-carrying Tory, and this is what he had to say: that the philosophy of this government, which is solely to have a slash-and-burn approach with respect to services and jobs, is wrong, it's dead wrong, and that philosophy ought to be changed. That's from someone who used to be a big supporter of this party. Maybe he still is. I haven't had a chance to talk to him lately. But certainly he is very concerned and has made it clear that he sees that the only reason we are in this position is because this government is so intent on giving a tax break to the rich and famous.

I want to talk a little bit about the particular effects of the cuts in northern Ontario, because as someone who is really concerned about the long distances we have to travel in the north and the services that we have in northern Ontario and how we're going to maintain them, I am really concerned that the Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development and Mines was nowhere to be seen when it came to protecting our special part of the province with respect to these cuts.

I want to frame my comments in this way. In Sudbury, in August, the minister came and spoke to members of the Rotary Club, and he said that he wanted "to re-establish the ministry's credibility and power." He also said that it was his role and his desire to "gain a heightened profile" in the new government for the ministry.

I can certainly say that the minister did just that in terms of the cuts, but it is not a heightened profile that I, for one, as a former Minister of Northern Development and Mines, would be terribly proud of, because the fact of the matter is, separate and apart from the targeted cuts that this minister experienced in his ministry, he wasn't there to defend small rural northern municipalities -- small municipalities that are trying to hang on to their hospitals, small boards in northern Ontario that are going to lose schools -- and he should have been there protecting the interests of northern Ontario.

That's his job. That's his role in cabinet, and what you're going to see in northern Ontario with respect to the general cuts that this Finance minister announced is a number of small northern municipalities that are on the edge now that have just been pushed over the edge by this government, because they have neither the people base nor the tax base to deal with a 43% decrease in municipal funds, in municipal grants from this government.

You are also going to see a number of small northern municipalities that have a small hospital that are going to have to shut those hospitals down. People in the part of the province where I come from are going to have to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles just to access medically necessary services. That is inappropriate, and this minister should have been standing in his place defending northern Ontario, making sure those kinds of cuts didn't happen. He didn't do that.

But let me talk a little bit about the cuts that are made to his own ministry, because not only is northern Ontario taking a general hit in terms of the hit this government is making to fund the big tax break, but his own ministry also took a very significant hit which, again, will cost northerners, not only in terms of jobs, but in terms of services as well.

Let me talk about those cuts. There are two programs, two incentive programs that work with business to provide assistance and jobs in northern Ontario in the mineral sector and in the forestry sector. Both of those programs have been cut by this government.

The first program was a program to deal with small junior mining companies. Under that program, 50% or more of the costs for a particular project were covered by the mining companies and the government provided up to 30% of the costs. In the last five years, while the government invested a little under $25 million, some 4,600 jobs were created in northern Ontario, and the private sector itself put up $63 million in funds in order to get those projects under way and off the ground. That was a very good investment on the part of the government, with significant returns by the private sector, which acted in partnership with us to deliver that program.

I, for one, cannot understand why this government, which is so interested in job creation, would cancel a program that did just that and had a large amount of the money coming from the private sector. I do not understand the reasoning of this government.

The second program was to build access roads in northern Ontario so that mining companies and forestry companies could get access both to mineral resources and to forestry resources; again, a cost-sharing program with mining companies and forestry companies, a 50-50 cost-sharing program. This year, we had some 21 companies that had applied for over 24 projects and were themselves prepared to put up half of the cost to deliver this program, and this government cancelled the program. We would have put 100 contractors and 100 jobbers to work this fall and this winter. We would have had an excellent partnership that has been developed under the ministry for some time be maintained.

Again, I can't understand, from a government which is so concerned about partnership, which is so concerned about spurring on the private sector, why in fact it would withdraw the same funds that have led to so much job creation and to private sector investment in the part of the world from where I come. It makes absolutely no sense to me and it makes no sense to the companies that were involved.

Thirdly, while this program hasn't been cut yet, and I've talked to the minister about it, I certainly am concerned with yet another program that is currently under review by this government. It's called the Ontario prospectors assistance program. Again, the idea behind it is to promote mineral exploration in the part of the world where I come from, where that is most important to our economy. It's extremely important to our economy to find and develop new mines. A number of communities where I come from depend entirely on mining or on forestry for their livelihood.

We have a program now under review, which I am very concerned will also be axed by this government solely in the name of having a big tax break, that in the last five years provided $15 million to prospectors, employed over 1,900 people as recipients, created another 7,800 jobs in the spinoff and had a private sector return of at least some $18.3 million.

Again, I do not understand why it is that the government, which claims to be so interested in job creation and spurring that on, would turn its nose down on those very programs, those very small companies in the private sector that are interested in doing just that, in creating jobs.


The minister assured me today that he is taking a look at that, he's trying to do whatever he can to protect this important program. I can only, as of today, take him at his word and hope that I won't be having to stand in my place again in the very near future to be critical of yet another cut in his ministry.

Finally, I want to talk about the cut to the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, because that's probably the most significant in terms of this minister's ministry, and certainly it's most significant in terms of the impact in northern Ontario to vital transportation services that people in our special part of the province need and should have access to.

In the budget document the government made it very clear that next year some $16 million will be cut from the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission and another $4 million in the year after. What of course they forgot to tell the public in this statement was that this represents two thirds of all the funds that are transferred to that agency at this point in time. We will transfer this year about $15 million to the ONTC and, over the next two years, $10 million of that will be withdrawn to provide those non-commercial services in northern Ontario that people need and should have access to, because the private sector is just not interested in providing them.

One service that is on the chopping block is the following: norOntair, the government's airline in northern Ontario, which provides air service to no less than 17 communities in northern Ontario. The minister, on Thursday, announced via teleconference that norOntair air service was no longer a priority for ONTC and air service would be left to the private sector. He did this without the knowledge of the board chair of the ONTC, without the knowledge of the staff of the ONTC. In fact, the vice-president of the airline division had to send a fax to all his employees to apologize for the minister's statement, because that's how they found out they were going to be losing their jobs. They found out because the minister was on a teleconference to a number of media outlets on Thursday to announce that this air service was no longer a priority.

There are no less than 13 communities in those 17 that have no other services provided in their communities. No other carrier goes into those communities. Why? Because they can't make a profit. That's the reason why norOntair was flying into those communities in the first place, because a former Tory government, under Bill Davis, recognized that people in northern Ontario had to have access to service too, for health care reasons in particular.

This government has said they will leave it to the private sector, the same private sector that has absolutely no interest whatsoever in providing any kind of service in those communities because it won't be able to make a profit. This minister and this government have just cut off the knees of 13 communities in Ontario that will no longer have air service.

The other major transportation service in the north that's now under attack because of the funding cuts to ONTC is the Northlander train. The Northlander train runs from Cochrane down to Toronto. It runs six days a week, with the exception of Saturday. The Premier, in comments to his local media on Wednesday night in responding to the cuts to ONTC, said: "There are choices along that Northlander corridor. There are opportunities for air, bus, and car transportation and there has to be some judgment made there on what is the best way to look at those services."

But you know what's interesting? When the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission itself went before the National Transportation Agency, because CN was trying to cut that service, which is offered jointly between ONTC and CN, ONTC made it very clear that in fact the other alternatives which the Premier is so quick to comment upon are not alternatives at all that will be used. In fact, they made it very clear that if people had to drive, that would be a long route that most people won't, and most of the people who are using the train don't have a car anyway. Secondly, if that particular service were discontinued, that would severely jeopardize their other train services in other parts of northern Ontario.

Probably the most interesting comment came from Mike Harris himself, because he too went before the National Transportation Agency and talked about his concern for the Northlander. He made it very clear that in fact the National Transportation Agency should not allow CN to stop its passenger rail service because the Northlander was too important, not only to North Bay, where he's from, but to residents right across northeastern Ontario, to be abandoned and that the NTA should make it clear that it would not allow that route to be abandoned by CN. That's what Mike Harris said in his submission to the National Transportation Agency in November 1993.

I want to say just in conclusion -- because I said I would say a little bit about the omnibus bill, and I want to do that -- I was the government House leader in this House, in government, for a year. At that time, I was also privileged to work with -- and I say that very clearly -- Mr Eves, who is now the government House leader.

I think it is shameful of him to bring in an omnibus bill in the manner that he has, one that provides for such sweeping, draconian, unilateral changes to this province. I think he knows it, because when he was on this side he would have never accepted that. Indeed, we made every effort during that time, on major pieces of legislation, to accommodate his requests and those of his party to have public hearings on major pieces of legislation. I think it does not become him to be moving such a bill in this House at this time.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): I rise to just point out to the member for Sudbury East that I remember distinctly going into estimates on Northern Development and speaking of the very serious problem that existed because previous governments, including hers, were heavily subsidizing air service in northern Ontario against the private operators, people who could be successful if they didn't have massive competition from the government. A very, very interesting situation existed.

Under the NDP, they introduced airplanes which had a capacity of 45 seats. They were pressurized and they had toilets, and clearly people up there wanted them. But the fact was that it was very clear that they could not fully support 19-seaters. At 19 seats, you step over to a different type of personnel you need; you need some cabin crew. The government brought in the 45-seat planes to squeeze out the private sector.

I remember going up and visiting Thunder Bay and speaking to air operators in Thunder Bay about the very serious problems that we were facing under the NDP government. I got this minister in estimates and I asked her about it, and she would hear nothing of this. As far as she was concerned, public ownership was the only way and the truth. They bankrupted us by constantly spending money that we didn't have and just adding it to the credit card of our children. That's the gift this previous government gave us.

Mr Gravelle: I'm very pleased to respond to the remarks from the member for Sudbury East. I must tell you that although we don't always agree politically now, I worked in the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines when the member was the minister, and I know one thing: She cared very much about the north and was a minister who gave a great deal of concern to it.

I share a lot of the concerns she expresses today about the position the Minister of Northern Development and Mines has taken in the last two or three months. I do not think he stood up for the concerns or needs of northerners and he certainly did not try to protect the interests of the northerners through his own ministry programs.

The government spoke bravely in the throne speech about local input and how there would be must more authority for the north, and this has simply not happened. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale talked about consultation earlier, and I find it astonishing that they would brag about, literally, the consultation post facto. You make a decision and then you consult; interesting theory.

But the member for Sudbury East I think has made some important points in terms of the programs that have got great economic value for the north. Certainly the mineral incentive program is one that we're all sad to see go. I think it's a hugely important program. There are other programs that are in limbo, frozen: the small communities improvement program, SCIP, and the supplementary northern assistance program, SNAP. I have concerns about the northern Ontario heritage fund. There are a whole number of programs, and also the concerns about norOntair, the decisions and the way that they're made. You simply announce the decisions and then you let them go and go back to the people.

I could go on forever, as they say. I'd like to go on forever, but I'm not going to be able to. Municipalities prepared themselves for a 20% cut, and what did they get? A 50% cut.


Mr Martin: I just wanted for the couple of minutes that I have to compliment the member for Sudbury East on the comments she made, both in substance and in style. She presents well because she knows her stuff.

When you compare her record as the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and what she did for small communities all over northern Ontario, and the energy, the foresight and the ability that she brought to the challenges that we faced in places like Kapuskasing, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie and Sturgeon Falls, and the list goes on and on -- every community in the early 1990s in this province was in serious trouble. The member for Sudbury East as the Minister of Northern Development and Mines went in there with the backing of our government, with the backing of the Premier, brought together the workers, brought together the community, brought together management and the financial community so that we could restructure and give to those communities the opportunity they needed to take their future in their own hands and make decisions that affected them directly and produced results such that today we look at places like Sault Ste Marie and look at enterprises like Algoma Steel and St Mary's Paper and the ACR and see them all making money.

You compare that with what this government is doing and is going to do to the communities of northern Ontario re the announcement they made in July and now the statement they made on Wednesday. If you look at that statement and as you watch it unfold and you see the untold damage that it's going to do to small communities, as the member said, that are out there now and had a little hope, were looking at some possible renewal and resurgence of their ability to make some money and provide some jobs, that's all going to be destroyed. For the member for York Mills to get up, who knows nothing about northern Ontario, to in any way criticize this member is a bit fallacious, to say the least.

Mr Galt: I'd like to address a few of the comments from the member for Sudbury East in reference to some of the tax cuts. It's obvious that she does not understand some of the things that happened during the term they were in government.

Just because you give some tax cuts doesn't mean that mathematically you're going to lose a horrendous amount of money, because have a look at some of the tax increases that you people made. Two of the three tax increases you made, your revenue actually went down. It went down significantly. Granted, it was recessionary times, but it did go down, and I think you should note that. So when you decrease taxes, it does not mean the revenue is going to necessarily go down; it may actually increase a bit because of the economic recovery that will occur because of it.

Your comments in connection with health care and your concern about that commitment: There was a commitment of course of $17.4 billion. You make some reference to the Common Sense Revolution, and certainly the commitment is in here, and it's a commitment that we're living up to and standing up to.

In reference to hospitals, you closed over 6,000 beds. That equals 30 medium-sized hospitals. Yes, during your term in government it was over 6,000 beds, but you haven't done anything about improving the efficiency. It was talked about earlier that kidney dialysis, cardiac units, brain injury patient treatment, cancer care and rural health care was only going to amount to $70 million. I'm not quite sure where the member for Beaches-Woodbine got her figures, because we've already committed $50 million to rural health care to get physicians out into the rural area, an area which you really messed up, and physicians are fighting mad. We just don't have physicians in rural Ontario.

Ms Martel: In response first to the member for Northumberland, the reason I raised all the election promises was to show how clearly this government has broken them all in the short time they've been here. You folks went out on the campaign trail, you said to people at the doorstep, you said to people at all-candidates debates: "We will protect health care. There will not be any new user fees. There will not be cuts to education. We will make sure that municipalities will not download and there will not be tax increases at the local level."

Time after time after time, whether it's the cuts in July or the cuts we saw most recently last week, this government has broken all of those promises. Why? Because this government is only interested in slashing and burning public services and jobs to fund a big tax break for the rich and the famous. That's what the priority of this government is.

In response to the member for York Mills, he should tell people that in the committee that he sat in for estimates he wanted this government to get out of airplane service in northern Ontario altogether. He wanted us to abandon those 13 northern communities that have no other service than norOntair, the government plane. He's not interested in making sure northerners have access to service. He's not interested in making sure they can get a plane to come out to health care in southern Ontario. He couldn't care less.

The fact of the matter is that the private sector, which hasn't had an interest in providing services in those communities for the last 20 years, is not going to have an interest now, because there isn't a profit to be made. It's the responsibility of government to assure that northerners have access to transportation services, and this government should live up to it.

Finally, I just want to repeat what Mike Harris said about Northlander: "Over the last 12 years I have worked very closely with both management and employees at the ONR" to maintain this service. "It is a vital transportation service in northern Ontario. As such, the North Bay-Toronto passenger rail service must be maintained": "must" underlined.

Mr John L. Parker (York East): It's my pleasure to speak this evening in support of the 1995 Fiscal and Economic Statement which the Finance minister delivered to this House on November 29. It's particularly my pleasure to speak in prime time. I note that it's approaching 9:30, which means that Seinfeld should be over pretty soon and my wife may be tuning in as a result.

As this is the occasion of my first remarks in this House, it is also appropriate under the traditions of this chamber that --


Mr Parker: The best part is yet to come. Save yourselves, please.

It's also appropriate that I make a few remarks regarding my riding itself, particularly to introduce myself to this House, but also, in the words that I heard opposite some weeks ago, to lend colour and context to the remarks on the subject under review.

My riding, York East, is squarely situated within Metropolitan Toronto and entirely within the borough of East York, the municipality which is proud to call itself Canada's only borough. In fact, according to my records there are only five other boroughs in North America. They go by the names of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. The day may never come when those other boroughs attain the degree of recognition which will come to East York in the year to come as we celebrate 200 years since the origins of our community.

York East is the only riding which lies entirely within the borough of East York. My riding shares the borough with but one other riding, that currently represented ably by my friend and colleague the member for Don Mills, Chairman of the Management Board, who, as is well known to the members of this House, served for many years as mayor of our municipality. East York is also the only municipality which lies entirely within the Don watershed, of which I intend to have more to say in the months and years ahead.

The Don River runs through the middle of East York, dividing the old town of Leaside and the new community of Thorncliffe on the one hand from the original township of East York. Although it's an urban riding, East York is almost pastoral in nature, with the Don and its tributaries carving out the many wooded ravines that define much of the topography of our riding and which bring into the urban environment much that is untouched and natural, as you are likely to find in the most remote areas of this province.

The natural environment of our ravines spills out into our neighbourhoods as well, with large trees of almost every description prominent on our front lawns and boulevards, as are the squirrels and raccoons and other wildlife who make their homes near the Don and sometimes in our garages, basements and attics.

It was the Don River which gave rise to East York's beginnings, as Governor Simcoe saw the river valley as an appropriate place to establish the thriving industry which he knew was necessary to support a stable and, he hoped, growing community. You see, even in the day of John Graves Simcoe, forward-thinking and civic-minded leaders recognized the importance of a thriving economic sector as a necessary engine of community survival and cultural expression.


It was in 1795 that Governor Simcoe granted a plot of land to Isaiah and Erin Skinner at the location of what is now Todmorden Mills in the Don River Valley at the foot of Pottery Road in East York, "That a mill shall be build thereon." Those were his words. Other mills followed, giving rise to Toronto's first significant industrial area and to the community which is now the borough in which I make my home and which I am proud to represent in this House.

I should not let this occasion pass either without noting the series of events which for all intents and purposes lies at the foundation of the creation of the community of East York, which all took place in and about 1796, almost 200 years ago. For that reason, the coming year has been designated for special recognition within our borough and will be the occasion of a host of events and ceremonies in celebration of our 200 years as a community. The ceremonial banner hangs proudly in my office in this Legislative Building and I invite each member of this House to visit East York, particularly its heritage focal point at Todmorden Mills, and join us in celebration in the new year. I intend to have more to say on this subject at a later date as well.

I'll just note in passing that in preparation for my remarks this evening, I passed a note that indicated that it is in the traditions of the House that on the occasion of one's maiden speech there is no heckling done in respect of the newcomer, so that he can sort of get his legs and feel at home in the House.


Mr Parker: So much for the traditions of the House, but I will soldier on and I will cope with whatever I'm forced to deal with from my friends.

I have noticed that it is customary on occasions such as this for the new member to comment also on the proud tradition of representation which he or she follows in this House, reflecting on some of the notable persons who have represented the riding in past years.

Suffice it to say that my riding takes a back seat to no one in the quality and worthiness of those who have represented it in the past, most of whom until the recent past, I should note, came from my party. I wonder if the opposition will keep quiet while I make the following remarks.

I do want to take this occasion to acknowledge with sincerity the accomplishments of my most recent predecessor, Gary Malkowski, who for his own unique reasons, by virtue of his election to this Legislature, guaranteed himself a place in the history books of this province. I saw a lot of Gary and his wife, Karen, during the recent election and I enjoyed getting to know them both. Gary is particularly fortunate to have such a supportive wife in Karen and I have told them both so. I wish them both well.

Speaking of my riding of York East and the borough of East York in which it is situated, it's habitual to use the term "community" with great prominence. This is not without reason. With a population of just over 100,000, the borough of East York is much like a small town within the large metropolis of Metropolitan Toronto. I have heard there are lots of tenants in East York, and that is quite true. In many ways, East York operates as a small town does. We have an unusual degree of citizen involvement in our activities, and the same people keep showing up in everything that goes on. The faces we see on our main streets are the same faces that we see in our grocery stores, our home and school meetings, our hockey rinks, our parks and our churches.

They are the faces of people with an uncommon spirit of volunteerism and civic-mindedness. They are the faces of people who coach our little league hockey teams, baseball teams and soccer teams, who serve on our church committees, who run our children's drop-in centres, who run our Scout troops, who serve at the Touchstone Youth Centre, who cook and deliver our Meals on Wheels, who serve in our Legion halls, Rotary clubs, Kiwanis clubs, Lions clubs, serve on the board of our hospital, and participate in our Good Neighbours program.

They are also the faces of the people who offer their services as elected representatives at municipal council, the school board and -- dare I say it? -- Queen's Park. They are the faces of people who stand out in the cold and flood our outdoor skating rinks each winter and who shovel them after it snows. They are also the faces of people who line up every year to apply to serve, free of charge, on the many boards and committees which help run the business of the municipality, which in other large municipalities is administered by paid committee members and large complements of professional staff members.

East York is also home to many diverse and proud ethnic communities. It has a thriving Greek community and is the home to the head office of the Greek community of Metropolitan Toronto. East York is home also to a proud Ismaili community, a proud Sunni Muslim community, a proud Tamil community, proud Italian, Filipino, eastern European communities and many other groups.

There are people in East York who can trace their Canadian roots back to our earliest settlers and there are people who can trace their Canadian roots back no further than the latest plane to land at the airport. Last July 1 I had the honour to participate in a ceremony as a room full of proud and excited East York residents became citizens of this country, residents who had chosen to live in this country.

Just recently I was the guest of honour in a ceremony held in the basement of the Thorncliffe Park library as the East Indian seniors club sang O Canada, toasted our Queen and prayed to their God for the future of Canada. I cannot think of a more moving experience than to lead the singing of our national anthem among a group of people who chose to come to this country so that their children might have a future of peace and opportunity, who are struggling with life here but would rather be here than anywhere else in the world and who have told me that they thank God every day that they live in this country and that their children and grandchildren are growing up as Canadians. They ask only that they have a chance to provide a future of promise for their children in this country.

Which brings me to the subject of the matter which is before us for consideration today, the 1995 fiscal and economic statement.


Mr Parker: I notice that the opposition has now woken up and they've put me on notice that they're going to pay particular attention to what I have to say.

It has been said in this House that November 29 was a defining moment for our government. With the greatest respect, I disagree with that. The defining moment -- the opposition is now cowering, because they know what's going to come -- for this government came on June 8, when the people of this province elected this government on the strength of certain clearly articulated commitments. The fundamental thrust of those commitments was to reduce the size and cost of government, to seek efficiencies in government, to cut government barriers to job growth and creation and investment and to reduce the burden placed on Ontario's taxpayers by Ontario's high rate of taxation.

We've heard much in this House, some today, some in previous days, to the effect that not every voter read every word in our plan. We've also heard it suggested that we should not take the results of last June's election as a mandate to carry out all the elements of the plan. Maybe the voters didn't read all the words in our plan; maybe they did. But I suggest that there is no escaping the reality that whether every voter read every word of our plan or not, there could have been no mistake as to the overall themes of our platform, the key elements of the plan and the direction in which our party intended to take this province if elected. For that reason, there can be no confusion as to the mandate given to this government by the voters last June and to the expectations that the people of this province have for this government now.

We did not get elected on vague promises to do better than the former government or to keep the same policies but to change the faces.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): That would have been easy.

Mr Parker: That would have been the easy way out; that's exactly right. That would have been easy. That's the way it's always been done in the past. But the key message which we brought to the voters this time was that it was time to make a change. We promised to be a government of change. The voters understood that message clearly and responded with a clear mandate to get on with it.

For the first time in 10 years, a government was elected in this province by telling the truth to the voters. We told the voters that we could not carry on with the old ways of tax and spend or, what was even worse, tax, borrow and spend. We said that it was time for government to recognize its own limitations, live within its means and give the people a chance to live within theirs. This is the message that our party carried to the voters across the province and this is the message that I carried to the voters of York East.


I should say also that this is a message I received at the doorsteps and bus stops all across my riding. From the bungalows of Springdale Boulevard, the semis of Woodycrest Avenue, the high-rises of Cosburn and Thorncliffe, and the doughnut shops, the bus stops and the variety stores in every part of my riding, the voters of York East told me that they were tired of a government that was too big, too intrusive, too expensive and too wasteful. They wanted a government that treated them with respect as individuals. They wanted a government that would give them some reason to hope that if they worked hard and looked after their homes and families, there would be reason to hope for a prosperous future for themselves and for their children.

The people of York East know that the levels of government spending which we have seen in the past few years have been the cause of the high taxes today and the heavy debt for the future. They know that government cannot go on forever borrowing against the future to finance the spending of today.

They know that the high taxes of today serve only to stifle the ability of our economy to grow and create the very prosperity that is needed if we are ever to afford the programs that we have come to expect of government. They know that high taxes kill business opportunities and contribute to putting people out of work.

They know that this adds to the burden on our welfare system to the point where we had exceeded one million welfare recipients in this province while simultaneously reducing the ability of the economy to generate the wealth necessary to carry this growing burden.

The result is that more people are put out of work. There is less reason to have hope for a brighter future and more and more people give up on ever having a chance of looking after themselves or their families. The result is a vicious cycle of dependency and a decreasing ability to meet that dependency. Then in the cruellest stroke of all, the burden is placed on to the shoulders of future generations in the form of a debt load of banana republic proportions.

Mr O'Toole: Hear, hear. That's a good line.

Mr Parker: You like that line? Banana republic proportions. The only reason the IMF has not moved in and told us to clean up our act in this province is that the IMF have confidence that this government is going to do it without their help.

The provincial budget has doubled over the past 10 years, from $26 billion in 1985 to about $56 billion today. But that's only part of the story. Over the same period of time the public debt practically tripled, from under $30 billion -- and $30 billion in debt in 1985 was nothing to be proud of, I will grant the opposition that -- but the public debt tripled from under $30 billion in 1985 to almost $100 billion today.

To put that in perspective, bear in mind that it took from Confederation to 1985 to build up that public debt of about $28 billion in this province.

Mr Cooke: And it was all done by Bill Davis.

Mr Parker: It was all done by Bill Davis. The opposition plays fast and loose with Mr Davis. On the one hand, those are the glory days. Mr Davis is the kind of Tory they like. We keep on hearing that time and time again. "This is not the party that we come to know and respect. This is not the party of Bill Davis. Why don't you get back to being a good Tory party like Davis was?" On the other hand, Davis was the one who got us on track with the deficit.

I don't know what kind of message the opposition is giving us, but my message --

Mr Cooke: What's your message?

Mr Parker: I will respond to the question. I will give the message if I will be permitted the opportunity --

Mr Cooke: What do you think of Bill Davis?

Mr Parker: The message is that it took from Confederation to 1985 to build up that $28 billion in debt. In just five years that debt increased to about $50 billion and then in the next five years -- here's the best part; it's the worst part -- in the next five years, from 1990 till the election last June, the debt doubled again. It now stands at a whopping $100 billion, give or take a billion or two.

That debt load is a cruel, practical joke on our children who, unless corrective steps are taken now, will be left with the responsibility of paying it down. It's also a severe constraint on our ability to meet the needs of today. The cost of the interest just to carry that debt is now about $9 billion every year. The cost of interest on our debt is $9 billion every year.

Mr Cooke: So what do you think of Bill Davis?

Mr Parker: I understand why the opposition is heckling me on this point because it hurts them to have to be reminded of it.

And $9 billion is more than the Ontario government spends to finance its hospitals; $9 billion is more than the Ontario government spends to finance its long-term health care programs; $9 billion is more than the Ontario government spends to finance its OHIP program; $9 billion is more than the Ontario government spends to finance all levels of education in this province put together -- schools, colleges and universities.

Mr Cooke: That's not true. The Minister of Education's budget's well over $10 billion, closer to $13 billion or $14 billion. I remember that.

Mr Parker: The former Minister of Education is challenging me on that point. He's more comfortable dealing with these large figures than I am. I don't know. Maybe he's got the numbers right. When you get into billions and billions of dollars, I didn't know that the NDP really made many distinctions.

But $9 billion is more than the Ontario government has ever spent to finance all of its social assistance costs -- general welfare and family benefits combined -- even before the cuts. And the $9 billion in interest that the province of Ontario will have to pay this year to support its $100-billion debt is the single biggest expenditure item in our budget.

It's bigger than any of the expenditures I have just named. It's even bigger than the cost of financing the operation of the government itself. The total amount spent each year by this government to pay the salaries of every last public servant, plus the cost to maintain every government office, plus the cost to pay every salary in the opposition benches, plus the cost to pay your salary, plus the cost to pay the salaries of Tonia and Alex and the cost to keep the lights on in this building, is less than the amount -- all that put together is less than the amount that will be spent this year just to pay the interest on the debt that we are carrying.

Let me say it again. The cost of interest on the debt is more than the cost of operating the government itself. In fact the cost of interest is the highest single expenditure item in the entire provincial budget.

Don't make the mistake of assuming that this expenditure goes into the pockets of our poor and homeless. It goes to our wealthiest and most comfortable people. It's not poor people who invest in government of Ontario bonds. It's the wealthy and the well-to-do and the powerful institutions. Much of the ownership is in the hands of foreign investors, and the interest that is paid goes to them. It goes to the fat cats of Wall Street, of Tokyo, of London, Frankfurt and the other financial capitals of Europe and around the world.

That's not the worst of it. This $9-billion annual cost is itself increasing by approximately $1 billion every year. It's the fastest-growing single area of expenditure in the entire provincial government. Let's look at what this means. With interest growing by $1 billion every year, our ability to finance other government spending programs is diminishing by $1 billion every year. As the cost of interest grows, other expenditure areas are crowded out by the same measure.

That $1 billion is more than the amount that the provincial government spends on colleges in each year; $1 billion is more than the provincial government spends on non-profit housing in each year; $1 billion is more than the provincial government spends on unconditional grants to municipalities in each year; $1 billion is more than the provincial government spends on child care in each year.

If we stood by and did nothing, the ability of this government to carry on with any one of these spending programs would be wiped out each year just by the increasing cost of carrying the debt.


Year 1: Bang -- there go all of our community colleges.

Year 2: Bang -- there goes all non-profit housing.

Year 3: Bang -- there go all unconditional municipal grants.

Year 4: Bang -- there goes all child care in this province.

The Common Sense Revolution is not the enemy of these programs. The growing cost of government and the increasing cost of carrying our massive debt load is what is what is the enemy of these programs. That is the one factor which, more than anything else, is putting our social programs at risk in this province and is getting in the way of our ability to create opportunities for our citizens who wish to work and to address the needs of those who can't.

Well, you might ask, why not just raise taxes to help pay for the increased costs? We've tried that in the past and it's only added to the problem I've just described. Taxes have increased 65 times over the past 10 years. Ontario is now among the most highly taxed jurisdictions in North America which is our primary trading area. All of these tax increases have not stopped the growth in our public debt, nor the massive increase in the cost of interest to carry that debt. Despite all the tax increases of the past 10 years, we inherited a government which spends $1 million more each hour than it brings in.

I will say it again: One million dollars per hour is not the rate of spending in this province. It is the rate by which spending exceeds revenues. Meanwhile, by placing our tax rate at the high end of all of our trading partners, we have been sending a signal to our employers to take their jobs elsewhere and we have been telling new investment to stay the heck away from Ontario.

As some of my friends have already said in this chamber, if high taxes and debt financing created prosperity, well, everyone in this province would have two jobs by now. As it happens, however, there were fewer jobs in this province when we took office than there were five years earlier and when we took office in 1995, there were nearly three times the number of people on social assistance as there had been just 10 years earlier.

And the real take-home pay of the average Ontario worker is lower today than it was in 1985 -- lower than it was 10 years ago.

The economic statement of the Minister of Finance last week is a clear signal to each one of us in this province and to those outside the province that the ways of the past are on their way out.

What are the messages of the minister's statement? The messages are many, but I will summarize just a few.

We will reduce the burden of government regulation and restore balance in labour-management relations.

We are beginning a 12-month review of all regulations affecting business.

We will restructure and streamline government and provide services that Ontarians value most at a more affordable cost.

We will implement the recommendations of the Ontario Financial Review Commission and focus government's efforts on performance, not process. We will use a single set of financing reporting standards -- one set of books -- what a novel concept. We'll have one set of books for this province so that the people of Ontario will be told the same story as the investors on Wall Street are told about the state of the province's finances. We will set three-

Interjection: That's new.

Mr Parker: Yes, it is new. That's brand new. It's a new concept, one set of books.

We will set three-year deficit targets and plan for deficit reduction on a long-term basis. We will take other measures designed to tell the people of Ontario the truth about the financial picture of this province, such as public disclosure of all public salaries in excess of $100,000 a year.

Every government program will be analysed under the questions: Is it in the public interest? Is it fair and equitable? Is it well managed? If the answer is no, the program will be subject to reduction. If it does not stand up to this scrutiny at all, it will be cut out altogether.

We will consolidate the financial data systems of all government ministries, so that for the first time the computers in this government will talk to one another -- another novel concept. This will reduce the duplication and make it easier to track just exactly what's going on day by day, instead of leaving it to the Provincial Auditor to tell us after the fact.

We will create partnerships with private business and open our administrative operations to outside competition where this can save taxpayers money.

Internal government spending will be cut and, as recommended by the Provincial Auditor, increased efforts will be put towards eliminating tax fraud. To this end, 50 positions from within the Finance ministry will be reallocated to tax auditing.

This government will permanently cut $230 million in grants and loans to businesses in fiscal 1996-97. Businesses will be required to survive in the marketplace or else accept the judgement of that marketplace.

Other government spending programs will be reduced and the agencies affected will be given broadened authority to raise funding from private donors according to the need recognized by the people of the province spending their own money.

Transfer levels to our major transfer partners will be reduced and with the reduced funding levels will go the tools to increase their flexibility, to introduce innovative solutions to help them meet the challenges of those reduced transfers. Fewer strings will be tied to transfers to municipalities, for example, so that they can find their own efficiencies within their own budgets and meet the needs of their own communities.

There will be other spending reductions to other transfer partners and there will be other savings to other transfer partners as they seek out the savings within their own operations as we give them the tools to find those savings.

The provincial government wins, the school boards win, the transfer partners win and the people of Ontario win.

Our plan was put before the people in the election last spring. It was put forward in a clear departure from the ways of the past. The people sized up the plan; they liked what they saw. They sized up the people who put forward the plan; they liked what they saw there. Most of all, they trusted us to carry out the plan.

In the minister's statement on November 29, this government repeated its commitment to that plan. We were elected to carry it out.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I was very interested in the speech from the member for York East. It was a very good lesson in the finances of this province. He gives a bit of an historical perspective, that it's really taken about 128 years for the province to get into the financial mess that it's in and I guess the message, I would say to the government members, is that we should think a little bit before we make the steps that you're making and how quickly you're making these things, because even Ernie has said this, your Treasurer, that, "Maybe we haven't thought all these things out."

When I go back to my riding and I talk to welfare moms and I talk to people who want to send their kids to college and I talk to people who want to see safe roads on our highways in the winter -- we have a lot of snow up in Timiskaming this year -- people are wondering, is this government thinking this thing out? We all know there's a problem and my constituents know there's a problem. But what they're concerned about is that you're moving with such great haste that you're not thinking all this through. The Treasurer has already admitted that maybe you are hurting some people on welfare who shouldn't be hurt.

So we're saying to you, "Take another look at this. Take a second look at this," and think again when you cut down 25% on winter road maintenance throughout the province. We're just at the beginning of winter. We've had it now in northern Ontario -- it hasn't hit here yet, with the nice green lawn over there at Queen's Park, but it's going to come. Think twice when it comes to public safety and people's security and some of the social net services that we provide as a government. You can't change all this overnight. I don't even want to get into Bill 26 and what you're doing with that and taking over all the powers. It's like a little bill that's a coup d'état coming in. When the Treasurer stands up and says, "We have to do these things," it reminds me of maybe what people did in Germany and in Italy in the 1930s and saying, "Well, you know, there's a big problem here and maybe the means do justify the ends." I don't think so.

So I say to you, start to reconsider some of these things, and maybe there's a good sign the Treasurer is going to reconsider, and I ask all the caucus members over there to talk to your Treasurer and your Premier and reconsider the haste of some of these moves that you're making.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Windsor-Riverside.

Mr Cooke: I thought you were going to recognize the member for York South, Mr Speaker.

I don't want to be too hard on the member -- I gather this was his first speech in the Legislature -- but it's hard not to be, because the part of the speech that I heard didn't recognize at all the realities of this government's fiscal plan.


There's no disagreement in this place that there has to be fiscal responsibility. There was movement in the last government to control expenditures. In fact, I remember that that party over there actually supported some of the cost-cutting initiatives that we introduced by legislation here in the House on first and second reading. They supported it. There was praise. It made all of us feel very uncomfortable that Mike Harris was supporting it.

But it's not right in this province that the member and his caucus and his government would be saying: "Yes, it's okay to cut welfare rates by 22%. It's okay for the poorest in this province to have those kinds of cuts, to have the inability to pay rents, and to have to make a choice at the end of every month as to whether there's going to be food on their kids' table or whether there's going to be a roof over their heads." That's the situation you're putting in, all in the name of this ideology, which I'm sure the member actually believes, but it's not true.

You made a choice. In the election, you said it could all be done: balance the budget, lower the taxes and save health care -- not one cent out of health care. The cuts are in place for one reason: the welfare recipients are paying for a tax decrease to the wealthiest people in the province. That's immoral and you're part of the problem.

Hon Mr Harnick: The member for Windsor-Riverside just doesn't get it. He stood up before and he said, "We don't have a fiscal problem in the province of Ontario." Well, let me tell him, $100 billion in debt, $9 billion of interest a year, and the member for Windsor-Riverside still doesn't get it. We do have a problem. We are haemorrhaging, and we are stopping the haemorrhaging.

Mr Cooke: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Of all people in the House, I am sure the AG wants to follow the law. The rules are in this House that if the member wants to give a speech, that's fine, he can get up in the rotation, but if he wants to get up in the responses, he comments on his own member's speech, not on the comments that have been made.

Hon Mr Harnick: I suspect that when I talk about the fiscal problems that his former government caused, it strikes a nerve. There really is a problem in this province, and even if it doesn't get through to his little brain, there is a problem. We do have a major fiscal problem in this province. A million dollars more an hour going out than coming in is a major problem.

I want to talk about the tax break for a moment. I want you to know, Mr Speaker, that 87% of those who filed income tax returns in 1992 had an income of less than $50,000. So 87% will receive a benefit by having more money in their pocket by a tax break. I want to tell my friend that hardworking, honest, decent, taxpaying people in the province of Ontario make less than $50,000 a year. That may be hard for Mr Cooke to understand, but those are the people who will benefit by a tax cut, not just the rich people; the middle-class, hardworking, taxpaying people, not just the rich people.

Mr Patten: I look forward to the speech from the member for Willowdale.

Hon Mr Harnick: Stick around. I'm coming.

Mr Patten: Great. Okay. We'll have an opportunity to do that.

In terms of the member for York East, I would like to congratulate him on his maiden speech. However, I remind him that this was not a budget. What this was was a series of cuts to transfer partners, some of whom were aware of what was happening, some of whom were not aware.

I would like to address one area and that is the cuts that were there to health care, the $1.3 billion, recalling that this government said it would not touch one cent of the health care budget. Even after the economic statement was given, I saw the Treasurer, on television, in fact explain that this money would be returned. I find there's a big contradiction in what he said, because he added up the amount of money that was being reduced to our transfer partners and began to explain it. It did add up to $6.2 billion. Then he said: "We're left with about $1 billion. We'll do that for slippage and we'll do that related to how the economy performs."

So there are two reactions, indeed, to what represents the health cut expenditures, but there's one thing for people: They're going to lose on this. You have not been honest, your government has not been honest with the people, and you'll see that. You backbenchers know that damn well. When you go back to your ridings you know that -- I can see it in your eyes -- because people are not happy with you. You said you would not touch one cent, and you have. So the people will speak, they will speak to you and they will speak eloquently.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for York East, two minutes.

Mr Cooke: What about the rotation?

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): There is one more.

Mr Patten: Mr Speaker, we only had one.

Hon Mr Harnick: Mr Speaker, you are absolutely right.

The Deputy Speaker: I make no apology for being right. I call the member for York East.

Mr Parker: Thank you, Mr Speaker. You find yourself in the position that we in this party consistently find ourselves in.

I didn't hear a heck of a lot in the remarks from the other side just now that related to anything that I had to say in my speech, so I think I'll return the favour and ignore them in the two minutes available to me now. In fact, I think what I'll do is finish my speech, because I ran out of time.

Our plan was put before the people in the election last spring. It was put forward as a clear departure from the ways of the past. The people sized up the plan and they liked what they saw. They sized up the people who put forward the plan and, again, they liked what they saw. Most of all, they trusted us to carry out that plan.

In the minister's statement on November 29, this government repeated its commitment to the plan that we were elected to carry out. The minister's statement is nothing more nor less than a recommitment to the mandate given to this government by the voters of this province on June 8, 1995.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate. The Chair recognizes the member for Yorkview.

Mr Sergio: Let me congratulate the member for York East, Mr Parker. I can assure him, on what he said in the beginning of his maiden speech, I can share the same feelings with him, as I'm well familiar with the riding of York East, the entire borough of East York, as I've had in past years the wonderful experience of dealing with politicians from the Scarborough and East York areas. I must say that I find them dedicated and I'm sure that John will be serving his people as well.

But that's as far as I would go, because once he has moved into the grey area, which I call the purple area, I think that's where he has gotten lost. He has no longer spoken with the same enthusiasm as when he was mentioning the area that he represents, but I think he, as most of the new members, will be doing very well.


The argument that we are discussing is one of paramount importance, and I'll tell you why. We have two particular sets of documents here: one which won the election on June 8 and one which is totally different and signifies the so-called "defining moment." I beg to differ quite a lot with members of the government side when they say that the defining moment was on June 8. I totally disagree and the people out there disagree. They did not win the election on June 8 on this particular proposal here. They won the election on the purple book which they call the Common Sense Revolution. One totally 100% contradicts the other. Let me frankly tell the members on the other side, without trying to offend, that if they were to run the election today, not on the promises here but on this particular document, they wouldn't be sitting on that particular side.

It is our utmost responsibility to tell the people out there, those who voted for the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP and others, what really is at stake for the people of Ontario. I'm sure most of the members of this House are not familiar with the contents of this proposal. I will be addressing briefly Bill 26 and the fiscal statement.

The importance lies in this -- and I will not try to fall into the trap of accusing the Premier or ministers or any other members that they have lied to this House or out there to the public; I would never do that. Even if that is the case, I know too well that this is not allowed in the House, to say in this House that the Premier lied to the people of Ontario. I wouldn't dare say that for this whole reason: The people out there know better than us. If indeed the Premier did lie to the people, they know it. The people in my area know it.

I'm fairly new in this chamber, but I can reach and read on the column in this House, which was built in 1898, I believe, if my memory serves me well, where it says, "Animo non astutia" on the particular pillar over there. What I believe it means in Latin is: You may lie out there to the people, you may lie in here to the people, but really this chamber was built and the people who built it in those days and inscribed those writings in there had a darn good reason -- that when you're in this House you are to treat the people with justice and truth. What it says there -- "animo" means soul, means heart, means virtue, means the truth; "astutia" means deceit, means slyness. We're getting a lot of that. That's where I come in with these two particular documents here, which are totally different.

Mr Tilson: You're getting off the argument.

Mr Sergio: I'm not getting off the argument; I am addressing the facts. What we have been hearing here is skirting the issues. I think it's my responsibility, I think it's the responsibility of every member of this House. What's real in this document for the people of Ontario? The people in my riding tell me, "We want you to tell us what they are doing at Queen's Park for us."

Just let me give you a few samples. With respect to the hospitals, the minister said, even today: "Hey, listen, we have a right to do what we want to do. We treat this, our decision, simply as a matter of policy." This is not a public works department where we say, "Okay, we find it better to collect the leaves on a Thursday pickup, therefore we're going to change from Wednesday," and we don't have to pass any laws. This is major. We are dealing with the health and safety of our citizens. The Minister of Health says, "We are going to treat it as a matter of policy," which is saying, in effect, "We do not have to come to this House for debate and for approval." If this is not arrogant, I have no idea what it is.

This is just one example. We are dealing with the health care of the people of Ontario and we have a government which wants to usurp whatever power is left in the hands of the people and of this House so the minister can have all the power he wants and say: "You know what? I'll take it on my own word and I'll do whatever I want to do with it."

With respect to hospitals, the minister will have the absolute power to close or amalgamate hospitals. Was this in the Common Sense Revolution? It was not. The minister is given authority to control all aspects of hospital operations. Was this in the purple book? It was not. The minister can take over the operations of the hospital by appointing a hospital supervisor. Can you imagine that? He will have the sole and indiscreet power to appoint someone to run the hospital, which means we won't have any more hospital boards.

I'm only skimming some of the contents of this book. This is only part, and I want to say this because I want to make sure that my people and as many people I can reach will know the content of this book.

With respect to the Ontario drug benefit program, it says that changes are made to provide for eligible persons to pay some of the cost of the drug benefits. This allows for the implementation of user fees. I don't have to say how many times we have been reminded and told in this House that the Premier has said, umpteen times, "No new user fees." Who is affected the most? The poorest, the neediest, the elderly.

But the most unacceptable part that I find is that the amount that can be charged for a drug, other than the dispensing fee, will no longer be regulated. I'm sure this doesn't bother the members of the other side of the House or the people making $75,000 and up. Let me tell you that one of my fellow members from the other side just said that 85% of the people make less than $50,000 a year. Do they know that?

Mr O'Toole: Yes, I do.

Mr Sergio: You do know that? It's wonderful that you know it, because all the poor people, all the neediest people will not have any control, because you people have deregulated the prices of drugs. Isn't that a wonderful gift just before Christmas? Isn't that a wonderful gift for all the hundreds of thousands of people who are unemployed, for whom there is no work, who are on social assistance, social benefits? Isn't it a wonderful gift that they deregulate the prices of drugs? So now, not only are we imposing a fee on seniors and those making less than $15,000; we are deregulating the prices of drugs.

On the Health Insurance Act, the minister can remove services from the OHIP schedule of benefits at will, without coming to this House. The OHIP payment may be reduced, refused or be required to be paid back.

I don't want to bore you, but these are the essential things that the people out there must know. That is why we are forcing this House, hopefully convincing it that we cannot vote. This contains amendments to 47 or 48 laws -- not one, but 47 or 48 laws -- which impinge on the citizens' rights on a daily basis in a very major way.

We hear on a daily basis, and I'm really trying not to offend any member of the government side, when they say: "We have this omnipotent right. We won an election, therefore we have a mandate." I beg to differ on one fundamental principle. Yes, they have won the election. They have a right to govern. They have a right to govern, but according to the promises they have made.


Mr Speaker, I wonder, yourself, every member of the government side, what did you exactly say in your Common Sense Revolution during the last election to the people of Ontario? Did you ever tell the people of Ontario that you were going to cut $1.3 billion from the health care system? No, you didn't. Did you tell them that you were going to cut $1.5 billion from the hospital funding? No, you didn't. And $658 million to cities and towns: Did you tell them that in the Common Sense Revolution? No, you didn't. And $400 million to colleges and universities: Did you tell them that? No, you didn't. Was this the truth or was this deceit?

Mr O'Toole: Where were you taking your cuts from?

Mr Sergio: Oh no. We did not promise to give back 30%, my friend. This is your downfall. This is your problem. This is your problem. We did not say we are going to refund the rich people of Ontario 30%. What my friend over there is saying is that they are giving the rich people of Ontario an extended vacation at the expense of the poor in Ontario and we did never promise anything like this to the people of Ontario.

We did say, and we were meaning exactly what we were saying in the red book and there was good philosophy, we are going to balance the books, as we did after 45 years of other governments in 1988, 1989 or 1990. We did balance the books. We did. And we were going to do the same thing. But when I hear the other side and the Premier saying, "This is a very, very hard decision," and still be compassionate, well, Mr Premier, you know what would be very hard? If you were to maintain services, jobs; don't throw people on the streets; don't cut welfare; don't cut the assistance to the women's shelters; don't cut the day care funding, and still be able to maintain those services; don't raise taxes. That would have been very hard. That would have been very hard to do. But the problem is now he has to find the money for the rich people, only for that small percentage, so they can keep them happy.

Mr Speaker, did you ever, did the Premier ever say to the people during the campaign that he would be cutting $400 million from the elementary and secondary schools? I don't think they know, I don't think the Premier knows the implications of these cuts. I was the other night at one of the colleges. One particular school has some 680 adult students for adult education. They have a wonderful record. One third of those people go back into society, into the workforce on a full-time basis, and one quarter of those become self-employed and employ other people as well. And now they are cutting $400 million? I think it is one of the greatest shames that this government has come up with with this proposal.

Were the people told during the campaign within the book of revolution here that you were going to close hospitals solely to fund the rebate to the rich? No, you didn't. That you were going to penalize the seniors by starting charging for prescriptions?

Mr Turnbull: You closed hospitals.

Mr Gerretsen: You woke them up.

Mr Sergio: That's what I want to do, Dave. Dave, it is wonderful because you come from one of the wealthiest cities, and I'm proud to say the city of North York, and it's not because of this government, it is because of an excellent-run municipal government.

Mr Gerretsen: A great mayor.

Mr Sergio: A great mayor. And I was proud to be part of that organization for some 16 years.

Mr Gerretsen: They miss him down there right now, but we're glad to have him here.

Mr Sergio: Let me remind the other side of the House, you never told that you were going to penalize the seniors by starting charging for prescriptions --

Mr Gerretsen: User fees.

Mr Sergio: -- user fees and so forth; that you were going to give the rich a yearly vacation at the expense of the poor. Somebody who makes $75,000 a year, does he really need an extra $5,000 a year? Does he really need it? Certainly not; they don't.

These cuts will cut more than 80,000 jobs. The Premier keeps on saying, "We're going to provide 725,000 jobs." You know, Mr Speaker, there is absolutely nothing in here. As a matter of fact, what's in here? One member of the government side, one backbencher, is going to have a one-year study of how to increase business for small business and then come back and report to this House. Now small business, which is the backbone of the economy, has to wait another year until they complete the study? Is this the help that the government is going to give them?

We were looking for a government that would be different, but not this type of government. Mr Harris has been saying, "Our direction is going to create jobs, growth and prosperity."

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Sixty-five tax increases in 10 years.

Mr Gerretsen: Oh, don't be so arrogant.

Mr Sergio: Let me tell the Premier that it is not only the business community on Bay Street that wanted change; everybody wanted change. We wanted change. We wanted and expected a government that would bring about change fair to all, equitable, sensible, firm with compassion, a change for the better; a change which would instil confidence back in our people; change which would put people to work and give them the chance to build their own respective place in society; a change which would truly give people a hand up and not a government which would miserably let them down; change which would ignite pride and hope in our youth, in our students, in our schools, colleges and universities; a change of a government inspiring the students to learn, mature and become progressive members of our society.

The government has abandoned the people of Ontario. It has abandoned our kids, our most precious resource. It has abandoned women's needs. It has abandoned its seniors. It has abandoned the injured workers. It has abandoned the people without a job; a government that has changed forever the social fabric as we know it and as a society that our people have been accustomed to all their lives.

The government says, "We have to make changes to satisfy those opposed to the status quo." Who are they? The people on Bay Street? The changes made by this government are utterly drastic. They are motivated by the principle of a distorted political agenda. They are changes born out of deceit and false pretence, born out of an election promise that convinced people to opt for change and not for disaster; a mandate won on deceit, and now this government is trying to govern on deceit again.

The Premier and his government have created a very distinct and two-tiered society: one for the rich and one for the very rich. The poor and the needy have been forgotten. It is a document which I think every member of the House should address. I want to give an opportunity to every member of my Liberal team here to have a say on it. I think it's very important.

With the passing of this bill, Premier Harris has made sure it has guaranteed an extended vacation for the rich at the expense of the poor. I hope that we will have some extended opportunity to divide this massive bill and debate the individual merits of the variety of bills which it contains.


Mr Martin: I rise tonight somewhat pensive and thoughtful as I look at the challenge that we face as a province and consider the road that the government of the day has chosen to take.

I picked up the newspaper last week on one particular day and the signs of the times are interesting. In the Globe and Mail there was an article on the state of the law society and the ability of this government and lawyers themselves to support the provision of legal services to the poor in the province and a real dilemma that we face there.

Also in the same newspaper, the same page, there was an article on how the doctors in the province, those people who provide for all of us in time of our greatest need, are concerned and anxious re the approach this government is going to take to resolving some long-standing issues of tremendous interest to that profession.

I was particularly interested in that because we in the north who are traditionally an underserviced area where it comes to the provision of medical care have long struggled with this, in some instances have been successful in getting some professionals to come to our area and in other instances haven't, but I don't think there's anybody who agrees that if we can work out some cooperative approaches that it will be in everybody's best interests. But from reading this article it seems to me that we were setting up a situation where cooperation wasn't going to be the order of the day but in fact an adversarial relationship that I suggest will hurt a lot of people in the long run including doctors and those who receive medical care.

In my own paper I read of the Christmas cheer program in Sault Ste Marie this year having double the applications for boxes of food and toys for children. I read of the lines at the soup kitchen increasing and I read of the private sector getting involved in my own community, and I give them great credit for this, in a food drive. The company that carries out the blue box recycling in Sault Ste Marie, in partnership with the soup kitchen and the Salvation Army and some other local groups, decided to pick up food in the blue box on a Saturday because there was a recognition that there was going to be a shortage of food in our community over the winter months and into the foreseeable future.

We look at all those very troubling signs and at the same time in the same newspapers on various occasions over the last two or three months we see reports that come out that speak of corporations making record profits; we hear of banks making record profits; we hear of the senior personnel in those corporations making wages that I'm sure any of us in this place and most people who live and work in communities across this province only dream of perhaps at some time in their life making -- most of us will never achieve that -- and the obvious lack of any reference in these newspapers, in these documents, to any real effort being made by anybody out there to create work for people.

This government when it ran in the election ran on the promise of some 725,000 new jobs. A couple of the things that I've picked up in the paper here speak to a difficulty in that, and it's interesting when you compare it to the fact that corporations are making record profits and that folks out there in the street are wondering how to keep body and soul together, that in fact there are no jobs. There are no jobs being created.

The Toronto Star on December 1 asks the question in its editorial, "Where Are the Jobs?" There's an article in the Toronto Sun on December 1 that points to an Angus Reid poll that says that job anxiety is the single biggest concern among voters, who remain pessimistic about economic recovery.

I was over in Ireland this past summer for a couple of week visiting with some relatives over there, and this summer particularly they are remembering the famine, the great potato famine that so many of us have heard of, so many of us probably had relatives who emigrated to this country because of.

It's interesting, when we focus on the famine, it's always in the context of the failure of the potato crop, but we're never told that, while the potato crop was failing and while the ordinary Irish small farmer was struggling to keep food on the table, to keep children alive, to be able to get up and work so that food might be produced for the next day, that at the same time in that country grain was being grown and seen less as food for the ordinary Irish citizen and more as a cash crop and was being shipped out of the country.

Beef was being raised at that time in some parts of the country and some of that grain was going to feed the beef, and the beef, interestingly enough, was finding its way less to the tables of the ordinary person, the ordinary Irish citizen, and more to the tables of the lords and the ladies of places like England.

There are some comparisons to the story of today and to that story in that in those days some very difficult challenges were facing the people of that particular country and some difficult challenges face us today as the economy changes, as we move towards the end of a millennium. Those who study the phenomenon of millenniums and coming to the end of millenniums will tell you that always at that time, there's great flux, great change, great anxiety in the populace.

People are challenged by that to respond in many ways, and governments are called, governments of those particular --

Mr Gerretsen: How do you know, Tony? Were you there in the 1890s? How do you know this?

Mr Martin: My ancestors were, and I read, and those who read and study that tell me these things. They tell me that we were all challenged in those days to respond in ways.

We can respond by pulling into dock and battening the hatches and latching on to everything that's familiar and comfortable, and that's one way. We can react by ignoring the reality of folks out there and what they're dealing with and everybody look after himself. Or we can react in the way that I think our government reacted, and that is to say, "Okay, we have ourselves a challenge here," and pull in all those people who are interested in being part of the answer and say to them, "What can we do together here to pick up the pieces, to put it back together again?" so that we can get the economy moving, so that we can start to create jobs and everybody can be participating, and in that way generate more revenue for government and continue then to be able to support and to build and to improve on all of the very valuable and important services that go by way of public service in a jurisdiction, and particularly some of the very valuable and good services that we have developed over the years in Ontario under the guise of education and health care and social services.


In light of all that, in the light of that challenge that faces all of us, what is this government offering up? What is this government presenting to us? On Wednesday last I was in Sault Ste Marie when the financial statement was presented here in the House. I was in Sault Ste Marie with about 100 other people who were concerned about what you might do. They were concerned because a lot of them had experienced at first hand the fallout of what you'd done previously in July of this year, shortly after having been given the reins of power. They saw for themselves and many of them felt for themselves the impact of the decisions that were made back then.

So what did you do? What was that statement about that came down on Wednesday and why were the people I was meeting with on that Wednesday evening, first in front of the Steelworkers hall and then, as we marched up Dennis Street and over Wellington to the Indian Friendship Centre where we had bowls of soup prepared by the soup kitchen, and we ate sandwiches -- yes, tuna sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches and baloney sandwiches -- all of these people were concerned about what this government would do to them, would continue to do to them, particularly after they had felt and seen what had been done to them in July of this year.

What was that statement about? Well, for them and for me, very clearly, it was a continuation of the Mulroney legacy, it was the continuation of a legacy that sees the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It's based on a premise, on a very sad premise actually, that says in very obvious and clear ways that the poor have too much and the rich don't have enough.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): So take from the poor and give to the rich.

Mr Martin: Yes, and so we will do whatever it takes to make sure that that injustice is righted. Certainly none of us have to look very far to see the damage that was caused to this country by Mulroney as he dealt with fiscal policy, as he took on the fight of inflation and as he dealt with monetary policy in a way that saw those who were well off in this country continue to be well off and to improve their lot while many, many ordinary working Canadians, many, many ordinary Canadians who couldn't find work, found themselves in more and more difficult straits.

In July this government took money out of the pockets of the poor. On Wednesday of this week they took away their services. Not only did they take away their services, but they are going to move very quickly to take away the jobs of the people who support them, whether they're the working poor or whether they're the poor who are on assistance of some sort or other, the people whom they depend on for support and counselling and to help them sort out the difficult challenges that they face in their everyday life. Those people will be fewer and, in some instances, will not be there at all.

I can't help remembering, as I say this, the four young women who were at the gathering on Wednesday night in the Sault who told us all about the fact that the halfway home that they were now living in, that they went to because of difficult situations at home, situations of abuse of various sorts, was going to be closed because of the funding cuts brought down by this government. These four young women on Thursday last found themselves without a place to live.

The interesting thing about all of this is that at this point in time we've hit the poor and now we're beginning to take a whack at the people who support the poor in our communities. But eventually, as this thing takes hold, as the snowball begins to roll and as it picks up momentum, everybody will be hit and we will begin to destroy communities.

When we destroy communities, all of us will be harmed, because some of the decisions that have been made or are being made by this government will hit libraries, will hit the education system so that there won't be the same kinds of services there for students who are in need of a little extra help or who are having a difficult time now coping in a classroom that has too many students in it and will have even more students in it when this government is finished.

The statement that came down on Wednesday will go a ways to taking away from a community's ability to offer community swimming pools, sports facilities --

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): Child care.

Mr Martin: Yes, child care, and all of those things that make communities a valuable, supportive experience for all of us.

Mr Gerretsen: Tony, they don't care.

Mr Martin: They don't care. No, they don't care.

What they're trying to do at the same time as they are taking away from communities and from school boards and health organizations the ability to do what they do best, they're trying to convince the rest of us that we have an economic crisis on our hands, that we don't have the kind of money that it takes to support these programs any more.

We know in fact that that's not true, that there really isn't an economic crisis at hand. Yes, we have a struggling and a difficult economy, we have an economy that's changing and we're challenged as a people; this government is challenged, hopefully with us in partnership, to respond in creative ways.

But to pretend for a minute that somehow the economy of Ontario has collapsed in such a way that we have to take money out of the pockets of the poor, that we have to dismantle in the significant way that we see in this statement the services that we've built up over the years and all come to rely on, services that are envied by people around the world, services that actually put us at the top of any list of any group looking at quality of life, standard of living, all those things that show the world whether a country is doing well or not, is looking after its people, is a place worth investing in, is a place that has the kind of stability that will guarantee that investment will return some profit on some dollars put in -- we know from reading the papers and looking at the reports in our own communities and looking at some of the enterprises in our communities, and again I have to look no further than my own community after the very difficult early 1990s and the restructuring that we as a government participated in, in partnership with ownership and workers and financial institutions, to give new life, to breed new life into these corporations, we see them today making money. We see them today actually reinvesting a lot of that money.

In northern Ontario, in 1993, 1994 and into 1995 we saw investment like we have not seen ever before in that part of the province. And so to suggest for even a moment that the cuts that are contained, both in the statement of July and in the financial statement that we saw on Wednesday, is somehow built on an economic crisis or a crisis of economy just does not hold up to inspection at all.


I suggest to you that if this government was really and truly interested in doing something worthwhile for this province, rather than focusing on cutting, and particularly cutting in areas where it is most hurtful and most hurtful to those who can deal with it least, that they should focus their attention on creating these jobs that they talked about, that they should focus their attention on the 725,000 opportunities that they said would happen --

Interjection: Instead of firing 100,000.

Mr Martin: Instead of firing 100,000. It's never made any sense to me to lay people off in order to create work, because anybody who studies modern society and civilization will tell you that to reduce expenditure results in reduced revenue and results in job loss. So if you were to focus for a minute and in fact in some of these statements that you roll out and present to us as people in Ontario how it is that you're going to create these 725,000 jobs, then maybe we could have an intelligent discussion and perhaps we would be willing to participate with you in some of the things that you're proposing to do that will impact on the lives of all of us.

The other myth that's being rolled out there, that is sort of the foundation block upon which all of these cuts are being rationalized, is that this is about the deficit, that this is about somehow being accountable and responsible with the moneys of the province. We know that that's not true. We know that this is about a tax cut. This is about giving money back to those who already have money, in the erroneous assumption that they will then reinvest it and create jobs and therefore generate revenue, and the province will be back on good footing again and everybody will live happily ever after.

But we know that that's just not true. We know that if you want to stimulate an economy, you've got to have consumers who are confident, and when you're laying off people and taking money out of their pay packet, consumers aren't confident, and they're not going to spend. If you want the economy to get better, give people who will spend it the money and it will.

This statement and this government is clearly about a tax cut.

Mr Wettlaufer: No, it's not, Tony. You're confused.

Mr Martin: No, I'm not confused.

Mr Wettlaufer: You give somebody $100, they'll spend it. That'll create jobs.

Mr Martin: What are the people out there that we're all talking to saying about all of this? I was in Kitchener-Waterloo on Friday. I was in Sault Ste Marie on Wednesday last. I was back in Sault Ste Marie again over the weekend, and had a chance to talk to a lot of people, my neighbours, my friends, people in the union halls, people in the malls.

What they want to know, in all sincerity, is, does this government really know what it's doing? Has this government --


Mr Martin: They do. They're asking that question. They're asking that question. They want to know, does this government really know what it's doing? Where is the blueprint? Where is the plan? We had a statement on Wednesday that talked about cutting, that talked about reducing government. There's no plan there. That document, the Common Sense Revolution, is heavy on rhetoric and thin on --

Interjection: Content.

Mr Martin: -- detail and content. Exactly. The people out there want to know, do you know what you're doing? Do you have any studies that you've done? What's the impact? How is this going to impact? How does, for example, by way of the cut to social assistance taking $2 million every month out of the economy of Sault Ste Marie affect not only those who don't get that money but the small businesses in which that money is spent? Where does all of this become counterproductive? When you take anywhere from $6 million to $15 million out of a community like Sault Ste Marie, how does that impact on businesses' ability to stay alive, expand, get excited about other opportunities when they're afraid for their very existence, when they don't know if they're going to open tomorrow because they don't know what the bottom line's going to be for them at the end of the month?

They're asking, do we really need to do this? Do we really need, at a time when we're struggling with the deficit -- and I don't think there are any of us here, Liberal, New Democrat or Conservative, who doesn't understand that, yes, there is a deficit and we do need to deal with it, but to deal with that, do we need to give a tax break to the rich of the magnitude that we see spoken of in the Common Sense Revolution? Do we really need to make the very deep and difficult cuts that are being suggested and proposed by way of this statement?

What they're saying to me is, isn't this a bit too much too fast and do they really know what they're doing? They also ask, why are you ramming this stuff through government so quickly? They say that it gives off the wrong signal, that it tells them very clearly that you don't believe in government, that you don't believe that government has a role to play in the everyday life of ordinary citizens of this province, and that concerns them, because they know from their own experience that over the years a good cooperation between government and private sector and ordinary citizens is what has gotten Ontario to where it is today.

They know that change needs to be made, and we all know that change needs to be made, but in this way, this quickly, and focusing so clearly on those who can least deal with the very difficult challenges that they will have to face as they look at, for example, 22% being taken out of their pay packages, as they look at losing their jobs, and as communities look at losing the very valuable services that they need in order to be able to provide the quality of life that we've all come to appreciate and that keeps us healthy in times when change is happening?

So tonight I rise on behalf of my community, the citizens whom I have spoken to over the last few days since the statement of Wednesday and the introduction of the omnibus bill on that same day, and I say to the government: Take some time, take some time to talk to the folks whom you represent out there, and hear what they're saying and give them the respect that's due. Recognize that they have something to contribute and recognize the traditions of this place and allow us to participate in the discussions that need to happen if this statement and this omnibus bill and the agenda of this government are going to be in any way helpful or healthy for the citizens of this province.


Mr Bisson: I'd just like to comment on the member for Sault Ste Marie in regard to his contribution to the debate tonight. What the member was talking about I believe is not only the sentiments of the people I think of Sault Ste Marie, but quite frankly I think of many people across this province.

I can tell you that in this last weekend I had an opportunity, like most members, to go back to the riding and to discuss with many people in our communities, from Matheson to Iroquois Falls to Timmins, how they felt about how this government is operating. And one of the things that came across very clearly is what the member for Sault Ste Marie pointed out, which is, people really feel as if they've lost their voice. They feel that this government is moving with haste, without any due consultation or any due process afforded to the citizens of this province. People are upset.

I am quite frankly a little bit taken aback by the feeling of hate that exists within many of my constituents for what this government is doing, and I'm hearing people say things that quite frankly are quite alarming because they are talking in very strong terms about how they are mad at what the government is doing and are speaking in language that I think is a bit scary in any democracy. I think that's what happens when people feel that their democratic rights are being taken away without having the ability to have a say about what's happening within the province of Ontario. So I would like to echo the comments that the member for Sault Ste Marie made.

The second thing I would like to add to what he said, and I fully agree, is the other sense that's out there and that's really building that people are feeling that their communities are put at risk. We've worked very hard over a long, long time in this province, as in other provinces, to make sure that we build safe and clean communities, and I can tell you that the people in my communities expressed to me, and councils expressed to me, and chambers of commerce members even expressed to me on the weekend that they feel that the downloading that this government has undertaken with this bill really is going to add to the misery within those communities in not being able to afford a good, clean infrastructure and secure services for the people of the municipalities.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I applaud the member for Sault Ste Marie and I think the members opposite ought to wake up and listen to him. He speaks with compassion and reason and understanding, all of which lack in the financial statement that your government tabled last week. The calls coming from across this province to protest your cuts, your indiscriminate cuts that hurt the poor, that hurt the most vulnerable in our society while at the same time you try to maintain an unreasonable tax commitment, a tax commitment that even the Treasurer himself has said he may not be able to keep -- he and the Premier can't seem to agree on that right now, but we'll see how much of it you keep and we'll see what condition this economy's in when you're done with it. Our prediction is it'll go down the tubes because of your policies, because of your recipe for recession.

You stand well to listen to the member for Sault Ste Marie, who represents the interests of the poor municipalities and school boards. You would do well to listen to his words of caution because you're not listening to anyone else. The Premier said just before he left that we won't have a chance to vote on it. He's absolutely right. You didn't have the guts to bring in a budget. You wouldn't even bring in a budget -- the first time in the history of this province. Your financial statement lacks integrity, it lacks character, it lacks any kind of financial or economic foresight.

Every one of you, you're smug right now as you sit with your majority and as you hear accolades from your own benches, but I tell you, the people in this province will rise up when they recognize what you're doing. You leave the tough decisions to municipalities, you leave the tough decisions to school boards and you just say they shouldn't raise taxes. And what about casinos? There's a good one for you. Finally see the light. Did your government consult any of the backbenchers? You should be ashamed. This document's the ruin of Ontario.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I too want to comment briefly on my colleague from Sault Ste Marie's speech. It seems to me when I listen to the comments of some of the members opposite, too often people's welfare and people's quality of life are only thought of in terms of how much can be cut from the budget.

Those of us who listen to these folks every day have come to understand -- and I think the member for Sault Ste Marie understands this -- that this government's desire to cut at health care, to cut at education and to cut at community services is based on its ideology. The fact that the province has a deficit at this point in time only facilitates the arguments they're trying to make, only facilitates the ideological direction they're taking. I think the member for Sault Ste Marie has spelled that out, that this government, no matter what the fiscal situation of the province is or was, would take this direction because they, like Ronald Reagan, who wrote the textbook for them, are driven by an ideology.

But that ideology hurts people, and the member for Sault Ste Marie, who spends a lot of time talking to his constituents and spends a lot of time in his community, is seeing now where the hurt is happening. It's happening to kids. Kids out there are being hurt badly. Family and children's services across the province are not able to offer the services they need to offer. Women are being hurt, particularly women who have already been subjected to physical and other kinds of abuse. And the list goes on.

I say the members of the government would be wise to listen to the member for Sault Ste Marie, because four years from now when your so-called economic miracle has fallen flat the way Ronald Reagan's economic miracle fell flat, the people who have been hurt will remember you, and they'll especially remember --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Time has expired. Further debate. The member for Willowdale.


The Speaker: Pardon me. The member for Sault Ste Marie has two minutes for his reply.

Mr Martin: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to --

Mr Murdoch: There have only been three.

Hon Mr Harnick: One more rotation.

The Speaker: Oh, one more? Pardon me. The member for Willowdale.

Hon Mr Harnick: I just want to quote what was in our clippings today as published in the Globe and Mail, an article by Patrick Luciani. One of the things he says is, "High taxes mean less growth." He goes on to say: "A higher tax on autos, for example, means fewer car sales. The result is that not only are no taxes paid on unsold cars, but society also loses jobs because of the non-production of cars in a reduced market. In effect, every tax dollar of revenue shrinks the economic pie." Mr Luciani goes on to say, "The real winners of Mr Harris's tax cuts are the middle classes who bore the brunt of higher average taxes over the past four decades."

Let me give you some statistics, just so I can prove that taxes and tax cuts don't just benefit rich people. Mr Speaker, 58% of those who filed income taxes in 1992 had an income of less than $25,000 -- 58% of people who filed; 66% of people who filed had an income of less than $30,000; 79% had an income of less than $40,000; and 87% had an income of less than $50,000.

We all know that the best way to create jobs is to create more taxpayers. By reducing taxes, we are creating jobs and at the same time we are reducing taxes for 87% of the people who work in the province of Ontario. That is, in effect, the only raise that people in the province of Ontario have had in the last decade. That tax break will create jobs, and that, in conjunction with spending cuts, will bring the economy back to where we once were.

Mr Martin: To the Attorney General, if that's what your government is all about, then I guess my assumption that all of this was about the tax break is in fact the truth, because that's what he was talking about.

But I want to thank the other members who participated in this debate as well and tell them that I agree with them. People are upset and communities are being put at risk. I ask the members over there to listen just for a minute to the folks who live and work in your communities, to read the letters that they're writing to you, to take the phone calls when they make them and to hear them, hear what they're saying. They're afraid. They're afraid of your approach.


Hon Mr Harnick: A pittance, now $9 billion.

Mr Martin: Your answers are too simplistic.

Mr Gerretsen: He is out of order.

The Speaker: The member for Kingston and The Islands is out of order too.

Mr Martin: They're afraid that there's no content, and they're anxious about two things. They're anxious about the decisions that you're making, and they're anxious about the fact that you're not interested in anybody else's opinion. They're anxious about the fact that you're going to ram through your agenda in six months to a year; you're going to ignore the traditions and the process of this place; you're not going to listen to the rest of --

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Twenty-two closure motions, Tony. Unprecedented: 22 closure motions.

The Speaker: The member for London North is out of order.

Mr Martin: -- communities who have opinions and experience and advice to give; that you're just going to move holus-bolus straight forward, destroying lives, hurting people, destroying communities as you go. They're genuinely and sincerely concerned about that, and they want you to listen. They want to participate. They have something to say and they want to feel that you want to hear it, because if you involve them and you involve us and you respect the traditions of this place and you take stuff out to public hearing and you make the amendments --

The Speaker: The time has expired. Further debate.

Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise in this House tonight in support of the government's economic statement. The people of the province now realize, as do the caucus colleagues, what the last 10 years of government has not been able to understand: Fundamental change in the way Ontario operates is the only answer if we are to get this province back on track.

The economic situation that the province is now facing has forced us to make some tough decisions. These decisions were not easy, nor were they taken lightly. But the fact of the matter is that without making these critical choices, Ontario is headed for fiscal disaster. The question is, why? Why is the great province of Ontario, the heartland of this country, facing such an enormous challenge? Why are we facing a $100-billion debt and a $10-billion deficit? The answer lies in the irresponsible tax-and-spend economics of the last 10 years of government.

To add to this, we learned upon taking office that the revenue projections in the NDP's April economic statement were inflated. In fact, there was a $1.8-billion gap between the promises made and the money that was available to fulfil those promises. It is this time of mismanagement that has led us to the reality that we face today. We know, and the majority of Ontarians know, that immediate action is necessary.

We must work towards deficit reduction. We must work towards balancing the budget. We cannot get out of this financial hole unless we first stop digging ourselves deeper. We cannot ensure the future for our children if we do not face up to the economic realities of today. As a result, we are planning real cuts that will signify major change. We will be spending less money, but spending it more wisely.

The changes we make begin with ourselves. By the next provincial election, we will reduce the number of MPPs from 130 to 99. We will reform MPPs' tax-free allowances and MPPs' pensions. We will also be reducing unnecessary programs and administration throughout government. We must streamline our operations and eliminate the waste and duplication of services that have plagued our province for years.

As a result, we are now in the process of redesigning the public sector. We are changing government so it will once again effectively work for those it was designed to serve, the people of Ontario. To do this we are calling on our transfer partners -- school boards, hospitals and municipalities -- to share in this vision. We must all be more efficient in the way we deliver services. We'll help our transfer partners to do this by giving them the tools they need to find savings and reduce costs. Our government believes that each partner needs this autonomy so they can design delivery systems that make sense to the people they serve at the local level.

The priority of this government has been, from day one, a healthy economy and job creation. To spur this growth we will be reducing provincial income tax rates, because consumer spending accounts for over 60% of our economy's activity. Reducing the tax rates will stimulate spending in this sector. It will lead to many new jobs.

The changes this government is making in the economic statement are necessary. Although some of these changes will be tough in the longer term, they will be an important part of the solution to Ontario's economic situation.

There are many reasons that I wanted to be part of this solution. My father, a municipal politician for years and a staunch Conservative supporter, provided a lot of my inspiration. As well, the riding that I spent my whole life living and working in was represented by two men who made a difference: Norris Whitney and James Taylor. These men made significant contributions to the riding, a tradition that I want to follow.

I myself have been involved in the local political process in Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings for 20 years. I'm very proud of my riding, a community of people I have been honoured to work for. These are all factors that contributed to my decision to be a member of provincial Parliament, but the overwhelming reason I chose to run is that I finally heard a message that made sense, a message that had guts, a message that I could believe in. As we all know, this message involves making tough but necessary choices, and the person behind the message was someone I could respect, a true leader who said what he meant and meant what he said. That is why I'm here today.

I spoke a few moments ago about the great riding of Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings. I would now like to take a moment or two to elaborate on this area, one of the most beautiful places in the province of Ontario.

Much of the beauty of my riding is a result of the more than 800 kilometres of shoreline that surrounds it. It has more unprotected shoreline than any other part of the province. It has the largest freshwater baymouth sand dune system in North America. This area is more properly known as Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Just as important to the charter of Prince Edward county is its sense of history. The county was settled by United Empire Loyalists in the 1780s, and many of their descendants still live, work and farm here. Four generations of my family are riding residents. Proudly, my sons Ian and Kyle continue the farming tradition. This connection to the past is evident in the old farms that dot the countryside and in the streets of historic towns like Bloomfield, Picton and Wellington.

The business community is also a very important component of my riding. Included in this community are companies such as Essroc, a cement manufacturer, and Highland Produce, a mushroom farm celebrating its 25th year in business and currently undergoing a major expansion.


In the county of Hastings you will find a community that is rich in its diversity. In Thurlow township there is an excellent combination of quiet country and specialized business. It is home to companies such as Black Diamond Cheese, Maple Dale Cheese and Wimpey Construction. Also in Hastings county you will find Deseronto, "eastern gateway to the Bay of Quinte," with the Skyway bridge providing access to Prince Edward county.

Tyendinaga in Hastings county is home to a Mohawk community that is committed to preserving its rich cultural heritage. Tyendinaga also has a very successful First Nations Technical Institute, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this past August. It is the only on-territory, aboriginal post-secondary educational facility in Ontario.

Another integral part of my riding is Lennox. It has the communities of Amherstview, Bath and Napanee. The town of Napanee is known as the "walleye capital of Ontario." A very historic community, it became the county town in 1864. The local newspaper, the Napanee Beaver, is celebrating its 125th year in operation.

The Lennox business district is proud to have among its members such companies as St Marys Cement, Bombardier Inc, Destec Energy Inc and Celanese, a plastics manufacturer that is currently undergoing a $190-million expansion project. Lennox is also home to Gibbard Furniture, which is Canada's oldest and most respected furniture maker, having incorporated in 1835.

The Lennox generating station at Bath helps ensure power transmission for the entire eastern seaboard of North America.

The economic base of the riding has primarily been agriculture, and we are very proud of our farmers.

Tourism has also become a very important sector in the local economy. It is a 94-kilometre span between Kingston in the east and Trenton in the west, with the Glenora ferry in Picton providing an essential link in this journey. Tourists travelling this route trace the steps of the first loyalist settlers of the last 18th century. As you can see, Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings is a region that is rich in heritage. It is geographically both unique and beautiful.

The people of my riding are proud of their communities. They have a long and effective tradition of working together to make good things happen. These people care deeply about their province and their communities. On June 8, they spoke and said it was time for true change. My constituents and all Ontarians deserve a government that is fully committed to fiscal responsibility and returning economic prosperity to this province.

The economic statement that Minister Eves introduced last Wednesday is a very important step on the road back to prosperity. There are many challenges that face us all in the months ahead. By creating true partnerships and by drawing on our traditional strengths we will bring hope, growth and new jobs to the province of Ontario.

Mr Gerretsen: First of all, I would like to congratulate my neighbour to the west for his maiden speech in the House today and I concur with him on one thing: We are from the nicest part of Ontario, and certainly Prince Edward county and the Napanee area -- he didn't say anything nice about the Kingston area but I'm sure he'd agree with me that he does most of his shopping in the Kingston area. It is a super area and we certainly want as many people as possible to come and visit that area.

He did say a very interesting thing, though: that he is proud to be part of a government that is fully committed to fiscal responsibility, and I'm sure he believes that. I've had an opportunity to speak with the member on a number of occasions. What I can't understand, in light of him saying that, if he would turn to page 42 of the fiscal statement: I wonder how he can explain how the public debt of this province is going to go from $97.2 billion to $120 billion in the year 1999.

I'm sure he would agree with me that if he is part of a fiscally responsible government he would tell his colleagues in the back bench, and particularly the ministers of this government, that it is totally irresponsible, in circumstances where the public debt of the province is going to grow by almost $25 billion, projected by the government's own figures, that any tax cut should take place.

I'm sure he will convince all the members of his caucus tomorrow morning when he says: "Fellows and ladies, this is the wrong thing to do. We should cut down the deficit in this province and there should not be any tax cut at all, because then, if we don't have a tax cut we can save at least $20 billion of that $25-billion increase in the public debt over the next five years." So, Gary, I'm counting on you and I'm sure you'll do it tomorrow. Congratulations on a good speech.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I congratulate my colleague for a most excellent first speech and he spoke about Napanee. My great-grandmother came from Napanee. He also spoke of the Napanee Beaver. My great-grandmother used to say, "You never do anything you wouldn't want printed on the front page of the Napanee Beaver," and that's a good lesson for us all.

My honourable friend mentioned why he decided to run for this place: because there was finally a political leader and a party offering real solutions to the province's problems, and I couldn't agree more.

I noted that our friend from Kingston mentioned tax cuts. I know my colleague agrees with cutting taxes because we want to create jobs. We had a choice. We could have said no to the unemployed. "You'll have to wait, unemployed; you'll have to wait for five years until the budget's balanced." But our plan is to cut taxes now to create the jobs now because we've got to create hope and opportunity, and I totally agree with my colleague in that estimation.

While I've got the floor I'll just take the opportunity to correct the record. I was reading the new government of Ontario telephone directory tonight -- this perhaps could also be considered a point of personal privilege -- on page 11 of the new directory, published by the Management Board, I believe my civil liberties have been egregiously violated as a member of this House. It says, "Nepean member: Baird, John, LIB."

I want to correct the record. I have never been a member of the Liberal Party, I am not a member of the Liberal Party and I never will be a member of the Liberal Party.

Mr Duncan: I listened to the member for Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings's maiden speech and I listened with some sorrow. He didn't address the way the government is jamming Bill 26 down the throats of this Legislature, an unprecedented statute that deals with 43 existing statutes and adds two new ones. It affects the very way we govern every aspect of our lives, and they chose to do it without any kind of consultation: 14 days staying till midnight with no public hearings, pass and we govern ourselves entirely differently.

I can tell the member that those people in your riding, the school boards, the municipalities, the individuals, the hospitals that could be affected by the Minister of Health's ability to unilaterally close a hospital, won't like it. When people start to understand not only what is in this bill but how you have conducted yourselves, they will be appalled, as we are, and they will not stand for it.

We have seen so many pieces of legislation brought forward, rushed through the House, no consultation, no hearings -- 43 bills. It's an absolute travesty to the democratic process in this province. The government opposite, the government which, by the way, promised public input and consultation, chooses to bring forward a bill like this that affects every aspect of our governance. You'll regret it. You'll lose the next election if you conduct yourselves this way.


Mr Tilson: I'd like to congratulate the member for Prince Edward -- Lennox -- South Hastings; it just takes a long time to say the name. I'm sure the members of his riding will tell you what exactly they felt on June 8 and what they wanted this government to do.


Mr Tilson: You like my tie? Well, it's a Christmas tie.

I'm sure the members in his riding talked about all of the disaster that has been going on in this province for the last 10 years, the fact that we needed to do less. The fact of the matter is, this province is bankrupt. That's what the previous governments have done in this province and we had to change that and change it fast. When you're spending $9 billion to $10 billion a year on interest only we have to have drastic change. I'm sure that the members in his riding have said that and will continue to say that, as they are saying in all the ridings across this province.

We intend to do less; we intend to pull out of activities that should be left to others; we intend to transfer authority back to local communities, and that's what the bill that you talk about is going to do. We intend to give school boards, hospitals, municipalities and other partners the tools they need to find efficiency in reduced costs, and that's what we're all talking about. We've got too much government, too much interference by government, by the state, in our lives and we intend to change that. We intend to streamline government operations in reducing costs.

Can you imagine the trouble we've had, as private individuals, in trying to get things through this province? The processes have become unbelievable. We've been weighed down by the regulations and bureaucracies that have been set by the Liberal government and the former NDP government. We intend to change that, and I'm sure that's what the people in his riding of Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings have said.

I congratulate him on his maiden speech and I know we'll be hearing many more great speeches from him.

Mr Fox: To the member for Kingston and The Islands: I appreciate some of his comments, but not his views on my caucus. It's interesting that his riding is trying to annex some of mine, so I guess he has a lot of appreciation for it on that account.

The riding of Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings is basically a rural and small-town riding of hardworking, pay-their-way people who are concerned about Ontario's debt. They have given me a strong commitment that they want something done about it. They know they have to have a chance to create jobs. They know we can't do it on our own. They want government spending under control; they want the public sector restructured to work more efficiently. They know there are tough measures, but they are necessary, and the human cost of doing nothing is too high.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's a pleasure to return to the quiet decorum of the House on this Monday, after last Thursday. I appreciate the fact that so many members have stayed around so late this evening to hear what we all have to say. I had a great weekend at home, and today, as a matter of fact, I had the opportunity to attend the Jake McLean dinner in Harrow, which after 65 years is an annual dinner at which the wardens traditionally give their speeches prior to the wardens' election. I'm sure many in this Legislature have attended those kinds of functions.

One thing that was mentioned to me today, and I have to preface this by quoting from the economic statement, where it says the measures in the economic statement "create the opportunity for local governments to become more streamlined, more autonomous, more accountable to the local ratepayer, and less expensive. Ontarians expect to see their local governments work better and cost less": The one common theme today was the fact that local governments have for some time cost less, been more streamlined and handled their affairs in a way that's superior, I think, to some of the senior levels of government.

As a matter of fact, I had a friend whom I gave the economic statement to on Friday who pointed out to me that he wondered whether the government had made a mistake or whether they were actually being honest. He referred me to the schematic on Ontario's deficit on page 32, and lo and behold, 1989-90 was the only balanced budget in the last 25 years.

Mr Duncan: Who did that?

Mr Crozier: I wasn't here, but I recall that it was a Liberal government.

We've heard a lot said about the wasted 10 years. What the members across don't talk about is the wasted 14 years before 1989-90. I just wanted to point that out, and I pointed out to my constituent that was accurate, that the government was telling the truth and that the only balanced budget we have had in the last 25 years was a Liberal balanced budget. A little further, there no doubt has been a lot said today and I think a lot of it's said with good intent; all speakers have felt that they were saying it accurately, so I thought, with these statistics that we've been given today, that perhaps I should bring a few to the attention of the House.

I have here the comparisons of the PC, Liberal and NDP governments. The PC government indicators run from 1981 to 1985; the Liberal indicators that I'm going to mention to you run from 1986 to 1990; and the NDP indicators on the budgetary side run from 1991 to 1995, and on the economic side from 1991 to 1994. If the members are getting a little tired and they don't want to make note of this I'd be pleased to provide copies to you. The unemployment rate per year, as a per cent, under the PC governments in those years, 1981 to 1985, was 8.7%; the unemployment rate under the NDP government in the years 1991 to 1994, 10.3%; the unemployment rate under the Liberals from 1985 to 1990, 5.9%.

We get to jobs created, and I think this government says it's going to create 725,000 jobs over the next five years. We already know that in the current period it's only 81,000 jobs. I think you're projecting, and they're your own figures in the economic statement, that there are going to be somewhere around 100,000 in the next year. That means, then, that in the remaining years you're going to have to create 145,000 jobs a year. I have to admit they aren't going to create the jobs themselves; they're going to create the climate in which those jobs can be made. But let's talk about the historical perspective on jobs created by the three governments that I've referred to.

The PCs, they created an average of 64,800 jobs a year, the NDP unfortunately had a minus of 20,500 jobs on average, and the Liberals 112,000 jobs a year, the real gross domestic product growth as a per cent per year, and I'll save the best for last here. The NDP was only 1% and they went through some very tough, tough economic times, a lot of which they didn't have any control over. The Liberal growth, in their period of governing, of gross domestic product was 3.4%, and here we save the best for last. The PCs did have 3.6%.


Hon Mr Harnick: Over how many years?

Mr Crozier: I already told you, but I'll repeat it. The PC indicator economic was 1981 to 1985, ours was 1986 to 1990 and the NDP was 1991 to 1994.

We've had a lot to say about deficits today so let's talk about deficits. The NDP in their period of governing, their average deficit, $10.3 billion.


Mr Crozier: I heard "Shame" from over there. The PC's average deficit, $2.7 billion, and I've saved the best for last again. The Liberal average deficit was $2 billion and, as I said before, the Liberal government had the only balanced budget in the last 25 years.

Here's a really interesting statistic: growth in spending per budget. I'll bet that a lot of the newer members in the PC caucus didn't realize this, but the growth per spending in a per cent per budget, and again I'll save the best for last, but the PCs led the way with 12% growth in spending per budget. The Liberals, their growth in spending per budget was 9.6%, and the NDP -- I don't think across they'll realize this but the NDP's growth was only 4.1%.

Now we come to another very interesting figure. This is the growth in debt per budget, the growth in debt per budget of the three governments. The NDP had 21.1%, nothing to be proud of, but I said that we've gone through some tough economic times. But here's the one that surprised me. The PC party's growth in debt per budget as a per cent was 11.4% -- unbelievable -- and the Liberals during their period, 5.9%.

Tax revenue increases per budget in millions of dollars -- these are figures that I'd be glad to supply to either of the other two parties: $965 million for the NDP; $576 million for the PCs. These are the non-tax perfect spenders that we're talking about, and they ran second to the NDPs. The Liberals over that period of time, their growth over their period of governing was $510 million per budget.

And here's another interesting thing -- and it's amazing what these figures will show you -- tax increases per budget. I've heard the words "tax and spend," and "You guys increase taxes all over the place." Tax increases per budget: The NDP unfortunately in their period led the way with 7.3 tax increases per budget. The Liberals, on the other hand, were less. They had 5.3 tax increases per budget. But lo and behold, running right in the middle, ahead of the Liberals, a little bit behind the NDP, the Tories had six tax increases per budget over the period of 1981 to 1985. That's really hard to believe, but the figures don't lie.

Now we talk about tax decreases per budget. The tax decreases per budget were 4.3 for the Liberals. The Liberals led the way in tax decreases. So if you want to take an average, we had one tax increase net over the period of time that we governed. But lo and behold, the PCs had two tax decreases, so they had a net of four tax increases.

I know this is boring you, so that's why I offered to send this over to you later.

The NDP had three tax decreases during its time in office, for a net of 4.3.

Now, the interesting thing about that is that we hear kind of sanctimoniously from those across the floor that they have an unblemished record. Let me tell you, you share in a record just right along with everybody else.

I mentioned earlier that I spent a great weekend back in Essex South and I want to tell you a little bit about Essex South. It's a small urban/rural riding. The largest community is 15,000 people; the smallest community is about 2,500. The county of Essex's population will increase by 18% from 1991 to 1996. It might interest you to know, although it might not surprise you, that the population is aging. Persons aged 65 and over will be 20% of the population in Essex South in the year 2036, as compared with only 8% in 1961, and the median age will increase from about 34 years of age to 41.

The reason I tell you that is because one of the greatest concerns, if not the greatest concern, in Essex South is health care. With an aging population, obviously health care is of great concern. As we all went door to door -- and I think I mentioned this last week -- we liked our constituents, the residents of our riding, to believe what we have to say. Rarely did I dwell on what the opposition parties were saying, because I am sure that they are very well able to speak for themselves. But the point I want to make is that each of us wants our constituents and our residents to feel that we are telling them the truth, because we put our names on the line, whether we're a candidate, whether we eventually win or whether we lose. We put our names on the line and we want our residents to believe what we say.

Well, the biggest concern that my constituents have with their health care future is the fact that a government was elected that solemnly said it wouldn't cut one cent from health care -- not one cent.

Mr Wettlaufer: Is that a prop?

Mr Crozier: I don't know whether it is or not, but it certainly makes the point.

What they can't understand is that in this budget or in this economic statement there would be a figure that represents some $1.5 billion in spending reductions in health care. In fact, if you refer to page 22 of the economic statement, it says, "Funding in 1996-97 will be constrained by $365 million...." Well, the interpretation that we have in Essex South is that constraint in this case is simply a cut.

Then they go on to say that "The amount of the constraint will increase by $435 million in 1997-98 and by an additional $507 million in 1998-99."


Those words alone may not be too alarming if in fact the government then would say, "But during those years, the first being 1996-97, not only will we constrain spending on hospitals, but what we'll do is we'll put $365 million back in other areas of health care." But I can't find where it says that in this document.

My constituents wouldn't have been concerned if they'd heard that the amount of the constraint will increase by $435 million in 1997-98, if only the document had said, "But we are going to put $435 million back into the health care system in 1997-98." But it doesn't say that.

It goes on to say that the additional constraint of $507 million in 1998-99 -- they would have been much more comforted if they could have seen something in the document that would have said, "But we're going to put $507 million back into your health care in that period of time."

Who could we go to who could more speak for the government than the Premier himself? I quote a couple of things that he said. One is: "A copayment is a user fee. Rationing leads to user fees. Parental contribution is a user fee." The Premier said that in this Legislature on November 30, 1993, when he was leader of the third party of that time. He went on to say, among other things, "a fee hike is the same as a tax hike." That also was said by the now Premier to the Toronto Sun on September 30, 1993.

Again, what bothers the seniors in my riding, those 20% of the population in my riding, is that just last week in the Legislature it was announced that seniors and welfare recipients will be charged a $2 copayment fee. The Premier himself said, "A copayment is a user fee." So what the seniors heard then is that this government is going to charge them a user fee, and that will be on every prescription that's filled. There's no maximum. "It doesn't matter how sick you are; we're going to tax you at least $2 for each prescription."

Those seniors who are single with incomes over $16,000, or those who are families with over $24,000 of income, will be required to pay the first $100 worth of drug costs, and after that pay the dispensing fee to a maximum of $6.11 for each prescription filled. Again, there's no overall maximum that an individual may have to pay each year. These changes, as we all know, come into effect in 1996.

The Finance minister said on Focus Ontario, I believe it was, on Saturday night that there may be individual cases that they haven't looked at. We have reminded now for weeks and even over the last couple of months the Minister of Social Services that there are a lot of individual cases in this province, Mr Premier, that they apparently have overlooked, because they weren't going to hurt the disabled, they weren't going to hurt seniors. They said this day in and day out, and yet what happens? Well, they announce that there's going to be a user fee.

I think the travesty of this is how they're going to finance, on the backs of those who are less fortunate -- and in my case, the seniors in my riding -- how they're going to finance these health care cuts and other cuts that they've announced in the economic statement.

I think we heard one of the government members say this evening they were blaming it on the two opposition parties, because over the years they spent and didn't increase taxes. I don't know whether he's a proponent of increasing taxes. If so, it would sound like he's a little different than the rest of his colleagues.

I don't think this government can stand there and righteously say, "We're not hurting those who are less fortunate," while at the same time giving a tax cut to those who are better off.

We heard earlier this evening that the majority of those who will receive the tax cut are of the middle class. The only thing I can't understand about that is that they're giving the biggest tax cut to those who make well above $50,000 a year. In fact, those who make $75,000 a year are going to receive a tax reduction in excess of 9%. Those who make around $50,000 a year, which was referred to earlier, they're going to get a tax cut in the neighbourhood of 8%. But unfortunately, those in the $25,000 -- $30,000 range are only going to get a tax reduction of 7%.

Again, the Minister of Finance said on Focus Ontario on Saturday night -- I guess I'm like the leader of the third party: If I mention Focus Ontario enough, I may get on it -- and I really couldn't believe this, but I marked it down -- he said, "We have not yet structured the tax cut." Now, we've heard a lot of ballyhooing over the last year or so that, "We have had our plan in place for two years." Two years they've had their plan in place, yet they don't know how they're going to structure their tax cut. This is government in rather an ad hoc way. I was shocked to hear the Minister of Finance say: "We're going to give a tax cut; we just don't know how we're going to do it. We know we're going to give it to those who are better off, we know that much, but we just don't know how we're going to structure it." So here we are, two years into the magic plan, and they don't know how they're going to structure this tax cut.

The hour is drawing late, the rhetoric has been long -- and I would include my own in that -- but I welcome the opportunity to speak to the Legislature, and if there was anything that you didn't take notes on this evening, I'd be pleased to provide them for you.

The Speaker: It being almost 12 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 2359.