36th Parliament, 1st Session

L037b - Mon 11 Dec 1995 / Lun 11 Déc 1995


Report continued from volume A.



Continuation of debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 26, An Act to achieve Fiscal Savings and to promote Economic Prosperity through Public Sector Restructuring, Streamlining and Efficiency and to implement other aspects of the Government's Economic Agenda / Loi visant à réaliser des économies budgétaires et à favoriser la prospérité économique par la restructuration, la rationalisation et l'efficience du secteur public et visant à mettre en oeuvre d'autres aspects du programme économique du gouvernement.

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill 26. There are many reasons to support this very important piece of legislation, and the facts are speaking for themselves. We have listened to two speakers talk about the stake and the importance in these bills. What I would like to say is: We spend $1 million more per hour than we take in. That's $1 million more than we receive in revenue every hour, every day, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. We spend $9 billion a year on interest on our staggering debt; that is almost twice the amount we spend on OHIP and more than we spend on the more than 200 hospitals in Ontario.

In the last 10 years alone, government spending has doubled and the accumulated debt has almost tripled to $100 billion. If you think about that statistic alone, you can understand why immediate action is necessary. Increasing spending increases this debt. You and I can't run our households with budgets like this. Why do the people think it's acceptable for the government to run its affairs in this manner?

We need to take measures to ensure that there is a future for my children and for their children and their children also. If we did absolutely nothing, if we kept spending at the levels reached by the previous two governments, and interest rates progressed at the rate they have over the last five years, by the year 2000 we would be spending $20 billion per year on interest alone. That's more than the total health care budget. So it's safe to say that in a choice between spending $17.4 billion on health care or spending $20 billion on interest debt, Ontarians would obviously choose health care.

I would argue that Ontarians have chosen. We released our election platform a year ahead of our campaign so that people would have the chance to read it and to compare it to those of the other parties. We campaigned on a platform where we reduced spending and worked towards deficit control so that we can preserve the services that the people of Ontario want, and that has never been so true, especially in the health care field.

The health care reform provisions of Bill 26 are designed to provide efficiency and quality in health care and make the system sustainable and affordable for future generations of Ontarians. Our reform initiatives were based on five major principles: We had to restructure the system; we had to find the highest quality at the best possible price; we had to have a patient focus to health care; we wanted to implement accountability; and we wanted to ensure that the system was sustainable. We are committed to maintaining health care funding at $17.4 billion, but implicit in this commitment is the need to make changes to the way we give health care to Ontarians, to the way we deliver the services.

Bill 26 facilitates the restructuring of the health care system by bolstering community hospital restructuring. It creates and empowers the Health Services Restructuring Commission to assist communities to find efficiencies in the way they deliver hospital services. Over 60 Ontario communities have engaged in hospital restructuring studies. These studies do not indicate how communities will actually implement their recommendations. The restructuring commission will do this and will make restructuring happen in these 60 communities throughout Ontario. Many of these communities have directly asked us to assist them so that they can reform their hospital structure and stretch out their health care dollars. It will also accelerate the pace of restructuring to ensure that changes to the hospital system occur in a planned and managed fashion.

In the past five years, 6,700 beds have been ripped out of the hospital system in a random fashion. Beds have been stripped away without the questions being asked and answered as to whether we can do with fewer facilities. In my area they have closed a number of beds, thereby making it such that five hospitals have 250 beds, an average of 50 beds per hospital; we have five administrations, five payrolls, five food services. We need to move on with restructuring.

Our Bill 26 reforms will drive services to need by setting aside previous binding agreements with physicians and encouraging, through the most generous incentive packages in the history of the province, physicians to practise in underserviced areas. Living in rural Ontario, I believe there's a two-tier health care system, not in the way we've talked about in the past but in the people in Ontario who have doctors who can provide health services to them. In Toronto we have one doctor for 600 people. In my area we have one doctor for 1,200 people. Should we let that slide as the other two governments have? It's time to make the system more equitable.

Our Bill 26 reforms will maintain quality in our drug plan and expand coverage in a more humane manner to the working poor. We are asking that the drug plan recipients share the cost to allow this to happen. Our Bill 26 reforms will ensure quality services are provided in uninsured facilities that the government previously had no control over. All of us want controls in the health care system.

This government is also concerned about the highest quality and the best price. I want you all to understand that I'm not talking about lowering the quality or the cheapest price; I'm talking about the best-quality service at the best possible price, something we should all be striving for in the health care system. In order to give the people of Ontario quality health care services in times of fiscal constraint, we must emphasize service and not ideology. We must emphasize the consumers' needs and not the providers'.

One of the overriding principles of this legislation is the notion that we need, indeed that we must provide, the highest quality of service for the best possible price. Our Bill 26 reforms to the Independent Health Facilities Act remove the bias that prevents commercial providers from competing with the not-for-profit sector in the provision of services.

By unshackling commercial providers, we are asking everyone to join with us in the quest to provide the best-quality service at the best affordable price. This bias was written into the legislation because the then Premier, David Peterson, was more interested in playing politics with health care and feuding with Brian Mulroney over free trade than in providing services to patients.

Our Bill 26 reforms enable us to control drug plan costs and allow patients and private drug insurance plans the flexibility to shop around for the best packaging, the best dispensing fees and the best prices for drugs. We believe that the market will drive down dispensing fees and drug costs -- or people will put a value to them; they may believe that a high dispensing fee is what they want to pay as a result of the things that they obtain from their pharmacist.

The government believes health care must become patient-focused. The reforms made in Bill 26 will enable our government to continue to re-engineer the health care system away from administrative structures and force it towards a patient focus.

By revamping the Health Insurance Act and Health Care Accessibility Act, we are ensuring that all patients, regardless of what part of the province they are located in, have access to appropriate medical services when they are needed. Individuals who live in Marathon or Hornepayne have the same right to critical services as residents in my riding of Huron, as do the patients in Toronto, London or Hamilton. We deserve to have that for all Ontarians. It's not fair for someone in my riding to go for emergency health care services to the emergency wing in their hospital and find out it's closed. We have to do something about it.

The changes we're making to the drug plan widen coverage so that 140,000 working-class poor are not prevented from accessing prescription drugs. Some of the things that I find the saddest when I listen to stories about people and their families is when people can't afford to get drugs for their children, when they both work, they both try very hard to maintain a life for their children, and their health is taken from them and they have no ability to afford it.

What we're doing here today in this Bill 26 is suggesting that 140,000 people who in the past could have been broken as a result of a serious health care problem have now the ability for it to be covered through the Trillium drug benefit plan. This is a big change and a good thing that's happening to the working-class people of Ontario. It should have happened years ago.

By asking all plan recipients to shoulder some of the costs, we are able to expand the number which our drug plans will cover. The previous government introduced cost-sharing, but the high deductibles written into the plan have deterred the working-class poor from accessing it. Our reforms will actually assist the working-class poor to pay for their drugs.

The Health Services Restructuring Commission will facilitate a province-wide, community-driven realignment of hospital services which focuses on the needs of the patient and not who provides the service and where the services are provided.

Reforms to the Independent Health Facilities Act will guarantee that patients receive appropriate, quality health services in facilities that deliver uninsured services.

The health care system must become accountable to the taxpayers and to the users. The reforms that we are proposing in Bill 26 will help make our health care system more accountable and ensure that taxpayers get the biggest bang for their health care dollar. These reforms will also aid us in tackling health care fraud.

Our drug plan reforms, for the first time, allow government to tie payments for drugs to medical conditions and to clinical criteria. It enables us to channel our resources towards maximizing health outcomes rather than having drugs prescribed whether they are needed or not.

Our drug reforms will also assist OHIP in clamping down on inappropriate prescribing. Every year hundreds of millions of dollars are squandered by seniors being hospitalized due to adverse drug reactions. The previous government did something towards this by setting up the computer network system. I give them full credit for that. But we have to go further. Our drug reforms will provide government with the means, which it currently lacks, to suspend the billing privileges of pharmacists and physicians who defraud the system.

Our reforms to the Health Insurance Act give governments more say in the rates of pay for the public health insurance plan. Currently the fee schedule for the Ontario public health insurance plan is controlled absolutely by the medical profession. Our reforms give the public more of a say in the rates and the reimbursements.

Everyone accepts that there is a significant amount of fraud in the health care system. Our reforms will combat fraud by giving the government, through health review committees, the means to recover inappropriate payments from providers and to do random inspections of facilities to ensure that public health dollars are accounted for. Our independent health facility reforms will ensure that the interests of patients are safeguarded, whether they receive care in a profit or a not-for-profit facility.

This government demands that the health care system becomes sustainable. The reforms we are contemplating in Bill 26 are ones that all governments, regardless of their political stripe, have at one time considered. We believe that in order to keep our health care system sustainable, we must make these changes today.

Our Public Hospitals Act reforms pave the way for the restructuring of hospital services that will maintain quality and enable us to achieve savings which we can turn around and plow right back into the health care system. Without first reforming this system to deliver services in a better way at a better price, we cannot reinvest in critical areas, such as measles immunization, dialysis, acquired brain injury, restructuring of many of the hospitals that needs to happen in the future. Bill 26 helps us facilitate long-lacking and badly needed system reform.


Virtually every hospital CEO in Toronto has told us that restructuring has to happen in Metropolitan Toronto. I have heard the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party say restructuring had to happen. They also feel that if it doesn't happen now, after the community has come together to recommend historic change, then it will never happen.

With the establishment of the Health Services Restructuring Commission, we are committed to making this happen. By failing to move on the reforms contained in Bill 26, the opportunity to realign hospital services to maintain quality, efficiency and affordability will be lost and the sustainability of our hospital system will be called into question.

Our drug plan reforms are a recognition that if we continue to have a plan that features the most up-to-date, innovative prescription drugs, we must change now and ask those who directly benefit from the plan to help us share in its costs. Without cost-sharing, we are facing the bleaker prospect of delisting drugs or not listing critical drugs that have tremendous health benefits. That's a choice we have had to make.

The changes we are making today will ensure that we have a quality drug plan for seniors -- and this segment of the population is growing and continues to grow -- for people on social assistance and for the working-class poor of today.

Our health insurance and Health Care Accessibility Act reforms will ensure that we have the right medical services in the right spot at the right time for all Ontarians, regardless of geography or their condition. Our reforms will give us budgetary predictability of medical services and allow us to better focus our resources towards the appropriateness of care and outcomes management.

The reforms we propose in Bill 26 are about placing the health care needs of the population above politics. The very fact that we need to make these changes today are because previous governments took the opposite view and let politics and interest groups hijack reforms which our health system desperately needs and needed. Our Bill 26 reform means that health care will be affordable, sustainable and accessible for my children and their children, for the generations of Ontarians who follow us.

Some of the very important things we have to realize as we look at this bill are that we are trying very hard to effectively manage physicians' expenditures, we're trying to make everything effective, we're trying to put controls on it so we know how we're spending money, and we're trying to make a distribution of physicians throughout the province that makes sense.

Changes to the supply and distribution of physician services are being made not because we're the big bad government but because we need to ensure equitable local access across the province to appropriate medical services. It is imperative that the people of Huron county have the same services as the people do in Toronto and as the people do in northern Ontario.

We have to address the current imbalance in the physician distribution. Presently, when we have eight people coming out of medical school, seven go to overserviced areas and only one of those eight comes to an underserviced area in Ontario. We can't afford to let this happen any longer. There must be equality of care throughout all of Ontario. To get doctors to the approximately 65 or so communities around Ontario which desperately need them, we have to make some substantial changes in the way we have allowed physicians to move.

The OMA has asked us for time to look at this problem and to come up with interesting and innovative ideas on how we are going to maintain physicians in rural Ontario. We, being the government we are, have allowed them that time and asked them to try for something else. We don't want to push doctors by controlling their billing numbers if it's not absolutely necessary, but we are determined that there will be health care for everyone in Ontario.

We want to ensure equality of care for patients in a seamless health care system, so we can no longer afford to say, "Hey, I'll take a doctor from Toronto to rural Ontario for 30 days." We must have equality of service for everyone in the province, and we have to join most other provinces which have plans in place the same as we're talking about. There are four other provinces that have the same requirement for doctors to look at different alternatives about where they start their practice.

We have to make sure that improvements to utilization of physician services are made to provide the necessary tools to manage expenditures within a fixed budget. We must permit effective recovery and collection of payments made above the financial cap and we must allow for variations in payments by locations, specialties and other factors.

Strengthening payment control measures so that the ministry has better controls over nearly $4 billion a year in payments to the fee-for-service system is absolutely mandatory. The people of Ontario demand it, and the physicians in many cases want to make sure fraudulent billings are reduced and that there is an increase in prevention of health problems within the community.

It's very important that we encourage physicians to practise where they are needed. Bill 26 allows us to do that.

It is important that we support hospitals and that we assist them with their hospital restructuring so we have hospitals in the future to meet the needs of Ontario.

It is also important that we help contain OHIP expenditures so we have greater flexibility to use the fee structure and to respond to the immediate health care needs the province has these days. We have to reduce inappropriate billings and increase recovery of payments for inappropriate billings.

I don't think any Ontarian has an objection to that. We want to increase accountability so that we know the money you and I are spending as taxpayers is being well utilized within the health care system.

That's what's in Bill 26, not the things these people have been talking about previously, not the fearmongering they have been talking about. We are looking for a better system to be able to provide all of us in Ontario with health care that is strong and will be there for future generations.

The government also proposes to amend the Public Health Act. The government has always controlled hospital funding, and this simply clarifies what has been done in practice under all previous governments. Our objective is to make the changes necessary to sustain our health care system in the future and for future generations.

This change to the legislation is necessary to allow us to keep our promise to focus resources on direct patient care and to better match resources with patient care needs. A simple kind of term and condition for funding that might be applied is, for example, how many transplants the hospital is expected to perform or how many cardiac surgeries, like at the Ontario health institute.

The minister shouldn't have to make a personal visit to the hospital to ensure that it matches the available resources to services that the hospital itself considers a priority. There is no intention with Bill 26 to micro-manage hospitals.

Under the NDP government, the steering committee reviewing the Public Hospitals Act recommended that the Minister of Health should be authorized to contract with individual hospitals and intermediate agencies to obtain specific outcomes. That is exactly what we're trying to do by setting up the restructuring committee.

The members of the opposition would like you to believe that the government has a hit list of hospitals in Ontario, that we have some secret agenda and know exactly which hospitals we're going to close. This is just not the case. There is no secret list.


This restructuring process going on in the hospitals is driven by the communities and their needs. Communities, unlike some of the members in the opposition, realize that there are only so many health care dollars. Long-term care costs are increasing by 13% per year, yet we have taken nothing away from the hospitals. We have in effect closed 6,700 beds or 33 medium-sized hospitals, yet the lights are on, the hydro is on and we're still paying for it as taxpayers. They have left the system and the taxpayers to cope with the overhead costs of all this redundant brick and mortar. They never took the needed steps to help hospitals restructure and become more efficient. They wasted taxpayer dollars.

There are restructuring studies and initiatives under way, 60 of them, that need to be looked at. District health council volunteers have been working long and hard to make very tough decisions and plan for hospitals and the best way to meet the needs of the community in the future. They have been sending their recommendations to the minister. Some of these community-driven restructuring studies have recommended that hospitals merge and close; these are community-driven recommendations to close. The district health councils are rightly proud of the work they have done.

The previous NDP government initiated these studies. Let me ask this question: If they implemented these studies, what did they intend to do with them if they weren't going to make sure that the planning process went to an implementation process? Are they telling us that they never intended to act upon, or to take seriously, the recommendations brought out from the communities? If that's the case, it's a waste of more health care dollars again.

Communities believed that their recommendations would be considered and that we would start to work on them. They have told us that there have been roadblocks and that they need some ability to move forward. They need to have implementation that is results-oriented and action-oriented, and they want to see the restructuring completed as quickly as possible. The restructuring commission's task will be to facilitate and accelerate the implementation of the restructuring plans developed in communities across the province.

The Ontario Hospital Association itself said in its news release after the economic statement, "The establishment of the Health Services Restructuring Commission must make it possible to accelerate implementation of many restructuring projects across Ontario." They agree we have to do it to be able to move forward in the implementation process. The OHA says that hospitals have long advocated restructuring as the key to long-term savings, specifically through rationalization of programs and services, including mergers, alliances and amalgamations of institutions.

Remember always that the objective is to make the changes necessary to sustain health care in Ontario. These changes to the legislation are necessary to allow us to keep our promise to focus resources on direct patient care and to better match resources to patient care needs. Why spend on unnecessary overhead such as bricks and mortar and administrative costs when we could be spending on patient care?

Lawyers tell us the draft of this legislation required that the Minister of Health obtain these authorities in order that they can be delegated, and we will delegate the authority to the restructuring commission. The people who wrote the Metro Toronto restructuring study, well respected in their field, recommended such a body to take the politics out of the implementation restructuring system. The Minister of Health will not be implementing or exercising these powers unilaterally.

Voluntary agreements work best and fastest, and that's ultimately what we would like to see. We'd like to see these restructuring projects community-driven.

Under the NDP, the steering committee reviewed the Public Health Act and recommended that the Public Health Act should authorize the minister, under specific conditions, to require formation of a joint venture or partnership, a federation with a new board of directors, or a merger of hospitals.

The previous government heard this advice that said there were circumstances where such an authority may be required to prepare hospitals for the future. Did they have the courage to act? No.

Using this authority will always be tested against "the public interest." Again, this terminology is not unknown to the previous administration, which received recommendations that the Public Hospitals Act should allow for the regulation of hospitals by the minister through a review of performance and intervention when necessary to protect the public interest.

There are some very good things about Bill 26 that the opposition has not bothered to dwell on.

Some examples of the tools requested and delivered include multi-year funding commitments. Hospitals have asked us for funding commitments that went out three years so they could strategically plan where they would be in three years. We have done that for them.

We have made a commitment to work with the sector on a fair and equitable process to implement funding reductions. We have given them guidelines for arbitrators to consider employers' ability to pay salaries and wage increases. We have disbanded the Workplace Health and Safety Agency. We have halted planning on the multiservice agencies.

We have introduced the health care consent act to streamline and simplify the consent-to-treatment legislation. We have provided the ability to establish crown foundations to make it easier for hospitals to solicit charitable donations. We have streamlined a process in dealing with the ministry on operating plans and capital projects, and we have given them our commitment to increase flexibility to generate revenue.

There are a number of people who, when asked about what we intend to do from the government perspective, have said some good things about what we are doing. The CEO of the Sunnybrook Health Science Centre said that we should get on with restructuring and do what we should have done years ago, that while hospital restructuring will occur fast, it can be done without hurting the patient. The CEO of another hospital said, "Hospitals are appreciative of the multi-year nature of today's funding announcement."

Hospitals have long advocated restructuring as the key to long-term savings, specifically through rationalization of programs and services, including mergers, alliances and amalgamation of institutions.

There has been a fair amount of fearmongering, I suppose, when we talk about the Ontario drug benefit plan, and I just want to comment for a few minutes about the ODB plan and what has happened to it with Bill 26.

The changes will bring fairness and long-overdue reform to our drug plan. There will be better coverage for the working poor of Ontario. First and foremost, we will improve the Trillium drug program, making it more sensitive to lower-income earners: 140,000 more Ontarians will receive help with their drug coverage because of our changes.

The Trillium drug plan was designed for people with high drug costs who either aren't part of a private plan or have exhausted their private plan coverage. The Trillium plan was one of those good ideas that came from the previous government. Under the plan, individuals kept track of their out-of-pocket drug costs. Once they hit a certain threshold or deductible, which is based on a percentage of their net family income, they could apply to receive assistance from the government.

But when the program started last year, the lowest net income used on the sliding scale was $20,000 and the lowest possible deductible was set at $500. How can someone on $20,000 afford $500? In other words, people with net family incomes of anything less than $20,000 had to pay $500 out of their own pocket before they could even apply for government assistance. Too many working people with incomes of less than $20,000 and high drug costs simply had to pay their own costs because they couldn't find the deductible.


Our drug reform plan includes improvements to the Trillium plan which will make it more sensitive to low incomes and fairer to low-income earners. Specifically, the new lowest net income used to calculate the deductible will fall from $20,000 to $6,500. As a result, the lowest deductible will fall from $500 to $350, and 140,000 more working-class poor in Ontario will receive assistance with their high drug costs.

We are also introducing cost-sharing for 1.3 million seniors and 1.1 million social assistance recipients who are covered by the Ontario drug benefit plan. Seniors -- and I want to correct this from what the honourable member of the third party said earlier -- who earn less than $16,000 and couples who earn less than $24,000, along with all social assistance recipients, will pay $2 per prescription that is filled. Seniors who earn more than these amounts will pay the first $100 in prescription costs each year per person, and subsequently will pay the dispensing fees, up to a maximum of $6.11 per prescription. Overall, 2.5 million Ontarians, or 20% of the population, will now receive assistance with their drug costs.

I heard the honourable member say a little while ago that seniors would be angered by this. I don't believe that. I believe that seniors want to have 140,000 people, who could be their children or their grandchildren, on a drug benefit program. I believe they will gladly share, because that's the way seniors are.

ODB spending has tripled in the past 10 years. Spending grew by an average of 16.4% annually from the early 1980s to 1993. We currently spend $1.3 billion every year on our drug plan. After our reforms we will still be spending a generous amount on drug coverage and more people will have health care, but we need to act now to keep the ODB program affordable and sustainable so we will have it for the next generation.

We have an aging population, so more people will be receiving assistance through the ODB in just a few short years. As well, both the number and the cost of new drug therapies are increasing daily. The changes we are making will prepare the program for more recipients in the future and will allow us to add newly developed drugs to the program as they become available.

The choices this government makes are sometimes very controversial, but they need to be made to ensure that health care is here for the future. I ran in the county of Huron because I believe we have to have health care available for my children. We are proactively moving towards maintaining our $17.4 billion in health care by reallocating, re-engineering and restructuring the way health care is provided in Ontario.

We can be proactive and do this or we can wait for the debt holders to call in the loans. When they call in the loans they thereby stop all expenditures to the areas we hold sacred in Ontario: health care and education. The choices this government is making are tough choices, but they're important for our future. The people have given us a mandate, and we will not shrink under the pressure of a verbal minority who say we are trying to do something different than we are. We are maintaining health care for this generation, the next generation and my grandkids.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): The first thing I'd ask the last member who spoke is that if she wants to maintain the amount of money we currently spend on health care, why doesn't she recommend to her boss, the Minister of Health, that the $1.5 billion being taken out of the system both through hospital cuts and drug user fees be at least set aside in a trust fund or a contingency fund so that the new restructuring she's talking about can be paid out of that? That's the first point I want to make.

The second point is that the member for Etobicoke-Humber earlier today chided one of our members on this side of the House, saying that this bill does not deal with finances, yet we've just heard from the last member who spoke a speech to the effect that this bill does deal with the financial statement and all the implications that come out of it.

I just refer to page 42 of the economic statement, which shows that the public debt of the province of Ontario is expected to rise, according to your own documentation, from $97.2 billion, where it stands currently, to $120.7 billion by the year 2000. I say to you once again, as I've said in this House on a number of occasions, if you really want to do something about the public debt in this province -- and we all do -- then forget about your silly tax cut. That's a good way to start. If you got rid of the tax cut and this promise you've got out there, you wouldn't have to be cutting as much as you're doing right now.

People should understand the amounts we're talking about here. With the huge user fees that will be coming in with what municipalities are going to do, and with the kinds of user fees you're talking about in the health care system, with the kinds of user fees that undoubtedly you'll be talking about with school boards etc, all this money that allegedly is going back to the people in tax savings will be used up in other ways. The taxpayers out there will not be any better off than they are now except we'll have thousands more people unemployed and we'll have our system of education and health and municipalities under siege.

Let's just take a look at page 5 of the Common Sense Revolution. According to your own figures, a taxpayer with an income of $25,000 will be saving $425 in the first year, and somebody with $50,000 of taxable income will save $934 per year. At the end of three years they'll be saving double those amounts: $850 for the $25,000 income taxpayer and for $50,000 it'll be $1,767. With all the fees we've heard about in the last few days here, the potential user fees, the head tax that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing admits now there may very well be, that municipalities may very well get involved in that etc, it doesn't take very long before all of this money has been used up.

I'd like to go back for a minute to what this process is all about. I too have heard some comments from people about the sit-in that took place here last week and the effect it has on democracy and on the ways we do things here. I will read a couple of interesting quotations, what people in the past have had to say about the rights of the minority and the democratic rights of people in a chamber like this.


"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind." The same author goes on to say, and I would like the backbenchers to especially listen to this quote, "He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that." Now just think about that for a moment. Another quote from that same writer is, "We can never be sure that the opinion which we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still."

Finally, and this is really what this chamber is all about: "Instead of the functioning of governing, for which it is radically unfit, the proper office of a representative assembly" -- which is what we are here -- "is to watch and control the government."

Those are some quotes from John Stuart Mill, who is certainly a well-known civil libertarian, and I think it would do us all well to remember some of these ideas and to contemplate them.

Another one goes as follows: "All too will bear in mind this sacred principle: that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression." That's from Thomas Jefferson.

Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): He's American.

Mr Gerretsen: Right; a well-known and well-thought-of American as well.

Mr Sampson: In some quarters.

Mr Gerretsen: In some quarters? In many quarters, my friend.

Finally, dealing with the whole notion of majority and minority, here are some interesting quotes: "When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority is wrong."

Further: "Governments exist to protect the rights of minorities. The loved and the rich need no protection. They have many friends and few enemies."

Sam Rayburn, another American, said this: "When you get too big a majority you're immediately in trouble." We on this side can certainly concur with that.

Finally, a little ditty which goes as follows: "How a minority, reaching majority, seizing authority, hates a minority." That is so reminiscent of what's been going on here over the last three months, where just about every bill that is meaningful to this province has --

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): How many have passed?

Mr Gerretsen: How many have been passed? But they've all been done by closure.

Hon Mr Hodgson: One.

Mr Gerretsen: That's right. That's one out of one that has been passed by way of closure, okay? When a minister says, "But we offered 360 hours of public hearings before Christmas," it doesn't take too long to figure out that there are about 168 hours in a week, and if you take two weeks, you get less than 360 hours. Yet the government wanted to pass this draconian bill, which changes the law in over 43 different acts, in a matter of two weeks. I don't know; some of those hours must have been doubled up somewhere along the time.

I realize that what the demonstration really was all about last week was to ensure that the minority opinion in this House will be heard as well and that people out there who may want to make representations with respect to this bill will have some time to respond to it. I'll be the first to admit that the three or four weeks you're talking about certainly isn't enough. Anybody who thinks it is, to deal with all the various issues that have been talked about in the House today and on other days and undoubtedly later on today, will realize that you are fundamentally changing the governing of this province in many different ways.

I realize that you think it's a good thing, but just remember those quotes I gave you a little bit earlier.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): On June 8, they wanted fundamental change.

Mr Gerretsen: That's right. The fundamental change you're making is the fact that you already took $1.9 billion out of the Comsoc budget in July, another $5.5 billion in this economic statement, for a total of about $7 billion, and you want to give $4 billion of it back by way of a tax cut. You tell me whether that makes any sense at all, since you're so concerned about the public debt of this province going up, as the last member has clearly indicated.

It doesn't make any sense. Admit to the people of Ontario how foolish you have been in promising this tax cut and just don't do it, and they'll forgive you. Then you wouldn't have to go through all the pain that the people of Ontario will be going through with the kinds of dramatic and drastic cuts that you're implementing at this time.

It's very interesting that even some of the financial people are saying: "The deep cuts will put a low ceiling on Ontario's growth prospects next year. While the promised tax cuts will cushion the blow, the spending restraint will shave 1.5% from the provincial output next year."

Let me just give you a little example of my own experience in the riding I'm from, where one out of every two people gets his or her funding from the public purse and the wider public sector. It's certainly an area of the province that is highly regarded and it is extremely well off by most people's standards.

Let me just tell you what you're doing there with the tax cuts that you're talking about in this particular piece of legislation. Over the next three years, $100 million of public funding will be taken out of the economy in Kingston. Of that, $75 million will be taken from hospitals, schools and municipalities, $19 million has already been stripped away from families on welfare and further millions are being cut from provincial ministries and public agencies. It translates to cuts of $16 million at Queen's University and over $4 million at St Lawrence College, while school boards will lose $10 million and local municipalities will lose at least $6 million over the next two years.

Those are jobs -- jobs of hardworking people. An estimate has been made by one particular economist on behalf of the Council of Ontario Universities that at Queen's University alone as many as 490 jobs may be lost on campus, and according to the indirect spending that will be involved -- about another $28.6 million -- it could mean the loss of another 783 jobs.

I'm not saying that to scare people; I'm just saying that so you have some idea of what you're doing. My point is quite simply this: If you had not made the promise of this huge tax cut that you're talking about, the restructuring could have taken place at a much more even pace, as is happening within the federal government, and you would not be putting the jobs of as many people at risk throughout this province as you're doing right now.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I just want to get some comments on the record about Bill 26, the omnibus bill. In my opinion, the Conservative Mike Harris government is moving way too fast and too far, in a big rush to try to get their mean-spirited Common Sense Revolution of cutting jobs, cutting services that people depend on in order to give a tax break to those people who are well-off or in the upper-income bracket.

To those people who are out there listening to the debate that is going on and who heard of the action that had to be taken last week in order to get public hearings that will go past Christmas and into January, to the end of January, it is very hard to absorb. I've explained to some of the people in my riding that you have a bill that was brought into the Legislature in a very sneaky way, when people were in the lockup.

It's 211 pages in length, and they've also supplied 2,225 pages of supporting documentation to justify why they think they need Bill 26, which is the omnibus bill, in order to cut as deep and as fast as they could to be able to -- if you're going to cut $6 billion, this is about the equivalent of a $6-billion or $7-billion tax break to the well-off people or the richer people in this province. It's not needed. It's going to hurt the people in a very serious way.


I listened to the member for Huron earlier saying that the seniors are going to be happy. If they have to pay what the bill calls for under the drug section, seniors will have to pay $100 each year for their medically necessary prescription drugs plus $2 for a prescription and $6.11 for a dispensing fee. For a senior person who has a regular need for prescription drugs, this probably could take as much as $500 or $600 out of their pocket.

I have not met any seniors in my riding or any other place that I've travelled in northern Ontario who are saying they're happy with what Mike Harris is saying he's going to do now. He didn't say it during the election campaign, because they would not have elected 82 members to this Legislature if he had gone out and said, "I'm going to add additional tax or a user fee on to all the seniors in this province, in addition to taking away food and money for shelter for women, disabled and children in this province."

Especially at a time when we're getting very close to the festive season, when everybody should be in a cheery mood and be able to help each other out, the most vulnerable people in our society are finding out that they don't have enough to go around, and then in addition to that, we see the further cuts that were brought out at the end of November.

I might say that they were brought out in a very sneaky way. While our members and the Liberal members were in the lockup, the Chair of Management Board decided that he was going to bring in the bill and sneak it through and say, "We're going to have some debate in the Legislature, but it's very important that the people in this province don't know what's in this bill," because if the people know what's in this bill, they're going to be hysterical when they find out everything that this Tory government is intending to do to them.

The intention was to have it railroaded or bullied or rammed through the Legislature and then the 82 Tory members could disappear before Christmas and not have to come back to the Legislature before next spring and say: "Well, it's done. We did it. We rammed it through the Legislature. Now, with all the savings we got out of the cuts and slash-and-burn and taking the chainsaw to all the different ministries and the front-line service that people expect in this province, we're going to turn around and give you a tax break in next year's budget after the throne speech, and everything will go away."

I want to tell you that it will not go away. There is just too much damage being done to the province with the slash-and-burn tactics that are being introduced in Bill 26.

I'm happy to see that the Minister of Mines is here tonight, because 28 amendments being brought in under the Mining Act are going to eliminate a lot of the environmental controls where mining companies had to have a plan, they had to put a deposit down so that if they polluted our natural, lovely northern Ontario, they would have to clean it up.

I might point out that there was no public consultation on this whatsoever, from what I can understand. There was a teleconference made by the minister saying, "This is what we're going to do and we'll issue our press release," back on October 24. Now we find out that nobody needs a permit to build a dam or block the waterways in this province. They can just go ahead and do whatever they want and they're given a free hand from the Minister of Natural Resources.

I see some people over there shaking their heads; I can hear the noise going on. But the province will be left holding the cleanup bill because there are amendments that are being brought in. We all know that most companies are honest and open and sincere, but there are fly-by-night companies that are going to leave a very expensive bill for the other taxpayers in this province to clear up.

Imagine: Before Bill 26 was introduced, people had to get a permit if they wanted to build a dam on a river to produce power. Now the doors are being opened wide, saying, "You can do whatever you want." I guess this is the red tape they're talking about. But the taxpayers in this province are not happy with the type of amendments being brought into the Mining Act by the Ministry of Natural Resources. I live in northern Ontario and I'm well aware of what the people are talking about.

In addition to what this Tory government did under Bill 7, which was to legalize the use of scabs and strikebreakers, which had been outlawed in this province for a number of years, they have brought in amendments under schedule Q that are going to take away the rights of people under arbitrations acts. I think it's very bad news for teachers, police, firefighters and hospital workers.

The more we look at Bill 26, and the more we analyse what is in it, it's quite clear to us why Mike Harris and the Tory government in Ontario would want to bully this bill through the Legislature and have it become law before Christmas. Now people are going to have a chance to read it and study it. Some people are going over to the government bookstore, picking it up at $18.20 a copy and analysing it. They're reading through it and they have till January 29 to be able to bring forward amendments and make sure the bill does not destroy the way things are done in Ontario and destroy all the legislation that was good for people.

We look at what is happening in northern Ontario. I attended a couple of functions on the weekend. One of the reeves from the municipality was saying to me, "Sure, it's okay for the Tories to bring in a bill saying that I can have user fees for arenas and for libraries, but how am I going to charge a $2 or a $3 user fee for an outdoor skating rink?" We are very much limited in northern Ontario as to what extra fees or services can be done.

I know in question period this afternoon, when our leader was questioning the Premier, and prior to that it was the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, he seemed to be happy with the idea that you put on a head tax like Margaret Thatcher tried to do in England, that this would be all right.

If you've got a man and a woman and five or six kids or more and if they're above a certain age, if you don't want to raise the property taxes or the school taxes, this legislation would give the right to the municipalities to put a head tax on. You could go in and slap on $500, $600, $700, $800, depending on how many people were in the house, with a head tax, and this would be a way of raising the money.

In the campaign that was held this summer and resulted in the Conservatives electing 82 members, this was not what was promised, especially in my area anyway. The commitments were out there: Health care will not be touched. There will be not one penny taken out of health care. Classroom education will not be touched. Now we find out that they're slashing health care, that they're taking over $1 billion out, that they're slashing 50% cuts in the unconditional grants and grants to municipalities, that classroom education is going to be affected. Everything that they said during the campaign was sacred is now, we find out, being attacked.


In northern Ontario, 20 years ago it was decided by the Conservative government that the small communities had suffered enough from one airline after another coming in and trying to deliver a service to the small communities in northern Ontario. It was decided at that time that there had to be a dependable airline service there, and norOntair was established and they've been doing a fantastic job.

We know it's not profitable because 20 years ago it was realized that it was not profitable. It's not profitable to run airlines in northern Ontario, into the small communities, it's not profitable to run trains into the small communities, and it's not profitable to run buses into the small communities. But now the three services that Ontario Northland delivers are being attacked. In July you get $1 million cut out of subsidizing for the airline, and now we find out there's another $10 million that's being cut out of Ontario Northland.

Communities like Kapuskasing, Hearst, Timmins, Sault Ste Marie, all these communities that depend on the connecting airline service to get them from point A to point B, are going to be destroyed by the government in announcement after announcement that is coming out. The Ontario Northland train is going to be at risk once the subsidies are cut off. People ask me, "Well, why are they doing that?" I said: "It's just that they don't care. They don't care about northern Ontario. They just decide that they're going to take away everything that we got used to having and enjoyed having."

Then they have the nerve to say, why don't we form one caucus for all of northern Ontario? I guess it was Mike Harris's idea, because he was the only one who was elected close to northern Ontario. I don't call North Bay northern Ontario because I live over 300 miles away from there. But he decided, "We're going to make one big happy family; we'll have the whole three caucuses, the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP, and then we'll have a caucus," because he only had a one-man show before that.

It's very similar to saying, "I'm going to burn down your house, and then we'll negotiate to see how long you can stay in that house." You burn, you destroy, you damage everything that you as a government can put your hands on, that we expect and deserve in northern Ontario, and then they say, "Why don't you meet?"

For those out there who are listening, these are the reasons we were pushed to the wall and we made the decision that, no, you're not going to destroy and take away everything and destroy the whole economy of northern Ontario, throw thousands and thousands of people out of work because the only thing that seems important to the Mike Harris government is, "We'll cut the budget and we'll cut the deficit; we'll pay off the debt." Human beings, the face of human beings, whether it be men, women, children, disabled, elderly people, it doesn't care, and it's quite obvious from what has been brought forward in the last number of weeks that there is no concern and no caring about what happens.

I talked about how they're going to try to shut down the Ontario Northland, how they're going to try to shut down the norOntair airline. In addition, they announced to the municipalities that have their own municipal airports, "You were getting $30,000 or $40,000 a year, helping you to maintain that airport in case an air ambulance has to come in to evacuate people and we have to get them out to the major centres for health care reasons." Now the announcement was: "No more subsidies. If you can't maintain those airports on your own, you'll just have to shut them down."

Where do the people go? You shut down the airline; you cut off the subsidy on the airports; they're going to have to close the airports. Emergencies do happen. We can't use helicopters for every particular occasion.

It's serious. There is a big concern with trying to ram through Bill 26, which is very cumbersome. It would take about two weeks to be able to read that when you take into consideration the other 2,225 pages that are accompanying that, and say, "Okay, now we have made all of the amendments and changes that are necessary." For the nerve of a government to try to ram this through in a few short days, it was very unrealistic and very bully tactic methods that were being used.

I do a lot of travelling throughout northern Ontario, and I might say southern Ontario because I have relatives who are in southern Ontario. Through northern Ontario imagine the shock of realizing that winter is coming, that winter is getting very close, and the same day that the severe storms are hitting northern Ontario, the Minister of Transportation announces: "I'm sorry, we can't afford to keep the roads safe in this province and we're going to park the snowplows, we're going to park the sanding trucks and the salt trucks, and we're going to lay off 125 seasonal workers, because keeping the roads free of snow and ice is not important to this Conservative government. The only thing that we care about, as a Conservative government, is to raise enough dollars" -- which could be $5.5 billion, $6 billion or $7 billion in cutting, taking things away from the poor, taking it away from the women, the children, the food they need to make sure that they have healthy lives and become seniors, to cut and slash and burn everything that they can get their hands on, not only in northern Ontario but in a lot of cases southern Ontario, but I believe that northern Ontario is different in a sense because of the large expanse there as well as the small number of people.

It's very cruel and unthinkable that a government would put so many things and so many people at risk all in the name of trying to be able to give this $6 billion, $7 billion or $8 billion in taxes back to the upper-income people, to people who are better off than most people in this province. It's really a severe attack on northern Ontario and the small communities in northern Ontario, just the 50% cut that is being talked about in the transfers and the unconditional grants and the conditional grants. For a town where I grew up, you're talking about a 10% increase in municipal taxes.

I can remember sitting across from Mike Harris when they had a small group of people in the Legislature from 1990 to 1995, and Mike Harris and a number of other people used to yell across, "There only is one taxpayer." I believe that. There is only one taxpayer in the province. But now the Conservative government, the Tories, the Tory bullies in Ontario are saying: "We're going to balance our budget. We're going to cut the deficit. We're going to give a tax break of $7 billion or $8 billion, and then you can go out and raise the taxes or put user fees or put a head tax on or do whatever you want."


If people in northern Ontario don't have libraries, you can't charge library fees. If you don't have an indoor rink, how are you going to charge people for using an outdoor rink? Fees for ice service and most of those services are already considered to be high enough by the citizens, so you'll drive ordinary people away from these services by forcing the municipalities to either raise taxes 10% or 15% to compensate for the Tory cuts or raise the property taxes because there are no user fees, in most cases, that you can put on.

Look at the arbitration section being amended. Imagine going through the grievance procedure and getting to arbitration and then the arbitrator says, "I'm sorry, under the new legislation brought in under Bill 26 for public service employees, I can't make any ruling on that if it has any financial impact on the municipality." The changes say they have to have the financial means -- I guess they're talking about money in the bank -- to be able to settle these grievances, so the arbitrator is going to rule against the teachers, the nurses, the firemen, the policemen.

I've had policemen come into my office and ask: "Where do we stand? What's going on with the Tories in Queen's Park?" They only really started to become aware of Bill 26 when the media started talking about how Bill 7, the labour legislation, was rammed through the Legislature, and the employment equity legislation is going through a lot more quickly than a lot of people thought it should, including myself. Now they find out that with Bill 26, the intent of a few people in the Tory caucus was to ram this through as quickly as possible and then they could disappear for a long, extended holiday, and let the people lick their wounds when they found out.

People are telling me right now, "We voted Tory because we wanted change, but we didn't think in the short six months they've been there that they were going to go outside the Common Sense Revolution and break their promise on health care, break their promise on funding to classroom education and on policing." It's not in the Common Sense Revolution, not in any of the editions, whether you go by the first, second, third, fourth, fifth or eighth edition. It's not in there. They're not saying they were going to lay off thousands of teachers in Ontario by cutting out junior kindergarten. I might point out that junior kindergarten has been around since 1944, and now all of a sudden you get 82 Tories who come in and say, "We want to turn back the clock 51 years and eliminate junior kindergarten in this province."

We've talked about labour legislation. It's being rolled back to 1930 or 1935.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): It is not.

Mr Len Wood: It is. The member's arguing that the labour legislation doesn't roll back the clock. It legalizes the use of scabs and replacement workers on the job, when people got shot and people died. The Conservatives have rolled back the clock to legislation that allows violence and for people to be killed on the picket line. It's unreal. Junior kindergarten was brought in in 1944, as I said before. It's unreal.

Mrs Johns: It's not really all right. We're $100 billion in debt.

Mr Len Wood: I'm glad to see the member for Huron is back. I'd like to be in her office when the seniors start coming in and saying, "You did not say during the campaign that you were going to charge me $600, $700 or $800 in user fees, new taxes."

Mrs Johns: My seniors will be happy to give a hand up.

Mr Len Wood: I would love to be there when she justifies, "Why did Mike Harris change his mind six months after?" Some people are even saying he might have lied during the campaign. I'm not saying that, but some people are saying that.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): But the member for Huron said her seniors are going to be happy to have user fees.

Mr Len Wood: She says they're going to be happy. Mike Harris said today that all the seniors he's talked to are going to be happy. The seniors haven't had a chance to read Bill 26. When they get a chance to read it and the 2,225 pages that go with it and find out about all the sneaky little pieces of legislation in there, they're going to be shocked. There are going to be Conservative cabinet ministers and backbenchers who go home for Christmas who, when they find out the people have read Bill 26, are going to have to go hide. They'll be ashamed of themselves, because they did not promise in the campaign that they were going to attack the people in the province the way they have done.

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): Why do they keep slapping me on the shoulder, saying, "Keep up the good work"?

Mr Len Wood: It's kind of interesting that the seniors are telling him it's okay to charge them $8 for a prescription. With their slash-and-burn attitude --

Mr Spina: You watch us go around with flaming swords, eh, Len?

Mr Len Wood: Some of the Conservatives, with the heckling from some of the members over there, they think it's funny when we get up and complain about an unsafe condition and that people are getting killed. We're saying you cut the money out, and please put the money back in, because people are being hurt in car accidents, they are being hospitalized and they are dying. Put the money back, hire back the people so we can have safe roads in northern Ontario.

Mr Spina: I drove through the north from Kenora to Fort Frances, and I didn't have one problem. Give it a rest.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Brampton North will come to order.

Mr Len Wood: We say that and then we get some Conservative members heckling and laughing.

I can see it's drawn some reaction from some of the Tory backbenchers; they're getting a little bit punchy. They know that when the people in this province read what's in Bill 26 and the supporting documentation that comes along with it and find out about all the user fees, all the attack on the children, the women, the poor, the seniors -- it's like Grey Power, when the woman pointed her finger at Brian Mulroney and said, "You promised you would not touch my pension," on indexing, and they backed off on it.

I can see a number of these situations happening at Christmastime with the Conservative Tories, saying: "You promised you would not do that, during the campaign. Now you're taking money out of my pocket for health care, you're destroying the transportation industry in northern Ontario. Everything you've touched, you did not say you were going to do that during the campaign. You said, `They're sacred; they will not be touched.'"

Now we find out that everything is going to be attacked. There's not a single person in Ontario who is not being attacked and being made to sacrifice something as a result of the legislation that's been brought in, and it doesn't have to be that way.

It is that way because some silly promises were made during the campaign. There was the silly promise that, "If we cut out $7 billion in front-line services and people have to go without and do with a little bit less, then we can give $7 billion in tax breaks to the upper-income people and the wealthy people in the budget in 1996, 1997 and 1998, and we'll still run a deficit of $8 billion, $10 billion or $15 billion." The deficit is still going to be there. You're just taking it out of one pocket: from the poor, the people who are very unfortunate and don't have anything right now.

On the weekend, people were saying that it still seems to be the same thing you talked about during the campaign, that the feeling of a Conservative government, if elected in the majority, is: "The poor have too much now and we're going to take a whole bunch away from them. The rich don't have enough. We're going to give it to the rich." This is exactly what is being played out now, exactly what we talked about during the election campaign.

Mike Harris did not promise these things during the campaign. He said he wouldn't touch most of the items he's talking about in Bill 26. I'm sure that even the Tory backbenchers, if and when they do decide to read Bill 26 and the documentation that comes along with it, will be shocked. We'll find out that all of a sudden there's a Tory caucus meeting here and that they're not happy with what's in there because they're being attacked by the citizens in this province who are saying: "You broke your promises to us, and after the next election you will not be here. You will not be elected again, because you campaigned on one thing and you broke it on another."


I could go on and on and on for a long time, but I know some of my colleagues want to have a chance to put some comments on the record. I appreciate, even though I was fairly aggressive in some areas, that some of the Tory members listened. I'm sure that when we find out that the bill was put together wrong, that nobody had a clue what was going when it was put together -- what about the thousand amendments that'll come in? You'll say, "We did it wrong, so we've got amendments," and then you're going to have to amend the amendments because it was just slapped together.

I've talked to some of the Tory backbenchers, had the discussion with them, and some of them are unhappy as well. But they have to go and tell their leader, tell their caucus chair, tell their whip. Coming and whining to me is not going to help. I could name the people here, but that's not going to solve it. You have a caucus process, and I wouldn't want to cause more dissension among the Tory caucus than what is going on right now.

I know for a fact that it is happening. They said: "We were not consulted about this. Nobody talked about it. It didn't come up in our caucus meeting. All of a sudden, Dave Johnson brought in a whole sack of papers and brought the bill into the House, and here we are. We don't know what's going on any more than the Liberals and NDP in opposition know."

We've had a chance to study it and we don't like what's in a lot of those sections. I've spoken about northern Ontario. I don't like to see the clock being turned back 40 or 50 years, because whoever is the next government -- and it won't be a Conservative government; it'll be another party in government four years down the road -- is going to have to rectify a lot of these things. The Conservatives might even have to change them before their mandate is up, because there's going to be a lot of anger, a lot of frustration out there. I feel sorry for the Tory backbenchers who are going home at Christmastime and on into January and having to explain this during the public hearings.

With that, I think I will give my time to other people who want to make some comments.

Hon Mr Hodgson: It gives me great pleasure to be able to speak on Bill 26 this evening and to follow my colleague from Cochrane North in his comments.

Mr Speaker, as you and the people of Ontario are no doubt aware, under Bill 26 four specific sections deal with the ministries I have the honour of being minister for: Northern Development and Mines, and Natural Resources. In the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, we have one substantial change to the Mining Act. In the Ministry of Natural Resources, we have changes to the conservation authorities, to the regulatory permitting, which affects three areas of regulation, and to the Game and Fish Act.

I'd like to go into that in some detail, but first of all, I'd like to put into perspective some of the speeches we've heard tonight. The voter watching this on TV might be confused about what we're talking about. Bill 26 is a result and a necessary tool stemming from our financial statement that was delivered by our Treasurer Wednesday before last.

The financial statement fulfils our commitment to the people of Ontario. The mandate we were given on June 8 was to deliver major change, major change from the direction this province had been going for the last 10 years, where our spending had doubled in 10 short years yet three times as many people needed welfare than 10 short years before.

Obviously, the Ontario public was ahead of the people at Queen's Park, the politicians, and recognized the need for major change in our society. They told us that at town hall meetings for the four years leading up to the election, and on June 8 they gave us a mandate to implement that.

Our Treasurer recognized in the July 21 economic statement that we couldn't sustain another deficit of more than $10 billion, so he made an in-year reduction of $1.9 billion, followed up by an economic statement this fall. The reason for the economic statement this fall was recognizing what the people of Ontario know: that 70% of the Ontario government's budget is spent on transfer partners -- hospitals, school boards, universities, municipalities.

A lot of these transfer partners have different fiscal calendar years from the Ontario government. Their fiscal year runs on the calendar year. If they are to meet their reduced level of funding targets, they need to be given advance notice and the tools to meet that.

Major change is required from all levels of government, all partners. What we need to achieve is a refocusing of what government's priorities are and to do that well. Bill 26 gives us those tools, gives our partners those tools, to restructure government to make it so we can deliver our core services effectively and efficiently.

The opposition parties are committed to the status quo. They reject any change. They say, "There's no need to go so fast." When our province is spending $1 million per hour more than it's taking in, when our debt is accumulating at $1 million per hour, the question is, if not now, when? The member for Cochrane North would have us look at this and study it and wait six months before any action was taken. In six months, at $1 million an hour, we would have to cut deeper just to tread water. Then we could say, "We've done nothing," and the politicians from the opposition would go out and say: "See? All politicians are the same. They didn't do what they said they'd do. We're still facing higher debt, higher taxes, unemployment's still high." Our government was given a mandate to implement major change. That's what we're doing.

The member for Cochrane North used the example of the house on fire. I'd like to talk about it in terms of a household. If two people share a household, and one person works and the other person is paid by him to do necessary chores in the house but the mortgage keeps growing, eventually he can turn off the lights so long -- like they did, nickel-and-dime everyone to death -- and freeze in the cold, or he can get a growth plan that says: "We're going to turn this around. We're both going to go out and work, pay down the mortgage and use those dollars in future years so future generations can enjoy this house, so we don't lose it because of the mortgage payments."

They would rather have us turn out the lights and freeze in the dark with no hope and no opportunity, and if that doesn't work, start selling off some boards off the walls. The people of Ontario gave us a mandate not just to turn out the lights and shiver down and make do and share the burden, but also gave us a mandate to get our fiscal house in order and take the tough measures that are necessary now so we can have a plan of hope and opportunity and stimulate this economy.

In the spring election, the NDP went around and said: "We realize that we have a fiscal problem. We'll balance this budget in three years."

Mr Bisson: It was four, and it was the operating budget.

Hon Mr Hodgson: The operating budget, like if you pay the hydro bill but don't pay the mortgage. You still lose the house after a number of years.

The Liberals went around and said, "In four years we'll balance the budget and we'll give a $2-billion tax increase," and they assumed 5% growth. We said to the Ontario people, "We recognize the need to balance the budget, but we also need to have a growth plan." We said we'll take five years to balance the budget and give a $4-billion tax break to stimulate growth and economic prosperity in this province.

There's nothing they would like more than for us to back off on the growth side of our plan. Everyone recognizes that we need cuts, and their cuts would have been the same, roughly. But they don't want us to go ahead with the second part of our program, and that is the growth and hope and opportunity that will come from that.

Bill 26 is an integral part of our plan. It's necessary. If we're to restructure government to meet our fiscal objectives, we need the flexibility, we need new tools, we need the empowerment that Bill 26 gives to allow our partners to meet and be participants in this change in how government is organized.


I found it interesting when the member for Cochrane North mentioned about the northern caucus this morning and how they wouldn't participate. I find that regrettable. I can assure you we had a fruitful discussion, and we will meet again in the spring. The NDP will be invited to that, and I hope they will partake in that, because I know the people who elected them want them to participate in making government work better for all Ontarians, particularly in the north, recognizing its special geography. It's a special place in terms of a large geographic area, a small, diverse population, and it needs a ministry that shows leadership and recognizes that sometimes made-in-Toronto solutions don't apply equally across the province.

That's why I was so distressed to hear members in the NDP, the member for Cochrane North, who suggested that the backbenchers should approach our Premier. I was distressed today in the House to see that none of the northern members from northern Ontario got up and questioned their leader's criticism of the health changes. Sure we need the power. We need the tools to make sure we can address the criteria.

I'm proud to say that for the first time in this province, we are going to address a growing problem in northern Ontario and rural Ontario, and that's the doctor shortage. For 20 years, for a generation, we've heard: "Don't worry about it. We'll deal with the OMA. They'll look after our problems in northern Ontario."

The first time a government comes out and recognizes that northern Ontario has special needs -- there's the need for it, to make it so we have the tools to get physicians into northern Ontario -- what do we hear from the northern members in the opposition? Not a word. Just criticism about the arbitrariness of attaching billing numbers, the arbitrariness of implementing the Scott report. They say: "Let's deal with the union. Let's deal with the OMA."

I'm hoping that we never have to use those powers, but it is a tool that, if we can't do it the traditional way, it will be done and fulfil our commitment to northern Ontario and to rural Ontario, where there is an extreme crisis in terms of attracting and retaining physicians to our communities to give basic levels of health care service.

Back to Bill 26 and in particular to the areas that concern my ministry, the MNR. We've introduced changes to the Conservation Authorities Act. This wasn't taken lightly. It was in light of the fact that we have a fiscal crisis in the province, that our spending is $1 million an hour more than we take in. It's in light of the fact that we had to prioritize where these spending reductions would take place. Some tough choices had to be made, where people on social assistance have felt their disposable income drop, where hospitals are threatened. We had to make these tough decisions in light of this fiscal reality.

Conservation authorities funding has been reduced. This year it's presently at $34 million, next fiscal year it'll be $17 million, and after that it'll be $10 million. Reflecting on the widespread consultation we've had on this, my parliamentary assistant, Frank Klees, has visited and consulted with all the conservation authorities in Ontario. We've had numerous discussions with municipalities, with conservation authorities, with all stakeholders.

These decisions weren't made lightly. They were made with the recognition, which is consistent with our whole government's philosophy, that we must prioritize what is in the provincial interest, what are the key and essential services that the province should deliver, and then do those well. Our transfer partners -- conservation authorities or municipalities -- should concentrate on what are the local priorities, and we should give them the freedom and the flexibility to choose those priorities and then deliver those priorities efficiently and effectively and without raising local taxes in doing so.

We recognize that after 10 years of mismanagement, when income taxes were raised 65 times, not to mention all the user fees that they call taxes, non-revenue sources, Ontario is one of the highest-taxed jurisdictions in North America now and the public are at the tax wall. One only needs to look at the size and the growth of the underground economy to realize that raising taxes is no longer an option and never was a well-thought-out solution to our fixation with spending.

Recognizing that, we've had to make some changes to the Conservation Authorities Act to allow for accountability. We will focus on the provincial interest, which is flood control operations, which 50 years ago the conservation authorities were implemented to deliver. That is roughly around $8 million, which will be matched by a levy formula with the municipalities. There's approximately $2 million in provincially significant conservation land. The $2 million is a tax rebate that will go directly to support those provincially significant lands to be managed in a sustainable fashion.

The changes allow for a floor to be put in on the levy. Conservation authorities will be 100% made up on their boards of local representatives; it'll be local autonomy. It gives conservation authorities a floor of $8 million in the levy province-wide but it doesn't set the ceiling. Now that their boards will be made up of local appointees, they will have to have the support of the local councils to continue. I know that they will prioritize based on what's in the local interest and do that well.

I can assure you, from our discussions with conservation authorities, with their management, that they run efficient operations and that they have the support of their local communities on a number of worthwhile projects. I'm confident they will meet the challenge and succeed, probably through innovative ways that they never dreamed possible yesterday. But today they're thinking about it and tomorrow they'll implement it to make sure we meet the goal of environmental sustainability on a provincial level and on a local level, and that conservation authorities will be primarily focused on those local objectives.

I want to make sure that it's clear to the people of Ontario that this is not downloading. Downloading was when the province mandated a program to be carried out but didn't attach any dollars to it.

Mr Bisson: Did I hear you right? This is not downloading?

Hon Mr Hodgson: The member for Cochrane South says, "This is not downloading." What the NDP used to do was they wanted to have credit on a provincial level for some worthwhile motherhood program, force it on to the local property taxpayer to pay for it, and not attach any dollars in grants for it. What we're saying is, we're giving you the flexibility to choose whether you want to deliver it or not deliver it. If we're cutting your funding, we can't turn around and say that you must deliver this.

Mr Bisson: You cut municipal transfers by 45% and you have the gall to say that's not downloading. Jeez.

Hon Mr Hodgson: That's not downloading. Downloading is when you said, "We want to see you do this program," and then not attach any dollars to have it delivered. This is the opposite of that.

These changes reflect the need to rationalize the programs and services that the province delivers, and these changes will allow for local accountability and local priority-setting at the local level with our conservation partners.

CAs will no longer have to seek provincial approval for land dispositions where there's no provincial grant involved. Municipality payments to conservation authorities need not exceed the provincial grants, but there is a mechanism for municipalities to appeal the levy if it's still there.

There's also an amendment to the act to allow for amalgamations between conservation authorities or dissolutions of conservation authorities based on the same formula that they were incorporated under. It is essential that the number is two thirds. We know, from people like myself who have a municipal background, that two thirds on any issue shows that there's some work that needs to be done.

The second area that I'd like to talk about tonight is the changes to the crown land permits, and we've addressed some changes in regard to the Public Lands Act, the Forest Fires Prevention Act and the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act.

Currently in MNR we issue 54,600 permits per year. What this act and these changes to this act will allow is for regulations to be developed to avoid a lot of the unnecessary permitting that takes place across the province. This will achieve two things: (1) It will save the government money, approximately $3 million; (2) it will allow for a reduction in the red tape and regulations that have handcuffed businesses and individuals throughout the province.

We think it's achievable to try to get this number of permits down to 7,000 to 8,000, in that range. We will be looking at it over the winter months to see how we can meet the provincial standards through other means than permitting so that our objective is to manage our natural resources in a sustainable fashion. We think we can meet those objectives without permitting everyone to death.


I see my colleague from Algoma-Manitoulin smiling. We spent five weeks on committees last year and I heard him talk about this numerous times. We have companies and individuals who have to produce 20-year work plans, five-year work plans and annual work plans, and then when they want to do anything they have to wait for someone in MNR to drive sometimes up to 100 miles to inspect it. Then when they're done on the one-year plan we audit it, on the five-year plan we audit it, on the 20-year plan we audit it.

What we want to try to examine this winter is another mechanism than the individual permitting. We want to set the standards, audit and make sure it happens. Unfortunately, in our society we will also have to have enforcement, and I say enforcement, Mr Speaker. I think that's a positive thing. That's the fulfilment of another one of our commitments, to review regulations and red tape which have slowed down this province's economic growth and opportunity.

The third area I want to talk about in terms of Natural Resources is another fulfilment of a campaign promise, that is, changes to the Game and Fish Act to allow for hunting and fishing licence revenue to be retained in a special account and be accountable to this Legislature and to the people of Ontario.

Our Premier announced this in January 1995 in a document called A Voice for the North. The Premier outlines specific commitments to address key issues and problems facing the north and its citizens, and one of these commitments was that all revenues from hunting and fishing licences will be dedicated to resource management and conservation. This includes fines as well as royalties.

Anglers have been asking for this measure since the resident sports fishing licence was introduced in 1987. I know my Liberal friends will remember that because the promise at that time was: "Don't worry. Trust us. This is like a user fee. It will be dedicated back into the resource." Then the NDP came along and Bud Wildman told us that you couldn't do that; it always went to the consolidated revenue fund.

Today I'm proud to say that Premier Mike Harris is making good on another one of his promises, and that is that we will have by the passage of Bill 26 a dedicated fund for all fishing and hunting licence revenues, fines and royalties. They will be in a special account which will have carryover provisions.

This is essential for sustained management of our natural resources over the long term. Over the winter months, I will be consulting with a number of stakeholders and all members of the Ontario public on how best to administer this. This act calls for an advisory council to be set up, and we will be looking at ways to implement this program so it ensures wise and efficient use of these dollars to manage our resources in a sustainable fashion.

The fourth area I'd like to talk about tonight deals with my other ministry, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, and changes to the Mining Act. Recently, with I might add a lot of consultation with the mining advisory group and the mining industry and the prospecting industry, I announced changes to the Mining Act in Timmins, and I believe it was on October 24, 1995.

I see the member for Cochrane South diligently reading. I didn't realize at that time I was choosing such a hotbed of conservatism where they would say in a local editorial, "Ten years from now people will appreciate Eves's cuts and how they were long overdue." I don't know if the member for Cochrane South has read the local Timmins press, but I was pleased to see that common sense had made it to Timmins. I didn't realize that when I went there on the 24th to announce this change, but I was impressed with Timmins and with the reception I received there. I realize that truly this is a community that has common sense. It was a good impression.

The measures outlined in this change to the act are consistent with our agenda to cut down on the administrative costs, to streamline the regulatory burden on businesses and to eliminate direct subsidies and grants to businesses. This amendment will save the government approximately $1.3 million but, more importantly, these proposed amendments will accomplish several goals:

(1) We will replace the present closure plan review process with a self-regulatory system.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): That ought to be great.

Hon Mr Hodgson: It will be.

Companies will be required to prepare closure plans in accordance with provincial standards certified by a professional engineer and to designate a financial officer from the company.

(2) We will increase the financial assurance options open to the company. Financially secure mining companies may be self-assured under the proposed amendments. Most companies will still be required to put up cash or its equivalent with the government for financial assurance.

The next goal is most important, with some of the hyperbole that's been going around:

(3) We will maintain high environmental standards. The focus will be on the polluter-pay principle.

(4) We will clarify the liability for pre-existing abandoned mine hazards.

(5) We will address the public health and safety concerns associated with abandoned mines and existing mine hazards. Changes will allow the province to respond more quickly and effectively to abandoned mine site emergencies. Amendments will allow immediate access to privately held lands to address emergencies.

(6) We will clarify the post-decommissioning environmental liability. Currently, there's no provision for a mining company to be discharged from future obligations after the mine site is decommissioned. Amendments will remove this source of uncertainty. The proposed amendments with respect to abandoned mines levels the playing field for leaseholders to obtain leases prior to the 1991 Mining Act amendments.

I think this is a positive move. It's been well received both inside and outside the mining industry. I think those who have taken the time to read the changes to the act are comfortable with the fact that this --

Mr Bradley: You have given the keys to the companies to do what they want environmentally. That is exactly what you have done.

Hon Mr Hodgson: I hear the member for St Catharines, and it earlier distressed me to hear the former Premier, the leader of the third party, talk about changes to this act without having read it. Judging by the Instant Hansard from earlier today, I can only assume that the member for St Catharines and the former Premier, who are together again in their criticism of progress, choose the status quo.

If he's read it, they're referring to section 18, which adds a section 67, that talks about the process of going from a claim to a lease. We are not talking about the closure, I remind the member for St Catharines or the member who is the leader of the third party. This section is talking about the process of going from a claim to a lease. It's a business decision.

Section 67 outlines a number of provisions which stop the clock ticking. There are four or five envisioned today. In the future, because it's an act and you can't change it, we've allowed for a provision that says, "Despite anything in this act, where in the opinion of the minister special circumstances exist..." and this is where they stop reading. They talk about unlimited power being granted to the minister and try to scare the public that mining companies have the keys to pollute the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth; nothing could be worse than to stir up public reaction on such an unfounded basis. They should continue to read: "...the minister may exclude the time within which work upon a mining claim must be performed or reported."

The other examples of exemptions deal with permitting. If the crown says you can't continue your work on the claim because you need a permit and it takes so long to get out there, it stops the clock from ticking, because you're only given, for example, one year to do this work or they lose the right of the claim. They have to make a business decision to go to a lease.

That is what the leader of the third party was ranting about earlier today. I'm only assuming that from reading the Instant Hansard. If that means, as the member for St Catharines said, that somehow we've turned over environmental management to the mining companies, I suggest they haven't read the act. I suggest they're trying to invent opposition to what is otherwise -- building upon good amendments back in 1991, I might add, but just making it so it meets the reality of the 1990s and makes it better to do business, and also maintains the high environmental standards that Ontario insists upon having.

In conclusion, I think the message is clear. It's clear to the people of Ontario that your government is doing what it said it would do: clear distinctions between provincial and local priorities are being established; cutting red tape and the regulatory burden on taxpayers and companies who want to build a better province, while setting strict provincial standards; fulfilling our commitment to a voice for the north; establishing a dedicated revenue fund for fish and wildlife fees; amendments to the Mining Act to cut down on administrative costs; streamlining the regulatory burden on businesses; and eliminating direct subsidies and grants to business.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to address Bill 26. I think it's an important bill, necessary for the future of Ontario.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm pleased to rise today in the House to join my colleagues and the people of this province in examining the provisions and implications of a frightening piece of legislation which goes by the innocuous name of Bill 26.

I'm particularly happy to follow the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. If we needed an example of what is most scary about this bill, here we have a minister proudly telling us about three major changes in the natural resources area and changes to the Mining Act, and most people in the province probably didn't realize they were in this particular bill. If ever we needed an example of something that should be receiving public hearings on its own -- I'm sure the minister would indeed like to have public hearings, but was probably told not to do so: "We've got to sneak it through this bill."

This bill is going to have a profound effect on this province in every way. The breadth of issues covered and the depth of the changes can only mean dramatic shifts in the way Ontario does business. I'm pleased we have some public hearings on the proposed legislation; it's an opportunity for the people of this province to reflect on the contents of this onerous and overreaching bill.

All parts of the province today are intently analysing various aspects of this restructuring bill, and of particular concern to everybody is the health care system. Bill 26 represents the taking of an unprecedented and inordinate amount of power over our hospitals, placed in the hands of the Health minister. He will have absolute power to close or amalgamate hospitals in northern Ontario and across the province. He will have authority over all aspects of hospital operations, including restructuring processes taking place in Thunder Bay and across the province. He'll have the ability to take over the operation of a hospital by appointing a hospital supervisor who will have all the powers of a hospital board.

Changes made to the Ontario drug benefit plan will result in user fees. They promised not to have any user fees. We now have user fees. This will affect some of the province's most vulnerable citizens, particularly our seniors, who have been calling me incessantly, very distressed about this change.

Dispensing fees will no longer be negotiated with the Ontario Pharmacists' Association but will be prescribed by the government. The amount charged for a drug will no longer be regulated. This deregulation will conceivably see medication costs increase at a time when the government is withdrawing its support, in so many ways, from people least able to pay.

Reforms in the health area concentrate bizarre amounts of power in the personage of the Minister of Health. Decisions regarding the future existence, operations and structures of hospitals are to be at the minister's discretion, not the health care professionals and our local communities, who often have a greater understanding of their needs.

In the broad spectrum that is Bill 26, the Health minister isn't the only one about to receive reinforced authority. In conjunction with a 44% cut to municipal transfer payments, the Minister of Municipal Affairs will be given authority to implement municipal restructuring through orders in council as opposed to legislation -- one more power grab by the élite few at this government's cabinet table.

The Premier responds to our concerns by telling us that they have given the municipalities the freedom to independently raise revenues to offset provincial reductions. What this really means is that they have forced municipalities into a position where their only recourse to recoup losses is in raising taxes, reducing services, cutting staff and implementing user fees. Terry Mundell of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario confirms this fear by publicly stating that some municipalities may have no choice but to raise municipal taxes.

Northern communities that have already assumed the responsibility for restructuring are put in the unenviable position of being forced to trim fat from an already lean organization. With upwards of $65 million being ripped out of municipal transfer payments to northern Ontario communities over the next two years, the capacity of smaller centres to provide for themselves becomes increasingly difficult.

Bill 26 also contains provisional amendments to the Mining Act of Ontario, and the minister just spoke on them. While the industry itself is generally supportive of legislative changes which would move the mine site rehabilitation process into a self-regulatory framework and which would increase the number of financial assurance options they can exercise before the advent of a mine closure, I have some questions of this government over motivation and implementation.

The purposefulness of these changes to the mine site process is at odds, I believe, with the financial restructuring intent of this bill -- unless, of course, this is simply one more example of this government's incessant desire to shed real government participation by shedding real government workers. Is this truly the action of a government committed to the environmental values intended by the implementation of the legislation back in 1991?

I have grave concerns, as do a number of environmental groups, that this government will have difficulty preserving the intent of the EPA with only a small staff complement. While Ontario is fortunate to have strong, environmentally committed corporate partners in the mining sector, what about those less committed to the environmental values upheld by the people of Ontario, and what of the mechanism that allows mining companies to begin operations prior to any ministry approval of their closure plans, as would be the outcome of this legislation?

There is more. I received a letter from members of the Canadian Bar Association, the natural resources section, cautioning against the speedy implementation of Mining Act changes as drafted. In their words, "Certain aspects of the proposed amendments will have a detrimental effect on mineral development in Ontario, especially northern Ontario."

I am pleased that this government has moved -- with some encouragement, I am pleased to add, on our side -- in the direction of public hearings. This will be an important opportunity for all mining stakeholders to carefully study the ramifications of these changes.

But in summarizing my short response, I would say that any bill that encompasses 43 separate acts, repeals two acts and creates three new ones isn't a piece of proposed legislation; it's a full legislative agenda. This bill, when taken in conjunction with the impact of the economic statement, will produce a drastically different Ontario from the one we currently know. Ontario's mines, towns and cities, hospitals, and ultimately Ontario's people deserve the opportunity to be heard. The concession that the opposition achieved last week is one step in a consultative process that this government did promise, and it's one promise the opposition will surely see that they keep.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to speak on Bill 26 and to talk about some of the concerns I've heard today from people who were in London attending a day of protest, which was very largely centred around the elements of this bill. Originally planned as a labour demonstration around Bill 7, the demonstration of protest today expanded quite substantially because of the actions of the government in the introduction of and the attempt to limit discussion on Bill 26.

These actions in both Bill 7 and Bill 26 of this government, to limit public input into the discussion, to try and control the amount of information that exists for the public about the elements of these bills, to try and put a gloss on very significant pieces of information by saying they were elected to do what they are doing and therefore no one has the right to comment on what they are doing and the public has already had enough opportunity to comment, are simply not being accepted by the people of Ontario, nor should they be.

In both instances of these bills the government has gone far beyond what anyone in this province could logically or reasonably have expected from the discussion they had with the people of Ontario prior to the election. It's important for us to be very clear: No one is disputing the fact that the Tories won the election, no one; we all know they did. What we are saying is that they won that election on false pretences, and the evidence is in this bill and in Bill 7.

This government did not tell the people of Ontario that it was going to roll back certification and decertification processes that had existed from the 1940s, in conjunction with its repeal of Bill 40. They are quite right: They did say they would repeal Bill 40. The people of Ontario voted for them anyway, and we need to accept that. But they did not tell the people of Ontario that they intended to change the entire labour law of this province, and they did so in a very brief period of time, with very little opportunity for members of this Legislature to understand all of the changes and their impact, and no opportunity -- no opportunity -- for the people of Ontario to understand that bill and to be able to come before legislative members in committee with their comments.


It is unprecedented for a government to have taken that step with such an important piece of legislation, and yet no sooner have they done that, no sooner have they heard the outcry from people who really objected to this, than they bring forward Bill 26 and they try to do exactly the same thing.

It is not acceptable to the people of Ontario that a government, however large its majority, assume that once elected it can go ahead and do whatever it chooses without respect for the legislative process. The people of Ontario have become accustomed to a process which enables them to comment and make suggestions about changes to bills, that allows them the time to understand the impact and the import of those bills and that gives them an opportunity to be part of the process of establishing the laws of this province. It is simply unheard of for a government to make the kind of massive changes that are implied by Bill 26.

"Implied," I say, because of course all of these schedules are very, very confusing to people who don't have access to the full compendium, who don't have access to the bills that are being changed by these alterations and have no opportunity to know what in fact some of those changes mean. It's quite true that it is in fact taking us, as opposition, a good length of time to do that, and it's not surprising that it is taking that length of time, because in fact these changes are so substantial that we estimate it would take many, many hours for people to even read through all of the schedules and all of the acts that are being changed and to truly understand the impact of the changes, which may indeed look as though they are minor, and indeed the backbenchers appear convinced of this. The backbenchers appear to be convinced that this is not an important piece of legislation, that it does very little that hasn't been done before, and that is simply not so.

It is very, very important for all of us in this Legislature to understand that the compendium, the explanatory document that explains to people in this Legislature what the impact of the changes of this bill are, runs 2,225 pages long, and that is without the full text of all bills, simply a few pages Xeroxed here and there where there are specific changes made.

If you assume that members of this Legislature can actually read all of this material at, say, 30 pages an hour -- and that's quite an assumption, because it is dense and complex -- just to read the material would take more than 74 hours. Just to read it, not to comment on it, not to look at possible changes, not to look at the impact in other areas, not to look at the cumulative impact, simply to read it would take 74 hours. Yet this government tried to push this bill through this Legislature without discussion and without the time for the members of this Legislature to fully digest exactly what is implied in this bill.

Fortunately, that was stopped. Fortunately, the members of the opposition parties took action to prevent that from happening and we now have enough time for members to read and to digest and to understand the impact of this bill and to bring to the legislative committee process a much more fruitful discussion.

I think there are those in the province who do not understand why we believe so passionately that this process must be respected, and the reason for that is that if we are to have a participatory democracy, if we are to have educated voters who vote for their governments and who support their governments -- because it's important that once in power a government be supported -- it is important for those citizens to be informed, to understand, particularly at a difficult period of time such as this, why their governments are taking the kinds of actions that they're taking.

The two opposition parties understand this very well. We've been in government in our own periods of time. We know there are difficult tasks involved for any government at any time, and this government is no exception.

So one would assume that it would be important to the members of this government to be sure that the citizens of Ontario are fully informed about the impact and the import of what they are doing, and yet they seem determined to act in secrecy and to prevent the kind of consultation which the various groups have come very much to expect and indeed on which they rely in order to be part of the process and to be supportive of government action, even when that is difficult.

As the justice critic for my party, I am responsible for a number of areas that are affected by this bill. I want to talk first about the firefighters and how the firefighters of this province are affected by this bill.

I'm reminded to do that because there were large numbers of firefighters who came to London today, who understood very clearly the impact of this bill on their profession and on the safety of the citizens of Ontario and who wanted to express in that forum their dismay with the lack of consultation and the lack of care that this government is demonstrating in putting forward this bill.

I refer to a letter dated December 6 that was sent to the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services, who of course is responsible for firefighting in the province, and it's very interesting to know that the firefighters in this letter are expressing great concern with Bill 26. I want to tell you what they were saying:

"Our association is...much more concerned with Bill 26, the omnibus bill, mentioned above. We believe it is quite simply devastating for future labour relations and collective bargaining between firefighters and their employers. In fact, contrary to what was conveyed at the meeting of October 19, 1995" -- which the professional firefighters had with the minister responsible -- "the Fire Departments Act is about to be significantly altered with virtually no consultation or input by firefighter associations. At this meeting you" -- meaning the minister -- "indicated to us that we were being given until the end of 1995 to respond to the fire marshal's report and our response will be forthcoming before the deadline. You also noted that no modifications to the Fire Departments Act were contemplated until you heard from all the stakeholders and you anticipated possible changes as a `best-case scenario' by the fall of 1996."

So here we are with the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services at a meeting with the representatives of the Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters on October 19, telling them that no changes would be made to the Fire Departments Act until the fall of 1996. However, on November 23, the provincial federation received a letter from the minister in which he noted:

"`As you know, the fire marshal's report has been submitted to me and I have circulated it to members of the committee for review and comment. This is the first step in a thorough review of the fire marshal's recommendations. I am confident that this will lead to very positive legislative change for fire protection in Ontario.'"


The writer of the letter goes on to say: "Thorough review indeed. A most devastating change to the act is about to occur before you" -- meaning the minister -- "even received our response to the fire marshal's report or conferred with the stakeholders.

"In a video presentation prepared for a firefighter conference held in April of 1995 and just before the provincial election, Premier Mike Harris had this to say about the Fire Departments Act" -- again a quote, from this video -- "`We have serious concerns about some of the changes that are being contemplated with respect to the Fire Departments Act. Today I simply want to leave you with my personal assurances. No changes will be made under a Harris government until such time as your members have been thoroughly consulted, and we will insist that all changes will be fully costed both from the point of view of the workers as well as management.'" Quite a promise. Obviously a promise that has not been kept.

The writer of the letter goes on to say to the minister: "Bill 26, in our view, relegates this statement to mere pre-election rhetoric" -- quite polite, I thought; some others might call it something else -- "and your personal and written assurances of `thorough review' as a misrepresentation of the reality that is there for all of us to observe. The omnibus bill clearly amends the Fire Departments Act to the detriment of our affiliated locals. There may have been consultation with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario" -- although I think AMO might disagree with that -- "for they will be pleased indeed, but there was absolutely no consultation with the Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters. Indeed, our federation was never notified that the act was going to be altered as part of the government's recent economic statement. It is ironic that the fire marshal, in his report, advises that recommendation 14 [in that report], `Items for Consideration by Arbitrators,' not be instituted. Yet to date this is the very recommendation that the provincial government has chosen to implement."

So not only is the government slapping the provincial firefighters themselves in the face, but its own fire marshal as well.

The federation of provincial fire fighters "believes that the five criteria which arbitrators will be mandated to consider could well be the end of free collective bargaining in the fire service in Ontario."

One suspects that this is exactly what this government hopes to attain by this bill, with firefighters, with police officers and with any of the other groups that now are put in the position of having arbitrators limited.

"They jeopardize our very right to effectively represent our members at the bargaining table. We assert that the present arbitration process serves all parties well and fairly. As noted in a number of our responses to the Fire Departments Act deliberations, over 85% of all agreements have been successfully and freely negotiated by the parties without resorting to interest arbitration. Thus, the association of municipalities' assertion that the system is stacked against the corporations is simply not true. The five criteria are not acceptable to firefighters for a number of reasons," and the provincial federation goes on to say why they are not acceptable:

"(i) Mismanagement by the city will impact on firefighter compensation packages.

"(ii) Arbitrators will be asked to set the levels of fire service in various communities up to and including downsizing and firefighter layoffs."

So here we have an arbitrator, who may know little or nothing about firefighting as a profession, who in fact in the process of this arbitration would be setting the fire standards in your community or mine. I think that's disgraceful.

"(iii) Unlike the Police Act" -- where at least there is a mandated police protection -- "fire protection, which is not mandated, does not speak to the welfare of the community.

"(iv) Citizens will suffer a possible loss of fire protection and medical emergency response based on possible indiscriminate spending by elected officials. The fear here obviously is that if municipalities choose to spend their money in other areas than fire safety, there is a really serious issue at hand, given this arbitration process.

"(v) Even in municipalities that enjoy a positive economic situation, arbitrators must award with a view to the overall economic outlet in the province." So even if you have a viable municipality that has been effective and efficient and has its budget in order, the arbitrator will not be able to look at the particular situation without seeing it in the context of the whole province.

"(vi) The criteria dealing with employers' need for qualified employees opens our collective agreements to attack in any number of areas, from technological change to job descriptions. It will undoubtedly be used by employers to justify any and every intrusion into our collective agreements."

The Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters is not a militant bunch of people. In fact, many of us in this assembly, and I am certainly one of them, have often wished that as a group they would be much more proactive in many areas, equity issues being one of them. So we need to know that we are not talking about a very radical, very rabid group. We are talking about a group of dedicated professionals considered to be essential service workers, unable to strike in this province and not wanting to strike, but having to accept arbitration and being put in a position where that arbitration will be limited by this act in such a way that none of us will be able to be sure that our fire safety is protected as a result.

It is very, very important that we listen to groups like this, that we be very, very clear that what the government is doing here in a little, tiny paragraph talking about the Fire Departments Act is of very important consequence for all of us in our communities.

This is not just a vested interest for a particular group, although of course it is that too and we all recognize that. But it is our interests that are affected by this and I would say to you that that is true also of the police, of the teachers, who are also affected by this act, of all who would suddenly find themselves, as essential providers of service in our community, put in a position where they needed to accept arbitration and suddenly finding themselves in a position where that arbitration could be skewed in one direction or another through no fault of their own and with very little regard to the quality of service that is delivered. That is a very, very serious issue for us as a community.

I wanted to be able to represent those views of the firefighters tonight because they were brought so urgently to my attention and because I think this is a group that we often ignore. Many of us have very little idea of the hazards that daily face firefighters in our province. We tend to take this group of workers very much for granted until a disaster occurs, and then we rely upon them for our very lives.

So it seems to me that when a government, when going forward to election, makes a solemn promise to a group of dedicated public servants like the firefighters that they will be fully consulted, that the issues will be fully aired and that their views and their needs will be considered as well as the needs of those who are managing fire services, then it seems to me that all of us must question the kinds of promises that this government made in trying to get elected.

It is not in any way a figment of our imagination because we're opposition, which is what we seem to hear every day from the government benches, that people are distressed and disturbed, that they see the promises being made to them absolutely ignored. This is the government, this is the group of people who said that they were going to be a new kind of politician and that when they came into government they would keep their promises.

Well, they have a very selective way of deciding which promises they will keep and which ones they won't, and they constantly insist that they haven't broken promises. Instead of saying quite honestly -- as frankly the Attorney General did about the $130 million that was going to come out of the legal aid system. He at least had the nerve and the guts to stand here and say in this assembly that indeed that promise was not going to be kept, and we congratulated him for that. But day after day in this place we hear the rest of these folks saying very clearly, "Well, it is our promise and it's our promise because of X, Y and Z."


The health funding is a really good example. It is impossible for this government to be anything but cynical when it suggests that its promise of not one cent out of the health care system, that its promise of no user fees can be somehow rolled into and interpreted as being what is happening in Bill 26. That is absolutely cynical and unacceptable to most people in this province.

People are not foolish. They can be fooled for part of the time, but they can't be fooled for very long when day after day they are being told by their government that black is white and white is black. That simply doesn't work for very long, and that's what happening with Bill 26.

We all know that hospitals need restructuring.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Why didn't you do it?

Mrs Boyd: We all know that there need to be changes in our medical system. Our government worked very hard and accomplished a great deal within the term of our office, but we understood that unless communities accepted and indeed led the restructuring, they would not have a commitment to the changes that were made. That's why we worked with district health councils, we worked with the various institutions in various communities, we worked with the professions that work at those institutions.

One of the members said, "Why didn't you do it?" We have Windsor with substantial restructuring in its community that we managed to lever and that they were prepared to do. Work has gone on in Sudbury -- not completed, but gone on well -- in Sault Ste Marie, in London, in Timmins. There has been a great deal of work done, but it's been done within the community by the district health councils, the people who run those hospitals and the citizens who use those hospitals.

And what is their reward? Bill 26, in which all of a sudden all the communities all over this province that were busy working away, trying to restructure, trying to live within the means that we have in this province, find out that this government disrespects the work that goes on in communities, disrespects the expertise that community members have about their own health care and is going to empower one person to have the power to make a determination about what services are going to be offered, what hospitals are going to be open, what hospitals are going to be closed and exactly how this restructuring is going to happen. The minister says, "Oh, I won't use that." Then why is it there and why was there such a rush to get this through the Legislature?

The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: Apparently he doesn't need the power to amalgamate municipalities, doesn't need the power to force annexations. He doesn't need the power to do this without the consent of the people who are being governed by local municipalities. Then why did the Minister of Finance say we needed this bill in order to accomplish what the government wants to accomplish in cost-cutting before the end of the year?

Well might we ask. If they are not using these powers, why are they giving themselves these powers? Why are they shifting the balance from communities to a small cabal within the cabinet? Why are they not using the processes that have been developed, that people have clearly shown themselves willing to use to restructure to meet the new realities of the cost of medical care and the type of medical care that's being given?

There's only one reason: They have no respect for the ability of communities to make those tough decisions. They have no belief in the changes that people want to make. They have only a belief in their own right and their own will to exercise their own decision-making.

There is an arrogance and a narrowmindedness about this approach that is very offensive to communities across this province. It is extremely offensive for people suddenly to hear that it is better for one person --

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): Careful, Marion -- one person.

Mrs Boyd: Of course, a minister can be anybody, so we're not talking about the particular minister, because the legislation provides for whoever the Minister of Health is to exercise that power.

Nobody, no one in this Legislature should want or seek that kind of power. It is not part of an agreed, democratic way of governing. It is not part of a way of making change in a province that really takes advantage of the talents and the willingness of the people in the province. It is simply a way of a government which has made up its mind that because it won an election, it can do whatever it wants. It wants the power to do that and will exercise it whenever it chooses to do so.

There is a certain lack of veracity in the claim of this government that it will never use this power. The real problem that I have is that if they don't have any intention of using these powers, why are they in such an all-fired hurry to make sure that they grab them to themselves? That's the question the people of Ontario should ask. That's exactly the kind of question they should be asking themselves. Every one of us should be looking in our own communities to say, do we really want one person, any person -- I'm not talking about the particular person who's the minister now -- to have that kind of power over our hospital care in our communities?

I would suspect that the answer of the majority of the people of Ontario would be a resounding no, and that is why the members of the opposition parties are saying here in this place, making voice of, "No, this is not an appropriate way for us to be using power in our government in Ontario and that is not an appropriate ambition for those who are wanting to govern now or in the future."

It is very important as we go through the next weeks that people understand the importance of doing input into this bill. It is going to be important for every member of this Legislature to be sure that in all of our constituency offices we are willing to meet with people and give them access to the actual documents and to make sure that people know where they can order them -- from the government bookstore -- and how they can have access to this very important document.

It is extremely important that all of us recognize our responsibility to our constituents in this, because this bill has within it enormous changes to the way in which decisions are made in this province. It is extremely important to us, as people who represent our constituents, to ensure that they have an opportunity to give an informed opinion upon so important a bill.

I am going to stop at this point because I know there are other members of our caucus who want to comment on this bill, but I simply say that the groups like the firefighters that I talked about earlier in my speech tonight, the groups like the police forces, the groups who stand to be affected substantially by this bill also deserve to be listened to.

This is a government that constantly says that anyone who speaks in opposition to what it is trying to do is speaking out of a special interest. When you count up all the special interests, they're everybody in this province except their special interests. It is important for us to remember that whether or not a group is speaking from some level of vested interest, that does not make them not worth hearing, particularly those who work in our public services, who offer their lives, literally, every day on our behalf. It is important for us to allow them to explain how this bill will affect their ability to provide that public safety service to us.


Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): It is with great pride that I rise in the chamber to speak in support of Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act, presented by the Minister of Finance to this House. This pride is tempered with a great sense of responsibility, one that I'm sure all new members feel when they arrive here. In fact, this idea that responsibility matters is a core theme of my remarks.

While preparing my notes, I remembered the words of Sir Winston Churchill, whom I have admired for many years, when he said in the British Parliament in 1952: "Short words are best and the old words, when short, are best of all." I shall attempt to honour Sir Winston's advice by following it today.

My main purpose is to speak about the Savings and Restructuring Act, and in doing so, let me also refer to the government's economic policy, expressed strongly and decisively in the economic statement. It is tough, though fair. Its values are significant: the importance of individual responsibility, the urgent need for institutional adaption and the hard-nosed realization that we cannot continue as we have done in the past. These values are entirely in accordance with the preferences of Ontarians for lower taxes, streamlined government and a massive dose of common sense in the way our public business is conducted.

Before arriving in this House, I was a businessman for 32 years. Along with my wife, Diane, I opened a company that manufactured adhesives products. It soon grew to employ 50 Ontarians in two plants in Etobicoke and is today a thriving enterprise being managed by my three sons, Randal, Douglas and Rob, and my daughter, Kathryn.

My story is not unique. Rather, it is a typical story, shared by so many Ontarians who have ventured forth into the private sector with an idea, an appetite for risk and the willingness to put in long hours to bring their vision to light and to create jobs for their neighbours.

I learned a lot while I was in business. One of the most important lessons concerned fairness. Fairness was hard to define in precise terms but was a quality whose absence was easy to spot. In the context of the matter before this House, the incessant demands of government on individual taxpayers for more and more of their hard-earned income just weren't fair.

It has been obvious for many years that successive governments were engaged in the practice of serial denial about the perilous state of the province's finances. They were always postponing the hard decisions about budget cuts because they valued popularity and the approval of the media far more than the inner satisfaction that comes from doing the right thing, no matter how hard.

The ills that the Minister of Finance's statement seeks to correct were symbolic of a dysfunctional relationship between the public and private sectors that had accumulated over the last decade, one in which obligations only seemed to want to run in one direction. I am pleased to say that we have moved beyond that point today. We have taken the hard decisions necessary to reverse the tide of red ink that was threatening to drown every resident of this province and those generations yet unborn.

Ontario's open again -- for jobs, growth and innovation. We are open again to the possibilities of constructive change, led by people who are prepared to work, to whom responsibilities are more important than rights, and whose source of pride arises from giving to rather than taking from society.

These are the kind of people I represent in Etobicoke-Humber: people who are homeowners and tenants; people whose parents and grandparents were proud Canadians, as well as people who have just arrived in this remarkable country from around the world; people who create jobs and work at jobs, who try to follow the rules, who believe in merit and who want government on their side, not in their way. I am very proud to represent those people in this Legislature.

Even though I have been here only a short time, I am aware of the responsibilities that the people of Etobicoke-Humber have given to me and how I must be a servant of their trust.

I have also learned during these few months that many Canadians have a deep and abiding cynicism about politics and government. I understand how they feel, and I think it's up to us in this Legislature to earn back their confidence by doing some of the basic lessons I learned while in business: say what you mean; deal honourably and fairly with everyone; do what is right, no matter how hard or unpopular; and above all else, keep your promises. That, coupled with the passage of time and the evidence of commitment and leadership, is as sure a recipe for earning back the endorsement and trust of the people of Ontario as I could imagine.

I also strongly believe that public service by men and women of goodwill, such as the members of this chamber, is vital to steering our province to a better future, especially in times like these when the challenges we face are formidable and our resources are similarly strained.

As Churchill said, "It is better to be making the news than taking it; to be an actor rather than a critic."

In fact, taking action about the things that were wrong with Ontario was a strong motivating force behind my entry into politics at a time in my life when I had already been blessed with one full, challenging career. My motivation was pragmatic and constructive. I did not seek a nomination and win an election with the expectation of administering a department or engaging in lofty discussions about policy or the public good with lobbyists for special interests. No, like the people I represent, I entered politics to find practical solutions to the problems that life sets before all of us.

It is my desire to use the great power and apparatus of government to make change for the better so that Ontario can continue to be the envy of the world for the quality of life we have built here.

Some members who have been in this House for a while may find this kind of observation to be a bit earnest or, worse, naïve, yet I must wonder whether that kind of cynicism isn't itself part of the problem we face in earning back the public's trust. If we are not dedicated to serving those who put us here, then why are we here? What other idol could have replaced service as the driving motivation for the work we try to do in this assembly?

As a new member, I am still convinced that there is no better place to be than in this House, at this particular time in our country's history, for anyone who seeks to improve the society in which we live. I am confident that this belief will stay with me throughout my time in this chamber, for if it does not, it means we have failed collectively to change the system enough to convince Ontarians that politics is more than a rigged game. I believe it can be a way for a better life, through the painful and often tedious process of talk, of give and take, of articulating and sticking to principles, commitments and promises.

The great English parliamentarian Edmund Burke said: "Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom."

I was not sent here by the people of Etobicoke-Humber to add to the follies of big government, but rather to help restore some common sense to how we conduct public business. My first loyalty is to them, to give them the benefit of my judgement, rather than be merely a pale reflection of passing opinions. So I take great comfort in knowing that the voters of Etobicoke-Humber made a clear choice for a clear program in this last election. It is my responsibility to see that this program is implemented on their behalf, using my judgement to help make it work, consistent with the view that we are here to serve and not to rule.

I am grateful to be a member of this House. It is a privilege that I believe we should never take lightly. It is a privilege that we must renew each day by our example and by living our convictions. This House can be a great and noble place. It is up to us to remember why we are here and never be content with accepting an unworkable status quo.

This is why I am here: to work for efficiency, clarity and fairness; to make things work better so that together we can build a better society; to speak on behalf of the people who sent me here; to listen, to lead and bring my judgement to bear as part of a government committed to doing the difficult things needed for Ontario, so we can recapture its glory and fulfil its destiny in a strong and united Canada.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I would like to discuss some of the provisions contained in Bill 26, provisions which directly affect thousands of seniors and low-income Ontarians. Before doing so, however, there are a few points I would like to raise concerning Bill 26 itself and the manner in which, until late last week, the government chose to proceed.

Parliamentary rules have changed over time, but their objective has always been the same, namely, to impose limits upon the exercise of power, to eliminate any arbitrariness in the decision-making process. This cannot be overstated. We live in a democracy. Sovereignty lies, not with the Premier, not with the Minister of Finance, nor even with the Lieutenant Governor. Sovereignty lies with the people of Ontario.

We, the elected members of Parliament, are representatives of the citizens of Ontario, and one of our most fundamental duties is the protection of their rights and the representation of their interests. Democracy, it bears reminding, does not start and stop at the ballot box. It is an ongoing process, a continuous exchange between the governed and the governing body. It implies a direct involvement of the people in the political process. In other words, the citizenry is considered capable of contributing meaningfully to the political process and cannot be summarily dismissed, as if its views were inconsequential. For people not only need to be informed about any measures or decisions which directly affect them; they are entitled to that information. Consultation, then, is an inherent part of the democratic process.

Bill 26 and the surreptitious manner in which it was introduced does more than a grave disservice to the members of the Assembly. It denies the people of Ontario the right to debate and evaluate a piece of legislation that is extremely wide-ranging in its application. Yes, there will be three weeks of public hearings, but these were granted only under the most extreme circumstances.

Bill 26 gives the Minister of Health, in particular, a host of powers not subject to any specific scrutiny. The minister can essentially act in any manner which he deems necessary, with few, if any, public consultations. It is not to his credit that he says he has no intention to exercise those powers. Under no circumstances should a person in his position be entrusted with the power to act in an arbitrary manner. This contradicts the very essence of democracy.

I would urge this government to please remember the great principles and traditions which bring us together in this House. I would remind this government that it must strive, as indeed must we all, to uphold to the best of its abilities those essential qualities which differentiate the rule of law from the arbitrary exercise of power.

Turning now to the content of Bill 26, quite a bit has been said in recent days regarding the government's promise to spare health care from any significant cuts in its attempt to control expenses. It seems clear to me that the Conservative Party's intention during the election campaign was to create the impression among the voters that health care expenditures would not be cut. This is not surprising, considering the fact that a majority of Ontarians believe health care should be a high priority for government spending. Nearly three quarters of Ontarians do not support health care cuts.

Perhaps we on the opposition side, and many members of the public, feel especially compelled to voice our position to the cuts in light of the fact that the Premier emphatically repeated on a number of occasions his commitment not to cut health care expenses. Perhaps it's only semantics; the Premier said one thing but meant another.

In contradiction to the Premier's words, Bill 26 stands as a testimony to broken promises. It imposes user fees upon senior and low-income citizens, who will be required to pay dispensing fees for every prescription. This, despite the Premier's assertion that: "User fees tend to discourage low-income people from obtaining the medical treatment they need. That makes them unfair."

I would like to bring to the attention of this House, and especially to this government's attention, the following situation. A resident in my riding, Mrs Victoria Ruscito, wrote to me recently to explain the predicament in which she now finds herself because of the extra financial burden to be imposed by Bill 26.

Mrs Ruscito receives a family benefit allowance. Her husband is on a disability pension. Severe health problems require Mrs Ruscito to take 17 different medications. Her husband is also receiving medical treatment. The $2 fee times 17 prescriptions equals $34, and this does not include the dispensing fee. Should she have to pay the maximum dispensing fee of $6.11 for each prescription, we're talking about $103.87. This is an enormous sum to disburse from a fixed income, and this doesn't take into account Mr Ruscito's medication.

Mr and Mrs Ruscito do not often shop for groceries. Instead, they rely upon food banks and turn to the Salvation Army for clothing. They are obviously already experiencing great difficulties in making ends meet. They will suffer extreme hardship when the provisions of Bill 26 come into effect.

Mr and Mrs Ruscito are not statistics, they are not faceless numbers, and they are certainly not the lazy, dishonest people this government assumes all recipients of social assistance to be. They did not choose to be in their present situation, a situation which may worsen dramatically because of this government's dangerous fixation on the bottom line at any expense.

The way this government proceeds is appalling: without proper debate in the chamber; with few public consultations unless otherwise obliged; with outright disdain for those who dare to disagree with its views; with complete disregard for the very real consequences its policies will have upon the people of this province. Its only interest clearly resides in the application of its right-wing rhetoric. All I can say is that it's a sad day for Ontario when democracy becomes an impediment to government.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My remarks will be relatively brief because there are a number of other members of our caucus who want to speak on the legislation and who want a chance to comment on some of the many areas of the bill that need much greater and much more careful exploration.

I want to talk just a bit about the health care provisions of the bill, because I think they say a lot about where this government is headed and I think they say a lot about the fact that if this government is allowed to proceed, we may indeed have a health care system four or five years down the road which looks much more like the American health care system than what has traditionally been the Canadian health care system. I want to talk about some of those specific issues.

People need to know that some of the provisions in this bill dealing with health care open the door to private, for-profit clinics from the United States to come to Ontario and become service providers in the health care system. I don't believe many people know that, but they need to know it and they need to understand what it means.

The Independent Health Facilities Act currently requires the government to give preference to non-profit over profit-making facilities when a health clinic is being set up. It also requires government to give preference to a Canadian-owned operation over foreign-owned. I think those are good ideas. It's been an obscure section of the law in the past, but despite the fact that it may be obscure, it was a very good idea.

Now this government is taking that away. It is doing away with the preference for non-profit health facilities and it is doing away with the preference for Canadian-owned facilities. To me, that says it won't be long before the Minister of Health will be inviting in for-profit private health care organizations from the United States. The public needs to know that. That's one piece of it.

The other piece of it that the public needs to know about is what can happen to prescription drug prices. What we've had in the province is a regulated system of prescription drug pricing, and I think that's worked well in terms of keeping the price of prescription drugs at a reasonable level. That is now going to be done away with and in effect we're moving to, if not an open market on prescription drugs, then something close to it.

I think what we will see is again what has happened in the United States. If you look at a number of prescription drugs that are available in this province and you compare the price for those prescription drugs with the price that exists in the United States, you'll find the American price is in most cases much higher. I think under this legislation that is where we will be headed on this front as well.

I guess that's part of worshipping at the altar of free enterprise, since this government seems to believe that whatever involves free enterprise must be good, even if you can show logical arguments that it is not necessarily good and in some cases may be harmful. In these cases, I think it is going to be quite harmful because it will simply mean that some prescription drugs for some people will become unaffordable.

The other piece of this that I believe the public needs to know about is the incredible powers being handed over to the Minister of Health. As the legislation now stands, the minister has almost unilateral authority to collect, to review and to have access to people's private medical files.

I can understand why a physician needs to have access to a medical file. I can understand why a physiotherapist, why a nurse, why a chiropractor may need to have access to someone's medical file. But why an elected political representative needs to have access to someone's medical file or why the agents of an elected political representative need to have access to someone's medical file is something that has not been satisfactorily explained to me. But I think it's something the public will be quite interested to know, that this legislation seeks to give the Minister of Health access to their private health records.

Let me go on from there. We've got the benefit now of having a legal analysis from a law firm of some sections of the act: the power of the Minister of Health in respect of hospitals and clinics and independent health care facilities; the power of the Minister of Health to in effect order the closure of a hospital; the power of the Minister of Health to in effect order the amalgamation of hospitals without a public consultation process, without sitting down and talking to the community involved and without any procedure for review or appeal for the community.

I come from a set of communities where health care reform is something people have worked at over the last three years. I understand the need for health care reform and especially for hospital reform. I understand the need to actually have a hospital or health care restructuring commission. I understand those needs and I understand the need to give that commission the authority to sit down with communities and work with communities to help them restructure the hospital system in their neighbourhoods so as to be able to provide the needed services at costs we can meet.

I don't understand why the Minister of Health has to have the power, however, to close hospitals, to force the amalgamation of hospitals. In fact, I would argue that that's a power that ought to reside with the commission, and the commission ought to be circumscribed by a list of procedures and a process for getting to its conclusions, and procedures and a process for appealing or reviewing its conclusions so that communities can be dealt with fairly and communities will be a real part of the process.

As it stands now, giving these powers and authorities to the Minister of Health, in my mind, is a bit like setting up the minister as a dictator over health care in the province -- no procedure to circumscribe the decisions the Minister of Health might make, no procedure for review, no procedure for appeal, and there are no guidelines or procedures in here that set out how the community is supposed to be involved. In my view, that's a very dangerous precedent to set, but even more dangerous, I think, is where it leads us.

In my case, coming from northern Ontario, we face the spectre of a Minister of Health sitting down here in Toronto, who may never have visited the community, who may have never taken the time to sit down with hospital boards and talk about the needs of the community, making decisions about communities that are literally hundreds of miles away from here, in some cases more than 1,000 miles away from here, and which have conditions quite different from the conditions you might find, say, in Toronto or Hamilton or elsewhere in urban, southern Ontario.

To me, that prospect is nothing less than scary. I think the government would be wise to take the legislation it has proposed in respect of hospital closing and hospital restructuring and do a little work to put the authority in the hands of an independent commission; and also do a little work to ensure that there are procedures to be followed, that the communities are involved in those procedures; that there is a process for review and a process for appeal to make sure this is done fairly, to make sure that people are consulted on the outcomes, to make sure that mistakes aren't made, that discretion isn't abused; that the government doesn't in its haste find it's made very unwise decisions but find it out too late, when a facility has either been rendered closed or has had a number of its services taken away as a result of a hasty and unwise decision by the Minister of Health.


Others in our caucus and other members of the Legislature have remarked upon the fact that no government and no ministers ever in the history of this province have sought to have the unilateral decision-making that this government and these cabinet ministers now seek to have. No one has tried to make the kinds of decisions, which are almost in some cases life and death decisions, in such a unilateral, closed way as this government now seeks to do.

I think that says a lot about this government. There's a lot of rhetoric that this government offers up about being on the side of the people, but anybody who tries to take this amount of power to themselves, unilaterally, without any checks and balances to circumscribe the use of that power, says a lot, says quite a lot, it seems to me, about those individuals.

The reality of our society is that it is a cooperative democracy. Municipalities, communities, work with the province, the province works with the federal government. No government has sought in the past this kind of unilateral power, and I say, when you see this kind of unilateral power being sought, this kind of unilateral power is inevitably abused. It just happens that way when people seek out and get this much unilateral power.

I hope, now that public hearings have been forced on the government, I hope, when the legislative committees go out to talk to people about what's in Bill 26, particularly about the health care provisions, I hope that the government will see that it is off course and that it has chosen some very unwise ways of proceeding. And, as I say, I hope the government will put in place the kinds of procedural protections for communities and the kinds of review and appeal protections that will ensure that people are treated fairly and ensure that as much as possible the outcomes, whether it is the closure of a number of hospitals, the downsizing of a number of hospitals or the amalgamation of a number of hospitals, whatever the outcome, it will be as much as possible a wise outcome.

As I said, there are a number of other members of our caucus who want to speak on Bill 26, so I will end my remarks now, but emphasize again that it would be wise for this government to listen when this bill goes out for public hearings, because I think this government will hear a lot from the people of Ontario about real common sense and not the imaginary hocus-pocus it has so far dreamed up.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): This bill we're debating this evening has come at a time finally, after a long, tumultuous week of very strange happenings in this place, and I must say I've never seen the conduct of the opposition that's occurred in this place last week, and I've been told by others who have been more experienced than I, nor have they.

When you think that this process started as an effort to delay the process. Day after day, adjournments would be made by the opposition. Then finally, of course, a week ago tomorrow, which was a day which I cannot believe as to what happened, we had the former Premier of this House threatening the Attorney General. We had members of the opposition saying unbelievable names to members in this House. The respect for this House, the respect of this chair, was just terrible as far as this opposition was concerned, and they should be ashamed. It even got to the stage where a member of the Liberal opposition came that close to striking a member of the cabinet, and then finally, of course, a week ago Wednesday, a member of the Liberal caucus defied the rules of this House, defied the rulings of this Chair and literally stayed in his place and eventually cost the province all kinds of money as a result of his conduct, and a complete disrespect for your chair, sir.

I can say that that was the way in which the opposition conducted itself last week in an effort to slow the process down. To slow the process down: a process which this government has undertaken to do last June. We undertook to do all of the things that are being put forward in the economic statement, and to do all of those things, we needed Bill 26. Different members of this House are speaking on various aspects of it. We offered public hearings, and of course the opposition said: "Oh, no. No, we want hearings in January." Well, that's going to cost the taxpayers all kinds of money with that delay, but we're prepared to proceed with this bill.

The message is clear: The NDP and Liberal alliance is opposed to our efforts, the efforts of the Conservative government, to restructure this province, to create more jobs, to bring the prosperity back that existed 10 years ago. That's what we're trying to do.


Mr Tilson: Well, there's all kinds of excitement over on the other side of the House, but I'll tell you, the taxpayers in this province have seen you people, Liberals and NDP, raise taxes 65 times in the last 10 years. We've undertaken to stop that process. We've undertaken to bring Ontario back to the greatness that it once was.

So Bill 26, as has been said by a number of other speakers in this place, is critical to hospitals, it's critical to municipalities, it's critical to schools and colleges, and it provides them with the things or the tools that they need to have to do the restructuring that is so badly needed in this province.

Mr Gerretsen: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: The member well knows that the first $35 billion worth of debt was racked up by the Conservative governments under Bill Davis.

The Deputy Speaker: There is no point of privilege.

Mr Tilson: You're wasting my time and you're wasting the time of the House.

I'd like to repeat a few things that were said in the economic statement, and I'm quoting from it. I've quoted from it before and I'm going to quote from it again, because this is why Bill 26 is coming about:

"The root of our debt problem is government overspending. As a result of the fiscal situation we inherited, currently the government spends $1 million an hour more than it receives in revenues" -- $1 million an hour more than it receives in revenues, and this crowd over here wants to stop our government from restructuring and enabling us to stop that continuous increase of taxes, that tremendous increase of government spending. I can tell you that we are going to continue with our commitment. We are going to continue with the Common Sense Revolution of this province and build the province that it once was.

Continuing on: "In the last 10 years government spending has almost doubled, while the accumulated debt has almost tripled. What do the people of Ontario have to show for it? Fewer jobs today than in 1989, higher unemployment and nearly three times as many people on social assistance as 10 years ago....

"Over the past decade, previous governments financed some of their overspending by raising taxes. They raised taxes 65 times during those 10 years. Ontario's personal income tax rates are now among the highest in North America....

"In the past 10 years our provincial debt has almost tripled. Soon, it will exceed $100 billion" -- an astounding amount of money.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Windsor-Walkerville will come to order.

Mr Tilson: These people have been spending money like there's no end to it, and we're going to stop that.

"This year, we will pay close to $9 billion in interest...on that debt. This is more than what the province spends on hospitals, and more than we spend on all levels of education."

In fact, the members are talking about their concerns with respect to hospitals and eduction, and you have to listen to that effect, as to the interest that we're spending on the debt they've created. I repeat, it's "more than what the province spends on hospitals, and more than we spend on all levels of education," and in fact it's "as much as it cost to run the entire government [of Ontario] in 1975."

Finally, from the Finance minister's statement: "Right now our interest bill translates into almost $800 a year from each of us -- from every man, woman and child in the province. If interest costs continue to grow at the rate of the past five years, they will cost each of us about $1,700 a year by the end of the decade. That's a total of about $20 billion a year."


So that's the state of the economy in this province. If we don't move now, if we don't move fast, we're going to be spending $20 billion a year just on interest, and we intend to move to stop that as quickly as possible. We intend to restructure the government, and that's what all this exercise is about. Private enterprise has been restructuring for the last 20 years. Where in the heck have we been? We've got municipalities. We've got school boards. Just ask your constituents about their property taxes in this province. Just ask them, and ask them what they think about that.


Mr Tilson: Well, we're going to provide the tools to the municipalities and the school boards and the hospital boards and the others to change that. That's the whole purpose of Bill 26.

I'm going to close by simply saying that I was shocked at the conduct of the opposition last week. I know they're --

Mr Gerretsen: Well, we're shocked by your conduct.

Mr Tilson: Well, you can say you're shocked as to what we're doing, but surely you're not going to resort to anarchy, and that's what you resorted to last week, you resorted to anarchy.


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

Mr Tilson: As I indicated -- and as you're ranting over there, remember these figures -- Ontario's interest bill charged up by the previous government translates to almost $800 a year for every man, woman and child in the province. If we don't stop this trend now, that $3,200 per family of four that we now spend will be $6,800 by the end of the decade, and our province's interest bill of $9 billion this year is more than all of the Ministry of Education and Training spends on all education in this province.

I had intended to repeat some of the things that had been said by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, because one of the things --

Mr Gerretsen: I hope not.

Mr Tilson: You say you hope not, but I tell you, you should start listening to what some of these ministers are saying. You're telling us you don't understand the bill. Minister after minister -- the Minister of Natural Resources stood in his place and started summarizing some of the things that are going to affect his ministry, and you're saying you hope we're not going to repeat what they said.

Mr Gerretsen: Oh no, we're talking about the other minister, not that minister.

Mr Tilson: Well, we're telling you. We're telling you what this bill is going to do, and it's going to give the municipalities, it's going to give the school boards the tools to change the way we do things. And if we don't change the way we're going to do things, we're going to go bankrupt. So as you're ranting over there, remember that: If we don't change the way we're doing things fast and in a radical fashion, we're going to go bankrupt.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm very pleased to come on the heels of the member for Dufferin-Peel, because part of how I wanted to start out tonight was to explain a little bit about what did happen last week and why. I would like to say to the member that we did not do what we did last week lightly. In fact, I was very uncomfortable about it, even though I certainly was an active participant, and I wanted to say to the member that we don't do actions like that lightly. And I must say that you won't see actions like that in the House again unless we see the extraordinary grab for power that was put forward in this House through Bill 26 last week. That's really what it's all about.

I want to talk to some of the Tory members. You somehow want to think that we don't agree with everything you're doing or that somehow you're the only change agents here; we don't agree with change.

That's not right. Everybody in Ontario knows that there has to be change and that we can't continue to go down the road that we've been going. There's no question about that.

The main point we were making last week was how you're going about this. You're treating Ontario as if it's a junkie who's been on a drug for a long time, and instead of putting that junkie into rehab and working with that junkie, what you're doing is going into cold turkey. You're just saying that basically to turn this province around, we're just going to be turning it from night to day overnight.

What I'm saying to you is that, yes, you did win the election, and we in the opposition respect that because we respect the democratic process, but that doesn't give you the right to come in here day after day and to say: "We've got in one document here five years' worth of legislation and we're going to ram it down the throats of the people of Ontario. We're going to give you a couple of weeks of hearings through committee just before Christmas, on the eve of Christmas, starting about 4 o'clock in the afternoon to midnight."

Yes, we did put this fight on last week to get some time for the people of Ontario to get over the holiday season so they could have to some time to digest some of this, to get through some of this and understand what some of the ramifications might be to their lifestyle, to their organization, to the work that they do so that they can come back to you, a democratically elected government, and give you some of their consideration as to how this might affect them, maybe give you some helpful hints as to how this could be done better, how we can make some of these changes more smoothly, without as much disruption as you're going to be causing with the way you're bringing it forward.

That's all we're asking. We know there's got to be change. A lot of this in here you did talk about in the election and you did get the mandate. But to shove it down people's throats in two weeks, without having any consultation, without giving time, was the big point that we were making last week.

I wish we hadn't had to do what we did last week, but I am proud of it. I'm proud that we got you to take a step back and say, "Yes, maybe we should be giving a few more weeks." To me, the point of total committee time wasn't the point of this; running it up to midnight maybe gave us, in a couple of weeks, a few more hours than what we're going to get now, but we now have an opportunity for the people of Ontario, all those groups and organizations, municipalities, hospitals, school boards etc that are going to be fundamentally changed by this at least an opportunity to take a look, to give some sober thought, to make some analysis and maybe bring forward some ideas that I hope you will be open to over there.

I don't think anybody or any party has all the right ideas and all the right answers. I always see this as that you've won it, so that's where we're headed. "This is the mandate we're going on, but we do work with the opposition." You do work with the public in trying to better the program you're embarked upon, so what we're saying to you is, work with us, work with the people of Ontario. Give the people out there a chance to consider this, to work with you with this to bring in some constructive ideas.

We saw this from the opposition side as a big hammer just shoving this down people's throats in Ontario. It's such a short period of time. It's so all-encompassing, so sweeping in its extent and powers that never before have we seen such an all-encompassing, more powerful bill, designating such arbitrary powers to individual ministers of this crown.

We've never seen this before, all of this in this one package, yet for some of your ministers to compare this to Bill 75 of the previous government, which by and large was housekeeping, an omnibus bill that basically was housekeeping changes that for the most part all parties agreed to -- and in fact what finally was passed was by all-party agreement -- this is a very, very different bill.

We thank you now that you've made that change. I bet we had to force you to do it, but the people of Ontario thank you. That's certainly what the vast majority of the calls I've received in my office and the people I spoke to over the weekend said to me: "Thank you for taking a stand."

I'm sure a lot of people, a lot of us over here, were a little uncomfortable about how we had to go about it and what we had to do, but we all stand in our place most proud that we did stand in our place and fight for the people of Ontario, to give them a chance to take a look, to consider and, yes, maybe to contribute to this, because I think the people can contribute to this and maybe develop some transition.

What you're doing, back to my analogy of putting Ontario on to cold turkey, is that you're not giving us a transition. The culture has changed here for 40 or 50 years, and in some areas maybe it's gone a little too far and maybe this is the time to bring it back a little bit. But you've got to work with people in doing that and make sure that people don't get hurt in doing that and that people don't fall through the cracks when you do that.

So we need a transition time. To say overnight that service clubs will pick up this work or that work or somehow hospitals are going to do people's laundry or cater to a Rotary Club luncheon is just not going to happen; if ever, certainly not overnight. So we need a transition, because if you want the community to do the work, we're probably going to need more and different organizations to do some of that work.

The people in Lions and Kinsmen and Kiwanis and those people aren't accustomed to doing the type of work that government workers have done over the last 30 years, so we're looking for some transition time, some time to get the civic level of society up to speed to start to pull its weight a little more, as government, with its lack of resources, may have to retreat somewhat. That's all we're asking for: a bit of time, some consideration and a chance to constructively contribute to this.


I am very proud to stand in my place tonight and join with my colleagues and other members of the government and opposition in contributing to this debate. I think it's very important that we get these views on the table.

We have a litany, and I think many members today have talked about them, of the sweeping changes that are contained in this Bill 26, this omnibus bill that basically amends over 44 pieces of legislation. We need more time to consider this and to allow the people of Ontario to consider and to digest this, so we ask for that time.

I look forward to being at the committee hearings in January and encourage all the people of Ontario to partake in that.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm glad to have the opportunity to make a few comments on this bill. We should just remind ourselves and people who may be watching that we are debating Bill 26, which is called by the government An Act to achieve Fiscal Savings and to promote Economic Prosperity through Public Sector Restructuring etc. I think it would be more appropriately called An Act to give the Ministers of the Crown Unprecedented Powers and to give Municipalities and Other Broader Public Sector Employers More Powers to impose User Fees and to force down Public Sector Wages, because that's in effect what this bill does.

It's probably time that this government at least had the courage to call a spade a spade and to tell us once and for all very clearly, to tell the people of the province what it is that it is trying to do. They can keep talking about doing all of this to lower the deficit and to bring down the deficit and to take into account what is going on and to bring down government spending, but we know that what is driving their agenda, what continues to drive their agenda is not the concern, which to some extent they have, to bring down government spending, but it's to ensure that they bring down government spending so that they can take those savings and transfer them through tax cuts to the most well-off citizens in this province.

I saw the other night one of the ministers of the government talking about the fact that -- 87% I think was the quote that he used -- 87% of the people who are going to benefit from the tax cuts are people earning under $50,000, and that's probably true in terms of the number of people. What he didn't tell this House and the people of the province is the fact that over half of the value of that amount of the tax cut is going to benefit the other 15% of taxpayers. So the top 10%, 15% of taxpayers in the province, those who pay higher, are going to be the ones to benefit the most by the cuts. That's the essence of what's in this bill, which facilitates, in effect, what this government introduced in its economic statement of last week.

I heard members talk earlier, and we all know, I think, and are still all of us reflecting upon the kinds of events that took place in this House last week. I have to say to you that as a member of the opposition, like, I know, every other member of the opposition who was here and who participated, we did not come to that action lightly.


The Acting Speaker: Order, order. I cannot hear. Please.

Mr Silipo: We did not take the action that we did lightly, because we respect, as I think all parliamentarians in this place do, the process that unfolds in this Legislature day after day and month after month. But I think it was incumbent upon us when this government decided not just to introduce this omnibus bill, which goes far beyond any other piece of legislation that we've ever seen, but when this government also insisted on wanting to pass this piece of legislation in the few remaining days left in the sittings of this House prior to the Christmas break, with no public input, with no public discussion, with barely two or three days of sittings in this House.

Then, I think, it left us, after repeated efforts to try to come to some understanding, as is the approach -- and you well know, Mr Speaker, as someone who's been around this place many a year -- as is the approach that's often taken and has usually been followed, which is that the three House leaders work out arrangements that then come to the floor of this Legislature that say, "This is the way in which we will proceed with this piece of legislation."

The normal course of events is that legislation is introduced, there is debate, as we are having tonight, and then the legislation goes out to committee for hearings. That's all we were asking for as members of the New Democratic Party caucus and members of the Liberal caucus. That's what we were asking for; nothing more.

We have no interest in stalling the right of this government to govern. They were duly elected. We may disagree with the wisdom of the voters in choosing this government, but that is the choice the people of this province made and that is a choice that we as the opposition respect and will continue to respect in the proceedings of this House.

But when this government decides that the majority it won on June 8 gives it the right to take unto itself the powers that have rested not just for decades but I would say for centuries in the institution of this Parliament, then I think it's incumbent upon us in the opposition to say to them, "Just a minute." Because what's at stake here is not just the transferring of powers never heard of before from this Legislature to the Minister of Health to close down hospitals without any public discussion or any public input, not just the power transferred from this House to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to redesign municipalities; cities the size of London and Windsor could disappear, could be restructured without any public debate in this House. That's what's in this bill.

Not only are those changes in this legislation, but this government dared to attempt to pass that legislation without so much as a "by the way." What does the Parliament think? What do the people of the province, more importantly, think? Is this legislation what we need in this province? They of course, at the end of the day, have the majority and they can decide in their wisdom what they believe is in the best interests of the province.

Again, we are not quibbling with their right to pass the laws that they think they need to pass, because at the end of the day we are all subject to that test of the electorate. But the reality is that on any bill which would have far fewer implications than any portion of this bill would have, we have had, in following the democratic process in this Parliament, debate in committee, input by the public through hearings, and that is what we had wanted to achieve and that is what I am happy to say we've managed to achieve. It's very unfortunate that it had to take the efforts that it took from members of the opposition for that to happen.

When this bill now finally gets out to committee in the hearings that will begin next week and then following in the first few weeks of January, I think the public will have an opportunity to finally understand what this government is doing. What this government is doing through this piece of legislation and through the actions that have led to it, and no doubt the actions that will follow, is to fundamentally dismantle piece by piece all of the basic services and all of the basic structures that we have built up in this province, not just, as I've said previously, under the previous NDP government and not just under the previous Liberal government, but indeed under the previous Tory governments.

That is the frightening thing that this government is going about doing, and they are going about doing this with complete disregard for the processes that have developed in this province of input, of debate, of discussion and then decisions by the government of the day. That, I think, is the most offensive part of all, because when that goes, then there is very little, if anything, that is left to stand between the whims of a government and dictatorship.

I know that word has been used in this House, and I have to tell you that the first few times that I heard it, it gave me great trouble. It gave me great trouble because, Mr Speaker, as you know, I was born in a country which suffered the results of what happened when one person started out as an elected parliamentarian, and piece by piece transferred, through bills of the parliament, power unto himself.

I don't want to even think for a minute that we are talking here about something close to that, but it is something that strikes home to me and, I know, to many of the constituents in my riding and to many people in this Legislature that when you start to cross that threshold and when you say as a government, "The majority that we have won gives us the right to do whatever we want," completely disregarding the traditions of the parliamentary democracy and the systems that have been built up over years, then I think that what we are seeing is a frightening precedent.

So I look forward to the hearings over the next few weeks, because I think they will give people an opportunity to reflect greatly and to have input into some of the decisions.


What do we see in this bill? I said earlier that one of the things this bill should be called is in fact a bill to force down public sector wages. That is what's happening. There is no greater and clearer place for that than in the provisions that this bill makes for removing proxy pay equity. Proxy pay equity, for the benefit of the public and perhaps even some of the members of this Legislature who haven't had a chance to take a good look at this, is a provision that allows for pay equity to be applied to women who work in some of the most underpaid sectors of the economy. We're talking here about people who work in such areas as day care, nursing homes, many of the social services in this province. It was because the previous pay equity provisions did not provide a way for the wages of those women to be brought up to par that the proxy pay equity provisions were brought in.

I remember how difficult it was, because I was Chair of Management Board at the time that the great debate was going on within the former government about how to achieve that. There were lots of people who told us it couldn't be done. Yet we found that when we sat down with representatives from the employee groups and the bureaucracy, with a direction to people to come up with something that would actually make sense and would work, lo and behold, we managed to make that breakthrough.

Yes, there were probably things, as the experience of applying that provision has shown us, improvements that needed to be made. But it's one thing to recognize that maybe you want to improve something; it's quite another to say to the 100,000 women who are benefiting from that provision, "Sorry, you're not going to be covered by this provision any more." What this government is saying to the 100,000 lowest-paid women in this province is that they can no longer have the benefit of pay equity. That's what they're saying; that's what this bill is saying.

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): Wrong.

Mr Silipo: If anybody across the floor says, "Wrong," then it tells me, again, why we have a need to have this bill out in committee: so that they can understand what they actually were about to pass. Because had this bill gone through, we would now be probably voting on it tonight for final passage, and that's what they would have passed. So maybe the time will give them an opportunity to reflect.

This bill transfers to the Minister of Municipal Affairs the ability to decide what municipalities will look like. Now, when I read this initially, I thought that in fact it also included an area that obviously touches me more directly -- the greater Toronto area, particularly Metropolitan Toronto -- but I understand that, as it seems, is not covered by this legislation. So I'm at least thankful for that. But I think that some of my other colleagues should be greatly concerned about what happens and about what powers this gives the Minister of Municipal Affairs to change municipality after municipality without bringing a bill into this Legislature, as would normally be the case, and without having any debate in this Legislature about what those changes should be, whether they make sense or not.

Again, we aren't questioning the right of the government at the end of the day to make the decisions that it deems appropriate. That is their right, that is the right that they won on June 8, but they did not win the right on June 8 to disregard the Parliament of this province.

What do they do in terms of how they're going to deal with meeting some of the fiscal pressures? They of course are downloading on to the municipalities, on to school boards, on to individuals, the cost. They who have, time after time after time, told us there is only one taxpayer in this province, what are they doing? There is only one taxpayer in this province, so what do they do? They cut funding to universities and colleges, which means higher tuition fees. In fact, they make specific provisions for higher tuition fees.

They cut transfers to municipalities, which means that what municipalities have to do is to either increase property taxes or -- and this is the big catch that they want to sell the municipalities -- impose user fees on anything that moves, any service that's available. That, to them, is not applying a tax. All of a sudden, the "one taxpayer" syndrome disappears. It's no longer relevant to them, because it won't be they who will be raising the tax, they argue; it will be the municipalities. Well, I'm sorry; people are a little bit smarter than that. People will understand what is going on, people are understanding what is going on, and maybe the only ones who won't understand are the 82 members of the Tory caucus, but the day of reckoning will come for them too.

We saw in the economic statement, and certainly carried on in this bill, in terms of giving themselves the legal provisions to do it, or to impose some of the changes, the breach of one of the most fundamental promises that this government made during the election. "There will be no user fees in health care. There will be no cuts to health care." How many times did Mike Harris say that during the election? How many times was he asked by reporters: "What does this mean? Does this mean that there will be no cuts whatsoever? Does this mean that you will continue the level of spending?" He, time after time after time, said: "Yes, the $17.4 billion, that's what we're spending now, that's what we're going to continue to spend."

Surprise, surprise. We've discovered that's not what they're doing. The Premier's own admission said, "Watch me and I'll increase spending back up to $17.4 billion the year that we go to the electorate." So what they're going to do is they're going to cut over the next three or four years and then, magically, they're going to increase it back to $17.4 billion, and they think the people of the province are going to be fooled by that. I think they'll understand that what this government is doing is breaching some pretty fundamental promises, including certainly saying: "There will be no user fees on medicines that our seniors and others in this province need. There will be no user fees." Now we discover there are user fees, but of course, since they call it a copayment they think that somehow that makes it okay and that lets them get around it.

Those discussions now about what's allowed or not allowed under the Canada Health Act -- funny, I don't remember hearing a lot about that during the election and I don't think the average person out there who was taken in by the Tory line remembers hearing a lot about it. Do you know why? Because they didn't talk a lot about the Canada Health Act provisions at the time. They simply said, "There will not be user fees." Now they think that people, magically somehow, will understand things differently. Better if they'd had the courage to say: "We've changed our mind. For whatever reasons, we've changed our mind. The situation is worse than it was." They could have picked up any other line, any other reason, but no, they try to pretend that they're staying as they were, and we know that they are not.

But the frightening thing is, again, what is driving this government, which is a move to get out of the responsibilities of governing. It's a move to say: "We don't really think that as a government it's our role any more to take care of the citizens of this province. We think that we should be living in a province where, if you're rich enough to afford to purchase the services and to pay for the services you need, then you're fine, and if you're anybody else, the best you can hope for is to live off the goodwill of those citizens who can afford to pay for those services." They are taking us back a century, at least, to that kind of time that I thought we had evolved from as a society. I thought that we had grown.

Mr Gerretsen: Christmas card time.

Mr Silipo: A colleague is pointing out the Christmas card. Oh yes, we could all ponder about how that card came about. In fact, I could only send it out by putting into the card a little insert which explained how the card came about, because I would be quite frightened to send out that kind of card for Christmas. But it is very appropriate, ironically enough. My son saw that Christmas card the other day and he said to me, "Dad, this looks like a picture of the place that they send dead people to." He said that. I said that sometimes out of the mouths of babes comes the greatest wisdom.

That is what I think this government is trying to do. This government has really very little, if any, respect for this institution, for this Parliament, for the process. What they don't understand, and I want to finish on this point, is that by disrespecting this Parliament they are showing the greatest disrespect they can to the people of the province.


Mr Silipo: They can guffaw all they want, but at the end of the day, if we give up on the basic principle that each one of the 130 of us, or whatever number there will be, whatever reduced number there will be, comes to this place elected by any number of citizens -- and no one is anointed; everyone who comes here is elected. Any government that forgets that, will do so at its own peril.


Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): In this 36th Parliament I'd like to thank all the citizens of Cambridge for the honour of representing them at Queen's Park.

For those members of the House who have not had the opportunity to visit Cambridge, I would like to share a brief history with you. The people I represent live in a thriving heritage community located in Waterloo region, Canada's industrial heartland. Formed in 1973 with the amalgamation of Preston, Galt and Hespeler, it is a true example of how a successful partnership works.

Cambridge boasts two rivers: the heritage Grand and the Speed River. Its early settlers William Dickson, Absalom Shade and Jacob Hespeler built on their vision to create a thriving centre of commerce. The growth in manufacturing and textiles forged a city true to the vision of its early pioneers.

Cambridge is strategically located on Highway 401, no more than one hour from Toronto, London or Hamilton. Our residents have contributed to the growth of our local companies. We are proud to be the home of the world-class Toyota manufacturing plant. Other world-renowned business leaders include Allen-Bradley, Com Dev, Orchid Automation, Canadian General-Tower, and Babcock and Wilcox.

Our many service clubs and volunteer groups illustrate Cambridge to be a community of caring and warmth.

I've held a number of public positions in my lifetime, but none was as important to the future of this province as my mandate as MPP.

The people of this province despair at the excesses of politicians, the endless spending and mismanagement of the taxpayers' dollars, the mortgaging of our children's future.

All the people of Ontario deserve a sense of hope, a vision of prosperity for their future. Ontarians have given us the mandate to initiate fundamental change, change that will begin the process of renewed prosperity, the restructuring of government to deliver more for less.

The idea that the Ontario taxpayer must contribute to an endless money pit is no longer an option, and with Bill 26 I believe we have taken the essential step in delivering on our promises to the citizens of this province.

Past governments promised jobs, social security and a healthy economy by spending more and more, by taxing more and more, by borrowing more and more. We know that does not work. The NDP, the professed party of the worker, became instead a mouthpiece of the powerful special-interest groups, and Ontario suffered accordingly. To be politically correct, the result is that Ontario is now known as "financially challenged," but the taxpayer knows we're just plain broke.

The philosophy of, "You spend a billion here and a billion there and sooner or later it adds up to real money," has come true -- $100 billion worth of real money, over $4 billion of new interest payments created by the former government. What could we do with $4 billion? We can only dream: thousands of additional day care spaces for our future leaders, shorter lineups in our health care system, additional care for our seniors who built this province. But we can only dream.

The people of Cambridge have sent me to this House to do a job. They want responsible government, with spending under control, and the debt off their back. They voted for prosperity and the creation of meaningful employment. They dreamed and hoped that finally there would be a government which would reciprocate their trust, a government which meant what it said and would do what it meant.

Too often in the past, political promises were only the means of getting elected, a means of cheating the public once again. Day after day I sit in the House and listen to the opposition parties while they say: "You don't have to keep your election promises. We didn't, and no one expects you to."

Mr Duncan: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: The member is attributing words to members on this side of the House that were never said.

The Acting Speaker: I don't think that members understand what a point of privilege is all about. It's a very serious matter, so don't use it for any reasons, please.

Mr Martiniuk: It's about time we stopped the old style of politics, as just illustrated across the hall, and gave the people good government.

I expect our plan to be implemented -- not part of our plan, not most of our plan, but all of our plan. The Common Sense Revolution is a blueprint to create jobs. It's not just a red book of election promises. Each part is necessary, and the whole is dependent on each facet. We will balance the budget. We'll end barriers to job creation. We'll create meaningful jobs and attract investment to Ontario by lowering income taxes to the lowest in Canada.

The opposition still does not seem to understand the absolute requirement of lowering taxes to attract investment and jobs, the necessity to create demand in the private sector.

Day after day, the opposition accuses us of giving a tax break to our friends, the rich. Well, I'm privileged to have friends like that. Statistics Canada defines this illustrious group that the opposition calls the rich as: the workers in community, business and personal service, who make an average of $26,085 per year -- the rich, according to our friends; the workers involved in trade and commerce, who make an average of $22,475 -- again, the rich, according to the opposition; the workers in finance, insurance and real estate, who make $36,609 -- another group of my rich friends; the workers in construction, who work very hard and make an average of $34,074 a year -- the rich, according to the opposition.

These are the rich that my friends across the House have abandoned. These are the rich that the opposition punished with more than 65 separate tax increases over 10 years. These are the rich who, for the most part, have not received a raise in pay over the past five years. These are the rich men and women who are working harder than ever to pay taxes, rent, mortgages, transportation and food, and provide for their children's needs. These are the hardworking people here in Ontario that the opposition has abandoned. These are the people who will put their tax saving back into our communities to start the engine of Ontario once again.

For our part, we will look at every program to make sure it is in the public interest, that it is necessary and cost-efficient. We will make sure that every tax dollar is spent wisely, that the people of Ontario get value for their hard-earned money.

Through the introduction of Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act, we will ensure that the people of Ontario are not shortchanged. After years of government living beyond its means, Bill 26 acknowledges what past governments have ignored, that there is only one taxpayer.


The people want less bureaucracy and a new working relationship with our transfer partners. Our partners in government are ready and on side. They have requested the tools to make change a reality. The days of expensive and centralized management are over. Our municipalities, school boards, hospitals, colleges and universities have told us they welcome a chance to share in our restructuring plans. Our partners in the region of Waterloo are anxious to get down to the business of developing solutions to the challenges we all face, to find the efficiencies and cost reductions necessary to achieve their goals -- a made-at-home solution, not a Queen's Park solution, back where it belongs in our local communities.

It is never easy to restructure an organization. Change is always resisted. The human cost must always be considered. However, we cannot hide, ostrich-like, from the debt problem. We owe it to our children and the people of this province. We will reshape our province with innovation and real partnership. We will give a better Ontario to the next generation. That is our legacy of hope.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not comment on some particular points dealing with the health portions of Bill 26. I sat in the House today and heard the Leader of the Opposition accuse the government of changing the way health care is delivered in Ontario. I'm pleased she finally got the point, because we cannot continue our present course if we want to protect and preserve our health care system. We must look to new and innovative ways to make the system better and more efficient.

We also have to take steps to eliminate fraud. For too long, Ontario has been the emergency ward of the world. It's about time we started servicing our own citizens first.

The opposition has criticized the elimination of the RFP process in exceptional circumstances, such as a hospital changing itself to ambulatory care. I sometimes wonder about this love for red tape, creating bureaucratic nightmares for hospitals to go through restructuring. It's about time we cleared the way and gave the hospitals the tools to get things done as they should.

One of the most frightening things is this love affair the opposition has with architectural monuments. We're talking about hospitals, that if you close a hospital, in some manner that will affect health care. I believe it will affect health care; I think it could well affect health care for the better. We are spending crucial health dollars on architectural upkeep. Those dollars would be much better used to provide health care services to our citizens, not to preserve half-full buildings which are no longer useful for the purposes of the health care system.

Mr Speaker, I thank you, my colleagues and the opposition for listening so attentively.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): It is indeed interesting to see that the member for Kitchener is being congratulated for the speech he made, but I was listening to the speech very carefully and I have just one observation to make.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Hey, Dr Ruprecht, how are you? It's good to have you back.

Mr Ruprecht: It is not a proud day in this Legislature -- I'm looking at the member from Etobicoke as well -- when we throw mud at each other, because some of it will stick. I know the member probably didn't mean what he said while he was speaking in this House. I simply recommend to him that if he has allegations to make, he should do that and mention names as well.

The second point I want to make about his speech is that he was saying the days of centralized government are over. I'm not sure the member understands what centralized government means. The very reality in this House just a few days ago was that this opposition, for the first time combined in the last year, tried to stop this centralization of this imperial presidency or this imperial cabinet. That is the issue.

Just look at some of the quotes we find everywhere in the press today, that this bill "proposes to revolutionize the way government is carried out in Ontario -- not by reducing state power but by increasing it and centralizing it in the hands of cabinet." That is Thomas Walkom from the Toronto Star, and that is precisely what this document is going to do.

This opposition will not rest until the mistakes we find in this document, which you have admitted to -- you have admitted to making mistakes, and we're simply saying you should 'fess up to the mistakes you are about to make.

If you want to be honest with us, you will agree to make some changes. Look, for instance, at what it says on page 49 about the Minister of Health. It says, "The minister may direct the board of a hospital to cease operating as a public hospital on or before the date set out in the direction where the minister considers it in the public interest to do so" -- in short, imperial powers given to the Minister of Health.

While all the people on the government benches right now are very happy with what they've done, I might ask them this question: Have you been consulted? Has the member for Etobicoke West been consulted?

Mr Stockwell: Yes, I have. I just didn't answer the phone.

Mr Ruprecht: You are the last person they're going to consult. In fact, they have never consulted you, and they might not even consult you in the future. That is your particular problem, my friend.

In any case, I certainly had the idea when I was with the Peterson government that we were consulted. When we were there, we were consulted. I'm asking the members opposite, have they been consulted? Were you consulted about this document that you crow about so proudly? You have not been consulted.

Every one of you who is standing tonight and saying, "This Progressive Conservative government wants to get this House and our economy back in order, and we are proud of this document," should be thinking twice about whether you want to continue with Bill 26, because Bill 26 has flaws in it, grave errors in it. The biggest objection we have is that it gives the power to the cabinet which none of us backbenchers, none of us in the opposition, would ever dream of taking on.

Do you want to hear something funny? Let me quote something that will be of great interest to every member of this assembly. Do you want to know what your friend Jim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said on July 26, 1993? Listen well. This is what he said just two years ago, when he was in opposition, about Bill 50, passed by our friends from the NDP:

"This bill allows the government to take unto itself unprecedented powers. If I were the Tory minister and tried to bring in legislation this draconian, the NDP would be hanging from those chandeliers. They would absolutely want all of our heads on a serving plate. They would be screaming."

Today, we have the shoe on the other foot. That's precisely what it means, that Mr Jim Wilson, Minister of Health today, is going to have his cabinet colleagues singing from this particular hymn book when he says, and I continue:

"What I also found ironic in the minister's own remarks," and the minister was Ruth Grier, "is her saying, `Well, we may not ever use these wide-sweeping powers we're taking unto ourselves, the ability to make decisions behind closed cabinet doors....'"


Who today is making decisions behind closed cabinet doors? It is the members of the Conservative cabinet making these decisions. The member for Dufferin -- Peel, who is normally sitting in this location, said to us today that the opposition wanted to stop the government from restructuring this economy and this province. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we wanted was to make the Conservatives stop and look at Bill 26 and, as Jim Wilson says, the draconian powers and measures you are relegating to yourselves.

What is it we wanted them to stop? I'll tell you what it was. Look what they wanted to do: hospitals, cuts of $1.3 billion; Ontario drug benefit plan, cuts of $225 million; elementary and secondary schools, $400 million; colleges and universities, $400 million; municipalities, $658 million. What does this mean?

In terms of health care, $1.3 billion in cuts will mean longer waiting lists for services such as surgery, coronary care, cancer treatment, and hospitals will have no choice but to cut staff, eliminate nurses, physiotherapists, orderlies, maintenance staff, facilities and equipment, and it will all be rationed.

What does it mean in terms of the Ontario drug benefit plan? It would mean that the poor and elderly will have to pay for needed medicines. Is that what you want, that seniors on a fixed income of just over $16,000, needing about 20 prescriptions per year, will end up paying over $200 in new costs? According to the Minister of Finance's staff, up to 1.3 million seniors will be affected by this new fee. Is that what you want? Is that what we want you to stop?

Look at the school boards. School boards will be faced with the choice of cutting teachers or raising property taxes. Faced with the difficulty of raising taxes, the number of children in every classroom will go up. Are you proud of that?

Colleges and universities are being told to deal with their 15% spending cuts by forcing students to pay more, of course. Students, who are paying an average tuition rate of $2,000, will have to pay up to an additional $400 a year.

What about municipalities? Municipalities facing a 40% reduction in provincial spending under core municipal funding programs will have to cut services at community centres, services in parks, services that they provide today in terms of swimming pools, libraries, child care and senior homes, as well as policing, roads, water, sewers and so on.

We simply say to members in the government, have a look at this. Take your time and look at what you're about to do, because you're about to create major mistakes for the province of Ontario. Have a look at what the privacy commissioner says about Bill 26. What does he say to the Minister of Health? He says you are about to commit a grave mistake.

That's what Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Tom Wright, says. He says that under this provision, the fact that you saw a doctor, what you said, what tests were done, all that information, would end up on a bureaucrat's desk at Queen's Park.

The member for Kitchener said centralization will come to an end. My foot, centralization will come to an end. In fact, you are creating more centralization with Bill 26.

Do you want me to tell you another mistake? Look, for instance, at what the Toronto Fire Fighters Association is saying about Bill 26. They're saying that the firefighters have concerns with various provisions contained in Bill 26.

It is clear what we have before us is a monumental revolution. It is not the revolution that Mike Harris talked about in the election. It is a revolution in terms of centralizing powers in the hands of a few people. That's why my friends are shouting across the hall, "Dictators, dictators." What you are about to do is centralize this government and provide more powers to a very few people. My friends, if you want to have a better Ontario, Bill 26 is not a good way to go. Scrap it and clean it up. That's what the people want you to do.

Mr Bisson: I've got a few minutes, and I would like to make two basic points about Bill 26. The first has to do with the question of democracy, or the lack of it, in our province since this government took office, and the second part I'd like to be speak about is the whole picture of the economic crisis that the government paints every day, at every opportunity, to convince Ontarians that they have to swallow this very bitter pill.

I remember being a member in this House in the last Legislature. The Conservative Party of Ontario went out, as they said, and consulted across the province to hear what people had to say about a number of issues around what they would do if they were to come to power in 1995. I remember listening in this House to the then leader of the third party, Mike Harris, and a number of other members, some of whom are now in cabinet and others who didn't get there: my good friend Mr Stockwell -- good quality; can't understand why he isn't there -- and a few others.

I remember one thing they kept saying was that when they came to power they were going to be different. They were going to show Ontarians that if they were elected, boy, would they be different. They would keep their word and they would have all the wisdom to bring to the Legislature and they would make this a very different place. That they came through on; it is a different place.

We have a party that has come to power, and if you take a look at what they've done since being here, they're doing what any good revolutionaries do when they come to power; that is, to consolidate power. If you look from September or October on, especially since the Legislature returned, this government has systematically, piece by piece, started to consolidate power around themselves so they can control the reins of power and how that power is applied to the people of this province.

I would think one thing about the Conservative Party of Ontario. I, like many people, have listened to the Conservatives for many years across this province and this country, and one thing I always thought the Tories stood for was a system of democracy by which people participated. If anything, they've seen themselves as the defenders of democracy. We've watched their mantra through all the various leaders they've had up to this point, but it was always very clear that if the Conservatives came to power and they were in power, they were the party to speak out for democracy.

But we're seeing quite the opposite since this bunch has got to Queen's Park. We have seen through the introduction of Bill 7 a systematic, all-out attack on working people in this province by taking away their rights, not only those we afforded under Bill 40 when we were in government, but rights workers had fought for and attained through successive Tory, Liberal and NDP governments. They weren't satisfied, this Conservative bunch, to go back to 1992 or 1993. They brought labour laws in this province back to the 1940s, in some cases.

You have to ask yourself, why are they so intent on doing this? I think it's a couple of things. First of all, there's a distaste for unions in that party and a distaste for anybody who organizes under a collective agreement. But it's more that they really do believe that because they consulted the people for one year, they've got all the answers. They're the only ones who know, they're the only ones who can do anything because they supposedly consulted with the people of Ontario, and because of that, they will put in place all the legislation they need to have their way with this democracy.

I warn the government members well that the people of this province are starting to speak out. We saw today a number of people protest the government by way of protests in the city of London -- not that they wanted to do that. The people and the workers in London have better things to do, quite frankly, but this government has pushed them to the point where they're saying, "If we have no other mechanism to get our voice into Queen's Park and to Mike Harris and the ministers of this government, if they're not going to allow us to do anything else, maybe we have to try to get their attention in other ways," in ways that workers maybe would rather not do.


I was part of a protest in the city of Timmins last Saturday, where I saw in my community for the first time, as far as I can remember, a protest down Third Avenue by not only working people in terms of unions, but social poverty groups, and the rape crisis centre was there, the aboriginal community was there through the various organizations, and people in the community.

We were about 300 people walking through the city of Timmins protesting what Mike Harris was doing, not so much the cuts but the arrogance of the government in not wanting to listen. I watched the reaction of the people in my community to the marchers as they walked down Third Avenue. By and large, everybody was saying, "Right on," because they expect and they understand that the government has the right to govern, but what they don't accept is this all-out, blatant attack on democracy that this government is taking out on the people of Ontario. That they cannot stand for.

If the Tories were to do anything -- we accept that you have to deal with the fiscal realities of the province. We differ from how you're going about doing the restructuring. I would say you're not even restructuring; you're allowing the cuts to restructure. You don't believe in the programs you're cutting anyway, but that's for another debate.

But the one thing that will not sit well with the people of this province is the taking away of people's democratic rights in the systematic way you're doing now. That is your undoing. I'm not saying that will be; I'm saying that is your undoing. The people of this province are looking at Mike Harris and this government and saying, "Boy, oh boy, what did we get ourselves into?"

I watch the backbenchers say, "I go back to my constituency on the weekend and everybody pats me on the back." Don't kid yourselves, not whatsoever. I had the pleasure of driving down here these last two days -- it took two days to drive from Timmins to Toronto because of the snowstorm we had -- and had an opportunity to be rerouted by about six hours through a whole bunch of communities on the east side of Orillia. One thing you're able to pick up in the mood of the people as you stop and talk to them is that people are worried about what this government is doing to their democratic rights. So I warn the government on that.

I was listening to Radio Noon on the way down here. I am a great fan of the CBC, and unfortunately, first the Tory government federally and now the Liberals are doing all they can to dismantle what is a fine institution in this country, one of the institutions that bind us. One of the things they were talking about is, "What do you have to say as Ontarians about the protest in London?"

I would say the calls were fairly balanced. About half were in favour and half were against. The ones in favour were saying, "I'm upset," about this, that or the other thing, and they were talking about democracy and all that. What really distressed me was the reaction we were getting on the radio from people supporting the government. They were saying things like: "We should fine those people for being out there walking in the streets. We should fine them for protesting their government and taking the democratic action of getting out on the streets to protest."

That distresses me, because what you've got is what my friend from Dovercourt talked about before, that if we allow you to have licence it will come to the point of what was talked about on Radio Noon, of fining people because they're exercising their democratic franchise by going out and protesting the government legally in the confines of what the law allows.

Mr Stockwell: Legally. They're just not working.

Mr Bisson: The member from Etobicoke says it's illegal. I disagree with you.

The point I'm making is that a message is building on the part of the Tories and their supporters that somehow or other we shouldn't be listening to those people out there who are opposed to what the government's doing: "They're not real people. We don't have to listen to them. We should try to find ways of limiting their ability to protest."

I say that's not what democracy is about. Democracy is about allowing both sides to have their say, and if you're a government you have the responsibility to listen. You may or may not take action, but you have a responsibility to listen to what the people are telling you through the processes that have been set out through this Legislature and set out through our Constitution and our Charter of Rights. If you as the government are refusing to listen to the people of the province through those processes, I say you do not have the right, first of all, to do that; and second of all, shame on you. The people of Ontario will remember that, and this era of four or five years that you'll be in power will be seen as a black mark on the democracy of this province.

One other thing I would like to say on the democratic side: I listened to the gall of the backbenchers of this House, who weren't here the last time, to sit here and to chasten the opposition parties for some of the tactics that we have taken in opposition to what this government is doing. I've listened. They talk about how shocking and shaming. Where were you in the last five years, from 1990 to 1995, when your leader, Mr Harris, stood in this House and held up the business of this House time and time and time again because he did not agree with what the government did? I didn't like it as a government member, but I understood that the opposition members had the right and I would say the responsibility to speak out on those issues when they felt their constituency needed to have a voice come into the Legislature. For you to stand in this House and say, "Oh, I'll tell you, it's terrible. I watched the antics of the opposition; they're out there and they're getting upset, and you're doing all kinds of things," I say shame on you.

I watched Mike Harris name names of lakes in this House for weeks on end because he didn't agree with the first budget that our government brought down. But in the end the Premier of the day, Bob Rae, to his credit, listened and said: "Listen, we've got nothing to hide. We're not afraid of the people of Ontario. We understand Ontarians have the right to listen and have the right to be able to express themselves." We sent the budget out to committee and we allowed the people of Ontario to speak on that bill. And I'll tell you, that is what any person who's in charge of a democracy should do. That was unprecedented. That had never been done before.

The problem with you guys is that you believe you have the unfettered right to be able to govern, to make all the decisions and to be damned with the opposition. I say here, I make no apologies for what I did on Wednesday, and Thursday in the a.m. If I had to do it again, yes, I would, because in extraordinary times sometimes extraordinary tactics have to be taken, and I make no apologies to the government.

I don't like the idea of us having to do it. I would much rather see a situation where the government House leader was to keep his commitments to the opposition House leaders and work things out the way they should be worked out in this House. But if you as a government are not prepared to listen to the people or the opposition, it is our responsibility as an opposition party, along with the Liberal Party and the NDP, to be able to point out where this government is going wrong and where it needs to slow down and listen to what the people are saying.

On the economic side, I would like to make this point: I listened quite intently as the government, since being elected and taking power, talked about the crisises that are around this province. They are building this crisis around the debt.

Interjection: "Crises."

Mr Bisson: Exactly. I was corrected on my English by my friends over here. They are saying that they need to be able to deal with this because of the crisis that exists in Ontario in regard to the economy.

If you notice, there was a pattern. It was first, I think, the Minister of Education and Training who did a video that he distributed far and wide to all the bureaucrats, the head bureaucrats within his ministry. He said: "You know what we need? We need to be able to develop a crisis in education so that we can go in and make the sweeping changes that we want." Paraphrased, that's what he was saying. Since when does a minister of the crown have to resort to the point of having to create a crisis in order to reform?

It tells me that this government is not really preoccupied with dealing with the deficit. That's not what this is all about. This government is intent on doing away with the social fabric that this province has taken for granted for the past number of years. Yes, there need to be changes to our programs, nobody argues that, but this government frankly does not believe that if you're sick, that if you're old, that if you're unemployed, you have a right to be able to demand services from the province of Ontario. That's what this government doesn't believe in.

I go back to the discussions that I've had with many good friends in my riding who are very strong Conservative supporters. They say to me things like, on the health care side -- most of them are red Tories, quite frankly. They're not embracing the Mike Harris agenda. I can tell you that.

"Listen, on the question of health care," the Conservatives say, "why should I pay my tax dollars in order to take care of somebody else because they happen to get sick? I should pay for my own health plan and take care of myself." They fundamentally don't believe that society has an obligation to each other to be able to make sure that we design the system that is efficient, that works well, that takes care of people in time of need. They don't believe in that and they're using the deficit as an opportunity to be able to undo the social programs that have been built up in this province over the past number of years. That's pure and simple, and if you look at Bill 26, it is an extension of that whole premise that is here in Bill 26.


There are a number of things. One thing I would agree with, just to go through here: On schedule F, they say on the health care sector they're going to create what's called the restructuring commission. I agree with that. That's not a bad idea. You have a commission that's outside of government to look at how you redesign your hospital system so it reflects the 1990s and doesn't reflect possibly the 1960s or 1950s when those particular hospitals were put in place. I don't think anybody on any side of the House has a problem with that.

But what they go on to do is that they're giving the power under the same schedule, schedule F of the act, to be able to say that the minister himself or herself has the power to close down a hospital if they so choose. The restructuring commission doesn't have that power; it's the minister who has it. And if the minister decides that he wants to give an order to a hospital and the hospital is not carrying it out, he or she as the minister can appoint a supervisor who will go in there and carry out the will of the minister.

When I look at that I say: "Jeez, that's pretty extraordinary power to be giving to any one individual. Why is it that they're doing this?" Well, you go around to the bill and you take a look under schedule H, and schedule H says you can allow the privatization of our health care institutions. Quite frankly, you're removing a component within schedule H of the act that was provided, I think it was, under the accord in 1985-86 between Peterson and Mr Rae where we said we will give preferential treatment to Ontario institutions, that we put our public dollars into institutions that are run out of Ontario when it comes to health care. You're throwing that out of the window.

Mr Ford: That's why it's breaking down.

Mr Bisson: The member says that's why our health care system is breaking down. That's how little you know. Our health care system is the most effective health care system in the world.

Mr Ford: I was in the hospital watching you guys destroy it.

Mr Bisson: Listen to this guy. Unbelievable. That's the point. They don't believe in our health care system. Under the American system, first of all, if you've got no money, you don't get in, but if you do have money, you blow your life's savings because you happen to get sick. The worst part is, it's a heck of a lot more expensive to run as compared to the Canadian system.

But you take a look at what this government is doing under Bill 26. They are extending through Bill 26 the undermining of our health care system so that they can put forward the argument four, five, six, seven years down the road that our health care system really doesn't work and maybe then we should turn it over to the dogs or turn it over to whoever's going to run it.

I say, shame on you. Our health care system was built over a period of years. That's the one thing that I thought all of us at one point had agreed to in this Legislature. You people don't believe in it. You're undermining it. And they have the gall to sit in this House and to say: "Oh, you know, we believe in health care. We're going to protect it." They ran in the last election and they said: "We're going to protect health care. We're not going to take a penny out of the health care system." They said health care, under the Common Sense Revolution, law enforcement, classroom funding won't be touched, but many other programs will be affected.

They made a solemn promise that they were going to protect health care. That's one of the reasons that people voted for you. Because, quite frankly, they looked at the Liberals and they looked at us and they said, "We're not so sure they're making a strong enough promise on protecting the health care system." And people voted for you on the basis, one of the bases, of protecting the health care system. Now, $1.2 billion out the window. How do you call that protecting? How do you call that protecting the health care system? It is a shame what the government is doing.

So I would say, in the couple of minutes that I have left and in closing, what we see happening here through Bill 26 is we have a government which is like every revolutionist that has ever existed. Once taking power it is consolidating the power around themselves. And they're saying: "Once we've accumulated this power and we have all of the levers that we need, we will just tie ourselves down in our bunker. We will keep our heads low for the next four years and we will make all the reform that needs to be made." At the end of the four years, your belief is that Ontarians will be better for it and they will re-elect you to another four-year term.

I'm here to tell you today, it ain't going to work. Why? Because it's absolute stupidity, it is mean-spirited and it will not lead to better economic growth in this province. Most of all, it will undo the very fibre that puts this province where it is as one of the leading economies in North America and probably one of the safest places to live. If we have a province that's safe and secure, it's because we as Ontarians over the years have said we will care for each other, we will design a system that makes sure that when people are in bad luck or people are sick or whatever it might be, we're able to care for them, that we will have safe communities by providing a good system of welfare, a good system of policing, a good system of health care, a good system that takes care of people in time of need so that they're not out on the streets jeopardizing not only their own safety but the safety of fellow citizens in our communities.

What you see here today and what you're going to be seeing unfold over the next number of years is that this government is going to be undoing and taking apart the very fabric of what this province is all about. I say to you that in four years' time you'll be lucky -- you'll be quite lucky, quite frankly -- if you can have a caucus as big as Brian Mulroney's caucus is now in Ottawa.

I would only close on this point: We, as members, send Christmas cards to our constituents in our ridings, and for whatever particular reason this year, without the choice of the members themselves, we got sent these particular Christmas cards that show basically the Legislature at the time of the war when they were taking the wrought iron gates out of the front in order to be able to give iron to the munitions of the province. But it gives you a very solemn picture. Quite frankly, I feel a bit uncomfortable sending them. I'm sending an explanation with my Christmas cards this year, because I've got no other ones to send. These are the ones that I was given. But I think it goes to show to a certain point the despair that the people of this province are starting to feel and how they feel the future of this province will look under a Conservative government.

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): As I rise in the House today, I want to say it is an honour and a privilege to be in the Legislative Assembly representing the people of Oxford. During the days leading up to the June 8 election, the people made it clear they were voting for government committed to major change.

The people of Oxford elected me because of the Common Sense Revolution, and I'm proud to be part of a government prepared to make changes during this critical and historic time. Many of those changes are under way and I'm proud to be part of those changes through my role as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Through this position I've had the opportunity to visit many different areas in this province and discuss the changes with the people and receive their views.

I would also like to pay special tribute to those members who preceded me in representing the people of Oxford with dedication, dignity and distinction. One of those members, Dick Treleaven, sat as a member of this Legislature from 1981 until 1987, during which time he also acted as Deputy Speaker. His predecessor, Mr Harry Parrott, represented the people of Oxford for three terms from 1971 to 1981, and during his decade in this House he also served the people as Minister of the Environment and Minister of Colleges and Universities. The two most recent members were Kimble Sutherland, who served from 1990 to 1995, and his predecessor, Charlie Tatham, who served from 1987 to 1990 and who continues to serve at the local level as an Oxford county councillor. I hope I will serve the people of Oxford with the same dedication as these former members.

Mr Gerretsen: We all do, Ernie.

Mr Hardeman: Thank you.

Let me tell you a bit about my riding. Oxford is a growing and viable community west of Toronto in the heart of southwestern Ontario. It stretches north to Tavistock from the edge of Tillsonburg in the south, and then spans from Canning in the east to Thamesford in the west, with Woodstock being in the centre of the riding.

Oxford is the dairy capital of Canada and is rich with some of the best agricultural operations in Ontario. We have more class 1, 2 and 3 agricultural land in Oxford than in the province of New Brunswick. We have world-class dairy and swine breeding operations, corn, beans, fruit, vegetables and specialty farms, including deer, goat and emu.

We are not only an agricultural community. Oxford has a very strong industrial and technical sector. We are home to CAMI Automotive in Ingersoll, the largest single employer in Oxford, employing 2,400 workers. The plant produces 200,000 cars a year. The spinoff industries from this plant employ hundreds, maybe thousands, more, as dozens of automotive manufacturing plants in Oxford are direct suppliers of CAMI and other large automotive plants in both the US and Canada.

Oxford's proximity to the 401 makes it an ideal location to do business, while its small-town feel makes it an ideal place to live and raise a family.

Oxford has also been a leader, and that is why I am happy to address the amendments relating specifically to the Municipal Act introduced in Bill 26.

It was 20 years ago that Oxford underwent a voluntary restructuring of the county system. The county undertook this restructuring in 1975 because of the fear of regionalization. There was no mandate to do it from the provincial level, but Oxford realized it was important to become more efficient and more financially responsible to its taxpayers. It took five years for Oxford to go through this restructuring process.


Today, many municipalities don't have the same five years, because fiscal realities have caught up with all of us. That is why our government is giving municipalities the tools and the ability to deal with local realities now: to expedite the process, to cut down on the amount of government and to become more cost-effective.

Now let me say, while many municipalities have been asking for the ability to make these decisions themselves for many years, solutions and change do not affect all municipalities the same. To some, tradition and history outweigh the need for change. But municipalities and local governments also understand that the time for reform has come; in fact, it's long overdue.

They know that it's time to eliminate waste and duplication in their local structures. But current legislation prevents municipalities from making changes to their structure because the required unanimity cannot always be achieved. What this means is that under current legislation 100% consent by affected municipalities is needed to implement restructuring.

There have been numerous studies, reports and other papers written on municipal restructuring, and most of that work is just lying on a shelf because present legislation does not allow the implementation by the rule of the majority. Our government's new legislation will allow this and allow the spirit of cooperation to flourish in local initiatives to become more cost-effective and more accountable to local needs.

In the past five years alone, 10 county studies were undertaken at the request of county councils. Only one resulted in restructuring, because of the lack of direction and assistance from the provincial government.

In Simcoe county, a few years back, four municipalities -- Alliston, Beeton, Tecumseth and Tottenham -- joined together to form the new town of New Tecumseth. In recent discussions with the mayor, it was indicated that the province initiated this process. Since joining together, general government spending has been reduced and there has been a major downsizing of local government.

During the process, the former municipality of Tottenham was opposed to the merger, but today all involved acknowledge that the new, leaner administration is better and more adaptable to the future.

While critics of that process may say that the four distinct areas lost their identity, they are mistaken. While the size of local government has decreased, the local communities continue to thrive. The local ball teams, hockey teams and service clubs continue as they have in the past. This was a positive move working through the cooperative efforts of the communities involved.

There are other efforts that did not work as well. Another top-down process was the amalgamation of parts of Middlesex county and the city of London several years ago. This effort threw both communities into turmoil as the city had to deal with new schools, communities, businesses and industries within its midst, while the county, on the other hand, had to cope with losing distinct parts of its community.

Had the decision been made by the local governments and the process worked out at the local level, this change may have been expedited and both parties may have more quickly dealt with the changes caused by the effort.

This new legislation will allow the municipalities to decide how their restructuring process will be undertaken. The amendments streamline the process for municipalities wanting to restructure. It gives them more authority to make decisions and allows them to develop a plan without ongoing interference from the provincial level. While the government will still issue principles to guide the process, the local decision will be final.

These examples show that not all municipalities will have the same vision when they look at restructuring, but local initiatives often lead to positive and successful conclusions, although, if a local initiative ends up in a stalemate because there is no local solution, a commission could be set up to help come to an agreement.

This commission is to be independent and is to be appointed by the minister. It would be set up to help in a local initiative if it is requested by one or more of the municipalities involved, or if the minister is petitioned by local residents to do so. This commission will help municipalities develop and implement restructuring proposals, but, again, the power is left at the local level to initiate this restructuring. The restructuring could mean moving to a system of single-tier government, such as eliminating one level of government in the county system, or it could be a full-fledged cooperative effort of a number of municipalities.

Allowing municipalities to dissolve special-purpose bodies will also help free the municipalities to manage their budgets more efficiently and to give the local governments the autonomy to decide what the local priorities are. A large number of these special-purpose bodies tie the hands of local government. Ratepayers support these special-purpose bodies financially but, in most cases, do not have a right to choose who is appointed to sit on these boards or in the decisions that are made. Some boards which could be dissolved include licensing commissions, parking authorities or transit commissions.

The province is finally giving the municipalities the tools they need to reduce their own government bodies, to cut the size of government. It's what municipalities have been requesting: the power to make and implement local decisions and directions, to decide what services are needed in their own area and to provide them.

Municipalities are already taking a close look at the priorities in their individual areas and now they will have the opportunity to take a new look at those services and how they are offered and provided. The amendments allow municipalities the opportunity to make decisions about how public utilities are provided without the expense of a referendum. It gives them the flexibility to determine if they are able to provide a service in a cost-effective manner or whether it would be more cost-effective for a private sector company to offer the service. In many cases, people don't care who provides the service as long as it's provided.

This is something that municipalities have been asking for: the authority to prioritize within their local areas to decide what the local needs are. With this legislation, we will do exactly that: give municipalities the ability to make their own decisions on what to offer, how to offer it and whether or not there will be a fee attached.

Already in my own county, municipalities are charging $1 a bag for garbage pickup. It is an affordable way to help pay for the service. As well, it gives residents the incentive to recycle. This is a service that many people can afford and don't object to paying for. The amendments give the municipality the flexibility to exempt the people who can't afford to pay a user fee.

Not only does this give municipalities the ability to offer their residents the type of services they want; it gives them the freedom to decide about their future. This is just another example of how these amendments will give municipalities the tools they need to do business more efficiently while assessing the ongoing needs of their residents.

Long-overdue amendments to the licensing act give local governments the ability to recover their costs for administration and issuing of licences through realistic fees. In the past, it has cost municipalities hundreds and thousands of dollars to enforce and administer the issuing of these licences without any hope of recovering the costs. In the past, there was a list of certain retail and trade operations that the municipality had the ability to license; under these amendments, this list is now gone.

Municipalities will have the authority to license any retail or trade operation they determine necessary and then charge a fair price for the licence. This measure will apply to one level of government, most likely the local government. In most cases, the lower tier will issue the licence. I'm happy to see this change. The time has come for taxpayers to stop having to carry the cost of monitoring these businesses and paying for enforcement of their infractions.

As well, giving the municipalities the ability to distribute responsibilities between upper and lower tiers has been long awaited at the local level. Putting the power to decide local decisions at the local level will help wipe out duplication and help make each one more cost-effective.

Changes to the Conservation Authorities Act put the power for deciding property tax levies back in local hands. Under the amendments, the amount of property tax levies flowed back to the conservation authority is limited and can be raised only with the consent of the municipalities. It is a commonsense change putting the flexibility to decide what is important locally in the hands of locally elected officials, the people who were put in that position to make the decisions on behalf of their residents.


Also, revoking the provincial appointments to the board leaves the ability with those the local people elected to the authority. It also takes conservation authorities back to their roots -- conservation. They will now focus on two key areas: flood control and the protection of provincially significant wetlands.

These changes reflect our government's refocusing of its interests and the need to rationalize the programs and services it delivers. It also provides municipalities with the flexibility to decide what programs are important to them and then to determine how to best deliver them, how best to serve their community.

These amendments give the municipalities the opportunity to look forward with a vision, with creativity and with the power to make the decisions for the unique and diverse areas and regions of Ontario.

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): Mr Speaker, I don't know if you've noticed, but the Sergeant at Arms was talking to me very peacefully. He didn't have to take me out of the House this evening; we're on speaking terms.

Now let me get into my speech. I'm delighted to spend the next five or six or seven minutes to talk about Bill 26. Let's get down to serious business.

I think the economic statement of the government was a brutal one, a brutal one because, first of all, I think people in the province of Ontario, and also the opposition, realize that the government has a right to introduce its own economic statements, and even budgets, and govern the way it likes to govern, but the way this bill was introduced, no wonder that people in the province of Ontario are claiming that politicians have lost all credibility -- for the simple reason that, as you know, we were locked in while we were being briefed on the economic statement, and to our surprise, when we came back to this House, Bill 26 was tabled. And to our surprise, none of our members from the Liberal Party or the New Democratic Party had a chance to even speak to the bill.

Again, I want to say that 55% of the people in Ontario have voted against the Tory Common Sense Revolution. I've read it a number of times. I've even made a few copies of the Common Sense Revolution and had my friends read the Common Sense Revolution and also advise me. Most people, good Liberals, agree with some parts of the Common Sense Revolution, but people disagree with the way it was introduced and the way that it's being imposed on Ontarians.

If you go through the Common Sense Revolution and go through Bill 26, they are two different documents, for the simple reason that they made some statements in the Common Sense Revolution -- like health care, for instance. They were not going to use user fees. I want to remind the government of what Mr Harris said about user fees, "I define universal user fees as those which everyone has to pay, including those who can least afford them." This was Mike Harris back in 1993.

A copayment is a user fee, and I'm proud to say that the Premier admitted today that a copayment is a user fee. I think this is the first time that I've heard the Premier say that a copayment was a user fee. At that time, only a short six months ago, the Premier and his party were saying, "We will not use user fees in the province of Ontario." They've also said in the Common Sense Revolution, "We will not close hospitals."

Now they are giving the Minister of Health the power to not only control but to close hospitals. They're taking over the responsibility of the district health councils. I don't know why we will be appointing people to the district health councils, police commissions and other commissions and committees in the province of Ontario for appearance only, because the government has decided that it will impose these services and close down our hospitals.

Going back to health care, they said, "We will not cut one red cent from the health care budget," and in Bill 26 they're decreasing the health care expenses by $1.5 billion: $1.3 billion from hospitals and $225 million from the drug benefit plan. If I may say so, I think seniors, disabled people, low-income people will now have to pay a $2 fee to have a prescription filled. I've heard my colleagues saying how mean it is on the government's part to impose this kind of user fee on senior citizens who are making between $16,000 and $24,000 a year.

I think they've broken their promise. I know the Premier has said that he would resign if he was to break a promise; and I'm anxious, not for the next election, because it's too cold out there at the present time, but I'm looking forward to whenever the Premier admits that he has broken some of his promises.

Also what's happening with Bill 26, I think it removes a lot of power from the backbenchers. They have a good number of backbenchers, but I just would like to warn them that now four or five ministers will have the power. They will be told after the minister and/or ministers or the bureaucrats have made up their minds. I think it's very unfair. I was a backbencher for five years and I want to tell you that at times it's lonesome when you're not part of the decision-making process.

I think that ministers have a responsibility, cabinet has a responsibility, to not only welcome the backbenchers but to inform them. A lot of backbenchers were surprised to read Bill 26 because they didn't fully understand it, and I don't blame them. This bill has 211 pages and it would take 15 lawyers to really understand all the powers given to a few ministers.

I heard just a little while ago that municipalities in the province of Ontario wanted more power. Well, back home where I come from in the Ottawa-Carleton area, my 11 municipalities are very concerned about the powers given to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, especially when it comes to amalgamation, expropriation. We have gone through a major municipal reform in the province of Ontario and people are just starting to get used to some of the reform that happened a short while ago, but now the Minister of Municipal Affairs is given more power to take apart local government. Local government is all about local decision-making, and now they're removing this local government, and I think this government will pay dearly for it.

Also municipalities will be given more powers, but also they will be losing 47% of transfer payments in the next two years. Unconditional grants are gone. Now it's going to be called the Ontario support program. My own municipality will be losing $1.3 million in the next two years, and this is unacceptable. They will have to revert to user fees, and I call this downloading. There's only one taxpayer, we were reminded again today by the Premier. It doesn't matter if it's at the municipal level or the provincial, there's only one taxpayer and I think that Bill 26 is very unfair to my people and the people of Ontario.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Klees: I am pleased to be rising at this late hour to speak to Bill 26 and I want to take this opportunity as it's the first opportunity I've had, other than to ask a question of a minister, to speak in this House.


Mr Klees: Thank you. I want to just take this opportunity to thank the people of York-Mackenzie for giving me the opportunity to come here and to serve them and I want to say that I look forward very much to serving with my colleagues in this House, to bringing leadership to the province of Ontario and I know that there will be many differences of opinion, as I've heard over the last number of weeks. This has been a very interesting experience for me to hear that clearly we all want the same objective for the province of Ontario, but there are clearly different views of how we should get there.

I'd like to take this opportunity to speak to the issue of Bill 26. Over the last number of days there has been much said in this House about the lack of consultation that's taken place in this House around Bill 26 -- in fact, around the Common Sense Revolution and the policies that we're proposing for the people of Ontario. I believe it's important for the record to have the people of this province know that this government has in fact had more consultation with the people of Ontario than any other government probably in the history of Ontario. I think it's very important that the people of this province are reminded of the fact that for some five years the current Premier, then the leader of the third party, spent a great deal of time along with the caucus members who were few in number at the time, but who took a great deal of time travelling this province, not only in urban areas, but across the northern parts of this province and into the rural sections of this province to talk about the issues of importance to them.

There were a number of documents that were published over a period of five years that related to the policy issues on rural and agricultural issues, on health care, on education, a series called New Directions and there was a great deal of discussion with the people of this province in town hall meetings and in various forms of consultation leading up to this last election.

I want to again remind the members opposite that it was this party which had the courage to publish their proposal for the people of this province in a document referred to as the Common Sense Revolution, an initiative that had never before been taken by any political party in this province. And no one in this province should be at all surprised about the initiatives that we're bringing forward because it was all stated very clearly a year in advance of this election.

I can tell you that the people of this province are not surprised. In fact, the only people who seem to be surprised at the policies that we're bringing forward are members opposite because they perhaps have not taken the time to read the Common Sense Revolution or in fact to read Bill 26, because what Bill 26 represents is enabling legislation for those issues of policy that we promised the people of this province.

The other thing that the people opposite, my honourable colleagues, seem to forget is that June 8 has taken place, that the people of this province have spoken clearly and the message was that the proposals that you brought forward during the course of the election campaign were not good enough for the people of this province and that in fact the Common Sense Revolution was what the people of this province embraced, and they have given us a clear mandate to implement that policy. In order to do that, we need some enabling legislation to put in place those policies that in fact would once again restore economic and fiscal responsibility to the province and do the many things --

Mr Gerretsen: You know what the problem is? You really believe that.

Mr Klees: -- that the people in this province have called for for many years. The member opposite, because he served in a municipality as a mayor, should know that the municipalities of this province called for this kind of legislation for years. There hasn't been a government that's had the courage to deliver it until now.

As the parliamentary assistant for the Ministry of Natural Resources, I had the opportunity and the privilege to travel this province over a period of three months to talk about a very important and fundamental issue, namely, conservation authorities. The minister had asked me to meet with people across the province and I did. In fact, we met in London, we met in North Bay, we met in Kingston, and we met with all 38 conservation authorities across the province to talk about the need to restructure government fundamentally in this province. So we talked about how conservation authorities over the years had become involved in many things in this province that they were never mandated to do so originally.

In speaking with conservation authorities across the province, there was an admission that over time they had become involved in many areas that they should never have been involved in. They also agreed that it's costing the taxpayer of this province many millions of dollars. What they agreed is that together we would work to restructuring and refocusing the focus of conservation authorities so that they could return to their original mandate, which was effectively flood control management in this province. That is what they agreed would be their core mandate.

Mr Gerretsen: No, no, what they want to do.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Kingston and The Islands is out of order.

Mr Klees: Beyond that, they made it very clear to us that what the conservation authorities wanted to do was have the flexibility to deliver services at the local level, to work with their municipal partners and not to have the provincial government micromanage their business. So what we have done in Bill 26 is deliver to them the tools that would allow them to create partnerships at the local level, work with the municipalities so that they could deliver those services that were most important to the municipalities at the local level. That's why, as I met with the conservation authorities two days after the economic statement, we had some very good discussions about the impact of the economic statement and we talked about how we would work with them to ensure the transition period and they welcomed that.

You know, Mr Speaker, one thing that was very interesting to me as I travelled the province and met with the conservation authorities was, for the first time, they said, a parliamentary assistant had actually travelled the province to meet with them. No other government had ever taken that initiative. I found that very interesting.

Now we hear from members opposite, from both the NDP as well as the Liberal Party, that we don't consult. For the first time there's a government that is in fact consulting with the people and I think this is foreign and that's why they don't recognize it, because it's never been done by members opposite. We're going to continue to consult with the people of this province and to deliver to Ontario the kind of policies that they invited us to deliver on June 8.

I'd like to refer to some comments that were made by the leader of the third party, and I'm sorry that he's not here. Mind you, I suppose that's seniority. It's 10 minutes to 11 and I'm sure the leader of the third party -- in fact, the leader of the Liberal Party isn't here either. For people who are so concerned, for parties that are so concerned that there be consultation and an opportunity to debate the issues, why aren't they here? Why are there six members of the Liberal Party and not one from the NDP?


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member cannot refer to that. Your leader is not here either, so what are you talking about?

The Speaker: That's not a point of order.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Oh yes, it is.

The Speaker: No, it's not a point of order. The member for York-Mackenzie has the floor.

Mr Klees: The fact of the matter is, we weren't the ones who were complaining about consultation. The point that I was making clearly was that if in fact the members of the Liberal Party and the NDP, whom the voters rejected on June 8, are so concerned about having the opportunity to debate this bill and to debate the policies that are being considered in this House, why aren't they here tonight? Whom are we playing to? We're specifically playing to the media. That's the problem. Why don't we get serious about debating the issues and get on with it and talk about some substantive issues?

Much has been said about the Common Sense Revolution by members opposite over the last few weeks. I've sat here quietly listening. I found interesting the many disparaging comments being made about this document, about a document that quite frankly is not something that was created by three or four political scientists in our party. It was in fact a document that was brought together as a result of province-wide consultation. It contains the policy recommendations, I suggest to you, of men, women and young people from across this province who took of their own personal, volunteer time and said, "Look, this is what we need to get Ontario back on track." The Common Sense Revolution is the result of recommendations made by men and women on the front lines of service delivery in our province who said, "This is what we need to get on with restoring prosperity to this province."

In spite of that -- and I've been waiting this long to refer to this -- the leader of the third party, someone whom I enjoy listening to, quite frankly, because he waxes eloquent -- I enjoy listening to his ability to debate issues, and in my mind one of the best in this House -- I was sorely disappointed on October 3, when the leader of the third party referred to the Common Sense Revolution but in that, I believe, lowered himself to a point that I wasn't expecting the leader of the third party would do. I'd like to read from Hansard, October 3. The leader of the third party said this:

"The premise of the revolution, as it's been presented to us -- and we even had to go through the ritual of having the Lieutenant Governor reduced to the point of reading out a 1-800 number and then people being told at the end of the speech from the throne that everyone on the government side rededicates himself to the Common Sense Revolution, almost like a kind of fundamentalist prayer meeting in which people are being asked to come forward and bring witness and bring faith to this process.

"Well, I will say to the honourable members, I don't go to a lot of prayer meetings. I went to one when I was Premier, for the simple reason that.... I was tired of hearing from people who said the Premier didn't have a prayer. That's why I went."

I have to say on behalf of the many millions of people in the province of Ontario who take their faith very seriously that it is absolutely unconscionable that a leader of a political party in this House would take people's faith and make light of it, as he did, to make a political point in this House.

I suggest to you that is wrong. It should never happen again in this House and it should never be condoned. I suggest to you that the leader of the third party owes the people of this province an apology. I would suggest to you that it's time in this House that we got to the point where we put aside parochialism and partisanship and began to focus on the real issues that concern us and to which we were elected.

We were elected to be here to give leadership to the province of Ontario, not to continually debate campaign style, as has been happening in this House for the last four months, because I want to say to you I personally highly regard this place. There was a time when I looked forward to having the opportunity to debating the issues in this House. Unfortunately, for the last number of weeks I have had the opportunity to sit here and observe proceedings that had absolutely nothing to do with the issues, had absolutely nothing to do with debate of policy, had everything to do with posturing.

I can tell you that the word I have from people in my riding is that the people of this province are fully disgusted with what goes on in this place more times than not. I can tell you also that the things that happened in this House over the last week, under the guise of standing up for democracy, again had nothing to do with anything but politics, because the saddest hour in this House was when the honourable member refused to leave his seat when asked to do so by the Sergeant at Arms and, when he finally, after 18 hours, decided to accommodate and leave as he was asked to do, received a standing ovation from the Liberal Party and the NDP. I can tell you that is shameful, because what was being demonstrated to the people of this province is that it is honourable and it's all right and in fact it's laudable that you disobey the standing rules of this House, you disobey the Speaker of this House and you disobey the Sergeant at Arms -- that is laudable.

I had a class that day from a school in my riding who were observing those proceedings. I was ashamed at what they had to see, I can tell you, I was ashamed at what they had to observe, because their parents and their teachers have been trying to teach them to obey the law, to honour and respect this place and that we were elected to be legislators. Instead, what they observed was a circus here, and I believe that it's time that the people in this place 'fessed up to the fact that we were put here to do something and bring order to the province, not to continue to play politics long after the campaign is over, long after the people in this province have given us a mandate to govern, long after the people have said, "It's time that we got away from simply trying to spend ourselves into some sort of security but started to take on a management role." We in this party, on this government side, are committed to doing that and we will deliver to the people of this province.

Mr Duncan: I've observed a lot of things, and one thing we respect on this side is, and my understanding of the rules of the House has always been, that you don't refer to members who aren't present in any part of the House. We all have responsibilities in our ridings, and I think every member in this House takes their responsibility seriously. It demonstrates, in my view, the really misplaced sense of values and the callous attitude the government has towards public opinion and public debate.

Given the lateness of the hour, I thought I might address the top 10 problems that we see with Bill 26.



Mr Duncan: They laugh across the way. You know, the members opposite, the backbenchers who knew nothing about Bill 26 when it was introduced, you're all parroting your lines very well. The member who spoke previously talked about it being in the Common Sense Revolution. It wasn't there. Maybe you did have consultation, and we acknowledge that there was extensive consultation by your party, by all the parties in the lead-up to the election, but to somehow suggest that the people of Ontario, let alone the members of your own caucus, knew what was in Bill 26 is, in our view, just to make light of the entire process and the seriousness of the matter.

Let's start with the Minister of Health given the full power to close or amalgamate hospitals and terminate services that individual hospitals provide. Now, the government says that is in the interest of restructuring and rebuilding. Well, let me tell you, over the course of the last three years communities such as mine have found the wherewithal locally to restructure hospitals. We've gone from four acute care hospitals to two. We are reducing the number of acute care beds from just over 1,200 to 800. That effort involved hundreds of people in our community. It was undertaken with non-partisan support and it resulted, we think, in a workable document. Unfortunately, this government has refused to reaffirm the commitments that were made by the previous government with respect to reinvestment in non-hospital-based services.

The Minister of Health is given the power to take over the operation of a community hospital by appointing a hospital supervisor who will have all the powers of a hospital board. We can trade cheap political shots, as you've done tonight. You make fun of us, and you say "the 10 lost years," and you don't debate the substance of the bill. The reason you don't is because you don't understand it. You couldn't possibly understand it, because not one of you had a say in it. Every one of you knows full well what's being said in your ridings. I was in London North just today.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Demonstrating?

Mr Duncan: No, absolutely not. Meeting with officials who knew nothing about this bill and are very concerned about it.

Mr Wettlaufer: And you couldn't explain it to them.

Mr Duncan: Oh, I certainly could, because unlike you I've read it, and unlike you we're not afraid to talk about it.

So a supervisor can be appointed by the Minister of Health. He can go into Brampton, into a community hospital, and run it from Toronto. He can do that. You ought to support local organizations, local non-profits in your communities that run hospitals very competently. As a member of the Southwest Ontario Association of Health Care Administrators, I can tell you there are a vast number of health care administrators who are committed to making the best possible use of our available resources.

This kind of draconian step smacks of paternalism and lack of understanding of the community. They talk about giving power back to communities. What this bill does is take it away from communities.

The Minister of Health is given the power to inspect, copy and distribute the most confidential and personal medical records -- unprecedented. You sit here and you talk about your Common Sense whatever-it-was and how this was discussed in it. You're wrong; it wasn't. It wasn't discussed in the document; it wasn't discussed in any kind of public consultation. Nowhere on the public record do you find that. To suggest that it was there is an affront, not to the common sense but to the good sense of the people of this province, who agree there's a need for change -- all of us do. All of us recognize that there are problems.

But to suggest that taking a bill of this magnitude and jamming it down the throats of this province without meaningful public consultation -- here we are at 11:04 pm. The member who spoke before me spoke disparagingly of the members who are missing. I might speak disparagingly of the lack of times you've spoken in this House. Why is it, after three months, you're only getting up to talk today? At least you're here to defend yourself. You aim your shots at members of the parties who weren't here.

Let's talk about the $225 million in new user fees under the Ontario drug benefit program which will be imposed on seniors and others most in need. Again, the members opposite and the Premier get up and play games around semantics. They don't talk about the substance of the issue.

Mr Gerretsen: Parking fees.

Mr Duncan: Parking fees, yes. A major, major, major change. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised because they've done so well at going after the most vulnerable in our society. Those drug costs will no longer be regulated. Where was that in the Common Sense Revolution? I didn't see it.

Mr Wettlaufer: What page was it in the red book?

The Speaker: Order.

Mr Duncan: And why is it, if you consulted so widely, that the Ontario Pharmacists' Association has spoken out so clearly against what you're doing? I suggest that this consultation is nothing but a sham. It's a sham, and it's a sham because it's designed to keep the people in this province in the dark about what this government's full intention is.

The reason they want to keep people in the dark is they know that once people understand this bill -- and I can understand that many of you haven't read it or certainly haven't grasped it yet. It's a huge bill. It's frankly almost impossible, and with all the resources that we have to have the difficulty, imagine how groups out there feel.

Of course you wanted it wrapped up by Christmas. Of course you didn't want to leave Toronto. Of course you wanted to be debating at midnight. Of course you did, because you know that much of what is in this bill is absolutely unpalatable -- not because we don't believe there's a need for change, not because we don't believe in reviewing everything, but because we believe fundamentally that the people of this province have meaningful input and can help and participate as we get the province's affairs in order again.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs is given new powers to amalgamate and possibly dissolve municipalities, and there will be some municipal officials who applaud you for this. There will be others who don't. But you won't give them a chance to even discuss it. You won't give them a chance to discuss it.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Where are you, Dwight?

Mr Duncan: I'm for local choice, which you're taking away in this bill. You are taking it away. You're taking it away and that's why you don't want to go public. That's why you don't want to give people an opportunity to participate, because you're taking away local choice and you're couching it in more of your ideological jargon that's meaningless and not substantive, particularly from those of you who've had no say in the development of this bill, and that's most of you. That's most of you.

Mr Martiniuk: That's insulting.

Mr Duncan: Yes, it is insulting. It was intended to be.


The Speaker: Order.

Mr Duncan: You restrict access to freedom of information requests by implementing new fees and providing greater powers to government to keep secret files. You're reducing the restrictions placed on the development of crown lands, logging, mineral exploration, industrial operation and construction.

And you know, Mr Speaker, they've spoken about these terrible people in the opposition and what we've done to their House.

Mr Gerretsen: Yeah, we don't count.

Mr Duncan: Not that we count. So let's just review what some other people have said about this bill, about the bully bill.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: The what?

Mr Duncan: About the bully bill. I quote:

"The problem with Bill 26, which allows the province to unilaterally close hospitals, change municipal boundaries without consultation of any kind, direct where doctors work" -- and so on and so forth -- "is that it's being rammed through with virtually no debate. What's needed is discussion of the bill before committee." That's from the Northern Daily News.

"Bill 26 is an unabashedly naked power grab by the Tories. Its purpose is to give cabinet the ability to act alone, to change a host of government services and agencies without approval of the Legislature or anyone else." The Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

"Whatever the differences may be between the American and Canadian political systems, the parallels between Richard Nixon and Ontario's Mike Harris are both clear and troubling." Robert Vipond, political science, University of Toronto.

And what about Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner? What about what he said? He said: "With the sweeping powers these amendments provide, there arises the danger that health care information may be collected, used and disclosed beyond what is reasonably necessary to achieve the goal of reducing health care fraud."

And what else?

"Bill 26 can only fuel concern that Harris is doing too much, too fast, with too little planning, too little thought of the consequences." Jim Coyle, the Ottawa Citizen.

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

What you've done to this House and what you attempted to do, your government proved its own hypocrisy when it gave in to every one of our demands. It was you people who have taken democracy for granted and have spoiled this province and this Legislature. Shame on all of you.


Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): When I got elected, I didn't realize that a bedtime story was going to be a lecture from the Liberals on parliamentary procedure. Unfortunately, it was preceded by a lecture from the NDP on economics. Whenever I get "NDP" and "economics" in the same sentence, I think of $60 billion and wake up screaming. That is a nightmare.

On Wednesday, November 29, this government charted a new course for the province of Ontario, a course which, I want to remind those in this House who refuse to face the realities, was democratically chosen on June 8th of this year.

We were chosen with a mandate for change. The introduction of Bill 26 will be remembered as a defining moment in the history of this province, a moment in which a generation of leaders made the right choice for the future prosperity of generations to come. In fact, it was the first time in almost 30 years that the people of this province didn't line up in fear of a sin tax increase on cigarettes, beer, gasoline or liquor the night before a financial statement was tabled in this House.

With the introduction of Bill 26, the taxpayer of this province knew that the matter at hand was not as simple as levying piecemeal taxes that drove us deeper into debt. The taxpayer of Halton North and indeed around the province understood that to solve the crisis facing the province, hard choices and real decisions had to be made, and the taxpayer understood that if the real change would happen, this change would not and could not be borne by the taxpayers alone. There is only one taxpayer, whether he be regional or municipal or provincial or federal, and that taxpayer understands that all sectors of society will have to share the burden equally to ensure the fiscal future of this province.

The vision announced by this government in Bill 26 brings together what the people of this province have been telling us for the past four years. Government must take responsibility for its actions at all levels. Governments must stimulate jobs through job creation by creating an environment that attracts business and investment to Ontario. Government should not be a burden. Government should be smaller and more streamlined to meet the needs of the people it serves. Government must create new funding arrangements and partnerships to reflect the changing relationships of a modern world. And to do this, government must have a focus and a definitive plan for change.

That is what the voters of my riding told me, and today once again I am proud to stand in this House and tell them that this government has the courage and is prepared to deliver, against their expectations.

I believe that Ontario's best days are ahead of us, but to get to them we must make the hard choices today. Why the hard choices today? The past five years are a good window at the reasons why we must make the spending cuts outlined in the economic statement and the actions of Bill 26.

One of the most compelling is the following facts as they relate to our real gross domestic product: In 1990, Ontario's GDP was $228 billion; in 1994, it had grown to $238 billion, an increase of $10 billion. The previous government might take comfort in the fact that over its mandate Ontario's GDP grew by over $10 billion. But before we break open the champagne and celebrate, I ask the members opposite to reflect upon the cost of this most dubious achievement.

While they were out enjoying the champagne, "pain" being the operative word here, the hangover they woke up to went something like this: While the GDP went up by $10 billion, the province spent $60 billion more than we made, thereby increasing the debt by $60 billion. For every $1 in revenue, we spent $6 more than we made. One step forward and six steps back. Forget the new math; that's NDP math. Just think. If every business, institution or family ran their finances the way the previous government did, then we would all be broke.

The only reason that I can come up with for the past governments' mismanagement of the province's fiscal health is they had no concept of where they had come from, they had no idea of where they were and they had no vision whatsoever as to where they were going. The consequences of their actions plunged us deeper into two recessions, created uncertainty in the business and investment communities and fostered dependency and destroyed hope. In effect, they turned the economic engine of Canada into the caboose.

So while the members opposite chastise the government for doing what is right by claiming the pain we will cause with our renewal plan, I ask them to consider the devastating human cost of pursuing a policy that upheld their status quo. More spending has not created prosperity. If it did, we would have all had two jobs by now.

Make no mistake: This government is determined to assume a leadership role, a role that has been conspicuously absent from this province for the past 10 years.

Our history is shaped by the courageous men and women who came before us. In the lobby downstairs, we see Wolfe, Simcoe, Brock, and they never shrank from the task at hand. The early citizens of our province, who built this great province, did not fail us and we shall not fail them.

We took the initiative in the Common Sense Revolution to tell the voters of this province what our vision was. We took the initiative to examine the core businesses and services of government and created an environment for public sector investment. The introduction of Bills 7, 8 and 15 showed the voters that we're committed to change and delivering the mandate given to us, a mandate that brings us to where we are today and the introduction of Bill 26.

This plan for renewal delivers what the voters of Ontario sent us here to accomplish. It reduces government spending. It restructures the public sector to help Ontario become competitive again. It gives our transfer partners the tools and ability to restructure their operations, develop their core services, plan for the future and deliver programs in a more cost-effective and efficient manner. It gives our transfer partners more autonomy over decision-making, and it removes the barrier mentality of one size fits all in Ontario.

Reaction in my riding has been very positive. At a recent breakfast meeting of the Halton Hills and Milton chambers of commerce, there was deep understanding of the need to take the actions that this government is proposing. Questions and comments all came down to the same conclusion: Keep doing what you're doing.

The municipal partners in my riding have already spoken to me about working together to build a new partnership with the provincial government. The days of governments blaming other levels of government for all of our problems are over. We all have to work together to find solutions to the problems we face. We know it won't be easy, but we're prepared to make the hard choices and become part of the solution, not part of the problem.

This is exactly the type of spirit of cooperation and resolve that is necessary to achieve a common goal, a spirit that reflects the willingness of the voter for politicians at all levels to deliver the type of change necessary to create prosperity again.

With a balanced budget, lower taxes and the creation of an investment climate that is second to none, Ontario and all of its citizens will be poised to take advantage of the economic opportunities that await us in the future: a streamlined, more efficient government, better jobs and reliable, affordable services for those who are in genuine need.

This is truly the most compassionate route to be taken for the benefit of all the citizens of Ontario. We will stay the course, we will complete our plan and we will secure the future for every Ontarian. Although change is never easy, it is sometimes necessary. I leave this question of change for all in this House to consider: If not now, when?

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): It's my pleasure to speak tonight, at this hour. Although there may be some watching, I'd rather be speaking to the members opposite tonight. Quite frankly, it reminds me of being at home watching American television during one of their American campaigns and listening to their American-style radio ads and television ads.

Quite frankly, of all the speaking notes that were prepared for you by the boys in the back, I wish that they had gone back a little further to do a little bit more digging. To sit here this evening, pretty well all afternoon, and listen to the members rise with this sanctimony -- it's a crock, frankly.


I've got to tell you, I wish you'd gone back a little bit further. Just a recap while all of you want to talk about the 10 lost years in Ontario and your wish to return to the greatness of Ontario. Give me a break. Quite frankly, even Davis was trying in earnest year after year to do better in Ontario, and now you're going to stand and try to go back to what he was trying to fix, to the years where you had some of the highest levels of unemployment. When he was thrown out of office you were sitting at $35 billion in debt. I've got to tell you that your own Conservative governments ran 15 straight years of deficit -- 15 straight years.

I guess all we can do is go by the Provincial Auditor. In fact, let's look at the last time Ontario had a balanced budget. This is a document that the Conservative government put out only a couple of weeks ago, and even on the graph it tells you the last time Ontario had a balanced budget. It was in the 1989-90 Peterson government. That was a balanced budget.


The Speaker: Order.

Mrs Pupatello: I've got to say --


The Speaker: Order.

Mrs Pupatello: -- 15 straight years of deficit. That was your Tory record. So thank you very much for coming here today and trying to improve the record. Your own record needs a hell of a lot of improvement.

Let's talk about the fearless leader, the Premier of Ontario. What kind of record does he stand on? This man sat in this very House and voted time after time for tax increase after tax increase. That's Premier Mike Harris in this House today. Let me tell you that in his years here he voted 22 times for tax increases. That's his record.

Let me tell you too, he voted for personal income tax increases. He voted for fuel tax increases. He voted for increases in OHIP premiums. I know that you're not aware of this, so please do listen. He voted for provincial sales tax increases. He voted for corporate income tax increases. Not only that, he voted for the largest deficit as a percentage of GDP of all time. That's the leader who's now leading Ontario. So I do hope he improves on his own record. Don't sit here and sanctimoniously tell me about the lost 10 years. You've got 15 years to be making up for on that side of the House.

There's no question that there are financial realities that we're all facing, and how are we going to address it? How are we jointly going to address what it means? I would submit that this bill is not how it's going to be gone about. Let me tell you about the effects of Bill 26. We've got members of the Conservative Party running around Ontario now telling very selective pieces of information of this bill.

Mr Hastings: What did you guys do?

Mrs Pupatello: You as a government have the obligation to tell people the truth and tell people the whole story. That is not what is happening around here.

Let's talk about municipalities, the ones that took such a large hit in the last economic statement. While you may stand on giving them far more powers and all-reaching powers, that's wonderful; municipalities always did want that. They also wanted the money that has always been flowing from the provincial government. So what good does it do them now that you've cut them? So you'll come down and say: "This amalgamation change in Bill 26, what a wonderful thing that is. Why, it streamlines and it streamlines the arbitration process."

Let me tell you what it does. It allows with a majority of the townships, and not all of them, to amalgamate, whether they choose to or not. Moreover, no appeal process. So if you have five townships that are being recommended for amalgamation, if two of those don't want to amalgamate, they simply get drawn in whether they want to be or not. In fact, you've written it in the bill: no repeal. "Shall not be repealed in whole or in part after it comes into force." Is this what you call giving them the power? This is taking it away.

Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): Read the other part.

Mrs Pupatello: "Read the other part." You have an obligation to the people of Ontario --

Mr Hastings: You have an obligation.

Mrs Pupatello: -- to tell them the whole story --

The Speaker: Order. The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale is out of order.

Mrs Pupatello: Let's talk about health and the promise of not cutting health fees. Let's talk about what it means to someone like me who comes from my riding. I would submit that most of the people who are in the House now coming from non-teaching centres, non-teaching areas -- what's going to happen to us? When we're talking about elements in this Bill 26 and what it does to our doctors, it restricts access; a moratorium: "In any of the following circumstances, the minister may, by regulation, impose a moratorium during which no physician is entitled to become an eligible physician..." -- what does that mean for you? That means that while they're driving the doctors out of Ontario, lowering the caps on what they're going to be able to charge, they'll all move back to teaching centres. So that in areas like mine in Windsor-Essex county that don't have a teaching facility, there is no incentive for the doctors to remain.

Let me show you a list so far, only in the last five years, of doctors, mostly specialists, who have left my area. I would submit that your areas are very much the same and it's very convenient that this government chooses to take on the doctors, because as a group no one wants to take on the doctors, but, oh, you're so brave to do so. Well, let's see when your phone starts ringing because your own physicians are leaving and, no, they are not coming back because indeed they are finding it better down south, which is where they're going when they leave Windsor-Essex county. So while your phone may not ring now, wait until your doctors begin to leave and you'll find it's a different story.

Let's talk about the copayments on drugs. Single income over $16,000, family income over $24,000: They'll now pay a deductible of $100. Your bill is entitling them to that. I'm sure they're going to tell you thank you, that the bill is wonderful. It also allows them now to pay the dispensing fee. Now it's $6.11. I'm sure they're going to say thank you for that, "Thank you for giving me the elements." I'm sure you didn't go around the province and tell them about those elements in Bill 26. But there are more. There are far more.

The freedom of information where medical information is concerned: I know that members of this House weren't aware of the far-reaching implications of allowing this kind of thing, and you may choose to sit there and smile until it's your medical records that are being faxed Lord knows where because now the minister is entitled to do that. To that, I'm sure all of us in Ontario are going to say thank you.

You sold the municipalities and all of us on this granting of powers to municipalities but you failed to tell them that you were also including that element that allows them to charge a head tax or a poll tax. I would submit that they maybe should have known that, that in fact you are granting powers to municipalities to raise revenue at a local level, revenue that you are cutting from them, and you're simply downloading your costs to them. You claim in your estimates here that you're saving $225 million on this copayment on drugs. That is not a saving of $225 million; you're just offloading the cost to the people who can least afford it, so it's more downloading of cost but you haven't given them the straight goods and told them that.

With all the hundreds of pages that were in this document, and the announcement of a new casino in Niagara, how in all of these pages did you fail to mention the promise that your Minister of Finance, Ernie Eves, that your Premier, Mike Harris, made during the campaign of 10% to the local community that houses it? How is it in all of these pages we can find nary a word about the promise of 10% profits to communities? I guess he said you don't need the revenue. Well, why did you announce another casino? Surely there's something missing. Maybe there's an extra page here we're not aware of. But I know our member from Niagara would love to have been able to go back to Niagara and say, "Mike Harris promised 10% to communities but he didn't give it." So, more broken promises.

What was all the kerfuffle about when Bill 26 was introduced? Well, the people on this side of the House believe that the public does have a right to know what you're doing. You may be sitting there with a majority government, but that doesn't mean that you can just run roughshod over Ontario and not let the people know exactly what you're doing. If you have a problem with the members of the Liberal Party making sure that the public will have a right to know and in fact will know, then I would submit that that is your problem and we're doing our job. That's what we were elected to do.

So I've got to tell you that as far as the bill is concerned, to members opposite, the bloom is off the rose and the people will discover everything that you had intended. Unfortunately, it's such a large bill, I don't know that even the public hearings we were able to require will do it justice. We'll never be able to look through it clause by clause and make the appropriate changes that even members of this government have admitted need to be made. But nevertheless, we're going to work with that because we owe the people of Ontario the truth about Bill 26.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): It is with pleasure and great pride that I rise today as the first Progressive Conservative member to represent the riding of Scarborough West.

Since the riding's beginnings, the electorate has never sent a member to Queen's Park that was in any other political party than the New Democratic Party; never, that is, until June 8, 1995, when they bestowed upon me this great honour.

As I stand here, I reflect upon the contributions of a number of my predecessors who held this seat. Mr Stephen Lewis served the people of Scarborough West for 15 years. For eight of those years, he was leader of the New Democratic Party. He was succeeded by Mr Richard Johnston in 1979. More recently, Ms Anne Swarbrick held the seat under the former government which appointed her to the cabinet.

The riding was created 32 years ago. It is nestled on the shore of Lake Ontario just east of the city of Toronto. It is bordered by Victoria Park to the west, Lawrence Avenue to the north, Kennedy Road to the east and Lake Ontario to the south. It is home to the scenic Scarborough Bluffs.

I have lived in Scarborough West since before the riding was constituted. I recall how Mr Lewis recognized the needs of his constituents, the concern they had for their fellow neighbours. The mostly working-class residents, who understood the value of a hard-earned dollar, believed that Mr Lewis would bring social justice and compassion to their lives.

Richard Johnston and Anne Swarbrick followed in their footsteps. Their hopes for a more just society found the support of the new immigrants, the hard-working, blue-collar workers, the grinders, the workers of the world. Scarborough West is full of hard-working, compassionate people.

There are a number of institutions in the riding which reflect that compassion. Providence Centre, for example, is a home for the aged and a chronic care and rehabilitation hospital. It has been providing care to the community for over 33 years. In its own words, "While most medical institutions are in the business of adding years to life, Providence lays claim to adding life to years."

I applaud Marion Leslie, her staff and all her volunteers at Providence Centre. I fully support them and am pleased that the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council hospital restructuring committee has recommended their expansion.

Scarborough West has a number of fine community centres such as Warden Woods, Birchcliff and Oakridge. Warden Woods has a unique service known as the Conflict Resolution Centre. Run by volunteers, this service brings disputing neighbours together, and with the guidance of volunteer social workers and lawyers, conflicts are often resolved before the police have to be called. Not one taxpayer dollar is spent and they have a record of success in 90% of their cases.

The world-renowned Variety Village is also in my riding. Variety Village epitomizes compassion. They work with the physically challenged to help them build self-reliance, self-esteem and being the best you can be.

We've got some dedicated police officers in my riding. Jim Kozmik and Dave Alexander are spearheading a crime prevention program in the Cataraqui neighbourhood. These fine officers are trying to make the streets safer with an innovative approach to policing.

My constituents are caring and they also know the value of money. They sacrifice for their kids. They take extra jobs. Many are immigrants striving to survive, sacrificing for a new beginning. Most are workers with a family and a mortgage.

I have lived in the riding for over 40 years and I know it well. I went to Oakridge and Warden Avenue schools. I went to R.H. King and W.A. Porter collegiates. I've travelled the same roads as my constituents. From a poorer economic environment, I was able to earn several university degrees and, most importantly, the spirit of self-reliance.

My father was an immigrant, as is my wife. My father found it impossible to get a job because of his name, Tommy Gallagher. There was prejudice in Toronto, and my father overcame it. He was compassionate and always working. He believed social justice was a job. Being a union organizer, he fought for union democracy. He was a typical resident of my riding.

In 1990, voters in Scarborough West and other parts of the province were surprised when the dream many of them held became a reality. The NDP actually formed a government. But the euphoria was short-lived, as people realized that the kind of ideology the NDP dictated did not work well in application. After five years of NDP rule, voters were appalled and the dream became a nightmare.

Money was wasted. Welfare increased threefold. Debt doubled. Jobs vanished. Employment equity fostered prejudice.

Voters wanted change. They wanted jobs. They wanted social programs that were not put in jeopardy by the foolhardy spending of the NDP. The NDP abandoned compassion. They denied jobs for our youth; they robbed the middle class with higher taxes. Tripling the number on welfare and destroying self-esteem are not acts of compassion.

My NDP predecessors, Lewis and Johnston, would recoil in horror if they realized that Bob Rae's NDP created the largest single redistribution of wealth in the history of the province from the poor to the rich -- yes, wealth redistribution from the poor to the rich. I quote Lorrie Goldstein of the Toronto Sun: "During the five years he was Premier, Mr Rae presided over the greatest transfer of social income to the wealthy in Ontario's history."

The NDP doubled the debt, and as a result increased our interest payments from $3.8 billion to nearly $10 billion each year, forever. This interest is a boondoggle for the wealthy foreign investor and the superrich banks at the expense of not only taxpayers but also the disabled, the disadvantaged, the children and the single moms, because those are the services that have been jeopardized by the wasted five years of NDP rule in this province.

Social programs have been jeopardized by the irresponsibility of the NDP. Yes, money originally destined for the poor has to be sent to the creditors. Money to help the needy and the disadvantaged must now be remitted to noteholders. The NDP mortgaged our futures and they thought nobody would notice.

The $6 billion extra interest cost is greater than the total annual welfare payments. It is greater than the cost of all our ministries plus the Queen's Park and all MPP costs. We have creditors, lots of creditors, and our creditors are only concerned about the repayment of the billions we owe. They're not concerned about our social programs. They want to know when we will repay our $90-billion to $100-billion principal. Our creditors are concerned because we just keep borrowing.

To make matters worse, more private money leaves the province. Wealth creators are taking their money to other countries, frightened at the debt load of the province.

Take a look at the Globe and Mail, at the ads to transfer money out of the country. There's a book, Take Your Money and Run. It sells very well. Poor people and the disadvantaged can't leave. They believed the promises and now they're trapped.

For the past five years, Ontario has been a leader in flight capital. The Canadian and Dominion Bond Rating services have been concerned about Ontario's creditworthiness. Ontario once enjoyed an AAA credit rating, until 1991. Now our credit rating has been downgraded twice, to AA-; our debt instruments are deemed risky. The higher the risk, the higher the interest costs. If we are not cautious, our rating could drop again.

A 1% interest rate increase equals $1 billion in added interest costs. That's almost another 21.6% cut in welfare just to stay even. That $1 billion would fund all colleges and universities or all child care facilities. That $1 billion would fund all non-profit housing. Interest is a very non-productive expense.

The spending of the last five years primed nothing. Debt doubled, creditors multiplied, yet in spite of massive spending, 12,000 welfare cases per month were added. Ontario is number one in welfare costs. Some 1,500 permanent jobs per month were lost. The interest became our deficit, and interest is crowding out our social programs.

The economic statement and the restructuring act have sent a clear message that the government and public sector must share the pain with the rest of us. There's no free lunch. We want to look after the less fortunate. Tax, borrow and spend, tax, borrow and spend -- it's over. We mean it. It's over.

We have to be tough with our expenditures in order to be compassionate with people. We all know that drug and alcohol addiction ruins self-esteem, blurs self-reliance and destroys self-confidence. Withdrawal from addiction is painful. Just like narcotic dependency, there is such a thing as addiction to government services and handouts. We have to break the addiction of government dependency. There are no Betty Ford clinics for government dependency.

The Speaker: If the member for St Catharines and the member from Haliburton want to have a conversation, go out the back.

Mr Jim Brown: But once any addiction is removed, self-esteem is freed, self-reliance is stimulated and personal growth and potential are fostered.

Another encouraging aspect of the economic statement and restructuring act is the commitment to cut and eliminate red tape, red tape that strangles development, robs entrepreneurial spirit, discourages capital accumulation and rewards bureaucracy. Insidious regulations touch us all.

Did you know there's a registrar of regulations? Did you know there are at least, at last count, 45,000 regulations, and the number grows every week? And that's just at the provincial level. They're cumulative. We never cancel any of them. There's no sunset law.


Regulations do touch us all. As a small businessman, I often felt that more regulations were not only touching me but trying for a knockout punch. The bureaucracy, all of which we pay for handsomely, has practised the art of overregulation for decades; they've honed their skills. It is like religion or a trade or a profession. They introduce regulations so quickly and with absolutely no regard to economic reality or cost-benefit analysis. Bafflegab and bureaucrap, Parkinson's law personified: Work expands to fill the available time.

The bureaucracy stifles cost-cutting. In my meetings with Scarborough hospitals, Providence Centre, colleges and other regulated operations such as child care centres, the one complaint is the micro-managing by the bureaucrats, the regulations that result in micro-managing, and the frustration at wanting to cut back needless expenditures but not being able to because of regulation.

The government has triple checks on everything. They regulate for job preservation, they micro-manage for job security, they implement reports for proof of work -- 45,000 regulations and growing weekly, 45,000 regulations costing billions of dollars. You know, Moses ran things using 10 regulations.

The red tape committee wants to right the regulatory wrongs. We want to cut costs by reducing needless regulations. Like Alberta's done, we need to stop all existing regulations and start over. They have a sunset law in all regulations. They have a watchdog committee that considers economic benefit. There's certainly lots to do. It's a great undertaking, but it was promised in the Common Sense Revolution, in the throne speech, in the economic statement and the restructuring act.

Our Savings and Restructuring Act is sending out the message that we want to roll out the red carpet and roll back the red tape. We want to create jobs. We want the wealth creators to create wealth, not reports. We want compassion to be worth more than a pile of reports. We want to ensure that the interests of the disabled and the disadvantaged and the children take precedence over high-cost, paper-pushing make-work.

We want to make sure that the 87% of the population who make under $50,000 get a tax break -- finally, an increase in disposable income after years of cutbacks and 65 added tax increases.

Our families knew five years ago that times were tough, and our families adjusted and sacrificed. We learned to live within our means, but disposable income kept falling.

Now it's the government's turn. We're trying to introduce a new concept into government thinking -- common sense, something so seldom used it's often mistaken for genius.

Mr Patten: I appreciate the opportunity to exercise my privilege as a member of the Ontario Legislature to participate in this debate on Bill 26. While many of my colleagues have addressed various aspects -- the financial aspects, the regulatory aspects, the ominous nature of this particular bill -- I'd like to direct my comments to the impact this legislation will have on parliamentary and participatory democracy.

As I've already said in this Legislature, Bill 26 takes power out of the hands of our elected officials, and by doing so it potentially renders the voice of the public as powerless. Bill 26 in fact sets the stage for a coup d'état on the notion of responsible government and indeed participatory democracy. With this piece of legislation, the government is wiping out what it took legislators over 100 years to build, and that is the inalienable right to review and to debate the legislative program of the executive branch of government called the cabinet.

This is what I believe is at stake in Bill 26: our fundamental right as legislators to debate the executive action of a government. Why else are we here? I ask my non-cabinet colleagues on the other side of the chamber to reflect on that. I'm sure you must ask yourselves, "Why am I here?" Certainly you didn't run in the election to be a rubber stamp, but that is what Bill 26 will render you and will render me and my colleagues: a rubber stamp for whatever decree comes from cabinet.

You sought office probably for many of the same reasons I did, and the most important was to be a voice for the people who elected you. Through me, the people in my riding have the opportunity to examine and to voice their opinions on the legislative agenda put forward by the government.

We refer to our form of government as responsible government: The executive branch of government, the cabinet, is responsible to the legislative branch, the members. The system works on the basis of legitimacy gained through consent. "Elections are obviously one benchmark of consent, but it is simplistic to think they crystallize and fuel a continuing mandate," regardless of whatever, says Robert Vipond.

This, however, is exactly what Mike Harris and his ministers are doing when they stand up day after day in response to questions and say: "We had a mandate. We took our own poll, and it was called an election." I choose to differ. You may have earned the right to form the government, but you have also assumed the responsibility to govern, and those are two very different things.

What is at stake in Bill 26, in my opinion, is really our ability as members of the legislative branch to call into account the actions of the executive branch. If action is needed to remedy a particular problem, then let the members of the Legislature debate it. I can tell you, in so far as you earned the right to form the government and direct the course of action over the next four years, I also earned the right to debate and review the actions put forward by the government. It is not only my role as a member of this Legislature, it is also my responsibility.

What I have to say in this debate on this massive piece of legislation is that Bill 26 is a huge power shift. Some people say "power grab." I say it's a power shift, and it shifts power to centralized government.

Edward Blake, a former Liberal Premier of Ontario, stated, "In free constitutions, executive power must be guarded, limited and restrained, and must not be permitted to encroach on the rights of the people and their representatives."

I put it to you that Bill 26 represents an expansion of executive power at the expense of the elected representatives. It is nothing short of the transfer of power out of the hands of the Legislature back to the executive branch. It reverses what our forebears built for us over 128 years ago.

People are only slowly becoming aware of the sweeping nature of Bill 26, but the debate is building. We have seen an explosion of attention to this attack on our tradition of participatory democracy in the press lately. Even Tom Wright, fulfilling his mandated as privacy commissioner, has expressed grave concern about Bill 26, concerns that would have been ignored had this bill been rammed through.

I refer to the letter he sent to the Minister of Health. I point out to members across the way that when I asked a colleague on the government side -- I will not name him -- whether he had read the letter from the privacy commissioner, he said: "Well, who is he? He's not elected." It was at precisely that point that a concept crystallized, that that new member didn't understand that operating in government and operating in the Legislature is decidedly different from operating in a business.

In editorial pieces, Bill 26 is referred to as a "bully bill," a "power grab," a "gross abuse of power," the "ominous bill" etc. Those are not my terms. I've been hearing terms such as "imperial" and "dictatorial," and these are not coming from just the members on this side. They've been initiated by the press, a broad base of the press.

But probably the most sobering observation on Bill 26 comes from Robert Ronald, president of the Ontario Teachers' Federation. I attended their press conference after we closed the House on Thursday last, where he outlined the concerns and said, "As teachers we are concerned about the lesson this government is teaching our students" -- our children -- "about the exercise of power and the disregard for the democratic process" and how young people are affected.

To me, that's a very important principle. What kind of society are we preparing for our children when we undermine the values upon which our society is based?

I will end my remarks by pointing out exactly where this bill sets a precedent: It sets it when power is given to the Minister of Health for no referral, because it does not have to happen now. At the moment in this Legislature, the Minister of Health would have to come forward with legislation in order to close any hospitals. It would be an opportunity for everyone to react to that and for the press to comment and for people perhaps to phone in, talk to their members, phone the government, whoever, the minister himself or herself.


At that point, we moved and I believe crossed the line in terms of undercutting the parliamentary history of this Legislature, because we gave powers solely, absolutely, to that minister.

Today it's the Minister of Health, tomorrow it will be the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and following that, who knows which minister it may be? Please take a look at this. You will see the power becoming centralized into the cabinet. That means they do not have to speak to anyone else. They do not have to come to this place. It means that your role and ours becomes somewhat useless, not important. It limits the opportunities in making decisions that affect people and their participation in them.

I can appreciate that many people who ran as members of the Progressive Conservative Party come from a business background. I understand that, and that's important and it's a good contribution and a good perspective to add to this House.

But I hear, time and time and time again, people saying, "When we got elected June 8, it was our mandate." I agree with that: It was a mandate. But it was not an absolute, autocratic dictatorial mandate; it was a mandate to assume the responsibilities of a responsible government.

The next step is that we will move in a way that becomes managerially expedient. I will say to my friends across the way that this is where the mistake is. That is a business paradigm; it is not a parliamentary paradigm. It is not the sensitivity of putting forward programs and ideas for the public to respond to.

That is where I believe the mistake is, where you rob this Legislature of that kind of power. I say that not in a vindictive way. I say this with a degree of despondency and with a degree of discouragement, that we can undercut this particular place. And it has been undercut. You haven't done it; it was undercut by the NDP when they brought in some of their motions on time allocation and on closure. That's a very slippery slope.

I ask you, please be aware of that aspect of the bill. There are many aspects, many aspects indeed, that I agree with, but I point out this one. It's your responsibility, our responsibility, for our future children to respect us in terms of parliamentary democracy and the history we have in this province.

I've travelled the world, and wherever I've travelled I've felt proud to talk about it. I don't quite feel that way today, but I hope we can rectify that. I hope you will listen to that particular point and that your cabinet will withdraw any kind of absolute powers and restore the parliamentary democracy and tradition of this province.

Mr Michael Brown: As I rise to speak to Bill 26, I rise with some perspective on this bill, I believe. I've been around; I've been elected three times. I've seen governments come, governments go. I've sat over there, I've sat over here. I've been around, but I have never, ever seen anything like this tax bill. This is probably the largest tax bill the province has ever seen.

As you go through this bill, I think you'd be astounded by the taxation measures it brings to you; for example, user fees, user fees for seniors, a taxation measure, some $225 million of taxation. Call them fees, copayments, whatever, but it's a tax on health care, a tax on the sick, a tax that was never there and a tax that the government explicitly ruled out in its election document, explicitly ruled out doing this.

We're going to tax seniors, disabled people, people who are on social assistance. We're going to do this because of this bill, this 211-page bill that speaks to matters that are just absolutely incredible and phenomenal in their breadth.

I was listening to the member for Scarborough West, who I think made a valuable and important contribution in this debate today. He said we have to get of regulations, but this bill is 211 pages long, and the number of regulations it will take to implement this bill would probably bury me. That is how many regulations will come out of this bill.

My good friend the Minister of Natural Resources was here earlier. I'd like to say a few words to him. The now minister and I, on behalf of our two parties, were the critics for Natural Resources in the last Parliament. The minister and I looked at Bill 171, which was a very broad bill in the forest industry, regulating the way forests are harvested and looked after in this province. That bill vested, in my view and in the view of the present Minister of Natural Resources, the same kinds of powers in this bill.

This bill does not provide much in the way of specifics. What this bill does is provide for the minister to make regulations. The minister can make regulations to do almost anything he wants, whether it's the Minister of Health, the Minister of Natural Resources, the Minister of Financial Institutions. Just about any minister can make regulations, which we all know will never get reviewed in this place. Often, members of the Legislature don't even have the opportunity to know that these regulations are in place.

Earlier the Minister of Natural Resources -- I just have to comment on this -- talked about setting up a trust fund. Can you imagine? In this legislation there's actually a trust fund -- which I think's a good idea; don't get me wrong -- for the revenues from hunting and fishing, and I suspect from commercial fishing because it speaks to royalties, and from a number of other places. They are going to dedicate these, put them into a trust fund. The Minister of Natural Resources would know that the forest industry got trust funds last year. What are they going to spend the money from the trust funds on? Remember, Minister, when you were over here, what we said about the kind of power this gives you?

I'd like to read from this bill, to talk about what discretion the minister has:

"Payments out of account

"(3) The minister may direct that money be paid out of the separate account to the minister or a person specified by the minister if,

"(a) the payment will be used for the management, perpetuation or rehabilitation of wildlife or fish populations or the ecosystems of which those populations are a part;

"(b) the payment will be used for a matter related to the activities of people as they interact with or affect wildlife or fish populations, including any matter related to user or public safety" -- in other words, for anything, absolutely anything.

The bill doesn't speak to who is going to regulate that, because that's going to be in the regulations; the minister's going to set up who that is under regulations. Maybe the present minister will do a nice job and select the right people, but the next minister or the next government will choose whom they want.

I would say to the sportsmen of Ontario, who are very happy with this provision -- and again I like it -- that I don't know how it's going to work and it looks to me like a gigantic tax grab. I could almost guarantee that the same thing will happen with this fund as what happened with the forest trust funds and the crown dues. This is a huge grab of money to support the ministry in this particular area, and I think sportsmen will be absolutely overwhelmed with what they're going to be asked to pay for, absolutely overwhelmed. The ministry is going to stop spending a whole bunch of its money that it's spending on these activities now and the sportsmen are going to pick up the tab, as the forest companies did. This is going to become a source of revenue to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Mrs Pupatello: More taxes.

Mr Michael Brown: More taxes. I suggest that you can go through virtually every section in this bill and find ways that either the government will directly collect increased user fees or will permit its transfer partners to do it -- probably the biggest tax grab in the history of Ontario.

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

The House adjourned at 2400.