36th Parliament, 1st Session

L057 - Mon 15 Apr 1996 / Lun 15 Avr 1996











































The House met at 1333.




Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Last Thursday the government announced, in the Interim Report on Business Planning and Cost Savings Measures, that the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues will be disbanded and replaced by a supposed minister-led consultation process. For those who are unaware, the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues was established in 1984 by a Conservative government to advise the government on matters pertaining to the achievement of economic, social and legal equality for women.

Obviously, the Harris government is not interested in women or in what the women of Ontario have to say. The minister responsible for women's issues will lead a Tory-style, so-called consultation process. I remind you that this is the same minister who has tried to bully women's groups into silence.

This government has one mission: to provide a $5-billion tax cut to the wealthiest Ontarians at the expense and the silence of the most vulnerable. This cynical move is one more nail in the coffin as the voices of the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues is silenced. So much for the rights and freedoms enjoyed by women in Ontario.

Once again the cutthroat policies of this cruel government are harming Ontario's most vulnerable. This government has gutted protective services in second-stage housing, has cut funding for pay equity advocacy and legal services, has cut funds to prevent violence against women; now the government is gutting and cutting the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues, and the women of Ontario will not stand for this.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): The doublespeak of which this government is capable continues to reach breathtaking new heights. A government plan to further gut funding for women's programs is preceded by a particularly galling bit of fluff that states: "The Ontario women's directorate helps the government achieve its commitment to economic, legal and social equality for women...and ensure safe communities for all." What twaddle. What is this so-called commitment?

The Advisory Council on Women's Issues is to be disbanded and led by a so-called minister-led consultation process. Translation: Whatever Dianne Cunningham says, goes.

The Ontario women's directorate will be restructured. Translation: Funding will be slashed.

New and innovative ways will be found to prevent violence. Translation: Your funding is gone. Do it yourself. Victims' rights indeed.

Streamlining the administration of violence against women prevention programs. Translation: Public awareness campaign designed to save women's lives gone.

Funding for women's centres to be slashed; centres will have a year to find alternative funding sources. Translation: Remember the time you used to spend directly assisting women in need? Now you're going to be spending it fund-raising.

An underlying message runs through the language in the announced cuts: Women's programming is, according to this government, a fluffy frill that we really don't need. Shame.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I rise in the House today to offer my congratulations, encouragement and support to a fine group of young people in my riding who are making Ontario shine. I'm referring to Lois Burdett and her grade 2 and 3 students from Hamlet public school.

These fine young people have been working diligently to perfect their interpretation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Initially presented as a part of the program for the annual convention of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, which was hosted by the Stratford Festival this year, this troupe of young actors will be presenting six more performances this spring.

In addition to the many fine performances these young people are putting on here in Ontario, the show's run will be capped with a trip to Utah this summer to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Utah Shakespearean Festival and the 100th anniversary of that state.

The Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation was in Stratford on Saturday to attend a performance of the play and was duly impressed. In her speech following the play she admitted being moved to tears, and I believe there was no better way to describe the performance.

I encourage the other members of the House to attend one of the performances scheduled for this spring. It's an ideal opportunity to see Shakespeare's work being brought to life through the hard work and dedication of the young people of Perth.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): It took a while to read through the Tory doublespeak contained in Thursday's announcement, but I think we can now say that the following is true with respect to the business plans of the Minister of Natural Resources:

First of all, we can conclude that while the Tories talked about giving sole responsibility for forestry to one ministry -- the Ministry of Natural Resources -- prior to this election, Thursday's announcement suggests that meant responsibility for forestry would be given from the Ministry of Natural Resources to the private sector.

When the Tories say that the government is streamlining forest management, what they really mean is that they are privatizing forest management. When they refer to exploring a number of opportunities for the operation of provincial parks, that means they are either closing or contracting out as many as 60 provincial parks.

Following on this path leads one to conclude that eliminating "the majority of regulatory permits for activities on crown lands" means the Tories are making it easier for people to start fires in provincial forests.

Thursday's announcement confirms that doublespeak comes all too naturally to the minister sharing double responsibility for the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. It also speaks to the hypocrisy of this government. My advice to the minister is to stop sending mixed messages to the public on an issue as important as the management of our natural resources.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got an important observation to make. Back in the course of the election campaign, the Tories promised that funding for law enforcement and justice was going to be guaranteed, yet another promise broken at the expense of victims across this province -- the complete abandonment of funding for anti-drunk driving promotions that have been successful to a large degree in saving people from the carnage that's imposed and inflicted by drunk drivers on the highways and roadways of Ontario. The Tories simply don't care, and we're going to see an increase in the deaths flowing from drunk driving.

Victims of crime: guaranteeing funding for law enforcement and justice -- what a load of hooey. We're looking at a reduction of $4.5 million this year and twice that the year after in terms of reduced funding for law enforcement and for the criminal justice system. That means more and more cases are simply going to be pleaded away or withdrawn, abandoned. That means crime is going to be rewarded by a government that doesn't care about victims and doesn't care about families in those communities plagued by increasing crime. Better management, my foot -- $3.5 million and then $5 million in consecutive years being withdrawn, which paid for the very important and relevant services of court reporters which helped make our criminal justice system run. This government's going to create more acquittals, more withdrawals of charges and more successful --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Time has expired.



Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I rise today to bring to the attention of members of this House the wonderful work being done by a group in my riding known as Our Home project for Community Living of Durham region.

Our Home provides housing and residential services to individuals with complex care requirements as a result of development and/or multiple disabilities. Their families are supported in an environment that respects their dignity and provides opportunities for participation and growth. Services provided are lifelong, community-based and in proximity to family and friends.

This type of accommodation and support is flexible and tailored to each recipient's needs, ensuring that they remain an integral part of their own families.

Care at Our Home is considered on a case-by-case basis as space becomes available and is provided by fully trained, 24-hour awake staff and family involvement.

Funding for Our Home is from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, but other funding is secured through parental contributions, donations, membership fees and community fund-raising.

I know other members of this House will join me in commending Our Home for the very valuable work they undertake.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Consumers across Ontario are justifiably annoyed at the substantial increase in gasoline prices that represent a gouging of vulnerable motorists by oil companies.

In months gone by in southern Ontario, the price would fluctuate and bottom out at approximately 48 cents per litre. The low end of the scale appears to be in the neighbourhood of 56 to 57 cents per litre in this, the month of April, and as usual, prices seem suspiciously similar if not exactly the same at various gasoline outlets.

Purchasers of gasoline could be forgiven for their suspicion that there is price-fixing in the retailing of this industrial product which is essential to so many, and all the explanations and excuses by the oil industry spokespersons are failing to allay the concerns and anger of consumers in our province.

If the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Environment and Energy care about consumers in Ontario, they will let the oil companies know that it is unacceptable to dramatically increase the price of gasoline without justification, and to cease the price-fixing that plagues the retail gasoline industry in this province.

The private member's bill of Mr Bob Chiarelli, MPP for Ottawa West, is most timely now at this time of price-gouging and should be implemented by the government without further delay.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I rise today, Mr Speaker, to share with you and with the House and, most importantly, with the government what I'm hearing in my constituency.

People are increasingly more concerned and afraid. They want to plan for their future, they want to participate in the economy and access services, but they are anxious. They don't know what is going to happen next and, even more disconcerting, they don't think this government cares or wants to hear from them.

I met with several groups of people on Friday and over the weekend. At a health forum, I heard terribly troubling stories of people not being able to access in a timely and effective manner the care they needed.

In Sault Ste Marie, our hospital boards, administration and staff have rationalized and downsized until there is no place left to go to cut costs and not affect patient care. The new cuts for this year of over $3 million and the anticipated reductions for the following two years haven't even kicked in yet and already people are experiencing a very serious and real reduction in care.

I met with educators demanding that you travel the province with Bill 34. Like Bill 26, it will have a major impact on the quality of education and the life of our community. They, and others, want to be heard. They want to tell you that cutting $4 billion will affect significantly classroom education.

For them, and others, I ask, do you really know what you're doing? Do you understand the impact? What do we have to do to get through to you? Stop the damage and say no to the tax cut.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I rise today as the member for Scarborough Centre in order to bring to the attention of this House the 20th anniversary of an international music and cultural exchange that I had the great pleasure of participating in this past weekend in my riding of Scarborough Centre.

Between Friends is a band exchange between Scarborough Centre's Bliss Carman Senior Public School and Beach Grove Middle School from Beach Grove, Indiana, in the United States. Each year, one school band travels to the other school, and over the past 20 years, not only have the band members gained from many educational experiences, but also the schools and communities have benefited from the exchange. The exchange has created lasting friendships between the two schools and the two communities.

I'd like to take this opportunity to offer my personal congratulations to the overall dedication and spirit of the teachers, staff and communities at both schools who spent countless hours, days, weeks and months preparing for the exchange. These individuals are examples to the rest of us.

In the fall throne speech, Premier Harris placed great value on strengthening the role of volunteers in the community and bringing forth the best in neighbours among people of goodwill. This band exchange is all about cooperation, volunteerism and the giving of time, and it is the policy of this government to make these same values part of our province.

I ask every member of this House to join me today in congratulating the two schools on the 20th anniversary of their Between Friends band exchange and in recognizing the outstanding work of everyone connected with it.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I'd like to draw to the attention of the House that we had a choir from Portugal here today on the staircase, and we have many of them in the west gallery now. We welcome them.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: This is the first day of the sitting since the announcement by the Chair of Management Board on Thursday of the layoff of 10,600 staff. The Premier is not here, and it's difficult when the ministers involved, who have been impacted by the decisions of the government, are not here to answer questions about the effects of these announcements on their ministries. I don't understand how we, as members of the opposition, or all members of the Legislature, are to be able to properly ask questions in question period if the government is not represented here adequately to answer questions on specifics with regard to each ministry.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member does not have a point of privilege. There is no bearing, on what I have here, to this assembly, to make sure that ministers are here.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the acting Premier and Minister of Finance, who I believe is just about to resume his seat. Since I have a very short and very direct question, I'll give him that moment.

Prior to the election, Mike Harris said, and I quote, "A fee hike is the same as a tax hike." Minister, why did you introduce millions of dollars in new taxes last week?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): There are several increases in particular fees, as the opposition leader is well aware. We believe that people should be paying the cost of the service that they are provided. They should be paying for a particular service.

There are some things that are, of course, an obligation, I think, for government to provide, such as health care and education, in society. There are other things that perhaps it's more appropriate that individuals who use such services pay for such services.


Mrs McLeod: I think we have to remember that these new fees introduced last Thursday, fees that members of the government, including the Premier, used to call taxes, are on top of $250 million in new user fees that this government is now making seniors pay for their medication. These new fees are on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars in new municipal user fees that Ontarians are forced to pay thanks to Bill 26 and your cuts. And they are on top of the countless property tax increases that we are seeing right across this province.

After the millions of dollars in new user fees, tens of hundreds of millions of dollars in increased tuition fees, countless increases in property taxes, I suggest to this government that its income tax cut will be nothing but a shell game for the richest in our society.

Minister, given the fact that you used to say that user fees were taxes, given the fact that you always said that taxpayers were already paying too much, how can you, I ask you again, possibly justify imposing these new user fees?

Hon Mr Eves: First of all, I would say to the leader of the official opposition that there is no need for municipalities to increase property taxes. The whole point of this exercise --


Hon Mr Eves: I know that members opposite find this difficult to comprehend, but the whole point of this exercise is to restructure and rethink what services governments at all three levels provide to their constituents. There should not be hundreds of millions of dollars, as the Leader of the Opposition says, in increases in user fees by municipalities. If there are, then those municipal leaders quite frankly are not doing their job and they are not thinking through restructuring.

I might ask the leader of the official opposition to put the increase in fees that we have into proper context, and the proper context is that over a space of two years, yes, there could be up to a $12-million increase province-wide in particular fees for particular services that people use. That's $12 million, I might point out to her, of a budget of $57 billion. Would the Leader of the Opposition care to calculate for me what percentage of the total budget that is?

Mrs McLeod: The minister likes to take a context which is really quite isolated and talk about the new user fees -- in other words, taxes -- that were introduced last Thursday. They come on top of the new user fees, otherwise known as taxes, that were introduced in Bill 26, both in the form of user fees for health for seniors and the disabled and in the form of user fees that municipalities were given permission to put in place to make up for the cuts this government was giving to municipalities. It should be in the context, when I raise this question, of a government that used to say a user fee was a tax.

Not only is this government cancelling vital services; they are now going to make us pay every time we use one of the services that are left. If those aren't new taxes, I don't know what to call them, Minister.

Last week's announcement will affect everyone in this province. There is no one who will be spared from these new user fees. Minister, your plan to pass the buck on to taxpayers in new user fees is so transparent that the licence plates in Mike Harris's Ontario should now read, "User Fees: Yours to Discover." Isn't this the reality in Mike Harris's new Ontario?


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Put the signs down, please. Finance minister.

Hon Mr Eves: Was there a question in there? I don't think I heard one. To the honourable member opposite, I hope she and her colleagues didn't stay up all weekend producing those.

The leader of the official opposition makes comment about asking seniors to contribute $2 per prescription. I just might want to give her a little anecdote. The weekend after the announcement was made by myself on November 29, I happened to be in a pharmacy in Parry Sound and I was standing in line to get a prescription, unbeknownst to the person two people ahead of me. It was a rather elderly gentleman who asked his pharmacist if he could pay his $2 towards his prescription. The pharmacist said, "No, that doesn't come into effect until April 1 of next year." He said, "You know, that's too bad, because I think seniors such as myself should be contributing something towards the deficit."


Hon Mr Eves: I know you find that hard to believe, but there are actually Ontarians out there who want to be part of the solution.

I will also tell the leader of the official opposition something else. The one thing that the leader of the official opposition, and certainly the third party, never point out with respect to our health care announcements is that as a result of our health care announcement on November 29, 140,000 low-income, hardworking, taxpaying, honest Ontarians will now have a drug plan through the Trillium plan: no thanks to you and no thanks to you, but they will thanks to us.

Mrs McLeod: I was in a mall in my riding on the weekend talking to a low-income senior who said she could not manage the extra cost for her medications if she has to pay the dispensing fee. You will hear from a lot more of those seniors than the one you --

The Speaker: Order.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I have a question for the Chair of Management Board. My second question concerns the radio and television ads that the government ran over the weekend to pat itself on the back for last Thursday's announcement.

Minister, here is the example that you chose to highlight, that you consider to be such a waste of money that you spent $350,000 to tell the entire province about how you were going to cut unnecessary waste and expenditures so you could redirect that money to priority areas. Of course you'll be aware, because you ran this advertisement right across the province, that the ad states: "...sending OPP cars to Thunder Bay for basic repairs are the kinds of inefficiencies that we can stop so we can direct your tax dollars into priority areas."

Minister, I assume that you and your staff, in preparing your announcement, checked closely on all your information before it was published, so I will ask you, how much did the Solicitor General's office tell you it was going to save by no longer sending OPP cars to Thunder Bay for basic repairs?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): As the ad indicates, there are many cars within the OPP which have been directed to the Thunder Bay office for basic repairs in the past. Obviously, not all OPP cars from across the province of Ontario are directed to Thunder Bay, but there is quite a broad area where the cars, if they need maintenance, have been directed to Thunder Bay, many of them, of course, over a space of some considerable distance. I would suggest to you that every one of us in this Legislature would consider this to be a waste of taxpayers' dollars, to take an OPP car from some considerable distance, to send it to Thunder Bay to have it repaired and then send it back again. That doesn't make much sense.

This government has instituted a new program involving the private sector, so in a locale formerly serviced by the Thunder Bay repair, the local office will now be able to send it to a private sector service station and have it repaired at considerably less cost. And yes, there will be a saving to the taxpayer. We think that's good business.

Mrs McLeod: Not only was the minister's $350,000 advertising campaign based on wrong information; his answer today is still based on wrong information. The fact is that the OPP has never sent cars to Thunder Bay for basic repairs. In fact, only cars that are used by OPP officers in Thunder Bay are serviced there. So cutting this program, the program you chose to highlight in your advertising campaign, will not save a single cent because it was never a program that was in place. You can't redirect a single penny of this to new priorities because you haven't saved a single cent.

When you looked for the worst examples of waste you could find, the best example you could put forward in your advertising campaign of your mammoth, innovative, cost-cutting restructuring program, your example was simply wrong. Minister, it points out the fact that your so-called business plans are not ready to go. You are scrambling to find the dollars to pay for your tax cut. You were in such a hurry to make your grand announcement that you didn't even bother to get the basic facts right. How many more mistakes are we going to find in last Thursday's announcement?


Hon David Johnson: In fact, there will be about $225,000 saved in this fiscal year as a result of this action. Next year, in 1997-98, there will be some $300,000 saved as a result of this particular action. The Leader of the Opposition may not consider that to be a useful method and a useful way to save taxpayers' dollars, but I would think that most taxpayers would concur with this government that we need to look at all opportunities to save money, and indeed that's what we're asking. We're asking, through this ad, this ad that's going out to the people of Ontario, for people to get involved, to bring forward suggestions to this government, to come forward with their ways of how we can do better with less, because clearly, as the result of the spending of the Liberal government, as the result of the deficits of the NDP government, we have to do better for less or else we will continue to run huge deficits and run up the debt of the province of Ontario, and that is not acceptable to the people of Ontario any more.

Mrs McLeod: I hope the public has ideas that make more sense than the ideas that this government has been putting forward, and I hope that when the Minister of Finance finally brings forward a budget his numbers add up a little better than the Management Board chairman's numbers have just added up.

Minister, you will close the Thunder Bay office that did the repairs. No other cars but Thunder Bay cars were repaired there, so they won't be repaired there. But you forget to add in the fact that they are going to have to contract out those repairs and pay for those repairs. So your savings will not give you many dollars for redirecting to new priorities.

The Minister of Transportation also appears to have given the Management Board chairman the wrong information to justify budget cuts, in this case the budget cuts to GO Transit, because the minister has claimed that Go Transit is operating 2,000-seat cars to service just 20 passengers. I think all of us agree that that would be a horrendous waste of money, except for the fact that it just isn't true. Go Transit operates no trains that are that large, and it doesn't operate any routes that carry just 20 passengers.

When the minister's media assistant was asked to explain where the minister came up with this information, she said, "Who knows?" I think when this government says it wants to run government like a business, if any business did this kind of shoddy work, they would be laughed right off Bay Street.

Minister, it is abundantly clear that your government has not done its homework. You don't know what you're cutting, and you don't know what you're going to replace it with. You won't give us the business plans until after the budget because the business plans aren't there in any way that could stand up to any kind of scrutiny. Will you at least release publicly what you have up till now so that we can all see where the rest of the mistakes are?

Hon David Johnson: The Leader of the Opposition is concerned about the advertising campaign, and I might say that we're being very cautious and prudent about this particular campaign. There is a cost of some $350,000 to encourage the people of Ontario to participate. I would say, by contrast, in 1990 the Liberals spent over $1 million on an advertising campaign for OHIP.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I can't hear the answer. Order.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Tell us about the train.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton East is out of order.

Hon David Johnson: This is a campaign to involve the people of Ontario with ideas. The Thunder Bay garage repairs up to 100 new police vehicles for service annually. We have to look everywhere. We have to look within the GO Transit system. We have to look within the Ontario Provincial Police. We have to look everywhere for cost reductions. We are asking the people of Ontario to help us make government affordable, help us to come forward with better services for less. That's not a difficult concept.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a question to the Chair of Management Board. Last Thursday, we received the so-called business plans outlining how the Harris government is going to cut 10,600 jobs and $1.6 billion. At that time, the Chair of Management Board said that the business plans were a work in progress and he said that he couldn't give us any details because -- and I quote his statement -- "There'll be more decisions to be made and there'll be more positions...announced." He then went on to say, "The business plans are an ongoing proposition and they're being developed."

I would have found that odd enough in and of itself, given the nature of the decisions, but then the same minister on the same day went on to contradict himself when he said, "The various ministries, the ministers themselves, the deputy ministers and the staff in each one of the ministries have sat down, studied, analysed thoroughly the impact of these changes on their ministries."

I want to assume that latter statement more correctly represents what the minister and the ministers have done and so I want to ask the Chair of Management Board a very simple question on the basis of that analysis he says was done. He's announced the 10,600 reduction in the public service. What I'd like to know is, what is the impact of the cuts, given the analysis that they've done, in the broader public service in terms of jobs that will be lost and, more importantly, in terms of the range of services that will be lost? Can you tell us what your analysis tells us about those two things?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I wish to assure the member opposite that yes, the various ministries and deputy minsters and ministers have taken this review very seriously. There's been a great deal of time and effort put into it, but it is not complete. I will reiterate again here today that many of the proposals brought forward are still being reviewed and will be reviewed. It's a two-year window we're looking at and there will be decisions that will be made over the next year, and perhaps two, that will be a continuation of the process we're involved with.

What I have come forward with clearly, and I have indicated this right from the beginning, is a summary of the decisions to date of that process. I said last fall in this House that we'd be reporting back this spring with regard to progress. That's what I did last Thursday, and that progress up to this point indicates 10,600 positions, some of which are vacant, some of which undoubtedly will be pursued through early retirement, some of which will be involved in terms of shifting business opportunities to the private sector etc.

I'm not too sure what else I can tell the member but that we have an approach, a thorough review, and we're partway through it.

Mr Silipo: The minister could have answered my question; that's what he could have done. I didn't ask him about the process. I asked him what the impact is of the decisions that he himself says they've made already. If they've done such thorough analysis, why couldn't the minister give us the impact of those changes?

But let me go on, because unlike the government, we have been talking to people about the impacts of these cuts. What they have been telling us are things like this: In Kitchener-Waterloo last Friday we heard, for example, from the social planning council an estimate that some 5,000 to 7,000 jobs will be lost as a result of the actions of your government, decisions that the Chair of Management Board either has no analysis of or won't tell us. At that same meeting, we heard from one individual who works with people with disabilities, and she said, reflecting the views of many in that community, speaking about your government: "They have lied over and over again. They have cut services to the disabled and people are not able to be as independent as they once were. It's not just the cuts, it's the anticipation. Nobody knows what's going to happen." That's a direct quote, Minister.

Again I want to ask the minister: Which is it? Do you know the impact of the decisions, and if so, will you tell us what analysis you've done, Minister, or is it that you simply don't know or don't care what the impact is and you're just going to continue cutting and slashing?


Hon David Johnson: The answer is the same answer that was delivered last Thursday, which is that after the budget is delivered by the Minister of Finance, there will be a release of the business plans and the member will see the analysis and the review.

What I will tell the member opposite is the result if this government did not go through the process that we're going through and if this government carried on with the status quo, status quo as defined by the NDP government over the past five years and the spending patterns of the Liberals over the previous five years, the result would be growing deficits, spiralling debt, interest payments going through the roof, no money left for the services, the health, the education, the social services needed by the people of Ontario, all that money being consumed in interest payments, and the impact on the province of Ontario would be dramatic and drastic and extremely unfortunate. Indeed, there would be a growing lack of confidence in the province of Ontario. There would be increasing unemployment. There would be a continuing lack of hope and opportunity for the people of Ontario.

What we're coming forward with is a program to tackle unemployment, to tackle the growing deficit and to tackle the increase in the interest payments. In the final analysis, as a result, there'll be more hope, opportunity and job growth in the province of Ontario.

Mr Silipo: The minister will continue no doubt in his rhetoric, the government will continue in its rhetoric, but the reality out there, Minister, is a far different one, and you can refuse to see it for as long as you wish, but people out there are hurting and they're going to hurt even more before you're done with them.

But one of the things I want to ask you in my last supplementary, Minister, is about where your priorities are, because one of the things that's already been raised here today is the fact that you saw fit to spend some $350,000 to advertise to the public what you were doing. I want to be very clear, Minister, in asking you this question, that you hear this part of it as well, which is that I am not criticizing your government for spending money on advertising and telling people what you're doing. That's your right to do that. What I am going to question, however, is how you justify doing that when at the same time you see fit to cut from the same advertising budget the sum of $475,000 in initiatives to stop violence against women.

How do you square, Minister, your government's priorities, that says that it's okay to spend $350,000 parading your broken promises and spinning out that story, while at the same time you can justify slashing $475,000 out of the same advertising budget that would have gone towards preventing violence against women?

Hon David Johnson: The member opposite says that people are hurting, and I agree. There's no question that people are hurting in Ontario and they have been hurting for many years now, and for this government to turn its back on that situation would reflect very badly on this government. The whole program that we are bringing forward is to address the fact that people are hurting in Ontario today and we need to do something about it. We need to put in place policies to encourage employment. We need to remove the barriers to economic growth. That's what we are doing. We need to restore confidence in the fiscal management of the province of Ontario. That's what we're doing. If we can accomplish that, and I believe we can, then our program will result in more jobs and more opportunities.

The decision to advertise I think is one that all parties have acknowledged in the past. We need to advertise to let people know what the program is and we need to advertise to encourage people to participate, to write in, get a copy of the summary that we have, to bring forward their ideas. How can we present services in a more efficient manner, the services that people need, and at less cost? That's why we're advertising, and yes, there are reductions across the board, including in violence against women. The minister indicates that she has a program, core funding, that will address the needs in that area, but there have been reductions.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): It's unfortunate that the minister isn't here to tell us how she's going to deal with the problems of battered women when she's cancelling this program.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Since the minister of northern destruction is absent, I will direct a question to the Chair of Management Board.

Last Thursday all of us in the House had the embarrassing experience of seeing the Minister of Natural Resources and of Northern Development and Mines try to explain the massive cuts in the Ministry of Natural Resources. He didn't understand what was happening to his ministry. He didn't realize that 2,100 full-time-equivalent jobs out of a total of 4,600 are being lost in that ministry. He tried to explain that laying off more than 40% of the staff and cutting $137 million from the MNR budget would still make it possible for him to protect the natural resources in this province.

Can the minister stand in his place and assure this House that the government axe we've seen with regard to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the major downsizing of over 40% of that ministry, will not put our resources at risk and will not at the same time significantly harm the economies of many communities across the northern part of the province?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I can certainly assure the leader of the third party that this is not only the objective, but that the goal of this government is to increase the services and do better. In the particular case of this ministry, there are a number of different alternatives that the minister is proposing: greater use of the private sector, for example, in the planting of trees and managing of forests, whereas the ministry will be involved in setting the policy in the first instance and policing the policy, I suppose, but calling on the private sector to deliver the services.

In the case of parks management, the minister is proposing to enter into partnerships with municipalities and perhaps with the private sector in terms of the delivery of services in some of the parks.

There will be less cost, there will be fewer staff who will be required to manage the programs, but the programs will be delivered every bit as well, if not better, for less money.

Mr Wildman: The minister doesn't seem to be aware that the announcements made last week will have a devastating impact on small communities across the whole of northern Ontario as well as on the larger northern communities, certainly.

Minister, your government is cutting $46 million from forest management and protection in this province, and you mouth words that you'll be able to deal with this in terms of agreements with the private sector. If I could quote Robin MacIntyre, a member of the citizens' advisory group in Sault Ste Marie district: "You hear lots of words about sustainability being used, but it really doesn't mean anything. It's just a trade word. The forest industry hasn't proven that they are able to monitor their own sites and take responsibility for selective cutting."

You're turning over the management of resources and protection of forests to large companies as a result of this announcement. The forests of the province belong to all the people, not just to forestry companies, and your government, the Ministry of Natural Resources, has a responsibility for the sustainability of our ecosystem. What actions are you taking to ensure that our forests will be properly managed on behalf of the people of Ontario by this policy of letting the fox into the hen-house in our forest management?

Hon David Johnson: There will be staff reductions. The member opposite has indicated that. In fact, the reductions in southern Ontario actually exceed the reductions in staff in northern Ontario by about 10%, just for the information. But to directly respond to the question, there will be still over 4,600 staff remaining in this ministry. I believe, this government believes, the minister believes that -- this is the information that I have from the ministry, over 4,600 staff, and those people will ensure that, in terms of its involvement, will be able to administer the staffs and police the private sector and ensure that our natural resources are protected.


Mr Wildman: Minister, it's completely wrong. The total staff today is 4,600 and he's cutting 2,100 out of it. There won't be 4,600 left. You're cutting 40% out of the 4,600.

I'll give you an example of what this ministry is doing. According to the document that was provided to our critic for the Ministry of Natural Resources, the ministry is closing a total of 17 out of 19 fire bases in northern Ontario. In the eastern region alone, Temagami, Blind River, Bracebridge, Bancroft, Whitney, Moosonee, Kapuskasing, Hornepayne, Gogama, Kirkland Lake, Elk Lake, Manitouwadge have all had their fire bases closed as a result of this announcement. Surely the minister is aware of the significant risk to communities as well as our forest resources if we don't have adequate ability to meet a forest fire emergency. Surely he doesn't forget that last year we had to evacuate communities like Dubreuilville because of serious fire risk during the fire season.

Minister, with the closure of 80% of the northern fire bases, as part of a 40% cut in the staffing of the Ministry of Natural Resources, how can you explain that that ministry is going to be able to do better with less? The fact is, we're doing less with less and our resources and northern communities in particular are at risk as a result of your decision. How can you guarantee that there'll be proper firefighting ability for the Ministry of Natural Resources when you're closing 80% of the fire bases?

Hon David Johnson: There will be a consolidation of the offices and this government is clearly attempting to do the same job with less resources --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member for Cochrane North is out of order.

Hon David Johnson: This government has had to revamp government. We are running deficits, your deficits, of over $10 billion a year. How long do you think that that can carry on? How long do you think we can carry on with the status quo? Government has not been revisited for over two decades.

I can assure the member opposite and the people of northern Ontario that this government will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the safety and this government has reviewed the program in place for firefighting, is consolidating and is coming forward with a program that will work. I can assure the member opposite that the note I have is that in fact there will be over 4,600 full-time equivalents in this ministry. I think the people of the province of Ontario would say that's a good number of people to look after the services, to look after the environment, that is necessary in northern Ontario and indeed right across the province.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Energy and it concerns Hydro policy. Minister, as the person who articulates the provincial government's Hydro policy, I'd like to ask you whether or not you and your government are prepared, as a matter of policy, to sell off the public's hydro-electric assets at Niagara Falls.

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I thank the member opposite for the question. What we have been attempting to do since forming the government is to find ways to ensure the competitiveness and the stability of Ontario Hydro. In Ontario we're faced with uncompetitive rates from our public utility.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): You can't be selling Niagara Falls. Say no.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order, the member for Oakwood.

Hon Mrs Elliott: We have established the Macdonald committee, which will be returning to me shortly with some recommendations for the government.

Mr Colle: There is nothing sacred.

The Speaker: The member for Oakwood, come to order.

Hon Mrs Elliott: We will be formulating a government approach on different ways to restructure that utility so it can indeed provide reliable power and competitive rates.

Mr Conway: Let me be clear: As a matter of public policy, are you and your government prepared to sell off the public's assets in terms of hydro-electric resources at Niagara Falls?

Hon Mrs Elliott: Over the years, the taxpayers and the citizens of this province have made an enormous investment in Ontario Hydro. It is a utility that has been admired throughout the world for many things it has done. We require its power; it's very, very important to our economy. We recognize that. We also recognize the fact that it is approaching a state where its rates are uncompetitive. We are looking at the entire system to see how we can restructure it to make it competitive to provide safe, reliable power. As a government, we have not made determinations on how we are going to change this utility.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is regarding this government's latest surprise attack on the health and safety of working people in the province of Ontario and it's directed to the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services. Your government has not been content with just abolishing the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, slashing mandatory health and safety training, and taking away support and benefits from injured workers. Now we learn that your government and your ministry are intending to change the Coroners Act and remove the mandatory requirement for inquests whenever there are deaths on a construction site or in a mine.

Workers and their leadership in this province are shocked and angry. We know that in Steelworkers Local 6500 in Sudbury Dave Campbell said, "Fatalities in the mining industry used to be through the roof and mandatory inquests help reduce the number of deaths." Roly Gauthier of Mine-Mill CAW Local 598, representing Falconbridge workers, said, "You can't quantify the number of lives and limbs that have been saved by inquests, but we know there are many."

Why didn't you listen to workers and their representatives before you made a decision that could very well make their working lives very, very dangerous? Why didn't you do that?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): We've listened to the advice of the chief coroner's office, and they are not ruling out inquests with respect to deaths in the construction or mining industries. If there's a clear justification for an inquest to be called, it will happen. I think the member is being alarmist with respect to this issue. If you take a look at virtually every other province in this country -- the only one we haven't been able to confirm it with up to this point is Newfoundland, but every other province has moved in this direction. We feel very confident in the abilities and skills and the responsiveness of the chief coroner's office with respect to concerns that are raised surrounding any questionable death in either the construction or mining industries.

Mr Christopherson: Let me just say to you that to the working people of this province, "Inquests if necessary, but not necessarily inquests," is not a good enough policy when we're dealing with life-and-death issues affecting working people. We know the track record of this government in terms of not wanting to talk to anyone outside their friends and the bureaucracy. The fact of the matter is that under Bill 7, where you took away rights that, in part, caused the strike with OPSEU, with the royal commission on WCB and even with the current Jackson report, which intends to gut the WCB, there's no opportunity for public consultation, meaningful input from the people whose very rights you're taking away.

My question to you is very specific and it's very straightforward: Will you commit today to meeting with workers' representatives in a public meeting to allow them to give you their side of this issue before you arbitrarily and unilaterally take away a right they now have that you didn't run on in this province as a mandate? Will you commit today to that kind of meeting in an open, public forum?

Hon Mr Runciman: Before this change does become law it requires an amendment to the Coroners Act, as I would think the member is aware. There will be an opportunity for public input through that process, and in this assembly. I want to assure that member that we in no way will do anything that is going to jeopardize workers' safety in this province.



Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Energy. On Monday last, thousands of gallons of chemicals spilled into the Etobicoke river after a holding tank ruptured at an Etobicoke plant manufacturing margarine.

The 4,600 gallons of lye posed a serious environmental hazard to river life. Citizens have been warned to keep away and also to have their pets kept away from this situation. There's also a possibility that the lye could have an adverse impact on the sewer system in that particular area between Belfield Road and Dixon Road.

Minister, how can you assure us that the safety of the citizens of Etobicoke will be protected and wildlife simultaneously protected?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I thank my colleague the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale for the question. He's quite right that there was a serious spill into the river in his riding last week. I would like assure my colleague and the citizens in his riding that the ministry was there shortly after it happened. There was a significant rise in the pH level of the creek, and I would like to assure him that as of today the pH level is returning to normal. The ministry staff is testing the sediment in the creek at this point in time.

Under the rules of the Environmental Protection Act, the company itself is responsible for the cleanup in an unfortunate occurrence such as we've experienced. I would like to assure the member that the company is taking its responsibility seriously. They have hired a private security company to guard the edges of the river bed to warn people of the dangers at present and to keep them away from any hazardous situations that arise.

Mr Hastings: The supplementary deals with the ministry's role in providing a specific update and a comprehensive report on this incident at the most appropriate time.

Hon Mrs Elliott: We are on the scene. The investigation and enforcement branch has been called in to investigate. It does not appear at this point that there is damage to the infrastructure, but we will continue to investigate and monitor this. We will ensure that the citizens are protected and that the site is returned to normal.

If charges are required, they will be laid, and I would like to assure the member that not only will we be investigating and making sure the cleanup occurs, but we will be working with the company to ensure that such an occurrence does not happen again. I will be most happy to report to my colleague at the conclusion of this investigation.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): My question is to the Minister of Labour. The enormity of the damage of the cuts announced last Thursday on northern Ontario is indefensible and unjustifiable and certainly will have to be revisited by all ministries, in particular the minister responsible for the protection and viability of the north, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.

The business plan not only impacts upon the lives of northerners, but from now the removal of the provision of mandatory inquests for construction and mining deaths from the Solicitor General's business plan affects the deaths of miners and construction workers and their families.

My question is simple. As the person responsible for miners, miners' safety and safety in the workplace, do you agree with the direction taken by the Solicitor General and did you advise him, or did he seek your advice about this particular aspect of his business plan?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): To the member opposite, I certainly share your concern for the safety of the mining community. I would indicate to you that I have been assured that no changes have yet been made to the Coroners Act, and that when those changes are going to be made, there will be consultation and there will be in no way any compromise of workplace health and safety. As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, our objective is to create the safest workplaces in this world. We intend to do that.

In fact, I want to also indicate to you that the Ministry of Labour will continue to investigate all workplace fatalities. We will continue to make the information available to the coroner, who then will make the determination, and we will continue to enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act as a result of the information. I can assure you that people in the mining industry will be provided with greater safety than ever in the past.

Mr Bartolucci: The rhetoric of it is very nice, but in fact the mandatory obligation for an inquest is removed.

There is obviously a correlation between the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and your ministry when it comes to safety in the workplace and in particular safety in the mines. Could you please inform the members of the House, did you meet with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and did you, jointly or independently, make any recommendations to the Solicitor General with regard to this particular aspect? If so, would you please inform the House what those recommendations were?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would indicate to you that we will be meeting with the Solicitor General, and I have been assured that there will be no compromise to workplace health and safety.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Mr Speaker, I did have a question for the minister responsible for women's issues, but I see that once again she isn't here, in fact has not been in the House since the so-called business plan and summary were released.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Not only is the member's comment about somebody else's presence inappropriate; she might want to know that the minister's son today is having very serious surgery and she thought she might want to be there for her son. I know the member for Riverdale wouldn't understand that. You might have the class to stand up and apologize.


Hon Mr Eves: That is exactly why you are not supposed to make the comment, dummy. I withdraw the word "dummy," Mr Speaker. Just "insensitive."

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Point of order.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): There's nothing out of order.

Mr Crozier: The word "insensitive" is not?

The Speaker: No, there's nothing out of order. We're in question period. If you have a point of order you want to raise later, you can --


The Speaker: No, there's nothing out of order. Member for Riverdale.

Ms Churley: Mr Speaker, given that information, I withdraw that comment.

There is an issue I would like to address to the Minister of Community and Social Services on a very sensitive point. I would like to ask the minister what his government has against single mothers and their children.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): Nothing. We're trying to assist them.

Ms Churley: I have news for the minister. He might be interested to know that to date, although this government likes to talk about helping get people receiving social assistance out of the cycle of dependency --

Hon Mr Eves: Give me a break.

Mr Crozier: I wish I could. You don't deserve it.

Hon Mr Eves: You don't think somebody should be there when their child is having an operation?


The Speaker: Order.


Ms Churley: Mr Speaker, I did withdraw the comment, given the information. And I note that there are many ministers missing here today, which can be very frustrating to us, after this document was released.

I am asking a question about the cycle of dependency, which this government has said time and time again it would like to see people receiving social assistance get out of, so let's look at what you've done so far to help single mothers in this province.

You've cut the counselling dollars for second-stage housing that help them find jobs and new housing. You've changed the funding formula for the Jobs Ontario child care spaces. We know municipalities have already eliminated more than 4,700 subsidized spaces and will soon announce a workfare program that does absolutely nothing to help single mothers get back to work, including no new child care spaces.

Now, Minister, you have told those pursuing post-secondary education that they will be cut off welfare and to rely on OSAP, not only saddling them with a huge loan burden but taking away the medical and dental benefits they now get for themselves and their children. Will you explain to the women of Ontario how this policy is supposed to give them a hand up?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Let me be clear that in most cases post-secondary students will be eligible for more assistance for living costs and education costs than they would be under the old system, and this is part of our overall objective to improve the system. We believe in giving people the opportunity to invest in their own education and allowing them to chart their own course for self-independence and self-sufficiency. We're no longer going to force students, as the old system did, into the welfare system in order to get post-secondary education; we encourage them through OSAP, and clearly our whole system is geared to provide student assistance, not welfare assistance.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): My question today is to the Minister of Education and Training. Minister, a number of people in my riding have expressed a concern over friends and family who have moved to Ontario and are unable to practise their professions because either academic or professional credentials are not accepted here in Ontario. We've heard all kinds of stories about chemists sweeping floors, skilled engineers waiting on tables, and things like that. Minister, are you prepared to take any steps so that these talented newcomers can receive an opportunity to work here in Ontario in their chosen field and thus provide the maximum benefit to this province's economy?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for Brampton North for the question. As part of this government's commitment to the equality of opportunity for all people in Ontario, the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and my ministry have been working together to address those issues the member has brought up so well today and has identified so well, the issues particularly of people who are recent to Ontario who have credentials from other parts of the world who want to practise their professions here in Ontario.

We are exploring now the options for servicing those people through a credential assessment service. This was announced earlier this year. We're cooperating with other provinces in Canada that have offered this service and have a model for offering this service. We're looking into that now and we hope to have, and in fact we expect to have this service up and running in 1997, and we have budgeted for the startup funds for this project, so it's well under way.

Mr Spina: Minister, we know that Ontario's immigration pattern is shifting, with a large number of immigrants coming from countries whose education and professional criteria are really quite different from our own. As part of these assessment processes, do you feel you'll be able to get the appropriate information on these international programs to be able to apply them here in Ontario?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Again, the member for Brampton North points to a very particular part of these assessment and credential problems that we have currently. In fact, Ontario receives over 50% of immigration to Canada currently, and over half of that is from Asia, Africa, Central or South America. From many of those countries of origin the exact nature of the credentials is not well known, particularly not well known to the professional governing bodies here in Ontario. So part of the job of an assessment service will be to keep a database up and to be able to identify what the equivalencies are of those accreditations from around the world.

That's one of the reasons why we think it's important to have this agency, so that those comparisons can be both impartial and consistent and so that those recent immigrants to Ontario who have professional status in their home country can, if that professional status matches with the requirements here in Ontario, perform their profession here in Ontario and save the taxpayers of Ontario obviously the cost of reinvestment in an education that's already happened and allow those people to enjoy the full benefits of life in Ontario.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a question for the Solicitor General. Mr Minister, as you know, last week the Minister of Transportation announced that he was planning to increase speed limits on Ontario highways in the 400 series from 100 kilometres per hour to 120 kilometres per hour. Given the concerns raised over the last two or three days by a number of front-line OPP officers about the negative impact this greater speed will have on people's safety on Ontario highways, I wonder whether or not the Minister of Transportation consulted with you or the OPP before he made the announcement, and I wonder whether or not you support or agree with this proposal to increase the speed limit to 120 kilometres per hour.

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I don't believe that the Minister of Transportation has made an announcement with respect to increased speed limits. I believe he was indicating that he was prepared to take a look at that question that had been raised with respect to the 400 series of highways. We did indeed have a brief discussion following that comment and I know that, as the member has indicated, there certainly are concerns that members of the OPP would have if indeed that change took place, essentially with respect to having the ability to enforce a zero tolerance policy and the manpower that would involve.

Mr Colle: A lot of people have been saying that it's almost a rare sighting to see an OPP cruiser on our provincial highways because of the cutbacks, so they're just wondering where this government is going to get the resources to implement a zero tolerance policy when right now they can't find the resources to fund highway safety and enforcement. I just wonder again, Mr Minister, whether you, as the minister in charge of the OPP, knowing the constraints you have, will have the ability financially to increase the enforcement, especially when you don't have the option of photo-radar any more so you're left with basically a manpower-personnel option only. Can you support this proposal, given your constraints in your department, because you're going to have to be out there in the front lines ensuring people don't travel 150 or 160? Can you support that, considering your constraints?

Hon Mr Runciman: This is truly speculative because the minister has not made a formal proposal along these lines or had any formal consultation with my ministry, nor I with the OPP or police services across this province.

I do want to indicate that I was informed by the OPP commissioner about two weeks ago that we now have an additional 85 marked police cars on the highways of this province, so that hopefully the visibility question is going to be addressed by those additional marked cars on highways in this province.

Certainly if this is under serious consideration, I know the minister and others concerned with respect to road safety questions will sit down, will discuss it thoroughly along with his officials, my officials, others who will be impacted by road safety questions and certainly the police services across this province.



Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Mr Speaker, a point of personal privilege: I would like to apologize to the minister responsible for women's issues for my comments. In the heat of the moment sometimes we say these things. On behalf of me and all my caucus, I sincerely wish the minister and her son all the best.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I have today an additional 4,050 names on a petition which now amounts to over 18,000 names from 51 communities across this province that have been gathered by Rose Kulimouski and Mae Mussolum. I want to add these 4,000 to those that have been presented already.

They "call on the Minister of Health to restore the $1.3 billion that was cut on November 29, 1995," from the health care budget, "and to ensure that the health care budget will stand at $17.4 billion for every day of the life of this government."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition that was sent to me by a member of my riding, asking me to present this to the Legislature, indicating that those who have signed this petition conscientiously object to tax breaks the present government is planning to implement.

"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 province's debt and deficit are paid down."

I agree with the comments of my constituents and I am proud to sign this petition.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to rise today to present a petition for the people from Durham East.

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to not proceed with the privatization of Ontario Hydro, especially under the nuclear component which represents a potential safety threat to the people of Ontario (in any unregulated environment)."

I sign my name to this petition.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): "Whereas the Common Sense Revolution states that a Conservative government will not cut health care funding; and

"Whereas during the 1995 election campaign, the Conservatives clearly promised to defend the health care system by protecting ministry funding, stating in a campaign backgrounder, `There will be no cuts to health care funding by a Harris government,' and calling this their first and most important commitment;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, call on the Minister of Health to reject all recommendations put forward by the Hamilton task force related to any hospital closures in Hamilton-Wentworth, and in particular St Joseph's Hospital, 50 Charlton Avenue East, Hamilton."

I will add my name to this, and this will make over 10,000 signatures that have been presented to this House on this issue.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I'm pleased to rise today and present a further 2,000 signatures gathered by Rose Kulimouski and Mae Mussolum, to bring to over 20,000 the signatures to the following petition:

"Whereas the Common Sense Revolution states that a Conservative government will not cut health care funding; and

"Whereas during the 1995 election campaign, the Conservatives clearly promised to defend the health care system by protecting ministry funding, stating in a campaign backgrounder, `There will be no cuts to health care funding by a Harris government,' and calling this their first and most important commitment; and

"Whereas the Conservative government has already cut $1.3 billion from the budget of the Ministry of Health when on November 29, 1995, the finance minister announced a series of spending cuts designed to reduce the deficit; and

"Whereas the $1.3 billion in funding has gone directly to reduce the deficit and therefore cannot be reallocated within the health care system;

"Therefore we, the undersigned, call on the Minister of Health to restore the $1.3 billion that was cut on November 29, 1995, in order to maintain the promise made by this government to protect health care funding and not cut health care; to reaffirm this government's commitment to no new user fees; and to ensure that the health care budget will stand at $17.4 billion for every day of the life of this government."

I'm proud to affix my signature along with the 20,000 other people in this province who have already done so.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have another petition. This one is on the family support plan. It reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we believe that the family support plan is a viable and necessary service provided by the government in Ontario,

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

"That the proposed centralization of the family support plan will have a negative impact on the children who are supported under this program."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Peter North (Elgin): There are more than 16,000 signatures I've received against the closure of the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital. It reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario as follows:

"That a recommendation by the psychiatric hospitals restructuring committee to close the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital be rejected.

"We believe the restructuring committee has not fully considered the case for retaining the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital.

"We believe the hospital and the community of St Thomas provide care and caring for psychiatric patients which is equal to, and better than, London.

"We believe closure of the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital will have a devastating impact on the economy and the residents of St Thomas and Elgin county.

"We believe London can better absorb the impact of closure of the London Psychiatric Hospital.

"Finally, we believe it would be cheaper for government to retain the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital in terms of capital improvements required to both facilities."

"Therefore, we request that the government refrain from endorsing and implementing the recommendation to close the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital."

I've affixed my signature to this as well.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have a petition.

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

"Whereas this Conservative government states it is committed to ensuring a larger share of the education dollar goes to the classroom; and

"Whereas this Conservative government fully expects boards to meet transfer reductions by cutting costs outside the classroom; and

"Whereas this Conservative government has made junior kindergarten a matter of choice for local school boards and has reduced the funding for junior kindergarten;

"Therefore, to ensure 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 affix my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I am pleased to present petitions and letters from Gwen Lee, Donna Bentley-Ward and Rose MacGowan from my riding on behalf of thousands of constituents. The petition reads as follows:

"Whereas the Ontario Realty Corp was directed to develop a plan to sell the more than 84,000 units owned by the Ontario Housing Corp; and

"Whereas the cut, slash and burn policies of the Progressive Conservative Party have forced seniors, families and social assistance recipients to rely, more than ever, on rent-geared-to-income public housing in order to maintain a decent quality of life; and

"Whereas the sale of OHC units would impose undue hardship on hundreds of thousands of people across Ontario; and

"Whereas the administration of rent-geared-to-income OHC properties by our local housing authority of Hamilton-Wentworth is conducted in a more responsible and cost-effective manner than the proposed privatization-shelter allowance concept;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned representatives of the three area tenant advisory committees in Hamilton-Wentworth, petition the Legislative Assembly to ensure that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing address the concerns and answer the questions of the 2,750 signators of the accompanying letters and petitions, and we request consultation with OHC tenants beyond Metro Toronto regarding the proposed sale of their homes."

I proudly join with my constituents and add my name to theirs.



Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I am presenting a petition my office received from the OSSTF, PR division, with respect to the proposed Ontario College of Teachers. It's not in the right format, but I'd like to present it anyway.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I have a petition to the Legislature signed by 330 teachers:

"Whereas the public and 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 the petition.



Mr Chudleigh from the standing committee on finance and economic affairs presented the committee's report on draft legislation on auto insurance and moved its adoption.

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

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): It is my pleasure to stand in the Legislature and deliver the standing committee on finance and economic affairs' report on auto insurance.

As the House would know, the committee travelled to Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Ottawa and London, in addition to hearings in Toronto. On this journey, we consulted and canvassed a wide variety of opinion which included all sectors of the auto insurance industry. Those representing insurers and those personally injured had an excellent opportunity to air their thoughts and views on the government's proposed legislation.

On behalf of the committee, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all groups and individuals for their input into this decision-making process and assure them that their opinions and views were taken into consideration in drafting this report.

Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues in all three parties for their time and effort on the report and draft legislation.

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.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I was informed earlier today that there would be two guests in the Speaker's gallery: the Honourable Angela Knight, British Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and Mr Peter Davies, British consul general. Those are the two people I was informed would be in the Speaker's gallery. Welcome.



Mr Bob Wood moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr45, An Act respecting Anglo Canada General Insurance Company.

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

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent to deal with the motion for interim supply.

The Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.



Mr Eves moved the following government notice of motion:

That the Minister of Finance be authorized to pay the salaries of civil servants and other necessary payments pending voting of supply for the period commencing May 1, 1996, and ending October 31, 1996, such payments to be charged to the proper appropriation following the voting of supply.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I have no further comments with respect to this matter, Mr Speaker. There will be several speakers from our side of the House, and I would defer to the official opposition.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to indicate at the outset of my remarks that I will be sharing the leadoff time under our orders with my colleague the member for St Catharines. Let it be clearly indicated that Mr Bradley and I will be sharing the 90 minutes.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Can I have unanimous consent to allow that to happen?

Mr Conway: I didn't seek consent to that. Let me seek the consent of --

The Speaker: We have consent? Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Conway: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and I want to thank honourable members for that.

I'm happy to see the chancellor of the exchequer here today. He seems to be somewhat calmer after question time. I worry, quite frankly. I've known the chancellor for 16 years now, 15 years, and the chancellor is altogether too exercised and often too angry at question period. I know I'm the one saying that, but you can't and shouldn't be as bad as I am. You're too young to be too angry that continuously at question period. So we've got to see more of the relaxed Ernie in question period.

But it is good to see the chancellor looking in a happy and expansive mood when I think of the social credit economics with which he has to now deal, particularly as between now and budget day three or four weeks hence. One of the things that I can say, as someone's who's known the chancellor for, as I say, a decade and a half is that he is a supremely sensible, practical man. He knows the kind of hocus-pocus economic and fiscal game into which his seatmate has now forced him, and it must cause the chancellor, in a private moment, some considerable anguish.

I know his deputy, who I gather has embraced the new canon with an enthusiasm that has to be seen to be appreciated, so I would say to the chancellor that he might want to convey my very best seasonal wishes to the deputy, who I'm sure is engaged in very important public business elsewhere.

I wonder how many of the deputy's old friends at the University of Western Ontario looked at the sunshine list and said, "Aha, he got us after only nine months."

Speaking about the sunshine bill, wasn't that an interesting list? We've been asked to come here today to vote supply, and that's a very important business for the Legislature to do, for any Parliament to do.

I must say that in the county of Renfrew there was more than passing interest in the century club. I think it is fair to say that the absence of my good friend the mayor of Montague, the member for Lanark-Renfrew -- I don't want to speak too completely on the subject, but certainly it was of some interest to find that there were five members of our public board of education who had made the list. It was of some interest as well, I think, to find out that directors of education are paid better than provincial court judges in some cases. It was interesting, as I said earlier, to find out that some school boards seemed to have more people on the list than others.

I just want to make a very candid confession to my friend from Wellington. I took Stevie Paikin out to lunch a couple of weeks ago and I paid. I want that on the record. I took Steve Paikin to lunch and I paid. The member for Halton North and I were Mr Paikin's guests --

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): When's my turn? I want to be next.

Mr Conway: You want to be next? I guess I'm in a better position to do so, having read Mr Walkom's piece in the Saturday Star. And let me in a very generous way congratulate the chancellor and his colleague the member for Nipissing. I've been around here a long time, and I have seen successes and I have seen ultrasuccesses, but the efforts of last Wednesday that the treasury bench effected with respect to pay and pensions in Her Majesty's service will, when I write my book decades hence, go down as the greatest victory on the public relations account that I have seen in 21 years. I want to, in a very generous and ecumenical way, say to the chancellor, you outdid yourself.



Mr Conway: No, I promised my colleagues that on that subject I would keep my silence. Beyond that I will say no more, but I do want to congratulate the chancellor because that was a success one can only marvel at.


Mr Conway: Well, the member from High Park, fresh out of Chaucer.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): Dewy-eyed.

Mr Conway: Oh yes, the member from High Park, right out of Chaucer. But my Lenten drought is over and my generous mood is here, so I will leave the pardoner in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Last Thursday the government made an announcement that was very significant. It had to do of course with the subject of question period today and last Thursday as well, and that was the subject of the cuts. I was struck today by the exchanges, particularly between the leader of the third party and the Chair of Management Board, about what happened to natural resources. Let there be no confusion: There was a skewering of the old Department of Lands and Forests. I mean, it was eviscerated last week. The argument that the government will advance is consistent with the mantra, "Well, it was all of that spending of the bad old days, particularly the bad old days from 1985 to 1995, that has occasioned all of these cuts." More on that later.

I did go to the library and I pulled out a random sample of budgets from the early 1980s, because while I was generous a moment ago, particularly this -- I excuse just about everybody here from this. I excuse the member for Willowdale and all of the new bloods from 1995. But I have to say that it gives chutzpah a new lease on life to see Mike Harris and Ernie Eves in here, as consistently and as aggressively as they are, talking about the deficit spending of the last decade. There is no question there was deficit spending in the last 10 years; that is clearly a matter of public record.

To be fair to the chancellor, he is more cautious than his incautious colleague the first minister. Mike Harris must think we all have the kind of amnesia he seems to suffer from on occasion. Because the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore was here from 1981 to 1985. He will remember; I know he commented. Was there ever a more willing and dutiful acolyte than Mike Harris back in those years? When Frank Miller and Billy Davis said, "Jump," Mike said, "How high and how often?" The Taxfighter, Mr Harris, was here in the 1981-85 period. He was an upwardly mobile Tory. He was chair of a legislative committee that handled a number of the finance bills.

I will digress for a moment. The 1982 budget: Here is a partial list of the tax measures that netted the government an additional $1 billion, fully annualized, that I can remember Mr Harris ramming through in the committee with great alacrity and greater efficiency.

What did the Harris-Eves canon of that day call for? Tax changes to the Retail Sales Tax Act, as contained in the 1982 budget, by the description of the holy mantra, now "the good old days." Just listen. If you live by the sword, you'll have to at least play by the sword and perhaps even die by the sword.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): You're supposed to die by the sword.

Mr Conway: Well, that's too vulgar and too aggressive. But did you hear the Chair of Management Board today? We got more of the mantra. I just go back and I look at the 1982 budget. Thanks to Mike Harris, Ernie Eves and Frank Miller, we imposed provincial sales tax for the first time on trees and shrubs, on feminine hygiene products -- that's the one I remember. They were real taxfighters back then. I remember that was part of what they were prepared to tax. I want to say to the television audience, who might not have been listening 12 and 14 years ago when Mike Harris was cutting his teeth around here, that's part of the record.

Interjection: Was there TV in those days, Sean?

Mr Conway: There was TV, actually. There was some quite good television back then.

But I say to the Tory caucus -- the member from Ottawa-Rideau smiles knowingly -- taxes for the first time on trees and shrubs, feminine hygiene products, street flushers, storm doors, soaps and tissues, classroom supplies, student supplies, buses and repair parts purchased by municipalities -- and the list goes on -- a billion-dollar tax increase in the gut of a recession. Who was in the committee doing the tough, dirty work to make sure it happened? Mike Harris and his friend the member for Parry Sound.

Interjection: Morley?

Mr Conway: Morley? I want to be fair to Morley, because Morley, then and now, had a kind of healthy eclecticism. He knew he was going to have a harder time than perhaps some of these more supplicant acolytes like Mr Harris. Oh boy, because Mike would do the bidding. If Frank and Billy wanted it done, Mike particularly was there: "You want a tax increase, you want a tax bill run through the committee? I'll run it through." A billion dollars' worth in that year, and more the year after.

Deficits? Oh, I don't want to upset the equilibrium of the treasury bench, but deficits -- $1 billion, $2 billion, $3 billion, just in that 1981-83 period. I see the member for Durham East looking incredulous, but it is true. There's something even more true. This is being perhaps more archival than people should be allowed to be, but my favourite is the 1975 budget, because you see, if the early 1980s were the good times, according to the current mantra, surely the mid-1970s were cornucopia itself.

What have we got? I like this because this was the first budget that I saw when I came here. Darcy McKeough -- was there ever a more credible pillar of the Tory right-wing establishment in the history of old Upper Canada? Hardly; I couldn't imagine one. Now I want you all to hold your stomachs over there because this budget 21 years ago, in the halcyon days of Tory prosperity, called for a $1.8-billion deficit on a spending plan of slightly less than $13 billion. The author of this document was, as I said, W. Darcy McKeough, duke of Kent, pillar of right-wing fiscal conservatism.

I know the member for Lambton and the member from south Hastings and the member from north Hastings are going to say: "But that was then; this is now. We are a new breed." Let me say, you are, and that has to be admitted; I'll talk a little more about that later on. But I just say for my efficacy, if for no one else's, I would like Ernie Eves and Mike Harris to at least stop shoving such nauseous craperoo in my face as that which they shove on an hourly basis to the effect that there were no deficits prior to 1985. I want to say that again for the record, because one of these days I'm going to get a little angry and I'm going to get up and be even more specific in some of these remembrances. I guarantee that if the chancellor and his friend the first minister think this attracts their attention, and it probably doesn't, there is more in the annals of their past around here that will certainly, on the fiscal front, attract the attention of the House.


I remember Mike Harris back then, and he had a great line. I'm sure he won't mind my quoting it. I used to say, "You know, Mike, you're the member for North Bay." My goodness, can you think of another provincial town where there is more provincial government activity, direct and indirect? Harris had a great line. He said, "I want my share of the waste." That was Mikey. He appears to have done rather well.

I say to my friend the member for Lambton, now to get a lecture from the first minister would be like my getting up and making a speech about the benefits and first-order importance of short speeches. I wouldn't expect the member for Wellington or anyone who's been around here for a while to take that with much comfort.

Last week's announcement on the government's spending reductions has a very considerable impact in my part of eastern Ontario. Let me say, unlike others perhaps in the opposition, that I understand entirely the situation in which the government finds itself. I was perhaps a bit jocular in talking to the finance minister when he was here a while ago, but he is facing an almost impossible situation. Anyone who knows anything knows that to take a deficit line that's at or about $8 billion, to cut taxes by $5 billion on a fully matured tax cut implementation, to maintain core programs and to balance the budget in five, six or seven years are absolute impossibilities. You can't do it. I give people some credit for saying they're going to, I suppose, but you just can't do it without so crippling the core programs that you say you want to protect as to make your undertaking almost ridiculous.

That's what I find interesting about this fiscal plan when I look at it, understanding as I do something about what I thought Conservatism was all about, and in some ways I am quite conservative on some of these matters myself. My constituents indicated to me both during the recent election campaign and since that while they all like a tax cut, they want core programs maintained and they want the fiscal house of the province brought into a greater order; there's no doubt about that. The notion that we are going to cut taxes by $5 billion at a time when the deficit is $7 billion or $8 billion or $9 billion is to most people I know a dangerous business. Over the next year or 18 months we will see just how the chancellor and his colleagues work out the arithmetic.

I see the minister of justice looking very studious as he reads what looks like Time magazine. You know, he's looking rather relieved. The national newspaper reported on the weekend that they were breathing very deep sighs of relief over at the justice department because, thank God, they had been spared the worst of it. They may have been spared the worst of it in this round, but if this fiscal plan is to be effected, let me tell my friend the justice minister that there are going to have to be deep cuts into the muscle of every program if that commitment is going to be kept.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Wrong.

Mr Conway: The minister opines, "Wrong." I don't say I'm surprised he would say that, but we will see what we will see.

Speaking for my constituents in rural eastern Ontario, they know they are getting hammered. Someone said to me the other day: "You know, the Ontario government is going to start looking a lot like your neighbourhood bank. There are going to be fewer of them around, fewer people in the banks that are around and a heck of a lot more service charges than you ever dreamt possible." There's no doubt about that. I mean, I was left speechless that the party of family values was going to nearly double marriage licence fees. Incroyable.

Mr Guzzo: How much is a divorce?

Mr Conway: The member for Ottawa-Rideau makes a very good rejoinder: "And how much is a divorce?"

I'm not here to beat up on lawyers, and I wouldn't expect retired judges would want to do that either. But rural Ontario, which I represent, certainly is going to have a much less present provincial government.

You may have noticed that within the last couple of days I've been trying to engage my friend the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in a little debate, because there is no doubt that despite his solemn promises of the last campaign, he's going to be breaking those promises just every day between now and the end of his mandate.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): He won't. He won't.

Mr Conway: The member for Lambton shakes his head and says: "He won't. He won't." Well, let me just say that a whole series of Ag office are going to close, that colleges at Ridgetown and Kemptville are going to be gutted, a whole series of field services.

Mr Beaubien: No.

Mr Conway: My friend from Lambton shakes his head and says, "No." I guess all of the farmers I've talked to in the last 10 days and all of the public servants I've talked to at the Ministry of Agriculture have got it all wrong. But the member from Hastings, fine fellow that he is, will appreciate -- in fact, I read in the Tweed News the other day that he, unlike some of his colleagues, was on the street during the recent labour difficulty, and according to the Tweed News, a very reputable newspaper, Mr Danford was saying that, yes, he understands the pressures and some of the problems. He was being told by his constituents that in fact offices in Hastings were either going to be downsized or transferred out to Kingston or Belleville or wherever.

That's certainly the reality in my community. We're probably going to lose our Ag office, and the farmers of Renfrew will have to go to Ottawa. Isn't that a wonderful situation? I can tell you, the people of the upper Ottawa Valley will really appreciate going to Ottawa and/or Toronto to get the kind of field services they have been accustomed to receiving at a more local level.

The Ministry of Environment, very important in our part of Ontario as a superintendent of important public interest in the public domain, particularly as it relates to waters, lakes and streams, has been very substantially reduced in terms of its mandate and its responsibility.

Mr Wildman this afternoon rightly pointed out that almost 40%, probably more than 40%, of the staff of the Ministry of Natural Resources are going to be terminated. Let there be no confusion about this: The crown lands of this province, in terms of their superintendents, are essentially being turned over to private forest operators. There is no question about that.

Now, some people who know me and my relatives will say: "Aha. You should be happy about that because you're in that business." It is true I come from a lumbering family. I have no direct interest, you understand. But there can be no confusion that the crown lands of the province are being turned over by and large to private interests. In fact, I would go one step further and say that the effect of the government policy is going to be to turn over the crown lands to major corporate interests in the resource sector.

We will see what we will see. I can recall a time when the presence of the government was less in areas like forestry, for example, and we had some very interesting results. We had some very interesting activities that in many cases Her Majesty's local government had to come and fix up and pay for.

One of the questions I have, particularly from many of my friends in the business community, who are not disappointed about what is starting to look like a great barbecue -- there is going to be opportunity here the likes of which some people have not seen in over 50 years. There is a very strong move afoot to eliminate the government presence and monopoly in areas like liquor and electricity. I was saying not too many days ago that we could be back in those good old days of the pre-war years when liquor and Hydro gave this province the best scandals it has ever known.

Mr Morley Kells (Etobicoke-Lakeshore): Don't forget the pipelines.

Mr Conway: No, no. Pipelines were a national concern. I'm talking about provincial affairs. When we look over the last century at some of the really interesting political difficulties this province has had, let me tell you, Hydro, crown lands and liquor have produced some of the very best.


Now, I know it's 1996 and we have a much more public-spirited public and private sector than might have been the case in earlier times.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): That's right.

Mr Conway: I want to thank the member for Etobicoke West for his observations in that respect.

On behalf of my constituents in rural Ontario, let me say that we note the loss of the provincial government presence in areas like natural resources, like environment, like highways. The poor minister of highways is not with us this afternoon, and it's not all his fault, but I'll tell you, I live on the highways of the province, and I have never in my adult life seen the King's highways in such bad shape as they have been in the last two or three months. In fairness, it is partly the weather. We've had a peculiar winter.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): Not at all.

Mr Conway: Spring has finally arrived. Someone in the back corner, Hastings by name if the seating plan is to be credited, has awakened in a way that tells me spring has arrived. But it is the first rule of rural Ontario that you do not tease just-awakened bears in springtime, so I will give Mr Hastings a wide berth.

But we observe, in eastern Ontario at least, really deplorable highway conditions: Highway 41, up the spine of the Frontenac axis; Highway 401, particularly in the Napanee area -- Highway 17, between where I live in Pembroke, up through Deep River, to Rolphton and Mattawa, is absolutely deplorable.

Hon Mr Harnick: Who has been looking after them for the last 10 years?

Mr Conway: I only know, I say to the justice minister, what I experience on a daily basis.

Hon Mr Harnick: Let's be fair.

Mr Conway: I'm trying to be evenhanded and fair. I drove the King's highways in the period 1967 to 1985, which was 18 years of Conservative administration, and they were very good highways. They were -- what were the old slogans? every election brought a new slogan -- "Highways for Progress," "Roads for Development" etc.

But the other day, driving the 401 in the Napanee area of eastern Ontario, I thought I was someplace just north of Gary, Indiana, on the interstate, making the turn into Chicago: pothole central. To call them potholes is to understate it. There are places in eastern Ontario where the roads are breaking up.

Hon Mr Harnick: Ten years of neglect.

Mr Conway: Absolute poppycock, I say to the justice minister. I have too much respect for my friends on the government side to imagine that in this kind of debate they want to engage in that kind of adolescent politics.

A baby cried.

Mr Conway: I say to the member for Wellington that he's added a particularly insightful voice to this debate.

Rural Ontario is getting the short end of the stick from a government that promised it the long end of prosperity. Hydro rates: The Minister of Energy was up here a few months ago saying, "We've frozen rates for five years." And you know what? She has. But in the delicious irony of our time, she has frozen rates and substantially increased costs for thousands, tens of thousands, of rural and seasonal hydro users. I am sure my friends from Hastings and Lambton and Oxford are getting the calls I'm getting, because my phone has been ringing off the wall for the last few weeks.

Mr Beaubien: I don't have a phone.

Mr Conway: You don't have a phone, the member for Lambton? Well, that I can understand.

Let me be clear that the Minister of Energy's statement of a few months ago that hydro rates were in fact being frozen is only part of the story, because there are, and the member for Quinte will know this, thousands of people who this month and last month are starting to get bills, and I'm getting calls from farmers who are apoplectic. They want to know how with a rate freeze they are now getting increases of 200% and 300% with no more use of energy; in some cases less.

I only raise it today because the people who are getting tagged with this injustice are, I repeat, in the main people in rural Ontario and seasonal property owners.

Mr Stockwell: Flat fees.

Mr Conway: Well, flat fees. If the cost structure has been changed to double and triple the price, the farmers are noticing that and they are not happy campers at all.

As one of the members from rural Ontario, I simply want to say to the House today that when farmers I represent see their electricity costs going up dramatically at a time when the rates are supposed to be frozen, when they see their provincial highways literally crumbling at the gate, when they see their field services in agriculture being shut down and withdrawn to an urban place, when the farmers are told their children are not really going to be able to go to Kemptville and Ridgetown but they better pack their bags for Guelph and they may not even get into Guelph, when their bus routes are starting to disappear -- we don't yet have the evidence before us, but let there be no confusion. I represent places, and so does my friend from Rawdon, in all the milk run through east-central Ontario. You get on the bus in Pembroke and you go across to Eganville, to Golden Lake, to Killaloe, to Barry's Bay, to Maynooth, to Bancroft, to Apsley. Do you think that route is going to be there when deregulation is with us? Let me tell you, it is not going to be there, I'm sorry to say.

I guess the question that the members from places like Hastings and Renfrew and Glengarry and Wellington are going to want to come to the House and ask is this: Why would we be voting supply to OC Transpo? Why would we be voting appropriations -- why would we be paying taxes to a federal Parliament that can't wait to build airports and that subsidizes air tickets? -- to the provincial government that transfers substantial moneys to the TTC and to a lot of local urban transit authorities, when the only transit, the only public transport we've got is the Voyageur bus that snakes its happy way through the hardwood hills of Renfrew into the pine valleys of Hastings? It's gone. That's going to be the reality of deregulation. Yes, the bus from Ottawa to North Bay will still run, the bus from Cornwall to Toronto will still run, the bus from Toronto to Peterborough, and from Toronto to Barrie, will still run, but if you're in Maynooth or in Killaloe you're out of luck.

It will be a good question for the minister of transport, federally and provincially, "What have you done to assist reasonably my citizens' interest, as a senior citizen or as someone who does not have his own car or half-ton truck, what have you, government, done to facilitate my transportation needs in rural Ontario?"

I just say to my friends in the government caucus, as one member from rural Ontario I'm hearing from farmers and rural residents that they're concerned about deregulation in the motorcoach industry; they're really angry about the impact of this new cost structure at Ontario Hydro that is driving up by two and three times their cost for electricity on the farm and at the cottage; they are extremely concerned about the loss of a whole range of field services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs that have been withdrawn or are in the process of being withdrawn; they are really concerned about what is going to be happening on the crown lands. In my county, almost 50% of the land base is crown land -- 50%, nearly, of Renfrew county is crown land -- and we are essentially dismantling the Ministry of Natural Resources and hoping and praying the private interests are going to maintain the public interest in our crown lands and in our crown forests.


I mention today that inquiring minds in my part of the province want to know, is Mike Harris really prepared to sell our nearly century-old public assets, our public hydro-electric assets, at Niagara Falls? Is he really prepared to do that?


Mr Conway: The member from the Kingsway says, "Not likely," and my constituents in the main are going to be happy to know that, if that is government policy.

I might ask the always-knowledgeable, ever-vigilant member for Etobicoke West, the Kingsway, if he'd like to offer a response on this question. He might want to comment on whether the government, the politicians over there, unlike the president of Hydro, is able to offer the consumers of electricity in the province any greater comfort about what residential and farm customers are going to see should a significant privatization occur. Mr Kupcis, at the Macdonald commission, said he had no idea as to the impact on rates of a significant privatization.

What I have to say to the member from the Kingsway is that most people he represents and I represent will expect, will assume, that there will be and there ought to be no privatization of any significant kind if it cannot be demonstrated that there are going to be price benefits to residential and farm consumers, since we all assume in the nature of things that industrial and commercial consumers will be well provided for.

The member confesses -- and I appreciate this -- that he, like the president of Hydro, does not know. I can accept that. But I just assume we are not going to betray the legacy of Adam Beck for some kind of ideological nostrum that is not at the same time going to be able to produce a price advantage for residential and farm electrical consumers.

I noticed in the Economist today that the British government, the Conservative government of John Major, is going to allow the merger very soon of two giant private generators with two very significant regional electricity distributors. What we will have in Britain, which is always held out as the example of what it is we want to emulate, is a situation where we're going to have increasingly a private monopoly at the expense of the electrical consumer, especially the residential and farm consumer. The city of London is very happy; they can scarcely contain their enthusiasm. And I don't doubt that when Bay Street reads the public ruminations of the energy czar, the Minister of Environment and Energy herself, the first minister, Bay Street must be salivating.

But, you know, Main Street has an interest here as well. Adam Beck understood that 85 years ago. I'm one of those who does not believe that in Adam Beck we had any perfect saint; I never met a London Tory then or now who had that quality of saintliness about them. But I say to my friends in the government that surely before a public policy is decided in favour of any significant privatization, you are going to be able to tell the residential and farm consumers of electricity that they are going to have a benefit in terms of not just reliability and safety, which they've come to accept as part of their patrimony, but also that their rates are going to be favourably affected.

I'm happy to see the member for Mississauga West here. He has been busy, engaged in a reform of automobile insurance. I want to just take a moment this afternoon to offer some personal and constituent views on that subject. Governments of all stripes in recent years have tangled with this cobra, and governments of all stripes and taxpayers of now over a generation have been stung by this cobra.

Mr Stockwell: Remember "I have a plan"?

Mr Conway: Absolutely, and I am suitably chastised with that cut to the quick.

But the government has a plan, or it is trying to strike a plan. I just simply want to say to the House that a number of my constituents -- and on this, let me confess a conflict of interest -- myself included, are increasingly concerned by what we are seeing at this point from the industry.

In Ottawa, we have an English-language daily called the Citizen, which has a very capable reporter and columnist, Dave Brown. He's been reporting over the last six months on just simply readers, consumers of insurance, who are writing to tell him, Dave Brown, about their horror stories under Bill 164.

It's a credit to the minister of justice. He sits there sagelike, saying nothing, breathing slightly more heavily than otherwise, because upon his arrival here six years ago, I mean, did we have --

Mr Stockwell: You can't see what he is doing.

Mr Conway: Now, Christopher, that is rude.

When Mr Harnick arrived here six years ago, he arrived as the unvarnished ambassador for the old order, the trial lawyers and the old insurance order, and did they have a dutiful acolyte. He was very effective. He lacerated poor Peter Kormos and he laughed at, with considerable effect, those old Liberals who had made such a tangled mess of it all.

I just want to say to the government and especially to the very able parliamentary assistant -- able, I am told, by the most interesting of my friends and relatives -- that there is still a lot of unresolved business.

Hon Mr Harnick: Blame me for Kormos.

Mr Conway: I am not blaming you for Kormos. I would blame very, very few people for Kormos. I think, actually, it is Frances Lankin who is going to have to figure out Mr Kormos in the short term and not any of us, but that convention is still two months off.

I simply want to say that some of what is being reported in the insurance sector at the present time is very upsetting, and some of it appears to be perfectly scandalous: people with minor incidents being thrown into Facility, people who are paying now $3,000 and $4,000 for minor incidents that weren't even their fault. I tell the House, I say to the government, that consumers are not going to stand for it. Yes, there will be an acceptance that there must be -- and it's still secret. I have had my problems with the Highway Traffic Act's speeding provisions, and if I'm a speeder and if I'm getting into accidents, clearly that should be reflected in the risk assessment attached to my premium. But there are simply too many people out there now, people I represent, who are starting to get premium notices that are driving them through the roof, and they're not going to tolerate it. This is a system that is not working. It is going to have to be fixed in some way that hopefully the government proposes, that the opposition amends and that consumers are going to accept.

I say to my friends in the New Democracy that as a result of Bill 164 I think we have opened the door to a new level of fraud that, if my experience is any indication, is positively outrageous. If I end up in Facility for some kind of a ding that was not my fault and that was purely fraudulent, I am not going to be a very happy consumer. I'm not going to embarrass any of my colleagues who have been reporting some of their situations, and I'm sure they're telling me the whole story and the whole truth, but I simply say that Dave Brown in the Ottawa Citizen for six months has been documenting chapter and verse of stories in the Ottawa area where consumers whose behaviour seems to be reasonable have been really penalized by the new calculations, it seems, of the insurance industry.


As I wind up, because my colleague the member for St Catharines has joined us, I want just a couple of more minutes to do a couple of snappers, as they say on the old game shows.

I may be the only one, but I have to just say it for the record: How many here remember my old friend Jane Fulton? I want to say for the record that it was interesting to read that Globe and Mail report of a couple of months ago that Jane Fulton, like Mike Harris, appears to have oversold herself. I just hope Mr Harris is following poor Jane Fulton's difficulties out there in Klein land, in Alberta. I thought it interesting because for years we used to see Jane around here, and she is now the Deputy Minister of Health. By gosh, she had a great résumé. It was the most spectacular galaxy of achievement we had ever seen. That nasty old Globe and Mail just went and checked the file and it turns out that, a bit like the Mike Harris plan, there's substantially less than met the eye.

I noticed in the office today that the Niagara Falls casino site has been selected, and my friend from St Catharines will be talking about this. I just want to say, and I don't mean to be preachy or judgemental on this, but I went for the first time in my life, a month ago, to a casino.

Mr Pouliot: How'd you do?

Mr Conway: I lost 50 cents.

Mr Pouliot: You made a contribution.

Mr Conway: I spent 50 cents.


Mr Conway: My friend from Hastings says, "I hope it was in Quebec." It actually wasn't. It was in Connecticut. It was at the Foxwoods Casino, which sits south of Hartford, between New York City --

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): It was 63 cents, Sean.

Mr Conway: Very good. I thank the member for Halton North. I just simply want to say, the day I was there, there were something like 15,000 or 20,000 people there. It's owned by a native band. I think the band is 350. I think their net revenues last year were something in excess of half a billion dollars. I just want to say on my own behalf, having spent 90 minutes in the place, I never felt more demoralized and more saddened in all my life. Quite frankly --


Mr Conway: I don't know if anybody remembers Bob Welch. I remember talking to Bob Welch years ago about the casino and gambling business we were getting into. I'm sure the member for High Park has perhaps even preached on this. On that afternoon, I must say, I've never seen so many impassive, joyless people in my life, and if that is the economic future of this civilization, then I've got to tell you, we are in for a very interesting time.

Mr Pouliot: People ain't going to Las Vegas, Sean.

Mr Conway: Listen, I know people go. I'm a good little Catholic boy. I used to work church bingos.


Mr Conway: That's right, I was a little Catholic boy; never very good. But seriously, I just looked at that spectacle and I thought to myself -- do you remember the old movie They Shoot Horses, Don't They? on those dance marathons of the 1930s? That's the kind of sense I had of the place. Listen, many in my own caucus -- I'm speaking only for myself. It was something I'd never done before. I'm not going to rush back. It was certainly an experience I will remember for a long time.

I've tried to touch on some of the issues that are of concern to my constituents. I want to repeat as a representative from rural Ontario that the Harris government's approach to policies, whether in agriculture, transportation, environment, natural resources, is beginning to give some very real pause and concern to people who do understand that we have to make change, that we clearly have to bring the financial house in order, but it is a matter of doing it fairly. I have not spent a great deal of my time talking about the tax cut, but a number of my constituents think it is absolutely immoral to be talking about a multibillion-dollar tax cut at a time when we are wrestling with a multibillion-dollar deficit and debt-servicing costs that are of an order of magnitude that the Treasurer and the Chair of Management Board have often observed.

One of the reasons I'm a Liberal is that I think those values of balance and moderation and fairness are important. I noticed a few weeks ago that even the Premier himself expressed publicly a concern that his policies were dividing the province, and there is no question that they are dividing the province. There are divisions now that are troubling to many people and even in the government caucus itself. There is an anger abroad in the land that is being fed by a certain kind of politics that I think is very, very dangerous.

As I said earlier, there's no question there were excesses that had to be corrected, but it's awfully difficult for my typical constituent who is a farmer, a small business person or a logger to pick up the Ottawa Citizen or the Financial Post and read that the overwhelming majority of this tax cut is going to go to the overwhelmingly well-to-do in this society at the very time that that family member or that family as a group is going to be faced with an array of fee increases, and I'm now talking about the real fee increases like college and university fees, a series of municipal levies that are going to be substantial and noticeable.

My constituents are quite prepared to play their part and do their share, but this policy of redressing some of the excesses of the recent past in terms of spending against revenue is only going to be successful if we convince the broad base of the public that what we are about is both necessary and fair and that we can show people that from the Premier on down, and that includes bank presidents -- you know, it's interesting. On that, I'll allow myself one final digression.

There's a lot of talk in here about people who have ripped off the system. Did you see the paper? I was going to bring in the two pieces from last week. Did you see that story about what's been going on at the executive suite of the Independent Order of Foresters, where hundreds of thousands of dollars of shareholders' and policyholders' money were being spent in some very creative and inappropriate ways? There was a front-page story in the Toronto Star the other day about what the Toronto-Dominion Bank knew about Mr Stavro's purchase of Maple Leaf Gardens, apparently, and what charities didn't know. Has any member of this Legislature come in here to talk about some of those behaviours?

I don't mean this to be partisan, but people watch, and if we are beating up on old people and recipients of social assistance, if that is our everyday activity and we have nothing at all to say publicly about some of what's going on upstairs, then I think we are going to be in some difficulty with the broad base of Ontario citizens.

I'm not one to play the Pat Buchanan game of bashing Bay Street and bashing Wall Street, but when Bay Street executives talk about what government needs to do about getting its house in order, I hope Bay Street understands that when stories of the kind I mentioned -- and I just mentioned two. I didn't mention, for example, 60 Minutes of Easter Sunday evening, where CBS ran the story that chief executive officers in private companies in the United States today are now earning 203 times the average industrial wage. They were earning 145 times the average industrial wage earner's salary, I should say, just three years ago.

People wonder why Patrick Buchanan has some appeal to an electorate in the United States. Quite frankly, Buchanan scares me; he terrifies me.


Mr Kells: He should.

Mr Conway: I agree, he should. But the fact of the matter is, there were a surprising number of Americans who found his message somewhat attractive. In part, the attractiveness and the appeal of his message is that he struck into that undercurrent of resentment that there seems now to be two sets of rules: one for regular folks and another for the very well-to-do. I'm sure my friend Mr Bradley, who was raising some of these concerns with the Premier the other day, will want to pursue some of these issues.

But we have some difficult decisions, we have some tough times ahead of us. If we're going to manage to make the public policy I think our constituents want to see us bring about, one of the very real tests we're going to have to meet and that policy is going to have to meet is the test of fairness. It's going to have to be fair to both rich and poor, and fair to people working inside the public sector and people working in the private sector, and certainly, I say on behalf of most of my constituents, fair for people living in rural and urban Ontario.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I am going to address some of the issues I believe are compelling to the people of this province in April 1996, particularly in light of the announced drastic cuts by the provincial government in the expenditures which are designed to provide services to people in Ontario. First of all, I want to deal with the general thrust of this government and make some observations about what I consider to be that general thrust. It is clear that we are seeing now what I would refer to as the Americanization of the province of Ontario. The reason I say that is we see the government now emulating many of the jurisdictions in the United States, particularly those with the Republican Party in power. I look at Governor Pataki in New York, for instance; New Jersey; some in terms of Michigan; a number of other states in the United States. The emphasis has been on New Jersey and there have been some interesting articles in the newspaper on the situation in New Jersey.

What essentially we're going to see happening in this province is a widening of the gap between those who have and those who have not. If the Conservative Party wishes to be the party of the rich and the privileged -- which I didn't consider it to be in its previous incarnation as government. Although I always felt it was the party of the Family Compact in years gone by, I always thought there was a very good streak of benevolence in that government and a sensitivity to the disadvantaged in our society. That is not a trait which I notice in this particular government, with a few exceptions of members who have privately, or at least not in this House, expressed those views.

I don't think this is good for Canada. I think what we have admired about this country as Canadians and been justifiably proud about, and what many Americans and others have admired, has been the sensitivity to the needs of others; not those who will not help themselves and are capable of doing so, not those who would abuse the system, but people who are genuinely disadvantaged because of illness, whether it be mental illness or physical illness, or those who simply have not had the opportunities others have had in our society.

It is my belief that all members of this House, for instance, would be concerned about any abuse of the system, those who, to use the jargon of the 1990s, are ripping off the system, and would want to see that kind of fraud ended. The Provincial Auditor spotted what he considered to be, and his staff working with him considered to be, the number one fraud going on in Ontario, and that is tax evasion of various kinds. He noted that while the provincial government was busy chasing people on welfare for those funds -- and those who were not appropriately dealing with the system of course should be called to task, but he noted that when the government was spending its time on that exercise, there was a lot of money being lost, most money being lost, as a result of people dodging taxes, people who were making money and not living up to the responsibility according to the legislation and regulations existing in this province.

What I have observed about this government, and I think others are observing today, outside of the zealots who are supporting the government -- I understand there's a certain segment of society who believe everything this government is doing is fine, and in fact probably in some cases they don't believe you're moving far enough. But the general consensus I would see from people in the moderate middle, small-c conservative people who have a sensitivity to the needs of others, generally the moderates of Ontario, is that they observe that while they see you, the government, moving in a direction that is probably a direction in which many governments have to move -- that is, of endeavouring to bring about a more cost-effective and efficient operation of government, something that's shared I think by the three parties in this province. In the latter years of the NDP, certainly they made this effort at great sacrifice to their traditional supporters, who were very much annoyed that they would act as a conservative government in many ways, a small-c conservative government.

I think there's a consensus. I'm not a person who lives and dies by polls, but the CBC carried out a poll which I thought was rather interesting in that it demonstrated that people generally, with some exceptions, liked the direction in which the government was moving, but when asked which party they would support -- and this is particularly meaningless until election time -- said they supported the Liberal Party over the Conservative Party by a minor amount. The fact it would be that close within that poll is rather interesting, because what it tells me is that while people may believe, and I think many in this province may believe fairly, that the government has moved in a certain direction, in many cases the government is moving, first of all, far too quickly and, second, far too drastically.

I know from a political point of view it makes good politics to get the cuts over with quickly, to do the so-called unpopular things quickly, but I think if a government is going to be competent and fair-minded, it has to slow down, it has to take its time and evaluate the impact of the cuts.

We saw an interesting exercise last Thursday. The government was eager to get its program of cuts out, but if you listened to the questions that took place and the explanations, both to the news media in the hallway and to those of us in the opposition, you found that many of the ministers, even those who have a reputation for being quite competent, were a bit flummoxed by all the facts and figures, and a bit evasive -- not necessarily in a sinister way, but because they simply didn't have the answers.

That is a sign of a government moving quickly to show everybody, particularly those who strongly supported it, that it is moving in this direction and is prepared to take the tough action. Yet I think the government makes a mistake when it does move far too quickly and far too drastically.

Time after time, people who call me, talk to me or write letters to me, very often those people, who are not necessarily supporters of the government or wouldn't have been seen to be supporters of the general thrust of this government in years gone by, are saying, "We understand there have to be some cuts, but we wish the government wouldn't move as rapidly and as drastically as it is." That's one caution I would put to the government.

I must, while I think of it, tell you how annoyed I was to see the government advertising on the weekend. For years, I've been annoyed. I don't care which government it is. When I was Minister of the Environment, if I noted any self-serving advertising, I would immediately cut that. I never allowed polls when I was a minister. You never know what happens when people are there all of the time, but I did not like polling and did not want our ministry polling, because I think that's a misuse of the taxpayers' funding in the Ministry of the Environment. I really resented the self-serving ads the government presented.

If the government puts out an advertisement that says, "We're going to be doing an immunization program in Ontario and here are the reasons why," that's legitimate. That's information. That's valuable information to people in this province. But the ads we saw on the weekend or that we heard on the hockey or baseball games were clearly self-serving Tory propaganda. If the government wants to say that in this House or in the hallway, I have no objection to that. That is the government line. That is the message the government wishes to put out. What I resent is the use of taxpayers' money, particularly when Mike Harris -- if I may use the name referred to him -- the Premier of our province, in opposition, denounced that tactic on the part of the New Democratic Party. He was vociferous in that denunciation, yet his government is doing exactly the same thing when the government said it would be different, and in the context of very deep cuts.


I feel compelled to chastise the government for that and for the polling they're doing, again at taxpayers' expense. If the Progressive Conservative Party wants to pay for those ads or pay for those polls, that's quite legitimate. I don't mind that, that's a function of the political process, but I resent direct taxpayers' money being used for those purposes.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): You did it all the time.

Mr Bradley: I want to look at the tax cut. The member for Grey-Owen Sound has now come into the House, and I'm glad he did, because he is one of the individuals, I know, who is very concerned about the tax cut. He is a person who has what you call street sense, political sense, and he knows what people are thinking. I may not always agree with him, but when I look in the government benches and say, "Who has a good political nose over there?" -- and I don't mean that, again, in a sinister or cynical sense -- I would say the member for Grey-Owen Sound has a good political nose. The member for Wellington, my friend Ted Arnott, wrote a letter to the Premier calling the tax cut reckless. The member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore and the member for Etobicoke West, again, all people who have their ear to the ground in terms of politics, have expressed concern about the tax cut. It's been suggested that as many as 25% of the government caucus believe that the tax cut, as promised, should not be proceeded with.

I want to tell you something: Often, members of the opposition are critical of a government when it doesn't proceed with a promise. I would stand in this House and praise the government if it were to abandon that particular initiative, because I think if the government looks at the circumstances today -- it's now in power; it sees what the circumstances are -- and says, "Look, we think the tax cut should wait until we balance the budget, when we have the money to do it," I would commend the government for that. I'm fair-minded enough to do that. I'm not confident the government will do that, but I would be one who would be complimenting them on that.

I think, again, you would see that there'd be some public opinion on that side; not the people who are the zealots -- they're going to call for it no matter what; they want it and that's that, but when you have to borrow over $20 billion to give me and others a tax break, I don't think that makes sense. I heard from many people, as the government did -- and it's trying to address it -- that the deficit is the problem in this province. If indeed the deficit is the problem, then why would you go out and borrow over $20 billion and add well over $20 billion to the accumulated provincial debt, if that is the problem? I think you'd be justified in abandoning that particular initiative.

There's a second reason I think you should. The real story behind the depth of the cuts, the total gutting of many ministries and many services by this government, rests with the tax cut itself. It's in order that the government can try to meet the tax cut. In other words, they know they're going to have to borrow the money, but they don't want the deficit to go too high so they're cutting.

I've talked to economists about this -- not all of us who sit in this House are expert -- and they talked about the combination of a tax cut of this kind and significant and substantial cuts in government spending. They say it would have a contractionary effect on the province, not a stimulative effect. Again, these are people from the breadth of the spectrum, the width of the spectrum out there, who are saying this.

What the government in effect is doing now is putting up some taxes. If they were not to give this tax cut, that would be better than the user fees we're seeing in the province. The government announced on Thursday -- they hid it well in the back pages, but they announced many, many, additional user fees. Mike Harris, when he was leader of the opposition, said, "A user fee is a tax." I agreed with him at the time, and by gosh I agree with him today, that it's a tax. So this government has many more of those. That's why those of us in the opposition were holding up signs -- I won't hold this too long -- like this in the House. I know in the House we shouldn't have too many props so I won't hold it up forever. It says "User Fee," with the Premier on this.

What are we seeing in terms of the ministries? Agriculture and food: $56-million cut. All of those rural members who were assured that this government was going to provide the appropriate agricultural services for people in the rural part of Ontario, they must be embarrassed today to see these kinds of cuts. I can't believe that they would want to see these kinds of cuts. I can tell you after the next election there won't be as many, regardless of how the electorate votes, because the government is also cutting the number of rural seats in Ontario so that rural representation and northern representation will be reduced even more. I'm not presumptuous enough or arrogant enough to say, "Somebody else is going to defeat you next time." That's up to the electorate. But what the Premier has done, again worshipping at the altar of these right-wing zealots who want to see government cut no matter what the consequences -- in that context, what we are seeing is a significant reduction in the number of rural seats in Ontario. So the voice of rural Ontario is diminishing with this government. I'm sure my friends who were elected on the government side -- from the back benches, many of them, some in the front benches -- must be concerned about this slap in the face to rural Ontario.

The Ministry of the Attorney General being cut 606 positions, $60 million -- and I heard how important the administration of justice was; how we had to have prosecutors, or crown attorneys, as we call them; how the court system had to deal with these people much more quickly so we didn't have acquittals for the trial not coming to court as soon as possible.

I look at the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, and see $42 million disappearing.

Community and social services: $308 million. That's got to affect people who are developmentally disabled who are not going to have the same level of service as they had before. That's got to affect people -- it does so. The minister shakes his head. I can say it does so. You tell the people who are kicked out of the sheltered workshop on Bunting Road in St Catharines and you tell their parents and friends that had no effect. They've had to rationalize their services, as you would say, and they are being cut. I know a woman and I went to her door in the election time. She has cancer. She was getting a service three days a week. I'm going into the field of health as well. She has now those home services cut back to two days a week. She said she would crawl around on her hands and knees if she had to, so don't look at me over there with the big money you make and the background you come from and talk about those people who are being disadvantaged. Don't tell me that. That's exactly what's happening in this province. People who are disadvantaged are being shoved aside by you people. Don't tell me that's not the case, because you can bring them one after another. I'll bring the woman to this Legislature. I'll bring her to the gallery. I don't like doing that, but you should know, Minister, that is happening in this province. If you don't know it, you should know it. Somebody's not telling you what's going on.

I look at the field of consumer and commercial relations. Supposedly we are supposed to protect the consumer in this province, yet in consumer and commercial relations $25 million is being removed.

I look at economic development and trade, which is supposed to promote trade, which is supposed to promote business in this province, and it's being cut by $160 million.

Education and training, which is always an investment in the future, is being cut by some $337 million.


Environment and energy: The environment ministry, which is already a small ministry, is being gutted. The member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore and I are two former ministers of the environment. He would know, as I know, that in order to carry out its responsibilities as it should, it has to have the adequate staff and adequate resources. I heard a question from the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale today about a situation that existed --


Mr Bradley: Why don't you go and save the Whitby hospital? You save the Whitby hospital if you're going to start yapping over there, because that's exactly what's going to happen: The Whitby hospital is going to disappear if you don't watch out. You keep your eye on that.

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): Your government didn't give the grant to the Whitby hospital.

Mr Bradley: Ah, now it's somebody else's fault. We heard all of your promises during the campaign about the Whitby hospital. You make sure you keep that Whitby hospital.

All over this province we're going to see hospitals closing. Already we're losing people in the front line. Ask people who've had to go into the hospital lately what it's like to go into the hospital today. You'd better have relatives or friends to help look after you because there isn't the staff available that there used to be. Those services aren't there. In St Catharines there was a lot of bragging about the dialysis services. Well, I would like to ask you to look at the number of patients being funded corresponding to the number of patients who are actually in that unit, and I can tell you that while you can talk about that unit being expanded -- and it was under the previous government, and we're delighted with that -- the funding is not there. We probably have close to 130 patients on dialysis and there's funding for less than 100, and we hear bragging from the Minister of Health about what's happening in the field of health.

I look at the finance department, the health department, intergovernmental affairs, labour, which is supposed to be looking after health and safety, which is supposed to be looking after complaints both by employers and employees that exist in our communities. They're already backlogged, and they're turfing those people out the door. Municipal affairs and housing, natural resources -- my friends in the rural areas of the province tell me that ministry has been hurt so badly by these drastic cuts that I'm sure members of the government must be embarrassed. I encourage them to go to the caucus meeting tomorrow morning to express that view to them.

The Solicitor General's department: I heard about this, and I know my good friend the member for Leeds-Grenville is a person who in the past in opposition was very committed to police services in this province, and we see his ministry being chopped by some $60 million. I know he must be deeply disappointed, because I remember the questions he directed quite legitimately to the last two governments when he was in opposition. He was a vociferous advocate for adequate law enforcement in this province, and yet he's seeing $60 million taken out of his budget.

There is $124 million going out of the budget of the Ministry of Transportation, while our roads are crumbling, while there are potholes in the potholes in the roads of this province. The people who are looking for oxygen in their homes at the present time, people who are disabled and looking for that kind of assistance, cannot get it to the degree that they used to in the past.

What you have done, if you want to look at political cleverness, in many cases is put the cat among the pigeons. There used to be a game when you were a kid called pin the tail on the donkey, and that's what people should be doing in this province.

You've got the fight going on in education. With the drastic cuts that are taking place you've now got elementary people fighting with secondary people; you've got the Catholic system fighting with the public system; you've got the people who promote junior kindergarten fighting with people in adult education; you've got community colleges fighting with universities, and they're pointing fingers at one another. The people who advise the Premier rub their hands in glee because this is great stuff; the blame is going to somebody else. But the real blame has to be placed on this obsession with delivering a tax cut in this province which is bringing about these drastic kinds of cuts.

We have shortages of doctors in certain areas of this province and I know the Minister of Health likes to say that's being addressed, but you tell that to the people of Windsor, Essex, St Catharines and other parts of the province, and northern Ontario, and they will tell you they're not being addressed.

We see young people in our education system who have joined the teaching profession now being cast out, some with eight, nine, 10 years of service, who are still relatively young in the system, losing their jobs, and others, understandably, not moving out because they're in the senior years and don't have the opportunity to move out. You need a good blend, you need a balance of people of all ages in the system, and we're losing that, again because of this obsession with the tax cut.

We have many children -- and this is most discouraging -- in our society in Ontario heading to the United States to get a job. I haven't talked in the past to as many young people, young women, young men, as I have in the last year or year and a half who are heading to the United States because there aren't the opportunities here, because they don't see the future they used to see in what we called the province of opportunity. That's most unfortunate.

You know, it's always good when you point and say: "Look at how many people we've cut. Look at how many people we've thrown out of jobs." And you get away with it. People applaud until it's your next-door neighbour, your aunt, your daughter, your son, your father -- in other words, somebody you know personally -- and then it loses its political attractiveness. That's what's starting to happen in this province.

I want to touch on a couple of other items which I think are important.

The Ministry of Environment and the Niagara Escarpment Commission: I have received a letter which says, contrary to what the member for Dufferin-Peel wanted and spoke about in this House, and I'm sure the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, it appears that the Niagara Escarpment Commission administration and planning is going to be turned over to local municipalities, which (a) don't have the resources to handle it and (b) are unlikely to administer it in a way which will be fair across the province.

The issue of gas prices: I raised this issue today in the House. I think everybody in this House must wonder how they price gasoline in this province, in southern Ontario. The northerners know what it's like. They've had high gas prices for some time, and some of the people in eastern Ontario. In southern and southwestern Ontario we have seen the base now going up to about 56, 57, 58 cents a litre, in some cases 59 cents a litre, where before it used to drop down at its base to somewhere around 48 or 49 cents a litre. So obviously somebody is fixing this price and moving it up. They claim that there's a lot of competition, and there is a large number of stations in the province. But that doesn't mean that competition is producing lower prices, because they all seem to go up together and come down together, and now it's mostly moving up together. I believe the Minister of Energy, the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations and the Minister of Transportation should be addressing this matter with the oil companies in this province. It's not only gasoline; it's home heating oil prices that are moving up rather drastically at the same time.

I want to deal as well with the issue that I raised with the Premier, and that is the issue of companies making huge and unprecedented profits and still laying people off. In years gone by, when a company was losing money, that company dropped its number of employees; it had to lay people off. Usually it kept the infrastructure there to bring the people back when good times returned, but they laid people off. People were justifiably concerned about that but they understood that if the company wasn't making money in the capitalist system that we have, our free enterprise system, then they were going to have to lay people off. They understood that.

But what we are seeing today is a situation where companies are making in many cases unprecedented profits or at least substantial profits and at the same time they're firing the bodies out into the streets. I think the sense of fairness that people in Ontario have is such that they don't believe that should be the way things are. I understand it's a more complex problem than simply saying some are downsizing while they're making profits. I understand that. I'm not trying to be unfair in that regard. But companies are going to have to address that problem.

Members will know that our Premier was in Davos, Switzerland; this is an economic gathering which has pretty prestigious people from the financial world and political leaders from various jurisdictions who attended. One of the speeches that was made -- I will call it a keynote speech -- addressed that very problem. I quoted it in a question to the Premier the other day about how there is a social responsibility among those who make profits from our system to assist in meeting the needs of those people who are the losers in this highly competitive society.


My colleague the member for Renfrew North made reference to Pat Buchanan in the United States when he was running for the Republican nomination. Did you notice that in the various states in which he ran the issue caught on quickly? Mr Buchanan was probably unacceptable for other reasons; if you think of his rhetoric and some of the things he stood for, he was unacceptable for other reasons. But the other candidates began to address the issue, because they understand that middle-of-the-road, moderate Americans, like Canadians, have a sense of fairness.

When I see banks, as they are in all of the communities, turfing people out into the streets, reducing their hours of operation, replacing people with machines, I become very concerned this is happening. It's not as though the people they're throwing out into the streets are highly paid people. They're not even unionized people, so their ability, in most cases, to increase their pay significantly or their benefits is limited by the fact that they do not have collective agreements but have individual agreements, or if they have collective agreements, they're not negotiated by a trade union.

I notice that the bank I deal with, for instance, did the same thing. I wrote a letter to that bank and outlined my opposition to what they're doing, because there are many services people obtain that really require discussion with another human being. To totally mechanize, to totally computerize, to totally eliminate people from the workplace makes us ask the question, where are the jobs going to be in the future? Where are those jobs going to be for those people? It will be extremely difficult.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): If they were losing money, where would you put your money? In a pillowcase?

Mr Bradley: You're jabbering over there. I'm trying to be fair to the government. I'm not really pointing the finger at you. I'm talking about a societal problem that I believe has to be addressed, yet there you are defending the companies no matter what. If they raise their profits to the ceiling and throw people out in the street, you're going to defend it. I'll leave that to you to defend, because I think a lot of people in the government caucus wouldn't defend that. I think there are a lot of people over there who are listening to the people they represent and saying: "We have to find ways of addressing this problem. We have to find ways of finding adequate employment for people and not simply relegating people to the sidelines."

When you see huge, unprecedented profits at the same time that people are casting the bodies out into the street, it cannot help but be disconcerting.


Mr Bradley: It's really sad. Some of the members who have been here a while would know. When you had some of the Conservative members before, there was a listening to this kind of argument, there was a compassion; there wasn't the sour face and the casting aside of what the opposition might say. Obviously what's happened is that we have the Reform Party elected. That's what we have: We have the Reform Party elected in this province. In years gone by, with the people in the Conservative Party, there was a social conscience there. There was an understanding of having to address these problems in a practical and compassionate and thoughtful way instead of simply the ideology being fired back constantly: "The company can do no wrong, the private sector can do absolutely no wrong. Simply leave them unfettered and all will be fine."

I listened to Frank Stronach the other night at Brock University. He was a guest speaker at Brock University. One of the things that Mr Stronach said, when he was asked the question by a packed audience -- people were interested in listening to what he had to say -- was that he did not support totally unfettered capitalism, that he thought there was a social conscience which should be there, that there was an obligation to society at large which should be there.

I think there are some people in the business sector who believe that, so I hope the government addresses these concerns. I'm not optimistic when I hear what comes from the government benches this afternoon, but I know there are people within the government benches who have that kind of compassion and will want to address this problem in the months and years to come.

Mr Pouliot: Monsieur le Président, I would ask the kindness, the benevolence of the House. My understanding is that there has been a tacit agreement reached by the three House leaders as to the division of time, ie, the Liberals, both the member for Renfrew and the member for St Catharines have split the 90 minutes evenly, and I'm asking acquiescence.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Are you splitting with somebody else?

Mr Pouliot: With two of my distinguished colleagues, three ways.

The Acting Speaker: Is it agreed?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Yes. It's difficult to understand the member.

The Acting Speaker: Agreed. The member for Lake Nipigon.

Mr Bradley: She can't understand your accent, she said.

Mr Pouliot: Thank you very, very kindly. One of the distinguished members opposite has mentioned, and I think rightly so, in a moment of spontaneity, that it was difficult to understand what I meant or what I said, and I will try to be more direct and to the point in my remarks.

The opportunity under supply gives members a forum to reflect the views of the people who have elected them, the people who placed their faith in the local members. There are 130 members of the Legislative Assembly at present. My understanding, by way of an announcement last week, is that the number will be reduced significantly, drastically, to 103, while the population of Ontario, as you well know, continues to increase, so the riding of Lake Nipigon, which is the largest geographical riding in the province of Ontario, fully 26% of the overall land mass, will be asked to be even bigger.

At present, I represent an area which is the size of the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia put together and multiplied by two. Simply put, it's the size of Germany. So I take a great deal of pride in representing the very special people of our very special part in the province of Ontario, although when I do so here at Queen's Park, Toronto, I am geographically closer to Miami, Florida, or Halifax, Nova Scotia, than I am to some parts of our great riding which extends, as you well know, to the shores of Hudson Bay, nestled between Lake Superior and the largest lake beyond the Great Lakes, that of Lake Nipigon.

It's an honour, after the two members of the Liberal Party -- namely, the member for Renfrew North and the member for St Catharines, arguably two of the best orators in the House -- and to be followed by two of our very own members, Hamilton Centre and indeed Sault Ste Marie. We will split our time three ways, approximately 30 minutes per member, and I wish to thank the government for granting us unanimous consent.

I too listened intently while I was knocking on doors for the fourth time. Well, of course, I'm referring to the last 40 days of campaigning prior to the June 8, 1995, election. I had read the mantra, the manifesto, the platform of the government today, a government that's sort of locked in. We know the feeling. We've had three successive changes of government in the province of Ontario after 42 long years of a monopoly where the Conservatives were the order of the day for over four decades.


I remember vividly. I don't have to reach inside and look at what the Common Sense Revolution, the CSR, committed. Ever since June 8, I must give credit to the government. They have addressed the Common Sense Revolution with an unprecedented zeal. Come hell or high water, no matter who gets hurt, no matter how many men and women providing essential services are tossed out the door, they shall deliver on the mantra -- a balanced budget within five years.

We agree the deficit at present is $9.5 billion. A $5.4-billion tax cut brings us closer to $15 billion. They have to reconcile the cut of 30% to the provincial income tax level based on the overall federal tax.

Incidentally, Mr Speaker, people like you will not benefit. I know of your circumstances. I've followed your career. We were elected within two months, you and I, you with a different party, the Liberals, and myself with the movement party, the New Democratic Party. It's neither you nor I who will benefit, and we do immensely better than the majority of Ontarians. Do you know, sir, that the richest 16 people in the province of Ontario, with the 30% tax cut, will put in their pockets, those already bulging pockets, an additional $2.2 million, that 16 people equal $2.2 million? Do you know that people making more than $90,000 a year will grab more than 50% of the tax cut?

You do know that those who are marginalized, those who are the less fortunate, people working for the minimum wage, people receiving a small salary, spend their money. There's no other choice. They have to have shelter and food, the necessities. One hand takes, one hand spends. That's how you create jobs. You don't create jobs by giving 50% of $5.4 billion to people who make more than $90,000 a year.

The government would have us believe the money will trickle down. It's going to trickle down by way of maximizing, if it's not already done, the RRSPs; it will trickle down to foreign markets in their constant search for tax savings; but ordinary Ontarians will not benefit from the tax cut. It's as simple as that.

We have a $9.5-billion deficit. I need your help by way of a parallel or an analogy which I believe has some validity. Let's take some money we can relate to. Assuming someone would have a debt by way of credit cards, plastic, of some $9,500, a consequential, a considerable sum for people of moderate means, the philosophy would be to up the credit limit by another $5,400. Chances are that you would not make ends meet, that disaster would loom. You'd be further in the hole. But this government -- the people opposite, are determined to balance the budget, to create 725,000 jobs, to give a tax cut to people who need it the least, because they're on the hook, because they went to the general public soliciting, seeking the support so they could have a majority, and come hell or high water they will adhere or attempt to adhere to this program.

Last week, a week to be remembered, the Chair of Management Board told us what we all knew at this time, that 10,600 women and men providing essential services will lose their jobs and that further cuts were coming, that we can expect that the chainsaw and the axe will cut once or twice more -- only at the civil service level we're talking about 20% of the workforce; it could go as high as 27,000 people who will lose their jobs -- striking with passion, striking with vengeance without a published business plan.

In the riding of Lake Nipigon, our daily bread is and we are dependent on resources. I know many people on a first-name basis. That's the way we conduct our affairs where I live. We have a little more time to get to know one another, to listen to one another. The Ministry of Natural Resources, the fire base in Manitouwadge -- toute finie; we don't need you any more. For as long as the sun shines and the river flows there will be some catastrophe. From time to time we will have major snowstorms; more often than not there will be an evacuation on an annual basis, people leaving the northern reserves near the bay or some small remote communities being threatened by a forest fire. It's the normal laws of nature.

This government has said: "We don't need your services any more. You will relocate someplace else." Those people will lose their jobs. The people at transportation will lose their jobs; 1,900 of them will be let go. That has to create a negative drag. If you don't have a job, you're not going to spend as much money. The private sector, in all fairness, will pick up some of the slack. Some people will benefit, but people will not be making the same wages and the same benefits that accompany good wages. It's very simple. The government wants to save money, so it will offer the contractor less money. The contractor needs to make a profit, it's a normal reaction in business, so they will pay people less or reduce the service. That's the sad legacy of this government.

Government does not listen too well to members of the opposition but they might listen to what the Dominion Bond Rating Service -- the friends on Bay Street -- has said: "The promised 30% reduction in personal income taxes is the single biggest hurdle to balancing the budget." They're telling them: "You guys are on the hook. What you're doing here is wrong. You will begin to dislocate. You cannot do it all." You're not going to meet your objective of 725,000 jobs. We know that. The growth isn't there. Even Mr Eves, your Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, has already said that the growth figures he had hoped for of some 4.5% have been reduced to 2.5%. Those are facts, not beliefs, and you have to factor those in. You will not be able to meet your objectives, simply on the mathematical basis -- there are too many ifs.


What is being said here is that there are alternatives, not with a policy of blame; we all agree we cannot go on spending more than we take in if our children and future generations are to have something to look forward to. It's quite simple. No one will deny this.


Mr Pouliot: My colleagues in the New Democratic Party are applauding. Most of them are in their seats today and I'm very appreciative of their commitment. I only wish the television would focus -- it cannot; it can only focus on the Speaker -- so they could see the kind of support we give one another with the New Democratic Party.

What strikes me is that by way of a newsletter the people of Lake Nipigon have responded en masse. When asked a very simple question, "Would you sacrifice the tax cut to maintain essential services?" I was surprised that by a ratio of 75% grosso modo -- approximately -- people in the riding of Lake Nipigon have said to the government: "If it means you're going to cut that many services" -- because they are gutting some departments -- "do you know what you can do with the tax cut? You can stick it in your ear." They're that bold. They don't want to see their friends in Manitouwadge, in our small community, begin to despair by way of losing their tenure, losing their jobs. They want the community to be alive.

The Common Sense Revolution states emphatically that $300 million less will be spent on highways, that this government intends to spend $300 million less than we did when we were the government. No wonder signs are already beginning to appear alongside some of our major highways saying, "Potholes, bumps, for the next 30 kilometres." When we were the government, we weren't perfect, but we didn't advertise the bumps; we fixed them.

There seems to have been a departure, and it's neglect. Jobs are not being done, the chance to dream has been taken away, the disparity between the haves and have-nots is growing on a daily basis, and the middle class, which pays for all that, sees itself under a state of seige. People cannot look to the future with confidence.

The government said it would not impact education at the classroom level. With respect, tens of thousands of the little ones, people who were to attend junior kindergarten next year, come September, at the beginning of the next school year, will not be able to attend. So it won't be impacted; there simply will not be classrooms for those.

Almost every school board in the province is laying off teachers. They're getting their pink slips saying, "Don't come back next September." That's impacting. When you impact teachers, you impact classroom education.

I want to wish you well, Mr Speaker. I want you to keep your health, for health is next in line after education as they move up the food chain. Recall it was the less fortunate, the welfare recipients, people who were asking for a chance to be like us, to be like the others and to participate. They hit them without mercy: 21.6%. They called them names. They were referred to as downtrodden low-lifers, people who really did not wish to work: 21.6%. Then the government moved up the food chain to satisfy the insatiable appetite, the command, of a 30% tax cut. They had to deliver, so they went after the civil servant, and they're just beginning.

Then they said they wouldn't go after health care. They will padlock some hospitals. People will be joining longer waiting lines at the hospitals.

Education is being impacted. I've been through transportation and the Ministry of Natural Resources in our riding. What I'm saying here is that what is being done, sir, is wrong; there are alternatives. Put the brakes on. Don't go so fast. Where is the human dimension? You have men, women and children, elderly, who are placing confidence -- their future is in your hands. Don't scare the living hell out of them.

Miss Jones is concerned. She's 74 years old -- a true story. They've got her so confused with their Common Sense Revolution that she doesn't know whether she will pay $2 for a prescription or the price of the drugs. And she survives on some $16,000 a year, so she's just a little above the threshold. She's not rich. She asks the government not to become a number in the book or a face in the crowd. She's becoming a little frail. She doesn't have that many years to start over again, does not understand all the intricacies of a sophisticated marketplace. She just wants to be a good citizen, wants to believe that tomorrow will be a little better, doesn't want to see the government go from $100 billion to $124 billion, $125 billion, $126 billion. After all the cuts, she expects the deficit will be reduced, but now she's beginning, with our help, yes, to understand that this is going to cost big time, and there's no need.

When you're in debt, the first thing you do is you look at yourself and you reduce spending. The government deserves some applause; let's be fair. They've shown courage. They've adhered to a good deal of their platform. I only wish they wouldn't have placed themselves on the hook for another $5.4 billion, because everything has to go so well even to come near. If the growth is not what they expect it to be, those 725,000 jobs -- not entirely the government's fault. A lot of things we have no control over.

Traditionally, after a presidential election in the United States there is a downturn in the economy. It doesn't have to be a recession, but if your performance does not match that of the past three years, your mathematics are out of whack and then you will have to have the same courage to say, "Let's look at a sideshow; let's examine what we can do in mid-term," or the choice to say: "No matter what, we have said we would do this. No matter how painful, we will do it." And the very same people who believe in the government that does what it said it would, ironically, will punish people who go too far in order to meet the very penny of what they said they would. There's an equilibrium here. There's a balance. It's not all or nothing.


Somewhere in there we have to take different venues sometimes, because they are good for the populace. The only thing that counts is that the 11 million Ontarians know that someone's in charge and that the sun will rise many times, that while we tighten up our belts, equity and fairness will continue to be the order of the day as much as possible. People aren't asking for a lot more than that. They're asking for a chance to dream. They're asking for some realistic and reasonable objectives to be reached in a reasonable time. They want good health care. They want their sons and daughters to be well educated, preferably more than they were themselves. They want people in their communities to be able to integrate economically and to participate. They are never jealous of the fortunate people.

I was reading over the weekend that two years ago the president of Magna International, Mr Frank Stronach, a pioneer, with salary and bonuses and options, grossed $38 million, only to be exceeded last year, 1995. The same proud pioneer Canadian made $47 million. I'm not the one who says that. It's reported in the ROB, Report on Business, of the Globe and Mail. Is it fair, with the highest of respect and all the best wishes to Mr Stronach, that with a revenue of $47 million in one year Mr Stronach be given a 15% tax break? If you have a choice, remember Miss Jones, 74 years old, with a small cat as her sole source of companionship in her humble apartment, in her cubicle, who's going to take a hit, a small hit but nevertheless a hit. Because she makes $16,000 a year, she's going to have to start paying for some of her drugs. Does it make sense to you? The list goes on.

If it were applied equitably today, across the board, 50% of the tax break would go to people who make $90,000 a year or more. Give me a break. I need one, but I don't need the tax break at the expense of others. If, after a day's work, I go down on Yonge Street and I see people panhandling on every corner -- they don't want to be there. I used to see individuals -- not as many -- now I see families and more with small children. That's us. How do you feel inside?

Sometimes I think we're all on a waiting list. The disabled are seeing their transportation curtailed. They're being cut off for a few dollars more, for the mere sake of a buck.

Mr Murdoch: You missed the boat a long time ago.

Mr Pouliot: Sorry, sir, I don't think I missed the boat. But I'm really starting to wonder that, when all is said and done, the people who can run the fastest are running away from those people. We don't seem to have the same responsibility to one another. It used to be that we were as rich as the poorest among us, but now it doesn't matter as much. It seems that some cannot afford to have a conscience or they have the conscience of their means, and it disturbs me. It disturbs the people of Lake Nipigon. Like the great, great majority of Ontarians, we don't want to hurt people. It doesn't make us feel very good and we don't get rich that way.

So I'm asking the government, hey, come on. I know you said 30%. It sounded good at the time. You wish you could do it. That would be a benefit, more money in our pockets; we could spend it. But on the other hand, maybe give a little more to people who have less, who need it more -- isn't that what's it all about? -- or take your time, take more time doing it. Your responsibility is to balance the books before you enact a tax cut.

Maintenant mes deux collègues, celui de Hamilton-Centre et celui de Sault-Sainte-Marie, avec votre bonne volonté, bien sûr, vont se permettre de vous informer judicieusement durant la prochaine heure, à peu près 30 minutes chacun. Je vous remercie.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I want to concur with my colleagues here who have just said that the member for Lake Nipigon, from where the curvature of the earth is much more apparent than anyplace else in the province, has just given a wonderful speech. I agree with everything that he has said and I share his concern and his compassion and feeling.

We're asked today in this place to support the government in its interim supply motion, an interim supply that comes to us without any context. We have not in the number of months, eight or nine months, that this government has been in office been presented with any comprehensive plan, any budget that would have with it the supporting documents. My colleague Mr Phillips keeps reminding us of this. There's no budget. We're passing interim supply and we don't know what the big picture is yet, although, mind you, we have lots of indications of what the big picture's going to look like in the not-too-distant future, because everything we've seen so far certainly paints a very bleak picture for everybody in this province except for those who are well-off, who are in positions of influence and who are friends of the Tory party of Ontario.

I'd like to start my few minutes this afternoon by sharing with you some thoughts that have been growing in importance in my mind and in conversations that I have with people in my jurisdiction, the wonderful city of Sault Ste Marie, as I go back, usually on Thursday nights, and spend Friday and weekends chatting and talking and working with them to try and find ways to protect them from the onslaught of the government of the day in the province of Ontario.

It wasn't so long ago that I finished university, and a friend of mine left this province to go to a Third World country to work, to help the poor in the world. I often felt a little guilty that I didn't go, and when that person would return, we'd talk about the work that was being done, that she was doing, and the work I was doing in Ontario. I would ask her, "What is it that I could be doing in Wawa, Elliot Lake, Sault Ste Marie, Toronto, in Ontario to help you?" She for a time worked in Mexico; then she moved over to Nicaragua and ultimately El Salvador. She said to me, "Tony, probably the most important thing you could do for the people of the Third World was to make sure that Ontario did not become a jurisdiction of that sort," where there was a small group of people who were very rich and very powerful and a huge group of people on the other end who were very poor and not so powerful, with a very small middle class. I have to say to you, that as I look around today at the province of Ontario, I'm wondering if we aren't moving in that direction, if we aren't becoming more and more a jurisdiction where fewer and fewer are going to have both resources and power, and more and more are going to feel powerless and are going to be without the resources to take care of even the very basic needs of life for them and for their families.


If the announcements that have come from this government in its short period in power so far are any indication of where we're going, or are any indication of what's going to be contained in the budget that will finally come to us in May, then we are I think, sadly, moving in that direction.

The premise of this government, as it rolls out its agenda, as it takes this province down the road to Torydom, is that somehow, some way, there just isn't enough to go around, that we don't have enough resources to share in an equitable, fair and just fashion with all of our brothers and sisters. I remind you of a story in a book that I'm sure many of you in this place have had the opportunity to read over in your life, and if you haven't you've probably heard about it, and that's the story of the person -- they say in it he was a young man; God only knows, it may have been a young man, it may not have been, but certainly a young man would probably be more apt, or a young person would be more apt to have done what it said in this story.

Anyway, it's the story of a group of people who had spent some time listening to a speaker and found themselves at the end of a day very tired and hungry, with obviously not much to eat, or at least not much that was present to eat. A young man walked by with a basket of loaves and fishes, and forgetting that his mother had probably sent him to the market to get the loaves and the fishes, he saw all these people who were in need of food and he decided to offer them. He said, "Here, this is what I have to offer." When other people saw the generous spirit of this person coming forward and laying on the table what he had, they began to discover themselves they also had some food they perhaps should be offering.

One of the understandings of this story is that somehow somebody came along with a magic wand and waved it and all of a sudden there were fishes flopping all over the floor and loaves just multiplying by the hundreds. Well, it's my strong feeling, having thought about this story for a long time, that that probably wasn't the case, that what happened was that once the people gathered and saw the very generous offer of this person to put on the table, to put out for everybody else to avail of what he had, they themselves discovered they had some too. At the end of the day, they had enough to feed everybody and then tons left over.

I suggest to you that in a province like Ontario, where we have so much, where we are so fortunate, where if you look around -- it doesn't matter what community you look at -- there is wealth, there are resources and there is the ability of communities to share in a way that up to this point anyway in our history has made this province one of the most fortunate provinces, one of the most sought-after jurisdictions in all of the world for people to come and to live. But I'm sadly afraid we've come to a time in our history when that may not be the case any more.

If we look at what this government has done so far, at the turmoil it has created, at the chaos that is out there now as people go from one day to the next not knowing if they're going to have a job, not knowing, if they have a job, whether the people who are now without work or who may be expecting to be without work are going to come in and buy the products and services they're offering because they just don't have it -- so there's a lack of confidence out there in the consumer that's creating chaos, but even beyond that, the obvious signs that there's something not right, that there's something not happening that is in the truest tradition of the democracy we've come to appreciate and to enjoy here in Ontario.

The first day this place opened, about two or three months after an announcement was made in July that you were going to cut 22% out of the take-home pay of the poorest citizens among us, whether it was in Hamilton or Sault Ste Marie or Toronto, just across the province -- we had a whole raft of people who lost a quarter of their income. I say to any of you here, just imagine your own income being cut by a quarter, the chaos that would create for you and the pressure that would cause you and your family to make ends meet, particularly when you're at the low end of the income scale to begin with.

When we arrived here on the first day of the opening of Parliament, we saw thousands of people who spoke very loudly and clearly by way of the demonstration in front of this jurisdiction and the violence that ensued on that day, a precursor of further such gatherings around this place, a gathering not seen in the history of Ontario and of a violent nature that I think shocked us, shocked the people who were out there as it happened to them and came upon them and that I think I would be safe in saying shocked the general public across the province.

We have a government here that has reversed labour laws. The member for Hamilton, who will speak next, will know of that because he participated very actively in the little debate that we were able to force across the province on that particular law. We as a government had found a way to bring an unprecedented level of labour peace in this province, not a strike of any significance, no violence on picket lines for three or four years while our bill was in place. Now we have a law that tips the playing field in favour of management again, and I suggest to you that the labour unrest that you have already seen, that has produced the kind of violence we've seen around this place and across the province, will be the order of the day and continue.

This is the image of this government by way of the actions it's taken, by the way it's governing, by the very fact that it has not taken the time to lay out for us a comprehensive, full-scale plan of what they propose to do so that we can be critical of it or supportive of it, as the case may be, as we try to get a handle on how it's going to impact those we care about most: those we represent, our constituents, those we live with in our neighbourhoods and our families and friends. There's a real sense of concern beginning to develop. I don't think any of us can go home to our constituencies on weekends without getting some sense of the angst that's out there, of the fear that's out there, of the real sense of gloom that's out there as we walk through our malls and meet with our constituents.

I tried over the last two or three months to get some answers from this government. I was more fortunate than many in the province today who are trying to get through the door to speak to government and particularly to ministers of this government about the agenda they're embarking on, about the programs they're proposing and about the cuts they're making. I had a chance, at one point on the standing committee on estimates, to speak at length with the Minister of Community and Social Services, share with him the environment he's creating for those people among us he's supposed to be most directly responsible for -- the poor, the marginalized, the disabled -- and ask him, as I did three or four other ministers, if he had done any kind of impact study, if there was any kind of blueprint he was looking at that would tell him at what point the cuts he was making were becoming counterproductive, were creating more problems than they were solving. Sadly, there was no answer to that.


I even asked him and his colleagues -- I know he is an honourable man and in the personal exchanges I've had with him I find him sincere and caring and compassionate -- if at some point, as the Minister of Community and Social Services, he determined that the cuts he was being forced to make by the cabinet he belongs to, by the government he is responsible to, were just too much for the people he was responsible for as minister, would he go to his colleagues in government, would he go to the cabinet table with the members who are on the other side of the table on that committee and say, "Let's back away from the tax cut here because it's just creating too much pain, it's just making the targets we've set too difficult to reach and too many people are being hurt."

Sadly, the minister was not willing to concede that. He was not willing to tell me that he would do that. He said, as so many other ministers and the Premier say here day after day in this House, he gave me the mantra: "We're a province in crisis and we have to get our financial house in order. We're spending $1 million a day" -- or an hour or whatever it is -- "on programs, and so we can't be compassionate. We can't afford to care. We can't afford to make sure that those who are most vulnerable and most marginalized in our communities are looked after."

The Minister of Education: I appeared before him one day and had a discussion with him. I had with me at that time two students from Humber College in their second year of social work. They were very concerned. On their behalf, I asked the minister, given the promise that this government made in the election to create some 750,000 jobs, just exactly where those jobs would be, because these two students, very serious students, committed to their studies and wanting to do something valuable with their time, wanting to contribute to society in a positive way, were concerned. They're in social work. They recognize that the government is cutting the programs they would traditionally have expected to get a job in.

They were asking the Minister of Education, through me, if he would give them some direction, some inkling, some idea of where it was these 725,000 jobs were going to be, so that if they needed to make a decision now that they were halfway through the program as opposed to when the program was all over and they found they couldn't get a job in the area they were trained for and had to shift gears, they could do it sooner than later.

Alas, I got the mantra again. I got the rote answer that these ministers are becoming so proficient in. As a matter of fact, I noted at one point that as time went on, they didn't have to read the mantra any more; many of them had it memorized; it just came automatically to their mind and they just laid it out, and that was the answer to everything. It's really too bad, because it would have been an excellent opportunity, I thought at that point, for the Minister of Education to have spoken to these students through me and to have shared with them the plans he had for them.

We had a program presented to us here last Thursday, and the opening two lines of that program were, "This is a recipe for new hope for the province," and, "It's to create jobs." There wasn't one job created. All we saw in that whole package was the cutting of jobs; 2,100, to be exact, in the Ministry of Natural Resources in northern Ontario.

The Ministry of Natural Resources in northern Ontario was one place that a whole lot of people who grow up in the north, who love the north, who want to work in the north, who want to protect the resources of the north, who want to make sure that those resources are there, not only for them but for their children and for all of you who do not live in northern Ontario, who live in southern Ontario and come from time to time to visit and to recreate -- but alas, those jobs will no longer be there.

You're effectively cutting out half of the jobs that people from across this province and indeed from other areas could have expected to come and compete for and, if they were lucky, get and then contribute in that way to their own livelihood, to the livelihood of their families and particularly to the quality of life of this province. But alas, those aren't there.

All we hear from this government, all we've gotten from this government so far is cuts: cuts to the amount of money people are making on social assistance, cuts to the programs and services they depend on to try to carry them through these very difficult times they're experiencing and, ultimately now, cuts to programs that are going to affect our ability as an economy to continue, to renew and to take advantage of any opportunity that might come at us in the next five or 10 years as the world changes and as the economy adjusts to the changes we're experiencing.

I spoke one afternoon at some length with the Minister of Health. It was at that particular point in time that I was able to relate most clearly the experience of having chatted with my friend who works in the Third World and shares some of the signs I see that may be indicating that perhaps that's where we're heading.

I don't think anybody who works here could have missed the phenomenon this past winter in downtown Toronto of the great number of people sleeping on the streets, sleeping on park benches, sleeping on grates, not being able to find warm housing for themselves and indeed whole families of people. I have been here not as long as some, but certainly long enough to know that I have never seen the numbers I've seen this past winter on the streets of Toronto.

Three people froze to death on the streets of Toronto this winter. Was there one whimper of concern raised by this government? Was there any questioning why that might have happened? Was there any task force set up to try to discover just exactly what's going on there? No, nothing. There was nary a whimper, nary a voice of concern. It reminds one, if one has any understanding, has done any reading or done any visiting at all to a Third World country, of what happens in those jurisdictions and what is beginning to creep into society in Ontario and on to the streets of one of the richest cities in the world, the city of Toronto, under the leadership and the guidance of this government.

In speaking to the Minister of Health, I also suggested to him that if he was at all interested in the larger question of health care and how we prevent disease from happening, if he was concerned at all about making sure we were doing things in our jurisdiction across the ministries that would promote health and prevent sickness, if he understood or had any sensibility for the whole question of the determinants of health -- I spoke to him about the impact the cuts his government imposed on the poorest among us by way of the welfare cut in July 1995 and if he didn't understand that in the long run that would create a class of people who were not well, who were sick, who would not be able to feed themselves properly, who would not be housed properly, who would not have the clothing they needed to keep themselves warm in the winter, and that in the long haul it would cost us more.

As a matter of fact, I mentioned the fact that at that particular point in time we had an outbreak of tuberculosis in the city of Toronto. They've moved quickly on that one, because they know that will be really embarrassing. We're not sure, though, where that's gone or how it's developing or if we have a problem of tuberculosis in the core of Toronto, but we do know that tuberculosis is most prominent in areas of low socioeconomic conditions, and that's exactly what this government is creating in this city and in many other cities across the province.

I asked him, "Don't you think it would make more sense to go back on some of the decisions that you've made?" and to stop some of the decisions that we knew were coming to take away from people the opportunity they need, for example, to recreate? Some of the money this government passes on to communities they use to build swimming pools and recreation centres; to have in place libraries where people can access books to learn about ways of taking care of themselves and their families; to have parks so they can go for walks and breathe the nice fresh air that's out there. I asked them, "Don't you think it would make more sense to be doing that kind of thing as opposed to moving so quickly and so single-mindedly on the tax break for the rich?" The answer again from that minister was the same as I got from the Minister of Education, the same as I got from the Minister of Community and Social Services -- the mantra, "We can't afford to do that."


In this, the richest province in Canada, probably one of the richest jurisdictions in all of the world, we can't afford to give people what it takes to feed themselves, to house themselves adequately and to help them to have a lifestyle. We're not talking extravagant here, a lifestyle that provides a bit of recreation in the communities where they live with everybody else, as my colleague said earlier, to afford them some moments in the sun so they might feel good about themselves, so they might, if they're not feeling real well, get better in that way and participate more fully in the communities where they live and in the economy of those communities, and as this government wants to do, cut back on the amount of money then in the long haul that we spend on health care because we have fewer people getting sick. But the program this government has embarked on by way of its mantra and its commitment to the tax cut is in fact going to cost us all a whole lot more in so many ways down the road as we see it unfold.

I just wanted to talk for just a couple more minutes, because that's all I have left before my colleague from Hamilton speaks, about my own community. Mr Spina, the member for Brampton North -- I think he was here earlier, and he's left; he's from Sault Ste Marie, actually, a fine fellow with a good family in my community -- asked me what I meant when last week I spoke of a real sense of -- I don't quite want to say "despair," but certainly not the same sense of enthusiasm and optimism, that's now in Sault Ste Marie, that was present in Sault Ste Marie just after Christmas in January of this year as I walked through the malls, as I encountered some of the small business owners in those workplaces. They shared with me the Christmas they had and some of their concern about the economy.

I compare that with the Christmas of 1995, when people were so buoyed. In Sault Ste Marie, in partnership with the workers and management and the financial institutions, we had given new life to Algoma Steel and St Marys Paper and the ACR. Now, by way of the cuts this government is making both to the money that people were getting, that was being spent almost immediately in the shops and stores of Sault Ste Marie -- that was now gone, by way of the cuts just in July and September. There was a little study done and there was a loss of between 200 and 300 jobs. The economic impact that has on our community by way of the spending power that's gone because those people no longer have money -- not to speak of those who, because of what they saw ahead of them and the program that was being projected by this government, expected to lose their jobs.

So yes, there's less optimism, there's less excitement and enthusiasm about the future today, I suggest to you, than there was a year ago, and it's because of the agenda of this government that is not creating work, not creating those 725,000 jobs that it said it was going to create, but instead, cutting jobs with every announcement it makes.

Those are some of the thoughts I have today; I'll have more on further occasion. I had opportunity this weekend to hear from some people who are having some real concern about the impact of the cuts on education, but we'll have further opportunity to speak about that at a later time.

I just want to thank people for listening and encourage this government to please, in the interests of justice and civility, take another look at the tax break, take another look at the program you're implementing, because it's hurting those who are most vulnerable and it's hurting the province as a whole. Our economy is not going to be as healthy as it could have been had you been a little less hurried and a little less draconian in the cuts you're making.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to begin by first of all congratulating and complimenting my colleague Tony Martin, the member for Sault Ste Marie, on his excellent overview of how he sees things from the north. We in our caucus know that Tony is certainly one of the most conscientious members we've ever worked with. He cares deeply about his community. His track record before he was elected speaks to that and his continuing service here in this place on behalf of Sault-ites also confirms the kind of commitment Tony Martin has to fairness and justice and compassion and caring, which are all the very things this government chucked out the window the moment it assumed power last year and began the process of systematically dismantling all the very things that have historically made this a great place to live and, in my opinion, contributed largely to Canada being twice chosen by the United Nations as the best place in the world to live.

I think those of us on this side of the House would agree that given the agenda of this government, the decisions to date and the decisions you are yet to make, our ability to achieve that kind of recognition and support for the kind of society and culture we have in Canada and here in Ontario is over. It doesn't matter what part of our society we look at; we see the theme that comes from the Common Sense Revolution, which is, "The bottom line matters more than people, making sure that our wealthy friends get a huge tax cut," a tax cut where over 60% of those savings and those benefits will go to the top 10% of income earners in this province. Over 60% of the value of that tax cut will go to the top 10% of income earners in the province.

We see very clearly the agenda of this government and we believe our arguments and our thinking are supported and the proof is there to be seen by those who want to do so. I would say to my colleague from Sault Ste Marie that one of the things this government needs to be worried about is that while it's announcing all these changes, it needs to recognize there's a change happening out there. The number of people who are watching these kinds of debates, who are phoning MPPs' offices asking for information, who are talking among themselves based on fact, based on community need, based on personal experience, is growing.

There's a coalition that's coming together across Ontario of groups and community activists and labour leaders and church leaders, and they're coming together because this government leaves no part of Ontario that matters to most working people untouched. You virtually attacked every corner. You sit over there and you think that by talking to your friends and your staff and staying in your bunker, somehow the rest of the province doesn't really know what you're doing and everybody really is being conned by the messaging put out by your spin doctors. The fact is that you're very blissfully driving yourselves off the edge of the cliff electorally, and I for one couldn't be more pleased, because regardless of who wins that next election, the first thing that matters is to make sure that this nonsense, this damaging, spiteful, mean-spirited damage that you're doing to this province, comes to a halt. That's the first thing.


As to who replaces you, Libs and the NDP will battle that out during the campaign. But I think that more and more people are very, very quickly realizing that unless you're very wealthy, there's no benefit for you in keeping Mike Harris and the Reform/Tory Party of Ontario in power.

Most of you just seem quite glazed over when that's raised, and so be it. The proof will be in the pudding. I think there are some courageous members of that caucus, and I won't mention their names, because I don't want to embarrass them with their own colleagues, but as time goes on, I want to say to those of you that are sitting there now and those that aren't in the House but have joined in expressing some concern along the way will be treated with greater and greater respect by your backbench colleagues as they begin to realize that you will be one of the few that has a chance of being re-elected because you weren't following blindly this Common Sense Revolution and what it means to the average person.

There's going to be a big difference spin-doctoring your way through a term in office and knocking on doors asking people to please re-elect you, because the fact of the matter is there's still a whole lot more people that aren't your wealthy friends than are, and the way a democracy works, those votes are all equal, and while their voice may not be equal in terms of who you listen to, elections are the great equalizer.

There will be very few of those who are blindly from the back benches applauding like trained seals everything that is said who will begin to see that their day of reckoning is coming and will begin to just offer a little bit of a tip of the hat to their colleagues who were smart enough and compassionate enough to recognize getting re-elected happens on the doorstep; it doesn't happen following blindly what the Premier and his key handlers say.

An example of that took place in my riding of Hamilton Centre over the weekend, and it dealt with the issue of workfare. It was a community forum on workfare. It was held at the self-help centre on West Avenue, and it was attended by a capacity crowd on fairly short notice to talk about the effect of workfare and what it means to communities like ours in Hamilton.

I just want to mention some of the participants who were there, because I think it's important for this government to realize there are other voices that are being listened to besides those that are drafting your news releases.

For instance, Andy Mitchell came in from the Metro Toronto Social Planning Council and addressed the forum, and was joined by Susan West from the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton-Wentworth and Karen Bridgman-Acker, who both are from the Hamilton Against Workfare Coalition.

Gerry McDonnell and Peter Cassidy were there from CUPE, a union that represents workers whose rights and jobs and futures this government is running roughshod over, people who have a great deal to say about workfare and the kind of virtual slave labour that this government wants to legalize that will take the place of those CUPE workers who have long served our community and are about to be dumped on the social scrap heap by this government's move to privatization and introduction of workfare.

The United Church of Canada was represented by Reverend Jim Dowden; Third Sector and Local 5 at RGB by Peter Wickett and Chris Holland; PUMA by Julie Gordon; the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care by Karen McMaster. I just want to say, on the subject of child care, that again we hear consistently across the province that very few of the attacks this government has launched do not hurt families, or hurt children in particular. Karen certainly spoke to that when she talked about the impact on single mothers of the introduction of workfare. Wayne Marston, the president of the labour council, was present, as were a number of other organizations, and the vast majority there was individuals on their own.

The feeling was that workfare is very much a part of this government's attack on working people, on the quality of life of working people and on the ability of communities to work together to help each other. We find consistently, beginning with the announcement of cutting support to the poorest in our society by almost 22%, all the way through to Thursday's document that was tabled indicating certainly not all, but some of the details of what this government is planning to do and how they're going to find the money to give back to their wealthy friends, attack on working people.

I want to spend the balance of my time discussing briefly some of the issues in this document, woefully inadequate as it is. I would say very sincerely that this was a pretty shabby piece of business on Thursday, when you left the impression you were tabling a document that suddenly was going to show what you're going to do and how you're going to do it, and you offer up nothing but public relations, smoke and mirrors and a whole lot of spin-doctoring but not a lot of detail. There are still tens of thousands of people and their families who work for and on behalf of the citizens of Ontario who still don't know whether they've got a job at the end of this year, because you haven't even had the decency to offer up details that show people exactly what's going to happen.

I want to begin with the ministry I am responsible for in terms of my critic's role, the Ministry of Labour. One of the first sentences under the restructuring initiatives is the insulting statement, in my opinion, that says safe and healthy workplaces are the top priority of the Ministry of Labour.

We have heard from the Minister of Labour on every occasion how much this government cares about workplace health and safety; words, words, words, but when we look at the actions of this government it's the exact opposite. This government will be remembered, if for nothing else, for their ability to adopt an Orwellian doublespeak that surpasses anything any other government of any political stripe in the history of Ontario has been able to achieve.

To make a statement like that and then turn around and shut down the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, introduce your anti-worker Bill 7 legislation, cut back on benefits to injured workers who are on WCB, disallow workers an equal say in how the WCB is run, slash the training given to workplace health and safety representatives, to do all those things is the opposite of showing any kind of compassion or caring for workplace health and safety; it's the exact opposite and it is truly insulting to the women and men who have dedicated their lives to the issue of WCB and workplace health and safety. There are hundreds of them, people who toil on behalf of their colleagues, with growing caseloads of their co-workers who have been injured on the job. It's insulting to suggest to those people, who know the legislation inside and out, that somehow this government gives a whit about health and safety or WCB or the working lives of the people who work for a living on a day-to-day basis here in this province.


In this package, on Ministry of Labour, the government says, "The ministry will review...." My colleague the member for Riverdale talked earlier about code words, and I think it's important to focus on that, because there really are certain words -- code words, buzzwords, key phrases -- this government uses over and over that are intended to leave the impression of one thing but certainly mean another. When this government says it's going to review the Occupational Health and Safety Act and show that it's going to be part of saving $8.2 million over two years, that says to workers and unions in this province that you're ripping open the Occupational Health and Safety Act to go after more rights that workers already have.

Given your track record and the fact that you're opening this legislation to save money, there's no doubt you're going in there to water down the rights workers have in this province so you can appease your buddies and your pals and your friends who already control the lion's share of the wealth and power in this province. While some of the Tory backbenchers laugh and kid about things like that, I can assure you that there are thousands of workers who don't find this funny at all.

The other thing they're doing: It says, "The ministry will amend" -- another little word -- "the Employment Standards Act..." There's not much left after we've gone after WCB, gone after occupational health and safety, completely replaced the Ontario Labour Relations Act without one minute of public hearings, attacked injured workers who are on WCB. By the time you also open up the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Act, there's not much left, is there? In none of those cases have you done anything for workers or for the families of workers. It's all been to water down rights, take away rights, make it easier for their rights to be ridden over. That's what you've done consistently.

When you're dealing with the Employment Standards Act, we're by and large talking about non-union workers, because they don't have a collective agreement. They don't have the benefit that belonging to a union can bring when you're dealing with health and safety issues and grievance procedures and improving benefits when the company's making money. They don't have that benefit. What they have in many cases is the Employment Standards Act, and in most cases they don't know what rights they have in there, because how would they? How would they know about it unless you're going to teach them what it is? We already saw what you did with the health and safety legislation, where you gutted the training from 120 hours to 56. That's where unions have a say. That, by the way, is going to save $2.4 million.

We know from the track record of this government that when it opens up the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it's going after rights workers have, rights they have to have their jobs and their lives protected, which this government's taking away. When you go after the Employment Standards Act, you're starting to go after the most vulnerable, who are fortunate enough to have any kind of a job, usually at minimum wage, and you're going to water down their rights in there.

Another word they like: "streamline." Got to love it. "Streamline the delivery of mediation, conciliation and arbitration services by the Ministry of Labour...." Do you know how much this little housekeeping matter is going to save? Streamlining the delivery of these services will save $9.5 million over two years. That's already after years of belt-tightening. Again, it's all got to be set in the context of this government's track record on workers' rights, on worker health and safety. When you take it in that context and look at saving $9.5 million from streamlining the delivery of mediation, conciliation and arbitration, it means you're going to be gutting those services out of that ministry. That's exactly what it means, and I'll be here to stand in my place and prove the point when you finally table the documents that show exactly what you mean instead of your cute little phrases.

Streamlining administration of the Pay Equity Commission: We already know what they think about pay equity. We know what they think about making sure that women have their decent rights upheld in this province by virtue of the legislation they've repealed. That's going to be part of a measure that saves $11.2 million. Does anybody actually believe, given the track record of this government, that they're going to do anything at all to the Pay Equity Commission that goes towards saving $11.2 million that doesn't take away a right or a protection that women in this province already have, as meagre as they are? I would think not, and the proof will be in the pudding, the proof will be there, make no mistake.

When we talked earlier about information and knowing what the law is, after we've watered down the Employment Standards Act and gutted the Ministry of Labour's ability to enforce the laws, one of the things they're going to do is to close the ministry's library. Let's get that out of there, let's make sure we privatize that in some fashion or do something that makes it more difficult for the average worker to access information about labour laws, interpretation of labour laws, about studies that have been commissioned and filed with the ministry; let's make it all the more difficult to do that. That's what that means; that's the intent.

In total, from the Ministry of Labour alone, this government is planning to slash $40 million. This is not a ministry that transfers huge sums of money. This is very labour-intensive. It deals with ensuring that the laws are followed around labour relations and taking the measures necessary when those laws have been violated. You take $40 million and 457 people out of the system and again, in the context of what this government has already done to working people, there's no doubt that this government wants as easy a time for employers to do whatever they damn well please. That's exactly what their agenda is with working people.

I'm glad the Solicitor General's in the House today because I want to comment briefly. I have a few things I wanted to mention, but a couple of things have struck me. Although I'm not the critic for this portfolio, I have had a relatively recent relationship with this ministry and, as I mentioned earlier today in question period, the government, without talking to any labour leader whom I can identify -- and I've been on the phone talking to them across the province -- I'm not aware of any labour leader who's been consulted or had an opportunity to have input on a decision that will have the Coroners Act opened up to remove the mandatory inquest for construction and mining deaths. Again I say that initiatives like that cannot be looked at in isolation but have to be looked at in the context of what is the track record of this government when it comes to working people and their health and safety and their quality of life. Something like that can only add to this government's litany of attack and take-away from working people.

In fact, when I spoke with Tom Beatty, who is the business manager for the Hamilton-Brantford building trades council, he was advising me that the phone lines were already burning up around construction worker unions and their representatives about this surprise attack on rights that construction workers have, and I can assure the minister he will be hearing very loudly and very clearly from that sector of the labour movement.

It's interesting, when I was going through the SG and corrections portion of the document, they're also eliminating the Coroners' Council.

The Speaker: It now being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1800.