36th Parliament, 1st Session

L053 - Thu 4 Apr 1996 / Jeu 4 Avr 1996































































The House met at 1001.




Mr Michael Brown moved private member's notice of motion number 10:

That in the opinion of this House, since the northern Ontario heritage fund belongs to northern Ontario, and represents a small share of the resource revenues to the province from the resource sector, and is an important tool for improving economic, social, and health conditions in the north, and since the former New Democratic Party government transferred the legacy of northerners to the consolidated revenue fund of the province of Ontario, and that Premier Harris has expressed his deep concern about the disappearance of the funds from the trust account; therefore, the government of Ontario should return the funds with interest to the trust; update the mandate; and put the funds to valuable use for the people of northern Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): You have up to 10 minutes, each of the other parties will have 15 minutes, and you'll have two minutes to wrap up.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I think the resolution pretty much speaks for itself. For members to understand this, I think we need to know a little of the history of the northern Ontario heritage fund. It was established in 1988. It was established by this House with a very broad mandate. If you read the act, you will find that many things can be done. As a matter of fact, virtually anything that northerners would feel important can be done, given the mandate of this act.

It was felt at the time by the government of that day that it was important for northerners to further refine the mandate. It was said so repeatedly in the House, and that in fact is what happened, that the board of the northern Ontario heritage fund, a group of northerners, decided what the objectives of this fund would be within the broad mandate. That was very important and was a key component of the way this fund was to work. The second part of the fund was a commitment for $360 million over 12 years that would be put into the heritage fund, $30 million each year, every year, for 12 years. That was important.

At the time we had a rather interesting debate. The opposition, at that time New Democrats and Conservatives, were terribly concerned that the $30 million would not be put in every year, and as members know, that concern has proved not to be a problem. Every year the government of Ontario has put $30 million into a trust account, and that's equally important to understand, that that $30 million went into a trust account so that if it wasn't spent in any given year, it could accumulate and so would the interest on it. That is another very important element to know.

So what we had was a fund administered by northerners, did not require them to spend all the money in that given year, and it accumulated. Governments put in the money. And lo and behold, a month before the last general election in this province, the government of Ontario took a sizeable chunk of that money and took it out of the trust fund and put it into consolidated revenue, never, as we know around this place, to be seen again. That surprised me. It surprised me that there was no press announcement. No one in this province knew that it had happened. It was done, so to speak, under the cover of darkness. The New Democrats did not go out in the last election campaign and wander through northern Ontario saying, "We took $60 million of your money and sent it down to the consolidated revenue fund" -- not a word. They were not very proud of what had happened, but they figured it was under cover of darkness.

So my resolution today is ultimately reasonable. I believe that the New Democratic Party government stole the legacy of northerners, of the people of the north. It was their money. They stole it. They took it from us and they put it into the consolidated revenue fund.

So logically you could say, "Gee, that's too bad," and that's what Mr Harris is saying, "It disappeared," but from where I come from, if you are in possession of stolen funds you're as guilty as the one who stole it. So what we're saying is that Mr Harris obviously understands that the money was taken out of the trust fund, is no longer in the trust fund, that accrued interest could be spent by northerners for northern concerns and was transferred to the consolidated revenue fund. He was quite upset. He's quite upset about that. It disappeared. We saw wonderful press releases all across the province. He was outraged, but he's got the money.

So there's a solution, and the solution is rather simple. If you are in possession of what he believed -- and he said "robbed." If it was robbed from the people, then you can put it back. I think that makes eminent sense, because a basic concern to me is we're losing the interest on that money. It's not being accrued to the fund. If you think of the interest on, say, $60 million, if that's the correct figure, although I've heard a number of figures, that's almost enough to fund, over the next five years, a full additional year of heritage fund operations. And why do we need it? We need it so we can improve our health care, so we can diversity our economy, so that we can do something about the appalling conditions of northern roads that have been neglected terribly in the last five years. So that's why we need it.

I would suggest to the House that it's just perfectly reasonable. Update the mandate. We agree it should be updated. Say to northerners: "Look, the mandate needs to be massaged a little bit, it needs to be broadened. There are some things that work, there are some things that didn't. Let's change it." It's eight years since the fund was started. It makes sense. Update the mandate and let's start getting that money out into the northern economy, out to northern people, out to fix northern roads, out to ensure that there are physicians. Whatever that board of northerners decides, let's make sure they can do it and let's make sure that money is there.

Mr Speaker, I'm going to reserve the rest of my time for my windup, if that's possible, and cede my place to other members.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I rise to take part in this debate, which is on an issue that is probably the most dishonest and silly that I've encountered in all my years in the Legislature. The member for Algoma-Manitoulin is compounding the silliness and the dishonesty of this issue. I can tell you that right now.

When I read in the paper under the byline of Jeff Harder, Queen's Park bureau, Davos, Switzerland, where he was travelling with the Premier -- the headline is, "Ontario Coffers Missing $100 Million" -- an outright lie. If Jeff Harder was a reporter of any substance or significance, he should be reported to the Ontario Press Council, but because he's not, I won't bother doing that.

I can tell you exactly what happened. A year ago, there was in the coffers of the northern Ontario heritage fund a lot of money. The heritage fund is allowed to spend $30 million a year on northern heritage fund projects -- $30 million a year.


Mr Laughren: I didn't interrupt the member for Algoma-Manitoulin.

There was in the fund over $100 million sitting there while we're out borrowing money on international markets at a greater rate than that money was receiving sitting there. So we said, what's the sense of having over $100 million sitting there in a pool, drawing less interest than we're paying on money that we were borrowing? How does that make any sense? You'd have to be some kind of idiot to have a fund sitting there and then go out and borrow money that's costing you more than you're getting.

All the heritage fund was allowed to spend was $30 million a year, so we said rather than leaving all of that pool just sitting there, we negotiated with the heritage fund and you know what? When the heritage fund annual report was brought down for the year 1994-95, guess who signed it off as being appropriate? Chris Hodgson, the honourable Minister of Natural Resources, responsible for the heritage fund. He signed it off. So either he didn't know what he was signing or he didn't understand it or he was part of the big lie from Davos, Switzerland, and the Toronto Sun. That's what it came down to.

I have never in my life seen anything so silly, because the money is there. Do you know how much money is in the heritage fund right now? It's probably even more than this: about $80 million, and on April 1 it was supposed to have transferred into it another $30 million. So there's still $110 million sitting in the fund. So where does the headline, "$100 Million Missing" come from? From Jeff Harder and Mike Harris, who were cuddling up together in Davos, Switzerland. That's exactly where it came from.

If the Tories want to spend more money in northern Ontario, they've got the money in the fund now. Do you know how much --


Mr Laughren: I'm not trying to tease the bears. Would you just calm down and let me finish this?

This is what's so laughable about it and so dishonest, what the Tories did. Here you've got this money there, about $100 million sitting there, and at the same time do you know how much money the Tories spent since they got elected? Do you know how much money?

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Who was the Treasurer who lost $60 million? Who was the Treasurer?

Mr Laughren: Oh, listen to the member who comes to northern Ontario and then crosses the border to eat his supper in the United States; won't even eat in Fort Frances. I don't need a lecture from you. I don't need any lecture from you on northern Ontario. The people in the north rejected you people for good reason.

Let me finish my story, Mr Speaker, and I trust you'll allow me the right to do that, because the yahoos over there don't want to hear the truth.

Since the Tories formed the government, despite the fact there's $30 million in the fund, guess what the Tories spent out of that fund? Zero, a big fat zero, no money at all. How's that for a commitment to northern Ontario? And then they come up with a big lie that says there's $100 million missing. There's not a penny missing, not a penny.

If you want to spend more money in northern Ontario, go ahead and spend it. You haven't spent it at all. Do you know how often the northern Ontario heritage fund board has met since you people formed the government? Zero, not one meeting. So tell me about a commitment to northern Ontario. What I want to hear is some Tory with some integrity stand up and admit that this was nothing but a big lie. Do you know why? You're trying to cover up your ineptitude in northern Ontario and the fact that you've abandoned the north.

This party, when we were in government, had no apologies to make. We did more for communities in northern Ontario than you ever did or ever will do. All you've done is cut norOntair service completely out -- norOntair, servicing small communities -- took it right away from people. You have reduced road maintenance budgets all across northern Ontario. You have done nothing. And you've turned the forests, instead of being owned by the people, over to the private sector. You are a laughingstock in northern Ontario, a complete laughingstock. Please don't give us any lectures about money in northern Ontario.

I chose my words very carefully when I talked about this being a big lie, because that's all it was. Between the Premier's office and the Toronto Sun, they thought they could bamboozle people in northern Ontario. They're not that stupid, and the evidence of that is that they rejected you in the last election.

Mr Murdoch: It certainly gives me pleasure to speak to this motion today, and to Mr Brown from Algoma-Manitoulin. Some of his resolution is good and some of it is not so good. I thought we should talk about it and go through it.

His resolution says, "That in the opinion of this House, since the northern Ontario heritage fund belongs to northern Ontario...." There's nothing wrong with that and I certainly agree with that. That's a good statement and I think we all can agree with that, that the fund does belong to northern Ontario and that's where it will stay. There's no problem with that statement in your resolution.

It says the fund "represents a small share of the resource revenues to the province from the resource sector." Right on. I can agree with you on that -- no problem with that. That is right on and there's no problem with that. The resources in the north should be shared by the north. For too long have the resources gone to southern Ontario and the north hasn't had its share. I will agree with you on that -- no problem there.

The fund "is an important tool for improving economic, social, and health conditions in the north." Right; that's what it was for. Unfortunately, sometimes with some of the previous governments it was given to different people who made unfair trading, unfair commerce, things like that. But you're right, that's what it was supposed to be used for, and we can agree with that, can agree with that all the way.

Now we get into some trouble. "[A]nd since the former New Democratic Party government transferred the legacy of northerners to the consolidated revenue fund of the province of Ontario...." That's a shameful thing. We just heard from one of the ministers of the previous government that had six or seven ministers from the north and did absolutely nothing for the north -- stole money from the north, stole the money and put it in the revenue fund so that when they had an election they wouldn't look as bad as they were. They left us with a $100-billion debt and they stole $60 million from the northern fund to try to cover it up. They stole it right out of the fund, put it into the revenue, thinking all the time -- and I don't know how they ever felt this -- that they would win the election and they'd be able to sneak it back in and nobody would know.


Then we have the former Treasurer stand up and say this is a lie. I'm disappointed that he would do that. I know he did a lot of things in the past five years: put us $50 billion more in debt, left us with a $100-billion debt, $10 billion a year in debt he put this province in, and then stole $60 million out of the north, which he represents, along with six or seven other ministers. They were in the north and did absolutely nothing for the north and then they can stand here today and talk about how they looked after the north?

This is utterly ridiculous, utterly ridiculous. Here's what they did: They took away the money from the north, from their own legacy, stole the money.

He goes on to say, "Premier Harris has expressed his deep concern about the disappearance of the funds from the trust account." This is true.


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

Mr Murdoch: Our Premier is from the north, along with the Treasurer. They are concerned about this. As you will know, Mr Speaker, we travelled the north and came out with a voice for the north, and in that voice for the north we committed to keeping this trust fund in the north -- not taking money from it to put into consolidated revenue, like the former government did. The former government took $60 million out of the fund, took it away from its northern friends, from the people of the north; took it out and didn't even bother to tell them about this. If you can believe this, they thought they would get re-elected. I don't know how they ever thought that. They thought they could take the money out, put it in the consolidated revenue and then put it back when they got elected. Unfortunately, they didn't get re-elected -- probably fortunately for the rest of us, for Ontario. It is really unfortunate that this would happen.

In this resolution, the member from Manitoba -- from Manitoulin --


Mr Murdoch: Maybe he should be from Manitoba. The member from Manitoulin, and I know that's where he lives, says, "the government of Ontario should return the funds with interest to the trust." I can understand why the member from the Liberal Party would want us to try to put this money in, and I'm sure that anyone thinking about it would want to do that too, but I challenge the member, you tell me where we can find this money, you tell me where the money is. We were left with a $100-billion deficit from 10 years of free spending by the Liberals and by the NDP, 10 years of free spending by these --


The Speaker: Order. The member for Mississauga South on a point of order.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Mr Speaker, it's been a few Thursdays since I've been attending private members' business, and this morning I'm here on behalf of another colleague. I ask you to call this House to order. Interjections, particularly from a member who's not even in his seat -- we now have young people in the gallery. I ask you to either eject the members or call them to order.


The Speaker: You're out of order.

Mr Murdoch: It's unfortunate that the members from the north don't want to listen to this. They have stolen money from the fund and now they are afraid to face the facts.

Back to the member who put the resolution forward. I challenge you, you find the money. After 10 years of free spending by your government and by that government there, you have left this province in debt to the tune of $100 billion. Now you come around and say, "Oh, put the money back in." That's what the Liberals would do, raise taxes to put it back in. Is that what you would do? You already did that 30-some times in your three years of government, and then you left it up to these guys over here. Of course they just went on a spending spree and left us with a $100-billion debt. Those members from the north over there can say we don't have a clue. Well, the ratepayers of this country, the people in this country voted and told you that you didn't have a clue over there. What they didn't realize is that you'd stolen $60 million from the north, from your own people. This is terrible. Now the member wants the heritage fund updated.


The Speaker: Order. The member for Cochrane South will not be warned again.

Mr Murdoch: On this resolution, while I say it has its good points and its bad points, I can support it. The fact is that our member over here is going to find the $60 million for us. He probably wants to raise taxes, but that's nothing unusual for a Liberal government. Updating the plan is what we're doing right now. Our deputy minister is working hard on doing that right now. It needs redirection, no doubt about it; after being in the hands of the Liberal government and the NDP government, there's no doubt that it does need redirection, and that's what is happening.

I can promise you that the funds will be used in the north. The $30 million that goes into that fund annually will be put into that fund, and that fund will be used on projects that the municipalities want in their municipalities. We will be listening to the people in the north, not taking the money from them and dumping it into the consolidated fund, like our friends from the NDP, who had seven members in the north who were ministers who allowed this to happen. You can't believe how upset the northern people are about this. Unfortunately, they don't go back home any more to listen to them, and this is the problem. Then they got away with doing this, thinking they were going to get elected.

As I've said, this resolution has its good points and its bad points, but I think overall we can support it to see that the things will go on, that the funds will be updated and that the $30 million that goes in every year will be put back. I challenge the member over there on his resolution to help us find the $60 million. We cannot raise taxes.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): It seems to me that the member for Nickel Belt doth protest too much, or the member for Grey-Owen Sound would like to support the resolution.

I'm very pleased to join this debate today, and I want to thank my colleague the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for providing us with something this government has yet to do, which is an opportunity for open, honest and forthright dialogue on the matter of economic development in northern Ontario.

I think it's important for us to discuss the heritage fund today and to do a bit more of a history lesson because, almost to the day, we are at the eighth anniversary of the introduction of the heritage fund in this House by René Fontaine, our Liberal Minister of Northern Development, a man who truly understood the needs of the north.

I think it's interesting to look back at some honourable members in terms of what they said at the time of discussion back in those days. For example, I was shocked to look back upon the indignant comments of the then Nipissing MPP, Michael Harris, on the subject of the heritage fund back in 1988, because when it comes to political history on the economic needs of northern Ontario, this Tory government is clearly operating under one shameful philosophy, "That was then, this is now." Back then, Mr Harris was known to spew such memorable one-liners as, "This government is paying lip-service to the north." On the matter of the heritage fund, he was very concerned about the delay in getting the proceeds going. If this bill had been brought in and introduced before March 31, then the moneys could have been put to work for the north. Indeed, that was then, Mike Harris, this is now.

For 10 months, we've been waiting for news on the heritage fund. Since June of last year, we've been urging this government to move on introducing its version, any version, so we could debate it, of a newly outfitted heritage fund to benefit the people of our part of the province. "Let's get busy," we said. "Work to benefit the north." The word we got back, in August, September, November and January, was: "It's under review. We'll get back to you soon. It's under review. We can't make our minds up yet. It's under review."

Well, 10 months is simply 10 months too long for the people of northern Ontario, 10 months too long to wait for programs that we need to attain our economic goals and our community objectives. Eight years ago, Mike Harris said that an eight-month wait was too long for something this important, and despite this government's obvious penchant for moving quickly on other fronts -- slash and burn, slash and burn -- we've heard nothing on the fund; that is, until February of this year when suddenly $60 million was missing from the northern Ontario heritage fund -- $60 million gone, vanished into thin air. Then it was revealed that the former government had siphoned off the $60 million from the accrued worth of this fund and plunked it into the general revenue coffers.

The reaction of this government to that news was bizarre and phoney. Suddenly we had a perplexed Premier, an outraged finance minister, an evasive Minister of Northern Development, all of them tripping over themselves in shock when the truth about the funds was no further than page 9 of the 1994-95 annual report of the heritage fund. The minister had meekly accepted the $60 million less and signed off on it.


The resolution at hand is simply this: Return the $60 million that is owed to northerners back to the heritage fund; renew the mandate so that it can be put to work for the north. But also the minister must consult with northerners. During the campaign, this government proudly spoke of the need for a greater voice for northern concerns, of an increased empowerment to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, making it a true lead ministry. Well, as this ministry threatens to slip into irrelevancy, this Minister of Northern Development and Mines has emerged as more leaden than leading.

As far as the heritage fund is concerned, I have reason to believe that this government has undertaken very little, if any, consultation. I've talked to many people in the north -- municipal leaders, economic development boards, all kinds of volunteers. I've asked: "Have you heard from the minister? Have you been included in any formal consultation to review and renew the heritage fund?" They've all said no.

We in the north have been patient, waiting for a clear signal from this government that it is truly committed to hearing what we have to say and to addressing our economic needs. Support of this resolution today by everybody might give us that first sign. Better late than never.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I am very pleased to participate in the debate this morning because it gives me the opportunity to expose the very empty rhetoric of both the Liberals and the Tories when it comes to concrete support of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp and concrete support of northern Ontario. The fact of the matter is that the Conservatives couldn't care less about job creation in northern Ontario, because this fund, the one single fund that, under legislation, has been specifically targeted for business development in northern Ontario, has been frozen since the Tories took government in June 1995. There has been not one single cent of money allocated to northern Ontario through this fund, and there has been no new job creation, no new job promotion in northern Ontario as a result. The minister should be here today to defend that, because he should be embarrassed about that situation.

Let me talk to you about the Liberal position now, because as it's put forward in this resolution, it clearly shows that the Liberals don't support business development and job creation in northern Ontario either. Instead of using this opportunity to slam the Tories for freezing the fund, as they have since June 1995, the Liberals come in here today and they support the contention that somehow the money is missing, because the resolution says that, and they also support the point that there should be a change in the mandate of the fund. I suspect, if they want to ally themselves with the Tories around the change of the fund, what you're going to see is a capital fund where line ministries offload all of their responsibilities on to NOHFC and we have no new money whatsoever to help business development. I say shame on the Liberals too for supporting that kind of position.

Let me start with the Liberals. The member for Algoma-Manitoulin conveniently neglected to mention that, as a consequence of the deal that was made, this fund was extended at least another three years in northern Ontario. If he doesn't support that, if he doesn't support the fact that the fund can be used for an additional three years beyond the mandate that his government set out, then he should get up and tell the people of norther Ontario just that. I say shame on you. That was a progressive, positive step by us to continue that funding. You should have been supporting that deal.

Secondly, to somehow defend the Harris contention that money disappeared from the fund is to defend the indefensible. How can you stand here, member for Algoma-Manitoulin, and defend the Premier's contention that the money was missing? All that shows is that neither the Premier, the minister nor you can read a financial statement. If you take a look at the financial statement, the annual report of the NOHFC, it clearly says on page 7 that there was a repayment to the province in the order of $60 million; "See accompanying notes to the financial statement." You go over to page 9 and you can tell that the deal is all listed there. That was signed by the minister, signed by the Provincial Auditor, signed by the general manager. You can't read a financial statement; that's your problem and his. The money is there. Nothing is missing, nothing is wrong, and as a consequence of the deal, we will have at least three extra years of funding for northern Ontario from this fund.

The resolution from the Liberals also indicates that they support an update in the mandate of NOHFC. As far as I'm concerned, that plays right into the hands of what the Tories want to do. We know from the press release that was issued by the Tories before the last election that they intend to significantly change the mandate of this fund. What they want to do is to create a capital fund for infrastructure. That is not the role of the NOHFC, that is not the role of the board of directors; that is the role of the direct line ministries that have a responsibility in northern Ontario, like the Ministry of Transportation, like the Ministry of Health, like the Ministry of Environment and Energy. Those responsibilities should not be offloaded on to NOHFC, and they are going to be. There's no doubt in my mind, when we see the new mandate, that that's exactly what the minister has in mind.

I think that's shameful, because now, more than ever before, northern business needs support, and it won't come from this government and it won't come from that kind of revised mandate. It's a real shame that that's the kind of thing the Liberals appear to have bought into.

I want to talk about the Tory position, because the minister should be here today. He should be here to explain to the people in northern Ontario why it is that as Minister of Northern Development, he has been in line with the Premier to freeze this funding since June 1995. We have had no new job creation in northern Ontario as a consequence. I want to compare that to what we did when we were in government and when I was minister.

During the time that I was Minister of Northern Development and chair of this board, we retained 7,000 jobs in northern Ontario and created 2,500 new ones during the course of our mandate. I am proud of that record, and I would compare that record against the record of this minister any day of the week. We assisted northern communities at a time when banks and other financial institutions didn't want to touch those companies because of the recession, and I am proud to say that in community after community we saved jobs and communities, because we used those funds to support northern business. That's the way it should be. That's the way it should continue to be.

This lack of support for NOHFC just reinforces where the Tories have been not only as the government but, frankly, as the opposition. I heard the parliamentary assistant try and say in here today that our government did nothing for the north. I want to remind him of what we did at Algoma Steel, what we did in Kapuskasing at Spruce Falls, what we did at Provincial Paper in Thunder Bay, what we did in Elliot Lake to diversify its economy. If we had left it to you, my friend, if you had been in government, those communities would have gone down the toilet, all of the jobs, all of those people. Those communities would have been shut down under your government, so don't come in here and say to me today we did nothing. The fact that you got no new seats in northern Ontario in the face of a Tory sweep tells me that people in the north recognize who helped them. It was us, and that's why you folks, except for the two seats you already had, were completely and utterly shut out of northern Ontario.

Let me just talk a little bit about the missing fund fiasco, because that's all it is, and frankly it just demonstrates the incompetence of the Minister of Northern Development that such a story even came to light in the first place, because all it showed was that he couldn't read a financial statement, one that he in fact, as minister, had signed before the report went to publication. It also showed that the Premier of this province, as well, doesn't understand how to read a financial statement. I also believe as strongly as I can that in the very first meeting that the manager of the heritage corporation would have had with the minister, he would have very clearly and carefully explained to him that transaction, because that's the kind of capable manager he is. So either the minister didn't understand anything that was told to him or he was just as interested as Jeff Harder in the Toronto Sun in putting out the big lie, because that's all it is. It was a big lie, there was no story here, and it was really sad that the Toronto Sun would have run it in the first place. It was even more sad that the Premier would have called for some kind of silly investigation for money that wasn't even missing. It's been a ridiculous situation from start to finish, and both the Premier and the minister and, frankly, the Toronto Sun should be embarrassed by the whole thing, because you folks were a laughingstock in northern Ontario on this issue.

Just to reinforce it, in an interview that the general manager did with CBC, even the general manager of the fund said Premier Harris has asked northern development minister Chris Hodgson to look into the matter, but Kochanowski says Hodgson approved the fund's annual report last year, and it contains all of the details of the $60-million deal.

It's very clear to me that what we're going to see when we see a new heritage fund corporation is one where all of the financial responsibilities and all of the responsibilities of the front-line ministries are going to be offloaded on to this corporation. As a minister who was in charge of this fund for four years and as a minister who was very proud to work with other northerners on that board to sustain and create jobs in northern Ontario, I think it is shameful that we are going to allow that to happen. We need to support northern business. They should be supported through this fund, and it's a bloody shame that that's not going to happen under these Tories in the next few months.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this resolution, which has obviously touched a nerve in the third party today.

While I've spent most of my life outside what is strictly defined as northern Ontario, I did have the opportunity to begin my working life in Kirkland Lake, where I spent some time and learned a little bit about the region's economic challenges. I recognize that economic activity in the north is at a different level than it is in southern Ontario, and it's quite clear that opportunities for commerce in the north are limited. That's why I think we can agree the heritage fund provides a necessary opportunity base for northern development.


My riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay is located just outside the border of what is defined as northern Ontario. However, programs in the north often have a significant impact on my constituents. Issues related to resource management, economic development, tourism marketing and health care -- these are all areas which don't always obey arbitrary regional borders.

The northern Ontario heritage fund has been a significant factor in our northern Ontario development since its inception in 1988. I understand the concern that the member for Algoma-Manitoulin has with respect to the future of the fund and his frustration and outrage with the previous government's so-called management of the fund.

The mandate for the northern Ontario heritage fund is currently under a much-needed review. Previously, the mandate of the corporation was to provide assistance to single-industry communities experiencing economic disruptions and to assist the development and adoption of new technologies. The fund was set up to support special projects designed to diversify and strengthen the economic base of northern Ontario and help small businesses get started, expand, modernize or diversify.

Just over a year ago, the previous government took $60 million from the corporation and placed it in the consolidated revenue fund. This act may have, at least in the minds of the previous cabinet, made the provincial ledger appear a little more presentable, but I fail to see what this fiddling with ministry accounts did to promote economic development in the north.

As promised during the election, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp is now being refocused. The minister has said that in the near future he'll announce new program and eligibility criteria for the corporation. It's time the focus of the funds mandate is shifted so that money is no longer earmarked on grants and loans for individual businesses. Northerners agree the fund should instead centre its efforts towards infrastructure and development opportunities. I have a special interest in tourism issues and I can see many ways the fund could benefit the northern Ontario tourism industry if it followed an approach that fostered sector-wide development.

Northerners also want a greater say on who's appointed to the board. By providing greater say for those most directly affected by the fund, there will be no repeat of the sad performance which occurred in the previous government's last-minute election panic.

As indicated by my colleague from Grey-Owen Sound, finding the money to top the fund up is going to be tough. But I'm confident that with the completion of the minister's review, northerners will see a fund which has addressed their many concerns, a fund which promotes economic development of northern communities and a fund which listens to those northerners who are most affected.

While I understand the concern which led to the introduction of this resolution, I think it's critical to wait for the minister's announcement and to let him, as the chairman of the heritage fund, take responsibility for the fund's future.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Let me first start off by clarifying the record just a little bit. First of all, with regard to the member for Sudbury East, she not only reads financial statements creatively, but she also reads election results creatively. The Liberals had a net gain of two seats in the north.

The member for Nickel Belt states that the money is in the northern Ontario heritage fund. The member for Grey-Owen Sound says the money isn't in the heritage fund. It's amazing. There must be an IOU somewhere around here. We read the press clippings: "Ontario Coffers Missing $100 Million." "Heritage Fund Cookie Jar Isn't Empty After All."

Listen, this reminds me of Bud Abbott being the government and Lou Costello being the third party in the skit "Who's on First?" Who's on first? I don't care. Who's on second? What? I don't care. I know one thing. The Liberals are on third. We don't know. We don't know what happened to the money. We don't know why the money isn't back in the fund. We don't know why the government isn't putting the money back into the fund. We don't know why the interest isn't being put back into the fund, along with the original $60 million.

All we know is that when we get to home base, which is northern Ontario, we want the $60 million back in the fund, plus interest, so that we can go back to the people of northern Ontario and say, "People of northern Ontario, all three parties acted in good faith and we're going to fulfil the mandate of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Act instituted by the Liberals which states the objects of the corporation are to advise and make recommendations to the Lieutenant Governor in Council on any matter relating to the growth and diversification of the economy of northern Ontario, to promote and stimulate economic initiatives in northern Ontario and see the commission studies and enters into contracts in connection with the objects as set out in articles A and B." In other words, when we get to home base, which is northern Ontario, we want the money intact to be used by the people of northern Ontario to improve northern Ontario. We don't care where it went, where it is now; we want it back.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'd like to make a few comments with respect to the resolution from the member for Algoma-Manitoulin. There obviously is some debate as to whether there was $60 million taken out or whether there was more money taken out. The former Treasurer stands up and says it's all there, you know, it really didn't disappear. The member for Manitoulin says it's gone. Jeff Harder says it's gone. I must confess, I quite frankly would accept the position of the member for Algoma-Manitoulin; I think that money's gone. So I understand his resolution. I see the member for Cochrane South is here today. I spent some time in Timmins earlier this year and there's no question that the area in northern Ontario needs to be treated a little differently and needs extra funding to simply survive in many other areas.

Surely you're not asking our government to be responsible for the errors of the former New Democratic government. They have spent, I heard, $100 million at one point. Whether it's $60 million or whether it's $100 million -- I understand that. Here we are, trying to restructure. We've got a big problem in this province, whether you acknowledge it or not. We've got a spending problem. We've got a revenue problem. Money is just not going to come out of the air.

So your resolution -- I understand the intent of it and I think everyone in this House will agree with the intent that northern Ontario needs special attention. The question is, where's the money going to come from. These people spent it, notwithstanding what the Treasurer says. And one of the other members stood up with some report that talks about it's really there. I quite agree with you; I think it's gone. They spent it. In the middle of the night they came in and they thought they could get away with it, and they didn't get away with it, fortunately for people like you and Mr Harder and others.

There's no question it's gone, and I guess where I do have difficulties supporting your resolution is where the money's going to come from. Your resolution says, "therefore, the government of Ontario should return the funds" -- because they're gone, they're spent --

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member's time has expired.

Mr Tilson: I'm speaking against the resolution, Mr Speaker.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I congratulate my colleague for bringing this most important issue to the forefront here in the Legislature this morning. We've heard many things here this morning. We hear from the NDP, who claim that it was not wrong for them to take that $60 million out of the fund in order to reduce their deficit and, again, in the darkness of the night, as we've heard, without telling the people of the north, without consulting with the people of the north, $60 million just happens to drift off into the consolidated revenue fund.

We've heard from the member for Dufferin-Peel who talks about the uniqueness of the north and, yes, there are many uniquenesses in the north. We've heard from other Conservative members, the Conservative economic development minister, who branded this move as politically dishonest. He too agrees that there is a problem, there is uniqueness in the north that deserves this fund. We've heard about how the fund does come back into the north. It comes back into the north to actually realize the royalties that are taken out of the north, the royalties on forestry, on mining. This is money that is used in the north, that is taken out of the north to help us develop our road system, our economic development, our health care. Another former speaker just indicated tourism, how this money is important to us in tourism.


We have members from all three parties acknowledging the uniqueness and the need for this fund. All I'm suggesting is that we ensure that the fund is there for northerners to use, and to hear that the money is not there is kind of astonishing.

We've heard the parliamentary assistant as he refers to updating the plan. The plan needs redirection, the fund needs redirection. But I cannot emphasize enough that the plan redirection, the northern Ontario heritage fund, needs the money. Without the money there for northerners, it will not be a plan for redirection, it will not need redirection. We need that money back into the fund for northerners to decide to do some unique things with the fund.

As I indicated, we've heard nothing, very little, from this government in terms of what it is going to do, in terms of what redirection it is planning on. What are the plans? We have a parliamentary assistant who travels the north, and we hear nothing back. We hear nothing in terms of his consultations with the people who are going to be putting that fund to use, the people who are going to ensure that those dollars are redirected to observe, again, the unique circumstances that we face in the north and that the fund was initially established to address.

I must stress to the parliamentary assistant -- unfortunately the minister is not here today to partake in this debate -- but I must stress the importance to the parliamentary assistant that he takes the message back to the minister that this is a fund set up for these uniquenesses and a fund that must be directed by northerners to ensure that it is put to proper use in the north.

I cannot see why all three parties would not want to support this most important fund, a fund that we've seen used throughout northern Ontario for the past many years since it has been established and a fund that really is put to good use in northern Ontario to address the uniqueness.

Again I congratulate the member, my colleague, for bringing this again to the forefront in the House today to allow people to discuss what happened to the money, whether it disappeared, it went here, it went there. But the most important thing is that it must be put back into the place where it is deserved and most needed, into the northern Ontario heritage fund.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): The first thing I would like to do this morning is to congratulate the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, my colleague Mike Brown. I'm very proud to be able to stand in my place and speak in support of this, and I'm very pleased that the member brought this to the attention of the House through private members' hour.

I want to tell you quite frankly that I have a lot of respect for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. He's a good person, and I have worked on several committees with him. But I'll tell you what the difference is in not being a northerner and living in the north: You don't really understand the depth of feeling that northerners have for a fund such as the heritage fund and where it comes from.

Where it comes from, quite frankly, is that northerners over the years have felt exploited through resource extraction and that many times, through mining for instance, you actually are left with holes in the ground in our communities. We physically can see the resources being taken out of the ground and taken down to the affluent areas of southern Ontario where wealth is generated, and basically, literally in many cases, a hole is left in the ground.

Most parties in this House and most northern members believed there needed to be some redress to this. We came together back in the 1980s and felt that a northern development heritage fund would be the way to redress this grievance that northerners have had.

To find out that the previous government had taken that money out from the dedicated fund -- because it was important to northerners that the fund be dedicated, that we did get a share of the resource revenue that was generated from resource extraction, totally dedicated to northern Ontario -- for that to be taken away is offensive to northerners. That's why the member for Algoma-Manitoulin has brought this resolution before the House today: to implore this government to put the money back.

In his speech, one of the members from the government side had asked, "Well, where are we going to find the money to put it back?" The money is there. The money has been generated from the extraction of resources in northern Ontario. It has been generated. As the member says in his resolution, this is only a small proportion, a small share, of the resource extraction revenue that has come from northern Ontario. We're asking the government to put it back, to do the right thing, so that northern Ontarians have their heritage fund back, a fund that we can manage, that we can use to help to stimulate the economy, to stimulate business and jobs in northern Ontario. We see it as our birthright and we're really afraid that now that this fund has been absconded with and put down into general revenues, we're never going to see it again.

So I ask the parliamentary assistant who's here, and through him to the minister who's not today, to put that money back for northern Ontarians. It is our heritage, it is our birthright, and we need it in the north.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Algoma-Manitoulin, you have two minutes.

Mr Michael Brown: I appreciate the comments of members that have been made this morning. I find some of the comments, though, a little bit interesting. The member for Sudbury East, for example, said I had some problem reading financial statements. I want to quote to you what the heritage fund annual report says. It says, "As part of refinancing arrangements approved by treasury board of cabinet, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and the corporation, the corporation repaid $60 million to the Minister of Finance on March 31, 1995." I don't know what you think that means. I know what I think that means, and what that means is that the heritage fund had $60 million taken out of its trust account and paid into general consolidated revenues in the province of Ontario and will never be seen by northerners again.

It is a pure and simple fact that it was done by New Democrats. I heard Mr Murdoch, the parliamentary assistant, say the money was stolen. His government is in possession of the stolen dollars. In any court in the country, someone who's in possession of stolen goods is guilty. The money should go back.

I agree, as all northerners agree, we have a financial problem in this province, but we are somewhat surprised that we are expected to pay more than our share towards that deficit difficulty. We are most concerned that we are being asked to make a sacrifice above and beyond any group, any region in the province of Ontario. We are not asking for anything more than, as Mr Ramsay so aptly put it, our birthright, our legacy to be returned to us.

The member for Nickel Belt, Mr Laughren, said you can't spend more than $30 million a year in the heritage fund; it's not allowed. He's wrong. It only receives $30 million from revenues a year, but you can spend what you need to in any given year, and that was the beauty of the whole plan. It is as if the New Democrats chose not to put --

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

Mr Michael Brown: I had about three minutes --

Mr Miclash: The Speaker agreed.

The Deputy Speaker: I'm informed that the member cannot use any of that time; he can only use the time that is assigned to your caucus and to him as speaker.

Mr Miclash: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The previous Speaker who was in the chair agreed with the member when the member asked to have the remainder of his time allocated to the end of the debate. The Speaker agreed at that time. He agreed.

Mr Murdoch: On a point of order: We did agree with that and he does have the time. That's what we did agree to. I agree with that. He gets his time.

The Deputy Speaker: The Speaker has no authority to make that, but this House does. If we have unanimous consent of the House, then we could. Is it agreed? Two minutes? It's agreed.


Mr Michael Brown: As I was saying, it appears to us that an amount which the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party, in 1988, believed to be woefully inadequate -- $30 million a year was not going to be adequate. That was the major argument against the northern Ontario heritage fund. And what did we have? If you net this out, we've actually had the New Democratic government not contribute for two of those years, if that's the way you want to look at it.

What I'm saying is, this should not be a terribly partisan issue. This is about northerners, it's about our economic climate, it's about our roads, it's about our social structures, it's about health care, it's about those things that northerners may choose to make their own particular priorities. All we're saying to the government is, look, you've got a revenue stream of, I don't know, $40 billion, maybe $45 billion a year. Maybe out of that $45 billion, or whatever it is that is the exact number that flows into the provincial treasury, put back the money that the previous government stole. Otherwise you're complicit. Otherwise, you, the Conservative government, are just as guilty as the former government. Do the right thing.

I would expect that all members of this House can support such a reasonable representation that I'm making this morning, and my Liberal colleagues are. For the good of northern Ontario, for our legacy and for our birthright, I urge you to support this resolution.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair would like to bring to the attention of the House, in the west members' gallery, Mr Mark Morrow, former member for Wentworth East.


Mr Marchese moved private member's notice of motion number 11:

That in the opinion of this House, since it is in the public interest that public utilities and banks be more accountable to the citizens, ratepayers and consumers they serve; and that cutbacks in government funding are forcing non-governmental consumer organizations and government ministries alike to make drastic reductions in their watchdog and consumer support activities, with detrimental effects on accountability; and since some of Ontario's public utilities may be privatized, making the need to ensure accountability all the greater; and that citizens' utility boards can be established that would further the goals of public input and involvement and be operated without public funds or additional regulation; and that public utilities can be required to facilitate the operation of citizens' utility boards without adding to their own costs of doing business; therefore (a) the government of Ontario should move promptly to introduce legislation creating citizens' utility boards and requiring public utilities to facilitate their operation; and (b) the government of Ontario should urge the federal government to take similar action with respect to banks.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Fort York has 10 minutes.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I'm very happy to be here today to speak to this motion. I will ask that the audience who is watching excuse my sore throat. I have a virus. I hope I didn't catch it in here; I'm sure I must have caught it outside. But it was an important resolution for me and I wanted to be here to speak to it.

This resolution is a new idea to strengthen consumer advocacy. That's the substance of this resolution. Before I get into some of the arguments around it, I want to give some brief background as to what a citizens' utility board is all about.

I should point out that citizens' utility boards are in existence in the United States. They are non-profit, arm's-length, state-wide organizations of residential utility ratepayers in four American states.

What do they do? What does a CUB, a citizens' utility board, do? It advocates for fair electric, gas and water rates and sensible energy policies before the utility regulatory boards or before a state Legislature. CUBs are made up of voluntary, dues-paying members and they enjoy enormous popularity in the states in which they exist. In Illinois alone, it is reported that the citizens' utility board members have saved ratepayers $2 billion since 1983. It's a remarkable figure. What it speaks to is the power of citizens and consumers to effect change that in this particular instance is not hurtful to the general public.

CUBs work as follows: Customers of public utilities will receive a CUB-funded insert with their utility bills four times a year. The insert allows the citizens' utility board to reach out to consumers and ask them to join the citizens' utility board. Membership dues and donations, not government financial support, enable the association to have resources to hire economists, experts, organizers and attorneys to represent consumers. They are non-profit. They're run democratically by the membership through an elected board of directors.

In my view, this is the way we can grow democracy. This is a tool the government can give to consumers to control utility rates, unfair practices and deal with the lobbyists of those various utilities, having the membership, the dues, the democratic structure to hire those people to be able to represent them in such a way that the interest of the public is protected.

If the government cares about tools, and Lord knows it has given enough tools to municipalities to raise taxes, if it wants to give yet another tool to consumers which wouldn't cost the government a penny, wouldn't cost municipal governments a penny, it would allow the establishment of citizens' utility boards, thereby giving them real democratic tools to be able to tackle the problems of a utility. This is how we can help to democratize institutions and to institutionalize a practice where consumers are empowered to take on a utility.

Such questions as these: Do you have any clout at all when utility rates are increased? If your answer is no, we have a problem and it speaks to the need for a strong consumer association. Do you think you can do anything if utilities waste your money or operate inefficiently? If your answer is no, this is a tool that can give you power as a citizen to tackle such questions. Here's another one: Do you have a voice at the Legislature to speak out against utility lobbyists? If your answer is no, as I believe it is likely to be, then you are the person out there who is looking for a citizens' utility board to be established.

Democracy is a relative term and it can grow or diminish depending on the actions of citizens and governments. If we as a government are interested in growing democracy and giving greater independence to the public, and diminishing the dependence of the public, if we're interested in that, then this government has through this citizens' utility board the potential to create something that allows them to be able to deal with the utility boards in a way that sometimes governments have not been able to do properly.

We have a tendency in Canada to create mammoth public agencies which seem out of keeping with the relatively small size of our province, sometimes our country, relative to other countries that are much larger, vis-à-vis the US. Given this fact, I believe it's the job of governments to balance the scales by providing citizens with more direct power.


It is a citizen watchdog for public utilities such as hydro, water, gas, the banks at the federal level, could be auto insurance -- you could add anything you deem it important to have. A citizens' utility board would be a departure from the old-fashioned Canadian tradition of setting up a government agency or an ombudsman. We have done that often, and often members of this assembly have decried the number of agencies we have and the number of things such as ombudsmen's offices. The point of the citizens' utility boards is that they do not require public money to operate, they do not require more government regulation of utilities and they are not even a government body.

It should be appealing to all of us irrespective of our political tendencies. It is something I think should appeal to the government in particular, because it's a government that says: "We're creating a more efficient workplace around here. We're getting rid of waste." Although they don't say it publicly, and publicly they vacillate on the issue of privatization, privately I suspect they're salivating at the idea of privatization. If you privatize such an institution as Ontario Hydro, then I argue there's much more of a need to create a citizens' utility board that would become the watchdog of these utilities. It would watch the operations of that utility, the waste, the inefficiencies and the lobbyists of such operations in a way that balances the power to citizens, to consumers, to your taxpayers.

The government's role is simply to help to establish CUBs and after that they're on their own. The only thing that is required is for the government to pass a law or a regulation that would establish these citizens' utility boards. What may also be needed is for the government perhaps to pay for the first mailing it would do, but subsequently CUBs would insert in those mailings done by the utilities an insert that speaks about what a citizens' utility board is, urging people to join such a utility board for $5 or $10, whatever it is.

For example, if only 2% of Ontario Hydro consumers replied to such a mailing, Ontario would have an instant public utility consumer watchdog with a staggering 200,000 members. Imagine the power, imagine how we grow democracy and the power it gives to citizens if we do this.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you very much for the opportunity to be able to respond to this resolution. I certainly compliment the member for Fort York in the delivery, under trying circumstances, but the content had a lot to be desired.

This resolution is to create a citizens' utility board. Already we have an acronym, CUBs. Frankly, I'm disappointed that we're going to be spending an hour debating this particular issue. As I read the resolution it certainly was not clear to me what we were going to be debating and the direction it was going to go in. Were we talking about public utility commissions in local communities, or were we going to be talking about provincial utilities such as Ontario Hydro, gas, water etc? Certainly, the member for Fort York helped to explain that here this morning.

He referred to it as a non-profit organization at arm's length and already operating in four states. Repeatedly, the NDP has been all upset about anything that comes from the US, and I'm surprised they would identify that their ideas are coming from the United States of America. They mention it being a non-profit organization. Well, I can tell you, we've run into a lot of non-profit organizations that have been extremely profitable to some sectors, and really non-profit organizations have not been all that successful.

We talk about tools for the consumers. If it's such a marvellous idea, I'm left wondering why, when they had almost five years, they wouldn't have brought in one of these tools that's so marvellous. The last year in government, they literally brought nothing into the House. They only sat for some 22 days, and all I can assume is that it was not acceptable to the NDP caucus of the day, and so they're trying to bring it forward at this point in time.

It appeared to me on reading the resolution that it was going to be a watchdog organization, and in fact this is what the member for Fort York has explained to us, that it is in fact a watchdog organization. But I'm left wondering if he doesn't trust the public utility commissions in his community. I certainly trust the ones in ours. Maybe he doesn't trust Ontario Hydro and maybe there's good reason there with some of the things that have been happening, particularly during the last five years.

It would appear to me what this member is trying to do is to bring in another layer of bureaucracy and certainly that is in fact a trademark of an NDP government, and I would recommend to all members of the House to vote against this particular resolution.

As I look at all the whereases in this resolution, the first one starts off: Whereas "it is in the public interest that public utilities and banks be more accountable to the citizens, ratepayers and consumers they serve."

First, as the member knows, banks are a federal responsibility so we can drop that one, and then we move on to public utilities. The public utility commissions that I'm familiar with are served by elected members or appointed by elected bodies, and I ask you, how can you improve on accountability any more than having people elected to serve in those particular roles?

Maybe he's referring more at the provincial level and, yes, I can respect some of the concerns he has there, but is he also suggesting that maybe we should create citizens' utility or citizen watchdog groups for municipal governments, for provincial governments, for federal governments, for hospital boards, for school boards? It does seem rather redundant, especially when you start wondering how they would be created. Would they be elected? Another approach.

The people that are watching are already elected and that is certainly accountable enough, so why should we have watchdogs watching watchdogs watching watchdogs? It's just quasi-court being laid one on top of another.

Would they be appointed? We heard yesterday from one of the would-be leaders of your party, really upset over how appointments are being made, and then it was demonstrated to the NDP how you went about making appointments, and that certainly does not seem to be a satisfactory way of creating them.

How many would serve on these boards? There's just so many questions about how these boards would operate. Remember that we already have all kinds of voluntary boards that do in fact monitor various elected groups and utilities, such as ratepayers, for example, and I'm sure you're familiar. In my area we have the Hamilton ratepayers and they just do an excellent job. They get 100 out to their monthly meetings and they monitor and work with, not against work with, the elected people.

What level of power would you give to this group? Would you give veto power to the others? These are questions that have to be understood before you start bringing forth a resolution such as that.

Then we move on to the second whereas: Whereas "cutbacks in government funding are forcing non-governmental consumer organizations and government ministries alike to make drastic reductions in their watchdog and consumer support activities, with detrimental effects on accountability."

How are the cutbacks on non-governmental organizations going to have an effect? They're out there doing their thing. Are they going to always depend on government money to function? If they do, then they have a built-in bias. They're going to operate on their own.

If money was the answer to making things accountable, then we would have absolutely a marvellous province to live in today with the amount of money that's been thrown at things in the last 10 years. We'd have, I think, an absolutely perfect province. Obviously, that is not where we're at. The province of Ontario, as has been said many times, is a great place to live, but it certainly has not been a great place to do business recently. But in the next four years, I can assure you, it will be a great place to do business.


Move on to the third whereas: Whereas "some of Ontario's public utilities may be privatized" -- oh my dear, that's terrible -- "making the need to ensure accountability all the greater." I would suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that privatization would increase the accountability of utilities. We would have municipalities monitoring what public utilities would be carrying out.

I expect you've introduced this resolution so you can try and beat up on our present government over thinking about looking at examining the possibility of privatization. I would suggest to the member that it's not all about public versus private; what it's about is, do we have a pure monopoly or do we bring some competition into a monopoly? I can assure you that competition in any area is healthy. If you don't think it's a healthy thing to have, then why would we have a third party competing in the province of Ontario if they don't believe in competition? They're basic groups. To compete politically means they do support competition, so I have a little trouble with why they're opposed to privatization.

We're so concerned about privatization that maybe you support that 649 people should make over $100,000 in Ontario Hydro. Do you support that fact that industrial rates in Ontario are 5.42 cents per kilowatt while in Manitoba it's 2.97, half the price? Where would an industry go, to Ontario or to Manitoba? The Ford plants in Ontario, in the US and in Mexico, having plants in 17 different areas, up until 1986 had the lowest-price power in the province in Ontario. Now they're down to 12th out of 17. That's where monopoly has taken us.

We have all kinds of protection organizations, from ratepayer groups, Consumers' Association of Canada, and Pollution Probe that looks after environmental issues. I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that this resolution is inconsistent with our government policy. We believe in increased local autonomy. We don't, as a provincial government, want to be micromanaging the local level. We believe in reduced bureaucracy, if you're looking at a watchdog level, for the provincial utilities level. We certainly believe in less red tape and getting rid of the useless regulations, particularly the large numbers that have come in in the last 10 years. We believe in reducing costs significantly. Government must increase efficiency and must become more effective. I can assure you that over the next four years that indeed will happen.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Before I give a few thoughts with regard to this motion, I want to thank the member for Fort York for obviously thinking out a very, very complex issue. When we look at CUBs, we find out that they're really not very new. Although they're not as structured as the member for Fort York would like, they are in existence in many of the ways that the previous speaker spoke about. Let me just outline from a very, very parochial perspective with regard to this motion.

Although it's complex and although I think it's very unusual when you get a right-wing idea coming from the left-wing party, we all have trouble with this and we all have trouble comprehending. In fact, is there an underlying reason for the motion?

It doesn't really bother me that somebody from the left would have a right-wing idea, because if you look at the way Ontario is going, I'm fearful that the move to the extreme right, is starting to catch on. It's certainly not catching on with the party in the middle, the party that tries to find balance, the party that tries to find fairness, the party that tries to find justice in both sides of the House, the government's right-wing approach and of course the third party's left-wing antics and ideas.

But let me tell you, I think this is quite simple. I think the CUB idea is simply what we already have in existence: community action groups. You know what? The best things happen when the public is motivated to make things happen. You don't have to legislate that. You don't have to mandate that. You don't have to encourage that. Let me give you some concrete ideas, because I think community action groups are a way of the future, a way of ensuring that maximum human resource potential is brought to its highest peak.

Let me talk to you for a moment about Sudbury, our acquisition of the MRI at the Sudbury General Hospital. The government might like to take credit for it, but had it not been for Sandra Gardolfo and the group that she put together, the MRI would not have happened. It was a community action group motivated because of a tragedy.

Let me talk to you about the northeastern cancer research centre for a second. Had it not been for Gerry Lougheed and the group put together who saw the need for people from the north to be serviced in the north when they had that dreaded disease, the cancer centre wouldn't have happened. It wasn't because of governments, regardless of whether they were Progressive Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat; it was because a group saw a need, an individual had a dream. That happened because the community was motivated.

We look at Science North, now a provincial institution. Certainly, it wouldn't have come about unless we had the dreamers to make it happen, the community to see we need to have a world-class science centre in the north. It happened because the community was motivated.

The Sudbury Theatre Centre, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, thanks to the Nurmi family, thanks to Dr Masserolla, wouldn't have happened unless there was a dream, the community action group got together and they made it happen.

It goes on and on. We have Fringe Nord, Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario, Cinefest. They all happened because people have an idea, people have a dream, the community comes together and we make it happen. I think underlying the CUB concept, if I understand it correctly -- and I agree with the previous speaker: It is certainly cumbersome in nature. What I'm understanding is that the member for Fork York wants people to get involved. You know, it's happening here. I look at the member for Oakwood and I think he was asking community action groups to come together, to ensure that they inform the Minister of Transportation about the pothole problem across the province. So he is the visionary. The member for Oakwood has the dream. He wants the community from all over Ontario to come together, and let's find out just how many potholes there are and how severe the problem is.

Mr Speaker, I know, I'm taking a little bit of licence here and I apologize. I will come back to reality to tell you that I can't support the motion because I believe by and large it's already in existence and it's working well: Science North, MRI at the general hospital. There are all kinds of examples, not only in Sudbury, not only in the region of Sudbury, but all over Ontario. I encourage those people, if they firmly believe that a person has a good idea, to get involved in a community action project, become involved. The underlying tone of the motion, I'm sure, is simply that: He wants people, he wants average citizens, much like the member for Oakwood wants, to get involved and let the government know its shortcomings and how it can improve.


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

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): There most certainly is, Speaker, and I'm pleased to comment on what is a very innovative and unique and most appropriate proposition here.

I want to as well recognize that among our visitors today are Tammy Stowe and Jennifer Wilkinson, both students at Orchard Park Secondary School in Stoney Creek who are going to be spending the day here at Queen's Park scrutinizing what it is that this Legislative Assembly does.

I want to express some real gratitude to Rosario Marchese, the member for Fort York, for bringing this matter forward. Again, this isn't unexpected from Mr Marchese. He has been an advocate not only for the residents of Fort York throughout his years here at Queen's Park, but has as well embraced the broader perspective. He's accomplished what very few parliamentarians have been able to do, and that is to be a strong, effective voice for the people in his constituency, but at the same time perform an effective role in the Legislature dealing with broader provincial issues.

One has to refer specifically to the resolution and recognize that nobody's calling upon the government to legislate the creation of CUBs. Take a look closely. I'm concerned that other members in having commented on this haven't recognized what's the viscera, the guts of this resolution, and that is requiring public utilities to facilitate their operation. That's really what's it's all about: requiring public utilities to facilitate their operation.

Some of the people commenting on this resolution have made reference to local public utilities. Please, look what we're talking about here and let's understand one thing: that we have a number of regulatory bodies here in the province of Ontario, and in this country, regulatory bodies which primarily are designed to respond to the very specific and unique roles that monopolies have, or quasi-monopolies.

Federally, take a look when we talk about the rate-setting for cable television. Look at the uproar that ensued here in the province in response to some recent changes in rate-setting and recognize that there was no effective way for consumers to have participated in the regulatory decision-making such that consumers' interests could be represented. Oh, I know we have a Consumers' Association of Canada, which sadly has been to the largest extent not only bankrupt financially but bankrupt in terms of ideas. If it regards itself as a watchdog, and I'm sure it would want to, it has been a somewhat -- it's like my old beagle Charlie: rather slow, toothless and not quite as eager as Charlie was in his youth to bark when strangers approached.

Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): I'll pass that comment on to Helen Anderson.

Mr Kormos: I certainly hope that comment is passed on.

What we have here is a response to a vacuum in this province and in this country. Look, we haven't had a strong tradition, as has the United States, and no doubt not only in no small part but due very specifically to the leadership of Ralph Nader in the consumer protection/consumer advocacy movement, and before him there were people like Saul Alinsky, who very much matured through the process of community organization into some very specific consumer advocacy in designing techniques, means, whereby consumers could have their voice heard.

In Canada we're blessed with Duff Conacher, who provides leadership for an organization called Democracy Watch, Duff Conacher, an acolyte of Ralph Nader and the Nader movement in the United States, having been one of Nader's Raiders. But there's an imperative that there be an opportunity for the consumer to participate in the regulatory process.

The Ontario Insurance Commission, where approval is acquired by the private sector, profiteering auto insurance industry, which has always had short arms and deep pockets and doesn't hesitate not only to rob from premium-payers, but to also beat up on the victims, the innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents: Who is there to advocate for the consumer when the Ontario Insurance Commission is called upon to approve the premiums set by the auto insurance industry? There's a vacuum.

Who is there to advocate for the consumer when the cable television industry -- increasingly becoming a monopoly, one can say; if not a monopoly, surely a quasi-monopoly -- who's there to advocate for the consumers? Who's there to advocate for the consumers when Bell telephone rates are being set? Because Bell telephone -- again, a corporation whose motive is to make as much money as it can at the expense of people -- fails to recognize that that sort of telecommunications is imperative. Do I believe that telecommunications should be within the public sector? You bet your boots I do. But until it is, it's imperative that Bell telephone, regulated as it is, and regulated because it is a monopoly, it's imperative that there be consumer participation.

Without that -- as a matter of fact, one must refer to the learned article in one of the University of Toronto law reviews which pointed out very clearly that regulatory bodies -- this is a pattern -- almost inevitably tend to be co-opted by the industry that they purport to regulate. The author of that University of Toronto Law Review article was none other than Ian Scott, former Attorney General, whose acumen in this regard cannot be disputed.

We're blessed with class actions, because that's one vehicle -- and again, recognizing that the concept of class action in this jurisdiction was initiated by Ian Scott, but certainly under the leadership of Howard Hampton, the Attorney General for the last government, acquired the mechanism and meanings whereby class actions can become effective. We don't have a strong products liability litigation movement in this jurisdiction or in the country, in contrast to the United States. There's been a persistent attack on tort, first by the Liberal government. The last government certainly didn't help, and this government is carrying on in its attack on tort and the remedies that provides for consumers.

What this resolution proposes is simply this, and it's within the provincial jurisdiction to require this even of federally regulated industries like Bell telephone, like cable communications: that those industries in their billing process facilitate the creation of CUBs so that people can choose voluntarily, democratically, to join or not to join. A mere nickel, dime, quarter apiece could fund the effective watchdogging that's essential with the sort of regulatory boards I've spoken to.

The support of this resolution is essential if we're ever going to acquire democracy for consumers in this province, if we're ever going to acquire a meaningful advocacy for consumers at the regulatory level.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I'd like to make a few comments with respect to the recommendations made by the member for Fort York. I always admire the member for Fort York. I believe he always believes what he says. I know he works hard. For example, his staff sent me a package of what he's trying to put forward. I know he's been working on it for a couple of years, so that he's researched it well. I've spoken to him privately and he may not believe that I still understand, but I can tell you that I appreciate his dedication, the very fact that he's here today. I know he's not well, but he has come to put forward something that he truly believes in.

My belief is that this resolution is in fact creating something we already have. I know the member for Fort York will say, "Well, this group" -- which works, as I understand it, in four states, from the material that I was sent; I could be corrected -- is "citizen-run and -financed, democratically elected." I'm reading from the press release the member for Fort York had released. The problem is that we already have, as the member for Northumberland said, public utilities commissions. I have two in my riding, very hardworking individuals who are elected and do whatever they can to make sure those utilities are being run properly.


With due respect to the member for Fort York, it's typical of an NDP position. The NDP loves to have commissions. The favourite debate my friend from Fort York and I have had is on the Advocacy Commission, and they had the Employment Equity Commission, the Environmental Bill of Rights commission, we had the wonderful IWA, which was trying to create superdumps around the southern part of the province, and we even had a commission on alleged race riots with respect to Yonge Street a couple of years ago, all of which costs a great deal of money.

I think that's the fear, that when you put forward something like this -- we all support ratepayers' groups, but the difficulty is when you start to put forward these groups with suggested government funding. The member will stand up in reply and say, "But there's not going to be any government funding." Well, I've seen these groups sponsored by government, whether it be non-profit corporations or not-for-profit organizations. Somehow -- and it's happened in their government and it's happened in the Liberal government -- these corporations, these creations, end up costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars. That's the reluctance I have to support this resolution.

We have very good ratepayers' groups. We all can talk about the ratepayers' groups we have in our respective ridings, whether they're fighting against gravel pits or whether they're fighting against dumps or whether they're fighting against high taxes or whether they're fighting against high energy rates or whether they're fighting against actions being taken by government -- very informed people. I'll tell you, if you take on one of these ratepayer groups, you'd better know what you're doing and what you're talking about or you're going to be in very deep trouble. Those actions by those ratepayers' groups, those citizens' groups, don't cost the government of Ontario a nickel. They don't cost us anything. In fact, they have an effect on how we think.

Our whole philosophy on this side of the House is that we've got too many politicians in this province, too many regulations, and that's what we're cutting back on. The member for Fort York will say, "You still don't understand my resolution," but in my view this resolution is creating more politicians, because he's suggesting that they be elected; at least that's a consideration. He's creating more levels of red tape. We simply have a great deal of concern.

The biggest thing is the issue of cost. The taxpayers can't sustain any more cost in this province with respect to these issues.

Although I admire the member, as usual, for his beliefs and his tenacity in putting forward his resolutions, I believe we're well looked after by the ratepayers' groups of this province, the elected groups of the public utilities commissions. In my riding, I have one public utilities commission in Orangeville and another in Caledon, both of which do a very good job with respect to making sure there's proper service with respect to energy in our riding.

I will not be supporting the resolution because I think it's another level of bureaucracy and another cost that we simply cannot sustain.

Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): I haven't made up my mind yet whether I should support this resolution and I would like to ask a few questions of the member who introduced the resolution.

We're all concerned about privatization. Even some members from the government have asked questions of certain ministers in the House concerning privatization because of the concern about how these private companies will provide the services the government was providing before, and at what cost, and will the government be a loser or a winner? I realize the present government is trying to cut back on funding to private utility service agencies.

I ask the member, in creating these citizens' utility boards, what power will these people have? If it's a simple committee of ratepayers or citizens in place to simply take a look at what privatization has done -- he's asking for more accountability, and if the member is really looking for more accountability, the utility boards must have power. Are we creating another Ombudsman in the province? We all know what that office is costing us. I simply ask the member to please tell me what these people will have in place, what tools they will have, to make these companies more accountable.

The Acting Speaker: Any further debate?

M. Gilles Bisson (Cochrane-Sud) : Merci beaucoup, Monsieur le Président. Comme d'habitude, votre distinction dans le siège est très aimable. J'ai besoin de faire ça pour mes provocations d'un peu plus de bonheur.

I'd like to speak in favour of the motion that's been brought forward today by my colleague. I believe it is going to become more important than ever to make sure we have the mechanisms in place to have watchdogs out there to take a look at the question of public utilities. This is important more than ever, I would say, because of the agenda of this government and its aim to privatize Ontario Hydro. I can't resist the opportunity to put on the record a couple of things in regard to that. The first thing we have to ask ourselves is, if Ontario Hydro is privatized, who in the end is going to benefit? Will the consumers benefit?

A lot of people don't realize it, but in Ontario we have a system of rural rate subsidy so that no matter where you live in the province, areas of high-density population are subsidizing those areas where it's more difficult to bring hydro in. If you allowed the market to dictate the price of hydro, the price would be quite a bit higher. For example, in northern Ontario we benefit from that policy. I fear that if Hydro is privatized, we're going to end up in a situation where areas such as Metropolitan Toronto which have high-density urban populations would get a good hydro rate but people in rural Ontario and northern Ontario would be in some difficulty to get the same rates.

For people in the north, that's a very important issue. Members here may not understand and know this, but some of the largest hydro customers in the province reside in northern Ontario. For an example, Kidd Creek Mines in the city of Timmins is the single largest customer of hydro for the entire province. I wouldn't want to see a policy, through privatization, that would put the rates in jeopardy. I can tell you, when we froze hydro rates three years ago as the NDP government -- it's a fallacy the present government is giving out that it froze hydro rates. All they did was continue a good policy of the NDP government to clean up Ontario Hydro, make it more efficient and to freeze hydro rates, and we had started that. But if we hadn't done that, Kidd Creek was seriously looking at going its own way when it came to the generation of hydro. In the end, that might have been good for them but it would not have been good for the rest of the hydro grid and the customers, because it would have meant we lost a lot of revenue from that particular area.

It is very important, in light of what's happening with Ontario Hydro, that we have in place some sort of citizens' utility board. Members here a little while ago cited ratepayers' associations as arguments for why you don't need such an organization. I differ from those members. In my riding, for example, like yours and many others, we have a ratepayers' association with the Roman Catholic separate school board, and that plays quite a positive role in being able to inform the community, the ratepayers, about what is happening.

Mr Speaker, just a quick question. My colleague will get a two-minute wrapup in addition to the time I have on the clock now, right? Very good. Thank you. Somebody had given me a note, but I wanted to make sure I was correct.


The ratepayers' association in the city of Timmins for the Roman Catholic separate school board plays quite a positive role in being able to, first of all, inform ratepayers about what's happening. But to build that link and strengthen the link from the ratepayers to the school trustees that are charged with, through due election, running the school board and making decisions, I see that as a positive thing, because the more public involvement we have in those activities, the much better result that you get in the end. I can tell you from experiences I've had through the city of Timmins and Matheson and Iroquois Falls, where we have done things in a public way, we have ended up with better results in the end.

I see that what the motion from my friend here is bringing forward would create that. It's not in order to replace the current structures that we have with local municipal utility boards, not at all. I think what the member is trying to say is that we need to learn from the experiences that we have seen through ratepayers' associations and other kinds of watchdog organizations out there that are able to play a positive role to make sure that in the end those commissions do exactly what they do.

If the government moves forward in its deal to privatize, it will become even more important, because what it will mean in some cases is that those municipal utility boards may fall into the hands of the private sector. Then we will have no ability to be able to have public scrutiny of what is happening in regard to that particular utility. I think that runs contrary to everything that we believe as New Democrats and I would argue, to a certain degree, that it's probably contrary to what the Tories have to argue.

I would certainly urge members of this House to support the motion put forward by the member for Fort York. It is a positive resolution that I think is a step in the right direction. It's something that we had started working on in government. I know the member had brought it to our Minister of Environment and Energy in 1994 and I know that Mr Wildman was looking at that issue and looking at how we're able to develop a model to do that. I would urge the government to carry on with that.

I just want to say one thing to my friend from the Liberal caucus in regard to his comments about us having one left wing: It is a heck of a lot better than having two wings on either side and never knowing which way you're going on any issue. I would like to see for once in this House where the Liberal Party can make up its mind which side of the fence it's sitting on. Do you support consumers and people, or do you really support the big business interests, the same interests that are supporters of the Conservative Party?


The Acting Speaker: Order. You're wasting your time.

Mr Marchese: I know that the Liberal caucus had six minutes left on its time which it has not used. I would ask unanimous consent for me to use that time in order to bring together my arguments.

The Acting Speaker: Is there unanimous consent? Agreed.


The Acting Speaker: Order. The member for Fort York.

Mr Marchese: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for establishing order in order for my voice to carry just a little.

Several things: Because I think some of the comments that have been made are not clear in terms of the things that I was saying, what we would do as a government is give the right, by legislation, to enclose a flyer in a utility company's billing envelope. That's all it would do. That's the extent of the government's involvement.

I'm not quite sure when the member for Northumberland talks about all of the things that he speaks of, but the government's involvement is simply to give a right, by legislation, to a CUB, citizens' utility board, to enclose a flyer in the billing envelopes that the utility normally sends out for its own bills. That's all we ask, as a government, to do. What is this extra layer of bureaucracy that you speak of? Are you frightened to have an independent consumer association? That's what it is?

Mr Galt: We have one.

Mr Marchese: We have one what? We don't have one. That's the point.

Mr Galt: Volunteer groups any day.

Mr Marchese: You say that we already have public utility commissions. Is that what you're talking about? You and the member for Dufferin-Peel were talking about the fact that we have public utility commissions. The point of it is that you have a few elected people, but it's not the same as having 200,000 members being part of a citizens' utility board. It's not the same. This flyer would simply urge the consumers to join for $5 or $10. It is self-financing. I was telling the member for Dufferin-Peel that the government doesn't have to put a penny into this. The government doesn't have to pay a cent, and if you're worried about that, you simply establish that by law. If that is your concern, that you as a government would have to put in some money, simply say that is not its purpose, and then you'll free yourself as a government.

The point is that consumer advocacy here in Canada and in Ontario is literally dead. There is very little consumer advocacy going on, and in fact the Consumers' Association of Canada has never been able to function without government handouts. When you rely on governments that cut back --


The Acting Speaker: There are too many conversations taking place. I would ask you, please, to either go and speak outside or stay in the House and remain quiet.

Mr Marchese: The Consumers' Association of Canada is literally dead because it relies on government funding and the federal government has cut back. What does it mean? It means that consumers' association can't do an effective job of advocacy. It is therefore a weak consumer association. It cannot defend consumers because it has little money to do its job.

What I'm proposing says this association, CUB, would not rely on the government for money but would rely on its membership for money. It would be elected at a meeting once a year by the members. It has nothing to do with governments. We should not be interfering in such a process. They would hire their lobbyists, their lawyers, their experts, to deal with a utility if they feel that rates or practices are unfair. That's what it should do. What is so wrong with that? Why would the Conservative members on the other side oppose giving a right to consumers to be able to tackle such problems? Why would you be so worried about allowing such democracy to grow and to take place? Why would you be concerned about not giving them that tool that allows them to do this?

It is not an additional bureaucracy. That bureaucracy would not be there to attack the government, but rather to attack the utility if they found that the rates are too high or the practices are unfair. That's what it's supposed to do. So when the members opposite talk about creating another layer of bureaucracy -- "How would they be elected?" -- it is not a bureaucracy that we control. It's controlled by consumers, elected by consumers, nothing to do with us. It is not set up by us to attack the government on whether it privatizes or not. That's not the issue. But the member for Northumberland raises it as an issue. That's not what it does. Perhaps you invent that because you want to oppose it, but I think it's wrong to do that. What you are doing is denying the right to a consumers' association, a citizens' utility board elected by the consumers, funded by consumers -- you're denying them the opportunity to grow democratically, to be able to tackle the problems of society, not as politicians but as consumers. I think that's a good thing to do.

Mr Galt: Did you ever hear of volunteers and volunteer organizations?

Mr Marchese: It would be an organization that would elect its structure, its executive, and then they would decide whether they need a lawyer or not to be able to advocate on their behalf.

So what am I saying about this?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): We're wondering.

Mr Marchese: If you repeat an issue seven times, it's very likely that the members will understand. So when I say, "What am I saying about this?" I say it as a way of repeating what I've said, because it's quite clear that both members opposite spoke against it not knowing what this issue was about. I'll run through it again to assist some of the Liberal members who chuckled about the fact that it wasn't clear to them.

To the Liberal members and the Conservative members who are confused by it, it is a citizens' utility board that would be self-financed by the members. All the government would do is to facilitate the inclusion of a flyer when a utility sends out its rates so that members are urged to join the citizens' utility board. That association would be elected by the members and controlled by the members. The expertise they would hire would be controlled by its membership to attack a problem of unfairness with utilities, utility rates and utility practices.

All that does is to strengthen consumer advocacy, something that it would seem to me Liberals and Tories would want to support. You are denying the public, the consumer, the taxpayer, that right to be empowered to control utilities in ways that governments are not as effective to do. I urge the members opposite to reconsider and not take a party position that is clearly adversarial and wrong.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles Morin): We will deal first with ballot item number 17, standing in the name of Mr Brown. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.

Mr Brown has moved private member's resolution number 10. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


The Acting Speaker: It's carried. There's no vote.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Recorded vote.

The Acting Speaker: I will ask the question again: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Take your seats. We'll deal with the second item, and after that we'll call in the members for a vote.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with the second ballot item, number 18, standing in the name of Mr Marchese. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.

Mr Marchese has moved private member's resolution number 11. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1203 to 1208.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Mr Brown has moved private members' resolution number 10. All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remain standing.


Agostino, Dominic

Fox, Gary

Martin, Tony

Arnott, Ted

Froese, Tom

Martiniuk, Gerry

Baird, John R.

Galt, Doug

McGuinty, Dalton

Bartolucci, Rick

Grandmaître, Bernard

Miclash, Frank

Bassett, Isabel

Gravelle, Michael

Munro, Julia

Beaubien, Marcel

Grimmett, Bill

Murdoch, Bill

Bisson, Gilles

Hampton, Howard

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Boushy, Dave

Hastings, John

Pettit, Trevor

Boyd, Marion

Hudak, Tim

Phillips, Gerry

Brown, Jim

Johns, Helen

Pupatello, Sandra

Brown, Michael A.

Johnson, Bert

Ramsay, David

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, Ron

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Castrilli, Annamarie

Klees, Frank

Ross, Lillian

Christopherson, David

Kormos, Peter

Sampson, Rob

Churley, Marilyn

Kwinter, Monte

Shea, Derwyn

Colle, Mike

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Skarica, Toni

Crozier, Bruce

Laughren, Floyd

Smith, Bruce

Doyle, Ed

Leadston, Gary L.

Tilson, David

Duncan, Dwight

Marchese, Rosario

Wood, Len

Fisher, Barbara

Marland, Margaret


Ford, Douglas B.

Martel, Shelley


The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will please rise and remain standing.


Wettlaufer, Wayne

Wood, Bob


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 61; the nays are 2.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with the motion of Mr Marchese.

Mr Marchese has moved private member's notice of motion number 11. All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remain standing.


Agostino, Dominic

Churley, Marilyn

Marchese, Rosario

Bisson, Gilles

Hampton, Howard

Martel, Shelley

Boyd, Marion

Kormos, Peter

Martin, Tony

Christopherson, David

Laughren, Floyd

Wood, Len

The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will please rise and remain standing.


Arnott, Ted

Galt, Doug

Murdoch, Bill

Baird, John R.

Grandmaître, Bernard

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Bartolucci, Rick

Gravelle, Michael

Pettit, Trevor

Bassett, Isabel

Grimmett, Bill

Phillips, Gerry

Beaubien, Marcel

Hastings, John

Pupatello, Sandra

Boushy, Dave

Hudak, Tim

Ramsay, David

Brown, Jim

Johns, Helen

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Brown, Michael A.

Johnson, Bert

Ross, Lillian

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, Ron

Sampson, Rob

Castrilli, Annamarie

Klees, Frank

Shea, Derwyn

Colle, Mike

Kwinter, Monte

Skarica, Toni

Crozier, Bruce

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Smith, Bruce

Doyle, Ed

Leadston, Gary L.

Snobelen, John

Duncan, Dwight

Marland, Margaret

Tilson, David

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Ford, Douglas B.

McGuinty, Dalton

Wood, Bob

Fox, Gary

Miclash, Frank


Froese, Tom

Munro, Julia


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 12, the nays 52.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

We have completed all matters related to private members' business. I will now leave the chair and the House will resume at 1:30.

The House recessed from 1216 to 1330.



Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I rise in the Legislature today to pay tribute to the life of Alex Skead, an aboriginal leader in my riding who passed away in Kenora on April 1.

Elder Alex Skead, one of Canada's most prominent elders, enjoyed the respect of all who knew and worked with him. I, along with many, will miss his involvement in the many events we shared together. Mr Skead will be remembered for his active participation in a number of community organizations, including the Kenora Indian Street Patrol, the Ojibway Tribal Family Services and the Sacred Circle Healing Centre.

Alex will also be remembered for his work on behalf of the first nation communities of Treaty 3, where he helped build the youth and elders complex, as well as the traditional roundhouse on Powwow Island.

As an elder and spiritual leader, Alex participated in many gatherings of aboriginal leaders throughout the country and was well-known and respected by heads of both the federal and provincial governments in Canada.

Alex gave his life in a positive way, seeking recognition for the rights of aboriginal people in Canada. He believed that our youth are the future, and because of his beliefs he dedicated much of his time and energy visiting schools and universities, sharing his knowledge and wisdom with the youth of our country.

To Elizabeth, his wife, Ruth, Ida, Wanda, Stanley and Patrick, his children, I want to assure them that they are in our thoughts and prayers during these difficult days. Meegwetch.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I direct my statement today to Mike Harris, the Premier of Ontario. I travelled throughout the riding of Cochrane North during the strike and marched the OPSEU picket lines throughout Cochrane, Hearst and Kapuskasing. On March 23 and again the following week, I participated in solidarity marches through the streets of Kapuskasing and in Hearst in support of the OPSEU strike.

Time and again, the strikers voiced their objection to the treatment of civil servants and objection to your cuts in health care, education and social services. A representative of OPSEU 638, Hearst, handed me over 500 letters addressed to you in both English and French, and they're demanding that the Premier of this province resign because of his unsatisfactory work performance. They asked that I present these letters in the House.

"Due to poor job performance on your part and that of your government, I feel that I have no alternative but to dismiss you and the sitting members of your party. You have consistently failed to represent the people of this province," they say to the Premier.

Not everyone voted for you, Mr Harris. Fewer will be voting for you in the next election. I'd like a page to present these to Mr Harris.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I rise today as the member for Scarborough Centre in order to bring to the attention of this House the business excellence of the city of Scarborough.

Last night, along with my colleagues Jim Brown and Steve Gilchrist, I had the wonderful pleasure of attending the 1996 Scarborough Business Excellence awards ceremony. Hosted by the Scarborough Chamber of Commerce and the Scarborough Mirror newspaper, the purpose of these awards is to highlight the efforts of the city's best entrepreneurs and showcase their talents, while promoting Scarborough as a great place to do business.

Twenty-six businesses were nominated for six awards, and I am proud to recognize the winners today in this chamber: Prototype Circuits Inc, Manchester Plastics Ltd, Reliable Bookbinders Ltd, Dumex Medical Surgical Products, ABCO Office Installations and ABCO Business Interiors and Centenary Health Centre. An honourable mention was given to Audio Products International Corp and Shaw Communications Inc.

Scarborough has a flourishing business community and last evening's awards ceremony is a testament to the success of Scarborough's businesses. I pose the question to every person and organization who chooses to bash the city of Scarborough, "Where were you last evening?"

Scarborough is, hands down, the greatest city in which to live, to raise a family, to relax, to work and, as last night's ceremony proves, to do business.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I rise today in support of the staff of the family support plan regional office in Thunder Bay and of all the regional offices across the province.

As the members of this House know, this government has taken no pains to disguise its interest in dismantling and/or centralizing this program meant to bring child support dollars to custodial parents. But like the staff of the Thunder Bay family support plan branch, which covers the terrain from White River to the Manitoba border, I question how this government intends to realize greater compliance in terms of arrears of hundreds of millions of dollars owed to the children of this province by choosing, without any consultation, to shut down an existing system without first working with the experienced staff of these offices to devise a better system to ensure significantly improved compliance, compliance that can only happen with regional staff in place.

How can a centralized Toronto version of the family support plan be successful in northwestern Ontario, for example, when the reduced staff will be located 1,500 kilometres away from their caseload and where voice mail and a 1-800 number will be the order of the day? I certainly don't see how, nor do the 2,500 constituents who've signed petitions in my riding.

I urge the Attorney General to work with the staff of the family support plan in Thunder Bay, to hear them out on their 19-point streamlining plan that would eliminate administration costs but ensure that vital, front-line service is maintained in northwestern Ontario. In short, I ask this minister to keep family support as one of this government's priorities.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I rise today to speak out on behalf of the thousands of tenants in my riding who live in Ontario Housing Corp buildings, who are very fearful, and I think legitimately, of this government privatizing those buildings.

I particularly want to acknowledge that I will be presenting to the House next week letters and petitions from more than 2,700 of those tenants who have committed their names to a public protest of what this government is considering. This was organized by Gwen Lee, Donna Bentley-Ward and Rose McGowan, who have worked tirelessly on behalf of their fellow tenants to try to get this government to understand the kind of devastation that would be heaped upon the people who live in these buildings.

It's interesting. When we look at an article in the Globe and Mail of yesterday by James Rusk, we see that the Canadian subsidiary of Citibank of New York, in a report regarding the potential privatization, says the cost to the Ontario government to administer such privatization would increase by one third.

We see something that makes no fiscal sense. We see something that makes no sense for the people living there. The only thing that makes any sense is that it fits the ridiculous, hard, right-wing ideology of this government and its Common Sense Revolution. My constituents are hopeful that this government will wake up and --

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


Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I'd like to take this opportunity to announce that I have launched a home page on the World Wide Web. I want to invite everyone to peruse it at www.clementmpp.org. My Web site will give users the opportunity to access my profile, link with other points of interest on the Internet and send messages directly to me.

This is just the beginning. As the Internet grows, so will my Web site. I'm not simply looking for legislative input. I'm also looking for new ways to improve democracy in Ontario. Ontarians are informed and are anxious to be part of the system. If enthusiasm and faith in the democratic process is to be maintained, we as legislators must investigate new means of communicating with our constituents. My Web site is such an investigation and represents a natural progression of politics in the 1990s. It will make the work of our Legislature more relevant to my constituency, across the province and, with the potential of the Internet, around the world.

This two-way technology will allow us to maintain better links with our constituents and make it easier for us to find out what voters think and ultimately shape public policy to accommodate their sentiments.

In this vein, I've made a personal commitment to my constituents whereby one third of all the questions and statements I pose in this House will be derived from input posted to my site. As legislators, we cannot ignore the changes occurring in the information age and must incorporate technology into our broader communications. I hope I have been able to make a contribution to the enhancement of democracy and accountability in Ontario.



Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I recently visited the Adult High School in Ottawa, a school dedicated to offering a high quality education program to adult students who wish to complete their high school diploma. The students at the school who are concerned about this government's cuts have sent many letters, hundreds of letters, to the Minister of Education and Training.

Adult education works. Ontarians have been trapped in the long-term social assistance loop and are willing to go back to school, to stay in school, to complete their high school education. While the government talks about workfare so that welfare recipients will earn their welfare cheques, all these individuals are looking for is an education so they can earn a paycheque.

Today I'm delivering to the Minister of Education several hundred letters from these concerned students, and I ask the pages to take these to the minister's desk. The letters are personal testimonials about the success of this program. Here are a few excerpts from the letters:

"My main reason for attending Adult High School is to get off the welfare system completely and give my daughter a better future," says a single mother.

"Being a single parent with two children and being on social assistance has not been an easy task to perform. The Adult High School has given me much guidance...that will enable me to get off the social assistance programs and make a better life for myself and my two children."

Mr Minister, listen to these individuals and what they are saying. Your plans to cut funding to adult education will be disastrous. During the election, you promised to protect classroom education. Adult education is part of the classroom. I ask you to reconsider --

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


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm pleased to rise today to talk about a wonderful facility in London, Ontario, called the Kids' Country Club. The Kids' Country Club is a respite home which is operated by the parents of technologically dependent children. It is an incorporated, non-profit association of families that have medically fragile and/or technologically dependent children.

For the last two years they have operated a respite care home on weekends for up to four children. They have been extraordinarily successful. They have been funded through the long-term-care program of the Ministry of Health, and they are seeking ongoing funding at the moment. What they want to do is to expand the care that they are able to give during the week for those families that have emergencies during the week, like deaths in the family, like illnesses themselves, so that those children can be cared for. They are seeking that funding.

In their first year they worked with 23 children from 22 different families on 50 different occasions. Some 75% of their clientele are from London and Middlesex. Some come from as far away as Windsor and Kitchener. These are families who are heroes. They spend hours and hours of their day caring for very fragile children who indeed deserve our best care. I will be asking the Minister of Health to support the ongoing funding for this home.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): It is with great pride that I rise before the House today to mark what is fast becoming a tradition in Ontario. This Saturday, April 6, will mark the fifth celebration of Tartan Day in the province. To recognize the multicultural nature of Ontario and the contributions of the Scottish to the economic, political and cultural wellbeing of this province, I introduced a private member's resolution in 1991 to proclaim April 6 Tartan Day. The resolution was supported by all three parties and has gone on to win the support of the people in Ontario.

April 6 is a great day in the history of Scotland. It was on this day in 1320 that the Scottish declared independence. In Grey county we are proud of our heritage. Tartan Day is not only an opportunity for Scots to show their pride, but also gives children the opportunity to learn about their culture.

With Tartan Day activities and the recent success of movies like Braveheart and Rob Roy, Scottish heritage has taken on a new life. More and more young people are getting involved in pipe bands and other proud cultural activities.

It is very important that we continue to respect and commemorate our heritage. Therefore, I would like to thank everyone who has helped make Tartan Day such a success. It is with your continued support that Tartan Day will become a great tradition. On Saturday, I encourage all the people of Ontario to recognize the wearing of the tartan, the playing of the bagpipes, highland dancing and other aspects of Scottish heritage. April 6, Tartan Day, is a great day to recognize the contributions of the Scottish --

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



Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): From the outset, this government has had concerns regarding the Toronto Islands trust and the deal made by the previous government. Our concerns were about the cost to the province's taxpayers, the province's ongoing financial liability and the proposed new co-op housing development. We also had concerns that the island community had been given special consideration and benefits that were not available to all citizens of Ontario.

Last summer, this government commissioned an audit of the Toronto Island Land Trust. It found that the trust, which administers the leases on the island's residents' properties, was in debt by almost $1 million.

This past February, we made a commitment to do a number of things: correct the financial problems of the Toronto Island community and limit the province's financial responsibility, including eliminating provincial guarantees of island mortgages. The sweetheart deal that had been put in place by the previous government is no longer acceptable.

This afternoon, I will introduce legislation that will put these measures in place. This legislation will eliminate the provincial obligation for mortgage guarantees for residents of the islands. It will not affect their ability to obtain conventional mortgage financing. Islanders will no longer receive special treatment and will have to obtain mortgages just like every other home buyer in the province of Ontario.

The legislation will eliminate any reference to the construction of co-op housing. The Flying Toad Co-op on the island was cancelled on July 25, 1995.

The Toronto Island Land Trust must get back on firm financial footing, and we will give it the means of doing so by allowing the sale of up to 12 lots. The trust will use the proceeds from the sale of these lots to pay off its debts. These lots will be within the existing residential community, with access to existing infrastructure. There will be no further development in existing park areas.

We will remove the exemption from the Planning Act that was granted by the former government for the island community. This will ensure that any future development contemplated on the islands will be subject to the provisions of the Planning Act, as are all communities across Ontario.

The province will retain the responsibility for appointing trust board members to ensure financial accountability. At the same time, we will ensure that the board reflects the best interests of the entire community.

I am particularly pleased to say that the responsibility for the island community will eventually be transferred to the city of Toronto. The Toronto Islands, while unique in some respects, require many of the same services as any other residential neighbourhood. It only makes sense that such responsibility be assumed by the appropriate level of government.

The measures that I am announcing today will first and foremost eliminate the current and future financial liability of the province. It will restore the financial viability and accountability of the Toronto Island Land Trust, and it will protect the existing island community while at the same time protecting public spaces and parklands. It will transfer the responsibilities for the island trust and the residential community back to the local level, where it belongs.

I am confident that the amendments we are putting forward today will address the interests and concerns of all the parties involved with the Toronto Islands in a fair and responsible manner.



Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I rise today to introduce legislation that will move Ontario a step closer to a more competitive intercity bus industry. The government is committed to eliminating barriers to economic growth and investment. Tackling the red tape and regulatory burden is part of this effort. Government has no business telling bus companies how to run their operations, except in the area of safety for the passengers and for other people using the province's highways.

The legislation I am introducing today will allow a transition to full economic deregulation of the industry on January 1, 1998, a move that this government is committed to bringing about in an orderly manner. By establishing an interim regulatory system, we are allowing time for the industry to prepare to operate in a fully competitive environment.

We know that the current system does not guarantee service to small-town Ontario. During the past 15 years, approximately 400 communities across this province have lost their bus services. During the interim regulatory period, local entrepreneurs will be encouraged to provide services that are tailored to the travel needs of Ontario's small, rural and remote communities. Shifting away from an outdated system of regulation can only improve the chances for such communities to get the services they need.

The interim period will also allow time for the federal government to pursue bus deregulation in other provinces so that Ontario bus companies have access to other markets within Canada.

In a true spirit of partnership, we have worked with the industry to ensure a smooth and orderly transition to deregulation through this workable and cost-effective interim regulatory system. The intercity bus industry has agreed to pay the costs of the interim system, including an overhauled and more cost-effective Ontario Highway Transport Board.

We are convinced that the private sector is capable of providing service to small communities such as Armstrong, Dresden and Alexandria. In fact, operators have already expressed interest in replacing abandoned services or implementing new services to compete with existing operators. Economic deregulation of Ontario's intercity bus industry will lead to an efficient system that provides appropriate levels of service, based on market demand and the needs of the travelling public.

Safety is a priority with the Ministry of Transportation, and I assure the people of Ontario and members of this House that all necessary measures will be taken to ensure the continued safety of the intercity bus industry. Deregulation of the industry pertains only to the economic aspects, such as market entry. Existing and planned safety measures, including those announced in our road safety plan, will ensure that the intercity bus industry's excellent safety record is maintained.

The intercity bus industry has been regulated since the 1920s. It is the last Canadian transportation mode subject to market entry controls. This initiative applies to the scheduled, charter-tour and parcel express bus services provided between communities, not local urban transit systems.

We are confident that deregulation will encourage innovation on the part of the existing industry and the many potential new operators to ensure a viable and healthy intercity bus market that meets the needs of the people of Ontario.

These reforms are consistent with the red-tape review introduced by the government in the November 1995 economic statement. The Ministry of Transportation has been working with the Red-Tape Review Commission to eliminate all unnecessary or unfair barriers to business growth and job creation.


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): It is my pleasure to announce that a working draft to reform the Condominium Act of Ontario will be released today. The working draft is a consolidation of 500 recommendations made by stakeholders in the condominium community over the past few years. I might add that there are some 700,000 people in Ontario who either live or work in a condominium.

Unit owners, developers, property managers and lawyers -- those who operate under the Condominium Act framework -- have told us the current act is outdated, inflexible and an obstacle to growth. A modern and flexible legislative framework will position the condominium industry to respond effectively to the changing demographic profile of Ontario.

The existing Condominium Act needs to be reformed to deal with the issues and practices of today's condominium marketplace. There have not been any reforms since 1979 in this act. This reform will lead to legislation that will protect consumers while promoting economic development. Our goal is to create a modern and flexible piece of legislation that will serve the condominium community well into the next century. In recognition of these facts, we have developed a working draft in order to consult with stakeholders, which will be shared with stakeholders during an open consultation process.

While the reforms are numerous and diverse, they may be summarized into three general categories: (1) strengthening the protection of purchasers of condominiums, (2) improving the day-to-day operation and management of the condominium corporation, and (3) enabling the creation of new types of condominium development in our province.

I'm pleased to advise the House that the working draft document as well as a summary guide to the working draft are being made available to condominium stakeholders, MPPs, condominium corporations and to the general public. We have asked them to return their comments and suggestions to us within a six-week time period, ending about May 15. This will provide an opportunity for all interested parties to respond to the working draft prior to the introduction of the bill to this Legislature in the spring. If that bill should proceed through the legislative process, we of course would have a second consultative period during legislative committee hearings.

I urge all members at this time to encourage their constituents to participate in this consultation process. To this end, I have asked my parliamentary assistant, Jim Flaherty, to gather the written comments and suggestions of stakeholders, analyse the submissions and bring forward revisions to the working draft as quickly as possible. The changes embodied in the working draft reaffirm our government's goals of providing good government and spurring economic development in partnership with our stakeholders.

My honourable colleagues, with public input, we look forward to developing a solid package of much-needed reforms to this vital and growing segment of our economy. This issue crosses all party lines, and at the end of the consultative process I hope we will have legislation which is acceptable to all parties. I'm therefore inviting all members and all stakeholders to provide input to ensure that this legislation will reflect good government and the wishes of most of the people of Ontario.


Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): With the indulgence of the members, I would like to make a brief statement which I have not had the opportunity to pass to them on the personal property security amendments which we talked about yesterday and when the time periods would kick in.

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

Hon Mr Sterling: I am happy to be able to tell the Legislature that the Ontario personal property security system is once again up and running. I wish to thank members of the opposition parties and of course all of my colleagues in the government for supporting the passage of this act yesterday which received royal assent yesterday.

As you will recall, the Personal Property Security Amendment Act provided a five-day business period for secured lenders to register the required information in cases where discharges were not filed, renewals could not be performed and other security instruments could not be registered during that period.

As I said in my opening remarks, the first day of the period is today. The offices will be closed tomorrow, Good Friday, and only electronic searching will be available on Easter Monday. So Friday and Saturday do not qualify as business days under the terms of the amendments because full services were not available. People who must register information to keep their priority position must do so by the end of next week, that is on Friday, April 12. So they have today, next Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to do their business.

I also announced yesterday that people who wish to register security interests which finance new equipment and inventory for businesses have 10 calendar days to comply with the rules. Ten calendar days from today is Saturday, April 13. Therefore, the effective deadline for providing the necessary information happens just by chance also to be next Friday, April 12.

Let me again thank the House for its cooperation yesterday and today.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I'm pleased to respond to the comments of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations with regard to the working draft to reform the Condominium Act. I'm pleased to respond to whom I'm coming to consider as the most powerful member of cabinet, because two days in a row we've had legislation either introduced or discussed by this minister.

After the débâcle of Bill 26, we are also pleased to note that this is the second piece of draft legislation, the first being the auto insurance legislation, that gives the public and ourselves an opportunity to respond. We look forward to gathering comments over the next six weeks and after that to seeing the legislation and commenting on it. We agree it's been far too long since this has been reviewed and revised and we will do all we can to assist in seeing that the proper legislation is brought forward.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I'd like to respond briefly to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I guess he's basically trying to undo the deal first put together by Larry Grossman, and it's the sweetheart deal that the Tories certainly had complicity in.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): My second point is that the Minister of Transportation's announcement today puts the foxes in charge of the henhouse. What's happened here is that they've disbanded a regulatory board of the government, the Ontario Highway Transport Board, and set up a board of the major bus carriers in the province which are now going to supervise busing in Ontario. That's like putting the banks in charge of banking. The major bus carriers have a conflict of interest.

The minister is saying the passengers and the small towns that are maybe going to lose their service will not have a role, that government will not protect them. They're going to have to rely on major bus carriers to protect their rights to have good bus service throughout Ontario. What's going to happen -- as you know, they couldn't deregulate today because they found out that they couldn't stop the Quebec bus carriers from coming in here and poaching. So they want deregulation, but they don't want it. They say, "As long as we've got it for our greedy little hands here in Ontario, we'll keep it as sort of a half-measure of regulation but then we'll see what happens in 1998."

The same thing that happened in the UK will happen here. There will be cherry-picking right across Ontario. The private bus carriers will take all the best routes where they'll make money and all the small towns that need the routes that don't have the passengers will be left abandoned. Nobody will speak for them because they don't put money into the pockets of the big bus carriers. This province is going to have inferior bus service and it's going to have essentially a government that says it has no role to play in bus regulation. In other words, it takes a back-seat approach to the transportation network this province has grown accustomed to and is proud of.

I would say to this minister that before he proceeds with this, he should sit down with the passengers -- not just with the big companies -- sit down with all those people in small-town Ontario and ask them what they think about this deregulation. Don't just talk to the big bus companies. Talk to the ordinary citizens who need the buses to go to doctors' appointments, who need them to go to work, who need to visit. Ask them what they think about deregulation.

Hopefully what this will mean is that you will not just take away bus service and walk away from a responsibility, because as the Minister of Transportation you have a responsibility to provide good roads and good bus systems and not to say it's the private sector's obligation, because the private sector needs to be regulated to an extent where the public is protected.

You're walking away from that responsibility and what you're basically doing is saying that this government has no interest in guaranteeing good transportation. All you're interested in is promoting the profit of the big bus companies and forgetting the little people who need these bus services to get to their appointments.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I rise to make comments in the name of Rosario Marchese, the member for Fort York, who is ill today and asked me to do it in order to make comment with regard to the announcement that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has made with regard to the Toronto Islands.

I guess if there's anything good in the announcement that the minister has made today, it's simply this: He has finally removed the cloud that has hung over the islands since your government has come to power. Since the time your government has come to power, people have been wondering what's going to happen to the future of the island community with regard to their homes and what's going to happen with regard to daily living as they understand it now on the Toronto Islands.

What simply is going to happen with what you have done is that you are now going to allow infilling to happen within the community that will in turn allow enough money to be put into the land trust so it does not become insolvent. For that, I guess we can be thankful. But on the other side, what it also is going to allow is the prohibition of the construction of co-op housing.

I say to the minister, you don't have any progressive housing policies. We've seen that since you have been here. Seeing that you have no progressive housing policies I would suggest to the minister and to the government that you change your title from Progressive Conservatives to Regressive Conservatives.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I, of course, am responding to the announcement of the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, and indeed I speak on behalf of this caucus when we indicate that we welcome this opportunity.

I note that the minister has mentioned that the consultations have been occurring over the past few years, and my colleague Ms Churley, the member for Riverdale, insisted that I make reference to her and her leadership in that regard. I'd like to make claim myself, but in a mere six months one hasn't got the ability to do everything. I was preoccupied, as you well know, with public auto insurance.

What's of significant importance, though, is that we recognize that the condominium crisis -- and I'm confident that there is a crisis that's very imminent in the condominium community -- is isolated not just to Toronto, that although there are areas in common, there are some very unique qualities about condominium corporations and condominium developments as they tend to occur in smaller-community Ontario like Welland-Thorold, like the north, and a whole lot of other communities.

I think it's imperative that this review conducted by Mr Flaherty address in particular consumer protection and the protection of purchasers who are currently buying into condominiums that are underreserved, condominiums that have imminent failures of major cost items, that are simply going to attack any modest equity that those new purchasers have in those new acquisitions.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I wish to respond to the announcement of bus deregulation by the Minister of Transportation. It will come as no surprise to the Minister of Transportation that we think his idea is a bad one, is a destructive one. But let me go through the reasons why we think it is bad and destructive.

The fact of the matter is that people all across northern Ontario and rural Ontario have to have a good functioning bus service. It's essential for the proper performance of the economy, it's essential for senior citizens, it's essential for poor people especially, and it's essential in order that people can see the doctor, see the optometrist, see the dentist and all of those things that are part of ordinary life. People will not have this now, and the minister needs to understand this. In fact, I would suggest we'll buy you a bus ticket to let you see exactly how much these buses are needed by people across rural and northern Ontario.

Let me say also to the minister, we know what is going to happen here. We've had an experience with this government already with norOntair. This government said, "We'll walk in and we'll put an end to norOntair and the private sector will come in and will pick up the airline service." Well, there are all kinds of communities in northern Ontario now that have no air service thanks to this Conservative government.

The private sector is only interested in picking up the most profitable routes. They are only interested when they can cream off the profits. As far as they're concerned, if the route isn't profitable, "Then we don't care, and people can do without."

Let me say to the Minister of Transportation that this won't work. This is going to be very destructive. What this is really all about is that the big bus companies want to use this as a means of shedding their union contracts. That's what this is about, lowering workers' wages, and you don't care about rural and northern Ontario.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): There's one more negative impact the Minister of Northern Development and Mines should think about with respect to the statement made by his colleague: the impact on the ONTC. Between the cuts in the provincial subsidy of your government and your negative policies being implemented in the announcement today, that agency will no longer be in a position to generate commercial revenues to continue to provide important transportation and communication services in northern Ontario. You need to think --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member's time has expired. It is now time for oral question period.


Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege: Do we have unanimous consent for a statement? It's been agreed to by all three parties.

The Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.


Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I rise in the House today on a sad and tragic occasion. Tuesday night, at approximately 8 o'clock, Provincial Constable Mike Gula was struck by a vehicle while performing his duties on the Queen Elizabeth Way in Niagara region. Constable Gula was transported to hospital, but succumbed to his injuries.

We are always saddened when a police officer is killed while performing his or her duties. It serves as a reminder that the men and women who do police work choose to put their lives on the line every day to protect us, whether they are facing the obvious perils of combating crime or, in this case, routine traffic patrols.

The tragedy of Constable Gula's death is compounded by the fact that he was only four months short of his retirement after serving the people of Ontario as an OPP officer for the past 29 years in the Niagara-St Catharines area.

Constable Gula was a well-liked and dedicated traffic officer who enjoyed computers and sports. He was involved in detachment planning, and each year helped organize the OPP Association's brotherhood banquet night. Always in good spirits, he would at times drop in on the Niagara Falls tourist bureau to talk with tourists entering the province.

The people of Ontario were well served by Constable Mike Gula. Constable Gula will be sorely missed by his friends, colleagues and family. To his wife, Zan, and his four children, I offer condolences on behalf of the government, all ministry staff and the members of this House. I also want to express my sincere thanks to Constable Gula's family for the good work of their departed husband and father. We all know that the efforts of an individual often involve a family commitment and support, and our prayers are with them.

I would ask all members of the House and all in attendance to please join me in a moment of silence to pay tribute to Provincial Constable Mike Gula.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I rise on behalf of the official opposition, the Liberal caucus, and as well, I suppose even more so, as a resident of St Catharines, because of course Constable Gula was from St Catharines and had served his community and the people of our area for so many years.

I know that all members of this House and all residents of the city of St Catharines and the Niagara region have been deeply saddened by the tragic death of Constable Michael Gula of the Ontario Provincial Police.

As members will be aware by now, and as the Solicitor General has pointed out, Constable Gula was doing what he did so often, and that was assisting someone else, in this case another OPP officer, on the Queen Elizabeth Way near McLeod Road in the Niagara Falls area, when he was struck by a passing vehicle.

Those who knew Michael Gula in our community held him in very, very high esteem, as did his fellow officers. It was interesting. You wouldn't call it a press conference obviously; it was an individual asked to comment about a fellow police officer. I want to share that with members of the House:

"OPP Constable Stan Feeney said Gula was an officer whose `infectious, jolly attitude about life' could change the mood when he walked into a room.

"`He was a very valued, likable, happy-go-lucky member of our detachment,' Feeney said...Gula was a respected and efficient officer who always had a smile on his face."

He had worked, of course, with the OPP in Niagara for 29 years and lived in the St Catharines area itself for more than 20 years. Mr Gula, as has been pointed out, was married, with four grown children who live in the Niagara area. As the Solicitor General has appropriately pointed out, it's tragic no matter when it happens and under what circumstances, but Mike Gula was going to be retiring in just a short period of time, having served 30 full years as a police officer for the OPP, to take up some of his other activities in the community and to spend the kind of time that people like to spend with their families.

All of us know that it is a difficult job to be a police officer. A police officer's life is on the line all of the time that individual is on duty, and this was a rather innocuous situation where one might not expect that to be the case. Once again, it demonstrates that no matter what activity a police officer is involved in, that activity could involve the loss of that individual's life. The stress that is placed on the family -- and the Solicitor General has appropriately pointed out that the family in all of these circumstances faces a certain amount of stress and concern over the lifetime because a police officer is always in that position.

Certainly I know that all of us on this side of this House and all members of the House and all people of our community, and I'm sure all people of Ontario, send our condolences to his wife, his family, his friends and all who knew him.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I am saddened but honoured to pay tribute on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus, but indeed on behalf of some 400,000 people from the Niagara region and so many other folks in this province who were served, and served well, by Constable Mike Gula of the Ontario Provincial Police.

He joined the force on October 10, 1967, and, as has been mentioned, had served for 29 years and was but four months away from a retirement that he was very much looking forward to, although Mike never would have totally been able to leave behind his policing career, not just the camaraderie with the women and men who serve in the Ontario Provincial Police force out of the Niagara detachment, but the opportunity that he had -- again, it's been referred to but warrants restating -- to be involved in other people's lives, and not just in the role of a police officer identifying crime or apprehending criminals, but in the role of somebody who is out there on our highways, on our roadways offering assistance when he could and indeed lending his very unique philosophy of life to those around him.

So many who knew Constable Gula were aware of that philosophy. It was one where not only did he always look at the positive side of things, but he encouraged -- he didn't just encourage, he insisted that others look at the positive side of things too.

We know that he served in Niagara region. He served specifically in the Niagara Falls detachment and in the St Catharines detachment when they were separate from one another. He also was one of the OPP officers who served in Grand Bend during the summer postings that are required there because of the increased complement of visitors to the Grand Bend area.

He was, I tell you this -- again, my relationship with Constable Gula goes back a good chunk of time now -- a very valued member of the Ontario Provincial Police, of that Niagara detachment, and he was valued because of his very professional qualities as a police officer. At the end of the day, the fact is that Mike Gula was a cop's cop, no two ways about it. He had a strong respect for the role of policing in our community and he had a vision about the role of policing that required him, compelled him to go the extra mile. He was one of those people who gave far more to his job and to his community than he ever took back. He was an extremely likeable person.


One of the interesting tests -- understanding that police officers at times have to interfere in people's lives in an unpleasant way, even the process of stopping speeders on the QEW, as part of the traffic detail, oftentimes that can generate some acrimony on the part of the person who's being apprehended and ticketed.

Mike Gula was the kind of police officer who would enforce the law, perform his responsibilities and his duties to the absolute degree, yet he was also the sort of guy who, when offenders drove away after being dealt with by him, those very offenders understood what had happened, understood that Mike Gula had fulfilled his responsibilities and left, rather than with anger and bitterness about having been stopped, with a sense of understanding, and indeed Mike Gula imparted to them that jovial, optimistic sense that he had, a philosophy and approach that he had to life.

He is surely going to be missed by the women and men serving out of the Niagara detachment. He's going to be missed by all of those people in Niagara region who work in the administration of justice, be it in the traffic courts, the provincial prosecutors, the defence counsel, the folks who work through that system; he's going to be missed by his community, no two ways about it, and he's going to be missed in a way that none of us will really ever be able to comprehend by Zan, his wife, by his children, Robbie Gula and Kevin Gula and Patrick McGrath and Tammy McGrath, and it's so difficult to convey to Zan and Robbie and Kevin and Patrick and Tammy how sad and indeed how incredibly sad we are to lose a member of the Ontario Provincial Police, a committed member of a police force but four months away from retirement.

I want to join the others here in expressing to the members of the Ontario Provincial Police in Niagara, to Zan and Mike Gula's children, our most sincere condolences, our strong and deep sympathies and our understanding and hope that they can take some comfort in the fact that Mike Gula will be missed by literally hundreds, and I hope they take some comfort in the fact that Mike Gula performed his responsibilities in the Ontario Provincial Police with integrity, with honour and with a passion and compassion for his fellow humankind.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I would like to thank the Solicitor General, the member for St Catharines and the member for Welland-Thorold for their comments and I will have a copy of them sent to Mrs Gula.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Minister, this morning the Daily Bread Food Bank released a survey based on interviews conducted at 39 food banks across the greater Toronto area. The results of those surveys are very disturbing indeed.

The number of people in the greater Toronto area who are forced to rely on food banks is up 54% over last year. The number of people who are forced to miss meals has doubled because the food banks just can't keep up with the needs of hungry families. One out of every five people showing up at food banks in the greater Toronto area have already gone without food for at least two days.

Minister, the food bank says there is a direct link between your government's cuts and the increase in hunger in Metro Toronto. Your patronizing response till now has been to suggest a ridiculous $91-a-month diet or to tell people to go out and bargain for 69-cent tuna. The Premier has said that many people are homeless because they choose to be homeless. Tell me, Minister, do you also think that hunger is increasing because people are choosing to be hungry?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): First of all, I'd like to take the opportunity to commend the people who work and give their time and donations to help people and continue to do so, and also who help encourage people to assist each other in the communities. I think it's very important. I think that all along certainly the Premier and myself and many of my colleagues have indicated it's good for the communities to work together, and certainly the food bank is a good initiative. We also realize that living on a restricted budget is challenging for some people.

I really do have to suggest and say that our welfare rates are 10% above the average of the other provinces, and combined with that, we did give people the opportunity to earn back the difference between the old and new rates and we do truly hope and feel that a part-time job will lead to a full-time job. Clearly, the old system didn't work and that's why we're doing the fundamental reform right now to the welfare system.

Mrs McLeod: I don't think that getting people to feed deer in northern Ontario is going to do anything to help families on welfare feed their children, and we are talking about children here, Minister. Let's keep a focus on the children who are on welfare in this province and who are going hungry.

The number of children who are hungry has gone up by 50%. We're talking about children, Minister, who are going to bed hungry. We're talking about children who don't have proper clothes. We're talking about children who go to school and can't learn properly because they are hungry and they are cold. These children are hungry today and they are hungrier, Minister, than they were the day that your government took office. Your government has offered these children absolutely no hope at all that their lives will be better. You've made them this ridiculous promise that if you give people in the province a massive cash bonanza that goes to the wealthiest citizens, somehow, some day, the children of the poor are going to benefit. You've given them condescending food tips like having bread without butter or having pasta with no sauce.

Minister, I think today is the day when you should just admit that you have no hope to offer these children. Just tell them that they have to go to bed hungry, that they have to do their part so you can deliver your tax cut to the wealthy Ontarians.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Certainly we want to help people break the cycle of dependency and get back into self-sufficiency. Frankly, to the Leader of the Opposition, you had the opportunity yourselves to try to fix the system. The system obviously did not work. There was usage of food banks, certainly a high usage, when you were in power as well. You didn't do anything to change the system. You didn't do anything to really fundamentally reform the system so it worked.

We were left with a massive problem here. That's why we're undertaking a fundamental reform. That's also why we're going to introduce the opportunity for people to participate in Ontario Works. This will give people the opportunity to break the cycle of dependency and to lead to self-sufficiency.

Mrs McLeod: Neither did we cut welfare rates for families with children in order to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in this province.

If the minister wants to go back and talk about changes, there were fewer people using the food banks when we were in government. We were starting to get a handle on it. What we are seeing now is the ball rolling back down that hill and 50% more people using food banks this year than last year, and that is a direct result of this government's policies.

Minister, we are talking about hunger here today and the statistics that show a massive increase in hunger since your government started its slash-and-burn programs. We're talking about homelessness, the 16% of those food bank users who have been evicted or threatened with eviction from their homes. We're talking about people being cold because one in three of those food bank users don't have winter clothing because they need to use their dollars for food. We are talking about joblessness for these people, because these people don't have the money to do a job interview, to go to that interview, because they don't even have the money for public transit.


Minister, I suggest to you today that hunger is not a lifestyle choice, homelessness is not a lifestyle choice, children growing up without food, without hope, are not making lifestyle choices, and joblessness is not a lifestyle choice. When are you going to start caring, when are you going to start doing something that is real and positive for the growing list of casualties of your Common Sense Revolution?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Before the Leader of the Opposition begins to start to pooh-pooh the idea of the opportunity that's involved with the workfare, Ontario Works, I'd like to just remind her that the Calgary Herald of March 26, 1995, reported: "Liberal leader Lyn McLeod said she planned to cut welfare payments to single mothers who refuse to perform community service or go to school. `If people refuse to participate in a program, their payments would be reduced,' McLeod said in an interview on Global television. `Community service is completely suitable for people who have small children,' she said. `In fact, it's one of the ways to make them feel as though they're not just somehow receiving welfare and caught in this welfare trap.'"

I think the honourable member should look and see what her own words have said in the past and reflect upon those.

Mrs McLeod: I'm aware of what my own words are and what my own programs would be. I'd be happy to welcome any questions that the minister might like to direct to me.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order.


Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a question to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. As politicians, we're used to the idea of people second-guessing our policy decisions. That's part of the give and thrust of politics. It's another question when people publicly are starting to question our competence.

I would like to ask the minister what his response is to an article that appeared, and it talked about the minister's performance in discussions between the federal and provincial governments. It says the minister is regarded as a bust in federal circles. The reason, and they give some examples: "Whenever the topic does come up at federal/provincial meetings, Saunderson merely reads from his briefing notes, even when the contents do not pertain to the topic." And we have certainly seen that in the House. The other thing that happens, it says, is that "Saunderson on the other hand is asleep at the switch and we all pay while he dozes."

Mr Minister, what is your reaction to this ever-increasing public questioning of your competence?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): May I say that I guess he's referring to -- can you guess it? -- the Toronto Star. That newspaper is one of the greatest supporters of the Liberal Party that we have in Canada, as you know, and I know the article to which he refers. To me it was a wonderful plant by one of the ministers in Ottawa, for the simple reason that Ontario under our government does not knuckle under at all times to what the federal government has to say.

Mr Kwinter: Mr Speaker, I'm going to give the minister another chance to defend his competence, and this has got nothing to do with any newspapers. You will know that in the last few days a major trade topic that has been at the top of the agenda in this country is the softwood lumber dispute and the reaction of the four provinces that are severely impacted by it: Alberta, Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario.

I have a letter that has been addressed to the Premier, and I have to say in the many years that I have been in this House, I don't think I've seen a letter of this type written, not only written but circulated, to some members in the government. I want to quote a couple of things from it. It's from the Ontario Forest Industries Association. I don't think, by any stretch of the imagination, it can be perceived to be the representative of a newspaper or of a special interest other than its own particular interest. I'd like to quote from this letter written April 3.

"Dear Premier

"I would like to express disappointment at the treatment we received from W. Saunderson, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism."

Then it says -- and I think it is important that all members listen to this:

"The minister who is responsible for trade has not seen fit to acknowledge, let alone respond to, letters sent in February by presidents of large companies such as Tembec, Malette and E.B. Eddy, or from small companies such as Midway Lumber. Neither has he responded to letters written by me on March 6 and March 27. Phone calls by several individuals were placed last week to the minister in his office. None has been returned."

This is an issue where Ontario's very livelihood in this sector is at risk. To me, it is unacceptable that the minister responsible for those negotiations would not even acknowledge concerns expressed by that sector, would not return calls, and would actually trigger such unhappiness that they would see fit to take the step of writing to the Premier and spelling out their concerns.

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

Mr Kwinter: Minister, what is your defence? If this doesn't --

The Speaker: The question has been asked.

Hon Mr Saunderson: On to another subject. The subject is the softwood lumber negotiations that have been going on. I can tell the honourable member that I have been in negotiation, or my department's been in negotiation regarding the softwood lumber arrangements for the last two months. We have not only been in negotiation with the United States but also, of course, with Ottawa, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta. I don't understand that letter and it doesn't make sense to me, because we have a huge file on this particular situation.

We regret, I might say, more than any other province has issued any statement about a regret, that we had to succumb once again to export controls as dictated by the United States.

I'm happy to say that a deal has been reached by the federal government and the United States on softwood lumber. The deal is that instead of being countervailed by the United States, the federal government will impose a levy on exports over a certain limit made by various companies in Canada. That is a better arrangement than what was proposed originally, and it was Ontario and my ministry, our government, that made sure it was going to be properly done and that Ontario's base would be 1.95 billion board feet, not the much smaller amount proposed early in the negotiations. We're very happy with what we have done.

Mr Kwinter: I think the minister misses a very critical point, and that is that the role of government is to represent the best interests of its citizens and the component entities that are part of that citizenry.

The minister has just been talking about how they were at the forefront and leading the attack in getting the best deal for Ontario. Again I have a letter from the same association, the Ontario Forest Industries Association, the spokesperson organization for the industry. In a letter to the Minister for International Trade, it says, "I realize how close we came to losing this battle with the Americans, and I deeply regret that it was the government of my province that was the prime stumbling block."

Rather than saying you were at the forefront in resolving this, it is perceived by those people in the industry in this province that you were the prime stumbling block. I say to you, Mr Minister, rather than being open for business, you're really indicating that you're out to lunch.

Hon Mr Saunderson: Further on the subject, may I say that the arrangement that was reached was because of Ontario and no other level of government. We had to make sure that our base of 1.95 billion board feet was the basis for the negotiations. When the negotiations started a week ago, it was said that our base would be something like 1.2 billion board feet. There's a big difference between 1.95 billion and 1.2 billion, and we made sure that it was the 1.95. May I say that had we not stood up and made our point, Ontario producers would be working from a much smaller base. That's all I can say on that.



Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I have a question to the Minister of Community and Social Services. The minister constantly tells the House that the welfare system that we've had in place in Ontario hasn't worked and that he's going to bring in a new idea called "work for welfare," when we all know it's not a new idea; that's the old welfare system. There is evidence that suggests that workfare does not help people get jobs, and the minister knows that.

The Alberta model has been in place since 1993, and to date there is no evidence to show that it helps people get back into the workforce. The Caledon Institute of Social Policy states that here in Ontario prior to 1966, welfare recipients were used as cheap labour to shovel snow, clear bush and do roadwork, something I've heard the minister talk about. The placements improved neither the skills nor the employability of the participants; moreover, municipalities actually traded their regular employees for welfare recipients.

The results of California's GAIN program are, "Even in this relatively successful program, employment and earnings impact did not result from participation in the program in the short term." In the US, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that only a handful of people in workfare programs achieved a stable source of employment that provides enough income for a decent standard of living.

I'd like to ask the minister, why does he think his old 1960s approach to welfare is going to work in Ontario?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): First of all, our approach is not an "old 1960s approach." I don't know if the honourable member has ever learned about learning from his mistakes in the past and trying to improve a system or systems that they've examined.

It is quite true we have looked at a number of jurisdictions. We've looked at jurisdictions in the States, we've looked at the Alberta model, Quebec, New Brunswick and several international models as well, I might add. But the one thing that we're looking at is a made-in-Ontario solution. I think that's very important, because Ontario is not the United States, as much as the opposition might lead us to think so. I guess they're probably enamoured with the United States, especially the third party over there, because they probably like the state of Tax-us.

Clearly, we're looking for community based solutions here, and that's the real difference. We recognize the fact that there's a real difference between different regions of this province, whether it's rural Ontario, the agricultural areas, inner-city, suburbia. We have to have a program that's flexible, that meets the needs of communities. That's why it's community based; that's why it's going to be bottom up as opposed to top down, as the prior governments were so keen to do.

Mr Cooke: The minister can say that this is going to be a made-in-Ontario solution, but when one goes through the ministry documents, all of the examples they give are American models. That's where the studies have taken place; that's where the minister is looking at the models. They look at Wisconsin in particular.

The fact of the matter is that independent studies that have been carried out, whether it's the Caledon Institute or whether it's the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in the United States, all have come to the conclusion that workfare doesn't work.

I'd just simply like to ask the minister, can the minister tell us today or file with the table in the House today a list of studies that demonstrate that workfare works if in fact the criterion is gaining independence and work in the general public? Is that the goal? If that's the goal, table the studies that show this will work.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Clearly, the honourable member has forgotten that the old way didn't work, and I do have to reference my remarks to the last 10 years. When the welfare caseload goes from 457,000 people to 1.3 million people, where the costs of the system go up by 350%, where one out of 10 people is on welfare when we took over the government, clearly the old way didn't work.

Obviously, we need to do new reforms, try new ways. As much as the honourable member would like you to believe that somehow we're going to get tied to other models, we're very clear that we have to find a made-in-Ontario solution.

I don't know if the honourable member really has ever heard about consultation, which is what we're doing. That's what we're trying to find: a way that workfare, our Ontario Works program, will work, as opposed to the old system.

Mr Cooke: Let's just take one area as an example. In Waterloo last fall there were 10,500 general welfare recipients, 7,500 family benefits recipients and 9,000 unemployment insurance claimants. That's just in one area. There were 2,000 known job vacancies. Today's unemployment statistics show that there are 517,000 people still unemployed in this province.

What jobs are you going to be transferring people to through the workfare program? There are no jobs in the province. The unemployment rate is still nearly 9%.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: There are a number of initiatives here. Certainly, with Ontario Works our main aim is to get people back to work. We also want to try to assist them and to --

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): David, wait till Patrick Watson gets finished with you.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member for Welland-Thorold has been continuously out of order, and I won't warn him again.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Although it is very interesting to listen to the member for Welland-Thorold, who from time to time has some very interesting remarks to make, those not shared by his party as well, no matter how the honourable member would like you to believe that somehow this is not going to work, the people of Ontario are waiting for this. The people of Ontario are ready to assist the government. We've had many organizations across the province that have come forward and said, "Yes, we are willing to participate, willing to help you."

Let me just add to this, since it's referenced to the third party, that Mr Silipo, who was in my position about a year ago, indicated about the system at that time, "It isn't helping unemployed people to learn new skills and find new jobs" --

Mr Kormos: There are no jobs for them to go to.

The Speaker: Order. The member for Welland-Thorold has been warned. I will ask the member to leave. I'll name the honourable member for Welland-Thorold. Mr Kormos. Would he leave the chamber. Sergeant at Arms.

Mr Kormos left the chamber.



Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a question to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. I'm not going to question his competence, but rather his commitment to jobs.

We know that the situation is not getting better. The situation is getting worse. We saw in March that Ontario lost another 1,000 jobs in this province. But today I want to talk to the minister particularly about the disturbing trend we are seeing of many large corporations -- banks and other large corporations -- making more and more profits with fewer and fewer workers.

I know that this minister and indeed many across the floor like to talk a lot about their Common Sense Revolution, or the CSR, as they affectionately call it, but I want to suggest to this minister that there's another CSR that he particularly should be concerned about, and that is the corporate social responsibility; the corporate social responsibility not to just simply make profits, but to also be able to turn some of those profits into more jobs for people. What I want to ask this minister is what action has he taken, or will he take, to ensure that this corporate social responsibility is lived up to, that companies don't continue to simply make more and more profits with fewer and fewer workers?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I believe, as my party believes and this government believes, in the spirit of free enterprise. From time to time it's necessary for businesses, just like good governments, to make cutbacks. If businesses have to make cutbacks, then that is their business, just like it is our business if we have to make cutbacks in order to get our fiscal house in order. So I have no intention, nor would this government have any intention, of telling businesses what they should and should not do.

Mr Silipo: I thought that the minister and his colleagues believed what they said in their Common Sense Revolution, that their top priority was to get jobs back into this province, and instead what we are seeing is just a commitment to the free enterprise system, which is fine and well, but it's not working. It's not creating the jobs, because we aren't seeing more jobs come as a result of this firm belief in the free enterprise system; we're seeing fewer jobs.

I know sometimes it seems that the members across do listen to what public opinion says, and so I want to suggest to the minister that perhaps he might want to pay attention to one recent poll that came out, which was released last week, an Angus Reed poll, which said that about 73% of Ontarians considered it unacceptable for large companies to lay workers off while making high profits, and that a large number of Ontarians -- about 44% -- support the idea that these profitable companies that dump workers should be required to pay higher taxes or some other penalty.

Why is the minister not looking at that as a solution in terms of channelling some of those profits back to the companies such as small business, for example, that are creating the jobs? Why is he simply taking this hands-off approach when clearly this hands-off approach is not working?

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

Hon Mr Saunderson: Sometimes I wonder if they listen over there to what we are saying in our good statements about jobs. We've talked about creating 725,000 jobs, and we're doing it. We have said repeatedly in the last 10 days what the job results have been, and we referred to February -- the month of February, I say it again, 31,000 new jobs. That is better than any February since 1981.

Let me just point out something to the member. I've got some articles here from the newspaper about a survey done by the committee for independent business. There are some very telling headlines here about jobs: "Ontario Businesses Back Tax Cut Plan." "Tax Cut to Create Jobs, Survey Says." "Small Business Survey Sees Jobs from Tax Cut." "CFIB Says Tax Cuts Mean Jobs." Are we listening and reading these articles? We are. Are you?

Mr Silipo: On the rhetorical level, I would say the minister's competence has improved, but that's not going to get us any further ahead here. I think the minister can try to bury his head all he wants in the sand and ignore not what I am saying but what people across the province are saying, indeed, what companies are also saying, which is that it is fundamentally wrong for corporations, whether banks or others, whether it's the Bank of Montreal, with profits going up 20%, laying off 1,400 workers, whether it's companies like Inco, with profits going up 3,300%, laying off 2,000 workers -- the point is that there is something wrong when companies are making more and more profits and laying off more and more workers at the same time. You have an obligation, a responsibility to use the powers of government you have, the taxing powers you have, if necessary, which is what the public is saying you should be doing, to ensure that companies also live up to their social responsibilities.

You have said, and I agree with you, that small business creates jobs. Why not use some of the profits from those large companies that don't seem to care at all about what's happening in the economy and put that into incentives, put that into tax breaks for companies that will create the jobs? You can't just wash your hands of the responsibility, Minister. When will you start to do your job, to really help create jobs in this province?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I am saddened to see a political party proposing to shackle companies in this province. We lived with that philosophy for five years with you and five years over there. What have we got? High unemployment, which is now starting to come down -- more jobs. Let me conclude by saying that a strong corporate profit performance produces higher taxes for this province.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance, who I know will have current information, not like the previous minister. Today, as you know, Minister, you published your first-quarter employment results, and they are very concerning to us in the Liberal caucus.

You've been in office now for nine months and we see here that in the first three months of 1996, the number of people out of work in the province has actually gone up by 20,000 people. I'm particularly troubled because 13,000 of them are young people; we are very concerned about young people.

You've been in office nine months. We see in the first three months of this year 20,000 more people out of work. I think you would acknowledge that your cuts in the level of employment in the public sector have not yet hit, so we will find that hitting over the next few months. You promised in the campaign that the unemployment numbers would be dropping. Why are there 20,000 more people out of work in Mike Harris's Ontario than at the same time a year ago under a different government?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): The honourable member will also know that in the last six months Ontario has gained 65,000 jobs.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): The big lie.

Hon Mr Eves: I say to the member for Nickel Belt, those are indeed the facts. The reality is that the Ontario economy has gained 65,000 jobs in the last six months. As a matter of fact, if you take out the impact of the General Motors people who were not working because of a strike in the United States, the Ontario economy has created an average of 12,000 jobs per month over the last seven months. At that rate, between July 1995 and December 2000 we would create 766,000 jobs.

Mr Phillips: We're beginning to see the cold, hard face of the Common Sense Revolution. Minister, those are your numbers I just quoted to you: 20,000 more people out of work in the first quarter of 1996. In your own fiscal document you predict more people out of work in 1996, this year, than last year, and then in 1997, next year, you predict more people out of work than this year.

Halfway into this Common Sense Revolution, you yourself predict more people out of work, more people in the unemployment ranks in the province than when you came into office. We saw yesterday that the Help Wanted index dropped dramatically in Ontario, the worst in the country, down 16%. We saw small businesses' optimism about the future far weaker for 1996 than it was in 1995.


My question is this: Don't you find it unacceptable that you, yourself, are predicting the number of people out of work going up this year and next year, and will you guarantee that in the budget coming up in the next few weeks that will be corrected and we will not see the number of unemployed continuing to rise over the next two years under the Harris government?

Hon Mr Eves: The Ontario economy is projected to grow by 81,000 jobs in 1996 and 100,000 jobs in 1997. Data Resources thinks that the Ontario government's projections are too low and it projects that 146,000 jobs will be created in 1997.

We are using prudent, cautious economic assumptions for our fiscal planning purposes, and I say to the honourable member, we are doing an average annual comparison that is, in our opinion, the true method of measuring job creation. It is the same method, I say to the honourable member, that Bob Nixon used in every single one of his budgets, it's the same method that was used by Floyd Laughren in every single one of his budgets and it's the same measure that's been used by every finance minister in recent memory in the province of Ontario. So if it was good enough for Bob Nixon, it should be good for the want-to-be leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. This week we learned that the Canadian government was signing a deal with the US which will slap an export tax on US-bound softwood shipments. Just a few weeks ago, the Liberal trade minister said that an international levy would be outside the principles of the North American free trade agreement, yet still the federal Liberal government moved ahead. Many single-industry towns in northern Ontario that rely on the lumber industry are going to be significantly affected by this decision. Clearly Ontario is a large player in these discussions.

Minister, what was your involvement in these discussions that resulted in an export tax? I understand from recent press reports that the revenue from the export tax will go into the provincial treasury. This is a new tax on northern Ontario industries. Did your government oppose the export tax on softwood lumber, and how much money will the province receive from this new tax?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): A deal has been reached, as the honourable member has noted, between the federal government in Canada and the federal government in the United States on softwood lumber exports.

Trade Minister Eggleton had decided that it was in the national interest to agree to limit exports of softwood lumber to the United States, and accordingly has put on export controls, as you know. Our position was, and it's been clear and consistent all through these negotiations, that we do not accept export controls. We made it very clear to them. I am very disappointed with the federal government's decision about imposing export controls.

Mr Len Wood: For a government that claims to want to cut taxes, why didn't you vigorously oppose the move by the federal Liberal government? After all, it was a Progressive Conservative government that sold us the bill of goods on free trade and set the stage for NAFTA. Progressive Conservative governments have long argued that free trade agreements were needed to prevent this type of action, yet your government has remained relatively silent on this issue.

Minister, time and time again we've heard from your government that taxes kill jobs, and yet you've increased taxes on northern Ontario industry. There's now a 15% export tax on Ontario softwood lumber. Can you tell this House today how many jobs the government expects to be lost because of this tax grab that will go to the provincial treasury? I understand if it would have been implemented last year, you're talking about $175 million that they're taking out of northern Ontario, a tax grab that's going to kill jobs, hurt northern Ontario single-industry towns.

Hon Mr Saunderson: To the honourable member, we do not anticipate that jobs will be lost. In fact, if anything, jobs, we feel, will be gained because of the excellent climate we are creating in this province to create jobs and encourage business.

I might say that on the matter of softwood lumber, this matter was under the jurisdiction of the federal government -- you know that -- and they have made their decision. We tried to avoid, as I say, the export controls. They were not able to resist imposing the controls. Unfortunately, the government went ahead and accepted imposing these controls. We were very strong. I have here a number of letters saying just what our position was, that we did not want export controls, but it was the federal government's decision to impose the controls.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Increasingly, much of the economic growth in the province of Ontario is coming from our vibrant small and medium-sized businesses. The province has a whole host of initiatives and programs to assist this job-creating element in the economy. The small business kiosk program is one that serves the small business community and entrepreneurs across the province. Could the minister tell the House more about this program?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): To the honourable member for Nepean, as you can see, we are very busy in my ministry. I'm happy to say, though, that we are offering small business kiosks to all MPPs for their ridings and their constituency offices.

I might say that the program is being coordinated by the member for Brampton North, Mr Joe Spina, who is the parliamentary assistant for small business. The teamwork that Mr Spina shows in my ministry is an example of how we use parliamentary assistants so well compared to other previous governments.

I might say that these kiosks are an inexpensive way -- and a very useful thing -- for business entrepreneurs to receive very good business information. First of all, they provide information on financing, small business seminars which are offered, business publications which are available, and how to register a business name, among other things.

I should mention that small and medium-sized businesses create the majority of jobs in Ontario, and that's why we want to help them do their business.

Mr Baird: The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism also provides small business self-help centres as well. Could the minister tell this House if the kiosk program is necessary in addition to these very valuable centres to help create jobs in Ontario?

Hon Mr Saunderson: To the honourable member for Nepean, yes, we do have business self-help centres, and some of those are only available in major or medium-sized urban centres. So it's sometimes very expensive for those members to go and seek out the advice they need. The business kiosks are a good way for those who are a long distance from the self-help centres to go and get the information they need to start a business and run it successfully, or to get more help in running their businesses which are already in existence.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a question for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. Good news, Minister. This morning, the Legislature chose in private members' hour to support my resolution, which referred to the fact that the former government had transferred $60 million out of the heritage fund into the consolidated revenues of the province of Ontario. This morning, we managed through a three-party coalition to assemble 61 votes in favour of that resolution.

Could I have a commitment, seeing as we have the support of the House, for the Minister of Northern Development to inform the House when the $60 million, with interest, will be placed in the heritage fund?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I think my colleague in the opposition is referring to the fact that last year, before the end of the fiscal year, the ONTC fund transferred $60 million over to the consolidated revenue fund.

The fund, I believe, was set up to help northerners plan for the future and diversify their economy. We're re-examining the heritage fund's role in light of the auditor's comments last year and in light of the fact that we think the heritage fund has a vital role to play in northern Ontario in diversifying the economy and creating economic opportunity.

The money has been spent. I know we would all want to see it back. I can't give a date when it will be back. It was spent by the NDP, by its board. I can guarantee the House that we are going to start up the heritage fund in the near future with a reinvigorated board, with a new mandate and the money will be there to help the northerners.


Mr Michael Brown: It wasn't the ONTC that lost the money, it was the heritage fund corporation. It was $60 million. This morning the House voted to send $60 million, with interest, back to the fund.

My supplementary, I guess, is probably even more critical. Besides the $60 million plus interest, there is a $30-million commitment to the heritage fund due April 1. Have those funds been transferred to the heritage fund and when are you going to get the heritage fund actually disbursing funds, doing things for northern people? When?

Hon Mr Hodgson: I apologize. Of course it's the heritage fund.

The second part of the question is, yes, the heritage fund will be up and running as soon as possible and the money will be there for the $30 million, plus the money that has been accrued in the past. The $60 million -- I think everyone in this House would like to replace it. Unfortunately, it's been spent and it will take some time to recoup it. Under our agenda, we will get the economy going and we'll have the revenues to not only clean up the mess created by the NDP, but replace the money they took out of northern Ontario.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): In the absence of the Minister of Health, I have a question for the Deputy Premier. Your government has cut $1.3 billion from Ontario's hospital budgets despite your election promise not to take one cent from health care. Despite musings by the Minister of Health that he has sealed the health care envelope at $17.4 billion each fiscal year, community health care is suffering right now.

In my community, our hospitals have already done excellent work to amalgamate and create efficiencies in their budgets, but last night at a community meeting, further cuts were announced to deal with a $3-million cut to Sault Ste Marie's hospitals. It's anticipated that the cumulative effect of these cuts will actually total $5 million.

Deputy, will you commit, on behalf of the Minister of Health, that your government will review the $3-million cut to our hospitals in Sault Ste Marie?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I'm not able to commit anything on behalf of the Minister of Health, but I can say to the honourable member that any efficiencies that are found in the health care system will be reinvested in the health care system and as a matter of fact, the Minister of Health has already made many reinvestments in the health care system. He will continue to do so as technology and programs come on stream and he has made a commitment that the health care envelope is $17.4 billion. I think that when you hear the budget this spring, that indeed will be the case.

Mr Martin: That just doesn't cut it any more, because out there in the communities across this province, people are being hurt by the cuts your government is making. In my community of Sault Ste Marie, hospitals have already handed out 143 layoff notices. The Plummer and the General Hospital will have to reduce staff by 400 by the year 1998. This is going to have a very negative impact on local services.

At the community meeting last night, new cuts to services were announced. They included a reduction in the oncology program and a reduction in palliative care services. Dr Janice Willett of the academy of medicine in my community has told me: "We have definite evidence in Sault Ste Marie that the legislation and policies of this government has impacted negatively on local health care, with even more serious implications next year. There will be a local crisis."

What do you have to say to Dr Willett and the people of Sault Ste Marie about your government's commitment to preserve quality and access to health care? Will you commit to a review of the massive cuts in my community?

Hon Mr Eves: I reiterate the commitment that has been made by the Minister of Health with respect to the health care envelope at $17.4 billion. Reductions that are given to hospitals in everybody's riding, including my own, those decisions are made by local hospitals as to how they will effect those reductions, but I can give the honourable member a few examples of reinvestment in the health care system by the Minister of Health to date: long-term-care reinvestment, $170 million; expanded kidney dialysis services province-wide, $25 million; restored out-of-country health care coverage, $30 million; $70-an-hour sessional fee for remote rural hospitals in the province of Ontario, $13 million; cardiac surgery reinvestment, $15 million; expansion of the Trillium drug program. I tell you that 140,000 hardworking, taxpaying, lower-income Ontarians you excluded from the Trillium drug plan, 140,000 of them, no thanks to you, now have drug coverage in the province of Ontario. And the list goes on and on.


Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. Minister, during a recent visit to a school in my riding, the Gregory A. Hogan school, I was approached by and on behalf of the students regarding the lack of access to computers in their school, and I discussed the matter with you. We have all heard about ministry initiatives like GEMS, OSAPAC and TIPPs. However, I want to know how and when the impact of these programs will be felt in the classrooms of the province.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): As I am sure the member is aware and all members of this chamber are aware, this government is very committed to closing the gap in information technology between "have" young people in this province and "have-not" young people in this province. There is a gap between those who have access to information technology and the worlds that information technology opens up and those who, unfortunately, still don't. That's why this government has committed in the short term to major investments in information technology in the classroom and why it will continue in the long term to make those investments and close that gap.

For instance, in the grant-eligible microcomputer systems program, or GEMS, the member referred to, our commitment has gone from $20.6 million to $36.4 million, and this is a program that allows for the purchase of computer technology for young people and for the training and development of their teachers. Our support of the Ontario software acquisition program advisory committee has gone from $2.4 million to $3.6 million.

Another area where we're very proud of our investment is in the technology incentive partnership programs, or TIPPs. Our government has received over 100 applications for this program. We are funding 40 of those initiatives that have been sent in to us, for a total of $20 million in investment by this government in that program alone.

Mr Boushy: In addition to what the minister said, part of the idea of the technology incentive partnership program was to develop partnerships between local boards and businesses. What success has the minister had in involving business in TIPPs?

Hon Mr Snobelen: When the TIPPs program started, there was some question about how many initiatives might be sent in to the ministry, how many people would be interested in the program and technology and in moving technology forward in the classroom. I am pleased to announce again today that over 100 programs, great programs, were received by the ministry. Those programs of course had backing from and partnership with the private sector, which we think is critical to making technology available to our young people. While we thought there might be about $12.4 million of private sector money invested in the TIPPs programs, in fact there is $14.8 million. We have overexceeded the wildest estimates for this program.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is to the Minister of Finance. Minister, you will know you have a lot of problems, so I'd just like to present one. In the riding of Essex South, the township of Gosfield South, for example, has some $20 million worth of new development that remains unassessed. The town of Leamington estimates that there are 50 homes that have yet to be assessed. The town of Tilbury in the riding of Essex-Kent has $90,000 approximately in tax revenue that dates back to 1993.

Minister, the assessment commissioner in Essex county has said his "30 assessors are bound to get behind trying to keep up. Further," he said, "smaller stuff we tend to let go."

Minister, what are you doing about this problem?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): If the honourable member will be so kind as to send me the particular details I'd be more than happy to look into these specific instances in his area of the province.

I might say as a general statement that there's no doubt that the assessment system in the province of Ontario is broken. It is somewhat inequitable, somewhat unfair and this has happened over a period of a great number of years through all three political parties' governing days, I might add, and there's no doubt that it has to be addressed. The Minister of Municipal Affairs is doing exactly that.

Mr Crozier: I'll agree that the system is broken, but you've had eight months to at least look at it, to see what kind of solution you're going to bring to it, and the government has bragged on occasion that they had plans before coming into government.

Minister, the basic problem is that the methods, the time lines, the division of structure, need to be addressed. That's basically where the problem is. You continue to go on with the cumbersome process that you said you have. You continue to reduce staff. Morale is low. You have more chiefs than Indians. You also want to help municipalities who --


Mr Crozier: I'll withdraw that. I'll say you have more managers than workers, in that, when you have more managers than workers, you can't get the job done. You've got irate taxpayers who get dinged for two years' tax arrears once the property's assessed. I wrote to your ministry over a year ago and I suggested a solution to this: that there is lots of information out there that building officials have put together, that your ministry can use to solve the problem. There's a tax flow problem that you want to help municipalities --

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

Mr Crozier: -- education with. So why then, Mr Minister, can't you simply get on with the job, get the assessors out there -- you get paid $120 for each one -- and get the job done?

Hon Mr Eves: I'd be pleased to receive the letter that the member sent to the previous Minister of Finance over a year ago and I'd be pleased to look at the solutions that he proposes in that. But I must say to the honourable member, I've said very directly that the assessment system is somewhat inequitable in the province. We will in due course take steps to address those inequities.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the minister responsible for native affairs. The minister will know that the regional chief, Gord Peters, wrote a letter dated March 27 to the Premier which was circulated to all members regarding the presentation made by the minister the previous day to the chiefs of Ontario regarding the aboriginal policy framework of the government.

My question is, did the minister make clear to the chiefs at that meeting that he is cutting, according to the business plan of the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat, all moneys for development of a government-to-government relationship, the statement of political relationship; and despite the rhetoric about economic self-reliance for aboriginal communities, the government intends to reduce capital spending on infrastructure in aboriginal communities from $20 million to $12 million over the next two years; that the government intends to reduce by 28% over two years operating grants to first nations? Did the minister make that clear, and what does that indicate about this government's commitment to economic diversification and self-reliance for aboriginal communities?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I indicated very clearly at the meeting we had dealing with the aboriginal policy framework that we would continue to discuss issues on the basis of being equals, nation to nation, and that respect and that policy would continue. I also indicated very clearly that as a result of the financial situation of this province, every program was being reviewed and every program would be evaluated. I also indicated very clearly that it was the policy of this government to look for ways to do better with less and in many areas we have to do that, because we have $100 billion of debt, mostly as a result of the last five years of government by the NDP.

Quite simply, the aboriginal policy framework we set out was received well, and I was invited by a number of the first nations represented there and aboriginal leaders to join them in community events, to come and meet them in their communities. They were receptive. We had good discussions at that meeting. Yes, a couple of people may not have liked our aboriginal policy framework, but I can tell you that the individual first nation leaders were receptive to it. They've invited me to their communities to talk about economic development, to talk about self-reliance. I intend to take them up on those invitations, and I intend to proceed with a policy that has been sorely lacking in this province in the past.


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of April 9, 1996. As members are aware, the House will not sit on Easter Monday, April 8.

On Tuesday, April 9, we will debate the motion of want of confidence standing in the name of Mr Wildman, the leader of the third party.

On Wednesday, April 10, we will have second reading of Bill 34, An Act to amend the Education Act.

For Thursday morning's private members' business, we will consider ballot item number 19, standing in the name of the member for Durham Centre, and ballot item number 20, standing in the name of the member for Yorkview. On Thursday afternoon, April 11, we will continue with second reading of Bill 34.



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 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 to it.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition here from 47 people in Kapuskasing who have signed it.

"We, the seniors of the town of Kapuskasing, strongly support the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Local 639, of Kapuskasing, in a campaign to fight against the job cuts to be imposed by the Harris government. These services are very much needed in this community."

I have affixed my signature to the petition.



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

"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 am pleased to affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition that reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ministry of Transportation is intent on reducing northern winter road maintenance services; and

"Whereas such downgrading places the lives of northern residents at undue and unnecessary risk;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to disallow these reductions in service and to guarantee that winter roads across the northern regions of the province receive the necessary maintenance to ensure the safe passage of drivers."

I have affixed my name to that petition as well.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, people expressing their concern about cuts from Canada's national health care system. It says:

"Whereas proposed cuts in transfer payments pose a threat to Canada's national health care system; and

"Whereas, despite Mike Harris's promise on May 3, 1995, of `no cuts to health care spending,' his November 29 economic statement contains `$1.3 billion or 18% cuts to hospital spending over the next three years, and a further $225-million cut from the health care budget;' and

"Whereas, despite Mike Harris's promise in the Common Sense Revolution that aid for seniors and disabled would not be cut, his November 29 economic statement shows cuts to the Ontario drug benefits plan and threatens access to drugs based on ability to pay; and

"Whereas the late Supreme Court Justice Emmett Hall, the father of Canada's medicare system, stated: `The only thing more expensive than good health care is inadequate or no health care'; and

"Whereas Ontario residents enjoy a one-tier health care system for all, regardless of financial status, without copayments or user fees;

"We, the undersigned residents of Ontario, call upon Premier Mike Harris and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to maintain and protect the health care provisions presently provided to all Ontario residents."

I affix my signature to this petition. I expect there will be many more.


Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario:

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

I affix my signature.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This petition is to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Niagara region has one of the highest per capita populations of seniors in Ontario; and

"Whereas the Niagara region ranks 32nd out of 38 health regions in long-term-care funding and that more individuals wait for support services from the March of Dimes than those who are actually served by it; and

"Whereas Alzheimer patients who critically depend on support services in order to cope in a more humane way with this devastating illness continue to suffer from unacceptable delays in receiving respite care; and

"Whereas more than half of all Ontario families waiting for Alzheimer-related respite care reside in the Niagara area;

"We, the following undersigned citizens of Ontario, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to adopt the plan by the Niagara Regional District Health Council which would help improve the way vulnerable people are treated in the Niagara area."

I affix my signature to this petition as I agree with its contents.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): J'ai ici une pétition du monde de la région de Hamilton in regard to the question of rent control. It reads:

"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

"As 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's tenants by ensuring that rent controls remain in effect in this province."


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition addressed to the Ontario Legislature.

"Whereas the public secondary teachers of Ontario have taken a workplace democracy vote in accordance with Bill 7 and have rejected the proposed College of Teachers by a 94.8% vote;

"We, the undersigned, urge the provincial assembly to instruct the government to withdraw Bill 31, the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1995."

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition signed by approximately 100 residents of Kapuskasing, Hearst and the Cochrane area.

"Whereas the public secondary teachers of Ontario have taken a workplace democracy vote in accordance with Bill 7 and have rejected the proposed College of Teachers by a 94.8% vote;

"We, the undersigned, urge the provincial assembly to instruct the government to withdraw Bill 31, the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1995."


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have another petition on rent control from the good people of Niagara Falls-St Catharines and it reads:

"Whereas Mike Harris's Conservative government of Ontario is planning to destroy the present system of rent control;

"Whereas Mike Harris and the Conservative Party made no mention of scrapping rent control during the election campaign of 1995 or in the Common Sense Revolution document;

"Whereas a number of Conservative candidates in ridings with high tenant populations campaigned during the 1995 election on a platform of protecting the current rent control system;

"Whereas the government has consulted with special-interest groups representing landlords and developers while cutting funding to organizations representing the 3.5 million tenants in Ontario;

"Although all renters will suffer, seniors and others on fixed incomes will suffer particular hardship if rent controls are abolished;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislature of Ontario to stop the attack on the 3.5 million tenants of this province."

I affix my signature to that petition.

Mr Bisson: This group of petitions is from the good people of Cornwall. By way of explanation, these people are again sending in petitions as they're concerned with the government's agenda on rent control. It reads:

"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 the 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."

I will affix my signature to this petition as well.



Mr Leach moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 38, An Act to amend the Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act, 1993 / Projet de loi 38, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1993 sur l'administration de la zone résidentielle des îles de Toronto.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.


Mr Palladini moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 39, An Act to amend the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act and the Public Vehicles Act and to make consequential changes to certain other Acts / Projet de loi 39, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la Commission des transports routiers de l'Ontario et la Loi sur les véhicules de transport en commun et apportant des modifications corrélatives à certaines autres lois.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will say "aye."

All those opposed will say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.

Do you wish to make any comments, Minister?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would just like to reiterate my earlier statement, that this is a move that's going to make opportunities for economic development in the province of Ontario.


Mr Patten moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr35, An Act respecting the Ottawa Civic Hospital.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.


Mr Hastings moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 40, An Act to provide for the licensing of locksmiths / Projet de loi 40, Loi prévoyant la délivrance de permis de serrurier.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Do you have any comments?

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'd basically like to say that the purpose in the introduction of the Locksmiths Licensing Act, 1996, is to establish a system for persons engaged in or employed in the business of providing locksmith services. I would also like to mention that establishment of this particular piece of legislation will provide professional standards for locksmiths throughout Ontario. It will also provide a means of enhanced crime prevention awareness, and in the long term, I believe, it will provide lower insurance rates for residential homeowners and businesses in this province.


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Before the third order is called, Mr Speaker, I might indicate that the three parties have an agreement that if there is a division on this bill, a five-minute division bell is in agreement with everybody.

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


Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 31, An Act to establish the Ontario College of Teachers and to make related amendments to certain statutes / Projet de loi 31, Loi créant l'Ordre des enseignantes et des enseignants de l'Ontario et apportant des modifications connexes à certaines lois.

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

Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): As parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education and Training, I move to refer the bill to the standing committee on social development.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Snobelen has moved second reading of Bill 31. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1545 to 1550.

The Acting Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please rise.


Arnott, Ted

Grimmett, Bill

Parker, John L.

Baird, John R.

Hardeman, Ernie

Pettit, Trevor

Barrett, Toby

Harnick, Charles

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Bassett, Isabel

Hastings, John

Ross, Lillian

Bisson, Gilles

Hodgson, Chris

Runciman, Bob

Boushy, Dave

Hudak, Tim

Sampson, Rob

Boyd, Marion

Johnson, Bert

Saunderson, William

Brown, Jim

Johnson, David

Shea, Derwyn

Churley, Marilyn

Johnson, Ron

Silipo, Tony

Clement, Tony

Klees, Frank

Skarica, Toni

Cooke, David S.

Laughren, Floyd

Snobelen, John

Danford, Harry

Leach, Al

Sterling, Norman W.

DeFaria, Carl

Leadston, Gary L.

Stockwell, Chris

Doyle, Ed

Marland, Margaret

Tilson, David

Elliott, Brenda

Martel, Shelley

Tsubouchi, David H.

Eves, Ernie L.

Martiniuk, Gerry

Turnbull, David

Fisher, Barbara

Maves, Bart

Vankoughnet, Bill

Flaherty, Jim

Munro, Julia

Villeneuve, Noble

Ford, Douglas B.

Murdoch, Bill

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Froese, Tom

Newman, Dan

Wildman, Bud

Galt, Doug

O'Toole, John

Wood, Len

Gilchrist, Steve

Palladini, Al

Young, Terence H.

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


Bartolucci, Rick

Gravelle, Michael

Patten, Richard

Bradley, James J.

Kwinter, Monte

Phillips, Gerry

Brown, Michael A.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Pupatello, Sandra

Colle, Mike

McGuinty, Dalton

Sergio, Mario

Cordiano, Joseph

McLeod, Lyn


Crozier, Bruce

Miclash, Frank


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 66; the nays 16.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Which committee?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Social development, please, Mr Speaker.


Mr Skarica, on behalf of Mr Snobelen, moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 30, An Act to establish the Education Quality and Accountability Office and to amend the Education Act with respect to the Assessment of Academic Achievement / Projet de loi 30, Loi créant l'Office de la qualité et de la responsabilité en éducation et modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation en ce qui concerne l'évaluation du rendement scolaire.

Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): I am pleased to table for second reading Bill 30, the Education Quality and Accountability Office Act. This legislation is part of the government's commitment to provide excellence and accountability in education for Ontario students and taxpayers. This initiative is just one of many our government has undertaken in its determination to develop an education system that is truly based on excellence, accountability and affordability.

We have, as you are aware, introduced reforms at the secondary school level to make secondary education more relevant to the needs of today's students and to the businesses that will be hiring them.

We have committed to establishing a demanding province-wide core curriculum and to setting high standards for student achievement across the elementary and secondary systems.

We are moving forward with the establishment of school councils to increase parent involvement in our schools.

We are moving forward with legislation to establish the Ontario College of Teachers, which will strengthen the position of the teaching profession and improve the quality of education in our province.

Our goal is to achieve a responsive and effective system in which taxpayers can see value for their investment and Ontario's young people can achieve excellence in their education. An independent, comprehensive testing program is a key element in this plan.

As the Minister of Education indicated on first reading of this bill, Bill 30 will establish the Education Quality and Accountability Office as an arm's-length agency of government. The decision to establish a testing authority independent of the Ministry of Education and Training follows a recommendation of the Royal Commission on Learning and responds to public concerns regarding objectivity in the development of tests and the reporting of test results.

The mandate of the Education Quality and Accountability Office will be to evaluate the quality of elementary and secondary education in Ontario. A significant part of this mandate will involve the province-wide testing of students' academic achievement and the reporting of results of these tests to the minister and the general public.

The testing program meets the Common Sense Revolution's commitment to test the achievement of Ontario students on a regular basis. The program will be developed in conjunction with a demanding provincial curriculum setting high standards of achievement. It is a key component of the government's strategy for accountability and excellence in education.

Province-wide testing will be conducted in grade 3 in reading, writing and mathematics during the 1996-97 school year. This testing will be conducted each and every year after that. Sample testing in reading, writing and mathematics in grades 6 and 9 will also be conducted, starting with a grade 6 math test in 1996-97. All-student testing in grade 11 is planned to commence during the 1999-2000 school year, following the establishment of new secondary school graduation requirements.

The benefits of this testing program to the province will be considerable. For students, parents and teachers, the test result information will help to identify individual strengths and weaknesses and support appropriate improvements where needed. Test results will also provide important feedback to teachers on the effectiveness of their classroom programs and teaching practices. For the taxpayers who fund the system and for those who share responsibility for the quality of classroom education, the evaluations will strengthen accountability and identify the system's strong points. They will aid in priority-setting as well and will promote fiscal responsibility so that scarce resources can be directed to areas where improvements are most required. Reviews on alternative methods of assessing the performance of the education system will also be undertaken. Reports will follow, with recommendations to be made to me, or to the minister --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): To you?

Mr Skarica: To the Minister of Education and Training -- to me if you'd like, but the minister preferably -- on ways to improve the system and promote best practices.

Ontario will have a cost-effective testing program that responds to public calls for a closer scrutiny and greater accountability in education. Through testing and reporting, we will provide our taxpayers with a clear, objective picture of how our education system and students are performing.

Through this legislation, our government is making a long-term investment that will lead to ongoing improvement of student performance and of the entire education system.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comments and questions? Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I wonder if I could ask unanimous consent from the House to share part of my time with the member for St Catharines.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House? Agreed.

Mr Patten: Thank you. I am pleased to take part in the debate today on the establishment of the Education Quality and Accountability Office. I am pleased to see legislation come forward with respect to the issue of testing. I know the parents of students throughout Ontario have waited a long time and I'm sure they as well are pleased to see this come forward.

Ontario's educational system has to challenge and must challenge students to reach their highest possible level of achievement. In order to do this, we must be able to assess effectively the progress of students in the system and to assess the efficiency of the system itself and the system's capacity to teach students and to allow students to reach their maximum potential.

I believe these are the central issues not only in the debate that we begin today, but also among parents, teachers, students, trustees and the people in Ontario in general in respect to the full spectrum of education in Ontario, that being the quality and standard of education.

I recently met with Joan Green, chief executive officer of the Education Quality and Accountability Office, and Richard Johnston, a former colleague in this chamber who is a member of the office's advisory board. We had an excellent discussion and one in which they outlined to me their views and their goals for this new independent agency. Frankly, I was impressed. I was impressed with their commitment to professionalism, their commitment to maintaining a consistent standard of quality of education in Ontario.

Parents, students, representatives of business and labour and members of the community all have expressed their desire to have quality programs and instruction in Ontario today. Of course, everyone wants to ensure that our schools challenge students in a manner which allows them to reach their highest possible standards of achievement. The lack of consistent standards across the province has left the public concerned, has left many parents upset, students confused, and often teachers who are frustrated.

Without a mechanism to measure success, we are unable to assess whether our children are learning the basics in reading, writing and math. Students as well are concerned about their education and want to be part of attaining a quality education. That goes without saying. But as the Royal Commission on Learning stated: "Students told us that they are concerned about information; they want teachers to tell them clearly and promptly what they need to do in order to improve; they want fairness...common standards for assessment." This is a powerful display of commitment from students within the system and shows a fair degree of insight on their part.

Uniform educational standards must be set, students must be tested to see if they are meeting them, and the results must be clearly reported and easy to understand. As well, we may be able to assess whether the whole educational system is meeting high standards.

Before I move to the specific concerns I have identified with this legislation, I want to share some observations on the value of testing and the significant role it can play in assessing and improving the educational system.

Many people view the current endeavour, the Education Quality and Accounting Office, as simply adding more testing. There is a whole other dimension on which, it seems to me, this must be viewed.

It is beneficial, and I believe a must, to have a comprehensive approach to the assessment process. I'm confident this is reflected in the mandate of the office in terms of its responsibility for managing the province's participation in national and international testing, in addition of course to its responsibility for assessment here in Ontario.

As I mentioned, I met with Joan Green and Richard Johnston, and we went over a number of useful items and materials that they shared with me. I'd like to share some of these ideas and thoughts with the members of the House today, because I believe this might help put in perspective what we seek to accomplish and what I believe is important to accomplish in assessing education.

I have a few quotations from an assessment specialist, whose name is Grant Wiggins, and I would like to share some of these with you:

"The etymology of the word `assess' alerts us to this clinical, that is, client-centred" or student-centred "act. Assess is a form of the Latin verb assidere, to `sit with.' In an assessment, one sits with the learner. It is something you do with and for the student, not something we do to the student.

"We have the tests we deserve because we are wont to reduce assessment to testing and to see testing as separate from learning -- something you do expediently once, after the teaching is over, to see how students did, usually for other people's benefit" and not necessarily for the benefit of the student himself or herself.

I continue with Grant Wiggins's statement:

"The assessor tries to ferret out all of what the student knows and can do by various means. The tester, on the other hand, demands of the student specific responses to fixed questions of the tester's choosing. But the philosophical assumptions that permit the student to be treated as an object of the tester-experimenter are pre-modern. At the very least, assessment requires that we come to know the student in action. They stress repeatedly that the purpose of assessment is to assist and inform the learner.

"While a test in which the student responds to pre-fashioned answers tells us what the student `knows,' it does not tell us whether the student is on the road to using knowledge wisely or effectively. Narrow, one-dimensional probes into a student's mines of stored information do not begin to get at how she learns or what she can do."

Or "In elementary and secondary education, a decision that will have a major impact on a test-taker should not automatically be made on the basis of a single test score."

I think what I've just referred to is highly relevant to the understanding of what we are attempting or what should be attempted to be accomplished in terms of standardized testing. We are not analysing students as an isolated part of a project. We are attempting to create a testing system that is interactive, one in which we know as much about what goes in as we do about what comes out and how the two relate.

The full spectrum of student learning encompasses a constant process from assessment, to reporting, to improvement, to curriculum, to assessment and so on. Each of these stages performs a critical link in the learning continuum.


These are references from what was shared with me by Richard Johnston and by Joan Green, and they see this as a continual recycling pattern of perpetual improvement in progress. I think the approach is excellent. At the assessment stage, student achievement is assessed in relation to standards. At the reporting stage, outcomes state general results expected and standards state accepted range of student achievement. At the improvement stage, results of assessment are used to improve programs and student achievement. At the curriculum stage, outcomes state general results expected and standards state accepted range of student achievement.

I'd like now to outline the areas within this legislation with which I have a few concerns. The areas are the gap in testing between grade 3 and grade 11, the need for uniform and flexible standards and provisions in this bill which override basic guarantees for the protection of privacy.

I have in the past expressed my concern to this House about the changes that have occurred in the testing program for the office due to the change in governments. We were to have testing that would occur in grades 3, 6, 9 and 11 when the office was first announced. However, the new government, attempting to put its stamp on educational reform in Ontario, changed the testing program of the office and reduced it to province-wide testing in grade 3 and grade 11 with, of course, some minor sample testing in between.

I'm concerned, and I have expressed this concern on several occasions, that we are missing a whole section of a student's life with this gap. These are, as we all know, formative years in the life of a young person, both in terms of social interaction and developing learning skills to boot. As young people grow and mature, their perception of who they are develops and changes. Students entering the system are to a significant degree different when they leave and they change continually during these years, some more than others, and some for better and unfortunately some for worse. It is the latter which we hope surely to catch along the way. Understanding what is occurring in a young person's life and how it is changing helps us to respond properly in providing the most adequate nature of supports. With this gap, however, I'm concerned that we may miss the opportunity to make the required improvements and adjustments at the appropriate time. The office must be cognizant of the social development aspects of these formative years. Similarly, I'm concerned that the gap misses a large part of a student's learning development, as education not only provides factual and statistical information to students but it also helps teachers and teaches them how to research, analyse, synthesize and present information. Young people are developing the skills which will assist them to learn along the way and lead them to the next steps in their lifelong journey.

This is why it's so important that we know whether students are developing the necessary skills and whether the educational system is providing both the stimulus and the opportunity for these skills to be developed.

As I pointed out earlier, the testing program was reduced by this government, the budget for the office. In order to implement and to carry out its mandate -- of course, that is affected by the budgetary cuts. With all of the other cuts occurring in the educational system, one is left with no other reason than economics as to why the budget for testing has been reduced. It certainly is not for pedagogical reasons. It is also curious that if the office is to reach a point where the marketing of its assessment products will cover the costs, as we are told, of the office's budget requirements, then why the reduction in the testing schedule? It's like telling a retailer to limit his or her products to sell.

The government, I suppose, might argue that the testing program has only been modified because there will be sample testing, but sample testing during this tumultuous seven-year period cannot replace comprehensive province-wide testing, and of course, sample testing is nothing new. It has been going on for a fair length of time. It goes on almost all the time. In fact, we recently had results of tests conducted for grade 9 students in the areas of writing and math. Nothing, however, replaces province-wide testing. It is unfortunate that the government has made this change. Like all the other changes that are being forced on the educational system by this government, educators and the educational system have no choice but to make do with the poor hand that this government is dealing.

I would like also to express my concern over the lack of uniform province-wide curriculum and the difficulties that this will pose to the testing that the office will undertake. At present there is not a uniform province-wide curriculum in the province. Teachers spend countless hours working with guidelines from the ministry on providing quality education programs. I will be extremely interested to see how the preliminary testing of grade 3 this fall will fare. It is noteworthy that the first real assessment out of the system will not be of student outcomes but rather it will be a test of how well the tests work, so the information should be quite fascinating.

It will also be interesting to see what impact this new testing regime will have on an educational system which is under considerable strain already. There will be adjustments during the implementation period that need, of course, to be considered. Not only do tests have to be developed and students tested, but there are also educators who are to be prepared, preparation from both a qualifications and capabilities standpoint, to administer the tests and to analyse the results. This will call for added skills and added time on the part of our Ontario teachers once again.

The assessment process, while it may be uniform, will also need to adopt the sensitivities that will take into consideration the nutritional needs of children, which we know affect testing. We will also have to take into consideration the special needs of some students, such as those with learning disabilities or physical handicaps or those who face particular social development challenges. And these are being met by what? By inequities in the system due to the massive cuts to education instituted by this government. Cuts in educational funding will result in fewer teachers due to the expected layoffs. If we have fewer teachers, what does that mean? Fewer teachers mean larger class sizes. Larger class sizes mean less individual contact between student and teacher. Increased layoffs mean the loss of younger teachers from the educational system, and that's extremely worrisome. This group of teachers is a fundamental part of the educational system process of rejuvenation and constant renewal. This is what young teachers bring to a system. It will be damaged. The quality --

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Could the member for Ottawa Centre please take his seat.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): The government talks about how important classroom education is and education is to the province. They haven't kept a quorum. I would like you to take a quorum call, please.

The Acting Speaker: Is there a quorum in the House?

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Will the member for Ottawa Centre please continue.

Mr Patten: I am pleased to see the spontaneous interest in education by some of the members having come to join in and participate.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please, order. The member for Grey-Owen Sound, please take a seat or leave the chamber.

Mr Patten: Madam Speaker, I know the members do care about young teachers, which is where I left off when you sought to assure there was a quorum here.

As I was saying, the loss of young teachers will damage the system. The quality of education is diminished because of the ability of the educational system to grow and progress, because it cannot without rejuvenating itself or being in a state of renewal with such an important matter as education. The quality of education in Ontario will undoubtedly suffer. There is no way for this government to deny this. Their cuts have already hit, and will continue to hit, the classroom.

Having said that, I'm optimistic about the office and of the work it will produce. I'm optimistic in one sense because I'm certain this work will help to expose the negative impact of the government's educational cuts. I'm certain of this.

I also think we will soon find that the work of the office may very well help further demonstrate the value of early childhood education, again an area which this government is undermining, another classroom situation diminished.

According to Bill 30, the office has as its objectives, "To evaluate the quality and effectiveness of elementary and secondary school education," and, "To make recommendations, in its reports to the public and to the Minister of Education and Training, on any matters related to the quality or effectiveness of elementary and secondary school education or to the public accountability of boards."

These are laudable goals, and ones which I think will assist the office in playing a very important role. However, I must caution those who may at some time or another serve with the office to expect to feel frustrated in your efforts, from time to time, to fully address these goals.

Why do I say this? I say this because numerous studies have shown that early childhood education and early childhood learning give children a head start and improve their rate of success throughout their education and indeed on into the workplace. What have this government and this minister done with this information? It's been thrown into the trash can. Junior kindergarten is gone from many boards that heretofore operated junior kindergarten. We will pay for this down the line.

The minister is apt to respond that they won an election which gave them a mandate to implement a very clear policy on junior kindergarten. I take that as debatable. The government said it would make it a local option, but what the government did not say was that it planned to withdraw a significant proportion of provincial funding away from it, and these are the facts which make a local option no option at all for some school boards.

What about the valuable advice of educators and the views, I might add, of the parents of over 100,000 children who were enrolled in junior kindergarten this last September, or the thousands who want to send their kids to junior kindergarten but won't be able to because this government put a stranglehold on funding and put many junior kindergarten programs across Ontario down for the count?

The action taken by the minister last week in terms of his announcements for Bill 34, the areas in which school boards must cut, reduced figures for the general legislated grants -- the implications go beyond the issue of "local option." His changes have an additional impact on the level of funding available for the provision of junior kindergarten, for example, and other programs such as adult education funded outside of category 1. It's like the cut that keeps cutting.

I simply caution members of the office not to get overly excited about your new ambitious role to advise the minister on the quality and effectiveness of some aspects of school education in Ontario.

I have another suggestion for those involved with the office: Don't be confused by the reforms to education in Ontario which are occurring during these times. Education reforms should be education reforms, not economic reforms. I suspect that you may run into this clash of economics versus quality of education continually. However, your independence as an office should enable you to be loyal to true education reforms that are related to quality of education.

We want to ensure that students and student achievement are paramount in our education system. That's the goal of the office, and I wish it were the goal of this government. Our education system is seen by most as the path to a brighter future. My colleagues and I in the Liberal caucus believe that change can be achieved from within our school system without compromising the ability of students to prepare for and compete in the new global economy.

We're all aware that the education system is complex and change that much more complex. It does not respond well to simple slash-and-burn solutions, nor does it respond well when reforms are dictated solely by economic considerations. However, if our education system does not provide the opportunity and respond to the changing knowledge and skill sets needed for today and for the future, our students will be left behind.

The goals of any reforms have to be the quality of learning for our children and young people in our schools; the quality of resources for teachers in the classroom; the learning tools; the pupil-teacher ratio; the programs inside and outside the classroom, not just extracurricular activities but the full spectrum of learning, the social development that takes place while young people are in school.


I would like to share with the Legislature a portion of a presentation I received from a Mrs Carolyn Morrow. The presentation speaks to the issue of junior kindergarten and more broadly to the issue of educational cuts. She says:

"We should not be sacrificing the potential of our young people to the omnipotent objective of deficit cutting. Instead we should be fixing, not causing, inadequacies in our educational system. Don't let your decision about the future of junior kindergarten be determined by a larger social and education strategy that masquerades as fiscal common sense."

That puts it very clearly as to what is at stake and what is happening in education today.

Reforms should be driven by a desire to improve, to borrow a phrase, our "love of learning," not by an economic agenda that is based on the bottom line. When I see $400 million, which will eventually translate into $1 billion, taken away from elementary and secondary school education in Ontario and see the government devising plans to use that money to fund a $5-billion tax rebate, I have no choice but to question the educational motives of this government.

Another area of concern I'd like to express is on Bill 30 and how it deals with the issue of freedom of information and the protection of privacy. It is similar to a concern which I shared with this House's attention on Bill 31. The concern here is with the access to personal information in the provisions of Bill 30, and it is that the proposed power to collect, use and disclose personal information may go beyond what is reasonably necessary to achieve the goal of the bill, thus leading to the erosion of privacy protections.

Similar concerns were expressed by the privacy commissioner, as everyone well knows, during the hearings on Bill 26. Subsequently, the government amended Bill 26 to address those concerns. The only limitation on the power to access and use personal information in the bill is that provided by the broadly drafted legislative objects. This is a weak limitation, as the list of objects is even less clearly defined than the goals of Bill 26, which, for example, had reducing the potential for health care fraud.

What is even more glaring in terms of Bill 30 compared to Bill 31 is that there is no confidentiality provision in Bill 30 requiring the office or its employees to maintain the confidentiality of information that it receives under the bill. A very general duty of secrecy exists under the provisions of the Public Service Act. This act requires employees to swear an oath of secrecy in respect of all matters that come to their knowledge by reason of being a civil servant. However, given the highly sensitive nature of personal information, and following the practice of other statutes, it would be reasonable to include a specific provision in Bill 30 imposing a duty of confidentiality.

I hope this was simply a drafting error on the part of the government, because if it wasn't one, I have to ask why and what was the intent with these sections found within the bill. The need for such a power has not been clearly established. Why, for example, would the office need to know a person's blood type or have a person's fingerprints? These are only some of the more questionable types of personal information with which I am sure by this time most of the members of the House are familiar, and there's a list of many, many categories that have been identified as worthy of privacy. This is under section 38 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The purpose of this act is to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by institutions, and to provide them with access to such information. Subsection 38(2) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act states, "No person shall collect personal information on behalf of an institution unless the collection is expressly authorized by statute, used for the purposes of law enforcement or necessary to the proper administration of a lawfully authorized activity."

The last time I read the objects of Bill 30 it did not say anything about law enforcement, nor is it clear, as I pointed out, how the assembling of this information serves to meet the objects of the office. However, by putting this reference into the bill and also into Bill 31, the government has, it seems, effectively stripped away the protections placed around this information.

Currently, there is no similar provision in the statutes governing other self-governing bodies, such as under the Law Society Act or the Regulated Health Professions Act, and there is nothing in the Education Act requiring disclosure of personal information as is proposed with clause 4(1)(b) and subsection 9(6) of Bill 30. Other statutes provide a similar, though more constrained, right of access to personal information; for example, in the Family Support Plan Act. This allows the director, for the purpose of enforcing, and I quote from the act, "a support or custody order to obtain personal information from other institutions."

Likewise, under the Workers' Compensation Act subsection 65(3) gives the board the power, subject to the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, for the purpose of administering the act, to enter into agreements with other institutions to allow and give access to information held by the institution. However, as I have stated, the need for such a power has not been, to my mind, clearly established, and it begs the question as to why these sections are part of Bill 30 and why there is in either case no confidentiality provision along with it.

There are other past examples where legislation was amended after the office of the privacy commissioner made its views known, and I hope that we will have the views of the privacy commissioner on this legislation and that in committee we can see adequate changes made to ensure that the privacy of individuals is indeed protected.

These are some of the concerns that I have. I see, at this particular time with this particular piece of legislation, the goal of the office is to seek to identify areas of our educational system which need improvement and to reassure parents, students and all of those who have an interest in the educational community that the system is meeting the highest possible standards. This will be accomplished by an effective, comprehensive assessment system, not simply more tests. Curriculum, teachers, students in the learning environment are important components of an effective educational process. But we need to be able to assess the impact of all of these variables not simply for a single student's progress in isolation of what is happening around him or her, but that tells parents, teachers or students what they need to know.

Madam Speaker, I thank you for the time to participate in the opening of the exploration debate on Bill 30. I look forward to the government addressing the concerns that I have outlined in my remarks and that I believe and hope will improve the product.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this debate this afternoon on yet another education bill which is of some interest to people. I don't know how high a priority it should be at this time in education. I'm wondering how we can afford this particular office when we're having a tax cut in Ontario of 30%, most of which will go to the richest people in the province, and yet we're going to have some millions of dollars to spend on this particular office, which of course represents yet another bureaucracy. I know that many in the government caucus are opposed to bureaucracy which is unnecessary.

However, I think there is sufficient demand out there that there be some accountability. I don't say that the government is wrong for at least looking at how we can best make our system most accountable to people. I know that the NDP set up the commission, and one of the recommendations -- fairly strong recommendations -- was in favour of some kind of legislation in this direction.

But I look out and see that there's a tax cut that is supposed to be coming and we're seeing all the cuts in other areas. When we see the cuts, when we see teachers -- these are front-line people we're talking about; these are people who are actually in the classroom; these are the teaching assistants who assist particularly with those children who have special needs. Keeping in mind now that many who were in special education and segregated in years gone by have now been integrated into the regular classroom, therefore there is a need for additional people to assist with those who have these very special needs, and yet we're going to see cuts in that area.


We're going to see an increase in the pupil-teacher ratio in the classrooms. I know there are teachers who would say: "I taught 20 years ago. I had 40 students in the classroom and it didn't bother me." You had 40 different students in those days. We had a society which was more stable in terms of family life. We had a different society in terms of the level of tolerance of people within that society. Therefore, the challenge is much greater today. To say that it would be equally okay today to have 40 students in a classroom is not acceptable.

I notice in my own community almost daily there are signs that there are cuts in education. I saw a headline the other day in the newspaper that said that a school in north St Catharines, Eden school, which is located on Scott Street, is going to be losing teachers. I know other schools in the area are going to be losing teachers. This is going to have an effect on the front line of education, in my view.

There are also other support staff who are very important to the whole learning situation. You have secretarial staff who will be diminished in number at the very time when governments are demanding more paperwork and more accountability from those in the teaching profession. You have maintenance and cleaning staff who are being lost. You have transportation being lost, particularly to those students in the rural areas who, if they want to participate after hours in extracurricular activities or in sporting activities, which are also extracurricular, are going to have to find their own way home. If they have the wherewithal to do it, I guess they can do it, and if they don't, they're out of luck.

Here we are establishing this particular entity in government at the very time we're doing those other things. We all know that with the tax cut that the ideology of the government is calling for at the present time, this is a tax cut that will require that the Ontario government borrow more than an additional $20 billion, add that amount to the provincial debt, to finance this tax break that will largely help the people who are the most wealthy in the province. At the same time we're doing this, we have to cut back in other areas. We are spending money, however, in this testing and accountability office.

We know as well with the tax break that what it does is it forces local boards of education and municipalities to impose the most regressive kinds of taxes, those taxes being an increase in the property taxes or the user fees, which do not take into account a person's ability to pay.

The member for Dufferin-Peel rose in the House the other day to ask a question of the Minister of Education, when the heat was obviously on, about charging for busing. The board of education was simply responding to the fact that they were having their transfer payments for the purposes of transportation cut considerably. They said the only way they could continue to meet that service would be to have a cut in the transportation grant.

It's a great game that the government plays these days: You put the cat among the pigeons wherever you can and distract attention from the government. I prefer the game of pin the tail on the donkey: You pin the tail on those who are ultimately responsible for the problems that are created. In this particular case, when the government does not transfer those funds, when the government worships at the idol of a tax cut to benefit largely the richest people in our society and borrows over $20 billion to do it, when the government does that, it then is in a position where it has to say to local boards of education, "You're not going to have as much money to deal with."

In Metropolitan Toronto -- I see many of the Metropolitan Toronto members here -- we now have the provincial government, through the auspices of the Minister of Education, taking money away from property owners. You could say, "In the Niagara Peninsula, why don't you cheer for that?" You know you could say that. I'm a member from the Niagara Peninsula, why don't I cheer for that? But I know the members from Scarborough and the members from Etobicoke, members from Toronto are all saying, "How is this fair to take the property tax, which is for local purposes, and give it to other places in the province?"

We understand fully if you take the income tax and spread that around the province. We understand if you take away the tax which is for sales purposes. People say: "I understand that. That should be spread around the province." And, again, if there are other kinds of taxes and fees, people understand it.

But I can't believe that the member for Scarborough East, for instance, isn't highly exercised by the fact that his Minister of Education, his cabinet, are reaching their paws into the local property tax and taking that property tax away to go somewhere else. The Metropolitan Toronto members will say: "Is this a fair precedent? Is this what we want to do, go into the property tax?" And the municipal politicians here in this House know what I'm talking about. The people who have served municipally know exactly what I'm talking about, where you reach into the property taxes and start taking that money and spreading it around the province.

To me, that is setting a bad precedent. It seems to me, in the province of Alberta, there was a court case on that, and the government lost that particular court case.

I know within the Conservative caucus, there must be some rather interesting discussions taking place on this issue. I don't have a pipeline into it.


Mr Bradley: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, for some reason says, am I jealous of this going on? Well, not really. I'm not really in that position, because I would be highly exercised by the fact that my own government would be taking property taxes from my area and giving it to somebody else in the province.

I understand the other taxes. That's the way it is established and that's understandable, but not the property tax. I would think the Minister of Municipal Affairs, for instance -- I don't expect him to rise in the House and agree with me -- is highly concerned about this particular matter if he were allowed to break the confidence of cabinet and bring this matter forward. I will say that on his behalf, and on behalf of my friends in the government caucus.

At the same time, of course, that you're spending money on this and having this tax cut that you worship at, you are eliminating junior kindergarten in various parts of the province. Daily now, we see junior kindergarten being eliminated. Despite the statistics out there, despite the independent studies which show that in the long run you're going to pay dearly for doing so, you're going to eliminate it, because somebody thinks this is glorified babysitting. That's a concept that, from a distance, people may have. I assure you, this is, if you look at independent studies, bright, thoughtful people from around the world -- I know the government worries that they might be left-wing people, but these are right-wing people as well as left-wing people who look out and say, "What are the long-term consequences?" The long-term consequences, I assure you, are not good for society, and there are studies which will quantify that many times over.

I want to say as well that there's going to be total confusion within the system as you try to eliminate grade 13. At the same time all of these changes are hitting the school system, you are diminishing the number of teachers, diminishing the number of personnel to deal with these, and you're going to have utter chaos in the schools at what you're doing.


Mr Bradley: I'm asked, what is the alternative? I would not proceed. As the member for Wellington says, "The tax cut is reckless." As the member for Grey-Owen Sound, the member for Etobicoke West, the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore and others within the caucus who have yet to be identified say, "Let's not proceed with the tax cut when we don't have the money to do it." That's how they would say that.


The letter that went to the Premier of this province from my friend Ted Arnott, the member for Wellington, who wants to be reasonable, said at this point in time, looking at all the books now that they have seen them, evaluating the current circumstances as governments must do as they come into power, "I think it's a reckless tax, Premier, and I'm writing you a letter to say so." I agree with him and I agree with the other three members of the caucus who have publicly been identified as saying, "Looking at the present circumstances, we don't think you should proceed with that tax cut." When you ask me how we can avoid this problem, I say you don't proceed with the tax cut.

Another problem we have is that the grant information hasn't been forthcoming yet to the boards of education. In Lincoln county we have a job action, a work-to-rule action taking place within our secondary schools. This is not something that anyone looks forward to. The trustees and the board of education are not happy about it, the teachers are not happy that there's a work-to-rule situation going on, the parents most assuredly are not and the students who are directly affected are not because this affects extracurricular activities.

What's happened is that you have teachers and a board who don't know exactly what the province is going to do in terms of transfers. Here we are into April already and no board of education knows the exact amount of money that will be forthcoming. Their fiscal year starts January 1; they don't start March 31 or April 1. When you try to get negotiations going under these conditions, nobody knows how much money there is going to be or how that money can be spent. So you have a deadlock on and as a result you have job action taking place that can take the form of either work-to-rule or a strike.

All of us hope these matters can be resolved through mutual negotiations, through a collective agreement. That's what everybody would seek. It's difficult to do that when this government is announcing one kind of toolbox one month, coming out with a different kind of toolbox the next month and refusing to tell the boards of education how much money will be transferred in this fiscal year. That presents a problem.

Then yesterday we had the College of Teachers being presented for consideration in this House. Again one looks and says, "Why are you bothering with that particular piece of legislation when there are more compelling issues?" I don't know this for sure, but the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, who sits in the back corner of the Conservative caucus at this time and I'm sure will be moving up some day, would be a person who would be concerned.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): He's on the far left of the caucus.

Mr Bradley: He's on my far right, on the caucus's far left.

I'm sure he would be in favour of appropriate discipline in our school system. I want to tell him that the College of Teachers is going to erode that considerably. Mark my words. You will all know at the end of this what that does to erode the discipline system in the school. Just watch and see.

I know you think you're getting the teachers. I know you think, "Oh, we'll fix them; we'll put them all in this College of Teachers and we'll make sure that everybody's fine." But you watch and see what happens when all the buttinskys start going in and saying this and that and we have people from left field and right field coming into the school system and saying you have students who are, I'm afraid, causing some problem in the school system, and this person or that person gets up and says, "I do not agree." So Mr Bradley comes to the school system and says to Mr Froese, who's a teacher, "I'm sorry, Mr Froese, but Mr Bradley disagrees with the way you have exercised discipline. Therefore, I think I'll go to the College of Teachers and complain about that." I'm sure if a Bradley came in to see Mr Froese and said he was going to the College of Teachers, my friend Mr Froese would say, "I don't think that's a good idea." I know in his heart of hearts my friend the member for St Catharines-Brock, and other members of the Conservative caucus -- Mr O'Toole I'm sure would feel this way, for sure -- all the members of the Conservative caucus would say, "I'm very concerned that this could erode discipline within the schools."


Mr Bradley: I'm sure Mr Johnson, the member for Perth, would be very concerned about that as well. The whole caucus would be. I like mentioning the names because the constituents back home are then aware that they're in the Legislature this afternoon.

Mr Colle: Late on Thursday. There are a few more. We've got names here.

Mr Bradley: Late on Thursday afternoon, I want to commend them for all being here today, including the member for Wentworth East, my good friend. Anyway, that isn't exactly what this bill has anything to do about, so I have to worry about that. However, this does allow us a little bit of a chance, a little leeway, because we're talking about education.

I was worried as well, as I know the members for Scarborough would be, about the principal from Scarborough who was being intimidated by the Minister of Education's office. That was very, very true that this was happening. There were calls coming from the minister's office to the principal of the school saying, "Don't you be critical of what this government is doing." I become worried when I hear of people acting on behalf of ministers who are doing that. I'm informed by very good sources that this indeed was happening. But I'll leave that one for another day.

On this bill itself, I think most people in the province would like to know that there is accountability. It's always been difficult to find the best way of doing this. Probably the best way, if it worked as it should, is within the school system itself. Lincoln county, for instance, would have its testing system using provincial standards and provincial norms and administer it that way.

I suspect this bill is dealing as much with perception as it is with reality. There's a perception that there is a problem and indeed there is some need for that accountability. Everybody agrees. We agree with that. I'm sure the NDP agrees with that. But whether establishing this office is going to accomplish that or not with the millions of dollars that are spent, boy, that remains to be seen. I really hope it does work. I'm not convinced that it would be a priority I would look forward to, although again there's a perception that there is a different kind of accountability from one board of education to the next. So some kind of provincial norms I think most people in this province want to see.

In education today, if I were looking at where the priorities should be, I think it's the appropriate funding of education -- extremely important. All of these business people -- I mentioned Davos, for instance, where the Premier was in January to discuss at this -- is it a think tank? It's a think tank or something, economic think tank --

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): Economic forum.

Mr Bradley: -- economic forum, the minister tells me, that takes place in Davos. There, I know, one of the things that they stressed to the people assembled was how important it was to have a good education system, a solid education system, out there that would produce people who would be able to compete, because competition's important in the international atmosphere we're in today in terms of trade, but also good citizenship and a general well-rounded education, and that those countries that have good education systems, students with lots of opportunities, are those countries which are most successful in terms of competing and most successful in terms of the quality of life within those societies.

I want to give an opportunity for some other members to be able to speak this afternoon. I know that I have on the clock much more time, but being as magnanimous as I am I tried to mention as many of the members as I could. Minister Johnson is here this afternoon, I want to say, right in the front row, and the member for Hamilton Mountain. They're all here this afternoon --


Mr Bradley: And the member for Oakwood, but we're not supposed to mention who's not here. But I hope that all of you who have listened with such attentiveness this afternoon will go back to the cabinet, will review the priorities which you have and will ask them to bring forward legislation which is genuinely going to help this province and will listen to the -- Mr DeFaria has put his name forward to be stated he was here. The member for Kitchener-Wilmot and the member for Mississauga East, because we're not supposed to give names, are both here this afternoon, and I have their legislative cards right here. If anyone wants to know where to call for information, I will certainly provide it. I will not give the number, because I know what that can prompt.

I wish you all well on the Easter weekend, and I look forward to seeing you back here next week when I will certainly be happy to share with you a few more thoughts about matters of interest to all.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill 30 and to recognize the member for St Catharines for his embellishment of all those people that are present here today. Further, I'd like to comment on the comments made by the member for Ottawa Centre.

Generally, I'm surprised the Liberal Party seemed to be optimistic about the establishment of this office, and I really think that's important to establish that. I heard one member clearly state that he was optimistic about the Education Quality and Accountability Office.

I just want to make a couple of comments quickly in the two minutes allocated. Testing outcomes based on learning: I think that's an important demand, for the people today in Ontario have been asking, how do we measure up? When we say, how do we measure up, I think we're really talking about the students. It's student-focused and it's outcome-focused, but more importantly, parents today, when I was going door to door in Durham East, were asking, how are our students doing? They're reading misleading reports in the newspaper, in the press, but most importantly, teachers themselves are demanding, and as we move towards the discussion of Bill 31 of yesterday, the professionalization of the teaching profession, they themselves want to be credited for the success of those outcomes. I believe that students today demand to be treated fairly, and they demand to be treated to fairness in education and to be prepared for their education.

I want to make one more point on the member for St Catharines -- his biggest hangup seemed to be with the tax cuts. I just want to draw his attention to an article in the Star this morning from the Canadian independent business group --

Mr Colle: The Star?

Mr O'Toole: I read it because it's a balanced approach. Anyway, they said they'd create 80,000 jobs with the tax cuts, and so let's focus on the outcomes of our plan to create more jobs and jobs that children have the education to accomplish.

The Acting Speaker: Your time is up, the member for Durham East. Further questions or comments?

Mr Colle: I think the member for St Catharines very eloquently said that the real key issue in education now is funding for education and funding for classroom education. I think there's a lot of anxiety out there in the public domain about how we fund education. I think this government is really treading into a very dangerous area. They are now going to get into an area of clawbacks from the property tax and then bring it back to the provincial treasury. I know this is going to be targeted in Toronto and Ottawa, but I think this sets a very dangerous precedent.

It's going to create more anxiety and more frustration from taxpayers who feel that they pay more than enough for basic services, and they in fact in Toronto, as you know, pay 100% of education through property tax, and for this government now to come along and propose that they're going to venture into locally raised taxes and bring that back into the provincial treasury, to do with what I don't know, is going to create a lot more stress and a lot more anxiety among people who pay for education. I think that pressure is going to create a very negative feeling about the way education is funded in this province and the direction this government is going in.

I would think all of these measures and bills you're introducing about accountability or teachers' colleges etc are not going to be of any value unless this government retreats from this new principle they're introducing of taxation without representation. Imposing a surtax on top of the property tax in the cities of Metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa. You start doing that, you're going to see a tax revolt like you've never seen before in Toronto. If you continue on this path, it will be a path of destruction in terms of public feeling for education funding.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I appreciate the opportunity to just say a couple of quick words in rebuttal to what was said by the member for St Catharines and nicely segued into by the member for Oakwood. Part of what is continually lost in debate in this House appears to be, at least from the other side, the perspective of what is really in the bills that are being debated. Contrary to what has been said in the spokespiece for the Liberal Party, the Toronto Star, there is nothing in the bill that talks about $16 million or $65 million in clawbacks; in fact, there's nothing in the bill that suggests there be any clawbacks. It merely facilitates the ability to do that.

But let's deal with the issue of pooling, because that was a great concern to the member for St Catharines. You tried to make reference that the people in Scarborough would be upset. As it stands right now, there is pooling. The city of Scarborough taxpayers remit $350 million a year towards the Metro Toronto school board budget, but they get $525 million back. We pay 16% of the cost of education within all of Metro Toronto, but we get 24% of the budget. So let me get this straight. The member for Oakwood, I guess, is suggesting that the taxpayers in the other parts of Metro don't have a problem transferring $175 million into the city of Scarborough, but somehow it would be inappropriate to look at pooling across a broader range of municipalities.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear. The intent --

Mr Bradley: Property tax, you are talking about.

Mr Gilchrist: That's what we're talking about. Of the property taxes from the rest of Metro, $175 million winds up in Scarborough to augment their budget.

Let's get one thing perfectly clear. The intent of pooling within Metro and, if it ever is ramped out, anywhere else in this province is to ensure the same quality of education for every student in this province: no second-class citizens, no second-class students. We're going to guarantee that everyone gets a world-class, top-quality education regardless of the assessment base of their community.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you very much. Further questions or comments? The member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr Patten: I have been enticed to add a few comments of my own, one, by the magnanimous nature of the member for St Catharines in wishing everyone a fine Easter weekend, and I would like to do the same.

My colleague from Oakwood having responded to some of the remarks from the member for St Catharines in terms of the possible usage of property tax, you will know that in my area this is an issue in Ottawa with the Ottawa Board of Education. I'm led to believe -- I know the government is treading carefully, kind of creeping up on this somewhat, and the minister has not declared outright that this will be used, because we have advice that suggests there's a constitutionality issue that's at stake with this in terms of tax money that is directed at one level and taken by another jurisdiction for general revenue or whatever purposes. So it's a big concern.

It's a concern not only with people in education, but I've received representations and motions and resolutions from the Ottawa-Carleton regional council as well as the city council. If that precedent is set, you can imagine the insecurity of municipalities in terms of feeling, if the senior provincial government can move in and take the taxation funds that are directed for specific purposes by virtue of authority, what kind of bedlam we would have in this particular province.

I believe the member for St Catharines has identified a few issues related to the accountability office, and my time has run out, so I shall sit down and allow him to comment.

The Acting Speaker: I'm afraid to have to say that technically, member for Ottawa Centre, you couldn't do what you just did --

Interjection: That's a response.

The Acting Speaker: -- but we'll take that as your response and we'll move on now. It was a fine response. It sure was. The member for Algoma.

Mr Wildman: I came into the House to debate Bill 30, but I came in to a debate on Bill 34. Madam Speaker, I ask the unanimous consent of the House to be able to share my time with my colleague from London Centre.


The Acting Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Wildman: So I guess we are on Bill 30. I listened very carefully to the comments of my friend from Scarborough East. If I could speak just briefly about that before I get into my comments on Bill 30, I thought his analysis was rather interesting in that he argued that the ratepayers of Scarborough pay less to the Metro board than they actually get in terms of share of the total educational services delivered in Metropolitan Toronto, and that in a sense was pooling within Metro. If people were prepared to accept pooling within Metro, it should not be too onerous or too great a leap for them to accept a similar arrangement beyond Metro. Coming from an assessment-poor area of the province, I have some sympathy with the view that we should be encouraging and doing everything possible to provide the resources required by all boards to provide equal opportunity in education for all students in the province. I accept that as a good principle.

My concern, though, is this: In the way it is worded in the other bill that we are not debating, while there is no time limit on this and if this is at the beginning of pooling, there's nothing in the legislation that says the money that will come from the property taxpayers of Ottawa and Metropolitan Toronto to the provincial treasury will actually go just to education in other parts of the province. Since it goes into the consolidated revenue fund, it could conceivably be used or be part of spending in other areas, such as health care, for instance, or even fixing some potholes in roads or whatever. That is a bit of a problem that I think the member for Scarborough East should address.

But since he has said this is the beginning of pooling, then I would hold him to that and want to ensure that the provincial government is looking at province-wide pooling and this is some sort of intermediary step to moving in that direction and to ensuring that rural areas and northern areas of the province will benefit because more assessment-wealthy parts of the province such as Toronto and Ottawa are going to contribute to the educational opportunities in other parts of the province. I really would want to ensure that it was going to benefit education specifically, as opposed to other services that are needed and are important, but perhaps should be funded another way.

Now to Bill 30, the Education Quality and Accountability Office Act: We are in support of this legislation. As you know, the previous government began the work that led to the development of this legislation, and we believe there must be ways of ensuring that there is quality education across Ontario, and we are in favour of testing.

To have an office that will evaluate the quality of elementary and secondary school education and make reports to the Minister of Education and Training and to the public I think is a good thing. I think it's important that we be able to ensure that the quality of education provided across Ontario is properly evaluated so teachers, trustees, supervisory officers, parents, students and the general public will have some way of knowing how well we are doing in providing for the education of young people throughout Ontario.

We support the idea that the office could enter into agreements with boards and schools, private schools even, to test students in those schools as well as the public and separate systems across the province.

We should be very careful, though, in determining why we are doing testing, what the purpose is. If we're going to have province-wide testing of pupils to look at their academic achievements, the purpose is to be able to determine whether we are doing well in mathematics, language skills, other types of analytical skills important in preparing young people to make their way in the world and to contribute to their own wellbeing and to the benefit of society.

We are not producing province-wide testing to be able to make comparisons between schools and between boards in the province. We've got to be careful on this. If the purpose of province-wide testing is to have one board be able to say, "We did better than the other board in our area," or "We did better than most of the boards in the province and therefore we're doing a much better job," that may not be a valid conclusion. It's even more difficult when you start comparing one school to the other. The purpose of this is not to develop some kind of smorgasbord approach for parents or students to choose which school they want to go to based on the achievements in each school as compared to others, because that would be detrimental to the overall system.

Obviously, the purpose of testing should be not only to evaluate how well we are doing but also to point to where there needs to be improvement, but not to pit one school off against another or one board against another throughout the province. At least I hope that's not what's being proposed here. What we are hoping to do is to find out what's working and what isn't working so well, how we can improve the overall quality of education and ensure that boards are accountable for improvements where they are needed and where it is identified that they should proceed.

There is one concern that has been raised with me about this legislation by the teaching profession, and that is in clause 4(1)(b). Section 4 says:

"(1) Without limiting the powers or capacities of the office, for the purpose of carrying out its objects, the office may...

"(b) require a board to provide information to the office, including personal information within the meaning of section 38 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and section 28 of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act."

If we're looking at evaluating the quality of education and looking for ways to improve the delivery of education, the development of programs that will ensure we are able to develop the skills young people need to compete in the work world and to have wider horizons and understand and comprehend what's going on around them and solve problems and so on, what kind of personal information would we need? I don't quite understand the purpose of this clause, and the issue has been raised with me by members of the teaching profession because they don't understand it either.

Are we talking about personal information about students? If so, what kind of personal information? Are we talking about personal information about teachers or supervisory staff? If so, what kind of personal information? I don't know what this might entail. I hope the parliamentary assistant will be able to explain this to me when I sit down and he gets up and makes comments on my remarks, because I don't understand this. Personal information might mean gender information, I guess. It might mean race or ethnic group of students, or I suppose of teachers too. I would be concerned if that's what's intended here, because surely that's not the purpose of this legislation. I hope you can provide me with an explanation. I raise that not to be partisan or in some way cute. I genuinely don't understand the purpose of that clause and I would like to have an explanation.


In regard to the whole issue of comparisons, as testing has been done in the past in the province -- we increased the number of tests and the levels at which students would be tested throughout their school careers -- inevitably the press has used this for the purposes I indicated earlier it shouldn't be used for. Inevitably the press says, "This local board placed this well in comparison to other boards in the province in this area," such as mathematics or language skills or whatever. They even go further and say, "This school placed in such-and-such a place compared to other schools."

I don't think that's the purpose, and I hope the parliamentary assistant will explain to me that's not the purpose of this but rather that it's to look at the overall system and ways we should be looking at to improve it. I hope it would mean the Minister of Education and Training will be able to issue directives and establish policies that will make it possible for us to improve the ways we evaluate the quality of education and to make recommendations and changes that will make it possible for us to deliver education more successfully and to ensure that we have students achieving as best they can throughout the province.

It's been suggested that the aim of all of us should be ensuring that every student in the province, no matter where she or he lives, has the same educational opportunity. I support that, and I know all members of the House would support that aim. But let's be realistic. Small, rural communities with widely dispersed populations and lower assessment bases will find it far more difficult to provide some of the services and facilities, some of the educational programs, some of the educational opportunities taken for granted in larger centres. I know that's what the grant system is supposed to address. The grant formulas are established in such a way to compensate for the different levels of assessment, for the different levels of property tax.

I'm certainly not blaming anybody. I think all parties when in government have faced this problem. All of us recognize that the property tax system, the assessment system, is very complex and it has very serious problems. The more complex it is, the more complex becomes the grant system and the formula for trying to compensate for the differences in capacity of local boards to tax.

It has been difficult for governments of all political stripes to deal with this problem because as soon as you try to deal with the assessment difficulties in one area, it has ramifications for the neighbouring area. It may mean, obviously, that some people who have been perhaps overtaxed in the past will find their taxes go down, and others will find their taxes go up. The people, for some reason, who find their taxes go up, don't like it and say: "We don't want this. Forget it. We're not interested." So, in most cases, governments say: "Maybe we shouldn't open this can of worms. Let's not get involved."

Even though we have a grant system that is supposed to compensate for the different capacities of boards to tax -- and it is complex -- it doesn't adequately compensate. There are programs that are run that are very needed and important in Metropolitan Toronto, in Ottawa and in other urban centres that aren't even dreamed of in smaller communities, in rural parts of the province and in northern Ontario.

In evaluating the quality of education across the province, when looking at the raw numbers as a result of the test, surely we have to also look into how those results are related to the ability of the local board to provide the services that are required. That's why I think it's unfair and not proper for us to be making comparisons on the basis of the test. Rather, we should be looking at the overall results and determining what Ontario is doing right, what Ontario could be doing better and then moving to ensure that policies are implemented across the province that enable us to do better. That may mean there will have to be more financial assistance given to some parts of the province.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): The testing will tell you that.

Mr Wildman: Yes, and the testing hopefully will tell you that. But it shouldn't be done in such a way that we simply say, "Okay, Carleton board is much better than the Ottawa board," or vice versa, as a result of the tests. It's not the purpose of the tests to see whether the superintendent of education or the director of education at Carleton is doing a better job than the director of education in Ottawa. That's not the point. The point is, what is Carleton doing right and what is Ottawa doing right, and what can both of them do to improve the overall results? I'm not pointing to those two boards for any particular reason, I'm just using them as examples.

I support testing. I hope the government would test at the kind of levels we suggested when we were in government, rather than the cutback this government has proposed in terms of the testing. I think it should be tested at those levels we proposed rather than the cutback that we expressed -- that we've seen with this government because of the $16 million, I think it was, cut in the testing funding that the government announced --

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): What did you recommend?

Mr Wildman: Grades 3, 6, 9, 11.

I support the legislation. I would hope the parliamentary assistant could give me an explanation of what the personal information is that might be required under this bill for the office, because I really don't understand that part. I hope all members of the House would agree that we should be doing everything possible to ensure that we properly evaluate the success of our education program for students in the province and that we also ensure that boards are accountable for making improvements where it is identified that they should be made.

With that, I will defer to my friend the member for London Centre. Because of the weather, which is more like Christmas than Easter, I may not get home this evening, so I would be prepared to debate much longer, but I know that other members will be going home for the weekend. I hope you all have a happy Easter.


Mrs Boyd: It's a great pleasure for me to be able to talk about this bill because the whole issue around evaluation in education is one that's very close to my heart. When I first came into government and was Minister of Education, this was a very hot public topic because the various provinces had entered into an agreement to develop testing on a nationwide basis.

We were concerned, as a province, about the way in which the Alberta government, which had been designated as the lead in this, was developing tests, because we believed very strongly that the kind of methodology they were proposing would be extremely prejudicial to students in a very diverse place like Ontario. We had a very lengthy discussion with our federal and provincial colleagues about the need to ensure that the methodology used in developing educational testing took into account some of those variables and we worked very hard to develop the criteria for those tests that would meet the best interests of Ontario's students.

We were successful in persuading our partners to really look at some of the issues that had been raised about the type of testing, the way in which questions were asked and the kinds of concerns that could be raised, such as those raised by my colleague the member for Algoma about the use to which those tests would be put. We came to an agreement, I think, in the course of that discussion, which was very public and in which many parents participated, about the real need for us to evaluate the outcomes of the education system, that we needed to be very clear that those outcomes had the support of parents, of teachers and of legislators. We needed to be sure that in developing a system of testing either in the province or in terms of a national system, it would be a system that would answer some questions rather than raise ongoing concerns.

One of the things I found in my time as Minister of Education was that with the measurements we had, with the outcomes we did have, there did not appear to be any correlation between the amount of money spent per student within an education system and the outcomes if we measure those outcomes on the basis of how many young people go on to complete high school, how many young people go on to post-secondary education, how many young people win scholarships. There did not seem to be any correlation between the number of dollars that were spent per pupil and the results.

That was very troubling, because I think there had been a tendency in education to make assumptions about the number of dollars having a direct correlation to the effect of those dollars. Given the vast difference between the per-pupil cost in the so-called richer boards, the boards that have more assessment, and those that do not, that provided some comfort, I think, to the parents and educators in the smaller and poorer boards. But it offered little comfort to all of us who pay education costs, who see the province paying a good portion of tax dollars towards education. It really raised very immediately and very directly the issue of how we, as legislators, can ensure that the quality of education can be seen to be something of which we can all be proud in this province.

While I believe that some of the very, very severe criticisms that parents have directed at the system, that some researchers have directed at the system are probably overstated, the issue is that we must have confidence in the system. If we, as parents and as public servants, are trying to convince young people to stay in school, are trying to convince them to invest their own funds in education, and trying to convince parents to support them to continue in their education and to support that financially, we have to have some sense of confidence that what is happening in our schools is really preparing our young people for a lifelong learning experience. As this discussion went on, it became very clear to us that it was necessary to find a way to provide that kind of an evaluation.

Our thoughts were confirmed by the recommendations of the royal commission because they too, in their hundreds and hundreds of hours spent with parents and educators and those involved in the governance of schools, were saying the same thing, "We have to find a way to do this." The creation of an Education Quality and Accountability Office was very much the outcome that was expected as a result of that. That is why we are continuing to support this notion and will support the government's bill, because we do believe very strongly that we, as citizens in this province, deserve the assurance that the dollars we spend and the efforts we make in terms of educating the young people of this province are well spent, that those who are in charge of the educational system are indeed accountable, and that we derive ongoing comfort from an ongoing evaluation of the outcomes of the efforts that we make. So we are supportive.

I would echo -- and I won't go into much more detail than my colleague did -- the real concern about the freedom of information and privacy issues in this bill. This is just one of many bills that have been brought forward by this government where the demand for the collection and retention of private information about individuals seems to be an overwhelming concern. We see it in Bill 31. We see it in Bill 30. We certainly saw it in Bill 26. I think this government should understand that people are legitimately concerned about the collection of data that is private, unless they know why it is being collected, how it is going to be kept confidential and of what use it is going to be. It is extremely important for us to know that. It needs to be out in the open, not just a provision such as this that the office must do this. We need to have some assurance that this kind of material will be used appropriately.

I personally believe that there may well be a good use for much of this material. If, as my colleague suggested, one of the elements that we might want to know is whether or not there are gender differences in terms of the outcomes of our education system, that may well be a legitimate question, particularly if we see, as in measurements that have been done so far, young women performing at a very high level in elementary school and declining in their performance in secondary school and frequently not going on to post-secondary education at the same rate as their rate in the population. That should concern us. Similarly, it should concern us if we find there is an area of work our students are not excelling at.

The whole purpose of doing evaluation is to tell those who are teaching and those who are making determinations about curriculum, making policy decisions, what we need to improve. Measurement simply for the sake of measurement is useless. The whole purpose of this is to find out how we can do better, how we can help students who may need supplementation in one area, how we can ensure that where we are already doing very well, we're not pouring the majority of our resources there but are looking at the need of shifting resources into another area. That is the value of this kind of evaluation.


I'm quite concerned about one element of this bill that my colleague mentioned briefly but I want to expound upon. When we were talking about doing the testing process, we based it very seriously on the need to test at regular intervals, partly because we know children develop at different stages and in different ways, and partly because if the purpose of this evaluation is to enable us to correct what are inadequacies in the system, we need to be testing frequently. That's why we determined that we needed to test at grade 3, grade 6, grade 9 and grade 11.

We also determined that it was really important not to have these tests carried on away from the classroom teacher. We listened to teachers but we also listened to research experts who told us that it is important for the classroom teacher to be very closely involved and engaged in this process of evaluation. So under our plan, with testing at grade 3, grade 6, grade 9 and grade 11, those tests were then marked by the classroom teacher. Obviously, the agency, whatever agency had been created, would have needed to do spot checks to make sure that process was being done appropriately, and no one ever questioned that.

But under this scheme -- and presumably, at least from what I've heard the minister say or what has been attributed to him, because of cost -- you have cut the evaluation to grade 3 and grade 11. The reason it costs you more is because you've taken the marking away from the classroom teacher and you've put it with the central agency. This is a very serious mistake, I would suggest to you, in terms of engaging those teachers in the process, making them part of the process. But I also will tell you that I think it defeats the purpose of evaluation in the first place. If there is no testing done between grade 3 and grade 11, you will not know how to correct what is happening at those other stages. You will not even catch in that second testing at grade 11 many of the students who may have dropped out of school because they were not succeeding as they went along the way, and you will not have a method that is available to determine what it is and at what point that supplementation is needed to keep young people in school. That's a very serious error, in my view.

I think you need to look again at what you are trying to accomplish. I believe what we need to accomplish is really building that sense that we have a system that is trying to provide the highest quality of education to each student, that takes into account the particular abilities of that student and uses those abilities to make sure that student learns as well as possible and is embarked on that course of lifelong learning, which we all know is important.

We know that those students who are not doing well in our system, those students who do not complete our secondary schools, still number very, very high. There are disputes about the figures, but certainly more than 25%. Generally speaking, I think it's somewhere between 20% and 30%, depending on who's doing the accounting, as to who stays in school and completes school, and that disparity is based on whether or not you measure those who come back to school later, who didn't complete in the first place but come back and get their high school diploma later. So there's a legitimate reason for the discrepancy in the statistics. It all depends on how you tell the tale.

But the reality is, although every year we have improved, we have to remember that there was a time when the majority of students in this province were lucky if they completed grade 8, and then that number gradually increased and completing secondary school became a value in our society and, in fact, as we know, a necessary value if people are going to be self-sufficient.

But in an affluent and caring society, which I think we all believe we have in Ontario, the numbers of students who do not complete their secondary education is quite shocking. It is not worthy of us that we have not found ways to keep those students in school, and if you listen to educators, they will tell you that what you hear and find out about the student at grade 3 and what you can improve on at grade 3, if you are not testing as that student develops into pre-puberty and into puberty and goes through that transition from the primary, the elementary school into the secondary school, that's where we lose them. That is exactly where we lose those students again and again: somewhere between grade 8 and grade 10. Yet you've taken one of the most important elements of evaluating the educational system out by stopping the testing at grade 6 and grade 11. If it is not done regularly, you will not be finding out the things that will enable you to ensure we have an effective and efficient system.

I think that one of the real issues we face when we're talking about accountability in education is determining what we mean by that and how we expect to hold school boards, individual schools, individual teachers and, I would suggest, individual students accountable for the educational process.

We often somehow think that this responsibility is not a shared responsibility, but it is. It is a shared responsibility in a very real way, and so if we're going to set up this kind of an office, one of the things we need to be sure we are doing is basing it on shared values. That is extremely important, as we found out in the discussions with the royal commission.

We know very clearly that when parents talk about education, they have a series of criticisms, which may or may not reflect what actually is happening in the particular classroom. We often have preconceived notions, and one of the really important aspects of this particular change is making sure that it goes along hand in hand with the efforts we began in the previous government to keep parents more involved, to keep the community more involved in the school.

The results of this kind of evaluation, taken all by themselves, may not give the kind of assurance to parents that they need. They need to know what the experience is like that their children are having. And frankly, as more and more of us in our communities do not have students who are going through the educational system, we need that assurance too.

Education changes dramatically from one generation to the next. I can remember when I was in primary school, for example, the very idea that someone would use a calculator was absolute anathema, and these days teaching methods have changed to the point where we know that computer-assisted and technologically assisted learning is going to be the future for young people in this province. It may not have been our experience, but the fact that it is their experience does not make it bad education. In fact, they often educate us, and I think those of us who are parents know that very often we learn a great deal if we spend time with our children helping them with their assignments. We in fact learn some of the new methodologies. We may not like them because they may not be familiar to us, but very often we get a better sense of what that experience is like for our child.

One of the things we know is that one of the major determinants of health for all of us in our province is how healthy, how strong, how confident our young people are. One of the worries that has been expressed again and again by those who deal with children who have special problems is this need to ensure that the evaluation process does not undermine self-confidence and self-esteem in those young people.


I think one of the things that we know from the very careful people who've been involved in the commission that has been studying this is that they understand the need to devise a system that is going to bolster self-confidence and self-esteem rather than undermine it for those young people. One of the aspects of that is going to be how we use the information that we get from testing. If young people see us using that material in competitive ways, if they see us using it to pit one school board or one school against another, that is not likely to be a very good experience, because they will feel implicated and perhaps even guilty about the standing of their particular school. They may feel unworthy if they happen to be attending a school which overall is compared badly to another school.

We had this experience in our city. We had an experience like that because one of our trustees insisted on sharing the information that was released to the board around testing to the press, and the press drew conclusions from it which were very hurtful of the system as a whole, very hurtful of individuals working within the system and frankly very hurtful for many of the students in the system.

So when we talk about the need to ensure that the information and the evaluation that is contained in this bill is used properly, we speak from some experience, and many of you may have had similar kinds of experience. Comparability is going to be difficult. It will be in a simplistic way perhaps possible, but it will not, as my colleague suggested, be possible in that micro-way of comparing one situation to another, because the context of the situation may be very different.

If you have a school, for example, that because of the financial position of the board, the decisions that the board has made has a very streamlined program, very, very few of the ancillary programs available to it, like a music program or an art program, very extensive sports programs and so on, you might very well see all of the staff and the administrators and the parents of that school concentrating their efforts where the school actually has programs. One would hope in those circumstances that the outcomes for what is offered to those students would be very fine.

But is that a well-rounded education? When people test in the areas that we're testing, and those in fact are the barebones areas that are the only things offered at that school, does it tell us very much about the whole educational experience of those children? Not necessarily. If we test in a way that does not ensure that it is focused on the use of the facts that young people have, that it doesn't focus on the skills as opposed to answers or content, we also have a problem.

We would urge that as this process goes forward, the kind of expertise that has been brought to bear on this be continued, that we continue to examine and to have very clear mechanisms of accountability for this office, not just accountability for school boards or individual teachers or individual schools but accountability for this office, because the creation of an office shouldn't necessarily be the end of it, and too often in government in the past it has been. It will be important for there to be an ongoing look at how successful this office is at winning and maintaining the confidence of the people of Ontario that the task it is performing is valuable, that it is helping us to ensure that young people have a better education than they would have had without it.

I would say that it will be important for all of us to be listening very carefully to the people in our communities about how they are experiencing the realities of this new process. We know only too well that very often a population will ask for something and then when they get it they don't like the results. So we need to be very clear that we are constantly measuring and evaluating the office itself, not just the students who will be evaluated by it, not just the system that will be evaluated by it.

It is really important, as we go through the remaining steps of our discussion on this in committee -- I understand that it will be referred to committee -- that we listen very carefully to those who come in front of us, that we not listen with, if you like, discriminatory ears that say, "I will hear this if a parent says it, but I won't hear it if a teacher says it," or vice versa, "I won't hear information or advice if it comes from a researcher; I will only hear it if it comes from a school administrator." We have to be sure this is an open process and that we listen carefully and share the information that comes forward.

There are a lot of apprehensions about this kind of change in a system. If we are to keep everybody who is involved convinced that this is going to be a valuable exercise, if we are going to continue to build the confidence of parents, students, teachers, administrators and the general community in this measurement of educational outcomes, then it is going to be important, for that discussion at committee and for any changes that happen in this act, to be very responsive to what we hear. I would hope the members of the government are really focused on the need for this to bolster publicly funded education, not in fact to destroy publicly funded education. You need to know there are real worries that people have in this province.

One of the proudest things we have is the education system we have built here. The Progressive Conservatives have reason to be very proud of a legacy they inherited from 42 years of government, from people like Bill Davis, John Robarts and Bette Stephenson. It is very important for us to build on that.

I say in closing that as we go through this process, let us try to really work together to build and maintain that confidence in what I think is one of the finest systems we have and what we are all engaged in: ensuring that this bill will help us to ascertain and to maintain that confidence.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Is there further debate? No? Then we'll put the question.

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it. Carried.

This bill is referred to the standing committee on social development. Agreed? Agreed.

It being almost 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until next Tuesday at 1:30 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1759.