36th Parliament, 1st Session

L041 - Mon 29 Jan 1996 / Lun 29 Jan 1996



















The House met at 1003.




Mr Carroll from the standing committee on general government presented the following report and moved its adoption:

Your committee begs to report the following bill, as amended:

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 / Projet de loi 26, 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 Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Shall the report be received and adopted?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Pursuant to the standing order of the House, December 12, 1995, the bill is ordered for third reading.



Mr Wilson moved third reading of the following bill:

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 / Projet de loi 26, 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.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It is my understanding that there is an agreement among all three parties to split the time evenly throughout the debate on third reading, both in the morning and in the afternoon.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Agreed? Agreed.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I am pleased to spend a few moments to further explain this historic piece of legislation. In particular, as Minister of Health for the province, I appreciate the opportunity to further explain the health provisions of Bill 26 during this third reading debate.

Before I begin to explain further some of the details of the bill, I'd like to thank my parliamentary assistant, Helen Johns, the MPP for Huron, and the other two health committee members, Tony Clement and Janet Ecker, who, along with members of the opposition, worked very hard to try to make some improvements, some amendments to this legislation to ensure that the bill reflected the intent of the government and the policy of the government.

I'm briefly going to go through the four main health sections of Bill 26 and explain what we have before us today. The Savings and Restructuring Act provides this government with the means to complete the restructuring of the province's hospital system. Previous governments initiated local planning efforts for system-wide change, but left behind no mechanism to make sure the job was completed.

Without the measures in Bill 26, the past several years of restructuring planning may have amounted to a very costly and frustrating exercise for many Ontario communities. At best, it could have resulted in a provincial patchwork of local hospital restructurings without an eye for the system as a whole. Bill 26 establishes the Health Services Restructuring Commission, a body which will be able to assist those many communities that have undergone very detailed planning processes in order to make their communities' hospital systems more efficient and sustainable.

The government, through the hospital restructuring commission, will have the ability to bring about the changes that are identified through the district health council reports of local communities and, whether it be closing, merging or amalgamating or redefining hospitals as reflected in those studies, the commission will be able to act on those studies.

An amendment was accepted to make it absolutely clear that the commission and the powers of the minister would sunset in four years, would cease to exist in four years. Also, an amendment was made to ensure that the commission couldn't go off and do its own thing, but that it had to have regard to the district health council studies.

The idea of a health system restructuring commission was not the government's idea. The previous government, millions of dollars and thousands of hours of volunteer time later, set in motion a process where district health councils study their local hospital communities. We are expecting, this year and through the early part of 1997, that some 50 restructuring reports from the local volunteer groups will be coming forward to this government. Bill 26 puts in place a mechanism to deal with it.

It was my firm opinion and that of the district health council in Metropolitan Toronto, after reading their report and discussions with the Ontario Hospital Association, that had we let the status quo prevail, we might not have been able to move with hospital restructuring this year. We know from the Finance minister's announcement that it's absolutely crucial that a system-wide restructuring be done and that the politics in terms of hospital restructuring be taken out of the system and handed to a more arm's-length commission, called the Health Services Restructuring Commission.


I'm pleased to remind all members that after the couple of amendments to this section, the Ontario Hospital Association put out both a press release and a letter to me indicating that it's very pleased. In fact, they say that we did get it right in the legislation. I want to thank both the Ontario Hospital Association and the Catholic Health Association of Ontario for their help.

The people in the system -- the hospital administrators, the members of the Ontario Hospital Association -- have taken a very, very responsible approach to the restructuring that must occur to truly bring about a hospital system in Metro Toronto and across the province. Some of the discussions we've had I can tell you we would not have had three or four years ago, but reality has sunk in to all of us here with the fiscal problems we have in the province, with our commitment to preserve the health care budget at $17.4 billion but also to make sure that money is freed up so that we can invest in long-term-care services.

We announced the community care access centres just last week, which will be that new window of access for consumers, for the people of this province to access those long-term-care services. We know through the district health council reports that much money will have to be pumped into the long-term-care community-based service side as hospital restructuring and reconfigurations proceed over the next few years.

I want to thank those hospital leaders who have been very, very responsible in their discussions with the ministry, in their discussions with the opposition parties. I appreciate the tone and certainly their intent to get the job done and stop studying the system to death. That's something we hope to be able to do in 1996 and 1997.

Another section, schedule G of the bill, dealt with copayments on the drug plan.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): User fees you weren't going to bring in. "No new user fees." Remember? What about all of those seniors who are not going to get drugs now as a result of that?

The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Wilson: Clearly, it's of interest when nine other provinces have copayments on their drug plans and nobody in those provinces --

Ms Lankin: That makes it okay? What about all those seniors in the province not getting health care as a result of it?

The Speaker: Order. The member for Beaches-Woodbine is out of order and she knows it.

Hon Mr Wilson: Other provinces have gone through this debate and today you do not find the people of those provinces calling the copayments on the drug plan "user fees." They are copayments. This government was confronted with the same tough challenge that the previous governments have had. The program has grown from the 1970s, from a relatively small program costing about $100 million to a program today that is costing $1.3 billion.

In just a few weeks and months, we as a government are going to have to deal with about two years of cuts from Mr Martin and Mr Chrétien, some $1.4 billion perhaps in cuts to the health care budgets alone over the next 24 months. Unlike the previous government, which to deal with fiscal pressures on the drug plan delisted unilaterally, without public consultation, some 250 drugs, just took them right off the plan, we were faced with a similar decision: Do we continue to delist drugs behind closed doors, some of those very important cardiac drugs? If you meet with a group of seniors, which I did last week, and you say, "How many of you now are paying cash for the full cost of your drugs?" many of them will put their hands up, as a result of the 250 drug products that were delisted over the last year.

So that and the actions of the previous government to keep the program affordable have had a very direct effect. We were faced with the same situation. To keep it affordable, to keep it sustainable, a $1.3-billion program in which 1.2 million Ontario residents benefit from that program, we are asking people to contribute in many cases a very small amount of $2 towards sustaining that program.

Rather than have this debate that the opposition has had, I would like to know, and it would be interesting when they have the opportunity to debate today, what they would have done. Would they have continued to delist drugs behind closed doors and put 100% of the cost of those drug products on the backs of the poor, or would they have done what we did, which was to sustain the program, to make it more affordable and to take some of the savings from the new copayments and reinvest them to expand the base? Now for 140,000 working poor, those people who didn't quite qualify for the $500 deductible and the Trillium drug program, we've lowered that deductible to $350 so that no one in this province will be faced with catastrophic drug costs. So we expanded the base, brought in 140,000 other people and really saved the program and took a responsible approach, given that we do have some pretty serious cuts coming from the federal government in the next weeks and months. That's what we've done in the program.

In deregulating the drug industry, I want to explain to members how "best available price" is set now. Members would be aware that "best available price" can very often be a misnomer. Best available price is set by the manufacturers. They simply say, "Our law says that we will pay the best available price in Canada." If you have a manufacturer that raises the prices equally in all provinces, the best available price essentially is the manufacturer's set price. What we're saying is we want to move away from BAP. We want to move to be a more aggressive purchaser, to have the best negotiated price, and to be able to challenge some of those manufacturers' prices.

We have had a freeze on drug prices for the last two years in this province. They're frozen again, by agreement of the manufacturers, to the end of this year. But prior to that, prior to the freezes, manufacturers used to come forward and say, "Well, we're going to jack up the price; the price increase will be 25%," do it across the provinces, so best available price became the new 25% level, and by law we would pay that.

Apparently, the previous government did ask every once in a while, "Why do you need the 25% increase?" by example, and manufacturers sometimes would say, "Well, we've decided to recover R and D costs over three or four years rather than 10 years, so here's the new price, and by the way, it's the new BAP for the nation." So you pay it.

Because we are the largest purchasers of drugs for seniors, through the ODB, through the formulary, we're going to be able to challenge price increases in the future and really see if we are getting the best available price. I think you'll find other provinces take our lead.

We also free up the cash market, so that institutions like Sick Kids, which is a large purchaser of paediatric drugs, will be able to exercise their muscle in the marketplace and be able to say, "Well, we don't accept your price increase" or "We think you can come in with a lower introductory price." They'll be able to exercise, as large purchasers, that purchasing power.

Also, we have committed as a government, as a matter of policy, to ensure that we keep monitoring prices over the next few years. We will keep the two people in the Ministry of Health who continue to monitor prices, because I do realize that at committee hearings it was split about 50-50 in terms of the opinion of the industry and pharmacists as to whether prices would go up or down. So we'll continue to monitor it, but we certainly intend to be --

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: To avoid frustration over the course of this day, some of us were present at the hearings, some of us know exactly what was said, and I would hope that the minister would be required to not mislead the public by presenting accurate information about evidence presented in that committee, since he was never there, not one day.

Hon Mr Wilson: They seem to be making new historical contexts. I sat through --


The Speaker: Order, order. The member for Oriole is out of order. I would like to hear what the minister is saying.

Hon Mr Wilson: With respect to changes to the Health Insurance Act, which seems to have caught the attention of health care providers the most in presentations to the committee hearings, we are making changes so that we can better deal with fraud.

They've sent me a note saying I only have two or three minutes, but let's use the example of the physician who recently did a heart and lung transplant in his living room. Now, the good news is that apparently he didn't also bill us for a house call. But the fact of the matter is that he did put that money in trust; he was trying to prove a point about how inefficient the system is now.

What does that example do for us in terms of the context of Bill 26? Had that physician, under current law without the changes to Bill 26, not come forward and said, "By the way, I owe you $1,800; it was an inappropriate billing," had we not caught it in our computer system -- clearly the forensic flags did not catch it this time, and we're investigating why that didn't happen, why we didn't catch --

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): You've got a lot of nerve as the minister to say that.

The Speaker: The member for Cochrane South.


Hon Mr Wilson: We would not under current law be able to compel that physician to pay the $1,800 without being dragged through the MRC and the health services appeal and judicial appeal. It's costing $22,000 a case.

Mrs McLeod: Don't drag them through a provisional review; heaven forbid.

The Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition.

Hon Mr Wilson: Under Bill 26, where there is agreement, where it is the opinion of the general manager, for some services payment can be made. The media used to call that $1,800 that the physician held the interest-free loan. Now we will collect that money where it is very clear, and in the opinion of the general manager, and again, all cleared with the CPSO.

We are not defining what doctors will do in their offices day after day. I remind people that the Canada Health Act leaves it up to the provinces to define medically necessary services. That is what ministers of health do in Canada -- we define the whole range of services that medicare will pay for in this province. It differs from what medicare will pay for in other provinces, and nowhere in any law in Canada is medical necessity defined in law.

Bill 26, as amended, gives new and very substantial appeal that when the general manager of OHIP suspects, has an opinion, that a particular procedure was not medically necessary, again, that is referred to the Medical Review Committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Physicians themselves --


Hon Mr Wilson: Yes, it is; for insured services, it is. Physicians themselves investigate physicians, as through the MRC, and in fact, the good news in Bill 26 is that because we withdrew OHIP inspectors -- we listened and we said, "Okay, we don't need our own inspectors," but in exchange for that, the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the ministry were able to come up with a new expedited Medical Review Committee or practitioner review committee process.

Right now, sometimes when we have a relatively small amount of money in dispute between OHIP and a practitioner or a physician, they still have to go through the very long -- it takes three years for the case to even be heard by the Medical Review Committee, and in the end, if they're found guilty, their names are published. Now, practitioners and physicians will have the opportunity to check off if they want to go through a new expedited MRC. As one of the incentives to do that for relatively small amounts of collectibles, we won't publish their names -- or we don't publish the name, the College of Physicians and Surgeons does. They'll have an expedited process so their lives aren't disrupted. Sometimes these things do boil down to a matter of opinion between the college investigators, the general manager and the actual physician, so we think that's a tremendous improvement. If I were the OMA, I'd be claiming a victory on this rather than continuing to slam the government. Because we listened to them, we listened to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, we will have a better, more fair system for the doctors of this province with respect to disputes over billings. It's a vast improvement and it's something that I'm very proud of that we were able to work through.

Mr Speaker, my time is up. We've worked very hard to get Bill 26 right. I think you'll find that the government will be able, on behalf of the taxpayers, to bring some good management into the health care system, which is what we're all about, and we'll have the tools to restructure that system and meet not only the financial needs of the province and the financial constraints that are on the province, but more importantly, we'll be able to better meet the patients' needs. We'll be better able to have a system, to plan for the future, to bring in our new information system so that we can catch the doctor who admits he inappropriately billed the system and we'll be able to do that in a far more commonsense fashion.

Mr Speaker, I thank all members for their very good attention to the remarks I just made.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): It has been some time now since I have, as you know, Mr Speaker, stood in my place. It's good to be back. I am so happy to be here. I feel like I could just stay here all night.

The last time I was here I was filled with a sense of outrage. I was outraged because I saw a system disappearing before my eyes. I saw government bullying its way, trying to mug the democratic process. I was outraged because I saw the government trying to shackle and muzzle any opposition to its blind adherence to an ideological agenda.

Bill 26 is about a lot of things. It's about taking money out of the pockets of the poorest Ontarians, putting user fees on drugs for the sick and the elderly, just so Mike Harris can deliver a tax bonanza to the wealthiest Ontarians. It's about telling middle-class Ontarians that they won't have to pay any tax increases, then opening up the door to hundreds upon hundreds of user fees, license fees and registration fees, from walking into a park to calling the police. Most of all, this bill is about shackling democracy -- unbridled arrogance. It's about steamrolling over people's rights.

Democracy is a very cherished principle. To subvert real or substantive democracy is to be unaccountable to the people it represents. Real democracy calls for the respectful and sensitive use of the power achieved through the ballot.

Bill 26 shows us how easily the abuses of the past can be repeated in the present. The real intent of Bill 26 is to create conditions for the absolute reign of the business of the lords; the masters of this government. This is being done in the name of the people and in the name of progress.

The enemies of progress, according to this government, are the poor, the unemployed, the elderly and the workers and their organizations. The social guarantees put in place to protect the most vulnerable in our midst, guarantees in which we measure the humanism and the civilized status of the people, are now seen as obstacles to this government's goal of absolute power for the rich.

The people of this province understand this. They recognize that this bill is a blow to democracy. That is why 30,000 teachers and parents marched to protest against this government at Queen's Park this month, that is why over 300 taxpayers gathered at Albert Campbell Collegiate in Scarborough to protest against this bill, and that is why 150 concerned citizens gathered in North Bay, the Premier's riding, to speak out on this vulgar haste and secrecy.

It was over 200 years ago that Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger the most to be feared." I'm going to repeat that because I want the members of the government to hear it and to understand it, "The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger the most to be feared."

Jefferson was warning us against governments using their majorities to bulldoze their way over the will of the people. He was warning us about the arrogance that even a popular elected government can have.

We have seen lots of arrogance in this government. We have seen the arrogance in Mike Harris who wanted to ram this legislation through without any hearings. This bill would have been law on December 14. We have seen the arrogance when Mike Harris told over 1,000 groups and individuals, "We don't have time to listen to your presentations." I saw the arrogance so clearly when Mike Harris and his ministers refused to appear before a legislative committee to explain this bill or answer questions about it or even to defend it.


My colleagues and I have done everything we could to give the people a voice. We fought for public hearings and we have travelled across this province conducting our own hearings into Bill 26 while Jim Wilson was on vacation. I was in Windsor with my colleagues listening to auto workers talking about their fear and their personal medical records that would be invaded. While Al Leach was bunkered in his ministry, afraid to open his mouth and make yet another mistake, I was in St Thomas listening to mothers who feared for their children's education because they may not be able to afford user fees on library books. While Mike Harris was having his picture taken in front of the Taj Mahal, I was in North Bay listening to seniors talking about how they may have to choose between buying food or paying for medication with user fees. You've heard the phrase "Hobson's choice." This is Harris's choice: food or medication. Shame on you, Mr Harris, wherever you are.

The Tories have angered all decent Ontarians who have taken the time to understand Bill 26 and its terrible implications for doctors, nurses, teachers, firefighters, police officers, parents, and the list goes on and on and on. They're all united in the conviction that Bill 26 represents a monstrous erosion of rights and guarantees of the people of this province. Strangely, the Premier seems alone in not understanding what this bill says or what it means. Perhaps it was the devil who wrote this bill, since it reads like a document straight from hell.

The Tories have tried to stifle public debate on Bill 26 from the start, and you are quite a witness to that. They have denied the right to a hearing to hundreds and hundreds of Ontarians. I would like to read into the record just some of the individuals and groups who have been denied their right to give their input on this bill.

Before I do that, Mr Speaker, I want you to bring your attention to the fact that I've had thousands and thousands of petitions, and while this government has refused to receive petitions in this House, petition is one of the oldest traditions in our Parliament. We are denied to have petitions in this House today, and I have thousands of this petition here, which I would lay on the desk of the Clerk, because you refuse me and deny me the right to have those petitions, Mr Speaker. We know we have no pages, but I ask my colleague Mr Grandmaître if he could just drop this on the Clerk's desk.

These people have come to me this morning in the cold to say they want their voice to be heard, because thousands and thousands have not been heard. I will just read a few of these names, because if I should read those who were shut out -- especially the mayor of Scarborough, who represents over 600,000 people and was refused to be heard, and yet you're going to give them permission in which to administer taxes.

The 5th Medium Regimental Association, Douglas Sword, was denied; Aberhart, Charles; Academy of Obstetrics; Administrators of Medium Public Libraries in Ontario, Jane Watkins; Aird and Berlis, Christopher Williams. The list goes on: Church in Society Committee, London Conference, United Church of Canada; CUPE Local 778; Francophone Community Health Centre; Halton Regional Coalition for Social Justice, Terry Kelly. These are lists, and these are some of the names I'm reading: Mental Health Rights Coalition of Hamilton; Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, William Hogle; Queensway Carlton Hospital or District Office of OMA -- and you know the OMA was shut out from any consultation; St Joseph's Health Centre, Don McDermott; Zone 14 Senior, Orvel Kerr, and the list goes on.

Democracy has been hijacked by this dictatorial government. I say that I wish this province well and I hope sense will come to Mike Harris and many of his absent ministers who are not even here to listen to this.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: None of us has a copy of Bill 26. According to my reading of the standing orders, it says, "When a bill has been amended in any committee it shall be reprinted as the Clerk of the House directs, amendments being indicated, and shall not be further proceeded with until it has been reprinted and marked REPRINTED on the Orders and Notices paper."

I wonder, Mr Speaker, if you could be helpful here for us. As we're proceeding, I gather, to vote later today on this bill, it may be helpful if we all actually had a copy of the bill that we're voting on.

The Speaker: We have a special order of the House, the procedures that are being followed today. We're in those procedures and they're in order.

Further debate? The leader of the third party.

Mr Bob Rae (York South): I will not only be giving a speech on third reading of the bill; I will also be marking the third reading of my political career this morning. Therefore, Mr Speaker, I'm going to have to ask you and the House for some slight indulgence. I will of course focus my attention on the contents of Bill 26 in so far as that is possible, given that we don't now have a copy of the legislation, but perhaps members will understand that I would like to take this opportunity in giving some reflections on the last 20 years in public life, as well as on questions about the future.

I have four things that I would like to say, and if I can keep to four, I'll have done well.

The first is that I feel very strongly that politics is a very necessary part of life. Public life is neither a recipe for self-enrichment nor is it a crown of thorns. I often hear people talking about how difficult and how trying and how onerous it must be to be in politics or in public life. Similarly, I often hear from my constituents as to how they know that everyone in public life is a millionaire and how one is simply there in order to enrich oneself in one way or another. I just want to make the point at this time in my life of saying that I think both those views are completely wrong.

Politics for me has been a wonderful, wonderful experience. I have absolutely no regrets about my having chosen, as a relatively young man, to enter public life. I'm sure there are times and moments when I could have made far more money in doing other things, but I can honestly say that that was not a factor. I can also say very directly to members that I'm sure each and every one of us knows some of that sense of joy and the sense of fun, the sense of partnership, the sense of camaraderie, the sense of working in common with others for a good cause. In my view, there is no finer thing in life -- in public life in any event, in these forms of very necessary partnership.


I've been lucky enough to be elected eight times. The very first time I ran, I was considered to be an impossible candidate. I was too young. I was allegedly too rich. I had never worked a day in my life, and there are some who would no doubt say that is still true. I've been lucky enough to be a rising star in four separate decades, and I'm looking forward to the next one, I would say.

But to my constituents in Broadview in the east end of Toronto and in the west end in York South, I would simply like to say thank you. You've given me a chance to serve, a chance to learn something of your lives, a chance to represent you in so many different ways, and to have received the confidence of the electorate on eight separate occasions is something of which I'm enormously proud. I have done so standing on behalf of the New Democratic Party and due to the assistance and help and work and dedication of literally thousands and thousands of volunteers.

If any one of my children were to say to me at any time in their lives that they would like to enter politics, I would encourage them to do so, as I would to any young person who wants to make a contribution and is prepared to perhaps develop an extra layer of skin, an additional sense of perspective and irony. But once those things have been settled, it is truly a marvellous, marvellous opportunity to learn and to serve.

To have been able to become a Premier of this province, which I was lucky enough to do on October 1, 1990, was obviously, for me, the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort. The fact that I was not re-elected as Premier was of course a disappointment but, as I've subsequently discovered, not the end of the world.

I'd like, if I might, to pay tribute -- perhaps this is a little unusual -- to some of the extraordinary opponents I've had, because in public life no doubt people focus on the partisanship and on the harshness of the things that are said. I've certainly given as good as I've received -- at least I hope I have -- and I hope no one has taken offence at things that I have said in moments of extreme partisanship.

But I think of William Davis, who was the Premier when I was first elected to this House, someone whose patience and whose sense of humour I always have enjoyed and continue to enjoy to this day.

I think of the Honourable Robert Nixon, who served with me in opposition, from whom I learned an enormous amount not just about politics but about the life and history of this province, and whose intense sense of partisanship never prevented him from becoming a friend.

I think of the masterly control of the House which I used to see by one Allan J. MacEachen, who was the archetype for me of a truly dedicated public servant, a marvellous speaker and an extraordinary political tactician. All of us could learn something from watching him, and I hope I did.

I have had the opportunity to serve with some marvellous people, both federally and provincially. In my own case, when I was elected to Parliament in 1978, Ed Broadbent was my leader. I also had the chance to serve with Stanley Knowles and with Tommy Douglas, two individuals whose integrity stood out like a beacon for me, whose incredible sense of the history of this country and sense of sacrifice is quite extraordinary, and I'm truly grateful for having had the opportunity to serve with them.

Mr Broadbent was the first and only leader I had the chance to serve with before becoming leader of the provincial party myself, and I can honestly say that in many respects I have tried to match his sense of patience, his sense of humour, his sense of balance and his sense of the need for our own party to come to terms with the dramatic changes under way in our economy and in our lives.

Of course it's an enormous risk to pay tribute to one's colleagues, because in doing so there are always people one leaves out, so as I had chance to do yesterday evening at a private dinner with my caucus colleagues, I would like to single out simply my seatmate, the member for Nickel Belt.

We became friends in political opposition, but I think it's fair to say that our partnership was never stronger than in the five years we served together in government. My colleague served as Deputy Premier and as Minister of Finance and, as I'm sure the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance today will know, there's probably no more onerous responsibility in the government. It's one that Floyd has carried out with humour, with patience, with perseverance and with incredible loyalty. To him I am grateful for having made politics as enjoyable and as rewarding as it is.

To my staff: I've been very lucky to have had some who served with me throughout my entire time in politics. David Agnew and Sheila Kirouac both came into my office at a very young age. They married and are raising two children. I just want to pay tribute to both of them for their dedication to my public life. I would also like to say that my constituency assistant, Tony Romano, has been with me in York South from the very beginning, and, as all of us know, it's the constituency staff who not only get us there but keep us there. For many people in my constituency of York South, Tony Romano is Bob Rae and the New Democratic Party, and to him I am enormously grateful, as to all those who've helped.

Shakespeare wrote at the end of All's Well That Ends Well:

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn,

good and ill together.

Our virtues would be proud if our faults

whip them not,

And our crimes would despair if they were not

cherished by our own virtues.

I think I can say that this Legislature has served its purpose in making sure that my virtue was never allowed to be very proud either in opposition or in government, and that's as it should be. But perhaps my critics will not be surprised if I point out the second half of Shakespeare's comment, that "our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our own virtues."

I am proud of what I have tried to do in public life and I feel that the efforts of our government to keep the province whole in a time of enormous financial and economic challenge, our determination not to forget the least fortunate, and our determination to try to find the correct balance between the need for efficiency, the need for greater productivity, the need for a successful economy, the need to respect freedom and the need at the same time for social justice -- it's never an easy task, it's never an easy balance to find, and no doubt there will be those who will say we failed to find it at different moments, but we never stopped trying to find it. That indeed has been my central political belief.

I'll repeat it again: The politics of this province and the politics of Canada is about balance. Social justice, economic efficiency, liberty have always to be balanced. Balanced economies and balanced societies are just as important as balanced budgets, and they do not necessarily have to be at odds or at war with each other. They need to be made to work together.

There's a role for markets; there's a role for companies, for banks and for business; there's also a role for unions, for universities, for non-profit agencies, as well as for government itself. Government is not an evil. Government is the means we have chosen together to accomplish critical ends and objectives. Above all, there's a role for people, not just the wealthy and the well-spoken, who, from my experience both in opposition and in government, have a great deal of ease in making their views known and in making their influence felt.


I'm always reminded of a comment of Harry Truman, who made a point of saying at the end of a large lobbying session that it was his job to represent the people who didn't have a lobbyist. Fundamentally, that is the objective of government, and it becomes harder in our time because the lobbyists and the special interests, which exist in all sectors, always are able to find the voices and the lawyers and the people who can put forward the views and make the case and make the representation. They can get to the newspaper editors and they can get to the publishers and they can get to the editorial boards. But the broad interest of the common people has got to be represented and has got to be spoken for by the Legislature of this province. It's got to be represented above all by the government and by the Premier of the day, even if it means making decisions that are exceptionally unpopular.

I think it's fair to say that history as well as current analysis would reflect that our government made many unpopular decisions. Only time will tell whether they were the right decisions. Sometimes they were, no doubt; sometimes, I'm sure, they weren't. But they were always made in the spirit of being determined to try to do the right thing, and I did that and our government did it at significant political cost. But I also can say to all of you that I have a clear conscience about those decisions because they were made not to impress a poll or an editorial board or a particular publishing company or a particular media outlet, or even because it was in conformity with something I had said or allegedly said three years or five years or 10 years before, because I believe politics is also about the courage to change, the courage to change one's mind, the courage to recognize when something one has believed in might not be still correct today and that circumstance requires this courage to change.

What troubles me most about politics today -- I know it is going to be hard for me to strike exactly the right note, because I do not want to be meanspiritedly partisan, but at the same time I want to say what I think and what I feel about where we are in the Legislature today.

We told the people of the province, and not just during the election campaign but for the entire period in which the Common Sense Revolution was made public and then presented to the people, that it was an absurd document, that as wonderful as the objectives in it might be, anybody who's had 30 seconds' experience in governing this province would know that what it was proposing to do could not be done in the way in which it was proposed, that a promise not to cut health care, a promise to guarantee law enforcement and justice spending, a promise to guarantee educational spending in the classroom, was entirely and utterly incompatible with the financial and fiscal objectives set out in the document.

It is a document which -- I do not know whether it was intended to deceive, but I do know that it is a document that is fundamentally based on a deception. And Bill 26 is the attempt to square the circle. That's all it is. It is an attempt to square the circle, and members opposite should not be surprised at the outrage.

My Conservative opponent in the good riding of York South -- I'll be interested to see if he runs again -- Dr Edwards, a neighbour of mine, had bought the OMA line about our government, and had bought the line of his leader about the fact that health care spending was going to be guaranteed. I can't speak for Dr Edwards, but he has spoken for himself, and I'm sure there's a sense of personal betrayal on his part, because the powers this government has accrued to itself are far more ominous, as far as the medical profession is concerned, than any powers that have been taken by any government in the history of the province of Ontario. No government has taken upon itself such a degree of centralized power, and that is not what Dr Edwards thought the Conservative platform meant. He did not believe he was voting for new bureaucracies. He did not believe he was being enrolled as an architect of a new despotism, yet that is what we have.

I hope the government finds the courage to change. I hope the government has the courage to finally admit that the promises contained in the Common Sense Revolution are literally unachievable. They're unachievable because the numbers don't add up and because if you try to achieve the kind of fiscal financial wizardry proposed in this document, you will do so only at enormous expense -- expense to jobs, expense to families, expense to growth, expense to justice, all in the name of ideology, all in the name of a document which is now being taken as some sort of holy gospel.

This document has to be exposed for what it is. I look at the contortions the government has had to go through. I look at the bending and twisting of, "Is that a promise or is that a user fee or is that a charge?" How can we explain the absolute and total absence of any minister from defending this legislation for the space of three weeks? Say what you like about our government, but we took the heat and we were there. This government is led from behind. It stands in the name of the Minister of Finance. Where was he? Where has he been? Where is his leadership on this bill?

The Premier says, "I'm unacquainted with the details." I say to my friends in the media, if I had said that, you wouldn't have put up with it for more than five seconds. You would've crucified me and crucified the government. There wasn't one thing our government did that we weren't supposed to be responsible for. Then this Premier stands up in his most genial fashion and says: "Oh, gosh, I'm not a master of detail. Sorry, folks, I've been away. I've been telling everybody that Ontario is open for business, because Ontario's been closed for business for the last five years or 10 years or 15 years."


Mr Rae: Right. Wait for it. You tell that to Honda. You tell that to Toyota. You tell that to the European interests. You tell that to the largest increase in investment in 1994 that we ever had in the history of the province. What poppycock. What poppycock and what arrogance.

And the Premier explaining why he has to suffer in going to Davos next week because he has to overcome the problem -- well, this kind of suffering I'm sure the Premier will get used to over time.

That kind of arrogance ill becomes him, as well as the statement he made in the wilds of India saying: "What's the legacy of Mr Rae, as he announces his retirement? One word: Deficit." What a shot.

I put it all in balance and I put it in perspective, but there's far more at stake here in this legislation. It's precisely because this government is obsessed -- obsessed -- with what needs to be done with the numbers and with the tax break it has proposed that it is forcing the public sector and forcing the people of this province into a box that is not of their own making.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Your making.

Mr Rae: No. The member opposite said of my making. I say to you, sir, have you ever heard of the recession? Have you not the decency to at least admit that there was, for three and a half to four years in this province, an exceptional recession caused by high interest rates, by a free trade agreement that came on long and fast and hard? Do you not have the decency to admit that? Will you not now at least admit that? Will you not now at least admit that during the time that William Davis governed in 1975, there was an increase in the deficit? Will you not have the decency to admit that in the recession in 1980 and 1981, Mr Davis also allowed the deficit to rise, because he had a sense of proportion and balance which the right-wing zealots who have taken over the Tory party have utterly and completely lost? That's the problem.


There is the stench of right-wing zealotry about this government. There is the stench of the Reform Party which hangs over this government and which has affected it. That is what is wrong with this legislation.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Bob, this wasn't going to be partisan.

Mr Rae: I would not want to make my exit any more quiet than my coming into public life.

Some 60 years ago, it was a British conservative, a distinguished jurist named Lord Hewart, who, observing the dramatic change in administrative law which was under way in Britain at that time, described the accrual of power to bureaucrats and to ministers without limits, without review, without any kind of constructive law. He called it a new despotism. He said it threatened, in his view, the capacity of people to be truly free. It affected the ability of our courts and of the rule of law to establish and re-establish a sense of balance. I never thought that I would be drawing on the work of true conservatives in order to call this government to order.

The Minister of Health has the power to shut down institutions, and now he says, "We're going to sunset it." You can do a lot of shutting in four years. I think that sunset is a complete phony. What you need is a process in which the interests of the parties can be reconciled. What you need is a process in which one says, "We're going to make this a genuinely non-political, non-partisan exercise." I would say --

Mr Tilson: You closed beds.

Mr Rae: Yes, we closed beds. I recognize the need for reform and I'm glad the member for Wellington is active. He should be in the cabinet if he wants to be so active. I don't see why he shouldn't be put in there. Give him a chance to speak up, instead of forcing him on the front lines to constantly be defending legislation which he hasn't had the chance to read and amendments which he hasn't had the chance to see.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): This is Wellington over here.

Mr Rae: The member for Wellington should be there as well. He couldn't do any worse than the others who are there.

This is a critical point and this is what is driving all sorts of people who are not New Democrats and who are not Liberals and who would like still to be members of the Tory party and who would like to be supporters of the Tory party, driving them to say, "This bill has gone too far." It is the power that is being accrued to a few and it is the inability of citizens to have their voices heard and the determination of people to force this through.

Over time, I say to members opposite, you too will come alive and, as you come to caucus meetings, you too will start to ask questions about what kind of legislation needs 160 amendments in the space of three days, presented and rammed through. What sort of process is this? Mr Speaker, you will find and members opposite will find the need to make reform happen in a way that draws on public sentiment and that draws on what the public is saying. This bill goes too far and it goes too fast and it gives too much power. Fundamentally, it is based on the absurdities of the promises made in the Common Sense Revolution. Tragically, it is at the same time the complete denial of the document called the Common Sense Revolution.

Let me just for the record repeat it again, because I know how much members like to hear this document read out:

"Let's start with the top priorities -- the essential services that Ontarians want to see protected.

"Health care:

"We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important."

There are layoffs throughout the health care sector and there are, in every community in this province, people who know full and perfectly well that it is part of the agenda of this government to cut health care spending. That's what they're doing, that's what they are carrying out.

I have many who are afraid to speak out and, now that I have left politics, I hear more from hospital presidents and chairmen of boards of hospitals than ever before, because they're intimidated and they're afraid. They say: "Should we speak out? What do you think we should do? Will we be punished if we speak out?" I look forward over the next few weeks, as I begin to discuss with people in various institutions, and my answer to people will be, you must speak out. You must work. You must. Don't be afraid. There is nothing wrong with saying the debate must continue. Bill 26 is not the end of the day. These issues must continue and this opinion must be changed, and the only way to change it is for ordinary people, and extraordinary people, to have the courage to speak out against this government. That's what must happen. That's what must continue to be done.

It then goes on to say:

"The people of Ontario are rightly concerned about community safety in our province, particularly the increasing incidence of violent crime. That is why funding for law enforcement and justice will be guaranteed."

There has never been as great a crisis in our justice system since the time of the Askov decision. I'm not here going to say what happened and what didn't happen. We all know what happened. We know the trauma and we know the outrage and we know the sense of betrayal that was felt by thousands of citizens, innocent victims, when cases of alleged criminals were thrown out because of the decision in Askov.

I can well recall the Attorney General of the day and I having to sit down in the very first weeks of the government. Even before we were sworn in, we became aware of the magnitude of the decision. We right away had to deal with this issue. It involved additional resources and it involved moving things as quickly as we possibly could. I'm very proud of those achievements, of the investments that were made by the member for Rainy River and by the member for London Centre. It would now appear that all of this is threatened by virtue of this mania for cuts -- mania for cuts at the expense of jobs, mania for cuts at the expense of health, mania for cuts at the expense of the basic protection of the person and protection of property.

That's not why the Tory party was elected. If the Premier, leader of the Conservative Party, had said, "Elect me and I'm going to cut health care. Elect me and I'm going to cut police funding and I'm going to cut the funding for courts and I'm going to close a whole bunch of jails and I'm going to do X, Y and close a bunch of halfway houses and I'm going to close all these things. Vote for me," he would have been laughed out of the province -- and he knows it. That's why I say this document is a deception, it's a complete deception. It is a deception that continues to this day as the government says, "Well, you know, when we said `user fee,' we didn't mean user, we didn't mean a charge," or "We didn't mean da, da, da, da, da, da."

Interjection: Copayment.

Mr Rae: Copayment. But the leader of the Conservative Party in opposition, standing where I stand today -- and it's all on tape now, and we can all recall it very clearly -- said: "Oh, don't mix words. Do the numbers. Don't mix words." "Premier, is it a user fee or a charge? We all know it's the same thing." Well, we do know it's the same thing.

So when it comes to drugs, when it comes to education in the classroom, when it comes to every basic issue that the Conservatives knew they were vulnerable on in the last election, because they knew that people did not want those things to be cut, they said: "Don't worry. We won't cut them." And now you're cutting them and that's why people are mad, that's why people are upset.


Interjection: That's why we're at 50% in the polls.

Mr Rae: You've lost the need for balance. I hear someone saying over on the other side, "That's why we're at 50% in the polls."

Mrs McLeod: Not a chance.

Mr Rae: Trust me, my friend, those numbers will change. I know whereof I speak, and so does the Leader of the Opposition. These numbers change. They don't mean a damn thing, and if you govern by those polls, my friends, you are making a very, very sad and tragic error. Do not fall into that trap of complacency about some dumb poll that's taken one day or another. Politics is not about following polls; politics is about changing opinion and about providing leadership. That's what politics is all about. It's not about following some stupid poll.

I said I had four points; I've covered two and I've got two to go.

My third point is that we must all of us in this House and in this province work much harder for a Canada that understands the need for unity and diversity at the same time. We are at a critical moment in our history as a country. Having said that, I've made the same point and the same statement on many other occasions in this House -- on this side, on that side and now back on this side again. Yet I must confess, I believe it more strongly today than I have believed it at any other time.

Canada was born because of the decision of politicians in the combined province of Canada, in what is now Ontario and Quebec, that it was necessary for the survival of British North America north of the 49th parallel that there be developed a partnership. It's interesting to remember that in a sense Canada had to come apart before it could come together. You will all recall that Lord Durham made the decision to bring people together. We needed to come, in a sense, to be at one with ourselves in forming provinces in order to allow that to happen.

Quebec is a distinct society. We must recognize that. We lose nothing by granting what is unique and distinct in others. I've been very proud to have been part of a tradition that transcends party in this regard, that we've found a common ground on these questions for decades, that we have not played footsie in any way with those who would deny the uniqueness of Quebec and the importance of recognizing their cultural, linguistic and other concerns. So I say once again to my fellow legislators, we must reject the solutions that divide or that insist that we all be the same or that deny diversity. The genius of federalism and the genius of Canada is that we have been able to combine unity and diversity. I shall continue to work throughout my political life and my public life in the future, whatever form it may take, and my private life, whatever form that may take, for this continued sense of balance and for the continuing importance of the unity of our country.

Mr Speaker, I have to do something rather unusual. I have about five more minutes and I wonder if I might have the indulgence of the House to proceed to that point.

Je dois dire que nous sommes un pays qui n'est pas un pays centraliste mais un pays fédéral, ce qui veut dire que les provinces ont des pouvoirs importants, et en même temps nous avons décidé d'être ensemble pour des raisons importantes et permanentes.

Mais cette association commune que nous avons, qui s'appelle le Canada, n'est pas un État centralisateur. Nous avons les garanties des droits minoritaires au Québec et en Ontario parallèlement. Nous avons montré, je crois depuis bien longtemps dans cette province, notre volonté de continuer de parler, de participer dans ce dialogue constitutionnel tellement important en même temps que nous nous sommes engagés à protéger les minorités dans notre propre province.

Je dis encore à nos concitoyens québécois que nous voulons garder le Canada uni, mais en même temps divers, qui reconnaît la spécificité du Québec et le fait que le Québec est une société distincte. C'est ça qui est important, certainement pour les jours à venir.

Nous sommes tous reconnaissants du fait que M. Bouchard deviendra cet après-midi le premier ministre du Québec et qu'il a encore répété l'engagement de son gouvernement à tirer le Québec hors de la fédération. C'est pourquoi je crois que c'est important que la population québécoise sache que pour nous, Ontariens, notre volonté de faire les changements nécessaires pour tout le Canada est permanente, que c'est quelque chose qui est partagé par tous les partis dans la Chambre et je crois par tous les premiers ministres dans cette province depuis bien longtemps. Je suis fier du fait que pendant ma période en tant que premier ministre, nous avons pu montrer de façons très concrètes et très spécifiques notre volonté et notre sens du devoir.

Finally, I would like to pay a somewhat unusual tribute in this House, but it is to my wife, Arlene, and to my family.

Shakespeare's 25th sonnet goes like this:

Let those who are in favour with their stars

Of public honour and proud titles boast,

Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,

Unlook'd for joy in that I honour most.

Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread

But as the marigold at the sun's eye,

And in themselves their pride lies buried,

For at a frown they in their glory die.

The painful warrior famoused for fight,

After a thousand victories once foil'd,

Is from the book of honour razed quite,

And all the rest forgot for which he toil'd

Then happy I, that love and am belov'd,

Where I may not remove nor be remov'd.

My family have done much to teach me something of the limits of politics and the rewards of other parts of life. I'm very proud of having been able to serve the people of Ontario for nearly 20 years. I could not have done it without the example of my parents and the cherished support of my family and friends. Arlene, Judith, Lisa and Eleanor have given me the joy and security of a love that cannot be removed, and for that I am eternally grateful. And so I say, hail and farewell.


Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I understand that there is going to be a special tribute to the leader of the third party later today. However, I would at this time like to --

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Resign.

Hon Mr Leach: At least he has a little class. I'd like to wish him my very personal best. I do have a great deal of respect for his integrity and his dedication to the people of the province of Ontario and to Canada. In the past we've worked together on major transit issues, and he always, always provided very strong support. Obviously, there are issues that we do not agree on, and Bill 26 is one of those.

When Bill 26 was introduced on November 29, our only agenda for this legislation was the need for quick action to give municipalities the tools they require to manage with fewer provincial subsidies. The fiscal and economic statement of November 29 set out the reduced funding transfers for this year and beyond. We prepared the municipal sector for these reductions in the months that preceded the announcement. I know that municipalities heeded our advice and started to prepare, but they were missing some important new tools to help them adjust. These tools are what the municipal side of the bill is all about. I'm sure that everyone is familiar with them now.

Just let me say that most of the bill's provisions fall into two categories: those that give municipalities more autonomy to make local decisions, and those that help municipalities cut costs or raise additional revenues.

Bill 26 was introduced to combat the province's financial crisis. And let's not make any mistake: We are in the midst of a very serious crisis, one that gives us no alternatives other than the tough measures this government has had the courage to take. They're not pleasant, they're tough medicine, but Ontario cannot continue down the debt spiral. We must take action to restore prosperity to this great province, and we must take it now.

Many of the municipal provisions of Bill 26 were long overdue. Municipalities have been asking the province to introduce them for many years. Bill 26 recognizes that municipalities have grown up. They've been asking us to stop treating them like children. I think Bill 26 is a clear recognition that municipalities are capable of managing much more, that they can make their own decisions on matters of local interest, and that they will act responsibly.

Our municipal partners have been pleased with the tools provided in Bill 26 because they give them coping mechanisms. With these tools, municipalities won't necessarily have to resort to raising property taxes to make up for the reduced provincial subsidies.

When I introduced the bill to the standing committee on general government, I assured the committee members that clarifications would be made to the bill if they were necessary. Our goal was to make sure we had things right so that the legislation would work. During the hearings which took place in Toronto and locations all across the province, we heard some genuine concerns expressed. We responded to them. It is proof that we were open to suggestions and listened to representations during the committee hearings held on the bill.

Some amendments clarify what has always been the intent of the legislation; still others strengthen it in areas where it needed to be stronger. We publicly announced several significant amendments on January 18 and introduced others for the clause-by-clause consideration by MPPs that followed. There are a number of detailed amendments affecting local government. It's not my intention to go into each one of them here, but I would like to focus on a few key amendments to make sure the intent of the legislation is crystal-clear.

One of the major concerns we heard was that Bill 26 might allow municipalities to levy income, sales or gasoline taxes. That was never the case, and we wanted to clarify any misinterpretations. The bill will indeed provide municipalities with more flexibility on how they raise revenues, but our amendment makes it clear that this does not include income, sales or gasoline taxes. The amendment explicitly prohibits municipalities from imposing taxes in this area.

In a similar vein, there has been much debate about Bill 26 making it possible for municipalities to charge a poll tax as a way to raise revenues. My personal belief is that such a tax for any municipality would be suicidal, and I don't think any municipality would impose that kind of charge. But there has been enough concern expressed that we decided to amend the legislation to prohibit such a tax. We are not going to allow municipalities to charge a poll tax or any similar fee or charge simply because someone lives in a municipality. This was never the intent; this was never in the legislation.

Concerns also surfaced around the provision in Bill 26 about licence fees. The bill will allow municipalities to charge licence fees, and it will also remove outdated, unreasonable fees set in the Municipal Act, such as $1 a year for a bakery licence. The problem with maintaining licence fees at such a ridiculously low level is that they are money losers for municipalities. They cannot possibly recover administration and enforcement costs with that kind of fee.

When we drafted the legislation, we were convinced that municipalities would use this power responsibly. But some have raised concerns that municipalities might use the provisions in the bill to charge excessive licence fees as a way to raise revenues. They have also suggested that municipalities could use licensing powers to make it too expensive for a business to set up shop, thereby excluding it from the community.

In view of these concerns, we amended Bill 26. We did this to prevent municipalities from setting unreasonable licence fees as tools simply to raise revenues or exclude certain types of businesses from the community. That was never the intent. So the amendment will specify that municipalities must take into account the cost to administer and enforce business-licensing bylaws in setting fees.

One final provision of Bill 26 relates to municipal restructuring. The bill removes barriers to municipal restructuring and gives greater authority to municipalities to make restructuring decisions. The government's intention in Bill 26 is to provide more flexibility to municipalities that are interested in restructuring. The reason, of course, is to help municipalities achieve greater efficiency and cost saving.

Restructuring attempts have been long and tedious in the past, and few have been successful. The current legislation is cumbersome, inefficient and expensive. Unless there was 100% consent by the affected municipalities, provincial legislation was always needed to implement restructuring. Because of this, the legislation originally gave authority to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to appoint a restructuring commission to be used when consensus could not be achieved locally. This commission would have the powers to develop and implement its own restructuring plan. This caused some concerns that the minister could arbitrarily impose restructuring on a municipality where there was no local interest, that Queen's Park could impose a made-in-Toronto decision where it wasn't wanted, without any local input.

We've agreed and have introduced an amendment so that the minister cannot even consider appointing a local restructuring commission unless there has been a local request. Before the minister can appoint a restructuring commission, there must be a request made by at least one municipality or, in the case of an unorganized area, at least 75 residents. Without a locally initiated request, a commission cannot be appointed.

To further limit this authority, restructuring commissions can't be appointed after December 31, 1999. By then, we should have a good idea whether or not commissions have helped accomplish restructuring and whether or not they are still an economic necessity.

The amendments also require a restructuring commission to consult with the municipalities involved. It must issue a draft report, hold at least one public meeting and receive written submissions before the final decision is made. The municipalities and the public must also be given notice about how they can have input into the process. It's clear that these amendments make the process completely democratic while serving our interest of increasing local autonomy.

One other amendment I would like to mention deals with the liability of municipal councillors in municipalities where a restructuring proposal has been submitted but not yet enacted. The original legislation would have made councillors personally liable for violating any parts of this regulation. After consideration, we have decided to repeal this liability clause because it was unnecessary. There will be appropriate protection for the future restructured municipality in the regulations that municipalities and their councillors will have to follow.


You have heard me mention several times increased local autonomy, more local decision-making and confidence in our municipalities. We were sure enough that municipalities would make appropriate choices that we gave them the flexibility to decide how to spend the money we give them.

Bill 26 creates the Ontario municipal support program. This program rolls three previous provincial grants into one block grant fund, with virtually all funding conditions removed. Municipalities will now have the freedom to spend this money on local priorities.

I don't want to gloss over the fact that municipalities are going to be receiving less money from the province. Some municipalities had substantial reductions this year; others had less. Those that got off lightly are aware that we will be reviewing our distribution formula for next year. All municipalities must take a long-term view and contemplate change. The breathing space we have given some municipalities this year is an opportunity for them to do better planning for future restructuring.

These are challenging times, and I am confident that Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act, will be instrumental in revolutionizing Ontario's municipal sector. It is recognized that our municipalities have come of age and are ready to be treated like adults. Passage of this bill is very important so that we and our municipal and other transfer partners can move ahead in the months to come, so that they can take the strides they must take to become truly self-reliant and help get this province moving again.

Mr Phillips: I'm pleased to join the debate on Bill 26, to say that I think this bill has completely changed the mood of this province. I think most people across the province were prepared prior to this to give you a chance, to say: "Listen, they were elected. They've got an agenda. Let them get on with it." But I would say to you that on November 29, when you introduced this bill, the mood in this province changed. Two things happened. One is that we in the opposition, and I think the public, don't trust you any more, and this bill is a symbol of that. The second thing is that many people thought you had some competency; they may not have agreed with your agenda, but they thought you were at least competent. This bill and the process we've been through have proven that you're incompetent.

If you want to know why we're so angry, it is because we in the opposition feel betrayed by this bill. I will just go over the reasons we don't trust you any more.

First, the public may remember that this bill, 211 pages, was introduced when we in the opposition were in what's called a lockup. The government knew we would be there. We were in that lockup until 4 o'clock on November 29 to review the fiscal statement, and at 3:30 in this House the government introduced this bill. It was deliberate and was the first indication for us that you're not to be trusted.

Then what did you try to do? You tried to ram this bill through in two weeks with no debate. I hope the Conservative backbench members now realize that was a fundamental abuse of power. Why did you try to do that? Because somebody in the Premier's office thought they could get away with it.

The alarms went off for me when that night, November 29, I was with one of the senior ex-members of this Conservative Party who said to me: "Gee, I hope you're going to let that bill go through. I hope you're not going to be obstructionist about it. I hope we're going to get it passed before Christmas." I realized what you were trying to do: ram a bill through this House in two weeks, with no debate, which you had no business doing. It's an insult to the people of this province. This bill touches every single person in this province and you wanted to ram it through with no debate -- nothing, zero debate.

Now we've found out some of the details of the bill as we've been moving along. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing just spoke, and I would say his fingerprints are all over this bill in a very nasty way. The first thing that happened was that the Minister of Municipal Affairs went to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and said: "Listen, I'm cutting your grants in half. What will it take to keep you quiet?" Do you know who was sacrificed there? The firefighters, the police, hospital workers, conservation authorities, library boards, and the public.

You have given them carte blanche to introduce user fees in the widest possible way. As a matter of fact, as you know, your language was, "We're going to give unlimited flexibility for user fees." There is no doubt that this bill permitted gas taxes; there's no doubt of that. The Canadian Bar Association went through the bill. The only one who thought it didn't is the minister, who's shaking his head. Then we had the extraordinary circumstance of the minister saying he's going to call for his own resignation if he's wrong. It was an incredible show. He said, "I'm going to call for my resignation if I'm wrong." And we find he was wrong, dead wrong, 100% wrong. This bill, until it was amended, indeed did permit gas taxes. And that's not us talking; that's everybody who's looked at it. As a matter of fact, he says he tabled a legal opinion that said it prohibited it. We don't believe that.

Even today we hear him saying things about this bill that I don't believe are true. He said that the licence fee must reflect the cost of the inspection. The bill does not say that. He is either once again not aware of what the bill says or he's misleading the House. He says that the bill never permitted gas tax or a poll tax. Well, he himself said it permitted a poll tax, and now he's saying the bill didn't permit a poll tax.

Hon Mr Leach: I never said that.

Mr Phillips: You didn't say it permitted a poll tax? You didn't say it permitted a poll tax? Of course it permitted a poll tax.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): You didn't say it today. You said it to the media.

Mr Phillips: Exactly. Then I heard him on Saturday night saying, "There are only 12 amendments in my section." Add them up, Minister. There are 34 amendments. My point is simply this: Why do we not trust you? It's because you do not say things that are accurate. On Saturday night he said, "Twelve amendments in my section." Count them. There are 34 amendments. Can the opposition have any trust at all in a government that as recently as a few minutes ago was once again saying things in the Legislature that are not in the bill?

I would say to every firefighter, every police officer, every school teacher, every hospital worker, that the bill fundamentally changes collective bargaining for you. Why? Because Al Leach bargained away your collective bargaining rights to AMO. You were never at the table. You didn't have a chance for a debate. It was simply put in this bill with no opportunity for debate.

The public sector pension fund is another example where people can't trust you. It was you people who tried through regulation, not through negotiation or any openness, to take $250 million out of the public sector pension. You tried that. The union took you to court and you were proven to be acting illegally. So what did you do? You took this bill and exempted yourself from the Pension Benefits Act. How can anybody trust you when you try and do something through regulations and go to court and the courts say you're acting illegally, so what do you do? You change the law. Surely you recognize that means that people in this province are unable to trust you.


As we look at the rest of this bill, in the areas of health -- and it's been touched on -- it was clear, 100% clear, during the campaign that you were saying, "No new user fees and no new copayments." You spelled it out in detail.

So what do you do with the first major bill? You completely repudiate that promise. The minister today said, "Well, nine other provinces have that." Well, nine other provinces had that when you made the promise, but you said you looked at those nine other provinces and rejected that. You said you were going to bring a fair share health levy to pay the copayments, not to put it on people. You looked at those nine other provinces, you rejected that during the election, and now we find, six months after the election, that the government is essentially repudiating its own campaign document.

You went through the same thing on health care. "We won't touch a penny of health care." This bill is all about cutting health care spending. If you felt that's what you needed to do, you should not have misled the people during the campaign.

I go on about the mistrust. I can remember the government saying: "We're going to put this through in two weeks, no debate, because we've studied the bill. We've got to get on with it. This bill is just fine." Then we find 160 amendments. The bill has been gutted by your own amendments. You were made to look like fools because of 160 amendments to this bill.

Still on trust: We had the spectacle where one day we're in committee hearings at 9 o'clock in the morning -- I remember it well, we were in Thunder Bay -- and we said, "Will you table your amendments?" The government said to us, "We have no intention of tabling amendments until we complete the public hearings." At exactly that moment, at 9 o'clock that very day in Kitchener, the government was tabling I think 50 amendments to the health sector of the bill.

The point I'm making is that we can't trust you. At 9 o'clock in one committee, we're being told that the government has no intention of tabling amendments, and at 9 o'clock and 1,200 kilometres away in another committee, they're tabling 50 amendments. So what's the public to believe?

Mr Murdoch: What's the point?

Mr Phillips: What's the point? I appreciate one of the members over there asking. The point is trust. The point is doing what you said you would do. The point is not lying. The point is being straight with people. That's what the point is. If you think you could've rammed this bill through in 14 days, with the bill essentially filled with mistakes, you now have found out you can't do that.

The second thing I want to talk about is competence. Again, there was a feeling that at least you may have known what you were doing. The bill proves you're incompetent. I don't know who was responsible for this mess, but to have a bill that purports to implement your agenda, that purports to do what you've said you thought about for all these four years in opposition, and then to find we've got 160 amendments, shows your incompetence.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs himself was unable to explain some of the most fundamental parts of the bill, and even today in his explanation he's wrong. The licence provisions are not as he outlined them. The tax provisions are not as he outlined them. He's wrong on the restructuring. Even today, hours before we vote on this bill, the minister once again either he doesn't seem to understand the amendments he's brought forward or he's trying to -- perhaps "mislead" is too strong a word -- perhaps sneak it through.

Also in terms of competence, I thought we had an undertaking that the ministers would come to our committee and explain their amendments. For the public, this may all sound like just procedure, but for the Legislature it is extremely important that the ministers come to the committee and outline the amendments they're making. Frankly, they didn't have the guts to show up. That's strong language, but the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who says he's made important amendments, did not have the courage to come to the committee and review the amendments that he was proposing. He was hiding. The Minister of Health refused to come; substantial amendments -- hiding. I thought we had an undertaking from the government that those two ministers would appear and they would review their amendments and review where they were going with the amendments.

Competence: I remember at the hearings last week, at 3:45 -- and all the amendments had to be filed at 4 o'clock -- we in the opposition were raising a fundamental point with the government. That was protection of medical records in a section of the bill that permits closure of hospitals. What could be more fundamental than that, that when you close a hospital, there's protection of personal medical records? We were told by the government: "No, no, the privacy commissioner is very happy with the proposals in here. Don't worry."

Remember, there are 15 minutes to go before amendments can be filed. My colleague Ms Caplan said, "I'll make a phone call," went and phoned the privacy commissioner at a quarter to 4 to inquire about this extremely important aspect of the bill and found that the commissioner was very worried about it, felt the bill had to be amended to fix that problem. It was quite literally at 4 o'clock when an amendment, a part of which had been proposed by my colleague Ms Caplan, was finally filed to provide some protection for people's personal medical records when a hospital closes.

It was a bizarre process that we all went through. It was bizarre in the sense that even the people who came to support the bill had major reservations about the bill. I have never been through a process that was, frankly, more discouraging, because you were trying to ram through a bill that was obviously very faulty, but also almost comical in the incompetence of the government to develop a proper process for this bill.

I wanted, in the time permitted me here, to make those two points. One is that this place has changed. The backbenchers who were not here before may not realize it's changed, but as a result of what the cabinet tried to do on Bill 26, the mood has changed. We frankly won't trust the government any longer. We will be watching for similar activities. I think it was a fundamental mistake by the government to attempt to do what it attempted to do. So you've lost our trust, but more importantly, you've lost the trust of an awful lot of people out there. Even many of your supporters would say, "I don't understand why you tried to do that."

The second thing I would say to you is that you've lost another important element, and that is the belief that you were competent. Any government that could allow a bill to get introduced like this, and where the cabinet obviously had agreed you were going to try and ram it through in 14 days, a cabinet that could allow a bill this faulty to get this far is incompetent. So those two things have done serious damage to this government. Certainly, for our side there is rage about Bill 26.

We understand the need for you to get on with your agenda. You have taken the most clumsy, ill-advised and, in our opinion, dishonest route to try and do that, and it's damage that I think your government will have difficulty recovering from.


Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): The clock is showing I only have 6:49. I hope that's not the case, but if it is, I'll try to rush through.

I'm pleased to rise today to speak to Bill 26 in really two capacities, I suppose: first as a committee member, one of the members of what was called the evidence subcommittee who went around the province and participated in the process that started in December and ended just last Friday; and secondly as a new government member, somebody who is new to politics, somebody who is working very hard to try to deliver through our agenda what the people of Ontario expect us to deliver.

I want to start off this morning by saying that I listened very carefully to the leader of the third party's comments today. In spite of our perhaps partisan differences, I appreciate his comments and, I think, his advice to all of us in this House about the political profession, the profession that he appears to be leaving, at least temporarily perhaps, and a profession that I'm just starting to learn, and some say learning perhaps not as quickly as I should.

Many people have said that Bill 26 will be this government's signature legislation. I doubt that's true. But as we've heard the leader of the third party say, only time really can tell; only time will be the judge of that. But I do believe that this bill is a crucial part of our governance program, because it addresses restructuring across a number of fronts. The bill is a large piece of legislation, no question about that; it deals with a number of ministries, no question about that, because it's restructuring legislation that allows each ministry involved in that legislation to come to grips with the restructuring issues that we have been challenged by the electorate to deliver on.

We heard any number of times, and this came from deputants from all sides of the political spectrum, that restructuring government and restoring confidence in the financial strength of this province is essential to our future. I think that's the general theme that I heard from just about everybody who spoke to us. The concept of massive restructuring and cost-cutting is one of the items that the private sector is very familiar with. Over the last decade, many private institutions have dealt with restructuring, and they've dealt with it because they had, frankly, very little choice. It was either re-engineer the way they're doing their business or go out of business, plain and simple.

Many of them had to sit down and say, "What is it that we do well?" Many of them had to sit down and say, "What is it that we do not do well?" That's the difficult part about restructuring: identifying what one does well and what one does not do very well. Part of restructuring is stopping what you don't do well, letting somebody else do it, letting somebody else who has the ability, the capability, the resources to do it. That's part of what's in Bill 26.

What we're attempting to do through Bill 26 is to empower the municipalities to deal with what they do well, and that's provide services to the people of this province, that's to understand what the people of this province want, region by region, municipality by municipality, locality by locality. They understand that. They're the closest to the people. Many of the deputants who came in front of us said: "I have more confidence in my local municipality. I want them to deliver the service. They know how much we can afford to tax."

Throughout the process it was quite clear that the other members of the committee fundamentally did not agree that municipalities are the better providers of local service. I understand that view. Some of them, coming from careers in the municipal sector themselves -- that's their view. That's not the view of this government. We're prepared to empower the municipalities. We're prepared to say to them: "You choose what services should be provided. You choose how the taxpayers' money should be spent. You're the closest. You make that decision."

I want to speak briefly, if I can, to the process, the committee process we went through. Clearly, the committee process has helped us improve the bill. That's why we brought amendments. We brought amendments to address the issues and concerns that we heard from the areas as we went from city to city, from town to town, from one part of this province to the other. We listened and we responded, and what we have in front of us today is an improved bill as a result of that.

The opposition has told us today that amendments somehow put us in the form of being incompetent. Well, if listening to the people of this province is being incompetent, then that's the cost we must pay. That's clearly what we've done, that's clearly what they were not prepared to do, and we have delivered to this province a piece of legislation that is far more effective in its fundamental concept than --

The Speaker: The member's time has expired.

Mrs Caplan: Today is a sad day for Ontario. Bill 26 is a very bad bill. It will be a dangerous law, and despite the 160 government amendments, it has not been fixed; it remains fundamentally flawed. This bill should be split or withdrawn.

This legislation was conceived in haste and is being rammed through this Legislature by an arrogant majority government. Mr Harris, Mr Eves and Mr Wilson are obviously suffering from an overdose of testosterone. This is their bully bill. The potential for abuse of power, the lack of due process and the elimination of natural justice are a result of Bill 26, and that means that democracy in Ontario is diminished.

As a former Minister of Health and now Liberal opposition Health critic, I tell you that Bill 26 is bad health policy, it is bad for health care and it will be bad for Ontario's health status. Most importantly, Bill 26 is bad because it will hurt people: sick people, old people, children, poor people, and it will hurt the dedicated doctors and nurses and hospital workers and others who look after us when we are sick and when we need their care. This bill hurts us all.

Bill 26 gives us new user fees, called copayments and deductibles, for the Ontario drug benefit plan. Senior citizens and/or others have told us that seniors and social assistance recipients may be forced to choose between having a prescription filled or buying their groceries.

Psychiatrists and the Canadian Mental Health Association said that disabled mental health patients may end up back in hospital because they will not take their drugs if forced to pay what they cannot afford. We were told that nursing home and long-term-care residents will be poorer when they lose up to 25% of their meagre comfort allowances. Did the government listen? No.

Many presenters agreed with the Ontario Pharmacists' Association when they said, "Copayments are a quick fix which may in the long run do more harm than good."

A literature review of recent research was presented to us by doctors in Hamilton. That research proves beyond any reasonable doubt that user fees and copayments for drugs and necessary services are bad health policy. Did the government listen? No.

User fees don't save money; they don't stop abuse; they don't solve the problems. If the United States has taught us anything, it has taught us that making people pay costs society more. That is bad for business and that is bad for our economic health.

Mr Harris's new user fees take us on a very slippery slope; yes, they do. This legislation will deregulate drug prices, and frankly, we don't know what the impact of that will be. We know, however, that deregulation and Jim Wilson's new drug policies will certainly increase overall costs -- overall costs for employers and employees and pensioners alike. His new drug policy will have serious consequences for us all. We heard that from several insurance companies. Anyone with a drug plan and anyone living in a small community in Ontario should be especially worried.

Health minister Jim Wilson really can't be serious when he suggests that buying medically necessary drugs is like buying a tin of tuna or buying a car. Can you imagine a sick patient or a parent with a child bartering or going shopping for the cheapest antibiotic they need? Tory drug policies will not lead to the goal of optimal drug therapy. Don't be fooled. When this bill is proclaimed, Jim Wilson will have complete control over every aspect of health care in Ontario. Negotiations will no longer be required, or permitted, with the doctors' Ontario Medical Association or the pharmacists' Ontario Pharmacists' Association. There will not be a partnership. There will be dictatorship, and that is the truth.

Billing numbers may dictate where doctors can practise. Who wants to be treated by a doctor who has been coerced to a community, even perhaps separated from his or her spouse? A young doctor's wife with a career of her own spoke eloquently and passionately at the committee. We need our young doctors. We don't want them to leave Ontario. Did the government listen? No, they did not. Surely, we all know that the quality of care will suffer when providers are demoralized, suffering from poor morale or feeling insecure. The Health minister's powers will be absolute.

I see that it is 12 of the clock. If it is appropriate, I will adjourn the debate at this time and commence my remarks following question period.

The Speaker: The member for Oriole has adjourned the debate. The House will resume sitting at 1:30 of the clock this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1202 to 1330.


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe that we have unanimous consent for the member for Nickel Belt to make a statement to the Legislature and the other two parties to respond.

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

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and my thanks to my colleagues in the House for allowing me to do this and for them taking part in it as well.

It has been 14 years since I started working with the member for York South when he became leader of this party, and during those 14 years it has been turbulent at times -- not our relationship of course, but the times have been turbulent. Any time you go from third party to government and then back to third party -- I'll say it before you do -- it's turbulent. I don't like to think it's returning to your roots, but I do know that political life is very turbulent and unpredictable.

I know as well that we would never have had the opportunity to be the government of this province as New Democrats if it had not been for Bob Rae as leader of New Democrats in this province. Of that I am absolutely certain.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I won't tell Stephen Lewis.

Mr Laughren: Don't tell him.

I must say that during those 14 years I've seen Bob Rae in many tight corners but I've seen him come out of those tight corners in every case keeping his perspective with courage and with dignity.

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): A few bruises.

Mr Laughren: And bruises on top of that. That's absolutely correct.

When we were in government, it is not possible to govern -- perhaps it never was -- it's certainly not possible in the 1990s to govern without making some very, very difficult decisions, as this government is learning. There are differences, of course, in that we made the right decisions, or at least we thought we made the right decisions. But I must say that I was always impressed by the creativity of the Premier of the day.

Perhaps I shouldn't confess this, but I can recall a couple of occasions when I would have thrown up my hands, and I'll give you a specific example: on the employee ownership issues. They were so difficult and so complex that there were several times during those negotiations that I would have thrown up my hands and said, "I don't think we can make this happen, even though we've tried hard." But the Premier did not do that. He just dug in a little harder, worked a little harder, worked a lot longer and made those employee ownership deals happen, which made an enormous difference to communities like Sault Ste Marie and Kapuskasing. That always impressed me a great deal.

I can remember, in my role as Minister of Finance, I often used to bring Premier Rae information from Finance that was invariably horrible, absolutely horrible. If he had believed in shooting the messenger, I'd look a lot more like Swiss cheese than I do today, because it really was amazingly difficult during those five years with the way revenues kept falling off the table.

But he always dealt with it with good humour, a certain amount of toughness from time to time, and I must say, when I talk about difficult decisions, there were many of them and the Premier and I did not always agree. I know you'll be amazed to know that. We did not always agree, but I must say that he was always supportive at the end of the day and that really was what counted. At the end of the debates we invariably came together.

I keep going back to the word "dignity," Mr Speaker, because I can tell you that I saw some instances where I'm not sure I would have kept mine. When I saw the billboards that were put up -- very, very personally insulting billboards put up in this province -- that could only have been put up by people who spend their lives wallowing in bad taste, nevertheless we treated that and the Premier himself treated those with a certain amount of humour and acceptance that public life is difficult and those things, from time to time, will happen.

I don't want to make Bob Rae sound as though he's perfect. I want to point out a fault while I have the opportunity. His fault is that he has a poor memory. He told us this one day at cabinet when we were in a particularly difficult debate. He admitted that his memory was poor as he looked me straight in the eye when we were in disagreement and said, "I don't want you to think that I even remember that you did not support me for the leadership back in 1982," and he assured me he'd forgotten that I'd been on the other side of that struggle.


Mr Laughren: Well, yes, it's true. But I must say, and Bob referred to it this morning, that when you're in difficult situations, a bonding exercise does occur. We became better friends in government than we had been in opposition because of the struggles that you go through together, and I'm sure that happens to other people as well.

Of course I think that Bob was also sustained a lot by the media in this province. I mean the obsequious fawning over him, particularly by the three Toronto tabloids, which day after day were heaping praise on him. Now they've had to transfer it to the new Premier of course, but the new Premier will get used to that, I'm sure.

But I really shouldn't trivialize the sustaining part of it. Anybody who knows Bob Rae knows that he is sustained more by his family than by any other aspect of his life, and I think that came through in his comments this morning. You need only see them together to know that that's the case. His family now will be able to reclaim him from a broader world, and what a joyous reclamation project that must be for them. I'm sure they're all looking forward to that.

Comments about Bob Rae wouldn't be complete without a reference to the role he played in federal-provincial relations. His role went way beyond this province and his concerns went way beyond this province on the whole issue of national unity and his understanding and the way in which he was able to articulate the needs and the problems. I very much hope that there will be a way in which he will involve himself in the inevitable debate that will occur again on the national unity issue. I very much hope that he will be able to involve himself in one way or another in that regard.

I feel very strongly that Bob Rae has changed the province of Ontario by his presence here in the last 14 years, and particularly in the five years in government. While I don't expect everybody to agree with a lot of the initiatives he took as Premier, I don't think many people would disagree that they were based on the need to make this province more humane and more equitable. If you think about all those initiatives, that's largely what they were designed to do.

I know that I have been changed, I believe this Legislature has been changed, and you can't go back to what we were before, because of what we did in the last five years. Political life, as I said earlier, is turbulent and unpredictable but it's also honourable, and I know of no one who leaves public life having been through as much as he has with as much honour as Bob Rae is about to do.

I would simply say that we will miss you, Bob. I personally will miss you a great deal. You certainly leave us in this caucus with all our respect and affection and, quite frankly, a better understanding than we had before of what we owe one another.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I'm pleased to be able to join on behalf of my caucus in acknowledging Mr Rae's contributions to politics and to the people of this province. I have to acknowledge that I want to use this occasion, as is appropriate, to say some rather complimentary things about Mr Rae, but I have a little bit of reservation at the outset and I should share it with you. I know Bob has said he is leaving politics but I understand he has also said he is young enough to return. So I would like an assurance from him that anything I am about to say will never appear on a campaign pamphlet in the future.

I have not known Bob as long as some of my colleagues, because I joined the Legislature, came into provincial politics, some time after he did. But he and I have both been members of this House during what I think we have all described as a rather tumultuous period, with each of us having kaleidoscopically changing roles and circumstances over that time. I remember being a cabinet minister besieged by Mr Rae's opposition leadership, an opposition leader against his government, and now a sort of colleague in the leadership of opposition.

I can tell you, Mr Speaker, it is easier to be a sort of colleague than to be up against him. No one would ever doubt the debating skills of Bob Rae, and those skills have made him truly formidable in this Legislature, even when he was defending his government policies that we thought were so completely indefensible. But no matter how much we may have disagreed, as is the wont of opposition, with what he was doing, he always made it sound interesting.

In all of his roles Bob Rae has been a passionate spokesperson for social democracy and social conscience. He has carried forward all his responsibilities with flair, with intelligence and with intensity, and in all his roles I believe he has demonstrated an openness and a willingness to hear all points of view. The desire to build consensus, as elusive as it may be, is nevertheless a sign of true leadership.

It seems to me too that Bob has always kept a clear perspective on what this business of politics is all about and why it matters. As a result, he has respected all who share in the political process and contribute to it, of whatever party. He has never forgotten, I believe, that government is about people. This is one of the things that I have particularly respected in Bob Rae. I may have disagreed with his government's policies or his government's management, but I have never questioned that he was genuinely concerned for this province and its future and its people.

I thought over the weekend of what the essence of Bob Rae's contribution to politics in Ontario has been and I thought it was interesting that I came to the same conclusion that he came to in making his statement this morning about what he thinks is the essence of his contribution, and that is that his reason for being in politics has been to serve the public good and that he has always viewed politics as public service.

He has made as well, as is widely recognized and was recognized by his colleague the member for Nickel Belt again today, a strong commitment to this country and to ensuring that it stays both united and strong in the future. His eloquence and his passion, expressed in both official languages, were the basis of a valued contribution to the unity debates and deliberations.

It is for all those reasons that I am indeed sorry to see him leave not only the leadership of his party but elected politics. We need his voice, and I trust it will still be heard loudly and clearly in many different forums -- although again I express one reservation, because I do hope that he doesn't seek to find that voice on the musical stage. I think that would be a true loss of genuine skill and the tremendous knowledge and experience that Bob can bring to future roles in public life.

I am sure that Bob's family has no regret at all about his decision. As the member for Nickel Belt has said, political life is very demanding on families, and although it is a life that Arlene has clearly shared fully with Bob, I would imagine they are both looking forward to being able to spend more of their time together in the peace and the privacy of their family.

So, Bob, on behalf of all the members of my caucus, let me express appreciation to you for your commitment and your contribution and wish you much personal fulfilment in the future.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I want to say a couple of things, first of all, in response to some of which has already been stated from the leader of the official opposition. I too believe that the former Premier and member for York South and leader of the New Democratic Party is too young to not be back involved in politics at some point in time. However, I've learned something, a lesson, and that is, whatever you say, in whatever forum, can and will and ought to be on the public record and ever potentially used against you. So I give permission for my remarks to be reprinted in any campaign brochure at any time.

I also found the comments from the member for Nickel Belt -- you know, he and I have shared a lot of things in common as well, and I found out one new one today, in that neither he nor I supported Mr Rae for leader of his party. That's just another in the long list of things we have worked together on -- not everything, but some.

I have had the opportunity now to sit across from and alongside Mr Rae in this House for some 14 years, and I want to say a few words personally and on behalf of our caucus and on behalf of those members of our caucus over that 14 years, many of whom, thanks actually to Bob Rae, were not re-elected from time to time.

Progressive Conservatives in this country have learned over the years to be wary of Mr Rae, and this wariness sprang, as it usually does, out of the sense of two things: respect and fear. And there was clearly respect for the exceptional political talents that Mr Rae possesses. The fear was inspired by something else, the fact that Mr Rae twice played an integral part in the downfall of Tory minority governments. I know, as I say those words, that these were painful experiences for Canadian Progressive Conservatives. Perhaps some members of the official opposition caucus remember them as far more delightful circumstances, but for their benefit I add that while it was indeed painful for them, it was not long before Mr Rae also learned a thing or two about humbling governments, even in a majority situation of a different stripe, and did so very successfully.

It was soon after my own arrival in this House that Mr Rae came from Ottawa to take up the leadership of the New Democratic Party. For 14 years we have sparred in this House, but I want to go back to my thoughts 14 years ago and clearly put on the record something that reinforces what I believe was stated by the member for Nickel Belt: that when Mr Rae assumed his position as leader of the third party at that particular time, I believed, as did quite frankly a significant majority of people, including my own caucus when I assumed the leadership from the third-place party, that Mr Rae would never be Premier of the province of Ontario. That was just a given in my thinking at the time, and I acknowledge that, and probably it was that kind of thinking that assisted Mr Rae to become Premier, but I agree with the member for Nickel Belt that I don't think the party would have assumed the position of the government of the province without Mr Rae's leadership.

I've sparred in this House with Mr Rae. Our political differences are many. Those I believe are only the stuff of politics. More enduring than the ebb and flow of political battles won or lost, I have known Mr Rae to demonstrate exceptional integrity, principle and, I would say, commitment in his service to this province. I believe it has been to the entire province, to all segments of the province. I think he has striven to provide that, in opposition and in government.


Earlier today, the member for York South talked about the number of decisions he had made and acknowledged that some were mistakes, and with some only time would tell whether they were the right decisions or the wrong decisions, would prove to be correct or incorrect. He said, though, always, in every one of those decisions, right or wrong or yet to be judged, he tried to do the right thing, both as a member and as Premier. I applaud that. I say to all members of the Legislature that this is indeed, I hope, what all of us aspire to. That is an example, certainly, for all of us to follow.

I think it was Benjamin Disraeli who said, "Man is only truly great when he acts from the passions." No observer of recent political life of this province could help but agree that Mr Rae is deeply passionate about Ontario and its people. I looked hard to find a Disraeli quote that would fit Mr Rae and I think this one does, because it is a passion that stands as an example to all those who aspire to public life. When brought to this House, it's a passion that credits this institution. Indeed, it credits all of us. He has projected and continues to project a deep passion for public service.

He has served in a time, and still today, when faith in political office has been diminished. Mr Rae worked to restore that faith, I believe. He is one of us who consider politics to be an honourable profession and wants to be able to continue, through children and grandchildren, to be proud of the honourable profession of political life. I think his exercise of political office has been consistent with this.

Despite the many difficulties that accompany any public career, it was often remarked that Mr Rae found a certain personal joy in political service. Just when you would think that he must be having a rough week, Mr Rae would slide on the stool of the piano out there, set up in the main legislative building for the holiday season, and he'd start banging out a tune. I want to tell you that I liked the sound of you banging on the ivories a lot more than the sound of you banging on my ministers in question period. I want you to bear that in mind if you wish to play a tune over the next hour.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): Bring in the piano.

Hon Mr Harris: I'll bring the piano in. I think we can do that.

I know Canada is also a passion of Mr Rae's. It's a passion that we share. Time and again, he stood up on behalf of all Canadians to speak forcefully in support of this wonderful country. From his determined efforts on the Charlottetown accord to his very emotional defence of Canada on Quebec open-line shows during this last year's referendum, his contributions to national unity were legion and I believe they are a lasting legacy. I would like to say that I have accepted and sought his counsel in my short time in this position, and I would like the member to know that I would like to continue to be able to do that in the weeks and months and years ahead as we wrestle with an unresolved problem that is confronting our country.

We all, as the leader of the Liberal Party has indicated, admire Mr Rae's exceptional support of family. Every member of this House knows the strain that the rigours of the profession can place on a family. I can't help but envy Bob in his new freedom to spend time with Arlene and the girls. I want to say that it's very difficult for anybody -- you can guess, you can think about it -- to know the stress and the burdens on the family of one who is Premier of the province of Ontario. Arlene has offered support to my wife, support that undoubtedly she will continue to need. I want to say that to have been able to find the time to share that indicates the deep understanding that she has of the family commitment to this job.

I have a feeling, I think many do, that Bob Rae will be around. I wanted to say that when I indicated at the beginning that I'm on the record, I hope he is around, that he continues to lend his talents and his energies to the service of our province and to the service of our country and to the service of me personally, understanding that it is me, the Office of the Premier. I understand the difference.

On behalf of the people of Ontario, might I also extend thanks to Mr Rae for his service to this province, wish him and his wonderful family every success in the years to come.

Mr Bob Rae (York South): I feel I had my chance earlier today, so I will not give another speech --

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Ah, do it again.

Mr Rae: -- though I know the member from Etobicoke would like me to.

I just want to say first of all that I feel a little bit like Tom Sawyer did when he had a chance to listen to the comments made at his own funeral. Short of one other experience in life, I think there are very few opportunities other than retirement to hear so many nice things said. I'm obviously embarrassed by them, but not so embarrassed that I won't remember them and appreciate them. I really do personally appreciate everything that's been said here today.

Just a couple of comments, if I may. First of all, Mr Speaker, I'd like to express my thanks to you, sir, and to the officers of this House who have served me personally with a great deal of professionalism and kindness at all times. The Hansard reporters have put up with my mumblings and the Clerk has put up with some obscure legal point that I was trying to make and each and every Speaker has always been fair as far as I'm concerned, and I do appreciate very much those courtesies and those kindnesses which have been given to me.

Just a brief word. My colleague from Nickel Belt refers to the poor taste of some posters. Members opposite will no doubt recall the large photograph of me next to a donkey that was widely distributed in the province. I was asked how I felt about it, and I said I didn't mind but I thought the Tory candidates might object to having their picture taken with me.

The Premier referred to the difficulty he found getting a Disraeli quote. I think there are more Disraeli quotes that I would be comfortable with than his government would be comfortable with at the moment. In fact, I have a bust of Benjamin Disraeli outside my door in thinking there are at least some Conservatives that I can relate to. I would say that in my new life I'm finding that more and more as well. As for the Premier's preference that I should spend more time on the ivories than on his ministers, I would say that I've found in recent days there's a little bit more give on the ivories than there is from some of his ministers. But only time will tell.

To the Leader of the Opposition, let me say this: I admired tremendously her work in government. Her reputation as a very fine and talented minister was widespread in the government and in the public service. I can't say that I appreciated all of her work in opposition because she was a very tough critic, and that's part of what one has to do in this job. Part of what's in place is that we're, in a sense, assigned certain responsibilities. But I have, it's fair to say, enjoyed the last few months of our relationship a great deal.

To all of you, let me say thank you for your kindnesses and for your courtesies. The Premier and I have served together. We've disagreed, but I appreciate very much the comments that he has made today. If he were to resign today, I'd say nice things about him as well.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: Would it be possible to seek unanimous consent of the House to amend the orders of the day in order to extend the debate on Bill 26 beyond 6 o'clock?


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I hear some nos.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I seek your counsel on this point of order. It's with respect to a matter that took place during the hearings and clause-by-clause of Bill 26 within the purview of the standing committee on general government.

On Tuesday, January 23, I tabled a motion with the clerk of the committee and the Chair of the committee and indicated that I was giving notice of an intent to move that motion but that I didn't want to, at that point in time, interfere with proceeding to the clause-by-clause analysis of the bill.

The content of the motion, just so you're aware of it, was with respect to what happens after the committee had finished dealing with Bill 26 and this Legislature, if it passes it today, had done so. It was with respect to a request from the standing committee on general government to the House leader of the government to bring forward the regulations under Bill 26 and send them to the standing committee on general government so there could be a process of public review of those regulations, given, as you know, in the structure of the bill, that so much is left to the regulatory power of cabinet. That motion, it seemed to me, would be appropriately debated if and when the committee had finished its work with respect to Bill 26, that being the work of the week which was clause-by-clause.

You may know that we were operating under the order of a motion of the House that set out the time allocation for Bill 26, set out the weeks of public hearings and travel, and the week of January 22, from 10 am to 6 pm, to deal with clause-by-clause. During the course of that week, it was set out that on Friday, at the end of the week, at 1 o'clock, we would begin at that point in time to deal with any amendments that had not yet been dealt with. Again, just for your edification, you should know that we had moved maybe a third of the way through the bill. Two thirds of the bill was left undebated in terms of the amendments, which were proceeded on just with a vote and no debate, no questions, at that point in time.

There was a provision within the order that would allow for the committee to sit past 6 of the clock if in fact we had not completed the clause-by-clause. That was not necessary. It was some time approaching 5:30 or so when the committee finished that work.

At that point I sought, as a member of the committee with the right to move motions, a voting member of the committee, to place my motion before that committee so that we could determine whether or not there was an agreement of all the members of that committee to request the government to bring forward its regulations under this bill for public scrutiny, given the problems we have had right from the beginning with respect to this bill: the lack of desire on the part of the government for proper public hearings, for proper participation by the public in this process, and of course, as we saw last week, its lack of desire to have proper debate of the amendments or to allow the bill to be examined in its fullness.

At that time, the Chair of the committee ruled that I was out of order, that in fact there was nothing the committee could do but proceed with the clause-by-clause and then adjourn. I point out to you again that it was before 6 of the clock. The committee time for sitting had not expired. I had given notice of this motion and had in fact at that time attempted to move it.

I attempted to appeal to the Chair, and the Chair simply struck his gavel, adjourned the committee and left the room. That left me no ability in that process to appeal the ruling of the Chair and/or to have a reconsideration of that so I would be in a position to bring forward for you, Mr Speaker, a question for final disposition if the Chair had continued to rule against me.

I have to say that from the beginning of the introduction of this bill, through the whole process of before-Christmas debate, where it took extraordinary means on the part of the opposition to even get the government to agree to public hearings, to the weeks we spent on the road travelling, where hundreds and hundreds of people were turned away from their opportunity to participate in public hearings and to have their voices heard, to the colossal display of incompetence last week during clause-by-clause, where we see that we're not able to get through the bill in a timely fashion or in a full exploration of the issues, and scrambling at the last moment to have amendments filed, it has been of great frustration to me as a member not to have a process by which a full democratic opportunity for exploration of this bill was provided.

In the last moments of that committee, my motion was an attempt to, after the fact, provide an opportunity for a full democratic review of the regulations, which will be in fact the governing measures underneath this bill. I was denied the opportunity to place that motion by the Chair.

Mr Speaker, I would ask you to look into that and I would ask you to determine and to rule whether there was a violation of my rights as a member of that committee and what remedy we might be able to seek if you do find that there was a violation.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, I'm not surprised that there was no unanimous consent to even extend debate on this bill for a few hours today, because day after day throughout the hearings, throughout the committee's work, there has been a refusal from the government to give even a little more time to consider this draconian bill. So as I place my question to the Premier today, I say to him that there have been two things that have characterized your government's handling of this legislation. The first thing is incompetence, and the second thing is the bullying way in which you have tried to ram this bill through this Legislature and are still ramming this bill through the Legislature.

I say to you, Premier, since this is the only day you will come forward in asking questions, that it is you who are responsible for this incompetent piece of legislation. It is you who are responsible for the bullying way in which this legislation has been forced through. I hope you know that after having tried to force this through the Legislature before Christmas, after having been forced to take just a little bit of time to hold public hearings, that there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who came forward and wanted to make their views known, and that in fact group after group after group could not be heard, pleaded for the chance to be heard, pleaded for a little bit more time to understand your bill and to make their concerns known. Your government members on your behalf over and over again said no, so that you have prevented more than 1,000 groups and individuals in this province from even being heard.

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

Mrs McLeod: Premier, I ask you finally today how you can justify those bullying tactics, how you can justify the silencing of hundreds and hundreds of people in this province.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I appreciate the opportunity to be able to respond on behalf of a piece of legislation that provided perhaps more hearing time than any legislation in my 14 years that I have been a member of the Legislature.

The number of hours that were provided for hearings were agreed upon by the three House leaders. They were not as many hours as we first offered; however, they were substantial. You will recall before Christmas, Mr Speaker, we offered three different committees instead of two for a period of time and actually more hours than the opposition finally decided they wanted.

Throughout this hearing process we heard from hundreds of delegations. Many of them were repetitive, but others were not. Also, the members of the committee and the members of the opposition fulfilled their role, as it was articulated by the member for York South today, to oppose and to make sure that opposing viewpoints are presented. I think they've done that quite well, judging by the press clippings I read after coming back from trying to drum up jobs for the province. The viewpoints in the media seemed to have been expressed -- those that disagreed with Bill 26 and the purpose -- quite well. So we appreciate the democratic process worked very well.


Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, this Premier may appreciate the chance to respond, but I can tell you I do not appreciate the fact that this one hour is the one and only time when we can get either the Premier of this province or any minister responsible for this bill to come forward and answer our questions about this huge and sweeping bill. And I do not appreciate, Premier, your suggesting that you voluntarily entered into hearings in order to hear the concerns of the public when we had to force you to do that and when day after day you refused to allow enough time for people who wanted to be heard to be heard, and so you left 1,000 people who could not be heard.

Premier, you weren't there, but I can tell you that none of us appreciated the fact that last week there were 400 amendments presented to change this bill, to make it better than it is, at least a little bit better -- amendments that tried to respond to some of the public concerns. Premier, 160 of those amendments came from your own government scrambling at the last minute to fix this awful bill. Only 50 of the 450 amendments that came forward could even be discussed in that committee, and yet you would not extend the hearings.

And I didn't appreciate, Premier, that neither you nor the Minister of Health nor the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing were prepared to come forward and answer the questions of the committee -- maybe too embarrassed to come and defend this indefensible piece of legislation. I wonder, Premier, whether that was because maybe you just didn't have the time to read the bill. You said you didn't know the details. It didn't seem that you cared to find out the details.

I wonder, as we're about to pass the most sweeping, draconian piece of legislation this province has ever seen, when do you plan to find out what's in the bill? When do you plan to hear the concerns? After this bill has been proclaimed?

Hon Mr Harris: Of course, not only I but our office and the ministers have been paying attention to the presentations that have been made, both oral presentations to the committee and of course the substantial number of written presentations we took the time to receive and review as well.

I think it's important, though, that we understand the purpose of this legislation, how it fits in with the overall agenda of this government to undo the damage of the last 10 years. Really, it boils down to a number. It's a comprehensive bill, but if there is an underlying or overriding theme of the legislation, it is --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Power in the hands of the boys, the backroom boys.

The Speaker: The member for St Catharines.

Hon Mr Harris: -- that the voters and the taxpayers have the power to decide how our schools are run, how our municipalities are run -- not the union leaders, not the vested interests who stand to gain from it, but in fact it's going to be everyday people. It is going to be everyday union members, everyday police officers, everyday taxpayers.


The Speaker: The member for Hamilton East.

Hon Mr Harris: They're going to make the decisions on how their dollars are spent. I would like to repeat that this legislation is required in order to undo the disastrous damage of the last 10 years that left us with an overburgeoning bureaucracy and $10 billion a year in deficits.

Mrs McLeod: Spin it as they will, this bill is about one thing and one thing only, and it is a government giving itself the powers that it wants to make cuts deep and fast to be able to deliver its income tax cut to the most well-to-do in this province. That is all this bill is all about. There have been some changes in the legislation to make it a little less bad than it was. Thank goodness it did not become law on December 14.

Let me say to this Premier that the biggest indictment of this bill is that neither you nor your senior ministers seem to have any idea, even the simplest understanding, of major portions of this legislation.

Let me remind you, Premier, that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing said this bill couldn't possibly allow a municipality to bring in a gas tax or a head tax, and if it could be shown to him that it did, he would resign. Well, we have no resignation, but we do have a little change in the legislation just in case the minister was wrong.

The Minister of Health said categorically before Christmas, "There is no problem here with the confidentiality of medical records," and the privacy commissioner said, "Oh yes, there is," and lo and behold, he had to make some changes in that legislation; or you, Premier, last week coming back and saying, "I don't think this legislation would actually allow municipalities to charge user fees for things like police and fire services" --

The Speaker: Put your question.

Mrs McLeod: -- and yet in fact that is what is going to happen, and you didn't even care to find out that that's what this bill does, and we are left with a bullying bill put through by a bullying government in a bullying way. I can only ask you, Premier, is that what we will see for the next four years, your government bringing in incompetent legislation and bullying it through this Legislature?

Hon Mr Harris: I appreciate the attempts of the leader of the official opposition to try and bully this government into rejecting the wishes of the people. You see, even after extensive campaigning a year before the election, after the election, post-election, even after more hearings in the history of a bill since I've been elected in 14 years, more hearings than the whole 34th Parliament that the Liberal Party was in charge of, more hours of hearings for a bill than the entire 35th Parliament when the New Democratic Party was there, for some reason or other the leader of the Liberal Party still wants to hang on to this status quo of a bloated government that's falling behind the rest of the provinces, that's falling behind the rest of our competitors; wants to hang on to this spending of $1 million an hour more than the dollars that come in; wants to hang on to the $10-billion annual deficits.

We were elected to change that status quo, to restore hope and opportunity, to bring jobs back to this province, to give an opportunity for our children today and tomorrow, and that's exactly what we are going to do.

Mrs McLeod: Bullying has never exactly been my style, but I think I know how to recognize a bully when I see one, and I say again that this is a bully bill being pushed through by a bully government. I ask, what's the first thing that a bully does? It seems to me that it is to take as much power as he can get, no matter what rules have to be broken and no matter who gets stepped on in order to get it. I say that this bill is a bully bill because it is the most extensive and intrusive and invasive power grab in Ontario's history. This is a bill that would make any bully proud.

One example, just one: This is a bill that gives the Minister of Health the right to come in and shut down a hospital in a community without paying very much attention to anyone. He doesn't have to talk to people who run the hospitals or people who work there or people the hospital serves. He doesn't even have to check with the local MPP, even if it's one of his own members, or even his colleagues in cabinet or even, Premier, with you. That's what this bill is all about: It is giving massive and unfettered powers to ministers so they can bully people and get their way.

Premier, I ask you, why do you think that your government has to dictate to people and bully them? Why do you think this is how you govern the people of this province?

Hon Mr Harris: This piece of legislation, far from dictating, in fact responds to requests of volunteer members of hospital boards from across the province, from municipal councillors --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Harris: -- it responds in fact to the restructuring initiatives that were begun by the former government and the former Minister of Health that was there.



The Speaker: Order. Would the House come to order, please. I'd like to hear the question and I'd like to hear the answer without a lot of shouting going on.

Hon Mr Harris: This bill, as I said, responds to those thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands of Ontarians who have asked for changes in order that they can run hospitals more efficiently, run municipalities more efficiently, run school boards more efficiently, run colleges, run universities more efficiently.

I would like to say that, quite frankly, this bill does take some power away from some. It takes it away from some union leaders where clearly the people of Ontario said, "It is our elected representatives, it is our boards, it is we the people, we the taxpayers who are going to make decisions as to how our dollars are spent." Quite frankly, if we are going to be able to help children, help the needy, help the unemployed, help those on welfare, we can't carry on the old ways of the former government.

Mrs McLeod: I don't think the Premier really has any idea what this bill does or what powers it gives not only to his cabinet but to individual ministers. I suspect he doesn't know how hard we had to fight to at least limit the ability of his Minister of Health to override every other act of the province of Ontario as he carries out his unilateral decisions to close down hospitals. This bill allows you to grab power, to break rules, to change laws that don't suit you and to railroad over people's rights.

One of the most astonishing aspects of this bill -- and I'm sure you must be aware of this -- is that it will overturn court decisions that would say you were acting illegally. There are some in the legal community who would suggest that in many places this bill actually violates the Constitution.

I want to make sure that you understand and that everyone understands at least one part of this: that Mike Harris tried to raid the pensions of civil servants. He tried to limit their rights to money that they have saved for their pensions. He found out that it wasn't legal to do that, so what did Mike Harris decide to do? He decided to give himself powers beyond the law to overrule the courts, to pave the road for a full-scale assault on the pension funds of civil servants. That's the Premier's response even to court rulings: Rewrite them, overrule them, ignore them, trample on people's rights; do whatever it takes to get what you want. I don't think that is what people were expecting when they elected the Conservatives.

On what page of the Common Sense Revolution, your election manifesto, did you pledge to pass legislation allowing you to ignore court decisions and raid pension funds?

Hon Mr Harris: I don't know where the leader of the official opposition has been for the last five years, when the former government took a holiday from contributing to the pension plans on the basis of the social contract, but I want to tell you that it is the intention of this government to live up to the law of the land, the Constitution of the land, and to make sure that we contribute to and account fairly for the pension contributions for each and every single person who works for the province.

I want to tell you that the civil servants working in the province, and those for whom we the government of Ontario are responsible for pensions, can be 100% more secure with their pensions today than they were before we were elected.

Mrs McLeod: I know where I've been for the last five years and I know where I've been for the last three weeks, because I've been with this committee. I've been on the road. I've been listening to those hundreds of people who brought forward evidence about their concerns, their fears of what this bill is going to do to them in the future. I have heard presentation after presentation express concerns about the kinds of powers you are taking unto yourself. You seem to suggest that none of it's going to matter; it's not going to hurt anyone.

Let me tell you, Premier, that when all the shouting's done, what's going to be left is a great deal of fear, because this is going to change the face of Ontario, and it is not going to change the face of Ontario for the better. It's already started. The fears are already being realized.

You didn't think that municipalities would have power under this bill to be able to charge people for essential services like fire and police. Well, let me tell you that the town of Thorold has indicated they're going to charge non-residents $900 an hour for fire services. The Stoney Creek fire department has come up with a proposed list of fees to be charged for fire services in their area.

I know you're getting some whispered advice from the colleague next to you, but you should know these things before you pass a bill, because this is just the beginning of what we're going to see. I wonder whether or not that is your vision of Ontario, Premier. Is your vision of Ontario a place where people have to check their wallets before they can even call for help from the police department or the fire department? Is that your vision of the future of Ontario?

Hon Mr Harris: The leader of the official opposition talks about the fear that's out there, and quite frankly it is the irresponsible fearmongering of members such as her that is causing this problem. Let me assure the people of Ontario that there are municipalities now that charge other municipalities for fire services. Nothing in the legislation changes that. That's been going on for a considerable period of time.

It is our goal that all residents of Ontario will share and pay fairly for fire and police. Nobody in the province should ever, as a result of Bill 26, have any fear of calling the fire department or the police department and not expecting them to respond. In fact, by getting our finances in order and by getting the accountability mechanisms in order, we can guarantee that we'll have these services not only today but in the future, and that was not guaranteed when we took office.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): I have a question to the Premier: Premier, you're widely quoted as having said over the years that a fee hike is the same as a tax hike. Is that still your view?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Sometimes it could be; other times it's not. It could be very, very different. If --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Do you want to hear the answer? Order.

Mr Rae: The Premier is also widely quoted in the past as having said that tax increases by any level of government anywhere in Canada will destroy jobs. I wonder if the Premier would tell us, since he's now saying that sometimes a fee increase is like a tax increase, sometimes it isn't -- only time will tell when that is and when that isn't, I suppose -- he would then --


Mr Rae: The concern I have is what's happening to jobs. Overall in the province, that's still the focus of most people's attention. The cause of the fear that's out there today is because we had a strong year of recovery in 1994, 1995 was not as strong as many of us had hoped, and 1996 is bumping along.

I would like to ask the Premier whether he would not admit that there's a very real possibility that the layoffs that are now going to be imposed by every level of the public sector -- his government, municipal governments, the education tax cuts, education layoffs -- plus the prospect of significant fee hikes by municipalities, boards of education and others who are having to deal with the size of the cuts being imposed by his government, will in effect slow down the potential for growth and the potential for jobs recovery. Does the Premier not see that danger, and would he not agree with me that the fee hikes that are now the same as a tax hike that are being caused by Bill 26 in fact will have that very real effect?

Hon Mr Harris: Clearly, it's not our intention to see the total take going into governments up as a result of Bill 26 or any actions. In fact, it is our expectation that they will be down. For example, there will be new tolls for Highway 407 when it is open that you commissioned and constructed. It is like a tax for those who are using the road, but those who don't use the road will not find it as part of a general tax.

You seem to want some explanation of when is a toll or a fee a user fee or a tax, and when is it different, and how is it the same? If it is a service we all want to use, or all share in and all benefit in, then generally we would like to see that paid out of general taxation.


The second part of the question deals with the downsizing, I believe, of the number of public sector jobs. He is quite right that the combination, particularly at the federal government level -- far in excess actually of the provincial government level, but we understand they have to get their affairs in order as well or we're not going to get private sector job creation. This does have a drag on the economy. However, both Mr Chrétien and the federal government and ourselves and our government and virtually every other province, including the province governed by Roy Romanow in Saskatchewan, including the NDP government of British Columbia, have concluded this: that unless we get our finances in order, unless we get our public sector the right size, it will be far more devastating to private sector job creation and growth.

So it is a delicate balance. We feel you didn't have it quite right and we're working to correct it.

Mr Rae: The Premier, in a former incarnation, used to say that a fee hike is the same as a tax hike. He used to say that tax increases by any level of government anywhere in Canada will destroy jobs. Bill 26 authorizes a widespread hunt for the taxpayer through an attack on the fee structure that's unlike anything we've ever seen. It makes anything done by previous governments a tea party by comparison.

The last page of the Common Sense Revolution, the appendix, looks at the years 1997-98, 1998-99, 1999-2000, and in each case they're looking at nominal growth of close to 5%, 4.65%. I want to ask the Premier, since this is the road you're marching us down, based on what you have now put in place, would you not now recognize that to achieve those growth rates with the kind of strategy that you're putting in place -- mass layoffs, huge fee increases -- is at best most unlikely and that in fact it puts into doubt and puts into question the rest of your so-called agenda?

Hon Mr Harris: I would agree with the leader of the New Democratic Party in this: that were we to do nothing, getting those kinds of growth rates that Ontario deserves and should have would be very difficult. But taking the actions that we're taking and being responsible in getting our affairs under control, for example, with the Workers' Compensation Board, restoring the balance, bringing in tax reductions to create jobs, we're very confident that we will meet those objectives.

Mr Rae: I'd be interested to see what the consensus coming out of Davos is with respect to the realism of projecting close to 5% real growth next year on the basis of the stuff you're doing now. I don't think there's a soul out there who would agree that that's a likely result and consequence of what you're doing. Not one analyst, not one observer, not one person on the scene is coming up with those kinds of rates, and that is the premise of everything else that you're putting in place.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): On February 22, 1995, the leader of the Conservative Party said, and I quote: "There's a belief that the political process is artificial and doesn't provide voters with a chance for genuine input. We must change that." I wonder if the Premier can tell us, does he feel that the voters of the province have had a chance for genuine input with respect to Bill 26?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Yes. I think that we have provided actually more than enough hours for all genuine input.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): There were hundreds of people turned away. Why weren't they genuine?

Mr Rae: The evidence will show that there were over 1,000 people whom I presume the Premier's saying are not genuine. We now have an interesting characterization of two kinds of people in the province: Those who are genuine and friends of the government and those who are not genuine who are genuinely opposed to the government. Well, I think a lot more genuinely opposed people will emerge.

The Premier should know -- I'm not sure if he does know -- that on Friday afternoon the committee scrapped the proxy pay equity, they took pension rights away from government employees, they gave sweeping new powers to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and none of those changes, none of the clause-by-clause and none of the amendments had one second of serious discussion. Do you still stand by your first answer in saying that the province had serious input into this legislation?

Hon Mr Harris: Very interesting that Bill 175, which may have been what prompted my comments about input, was brought in by Bob Rae, Premier. It amended more statutes, it affected more ministries than Bill 26, and it received the grand total of zero committee time, not one minute of committee time.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): That was then; this is now.

Hon Mr Harris: Now, maybe that was then and this is now, but this Bill 26 had more committee time than any bill has received in this Legislature since I was elected, more than any bill in your entire time in government, more than any bill in the entire time of the Liberal government of the 34th Parliament.

There will be some who will say no amount of time is enough if you don't get your own way, and I understand that there are some union leaders, there are some vested interests that have more or less had their own way with you for five years and they do not have their own way now. Now there is a balance and the taxpayer is starting to get a little bit of say in government policy.

Mr Rae: If it was such a terrible exercise, Bill 175, why would the Conservative Party of the day as well as the official opposition have agreed to it after a six-month period? After a six-month discussion on Bill 175, why weren't the public galleries full? Why weren't there demonstrations outside? I'll tell you why, because there's no comparison between Bill 175 and what you're doing with the omnibus bill and the omnibus legislation, no comparison at all.


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

Mr Rae: The Minister of Health will get his turn later on in the session. I want to conclude by asking the Premier how he can justify a process under which when opposition members tried to find out what was happening, the Chair of the committee said, "No questions, no debate," with respect to several critical areas which you yourself have indicated by your answers today you don't even begin to understand with respect to your answer on public sector pensions.

Why would you not recognize that Bill 26 is being forced down the throats of the people of this province against their will, against their expressed opposition and most importantly against the very document upon which you based your last election campaign, the Common Sense Revolution, which you have effectively torn up by bringing in Bill 26?

Hon Mr Harris: I noted on December 8 that the leader of the official opposition, whom I thought you agreed with on this, said, "We now have a substantial amount of time to look at this bill." That's, quite frankly, after we agreed to 300 hours of committee time for Bill 26. Not only was it a substantial amount of time, it was more time than either one of you two parties provided to any piece of legislation in your history of governing the province of Ontario, at least in modern-day history.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): My question is to the Premier, and as I listened to his answers I know why faith has been diminished in this province. I say to you, Premier, since November 29, exactly two short months ago, when your government secretly tabled this bill, I have been listening to people throughout this province. Unlike your ministers, I attended the committees so that I could listen to what people had to say, and today as I ask my questions, I'm asking on behalf of those who care about what you are doing. They are not vested interests, Premier --

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): And they are genuine.

Mrs Caplan: -- and they are genuine and their concerns are real, and you must listen to them.


There are so many sections of Bill 26 that are beyond offensive. Your Minister of Health will be able to micromanage health care. He can unilaterally close hospitals, and you and your cabinet colleagues will be able to determine what is medically necessary. But what is most offensive to people throughout the province who believed you, Premier, believed you during the last election when you promised that you would not cut health care and when you promised no new user fees --

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

Mrs Caplan: Premier, Bill 26 will force the poorest seniors, the sick, the physically disabled, mentally disabled and families with children on social assistance to pay user fees for the prescriptions that their doctors say are medically necessary. Even your supporters who came before us in support of the bill said, "Do not do this to the most vulnerable."

The Speaker: Put your question, please.

Mrs Caplan: Premier, what do you say to the most vulnerable people who trusted you when you said, "No new user fees," when you said, "A copayment is a user fee"? What do you say to those people?

The Speaker: The question's been asked.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I say, one of the finest ministers of Health in the province of Ontario will be pleased to answer that question.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): As I said this morning with respect to the copayments on the Ontario drug benefit plan, this government was faced with an affordability problem, a sustainability problem with that plan. What we've not heard from the opposition, from the honourable member for Oriole or any of the opposition colleagues are other solutions to saving the plan, given that her federal colleague pretty soon is going to hit us with about a $1-billion whack in health care.


The Speaker: The member for Hamilton East.

Hon Mr Wilson: We preserved, consistent with our campaign and Common Sense Revolution promises, the health care budget at $17.4 billion. We're going to take a tremendous hit in the months and weeks ahead from the federal government. We're not pointing fingers, but we are preparing our programs, and by asking everyone who benefits, the 1.2 million people who benefit from the Ontario drug benefit plan, and coming into consistency with the other provinces, by asking everyone to contribute a little bit, we were able to expand that plan, as the member for Oriole knows, to cover an additional 140,000 working poor, which is good news for those people who weren't on welfare and weren't over age 65 but still needed help with catastrophic drug costs in this province.

Now everyone in this province can afford the drugs they need to recover from their illnesses and receive the treatments they need. We think that's good news. We had the courage to bring in the copayment when other governments studied it. We had to do it to keep the program afloat, to keep it sustainable and to ensure that there was some fairness brought back to those services in the province.

Mrs Caplan: To the minister, at least be honest and come clean on this one. You did not consult with the Ontario Hospital Association or the Ontario Medical Association or the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario or the Ontario Nurses' Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Ontario Nursing Home Association; everyone who came before the committee said there was no consultation before this bill. Everyone who came before the committee said that you had promised to consult and that they would be willing to help you find the solutions. I have said that I would be willing to help you find the solutions as a former minister.

To stand in your place today and to say that you are actually saving the drug plan is absolutely ridiculous, because $225 million that you are cutting from that plan is going directly to your 30% income tax rate cut. You have to find $5 billion to give a tax cut to the wealthiest Ontarians. User fees are being put in place, not to save the drug plan; Minister, user fees are being put in place so you can give that tax cut. How can you, Minister of Health, justify giving an individual who earns $150,000 a year a tax break of $5,000 when you are asking sick and poor seniors, the physically and the mentally disabled and single moms with young children to pay for their medicine, when everyone tells you that is bad health policy? How can you stand in your place and do that when it broke your campaign promise? Shame on you.

Hon Mr Wilson: The member for Oriole raises a number of points. First of all, we all know that the Ontario drug plan was growing by 18% per year, with the exception of last year, when the NDP, rather than bring in copayments as the other nine provinces have done, delisted 250 drugs, some of those drugs that seniors are now paying 100% out of their own pockets for. We didn't want to take that route; it didn't make any sense. So we're not asking the poor to pay the full cost --


The Speaker: Order. The member for Oriole.

Hon Mr Wilson: What they pay is the $2 for each prescription. We think it's a very reasonable and minimalist approach.

We also took some of the savings from those copayments and to the system and reinvested it to lower the deductible on the Trillium drug plan from $500 to $350. Again, we're trying to keep the program afloat, to keep it sustainable. We're in line with the other provinces and you know as well as I do, Ms Caplan, that many groups came to committee, seniors themselves, representing large numbers of seniors. I have the quote here that says, "It's long overdue and we don't mind paying a bit as long as it's fair." They said it was fair, the approach this government takes.

The Speaker: Leader of the third party.


The Speaker: Order. The leader of the third party has the floor.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Come on, it's his last day, David. Give him a break. He still calls the shots.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I've learned that.

Mr Bob Rae (York South): That's right. The body's not cold yet.


Mr Bob Rae (York South): I have a question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. He will recall the exchange that he and I had prior to Christmas. The minister said, and I'm quoting -- he's referring to me: "Your information is wrong." He said, "I don't know how many times I have to tell you this.... Smarten up." He then also said, "I don't know where you're getting this advice," that the advice is wrong. He then goes on to say --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Put the signs down, please, or I'll order them out.

Mr Rae: What I would like to ask is this: The minister then said: "The act" -- he's referring to sales taxes and gas taxes and other taxes -- "doesn't allow it. The act doesn't allow that kind of charge. Read it. It doesn't allow sales taxes, gas taxes or any of that type of tax. Go back to your lawyers and get them to look it over again."

Then he was asked in a scrum outside, "If you're found to be wrong on one of those answers, will you resign?" Mr Leach: "On income tax, gasoline or sales tax?" Mr Vaughan: "Yeah." Leach: "Yeah. Yeah."


Mr Rae: We're a little slow, Mr Speaker. We get there eventually.

I want to ask the minister this question: If he was right in December and we were wrong in December, as he said we were, why would he then have had his ministry bring forward amendments that are now part of the bill which indicate that the government's view was that the bill did in fact permit those kinds of sales taxes and gas taxes and that the government had to plug this loophole by bringing in these amendments? Why in that case wouldn't the minister join me today in submitting his resignation?


The Speaker: Order. The members are out of order. There are no signs allowed in the House.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I'm glad to see that the Premier did smarten up and decide to get out of politics. That's one thing that's helped.

The bill that was presented did not include the use of gas tax, sales tax or personal income tax. It did not then and it does not now. The fearmongering that went on with the opposition members with the general public, we determined that we would decide to make sure it was clear enough even for them to understand that we would put in a clarifying amendment. It doesn't add anything to the bill; it doesn't detract anything from the bill; it clarifies the bill.


Mr Rae: I wish the minister well when he gets a call from Hazel McCallion after he's referred to her as a fearmonger. Good luck. It's not something I would've done.

I'm still unclear on one other subject which is related to this because we've had a series of, again, differing answers. That has to do with the question of toll roads imposed by municipalities or indeed other toll roads imposed by the province in addition to Highway 407.

Mr Hardeman, who's the parliamentary assistant, said, "If the intent or their ability was to actually impose it to the user of the road, the bill would allow that." That was in Hansard, January 22, and your Premier said, "Municipalities have the power to do it now, and they are or are not doing it." That was in a scrum, so I'm not --

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Those are the options.

Mr Rae: I'd like to ask the minister, is it his legal view today, since we have no other opportunity to ask him this and we're being asked to pass this bill at the end of the sitting day today, that municipalities will be permitted, as a result of this legislation, to impose new tolls on local roads? Is that what we're going to be doing, what your government is going to be imposing at 6 o'clock today? Yes or no?

Hon Mr Leach: The bill does give wide-sweeping powers to municipalities to put in user fees on services that they provide. They provide road services, so if they chose to, in some communities in the construction of a new road, a toll might be appropriate. On many of the existing and our local roads I doubt very much whether the municipality will do that. Not everybody is opposed to tolls. My good friend from Oakwood recommended that there be a fee on cars used in Metro a few years ago. There are a number of people who would like to see tolls. So yes, if the type of road was appropriate, municipalities would be allowed to do it.


Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): My question is for the Attorney General. Over the last number of days I've received numerous calls in my Hamilton Mountain constituency office about the family support plan. As you know, there have been reports in the media that the government has made major policy decisions regarding the family support plan and that changes are imminent. My question for you, sir, is this: Is it true that these decisions have been made and are changes imminent?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for the question. Mr Speaker, as you are aware, all government programs at this particular time are being re-evaluated. That includes the family support plan. At the present time the family support plan has in arrears of enforcement $900 million. That may be acceptable to the OPSEU union who like the status quo, but it's not acceptable to me.

I will be looking at many different opportunities and ways to reduce that outstanding amount of money and I will be looking at making changes to the family support plan. No decisions have been made at this time, but I am committed to reducing the outstanding arrears that women, primarily, and children are facing as a result of the status quo in this province.

Mr Pettit: Minister, it has been rumoured that your ministry will be issuing layoff notices on February 1 to family support plan staff and that you will be charging a $2 user fee for accessing the program's telephone information service. Can you confirm these reports?

Hon Mr Harnick: I'd like to report to this House that there is no intention nor has there ever been an intention to charge a $2 user fee for telephone services. Insofar as the closing of regional offices is concerned, no decisions have been made. I am rather surprised that the opposition is not interested in listening to this, seeing as a number of them, including Mr Cooke, have written me asking for an answer to this question. And this is the answer.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I'll follow up on the question that the leader of the third party asked you, and that has to do with toll roads. I just want to be very clear that you are saying to the people of Ontario that it is quite permissible for municipalities to implement toll roads. You are giving elsewhere in the legislation some broad powers to use electronic devices, to collect tolls on toll roads, to use new photo devices for toll roads.

I just want to be clear, to the Minister for Municipal Affairs, what you're telling the people of Ontario is that any municipality now may put a toll on any one of the roads within their municipality. Is that what we understand from what you said?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The bill allows municipalities to charge for services that they provide. If they wanted to do that, there's absolutely nothing in the bill that gives them any wherewithal to collect it unless you wanted to do what the member from Oakwood suggested, and that's charge each driver a fee for having a car in Metropolitan Toronto. They could probably do that. But I don't think that our duly elected representatives in municipalities would do that.

Mr Phillips: Again, the problem is that the minister does not know what he's talking about. We had a hearing last week. I believed the minister was coming. We were told you were coming. You refused to come. You didn't have the courage or the guts to show up last week. But your parliamentary assistant said: "Yes, absolutely. This bill permits toll roads on municipal roads and it gives them the wherewithal to collect the money."

My question to you is this -- it's very simple -- do you not understand that in this bill toll roads are permitted and the mechanisms to collect those tolls are permitted? Why do you not understand the fundamentals in your own bill?

Hon Mr Leach: The bill doesn't give them the wherewithal to collect the money; it just doesn't. It gives them the ability to charge a fee, but there's no way. You also have to provide roads for their service. My understanding is that if they put up a toll road you wouldn't have to pay a toll if you didn't choose to, you wouldn't have to pay it.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): New question, third party.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): We can certainly see why the Minister of Municipal Affairs didn't come before the committee again.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I have a question to the Minister of Health. One of the numbers of amendments proposed last week to your section of the legislation would have allowed that, for this dictatorial commission you've set up that will close hospitals from one end of this province to the other end of the province, it would at least make the commission somewhat more democratic by having regional representation on the commission, which is absolutely essential.

Can the minister now tell us why he refused to have amendments that would have regional representation, that would have representation from district health councils on the commission and would make the commission that has been given so much dictatorial power more democratic and representative of Ontario? Why did you refuse to support those minimal amendments?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): An amendment that certainly was accepted and brought forward by the government and the opposition was that the Health Services Restructuring Commission -- again that we were asked to set up by the district health council in Metropolitan Toronto, suggested by them, endorsed by the Ontario Hospital Association -- would have to have regard to the DHC studies, the local studies, so that the commission couldn't go off and exercise these powers and do its own thing but had to have regard.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Two hours of debate it took to get that amendment passed. You resisted it every step.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Would the member for Beaches-Woodbine come to order.

Hon Mr Wilson: I'd also remind the member for Windsor-Riverside that his government made sure that the district health councils have wide representation. In fact the quotas are still there as to what profession you come from and whether or not you're a consumer and a health care provider. Those district health councils represent their regions. The commission will act on those studies and those studies only, according to the amended act.

You've had your democracy; you've had the local say and you've had the regional representation. The commission will work with those district health councils to actually implement these studies, some of which have been studying this issue for about 10 years.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Why doesn't the law say that?

Hon Mr Wilson: I think we have good input there and the law does reflect that.

Mr Cooke: It took two hours of debate in the committee to get your members to agree to one amendment that allowed for something that said the commission must have regard to the DHC reports, and then your parliamentary assistant said, "We'll accept that amendment because it doesn't mean anything." That's exactly what you said.

I think the language that you use shows absolutely where you're coming from, and I quote what you just said. You said something about, "You've had your democracy."

Mr Speaker, I don't believe this person should be in that particular position when he doesn't have any respect for the doctors of the province, the health councils of the province, the parliamentary process. How can you possibly sit there in your seat and justify a restructuring commission where you could take one person off that commission, send that person into a community that they don't even know, they don't come from, they'll have no sensitivity to, and that one person will assume all dictatorial powers over the health care system in that community and can impose a total change? How can you justify that in Ontario in 1996?

Hon Mr Wilson: Again, the act does ensure that district health councils must have regard to the local studies. That opens them up to traditional review if they don't have regard for those studies, so it's a very serious amendment in Bill 26.

Secondly, I have said from day one, and the terms of reference of the commission will reflect this, that we want the commission to have the flexibility to set up regional panels. But at the same time, the time for study is done. You sent these people back, in terms of the district health councils and the volunteers, many, many times to the drawing boards. Their studies are done. Mr Cooke, the one in your area is ready to be implemented. It needs the help of the commission. I have the quotes from your district health council, which clearly endorses this commission and says, "Let's get on with implementation."

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): What did they do in Sudbury to the DHC and their recommendations? Totally destroyed the local process.

Hon Mr Wilson: Ms Martel is yelling at me too. Sudbury is ready to implement. The commission will help facilitate those local studies. The government was asked to do this by the hospital providers themselves, and we are very confident that we will finally be able to get on with restructuring the hospital system, that it will be at arm's length from the government, take the politics out, and get these studies implemented in which volunteers have invested thousands of hours of time and which the government and taxpayers of Ontario have invested millions of dollars in studying. The time for study is over. There's wide consensus across the hospital community in this province that the time for study is over, and the commission will enable local communities to implement their local reports.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Minister, people in my riding want welfare with work. Nobody ever got rich on welfare, and we cannot afford to merely toy with reform. Work for welfare was a major commitment made by the present government during the 1995 election campaign. Can you confirm that our government remains committed to implementing a work-for-welfare plan, and could you please inform us about the progress you have made towards developing such a plan?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): Mr Speaker, I must say it's nice to be in a position to receive a question from one of our caucus members for a change.

First of all, let there be no misunderstanding that this government remains fully committed to introducing a mandatory workfare program this year. We outlined in the Common Sense Revolution during the election, and certainly we hold to that commitment, that Ontario Works, as set out in the Common Sense Revolution, will require able-bodied welfare recipients to work in exchange for their welfare benefits. Our work-for-welfare program planning is right on track and we have been looking at a number of options. We have looked at a number of different options from different jurisdictions, but the one thing we have realized, of course, is that Ontario requires made-in-Ontario solutions. We need to do this in order to get people back to work.

I want to take this opportunity as well to thank the committee of MPPs who have been working with me very industriously to implement, to provide the structure for workfare, and also look at the options for made-in-Ontario solutions to get people back to work.

Mr Barrett: The welfare system is a trap. It's not working. The caseload has skyrocketed in recent years as governments increased benefit rates year after year. The past two governments spent $40 billion on welfare and did not help people to break free from welfare dependency. We need a plan that works.

Minister, what employment can we expect from this work-for-welfare plan, who will be required to work, and what partnerships are being developed by the government to ensure that adequate job placements are available?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Our basic philosophy right now is that our work-for-welfare program will help people break their dependency on welfare, break that cycle of dependency and get them back into a self-sufficiency mode again. We believe that people should take more responsibility for themselves and their families.

All able-bodied people will be required to work for their welfare payments. Certainly, as the question has been asked, we are going to exempt the disabled, we're going to exempt the seniors and parents with young families.

We've met with a number of organizations, including some service clubs, business organizations and community groups, to get their input on various options available to us, and we will be looking for further community participation.

If throwing money at the problem was the solution, I don't believe there would be anybody on welfare today. That's why we need to change things. If spending $40 billion on welfare over the last 10 years was not the solution, the idea must be to get people back to work.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for third 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 / Projet de loi 26, 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 Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Oriole has the floor.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): As I said this morning, when Bill 26 is proclaimed, the powers of the Minister of Health will be absolute. He can unilaterally decide to close or amalgamate hospitals with just one month's notice. There's no requirement for consultation, nor is there a requirement for any community participation. There is no defined role for the district health council. In fact, no public process or hearing is assured.

What could be worse? Well, the minister will be able to delegate all of his power to an unaccountable, appointed restructuring commission. No public process is required before the restructuring commission or any one member of the commission may make decisions that will have a dramatic impact on communities. And they will all be free, the minister and the restructuring commission, from any court scrutiny or challenge.

Every presenter before the committee thought that the minister should be making the decisions. Every presentation, even those supporting aspects of Bill 26 --


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Could I have order in the House, please. Order.

Mrs Caplan: -- said that the minister should not be able to delegate his powers. Did they listen? No. Is the minister listening? No. They slammed the door on over 900 Ontarians who wanted to be heard, and they refused reasonable requests to allow adequate time to discuss their own 160 amendments. The minister has refused to come to the committee to be accountable for their policies, and unfortunately they sent unprepared parliamentary assistants to carry the can.

The minister's power, which will permit micromanagement by the Ministry of Health, remains in this bill. Every presenter told the committee that the Ministry of Health should not interfere with the management of health care by voluntary hospital boards. Vickie Kaminski, president of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, spoke on behalf of many when she said, and I quote, "What we've got now is a Minister of Health micromanaging the entire health care system."


Did they listen? No, they did not. Volunteer hospital boards are an important tradition in Ontario. Now the minister, through the appointment of a supervisor, can dictate the type of services and the level of services that a hospital may or may not provide. Although there is a four-year sunset clause on some of the minister's powers, the minister will always be able to send in a supervisor, and with just 14 days' notice he can take over the hospital: no process, no public hearings, no investigation, no reasons need to be given, no right to appeal. Madam Speaker, I have to tell you that in my over a decade here, I have never seen anything significant sunsetted. I agree with the Ontario Hospital Association that voluntary hospital governance is seriously undermined by this legislation.

One of the most frightening aspects of Bill 26 is the potential for the Americanization of health care. What do I mean by this? It means that the Ontario Ministry of Health can start behaving like a US insurance company. They will be able to contract with private sector US-style managed care companies. Is that really possible when Bill 26 becomes law? Yes, it is. Why does the cabinet want the authority to unilaterally decide which services are medically necessary? Does the cabinet really want those powers? Yes. They get them in Bill 26. Are they planning to tell you or your parents that you cannot have dialysis treatment or a transplant when you're over the age of 65? They do it in Britain. Do we want that in Ontario? No.

Why do they want to be able to collect and disclose information? When I told Jim Wilson that his policy threatened privacy, he stood in the House and he said I was wrong. Well, the privacy commissioner said that I was right and that Jim Wilson was wrong. And he's wrong about many other things. Some of my concerns have been addressed, but not all. The privacy commissioner does not have any authority and did not even comment on changes to the Public Hospitals Act. In Bill 26, medical records were not protected in the event of a hospital closing. What else has been overlooked? The privacy commissioner wants new health privacy legislation. He is right, and I hope we will see it soon. But the privacy commissioner, Mr Wright, has said very clearly that he is not satisfied with how Bill 26 changes access to information under the freedom of information legislation, and that's in this bill that's to be passed today.

Does this government plan to privatize OHIP? They could when this bill passes. How will the government use its new powers? Why have they removed the Canadian not-for-profit preference in the Independent Health Facilities Act? What will the changes to the Independent Health Facilities Act mean for both insured and uninsured services? What will the impact be on chiropractors, physiotherapy, podiatry and audiology? There are too many unanswered questions. I beg you, do not pass this bill today.

What about the principle of natural justice? Why is there no right of appeal for people and companies and communities who feel they have been treated unfairly, and why the lack of community involvement? It is unprecedented in Canadian jurisprudence to legislate the reversal of a court decision. If you think the government has treated you unfairly and you win in court, you win. Not in Mike Harris's Ontario. If this government loses a court case, it can just bring in a bill like Bill 26 and overturn the court decision. That is unheard of and it is unfair and it is an affront to natural justice. Yes, this bill infringes on personal rights.

Doctors will have no right to a hearing or to an appeal to court for compensation when a hospital where they work or an independent health facility closes or the hospital service is discontinued. Nurses and other workers who are displaced by restructuring will lose their rights. I think this is fundamentally wrong.

Effectively, Bill 26 suspends democracy for the next four years. Just about everything and anything can be done by regulation. The unprecedented regulatory authority in this bill will allow all the decisions to be made behind closed doors. Where there is no community involvement, democracy suffers, and that is very bad for our health. When individuals feel helpless and hopeless they are unhealthier. Yes, there were a few -- too few -- opposition amendments accepted by the government. The government originally did not include the need to consider, for example, access to services as part of the minister's public interest considerations. But did we fix Bill 26? No, we did not.

This bill still can do tremendous damage. Mike Harris, in his Common Sense Revolution election promise, told you that you could have it all. He said: "I will not cut one cent from health care. There will be no new user fees. I will not hurt seniors and the disabled. I have no plans to close hospitals." He promised to protect health care with stable funding. That meant a flat line for hospital budgets. When he said, "I have no plans to close hospitals," I bet you thought that meant no hospitals would close. He said there would be cooperation with providers. He promised consultation with communities. He said he could balance the budget and cut income tax rates by an incredible 30%.

Make no mistake. Bill 26 is all about the 30% tax break, which will benefit the wealthiest in Ontario. That will cost the treasury $14 million a day.

We didn't think Mike Harris meant no consultation, no negotiation, no cooperation, billing numbers for doctors, closed hospitals, hospital budget cuts by $1.3 billion, user fees for drugs and on municipal services, and we were sure he didn't mean absolute ministerial powers, but that's what Bill 26 does. Mike Harris said he would resign if he didn't keep his promises. I say to this government, if you have any common sense, any integrity, then Bill 26 should not pass today.

To conclude, I would like everyone to know that unlike Jim Wilson, Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, I believe every word I have said. My integrity and my personal credibility are very important to me. I am saying the same things today that I said when I was Minister of Health from 1987 until 1990. I believe that I was elected to help develop good laws and good public policy. I was appalled to hear Jim Wilson say that he was just posturing and didn't mean anything he said when he served in opposition. That is the statement of a politician who lacks integrity; that is the statement from a politician who does not understand public service.

The Premier said today that faith has diminished. Well, Jim Wilson's cynicism diminishes all of us, and it saddens me that he and too many of his Tory colleagues think that's okay. I am outraged, and it is not okay with me. It is not acceptable. This is not a stupid game. Bill 26 is a bad law and it has very serious consequences. But nothing in this place is carved in stone except the names of the former members in the wall, so please reconsider Bill 26. This is a sad day for Ontario. If this bill passes today, it will be a travesty.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to this bill today. I had the opportunity, along with a few of my colleagues, to sit on one of the two parts of the committee that dealt with this bill, but I want to go back, even before commenting on the process that we went through in committee, to start with this bill at the beginning, which is the day it was introduced here in the Legislature.

I was one of the few members of the opposition present that day, and it just struck me from that very moment how underhanded this government was prepared to be in dealing with this legislation. We saw time after time, as action after action unfolded with respect to this bill from the government side, how that attitude continued to be dominant on the government side. I remember raising a point of order with the Speaker that day, but of course, according to the rules, they were able to introduce the legislation, which was their legislation implementing their budget or their economic statement, and they had the audacity to introduce it before the economic statement was read and when most opposition members weren't even present in the House.


Of course, while it was technically in order, as the Speaker at the time ruled, we all know that it breached every tradition of this Parliament, every tradition of this Legislature, in introducing such massive legislation, first of all in the way that it was introduced, and secondly a piece of legislation that dramatically and in so draconian a way changes the basic rights of many citizens in this province and to do it in the kind of way that this government has done.

But then we've learned very clearly throughout this process that this government cares very little about the democratic process. They fundamentally believe that because they won the election on June 8, that gives them the right to do whatever they want, as quickly as they want and no matter what the fallout, no matter what the implication.

It was only after -- and this is a point that we will continue to remind this government of -- the opposition resorted to some measures unforeseen and never before seen in this House that we had the public given an opportunity to come before a committee and to give their reaction to the bill. It was clear, as we heard in community after community in Toronto and throughout the rest of the province, that the concerns that people had and still have have not been addressed, have clearly not been addressed. If you look at what this bill does, any single measure in this bill ought to have been studied in the kind of way that the whole bill unfortunately was put to committee. Three weeks of public discussion, three weeks of public hearings; far, far less than necessary to be able to give the issues in this bill the kind of attention they need.

Let's take a look at just a couple of those issues.

This bill takes away the rights to pay equity for 100,000 of the lowest-paid women in this province. Throughout this whole process we have not had the decency given to us and given to the people of this province to have the minister responsible for pay equity, the Minister of Labour, ever appear before the committee. The only justification that we got from the government was that they were somehow bringing pay equity back to the way it was originally intended to be.

I always thought that pay equity was intended to rectify a historic injustice that has existed as it affects women in this province, and that is to bring, over a period of time, the pay for jobs that are predominantly carried out by women to the same level with jobs of comparable value performed by men. That's the point of pay equity and that's the point that this government is trashing. The rights of 100,000 of the lowest-paid women in this province are out the window with the passage of this bill.

We saw in another major area where the government, with no qualms, was just taking away the rights of citizens in this province -- in this case, the people who work for the public service. We saw the spectacle just the other day of the Chair of Management Board confirming that there would be massive layoffs of public servants in this province over the next few months and over the next couple of years. He was quibbling about whether it was 27,000 or 20,000 or 15,000 or 13,000, as if somehow, if they only lay off 15,000 or 16,000 or 20,000, that's more justified than laying off 27,000 people. The reality is that laying off those individuals is going to mean fewer jobs and it's also going to mean fewer services.

But the insult that gets added to that injury is that as those people go out the door, to paraphrase one of the presenters, the government is going to pick their pockets of their pension rights, because those 20,000 or 27,000 people who are being laid off will not have the right to claim their pensions as they would under the existing law.

As has been pointed out in committee, throughout the hearings and in this Legislature, what the government is doing in taking away these pension rights is illegal. That has been the determination of the courts of this province. Through this legislation, this government is giving itself the power to override the courts.

That's the attitude that is symbolic of this government as we see it reflected in Bill 26. So they should not be surprised that on these issues, on many, many other issues, the people have understood and are understanding what you are doing. If nothing else was accomplished through these hearings, clearly people are more aware today of the ideological bent that is driving this government, of the right-wing reform-minded agenda that is at the base of everything this government is doing.

We saw in the arbitration procedures things that have been described by many people appearing before the committee as "wage controls by the back door." What the government originally did in the legislation was to say that arbitrators have to consider certain criteria, including the employer's ability to pay, and they then even toughened that, through amendment, to say "without any resort to increases in property taxes or any other taxes."

What they also added to the bill through amendment -- which I personally actually like, but I think it's going to cause some ambiguity and some problems -- is a clause that says arbitrators don't have to even consider any of those points. So what they're going to try to do now is to say to municipalities, "We've toughened up the rules," and they're going to be saying to groups like the firefighters and the police associations: "Don't worry, we relaxed it. We haven't affected the arbitrator's jurisdiction." That's the kind of two-sided approach, that's the kind of speaking out of both sides of your mouth approach that we have seen from this government and that we are going to continue to see from this government, unfortunately.

We've talked, certainly, about the whole array of municipal taxation and municipal user fees -- simply taxation with another name. Again not in my words but in the words of many presenters who appeared before the committee, a number of supportive of what the government is doing overall, said to us very clearly -- chamber of commerce after chamber of commerce -- that user fees are taxation. Several of them, if not most of them, said to us very clearly that there should not be any broadening of powers to municipalities to increase user fees. What are we seeing here? We're seeing, as confirmed even just earlier today by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the broadening of powers to municipalities to charge user fees.

We saw also the ridiculous about-face that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was forced to make on one of the few concessions that we received on this bill -- his having to backtrack on the question of taxation powers being given to the municipalities -- where he stood in this House and he stood out there with the press, saying clearly that this bill, as originally drafted, did not give powers to municipalities to charge income tax, poll tax, gas taxes and sales taxes.

We then saw him in the embarrassing situation of having to come and bring amendments to the committee -- actually not come, because he never did show up -- and through the parliamentary assistants table amendments that clearly now say, as they should have said in the beginning, that these taxes are not allowed to be charged by municipalities, something that we know would have happened, again not because we are saying it, not because we are fearmongering, as the minister would have people understand, but because mayor after mayor, municipal leader after municipal leader said they were looking forward to these broader taxation powers. Only after the public outcry did the minister and the government relent on that point.

I think it's important that we say to people who have followed this debate throughout the hearings and here today that some changes were made to this bill, but it's equally important that people understand that this process is far from over. This government will pass this legislation today, I suspect. They have, after all, the majority; they have, after all, the right to make whatever laws they think are appropriate, however draconian those laws may be. They have that right, and as an opposition member I have to respect that right. But they should not be under any misapprehension that they are going to get away with what they are doing here today, because the understanding among the public of the province is much higher today than it was at the beginning of this bill and certainly than it was on June 9.


What people are understanding now is the true face of the Harris government, a government that has been relentless in its approach to change the basic structure of this province, a government that has, piece by piece, begun to dismantle the very fabric of Ontario as we know it today, a government that said it wanted to give people who were on welfare a hand up and that it would not introduce the cuts to welfare until it had its workfare scheme in place.

We heard today the Minister of Community and Social Services continue to try to justify why they don't have at least the workfare scheme, as draconian as that is, in place. Yet one of the first actions this government took was to introduce a 22% cut to people on welfare, hitting those people who are the poorest in our society. That has been the way this government has operated. That has been its credo. That has been the approach it has taken. That is the approach that's perpetuated in Bill 26.

Why is all of this happening? It's happening because they believe fundamentally that the right they won on June 8 was to dismantle the province as we know it and to recreate it in their own form, and that form is one that takes power and resources and money away from all Ontarians and puts it into the hands of a few. What is driving their agenda above everything else is their ludicrous promise of a 30% tax cut. Again, speaker after speaker who came to the committee addressed that tax cut, and we had a chance to discuss it in many places throughout this province. People understand that 15% of Ontarians make over $85,000 on average, yet that small group of people is going to reap over 40% of the benefits of the tax cut. Over $2 billion is going to be shared in tax cuts by 15% of the population of this province. That's the approach of this Harris government.

The understanding out there is growing. The understanding out there is spreading. While the government will pass this legislation, it will also have to deal with that understanding out there. It will have to deal, as the committee members on the government side had to deal, with the embarrassment of having group after group that supported them during the election, groups like the police associations, groups like the firefighters, groups like the doctors, come before the committee and say things like, "We have been betrayed by Mike Harris and his government."

We had in one location, in Sudbury I believe it was, the pleasure of actually seeing Mike Harris on videotape as he made his promise to the firefighters, saying --

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): It was not a pleasure, Tony.

Mr Silipo: It was interesting, none the less. It may not have been a pleasure, my colleague corrects. But we saw Mike Harris very clearly state that he would not make any changes to affect firefighting services or the firefighters act and the firefighters in general without consultation. We heard in community after community throughout this province from firefighters saying: "Nobody talked to us, and we don't like what's in this bill. We don't like it because it affects our members negatively. More importantly, we don't like it because the user fee provisions that are in this bill will mean that public safety will be put in danger."

If you've got mayors running around saying they're going to slap user fees "on anything that moves" and they're going to put user fees on false alarms and user fees on cars that catch fire in their municipalities if the owners live in another municipality, firefighters said to us that that's going to mean people will try to put out their own fires and that's going to result in injury. People are going to disconnect their fire alarms and that's going to cause injury to people and to property.

That's the tenor of the concerns we had. Is this government doing anything to respond? No. We saw some modification in the health sections and we saw the backtracking that I commented on earlier with respect to municipal taxation. But the powers in this legislation, both vested in ministers and being given to municipalities, and the taking away of rights of people under pay equity, under the pension rights, in a number of other areas, are clearly part and parcel of the one agenda driving this government, which is to put the power into the hands of a few. That is what has continued to drive their agenda and that is what's going to continue, at the end of the day, to haunt them.

I say in concluding that this bill will pass, but let the government not for a minute think that this is the end of the road, because in many ways this is the beginning. We will see over the next number of months the effects of Bill 26 unfold, the effects of the government's economic agenda unfold. We will see that unfold in the courts in terms of challenges to this legislation -- there are several areas where that's going to happen -- but we will see it most, I fear, in the impact this is going to have on ordinary citizens across the province.

Unfortunately, it seems it is going to have to take that element of pain and suffering for members of this government to begin to realize that what they are doing is not only wrong but contradicts every basic tenet of justice we've had in this province and also contradicts the basic promise they put in front of the people of the province, which was that they would focus their activities on getting people back to work and would focus on bringing down the deficit, not on giving a tax cut to the rich.

Those are the issues that are going to come back to haunt this government. I know it's going to take some time, but we also know already the discomfort starting to be felt by members of the government side. We will be patient, but in the meantime the public will continue to understand, will continue to see what is happening, and the day will come when people will have the chance to pass judgement on this government.

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): It is now the time allotted to me to speak to the motion and speak to the bill, and I welcome the opportunity. I want to start by recollecting that earlier this afternoon we heard the honourable leader of the third party impart to this chamber some wise words based on his years of experience in leadership roles. He quoted William Shakespeare, I believe from All's Well That Ends Well.

I'd like to bring to the attention of this House another quote from Shakespeare in which the immortal poet recalls "sound and fury, signifying nothing." I think it is somewhat apropos that I recollected that quotation from Shakespeare today, because there is a lot of sound and fury and I wonder in the back of my mind just how much it signifies: how much plays to the politics and the cameras and how much is heartfelt. But I will assume for the sake of argument --

Mrs Caplan: Point of order.

Mr Clement: -- that the members do feel it in their hearts --

The Acting Chair: Will the member for Brampton South take his seat. The member for Oriole has a point of order.

Mrs Caplan: Thank you very much. I found the member insufferable on committee, but the rules of order do not allow him to impute motive, and I'd ask that you call him to order, Madam Speaker.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): He was called to order once at the committee for exactly the same thing.

Mrs Caplan: Exactly right. We had enough of it at committee.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Before you continue, I have to tell the member for Oriole that I did not hear it. I would like to remind members that motives should not be imputed and people should not be provoked in that way. I didn't hear the member so I can't rule on this, but please be careful.

Mr Clement: I would remind the member for Oriole that once again she did not listen to me. We can check the Hansard, but if you had let me complete the sentence before you jumped in --

The Chair: Please address your remarks to the Chair.

Mr Clement: Thank you, Madam Speaker -- the honourable member would have realized that in fact I was going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they felt just we feel, that their vision of Ontario is the correct vision.


I do regret that I must support Bill 26 today. I regret it because it is necessary for this province, after the 10 years of governance we have had, that such a bill is required for the benefit of the citizens of Ontario. It is with that regret that we as a government have been forced into the position of dealing with the current state of affairs in Ontario in a manner which some feel is uncalled for. We did hear presentations before the standing committee on general government, particularly on the health care side, where people wanted to believe that the status quo, if I can term it that way, was still tenable.

Were it only true that that was possible, but the status quo has not been tenable for a number of years. In fact, the status quo has given us more and more hospital beds that have been retired from service. It has given us delisting of dozens -- nay, hundreds -- of drugs from the Ontario drug benefit plan. It has given us currently in the province a two-tier medical health system.

We heard a lot of presenters at committee worrying about a future two-tier medical system, yet we also heard at committee community after community after community, perhaps dozens of communities, who failed to have access to a single medical physician. When you have communities that have access to physicians and other communities that do not have access to physicians, that to me is a two-tier medical system. And that's what the status quo has been giving us.

So it is with regret that we find ourselves forced into passing such a piece of legislation, but we also heard at committee a genuine understanding from many of the presenters that real change was necessary. It must have been a shock to the member for Oriole, a former Health minister, to hear hospital after hospital, district health council after district health council, the Ontario Hospital Association, for gosh sakes, all recognizing that change was well overdue, that perhaps -- nay, probably -- this change should have started 10 years ago and that it was now time to complete the analysis, complete the plans and find a way to implement the decisions that had to be made so we could transfer resources from areas within the health care system where the money was not being spent well into areas where it was desperately, desperately needed.

We heard, and the member for Oriole knows full well that we all heard, from many areas at the standing committee where there was a genuine need for more resources -- not just the same resources; for more resources. We heard from various AIDS committees and AIDS hospices, we heard from palliative care organizations, we heard from long-term-care organizations, the Canadian Mental Health Association and its representative branches, all of which have worthy demands to be placed upon our system; demands we could not meet unless we started to change the system, unless we started to recognize that moneys in the system right now were not being spent in the wisest way, not only for the taxpayer -- yes, we're all taxpayers -- not only for the citizens of Ontario, but for us as patients, because all of us at some point in our lives will have to have access to the health care system, perhaps as a patient.

This plan, as embodied in the bill, allows the hospitals, allows the district health councils, allows our communities to have the tools available to make the restructuring decisions that will allow us once again to reinvest those savings within the health care system.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): A chainsaw. This is a bill that destroys.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Clement: An honourable member said earlier today that we are the enemies of the poor. But I ask you, who are the real enemies of the poor? The status quo gave us a doubling of expenditures and a tripling of our debt, yet we had fewer hospital beds, more people on welfare, more people using food banks, more unemployed, streets that were less safe and an education system that was starting to fray at the edges.

Mr Kormos: Show us the new jobs, Tony; 27,000 public sector jobs lost.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, you'll get your chance.

Mr Clement: So I say to those honourable members who really care about the poor and the needy in our society that the current system was not working for them, it wasn't working for the poor. And it most certainly was not working for the middle class, because it's the middle class, as we all know, that pays the bulk of the taxes in our society, that pays the bulk of the costs of governance. Yet they are being taxed and taxed and taxed, working harder and harder, and there was less coming back to them in terms of government services that were available to them and to their families.

Mr Kormos: Your corporate friends haven't. That's why you give tax breaks to the rich. That's shameful. It's obscene.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Clement: So that is what the status quo was all about.

We also heard debate today about the growth rates as an economy that we project for the province of Ontario. I would put it to the leader of the third party, if he is listening, that there are many countries in the world which, when they are in a recession, have growth rates that we aspire to in a boom. There is nothing magical about attaining a 5%, either nominal or real, growth rate. It is doable. Many, many countries in the world do it every month of every year. The key is to have the structures in place that will allow the economy to grow at 8% or 12% a year, because it can be done and everyone in that society can have their piece of that growth rate, but you have to have the economic structures in place, and we most certainly do not have that now.

I ask the honourable members who talk so freely about despotism to think of the despotism that is created by an economy that does not work, of the authoritarianism that is created when there are no jobs and opportunity available in a jurisdiction. That, to me, is the real despotism and authoritarianism, that we are seeking to avoid with all of our strength.

Finally, I wish to talk about the process through which this bill has entered this chamber for third reading, because it was a process in which, as I think honourable members know, I participated, at least in some small way -- three weeks of hearings in 12 communities throughout Ontario. I can only speak for myself, but I did listen very closely. I took the process very seriously, as I'm sure other honourable members did.

Mr Kormos: You wouldn't listen to the Niagara Region Police Association. You wouldn't listen to the seniors. You wouldn't listen to the aboriginals.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, come to order, please.


Mr Clement: For me, the issue was, how can I achieve the goals of this government, which are worthy goals, the goals that I have just explained, and yet improve the bill? Because it doesn't matter whether you look at the bill for five days or 500 days -- I've said this before -- there are always ways to improve it. I, as a parliamentarian, did wish to take into account the views of those who came to our committee and the written submissions that were also filed, and constituents in Brampton South who telephoned me and persons outside of my riding who telephoned me to offer solutions and criticisms.

I took all of that process quite seriously. The fact of the matter is, I regret that we took some criticism as a government for taking that process seriously, for offering improvements to the legislation, and then were condemned by the opposition for offering those amendments in the first place. It does sadden me that our parliamentary debate had to come to that.

But I would offer for the record and to this chamber that the amendments we did put forward represented the views we heard, represented a way to ensure that the privacy of medical records was not only kept in the present form but in fact was improved. They were a recognition that there perhaps is a need for some privacy legislation, overarching privacy legislation in the medical records field. They represent as well an understanding that there were circumstances when prescriptions did require brand-name prescriptions rather than generic prescriptions at all times. The amendments recognized that, through a system of expedited review, doctors could be reviewed by their peers for what is medically or therapeutically necessary. There did not have to be a system of government inspectors to do so. They recognized all of those things and more.

I said this on the last day of the committee: If the price to be paid for improving the piece of legislation, for making it better, to get to where we have to get to as a society and yet do it in a way that recognizes some of the concerns that were expressed at the committee, if the price to be paid is that we do get criticized by the opposition, so be it. That is a price well worth paying for a piece of legislation that is better, for a piece of legislation that represents our dialogue with the people of Ontario, for a piece of legislation that will accomplish the goals necessary to bring us jobs and opportunity in Ontario, but in a way that does recognize that improvements in the way to get there were in fact possible.

So at the end of the day, this is a process about the passage of a bill and about advancing the government agenda. It does not end today. Indeed, I feel that the journey is just beginning. But I think that at the end of the day we can say that we have come one step closer to a government that works for the people of Ontario and to an economy that is able to produce the jobs and opportunity that this province so desperately needs.

Mr Cooke: I don't take any joy in the opportunity to speak about this bill today, because I do think that in the time that I've been around this place I have never seen a process that is so faulty, I have never seen a process that is so antidemocratic. It gets the Conservatives upset, but this is undemocratic. It's dictatorial. It's Fascist. It's not a way of making good public policy. It blocks people out of the process, and it deliberately blocks people out of the process.

There have been many examples: The last piece of legislation that I can remember that had this level of importance -- and it was very narrow in terms of whom it applied to -- was in fact Bill 30, the bill that extended funding in the Catholic school system. There was an agreement from day one on that piece of legislation that there would be adequate time to debate the bill in the House and that when the bill went out for public hearings everybody and anybody who wanted to be heard would be heard, and the bill would not be passed, would not be reported out of committee until everybody had been heard.

This bill, I would argue, changes the province of Ontario much more fundamentally than that bill did. It changes health care, it changes our municipal system, brings in more new taxes in one piece of legislation than has ever occurred in the history of this province. This government said: "We are not going to listen to everybody. Enough is enough." As the Minister of Health said today, "You've had your democratic process." One can only assume that the second half of that statement would be: "Now we're going to assume our dictatorial powers. We're going to use them, we're going to apply them and people will see them applied from one end of this province to the other end of this province."

It really bothers me when I hear members like the previous speaker say that the economy in this province doesn't work, that Ontario's in such terrible shape that this kind of drastic action as included in Bill 26 is necessary because of the horrible conditions Ontario is now in. The fact of the matter is, we've got to keep it in some perspective. Canada is still ranked as being the best place to live in the entire world and Ontario is still the richest province in Canada. This is a great province. There is no need to bring in the kind of powers, the kind of changes that the government is now imposing without the kind of public consultation and involvement that I think is pretty fundamental to the democratic process.

We are not in a state of crisis in this province. Yes, there is a need for some change, and throughout the committee hearings members of the Liberal Party, members of the New Democratic Party said: "We're not advocating the status quo. We're prepared to, we want to look at change and mechanisms for change and the process for change, but we're not prepared to accept this bill in the way that this government brought it in and the way that this government refuses to listen to any of the criticism that was so prevalent at all of the hearings across the province."

There are a couple of areas of the bill that I want to touch on. The lack of respect for the democratic process is not just evident in the way that this bill was introduced and the fact that the only way there were any public hearings was by the most extraordinary action that has ever been taken in this place in order to force the government to listen and to accept public hearings, but the anti-democratic flavour of this legislation is in the process as well as being in the bill itself.

There are a number of deals that were struck in this legislation. When we hear from the Treasurer, when we hear from the Premier, when we hear from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Minister of Health that they have given their partners the tools to deal with the reduced budget, what they are telling you is code language for a backroom deal that was struck on the municipal side with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, a deal that was struck without the workers being involved -- all the people, the thousands and thousands of people who work for municipalities -- without the taxpayers, without the elected politicians from across this province being involved. It was a deal that was struck that excluded people in this province and, in return, municipalities generally agreed that they would not be critical about the government's reduction in transfer payments of about 50%.

Now, I believe that this kind of backroom dealing by this government with the municipalities is not only undemocratic but it will change fundamentally the way the municipalities carry on business, the way local services are provided in this province. I do not believe that any provincial government or any municipal organization has the right to strike those kinds of deals without the involvement of the public. The public has a right to be involved. We do not have a right in this place to bring the ability for municipalities to introduce all sorts of new taxes which the government now wants to talk about as user fees. In the past they described a user fee as being a tax. We are now going to see user fees and new municipal taxes brought in from one end of this province for every conceivable service that is provided.


There will be problems with access. The presentations that were made by library boards and workers in libraries were absolutely right when they said that low-income families would have more difficulty accessing libraries. Can you imagine in a province like Ontario where we would be saying, "If you use a library, you're going to have to pay for that use each and every time," when we know that access to reading materials, especially for young children, will determine their literacy skills when they get older? Literacy skills are fundamental to kids' ability to learn and, of course in the future, access jobs and professions. What the government has done -- and that's just one example -- is to have a very negative and unequal impact on the children of this province through the imposition of user fees across this province.

One other aside: When we did the grade 9 reading and writing test in Ontario, the first grade 9 reading and writing test a couple of years ago showed very clearly -- and the research demonstrated this -- that the kids in grade 9 who scored the highest scores were those who had access to reading materials and were read to at a young age. The more access they had, the more reading their parents did or teachers or the programs that are offered in libraries, the more access to those programs and to reading material, the better students did in reading. The better students did in reading, the better they performed, of course, in all the rest of their courses and course material. This government is restricting access to reading materials on the basis of ability to pay, and I think that is criminal.

I also think it's important to talk about competence or incompetence by this government. Right down to today, the government knew all along that there was going to have to be a bill presented to the Legislature today, but here we are today, even though they've known this for a month and a half, and there were no arrangements made to have the final form of the bill printed and presented to the Legislature today. The most significant piece of legislation in the history of this province, with 160 amendments that the government pushed through last week, and the members of the Legislature don't even have the opportunity to look at the final form of the bill.

I'm quite frankly concerned that the lack of respect for the democratic process not only involves the bill, but also that the backbench Tories don't care. They didn't get access to the bill on the day it was introduced into the House. In fact, I had two Tory backbenchers come to my office and ask for copies of the bill on the day that it was introduced.

We take our job seriously. We expect that the government's going to provide us with copies of the bill, and we don't proceed unless the government provides us with those copies. You are just prepared to -- "Mike Harris told us to do this and we're going to vote in favour of it"; hadn't seen the original copy that day and haven't seen the final copy today, but you will stand in your place this afternoon and you will vote in favour of the legislation that you haven't even read the final form of. You don't even know what amendments were put forward, and you're somehow going to say that that's a responsible way of making laws. Well, I think it's a terrible way of making public policy. It's undemocratic, it's uninformed and it's incompetent.

Let's also take a look at some of the other aspects of the bill, just a couple that I think have received significant coverage. I had to get a chuckle out of watching Mr Leach the other day on Focus Ontario, I believe, on Saturday night, where he -- and again today -- gave the explanation, "Look, I was right. The bill never provided for a sales tax, a gas tax or an income tax." "Well, then, why did you bring in amendments?" "Well, I brought in amendments because I want to make it clear." Clear what?

We had presentation after presentation from the deputy mayor in London, the representative from the city of Toronto council, the mayor of Mississauga, Hazel, and there were other presentations, all of them who said, "Yes, in our view and in the analysis by the lawyers who work for our municipality, we will have the right, if this bill is passed, to introduce a gas tax, a sales tax or an income tax."

Why don't you in the Tory caucus talk to your Minister of Municipal Affairs and say, "Why would it not be appropriate to simply say, `We made a major mistake and we are correcting it; yes, in fact the way the bill was originally drafted, it would have provided for that'?" I guess it's because the minister was stupid enough, quite frankly, in a scrum to respond to one of the reporters in the gallery, who I think was in shock when he got the answer from the minister, to start rhyming off individual taxes and say, "If in fact those taxes are provided for, I will resign." That is not either a sign of political smartness or of competence.

We also know that while the law may be clear that a sales tax, income tax and gas tax can't be introduced, there is provision for a head tax and there is provision for things like tolls. Bizarre today that the minister would say on one hand, "Yes, the law provides for toll roads," and then about five minutes later say, "But there's no provision in the law to collect those tolls." Why can't we get a clear answer? Does the government want tolls or that access to the revenue for the municipalities or doesn't it? If it does, then make it clear; if it doesn't, then make it clear. But let's stop playing this silly game of yes, it provides for tolls, but no, it doesn't allow it to be collected.

I believe, from reading the legislation, it provides for both, and what you're going to see in this community in particular, in Metro, is you're going to see tolls on the Don Valley, you're going to see tolls on the Queen Elizabeth Way, and you're going to see those put in very quickly. Then you're going to have, I think, negative impacts on transportation for goods and services to Toronto, that there'll be an additional cost of doing business -- and those are the only ways to access Toronto -- and you'll have a further loss of jobs in the private sector as a result of increased costs of transportation because toll roads will be provided for. But quite frankly, if Metro brings it in, I can't blame them for bringing it in because they've had transferred to them the Queen Elizabeth Highway, which requires at least $50-million worth of repairs, and those repairs have not been funded by the provincial government so they're going to have to find the money somehow.

More fundamentally, though, is the whole question around health care. I was not on the health care side of the committee, but last week we went back together as one committee and we had an opportunity through the clause-by-clause debate, as far as it went, to discuss some of the health care aspects of the bill which I wasn't quite as familiar with. I could not believe last week when the parliamentary assistant confirmed that the restructuring commission that's going to be set up with eight to 10 members on the commission, number one, will not have representatives from the district health councils, will not have regional representation and the government would not allow any guidelines to be put in the legislation to direct the minister in some way, shape or form to make sure that the commission was representative of Ontario.

We now have a piece of legislation that's going to be passed at 6 o'clock tonight that will allow the government to set up a commission to restructure health care; not just hospitals, all of health care. You can take one member of that commission and that one-person commission can go into a community like Ottawa and make all of the decisions on how to restructure the health care system for that community.


One person can do that, and all the power will be vested in that one person to act as an arbitrator to decide how that whole system's going to be restructured: close hospitals, close nursing homes, close homes for the aged, close health care facilities under the Independent Health Facilities Act. That one person will be able to determine everything for that community with respect to its health care system, and they will not come from that community. It is bizarre, it is undemocratic, and I think that while the government may feel very proud of the fact that it's going to get its law passed this afternoon, it will face a political backlash from that process so that each and every one of the backbenchers in the Tory caucus will regret passing Bill 26 this afternoon. There will be a backlash.

The municipal side is just as bad. You will be able to restructure with a municipality, and it's all focused on county governments so you would be able to take a county government and convert it to a regional government without ever having to come back to the Legislature. You may feel very good that tonight you're going to have that power, but the reality is, when you start doing that in this province, there will be a backlash against your government and your members like you have never seen before and you will regret that you passed Bill 26 in the way that you have.

Mr Speaker, I could speak about this for a lot longer, but I will finish by saying that I'm disappointed, I'm frustrated, and I think the people of this province are angry at the powers this government is assuming in this piece of legislation. It is absolutely not only undemocratic but it is a great disappointment that this government would bring in a piece of legislation like this. It's something that I do believe you will regret, but I believe it gives you the kinds of powers that will be exercised, unfortunately, that will change this province, not in a positive way at all; change this province towards the direction that American states and municipalities have implemented, and to their American health care system, in a way that is very negative. People will come to understand that very quickly. So it's frustration, it's disappointment, it's a very sad day in this province as this bill gets final approval.

Mrs Janet Ecker (Durham West): I rise today as a member of the government committee that heard the public hearings on Bill 26 on the health portion, and I rise today to speak in support of Bill 26, as amended, as it has been reported to the House today. I think it's important to recognize that this bill has been changed in significant ways, and I think it's important to recognize that because those changes have been things that were responses to the people who came before the hearings, who brought forward their concerns to us. We responded to those concerns, the ones that we heard during the public hearing process, and frankly we also tried to respond to some of the concerns that were raised by the opposition critics.

But we responded to those concerns in ways that also preserved the legitimate objectives of Bill 26, because we have overall objectives that this government must achieve. They're objectives that we were elected to achieve, and in the health care system it was to restructure that health care system so that we can maintain the services that we all value and maintain the services that, as individuals and as families, we will all need.

We also must, as part of that restructuring exercise, find the savings within the system so that we can take from areas that don't have as high a need and reinvest in areas that have higher needs and higher priorities. Those are the objectives that Bill 26 is going to help us achieve. It's worth mentioning those objectives because in all the uproar, in all the hullabaloo that we have heard through the hearings and around the hearings, I think those objectives have been obscured.

We heard during the public hearings from communities that very, very articulately put forward the concerns they had about the health care system in their area. Many were underfunded, many didn't have programs that they needed. Many needed extra facilities or expansions of facilities. Many communities didn't even have a physician to serve their needs.

We also heard from doctors and nurses in the system who talked again very eloquently about the day-to-day challenges they face as they try to act as advocates on behalf of their patients.

We also heard from the volunteers in the system who have worked very hard to help both in the planning and the delivery of the system, who are prepared to continue to work very hard in the system as long as they know that their efforts are going to be recognized and respected.

Their message unanimously was that the health care system was in trouble, that the status quo was not working, and that, if left unchanged, our system will continue to deteriorate. This is not a new message. It's something that previous governments have been grappling with. Previous governments have had successes in their ways in certain areas as they've tried to answer and respond to that challenge. It's a message that our government has heard as well, and that's why we are making the changes that we are today, making the changes in Bill 26 that will assist the ministry and our transfer partners to get on with that job.

It's interesting that the opposition at first said we didn't consult with anyone; now they're trying to say that we made deals with organizations. I wish they'd get it straight. People in the health care system know that we have problems, and they are prepared to make the tough decisions to save our system in tough financial times.

I think it's interesting to take a look at some of the changes that we will be able to get on with with Bill 26.

We're going to have an improved ability to share information within the system about what is happening in the system: what treatments are working, what treatments are being done in what facilities, being done where -- all that information that allows us to do quality improvement, to take a look at what treatments work and what treatments don't work. We've all heard about the good work of institutes like the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, ICES. We all know of the good work that many physicians' groups and organizations are doing to come up with better clinical outcomes to make sure that the treatments they are providing are the most effective treatments for their patients. The only way we can carry on that work is to have information-sharing within the system. Bill 26 will allow us to do that.

It will also allow us to improve our ability to deal with misuse and abuse in the system by both providers and consumers. I think we recognize, and this government has certainly said many times, that both consumers and providers have misused the system. It's interesting to note that in a recent poll, 70% of physicians said they believed that some of their colleagues were overusing the system, bringing patients back when they didn't need to. Something like 67% of the public agreed. It's also interesting to note that our government records, the OHIP records, indicate that in one month alone, 7,000 individuals saw five or more family physicians -- just in one month. I think most people would agree that is an overuse of the system that we cannot afford to support any more.

We heard from consumers at the hearings who said: "Get on with better tracking. Get on with smart card technology, or whatever the best technology would be, so that we can stop that kind of misuse in the system." We are going to be able to do that with the tools we have in Bill 26.

I think it's also important to note that we will be doing that without violating the most important, fundamental principle in the system: the confidentiality of patient records. As I said, it's a fundamental principle in the system. There were many checks and balances which made sure that principle was protected. We believe that through the changes we have brought in working with the freedom of information commissioner, we have improved the legislation to make sure that those checks and balances are strengthened, that that confidentiality principle has been preserved. We've also made, I believe, a very important commitment as a government to bring in health confidentiality legislation. It's something that's been attempted by many previous governments, and for many reasons not been able to be achieved. We hope our government, with the help of and working with the commissioner, is going to be able to achieve such an important objective for our health care system.

We're also going to be able to improve quality in the system in another fashion by extending the Independent Health Facilities Act, legislation which was unique in its day when it was brought in by a previous Liberal administration. It's about quality and how to work in teams of health care professionals within facilities. The difficulty has been that as health care has expanded into other kinds of facilities, the legislation has been limited. It has not been able to extend those very important quality objectives for these other facilities.


We are going to be able to do that with the Independent Health Facilities Act as amended by Bill 26. It's going to allow us to bring more facilities under this quality control provision, so that regardless of ownership, regardless of the services delivered, there will be quality control that I think will serve both providers and consumers much better than currently exists.

The other issue that we are going to be able to address is the issue of the supply and distribution of physicians. One of the things, as I mentioned, that we heard very clearly was from many communities which came forward to talk about how they had worked very hard, how the OMA, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Ministry of Health under previous governments, how individual communities and individual physicians had worked very hard to try to bring physicians to communities in outlying areas. And these days, "outlying areas" is getting to be more and more hard to define, when communities like Lindsay, when communities like Ajax, where I come from, which is within spitting distance of downtown Toronto, are having difficulties attracting the physicians they need in certain specialties.

They've all worked very hard, but to no avail. The Minister of Health, Mr Wilson, recognizes that it is a multifaceted problem, that there are many reasons why this is occurring. That's why he has brought in a multifaceted response that talks about educational support for physicians, that talks about technological support for physicians, that talks about the need to have people who will come in, other physicians who will spell off a doctor in a community, that talks about incentives; for example, the recommendation from the Graham Scott report that we would provide $70 an hour for emergency room physicians to try and help in outlying communities.

All of those things the Minister of Health wants to do. On all of those things he wants to work with the OMA and with physicians' organizations to assist communities to obtain physicians. But ultimately, at the end of all that, if it does not work, this government was elected to act, and we must be prepared and we must have the tools to make sure that those communities have the physicians they need. We are prepared to do that, because they do deserve medical care.

I'd like to close with a word about volunteerism in our health care system. I mentioned it briefly before. I've been a volunteer in the system. I've helped in our area in health care. I know how much of our system depends on those efforts, both in the planning that is done through local communities or district health councils and also the actual provision of services themselves, how much of those services are provided by volunteers in the system. The system depends on them. It's important that this volunteerism is maintained in the system, and our government recognizes that. In other provinces, they simply wiped out hospital boards. We chose not to do that because we believe their work is important. We've chosen to maintain district health councils' roles because that is one of the important building blocks of the system.

Is Bill 26 perfect legislation? No, it's certainly not. Is Bill 26, as it has been reported to the House today, better, improved legislation? I believe that yes, it is, most definitely, and the public hearings that we had --

Mrs Caplan: Is it fundamentally flawed? Yes, it is. Should it be withdrawn? Yes, it should.

Mrs Ecker: -- the input from two former Health ministers, the input from many of the organizations which came before us have helped us to improve this legislation.

Mrs Caplan: They were not consulted. Nobody was consulted.

Mrs Ecker: The member for Oriole likes to interject frequently, and she can continue to do so, but Bill 26, I believe, is necessary legislation. It's an important tool for this government and our transfer partners. It's most definitely needed, and I would urge this House to get on with the job because our health care system cannot afford to wait.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm not pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this bill this afternoon because I had hoped that it would not be necessary to do so. I had hoped that the government, by now, would have come to the logical conclusion that what it should have done, what it should be doing this afternoon, is separating this bill into a number of individual bills for very careful consideration and further input from the public and further amendments from members of this House. Then indeed it would be improved legislation, as opposed to the minor amendments that we've seen, 160 in all, that have been emanating from the government benches.

I believe the government today has made a big mistake. They have done almost irreparable damage to themselves by this early in the term bringing in a massive bill of this kind which throws together so many different aspects of the government's mandate that it is extremely difficult for the public or members of this House to deal with it adequately. This, instead of being a day to be cheering the Harris administration, the Progressive Conservative administration in Ontario, I think will be seen, even by some of those who supported the government in the last election, as a day of shame rather than a day of celebration for the Conservative government in Ontario. I think if we look back -- and members will recall this -- at how this bill was introduced, we'll understand why that is the case.

A government that is proud of its legislation has a minister rise in the House, introduce a bill with some fanfare, perhaps a press conference later on in the day, and does it when all members of the House are present so there can be an appropriate response. This bill was part of a sneak attack by the government. With most of the members of the Legislative Assembly in the lockup for budgetary purposes, with most of the news media, almost all of the news media, over there, the minister responsible for being the Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet rose in the House and introduced a bill, along with its compendiums, the size of which was too great for anybody to carry in one particular ride through the House.

This omnibus bill, which the government was not proud of, quite obviously, which it did not introduce earlier in the session so there could be adequate discussion and adequate analysis of the bill, affects some 47 acts of the Ontario Legislature and has so many components that have nothing to do with another component in the bill that I think any objective, fairminded individual in this province would conclude that the government was simply trying to throw everything it could into one bill and have only one debate so there would not be the kind of analysis and discussion that improves legislation or that subjects it to the kind of scrutiny that is good for our democratic process.

If the government were to have done that, if the government were to have separated this into several bills, and if it had done so earlier in the session, there would still be criticism, but I think what you would find was more public acceptance of it, and I think you would find a piece of legislation that would be better for the province than that which we have.

The government obviously wanted just a few days of debate in this Legislature on a major piece of legislation, a massive budget bill, and really wanted no hearings, until such time as we had discussions between the House leaders to determine what kind of scrutiny the bill would have. The government proposed some hearings to be held before Christmas. While most people were out doing their holiday shopping, the government would have the House sit or a committee sit till 12 o'clock at night. We all know that would not be meaningful input. That's why those of us in the opposition called for the government to take a step back, to have hearings across the province in as many municipalities as possible, and to have them in January of the year, when people could look carefully at the bill and its impact on various segments of our society.

It required, unfortunately, for what is called the bully bill, an extraordinary parliamentary tactic on the part of the opposition, one that is not entered into with enthusiasm or easily, to be able to extract from this government a commitment that it would have these hearings, that we would have clause-by-clause discussion and ultimately a final debate in this House.

The bill, as many would recognize, is better than it would have been if it had been rammed through before Christmas, as the government had wished, but it is still a bill that is fatally flawed in terms of its impact on this province.

The right thing to do has been described by my leader and by others, and the government has decided not to do the right thing with this bill. Any bill which has the government itself propose 160 amendments to it -- a bill, remember, that they wanted to have through before Christmas; a bill that they said didn't require amendments at the time. The government itself has introduced some 160 amendments, and members of the opposition many more than that, which were rejected by the government.


Let's look at why Bill 26 is being introduced and why it's being passed by this government. It's really to allow the government to implement its infamous tax cut. The depths of the cuts to the public service -- when you see children now having to pay sums to go into the library, when you see the government about to impose user fees on those who wish to use kindergartens, when you see all of the things this government wishes to do in terms of cutting back on publicly financed services, you know that it is to finance the tax cut, a tax cut, by the way, which will benefit the most wealthy in our society much more than it will people in the lower-income categories.

So the government is cutting the most progressive tax in the province, the income tax, the one that takes into account a person's ability to pay, and replacing it in effect with the most regressive of taxes, those being direct user fees within municipalities and property taxes, neither of which take into account an individual's ability to pay and both of which weigh heavily in favour of the most privileged and rich in our society.

What it does as well is it provides the government with an opportunity to get the credit for a tax cut, while municipalities and local transfer agencies, libraries, transit commissions and various other organizations which receive government funding will receive the criticism for the cutback in services which so many in our communities believe to be of great use and essential to people residing in those communities.

For those who are small-c conservatives, let's look at what is going to have to happen so that this tax cut is delivered. This is an argument that's rather interesting. You talk about cuts, and a lot of the right-wingers, those on the extreme right wing, will nod acquiescently and say, "Yes, we need those cuts, no matter how deep those cuts are, no matter what the impacts are on individuals in our society." Whether it means that kids won't be able to play hockey because they can't afford to pay the cost of that when they raise user fees for the rinks and the rich kids will be able to play, whether that happens or not, that's not what they're looking at. They're prepared to accept that.

However, when you explain to them that the government of Ontario, because of that lost revenue, will have to borrow $20 billion more and pay $5 billion in interest costs to finance this tax cut, that makes no sense to even the most small-c conservative of economists in this province and elsewhere. That's exactly what is going to have to happen, exactly: a new borrowing. It is stated that the problem is the deficit. That's what the members of the government would tell us. Yet, the government is going to borrow $20 billion more to finance a tax cut for those who are the most wealthy in this province, at least benefiting those the most.

Bill 26 is also designed to do something else, something very fundamental for this province and something that should concern each and every one of the elected members in this assembly and the people across this province. It is designed to take power and responsibility from the individually elected members of this Legislature and concentrate that power in the hands largely of unelected people, those people being the whiz kids who always populate the offices of the Premier and ministers, the political advisers -- who are often paid more money, by the way, I should say, than members of the Legislative Assembly.

The political advisers and the senior bureaucracy will have more power as a result of Bill 26, far more power than they could ever have contemplated, when this bill passes. The only people who the people of this province can get at, can influence, those who are the elected members, those of us who must go to the polls at election time, will have diminished power. So ultimately the people of this province have less power, less access to influencing government, because that power is now concentrated in the hands of the geniuses who would have it -- premiers' offices and ministers' offices -- over the years.

The backroom boys, then, will be pleased with this bill. They will be smiling now, I assure you. I guess what is saddest to see in this Legislature is watching the elected members simply relegate themselves to the position of ribbon cutters and cheerleaders for the cabinet.

I've listened to every political party talk about how we can enhance the role of the individually elected member. There's always going to be more independence, more input and more power given to those elected locally, the individual members of the Legislature. Then, when a government gets in power, you find out that it's concentrated in the hands of a few in the cabinet and, as I say, the powerful political advisers to the Premier and the senior bureaucracy who also carry a lot of influence with any government.

What the members of the government are doing by allowing this bill to pass, by enthusiastically embracing it, by defending it across the province, in other words by believing their own propaganda and purveying that propaganda across the province, is they're diminishing their own power and responsibility and turning it over to the wise guys who always know better than elected members about how this province should run.

Many of those are people who are wedded to the philosophy south of the border, the Newt Gingrich philosophy, the Republican Party philosophy, and I'm not talking about the moderates within the Republican Party but rather the extreme right-wingers within the Republican Party. Simply look at what goes on south of the border. You're seeing it transferred to this side of the border.

I think the government has made a major mistake this afternoon by passing this bill. The elected government members, the backbenchers and others not in the cabinet, have made a mistake by not putting the kind of pressure needed on the Premier and others to withdraw this bill, to make substantial changes to it so that democracy is the victor.

The battle over this bill has just begun. I know the government thinks and I know that the people who wanted this bill in the first place, the unelected people who advise the Premier and advise the ministers and the senior bureaucrats, certainly believe that the battle is over, that they now have the levers of power, that now they can implement whatever they wish with minimum scrutiny in this Legislature and with minimum influence by individual members from all parties.

But I assure you, as the ramifications of this bill are evident to the people in terms of closing the hospitals, of imposing user fees -- of imposing user fees in the field of health care, in all of the things which have been described in this bill, all the possibilities -- the abandoned mine sites and the fact that they are going to be subjected to much less environmental scrutiny, all the ramifications which have been described by all members of this House will start to come forward and become evident to the people of this province. Then the government will understand why I say today that you have made a big mistake and one from which you will not easily recover.


Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I rise today, for the first time that I have actually been able to, to speak to Bill 26. As Vice-Chairman of the standing committee on general government I served as Chair of the non-health-side committee and I was proud to serve with many people in this House on that committee: Mr Cooke, Mr Silipo, Mr Phillips, Mr Gerretsen, Mr Sampson, Mr Tascona, Mr Young, Mr Hardeman, several members. It was a good committee and I was proud to sit with them for hundreds of hours of committee time, more time than any bill, as I understand it, that has been looked at in this Legislature over the last 10 years -- nothing to shake a stick at.

I will say, though, that although I was very proud to serve with the committee, I did have some things that I heard today and some things that, when said on the road, I couldn't leave being unsaid or unresponded to on my part -- not only the 300 hours of committee time that we had on this bill but the 360 hours which were offered but refused. This is something that we mentioned time and time again when the idea came up of how much further time should be added to this process, and I thought it should be reiterated here today.

A big bill? Yes, it was. An omnibus bill, it's been called, but how big was it? Well, 211 pages is the number of pages in the bill. It was always put forward, "How does someone deal with 211 pages?" They didn't have to, really. They had to deal with 105 in English and 105 in French - 105 1/2 each, I guess -- but substantially smaller, half of the 211 put forward.

The committees were divided into health and non-health, and on the health side there were 35 pages of the bill. Schedules A through E were generally amenable to all parties. In fact, they didn't get talked about very much at all. They encompassed about 25 pages of legislation, so we were left with about 45 pages to deal with -- not nearly as big and ominous as some would have you believe.

Earlier today the member for Scarborough-Agincourt gave a little bit of a lecture to some of our members about process and competence. Actually, his words were "being straight with people." I would say to him he should take some of his own advice.

He told a story on the road of how we used to have debates every morning about amendments, "Where are the amendments?" and Mr Sampson, the member for Mississauga West, would say: "We're listening to the people in Toronto, we're listening in western Ontario and southern Ontario. Now we're listening in northern Ontario. We've heard some people, we're working on some amendments, but they're not quite ready yet. We want to hear more people and make sure we've got things right."

On that Wednesday, the last Wednesday before we finished our hearings on the road, on the health side of committee in Kitchener they had decided they were ready to table some amendments, and they were tabled. Today the member for Scarborough-Agincourt put that forward as if our member for Mississauga West had the wool pulled over his eyes or didn't know what was happening. Well, I assure you he did. He knew, because his amendments were not ready to be tabled and so they weren't tabled that day. He is an excellent and competent person.

The point is, Mr Phillips should have been straight with the people, that he knew that those weren't non-health committee amendments; that they were health committee amendments.

Something else happened over and over again in the committee. The compendium, a 2,000-page addition to a bill which generally goes only to opposition critics, was referred to quite frequently. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt pointed out that it had the words "generally unlimited flexibility" when it talked about fees and licensing.

He tried to nail down the minister when the minister did appear before this committee on first day of hearings and he said, "Is there unlimited flexibility?" The minister clarified and said, "Well, there's as much as possible, but there will be limits where need be." He did put limitations on this idea of unlimited flexibility, yet every time someone came before us the member for Scarborough-Agincourt would say, "Mr Leach says there's unlimited flexibility." He didn't say that. He qualified it. The point again is being straight with the people. I think it should be pointed out.

Poor Mayor McCallion. I don't know how many times I heard people say that Mayor McCallion was going to be a tax-crazy fiend, ready to put gas taxes on and so on and so forth. Well, she didn't say that. She said she thought perhaps there was a possibility that could happen. How did she respond when she was asked: "How will you handle, Mayor McCallion, the cuts over the next two years to your municipality?" Here's what she said: "We will not do it by user fees or raising taxes. We will find the efficiencies to cope." That was never read back into the record. I think the point here is, let's be straight with people. That's what she said; not, "I'm going to go crazy with gas taxes."

Some people refused to allow members to put words in their mouths. Mr Reid from the Ontario Mining Association was in one day, and again the member for Scarborough-Agincourt said: "I think if your industry looked at all other components of the bill you'd say that, on balance, as an Ontarian, `We have real problems with the bill.'" Mr Reid refused to have words put in his mouth and said, "I'm not going to let you put words in my mouth, Mr Phillips." Again, the point is about being straight with people.

Mr Phillips is a humorous gentleman whom I enjoy very much and I enjoyed being on the road with him. When we were back doing clause-by-clause analysis, at one point he looked up at the TV monitor where we were on and said, "That TV should have a warning on it when people tune in to that." I said: "Yeah, I agree. After clause-by-clause, I think that warning should read: `Do not adjust your set. You may be hearing the same things over and over, but we are actually live.'"

The reason I say this is, even though the time that we had was so precious to the members opposite and so little, they still had time every day to get up and debate motions that they knew were not going to win approval. They didn't want to debate the amendments, they just wanted to put forward motions.


Mr Maves: I don't want to impute motives, sir, but it was a day and a half before we got to schedule A. Any member of the public who was watching on TV must have been shocked and dismayed that it took a day and a half before we even got to look at schedule A.

If time was so precious, I wonder why on Thursday, at 5:20, we started to debate a government motion and we debated it. We heard arguments against that motion for 40 minutes from the members opposite -- 40 minutes. With two minutes left in the day's events, they voted unanimously in favour of that government motion. Lo and behold, I turned the page. The next motion was an NDP motion and it was identical, word for word, to the one that they just argued against for 40 minutes. If time was so precious, then why did we spend 40 minutes debating a motion that they were ready to put forward themselves?

Finally, let me say that I have great respect for many of the members across the aisle, and I found it very disconcerting that one day, strangely, we were surrounded by four camera crews and all of a sudden, three very veteran members of this House jumped up and unfurled a banner. All three know very well that banners and demonstrations of that sort are not in order in the Legislature or in committee. They unfurled their banner, they got their TV shot and then exclaimed, "I didn't know it was out of order." That type of waste of time we couldn't afford in considering this bill, because time was precious. We did need time to do clause-by-clause, and I hope in the future they keep that in mind.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): It has been an interesting couple of months, let me say that, from the spectacle of seeing a government introduce a bill in the Legislature while opposition members were locked up in the pre-budget lockup to a series of discussions between House leaders which started with the government saying, "No time for committees."

We hear much from the members opposite about how they offered more committee time than we actually ended up with. They always conveniently forget to mention that in fact it was the government House leader's position that there would be no time for public hearings, no hearings at all on Bill 26, that their government wanted this just done, rammed through and passed by December 14, when the Legislature would rise.

The reaction of the opposition, the reaction of the public, the media attention given to that caused a repositioning on the other side, and then we had scurrying around, offer after offer, and it was all, you know, this was going to be the big offer. Yet we just heard Mr Maves say, "We offered 390 hours compared to the 360 you got," or whatever those numbers were. There are very few things that get me really angry, but you know what does? When people mislead the public and members of the Legislature by making such comments; I mean, you can poke a hole in that 100 ways through.


Let's just back up a moment and look at what they offered, because I think it's important that people know when they hear the government go out and say: "Gee, we really wanted to listen to the public. Gee, we really wanted to have public input. Gee, we offered more hours in public hearings than what the opposition finally agreed to."

They offered a week's hearings split into three different rooms. Yes, it split the bill up and that's where they get the number of hours from. One week's hearings starting early in the morning, going late at night, before December 14, at a point in time when the bill wasn't even available in the government bookstore for members of the public to buy it, to be able to read it, to be able to develop a position to come forward and inform the government of what their position would be. Is this what they call informed debate, informed public participation? It was a sham, a true sham.

It took incredible efforts, unprecedented initiatives on the part of the opposition, to force the government House leader to provide a process that had some public hearings in January when people would have a little bit more time to have read the bill and understand it and be able to come forward and participate in informed discussion about the bill, and to travel the province, because otherwise it would have all been here in Toronto, and to have a period of clause-by-clause.

Let's look at what happened once we got into January. In the two weeks of travel on the road there were under 300 hearing spots available, and people may be interested in knowing that there was a genuine public response, that people wanted to participate. Do you know how many? Over 1,000 groups and individuals applied for less than 300 spaces, to be heard before the two committees as they travelled. This is what you're calling adequate public consultation? We heard from enough people?

In fact, I think the Premier said today, "We heard from the genuine people." Well, what were the others? Who were the ungenuine people? Are those the vested interests you keep writing off that you don't have to listen to? Anyone who has an opinion that opposes yours in any way, all of a sudden is a vested interest and doesn't need to be listened to? That's not how you govern. That's not how you build consensus in society. That's not how you get the best laws. Even going in the direction you want to go, you need to listen to people, to be informed, to understand how your bill is going to affect different constituencies and regions and groups of people. You never gave the time for that.

So we had the two weeks of public hearings, and I'm glad we had that. I'm glad that there was some opportunity in January for us to travel the province and to hear from people. I'm sorry that there were hundreds and hundreds of people who weren't heard. I've got 26 pages here to show people, lists and lists and lists of names, groups and individuals who didn't have the opportunity to appear before the committee, who were denied the opportunity.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Maybe they were not genuine.

Ms Lankin: Yes, my colleague here says, "I guess these people are not genuine people." We'll have to write them and let them know the Premier thinks they're not genuine.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Tell us about the comparison with your omnibus bill.

Ms Lankin: I'm sorry. I'm going to digress for a moment because there's a member behind me here who is now piping up with the other big Tory myth: the comparison between this omnibus bill and Bill 175. We heard it again today from the Premier. Let's talk about the big lie here. Let's talk about the myth.

Bill 175 was an omnibus bill that had primarily housekeeping changes to legislation, which was circulated in draft form to the opposition parties. The opposition parties were able to indicate if there were areas they thought were controversial. In fact, there were some areas they pointed out that were more than housekeeping changes, that were substantive, that they found controversial and asked for them to be taken out. They were taken out.

Then the three parties sat down and talked about how they would deal with this and what kind of House time would be required, because the opposition parties had other bills that they were interested in and wanted to debate. They said: "We don't need any committee time and we don't need any debate time. These are all minor housekeeping legal changes in here. They're not content changes. We don't want to talk about it."

This is your big comparison to defend your actions on Bill 26?

Mr Bisson: A pretty weak argument.

Ms Lankin: Not only is it a weak argument, it is completely misrepresenting history. It's revisionism; yet again revisionism. But much about this bill is revisionism. Let's look back to the campaign and to the Tories' Common Sense Revolution and their commitments to the public of Ontario. What did they say?

Number one, they said, "No cuts to health care." And what have we seen: $1.3 billion in cuts to hospitals in this province that are going to dramatically reshape the delivery of health care services; no absolute commitment for a reinvestment of those dollars until five years down the road, when we're ready to go back to the public. Then we'll restore the budget, after all the changes have happened, after we've put in the user fees.

Wait a minute. There's another promise, "No new user fees in health care." And what does this bill do? It brings in copayments, which are user fees, which are taxes, as the Premier would say. A fee hike by any other name is a copayment is a user fee is a tax. It brings in a tax on seniors, and particularly on sick seniors who require necessary medication in order to maintain their health, perhaps to stay in the community and out of institutions.

What did you tell them when you went through the campaign? You knocked on doors and you said, "No new user fees." I know the seniors in my riding believed you meant no copayments on the drug plan. But you're saying now, "No, what we meant was no new user fees on medically necessary services covered under the Canada Health Act." Was that too long for your campaign literature that you couldn't write it in if that's what you meant? And the absurdity of it, because if you did introduce a user fee on a medically necessary service under the Canada Health Act, it would be clawed back immediately by the federal government. It would be a violation of the Canada Health Act.

So what were you doing, going out there promising that you were just not going to break the law? Of course not. You said, "No cuts to health care." You said, "No new user fees." You said you were going to ensure that municipalities didn't raise new taxes. And what are we doing? We've got a bill here that's full of the ability to raise new user fees and service charges at the municipal level to make up for the cut in revenues that they will be receiving from the provincial government when you cut their transfers. Why is it that you're doing all this? Why is it that you're breaking all of these promises? Because your plan never added up in the first place.

Let's go back to it. During the campaign and before the campaign, how many times did you hear us say, "It doesn't add up"? The numbers just don't add up, because they never did. The Conservative Party's biggest lie in that campaign was that the folks of Ontario can have it all: You can have a 30% tax cut, you can balance the budget and you can do that without cutting health care, without cutting law enforcement, without cutting classroom education, without cutting all those things that we know build our communities and keep our communities healthy and safe. "We won't touch any of those things. We'll promise you the moon on all of those things, and we'll give you a tax cut, and we'll balance the budget."

It couldn't be done and now you're proving us right, because your Finance minister is trying to come to terms with the fiscal impossibility of the Common Sense Revolution. And you know who's paying for it? The people of Ontario, with cuts that are coming much deeper, much faster, much harder than they need to be; with a gutting of essential services in the broader public sector, services that people and communities, that families rely on; with people losing their jobs, with a drag in the economy that's going to happen as result of that, with no effort on the part of this government for any kind of job creation.

The people of the province are paying, and are going to keep paying over and over again, for your campaign promises that were unrealistic from day one, for campaign promises that lied to the people at that point in time, because your folks inside knew in fact that it wasn't realistic, and for a tax cut that is going to primarily benefit the wealthiest people in this province.

You are imposing user fees on seniors, on people with mental disabilities who require medication, on psychiatric patients who require medication and who are living on the marginal edges of the economy. That's where you're getting the money from. That's who you're taking it from in order to give it to the wealthiest Ontarians in terms of a tax break. That's your Common Sense Revolution.

I hope people are listening, and I hope people will review this day after day after day from this point forward. When you pass this bill, every time you use one of those draconian powers, every time one of your cabinet ministers, behind closed doors, signs a little piece of paper and takes another piece of Ontario -- because that's what's going to be happening -- day after day after day, every time that happens, we'll be there to point it out to folks, to show them what you're doing, to show them another broken promise, to show them another lie of the Common Sense Revolution.

Day after day people are going to see that unfold, and I believe there will be a different revolution. I believe there'll be a counter-revolution in this province. People are going to rise up and say to you: "Stop the insanity. Stop this tax cut. I don't want your blood money. I don't need a tax cut more than senior citizens need their necessary medication or people with disabilities need their Wheel-Trans. Take a look at the services you are taking away from the infrastructure of our community, our caring communities, in order to pay for your unrealistic tax cut promise."


When people realize that the ordinary working folks who are going to get $300 or $400 or so benefit out of your tax cut are going to be paying two or three times that in new user fees at the municipal level, do you think they won't understand the shell game that's going on? Do you think you're going to pull one over on them and say: "Look, we're the great provincial government. We've given you a tax cut. It's those bad municipalities who are raising all of those fees. Go after them. The accountability rests there"? What a sham, what a shell game and what a fundamental violation of another Common Sense Revolution promise, that you wouldn't pass taxes down to another level, that you would stop municipalities from raising their taxes because you understood that there was only one taxpayer.

You said that a tax at any level -- a user fee is a tax at any level -- was going to cost jobs, yet you've created a whole piece of legislation, the framework of which is to hand over the power to municipalities to raise and tax anything that moves. But of course you say: "No new taxes. It's not us, it's the municipality."

Mr Kormos: Did they lie?

Ms Lankin: My colleague says, "Did they lie?" They lied through their teeth every day in that campaign, either that or a whole bunch of you didn't have a clue what you were talking about, because what you said then is not what you're doing now.

What's going to be left of this province after four years? I despair. I despair the rebuilding job that it's going to take when you guys are out of power. And mark my words, you will be. You have turned around in a direction that the public of Ontario does not support. It's not what you promised them, it's not what you campaigned on, it's not what they thought you meant, and now you're out there hiding behind this Common Sense Revolution and your fiscal mantra that, "This is all to be expected" and "This is all what the public wants" and "We've got to move ahead." Well, you move ahead, I believe, at your own peril, but unfortunately also at the peril of the people of Ontario.

Our job is not over here today when this bill passes. Our job has just begun. We will, day after day, continue to monitor what you're doing with these new powers you take unto yourself, continue to expose to public scrutiny the actions of your government, the effects on the people of this province and what it will mean for our future generations, and hopefully we will all be around to pick up the pieces after you're gone as well.

Mr Curling: Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: I was given a mandate to speak in this House and my privilege has been denied to present thousands of petitions that were given to me by the people of this province.

The Acting Speaker: Take your seat, please. It was previously agreed that there would be no petitions, that there would be no members' statements.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): It's with considerable reluctance that I rise to join in the debate on third reading of this bill. My reluctance is not solely due to the fact that about an hour ago my daughter gave birth to our first grandchild -- it's a little hard to refocus -- and I've just heard the news.

My reluctance to join in the third reading debate on this bill is because I know that within a very short period of time, this debate is going to lead inevitably to voting on this bill, and in my view it is a bill that should have been ruled out of order when it was first presented.

I am reluctant to begin this third reading debate because after three weeks of hearings and a week of clause-by-clause amendments, we have barely begun to understand what is in this bill and what the impact of its measures might be on people and on the quality of life in our communities.

This bill violates, and it has violated from the moment it was presented, any reasonable sense of responsible government or of due diligence in the legislative process and there has been no sense at all of acceptable democratic process.

It is bad legislation, it is bad public policy, it is a bully bill pushed through in a bullying way by a bullying government. This bill, once it is passed within the hour, will let this government continue to be a bully in the future. It sets out literally dozens of areas in which the government can act in the future through regulation, and that means again there will be no due process. There'll be no legislative scrutiny or debate. There will be no guarantee of consultation and in most cases there will be no public notice even required, since the government members in committee voted down amendment after amendment that would have simply required that they notify the public when they make laws that affect them. Even that was too much for this government to agree to, to check its unfettered powers.

This government will now have the power to bring about by regulation, by cabinet fiat, fundamental changes that will affect the lives of every Ontario citizen. They can determine what doctors can practise in our communities -- not just how many; they can even determine which doctors will be chosen to practise medicine in which communities. They can decide what medical treatments and what medications will be given. They can go out and restructure our municipalities. They can dictate how our cities and towns will be run. Municipalities think they've been given new powers under this bill. In fact, this government can regulate them in ways that they haven't even begun to imagine.

The Minister of Health now has powers beyond any belief because he can go in and shut down our hospitals or take them over all by himself, or he can tell somebody else to go and do it and then he can wash his hands of the whole business, the whole nasty business of coming into a community and shutting down the hospital. The Minister of Health doesn't even have to check with cabinet. He can do this all on his own or tell someone else to do it.

And the powers don't end there. This government can deny payment for medical services that it didn't think were necessary after the services have been given. It can deny access to private citizens seeking information. It can dismiss their requests as frivolous. It can now raid public pension funds and do it legally because this government has discovered that when the court says, "You're breaking the law," there's no problem if you're the government with a majority. You just change the law so you can do whatever you wanted to do and you can do it legally, and this is without a doubt the most extensive, the most intrusive and will be the most invasive power grab in Ontario history.

Because of this bill's scope and its complexity and the sheer number of other statutes it affected -- 44 other acts of this Legislature are changed; three new acts are created -- it has required an incredible amount of analysis just to know what the bill actually says, and that has made it extremely difficult for concerned citizens to know what is in the bill, exactly what it involves, let alone to interpret what it means, and they have certainly not had forthcoming answers from any member of the government when they've raised their questions. We've seen individuals make an effort to get hold of this bill at personal cost, because the government was charging them $25 to get a copy of the bill itself. They've made the effort to read it, to prepare presentations in a limited amount of time, and I suggest that was a powerful testament to the desire of citizens in this province to make their views known.

The fact that there were more than 1,000 individuals and groups that wanted to be heard and didn't get on the list was a measure of the breadth and the depth of the concern that people have about this bill. When you see this government ignore the criticism because they say it comes from vested interests, when you see them dismiss the 1,000 people who didn't get to be heard because, as the Premier said today, they'd allowed enough time for genuine concerns to be heard, when you hear this government dismiss the concerns of the thousands of citizens as simply representing those special interests, I think it speaks volumes about this government's appreciation of the democratic right to make dissenting views heard and about this government's readiness to silence the people of this province.


After four weeks of intensive consideration, much of this bill and its interpretation and its future impact remains unclear, but several things about this government have become abundantly clear. The first: This is a government that did not want to listen, that does not want to listen and will not listen in the future. This is a government that wanted this draconian bill passed before Christmas, with no public hearings and little legislative debate. The government hoped that if it rammed through such a complicated piece of legislation -- who's actually going to look at a 211-page bill and all the other 44 bills you had to read to understand it? -- no one would have any idea what this bill involved. They actually figured that by the time people started to become aware of the fundamental changes that this bill would bring about in their lives and their communities, it would just be too late for the opposition or the public to do anything about it.

The government tries to defend this incredible violation of the democratic process by saying, "Well, we need the powers this bill gives us; we need the powers to do whatever we deem necessary to fulfil our agenda," and in many cases as they pursue that agenda, they will give those affected no opportunity to be heard and no right to appeal this government's unilateral decisions.

Well, the outrage over this government's intent has been almost universal, and it has forced the government to make some efforts at appeasement. But as we know, having looked at the minimal amendments the government brought forward, the powers that this government wanted, this government has kept, and I believe this government will use those powers. They can still restructure municipalities without legislation. The fact that they have to hold at least one public meeting before they take over is not going to give the communities that are taken over any comfort at all. The Minister of Health can still close hospitals unilaterally or let someone else do the dirty work for him, and now he has to give 30 days' notice before the axe falls. It took hours of argument just to get the agreement that there should at least be "due regard" to the community planning process before the minister acts.

No one will be assured that this government has any interest in real consultation in any area, not after they tried to ram this bill through, not after they ignored day after day of calls to extend the hearings, not after they left hundreds of people frustrated at having been denied a chance to speak, not after they refused even a one-week extension of the clause-by-clause hearings, leaving 400 amendments to be voted on without discussion or any question for clarification. Is that responsible government?

Mrs McLeod: Government members couldn't even be given the time to tell people the changes they were making with their 160 amendments made to this bill that they wanted to have law before Christmas, amendments that they were scrambling to bring in at the last minute just to make this bad bill a little better by fixing the worst of their mistakes. Most certainly the public will not trust this government's intention to take the time to find out what is truly in the public interest, not after seeing this government so determined to give itself powers that no government had ever sought before to act unilaterally, without due process. One presenter said it all when he said, "When this government has shown such a cavalier attitude towards public opinion, how can you trust them to act in the public interest?"

The second thing we've learned is that this government doesn't want to admit that it was wrong. One area of concern the government had to address was the bill's intrusive violation of confidential medical records. Jim Wilson, before Christmas, was insistent that there was no problem; Bill 26 did not invade personal privacy at all. The privacy commissioner disagreed and they had to fix the bill, and yet the minister still says Bill 26 always protected confidentiality. How could he say that after the privacy commissioner said this was an intrusive violation of personal, confidential records? For that matter, how can the Health minister continue to say, after all the concerns that have been expressed about this bill and about the health provisions of this bill, that the opposition is making up all the concerns, that this is all just politics and rhetoric? And then again, why did the Health minister, Jim Wilson, never come himself to hear those very concerns?

Then we had the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who should have drafted his resignation letter along with the amendments he brought forward, because we all remember him saying he would resign if it could be proven to him that the bill allowed municipalities to raise new taxes like gas taxes or a head tax. He had to change the legislation, but because it would force his resignation to admit he was wrong, he's not going to acknowledge he was wrong in the first place, and unfortunately he shows little sign of resigning.

The government doesn't like to admit that they were wrong, because they so categorically and absolutely stated that they were right before Christmas. Now it is apparent that the ministers did not know what was in the bill, let alone what this bill could do. Mr Leach didn't seem to know even last week that this bill would allow municipalities to put tolls on any road, and even today he says, "Well, yes, they can put tolls on a road; they just can't collect the tolls." What a ludicrous answer from a government minister presenting such sweeping legislation.

Then the Premier didn't seem to know that municipalities could charge user fees for essential services like fire and police, but then at least the Premier didn't pretend to know anything about the bill at all. Even the Finance minister says he doesn't know much about the details of the bill. This is a bill that is a finance bill, and it stands in the name of the Finance minister. When ministers who are responsible for implementing legislation don't understand it, the implications for the future of this province are truly frightening. And when the Premier does not even care to understand his bill, it is clear that our province has completely irresponsible leadership.

Now at least, thanks to public hearings, the public has a better understanding of what this bill and this government are all about.

The third thing we now know is that this government does not want people to know what it's doing and what it plans to do. I think of one point at which the government issued a pamphlet to correct the "myths" about Bill 26. It was called Ten Great Things About Bill 26 That You Won't Hear from the Vested Interests. The pamphlet was done anonymously in the hope that no one would know that this was pure government spin. The 10 things they mentioned had absolutely nothing to do with what was in Bill 26. Even then, it was all blatantly misleading, as have been the statements of government members at every point on this bill.

Why, as so many presenters have asked, would this government, if it is convinced that it is doing right, if it is convinced it is acting in the public interest, be so determined to avoid public awareness, let alone public scrutiny? I think some members of the government -- at least those members of the government who had any idea what this bill was about, if in fact there are any members of the government who had any idea what this bill was about -- knew that the public would never accept a bill that gave cabinet and individual ministers such sweeping and unchecked powers, and that's why they've rammed this through. I think the members of this government really believe that an electoral majority gives them a licence to ignore even the most basic democratic processes, and that is the source of their arrogance -- that and the belief that only they are right.

But that doesn't answer the question, where did this bill come from? I really think Tom Long and Leslie Noble and some of the other backroom boys and girls got together, and in their zeal to ram through their ideological agenda they put together a legislative juggernaut. They went to Mike Harris and Ernie Eves and they said, "Never mind that you don't understand how the juggernaut works; just get in there and drive." Tom and the gang said: "Never mind that Al Leach and Jim Wilson don't understand it and they might look foolish trying to defend this thing; just keep on driving. And never mind that the backbenchers haven't seen it and they can't defend it to their constituents; just keep on driving."


But a funny thing happened along the way. One evening in December, Alvin Curling took his seat and he said, "No." He said, "This juggernaut will not pass without public scrutiny." Our caucus took a stand with Alvin Curling and also said no. The NDP caucus took a stand and it too said no, and people from across this province phoned in and faxed and they said no.

So this government, against its wishes and against its plans, against the advice of Tom Long and the backroom gang, was forced to hold a few weeks of public hearings. Three weeks of public presentations, backed by an outpouring of outrage from even the most unexpected quarters, have told this government and their backroom gang that you can't ram something like this through quite so easily. Yet this government still takes unto itself powers to act unilaterally.

Many presenters expressed real fear of the unknown. We're here today with so little time for debate, no time in committee to discuss the hundreds of amendments that were brought forward to address the public concerns, no time even to discuss the government's changes to its bill, no time today to even talk about section by section of this bill that gives real rise to public fears: real fears about the copayments, user fees, coming from a government that said, "No new user fees in health care," real fears about what that will do to psychiatric patients, for whom the cost of this would be $40 a month out of their limited allowance, and from whom we heard time and time again advocates say they won't take their medication, and that is dangerous.

We're not going to hear about deregulation and the ludicrousness of people in small communities having to pay high prices for their drugs and parents of sick kids having to go from drugstore to drugstore to barter for their drugs, because that's exactly what this bill will do.

We heard about the fears people have because they worry about what this bill will do in the future. They worry about how their access to health care will be affected. They worry about whether user fees for essential services are going to affect public safety. They worry that finances, rather than human concern, will be the deciding factor in every situation.

This government has given the public reason to worry, because this bill is not about constructive, thoughtful change in our social systems and in the ways we are governed; this is a finance bill. The powers this government seeks are the powers it needs to fulfil an irresponsible financial agenda. This government wants the power to make cuts and to make them deep and fast for one reason and one reason only, and that is to deliver its income tax cut to the most well-to-do in our province.

The cuts this government has made -- this government that said it would not cut health care, and then cut health care by $1.5 billion the same day the Minister of Finance introduced this bill -- those cuts are arbitrary. They do not reflect savings that have actually been achieved.

The government is now going to step in and make sure they're found, and they're going to do that whether it is in the public interest or not. It will be the government's agenda, the government's needs, that will determine what will be cut. It will not be the public interest, it will not be the community that is the priority; it will be the government's cuts.

With five minutes left through my wrapup speech for our caucus to express all of the concerns and all of the frustrations that have built over the last months, as we have come to understand how sweeping this legislation is, I set aside all of those concerns and all I can say is that this bill is not about good public policy. This bill has never been about good public policy. It is about cuts and the power to make them. It is about a government that will ignore not only the public view, but the impact of its actions on the people who are affected. The end will be all that matters.

We end the debate on this bill with a level of frustration that reflects the outrage and the fear that we have heard in community after community. We have worked hard to change this bill, hoping the government would at least respond to the clearest public concerns, hoping that the bill could be made less dangerous. There were 200 Liberal amendments proposed. Every one of those was in order. They were a response to what we heard in three weeks of public hearings, and this government did not even consider them.

On the last day of what had become a farce in the committee, where we looked at amendments and ended up dealing only with 45 of 450 amendments, on the last day of that amendment process, one of the government members suggested that we were bogged down in trivia. He suggested that we all had to regain our perspective, that all of this was about government achieving its grand agenda, and that it was tough to be a government member because the government members were just going to have to pay the price of the criticism that they would receive; they would have to pay the price of the criticism of dismissing the concerns of those hundreds and hundreds of people who presented their very real fears and who asked very legitimate questions of this government about what they would do.

I confess that my response to that lecture, after the three weeks that I spent travelling with the committee and listening to concerns and working hard to try and respond to them by presenting what were indeed detailed but we believe thoughtful amendments to make this awful bill better, was uncharacteristically emotional. But it is a fact that I travel 1,000 miles from my home every week to do a job that I happen to believe is important. I value the trust placed in me to consider the concerns of the people I represent, and I expect that every member of this House should feel the same.

I believe the responsibility that we're given as legislators to make the laws that govern people's lives to be the highest trust possible, and I happen to feel, as humbling as that thought can be, that it is through our effort that democracy -- government by the people, of the people, for the people -- is kept strong.

Because I believe that good government actually makes a difference in people's lives and that good legislation is the basis for good government, I can tell you that I am truly dismayed when we cannot stop bad legislation from passing, and this is bad legislation. This legislation is so bad in so many ways across so many areas that it makes me and every member of my caucus afraid, truly afraid, for the future under this government.

I say to the members of the government who somehow think that this is all political gamesmanship to think seriously about the concerns that some of us have heard in the last three weeks. I suggest you think very carefully about hearing the voices of your constituencies, because I believe that as the worst fears that people have today start to become real, and as more and more people come to see what this bill is all about and what it will mean, there will be even more outrage in community after community across this province.

I know that there will also be today and in the days to come an incredible sense of powerlessness. People will feel disenfranchised, and people who believe in democracy will not accept being disenfranchised. They will not accept being voiceless and they will not accept powerlessness, because powerlessness is a condition that people will refuse to put up with.

When community hospitals start shutting down, people will see the long arm of Mike Harris and they will raise their voices, and when they start to see user fee after user fee being introduced on prescription drugs and parks and library books and garbage collection and firefighters and police, they will see the long arm of Mike Harris and they will raise their voices.

I remind the Premier, who is still not present to hear this debate, that when you sow the wind, you will reap a whirlwind, and I warn Mr Harris that the whirlwind will come sooner than he thinks.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Before I start my remarks about Bill 26, I think it would be in order for me to make some comment about the leader of the third party, the member for York South.

I can tell you that in my time in this Legislature I don't think I've come across an elected representative of any political party who has more integrity than Mr Rae. I have differed from Mr Rae, as I'm sure he will be all too willing to agree, on matters of a political nature. We've disagreed as to certain pieces of legislation, both inside and outside of government. We've disagreed from time to time on various tactics that are used by different governments. But I don't think anybody could ever question the fact that Bob Rae is a man of principle, that he is an elected representative of the utmost integrity and that he has spent a good portion of his life representing people of the province of Ontario and indeed Canadians.


I want to revert back to when I was given the privilege by the then Premier of the province of accompanying him, along with Charles Beer, across the country, as I'm sure he will reflect, with respect to the Charlottetown accord. I can tell you that the honour and the treatment that I was shown by the then Premier certainly recognized that opposition members had a vital and important role to play in the constitutional process.

I would just like to say to Mr Rae today that we respect your decision to leave public life, as you point out, at this particular point in time. I certainly wish you and your family well, sir, in whatever you choose to do. I think if anybody has earned the right to success, respect and a little bit more time of your own with your family, it is you. Thank you.

I would like to speak on third reading of Bill 26, the Savings and Restructuring Act, 1995. I would like to thank all members of the committee, and I mean all political parties, for their hard work over the past few weeks. I do, however, at the outset want to clarify a few things that I think individual members have not exactly explained to the public when they've been talking about Bill 26.

One of the myths, I think, that the opposition parties have tried to expound on on Bill 26 is that we sort of mysteriously slipped this bill in through the back door.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Well, you did.

Hon Mr Eves: The member for Scarborough-Agincourt is saying, "Well, you did." I want to tell him and every other member of the opposition that both opposition House leaders were asked if it would be appropriate, as has been done since Confederation in this place, that after my economic statement on November 29, to revert to introduction of bills. I did not get a response from the member for St Catharines, with all due respect to him. I did get a response, a very definite one, from the member for Windsor-Walkerville.

Interjection: Riverside.

Hon Mr Eves: Riverside, sorry. I wouldn't want to make that mistake. He indicated to me in no uncertain terms that whatever we decided to do, he was against it. That's what he said. He hadn't seen the bill, he didn't know what it was going to say, but he was against it; if we were for it, he was against it.

The opposition parties, breaching a tradition that's been in this place for well over 100 years, left the government with absolutely no alternative but to introduce the bill the way they did if it was going to be introduced before the last 15 sessional days. The members opposite know full well the bill was coming, and the NDP House leader absolutely refused to allow the bill to be introduced in its normal fashion. So we introduced it in the only fashion available to us.

Mrs Caplan: You were sneaky, a sneak.

Hon Mr Eves: It wasn't snuck; it was introduced by my colleague the Chair of Management Board. Give me a break.

Mrs Boyd: In a way that nobody would know.

Hon Mr Eves: Everybody knew. We told you up front. I thought you used to be the Attorney General.

We also indicated in House leaders' meetings, yes, a preference for passing the bill before the Christmas break, and yes -- I know the opposition members won't like this -- we asked them to sit an extra week, the week of December 18, to deliberate on this bill. But heaven forbid, we wouldn't want to interfere with their vacation now, would we? We also asked that they return on January 2 to start deliberation on the bill. They didn't want to sit the week of January 2. That was not cricket: "We can't be here in the week of January. We don't want to work that week." But their suggestion to me was, we can get this bill passed before --


The Speaker: Order, order. I can't hear the minister. I'd like some peace.


The Speaker: Order, order.


The Speaker: The member for Cochrane South is out of order.

Hon Mr Eves: I offered during our negotiation with the other two House leaders that there should be a week between the end of public hearings and clause-by-clause deliberation of the bill so that members of the committee and members of the public could see the amendments. The opposition refused. They didn't want to sit the week of January 2; they didn't want to have a break week between the end of public hearings and clause-by-clause -- their choice, not mine. That was their choice and now they're complaining about it. I just want the public to understand that it was their choice that we do not have that week to talk about those amendments. They chose to do it that way.

The bill does provide tools to our transfer partners to implement measures announced in the fall fiscal economic statement on November 29. These measures will renew Ontario's public services and they will get spending in the province under control.

Ontarians have told us that the province must change the way it operates. It must be able to compete in the global economy. We are spending $1 million an hour more than we take in in revenue. I know the former Finance minister doesn't want to be reminded of that fact, but it is a fact, and it is a fact that every Ontarian understands even if his government didn't.

The province's debt is now approximately $100 billion. In this fiscal year alone we will spend $9 billion on interest payments alone. Imagine how many services that could provide to seniors, to the needy, to educate our young people, to health care.

Why don't we have that $9 billion available to us? Because of those two political parties over there that racked up this huge $100-billion debt with an unlimited credit card that they are going to ask future generations of Ontarians to pay for. Nine billion dollars a year is more than the province spends on hospitals. It is more than is spent on all levels of education in the province combined.

During my pre-statement consultations that I had with health care professionals, with hospitals, with educators, with municipal officials, they all made it clear that they needed the tools to allow them to adjust to reduced funding and to continue to provide essential services to the public. They understand something that the opposition parties don't understand: that everybody in the province of Ontario has to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Bill 26 provides measures to streamline the provincial government and steps to reduce costs, such as requiring interest arbitrators to consider an employer's ability to pay when making decisions on wages. I know that will be a thought that's totally foreign to some of the opposition members, but I think that we do have to understand the employer's ability to pay.

It gives municipalities the flexibility to charge user fees for services, as municipalities in other provinces already have. It modernizes Ontario municipalities' authority to license more types of businesses, to update fee levels that haven't changed in decade upon decade in the province of Ontario. Municipalities will be able to distribute responsibilities between county and regional governments and local municipalities so they can provide services more efficiently at reduced costs and eliminate duplication.


There were four major amendments made to the municipal section of the bill. They will be able to provide more flexibility as to how they raise revenue. They are unequivocally prohibited from imposing income, sales or gasoline taxes to do so. Poll taxes or any other similar fee or charge imposed on an individual just because that person resides in a municipality are also prohibited. Reasonable licence fees can be charged but cannot be used as a tool simply to raise revenue. Local restructuring will not be made unless a request comes from a municipality or at least 75 residents of an unstructured area. The minister must appoint a commission and public input must be given. These commissions cannot be appointed after December 31, 1999. The provision is going to be sunsetted.

In my own riding of Parry Sound there are already three separate groups of municipalities, ranging from three municipalities to 12, talking about reorganizing and restructuring. They understand that they have to be part of the solution. I don't know why you people don't understand that you have to be part of the solution.

Bill 26 provides the tools to make hospital restructuring easier, to reform the Ontario drug benefit program to make it more in line with programs elsewhere. We are the last province in Canada to have cost-sharing with its drug plan. The opposition members never seem to mention the 140,000 lower-income, hardworking Ontarians who now will be added to the drug benefit plan who were excluded by their plan. They don't care about those people. They work for a living. It will provide the tools to restructure health services, to ensure that quality care health services are delivered in an efficient manner, that resources focus on front-line patient care, that the use of existing resources is improved, and every cent saved will be reinvested in the health care system of the province of Ontario, as we promised.

The term of the Health Services Restructuring Commission is limited to four years. We are sunsetting the powers of the Minister of Health in four years with respect to the closure/amalgamation of hospitals, transfer of hospital programs or issuing directions to hospitals. We are clarifying the process by which the minister can appoint a hospital supervisor, as a matter of fact, by giving a minimum of 14 days' notice. We are removing the ability of the minister to prescribe provision of bylaws to be passed by a hospital.

The Ontario Hospital Association was pleased with the government's flexibility in their amendment. Their chair, Bob Muir, said on January 17, and I quote, "Your response to our proposals is a welcome signal of your government's willingness to work in partnership with hospitals."

It was the previous government that introduced the hospital restructuring commission for the greater Metropolitan Toronto area in February 1994. What were you going to do with that study that you commissioned? Were you going to ignore it, I say to the members over there? Of course they weren't going to ignore it. They would have done the same thing that this government is doing today, I hope.


The Speaker: The member for Beaches-Woodbine is out of order.

Hon Mr Eves: They have to be part of the solution to our problem. They don't want to be part of the problem. All Ontarians have to contribute.

As House leader, as I've said, I met with my counterparts in the other two parties. We negotiated in good faith the timing of these committee hearings and third reading of Bill 26. During these three weeks of hearings the committee received more than 1,000 submissions, travelled to 11 different communities and heard more than 450 presentations. The government has made significant amendments to the legislation by the input received from the public.

Yes, Bill 26 contains some strong measures for difficult times after a decade of overspending. I can tell you, change is necessary, and while change can sometimes be frightening and challenging, in the province of Ontario today it is absolutely necessary. We are committed to balancing the budget, returning common sense to Ontario finances, if there is to be a future for the province of Ontario, the young people and future generations.

The Speaker: Mr Wilson has moved third reading of Bill 26.

All those in favour of the motion, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members; five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1746 to 1751.

The Speaker: All those in favour of Mr Wilson's motion, please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Guzzo, Garry J.

Parker, John L.

Baird, John R.

Hardeman, Ernie

Pettit, Trevor

Barrett, Toby

Harnick, Charles

Preston, Peter

Bassett, Isabel

Harris, Michael D.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Beaubien, Marcel

Hastings, John

Ross, Lillian

Boushy, Dave

Hodgson, Chris

Runciman, Bob

Brown, Jim

Hudak, Tim

Sampson, Rob

Carr, Gary

Jackson, Cameron

Shea, Derwyn

Carroll, Jack

Johns, Helen

Sheehan, Frank

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, Bert

Skarica, Toni

Clement, Tony

Johnson, David

Smith, Bruce

Cunningham, Dianne

Johnson, Ron

Snobelen, John

Danford, Harry

Jordan, Leo

Spina, Joseph

DeFaria, Carl

Kells, Morley

Sterling, Norman W.

Doyle, Ed

Klees, Frank

Stewart, R. Gary

Ecker, Janet

Leach, Al

Stockwell, Chris

Elliott, Brenda

Leadston, Gary L.

Tilson, David

Eves, Ernie L.

Martiniuk, Gerry

Tsubouchi, David H.

Fisher, Barbara

Maves, Bart

Turnbull, David

Flaherty, Jim

Munro, Julia

Vankoughnet, Bill

Ford, Douglas B.

Murdoch, Bill

Villeneuve, Noble

Fox, Gary

Mushinski, Marilyn

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Froese, Tom

Newman, Dan

Wilson, Jim

Galt, Doug

O'Toole, John

Witmer, Elizabeth

Gilchrist, Steve

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wood, Bob

Grimmett, Bill

Palladini, Al

Young, Terence H.

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


Agostino, Dominic

Curling, Alvin

McLeod, Lyn

Bartolucci, Rick

Duncan, Dwight

Miclash, Frank

Bisson, Gilles

Gerretsen, John

Morin, Gilles E.

Boyd, Marion

Grandmaître, Bernard

North, Peter

Bradley, James J.

Gravelle, Michael

Patten, Richard

Brown, Michael A.

Hampton, Howard

Phillips, Gerry

Caplan, Elinor

Hoy, Pat

Pouliot, Gilles

Castrilli, Annamarie

Kormos, Peter

Pupatello, Sandra

Christopherson, David

Kwinter, Monte

Rae, Bob

Churley, Marilyn

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Ramsay, David

Cleary, John C.

Lankin, Frances

Ruprecht, Tony

Colle, Mike

Laughren, Floyd

Sergio, Mario

Conway, Sean G.

Marchese, Rosario

Silipo, Tony

Cooke, David S.

Martel, Shelley

Wildman, Bud

Cordiano, Joseph

Martin, Tony

Wood, Len

Crozier, Bruce

McGuinty, Dalton


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 78; the nays 47.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

Being almost 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until March 18 at 1:30 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1800.