36th Parliament, 1st Session

L038b - Tue 12 Dec 1995 / Mar 12 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.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Further debate?

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in second reading debate on this omnibus legislation.

I want to pay a compliment to the member for Oriole, who's a colleague ex-Health minister. I thought she did a very good job of taking us through many of the health sections in as much detail as she could within the half-hour time limit given to her to speak on this very large bill. Many of the concerns that she raised are concerns that I as a former Health minister share, and I agree with her analysis on the powers contained within the bill and on the dangers of those powers.

I actually intend to speak on some other parts of the bill tonight because I think she's done a very fine job of that and that in the time we have available, as we are going through this, it's important to try and raise as much awareness about various points of the bill before we go into committee hearings.

I have to say to members opposite, in sort of a context-setting way, I guess, that I'm surprised at the fierce defence I hear from many government members, particularly many of the newly elected members, the fierce defence of this bill and the process in this bill, that somehow this is all okay. I've heard a number of members blindly tout the line they heard one of their ministers give in an answer to a question, that there had been previous omnibus bills like this and there had been other examples -- Bill 175 I think was referred to -- in the previous government.

I would really like to ask, perhaps even challenge, some of the newly elected members to go back and take a look at previous omnibus bills, the process by which they were introduced, what was contained within them. I think they'll find, and this is true of any government, at a point in time there are various parts of the bureaucracy and the ministries that want housekeeping changes to a lot of different acts that they work with: there have been court rulings or there have been changes in technology and processes or whatever. These things pile up one after another after another, but, you know, they're never quite important enough individually to get time on a government's legislative agenda because, of course, as legislators, as political parties, we have things that we want to accomplish, things that are large policy areas that we want to tackle and to deal with and to complete that process, and of course we set our own priorities for the legislative agenda. Many of these housekeeping things, just the business of government, the ongoing oil in the wheel or the cog, somehow don't get dealt with. I think if you look at previous omnibus legislation you'll find a whole lot of those things together.

Let me give you an example from the last government of a process that was undertaken for a huge omnibus bill in terms of the number of specific amendments -- I will admit it was larger than this in terms of specific amendments, nowhere near as large in terms of the policy import of what was being done, but more amendments. It was put together. It was circulated to the opposition parties to take a look at. We said: "We'd like to proceed with this. What do you think? Do you have any strong objections to the way it's been put together? Are there any areas that are really problematic?" One of the parties indicated significant problems with a section, that this was in fact too big in too much of a distinct policy area and it would be an abuse if we continued and had that joined in this omnibus bill; so we agreed to sever that and take that out.

Quite frankly, I think that opinion at that time was right, that this should have been severed out, and we responded. It's very different than what we're dealing with here. I really urge you to go back and look because there will come a time, if you have long legislative careers, when you will sit somewhere else other than where you're sitting and you will want to know that you have the ability to represent your constituents, yes -- we all have a responsibility to do that -- and an opportunity to put forward your views, your perspectives and those of your political party. Those are the rights of legislators.

When you have very, very large public policy issues in discrete areas of legislation being strung together in an omnibus bill like this -- and of course we know the timetable that had been originally attached to it -- you deprive all of us in this House and the public of Ontario of an opportunity to understand the legislation that's being proposed, to examine the impact of the legislative changes, to make arguments about the appropriateness of that, to discover errors in drafting, or certainly errors in taking a read of public opinion as to whether or not they want this to be done, and the opportunity to amend it.

You know, much has been made in the last couple of days from certain members in the government that members of the opposition got what we wanted; we got our public hearings; we should be satisfied. "The public hearings are there, what are you whining about now?" Well, let me tell you, in the end of a very long night we came to an agreement between three parties, between two diametrically opposed positions: a government that wanted this bill passed in eight days of legislative time before the Christmas break and an opposition that wanted enough time to debate the bill properly, which meant splitting the bill into a number of different areas and having many of those referred out to public hearings. Somewhere in between there, there was a compromise.

Now, I'm an old negotiator. I understand that sometimes you make compromises. Sometimes you arrive at a deal that is a compromise because people are so far apart and you've got pressures, time pressures, whatever. Let me tell you, compromise isn't always the best or the right answer. I believe profoundly that we are still dealing with a piece of legislation that is much too large, much too complex and in too short a period of time to have a full understanding of what it is the government is doing and to be able to comment on it as legislators and as representatives of the public when they come forward in the hearings. As we go through question period each day, surely you must be coming to that conclusion as well.

There could be no more stunning a display of that than what we saw in question period this afternoon. I don't at all envy the job of a minister of your government right now trying to explain aspects of this bill, because I suspect a whole lot of this was done outside of the offices of ministers of cabinet. But I'm sorry, unfortunately the job, in part, that you're paid for is to defend your government's actions and your own ministry's actions within your portfolio area and to explain what your intent is and what you're trying to do.


I have myself experienced occasions where I was very clear on what our intent was and where I was advised by people that that's what the words accomplished, only to find out over a period of time, as we went through debate in the House and as other opinions were offered and as we went through examination in committee, that the words in fact accomplished something different than what our government had intended and/or what I'd been advised.

That's not unusual, and when you put together something that's very massive, very complex, that's moving into some new territories in terms of shifting of powers, of responsibility, between levels of government etc, and you're doing it very quickly, it's not only possible that there are going to be significant errors in wording -- some of them just drafting errors, some of them the research not having been done adequately enough to understand how to get to the right legal construction of the language -- it's not only likely, it is probable.

May I just remind you of your own experience? Forget about listening to my experience and others in this House. Think of your own experience in terms of Bill 7, a bill on which you kept the debate time in the House very short. You didn't hold hearings, you went into committee of the whole, and we had the spectacle of the minister being prompted by staff from the ministry on the floor in terms of this amendment or that amendment going through, moving something like 66 amendments to your own legislation, amendments that were tabled with the opposition just before the process started, amendments I'm sure you never saw. They never went through your caucus. As we were going through them and you were saying, "Yes, I support that. Yes, I support that," you hadn't even had copies. Surely there's got to be something that you all understand is wrong about that process.

Yes, it is right for a government to be able to achieve its legislative agenda -- absolutely. But there is a due process, and that due process isn't just one of fairness. It's not just one of treating the folks on this side of the House fairly. That's not what I'm arguing. There's a reason that we have debate and that we have committee hearings and that we have clause-by-clause analysis with sufficient time to look at, to understand the import of, to understand the problems with, to recommend amendments, to deal with debate on amendments and to potentially amend.

I know you will pass this bill on January 29. I know that. I don't know what form this bill will be in. Is there any one of you who could suggest to me that it will be verbatim as we see here, that that's what you will pass? I don't think so. I think you've heard already areas of significant concern.

I can mention the privacy commissioner's letter, and immediately your minister indicated, "If that's the case, we'll have to amend it." I suspect as we get through some legal opinions on the Minister of Municipal Affairs' clause dealing with user fees and charges for services that may be levied in the nature of a direct tax, when we understand what that really means, we'll probably find that he's going to have to amend that section too.

There are such a lot of areas here that I'm not even sure the members opposite understand what the bill does in reality. I've heard your descriptions of it. Let me deal with one; this is a touchy one. I know that you don't like unions very much. I know you don't like the processes that are out there and the laws, but I heard a member just earlier today talk about the section on arbitration. That member indicated that these were the tools that hospitals needed and wanted to be able to effect the restructuring.

Do you understand the history of the legislation that currently is in place that guides arbitrations in the public sector? The concept is that workers in a free, democratic society, under provisions of the ILO and others, have the right of freedom of association, and included in that is the right to withdraw work under structures of legislation, in legal circumstances; the right to strike, in other words.

We as a society have come to some agreements with workers in certain segments of our society and said, "No, your work is essential work, essential to the public good, and we're going to legislatively take away your basic right of freedom of association and right to strike and we're going to replace that with a system of third-party arbitration of your collective agreements."

Things that, if you were in a steel mill or an auto plant, you would bargain over and either reach an agreement on or potentially, if not, go through a lockout, which is the employer's mechanism, or a strike, which is the workers' mechanism under the legislation, in the public sector in certain areas we've taken that away and we've said, "No, we're going to replace it with a system of arbitration. But the goal of that system of arbitration is to actually replicate the outcome of free collective bargaining."

The criterion that has been set in the legislation for arbitrators is to look to the outside sector where free collective bargaining takes place and to replicate that outcome. That's the simplest way I can describe it. What you've done in your proposals for changes to arbitration for firefighters and for police and for essential services in the direct public service and for some references to arbitration in the teachers sector is set a whole group of new criteria that arbitrators must consider.

Essentially, if public sector employer bargainers come to the table and say, "This is our ability to pay. We've decided we're going to spend our money this way. We've decided we're going to," in a hospital, "purchase two new MRI machines or expand in this area or do this work. So we don't have any money to pay this year, we don't have any ability to pay," you've insisted that the arbitrator must consider that. What pressure is there for an employer to bargain in good faith in that circumstance?

The legislation that governs collective bargaining, particularly in this case in the public sector, whether it be under the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act or the Police Services Act or firefighters, whatever, tries to create a balance. You should understand this. I heard you argue -- I disagree with your definition of it -- but I heard you argue that what you were trying to do under Bill 7 was restore a balance. You should understand the concept of balance.

You have just skewed that balance so dramatically. To say to an arbitrator, "You must consider the employer's arguments of whatever they say is their ability to pay. You must consider service levels. You must consider the need for qualified employees," what you've done is you've just given a huge, huge gun to public sector employers for them to hold to the heads of their workforces, because going to arbitration is a whole lot more than a roulette wheel turn now.

The downside risk is incredible and the balance has been taken away. There is a real problem in what you've done. Essentially you are arguing what arbitrators many years ago said was absolutely incorrect and absolutely wrong for governments to do. You're suggesting that public sector workers should subsidize the cost of delivery of public services. That's what it comes down to.

There's another section in the bill where you're taking away from the employees as well. This one really amazed me. It took me a while to figure out what it meant, genuinely. It's a very tiny section, but I actually saw it the first day that you introduced the bill. That's the section dealing with public service pension plans.

I didn't understand what it meant. This is an interesting thing. I wonder how many people out there would. If you don't have time to tell people, if you don't have time to get people to think about it and to come forward and tell you what they think about it, this could all just have been passed by today under the government's original timetable.

That section, in sort of innocuous language, says that under the current legislation governing pension plans, only for those people who work directly for the Ontario government -- that's all it deals with, right? There are two pension plans there -- it says that, like in all other legislation, the superintendent of the plan may at some point in time decide, exercising the fiduciary responsibility and the responsibility the superintendent has for the benefits of the plan members, to wind up a portion or all of the plan. That responsibility of the superintendent of the plan has been taken away from the superintendent and it has been replaced by cabinet.


I read this and I kept saying, what does this mean? Like, why? Can someone help me here? It took a while to understand. In every other piece of legislation dealing with pensions in this province, plan members of the pension plan -- and remember, it's their money, money they've contributed and it's deferred wages, the contributions of both the employers and the workers. Those are deferred wages. It's part of the compensation package. It's their money and it's in that plan, and the rules that govern the plan are to safeguard the benefits and the investments of the plan members, irrespective of who they are -- the plan members.

If there is a wholesale restructuring in a particular industry workplace and a lot of people get moved out the door -- downsizing it's often called, and we've seen a lot of it in the private sector and in the public sector -- the superintendent of that pension plan may decide that a portion or all of that pension plan should be wound up.

Why? What does it mean? It protects the benefits of those workers who are going out in large numbers, and a part of the plan -- part of their money -- might be wound up and those benefits paid out in a certain way that is appropriate and that is to their benefit and to their long-term benefit in terms of being able to roll over to RRSPs or do other things with it to ensure their security of income in their retirement years.

That's a very common provision. There have been people who have tried to violate that and do things other than that. Some of you might remember a very, very well-publicized case at the time of Conrad Black and Dominion. I suggest you might want to go back and take a look at that, because what you've done is legalized for yourselves as an employer what is illegal for any other employer in this province to do.

You've said: "No, no, no. It doesn't matter what the superintendent of the plan thinks is the right thing to do in exercising fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the plan members. We're going to take it into cabinet to make that decision." And why? Because we know that you're going to restructure the Ontario public service, the direct employees of you as the government. We know that a number of those people are going to go out the door. You're going to downsize. You told us in the Common Sense Revolution and in the campaign. We know that.

What we didn't know and what you didn't tell the people of Ontario and what you didn't tell your own employees was that you were going to rip off their pension benefits. That language is not too strong. I'm not exaggerating. You said that group of employees, should they decide that they want to go to the plan superintendent -- the plan superintendent has no ability now, it's taken away in law, to make the right decision -- to exercise the fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the plan members and decide to wind up a portion or all of the plan and make sure that those people's money -- their money, their wages, their deferred wages that have been put into that pension plan -- to make sure that they get the benefit of that, you said no.

You're going to leave it to cabinet, which is going to decide not to do it. Why? Because it costs the employer more if the plan is wound up in part or whole. How can you just rewrite the rules for yourself as an employer, particularly on something like a pension plan? Those are people's income securities for the future.

This is a little tiny piece of the bill. It's not as dramatic as the health stuff. It doesn't affect as many people as the municipal taxes and all of the other things we've been talking about. How do we have an opportunity to raise public awareness about this issue, to be able to ask the public, "Do you think it's fair that the government treat its employees like that?"

We're all taxpayers paying into the government. Do we want the government of Ontario to become this kind of employer, that they would rip off the pension benefits from members they are laying off as they go through their downsizing and restructuring?

This is wrong. This is a wrong piece of legislation, but it's in the middle of this huge thing and it'll never get any attention. Isn't that why you did it? Isn't that why you put the bill together this way, so that many pieces of it wouldn't get any attention; so that you wouldn't have to answer tough questions on it; so that you wouldn't have to become accountable for those pieces; so that the changes could be made, passed into law like a blink of an eye and no one would know? It's very sad.

We've heard in the last couple of days one of the most important reasons for you not to make changes this way, and those are the kinds of mistakes that are in the act. I'm going to come to that in a moment.

There's one more policy piece that I want to touch on that's not getting a lot of air time, and that's the changes you're making to the Pay Equity Act. Why would that provoke a grin from you? You're happy about these changes? Boy oh boy.

A number of years ago I was a member of the Equal Pay Coalition and I spent a lot of time speaking to then-Tory cabinet ministers about the need for changes in the legislation, from legislation that talked about equal pay for equal work, for the same work, to legislation that talked about equal pay for work of equal value. I believe profoundly, from the perspective of trying to bring about equity in the workplace and economic equity for women in our society, that this legislation is a major, major, important contributor to economic equity for women. You've decided, in the midst of a huge bill, with all sorts of big policy areas, to hide another little piece of legislation which is to do away with one method of determining pay equity, and that's a method called proxy. What does it mean?

Let me give you the most easy-to-understand example of why that kind of definition and method of implementing pay equity was necessary. If you're a child care worker and working in child care, for years and years that was a profession that was overwhelmingly done by women. Some men work in child care centres, and actually some more are coming into the field, but for years and years it was predominantly women. We also know it was just about one of the lowest-paid professions in the province. In fact, the old example that we used to talk about all the time was that in Metro the child care workers got paid less than the zookeepers at the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo. There was less value placed on taking care of our kids than there was on the people who were taking care of the animals at the Metro zoo.

We know the reasons for that historically. It's not any one person or any one government's fault or anything. There's a whole set of assumptions about the nature of women's work and streaming in terms of the careers that we went into and the education that we got, and we understand all that. But we were trying to do something proactive together in this province and in this country to correct that. Well, if you work in that day care centre, the concept of comparing yourself to a predominantly male job and having some fair and equitable evaluation done about the value of the work, that opportunity doesn't exist because there aren't any predominantly male jobs in the child care centres. It's as simple as that. There's really just one group of workers in the child care workers, and there they are: early childhood educators.

Proxy gave the opportunity, in Metro, for example, if the Metro zoo was a predominantly male occupation, for the Metro child care workers to be able to do that comparison, even though they were in different workplaces, to look for a proxy. Or a better way of explaining it is if, for example, you're in a child care centre outside of Metro, in the public sector, however, and Metro makes a comparison to a male job and a certain percentage adjustment is found, you could adopt that percentage adjustment -- not the same wage rate. This wasn't about making universal wage rates across the public sector, but the same adjustment, because that was deemed to be fair.

You've taken that away, and who have you taken it away from? The lowest-paid women workers, because those are the ones who are in the all-female workplaces who had to rely on proxy, and you've just taken it away. Those are the child care workers; those are the people in nursing homes. That's where there aren't any male jobs to compare to and you have taken that away.

Who's going to know about it? Who's going to have a chance to talk about it? I remember being part of organizing huge demonstrations and lobbies out there, wanting to accomplish equal pay for work of equal value over the years. It's going to be gone with a stoke of a pen, with no opportunity for people to reflect on it, to discuss it, to try to convince you otherwise because, boom, there it is; it's all there, and why? Because you want to save some money because you have to fund it as an employer.


Those are three examples: the arbitration, the pay equity proxy and the public service pension plan, where you're taking money away from workers, just grabbing it away from workers and doing it by hiding it in a huge bill, in the sneaky way in which it was brought in, which has been commented on many times; and the way in which you're trying to pass it, with very short hearings, it really is an incredible statement, on behalf of the Conservative government, of your respect for working people, working men and women in the public sector, that you would feel this is okay and that it doesn't need any debate, doesn't need any public exposure.

Lastly, let me just talk about what was the subject of question period today and the concept of the poll tax, the head tax, what is a direct tax, the question that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing had so much difficulty answering. If you take a look at the constitutional law of Canada, it's very clear what a direct tax is. It's very clear that it includes sales tax; it includes income tax. It's all there.

The question is, does the language of user fee or charges for service in any way limit the later language in the nature of a direct tax, or does it, in the nature of a direct tax, open up the methods by which you implement user fees and charges? Do any of you know the answer to that? I don't, and do you know what? I have called three directors of legal branches in ministries in the government of Ontario over the course of this afternoon. Not one of them could answer that question with any kind of satisfaction, not one of them, and neither can your minister.

This is the reason, and the many other examples that have been brought forward, why your approach on this legislation is wrong, why we shouldn't just be going to public hearings but this bill should be split and why I think you will be embarrassed at the end of the day when you see the effect of the legislation you have brought in.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I know this is the time in which we comment on the previous speaker's comments, and I have a great deal of respect for the previous speaker's intellect and ability to express her opinions on any matter. I respect her individual right to her opinion on this bill and I know that in the democratic system that this House normally operates under, she also respects other people's democratic rights to their opinions.

Having said that, I think it would be perfectly obvious that from her party's philosophical background it wouldn't matter whether this bill was 24 bills instead of an omnibus bill or that we had six months' or 12 months' hearings. Her party would still be opposed to the intent of this bill, and I respect their right to represent that viewpoint.

The viewpoint I represent is the one that I was elected on, and in my opinion the intent of this bill actually puts in place the tools we need to represent the mandate we were given to implement the mandate that we were given on June 8 of this year. I am sorry that the opposition parties are not happy with anything about this bill and that's been unfortunately demonstrated to an extreme last week. I'm sorry about that because I wouldn't want to repeat what happened last week in this House, but I support this bill.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the member for Beaches-Woodbine for reminding us not only about the principles of democracy, because we too were elected -- in your election you got 44% or 45% of the vote, hardly a commanding plurality -- moreover, reminding us of obscure parts of the bill that we haven't had a chance to debate, parts of the bill which are none the less very important, pay equity being among them.

What we are always cognizant of and reminded of is what is becoming more apparent: The ministers themselves don't fully understand what is in the individual parts of the bill. We saw the spectacle today of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing not understanding either what is in the bill, or the nature of direct versus indirect taxation, something that's fundamental in first-year law courses or first-year government courses.

We see the spectacle of a government that, granted, has a majority of seats in this House, one night saying, "No, no public hearings, and the Legislature till midnight," and their members standing up and staying up while my colleague the member for Scarborough North took a very courageous stand. Then, the next day their House leader says, "Okay, now we will have public hearings. Flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop. Where have I heard that before? Shame on all of you.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have to resist getting drawn aside into flip-flops. I want to comment on the member for Beaches-Woodbine's speech as well, because I think it's very important for people to have drawn to their attention the minute detail of this very large bill.

The members opposite are quite right: Our party would probably not agree that it is good policy -- good employer policy, good government policy -- to take away retroactively the pension funds built up on behalf of people whom we are going to lay off. No, we wouldn't agree with that. We don't agree that's right. I should say to the members opposite, that certainly was never one of your promises. That's buried in this bill. You didn't want anybody to know about it.

People knew that you would reduce the civil service. Indeed, under our government the civil service was reduced by over 5,000 people, but we did it in a way that respected the rights of those employees to the benefits and the pensions they had earned. It is disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful, that this government is prepared to take away from employees the benefits they have already earned at the same time that you're planning to lay them off. That's the kind of government we have, and every time we talk about the details of this bill, we show this government for what it is: a very mean-minded government.

Both opposition parties have told you there are many parts of this bill with which we could have agreed. Our leader stood here yesterday and detailed what schedules we would have found it possible to support, and they are a substantial amount of this bill because we believe restructuring is necessary too. But it is that kind of detail that the member for Beaches-Woodbine mentioned that is not acceptable.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): In response to the member for Beaches-Woodbine's statement, just one point caught my attention. It drew to my attention an experience with regard to arbitration in the essential service sector.

When I was a regional councillor prior to coming to this Legislature, I remember sitting in council and being unable to settle with a certain essential service group and it did go to arbitration. In the case of the arbitrator, the settlement was in the order of 35% and there was really no appeal process available. The arbitrator's very wording was basically "irrespective of the employer's ability to pay." That was the ruling the arbitrator sent back to the municipality.

Interjection: A disgrace.

Mr O'Toole: That was a disgrace, because really we had to pass that cost on. The arbitrator had to respect the person's ability to pay. This was important because I worked in personnel for a very large employer; that was my other duty at that time. In that case, the whole collective bargaining process I totally agree with.

It's a process by which the employer's ability to pay reflects the share of the equity or the share of profit. In the public sector it seems to be held that there's a bottomless pit of money, able to replenish this overly lucrative situation. In that respect the arbitrators now have to look at the employer's ability to pay. I think that's just responsible.

What I heard from my constituency, as a municipal politician, was to hold the line on taxes. After all, who's paying into the pension fund? It's the person who is the taxpayer. Really, that's what this legislation is trying to do in this particular case. I could go on to another part as well, but my time has expired.


Ms Lankin: Let me pick up first in response to the member for Durham East. I'm not sure how extensive your experience was as a regional councillor in dealing with arbitration of essential services, but let me tell you, as a person who negotiated in that sector and who worked with teams to decide whether to go to arbitration or not, it wasn't a frivolous decision. There were a lot of things to consider. We were forced to the table to try to bargain and come to some kind of agreement, to avoid that option, because you never knew, in terms of the demands that were coming from the employer and the union, how an arbitrator would rule.

I suggest to you that if an arbitrator ruled a 35% increase, there could have been a lot of reasons. But it strikes me that the biggest one must have been that that group of employees, in relationship to either workers in other municipalities or jobs in the private sector, was woefully underpaid. That's the only time I've ever seen an arbitrator give that kind of an award.

What you're saying is that that shouldn't be the end result, because, after all, you have to pass that on. Then you come back and prove my point; your position is that public sector workers should subsidize the cost of delivery of public sector services, and I disagree with that.

To the member for Mississauga South, let me say you couldn't be more wrong. There are parts of this act that I and my colleagues actually agree with. I don't think any of us have any problem with the public sector salary disclosure, for example, and many other parts of it, even portions of the health bills that are there. As a former Minister of Health, I recognize some of those changes could be helpful. It goes too far for me, but that's okay, that's my opinion.

What I've objected to is the fact that you have not allowed the time for debate, or to separate the bills in a way that they could be dealt with appropriately with the appropriate attention. What does a doctor coming before the hearings say? Does he talk about the hospital section, about the independent health facilities section, about the physician section or about the fact that changes are going to be to the Municipal Act and as a taxpayer he's going to be affected? You haven't allowed for effective public debate.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Further debate?

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I appreciate an opportunity to join the debate on Bill 26. I have listened with some considerable interest to colleagues on all sides of the House as they've addressed the bill, and I want to say how much I particularly enjoyed the comments of the previous Health ministers who spoke this afternoon.

I want to just say a couple of things about the nature of the bill. I don't want to prolong the debate on that score. We've had quite an extensive discussion. I'm sorry my friend Mrs Marland is -- oh, she's still here.

I think it is fair to say that none of us particularly likes the temperature of the place. None of us particularly liked, I think, the temperature of the place last week when we had the altercation, whenever it was, last Wednesday or Thursday. But as a senior member of this assembly, let me say something I can say, I think, without much fear of contradiction.

There has never been a bill like this before, and the combination of this kind of bill, this smorgasbord of essentially unrelated and significant measures -- that, together with the very tight rules we now have -- I might add, as a former government House leader, thanks to improvements in the last number of years by all parties in government -- the combination of this unprecedented bill and the very tight House rules is, I tell you, Mr Speaker, guaranteed to create an explosion.

When this is all over, I intend to put a resolution before the House to deal with the question of this kind of legislation. I say again, I have no quarrel with any government deciding to bring forward a series of sweeping measures. That's what you win the right to do at an election. This government has advertised itself as a revolutionary new order, and that's quite within its democratic purview, it seems to me.

But let us think for a moment what was attempted here. I consider this almost a daring midnight raid. On November 29, the chancellor of the exchequer, Mr Eves, brings forward, I would submit, the most significant and I think the most controversial budget Ontario has seen in the postwar period and I suspect ever, and that again is as it probably should be in a revolutionary new age.

But the chancellor brings his budget forward on November 29, on the same day he submits a massive budget bill containing a sweeping array of very significant and very controversial measures, and the government leader in the House, who happens also to be the chancellor, says, "I want this bill passed on the nod, without public hearings, before Christmas of this year."

Let me just say, as a former government House leader, that's chutzpah. That's chutzpah with a capital C. Anyone -- most especially you, sir, in the chair -- who knows anything about the parliamentary nature and the political quality of this place would know that is an inherently toxic mix that is guaranteed to peel the rest of the paint off this ceiling. So we had an altercation, and I'm not surprised.

I say, through you, Mr Speaker, to the apparatchiks who advised the treasury bench about the advisability of this policy, let them take note: They almost pulled it off. They've embarrassed the chancellor, they've compromised the House, and I hope they have learned the lesson. None of those people is here today. Those of us here today, we bear the ultimate responsibility, but the authors of this spectacular midnight raid are not here.

I know at least one them is over in treasury. He's a pretty fine fellow. He must be shocked that the cabinet bought this bill of goods. I can't believe he thought they'd buy the whole load, but they did, I'm sure to his surprise. It's not for the first time. I was last week going through some of Erskine May -- and I want to agree with some of the previous speakers. There are elements of this bill that I like and I would support.

My question is to my friend the member for Mississauga South: What is a legislator to do when he is presented with this kind of smorgasbord? How do I cast a vote on those sections of this bill that I like and want to support --

Mrs Marland: We have recorded votes in Hansard.

Mr Conway: Well, I am presented with an omnibus bill that gathers together a huge array of, in many cases, unrelated measures. Now I suppose one could say, and the chancellor has said it, that in Her Majesty's name, for the peace, order and good government of the realm, these are all related issues.

Who's to argue with that? As Speaker Lamoureux said 25 years ago, "I suppose one could imagine ad absurdum a situation where you get one bill at the opening of Parliament that says `In Her Majesty's name, we will legislate for the peace, order and prosperity of the realm.'" Everything falls under the ambit of this omnibus bill, and that's the end of it.

I simply say, we as legislators have a right to expect clear questions on which to pass a yea or a nay vote, and that basic principle of the British parliamentary tradition has been violated in this proposal, for reasons that I understand.

Let me say again, if you have ever been a minister, you understand the executive pressures that bring you to Bill 26. There is no doubt about that. No one who's ever been a cabinet minister would not simply quietly say, "Oh God, give me Bill 26. Wouldn't this make my life easier," and of course it would.

Mrs Marland: It was the same when we had omnibus bills from you.


Mr Conway: I say to my friend from Mississauga South that while there have been omnibus bills before --

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): They were Liberal.

Mr Conway: And I suspect there were Liberal omnibus bills. I can think of a number of bills. I think of the ones I mentioned the other day: the Consent to Treatment Act, the Advocacy Act and the Substitute Decisions Act. They were gathered together in a troika that I think everybody agreed to and were dealt with accordingly. There have been others that have been agreed to or made sense. There have been omnibus bills advanced by all of us in government, but I defy anyone in the House or elsewhere to show me the equivalent for Bill 26.

I simply say it is a problem. It's been a problem for some time. I was going to --


Mr Conway: I will. It's a bit of entertainment. Where did I put that Erskine May?

I was doing some work on the procedural question the other day and I noticed that Erskine May, in citing some of the precedents, reflected on a situation in the Mother of Parliaments 220 years ago, when the Lords and the Commons were having a fight about who had precedence over money bills.

I'm quoting now from page 473 of the 21st edition of Erskine May, which refers to a situation in 1772:

"The Lords having amended a money clause in the corn bill, Governor Pownall moved that the bill be rejected, which motion being seconded, the Speaker [of the Commons] said `that he would do his part of the business, and toss the bill over the table.' The bill was rejected, and the Speaker, according to his promise, threw it over the table, `several members on both sides of the question kicking it as they went out.'"

Mr Baird: Did you vote for or against the corn bill?

Mr Conway: Well, I felt the other day like kicking it on the way out.

I simply say to you, Mr Speaker, two things on the procedure again, through you to whoever authored this business, and to the table. They are implicated, in some ways compromised, because I know what kind of advice that technically you have to give, I suppose.

I'd like to think that a Speaker some day would take something like this and say, "This is an affront to Parliament, and I reject it as being out of order." I'd like to think some day in this place we'd have a Speaker who had the spine to say it. Not so much to offend the treasury bench, but to say to those minions who are so consumed with executive necessity and speed that Parliament too has its privileges. Members of Parliament were duly elected to scrutinize legislation and to be able to cast votes on clear questions, and this kind of a bill violates that fundamental of our system. I'd really like to think some day that some Speaker would say: "No. No. No. No."

Since it was not ruled out of order and since we've now got the kind of rules we have, we had trouble, and we will have trouble again if this government or any other government, for whatever great cause -- and you see, that's always the appeal: "Ah, the cause is so good." I understand that the government is faced with some very real pressures.

There's never been a government, quite frankly, that has not faced real pressures, and I understand that this Parliament or this government, with so many new people and with that sense of revolutionary zeal, wants to get on with it. "The cause is just, the pressure's so real and so immediate. Let us not trifle with these endless parliamentary debates." Someone said it here a moment ago. "Would that opposition ever accommodate itself to much of this government's program?"

Mrs Marland: I said that.

Mr Conway: I think the member for Mississauga South said that. It is fair to say that oppositions, being oppositions, are not likely to applaud the every measure of the treasury bench or of government, but I say again to my friend from Mississauga, there are a number of provisions in Bill 26 that I want to support and that I would support. It would be a lot more easily done if we had some severance so that we could, for example, on the nod, pass the public disclosure, the sunshine provisions of whatever schedule that is.

Presumably the budget bills that were brought forward or the budget measures that are contained here that were advanced by the Rae government -- I can't imagine my friends in the third party wouldn't, almost on the nod, want to now vote for that which they advanced 18 months ago. I think there are other measures here that members would probably want to support, but this kind of a measure makes that very difficult indeed.

I want to turn to the substance of some of these measures, although I should say parenthetically that I just had a call before coming in from a good friend of mine who's downtown in one of the big law firms. He's actually about the third lawyer friend of mine who has called in the last week.

They've all said the same thing. My friends would phone and say: "You'd never guess what we just had." We just got a call today. The call was from the chancellor's office, the Finance minister's office, offering the redoubtable member for Durham Centre, Mr Flaherty, on short notice to go to a breakfast meeting to explain the wonders of Bill 26. Last week I heard that no less a personage than the Minister of Health was down at another very distinguished law office in this city of ours doing the same thing. These people are being offered up by the government in quite an impressive way, which makes me think, what is going on here? I think important work, undoubtedly, is going on.

Of course, the law firms are all engaged in their own analyses. My friend the member for Oriole just showed me a very thick analysis that's been done by a number of lawyers at one firm, and of course lawyers look at this, and what they don't find. Poor generalists like myself pore through the several hundreds of pages and we see things that do not present themselves quite as clearly as they do to our legal friends. I think in tomorrow's question period the member for Oriole might have something else to elucidate on the basis of her several researches.

But I think it is interesting that the government is offering up luminaries like the member for Durham Centre to go to --

Mrs Marland: What's wrong with that?

Mr Conway: Nothing is wrong with it. Nothing is wrong with it at all. I just find that the frequency with which it's happening this week and last suggests to me that the government is clearly a bit apprehensive about what it is these lawyers are finding as they pore through the several sections and, of course, the fine print.

I want to go now to the big print of the bill itself. There is, as I say, a sweeping series of measures here that touch on everything from letting the sun shine in to certain public sector salaries -- and boy, give me that bill like now and I want to vote for that; I want to vote for that so fast I can hardly contain myself.

Mr Baird: The fishing licences.

Mr Conway: Well, the fishing licences, no, I can tell you that fishing -- I guess there's something in here about fishing licences. I look at the Mining Act provisions. They're substantial, much more substantial than I suspect people have yet understood. The member for Beaches-Woodbine was talking about the whole arbitration question, the pay equity question, and I don't doubt that she's right in drawing our attention to a number of those concerns. For me, the big thunder is in health care and municipal reform.

I want to say to my friends on the government side that I think we all are now reconciled to the fact that we have to do things differently. The member for Beaches-Woodbine, who spoke a moment ago, indicated that she, as a former Minister of Health and now in the opposition, recognizes that clearly we cannot continue with some of the practices that had been developed in the good old days. It is fashionable in this chamber to talk about the bad old days since 1985. Well, I don't want to rethrash too much of the old straw, but the debate around Bill 26 makes me think of a couple of things that are of recent history that might bear some relevance, particularly to members of the government, in the coming weeks and months.

Firstly, I think about the powers this bill gives to the Minister of Health in the area of hospital restructuring. What an innocently antiseptic phrase that is: hospital restructuring. I don't know whether Larry Grossman and Frank Miller were consulted in the writing of Bill 26, but if they weren't they ought to have been. I just look across at my friend the squire from Moose Creek, the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Affairs and whatever else is now part of his imperial mandate, and I ask him to think about what it is that rural Ontario faced 21 and 22 years ago, when a previous Conservative government, undoubtedly with good cause -- we all knew Frank Miller to be a man of high integrity and good purpose.


I will never forget the day Frank Miller sashayed out into southwestern Ontario. The member for Huron is here; the member from Grey isn't; the member for Wellington is. But I'll tell you, the recent political lore of southwestern Ontario is replete with anecdotal history from those ministerial progresses into Durham and Chesley and Clinton. I say to my friends opposite, do not for a moment mistake what powers are now vesting with Bill 26 in Frank Miller's successor, the member for Simcoe West. If you represent, particularly, small-town and rural Ontario, Bill 26 is going to be big news in your neighbourhood soon.

I remember reading some of the post-election analysis from the Durham region. The redoubtable member for Durham Centre was making some very, very firm commitments about what he would have to do if anyone tampered with that Whitby hospital. I think I even read something about resignation if anyone dared tamper. I hope that Mr Flaherty takes time out from his visits to the several downtown law firms to check the file, because there is no doubt that before the winter snows of 1996 melt away, there will be hospital closures in this province.

Those of us who cast a vote on Bill 26 had better understand what powers we are granting. I say that, because it takes me back to the bad old days and the 10 lost years. I was the fortunate soul who got to enact Bill Davis's famous and historic commitment to separate schools. I remember the joy of that experience vividly. I hear the Premier ranting on about the expenditures of public money -- pardon?

Mrs Marland: Which Premier?

Mr Conway: Oh, Mr Harris, the Taxfighter. Again, I've been trying to behave myself around here. It's all I can do to contain myself as I listen to the revisionism. For the new intake, they are entirely excused. For those of us who were here between 1981 and 1985 and watched Mike Harris perform -- you ought to have been here in those days in 1982 and 1983, when in that committee of which he was chair, the government of the day sent hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of tax bills down.

I mean, ready, aye, ready was young Mike Harris: "You want these tax bills tomorrow? I'll give them to you tomorrow. You want me to tax feminine hygiene products? Ready, aye, ready. I, Mike Harris, will tax it happily. You want me to tax prepared meals under $4? I'll tax it joyfully. You want me to support the expenditure of $600 million that we don't have to buy a quarter of an oil company we don't need? I, Mike Harris, am ready, aye, ready. My friend Ernie Eves is here to affirm my enthusiasm for these measures."

Then, of course -- I don't want to rethrash -- the 10 lost years? Give me a break. My first year here was 1975. Some of you have heard me say this before; let me say it again: I don't think I've ever seen a more impressive and more effective member of this Legislature than Darcy McKeough. Boy, I liked Darcy. I liked him then; I like him now. I went back one day not too long ago and I looked at the Ontario budget of that year in which I came, 1975. Incroyable: a $2-billion deficit on a $12.5-billion expenditure plan. I'm not kidding. Can you believe that? Actually, it was about $1.85 billion on an expenditure plan of something like $12.5 billion. I couldn't believe it. These people now talk about the profligacy of a later day? In 1975, I say to my friend from Hastings, a nearly $2-billion deficit on a $12.5-billion expenditure plan.

Of course, it was around that time that the Minister of Health was dispatched, not just to rural Ontario, because that was the year Larry Grossman arrived. Frank Miller was going to close Doctors' Hospital, was he? Larry Grossman had another view, and Larry was up in that back corner, not for long. He strutted up and down here. "Frank, you can try and Darcy may have a big pile of red ink, but you're not closing Doctors' Hospital." And do you know what? Larry won. I saw something across my desk not too long ago about six months ago, having to do with Doctors' Hospital and I chuckled.

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

Mr Conway: Where's Grossman now? Well, he's on television happily defending the current government.

I want to come back though to that section of Bill 26 which gives enormous new powers to the Minister of Health, to do what? To close hospitals, to merge hospitals, to take over hospitals, in almost all cases without any oversight and without very much community input.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): No process.

Mr Conway: No process, as the member for Oriole says, and more specifically, even when he allows hospitals to stay open, to tell the hospital in Owen Sound or in Goderich, or yes, I say to my friend from Moose Creek, the Glengarry hospital in Alexandria, to tell those hospitals what specific programs they might provide and what they must now cease to do.

It may very well be that is something the government wants to do. Obviously, they have decided that is what they want to do. I suspect that the government caucus in the macro sense has decided this is a good thing to do. But you know, as a famous American politician once observed, all politics is local, and I just want to say to my friends opposite that the day is coming, soon, when Jim Wilson and his agents will come like a grim reaper in the night to tell your friends at hospital X or hospital Y that it's over.

The interesting thing is that the apparatchiks and the minions who've devised this policy will not be the ones asked to come to the Alexandria arena or to the Port Credit library or to the hippodrome in Punkeydoodles Corners. Oh no, they're going to want the local member. They are going to want to have the member from Oxford, the member from Wellington, the member from Huron, perhaps the member from Renfrew. They are going to want to see the white of the eyes of the local member.

If we were all struck today by the diffidence of the Minister of Municipal Affairs, as he struggled with the fine print and the big letters of those sections of this bill that deal with direct taxation, it will be as nothing compared to the local members in Oxford, in Wellington, in Renfrew, in Algoma, when the thousands gather for a reckoning about who's closing what.

Now, you might say, "Oh well, not to worry." I know times have changed and let me say, we must recognize that times have changed. We cannot continue to do business the way we have been doing it, not just in the last five years, not just in the last 10 years, but over much of the last 25 years. There is lots of blame, if that's what people want to assign. If I wanted to stand up and say to my friend the Minister of Labour, who was a very capable school trustee, if I really wanted to play the game that some people are playing, boy, I could take apart Bill Davis's school policy, particularly the 1984 school policy, piece by piece, starting with the "It'll only cost $40 million."

Let me say, without being too critical, again, Mr Davis is someone for whom I have a very considerable regard. I suspect I have a much higher regard for Mr William G. Davis than a number of the current members of the government benches.

Mrs Marland: It was $60 million.

Mr Conway: Oh, it was $40 million. I've got the documents. Don't test me, Margaret, I tell you. Don't test me.

There was much, much more than just that. There was one element of that process when I look at the kind of legislation we've got here, and the irony about this is that these revolutionaries have come, saying -- it was very powerful and very effective and I concede that. They won a marvellous election victory. It was one of the great populist crusades of the last 50 years. In fact, they're more like Mitch Hepburn than anything the Liberals have offered in the last generation or two.

It was essentially: "We are the people. We are going to give back to you, the people, the say, the power. We're going to shake off this huge yoke of taxation and we are going to cut down the size of the bureaucracy. We're going to make government less intrusive. We are going to lower taxes."


That was the promise of the revolution, and now we have the performance and the language of Bill 26. One of the great and delicious ironies and paradoxes of this whole situation is that Bill 26 represents a massive accretion of bureaucratic power. It is quite spectacular. It is a very substantial development of regulatory and bureaucratic power at the centre.

Is that what they want in Oxford? Is that what they want in Lambton? Is that what they want in Durham? I think not.

I heard a great story. A friend of mine was in Woodstock the other day and he heard the local member, the member for Oxford, who is a very fine fellow, my relatives in Oxford tell me, holding court in a restaurant on Main Street in Woodstock. My friend was listening. He said: "You know, it was quite a speech. It was as though the election were not over."

I'm sure in Salford, in Norwich and in Zorra Bay they would really like it. But you see, the words and the music do not match. The words of Bill 26 -- look at the section dealing with hospital restructuring. We are now giving to the Minister of Health and his agent, the commission, unprecedented powers to go into Bancroft, to go into Alexandria, to go into Peterborough, to go into Pembroke, to go into Metro and say: "I have decided what is good for this community. Here it is, without appeal, like it or lump it."

I say to myself, what does that remind me of? It reminds me of the sort of enthusiasms we saw in the early 1970s. Nobody, with the exception of the former Finance minister, who is recuperating, was here at the time. But I'll tell you, the Davis government in its first mandate was almost brought to its knees by virtue of a similar exercise in restructuring regional government, and the politicians were essentially left on the sideline.

Darcy and the boys at central planning had it all figured out; they had the plans. John White and Darcy McKeough and, to be fair, their minions had a plan. Oh, it was elaborate. And boy, those were the good days; there was lots of money.

You know, the member for Lambton at the time, and the member for Elgin, really good grass-roots politicians, started to scratch their heads and say, "You know, I just don't think this" --


Mr Conway: I say to the new member for Lambton, he's got big shoes to fill. Our friend Lorne led a backbench revolt that probably saved the government. Of course, these central planners and bureaucrats went across the country, and they had a plan, a better idea.

The Acting Speaker: Your time has expired. Questions or comments?

Mrs Caplan: My colleague the member from Renfrew puts the case extremely well. One of the points that should be noted and that he would want to know when he talks to those people in Renfrew, Oxford and all those communities across this province is that in a recent study, a poll, research done by the Ontario Hospital Association, 75% of the people in the province said they would rather forgo their tax cut than see the hospitals in their local communities negatively impacted by the policies of this government. This government, which is taking $1.3 billion from those local community hospitals that serve the people across this province in order to pay for that tax cut, is making an enormous mistake.

We have heard some of the history eloquently put by the member from Renfrew, and there are lessons to be learned in that history. I say to the members opposite, listen well, because a backbench revolt is in order when 75% of your constituents say, "Do not cut my taxes if it's going to mean cuts and closings to my hospital." If they are worried about receiving the services they need and value so highly, I suggest you listen to the words of the member from Renfrew, who has so well put some of the history of the past.

We know the importance of the back bench. I can tell you, having served in government, that many members of our caucus who did not agree with the policies put forward, before policies were finally decided they had their say and positively influenced events. There is an opportunity, a very significant opportunity, for those people who've been duly elected to this Legislature by their constituents, who came here to make a positive difference. You have the opportunity to influence your government. I say to the back bench, heed the member from Renfrew.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): As always, I enjoy the member for Renfrew North's recounting of the history of this place and the important things that have gone on before us, because it places what we're doing today in some kind of perspective.

I think one of the most important elements of Mr Conway's speech dealt with the centralization of power that this bill provides for. In a very real way, it really does take community influence and community decision-making and vests it in the ministers of the crown.

Maybe you think that's a good idea, but those of us who've been around here for a little while understand what vesting it in a minister of the crown really means. Generally, that means vesting the power in the bureaucracy because ministers are very busy people: There are hundreds of issues; they have to deal with their own constituents; they have to go out and speak to fund-raisers for the people on the back bench in the Tory party. They have to do all those things. Because of that, many decisions are made down the line somewhere. The minister maybe doesn't give every issue the kind of attention he really needs to give it. That's why we rely on communities in this province and that's why communities make better decisions than the bureaucracy.

Members over there said last night when I was listening: "We want to get rid of regulations. We want to make things easier." Then they came with a bill, less than two weeks ago, 211 pages long, and we don't have one regulation that accompanies this bill -- not one regulation. When I was debating bills with the Minister of Natural Resources last year -- we were both opposition members then -- he was apoplectic, as was I, that on a government forestry bill there was not a regulation being presented. We wouldn't proceed, Hodgson wouldn't proceed, until the regulations were there.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments? If not, the member for Renfrew North has two minutes.

Mr Conway: I simply want to say that the bill is very significant. It is unprecedented. There is no question that it touches on a number of very central questions, particularly in areas like health and municipal government, where reform, I think, is the order of the day.

I say again, there are a number of measures in Bill 26 that I'd like to support. I find it deeply offensive that we have the package as one big ball. That practice has got to stop around here or we're going to have more trouble, not more harmony.

There is, for me, no question that this bill is a Trojan Horse. It is full of fascinating measures that will only become obvious weeks and months from now. I suppose in a free and democratic society, if people want to take grenades to bed with them, who am I to stand in their way? As a partisan, I should encourage that, I suppose. There are grenades here, and I'm going to tell you, Francis Scott Key could probably write another anthem before this is going to be passed.

I repeat that in the areas of health care, these are measures that are going to very seriously affect communities in my part of eastern Ontario. I think a number of the measures in health care and in municipal restructuring are intended to reduce government spending while maintaining a good level of service. I'm not at all convinced, particularly in the area of municipal restructuring, that the measures being advanced are in fact going to do what we all want, which is to have more efficient and more effective government.

I'm quite prepared to give some measure of some of the benefit of the doubt to the government, but I say again we've had previous Conservative governments which have struck out with reform packages to make government more efficient and less costly but in fact we've had the reverse.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): It gives me some pleasure to speak on Bill 26 this evening and to bring to the House a bit of a northern perspective in terms of what I am seeing and what I am hearing in the north about this bill.

First of all, I would just like to follow up on the comments that have been made earlier. I've been around this place since 1987 and I don't remember such a piece of legislation being brought into this House in the way this piece of legislation was presented. As has been indicated, a good number of the members were in a lockup, a lockup that was orchestrated by the government. A few of us hadn't gone over to the lockup yet. I was sitting here, and I watched as this piece of legislation was placed on the desk. A number of people got up to present a point of order; they were ruled out of order. And there we have it, Bill 26, a piece of legislation like I haven't seen before introduced in this House in a way I hadn't seen.

It's no wonder that we, as opposition members on this side of the House, would become upset with the process, and not only with the process but what we began to see in Bill 26, an economic statement we've never seen the likes of before.

We take a look at the powers this piece of legislation gives to the Minister of Health. I have to say, that is where most of the response has been from my communities, from communities throughout northwestern Ontario, where they are taking a close look at what this legislation will do.

I, as the former member of a hospital board, know how important it is to have local input into the running of the health care institutions within the communities, within the district. I know how important it is to have people from other communities, whether they be first nation communities or smaller communities outside the local hospital's range. When I pick up this bill and take a look at the powers given to the Minister of Health to close hospitals, to amalgamate hospitals, without any input from local folk, local elected hospital officials -- the Lake of the Woods District Hospital board is an elected board -- I could not believe what I was reading.

Today in this House we saw something that was actually, to me, quite frightening. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is still here this evening; it's nice to see him here. But I must say that when the questions were put to him today, I expected answers from the minister who is responsible for a good portion of this bill and for a minister who would be given the powers to merge towns and cities without public consultation. That's going right to the grass roots. We always say that our town councils, our city councils, are those elected closest to the people. For the minister to be unable to answer questions about a very important portion of this bill and what it would do to our local communities, I cannot believe it. As I said earlier, I have never yet seen in this House where someone cannot answer those questions for us.

I go back to our northern communities. When you look around at the members in here you'll find that representation from the north is at a much smaller number than that from southern Ontario. As a member sitting since 1987, I've always encouraged people, whether they be members or ministers, to come up and see what we're all about. The Minister of Transportation was in northwestern Ontario. He had it scheduled at one point to take a drive from Vermilion Bay to Kenora, the worst stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. I've been saying that for a good number of months in this House, trying to convince him. He cancelled that visit to Dryden, to Kenora. I was disappointed, the local mayors and reeves were disappointed. Just lack of knowledge -- knowledge he didn't want to gain when he came into the north.

I talk about our smaller hospitals, our smaller communities. It'll be a surprise to a good number of people here that the two hospitals located closest to each other in my communities in the riding are approximately an hour or an hour and a half away from each other. It's not like going over here to University Avenue where you have them right next door. Members, ministers in particular, the cabinet, have to realize that there is a true uniqueness when it comes to hospitals and the care we give in the north.

Yesterday I was able to sit down with the Premier for a while and chat a little bit about different issues in the north. It was really quite interesting to find out that he was not aware that it's being touted out there that the hospitals should get involved in the community in terms of offering their services to the community.

I suggested to him that in a place like Kenora, what are you going to do about the local dry-cleaning unit down the street that has relied on doing their business? Now he's got to compete with the local Lake of the Woods District Hospital for the laundry that normally came into his business. What do you say to the restaurants and the people who do the catering in communities such as Kenora, Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Red Lake, when all of a sudden they're told they have to get out and compete with the hospital? The hospital's been told that they'll be able to go out into the public and compete for that dollar. Actually, they're given the advantage of having public money, tax dollars -- a publicly funded institution competing with the local entrepreneur. Those are areas I just could not believe I was hearing.

As we go further and further into the bill, we watch as different things fall out of the trees, as things fall out that we hadn't really expected. As we learn more and more about this piece of legislation, we get more and more worried.

Members in the House have got this to the situation now where we are going out to seek public input. The hearings that were being talked about before public hearings were agreed to were just not enough to satisfy the needs and the concerns over this piece of legislation. We are now looking at public hearings that will take it out on the road, public hearings in Toronto as well, but also time that will be given for people like directors of hospitals, different municipalities, councils, mayors and reeves, to allow them to take a closer look at what this will in essence do to them.

As well, it will allow senior citizens out there to find out what the bill means to them. We've heard from many corners of the province that this will affect every single person in the province. When they take a look at what this bill is going to mean to them in terms of additional drug costs, what it's going to take away from them and seniors within the province, I think we're going to get some feedback that will make this government take a closer look at what it's doing to the people of Ontario.

I indicated earlier that I was quite disappointed today with the Minister of Municipal Affairs' lack of knowledge of what was actually in the bill. It was embarrassing for me as a member. As I indicated, I've never seen such a performance in the House before. When he takes it upon himself to have the power to amalgamate or dissolve municipalities, municipalities that have locally elected officials, I just cannot believe it.

The Ontario freedom of information and privacy commissioner has come out with his comments about what he thinks this bill will do, the fears he has. Let me quote:

"The privacy of Ontarians is at risk and raises the possibility of troubling disclosures of personal medical information." Again, some areas we hadn't anticipated when this was thrown on to the table and not debated in a full and proper way. "I have real fears of the consequences that follow. The Minister of Health is given sweeping powers over medical information."

Again it's something that wasn't realized until the privacy watchdog came out and condemned this bill as being legislation that had to be looked at again. When it comes to the medical files of each person in Ontario being open to the Minister of Health, the bureaucracy, it's really scary and something that again has to be looked at very carefully.

When we take a look at the amendments to the Public Hospitals Act, something else included in the bill, I go back to the fact that we are not depending on the local elected officials to take a look at hospitals and have input about what they're going to do in terms of health care needs within the community. It's going to be directly put right into the hands of the minister.

There will be $225 million in new user fees under the Ontario drug benefit program imposed upon seniors and others most in need, something that will have to be reviewed during the hearings. We'll have to take responses from people, Ontarians who are really going to be affected and are going to notice a difference in what it's going to cost them under the Ontario drug benefit plan.


The power that is given to close down the public service pension plan and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union pension plan -- my colleague spoke earlier about that. If that were done anywhere else, at Ford or GM, there would be an uprising like no one has ever seen. The government has taken it upon itself to give itself that particular power.

I go back to health care and the problems that officials associated with health care throughout the north see, problems I'm sure we will hear about as we go through the hearings on this bill.

There is an opportunity for the minister to come up with areas that he wishes doctors to practise in. As people in the House who have been around here for a few years will know, yes, there is a problem with getting health care professionals into underserviced areas. But what the minister has to do is sit down with the Ontario Medical Association and make sure that young doctors who are coming out and looking for areas to practise in within the province aren't going to be coerced into an area.

I had a young doctor tell me two weeks ago that he came to Kenora because he wanted to. It happened that his wife was a teacher and she was able to get a job in that community. Nobody can convince me that if he had been told he had to go and practise in Kenora and take his family there, leave southern Ontario, from which he came, and develop a life there -- I'm sure he would have not been there with the enthusiasm that he is presently in Kenora.

There have to be alternatives, rather than forcing people into positions and into areas where they're not going to be happy.

We're quite fortunate, in some parts of northwestern Ontario, where we do attract health care professionals, where the centre is a little larger and there are facilities for them to practise in. Our proximity to Winnipeg, speaking of Kenora in particular, allows them to have some freedom in practice and some colleagues around them. But that's not every community in northwestern Ontario.

I think of a place like Ear Falls; if you go to Ear Falls, you are the only show in town. Red Lake is half an hour down the road, and if you have an emergency it is your show. To order a doctor into a situation like that, into an area where he is not going to feel comfortable -- I do think there has to be an alternative.

Yes, I agree there is a problem with health care professionals throughout northern Ontario. But I also think there might be a better way of getting those health care professionals into the area. We're going to have a good number of weeks now to maybe look for those alternatives, get some input from the young doctors such as I spoke to in Kenora a couple of weeks ago, get some input from the young doctors who are coming out and wanting to develop a career here in Ontario.

I take a look at some of the specialties offered in the hospitals at present, and some of these specialties are done by general practitioners. When the Minister of Health talks about having them pay their overall insurance premiums, I don't think he realizes what that's going to do to a general practitioner who is in Kenora and wishes to practise in other specialties and would have to gain his own insurance in that area. That's something the minister is going to have to take another look at. He's going to want to listen to the Ontario Medical Association and those people on the front line, those people who are practising medicine in northern Ontario in underserviced areas because they want to be there.

When we take a look at the size of the cuts, the cuts to make it easier for doctors to practise around Ontario and particularly in northwestern Ontario, I have to say that the doctors are not agreeing with what the cut will do in terms of putting them into these areas of most need.

I'll go back to the comments the provincial freedom of information commissioner made. I think this is when it really showed the citizens of Ontario that yes, there was something wrong; the bells went off that there was something wrong with this legislation in what it would do in terms of their privacy. I say again that we have to take a close look and ensure -- a point put forth today and shown in this House -- that the ministers know what's in the bill, that we don't get conflicting views, the minister is saying one thing one day and saying another thing the next day, getting out to a press scrum and saying something totally different. We have to ensure that they know the direction we're heading in with this piece of legislation.

We need a northern perspective on what the bill will do in terms of services in the area I represent and that my northern colleagues represent, different aspects of this bill that the government tried to ram through but that will, as we know now, be out there for public hearings. I certainly will be encouraging those people affected by this legislation from across the north, whether they be in northwestern or northeastern Ontario, to make sure they take a very close look at the legislation, how it will affect them, in what areas, whether it be the amalgamation of their communities.

In the Kenora region alone, Kenora, Keewatin and Jaffray-Melick have been looking at amalgamation for the past 20 years, and the three municipalities have gone through many elections. I heard the Minister of Municipal Affairs say today that if the people of the municipality were unhappy, every three years they can boot them out. Minister, we've been doing this for 20 years now in terms of trying to come up with a proper plan for amalgamation. I've always believed it was the people closest, the municipal councillors, the reeves, the mayors, who would come up with that plan that would show the best way to achieve amalgamation. It's not going to be the Minister of Municipal Affairs who decides for the people of the tri-municipal area what's going to be best for them. It's going to be the locally elected officials.

Health care -- same thing. I see the minister's agreeing with me. However, when we take a closer look at the bill, he's being given that power to go in and just tell the folks of the tri-municipal area and the area around, with locally elected officials, what he thinks will be in their best interests.

Amalgamation is a word we hear throughout the educational communities as well. It's a very hard concept, to show the differences between boards that are situated some 100 to 200 kilometres apart from each other serving very small communities compared to boards sitting right next to each other in downtown Toronto, in Ottawa, where things are truly different.

Just the past couple of weeks we've been watching some fantastic weather reports out of the north. There's a difference in climatic conditions we face, especially in northwestern Ontario. A lot of people this evening will not know we're going to be hitting somewhere around 40 below in parts of my riding. These are things we have to consider when you start talking about amalgamation, about bringing services to one central location, whether it be health care, education, municipalities. There's a uniqueness that I hope this government, this Premier, this cabinet would take into account when they take a look at things such as Bill 26.

I hope I've been able to bring forth that uniqueness of the north to the members in the House here today. I truly hope the ministers will study the sections they're responsible for, whether it be the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Minister of Health, the Premier himself, the Treasurer, study those aspects of this bill that they feel have to be brought forward and ensure that they are in the best interests of all people in Ontario.


The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Duncan: It's always a great pleasure to listen to my colleague from Kenora, particularly as he speaks with such understanding and breadth of knowledge of the north, the northwest, unquestionably one of the most beautiful areas of our province, if not the coldest.

The people of the northwest recognize a bully when they see it. They recognize and value the opportunity to participate in public debate, and they know this government and they know this government's intention to stifle debate on significant matters, to not allow the people of the north or the south, the urban areas, the rural areas, French, English, the multicultural communities, to have any meaningful say in some of the most important statutes that govern us in this great province.

The people in the northwest that the member for Kenora represents are without question appalled by the heavy-handed tactics this government is using to force an agenda on them that they've had no say about, and the members opposite, try as they may, cannot conceal the fact that Bill 26, in its entirety, in the way it's been presented, is an affront to the people of Kenora and the northwest.

The Acting Speaker: Further comments?

M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : Merci, Monsieur le Président --

Mr Miclash: No, two minutes to make response.

Mr Lalonde: Oh, sorry.

The Acting Speaker: You have two minutes. Any further questions or comments?

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I want to commend, first of all, my colleague for his eloquent and great defence of the north. I think that we on all sides of the House understand the unique nature of north-northwestern Ontario and the unique needs that this region of our great province has, and very clearly I think what has been emphasized is that this government doesn't really understand the uniqueness of the north. This government believes very much that the way you fix a problem in southwestern Ontario or in eastern Ontario is the way you deal with a problem in northern Ontario, whether it's municipal boundaries, whether it's highway construction, whether it's highway safety and snow removal in the winter. Very clearly, what my colleague has brought forward to this House, again I think in a very eloquent manner, is the negative way that some of these changes in this bill are going to affect northern Ontario, the very unique way it's going to do it.

It's more of a question that I'll speak to later, but it's more of a question of process. There may be some good things in the legislation, in the bill, that will help northern Ontario rather than help eastern or western Ontario, but the question in front of us is the process that has been used, a process that very much is an affront to democracy, a process that very much says that the Legislature doesn't really matter, that this House doesn't really matter, a process that says that a few select cabinet ministers will have all that power, will have that ability, with basically a stroke of a pen, through an order in council, to make decisions that traditionally, in our parliamentary customs and traditions in this province, have been the role of this Legislature to debate and to talk about and to vote on. Those powers are being taken away as a result of the bully bill that is in front of us.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Kenora, you have two minutes.

Mr Miclash: I'd like to thank my colleagues from Windsor-Walkerville and Hamilton East for their comments. As the member for Windsor-Walkerville was suggesting, yes, we are from one of the most beautiful areas of the province, and as I travel the nation and to other continents around the world, I find it to be one of the most beautiful areas of the world. Even though it may be the coldest area of the world over the past few days, it really is.

But again I go back to the uniqueness and the uniqueness that I try to express to this House on a regular basis, whether it be asking a question to the Premier, making a statement, asking the ministers to drive what has been described as the death stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. I again express those uniquenesses and the things that we do face in the north.

The member for Hamilton East has put it very well where he says a good number of people, maybe not just people sitting around here in the Legislature but a good number of people in Ontario, have not explored the uniqueness that we face in the north and that many aspects of this bill, Bill 26, will have a tremendous effect on, as I indicated -- the smaller communities, the municipalities, the boards, whether they be a hospital board or a board of education -- will have an effect that we now won't be able to bring forth to the Legislature because of it.

I have to say it's some of the strongest tactics I've ever seen used in the Legislature since 1987, tactics that brought it to a point where we can now hear through hearings. I look forward to participating in those hearings, and I'm sure there are many people, not only in northern Ontario, northwestern Ontario but across Ontario who will bring forth views and present them to this government which will bring forth some positive amendments.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

M. Lalonde : Je voudrais vous dire ce soir jusqu'à quel point je suis désappointé avec le contenu du projet de loi 26.

This bill is going to give a lot of responsibility to those who enjoy power. Having power under such a bill could create a lot of problems. The power will give the authority to those who want to use the power to act without consultation. We've always said in the past that without consultation this would create a lot of problems and consultation would eliminate a lot of problems.

This bill will give powers without financial resources. We know the impact is going to be great in our small communities, the impact on the taxpayer, the impact on tenants, the impact on university students, colleges, the environment, and also the impact on the economy for a small municipality like ours in Prescott and Russell.

This bill gives the authority to upper-tier government to take over libraries, for instance, fire services, recreation. I wonder if the people from larger municipalities know that in small communities, volunteers are a great asset to all municipalities. Without the volunteer work that goes on in small municipalities, it wouldn't be possible to meet both ends.

I remember when I was a mayor of the town that at times we had to use all our firemen to look at major activities in our community. Fire protection in all of our counties, except two municipalities out of 19, is done by volunteer firemen. Those volunteer firemen meet at least once a week, and you can rest assured that we have right and proper protection in our communities. But if this whole thing is transferred to upper-tier government, you can rest assured that the volunteer work will be ending.

When we look at user fees, I'm looking, for example, at the small arena of St Isidore de Prescott, which has a population of 700 or 800 people. Without the transfer that we were getting from the government in the past, it won't be possible to continue operating this arena, because if we start to apply the user fees, it's impossible. The arena will be sitting there idle. People just can't afford, really, to continue without having the grant that we used to get.

Today I heard the Minister of Municipal Affairs saying that this user fee and also special taxes could be applied to garbage collection. I could tell you, Mr Minister, that this is already in place in our municipality. We have that special tax already in place, and if we are giving the power to municipalities to have a tax for street lighting, to have a tax for hydro, to have a tax for recreation, it won't be possible. When we see what's going on at the present time with the content of this bill, I could say that the 30% reduction in personal income tax that we're looking for is only a transfer to a lower-tier government, where municipalities will have to incorporate taxes to be able to meet both ends.


Also, this bill will give permission to MTO to transfer highways to municipalities. I just can't see how this could be done, because at the present time we don't have the financial resources to do the upkeep of the roads. We have Highway 17 east. It used to be called a killer strip; it is not any more. We have to congratulate the MTO people for maintaining the road as well as they are at the present time, but I wonder, after the passing of this bill, if we will continue having such a good service.

Hospital closure: This bill will give the power to the minister to close hospitals. We have one hospital in Prescott and Russell and we have a population of over 125,000. To go to the next hospital, we have to travel over probably 150 kilometres. The problem is, at the present time, this hospital is right down at the eastern boundaries of our province, right near the Quebec border, and this bill will permit the doctors, really, to be exempt to come to the Hawkesbury hospital. If that ever happens, I wonder what's going to happen to the eastern Ontario hospital, which is in Hawkesbury and which services Ste-Anne-de-Prescott, St-Eugène and Chute-à-Blondeau.

Last weekend I was very surprised to read in one of the local papers that user fees are not being applied in some of the pharmacies. There are big ads in the paper, "No User Fees." I wonder how the pharmacists are going to collect that $2. This is the start. One person came to me, she said: "Here's my prescription. I used to pay $19.81. Today I'm paying $21 and a few cents for it." Was the $2 incorporated in that fee? I don't know.

It seems to me that democracy doesn't exist any more. We have to consult the taxpayers. We know that we have agreed to have some public hearings, but I just want to make sure that without implementing any of those changes in Bill 26, we will consult the elected people, the doctors, everyone concerned about this bill.

I know it was an election promise that we would reduce the personal income tax by 30%. Five days prior to the election, I had an article in Le Carillon Hawkesbury. I said, "Thirty per cent, it's impossible. If you have a reduction of 30%, you will pay in another way," and this is just what's going to happen. There will be a user fee that will increase, really, the costs of all those who want to use the services within the municipality.

I really believe that if we wanted to stimulate the economy, we should have removed the taxes on construction material. That would stimulate the economy. It would give a chance to young couples to have their own home and also create jobs in not only Prescott and Russell but the rest of the province.

Mr Speaker, those are the comments that I have to bring forward, and I hope the ministers responsible for this bill will take into consideration the points that I brought to your attention today.

The Deputy Speaker: Comments or questions?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'd like to thank my colleague for his very, very wise words. I hope we were all listening to them very carefully, because what he was saying, simply put, was that we must invite the public to take part in our discussions, we must invite the public to take part in our decision-making.

Clearly, he outlines the many, many concerns, not only in Prescott and Russell but certainly in Windsor-Walkerville, certainly in Hamilton East and, as I look across the way, in all of your ridings. What the member is saying is clearly what we have been asking for, and that's to involve the people. It is an important part of this democracy. The process of democracy means involving the people.

You know, it's funny; as I campaigned against the Progressive Conservative candidate in my riding, he was all for involving the people. All the time, at every all-candidates meeting, he would say, "You have to be involved; we expect you to be involved." In fact, if he were to have been successful, would he have been sitting across the way, disagreeing now with the member?

I wonder how many of you, during the election process, were saying, "You must be involved"? Does involvement for Progressive Conservatives simply mean involvement when you go to the polls and vote? Or does it mean that it's ongoing dialogue, dialogue that involves serious discussion, a serious exchange of ideas and, together, trying to make Ontario prouder and stronger?

I thank the member for Prescott and Russell for his very excellent words.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Hamilton East.

Mr Agostino: I want to add to my colleague's comments and to the fine words by the member for Prescott and Russell, who talks again, as has been mentioned, to the process of consultation.

Maybe it's a coincidence in this House, but when you look at the members who have spoken, particularly on the opposition side, as to the process for consultation, as to reaching out for the public, members who have been experienced and have been involved often at the municipal level of politics, which often is the grass roots of politics, they are the members who have spoken most eloquently to the need for consultation and to the need to ensure that we involve our public.

As we get further away from the local level of politics, we become further removed from the public, and the great temptation is to believe that everything we talk about in here reflects the real world, that everything we do in here reflects what's happening out there. I can tell you that within this building often it is not the real world. Within this building often it doesn't reflect what is happening out there. I believe that it's important, regardless of what piece of legislation -- this massive bill that we're talking about here today or other legislation we're going to be dealing with in years to come in this House -- that we set a very clear precedent, which is that we cannot go forward with fundamental changes without consulting the public.

The public is not to be consulted only at election time. That's the easiest thing and that's what my colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing mentioned today that every three years municipal councils and the electorate get to have their say. Mike Harris campaigned on the fact that he would hold referendums on tax increases. That to me talks about a fundamental, basic belief that the Conservatives should have, and that is, when you're going to make changes that are fundamental and that are going to increase taxes in one way or another in this province, then you go to the people.

There isn't going to be a bigger piece of legislation in the next four years that is going to put that kind of taxation on people's shoulders as this is. So stick to the words of what your Premier said. Go to the public with this and allow the process for it to occur as it should.

M. Duncan : Je veux dire premièrement merci au député de Prescott et Russell. Sa vision pour notre province et ses mots ce soir sont une inspiration pour moi et pour notre parti.

I'd like to take the opportunity, because the Minister of Labour has joined us. The minister, whom I respect and who has been so front and centre on so many issues, taught her ministers a lesson about how to jam legislation through.

We took Bill 7 and we didn't have meaningful public consultation. We didn't. We brought in 63 amendments, put them all on the backbenchers' desks, did exactly what the Canadian Federation of Independent Business wanted, of course, and jammed the bill through.

And what did we get? Well, we've got a huge backlog instantly created at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. We hear from people daily about the difficulties they're having, difficulties that weren't there. We have a flawed piece of legislation that the minister will have to open again, and we look forward to that. We look forward to the time when she has to open that bill.


We've had little skirmishes -- in London the other day -- on one piece of legislation, the unnecessary response it provoked because of the way the government conducted itself. When the people of Ontario realize everything that's in this bill and how it touches in such a dramatic fashion every aspect of how we govern ourselves, it will make, I suggest, the other day in London seem like a tea party, because the government is laughing at the people of this province and working and attempting to invoke an agenda that no one has consulted on.

Mr Lalonde: Again, I just can't stress more that this bill will give the power to those, really, who enjoy having power, without the financial resources. Also, I want to make sure that the consultation will be in practice after the passing of this bill. We know in small municipalities that without the participation of the government it's impossible to meet both ends. We know that we have to look after the amalgamation. We know that we have to reduce the number of municipalities within the province. But I really feel that at the present time consultation will play a major role in achieving our goals in amalgamation.

At the present time. We've been talking about it for years, but I don't think, with this bill, that we will see the consultation taking place. I think all of us have shown that the consultation is very, very important, and without going through the consultation, you can rest assured that even though the municipalities are saying, "We would like to have the control of our municipality without the interference of the government," this is not exactly what they meant.

I think the whole thing was misinterpreted by this government, and I rest assured that the people of Prescott and Russell and the rest of the province really hope that consultation will come.

Mr Agostino: I want to speak to what is really a key and fundamental debate that we're going to have in this Parliament on the direction of how this place is going to operate in the next four years, the direction of how we're going to pass legislation in this province in the next four years.

Let me say from the outset that obviously the members across the floor received a mandate on June 8, received a majority government, and the people, in our system, are always right. Whether we're happy with the results or not on any side of the House, the reality is that democracy works. It is the best system we have. It is a system that should be followed. It is a system that, with all its flaws, is the best system in the world and is the system that I would trade for no other.

This government received a mandate to govern and to put through its agenda. I want to talk, though, about the process that is being used both on the government side and on the opposition side with regard to the carrying out of this mandate.

I always believed that the right to govern is not a blank cheque and the right to govern doesn't give the governing majority absolute power and absolute right to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, in any manner that it wants. There's a responsibility, and I think a special responsibility, on the government side of the House because you have a majority, because you have the numbers, because you have the muscle. That responsibility is to ensure that the voice of the opposition is heard and that the voice of people across Ontario that the opposition represents is always heard.

With all due respect, I believe that in the debate and what has happened with Bill 26 you have failed that test miserably. You have not allowed a process for the people of Ontario to be heard, until you were forced to. You have not allowed a process for the opposition to express its very legitimate concerns. Let's understand that although you received 82 seats, the majority of people who voted across this province voted for the two opposition parties combined in larger numbers than for the government of the day. Accepting, though, that under our system you have the 82 seats and you govern, you have a responsibility to ensure that you govern in a fair and democratic manner. Bill 26, in my view, totally contradicts all of those principles.

The process could have been much better handled. If this government were serious about the legislation and wanted a full and open debate, then I would suggest that you could have split this bill into about 10 different pieces. You could have taken all of the fundamental changes to the Municipal Act and brought it in as one bill and gone out and talked to municipalities, gone out and talked to the people who are affected across this province, about the Municipal Act, about the head tax that this government wants to impose, about the user fees, about the unilateral powers that a minister will have if the local municipalities can't come to an agreement to realign the boundaries.

As a former municipal politician, I cannot think for the life of me why the minister would want that power, why the minister would want that power and that problem to sit here and, with the stroke of a pen, realign a municipality or a boundary that those local municipalities may not agree to. But, my friends, that power is there within the act.

You could have taken the hospital, the health care changes and you could have put them into a bill and you could have gone to the people across this province and to the hospital boards and to the doctors and to the users of the services, the nurses, and said, "What do you think of this bill?" and debated that one fully.

Every other section of the bill that was significant could have been broken down, but this government chose not to use that process because this government felt that its true agenda, its true imperialistic approach that it has taken to governing would be revealed as a result of breaking this bill down and going out, section by section, to the people across this province.

Let me talk about the process that the opposition used. It's a process that I stand by fully, because often when your backs are to the wall you have no choice but to fight back. The process the opposition used was the only process that was left to stop an oppressive, brutal government from trying to ram through unreasonable legislation without public consultation in a short period of time.

Often, drastic circumstances require drastic measures. This bill is very drastic. What this bill imposes is very drastic for the people of Ontario. As opposition members, I have a responsibility, as do my colleagues, my party and the NDP -- a bigger responsibility, I'm going to suggest to you -- to represent that voice of the opposition, to represent that voice of the minority out there that has a tough time getting heard, that voice of people who went out to vote on June 8 and whose vote did not result in a majority government but resulted in sending to the Legislature a member on the opposition side of the House. And that responsibility I take very seriously.

I also take very seriously the fact that this government attempted to take away from me and from every other member of the opposition that right to properly debate a piece of legislation that was fundamental to the way this province is going to operate in the years to come. So I believe the actions that were used by the opposition were useful, I believe they were correct and I believe very clearly that those actions resulted in this bill going out to public debate.


The late President Kennedy said that governments that do not allow peaceful dissension will invite revolution. This government has a tough time with any kind of dissension. This government has a tough time dealing with any kind of opposition.

This government in a short time has developed such arrogance. Arrogance that took Brian Mulroney and his federal friends nine years to develop, this government has done in less than nine months. This bill smacks of arrogance, of a government that says: "We don't care what anyone else thinks. We're going to ram these massive powers through the House by the time you go home for Christmas and it'll be business as usual come January 1."

That smack of arrogance. That smacks of a government that doesn't really care about the democratic process. If you cared about the democratic process, you would have allowed public hearings on this bill in a timely fashion, you would have broken up the bill properly, and you would have gone to the public to give people a fair opportunity to respond. But maybe you're afraid to do that. Maybe you're afraid because when the public really gets to understand, as they're starting to, what this bill is all about, what this bill contains, they're going to respond.

Tory voters, not only Liberal and NDP voters -- I've talked to a lot of people who voted for your party, and obviously a lot of people across this province did last time -- are concerned about this bill. They're concerned about giving any government, whether it's Conservative, Liberal or NDP, giving any government, any minister, the type of sweeping dictatorial powers this bill contains, because this system is bigger than the minister of the day, whether it's Health or Municipal Affairs.

What is talked about here is that this bill is a weapon future ministers will use. Why should anyone in government, of any party, at any time, have the right to impose such unilateral, sweeping changes upon the people of Ontario without coming to this Legislature for approval, without coming to this Legislature for debate?

I say again that the tactics used by the opposition parties are ones I am proud of. The tactics used by the opposition that day in my view were necessary. The phone calls to my office run 95% in favour of what we did in opposition that day to force the government to allow public hearings.

There are many reasons Bill 26 is flawed, and we've talked about them. It gives the Minister of Health unbelievable powers, powers to close and merge hospitals. How many members of the government side of the House would feel comfortable waking up one morning and finding out that your Minister of Health has closed the hospital in your riding? How many of us would accept that? I don't care whether you're in government or opposition. How many of us would accept that without screaming and yelling and fighting like heck to make sure that doesn't happen? But it could happen to you. This is not only an opposition thing, folks, because you have many more ridings than we do and there are many more hospitals in your ridings than there are in ours.

I urge members on the government side of the House to speak to their cabinet ministers, to speak to their Minister of Health. Do you really want to give this minister or any Minister of Health the power to, with the stroke of a pen, without public consultation, without coming to the Legislature, close any hospital across the province? That is not a power I want to give any current or future Minister of Health of any political stripe.

The minister can terminate specific health care services provided by a hospital, pick and choose the services the minister feels that hospital should not offer and make a singlehanded, unilateral decision to terminate those services.

They can remove services from OHIP coverage without coming to this Legislature.

Now comes the most worrisome and one that needs clarification, because I can tell you it is the one that is going to cause the most damage to this government; that is, the power this government will have to inspect, copy and deal with people's medical records. That is a scary power this minister has. My friend across shakes his head, and the Minister of Health said no the other day. If that is not the case and if you don't want or need that power, why do you not simply withdraw that part of the bill? Withdraw that power from the minister, because it is scary.

People have a great, trusting relationship with their family doctor. Probably the closest, trusting relationship you have with anybody is with your family doctor, and there's an expectation of confidentiality, of trust, of care, involved in that. Some family doctors told me that they will go to jail before they allow any minister of any government to go in and access and photocopy medical records of their clients, and I applaud those doctors for taking that stand.

But that is worrisome, that is scary, and that is something this government, if they put it through this House, is going to live to regret. Most people across this province, I don't care which way they voted last time, do not want any minister of the crown to have the opportunity to go in, photocopy and look at their medical records. That is an absolute and total invasion of people's privacy, and the privacy commissioner has told us that. It is not simply the opposition saying that; it is the privacy commission, an independent body whose responsibility is to ensure that the privacy of citizens across this province is protected at all times.

Bill 26 also gives the Minister of Transportation, under the Highway Traffic Act, the power to ultimately take away a person's house or car for unpaid highway tolls. The amendment states that after a toll goes unpaid for 30 days, the government "may file a notice of lien and charge against the holder's real and personal property in respect of unpaid tolls, fees and interest."

This is one of those "Trust me" things again. "We're not going to do that," the Minister of Transportation said the other day. "We're not going to impose this lien on people because they haven't paid their tolls." If you're not going to do it, if it's unreasonable, why is it in the act? Simply do the right thing: Take it out. It will assure people across this province that you're not going to impose a lien on their property or their car because they have failed to pay a toll. It's a little drastic, as an understatement.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): It's general.

Mr Agostino: I know it's general. I know the minister said the other day that he doesn't really believe that's going to happen --

Mr Duncan: Al, at least we've read your bill. It's the least you could do.

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

Mr Agostino: If the minister feels it's an unreasonable piece of legislation and one that will never be implemented, I would suggest with all due respect to my honourable friend across the floor that he withdraw that part of it and put our minds and the minds of people across this province at ease.

There's another reason this bill is flawed. There's only one taxpayer, Mike Harris kept telling us, the Taxfighter -- Taxfighter 1 and Taxfighter 2 in this campaign, and Taxfighter 3 in four years. He kept telling us there's only one taxpayer, there's only one pocket it comes out of, whether it's federal or municipal or provincial.

In exchange for a 44% funding cut to cities and towns across this province, this government, through Bill 26, wants to completely open the door to unlimited user fees and taxes. Let me tell you, a user fee is a tax. It is a back-door attempt, back-door taxation. You don't have the guts to go to the people and say, "We're going to increase your taxes this way." No, what you say is: "We're going to put in a user fee. It's not really a tax, it's a user fee."

It's the same people you're going after, the same people you made the claim to that you weren't going to increase their provincial taxes. You're going to force municipalities to increase the taxes through user fees and through other means.

The head tax is the most regressive system you can think of. You can call it what you want, you can word it under niceties you have in the legislation. The minister kept telling us today, the few times he had at least part of an answer to a question, that he doesn't envision municipalities ever using this. Was this the deal? Was this a tradeoff? Is that what we cut with the municipalities? "We're going to cut your taxes by 44%. Don't scream too loud. But you know what? We're going to give you the ability to use a head tax."

Remember what happened to Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative government in Britain? She went down as a result of this head tax, a tax that your own minister says he doesn't envision municipalities using, but a tax that none the less is still in there. Again I say to you, if you don't envision them using it, why are you giving municipalities the power and forcing them to the wall because of your massive cut?

How do you expect a municipality to survive with 44% less funding and not have to massively increase user fees? That 44% is a bigger cut than probably in the last 20 years across this province for municipalities. I and others around this place have served on municipal councils when we had a tough time dealing with a 0% or a 1% or 2% cut without having to really go to the wall and without forcing taxes to go up. Now it's 44%.

I say to this government again, if you don't believe these powers will be used or if you don't believe these powers should be used, then please do not give the powers. Simply remove this part of the bill.


If this government is not happy with how a municipal government is functioning, Bill 26 gives you the authority to dissolve it or merge it with a neighbouring one. "Do as we say, and if you don't like it, tough luck. With a stroke of a pen, the Minister of Municipal Affairs will simply wipe you out. You're gone. You're out of here. It's that simple." This was the Tory way of dealing with municipal reform.

I want to talk about the portions of the bill that allow user fees, which I believe, next to health care, is the biggest betrayal, the biggest broken promise this government has imposed upon the people of Ontario in the short time it has governed. "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees": May 3, 1994, Common Sense Revolution, Premier Harris.

Someone can maybe explain to me or to the 75- or 80-year-old senior citizens in my riding who now have to pay $2 every time they go to the drugstore to get a prescription drug, how that is not a user fee. "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees" -- not my words, not the words of the opposition; the words of the government. This document you probably campaigned on, this document you staked everything on during the campaign, your bible, everything you stood for, and this also contained the biggest betrayals of this government.

"No new user fees." You have imposed user fees upon the people of Ontario, or copayments, as you like to call them, but let me remind you, as your Premier said during one of his opposition days and his days of glory there, when he said everything people wanted to hear simply to get himself elected, that a copayment and a user fee are the same thing. That is what your Premier said, not what the opposition said. We've established that, without a doubt, that you've broken that promise.

Not only have you done that, but you've now gone one step further. In this bill, you want to continue to increase and add to that user fee without coming back to the Legislature. At least now you've got to come back here and we're going to give you a fight over it, whether you like it or not.

Once this bill goes through -- and it won't lose because you have a government, but you'll lose in four years -- this minister now, or any future minister, can simply, with a stroke of a pen, without coming to the Legislature, add any new user fee to health care that you want to. You promised you weren't going to do it, and you did it, you did it by $2, and that was wrong. By putting that power in here, it is also wrong, because now there is no control. You can go to $10, you can go to $20, you can do whatever you like because Bill 26 will give the minister that power.

You have betrayed the seniors of Ontario. You have betrayed the needy in Ontario. You have betrayed disabled people in Ontario. I challenge any Tory members, when you go back to your riding, to talk to senior citizens, talk to disabled people, talk to needy people, and try to explain to them or weasel your way out of your commitment that there'll be no new user fees. Weasel your way out of that one, because people are much brighter than you think they are and people will remember that broken promise.

Health care, another sacred trust -- Tories and the sacred trust of health care. During the election, before the election, after the election, it was, "We will not cut health care spending." Mike Harris, May 3, 1994: "There will be no cuts to health care funding by a Harris government. This is our first and most important commitment." It is your most important broken promise as well, because what you're doing is playing political games with the health care of people in this province.

You have now given us the excuse that the envelope will be the same at the end of your term as it was at the beginning of your term. You like to use $17.4 billion as the figure, so you say there's $17.4 billion in there now and there'll be $17.4 billion there at the end of four years. What happens to the time in between? What happens to that $1.2-billion, $1.5-billion or $2-billion cut that eventually will come in between? What happens to hospital services at that point? Is that not important? Is the health care of people in this province only important during election years? It doesn't matter what happens in between. You can sit there and smugly justify cutting $1.5 billion out of health care, "But that's okay, because when we go back to you next time, we're going to put it back in in the last year."

It doesn't matter how many people have suffered, have paid the price, have had to wait for surgery, have had to wait for tests, have had their health negatively impacted as a result of your cuts. It doesn't really matter, because when you go back to the people, you're going to put the money back in. But the damage has been done, and the cynicism and the broken promises of this government simply continue.

Often, a lot of this comes down to trust, down to, can the public trust politicians to do what is right? Why do we have such an electorate, a public, that is so cynical and has no faith in the political process? Mike Harris ran on being a different kind of politician. Mike Harris and the Conservatives ran on being men and women of their word, that they were going to keep all of their commitments, that they weren't going to be government and business as usual, that they were going to protect all these essential factors across Ontario. They were going to protect health care, they weren't going to impose user fees, they weren't going to cut the disabled and seniors across Ontario. They weren't going to do any of that.

Remember education? "Classroom funding for education will be guaranteed." That was before the $400-million cut. Now this government is getting cute again. "We're not really cutting classroom education. We're just cutting the funding for the classroom education. We'll let the school board make the decision to cut that education. We're simply going to give them less money to do their job and they're going to be the bad guys." That is the approach of this government.

Policing: "Funding for law enforcement and justice will be guaranteed... Any savings we find...through greater efficiencies will be reinvested to ensure public safety in our streets and in our homes" -- Common Sense Revolution, May 3, 1994.

How is this government going to guarantee safety? How is this government going to guarantee that law enforcement is not cut when you have cut municipal funding by 44%? Where do you think municipalities get their money from to fund and pay for police officers? There are only two sources, generally: provincial transfer payments and municipal taxes.

You have cut their transfer payments by 44%. Most municipalities realize that people have hit the tax wall and can't have their taxes increased. So policing will suffer, safety will suffer: another broken promise by this government, another commitment you made, that you were not going to impact policing, and you're going break that promise, as you've broken many other promises.

This government's track record when it comes to broken promises is one that even the last 10 years of governing combined have not achieved. You have broken more promises in four months than the previous two governments have in the past 10 years. And they're not small promises, promises of an insignificant nature; they're promises that were key to your election campaign and promises that were key to everything you stood for as a government.

This bully bill that you're trying to put through the House, that you're trying to ram down the throats of the people of Ontario, that you're not going to get away with, this bill is going to give your government, your ministers, the type of power that is unheard of in most other jurisdictions across this province, the type of powers that very few, if any, elected officials in a western democracy have. Some of the changes and powers you give yourself in this bill surpass that. They are the kinds of powers that Third World tinpot dictators like; there are lots of those in Central and South America who love this kind of power.

This is the power that your Republican friends in the United States would love to have. This is the power that your friends in Washington have advised you that you can grab. The same Republicans who advised you how to run your campaign, the same Republicans who are advising you on how to run your government, the Newt Gingriches and the Jesse Helmses of this world, would be 100% on board with you on what you've got in front of us today. But the people of Ontario are not on board with what you're doing here, the people of Ontario are not in agreement with what you're doing here.

I say particularly to the government members who don't have access to the cabinet, who may have not read all of this, remove yourselves from the partisanship of the House, go back to your riding, your constituency office, go one-on-one with your constituents in your office and explain to that constituent in your office why you think it is acceptable for the Minister of Health to have the power to shut down one of the hospitals in your riding. Look that constituent in the eye, who voted for you, and explain to that individual why you think it is acceptable.


If that is the case and if you feel in your conscience that you can explain that and that the constituents you represent believe the Minister of Health should have the power to unilaterally, without consultation, without coming to this House, close a hospital in your riding, then support this bill, by all means. If you really believe that, support this bill.

If you believe, as you're sitting across from your constituent, that the Minister of Health should have the power to impose new user fees on senior citizens any time they want, to whatever level they want, if you can look that senior citizen in the eye and say, "Yes, I believe the Minister of Health should be able to impose any new user fees that he wants on your prescription drugs," then go ahead and support this bill.

If you can do that in good conscience and if you believe those are the kinds of powers a government should have, then I suggest you support the bill. But if you believe there's a fairness in a democratic system and that even a majority government does not have absolute power, I ask you, as government members, to talk to your ministers, to stand up for your constituents.

It is very difficult on the government side of the House -- I understand that -- because party discipline kicks in and the party whips are all over you in a second if you dare dissent from what your government is saying. But how many of you ran during the campaign and said to your constituents, "I'm going to blindly agree with everything the government says"? I don't think too many of us did that. I don't think too many of us run and say to people, "If I'm part of the government, I'm going to sit there and, every single time, vote in favour and agree to everything this government is going to do."

You have a special responsibility -- we all do -- to represent our constituents, and the interests of the people who sent us here are greater than the interests of our party. The real world, my friends, is not in here. It is not within this building. It is not within the Queen's Park loop. The real world is far from there. The real world is the shop floors across this province. The real world is the doughnut shops, the hockey arenas, the parks, the recreation centres, the steel mills in my riding, the factories in my riding of Hamilton East. That is the real world.

Take this out there and ask those people if they believe you should have the powers in this bill. Ask the people in your riding, not simply the Tory loyalist but the average voter, who in most cases doesn't carry a party membership in any of the three political parties. Put it to that test. Spend some time this weekend and over the break knocking on doors in your riding, taking this bill out to those people and asking those individuals if they believe you should have that power. I think you'll get a different answer from the briefing notes you're getting, from the strings that are being pulled from the Premier's office.

Yes, Premier Harris and a few top flunkies will love this bill, because they can do anything they want without coming to the Legislature. But I can tell you, as elected officials, it would be an embarrassment and a disgrace to the House if we allowed this bill to go through unchallenged. It would be a major blow to democracy in this province.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm very pleased to stand and support the remarks made by my colleague from Hamilton East, and wise comments they were. I think he did an excellent job of basically going through a number of the elements that are frightening the people of Ontario in terms of this huge bill.

Ultimately, what they came down to was the whole question of democracy and process, a fairness that allows people to discuss things in the atmosphere that is supposed to be here in the Legislature and that we've been essentially denied; the need in a democracy to openly discuss changes a government wishes to make, a government that was duly elected. We've simply asked them for the opportunity to have these known to the people in the province.

They are frightening changes. When we look at the health services restructuring act, at the changes to the Municipal Act, which even the minister today clearly didn't understand himself and hasn't read, these are things that worry the people of this province.

Earlier today I had the opportunity to sit with my colleague from Hamilton East on the standing committee on social development. We were meeting with some agencies which are very concerned about the impact of the Conservative government funding cuts on children and children's services. We met with the Ontario Association of Children's Mental Health Centres, the Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario and the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto, and they were all telling us the same thing. They're all very concerned about the direction this government is taking. They're very concerned about this government's lack of vision, an inability to understand that it isn't a question of simply taking over the power, it isn't a question of simply deciding how you're going to do things; it's a question of dealing with the large issues of what really will be the best for this province.

It's clear that the people we met with this afternoon were grateful to have the opportunity to meet with an all-party committee. They asked us to look at this issue again but also asked us to come back here and try and impress upon the government the need for them to recognize that they simply haven't followed due process, there hasn't been a fairness. Indeed we can't operate under a sense of dictatorship. It's got to be a democracy where the discussions are full and complete, and we want to be part of that.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): I want to comment on the member for Hamilton East's remarks about Bill 26.

A lot of interesting arguments may be made about this bill. A lot of give and take could be had by all members of this Legislature. I'm not really sure that comparing a government to tinpot dictators is what I consider to be healthy and vigorous debate.

I'm also fairly certain that the labour leaders yesterday who met in London are certainly not proud of suggesting this government is, in some form, the Third Reich or Nazi regime that they've compared us to in the past. It's insulting to those people who have lived through those kinds of crises in their life to have union officials of this province, who are supposed to be responsible elected people, comparing what I consider to be very democratically elected, responsible sorts coming to this Legislature and attempting to pass legislation, albeit it with confrontation with the opposition.

To make that kind of analogy and comparison is both unfair and imprudent on their part, and imprudent for the member for Hamilton East, because I know there are tinpot dictators in this world and some bad tinpot dictators. I take great exception to the analogy you draw. This crowd of people has been elected and I think are responsible, effective leaders of their communities, and the last thing they deserve to be called is tinpot dictators, my friend.

If you want to have a good, healthy and vigorous debate, debate it. Debate the bill. Let's talk about the functions. Give me some responses that you consider acceptable. But the last thing that I'm going to stand here and be called is a tinpot dictator by the member for Hamilton East. My suggestion to you is, review previous governments, including your own, and I think you'll find governments that bear far more of a striking resemblance to what you called us than this administration that sits here now.

Mr Duncan: I want to thank my colleague from Hamilton East. He is a member of great passion who speaks strongly on the issues of the day. He quoted, early in his comments, John Kennedy. I was reminded of another statement Kennedy made: "He who comes to power riding the back of a tiger often winds up inside."

I've heard the members opposite say, "The people of Ontario voted for us." In Windsor, I'm fortunate because there's not a Tory within 50 miles. We rejected you. We reject you. The people in my community don't trust you with health care, the people in my community don't trust you with their children's education, the people in my community don't trust you with their economy and they certainly don't trust you on Bill 26.

You would be well advised to take your concerns and your bill and go and speak to your constituents. Go into York-Mackenzie. The member for York-Mackenzie left Essex county; he was chased out of Essex county. He ran as a Tory there, but went to York-Mackenzie.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I would really expect that the member would withdraw that statement. I consider it a personal insult. I consider it an insult to my character and my reputation.

Mr Duncan: I withdraw. He was simply defeated soundly.

What I'd like to say is, you should listen to your own constituents. Let them have a say. Don't just try to stifle debate. Don't just try to take terms out of context. Speak about it. Speak to your own constituents. Hear what they have to say.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for London Centre.

Mrs Boyd: I'd like to comment briefly on the interjection by the member for Etobicoke West.

Mrs Marland: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mrs Boyd: In his response --

The Deputy Speaker: Excuse me. Your point of order?

Mrs Marland: My point of order, Mr Speaker, is --

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Come on, Margaret. Stop using her time.

Mrs Marland: -- I know that the former member of the New Democratic government cabinet knows you are not to respond to the former person who is responding, it's to the person making the original speech.

Mr Len Wood: Sit down. She just said that she was going to respond to the member for Hamilton.

Mrs Marland: Don't be so upset, Len.

The Deputy Speaker: Your point of order is well taken. The Chair recognizes the member for London Centre. The member for Cochrane North has been warned.

Mrs Boyd: Mr Speaker, I was not allowed to finish my comment. I was talking about the interchange between the member who had spoken and the comments of the person on what the member had said. What the member for Etobicoke West interpreted the member for Hamilton East as saying, and then went on with his comments, I think was not entirely correct.

Many members of this assembly have talked about the slow erosion of democratic values and what we fear in terms of what we're seeing, and that comes out of our knowledge and, frankly, that of labour leaders who spoke in London yesterday have, of how easy it is for democratic values to be eroded in a society and for that to be forgotten as we go along. It is quite correct for the member for Hamilton East to point out that the kind of erosion of our democratic processes that has been going on here in this Legislature is very reminiscent of what has happened in other parts of the world in other times, and we need to learn from the past.

Mr Agostino: Simply to wrap up, I believe very much that as individual members we have a responsibility to represent our constituents. We have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of the people who have sent us here, not simply to be flunkies of a Premier, cabinet or the whiz kids in the back rooms who are calling the shots. I can tell you, the people of Hamilton East don't take any bull, and the people of Hamilton East don't like to be snowed over by this government.

Mr Stockwell: The problem is, your whiz kids weren't that whizzy.

The Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Agostino: Let me tell you that what this government is doing is a disgrace and an affront to democracy. My friend takes offence to the fact that I refer to the government as tinpot dictators, but I can tell you that your tactics very much mirror the tactics of many Third World and Central American dictators who simply want to ram down people's throats. In the democratic system that we live in, there is debate and discussion. In our system, you don't ram bills of such significance through the House in two weeks. In our system, you allow proper debate, you allow discussion and you allow public consultation.

If this government believes that it is right with Bill 26, what are you afraid of? Why were you so afraid of going to the public with this? Why were you so afraid of breaking up the bill and dealing with it section by section and allowing proper debate?

Let me tell you: Because you cannot defend this. You cannot defend this power grab. You cannot defend this simple, imperialistic approach that you're taking to government, where a few ministers have all the powers in one hand.

I can tell you that it's not going to work and we're going to fight this bill tooth and nail and make sure your government doesn't get away with it.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bartolucci: Before I start into my presentation, I'd like to just refer back to a comment that was made by the member for Chatham-Kent when he talked about the effect of what happened last week and what his children were saying, because I think it's something that is worth addressing at the beginning of the presentation when we discuss this bill.

Why did it happen? Who was to blame? Well, I'd like to think that we can base this on a scientific principle, the principle being that for every action, there is a reaction, and the reaction is equal in proportion to that of the action.

The results of last week were the cause of the government's inability or its desire not to listen to the people of Ontario. It's very easy to say, "We received the mandate on June 8 and now we're implementing the mandate." Not all of what you've said over the course of the last few months, from September to now, was in the Common Sense Revolution. In fact, there have been additions to the Common Sense Revolution, and that's fine and I understand that and I can appreciate that, because you are the government.

But I think it imperative that you, when you bring in these new ideas, must listen carefully to what the opposition is saying, for in fact what the opposition does is round out democracy. What it does is round out the process by which we've been elected to govern. Failing to do that leads to anarchy, leads to a form of dictatorship and leads to what none of us in this assembly want.

The result manifests itself in many different ways. Last week it manifested itself in a way that, although unusual, was right, was fitting and was proper, given the occasions which forced the opposition to do what it did.

Could it have been avoided? Quite simply, the answer is yes. How could it have been avoided? Ever since September, this government has refused to listen, this government has refused to answer questions, this government has refused to respond to the requests of those people in Ontario who have demanded reasons, who have demanded answers, who have demanded an interpretation of the Conservative process of governing. It isn't too much to ask. So what happened last week was not the fault of the opposition, quite clearly and quite simply.

Can it be avoided? Yes, it must be avoided in the future. And how can it be avoided? It can be avoided by simply doing and fulfilling the mandate that was given to this government on June 8, and your mandate was to listen to the people of Ontario, to be a part of the process that will listen to Ontarians.

You say it in the Common Sense Revolution. You must believe it, for every time a cabinet minister quotes from it, you're all clapping. You must believe what's in the Revolution. If you believe it, you must live it.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Kingston and The Islands will come to order.

Mr Bartolucci: Might I tell you, since we're quoting leaders, Ghandi, a man of peace, said, "Desperate times require desperate actions." In fact, with this bill, we find ourselves in desperate times.

Might I tell you, this could have all been avoided had the process of government been correct. The process was flawed on November 29, when this government tried in fact to sneak this legislation in while both opposition parties were confined to a lockup. The answers to that lockup have not been answered by the Speaker, nor will they ever be answered, for they've been masked in much confusion. I would suggest to you that the greatest single cause of last week was the denial of democracy to take place on November 29, the opposition parties being present when this bill was introduced.


"What do you tell your children?" the member asked earlier on. Well, you tell your children, "We must follow order, there must be decorum, but we must always stand up for what we believe, and we must always stand up for what we believe in a peaceful and in a proper and in a fitting way." In fact, that's exactly what was done last week.

Might I suggest that your reactions are strange and varied. I'm going to quote over the next little while from a fax that was sent out from the Nickel Belt Progressive Conservative Association. I guess it's a fax that went out to anybody who would read it. The fax was faxed to me this morning, and I found it very interesting, because I have a lot of respect for government, I have a lot of respect for democracy and I have a lot of respect for the people who sit in the third party and also on the government side of the House.

But this is what happens: Everything becomes skewed when we decide that we are going to only believe in the Revolution. What's happening here is that we are getting a very, very sad and strange form of support, for I am more concerned with what is not in this fax than what is in the fax. Let me quote for the next little while. It says:

"On November 29, Finance Minister Ernie Eves introduced the Savings and Restructuring Act, 1995, (Bill 26)." It doesn't say it introduced it when both opposition parties were confined to a lockup.

"The purpose of the bill is to implement the changes required by the minister's economic statement." It's wrong. There are many, many, many amendments in this act that have no -- no -- impact on the economic statement, that have no bearing on the economic statement and that are in fact not a part of the economic statement.

It says further, "It is traditional for Finance ministers to wrap all fiscal statements or budget initiatives into a single bill." It's wrong. Very, very, very few budget statements have included a bill which includes 47 statutes and affects 10 ministries in the Ontario government. It's just not so.

It says, "As the name suggests, all components of the bill share a common theme: achieving savings and public sector restructuring." Again, that's not true, and it's very, very important that when parties send out information, the information be accurate.

Let's deal with the amendments to the Natural Resources ministry, the Forest Fires Prevention Act.

"It reduces the restrictions placed on starting fires and on travelling in restricted travel zones." What in fact does that have to do with achieving savings?

"It reduces the restrictions placed on operations -- logging, mining, construction, mill operations -- in or near a forest." What does that have to do with achieving savings?

"The current legislation restricts that requirement for obtaining fire permits, forest travel permits and work permits, and these are removed from the act and left to the discretion of the regulations." What does that have to do with achieving savings?

"It allows the establishment of a separate account for all revenues -- fines, fishing and hunting licences, royalties -- to be collected under the act." What does that have to do with restructuring?

Let's look at the amendments to the Mining Act. I'm very, very concerned, because I, from northern Ontario, must be concerned about what's going to happen to the environment with these changes to the Mining Act.

"It replaces the current mine closure plan review process with a self-regulating system." That's all right if you're dealing with a company like Inco or if you're dealing with a company like Falconbridge. They're good corporate citizens; they're good corporate neighbours; they're good corporate community groups, individuals, people. But what about the wackos that are out there? The member for Hastings-Peterborough can attest. He has one in his riding where he's still trying to clean up the mess because of someone who did not care for the environment. Those are the types of concerns that I have with regard to amendments to the Mining Act.

It increases the financial assurance options available to mining companies. It exempts certain claim holders from being required to file a closure plan for the rehabilitation of a mine hazard or from being held responsible for the existence of a mine hazard created by themselves or by others. There is no protection for the people who live in the community if we remove these exemptions from the Mining Act. That requires public debate.

Let me further quote from the Progressive Conservative Update. It suggests, "The act gives municipalities the tools to restructure, eliminate duplication, increase efficiency and reduce costs." What it doesn't say is that it allows for a head tax. It allows for increased user fees. It allows for unilateral powers by the minister which will affect, in a very, very direct and significant way, the amount of money people pay in taxes, in user fees. It is not a restructuring with savings in mind; it is a restructuring with downloading in mind.

I hear across the way, and I hear it on this side, and I've said it and I'll continue to say it, because we all believe it: There is only one taxpayer. In fact, if that's the truth, then don't you believe that taxpayer has a right, has an obligation but, more profoundly, has the opportunity to become a part of what he or she will ultimately be paying for?

The result of last week forced this government to spend time talking to the people of Ontario. It forced this government to spend time involving people in the process. It forced this government to move around the province in order to meet with the constituents of Ontario, the people who elected them to form the government. None of this should have been forced; all of this should have been done by this government very, very willingly and very, very capably through a very, very planned approach: advertisements, involving the people, listening to the people of Ontario, coming back and passing the legislation.

Ultimately and finally, you're going to pass the legislation, with or without the amendments that you're going to be asked to place into this bill as we travel about the province. It's too bad, and I feel sorry, not only for the people of Ontario, but for a government that wasn't astute enough to know that the process which it was forced into was in fact the process it should have taken as a government and said: "This is the way we, as a new form of government, want to do business. We want to involve people; we do not want to exclude people."

Quoting further from the Nickel Belt PC Update: "The act provides for new mechanisms to facilitate hospital restructuring." What it doesn't say is that it gives the minister incredible powers: the power to reduce, suspend, withhold or terminate funding to a hospital if the minister considers it to be in the public interest to do so. It gives the power to a minister to be able to appoint inspectors with broad, sweeping powers to include interviewing health practitioners or their staff on matters relating to the provision of services; interviewing persons employed in a hospital or a health facility; entering and inspecting hospitals or doctors' offices and inspecting the operations carried out there; inspecting notes, charts, drug records and other material related to patient care. It gives the minister the power to copy and remove those files.


The minister will have the power to actually force physicians to go where he feels they should go, practise where he feels they should practise. It gives the power to the minister to destroy the OMA. Is that right? No, it's not right if it's not done in consultation. Listen to the OMA. Listen to the health care practitioners. Listen to the service providers. Let's talk. Let's discuss. You know what? It's too bad that we had to force you to want to do that. Now you're saying, and we hear it on the news, "We always wanted to do this."

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Oh, is that what happened?

Mr Bartolucci: This way, we're getting less public input than before.

The Deputy Speaker: The member will address his remarks through the Chair, please.

Mr Bartolucci: You know what? That's wrong and it's not what the public should be hearing, because in fact it's not what has happened. You were forced to do it.

What's most interesting is that people can still sit on either side of the House and we can still think that this isn't serious business when we all know that this bill is probably the most serious piece of legislation that will govern the way this particular government will do business over the course of the next three and a half years. It will not be a successful exercise. It will not be an exercise that will enshrine you with the people of Ontario. In fact, what will happen at the end of the day is that the people of Ontario will reject this. They will reject this because it doesn't do what the people of the north want it to do. The people of the north want to become more involved in government. They want to become involved in government on a continuing basis, not only when the opposition forces the government to listen to people.

I feel badly that the process has finally led to this type of dialogue back and forth whereby we tried to justify what must have been done. What needed to be done, as I look back, and hindsight is always perfect, maybe should have been done a lot earlier in order to get you to listen to what the people of Ontario want most: a government that will listen.

Let me tell you, just in closing, what I would hope happens from all of this. I would hope that there are some people who are listening to the debate who will become interested in wanting to know why this government is doing what it is doing, why this government is so set on passing the legislation so quickly. Usually, there's a reason why you want to do it. If the reason is a good motive, not too bad, but in this instance you didn't want to listen to people. This tells me that you really, really are trying to hide things from the people of Ontario, and that's wrong.

That's not what I would hope each individual member on the government side wants. As a government, you seem to want that. I mean, just listen to what they're saying out there. They're accusing you of that. We're not the only ones saying, "Why won't they listen?" I mean, let's face it. Read the papers, listen to the television reports, listen to the radio. What happened last week was very popular with the people of Ontario. The reason it was popular was because you haven't listened to them. If you had listened to them, that would have been a dumb action, rather than the only action that was necessary, the only action that we could do and an action that we should be very, very proud of. I'm happy that it worked out so that the people of Ontario will have an opportunity to debate, to give their points of view and, hopefully, to affect change.

Mrs Marland: This member just said that he's glad how things worked out. He also said, "It's too bad we had to force you." I would like to tell this member that I hope never again in the history of this Legislature do we have the kind of force that you and the members of the New Democratic Party brought to bear in this chamber last Wednesday. I will say to you that when you say it's too bad you had to force us, you did not force us, you have not won. In fact, we have all lost. We have lost by the demeaning behaviour of your colleague, which all of you were party to in this chamber. Every one of the members of the opposition who stood around that member as he voided in a Javex bottle under a blanket brought down the demise of this chamber, in my humble opinion.

This is a hallowed place. There are people in the world who continue to fight for the democracy which we enjoy in freedom in this province.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Not any more.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold is out of order.

Mrs Marland: For you to say that it's too bad you had to force us, you're quite right, it's too bad that you had to reduce yourselves to the kind of behaviour that was demonstrated in this chamber last week. We pray that that lowering of the standards and the absolute, total disrespect for what Parliament and the seat of government in this province have stood for for 200 years, whatever number of years it is -- the fact is that we will never see that kind of degradation again in this chamber because we will not permit it. I can assure you of that.

When you say you have forced us, I simply say to you, look in the mirror. I'm sorry that it's happening to you in your first term of office because you're going to have to carry it as a party to what was demonstrated in this chamber last week.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): The first point that I would like to make is that that's the longest two minutes I've ever seen on the clock. There must have been a technical malfunction there, because that was quite an interesting speech.

I would just like to congratulate the member here for the excellent speech he gave and for his warning that it's too bad we haven't talked more about the provisions that are actually included in this bill on all sides of the House and it's too bad the government didn't see the error of its ways a lot earlier than it actually did. Because I would once again like to return to this bill and refer again to those sections on pages 147 and 148 that deal with the huge powers we're giving municipalities in this province for direct taxation.

Let me just say at the outset that there aren't just municipalities that are interested in the Municipal Act and it isn't just the province that's interested in the Municipal Act; it's also the people of Ontario who are interested in the Municipal Act. For the life of me, I cannot understand that the government would allow a section that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, you may recall earlier today, had absolutely no knowledge of to be included in this act that states that if a municipality or local board has imposed fees or charges under this act, then no application shall be made to the municipal board on grounds that fees or charges are unfair or unjust.

Now, it's one thing to say they can't appeal, but it's quite another thing to say that you cannot appeal because the fees that are being charged are unfair or unjust. Under no circumstances should an appeal not lie when fees that are being charged are unfair and unjust. I would urge the minister to go back to his office tonight and to delete this clause and come back with a meaningful amendment, and also to get more knowledgeable about the act.


Mr Kormos: I of course listened with great interest to what the member for Sudbury and, quite frankly, what all other opposition members have had to tell the public and indeed the government about what in fact is contained in Bill 26. Well, by God, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, as sponsor of this bill, displayed his ignorance of the contents of the legislation and of its impact upon taxpayers and homeowners and seniors and young people across the board, across this province.

I want to take some exception because I was proud, as were my colleagues in the opposition, both in this party and in the official opposition, to stand around Alvin Curling as he, with great courage, with great integrity -- something that's not going to be seen very often, if at all, among these government benches -- sat here in the face of the prospect of some significant punitive action so as to bring a little bit of democracy back to this chamber, so as to bring a role for the opposition back to this debate after these clowns wanted to ram this bill through when they in fact had no knowledge of the contents of it, still don't, and persist in ramming this through without adequate consultation, without a thorough understanding.

Let me tell you something: This government is far more dangerous to democracy than anything that opposition members could ever do to try to preserve the rights of the minority, the rights of the opposition to engage in an effective and meaningful debate. The fact that we're sitting here now is because this government refuses to resolve with the other House leaders the return of Alvin Curling to this House. What are they afraid of? They're gutless, they're cowards, they should be ashamed.

Mr Stockwell: It's with curiosity that I see the opposition members, particularly my friends the socialists, led by Mr Kormos, suddenly find themselves in the mood to talk about the democratic process. Because I myself, along with a few of my friends on the benches here, sat in opposition to the socialist government when they were in power, and democracy had nothing to do with their particular legislative inclinations. Democracy never saw the light of day. In fact, I sat in this place with Mr Kormos the cabinet minister and a few others across the floor when in one week, one single week of four day sittings, they moved three separate closure motions on this place. What happened to democracy that week? It was called selective amnesia, revisionism.

Now in opposition, their ox is being gored. They've suddenly become true democrats, different as they were in government.

I also sat across the floor on Bill 175, when we had a huge omnibus bill to deal with --


The Deputy Speaker: Order. I want to know about a disturbance in the gallery.

Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): Stop the time. Given him an hour.

The Deputy Speaker: I don't care about the timing. I don't want to get myself into trouble.

Mr Duncan: What's the ruling?

The Deputy Speaker: The gallery is in order, and I would ask if the member for Etobicoke West would like to continue. I think he has about 50 seconds left.

Mr Stockwell: I was in mid-rant there, so I'll try to pick up where I left off. I was sitting on that side of the Legislature, across from my friend Mr Kormos, who was in the gallery a minute ago, and I was here for Bill 175, which was an omnibus bill, sitting actually very close to where he's sitting this very minute. I know you gave us three days on second reading. Do you want to know what they gave us in committee of the whole? Thirty minutes. What a gracious lot these socialists are.

Bill 160: What did they give us on Bill 160? No committee time. What a gracious lot these socialists are.

Bill 143: They invoked closure after three days. What a crowd of democrats. You should be proud of yourselves.

Mr Bartolucci: In response and summation, I would like to thank the member for Welland-Thorold and the member for Kingston and the Islands for their short but certainly very, very important comments.

Let me talk in particular to the member for Mississauga South. I believe her choice of words is excellent: "forced." That's right; we forced you, there's no question. And we will stand up and we will do it again if we have to. We will do it for as long and as often as we have to do it in order to allow for democracy to take place.

Clearly I would hope that's the message you receive as well as you tour the province, listening to what the people of Ontario want to tell you, listening to the people of Ontario telling you that we want a part of the process, that in fact we want to be involved when we're talking about user fees, when we're talking about downloading, when we're talking about closing hospitals, when we're talking about scaring physicians out of northern Ontario, when we're talking about getting an Ontario that's going to be inferior to that which existed before June 8.

So to the member for Mississauga South, I would hope that we would never have to do it again. The only assurance we have is that you, as a government, and you individually, collectively or whatever, will listen, finally listen, to the people of Ontario.


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

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I am very happy to have this opportunity to speak. It may not be the full 30 minutes, but I'm glad for whatever time I'm granted in this opportunity.

At the outset, I want to say to the members opposite and to those who spoke and commented on the actions that took place last week in this chamber -- let me be very clear with members opposite, let me be very clear with the members of the government benches: What took place last week was an act of honour, a noble gesture, an act to preserve whatever democratic rights still existed at the time. They are few and they're getting fewer by the moment. Particularly after this bill is enacted, there will be fewer democratic rights in the province of Ontario. That is clear. I would say to members opposite that my colleague the member for Scarborough North acted with great nobility and great honour.

Mr Klees: Shame.

Mr Cordiano: Yes, he did. He did so because he believed what he was doing was right. He believed what he was doing was the principled thing to do in order to preserve the rights of the minority in this House.

I know backbenchers on the government side do not appreciate what that means yet. One day, should they find themselves in the ranks of the opposition benches, they will come to appreciate that a great deal more.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): You were just here a while ago.

Mr Cordiano: The newly elected members do not appreciate that, I say to my colleague from Fort York. They do not appreciate that, but when they sit on this side of the House, if they should ever have that opportunity -- and it won't be too long, for some of you, anyway -- they will come to appreciate what I've just said, that the rights of the minority of this House and the rights of the minority of people across this province count for something. That was demonstrated in this House.

We were pushed to the wall by the force of this government's bill, this government's legislation, which was entirely undemocratic, and we would say to them, do not do that to us again. Do not push us to the wall, because we were forced to take that kind of action. No one on this side of the House wants to do that, but it was necessary. My friend and my colleague the member for Scarborough North acted valiantly and acted with honour and acted with the great nobility that he carries. So I commend him and I say to members opposite, this was an act of honour.

Getting on with debate on Bill 26, from the outset I look at the bill -- and it's a huge bill, for people out there in the public who have not seen it. It is a weighty bill and it has some 200-plus pages; very complex, very wide-sweeping in its breadth, certainly with respect to the powers that are intended to be granted to ministers and the government, municipalities across the province and the public sector partners out there who will receive additional and extraordinary powers as a result of this bill.

This all points to one thing: that in fact the opposition made its point to have due process take place in this House. Due process is fundamentally democratic and fundamentally essential if this place is to function properly and if each of us, along with members of the public, is to have input.

This place is meaningful. It is a democratic process and it is necessary for people to have input, not just in this House but members of the public. We have done that repeatedly. It is a tradition. It is a democratic right to have some input into legislation that is put forward by the executive branch of government and then put to the Legislative Assembly for its deliberation and for its consideration. That's how this great assembly of ours has to work, must work, must be maintained. That is what democracy is all about. That's what the parliamentary system was designed to do. To make it work properly, due process must be upheld. There is no other way.

Now, the title 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. My, my, a big bill with a huge title. I would argue that in fact this bill does quite a number of other interesting things and is in some respects contradictory to the intentions of the government, or at least contradictory to its ideals as stated in the Common Sense Revolution. In fact, the bill goes back on the ideals of the Common Sense Revolution in a number of ways which I will attempt to explain in the short time that remains to me.

But I think it's important for backbenchers to realize that this bill witnesses the end of the idealism of the revolution. It does that because it does the opposite of what was intended.

If this bill intended to reduce costs and make things more efficient and ultimately to reduce the impact on taxpayers -- and I've thought about this very carefully with respect to what the government intended to do ultimately. In their discussion throughout the debate, in the campaign, throughout the numerous debates and subsequent to the election campaign in this chamber and throughout the entire province in debate after debate, it was repeated again and again: "There is one taxpayer and this taxpayer is overburdened. This taxpayer has been paying through the nose and we're doing something about that." The ideals of the revolution, remember.

This bill does nothing of the kind. It simply shifts the burden to the municipalities and to the transfer payment recipients, the transfer agencies -- universities, hospitals, municipalities, schools. It allows them to impose user fees. It allows them to introduce new taxes, direct taxes, in municipalities. It will inevitably lead to higher property taxes.

Unintended consequences, I might ask, or is this the real purpose of the government, to shift the burden on to municipalities, to shift the burden away from the central, senior government down to junior governments, the municipalities and transfer agent recipients? Was that the intention of the revolution? I don't think so. I ask backbenchers, was that the intention of the revolution? Was that what you fought the last campaign on? Was that an ideal of the revolution, to simply shift the burden and pass the buck with respect to achieving greater efficiencies? Because at the end of the day, there's a whole litany of user fees in this legislation, a whole number of ways -- in fact, we haven't even discovered all the ways in which these costs will be passed on down the line and passed on in ways that perhaps were unintended by some of the backbenchers.

Or was there a plan at work here, afoot in the back rooms, in the cabinet itself, not quite fully explained to backbenchers of the government, that the real intention of this bill was in fact to pass the buck; it wasn't to streamline, to make more efficient, to allow for a greater sense of economic prosperity, as the title of the bill says?

In fact, the consequences of this bill are so far-reaching that I suggest the economic fallout will be quite severe and quite negative on the economy of the province. I think we're beginning to see some examples of that. Bankruptcies are starting to increase. The unemployment rate is higher. The fiscal plan and the economic statement that was produced by the Minister of Finance the other day shows within it that the growth rates that are projected would not make up for the difference in unemployment that will result. The labour force will be increasing at a much faster pace and the growth rate that's projected by the Finance minister will not make up the difference, so that there will be many more people unemployed in Ontario in the years 1996-97, 1997-98. In fact, for those two fiscal years the unemployment rate will be increased, according to the Finance minister's own projections.

I think the purpose there was to include some of the impact of Bill 26. Quite frankly, I think it's an optimistic outlook. When you impose such huge, lightning-speed cuts as we are witnessing here in Bill 26 that will be felt by Ontarians in the coming months after this bill is passed, we'll begin to see the true face of the revolution, the grotesque face of the revolution, as I'm beginning to point out, the disfigured face of the revolution. I think we will begin to understand, quite frankly, just what was intended.

The secrecy with which this bill was attempted to be snuck through the Legislature because they knew full well that this not only would have negative consequences for citizens throughout the province, but it would also go back on the very lofty, by their admission and by their intention, ideals of the revolution, to make things more streamlined, to help the average citizen out there. Well, it's not going to do any of those things, I say to members opposite. It simply will not accomplish the goals as set out by members who thought they were running for something that was of an ideal nature. It simply won't even accomplish that.


Of course, I fundamentally disagree with what was being intended here. But I could understand that members opposite, who ran in the last campaign, who ran with the ideals of the revolution intact, who felt that they had to bring about fundamental change to Ontario to make it more efficient, that things had gotten out of control, that costs were out of control.

Well, the deficit, let's talk about that for a moment. The deficit is out of control. I think everyone in this House would agree that strong measures need to be taken to control the deficit of this province. Oh, I agree with that 100%, so why then are you cutting so deep and so far, in fact jeopardizing the revenues that the government will in fact have to depend on? The very revenues that you have to depend on in order to reduce that deficit will be jeopardized by the impact of Bill 26 and the economic statement that was produced by the Finance minister in this House -- absolutely will have a negative consequence on the economy of the province, and I don't think anyone on that side of the House is prepared to talk about that. In fact, it's glossed over. "It's something that we have to do for the sake of fiscal restraint and eliminating the deficit."

The case has been made in this House in repeated question periods that that's not all you're going to do, and that in the meantime, the deficit will continue to rise. In fact, you're going to add some $20 billion worth of additional debt by the time you get to balancing the budget.

So I say to the government, why not deal with the deficit? Why not deal with it in a systematic, planned, well-thought-out, rational way which does not harm the economy, which does not do the severe negative things that this economic statement, along with the tools of the revolution, Bill 26, will ultimately lead to the consequences that I've talked about, negative consequences.

I think it's clear that the government really doesn't understand or appreciate just how negative the impact will be on consumers. I find that startling as well because, ultimately, the government says, "Well, this is why we have to have a tax cut so that consumers will have more discretionary income in their pockets." How are they going to do that if under Bill 26 user fees will be imposed on just about everything that moves in every municipality, including the imposition of library fees to lend out books, for example? This is absurd.

People like Mel Lastman, the mayor of North York, have said, "I can't wait to impose user fees so that we can begin to derive revenues as a result of Bill 26." Of course they have to do that, but does that mean more discretionary income for consumers? I ask members opposite, if the intended purposes of the revolution and of the economic statement were in fact to allow a break to consumers, to the overburdened taxpayers of this province, then I ask you, how is it possible that they'll be paying higher user fees, direct taxes that will be imposed by the municipalities, the very opposite of what was intended?

I can't understand how it is that members opposite would support something like this when I know that members opposite ran in the last election -- I faced a Conservative opponent, a good lady, yes, she failed and I wish her well -- but they obviously did not bargain for this ultimately, this imposition of additional user fees, destroying the ideals of the revolution.

I say again to the members opposite, examine this very carefully because that's in effect what happens. Can anybody tell us -- the Minister of Municipal Affairs is here today -- that in a variety of municipalities, that one municipality to another there will not be huge increases where the differences will vary right across the province? Where is the limit? Where is the limit to the imposition of user fees?

The minister says in answer to some of these questions during daily question period, "Well, we depend on the rational behaviour of municipalities throughout the province, that their good sense and good judgement will negate any additional increases." I say to the minister, who's sitting in the House, at the end of the day when a municipality is facing these huge cutbacks from the province in the form of transfer payments that are not coming, and they have very little choice but either to increase property taxes, which is something that they dare not do, because it's so highly visible, well, what are they going to turn to? Of course they're going to turn to user fees. They're going to turn to them because they have no choice. And at the end of the day, the intended consequences are the same: less money in the pockets of the one taxpayer, as they put it so well. There's only one taxpayer, and yes, there is.

So I ask members, think about that because it's contradictory to the ideals of the revolution: efficiency, streamlining, ensuring that there is a break for the taxpayer. That's not what's happening here. We don't see that.

To talk about user fees in health care: The drug benefit plan, I think about the seniors in my riding and I shudder to think what the impact will be on them. They'll have less money to spend. They'll have less money to spend on other goods and services, and again that hurts the economy, because they're going to have to pay user fees now, not to mention the terribly regressive nature of user fees on seniors, which has again unintended consequences, I would say, giving the benefit of the doubt to members opposite on the government side, that they did not intend for this to happen.

It was snuck through. I would give the backbenchers the benefit of the doubt, that they simply didn't understand what was in Bill 26, how this would in effect work, the downloading on municipalities and all the transfer partners.

"We don't want it. We don't want this burden of having to cut simply from the core; in addition to doing all of this, we're going to allow you to impose user fees. We're going to allow you to do that in a variety of ways and at the end of the day, you'll make up for the losses." This is what you've said to transfer partners. Again, it does nothing for the ultimate consumer.

I was beginning to talk about health care. There are a terrible number of sections of this bill which deal with that, and again, as much has been said about the areas concerning health care, I would like to talk about just the impact of restructuring, again with the view to discussing what it was that the government intended with respect to restructuring.

Restructuring is not really what we're talking about here. It's really downsizing for the sake of chopping and cutting without any real rational plan around how to restructure, to do more for less, and that's not what we're talking about here. We're not doing more for less; we're doing less for less. That's ultimately the equation that you're following. You're not doing more for less, and I would say that that's a dangerous thing, because it cuts people off. It cuts people off from very vital services. It cuts seniors off from the use of the drug benefit plan. It imposes the terrible user fees that I just mentioned. It gives unprecedented powers to ministers, both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and a variety of other ministers, who now have direct, centralized authority to act and to act without right of appeal -- again speaking to the undemocratic nature of this legislation -- to act unilaterally, to act with unprecedented powers.

That is why the opposition took the action that it did, because we didn't think that all members of the government had understood the consequences of this bill.


Mr Miclash: Members of the cabinet didn't understand it.

Mr Cordiano: I would say members of the cabinet perhaps had more insight into this and members of the cabinet perhaps had more time and ample briefings to understand what was in it. But I would sympathize with the backbenchers, who did not have the fullness of time and did not have the benefit of all those briefings that the cabinet ministers had.

I would ask you to go back to your ridings and ask what would be the consequences of the 30 or 40 hospital closures, some of which will be in rural ridings, some will be in small-town Ontario. What are the consequences for people in those areas, when you have a hospital closing in your riding and you have not seen the details around that? We have not been told which of the hospitals will be closing, but there will be consequences. There will be hospitals that in fact do close. I ask backbenchers, what do you say to your constituents when the local hospitals close down and access to emergency services is cut off and no longer what it used to be? Where's the plan for that? What government plan is there to make that more rational and make it more viable for people who are living in those remote areas?

I think there are a number of dangerous precedents in this bill on which we have acted, I say again, with a great deal of honour on the opposition side to point to these very difficult precedents that are being set, this power grab that's unprecedented by a number of ministers.

I would say as well that one of the unintended consequences perhaps, and it certainly would be for the backbenchers of the government, who again, with respect to the ideals of the revolution, talked about liberating the public from the heavy hand of government, from the heavy bureaucratization, from the heavy centralized, authoritarian control that comes from Queen's Park. I know that members opposite fought against that, fought against what they thought was in some ways to them immoral and unjust central authority, the heavy hand that comes down from Queen's Park. I know that the members opposite who fought in the last election wanted to uphold those ideals.

What have we here with Bill 26? We have the exact opposite. We have a more centralized authority with respect to ministers' power grab in the various sections that are affected in Bill 26 in health, municipal affairs and a variety of other -- the Mining Act is affected, the Game and Fish Act, all of the various ministers.

Furthermore, the Chair of Management Board -- this is another area that I want to raise -- is exempting the government from the Pension Benefits Act. It's allowing the government to wind up the public service pension plan and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union pension plan. It ensures that the government will not be sued as a result of the changes to the pension benefits, in whole or in part, any of the changes that they make. They've exempted themselves from the provisions of the Pension Benefits Act.

What it means is that for perhaps 13,000 public employees, there will be no pension benefits. I find that extraordinary, that the government would go out of its way to exempt itself from an act that pertains to every other citizen and every other sector of the province of Ontario. It is exempting itself from provisions of that act. I find that extraordinary; I find that completely undemocratic, unprecedented. It is extraordinary, to say the least. I think it's furthermore very dangerous.

So that is why we feel profound in our efforts to make the public aware of what's being undertaken here, to make them fully aware through our efforts to have public hearings, to ensure that every line of this legislation is scrutinized, to ensure that the public has input, to ensure that members of this Legislature have their rights to examine this legislation as Parliament should work and function properly. It is the only way.

It's also wise for the government to ensure that its legislation is scrutinized by its own members in the back bench. I'm certain, and this point has been made over and over again, that the government itself will have amendments to make to this legislation, so it would want due process to take place, due process giving a legitimate amount of time to scrutinize this legislation. It is appropriate and it is absolutely necessary that we go through this legislation in an effort to scrutinize it, and even if we disagree -- and we fundamentally disagree -- on principle with respect to many of the provisions of this act, not to mention the way it's brought about, that we would have ultimately the opportunity to examine it in its detail, to examine it, to scrutinize it very carefully.

Finally, I just want to say to members opposite, you know, the last government, the NDP administration under Bob Rae, was criticized for being heavy-handed, for having a top-down approach.

Mr Len Wood: But nothing compared to the Tories.

Mr Cordiano: You took the words right out of my mouth. It's nothing compared to Bill 26. I am just shocked that those members opposite, who again I say ran on the ideals of the Revolution, the ideals of liberating citizens of the province from the shackles of government, from the heavy hand and the heavy weight that everyone bore with respect to government initiatives, the heaviness that came down from Queen's Park, the heavy hand --

Again and again we heard the criticisms of the government, repeatedly. Over and over again it was said of the last government that they were the most centralizing, authoritarian government that we had seen, that they undertook social re-engineering of the worst kind. Well, I say it's nothing -- nothing -- compared to Bill 26. I am completely shocked and dismayed that members opposite would follow this program blindly, members opposite in the back bench would follow this blindly without giving it due process.

Mrs Marland: We are in the front benches.

Mr Cordiano: I say to my colleague the member for Mississauga South, you know, I feel for her because I know that she would like to play a bigger role. Well, I would say to my colleague the member for Mississauga South, you have an opportunity with this to speak up for your constituents. This is an opportunity for the member for Mississauga South, the member for Etobicoke West -- they're all good members of this House. They were in opposition in those days. They know the heavy-handedness of governments. They know the centralizing power grabs that took place. They know how dangerous it is for governments to grab unprecedented powers in the hands of few without appeal mechanisms, without appeal to any other authority.

It is unusual at best, to say the least, that the members opposite would not want to question this and would not lobby the cabinet to have the public hearings which we had to fight so gallantly and so valiantly to have and, I would add to the member for Mississauga South, with a great deal of honour, because it was a noble cause. Again I would commend my colleague the member for Scarborough North, whose shoulders the heavy burden was weighed on.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The time has expired.

Mr Cordiano: I would like to thank members of the House for this opportunity.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I want to just comment quickly on the speech from the member for Lawrence because I think he hit the chord about what Bill 26 is all about, and that is the doing away with the due democratic process that citizens of this province and members of the opposition have entitlement to under a democracy.

I just wanted to commend the member for pointing out yet again to this government and to the people of Ontario watching that really what Bill 26 is all about is a government moving in a systematic fashion of saying: "We don't believe you, the voters, know any better than us. We believe as a government, a Tory government of Mike Harris, we have all the answers, and we will accumulate all the powers to the inner sanctum of cabinet so that in the end the cabinet, knowing best, can make all the decisions for the people of this province."

I want to commend the member for Lawrence for yet again pointing that out, because I think that's a point that we need to remind Ontarians of over and over and over again, that this is truly a revolutionist government and, like every revolution at the end, when the revolutionists take power, the first things that they do is they accumulate power around them and they cut out the people and the process of participating in whatever democracy was there before, and that is exactly what this government is up to.


I would also like to commend the member for pointing out in regards to the member for Mississauga South, who stood here a little while ago and was chastising the opposition at great lengths about the tactics the opposition had to take a week ago tomorrow in regards to the good member Alvin Curling. I would only remind members, because I know the member for Lawrence was here as well in the last Parliament, that the member for Mississauga South is not one to stand on a soapbox and preach on the question of ethics in the House. I remember well, as the member for Lawrence does, how she used time and time again the tactics available to her to be able to bring forward her points that she felt strongly on. She certainly should look in the mirror before she casts a stone at this side of the House.

Mr Tilson: I'd like to make a few comments with respect to the member for Lawrence. We were both in different parties, but we were in opposition together. I sat with him in committees and certainly I have the greatest respect for him. Certainly as a member of the opposition he has a duty and an obligation to criticize the government with constructive criticism of any policies or bills that we put forward, and I don't challenge the member for that at all.

But what I would challenge him for is to suggest that the tactics that were used by the opposition, by both the Liberal and the New Democratic opposition, are acceptable tactics in this House. They are not acceptable tactics. The member is saying that essentially the opposition, this particular opposition, will go to any length -- any length. In fact, we saw that the member for Scarborough North, as far as I'm concerned, committed anarchy.

Mr Miclash: We were locked up when you brought it in here. We were locked up.

The Acting Speaker: Order, member for Kenora.

Mr Tilson: You know, we tell the members of our public to respect the police officer, we tell our students to respect the teacher, we tell our men not to violate women, and at this place, the violence that has erupted in this place, the attitude, the lack of respect for this House and for this Speaker, has reached an unbelievable low.

So as far as the comments of the member for Lawrence, although you're quite welcome to challenge and, as I say, you have an obligation to question the policies of this government -- that's your duty -- you don't have an obligation to use the tactics that you used in encouraging what has gone on in this last week. I hope that however this all turns out, this style will stop.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm not going to have a chance to speak on this bill, unfortunately, because it is coming to a conclusion in just a very few minutes, so I did want to have an opportunity through the two-minute response to deal with this matter and what has been said.

I want to indicate that with Bill 26, those who have indicated that it would have been much preferable to have this in probably about eight or 10 bills -- it could have been handled, I think, much better by the House in that particular pattern where the government might have been able to indicate what it preferred to see move more quickly than the other aspects.

I would have liked to see the bill introduced earlier in the session as an alternative. There may have been reasons why the government was unable to do that, but once again what happens very often -- I've seen it in many years and many different governments -- is when the government introduces legislation of a controversial and massive nature fairly near the end of the session, we tend to get into these circumstances, and I think this can be overcome. The bill is going to come to a conclusion this evening and the government will be pleased with that.

This is a very massive bill, as we've mentioned. It amends some 44 acts. It creates, I think, three new acts. It abolishes two other acts. It's a bill which gives, and I won't go into detail, very sweeping powers to the executive branch of government at the expense of the legislative branch, and indeed not only to the executive branch but to those who are not elected members. I've mentioned on many occasions, I think, that the rights of all of us as elected members are diminished when that happens.

I think as a result of the hearings that we're going to have in January this year not only will democracy have been served, but you're going to have better legislation come out of this. You already see how difficult it is for ministers with a bill like this to know the intricate details of what's in those bills. This kind of input will allow for the kind of amendments that will improve this legislation considerably. So the final bill that passes will be far superior to that which was introduced, I'm sure.

Mr Gerretsen: I would just like to take a moment to congratulate the member for Lawrence for an excellent speech and to say that there's another section that I believe, in dealing with the sections that are contained in these acts, we should all take a very close look at, one that hasn't been looked at at all. I'm glad the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is here, undoubtedly studying up on the bill so that he can answer all the questions tomorrow.

But there's a section here which is the second part in the notes that says: "Municipalities will be required to provide the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing with information which, in the opinion of the minister," which leaves it pretty loose, "relates to the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations of the municipality. The municipality must publish all or part of that information as designated by the minister and must review or audit all or part of it or make it available to be reviewed...as designated by the minister."

What I find interesting about that is that most municipalities are already doing this. They publish their financial reports; they're usually contained in the local paper. I don't know what this is saying when you say that the report has to "relate to the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations of the municipality" as interpreted by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. That, to me, is a very loose and wide power that we're giving the minister. For a government that allegedly is interested in greater economies and saving of money, it seems to me that this is spending money again on things that are already being done in the annual financial statements.

I would once again request that the minister also take this section back with him to the office tonight, and maybe he can get together with some of his advisers there and determine tomorrow that this is another section that really isn't required. It's a waste of money, and municipalities are already doing this. Have greater faith in the municipalities of this province, Minister.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Lawrence, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Cordiano: I just want to comment on what was said with respect to the solemnness and the sacredness of this assembly. I think I speak for all members of this House when I say there isn't a member who sits in this House who does not have the utmost respect for the sanctity of this assembly and for the sacredness of this assembly. I would say, apart from that, in addition to that, it is a respect for democracy that must be maintained at all times. One must remember that democracy is a fragile thing. It may appear on the surface to be democratic simply because we have the same visible outward symbols of democracy, but I tell you we must do our utmost to preserve that democracy. What was conducted here last week was an effort to preserve democracy. It was done with honour and, I repeat, it was done valiantly and with the respect that I think must be maintained in this House.

It's unfortunate that we were pressed to the wall by the government. I hope the government does not attempt to repeat the same effort in the future. I hope the government has also learned from this that it is not worth going to the wall on, for anyone in this House.

But I tell you -- it is something that needs to be repeated again and again -- that the fact is that democracy is a fragile thing anywhere in the world, and it must be maintained. And above all, in this assembly democracy must be fought for, if needed and necessary. I think every member of the opposition would agree with me with respect to the need to --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Your time is expired. Any further debate?

Interjections: No.

The Acting Speaker: The minister has moved 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.

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

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

The division bells rang from 2150 to 2155.

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


Arnott, Ted

Hardeman, Ernie

Ross, Lillian

Baird, John R.

Harnick, Charles

Runciman, Bob

Bassett, Isabel

Harris, Michael D.

Sampson, Rob

Beaubien, Marcel

Hodgson, Chris

Saunderson, William

Boushy, Dave

Johns, Helen

Shea, Derwyn

Brown, Jim

Johnson, Bert

Sheehan, Frank

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, David

Skarica, Toni

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, Ron

Smith, Bruce

Clement, Tony

Klees, Frank

Stewart, R. Gary

Danford, Harry

Leach, Al

Tascona, Joseph N.

Doyle, Ed

Marland, Margaret

Tilson, David

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Turnbull, David

Flaherty, Jim

Maves, Bart

Vankoughnet, Bill

Ford, Douglas B.

Munro, Julia

Villeneuve, Noble

Fox, Gary

Mushinski, Marilyn

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Froese, Tom

Newman, Dan

Witmer, Elizabeth

Galt, Doug

O'Toole, John

Wood, Bob

Gilchrist, Steve

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Young, Terence H.

Grimmett, Bill

Parker, John L.


Guzzo, Garry J.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas


The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise.


Bartolucci, Rick

Cooke, David S.

McLeod, Lyn

Bisson, Gilles

Cordiano, Joseph

Miclash, Frank

Boyd, Marion

Duncan, Dwight

Morin, Gilles E.

Bradley, James J.

Gerretsen, John

Patten, Richard

Brown, Michael A.

Gravelle, Michael

Pupatello, Sandra

Caplan, Elinor

Hoy, Pat

Ramsay, David

Christopherson, David

Kormos, Peter

Ruprecht, Tony

Cleary, John C.

Marchese, Rosario

Silipo, Tony

Colle, Mike

Martel, Shelley

Wood, Len

Conway, Sean G.

McGuinty, Dalton


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 58, the nays 29.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): General government.

The Speaker: General government committee.


Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I have unanimous consent to move the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order of the House, when the House adjourns on Thursday, December 14, 1995, it shall stand adjourned until Monday, January 29, 1996, at which time the House shall meet from 10 am to 12 noon and from 1:30 pm to 6 pm and that when it adjourns on that day it shall stand adjourned until Monday, March 18, 1996.

That on Monday, January 29, 1996, the House will consider reports by committees at 10 am as the first order of business and will receive the report from the standing committee on general government on 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. The House will then immediately proceed to orders of the day for third reading of the bill until 12 noon. At 1:30 pm, during routine proceedings, the House will consider oral questions only and on completion, will immediately proceed to orders of the day to continue debate on third reading of Bill 26.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): You have heard the motion. Can we proceed with the motion? Agreed.

Carried? Carried.


Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I move that pursuant to standing order 46 and notwithstanding any other standing order in relation to 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, upon passage of the motion for second reading, the bill shall be referred to the standing committee on general government;

That the standing committee on general government shall be authorized to meet during the winter adjournment to consider the bill as follows:

From Monday to Friday during the weeks of December 18, 1995, January 8 and January 15, 1996, from 9 am to 9 pm to receive public submissions on the bill and from Monday to Friday during the week of January 22, 1996, from 10 am to 6 pm to complete clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. All proposed amendments shall be filed with the clerk of the committee by 4 pm on January 25, 1996. At 1 pm on January 26, 1996, those amendments which have not yet been moved shall be deemed to have been moved and the Chair of the committee shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. Any divisions required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20-minute waiting period allowed pursuant to standing order 128(a); that the committee be authorized to meet beyond 6 pm on Friday, January 26, 1996, if necessary until consideration of clause-by-clause has been completed.

That the committee shall report the bill to the House on Monday, January 29, 1996, during reports by committees. In the event that the committee fails to report the bill on the date provided, the bill shall be deemed reported to and received by the House;

That upon receiving the report of the standing committee on general government, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, which question shall be decided without debate or amendment;

That Monday, January 29, 1996, be allotted to the third reading stage of the bill. At 5:45 pm on such day the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and shall put every question necessary to dispose of this stage of the bill without further debate or amendment.

That in the case of any divisions relating to any proceedings on Bill 26, the division bell shall be limited to five minutes and no deferral of any division pursuant to standing order 28(g) shall be permitted.

I believe we have unanimous consent for a five-minute bell following comments.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Mr Runciman has moved this resolution. Is it agreed that there be some debate on it?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Interestingly enough, the debate is going to be uncommonly brief on this particular motion. Ordinarily, when a closure motion or a time allocation motion is passed in the assembly, or at least proposed to the assembly, it is the subject of a vigorous debate and often cantankerous debate. This evening, there will be a slight change in that there will be a few remarks offered but not much else. We will be voting on it shortly, as the acting government House leader has indicated.

I simply want to reiterate that which I have said on a number of occasions about this bill and about an omnibus bill and the need to apply closure to any bill of this kind, or time allocation. That is that there would be a preference -- I think all governments in the future, this and any future government we have should look very carefully at the option of selecting omnibus bills as a method of proceeding through the House -- not always excluding that possibility, but ensuring that the omnibus bills in fact are bills which contain matters which are related and can be almost agreed to with the opposition as being the contents of an omnibus bill.

Our preference would have been -- and the Premier probably would be able to tell me that there was a reason why it could not have happened and there may have been very valid reasons that controversial legislation of this kind or important legislation be introduced earlier in the session. I have sat on the government side, so I know this isn't always possible to do, but as much as possible I think it is good for the House to have that legislation before us at a time in which we can debate it thoroughly.

I know that the government members and the opposition members who will sit on the committee which has been established by this motion will benefit from the representations which are made by the various people who come before the committee and I think there has been provision in this for some considerable time for clause-by-clause analysis and consideration of the bill. This is very important, because again this is an opportunity for government and opposition to offer changes, amendments, suggestions on how the bill can be improved.

I happen to believe that at the end of this piece, the legislation which finally emerges, while I doubt it's going to get the full support of the opposition -- in fact, you would be surprised, perhaps, the debate that has taken place that it would be the case -- but I really think the legislation will be superior to what it might have been without this kind of consideration. I think that will be helpful for the process.

It means the government will not have to come back six months from now to try to fix the bill. We may not go through the process we went through with the labour bill, where I think we had over 60 amendments that came in to the bill, some of them certainly housekeeping amendments. But this is a superior process that has been agreed upon. I hope the legislation that does emerge is one which will have a better consensus out there.

Because of the nature of the legislation -- that is, because it remains an omnibus bill or a massive bill -- I think that you will still see some considerable opposition. But part of it will be abated by the changes that you make to this legislation. I think there will be a better understanding.

I've witnessed in the House ministers as well as members of the opposition who would need clarification on the contents of this bill. That often happens in an omnibus bill. If it's your own bill, as a minister, it's much easier; you tend to really go through it and you own the bill and you want to proceed with the bill. When it's an omnibus bill and they throw everybody's laundry into the one laundry pot, what happens is it becomes difficult to manage the bill. I think in the future a lesson from this for all of us who sit in this assembly is to try to get that kind of breakdown of a bill.

We appreciate some of the discussions which have taken place between the House leaders and others who have been acting on behalf of the House leaders the last couple of days. I think they've been productive. They've been very helpful. I want to commend those who participated in this process, which I think will benefit this House immensely.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I think that any of the newly elected members of the Legislature will look at tonight's debate and they will see that on this time allocation motion and they will understand that the opposition parties are truly willing and able to cooperate when the government is reasonable. And that's what this process is all about.

In fact, the last week has reminded me very much of times in the past when I was in opposition and worked very closely with the Tory House leader, who is now the Premier, and Mr Lindsay, who is now one of the whiz kids in the Premier's office, and how we used to work together to make sure the Liberal government of the day respected democracy, and that's what this process is all about.

On principle, we will be voting against the motion, but I do want to indicate that I agree with the House leader for the official opposition that the end result of this time allocation motion provides for a much better, a much more democratic process than the one that was being proposed by the government just a very few days ago.

This is a very important piece of legislation that I think has some very serious and obviously our caucus believes very negative consequences for the people of the province. But before the government that's democratically elected has the opportunity to pass it into law, the people of this province have a right to participate in the process. They can't participate in the process when they don't even understand the legislation, and they can't be expected to understand complicated legislation when a timetable is put forward that a bill of this nature will be introduced and passed within seven or eight days.

I know there are some Conservative members of this Legislature who are offended and are upset at the process that was used by the opposition parties in the last week. Without trying to be provocative at this particular point in the debate, I want to say I'm not the least bit upset, disappointed, in what my caucus and the Liberal caucus engaged in in the last week. I think it was the right thing to do. In the end, it defended and implemented the democratic process which we're all elected to defend.

So the time allocation motion didn't come about simply by negotiation; it came about as a result of the opposition parties saying: "Enough is enough. The government is moving too quickly without giving it a lot of thought." I can tell you and I say this to the Minister of Municipal Affairs today, if there was ever an example that the government should be standing up in the House today and saying, "We thank you for delaying this legislation," the example was given today in question period where there was no understanding and no ability to explain an incredibly important aspect of this legislation.

We are now going to have the opportunity to have public hearings, and we're going to have public hearings not just in Metropolitan Toronto but in other communities across the province. We're going to have a week in clause-by-clause, and I can only imagine that that week will be incredibly well used, because there will be and I think we should all put into a pool how many amendments there will be, and guess. I'm guessing at least five dozen amendments. There will at least be 50 or 60 amendments to this legislation, and they might just be the amendments to clean up the bad draftsmanship, let alone the policy changes that will have to be put in place.

I'm pleased with the result. I hope that the government has learned a lesson, that when there are major changes that come into this place through legislation, the opposition parties, though we are small in numbers, will not stand for the democratic rights of the people of this province to be trampled on. We have an obligation to protect those rights. We will fight for them, and we could've done it a lot more sanely by simply negotiating fair and equitable public hearings across the province. That could've been done with none of the tactics that the opposition was forced to engage in.

I appreciate this motion being put forward. I look forward to being part of this very important committee process.

The Speaker: Any further debate?

Hon Mr Runciman: Some very brief comments. We're pleased on the government side of the House that this legislation is going to receive public hearings. There's no question that this legislation is important. It's also critical in terms of turning around the Ontario economy and restoring prosperity to this province.

Although we are pleased with the hearings process, I want to put on the record that what we will achieve here is in actual effect fewer hours in terms of committee hearings than the government originally offered. I think that all Ontarians viewing this this evening should understand that our original offer to the opposition parties included more hearing hours in terms of public involvement and participation than what we've agreed to.

In any event, I'll indicate quite clearly that we're looking forward to hearing from groups and individuals who wish to participate in this process and have a contribution to make.

The Speaker: All those in favour of the resolution will please say "aye."

All those opposed will be please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.


Hon Bob Runciman: Mr Speaker, I want to indicate that we have an agreement among the House leaders to defer votes on Bills 8 and 15 until tomorrow. They will take place before orders of the day.

The Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.


Mrs Witmer moved third reading of the following bill:

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

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): This evening, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to move third reading of Bill 15, an act which is going to reform the Workers' Compensation Board.

Bill 15 represents the initial thrust in our two-stage plan for a complete and total overhaul of the Workers' Compensation Board. It will strengthen the board in the short term and it will position the board well to implement some of the longer term, systemic changes that are being considered by my colleague the Minister without Portfolio with responsibility for workers' compensation reform. That's why Bill 15 addresses the very critical and important issues of governance, management and accountability of the board. It also contains very aggressive anti-fraud and other revenue loss measures.

No one can dispute the need for WCB reform. Whether it is in the short term, the medium term or the long term, the problems at the WCB have increased in recent years. In fact, today, the unfunded liability threatens the day-to-day operation of the system, as well as the board's ability to pay out future benefits that are owed to injured workers. Thus, it is time to act now decisively.

The most serious issue facing the WCB is that, as I mentioned before, the unfunded liability. Unfortunately, it has grown from a little more than $2 billion in 1985 to a staggering $11.4 billion today. This, as we know, is certainly out of line with any other workers' compensation system in Canada.

If we fail to take decisive action to eliminate the unfunded liability, the toll will be paid not only by the employers in this province who will see still higher assessment rates when we're already the second-highest in Canada, but it will also be felt by our injured workers and our workers who will have fewer job opportunities because our high assessment rates are one of the barriers that is a disincentive for employers to invest in Ontario and, as a result, create new jobs for our people.

It's time we take decisive action to remove one more barrier that will help us create the economic environment that is so necessary in this province if we're going to encourage individuals to bring their investment dollars into the province, whether it be from other provinces, from the United States, from Europe or the Far East. Certainly we are all looking to see more job creation for people of all ages.


However, it is not just the unfunded liability that is the reason for decisive action. The WCB's bipartite governance structure has also hampered effective decision-making. Unfortunately, they have been unable to make decisions regarding the financial improvement package. They have been unable to make decisions about issues such as stress and other issues of entitlement. As a result, we recognize that once again, as in the case of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, bipartism has unfortunately failed to address the needs of the stakeholders in this province.

At the same time, we recognize that the service the WCB currently provides to employers and workers is inadequate. We know it takes too long to process claims. That is a concern, particularly when MPPs daily are receiving phone calls from our constituents, particularly injured workers, who are finding it very difficult to obtain their benefits in a timely manner and there's a tremendous amount of frustration. We need to do whatever we can to improve claims management and provide much better service than we have to the employers and the workers at present. We know there is a dedicated staff at the WCB. Obviously, we need to harness the energy and commitment that are there and make sure we get on with the job.

At the same time, the entitlement to benefits has continued to expand and there has been almost a total disregard for the ability of the system to pay. That, unfortunately, has had very negative consequences on the system as well.

These are the problems we need to deal with if we are going to adequately protect the right of our injured workers to the entitlement they deserve. We could no longer ignore these problems, so we have introduced Bill 15 in order that we can now act and start the complete overhaul of the workers' compensation system.

Bill 15, as I have indicated, lays the foundation for the overhaul of the WCB. We've had an opportunity now to send the bill out to committee and we have heard from the different stakeholders. Actually, their concerns were not so much focused on Bill 15. There seemed to be general agreement that this indeed was creating the foundation necessary for future reform. Much of the concern was directed at the next stage of the process, the process involving the reforms to be introduced at some later date by the Minister without Portfolio responsible for WCB reform.

What does Bill 15 do? It installs a multipartite board of directors at the WCB. This board will represent not only the workers and the employers but all the other people in this province who have a stake in the system. This board will be given the direction to represent the stakeholders in a manner which does not put them in a position where they are beholden to any special-interest group. They are there to ensure that the system will address the needs of all those the WCB represents.

This board of directors, which will be multipartite, will need to be carefully selected, and they will need to work together in a common cause. We will also be installing a new president, who will lead the WCB into the new era. We have indicated that there is a need for very strong leadership, someone who has the experience to turn the WCB around, and I hope I will shortly be in a position to name the successful candidate for that position.

Our bill will impose some financial planning and accounting measures on the WCB, very necessary measures if we are to have sustainability for the future. It will require five-year strategic plans. It will require that a statement of priorities and investment policies be brought forward, as well as introducing regular value-for-money audits which are going to be done by outside professionals. Unfortunately, we haven't had an audit since 1993. The very key service areas of adjudication, benefit payments and rehabilitation will come under very careful scrutiny by outside auditors, whose recommendations for improvement will be binding on the board.

The amended act also requires that financial accountability be a key consideration in all the decisions of the board of directors.

Bill 15 also very aggressively attacks the issue of fraud and abuse of the system and revenue loss at the WCB. We know that fraud probably costs us in the neighbourhood of $150 million a year. We know that those involved include employers, suppliers to the system, and employees. We are increasing enforcement and ensuring that the penalties will be toughened so we can deal very aggressively with the entire issue of fraud. I know there are individuals who are addressing that issue already.

Finally, Bill 15 emphasizes the very natural link between good health and safety practices and lower compensation costs. The board will now be given the responsibility for promoting workplace health and safety. Preventing injuries and fatalities is now enforced through the purpose clause of the act. This has been added; that was not there before.

It's obvious from the report presented to the House today that unfortunately the health and safety agency has not been able to demonstrate that there was a process in place that dealt effectively with a measurement of how we were doing in terms of reducing workplace injuries. That responsibility, we feel, is very important, that the WCB focus, number one -- if we're ever going to reduce the costs at the board, we need to first ensure that we have in this province a safety culture. We need to ensure that every person, whether it be a young person just entering the job market, someone who has been there for some time or someone coming back after years out of the workplace, receives the appropriate information and education regarding workplace health and safety.

Only by putting it into the purpose clause and addressing it up front will we ever be able to reduce the amount of benefits we pay today. I can tell you, we are focusing on workplace health and safety and prevention of injuries.


In the six weeks since Bill 15 was introduced, we have had discussion and we have had interest expressed in the bill. We recently concluded public hearings where the stakeholders had the opportunity to express their views on the legislation. The government has had an opportunity to listen closely to the information that was presented, and as I indicated to you before, there seemed to be much more interest and concern in the stages after Bill 15, as opposed to Bill 15.

We are satisfied that the bill, in its original form, can accomplish all it was set out to do; that is, to lay the foundation for the future reform of the WCB, to bring in measures of financial accountability, and we will be, as a result of the passage of this bill, very well positioned for the further changes that will be introduced in 1996 that will enable us to completely overhaul the system.

Reform of the WCB is certainly a priority for our government. It is urgent, because we need to ensure that we bring down the barriers that could keep us from creating the jobs that we are optimistic can be created. I would certainly urge all of the members to support Bill 15 on third and final reading so we can set about the task of addressing the problems with the WCB, all of which I have not enumerated this evening, because we have been discussing the problems now for the five years I've been here.

Our goal is to ensure that at the end of the day, we have a system that can address the needs of the injured workers. That is certainly our objective, and also we need to address the fact that the employers feel comfortable with the system we have put in place. All the stakeholders need to feel very satisfied that the legislation we're introducing sets the stage for the complete overhaul.

Mr Duncan: I rise today to follow my colleague the member for Waterloo North, the Minister of Labour, to speak about Bill 15. I want to take it one section at a time and I want to try and address where we see progress and where we think the government has failed.

Tonight and in her speech on second reading, the minister made much of the new purpose section of the Workers' Compensation Act proposed in this bill. The minister spoke about financial responsibility, and tonight she noted the new subsections in the purpose clauses which deal with health and safety, section 0.1, paragraphs 5 and 6. They read, "To prevent or reduce the occurrence of injuries and occupational disease at work," and, "To promote health and safety in workplaces."

The changes around financial responsibility merely rework language that was already in the act. I would like to remind the government that clause 0.1(e) in the current statute states, "to require the board of directors of the Workers' Compensation Board to act in a financially responsible and accountable manner in governing the board."

More important, in our view, in the purpose section are the changes around health and safety. What we've heard from the minister to date is a lot of talk about the government's commitment to health and safety, but what we've seen is nothing. We've seen the health and safety agency disbanded. We've seen leaked cabinet documents that call for the virtual gutting of the enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We have had talk about her review team, which is meeting in secret to discuss the future of health and safety in this province. We will likely have that report not tabled here in the House but announced when the Legislature's not sitting. We hope the government will allow full public hearings on any changes they recommend. We think the government intends to go back to the old way the board did health and safety, which didn't work. Minister, bold words will not make our workplaces safer or healthier.

The bill changes the governance model at the board. It takes the board from its current bipartite status to a multi-stakeholder model. The amendments contained in sections 5 and 6 of the bill and subsections 56(1) and (2) of the act create the new board, which will consist of the chair, the president and a minimum of three and a maximum of seven members who are representative of workers, employers and such others as the Lieutenant Governor in Council considers appropriate.

Our party, as it did in the election and in the run-up to the election, supports the multi-stakeholder model. Indeed, we brought forward amendments at committee, which were quickly struck down, that would've given more definition to this multi-stakeholder model and who ought to sit on that board.

We warn the government in good faith that you have created a statute that ultimately will not serve employers well, or, for that matter, employees. One assumes that future governments will make appointments to the board that would meet with this government's approval, and we don't know that. We think the act leaves the whole notion of membership of that board dangerously open. We think those changes are bad public policy.

The minister noted this evening that she will soon be announcing the appointment of a new president, and we look forward to that appointment. We are reminded of a time some 10 years ago when a Liberal government appointed the former Conservative Labour minister, Dr Robert Elgie; I remember it was a great day in this House. We found somebody of competence and ability who led the board for some six years, I believe, led it with distinction. I hope the government finds somebody of that calibre and resists the temptation to appoint one of its friends.

One issue that came up both from the workers' perspective and management's perspective in the bill was the question of "material change." In the spirit of non-partisan discussion, I wrote the minister and spoke to the minister, I spoke to her parliamentary assistant, I appealed to the committee, to take the sections in the act which deal with the issue of material change out of the act and refer them to the minister who is currently looking at further WCB reform.

As I should've expected, no response to the letter, brushed off by the minister, and the committee members dutifully put up their hands and said, "Whatever the government says, we'll do dutifully." We've heard from employer groups again today, just today, "We're very concerned about it." It's unfortunate that the government insists on conducting public policy in this manner, and it's unfortunate that the backbenchers would subvert their own interest as independent members and as free-thinking people and not act in the public interest instead of acting only in the government's interests.


The government talked about financial responsibility. The government has talked about the unfunded liability, which we view as a very major problem as well and believe must be addressed. But in the area of financial responsibility, again more window dressing. The government has removed the financial responsibility of the board from the purpose clause and added subsection 58(2) to the duty clause of the board of directors, which, as I indicated, is merely window dressing. They're trying to give the impression that they're doing more than they really are in the area of financial responsibility. They talk a lot.

The best way to ensure that the board acts in a financially prudent way is to appoint competent members who have a track record in financial management, in a union or management setting. We again urge the government to resist the temptation to merely appoint its friends, and we urge the government, we urge the minister, the Lieutenant Governor in Council, to appoint representative and competent members.

New wording with respect to section 65.2 in the memorandum of understanding sections takes power from the board and places it solely in the hands of the minister. The amendments also provide that the memorandum of understanding must address certain issues as defined in the act.

I said to the committee and I indicate tonight to the minister that we don't think what you're doing is good public policy, but we welcome it. If you want to take responsibility for everything that happens in this schedule 2 agency and want to be held accountable -- the parliamentary secretary indicated, to paraphrase, that you want to be held accountable from time to time -- we welcome that, but we advise the government that we think you'll regret the decision.

You spoke during the campaign of the need to depoliticize the board, but what you've done through these sections is politicized it more. You've politicized it by placing the ultimate authority in the hands of the minister. Depending on which minister actually is in charge of the board, we intend to use that section to force that minister to deal with problems as they arise.

We proposed amendments to section 13 of the bill to read, "Every five years the board and the minister, acting on behalf of the Legislature, shall enter into a memorandum of understanding containing only such terms as may be directed by the minister and/or the Legislature." It is the view of our party that the Legislature, not the minister, ought to be the final authority directing the WCB.

We tried to amend section 16 of Bill 15 to provide that the Legislature will determine where value-for-money audits will be determined. As a matter of public policy, what if there's something the minister doesn't want looked at or to have a value- for-money audit conducted upon? Naturally, the areas that are going to be the most difficult are probably specifically the ones the minister won't want that to happen to. We proposed, and of course the government members again dutifully raised their hands and struck down our amendments.

Most peculiar in this bill were the amendments to section 109 of the act and the new section 109.1, the sections dealing with employer registration which clean up and add to sections that are presently in the act. This government, which has talked a good game about reducing the paperwork to businesses, is adding in these sections, in our view, a considerable paper burden to businesses.

While the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations is "clearing the path" for business -- I think that's the catchword this week -- the Minister of Labour is throwing scrub brush on the path that will further tangle businesses in the massive complexity of the WCB. We asked the government to drop these sections of the bill, and again they did not.

It's our view that sections 17 to 26, those sections of the bill which are designed to reduce fraud and waste, will likely wind up costing more to enforce than they will save. These sections constitute a significant paper burden for the board, employers and workers. For a government that said, "Immediate action will be taken to eliminate all red tape and reduce the regulatory burden" -- I refer you to page 3 of the Common Sense Revolution, the first edition, I believe. Given everything that's happened here, we ought not to be surprised at yet another broken promise.

Section 27 of the bill creates a new part V of the act: offences and penalties. Now offences are established for providing false or misleading statements to the board and for failing to advise the board of material changes. I guess we learned what the government's definition of "material change" is when they introduced Bill 26, but the minister and the government refused to deal with the concerns of both workers and employers around the definition of "material change," and we submit that the government will sorely regret that decision.

Fraud is no doubt of great concern to everybody. It's of concern to injured workers, it's of concern to employers, it's of great concern to the government and the opposition. The minister has introduced huge new fine levels; they're going to fine you everything you could imagine, I think $100,000.

But interestingly enough, when we questioned the board, there are only three to four prosecutions a year. With the current maximum fines in the neighbourhood of I think $25,000 -- a lot less than the tough guys in that government are going to implement -- the largest fines levied are usually $1,000 to $2,000.

What a crock of hot air, designed to pacify your friends who think that injured workers are ripping off the system, who would penalize somebody who's injured on the job. What an absolute crock, and it's something all of you ought to be ashamed of. When the facts and the truth are brought into the debate, it shows you for what you are. Sad, sad, sad.

The minister has not spoken about what resources will be applied to enforcement. If you change the law and maintain the same structures for enforcement, I submit that you really haven't done much of anything.

Finally, sections 28 to 33 of the bill give effect to the minister's August announcement. I would remind you that your steps with respect to the health and safety agency are akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Why didn't you listen to Dr Tuohy's recommendations? Why didn't you listen to the auditor of the agency, whose partner, I believe, is some fellow named Bill Farlinger? Why didn't you listen to them? Why didn't you attempt to address the recommendations? I submit this government really is not committed to health and safety in the workplace, and you have yet to offer an alternative.

We will continue to press because we're very interested in health and safety in the workplace, because we recognize that the best way to reduce WCB costs and the unfunded liability is to reduce the incidence of sickness and injury and accidents in the workplace.


Let's just take my last couple of minutes to address what's not in the bill. In the minister's August 28 letter she said they were going to talk about governance, benefit levels, waiting period, limiting entitlement, financial accountability, value-for-money audits and fraud. Of the seven points I've enunciated, only four have been addressed, and those four, in our view, have not been well addressed. You've deliberately ignored benefit levels, waiting period and limiting entitlement. You should address everything at once in a comprehensive bill.

And, you know, you talk a game about consultation, but delegation after delegation after delegation that appeared before our committee said they have not been consulted about the changes that are yet to come -- not just worker groups but management groups. No one has been consulted, and we're given to believe that these changes will come about some time in the spring.

We believe that the minister ought to be holding public consultations now, and the government ought to come clean about its agenda, and the government ought to give assurances to injured workers that the problem of the unfunded liability will not be addressed on their backs.

Again I indicate that group after group after group said to us in the committee that they have not been consulted. I guess, though, given everything that's happened here, we ought not to be surprised. The pattern emerged with Bill 7. It continued on with Bill 15. There wasn't adequate time for hearings, delegations were limited. We agreed to a compromise that, frankly, we wouldn't have agreed to if the numbers weren't the way they are in this House.

I said in my reply to the speech from the throne we all agree that the government, and indeed the WCB, must get its financial house in order. The question isn't what direction we go in. Rather, it is how we get there and what period of time we take.

Let's view what the government has done to date: They've cut welfare rates; they've cut health care expenditures; not delivered on a nutrition program; they've cut subsidized child care; they've cut second-stage shelter and counselling for battered women and their families; they've cut a variety of programs and services aimed to help the elderly, the disabled and native persons; and they are attempting to change the governance structure of this province without meaningful public consultation. And we fully expect your next target will be injured workers. Just as you got seniors and folks who rely on the Ontario drug benefit plan this month, in March -- in March, we submit -- it will be injured workers.

That government has polarized Ontario society. You pit rich against poor, north against south, women against men, labour against management. And oh, yes, there will be winners. There will be real winners in that Ontario. But I say to you, what do any of us profit if we do it on the backs of the poor and vulnerable in our society?

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate this limited opportunity to comment on the last stage of Bill 15. I want to first of all comment and correct once again the minister, who continues to disappoint me and my colleagues with regard to the things that she says that -- how do I put this? -- are not exactly reflective of reality.

She says that there was general agreement on Bill 15 in the committee hearings. No, there wasn't. There was general agreement between the employer groups, and general agreement between the labour groups and those representing injured workers, but by no means were both those groups in agreement on much of anything.

The minister said that not once but twice. Again, having known the member when she was over here in opposition and having held her in the highest regard, I find it so difficult to accept that somehow she has let her own personal standard slide to the point that she's prepared to make statements like that in this House, and, as I say, she's done that before.

The minister also in her comments talked about the most serious issue was the unfunded liability. The most serious issue facing the WCB was the unfunded liability. Gee, I always thought the most important issue facing the WCB was injured workers.

But I think that speaks volumes about the kind of priorities that this government has, because when they look at the WCB they see numbers -- just numbers. People who represent workers -- unions, injured workers' organizations, even lawyers in legal clinics -- all those folks, when they think and look at WCB, they think of people, and they think of the hurt and the harm that comes to innocent workers, through no fault of their own, when they're hurt in the workplace, and the priority for them is to do something about those workplaces, through training, through improved procedures, through improved working conditions, knowing what is in chemicals that are being handled. We're creating, in our modern-day society, tens of thousands of new chemicals a year. We don't know the impact on humans over the long term. That ought to be where the priority is.

Instead, this government's priority is once again to create another phoney crisis, take something that's a legitimate problem -- because I think we'll all acknowledge that there is a problem that we want to deal with, but it's not a crisis -- the government continues to try in every area to use that as their justification for what quite frankly ends up being an out and out attack on workers and the most vulnerable in our society.

Even when we do look at the unfunded liability, which the government heralds as the most important issue facing the WCB, we find out that the unfunded liability decreased from $11.5 billion in 1993 to $11.4 billion in 1994: not a huge drop, but it's a trend line going in the right direction.

We've always maintained we can do that with most of these fiscal problems facing this province in all the areas, in a way that doesn't cause the kind of pain and hurt that this government's agenda does, and let's never forget: The majority of this money they're saving across the board goes for that tax cut that the wealthy will benefit from. Never lose sight of that, because that's the thread that runs through everything.

Further to the unfunded liability, they talk about it being in a financial crisis. There was an operating surplus last year and they expect there to be one this year. The funding ratio, which is the ratio between funds that are currently in the asset account and those that would be owed over the long term: 1985, 31.8%; in 1994 it's up to 37%.

The minister talked about eliminating the bipartite board because this, in her opinion -- and these are my words -- is the source of all evil in the WCB. Yet we know that all that means is that workers, who are the ones that the system was made for and the ones that it's meant to help, will lose the 50% representation they now have on the board, because we believed when we were in government, and we made the law, that workers ought to have 50% representation on that board, and the other 50% would be employer groups.

While I hear again -- and I have great respect for my colleague who's the Labour critic in the Liberal Party. He can't shake the Liberal baggage of the red book. The red book talked about also eliminating that bipartite board. In fact, the Liberals offered up an amendment that talked about equal representation of employers and employees. Again, talk about a half-measure that tries to score in both camps and at the end of the day scores with no one. You want to be buddies with employers and buddy with the workers when sometimes the crunch is you've got to decide which side you're on. You never, ever do that properly, and I'm going to bell that cat every time I can.


Further to that, the minister talked about this awful board that had these workers, not knowing their own place, actually having the audacity to think that they should have a right to have half a say in the decision-making. Then we see the minister say that that bipartite board, those workers on there, that destroyed things so bad that the board couldn't function any more.

The reality is, that board came up with a financial improvement package that would have saved $400 million a year that the worker representatives supported, and it would have brought down the unfunded liability to zero by the year 2014, all of it without doing serious damage to the benefits that workers are entitled to in this province. All of that, the minister says is part of the crisis.

That is such baloney. That is such baloney, and everybody who came in to represent workers to our committee who has day-to-day experience pointed that out time and time again. In fact, we had John Martin and Pearl MacKay, who were members of that board and refuted the rhetoric of the government that that was the case with this board. So again the facts tell such a different story from what the rhetoric of the government and the rhetoric of the minister would have you believe.

I do want to take a minute and I want to comment on the experience rating system, which may not mean a lot to the general public but it deserves to be raised here. This is a program that has the effect of giving more money back in rebates to employers -- rebates to employers, out of the coffers of the WCB -- than is paid out in claims to workers. Every employer group came in with almost verbatim language saying that this had to be preserved because this was an important part of the success, where there was success, in the WCB. Further to that, some corporations got more money back in WCB rebates than they made in outright corporate profits.

If you take this program, in the way the financial improvement package would have, and made it more fair, that's how you save the $400 million; that's how you balance the unfunded liability.

That's also why the employer representatives had a great deal of difficulty with it, because this is one of the biggest ripoffs of a system that was geared to help working people that was ever created, and we know this government's not going to give marching orders to its new appointees to do anything about that. We'll watch that year after year.

Imagine the WCB paying out more in rebates than they do in claims; receiving more in rebates than they make in profit. That's a disgrace. Yet this government doesn't talk about that. They talk about worker fraud; they talk about unfunded liability; they talk about everything except the reality.

The reality, as I close, is this: The bargain in 1914 said that workers would give up the right to sue for the right to receive wages and benefits if they're hurt on the job. If the employers had been properly paying their full amount over the years, there wouldn't be this unfunded liability and there wouldn't be this opportunity for the Harris government to once again go after workers, go after the disabled, go after the most vulnerable and see that massive shift of wealth in our province move from those who don't have to those who already do. You all ought to bloody well be ashamed of yourselves for not only supporting it but prancing around this province and being so bloody proud of it. It's a disgrace, and it's only step one. The minister has already said that this lays the foundation for the major overhaul. Boy, I'll bet injured workers can't wait to see that wonderful package of gifts coming from this government.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): In the short time that I have to participate in this debate, I want to make a couple of comments; I want to respond directly to some of the comments that the minister made.

First is with respect to the unfunded liability. The minister said in her comments earlier this evening that the unfunded liability threatens the day-to-day operations of the board and that's why we need to act. Yet another example of this government trying to operate and use "crises" to justify all of the aggressive and very detrimental actions they are taking against working people in this province. She must be taking some lessons from her colleague the Minister of Education and Training, who has also been trying to engineer a crisis in education.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and we certainly heard that from a number of worker representatives who came to talk to us very clearly about the unfunded liability and what it actually represents. Let's talk a little bit about those facts.

The fact is that the biggest single increase in the unfunded liability occurred in 1984 under a Tory government. In that year, the unfunded liability rose from $2.4 billion to over $5.4 billion under a multi-stakeholder model, the same kind of model that this minister is interested in bringing back. We had a huge increase in that one single year, more than ever before in the history of the board, more than we have had since. Most of that has to do directly with the fact that we had a multi-stakeholder board. We also had a Conservative government in place at the time that was not interested in ensuring that employers paid what they were supposed to to cover the costs of workers' compensation. That's where the problem of the unfunded liability started, and that has resulted in the problem that we are trying to deal with today.

The unfunded liability is not a debt, and the minister has been trying to portray it that way in trying to give justification for the crises that she continues to talk about. The fact of the matter is that the WCB is not bankrupt; the WCB does not borrow money. The WCB at this point in time has $6 billion in assets which they hold in the accident fund. The unfunded liability represents the present cost of the future payments which are owed to injured workers by employers at this time. But everyone in this House understands that tomorrow not all of those claims are going to be called, that tomorrow employers are not going to have to pay out all of those funds, and neither will the board. So the fact that the minister and this government continued through the hearings to talk about a crisis, to talk about this as a debt, really belied the truth. It is not that at all, and that should be made clear to the House this evening.

The WCB is actually better funded today, in 1995, than it was the last time this party was in power in the province of Ontario. In 1985, the ratio of assets to liabilities in the workers' compensation system under the Tory government was 31.8%. This year, the ratio of assets to liabilities is 37.4%. We are actually in a better position now, even with the size of the unfunded liability, than we were in 1985 when this group was last in power. I thought it was most unfortunate that the minister, when she made her comments on second reading, talked about the funding ratios in Saskatchewan and other provinces and how much better it was there, but didn't have the decency to talk about that same ratio when her party was last in power in the province, because that record is a dismal one.

If we're going to get serious about dealing with the unfunded liability, then perhaps this government should look seriously at dealing with employers who don't pay what they are supposed to to the Workers' Compensation board and hence don't pay to injured workers what they are obligated to pay under this act. The fact of the matter is, we have 55,000 employers in the province at this time who owe some $430 million in outstanding penalties and outstanding assessments to the Workers' Compensation Board. That would go some small way in dealing with the unfunded liability.


We have 20,000 employers in the province who are not registered, who are not paying their fair share, who expect other employers to carry the can for them when people get hurt on the job and in workplaces in the province. We would be far better off talking about that and our desire to get at that issue than we would be having Minister Jackson running around the province now getting input from employers whose answer to the problem is to cut workers' benefits by 5%.

Let's get at the real issue. The real issue is we're not in a debt situation, we're not in a crisis situation, as the minister and this government would like to portray. The WCB has $6 billion in assets. It's not going bankrupt tomorrow. They don't have to borrow money. They can make the payments to injured workers that have to be paid. What we have to do is start to deal in a serious way with those employers who refuse to pay their fair share to this system.

I want to talk a little bit about the bipartite governance structure, because the minister again this evening talked about the fact that the bipartite structure was hampered, it was unable to make decisions, it failed to address the needs of the stakeholders. Let me just say again what she said on second reading: "Unfortunately, the bipartite, labour-versus-management approach has paralysed constructive decision-making on very crucial administrative, policy and financial issues facing the board."

Time and again, when management groups came before the committee and used almost the same wording that was in the remarks that the minister made here on second reading, I asked those employer groups to give me one single, concrete, solid example of how and when the board had been paralysed. You know what? Not one of those employer groups who came before us could give me one single, solid, concrete example of when the board had been paralysed in their decision-making.

In fact, when we had two representatives from the board who happen to be on the labour side come before us, I also asked those same two individuals what their experience had been on the board. They said to us very clearly that, yes, like any other group there was give and take at the board, but that the minister's characterization of the board and it being paralysed was grossly unfair and was not a reflection of the reality that they had experienced whatsoever.

I thought it most unfair that time and again employers would come before the committee and not only talk about how the board was paralysed, but in fact insinuate that the people who were on the board, both the employer and the labour reps, were somehow not qualified to be there. Again and again they said that the reason they supported the multi-stakeholder approach was because it would allow qualified, competent people to be put on the board.

I think it's shameful that members of the business community would come forward and characterize their own business members who participated on that board in that way. The people who were participating, before they were summarily fired by the minister in November, were people who took their job seriously, who were competent, who were capable, who came to make good, financial, sound decisions on behalf of the Workers' Compensation Board and who wanted to help injured workers at the same time. I thought it was shameful that again and again somehow the work they did seemed to be the reason for which they were fired. I thought it most unfair that not only would they characterize it, but that the minister herself, in her debate in this House, would say the same, because it was far from the reality of what we heard from those who had personally sat on the board and had that experience.

Let's get to what this bill is all about, and the fact of the matter is the only reason we are dealing with Bill 15 at this time is because the minister needs some legislation to justify her breaking the law when she fired the board of directors in November. The fact of the matter is that under Bill 165 we put in place a law which said very clearly there would be a bipartite board of directors at the Workers' Compensation Board. The minister fired those folks and now we are dealing with the legislation which retroactively justifies that firing. It is nothing more and nothing less than that, a justification of something the minister already did, which was, in essence, to break the law that was already in place.

It's true that we are setting the stage for reform. I would use the term "reform" very loosely, because as far as I'm concerned, what Minister Jackson will bring in will not be reform at all; it will be an attack on injured workers. We will see injured workers' benefits decrease by 5%. We will see injured workers have to wait three days before they can collect benefits which are due them. We will see injured workers who will no longer be able to get compensation for repetitive strain injuries. I say it is shameful the way this government continues to attack injured workers, continues to attack women, continues to attack children, only in order to finance a big tax break for the rich and famous who already have the most in the province of Ontario.

The Speaker: No further debate?

All those in favour of third reading of Bill 15?

Hon Mr Runciman: Mr Speaker, we have agreed to defer this vote.


Hon Mr Runciman: We have to go through the -- okay.

The Speaker: All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

It's a deferred vote until tomorrow before orders of the day.


Ms Mushinski moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 8, An Act to repeal job quotas and to restore merit-based employment practices in Ontario / Projet de loi 8, Loi abrogeant le contingentement en matière d'emploi et rétablissant en Ontario les pratiques d'emploi fondées sur le mérite.

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): This evening we begin third reading of Bill 8. This is an important day for Ontarians because when this bill is passed by the Legislature, job quotas will be gone and merit will be restored as the basis for equal opportunity in Ontario's workplaces.

As we begin third reading debate, I think we have a responsibility to be clear about why this government believes repealing quota laws to be so very important.

The previous government said that it brought in the legislation to fight workplace discrimination. The fact is that workplace discrimination is already illegal under the Human Rights Code.

This government has said many times, and I repeat again tonight, that it is opposed to discrimination of any kind. We have also said that while we believe the Human Rights Code is the right vehicle to protect Ontarians from discrimination, clearly we have to ensure that the body that enforces it, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, is effective. It is obvious that there is some way to go to meet this objective, and both the commission and my ministry are addressing this situation.

I think that for those of us who are committed to fighting discrimination, one of the most disturbing consequences of job quota legislation was that it polarized us as a province, and it polarized us at a time when it is absolutely essential that we come together and work as partners to strengthen our common future. That is why we believe repealing job quotas is an important step in rebuilding Ontario's economy. It will help us fulfil the commitment we made in the Common Sense Revolution to remove barriers to job creation and economic growth.

All employers, whether they're in the private, public or broader public sectors, are facing considerable challenges. Increasingly rapid change in technology is affecting every aspect of their operations. Profound demographic shifts have altered the composition of the labour force and created a whole new consumer base. And many employers are competing in a global marketplace.

Given this complex, competitive and changing marketplace, and given a tough fiscal climate, employers know that a key objective in their strategy for success has to be to maximize the skills, talents and creativity of their workforces.


Selecting the best person for a job, a training opportunity or a promotion, is more essential than ever, and restoring a merit-based work environment is imperative.

We don't have to impose legislation on employers to make them address this issue. Employers already know that in order to gain an advantage in a competitive marketplace, all aspects of their operations, from the products and services they provide to the workforces they employ, will have to optimize the skills of a diverse society.

Consequently, just as market testing for new products and services will encompass new consumers, so too will employment policies and practices have to encompass the new labour force.

An employer's ability to attract, recruit and retain the best people from a changing and diverse workforce is an important key to gaining a competitive edge, and equal opportunity will be an important tool in the management of that change.

We believe that the government's role should not be coercive but cooperative and constructive.

As an employer, we have a leadership role to play in our own workplaces, and we can play a facilitator's role in partnership with employers, employees and others who care about equal opportunity for all in the province of Ontario. I will shortly be releasing the framework for our equal opportunity plan.

As the members of the Legislature know, the government proposed an amendment to subsection 1(5) of Bill 8, which was adopted by the standing committee on general government.

The amendment, which is incorporated into the third reading bill, replaces the words "information collected from employees exclusively for the purpose of complying with part III of the Employment Equity Act, 1993," with the words "information collected and compiled exclusively for the purpose of complying with section 10 of the Employment Equity Act, 1993."

During the hearings on Bill 8, many employers and others who appeared before the standing committee recommended a change to Bill 8 to enable them to keep valuable information about their organizations.

We feel the amendment addresses this issue. Employers will now only have to destroy the data they collected and compiled exclusively for the purpose of complying with the workforce survey provisions of the Employment Equity Act. Other data collected under the act, such as information on workplace barriers gathered during an employer's review of employment policies and practices, may be retained.

This amendment will protect the confidentiality of workforce survey information provided to employers by their employees, while enabling employers to keep information that will support their efforts to remove barriers to equal opportunity.

This government was elected on a clear mandate to repeal job-quota legislation, and we brought forward a bill to do so. We have done this not only because it makes good business sense, but because it makes plain common sense.

When this bill is passed, our government will have given one more signal that Ontario is back in business. Employers will no longer have to spend considerable resources on the onerous administrative work that job-quota legislation required.

We have removed one factor that some investors saw as a deterrent to investment.

And employees will be able to feel that their individual achievements are what counts, and that they really do have a chance to make a contribution to this province to the best of their ability and their desire.

When this bill is passed, job quotas will be gone; merit will be restored in the workplace; employers will be spared the significant costs of complying with job-quota legislation; taxpayers will be spared the cost of a cumbersome bureaucracy, and people will be able to compete for jobs, promotions and training opportunities based on their qualifications and based on their abilities.

In addition, the Employment Equity Commission and the Employment Equity Tribunal will cease to exist. The provisions of the Police Services Act dealing with employment equity will be gone and the related police services regulation will be revoked. And finally, the sections of the Education Act pertaining to employment equity will be eliminated, as will all related job quota provisions.

The equal opportunity plan I will be outlining shortly recognizes the importance of merit-based workplace practices in all sectors of the province, including police services and education. When Bill 8 is passed, we will have turned an important corner in restoring fairness to workplaces in Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Further debate?

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): It almost seems as though there is little left that can be said at this point, given the lateness of the hour, the little time remaining for this debate, my certainty that the members of the third party are anxious to participate and I would want to leave them some time to participate in this debate. But more even to the point, there seems to be little left that can be said, given what has been clear from the very beginning, and that is this government's determination to bring in this legislation, virtually unamended -- not that there was a whole lot to amend to begin with.

The difficulty with this debate from the beginning has been the absolute absence of anything constructive to replace the employment equity legislation which is currently in place. The government has talked consistently, repeatedly, about its employment equity plan, but it has yet to produce any plan at all.

We had presenter after presenter in committee who came prepared to address their expectations of what the government might bring forward or should bring forward, but they couldn't comment in any specific way on the government's plan because there was no detail of what would actually be in the government's plan.

Days of committee, days of presentations of people concerned and wanting to present their views on what the government would do and they couldn't because nobody knows what the government is going to do. At one point, the parliamentary assistant indicated that the plan would be coming at about the same time as the legislation was passed.

We didn't think that that was an attempt to threaten us with not passing the legislation -- the government wouldn't bring forward its plan if we didn't pass the legislation -- because we knew that the government has a majority and there was not much question that this act was going to be passed, whatever the opposition or presenters to the committee thought about it.

So we really wondered at the hesitation to present the plan, whether the government really had any plan at all, whether it knows what it's going to do, whether the parliamentary assistant was simply putting forward a rather ambiguous date to respond to the questions that were being consistently thrown to the government as to when they were going to present this plan they kept talking about, and I find tonight the minister is still staying shortly they will be present their plan. No wonder that there is considerable frustration among all those who are genuinely concerned about the future and the progress of employment equity in this province.

I believe it remains absolutely inexcusable that this legislation should ever have been brought forward when it does nothing but undo and puts absolutely nothing in its place.

We heard in committee from many who supported the legislation currently in place and asked that it be left alone. The government clearly was not prepared to do that. We also heard from a number of others who disagreed with the previous government's approach and who support withdrawal of the NDP Bill 79, but there were few presenters, if any, who believed that the government should waive all responsibility for ensuring equity in the workplace. There were extensive recommendations for the government to consider in presenting and implementing its employment equity plans, and so now we will have to watch and see how thoroughly these proposals are considered in any plan of action that this government may bring forward.

The common theme linking the opponents of Bill 79, the NDP's approach, was a disagreement with a quota approach. I recognize that this is a source of frustration for the NDP who quite rightly suggest that their legislation does not specifically mandate the implementation of arbitrarily imposed quotas. If it is a quota approach, in other words it's not the extreme of a quota approach, and the NDP would argue that any law which does not provide for mandatory quotas is not a quota approach. Just in case you don't get full opportunity to participate in the debate, I wanted to be sure your position was clarified.


But unfortunately the development and the implementation of laws is seldom so clear-cut, and I truly don't believe that in the implementation of Bill 79, the NDP's legislation, it would have been possible to avoid both the perception and the reality that the numerical goals contained in the required plans would become quotas.

The numerical goals become a standard by which progress is judged and potentially under which penalties for non-compliance could be imposed and they focus both the attention and the energy on the angle of the process, leaving less effort directed at creating the conditions for truly equal access to opportunities for hiring and promotion.

I believe that the focus of employment equity plans, employment equity efforts, must be on removing barriers to opportunity and that the primary goal of government should not be to police the attainment of numerical goals but to work with the employer and employees in identifying and addressing systemic barriers.

It is because the focus of the plans to be developed and implemented under Bill 79 is on numerical end goals that my caucus opposed that bill. We do not, however, believe that that legislation needed to be withdrawn in order to ensure that the merit principle was clearly in place and that quotas were not to become a reality.

This government has determined that there should be no legislation on employment equity at all and so the government neither attempts to amend the current nor proposes new legislation of its own.

On this issue, presenters in our very brief period of committee hearings were clearly divided. Many of those who have worked on employment equity issues for years believe that without legislation there will be little or no progress. Others spoke against Bill 79, but still wanted the government to play an active role in ensuring that we continue to make progress and seemed to feel that maybe you couldn't put legislation in place that did not have some form of numerical goals or quotas.

I believe we do need legislation. I believe that this government could have brought forward legislation that would set out the requirement for employment equity plans, plans that would identify and address barriers without necessitating the development of numerical goals. I believe that numerical data could be kept as a way of measuring progress without putting a specific end goal in place.

People might ask whether an approach such as that would work. I think it would have to be tried to know that and, to try it, it would require the commitment of government to provide support for the success and the education of employers to ensure that they know why both plans and progress are important, but that approach would avoid the dangers of a numerical target focus.

Now some might argue -- perhaps my colleagues in the third party -- if you're not going to have goals and penalties for non-achievement of the goals, why would you have legislation at all? For me, the crux of this debate is that we need legislation as much to place an onus on government as on the employer because government has a responsibility to abide by and enforce its own legislation.

In an approach which deals first and foremost with the identification of barriers it's very easy for government to have all the good intentions, intentions which they may put forward in a plan that we have yet to see, stated good intentions and yet do absolutely nothing. But if there is legislation, then that legislation requires that the government itself show progress in implementing what it has set out in law as its intent.

We heard from many people who are genuinely concerned about the future of employment equity. They are people whom the member for Halton Centre referred to as those who have a duplicity of interest, whatever that means, but they are people who have spent years and tremendous effort in forwarding the cause of employment equity and who believe that this act, which simply removes any legislation, will be an enormous setback. And it will be a setback even if government appears to be well intentioned in bringing forward a plan, if this government does not back up its plans with a proactive effort to address the barriers.

I think that effort is going to have to include more than education which government members kept stressing in committee as if education would be the only focus of the government's plan. I don't disagree that education of employers is important and, in fact, that's a first focus in helping employers develop their plans, but I also believe that there's going to be a need for direct assistance from this government if identified barriers are going to be addressed. I suggest to the government as one example -- perhaps it's the most obvious -- that employers cannot carry out physical accommodation changes without financial assistance. There are other places where the government has a direct responsibility for providing programs and services that deal with barriers: recertification, for example, language training. Some areas for government involvement are a little more indirect but none the less essential.

I wonder, for example, how can a government claim that it intends to address the issues of employment equity when it cuts back on support for child care? Without adequate and affordable child care, women will never achieve equal opportunity to participate.

I wonder how committed this particular government will be to putting any resources at all into the achievement of equal opportunity by addressing real barriers. I am afraid that we are going to see very little but a statement of concern from the government, with no commitment at all that might involve cost.

So the onus of implementing any plan that the government might bring forward is going to fall to employers, both in the public and the private sector. Quite frankly, I think there is more hope for progress in the private sector, where a clear case can be made for the economic benefits of employment equity and the economic bottom line will serve as some incentive for private sector employers to continue with employment equity planning. But I don't think, even with that economic bottom line making a strong case for employment equity, that it will be enough to encourage the kind of expensive physical retrofits that would be needed to accommodate the physically disabled. I am afraid that without active government support there will be very little progress in equal opportunity for the physically disabled.

In the public sector, where we have seen the cost cutting, the cost restraints they're facing, the staff reductions that they're facing, employment equity is going to be on a back burner for the very foreseeable future unless this government, provincially, has a focus on dealing with systemic problems and barriers.

That brings me to the issue of the Human Rights Commission. Many have held out the Human Rights Commission as the answer to all the concerns. "Don't worry. You're worried about employment equity not going ahead, you're worrying about barriers, you're worrying about the lack of legislation. No need to worry, because the Human Rights Commission can address these problems."

There is no question that every presenter to the committee acknowledged that the Human Rights Commission needs to be strengthened if it is even going to deal effectively with its current scope of activities. But I think it is a very real question as to whether the Human Rights Commission, even if it is given additional resources, can ever deal effectively with systemic discrimination. I say to the minister that I don't believe it can.

I think if the Human Rights Commission ever did start ordering the government, for example, to provide language training, which is often a systemic barrier, or to provide accessible busing, which is clearly a barrier for the physically disabled, or to provide child care, the lack of which is clearly a barrier for equality and opportunity for women in the workplace, I suspect that the ministers of Finance and the Management Board would very quickly start bringing in legislation that would limit the scope of the Human Rights Commission mandate very, very quickly.

I suggest to the minister that it is an illusion to think that because discrimination is illegal, employment equity legislation is unnecessary. As the minister said in presenting her bill and as I heard her say again tonight, that is simply an illusion. Discrimination has been illegal for a very long time, but the Human Rights Commission has not had any meaningful role in combating anything but overt cases of individual discrimination, and it has been hard pressed to meet the demands in that area. There is no question that the role of the Human Rights Commission is important and that its role must be strengthened, but it is not sufficient as a commitment to ensuring that employment equity, equal opportunity in the workplace, is actually going to be in place.

As several presenters said to our committee, a process that is driven by individual complaints is very difficult and very unfair, and surely the emphasis should be on preventing discrimination and removing systemic discrimination in the first place.

I clearly share the pessimism of those who believe that Bill 8, presented solely as a repeal measure, will be a setback for employment equity. But I know that neither opposition views nor the concerns that have been expressed by so many presenters to our committee will sway this government from its intent, nor will they persuade this government to take a positive and proactive approach in the future, despite all the assurances of concern that the Conservative committee members expressed as the presentations were made.


I was amazed, and I have to confess truly disturbed, even recognizing the government's determination to pass its legislation -- we knew that was a given going into this committee -- disturbed that the government was absolutely unwilling to move even on the one amendment that was technically possible and that virtually every presenter to the committee without exception, whether that presenter was for the bill or against the bill, agreed should be changed. I refer, of course, to subsection 1(5), which requires the destruction of data collected exclusively for the purpose of implementing Bill 79.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Give us a reason.

Mrs McLeod: Exactly; as my colleague says, give us a reason. We asked for that time and time again. Presenter after presenter said, "Why is this necessary?" It serves absolutely no purpose at all. It is purely destructive, to the point of being purely vindictive.

Conservative committee members claimed, when they were repeatedly asked this question, that the data had to be destroyed because the reporting was inaccurate and the data were therefore faulty. But surely employers, those same employers that we are urged to have faith in, and indeed we do, can judge the usefulness of the data for themselves. Why do they need Big Brother government telling them they can't use it even if it's helpful in carrying forward voluntary employment equity plans? There is protection of confidentiality under the freedom of information act; there is no requirement to maintain the data if the employer wants to destroy them, so why force an employer who wants to use this information to destroy it and then have to engage in a costly exercise of collecting it all over again?

The fact that the data collected before Bill 79 do not have to be destroyed, which was the assurance often provided by the parliamentary assistant, is really not a satisfactory response to this concern. As it was pointed out, there are many employers who waited until the bill was in place before they collected their data, but they fully intend to proceed with employment equity plans on their own and they simply would like to use the data they've collected.

The refusal to withdraw this subsection of the act I believe carries a very ominous message about this government's future commitment to even voluntary employment equity programs, and that is a great concern.

There are two other sections to the act -- and I will be brief in respect of the third party's desire to participate in this debate -- which add to the sweeping negativity and the destructiveness of this bill: first, the repeal of all references of employment equity in the Education Act removing the minister's ability, just his ability, to direct boards of education to develop employment equity plans. It seems totally unnecessary, again. This was permissive legislation. Many boards are well along in developing their employment equity plans, and we have to wonder, if the minister no longer has the authority to require such plans, is it still permissible for school boards to develop them?

If the minister needed permission under the Education Act to require plans, it's likely that the boards also need permission to put them in place. Does this mean that any voluntary plans that are put in place by school boards could be illegal unless there are new amendments to the Education Act? Somehow they missed that in the omnibus bill.

I wonder why we have to go through this, since the minister simply could have used his power under the act to say that boards may or may not put plans in place if such was the government's great need, to make sure that these plans remained voluntary.

Lastly, on the issue of repealing the employment equity provisions in the Police Services Act: I recognize these were controversial, I understand that they have created resentment, but I think we must recognize that they did achieve a more equitable and a more representative police force that is already achieved, and everyone agrees, including the police officers who made presentations to us, that this is in the end a desirable thing.

That leads me back to the central question of the employment equity debate: What is the best way to achieve the goal of a truly equal-opportunity workplace in different settings across this province? This is a question of great debate, it is often a divisive, often a polarized debate, and no justice has been done to the debate in the consideration of this bill, because there is no proposal for a better way; there is only a government saying: "The past way was wrong. We are going to wipe it out totally and beyond retrieval. We want not a trace of the old approach." Yet nothing is going to be put in its place, and you have to wonder why the rush.

It was clear the government was going to bring in changes. It was part of their campaign commitment. We knew they were going to go ahead. No employers were going to be pushed to move forward with their plans until it was clear what the government would do. But with the repeal of Bill 79 and the absence of any plan from this government, we now have only limbo and some very specific setbacks.

As we look towards the future, whatever future there may be after the passage of this undoing bill, it is important to remember that, as one presenter said, if the playing field is not level, an individual cannot be successful even with merit and hard work. The playing field is not level and we are not yet very good at seeing the unevenness, the barriers.

As another presenter said, we simply must some day have a system that allows us to see the can'ts, and we must tonight remind the government that even after it brings in its plan, there must be some mechanism to ensure that action is taken not only by employers, but by this government. We must see some commitment, we must see some action, or there will be no progress towards ensuring that there is a truly equal opportunity to participate in the workplaces of Ontario. We will be watching very closely.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): It's with a great deal of sadness and anger that I speak to an act to affirm systemic discrimination in Ontario. I reflect the sadness and anger of three quarters if not more of the deputants who came in front of our committee. The minister who spoke on this bill says the government should be cooperative and constructive in working with the various partners. During the committee and during these debates, some of her members said our bill was draconian, coercive, and one member even said immoral.

It's interesting how they can say this about Bill 79 but they can't say the same for Bill 26, which does the very things they attack. Parts of this bill will direct doctors to a certain place to practise in the north, and not in Toronto. This bill says, "You shall go to the north to practise, not in Toronto."

The minister says the government's role should be cooperative and constructive, yet they take the imperial position, with respect to doctors, as one instance, where they say: "We will not discuss this with you. You shall go where we send you." Interesting, isn't it, how you can easily contradict yourselves, so easily that one act is an immoral one, that one act is coercive; that this act, with respect to what you're doing to your doctors, is not coercive, is not immoral and is not draconian? It is amazing how the bunch of you, the whole lot of you, can contradict your own political philosophy with such ease. But it won't surprise me for very long. I'm witnessing much of what you stand for every day in this House.

Anyway, with respect to Bill 8, what we've known for a long time -- study after study has shown and proven incontrovertibly that most women are not treated equally by employers and that immigrants and racial minorities are on average more highly educated than the rest of the population, but suffer higher rates of underemployment and unemployment. The status of qualified disabled persons remains embarrassingly low and aboriginal people get the crumbs at best. That's what we have. That's the reality that we have in Ontario.

That's why we introduced Bill 79, to redress the inequalities that exist in society for these designated groups. Your bill brings us right back to where we started.

I want to refer you to a submission by a deputant representing McLarren Consulting Group, who said a number of interesting things. He said:

"Typically, our findings confirm that merit does not govern employment decisions as intended, but neither employer nor employee fully realizes this.

"Decisions based on other than merit are often the result of systemic discrimination."


But I'm sure the minister doesn't want to hear that. She's busy talking to another colleague. She's already made her remarks. They're infallible, so they don't need to listen. I understand that.

This consulting firm continues and says, "Here are some examples of what we find when we examine the effectiveness of management systems and practices." This is the current system, Minister. Thank you for listening.

On recruitment they say:

"The vast majority of candidates to be interviewed for open positions are chosen from unsolicited résumés, employee referrals and walk-in applications. Many highly qualified people, often those from communities of people with disabilities, aboriginals and some visible minorities, have become so discouraged by seeing the ease with which less-qualified candidates than themselves obtain jobs that they have lost the self-esteem and perseverance required to promote themselves effectively in the job market."

On the issue of selection they say:

"After a list of candidates is identified for a selection process, they are usually screened first for technical capability. Once a short list of equally qualified candidates has been identified, selection is often made based on predictive behaviour considerations. In other words, the person who gets the job is the person who the selector feels would fit best and with whom other employees would feel most comfortable."

That's the way we do hire. I'm not sure whether the minister heard that on the issue of recruitment and selection, but that's what takes place in the workplace -- not based on what you think, not based on what you say, but based on what actually happens.

On the issue of work assignments they say:

"These are often given based on stereotypical notions as to what groups perform best in which areas. Sales, marketing and key production jobs -- those that produce revenues for the company -- often go to white males disproportionately. Information, administration and support jobs that do not produce revenues often go to others disproportionately.

"The former assignments place employees in key lines of progression, while the latter lead to limited progression, or ghettoes."

That's the reality, Minister. I want to send this to you because I think you should have it. I'm not sure whether your members on the other side will learn from this, but this is the reality. It saddens me and angers me when you speak the things that you speak in this House about Bill 79 when they're so utterly, utterly untrue. The reality is what these designated people experience in the workplace, and you will not correct that. You will in fact bring us back.

On the issue of promotions they say:

"Promotions are intended to be given to those with the best qualifications, performance records and other measures of merit. Our experience has shown that this is too often not the case. A major factor in progression is effective networking, self-promotion, and other factors totally unrelated to merit."

That's what this consulting group has to say.

"In terms of selecting and promoting people, this pressure often translates into choosing those who afford the best comfort and fit within the existing organization."

That is what we're talking about when you speak of merit. That's what happens in the workplace -- not based on what you think but based on a different reality out there.

On the issue of equal opportunity, because that's the answer that you have to the whole issue of getting rid of Bill 79, promoting an equal opportunity plan which we haven't seen, I can guarantee, and I've guaranteed to the deputants, that when we see it, it will not solve it, because what it will contain is a whole lot of platitudes and nothing more.

Judge Rosalie Abella, in her report of the Commission of Inquiry on Equality in Employment, which is now regarded internationally as one of the few exemplary treatises on the subject, said:

"Education has been the classic crutch upon which we lean in the hopes of coaxing change in prejudicial attitudes. But education is an unreliable agent, glacially slow in movement and impact, and often completely ineffective in the face of intractable views. It promises no immediate relief despite the immediacy of the injustice....

"It's difficult to see how a voluntary approach, that is, an approach" -- which you promote -- "that does not include an effective enforcement component, will substantially improve employment opportunities for women, native people, disabled persons, or visible minorities. Given the seriousness and apparent intractability of employment discrimination, it's unrealistic and somewhat ingenuous to rely on there being sufficient public goodwill to fuel a voluntary program."

The very stuff you people speak about. She told us this 10 years ago, and it's equally valid today.

On the issue of human rights law as a remedy, Judge Abella says the following and, Minister, I urge you to listen to this:

"The traditional Human Rights Commission model...is increasingly under attack for its statutory inadequacy to respond to the magnitude of the problem. Resolving discrimination caused by malevolent intent on a case-by-case basis puts human rights commissions in the position of stamping out brushfires when the urgency is in the incendiary potential of the whole forest."

The minister laughs so smugly it annoys me; it annoys me a great deal. Judge Abella said this 10 years ago. The reality is the same. This minister and this government are bringing us back to the reality of 10 years ago, where inequality was prevalent, and it will continue under their plan. They say fine words. They say, "We will have zero tolerance for discrimination." They say education is the key. They say it should be a voluntary program. Judge Abella, 10 years ago, pointed out to these fine people that it doesn't work, it has not worked.

The Human Rights Commission, and the code on which they rely, does not work because it deals with individual cases when brought to the commission by individuals. It does not deal with systemic discrimination. They know that. They also will not put one penny into the Human Rights Commission or the Human Rights Code to make sure that individual cases are dealt with, let alone beginning to deal with systemic discrimination.

What we were dealing with in Bill 79 was systemic discrimination, not individual discrimination. Even there, the Human Rights Commission fails us. That's all this government is relying on, the Human Rights Code and the commission. They say they will reform it somehow. They can't. They will not put in one cent, and without putting any cents into it, they cannot even deal with individual cases effectively. That's what we're relying on with this government.

I have one more moment. I would have liked to talk about all the other things they didn't agree with in our attempt to make amendments which they effectively killed. But what this government is doing and what we are witnessing is a deconstruction of everything that is positive in this province. These folks on the other side are destroying, they're not building.

If they wanted to deal with job quotas, a good lawyer, a person with a disability, said, "If you wanted to deal with job quotas, all you had to do was put it in Bill 79 and say, `There shall be no job quotas.'" But you didn't want to do that, did you? If you wanted to deal with merit -- and you said merit was gone because of our bill -- you could have said, "Merit will be a key as it relates to Bill 79." They could have said that, but they didn't. They didn't want to do that. We are witnessing the deconstruction of our social order, the deconstruction of society as we know it. They are bringing us back. That saddens me and angers me, as it saddened and angered the whole lot of people who came in front of our committee to attack this Bill 8, which repeals everything that was positive about what we have done. What more can we say of a government that's bringing us down, that's bringing us all down, except to say that I hope that the people of Ontario will fight back?

The Speaker: If there's no further debate, we'll put the question.

Mrs Mushinski has moved third reading of Bill 8. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed will say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

We will have a vote tomorrow, just after routine proceedings.

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

The House adjourned at 2400.