36th Parliament, 1st Session

L061 - Mon 22 Apr 1996 / Lun 22 Avr 1996





















































The House met at 1333.




Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): April 21 to 27 is Organ Donor Awareness Week. Every year, more than 600 organ transplants are performed in Ontario. However, there are 1,200 patients on Ontario's waiting list. To put this in perspective, 100 out of every million people in this province need an organ transplant, yet only 20 out of every million are likely to become potential organ donors.

MORE, the multiple organ retrieval and exchange program of Ontario, needs your help and the help of all Ontarians. All MPPs should have received an information package from MORE. They would appreciate your sharing this information with your constituents. Everyone can be a potential donor, regardless of age. It is the health of the organ, not the age of the donor that is important.

The new organ donor card will now be included with the Ontario health card. The new Ontario driver's licences do not have room for the donor card. MORE has developed a new donor card which should be placed in your wallet or wherever you keep all your identification.

In Ontario, we are fortunate to have an organization such as MORE. Thanks to the efforts of MORE, Ontario was the first jurisdiction in North America to use DNA testing to match kidneys.

Organ donations save lives. MORE asks you to think about being a potential donor. Please discuss this with your family. MORE can be reached at Toronto at 416-921-1130 or at 1-800-263-2833.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I rise to bring to members' attention the display going on in room 163 of the Legislative Building today and tomorrow by the Association of Community Information Centres in Ontario, representing the over 50 community information centres from across the province.

These centres, using a provincial database, Online Ontario, provide information to citizens across the province on such important services as access to appropriate government offices, community services such as child care, language classes, recreational programs and seniors' services. I welcome in the audience today members of the association.

I particularly want to draw to the government's attention the fact that $1.1 million of funding to the community information centres has been cut, in the erroneous belief that other provincial funding is forthcoming. I want to point out to the minister, who I'm glad to see is here, that one of the things that makes this particular decision very difficult to understand is that services at the community information centres are provided at a much lower cost than other comparable services in both the government and the private sector; and secondly, that these community information centres rely very heavily on volunteers to provide these much-needed services.

I would encourage the minister, as she follows up on her initiative of last week in providing access to information for vulnerable adults, to consider seriously the community information centres as a vehicle to do that.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Today is a very significant day on the environmental advocacy calender. Today is Earth Day.

Back on April 9, my colleague Frank Klees, parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources, announced on behalf of Minister Hodgson and the Minister of Environment and Energy, Brenda Elliott, the start of environmental advocacy weeks. Advocacy weeks are designed to promote public awareness of important environmental issues.

Today, on Earth Day, more than 100 countries are celebrating and marking this, the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day's mission is to improve the state of the environment by encouraging individuals and communities to develop effective environmental partnerships and action plans.

On Earth Day and during Earth Week --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member's time has expired. Would the member take his seat, please. That's the clock working.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My statement is directed to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission recently announced proposed changes to the distribution of milk in northern Ontario.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): We'll let the member finish, and then we'll go back to you again.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Don't take that from the Speaker.

Mr Miclash: These changes would remove all considerations to producing and processing of the dairy industry in northern Ontario. It would allow southern Ontario producers to compete in northern communities.

Northern producers and processors tell me that these changes are being made with little or no public consultation. I am told that if the changes proceed as planned, we can expect plant closures and job losses in northern Ontario.

In my question to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines two weeks ago, I asked what interventions he had made to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on behalf of the northern milk industry, along with what assurances he was willing to provide to northern residents that these changes will not result in higher price increases for milk and milk products.

We still have no commitment from the Minister of Northern Development and Mines or from his government that the northern dairy industry and northern municipalities will not lose their plants and somewhere between 250 and 300 jobs in northern communities.

Northern residents do not feel that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines or his government understands their concerns. People tell me as I travel the north that this government, more than any other, is not listening.

Again, I call upon the minister responsible for northern Ontario at the cabinet table to commit to the northern dairy industry and northern consumers that full public hearings will be held before any changes are made to northern milk distribution systems.



The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Northumberland would like to complete his statement.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Do I get the full minute and a half?

The Speaker: Yes.

Mr Galt: Today is a significant day on the environmental advocacy calendar. Today is Earth Day.

Back on April 9, my colleague Frank Klees, parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources, announced on behalf of Minister Hodgson and the Minister of Environment and Energy, Brenda Elliott, the start of environmental advocacy weeks. Advocacy weeks are designed to promote public awareness of important environmental issues.

Today, Earth Day, more than 100 countries are celebrating and marking this, the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day's mission is to improve the state of the environment by encouraging individuals and communities to develop effective partnerships and action plans. On Earth Day and during Earth Week, which runs through Sunday, April 28, Ontarians and all Canadians are invited to reconfirm their well-documented personal commitment to the environment. People across the country and around the world are participating in community events such as tree planting, cleanups, concerts, workshops and parades.

On behalf of this government, which has a stated commitment to ensuring our tax dollars are wisely and effectively used to protect the environment, I invite all members of this House to take part. I would like to take this opportunity to remind all Canadians that it's only through individual actions that our children, our neighbours and our communities will be encouraged to continue to work towards making every day Earth Day.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Today is Earth Day. I can't think of a more appropriate time for a little review of the Harris government's record on protecting our environment. Here are some excerpts from my Earth Day report card on the Harris government, released on Friday. This is, sadly enough, only a partial list.

On water, the Tories get an F for killing plans to prevent and control toxic substances from entering our sewers.

On air quality, they get an F for lifting the ban on new municipal garbage incinerators certain to increase cancer-causing chemicals in our atmosphere.

On green industry and recycling, they get an F for eliminating funding for the popular blue box program, a virtual symbol of our commitment to waste reduction.

On protection of lands and forests, they get -- you guessed -- another F for passing Bill 20, which will lead to urban sprawl and paving over agricultural land.

Now, the cynical will be saying: "There she goes again. Is there really nothing on which this government can be given a passing grade?" So I took a closer look and, lo and behold, I actually did find one area in which the government was not only passing, but actually excelling: On obfuscation and doublespeak they get an A.

"The ministry will be tough on polluters," crowed the government in a recent document that chopped the ministry staff by almost one third and gutted numerous green programs and regulations. No amount of sugar-coated language can hide the bitter taste of this government's shortsighted, ill-advised and hypocritical actions on the environment.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I rise today, along with the member for Oriole, to recognize Organ Donor Awareness Week. This very worthwhile activity is promoted by the multiple organ retrieval and exchange program of Ontario, MORE.

It has been estimated that if organ donors were increased by 10%, the health care budget would save $12 million over a decade.

Public awareness of the need for donated organs is critical. The success of transplants is apparent, as shown by the increase of organ donations in Ontario over the last year. However, the public needs to know more about organ transplants. A signed donor card has no effect on treatment in the hospital, and perceived religious or cultural restrictions may not apply, as the objective of health care is to save lives.

Many families approached about donation of the organs of their loved ones refuse. Many are reluctant to say yes because they are fearful of the process. They are worried about how donations could affect their loved ones. I must stress that even if there is a signed donor card, the person's final wishes can still be overruled by family members.

A son of one of my staff members has been waiting since 1994 for a transplant, the gift of life, the donation of an organ.

With a transplant a recipient is able to live a full and happy, productive life contributing to their family and community. Families who agree to donate organs report they have received something very special in return. Furthermore, the altruistic act has helped many --

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


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): Today I would like to welcome Janet St Pierre from the Belle River Community Council, an information centre in my riding. Janet is in the gallery. Ms St Pierre is here with the Association of Community Information Centres in Ontario.

Funding for community information centres has been decimated by this government. These centres provide a valuable, cost-effective service to individuals and businesses in communities across the country who may require the system as well as the free advocacy and referral service for citizens. These services would have to be provided by other agencies at a much higher cost. An example of this is the Ministry of Health's hotline which costs $132 per contact hour to answer questions from citizens. In comparison, community information centres provide this service for a mere $23.73 per contact hour. This equals a great savings for the taxpayer and a more efficient service for the citizens.

The association has set up a fully functional information centre in the building here today and tomorrow to show their membership's expertise. I urge all members to stop by room 163 of the main building to get a demonstration of their capabilities and services and to get firsthand information from the providers of this valuable service.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Last week the Minister of Natural Resources admitted that over 2,000 people in MNR will be out of a job. He tried to tell this Legislature that the impacts on MNR and communities in northern Ontario would not be significant. The facts tell quite another story.

First, there is the issue of fighting forest fires. Not only is the MNR losing attack fire crews and bases in places like Atikokan and Ignace, it will also lose the important backup fire support that is needed. The fact is that virtually every northern Ontario employee of MNR is experienced in firefighting and firefighting support and they are the people who become the fire crews and the fire crew support when serious forest fires occur, but they won't be there any more. MNR won't have the same capacity to fight forest fires that it has had in the past.

Then we have the shutdown of provincial parks. In my part of the province, over 1.2 million people come from the United States and Manitoba each year for the tourism experience and many of them stay in our provincial parks. But this year two of the most popular provincial parks, Lake of the Woods Provincial Park and Caliper Lake Provincial Park will be shut down. Gone are permanent jobs, student summer jobs and an important part of the local economy.

Then we have the forests. This government will turn over control of eight million hectares of crown forest to the private sector --

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


Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): My statement today deals with the devastating tornado that ripped through the ridings of Dufferin-Peel, Grey and Wellington counties.

As you know, this past weekend our community was once again torn apart by a tornado that touched down in Shelburne, Violet Hill, Grand Valley, the townships of Arthur, Peel and West Luther in Wellington county and Williamsford in Grey county.

The community of Violet Hill was most affected, with a rural subdivision experiencing the bulk of the damage. When I visited the area Sunday, I was amazed at how much damage had occurred. Garages were torn from homes, roofs and walls were torn apart and trees were scattered like matchsticks. It was a miracle that injuries weren't more severe than broken bones and bruises.

Most homeowners had no opportunity to escape the tornado's path. It was most gratifying for me to see how the community responded. When I visited Violet Hill, I was encouraged to see how quickly the community had come to the assistance of their neighbours in need.

By Sunday afternoon, much of the damage had been cleaned up by friends and neighbours. Sunday morning, the local Rotary Clubs and the Home Builders' Association were all organizing volunteers to assist with cleanup and clearing the area.

It is amazing to see neighbours and friends pull together to work so quickly to assist their neighbours in need. I would like to offer my condolences to the homeowners who will now spend the next six months rebuilding their homes and putting their lives back together. I would like to offer my thanks to the many individuals who assisted with the cleanup over the weekend. I was reminded once again this weekend how special our communities are when they respond to neighbours and friends in need.



The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Today we have Chris Hornby and his family with us. Chris Hornby is a former Easter Seal Timmy and is from Essex county. Welcome.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Please join me, members, in welcoming the fourth group of pages to serve the 36th Parliament of Ontario: Shawn Bender, Guelph; Stacey Coleman, Chatham-Kent; Marlo DesJardins, Simcoe Centre; David Forestell, Wellington; Sheranda Fox, Northumberland; Lucas Gindin, Dovercourt; Sarah Griffiths, Oakville South; Bradley Hammond, St Catharines-Brock; Brendon Hawkeswood, Windsor-Sandwich; Heather Husch, Lake Nipigon; Brent Kenworthy, York-Mackenzie; Jessie Klassen, Sudbury East; Shannon Kohlmeier, London South; Catherine Kunz, Oriole; Jennifer Lim, Carleton; Laura MacNiven, London North; Hélène Mateev, Scarborough West; Vik Mohindra, Durham West; Dennis Nezic, Etobicoke-Lakeshore; Bryan Oehm, Middlesex; Charlene Perry, Quinte; Melissa Savage, Cochrane North; Keith Seim, Mississauga West; Tyler-Blair Sheppard, Norfolk; David Simard, Downsview; Maxwell Wellington, Ottawa-Rideau. Welcome to our pages.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): On Wednesday, April 17, 1996, the member for Dovercourt (Mr Silipo) rose on a point of order respecting the use of question period by ministers to make statements.

The member is quite correct when he asserts that "question period should not be used as the place in which ministers make statements about government policy." I am in full agreement and would caution ministers that a statement of government policy, of which the House should be informed, should be announced during statements by the ministry and not during question period.

However, as Speaker Warner states in his ruling of October 9, 1991:

"That is not to say that the Speaker is in a position to make judgements on the contents of answers in order to determine whether or not they constitute announcements of public policy."

In conclusion, I wish to thank the member for Dovercourt (Mr Silipo) for bringing this matter to the attention of the House and to repeat that question period is not the appropriate time for ministers to make statements that should be made during the proceeding reserved for that purpose.



Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I would like to advise the Legislature on action being taken to complete repairs to a backup system at Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. The need was identified during routine operational maintenance.

As the honourable members know, employee and public safety are the first priorities of Ontario Hydro and this government.

In accordance with these principles, on Saturday, Ontario Hydro began shutting down the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station so that repairs could be made to a check valve on the emergency coolant injection system.

The federal regulator, the Atomic Energy Control Board, was informed of the situation. On-site AECB representatives have worked with station staff to ensure the shutdown meets board approval. They support the remedial action being undertaken.

The backup system was not at any time in jeopardy. There are in fact two check valves in the system that ensure appropriate backup. Only one is required to keep the system operational in the event of a loss of coolant. While one requires repair, the other is operating properly.

The faulty valve was discovered as part of a routine testing of the safety systems. The emergency coolant injection system serves all eight Pickering units. All units must therefore be shut down to make the repair.

Ontario Hydro informs me that there is no risk of the same flaw at other nuclear generating stations. The failure at Pickering was caused by valve components not present at Bruce and Darlington.

This shutdown is not related to the April 15 release of tritiated water.

We expect to see the repair completed and the station back in service within eight to 10 days. There will be no impact on power supply to customers in the province. Ontario Hydro will replace Pickering generation with supply from fossil operations and, if necessary, through electricity purchases.

The government continues to be committed to the five-year average rate freeze for Ontario taxpayers. The shutdown of Pickering does not put the rate freeze in jeopardy.

Again, I want to assure the Legislature that this is part of routine inspection and maintenance and that the system was at all times fully protected.


Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I would like to inform the House of the aftermath of the two tornadoes which touched down in southwestern Ontario on Saturday evening. Let me begin by expressing our concern and sympathy to all of those whose lives have been affected by the destruction. There were a number of injuries and there has been some serious damage to personal property in the area. But most important of all, thank goodness, there was no loss of life, and for that stroke of luck we are all very grateful. I am pleased to report that emergency personnel have assisted all residents who suffered injuries or damage to their property.

The first tornado touched down in Grey county about 6:25 pm on Saturday. Five minutes later, a second tornado touched down in various parts of Wellington and Dufferin counties. Some 54 homes and 26 farm buildings were damaged or destroyed. Debris was scattered over a very wide area.

Staff of my ministry contacted local civic, police and fire officials immediately following the tornadoes and we have continued to work with local officials to assist them in their response to tornado damage. On Sunday, staff of my ministry met in the township of Arthur with the reeves of Arthur, West Luther and Peel townships. Staff also met with my colleague the member for Wellington. Let me say that the local members for Dufferin-Peel, Wellington and Owen Sound have been in their communities showing their support and assisting victims of this terrible tragedy.

The Premier has asked the Solicitor General to visit these communities this afternoon. In the meantime, I would like to congratulate the Ontario Provincial Police, the local fire chiefs and local municipal officials. Their efforts have been truly outstanding. I cannot say enough about the work of the local community organizations that came forward to offer their assistance, food, shelter and comfort -- neighbour helping neighbour, friend helping friend. They represent the very best of our province.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I want to respond to the statement made in this House by the Minister of Environment and Energy. Your continued attempts to provide a placebo of reassurance in the face of repeated evidence that there is reason to be concerned is simply not adequate. It is particularly not adequate on this issue in these circumstances, when the problem has been created by a valve problem at the Pickering nuclear station.

You have said that this was part of a routine inspection. This was in fact an unscheduled shutdown in the plant in which there have been valve problems known for some years. If I am not mistaken, this is the plant in which there was a replacement valve program undertaken some years ago because of the very real concerns with the valves in the Pickering nuclear station.

Rather than offer us a reassurance when we have yet another valve problem at Pickering, you should be prepared to bring to this Legislature and make public a full report on the status of that replacement and repair program as it relates to the Pickering nuclear station. We need to know whether or not that program of replacement has been completed. We need to know, if it has been completed, why there are now problems with the valves at this particular station. We need to know most particularly -- and this is why I am very concerned about this issue today -- whether cutbacks in Ontario Hydro have indeed jeopardized both the replacement program and the ongoing maintenance at our nuclear plants and therefore have jeopardized the public's safety.

We need that full report and we need it because, if my memory again is not mistaken, I believe there were questions asked of you earlier about a peer review of the safety of nuclear facilities in the province of Ontario and you were less than forthcoming about that review. If you want to reassure people in this province that our nuclear stations are safe, you must be prepared to provide not just placebo reassurances but a full report on the replacement program and the ongoing maintenance of those facilities, particularly the Pickering facility.


I have a concern that I raise because I noticed that, somewhat strangely in my mind, you put in your release, a release which was intended to reassure the public about safety given this occurrence, that you're still committed to the five-year average rate freeze at Ontario Hydro. You were asked about your rate freeze last week as Ontario Hydro seeks a rate increase. You know full well you cannot control the hydro rates, but you can indeed as a government put a great deal on pressure on Ontario Hydro. I want to know whether or not that pressure, that political intervention in the rate-setting program of Ontario Hydro, has jeopardized the maintenance and therefore the safety programs of Ontario Hydro and the safety of Ontario citizens.

Beyond that, the reason why you must be more forthcoming, you must be more open with the people of this province about the safety responsibilities you're prepared to accept as Minister of Energy in this province, is because of your government's direction on the privatization of Ontario Hydro. The fact that we have had several incidents now in which you have to reassure the House about safety makes me raise the question of what kind of reassurance any government can provide the public if it privatizes and sells off our nuclear generation facilities in this province.

You have to realize that this is not just a question, as you look to privatize, about who's going to pay the insurance liability for nuclear plants, which is considerable; this is a question about who is going to ensure that there is not, and never will be, a risk to the public safety. Elected members of the government, and only elected members of the government, can and must be held accountable for the safety of Ontario citizens. It is a matter of public safety and not just the financial bottom line you should be concerned about today.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): Just this past Thursday, I questioned the Minister of Labour about closing the radiological lab, and this just confirms the need for maintaining that facility as part of the government of Ontario. That decision in and of itself was not a good decision.

As far as the peer review goes, the Minister of Environment will have a copy of that peer review. We already think we know what's in it. This issue won't go away. You can't cut protection, you can't do the kinds of things you're doing and just think issues of this nature will go away. It's too important for the people of Ontario.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Obviously there is a problem with nuclear safety in this province and, in particular, with this plant. There have been several occasions over the past years where there have been problems with various components of the plant. It's no good for the minister to stand up and say, "Don't worry, everybody, everything is fine." Just last week, 1,000 kilograms of tritiated water leaked into Lake Ontario. Today, just a short few days later, we hear about a safety problem with the reactors at Pickering once again. Residents around Pickering are concerned, and they have a right to be concerned.

I'm pleased that the problem that resulted in the shutdown has been found before it's too late. However, I am told that this flaw will cost taxpayers $1.2 million a day to purchase other power. The minister did not come clean about that today.

I have some real concerns relating to Hydro's reporting of events, and I raised it last week in the House. It took over 12 hours for Hydro to report the tritium spill to the water intake plant. Twelve hours is unacceptable. The minister's response to my question was unacceptable. There was a breakdown in procedure; that is very clear.

Despite what the minister said in the House last week, the Emergency Measures Organization was not the first organization called. In fact, EMO, according to my information, was one of the last organizations which was notified about the spill. I'd like to know what is going on here.

In view of the fact that Hydro's initial modelling indicated that the spill could have been significant, it originally thought from the first readings, the first modellings, that the spill might be of 30,000 becquerels a litre, which would have been terribly significant, and it took 12 hours to report it.

Minister, you do have a responsibility for Ontario Hydro and you also have a responsibility for environmental protection. There was a breakdown, and you need to take action. If it's this hard to get information from a public utility, I can only imagine -- in fact, I shudder to think -- how difficult it would be to get information from a privatized Ontario Hydro.

I would like this minister to stand on her feet, not hide behind the Donald MacDonald commission, and assure the people of Ontario that nuclear plants in particular, let alone the rest of Ontario Hydro, will not be sold off to the highest bidder. It is the minister's responsibility to tell the people of Ontario just what she plans to do.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I stand here with the minister today and congratulate local authorities and ministry staff who responded to the tornadoes that hit central Ontario yesterday.

Just briefly to the minister regarding the statement, I think what we're looking for in those communities is a little bit more than sympathy. Given time, I'm sure the minister is going to take a look at what role the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing -- or possibly other ministries are able to assist those municipalities that have been affected. I know the people in those communities are looking for more than just sympathy, and I'm sure if the minister had had more time to have a statement, he would have touched on those issues of how directly and how concretely the government wants to respond to what happened yesterday in central Ontario.

I just want to remind the minister that one of the people from that community wonders and asks me how it is that we're able to respond, when in the government's business plan a week and a half ago the ministry cut or eliminated all of the special assistance funding to municipalities. They're looking to you for some leadership and saying: "Where's the beef? We appreciate the sympathy and we appreciate the phone call."

They certainly appreciate the meeting with your ministry officials and the role local members are playing in this, but they want to say to the government, "Listen, now that we've gone through this particular process, we've got to get down to the issue of how we are going to pay for some of that damage in those cases where insurance is not available to either the municipality or local ratepayers." What can the government do to assist those particular individuals and municipalities to deal with the damage that has been done in those communities?

I'm sure, as I said, that the minister in due time will respond to that, and I'm sure the minister will do all he can to financially assist those municipalities in responding to the tragedy yesterday.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Premier. Last week, the Premier's personal integrity was called into question as Ontarians got a closehand look at some rather disturbing things.

First, we saw the Harris hypocrisy, the man who has been telling seniors and students and the poor of this province to make do with less while he has been accepting an annual gift of a free membership in a golf club. Secondly, we saw the Harris evasiveness: the Premier, and the Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet as his spokesman last Thursday, refusing to acknowledge that this gift was subsidized by taxpayers' funds, which clearly it was. Thirdly, we saw the issue of the breach of the Members' Integrity Act, which is indeed a law of this province, and that's what I want to ask the Premier about today.

Last week, before the Premier went into hiding, he told this House that his rule for personal expenses was the following: "...be up front about it, be public about it, put the expenses there and be prepared to answer for them."

Premier, I place to you the same question that I placed in the House on Thursday: Can you today tell me why you did not disclose to the Integrity Commissioner that the Conservative donors were buying you a free golf and country club membership, and can you tell me why you did not disclose this, when clearly the integrity act required you to do so?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I obviously disagree with virtually 100% of the premise of the member's question, but let me get right to the answer. There is no conflict of interest in any of my dealings with the riding association. I have checked this with the riding association; I have also had discussions with the conflict commissioner, who concurs with me that there is no obligation under any information I have given him, the riding has given him, anything that you have given him or anything he's read in the paper that would cause any disclosure to be made to the conflict commissioner. That was my discussion with him.

Mrs McLeod: I would be very interested in knowing that the Premier has, since last Thursday, made a disclosure to the Integrity Commissioner. I would be very interested in a written ruling from the Integrity Commissioner as to what does constitute gifts and whether or not a gift that is subsidized by taxpayers' dollars from a riding association is in fact not considered a gift, because I think that is important.


Premier, we placed a question last Thursday because the act to us seems quite clear, and that was, "A member of the assembly shall not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected directly or indirectly with the performance of his or her duties in office."

Premier, you will recall that last Wednesday you told us that the purchase of the golf membership was directly related to your being the MPP for Nipissing. It is also a given that it cannot in any way be considered a legitimate business expense, which is why it clearly seemed to be a gift. The Integrity Commissioner has indeed ruled that this is not a gift, and I ask you to explain the basis for his ruling to the House today so we may all be aware.

Hon Mr Harris: The member is perfectly free to reference any of their own personal information or request any information from the Integrity Commissioner about anybody else. Nobody in this Legislature has done so, as of today, to the best of my knowledge, and I suspect that's because, as I've checked over the filings, I've seen no declaration of any gift from any member of the Legislature or any leader to deal with campaigns, to deal with clothing, to deal with cleaning, to deal with hairdos, to deal with anything that has been made by anybody there.

Quite frankly, I did not disclose anything to the conflict commissioner, as the member has indicated. I confirmed with the conflict commissioner everything that I had done, all the expenses that I had been legitimately reimbursed for by my riding association, carrying out my function as leader of the party, as the MPP. I disclosed that and discussed that with the conflict commissioner because you seem to have wanted to raise it up and cause questions in the media. In the absence of your referring it, I asked him and he said, "I see no difficulty."

Mrs McLeod: We raise it because it seems quite clear to us that anything which constitutes a gift and which is of a value over $200 must be disclosed and would be disclosed on any member submitting a statement to the Integrity Commissioner.

Given our understanding of that, Premier, may I ascertain today that you are not at all uncomfortable with us in fact seeking written clarification on this matter from the Integrity Commissioner and making that clarification public?

Hon Mr Harris: Frankly, it doesn't matter whether I'm uncomfortable or not. It's certainly your right to do so.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Our second question is to the Minister of Education. This concerns an event that is somewhat different but still rather extraordinary because it appears that a member of the Conservative government has been caught telling the truth, such an event that it made front-page news in Belleville this weekend.

Of course I'm referring to the story in the Intelligencer with the headline that says "Tories Lied, Says Rollins." The member for Quinte met last Friday with about 250 high school students, teachers and public school board administrators to discuss the harmful impact of this government's cutbacks on classroom education, and the member for Quinte told it like it is, like every one of us who was out in our ridings understands this.

He said, "There is no question about it, there is going to be an effect in the classroom." According to the report in the Belleville Intelligencer, a student then asked the member for Quinte if he meant this government lied when it said it wouldn't affect the classroom and the member for Quinte replied, "Yup, on that part it did. Yes."

My question to the minister is, is the member for Quinte telling the truth?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. The Leader of the Opposition should know and understand that it is not unusual for this government to tell the truth to the people of Ontario, and I can tell her this, that on the education ministry, we have kept the promises that we made in the Common Sense Revolution. We kept the promises that we made a year before the previous election.

We have restored junior kindergarten to a local option. The local board can decide what services can be delivered to the local community. We have kept our commitment in finding the savings in our education system that our taxpayers depend on. We have kept those commitments, not only other portfolios of this government but also in the Ministry of Education, and I'm proud of keeping those promises.

Mrs McLeod: The member for Quinte obviously knew what was happening in his riding and told the truth about it. The Minister of Education is either not aware of the reality of what is happening in Hastings and in every other board across this province or he is unwilling to state the facts publicly to the Legislature as they actually are.

One fact alone from your response, Minister: You haven't just made junior kindergarten optional; you have cut the funding and you are killing junior kindergarten. That's the reality of what you've done.

You have cut the funds to school boards to such an extent that they do have to cut into classroom education. Just for the record, in the particular boards the member for Quinte represents, the public board spends 88% of its education dollars on something your ministry calls instruction, and the separate board in that area spend 85% on what the ministry calls instruction. When you cut them, you are cutting classroom education.

That's not the only area, Minister. The truth-telling on the part of the government backbenchers appears to have been contagious over the weekend because the member from Grey has caught the bug. Here's what the member from Grey said on his local radio station last week during a discussion about the Conservative education cuts. The member from Grey said: "I do believe our Ministry of Education is a little out of control," and, "I think our minister really doesn't know what he's doing -- at times it seems that way." I'm still quoting the member, "I think he mentioned he wanted to create a crisis -- it looks like he's done that."

In a courageous example of truth-telling that should be emulated by all members of his government, the member from Grey said he thinks the minister is a "little out of whack right now." Minister, is the member from Grey also telling the truth?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Again, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for this question, this opportunity to respond in the House. Perhaps it seems to the Leader of the Opposition unreasonable, perhaps it seems unreasonable to the member, to ask our partners in the school system, the people, the boards, the federations --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Welland-Thorold.

Hon Mr Snobelen: -- to find less than 2% savings -- less than 2% -- in a system where an independent commission found that 47% of our expenditures were outside the classroom, but I can tell you that for the people of Ontario, the people who have made the adjustments over the last decade in their families as their disposable income declined more than 2%, the people who have found this in their business lives and in their professional lives, it comes as no shock that those kinds of reductions can be made, and can be made without affecting classroom education. I'm surprised that question would come up.

Mrs McLeod: There is simply no fact in what the minister says. In the Bruce-Grey area, 88% of the education dollars are spent on what the ministry calls instruction. Minister, I think you should sit closer to the member from Quinte and the member from Grey, because you might catch the truth-telling bug that's going around.

The reality, as so eloquently put by the two government backbenchers, is that this minister has broken a key government commitment. The cuts imposed by this minister, with the full backing of this Premier, are hurting classroom education; they are hurting the children in our classrooms. Minister, will you not admit that your cuts are hurting children and will you admit this is just another example of a broken Conservative commitment?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I think the Leader of the Opposition will not be surprised when I take exception to the premise of the question. There is absolutely no reason why the quality of the education in this province cannot be enhanced -- and by that I mean student achievement in the classroom -- while we find savings in that system that are so important. There is no reason why that cannot be found.


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

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. I want to give him an opportunity to continue explaining his crisis in education. I noted that in that last cheering section, neither the member for Owen Sound nor the member for Quinte was cheering.

I want to bring the minister back to reality, because the reality we're seeing across the province is that, unlike what the minister has been talking about here and throughout the province, that his cuts will not affect classroom education, we are seeing instance after instance of cuts directly to education.


The Speaker: Would the House come to order, please. The member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr Silipo: We are seeing instance after instance where the cuts are affecting very directly classroom education. Last week we saw in Oxford county at Norwich high school over 200 students walking out of class to support their teachers who got laid off; a similar action in the Niagara South Board of Education; similar actions in London. I could list on and on many examples.

The point I want to raise with the minister is this: Now it seems that even some of his backbench members and colleagues are tuning in to the fact that his cuts are hurting classroom education. If he can't even convince his own colleagues that his policies are not hurting classroom education, how does he expect to convince anyone else in the province?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I want to reassure the member opposite that our caucus, this government, to a person is committed to doing a variety of things. We are solidly in alignment with these, and if you'll pay attention, I'll let you know what they are.

One, we are going to return some fiscal management to this province so that we can hand a province with some opportunity, possibility and vitality on to the next generation, something your government failed to do, sir.

Secondly, we are committed and we are in alignment for providing quality of education, and by that we mean an improvement in the results of our students here in the province, and we will achieve that, sir.

You may be a tad surprised at a government in which the caucus means something, at a government in which the cabinet listens to the caucus, in which people have something to contribute. Many of the people in this caucus have an extensive experience in our school system, and I can tell you that they are quite an asset to this government, to me personally. You may also not be familiar with the words of Will Rogers when he said, "When two people agree on everything, only one person's thinking." Maybe there's only one person thinking --


The Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold has been continuously out of order and I won't warn him again.

Mr Silipo: Minister, you can continue to go on and on about your crisis in education, but the reality is that your cuts are hurting children in the classroom. Parents know that, students know that, teachers know that, and now even some of your government member colleagues know that.

The member for Grey-Owen Sound, as has already been quoted, said recently over the weekend, "I think our minister really doesn't know what he's doing -- at times it seems that way. I think he mentioned he wanted to create a crisis -- it looks like he's done that." Minister, what do you say to the member for Grey-Owen Sound in terms of his assessment of your performance and your actions?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I have spoken to the member this morning and I will continue to talk with the member about issues of concern in his riding and his area, issues of concern to the school boards he represents. I can tell you that we intend to have an ongoing conversation about that and about how education is affected in his local area.

However, this may come as a surprise to some of the members opposite, but we in this government believe that we can enhance student achievement in this province and find savings. That may come as a surprise to the members opposite, but that in fact is what this government is committed to doing.

Mr Silipo: I'm not going to debate the minister on that point, because his own members are doing a good job of it. Let me just say that I agree very much with the member for Quinte when he says, "The provincial government lied when it told Ontarians provincial funding cuts to education wouldn't show up in the classroom."

I ask the minister, who's right? If the member for Quinte believes that strongly what he said to the newspapers on the weekend, he's saying a lot about you and about your government and your actions. He's recognizing that the cuts are hurting classroom education. Why won't you finally recognize that and at the very least put a freeze on the cuts until you get a realistic assessment of the damage you're causing out there?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I can assure the member opposite that we can find savings in our education system without affecting classroom education. Which of the studies would you like me to quote? There are several, sir. Independent people who have reviewed this system found 47% of our expenditures are out of the classroom and suggested a reduction down to 40%, about $1 billion. When you talk about student-teacher ratios, we're interested as a party in making sure we have our people in the education system utilized so they make the biggest effect on student achievement, and we think that's what needs to be done in education. Let me just say this very clearly: I believe and this government believes we can find savings in this system and enhance student achievement.

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

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Nobody voted for $1 billion to be taken out of education in one year.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Minister of Environment and Energy in relation to the statement she made earlier today regarding the shutdown at Pickering and in relation also to last week's tritium incident.

Since about 20% of Ontario's electrical generating capacity has been shut down due to the problem in the emergency coolant backup system and, particularly as it's Earth Day, Ontarians want to be assured that the system is safe, will the minister agree that Hydro, which had a peer review audit done on its nuclear facilities last fall and has refused to provide that to the public or to the media -- will the minister direct Ontario Hydro to release the peer review audit so the Ontario public will know the full picture concerning safety at Ontario Hydro's nuclear facilities?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I would like to emphasize the fact that this faulty valve was discovered as a result of careful monitoring by Ontario Hydro in routine inspection, and I think Ontario Hydro should be congratulated for taking strong and immediate action to prevent anything from occurring at Pickering. Strong action at Pickering is important, and certainly important to the people who live in that vicinity and are concerned about their safety, as we all are.

The peer review documents are internal documents. They only work when they are internal documents. Their purpose is frank and open disclosure among peers in an effort to find best solutions for operational procedures. They only work when they are internal.

Mr Wildman: The public has a right to know the information about Ontario Hydro's safety, particularly the safety at the nuclear plants. The peer review audit is a performance and safety review of those plants, and the minister and Hydro are refusing to release it. The Globe and Mail made a request and it was turned down "because release of the reports could generate unjustified negative opinion that would affect the economic interests of Ontario Hydro."


What have you got to hide? Why won't you come clean? Why won't you at least, now that you've seen these incidents in the last couple of weeks, direct Ontario Hydro to release the peer review audit?

Hon Mrs Elliott: Neither the Atomic Energy Control Board nor the government have copies of these documents. They are intended to be effective as review documents shared among peers, the purpose being a full and open disclosure to find the best solutions. In fact the Atomic Energy Control Board, which is the regulator responsible for the safety of the nuclear facilities, does not want disclosure because it knows it would inhibit the efficacy of such a process.

Mr Wildman: In the November 28, 1995, edition of the Globe and Mail an official of the AECB said he doubts the information reviews would cause embarrassment to Ontario Hydro. The minister says that the government does not have the audit. My question was whether the minister would direct Ontario Hydro to release it, not whether the minister would release it.

Particularly at a time when the government is considering the privatization of Ontario Hydro, is the minister aware that in the Wall Street Journal on February 1 there was a report that utilities in the northeastern United States are cutting corners on safety as they attempt to reduce costs? Obviously, the people of Ontario have a right to know what's happening now in Ontario Hydro and what might be the result of any attempt to privatize that operation.

In light of these reports, are you prepared to release the peer review and assure Ontarians that responsibility for the operation and safety at Ontario Hydro remains in the public sector?

Hon Mrs Elliott: I remind my colleagues that the shutdown at Pickering is in response to a faulty valve in a backup safety system. Again, these peer reviews only work when the disclosure is full and open among peers and that is solely its intent. The AECB does not believe that these peer reviews would be effective if they are made public. My job is to make sure Ontario Hydro can do its best to provide safe nuclear power for this province, and I believe that in the present system they can do that best.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I have another question for the Minister of Education. It relates very directly, Minister, to the cuts you have imposed on school boards across the province, cuts which are not the $400 million you like to talk about, but have an impact of at least $1 billion on public boards alone. Boards cannot implement those cuts without hurting classroom education.

You have said today that you do listen to members of your caucus, so that leads me to a question about exactly who has your ear. The Haliburton County Board of Education, we understand, is to be cut by $1 million, obviously a concern. We learned over the weekend that the size of that original cut has been reduced by about two thirds. One media report attributes this rather significant change to a little political magic by the member for Victoria-Haliburton, who of course also sits at the cabinet table with you as Minister of Natural Resources and Northern Development.

Minister, was indeed the original cut proposed for the Haliburton board of education reduced? If so, did you have any discussions with the Minister of Natural Resources about this change in direction, and is this the type of deal that you work out on a regular basis?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): To the Leader of the Opposition, first of all, you're quite correct. Our reduction to the school boards was not, as announced, $400 million; in fact that would have been a very, we think, tough operating reduction to make, so we mitigated that $400 million with a temporary moratorium on capital spending, which will actually reduce the operational reductions that school boards need to make over the next year. We have done that, conscious of the fact that school boards need time to make the adjustments in order to pick up those savings.

As far as the other suggestion that the leader has made of some sort of -- I don't know -- deal, can I just assure the Speaker and assure the chamber that once again the Leader of the Opposition is simply misinformed.

Mrs McLeod: The minister has not mitigated the cuts to education as it relates the $1-billion impact, unless he has to the Haliburton board of education. I ask you to provide us with correct information if the media reports were misinformed.

I can't believe that you did not come into the Legislature today having asked for some accurate information so that misunderstanding could be corrected, so I ask you again: Did you mitigate the cuts specifically for the Haliburton Board of Education? If you did, what was the basis for reducing their cut in grants? If it is found to be a perfectly normal procedure in the Ministry of Education and Training, could you name any other school boards which have been able to cut a similar deal, or else tell us unequivocally today that no other school board has cut such a deal?

Hon Mr Snobelen: To help the Leader of the Opposition understand, let me say very simply that no such deal exists.

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

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Was the Minister of Natural Resources not telling the truth, then, in the report in the newspaper?


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Minister of Education and Training. As the minister is aware, the committee has been hearing presentations, and will continue to hear presentations this week, on Bill 31, the Ontario College of Teachers Act, and has heard a number of proposals from boards, teachers and other interested groups about possible amendments.

Since we're continuing the hearings this week and it wouldn't make sense not to know what the government is proposing -- government members have indicated there may be government amendments -- is the minister prepared to indicate to the committee that the government will table the amendments the ministry intends to propose to Bill 31 at the beginning of the session this week so that everyone will know what the government's intentions are?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): In reply to the leader of the third party, no, we have no intention of tabling amendments at the start of this week. What we will do is get the public input that this process is designed to have, and at the conclusion of that we'll see if there's some way this bill can be improved or that the College of Teachers can be improved.

Mr Wildman: From that, am I to understand that at this point the minister has no amendments to the legislation in mind? If that is the case, does that mean that the government only intends to begin to prepare any amendments it might consider after Thursday's session this week? If that is not the case, why would the government not now table the amendments so we don't have presentations all week dealing with areas that the government has already determined to change?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'll say this as clearly as I can, so that there can be some great understanding about this. You have asked if I was going to table amendments today, at the start of the process this week, and I have said that no, I have no intention of doing that. We'll wait until the public input is in and then we will have a look at the full body of public opinion, the full body of presentations that have been brought before the committee, and we'll see if there is any way to improve the College of Teachers so that at the end of the Legislative process we have the best college possible.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Last week, more than 250 people in my community attended a town hall meeting that I organized to deal with the very difficult and tough issue of drunk driving in our community.

Could the minister tell this House what he and his ministry are doing to combat what is very criminal behaviour, drunk driving in the province of Ontario?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I would like to thank the member for Nepean for his question and also for his dedication to road safety.

This government is committed to ensuring the safety of our road users across the province, and we have done more than previous governments in the past. Tough measures to reduce the incidence of drunk driving were introduced as part of our road safety program in October 1995. They include $1.2 million of continued annual funding to RIDE programs run by municipal police services; a commitment to work with the private sector to create local and provincial year-round public awareness campaigns.

On top of that, legislation will be introduced to increase the potential maximum suspension period for a convicted first-time offender from 12 months to 18 months to allow the courts more room to make the punishment fit the crime. Legislation will also be introduced to provide for immediate 90-day administrative licence suspensions.


Mr Baird: At our town hall meeting, we heard from numerous people who were very concerned about this issue. Many of them had family members involved in very serious accidents. We heard that the time for education has passed. We've done enough of what we can do from education; people want tough enforcement and they want tougher action to combat drunk driving on our roads.

Members in my riding were pleased to learn of the doubling of the funding to 119 communities in the RIDE program. Even the police chief in our community spoke out in favour of that.

Members in my riding want tougher measures to combat drunk driving. One of the measures available is administrative licence suspension, something that you mentioned. My constituents welcomed this government announcement of ALS last fall as a positive step in the right direction.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): How did they welcome the cancellation of the ads?

Mr Baird: We had 250 people at the meeting; not one of them mentioned the ads.

When ALS was announced last fall, we were told it would be up and running within 12 months. Could the minister tell us whether or not we can meet that deadline, and if so, when can we expect to see this program operational on the roadways of Ontario?

Hon Mr Palladini: I would like to assure the House and the people of Ontario that this government is working to meet its deadline for the introduction of ALS. This initiative has a proven track record in other jurisdictions of reducing alcohol-related crashes, deaths and injuries by up to 50%. We will be introducing legislation this spring, and implementation is planned for the fall.

Administrative licence suspension, when combined with the other measures contained in the road safety plan, will mean safer roads for the people of Nepean and the rest of Ontario. These and other changes we are considering will make us one of the toughest jurisdictions in North America on drunk driving.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Minister, when your government was elected, and before that during the election campaign, it was suggested that once you were elected there would be several industries coming to Ontario and then everybody would want to stay in Ontario.

In St Catharines, since you've been elected I can think of seven or eight plants that have been affected by closures: Kelsey-Hayes, 135 people; Court Industries, 20 people; Thona Corp, 60 people; Foster Wheeler, 188; Beaver Lumber, 59; Mott's Cadbury and Schweppes operations, Cadbury Beverages, 175 last Thursday; and today I pick up the local newspaper and I find another 100 jobs are lost in St Catharines, this time at ITT Automotive.

Minister, what could you believe could be the reasons for all these companies leaving, and what are you prepared to do to retain these jobs in the province of Ontario, because they're so very important to the people in our community?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I'm very pleased to respond to the member for St Catharines. We are very concerned when jobs move on or changes occur in industry. As you are quite aware, at the present time the Globe and Mail is running a very good series of articles on the job market and what is happening. There are changes in the job market, there always will be and there have been in the past.

We are not concerned, because we know that we are creating the right business climate. Let me give you a few examples of this. Hoechst chemicals in Kingston, near the old Celanese Canada Inc plant, has put $200 million into their plant for expansion purposes. Siemens, a well-known, worldwide respected company, is doubling its investment in the Windsor region by about $100 million to $200 million. All I can say is that those are very gratifying statistics and I think they ensure us in Ontario that we are creating the right business climate.


Mr Bradley: I find it amazing that so many Conservative members are applauding when so many people in St Catharines have lost their jobs in the last period of time.

I want, however, to zero in on one specific closing to see if the minister can be of some assistance in this regard, and that is the Cadbury Beverages closing last Thursday. The Minister of Agriculture will be interested in this: 175 people will lose their jobs, and all of these people are extremely concerned, justifiably, when they lose their jobs. But as a result of the closing of that plant, grape growers in the Niagara region will not have a place to have their grapes processed for the purpose of grape juice.

The minister has had the weekend and he's had input from the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Could he tell us what action the government is prepared to take to ensure that those growers have an opportunity to have their juice processed here in Ontario and therefore continue the economic viability of that form of agriculture in the Niagara Peninsula instead of paving it over from Toronto to Fort Erie?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm very pleased to report that as in all cases where we see changes in a community about jobs, we are working with the company. We are in contact with the companies at all times to find out how we may assist them. That's part of our job in our ministry and our government. Just as we were helpful to Toyota and Honda in helping them expand their plants, we will be working with this company and that region in Niagara to make sure the grape manufacturers --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I've been very patient, but I warned the member for Welland-Thorold earlier. I'll have to name the honourable member. Would the Sergeant at Arms take him out, please.

Interjection: He hasn't done anything.

The Speaker: Yes, he did. I'm sick and tired of it.

Mr Kormos was escorted from the chamber.

The Speaker: New question.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Minister of Education and Training in relation to the answer he gave to the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the Haliburton County Board of Education. I have a copy of the Haliburton County Echo, Tuesday, April 16. It says:

"After a month of anguishing over how to absorb $1.2 million in lost revenue without decimating the school system, Haliburton board of education has been told by the province its funding cut will be only a quarter as deep.

"Haliburton-Victoria MPP Chris Hodgson delivered the startling news before a standing-room-only crowd of mainly parents, educators and students at a special school board meeting Tuesday evening in the high school gym. Hodgson told the gathering that Education Minister John Snobelen had considered the devastating effect a massive funding cut would have dealt the board and decided to cap the decrease at 15% of last year's $2.16-million transfer payment."

Could the minister indicate to this House whether or not he was accurate in his response a moment ago or whether the report that attributes this to the member for Victoria-Haliburton is accurate? Did the member get the minister to cut the cut in transfer payments to the Haliburton county board or not?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I can help a little bit with this. You should know that the reductions we have asked school boards to make, the savings we've asked them to make as a result of the Minister of Finance's announcements on November 29, amount to less than 2% of operating costs in boards.


My understanding of Haliburton is that it's a small board and that 2% or less than 2% -- I think 1.7% --

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Did they cut a special deal in the back room?

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Oriole.

Hon Mr Snobelen: -- of operating costs wouldn't represent anything close to $1.2 million, so I don't know where that number comes from. I appreciate that the leader has read into the record in the House clippings from the County Echo. I didn't read the Echo but I found the story interesting.

I can tell you that as far as I know, the school board in Haliburton does not have a $1.2-million reduction coming from the ministry as a function of the savings that we announced on the 29th.

Mr Wildman: In this report, Mr Hodgson, the minister's colleague, states that he appealed to Mr Snobelen, who ruled that "A handful of boards" that would be hit far more severely than others under the province's funding formula, including Haliburton's, would see their transfer payment reductions capped. "It's felt that the 15% cut can be met through administrative reductions," said Mr Hodgson.

Did the minister, in response to an appeal from his colleague, cap the cut in transfer payments to Haliburton county, and is that part of "a handful of boards" that would be severely hit? If so, what are those boards, which ones are they, and why is it that these boards are apparently being treated differently than all of the other boards in the province? If you're going to cap them at 15%, cap them.

Hon Mr Snobelen: First, may I congratulate the leader of the third party on the theatrics. It makes the point very theatrical.

I can tell the leader of the third party that as a result of our asking school boards to find savings that are less than 2% of their operating costs, it would not represent anything close to $1.2 million in the Haliburton board.

As the member may have been informed previously, there will be a variety of boards, I suspect, across the province that will apply to the ministry for relief from an undue burden if a variety of the different things that change year to year in the GLGs require some adjustment. As has happened in the previous government and the previous government before them, from time to time a board will apply for an undue burden, and if it's appropriate the ministry will go forward with that.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Let's make a deal. Education: Let's make a deal.

The Speaker: The member for Oakwood.

Hon Mr Snobelen: But I can tell you that as at this point, as I told the Leader of the Opposition, no deal has been struck. We will take those applications from boards, and I suspect that there will be several for undue burden, and we will examine them and we'll do something that makes sense for those boards, because we don't want to affect classroom education in the province.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Minister, recently the Hamilton-Wentworth constituent assembly released its report on reform of municipal government in Hamilton-Wentworth. There doesn't seem to be any consensus as to what form that should take. I'm wondering if you can tell this House what position your ministry has with respect to the recommendations made by that constituent assembly.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank my colleague from Hamilton West for this very important question. This government is very interested in municipal restructuring. We believe municipal restructuring will lead to less government, less duplication, and be more cost-effective. All of this benefits local taxpayers, as those in Hamilton-Wentworth.

We believe the best solutions to local problems are initiated and developed at the local level. We are encouraging municipalities to restructure their political and bureaucratic operations so that taxpayers all over Ontario, and including Hamilton-Wentworth, get the best value for their money.

Mrs Ross: Can you please tell me, in light of the fact that there is no consensus, does our government have any plans with respect to reforming government at the regional level of Hamilton-Wentworth?

Hon Mr Leach: The constituent assembly has spent considerable time examining the regional structure in Hamilton-Wentworth. We look forward to hearing what the community has to say about the recommendations of the constituent assembly. We feel that excellent solutions can be reached by communities coming together to resolve important issues that have a great impact on their lives. The province is here to offer any assistance to ensure that Hamilton-Wentworth provides services to its citizens in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I'd like to come back to my friend the Minister of Education and Training. We've heard three different responses this afternoon in relation to what has been reported widely, the apparent special deal that the Haliburton board has received; the county board. The minister has already acknowledged that, yes indeed, there has been some adjustment. The report suggests that the Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines, after having discussed with the minister -- that some adjustments were made. I would ask the minister if he would simply answer, did you or did you not have discussions or have some representation from the Minister of Natural Resources concerning this particular board, following which cuts were made to the cut to this particular board?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the honourable member for the question. Yes, in fact I've talked to many members of our caucus about their individual boards and I certainly have managed to send an information package out to all those people who have made an inquiry about how their board will be affected in the GLGs this year. I understand that's a fairly normal process. No, as I said a little earlier, we have not made a deal, but we will certainly entertain -- and I'm sure that we will get this from several boards, as has been the case in the past -- representations from boards that believe they have an undue burden because of past GLG experiences.

As I'm sure the member opposite understands, the reductions, the savings that we're looking for boards to make do not represent the largest part of the GLG effects for many boards. So we will have a look with individual boards and make sure that everything's done fairly and equitably across the province.

Mr Patten: An alleged amount of $1.2 million down to $232,000-odd in that particular neighbourhood it seems to me is not inconsequential. That is a very significant drop in the cut that would affect this board, so I have a question, Minister: What are the criteria on which you would review submissions by boards, and would you be prepared to table a list of what the original cuts are now and any changes that have been made to the cuts that have been offered to the various school boards in the interim?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Again, I thank the honourable member for the question. So he'll know, the undue burden section, which has been used many times by many governments -- in fact is used almost every year -- is regulation 307 in the Education Act. So there is that information.

Secondly, for the information of the member -- and I have said this before today in this House; I'll say it again -- our reductions to school boards amount to less than 2% of operating expenditures, about 1.7% for the average board. That is not, in my view, and I think in the view of this government, an unreasonable amount to expect our system to find savings outside of the classroom.

In the area of Haliburton, in the Haliburton boards, 1.7% does not represent anywhere near $1.2 million. I don't know what the number would be, but it would not even be close to $1.2 million. So I don't know where that number comes from. It certainly isn't a result of the savings that we've asked school boards to take on. It may be a result of some other normal fluctuation in the general legislative grant, and we'll have a look at it.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Energy. In the Toronto Star today it says: "Brenda Elliott is apparently under house arrest, forbidden by Premier Mike Harris' officials to speak to the public in anything other than tightly controlled situations." Minister, today is Earth Day, and I'm going to give you a chance to break free and give you an opportunity for once to speak up for the environment, all on your own today.


Pollution Probe recently said the largest single cause of smog is automobile exhaust. A future with more people, more cars, more kilometres driven means even worse smog problems in the future. At the end of this month the voluntary vehicle emissions testing program which was to form the basis of a mandatory program will come to an end. Will you today commit to implementing within the next year a mandatory vehicle emissions testing program for the Windsor-to-Ottawa corridor?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I thank the member opposite for the question. There are a number of issues of concern in this province and we continue to work on all of them. We've been recently talking about the issue of water, and the member opposite raises the issue of air. She will know that there is a pilot project ongoing right now called protectAir, which is a vehicle testing program that is being monitored to see how effective it is in reducing air emissions in the urban centres and to determine how well it works on a public basis.

Ms Churley: You've been talking about air and water all right; that's all you've been doing while you've been cutting and slashing, all through the Ministry of Environment and Energy, $200 million. We've been told that there are no plans for a mandatory vehicle emissions program such as the one in BC.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Who told you that?

Ms Churley: We have our sources. In fact, we are told that you have no plans except to dismantle environmental protection. You cancelled the green communities program that helped reduce energy use, therefore creating less air pollution.

As I am sure you are aware, the city of Toronto passed what would have been Ontario's first bylaw to prevent vehicle idling. This would have helped to reduce smog, but incredibly the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing wouldn't allow the city of Toronto to proceed with the bylaw. Can you explain to the people of Ontario why you didn't stand up for air quality and human health in view of the Minister of Municipal Affairs' decision to prevent the city of Toronto from taking measures to protect our health?

Hon Mrs Elliott: I would like to say that there are many ways of dealing with air issues and we are exploring many of them. I mentioned the voluntary program. As a member of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, we have been working on new fuel formulations and new low-emission vehicle standards for the country of Canada, never mind the province.

There are a number of ways to go about this issue. We are working with partners to determine the best way to go forward to deal with the air issue as a whole in this province.


Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. I've been all morning in my riding of St Andrew-St Patrick, where people were asking me what is happening to the GTA-Libby Burnham report. We haven't been hearing what is the status. I wonder if you could fill us in.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): I thank the member for the question. The Burnham panel, led by Libby Burnham, with the help of our colleague Derwyn Shea, has --


Hon Mr Leach: That's a very well-deserved round of applause.

They heard over 300 submissions, and they're in the process of finalizing their report. I expect to get their final report sometime this week. We all know that the GTA Task Force is going to affect the lives of millions of people for decades to come and we want to make sure, before we take any action, that we've reviewed every aspect of it.

Ms Bassett: Just to clarify, do you mean when you say before you take any action on it that you are going to consider the recommendations, or are you going to move forward on what Libby Burnham and Derwyn Shea's report suggests?

Hon Mr Leach: As we know, the Burnham report was established to get feedback on the recommendations from the Golden report from the GTA Task Force. Their direction was to see what type of consensus there was throughout the community.

We all know these issues are very complex, that we are going to have differences of opinion between those in the rural part of the community, those in the 905 area and those in the Toronto core. We want to make sure that before we make any decisions that are going to affect the members of our community for years to come, we have the input and response from everybody who wants to be involved. We intend to do that. Some of the answers were complex and are going to take a little time to review, but I can assure the member that we will have a direction coming forth within the next short period of time.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. He has made a very significant admission in this House this afternoon. He has told this assembly that, contrary to his first answer, which was that there was no special deal to the Haliburton board of education, he has now recanted and has admitted, as the Haliburton paper, as the Minden paper and as CBC have all reported, that in fact there was a very special deal made for the Haliburton board of education.

I met yesterday in my community of Renfrew county with representatives of the Renfrew County Roman Catholic Separate School Board. They have seen their grants cut by $2.75 million, which represents fully 10% of their operating dollars. They haven't heard anything about these special deals, and they are desperate to know what they are to do.

On their behalf, I ask the minister, how did he provide the special deal to Haliburton? Was it by applying the undue burden provision? If not, what mechanism other than that did he use? And what is he prepared to say to the Renfrew County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, which is facing a cut of $2.75 million this year, representing 10% of its operating dollars in a jurisdiction that is equally poor in terms of its assessment base as is the Haliburton board of education?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Let me make it very clear to the member opposite. I don't know how many times today I will say this, but I'll keep saying it until -- perhaps if you write it down you won't have to ask the question again. We have not -- I have not, my ministry has not -- made a deal with the Haliburton board. However, as I have also said, if there's a board that believes it has an undue burden, I mentioned a little while ago that there is a regulation in the Education Act that permits boards to appeal to the ministry for relief. If those come in, we will consider them in light of the precedents in the past. I'm sure that, as in the past, there may be a board or two or three that require some relief from a grant reduction.

However, I want to point out again, because I think this is important, that the savings we're asking school boards to make represent less than 2% of their operating costs. We believe school boards can make those reductions. If there is some further reduction in the grant, it will be because of an anomaly in the GLGs. I would have thought that a member who's been in this House for a long time would have already experienced that.

Mr Conway: On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker, and I want you to hear this point of privilege.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member has a personal point of privilege?

Mr Conway: Absolutely, and it's a short one. Earlier this afternoon in question period, the Minister of Education said point blankly to my leader that there was no special deal, no deal whatsoever for Haliburton county. Later this afternoon, it's become absolutely clear that he made a special deal, that has been unadvertised, for the county board in Haliburton. That conduct is dishonourable, and I say to the Minister of Education that that dishonourable conduct now causes him to give an apology to this House because he did not tell the whole truth.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On the same point of order, Mr Speaker: I have new information that relates directly to the point that the member for Renfrew North has just made.

The Speaker: I'll hear your point of privilege, but I want to say first that a point of privilege is something that's very grave and something out of order and I would like to hear it distinctly. I know there's a disagreement, but I will hear your point of privilege.

Mr Wildman: Mr Speaker, my staff has just within minutes spoken to Mr Bradley, the superintendent of education of the Haliburton County Board of Education. He stated that the 15% cap, of last year's total operating cost, in cuts, was conveyed to the board by Mr Hodgson. He stated that the board and the ministry are still working out the details. This has been offered by the government and he knows of no regulation that would allow for this at this point.


The Speaker: Order. Indeed, there is a disagreement here. Tomorrow --

Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, we are not allowed to lie in this place. That's the fundamental question.

The Speaker: Order. Nobody is allowed to lie in this place.


The Speaker: Order. I think you have some very good questions for question period tomorrow. That issue is over. Tomorrow there will be question period; it will be time to raise the issue again.


The Speaker: No, the question period is over. What's your point of privilege?

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I want to ask you directly, Mr Speaker, about the provision of information through the Legislature to the public, as part of our responsibility here is to ensure that the public does have accurate information.

The leader of the third party has indicated that the announcement about the change in legislative grants to the Haliburton board was made directly by Mr Hodgson. It indicates similarly in this article that the board has not received official notice of the legislative grant announcement. Mr Hodgson indicates that there are other boards similarly affected.

The way in which the government carries out its responsibilities to boards is to provide notice directly to the boards of the general legislative grants. Every board is waiting to have exact information before those grants come out. Mr Speaker, what --

The Speaker: Order. There's a process here also whereby you can have a five-minute late show, if that is the avenue you would like to proceed on, but we have dealt with it, we're in routine proceedings and the next item of business is motions.

Mrs McLeod: Then I will serve notice of my dissatisfaction with the response of the Minister of Education to my second question placed this afternoon and ask for that late show.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: My point of order relates to the decision you made earlier this afternoon to remove the member for Welland-Thorold. I believe this is the third time you have chosen to name the member for Welland-Thorold, and while I understand I cannot appeal your decision, Mr Speaker, I do want to make it clear that I have serious concerns, given the behaviour of many members in this assembly. I do not believe the member's behaviour was out of line with that of a great number of other members and I think it's coming very close to the point where members are going to feel that one member is being centred out by the Chair. I would just ask the Speaker to consider that.

The Speaker: Thank you. The House has not been under what I would call a quiet order in this Legislature. I had warned the member earlier on. There have been a lot of members today. On the weekend I had a lot of people talking to me about decorum in the Legislature and I think it's about time we all took a look at it and tried to be more even, and I've tried to be more even.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a petition put forward by a province-wide coalition of seniors, students and bus industry employees working together to protect transportation in small towns and rural areas. I've got hundreds of signatures from Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario. The petition reads:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Transportation Minister Al Palladini has proposed legislation that will cost many towns their bus service.

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

"Minister, people in smaller towns need bus service just as much as people in big cities. We depend upon buses to visit friends and family, to get to appointments in nearby towns, to ship our Christmas presents and to receive our repair parts.

"The undersigned call upon the members of the Legislative Assembly to oppose bus deregulation and the elimination of our bus service."

I'm proud to sign my signature to it.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here a petition that is signed by some number of individuals from in and around the Toronto area. It reads as follows:

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

"Whereas uncontrolled rent increases force many tenants from their homes for both economic and other reasons, and as the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Premier of Ontario have both expressed publicly their desire to abolish rent control;

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

I sign that petition.


Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Six hundred and forty-seven good people from the city of Etobicoke signed this petition, and I would like to --

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): There's more than 647 good people in Etobicoke.

Mr Stockwell: No, I didn't say that, although I could understand the member from Cochrane not understanding.

Anyway, this is what they had to say:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the situation regarding overcrowding in York Condominium Corp, 340 Queen's Court, and other locations has worsened considerably; and

"Whereas the Condominium Act has not been amended to correct this problem;

"We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows" -- and this is where the rubber meets the road, as they say:

"To amend the Condominium Act to allow municipal personnel into individual condominiums to investigate overcrowding;

"To provide the condominium corporation with more control over rental units;

"To allow the condominium or its legal representative to enter a condominium without prior notice; and

"To allow the police to assist in the quiet enjoyment of the majority of occupants by working with the owners of the condominium to discourage loitering and disruptive behaviour by groups and individuals."


Mr Peter North (Elgin): I have more of the 16,000 signatures to save the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital.

"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 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."


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a petition with respect to rent control, and it's signed by a good number of residents of my area who are expressing to the House their serious concern with the possible elimination of rent control. It goes like this:

"Whereas the Harris government is planning to remove rent controls; and

"Whereas the removal of rent control legislation breaks a campaign promise made by the Conservatives during the last election; and

"Whereas a great number of tenants are seniors and people on fixed incomes and many have had their incomes cut by 22% due to the social assistance cuts and cannot afford increases in their rent; and

"Whereas growing unemployment and the scarcity of affordable housing in Metro makes the removal of rent control an even greater disaster for tenants and for people who cannot afford to buy homes;

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

"That the government of Ontario keep their pre-election promise and not remove rent controls and continue with the Landlord and Tenant Act and Rental Housing Protection Act."

I will affix my signature to that.



Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition from many people within my riding of London Centre to all members of the Ontario Legislature.

"Whereas the children of Ontario deserve accessible, quality child care; and

"Whereas the child care review committee of the Harris Conservative government is considering cutting subsidies to child care and threatening to introduce user fees; and

"Whereas the Harris Conservatives are also contemplating a number of changes to current child care legislation that would lower licensing standards so that child care centres would be required to renew their licences only every three years; and

"Whereas the child care committee of the Conservative government has discussed handing the enforcement of regulations over to a self-regulating body;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislature of Ontario to ensure that child care subsidies be restored to the level introduced by the previous NDP government, that licensing standards be maintained at the current level and the Conservative government ensure that the enforcement of regulations not be devolved to the child care industry."

I'm proud to affix my signature.

Mr Frank Sheehan (Lincoln): I'd like to present a petition from a small group of people from Lincoln. I am not in total agreement, but I'll read it.

"Whereas the Minister of Community and Social Services is undertaking a review of the child care system in Ontario;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to restore stability and balance to the child care system by (1) ensuring that all licensed child care providers are treated equally, with all sectors having both the same benefits and responsibilities; (2) ensuring that all licensed child care centre staff receive the same benefits from the government, specifically wage enhancements and grants, regardless of the status of their employer; and (3) ensuring that all funding goes directly to the provision of care for the children and the families in need."


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I want to read another of the hundreds of petitions that have been presented in this House by myself and the member for Hamilton Centre regarding St Joseph's Hospital.

"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 their 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 health task force related to any hospital closures in Hamilton-Wentworth, and in particular St Joseph's Hospital, 50 Charlton Avenue East, Hamilton."

I'm pleased to sign the petition as well.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Steve Watson and thousands of other Canadian Auto Workers members have not forgotten this government's anti-democratic procedures around Bill 26 and continue to send in petitions that read as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"I oppose Bill 26. I protest this Tory proposal to (1) deregulate the price of prescribed medicine, (2) dismantle the services that make up the common fabric of our communities and (3) introduce a two-tier health system, one for the rich and one for the rest of the citizens of our province.

"This Bill 26 is draconian. The way it is being handled by the Tory government is anti-democratic. The government should withdraw this bill and commence broad, community-based consultations on the future of public services in Ontario."

I proudly affix my signature to theirs.


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

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

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

"Whereas the principles of discipline, self-help and a regimented environment at Transition House have combined with the counselling and support to provide youth with the motivation and self-respect to return to school or find jobs; and

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

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

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

I have affixed my name to this petition.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here another petition, this time signed from a number of people up from the community of North Bay actually.

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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in regard to rent control.

"That rent control abolition would lead to a steep rise in rent through the persistent shortage of affordable housing in Hamilton-Wentworth; among other factors, tenants who are among the most affected by ongoing mass layoffs, wage cuts and hiring freezes and senior citizens on fixed incomes will suffer greatly if rent controls are abolished. We are not in favour of the proposed abolition of rent controls by the government and urge this government not to get rid of rent controls in Ontario."

I affix my signature to the petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

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

This was organized by Greg Cressman and I affix my signature to the petition also.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): "We, the undersigned, are opposed to the proposed changes to workers' compensation in Ontario, including the elimination of the current bipartite board of directors; the reduction of temporary benefits from 90% to 85%; the introduction of an unpaid waiting period for compensation benefits; legislated limits on entitlements, reduced permanent pensions and pension supplements;

"Workers' compensation is not a handout; it is a legal obligation that the employers of this province have to workers in Ontario;

"We, the undersigned, demand no reduction in existing benefits, improved vocational rehabilitation, tightened enforcement of health and safety to prevent accidents, no reduction in current staff levels at WCB and continued support for the bipartite board structure."

This is signed by a number of residents from Leamington, Wheatley and Tilbury.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here a petition, this time from the city of Toronto, addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and it reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

I have signed that petition.




Mr Ron Johnson moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr60, An Act respecting the City of Brantford.

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



Mr Harnick, on behalf of Mr Eves, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 44, An Act to amend the Election Act / Projet de loi 44, Loi modifiant la Loi électorale.

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

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.


Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 34, An Act to amend the Education Act / Projet de loi 34, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Any debate? Who had the floor last, please? The member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I did plan to come into the House today to speak about Bill 34 and some specifics that were related to this bill that are of grave concern to everyone in education and all those affected by education. I do think, though, that the latest happenings over the last couple of days where it's come to light that our Minister of Education and Training has decided to take after his leader, the Premier, in bringing the good old days back to Ontario -- Mulroney has come down from the mountain and descended on the Legislature in this new reincarnation that looks an awful lot like the Minister of Education and Training, Mr John Snobelen.

I have to tell you that I have some grave concerns about what our minister in the House today has alluded to under questioning from those of us in the Liberal caucus who asked the Minister of Education to explain why there is a board of education in the Haliburton area that received a significant level of cuts and why that board suddenly had their cuts reduced by three quarters of their full amount. Why would it be that the Haliburton area seems to have a Conservative member of provincial Parliament? Not only is he an MPP and a Conservative; he is also a member of cabinet.

To me it is clear this government is about deals. This government is prepared to make a deal. For me and where I come from, that is just not good enough. The people of Ontario are going to say, "I do not want leaders who are prepared to come to Queen's Park and make deals," so if you happen to have children who live in the riding of a cabinet minister, your education level just might be okay, but if you happen to live and have children who attend a school system in some other riding that doesn't have a cabinet minister in it, your board is going to be faced with enormous, insurmountable cuts, which is what's happening across Ontario today.

All I've got to say is, I want the people of Ontario to know this Conservative government is about making deals. They're making deals when it comes to the environment, they're making deals when it comes to the selling of Hydro, deals when it comes to the LCBO, but finally you have gone far enough. The Minister of Education is making deals when it comes to the education of the children in Ontario. It is totally unacceptable. It is reprehensible.

I cannot go back to the people of Windsor and say that I have anything to do with the group of Ontario parliamentarians that is led by the likes of John Snobelen and Mike Harris, who are all about making deals. Who's paying the piper over there?

We have the people in education from the wonderful area of Victoria-Haliburton who were devastated to hear that they were facing $1.2 million. When you come from a board which is a low-tax-assessment board, you have a desperate time trying to fund the quality level of education that we have all come to expect across Ontario. I have county rural boards in Windsor-Essex county as well and indeed in my riding. They have suffered historically from not having the level of funding required to provide all of the programs they would like to.

I would submit that there are areas in my own riding that are very similar in terms of the tax levels and moneys flowing to the board that the same minister, Chris Hodgson, has in Victoria-Haliburton. I, however, am not a member of cabinet. I, however, do not have the ear of the Minister of Education and Training, because what it took was people to get to Chris Hodgson and for Hodgson to make a call to the minister and say, "We need to make a deal." What they did was make --

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 23(b), could the Speaker direct me, exactly which part of this diatribe is pursuant to Bill 34?

The Acting Speaker: This is not a point of order.

Mrs Pupatello: I must say I find it interesting that the member, Mr Clement, should try to find a point of order with what I'm saying. He's been in the House certainly a lot longer than I have, and there are definitions in the book. All of us have them in our desks.

Let me say that we are talking about --

Mr Clement: Point of privilege.

The Acting Speaker: You know what a point of privilege is.

Mr Clement: My rights are violated by that --

The Acting Speaker: This is not a point of privilege. Take your seat, please. The member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Pupatello: I agree. That has nothing to do with our discussion this afternoon. Bill 34 represents what this government is doing to education across Ontario. What it outlines is how boards across Ontario will, if they must, eliminate JK, for example, what they will be doing to the teaching profession across Ontario. The boards must make this decision based on the level of funding they receive from the ministry. But what we have heard over this past weekend and all day in the House today is that the level of funding that comes from the ministry depends on the kind of deal you can make with the Minister of Education and Training.

So don't talk to me about what is included in Bill 34, because educators across Ontario know what appropriate programs are for their area. They know what they're supposed to be doing for the children in an equitable fashion, no matter where they come from in Ontario. But what makes the difference now is that they can't offer JK if you come from Durham, because they don't have the money, and so they've cancelled it. They don't have the money if you're in Peel county; they don't have the money to offer JK. Now, they may have had the money if there happened to be a cabinet minister who could make a deal with the Minister of Education.

I see the member for Lambton here. How nice to see you today. I happened to be Petrolia on Friday evening and spoke with a number of people, and I say to the member how difficult it must be for you to watch what your fellow members are doing, the deals they're making, because you for the last 20 years have been a solid member of the Liberal Party but now you're sitting on that side of the House, opportunistically taking advantage of running as a Conservative member. I must tell you, Petrolia is a beautiful part of Ontario.

I must say that while I may get carried away with comments in the House about what happened today, when we realize that the Minister of Education is nothing but an incarnation of Brian Mulroney and so is the Premier, Mike Harris -- Brian Mulroney has come down from the mountain incarnated in Mike Harris, and now that, that same kind of attitude, the dealmaking that is going on, this is the stuff of legend.

The Acting Speaker: Order. I'd just like to remind the member that we're debating Bill 34.

Mrs Pupatello: It is of grave concern to me that for all of history, when the Ontario government decided they were in charge of education in Ontario and they would see that all children who come through the system in Ontario are guaranteed a level of quality, equitable education, in the passing of Bill 34 we have lost that, because Bill 34 allows school boards -- which must make decisions because their funding has been cut. They have made decisions to cut JK not because educators haven't recognized the need for JK but because they do not have the funding. In committee with the minister in January, Dealmaker Snobelen, he said: "We are not cutting JK. We're making it optional." That was absolutely the furthest from the truth in committee last January. But here we have Bill 34, and they are saying in Bill 34 it has now become optional. Why? Because they've cut all the money allowable for places across Ontario which would like to honour that.


The more you see it in the press, the more the Conservative members ought to know this is not anecdotal on junior kindergarten; long-time and scientific research shows that the more we have in education for early childhood, the better the children will perform, not just in school but in life. In fact, when we spend the money in early childhood education, for every dollar spent, we save $7 in social spending later on. This is not anecdotal, this is scientific. You can see it editorialized in papers today. It's not as though it were not a known area. If there were one area the Minister of Education would understand if he were truly a Minister of Education, it would be the significance of early childhood education. Instead, he's come forward with Bill 34 that literally will gut it from many places across Ontario.

Again it depends on the money the school boards receive. I would encourage all the educators, trustees, nay, all members of the public across Ontario to call Minister Hodgson, because he has the magic touch. He can call the Minister of Education and say, "Please don't make those kinds of cuts to my school board." It works, because the Minister of Education is a dealmaker.

Let me share with you the CBC radio script: "Local MPP Chris Hodgson, a cabinet minister, managed a little political magic and had the cut reduced by two thirds." What do you say to the people in Lambton? What do you say to the people in St Andrew and St David? What do you say to the people in your ridings when you don't come from an area that happens to be held by a cabinet minister and now these cabinet ministers have the power to change the level of funds? I can't wait to go back home to my riding to talk to my Windsor board of education, Catholic board of ed in Windsor, and certainly those in the county, to say, "It's the cabinet ministers who are making these decisions."

I have to tell you how disappointed I am, because there are some things across Ontario that we all believe are good things and required for the future. The Liberal caucus for several months now in here has brought out the issue of youth employment and what education means, the fact that jobs are desperately required, especially for young people. The media now has been playing for weeks on end -- every weekend there are special editions on the issue of jobs and how related all this is to education.

Even in the Globe, Saturday, April 20, this past Saturday, speaking about relevance to jobs, it reads: "The determining factor, more often than not, is education." In fact, for the period between 1990 and 1995, "The breakdown is enlightening: For those with high school education or less, there were 887,000 fewer jobs; for those with at least some post-secondary education, there were 1.2 million more jobs."

What we must realize as legislators is that when we're making decisions, when we're trying to pass -- or not -- bills like 34, we've got to see what the long-term impact is going to be. Clearly educators, people who work in the field, parents, children, young adults, are telling you that the changes you are making in education in Ontario are not good in the long term for the people of Ontario. That is a significant point.

Our minister has shown little regard for people's opinions. The Minister of Education has shown that he is not prepared to listen to the people, the people who work in the industry and who are affected by the industry.

The people at home always tell me, "Oh, those guys on the other side of the House, they're not listening to us anyway," but perhaps they'll listen to others, to what the KPMG Transformation Update -- I think members opposite even get this in their offices -- talks about in terms of change, "The key issue for governments will be how best to achieve the change."

This is put out by KPMG. They discuss: "The key element in change is consultation. In some areas, consultation with affected groups or citizens to obtain consensus on restructuring strategies will be critical to successful transformation. The governments need to tell stakeholders what the resource framework is, the policy intent, the range of options to be considered, the desired outcomes."

This Minister of Education has failed to do so. This Minister of Education has not done this kind of consultation. From the get-go, when first named minister, he had record six-minute meetings with what he calls interest groups, but people who are dedicated to the education system, so he's failed in terms of consultation. He has failed in telling the public where he intends to go with education. All we see at the end of the day is Bill 34 and this is hurtful in the long term to education in Ontario.

I cannot help but wonder why Bill 34 is so critical today. All I can say is that this government is intent on removing the tax cut information as far away from the cuts it is making to ministries as possible. This is very clever from a marketing perspective, and I suppose that's more of the whiz kids at work at Queen's Park and in the office of the Premier, but we must not forget the reason the cuts are being made in this way and this deeply. The reason, so the government says, is because they are deficit-fighters, because they are going to attack the debt, because they've got to get rid of the deficit. I will not use Liberal numbers in this House; I will only use the numbers that were given to us by the esteemed Minister of Finance. In his own numbers, the debt in 1995-96 was at $97.2 billion, but in 1996-97, after we are suffering the effects of what they are doing to education, the debt is growing; the debt is growing to $105 billion.

Why are people suffering in the way they're suffering, at the depth they are suffering, and they are still nowhere near moving in the right direction in attacking the debt? They have created some kind of an illusion that they are going to do all of this because they're going to attack the debt, and what happens is that by the time this gang is prepared to go back to the electorate, the debt will never have been higher in the province of Ontario.

When I see the kind of information this government refuses to bring into play when it talks about the cuts, the real reason is the tax cut. The government is going to borrow money to finance a tax cut, and in my community when parents are seriously concerned about whether they are going to have junior kindergarten, I have a problem with that; so do they.

If we look at some of the numbers available, numbers that are important to remember, the number of teachers -- I guess this government would call these people "interest groups," but we must remember that we have 11 million people in the province of Ontario: 210,000 of them work as teachers; the number of Ontario citizens who go to school every day is two million; then we have the number of Ontario citizens who have children in school and that number is 2.75 million.


Now we are talking about half the population of Ontario somehow tied up with the education system, and I say to the dealmaker, the Minister of Education, is this a special-interest group if these people are concerned about it? Does that not say that half the people of Ontario are concerned about what they are doing to dismantle the education system?

I want to tell a story to the House. Many of our members of the House were invited to attend schools in the last session, and I did my share as well. I remember going into a very young class where the children were about five years old, and there was one child who was sitting off by himself and not interacting with other children. There was an awful lot of learning happening in the room in very different ways, certainly very different from when I was in school at that age.

These children were learning by playing, and this one child was not involved whatsoever in the play. He sat there quite alone. It was obvious that he was off by himself. I remember going over and I sat next to him and I said to him: "Why aren't you involved in these games? Why don't you want to go and play?" He said to me that he was only waiting because he didn't have to go to the school very much any longer because pretty soon he was going to go back to living with his dad. He doesn't really want to be here.

What was impressive about the moment was that when I went back to the teacher to retell the story, she said that the child is in the middle of a significant custody battle and that this happens all the time, that parents today are very different from what they used to be and that what children go to school with, in terms of baggage, is very different today than what it used to be.

What that story told me, and I think it's something all of us knew intuitively, was that teachers aren't just teachers any more. Today teachers have to be psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, referees, breakfast makers, and that's because children aren't the same as they used to be. There was never a need for better teachers in the system than there is today.

The direction this government is moving in makes it very difficult for teachers to have the kind of energy and vitality they need to be in the classroom today. I've spent as much time speaking with educators as I did with children while I was travelling through schools, and what I heard was that teachers are losing their oomph because they feel they're constantly under attack by government, that they feel they're constantly under attack by the Minister of Education, that he throws and bandies about expressions like: "Who needs prep time? They're not really working." How does it make the people on the front line feel?

I met many teachers who spend many, many hours and truly make a difference in children's lives. I think, by the fact that we are seeing layoffs across Ontario in the way that we are, we are losing the very best; we are losing the young, the energetic, the vibrant. Teachers have a significant role to play in who we are and who we eventually will become.

In an article this weekend Peter Drucker said that he thinks the key element we have to find in young people is ambition. I think that young people find the attitude or the ambition to achieve because of the teachers they have teaching them in their classrooms.

The passing of Bill 34 will be a very sad day for Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I would like to congratulate my colleague the member for Windsor-Sandwich on an excellent presentation on a very bad bill, but I would like to take this opportunity more to remark about the disgraceful presentation made by the Minister of Education in this House today.

I've been a member in this House since May 1985 and I can tell you that never have I seen a minister recant, never have I seen a minister stand in his place and give four different answers, never have I seen a minister so wholly and totally embarrassed by the performance he put on today when he insisted first that there was no deal, and second, could not give us any assurance that boards were being treated fairly across this province.

This is the minister who has brought forward Bill 34 and expects it to be debated in this House. I say to you that this minister has no credibility. I congratulate my colleague for her comments on this bill but I can tell you that I believe that Mr Snobelen, the Minister of Education and Training, should be embarrassed; he should stand in this House and apologize. He has given us the wrong information, misinformation, and I cannot find parliamentary words to describe the actions of the minister today.

I would call upon him during this debate on Bill 34 to clarify the record so that every school board in this province which is affected by Bill 34, which is affected by the cuts that are being levied by this government will know what are the criteria, what is the process, what is the procedure, so that they will know they will be treated fairly, that they will be treated the same.

It is wrong to have legislation brought forward to this House at a time when ministers are making backroom deals, where they are treating school boards differently across this province simply because they may have a member who has the ear of the minister. That is wrong.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Tory times are deal times, as the member for Essex said. I couldn't agree with that more.

I would like to commend the member for Windsor-Sandwich on her speech in this House today with regard to the bill that's before us, dealing with education. I would like to say first of all that she's 100% right when she talks about the deceit that the Minister of Education is trying to put forward in saying that somehow you can cut $1 billion out of education and it's not going to touch the classroom.

Mr Speaker, I think you understand and that the member for Windsor-Sandwich understands and, more importantly, that the people of this province understand that no such thing could happen. You remove $1 billion from education, you come in and you open a toolbox such as what we're seeing under this omnibus education bill and it does mean that classroom education will be affected, and affected severely, I would say.

I would also like to commend her on the second issue the member raises, because she's right: The Tory cabinet has made a deal with Victoria-Haliburton. That is what has happened. She spoke to this particular issue, as you well know. What happened, I would suspect, is that the member for Victoria-Haliburton, the now Minister of Northern Development and Mines, and who knows in the future, was worried about going to a public meeting and said, "Minister of Education, I need to bring a peace offering to the people of Victoria-Haliburton." What did he do? He went and lobbied -- as he should, as a member -- the Minister of Education and Training. But what is wrong is that the Minister of Education and Training has made a decision here to treat one school board differently from the other. To that I say shame to the government and shame to the Minister of Education.

For a government that says they want to be different, they are certainly showing well that they have not forgotten the roots of the trough of government power that they knew so well for 40 years in this province and will lose in another four years for exactly this kind of behaviour.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): It's very interesting to hear the accusations being levelled at the Minister of Education.

Mrs Pupatello: Dealmaker; he is a dealmaker.

Mrs Marland: I would like to speak without any interjections, if you don't mind, to the member for Windsor-Sandwich. To listen to the comments that are being made on her speech by a certain member who said she'd never seen a member have to recant -- that member was in this House when Liberal cabinet ministers jumped and switched and changed more than I have ever seen through three governments.

If this minister truly was a dealmaker, the first place he would make a deal would be in the region of Peel, in his own riding. The point is that this minister has so much credibility that he doesn't do the most obvious thing that a minister would do, and that is protect his own riding. Obviously, if that was the goal of this minister in dealing with the challenges of funding education around this province, the first place he would protect is the region of Peel.

He is not doing what he is being accused of. What he is doing is making the really tough decisions that have to be made, and he's demonstrating that not only does he have the ability to make those decisions but he has the ability to carry those decisions out. We wouldn't be in this position of making those very tough decisions if we had not had the precedents of the wild funding and mismanagement fiscally of the last 10 years.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Certainly it's unusual that you'd find a member across the way defending the actions of a minister during question period when we're discussing Bill 34, and I think it's reflective of the way this government perceives education to be and the importance placed upon it. But I agree with the member for Windsor-Sandwich when she says that Bill 34, when passed, will be a sad day in education because it is the beginning of the destruction of education.

Clearly, she is absolutely right. It does destroy adult education. Let me tell you for a second that adult education courses, as presented now and as funded now, do exactly what we in government want. We want people back doing meaningful work. They do this by getting the skills necessary over the course of a very short term. Reducing it to a continuing education option will not provide those people with the necessary skills to develop themselves, to develop a skill, to develop the opportunity within that person through co-op programs to ensure that person is provided with meaningful work, needed work, with an opportunity to improve himself.

Bill 34 clearly destroys adult education, it destroys the goals of adult education, and there is absolutely no way anyone on the government side of the House can say that reducing adult education to a continuing education status is not inferior to the present situation, to the present way we encourage adults over the age of 21 to come back into the educational system, to provide themselves with the skills necessary to get off welfare.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Windsor-Sandwich, you have two minutes to reply.

Mrs Pupatello: In summary, again, Brian Mulroney has come down from the mountain and has reincarnated himself in the form of Mike Harris. He has taken all of his lessons from Brian Mulroney, whom the public trounced not that long ago.

When you know that there is proof of deals happening, when you have proof that you have a cabinet minister who bent the ear of the Minister of Education, the dealmaker, and reduced what the level of cut was going to be in that riding, while the rest of Ontario suffers if they don't happen to be fortunate enough to have a cabinet minister, that Minister of Education, the dealmaker, will rue the day. We aren't going to forget that, nor will I let the people where I come from forget that this government is about making deals.

I have to tell you there's a gentleman who is a fellow Rotarian, Mr Clare MacLeod. He retired in 1974 as the director of education in Windsor, and this man is wonderful. He has a legion of experience in education. What he said is that today the system isn't working. He said that in 1974 everybody complained the system wasn't working then either, because the reality of education is that we should never be satisfied with the quality of our education system; we should always want it to be better. In fact, education has continued to evolve year after year and the day that it stops evolving we must worry.

This government is the first government in history to go backwards in time. Even though the NDP made a legion of errors in the last term, it too was dedicated to the education system. Everyone is trying to improve it except this government. I also say Brian Mulroney is not welcome in Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): It's actually with some regret that I rise to speak to Bill 34, with regret because I never thought, having been in this House now for some five years, I would ever have to stand in my place and speak on a piece of legislation that causes the kind of devastation I believe this bill does to the system of education in this province.

This bill takes out of the school system the requirement that school boards provide junior kindergarten. It guts the system of adult education as we know it today, and it also for the first time ever in the history of the province, to my knowledge, begins to require the use of property taxes from one or more parts in the province to be used by the Minister of Education to either fund education in other parts of the province or perhaps to just go into the general coffers and help fund the 30% tax cut this government is so intent on proceeding with.

We've heard a lot in this House about education. We've heard a lot from the current Minister of Education about the crisis he believes exists in the system, a crisis which we're seeing more and more he's having a lot to do with inventing. We've seen today a couple of very striking examples again coming, interestingly enough, as these things seem to be happening more and more, not from observations made by members of the opposition but from observations made by the government's own members.

We talked earlier today about the observation of the member for Grey-Owen Sound that the Minister of Education really doesn't know what he's doing; at times, it seems that way. We heard from the member for Quinte an even more damning statement, saying that the provincial government lied when it told Ontarians that provincial funding cuts to education wouldn't show up in the classroom.

I think what these comments from government members themselves are beginning to reveal is what the public out there, particularly those who are affected most directly by the school system, have understood for some time, certainly since this government and this minister began to bring about the kinds of cuts to the system of education in this province.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe we don't have a quorum in the House.

The Acting Speaker: Would you please verify if we have a quorum or not.

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

The Acting Speaker: The member for Dovercourt.

Mr Silipo: I was saying that government members themselves are beginning to realize what those who either work in the education system, or are affected by it by way of having children in the system, or indeed the general population at large has known for some time, which is that the policies of this government, the policies of the current Minister of Education, are devastating the education system as we know it.

The $400 million of cuts that the minister announced in November, we know, by his own admission, translates to at least $800 million of cuts in this first year alone, and likely closer to $1 billion by the time all is said and done, because of the difference in the fiscal years between the province and the school boards. But we need to make people understand, as indeed they are understanding, and as I say again the government's own backbenchers are now beginning to also understand and publicly reflect, that rather than talking about dollars and numbers, what that means in a real way is that the quality of education in our school system is going to be hurt, it's going to be cut, it's going to be damaged in a serious way by what this government is doing.

Bill 34 provides at least three key examples of that, and I want to talk a little bit about each of those. The first area we're seeing reflected in Bill 34 in terms of the cuts is the elimination of junior kindergarten. Now the government members will say, as I'm sure the minister has said, "You know, we're not eliminating it, we're just simply making it optional." Then the minister has ignored, I would suggest, and the government members have ignored, all of the research that has been done in this province, in the rest of this country and across the world which indicates very clearly that if we're serious about giving our young people the kind of support they need that will help them grow into healthy and active citizens in our society, one of the most important things we can do is to invest in the early years by providing both a good system of child care and a good system of kindergarten across this province.


I understand there are issues and concerns to be dealt with respect to how kindergarten, particularly junior kindergarten, is implemented across the province. When you look across Ontario, you have to recognize -- and certainly I as a former Minister of Education recognize -- there are some issues that have to be addressed in terms of how you implement junior kindergarten, particularly when you're dealing with young children in, say, some of the rural areas of the province.

I recall the time I was at the ministry, and even the year subsequent to that, when people were working on developing, and had indeed developed, a variety of models that took into account the understanding that providing junior kindergarten as part of an early years program, as part of nurturing and supporting young children, as part of that very basic understanding, could be done in a variety of models, in a way that allowed people to put together the very best in the kindergarten teachings and the research and the pedagogy with the very best in the care that comes out of a good child care system.

As a member of the former government, I was very proud when we were able to move forward on the early years program, an initiative which saw the bringing together of the very best in child care and kindergarten programs, an initiative I am happy to say I had something to do with in the time I was at the Ministry of Community and Social Services and something I believe is really the future of the school system as it relates to young people, particularly as it relates to young children.

We saw in the actions this government took the elimination of the early years program. Now they are compounding and making that even worse by removing from school boards the requirement that they provide junior kindergarten. As I sit in this House and listen to the exchanges that go back and forth, by this point in the game I have stopped being amazed at the kind of about-faces we are seeing.

I remember when there was an issue around the provision of junior kindergarten by one school board very close to where we are, the Peel Board of Education. As I, as Minister of Education at the time, attempted to deal with that board in convincing it that it ought to continue to provide junior kindergarten even though it wasn't legally mandated at the time but it was going to become legally mandated, as it later did by the legislation that we brought in, I remember both Liberal and Conservative members from that area of the province lobbied me publicly and privately to do everything possible to ensure that program was maintained.

What I hear today from Conservative members is that the Minister of Education has to make the really tough decisions. Well, I'm sorry, you don't make the really tough decisions by cutting junior kindergarten. There's nothing tough about that. There's just meanness and nastiness about that and there is also a very clear lack of understanding about what is best for young children when you gut junior kindergarten, when you remove that program which should be at the basis of providing a nurturing environment for our young people.

I know that in the kind of dollars-and-cents approach government members want to take to every issue, somehow this seems to them to be far away from the priorities of what they should be doing, but I want to ask them to reflect on what it is they are doing, because as they remove this part of the school system they are removing one of the fundamental platforms upon which everything we believe in in terms of supporting and nurturing young children is built. That I say, not only as someone who has had some involvement in a school system, but now as a father, as someone who has seen that level of support and that level of understanding grow over the years across the province, across the communities, from people from all political parties.

As I said earlier, I never thought I would see the day when a government in Ontario would be bringing back the clock so far as to remove junior kindergarten from the school system of the province. All I can do on that point is ask the government members to reflect, and to hope that as this bill goes out to committee and as we hear from people, they will have somewhat of an open mind to the comments that will come from people across the province -- hopefully, if we are able to get hearings across the province, as I believe we should on this bill -- people who understand that the sign of a good and healthy society is also measured by the support we provide to our children, and that gutting junior kindergarten is the very last thing you should be doing, if ever doing, in terms of dealing with cuts, in terms of dealing with restructuring the spending of education.

When I was Minister of Education, I certainly also had to deal with some tough decisions around how you used dollars that weren't there in as large a number as you might have wished. What we tried to do, and what this government is not doing, was to work with school boards to ensure that money, yes, is focused towards the classroom, but not at the expense of those very basic programs.

The Minister of Education can go on and on as much as he wants about the fact that only half of the money is spent in the classroom. I have to ask the Minister of Education, where does he place the spending in the school system for teachers' aides? Where does he place the spending for principals and vice-principals, who in his equation are outside the classroom? Is he suggesting we run schools without principals and vice-principals? Is he suggesting we run schools without providing teachers with adequate time to prepare their courses? Is he suggesting we not bus children to schools? All those are things that are outside his formula of the classroom and that therefore we can dispense with, as he puts it.

I say to the minister and to government members, it's not that easy. You can't just simply come to a nice, clean dollar equation and forget about what you are doing in terms of decisions that are affecting people, and in this case affecting the youngest citizens in our province. I say again to the government members that they ought to consider and take another look at this particular piece of Bill 34, and hopefully through the process their minds will be changed.

I want to speak also about another couple of provisions that are in this bill.

The first is the question of adult education. What Bill 34 does -- and it's written in the kind of verbiage that the rest of our Education Act is written in, which is that it sounds like it's a permissive type of situation -- is allow school boards to direct certain adult persons to enrol in continuing education programs rather than in day school programs. What does that mean? What that means is that we are going to be seeing the gutting of the adult education program in this province.

Coming from a jurisdiction in the city of Toronto that's part of Metropolitan Toronto where we value very much the kind of support we have been able to provide in our school system, not just to junior kindergarten, as I was talking about earlier, but also to adults through the continuing expansion of adult education, we know that that investment in adults, just like that investment in young people I talked about earlier, is essential if we want to have a society in which citizens are able to take care of themselves and their families. The investment today in supporting people who are adults to be able to go back and finish their high school diploma is key to being able to create that healthy society in which people are then able to go with that diploma and be in a better position to get and keep a job.

Let there be no mistake about it. I don't know what kind of rhetoric the government members opposite have been told, but what this bill does is it means that those programs will, piece by piece, disappear because school boards, because of the cuts that the minister is imposing upon them, will be forced to close down those programs, to channel those adult students into continuing education programs which, by definition, do not provide credits, do not allow students therefore, adult students in this case, to earn their secondary school diploma, do not allow, because it's at a lesser funding level, for the supports to be provided outside of the direct classroom program to adult students who are trying to go back to school and finish their high school diploma.


Again I ask the government members to reflect upon that because what they are also doing with this portion of Bill 34 is completely inconsistent with the kind of position that we keep hearing day after day from the Minister of Community and Social Services, who says he wants to, and this government wants to, support people to become more independent. This program is doing that, by the thousands across this province, not just in the big metropolitan areas like Toronto but right across this province.

I will be interested to see how government members will respond locally as their school boards start to gut those programs because they will have no choice, because as the minister is giving the school boards these tools, as he calls them, whether they like it or not, they are going to use them because at the same time he's also cutting some $800 million from the system of funding of education in this province.

Here again we are seeing that very clear direction, a direction which is completely contrary to what every other government in this province, certainly in my memory, has ever done. We've heard arguments before, we've had arguments before about how much more we could do to expand the system of education, to improve the system of education. But I don't ever recall being in a situation like this where we are having to argue to stop these kinds of massive cuts that are being implemented day by day, week by week, in the school system and that we are seeing reflected in the thousands upon thousands of layoff notices that have been issued to teachers and to other support staff in this province.

The protests are growing across this province, from parents like the ones, to just use one example, in Palmerston school in my riding who have come with initiative after initiative and way after way to try to impress upon this government that they as taxpayers want us to invest in the system of education in this province because it's by investing in education that we invest in the future of our society. They understand that. Many of the people across this province understand that. I don't know why the government members and the Minister of Education and Training fail to understand that.

It's really quite a simple idea. If you want a healthy future, you build on that by having a good system in place to support our young people, to support adults as they are trying to go back to school. You don't do that by gutting the very programs. If there are ways to make these programs more effective, and there are, then you do that, but you don't do that by bringing in place in one year $800 million worth of cuts, because then you just gut the system of education.

Not only are we seeing the reduction of funding from the province to the school boards by way of this $800 million in cuts, but to add insult to injury we are now seeing that position taken, the one ludicrous next step which is, now the minister is going to actually reach into the property tax base and take that money and use it in whatever way he thinks fit.

I want to talk, therefore, about the third piece in this bill that I find completely abhorrent, that is, the use of property tax dollars, initially just in Toronto and Ottawa and possibly Muskoka, as I understand the numbers, but I want to say to the members opposite, eventually in other jurisdictions, be they Windsor or be they Hamilton.

What is happening here is that the Minister of Education and Training is proposing through Bill 34 to reach into the property taxes that are being paid for by people across this province, initially, as I say, in those jurisdictions in Toronto, Ottawa and possibly Muskoka, and to use that money, to claw back that money and to apply it in other parts of the province or, I believe, apply it to the general coffers so they can justify the 30% tax cut.

I recall, back when I was on the school board in Toronto, being in a meeting with a former Minister of Finance, a Liberal Minister of Finance at the time. I can tell my colleagues opposite that in that group of chairs and representatives of the school boards in Metropolitan Toronto were reflected all the political parties we have reflected in this House, and to a person, we took a position which I'm happy to see the trustees in the Metropolitan Toronto area are continuing to take today, which is, "Over our dead bodies will we send a cheque to the province of Ontario."

I don't think the members opposite, and I want to talk particularly here to those members from the Metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa areas, have understood what kind of Pandora's box they are opening up. They can position this on the jargon that I'm sure they've been given by the Minister of Education, that it's a question of equity, a question of making sure we all are being funded at the same level. They of course ignore the fact that the grant formulas from the Ministry of Education don't mean anything and haven't meant much for the last number of years. Over 95% of the school boards in Ontario are already spending far beyond those artificial grant ceilings, which means they don't mean anything.

But the members opposite had better think again, think really hard about what it means to start taking property taxes from seniors, from injured workers, from working-class families, indeed from all families today in Metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa and tomorrow in other jurisdictions and use that to fund a 30% tax cut. It is just completely abhorrent. That is not the way you fund the system of education in this province.

Yes, there are problems, but solutions have been indicated. We should be going the other way around. We should be moving towards removing education and social services from the property tax base. I know the members opposite will say, "Why didn't you do that?" I agree. We didn't do it. I wish we had done it. As one who continued to argue for us to do it, I regret we haven't done it, but you don't compound the problem by going the other way. You don't compound the problem by taking property tax dollars from some jurisdictions and bringing them into the provincial coffers. You know what happens when you do that? Then you've tried to insert yourself into a situation that creates even greater inequity.

How do you justify to the property taxpayers in Toronto and Ottawa that not only are they not receiving one dime from the Ministry of Education to pay for the needed services in these areas, but indeed now the Ministry of Education will expect those property tax dollars, property tax dollars paid by, among others, injured workers, seniors, working-class families, to be used to help pay for either the system of education elsewhere or indeed, and even worse, the tax cut that's going to benefit most the richest citizens in this province?

I say to my colleagues across the floor that it's time they reflected on this. When this bill gets out to committee, they will hear on this point alone, and indeed on the other two, the kind of outcry they have never yet heard. If they think some of the discussion we had around Bill 26 was tough on them, they have no idea what they're in for in terms of the outcry that's going to come as a result of the passage of Bill 34.

I know that this afternoon and on the other days of discussions we've had on this bill, we tend to go through these debates in a rather quiet fashion, but I want to underscore again that what Bill 34 does, in my view, is gut the system of education as we know it, remove the essential pillars of the fundamental of education in this province, which has always been to strive to do more, to strive to provide more support, not less support for people.

What this government and this Minister of Education are doing is really implementing that crisis they themselves have created. Because unlike what we heard during the election, where one of the basic promises was, "We are going to protect classroom spending," we have seen, and we are seeing with the $800 million in cuts, instance after instance, example after example across the province where teachers' jobs are being affected and, more importantly, classrooms are being affected.


When you take out teachers from the system, it means there are fewer of them and therefore there are more children in each class, and when there are more children in each class, it means the quality of education goes down.

When you remove adult education programs, it means you are saying to people out there, "We really don't mean all that stuff about supporting adults to become more independent."

When you gut junior kindergarten, it means you are saying, as this government is saying and this minister is saying: "Forget the rhetoric. We really don't care about the support and the nurturing we have to provide our young people."

I'm sorry, all of this stuff about the need to balance the books is just hogwash, because you don't balance the books on the backs of children; you don't balance the books on the backs of people who are trying to get their high school education so they can make a better life for themselves and their children; you don't balance the books by making a system of taxation which is the most regressive system of taxation -- the property tax system -- become more and more the key way in which you fund education, which is the other thing this bill is doing.

If you believe in education as the future of our society, as I do, then the only thing left for this government to do is to recognize it has made a royal screwup in this bill, withdraw this bill and acknowledge once and for all that what it has done is wrong and put a freeze on the cuts until it gets a handle on the impact they're having out there.

I don't anticipate that my words here today are going to particularly convince the members opposite, but I do say to them that they ought to reflect very seriously on what they're doing through this bill. I hope as we go through committee hearings on this piece of legislation, government members will begin to realize the kind of havoc they have wreaked in the system of education so far and how much Bill 34 compounds that situation by gutting the system of education, by removing supports to the youngest and most vulnerable among our citizens, our children, and how that is just plain, plain wrong. I hope they will see the error of their ways, not by virtue of my standing up here today and making the points, but by virtue of them listening to their constituents, through the committee hearings and through what they are telling them today as they go back to their ridings on a week-by-week basis.

Certainly so far we've seen that a couple of members of this government have begun to listen and have begun to reflect what people are saying out there: the member for Quinte and the member for Grey-Owen Sound. I'm not looking for public admissions, because I also understand what it's like to be in government and that when you realize you've screwed up, when you realize you've made a mistake, you don't always have the ability to stand up and admit that. But I do say to the members opposite that what we today heard, and over the weekend heard, from the member for Quinte and the member for Grey-Owen Sound, other members of the government caucus are also feeling. I would just say to them, in whatever way they wish to do it, to make sure their Minister of Education and their Premier understand that they also are not comfortable with what is going on, because it's not by gutting the system of education in this province that you build the kind of society I hope we all want to build.

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

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): There's just one observation I would like to make to the member for Dovercourt's remarks, and that would appear to be a common theme of regret running through all his remarks about, if they had only done what they should have done when they were here, then we wouldn't be facing some of the fundamental problems we are confronting today. He speaks rather eloquently in a way about, if they had only dealt with the property tax challenge which we are confronted with in terms of the market value assessment, unit value assessment or any other assessment methodology which one tries to create as a solution to this very complex problem. They didn't do it. That's the reality.

He talks about us as if we're living in a vacuum, as if we don't talk to our constituents. I'd like to remind the member for Dovercourt that on the weekend I had a number of meetings with teachers and with the chair of the Etobicoke public school board. It's interesting to note that in their attempts to reach some cooperative ventures in transportation with the Metropolitan Toronto Separate School Board, one board is saying, "Because we have safety belts on our buses and the other one doesn't, we're going to continue to bus our students separately." That's the sort of problems we're facing today.

Typical of the member's remarks, it's always from the top down that we have to have the solutions. Well, sometimes the top-down solutions don't work any more than the bottom-up ones. One of the key foundations of this particular bill is to get school boards cooperating in these areas that are not directly affecting the classroom but to do so in an indirect, support way.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I found the member's remarks very helpful to this debate, particularly as they relate to the effect this bill is going to have on education at the local level, and I know that he had in mind when he was making these remarks the remarks of the member for Quinte, Mr Doug Rollins.

Mr Rollins, as we know, was at a high school in Belleville on the weekend and according to the Belleville Intelligencer -- the article reads as follows:

"The provincial government lied when it told Ontarians provincial funding cuts to education wouldn't show up in the classroom, says Quinte MPP Doug Rollins.

"In a frank exchange with about 250 high school students, teachers and public school board administrators from Belleville and the Quinte area, Rollins said Friday there is `no question about it, there's going to be an effect in the classroom.'...

"The MPP said there is `no desire for this government to see the quality of education decline due to the lack (of education funding) to students.'"

I have respect for the member's opinion, and I know the member who just addressed us, Mr Silipo, has that same respect. He also said there is going to be an effect in the classroom. I know he had in mind, when he was making his remarks about Bill 34, the member for Grey-Owen Sound, who said the Minister of Education was out of whack and that he had obviously created a crisis and that crisis is there now.

Now, when it comes from those of us in opposition, some members on the government side say that's probably a partisan consideration, but when it comes from government members themselves, when it slips out in the small towns and smaller cities across the province what their true views are, then we really find out the government has broken that particular promise about education funding and that it is hurting people within the classroom context.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Sarnia.

Mr Bisson: There's a rule in the House here: One party at a time.

The Deputy Speaker: Pardon me. The member for Cochrane South.

Mr Bisson: I too would like to lend my support to the member for Dovercourt. I think the member is quite right in his comments around adult education in regard to the effect that is going to have on communities across Ontario, especially in light of what is happening in our economy.

The government itself recognizes that our economy is going through a humongous amount of change, and that change brings the need for new technologies and utilization of those technologies, at the very time the Minister of Education is saying, "We're going to make it easier for school boards" -- not that they'd want to do this -- "to reduce adult education opportunities for people in our communities." For a government that purports to be a government of common sense, where is the common sense in reducing adult education in light of what is happening in the economy of Ontario?

The other comment I thought was interesting by the member for Dovercourt was the question of the role of the backbenchers in all of this, because I think the member is quite right. The backbenchers in a new goverment are always very, one might even say, giddy. They've been elected to a government and they're in the "Oh boy, everybody still loves me" kind of attitude. They don't recognize that decisions are being made that are going to affect their very future and survivability as local representatives of their constituencies. I've got to say to the backbenchers, I got re-elected because I did pay attention to the people in my constituency.


What I'm saying is I think one of the things the people here have to recognize is that you, as backbenchers, in the end are the ones who have the weight with the government. You're the ones in the end who can allow or you cannot allow legislation to go forward in this House. When a government comes forward with legislation such as we're seeing now, I ask you to ask yourselves a very, very simple question: How does this square with the constituents of your riding and how will they feel about it? The people of Cochrane South are certainly opposed, and the people in your ridings are no different.

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

Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): I would like to speak on Bill 34. When I was --

The Deputy Speaker: It's questions and comments. The Chair recognizes the member for Oriole.

Mrs Caplan: This is a very important debate on Bill 34. It's been brought forward with a minister that I believe no longer has any credibility. But more than that, I'm very concerned because we know that on Saturday, April 20, in the Intelligencer, the Belleville newspaper, the headline read, "Tories Lied, Says Rollins." It says: "In frank exchange, local MPP admits cutbacks will be felt in the classroom."

During the election campaign, we clearly heard Mike Harris promise that his Common Sense Revolution was not going to hurt classroom education; there would be no cuts to the classroom. Today we asked a question in the House. We know the member from Grey has said: "I do believe our Ministry of Education is a little out of control. I think our minister really doesn't know what he's doing."

We know that Mr Rollins, the member for Quinte, is quoted in his local newspaper as saying that there's no question about it; there is going to be an effect in the classroom. That's why the newspaper headlines and people right across this province are echoing what the Intelligencer said, and that is that the Tories lied when it came to classroom education. That's a direct quote from the newspaper.

I can tell you that the people of Oriole and the people of this province and the people who know we are debating Bill 34, an education bill, will not stand for the fact that Conservative backbenchers are not the only ones who know that the Minister of Education and Training and Mike Harris did not tell the truth when they said there would be no cuts to the classroom.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for Dovercourt has two minutes.

Mr Silipo: I just very briefly want to say I appreciate the comments made by members. I want to reply particularly to one of the comments made by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. He's the one who used the phrase -- I didn't, but I wish I had. He said that sometimes we think they are living in a vacuum. Yes, I have to say to the member opposite, their actions, certainly on this bill, show that they are living in a vacuum.

They don't understand that it's one thing to do the kind of cooperative things that in fact this bill does do. If that's all this bill did, we would have all supported it in half an hour and we'd be on to do some other more important or equally important things, because there is a provision of this bill that does allow and does encourage greater cooperation in terms of agreements between boards, whether it's to deal with the busing questions and the safety-belt issue that the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale talked about or indeed some other even broader issues. That is something that all of us -- and I see in addition to myself at least two other former ministers of education -- in one way or another have all strived to encourage that to happen. So in that sense I think we all would find that part of Bill 34 very easy to support.

The problem is that the other parts of this bill, which essentially gut, as I said earlier, the system of education in this province by removing junior kindergarten, by removing adult education, by starting to claw back property tax dollars, today from Toronto and Ottawa and possibly Muskoka and tomorrow who knows from what other additional municipalities, back into the coffers of the province so that they can fund their 30% tax cut, that is just plain wrong.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Sarnia.

Mr Boushy: When I was first asked to speak on Bill 34, I was hesitant. I believed in it, but I didn't have any strong feeling about it. But after touring St Patricks high school two weeks ago in my riding of Sarnia, as well as St Therese, Johnston Memorial and Lansdowne school on other occasions, which allowed me to talk with numerous students and teachers, I'm convinced of the urgency with which we must pass this bill, Bill 34. My tours were real eye-openers. What really impressed me during my fact-finding visits was the stress being put on science and technology and partnership with local industries.

When I was young, and that was quite a while ago, and I went through school, and I dare say when most of the honourable members of this House went through school, times were very different. Lessons and even whole subjects have changed considerably, as I found out. School programs have adapted to reflect students' needs. Students are learning more and more about the uses of new technology and the value of teamwork. The driving need for these changes has been our change in society.

Just as classes have changed to address the future needs of students, I believe the Education Act needs to be amended to facilitate an education system reflecting our society's needs in a realistic fashion. To improve our province-wide system to ensure it is based on excellence and student achievement, to make sure it's affordable and continues to take care of our needs to make it accountable to both parents and taxpayers, we need to rethink how our education system works. Change, therefore, is necessary.

Today's students are learning more efficient and effective ways to do everything. That's an essential skill for tomorrow's leaders to acquire. As politicians, we are obligated to guide the education system along those same lines. The status quo, then, will not do and is not enough, as the opposition are claiming. If we continue to spend beyond our means and ignore the demand for change, we will deny our children the quality education they deserve, and that is what this debate is about.

So far, I have to admit, I have been very disappointed by the nature of the debates today. Take, for example, the member for Windsor-Sandwich. If you think that's a debate on Bill 34, you must be wrong. I don't think she had any debate at all. Was she debating the act to amend the Education Act? I doubt that very much. I have never seen in this House, as a newcomer, a very real debate. What I have mostly seen is not even real argument but rather simple contradiction. Opposition members stand up and say that whatever we in government say is wrong, and believe me, that's that.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It's not true.

Mr Boushy: It's true.

With all due respect to this House, we have to improve the level of debate. I have had several people tell me they have watched this parliamentary channel and thought we looked like a bunch of kids arguing.

I found this insulting, not to us but to the children of Ontario. The students in Sarnia, in my riding, all know how to work as a team for a common goal. They know the purpose of debate is more than just trying to make those who disagree with you look bad, or too happy. Perhaps it's time we politicians took a lesson from the students.

I have some statements about Bill 34, which include some assumptions I have made. I think the best way to approach this debate, as well as the many we will have in the future, is to start with what we agree on. First, can we all agree that our priority is to give our children an excellent education and the future opportunities they deserve?

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): You bet it is.

Mr Boushy: I take it for granted then that we all believe this.

My next assumption is that the education system must be affordable or we cannot maintain our priorities. That's why we have to restructure in order to find savings, and just as the students are learning more efficient and effective ways to communicate and achieve results, the school system itself must keep pace with the demands of reality.

Since local boards know their business far better than you and I, than Queen's Park ever could, it's only common sense that we give them the opportunity to develop solutions locally, and that is through amendments to the Education Act. I'm shocked anyone could accuse our government of refusing to take responsibility for changes to the education system. We're doing the most responsible thing we can by giving local boards more flexibility.

Locally elected officials always ask for more control on the local level -- anyone involved in local politics would know that -- more control of their destiny. I speak from experience. During my 22 years in municipal politics, the beef I had and my colleagues always had was the politicians in Queen's Park telling us they knew what Sarnia needed better than we did. I disagreed then and I disagree now.

Decision-making must rest with the people directly affected by the choices that are made. That's what democracy is all about. Through this legislation we're enabling local boards to make choices and find solutions unique to the areas they serve. In effect, the decision-making process will be more democratic because it is on the local level.

My friend across is talking about junior kindergarten. This bill will restore junior kindergarten as a local option. It will provide flexibility for school boards by letting the number of sick days be negotiated between individual boards and their teachers. School boards will also be able to direct certain other pupils to continue education courses.

They are well-known measures and I believe the minister has more than adequately addressed them, so I wish to concentrate on two other measures of Bill 34 I'm really impressed with.

The proposed amendments to the Education Act allowing a wider range of agreements to be made by boards is a useful tool. It's quite evident to me that today more than ever before, no individual, group or institution can stand alone. Ontario is a community of communities, and the welfare of all of us depends on our ability to work together -- teachers, parents and students. I have spoken to all, and they agree that teamwork and partnerships are essential to a prosperous education system. I know every member here has heard the same, that the Minister of Education has heard this same belief over and over again. That's why amendments are being made to encourage sharing of facilities, equipment, transportation and various other support services.

In the bill, school boards will be able to conduct their activities more efficiently. They will also become more accountable to the public through required reporting of their efforts to implement cooperative measures. Effective cooperation between boards and other public sector agencies can create savings and ensure that classroom funding is protected.

I do not agree with the argument of the opposition that students will be negatively impacted because of restructuring measures of this government. The argument implies that the boards will not take advantage of the opportunities they will have. You are saying that the local boards don't know what to do. I don't believe that. Everyone I have met from the Sarnia boards has demonstrated a tremendous commitment to students. Unlike many opposition members, I have confidence in the intelligence and ability of board members to work towards a better school system, and they know better than we do.

It seems to me then, and I think to most people, that cooperation and partnerships are the key to reaching our goal of making Ontario the most prosperous place to live, work and raise a family. I'm sure all members agree that this is a priority that drew all of us to politics. That's why I'm puzzled about the objections some members have over Bill 34 enabling negative grant boards to participate in the fairness and equity of financing the education of students across Ontario.

Let us be specific for a moment. This bill enables the Metro and Ottawa public boards and the government to pursue an agreement whereby the boards will participate in the cost-saving exercise on an equitable basis. I want to remind everyone that we are one province. We share many things. We all pay taxes, too much, I might add, but we will be taking care of that problem very soon. The collective tax base is used to provide numerous services for residents across Ontario, ranging from health to municipal transfers, to agriculture, to transportation.

We all contribute our share for the benefit of Ontario as a whole. Why, then, should education be any different? If the members from the Toronto and Ottawa areas examine the benefits they receive from tax dollars across Ontario, they would agree that they get their fair share. I would also remind the honourable members that our government's anticipated contribution to the pension plans of teachers in Ottawa and Metro is greater than $105 million this year.

Ontarians put a lot of money into building and maintaining systems and institutions that don't directly affect their ridings, for example, Toronto's subway system.


The point I'm trying to make is that we are all in an integrated system. We all share our resources and our tax dollars to contribute to the wellbeing of people everywhere in Ontario. Students from Sarnia to Toronto to Parry Sound to Ottawa all deserve to be treated equitably and fairly in our shared education system. Metro and Ottawa account for 18% of the provincial education expenditure. If we do nothing to enable these areas to assist the rest of Ontario, the fairness gap in spending among boards will be widened.

There is currently a big difference in the amount spent on students across Ontario, ranging from below $5,000 per student in some boards to over $7,000 in others, and Bill 34 goes a long way to fixing this. Every student in Ontario deserves a high quality of education no matter where they live, and every taxpayer deserves real value for their tax dollar. This bill speaks to the concerns of an economically sustainable education system that protects the future of our children by ensuring excellence in student achievement.

Bill 34 is a new beginning for the students of Ontario, who are heading to a brighter future. I am proud to speak in defence of it.

Finally, I wish to remind the honourable members of the opposition that you can't stand in the way of progress. You can't stand in the way of progressive change. The status quo you've had in the past did not work and is not acceptable to our government and is not acceptable to the people of Ontario. If we don't adapt our education system to meet the challenges of the future, we're denying reality and we'll be trampled by it. The time for progressive change is overdue. Our children's future demands it, parents demand it and taxpayers demand it.

I ask the honourable opposition quite humbly and very seriously to put aside partisanship and support this commonsense legislation. Here's a chance to show your constituents that you are here not merely for the sake of engaging in eternal arguments but that you're willing to throw your support behind measures that will result in a better-educated and -trained population.

Trust me. When we fix everything that needs fixing and Ontario is back on top -- and it will be -- you will feel good about that, and you'll feel good about saying you crossed party lines because in your well-thought-out judgement you knew we were right.

This education bill is about fairness, balance and unity -- above all, unity. It's the result of tremendous consultation, and I will proudly be voting in favour of it.

The Deputy Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mrs Boyd: I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to comment on my colleague from Sarnia's speech. It was a read speech, not a debate, and I think his comments on debate in this place are called into question. The spontaneity of debate in this place is supposed to be done without read speeches, and the member read every word of his speech, so he is not in a position to comment on debate within this place, although I would agree with him that it very often is of a very low level.

I would tell the member that as to his comments late in his speech where he said we wanted to maintain the status quo and were afraid of progressive change, that is simply not the case. We are not afraid of progressive change. It's the regressive change we see in this bill, particularly around the education of young children, that we object to. The progressive changes in education have shown us that the earlier we educate children, the more we help them to become socialized at an early age, the better their chances of success in the future. The member is right, that's what we all want: success for our children in the future. We are agreed on that. What we aren't agreed on are the methods.

The member talks about allowing local municipalities and local school boards to make choices. When you chop off their arm, their only choice is to stop the bleeding, and that's what they're trying to do. We're saying that chopping off the arm is not the way to provide health and good education to our communities. What we need to do is to work together in a concerted and gradual way, rather than suddenly coming in, chopping off the resources and then throwing it back to local boards and saying, "We're giving you all these choices; make your choices," when they're not real choices, when they are choices that are forced by the cards the government has forced upon those areas.

I say to the member, we do need a better level of debate in this place and he ought to participate in that.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): I'd like to compliment the member for Sarnia. I remind members opposite and those viewers watching that it's difficult, the first time you give your speech in the House, your maiden speech, to not work from notes. I think probably, if we all think back, we can recall pretty vividly ourselves in the same situation and working rather copiously with notes. I recall vividly the members opposite, when they were the government, member after member all spoke from prepared text. I know the member from Cochrane is shaking his head -- I can hear it -- but they did in fact speak from prepared text.

I think what the member for Sarnia was saying was very interesting. Whether it was prepared text or off the cuff or however, he was saying that he campaigned in the last election and nobody was arguing for the status quo, nobody said today's education system was working.

The member for London Centre talks about progressive change. With all due respect to the member for London Centre, I don't know what changes you made that were progressive. In fact, I don't know what changes you made. It seemed to me you allowed the education system to continue down a path that was rife with a bad system, with producing uneducated kids. It was a terrible system and people were coming at us daily telling us about the ineffective education system in Ontario. You sat in there for five years. I remember the Minister of Education, Mr Silipo, used to get up on a regular basis answering questions and we'd say it was just blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. He never said anything. You never did anything.

He's come forward to express his support for legislation that's making dramatic and different changes to our education, some of it controversial, some of it broadly accepted, others not so. To the member for Sarnia, I tip my hat. I think this is the kind of representation the people of Ontario are looking for and I think it was well spoken.

Mr Bisson: I want to rise and speak against the comments from the member for Sarnia. The part that really bothers me is this line the government is using. It's reminiscent of the line the Minister of Education first gave his bureaucrats as he was videotaping his ideas so he could pass his pearls of wisdom back to the ministry staff. He wanted to be able to create a crisis and say that our system of education did not work, and if he was able to create that crisis, somehow or other he would be able to go back and make the kinds of changes that needed to be made, in his view, around education.

First of all, for a member of this government to stand up such as I've just seen and say that our system of education doesn't work and puts out a bunch of kids who have no education, I think is a disservice not only to the boards of education but the thousands and the tens of thousands of teachers and students who work quite hard at making our system of education a good one.

Sure, any system can be improved on; there's no question about that. Sure, you could make changes in order to make the system of education more affordable; no argument about that. But to sit here and say that the status quo doesn't work goes to show that you know absolutely nothing about the system of education in Ontario, because our system of education does work by and large. We have one of the best systems of education as compared to other jurisdictions, not only here in North America but in places all across the world. Our economy would not support a system of education such as you report. Can you imagine an economy in Ontario being as prosperous as it has been over the years and building the high-tech sectors of industry that we have if our system of education never worked?

Sir, I tell you, give your head a shake and stop reading the lines that the Minister of Education is giving you in order to repeat the mantra he has given the people of this province that our system of education is somehow in a shambles and that he has to make the changes. The changes are that he doesn't believe in public education and he is withdrawing service from the people of this province, and it's shameful.


Mrs Marland: I too would like to congratulate the member for Sarnia on his maiden speech in this House. I think it would have been slightly more classy of the two members for the New Democratic Party, the third party in this House, instead of being so meanly critical to have recognized that this was in fact the maiden speech of the member for Sarnia.

I say to the member for London Centre, who made such a point of criticizing that it was a read speech, that I sat in this House for five years and listened to them when they were the government reading every single answer as cabinet ministers, and even at that, they still came in as ministers introducing their bills and read every single word.

To quote the words of the member for Hamilton Centre, who said, "Oh yes, and he read every single word," I recall when you were the minister with a number of different titles that you came in and read every single word and you were an experienced politician, and I think it is very unfair --

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): It's not true.

Mrs Marland: You're right. It's not true. You weren't experienced. At the end of five years you still weren't experienced. But I think to criticize the maiden speech of one of our colleagues in this House, regardless of party, just shows an extreme lack of class, and to finish off by saying he should have a better level of debate, I would say to you, Mr Speaker, that it was an excellent speech. It was well written and it was well delivered, and if we had had that kind of leadership in the previous government, we would have enjoyed better speeches when they were the government.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Sarnia has two minutes.

Mr Boushy: I thought my remarks would improve the level of debate. I guess it didn't. I just want to tell the opposition that quite frankly I do hear these comments, every time I go to my riding, that say that the way the members act "They act like a bunch of kids fighting," and this is a reflection on this House. I thought by just mentioning it might improve the debate, to elevate it to a certain level, but I guess it didn't.

With regard to other matters, may I say that you're always criticizing the government about killing, for example, the junior K programs. I just want to tell you that I heard the same arguments in my riding over and over again, but finally both boards agreed they would go along with the junior K programs on a local level. Some other municipalities, other ridings, did not.

What I'm saying to you is, things will work out. Just wait for our government to go ahead with our programs to make real changes that we promised to do during the election and things will work out.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to just congratulate the member for Sarnia. I enjoyed his remarks. I thought he had some interesting things to say and I appreciated his involvement in the debate.

I really wasn't planning to speak this afternoon to Bill 34, but I was so annoyed about what I experienced in this House this afternoon, I felt -- and I mean that and I'm going to try to behave myself this afternoon and I meant what I said. I think the minister's behaviour in this place this afternoon was discreditable, to say the very least.

There are old rules in this place. We are supposed to be guided by the old Victorian injunction that we don't lie to one another. That's the rule. That's why the Speaker calls us to order if we mislead one another. That's the old convention. It belongs in another century, but has got kind of an arcane appeal. I know what the rules are and I'm not about to get myself tossed out of here this afternoon. I'm sorry in a way that my good friend the member for Simcoe East is not here. He seems to be in a particularly definite mood today.

For purposes of today, I got the Hansard of this afternoon's question period, because clearly Bill 34 is all about educational funding and about what the government is doing with respect to supporting, through its good offices, the programs that are developed and delivered at the local level, whether here in Metropolitan Toronto or in my part of eastern Ontario. Let me say at the outset that I understand, and I think all members understand, the pressure that Her Majesty's Ontario government is under with respect to the current fiscal situation. Members opposite will be quick to point out, "We campaigned on the basis of certain undertakings," and I respect that.

Members like the current Minister of Labour and the minister responsible for women's issues and the Premier, all of whom were distinguished chairs of boards of education in this province, would know better than most of us that if you think you're going to take $1 billion out of the system and not affect classroom environments, you are dreaming in Technicolor. It's a laudable ambition and it's very good politics, but it is unachievable.

I spent the weekend with one of my school boards and it is faced, as a grant-dependent, assessment-poor board -- I'm talking now about the Renfrew County Roman Catholic Separate School Board. They are really "up agin it," as we would say. Their general legislative grant is going to be reduced by $2.7 million this year. That represents about 10% of their operating funds. I say to the House, and to the public beyond, that if you think you're going to reduce the general legislative grant by 10% and have a school board effect those savings in the last four months of the year, let there be an understanding of how this works.

School boards have contractual obligations that bind them, in most cases, through the end of August in any given calendar year. When the provincial government and the provincial department of education tell school boards in April or May that they must effect a certain saving based on a cut in the provincial grant, the local school boards are going to be operating on a budget cycle that is the calendar year. In the case of my school boards, and I think it's true for all school boards, they're operating on a fiscal cycle that is January 1 to December 31 and they have contractual obligations that bind them for two thirds of this year. Now they're told by the minister that they must come up with $2.7 million -- it's more than that, actually; it's slightly over $3 million if they take other things into account. They've got to come up with managing a $3-million budget cut in four months.

Mr Stockwell: We're going to give the money back.

Mr Conway: I'm going to deal with that in a moment.

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): Okay, we're waiting.

Mr Conway: Who said that? It's important that I know who said that because you'll be interested in what I have to say about it, I think.


Mr Conway: No. Let me be clear. I apologize if that appeared to be a little precious. I can do that sometimes and I'm sorry if I did. I simply make this point: Your attitude on the question of educational finance will be different if you're living in Oil Springs, Lambton county, than it will be if you are in the city of Ottawa, and that is a very major issue.

What we have here today is a situation, and I wanted to raise again the point that concerns me. Yesterday I met with my school board officials and they are absolutely distraught at how they're going to do this in terms of an assessment-poor board.

Mr Hastings: Aren't they innovative?

Mr Conway: Innovative? The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale says what we need here is innovation. Let me just tell you that the county of Renfrew is the largest county in the province of Ontario. It stretches about 100 -- what is it? From Arnprior to near Mattawa is about -- I still operate in miles -- 140 miles. Its average depth is about 50 miles. I grew up in one of the most rural parts of that large county. If you live in Sarnia and, yes, if you live in Rexdale, one can imagine that geography provides somewhat more opportunity than if you live in the outer reaches of Renfrew. I still represent people who get on a school bus in the morning in the dark and don't get home until well after dark at night, young kids on school buses for over an hour.


The member from Rexdale talks about innovation. These school boards in Renfrew have been, of necessity, doing things that a lot of urban and assessment-rich boards have not yet had to think about because they are much more required to do so on the basis of their very limited resources.

Mr Hastings: They've been doing that for thousands of years -- by chariot.

The Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Conway: I don't know the member from Rexdale. There's at least one Shakespearean character that comes to mind.

This is serious business. We have a situation where today the Minister of Education has now indicated he is prepared to make arrangements to cushion the impact of his already announced cuts to particularly grant-dependent school boards. I have no quarrel with what the member from Haliburton did; he did what a good member should do. What I want to know is, what policy has the Minister of Education in this respect?

Last week some very reputable trustees and school administrators were at a public meeting with this Minister of Education. They had heard that something was afoot, and the question was put directly: "Minister, is there a deal in Haliburton? We hear that there is."

They got what the Leader of the Opposition got today, and I have the Hansard from earlier this afternoon. The Minister of Education was very, very clear. Quoting directly from the Instant Hansard of this afternoon: "Hon Mr Snobelen: To help the Leader of the Opposition understand, let me say, very simply, no such deal exists."

That is not accurate and I don't know how else -- I know how else to put it and that would get me tossed out of here. But the school officials in Haliburton are talking. They're talking quite openly and quite favourably, and I understand that. My annoyance with the Minister of Education is that he has an obligation, he has a duty to come here and, if he can't be accurate, to maintain silence.

The Speaker this afternoon said, "Oh well, it's the give and take of question period." Let me just say to the Minister of Education -- and he apparently has a reputation for a certain facility with language and other things -- it will make his career very difficult and very tortuous in this place if we see much more of what we saw here this afternoon, because I suspect if you grew up in Lambton or if you grew up in most of Ontario, there is a word that comes to mind for what we got here this afternoon.

I'm not here to talk so much about that as to the basic issue that underlies it, although I'm not impressed, I will say to the Minister of Education.


Mr Conway: What are you talking about? Are you pulling a Frank Drea: "Come on outside and we'll talk in the corridor"? Don't waste my time with that bravado.

It is very important that we know what the policy is in respect of these grant-dependent boards, because we now have evidence that an arrangement was made with the Haliburton County Board of Education where the initial cut, rumoured to be $1.2 million, was mitigated to $325,000.


Mr Conway: The minister mumbles. I wasn't at the meeting last Thursday, but I'm going to tell him that some very good people who don't necessarily oppose his party politically were singularly unimpressed with his lack of response and lack of candour about what was going on. That's what I was asked about yesterday. People said, "We think something's afoot; we think that arrangements have been made."

We now know that an arrangement has been made for Haliburton. Muskoka, east and west Parry Sound and Lennox and Addington come to mind as four other places where, as I recall from my experience at the department, you've got --

Mr Stockwell: Northern Ontario.

Mr Conway: To say nothing of northern Ontario, but those are mid-northern boards and southeastern boards. I would suspect that those boards, among others -- and I mentioned the Renfrew county separate board. I cite their evidence again: a $2.7 million-cut to their legislative grant for this year, and they must effect that saving in the last third of this fiscal year.

Mr Stockwell: It's only 2%.

Mr Conway: I say to the member for Etobicoke West that it's not 2%. It's well above 2%, on the basis of what the board officials said to me yesterday.

But more importantly, these people want to know, what is the arrangement? I see, from the question period of this afternoon, that the minister has indicated -- and I don't know whether it's in the Hansard or in the Haliburton county press -- to his own colleagues that there will be a mechanism and there will be a provision for hard-hit boards to appeal. That is as it should be. I simply want to say to the minister and to the government that it is absolutely inappropriate, if that is the policy, that it has not to this point been broadcast to all the school boards.

I can't believe that anybody in the department -- there's nobody in the department who would imagine that you would make an arrangement in Haliburton and that the people in Muskoka or Renfrew or wherever wouldn't find out about it almost immediately. That, I suspect, is what's happened. I'm not here to have fun at the expense of my friends from Owen Sound and Belleville, but I wonder whether somebody got on the phone to Murdoch and Rollins on the weekend and said, "I hear from my friend over in Haliburton that an arrangement has been made," because that's what's going to happen.

I've got to tell you, today's question period is going to occasion a great deal of interest across the school community. "So there is an arrangement? Great." They would say the minister had made a public announcement. To the best of my knowledge, no public announcement has been made. I can tell you that the very experienced director of education for the Renfrew County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, as of 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon, had heard nothing from the minister and/or the department that there was an appeal process, and he was at a meeting with the minister last Wednesday or Thursday. I confirmed that with him about half an hour ago. Now, maybe something was said when my delegation was out of the room, but I suspect not.

It is bad form, to say the least, that we find out in question period today, thanks to the Haliburton County Echo and the Minden Times and CBC on the weekend, that an arrangement has been made to alleviate the burden of these budget cuts on the county board of education in Haliburton.

Let me say that there is a significant hardship being visited on some school boards over others as a result of this budgetary policy; it is the obligation of any good minister and any responsive government to alleviate that. I don't know that we've yet established how, in fact, in law the minister has done what he's done in Haliburton. The information I have, as of this afternoon, is that the details are yet to be worked out. I have in front of me, I say to those very learned people from the ministry who I see looking very sagelike underneath the press gallery, regulation 307, the special grant, the so-called undue burden provision. Has the minister used this particular regulation to provide special assistance to Haliburton county? If he has, that is going to be very significant new policy. Let me just read what regulation 307 says.

"Subject to the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, the minister" -- in this case, the Minister of Education -- "may pay in any year, pursuant to a request from a board, in addition to the grant payable under the general legislative grant regulation for such year, a special grant to such board where the general legislative grant otherwise payable to the board has placed or will place, in the opinion of the minister, an undue burden upon all the ratepayers or supporters of the board or upon such of them as are assessed in a particular municipality or locality within the area of jurisdiction of the board."


Is that the mechanism? I expect somebody from the treasury bench will respond. But if it is, it is something that is going to be of very significant interest around the realm this week. If it is not, I would just be interested to know by what legal or statutory authority the minister intends to provide relief from his department's own implementation of his government's budgetary policy.

Mrs Marland: Are you speaking to Bill 34?

Mr Conway: Yes, I am, I say to my friend from Mississauga South, who seems to have a particular interest in matters involving the rules and regulations of the House these days. I wonder whether she is planning on another career we don't yet know of.

Mrs Marland: That's true, I was.

Mr Conway: I thought it but I didn't say it, and you should not say it.

I just simply want to say that we have some explanations owed from the minister. Both of my boards are grant-dependent. We are not, as they are in Sarnia and Etobicoke, to name two examples, possessed of a great deal of industrial and commercial assessment. Let me just say --

Mr Morley Kells (Etobicoke-Lakeshore): Less than they used to be.

Mr Conway: That's true. The member is right: They have less than they used to, but I've got to tell you, less than you used to is still a heck of a lot more than we have in Renfrew county --


Mr Stockwell: Oh, Sean, we're fixing that.

Mr Conway: Well, you know, the member from -- what is your riding anyway? You are given to the most enthusiastic caterwauling of anybody I have seen here in a long time. I just hope some day I have the benefit, when you get up on your feet and you unload just full bore, because you are a true jumping bean when it comes to --


Mr Conway: I know you have a lot to say and I'm sure you have even more to do, but you really seem to have a lot to say when you're not on your feet, I say to the minister, the culture czar, the new Nick Leluk of this place.

Back to the question of educational finance --


Mr Conway: Well, yes. If you could restrain the culture czar, perhaps I wouldn't be as distracted or as distractible. If somebody wants to make a speech, I'm happy to sit down and listen to it.

Anyway, the question the government faces is the question all governments have faced here in the last 15 to 20 years, and that is that the system we've had for funding education up to what are called the grantable ceilings is not working, and with each passing year it works less efficiently. One of the, if not the, fundamental flaws in this whole system is that the multibillion-dollar pool of industrial and commercial assessment is not very well distributed around the province.

Let me tell you, and I said earlier, the interests of the member from Lambton on this subject are going to be rather different than the member from Ottawa's, and this is not an issue so much for partisanship as it is for region. There is going to be no justice to grant-poor boards until we do something to inject a greater degree of fairness into the grant structure, particularly up to grantable ceilings. The fact that everybody's been spending or just about everybody's been spending over the grantable ceiling for years now doesn't change the fact that we have some fundamental inequities.

I for one perhaps in my party am a bit of an apostate in the sense that I recognize we can do more with what we have. There's no question about it. It is not going to be easy and we have seen in recent years some interesting educational results where outcomes, which are what we all want -- I don't know a parent, I don't know a community, I don't know a business or a labour leader in the province who doesn't want, at the end of the day, to have as good an educational result as we can get. I think it is a fair criticism of the past generation that we have spent more time on issues of governance and finance than we have on worrying about results.

Lest people of an older generation get the impression that if we could just now turn back the clock -- I'm looking at my distinguished friend from Lanark who has some years and good experience on myself -- I want to make the point, and I think it was in 1952 that one of the country's most outstanding academics, Hilda Neatby, wrote a book. The book was entitled So Little for the Mind. It was a book that grew out of the Royal Commission on Canadian Arts and Letters and it looked at, among other things, the state of public education in Canada in the period from about 1930 to 1950. Her conclusion was that it was a pretty bad system.

I see the member for Ottawa-Rideau nodding. He may have read the book. It's a damning indictment of Canadian public schools in the good old days of the 1930s and 1940s. Let there be no nostalgia for yesterday, because yesterday was yesterday; there were some good things, but I'm going to tell you there were some pretty bad things too in terms of the participation rate, in terms of our inability to deal with a lot of people who were not academically inclined.

I have to say to the House today, I went to a church-funded university back in the early 1970s. It was the old Waterloo Lutheran University. I sometimes think one of the worst things we ever did for that institution was give them 100% public money. When I went there they were operating on 50-cent dollars -- that is 50-cent public dollars -- and the people who ran that system I think managed it very efficiently under the circumstances. The fact of the matter was they couldn't sustain it and they either had to get more public funding or close the door.

I'm not one of those who believe that by simply putting more money into the system you're guaranteed a better result. I'm also, as a former Minister of Education, alive to the reality of the labour-management issues that lurk underneath Bill 34, and I suspect the government is preparing for a dust-up on that front.

Mr Stockwell: An abolition.

Mr Conway: The member from the Kingsway says, "An abolition." I say, when I look at this particular bill -- God, he's the member for the Kingsway? Impossible. I don't know a great deal about Etobicoke, but I think I know that much. But one of the issues that we face as a Legislature and that the government faces is what to do about the underlying finance issues. I see in Bill 34, with some sadness, and I know it's very popular, particularly with the over 45 or 50 crowd: Let's get at junior kindergarten. God, has anything come to symbolize the excesses of an old order more than junior kindergarten?

For the time being I suspect that some of us have lost that battle. I think it is truly sad, because if one is careful to look at the evidence, the evidence is clear. If you have money to invest, you ought to invest it in the foundation years.

I know there are many people -- I won't embarrass any of my immediate family, but my father's probably watching and I'm not so sure that he's not one of them -- who are not particularly supportive of the notion of junior kindergarten simply on the basis that: "When I was a kid growing up there was no such a thing. There was no such a thing for us as either junior or senior kindergarten."

Mrs Marland: You didn't need to go to school, did you?

Mr Conway: Did I need to go to school? Who knows? I spent a good bit of my life there.

But the evidence, I say very seriously, is very clear that if you want a very good return on your investment, and accepting that you're going to cap your investment overall -- I'm not going to quarrel with the government about that, and, yes, we are going to have to restrain public expenditures in most places -- it is a very, very wrongheaded notion to pull away from formal education the opportunity for junior kindergarten. I recognize that the land is now flush with the notion that it's just some kind of glorified babysitting and it should be attacked and disbanded. I say quite seriously that that's wrongheaded policy. It may be good politics in the short term. It is not good educational policy, and we will pay downstream some price for that, some very real price for that.

One of the worst experiences that one can have as a local member and as a government minister is to go into these situations -- and it happens that Peel region is the one that I remember, where one board offered junior kindergarten and the other board didn't. People wonder: "Why is that so? I thought in Ontario we had an entitlement." You simply say, "Well, you know, local boards make local decisions." It's not an easy thing to explain sometimes why in Ontario if you're a supporter of one board you can access junior kindergarten and across the street it's not available. I think it's a mistake. I understand its popularity but this will be, I say to my friends opposite, a pyrrhic victory.


Other things in the bill struck my attention. The member for Etobicoke West observed that you know the province of Ontario is now going to expect his government is going to carry on the tradition of the Rae government, which is to say that the Ottawa and Toronto school boards are going to be asked to voluntarily offer up some money. I'm sure I heard the member for Etobicoke West complaining about this the other day and I think I heard the question to the minister. He may have forgotten it but I don't think the minister or I forgot it.

The question I would offer to the member for Etobicoke West is, if not that, what in the interest of equity? I'm sure by now all government members know that under the grant plan as it's existed now for several years, Ottawa and Toronto school boards owe us money, and all that is to say is that the concentration of industrial and commercial wealth in those areas is sufficiently strong to allow the province not to pay grants.

Mr Stockwell: But educate our kids.

Mr Conway: Again I'll be very interested to see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the first minister do to resolve the tension between the "have" boards and the "have-not" boards. If you think you're going to solve the underlying problems of educational finance by pulling back on the retirement gratuities, by pulling back on the mandatory provisioning of junior kindergarten and some of these other adult education programs, I've got news for you: It is not going to be achievable with those measures alone. I do think that there is going to be an expectation on the part of everyone in the chamber and certainly everyone in the province that, unlike the bad old days, there is going to be in this new order of things a meaningful measure of equality of opportunity.

Let me say again that I am here unabashedly as the member for Renfrew. We have a tyranny of distance that causes pressures on our school boards that would be inconceivable in a place like Metropolitan Ottawa or even urban Sarnia. I am not kidding when I say that we have secondary school districts in places like Barry's Bay, Deep River and Eganville where to organize any kind of program is to have to look at your busing. Opeongo High School, in the heart of Renfrew county, is a secondary school with probably now 700-and-some students, and virtually everyone in that school has to be bused. There may be a couple of farm kids in the immediate area who can walk or take a bicycle but I suspect that 98% of those students have to be bused.

The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has one of those schools, Tagwi down in Stormont county, I believe, just around Avonmore, that is somewhat the same, and there are others. The Minister of Finance has a situation up in Almaguin which would be another one. In terms of organizing a program that is going to be fair to those folks in rural and northern Ontario, we are going to require a system of educational finance that is fair and reasonable.

I take my seat by observing that it will be with great interest that I and my colleagues, particularly from the rural and grant-dependent boards, will look to the minister's more complete statement in the next hours as to precisely how and when he's going to provide the special relief to the grant-dependent boards.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Stockwell: The member for Renfrew certainly is an engaging speaker and he offers us glimpses of history, of times gone by in eras when some members here were not around, and some of these debates I'm sure have fashioned themselves in circular form. This is probably not the first time he's had this financial debate about the education problems and crises that we've found ourselves in.

If I were to offer some criticism about my own government with respect to education, the criticism I would offer would not be so much with respect to how the bill has proceeded to this point; it's how we've directed our actions. It seems to me that most people in the province today whom I speak to believe there's enough fat in the education system at the local level that they can take out the cuts we've asked for. It seems to me the local levels have chosen to do it differently.

If I were to be Minister of Education -- although you'd have a firestorm and a firefight throughout the province -- I would say we should have mandated a couple of things: "We're going to pass on these cuts, but you can't lay teachers off and you can't raise taxes. Now find the money." I think they're a resourceful lot out there in the education field, trustees and others, who would have found the money. But I think this has become more political than practical. The political point being scored is, "We can't make these cuts unless we lay off teachers, and thereby the lower levels of government will force us to back down."

I fundamentally believe, with the socialist government that was last in power here, that a 10% or 15% or 20% reduction in government spending wouldn't be that difficult to come by, although it would create some firestorms across the province. That's where my criticism would lie. I believe the finances can be reduced, I believe the money is there and can be accessed. But we always end up in political debates with political wrangling, and it doesn't suit the purposes we're looking for.

Mr Bradley: I enjoyed the remarks of the member for Renfrew North very much. I thought they were right on the mark in so many cases. I know that through the magic of television monitors one is able to see these things.

One of the issues he addressed which I thought was rather interesting was junior kindergarten. It reminds me that contrary to what my friend the member for Etobicoke West is saying, what the government is actually doing is putting the cat among the pigeons. They are causing people to fight with one another by simply cutting way back on the funding to meet the needs of the tax cut -- and we're going to have to borrow over $20 billion, of course, to be able to implement that tax cut, which doesn't make any sense. But they've got people who support junior kindergarten fighting against those who support adult education. You've got the Catholic school system, in some cases, confronting the public school system. You've got elementary people confronting secondary people. In other words, what you have done, essentially, is to put the cat among the pigeons and try to put the blame at the local level.

You have people lining up at the board of education door to make their case. I tell these people, "You have to go back to the game," as I've mentioned in this House before, "of pin the tail on the donkey, and in this case the donkey is sitting at Queen's Park." It is the provincial government that is responsible for what is happening, not the local board of education. If they want to make that case, that's a very valid case. I hope the people across this province, who watch this program in great numbers, will remember that, as my colleague the member for Renfrew North has reminded them.

Mr Bisson: I'd like to congratulate the member for Renfrew North for his speech here today in the House in regard to Bill 34. The member is 103% right, if there is such a thing, about what is happening in terms of the public board in Victoria-Haliburton. The member for Victoria-Haliburton, like any member trying to do his or her job, did the right thing: heard the concern of the community, heard the concern of the board and went off to the minister to lobby on their behalf. In that, he did nothing wrong. That's the job of all members.

But where it really has gone wrong is in the response the minister has made in dealing with the request from the member for Victoria-Haliburton. Rather than turn around and say, "We will treat all the school boards in some manner that is at least fair and consistent," so that if you're a constituent living in Victoria-Haliburton or a ratepayer in Metropolitan Toronto or in Timmins or Iroquois Falls you get at least the same opportunity as people in Victoria-Haliburton, what happened here, pure and simple, is that the Minister of Education has cut a deal, and he has cut a deal with the member for Victoria-Haliburton because the member for Victoria-Haliburton is feeling the heat from his constituents, he is feeling the heat from the trustees on the boards that the cuts this Minister of Education and this government have made to education are affecting classroom funding. The member for Victoria-Haliburton was trying to figure out some way to get out from the political heat. What did they do? They entered into a back room and they made a deal.

That is where the problem happens, because this Tory government is the same government that stood and said: "We are a different kind of politician. We are a type of politician that will do things differently." We're finding out that this group of Mike Harris Reformists are no different from any Tory before them, including Mike Harris and others, and are returning to what we know them for, being a bunch of politicians making backroom deals.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): I welcome the opportunity to respond to the remarks by the member for Renfrew North and the member for St Catharines. Just to pick up on one piece, it was a direct criticism of the Minister of Education, but he went to say that the $1 billion is unachievable, the savings of $1 billion are unachievable. In fact, this really represents about a 6% reduction over two years, which I believe is achievable.

When I look at the variation in spending by boards per pupil across the province, including the Christian schools, they spend in the order of $3,500 to $4,000 at the low end and up to $9,000 at the high end. Are those children getting a better education just because we spend more money? We're looking for accountable, effective and affordable education delivered in a fair way.

I might say that in my riding of Durham East there are five boards, and of those five boards, two have already committed to offering junior kindergarten. I might add that a third one is also being considered, and that's a decision that should be made by the board.

Furthermore, they're making decisions in a cost-effective way. In junior kindergarten, for example, they're saving $320,000 on the busing component in one board alone, by offering junior kindergarten as a full-day alternate day with kindergarten.

There are decisions that can drive out-of-the-classroom costs down. The minister is trying very hard to provide accountable and affordable quality education for our children in a fair way across the province, not just in assessment-rich boards but in assessment-poor boards as well.

I believe we're on the right track and the speech today by the member recognizes some of the difficulties, certainly in the teacher component and the sick days and the other issues in Bill 34. I believe financing of education was mentioned in the Sweeney report as the primary starting point in any reforms of education.

Mr Conway: I thank my colleagues on all sides for quite good points. I want to agree with some of what the member for Durham East has said and some other nice things that have been said by other people.

There is no question we have to change the way we do business; I accept that. As a former Minister of Education, I can tell you that we come to the current situation with some people having to have gone on a diet a hell of a long time ago. I say to my friend from Etobicoke West, and I know he didn't intend it, but it's bloody insulting to be told that Rosedale and Rockcliffe Park are going to go on a diet along with Come by Chance and wherever else in Newfoundland. Rosedale and Rockcliffe Park, by the very nature of their local wealth, can afford one heck of a lot longer and different kind of a weight loss than somebody out on the hard scrabble of the Canadian Shield who has much less to start with. That's the point.

I'm not here to engage in a kind of Pat Buchanan, us-versus-them kind of fight, but I'll tell you, and some pretty bloody distinguished Progressive Conservatives like John Robarts, would that he were here, will tell you -- he remembered what it was like. I'm not here to rethrash the old history, but if you come from the Ottawa Valley or if you come from northern Ontario or if you come from rural Ontario, it takes everything to hold your tongue when somebody who comes from a small postage stamp part of wonderfully urban or suburban Ontario, who's got all of this bloody industrial and commercial assessment that you have never seen, then starts to give you the lecture about how you might tighten your belt.

All we are asking for is fairness. It's no surprise to me that Chris Hodgson was making a pitch to the minister, and I suspect the members from Lennox and Addington and other places out in the north and in the rural area are going to be making similar pitches. All I'm arguing for is fairness. I agree with the member from Durham that we have to effect some savings. I want fairness, and a key ingredient of fairness is that if there is going to be special assistance to grant-dependent boards, I want to know what the rules are and I want it widely advertised so we all know --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The time has expired. The member for Hamilton Centre, further debate.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate the opportunity to enter into the debate. There are only a few minutes left today in my 30 minutes, but I will begin with those comments and continue tomorrow, assuming we continue the debate on that day.

I think it was quite revealing and quite timely that on the day when we're debating Bill 34, we have the quotes over the weekend from two members of the Tory caucus.

We have maintained in the NDP caucus that the agenda here is very clear. The agenda of this government is to fund their 30% tax cut, of which they know 60% will go to those who earn the highest 10% of income in the province. We know that's why they're cutting education. Politically, we know they're hoping that by forcing the local school boards to be the ones making the decision, they will escape the heat and the blame for, quite frankly, the gutting of the education system in this province, one that, yes, needs to be improved -- everything needs to be improved -- but certainly what this government is doing is not improvement by any definition. It's attack, it's slash, it's gut, and they're forcing the local school boards to be the hatchet people, to take the heat.

We listen to the minister stand up in the House daily and say, "It's not our decision to be made; it's the local government making the decisions." You don't see them handing the local boards funds and saying, "You decide how to spend it, because I want you to get the glory." No, this is the opposite. They're making cuts that shouldn't be made, they're making cuts deeper than they need to be made to fund that tax cut, and they're hoping that by standing back and forcing the school boards at the local level to make the decisions, they'll take the heat.

In three or four or five years, when this government goes back to the people -- watch it; it's going to happen for sure -- they're going to stand up and say: "We got the deficit under control. We're now working on the debt. We made all the tough decisions, and you ought to re-elect us so that you can have more good government like you've had." The fact of the matter is, where there's political blood spilled, they're hoping it's not theirs, it's those school trustees' blood.

As a former alderman and former regional councillor, my heart goes out to those trustees. I've met with my local trustees at the board of education and talked to them about the sorts of things they are faced with. Mr Speaker, I can tell you that every one of them, whether they're a Tory, a Liberal, a New Democrat or non-aligned, is literally sickened by the decisions that are forced on them by this government. I can tell the members in the government caucus right now, there are school board trustees watching this debate. They're watching every word, because they know the world they're living in and it's a world of Tory cuts and Tory blame, yet they're left squirming back in their own locale. Many of these people have devoted decades to their local education system. I'm going to speak more on that tomorrow when I talk about what's happening in my own home town of Hamilton.

I want to say that the comments made by the two Tory backbenchers -- they're in the paper today, where we have Bill Murdoch, a veteran of this place, not a rookie, saying, "I do believe our Ministry of Education is a little out of control." A further quote from him: "I think our minister really doesn't know what he's doing -- at times it seems that way." A further quote: "I think he mentioned he wanted to create a crisis -- it looks like he's done that." I can't think of better words to end my comments today on than their own government members calling the minister's bluff on this game they're playing.

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

The House adjourned at 1800.