36th Parliament, 1st Session

L065 - Mon 29 Apr 1996 / Lun 29 Avr 1996
















































The House met at 1333.




Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My statement is directed to the Minister of Education and Training. Minister, you've stated publicly from the beginning that you were going to create a crisis in education. Since that statement, you have systematically pitted school boards against teachers throughout the province, no matter what the cost to students.

As a result of your vague and irresponsible instructions found in the toolkit, we are witnessing unprecedented cuts to the classroom, thousands of teachers receiving layoff notices and essential programs being cut from school curriculums. Clearly, the only result your education policy is having is the destruction of small school boards throughout the province.

Over the last few days I have met with school board officials in my riding who did not make your list for assistance through the general legislative grant program. Boards such as the Kenora District Roman Catholic Separate School Board are at a loss to understand how you came up with your list.

Because of your cuts in funding, this board has issued layoff notices to 55 of 78 teachers. This represents 68% of the teaching staff of this board. Does the Minister of Education have any idea what an announcement such as this has on a small community such as Kenora?

The education of our children is vital. Ontario residents have had enough of the minister's lack of understanding and concern for their education. Parents, teachers, school board officials and even students are aware that changes need to be made in the system, but not at any cost; certainly not at the cost of our children's education.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I've had the opportunity over the past couple of weeks to meet with representatives of the forestry industry, and the tale they tell of this government in regard to its response to the latest countervail on behalf of the United States when it comes to lumber and the action taken by this government not to represent that industry speaks volumes about this government.

Imagine if you will Ontario, a jurisdiction that sees forestry as one of the largest and most important sectors of its economy. You would think the Ontario Mike Harris government would be there at the table, sitting down with the federal government and saying, "We are speaking on behalf of the Ontario Forestry Association and the industry."

No, quite to the contrary. The Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism and the Minister of Natural Resources are nowhere to be seen, and neither is the Premier.

We are finding out now that the federal government itself is going to be making decisions in regard to how much lumber will be allowed to be sold by way of quota and deciding which mills are going to get how much wood, and the Ontario government, which supposedly represents the industry, is nowhere to be found.

I say to this government directly, you have a responsibility as the government of Ontario to speak out on behalf of the forestry industry of this province, and if you are not going to do it, step aside and allow those who will, the New Democratic Party, to do it for you.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I rise in the House to inform all members about the concerns that a number of my constituents have regarding the recent escalation in the price of gasoline.

Recently a local Petro-Canada gas station allowed a number of local people to conduct a rally at its facility to protest against gasoline companies gouging consumers at the pumps.

The average price of a barrel of oil is presently at a four-year low when averaged over the entire year. Investment experts in the price of crude oil have indicated that a moderate increase in the price of one barrel of oil should not affect consumers at all. They've also indicated that a small increase should not affect consumers for at least six months.

People are increasingly concerned about 10- and 15-cent-per-litre price hikes. Ask anyone travelling on long weekends about price gouging. Tourism is too important to Ontario to have visitors travelling to other regions simply because of high gas prices. They are asking for a fair price based on the realistic price of gasoline as determined by the marketplace. Let the market dictate the price of gasoline and stop gouging the consumers of Ontario.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): As you are aware, last year Health Canada approved the drug 3TC in combination with AZT for the treatment of HIV-AIDS. It is yet to be added, however, to the Ontario drug benefit schedule.

For people living with HIV-AIDS, this drug can offer them hope of extending and improving their lives. The reported cost of this drug is $4.20 per pill, translating into a yearly cost of over $3,000. As you're also aware, HIV-AIDS is often a disease of poverty. The AIDS Committee of Thunder Bay reports that many of its clients are on social assistance, which puts them on a very limited and fixed income. Unless it is added to the schedule, there is no possible way that people who need the benefits of 3TC will have access to it.

Please note that 3TC was approved in combination with AZT, which, by the way, is on the schedule. Put yourself in the position of a doctor forced to tell a patient that there is a new drug on the market that has been approved for use in the fight against HIV-AIDS but that the cost must be borne by the patient. Put yourself in the position of the patient receiving this news.

The battle against HIV-AIDS is one that we cannot afford to lose. The more than 15,000 people across this province who have contracted this virus deserve more than that. The people in my riding living with AIDS deserve more than that.

I'd like to finish by commending the AIDS Committee of Thunder Bay and all such organizations across the province for their dedicated and compassionate work in our communities and to ask this government to hear their appeals for the addition of this drug to the Ontario drug benefit schedule.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): In a short while we will all, from all parties, take a moment to recognize yesterday, April 28, as the day of mourning for workers injured or killed on the job, and we know at that time that the minister will say, as she does, all the right things about health and safety and about accident prevention in the workplace, but we also know the reality, that this government has an agenda which means to take away rights and benefits workers have and protection they're entitled to in the workplace.

When the minister comments today I would ask her to recognize the fact that in the gallery with us is Karl Crevar, from my home town of Hamilton, who also happens to be the president of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups. When I travel the province and talk to those various groups about the killing of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency, the cutting of funding to the Workers' Health and Safety Centre, the attack on the WCB the minister responsible for gutting the WCB has undertaken, and when we talk about cuts in funding for mandatory training of health and safety officers inside the plant, people like Karl Crevar and others know that this government is no friend of workers and does not take seriously the issue of workplace health and safety, and their agenda proves it.


Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim, in the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. I rise to call to the attention of all members of this House that this past weekend marked an event of religious and ceremonial importance to the Muslim community of Ontario.

Eid-ul-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, recalls Abraham's -- in Arabic, Ibrahim's -- test of obedience when God ordered him to sacrifice his son, through an angel telling Abraham that his son's life be spared and then allowing a lamb to be sacrificed in his place.

In imitation of Abraham's submission to the will of God, millions of Muslims around the globe journeyed this weekend as pilgrims to El-Kaaba in Mecca. They walked seven times around the holy site in prayer, then travelled to the mountain where the prophet delivered one of his final messages to the followers.

Ontarians of all religions, cultures and backgrounds can learn a great deal from the sense of spiritual and personal renewal, and renewal in the commitment to community and family, which are the proud hallmark of the religious holiday of followers of Islam.

On this very special week in the Muslim month, I would like to extend our government's best wishes to the Muslim community of Ontario. Eid-Mubarak.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On the weekend of Saturday, April 27, and Sunday, April 28, the Dunai Ukrainian Folk Ensemble celebrated its 30th anniversary in St Catharines with a gala dinner-dance and concert.

I was pleased to be in attendance at the Sean O'Sullivan Theatre at Brock University as a spectacular performance was presented to a sold-out auditorium. Outstanding dancers, from beginners to the Dunai alumni, thrilled the enthusiastic audience with a breathtaking performance of agility, skill and stamina under the direction of some of the best choreographers in the country.

Beautiful voices in solo, trio and chorus entertained the appreciative crowd that filled every seat in the theatre. The Sunday afternoon concert brought back fond memories for performers and spectators alike, including choreographer Orest Samitz.

Thirty years ago, as Canada prepared for its centennial celebrations, the Ukrainian community of St Catharines set about to organize a dance group. Their goal was to teach Ukrainian dance to their children, to share their culture with fellow Canadians and to celebrate Canada's 100th birthday. The group formed was the Dunai Ukrainian Folk Ensemble. Since that time they have performed throughout Canada and the United States, the most memorable performances being for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Over the years, hundreds of young people have danced with Dunai. This weekend we, our entire community, celebrated our special contribution to St Catharines.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): It was my privilege yesterday to participate in the day of mourning ceremony in Sudbury. This ceremony, organized by our labour council, allows our community to honour those working men and women who have been injured, died or who have suffered industrial diseases in Ontario's workplaces.

This year's event was marked by tragedy and outrage. Our community is mourning the death of 49-year-old Raymond Courchesne of Alban, who was killed last Wednesday at Inco's Copper Cliff South mine. He was found pinned under a rockbolting machine. He had worked over 30 years for Inco and had never lost time due to a workplace injury. His death followed on the heels of the recent court case in which Inco was fined $525,000 in connection with the deaths of three miners in three different accidents.

Our community is also outraged that at this time the Solicitor General is proposing to amend the Coroners Act so that inquests are no longer mandatory for mining and construction deaths. The trade union movement fought long and hard to change laws to force mandatory inquests. They allow us to identify how a tragedy occurred and to make recommendations for change so no one else dies under similar circumstances, and they bring closure to the tragedy for the families who sit and suffer and wonder what went wrong and why.

Our community is calling upon the Solicitor General to immediately signal that mandatory inquests for death in the mining and construction industries will continue. On behalf of USWA Local 6500, Mine Mill-CAW Local 598 and regional council, I urge the minister to do the right thing today.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): In mid-December this government announced that some 76 patients with acquired brain injuries would be repatriated to Ontario. At that time, due to decisions by the previous government, these patients were being treated in the United States.

On Thursday, April 11, 1996, the honourable member for Perth asked the Minister of Health for an update on the repatriation of acquired brain injury patients. The minister at that time reported that nine patients had already returned home from the United States. I am pleased to report today that one of those patients who has been repatriated is a constituent of mine.

I have learned from the family of this patient how unsatisfactory it was to have their husband and father in the United States for treatment and how pleased they are to have him home. The patient's wife began a long process of advocating for the services her husband needed in February 1994. When it appeared that no residential program in Ontario could meet her husband's needs, he was transferred to the US.

His special needs have placed many strains on his family, and being separated from him by such a distance has been especially difficult. Gratefully, he arrived back in Ontario last week, and his wife and three young children will once again be able to re-establish their relationships.

I would like to thank the minister and his staff for the hard work they have done to provide this patient and other ABI patients with the best possible care and to reunite them with their families. Clearly, this government is reinvesting its health care dollars where the needs are clear --

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


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I'd like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today Mr U.N.B. Rão, deputy commissioner of police from New Delhi, India. Welcome to our guest.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting our government's first budget, for the fiscal year 1996-97, on Tuesday, May 7 at 4 pm.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I appreciate that lengthy statement.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): We haven't had time to analyse it yet.

Mr Phillips: That's right. I'll just deal with the highlights of the statement and leave the detail for later.

Obviously, we're looking forward to the budget. Forgive me for saying I'm sorry you didn't present one last year, for the first time in the history of the province, but we are looking forward to it.

For our caucus, probably the primary litmus test, the thing we'll be looking for most in the budget, is the impact on jobs. We were very disappointed in your fiscal statement, in that that document -- this is the government's own document -- actually shows that the number of people out of work in the province of Ontario in 1996 goes up from 1995, and then in 1997 it increases over 1996. Of all the things in the fiscal statement, that was probably the thing we were most concerned and most disappointed about, the fact that we continue to see the number of people out of work in the province of Ontario growing. Frankly, we're convinced this budget will not show that, and we will be looking first and foremost at the impact on jobs.


Clearly the second thing is, and there's absolutely no question, the budget will contain the tax cut. We have no doubt of that. We have no doubt that when the minister announces it here, you'll all be on your feet. This will be well cued, a standing ovation. We have no doubt you're all scheduled for your service club speeches and the chamber of commerce speeches and what not.

The questions, however, we'll ask about the tax cut are the following.

The first, Minister, as you point out in this document, is that the debt of the province will go up over the next three years by $20 billion. Those are your numbers. The debt of the province of Ontario will increase by $20 billion. For every family of Ontario out there watching this now, your debt, the amount that you owe, will go up by $8,000, and as the government is anxious to and loves to point out, we're spending $1 million an hour to pay the interest on the debt. We all know that. Young people in the province wake up with nightmares about it. You've done a great job of convincing people.

Hon Mr Eves: Why?

Mr Phillips: I love this. The minister says, "Why?" It's because none of the caucus realized that the Minister of Finance, when he was in the government before, approved the single largest increase in the personal income tax rate in the history of the province. That's when he was there before.

I carry this around with me. I've been provoked. For everybody out there, this is the last time a Conservative government balanced the budget in the province of Ontario.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): In 1969.

Mr Phillips: That's 1969, as my colleague points out. So I have very little respect for your ability to manage the finances of the province.

If things are so difficult -- and they are -- that you are going to have to increase the debt of the province by $20 billion, how in the world can the people of Ontario afford a tax cut that will cost you, in lost revenue, $10 billion? You're going to add $20 billion to the debt of the province and you're going to provide a $10-billion tax cut, all of it borrowed money. Every penny of that tax cut is borrowed money.

The people of Ontario will be applauding you, saying, "Thank you very much for the tax cut," and now they'll realize that it's a bit of a fairy tale. We're getting the tax cut, the people of Ontario, all with borrowed money. You'll be out there saying, "Why, we've done a great job giving you a tax cut," and the people of Ontario will realize that you are increasing the debt of this province by $20 billion over the next three years. Those are your numbers. They might be slightly different in the budget, but those are those numbers that you provided a mere few months ago. You are going to provide a $10-billion tax break and you're going to borrow every penny of that, every penny of it.

I will say further that if you're making $150,000 in this province, when this tax cut is implemented you are going to get a $6,000 tax break. So all the people out there who are seeing their hospital beds closing, who are seeing their classroom teachers being laid off, who are seeing fewer and fewer police should recognize why that is happening: to fund a $6,000 tax cut for people making $150,000 in this province. There's an issue of fairness that we will be looking for in the budget too.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): On behalf of my party, let me say to the finance minister that we are delighted to hear that he is finally coming forward with the budget, although it probably confuses a lot of people in the province to hear that there hasn't been a budget since 1994, that this government has made the most severe spending cuts, the most severe program cuts ever in the history of the province without ever coming up with a budget that shows the cumulative effect of those cuts and without balancing those cuts off.

This government is very fond of talking about the fact that this province has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. That's why they blithely forgo revenue from a number of different areas, because they are trying to fool the people of Ontario into believing that the tax cut, which is the cornerstone of their entire platform, will not cost them money.

To that end, they have gone through a series of exercises, three different announcements around spending cuts. The first was on July 21, which cut $1.9 billion from the expenditures, and the biggest one of that of course was the 22% cut in welfare payments. Then on November 29, the 1995 Fiscal and Economic Statement cut another $4.5 billion to $5.5 billion out of the existing budget of the province, and we believe and our figures show that those cuts will annualize to approximately $8 billion when all that was announced in November is finally implemented. And then, included in that November statement was the $1.6-billion place-holder the government had, which rolled out in the so-called business plans that were present in this Legislature a couple of weeks ago.

Those business plans were supposed to tell the people of Ontario exactly where cuts were happening and what the effect of those cuts would be on services and on jobs. Yet in this House we heard the finance minister say, first of all, there had been no impact statements done around those business plans, and then when pressed he said in fact in some cases there was no business plan, that the details were not there, that he couldn't present the details because the details were not complete.

To date, this government has shown itself to be so concerned with getting to the tax cut they promised as part of their platform that they have tried a series of smoke-and-mirror statements to try and convince the people of Ontario that somehow when they do come down with the budget it will be a good-news budget.

There's no other reason for this rollout of cuts well ahead of a budget except for the very strong effort that this finance minister is making to try and tell the people of Ontario that when he presents a budget, it will be a good-news budget.

The government needs to be aware that the people of Ontario are a bit more sophisticated than that, that the people of Ontario understand that this government has cut and cut and cut so that in the long run they can announce, as if it were good news, the fact that they will be borrowing an additional $20 billion on top of the existing deficit to pay for a tax cut.

People in this province are not so stupid that they do not understand that when a government cuts the revenues coming into the province by up to $8 billion a year they need to cut spending, they need to cut jobs to try and make this look like good news.

We will be reminding the people of the province that if this finance minister attempts in his budget to present it as good news and to separate the budget from the bad news, from the severe cuts that have happened to services and to jobs in this province, he is not going to get away with it. He is underestimating the intelligence and the integrity of the people of Ontario, and he is underestimating the response that they will have to a shell game such as he's trying to present.

When he announces the date of the budget, as though this is a big fanfare, he needs to be aware that it is good news that we're going to finally have a budget, but most of the cuts and most of the problems have been hidden by this finance minister in a series of statements away from a budget, and we will not be fooled.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today a delegation from Italy headed by the Honourable Domenico Maroscia, Premier of the Basilicata region of Italy. Welcome to our guests.

The Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent for statements with regard --

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): -- to members' statements on the day of mourning for injured workers.

The Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): Yesterday and today working people around Ontario have paused and will pause and observe a day of mourning for our fellow citizens who have been injured or killed on the job.

More than 2,200 people have been killed at work or died as the result of an occupational disease over the last eight years. Over that same period, more than three million claims have been registered with the Workers' Compensation Board. In 1995, there were 250 job-related deaths registered with the board. More than 375,000 claims were filed in that year.

The cost to our economy of this human tragedy amounts to literally billions of dollars. More important, the cost to our friends and neighbours who are the victims, and to their families, is immeasurable.

Over the last 10 years, much progress has been made in reducing lost-time accidents, injuries and deaths. We in Ontario must continue to pursue a policy which will contribute to a reduction in the incidence of workplace injuries and fatalities. We must also ensure that our fellow citizens who suffer the misfortune of a workplace injury continue to be fairly and adequately compensated.

Each of us knows someone who has been injured or killed in the workplace. Just last week, Raymond Courchesne, with more than 30 years' mining experience, was killed in Sudbury.

All of us in our party join with our colleagues in the Legislature as we observe a moment and pay tribute to those who have died, and we vow to continue the fight for the living.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Today we commemorate one of the most important days on the calendar for working people in Ontario. This day is set aside to honour the memory of workers who have died from occupational disease or from accidents on the job, and to rededicate ourselves to eliminating injuries and fatalities from Ontario's workplaces.

Workers gathered yesterday in my home town of Hamilton and in communities all across Ontario to share a moment of silence, grief and commitment.

The choice of April 28 for this commemoration is full of meaning itself. This date marks the anniversary of passage of Ontario's first Workers' Compensation Act in 1914. This historic compromise has served both workers and employers well, but it has never been possible to take this achievement for granted. So much remains to be done to make sure that workplace health and safety has the top priority it deserves with workers, employers and the government.

The day of mourning has been observed in Ontario since 1988, when a resolution introduced by former Premier Bob Rae, then Leader of the Opposition, passed this House unanimously. The federal Parliament in 1991 declared April 28 as a national day of mourning. The idea has also spread to the United States and Australia, where unions are urging official observance in those countries.

In 1995, according to the Workers' Compensation Board, there were 218 deaths recorded from workplace accidents and occupational disease, a slight increase from 207 deaths in 1994. A total of 376,186 claims were recorded at the WCB last year, of which 117,790 were serious enough to cause lost time from work. In fact, each year about six billion working days are lost by injured workers in Ontario. This is an unacceptable toll for our province and its economy, but even more for the families and loved ones of the workers who needlessly put their bodies and lives on the line.

When we think of more than 200 workplace deaths or hundreds of thousands of injuries, we begin to live more in the realm of statistics than of human tragedy. That's why it's fitting to reflect for a moment on a particular example of this plague of death and injury such as what happened recently in my home town of Hamilton.

William Allan Morden, a garbage collector who had worked for the city for 20 years, died in hospital after being hit by a pickup truck and pinned against the rear of his garbage truck. Our thoughts are with his two sons and with all his colleagues and loved ones who have suffered this loss.

The Ministry of Labour has recommended alternative methods of collection or modification to the trucks that could make sure no one in the future is injured or killed as a result of this type of accident.

The least we owe to workers like William Morden or Ray Courchesne, who was killed last week in Sudbury, or Sean Kells, and to their friends and families is our fullest commitment to the best possible workplace health and safety training and to the elimination of workplace hazards. My colleagues and I in the NDP caucus are pleased to join all members of the House in a minute of silence to honour the memory of those fallen workers.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): Yesterday and today across Ontario and across Canada, workers have joined together in remembrance of those who have lost their lives or suffered injury or illness in the workplace. This is a day of mourning. It is a day to reflect on the terrible human costs of all workplace illnesses, injuries and fatalities and the tragic impact they have on the families who are impacted.

As well, it is a day for the government, for labour and for management to reaffirm our shared commitment to the prevention of illness and injury, for health and safety is not a partisan issue; it is a human issue. We must acknowledge that partnerships are the key to success in developing and delivering the health and safety programs and training that will prevent future illness and injury.

It's for this reason that I want to congratulate Paul Kells who vowed to honour his 19-year-old son's death by trying to ensure that another death would not occur and for establishing the Safe Communities Foundation. This unique public and private sector partnership has as its goal the reduction of injuries and illness in the workplace, in the home and in the community. Certainly this supports the government's objective of setting performance standards to make sure that we do achieve progressive reductions in injuries and illness in Ontario each year.

However, much more remains to be done and will be done as we strive to improve our legislation and our programs. I would like to commend the labour movement for its initiative in establishing this annual day of mourning and I would encourage everyone in this House and outside of this House to continue to work cooperatively in order that we can achieve our common goal of preventing injuries and illness.

At this moment, I would ask everyone to stand for a moment of silence in order that we can remember those who were injured or lost their lives, and let us again commit ourselves to continue the pursuit of workplace health and safety.

The House observed one minute's silence.




Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Minister of Finance and it has to do with his announcement today on the budget. I think people in Ontario appreciate that we have a debt and a deficit problem and probably would agree it's our number one fiscal problem. Jobs are our number one economic problem, but this is our number one fiscal problem.

I think that's the reason the government has had some support for its expenditure cuts, not necessarily universal support but support for it. But people are starting to ask this question: If the deficit and debt is such a huge problem, and it is, how can we afford the tax cut? As you point out in this document, you plan to add about $20 billion to our debt over the next three years. That's your fiscal plan. That's the most recent plan we have from you. That's the plan you have outlined for us. In the budget, I gather, it will be somewhat less than that, but that's the number you have given us. That's about $8,000 a family in brand-new debt in this province.

At the same time, it is the government's plan to proceed with a very substantial tax cut. We realize the government may very well be popular on that, but you are going to add $10 billion of that $20-billion debt as a result of the tax cut. Those are your own numbers. The Premier shakes his head, but they are their own numbers that he ran on during the campaign, the direct fiscal impact of the Common Sense Revolution; not my numbers, your numbers, the numbers we assume we have to use.

My question to the Minister of Finance is this: If the debt and deficit are such huge problems, how can we afford a $10-billion tax cut, all with borrowed money, when we have this enormous debt and deficit problem?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): First of all, the honourable member for Scarborough-Agincourt makes it sound as if we are going to go out and borrow an extra $20 billion because we're doing this and this. He knows full well that the reason for the increase in the debt is because there is an accumulated debt now in the province of Ontario of $100 billion. Quite frankly, if we had continued with the same spending habits and methods of the two previous administrations, by the year 2000 the figure for interest on the debt alone would be $20 billion a year.

Out of a budget of some $42 billion for program spending, how many hospital beds would be open then? How many senior citizens would we be helping? How many children and disadvantaged people could we afford to help if we continued along the lines of the two previous administrations?

Any actions we have taken are to deal with that expenditure appetite of the two previous administrations, to get our expenditures under control in the province of Ontario, to balance the budget by the year 2000-2001, which, by the way, we will be doing, and then we can start to turn this ship around for the betterment of future generations of Ontarians.

Mr Phillips: Eventually you're going to have to answer this argument, this question, and to an extent you confirmed my worst suspicions. You never answered the question and you pointed out that the interest on the debt is a huge problem for all of us.

My question is quite simple, though. If in fact it is -- and it is, and the numbers you quoted are your numbers. You're going to borrow an extra $20 billion. You're going to add $20 billion to the debt over the next three years, and over half of that is a result of your tax cut. These are your own numbers. You say your tax cut is going to cost $10 billion, and I would appreciate -- and the people of Ontario would appreciate -- an answer to the question, because you refused to answer it.

If the debt is such a huge problem and the interest on the debt is such a huge problem, tell the people of Ontario how we can afford a $10-billion tax cut, using all borrowed money. This is all borrowed money. You are going to go and borrow the $20 billion, bring it in and put $10 billion out in the form of a tax cut. Tell us how we can afford a $10-billion tax cut.

Hon Mr Eves: There is one thing that apparently the honourable member and his party don't seem to understand and that is that 8.8% of Ontarians are unemployed today. Why are they unemployed? They are unemployed because of the policies of the two previous administrations, in large part.

We not only have to get our own house in order, we have to also allow hard-working, honest, taxpaying Ontarians to keep more of the money they have earned -- not us here in this place -- so they can spend it as they see fit, which in turn --


Hon Mr Eves: I know they find this hard to believe -- will stimulate the economy, create more employment. There'll be more people working, more people paying taxes, revenues will go up and people will feel as if they've been treated in a fair and equitable fashion and that there's some hope and opportunity in Ontario.

Mr Phillips: We'll be very interested to debate. Talk about fairness -- I will just say that hospitals are closing in this province, classrooms teachers are being laid off, we're having fewer police in this province, you are cutting the agricultural budget. And why? Because with this tax cut, if you're making $150,000 in this province, you are going to get a $6,000 tax break after the fair share health levy. Not before the fair share health levy; after the fair share health levy. So it is fairness.

I think the people of Ontario realize that the government is going to have to go out and borrow every penny of this. You are going to borrow the money to give people making $150,000 a year a $6,000 tax break. That's what fairness is all about. And why? You are cutting expenditures, by your own admission, far deeper than you promised in the campaign, in fact over a third deeper than you promised in the campaign, but you have decided that you're not going to touch the tax break. You're going to cut far deeper in health care, education, policing, law enforcement and agriculture to fund this tax break.

How is it that you have planned to cut expenditures at least a third deeper than you said during the campaign, but you can still afford a tax cut that will give someone making $150,000 a year $6,000 more in take-home pay?

Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member knows full well that the reason there is $2 billion approximately more in expenditure reductions is because of the fact that the previous administration had miscalculated revenues and expenditures and we had to address that and we did, after being in office for three and a half weeks, on July 21.

Second, we can't afford not to allow Ontarians to keep some of their hard-earned money.

I will tell you about the approach of previous administrations. Under the Rae government, for example, which increased taxation by $4 billion overall, in the year 1990-91 their tax revenues were $33.6 billion. Then they raised taxes $4 billion, and in the fiscal year 1993-94 they got $31.8 billion, almost $2 billion less in revenue by increasing taxes by $4 billion. We obviously know that theory doesn't work.

Let me also tell you about the state of Michigan. The state of Michigan, in the last four years, has decreased taxes 21 times. In 1991 their unemployment rate was 8.8% and today it is 4.4%, and their tax revenues went from $3.8 billion to $5 billion. Wouldn't that be terrible if the same thing happened here in Ontario?

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): New question, the Leader of the Opposition.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I can only assume that the Conservative collective memory only begins in 1985, so the minister can't remember the largest tax increases --

The Speaker: Who's your question to?

Mrs McLeod: My question is for the Premier.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Premier, while you were out of town last week, your Minister of Education and Training gave some rather unsatisfactory responses on questions that we raised in the House. I wanted to ask you about these responses.

One of the issues that we raised was an agreement that your minister forced on the Metropolitan Toronto School Board. The agreement allowed your government to raid the property tax base of Metro Toronto for some $65 million to help to pay for that income tax cut that will be in your budget.

I'm sure you're aware that when we raised this issue with the minister on Wednesday he denied the existence of any agreement at all. When we produced a copy of the signed agreement on Thursday, he switched gears faster than Jacques Villeneuve could. He said that whereas on Wednesday there had not been an agreement, on Thursday there was an agreement, but since he hasn't been able to deliver on his part of the deal he considered that agreement to be null and void and now he needs a new one.

He also said, or tried to say, that the deal was only about making social contract cuts permanent. Well, clearly that was part of another deal and this was another $65 million that he was taking from Metro Toronto taxpayers.

Clearly the minister was trying to hide the fact that your government is planning to raid the local tax base in both Metro Toronto and Ottawa, and the minister was trying to hide the fact that this was already happening.

I ask you today, does this type of behaviour meet your standard of conduct for ministers?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I'm not sure why the answers weren't satisfactory to the member on Thursday, but I'm sure they will be from the Minister of Education and Training today.


Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I would be delighted once again today to inform the Leader of the Opposition that this government intends to reduce the costs of education outside of the classroom, and we intend to do that in partnership with the boards of education across the province. It may startle the Leader of the Opposition to believe that people would work together to find a more affordable system for the taxpayers of Ontario while still looking for high levels of student achievement, because that's what students and parents and educators expect in this province. It may startle the Leader of the Opposition that that's possible, but that is what this government is doing and that is what we expect of our education partners across the province.

I believe the Leader of the Opposition has already said that, yes, this government fully acknowledges that it wishes to enter into an agreement with Metropolitan Toronto -- we have said that on many occasions -- and when we get the permission in Bill 34, we intend to have open negotiations, honest negotiations, with our partners in education and arrive at an agreement. As I said last week, when that agreement is arrived at, I'll be proud and pleased to lay it on the table here in the Legislature.

Mrs McLeod: I am more than a little surprised that the Premier was not prepared to defend his minister. Maybe that's because there is no way this Premier could have any consistency in his own statements and still defend what this minister is doing.

I would remind the Premier, and perhaps the Minister of Education should be aware, that on June 14, 1993, when the now Premier was in opposition, he raised exactly this same issue with the former Minister of Education. When the NDP announced in the social contract that it was raiding the property tax base in Metro Toronto, this Premier, then an opposition leader, spoke out very forcibly against it, and I have his words right here in Hansard. What the words in Hansard say is that the Premier, at that time, was very concerned that the New Democratic Party government would do exactly what his Minister of Education has now done: threaten the board that if they don't pay up, he would find other ways to take money from local property taxpayers.

I guess I have to ask the Minister of Education, since the Premier has referred the question, do you have any idea, Minister, why your Premier has changed since he spoke out against raiding local property taxes when the NDP did it? And can you tell us why he as well as you now seems to be in favour of taking some $75 million from local taxpayers in Toronto and Ottawa?

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

Hon Mr Snobelen: I can clear the dilemma up for the Leader of the Opposition, because now I understand why there is a dilemma for her. This government has not threatened anyone, nor does it intend to.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, I understand, because you have repeatedly said in this House that there was nothing forceable about the deal you would make with Metro Toronto or Ottawa, that the legislation you were bringing in would simply allow the boards of Toronto and Ottawa to voluntarily make a contribution towards your government's income tax cut.

But I have to tell you that back in 1993, Mike Harris was very sceptical about why any board would voluntarily write a cheque to the government to help it out of its financial dilemma. In fact, the Premier, who was then an opposition leader, asked the government very specifically what other means the government would use "to extract" -- those were the Premier's, then opposition leader's, words -- money from the boards.

I want the Premier to know that his minister has found the answer to the question he asked almost three years ago. He has found the means of extracting -- and here it is, and the word is exactly the same -- first, $75 million from Metro Toronto and then $65 million. Minister, are you expecting, given what he has said in the past, that your Premier will now instruct you to stop trying to take property tax dollars from Metropolitan Toronto and Ottawa to pay for your income tax cut?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I can assure the honourable member opposite that what the Premier expects and what every member of our caucus expects, what all my colleagues expect, is for this ministry and this minister to take on the horrible funding mess that has been left to us by the previous government and the $100 billion in debt that's been left on top of this province by the previous government.

This ministry and this minister, all my colleagues, expect us to take on these issues and to find a better way, to find a more affordable, higher-quality, more accountable education system. They expect us to do that in the fiscal realities that have been left to this government, with the remnants of the social contract the member opposite brought up in her question earlier. What's expected is a better, fairer education system, a fairer funding system, better value for our taxpayers and better student achievement for the young people of Ontario. That is what my colleagues expect, that is what this Premier expects and that is what we'll deliver on. Thank you.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): If I could just have a few seconds of your time, we have former Speaker Warner in the visitors' gallery today.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): My question is to the minister without portfolio responsible for gutting the WCB. On this day, when we all stood in the House and recognized the day of mourning, on this day, when we all stood in this House and pledged to recognize the importance of health and safety in the workplace, we had the hypocrisy of you, on behalf of the Mike Harris government, actively putting together a plan that is meant to slash benefits to injured workers.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. That is an unacceptable word. Would the member please withdraw the word "hypocrisy."

Mr Christopherson: Mr Speaker, with respect, I didn't accuse the minister.

The Speaker: Withdraw the word "hypocrisy," please.

Mr Christopherson: If I have said something unparliamentary, I do indeed take it back.

Minister, we have the spectacle of your ministry, on behalf of the Mike Harris government, actively putting together a plan designed solely to slash benefits of injured workers. We know your report is meant to build the case that would somehow try and justify this attack on innocent injured workers, and we also know that much of your report does not hold up to scrutiny.

For example, on page 26 you write, "In Quebec, an employer pays an injured worker's full salary for the first 14 days." I have a copy of a letter that was sent to you on March 9 from the assembly of injured workers of Quebec where they said very bluntly, "This is absolutely wrong," and explained that the WCB in Quebec pays the worker 90% of net just like here in Ontario. Minister, I'd like to know how this mistake happened and what you're planning to do about it.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): I want to thank the member opposite for his question. I want to indicate it is no secret that the WCB has been in severe difficulty for a fairly long period of time. The member opposite sat in the cabinet of a government that undertook reforms that racheted down worker benefits in this province, and still the unfunded liability laid at about $14 billion. The member opposite, while his government was in power, undertook a royal commission to wander about analysing the issues around workers' compensation.


The truth is that decisive action has to be taken, that the unfunded liability is still a serious problem for this province and for the injured workers this fund is there to protect. The member opposite is very much aware that the discussion paper put out for consideration by injured workers, for labour groups in this province, for health care professionals, was an examination of a variety of options to find the best balance and the best solutions for injured workers and employers in this province.

The commitment from the Mike Harris government clearly is to get the Workers' Compensation Board back on a strong financial footing and to produce a balance between those worker benefits and employer affordability so that this province can remain competitive now and into the future.

Mr Christopherson: Mr Speaker, you notice that this is the second time I've asked the minister a question about the accuracy of his report and in both cases he's refused to answer the question.

The last question I asked him on this was about the report that claimed our Ontario rates were higher than American rates. I pointed to a report the federal government had commissioned by KPMG Peat Marwick which makes the case that our rates are competitive with the Americans and in fact are lower than, and he refused to answer that question when I pointed it out to him. I have a third example. In the same letter from the assembly of injured workers of Quebec, they point out that your statement about paying life pensions in lump sums is "absolutely wrong." Minister, that's the second one. They go on to say, "Unfortunately on these two occasions what is written about our system is false."

Minister, when you talk about the finances, we know that the unfunded liability has dropped two years in a row, by over half a billion dollars alone last year. Assets are now up over $7 billion. I've pointed out three instances where your report is factually incorrect. When will you stand up and admit that report is not an accurate reflection of the facts and it's meant to put up a phoney argument to give you an excuse to slash benefits of injured workers?

The Speaker: The question's been asked.

Mr Christopherson: Minister, admit the truth.

Hon Mr Jackson: The member opposite raises with conjecture concerns about the competitive rate for Ontario with its WCB. I want to apprise the member opposite. The report very carefully selected those American jurisdictions which we trade with, which are closest to our borders, which have a huge impact in auto production, like Ohio and Michigan. The member should be fully aware, and I'd be surprised if he isn't, that the Ontario WCB system is constructed and structured on 175% of the average industrial wage, whereas in those jurisdictions we're competing with on a daily basis, for jobs and for exports, in Ohio and in Michigan, our largest trading partner outside Canada, they are calculated on 100% of the industrial wage in the United States.

It tends to lower their rates and ours are considerably higher. Our benefit levels are higher; our calculation and the formula's higher. Quite frankly, the member knows this, but he is sticking to this presumption that these suggestions of how Ontario is less than competitive are not valid. The truth is that the proposals put in this report clearly enunciate data that are shared by all WCBs across Canada and those were the data that were put into this report.

Mr Christopherson: Clearly, this minister has dropped the ball on this particular aspect of what he's been given. This report is not an accurate reflection of the facts. I've made that allegation here today; I've made it before. You refuse to respond. You dance around the issue. The fact of the matter is your report doesn't hang together. The facts are incorrect; the suppositions are incorrect; everything in there that you're trying to create a smokescreen from which you can go after injured workers is a sham.

Karl Crevar is here from the network of injured workers all across Ontario. You tell him right now why it is that you feel you've got the right, based on your report, to go after innocent injured workers. Tell that representative of injured workers right there where you get off going after injured workers.

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to share two important pieces of information, not only with the member opposite but also with Karl Crevar, who's in the House today.

You have alluded to the fact that the workers' compensation system in the province of Ontario has had one good, positive performance year, the last half of 1995. The single largest impact that was felt was a $300-million growth in assessable employment revenue, a growth in payable payroll in this province, predominantly as a result of growth in the auto sector as signalled by the election of this government. The turnaround in the WCB is a growth of $300 million on employment growth.

The other point that I'll share with the member opposite is that when he was sitting on this side of the House, his government's approach to fixing the WCB was to reduce the unfunded liability of about $40 billion by $19 billion --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to assure the members of this House that the Mike Harris government will approach the reform of the WCB with balance and that under no circumstances will our reduction be any greater. It'll be much less than the $19 billion that you and the NDP disfranchised injured workers from --

The Speaker: Order. The question has been answered.

New question?

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): I have a question for the Minister of Finance, but he appears to have left, so I'll stand it down until he returns.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I attended the day of mourning in Sudbury. The theme of the day was, "Remember the dead but fight for the living." With that in mind, I have a question to the Solicitor General.

On Wednesday, cabinet received the Ontario Law Reform Commission's report on the law of coroners, and discussed it, I presume. On April 15, the Minister of Labour said that she would be meeting with you. Have you met with the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and the Attorney General to discuss the recommendations found in this report? Could you please inform the House what the recommendation of the commission is regarding mandatory coroners' inquests and do you agree with it?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): The member is correct with respect to the fact that the report was tabled with cabinet this past week, but we have not had an opportunity to meet to discuss its recommendations.

Mr Bartolucci: I find that answer so distasteful in the light of what we're recognizing today. Recommendation 24 --


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

Mr Bartolucci: If you haven't had time to read it and discuss it, let me tell you what it says: "Inquests should continue to be mandatory when a person dies while employed on a construction site or in a mine pit or quarry." It should be mandatory.

Again to the Solicitor General, do you agree with the recommendation and, if so, will you reconsider your ill-advised, ill-timed and illogical decision not to have mandatory inquests?

Hon Mr Runciman: I indicated earlier with respect to the changes to the Coroners Act that they will require the involvement of this Legislature. There will be public hearings through that process, and if there are legitimate concerns, they will be heard and recognized by this government.

Mr Bartolucci: Mr Speaker, on a point of order --

The Speaker: There's nothing out of order.

Mr Bartolucci: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: On this particular day, to get a non-answer to a very serious question --

The Speaker: Order. Will the member take his seat. I'll have to name the member if he won't take his seat.

Question from the third party.



Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Education and Training. Over the past few months, we've been witnessing your cuts to post-secondary education to the tune of about $400 million, and we're seeing programs cut and faculty layoffs at the post-secondary level. You've told us that tuition fees are going to rise by 15% at the college level and about 20% at the university level next year. While you're doing this, you've said, "Well, don't worry, there's going to be an income contingency plan in place," but we are fearful that it will not be in place in time for the new tuition fees when they click in.

On April 17, your Premier said in this House, "We want to see the full income-contingent loan program, on which we now have agreement from the federal government, under way at the same time as there are any further increases" in tuition fees.

Minister, I ask you this question about that agreement with the federal government because last week, in an amazing display of dexterity and footwork, you said that you didn't have an agreement with the Metro Toronto school board, until someone waved a signed copy in front of you.

Is there an agreement, another secret agreement, with the federal government on the income-contingent loan program or not? If there is, will you table it here today? If there's not, what in the world was the Premier talking about?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): There is no secret about the fact that this government intends to work to an income-contingent loans package for students. We think that is what's needed. We said that publicly in 1992. We said it again before the election. I know this is a little strange, but we put that in a communiqué we sent to all the people of Ontario and said, "This is what we stand for and this is what we, as a party, believe in and this is what we're moving forward on." So there is no secret to that. We are working on that and we will continue to work on it. I hope one day to be able to bring that deal forward to this Legislature.

Mr Laughren: At least it's clear now that the Premier was blowing smoke when he said that we now have an agreement from the federal government. That is not correct. I assume that's what the Minister of Education is saying, that the Premier was dead wrong when he said he had an agreement with the federal government, and he said it in this House, as I recall.

He's shaking his head. How can you say no?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I said they agreed it was a good idea.

Mr Laughren: No, no. I'll read the quote again. Obviously the Premier didn't hear his own quote. He said, "We want to see the full income-contingent loan program, on which we now have agreement from the federal government...." That sounds like an agreement to me. If that's not an agreement, then I don't know what an agreement is. We must have another secret deal under way here that the Minister of Education -- that the Premier hasn't told the Minister of Education about, or vice versa. I'm not sure what it is any more.

Carrying on with the similar theme of post-secondary education in the province, the minister has been promising since the beginning of the year that there would be a white paper to discuss the future of post-secondary education in this province. We know that you're having a lot of problems with this, and we understand that, and you've gone through a number of drafts, I believe. But now students are finishing their exams and soon will be out there looking for jobs; they won't be on the university campuses across the province.

You've been telling us now since January that the release of this post-secondary discussion paper will be soon. Would you tell us: When in the world is soon?

Hon Mr Snobelen: One of the things that's become very clear from our conversations with our federal counterparts in discussing income-contingent loans is that there might very well be a package of income-contingent loans available to students in this province. We might have been able to do that much quicker had the previous administration, the previous government, not opposed it, not frustrated the attempts at arriving at an agreement with the federal government, and that has become abundantly clear.

As it relates to the discussion paper, yes, as a government we believe it's important to have a public dialogue on some of the very important issues that are facing us in our post-secondary sector. This includes accessibility and of course a fair share of the cost of post-secondary education. We think that and other issues need to be discussed in a public way, in a full way, and we will be releasing a discussion paper on those subjects very soon.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Minister of Finance. Minister, you and the Premier have both stated several times that your government will create 725,000 jobs through your term and you will use a tax break to do it. According to your trickle-down economics theory, you say your tax break will create jobs because people will spend the money they get from the tax break, and that spending will create confidence and jobs will be created as well.

Now we find out from an Environics poll --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The members for Etobicoke West and Nepean, please come to order.

Mr Hampton: I know that this government doesn't want to hear from anyone who disagrees with it, but the fact is the Environics poll has tested people in the province and the majority of people have said they don't intend to spend any tax break. They're worried about their economic future and they're going to save the tax break. In fact, over 55% of Ontarians say they'll put any money from the tax break in the bank. So can the Minister of Finance tell us how his Conservative government will create 725,000 jobs over the next three years if the majority of people aren't going to spend the tax break and they're not going to stimulate the economy and they're not going to create new jobs?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): First of all, I don't rely upon Environics polls to tell me much of anything.


Hon Mr Eves: We don't rely on polls.

Apparently the member wasn't here earlier in question period to listen to the member for Scarborough-Agincourt's question and my response. I know he finds this difficult to believe, but in jurisdictions where they've actually lowered the rate of taxation, they have created jobs and increased revenue.

Mr Hampton: It's interesting. Every time the Minister of Finance comes to the House, he tries to create a different spin. A month ago this spin was he cited an economist, Patti Croft of Canada Trust, and Miss Croft said -- and she was very clear -- the tax break would create new jobs only if it boosted consumer spending and that consumer spending resulted in new jobs.

We know, consumers are telling you, they're not going to spend the tax break; they're going to bank it. And the reason they're going to bank it is because your government has cut jobs, it's cut health care, it's cut education, it's cut communities and people are scared and they're worried.

I ask you again, if the majority of people in Ontario are telling you, "Look, we're not going to spend the money from the tax break; we're going to save it because we're worried and we're scared," how do you plan to create the 725,000 jobs?

Hon Mr Eves: I'm not relying upon an Environics poll or the Toronto Star to tell me how people are going to behave. As a matter of fact, if my memory serves me correctly, Environics was the same polling firm that predicted, 48 or 72 hours before June 8, that the Liberals were going to form a majority government. How well did they do?

To the honourable member, when your government was in power, you created tax increases equalling $4 billion and you lost approximately $2 billion in revenue. Obviously, increasing tax rates doesn't create employment. Your unemployment went up, your revenue went down and your tax rate went up.


When are you going to understand there are people out there being taxed to death? They don't need 65 tax increases in 10 years. They don't need 11 personal income tax increases in 10 years. What they do need is some relief and some ability to keep their hard-earned tax dollars, and I have every confidence that they will spend it far better than any government ever dreamt of doing.

Mr Hampton: We know that the Minister of Finance has every confidence. We know that. What we want to know is, where's the evidence? We know the government didn't do any studies of its own. We know even the government's own economists told them this won't work. They government's own economists told them that since the majority of this tax cut is going to wealthy people, and wealthy people will bank it or they'll put it in a retirement savings plan, we know this isn't going to stimulate the economy.

I ask the Minister of Finance again, since he has no studies and since the people of Ontario are now telling him that they're not going to spend it, and they're not going to spend it because they're worried about all the job cuts and they're worried about the cuts to health care and they're worried about the cuts to education, since they're not going to spend it, they're not going to --


The Speaker: Order. The member for Etobicoke West, come to order.

Hon Mr Eves: I know it is difficult for a member of the New Democratic Party to understand that somebody other than government can create jobs, but I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that in other jurisdictions where they have reduced the rate of taxation, they have increased employment and they have increased --

Mr Hampton: Where, in the United States of America?

Hon Mr Eves: No. How about New Brunswick? Is that in the United States of America? How about Alberta? Is that in the United States of America? Before the honourable member wants to run for leader, I think we'd better give him a geography test to learn where New Brunswick and Alberta are.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): My question is for the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Each year farmers in Ontario face many challenges that for the most part are beyond their control. In my riding of Perth, many a farmer can remember when prospects of a good harvest were jeopardized due to unpredictable storms, early or late frosts and flooding. In addition to these weather phenomena that are beyond the farmer's control, there are problems such as insect infestation, plant disease, which are of great concern but are more controllable.


Mr Bert Johnson: I'm glad to see that the people on the other side are awake; at least, I can hear them.

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

Mr Bert Johnson: As a relevant example, I know that potato farmers are concerned about the crop damage caused by the Colorado potato beetle. The potential financial toll resulting from destruction done by this serious pest is staggering. I wonder if the minister could tell us what is being done to give Ontario farmers the tools they need to combat this destructive beetle.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Yes, the food producers of Ontario are very much subject to elements of the weather and many other areas of concern.


Hon Mr Villeneuve: I'm always amazed when the opposition has difficulty respecting food producers. I'll tell you, they are very important to this province.

Regarding the insect mentioned by my colleague from Perth, yes, the Colorado potato beetle has created a problem in both potato and tomato crops, and I am pleased that the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural affairs, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture at the federal level, has licensed a new insecticide called Admire. They will be using this insecticide to control beetles in both potatoes and tomatoes, and will indeed, I believe, help the agriculture and food producers of Ontario to produce more economically for all the consumers in Ontario.

Mr Bert Johnson: As you're aware, Mr Minister, research and development are part of the government's commitment to assist the farmers of Ontario. I raised the example of the Colorado potato beetle in my original question because it's been known to develop resistance to virtually all insecticides. In the interest of the farmers of Ontario, is there anything being done to make sure this doesn't happen with Admire?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: We recognize the fact that certain insects do build up a resistance to insecticides. However, to combat the pesticide resistance, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has developed a program with research partners and indeed with farmers so that through the use of herbicide and through the use of mechanical means they can and will control this pest and indeed make the production more efficient.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Minister, you know that in the province of Ontario, over a quarter of a million people live in public housing, including many, many seniors. Both in the Common Sense Revolution and during the election and since the election, you and the Premier have made a number of statements that the government should get out of housing. You've also received a number of unsolicited offers from the private sector to buy some of these units.

I've met on a number of occasions with a number of concerned individuals in my community, as I'm sure other members in this House have with individuals in their communities, who are concerned about their future in public housing. These tenants in public housing are scared, they're anxious, and they're afraid of whether or not they'll have a roof over their head once the privatization takes place and whether or not they can at least expect a drastic rent increase if that were to happen.

In light of the comments that the Premier made over the weekend in which he said it may be very difficult for the province to sell the units and it may not happen after all, Mr Minister, and in light of the fact that there are a quarter of a million people who are really afraid, anxious and concerned out there, will you make a commitment today to stop making statements in the media and elsewhere regarding the inevitable sale of public housing and consult with the tenants and develop a plan with them that protects these vulnerable citizens who live there and ensures that they will not lose their homes or be at least exposed to drastic rent decreases?

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

Mr Gerretsen: What definite answer can you give to these people?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Most levels of government realize they shouldn't be in the bricks and mortar business. The Liberal government in Ottawa has also stated that it wants to get out of the social housing business. They've offered their portfolio to Ontario. Quite frankly, we don't want it, because we agree with them in this instance that government shouldn't be in the bricks and mortar business.

We are working with the federal government, we are working with the non-profit operators, and we're trying to work up a proposal that will allow us to get out of bricks and mortar and provide subsidies that would be of benefit to all people who need help in accommodation.


Hon Mr Leach: Not quite the Flying Toad, as the member has indicated. But we are working on a proposal, and I'm quite sure that we will have something coming forward in the not too distant future. It is a very complex issue involving all three levels of government, and we're working in concert with them.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): To the same minister: Let me be a little more specific, but I also share what my colleague from Kingston and The Islands has asked and I would address the area. You and I talked on the phone about seniors who have grave worries, have grave concerns and are feeling highly insecure. I suspect it's not just in Kingston and it's not just in Ottawa; as a matter of fact, it's probably even in your own riding. I've had four special meetings over the last six weeks with senior residents inviting me to please come, that they're going to lose their apartment or their home. It's a very big tragedy to see elderly people so worried about the community they live in.

I ask you, Minister, if you would confirm to our seniors, in terms of residences being sold out from under them or increases on their rent, that this will not happen, that their future is secure. Would you accept an invitation at the earliest possible convenience to come to the Ottawa-Carleton area, share your views and please assure seniors that you really do stand by making sure their future is secure?

Hon Mr Leach: I agree with the member. We must ensure that the seniors in our community are not frightened. If the members across the way would stop fearmongering over there, it would go a long way to alleviate that. They go around issuing statements that seniors are going to be thrown out of their homes, that their houses are going to be sold from underneath them, and that's utter nonsense.

We are looking at ways and means of getting out of the bricks and mortar business, we've said we want to ensure that we provide shelter subsidies to those people who need them and we are developing those programs. We have to do this in consultation with all three levels of government, so there will be no For Sale signs put on any building until such time as we're convinced we have the proper tools to do the job, and we will have soon.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Education and Training. On the weekend, the Premier had some very interesting comments published in the Ottawa Citizen as a result, I understand, of a meeting with the editorial board regarding educational funding. It's reported that he said, "If school boards pass on education costs through larger classroom sizes, they could be abolished." This seems like another rather bullying approach to dealing with school boards.

We know there have been 10,000 layoff notices issued by boards to teachers across the province. The $1 billion taken out of education in one year will mean larger class sizes. I'm asking the minister today whether he agrees with his Premier that if a school board increases class size as a result of the changes that are being made in education this year, the school board will be abolished.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): Clearly anyone who has studied this subject, who has looked at this system can tell you there is a tremendous amount of spending that can be reduced, a tremendous number of savings that can be found outside the classroom. Anyone who has looked at student-teacher ratios in Ontario versus actual class sizes realizes that if our people were more frequently deployed in a better way in the classroom, we could actually close that gap between class size and pupil-teacher ratio.

I can assure the honourable member opposite that I find no reason, and I'm sure no one in our government would find a reason, why class sizes should go up as a result of the reductions we've made. The Premier has said and I have said what I believe all my colleagues would agree on, that it is time for some fundamental changes to the way we fund education and to the governance of education in the province of Ontario. We, as a government, will take on those very thorny, very real issues, unlike your government and unlike the previous government.

Mr Wildman: I don't think the minister had the opportunity to answer the question. The Premier said, according to the newspaper report, despite everything the minister has said assuring us there will not be larger class sizes, that if a school board did increase class sizes, they could be abolished -- the board, that is, not the classes. The board could be abolished. I'd like the minister to take the opportunity to assure the boards across the province that he agrees or disagrees with the Premier that if they increase class sizes, school boards could be abolished.

Hon Mr Snobelen: The member for Algoma is being clever, perhaps witty, with his suggestions from what's in the newspaper. He has obviously taken two things the Premier has said and that I just talked about a few moments ago in this House and put them together. I don't believe the Premier has said what the member opposite has represented.

What we have said very clearly is this: We do expect school boards to find the savings we have suggested, the less than 2% of their operating costs. We believe they can find those savings outside of the classroom. I think reasonable people across the province who've had some experience either in their own lives in the business community or at home understand that finding savings of that nature is not difficult in a system as large as we have. We fully expect that boards across the province will do that, that they will find those savings outside of the classroom.

Let me reassure the member for Algoma again that this government intends to take on those very real, very thorny issues the previous government left us, that is, a funding system that doesn't provide for equity in providing an equal opportunity for education for all students in Ontario. Surely that's required.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. As you know, Ontario has been selected to host the 2001 Canada Summer Games. This is very exciting, positive news which will focus the national spotlight on many of the fine qualities this province has to offer.

As you would expect, many communities, including my own, Kitchener, have expressed an interest in hosting these games. Unfortunately, the process is being delayed by the federal government, which has indicated that it wishes to reduce the amount of funding it provides for staging these games. Could you please advise us what actions you have taken to secure stable federal funding for this event?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): In December 1995 I actually advised the previous federal minister that our ability to host these games would be put in serious jeopardy should the federal government unilaterally change the funding formula for the games. I also indicated to the former minister, Minister Dupuy, that any site selection process would be delayed until a resolution of this matter was achieved.

It's my pleasure today to report that the new minister responsible, Minister Copps, has agreed with our position and has assured me that the federal government will abide by the terms of the funding formula for the 2001 Canada Summer Games.

Mr Wettlaufer: That is excellent news, but could you tell us what process will be used to select the host community for the 2001 summer games?

Hon Ms Mushinski: Now that there has been a resolution with respect to the funding question, my ministry will begin the process of contacting interested communities with regard to the host bidding process this spring.

The Canada Summer Games Council and my ministry will conduct a briefing for all interested parties at the end of May, called the bidders' conference. I'm informed that 14 communities in Ontario have expressed an interest in hosting these games. The bids must be submitted by the fall, and the ministry will then select up to three potential host sites. The Canada Summer Games Council then chooses the host community.




Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I am proud to present the following petition signed by several people, one being Councillor John Fera, the mover of a regional council motion that states:

"Whereas the Minister of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services will remove the requirement in the Coroners Act for mandatory inquests for construction and mining deaths; and

"Whereas the practice of mandatory inquests represents the lifeblood for the labour movement and for the mining and construction industries in the pursuit of a healthy and safe workplace; and

"Whereas the inquests held as a result of the tragic deaths have provided significant opportunities to identify why such terrible tragedies happen and provide recommendations on how to avoid these deaths in the future; and

"Whereas 90% of Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act is comprised of recommendations from the coroners' inquests; and

"Whereas such action by the ministry has the potential to increase the number of workers' compensation claims and an increased loss of life; and

"Whereas the inquest recommendations are sent Canada-wide to improve safety opportunities everywhere in the country; and

"Whereas the inquest recommendations provide the victims' families with an opportunity to understand the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one; and

"Whereas it is irrational to attempt to cost out a person's life as a budget-saving measure,

"Therefore, be it resolved that the regional council petition the Premier of Ontario, the Treasurer of Ontario and the Minister of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services to immediately reinstate the requirement for mandatory inquests for construction and mining deaths in Ontario and that we solicit the support of our members of provincial Parliament and the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities in our struggle; and

"To the Honourable Solicitor General and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario has decided to scrap mandatory inquests as a result of fatalities in the mining and construction industry; and

"Whereas this unprecedented and callous decision sets workplace safety back 20 years,

"We, the undersigned, request the Solicitor General, on behalf of all workers in the mining and construction industry, to reverse his decision to remove mandatory inquests from the Coroners Act of Ontario."

I sign it and I thank you, Mr Speaker.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here yet another petition from the good people of Ontario with regard to their opposition to rent control. It reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

"We, the undersigned, therefore call upon the Legislature of Ontario to stop this attack on the 3.5 million tenants of this province and to preserve the present system of rent control."

I affix my signature.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas we, the trustees and employees of the Perth County Board of Education, have actively contributed to cost control for the Perth County Board of Education to the extent that our education costs are the second-lowest of public boards in the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas to continue with your proposed grant reductions will severely limit our ability to provide an equal opportunity for our students to compete with students in other boards for employment and for positions in college or university; and

"Whereas the cost-effectiveness of the Perth County Board of Education is demonstrated in that our cost per pupil ($4,984) is about $2,000 below the provincial average and only $68 more than the lowest provincial average cost per pupil in Canada, namely, Prince Edward Island at $4,916;

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

"To reinstate our general legislative grants to the 1995 levels; and

"To provide further grants to raise the level of service to students in Perth county to that which the government desires."

I will affix my signature to this so the assembly can receive it.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, reject the Harris government's historic proposals to attack the injured workers of Ontario. We, the people of Ontario, did not intend to vote against our neighbours. We want to build a better community. Injured workers are part of that community.

"We say no to the Harris plan to cut injured workers' benefits, cut injured workers' pensions and future economic loss payments, introduce a waiting period for benefits after injury, refuse compensation for disabilities like repetitive strains and occupational diseases, shift the responsibility from the WCB and employer to the Ontario taxpayer, and privatize the WCB at the expense of the injured worker and the public.

"We call on the Harris government to solve the WCB's problems without attacking injured workers."

I'm proud to affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition today from the people of Marathon, Ontario. I received it in the mail on Friday, and it is signed by 92 residents of Marathon in the riding of Lake Nipigon. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned residents of Lake Nipigon riding, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to proceed quickly 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."

I have affixed my signature to this petition.


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

"Whereas during the election campaign Premier Harris promised to protect the rights of the disabled and seniors; and

"Whereas now Premier Harris is saying that the disabled must become a part of workfare and yet they will be paid less than an able-bodied employee;

"We petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to recognize the needs of the disabled, to help the disabled to find suitable employment and to pay the disabled a fair wage."

This has been signed by over 100 petitioners and I have affixed my signature.


Mr Peter North (Elgin): I have a petition here from the city of St Thomas and around St Thomas. It says:

"Save Our Psych.

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mr 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 St Joseph's Hospital at its present site."

I affix my signature also.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): I wish to present to the Legislature a petition with respect to the possible privatization of Ontario Hydro.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition from the residents of eastern Ontario who are opposed to the government's decision forcing the social assistance recipients who attend post-secondary or retraining programs off family benefits on to general welfare assistance and on to the OSAP system. These individuals write:

"OSAP does not cover the four months of non-school. OSAP is insufficient to live on. It must be paid back, and therefore the individual debt would be great and no one is going to tackle the immense task of attending school, maintaining a house and raising a family.

"Those attending school are bettering themselves to enter the workplace. Therefore, individuals will eventually be off the system. Limit them to attending school and you have these individuals on assistance for life because there are insufficient jobs available for the skills they possess."

I have affixed my signature to this petition.



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): A petition to the Ontario Legislature, to Premier Mike Harris, Minister Al Leach and members of the Ontario Legislature:

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

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

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

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

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

"Whereas eliminating rent control will result in skyrocketing rents in Ontario,

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

I affix my signature also.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have a petition from the secondary teachers of Ontario to the Ontario Legislature.

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

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


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here which is addressed to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas there is a possibility that the provincial government may cancel all provincial funding to public libraries and eliminate its role in ensuring that public libraries are regulated provincially; and

"Whereas Ontario's public libraries are a rich resource for the educational and information needs of all of our citizens, regardless of income or age, and public libraries are the most widely used institution in any community (more than schools, parks and recreational facilities); and

"Whereas public libraries are needed more than ever to provide economic strength and quality of life at a time when technology is changing rapidly and job retraining and upgrading are in constant demand, and adequate provincial funding will ensure our excellent public libraries will continue to meet the needs and interests of all Ontarians no matter where they reside; and

"Whereas the provincial government should not decrease its interest in a well-informed and literate population;

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

"To maintain its dual role in sustaining the province-wide information infrastructure already linking public libraries and in ensuring that the people of Ontario will receive a basic level of library service by protecting provincial per-household grants to public libraries."

This is signed by over 600 people and I've affixed my signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Premier Harris, Minister Cam Jackson and Minister Elizabeth Witmer.

"We, the undersigned, oppose your government's plan to dismantle the workers' compensation system, including reducing benefits, excluding claims for repetitive strain injuries, muscle injuries, strains, sprains, stress, harassment and most occupational disease, eliminating pension supplements, handing over control of our claims to our employers for the first four to six weeks after injury, integrating sick benefits into WCB, eliminating or restricting the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal (WCAT) including eliminating worker representation on the board and eliminating the bipartite WCB board of directors.

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, demand a safe workplace, compensation if we are injured, no reduction in benefits, improved re-employment and vocational rehabilitation, an independent appeals structure with worker representation and that the WCAT be left intact and that the WCB bipartite board of directors be reinstated."

I affix my signature also.


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

"We, the undersigned residents of Durham East, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to proceed as quickly as possible with the legislation to reduce provincial tax rates as promised during the last provincial election. We call on all members of the Parliament of Ontario to support this government in its promise to reduce provincial income taxes and remember that tax cuts equal jobs."



Mr Snobelen moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 45, An Act to repeal the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Act and transfer assets to the University of Toronto / Projet de loi 45, Loi abrogeant la Loi sur l'Institut d'études pédagogiques de l'Ontario et transférant l'actif de l'Institut à l'Université de Toronto.

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

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): This legislation will integrate the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, or OISE, and the faculty of education at the University of Toronto. It will repeal the OISE act of 1965 and transfer OISE to the University of Toronto effective July 1, 1996.



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

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): The member for Hamilton Centre had the floor. Is this correct?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): Mr Speaker, to be helpful, I believe we were in rotation for questions and comments.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): He hadn't finished.

Mr Michael Brown: I thought Mr Stockwell had spoken.

The Acting Speaker: The table keeps a very good record, and I believe the last one to speak was the member for Hamilton Centre. You have six minutes and 13 seconds.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Just to be clear, it was my understanding that we had completed the time and we were into the rotation, as my colleague has mentioned earlier, in terms of the two-minute responses.

The Acting Speaker: If you have finished your debate, we'll proceed to questions and comments, if this is what you wish.

Mr Christopherson: I had concluded my comments and was prepared to enter into the two-minute responses.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Michael Brown: I want to say, first of all, that we very much appreciated the succinct and direct comments from the member for Hamilton Centre regarding this particularly important piece of legislation that's before us today. Just so people are reminded, this is a bill that deregulates bus transportation within the province.

We particularly appreciate a member from Hamilton discussing this, because the issue for many of us in rural and northern Ontario is exactly something that doesn't particularly deal with the urban centres in Ontario but deals with these rural centres. What I think we have come to understand over the period of this, so far, brief debate is that there will be a loss of bus service to the smaller communities across Ontario. There is no question in anyone's mind that the smaller communities will not have bus service.

What does that mean? What that means exactly is that the seniors who rely on that bus transportation to get to medical appointments or perhaps visit relatives will no longer be able to take advantage of that service. The students, those young people who use bus transportation to go to college or university, will no longer be able, from those small communities, to access that service.

So when I hear a member from an urban centre like Hamilton, some of whose constituents may benefit from slightly reduced fares -- I'm not sure, but it's conceivable that could happen -- I want to tell you that we all appreciate that member bringing these issues in front of the Legislature and speaking so directly to this bill of great public concern in rural and northern Ontario.


The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments? If not, the member for Hamilton Centre, you have two minutes.

Mr Christopherson: I very much appreciate the comments of the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, who has participated in a very positive way and was here all throughout the debate last week, and I very much appreciate his recognition that while this may not be a critical, burning issue for the majority of my constituents in Hamilton Centre, it is indeed an issue that deserves to be recognized by all Ontarians, because as I said in my speech last week, it's just another piece of the quality of life of Ontario that is falling by the wayside as this government institutes their radical, draconian agenda wherein the vast majority of working people and their families are the losers.

We saw today the issue of workers' compensation as it relates to the day of mourning, and we know that occupational health and safety is on the line, just as we know that transportation networks are on the line. If this government can find a way where some of their friends can benefit from deregulating or backing government away, then of course that becomes the flavour of the day. It was mentioned that this bill is not the deregulation bill, but we do recognize this is very much the tee-up. As my colleague from Algoma-Manitoulin has mentioned, there are a lot of seniors, there are a lot of students, there are unemployed workers, there are people who choose because of the opportunity of choice in Ontario to live in more remote rural areas who will lose as a result. Quite frankly, there's nothing but a litany of lose, lose, lose for the vast majority of Ontarians when we see this Tory agenda.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): I'm pleased to take part this afternoon in the discussion over Bill 39, which will amend the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act and the Public Vehicles Act, but before I begin, if I might, I'd just like to take the opportunity, since technically I guess this is my maiden speech -- we tried to get it off the ground a couple of times last fall, but Mother Time intervened.

I'd like to thank the citizens of my constituency high atop Hamilton Mountain for placing their faith and trust in me last June 8. It has been my goal during the last 10 months, and will continue to be my goal during the next four years, to represent the citizens of Hamilton Mountain to the best of my ability and to work diligently and consciously towards earning the trust that they have placed in me.

I'd also like to pay due respect to the two previous members for Hamilton Mountain, the Honourable John Smith and the Honourable Brian Charlton, both of whom served in various portfolios under two previous governments, Mr Smith with the Progressive Conservatives and Mr Charlton with the previous New Democratic Party government. I'm pleased to report that both are doing well in their current endeavours and that Mr Charlton in particular has recovered 100% from his heart attack which he suffered just prior to the election.

Back to the business at hand. What is the rationale behind this bill? I believe that Bill 39, as the Minister of Transportation has clearly indicated, is consistent with this government's promise during the last election campaign to eliminate red tape and to reduce the regulatory burden on business in this province. By reducing regulations that affect business, this government is making all regulation of business by government faster, less intrusive and less costly to both sides, and we must decrease the regulatory burden in this province in order to stimulate job creation, economic growth and investment. That was this government's promise during the last election, and we are following through on that promise.

The immediate purpose of Bill 39 is to introduce an interim regulatory system which will govern market entry and control for intercity bus services until December 31, 1997. On January 1, 1998, full economic deregulation of this industry will take place. The intercity bus industry is the only remaining form of transportation in which market entry is regulated. It is time that we allowed this industry to be competitive so that it can provide a higher-quality service and a higher number of service options to the travelling public. As was noted in the House last week, the 1992 Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation recommended that the regulations on the bus industry be decreased.

What specifically does this bill change? In regard to the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act, this bill makes some important amendments which will transform the board into a more efficient and effective body. For example, this bill will require that the board be a smaller body. Members will sit on the board on a part-time basis, as required. It will also allow for hearings to take place in the presence of one member, unlike the previous requirement that there be at least two members for a hearing to proceed. Again, this will facilitate increased efficiency, as will the board's freedom to hire staff on the basis of its level of activity. The Ontario Highway Transport Board Act will continue to require that members not hold other duties that are inconsistent with their duties as members of the board.

This bill will also achieve administrative efficiency by having the board, instead of the ministry, carry out the licensing and sanctioning of intercity bus operators. It will be the board's responsibility to issue operating licences, grant renewal of licences, issue special authorities, transfer licences and interpret ambiguous licences. The board will therefore have the power to control operators who are not complying, including amending, suspending or cancelling operating licences according to the rules governed by the Statutory Powers Procedure Act.

The interim period that will be created by this bill is necessary because it will allow existing operators to prepare their companies for increased competition. It will also set in place a formal process to encourage existing operators which are planning to downsize to transfer low-volume scheduled services to locally based service providers who may be better able to satisfy the travel needs of Ontario's small, rural and remote communities.

The opposition has charged that this bill will wipe out bus service in rural Ontario. I don't believe this will be the case. Let's take a look at an important statistic under the current regulatory scheme. The federal government estimates that over 400 communities have lost service since 1980. That's 400 communities with no intercity bus service. To quote from a column in the London Free Press last November: "The regulatory system for intercity motor coach transportation in Ontario is entirely without merit. Most of the rural bus routes the scheme was supposed to have sustained have dropped, yet customers are stuck with inflated fares on the dwindling number of intercity routes that still have regular bus service."

Bill 39 will change this situation by encouraging a new environment for maintaining and possibly improving services to small-town Ontario. For example, the rules governing discontinuance and reduction of scheduled services will be changed. Bill 39 will require scheduled carriers to provide a 30-day notice period prior to significant service reduction, and it will require scheduled carriers to provide a 90-day notice period prior to route abandonment. Under the current legislation, only a 10-day notice period is required for service reduction or route abandonment. These changes are intended to encourage entrepreneurs and local communities to find alternative transportation during this lengthened notice period.

The president of Grey Bruce Airbus service has said: "I for one do not assume for a moment that small-town Ontario is going to be abandoned as a result of deregulation. We see it as an opportunity rather than being detrimental."

One other very important element of Bill 39 which must be mentioned is the addition of new regulation-making powers to allow for the imposition of fees to be paid by persons who use the board. These fees will not only be payable by applicants, but also by opponents and by persons requesting hearings; in short, the direct users of the board's services. This new regulatory system will thus rely strictly on a user-pay concept. It will not rely on the taxes of the hardworking people of this province.


It should also be noted that Bill 39 will not affect the safety measures of the intercity bus industry. Safety regulation and enforcement will continue to be the responsibility of the Ministry of Transportation.

We need to continue to ensure the safety performance of operators during the interim period and after economic deregulation is implemented, and we are very serious about doing so, as the minister pointed out last week in the House.

For example, this bill will increase the insurance requirements for bus operators, thereby making certain that only those operators who are serious about providing a safe and high-quality service will want to do business. Moreover, this government is pushing for a national review of bus safety to see if national bus safety measures should be implemented.

In conclusion, I believe that Bill 39, with its partial deregulation of the intercity bus industry, will benefit Ontarians because it will help to create a smaller provincial government that is more effective and less intrusive; that has fewer regulations, with lower compliance costs for the taxpayer; that provides more effective and efficient protection for consumers; that extends more regulation of business by business and protects consumers and workers without choking innovation or wasting the hard-earned money of Ontario taxpayers.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Michael Brown: I want to applaud the member on his maiden speech to this House, but I do have some questions about what he has outlined to us today.

One interesting thing I think he said was pretty much that deregulation will be a panacea for Ontario. Some of us have been through the truck deregulation of the late 1980s and early 1990s. One concern I had at that time, and continue to have, in regard to bus deregulation was the unfair competitive advantage that often goes to provinces adjoining us, in other words, Quebec and Manitoba.

Those two provinces are continuing with a form of regulation, which means that Ontario carriers will therefore have more difficulty in getting into their markets. They, however, do not face that same difficulty in entering the Ontario market. What occurs, and we've seen that with trucks along the Quebec border and along the Manitoba border, is that Quebec and Manitoba companies can come into Ontario and take the cream, their operating expenses often being offset by what is going on in their home provinces and causing a great disadvantage to Ontario carriers in Ontario.

I've always been a proponent of knocking down trade barriers between provinces but I think we have to be realistic here. We have to understand that the other provinces have to treat us the same way we treat them, and one thing this bill does not deal with is this very difficult issue of competitiveness between provinces and unfair advantage that goes to carriers from the other provinces.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I too would like to congratulate the member on making his maiden speech, but he said something right at the very beginning that I find not only confusing but somewhat out of whack: this whole notion that somehow deregulation is the same thing as cutting red tape. I think most of us in the House would agree that unnecessary red tape of whatever measure it may take, at whatever government level -- outdated regulations, outdated ways of doing things, something that prevents the proper development of things that take place -- should be scrapped.

To somehow equate that to the idea that deregulation is merely the cutting out of red tape I think is in error. I don't think that's the actual fact.

The main fear that people have about deregulation in the bus industry is something that has already been mentioned in this House a number of times, and that relates to the fact that an awful lot of smaller communities will simply no longer be served. That's a fact. We've got a whole list of communities that may not be served. It goes on through about 100 names of small communities that are presently being served that will no longer be served if this law that's being proposed is put into effect. To somehow equate the loss of service to communities that, it may very well be, are not economic runs for bus companies right now with the notion, "Well, that's all right because we're cutting out red tape," is incorrect and improper.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments? If not, the member for Hamilton Mountain. He's not there. Further debate?

Mr Michael Brown: I have not had an opportunity to say very much about this bill, and it is a bill that will affect northern communities and rural communities far more than the government over there wants to admit.

The first thing we should say is that this bill is an interim measure. It will be in place for some 21 months and includes a downsizing of the board, but is clearly the interim step in moving to full deregulation of intercity bus services across Ontario. First of all, we should understand that this is an interim measure based directly on the idea that we will fully deregulate in Ontario.

In speaking to the member for Hamilton Mountain's speech, I pointed out what one of my great fears is. One of my great fears is the same as what happened when trucking was deregulated, and that is, we work out reasonable arrangements with our sister provinces so they cannot skim the bus routes in Ontario while our companies have no ability, or very little ability, to move into their jurisdictions. It is just not fair for Ontario companies not to be able to legitimately operate under the same rules in Quebec or in Manitoba as their companies can in Ontario. As the government moves through this, I think they should understand that there are a lot of problems.

I know, Mr Speaker, you're particularly interested in the labour situation on the Quebec border, where construction workers from Quebec may work in Ontario. They cross the border anywhere from Ottawa along through to -- I would suggest they probably even go to North Bay or places up along the northern edge of our province. They come in -- and that's fair enough; I think that's great -- but our workers do not have the same ability to move into the province of Quebec.

Governments have been wrestling with this issue for as long as I can remember, and that's eight or nine years in this place, and probably for eons before, but what I'm trying to point out to governments is that it's not as easy to solve these particular situations as one often may think. It seems to me that if we're trying to build a competitive province, a province that creates jobs, a province where our companies play on a level playing field with other companies, this issue of borders and of what can happen in Quebec and Manitoba is critically important.

I know this because I happen to have the head office of one of the major trucking firms in this province located in my constituency. They have come to me and said: "We've had difficulty getting licences to operate in Manitoba, and yet I see their companies encroaching on routes that we wish to pursue and make money on. We can't compete in these particular areas."


I know that to be a real problem, and if the government does not move to correct the injustices with our neighbouring provinces and provide Ontario companies with the same rules and standards as the other provinces, I really don't know why anybody would even consider moving in this deregulation manner. It seems to me that in Canada we need a level playing field or we cannot go forward.

I also want to talk a little about the safety issues. Again this relates almost directly to the recent truck deregulation in the province, or at least the deregulation that's occurred in the last five or six years.

It is all well and good for ministers to say, "The market will determine everything and the market will make sure communities are served and that freight goes here or freight goes there." But the reality is that in a deregulated market some of the less scrupulous operators, as they sharpen their pencils and try to find less expensive ways of doing things, one of the things they sometimes do is not to pay quite as much attention to the amount of maintenance their vehicles get. It's maybe a harsh statement, but it's true.

We have seen in Ontario great public concern about truck safety. I'm afraid, or at least I'm concerned, that if buses also are totally deregulated and safety is only inspected by the Ministry of Transportation, and bottom lines are being shaved, one of the things that may very well happen in the busing industry is the same thing that has happened in the trucking industry, that we see increasing safety difficulties.

I'm sure the Minister of Transportation would say to me, "We have all these inspectors and we're going to put the OPP special units out there" and do all those wonderful things. But at a time when we see great downsizing of the Ministry of Transportation, great downsizing within the OPP, within municipal forces that enforce highway safety, it's not likely to happen. What will happen is that we will no doubt have greater difficulty in assuring the public of safe vehicles out there providing that very same intercity transportation we want to have.

Deregulation may cause -- and I'm just cautioning the government on this -- the same kind of safety concerns in the busing industry that we have seen in trucking, and that is just because of straight economics. When you start to sharpen your pencil, some things have to go, and checking those brakes and those wheel bearings and all those other things you must check sometimes falls by the boards.

My greatest concern about this bill is that I believe there will be perhaps hundreds of Ontario communities that will no longer have service. There will be smaller centres and maybe even some medium-sized centres that will lose their service. That is the experience of the United Kingdom, that is the experience of the United States. In those situations, it wasn't just the little towns or villages of 200 or 300 people, it was some quite sizeable places. Towns of 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 people no longer had bus service.

When you start to think about transportation in the broader sense -- and I think we need to speak about transportation in the broader sense -- you realize our systems are now breaking down. It's a question not of a particular route but of a system, and now rural communities are going to be left out of some of those systems.

In this province 50 or 60 years ago passenger rail transportation was an important component of what we did, even in rural Ontario; 50 or 60 years ago you could go many places by rail that you wouldn't even think of today. Today we have good rail service just through the Windsor-Quebec City corridor. Outside of that, there is really not substantial rail service that anybody would call good in this province. So people who did not own their own vehicles could only rely on bus service.

With bus service gone for many of the smaller communities -- and I assure you it will happen. It's not a guess; it's not a surmise; it will happen. Many of the smaller communities across this province will not have service, or will not have service that's appropriate to the community. As a northern member, you're particularly interested in this when you think about what's happened in terms of air service in northern Ontario. There, with the great distances, sometimes air service was like bus service to northerners.

We've seen a government come in, tell the crown corporation, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, that it should no longer provide air service across northern Ontario. They should leave it to the private sector. What have we seen? We've seen most of those communities maintain some service. But I would suggest to you, that will not last for very long. We will have a large number of the smaller northern communities without a private carrier because it will turn out to be not economically viable.

So what is the Minister of Northern Development going to do?

Mr Gerretsen: Nothing.

Mr Michael Brown: No, he hasn't done nothing, exactly, but pretty close to nothing. He's gone to Hornepayne and to Chapleau and to Gore Bay and said: "We'll provide you service. There'll be no subsidy, however. But we will fly the Ministry of Natural Resources plane in there once daily each way to do that." Now, that's not a subsidy. They're being served by Ministry of Natural Resources aircraft with Ministry of Natural Resources pilots to come in and take people on one of the strangest air routes that anyone in northern Ontario could ever imagine. That's how the minister has so far avoided the subsidy question.

But the real question if you look at these northern air routes -- and as I say, my friends certainly on this side understand that -- is that the system has broken down. While it could be there's air service to some communities, in any kind of a systematic way it no longer exists. If it doesn't exist, it means that people will have great difficulty in accessing that service and pretty soon the service won't exist because somebody will make the argument that the market no longer exists.

So we take that example of the government's lack of policy for northern air transportation and bring it down to talk about rural bus service and we see exactly the same thing happening. There will not be service to many communities in a way that the community is used to having. That will affect senior citizens who might wish to go to medical appointments, it will affect senior citizens who might want to go visit their children or their sisters and brothers, it'll affect students who may wish to go from Leamington to the University of Western Ontario to take their courses, or to Fanshawe College. It will affect students all across the province, who are one of the great users of bus service.

I look at these two groups and I say they probably don't fit the profile of the Conservative voter. "Those voters out there aren't going to vote for us anyway, so who cares? You guys are toast." You don't care. A Conservative voter probably doesn't use the bus very much. So there you go, too bad, so sad, that one's gone. For what? What's the savings here? The savings to government is virtually nothing. I think the entire bill for the Ontario transportation board was somewhere around $500,000.

I'm not opposed to the suggestion in this bill, by the way, that says the people who use that system should pay for it. The bill for the government is actually zero under this bill. That makes sense. Let the users pay for it. I think that does make sense, it makes good sense. But on the other hand, to totally abandon it after 21 months and say, "Well, the market's going to look after this," is Never-Never Land. It's the survival of the fittest; it's the Darwinian approach to politics. It's the Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan approach. It's the approach that says: "If the market isn't there, we're not going to serve it. We have no public imperative, no public policy that says smaller communities, the rural part of our province and the northern part of our province deserve service. Hey, it doesn't pay the bills. If it doesn't pay the bills, we won't provide service."


I look around and I can see that maybe a member like my friend Mr Duncan from Windsor might say, "Well, I'm from Windsor and it probably doesn't matter to me very much," but it does matter to him, because he realizes that people from outside his community need those services to come from the smaller community in to the hospital or in to the university or in to the college or in to visit their relatives. It's very necessary, and it's very necessary for his constituents to be able to go out to these smaller places in the province by means of public transportation and to access those. So even urban members seem to understand, or should understand, that it is necessary for government to take a public policy role here and to say, yes, the small communities deserve to have service, and we will ensure that. That's what the Ontario Highway Transportation Board did: It assured them of service. And you are going to replace it with nothing but Adam Smith's invisible hand. The invisible hand's going to do it.

Well, the invisible hand isn't going to do it, and they might as well be straight up with the people of Ontario and just say to them, "Those small places in Ontario that have bus service today just won't have it, and that's Conservative government policy." Why don't you just be straight up and honest and say: "Forget it. We don't care whether you have bus service. It's not part of our public policy"?

On Thursday I was in here and I was thinking about how, if you took this same example and, absurd as it might sound, extrapolated that to the municipalities and said, "Well, for municipal transit, let's do the same thing; let's permit any company that wants to get in here to run a bus up and down Bay Street," it would be chaos. You know it would be chaos, and there would be routes even within the municipality of Toronto that would not have bus service. All we're asking as rural members is that the same kind of consideration that we give to public transportation within metropolitan areas be also provided to us. It costs government nothing.

There are some costs, and I understand those. The costs are to go to the board, to go and demonstrate that there's a public necessity that this service be provided. That's a real challenge sometimes for people to make, and sometimes there are frivolous objections made just to delay people. But I think your own bill solves that. Your own bill says, "Well, gee, if you're going to go make an objection, you're going to have to pay for your share of the board's costs." You won't have that kind of frivolous objection that is made just to discourage other people from coming before the board.

So as I stand here today, I just ask the government members, and that's really who we're asking: Are you committed to public transportation in this province? Are you committed to permitting people to access the services that our urban cousins would take for granted? Are you committed, for a very minimal cost, actually no cost, to make sure the people of this province who don't happen to live in a major metropolitan area can access the amenities that everyone else accesses?

If the answer is, "Yes, we as Conservatives believe these small villages and hamlets should be serviced," then of course you have to scrap this particular bill. It has to be scrapped. You have to go back to the drawing board. You have to go back and say, "How will we ensure that the smaller communities, the seniors who live in the smaller places in this province, do have service, and will it be part of the system?" If the answer is yes, you cannot possibly support this bill.

On the other hand, if it's just the old Adam Smith invisible hand routine, "We don't care about you small guys; if you can't pay your own way, you're out of here" -- and, more and more, we're beginning to believe that's what this government is about, just totally --

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Make sure you've got money.

Mr Michael Brown: My friend says, "Make sure you've got money," and that's what they're saying: "If you can pay your way, you can do it. If you can't, forget it; you're out of here." I don't think that's the kind of Ontario I wish to live in.

The fourth thing I want to talk about today is the environmental challenge, the environmental problems that will come about by putting more cars, private vehicles, on our highways, because that's the answer. If there are no trains and if there are no buses and you wish to go somewhere, it will be in a private vehicle. I want the government to consider the effect of the extra gasoline, the air emissions you're going to have, the extra difficulties you're going to have with your roads, and I want them to consider whether this makes any sense as environmental policy. I myself don't believe you have a hope of demonstrating that by taking buses out of these communities and off of these routes you will be able to provide a positive environmental impact in Ontario.

For all these reasons, I find this bill unsupportable. I remind the government again that there must be some responsibility for those of us who aren't rich and for those of us who can't pay the freight all the time, that we have some responsibility to make sure that northern and rural areas of this province are provided with adequate transportation services. I would expect that on a vote the Conservative members in this Legislature would support both opposition parties in asking that this particular bill be turned down so that we can address this issue in a far more sensible manner.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I want to make a few comments about bus deregulation as it applies to the rural communities, as the member has just mentioned, but I also want to say that I see a real problem in rural areas coming from the way this government is treating those lands that we see further out from Toronto.

Recently, you would know, the agricultural colleges across Ontario have lost their autonomy to a larger university in Guelph. Some auto licensing businesses in small towns have been removed. We have car dealerships in these smaller areas that would avail themselves of getting their licences etc. We've had two in my riding and one in Essex South that have been affected this way.

As well, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is talking about closing down some of the ag offices across Ontario. These are all things that weigh heavily in the rural community on the fibre of keeping everyone together with some sense of direction and some sense of community. As well, we still have in a great many areas of Ontario underserviced areas as it pertains to doctors.

Once you take all this into account and then see that the government has decided it wants to deregulate the busing industry and there is no guarantee of service for these smaller communities, it's just another example of government governing only by what they can see from the CN Tower. It was mentioned of past Tory governments and I think it applies again here today.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): First of all, in the Ministry of Transportation, as a matter of fact, yes we are committed to transportation in this province. Safety has always been a factor and always will continue to be a factor in the province. We've had a number of bus blitzes where as opposed to taking trucks off, we take buses off the schedule to view the safety standards, and we will continue to maintain standards of safety with regard to the busing industry. That is one area that the MTO will not deviate from in any way, shape or form.

It has to be mentioned also that a community can be provided service under the charter the way it stands now. However, that service could be as limited as once a month and that stops other busing companies from coming into that location. What we're trying to do is give the opportunity for individuals, entrepreneurs and innovators who come up with new ideas to look at possibly bringing in smaller services to service those small communities that could be on a regular basis, so we could have regular schedules in localities as opposed to once a month or once a week or however it comes about.

Safety, as I said, is and always will be one of the ways we can regulate and maintain the standards in the busing industry to ensure the safety of the citizens of the province of Ontario.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): I want to thank my colleague for his discussion today and suggest to the government that the argument he put around regulation and deregulation is sound. It is sound because historically and successfully in the history of this province, indeed of this country, successive governments of different stripes have recognized that one can use regulation to leverage service from the private sector to save the public sector cost. To ignore that reality and give away the house, as the government would suggest we do in this bill, does not serve taxpayers and does not serve those communities that will lose service.

It's a simple economic equation, very simple: You use the profitable lines to leverage service to the unprofitable areas -- and it works. It works for consumers in small towns, it works for those businesses and industries that rely on bus service to bring in consumers to larger centres, it works from the standpoint of safety for those on the buses and those on the roads.

It is well put and well argued in the economic literature and in the experience and history of this province and country that indeed governments can leverage better service for smaller communities by using those profitable lines to subsidize the less profitable.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I listened very carefully to the comments made by the member for Algoma-Manitoulin on the piece of legislation that's brought forward. There's no doubt about it: The towns in northern Ontario and in rural southern Ontario are going to suffer as a result of what the Conservative government is doing. Ronald Reagan did what Mike Harris is doing in Ontario, and as a result a lot of the small towns in the United States lost regular bus service. Sure, the small bus operators started up, but the big operators came in and operated at a loss so they could run the small operators out of business. As a result, in the small towns students who need the transportation to get back and forth to school and to visit their families and the seniors who are unable to drive a car are stranded at home; the other people who cannot afford a car are left at home. A lot of the points that have been brought up, we're going to see the effect of it throughout northern Ontario.

I just wanted to compliment the member on the debate that he's brought forward here, that this bill should be killed because it's taking everything out of the small towns. The stores where the bus stops and people go in and get a little bit of service when they get off the bus are going to lose out, the small garages in northern Ontario and small-town rural Ontario that depend on the bus to deliver the parts in a timely fashion to repair the cars or to repair the machines in the industry -- everybody's going to suffer as a result of Mike Harris trying to copycat what Ronald Reagan was doing in the States, and small-town northern Ontario and rural Ontario are going to take a real slap on the face from the Tory government on this particular bill.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Algoma-Manitoulin, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Michael Brown: I appreciate the comments of the members. I appreciate the comments from the parliamentary assistant to the minister. I think he's trying to frame us as Luddites, like we don't want to change anything, we don't want innovation, we don't want the private sector to be able to move into routes and to do things that make good entrepreneurial sense. Yes, we do. We want that to happen.

We want some change to the highway transportation board. We want to make the terms different. We want re-regulation; we don't want deregulation. We believe there are things that can change. After all, this is not an invention of a Liberal government or an NDP government. This is the Tories. This board was in full glory during the Frost years, the Robarts years, the Davis years. They controlled everything that happened in this province. It's their regulation, it's them, and maybe it was appropriate then. I'm not saying it wasn't appropriate then. It was the regulation that worked for the province at the time. It provided service to the rural communities. It provided good service across this province. And yes, the 1990s are different than the 1950s; the 1990s are different than the 1960s. But to say, "Let's just throw the whole thing out, forget about it. Let the market decide. Attack the people in the small towns; take their service away from them. The government has no role at all in providing service," is beyond comprehension.

I'm asking those Conservative members from ridings that are going to lose service to stand up and speak for your constituents. Ask your government to re-regulate. Forget about this deregulation nonsense. Government does have a role. My constituents deserve to have public transportation, yours do too, and government has a right and an obligation to see that it happens.


M. Pouliot : J'apprécie l'opportunité de participer au débat concernant le projet de loi 39, une mesure intérimaire, comme vous le savez si bien.

I welcome the opportunity to take part in this interim measure which is Bill 39. I don't take a great deal of pleasure in debating it, for I believe this de facto situation would be better left unchanged.

While I was the recipient of an excellent briefing from both the minister's staff and -- the courtesy was further extended -- the good people of the Ministry of Transportation, who certainly went beyond the call of duty to explain what the minister was trying to sell, and I wish, with candour, to convey to the minister that it was very much appreciated by members of our caucus staff and certainly by myself as the critic, what we have here is not deregulation.

The government has said we need to prepare, do some groundwork, notify the marketplace, the entrepreneurs, the actual players and the would-be entrants that starting in 1998 the system will change from one that we've gotten to appreciate, for it served the province of Ontario very well. It's been in place since 1920; it's not a matter of months or years. It goes beyond decades, from 1920 to 1996. Now we have a de facto situation, preparing the major change that will take effect in 1998.

The government needed to dull, numb the patient a bit. When asked to produce a database, when asked to answer some really basic questions that nowadays are very much on our conscience, such as: "Are you to save money?" the government was hard pressed to say, "No, we're not going to save any money, because the present system doesn't cost money." The government does not participate under the tutelage, under the facility of a regulated system.

The system is quite simple. If you can prove to the panel, and wish to enter the market, of course, that you will provide the citizens of Ontario with a necessity, that it will be convenient that your company enter the field, then you obviously satisfy the mandate of public necessity and convenience.

You get the Toronto-Ottawa route. Your bus company will service that route and you shall make money. In return, you will have to provide bus service for less lucrative routes in small and remote regions of for instance southwestern Ontario or northern Ontario. That's the tradeoff; that's the exchange.

The board might grant you a licence to operate a charter business so you can tap into the tourist trade. You can also satisfy the needs of special groups from time to time: a hockey club, a seniors' group. In that tradeoff the public gets served, and that's been in force since the history of Ontario -- equilibrium, a balance. Given the diversity and size of our province -- it's the size of a continent -- you have to have a system in place that rewards entrepreneurship and yet provides the essential service.

The government has embarked on a rhetorical and ideological bent to the point where you cannot talk to them. They have stopped listening. If it's free enterprise, no matter what the subject, no matter what the service, it shall always do it better. When it doesn't satisfy the audience by way of a valuable argument, they will go to no end. They have become shroud wavers, scaring people, trying to entice people to believe that the only way to do business and the better way to do business is to go to the marketplace, without study, and let them regulate their own industry and let them decide whether or not we shall have the service. So little study has been done.

I want to tell you a true story of what's about to happen. The sister provinces, to the west Manitoba, to the east Quebec -- we're squeezed in between Manitoba and Quebec. They do not have a deregulated system. They have no intentions at present to go to a deregulated system. With this free-for-all, here's the scenario, here's the tragedy of it all.

On an evening like we often experience in late May, June, all of July and August, a bus from the sister province of Quebec pulls in at Pearson, awaiting the arrival of tourists.


Mr Pouliot: Oh, they're calling it raiding already, they're calling the playing field unlevel. But this is what will happen. They have a product made by Prévost, and you saw those, Mr Speaker: all the bells and whistles, so well attired, so enticing. They wait for the plane to land and then they say, "Come with me" -- the seduction of a better product. They gather the conglomerate, the captive audience, and say: "You wish to see Niagara Falls? That's our first stop." So the conglomerate, this couvée, travels to Niagara Falls, one of the wonders of this world, and the tour operator says: "Okay, you'll spend your two or three hours, for as long as the river flows. You can come back any time you wish, back on the bus, and now we take you to Quebec City for eight days." The private entrepreneur from Ontario cannot go to Quebec City and do the same thing because they have a regulated market.

The same thing applies to Manitoba. This is what Manitoba had to say, and I sadly remind you of what you already know: The government du jour, the administration, the regime, alas, democratically elected in Manitoba, is one of Progressive Conservatives. All of them resemble in their ideology about half of the Reform-Conservative which is the government du jour in Ontario at present. This is what they said in the submission to the Canadian intercity bus task force. You've arrived; if you're granted the pleasure of an audience with these people, you can say your piece.

Mr Gerretsen: What did you do about all this when you were minister?

Mr Pouliot: What did we do about it? It wasn't broken, so we didn't fix it. There was no need to do anything. Sometimes it's better to do nothing. There are two kinds of politicians that the people will not tolerate. Like my friends the Liberals, there is the kind of politician who always changes their mind, and there's the kind of politician, like those across, who shall never change their mind.

Interjection: What kind are you?

Mr Pouliot: I'm offering a balance.

Mr Gerretsen: No, I'm offering a balance.

Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, please, between the vultures and the jackals there has to be some sense of reason.

Let me go back to what the people in Manitoba had to say: "The specific rationale for economic regulation is clear. In an unregulated market, many communities in Manitoba would not have access to scheduled bus service, or would receive inadequate or unaffordable service due to insufficient passenger volumes and revenues in relation to cost." Those are the people outside of the city of Winnipeg: would not have access, would receive inadequate service.


The province of Quebec, the neighbouring province to the east, says, "Please do not limit the bus services to the most profitable routes." It's commonsensical, it speaks for itself, and yet they're about to embark on the system. What will happen? Let's gaze at our crystal ball. Let's speculate, maybe not so hypothetically, unfortunately.

At first, there will be a lot of players, a lot of people who have honestly been waiting and will see that as a deserving chance to enter the marketplace. Competition will get fierce, markets will experience some cycles -- good times, bad times, fat years, lean years. When the lean years hit in the cycle, drivers will be asked to take a rollback, safety will be compromised, not because people wish deliberately or have a systematic plan to have an negative impact on safety, but simply because when you're competing from hand to mouth before you shut the shop down, safety will not be as much of a priority as it should be.

The weak ones will go by way of bankruptcy. There will be unprecedented dislocation in the marketplace, some entrepreneur's dream will be shattered never to return again, drivers will be let go by the thousands, indeed, and the vultures will gather, and what has been fair competition will become survival of the fittest and they will descend on that carcass at the marketplace and pick every little bit of meat left on that bone. And who will have to carry the guilt but the minister? Someone has to shoulder the blame. This is what happened --

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): Are you talking about the vultures?

Mr Len Wood: No, he's talking about the Tories.

Mr Miclash: That's what I mean. Are you talking about the vultures?

Mr Pouliot: Will you please extend the courtesy to keep your mouth shut while other people are speaking?

This is what some of the major players are saying. It's not my quote. This is what they are saying. You'll recognize the owner of Penetang-Midland Coach Lines, probably the second-largest operator in the province of Ontario. His quote: "Deregulation hasn't worked in the trucking industry, it hasn't worked in the airline industry and it hasn't worked in the rail industry. What makes them think it will work in the bus industry?" More bluntly, straight to the point, he says, "Rural Ontario is going to suffer if intercity bus service is deregulated."

Jim Devlin; Mr Devlin is not a card-carrying member of the New Democratic Party. With high respect to Mr Devlin, this is what he says, and he's the president of Trentway-Wagar, probably the third largest, a player of significance, a player of consequence -- Jim knows what he's talking about; one thing I'll say about Jim, he knows intercity busing -- simply put, "I am not in favour of deregulation." "Do you like it? Don't you like it?" "No, I don't like it."

Reg DeNure, past president of the Ontario Motor Coach Association and the owner of Chatham Coach Lines, says, "If it isn't broken, why fix it?"

Gino Defent, president of Gino's Bus Line, a family corporation built from ground zero, tells us the larger companies "are definitely going to drop" routes.

George Payne, Ontario Northland, the Ontario Motor Coach Association, Greyhound -- the litany, the plea for common sense is widespread and unanimous.

The minister says, "Well, we'll leave it to the industry, and we'll have more enforcement on safety." Those are good words for the gallery, but it doesn't augur too well; it doesn't bode well for the future.

On the one hand, you're laying off. You're giving pink slips to 1,200 employees presently with the Ministry of Transportation, and you voice the contradiction that we will have more safety. We'll have fewer people for enforcement. But fear is a motivator. If you're afraid to get caught, if you're afraid to get fined, you're highly more likely to fix the rig.

I don't wish to remind anyone or to be reminded by anyone that when buses carrying people -- when the wheels literally fall off, like we read in the papers not too long ago and saw on television what happened when those monster trucks became killer trucks because they lost their wheels.

Can you imagine? I don't want to have to face an incident because of negligence, because of a lack of safety application resulting in the maiming or even loss of life; certainly not. But if it happens, fingers will be pointed at people and people will be asked to carry the guilt, and in some extreme mention it might be conveyed that someone is responsible and has blood on his hands.

Who are the people who take the bus? Who are the people who will be left if the rug is pulled from under them because deregulation says, "If I can't make money, I'll go with the big routes: Toronto-Montreal, Toronto-Ottawa, Toronto-Sudbury-Ottawa, Toronto-Peterborough"?

And the rest of us: "Well, better luck next time. You choose to live where you do. You're good to cut trees. You're good to do some farming on your 150 acres and pray for good weather. You're good to go down 4,000 feet underground and extract the minerals; our economy is resource-based. You're good to do all that, the hand that gives." But when it's time to have an essential service, "Well, sorry, you're not one of us."

Time waits for no one. Harry can no longer drive a car. No, he didn't lose his licence. They had a little bit of a family gathering at Easter and Christmas and one of his beloved children said, "Dad, maybe you should think about safety, yours and the safety of others. Maybe you shouldn't drive any more."


Harry has a doctor's appointment. He has to be monitored. He's got to see the doctor every three months. Harry's not rich. It's only in the past 15 or 20 years that people started to receive a fair wage for their labour. He has a large family. He's an honourable citizen, so he uses the democratic class -- he takes the bus and he goes for his medical appointment. But the bus line does not make any money, because it's not into the regulated system where they can exchange the line from point A to point B, losing a few dollars so they can make quite a few more dollars on another line. That's where the tradeoff is. Now you're on your own. So Harry doesn't have the service.

I talked about Miss Jones. This will cut her off from mainstream Ontario. Now she's got to go back and try to get pills for two months, but the pharmacist will only give them for one month. Now she's going back in the apartment. Is she coming out again? I don't know. She's 74. She can't take the bus, though. She can't take the bus; it's no longer there. The students: the same thing. So the seniors -- in the ditch.

Why? Why when it need not happen? Regulation does not cost anything to anyone. It's an arrangement. It's a tradeoff. It provides services to people.

Manitoba won't play the game. Because they are regulated, we will not have access to their market. Quebec will not join. You have no uniformity. You'll be left alone and you'll be left holding the bag.

It simply does not add up. It's not that it's bad, it's not that the government wishes to punish people; it's simply that we searched long and hard to find a rationale associated with the changeover from regulation to a free-for-all, and we were unable to really find any. The data-bank, made up of coalitions, lawyers -- and all my files will attest to that -- is saying it simply does not add up.

You will be isolated. People will come and raid you. The entrepreneurs will say, "I cannot reciprocate." They'll be calling you and saying, "Come on with me, come out to Pearson and see eight, 10 buses from the province of Quebec -- count them -- and two more coming." Then we will go to Dorval or Mirabel and we will see no Ontario buses because they are not allowed to operate under regulated conditions. It's as simple as that.

If someone says, "Prince Charming will come calling; they will be so nice; because we allow them our market, they will reciprocate," well, when your phone doesn't ring, you will know that it's them calling, because it will be a buck, a buck, a buck and a buck again. There's no getting away from it. They will pick the good routes at the expense of people in northern Ontario, at the expense of people in southwestern Ontario and southeastern Ontario. If you don't live in Ottawa, if you don't live in Toronto, out the door. That's six million out of 11 million Ontarians. If you're not an urbanite, you don't belong here. If you don't subsidize the Toronto Club or the Albany Club, you're lucky if you have a Royal Canadian Legion where you live.

They're on such a bender, on such a bent. They are driven by an ideology. Half their caucus reads that mantra, that manifesto, and every day before they go to sleep, instead of counting sheep they go off the precipice, only to be recycled the next day. If Mike Harris says, "Members of the cult, have you read the mantra?" they have to say in their daily pilgrimage to the Premier's office, "Yes, Mike, I have," and that dictates their every move.

Hier encore, in yesteryears it was different. This is a system that has been in place since 1920 that helped the development of Ontario and the transportation of Ontarians. It is a system that is proven. If it was true in 1920, in 1970 and is still true in 1996, is still true in Manitoba and adhered to by our sister province of Quebec as well, why do we insist on a difference when we have a lose-lose situation?

On behalf of seniors, on behalf of students, on behalf of those who have subsidized and patronized the bus industry and on behalf of the most democratic class of transportation, I plead with the government of the day not to penalize seniors, do not negatively impact the marginalized, those who have less. Respect what has been done since 1920. Do not turn your back and hurt people by virtue of rhetoric and ideology. I have welcomed and appreciated the opportunity.

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

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I'd like to compliment the member for Lake Nipigon on a most entertaining and convincing speech. I would give it an A+++. However, the content has a lot to be desired. He sort of missed on the content, which is most unfortunate.

He made reference to survival of the fittest, and I would think that is quite natural when you live in northern Ontario. I fail to understand why he would object to working in that particular direction.

He claims that deregulation hasn't worked in many other industries. I'm not sure what he was examining, when deregulation seems to have worked very well. What hasn't worked well are monopolies, and in this bill we're really talking about getting rid of some monopolies.

He listed various companies which indicated that they were not objecting. As a matter of fact, they want to keep regulations in place. I'm not surprised at all that some of these companies would want to keep those regulations in place, because the regulations protect them and guarantee them a good profit without necessarily providing a good service or ensuring there is one to the communities they serve.

He mentioned that if it isn't broken, don't fix it. Tell that to some of those 400 communities that have lost busing service since 1980. They believe it's broken, and it really is.

Talk about safety and deregulation really relates to more fearmongering than anything else. We are not talking about safety here; we're talking about taking away monopolies when, with this regulation, safety will be increased. We really need what this bill is talking about: the protection of customers, giving them better service at a better price.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I'd like to rise in support of the comments of our colleague the member for Lake Nipigon. Not only was his speech well delivered, I think it contained some content that's worthy of listening to.

I too have heard from small operators. I come from a rural community that's concerned we're going to lose not only the scheduled bus service, as limited as it is, but charter services in my community, because we're in a border region that has concerns about this bill.

I just ask the government why, in view of all that has been said by us on this side, you as well can't listen very simply to a survey conducted by the Ontario Motor Coach Association. It indicated that the members are not necessarily opposed to competition, but feel outright deregulation would compromise safe operating and maintenance standards, and would greatly diminish the role of Ontario carriers who would face unfair competition from out-of-province carriers who are operating under more favourable structures, tax rules and operating standards.

I just ask that the government take those comments into account as well as those given by the member for Lake Nipigon and others in several days of debate.

Mr Len Wood: It's a pleasure to comment on the member for Lake Nipigon. As people are probably aware, our ridings border on each other, and going back in 1988, we campaigned together in the federal election. I know the riding of Lake Nipigon very well and the small communities he's concerned about that are going to lose the bus service for the students, the seniors, the disabled.

It's going to happen. I mean, it happened in the United States that the small communities where they deregulated the buses are left shut in. They can't afford airline tickets; they can't afford to buy cars, or if they're disabled, they're not able to drive them. As a result, parents are separated from their children, relatives are separated from each other and there is no way of getting around northern Ontario when you see this first step in the move to completely deregulate the bus industry in Ontario.

I know from listening to what the member for Lake Nipigon has said that it's not only northern Ontario that's going to feel the impact of this. I know even in the county of Perth, in the county of Huron, a lot of these small communities that are represented by Conservative members right now are going to feel the pinch and the anger, because I'm getting calls. I have a lot of relatives throughout those two counties and they're calling me and they're saying, "Len, why can't you do something to stop the Conservatives from harming these small communities?" It's not only in northern Ontario, but it's in southern Ontario as well, in the county of Perth and the county of Huron that are going to suffer. I said, "We'll do what we can, but you have to talk to your Conservative backbenchers and give them the message of how the Tories are hurting southern Ontario as well as northern Ontario."

Mr Ouellette: A couple of points I should address. As my other fellow colleague mentioned about the eloquent presentation, there are certain things that should be brought forward, such as essential services. What are essential services? Is once a month an essential service? Is that providing, or are we actually giving an area where we can protect the supplier at that time so they can ensure that they have the charter rights for that area? That doesn't allow other individuals into that area. What we're doing is providing an opportunity for that to take place.

Also, he mentioned about the marketplace and no studying. Strange; this is April 1996, yet it happens in 1998. That's plenty of time to see what the implications are going to be and how things are handled at that time.

As the former Minister of Transportation, he should know very well that when you're dealing with Quebec and Manitoba coming in Ontario, that's federal legislation, that's federal regulation. Up to 80% of the busing industry that takes place in the province of Ontario at this time is regulated by the federal government and not the province. Those are some of the things he should know or he should have brought forward.

Also, he speaks about individuals who change their minds or individuals who say, "Why should we deal with this, because it's not broken," since the 1920s. What we have presented is an open mind so that we can deal with the changes necessary to bring economic benefit to this province.

Safety is always a concern and always will be a concern, a top priority in the Ministry of Transportation, and we will never deviate from that.

Also very quickly, southwestern Ontario: A small community approached the bus company at that time and asked what the going rate was for the transportation services. They gave them a quote and they said it was very high --

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Lake Nipigon would like two minutes.

Mr Pouliot: Thank you, sincerely, to members who have had the patience to be here for my humble contribution and, further, who have commented. I wish to leave you with what Freedom to Move has to say. Freedom to Move are good Samaritans. They're a coalition. They represent the Ontario Coalition of Senior Citizens' Organizations, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Canadian Federation of Students -- Ontario, the United Transportation Union and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): A lot of unions.

Mr Pouliot: Well, they've been very effectively making the case for regulation and they also represent those who will be hurt, those who are vulnerable because they don't have a choice; they must rely on bus service.

They say we will have more and more seniors who can't drive a car; students will still be dependent on bus transportation; more and more parcels will travel by mail, to some extent via bus service. Small towns: They say -- food for thought for the Conservative backbenchers -- the communities that will be the most severely impacted are Essex, Lambton, Elgin, Haldimand, Oxford, Perth, Huron and Wellington counties, followed by northern Ontario, Cochrane and Superior. That's food for thought.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Galt: I certainly appreciate the opportunity to be able to say a few words on Bill 39, An Act to amend the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act and the Public Vehicles Act and to make consequential changes to certain other Acts.

My interest in this particular bill has mostly to do with the intercity bus deregulation. What we're really talking about is allowing the marketplace to decide what is best. I hear some discussion from the opposition, who are really worried about the marketplace, really fearful that the marketplace might not be able to do the right thing out there. They seem to want to be supportive of monopolies, and that just does not work in this country.

The marketplace will provide an opportunity for travellers and for customers, who want the best service at the best price. It will provide an opportunity for busing companies willing to meet the best service for the best possible price, rather than hiding behind monopolies and the regulations that are presently in place.

We're talking about things like the scheduled routes, the charters, the tour routes and parcel express here in Ontario, all of which are very important links in the province.

Deregulation, getting rid of some of these regulations, is certainly consistent with the initiatives of this government that we represent. We want desperately to get rid of the unfair regulatory burden that's been placed on this province and we want to reduce the bureaucracy that we've been labouring under for some time. If at all possible, it would be really nice if we could eliminate the red tape that has been hampering business in the province of Ontario. If we can do that, we will indeed stimulate the economic growth of this province, we'll stimulate the economy and investment, we'll stimulate job creation, and we will do that by removing many of these barriers. If we can do this, small-town Ontario will be better off and I believe that small-town Ontario deserves better than it has been receiving.


We've been hearing various complaints about the present system of intercity busing here in the province of Ontario. People have been complaining, concerned about the high prices and the poor services that they've been receiving. That is not too surprising when you look at the monopoly or partial monopoly that's present in many of these routes. It's just a natural thing that does happen when monopolies are there.

They're concerned about the lack of scheduled service. For example, from Morrisburg to Ottawa, an area that I'm sure the opposition recognizes very well, how often can they make, with present regulations, a trip to Ottawa and back in a week? Once. One day per week there is a run. Give some other companies an opportunity and there may be several trips a week that they can go to Ottawa and back.

Right now, it stunts growth and investment. Small companies do not have the opportunity to compete and get involved in some of these routes. Because of the regulations that are presently in place, large companies are able to block out small companies from coming in and competing.

The present system is also expensive for the government. Recently, a company wanted to run a charter in a community. They were blocked, they weren't able to, and they finally did just illegally start operating. It took 10 person-years in the courts by the Ontario government to finally develop appropriate sanctions for that particular infraction. These are the kind of circles we do not need to be operating in this province. These are the kinds of barriers that have been holding back this province from moving ahead and stimulating jobs and getting the economy back on track.

The present regulations lack flexibility. For example, tour operators are unable to schedule and get a bus company to go across Ontario because there are many areas that they cannot take a bus into because of the monopoly and what's being kept out because of regulations.

The question becomes, what happens when we do deregulate? How will it work here in the province of Ontario? The opposition and third party members have been suggesting that what has happened in the past has been all wrong with deregulation when in fact it hasn't been all wrong. As a matter of fact, it's worked out very, very well. There were many reasons back in the 1970s and 1980s why deregulation came in in other modes of transportation and probably it would have been wise if we had deregulated intercity busing at that time.

Regulations protect the provider. It lacks customer interest and customer service. Deregulation will maximize the benefits for our users. It will reduce the monopoly effect and it will increase competition. The marketplace has been the mother of invention. All kinds of original things happen because of competition in the marketplace.

Generally, monopolies do not serve as well. Take, for example, Ontario Hydro, which has had a monopoly for a very, very long time. I would suggest that we need some competition there, and we're not talking about, "Is it public versus private?" No, we're talking about monopoly. Does it rate some competition? I would suggest with what has happened with the Ford Motor Co, for example, producing cars in some 17 regions of North America, Mexico, US and Canada, in 1986 Ontario was the cheapest hydro or electricity that they had in any of those 17 regions. Today, they tell me they have dropped to number 12, well below the average price for electricity in North America. That is what happens when we have monopolies without competition.

Similarly, the competition with the LCBO -- very ideal to have some competition with an organization such as LCBO. We don't have to be talking about privatization but we can talk about competition.

There is a place for monopolies such as when Ontario Hydro first started, ideal to give them protection when they started out; ideal to give LCBO protection back in the days when they required really stringent market control. That was society's concern at that point in time, and it did in fact work very well as they started to sell liquor through those outlets.

Probably the regulations that were in place in 1920 to protect intercity busing were very much in order and did work very well at it started out. As I mentioned, busing regulations have been in place since the 1920s, and that has limited the market entry; and that's been unfortunate. In recent years, there's a restriction to market entry. I mentioned earlier, it protects the operators with licences and it protects them for very special purposes.

The present system, as mentioned earlier, if it's not broken, let's not fix it. I suggest to you that it is broken and it is time that it was fixed, because it is outdated and it is inefficient.

Scheduled services in small-town Ontario are not protected with present regulations. According to the federal government, from back in 1980 some 400 communities have lost services for intercity busing. Those 400 communities are very concerned about this, and with the present regulation there's absolutely no protection in them to ensure that there will be intercity busing serving those communities. All they have to do is announce for 10 days and stop the buses running. There's no requirement of the minister to say aye, yes or no; they just pull the buses off the road. That's the kind of regulation that we have in this province today.

There's a growing demand for charters and tours. In this province of Ontario, tourism could become a number one industry. We have a unique province, a province with all kinds of natural beauty; and I for one believe that we could take advantage of that kind of beauty and attract tourists to this country if we could change some of the charter tour regulations and get more buses rolling to be involved with the tourist industry.

Competition controls prices and reduces service. New, innovative ideas would meet the client needs of today.

Implementation of this particular bill on January 1, 1998, will give adequate time to the various bus companies to set up and get organized for the change in regulations. As a matter of fact, this was even announced back in October 1995 so there's going to be over two years for the bus companies to get ready, and actually by the time this bill receives royal assent they'll still have a year and a half. This government supports orderly transition to a deregulated state, allowing existing carriers time to adjust to the changes, and many of these carriers already serve in areas where deregulation has occurred. We encourage sustainable, locally based services responding to the needs of small-town Ontario.

One of the ways to market innovation that has occurred in other areas is the so-called hub-and-spoke service whereby feeder bus lines, small buses, bring in passengers to central areas similar to what is operated with airlines, and that has operated very successfully. Currently, it seems, the thinking is that we use only big highway coaches, when in fact many small vans, small buses could provide a service to a central area.

In the interim with this bill once passed, I believe that the services will be at least maintained at the present level or may even increase to small-town Ontario. At least with only one direction that they should go, it shouldn't continue to disappear, as it has been.

During this interim period, there'll be a 30-day notice for any decrease in service to any community, and if there's going to be an abandoned route, it should be a requirement of a 90-day notice and the company is expected to join with the community in search of a replacement service.


This certainly is going to provide the community with a lot more time than they've had in the past -- in the past it's been simply 10 days -- and also some assurance from the present carriers that they will provide some help to try and find an alternative service for that community. I believe this will provide some increased busing stability during that interim while communities and bus companies get ready and prepare themselves for deregulated intercity busing come January 1, 1998.

We do believe in bus safety. With this new bill, there will be enhanced bus safety. It will ensure the safety performance of all operators. There will be increased fines for truck and bus safety offences, there will be regular on-road bus inspection blitzes, and there will be expansion of the demerit point system for buses and for trucks.

In summary, I believe this bill will ensure that the services we presently have will be at least maintained and there will be some coordination with the community when those companies decide to withdraw their services, and it won't be just within 10 days. The community will have up to three months to work with the company to come up with some alternative arrangement. This bill will set the stage for deregulation of the intercity busing industry come January 1, 1998, and will give some adequate time for that.

Deregulation will provide the marketplace with the opportunity to decide what is best both for the bus operators and for the needs of the community. The needs of the customer, whether they're moving from town A to town B and how many will be moving, will dictate the size of the bus, whether it be a feeder bus or whether it be a main-line coach that will be offered.

This bill, once it gets rolling in 1998, will promote tourism. It will make it much simpler for tour operators to go out and tender and get charter buses to travel across Ontario. I believe the free marketplace with competition is the mother of invention, and that is indeed what is needed for intercity busing here in the province of Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Gerretsen: We've heard a lot of comments, not only from this member but also from the member for Oshawa earlier, about the fact that what they're really against are monopolies. Let me first of all say that I don't think there's a member in the House here who would favour a monopoly, particularly now that we're in the 1990s. That's not the issue. That is not the issue.

The issue is not whether or not, on profitable routes, other companies should be able to share in that. I'm totally in favour of that. The real issue is, how do you protect the small communities that will be losing their services, that have that once-a-month service right now? The member for Oshawa tried to indicate that if you somehow open it up, the service would no longer be once a month, but will be every day or every second day or once a week or whatever. Why do you think it's once a month right now? Because it doesn't pay the bus line to go in there more than once a month, and they're being forced to go in there because they're doing a more profitable route at the same time. That's where the issue is.

The problem in this whole act is that you haven't looked at the entire situation. If you had looked at the whole scene and not only looked at the monopoly aspects of it but also how you protect the smaller communities out there, and had come back with a comprehensive plan where you addressed the real issues that have been raised by the members of the opposition, I think you would get some support for what you're doing.

There will be no problem in bus companies going into the lucrative lines. The problem has always been, how do you make sure the small communities that are in non-lucrative areas where there isn't a lot of ridership get service? The only way you can do that is by making sure that the lucrative lines, lucrative services etc, supply service to the smaller communities as well.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have to say to the member directly that the problem with what the government is doing, and I try to put this as succinctly as I can, is that the policy you're trying to put in place is almost like one size fits all. I don't argue with what you think is going to work in major markets such as Toronto and Hamilton, where you have the population base to support the kind of competition you're talking about, with a multitude of carriers. Deregulation will probably work in some of those cases. The problem really is that you're going to end up in a situation, in markets like northern Ontario, in some places in eastern and southwestern and central Ontario, where the market is not large enough to sustain a multitude of carriers, and what will happen is basically what carriers are telling me in my own constituency.

I met this weekend with the operators of two different bus lines. One of them runs up along the Highway 11 corridor and he's saying: "Listen, there isn't enough market there for me to be in full competition with somebody else. If you as a Conservative government allow that to happen, we're going to be in a position as operators where we have to reconcentrate our businesses to the more lucrative routes only and the smaller ones will fall by the wayside."

These are operators saying this. This is not Gilles Bisson, the member for Cochrane South, New Democratic Party; these are the people who are now in the business, the private sector. The problem in your approach is that you're saying, "We have a vision that is different from all that history has taught us when it comes to transportation systems in this province and in this country."

I say to the member that yes, if you want to make some changes I'm willing, as a New Democrat, to support you in partial deregulation in the more lucrative markets. But if you're saying you have an approach that you think is going to work in Toronto and you want to transplant that policy into areas like northeastern Ontario, I say buyer beware; we're going to be in a situation, as the member for Nipigon and others have said, where small communities are left by the wayside because the markets are not large enough to respond to.

Mr Stockwell: I want to compliment the member for Northumberland with respect to his outline of the issues and concerns he sees with respect to this bill.

I think what the opposition fails to understand and to realize, I say directly to the member for Kingston and The Islands and to the member for Cochrane South, is that by defending the status quo you're slowly losing lines as it is. Lines are slowly shutting down. I think the issue has been addressed by the member for Oshawa where he outlined that 400 lines have shut down since 1980. We've had regulations, we've had processes put in place to do exactly what you've been arguing for these last number of days and 400 lines have shut down since 1980.

Ultimately we on this side of the House do care, because if you maintain the status quo what happens is that by attrition, slowly over a period of time, all that's left are the lucrative routes anyway. It's been proven. They say they want to look at history and they want to address the issues from a historical sense, but if you truly looked at it from a historical sense, you'd see that what you're recommending, the status quo, hasn't worked.

I would have a lot more respect for the members opposite if, rather than standing in their places and slamming the government for its position in this bill, they came forward and said, "Hey, I don't think this bill is going to work, but to stem the flow, to stop the tide, we would recommend X, Y and Z." As chicken-hearted as the Liberals and the NDP have always been, they don't have it in them to offer a sensible alternative for fear that someone in this province may disagree with them, and if someone disagrees with them, we know their backbones turn to jelly.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I wonder whether the members opposite realize that there are a lot of private entrepreneurs in this industry already and that a lot of private entrepreneurs do not think the government knows what it's doing. If you really want to find out how to deal with this problem of providing better service to more people, have them sit down at the table and let them come forward with a recommendation, because most of them think this bill is a joke. They don't think the government knows what it's doing, because the people in favour of deregulation say you've betrayed them because they were expecting deregulation.

The ones who oppose it say this is going to do nothing but create havoc, and then how are you ever going to keep Quebeckers from coming in here and taking business out of Ontario? You can't keep them from coming across the border in Ottawa when they're all working on the Ottawa side. You won't move on that. How are you ever going to move on the buses? You won't do it, so what will happen is the out-of-province industry will come in here and take business out of Ontario. You won't do anything to protect them and they cannot protect themselves, because the rules are different in Manitoba and the rules are different in Quebec.

That's what the private entrepreneurs are telling you. In essence you don't know what you're doing. You haven't listened to the pros in the industry; you've listened to a couple of people and that's all. If you bring in the people who have got their money at risk here and listen to them, you will get some pretty good advice of what to do, and they will tell you, if we have hearings on this, that this government on this issue is really creating havoc and that they're not taken into account.

If you want real deregulation, perhaps you should look at the competition you're giving the private sector already. If you're really serious about it, you've got the biggest competition of all. You've got that monopoly called GO Transit, if you are really serious about it. What are you going to do with GO Transit, get rid of that too?

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

Mr Galt: Just responding to the member for Kingston and The Islands talking about the monopolies, we can talk about a limited number entering a given area. To me that's a monopoly or a partial monopoly, depending how you want to look at it. All you are doing is objecting. The member for Etobicoke West pointed out that part of your responsibility in opposition is to provide some alternative suggestions. You haven't suggested one alternative yet. That's what you should be doing rather than just sitting there opposing everything we are trying to do.


The Cochrane South member comments about a problem in the north, that the markets are too small. Maybe if we put on small buses and recognized the proper size of the community and what's there, it might work out quite well, rather than hanging on to the so-called monopoly we've been working with.

Our member for Oakwood talks about coming in from Quebec and coming in from the US. If you'd been here a little earlier, you would have found out that this happens to be a federal problem. That is a federal --

Mr Colle: He wants to get rid of a monopoly.

Mr Galt: If the member for Oakwood would quit talking, maybe he could understand what I'm trying to tell him.


Mr Galt: I did hear and I'm trying to respond to you. Coming in from the US and coming in from Quebec is a federal regulation. That is not a provincial regulation, and that was explained to you earlier. You're complaining about that, but that's the way it is. This is not a provincial thing and it's not changing with Bill 39; it happens to be a federal regulation. If you really want to get it sorted out, I suggest that maybe you get hold of your friend Sheila Copps. I'm sure she'd be able to help you sort it out. Depending which side of the fence she happened to be sitting on, I'm sure she'd give you a hand.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm pleased to rise today and join the debate on Bill 39, an act intended to begin the process of deregulation of intercity bus transportation, and to offer another northern Ontario perspective on what these changes might mean. It's startling to stand up here as a member from northern Ontario. I've been listening to my colleagues from the north, and from rural and eastern and southern Ontario, commenting on the fact that this government continually trivializes and mocks the great concerns we have about issues like this. There's no question that this government has absolutely no understanding of what the needs are of the people in the north, the people in the rural areas, the people in the smaller communities.


Mr Gravelle: It's evident by the way we listen to the comments that are made by members in response.


Mr Gravelle: I accept your apology. That was interesting, wasn't it?

Northern Ontario, in a geographic sense, is not unlike a bit of a frontier, it seems, for a lot of people still. It's expansive, held together by a web of transportation networks that become all the more crucial because of the reduced frequency of the options. If we're talking about options just in a pure sense of what options one has for travel, in southern Ontario, when you're moving from one community to another, generally speaking there are various options. You define that one is impassable; you can use another route to get there.

In northern Ontario, we simply are provided with significantly fewer options in how we get places. We're limited to two major options in terms of the highways: Highway 11 and Highway 17. Our selection usually depends simply on where we live. To get from North Bay to Kirkland Lake, you would take Highway 11; to get from Blind River to Wawa, you'd take Highway 17; Thunder Bay to Dryden, Highway 17.

What people don't seem to realize is that there are communities like Armstrong in my riding up Highway 527, a road that absolutely relies on bus transportation. If this government goes ahead and does what it says it's going to do, we risk completely cutting off Armstrong from the rest of this province.

There's Nakina, there's Hornepayne, Pickle Lake, Red Lake; there are all these communities. It's extraordinary that this government seems to have simply forgotten that these communities exist. Mind you, having said that, we've been watching that for the last 10 months.

When you look at the whole issue of service and the loss of service -- because that's what this economic deregulation of the bus industry will mean -- northern Ontarians rely heavily on these few existing options, and that needs to be understood. But like so many other policy changes that have been served up by this government in the name of downsizing, this issue does nothing more for northern Ontario than represent a move from what is certain -- ie, catching the bus at 8 o'clock from Nipigon to Thunder Bay, for example -- to what is uncertain, from bus service options that are there today to bus service options that may not be there at all tomorrow.

Those of us in the north are growing increasingly tired of watching this government pretend it has a concern about all of the province. With Bill 39, the government is asking northerners to wait and see, to trust them to look out for their interests, to expect better service for less, but we have been burned before and, with Bill 39, I expect we'll get burned again.

It's my opinion, not unlike the opinion shared by many of my colleagues sitting on this side of the House and, I hope, some of my colleagues sitting on the government side of the House, that northern Ontario has either been ravaged or perpetually ignored by this government, particularly in the area of transportation and northern development.

It's probably useful for us to review what we've seen in the area of transportation in less than a year since this government came into power: first of all, extraordinary changes in the way the government manages its winter road maintenance services. We watched as the Minister of Transportation announced cuts to patrols from 24 to 16 hours, and announced that the distance travelling needs of those who drive the roads trying to warn us of the dangers would be expanded extraordinarily. We watched, in one of the more horrible winters we've had in some time in terms of snow and ice and highway closures, as the service declined, declined, declined. Northerners spoke up all across the province. This government did not listen.

We've watched as this minister and this government have cancelled or postponed incredibly much-needed highway work, such as road improvements between Kenora and Dryden or Longlac and Geraldton -- those of us who have driven on those roads know how much they're needed --

Mr Colle: Potholes everywhere.

Mr Gravelle: -- and the cancellation of four-laning plans for Highway 69. Potholes everywhere, as my colleague from Oakwood says. Extraordinary, and this government is just simply abrogating its responsibility in that area.

In my riding in particular in terms of road work that's needed, I've received all kinds of comments. I've driven the roads myself consistently. Highway 102, or Dawson Road as we know it in Thunder Bay: People are afraid to drive on that road now. My constituent Jim Suffak has written me about this. I think we need to get the minister to recognize that this work must go forward. It's not happening; it's not going forward.

Highway 587, our road into Sibley, a tourist attraction -- Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, an incredibly important tourist attraction to those in northern Ontario. The roads are in terrible condition and need to be fixed up. It isn't happening.

Then we watch as the Minister of Transportation pulls out $20 million from the northern highway fund.

Mr Colle: Twenty million?

Mr Gravelle: Twenty million over the next two years.

Mr Colle: Is that on top of the $60 million?

Mr Gravelle: That's on top of the $60 million. It's $80 million, and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines then tells us, "Oh, well, we'll use the heritage fund's money to spend on highway infrastructure," instead of what it should be for.

Mr Bisson: This is what we need for economic development.

Mr Gravelle: Absolutely. This is what we need for economic development, and it's just being taken away from us. It's certainly not an impressive track record to date. There's no reason in the world why we should begin to trust that this particular bill will also not continue to do damage to those who absolutely need the services. As it was so eloquently stated by my colleague from Lake Nipigon and my colleague from Algoma-Manitoulin, people who need this service have no other options.


So we have Bill 39, a bill that will likely have serious ramifications on the number of transportation options open to northerners. How about the seniors in Manitouwadge coming to Thunder Bay for health reasons? What does this bill mean? For students travelling from Hearst to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, what does it mean? In all likelihood, it just simply means less service or no service at all, because we all know that in the dog-eat-dog world of business competition only the strong survive. Surely in northern Ontario, with fewer consumers and longer distances to travel, many of the bus services we now have access to will disappear as a result of deregulation. Why would companies who no longer have to, as part of a licensing obligation, provide services to communities at unprofitable rates?

Of course, the Minister of Transportation is quick to dispel any such fears. He talks of market forces being such that local entrepreneurs will jump on the bandwagon to provide service should larger companies decide to bow out. But how can smaller companies expect to provide services on a line that is unprofitable? It's just another example of this government's lack of concern for those parts of the north that need the help, those parts of the province. It's so enlightening for me, I might say, as a northerner to listen to my colleagues who talk about the needs in the other parts of the province.

There are so many other concerns that simply are astonishing in terms of this. My continuing concern is what measures the government would consider bringing in to guarantee the provision of services to communities across northern Ontario should new providers suddenly decide that these routes aren't profitable. We watch it with norOntair, and one of our concerns with the taking away of service to norOntair, the public support of that, is indeed yes, the minister has managed to find some private companies to provide that service, and we are very glad that has happened, but we are looking for the guarantees that will continue to provide that service if they are not able to continue that. This government seems to want to just simply drift away from those responsibilities, no longer simply wants to be there for the people that it's supposed to be serving. The government certainly has come forward with no guarantees in terms of Bill 39.

When you look at the case of the Ontario Northlander, part of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, we also continue to get very mixed messages in terms of bus service in northern Ontario. How does the Ontario Northlander, a publicly owned and funded bus line that serves the smaller communities in northeastern Ontario, fit into a new Ontario without economic regulations in place for its bus industry? Well, according to the 1996 business plan for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, "The anticipated deregulation of the bus industry is a serious threat to bus operations." But according to Ministry of Transportation staff, the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission welcomes competition.

I'm confused. We're hearing two arguments, two points; it's hard to understand what is the case. It's very confusing. I'd like to ask the Minister of Northern Development and Mines what the long-term expected viability of the Northlander is, but he's not here. On many northern Ontario issues he's highly confused, can't answer them himself anyway.

My understanding of the Ontario Northlander, which is supposed to be self-sustaining, is that it has a monopoly on the route between Toronto and North Bay, and that this bread-and-butter line is equalizing losses on all its other northern Ontario routes. Open up competition on this money-making line and suddenly the Ontario Northlander is no more, and northern Ontario is left with less or no bus service options and the southern Ontario-based policy bias continues in this government.

It's important that people understand that we are talking about people who have no other options. We are talking about the seniors. We are talking about the disabled. We are talking about people who don't have access to a car. We're talking about a part of the province in northern Ontario where we no longer have the option of train travel. This government continues to be insensitive to those concerns.

I am going to be standing up here and voting against this legislation, as I know my colleagues are, and I ask all of you across the floor there to consider the same thing for all the good reasons that have been articulated today.

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

Mr Bisson: I was unfortunately not in my seat and able to get to here quickly enough, so I appreciate you taking the opportunity to recognizing me.

I just want to compliment the member from northwestern Ontario in regard to the comments that he made around deregulation. As northerners we understand this because we've had to face the issue of the distance between our ridings on a daily basis in regard to how we do our business as members in our ridings and how people within those ridings have to interact to access everything from health care services, or even to do their banking or their shopping.

I think what the government needs to hear, I think what most members on this side of the House are saying, is that we understand there may need to be some changes made -- I don't think that's what the big argument is here -- but what you're doing is that you're moving, and I say it again, to say we have a one-step approach, we have a one-size-fits-all approach to the question of regulation and to where we're going to move from a regulated system now that incorporates private sector entrepreneurs in the bus industry to a system that's totally deregulated.

I think what members have to understand is there is a price to doing that. If the government was saying, "Listen, we think there are some better ways to work with the regulations so that we allow a freer system of transportation when it comes to regulation in the major markets," I think most members, including the New Democratic members of my caucus, would be prepared to sit down and to look at how we can do that. I think there are some compelling arguments in large markets, where you've got the density of population and the ridership to sustain that; there may be some moves to be able to relax regulations in some cases.

But in a lot of communities in northern Ontario and eastern Ontario, southwestern and central, you really don't have the market base to be able to move with full deregulation, and if the government moves that way, understand the price. The price is, those communities will be left high and dry, with no services.

Mr Duncan: It's indeed a pleasure to comment on my colleague from the great city of Thunder Bay's comments. I couldn't help but reflect on a famous son of Thunder Bay, C.D. Howe, who recognized that proper regulation and proper government regulation could create industry and allow industry to function efficiently and fairly.

We do not defend, nor have we ever defended, the status quo. This government and the member for Etobicoke West would like to suggest, perhaps, that simple deregulation will improve the bus industry, the intraprovincial transportation industry. What he fails to say and what he failed to recognize is that other Canadian jurisdictions, other American jurisdictions, states in the United States, have dealt with these same issues and rejected outright deregulation.

It would be my view, as it was the view of my colleague from the north, that re-regulation, looking at those regulations and using them to benefit the broader public interest and not simply the interests of an ideologically driven government, will ensure not only a healthy intraprovincial transportation industry but, more importantly, it will ensure that those communities that need this service as a lifeline continue to be served, where viable.

Mr Gerretsen: I would just like to pick up on a point that was made earlier as well. That relates to the whole question of a monopoly. What the members on the government side simply don't seem to understand is that they seem to be of the view that if you simply deregulate, bus companies will just rush in and start providing all sorts of service that isn't there right now. The only thing that will happen is the fact that they will simply rush into the most lucrative routes that are already there.

Let's take a look at the American experience, as to what happened there in 1982 when they deregulated. In 1982, before deregulation, there were a total of 11,820 cities and towns that had intercity bus service. After deregulation, in 1991, it was reduced to 5,690.

The point that I've been trying to make on a number of occasions here this afternoon is simply this: Yes, get rid of the monopoly situation. Yes, allow bus companies to compete with other bus companies on profitable routes, but also make sure that the smaller communities that are not now serviced or that will not be serviced with simple deregulation or, as we heard, 400 communities have been left without any service at all in the last five years, make sure that the bus companies that are taking over some of the lucrative services or are servicing the lucrative areas are also forced to service those communities that either do not have service right now or will be left out of service completely.


That's the issue. That's why I come back to the point that in order to take a proper look at the situation, you've got to take a look at the entire picture. Don't just look at it strictly from a monopoly position.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Port Arthur has two minutes, if he'd like to.

Mr Gravelle: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I'd certainly like to thank the members for Cochrane South and Windsor-Walkerville and Kingston and The Islands for their kind comments and also their thoughts in terms of this issue.

I think it's clear that this government is just simply not recognizing that their responsibilities extend beyond basically thinking in terms of those who can fend for themselves. This is an issue where we're looking at people who absolutely have no other options, and it's the responsibility of this government to be sensitive to those people and those people who need this service. It extends to so many other aspects of this government that I continue to be more and more alarmed as I sit in my seat and as I stand here today.

The member for Windsor-Walkerville invoked the name of C.D. Howe. I would certainly invoke the name of Robert Andras, who was a federal representative in Thunder Bay for many, many years, with whom I worked and was very proud to work for. He was a man who basically, I know, would have been standing here as well fighting indeed for the same principles that I like to think I am.

In terms of invoking names, probably there's a couple of names that the people on the other side there should hear too. They are names from northern Ontario, northwestern Ontario, people again who will be probably telling them that their move in this particular piece of legislation is inappropriate and is wrong, and those names are George Wardrope, whom some of you may recall, and Leo Bernier, two fellows who in their day, I think, would have been standing here -- perhaps if they were here and we had the Tories of old, perhaps this legislation wouldn't be being put forward.

I ask those on the other side of the House to think in terms of those people and many other people I could think of who were there trying very much to represent the interests of all the people in the province rather than the minority that this government seems very keen on adapting to. I ask the government to withdraw this legislation and rethink the whole thing.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Len Wood: It's a pleasure for me to make some comments on Bill 39, the bill that is designed to pull services out of small communities.

We all know that this is an interim measure that is intended to lead to full deregulation in the future somewhere down the road and with deregulation we've seen what has happened with the airline industry where the rates increased. When the deregulation first took place, within the first three years the rates increased about 31% and they're still going up.

If we look at what suffering the people are going to have to go through as a result of deregulating the bus industry, we know that there are coalitions that are out there right now. The coalition for senior citizens, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Canadian Federation of Students (Ontario), the United Transportation Union and the union of public service employees, have effectively made a case that deregulation would hurt the most vulnerable people in society in small northern communities.

I know there's a list of hundreds of towns that are going to lose their bus service as a result of the Harris government deregulating. Some of the towns in my community -- Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls. I look at other ones on the way here, Powassan, Haliburton, Huntsville. The list goes on and on and I'll get into that a little bit later on in more detail. But the people I am very concerned about are the students, the seniors, the poor people, the people who don't have a driver's licence, the people who cannot afford a driver's licence.

The bus industry right now must go through these small towns and provide a service. In turn, if they lose a little bit of money on these routes, they're able to have their charter and take the bigger routes and they make money on those and it compensates for the little bit of money they might lose in these areas.

It's not the right route to go, as far as I'm concerned. We know that both the Liberals and the Tories have deregulated air service, rail service and the trucking industry. There's more competition in the trucking industry, but we have a concern for safety. If the trucking industry is not keeping its trucks up to par and tires are falling off and they go through the inspections and hundreds of them are being pulled off the road, is this what we want to see in the bus industry when deregulation comes into full effect a year or so down the road? I don't believe that's what people would like.

I think of the university and college students who don't have any choice but to use the bus because, as I said earlier, airline tickets are out of their reach. To go out and buy a car is out of reach for most of them. So busing is the only opportunity they have to be able to get a ride home for Easter, for the March break or for long weekends, and they travel 500 or 600 miles to attend universities and colleges. I know both my daughters, who are teachers now -- and I'm very proud of them -- in order to get the education that they needed had to travel from Kapuskasing to Ottawa. It takes four to five years, four years of university plus a year of teacher's college, and they like to be able to travel back to the community and visit with their friends and their relatives. With what is happening here, I don't believe it's going to be possible.

It's not only in northern Ontario. We can look at some of the other communities that have just recently elected Conservative members. I'm shocked and amazed that some of the people would stand up here in the Legislature, some of the Conservative members, knowing their communities are going to lose the bus service and it's going to be a hardship on the seniors, the disabled, the poor, the students, and even those people who have to work at a low wage who depend on the bus to get them home on the weekends to spend time with their families. This service will be gone and the only choice left to them is to hitchhike or whatever. They're not going to be able to have the services they were having before. And why?

We listened to the Minister of Transportation. He's saying he's going to pass the $450,000 that regulation costs on to the bus industry, and in turn, when you do some of these changes that are being made in order to save money, they're going to be looking at using this money to give a hearty tax break to the wealthy people who can afford to have a car or maybe even a couple of cars. It's the poor people who are going to be suffering in not only the NDP ridings in northern Ontario, but some Conservative ridings. As I mentioned earlier of the speaker who was there before, his riding in Perth county is going to be affected. The ridings in Huron county, Norfolk, Oxford, Chatham, Middlesex, Lambton, all of these counties are going to be seriously affected by the deregulation that is going to happen with Bill 39.


I want to reflect back a little bit on some of the promises that were made. I know the Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines is not here in the Legislature at this time, but he has made promises. I don't know if it's the same kind of promise that Sheila Copps made over the GST, but he promised that northerners are going to actively participate in the policymaking decisions, ensuring that their voices are heard at Queen's Park. It's not happening. The decisions are being made here by the Minister of Transportation and the Premier, Mike Harris, and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, I haven't seen him in the north; he hasn't been up there. He's refused to meet with the people in Cochrane who are going to lose 30 or 40 jobs at the MNR building and he's refused to meet with some other communities that are saying, "Give us five or 10 minutes of your time." In the Interim Report on Business Planning and Cost Savings Measures he said that the decisions were going to be made in these communities in northern Ontario and that their voices would be heard.

They faxed about 2,000 letters and petitions into both Premier Mike Harris's office and Minister Chris Hodgson's office, who are saying, "We don't have time to meet with these small communities." There are only 4,500 people living in the town of Cochrane, and somewhere down the road they're going to meet. Maybe they're going to wait until after the budget comes out. In any event, since April 11 they've been looking for meetings and it seems like they're being ignored by the Premier who, I might point out, is from northern Ontario is not very well respected for some of the comments and decisions he's making.

Bill 39 is a decision that is going to be detrimental to a lot of people in Ontario. I'm amazed at a lot of the Conservative members who are going to lose bus service. It's not going to be smaller buses that are going to come into the communities and bring them over to the larger bus runs; they're going to abandon these communities altogether. I would beg and plead that the Conservative caucus, in its next meeting, say to the Minister of Transportation, to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and to the Premier, "What you are doing is wrong, if all you're trying to do is cut and save enough money at the expense of all the small communities throughout Ontario in order to give a tax cut to the wealthier, upper-income people in this province."

Right after the election the Premier and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines said, "We'd like to meet with all three caucuses -- the Liberal, the Conservative and the NDP -- and have some input into that," but every time we or the constituents try to get some input into decision-making, the doors are closed, slammed shut, and nobody seems to be willing to take a few minutes to sit down and listen.

We know they are not only going to deregulate the bus industry and eliminate it from the towns with Bill 39, they've attacked health care and education. We've had massive layoff notices going out to the Ministry of Natural Resources and to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines employees.

They promised in their Common Sense Revolution that they were going to cut 13,000 employees, but why does all the cutting have to take place in northern Ontario? Northern Ontario has 10% of the population of the whole province, and even though 80% of the land mass is in northern Ontario, 45% of the cuts are happening there. Some of the small communities are being devastated, and we hear some of the Tory backbenchers heckling because they seem to enjoy the pain and suffering that is going to happen in these families --

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): No, not true.

Mr Len Wood: -- as the main breadwinner of the family is laid off and they have to disrupt their whole lives and move to other communities and try to find other work.

Mr Wettlaufer: Len, Len.

Mr Len Wood: Mr Speaker, they're still heckling and laughing about the seriousness of this.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Kitchener, come to order.

Mr Len Wood: When we're talking about Bill 39, it's disastrous to these communities. I think we should have the respect of people to listen and take their concerns, take our concerns, to their caucus and say, "Look, Conservative and Tory cuts that are happening to these small communities are wrong and it shouldn't happen."

I don't know if they're going to do that or not, because they didn't do it on Bill 7 when they introduced the legalizing of scabs and replacement workers on the job. They just railroaded the bill through the Legislature, and as a result, we're going to have people die on the job, as happened 30 or 33 years ago. Last Thursday I was at a memorial service for the Reesor siding, where people were shot. Three died and six were injured and ended up crippled the rest of their lives as a result of a Conservative government at that time. Now we have another Conservative government in place. We put a plaque out there so that we will remember what happened in 1963 under a Conservative government then, and we don't want those things to happen again. We know that people accidentally die on the job without being instigated by whatever government action. My fear is that those things could happen again. We want to make sure that we spread the word around to as many people as possible.

There are a lot of comments that I want to add to this particular bill because I think it's a very serious direction, that we're heading in the wrong direction. I think it's bad for small-town Ontario, it's bad for small-town northern Ontario, and it's going to mean people are going to end up being shut in in their homes as a result of the Conservative government, under Bill 39, deciding that we don't need regulation of the bus industry, that "We'll deregulate it the same as all the other industries." People are going to end up being hurt.

It's not that difficult to change the mind, because we saw the Liberal government in Ottawa in 1993 campaign on the idea that "If we scrap the GST, we can get elected." Afterwards, they say: "Well, that's not what we meant. We need that $16 billion or $18 billion that is going to be collected. All we wanted to do was to get re-elected. We made a promise that we would resign," but Sheila Copps, in particular, says it's just shooting from the lip and she has no intention of resigning.

Mike Harris has made promises that if he doesn't give the tax cut and create the 725,000 jobs that he said he was going to do in the Common Sense Revolution, he would resign. I don't know if that promise is going to be kept in Ontario. We know that the Liberals are not keeping it in Ottawa, so we can expect that Mike Harris will probably break his promise in Ontario and not resign.

I have further comments that I would like to make at a further date when this bill comes up, but maybe it's a good point to adjourn for the day.

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

The House adjourned at 1759.