36th Parliament, 1st Session

L051 - Tue 2 Apr 1996 / Mar 2 Avr 1996













































The House met at 1332.




Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I rise today to address a serious and preventable health concern. Hepatitis A is a viral infection which generally causes nausea, jaundice, fever, diarrhoea, fatigue, abdominal pain and liver failure, even death. Every year hundreds of Ontarians are infected by hepatitis A, receiving the virus from infected individuals who do not wash their hands after a bowel movement.

I'd like to urge this government to develop a strategy to deal with this potentially deadly disease. There are different approaches that will prove effective to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, people often get the virus from foodservice workers. The government could work together with the hospitality industry to create a new public awareness campaign to remind people of the importance of personal hygiene, particularly hand washing. Another option would be to require hepatitis A vaccinations for foodservice workers. The vaccine does exist and is a cost-effective way to deal with this problem in a preventive way.

Hepatitis A is a very serious issue. People have died from this disease. It is preventable. Cost-effective options do exist to deal with this potentially serious problem. It does not have to cost the government anything --

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


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): The residents of Terrace Bay in my riding of Lake Nipigon are indeed very concerned about the future of Birchwood Terrace. Birchwood Terrace is the only long-term-care community in the township of Terrace Bay.

Today there are 417 senior citizens on waiting lists for homes for the aged in the district because of the Minister of Health; he will only allow 23 of Birchwood's 62 units to be occupied. Therefore, many of these residents, these seniors are forced to stay in local hospitals at a much greater cost. Our seniors and their children are being burdened simply because the minister will not snap out of it, and deliberately and systematically prefers the bottom line, the power of the purse, the power of a buck, and destroys vis-à-vis our seniors. We're hoping to be able to take care of our seniors in their own community.


Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Yesterday was a very important day for Four Counties General Hospital in Middlesex. As of yesterday, the emergency department at Four Counties is reopening and will offer 24-hour emergency care services.

As all members know, hospitals in small and rural communities have had great difficulty ensuring full coverage by physicians in their emergency departments over the last few years. At Four Counties General emergency care has been underserviced since May 1994, over two years. As a result, many small hospitals have had to dip into their operating budgets to top up pay for physicians, while others have had to limit hours of operation.

On December 4, 1995, as promised, our government acted in response to the concerns of rural residents by announcing the implementation of a small/rural hospital emergency coverage fee for physicians. On behalf of the many residents of Middlesex county and others within the Four Counties service area, I extend my thanks to Health Minister Wilson for his decisive action on physician coverage of small and rural hospital emergency departments, as recommended by the Graham Scott report.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): Yesterday in the House the Minister of Economic Development and Trade sent a message to students in this province that sent chills throughout our colleges and universities. Students in my riding disagree with the minister and this government's disregard for the economic realities facing students. In a letter I received this morning, the president of Lakehead University Student Union, Adele Ritchie, spoke on behalf of her colleagues. I would like to read parts of Ms Ritchie's letter in the hope that the minister responsible for youth employment will listen to what students are really saying.

"This summer is a crucial one for students in Ontario. Not only are they facing an increased tuition hike in September of up to 20%, but they are no more ensured of a job than they have been in the last two years. I do not see the sense in freezing the minimum wage level as a means for creating jobs. That does not guarantee in any way that more young people will be hired. This does not guarantee that they will be able to afford the added tuition costs come September....

"Students in the northern regions of Ontario are particularly hard hit by the lack of jobs and are being forced to leave to try to find employment in the larger cities in order to support themselves....

"Ontario is not open for business, certainly not for the little people. For those who think that a student's education can be partially subsidized by parents, thay are sadly mistaken for we are not the only ones not able to find work."

Ms Ritchie urges the government "to recognize that education is common sense and to encourage small businesses and large corporations to give students a chance."

The government must stop cutting the education sector at all levels and give students a chance to live their lives.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): The statement I'm going to make is directed at the Minister of Community and Social Services. I hope he'll listen to the dilemma one of my constituents finds herself in. This constituent has been on family benefits since 1987, since 1992 on the disability portion of family benefits. In 1995, in July, because she agrees that people should attempt to be self-sufficient, she decided to try working again, but unfortunately her condition only enabled her to work for about two and a half months. As a result of working over 30 days, that constituent then had to apply for GWA, and she is waiting to be fast-tracked on to FBA.

This woman has a 15-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son. The 16-year-old son has been found by her doctor to be severely malnourished and in need of food supplements. My constituent has accessed all the available resources -- the food bank, the Salvation Army, the men's mission, Neighbour Link, LIFE*SPIN, all of those helping community agencies -- and still she is unable to provide adequately the kind of food that her child needs while she is waiting to get back on to the family allowance.

I urge the minister, when cases like this come forward, to encourage those of us who are members of the Legislature to bring those cases forward for special consideration. The long-term costs are extremely serious, and I urge the minister to pay attention to these issues.


Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I rise today to bring to the attention of the members of this House the tremendous work being done by the Durham Board of Education. The Durham Board of Education has been chosen as the North American nominee for an award given by Carl Bertelsmann Verlag, a major publisher of education and government texts in Germany. The board was nominated by a North American selection committee as a school system which represents the best framework for the development of schools.

Durham is the North American nominee and one of only seven public school authorities in the world vying for the prize, which is a grant of $312,000. Other nominees come from Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, New Zealand and Switzerland. Durham board officials will attend the awards ceremony at no expense to taxpayers.

I have written the interim director of the board to offer my congratulations. I am sure the other members of the House will join me in applauding the fine job being done by the Durham Board of Education and this international recognition of the board's excellence.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I want to read a letter that we received yesterday following statements by the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism on youth employment from Joel Lynn, president-elect of Wilfrid Laurier University Students Union.

He was so shocked by how out of touch the minister was on the issue that he wrote:

"I find it difficult for the government of Ontario to make `general comments' on the employment, particularly youth employment, when this same government has just recently increased the cost of education.

"The students of Wilfrid Laurier University are faced with a 16% increase in tuition fees and an even greater increase in student service fees. The need for summer employment will be greater than ever. As public support programs such as OSAP continue to diminish, students are relying more on summer employment to support the costs of their education.

"Mr Saunderson's commentary and evaluation of the current situation is disappointing and disheartening to students. In one of his closing statements, he discusses his government `freezing hydro rates, changing labour legislation...' rather than directly addressing the issue at hand. I would recommend to Mr Saunderson to outline specifically what his government's plans are for summer employment. Students of Wilfrid Laurier are about to embark on their summer plans to raise money for next year's education expenses. The cost of a full-time undergraduate program has surpassed the $10,000 per year mark, factoring in all cost-of-living expenses. Producing this" --

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


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I wish to bring to the attention of the House an issue that is related to the government's overwhelming desire for privatization at any cost.

I refer to a proposal to the Ministry of Health that hospital laboratory services be privatized and tests performed by a lab jointly owned by MDS Laboratories and Sudbury General Hospital. This private enterprise will be making a profit from the funds the Ministry of Health pays to the lab to perform tests. This private lab will be making a profit from our tax dollars. This is not acceptable.

If this government feels there is a need to expand laboratory services in Sudbury, then the most logical place to expand would be the existing labs at Laurentian Hospital. This hospital lab was originally built to service a regional laboratory. It can be expanded with very little capital costs. The Laurentian Hospital lab is located in the same building as the Northeastern Ontario Regional Cancer Treatment Centre. This allows for the highly specialized testing needed for proper diagnoses. An expanded lab at Laurentian Hospital will provide tests cheaper than the proposed MDS-Sudbury General laboratory, as much as 75% cheaper.

If this government is so concerned about the bottom line, then it should seriously examine why it wants to spend more money than is necessary to change the hospital lab system in Sudbury. The proposal makes no sense whatsoever and would cause good pathologists and lab technicians to leave Sudbury.


Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): Mr Speaker, this afternoon I wish to inform you about how the Harris government is following through on its commitment to build a very important piece of infrastructure in the Hamilton-Wentworth area -- the Red Hill Creek Expressway.

The Harris government has committed $20 million a year over the next five years for the completion of the expressway. This is in addition to the $6.75 million we deferred in July and the approximately $45 million that the region expects to make from development fees. The total amount the province will be contributing is well over half of the $200 million it will cost to finish the expressway. This money is in addition to the $80 million that the province has already contributed.

It is also important to note that this commitment comes at a time when no other municipal roads are being funded directly by the province. In fact, many municipalities have seen significant reductions in their funding.

The Minister of Transportation, Al Palladini, met with Hamilton-Wentworth regional chair Terry Cooke last week and asked that the region immediately call for tenders so that the expressway can be built as soon as possible. The province is paying for half of this tender process as well.

Hamilton-Wentworth may wish to pursue new delivery techniques that saved up to 22% on the cost of Highway 407. Minister Palladini has made it clear that any savings Hamilton-Wentworth can realize through such an approach would reduce its share of the cost, not the province's. This is going to happen despite the public pronouncements of the member for Hamilton East not to build the expressway at all.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Premier. Premier, the people of Ontario continue to be more than a little dismayed by the attitude of you and of your cabinet to people who are less fortunate in life.

Just minutes from here, at St Paul's church at the corner of Bloor and Jarvis, the number of homeless people who take refuge there has doubled over this past winter. Over at Bloor and Bathurst at St Peter's church, they served 15% more people in their program for the homeless this winter. At St Andrew's church across from Roy Thomson Hall, the number of people who came in from the cold was up by 9% this winter.

Yesterday, you said on the radio that you think many people choose to be homeless. I wonder if you can tell me why so many more people chose to be homeless this winter than last winter.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Let me clearly acknowledge that one person homeless is a tragedy in the province of Ontario and something this government is concerned about and wants to address. What I had indicated when asked on the radio show was that those who are involved in the field, running the centres, running the shelters, had indicated a frustration that there were a few people who choose, in spite of the fact that programs are there, to be there.

I was repeating what the experts in the field are telling us, that in spite of the programs, in spite of welfare, in spite of the housing programs, in spite of the efforts and the shelters, there are some people who choose that. This is regrettable and unfortunate, and I share their concern and frustration.

Clearly, it's been a very difficult winter for a number of people and this is something that I think we all want to work hard to address. The sooner, I can tell you, we can turn the economy around and get more jobs, get more prosperity, more hope, which is what our agenda is all about, as to the failed agenda of the last 10 years, I think the more opportunity there will be for everybody.

Mrs McLeod: Let me suggest to you, Premier, that the three people who died on the streets this winter were not making a lifestyle choice.

When you refer to people in the field and what you've heard from them, let me tell you what people in the field are saying, in this case, Sheryl Lindsay from the Hostel Outreach Program:

"Many of the people that we deal with have lost their housing as a result of their cheques being reduced. They are not there by choice. They're there because they have so few supports in the community. Many have been discharged from psychiatric institutions without appropriate plans for their accommodations. Many have lost their income supports and cannot afford housing. They are not homeless by choice; they have no other options."


Premier, I suggest to you that the kind of ignorance that underlies the statement you made yesterday and that you reinforced with your statements today is an attitude that seems to permeate your government, and it's an attitude that says the disabled, the poor and the most vulnerable in our society just don't deserve your help.

We were shocked to realize that your government was even planning to cut winter clothes and back-to-school clothes allowances for poor children until somebody leaked that possibility, so I understand you've now retreated from your plan to cut winter clothing and back-to-school allowances, and I'm glad you've decided that even poor children deserve a warm winter jacket and shoes that fit.

Despite your promise, we understand that you're looking still at a 10% cut to programs for mentally and physically disabled children and adults. Which is it, Premier? Are the disabled going to see their programs cut, or are you going to keep your promise not to cut aid to the disabled?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me again repeat that I agree with Sheryl that many of the people they're dealing with, in fact most, are not there by choice, and it is very difficult. But over the years, the experts tell me that there were a number of people, when my government was in power in the 1960s and the 1970s, and the Liberals in the 1980s and the NDP in the early 1990s -- that there are some people, and the frustration that is -- in spite of the fact that the shelters are there, the help is there, for whatever reason, they are making a choice to live on the street. Perhaps more assistance in counselling and help and assistance can be there. But certainly, every individual is a concern of ours.

With regard to your silly allegations which you make, it ranks up there with saying you're going to cut health care; and we have not. You said we would reduce the funding for the number of child care spaces. We have 12,500 more permanent spaces than the Liberals and the NDP had. So a lot of your allegations are so silly that they're nonsense, and the recent ones you've made rank in that category.

Mrs McLeod: Premier, I repeat to you, people are not suffering this winter because of some choice they are making to live on the streets. People are suffering because of the policies you have put in place. People are suffering because you have chosen to pay for your tax cut on the backs of the poorest and the most vulnerable people in this society, and that, Premier, is unconscionable.

The depth of your cuts are about one thing and one thing only, and you cannot put a better face on it. It is about financing a tax cut for the wealthiest people in this province. Premier, in order to do that you've even been prepared to consider cutting clothing allowances for the poorest children in the province to pay for a tax cut. You still have not retracted the cuts that you made to the parents who are on welfare and who are caring for disabled children.

As I understand your non-answer to my question, you won't rule out cutting benefits for disabled children and adults even though that was a promise you made to the disabled of this province. All I can ask you, Premier, is, why do you continue to trample shamelessly on the weakest members of our society for the sake of delivering your tax bonanza to the wealthiest members of our society?

Hon Mr Harris: I guess the premise of the question is what is so silly. I could take your comments in Hansard tomorrow -- you said, "People are not suffering this winter," stop there, and say that's what the Leader of the Opposition said, it's in the Hansard, and it will be there tomorrow.

So if you're determined to try and fearmonger and misrepresent the policies and scare people, then I guess I can't stop you from doing that. All I can do is to reassure you that we are trying to put our limited resources first and foremost at the most vulnerable, the needy, the elderly, the disabled and children. That is the whole focus of our campaign.

I say to the member, if she thinks that throwing more money at it works, let me quote you something, "Hostel use increased every year under the NDP government between 1990 and 1994 in spite of the fact welfare rates were raised each and every year." So obviously, it isn't the amount of money that's causing the problem; it is the whole system that is broken, and you have a government here prepared to have the courage to change the system to truly give people some hope in the future. That's what we're doing and we'll all be better for it, particularly the needy.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. The Liberal Party has been trying to force this government to address the issue of youth unemployment for several months now and we've had a great deal of difficulty. We hope that after today we may get the message through that we believe it is an issue and it must be addressed.

Yesterday, in response to a question from our Leader of the Opposition on youth employment, Minister Saunderson implied that the government has been working on providing employment opportunities for youth by stating that 31,000 new jobs were created in the month of February. It was neglected to mention, though, that 7,000 jobs were also lost in that same month. He simply tried to imply that some of these new jobs were actually created for youth.

I wasn't the only person in Ontario who was shocked by his complete lack of understanding of the significance of the issue of youth unemployment. I've received comments in my office from students across the province who wrote to me after Minister Saunderson's comments in the Legislature to express their views. Michael Burns, executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, wrote: "Youth today are acutely aware of the province's financial difficulties.... But we also know that job opportunities are essential to our future, both as individuals and as a society. If youth in Ontario receive fewer opportunities; if we are squeezed out of the system by cuts to programs; we will be cheated out of something nothing else can ever replace."

I ask the minister, what is he prepared to do to help these students who are desperate to find jobs to fund their education?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm very happy to respond to the question from the member for Windsor-Sandwich. As I indicated in my answer yesterday, and I believe last week as well, we will be making an announcement very shortly about youth summer employment. I am sure that when the honourable member receives this message and announcement, she will be pleased. I would ask her to be patient; it's coming very shortly.

Mrs Pupatello: Mr Speaker, I have to tell you I'm somewhat surprised because he didn't indicate that there would be an announcement coming -- in fact, rumours have abounded that there would be cuts, and it's these cuts that are making the students afraid. The issue of youth employment is not just a student issue; it deals with youth and their opportunity to enter first jobs. So the issue is not just going to be addressed by some grand statement that you might throw together. I have to tell you that he must realize it's a youth employment crisis.

He has underestimated the unemployment rate. No one, other than the minister, believes the unemployment rate to be at 16%. It's the figures from the Ministry of Finance that we're looking at, the same as the minister has. They show a drop of 150,000 in the participation rate, and they must be counted in. In fact, the Scotiabank Global Economic Outlook counts in those that have been dropped out. It says: "The severity of Canada's labour market problems is highlighted by the sharp drop in labour force participation...the plunge in labour force participation has been concentrated among young Canadians between 15 to 24 years of age. Putting the participation rate" back in "would push their jobless rates above 25%!" They can't deny that there is indeed a crisis.

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

Mrs Pupatello: If there is indeed something to report, something to tell us that this government is going to do about it, I'd like the minister on his feet today to announce exactly what his intentions are, because there are people who are waiting for some leadership from the government.

The Speaker: The question has been asked.

Hon Mr Saunderson: The member for Windsor-Sandwich asked me to be on my feet and make a statement, and I will make a statement to you. We are making the climate right in this province to create many, many new jobs. It's not only going to be permanent jobs, but it will be summer jobs as well for the students you were talking about. I see you roll your eyes. It's very hard for you to listen to this.

What we are doing in this province is getting the message out that we are attracting companies not only to come to Ontario from the United States but from all around the world. I've had the pleasure of meeting with companies in Europe and the United States and telling them what we are doing to make the climate right and to get the message out that we're open for business.

I'm happy to report that only three weeks ago a new company opened in Burlington, within the six months since we've been elected, and they came because of what we are doing in this province. We've opened their eyes to what you can do in this province.

We said we would create 725,000 new jobs; we are well on the way to doing that. I would suggest that you consider what we are doing and you will be satisfied that these jobs will be created in the long run.


Mrs Pupatello: I have to tell you that students across Ontario are listening avidly today to the kinds of responses we're getting in the House.

Heather Bishop, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students -- Ontario: "Mike Harris promised a hand up, not a handout, when he got elected. So far, all he has offered students is a slap in the face."

Adele Ritchie from Lakehead University: "Ontario is not open for business, not for little people. For those who think a student's education can be partially subsidized by parents, they are sadly mistaken, because they're not the only ones not able to find work."

From Carleton University in Ottawa: "As costs are rising, more and more students are finding it necessary to work full-time and go to school part-time. They're looking for help from Carleton."

A third-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University: "I realize we must all take our lumps and grin and bear it. However, if we increase the already dangerously high youth unemployment in Ontario, do we not destroy the very heart of our future real-world society?"

The people from Queen's University in Kingston: "Students must have opportunities to finance their education directly. While government is increasing student costs, opportunities are not being created for students to finance these increases."

The Speaker: Would you put your question.

Mrs Pupatello: The people from Guelph too have something to say.

My question: Clearly, we have an indication that students from across Ontario are responding to you and they're not interested in your junkets to Europe; they are interested in youth employment opportunities. If the minister has something to say today, we want to know it because we're not letting up on the question.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I first of all thank the member for Windsor-Sandwich for the tour she's taken us on of Ontario. I also think that was the longest question we've listened to, but perhaps I could just spend a few moments and put her at ease.


The Speaker: Order, the member for Hamilton East is out of order. The member for Windsor-Sandwich is out of order.

Hon Mr Saunderson: Mr Speaker, I'm going to start again.

We on this side of the House are correcting 10 years of waste, abuse and mismanagement by you people first; 65 tax increases in the last 10 years; 33 by those fellows there; 32 by those there; 11 income tax increases. That is not the right climate for creating jobs, whether it's permanent jobs or summer jobs, and if you don't want to listen, you won't hear the good news. You obviously don't want to hear the good news. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

The Speaker: New question, third party. Leader of the third party.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I guess the students who are about to finish their programs this month are going to be able to take satisfaction from that response.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Community and Social Services. Yesterday in the House, and this morning I understand in talking to reporters outside of cabinet, the minister refused to respond to questions regarding cuts the government may be planning to the disabled. We know that plans about changing the definition of "disabled" will save the government approximately $70 million. Yesterday, in answer to my colleague from Rainy River, the minister refused to give an unequivocal answer one way or the other with regard to cuts to the disabled and to programs to assist them. Can the minister now make it very clear, yes or no, are you planning cuts to the disabled?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'd just like to preface something first of all. Unfortunately, as we're coming up to budget time, I know the members of the third party are looking for some hints in terms of what might be in the budget. I know the member for Rainy River yesterday went upon a little duck-hunting mission with a 12-gauge shotgun, blindfolded, happy at just trying to hit something up there in the air and not caring what he really hit.

First of all, we are committed to delivering services to those most in need. If the leader of the third party wants a definitive answer, we have no intention of eliminating the winter clothing and back-to-school allowance for children. Clearly, any time some sort of rumour comes about, members on the floor opposite embark upon some sort of scaremongering mission.

On the second part of the question -- I will respond to that as well -- we are not going to reduce services to help children or disabled people. We are committed to making those programs better. If I could repeat part of the message from yesterday, we are embarking upon and we have been doing consulting with the people clearly affected. We are trying to find ways to make the system better, and that's what this is all about, making the system better. I know the members over there are saying something else, but once again we are not -- I hope that's very understandable -- we are not going to reduce services to help children or disabled people. We are committed to making those programs better.

Mr Wildman: I was not engaging in fearmongering. As a matter of fact, I was attempting to give the minister an opportunity to assure the people who are disabled that they will not lose any of the programs and services they have now and that there will not be cuts, and in his ramblings the minister left the vulnerable people feeling even more vulnerable.

In the so-called Common Sense Revolution, on page 10, the Tories said, "Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut." Can the minister clearly assure disabled people who are now in receipt of assistance and programs that all those people will not be faced with cuts, either directly or indirectly, through changes in the definition of "disabled"?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Maybe I should speak a little more slowly here. I will clearly indicate again that we are not -- not, not -- going to reduce services to help children or disabled people. We are looking for a way to make it better and that's why we've done this advisory committee. We're consulting with people to try to make the system better.

There's been clearly an opportunity before, and I can perhaps quote for you from the former minister again where he said, "If there's one thing that just about everyone agrees with, it is that Ontario's welfare system isn't working." He went on to say, "It's a confusing system."

Unlike the previous government, we are going to take the opportunity now to work with the disabled community to ensure the system becomes better. We need to take out the confusion in the system. We need to make sure access to the system is better. That's what we're committed to do and that's what we continue to do.


Mr Wildman: I'll speak as slowly as I can. Are you and your government intending to change the definition of "disability" in this province?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: We've made no decisions on that. We are consulting with the disabled community. This is really amazing because I suppose the leader of the third party wasn't expecting the answer he got, the fact that our government is not going to reduce services; I guess he was looking for something else. Unfortunately, that's the only answer I can give today, that we are not going to reduce services. I don't know how much of that he doesn't understand, but that's the answer I have to give today.

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

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a question to the Premier. Yesterday, the Premier said that for many people homelessness is a choice. Well, the Metro Toronto Advisory Committee on Homeless and Socially Isolated Persons tells us that there was a 38% increase in eviction applications last November over the year before, but one month after this government's attack on the poorest in our society. In January of this year, 1996, evictions were 25% higher than they were in January of last year. Dr Shah from the University of Toronto tells us that 50% of homeless people today in Toronto are women and children and that he doesn't know any child who would go out to be homeless by choice. How many people have died, how many more are going to die, because of this government's ruthless attack on poor children and their parents?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): None.

Mr Kormos: The Premier says none. The Premier spoke of his government and its commitment to the needy and the children and the disabled.

Stella Mae Williams was a constituent of mine. She was 48 years old in December 1995 and she had lived a lifetime of serious mental illness, in and out of hospitals and undergoing a succession of mental health treatments. At the age of 48, having raised her daughter with incredible difficulty -- and her daughter in her own right having two little kids, Stella Mae's grandkids -- Stella Mae Williams had finally started to get things together. Although still ill and still under treatment, she found a job, 10 to 15 hours a week working in a laundromat making minimum wage, to supplement the disability pension she had been receiving because of her disability under the Family Benefits Act.

Three weeks before Christmas of last year, Stella Mae Williams got a message from this government. It was a letter from this government's community and social services telling her that she was no longer eligible for a disability pension. She couldn't bear the prospect of being evicted, being among that 25% more people being evicted in January of this year.

The Speaker: Put your question.

Mr Kormos: I shall, Speaker. She couldn't stand the prospect of not being able to buy some modest gifts for her two grandkids. She chose not to be homeless though, because, you see, three days after receiving that letter she took her own life. She died a victim of this government as readily as had this government, this Premier, pulled the trigger on that assassin's gun.

What does the Premier say to Stella Mae Williams and her family and grandchildren? Don't tell us that nobody has died. Your policies took the life of Stella Mae Williams, Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: Personal, individual tragedies are something that concern us all. To suggest that it is the policies of this government that had led to this I think is beneath the dignity of this Legislature in any leadership campaign.

Mr Kormos: I'm going beyond suggesting that it's the policies of this government that took Stella Mae Williams away from her daughter and grandchildren and that have caused the deaths of homeless people on the streets of Toronto and other cities during this past winter, the coldest of many years; I'm stating quite directly that it's the policies. I tell you this: It's remarkable, because Stella Mae's daughter wrote to the Premier, outlining the tragic circumstances of Stella Mae Williams's death, her having been told that no, she no longer qualified for a modest disability pension in Mike Harris's Ontario. The letter in return says:

"I'm sorry to hear about your mother and understand this must be a very difficult time." What an understatement. "I would like to assure you that our government remains committed to supporting the most vulnerable in our society. Thanks for writing." Signed by the Premier.

Premier, I put to you, is that an adequate response to the tragic loss of a mother and grandmother that was relayed to you in a letter by her daughter in January of this year?

Hon Mr Harris: I very much doubt that anything would be an adequate response to any individual tragedy. We do the best that we can.

In pointing out the failure of past policies to help the homeless, and in fact the dramatic increase in the use of past policies, never once would I have imputed the motive of any individual, Premier or cabinet minister that that was the ultimate goal. It's what happened, but to impute that motive and to raise and elevate an individual case, which I would not comment on, and to suggest that there is some response from the Premier that would somehow be satisfactory, I don't think there is a satisfactory response in that case. But I can tell you that we do the very best we possibly can to fix a rather intolerable situation for a number of people in the province of Ontario who are facing difficulty.

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

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Nevertheless, the unanswered question of whether funding for the disabled is to be cut is going to have to be answered.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I will turn to the Attorney General with a question. Minister, the Common Sense Revolution promised that funding for law enforcement and justice would be guaranteed. You are now saying that there will be cuts to the criminal law division of your ministry. Which is it? Will you be guaranteeing funding for law enforcement, or will you be cutting the number of people whose job it is to ensure that criminals are prosecuted?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): There will be no cuts in the criminal law division that will imperil front-line services. In fact, we will continue the investment strategy that was commenced by the last government as a result of the Askov crisis, a crisis created as a result of the ignoring of a situation by the Liberal government during their time in office, where they had repeated warnings from the Supreme Court of Canada that they had to deal with a problem that they refused to deal with that was visited upon the last government, which properly began an investment strategy to deal with the intake and resolution of cases before the criminal courts. You have my commitment that the investment strategy will continue, and it will be continued aggressively, so that we can break the back of the Askov crisis created during the time the Liberals were in government.

Mrs McLeod: That is absolutely meaningless bluster on the part of the Attorney General on an issue as serious as this.

Minister, you have said that there will be cuts to the criminal law division of your ministry, and you admitted this morning that your cuts could result in a drastic reduction in the number of crown attorneys, the very people who ensure that criminals are prosecuted. I say to you that not only is that a flagrant violation of the campaign promise to protect law enforcement, it is an outrage. I do not understand how you could even be considering slashing the number of crown attorneys when Ontario already has the fewest number of prosecutors per capita in the country, and I certainly do not understand how you could be considering slashing the number of crown attorneys, as you admitted this morning you were looking at doing, when our courts are facing the largest backlog in cases they have seen since the Askov decision.


Minister, will you assure us today, when you tell us blithely that cuts to your ministry are not going to affect the front-line administration of justice, will you assure the victims of crime that your cuts will not result in a single drunk driver, wife abuser or drug dealer getting off because there was not a prosector available to handle the case?

Hon Mr Harnick: This question from the leader of a party that was the cause of 60,000 cases being jettisoned from our courts is absolutely irresponsible. That's number one.

Number two, the Leader of the Opposition, whose party was responsible for 60,000 cases being jettisoned from our courts, takes a very selective approach towards what I've said. What I have said is that there will be no cuts to crown attorneys until there is a reduction in caseload to warrant it. That's what I said and that's what she had better start to hear as opposed to the selective things she does hear. Further, I will tell you, as I said a moment ago, that I will continue the investment strategy; in fact, I will do that with new money.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): In the absence of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, I have a question for the Premier. As you know, your Common Sense Revolution commits your government to develop a plan to sell more than 84,000 units owned by the Ontario Housing Corp. Your colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has been going around this province assuring tenants that they will be fully consulted before any sell-off happens. Can the Premier share with us and table in the House all offers the government has received from the private sector for Ontario public housing stock so the public can know what offers you are considering?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): We haven't even asked for a request for proposals. A number of people in Ontario, in Canada, have said, "If you're interested, we can do it, provide lower rents, provide better service and do that," so we've had interest of inquiry. The minister may have more information, but my understanding is that we're not anywhere close to even calling for a request for proposals. We wouldn't do so without talking to tenants, of course.

Mr Bisson: I find that quite amazing. I have here in my hands a submission from Citibank -- that is, Citibank Canada, a subsidiary of Citibank in the United States -- a 56-page proposal they sent to your government to give options about how you can privatize the Ontario Housing stock. They are saying within this particular proposal that rents would have to go up, not down. So you certainly have had offers. In their submission they note that the political nature of this issue is such that Citibank intends this report to be an internal government document only. They don't want you sharing this with the public because even they recognize how devastating your policy would be to the tenants of this province.

I understand that you haven't accepted this offer, that you've rejected it, but I have to ask you, why don't you come clean? What are you hiding? Why don't you tell us and the tenants in this province what you're considering when it comes to the privatization of housing stock in the province? Come clean, Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: We have not had any requests for proposals. We have not, at this point in time, taken a position. There may be -- in fact I think there is a proposal. I read in the paper that Citibank had sent us some information, but it was unsolicited and it is part of correspondence. I don't know. If you have a copy of it, release it, if you think it doesn't conflict with any freedom of information to do so.

Let me assure you that we get unsolicited proposals all the time; we get correspondence all the time. What I can tell you is that when the minister is able to come forward, and with consultation with others in preparation of anything of this nature, we will consult with the tenants, we will consult with others and we'll make everything fully public.


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): My question is to the Minister of Health. Minister, as I'm sure you are aware, Oxford is a predominantly rural riding about two hours outside of Toronto and an hour outside of London. It's a wonderful area in which to live, but we have a shortage of doctors.

I know this issue has been of concern to you and I understand that in your discussions with the Ontario Medical Association, you have agreed to let doctors' organizations implement a plan to correct the situation. Can you tell me when this plan will be implemented?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I'm pleased to report to the House that the Ministry of Health and the Ontario Medical Association have sat down to discuss primary care reform. Prior to that discussion, though, all members will know, this government had extended new money above the $3.8-billion physician services pool, fee-for-service pool, in the province. That new money currently was used by some 67 communities to provide a $70-an-hour, on-call emergency fee for doctors in those communities, and we're now receiving letters from communities throughout rural and northern Ontario saying that for the first time in many years they have a full complement of doctors, thanks to that program.

As you know, it's a serious problem, and I'm sure it's a very serious issue in the member for Oxford's part of the province. We have over 70 communities currently enrolled in the underserviced area program, which provides tax-free allowances of up to $10,000 per year for four years, $40,000 tax-free on top of what physicians receive from the fee-for-service pool. That's a 30% increase since 1990, so the problem is getting worse.

Just after the vote tonight we'll be sitting down again with the OMA to try to come up with a plan for primary care reform which would finally put an end to the clawback, or the 10% recovery, and allow doctors a predictable income and a more stable life. That's what we're working towards.

Mr Hardeman: I also understand that if the plan does not work, through Bill 26 you have the powers to ensure more doctors practise in underserviced areas. If the OMA plan fails to reach the objective, will you step in and ensure that all Ontarians have equal access to health care? If this is required, how long will you allow before you implement the plan?

Hon Mr Wilson: That's a very good question from my colleague the member for Oxford. I will take this opportunity to clear the air with respect to Bill 26 and the billing number limits in there. It is a temporary moratorium. To date, we've not proclaimed that part. We've proclaimed all other sections, but I gave a commitment at a conference at the University of Western Ontario on Sunday, the day before the vote on Bill 26, to the undergraduate medical students who were representing all the medical schools and undergraduate medical students in the province that we would not implement a billing number moratorium in 1996.

However, if we don't have progress in primary care reform, if we don't get ourselves, along with the OMA, out of this situation of the 10% recoveries and the clawback, if we don't improve the health care system with respect to the delivery of primary care services and access to physicians' services in the province, then we will have to do what four other provinces have done, and that's bring in billing number restrictions.

This simply would say that in certain areas of the province -- there is only a handful right now -- we would not be providing a billing number for a new graduate to go into those areas. That's a better way than four other provinces that have dealt with this issue and it's something we don't want to have to do, but at the end of the day, if we don't come up with some other solutions -- we're actively working on those -- if we don't have something else come forward, we will implement those sections of Bill 26 which will help you to get doctors in Oxford.



Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): My question is to the Premier. You have pledged to get rid of rent control, and you have already reduced welfare by 22%, and now you want to sell off public housing. You say: "Trust us. We will increase the number of shelter allowances." But housing advocates are afraid you will do this by lowering the average subsidy that individuals receive.

Is it the intention of your government to reduce the shelter allowance housing subsidies given to individuals?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): It's our intention -- and I understand that before a budget comes up and business plans come out that one of the strategies is to try to raise everything and get yeses or noes and then whatever's left will be in the budget.

Let me assure the member of this: It is the intention of this government to make sure that tenants, particularly those most vulnerable in the province of Ontario, are better off after any changes we make than before.

Mr Curling: Regardless of what the intention is, Mr Premier, the intention is to get an honest answer out of you. You haven't given an honest answer. You dodge around it. I asked you if you're going to reduce the subsidy allowance. You responded to a report that was done by Citibank, which is a New York firm, as you know -- you said you weren't quite aware of this -- but it gives detailed analysis of how to sell off public housing.

Will you explain to us why you'd like to sell off public housing, the homes of these people, to an American-based company? Will you make a commitment that if you intend to do this -- you have said in your Common Sense Revolution that you intend to sell off public housing -- not only will you involve the residents, but you'll involve the church groups, the municipalities and other non-profit agencies involved in public housing to partake in the discussions when you decide to sell off the homes of the most vulnerable in our society?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me give you the assurance that we'll even involve Alvin Curling.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the minister responsible for gutting the WCB. We know that you've had a great deal of trouble admitting that our reforms --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member for Etobicoke West is out of order and not in his seat.

Mr Christopherson: -- to turn around the finances of the WCB. In fact, you recently admitted in a newspaper article that the unfunded liability dropped again by nearly half a billion dollars in 1995, and that would be the second straight year since our Bill 165 was passed. In fact, you said, "When you see the final numbers they are compelling." Well, it seems that you're keeping those figures a secret.

You have gone to great lengths in your discussion paper and in your comments to create a phoney fiscal crisis in the WCB, as your colleague in the Ministry of Education admitted he was going to do a short while ago, and the reason you're creating this phoney crisis is to give you the excuse that you want to slash benefits to injured workers and to allow private insurance companies to get their hands on parts of the WCB. The fact of the matter is that the unfunded liability started to soar in the 1980s under a previous Tory government, and now has begun to decline under changes our government made.

It seems as if you don't want the truth to get in the way of creating your phoney crisis. To dispel that, will you table the figures that you said are so compelling today in the House? Will you table those figures?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): I want to thank the member for his question. He is well aware, as a former member of Privy Council, that these figures are tabled by the WCB, and it is my understanding that they are either being tabled today or tomorrow, but the responsibility is vested with the current CEO. It is also my understanding that the member opposite has received a preliminary copy of it. He may not have.

However, I just want to assure the members of the House that his former government may have felt that an $11-billion, $12-billion, $13-billion, $14-billion unfunded liability was not a major concern in this province, but I want to assure the member opposite that an $11-billion unfunded liability with future prospects for growth -- and that unfunded liability may drop a little this year, go up again next year, but the prospect in the year 2014 is we'll still have a $13-billion or $14-billion unfunded liability in this province.

We believe for the safety and security of injured workers today and in the future that the unfunded liability is too high and must be reduced. That's a commitment of the Mike Harris government.

Mr Christopherson: The fact of the matter is that the unfunded liability also has with it $6 billion worth of assets that the WCB has, and indeed two years in a row now we're seeing the figures come down. You're creating a phoney crisis so you can go after injured workers. Injured workers are not fooled by this phoney crisis.

With regard to figures and what's true and what isn't, you make the statement in your document, among other things -- and I'm quoting from your document, Minister -- that, "Ontario's average rate is estimated to be over 40% higher than the average rate in neighbouring Great Lakes states," and yet a report commissioned by the federal government to show the competitiveness of Ontario -- the report was done by KPMG Peat Marwick management consultants -- shows that our WCB rates are lower than those in the States.

Since there's a discrepancy between what you state in your document and what the federal report shows, I want to know about the documentation you've used to justify the statements you've made in here. My staff, our research staff, have attempted to get that background material from your office. We have not been successful. Minister, I want to know if you will table all the background documentation that you used to justify the figures you put in your report. Will you table that material, Minister?

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to reassure the member that in fact --

Mr Christopherson: Yes or no?

Hon Mr Jackson: You've raised questions about the size of the unfunded liability, you've raised questions about the performance of the WCB's bottom line for 1995, and you've referenced the fact that there may have been about half a billion dollars surface that wasn't necessarily budgeted for by the WCB.

I want the member to be apprised of the fact that the largest single component of that increase in income to the WCB in the last year, in 1995, was over $300 million directly attributed to private sector growth in payroll in the province of Ontario. I'm here to assure the member opposite that the major factor in the growth in that private sector employment and the assessment base on which there was a growth in revenue was a result of the policies of Mike Harris and the new opportunities and the hope that the private sector found in this province as of midpoint in 1995, and its manifestation is in a healthier bottom-line position for 1995 because of that growth.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): My question today is directed to my colleague the Minister of Finance. Minister, recent statements in the paper reported that the Atlantic provinces are going to be signing a deal with the federal government to harmonize the provincial sales tax and the GST. Minister, what steps have you taken, if any, regarding this matter?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I might say that negotiations right now with the federal government are nowhere. As I have indicated several times, the most recent proposal to us from the federal government was simply to harmonize the two taxes at a rate of 15%, which would increase taxation in the province of Ontario approximately $2 billion a year and it would --

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Well, you're taking money from everybody else.


Hon Mr Eves: I might say to my Liberal colleague opposite that apparently he's in favour of this measure. It would be interesting to know exactly where his party stands on this important issue, so that Sheila Copps doesn't return to Queen's Park, so that she has to remain in Ottawa.

The reality is that we are not into increasing taxation by $2 billion a year, nor are we into transferring the onus from the business community to the consumers of the province to the tune of $2 billion to $3 billion a year.

Mr Spina: Minister, the concern I have is also from the point of view of the small businesses of this province. With our direction in attempting to reduce the amount of red tape, regulation and compliance procedures for our small businesses in this province, can you assure me that the real job creators of this province would not have to bear the burden of the cost of harmonization to these small businesses?

Hon Mr Eves: We have absolutely no intention of passing the cost of any type of harmonization on to the small business community. We are not in favour of increasing taxation in the province of Ontario. We have a firm belief to reduce taxation, regulation and red tape and that's what we're all about.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. For the past six years, residents and visitors to eastern Ontario have been deprived of one of our greatest natural wonders, the parks of the St Lawrence. Over the same period, I've been trying to convince your government and the previous administration that opening the parks would be good for tourism, good for the unemployed, good for students and good for neighbourhood restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, service stations and business.

As the minister knows full well, a number of investors and projects have been brought to his attention, but still there is no word on when these parks can be opened. A business development plan was supposed to have been filed by the minister's office at the end of January, but I haven't seen it yet either. Can the minister tell the House when his government intends to act on a plan that will bring economic renewal to eastern Ontario and jobs for our students and the unemployed?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): To the honourable member for Cornwall, I'm very happy to say that we have every intention of making sure the parks of the St Lawrence are run properly so that they create jobs and economic development in eastern Ontario. I quite share the member's concerns. Our party is very concerned as well as you.

I come back to what we are trying to accomplish in this province. As you know, it's to have a proper economic climate that is going to produce jobs and economic activity. I think the honourable member is fully aware of our policy and I reiterated some of it earlier today. I think when the summer is finished, it's going to have been a very prosperous season for eastern Ontario, basically because of the excellent tourist facilities in that region.

Mr Cleary: Minister, how many times are you going to stand in the House and give the people of eastern Ontario the same old song and dance?

On October 26, 1995, I raised the matter in the House to the minister and he said: "The commission is undergoing an extensive business planning exercise. I plan to receive the results by the end of January 1996." Minister, do you know what this date is today? It's April 2.

During the hearings on the estimates committee in February the minister said something like he said again today: "...government doesn't create jobs, the private sector creates jobs. In Ontario, we are getting government out of the face of business. At the same time, I am confident that business will take up the challenge as well as seize the opportunity to grow and provide jobs."

I know several individuals and groups that have submitted sound proposals that would see these parks open, but they haven't heard anything for months. I am waiting for the minister's response to setting up a meeting that was requested with the municipal council of Charlottenburgh township more than a month ago to discuss the Raisin River and Charlottenburgh parks.

These investment opportunities are not going to wait forever for you and your government that isn't going to have the commission run the parks. When will you at least start forming the kind of partnership with municipalities and the private sector that you and your party have been so interested in talking about for months?

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The question has been asked.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm pleased to say to the honourable member for Cornwall that Mr Villeneuve and I had a very interesting and informative meeting with the people from the St Lawrence Parks Commission just in the last few days.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Why don't you tell us about the meeting you just had with Runciman?

Hon Mr Saunderson: If you'd let me talk, I'll tell you. The problem with you people over there is you don't like to hear the good news. What these people told us is that they have very innovative and creative ways to manage the facility, something that they were not encouraged to do when you were in power, and may I close by saying that it was your party that closed those parks down, and you should be ashamed of yourselves as well.


Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Pursuant to section 34(a) of the standing orders, I intend to raise the subject matter of my question to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism on the adjournment of the House and I will give you written notice.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I move that Mrs Ross and Mr Tilson exchange places in the order of precedence for private members' public business.

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



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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition signed by hundreds of people in my riding.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Mike Harris said on May 30, 1995, `If I don't live up to anything that I have promised to do and committed to do, I will resign,' and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised on May 3, 1995, `No cuts to health care spending,' but in his November 29 economic statement we see $1.3 billion, or 18%, in cuts to hospital spending over the next three years, and a further $225 million cut from the health care budget; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to defend health care cuts and funding; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised, in the Common Sense Revolution, that `This plan will create more than 725,000 new jobs,' but in his November 29 economic statement, we see a prediction of only 253,000 jobs created over the next three years and an unemployment rate of 8.6% in two years, which is the same as it is today; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to create significant jobs in this province; and

"Whereas Mike Harris promised, in the Common Sense Revolution, that `Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut,' but in his November 29 economic statement, Mike Harris is cutting the Ontario drug benefit plan and making seniors and the vulnerable pay for their drugs; and

"Whereas Mike Harris has clearly broken his promise to seniors and the disabled;

"We, the undersigned, demand that Mike Harris keep his word and resign immediately."

I will affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario and it reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, request that the Legislature of Ontario not approve any tax cut until the causes of poverty and unemployment in Ontario are dealt with effectively and until the province's debt and deficit are paid down."


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Like the member for Wellington, I have two petitions on the same subject, which read in part:

"We, the undersigned, request that the Legislature of Ontario not approve any tax cut until the causes of poverty and unemployment in Ontario are dealt with effectively and until the province's debt and deficit are paid down."

Two of these petitions, from my electoral district.


Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I have two petitions signed by a number of constituents in my riding of Durham Centre. I disagree with the contents of the petitions, but present them at their request as my constituents:

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas the most vulnerable, the poor, the disabled, the battered and abused, the single parent with no child care, the unemployed, have suffered most in the recent cutbacks to our social safety net; and

"Whereas the cancelling of rules for the protection of the environment threatens such treasures as the Temagami wilderness, now open for commercial exploitation; and

"Whereas government action to trim the civil service by at least 13,000 jobs will deepen our unemployment problem and make us less able to be a caring community; and

"Whereas alternate plans to effectively control the deficit have received scant attention;

"Therefore, we petition the Parliament of Ontario to enact such measures as are necessary to provide employment, reduce the hardships of poverty, all the while preserving the environment through sustainable development."

I affix my name as required.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): "We collectively, as residents of the city of Gloucester, in the area known specifically as Pineview are extremely concerned for the safety of our families and children. We strongly object to uses contained within the premises known municipally as 124-1449 Ridgebrook Drive. This unit is currently being used as a rooming house, which contravenes the city of Gloucester zoning bylaws and the bylaws of Condominium Corp no. 70, which stipulate single-family occupancy only. In addition, this unit is known to house persons dangerous to public safety, as demonstrated by a recent murder attempt on the premises as well as numerous actions required by the police force.

"We, the undersigned, demand that the proper authorities empowered to deal with such matters ensure the immediate discontinuance of the illegal uses and activities contained within 124-1449 Ridgebrook Drive."

I affix my signature.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads:

"Transportation Minister Al Palladini is proposing legislation that will cost many towns their bus service. Bus companies are currently required to provide service for smaller towns as a condition of being given the rights to high-profit routes and charter markets. Minister Palladini's plan to deregulate will eliminate all conditions and requirements. As a result, hundreds of smaller communities like ours will lose bus service.

"Minister, people in smaller towns need bus service just as much as people in big cities. We depend upon buses to visit friends and family, to get to appointments in nearby towns, to ship our Christmas presents and to receive our repair parts. The undersigned call upon the members of the Legislative Assembly to oppose bus deregulation and the elimination of our bus service."

This is signed by 15 individuals, and I have affixed my signature to it as well.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition from approximately 20 of my constituents relating to the tax cuts. It appears to be in standard form, and I'm submitting it on their behalf today.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I have a petition to the Legislature of the province of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, believe that rent control abolition would lead to a steep rise in rent through the persistent shortage of affordable housing in Hamilton-Wentworth. Tenants, who are among the most affected by ongoing mass layoffs, wage cuts and hiring freezes, and senior citizens on fixed incomes will suffer greatly if rent controls are abolished. We are not in favour of the proposed abolition of rent controls by the provincial government."

I've assigned my signature to the petition.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition today signed by a number of residents from the city of Scarborough. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the recommendations of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council to close inpatient paediatric beds, the special care nursery and the burn unit at Scarborough General Hospital resulting in significantly reduced access to paediatric, newborn and burn care for a large geographic area of Scarborough; and

"Whereas the paediatric unit, special care nursery and burn unit at Scarborough General Hospital provide very cost-efficient, quality care;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to:

"(1) Continue paediatric services including inpatient paediatric beds,

"(2) Continue special care nursery services,

"(3) Continue and combine Metropolitan Toronto's burn care

"At Scarborough General Hospital!"

I'm pleased to affix my signature to this petition.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition that's addressed to Premier Mike Harris, Minister Al Leach and members of the Ontario Legislature:

"Whereas accessibility is a right and not a privilege;

"Whereas changes your government has suggested to the Ontario Building Code threaten to remove that right for thousands of Ontario voters;

"Whereas we oppose any change that would limit the scope of building code regulations dealing with accessibility; your government's proposal, Back to Basics, would eliminate 20 years of progress towards accessibility for people with disabilities;

"Whereas accessibility is a principle of the Ontario Building Code that must be preserved and improved upon;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislature to reconsider your government's position on this issue."

I've affixed my signature to it.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition signed by about 45 members of my community of London and environs:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Transportation Minister Al Palladini is proposing legislation that will cost many towns their bus services.

"Bus companies are currently required to provide service for smaller towns as a condition of being given the rights to high-profit routes and charter markets. Minister Palladini's plan to deregulate will eliminate all conditions and requirements. As a result, hundreds of smaller communities like ours will lose bus service.

"Minister, people in smaller towns need bus service just as much as people in big cities. We depend upon buses to visit friends and family, to get to appointments in nearby towns, to ship our Christmas presents and to receive our repair parts. The undersigned call upon the members of the Legislative Assembly to oppose bus deregulation and the elimination of our bus service."

I'm proud to affix my signature.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): "To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Transition House in Chatham has provided emergency shelter to troubled or abused youth as well as support, counselling and life skills training since 1990, and operating on a five-year budget of $865,000, they have counselled over 400 youth and served over 20,000 meals;

"Whereas the city of Chatham and the county of Kent rely on Transition House to meet the needs of its troubled youth and there is no other facility to serve the needs of the community;

"Whereas it has been shown that massive cuts to health services, school systems and social services have a definite impact on the statistics of children and youth in crisis;

"Be it therefore resolved that we, the undersigned, urge the government of Ontario to reverse its decision to cut the funding of Transition House in Chatham."

It's signed by a number of residents from Kent county and I affix my signature to it.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): The people of northwestern Ontario have spoken loud and clear regarding their support for the family support plan regional offices, and I've got a petition signed by 500 people here that states:

"We, being residents and taxpayers of Ontario, hereby wish to notify you that we oppose the centralization of the family support plan office and in particular the closure of the Thunder Bay branch of the family support plan for the following reasons:

"Whereas the regional offices are necessary for the timely enforcement of support orders agreements;

"Whereas the Thunder Bay regional office currently has 3,639 active files and a compliance rate of 67%; in 1995 the Thunder Bay regional office collected over $11 million, of which $1,743,769.09 was returned to the Treasurer of Ontario; the funds recovered from the Treasurer of Ontario more than pay for its annual operating cost of $609,000; should this compliance rate decrease, children will suffer and there will be an increase of enrolment for social assistance;

"Whereas the Thunder Bay branch region covers from White River to the Ontario-Manitoba border; regional staff has established excellent experience and contacts for tracing and locating delinquent support payers in the northwest due to their familiarity with the region;

"Whereas seasonal employment and variable support provisions are common to the northwest; consistent monitoring of these cases is essential to the proper enforcement of support orders agreements; delays on acting on these adjustments would result in increased enrolment for social assistance and increased court actions against FSP within an overworked court system;

"Whereas it is proposed that cases will not be assigned to a particular case worker; this will result in non-efficient, repetitive and time-consuming work as each time a file is actioned the file will have to be fully reviewed as the provisions of each court order are unique; difficulties will occur when staff interpret the support provisions differently and it is proposed staff will only act upon issue-driven cases, so not all cases in arrears will be reviewed; the regional employees are familiar with the cases and are available to meet with clients and act in a timely fashion;

"Therefore, we hereby respectfully request that you give consideration to our concerns and reject any proposal for the closure of the Thunder Bay branch family support plan."

I sign my name.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have a petition from hundreds of people from the area of Timmins that reads as follows:

"Whereas security of tenure or the right to remain in our homes is a basic need of all humans; and

"Whereas uncontrolled rent increases force many tenants from their homes for both economic and other reasons; and

"Whereas the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Premier of Ontario have both expressed publicly their desire to abolish rent control;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly to protect the security of tenure of Ontario tenants by ensuring that rent controls remain in effect in this province."


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I have several petitions from across the province concerning Hydro. These petitions read:

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the matter of selling Ontario Hydro is likely to come before the Legislature in the near future; and

"Whereas we, the undersigned residents of Ontario, who have, through the payment of electricity rates, paid for Ontario Hydro, are concerned about privatization of Ontario Hydro, leading to higher rates, lower reliability and compromised nuclear safety,

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

"Please preserve the public ownership of Ontario Hydro and refuse to sell this important public asset."


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Windsor-Sandwich has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism concerning youth employment. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.


Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): Want of confidence motion number 1: Mrs McLeod.

Mr David Turnbull (York Mills): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we have all-party agreement to split the time equally between the parties.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): It's agreed? Agreed.


Mrs McLeod moved, pursuant to standing order 43(a), want of confidence motion number 1:

Whereas the Conservative government has clearly broken every single promise it made with respect to protecting health care; and

Whereas the government broke its promise not to cut "one cent" from health care spending when it cut more than $1.3 billion from Ontario hospitals; and

Whereas the government broke its promise that, "Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut" when it introduced a new user fee on the drugs that sick seniors, disabled persons and the poor are prescribed by their doctors; and

Whereas the government broke its promise that there would be "no new user fees" when it introduced Bill 26, which will add $225 million worth of user fees to the Ontario drug benefit plan; and

Whereas the government is now planning, through Bill 26, to bestow upon the Minister of Health new unilateral powers which would allow him to close any hospital in the province without public input; and

Whereas the government is now planning, through Bill 26, to grant the Premier and cabinet new powers that will usurp the rights and privileges of the elected members of the Legislature and thereby the rights of every person in the province;

Therefore, pursuant to standing order 43(a), the House no longer has confidence in the government.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I want particularly to note, in placing the motion, that the date on which this motion was placed before the House was December 5 of last year. You will recognize that it was placed immediately after the November financial statement had stripped $1.3 billion from hospital budgets. It was placed after the government had indicated it was prepared to find some $225 million to pay for its tax cut by unconscionably charging seniors and the disabled for their drugs. It was after Bill 26, that infamous bully bill, was introduced on that same infamous day that Mike Harris broke his supposedly sacred promise not to cut health care. This motion was tabled before the government had been forced to debate Bill 26, forced against its will to subject Bill 26 to some public scrutiny.

Today we ask, as this motion is called, what have we seen since December 5, when this motion was originally introduced? I suggest to you that we have seen absolutely nothing that would restore any sense of confidence in this government and particularly in this government's commitment to health care.

What about the $1.3-billion cut to the budgets of our hospitals? That still stands. What we have seen since then are hundreds of nurses and other front-line health care workers losing their jobs as hospitals close beds and cut back services to find their share of the tax cut dollars.

It was just yesterday that Peel Memorial Hospital announced it was going to cut beds and would lose 200 jobs to pay for its $4.6-million budget shortfall. Sadly, Peel was not the first and it will certainly not be the last.

There are estimates of how many health care workers are going to lose their jobs in this province just because of the cuts this government announced last November: Metropolitan Toronto, 2,550 health care workers to be laid off; northeastern Ontario, 350; northwestern Ontario, 65; eastern Ontario, 820 people to lose their jobs in the health care sector; southwestern Ontario, 1,315 people are likely to lose their jobs as front-line health care workers; 460 people in central west; and another 175 people in central east. That's what we've seen since this motion was tabled on December 5.

What about the plan that was in place last December 5 to charge the sick elderly and the disabled for their drugs? Here again the government has decided that it's going to stick to its guns. They seem to have a sense that you've got to get tough with these privileged few, these disabled and the elderly sick, who somehow aren't carrying their fair share of the tax cut. You certainly wouldn't want a little human compassion or a little bit of concern to get in the way of finding a way to pay for the tax cut.

Then we had the debate around Bill 26, the bill that had been tabled when this motion was tabled, the bill that is now passed after almost every presenter in two weeks of hearings across this province expressed concerns about the bill, passed after a week of amendments which barely touched the first sections of the bill and passed after this government turned a deaf ear to any changes other than a few face-saving gestures, and we had to fight for hours to get those.


The only real changes this government was forced to accept to the health care sections of Bill 26 were amendments protecting the privacy of patient records. You'll remember what a contentious issue that was, because the Minister of Health insisted that there was absolutely no danger to patients' records or to the confidentiality of their most private personal medical information. Unfortunately, the privacy commissioner disagreed with the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Health was embarrassed enough that he had to take action to change that section of the bill.

As we place this non-confidence motion today, let me ask whether anybody can have any confidence in a government that says it won't touch a penny of the health care budget and then takes $1.3 billion away from our hospitals; and whether anybody can have confidence in a government that says there are going to be no new user fees and then brings in user fees for drugs for seniors and the disabled. Can you trust a government that is so ready to disregard what it calls its most sacred commitment in order to deliver a completely irresponsible campaign promise of giving a tax cut to the wealthy?

Let me further ask whether you can have confidence in any government that is so desperate to make its cuts fast that it would ram through a bill giving itself unprecedented powers to control the health care system that it is already savaging with its spending cuts. Do you have any confidence in a government and a Minister of Health that won't admit they're wrong until they're simply embarrassed into it and who won't worry about who or what they hurt unless they think that they have at last crossed a line that will get them into real political trouble?

I submit to you that the public of Ontario does not trust the Tories on health care. Thousands have expressed their concerns to us in writing. Thousands have said that they agree with us that this Premier, Mike Harris, is hazardous to our health. Yet this government, a government that nobody trusts on health care, has given itself the power to control the health care system in this province. That's what we saw on January 29 when Bill 26 became law.

That's what Bill 26 did, because with the powers of that bill, this government can now determine which doctors will practise in our communities. They can decide what medical treatments and what medications will be given. The Minister of Health can shut down our hospitals, or he can step in and take them over, or he can tell somebody else to go in and do it for him. This government can deny payment for medical services it doesn't think were necessary even after the services were given. Can we trust Jim Wilson with these kinds of powers? In fact, should any Minister of Health have or want these kinds of powers?

I think somebody in Jim Wilson's office actually understood that the public doesn't want the Minister of Health, neither this Minister of Health nor any Minister of Health, or anyone but their doctor deciding what medical treatment they'll get. That's why they've tried to hide the fact that Bill 26 leaves the general manager of OHIP deciding what medical treatment is going to be paid for.

The ministry sent out a press release. The press release said that the decision to withhold payment for medical services to a patient would be made on the advice of a physician. The actual amendment says that the general manager of OHIP just has to check with a physician, any physician, not necessarily the patient's physician, and then the general manager of OHIP will act according to his own judgement of what was medically necessary. The general manager of OHIP, the very man who has been challenged by this government and this minister to help them cut down on their OHIP billings, will be deciding how a doctor should treat a patient. The press release that day was deliberately misleading the public.

When the government wants to mislead the public on such an important issue as who decides what medical treatment will be given, I suggest it does not do a lot to build trust in how this government is going to use these enormous powers that it has given itself to manage our access to health care.

There's another strange thing about this government: It wants the power to do whatever it wants to do to control health care costs and to make the cuts that it needs fast, but it really doesn't want the responsibility for the decisions that are going to be made.

We saw Jim Wilson refusing to listen to the concerns of virtually every person who was concerned about the government's power to come in and close down hospitals. Everyone urged him not to delegate this responsibility to his new restructuring commission. It's bad enough to have unilateral decisions imposed on communities when their hospital's going to be shut down, but it's even worse when the person coming in to make that decision is an unelected person with no political accountability of any kind.

But Jim Wilson wants to wash his hands of any actual exercise of this new power that he has. He said publicly this week that he's actually afraid the public might blame him for the decisions that would be made, these tough decisions that they want to take pride in making. I find it passing strange that he wants the power and not the responsibility, even when Bill 26 protects him from any legal responsibility for any problems, but the minister thinks that he and Mike Harris are just getting far too much blame already.

So I quote the health minister when he said, "What happens to Mike Harris and company is that we get accused of being slash-and-burn and having to deliver bad news all the time." Mr Wilson was pleading for a little help from the hospitals, a little sense of partnership. I wonder where the sense of partnership was when that same minister cut the hospitals' budgets by $1.3 billion, when he decided to give himself the power to take over the hospital board if he didn't think they were acting in the public interest, and the only concession he made to partnership then was to finally agree to give them 14 days' notice before the takeovers happen.

There is no question that Mike Harris and Jim Wilson and this Conservative government are being accused of hurting health care, because they are hurting health care, and they will be blamed for closing down the hospitals of this province because they will be responsible for closing down the hospitals of this province.

This government made a huge, huge mistake with Bill 26. The Premier said that he thought they were losing the public relations battle. Well, they lost a lot more than that. They lost any shred of public confidence that this government was really concerned about health care. Bill 26 made it only too clear that it was cuts and not a concern for health care that was the priority for this government, and it will continue to lose public support if it continues to attack health care to pay for its foolish tax cut.

I find this week that even the government seems to have realized it still has a problem. It has tried very hard over and over again in answers to questions in this House and questions from the media to say: "No, no, we haven't broken our promise. We're not really cutting health care. We're going to put all the money back before the next election. We'll keep our promise somewhere in the future."

Well, I guess the line wasn't selling, because now they seem to be thinking of putting the money back this year. And the questions are still there: Where? Where is the money going to be? And why did the hospital budgets have to be cut if the government's not cutting health care? There's no restructuring yet. There's no savings realized. The minister hasn't come in with his heavy hammer and actually shut down the hospitals yet. So if the government's not going to cut health care in this budget after all, will it put the money back in the hospital budgets so that we don't have to have the cutbacks in our front-line health care, which is where that care is needed most? Or is Jim Wilson going to have his little political pot of gold to dispense as he sees fit and where he sees the maximum political benefit?

I say to you that this really is politics at its cynical worst. If this government is not going to cut the health care budget in this year's budget, then let this government tell the Peel Memorial Hospital board right now that it doesn't need to close beds and it doesn't need to lay off 200 workers, because listen to what the Peel hospital is facing just to pay for its 5.6% cut.

They're going to reduce paediatric beds from 30 to 20. What happens if a 21st child in Peel gets sick and needs that hospital bed that's been cut?

They're going to reduce their obstetrics area from labour, delivery and post-deliveries to one single room. I don't know exactly how you achieve that, but I particularly don't know what that's going to mean to the care of women who are going to be delivering some 4,000 babies in the Peel hospital this year.

Peel hospital is going to reduce a medical care unit. They're going to close two beds in intensive care for another week. I wonder what happens if you have more intensive-care patients than you have beds, because it seems to me that heart attacks don't actually follow planning rules; they don't understand that there are efficiency guidelines in place in the hospital. But there is no question that those heart attack victims and their families will understand about budget cuts in health care when they cannot get the health care they need when and where they need it, and they will hold this government responsible for that.


The results in Peel: Longer waiting lists for emergency services, longer waits for a hospital bed, delays for people waiting for surgery; and people are already waiting seven weeks for surgery in Peel. This is not good patient care; this is desperate budget cutting and this is what is happening right across this province.

So I say to Jim Wilson, the Minister of Health, that he should tell us what assurance he can give to the people in Peel -- which incidentally is a growing area which has been facing health care pressures for years now -- what assurance will he give to the people in Peel that they can get the health care they need when and where they need it, and what assurance Jim Wilson and Mike Harris can give to people right across this province in any community that they can get the health care they need when and where they need it.

I say to the Minister of Health that he and Mike Harris and Ernie Eves are responsible for the attacks on our health care system. They are not making these cuts because of past overspending, as the finance minister wants to say; they are making them because they need to find at least $5 billion to pay for a tax cut. If this government has decided it won't fund its tax cut by taking money out of the health care budget this year, then let it put that money back into our front-line hospitals and let our front-line hospitals decide how best to provide health care in their communities.

If the Minister of Health would be prepared to do that, if he would just step back and realize that you can't cut before you've found the so-called efficiencies, you can't guarantee patient care will be there unless you've looked closely at how it can be delivered in a community, if he'll step back from that and put the $1.3 billion back into hospital budgets, then he can take the time he needs to work with hospitals, to work with communities, to see if there's a restructuring that really would work and that doesn't sacrifice health care.

But that kind of planning takes time. You can't just send somebody in, one of your restructuring commissioners, to do the job fast. I know for a fact, an indisputable fact, that starting a restructuring process with a cut of $1.3 billion is a guarantee of bad planning and a guarantee of a loss of health care service.

If this government is not going to cut health care in this budget after all, I know that it has time to put back into the budget the $225 million that it's planning to take away from the elderly and the disabled. It's not too late to stop the new user fee and I surely don't think that anybody in this government has ever believed that it was conscionable to make, for example, psychiatric patients pay as much as $40 a month for the drugs that they need just to function while this government gives $14 million a day back to the well-to-do.

Maybe while it's at it, the government would take another look at the deregulation of drug prices, another of those Bill 26 pieces, one of those parts of Bill 26 which ironically could end up costing the government money, because the government has no guarantee of what will happen to drug prices when it deregulates, yet it was determined to forge ahead. Who could have any confidence in a government that cares only about ideology? They wouldn't even take the time to look at the evidence that deregulation could lead to significant increases in the cost of prescription drugs. The Minister of Health during that debate, I recall, still to my amazement, even suggested that people could go out and barter to get a better price for their drugs. I still contend that a parent of a sick child or somebody who's ill with a fever of 104 is not in a very good position to tromp around town trying to get the best prices they can for their drugs.

There is much more that this government is doing that it says is about the public interest and it's really just about cutting costs. The minister talked today about billing numbers, about the fact that they're not going to impose their billing numbers this year, they'll just keep the threat of imposing billing numbers for next year if somehow people don't respond to the big stick hanging over their head. But they're still talking about billing numbers, and they're still committed to government-imposed quotas on how many doctors can practise. That is not really about making sure that northern and rural communities have enough doctors, and that concern is reaching crisis proportions literally week by week.

The kinds of proposals in Bill 26, the big-stick proposals of this government, are really making the problems of recruitment and retention in northern and rural communities even more difficult. Graduates are telling us that they will leave the province of Ontario rather than being told where they can practise -- 47% of the medical students in the University of Toronto have said they will leave the province rather than submit even to the threat of billing numbers.

What this government really wanted in Bill 26, and what they got in Bill 26, is the power to shut down physicians who are practising in oversupplied areas. That's one of the ways they see to cut OHIP costs, and that's really what this is all about. That's what this government cares most about: How do you cut costs?

Any positive incentive to meet the need of northern and rural communities for health care, like declaring Sudbury or Peterborough or Windsor underserviced areas so they can have an incentive to attract physicians to their communities, is not even going to be considered by this government, is not high on the priority list. Expanding the northern residency program so that physicians will have training and will be encouraged to stay in northern Ontario communities, the most successful program supporting recruitment of physicians in the north that has ever been put in place, that's not on the priority list for this government either. The only things that are going to be on the priority list for this government will be the announcements that make the minister and the government look good.

I can acknowledge that as those announcements are made we will welcome them, because the need in health care is great. But I say cutting front-line service and putting new user fees in place is simply not the way to ensure that people in this province get good health care.

Taking the power to run the health care system while you refuse any responsibility for your decisions is dangerous. Keeping a pot of money for good-news announcements while you force hospitals to close their beds and lay off health care workers, increase the waiting times for emergency service and increase the waiting times for elective surgery, and reduce the numbers of intensive-care beds and the ability to care for pregnant mothers and newborn babies, jeopardizing the health of people of this province so you can keep a pot of money for good-news announcements, is just simply wrong. People will not get the health care they need when and where they need it.

Health care should be, as Mike Harris once said, "our first and most important commitment." It is frightening to know that this government can't be trusted to keep that commitment. It is frightening that the people in every community of this province will pay the price for that broken promise.

With that, we support non-confidence.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I intend to have a few remarks on the Liberal non-confidence motion, because I think it's an appropriate non-confidence motion and our caucus does intend to support this motion.

I find it ironic that yesterday was the end of the Canada assistance plan, as we've always known it in Canada, replaced by a health and services tax. That is linked, of course, to a reduction in transfer payments from Ottawa to the provinces. I would say to my Liberal friends in the Liberal caucus -- and everybody who's in the Liberal caucus now I believe is a real, true Liberal -- that what their federal cousins have done in Ottawa has really given licence to the provincial Tories to have their way with health and social services in all the provinces, not just in Ontario. There's no question that what the federal Liberals are doing was certainly thought of a long time ago, when the Tories were in power, and the Liberals are now doing it. So there's no question that the provincial Liberals should be thinking about what the federal Liberals are doing to us at the same time.


I would say that when it comes to the present government and its intentions with health care, it's been an interesting scene that has unfolded before us if you go back to a year ago when all of the promises were made -- before that, as a matter of fact -- in the Common Sense Revolution, but also in a large number of press releases that were put out by the Tories, who were then of course in opposition, assuring everyone there would be no cuts to health care.

Then when they formed the government and they realized they wanted to keep the promises that were in the Common Sense Revolution, they started hedging on their commitment and saying, "Oh, no, no, the $17.4 billion that's being spent on health care in the province will be honoured" -- not necessarily day by day, and I think most people understood that -- but there was no commitment that even in any given year the $17.4-billion commitment would be maintained, until the last couple of days.

The last couple of days we have the Minister of Health coming forward and saying, "No, no, that $17.4 billion will be honoured year by year," which makes me wonder about some of the statements that were made. For example, just a few minutes ago the present Minister of Agriculture, sitting in his place and working away diligently on letters to the various chambers of commerce across the land, muttered or interjected that we had spent too much on health care.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Oh, no. You shut down 6,700 beds, is what I said.

Mr Laughren: That's sure what it sounded like to me, that the opposition, whether it was Liberals or NDP, had spent too much money on health care. Yet now they're not going to reduce spending on health care. You can't have it both ways.

I think that a lot of work was done, and without being too partisan about it, I think that more work was done in the last five years, in getting the increased costs of health care under control than had ever been done in this province. We understand in this caucus the need to control health care spending. We understand that.

We were the ones who set up the commission on hospital restructuring. We believe that needs to be done, and I have no problem with that. That does have to be done. We might have differences on the way in which it's implemented from time to time, but you have not heard us say that hospital restructuring is not necessary. And there needs to be a reinvestment from institutions into community-based care. I believe that all of us, and I suspect all three parties, believe that.

What's disturbing so far is that we have not seen any of that happen yet by the government. We haven't seen any of that. All we've seen are cuts that are being announced in the hospital system before the restructuring has even been done, not after. These cuts are not a result, presumably, of hospital restructuring, because that restructuring has not occurred. So where are the savings coming from?

The government's own figures, from what's known as HTAP, the Hospital Training and Adjustment Panel in the Ministry of Health, announce that there will be somewhere between 20,000 and 26,000 jobs lost in the hospital sector in the next couple of years, with no apparent plan on the part of the government to engage in any kind of retraining or placement or counselling of those people. If they have these plans, they are nowhere to be seen.

I would say to the government members that it's fine for you to talk about reinvesting every cut you make, but we want to see some of those plans. If you're not going to put the hospital restructuring savings back into community-based care, what are you going to do with them? The Minister of Finance would probably love to have it go towards reducing the deficit, but I think the commitment that's now been made is that that won't happen, all those savings will be reinvested in the health care system. We have no idea when you're going to do that or how you're going to do that or where you're going to put it in the health care system, and I can tell you, we will be watching very carefully to see just how that happens.

We'll also be watching very carefully to make sure you don't play some kind of dishonest fiscal game by transferring responsibilities from other ministries into the Ministry of Health in order to keep that number up at $17.4 billion. It would be possible to transfer programs from the Ministry of Education and Training, from corrections, from the women's directorate, for example, into the health care ministry's budget and say, "Eureka, we're back up at $17.4 billion." Well, that would be too dishonest for words, and I wouldn't dare describe to you the names you would be called if you were to do that, because that's not what's meant by maintaining the health care budget at $17.4 billion.

The other issue I'd like to talk about for a moment is the whole question of user fees. I can remember the Tories said a year ago now, on May 3, 1995, in a press release: "Mike Harris and his caucus publicly rejected new user fees as an effective way to ensure adequate funding for our health care system." May 3, 1995.

Jim Wilson, the Minister of Health -- I know some of you will find it hard to believe that these particular words came from his particular lips, but this is what he said, a quote from him from Hansard, "Ask the seniors about $150 million in new user fees." He was being critical of our government, and these are his exact words, "Don't take any more crap from politicians." That's what Jim Wilson said about user fees when he was speaking to the seniors of this province. That's in Hansard of July 26, 1993. He's got a lot of nerve, given what he's done since then, and I hope members opposite will appreciate the fact that he has spoken with a forked tongue in this regard.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Hey, unparliamentary.

Mr Laughren: That's too bad.

When we talk about user fees, let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. If you're a single senior and your income is less than $16,000 a year, each prescription will cost that single senior $2 -- each prescription. If you're a single senior with an income of more than $16,000 -- it could be just that much more -- then there'll be a $100 annual deductible, plus the dispensing fee. If you're a senior couple earning less than $24,000, you'll have a $2 prescription fee. If you're a senior couple earning more than $24,000, there'll be a $100 annual deductible, plus the dispensing fee for every prescription. And if you're a social assistance recipient, of course, the favourite target of this government, there's a $2 prescription fee.

This is coming from a government that has stated over and over again that a copayment is a user fee, yet Jim Wilson, the minister, is on record as saying that they would never introduce user fees. Well, we've seen how firm that promise was.

There are some examples that one can use, because I know some people dismiss the $2 fee and say, "Oh, well, what's $2?" It can mean a lot to people who have to fill a lot of prescriptions.

People with mental health problems are given medication only for seven days -- seven days in advance is my understanding -- because of the concern, obviously, about overdosing for those folks. They would have to pay the $2 user fee every seven days, and that's assuming they only had one prescription, one drug that they required a prescription for.

We hear stories such as an 86-year-old patient who still lives in her home, has congestive heart failure and diabetes, and takes 11 types of medications. By renewing her prescription every three months, she will be paying at least an additional $22 for each renewal period: 11 prescriptions times $2. For people who have very little income, that is a financial blow to them. The same of course could be applied to parents who have severely disabled children who would require a lot of prescriptions.


For seniors and the disabled, there were promises. I quote again from the Common Sense Revolution, page 10, "Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut." How do you square that with user fees? On the technical argument that a user fee is not a cut in a program? I hope you wouldn't make that argument.

Then we have the Minister of Community and Social Services standing in his place this very day during question period and not dismissing the idea that there could be a change in the definition of "disability" in this province. Given the record of this government, if you change the definition of who is disabled in the province, we know who will get hurt by that; it will obviously be the disabled. Yet that's what the minister refused to stand in his place today and say: "No, we won't change the definition."

We've also heard that the government intends to cut $30 million from the budget of services for developmentally handicapped people in the province. The story goes on and on.

Let's for the moment assume that the government is going to stick to its promise not to cut health care. That means that there's $17.4 billion out of the total Ontario budget, which is in the neighbourhood of $50 billion. That's $17 billion you have to take out of that because no cuts to health care, no cuts to classroom education, no cuts to policing, no cuts to agriculture and, I heard the Premier say one time, no cuts to support for tourism either.

What does that leave and what kind of cuts will there be in all those remaining programs? Take out the classrooms, take out health care, take out policing, take out agriculture and take out tourism. What have you got left to find all these savings that must go towards providing the tax cut? Where are you going to get that money?

You're going to be the laughingstock of this province. That's what you're going to be because you've taken away such a huge proportion of the base for potential cuts. You got yourself into this quagmire. Nobody else put you there; you put yourselves there. It's going to be very interesting to see how you're going to pay for that tax cut, somewhere between $5 billion and $6 billion a year; not the first year, because it's only 30%, but it's still a huge revenue loss.

Where do you make up that revenue loss? That's why I said a long time ago that if the Tories intend to deliver on their tax cut, they're going to have to take health care spending and apply it towards that cut in order to get the deficit down. Now they're saying no, they're not going to do that. I don't think the dollars are there. We'll see what happens, but I really believe that you've got yourself into a trap of your own setting by saying that you would not touch any of these other ministries, because you were in an election campaign. That's why you did it; it's very clear.

I can just imagine. You know, when you talk about not affecting the classroom, you're taking over $400 million out this year; that'll annualize to $1 billion a year. That's not going to touch the classrooms? Who are you kidding? Why are all the layoff notices going out by the school boards? Because you've cut that $400 million out, that's why. It'll be $1 billion when you annualize it over the next couple of years.

Then you look at agriculture and food. There's one we're going to be watching very, very closely, because the Premier was very, very firm that there would be no cuts to support for agriculture. Of course, there's already been $26 million taken out, as I read the numbers, and there's going to be a lot more taken out as well.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: How much did you take out, Floyd?

Mr Laughren: We're not talking about what we did; we're talking about what the promise of the Tory government was on agriculture. I'm glad the Minister of Agriculture is sitting in his place. He's probably doing drafts of letters of apology to farmers across the province as he sits here listening to this debate, because none of us believe that there are not going to be any cuts in support for agriculture.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): There already have been.

Mr Laughren: We know there already have been. So why they think everything's so precious in the Common Sense Revolution when they've already broken all sorts of promises in it, I don't understand. The Minister of Agriculture is going to be, if I could use the expression, eating crow in the next while on agriculture.

All of this to accomplish two things. This is what's causing them all the agony, basically two reasons: one is you made the promise in the Common Sense Revolution that you don't want the perception out there that this was just a document to get elected. You really want to be able to go to the people and say, "We brought forth the Common Sense Revolution and we're living up to the commitments that it contained therein." That's what you want to say. But people are laughing at you already on that promise, because they know you can't deliver on it. They just know that.

Secondly, do you really think that you could even start to get away with this 30% income tax cut, the only progressive tax there is in the province, without people associating it with classroom education and health care and support to agriculture and to policing? Of course people draw that link. They're not stupid. They understand that any discomfort, any unemployment and layoffs, cuts in programs, is to pay for that tax cut that you promised in the Common Sense Revolution.

I recall Mike Harris saying, "If we don't live up to all these promises, I'll resign, because I'm a different kind of politician." That's what he said. He said, "I'm a different kind of politician and if I don't live up to all these promises in the Common Sense Revolution, I'll resign, because I'm a different kind of politician." He is indeed a different kind of politician. I would go with him that far. He is a different kind of politician. But at the end of the day --

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): So are you.

Mr Laughren: Of course.

At the end of the day, he's already broken some of his promises and he's going to break a lot more of them, and guess what, folks? He's not going to resign. Then what's he going to say? He's going to say: "I was only kidding, folks. You don't really expect me to resign, simply because I promised I would, do you?" If you used that argument, he'd have to live up to all the promises in the Common Sense Revolution, and we know how stupid that would be.

So there you have the Premier, a different kind of politician, who said, "I will resign if I don't live up to every single promise in the Common Sense Revolution." You and I know he's already broken half of them in the Common Sense Revolution and before the next three years are up, he will have broken the rest of them in the Common Sense Revolution. So forget about it, folks, he's not going to resign, he's not a different kind of politician except that he still thinks that people out there are so stupid that they believe there's no link between the tax cut and all the cuts in programs. People are not stupid. People are not that stupid.

I can tell you that's exactly what people will say. They will say, "Wait a minute." I can see all the newsreels now, playing back Mr Harris's scrum in which he said: "I am different. I'm a different kind of politician and if I break any promises, I'll resign." I can see that playing back again and again and again on the newscasts, as he breaks promise after promise after promise, and the first one is health care.

I commend the Liberal caucus for bringing forth this resolution today and I'm quite happy to support it.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I am pleased to rise today and speak against this motion. I speak against this motion for one very important reason: The House has not lost its confidence in the government. The people of Ontario have not lost their confidence in the government, in Mike Harris or in Jim Wilson. In fact the people of Ontario elected us with a very clear mandate to do the things we said we were going to do in the Common Sense Revolution. One of those promises was to maintain the health care budget at $17.4 billion by the end of our mandate, and I am proud to say that this promise will be another promise the people of Ontario will say this government has kept.

Not once, however, have we ever said that the status quo is acceptable. We promised the people of Ontario that we would find savings through the elimination of waste and duplication and reinvest them in front-line services, into services that the people of Ontario want and need, the services that Ontarians have told us they want.

We have already invested more than $300 million back into front-line services. Some of these announcements include $170 million back into community-based, front-line, patient-focused services for tens of thousands of people in Ontario. Long-term care is a growing demand in Ontario, and we are not only prepared to acknowledge this but we are prepared to finance this growth also.

In addition to putting our dollars where the growth is, we have also restructured the long-term-care area within the Ministry of Health to allow it to meet the needs of the people of Ontario, to allow it to grow with the changing demographics of Ontario.

In addition to the changes and the restructuring we have done to long-term care, we have also protected emergency room services in small, rural hospitals by introducing a $70-per-hour payment for physicians, which acts as an incentive to provide coverage. For communities that historically have had difficulty in attracting and retaining physicians, this can add an incentive of up to $60,000 per year for a physician who covers one shift in five. This initiative came as welcome news for hospitals that were at risk of losing their emergency room services and reinvests approximately $13 million in small communities such as mine.

In my discussions with the hospitals in one of the small towns that I represent, I have found that there's been a substantial change in our emergency room services since we have implemented this $70 change. Prior to the time of this change, the hospitals and the administration of the hospitals had a terrible time being able to find people to service the hospitals on weekends and at nights during the week. Since the time of this $70 implementation, we have found that we now have the emergency room covered. This allows us to have people there so we know that the people in my riding have health care at all times. It also allows for long-term planning within the hospital system, something that we needed to have within rural Ontario.

Mrs McLeod speaks of good-news announcements. I speak of reinvestments in our health care system. We have expanded kidney dialysis in Ontario. We have restored out-of-country coverage for Ontarians. We have introduced more MRIs to the province of Ontario. We have looked at patients with acquired brain injuries and brought them back to Ontario from where they were all across North America. We have brought defibrillation into ambulances in a number of areas. That allows us to stabilize people, because that hour after their emergency has occurred is a golden hour. We need to have defibrillators to allow that to happen.

We have talked about paramedics, and better training and more extensive training for paramedics. We have done extensive renovations or reallocations of dollars to allow ambulance service to expand in some areas of Ontario. We have looked at electronic data interchange and we have put money into eating disorder programs.

They talk about us cutting. What we're doing is reinvesting in the future of Ontario, helping people to have the health care system that they want and deserve in Ontario. We have reduced the waiting lists for heart surgery by increasing the amount of dollars Ontario spends on cardiac surgery. As stated in the throne speech, we have delivered on our commitment to provide school-age children with a second immunization that will virtually eliminate measles. Our list of reinvestments goes on and on and on.

The opposition would have you believe we've cut $1.3 billion from the hospitals and that that's already occurred. This is simply not true. We've established, in consultation with the OHA, a three-year funding plan to reduce year-to-year fiscal uncertainties within the hospitals so they can plan effectively and efficiently. We've established targeted reductions so they know where they're going in the next three years to allow them to manage the system much better in both urban and rural areas.

We did not do as the Liberals promised in the red book: making promises without knowing how we were going to pay for them. We found the savings in the hospital system, in the health care dollars, and we've reallocated them to areas people in Ontario need and where the demand is.

Previous governments allowed 6,700 acute care beds to be cut in the past five years while leaving the existing infrastructure in place. They closed 6,700 beds in Ontario, but did they close any buildings? No, they didn't close a hospital in Ontario, and 6,700 beds are the equivalent of 30 medium-sized hospitals.

The two previous government also established district health councils. They asked the people in the local community to give them advice about how to change the hospital system in Ontario. As they prepared that advice, the previous governments neglected to provide them with the tools they needed to do the restructuring.

In the Savings and Restructuring Act which we have implemented since we came into office, we created the Health Services Restructuring Commission and charged it with the responsibility of implementing these restructuring projects. The commission will operate at arm's-length distance from government and will make sure these hospitals are restructured so they provide the best services for the people in their area. This will allow us to reallocate funds to the health areas that need them most.

The restructuring commission will be free of political interference and will have the legislative authority to move restructuring forward. The district health councils are responsible for receiving community input, and the commission is responsible for taking that input, those reports, and acting on them. If we say we're going to restructure hospitals, this government is going to move forward to have that happen.

In addition to restructuring, the Ontario Hospital Association asked the government to give it the necessary tools to restore good management in the Ontario hospital system. We have delivered. We have allowed hospitals additional means to raise revenues within the parameters of the Canada Health Act; this means they absolutely cannot charge for services deemed to be medically necessary. We have allowed them to establish crown foundations. We have set interest arbitration guidelines which instruct arbitrators to consider the employer's ability to pay. The list goes on and on.

All these items make Ontario a better place to live, a place where there is hope and opportunity.

If there is one thing the previous government did that I support, it was the introduction of the Trillium drug program. This program helps to cover high drug costs for people who are not covered under any other plan. The amount people pay is determined by their income. By becoming the last province to introduce copayments, we have allowed 140,000 working-class poor to become eligible for this program. Specifically, the new lowest net income used to calculate the deductible will fall from $20,000 to $6,500. As a result, the lowest deductible will fall from $500 to $350.


Over the last 10 years, Ontario drug benefit program spending has tripled. Spending grew by an average of 16.4% annually from the early 1980s to 1993. We need to control these costs. We currently spend $1.3 billion every year on our drug program. We all know that the demographics in Ontario are changing. Our population is getting older, and more people will receive assistance in a few years. We need to act now to ensure that the program is affordable and sustainable. The changes we have made will prepare the program for more recipients in the future and will allow us to add newly developed drugs to programs as they become available.

The NDP recognized that this program was going to be unsustainable unless they did something about it. What did they do? Rather than doing what the nine other provinces across Canada did, the NDP delisted drugs. They unilaterally denied seniors and others access to nearly 250 different drugs and drug products; there was 100% copayment.

As I mentioned earlier, the government knows that the status quo is not acceptable. We spend $1 million more per hour than we receive in revenue. We currently spend almost $9 billion in interest costs on the debt. That is more than we spend each year on our hospitals. That is more than we spend on our education program, which combines all schools and the college system.

If we maintain the status quo and the interest rate rises at the rate it has over the past five years, by the year 2000 we will be spending nearly $20 billion in interest alone on our debt. In that situation, we wouldn't be deciding what level of service to provide; we would be deciding what services to provide.

The people of Ontario have asked us to ensure that it will never come to that. Confidence is what they're giving us; that's what the people of Ontario have placed in us. We intend to deliver. We will deliver.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I appreciate the opportunity to speak today about health in Ontario. Let me start by speaking about the Health Services Restructuring Commission.

As the member across was talking about what the commission's aims might be, I thought I would mention to the House and to those who might be listening at home a speech that was written by and for Duncan Sinclair, the chair of this Health Services Restructuring Commission, and what he told an audience through his special adviser on Friday are items that the commission will not do. There are several, but the important one says, number 4, "Will not hold open hearings or otherwise promote opportunities for theatrics and delay."

I understood that our minister is on record as saying that he's listening to the people at local levels, that he wants to see exactly what they're going to do, but in fact what we recognize is that the commission will not hold open hearings. I guess it begs the question. They certainly have placed legislation in place to make unilateral decisions, not to listen to people who live in communities to see what it is that the communities truly need.

So I have to say at the outset I am very disappointed. I'm disappointed that they're going to take that tack and that the people in communities going through a process like the process that the people in Windsor-Sandwich went through in Essex county in terms of restructuring -- it is indeed not a health service restructuring commission. It is a hospital restructuring commission, and there's a significant difference.

Years ago under a Liberal government, our health minister, Elinor Caplan, began the restructuring process, because governments from that day on recognized a significant need for change. Indeed, there isn't a political party that has ever advocated maintaining the status quo. But we recognize that in order to have true health service reconfiguration, you need to address all of the health area, not just hospitals. But what is happening here is that because of some erroneous tax cut that they must find funding for, they've taken significant hits to hospitals.

So what happens to hospitals and communities? What's happening is what we're seeing right across the province today, hospitals that can't cope with such a significant cut all in one fell swoop. And while it may be listed as an 18% cut -- and that indeed is what it is, so while our members opposite want to say there are no cuts being made, hospitals are receiving letters from the ministry itemizing that their levels of payments and transfers are decreased. That is a cut. And there are no announcements -- although the member opposite says they're going on and on and on, those announcements are nowhere near the total that is being cut currently from the hospital system. That is a fact.

Let me just say that my biggest question for the health minister is, what truly is his vision? Our understanding so far is that the minister doesn't have a vision about where health service is going to be in five years or indeed where it should be in 10 years. Because clearly in the area of health you can't afford to simply have a four-year plan so that you can deliver something back to the electorate in hopes that they may put you back. Changes in health care need to be far more long-term than that.

So what is happening? An enormous hit that hospitals are taking, and can they withstand it? People who are working in hospitals today tell me that as long as funding for this kind of health service goes into one silo like a hospital, they cannot sustain those kinds of cuts year after year. Maybe the first year they'll find a way. Indeed, they are currently. They're laying off staff, period. But they won't be able to suffer through that the next year, and certainly not the year after that.

There are only two things that can happen in order for them to sustain the cuts. Either (a) they dump services -- the hospitals will simply stop providing certain services, and we are seeing some evidence of that -- or (b) they've got to count on the savings they're finding through restructuring processes. But the problem is that the restructuring is not truly health service restructuring. It's clearly only hospital restructuring. So when you're supposed to try to move services that hospitals need to dump, they've got to dump them to the less expensive community-based service delivery system, and currently the community-based services aren't being funded to the degree that they can offer the service.

The only thing that will happen in the end is that the service will not be provided, that you will have lineups, that you won't have people finding doctors. And those 18% to 25%: I suppose ironically that is likely the amount of savings that would be realized through a reconfiguration process, but this government has elected to take it out now. You can't take it out now and expect them to generate further savings. In order to do it on the time constraint that they've been given, they will simply dump their service. If any of you have people who have been through the hospital system today anywhere in Ontario, they will see instantly that it is a very different place from even only last year. The result, I'm submitting, will be disastrous.


I look in my own community, when I see there are 30,000 to 40,000 people who currently cannot find a family physician. That is a significant part of primary care. That access point for individuals is a critical element in primary care. Are we going to wait the three or four years in hopes that this process will work so that these people can actually access a doctor? This is going on in Windsor, it's going on all over Essex county. It's going on in Alliston where the Minister of Health lives. It's going on in St Catharines. It's going on in most non-teaching centres across Ontario.

I guess even while we're going to go forward and close hospitals, this government is going to mete that out, 50% of hospital costs are overhead. So once you've shut down the hospitals, certainly you'd save the 50% that's attributed to the overhead costs, but the additional 50% that is actually service delivery, is actually the volume, where does that volume go? It goes somewhere. Does it go to the remaining hospitals, which can't cope with it because they too are being cut and they're trying to dump and unload services? It can't go into the community-based agencies because they are not being funded currently to absorb it. We see that on the employment side and we see that on the health service side.

On the employment side, we have nurses being pink-slipped and they have nowhere in the community to be picked up because those agencies are not being funded to deliver the service. This speaks to a significant problem in planning, that indeed our Minister of Health has not planned well, has embarked on this process that will lead to disaster. I want to know that the Minister of Health has a vision, has a good vision, has our vision. It is not just a Liberal way of thinking, because the former government in the last term carried it on, so we knew that we were headed in the right direction.

I have to say that this government unfortunately is taking a huge step back, and it will be to the detriment of those who will require health services in Ontario.

Mr Wildman: I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate on the motion put forward by the Liberals for want of confidence in the Conservative government in this province.

I note that the motion says, "Whereas the Conservative government has clearly broken every single promise it made with respect to protecting health care," in the preamble. I find it rather interesting timing, recognizing that this motion was first tabled back in early December, that we are now debating the motion the day after the end of the Canada assistance plan. I think it's interesting that the Liberals would put forward this non-confidence motion when their cousins in Ottawa have cut transfer payments to the provinces.

Yesterday, the Canada health and social transfer came into effect. That means that not only will the cash transfers to the provinces be decreased significantly but it will reduce the federal government's ability to enforce any national standards for health and social services across the country. So while I am very concerned about the measures that this Conservative government is taking with regard to the direction of spending and health care in particular in this province, I am also very, very concerned about the fact that the federal Liberal government is making changes which will not only mean less money coming to the provinces, which the Conservatives then can use as a reason for making cuts and unfortunately going far beyond the cuts that the transfers are contemplating, but making it also very difficult for the federal government to enforce standards.

Frankly, the changes that we see with the Canada health and social transfer approach will mean that Conservative governments across Canada, including this government, will find it much easier to make draconian cuts to health care than they would have been able to make, despite what they wished to do, because the federal government will not have the clout it once had in this whole issue. That's unfortunate.

In 1996 the federal budget reconfirmed cuts of $2.5 billion from the 1995-96 levels by the year 2001; federal Liberals are going to cut $2.5 billion in transfers. The $2.1 billion in cuts will start in 1997-98 from the 1995-96 base rate.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): What choice do we have?

Mr Wildman: There's a complex formula worked out that will make it more equal per capita funding, but all of this will be in place by the end of the decade. I'm afraid that because of these changes at the federal level we're going to see it far easier to do what the member for Carleton has just done and say, "What choice did we have?" Unfortunately, the federal government appears to be abdicating its role in terms of ensuring proper standards because it no longer has the financial clout, or won't have by the year 2000, and it's going to make it possible for this government to cut even more than the people of the province anticipate this government is going to.

I want to move specifically to this motion, and that is to deal with the health care spending of the Conservatives in Ontario. I note that in the campaign document of the Conservative Party it said on page 7: "We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important." The party, not then in power but now government, repeated this in a number of places in that document: on pages 2, 19 and 20.

So far the Conservative government has cut $2 billion from health care spending over three years -- at least it's announced that -- the same amount that we've seen the federal government talking about for the whole country, $2 billion just in this province, and yet we have the Premier get up in this House when asked a direct question about this -- "Is this not a breaking of a promise?" -- and give a one-word answer, "No." This is rather confusing. To say on the one hand, "It's too important. We won't cut health care spending," and then to announce a $2-billion cut seems to be contradictory.

What does this mean in specifics? Of this, we see a $1.3-billion cut to hospital funding which we know will lead to a loss of between 20,000 and 26,000 jobs in the hospital sector. We're going to see massive layoffs across the province because of the announced cuts the Minister of Health has informed the hospital boards they must make. Again, the Premier says this is not breaking a promise.

I'd like to deal with a couple of examples. In Sault Ste Marie, an area I'm very familiar with -- I don't represent the city, but the area around the city is in my constituency, so I'm quite familiar with this. Over the last number of years the two hospitals in the city, the Plummer Memorial Public Hospital and the General Hospital, have been carrying out extensive discussions around restructuring to end duplication and save money and be more efficient. I must say that we were gratified that when we were in government these two hospitals didn't just continue discussing; they actually did merge their administrative operations and they looked at the roles of each hospital and made decisions that would avoid duplication where they would cooperate, they would work together. As a matter of fact, the two boards meet as one federated board now. They work together and they have one administration, and this is saving costs. So we have here two hospitals that have followed the advice of successive governments that we must have restructuring.

These two hospitals now have been informed by the Minister of Health that they have to cut 4% this year and that there will be additional cuts in the two subsequent years, yet the Premier says the government has not broken its promise not to cut health care. Well, if the government has not broken that promise, why is it the minister sent out a directive to these hospitals saying, "Cut 4% this year, and there are going to be additional cuts in the two subsequent years"?


We hear from the Conservative members, "Well, we are going to reinvest the savings." It is true that they have reinvested and will, I guess, reinvest some of the savings in other services that are needed in the province, but so far the reinvestments have not nearly equalled the cuts. There is a deficit in that regard. How we will calculate the total I don't know, because they keep saying, "There's more coming, there's more coming." We'll see. We haven't seen $1.3 billion reinvested, and that's what the hospitals have been told they have to cut.

Also, the government hasn't really said very much about the layoffs that are going to occur because of these required cuts by the hospitals across the province.

It hasn't just been hospitals that have seen cuts. We've seen the home oxygen program cut, $10 million; the assistive devices/hearing aid program cut, $5 million -- this despite another promise of the government that they weren't going to hurt disabled people -- anti-smoking community grants, a preventive health program, a $1-million cut; community mental health programs -- again, community-based programs which are cheaper than institutional programs -- cut, $4 million; birthing centres and other new programs cut, $1.7 million; and the Premier's health innovation fund for research grants cut, $7 million. All of these cuts, yet we have the Premier get up in this House and say that they have not broken their promise not to cut health care funding.

We've even had the Minister of Health say in this House and elsewhere that the funding envelope -- that's the term he uses -- for health care is sealed. Well, it's a pretty loose seal; either that or there must be some holes in the envelope, because all of these funds have slipped out somehow and have disappeared.

Frankly, what I suspect is going to happen is that the government is going to continue its cuts in other areas, such as education, despite the promise they made not to cut classroom funding, classroom education, and they're going to continue the cuts to the vulnerable in social services, and then they're going to use some of those moneys to put back into the health care program. I suspect that's what they're going to do.

I was told once by a man wiser than I that I shouldn't subscribe to the conspiracy theory of politics, that rather, the other theory of politics is far more applicable, that is, the mess-up theory. There are only those two theories of politics. I'm not sure whether I shouldn't consider the conspiracy theory in this case, because they sure are messing up and I think they're doing it intentionally.

What else have we seen here? Despite their promise not to harm seniors, we've seen the Ontario drug benefit plan user fees which will start on June 1, which will mean that social assistance recipients and seniors whose annual income is less than $16,000 will pay a $2 user fee for every prescription.

Again, in my view, this is a direct contradiction. As a matter of fact, I recall on November 30, 1995, Mike Harris said in this House: "I've been calling for a full and open discussion of the issue of user fees. Let's be fair: A copayment is a user fee. Rationing leads to user fees. Parental contribution is a user fee." He was opposed to user fees, and yet he says he isn't breaking any of his promises or commitments.

What they've done here with the drug benefit plan is simply bring in a user fee to help pay for the fact that they've restored the out-of-country limit to the $400. So the well-off seniors who can afford to have two homes and spend time in Florida every winter are getting a bigger chunk, and all of the other seniors who don't have very much money are having to pay a user fee for their drugs. This despite the fact that on page 10 of their document they said, "Aid for seniors and the disabled will not be cut."

I support this motion because I don't have confidence that this government is going to keep its promises. I've seen too many of them broken already, despite what the Premier has to say in a one-word answer, that "No," he has not broken promises.

The Premier said that if he broke any of his promises, he would resign. I put as much credence in that promise as I do in all of the other promises, because he hasn't kept them so there's no point in expecting that he might keep this one.

We see the cutting of a very important program that has been used by Canadians to define themselves, and this government is going to cut more. That's why I don't have confidence in the government, and I regret the fact that the Liberals in Ottawa are assisting this government to decimate the health care system with their changes at that level.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I rise in the House to debate the motion by the official opposition of want of confidence in the government with respect to protecting health care. I appreciate the opportunity to address this motion, and as this will be my first official speech in the House, I would ask for your indulgence as I take a moment to talk about the great riding of Perth.

The riding of Perth consists of the geographic boundaries of the county Perth with the additions of the separated city of Stratford and the separated town of St Marys. Our southern boundary starts at Prospect Hill just a few miles north of London in the heart of southwestern Ontario. It stretches for over 50 miles north to Teviotdale. For anyone who doesn't know where Teviotdale is, it's halfway between Treecastle and Kenilworth.

It's in the heart of Ontario and covers an area of 541,000 acres, 439,000 acres of which is improved farm land. The total population of the riding is 67,000: 11,000 live on farms; 15,000 live in small, rural, built-up areas; and 41,000 live in urban settings like Stratford, Listowel, St Marys, Mitchell and Milverton.

As these statistics show, the riding is a distinct blend of rural and urban and is renowned for its diverse contributions to the province in the form of produce, livestock, industrial goods and cultural experiences as well as taxes. It's common knowledge that we contribute far more to the provincial treasury than we receive back in services.

For Perth county, agricultural activities represent not only a community and social structure but a strong economic base as well. Perth county, in relation to other counties in Ontario, ranks first in dairy cattle numbers, with nearly 50,000 head, which accounts for 7% of total provincial stocks; second in milk quantity, accounting for almost 7% of the milk produced in Ontario, some 165 million litres; first in total hogs and first in hogs marketed with nearly 390,000 head, or 12.5% of Ontario stock. It also ranks second in white bean acreage and second in mixed grain acreage.


In addition to being at the top productionwise, Perth county also reaches new heights in terms of planning for the future. Not long ago, members of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, the Christian Farmers Federation, the pork producers, the cattlemen's association, the milk committee, egg producers and broiler producers formed the Perth County Agricultural Committee and are soon publishing their report, which will revolutionize the standards of agriculture practice in Ontario with regard to noise, dust and odour, as well as manure management. Through increased productivity and new policy development, these outstanding members of the riding have made Perth stand out in many people's minds as a progressive agricultural community.

But Perth county, as I have said before, is diverse and provides numerous commodities to Ontario. In addition to its many agricultural contributions, Perth has its share of industrial giants as well. Its manufacturing industries include names such as Cadbury, Crane, Samsonite, Canadian Fabricated Products, FAG Bearings, Allied-Signal Automotive, Beaulieu carpets, Hayes-Dana, Stacey's, Campbell Soup and Spinrite.

In the last year, Spinrite Yarns of Listowel, for instance, has expanded its production line to become the largest North American supplier of 100% cotton yarn products.

Ray Finnie, the president of FAG Bearings Ltd in Stratford, put it best when he stated: "The involvement, dedication and commitment of our people has made it possible for us to compete in world markets. Our recently completed expansion will ensure continued growth and success in the future."

Paul Jesson, the vice-president and general manager of Beaulieu of Canada Inc, also summed up the principle of why Perth is such an industrial success when he said: "One of the reasons that Beaulieu has done so well is that we're here in Stratford. We have a very good workforce."

Quite simply put: "The people [of Perth] are industrious, dedicated, and reliable. They believe in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Their values deliver big-league success." This description was offered by Wayne Bondi, vice-president, Allied-Signal Automotive.

Agriculturally and industrially, Perth county is distinct from any other riding in Ontario, but the dynamic nature of this riding does not end in the workplace. Perth county has much more to offer.

Culturally, the county of Perth is at the top. In addition to a number of galleries and museums, Perth is the home of the world-renowned Stratford Shakespearean Festival. A must-attend event, the Stratford Festival is one of those fantastic events which enrich the quality of life at the same time as they improve the province's economy. In a season which extends from May to mid-November, the Stratford Shakespearean Festival employs over 750 people, attracts nearly 450,000 theatre-goers annually, and is responsible for contributing over $100 million each year to the local economy. The festival averages about 500 performances a year of at least 10 different productions. There is little excuse for not attending at least one show, and I can assure you that I will be here reminding the members of the Legislature about this fine attraction in the months to come.

You can see now why I say that Perth county, in the heart of southwestern Ontario, is distinct from other ridings. I am proud of the riding and of the unique qualities that are found in the people of Perth.

Community spirit is the soul of any region, and Perth county has plenty of soul. Community organizations such as the Kinsmen, Rotarian, Lions and Optimist clubs provide volunteer services which enrich the lives of many. The charity work they do provides help for others and strengthens community spirit.

A perfect example of community spirit at work can be found in the Perth county 4-H clubs. In total, 817 youngsters of Perth participated in the 4-H program last year, and 165 leaders volunteered their time towards the activities as well. As a one-time member of the Maryborough 4-H, I know the strong values and work ethic taught in this program are part of what makes Ontario great.

Another example of the community spirit of Perth can be found in the announcement which I made in the Legislature yesterday: the congregation of Ontario Street Baptist Church in Stratford working together to build an accessibility ramp. These people donated their time and their money to see this important structure built without any government involvement.

Whether rural or urban, the people in the riding of Perth know how to care for their neighbours and work together to build prosperous communities which are the envy of many.

How, you might ask, does one keep track of all this activity? Four local newspapers provide written updates of events and happenings within the riding and around the world. The Stratford Beacon-Herald, one of only two independent dailies in the province, publishes coverage of the riding of Perth, while the St Marys Journal-Argus, the Mitchell Advocate and the Listowel Banner provide weekly reporting of many events which occur in and around Perth county. In addition, station CJCS provides radio coverage out of Stratford. Local television surrounds us, with CKNX in Wingham, CKCO in Kitchener and CFPL in London.

There you have it, a brief insight into the heart of southwestern Ontario, county Perth.

I would like to thank you, members of the Legislature, for allowing me the time to indulge in one of my favourite topics, the riding of Perth. I feel privileged and honoured to represent such fine people. For those of you who are curious, I leave an open invitation to visit one of the most interesting, beautiful and intriguing areas of Ontario. Take the time to see the sights and meet the people and you will never want to call any other place home.

I would like to convey to everyone here that I will not be supporting the motion. In fact, I'll be using all my efforts, as much as I can, to make sure it's defeated.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): On a point of order, Madam Chair: Normally, when members give their maiden speech, there are two-minute replies and we have the opportunity to comment.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): I'm afraid that isn't a point of order. You don't have that opportunity in this debate.

Mr Crozier: It would be nice if we could say that we do compliment the member on his speech today.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you for that. That is not a point of order.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Let me also congratulate the member for Perth, our Deputy Speaker, because it's always nice to hear about Perth county, particularly the Stratford Festival, which I'm sure many of us have enjoyed over the years. It also allowed us on this day not to hear any more nonsense about, "No cuts in health care." Any time you want to give another speech like that, rather than taking up our time with the nonsense the government usually preaches for these prepared times, go ahead, the member for Perth.

It's always nice to start at the beginning. I notice that a number of the members have already mentioned this, but I think we should go back again to the promises your party made in the Common Sense Revolution. Let's just read them once again just so that everybody in Ontario and everybody in the House is familiar with them.

"We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important. And frankly, as we all get older, we are going to need it more and more.

"Under this plan, health care spending will be guaranteed.

"Every dollar we save by cutting overhead or by bringing in the best new management techniques and thinking, will be reinvested in health care to improve services to patients."

We certainly haven't seen that so far, and I'm going to give you some examples of that fairly soon.

"Health care, law enforcement and classroom funding won't be touched," and in one more place in the Non-Sense Revolution, "A 20% cut in non-priority government spending, without touching the health care budget."

Three times there are statements that health care will not be cut.

We all saw the charade that we went through last fall, when at one time there was some debate as to whether or not we were actually spending $17.8 billion or $17.4 billion, and it was finally agreed that it was $17.4 billion. That was the amount that was made when you gave your commitment.

Then we heard a very interesting statement, you may recall, from the parliamentary assistant to the minister, who actually said in this House, "Well, as long as we're back to $17.4 billion in the year 2000" -- at the end of the term -- "then we've lived up to our commitment." In other words, the $1.3-billion cut that's taking place right now -- and that's what it is according to your own economic statement -- doesn't really count at all. Well, I say, balderdash; that's not correct. In your statement you said you were not going to cut health care spending, so don't cut it even for one year.


I come from a community, Mr Speaker, like you, that's very renowned in this province, and one of the things we pride ourselves on in Kingston and The Islands is the tremendous health sciences centre that we have there. As a matter of fact, it's so efficiently run that the person who's been involved in that has now been -- I don't agree with the way you're going about it in Bill 26, but at least you've appointed an individual in Duncan Sinclair who is renowned in his field. He was a former neighbour of mine, and certainly if anybody can make any kind of sense out of the mess that you put yourself and the province in, he is the man to do it. I certainly wish him well in that regard. That's about the only thing --

Mr Murdoch: You forgot about those three years when Peterson had the province.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Grey-Owen Sound, come to order.

Mr Gerretsen: -- that I've agreed with you on so far.

What's very interesting is that one of the reasons why so many people retire to the community that I represent is the kind of lifestyle that we enjoy in Kingston. One other reason why so many people retire to my area is the tremendous health care facilities that are in our community right now. As a matter of fact, I think that we still are the second most popular place to which people retire in all of Canada.

Mr Crozier: Next to Essex South.

Mr Gerretsen: No, no, next to Victoria. One of the reasons that I used to hear and I'm still hearing for why people come to the Kingston area is because of the tremendous facilities that are available there.

Now let's just take a look at the so-called non-cuts that you've made to the Kingston area just within the last two or three weeks. Kingston General Hospital: a $5.7-million reduction in provincial funding, 122 layoffs of unionized workers and 25 managers. Some of these people will be rehired, I agree, but they will be rehired at a much lower pay scale or on a part-time basis.

It's interesting to note some of the comments that people have made about that. I'm quoting right from the Whig-Standard of March 22, 1996: "It's a mood that could persist for months as Kingston General, seeking to absorb $5.7 million in provincial funding cuts, embarks on a complicated job shuffle that will disrupt the lives and paycheques of nearly 150 employees."

The next item: a $280,000 cut in the Kingston Regional Cancer Centre. The patients there had to go to the ultimate extreme, and I'm again reporting from a newspaper clipping of March 29, 1996, where they actually had to go marching along King Street with 20 to 30 other patients and staff to show their concerns, ranging from "the loss of nurses and treatment to the decision to close the kitchen and dining room in the lodge used by patients who have to stay over because of their treatment. Management has proposed that patients use the hospital cafeteria or city restaurants."

A radiation therapist in the regional cancer centre has said that "impending staff cuts will damage patient care. At least 18 staff members will be affected, including eight of the centre's nurses.... The impact of the provincial and federal cuts on the centre are not known, Scott says, but the Kingston Regional Cancer Centre is trying to cut $280,000 in salaries." The cuts will eventually lead to and create longer waiting periods.

I can go on, with cuts that are taking place at the Hotel Dieu Hospital of $3.1 million that will lead to the loss of some 74 jobs. Again, a statement by one of the nurses there is, "Our primary responsibility is to the patient," and she has grave concerns about the quality of care at the hospital in light of the layoffs.

Finally, I just want to talk about the long-term-care cuts. We heard the member talk earlier about how they want to do away with the fiscal uncertainties that currently exist in the health care system. Those fiscal uncertainties right now have caused, without any warning whatsoever, a cut in the funding to the Rideaucrest Home for the aged in Kingston of some $839,000; a cut in the funding to Fairmount Home in Glenburnie, which is represented by the member for Frontenac-Addington, of $484,000; a cut to Providence Manor in Kingston of $359,348. It certainly doesn't seem to me that this creates fiscal certainty for those institutions when they have been cut like that just within the last two or three weeks.

I will be supporting this motion. The cuts are affecting the institutions right now, affecting the patients in those institutions, affecting the residents of the long-term-care facilities and affecting the people employed there and the morale in those institutions. I say shame on you, government. Put the funding back in there immediately, as you promised in your so-called Common Sense Revolution.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Mr Speaker, I would also like to congratulate you on your first speech in the Legislature. It is a tradition that we all acknowledge the importance of that occasion, and I certainly do so with you. I must tell you, given the nature of this debate, I would have hoped that one of the things you would talk about was health care within the county of Perth, because I'm sure the people in Perth county have as deep a concern as all other citizens in the province about the nature and the status of health care.

One of the real issues for people in Ontario is whether the government has kept its promises around health care. There is no doubt on the part of any of us in this Legislature but that the promise we heard again and again from the now Minister of Health and from the now Premier throughout the election period and indeed for some months before coloured the results of that election quite substantially.

It's important for us to acknowledge and to be very clear that our party, while we were in government and since we've been in government, has supported the Conservative viewpoint that we need to make some changes, that we need to restructure substantially within the health care system. Indeed we began a lot of that process during our term of office, trying to help both the hospitals and community health providers look at the whole nature of health care in a different way.

Earlier today when my colleague the member for Nickel Belt was speaking, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, for example, was talking about the fact that during our term of office 6,900 beds were closed in the province. He's right. That was true. That was done because there was a general acknowledgement within the health care system that measuring how our health care system is working by the number of beds is no longer appropriate given the changes in technology, given the change in process of health care.

In fact, the previous Liberal government and our government under our Premier's council on health had heard from experts like Professor Duncan Sinclair, now the head of the hospital restructuring committee, about the need to look at health care in a different way, the need to change our focus from the number of hospital beds available in a community to the nature and status of health within our communities, that what we needed to do was to pay attention to the determinants of health, what we needed to do was provide supports in nutrition, in assistive devices, in community health programs, home care, all those ways in which we can help people to maintain their health within their homes.

The evidence is overwhelming that when we talk about a health care system as consisting only of hospital beds, we are talking about an illness system. When we are talking about health care as a system which provides an assurance that those possibilities for the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease will be available to all of us, whatever our age or level of ability, that is when we will attain a fine health care system in our province.


Health care involves far more than the care of illness. It involves the prevention of disease. It involves the protection of those who are citizens of the province from such things as malnutrition -- a real problem in this province given the drop in funds now available to the very poorest to afford the food they need to keep themselves healthy. It also involves the ability of people to get those drugs which prevent them from being ill, things like medicines that ease the pain of arthritic conditions, things like insulin, things like vitamins and minerals and special supplements with which, if they have them, many people are able to maintain their health for much longer.

One of our concerns when we talk about the issue of dollars coming out of the health care system is that that is on top of the dollars that have come out of the pockets of those who are most vulnerable to ill health in this province: children, the poor, the disabled and the elderly, all of whom are disproportionate consumers of health care dollars within our province because they are among the most vulnerable to health problems.

In addition to the kinds of cuts that have been made, as my colleague from Algoma talked about, the $10 million from the home oxygen program, cuts to the assistive devices/hearing aid program, to anti-smoking grants, to community mental health programs -- all of these focused on our ability to maintain and preserve health, and we get very concerned. But on top of that, the changes under Bill 26 that now charge user fees really create an additional problem. We need to talk about what that really means to someone who is a senior, to someone who is on social assistance.

It may not seem like much to have to pay a $2 fee for a prescription, but let me tell you, I have a child who is a chronic asthmatic and has been all her life. We have never had a month in our family since she was born when our prescriptions did not add up to at least seven and when we did not have a combined cost of over $150 for those. Now, we're fortunate; my husband and I have both been fortunate enough to be employed and to have a health program that could support that. But if I think of all the $2 fees for those seven prescriptions each month, 12 months a year for 25 years, I know we're talking about a lot of money for a family. I have had constituents with asthmatic children, because they know I have one, come to my office and say to me: "I can't afford the medication. I'm going to have to take a chance. I can't afford the Ventolin my child needs until the 31st of the month when my cheque comes in."

We are going to have disasters in this province if people cannot afford the user fee they now have to pay for their prescription when they need it. Doctors are going to have to change the way they treat their patients because they're going to have to recognize that many patients, however much they want to, will not be able to follow their instructions. That is particularly true of children, the elderly and the disabled, all of whom have, in many cases, multiple prescriptions, prescriptions which allow them to remain healthy.

If we think about the disabled in our province and the kind of medications they often require, we see medications that maintain their ability to breathe, because many of them have respiratory problems because of the nature of their disabilities. Certainly many seniors who have emphysema, who have had lung cancer, who have chronic obstructive lung diseases of one sort or another are in that category.

Then we have those people who are mobility-impaired, who very often have difficulty with their whole ability to take in and eliminate food. Again, the kinds of prescriptions that are required to prevent infection and to enable them to function normally -- as normally as they are able -- cost money every month.

We also know that we have a huge issue around the misuse of drugs, particularly among the elderly. For that reason, the medical establishment, together with the government, knows that if we allow people to have a very large number of pills at a time, that may not be in their best interests; it may cause overmedication. Certainly for many mental health problems, it is not possible to get a prescription that lasts any longer than seven days, even though that person may chronically require that medication for the rest of their lives. So every time that medication has to be renewed in order to protect from overdose, there will be a fee.

All of the literature on seniors tells us how much it costs us when seniors overdose on their drugs, that they have confusion about the number of pills they take and that this is a very serious problem. So the decision was made that seniors should only be supplied on a one-month basis. That may have been increased, I understand, to a three-month basis by some physicians who simply understand that their patients will not take medication if they can't afford it. But what we then have is a situation that compounds the danger. The estimated cost to us of overdosing, particularly by seniors, is very high. So we have a situation where, to try and correct one problem, we are laying up trouble for ourselves in another area.

One of the issues that we have to face here is that we have a government that said very clearly in an election that there would be no additional health care costs. We have a Premier who, in very, very strong terms in November 1995, said here: "I've been calling for a full and an open discussion on the issue of user fees. Let's be fair. A copayment is a user fee. Rationing leads to user fees. Parental contribution is a user fee."

Let's be very clear: Having gone through an election where Mike Harris and his caucus -- this is a quote from a publicity release in May 1995 -- "rejected new user fees as an effective way to ensure adequate funding for our health care system," what happened between May and November? What happened between the promise and the breaking of it with the introduction of Bill 26 and the introduction of user fees within this province?

I will be supporting the Liberal non-confidence motion even though I feel conflicted, because as a member of the former government I know that many of the requirements we have to deal with costs within our health care system come because the transfer payments for established programs have been cut by the federal Liberals. It's very clear that the passing on of that decision, originally made by the Conservatives under Mulroney and now maintained by the Liberals under Chrétien, is putting any provincial government under very, very serious difficulties in providing health care.

But even though that is true and even though that was true, and the Conservatives knew that was true at the time they made their promise not to cut one cent from health care, not to institute user fees, what they promised the people of Ontario they have not kept. They knew that the federal Liberals were reducing transfer payments and they still made that promise; that is the point. How can we have any confidence in a government that has run in an election, has again and again repeated its promise around the sanctity of health care services to the citizens of Ontario, and not act when we see it break that promise?

We will be supporting the Liberal non-confidence motion and I'm quite confident that the people of Ontario will also vote non-confidence the next time they have an opportunity.


Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): As the member for Brampton South, it's my privilege -- and duty, I guess -- to speak against the motion of non-confidence as submitted by the Liberal Party of Ontario.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): You surprise me; I thought you were a free-thinker.

Mr Clement: I know that comes as a bit of a surprise to honourable members opposite, but I am going to use my time to try to talk about the reasons why I think this motion should not be supported by members in this assembly and by persons who are watching on television or who hear about it through the media.

I think the first place to start is going back to the source, and the source for members of this government -- not as something etched in stone that came from on high, but as a touchstone that we use to measure ourselves, to see whether we are accomplishing what we promised to do -- for us, as we all know, has been the Common Sense Revolution, a document that was issued one year before the election as an attempt -- I think an honest attempt -- by a political party to have an honest dialogue with the people of Ontario, not politicians to politicians in the Legislature, but to have a dialogue with the people of Ontario to put our views out in public a full year before the provincial election.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): So he said he wouldn't cut health care.

Mr Clement: I'm quite happy the honourable member mentioned a particular segment of the Common Sense Revolution and I'd like to quote that segment in full. That is perhaps what the people of Ontario want to hear, what the document that I ran on actually said. I distributed 25,000 copies in my own riding; we distributed over 2.5 million of them province-wide. Let's go back to the source. I challenge the honourable members to read along. Please don't let your lips move when you do so, but let's read along.

Page 7: "Health Care: We will not cut health care spending." We said that. "It's far too important. And frankly, as we get older, we are going to need it more and more." That's the part that the honourable members like to quote. Let me perhaps read on and complete the paragraph:

"Under this plan, health care spending will be guaranteed. As government, we will be aggressive about rooting out waste, abuse, health card fraud, mismanagement and duplication." Not the status quo, but rooting out waste, abuse, health card fraud, mismanagement and duplication.

"Every dollar we save" -- which presupposes we're going to save some money by rearranging the priorities -- "by cutting overhead or by bringing in the best new management techniques in thinking, will be reinvested in health care to improve services to patients. We call this commonsense approach, `patient-based budgeting.'"

There, for the people of Ontario who are watching this debate, is what the Common Sense Revolution actually said. I stand by it. Minister Wilson stands by it. The Premier stands by it. There are 82 caucus members on this side of the House who are proud to stand by the Common Sense Revolution.

That is the context of where we are. The underlying point of that context, if I may be so bold, is that the status quo that the honourable members opposite are so wedded to, feel so emotional about, was not working. It was not working in policing, it was not working in education, it was not working in social assistance and it most certainly was not working in the provision of quality health care services to those who needed them. That was the problem with the status quo, the problem that gave us longer lines for elective and in some cases very much needed surgery.

I have constituents in my riding of Brampton South who are in agony right now waiting for hand surgery, six-month waits. That didn't just start on June 8. That is something they are living with every day. Those queues were there. Delisting of drugs was there before we came along. Delisting of drugs for senior citizens and those who need help in coping with everyday life, that was there. Not the right equipment. I just came back from visiting some friends in North Carolina, which, yes, is in the United States of America: 11 magnetic resonance imaging units in one city alone. I think anyone in Ontario would love to have a city that had 11 MRIs. We have perhaps 12 in all of Ontario.

That is the status quo that we were living with. We have heard today, as we hear every day, how there are communities in Ontario that do not have access to a general practitioner or perhaps an obstetrician or some other specialist. That is the reality of the status quo of health care in Ontario. We have heard, when we had committee hearings on Bill 26, how people were afraid that somehow our changes meant a two-tiered health care system. I would say to them and I would say to the honourable members opposite that we do have a two-tiered health care system now. When doctors are not available in rural communities, in northern communities, that is a two-tiered health care system. That is the status quo that has to be changed.

What we wanted to do was to change that status quo. No one said it was going to be easy, no one said that the answers would flow quickly and easily as part of the government agenda, but it had to be started. The people of Ontario were demanding a start to those changes. Indeed, as we heard on the Bill 26 hearings, the hospitals, perhaps at the front line of the restructuring, as we know, with the restructuring commission, were the ones coming to us and saying: "We can't do it ourselves. We know that there are savings that have to be done. We know that we have 6,700 hospital beds and yet we still pay for the heat, we still pay for the light, we still pay for the administration. We know that has to change, but we cannot do it ourselves. We need your help as legislators." That is what we are doing through the hospital restructuring commission.

Let me reiterate what the honourable member from Huron said earlier. There are some changes to the spending in health care, no doubt about it. But there are reinvestments going on, reinvestments to health care in the areas that are needed, and Lord knows we know that that money is needed in the health care system, reinvestments of over $300 million thus far, even more than the $132 million announced last July, and more will be coming.

As we learned last week, $170 million on the front line for community-based long-term care -- that is an investment in an area that was crying for new investment in this area; restoring out-of-country coverage for those who have paid into the system; expanding kidney dialysis, an area that is so necessary, and indeed Brampton was the recipient of part of those increased services; sessional fees, a $70-an-hour sessional fee increase; emergency room services protected; small rural hospitals protected; cardiac surgery reinvestment, reducing the waiting list for heart surgery; expansion, and this is something I'm particularly proud of, of the Trillium drug program for those who are the working poor so that 140,000 of them, 140,000 working-poor Ontarians who did not have coverage before now, have coverage through our changes to the Trillium drug program; paramedic training, $15.5 million in that area; expanded emergency services. The list goes on and on, well over $300 million in reinvestment thus far.

That is the commitment of this government. It is a commitment to redo the system in a way so it meets the needs and the demands that the citizens of Ontario quite rightly have of the system. They're paying into it. They have the right to demand quality health care. That is not what they were getting.


Let me speak in the time I have left to some of the concerns of the members opposite. Perhaps I can allay some of their concerns --

Mr Crozier: I doubt it.

Mr Clement: I'll try anyway -- concerning the way we are seeking to consult with the people of Ontario, particularly about hospital and health care services restructuring.

Mr Bradley: Behind closed doors.

Mr Clement: Not at all. The honourable member said, "Behind closed doors." As the honourable member knows, by statute still in place, district health councils, with an ability and a mandate to represent the communities in their catchment area, are the ones that do public hearings; they are the ones that represent their communities. We have had a commitment from the Minister of Health, over and above the legislative commitment which is already there and continues to be there even after Bill 26, to listen to the district health councils and to other parties within the community when we do the restructuring that so very much has to be done.

I leave the honourable members opposite and those who are watching on television with this: The issue for us is not a question of status quo versus change. Perhaps some of us would have wished that was the case, but the status quo did not exist any more. The status quo was a deteriorating status quo, which meant that the provision of health care services available to those in need was deteriorating at a rate that was truly gargantuan. I and my colleagues can hold our heads high -- I hope they can still say this; I have confidence that they can -- knowing that the changes we are implementing -- no one said they were going to be easy, no one said every single move the government made was going to be a popular move, but people are saying the changes have to be done. They are necessary because the status quo was not working, and it was working at less and less of a rate.

These changes will allow us to have a health care system we can justly be proud of, a health care system which is the envy of the world, a health care system that allows Ontario again to be the land of hope, opportunity, jobs and prosperity that we on the government side know we are capable of. I say let's get on to it.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise to speak in support of our motion as it relates to this government's inability to keep what I think was fundamentally their key promise. We've talked about it so much in the House before. It's one of my favourite quotes from the Non-Sense Revolution: "It's all in the book. It's in the plan. We say very clearly, health care spending is a priority. Not one cent will be cut from health care spending." I have a sign that I keep in my office in Hamilton and that I keep in my office here at Queen's Park to remind me every day of the betrayal your government has imposed upon the people of Ontario.

My honourable friend across the floor speaks about these cuts, that these cuts really haven't happened, that there are no cuts in health care. Let me remind you of a couple of points.

In my own community, $14.6 million was cut out of the Hamilton Civic Hospitals -- I'm sure they're just imagining that somehow that's not real -- and potentially 400 job losses at the same hospitals. You know what? Probably they're imagining. Those 400 employees who are going to lose their jobs as a result of your cuts are imagining. I'll tell them tomorrow that the government said it's not happening, that they're not going to lose their jobs. Those 400 employees at the Civic and Henderson hospitals in Hamilton can feel safe tonight because the government members have said there are no health care cuts. But they're still going to get their pink slips; they're still going to get laid off.

St Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton: $7 million, potentially 190 employees, recommended for closure by the health care task force in Hamilton. I am sure that the tens of thousands of Hamiltonians who have sent letters and petitions in favour of keeping St Joseph's Hospital open are sitting there, imagining that you've cut health care spending, and it hasn't happened. If that hospital closes, it's probably just another figment of their imagination. It really hasn't happened, because this government wasn't going to cut health care spending.

St Peter's Centre: $540,000, 200 job losses. Again, they're probably imagining that. It hasn't happened. It's not going to happen. The cut hasn't really happened, it's just there.

Chedoke-McMaster: $4.5 million, 400 positions eliminated -- again probably just imagined because it really hasn't happened. I would like the government members to go to those employees, go to those individuals being affected as a result of your health care cut and tell them it has not happened.

I love the line, "We have to do this because of the 10 lost years," the great line my Tory friends like to use, that there were 10 lost years. I find it interesting that Mike Harris, who's now the Taxfighter, between 1981 and 1984 was in government and supported 16 tax increases for $1.8 billion. Mike Harris did not vote against one of those tax increases. Mike Harris supported increases in personal income tax, OHIP premiums, beer taxes, fuel taxes, tobacco taxes, retail sales taxes and corporate income tax. This was the great Taxfighter between 1981 and 1984, and now he uses "10 lost years" as an excuse to gut our health care system.

It is disgraceful what this government is doing to health care across Ontario. You're going to realize very quickly that you can BS a lot of people across this province and you can try to fool a lot of people across this province, but health care is a promise you made, a promise you've broken, and a promise you're going to pay one hell of a political price for.

Even your friend Ralph Klein in Alberta had to back away from health care cuts because of the pressure. He realized that people were not going to put up with uncertainty about whether a local hospital was going to remain open, where they can receive first-class health care, the type of health care we've been used to across this province. Fundamental to our system, to our province, is the ability to get quality health care, that when someone checks into a hospital or goes to a doctor's office, they get care because they're sick, not based on the amount they have in their bank account.

The system this government is moving to is one where people who are wealthy can jump the line, where people who can afford it get special treatment, where people who can afford it don't have to wait in line for surgery or special tests. This is the type of system you're encouraging by the cuts you're making. I don't believe for a moment that you're going to reinvest the money you have cut out of community hospitals, that you've cut out of health care systems across Ontario.

You're playing a shell game. What you're saying is, "We started health care at $17.4 billion and we're going to end up with that again in four or five years." But the reality is that in between those years, you're going to destroy the system, destroy health care across Ontario.

You should be ashamed of yourselves. I'm telling you, in four years when we go back to the polls, you're going to look back and regret every single cut to health care, because the people of Ontario are going to punish you and punish you hard. If you think what happened to Brian Mulroney was bad, wait to see what happens to you and your caucus members and your friends. Come four years, you're going to pay a hell of a political price. Health care is going to bring this government down in four years, and I'll be here to enjoy that.

Mr Bisson: I would not pass up an opportunity to speak on a motion of no confidence in the Mike Harris government of Ontario. I would like to start by going back to what all this stems from, as the member from the Conservative Party said: the Common Sense Revolution. I think we need to understand clearly what the government said.

They said, "Health care, law enforcement and classroom funding won't be touched, but many other programs will be affected." What they tried to make people believe is that they can go into the different programs of the government of Ontario, all the various ministries outside those three key areas, and find what they said at the time was a $5.5-billion saving they had already identified. Then they went to on to say they needed to find another $500 million to effect the cuts that need to made, in their view, to balance the budget of Ontario.

To that I say two things. First of all, to try to make people believe that you can pull $6 billion out of the budget of Ontario and not affect services in some way is pretty misleading. We've seen the effects of --

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'd ask the member to withdraw his comments. You cannot use the language "misleading" in this House.

Mr Bisson: I didn't say the government was misleading --

The Deputy Speaker: I did not hear the term. Would the member please continue.

Mr Bisson: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. To try to make people believe you can reduce the budget by the amount the Conservative Party talked about at the time is to try to make people believe there would not be any effect felt across the province of Ontario. I can tell you in the communities across Ontario, and specifically in the communities I represent in northern Ontario, we have seen the effects that the $6 billion, or the beginning of that, has had on a number of issues in northern Ontario, everything from the condition of our highways to the services we have been seeing in regard to what the MNR and other ministries do, as it relates to our daily lives in northern Ontario, being affected.


I would just say to the government that yes, we need to be able to find a way to manage government more efficiently, but I think we should remember that you're there as a government to provide service to the people of Ontario, to make sure that in the end the services they need are in place. But what really makes me upset is that you said:

"We are ready to listen, to learn and to work with anybody who wants to join in and who can show us more creative, more effective ways to end the waste and duplication.

"Our commitment is carved in stone -- a 20% cut in non-priority spending in three years."

There are people out there who want to work with the government. There are people in the health care sector at the Timmins and District Hospital in the city of Timmins who have been trying to plead with this government to make it recognize that the hospital is being cut by $1.4 million this year. Yes, it is different from other hospitals across the province of Ontario, because it has already done --

The Deputy Speaker: Take your seat. I'm asking the member for Hamilton East to remove the sign.

Mr Agostino: This one here that says, "Not one cent"? Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Mr Bisson: This government is trying to make people in the city of Timmins and across the rest of northeastern Ontario believe that we can go in and we can cut $1.4 million in the budget of the Timmins and District Hospital and no services will be affected.

To you, the government, I say, you are wrong. I am not only saying that, but the people of the district health council and the people who run our hospital say you're wrong, because the Timmins and District Hospital has worked for the past six to eight years to put in place an entire restructuring of our hospital services in the community of Timmins, not only to serve Timmins but to serve the region of northeastern Ontario in a regional hospital setting. We have operated that hospital at the same budget that was in place five years ago. We have effectively restructured the entire hospital. We have done the changes that need to be done to make that hospital as efficient as humanly possible.

The Minister of Health stands in this House, along with the Premier, and says cutting the budget next year by $1.4 million at the Timmins and District Hospital is not contravening the promise made in the Common Sense Revolution. I say to you it is, because what it means to say and what people in my community who are more learned on this issue, who work directly at the hospitals, and those responsible for running it, are saying is, yes, it will affect the services because what it will mean is that the hospital in the city of Timmins will have to shut services down in order to deal with the $1.4 million.

If that is not a broken promise, I don't know what is. I call on this government to come to its senses and to apply a little bit of common sense, as they said they would in the election of 1995. Work with the city of Timmins, work with the people of the Timmins and District Hospital, the people on the district health council and the people across northeastern Ontario to do what we want to do, which is to move on to the next step, the restructuring of our hospital system in northeastern Ontario so that we can perform the regional care within the envelope of money we presently have. For you to do what you're doing now is a complete sham and it is against everything that you stood for in the election. I will fight you on it, because you are wrong.

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I am pleased to participate in today's non-confidence motion from the official opposition. I believe when my comments are concluded, my position on the motion will be abundantly clear.

Last week I had an opportunity to make a statement in the House and I had a couple of choices. I made a statement about health care restructuring among our hospitals in Chatham. The other choice I had was to compliment one Shae-Lynn Bourne, who won the silver medal or the bronze medal at the world figure skating championships in Edmonton. I met with Shae-Lynn this weekend and I apologized to her for not mentioning her wonderful accomplishment, along with her partner, Victor Kraatz, in the Legislature last week, and explained to her that in fact the health care restructuring was much more significant for the long-term benefit of all the young people in our province.

I have to make some comments about a piece of literature that I received recently. The mail moves a little slower down in southwestern Ontario than it does around here. I just received this yesterday and it's from the member for Nickel Belt. As I watched him perform in the 35th Parliament, I was very much impressed with his integrity and his honesty and his caring attitude, and I was quite surprised when I saw this. I received this yesterday, which of course you all know was April Fool's Day, and I thought to myself, obviously somebody has played a terrible April Fool's joke on the member for Nickel Belt; they have written this and they have signed his name to it and he didn't know that, because he would not write this. But whoever did write it said a couple of interesting things. They say, "Seniors will pay a fee for all their prescription drugs." That means many seniors, our parents and grandparents, will have to choose between buying food or buying drugs they need.

I would like to quote from a comment made by the then Premier, Bob Rae, in 1993 -- and Mr Laughren of course was in attendance -- when he said, "We're saying if we're going to reform the drug plan it is not unreasonable to say that those who can make a contribution should." That was then, this is now. Interesting.

They also say in this particular piece of literature here -- they ask the question, "Would you prefer to say no to tax breaks and protect your health care?" I'm saying to the people of the province of Ontario, "You don't need to make that choice." This government is committed to tax breaks and is committed to protecting health care. People don't need to make a choice.

In the last little while I've met some interesting people in the province of Ontario. While I was touring on Bill 26 and I was up in the wonderful northern part of our province I met a doctor who happened to be on the executive of the OMA. That doctor said to me:

"As you are going about what you're doing in your government, I want you to remember something. I have a patient who drives four hours on Monday morning; he takes a bus three hours to work in the mine while his wife stays home and takes care of the three children. I want you to remember that it is him you're fighting for. We doctors are going to be fine. We'll get by just fine, thank you. Take care of that person who is working hard to try to make a living in this province. Give him his tax cut."

I also met a surgeon. He has practised in other constituencies, practised in other provinces and in other countries, and he said to me: "Despite all the things that are going on and despite Bill 26, the patients and the doctors in the province of Ontario have really been spoiled. This is the finest place to practise and receive health care."

I also talked to a doctor in an emergency department who spoke to me about a patient who went to the emergency department at one hospital and complained about a terrible pain in his jaw, and they tested him and they said, "You have an abscessed tooth, sir," and they gave him a prescription for aspirin. He did not like that answer he got so he went to the next hospital and asked them if they would diagnose his problem and they said, "You have an abscess, sir, and you need a prescription for aspirin." He said: "No, no, I don't. I already had one of those." "Well, why did you come over here?" "Well, I didn't like what they told me at that hospital."

I also spoke to an OPSEU employee who was a part-time nurse and a part-time ambulance driver. He said to me in the middle of the strike, "I hope you guys don't back down because the waste in the health care system has to be discovered."

All those four people who talked to me during the process said the same thing: There is waste in the system; we do need to find it to make the system sustainable in the future.


The Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Carroll: In my area we have benefited from many of the reforms in the system. We've got a new dialysis program. We just announced $2.1 million redirected into long-term-care facilities. We just announced $425,000 for community-based long-term care. This new investment had to come from someplace. The taxpayers are broke. They don't have any more. It had to come from someplace. It had to come from reconfiguration, and we're fortunate in my area.

During the hearings on Bill 26, I had the privilege of spending a considerable amount of time with three fine ladies -- the leader of the official opposition, the member for Oriole and the member for Beaches-Woodbine -- in addition to three members of this caucus. I was very much impressed with their sincerity as we listened on Bill 26. I was also very much impressed with their wealth of knowledge and their experience. The one thing I sensed from them was that they were interested in getting it done right, that quality, sustainable health care should transcend petty party politics. If I'm right in that perception, that that's what they really believe in --

Mr Agostino: Is that why you didn't accept any amendments from the opposition?

The Deputy Speaker: I am naming the member for Hamilton East.


Mr Agostino: Is that on the record? Is it recorded in Hansard that I received a warning? Are you willing to state, Mr Speaker, that I received a warning from you earlier? Mr Speaker, a group of people is standing around the table speaking, and you totally ignored that.

The Deputy Speaker: When I'm standing, you sit.

Mr Agostino: Yes, sir.

The Deputy Speaker: There's a lot of interjection in the House this afternoon. I warned the member first without naming his riding. I warned him again when I mentioned his riding. If you think you can carry on in a parliamentary way, we will continue. Is that your wish?

Mr Agostino: Yes, Mr Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: Okay. Would the member for Chatham-Kent continue.

Mr Carroll: If I'm right in my perception of these fine people who served on Bill 26 with me --

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: When this all started, there were 12 minutes on the clock, and now there are less than eight. Could you put the time back on, please?

The Deputy Speaker: Sorry, I can't put time on the clock. We'll continue.

Mr Carroll: If I'm right in my perception, I say to those folks with all due respect, and I'm sorry they're not here, your way didn't work. After 10 years of tax and spend and spend and tax, we're broke. The future of health care and all the programs in our province is in jeopardy. It's time to try a new approach. We are committed to preserving, indeed improving, health care. We said it during the campaign, we say it repeatedly in the House and we've demonstrated it with our commitment to reinvestment. We are a government that delivers on its promises. We are a government that promised to protect the health care funding envelope at $17.4 billion. We will deliver on that promise.

I ask the members opposite, other than losing the last election, what's your problem?

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Etobicoke West.


Mr Stockwell: Thank you, colleagues. I don't have much time; I've got six minutes.

I was quite interested in hearing this debate take place. I was very curious at the response that the Liberal Party members outlined with respect to the commitments and promises that this government made during the last campaign through the election process and how we've in fact delivered on those promises or, in their opinion, how we did not deliver on them.

There must be some history to this debate that needs to be put into perspective. The Liberal Party in government had a very interesting time, a five-year period when it managed the economy of this province. The member for Oriole, just entering, was for a substantial period of that time, if not all of it -- I'm not sure -- the Minister of Health.

The Conservative Party left power in 1985. In 1985 the annual budget for this province was $26 billion. In those days $26 billion seemed like a lot of money, but after 43 years of Conservative rule there was a decent budget that was set in place, the financing was reasonable and there was an AAA credit rating. Everything seemed to be going well. The people of this province decided they wanted a change in government and they elected the Liberal Party of Ontario headed by Mr Peterson.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): No, they didn't.

Mr Stockwell: Well, they didn't actually.

Interjection: It was by default.

Mr Stockwell: That's true. Mr Rae and Mr Peterson entered the bedwetters' accord that put Mr Peterson into power.

A curious thing happened in those five years. During those five years the budget increased from $26 billion to $50 billion. They increased taxes by 33 times. Just a few of them: They increased the provincial sales tax. Then, cynical lot that they were, during the 1990 débâcle they offered to rescind that 1% increase in the middle of a campaign; they saw power slipping through their fingers. They introduced the commercial concentration tax, a tax levied against Metropolitan Toronto and the GTA to generate revenue to take from Metropolitan Toronto. Health care spending was out of control, over 10% per year for the five years the Liberals held office -- a 10% per year increase in health care spending.

Then -- the gall of this party, the party of mandatory opportunity, the party of balanced budgets and tax cuts in 1995, balanced budgets and tax cuts and mandatory opportunity and yell at your spouse and lose your house -- this Liberal Party of Ontario has the nerve to present a resolution to this Legislature suggesting the Conservative government is not living up to its commitments in health care.

In health care it's come down to a simple, significant fact, along with a bunch of other problems that we are facing. Thanks to the last 10 years and two tax-and-spend administrations, we have become uncompetitive, our taxes are too high and as a jurisdiction we're overregulated and profoundly and seriously caught up in government's spiralling debt.

The simple solution to all these problems is: "Don't cut anything. Don't reduce any government services. Don't reduce spending. This will solve itself." Well, it doesn't, and people aren't prepared any more to accept tax hikes 33 times in five years of government.

We moved on to the socialist regime under Mr Bob Rae. Rather than taxing the people, he just borrowed the money. Health care continued to spiral out of control, health care continued to grow and spending was not sustainable.


Ms McLeod, who comes into this Legislature today and writes this motion about the fact that we're not managing the health care system properly when her government increased spending by 50% in five years in power, I think has a lot of nerve to criticize a government that's living by its commitments during a five-week campaign.

Further, this is the same party that sat in opposition to the NDP for five years and whose political principles and values have no relationship to what it speaks of today. These Liberals who sit before us -- let me say that the best debates Liberals have are when they're alone; they can argue both sides of every issue.

We stand here today and we hear them suggesting to us that our cuts to health care are not acceptable, and not more than 12 months ago they were complaining to the NDP government that it was spending too much money. The same party said that the labour legislation the NDP introduced was no good. We withdraw the labour legislation and they say that's no good. The same party talked about employment equity being counterproductive. We withdraw employment equity and they say that's counterproductive.

When it comes right down to it, I think in the election itself it was clear. It's like their position on welfare: They're not in favour of workfare; they're in favour of mandatory opportunity. I believe this resolution should be filed in the same cabinet as mandatory opportunity.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I rise to participate in this debate as the Liberal caucus health critic and as a former Minister of Health. I would say to the members opposite that the protection of medicare and keeping your promise on health care is something that the people of Ontario are going to hold you accountable for, because as this vote of non-confidence says, you have clearly broken every single promise that you have made with respect to protecting health care.

You said "Not one penny," and we have seen $1.3 billion cut from the hospitals of this province. Every community of this province is seeing service cuts. Services are being cut and people are now very concerned that they will not be able to get the care they need when they need it. That fear is threatening health services and that fear is threatening medicare. When I hear the member for Brampton South, Mr Clement, speak about how wonderful it is in the Carolinas, south of the border, Americanization of health care as the Harris government's true agenda strikes fear in me and it strikes fear in every member of this Parliament who believes in medicare and believes that it should be protected as a fundamental value of our country and as a fundamental value of the citizens of this province who believe medicare has served them well. The last thing they want, the very last thing they want is to move down the path of American-style health care.

Americans will tell you, when you visit the United States, how they envy us. They envy us because here you do not need a wallet biopsy, here you do not have to give your credit card before you enter a hospital and here, until very recently, people who worked in health care were proud.

But let me tell you what I am hearing from people on the front lines of health care. What they are saying is that the pink slips, the layoffs, the jobs that are being lost represent services in every community. Anyone who believes the claptrap that is coming from the Conservatives opposite who say, "We are not cutting health care," is simply not hearing the truth.

Go and talk to the people in your hospitals. Go and talk to the people in your communities. The people who deliver front-line services are being laid off. You heard my leader give you the numbers earlier today. Those layoffs mean service cuts.

Let me tell you what a hospital administrator told me. He said that not only are services being cut, but hospitals are getting dirty. Infection control could well be a problem simply because the directive from this government to eliminate administration and eliminate first those things not directly at the bedside means people are laid off who keep our hospitals clean, safe and antiseptic. If you don't believe me, talk to your hospital administrators, talk to the nurses on the front line, talk to the people who care for people who need care. They will tell you the true state of the hospitals in your communities. They will tell you that they do not want an unaccountable, unelected individual coming into their community and telling them what they're going to have to do.

Everyone who appeared before the committee on Bill 26 said, "If you're going to have a restructuring commission, make sure the minister is the one who makes those decisions." Every community in this province is going to demand that the minister and each and every one of you stands accountable for the decisions that are made.

The Common Sense Revolution said: "We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important." The people of this province believed that meant you were going to protect the services that are so important to them. The people of this province thought that meant you were going to protect health care. Clearly, you have not done that. We have seen a hoax perpetrated on the people of this province, and they know what we all know: that Mike Harris, the Conservative caucus and the Common Sense Revolution never meant it when they told them they would protect health care. They know that the hospitals in their communities are downsizing and that services are being lost.

What the people of this province want to know from their government, and as a former minister I say this to you, what people want to know is, "Am I going to get the care I need when I need it?" The hospitals today and the doctors and the nurses in their communities are saying to them, "You may not be able to get that care." We are hearing that there are communities where paediatric services are being slashed to the bone. We hear of communities where women are going to have difficulty finding obstetrical services to deliver their babies. We know there are communities in a panic and in a crisis because of the cuts imposed by this government. Why have they imposed these cuts? To pay for a $5-billion tax cut, a 30% cut to the income tax rate.

Over the next few years, the people of this province are going to deliver the message very clearly to this government that they would rather have the care they need when they need it in their community than a tax cut. They do not want to have to pay user fees. They do not want to have to give their credit card when they enter the hospital. They do not want American-style, two-tier medicine. They do not want Mike Harris's prescription.

We heard this government say, "No new user fees." The senior citizens and disabled persons, the people on welfare, when they heard that, they expected they would never see copayments and deductibles from a Harris government. They believed you when you said, "No new user fees."

You hear from the Canadian Mental Health Association how mental health patients are going to be disadvantaged by the copayment, the user fee you are imposing on them. Your parliamentary assistant in committee said, "We're working on that; we'll have a plan," yet at estimates your minister admitted they will have to beg their pharmacists and tell them they can't afford the user fee and maybe the pharmacist won't collect it. "Beg your pharmacist" is the policy of Jim Wilson and Mike Harris and Ernie Eves for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society. "Barter for your drugs," they say to the sick mother and the sick children of this province who are on welfare and who will have to pay user fees and copayments.

Think about what you are doing, because as you threaten health services in this province you threaten the very fabric of our society. The people who elected you believed that you would protect those health services. The people who elected you believed that you would not bring in user fees. The people who elected you did not think you were going to lay off their nurses and their health care workers. The people who elected you did not think you were going to close their hospitals because Mike Harris stood there and said, "I have no plan to close hospitals."

The people of this province are feeling deceived and betrayed and they have no confidence that this government is actually going to do what they said they would do and protect health care and not cut one penny from health care and not bring in user fees, because they know that Bill 26, combined with the transfer payment announcement of $1.3 billion in cuts over the next three years, is going to do exactly what you said you would not do.

I would say to this government that the last printing of your Common Sense Revolution was printed post the Martin budget, and you were very proud of the fact that you had taken into consideration all of the transfer changes that were coming from the federal government. And when I hear your Minister of Health stand in his place and blame everybody in the world for his problems, I would say to him that the last thing that the people of this province want or need is someone who, instead of showing leadership, whines and blames everybody else in sight. Let me say --


Mrs Caplan: -- you can shout and you can yell and you can scream, but the people of this province are not going to allow you to get away with this cut to medicare; they are not going to let you get away with Americanizing medicare; they are not going to let you get away with closing their hospitals; they are not going to let you get away with cutting their services. They don't trust you. They believe that you are not to be trusted when it comes to health care. You have lost their confidence and this motion deserves to pass.

I'm proud of the statements that the leader of the official opposition made in her opening remarks. They are all true. I would appeal to the members of this House, to the members opposite in the Conservative benches, before it is too late, support this amendment, support this motion, and pass this non-confidence motion and let's have an election.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Mrs McLeod has moved want of confidence motion number 1. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1753 to 1758.

The Speaker: All those in favour of Mrs McLeod's motion will please rise one at a time.


Agostino, Dominic

Cordiano, Joseph

McLeod, Lyn

Bartolucci, Rick

Crozier, Bruce

Miclash, Frank

Bisson, Gilles

Duncan, Dwight

Morin, Gilles E.

Boyd, Marion

Gerretsen, John

Patten, Richard

Bradley, James J.

Grandmaître, Bernard

Phillips, Gerry

Caplan, Elinor

Gravelle, Michael

Pupatello, Sandra

Churley, Marilyn

Hoy, Pat

Ramsay, David

Cleary, John C.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Sergio, Mario

Conway, Sean G.

Laughren, Floyd

Wildman, Bud

Cooke, David S.

McGuinty, Dalton


The Speaker: All those opposed to Mrs McLeod's motion will please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Hardeman, Ernie

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Baird, John R.

Harnick, Charles

Ross, Lillian

Barrett, Toby

Hastings, John

Runciman, Bob

Bassett, Isabel

Hodgson, Chris

Saunderson, William

Beaubien, Marcel

Hudak, Tim

Shea, Derwyn

Boushy, Dave

Johns, Helen

Sheehan, Frank

Brown, Jim

Johnson, Bert

Smith, Bruce

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, David

Spina, Joseph

Clement, Tony

Kells, Morley

Sterling, Norman W.

Cunningham, Dianne

Klees, Frank

Stewart, R. Gary

Danford, Harry

Leadston, Gary L.

Stockwell, Chris

Doyle, Ed

Marland, Margaret

Tascona, Joseph N.

Elliott, Brenda

Martiniuk, Gerry

Tilson, David

Fisher, Barbara

Maves, Bart

Tsubouchi, David H.

Flaherty, Jim

Munro, Julia

Turnbull, David

Ford, Douglas B.

Murdoch, Bill

Vankoughnet, Bill

Fox, Gary

Newman, Dan

Villeneuve, Noble

Froese, Tom

O'Toole, John

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Galt, Doug

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wilson, Jim

Gilchrist, Steve

Palladini, Al

Wood, Bob

Grimmett, Bill

Parker, John L.

Young, Terence H.

Guzzo, Garry J.

Preston, Peter


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 29, the nays 65.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Windsor-Sandwich has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism concerning youth employment. The member has up to five minutes for her statement and the minister or his parliamentary assistant will have up to five minutes to reply.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I'm pleased to have a few more moments so that I can address to the minister and allow him an opportunity to better answer a question that is facing so many youth across Ontario.

When we asked the minister in the House today what he is prepared to do to address the issue of a significant level of youth unemployment, the minister refused to answer the question. He did this again last week when we broached the issue, and for the last several months that we've been pushing the issue of youth employment that needs to be addressed by government. We are looking for answers and we are looking for direction and leadership to be shown by government for the youth of Ontario.

I have to say that it's significant that so many students from across the province wrote to me so immediately because they recognize the significance of the issue. They're concerned. They've heard the minister's comments in the House and feel, as one put it, "Please have him answer the question." So it's significant that they've answered so quickly to say: "What is the minister saying? Are we really not a priority for this government?" I hate to say that the answer the minister gave in the House today was just further evidence of that, that in fact the minister has no intention of telling us what his plans are, that there are rumours abounding that they are cutting the youth employment programs, that they're cutting the youth entrepreneur programs.

He refuses to even address that the level of unemployment is as high as it is. When we quoted yesterday that it's somewhere near 30%, the minister came back with a figure of some 16%. The minister refuses to acknowledge that 150,000 youth have dropped from that participation rate. When you include those 150,000 who have in despair simply stopped looking for work -- they too are unemployed -- when you factor those numbers in, our rate is now over 25%, and it's growing. In all of the pre-budget consultation that went on, committees came and said, "There is nothing we can see that is going to indicate an increase in jobs." In fact, by the Ministry of Finance's own records, unemployment overall will increase during this term.

What does that speak to in terms of youth? How are they going to be found in all of this? Given the severity of the issue, it's even worse, I suppose, to have to stand and listen to the kind of answer that we got in the House today. It's a significant issue and it's a serious one. I don't think we can be passed off with glib statements about "my announcement to freeze minimum wage." Freezing minimum wage may, if anything, leave the number of jobs similar to what they were last year. What will that have to do with increasing the number of youth who may be hired, if anything?

He quoted the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association. We spoke with them as well. They really didn't have any comment on how that was going to increase the number of youth who may be hired.

We talked to the Ontario Restaurant Association. Of course, most people in business would like to see a freeze in minimum wage, but that has nothing to do with an increasing level of hiring youth.

The minister's answers so far are simply not adequate, certainly not acceptable, and the youth are significantly worried, given the responses we've had in my office. As one student from Waterloo said, "This is a slap in the face." I've got to agree, because to stand on rhetoric and say the tax cut will be the answer for the youth of Ontario -- I believe the youth need to be employed in order to benefit from the tax cut. Anything long-term they may be planning, having put all of their eggs in one basket, I certainly hope works, but we're talking about students today like the student who wrote me from Wilfrid Laurier University and said, "My cost is $10,000 a year and I only have four months to make up that kind of income so that I can afford my next year's tuition." What will that student be facing in the face of threats to cut entire programs?

Today the minister indicated, "Sit down and watch what we're going to do." We want to know that this government has a plan. We want to know that the government is prepared to address it as an issue and set government policy accordingly, to give it the kind of status it deserves. The youth of Ontario are waiting for that. I expect a responsible answer from the minister.

The Speaker: The Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism has up to five minutes.

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): We gave you a very proper hearing, and I expect a proper hearing and no interruptions, because I would like to outline a response to you about your question. It's the third discussion you and I have had about youth employment. I can understand your concern and I want you to know that our government is very concerned about youth employment, as you are.

First of all, I want to clear up something on the record just for you. We use a figure of 16.3% for unemployment. That is the figure I got from our Ministry of Finance, the government, for the month of February.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): Are you happy about that?

Hon Mr Saunderson: Yes, I am, because I think it's right.

Regardless of whether it's 16% or 30%, it's still too high and we're not happy with that. I just want you to know that in the near future we will have an announcement which I think you'll be satisfied with about youth employment programs.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Why don't you do it now?

Hon Mr Saunderson: It's part of our policy, which will be announced very shortly. I want the rest of this House to know what we're doing about trying to create jobs and having the right climate to create jobs. If you think I am repeating myself, that's your problem, but I have to tell you that what young people want more than anything else is not a short-term fix but a long-term job in a very stable economic climate.

I want to tell you about a couple of trips I have made into the United States and to Europe. I have spoken to a number of companies and organizations in those regions. I told them what we were doing in Ontario and I'm going to tell it to you again, because that's what impresses them to start the new companies or new operations which are starting to happen in this province. I alluded to one this afternoon and there are many more examples of that.

I said to them we are spreading the word that Ontario is a very positive place in which to do business and create jobs. We're keeping our election promises, and you know what those promises are. Those promises are to create jobs and attract investment to Ontario. Some of these things we are doing, I tell these organizations and companies and people, are putting our fiscal house in order.

We've frozen Hydro rates for the next five years. We've removed the employer health tax on the first $400,000 of payroll. We have repealed labour Bills 40 and 91, and you know what those did to this province. That is the most single job-destroying pieces of legislation that we've seen here in a long time.

We have introduced and passed Bill 7. That goes a long way to creating jobs and sending people here. We have, as I said before, frozen the minimum wage. We have repealed the quota-based employment law, another way to discourage job creation.

We are going to reduce the personal tax rate by 30%, and you know that. That's a very important thing. There's a recent economic study that says tax cuts create jobs and actually create growth.

Mrs Pupatello: Your own studies show you will have greater unemployment next year. Your own figures show you will have higher unemployment.

The Speaker: If the member for Windsor-Sandwich would come to order.

Hon Mr Saunderson: I ask you to hear me out as I heard you. I think that's only good manners, and they should be practised.

We have eliminated the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, which was a very onerous thing to creating jobs. We're creating a stable, predictable environment for companies to come and do business in this province.

Smile as you may, but it's going to create the jobs that you're talking about. We want long-term jobs. We want an environment that's predictable. Companies do not want to come here and have unpleasant surprises and bumps.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): You are announcing long-term jobs tomorrow?

Hon Mr Saunderson: We will be promising long-term jobs. We've promised them already, 725,000 of them. I've quoted you the figure for February, the 76,000 new jobs for the last six months ending February. Those are good statistics. We are going to build on them.

I appreciate your paying such good attention to what I've had to say, because I really believe that this is the kind of environment that will create the jobs for our young people.

The Speaker: There being no further matter to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn the House to be carried. This House stands adjourned till 1:30 of the clock tomorrow afternoon.

The House adjourned at 1812.