36th Parliament, 1st Session

L055 - Wed 10 Apr 1996 / Mer 10 Avr 1996


















































The House met at 1332.




Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): Today I would like to give the House a lesson in Harris mathematics. The Premier's mathematics work something like this: If you take $6 billion in spending cuts, then add the $6 billion it will cost to finance the promised tax cut, somehow, as if by a miracle, the deficit will disappear and the budget will be magically balanced.

These may be the principles upon which Mikeonomics are based, but in the real world the net gain is zero: nothing gained, everything lost. In the end, the people of Ontario will still be spending $1 million an hour more than they take in. The rich will end up getting an extra tax bonanza while the gross provincial debt will exceed $130 billion. The end result will see the middle class and the poor left to pick up the pieces. The people of Ontario need tax relief, but fear financial suicide.

Finally, when I went to school six minus six equalled zero, but I guess when the Premier is getting his arithmetic lesson from the Minister of Education, the flawed logic of this tax break makes sense.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): Recently, Science North in Sudbury received a letter from the Minister of Northern Development and Mines to advise that funding of the science outreach program will expire this year. This is a serious blow to our agency, especially as the operating grant Science North receives from the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation is already lower than all four other major cultural attractions located in southern Ontario.

The loss of the northern development and mines grant directly affects outreach services in northern Ontario. These have focused specifically on the delivery of science education in our special part of the province. The consequences of this decision include:

Firstly, a 50% reduction in the outreach program in northwestern Ontario. Last year Science North provided services to 48,000 people over 98 days; this year it will deliver programming to only 18,000 people over 42 days.

Secondly, a 50% reduction in the discovery camps in both the northeast and northwest. The number of weeks will be reduced from 16 to eight, and the children in Red Lake, Fort Frances, Dryden, Terrace Bay and Geraldton will not be serviced at all.

Thirdly, the complete elimination of science teacher workshops for teachers in the elementary school panel.

Our government initiated the grant because it allowed children and teachers in northern Ontario to access important science education programming. The cancellation leaves northerners at a distinct disadvantage, and this is yet another example of the impact of this government's cuts in northern Ontario.

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


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I rise in the House today to bring attention to a significant achievement by a local business in my riding. Viceroy Homes is making inroads into the Japanese market and is creating year-round employment at its plant in Port Hope. Its most recent announcement is an agreement with a major builder in Japan. This agreement is one of about 30 formal and informal ones with Japanese business clients.

When the company was first founded in the 1960s, most of its products were sold in Canada and the United States. Recently, however, Viceroy has been taking advantage of international opportunities. Today, almost all of its current production goes offshore. Apart from Japan, Viceroy now exports to Germany, Korea, Hungary and France.

This growth in exports has also meant growth in employment at the plant in Port Hope. Seasonal employment, which was a norm in the past, has been replaced by employment which is steady throughout the year. In fact, employment levels in 1996 are expected to reach 160, almost double the total of 1994.

I'm confident that with the policies of this government, by making Ontario a more attractive place for investment, we will see many, many more of these success stories in the future.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise today to address a study that was commissioned by St Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton, reported in today's Hamilton Spectator.

The study has shown that residents of Hamilton have an unusually high incidence of respiratory problems. It shows that people in Hamilton not only suffer from more respiratory problems, but are more likely to change jobs and suffer other environmental factors as a result of these breathing problems, a serious concern that involves many health and environmental concerns in Hamilton. The survey included Montreal, Winnipeg, Halifax and PEI.

Hamiltonians may have more breathing disorders because of higher industrial air pollution, and more study and research is necessary on this. We need to find out why this is occurring in our community. We need a joint effort by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment and Energy to solve this problem. We cannot allow and afford the ministries to work in isolation and not be able to address the environmental impact on health and Hamiltonians.

What is also a concern is that the finding comes at a time when the health action task force has recommended the closure of St Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton. This closure will impact the chest and allergy clinic which is doing a great deal of the study and which will be the leader in years to come in ensuring that Hamiltonians are protected from environmental fallout and impact.

I ask this government to act quickly and to ensure that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment immediately launch a joint coordinated study to find out why Hamilton is suffering such difficulties and take the necessary steps to remedy the problem.



Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): During the last election we heard Mike Harris promise categorically to protect funding for classroom education. Well, that promise didn't last very long, as in the November economic statement we saw cuts to the education system in elementary and secondary schools amount to $400 million, which the Minister of Education and Training himself has admitted really amounts to $800 million at least, because of the difference in fiscal years. We know that was done for the government to be able to find money to finance its tax cut of 30%.

We see today, as we begin debate later on on Bill 34, some of the so-called tools this minister and this government will be implementing to allow for that cut to be made: cuts to adult education, the gutting of kindergarten across this province and, the latest in the measures, the use of property taxes now in areas like Metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa, and I say ultimately in other areas, to come back to the provincial coffers to help them fund the provincial income tax cut they want to give to the wealthiest citizens in this province. And then, in a classic Snobelenism, we heard yesterday the minister say, "There has been some advice to our ministry that legally there needs to be a change in the Education Act so that boards can share with the province."

I say to the minister at least in Metropolitan Toronto people are interested in sharing, because injured workers, pensioners and others are having a hard time making the property tax bill now without having to contribute back to the Minister of Education.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It is my pleasure today to stand to recognize the bicentennial celebrations of Clarke township and its founding families. Two hundred years ago the first European settlers arrived in Clarke township, located in my riding of Durham East. Two founding families, the Bates and the Lovekins, arrived within weeks, possibly days, of each other.

Early in 1796, Roger Bates and his family came from Vermont, via Quinte. They cleared the land, built their home and planted oats. Around the same time, Richard Lovekin Sr arrived from county Cork, Ireland, via the US via Newark-Niagara-on-the-Lake-to clear the land and to build a dwelling, which exists today, for his family, who followed in the spring. His descendants still reside in the original homestead.

These founding families led the way for others, who worked hard to establish the prosperous farms and thriving communities spread around Clarke township. They helped mould our nation as a whole through their contributions to our society.

I would invite each one of you to visit Newcastle in Clarington, part of Clarke township, over the summer and join with me in celebrating 200 years of this settlement, a commitment and accomplishment to its peoples and its founders.

I would also like to thank Bill Bagnell and Mark Jackman, two local historians, for bringing this to my attention.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I would like to acknowledge some bright young men and women from Queen's University with us here today, members of the Queen's Alma Mater Society. For the past two days they have been meeting with MPPs on a very pressing matter.

As part of November's economic statement, Ernie Eves promised a consultative process to look into issues related to university funding and restructuring. The process consists of a white paper drafted by the Minister of Education and Training, followed by a four- to six-month consultation period by a small task force.

Ontario's students have been making the case that, as a most important component of the post-secondary sector, they should have representation on this central committee. Their requests have been denied by the minister on the basis that student representation is unnecessary as the committee will consult widely with students.

The discussion paper was to be released, and the committee named, by the minister in January of this year. Neither has yet happened. With the delay in releasing the white paper, students fear that consultation will now take place over the summer months when undergraduate students are not on campus. This would be a grave mistake.

The Common Sense Revolution promised to establish an income-contingent loan repayment program in order to guarantee accessibility to post-secondary education. While tuition fees will be rising by 20% next year at most universities, no real improvements will have been made to the student loan program. Every day the government waits before unveiling its program means more hardworking students will not be able to attend university.

Minister, will you assure the students of this province that the views of Ontario's students will be listened to, and that you will reconsider and appoint students to this committee?


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): The attack by this government on workers and the most vulnerable in our society continues. Their recently announced intention to follow through with workfare is yet another piece of the puzzle. Again, we see the picture that Mike Harris and his government have of Ontario. It means reduced workplace health and safety training. It means closure of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, which had workers governing 50% of that agency. With their anti-worker Bill 7, where scabs are once again legalized in the province of Ontario, it's now easier for employers to bust unions. We're going to see the privatization and the povertization of public sector jobs as they're sold off to follow the hard-line ideology of this government.

Now workfare, something we last saw in this province during the Depression. An exact replication of what happened then is happening now, where this government is blaming those who are suffering from the economic situation we find ourselves in. As was said by Susan West, a planner at the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton-Wentworth:

"Jobs in all professions have been radically reduced. This is particulary true in the teaching and health care fields. So, will these people need welfare when they can't make ends meet? Possibly. Will workfare help them find full-time work? I think not. But welfare needs to be in place" so those of us who can't provide for our basic needs can do so.

When will the attack on working people stop?


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I rise today as the member for Scarborough Centre to bring to the attention of this House the great public consultations our government is undertaking. Last evening, at the request of the Minister of Finance, I hosted a pre-budget consultation focus group meeting in Scarborough to solicit input and recommendations for the minister as the government prepares for our first budget.

The focus group consisted of 20 individuals representing a number of sectors and a diversity of views. It was, as many at the meeting stated, an excellent cross-section of my community. I was pleased to have residents who voted NDP, Liberal and Conservative in the last election as part of the group. The group provided me with great recommendations and I presented all of them to the Minister of Finance.

This, for the members opposite, is what real and meaningful public consultation is all about. Public consultation isn't about consulting with a few friendly people who have the same ideas you do. It isn't about pretending to really listen. Consultations are not about selling your message; they're about listening and examining. Our government, the Mike Harris government, is undertaking real, open and honest consultations with the public.

The Common Sense Revolution was written completely from our public consultations. We consulted before the election, we consulted during the election and, no matter what those members try to sell to the media, this government is continuing to consult with the public today. We will continue to consult throughout our mandate because, unlike the former two governments in Ontario, we understand what it really means to consult.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): In the Common Sense Revolution, we promised:

"We will end the sweet deals politicians have created for themselves.... MPPs' pensions will be abolished and replaced with an RRSP...program similar to those used by professionals in Ontario. The tax-free benefits paid to politicians will also be abolished. They will be paid a straight salary, just like ordinary Ontarians."

Today, we are delivering on those promises. For too long, members of this Legislature have received excessive pensions and hidden tax-free allowances that are unacceptable to the taxpayers we serve. Later today, I will introduce legislation that will abolish the MPPs' gold-plated pension plan and get rid of our tax-free allowances. At last, the salaries and total compensation paid to members will be open and understandable.

Let me first deal with the gold-plated pension plan, which has been simultaneously criticized and ignored by governments of all political stripes for decades. Unlike our predecessors, this government is taking action to end a gold-plated pension scheme that has few equals anywhere and is far beyond pension plans available to other Ontarians. In its place, as promised, we will set up an RRSP-type retirement savings arrangement for MPPs, similar to those available to many Ontarians.

The government, as the employer, will contribute the equivalent of 5% of an MPP's salary to the RRSP-type retirement savings arrangement. This new arrangement will save taxpayers almost $1.5 million annually.


We have drawn a line as of the election last year. Members first elected on or after June 8, 1995, will not be entitled to any defined pension benefits paid for by taxpayers. Members re-elected on or after June 8 will have their pensionable service and earnings frozen as of June 7, 1995. Benefits for retired members, their spouses and dependants will remain unchanged.

Under the former plan, pension benefits were available to former MPPs who had served as few as five years, no matter what their age. Someone as young as 40, with 15 years of service, could receive a full pension for life. That is unacceptable. By contrast, under the new RRSP-type arrangement, a person will not be allowed to draw retirement income until they retire and attain the age of 55.

To terminate the existing benefit arrangements, annuities will be purchased to cover the pensions of retired members, their spouses and dependants. All members with benefits earned under the old plan who have not yet retired will have the appropriate funds transferred to a locked-in retirement plan.

Today I'm also introducing a major change in the way MPPs are paid. Under the new legislation MPPs' total compensation will be reduced.

The Ontario MPP Compensation Commission, an independent group of experts, examined pay levels across a broad spectrum of positions with comparable responsibilities and recommended total compensation for members of $110,000 a year. The commission also calculated that in 1993 the true value of an MPP's compensation, taking into account hidden tax-free allowances and other benefits which most Ontarians do not get, was almost $99,000 a year.

Just over two weeks ago, this Legislature passed a bill to freeze compensation for members at social contract levels. On a comparable basis, this amounted to freezing compensation at $93,389 a year.

Under the legislation being tabled today, the salary for a member of the Legislature will be $78,007 a year; the benefits associated with that annual salary will be $6,958; the employer's RRSP-type contribution will be $3,900 a year. Total compensation, therefore, will be $88,865, approximately 20% lower than the commission recommended, 10% lower than MPPs received in 1993, pre-social contract, and about 5% lower than current levels.

For the first time in Ontario's history, the public will know exactly what members are paid and how they are paid. This legislation puts MPPs on a straight salary; it eliminates tax-free allowances; it ends tax-free extra pay for committee work.

With these measures, we are bringing a further openness and accountability to government. Our actions are consistent with our commitment to reduce the cost and size of government. Ministers are preparing business plans to define those core functions in which they should be engaged. We have cut the number of ministers by about a third, from 27 in the previous administration to the current level of 19. We will, as promised, also introduce legislation to reduce the number of MPPs from 130 to 103.

This government believes in leading by example. Today's measures are consistent with our savings and restructuring program. The compensation levels established today will be directly linked to our performance in dealing with the deficit. Therefore, not until the deficit is eliminated and the budget balanced will we give any consideration to changing these levels of compensation. These actions are also consistent with the commitment we made in the Common Sense Revolution to restore the public's faith in the service of its elected members. Today we are making good on that commitment.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I appreciate the fact that this has been a difficult issue for the government to deal with, and I further appreciate the fact that they have kept us informed about what they were looking at over a period of time and that our caucuses were fully briefed on the announcement the minister would be making today at our caucus meeting this morning.

The decision on MPPs' pay -- if I may deal in reverse order with the minister's presentation -- although I suspect a tough one to make, in my view is a reasonable one given these times of restraint. I think MPPs have long recognized that we have to set an example, and that's why our pay has essentially been frozen, if not reduced, for a significant number of years now. But what we also agree with is that this is a more rational way of presenting our compensation. As the minister has said, it means that our full compensation package is transparent to the public, is clearly understood and is completely taxable. We agree with those principles.

On the matter of pensions, we have agreed in the past and continue to agree with the ending of the pension plan. We in our party some time prior to the last election were actually the first to call for a reform of the pension plan because it was our belief that MPPs should not be receiving pensions which were so clearly out of step with what anybody in the public or private sector would receive. The Conservative Party under Mr Harris said that they thought we should simply end the pension plan, move to an RRSP plan. We concurred with that at the time. The government has now acted on that commitment. We respect that and we are pleased that the issue of MPPs' pay and pension is now being dealt with.

This issue of MPPs' pay and pension is one which indeed has challenged not just this government but successive governments. It's never an easy thing to deal with what is essentially your own compensation. I think the challenge for governments has been to ensure that MPPs are compensated in a way which is seen to be fair and reasonable by the public who both elect us and pay our salaries and who in turn, I truly believe, respect the value of the work we do as elected representatives on their behalf. I believe it's in that spirit that the government has presented those proposals, and in that spirit we respond.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I would join the Leader of the Opposition in thanking the government for keeping us up to date as they came to the realization -- and I'm going to be as gracious as I possibly can -- that this wasn't quite as simple as the Common Sense Revolution thought it was. We have all understood that, but in the end, I think the package that has come forward reflects the principles that all three political parties enunciated before the last election; that is, to make sure the salaries we receive are all taxable so that the public understands very clearly that we're all being treated exactly the same way. That's a principle we all support.

I would encourage the government to go one step additional, and that is to take the necessary steps to make sure that all politicians in Ontario -- school board trustees and municipal councillors -- have their income taxed as well. That's a step controlled by legislation by this provincial government, and I think it's a step the government should take.


We need to take a look at more detail. We've had a briefing this morning and my leader and I had a briefing last week on the pensions, and I think it's in line with the principles all three parties enunciated before the last election. I would be less than honest if I didn't say we had some reservations about the privatization approach. We want to take a look at the cost to the taxpayers for administering that plan and whether there is a cheaper way of doing it in the public sector. But the principles themselves are ones we have been advised of and again are in line with the approach we talked about before the last election.

I do want to say, though, and I think a lot of members would agree with me on this, that we've got to be very careful in whatever we do with pay and pension in this place, to make sure we understand that in the last 25, 30 years there's been a vast change in the makeup of this Legislature. Part of that is because pay, pension and benefits have allowed more people, men and women from all walks of life, to participate in this place. In the past, it was primarily lawyers and businessmen, because they had the ability to come into this place and still have their private incomes and their private resources and it didn't matter what was paid here. Whatever we do in this place has to make sure we reinforce democracy, and democracy doesn't work if only certain people can afford to be in the Ontario Legislature. One thing that we've got to be very careful about.

The other thing is we've got to be very careful that whatever steps we take do not play into the anti-politician phenomenon that occurs in all democracies and certainly occurs here in Canada, thanks by and large to things like the National Citizens' Coalition and other organizations. My view, and I think the view of all of us, is that elected politicians and the role we play in a democratic society is absolutely fundamental and is an honourable profession and we should not apologize for it. Therefore, while it's easy to go out and campaign, saying, "We're going to get rid of this, we're going to get rid of that and we're going to get even with the politicians," and that will get you votes, in the long run it does not serve democracy very well. By and large, we support the principles that have been outlined today, with the concerns I have expressed on behalf of my caucus.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. As you are aware, the children's aid society of Simcoe county has stated categorically that two families have given up their children for adoption because they could no longer afford to care for them, a direct result of your 21.6% cut in welfare payments.

Since your government took office, and this was statistically shown to us last week, we've seen a 54% rise in the number of people using food banks, we've seen the number of evictions grow and we've seen the number of homeless families increase. You have said that some people choose to be homeless. You have shown a callous disregard for the increase in food bank use. Now, when two children are being given up for adoption because their parents can't afford to look after them as a result of your cuts, your response is to say, "I don't believe that our policy should be singled out."

Premier, I think it's time you take some responsibility for the cold-hearted indifference you have shown towards the impact of your policies on the people of this province and particularly on defenceless children. What do you say to these two children in Simcoe county, both of whom are under the age of 10? How do you explain to them that the reason they're separated from their parents is because you have slashed welfare payments to pay for a tax cut that benefits primarily the well-to-do?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): First of all, I do have a response for the member. You will know that neither I nor the minister, who is away today, nor the government can comment specifically on individual cases, but let me talk about some of the information you've presented in the way of your question.

You said that the CAS in Simcoe county has definitively said this. We have checked with the director in Simcoe county, who has definitively said it is not the case. In fact, the agency's communication director confirmed with our office and with CFRB radio this morning that the CAS was not linking these adoption cases to the ministry's welfare rate reductions. So the premise with which you have come forward in your question is absolutely incorrect.

Furthermore, if I might, the individual case worker who went public with the information said on CFRB this morning, when questioned by Mr Stall about the allegation that it was as a result of the cuts: "Well, I don't know that any of them have come saying it's definitely the Harris cuts."

Stall: "Why is it being played that way?"

Shields, the case worker: "Well, we're hearing that there is a tremendous depression, despair and the total sense of any lack of hope for the future, and that is what it is."

So what we have found is that the information brought forward and the premise yesterday and today is totally inaccurate, is totally incorrect, does not come from any credible source, is not confirmed, is in fact denied by the case worker, and is not confirmed by the children's aid society. What we do know is this: They're difficult times for people on welfare today.

I agree with the case worker when she says that generally there is a combination of factors, never any one, but that loss of hope, despair, causes a lot of parents grief and a lot of problems in society. It is indeed that lack of hope, that lack of opportunity, that despair, that our policies are designed to overcome and correct to give more hope and opportunity to all people, particularly those who are on welfare.

Mrs McLeod: Well, Premier, let me tell you that we spoke directly with the children's aid society in Simcoe county yesterday before raising this issue in the House. Her comments and the comments that were made that these children who indeed have been taken into placement by the children's aid society in Simcoe were taken into custody, into care, because the parents could not cope with their care, with their feeding and with their shelter because of the cutbacks you made, were confirmed by every reporter who subsequently contacted the Simcoe children's aid society directly; I think a different answer, Premier, than the government receives, as the funding body, when it contacts the children's aid society.

But I would further say that I agree there is depression and there is despair, and it is to that climate that you have added unbelievably and without conscience by cutting the benefits of families by 21.6% and not seeming to remember that some 50% of the people who depend on those benefits are children. It is the effect of your cutbacks on children that we are talking about today.

Let me take you back to your own words of last May 20, when you were asked on Global Television about the potential impact of what were then your proposed cutbacks on children. You suggested that if people didn't have the money to look after their children, they should give them up to the children's aid society. Your exact words were, "They don't care about their kids, and maybe we need foster parents for the children."

Then last September, just days before the 21.6% cut in benefits took effect, your Minister of Community and Social Services was asked whether the children's aid society should step in if people in the province of Ontario were too poor to feed their children. He said, "If it's a situation where the child is in danger, then the CAS should come in and see what they can do."

My question is straightforward, Premier: Do you and your minister still believe it's a good idea for children to be separated from their parents because they can't cope with your welfare cutbacks?

Hon Mr Harris: No, of course not. I never said the quote you mentioned. I think that was pre-campaign or during the campaign. What the minister said was that we believe it's important that the CAS and the government have the resources to intervene and help and make sure that every child has decent housing and enough food, and indeed that is the goal. In addition to that, we want to make sure that each child and his or her family have some hope and opportunity that things will get better in the future.


Also, the member indicated that they talked directly with the CAS before raising the question yesterday. The CAS confirmed that your office did talk to them and that the question was raised by your office. The question was, "Are there other circumstances besides financial?" You were told by the CAS office, and they have this on record -- we never heard any of that yesterday or today -- "Yes, there are other circumstances."

Had you followed the briefing of the children's aid society, you would know that these are never simple cases, that there is a combination of factors, that it is very unfortunate. It is not the first case, of course, in the history of time where children's aid has had to intervene or be helpful. We regret every individual example of that. Our goal is to respond and, as the Deputy Premier said yesterday, to investigate the circumstances to provide every opportunity we can for a parent and child to stay together, and indeed we are doing that.

We are working very hard with our funding levels -- 10% above the average of the rest of the country, in excess of virtually the rest of the world -- and also with the ability to earn back the difference and facilitate that, and with workfare we are offering true hope and opportunity that the short-term assistance we will provide for every child in this province is not ultimately the long-term solution. Indeed, the long-term solution is that families will be able to look after themselves.

Mrs McLeod: Attempts to deny what has been said do not relieve you of any responsibility for the impact of what you have done. There is no question that those two families in Simcoe county were coping until they were hit with your welfare cutbacks and they could cope no longer. That is clearly what was said to us yesterday.

There is no question, although you attempt to deny what you said during the election campaign, that you made statements about parents who can't care for their children and whether the CAS should come in. There is no denying quotations of what your Minister of Community and Social Services said, that if parents can't care for their children, if they are too poor, the children's aid society should step in. Denying that those statements have been made does not take away your responsibility for what you have clearly done: to cut the support of families by 21.6%, and you have given them no alternative. You sit there and say, "Help them." You have given them no help. You have no program, no proposal that will help those families feed those children.

Premier, you stopped by yesterday for a surprise visit at the Daily Bread Food Bank on your way back from the baseball game. It's my understanding that you made another commitment yesterday that you would at least look at the connection between the rising use of the food banks, the increase in hunger and poverty and your welfare cuts. At the same that you were apparently making that commitment, because it is a quote attributed to you, the Deputy Premier made a commitment in this House to determine the impact of the cuts on the two families in Simcoe county and what the government can do.

I'd suggest to you that there is no need to review what your cuts are doing. There is ample evidence that those cutbacks have led to more hunger, that they have led to more homelessness and that they have now forced two families to give their children up for adoption. Your policies are hurting children. The question is not, will you review it? The question is, what will you do about it now?

Hon Mr Harris: The member knows she has me at a small disadvantage in that I cannot comment directly on the individual cases. I can assure her that one of them has absolutely nothing to do with the rate cuts at all. That was not the change in circumstance. But we are looking at how we can help, and as the Minister of Community and Social Services has indicated, it is up to the government, his ministry, CAS, all agencies, to intervene and help.

The member mentions the food bank, and she is quite right. I did meet yesterday with the director of the food bank. He has some data that we hope can be very helpful to us in how we can help and how we can assist.

One of the pieces of data we found in looking at this was that between 1986 and 1989, at a time when welfare rates were booming and mushrooming -- more and more money, two and three times the rate of inflation, being added to welfare rates -- when the economy was booming, unemployment was down, through that period food bank usage went up 100%.

We're trying to analyse, what is it that causes an increase in the use of food banks? When the Liberals were in office, massive gobs of money to anybody who asked led to a 100% increase in the use of food banks. I don't know whether it was because they threw more money in, but if you look at that example, you would want to analyse, is it our policies, is it reducing welfare payments to 10% above the average? Admittedly, food bank usage has gone back up, not to the record levels when the NDP were in power, but it has gone up and it is disturbing. It was disturbing what happened in the 1980s, the record levels in the 1990s with the NDP were disturbing, and it is disturbing today.

Anybody who says the status quo of the last 10 years worked has not examined the data. We are doing that, and we are determined to make changes that will truly help people, help children, and meet the mutual goal of Gerard Kennedy and myself, that we put --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The question has been answered. New question.

Mrs McLeod: Just for the record, a family of four on welfare in Ontario receives less than that same family in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): On that, my second question is also to the Premier. I would like to turn to yet another area where the government's policies are hurting families and their children. Children and indeed adults with disabilities and their families are currently living with deep anxiety and fear. They are afraid you're going to cut their funding for programs that help them to live independently, they're afraid you're going to privatize some of the services they depend on to build productive lives, and most of all they're afraid you're going to transfer the management of their programs to the Ministry of Health from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

One of the reasons they're afraid of that is because they remember what it was like when the Ministry of Health ran programs for the disabled. I want to describe it for you in the words of the Ontario Family Alliance, an organization representing thousands of people with disabilities and their families. At that time, those disabled were "warehoused" -- these are their words -- "subjected to custodial care, and sometimes not even that." They were "not treated as human beings." They were "stigmatized according to their conditions, drugged, forced into physical restraints and left to languish on mats on the floor."

Premier, I am not suggesting for one moment that you or anyone else would ever condone going back to those kinds of conditions, but I suggest to you that you will not save any money by transferring the service to the Ministry of Health unless you do reduce the service, so why would you even consider moving the service from community and social services to health when it causes these families so much anxiety?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I have no idea whether that is being considered. Any anxiety is being caused by wildly inaccurate speculation. Our goal is to truly help the disabled, give them a hand up. Many of them have told us in their discussions with the minister and the ministry staff that they have become disillusioned with policies of dependency. They are asking for changes; the minister is consulting with them to make changes, and any changes will be as a result of those negotiations and discussions with the disabled community itself.

I understand some of the concerns out there, because they call my office as well. When they find out that the allegations or the fears come from wild, speculative information being leaked by somebody -- I don't know who -- they say: "Thank you very much, Mr Harris. Who could possibly be so cruel as to try and conjure up those fears for perhaps partisan political reasons?" I say, "I don't know."


Mrs McLeod: The Premier might better understand the concerns if he had read the brief sent to him by the Ontario Family Alliance, in which they outline their very strong objections to the impact of your government's policies on people with disabilities.

The transfer to the Ministry of Health was only one of their concerns. They're also very concerned that your government's planning to privatize services to people with developmental disabilities, because they remember too when those private services were offered in the past. That was a time when children were housed in profit-making institutions with sweet-sounding names like Ark Eden and Lakewood and Sweetbriar and Sunnydale and Elm Tree. All of these institutions were shut down or had charges laid against them due to substandard care given to the children who lived there. In some cases, children died as a result of the poor care they received. The parents of children with developmental disabilities just don't want to take a chance of returning to those days, and I don't think there's a person in Ontario who would want to return to those days.

Can you assure those families that they don't need to worry about services for the disabled being privatized? Will you commit today that these services will not be privatized, that this too is just wild speculation?

Hon Mr Harris: What I am prepared to commit to you is this, that we have responded to the disabled community who have said to us that the status quo is unacceptable. What they have indicated to us is that they would like changes to support community-based care, they would like programs that are individual-based that offer family support services instead of some of the institutional care now and bureaucratic programs, that they'd like more flexibility as family members.

We have responded in discussions with them as to how we could reform the failed policies currently in place that they're asking to be changed to better serve the disabled, and we will reflect those concerns in any new program that may come forward to assist the disabled.

Let me confirm as well the commitment we made pre-campaign, during the campaign, post-campaign and with every announcement we've made: There is no reduction of funding to the disabled. What we are looking at is, is there a better way to spend those existing dollars? Is there a better way to help them in some of the ways they are asking for themselves? We are prepared to listen, to consult with them and to respond to what they are asking us to do.

Mrs McLeod: What the Premier said is simply not the case. As a starter, those same families who had their welfare payments reduced by 21.6% are families, many of them, who have disabled children. Try and tell me that is not a cut to the disabled and a cut that hurts children.

Premier, the Ontario Family Alliance represents thousands of people with disabilities and their families in this province. They've sent you a brief, they've outlined their concerns. They want you to know that they are not some kind of special-interest group. They are parents, they are taxpayers, they are committed members of their communities and their only special interest is in the health and the welfare of their children.

The leaders of the Ontario Family Alliance have written to you. They've asked for a meeting with you. They want a chance to explain how a 10% cut to programs for the disabled would affect their families, their children. They want a chance to tell you why they don't want to see their children returned to institutions where they're poorly treated and where they're shut away from the chance to build productive lives. They want to explain to you how your policies are setting their children back, not helping them lead independent lives.

You have not been prepared to accept the responsibility for your policies and the impact that they are having on families and children. Will you at least have the courage to meet with the parents of these children and hear their concerns?

Hon Mr Harris: I do, on a relatively regular basis. I have done so in my riding pre- and post-campaign period. In any event, I will meet with the alliance, as will my office, as will the minister, as will others as well. We're happy to do that. What they have said to me, by way of brief, is mostly concerns over wild speculation and rumours they've heard. I share their concerns over those rumours. I think they're disgraceful. I think it's disgraceful politics. I think it's embarrassing. We're on the same wavelength. They want to improve the health and welfare of their children; so do we, and we'll work together to do it.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a question to the Premier. I say to you, you've got to take this far more seriously than you have. People woke up here in the province this morning to hear you on radio saying your cuts are "just one of the excuses" people use for not taking care of their kids. Your Deputy Premier, mind you, at least understood the seriousness of it when he told a reporter yesterday, "I don't think it's anybody's intention in any of these reduction exercises to have that kind of direct impact on people."

My question is pretty straightforward. Where on earth did you and your government get the idea that your cuts aren't going to hurt children here in the province of Ontario?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): One of the statistics was that as the dependency increased and the rules changed, as the hope for jobs and training disappeared, with more and more money just to sit home and do nothing, which your Premier said was wrong -- as that increased, food bank usage went up, the number of people on welfare went up, the number of children dependent on the state went up. We looked at those policies and said, "Gee, they didn't work." They obviously, by any measure, by any statistic, were an unmitigated disaster for people on welfare, for children, for the most vulnerable in our society.

When we looked at the failure of the last 10 years and the two governments that implemented those policies, we said, "Surely we can do better than that," so we have embarked upon a consultative process, a process of providing the same amount of dollars but that to get those dollars, those who are able would have to work up to five hours a week, in most cases, at minimum wage. We would do everything we can to assist them. We want to break that cycle of dependency. We want to truly help children have a better hope and have a better future.

We started with every statistical piece of evidence saying that what you did for five years was wrong, a disaster and did not help, in fact worsened, the situation. We challenged that status quo, and we are working now in consultation with a number of groups and a number of those affected about how we can give them more help. I am confident that at the end of the day they are going to look back, children and parents alike, and say thank you.

Mr Kormos: Premier, please. I tell you that the situation in Simcoe county isn't unique. Just last week, Bob Pickens, the executive director of the Leeds-Grenville family and children's services, told his local newspaper that reports of child abuse and neglect have almost doubled over the last four months since the introduction of your cuts in November 1995. He said there is no significant event other than your social assistance cuts that would have caused the caseload to skyrocket like that and that he, as executive director of family and children's services, can only conclude that the financial pressures on parents who rely on social assistance are causing this upsurge in abuse of children.

Do you really understand how serious this is? These are real people, real kids. You're creating a cycle, all right -- a cycle of abuse, a cycle of economic violence for which these children and their families and their communities are going to pay a price for years. Those parents weren't just waiting for an excuse to abuse their children. Will you acknowledge that you've got some responsibility here that you've got to respond to?

Hon Mr Harris: We do acknowledge that we have a responsibility to respond to any single case of child abuse, wherever it may occur, at any point in time, anywhere across the province, and of course we are responding to every individual case.

You quoted the executive director, who we have talked to and who confirms "they have experienced increased reports of physical abuse and neglect, from nine cases a month, on average, to 15." This is of very grave concern to all of us. The executive director stated, "The link between the increase and the reduced welfare rate is speculative and it is premature to determine whether this four-month period represents a trend."

You see, it doesn't matter why. Any individual case is a concern for us and we must respond as quickly and as meaningfully as we possibly can to every single individual case of child abuse. I also want to tell you that we need to respond and look at whether any program we have in the government is contributing to that. We are assessing that; we are looking at that information. All we know for a fact is that what you did was a failure.


Mr Kormos: Premier, please. We've witnessed, in January of this year, a 25% increase in evictions in the city of Toronto alone from the year prior. We're witnessing unprecedented numbers of children occupying the overfilled hostels of Toronto and other communities across the province. The bottom line is that families have to have an adequate income that allows them to take care of their kids, an income that doesn't leave them burdened with the unmanageable stress of coping with the poverty you're imposing on them.

In the meantime, they also need help to cope, but the agencies where they get that help, as you know, or ought to know, are stretched to the limit. Your own government caucus members heard the children's aid societies tell the standing committee on social development that the government is providing no funding, so that virtually no preventive services for Ontario families can be provided. Your cuts have meant that family and children's services are restricted to basic child protection as compared to preventive services. These are the things your Minister of Community and Social Services describes as core services.

But you see, it's not good enough. In view of what you've said today, in view of the fact that there is indeed a 44% increase in the reports of child abuse to family and children's services in the Leeds-Grenville area, are you prepared at least to ensure that there's an inquiry into the impact of your cuts on Ontario families and on child welfare and safety here in the province of Ontario? That should be important enough to you.

Hon Mr Harris: We are of course asking for impacts of all the government programs. The only conclusive thing we have so far is that your policies were the main reason for loss of jobs, your policies were the main reason for the increase in the number of people on welfare, in the amount of dependency and the loss of hope. That we do know for a fact, and we have enough statistical evidence to know that. I hope you are encouraging us to abandon your failed policies and attempt to come up with something better -- better for children, better for those who are on welfare, better for those who are disadvantaged. Yes, we are assessing our policies, we are assessing everything we are doing, and I would tell you that if you'd honestly assessed what you did, you wouldn't have done a lot of those things that created the mess in the first place.

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

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): The Premier seems to be taking the attitude that the poor are always with us and not acknowledging that we're talking about changes that have taken place since the last election, changes that are hurting children.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I'd like to move to another area of government change that is having a significant, serious effect on the children of the province, and that's in education, the broken promise of the government not to affect classroom education for children in the province.

People all over Ontario are concerned about the cuts in funding for education and how they will affect classrooms in Ontario. On June 8, nobody voted for a $1-billion cut in education funding in Ontario. Now we're about to embark on the second reading debate of Bill 34, which is the minister's toolkit for implementing those cuts by boards of education and separate school boards across the province.

Students, teachers and parents all across Ontario are concerned about the effects of Bill 34 when it is implemented by this government. Will the minister commit now to having the government agree to hold province-wide hearings in committee across Ontario so people from all over Ontario will have an opportunity to make their views known on the implementation and the effects of Bill 34 and the budget cuts to education in Ontario?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the honourable member for the question. As the member knows, the finance minister announced back on November 29 that we would be looking for savings outside of the classroom in the education system in Ontario and that the reductions we're looking for in the next year amount to some 3% of the cost of our schools in this province -- 3% is what we're talking about, $400 million. The measures in Bill 34 address that 3% reduction. I think it's important that on public record we have the actual information out there.

As the member knows, this bill will come forward later on this afternoon for second reading. We look forward to a rigorous debate, a line-by-line debate on this, and I know our House leader will work with the other House leaders to determine what the process should be for that.

But I believe this is good news for the young people of Ontario because this education system in Ontario must be accountable, must be high quality, but most importantly it must also be affordable so we can protect the social services that those young people will come to depend on in this province, as I have in my lifetime.

Mr Wildman: The minister can't continue to try to -- well, I guess he can continue to try, but it won't work. He can't fool the population into thinking that a $400-million cut in a four-month period, which annualizes to $800 million to $1 billion, can be taken out of the system without affecting classroom education. It's just impossible; it's impossible to do that. The minister will know that just 32 school boards in Ontario have already issued over 10,000 layoff notices. You can't have those kinds of cuts in staffing without affecting classroom education. It's impossible.

Since the minister has said he will consult with his House leader, who will deal with the other House leaders in determining the process, is he not aware that the government House leader has indicated to our House leader and the opposition House leader that he will consult with you to determine whether there should be across-the-province hearings? What is your position? What are you going to tell the government House leader?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I am not surprised that the honourable member opposite cannot see the possibility of a government doing more with less, making better use of taxpayer dollars, having a better value for the taxpayers of the province of Ontario. I'm not surprised that the member opposite does not see that the future of our children and our children's children depends on our getting a grip on our debt and our deficit in this province. I'm not surprised that the member opposite can't see the connection with reducing the cost of government and becoming more efficient and more effective with our taxpayer dollars, cannot see the connection with the future for our youth, for jobs in this province.

If the government of the member opposite had taken these steps five years ago, we would have a more effective, higher-quality and, more importantly, a more affordable education system in the province and the children of this province would have a better opportunity in this province. We are taking those issues on now. I have told the member opposite I would talk to our House leader about this issue in terms of how to present this second reading, and I will do so.

Mr Wildman: Will the minister advise his House leader that he is in agreement with the proposal to have province-wide public hearings by the committee or not?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I will discuss this with our House leader and he will discuss it with the House leaders of the other parties.



Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I rise today on an issue of equal justice for all citizens, and my question is to the Attorney General. Sir, the Kensington-Bellwoods Community Legal Services clinic today released some 6,000 petition cards from all over the province essentially asking for justice for all, and I would ask that they be delivered to the minister. The cards read:

"I believe in justice for all, which includes competent legal advice and representation before courts and administrative tribunals. In order to maintain a functional judicial system, I call upon your government to continue current funding for legal aid certificates and independent community legal clinics."

As you know, legal clinics have been working under increased caseloads and uncertainty, serving those who are most critically in need, providing front-line essential services to those who otherwise would have no access to the justice system.

They are not part of the memorandum of agreement and they depend directly upon you for funding. There is a great deal of uncertainty about what they can expect from your ministry in the next while, and I wonder if you could put to rest the confusion and tell us what you plan on doing in terms of continuing funding to this very essential sector.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): The funding now being delivered to the certificate side of legal aid is funding that was agreed upon between the last government and the Law Society of Upper Canada, which administers the legal aid plan, and there has not been any cuts nor will there be any reduction in that funding. That funding is firm and I have said that on many, many, many occasions.

In so far as rumours exist about cuts to the clinic system, they are rumours, they are unfounded. They are being promoted by people who haven't been hearing what I have been saying, and quite simply they are nothing more than rumour.

Ms Castrilli: I'm assuming that means the minister is guaranteeing funding at current levels, and I will ask him to elaborate on that. Let me also say that Band-Aid solutions in this sector are really not enough. You're on record as saying that a specific study on the future of service delivery would take place. To date, we've had no details. I think we owe it to the citizens of Ontario to ensure that they all have equal access to the justice system. I wonder if you might comment on both those questions.

Hon Mr Harnick: I have indicated, and I will indicate again, that any discussions about reductions to the clinic system would be contrary to the memorandum of understanding. I have indicated that we are living by that memorandum of understanding, and I don't know what more I can say to satisfy those who wish to promote rumours.

In terms of the second aspect of your question, yes, I have indicated that there will be a study of legal aid delivery to ensure that quality legal aid services can be delivered to the maximum of the funding available, and there is work now being done to create that study. That study I hope will take place in consultation with the Law Society of Upper Canada.

I want to say to the member, because it's a very important question, that in order to do this study properly, the groundwork has to be laid. There are so many different aspects to it and so many different people who must be involved that it is taking some time. I hope we now have a period of at least three years of stable funding for legal aid. I hope we can implement this study and that we can start the business of negotiating a continuation to the memorandum of understanding based on what the study will tell us so we can provide the maximum amount of quality legal aid services to those in the province of Ontario who need them.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Another question for the Minister of Education and Training. Does the minister know what the following boards have in common: Brant, Dufferin, Durham, Grey, Haldimand, Haliburton, Halton, Hastings, Lincoln, Niagara South, Norfolk, Peel, Perth, Peterborough, Prince Edward, Simcoe, Waterloo, Wellington, Wentworth and York Region?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the honourable member opposite for an excellent question. I will try not to answer too long, but I think all those school systems have yellow buses, students, classrooms, teachers, trustees, principals, vice-principals, books, pencils -- the litany. The list is very long.

Mr Wildman: Also these boards have another matter in common. All these boards have cancelled junior kindergarten programs. That's the main issue we face in the province in terms of classroom education and maintenance of this government's promise to the people of Ontario. Many more boards haven't made final decisions with regard to the future of junior kindergarten programs.

The minister will know that last Saturday on television he said, "I think there's good evidence that early childhood education makes a difference." With that in mind, why is it that your government has targeted junior kindergarten programs for cuts, has made it optional but at the same time cut funding to boards so that the boards really have no option but to cut junior kindergarten programs? Why is it that this government and this minister, despite acknowledging the importance of early childhood education, are shortchanging the children who are going to these programs and ensuring that boards across Ontario will cut the junior kindergarten programs?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm glad the honourable member opposite, leader of the third party, has cleared up what was in common with all of those boards. I do submit, however, that they do all have trustees, principals, vice-principals, teachers, pupils, classrooms, desks, pencils, and that my list was also accurate.

The member opposite knows that this government lives up to its commitment to the people of Ontario, and we very clearly in the Common Sense Revolution made a commitment to the people of Ontario to restore junior kindergarten to a local option, to let local boards make the decision. And the honourable member opposite knows that in our statement on November 29, the finance minister's statement, we said very clearly that we would pick up the province's share of funding junior kindergarten for those school boards that chose to offer the program.

The member opposite also knows that this government is committed to a review of early childhood education opportunities, particularly for at-risk kids across the province, and we are conducting that review now. So we are living up to the promises and the commitments we've made to the people of Ontario one by one, every one of them.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I would like to address my question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The county of Peterborough passed its first official plan February 2, 1994, and received ministry approval on November 8, 1994. The county did its utmost to ensure that provincial interests and concerns were addressed. According to regulation 154/95, the county would have to adopt a new plan by December 31, 1997. Since our approval plan is only one-and-a-half years old, it would be more economical to amend our current plan. Peterborough county wants to keep on the official list of prescribed counties to have those official plans.

Minister, would your ministry consider granting the county of Peterborough approval to amend its official plan rather than readopting a new plan, as outlined in regulation 154/95?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member for Peterborough for his question. He's absolutely right: The Peterborough county official plan was approved in November 1994 and there are some changes necessary to reflect this government's policies under Bill 20, the Land Use Planning and Protection Act. We're quite pleased that Peterborough wants to move very quickly on this issue. I am pleased to advise the member that we are prepared to let the county proceed to update the official plan by amendment.

Mr Stewart: Approval of official plans can be a time-consuming process, and more local control of the approval process should be considered. Minister, could Peterborough county be assigned authority as the approval body for lower-tier official plans?

Hon Mr Leach: I thank the member for Peterborough for his excellent question. This government believes strongly in local autonomy, and we have been promoting local autonomy continuously during our term of office. We believe that the counties in Ontario can make good, responsible planning decisions that reflect local needs. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is open to delegating further authority to the county and we would be very pleased to open discussions with him on that issue.



Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): My question is to the Premier. Eleven weeks ago I wrote you a letter expressing my concerns about budget cutbacks to the Office of Francophone Affairs and also what was said inside the House and outside the House about French services. I want to thank you for your response of April 3, and I quote from your letter: "We have no plans to change Bill 8. We intend to provide French-language services in a cost-effective way and will examine the delivery of services in French as we review all services of the Ontario government."

I agree with you, Mr Premier. I think all services should be reviewed. But only a short few days after -- three days to be exact -- it's been rumoured that the Office of Francophone Affairs will be subject to another cutback of 35%.

My question is a very simple one: Have you completed your review, who have you consulted, and are you serious about a 35% cutback?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I think you are aware that there has been a long-standing commitment from my party to provide French-language services and to do so in a cost-effective way. I appreciate the discussions the member and I have had on this over a long period of time, sometimes with me around that part of the House; other times I was down around that part of the House. No decisions, I believe, are finalized. We are reviewing not only the ministry responsible and its budget, but all the ministry budgets, as you know, are under review, and a lot of our programs in French language are delivered by the individual ministries.

I want to assure you of this: We are absolutely committed to providing services. We believe that in a number of areas and in a lot of ministries we can deliver far better services for less money by looking at how we are doing those. I don't think the member would suggest that the delivery of francophone programs and services should be exempt or singled out from that review. If we can find ways of delivering programs more effectively, I know you would want us to do that, just as we are doing with all our ministries. It is in that context, I can assure you, that they are under review. I wouldn't go with rumours that are out there. I would wait until the final decisions are made and announcements have been made as to how we believe we can deliver those programs, and at what funding level.

Mr Grandmaître: I agree with the Premier; I'm not against a review. But I want you to consult with the francophone community and also improve French services right across the province of Ontario. Mr Premier, I want you to confirm today that you will consult with the francophone community before you introduce another major cutback of 35%. Will you consult with the francophone community?

Hon Mr Harris: I want to be perfectly up front. I don't know what you're talking about, "another major cutback." There is no other major cutback coming for any ministries. There were major cutbacks and targets announced by the Minister of Finance in November, and now we are coming forward with business plans and proposals on how we can achieve those targets. That is the one major cutback and that is what we're working on. I can assure you that we are attempting -- the minister is not here today. I will take it up with the minister and the ministry. If there have still not been exhaustive enough consultations with all affected, we will endeavour to do that.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training regarding the fact that a number of boards across the province have had to decide to raise local property taxes in order to protect classroom education in the province. The chairperson of the Waterloo county board budget committee, trustee Gary Schlueter, said this year's budget discussions were not made any easier, given the drastic reductions in grants from the provincial government. As a result, the Waterloo County Board of Education has approved a 1996 budget with a 1.9% increase in the public education portion of the property tax bill for the average homeowner in Waterloo.

Is the minister prepared to recognize and admit that the actions of his government are downloading costs to the local boards and that he's forcing boards to help pay for the protection of classroom education, and in the process is harming the taxpayers as well as the students in the province?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the member for the question. I have heard of boards across the province that are looking at the possibility of passing on a tax increase to local taxpayers and I must say that disturbs me, because I believe that the reductions we've talked about -- the savings can be found in our education system outside of the classroom.

That's something the Sweeney report, which recently came in and which I know the member opposite has had a chance to look at, also confirmed when it said 47% of the almost $14 billion that we spend on education in the province is spent outside of the classroom. That report suggested we should move that down to 40%. That's a much larger reduction than we're talking about in Bill 34 that the Minister of Finance announced on November 29. I am surprised that some school boards, instead of looking where they can find reductions and where they can find savings outside of the classroom, would choose the status quo and pass on a tax increase to the local taxpayer.

Mr Wildman: Mr Sweeney did not suggest that education finance reform would make major cuts of $1 billion in one year out of the education system in Ontario.

I want to point out to the minister that the Waterloo County Board of Education didn't just increase the property tax. They made major cuts as well. They've reduced their special-education budget by $334,600 and included in that the reduction of over eight teachers for special education; they've reduced 25 teacher-librarian positions; they've cut out the elementary music program in grade 6; they've reduced adult and continuing education programs. So much for your promise in the Common Sense Revolution not to affect classroom education. All of these cuts are classroom education cuts by the Waterloo board and they're brought on by your cuts in grants. At the same time, they're having to increase the local property tax in order to avoid further cuts in programs and in classroom education.

Will the minister admit that the cuts in grants he has announced are not only causing increases in taxes, but are causing cuts in programs and harm to classroom education in Waterloo county and other parts of the province?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Let me clarify some of the things the member opposite has brought up. For the second time today I'll clarify this and I hope he'll write this down: The Minister of Finance on November 29 announced a $400-million reduction for next year in our grants because we believe that those savings are available in the system, and there are indicators that they are. In fact, that $400 million was mitigated by a freeze on capital spending over that period of time to give school boards more opportunity to bring in the operating changes that need to happen in our system.

I know a proud member of the Liberal Party, Mr Sweeney, who was appointed by your government, came back with a report that suggested that 47% of our spending in education in the province happens outside of the classroom. I don't think it's a laughing matter when 47% of our tax dollars are spent outside of the classroom. That report suggested we lower that to 40% at a maximum.

You talk about school boards. The Ontario Public School Boards' Association gave us a report three or four months ago that suggested we save $1 billion out of our education system in Ontario; not $400 million that we're going forward, but $1 billion. Those savings are available. They're available outside of the classroom, and we must depend upon the school boards making those tough decisions and making those cost reductions outside of the classroom.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): My question is directed to the Minister of Transportation. Recently, two of my constituents drove down Highway 401 in a bit of an experiment. They drove side by side exactly at the speed limit of 100 kilometres per hour. When they arrived at Trenton, they were pulled over and charged for obstructing traffic. They are now gathering signatures in a petition to try and change the speed limit on 400 series highways to 120 kilometres per hour.

Back in the mid-1970s, we reduced the speed from 70 miles an hour, or 112 kilometres an hour, to 100 to try and save gasoline because of the energy crunch. Certainly, all legislation must be legitimized in the eyes of the public, and obviously the speed limit on Highway 401 is not being recognized.

Do you intend to change the speed limit, and if so, by how much and when?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to thank the member for Northumberland for his question. While I cannot comment on any individual case, I would like to tell the member, however, I have asked the ministry staff to look at the posted speed limits on the 400 series highways to see if they are appropriate, given that they are built to handle speeds up to 120 kilometres an hour. There are wide considerations we must take into account before we can implement that, but we are looking at it and we are going to consider.


Mr Galt: According to studies done in the United States, raising speed limits does not increase speeding or the number of accidents. In fact, one of the studies shows that lowering speed limits may actually cause accidents. What will you do to ensure that the speed limit on our highways is the safest?

Hon Mr Palladini: First, let me assure the House and the people of Ontario that road safety is our number one priority. Our work did not end with the announcement we made in October in regard to our safety plans; that was just the beginning. We are always looking for ways to improve the safety of our highways.

Road safety is bigger than just one issue, and while speed is a factor, it is not the only one. We will continue to target a wide range of unsafe driving practices, such as aggressive driving or impaired driving.

I welcome the constructive input of all members of the House or their constituents to see if we can work together and improve safety on our highways.



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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I have a petition to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and this petition reads:

"We, the undersigned residents of Algonquin Island, Toronto, respectfully request that you immediately halt the planned severance of four lots on Algonquin Island and that you restrict any building on these lots to single-family dwellings."


Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): 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."


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): This petition goes to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the government has decided to replace our current child care system with one that lacks compassion and common sense and is fraught with many dangerous consequences; and

"Whereas the concept of affordable, accessible and quality child care is a basic, important and fundamental right for many members of our community who are either unemployed and enrolled into a training program, or are working single parents, or where both parents are working; and

"Whereas if our present provincial government is sincere in getting people back to work, they should recognize the value of the child care component of the Jobs Ontario program and acknowledge the validity of the wage subsidy to the child care workers;

"We, the undersigned business owners and child care workers of the Metro community, urge the government of Ontario to immediately suspend their plans to cut our present child care programs across our province and restore funding to previous levels."

I have affixed my signature to this petition.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition from a number of people in Guelph. It reads:

"We, the undersigned, request that the Legislature of Ontario call for the resignation of Brenda Elliott, the Minister of Environment and Energy, for breaching her ministerial oath of office and misuse of ministerial authority, as her decision to fire members of the Ontario Hydro board has been found to be in violation of the Power Corporation Act by Judge Rosenberg, Ontario Court, General Division."

I will affix my signature to this petition.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's my pleasure today to present a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario as follows:

"Whereas we are in protest of the current Ontario handlebar law which states, `No part of the handlebar shall exceed a height of 380 millimetres, 15 inches, above the uppermost portion of the operator's seat when the seat is depressed by the weight of the operator';

"Whereas we propose the law be amended to a similar Saskatchewan law which states, `The vehicle shall have grips that are no higher than the shoulders of the seated driver';

"Whereas amending the law will ensure the safe operation of the vehicle relating to the physical size of the operator,

"The current top four manufacturers do not manufacture some models that are in compliance with our current Ontario handlebar law."

I affix my name to this petition.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): A petition 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."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly and the Minister of Health.

"Whereas the Hamilton-Wentworth Health Action Task Force, as part of their report, has recommended the closure of St Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton; and

"Whereas it is recognized the health care system should be made as efficient as possible; and

"Whereas the quality of health care service in our community should not be sacrificed in the name of efficiency; and

"Whereas the Mike Harris government promised to protect the quality of health care in Ontario; and

"Whereas we, the undersigned, believe that maintaining the presence of St Joseph's Hospital in downtown Hamilton is a vital component of our health care system;

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health and the Hamilton-Wentworth District Health Council ensure the continuance of St Joseph's Hospital at its present site."

I affix my signature also.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition signed by 23 residents of my constituency who are very concerned about taxation policies in the province of Ontario. It's not in the official format, but I'll table it anyway.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition signed by a number of people from the Niagara Peninsula. It reads as follows:

"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.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have been asked to present a petition to the Ontario Legislature which reads as follows:

"Whereas the public secondary school 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."

I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): I have a petition to the Minister of Education and Training.

"Whereas the minister has gone on record stating that the government is deeply committed to an educational system that delivers excellence and the government has acknowledged that the public want a highly educated, highly motivated and highly trained workforce that is the result of providing an absolutely first-class education to our young people and that the government is going to deliver on these needs expressed by the public; and

"Whereas Stats Canada data placed Ontario sixth in spending per pupil, after the territories, Quebec, Manitoba and BC, yet the government has announced a $400-million cut in educational funding for the 1996 year; and

"Whereas these cuts will translate into a reduction in support to students, a reduction in teacher contact with students and create a school environment that will not promote the ideal stated above, contrary to that which the public expects;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, urge the Minister of Education and Training to instruct the Minister of Finance to withdraw this damaging underfunding of Ontario's education system and to refrain from making changes which affect the delicate balance between teachers and school boards."

I have attached my name to the petition as well.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I've got about 3,000 petitions here in these boxes, and they come from Windsor, Sarnia, Chatham, Brantford, Kitchener, Georgetown, Welland, Hamilton, Brampton and Mississauga. It reads as follows:

"To the Right Honourable Mike Harris, Premier of Ontario:

"Justice for all.

"I believe in justice for all, which includes competent legal advice and representation before courts and administrative tribunals. In order to maintain a functional judicial system, I call upon your government to continue current funding for legal aid certificates and independent community legal clinics."

I attach my name to these.


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

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

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

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

"Whereas the government of Ontario has cut its direct funding to Transition House by almost $48,000 annually and placed the existence of Transition House in jeopardy;

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

This petition is signed by a number of residents from Chatham and Kent county, and I affix my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from injured workers across Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, are opposed to your government's proposed changes to Ontario's workers' compensation system including elimination of the bipartite board of directors; reduced temporary benefits; introduction of the three-day period from the time of injury with no pay; legislated limits on entitlement, thereby excluding repetitive strain, chronic pain and stress claims from eligibility for compensation; reduced permanent pensions and pension supplements.

"Workers' compensation is not a handout; it is an insurance plan for which premiums are paid; it is a legal obligation that employers have to employees who 80 years ago traded their right to sue employers in return for this insurance plan.

"Therefore, we demand no reduction in existing benefits, improved re-employment and vocational rehabilitation, tightened enforcement of health and safety to prevent injuries, no reduction in current Workers' Compensation Board staff levels and that the bipartite board structure be left intact."

I affix my signature also.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition in support of family resource programs. It's addressed to the Legislature of the province of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, are firmly opposed to the erosion of the child care system.

"We are most particularly concerned about the unregulated child care sector, which represents the choice of most Ontario families, many living in rural areas.

"We urge this government to make its budget reduction in areas where children and families will not once again be the target of cuts.

"Family resource programs support the informal sector of child care which includes parents caring for their own children and the care provided by grandparents, home child care providers and nannies."

I have affixed my signature to it.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I've been asked to present a petition by residents of Tweed and Madoc. It reads as follows:

"To the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Ontario government plans to sell off public services to corporations who will run them for profit; and

"Whereas after the corporate takeover it will be strictly user-pay for the services we now depend on; and

"Whereas our clean air and water standards and worker safety practices are being relaxed because corporations don't like the rules that interfere with profits; and

"Whereas privatization is being sold as a way to save tax dollars, even though large companies pay little or no taxes while individual Canadians pay most of the total tax bill; and

"Whereas Bill 7 was introduced in the interests of facilitating the privatization agenda by stripping public sector workers of their rights to retain fair working conditions when services are transferred or privatized;

"We, the following citizens of Ontario, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to abandon the sell-off of Ontario's public services and to reinstate successor rights for public service employees."

I agree with the petitioners and I have affixed my signature to the petition.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas this Conservative government's stated plan in the Common Sense Revolution is to improve the long-term economic prospects for Ontario; and

"Whereas research from all over the world shows early childhood education leads to lower dropout rates, improved reading, math and language skills, less chance of future unemployment, teen pregnancy or delinquency and higher enrolment in post-secondary education, thus resulting in a better-educated, highly skilled workforce."

There are several other "whereases."

"Therefore, to ensure that this Conservative government meets its stated commitments in regard to education and to Ontario,

"We, the undersigned, call on the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education and Training to restore the funding for junior kindergarten to its previous level and require all school boards to offer junior kindergarten classes."

I put my signature to this petition.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a short petition here delivered to my office from Grace Carman Court, 180 Sheridan Avenue. It reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

This is signed by 58 people and I submit my signature on this petition.



Mr Chudleigh from the standing committee on finance and economic affairs presented the committee's report on pre-budget consultations 1996 and moved its adoption.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Does the member wish to make a short statement?

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): It gives me great pleasure to table in the Legislature today the standing committee on finance and economic affairs' pre-budget report. As it is the first time I have gone through this process, it confirms my opinion of the opportunities available for all citizens of Ontario to participate in the political process. I was impressed by the quality and diversity of all presentations and submissions to the committee and can confidently say that they are representative of the culture and fabric of Ontario.

To my colleagues in all three parties, I offer my appreciation for the fairness and respect afforded the Chair through the process. This process has produced a number of recommendations, 11 of which, I am pleased to add, received consensus from the committee. Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I move adjournment of the debate.

The Speaker: Mr Chudleigh moves adjournment of the debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.




Mr Eves moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 42, An Act to reform MPPs' pensions, to eliminate tax-free allowances and to adjust MPPs' compensation levels / Projet de loi 42, Loi portant réforme du régime de retraite des députés, éliminant les allocations non imposables et rajustant les niveaux de rétribution des députés.

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



Mr Snobelen moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 34, An Act to amend the Education Act / Projet de loi 34, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): The Education Amendment Act, 1996, is legislation that addresses important issues of the present, yet honours our commitment to the future.

The purpose of this bill is to help Ontario school boards get their spending under control and ensure that education dollars provide greater value in the classroom. With this bill, we are continuing to implement the savings strategy announced on March 6 of this year, a strategy that will achieve savings of $400 million in the 1996-97 fiscal year. This $400 million in savings represents only 3% of the $14 billion Ontario taxpayers spend on education each year.

Several steps have already been taken. The 1996 general legislative grant regulation, released on March 29, has encouraged school boards to reduce expenditures in the area of transportation and board administration. Through cooperation and efficiencies, boards are expected to reduce expenditures on transportation by $16 million in 1996. Any savings in excess of these amounts will be retained by the school boards.

Boards will also be expected to find savings of $65 million in 1996 by reducing expenditures on central administration, instructional supervision and custodial and maintenance services. Central administration expenditures include the costs of trustees, offices of directors of education, senior administration and business functions. Instructional supervision expenditures include supervisory officers, coordinators, consultants and costs of curriculum development.

We have also announced a one-year moratorium on capital projects for 1996-97 for an estimated saving of $167 million. Only projects that have received final approval under the Ministry of Education and Training's capital grant plan and for which construction has already begun will be funded in the 1996-97 fiscal year. Projects funded through Canada-Ontario infrastructure works will also continue. In the interim, the Ministry of Education and Training will launch a review to develop recommendations on alternative financing options for new school construction.

These and other measures we are taking are necessary for a simple reason: The future of Ontario's students is at risk if we continue to spend beyond our means. The people of Ontario have always valued education. Both as individuals and as a society, they have been and continue to be prepared to back up that belief with generous contributions of their tax dollars. In the 1996-97 fiscal year alone, the Ontario taxpayer will provide an estimated $14 billion through provincial and local taxes for elementary and secondary education.

Ontarians place a high value on education because they know it's an essential part of plans to restore jobs and prosperity to our province. Since 1990, nearly all new jobs in Ontario have gone to workers with post-secondary education and training. The emerging information-based economy will put an even greater premium on learning. In increasingly competitive world markets, high-paying, productive jobs for Ontario will be available only if people are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills.

These demands of the future will be met within a present where we face difficult fiscal realities created by a decade of overspending. Overall, Ontario spends about $1 billion more on education than it would if its spending were in line with the averages of other provinces.

The need to maintain and improve quality education programming while bringing our spending to a more suitable level is clear. This government recognizes that if we want to provide our children and our children's children with quality and accountability in education, we must also provide affordability.

We are already planning a far-reaching reform of our secondary school system and we are establishing a program of province-wide assessment. We are moving towards a new College of Teachers to promote excellence in the teaching profession. These initiatives give us a solid platform for improving what is most important to our students -- the quality of education in the classroom.

The success of these initiatives depends, in the final analysis, on the financial health of our province and our education system, on our ability to ensure that the classroom is the priority for education. To achieve an education system that delivers on both quality and affordability, we must be prepared to restructure. Over the past few months, I have met with parents, students and taxpayers as well as school board trustees, officials and teachers. Many suggestions were offered to accomplish the necessary savings in education spending.

Through this process, the government has heard three very clear messages:

First, education savings can be achieved. People recognize that education in Ontario must and can become more efficient, that Ontario should bring its education spending more into line with the spending levels of other provinces.

Second, there must be an opportunity to find these savings and develop solutions at the local level. People believe that programs and services for students can be better preserved if those responsible for delivery have a hand in the restructuring process.

Third, the urgent and recognized need to address the issue of overspending must be balanced by allowing sufficient time to ensure that quality programming for students is maintained.

The measures announced on March 6, some of which we are now enacting with this bill, show that government has heard and responded to these messages. In keeping with what the government has heard, this bill is based on three goals: first, that classroom funding should be protected; second, that opportunities should be provided for local decision-making and locally negotiated solutions; third, that local taxes should not be increased.

I would now like to review the specific measures proposed in this bill that will help the education sector achieve these goals.

It is clear that measures can be taken to achieve greater efficiency and cooperation in operational and administrative spending. Effective cooperation between boards and other public sector agencies can result in significant savings. While a number of school boards are already involved in cooperative agreements with other public sector institutions, other boards have held back because they felt they lacked clear statutory authority to enter into such agreements.

This bill addresses that concern by amending the Education Act specifically to enable boards to enter into cooperative agreements with municipalities, hospitals, universities and colleges. The effect will be to encourage the sharing of facilities, equipment, transportation and other support services. The amendment further promotes the goal of greater cooperation by giving the Lieutenant Governor in Council the authority to make regulations that will enable boards to enter into cooperative agreements with other organizations and institutions.

The bill will also require each school board to publish an annual report of the measures it has taken to reduce spending and improve efficiency through cooperation with other boards or public sector institutions. This report will also include an estimate of savings achieved through cooperative agreements, a projection of future savings and a description of further cooperative measures that are being considered by the board, as well as a description of cooperative measures that were considered but not undertaken, with a rationale for the decision not to undertake these measures.


The bill also proposes amendments related to the education of adult pupils. These amendments permit a school board to direct certain adult pupils to take credit courses offered in the board's continuing education program instead of taking them through the regular day school program.

Adult education will continue to be important in the long-term economic health of Ontario for the foreseeable future. This change in funding will offer boards increased flexibility.

The amendments provide that some categories of adult pupils may continue to be served through the regular day school program. These are exceptional pupils who require placement in a day school program based on the recommendation of an identification, placement and review committee, and adult pupils who require a particular course of study for diploma purposes or for entry into university or a trade where the course is not available through continuing education.

Amendments proposed in the bill will end the statutory entitlement of teachers to 20 days of paid sick leave. This change will facilitate local decision-making. To give boards and teachers time to negotiate these provisions, it is proposed that these amendments become effective in September 1998. If a board and its teachers reach agreement before that time, their agreement can come into effect before September 1998.

To fulfil the commitment given in the Common Sense Revolution and the throne speech, this bill proposes amendments that will restore to school boards, as of September of this year, the right to decide whether to offer junior kindergarten.

Under the previous government, school boards were required to provide junior kindergarten. Now junior kindergarten will be a local option and the province will share the cost with local school boards that decide to offer the program.

Where a board decides to offer junior kindergarten, it will be required to make the program available to all eligible pupils in its jurisdiction. Minority language sections of boards will have the power to make a decision respecting the provision of junior kindergarten for the sections' pupils.

The legislation will enable negative grant boards to contribute their fair share to the $400-million savings strategy. Amendments proposed in this bill provide the necessary authority for those boards to contribute on an equal basis once an agreement is reached on the payments required.

The government is committed to working with its public sector partners to ensure that the people, especially the children, of our province enjoy public services that are not only excellent, but also efficient and affordable. We want students in our schools to have the best education. We want them to be able to use that education in a prosperous future, rather than find themselves entangled in a massive public debt.

Today, with second reading of this bill, we are taking responsible action to shape an education system that is committed to excellence in student achievement and is economically sustainable.

We are demonstrating our commitment as a government to dealing with the problems of today in a way that ensures that we are protecting the future. Some of the choices are difficult, but we owe it to our children to make these choices, which have been too long postponed.

The result will be a better education system that meets the needs of the people it serves: the children in our schools and the taxpayers of Ontario.

I ask all members to support this bill and the future of Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Questions or comments?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Rather than this being a good day for Ontario, it's a sad day for Ontario. When I think of William Davis when he was Minister of Education and John Robarts before him, John Robarts as Premier, when they brought out the Robarts plan and Mr Davis brought forward some innovative changes to education and provided the appropriate funding for the field of education, I think of that and the subsequent years as being good years for Ontario because at that time we were investing, I say investing, in a very important future: the future of young people and of those who were not so young but wanted to continue their education.

Today what we're seeing is the government slashing in the very place where it should be making an investment. When the minister refers to junior kindergarten and it being a choice, I notice in today's St Catharines Standard that you have board fighting board; that's essentially what it is. One board's keeping it, one board isn't, and the boards are holding out until the other board takes an initiative. Clearly junior kindergarten, to most objective observers of all political stripes now, is considered to be an essential part of our education system, not a frill as the minister suggests by his action of making it not mandatory but optional for boards and by not providing the appropriate funding for those purposes.

I see as well that 40 more school board layoffs are taking place in Lincoln county. The minister can trump up a question, as he did in the House yesterday, to try to say that the older teachers should retire, but the only way that can be done is with some financial incentives, and he's certainly not providing the funding for local boards of education to do that. There's no innovative plan to do that, and as a result, the young, fresh, vibrant teachers in the system are being fired.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments? The Chair recognizes the member for Algoma.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Thank you for recognizing me. I recognize you too, but I didn't want to speak.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments? Would the minister like two minutes to respond?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The honourable member opposite brought up two I think very good former Premiers of this province, former Premier Robarts and former Premier Davis, both of whom made a contribution to this province, both of whom ran this province and directed it into a future during a time of prosperity, during the time that I grew up in this province, when there was opportunity, when there was vitality, when there was a chance for a young person in this province to build an effective career.

If we do not take some of the steps we are taking now, the young people of Ontario don't face that opportunity that I had as a child, that I had as a young man in Ontario. They don't face that kind of vitality and opportunity. In fact, they'll graduate from programs and go looking for opportunities in New Brunswick or Alberta or Colorado or China, because there won't be jobs and an opportunity to build a career here in Ontario.

Mr Davis, when he was Minister of Education, was not looking at a $100-billion debt that has been left to the children of this province by the previous governments. He was not looking at that circumstance. He was also not looking at a budget in Ontario where our debt interest every year is more than the province contributes to schools, colleges and universities. This bill begins the process of turning that around, of turning this province into a place of opportunity, vitality and possibility for the young people. I think it's a new beginning and a new opportunity for those young people, and I for one am proud of it.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Mr Speaker, may I seek the indulgence of the House to have unanimous agreement to allow me to share my time with my colleague from Kingston and The Islands?

The Deputy Speaker: Is it agreed? Agreed.

Mr Patten: Thank you very much.

I'm pleased to participate in what I believe is the most significant debate affecting education in this province today. It is however somewhat ironic when I look at the length of Bill 34 and its eight pages, at a cost of $100 million a page, because essentially this is what it means. Interestingly enough, there is little in this bill which directly impacts on how the cuts will hit education. Allow me to elaborate a little bit on that.

The government has already made its cuts, as we all know, to the elementary and secondary school system through its ministry regulations. There was no debate following last November's economic statement, when the government set out $400 million of reductions for this school year. There was also no budget debate, because of course there was no budget; no opportunity for members of the public to come forward and to participate in the discussion when the intention of the government was to reduce the provincial dollars and the dollars which fund elementary and secondary schooling in Ontario. There was none. It was simply a statement; no participation.

On March 6, the minister outlined his so-called toolkit, which of course was not a toolkit at all because it wasn't able to fix anything. It was really a money grab, and that's what this bill outlines as well. Of course, that was part of a strategy that he had developed.

Then on March 12, the minister sent out to school boards the key components of the general legislative grant for 1996 and 1997. Then on March 29, he sent out the actual regulations so school boards could calculate for themselves how badly they were getting hit by the cuts.


This is what this debate is really about -- what is outlined in this document, Key Components of the 1996 General Legislative Grants, the document that was sent out to the various school boards. It's about the abandoning of junior kindergarten. It's about abandoning those people in our society who choose to return to finish their high school education. It's about abandoning the responsibility to provide for facilities for students at this time. It's about offloading a larger proportion of the educational dollar on to the local property taxpayer. It's about less money for the education of students. It's about a government that is more interested in delivering a tax rebate instead of delivering a quality and accessible education system.

I want to be fair and I would not be if I didn't allow that there had been a considerable amount of discussion around cuts to education. However, the discussion has not been about how we can improve the quality of education in Ontario, how we can best help students to acquire the skills and the learning to succeed in a new and rapidly expanding global economy; the debate has been about how disastrous these cuts will be on classrooms in this province, classrooms which the Conservatives promised to protect. It is written in the Common Sense Revolution. "Classrooms are feeling the impacts of cuts" was their statement for launching their particular policies as to what they would do in education.

On Saturday, January 13, more than 35,000 teachers from across this province came to the front lawn of the Legislature to carry the message that cuts hurt kids -- over 30,000 teachers on their own time. It was a powerful display of commitment and of concern. Unfortunately, the government dismissed the rally as nothing more than an interest group. Isn't that strange, that teachers would take an interest in their own profession and take an interest in education? But parents and students from across this province have joined with teachers to say that the cuts you are implementing go too far, too fast and too deep.

An Environics poll done between December 27 and January 3 provided the following snapshot of people's thoughts on the state of education in Ontario, and I'd like to share some of these: 88% of Ontarians said they are concerned about the future quality of Ontario's educational system; 66% say they are very concerned; 55% of Ontarians think cuts in the area of education are going too far; only 8% say they do not go far enough; 58% say they are concerned about the impact of the government's decision to change the way kindergarten is funded.

What did they say about the 30% tax rebate? Eighty-eight per cent of Ontarians say they are willing to forgo individual tax savings in order to provide special support for students at risk; 73% would be willing to forgo a personal tax saving to provide adult education classes for those who wish to get off welfare by completing their high school and enabling themselves to find a job or go on to higher education; 65% said they would be willing to forgo the tax saving in order to reduce class sizes; 57% would be willing to forgo the tax saving to provide junior kindergarten classes.

These are very powerful statements. It's really no surprise, because we know that Ontarians are very concerned about education. If I had to tell you which issue was number one in terms of the frequency of calls in my riding, or the frequency of letters or petitions, I would tell you that it would be related to education, and within education junior kindergarten, without question, is the number one issue that is identified by Ontarians and what concerns them most.

Ontarians also want to see change. There's no debate about that. However, they want changes that improve the quality and standards of education. They want educational reform, not reforms driven by simply the bottom line. The legislation before us today is about something bigger than the legislative changes contained within the pages of this particular bill. The heart of the debate we are beginning to engage in is about the wholesale change this government has been imposing on the educational system over the past nine months. This bill covers junior kindergarten, adult education, teachers' sick leave benefits, cooperative agreements and so-called equalization payments.

But these are window dressing for the actual changes that are occurring in Ontario. Over the last nine months, the Minister of Education has engaged in a communications exercise that can only be described in the following manner: If you say it long enough and if you say it often enough, people will begin to believe you. The problem is, it seems the minister is beginning to believe in what he is saying himself. According to the Minister of Education, spending in Ontario is the second-highest in Canada. He says we spend 10% per pupil more than the average of other provinces and that this amounts to $1.3 billion in excess spending.

Unfortunately for the minister, this is not reality, it is a myth, for according to Statistics Canada and their data, this is the reality: number one, that Ontario's per-pupil expenditure indeed is sixth in Canada, following the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, Quebec, BC and Manitoba, and that Ontario's average expenditure is $6,961, 2.4% above the Canadian average of $6,796. Let me repeat that: Ontario's educational expenditure is 2.4% above the Canadian average, not 10%, as the minister is so apt to state.

It seems that to make his case, the minister was comparing apples to oranges but saying he was comparing oranges to oranges, which the data from Statistics Canada will show is not correct. The data the minister was using included in Ontario's figures spending for federal and private schools, it included kindergarten expenditures, which were not counted in the enrolment, some 100,000 students, thus inflating the per-pupil cost calculation. It seems that the minister's comparative analysis needs some work.

The member for Algoma will recall in estimates that when we asked that of the deputy minister, the deputy minister agreed and said yes, further work would have to be done on the basis on which comparative calculations were being made and that he would get back to us. We're still waiting.

As I said to him at the time of estimates and I have stated in this chamber, we should be establishing a quality and a standard of education in Ontario which meets the specific and diverse needs of the people of Ontario. Why is he using the average of the other Canadian provinces as a benchmark for the standards of education in Ontario? Ontario has the highest per-capita income in Canada, Ontario has the largest multicultural population, requiring special language and other educational supports, and Ontario also has four constitutionally guaranteed public school systems: the public, the Catholic separate, the French and the Protestant separate. Ontario is simply not like the other provinces. Surely, the Minister of Education would want to lead an educational system that is the best, not simply on par with the happy medium.

Unfortunately, the education system is on a course headed in the other direction. The $400-million cuts to education, drastic and deep cuts, are taking money, dollars which would otherwise educate our students, right out of the educational system to fund a 30% tax rebate. That's what this is really all about. That's what really is at stake. The reforms to the education system have been driven by the supreme value of this government, called economics.

What about the tax rebate? Who will benefit? According to Revenue Canada, this is who will benefit: Ontarians earning $100,000 or more will receive more than $1.3 billion in tax rebates; Ontarians earning $250,000 or more will receive more than $446 million in tax rebates from the Harris government. That's very interesting, because funding for elementary and secondary students' schooling is being cut by $400 million at this time alone, and the Minister of Education and Training continues to boast he can find $1.3 billion in cuts within the educational sector. I find these similarities quite frightening.


Who doesn't benefit?

Let's start at the beginning: children who otherwise would have been entering junior kindergarten in September 1996. These children are not benefiting now, nor will they ever benefit. They may benefit later -- who knows? -- but when they find themselves in an overcrowded classroom where the teacher is unable, no matter how dedicated, to provide essential individual attention with one-on-one contact, they will of course suffer.

In the case of adult students, they are not benefiting for two reasons, first, because program funding for their needs has been cut -- simple, straightforward. Second, they most likely receive a low income, the reason they are returning to finish their high school diploma, and therefore get little or no tax rebate.

Teachers who are laid off due to the severe cutbacks that are ongoing as we speak today are not benefiting, because they will not be paying any income tax, if they're unemployed, to be taxed in the first place.

How about the construction trades which would otherwise be building new schools across the province to meet increased enrolment and overcrowding? With the capital freeze, there will be no work for many of them.

How about the property taxpayers in Metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa who, due to the Minister of Education's cuts and this bill -- it's in this particular bill -- will be paying for a tax cut a second time when the Minister of Education comes looking for what he calls an equalization payment to the Minister of Finance from their local educational property taxes?

The fact of the matter is that there is no silver lining attached to these education cuts. They signal storm clouds, in my opinion, for education in Ontario. As I have said, this bill in many ways is inconsequential. The real heart of the debate lies outside, in what has already gone through in regulation. This is where I'd like to turn my attention for a moment.

The 1996 general legislative grant sets out, on top of making social contract reductions permanent, reductions in operating expenses of $231 million in calendar year 1996 and a freeze on capital funding which will net the province $167 million. It will also cost schools an amount yet to be determined due to incidental and operating costs resulting in other internal cuts.

Legislative grants identify changes in the following major areas: funding changes to junior kindergarten; funding changes for adult education; reductions in the grant for busing; reductions in administration, custodial and maintenance services; a reduction in the per-pupil grant ceiling; an increase in the standard mill rate, the minimum tax effort local property taxpayers must contribute to education.

Let me talk for a moment about the very important area of junior kindergarten and what this might mean. The provision in this legislation to revert junior kindergarten to a local option in and of itself is fairly tame, because prior to the changes in Bill 4 under the New Democratic Party, junior kindergarten was a local option. However, it was fully funded through the per-pupil grant. In 1989, the former Liberal government announced its intention to introduce junior kindergarten throughout the province. It was still listed as a local option until the NDP's Bill 4 mandated it to a phase-in period. We still have not reached that end of the phase-in period, with 30 boards or thereabouts still without junior kindergarten programs.

When the present government made its changes, these changes went beyond restoring it to a local option. It is the funding formula, which was reversed, that has the greatest impact. I would say to my honourable friends across the way that you could keep your promise to restore junior kindergarten to a local option without affecting the level of provincial funding availability.

During a visit to London last year, the minister said junior kindergarten might be restored as a mandatory and full-funded program following a review of early childhood education in Ontario. The minister said, to quote from a London Free Press article of January 19: "At the end of the review, if we come to the conclusion that the system in place last year or this year was the right system, we will put it back in place. That includes funding and mandatory status and the rest of it. That is not off the table."

We will be waiting with bated breath to hear the minister's learnings from that particular review, and the opposition parties would of course be happy to share much information that would lead him to arrive at the conclusion that the reinstitution of junior kindergarten is absolutely essential to our educational system.

I suggest that if the government is serious about junior kindergarten, it should exercise a more thoughtful approach to its decision. If they want to review the effectiveness of junior kindergarten or explore alternative methods to address the needs of early childhood education, then do this: Let's have a review, but in the interim, leave the program and its funding as is until such time as we have fully considered the decision.

To address the issue of making the program a local option in the interim, the government simply needs to extend the phase-in period for junior kindergarten beyond 1997. This will ensure that boards that do not wish to provide junior kindergarten at this time will not have to. However, those that wish to keep junior kindergarten will be able to do so with adequate funding, pending the review.

I don't mean to exercise the point, but it is an important one to make, that changes in funding to junior kindergarten may defeat the purpose of having a review; that by changing the funding, the minister has made this program unaffordable for many, if not most, school boards. As a result, coupled with the other funding cuts in educational boards, boards will be forced to cancel their junior kindergarten programs, as we have already seen, not because they don't see it as having value but because the program is not adequately funded.

Currently, as a mandatory program, junior kindergarten is funded as part of the per-pupil calculation under category 1 of the general legislative grant. It receives full provincial recognition and is eligible for full provincial grant funding. Under this government, the funding structure for the program has been moved to the program-specific funding calculation under category 3. This means it no longer receives full provincial recognition and is only funded by the province based on the rate of grant. This means if the provincial share of the local educational dollar is 40%, let us say, the province will now only cover 40% of the cost of junior kindergarten programs.

Here's an actual example, the Sault Ste Marie Board of Education, and this was reported in the Sault Star on January 31: "Presently, the local board pays only $47,000 to fund its junior kindergarten program. The remaining $1.3 million comes from the province. Under the government's proposed changes to funding, if the board maintains the same level of service, it will cost local taxpayers $627,000 to fund the same program next year, and the provincial share would be reduced from $1.3 million to $735,000."

I realize this sounds incredible, to go from a share of $47,000 to $627,000, but that is what is happening throughout the province. That's what the funding change means, and many boards, particularly those which rely heavily on grants from the province, simply will not be able to afford the cost of this program on their own, so they may very well have to cancel the program.

Here's a further example of the point I'm making. Brant county public trustees had to make a decision on junior kindergarten, a decision which one trustee described as "the worst decision I've ever had to make." This is in the January 19 Brantford Expositor. The decision was to cancel junior kindergarten.


Mr Wildman: Did he say suppository?

Mr Patten: No, I didn't say that.

The decision was to cancel junior kindergarten "even though most trustees, including former opponents of the program, believe it is valuable." So why did they cancel it? Because they had to, not because they wanted to. "Trustees were told the amount of money the boards receive from their provincial government to pay for JK will drop to about $832,000 in 1996 from almost $1.5 million in 1995."

Cancelling the program results in changes in the school and throughout boards from teaching staff requirements, supplies, busing etc. It disrupts the base that has already been built. To cancel the program and then a year or two later say, "We were perhaps wrong; it has proven, by virtue of our review, to be beneficial; we will provide for it again," really doesn't make a lot of sense. Certainly that doesn't make a lot of common sense.

For my part, I believe that we should be providing junior kindergarten because it makes good sense. It's a wise investment. We talk about children being our most important resource and we need to act on that basis.

As a member of the former government that brought in junior kindergarten, I believe the information is there, and the experience which boards and parents have had over the last seven years in Ontario tells us that. Last year alone over 100,000 children in Ontario were registered in junior kindergarten. Numerous reports and studies support early childhood education as a head start for children. JK has been very valuable in creating a level playing field for young children.

During the debate on Bill 30, I referred to a presentation that was sent to me by a Mrs Carolyn Morrow. It is a presentation she made to her local school board, the West Parry Sound Board of Education, about the value of junior kindergarten. I want to share a portion of it with you in which she outlines the benefits her daughter received from junior kindergarten. I quote:

"We live in a rural setting and, as a result, my children experience some measure of isolation. Her year in junior kindergarten last year provided Katie with an early opportunity to learn what it is to be a member of a community. She broadened her circle of friends. Not normally a `joiner' and often reserved and retiring, her self-confidence grew as a result of her participation in group activities independent of me. It introduced new authority figures in her life.

"She embarked on an unpressured course designed to give her a strong start in basic literacy. Perhaps most important, she had a pleasant introduction to education in a formal setting where she had fun exploring and learning in a play-based program."

She goes on:

"I am an educated person. I completed high school and pursued post-secondary education at Queen's University. However, I do not have the knowledge and the skills to teach my daughter what Elizabeth West" -- her teacher -- "taught my daughter last year."

This is a concrete example of the human benefits of junior kindergarten. It has a socialization and an educational impact of high value for children.

The Royal Commission on Learning offered these observations on junior kindergarten, and I quote:

"We have known for some time that, by the time children begin grade 1, variations on oral language, vocabulary and comprehension are so great that it is difficult for teachers to narrow the differences between children who are more or less ready to learn in a formal setting." A very powerful statement.

It further states:

"It is clear that, by age four, the failure of a great number of our children to acquire knowledge and understanding will have serious consequences for their formal education."

It also plays a key role in early detection and intervention of developmental problems that youngsters might have.

Additional reports and studies such as the Perry Preschool Project; Better Beginnings, Better Futures; Children First, To Herald a Child, to cite only a few -- there are many, many more and they all come to similar conclusions: Whatever we can do with young people, both preschool and in the early years of school, can have a decided impact on their ability to learn.

I cannot make this point any stronger: Returning junior kindergarten to a local option, which is what we have outlined here in Bill 34, does not have a significant impact on the program, but the funding changes the government enacts through this regulation are the key. You can have your provision in Bill 34 simply reversing the funding change. In the meantime, you can institute a review and explore whether there are other models that can deliver an improved product in the interests of early childhood education.

I would like now to talk a little bit about another area I believe is a short-sighted measure that will have a tragic impact on Ontario, and that is the funding for adult education. Educational opportunities for people who wish to return to high school to earn their diploma must be available. Individuals may have dropped out of school for one reason or another, yet they make the conscious decision, in some cases a courageous decision, to return so that they may improve their chances in the workplace.

You may recall that last week I delivered to the Minister of Education several hundred letters from adult students in the Ottawa area who are concerned about how the funding cuts will affect their chance to finish their high school diploma. I read into the record excerpts from a couple of the letters from single mothers who were completing their high school education in order to get off social assistance and to improve their chances for employment and a better standard of living for their children. There were also letters from individuals who were working in low-paying jobs who wanted to complete their high school education in order to move up in their employment or to pursue newer opportunities.

In cases such as these, the individuals often don't have the resources to pursue the educational opportunities on their own. By reducing the funding for adult education and pushing it into continuing education, it changes the financial base of this program and it then becomes a barrier for those who need this program the most and those who perhaps are unable to pay.

The rationale for this move, according to the deputy minister during estimates -- and the minister today in the House in his opening remarks reiterated this -- was "to provide school boards with some flexibility as to how they wish to provide this service." But I think the change benefits the government's anxiety over finding money much more than it ends up helping out the system. The adult students, on the other hand, end up out in the cold. Who benefits?

I often wonder if there have been any studies done by the ministry in terms of what more effective methods are out there. I've looked very carefully at the results of those who attend the adult schools. I have visited schools personally. I see the enthusiasm, the commitment, the motivation of these adults who are going back to complete their high school diploma. It's heart-warming to see. There is a success rate of something in the range of 47% by these adult schools, and our understanding is that probably 50% of them will be in danger of existence, of survival.

I wonder what we have in place, because obviously if many of these young adults are unable to complete their high school diploma, then the chances of them remaining on social assistance or welfare increases that much more. Where are the savings? You may save a few bucks out of the educational portfolio, but surely people will acknowledge and members will acknowledge that we will be adding costs to community and social services.

Instead of providing the boards with the full pupil grant for a student over the age of 21, the boards will only receive, with this legislation, the continuing education amount of about $2,200. Through this bill, the board then has the flexibility to move that student from the day program and direct them to a continuing education program. There's no flexibility at all; they will have to do this.

There is a clear distinction between continuing education and an adult student in a secondary school day program. Continuing education is provided on a course-by-course basis and has a totally different mandate. In this instance, we are looking at individuals who may already have earned their high school diplomas, maybe did the bare minimum in terms of course load and wanted to get on with it, and now they want to upgrade or take a specific course to improve their skills or their skill set or to fulfil prerequisites for further educational opportunities such as college or a certificate. There are also the interest classes through continuing education, but I'm not referring to any of these.


In the former case, individuals need only to take a course or two and then off they go. In the case of individuals who wish to return and finish their diploma, the needs are quite different and are not easily met in the continuing education model. In fact, they require a more formal program, with an average duration of nine months, which is approximately the same as a normal school year.

They are more likely individuals in their early 20s, possibly some in their 30s, but we're not referring to 65- or 70-year-olds here; we're referring to young adults who still have a lot of time to pursue productive lives. For such individuals, the self-esteem they garner by actually being able to go back to school plays an important role in motivating them and securing their future success. If the individual is on welfare or another form of social assistance, it may indeed be the turning point for him.

The question is, what is being accomplished here? Are we attempting to make individuals pay for having dropped out of school and wanting to come back and make students pay for taking more courses than are required as a form of free upgrading? If that's the goal, then this is not the manner in which we can do it; that can be dealt with quite easily. You cannot simply lump all the adult students into the same category, as is being done through the funding changes to continuing education and which is what Bill 34 will allow.

During estimates, the minister alluded to the fact that adults have a different cost base in education than do adolescents. He cited class sizes and supervision as some of the factors which impacted on the cost base. I did not receive a description of the difference. Of course, there are some differences; we have to acknowledge that. There are still some basic requirements in terms of facilities, supplies and equipment that must also be met. We have to factor into our own calculations these costs which have to be assumed by the board. You cannot treat adult education in isolation of these considerations.

I'm particularly concerned that many boards and individuals have expressed concern over the decline in the grant for educating these individuals. I believe that the government is once again moving before it actually knows the full impact of what may happen and what will replace it. For this reason, I suspect that this move is simply a cost-cutting measure. It has little or no semblance of educational needs; it is more, "These people are abusing the system and it's time we got tough," or "Here's a window of opportunity to grab back some money." Again I ask the government to step back a little and actually look at the impact of what this legislation will do.

The legislation also addresses negative grant boards and what this legislation will do to them. The negative grant boards are those which do not receive transfer payments from the province due to sufficient property, commercial and industrial tax revenues. They are being expected by the Minister of Education and Training to make what he calls equalization payments. These payments will return to the province to share in reduced provincial education funding. The rationale behind this is that it is unfair for boards that rely on provincial grants to bear the full brunt of the cuts. I, for one, feel that all these cuts are unfair. We should not be facing all these cuts, because we know they're not being redistributed back into the educational sector; they're being pulled right out in order to fund a tax rebate.

That being said, we are. I have reservations about the province coming in and raiding the local property tax base. That's what is at play here. It's a form of indirect taxation. In fact, it's taxation without representation.

The NDP government attempted something similar under the social contract by negotiating with the boards and of course there was limited success on that. The Minister of Education, in response to questions from my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt and our friend across the way from Etobicoke West, argues that the provision in Bill 34 is not a clawback, that it is only an enabling provision which will allow school boards to make an equalization payment to the province.

The question I have -- and it's similar to what the member for Etobicoke West posed, which was an excellent question -- is: If the school boards do not want to make up this payment, what is your next step? What are you going to hang over their heads this time? It is written clearly in Bill 34 that it is the Minister of Education who will determine the amount of the payment and that it is made payable to the Minister of Finance. In fact, it's here in section 9 of the legislation. The so-called equalization payments will be used to pay for what? Something in education? No. This is the tax base. That tax base is for educational purposes. It's going to be used to pay the 30% tax rebate, that's what it's going to be used for. There is no guarantee that they will be used to offset any reductions in the educational transfer because they will go to consolidated revenue. That is clear.

This is of such concern it's even broader than education, and I'm sure my colleagues on all sides of the House will know this and I'm sure representations have been made. The regional municipality of Ottawa-Carleton passed a resolution imploring us to please not enter into taking this money away, which is dedicated tax money at the local level for education.

I, as I'm sure others have, sought legal advice to see whether in fact the province has the ability to make this kind of a tax grab. I am told that they do not, but that this will send a message to school boards to push them and threaten them and menace them to come across with some money. But I believe that this will be a very slippery slope and I believe that this will not be easily achieved.

The boards are conscious of how the cuts are hitting assessment-poor boards. However, they do not support giving local property tax dollars, raised for educational purposes, to the provincial treasury. As I have said, I question this also. I question it because it sets a very dangerous precedent for the province, going after property tax dollars. Today it's education, tomorrow it's the municipalities, for other purposes -- powers it does not currently have, nor should it have, and I'll be looking for some answers on this when we get to committee.

I'd like to say a few words about the capital freeze and the implications. While the legislation doesn't address this directly, it has a direct impact. Included in the funding reductions for 1996-97 is a freeze on capital funding. This is estimated to be a savings in the order of $167 million. Again, this is not listed in Bill 34, except maybe it could be tied to the cooperative agreement provisions, but for all intents and purposes, it stands on its own.

The rationale for this freeze is to allow the province time to review its process and methods of meeting the capital needs of the educational system in order to spend limited dollars wisely. Ultimately, the minister has been quoted as saying that the province should move out of the capital construction area.

The minister has mused about looking at various funding options. I have a quote from the Ottawa Citizen, December 26, from a series that the Citizen did, called "The Learning Curve: Canada's Schools Adapt to New Realities," and it reads:

"In the future, new schools may be built, owned and maintained by a developer and leased by the school board. That would get growing communities through their heavy population bulge, then allow a second use for the building, says Ontario Education Minister John Snobelen."


The fact of the matter is that the government wants to review the way in which we meet our educational accommodation needs, and that's laudable. Everyone would agree with that. However, the freeze has a negative impact through its application. There are in many areas of this province serious overcrowding problems that must be addressed. These are high-growth areas of the province. In fact, many of the problems were being addressed prior to the decision that was made, but the freeze on capital has thrown a wrench into the system.

I know that the minister is personally aware of this issue, as his area is impacted significantly. Both the Dufferin-Peel separate school board and the Peel Board of Education are now sitting on numerous capital projects due to the freeze. This is the same in other high-growth areas across the province: in areas such as Windsor, Durham, York and in the Ottawa area.

Here is a sampling of what is happening in the Ottawa area with the Carleton Board of Education. Again, from the Ottawa Citizen, March 6:

"The Nepean area of Barrhaven will have to wait for two high schools that have been slated to open in September 1997. Both the public and the separate boards have planned to build high schools in the fast-growing south end.

"`This is devastating,' says parent Cathy Urban, who has been fighting for a Catholic high school in Barrhaven for eight years. `If I had known it would take so long to build a high school in Barrhaven, I would never have moved here.'"

What I have been going over highlights a number of issues surrounding the capital freeze: high-growth areas are disproportionately impacted; added costs for temporary accommodations and for busing; Peel came up with a solution to deal with local accommodation problems, but apparently that was rejected.

The timing of the freeze is unclear. Is it, indeed, for one year? Will the money be flowed back into the system as the need for new schools will still be there even more so a year from now?

Of course, there are broader issues beyond education: job losses in the construction industry due to removing $167 million worth of projects or putting them on hold; the impact on the housing market in areas without schools; and of course the changes to Bill 20 which remove the requirements for subdivisions to have sites set aside will have an impact.

So we're not simply dealing with an issue of waiting for the freeze to be lifted. There are overcrowding considerations. Boards have made plans to have new schools in place next September. They have made arrangements to move portables around to deal with emerging overcrowded needs which cannot be met with immediate capital projects. They have also made arrangements for busing requirements or are incurring added busing costs due to the lack of a school in proximity to a student's home.

All these considerations cost the boards money, in addition to costs already incurred for architectural and planning designs.

The Premier, oddly enough, acknowledged the freeze on school construction as unfair to high-growth communities, and what was his response? He said, "Well, the status quo is unfair." That was a very helpful comment.

The purpose of the capital freeze, though, is to realize savings on provincial education expenditures. However, it's having a negative impact by heaping added costs on school boards. As I said, I know the minister is personally aware of this situation, for he has this problem in his particular area. However, I've not seen any remedy or easing of the pressure.

In order to account for all this money that is going to be saved by making these cuts to education, the government is amending the per-pupil grants. This is essentially the basis on which the province determines the provincial grant needs of school boards.

According to the GLG regulations for 1996 and 1997, the cuts to education this year will be accomplished "through a grant ceiling reduction and standard mill rate increases. The relative weighting of the grant reductions will be as follows:" -- this is from a document that was sent to all directors of education called Key Components of the 1996 General Legislative Grants -- "80% of the reductions in the basic per-pupil grant to be achieved through a decrease in grant ceilings; 20% of the reductions in the basic per-pupil grant to be achieved through an increase in the standard mill rate." These combined measures result in a net shift of education costs away from the provincial government and on to the local tax base.

I'd like to use an example. School board A has 2,000 elementary students and an assessment base of, let's say, $1 billion. If we use last year's per-pupil ceiling and standard mill rate, they would have recognized expenditures of $8.368 million. The school board would be responsible for $5.865 million of these expenses through local property taxes and the province would grant this board $2.503 million.

Let's look at what's happened this year using the same data -- the same school board, 2,000 elementary students, an assessment base of $1 billion -- and apply the decreased ceiling and the increased mill rate. What do we get? The first expenditure drops to $8.056 million. Second, the school board is now responsible for $6.24 million of the expense through local property taxes, and the provincial grant drops to $1.816 million. Last year the education dollar was funding 70% by the local property tax base versus 30% for the province; this year the local property tax base moves up to 77% versus 33% from the province.

Oddly enough, right here on page 16 of New Directions, Volume Two, A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario, it says, "The province should certainly be paying a larger share of education costs." Also on the same page it makes a statement, "The province has been forcing school boards to either cut services or raise local taxes." It seems to me the government is arguing that forcing boards to cut services or raise local taxes is somehow a good thing, because this is exactly what they are doing.

Boards have been handed $400 million in cuts while at the same time the government is telling school boards that local property taxes should not -- they didn't say "will not" -- be increased, so I guess you could say that they are forcing school boards to cut services.

Let's look at these cuts to services. Included in the reduction in the per-pupil grant, by 1997 boards will have been expected to find $163 million in savings in areas outside of the classroom. The areas are identified as expenditures on administration, custodial and maintenance. Grants for busing are also being cut. The provincial government intends to move towards block funding and as the first step they have cut funding for transportation grants by 10%. They expect boards to save money through cooperative measures. This reduction is expected to net the province $16 million in 1996. Of course, when we annualize that, it becomes $39 million in 1997.

Future block grants for transportation will be provided to boards based on the average transportation grant over the previous four years. This brings us to the big picture. Unfortunately, if you are a board like the East Parry Sound Board of Education, you have already cut to the bone in terms of transportation. The only area left to cut into is teaching itself. This is exactly what school boards have been preparing for. We've seen this reported in the paper. The system is going to suffer and the quality of education in Ontario will decline.


We've already seen across Ontario layoff notices going out to teachers and to school board staff. We all know that notices are not unusual at this time of the year, around budget time. However, the magnitude and the level of notices this year is sending shock waves throughout the educational system.

Even students have taken to voicing their concerns about the cuts to education. There was a sit-in earlier this year in Oakville, and last week there was a sit-in of students taking an interest in their own educational system because they can see how they will be impacted. They had a sit-in to try to say: "We are the ones who are being impacted. We are the ones who will have a less quality education." If anything, students and parents are becoming more involved and aware of the educational system, and they have been voicing their concerns over the disastrous implications of the cuts to education.

I'll wrap up my remarks here. This debate is of significant importance because it sets the tone and direction of the Conservative educational agenda. There is concern right across the province about the direction in which this government is moving, concern that has arisen due to announced cuts but delays in providing information about how they will have an impact. Add to this a mix of a series of leaked documents, which time has proven to be quite accurate, and you have a crisis of confidence in the future of Ontario's educational system. I am strongly recommending that this legislation, Bill 34, be referred to committee for public hearings in all parts of the province. People from Ottawa, from Kenora, from Windsor to Hearst want to be heard, want to be part of this significant educational debate. I look forward to seeing this happening.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): The first thing I would like to do is congratulate my colleague from Ottawa Centre for an excellent presentation with respect to this particular matter that's before us today. He's very knowledgeable in the area of education and certainly spent a fair amount of time in studying these issues, and he certainly put the matter in perspective as to what we're really dealing with.

The first thing I would like to pick up on is the last point he raised that deals with the whole notion of public meetings on this issue. I think it's rather interesting that on Bill 30 and Bill 31, which are certainly controversial to some extent in some quarters but certainly in the totality of --

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I'm sorry to interrupt my friend from Kingston and The Islands, but I was wondering if there was a quorum present.

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex D. McFedries): A quorum is present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: Would you please resume.

Mr Gerretsen: I would certainly like to thank the leader of the third party for giving me an opportunity to regroup, as it were, and get into this.

Public meetings: I think if there's one thing that works well in our democratic system, it's the notion of having public meetings where the public can have an opportunity to express their views on a particular bill. Usually, we of course want some of these public meetings to take place not only here in Toronto but also elsewhere in Ontario so that the public, and particularly those who are primarily interested in an educational bill like this, such as the teachers, the boards of education and the parents, can have an input into the rather significant changes that are being contemplated here.

What I find very interesting is that the government has agreed to public hearings on Bills 30 and 31. Somehow, and we heard it today in question period, there seems to be a great reluctance by the minister and by the government to allow public hearings to take place on this particular bill, a bill that has a much greater magnitude when it deals with the educational system than the other two bills have, in my opinion. I suggest that a government that prides itself on openness and honesty is sadly lacking in this respect. If you really believe in those principles, why do you not allow for public hearings in this particular matter?

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Hey, is he in order?

Mr Gerretsen: I notice that the member from Etobicoke is taking a great interest in this, and that leads me to my next point, the point of these negative-grant boards. The public of Ontario should perhaps get an indication outside of the Toronto and Ottawa areas as to really what we're talking about here. We're talking about those boards of education that don't receive any transfer payments from the province due to the fact that they have sufficient property, commercial and industrial tax revenues. They will be expected, under this new act, to make payments back to the province.

What's very interesting is that if you look at the wording of section 257.2, which deals with these granting-back payments by the boards to the province -- and the member from Etobicoke put his finger right on it yesterday in his question to the minister. It was great for him to ask that question, especially since it seemed to me that it came totally unprepared, or certainly the minister didn't know what was going on. It was a well-thought-out question, and that's why we wanted him to ask more questions today on their side, so that even for those Conservative supporters out there in this province, they can actually have some questions from some of the backbenchers that haven't been prestaged and what have you, where the ministers actually have to make the same kind of responses or non-responses as they do to the opposition on a daily basis.

What the minister is quoted as saying in the Toronto Sun, a well-known Reform or Conservative paper, in the April 10 issue, is the following: "There has been some advice to our ministry that legally there needs to be a change in the Education Act so that boards can in fact share with the province." Isn't it wonderful for the boards to share with the province.

When we look at the section in the act, what does it actually state? It states as follows: "A board may make an equalization payment to the Minister of Finance in respect of a year in an amount that does not exceed the lesser of," and then it goes through a couple of ramifications. But basically if they have too much money, according to their format, they may make a payment to the Minister of Finance.

I would suggest to a government that is interested in openness and honesty that it change that section and clearly state the following: "The Minister of Finance will take an equalization payment from a board in respect of a year in an amount that does not exceed the lesser of...." At least that would be open and honest. That would tell the people of Ontario that for those two boards in Toronto and Ottawa that don't get any payments from us because of their higher assessments etc, we will take money from them.

This is just pure hypocrisy, in my submission, to make it sound as if the boards are the people who at their behest are making the payments to the Minister of Finance, when we all know that really what's happening here is the minister is saying: "You're collecting too many tax dollars in education. We want some of that money." Have at least the decency and honesty in the legislation to clearly reflect what's actually happening. I don't expect this from a government that prides itself on openness and honesty.

Tell the people exactly what you're doing and do not make it sound as if these boards of education are just out there saying: "Province, how can we possibly help you out? You need that extra $70 million. We know we're getting too much money. Please give us legislation that allows us to do that." That is not what's happening. That is certainly something that I cannot in any way concur with, because it's misleading the people of Ontario. That was the other point. We want public meetings and we certainly want the government to be open and honest about its intent here. It wants money back from the boards of education that it basically feels get too much money to start off with.

Of course, we all know that what's really driving this is the tax cut. I'm sure you get sick and tired of hearing about it. I'm sure that some of the people who watch this regularly get sick and tired of hearing about it. But I don't think it can be stated often enough that over the next five years, according to the government's own financial statement that was filed with this House back on November 29, the public debt of the province of Ontario is going to go from about $95 billion to over $120 billion.

If the government would just say, "Look, our top priority is deficit cutting and we will not give anybody a tax cut until such time as we've reduced the deficit to zero," then at least people could understand their motivation and could say, "Yes, that's the right thing to do." But the $25 billion in increased public debt we're going to get in this province over the next four to five years just happens to equate the amount of the tax cut that's being proposed. Of course, it's a tax cut, as has been stated on a number of occasions, that is basically going to benefit those people who are making over $75,000, and I believe over 51% of the total amount of money is going to go to them.


I've heard a very interesting statement; it was last night on a Rogers cablecast production here in Toronto, where the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education and Training keeps making the statement, and he kept making it during the Bill 26 debate as well, that did we not realize the vast majority of six people in Ontario, I think he said something like 58%, make $50,000 or less and therefore they are going to get a tax break.

Well, I suggest he could also say that, I don't know, 99.9% of the people make less than $150,000 and therefore all these people are getting a tax break.

It's the kind of argument that makes absolutely no sense at all. You've got to stick to the facts, and the facts are that people who are earning $35,000 or less are only getting 7% of the total money that will be available for the tax cut, and people who are making $75,000 or more will be getting 51% of the total amount of money that is going to be available for the tax cut.

Mr Wildman: The Tories think that's fair.

Mr Gerretsen: Well, it's not fair in my book, and I'll tell you, most of the people I've spoken to over the last six months, irrespective of political party or persuasion -- and let's face it, most people in the province do not belong to any political party at all -- don't think it's fair either.

That's what this is all about. It's a $400-million cut that simply isn't necessary. Is restructuring necessary for our system? Yes. Is it necessary to this extent, with this kind of monetary cut? I say no. And if the tax cut were taken out of the equation, this kind of cut could have been done on a much more reasonable basis with a much lesser amount of money.

The other one, in talking about openness and honesty, deals with this whole junior kindergarten issue. We've heard the member for Ottawa Centre give a very eloquent defence of junior kindergarten, about how many children are involved -- I believe he mentioned over 100,000 children -- how for many of these children it really is a head start into the education system and programs. Certainly children who have gone through junior kindergarten are much further advanced as a whole than those who start school fresh at the kindergarten or grade 1 level.

We haven't heard anything yet; we haven't really discussed the whole notion of the child care costs that will be involved. I know we should not regard junior kindergarten as child care, but at the same time, having junior kindergarten there, obviously the child care costs of a family with a child in junior kindergarten will be a lot less than without the program being there.

The government makes it sound as if it's a local option. "Let's leave it to the local boards of education whether they want to have a junior kindergarten program." If you just say that, I suppose it sounds like a reasonable thing, until you realize the kind of funding required to operate most of the school programs in our entire school system. You then quickly realize that if you leave junior kindergarten as a totally local option without providing any kind of funding for the program at all, the boards of education simply will not have the opportunity, will not have the financial capability, to keep the junior kindergarten program, unless you want to see a tremendous increase in property taxes, which most boards of education and certainly most taxpayers in the province would not concur with.

It is a choice in optics only. It looks as if there's a choice for the boards of education, when in fact there's no choice at all. If the funding is cut off, in effect most of the boards of education will have no choice but to eliminate the program.

The other area that's very interesting is the whole notion of adult education. I was struck, while the member for Ottawa Centre was speaking, that here we have a government very much involved in the notion that as long as everybody has a job, a lot of the economic problems we face in this province will disappear. I think most people would agree with that.

The problem of course is that with the tremendous changes in technology, with the tremendous changes in our workforce, with the tremendous changes in our methods of production within the industrial fields, a lot of the jobs that used to be available, for which people needed little or no education, are largely disappearing in this province. It seems to me that the one area in which the adult education program was quite successful was to give a second chance to those individuals who, for whatever reason, may have dropped out of the system at age 15, 16 or up to 19 or even before that.

I'm sure all of us who have children of that age, or had children of that age at one time, know of friends of theirs or peers of theirs who, for whatever reason, did fall out of the system. I think all of us would feel somewhat sorry for these individuals and, as time goes along, probably more so now because we all realize that in this newer, more highly technological age, you need greater and greater skills.

Certainly you need a basic education if you want to have a job that amounts to anything, and I think most of us would say if somebody at age 21, 22 or older realizes they're not going to get anywhere in life without at least getting their high school education and maybe from there going on into an apprenticeship or training program or college or university, why shouldn't these individuals be given a second chance.

From my understanding of this bill, in effect what this bill does is take those people out of the adult education program, which was perfectly suitable for them, for which the boards of education were receiving adequate financial remuneration, and put them in a totally different stream in the continuing education stream. Who will suffer as a result of that? I submit that ultimately the people who will suffer from those programs becoming optional and no longer being available to the local boards are those youngsters or young adults in their early 20s who simply will no longer have the adult education programs available to them.

They will suffer and I suppose, in the long run, we will all suffer because if those programs are no longer available to those individuals, the likelihood of them getting a productive job in the future in which they will become taxpayers in this province, which the Minister of Finance is always talking about, is less and less as time goes along.

The combination of these two programs being made optional -- the junior kindergarten program and the funding of adult education at the local level -- will have only one result: that both of these programs will ultimately disappear.

I think there's one thing we ought to appreciate as well. It's wonderful to pass all these things down to the local level, whether we're talking about municipalities or whether we're talking about the local school boards, and to simply say they're the people who are in the best position to make these decisions. But quite frankly, we all know, from some of us having served in those different capacities, that the pressures on the local boards of education and the pressure on the local municipalities to keep those tax increases down to next to nothing or to nothing, which certainly has been the case for most local governing bodies over the last year or two in the province of Ontario, is just as hard, just as tough as it is on us here at this level, and some would say it's even a lot tougher and a lot harder because they are after all the two levels of government that are closest to the people and do hear from the people even more directly than we do in this place.


What it all basically boils down to is that, yes, you will save some money here initially, and yes, the $400 million that you cut out of the education field will affect these programs, even though of course we all know that the original promise was that money would not be taken out of classroom education. I always thought that was kind of interesting. If you have autonomous boards that basically run their own operations, how can you say to them, "We will cut out money but you can only take it out of the administration side of things," and at the same time tell them, "You are an autonomous body and you can run your own show the way you want to as a local board etc"?

There's obviously a real conflict there, because it really doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense to give somebody autonomy and at the same time tell them that they can't do certain things, such as not taking this money out of classroom education. So the basic end result is that these moneys will be coming out of the educational system through the school boards not just within areas of administration but also in classrooms.

I've had the opportunity over the last three or four months to speak to a fair number of teachers, some of them who are involved with their teaching federations locally and some of them who are not, but they are absolutely convinced that one of the results of this entire process is that you're going to have much greater numbers in each class. The numbers in each class are going to go up. The number of students is going to go up from anywhere to four to five to six students per class.

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): How do you know?

Mr Gerretsen: Because an awful lot of teachers are being laid off because the boards of education simply can no longer pay them. It's as simple as that. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

If you were open and honest and at least went to the people of Ontario and said, "We don't think it is appropriate to have a student-teacher ratio of 20 or 22 to one in the primary grades and" -- what is it? -- "25 or 26 to one at the higher grades," if you came out honestly and openly and said, "We think it should be four students more," at least there would be some intellectual honesty there, and whether that's right or wrong, we could at least have an argument about it, could discuss it. You may be right; we may be right. But what you're doing now is saying, "Oh, we're not taking it out of the classroom; classroom sizes won't be affected," yet we've got layoff notices all over the place to teachers.

Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): Not in Waterloo.

Mr Gerretsen: I'm glad the member is at least listening a little to what's being said.

Mr Wildman: Give him credit. He's hanging on every word.

Mr Gerretsen: I'm sure he is, as are you, of course.

Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): We normally do when you speak, John.

Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much.

Mr Sampson: Unlike what they did in council at Kingston.

Mr Gerretsen: I could tell you a little bit about Kingston, but I've done that before. I can tell you this, though, that as the tourist season rapidly approaches, make sure this year you go down to the Thousand Islands and you into the Kingston area. We have Fort Henry, and as soon as the government decides to fund that program again this year, we will have at least, by last year's count and hopefully this year again, about 100,000 people visit Fort Henry. Take a boat ride through the Thousand Islands. I'm sure the member from Mississauga is well aware of it. He's shaking his head. I know he's taken many boat rides in the Thousand Islands. Some of them he could talk about and some of them he probably can't talk about. In any event, come and visit the Kingston area. We have many historic sites and buildings --


Mr Gerretsen: We've had a little bit of fun. I hope you will come down to Kingston. We certainly will make it a very hospitable experience for you, regardless of whether you're a member of the government. We like to see people from all persuasions, because we realize it's good for business, and it's good for the tourist business. The tourist business is rapidly becoming the number one business in Ontario, and it certainly is in the Kingston area.

Come and see Queen's University. We have one of the Alma Mater Society representatives in our gallery right now. Queen's University, one of the oldest universities and most highly renowned in all of Canada. It forms an integral part of our community. We always say that's one of the things that make Kingston unique, the fact that we have 10,000 to 12,000 lively, vibrant students in our community, both at Queen's and at Royal Military College, that basically provide a vibrancy to the community that certainly makes us unique and apart.

I was very pleased to read in the Queen's Alumni Review just within the last week or so that about 10 members in this House have had the honour and privilege of graduating from Queen's University. It's unfortunate that six of these members are on the government side -- not for them personally.

Anyway, getting back to the education side of things --

Mr Wildman: Well, Queen's had something to do with it.

Mr Gerretsen: Yes, Queen's has certainly got something to do with it. It's a great educational establishment, and it's certainly a leader in many respects.

Mr Speaker, let me finish off, and then I hope you will allow me to turn it over to the critic for education, the member for Ottawa Centre. Let me just say that this government prides itself on openness and honesty. I'm going to give them some free advice at this point. I think they would get a lot further with the people of Ontario if they were really open and honest about what they're doing. Whether we're talking about hospital cuts -- they're still in denial about that, that they're not cutting the health care system, even though they're cutting $1.3 billion out of the hospital system in Ontario.

The Minister of Health is here right now, and I'm glad to see him here. Yes, you have cut $1.3 billion.

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): To reinvest.

Mr Gerretsen: If you are going to reinvest it, what a business individual would do is that you would come up with your reinvestment plan first, and you would say: "Here is the reinvestment plan. This is what we're going to do. Here is where we're going to take the money, the $1.3 billion, in order to reinvest that." That's how you would handle it. You do not take $1.3 billion out of the system first and then say that at some point in the future -- as your parliamentary assistant one day said in the House and at the hearings -- "As long as we spend the same amount again in the year 1999, we've met our commitment, and in the meantime if it goes down $1 billion or $2 billion per year, somehow we are still living up to our commitment." Well, that is wrong.


Mr Gerretsen: That's what you said. Hansard will bear me out.

I shouldn't make comments about the minister leaving. I'm sure he's got many very important things to do.

In any event, if the government were more open and more honest with the people of Ontario in saying exactly what it's going to do and not, how shall I say, stonewall the situation -- which leads me to one other very quick comment. It's a general comment, a comment I get from a lot of the public out there. I'm sure that a lot of the newer members in the Conservative Party and in my party and in the NDP could relate to this.

Many people ask me: "Why do ministers never answer a question? Why don't they ever say, `I don't know anything about that; I'll find out and let you know tomorrow'?" I think I've heard that once or twice here in the House in the last six or seven months I've been here. What is wrong with that? Of course, I tell them there's nothing wrong with that. But as somebody -- and this person will remain nameless -- said to me one time, "Of course you realize, John, it may be question period but it's not answer period." I guess for all the different cabinets, in all former governments as well -- I remember watching -- it's the same thing: You get a question and there is never a simple, straightforward answer.

Maybe we should do politics differently in this province. If we really want to do politics differently, then why don't we make the ministers accountable? Why doesn't the Speaker or somebody say: "Answer that question. If you don't know the answer, tell him you don't know the answer." I think in the long run you would get much greater respect from the people of Ontario than this institution currently gets.


Mr Toni Skarica (Wentworth North): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I draw your attention to section 23:

"In debate, a member shall be called to order by the Speaker if he or she:...

"(b) Directs his or her speech to matters other than:

"(i) the question under discussion."

What has this got to do with the bill under discussion, the fact that ministers do or don't answer questions?

Mr Gerretsen: Mr Speaker, of course the member was not correct. We heard the minister here earlier. If he had been more open and honest and direct in the answers he gave today during question period -- that's what I was addressing. I was talking on topic, as we always do in the opposition, and the member should well know that.

The Deputy Speaker: On the point of order: I listened to the debate and I listened to the speaker and I didn't see anything out of order.

Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. You have no idea how gratified I, as a member of the opposition, feel in that result, because I know that at least one person, other than my parents at home, is listening to this right now.

In any event, openness and honesty in government: Have public meetings. Tell the people of Ontario that you really don't know exactly how the $400 million you're cutting out of the educational system is going to be handled or dealt with by each of the boards of education. There may be a number of different results to that. Don't just say, "Oh, it will come out of the administrative costs alone." Let's do that.

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will now turn the last five minutes back to the critic for education within our party.

Mr Patten: Mr Speaker, with your approval, I would like to correct the record on something.

Mr Stockwell: Hold it, a point of order.

The Deputy Speaker: Are you rising on a point of order?

Mr Patten: Yes, a point of order. Thank you to the member for Etobicoke West.

When I gave the example in my presentation of a school board that had 2,000 students and what the impact would be on the poor people, ceilings and the standard mill rate implications, I said that this year's property tax base would account for 77% versus 33% from the province. That should read 23% from the province, obviously, because when you add 77% and 23%, it gives you 100%. I would like to read that into the record.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Stockwell: I want to be directly on topic. I'm responding to the speech just given by the member for Kingston, I believe.

Mr Wildman: And The Islands.

Mr Stockwell: And The Islands; I wouldn't want to forget The Islands.

I want to be very clear. We in this caucus have given a direction to the boards of education around this province, and that direction from our end has been very clear. We're seeking those boards of education, the duly elected principals involved in the municipalities, to find the savings in the administrations, the consulting fees, the upper-echelon parts of education systems that are driving the cost of education up. The figure has been bandied about quite regularly for the past number of years that 47% of the dollars spent on education is spent in an administrative fashion, rather than in classroom spending. It seems to me that any person viewing this with a degree of equitable fairness would say 47% is an excessive expenditure to administer the rest, 53%, of classroom spending.

We in this party, when we campaigned last election, used these figures and asked the people of this good province, "Do you think 47% spent before the money hits the classroom is excessive?" They said yes. With this piece of legislation, we've taken the direction and said to the school boards around this province, "We ask you to make reductions within that 47%."

To the member from Kingston, I have talked to the constituents in my riding and around this province and they believe that can be done. All we're asking for those people who are duly elected to do is reduce their spending from within the administrative portion. If they won't do it, can't do it, choose not to do it, we can't control that. If we did, if we forced them to take it from there, you'd be standing in this place caterwauling, howling about government bully-boys directing duly elected officials on how they should spend their money.

Mr Wildman: I listened very carefully to my friend from Ottawa Centre and his colleague the member for Kingston and The Islands, and while I appreciate the latter member's tour of his constituency and his part of the province, I want to comment specifically on two matters.

One is in regard to his comment about questions and answers in this place. As a member who's been around here for some time, I would say to him that frankly one of the problems you have is that ministers obviously don't want to answer specific questions, and too often members of the opposition do not give specific questions and so they give ministers the opportunity to respond to preambles to their questions. If you really want to get a specific answer, or an I-don't-know answer, which is quite appropriate at times, it's perhaps better not to put in a preamble.

I would say to the member for Etobicoke West, who commented on the member for Kingston and The Islands' remarks, that the number 47% is dependent on definitions, obviously, and there are many different definitions about what is classroom expenditure and what is administrative.

As a matter of fact, some boards have argued that only between 5% and 10% is administrative. Unfortunately, when you look at Mr Sweeney's report, he has included a lot of things in administration that many classroom teachers would argue are supports for classroom teaching, such as special education, remedial education and so on.

Unfortunately, by using different definitions, we get into arguments about what are and what are not classroom expenditures. It would be much simpler if we would just say everything that benefits students' learning should not be cut, and then I'm afraid the number would not nearly be 47% of the expenditures by boards of education.

The Deputy Speaker: Would the member care to take his two-minute response?

Mr Patten: I appreciated the critique of my speech very much, and I want to thank all those who spoke to it. I would like to address, as the member for Algoma has, the comments made by the member for Etobicoke West. His argument is that school boards are directed to cut back on administration. If that's the case, how come 50% of the availability of funds is coming from junior kindergarten, which is a classroom? That's not in that 47% that you --

Mr Stockwell: I didn't say that.

Mr Patten: Yes, you did. You said you're directing school boards to take money out of administration, number one. And the money is not being redistributed back into the system. This money is leaving the system totally. It's coming from areas of junior kindergarten, highly researched to say how important that is, and it's coming from the area of those who want to go on to work or want to go on to higher education and get off welfare and get off family assistance. That's where the money's coming from. It's going right out of education. It's not being redistributed back to the classroom to help the quality of our education here.

You look at where that money is coming from and where it's going and it does not address what the member for Etobicoke West is trying to imply, and that is to help provide for a more efficient educational system. It's as if the system is broken somehow. The system needs support, the system needs some encouragement, the system needs some restructuring, yes. But take that money and put it into education. It's the most precious thing we have, other than health concerns: the future of our young people and their capacity to be productive in the economy of tomorrow.


The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Wildman: I am pleased to lead off in the debate on Bill 34 for my caucus and to indicate to the members of the assembly that we consider this to be a very important debate. This is a central issue in Ontario today. Opinion polls have indicated that, other than health care, education is the most important matter Ontarians are concerned about, and for good reason.

The minister has said in his remarks that the government is committed to excellence in education, an affordable education that provides opportunities for students to learn and to develop and to obtain the skills they need in order to be productive in our society. I think all of us would argue that, yes, we should indeed be striving for excellence in education. But our concern about Bill 34 and the commitments made by this government is that they in themselves are threatening the excellence of our education system in the province. That's why we consider this debate to be so important.

We've just had over the last few minutes in this Legislature some discussion about the commitments made by the Conservatives when they ran in the election campaign prior to June 1995. In that campaign, as we all know, the now government said clearly that they were going to make cuts, but those cuts would be made outside of the classroom, that classroom education would be exempted from the cuts. That was a clear commitment made by this government.

They didn't have the kind of qualifiers that the member for Etobicoke West has just put on that commitment. They didn't say: "It's not really up to us. It's up to the boards and we can't force them." They said clearly that classroom education would be exempt. I think it's important for us to look at what is actually happening across the province in education, in classrooms, and what is being proposed by boards right across the province in order to be able to find the savings that have been mandated by this government because of the announced cuts in grants that are provided for in Bill 34.

This government made a number of promises when they ran in the election campaign which are frankly contradictory. What is significant is that the member for Etobicoke West, in his remarks, said that he and his colleagues believed -- and I understand what he's saying. I know he believes the cuts can be made to the education funding in the province through administrative savings. He believes it, and I underline the word "believes." It's a matter of faith. But the facts unfortunately don't bear out that faith.

Mr Stockwell: Right. I'm wrong and you are right, Bud.

Mr Wildman: The member for Etobicoke West says that he's wrong and I'm right. What is this, a confession?

Mr Stockwell: That's not what I said. I said I'm Chris and you're Bud.

Mr Wildman: I guess he's right, then.

At any rate, let's look at what was committed by the Conservatives in the election campaign. The government clearly committed to cutting the deficit and balancing the budget over a short period, and also committed to a significant tax cut and committed to protect certain areas of government expenditure. Those commitments were clear, and when the people of the province went into the polling stations on June 8 I hope they understood those commitments. To be fair to the government, the leader of the Conservative Party and his colleagues were out across the province reminding people that these were the commitments, and the people made a choice.

What were those commitments? They were not going to touch classroom education. Nowadays they're saying, "We aren't going to touch classroom education, but maybe the boards are." They didn't say that in May and June 1995. They didn't say, "We're going to cut the money and hope and believe that classroom education won't be affected." They said, "Classroom education will be exempt."

Mr Stockwell: It is.

Mr Wildman: The member for Etobicoke West can't have it both ways. He just a moment ago said the boards might not follow the directive of the government and that the government couldn't force them to. The Tories did not say that in May and June 1995. The Conservatives said clearly that classroom education was going to be exempt.

They also said, when they were talking to farmers, that agricultural expenditures would be exempt and that agriculture would get its fair share, that it hadn't been getting its fair share for so long and was going to get its fair share. As a matter of fact, some farmers, I guess incorrectly, understood that to mean there was actually going to be an increase in agricultural expenditures.

They also said, as they did with classroom education, that the health care envelope was sealed, that it would not be cut -- not that it might be cut now and more money put back in later, but that the envelope was sealed. We all know that's not the case.

This government also said that law enforcement would be exempt, as would classroom education.

The point is that you can't do all these things at once. The reality is that you're trying to do what is impossible in the current fiscal situation. You can't exempt all these areas, which are substantial in terms of the total budget of the province -- health care and education are two of the biggest expenditures of the government -- and at the same time have a tax cut and not have the deficit go up. It's impossible.

I think it's fair to say that the Tories, when they ran, believed it was possible -- emphasis again on "belief" and "faith." They did believe it. Unfortunately, as an article of faith, it may be something one can impress upon oneself every evening prior to retiring, but perhaps it does not really bear out in reality. And that's what we're seeing happening across the province these days: The numbers just don't add up.

I realize that the leader of the Conservative Party, the Premier, said -- I recall the incident when he said this during the election campaign -- that he wasn't very good with numbers. I don't pretend to be particularly good with numbers either. If he wasn't particularly good with numbers, that might explain why he believed it was possible to do the impossible with these numbers: to avoid a deficit increase, to actually bring it down and to bring down debt and at the same time have a major tax cut.


We have the equivalent of that continuing in this Legislature as the Treasurer, the Minister of Finance, continually gets up in this House and says that all the cuts that have been announced to education and to the other areas I've mentioned have simply to do with the deficit, have nothing to do with the other part of the government's fiscal plan. How they can split up their fiscal plan like that is beyond me. Obviously, it's all part of a package. You can't say, "We're dealing with the deficit today and up until early May, and then after that we're dealing with the tax cut, and the two aren't related." Of course they are. The cuts being made today relate to the deficit certainly, but they also relate to the tax cut, and if you can't finance the tax cut adequately through the cuts you're making to services and expenditures, you're going to have to borrow money to finance at least part of the tax cut. You're going to have to borrow more money and the deficit is going to go up. Why not just come clean and admit it?

It is true that one of the problems they have in admitting it, I guess, is the fact that the Premier made a couple of other statements in the campaign. He made it very clear that he would resign if he broke any of his promises. He said he was going to resign. I thought that was a very courageous statement. I thought this was a man who really believed in his program and he was going to try and make sure that he did it and, if he didn't do it, he would then resign and leave office.

Mr Gerretsen: You didn't really think so, did you?

Mr Wildman: Well, that's what he said.

Mr Gerretsen: I know, but you didn't really think so.

Mr Wildman: When questions have been raised, and I mentioned the issue of questions and how questions are asked and answered around this place, but when questions are raised in the House, very direct questions, not ones with long preambles, where a member on this side of the House will get up and say to the Premier through the Speaker: "You promised to do such-and-such" -- whether it be to protect classroom education or whether it be to protect agricultural spending and programs or whatever -- "but you've done the opposite. You've cut this much money" --

Mr Stockwell: In your opinion.

Mr Wildman: No, no. We're talking about cuts that have been announced by members of the executive council.

"You've cut this money. Isn't that breaking a commitment? Isn't that a broken promise?" It's a direct question, and then the Premier gets up and gives a very direct answer. He simply says no and sits down.

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): Well?

Mr Wildman: Well, it's a broken promise. I know, Mr Speaker, it would be completely inappropriate for me to suggest that the Premier is not being completely honest in his answer, so I would not say that. I would not ever want to say something that was inappropriate in this place. I never have over the years. We are all honourable members in this House, and I know when the Premier makes a statement in this House he is being honourable. He doesn't have to have that "Hon" in front of his name in order to be considered honourable. All of us are honourable members.

When the Premier says he is not breaking a promise, that it isn't a broken promise, he must believe that, and I guess some of the members who belong to the party that supports the government also believe it. But the point is he's wrong. You can't say on the one hand, "We are going to protect classroom education," then cut a whole lot of money out of grants that result in classroom education being adversely affected and then stand up and say, "We haven't affected classroom education." You have.

Even if you say it indirectly, as the member for Etobicoke West said it, and say, "We didn't do it; we just cut the grants; they did it; the board that gets the grants did it," the fact is that classroom education is not exempt. The Premier has said that he has no intention of resigning because he hasn't broken any promises, but every person who has a child enrolled in junior kindergarten knows the truth.

Mr Stockwell: We said we were cutting junior kindergarten.

Mr Wildman: Oh, no, they didn't say that. The member is wrong. They said they were going to make it optional. That's what they said. What is interesting is that the member for Etobicoke West in his interjection has admitted that by saying they were going to be making it optional, they were saying they were going to cut it, which is exactly what he said just now. I appreciate the member for Etobicoke for being so straightforward in saying that by making it optional, what the Tories were saying is that they were going to cut the program, and that's exactly what's happening.

Mr Preston: He didn't say that.

Mr Froese: That's his opinion.

Mr Wildman: Oh, that's his opinion. Perhaps that's worth about as much as the opinion of the Premier when he gets up and says he didn't break any promises. The fact is that the Premier has not been able to keep his commitments. I'm sure he wanted to. Those commitments have been broken, but he blatantly says they have not been and he has no intention to resign.

Let's look at this document that is called the Common Sense Revolution. I have a number of drafts of this document. It says on page 3: "Cut Non-Priority Government Spending. Total `non-priority' spending will be reduced by 20% in three years, without touching a penny of health care funding. Other priority areas of law enforcement and classroom funding for education will also be exempt." It doesn't say with a little asterisk there "as long as the boards go along with this"; it says that classroom funding for education will be exempt. It doesn't say it's dependent on the boards; it doesn't say, "The boards have to agree with us"; it says, "No, it's exempt."

If we look at page 8 of this well-known document under the heading "Education," it doesn't say it will be exempt from cuts; it says, "Classroom funding for education will be guaranteed." It doesn't say, "It's guaranteed as long as the boards agree with us"; it says "guaranteed."

"Our principle of `classroom-based budgeting' will help ensure that this essential service is protected and, indeed, that excellence in education and training is enhanced."

In the next paragraph it also talks about proposals made by the Tory party in the document it had presented prior to the election campaign called New Directions, Volume Two: A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario. In the estimates debate, the Minister of Education and Training essentially repudiated the document New Directions Volume Two: A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario, and said that document was developed two years prior to the election, that the fiscal situation had deteriorated and that you can't hold him to what it says in that document. The unfortunate thing is that in May and June 1995, the Conservatives weren't saying, "What the document we put out a couple of years ago said doesn't count any more." In fact, this refers to it, saying, "Our proposals for education reform are outlined in detail in our policy document, New Directions, Volume Two: A Blueprint for Learning in Ontario."

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): They have a number of different editions, I think.

Mr Wildman: I have the wrong edition?

Mr Marchese: They have some Liberal editions on the other side.

Mr Wildman: I see.

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): Why don't you read page 12 under "Junior Kindergarten" and find out --

Mr Wildman: I know what it says. I've got page 12 right here. It says, under junior kindergarten, "Government has continued this trend by making junior kindergarten mandatory for all primary schools as of the new school year in September. There is growing uncertainty among educators and parents about the wisdom of busing," and so on, and then it says --

Mr Preston: No, no. Not so. But carry on.


Mr Wildman: I am going to. It says here, "Until a complete review has been made of the impact of junior kindergarten, we will allow school boards to opt out of the program," and that is exactly what the government is doing. In this particular case, in fact, you have kept your promise. But the government has also cut the funding, so it isn't really optional if you don't have any money. It's like saying to an individual, "You have the option of buying a Mercedes-Benz instead of a Chevrolet, but I'm not going to give you the money for the Mercedes-Benz; I'm only going to give you the money for the Chevrolet. But the option is up to you." That's the position this government has taken. It's not really an option at all, because unless you have the money to provide the junior kindergarten program, you can't continue the program. It is impossible.

Mr Marchese: And most boards don't have the money.

Mr Wildman: And most boards do not have the money.

Bill 34, the bill that we are debating here, in our view completely contradicts the general commitments, the overall commitments, made by the Tories in the election campaign to protect classroom education. I don't know whether the Minister of Education is unaware of the commitments that were made. He certainly doesn't like the commitments that were made in the New Directions booklet, because it talks about actually doing a number of things that this government apparently is not prepared to do. But I agree that maybe he's unaware of those. It's possible. He wasn't here.

It was the member for London North who developed the New Directions booklet. We know that she really wanted to be the Minister of Education and Training, but the Premier chose not to appoint her to that portfolio and instead appointed her to a more important one. I remember when the Premier appointed his cabinet. There was some criticism by the media. I know the media are wont to make these criticisms and I know the member for Etobicoke West is also wont to make criticisms. It was, I know, one of the great disappointments of his career, but --

Mr Stockwell: It was a cold day in summer, as I recall.

Mr Wildman: Time will change, I'm sure. Just be patient. But I remember the Premier making a statement in answer to some criticism from the media about some of his appointments in which he said too much knowledge can be dangerous.

Mr Stockwell: That was my problem.

Mr Wildman: I'm sure that was the problem of the member from Etobicoke; he's certainly dangerous.

But you know, when you think about it, this is really turning the poet right on his head, isn't it? Because the poet said a "little" knowledge is a dangerous thing, not "too much." But the Premier has said that too much knowledge could be dangerous and therefore that explained why he did not want to have "experts" in various portfolios. We know that the British parliamentary system is a system that is dependent on rule by amateurs, and the government is attempting to fulfil that commitment in terms of our parliamentary system.

The new minister, not long after he was appointed, had a session with his senior bureaucrats which, unfortunately for him, was videotaped. I suppose the title of that particular tape was probably Cuts, Lies and Videotape, starring John Snobelen, but I wouldn't call it that. I would call it a gross mistake, an error on the part of the minister.

In that the minister said the government was committed to making major changes in the education system, and to be able to get the populace, the people to agree and to accept the need for these major changes, a crisis had to be created in education, and he has set about doing everything possible since to create that crisis.

He certainly has achieved that. In the last eight months he has created a major crisis in education in Ontario, and he seems to be proud of it. He seems to be very pleased with the problems teachers and school trustees and administrators and students and parents are facing in education, thanks to the cuts made by this government.

What have we seen? What kind of crisis are we facing? We are seeing mass layoff notices, far higher than we've ever seen in Ontario. I admit they are only notices and that not all of them will be laid off -- I hope not all of them will be laid off -- but the numbers of notices and the magnitude of those notices this year are much greater than they've ever been.

When this is raised, there are a lot of comments made on the other side. They argue a number of things. For instance, they might argue that because of the deficit strong measures have to be taken because we have to help the children of tomorrow. We can't saddle them with the debt.


Mr Wildman: The member across the way said our government never worried about that. That is of course not true. The fact is, we did make cuts, and you know we made cuts. If you were Minister of Natural Resources, you know very well that we made cuts.

But the irony of this, particularly as it relates to education, but you can talk about social services or health care in the same way, is that supposedly to help the children of tomorrow and save them from debt, the government is doing everything possible to hurt the kids of today. You're hurting programs that are benefiting kids today in order to somehow help their kids tomorrow. It doesn't make sense.

The suggestion that somehow to save the next generation we should clobber this generation I don't think makes a lot of sense. That's exactly what this government is doing and that's what Bill 34 is about in terms of education.

We've had all sorts of situations occurring in this crisis in education that has been created. I've got a number of articles --

Mr Preston: Probably written by the Star.

Mr Wildman: No. There are different newspapers here. One is the Hamilton Spectator and one is the Ottawa Citizen.

These stories are describing what's happening in education today in this province. We've been bantering back and forth, but frankly this is, as we all agree, a very serious issue. We may have disagreement about it, but here we have a situation where we have students walking out of their classrooms protesting what they think are changes that are coming because of decisions made by boards as a result of the cuts in funding from the provincial government that threaten programs that are important to these students.


Mr Wildman: It's been suggested across the way that teachers are telling them to walk out. I don't know whether that's true; I think it would be most irresponsible of teachers to do that. But the point is you have in the Hamilton Spectator a story about Glendale Secondary School where 100 students walked out in February to protest cuts in education funding because 15 teachers at Glendale Secondary School were losing their positions, they thought. They got their notices, and some of them will actually lose their jobs.


Then we have another story about the Catholic school system in Hamilton, where students are joining the fight against education cuts. We have a situation where students at St Mary's Catholic secondary school were going to join the rally, even though the school board and the school wanted them to stay in class, because they were concerned about changes in education and what it would mean in terms of the cuts.

In the Ottawa Citizen we have a story here from last month about adult high school students protesting possible closure of their program, that more than 300 adult high school students -- we're not talking here about adolescents; we're talking about adults who have gone back to school to upgrade themselves, get the skills they require, the kind of thing this government wants them to do, supposedly. I would certainly want them to do that. But I think the government says they want people to upgrade themselves, get the skills they require to be productive, provide for their families and contribute to society. These are adults who have dropped out of school as adolescents, most of them, and now are going back to school to get those skills, those very skills the government wants them to get. But 300 of these adult high school students went to the streets because they are worried that their school is going to close, and they protested outside the Ottawa Board of Education offices on Gilmour Street.

It's not often that you get students so concerned about the future of their education that they will walk out and protest, and you don't often have it happening in so many different places at once across the province. The reason this is happening is because, yes indeed, we have a crisis in education today in Ontario.

These are students who are concerned about their education. They're concerned about their futures. They're worried that the cuts that have been made by this government to the boards of education and the Catholic separate school boards that provide the programs upon which they depend to get the kind of education they require and need -- that those programs are going to be cut and they're not going to be able to get the kind of programs they need.

I know it's not just members of the opposition who are hearing about these things. I know that members of the Conservative Party, members of the back bench, are getting flak when they go home from teachers, from parents, perhaps from students as well, about changes and cuts being made to education in our own communities. I suppose they're finding it difficult to persuade the public, the people who voted for them, that they indeed are not breaking the promises made to exempt classroom education from the cuts. They must be having a difficult time justifying the fact that many, many teachers and other support staff are going to be laid off, and you can't pretend that all those teachers are outside the classroom, because they aren't.

The fact is, as in most large private sector companies, in education when layoffs are proposed it is usually -- not always, but usually -- last in, first out. That means the younger teachers are losing their jobs. It means those younger teachers in most cases are the teachers who are indeed in the classroom, and it may mean that people who have been in the classroom in the past but are now in other roles in education will be moved back into the classroom.

But I ask very seriously for members of the government party to consider this: Is it good for education, is it good for classroom education, to lose the new blood in the system? I don't think it is. I don't think these layoffs are good in one way or the other. I don't think it makes sense for us at this point in Ontario's history to be saying to the teaching profession that a large number of the teachers of this province should be out of work, that they should be out of jobs. I don't think it makes sense.

I think it is indeed a crisis, and not just a crisis in their own personal lives, in their family lives, that suddenly after working maybe five, six, seven, eight years in some cases, they're going to be out of a job. Certainly that's a crisis for them and their families. But I think it's very, very bad for education. I think it's bad for classroom education. I think it's bad for students. And this government will have to wear that. They cannot get away from it. The fact is, because of their commitments that are not being kept because of the changes in funding in education, that is what is going to happen. We don't know what the final numbers are -- that's true -- but mark my words, there will be layoffs.

I would hope that the members of the Conservative backbench will bring the concerns of their constituents about the future of education, about the future of students, to the minister, to the caucus and to the Legislature, and that they will represent the concerns of their constituents. It doesn't do any good to stand here and to say in response to constituents, "But we believe that the cuts can be made elsewhere and don't have to be made in classroom education and we don't have to lay off young teachers in order to do this, and it's the board's fault."

Frankly, if it means that the students' education is going to be hurt, it doesn't make a lot of difference to the students who's at fault. The fact is, funding is being taken out of the system, $1 billion in one year, and the minister admits that. He says at least $800 million, not $400 million, because it's annualized, and if you can make $1 billion, he'd be happy. He said that. You can't do that without affecting classroom education. It doesn't matter how many times Conservatives get up and say, "But we believe it can be done administratively"; it won't be.

What we've got is a situation where $430 million in what amounts to a four-month period, and then going back to last July, has been cut from primary and secondary education in the province. I don't think I have to explain why that's $1 billion or $800 million. I think everyone here understands that. Because of the different fiscal years of boards as opposed to the provincial government's fiscal year, it means that the boards essentially have to make those savings in a four-month period. So annualized it has major, major impact. As I said, the minister has said clearly that he welcomes that. If the boards take between $800 million and $1 billion out of the system, all the better, but the point is, that can't be done without affecting classroom education.

I don't know, if we were actually only taking $400 million or $430 million out of the education system over a 12-month period instead of a four-month period, whether that could be taken out without affecting classroom education. But I can tell you, you can't take $1 billion out without affecting it. I know that.

The point is that on June 8 nobody in this province voted to take $1 billion out of education in this province in one year; not one voter voted for that. And not one Conservative candidate said that was what was going to happen. As a matter of fact, because of what Conservative candidates were saying, I suspect most voters voted to protect classroom education. Nobody voted for this Tory attack on education, for this Tory attack on students. I suspect that many backbenchers on the other side of the aisle wouldn't have voted for that themselves. Nobody, probably including many members of the party that supports the government, voted for mass layoffs of teachers. Maybe some did, but I think more of Tory members than that. I don't think they would have voted for that.


That's what Bill 34 is about. It's a toolkit, so-called, that the Minister of Education and Training is providing to boards to allow them or to help them -- he uses the word "allow" -- to smash education in the province. He says it's permissive in most cases, that they're just allowing the boards to clobber students; that if they don't want to, I guess they can raise taxes. But then he says in the House that he doesn't want them to raise taxes. Again this is a sort of option thing: "You have an option to raise taxes, but we don't want you to raise taxes, so you don't really have an option to raise taxes."

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): If you can't find 2% of an operating budget --

Mr Wildman: The Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines says that I should be able to find it. All I know is what is happening. Let's look at what is happening in terms of the education system.

These are not all the notices that have been given out, but there are a number of them: Hamilton-Wentworth, 1,003 layoff notices issued; Peel region, the minister's own riding, 519 layoff notices issued; east Parry Sound, the Minister of Finance's own riding, 88 layoff notices issued -- that's one third of all the teachers in that system; Kitchener-Waterloo, in the Minister of Labour's riding, 477 layoff notices; Simcoe county, 952 layoff notices issued; Lincoln, 267 layoff notices; Muskoka, 50 layoff notices issued; Carleton, 450 layoff notices; Cochrane-Iroquois, 14 layoff notices; Haldimand, 113 layoff notices; Halton, 1,501 layoff notices; Hastings, 528 layoff notices; Lakehead, 149 layoff notices; Lambton, 52; London, 411; Manitoulin, 15; Northumberland, 312; Oxford, 540; Waterloo, 477; Wellington, 314; York region, 300-plus; Kapuskasing-Smooth Rock Falls, 22; Prescott and Russell, 40; Dufferin county, 40; York separate board, 418 layoff notices; Victoria county, 54 layoff notices; Niagara south, 280 layoff notices.

That's enormous. It's unprecedented. We have never seen these kinds of notices being given out at this time of year in previous years. It's never happened. It's not just a coincidence. I don't know whether the Conservative members think that somehow this is a conspiracy among the boards to make them look bad, but this is happening. That's what's happening out there across the province.

I reiterate that while, in the last analysis, not all these positions will be eliminated, there will indeed be major layoffs. A lot of the people who receive these notices are not going to have a job come September. That's what's going to happen. It's not a matter of faith or belief; it's the reality of the situation for these teachers and for their students and for the education systems in these various parts of the province.

How do you think that situation affects the morale in these education systems? Let's think about that for a minute and what effect that's having on classroom education. If these people don't know whether or not they're going to have a job and think that as of May 31 they may be told they are going to be out of work in September, how do you think that's affecting their performance in the classroom? I suspect many of these people are feeling very uncertain about their families and themselves, about their futures and financial obligations. They're feeling sorry and worried about the education of their students. They cannot be performing to an optimum level as teachers for those students in this kind of situation. It's inconceivable that they could somehow ignore the fact that they may be out of work in a few months and just go on as if everything were fine. In fact, the morale among teachers is at an all-time low.

We are indeed in a crisis in education, a crisis that has been brought on by the decisions of the minister and the government. It doesn't matter how many times Conservatives get up and say, "We believe these changes can be made at the administrative level"; the fact is that teachers and their morale are being hit hard because of these decisions and these notices, and that's adversely affecting classroom education in the province.

There's another point, of course: It's going to adversely affect, I suspect, collective bargaining between boards and teachers, and we may see major disruptions in collective bargaining across the province in the months going into September and into the fall. That will affect classroom education, particularly if it leads to work disruptions.

I don't see how Conservative members can stand here in this House day after day and say: "We're meeting our commitment to exempt classroom education. We're protecting classroom education. We're guaranteeing classroom education." We do indeed have a crisis in education, a crisis that didn't need to occur.

All of us recognize that there should be changes in education to keep curriculum and program up to date and meeting the needs of students as our society changes, as technology changes. All of us recognize there has to be change, and change can sometimes be difficult. But this kind of crisis is a crisis that is made and unnecessary. That's why we consider this debate on Bill 34, the toolkit that's making this crisis so real, to be so important, and why we are opposed in principle to the philosophy, the fiscal management and the changes that are behind Bill 34.

Mr Speaker, I have a few further remarks to make on Bill 34. If it is appropriate, at this time I will break my comments and reserve the rest of my time for the next day, if that's acceptable to you and to the members of the assembly.

The Deputy Speaker: It being almost 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 1759.