36th Parliament, 1st Session

L062 - Tue 23 Apr 1996 / Mar 23 Avr 1996


















































The House met at 1333.




Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): It was not so long ago when the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing promised that he would act to implement the property tax reform proposal contained in the Golden report. Back in January, the minister seemed confident of his ability to review and introduce legislation by spring with respect to the Golden task force report on GTA reform. Well, the self-imposed 90-day deadline has come and gone. By refusing to deal with this issue, the minister is breaking a fundamental promise he made last January. How soon we forget.

The principal aim of this task force was to address the inequities in the property tax base across the GTA region. It is because of these inequities that many businesses are being forced out of Metropolitan Toronto. In many instances, these businesses end up not just locating outside of Metro but, with all too great a frequency, leaving the province or, even worse, the country. Quite simply, it is precisely this lack of leadership which is costing Metro jobs and prosperity.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I think as politicians, regardless of political party, we all would agree that one of the most distressing aspects of democratic politics in Canada is the growing alienation and cynicism that is felt by voters towards all politicians. We know that generally people have little faith in politicians and in the electoral process itself. It is clearly to our benefit to try to work to reverse that trend, and part of the problem that needs to be addressed is the question of how elections are carried out and the method we use of electing people, particularly to this Legislature.

That is why I've proposed, in a resolution to be debated later this week, that we look seriously at the notion of proportional representation as a way to deliver better, more representative and more effective government. Under this system, seats in this Legislature would be allocated to each party on the basis of the proportion of vote that it would win in an election. In Ontario, because of the diverse nature of the province, a specific number of seats would have to be set aside in each region; then seats would be allocated to each party according to the proportion of votes cast in that region.

There are many other aspects of this particular issue that I know would have to be looked at, and that is why my resolution asks that the Legislative Assembly committee be asked to look into the various models and report back to the Legislature with some recommendations. I ask people to consider that resolution and support it.


Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): I'd like to take the opportunity during National Volunteer Week to recognize the valiant efforts of Neighbourlink, a ministry of World Vision Canada. Throughout the week we are paying tribute to the citizens who donate their time and skills for the benefit of their communities. It is with this in mind that I tell you about Neighbourlink.

Neighbourlink was born out of World Vision Canada's concern for the world's poor. In 1990, World Vision Canada established a national programs division with the goal of establishing a Canadian expression of their global mandate to help the poor. This brought about the creation of Neighbourlink.

Neighbourlink augments the volunteer base in the community by providing a framework for a group of churches to care for people in need in very real and practical ways. They provide a structure to coordinate service agencies, church programs and volunteers with the needs of the people in the community.

There are 36 Neighbourlink ministries from Vancouver to Fredericton, 450 churches committed to the ministry and 10,000 church members volunteering their time and energy to assist their neighbours' needs.

David Adcock, the national coordinator for Neighbourlink, estimates that about 1,200 people each month are connected to caring volunteers through their organization. Some of these connections are crucial to people in need.

In Willowdale, a woman named Annie, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and no longer able to care for her home, called Neighbourlink for help. Volunteers from the organization brought lumber to rebuild her cupboards, replacing the wiring in her home, laid new carpet, repaired storm windows, fixed the eaves and installed a new back door --

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


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): It was revealed last month by municipal leaders in northern Ontario that the Ministry of Transportation has floated the idea of reinstating a $66 motor vehicle registration fee on northern drivers as a means of paying for highway improvements in our part of the province. Such an idea simply confirms that the abandonment of northern Ontario by this government continues unabated.

It has always been clear that the elimination of this motor vehicle registration fee was intended as a way of equalizing the higher costs of gasoline between northern Ontario and the south, like the 10-cent difference in gas prices between Thunder Bay and Toronto today and like the 12-cent difference in prices between Ignace or Longlac and Toronto.

If you go through with this new user fee for northerners, we will all expect a coincidental announcement that gasoline prices between northern and southern Ontarians are to be equalized immediately.

The minister has already announced a $20-million cut to northern roads and highways. Does the minister expect that this new funding idea, which is simply a transparent bribe, will be received well by our municipal leaders as well as all other northerners, when it is clear he is simply asking us to pay for his and his colleagues' already shameful cuts to the north?

The people of northern Ontario do not trust this minister on his professed commitment on road and highway improvements. It is an insult to ask us to pay out of our own pockets for work that is clearly the responsibility of this minister and this government.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a letter from a constituent, Mr Jean-Noel Sauvé from Chelmsford. This letter is to the Ministry of Transportation, the claims department.

On March 18, Mr Sauvé and his wife had a disastrous trip from Chelmsford to Ottawa along Highway 17. Because of the horrendous condition the road was in, and still is in, they hit two potholes, causing serious damage to their car.

The first pothole caused a flat tire which destroyed the tire, a damaged rim, a damaged wheel cover and a lost wheel cover cap. Mr Sauvé changed the tire, and not too far down the road hit another pothole. This time the spare tire and the wheel were destroyed. Mr Sauvé and his wife had to backtrack to Deep River on the shoulder of the road in a damaged car and waste several hours of the trip repairing the damage.


As a result of the terrible conditions on Highway 17 which caused the damage to the car, Mr Sauvé had to pay for the following: a used tire and rim work, $103; a new tire in Ottawa, $80; a new wheel in Ottawa, $34; a new wheel cover and cap in Chelmsford, $366; for a total of $585.94. Mr Sauvé writes, "I am making a claim for my unforeseen expenses due to the dangerous road conditions for a total of $585.94."

There are many roads in my riding where you simply must drive half the speed limit. To go any faster would be impossible and indeed would be dangerous.


Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): It's with great pleasure I rise to formally note to all members of the House that Sunday, April 21, marked the 70th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Canada. Over the years we, her loyal subjects, have come to know the Queen as the guarantor of our rights and freedoms within the framework of parliamentary democracy. We have also come to deeply appreciate the Queen's devotion to duty as our sovereign during the 44 years of her reign, as well as her understanding of and her love for the many culturally diverse peoples that comprise the nations of the Commonwealth she heads.

On May 28, 1953, Queen Elizabeth assumed, at the request of the Canadian Parliament, the title of Queen of Canada. This underscores the Queen's relationship to us as specifically our Queen. A few days later, at her coronation, the Queen also took an oath to serve us as our sovereign. This is why the Canadian citizenship oath, as well as other oaths that Canadians take to the Queen of Canada, such as our MPP oath of office, is significant as a reciprocal oath to a living person rather than to a piece of paper or an abstract idea or ideology.

At this time, we should all pause to reflect on the benefits we enjoy as Canadians and members of a constitutional monarchy. On the occasion of the 70th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Canada, may we join together as Canadians for a united expression of gratitude to our Queen for her years of loyal service to us. May our birthday gift to her at this time be our unswerving love for and loyalty to her person. It is a gift we can offer her always. God save the Queen.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Since yesterday I've been trying to get details regarding grant reductions to school boards by the Ministry of Education. My staff started, logically, in the finance division of the Ministry of Education. After two phone calls, we were informed that we must go through the minister's office, so today my staff promptly called the minister's office. Much to our surprise, we were directed to the capital and operating grants administration department. The director was not in, but his secretary referred us to the school board operating grants section. The manager was not there, but his secretary referred us to one of his policy advisers, the same adviser we spoke with on Monday. He still maintained that his orders were to route our inquiries to the minister's office. Upon hearing the little tour we had just been on through the ministry, he suggested we go back to the director of capital and operating grants administration again.

It appears that even those within the Ministry of Education are confused about what is going on, where information exists and who has access to it and from whom. If there is a new set of rules for getting information from the ministry, please be so kind as to share it with us, the members of the Legislature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): On a number of occasions, I have raised the plight of a group of defiant cleaners who work here at Queen's Park cleaning offices, most of whom are Portuguese Canadian women, who became some of the first victims of the government's anti-worker Bill 7. I'm pleased to stand here today and say to this House that the workers who remained and those who were hired on have signed union cards and have voted over 90% to recertify the union this government forced out.

Members of the House will recall that for years this union was entitled to be maintained in any bidding contracts that were put out. That right was etched in law in our previous legislation, rights which this government took away under Bill 7 and left these workers with absolutely no rights; in fact they terminated 30 employees, with absolutely no regard for seniority. We know those who remained had a cut in pay of 30% from what they were getting beforehand, before this government brought in its anti-worker Bill 7.

This says very clearly to this government that working people understand your agenda. Your agenda is to cut and slash to pay for that tax cut and it's to attack the labour movement. Here's the evidence: You're not going to break the labour movement in Ontario.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Port Elgin has Pumpkinfest, Kitchener-Waterloo has Oktoberfest, Wiarton still has Wiarton Willy, and now, thanks to the imagination of 11-year-old Eddie Sargent, Owen Sound has the distinction of being the host to the world's largest Easter egg hunt.

I would like to congratulate young Eddie Sargent, whose vision and hard work brought a community together in a concerted effort to break the world record for the number of Easter eggs collected.

On Easter Sunday, Eddie signalled the start of the world's largest egg hunt by announcing to a crowd of over 3,000 children, parents and volunteers that 355,000 candy eggs were waiting to be discovered, a total nearly triple the previous record in the Guinness Book of Records.

How did Eddie do it? One egg at a time. In response to Eddie's quest for the record, community groups, seniors, businesses, executives and, yes, even politicians contributed eggs. Egg donations poured in from as far away as Michigan, Vancouver and Florida.

I am sure Eddie's grandfather, long-standing Liberal member of provincial Parliament Eddie Sargent, is justifiably proud of his grandson's vision. As former parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Tourism, Eddie Sargent made great strides for tourism in Grey-Owen Sound. Perhaps young Eddie is already following in his footsteps, as the Easter egg hunt could be the beginning of a great tradition and a tourist attraction for the city.

Congratulations, Eddie Sargent.



Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I was pleased to participate this morning in the launch of the Safe Communities Foundation here in the city of Toronto.

This is an organization with a very innovative, community-based program to help make Ontario the safest place to live, work and play in the world. The ultimate goal is to work with safety organizations and individuals to eliminate workplace injuries.

I would like to congratulate Paul Kells. Paul Kells is the founder of the Safe Communities Foundation, the man who made this launch possible today.

Paul Kells has become an inspiration to every one of us who is concerned about health and safety. He has worked tirelessly with his family to promote and champion the importance of safety in the workplace, with special emphasis on the education of our young workers. He has done this ever since the tragic death of his son Sean, which happened in a very preventable workplace accident in Sean's third day on the job in a new part-time job in November 1994.

This afternoon my colleague the Honourable Bob Runciman will be involved in the launch of the pilot community program in Brockville. Brockville is the first community of what is hoped will be at least five Ontario communities to participate in the Safe Communities Foundation.

I would like to congratulate the mayor and members of the Brockville community, the employers, the employees and the schools, for their enthusiastic participation in this program. They have set the goal of eliminating accidents by 50% over the next two years. We know this is achievable because in the community of High River, Alberta, where this program has been operational, they have managed to reduce injuries by 66% in one year. That's what happens when caring communities work together.

Last year, 52 people were killed in Ontario and 813 suffered serious critical injuries. The tragedy is that most of these deaths and injuries do not have to happen; they are preventable. And that is what we intend to do. We intend to work cooperatively to prevent deaths and injury.


The Ministry of Labour is pleased to be involved in this unique private-public sector partnership with the foundation and the private sector in helping communities prevent and reduce injuries. As a government we will provide the technical support and the expertise and the Deputy Minister of Labour will sit on the foundation board. In addition, the Workers' Compensation Board will become an important partner in the safe communities initiative as it works to develop the appropriate programs.

I would also like to congratulate the Bank of Nova Scotia, the Bank of Montreal, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the Toronto-Dominion Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada, which are the founding sponsors of the foundation, as well as Du Pont Canada Inc and Noranda Inc, which are the first corporate sponsors. They are providing all the funding.

The Safe Communities Foundation represents an important step forward in our collective effort to create the safest workplaces in the world. Again I congratulate Paul Kells, his family and all those individuals who are working cooperatively in this exciting new endeavour to prevent and reduce injuries and deaths in Ontario.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to stand up and congratulate Paul Kells and the Safe Communities Foundation for taking the tragedy and grief associated with the death of young Sean Kells and turning them into the beginning of a positive venture.

We also have to thank the corporate sponsors that have helped to make this project a reality and thank the community of Brockville. Finally, I want to thank Mr Kells, his family and the association for keeping myself and our caucus abreast of the developments associated with this and how it's been coming along. We're proud to welcome that.

I say to the Minister of Labour that we are thankful that groups like this are intervening and beginning to take up the slack resulting from the cuts this government has made across a whole range of labour issues.

This minister has a number of firsts to her credit. She's the first labour minister to introduce significant changes to the Labour Relations Act without public hearings; she's the first labour minister whom organized labour will not consult with; she's the first labour minister who would not address the annual meeting of the provincial building trades council; she's the first labour minister to reduce spending and services associated with health and safety. She spoke of her ministry providing technical support. She forgets that she's eliminating all of the laboratories within her ministry. This is the first labour minister who has taken steps backwards, in our view, in the whole area of health and safety. I will predict that this will be the first labour minister who will significantly reduce benefits to injured workers.

While we recognize the importance of community-based efforts in addressing health and safety, and I remind the minister that the safe communities document itself points out the dramatic savings associated with expenditures in health and safety, I must say that it takes more than just words; it takes more than the arrogance associated with this government, where they won't even listen in the House or in the community to issues of importance. I will also predict that this government's cavalier attitude towards injured workers and towards labour and health and safety issues in the workplace will ultimately cost this government. We'll be talking on Thursday about abysmal records associated with health and safety, about fatalities in the workplace. It's time that the government begins to recognize its responsibilities in the area of health and safety.

It's most unfortunate that the predictions we made last year are coming true, that the rate of labour unrest in this province is increasing. The days lost to strikes and work action are increasing. It has a tremendous impact on the investment climate, which we too want to see improved. It is our view and the opinion of our caucus that we have to work to restore labour harmony and bring about a sense of investor confidence, as the government does, but we don't think you do that by creating a labour climate that isn't conducive to investment.

We will see in the weeks and months ahead more problems associated not only with this announcement but with other announcements in terms of compensation for injured workers. The government is about to embark on a massive overhaul of benefits to injured workers that are going to effectively penalize those people in order to try and bring about changes that they think are important but frankly we think they are blowing way out of proportion.

It's our view that if the Minister of Labour was as committed to health and safety in the workplace as her words seem to indicate, we would see dramatic savings in costs associated with WCB for employers and most importantly for injured workers.

People like Mr Kells and the Safe Communities Foundation are to be congratulated. We applaud them and we look forward to continuing to work with them on initiatives that will improve not only the health and safety of our workplaces but indeed of our communities overall. So we welcome that intervention and we ask the Minister of Labour to please take the steps that are important and necessary to ensure healthier and safer workplaces in the province of Ontario.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I don't think there was an Ontarian to speak of who was not significantly moved by the tragic death of young Sean Kells, and we certainly acknowledge the efforts of his father, Mr Paul Kells, in trying to derive something positive from such a tragedy. We salute that effort and we salute the effort of any citizen and for that matter any corporation that cares about the plight of workers and their health and safety in the workplace.

But I think the people of Ontario will understand some of the concern and, quite frankly, cynicism that the labour movement has with regard to initiatives that this Minister of Labour brings forward when we take a look at what her agenda and her track record have been so far. My colleague from the Liberal Party has mentioned some of them; I want to mention a few others as well as emphasize some that have been mentioned because of their importance.

First of all, let's recognize that while this government and this minister stand up on a regular basis and talk and pay lip-service to health and safety for workers, every action to date that they have taken is to either take away rights that workers have or take away systems, procedures, supports and even laws that protect those very same workers. At the end of the day, people will not be fooled by empty words.

This minister is presiding over the virtual gutting of the Ministry of Labour. This is the minister who has announced that she is also going to open up the Occupational Health and Safety Act. That has been done in the context of saving money, of cuts. We know that when this minister opens up a piece of legislation, workers are going to lose some right or some protection somewhere. We know that with the Jackson report to gut the WCB, the purpose is to take away benefits from workers who are already innocently injured on the job. And the purpose of taking away those benefits? So that they can save more money. That goes into the pot to pay for a 30% tax cut. It all flows into that. There are $40 million coming out of the Ministry of Labour, and a large part of that is going to find its way into the pockets of the very wealthy in our province who stand to benefit the most from this tax cut.


This is also the same minister who killed the Workplace Health and Safety Agency and took us back decades and put health and safety and injury prevention back into the WCB after it had been taken out of there, recognizing it wasn't being given the priority effort it should. This minister is also eliminating the Joint Steering Committee on Hazardous Substances in the Workplace and has cut the training for employers and employees from 120 hours to 56 hours.

There is nothing in the agenda of this government as it relates to workers that has not taken away a right or a protection that workers have earned, that workers deserve and that workers are entitled to, and on April 28, the day of mourning in the province of Ontario, I say this Minister of Labour ought to hang her head in shame for what she has done to workers in this province.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. Minister, you will be aware that approximately a year ago, the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada that monitors the safety of our nuclear plants reported its growing concerns about the safety of our nuclear facilities, and was particularly concerned about a valve problem which could lead to problems with safety.

Last December the Pickering nuclear station was given a go-ahead on its operating licence because supposedly the problems had been fixed. Yesterday there was an absolutely unprecedented shutdown of the Pickering nuclear facility after what was a supposedly routine inspection. Minister, your assurance that there is no problem is simply not good enough. There is a problem when the federal agency has a concern about nuclear safety. There is a problem when a plant is shut down where the problem was supposedly fixed last December.

Minister, don't just tell us there is no problem. Tell us what happened at Pickering that caused the shutdown of that plant.

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): What I can say to you is that safety is a first priority of both Ontario and of this government. I can say to you that in routine inspection and maintenance of the Pickering plant, a faulty valve was discovered. It was felt the most appropriate way to deal with this was to shut the plant to make sure the repairs could be conducted in a safe manner, and that is exactly what was done.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, you will be aware that Pickering has not been terribly reassured by your answers: "Not to worry. Everything is being handled. It's all routine. There is no cause for alarm." The mayor of Pickering is concerned that on a problem that occurred just a short time ago, they were not notified for some 14 hours and then they were told: "Don't worry. There is no problem now."

We are concerned here about some very fundamental issues of public safety and public concern about the safety of our nuclear facilities in this province. It is simply not enough for you to say there is no problem and give everybody, from the mayor of Pickering to the members of this Legislature to the public of Ontario, a reassuring pat on the head. You have a report, a report which was done on the safety of our nuclear facilities. You were asked last November if you would make that report public. I ask you again today, will you make that report on the safety of our nuclear facilities public so we can all know if there is no problem?

Hon Mrs Elliott: Firstly, I'm not saying there wasn't a problem; I'm saying in fact there was a problem. It was detected during routine maintenance, which is exactly where we would want to find it, if there ever was a problem. As soon as it was detected and determined how best to deal with the circumstance, then the plant was shut down to best repair the valve in the backup system.

With regard to the peer reviews, these are reviews that are conducted every two years and have been conducted for almost 10 years. The confidentiality of these is important to the efficacy of the report. In order for them to work, over the past 10 years they have always remained confidential.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, the answer simply has no credibility; it simply isn't good enough. You can't stand here in this place today and tell us that the Pickering nuclear plant was taken through an unprecedented shutdown of the entire complex as a result of a routine maintenance inspection and that there's no reason to be concerned, there's no problem. The federal monitoring agency said a year ago that it was concerned about the safety of the nuclear plants. They believed there was a problem and they believed the problem needed to be fixed. You have a study that would tell us once and for all whether there is a problem and, if there is a problem, what you're doing about the problem. The public has a right to know. They have a right to reassurance that is based on fact, on an understanding of what the problems are and what you're doing to fix them. What have you got to hide? Why will you not release that report now?

Hon Mrs Elliott: If I became aware of a problem that was not being addressed, believe you me, this government would act. We are proud of the fact that Ontario Hydro took immediate action to deal with the problem. Since these reports have been conducted every two years for 10 years, why didn't the members of either opposition party deliver these to the public?


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I move with some reluctance from the Minister of Energy's non-answer to the Minister of Education and his non-answers from yesterday. Yesterday the Minister of Education removed any questions that we had about his ability to get the job done in education. With all due respect, it is now absolutely clear that it is the children of this province who are paying the price for your incompetence in your ministry.

If you knew what you were doing, why would you have been about to cut 50% of a board's budget, as you were about to do in Haliburton, without knowing the havoc it would create in the classroom? If you knew what you were doing, how is it that you could have created a special emergency fund and not tell anybody about it -- even the officials in your own ministry apparently -- not have any criteria for its use and not even know it existed until after yesterday's question period? How is that possible if you knew what you were doing?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'm surprised by both the tone and the nature of the question, because I believe this question was addressed yesterday, but I will address it again for you today. As I would have thought the member would have known, there are a great number of factors involved in the general legislative grants, among those change in assessment, change in student enrolment, the effects of the permanent social contract savings in the boards and of course the effect of our announcement of something less than 2% of board spending for next year. In combination this may have, particularly on smaller boards from place to place, what we would call and what is known as an undue burden. In these circumstances, governments in the past have applied regulation 307 of the Education Act to make sure that student services could be provided on an equitable basis by all boards in the province.

I am, again, very surprised at the nature of the question, because regulation 307 has been applied over 30 times in the last decade, so it's a very common use. My understanding is, if I can just use a couple of examples, that in 1989 the Ottawa-Carleton board was given an undue burden grant of $2.7 million, and in 1993 the Windsor Board of Education was given an $802,000 undue burden grant. I suspect the members from those areas represented their areas well.

Mrs McLeod: I'm not surprised that you've come into the House today with somewhat more information than you were able to provide us with yesterday. You will remember that yesterday I asked you to tell us what special consideration, what special deal had been made with the Haliburton board. You said there was no deal at all. Later in the day you said that indeed there had been some special consideration and you would review your 10% overall grants to the school boards of this province, and you would make sure that everybody was treated fairly. Minister, it's unbelievable that you would have to review something that you had just done the previous week, because you had no idea what you had done. You had no idea what your cuts were and you had no idea what effect they were having on boards.


You certainly didn't know what was happening in Haliburton, where your revolution was about to leave the Haliburton board absolutely reeling with a 50% cut to its funding, and your colleague the Minister of Natural Resources had no choice but to come to you in desperation and ask for some special consideration.

Minister, how could that have possibly made it past your desk: the very idea that you'd hit a board like Haliburton with a 50% cut without your knowing about it and knowing the consequences? Why did you have to cut a special deal with your colleague the Minister of Natural Resources and who else have you cut this special deal with?

Hon Mr Snobelen: To the honourable member opposite, I am surprised at the nature of the question because I would've thought that the honourable member opposite would've known the nature of the general legislative grants, having had the experience in the House that she has had. I would've thought she would've known that the normal process is to send out, in draft form, the GLG regulations, to confirm enrolment numbers and assessment bases with boards. When boards feel there's an undue burden, they approach the ministry and ask for relief, and we will respond to that.

I can assure the member opposite that this government is concerned about making sure there's an equitable base of funding across the province, that we will address these circumstances, particularly with small boards, because we want to make sure that they can in fact apply these savings to their circumstances. So we will review that very carefully in advance of next year's grant formula in the normal process that has taken place in this province for over 20 years.

Mrs McLeod: This year. It's what you did last week that we're worried about. It's the fact that you were about to hit the Haliburton board of education with a 50% cut that they couldn't possibly have coped with, that it was up to your colleague the Minister of Natural Resources to come to you desperately to say, "Minister, we've got a problem, and you've got to fix the problem." You didn't know what was happening. You still don't know what was happening. You're still not prepared to tell us who else this week, as of now, has had some special consideration like the consideration that the Haliburton board got.

Minister, in the course of this week, you have been accused of having lied about cuts not affecting classroom education. You've been accused of being out of whack and out of control, and that's just what your friends are saying. It's clear that the crisis the Minister of Education used to talk about creating has happened, Minister, and the crisis is you. It is your performance that is the crisis, and your complete failure to understand what is happening to boards because of your cuts is the crisis.

Minister, you've created the crisis; you can help to solve it. Tell us today, straight information, the name of every school board that you have cut a deal with, that you've reviewed and fixed the problem in the last week. Tell us which members of your cabinet have been lobbying you to give their school board a special deal. Tell us how many secret funds you have at your disposal to fix the problems that you've created and, most of all, tell us when you intend to start acting with some semblance of competence, or when you'll step down.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for both the excellent question and for the tone of the question, which was conciliatory, of course, and what we've come to expect in the House.

I have answered this question repeatedly over the last two days, and I hope perhaps the member opposite will listen carefully: There has been no deal cut with any board. The ministry, in the normal course of sending out draft general legislative grants and reviewing both the assessment base and the student enrolment base, particularly with small boards, which is the normal process, the process that's gone on government to government, year to year, for next year's grants, we will be going through that process of review. We are going through that process of review.

I can assure the member opposite -- I'm sure she'll be interested in hearing this -- that we will make absolutely certain that boards of education, particularly the small boards which don't have as much room to manoeuvre in their budgets as larger boards do, that we'll make sure those boards are treated equitably and fairly. Once we have confirmed their enrolment with them, once we have confirmed their assessment base with them, we will do what is necessary to make sure they can operate a sound school system for the next year. I want to assure the member opposite of that.

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

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I hope the minister is going to clarify this to the Haliburton County Echo so that they can straighten out what was the error.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Energy. It's in regard to the comments made by Mayor Wayne Arthurs, who expressed concern about how long it took for Pickering council to be notified of the tritium heavy water spill last week and then the emergency cooling system problems that led to the shutdown at Pickering.

Minister, the coolant system problem was discovered on Tuesday. The plant manager, Pierre Charlebois, met with the Pickering Ontario Hydro liaison committee, which is made up of municipal council members and residents, on Thursday, yet at that meeting, which was to deal with Pickering safety issues, Mr Charlebois did not mention what had occurred at Pickering two days previous. Could the minister explain why Ontario Hydro withheld that information from the very community committee that is supposed to deal with safety problems around the Pickering nuclear plant?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I believe I answered this question as well as I could in the House last week. I did acknowledge that we had not been properly informed by Ontario Hydro with regard to this. I did indicate at that time that I had sent a letter to the chair of Ontario Hydro expressing our concerns and wanting to be assured that the protocol that had been established in the fall was properly followed. I, in fact, did receive assurance from the chair of Ontario Hydro that there had been an acknowledgement that that protocol had not been properly followed and an assurance that that would not occur ever again.

Mr Wildman: That was assurance to you, as minister, that you'd be notified, as you certainly should be. Do you have any assurance that the local liaison committee that has been set up to deal specifically with these problems at Pickering will also be notified in a timely fashion, rather than the kinds of delays that were experienced last week, that is, that the public will get the information they need, the full story of the state of Ontario Hydro's nuclear plant safety?

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): She got the same assurances.

Mr Wildman: With regard to the peer review audit that was asked about yesterday and previously, and here again today, the minister says she doesn't want to give out the information because that might mean that people participating in the peer review will not be candid. Can she at least make a commitment to black out whatever names and identifications are in there and give us the information? If the information is clear that there are not serious problems, it will reassure the public. Surely the minister would want to reassure the public about the safety at Ontario nuclear plants. Why won't you publish the peer review report?

Hon Mrs Elliott: Again, I must reassure everyone that the faulty valve was discovered during routine maintenance checks. Ontario Hydro determined that the best way to solve and to repair this was to shut the plant.

My colleague across the way will understand peer reviews. As I said earlier, they are done every second year and have been done so for 10 years. Whether it relates to nuclear facilities or health reviews, the integrity of that whole process, the confidentiality, is absolutely fundamental for a full and candid discussion among peers to occur so that their recommendations can be fully discussed and appropriate measures taken.

Mr Wildman: Doesn't the minister understand that what the members of this House are concerned about and the members of the public are concerned about is the integrity and safety of the nuclear system, of Ontario Hydro, in the province? If the minister understands that, and she also acknowledges that the chair of Ontario Hydro, Mr Farlinger, is going around talking about his desire to privatize the nuclear parts of Ontario Hydro as well as other generating systems, isn't the minister concerned that a private operator of nuclear plants might be tempted to cut corners on safety in order to save money? And if that is the case, with the debate on privatization just now beginning, why won't the minister assure the public of the integrity of the nuclear system by publishing this report?

Hon Mrs Elliott: I can assure all citizens of this province that the safety of nuclear generation in this province is very, very important to this government, as it is to every citizen. My colleague across the way was the Minister of Energy and didn't ever release any of those peer review reports.

The safety of all nuclear plants is not governed by Ontario Hydro; it's governed by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada. That is a governing agency that determines the safety operations that must be adhered to in the operation of any nuclear facility, private or public.



Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy as well. We understand that this government's agenda is to sell off many of Ontario's most valuable public assets. What concerns us is your chair of Ontario Hydro has been touring the world telling people that he believes Ontario Hydro's nuclear generating stations should be sold off as well. I want to ask the minister, will you confirm that you are not in favour of privatizing Ontario Hydro's nuclear stations?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): What we have determined is that Ontario Hydro is facing some tremendous challenges with regard to the cost of the electricity it must produce. Our job as a government is to attempt to determine how best to ensure Ontario Hydro's stability and the affordability of its rates.

Mr Hampton: What I find interesting is that this Minister of Environment, who's supposed to be charged with protecting the environment and the safety of Ontarians, talks about profitability and talks about manageability. Nowhere is there mention of safety.

Let me ask the minister again. I put to you a simple question: Will you take a stand? Are you opposing the sale of Ontario Hydro's nuclear stations? People in this province are worried about the issue of safety with respect to the nuclear generating stations. Your chair of Ontario Hydro says he's in favour of selling the nuclear generating stations to private companies. Are you in favour of that? Are you opposed to it? Will you take a position?

Hon Mrs Elliott: Just for the record, the safe operation of any nuclear facility in this province is very important to this government, as it is to every citizen in this province, first and foremost. Secondly, we have not made a determination what we are about to do with Ontario Hydro, if anything.

We are trying to determine how best to ensure Ontario Hydro's affordable rates for the future. It is important to the competitiveness of this province. Low energy rates are vital to keeping business in this province, and we recognize that and how important it is for the job creation agenda of this government. It matters to us. Ontario Hydro is now facing a $32-billion debt. It's important that we consider all of these factors in what we attempt to do with Ontario Hydro to keep it a strong, profitable and viable corporation.

Mr Hampton: Let me try again and let me quote for the minister some information from the Wall Street Journal, that bastion of privatization. What the article in the Wall Street Journal says is that in the United States people are becoming increasingly worried about the safety of nuclear plants owned by private companies in the United States, because to save costs private utilities are already running nuclear plants longer and harder, in part by reducing the number of days they are taken out of service for refuelling. People are worried about the safety of nuclear plants. Are you prepared here and now, today, to rule out the privatization of the nuclear generating stations? Certainly in the United States it's becoming a very big safety issue. Will you rule that out?

Hon Mrs Elliott: We of the government, on behalf of the people of Ontario, are committed to the safe operation of all nuclear facilities in this province.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): A new question to the Minister of Environment and Energy about the situation at Pickering last week and this. Minister, a very serious development occurred last week at the nuclear station at Pickering. We have an unprecedented shutdown of all the units at Pickering. That's never happened before.

Eight days ago, there was a leak of tritiated water. It was more than four days later before the shutdown was indicated to the mayor of the community. This comes after a number of very serious concerns that have been identified by the federal regulator, and I'm not going to trot them out here, but in recent years the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada has said it is increasingly concerned about the deteriorating safety ethic and standard at Ontario Hydro's nuclear power stations.

I want to know, Minister, what you have to say to the people of Pickering and Durham region about why it was more than four days before they and their community leadership were notified about what was happening at that large nuclear station in Pickering.

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): The plant is now shut down as a precautionary measure by Ontario Hydro. I think I would be more concerned as a citizen, if a faulty valve had been detected in the safety backup system, if nothing had occurred. There are nine people from the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada now onsite, very pleased with the remediation work being undertaken by Ontario Hydro at this site.

Mr Conway: Almost a year before the incident last week, the federal regulator, the Atomic Energy Control Board, wrote about Pickering, copies of which information you and your department have had for months because this letter is dated August 11, 1995 -- I'm quoting now from the AECB letter to Mr Charlebois from last August:

"There have recently been a significant number of serious events at both Pickering A and B, leading us" -- the AECB -- "to question Ontario Hydro's nuclear effectiveness in maintaining a satisfactory level of safety."

That letter was written almost a year before last week's incident. The record is clear and it's becoming clearer every week. Ontario Hydro is slipping, and slipping seriously, in its maintenance of an appropriate safety standard at places like Pickering.

You offer us platitudes about the government's concern and what the government is doing. I submit to you today that you have done nothing between last August and last week to satisfy the people of Durham region specifically and the people of Ontario generally that this slippage in safety standard at Ontario Hydro's nuclear power stations is being arrested. I ask again, what are you prepared to say to the mayor and the people of Pickering about this AECB concern, which has been on the record now for months, beyond the kinds of pious and pointless platitudes you've offered here today?

Hon Mrs Elliott: I find this a confusing position to answer, from this point of view: On one hand the member opposite is accusing us of doing nothing, and on the other hand he's accusing us of overreacting by closing the Pickering plant to repair the faulty valve. I put to him that if he wants the valve repaired we must take the appropriate measures, and Ontario Hydro, to its credit, has done so.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Education and Training. Yesterday in the House we had discussion about special deals the minister was apparently offering certain boards in the province that were experiencing undue burdens as a result of the reductions in grants from his ministry to boards this year and his indication that those reductions might be capped at a certain percentage of last year's funding.

Frankly, as a result of the cuts that have been made by this government to the legislative grants for boards across Ontario this year, all the boards in Ontario could argue that they are facing undue burden. As a result of that, I've written to the boards, suggesting as the minister did yesterday, I think, that the boards should apply for undue burden grants to help them deal with these cuts that have been announced by the minister.

With that in mind, could the minister please explain to us what the criteria are for determining which boards will be eligible for undue burden grants as a result of the cuts in transfer payments from this government to boards like the Haliburton County Board of Education?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the leader of the third party for the question. Although it's very similar to questions that I answered yesterday, I'm pleased to address the question again today. I'm pleased to inform the member opposite, about the example that came forward yesterday of a board that apparently, from the information that came from across the floor, was going to experience a reduction of about $1.2 million in funding, that $200,000 of that $1.2 million relates to actions of this government and $1 million of that number relates to the consequences of actions of his government when it was in power. I'm surprised that he had not a more profound understanding of those numbers.

Mr Wildman: Are we to understand, from the minister's response, that the particular board to which he was referring, Haliburton county, will receive assistance this year with its funding problems as a result of the changes in grants from the provincial government? If it isn't for this year, can he explain why his colleague apparently informed the local board and the public meeting that this was going to happen? Further, can the minister explain why there are rampant rumours that other boards have applied for undue burden grants for this year, such as the West Parry Sound Board of Education in the Minister of Finance's riding?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'm very glad to answer that question of the honourable member opposite. I can tell him what I told the Leader of the Opposition a few moments ago, that since we have sent out the draft GLGs, based on our projections of enrolment, based on our projections of assessment, we will get back the information from the boards, which is a normal course of events, by the way, we'll get back from them their sense of assessment, their sense of enrolment, and then we will work with them, particularly with small boards, boards with a small enrolment base which don't have as many opportunities to reduce costs outside of the classroom, which is our commitment to the people of Ontario.

If the member opposite wants some better understanding of a special-purpose grant and how it's applied, perhaps he could ask the member for Windsor-Riverside, who was involved I know in his government as a cabinet minister. The Windsor Board of Education received a special-burden grant in 1993 of $802,000. I'm sure that member, at least, understands how this process works.


Mrs Barbara Fisher (Bruce): My question this afternoon is to the minister responsible for women's issues. Minister, I read with great interest last month's series in the Toronto Star regarding issues of spousal abuse. This issue is a very serious one, not only to my constituents but to society as a whole. As elected representatives, we have a moral duty to address this issue.

In your capacity as minister responsible for women's issues, how are the priorities in your business plan addressing this issue?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): I'd like to thank the member for the question and also to compliment the Toronto Star for the excellent research it did with regard to this issue.

The number one priority of our business plan this year, as the members know, is the development of a provincial framework to promote community safety initiatives to assist in the prevention of violence against women. As other governments before us have made this a priority, we are continuing with the work they have done and are building on it.

This government spends almost $100 million to prevent violence against women; that budget has increased from some $5 million to $100 million in the last 10 years. We're very interested in accountability for the spending and the helpfulness of the programs the women receive, and the prevention and education programs that go along with them. As such, we intend to examine the effectiveness, and we are in program delivery for the women. This is our priority and will remain our priority in the year to come.

Mrs Fisher: We all recognize that this province is in a period of serious fiscal restraint and that difficult decisions must be made about where we spend the limited provincial funds we have. Have any cuts been made to front-line services for abused women in the recent estimates announcement made by the Chair of the Management Board?

Hon Mrs Cunningham: Right off the top in answer to that question about the recent estimates announcements by the Chair of Management Board, there will be no reductions to programs that support women who have been the victims of violence -- none at all. Some of the members opposite may be somewhat concerned about that, but we all recognize the seriousness of the situation facing abused women in Ontario.

We have been most pleased with the response of the communities with regard to our Ontario reduction targets in the summer. Many of the communities have come together to share services; that's exactly what we intended and exactly how they responded. It's our intent always to do better with less, and we're delivering upon this promise we made to the citizens of Ontario last summer.

I also have to say that I've worked closely with my colleagues in the eight other ministries responsible for the violence initiatives to ensure that we would stay the course on providing the essential front-line services. You should all be very proud to tell your constituents that we have cut only in administrative areas.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. This morning the Ontario Secondary School Principals' Council took the highly unusual step of publicly voicing their concerns over the direction this government is taking on secondary school reform. I'm sure you've been notified and briefed on their press conference. They have joined the long list of people who say that your policies are hurting students, hurting the quality of education, in fact lowering educational standards.

This is what they had to say this morning: "In spite of offering assistance very early in the process, the Ontario Secondary School Principals' Council and their local parent associations have been ignored." An unusual step for this group to take, you'll have to admit.

Why have you ignored the principals and the parents in their offer to help, number one; and why are you moving ahead without any regard to the advice of those people responsible for implementing the secondary school program?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for Ottawa Centre for the question. I believe in the same press conference this morning the principals who were gathered had some rather complimentary things to say about some of the things they have been hearing that are coming forward from an advisory council we put together, for the member's information, of people involved in the education community -- directors of education, teachers and other people involved in the education community -- to form an advisory committee to this government about secondary school reform.


Our commitment to secondary school reform remains the same, and that is to have a program of excellence for those who are exiting to university but also to have a program that addresses the very real needs of the 60% or so of students who will go out to the world of work after high school. We think a relevant, high-standard secondary school program needs to be put together, and we are using an advisory body to put together a draft document for that purpose. Once that draft document is ready, we will of course be consulting with educators and with parents before implementation.

Mr Patten: You continually say that you consult, that you visit schools, that you've heard the opinions of people in the field. I suppose it means many people feel that you're not listening.

This past weekend I had the good fortune to meet with over 100 principals and vice-principals not far from your region. Many of them had grave concerns about what they had read in the draft document, the content, and the process in particular, especially knowing that we're talking about an implementation phase of perhaps a little over a year, grave concerns with the upheavals that are presently going on in the educational system to revamp the program for six years, from grade 12 to grade 7. They're deeply, deeply horrified at the prospect of the kind of upheaval that will take place.

Minister, why do you think these principals had to take this rather courageous and unusual step to speak out?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I believe that in a system where there are some 130,000 or more teachers, a large number of principals, a large number of school boards, over 160 school boards in this province, two million children, two million young people who are in our schools, there are a variety of opinions within that structure and a variety of organizations.

I'm glad the member opposite mentioned the fact that I as minister have attempted to get out to as many of those schools as I can. I've spent about 25% of my time doing that, talking to principals, talking to educators, about the reforms that are needed in our school system.

I want to remind the member opposite that there has been no draft release by the advisory council. As far as I know, that is still being worked on. When it is released, we will consult widely in the education community to get the best advice from the education community on how to make these needed changes in our education system. But I want to remind the member opposite that these reforms are necessary for our education system, for our young people in the province of Ontario. This is a reform that was recommended by the Hall-Dennis report. This is a recommendation of the most recent royal commission. This is a change that needs to happen in education in Ontario, and with this government in power, this change will happen.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines. I'm glad to see you here for question period because since April 11, when you gutted the MNR, you only showed up once last week.

With each passing day it's become more and more clear that you have no idea what the cuts are doing to communities in northern Ontario. You know nothing about the impact of these cuts on local economies in these 12 communities.

I'm going to give you an example. In Cochrane, the relocation of the MNR regional office is going to cost the community of 4,500 people 42 jobs. Thirty families will be affected. It will take $2 million out of the annual economy of Cochrane. That's like cutting 20,000 jobs out of Metro and taking $978 million in annual income out of the Metro economy.

David Hughes, the mayor of Cochrane, says: "This is like a slap in the face. We could have at least expected some sort of discussion, especially about an announcement like this." The town of Cochrane is repeatedly asking for a meeting with you, and your office tells them it will take three to four weeks. The jobs will be gone by then. We have over 500 letters asking for meetings with the Minister of Natural Resources.

Minister, you are doing this to small communities all over northern Ontario and then you had the nerve to stand up in this House last week and make a stupid, arrogant remark about showing favouritism to the north. Can you tell the people of these communities who are losing their jobs, who know what it's like to be evacuated from their homes because of the forest fires and now watch in disbelief as you cut fire protection, why they should be so appreciative of your favouritism to northern Ontario?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I appreciate the question. I disagree with the premise and the tone. No one takes a great deal of pleasure in seeing the operations of the Ontario government having to be downsized, but there is a reality that has to be faced, that we're preserving the essential services in Ontario so we can have sustainable government. We're also organizing the ministry on a functional basis so it will provide better future service.

The consolidation of offices is a message we have heard from the public throughout the province, and that is, let's try to leave intact the core function, the front-line services that help people. If we can find ways to deliver services more effectively by reducing administration and overhead, those are the areas that should be looked at first. On the office consolidation we're moving from four regions to three. The regional office in Cochrane will be moved to Timmins; there will still be a district office there. I will be talking to the community. We've got an extremely busy schedule and we're trying to arrange something.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): Last Wednesday, my colleague from Sudbury East asked you a question about the 2,200 jobs being hacked from northern Ontario in your ministry. You made a very strange and I must say smug remark about how you are showing favouritism to the north, even though 45% of the job losses are being absorbed by less than 10% of the population in this province, which is a very strange remark for a Minister of Northern Development to make.

You have cut more than 1,000 jobs in northern Ontario, you're closing 11 fire bases in northern Ontario, you've killed norOntair, you're turning control of the crown forests over to the private sector, and you've chopped northern highway budgets.

I have to ask you, Minister, how can you continue to sit at the cabinet table when you're not representing the interests of northern Ontario? That those of us from northern Ontario want you to step down from both your responsibilities for natural resources and for northern development, because, I'll tell you, we would prefer benign neglect to the wilful destruction in which you're engaged these days.

Hon Mr Hodgson: The question referred to that I had last Wednesday was in regard to the MNR and its reductions in staffing. In the northern development ministry, we're monitoring this. You mentioned the abandonment of the north and you used norOntair as an example. The Timmins editorial from last week talks about the success of the private air carriers into the small communities in northern Ontario. They're bragging about that. This is an option that saves the government that was subsidizing this, the taxpayers of Ontario who were subsidizing it, along with the ONTC, subsidizing the air service in the north, over $5 million. By allowing the sale of that to go through, $14 million is reinvested into the ONTC for future economic development opportunities in northern Ontario. I think that's a success story.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): My question is to the Minister of Finance. I understand the federal government has undertaken to harmonize the GST with three Atlantic provinces. Why is Ontario not part of this deal?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): As I've indicated in the House previously on this issue, Ontario is not interested in transferring $2 billion a year in taxes to consumers in the province of Ontario. Under the federal proposal of harmonization at 15%, this would expand the base that's charged on such items that are now not taxed at 15%; for example, electricity, home heating, children's clothing, books, new houses, real estate fees -- they would all be taxed under the new combined tax. In the housing sector alone, that would mean an additional $900 million a year to Ontario consumers. On a house that's valued at $250,000, that's $6,000 in extra taxes. A family that earns between $30,000 and $40,000 a year would pay an additional $185 a year as a result of that harmonization proposal. We're not interested in raising taxation rates for Ontario consumers; we're interested in lowering taxation rates.


Mr Stewart: I understand the federal government will subsidize the Atlantic provinces to the tune of something like $961 million over four years. Will Ontario tax dollars be used to subsidize this arrangement?

Hon Mr Eves: You'd have to ask the federal Minister of Finance that question. Everybody knows the province of Ontario contributes about 41% of the revenues going to the federal government, so I guess if you wanted to use that theory, it could be argued that Ontarians will be subsidizing this $960 million to the tune of almost $400 million. I don't think that's appropriate. If the federal government decides it wants to offer a subsidy of $960 million to three provinces, it should use its own money, not the province of Ontario's money.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Education. It relates to your personal political staff trying to bully an elementary school principal in my constituency. I raised this issue with you on March 19 and you indicated you would get back to me. I've heard nothing from you.

To refresh your memory: An elementary school principal in my constituency sent out a notice to her community outlining the concerns about educational cutbacks, quite a legitimate exercise. Your personal political staff phoned this principal and said, "You have overstepped your bounds as a principal. You have no business revealing to your community in such a partisan manner. I am going to report you to your board and I will talk with" -- and then your personal political staff mentioned a reporter and a local Toronto paper, threatening. This was a clear threat to this principal.

Will you now apologize to the House for the actions of your political staff and will you assure us that you have taken the steps to make certain no one on your political staff does this again in the future?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I thank the honourable member opposite for the question and this chance to publicly discuss the results of an investigation I asked my executive assistant to take on some time ago when this subject came to light. My executive assistant did make inquiries about the circumstances that are described. Not surprisingly, there are two versions of the circumstances here.

I think we've been able to ascertain from the only third parties involved in this particular discussion that the member of staff in the ministry office acted in what I believe to be a very professional manner and acted in a way that was meant to serve and to inform the public we serve. I hope that member of my staff and all the other members of my staff and everyone else's staff continue to work in a way that meets the public interest, because that was the interest being served in this particular incident.

Mr Phillips: I want to be very clear on this: This principal is very highly regarded. I've never met the principal before this particular incident, but since I certainly have talked to the principal. The principal is well regarded in every corner of the community, without any question. Against this we have your actions: You never got back to me. March 19 was the date. You never responded to me. Neither you nor anyone on your staff have never phoned this principal to check her story out. What do we have here today? You say: "Listen, there are two sides of the story and I'm only going to listen to one side. I'm calling the principal a liar and I'm trusting my staff." That's what I think we're hearing from you, Minister.

Frankly, under the circumstances, I personally believe the principal. I've never met her, as I said before, but her reputation is impeccable. My question is this: Are you saying to the House today, and are you prepared to say to the House today, even without talking to the principal, that she's lying?

Hon Mr Snobelen: In response to the subsequent question, I'm not surprised that these sorts of incidents arise from time to time where there are two different versions of a conversation that has happened before. I can tell you, and I'd like to reaffirm this, which I gave in my original answer and which might help the member opposite understand the process of investigating this, that inside of the versions -- and I won't relate all of it here today again, but I can assure the member opposite that my executive assistant did check with a third-party source who was quoted by both individuals involved and that third-party source, who happens to be a source from the media, verified the version of events that was related by staff.

In any event, for the information of this House, the calls were initiated because we had calls to my office from parents in that area who were concerned about what they thought was a blatantly partisan letter being sent home from school by a teacher. Those parents contacted my office and were very concerned about that. I think at the end of the day, if the member opposite had heard the things that my executive assistant has heard, he would be assured that my staff has operated with the public interest in mind and I think in a reasonable fashion.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Minister of Community and Social Services. When you took over your portfolio, there were already a number of measures that were in place in the social assistance system to monitor fraud. Some had been in place from the beginning of the system and some had been instituted by our government. Minister, you kept many of those measures, but you introduced a few new ones so you could take credit for any of the savings that resulted. We all understand that's a typical kind of a process.

But finally now we have some of the answers to the questions that were put by us in November 1995 around one of those issues, and that's the snitch line you put in place. Your welfare fraud snitch line cost $166,854 and frankly was just a public relations exercise. Now this morning you told reporters who questioned you about your answers that you couldn't outline the results because of the length of time it takes to investigate allegations.

Minister, information we received from your own ministry shows that more than half the calls that were made to the snitch line were made in those first six weeks, the six weeks covered by our questions. Surely your ministry is functional enough to tell us what happened to allegations that were made more than five months ago and whether they in fact resulted in savings for the social assistance system.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): The member opposite would know full well that it certainly takes some time to go through the process of the court system. As a former Solicitor General, I think she would certainly acknowledge that. It's very important for us, and there's a procedure for this, to make sure there are no unsubstantiated claims that are pursued. We have to make sure that if there are claims of fraud, they are genuine.

I would be happy to indicate that we received between October and February 21 over 15,000 calls. Of those calls, in contradiction to what the honourable member is saying, about 63% have been referred to the local eligibility review officers for further investigation, because there is thought to be some merit here. Clearly the message to the government right now is that no fraud is good fraud.


Mrs Boyd: It's very clear that this expensive public relations exercise, which is going to cost $177,100 next year, is simply a witchhunt.

The minister can't tell us how many of the people who were named were actually in receipt of social assistance. Sure, he says that 64% were referred to local municipal or provincial welfare offices, but he can't tell us how many of the people were legitimately working and were claiming their earnings; he can't tell us how many calls were simply the work of vindictive neighbours; he can't tell us how many of these people are legitimately wondering what kind of witchhunt this is.

Frankly, if we want to talk about fraud, we should talk about the fraud that's involved in a system that costs $6 per call and $8.50 for specific allegations when we get no results after all this time. This is not a good use of money. It's a very expensive way for this minister to try and pretend that he's doing something about managing the social assistance system, just as he's trying to pretend that Ontario Works will fool people into the fact that you're creating jobs.

We want to know whether you intend to keep on with this witchhunt, whether you think this kind of expense is worth the lack of results that we have.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Those certainly are very inflaming words that the honourable member is using. If we can just take ourselves back in time for a bit here, we can see that when we made the announcement about the fraud and the eligibility measures, we indicated that it's our estimation that due to the fraud hotline and the fraud prevention team, we expect to save taxpayers of this province around $25 million this year for an investment of $170,000. I think that's a pretty good investment.

If I can just draw the comparison to Crime Stoppers, I don't see why anyone would not want to report fraud taking place, because the only difference is that this is taxpayers' money that's being defrauded.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 34(e), the member for Fort William has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given yesterday by the Minister of Education and Training concerning education funding. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.



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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition here to the Legislative Assembly.

"Whereas on April 11, 1996, we were advised by the Minister of Natural Resources of the government's announcement of a major restructuring which is based on bringing a more businesslike approach to the government; and

"Whereas, as part of the major restructuring, it is the intention of the government to relocate the regional office of the Ministry of Natural Resources from Cochrane to Timmins; and

"Whereas this initiative will result in the approximately 42 positions lost and more than $2 million worth of annual income from our community of 4,500 people, before taking into consideration the impacts on the service sector and other ministries that are being restructured;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the municipal council of the corporation of the town of Cochrane expresses its profound objection to the government's proposal to relocate the Ministry of Natural Resources regional offices from Cochrane to Timmins and requests that an impact analysis study be conducted prior to the relocation of the ministry positions from the town of Cochrane; and

"Be it further resolved that this resolution be forwarded to the Honourable Mike Harris, Premier of Ontario, and the Honourable Chris Hodgson, Minister of Natural Resources."


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to proceed as quickly as possible with legislation to reduce our provincial tax rates, as promised during the last provincial election, and we call on all members of the Parliament of Ontario to support the government in its promise to reduce provincial income tax rates in Ontario."

Like the vast majority of Ontarians, I support this petition and I have signed it.


Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I have a petition to the Ontario Legislature.

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

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

I've affixed my signature in agreement with this petition.


Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): I have a petition from a group of Burlington residents who are concerned with child care in Ontario and I read their statement to you.

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

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


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): I have a petition which reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas it is a stated objective of this government to diminish the debt that the present generation leaves to coming generations;

"Whereas non-sustainable activities increase our debt to future generations and otherwise diminish their options for secure lives;

"Whereas non-sustainable activities require continual inputs of non-renewable resources, use renewable resources faster than their rate of renewal, cause cumulative degradation of the environment, require resources in quantities that could never be available for people everywhere and lead to the extinction of other life forms;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to consider sustainability in all its decisions and to avoid giving the appearance of dealing with the problem of debt by shifting our liabilities from financial ledgers to less obvious domains, where their continued growth is less forgiving and harder to correct."

I affix my signature.


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

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

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

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

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

This has been signed by a number of residents from eastern Ontario, and I affix my signature as well.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition signed by approximately 65 persons, some of whom are from my riding and some of whom are from other ridings, relating to the privatization of public services.


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

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

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

"Whereas the principles of discipline, self-help and 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 placed the existence of Transition House in jeopardy,

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

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



Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition addressed to the government of Ontario, and it's in opposition to the changes for compensation; a petition against the changes the Harris government wants at the WCB, and to regain fair benefits that were agreed to in 1915.

"Remember that injured workers are there because they had the desire to work and pay their dues to society, meaning their government. If you cut their resources off, fewer and fewer workers would be willing to take the unsecured jobs, and therefore there will be fewer workers paying their taxes to the government.

"Think of it as if you would be willing to take a job even if it meant ending up crippled for the rest of your life, without any resources. Even if you take a job and injure yourself, what would you do? Because of your cuts, you'll be placing many, many lives in that very same situation."

I affix my name to the petition.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I wish to present a petition to the Legislature from approximately 15 constituents relating to their concerns on rent regulation. It's in its proper form and I'll affix my signature to the petition.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have a petition regarding high quality child care for the children of Ontario to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas as parents and residents of Peterborough we are aware that your government is presently reviewing the Ontario child care system and we agree that changes to this system are needed; and

"Whereas carefully balanced fiscal responsibility and social needs is a necessity; a compassionate society must provide all children with a safe, nurturing and stimulating place during their most formative years,

"Therefore we, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to retain high-quality, accessible, licensed, non-profit child care as an option for Ontario parents and children."


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

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

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

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

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

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

"Therefore, to ensure this Conservative government meets its stated commitments in regard to education and to Ontario, we, the undersigned, call on the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education and Training to restore the funding for junior kindergarten to its previous level and require all school boards to offer junior kindergarten classes."

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the Minister of Health and the Hamilton-Wentworth District Health Council.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature also.


Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I have a petition to the Honourable the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

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

"We oppose the treatment that was given the OPSEU members. We want you to go back and negotiate again at the table with respect to genuine willingness to listen.

"We want you to reconsider the timing of the proposed tax cuts. This is not the way to keep the economy going. This will not mean that you have to resign if you do not go ahead at this time. It will mean that it is just common sense. It is common sense to listen and learn from the many voters who trusted you."

I present this petition on behalf of people in the riding, in Carleton Place, Smiths Falls and area.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I have a petition here.

"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 entitlement, reduced permanent pensions and pension supplements.

"We 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 the WCB and continued support for the bipartite board structure."

It's signed by a number of residents from Wheatley, Leamington and Tilbury.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a petition which is signed by 24 residents in the riding of Sudbury East and it reads as follows:

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

"Whereas Mike Harris promised on May 30, 1995, `No cuts to health care spending,' but in the November economic statement we see $1.3 billion in cuts to health care spending over the next three years; and

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

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

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature to it and I agree entirely with the petitioners.



House in committee of the whole.


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

The First Deputy Chair (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Are there any questions, comments or amendments, and if so, to which sections of the bill?

Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): I have eight amendments: section 8 of the bill, subsection 62(1) of the Legislative Assembly Act; section 8 of the bill, paragraph 14 of subsection 62(1) of the Legislative Assembly Act; section 8 of the bill, subsection 62(1.1) of the Legislative Assembly Act; section 9 of the bill, subsection 63.1(1.1) of the Legislative Assembly Act; subsection 13(1) of the bill, subsection 67(7.1) of the Legislative Assembly Act; subsection 15(5) of the bill, subsection 69(5) of the Legislative Assembly Act; schedule A of the bill, subsection 16(1) of the MPPs Pension Act, 1996; and schedule A of the bill, subsection 16(2) of the MPPs Pension Act, 1996.

The First Deputy Chair: Shall sections 1 to 7 carry? Carried.

We will deal with the amendment to section 8.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Section 8 of the bill, subsection 62(1) of the Legislative Assembly Act:

I move that subsection 62(1) of the Legislative Assembly Act, as set out in section 8 of the bill, be amended by striking out the portion that precedes paragraph 1 and substituting the following:

"Salary for additional responsibilities

"(1) The annual salary of a member is increased by the following amount, expressed as a percentage of the annual salary set out in subsection 61(1), for any one of the following positions that he or she holds:"

The First Deputy Chair: Any debate?

Mr Sampson: Mr Chairman, I'll clarify if you want. This motion clarifies that a member who holds two positions may receive additional annual salary for only one of them. That's the purpose of this amendment.

The First Deputy Chair: Further debate? Shall the motion carry? Carried.

Further amendments?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: Section 8 of the bill, paragraph 14 of subsection 62(1) of the Legislative Assembly Act:

I move that paragraph 14 of subsection 62(1) of the Legislative Assembly Act, as set out in section 8 of the bill, be amended by striking out "14.1 per cent" and substituting "18.1 per cent."

Mr Sampson: I believe that is not the appropriate amendment. If I could just pass it to my colleague here.

The First Deputy Chair: Just to make sure, I will read the amendment.

Mr Villeneuve moves that paragraph 14 of subsection 62(1) of the Legislative Assembly Act, as set out in section 8 of the bill, be amended by striking out "14.2 per cent" and substituting "18.3 per cent."

Any debate?

Mr Sampson: The purpose of this motion is to provide that the government whip receive an additional annual salary that corresponds to the current legislative arrangements.

The First Deputy Chair: Further debate? Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Sampson, I believe you have another amendment.

Mr Sampson: Section 8 of the bill, subsection 62(1.1) of the Legislative Assembly Act:

I move that section 62 of the Legislative Assembly Act, as set out in section 8 of the bill, be amended by adding the following subsection:

"More than one position

"(1.1) If the member holds more than one position listed in subsection (1), he or she is entitled to be paid for the position with the higher salary."

This motion just clarifies that where a member holds more than one position, the member is entitled to only the additional salary for the position with the highest additional salary component.

The First Deputy Chair: Any further debate? Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Shall section 8, as amended, stand as part of the bill? Agreed.

An amendment to section 9, Mr Sampson.

Mr Sampson: I move that section 63.1 of the Legislative Assembly Act, as set out in section 9 of the bill, be amended by adding the following subsection:

"Expenses actually incurred

"(1.1) Nothing in subsection (1) prevents a member from being reimbursed for expenses actually incurred in the discharge of his or her duties as a member."

The motion just clarifies that the prohibition on tax-free allowances does not prevent reimbursement for expenses actually incurred.

The First Deputy Chair: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Shall section 9, as amended, carry? Carried.

I believe you have another amendment.

Mr Sampson: To section 13, I believe.

The First Deputy Chair: Shall sections 10 through 12 carry? Carried.

Mr Sampson: I move that section 13 of the bill be amended by adding the following subsection:

"(1) Section 67 of the act is amended by adding the following subsection:

"Same, accommodation in Toronto

"(7.1) The Board of Internal Economy may reimburse a member (up to such maximum amount as the board may determine) for his or her actual costs of accommodation in Toronto if the costs are incurred due to special or unusual circumstances while he or she is on business as a member of the assembly and if the member is not otherwise entitled under this act or the Executive Council Act to be paid an amount for accommodation in Toronto."

This amendment just clarifies that the Board of Internal Economy can reimburse the member for accommodation expenses incurred in special circumstances while on business as a member.


The First Deputy Chair: Any debate? Shall the amendment carry? Carried.

Shall section 13, as amended, carry? Carried.

Shall section 14 carry? Carried.

I believe there's an amendment to section 15.

Mr Sampson: I move that subsection 69(5) of the Legislative Assembly Act, as set out in subsection 15(5) of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted:

"Annual salary

"(5) For the purposes of this section, the annual salary of a member is the annual salary set out in subsection 61(1)."

This amendment deals with the severance allowance payable to a member on ceasing to be a member of this assembly and it's based on the member's annual salary of $78,007. The additional salary paid to ministers and members holding additional positions is not being considered. It's the base amount. The basis of severance allowance proposed in this amendment is the basis currently used in the Legislative Assembly; that is, excluding from the severance allowance calculations of ministers' salaries and members' salaries for additional positions.

The First Deputy Chair: Any debate? Shall the amendment carry? Carried.

Shall section 15, as amended, carry? Carried.

Shall sections 16 to 24 carry? Carried.

There are two amendments to the schedule.

Mr Sampson: I move that subsection 16(1) of the MPPs Pension Act, 1996, as set out in schedule A to the bill, be amended by inserting "on or" in the third line before "June 8, 1995."

The First Deputy Chair: Any debate? Shall the amendment carry? Carried.

I believe there's another one.

Mr Sampson: I move that subsection 16(2) of the MPPs Pension Act, 1996, as set out in schedule A of the bill, be struck out.

That motion deals with a requirement no longer required by Revenue Canada as part of the pension plan.

The First Deputy Chair: Any debate? Shall the amendment carry? Carried.

Shall section 16, as amended, carry? Carried.

Shall schedule A, as amended, carry? Carried.

Shall the title of the bill carry? Carried.

Shall Bill 42, as amended, carry? Carried.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Mr Chairman, I move that the committee rise and report.

The First Deputy Chair: Shall the motion carry? Carried.

The committee of the whole House begs to report one bill with certain amendments and asks for leave to sit again.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.


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

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Do you have any remarks to make, Mr Sterling?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Not at this moment.

The Acting Speaker: Shall third reading of Bill 42 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): I believe the member for Hamilton Centre had the floor.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I had ended my remarks yesterday by reading quotes from the back benches of the government side of the House. Lo and behold, one would have thought that were this some grave error or mistake on the part of those honourable members we would have had a shift in their position or in their comments, and yet we all awoke this morning to fresh quotes.

I'll say this much for the two members, the member for Grey-Owen Sound and the member for Quinte: They are consistent and they are certainly holding firm to what I would also agree to be the truth and a reflection of exactly what's going on.

Today's new quotes made by these same honourable members outside the House yesterday, just after we had reviewed them in question period, read as follows. The member for Grey-Owen Sound, asked about the fact that he had reflected earlier that Minister Snobelen didn't put anything in his infamous toolbox, which is effectively what this bill is supposed to be -- the fresh quotes on top of last week's are: "The toolbox is empty. We were promised some tools and they just don't seem to be there.... I'm concerned about it." A further quote from him: "I'm saying they are out of control. I want more direction," speaking of the minister and the Ministry of Education.


Far, far from being just a series of complaints by school board trustees or indeed some kind of rhetoric by the opposition, we see very clearly that even members of the government caucus are so embarrassed by the lack of any real caring about the direction of education in the province that they continue to feel compelled to speak out, not just once, but even after a few days have passed and they've spoken to the minister -- I'll bet that was an interesting discussion -- they continue to claim this government is not doing what it promised to do and that the ministry is out of control and the minister is creating a phony crisis wherein he hides behind this crisis and uses it as his excuse for slashing and cutting and quite frankly gutting much of what education is all about.

I maintained yesterday in my remarks that the political agenda here was not only to achieve the financial goal, but the other part of the political objective was to give someone else the blame; that this government would be the author of this attack on the future of our children, on our education system, but would finagle it in such a way that the local school board trustees are deemed to be the bad people who are making cuts to the local education system.

I can say with a great deal of confidence that the school board trustees in both the private and public boards across this province are not about to stand there and wear the negative politics this government deserves to carry. They're not about to do that, and I can say it's because of the damage it does to the local education system that they're not going to do it.

It's not a political agenda on their part, because we know there's a mixture of representatives from all three parties here and people who are not aligned to any particular party, and they all feel the same way. I've been lobbied by them; all the members, including government members, I'm sure, have been lobbied. If any of the government members would dare to meet with their local trustees, I'm sure they would begin -- begin -- to get a sense of the hopelessness and helplessness these school board trustees feel as they're dealing with these impossible situations, absolutely impossible. Talk about irresponsible.

This is a government that said to those school boards, "You will take a hit that is equivalent to" -- based on their fiscal year and the number of months they have to actually find the savings, that in effect gives them a hit of $1 billion across the province, and this government has said to those trustees: "You go find that $1 billion, each of your boards, your share of it. You find that $1 billion, but don't you dare cut anything that would affect classroom learning and don't you dare raise taxes." Isn't that wonderful, and isn't that easy for the Minister of Education and the Premier to do, to stand there and paint this wonderful scenario they would like to see happen, which anyone who understands the realities of budgeting on school boards and at the local level would know is absolutely impossible. You can't do it.

The minister continues to stand up and say that 47% of the money spent by school boards does not affect the classroom. I invite the minister to come into my home town of Hamilton, meet with my school board trustees, look them in the face and say to them, "You effect these kinds of cuts; don't affect the classroom at all and don't raise taxes." I defy the Minister of Education and Training to come into Hamilton and do that, because he will hear very clearly that you can't do it, that it can't be done.

This government knows it, but they don't care. Why don't they care? Their greater priority than children's education is their tax cut. We know that to pay for that tax cut they have to find $5 billion a year, so $5 billion is being found in part in the education system -- $1 billion worth, in fact -- so that this government can give the top 10% income earners of this province a 30% tax cut, because we know that top 10% income earners will receive over 60% of that tax benefit, that 60% of that $5 billion will go to the top 10% income earners. I say, on behalf of the school board trustees in my community, that this whole thing sickens and angers them, and so it should.

I move now to what is happening in my community and how it relates to Bill 34, which we have here before us today.

First of all, the school board trustees in my community agree with the two Tory government backbenchers that the toolkit that is supposedly this bill we're debating today does not do the job. You've managed to upset virtually everyone involved in education, from school board trustees to administrators, to unions, to cleaners, to the community, everybody, and yet this minister continues to stand up and say that he is helping the school boards achieve the objectives this government is forcing down their throats.

What is the result in Hamilton? There was a major struggle to keep junior kindergarten in the city of Hamilton. If it weren't for the efforts of our school board trustees -- I give them their due -- and Friends of Junior Kindergarten, an organization of parents who care who exerted the kind of political pressure at the local level that this government claims to care and support -- in this case it was used to keep something that this government is prepared to let go, and that is junior kindergarten.

You look at the language in here and it talks about "boards may choose." The reality is that this government is saying, "Trustees and school boards, if you have no other choice, as you see it, to find cuts, then we're prepared to see you sever JK in order to achieve our fiscal needs," which of course take us back to the tax cut.

The youngest kids, at a time when they can benefit the most in terms of junior kindergarten, are okay to cut loose, but will this government take responsibility? No. They will stand up as they have done and say, "That's a local decision; we didn't decide to cut junior kindergarten from that particular board, so don't blame us," and then sit down in their place, when the reality is that they've put school board trustees in such a box that they have no alternative.

Our job, as I see it, is to explain to the people of Ontario, on behalf of those school board trustees and on behalf of parents and teachers who care, that this is exactly what's going on. Every time we see a cut like this, make sure, parent, taxpayer, that you understand it's the agenda of the Harris government at Queen's Park that is forcing school board trustees into these awful predicaments.

At the end of the day I'm very proud to say that the school board in my home town of Hamilton has preserved junior kindergarten, but at a cost. I see a couple of backbenchers nodding their heads like, "See, we told you." The reality is no, it doesn't fit exactly your perfect little world that doesn't exist in Toryland.


The fact of the matter is that there will be, subject to one caveat which I'll come to, a 3.16% increase in the assessment rate for education in the city of Hamilton. That amounts to an assessment increase of about $31 on the average home. I can say that I know the school board trustees in Hamilton are not proud of that aspect. They're not proud that they have to raise taxes by that amount, but I want to serve notice that I'm very proud of their political guts to take whatever heat there is rather than decimate junior kindergarten in my community. I think there has to be those kinds of offers of support, because as politicians we know how difficult that is.

I would be much more worried about the future of the children in my riding if we lost junior kindergarten, and I see part of my obligation as their representative here at Queen's Park to make sure the blame is put where it belongs. Every dollar of that increase in Hamilton is a result of the Mike Harris government and their agenda, period, full stop.

I mentioned a caveat. Even with that -- and I'm going to mention some of the cuts it took to arrive at that figure -- there's still the need for this board, in order to stay at this level of increase, to find some way with the teachers of taking $5 million out of their collective agreement. I'm not going to get embroiled in that discussion and that debate at this stage, because that has to happen initially with the school board trustees and the elected union representatives. But I think it's shameful that, first of all, the school board trustees were forced into a position of having to increase taxes in order to keep junior kindergarten in Hamilton; and, further, that the only way they could do that was through some expectations that now the teachers are going to have to come up with $5 million.

I know this government hates teachers. They think they're all overpaid and underworked, the same as they viewed OPSEU workers and CUPE workers and, quite frankly, any other worker who doesn't fit their little world of how things ought to operate. The fact of the matter is, it is a crying shame that this kind of dynamic at a time when we've got a crisis in our education system and a problem to deal with on the fiscal side -- these are the kinds of things our school board trustees and the elected representatives of OSSTF and the other unions have to deal with. It truly is a shame that that's what's happening.

I want to return to the point where this government said, "Well, 47% of all the expenditures at the school board do not relate to classroom learning." Well, in my riding, in my community, where these very courageous school trustees have taken the stand they have, these are the kinds of cuts they also had to make to keep the increase at the level it's at. They cut $611,000 -- had to cut; the blame belongs here, not with them. They were forced to cut $611,000 from the transportation budget for special education students -- don't you feel real proud about that, Harris Tories? -- $500,000 from supply teachers, $220,000 affecting adult students in regular school, 14.6 elementary teaching positions, $100,000 in books, films and software.

I defy any member of this government to stand up and tell me and the people of Hamilton how $100,000 taken from the acquisition fund for books and films and software is not going to affect classroom learning and classroom teaching. You cannot possibly defend --

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): Stop yelling. We can hear you.

Mr Christopherson: One of the backbenchers is saying, "Lower your voice." That's because you don't want to hear this. You don't like it when people point out the fallacy of what you're doing. You're going to continue to hear from me at this level and louder for the next four years, until we can turf you out of there and put this province back on the road to caring about people and caring about children.

Further, there are 82.8 full-time equivalents, which is 104 working people -- not that this government cares about working people -- who have received and will receive their pink slip who are cleaners. Some, such as the Minister of Education and Training, will say that cleaners do not directly affect classroom learning. I would ask any of those members to speak with Mr Ray Mulholland, who is a school board trustee in Hamilton and has been for 22 years. He represents ward 4, which happens to be the same ward I represented when I was an alderman and regional councillor. Trustee Mulholland is one of the most respected elected people in the entire community of Hamilton, and what he has to say about whether cleaners affect classrooms needs to be heard, whether you want to hear it or not.

It's his contention, and I agree with him wholeheartedly, that if you can't clean the schoolrooms properly you're going to affect the kids. First of all, if you've got kids who have allergies and sensitivities and that room is not being cleaned properly and regularly, there's a good chance a child afflicted with sensitivities to those kinds of ailments will not be able to attend school full-time because they're going to be off sick. If you don't have enough cleaners in the school when they're needed and you have an incident where a child is sick in that classroom, for all intents and purposes, until that's cleaned up, the learning in that classroom has stopped. The learning is not going on.

This government doesn't want to recognize that all these things -- transportation, cleaning, teachers, books, films -- have to do with classroom learning. This government rejects that and says, "No, that's not part of classroom learning."

I say to the government very clearly that across the province we're seeing board after board after board facing the same dilemma, wanting to preserve and enhance their education system, being told by this government that they have to make multimillion-dollar cuts, that they cannot and should not affect classroom learning. "Oh, and by the way, don't you dare raise taxes either," because you have deemed that shouldn't happen in the Mike Harris empire. The Hamilton example shows you can't do all of that. This government knows that. Even they can figure out that you can't do that. But they don't care enough to back away from their tax cut or to provide some real assistance to school boards. They would rather just put out their political message, "This is the way you ought to do your business," and then stand back and let all the chaos take place.

In my community -- and I know it's different in some; they're breaking it down differently. I want to come back to the issue of JK. I feel very strongly that not only school boards but municipal councils and regional councils need to approach their budgeting in the same way as our school board trustees. Unfortunately, we can't do anything about the directives and orders this government gives out -- it's a duly elected government with a majority in this House and it can, at the end of the day, do as it damn well pleases -- but being handed that nightmare scenario, I approve and support the approach of the Hamilton public school board trustees wherein they said, "We will cut everywhere that we possibly can and we will do everything humanly possible to prevent a tax increase," but when we get into a crunch, when we get into a serious crunch between something like junior kindergarten or a modest increase in taxes, they will choose the children and their future, they will choose the preservation as much as they can of the system we have in our community.


I would hope that city councils, when they're facing the same dilemma -- because this government's putting the boot to municipal councils exactly the same way as they are to school boards, and the regional councillors, same thing is happening there and the same choices are being looked at. I'm very hopeful that most of those councils and school boards will take a much more humane approach to budgeting than this government cares to do, because all this government cares about is making sure that they're more right-wing than Ralph Klein, that they do everything that the Common Sense Revolution says regardless of how much nonsense it might be or how much circumstances might change. This is the only thing that matters. This is the holy grail. It's the Common Sense Revolution, and that has all the answers to every problem.

With one eye very carefully affixed on the next election, this government marches in legislation, piece after piece, that goes after our health care system, breaking their promises, goes after the education system, breaking their promises, attacking the poor, attacking working people, attacking the labour movement, attacking environmental protection. That's the list, and you haven't even been in office a year yet. That's the list.

When we talk about human rights and we take a look at what you've done there, this government is totally bereft of any kind of understanding of where most people are and what they care about in the province of Ontario. I know you'll point back to June 8 and say that gives you the magic mandate to do whatever you want, and it certainly gives you the right to sit on that side and be a majority government. But I don't believe for a moment, I honestly do not believe, that the people of Ontario wanted a government to go in with a meat cleaver and just tear apart everything that makes this a great place to live. I don't believe that's the case.

I think the sort of action that the school board trustees in Hamilton have taken is proof of that, because there's a group of elected officials in their own right that have rejected your agenda that says, "No matter how much harm we do to kids, meet the fiscal reality." I think they have met the fiscal reality. I know how hard they've worked. I know each and every member, some better than others, but I know every member of the board and I know how much they care.

I think this is an example of where somebody outside this government's control and outside your political spin doctors has said: "We will go this far in meeting the fiscal needs because we have to do something, and that's agreed by everyone. We will not march, lockstep, into this government's parade just to achieve your political agenda of trying to get re-elected at the end of four years based on the budgets and the deficit and the debt and the dollars and completely forgetting about people." Because that is exactly what this government is doing.

I want to close my remarks today by saying very, very clearly that I believe -- I said this earlier; it's in the Hansards -- that we will have, after every piece of legislation this government brings in, more and more evidence of the argument we make that this government is hell-bent to provide that tax cut to their wealthy friends, who are going to benefit the most, no matter how much damage it does, and they're prepared to take care of their powerful, wealthy friends through their attack on environmental protection, attack on the labour movement, attack on working people.

On occupational health and safety, the minister got up and talked about something today. Look at the agenda, I say to anyone who wants to check what this government's done on occupational health and safety.

On issue after issue, you have sided against the average person in the province of Ontario, and the day of reckoning for this government is coming.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure today to rise in response to the comments made by the member for Hamilton Centre on Bill 34. I took particular exception to his remark that we do not care about the children. I think that's completely out of order and out of context and really belongs in the rhetoric of that party. To think that statement has any validity is thoughtless.

That must be established firmly, that we do care. We certainly care as much as anyone else in this province, and that's why we're making these required, fundamental changes to the way education is funded today.

To think it's unachievable is unusual. It's without thought and without any understanding. What we're suggesting is that the $1 billion over two years represents approximately 6%. The rest of the province, the ministries and the rest of us are all familiar with decreases in pay and other ways of restraining waste and duplication.

Let me, for example, suggest that in my riding of Durham East there are five school boards, all of them doing many of the same duties. Do you hear me? Five school boards. Isn't that a little redundant? This legislation encourages cooperation and savings within the system. Of three of those boards, two have already decided to retain junior kindergarten.

Let me conclude briefly by saying that boards were elected to make decisions and that's exactly what we expect them to do. Bill 34 gives them many of the tools necessary to make those decisions. The decisions are tough, yet I read in this morning's paper that many of the trustees refuse to take a rollback in pay. Then they're going to sit across the bargaining table from teachers, asking them to take a reduction in pay. We all must share in it and it must be fair for everyone across the province. They have to look at alternative methodology, differentiated teachers and the waste and duplication in busing.

It is achievable for the people of Ontario and most of all for the children of Ontario.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I'm pleased to join this debate again this afternoon, albeit very briefly. I was interested again this afternoon to hear from the member for Durham East, who is quite fulsome in his views on this subject. I think the member makes some very good points in responding to the previous speaker and to myself yesterday.

I brought today what I didn't have yesterday, which is the Ministry of Education's wealth index, where it lists from top to bottom -- from the poorest, which is the Chapleau separate board, to the wealthiest, which is the Toronto Board of Education -- the list of local wealth. It's a very interesting list.

I simply say to my friends opposite that it is not lost on me that according to the Ministry of Education's own wealth index, the fifth most wealthy board in terms of its local tax base is, interestingly, the Haliburton County Board of Education.

Actually, according to the ministry's own statistics here, the Durham board ranks in the upper 20%.

The fact of the matter is that the board I was talking about yesterday, the Renfrew separate board, is the 12th poorest board.

What the member says is, I think, true to a certain extent: There have to be changes. I think the member from Hamilton was making the point that times are different and there has to be a recognition that we can't continue to spend money that we don't have or that the shareholders of this corporation called Ontario are reluctant to offer up in the ways that they have in the past.

But fair is fair, and when I look at this list and I have someone here telling me that his jurisdiction -- I'll look at the Durham board. They rank 95th out of 122. So the wealth in Durham is much greater than it is in a place like Renfrew or Chapleau or the Kirkland Lake separate board. To find out, when I look at this list, that the Minister of Education and Training has made a special deal for the Haliburton board, which according to the ministry's own wealth index is one of the best boards in terms of local assessment, really begs a few other questions.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I want to congratulate the member for Hamilton Centre for making some very astute observations, particularly given that he's not a teacher by background. He identified a number of good points.

First of all, he says, "This toolbox is empty," and the toolbox that you've presented is full of nothing but chainsaws that do deep cutting into educational spending and that affect the classroom very seriously.

He then talks about JK. What you've done with this is to eliminate the universality of JK across Ontario. Some boards will have it and some boards will not. Some boards will compete very terribly with each other. If a public board has it, a separate board might go into further debt or to other strange cuts to be able to have the JK program as well in order to compete with the other board. It will introduce some terrible competition between boards, which sometimes will not be able to afford it because they don't have the same tax base.


You are eliminating the kind of universality that gives a break to those students who come from poor, working-class homes. These are the formative years. This is when we need JK the most, and you're eliminating that.

Thirdly, you're taking $1 billion away. You have not yet justified, and the member speaks correctly, where you're going to be taking that away. You're firing teachers; you're firing educational assistants. I don't know what you will do with principals, because you really can't fire them. You're firing, presumably, social workers. You're firing caretakers -- less cleaning in the classroom. You are firing every possible person who assists the teacher in the classroom. That's what you're doing.

It's $1 billion worth of cuts, and that will affect the classroom in a very, very serious way. It will affect students in particular, and it affects those students, on the whole, who come from poor, working-class homes.

The Acting Speaker: Any further debate? If not, the member for Hamilton Centre, you have two minutes.

Mr Christopherson: I appreciate the opportunity and, regardless of the message and tone, I always appreciate the opportunity for feedback.

Let me just thank my caucus colleague from Fort York for his comments, which I appreciate very much, given that he was a former member of a public school board here and, I believe, knows an awful lot about this issue. I thank him for his comments.

The member for Renfrew North talked about local wealth. It's interesting to note that, under Bill 34, negative grants -- which means that the school boards of Metro Toronto and Ottawa will actually be cutting a cheque to the government of Ontario. Rather than just receiving a reduction in their transfer payments, they actually have to write a cheque and give it to Queen's Park, to the Mike Harris Tories, as a part of Bill 34.

What we need to watch in Hamilton and Hamilton-Wentworth is that we're very close to that list, and in a few years it could very well be my home town that's writing a cheque to Queen's Park as a part of the enactment of Bill 34, which we are debating here today.

To the member for Durham East, one could take an hour to respond to his comments alone when he takes great umbrage at my saying they don't care about children. I have never suggested that for a minute. I didn't want to make a habit out of it, but earlier on in the term of this government I acknowledged that I don't think that because you're a member of this government, you're automatically evil, and therefore I don't think you get up in the morning and say, "How can we hurt children?" But I do believe you are so fixated on your tax cut that you're prepared to look the other way when children are being hurt, and that accusation I do lay at the doorstep of this government. I think the facts of what's happening across our province bear that out.

The fact that you say you're encouraging cooperation because of the tools you've been given in here is just a joke.

The Acting Speaker: Any further debate?

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I am happy to rise today and speak in support of Bill 34.

At the outset I would like to quote Sir Winston Churchill, who rose in his place one day in the House of Commons and said, "It is a mere coincidence if there is any relativity between what my honourable colleague has said and the truth." I think if Sir Winston Churchill was in this chamber today and listened to some of the comments made by the member for Hamilton Centre, he might have made the same comment in response.

You see, I think it's fine to debate government legislation in a very strong, passionate way from the opposition benches. I have done that for almost 11 years and I know what that role is all about. But it's also about being accountable in the end to the people you represent in opposition. I think when you say this government is "gutting the system," which was one of the comments that was made yesterday, and the leader of the official opposition, Ms McLeod, today said children of this province are paying the price, these kinds of statements put a message out in the communities which is very disturbing for those communities. They're dependent on what you say in your community, because I'm not in your community most of the time, so they're dependent on what you say in your community and what you relate to your media.

Frankly, in a time and age where families, especially with school-aged children, and where people who have no children at all and seniors on fixed incomes are actually at the wall in terms of what they can afford in taxation, it's unfortunate that you add to the stress of all those people by talking about things that frankly are not the case.

Just speaking about things that are not the case, I must say that I have now received a list of ridings that received undue burden grants. The last two days in this House we've heard some very interesting, tough, heart-wrenching questions to the Minister of Education about one particular undue burden grant that was approved to a board within a riding that included the area governed by another cabinet minister. Lest we think, first of all, that undue burden grants are something we have just drawn out of a magic bag -- I think earlier today the leader of the official opposition called it a special emergency fund -- the undue burden grants have actually been in existence since 1974.

I thought, for those members who have been elected since that time, including myself, you might be interested to know it isn't a new, unique way of one minister looking after another minister's riding in terms of helping a school board that is in difficulty.

I think undue burden grants have been designed with a very good purpose and in the last decade -- I've only gone back 10 years -- we have actually more than 30 examples. The examples I thought you might be interested in would be, for example, 1987, Kirkland Lake. I wonder whose riding that was in 1987? Also in 1987, the Hamilton Board of Education; 1989, the Red Lake board; 1987, the Sudbury board. I don't remember us having a member for Sudbury since we had the wonderful Jim Gordon and I think he left us in 1987 as a member of this House and returned to being the great mayor of Sudbury.

In 1990, we had Prescott-Russell; twice in 1990 we had unique burden grants to Prescott-Russell, and I think that was our friend the Liberal member Jean Poirier. Then of course in 1990 we had North of Superior. Who could for a moment wonder who was the member for North of Superior, because we've heard a member of the New Democratic Party, the third party in this House, talk about the fact that his riding is so far to the north of our great province that he stands where he can see the curvature of the earth? We've heard from that member and I suppose North of Superior would either be in his riding or Mr Hampton's riding.

Anyway, the list is very interesting because it goes on to 1993, and guess who in 1993 got an undue burden grant? I don't know if he was Minister of Education at the time, but at one time the member for Windsor, Mr Cooke, was Minister of Education. I don't know if this was actually at that time, but nevertheless, for the whole five years that the New Democratic Party was the government, Mr Cooke was a cabinet minister.


I'm just giving you these names because I think what's gone on in this House in the last two days has been an absolute disgrace. You've been highlighting something for which there are all kinds of cases of precedents, and when we were in opposition I do not recall ever asking you, either the Liberals or the New Democratic Party, about your undue burden grants, because obviously, having been the government that established them back in 1974, we agreed with them.

In 1993 there was one to the Lincoln school board also, and I remember, with respect, that Mr Hansen was the member for Lincoln in 1993. Once you open these Pandora boxes, you'd better look all the way to the bottom of them before you stand in this House and challenge one grant made recently by the current government.

I thought the Liberal members would be interested to know today that in 1989 Richard Patten, the member for Ottawa Centre, was in cabinet as Minister of Government Services and also received a grant for a school board that was within his jurisdiction.

When Dr Richard Allen, MPP for Hamilton West, was Minister of Colleges and Universities and Minister of Skills Development -- he had that ministry; isn't that interesting? -- his school board received an undue burden grant. You do not see this Minister of Education's board receiving an undue burden grant.

In 1993 again David Cooke, the member for Windsor-Riverside, who was Chair of Management Board, also received an undue burden grant.

I think we should drop the subject about criticizing where these undue burden grants have been awarded because there's no debate about it. The fact is that it's a well-designed mechanism, where there is an undue burden on a school board in this province, by the change in the general legislative grants, and it's a means by which a burden on a particular board can be resolved. In protection of your boards and all of our boards, that is a vehicle we would want to continue.

The main thing we have to talk about in this Bill 34 is that it is dealing with some ways of saving money. There isn't anyone, surely, in this Legislature who wouldn't argue that there isn't enough money in the school system. In this province we spend more money on education than any other province per capita. I am quite sure that the children in this province are just as bright and capable of learning as in any other province, so we have to look at why we are spending more money on educating our children in this province.

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): They'd be a lot brighter if they could read and write.

Mrs Marland: I say with respect, to the member who's just returned to the chamber, that we did not have interjections when the member for Hamilton Centre was speaking earlier, so I would request the same courtesy.

Mr Pouliot: He was not as provocative.

Mrs Marland: He was very provocative, but we waited until it was our turn to rise in our places and speak.

To suggest, for example, that this government hates teachers, hates everybody in OPSEU -- when a member stands in his place and gives that kind of debate, as far as I'm concerned it shows an absolute lack of ability to debate. They start throwing out lines that have no relevance, first of all, to the matter at hand, which is Bill 34.

I think we should be in line with other provinces. I would even go further and suggest that we should be spending the same money on every child within our own province. Every child should have the same opportunity, equal and full opportunity, as any other child in our province.

I find it very difficult to look at the per-student costs of different school boards across this province and find close to $2,500 differentials between what it costs to educate a child in one part of the province and what it costs to educate another child in another part of the province. Surely our children in Ontario should be able to access the same level of education no matter where they live, and have the same opportunity. I hope in the long run we will be able -- and I'm sure our excellent Minister of Education is already looking at this, whereby we look at the efficiencies and fiscal management of some school boards versus the questionable efficiencies and fiscal management of other boards where more money is spent on a pupil than perhaps is necessary.

You can't argue in favour of keeping the status quo; you simply cannot. You cannot know what's going on in the education system today and have intelligence and say: "It's perfect. That's right. We want to keep everything as it is." I'm proud to say this government has the courage to make changes where they need to be made.

Among some of those changes listed in Bill 34, we have how we're going to deal with adult education. I think it's very important to understand what it is we're doing with adult education. We're not saying that adults no longer have the opportunity to go back to school, that they may no longer have the opportunity to complete a high school diploma if they hadn't had that opportunity earlier. What we are saying -- and I want to read it specifically so there's no question about what it is we're saying. Proposed amendments contained in sections 3 and 4 will permit a school board to direct certain adult pupils to take credit courses offered in the board's continuing ed program as opposed to the regular day school program.

The important thing to recognize there is that we're not saying it has to happen; we're saying to that local school board, "You have the autonomy and the independence to make that decision where you think certain adult students can take their credit courses in the continuing ed program." The advantage for that adult student, I might add, is that they will then be in a program that is customized to them as adults. Surely nobody's going to stand in this House and defend teaching adults the way we teach adolescents. Surely there has to be a difference between the approach to subject learning and program design for an adult returning to school and for an adolescent in school for the first time. We're simply saying that boards will be permitted to make those decisions.

The other important part of this section is that it says that where, however, an adult requires a specific course for the purpose of obtaining a secondary school diploma, entering university or college or entering a trade, calling or profession, he or she will have the right to attend day school to take the course if it is not offered in the continuing ed program. All the misinformation about the fact that we're throwing all our adult students out on the street and we don't want them in our day schools any more is absolute rubbish. It is absolutely incorrect.

Mr Pouliot: You're so biased.

Mrs Marland: We are also saying -- and this is very important, I'm sure, to the member interjecting, because I know you care about these people -- that any special-education, exceptional pupil who has been placed in a day school program will continue to have the right to attend day school. These are children with exceptional needs and they're going to be allowed to continue their day school program. In fact, other exceptions can be provided for by regulation.


What we're saying, which I may add the two former governments haven't said, is that because you have a birthday and you turn 21 we're not going to throw you out of school. We're not going to say, "Okay, you're 21, out you go," because if you are a developmentally challenged individual, the fact that you're 21 one day and 22 the next doesn't suddenly increase your ability to learn; you are still struggling through school. What we are saying is that those young people will be allowed the opportunity to continue. Frankly, I think that's very fair.

Of course, another advantage to having as many adult pupils as we can in continuing ed programs is that the continuing education programs can use equally qualified teachers but on a contract basis and, I say to the member opposite, that's how they exist today. So if you don't understand that giving the flexibility of program planning itself to specialized-for-adults -- plus the fact that the cost of the provision of that program is reduced because you don't have a full-time teacher with tenure at the top of the salary grid, you have somebody who's hired specifically for the job on contract.

That's terribly important because what it's saying is that we will be able to continue to say to adults who want to complete their education or get more education or increase their marks, "Yes, you can go back and do it, but the program will be directly designed for your needs." If that is going to cost less money, don't tell me it doesn't make sense to do it.

The other area that I think everybody agrees with is the amendments to subsection 5(2) and section 10. You will recognize that section when I tell you that it's dealing with sick leave. These amendments in those sections will delete the statutory entitlement of teachers to sick leave with pay. The Education Act currently provides that each full-time teacher shall receive 20 days of sick leave. This is prorated for part-time teachers. The number of sick days may be increased at the discretion of the board. That is the current status.

The amendments will be effective as of August 31, 1998, which is two years hence. The reason the effective date is that is to give boards and teachers time to negotiate their sick leave provisions in their collective agreements. If they agree upon sick leave provisions earlier than that date, the negotiated provisions will prevail over the statutory entitlement. In other words, it isn't Big Brother government coming along and saying, "You must do this." We're simply making the provision for boards to negotiate those sick leave provisions.

So all this rhetoric about the fact we haven't given school boards some changes -- I don't want particularly to use the word "tools" because I think it's been misused -- we are giving them changes in legislation which will help them with areas that presently are quite expensive.

I say to the members opposite, do you receive 20 days of sick leave with pay? I don't think so. I don't think you will find that in the private sector. However, if the teachers' federations decide that's important to them, then they may now negotiate it individually with their own school board and, vice versa, the board can negotiate it with them.

So what we are doing with Bill 34, I think, is extremely healthy. We are saying there are decisions that must be made by the local board and they must have the continued autonomy to do that. I can speak as someone who was a trustee for four years on the Peel Board of Education, and admittedly it was 22 years ago that I went on that board in 1974, but some of the --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): You must have been 14 years old.

Mrs Marland: Thank you, the member for St Catharines. I was 14 years old at the time, or I probably wished that I was -- and I say with absolute sincerity that some of the areas we're discussing 22 years later in Bill 34 and some of the other announcements that our Minister of Education, the member for Mississauga North, John Snobelen, has had the courage as minister to bring forward and make decisions on are frankly areas that our government in the 1970s, when I was a trustee on the Peel Board of Education, should have dealt with and made decisions on then.

But you see, it's much easier not to make the tough decisions in government. Every government -- and I say every government of all three stripes until this government -- looks at the tough decisions and then in a lot of situations backs away from them. The point is, to make the tough decisions, you're saying, "We're the government today, we have an obligation," and in our case, with 82 out of 130 ridings in this province, we have an extremely strong obligation to fulfil the mandate that was given to us by the people of Ontario. That mandate is to fix it, to reduce the cost of government, and what we are saying is that we will fulfil that mandate.

The final thing I want to say in closing is that I think it's very significant that a former Liberal cabinet minister -- and I may add that when Mr John Sweeney was the Minister of Community and Social Services with the David Peterson government, he was a very highly respected minister, as he is today a very highly respected individual. That was demonstrated last year when the former government, the NDP government, decided to appoint John Sweeney to look at some of the areas that involve the cost of education and education funding in this province.

It's very significant when not a Conservative but a former Liberal cabinet minister came out in his report, which I think was tabled around November of last year, and in that report identified that 47% of the cost of the provision of education in this province today is outside the classroom.

The reduction the honourable Minister of Education has laid on all of the boards in this province amounted to 2% of their funding. In asking the boards to look at a 2% reduction, the Minister of Education was saying, "Well, surely everybody can find 2%."

Obviously, it has come to light there have been some boards for whom that is "an undue burden," so they have applied for undue burden grants. However, surely there is something wrong with an education system where boards decide that the programs and the changes they're going to make are not within that 47% of the cost of education that is outside of the classroom but they are making the cuts within the classroom.

The first thing they were doing was laying off teachers. We understand that part of it, of course, is related to the fact that teachers have to be given six months' notice, so some of it was just a procedural thing. On one day they were given six months' notice, then the following day they were saying, "We'll probably hire you back in the fall anyway, but just in case we couldn't keep all of you, we had to give all of you the notice in the meantime." In the meantime, those teachers are really stressed out, and wouldn't all of us be to know our jobs were on the line?

The classroom teachers' jobs on the line, when that isn't what this government is about. We said in our Common Sense Revolution and all through our campaign that we were going to protect funding and education in the classroom. The problem, you see, is that our strings of control only reach so far. We do not reach right into the boards of education boardrooms and control the trustees who sit around those board tables. What we will find, of course, is that the people who elect them are the people who control them. They will make the decision about whether those boards are making the right decisions in letting teachers be dismissed and affecting the classroom when 47% of the cost of education is in the bureaucracy tiered above the teachers.


I can give you a very interesting example, because they are numbers I have never forgotten. When I was a trustee between 1974 and 1978 in Peel, we were at that time the third-largest public board in Canada. We had about 73,000 or 74,000 students, as I recall. We also had, as I recall, fluctuating between eight and 10 superintendents. Well, guess what? Twenty-two years later, the Peel Board of Education is now the largest public board in Canada, with about 103,000 students, and they have -- the last count I was told -- 26 superintendents. Isn't it interesting? They have two and a half times as many superintendents and of course all the staff who tier under each superintendent's office, but not even a full third more students.

Obviously, there's a lot of work to be done. For the sake of the people who pay for all of this, namely, our taxpayers in Ontario, I'm very pleased that Bill 34 will be passed, hopefully this week, and we will be able to get on with some of the necessary changes, recognizing that there may be others we will have to make in the future, but at least this is a beginning. We have returned the optionality of programs like junior kindergarten to the local boards. Some boards, as has been referred to earlier this afternoon, have decided to continue those programs and some have decided not to, and there may well be other programs within their jurisdiction that they wish to discontinue as well. As far as we're concerned, everything is on the table, except affecting the environment of learning for those children in their classrooms.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): In reply to the comments of the member for Mississauga South, I first want to say that although I appreciated much of what she said, it's unfortunate that she had to give them in such a condescending manner at the outset. I felt they were that way. My mother told me -- and I'll leave it at that -- a long time ago that people who live in glass houses simply should not throw stones.

Reference was made to the debate yesterday in the Legislature with the Minister of Education, some of the questions. I would point out to the member that I think it could have been solved much earlier, in a much more expedient fashion. I've looked at Hansard, and the minister was asked four times regarding the situation in the Haliburton area before he finally referred to the general legislative grants. He could have referred much earlier to those if that was the situation under which the Haliburton board received relief. He could have referred to the regulation that allows it much earlier in the question.

Frankly, to the member for Mississauga South and the minister, if he were here, that leads me to believe the minister really didn't understand what had happened or how it was arranged but that possibly later in the question period the information had been passed on to the minister. It could have been dealt with very quickly at the outset if the minister knew how the system worked, so I agree with the member for Grey-Owen Sound that maybe he just simply doesn't understand.

Mr Marchese: The member for Mississauga South makes some interesting points. I disagree, however, with most of them and I want to point out how that is the case.

She says the educational system can do a lot better with less. We argue you're not going to make students brighter by cutting educational funding; that I can tell you. The tools they're providing don't help teachers to teach more effectively. The methodology is not changing as a result of these cuts. Nothing is given to the classroom teachers that is going to make them better prepared to deal with the variety of problems and differences that are in a classroom -- nothing. Your tools do nothing but make education more complicated.

In fact, your cuts are going to increase class size very dramatically, and that will make it more difficult for the classroom teacher to teach those students. So your tools don't help the teacher, in spite of what you say, and your cuts are not going to make students brighter and they're not going to make teachers more effective to teach, because there's nothing in the toolbox that does that.

The 47% cut being non-educational is nothing but a myth. In the Toronto board, 78% of the money we spent went into teachers' salaries and salaries in general. There is nothing of the magnitude you speak of, so it is a big lie.

As it relates to adult students, when you shift them to continuing education, what you're doing is simply cutting. You're cutting the rate in half, because if they were in day school as they were in the past, they would get the full rate, as a regular student would. But shifting them to continuing education, you're cutting them by half.

You've done no impact studies whatsoever to show the kinds of effects it's going to have on the regular classroom, like at Parkdale, like at Central Tech and other schools outside of Toronto. You have done nothing that shows us the severe impact it's going to have on adult students.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I enjoyed very much the comments by my colleague the member for Mississauga South, which were obviously very well prepared and researched. I noted, particularly at the end of her remarks, she mentioned John Sweeney, the very well respected former Liberal Minister of Community and Social Services who was asked by the previous New Democratic government to look at the issue of school board amalgamation, and I noted that the member for Mississauga South mentioned the 47 cents on the dollar that Mr Sweeney said was spent outside the classroom. He used that figure from his examinations.

What I've said is to look at the issue, to say: "Forty-seven per cent? Let's cut that in two, just for the sake of argument." Let's say it's only half as much. No, no, let's even go further; let's say it's only a third as much. It would be approximately 15 cents on the dollar being spent outside the classroom, and I would indicate that is 65% less than Mr Sweeney said. Surely they could find that 1.8%, 2%, 2 1/2% from that 15 in which to make the reduction. We see private sector organizations, we see municipalities, we see organizations right across the province and the whole country cutting to ensure they can live within their means, and surely we can do that in education.

I just point out -- and this follows the comments of the member for Mississauga South -- we wouldn't be in this position of having to try to balance the budget if we didn't have governments that over the last 10 years spent like drunken sailors, put this province in a terrible financial mess, taxed us to death, killed jobs. We wouldn't be in this situation if we weren't governed so badly over the last 10 years. That is the real point that's got to be put on the table, that we wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't for the bad government over the last 10 years.


Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I am just a little provoked by the comment by the last member. He knows full well that Mike Harris and Ernie Eves and Norm Sterling left the Peterson government a $3-billion deficit. He knows that spending was right out of line.

Anyway, to get to the member for Mississauga South's comments, I have never heard the member for Mississauga South so shamelessly apologetic for a government. This is not the member for Mississauga South I once knew. She would know from the Ministry of Education's own statistics that the board of which she speaks, the Peel board, is but four from the top of the wealthiest of all the boards in Ontario.

There's a reality out there. The reality out there for a member like I am is that there is no board that has half the wealth that her Peel board has in this province, and when she talks about cuts, I have one board that has about a sixth of the wealth that her board has. So she talks about the cuts. Well, the boards at the bottom end, the boards without the assessment wealth, are in far more difficulty, of course.

She talks about my friend John Sweeney, a well-respected minister in the Peterson government. She talks about his report. She does not talk about things he said in his report that may not be tremendously helpful to her. She doesn't talk about the fact that Mr Sweeney said that education funding must be reformed. His suggestion was that we pool the commercial-industrial assessment across this province. You may not like that idea, but those kinds of ideas are part of the Sweeney report and should be discussed. She can't selectively choose her statistics.

I have never seen a more creative use of statistics than the member for Mississauga South has just presented to us in this House, and I say: "Gee, Margaret, you should've been here. I much preferred you a year ago."

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Your time is up. The member for Mississauga South.

Mrs Marland: I've always appreciated the critiques of our speeches in this House. I'm sorry for the member for Essex South, because you and I haven't been in this House together long enough for you to understand, and I apologize if my manner appeared to be condescending to you; it certainly was not intended to be, and I apologize if that were the case.

I do think, however, that it was very significant, I say to the member for Essex South who said, "People who live in glass houses should not throw stones." My simple response to you as a member of the official opposition is that you should've been thinking about that, your entire caucus should've been thinking about that before you asked those disgustingly personal questions to our Premier last week which were totally inappropriate. Yes, I agree we all live in glass houses, and for that reason, you should tread very carefully before you start to throw stones in a personal nature in question period.

To the member for Fort York I will simply say that we did not want the cuts to be made in the classroom, we specified that we did not want the cuts to be made in the classroom, and frankly I'm very upset that you would suggest that Mr Sweeney's report is a lie. It is not a lie, and 47% of the cost of education outside the classroom may well include teachers, but we want the money spent on teachers within the classroom, not in the hierarchy and within the administration of the board.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bradley: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on Bill 34, which is a bill designed, in my view, to severely restrict the education system from doing the job many in this province would hope it would be able to do, and a job which people such as Premier Robarts and Premier Davis, I'm sure, would've wanted it to do, in years gone by.

I've listened to the government members from time to time, and it's obvious that the people in the Premier's office who develop the strategy for everyone have told them, "What you have to say to the public and to the opposition is, `You can't be in favour of the status quo.'" That's what they've been told to say, so you'll hear them all repeat that from time to time, and, "You're opposed to change." That's the line that has been given to the government members. Some of them use it; some of them don't.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): It's a good line.

Mr Bradley: I prefer the member for Grey-Owen Sound's line in the last few days.

Everyone in this House recognizes that we have to address the financial challenges that face Ontario. There isn't any doubt about that. There's a good consensus in our society that we have to face those particular financial challenges, so the argument and debate is over how we shall go about doing that.

What we have to understand is that when the government members get up and talk about education cuts and how quickly they're coming and how drastic they are, they are really talking about a situation where they're cutting this quickly and this drastically to finance a tax cut which at this point in time this province cannot afford.

Tax cuts are very popular. If you say to people, "We're going to cut your taxes," a lot of us are going to be attracted by that. But we have to know that when we cut the taxes, we have to borrow the money to be able to give it back to people. When you explain that to the average individual out there, they're not so attracted to a tax cut. They say, "You must be dreaming these figures up, because the government says this isn't the case."

Where do I get those figures? I go to a document known as the Common Sense Revolution, the campaign document put out by the Conservative Party. It lists how much lost revenue there will be each year as a result of the tax cut. It clearly demonstrates that over the term of office of the government, it would require more than $20 billion more to be borrowed by the provincial government to give back to people.

When you explain that to people, they say: "I don't think we can afford this now. Is this why we're moving so quickly in Grey-Owen Sound and in Belleville and in St Catharines and other places to cut? Is this why we're moving so quickly and so drastically? And are we really going to have to borrow more money? That doesn't make common sense." I agree with them when they come to that conclusion. That's what this is all about: to finance the tax cut which will be largely to the benefit of the most wealthy and privileged in our society.

The tax cut will require spending about $5 billion just to pay the interest costs of that tax cut. That's something else that would worry people concerned about the deficit and accumulated debt when they hear about the tax cut. They know that the tax cut and the money borrowed for it will add over $20 billion in additional accumulated debt to this province's books, and they are very concerned about that.

They know as well that the tax cut is really transferring from the most progressive tax, the income tax, which takes into account a person's ability to pay, to the most regressive tax, the property tax, which does not take into account an individual's ability to pay, and to user fees, which most assuredly do not take into account an individual's ability to pay. That is why we think this bill is not worthy of support.

We also know that what is happening is that the provincial government wishes to get the political credit for a tax cut while shifting to the municipalities and local agencies the flak that goes with having to raise taxes or raise user fees or significantly cut services considered essential to people in their area.

If the government wanted to tackle an area where -- and I wish I had it with me today. I was reading, from October, a column by Dalton Camp. His column said: "We do not have a debt crisis. We have a revenue crisis." It was an excellent column. I commend it to people, that they go back to read it. It was a very thoughtful column, talking about where taxes are not being paid today.

If we listen to the Provincial Auditor, who's above politics, who's not a Conservative, a Liberal, a New Democrat or anything else and who looks objectively at the books, he said the number one problem with fraud is people not paying their taxes appropriately when those taxes are levied. So those who do pay their taxes are being penalized further by those who are evading. There was a suggestion made that if we were going to have a snitch line for people who were abusing the welfare system, there should be a snitch line for people who are abusing the system known as the taxation system in this province. These are already levied, accepted taxes in this province, levied by this Legislature.


We are not facing a situation in education where there'll be no cuts. When the New Democratic Party was in power, facing some very difficult economic challenges, there were limitations placed on transfers to boards of education, and so there had to be cuts in services. They had to abrogate contracts. I know my friends in the New Democratic Party must have been very concerned at having to break contracts, collective agreements, but they did it because times called for it. So I don't think we can say there haven't been efforts already made to limit taxes in this province or to limit expenditures; there have been. They were perhaps in a more humane way than we are suggesting today. I won't get into post-secondary education, where we're facing similar problems, because that's not the content of this bill.

I also want to say that there were people who were concerned about the tax cut in the government benches. The member for Wellington, Ted Arnott, a respected individual in this House, wrote a letter to the Premier describing the tax cut as reckless. I agree with the member for Wellington, my friend Ted Arnott, that indeed that is a reckless initiative on the part of the government. The member for Grey-Owen Sound, Bill Murdoch, the member for Etobicoke West, Chris Stockwell, and the member for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Morley Kells, all expressed similar concerns. These are people with some experience out there in the political field. They're people who like to listen to what people are saying in their constituencies and to bring that back to this Legislature and particularly, I'm sure, to the government caucus, where some interesting discussions no doubt have taken place.

I will go on to some comments that have been made, but before I do, I want to look at some of the issues that have emerged. A rather interesting thing happened in St Catharines a little over a year ago. Visiting the city on the same day were Dianne Cunningham, the member for London North, who was the critic for the Conservative Party in the field of education, and Mike Harris, who was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party at that time. They both spoke in St Catharines on education issues, but they had a different message.

Dianne Cunningham's message, the member for London North, the Conservative critic, was a moderate message, it was one which said, "Of course, we'll have to be careful in our educational expenditures, but I understand," she said, "the importance of an investment in education." The same day, Mike Harris, then the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, is addressing a far different group. He's addressing the Rotary Club and his message was far different and the people who were there heard that message, where it was in essence an education- bashing and public sector-bashing message, which with some members was popular; I think with more thoughtful members, it was not necessarily appreciated. But it really represents a difference in the Conservative Party in terms of their approach to important areas such as education, which represents an investment in our future when we make those investments.

I've heard it mentioned about amalgamation of boards of education and how that would be useful as a measure to save taxes. I can say in some cases that has to be looked at. No one is denying that we don't look at all of these options, but I think what they'll find out, for instance, in Niagara, to amalgamate the Niagara South Board of Education and the Lincoln County Board of Education is really going to have a very minimal effect on expenditures. Both boards have made a genuine effort already to cut back, to trim their expenditures, to become more efficient. What you do is lose something which has been near and dear to my Conservative friends over the years. There's one thing I can say the Conservative Party has stood for and that's been local autonomy and access to people at the local level. I hope that initiative isn't embraced holus-bolus. Where it makes sense and there's a consensus it should be proceeded with, I have no objection to that, but I think the government has to look extremely carefully at each option on a case-by-case basis before making that kind of decision.

I also want to look at the cutting of deals that were spoken about in this House. There's a lot of controversy and people disagree and so on. I hope what would not happen at any time, but particularly at a time when we're in constraint, is some people having more influence than others on the Minister of Education. It has been alleged that the Minister of Natural Resources got a special deal for the people of Victoria-Haliburton; and it's been alleged this afternoon, I think by the NDP in this case, that the Minister of Finance, in one of the boards of education he's involved with, was getting a special deal. The problem with special deals is that if they apply a formula that fairly fits the province, a lot of people aren't going to object to that, but if there are special deals which benefit one riding over another riding, I think people have a legitimate concern to express about that. I hope that's not what the minister is embarking upon.

Before I get too far into my remarks, I want to quote from a couple of members who I think have put forward their views in a very honest way. One is the member for Grey-Owen Sound. Members in this House know that the member for Grey-Owen Sound and I have disagreed on a number of subjects. That doesn't mean there's a personal dislike; there isn't. That's the way it should be in politics or anything else. But there is one area where I can clearly say I agree with him. It is when he talked about the performance of the Minister of Education.

I happen to think, and it's a subjective evaluation, that the choice of the member for Mississauga North for the education portfolio was not a wise choice. The Premier may have had another ministry he wanted to place the member for Mississauga North in that might have made more sense. Certainly, the feeling I get from the Conservative government caucus when I hear some of the things that are happening out there is that there might have been a better placement in that regard. Maybe we'll see that change take place over the summer.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): Name names.

Mr Bradley: The member for Ottawa-Rideau has said to me, "Start to name names," so I will. I will respond to that in a positive way by saying I was reading an article that's a very good one just on April 21. It says: "Yesterday, Tory MPP Bill Murdoch told an Owen Sound radio station that Snobelen is a `little out of whack right now' and `doesn't know what he's doing.'" I didn't say that, the NDP didn't say that, the Liberals didn't say that; that was Bill Murdoch, Conservative MPP for Grey-Owen Sound.

It goes on to say, "`I do believe our Ministry of Education is a little out of control,' Murdoch said when contacted by radio station CFOS about a recent spate of protests against Tory education cuts."

"`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.'

"Murdoch, who represents Grey-Owen Sound, was referring to a videotape that came to light last fall in which Snobelen told senior bureaucrats he wanted to `invent a crisis' to help sell his reforms to Ontario's school system."

Mr Murdoch, the member for Grey-Owen Sound, says he understands there is a fiscal problem to be addressed, but he goes on to say: "`But, you don't create a crisis to do it. I think that the minister is a little out of whack right now.'"

I respect a person who is independent enough. The member for Grey-Owen Sound obviously isn't -- what's the word we use? -- trying to curry favour, I guess is the best way of placing it in this House, with those who would have a situation of trying to get into cabinet, because he's an independent-minded person.

When Mr Doug Rollins, the member for Quinte, who is a newer member, was at a Belleville high school, he said, and an article in the Intelligencer, which is surely a very respectable publication, says the following:

"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 is going to be an effect in the classroom.'

"When pressed on the point before a student-run forum on education at Centennial Secondary School Friday, Rollins admitted the government had indeed lied.

"Student spokesman Marc Johnson, on hearing Rollins admit that cuts will show up at the classroom level, asked Rollins if he meant `this government lied when it said it wouldn't affect the classroom.'

"`Yup,' said Rollins, `on that part it did. Yes.'"


Interjection: Refreshing truth.

Mr Bradley: Refreshing? Not from the opposition. It's coming from the government members, and I certainly agree with it.

But I must go on to say that I keep hearing the government use figures that they've been given that somehow the lion's share or a very significant share of the cost of education is outside the classroom. But what you are finding is indeed that a lot of it is related to the classroom. There are the teachers who are in the front line -- and I want to go back to this because I think one of the problems with the government benches is that many people are living in the past when it comes to education. They're thinking of the education system when they went through it and the challenges that were there.

The other day, the member for Etobicoke West made I think a salient point. He said: "You know, in Toronto" -- in his riding and other ridings in Toronto -- "there are very special challenges to the school system because Toronto accepts most of the people coming from other countries, emigrating to Canada. Many of the people who come do not necessarily speak English as a first language and have a cultural adjustment to make and a linguistic adjustment to make," and that this presented a challenge to the education system that meant the system needed some assistance in meeting the needs of those children; so it isn't the way it was at one time.

I think that's a fair assessment. I suspect it's true of the greater Toronto area in particular as well, but even in our area. But because when we have emigration to our province it tends to be mostly to the Toronto area, I think there are those special problems. That's why I think when you believe you can have 40 kids in a classroom -- you just can't do it today with the challenges we have to meet. Whether we like it or not, there are far more dysfunctional families out there where there isn't the stability at home that we would like to see if we had the best of all worlds. For that reason, more emphasis is placed on the education system to meet some of those needs. It's not a matter of choice; it's a matter of reality.

I notice that the student protests are growing across the province. The students themselves are beginning to see the potential impact of drastic education cuts and they recognize that it is going to affect the kind of education they'll have available to them.

What the province is doing is also making it rather ugly at the bargaining table, because what they're transferring to the local level is fewer dollars and drastically fewer dollars, and so they've got people fighting with one another. So the Catholic board wants to fight with the public board, the secondary people fight with the elementary people, people for junior kindergarten are competing with people who are in favour of adult education, and the government says, "Well, let them make the decision at the local level." Of course, the blame gets shifted there but the funds don't get shifted there, despite the fact that members of the Conservative Party said during the campaign more of the percentage of the cost of education should come from the provincial level and less from the property tax.

The problem of young teachers out there: I've been in the education system. I go to schools from time to time, I visit them. It's really interesting to see the aging of the school system, where you're having fewer and fewer really young teachers in the system. The best school system has a blend of senior teachers, those in the middle in terms of age, and younger teachers. What we're going to miss in our classrooms are those younger people who inject something new and different into the system. Unfortunately, many of those people are going out the door up to eight years. Hopefully, not all who have received notices -- and they must receive those notices under the provisions of the Employment Standards Act -- not all of those people are going to be gone from the system. But a good number are, and I think our students are the losers, and I think our society are the losers as a result.

There are teaching assistants out there. People will say, "Why do those teachers need assistants?" One of the reasons is because we now have integrated into the school system children with very special needs who previously were isolated into schools for themselves. I think of developmentally disadvantaged children, for instance, developmentally disabled individuals in our society who used to be placed in schools of their own or classrooms of their own who are now part of the regular school system and the regular classroom. So there is a requirement for assistants in that regard.

We also have adult education. The government tells us that we must have in this province a situation where people are learning new skills, where they're upgrading their skills, where they're upgrading their education so they can become meaningful participants in the workforce. If they are going to do that, they are going to require education even at an adult age. If you make it too expensive for them to do so, they're unable then to become part of the system, to come off the social assistance rolls and play the kind of role they want to play and others want them to play in our society.

I won't dwell excessively on junior kindergarten, because I have spoken on it before, other than to say that I happen to believe that in today's society and today's social structures at home and other places, junior kindergarten becomes much more important than it was in the past.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Then why didn't you enact it five years ago when you had the chance?

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, the member for Kitchener.

Mr Bradley: I'm interested in the interjection, because I think it's totally out to lunch. What did you say?

Mr Wettlaufer: It doesn't matter. I was ruled out of order.


Mr Bradley: Well, we did. It was done five years ago.

The Acting Speaker: Member for St Catharines, address the Chair, please.

Mr Bradley: The question was -- they have to know at the table if they want to write down the interjection -- why didn't we do it five years ago. Well, it was put in place five years ago. Perhaps you were busy with something else at the time and did not see it happen, but it did happen five years ago, and it has been implemented since. The subsequent government implemented it.

I think if you look at all of the studies that are coming out now, you will see how important it is. If you said it 20 years ago to people, almost universally they would say, "We don't think it's important." Today, when you look objectively at the studies, I think you would come to the conclusion that it is.

Transportation is an important component. I think we can have some more cooperation than we've had in the past in transportation. That makes a lot of sense. I can't see why we have to have separate buses for people from different school systems. It doesn't make sense to me. I think we can solve that. That's a component of the bill with which I agree and I will be supportive of that. I think, really, if the government puts pressure on in that regard, I'm all for that and I'll be there to support it.

There are cleaning and maintenance jobs. There are certain requirements that must be met within a school system in terms of how clean the school system is, meeting all the health requirements and so on, so you have to be careful. You've already seen, over the last few years, a lot of those people out of the system.

We used to say there were a lot of superintendents and so on around. At one time, there may have been. The number is down considerably now. You have to remember that those superintendents have specific responsibilities within the education system. They aren't sitting on their fannies up at the education centre; they're out in the schools. They're working often 14 and 16 hours a day at their job. I know it's something that sounds good to attack it, but it's similar to what some of you people say, on the government side, when people criticize the upper executives of a business corporation. You will say, "You don't realize the job they do." But somehow when it gets into the public sector, you don't want to apply that, and I think it's important you do apply that.

I support -- and I think everybody does -- increased cooperation between boards of education. I think there's a lot of room for that. We're seeing some of it happen and I'm encouraged by that.

What I'm seeing in education today, with this bill in particular -- more so with this bill than the other bills -- is a changing attitude to education. I can remember Premier Davis and Premier Robarts, who were very pro-education, who I think had a lot of support across the board, both in the business community --

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): They didn't have it from you.

Mr Bradley: Well, Dr Stephenson was here today, for instance. She's down making a representation in the committee. I didn't always agree with Dr Stephenson, but I must say that some of her views on education were much more progressive than some of the ones I see today.


Mr Conway: What? Say that again?

Mr Bradley: Well, than today.

I think of Bob Welch when he was Minister of Education. I think of Tom Wells when he was Minister of Education. Those individuals, all Conservatives, were not anti-education, were not anti-public sector. They saw the importance of it and I think had that sense of common sense and balance that we don't see today.

A number of people out there believe that grade 13, which you want to abolish -- it seems to me that every government is abolishing grade 13 --

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): It's OAC now.

Mr Bradley: I'm corrected by somebody who's smarter than I am, who says it's OAC now. I think I knew that.

What should happen is that it should be optional, as far as I'm concerned, so that those students who are able to make it through in a four-year period and even take their OACs may do so and others who have work requirements or special needs and wish to take the additional time can do so. I think that has a lot of common sense in it.

I think special education is going to lose out. Again, Dr Stephenson and subsequent people in education had a feeling for and an importance placed on special education, to meet the special needs of people in our system.

I want to comment on draft GLGs. I don't know what "draft general legislative grants" are. I always thought you had those grants and they were established. But apparently the minister mentioned those today. I only mention those in passing because they are passing strange to many of us.

I happen to believe that education is an investment in the future. We in the opposition, with this Bill 34, over the past several weeks have fought for and have now achieved some hearings outside Toronto. It took a lot to do it. The government has its position, its position being that it does not want hearings outside Toronto during a session of the Legislature. We have made a compromise which allows for some of those hearings during what is called constituency week in centres in different parts of Ontario. I think that's positive; I want to be positive about that. I think we've come to a reasonable compromise, and that's how this Legislature should work. But I'll tell you, it took a lot of persuading to do that, because the initial position of the government was that there should be hearings only in Toronto.

For those of us who are outside of Toronto, you know how annoying that can be to your local people, that they always have to come to Toronto to make their representations and can't do it in the context of their own communities. But the government wishes to move this bill through rather quickly, so it does not want to have those hearings during the summer recess when they would be most appropriate.

When I look at the bills the government brings forward, I believe the College of Teachers bill is unnecessary, an unnecessary thing to become involved in. When I look at the other bill, on testing, I know establishing testing is popular and I think there's a fair consensus in the province that people want to see it. There's some resistance within the education system, but there's a fair consensus out there that people want to see some province-wide testing to see how the system is working, in a diagnostic sense rather than a punitive sense. I think that does make some sense.

This bill is not supportable in its present state and I doubt in its final state by members of the opposition, because of what I think it's trying to achieve. If you ask overall, "Do we want to see savings effected?" -- yes. If you consult the people at the local level, you will find, when they're speaking to the province, they will give you suggestions on a provincial basis of how you can effect some reasonable savings. But we have to remember that education is an investment in our future, and unfortunately we are sacrificing it because we're going to have drastic cuts and fast cuts simply to serve a tax cut which is going to benefit the rich and the privileged most of all in this province, and I lament that fact this afternoon in this Legislature.

Mr Marchese: I stand to support much of what the member for St Catharines has said today. It's based on the feeling and the view he and I share around many of the things he has talked about, in particular junior kindergarten. Although the member for St Catharines didn't speak as much today as he has done at other times, it remains for me one of the most important things this government is doing through this bill that is bad.

Junior kindergarten, for me, is vital in bringing about greater equality for all children in the school system. As we know, students come into the educational system unequal, and junior kindergarten is an attempt to bring about that equality for all students, but particularly those students who come from backgrounds where they don't have the same opportunities, intellectual, emotional at times, and economic. So this is an attempt to bring about, in those formative years, the kind of quality and equality that we desperately need, particularly as this government cuts deeper and deeper into areas of concern to many of the people in Ontario.

It takes literally $400 million -- $400 million before; annualized it's $1 billion. It's going to have dramatic effects in the classroom on the teacher and on the students. We know that. It will affect every sector of the educational system and every part of the classroom you can think of. It can't but hurt in every possible way you can think of.

You're not being accountable. The member for Mississauga South says, "We want to be accountable." How are you doing that, except by forcing boards of education to cut $400 million away from their budgets? Is that accountability when you force others to do the dirty job for you? You steal $40 million or $50 million from Metropolitan Toronto, raised through education taxes to teach students in the Metropolitan board. It's illegal, it's wrong. Through this bill you're hurting every child and every teacher in the Ontario system.

Mr O'Toole: I was watching the member for St Catharines speaking while I was in my office preparing a report for this evening. Also, further in response to the member for Fort York speaking to equity in junior kindergarten, I think the importance there is that Bill 34 allows the boards to make decisions along with their union partners in education, the teacher unions.

First of all, there is funding. The funding is schedule 3 funding. Also, they could look at using differentiated staff. That's staff. Early childhood education is a certified teaching program or methodology. That is one of the options. Three boards in my riding have already chosen to continue junior kindergarten with the new funding structure. So I think there are a series of options available.

The member for St Catharines talks about the whole issue of equity and fairness. I think this is about fairness. When you have some boards spending $4,000 per year per student and others spending as much as $9,000, is that equity? It's really about equity. This bill talks about providing funding at the student and classroom level.

I just want to repeat what the present interim leader, Mr Wildman from Algoma, said in 1995 in the Sault Star:

"We're committed to ensuring more education funding goes directly into the classrooms" -- sounds like us -- "to benefit students. Our reforms include a province-wide curriculum, annual testing in reading, writing, math, better teacher training, computers in the classroom and special help for the youngest learners."

That sounds like a lift exactly from what we're doing. This is from Mr Wildman from Algoma and it's June 3, 1995, in the Sault Star. So I don't see what the problem is. Education needs to be changed. Your leader said it and we're doing it.

Mr Conway: I want to congratulate my colleague from St Catharines on his sombre, serious, if at times sonorous, speech this afternoon. Much more sober than I would be on the subject, but he brings long experience as a teacher to these matters.

I want to just make a couple of comments in this ongoing debate. I was talking to some people who have this afternoon met with Ministry of Education officials who are out in the land. They don't know anything of what kind of deals the minister is cutting. When asked today, ministry officials knew nothing about the regulations that the minister is applying in places like Haliburton. That comes as of 1:30 this afternoon. Maybe they are the only ministry officials out in the field who don't know what it is the minister is doing in terms of policy.

Mrs Marland: Regulations for the undue burden grant.

Mr Conway: The member for Mississauga South says it's the undue burden grant. I suspect it is. All I'm reporting to the House is that the minister's own officials are out in the community today and they don't know what guidance to provide. That doesn't surprise me at all. I know exactly the kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants policy this Minister of Education is pursuing.


I want to say something else to my friend from Mississauga South and the other Tories. As a veteran member here, I find it passing strange to see Mrs Marland and others attacking the system that Bill Davis and Ed Stewart built. When I heard the member for Mississauga South -- I see the squire of Carleton throwing up his hands in some disgust. These new Tories stand up here now, attacking the apparatchiks. They attack all the --

Interjection: It's their own grave.

Mr Conway: Listen, we found out, I want to say --

The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Bradley: Rodger Allan.

Mr Conway: Rodger Allan, people like that, all of these directors, all of these apparatchiks they now want to attack -- Mrs Marland, Mrs Witmer, Mr Harris -- are the very people they incubated, the very people they sponsored. It is a real paradox to hear them now attack the house they built.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time is up. Further questions or comments?

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I would like to compliment the member for St Catharines on his speech in the House because I think he raises the point that really --

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments, the member for Cochrane South. The member for Cochrane South, you just now got recognized. Perhaps you would like to begin again.

Mr Bisson: I will try it again. I would like to congratulate the member for St Catharines for the work he's done over the years here in the House, speaking out on behalf of the communities of interest when it comes to education in this province. He speaks from a certain amount of knowledge. As a former teacher and a person involved in education for a lot of years, he has a certain understanding.

I think the point he raises, which is the most important point that the members of the government should be hearing, is that it is amazing that members of the government and members of cabinet could come to this House and basically say, "Our system of education stinks." These are the people who are supposed to be in charge.

I guess it isn't amazing when you compare it to what the Minister of Education said way back when he first got sworn into cabinet and met with his bureaucrats at the Ministry of Education for the first time. This is the minister who said, "I'm going to create a crisis, and by creating that crisis I will be able to have the force and the support I need to make the kinds of changes to education that I want to make."

All we're seeing in this bill, as in everything else we've see up to now, has nothing to do with common sense, as the member for St Catharines says; it has everything to do with nonsense. These people on the government side of the House do not believe in a system of public education. They do not believe in public services whatsoever. What they are intent on doing is simply to destroy the system of public education that we have now so that we can go back to the good old days when we had a caste system, where if you came from a family with some bucks you did well and if you came from a family of working stiffs you didn't do so well.

I say to members on the other side of the House, shame on you. We members of the opposition, the New Democratic Party and the Liberals, will fight you every inch of the way because you are dismantling the system of education that took 120 years to build.

Mr Bradley: I'd like to respond. I thank the members for their interventions. I think all of them were very helpful in this debate and that this debate has been healthy for our education system. It's one which should be held both in this Legislature and across the province.

I want to add something that I didn't say before which shows some cooperation between boards of education. In St Catharines, under the auspices of the Lincoln County Board of Education and the Lincoln Roman Catholic school board, we have two schools on one property. One is called Pine Grove and one is called Michael J. Brennan. One is under the auspices of the Roman Catholic school board and one is under the auspices of the public school board. How marvellous it is to see those two schools working together. They use a joint plant, the building, there is a joint field and there's a lot of cooperation between the two. That is very beneficial. There is a lot of opposition to that among those who don't like that kind of cooperation, but it's just one example of how boards of education can work well together.

Second, I was happy that my colleague the member for Renfrew North made reference to Rodger Allan. Rodger Allan was the director of education in Lincoln county when I was a teacher in Lincoln county. I had a good deal of respect for him. He had a lot of friends within the Progressive Conservative government. I believe he worked for the Progressive Conservative candidate in his riding in the last campaign. Mr Allan is a person who worked hard to build a strong education system. While I cannot speak for him, one would anticipate that there must be some dismay when people of this ilk see what is happening to education today, because he believed that education was an investment in the future and a good place to make a financial investment.

Last, I would say our education system allows us to provide equality of opportunity for all, and I have a fear that we're moving away from that.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I appreciate the opportunity to get up this afternoon and put a few thoughts on the record re this very important piece of legislation that is, just in case somebody out there doesn't understand, the infamous toolbox the Minister of Education has delivered to the people of Ontario to gut the education system as we know it and do untold damage in a myriad of ways.

First of all, I could certainly identify with some of the comments of the member for St Catharines as he spoke about the frustration of the people in his jurisdiction when things happen that affect us directly and we have some real concern about and we don't get a chance to have any real input into.

We as a party were negotiating with the government to have this bill, this piece of legislation taken out across the province, and most particularly to my part of the province, northern Ontario, because distances are so far and the cost is so great to have people come all the way down to Toronto here for 15 or 20 minutes to put on the record --

Interjection: That's big bucks.

Mr Martin: That's right, it's big bucks -- their thoughts and concerns and ask the questions they need to ask as they try to get their heads around some of what this government is proposing to do. Where I can identify with the member for St Catharines re some of the concern he has, I think it's doubly important when it's from northern Ontario, because of the distances we have to travel.

I met with some folks in the Sault a week or so ago around this piece of legislation, and they expressed to me some real grave concern and were, with me, very upset the government wasn't going to entertain the possibility of going up north, waiting for the summer -- what's the big rush here? -- until we had the luxury of the time that would be required to do a real good job of that, to travel to some of the larger centres, like Sault Ste Marie, where I come from, and perhaps some of the smaller communities, Kapuskasing and Cochrane North and Hearst, places where real people live that are going to be affected very directly, sometimes in a way that causes some double jeopardy as the reality of this bill unfolds.

Today that's really not what I wanted to talk about, although, because I followed the member for St Catharines, a very dedicated and committed Liberal in this place, I did want to just for a minute suggest to him that the next time he gets up and speaks to us about things like education and the cutting this government is doing, he might elaborate a bit on some of what was in the red book during the last provincial election on how they were going to deal with the cuts they were proposing by way of taxes and the downsizing they were going to do, and the number of civil servants they were going to lay off, and how that would be done in a way that would not be hurtful to communities like Sault Ste Marie and St Catharines and Kapuskasing and Hearst and all of those wonderful places people live in this province.

Mr Bisson: And Timmins.

Mr Martin: And Timmins too. I want to today, though, in the few minutes I have, talk a bit about the impact of this onslaught on education re our position as a jurisdiction in the world that wants to compete for investment and compete for business.

I also want to talk for a few minutes about the impact this will have on communities and how what has already been done to communities by way of some of the other reductions this government has imposed is going to, in the larger context, diminish the effect of education on our young people and the contribution it can make to our jurisdiction being more competitive and having a future.

I also want to talk and focus somewhat specifically on teachers and the fact that we will have less of them and how valuable they are and how this is, in many significant ways, an attack on them. I want to talk about specific programs that are going to be affected, that are going to be hit hard, that are going to have negative repercussions: junior kindergarten, special education and adult education, just to name a few.

To begin with, I sat, as did some of my colleagues, with some members of this House on the standing committee on finance and economic affairs as we heard people come forward and talk to us in preparation for the budget that will be coming down in a couple of weeks, which will have some major impact on all of us. They said, everybody who came, and we all agreed, that it was really important that Ontario --

The Acting Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie, could you just take your seat for a moment. I'm really having trouble hearing the member for Sault Ste Marie, so I would ask members to please keep your conversations down. Thank you.


Mr Martin: Thank you very much, Speaker, and I would hope the members of this House would be interested in what I have to say, as I am when they get up and speak, and have that kind of respect, because I not only speak for myself here, I speak for the constituents I represent, those wonderful people who live and work and play in northern Ontario, and in Sault Ste Marie most specifically.

As I was saying, it's really important that Ontario continue to do those things that are required to make sure that we are in fact competitive in the global economy that we're in today and that's coming at us.

Where other jurisdictions are competitive because they rely on child labour, rely on an environment of low wages and little or no regulation, in Ontario our competitive edge is based on things like the really efficient and first-class infrastructure that we have in place and that allows the movement of goods in a way that is quick and safe, and on the buildings that we have to house head offices and workers who work in plants and in industry. We have a competitive advantage because of the health and social service system we have in place. A company coming to Ontario, for example, doesn't have to worry about the cost of a very expensive health package to cover the workers who work for them. We have in place a first-class health care system that costs significantly less per person to have in place and to assist with that all-important bottom line.

Of course, in the context of today's discussion, we have in place in Ontario a first-class education system, an education system that works for people, that works for everybody. We so often hear our education system compared with education systems in other jurisdictions. One of them is Japan. We all know -- anybody who's heard that argument and looked into this -- that in Japan only those people who qualify get to go to secondary school and beyond to post-secondary. In Ontario everybody goes to school, because we know that in Ontario the greatest resource we have is our people, and we maximize the potential for our people to contribute and to participate and to be part of the economy by providing them with a first-class education.

If we don't give them from day one the best that we have to offer, then we do them a disservice, we do ourselves a disservice, we do the whole community of Ontario a disservice, and in fact I would suggest, because Ontario is so important economically to the whole of Canada, we do the whole of Canada a very major disservice.

It's really important that we continue to maintain the system we have in place, and not only maintain it but enhance it, as we were doing when we were in government, making sure that programs like junior kindergarten -- that's well-documented as a very important start for young children and not only impacts on them now, as it gives them the socialization skills and that very important first start in life, but will affect them all the way through their life. So things like junior kindergarten become very important.

It's interesting. When I sat on the committee that looked at estimates in this House not so long ago, I had an opportunity to speak to the Minister of Education. He challenged me on some of what I was saying by way of suggesting that we as a government, and those of us who do not support the agenda the present government is rolling out, were mortgaging our present on the backs of the children of our future. I suggest to him that he is wrong and that what they are doing is taking away any future the children of today will have, because we're not going to give them the education they require.

I don't think there's any of us around here who hasn't over the last few months had at least one or two, if not a half a dozen, people into our office to talk to us about the impact of the cuts on education, both at an elementary and secondary level and at a post-secondary level, and the inability of their children to continue on in some cases; the tremendous increase that we're going to see in tuition fees and no change significantly in the availability of OSAP so that our kids can continue.

I would suggest that if a study was done you'd find that a whole lot of our young people in colleges today are having to quit because they don't have the support they need. It's becoming ever more costly. However, we're talking here today about Bill 34, and that has more specifically to do with the elementary and secondary system.

I want just for a few minutes to focus on education within the context of the community and the impact of some of the decisions that have been made so far by this government on the community as it relates to schools. We know from some of the studies and some of the work that's been done on the impact of good health on a student's ability to learn and to do well in school, and the decision that was made by this government in July by way of the cutback in money to the poorest among us, to those folks who find themselves unfortunately having to rely on social assistance for their livelihood, that significantly diminishes a family's ability to look after children in a way that speaks to nourishing food, warm clothing and quality housing so that when they come to school they're ready to learn.

If a child comes to school and he's hungry, he presents in a way that makes it very difficult for not only the child but also the teacher and can, if not looked after in a meaningful way, also present some problems for all the other children in the classroom and indeed for the community.

So it's in the context of children not having enough to eat and sometimes coming to school without proper clothing and perhaps from a home that doesn't have all the things that are needed in it for a dignified quality of life. You put that in the context of the diminishing services that are now in communities to support families who are struggling for one reason or another and you begin to see the problem that is coming to the fore and presenting itself every day at the doorstep of the schools as school officials begin to have to deal with this more and more.

I suggest to you that taking money out of the system, which is what Bill 34 gives school boards the ability to do, is going to diminish even more our ability as a society to educate, to have an educated workforce and to have people in it who are able to contribute and to maximize their potential; to continue to have Ontario be in the forefront of almost every sphere of life around the world and to be able to compete economically with other jurisdictions, not to mention the impact that the downsizing and the cutting of transfer payments to school boards and to municipalities will have on the property tax system and the amount of money that will take out of the pockets of ordinary citizens and their ability to support --

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): Cut the grants and taxes are going to go up.


Mr Martin: That's right, exactly. Cut the grants and taxes go up. I know in my own community, this is the first year in probably I would say four years -- that was while we were government -- they're going to have to increase property taxes. The separate school board, the public school board and the city are this year contemplating, for the first time in about four years, having to raise taxes. That's having a major impact on our community as well.

I want to talk for a few minutes about teachers and the impact this cut, this reduction in the amount of money going to school boards will have on teachers. As I said in my opening remarks, we have an excellent education system. We have an education system that's second to none anywhere, I suggest, in the world. It has its problems, there are challenges -- there always are challenges when you have a world that's changing as rapidly and as radically as the world we live in -- but it is nevertheless an excellent system.

It's excellent because we have excellent teachers. We have people working in our school system who have done the work that's required to make themselves the best they can be. I think I can speak to that with some qualification because I was a trustee for a few years before I got this job and, in my role as trustee, had some direct contact with the school system in my community and rubbed shoulders on various committees and in various ways with teachers in my city. I found them always professional, always ready to go the extra distance and always having the best interests of students front and centre in the things they think about and the things they do and the way they operate within our community.

What this piece of legislation is going to do is take away from them the ability to do what they do best. As a matter of fact, you think about the commitment and the investment these people have put into being good teachers; you think about the years that went into the education they require and, for so many of them, the hours after school taking extra courses and professional development; the marking and the time they spend with students, both for the students' benefit and for their own benefit, because they're learning when they're doing that; and the hours they spend during the summer away from their families. Oftentimes in my community, to take some of the courses you need to take as a teacher to upgrade your skills, you need to leave Sault Ste Marie and come to Toronto or London or some of the larger centres, and you sacrifice valuable family time so you can be the best you can be.

This piece of legislation we're looking at today here is going to see fewer and fewer of those people able to work in their chosen profession. You're going to see communities not being able to take advantage of the skills they have to offer. On one end, you're going to see seasoned teachers, teachers who have been around for a long time, teachers who are qualified, who have years of experience, taking early retirement packages and moving on.

It wasn't so long ago that we saw that as a good thing because we knew young teachers were coming in at the bottom end, but today, because of the cuts we're getting, that's not happening. We're not getting the same number of young teachers into the system and so it's not working the way it used to work. Because of what this government is doing, we're diminishing the ability of this wonderful profession to exercise its skill and to participate in the development of our young people and, through our young people, the development of our communities.

Just for a few minutes, because that's about all I have left, I want to talk about the fact that slowly but surely we're going to see the disappearance of junior kindergarten, a well-documented program that this government, without any substantiation, without any impact study, has decided is not important, is not worth investing in, is not worth putting the money into. It's gone.

Special education: We discovered, I think it was in the early 1980s, that it was important to put extra resources into making sure that those kids who are challenged in particular ways have the resources they need so they can overcome some of the challenges they face and be able to participate more fully in the communities where they live and work and play. Special education -- diminished. Special education in some instances, particularly in small communities where you don't have the property tax base -- gone.

Adult education, at a time when more and more adults are finding themselves out of work and need to have the opportunity to get back to school so they can be retrained and enter the new workplace with new skills -- gone, diminished, out the door. Speaking from the advantage of a medium-sized community in northern Ontario and speaking on behalf of my colleague from Cochrane North, places like Hearst and Kapuskasing, those communities, even more than places like Metro Toronto, are going to suffer because of the diminishing ability of school boards to offer adult education.

I, with my colleagues, suggest that Bill 34 is bad medicine for the province of Ontario.

Mr Bisson: I would like to congratulate my friend from Sault Ste Marie for the wonderful job he did. As the parliamentary assistant in the Ministry of Education for some five years, I'm sure the comments he made here were well shared among all the members of this House.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): Though I differed in some aspects of what he said, the member for Sault Ste Marie is always, in my view, thoughtful and worthy of listening to, and I appreciate that. What he says to the government is important. Bill 34 is not a bill about substantive reform of education in this province. Bill 34 will harm education. Bill 34 is forcing school boards to make difficult decisions that they shouldn't have to make, and the government itself backed off on making many of those decisions and didn't provide leadership in any way, shape or form.

The government of Ontario should be concerned about the quality of education offered to students in this province. That should be the first concern. They've demonstrated through Bill 34 that they're not. They've demonstrated that they're prepared to undo many of the great reforms achieved over many years by many governments, including Progressive Conservative governments. The passage of Bill 34 today I regret, we regret, and I congratulate my colleague from Sault Ste Marie for his eloquent defence of education in this great province.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Further statements and comments? The member for Sault Ste Marie has up to two minutes to respond.

Mr Martin: I really have nothing else to offer. I just want to thank my colleagues for their support.

The Speaker: Further debate? There's no further debate. Mr Snobelen has moved second reading of Bill 34. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members. Do we have consent for a five-minute bell? Agreed.

The division bells rang from 1759 to 1804.

The Speaker: Will the members take their seats, please.

We're voting on the motion standing in Mr Snobelen's name, Bill 34. All those in favour will please rise one at a time.


Baird, John R.

Guzzo, Garry J.

Preston, Peter

Barrett, Toby

Hardeman, Ernie

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Bassett, Isabel

Harnick, Charles

Ross, Lillian

Beaubien, Marcel

Hastings, John

Sampson, Rob

Boushy, Dave

Hodgson, Chris

Saunderson, William

Brown, Jim

Johns, Helen

Shea, Derwyn

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, Bert

Sheehan, Frank

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, David

Smith, Bruce

Clement, Tony

Johnson, Ron

Snobelen, John

Danford, Harry

Kells, Morley

Spina, Joseph

Ecker, Janet

Leach, Al

Sterling, Norman W.

Elliott, Brenda

Leadston, Gary L.

Stewart, R. Gary

Eves, Ernie L.

Marland, Margaret

Tascona, Joseph N.

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Tsubouchi, David H.

Flaherty, Jim

Maves, Bart

Turnbull, David

Ford, Douglas B.

Murdoch, Bill

Vankoughnet, Bill

Fox, Gary

Newman, Dan

Villeneuve, Noble

Froese, Tom

O'Toole, John

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Galt, Doug

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wood, Bob

Gilchrist, Steve

Palladini, Al


Grimmett, Bill

Pettit, Trevor


The Speaker: All those opposed to the motion, please rise one at a time.


Agostino, Dominic

Curling, Alvin

Morin, Gilles E.

Bartolucci, Rick

Duncan, Dwight

Patten, Richard

Bisson, Gilles

Gravelle, Michael

Phillips, Gerry

Boyd, Marion

Hoy, Pat

Pouliot, Gilles

Bradley, James J.

Kormos, Peter

Pupatello, Sandra

Brown, Michael A.

Kwinter, Monte

Ramsay, David

Christopherson, David

Laughren, Floyd

Ruprecht, Tony

Churley, Marilyn

Marchese, Rosario

Sergio, Mario

Colle, Mike

Martel, Shelley

Silipo, Tony

Conway, Sean G.

Martin, Tony

Wildman, Bud

Cooke, David S.

McGuinty, Dalton

Wood, Len

Cordiano, Joseph

McLeod, Lyn


Crozier, Bruce

Miclash, Frank


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 61; the nays are 37.

The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): No, Mr Speaker; the social development committee.

The Speaker: The social development committee.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made. The member for Fort William has given notice of dissatisfaction with an answer to her question given yesterday by the Minister of Education and Training. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter and the minister or the parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I have dissatisfaction with a great many of the answers, in fact with every answer this minister gives, and I have dissatisfaction with what this minister is doing, and not the least of my dissatisfactions is with this destructive bill that has just received second reading in this House.

But my specific notice of dissatisfaction was with the non-response I got when I asked the minister yesterday about a special deal that had been worked out for the Haliburton board of education. The facts in this situation remain indisputable after some 24 hours. The Haliburton board of education was going to get a $1.2-million reduction -- that's a 50% reduction -- in its grant support. The Minister of Natural Resources, who is also the member for Victoria-Haliburton, announced to his board that he was successful in getting that draconian cut reduced to some $315,000 -- a big change: $1.2 million reduced to $315,000.

The Minister of Education, when I asked him yesterday about this grant reduction, knew nothing, simply had no answers, didn't provide any information and just said there was no special deal. That was the first question in the House.

Later in the afternoon somebody did get a note to him. I want to acknowledge that. The minister was given some information after his staff scrambled to bring him up to date on what was happening in his ministry. He found indeed something had been done in Haliburton, and that he would now magnanimously review the grants that had been given to other boards of education to make sure that every board had been treated fairly and equitably. Amen to that, but one does wonder why you need to be reviewing grants which had just been announced the week before. Does the minister somehow think this was a gigantic mistake that had happened? I wonder how many other mistakes he thinks have happened in the grant announcements and the grant reductions he made to boards across this province just last week.


We have never seen anything like this before. Boards have never faced the kinds of cuts in grants, in support, that this government has introduced with its 9% across-the-board cuts and the billion-dollar impact in grant reductions on public boards alone in one single year.

The Haliburton board was about to face a 50% cut in its grant funding. No wonder they were facing an undue burden. No board could cope with a 50% cut in its grants. The question is, how was it going to happen in the first place, and how did this Minister of Education not know that the Haliburton board was about to be whacked with a 50% cut in grants? Why was it necessary for the Minister of Natural Resources, his colleague, to discover this and to have to go to him to get him to fix what was clearly an impossible situation?

Even more important, what happens to other boards that are facing cuts that are an undue burden? They've never faced these kinds of cuts before, and every board knows the level of cuts is intolerable if you want to protect classroom education.

So who's going to get their problem mitigated, if I can use the minister's word? The minister said today that the grants announced were draft grants. Now, we've never heard of a draft grant before either. Normally the grants are given out and that's what a board has to live with. Are the boards invited to consult on these draft grants? If the boards don't like them, are the boards able to come and say, "Minister, we don't think we can handle this"?

The Minister of Education has said over and over his cuts are not going to hurt classroom education. So if a board comes back and says, "Minister, that was simply not true; this cut is hurting classroom education," will it be able to get its grant cut mitigated so that in fact that cut is not going to put teachers out of work and increase class sizes and hurt classroom education and cancel junior kindergarten?

The minister says he has a criterion for consideration, that any board facing a cut of more than 15% will have its cut capped, but we don't know where that came from. I don't understand why, if that is something that has existed before, nobody in the Ministry of Education could tell us about it.

The fact is we've never faced this situation before. There have been rare occasions in the past where an industry closes, it's the only industry in the town, there's an undue burden, and there's relief. We've never had a $5-million slush fund before that the Minister of Education gets to allocate to whomever gets to him.

The central question here is, why did the Minister of Natural Resources have access to information about the grants to the Haliburton County Board of Education before those grants were announced? Why was he able to get his grant cut reduced before the grants were announced? We need to know who else had that information --

The Speaker: The member's time has expired. The minister, up to five minutes.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): In answer to the question from the Leader of the Opposition, I'll answer the question, although I want to point out, obviously, to everyone in the chamber and to the Speaker that if there is some reason why we're here this evening because a question was not answered properly, sometimes inside the editorial pieces in the question it's difficult to understand exactly what's been asked. If the member opposite is asking the same question as yesterday, although I'm not sure, that question was, has the ministry made a deal with the Haliburton board? The answer to that question is no, the same answer as it was yesterday.


Hon Mr Snobelen: Same answer as yesterday.

As far as a note being passed to me yesterday, I want to compliment the member opposite on the imagination that was used to generate that particular interpretation.

The ministry obviously has been talking to a variety of boards, many boards, across the province, particularly the small boards because, as members opposite I hope will recognize and I hope that they'll recognize this fact in our education system, small boards of under 10,000 have fewer chances to work in the time frames and to mitigate their costs. They also can be affected by assessment, they can be affected by enrolment, in ways that are not affected by large boards. I hope that they'll recognize that basic fact of our system.

After the ministry sends out its estimates of student population, of assessment and the GLGs, we get confirmation back from the boards, which we're now in the process of doing, of those estimates, we will have a look and make sure that those small boards are able to respond to the savings that we would like to find outside of the classroom in the education system.

What seems to me to be incredible is this: If there is some question -- although I can't understand personally why there would be some question -- about regulation 307 in the Education Act, perhaps the Leader of the Opposition could turn to the critic of this file, the member for Ottawa Centre, and inquire of him what happened in 1989 when there was a regulation 307 undue burden grant for $2.7 million made to the Ottawa-Carleton board in his area. I believe that the member opposite was a minister of the government at that time and obviously was very familiar at that time with reg 307, with undue burdens, and with making sure that boards that were affected by the GLGs were not unduly affected and were not carrying too big of a burden.

So some 30 times over the last 10 years governments have moved to make sure that boards were not adversely affected by GLG announcements. This government, I can assure the member opposite, as I did yesterday, will make sure that no board, particularly the small boards, are affected adversely by the GLG process.

I thank the chamber for this opportunity, Mr Speaker, you for this opportunity, to answer the question once again.

The Speaker: There being no further matters to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried.

This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1817.