36th Parliament, 1st Session

L066 - Tue 30 Apr 1996 / Mar 30 Avr 1996














































The House met at 1333.




Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I am honoured to rise today and congratulate the hardworking members of my community who will make possible the 1996 Ontario Special Olympics Spring Games.

Cornwall will play host to the 725 athletes and 200 coaches when the torch is lit on Thursday, May 2.

Athletes from across Ontario will participate in the disciplines of swimming, power-lifting, floor hockey and five- and 10-pin bowling. For months, the Special Olympics games coordinator has been actively promoting community involvement, and I'm pleased to say that Cornwall and area residents have responded with offers to volunteer their time as well as make financial donations.

Service clubs, the police force, the chamber of commerce, the amalgamated transit unions and many others have helped to raise the entire amount of money needed for the games, a first in Special Olympics history. However, to quote the chairman of the organizing committee, Brian Snyder, "All the money in the world couldn't put this together without the volunteers." Congratulations to the organizers and the more than 300 volunteers who will make the 1996 Special Olympics games in Cornwall a phenomenal success.

I invite all members of the Legislature and the public of Cornwall and area to come to Cornwall on May 2 to 5 to watch Ontario's finest athletes compete for gold. Best of luck to all the athletes.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Today I rise to bring to the government's attention the replies I have received from hundreds of people in my riding, which reflect the response from many people I know across the province objecting to the Mike Harris agenda, specifically to the impact of his tax cut and the reason for his tax cut, the fact that services are going to be slashed and the fact that the benefits of those tax cuts are going to go to the wealthiest citizens in this province.

I want to read for the benefit of the government members just some of the quotes from some of the letters I have received.

One person in my riding writes, "It's more important to me to reduce the deficit than it is to get a tax break."

Another person writes: "I'm very sorry to see what is happening and what will result from the rash actions of Mike Harris' government. Ontario will no longer be a province representing dignity, compassion for the less fortunate, and even cleanliness...if we allow the Tories to continue."

Yet another writes: "I'm glad to hear you are concerned about the negative effects of the current Conservative agenda. As an ESL instructor in adult education I want to add my voice, and the voices of many, many adult immigrants. They are working hard to find their place, their work, here in Ontario, in Canada. At the level I teach, we are talking about nurses, engineers, doctors, accountants -- let us help them, keep them, so they can contribute to a strong, healthy, educated Canada."

That is typical of the responses I'm getting from people in my riding and I know throughout the province who are saying to Mike Harris: "Think again. The tax cut is not the way to go."


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I rise today to honour an outstanding young farmer in my riding, Martin Streef. Martin, who owns and operates Streef Produce Ltd with his family, was recently named Ontario Region Outstanding Young Farmer for 1996. He was chosen from among dozens of farmers from throughout this province. He and nine other finalists were judged in five categories, including progress in agricultural career; extent of soil, water, and energy conservation practices; crop and livestock practices; farm management and financial practices; and contributions to the community and nation.

His roots are in the agricultural area. He grew up on a hobby farm in Oxford Centre and began his career by growing five acres of fruit, vegetables and flowers. He sold his goods on Saturday mornings at a local farmers' market. At age 19 he founded Streef Produce Ltd with his brothers and partners. Today he is the president and CEO of one of the largest potato operations in Ontario. That operation is still a family affair. Until the birth of their son recently, Martin's wife, Olivia, worked in the sales department. Two of his brothers, Peter and Albert, handle sales. His brother John operates the potato crop and his youngest sibling, Jacob, grades, packs and ships produce.

When Martin is not busy in the field or doing paperwork, he finds time for the community as president of the Woodstock Optimist Club, a director of the Woodstock Big Brothers Association, a member of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association and an active participant in round table discussions with the provincial and federal agriculture ministries.

It is obvious that Martin Streef is an outstanding member of the --

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


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I would like to take a moment to offer my congratulations to the Hamilton Transway Minor Bantam Basketball Club for their recent performance in the Ontario Basketball Association provincial championships.

Utilizing the talents of girls from Hamilton, Dundas, Oakville, Ancaster and Flamborough, both the triple A and double A teams did extremely well. The triple A team finished first in the province and the double A team finished second, winning the silver medal. After working incredibly hard all season, both teams pulled it all together for the tournament, and these excellent results put the crowning glory on a highly successful season.

Mention must be made of the triple A team, who finished first in the province. The young ladies included Jessie Lamparski, Erinn Belot, Justine Pavaras, Jessi Tomasin, Angela Valvasori, Heather Gale, Natalie Downey, Marina Rusich, Paula Gale, Rachel Hart, Heather Angus, Cari Te Boekorst, and their coach, Larry Angus.


The second-place finishers in the province, the double A bantam team, included Shannon Coskey, Tara Boyce, Meagan Curtis, Vanessa Gogorza, Stephanie Thibault, Stephanie Kakoski, Vanessa Juzeans, Karen Zmirak, Amanda Fusina, Emily McNabb, Rachel Venner, Alannah Grady, Andrea Benvenuto, and their coach, Lorne Venner.

Congratulations to both teams; a tremendous effort by young ladies who worked very hard year-round and put it all together. They have made the region and this province very proud, and I'm sure the House shares congratulations for those achievements.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): The government continues to say its tax break will not impact on the necessary services across the province. So isn't it interesting that I get a letter from the Fort Frances-Rainy River Board of Education which was directed to the Honourable John Snobelen, Minister of Education and Training, wherein the board says to the minister:

"Your stated goal for boards to strive for vis-à-vis direct classroom expenditure and non-classroom expenditure is 60%-40%. According to the ministry's own figures..., our ratio in 1994 was 63.1%-36.9%. We have already exceeded the...goal" that you, as Minister of Education, have stated. If they are going to make cuts, obviously the cuts will be in the classroom.

What are the cuts this board of education is being told to look at? "We are...forced to look at eliminating our speech program for children with speech and language difficulties, and a special behavioural class for children who simply cannot function successfully in regular classrooms. We live in a relatively remote, underserviced area. Without our programs these children have virtually nothing."

The tax break is hurting all kinds of children across Ontario.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I'm pleased to bring to the attention of this House the accomplishments of the award winners and volunteer organizers of this year's Leaside Skating Club season.

In a club which features broad-based participation, discipline and excellence, all of this year's skaters showed themselves to be outstanding. Particular distinction was earned by Katie MacKenzie, gold ladies' free skate winner and bronze medalist at COSIC; Mary-Helen French, junior bronze ladies' champion and COSIC junior silver solo dance champion; Lenka Zemanek, junior silver free skate champion; Courtney Bulmer, silver artistic ladies' champion; Sara Buckley, preliminary ladies' champion; and Louise Westin, bronze artistic ladies' champion.

Winners of the Chuck Kiel Memorial Award were Mary-Helen French, Stacey Phoenix and Heather Vigna; winner of the Parnell Trophy was Dafne Gokcen; winner of the Ord Trophy was Lee Yoshida; and winner of the Don Wadlow Award was Yvonne Butorac.

Canadian Figure Skating Association gold medal status was achieved by Suzanne Bradwell and Katie MacKenzie.

The strength of the Leaside Skating Club is its volunteers, including its volunteer board of directors. President of the club this year was Liz French. Other board members were Dayle Snack, Marnie Phoenix, Uldis Zommers, John Piper, Kathy MacKenzie, Anne Bradwell, Michael Crowley, Patrick Devine, Ilona Gamble, Valerie Holland, Barbara Horman, Katy Lovrics and John McKinley.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of our community in East York. Another successful skating season at Leaside, culminating in the professional quality production of Musical Blades '96 last weekend, featuring all of the skaters of the club, proved that the East York tradition of active volunteerism continues to thrive in the field of skating.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): The family support plan was created to assist parents and children in collecting support payments owed to them by a delinquent parent and ordered by the court. Today, about 25% of such support payments are more or less recovered.

We know many single parents turn to social assistance when their financial needs could be met by spousal support. This should prompt this government to administer more effectively the family support plan and make it more responsive to those who depend upon it.

Instead, we have a situation such as the one outlined in the Ottawa Citizen's editorial yesterday, where a 1-800 line is the only number available to the general public. Unfortunately, there is rarely a person at the end of the line to answer questions or provide information.

About 15% of the case work in my constituency office deals with the family support plan. Single parents are calling my office because they cannot get through the 1-800 line. They cannot obtain information directly from the regional office.

Does the minister really expect service to improve if these regional offices are closed and the family support plan is centralized in Toronto? It may make great economic sense from this government's perspective, but we must question whether the persons dependent on the plan will benefit.

The point of the whole exercise, it seems, was to help custodial parents and children. Clearly this is not happening. I am calling on the minister today to take immediate measures to resolve this urgent problem.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I too have been receiving a lot of mail from my constituents around the tax cut. I'd like to read from only two of those letters.

The first is from a person who says: "I work with seniors and the disabled, and the prescription drugs that most of these people use or take are vitally important to them. Without their prescriptions they would not be capable or productive. These people don't have enough money now, let alone after the cuts. Mothers have nothing. Children are going hungry every day. All the things Mike Harris is doing is making it worse. We can get out of this hole we are in, but we can't afford to hurt the people that will be hurt through these tax cuts."

The second one is from a single mother who talks about her difficulties in dealing with the welfare cut, but she says she is dealing with that; her real concern is education.

She says: "Last of all, the thing that scares me even more is that the adult education school I go to is threatened at being shut down. Students will have to pay tuition fees like college, and I can't afford that. I won't be able to get my high school diploma. What employer would hire me? What kind of jobs would I even get? I see education as the key out of poverty and far away from welfare, but as you know, my education future and dreams are being threatened by the tax cut."

We've received hundreds and hundreds of letters that tell personal stories like this, and all are claiming that the tax cut is destroying their opportunity to change.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Next month, Queen's University will offer the highest quality of business education ever seen in Canada with the launch of the new Queen's MBA program for science and technology. This is certainly good news for graduate education in Ontario.

It's good news for students because Queen's University has improved both quality and accessibility. By concentrating the program into just one year, Queen's has actually made it less expensive for a student to take an MBA. By raising tuition fees, Queen's will spend more than twice what other schools spend on program delivery per student.

Queen's also has a performance guarantee: It will loan qualified students the funds they need and students don't pay back a dime until they earn at least $50,000 a year.

It's good news for the taxpayer because the Queen's MBA program receives no government funding, and it's good news for Ontario's economy, because no sector is more vital to our competitiveness than science and technology. Queen's will develop the leaders of the future -- in the industries of the future.

As a Queen's graduate, I congratulate Ken Wong, Tom Anger, Dean Margot-Northey and the many others at the Queen's school of business who have worked so hard to make this exciting and innovative program a reality.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is to the Minister of Health. Minister, last week you were in Ottawa and while you were there you took some considerable pride in announcing there would be new kidney dialysis services provided in eastern Ontario, and indicated that in Ottawa and Cornwall a private sector, for-profit company would be allowed to provide that service.

Your government is currently negotiating with an American firm based in Boston to provide these services. The company's name is National Medical Care. Minister, National Medical Care is under criminal investigation in three separate US states.

My staff spoke with officials of National Medical Care today and confirmed the following:

In New Jersey, National Medical Care is under investigation for selling defective products and for its handling of customer complaints. Second, in Virginia, National Medical Care is under investigation for contracts between the company's kidney dialysis service and third parties who act as medical directors and provide other services. In Massachusetts, National Medical Care is under investigation for insurance fraud.


Minister, when did you become aware that the American company your government is negotiating with to provide kidney dialysis services to Ontario residents was being investigated for insurance fraud and selling defective products?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I and the ministry became aware after we made the announcement. I say to the honourable member that people shouldn't jump to conclusions on this, in that -- let me explain the process -- it was a sealed legal tender in which no politicians were involved. The information provided to the ministry by Dr Posen, the owner and proponent of the Canadian-owned non-profit independent health facility that's to provide dialysis services -- you're right, it was one of four in the announcement we made in Ottawa. It wasn't until either later that day or the next day that someone said -- perhaps it was the next day when the Ottawa Citizen came out and said a Boston company by the name of the company referred to was going to run it and that Dr Posen would have it as a management team. Now, keep in mind that the employees will be Canadian, with respect to the nephrologist and the nurses who work there.

But nothing's been signed. Part of the process, as you know, is that the ministry in all cases -- I simply announced the leading contenders for the tender based on the information they provided; those were the ones I announced. Nothing's been signed, and you can be sure we are having and will be having discussions with Dr Posen about the information he provided my ministry and about what his intentions are in providing those services in the future.

Mrs McLeod: If you're suggesting that we shouldn't rush to conclusions, I suggest to you that you shouldn't be in such a rush to make announcements or to trumpet the cost-efficiency of privatizing our health care services.

You went to Ottawa and you announced these new services with a great deal of fanfare. I find it truly hard to believe that as a minister you held a news conference to announce this wonderful new plan without even checking out the company you were negotiating with to provide the service. This was not difficult information to come by. You didn't need to rely on a news report to find out about this. It took a simple check of US information services, which my staff made, and a couple of phone calls to confirm this information.

You are the minister responsible for making this announcement. Surely you would have done the investigation to determine that criminal investigations being carried out on this particular company relate very directly to the exact types of services National Medical Care is potentially going to contract to provide in Ottawa-Carleton: kidney dialysis services. You have a responsibility to explain how this could possibly have happened. Why did you fail, as minister, to do a proper investigation of this firm before the negotiations with them began?

Hon Mr Wilson: We had a number of people reply to the tender or the request for proposal, and based on the information that was provided, we took Dr Posen, who is a Canadian, who as an individual is a highly respected nephrologist, or kidney specialist, in the Ottawa-Carleton area -- we took the information that was provided.

But part of the process, as the honourable member knows, is the negotiations in terms of quality and price. All our independent health facilities are run by physicians, and where medical procedures are conducted the College of Physicians and Surgeons has responsibility for quality assurance.

I would caution the honourable member, because we went through this on Bill 26. There are 1,100 independent health facilities out there, all of them approved by previous governments. These are the first ones I've approved. They're run primarily by doctors doing diagnostic clinics, most of them, abortion clinics and that, and we've not checked the passports of the management team and neither did any of your governments. We don't know who the management teams are for those. The requirements were that a Canadian non-profit corporation establish these, prior to Bill 26, and those safeguards are still in place after Bill 26. I dare you to say today that all 1,100 we have out there now are wholly managed by Canadians or that you're sure exactly who the financial backers for the 1,100 institutions are now.

We brought in safeguards in Bill 26 to ensure that, for the first time, this government could refine and further refine the requirements to be contained in the request-for-proposal process. As a result of finding out this information through a media report after we made the announcement, we are investigating this, talking to Dr Posen and making sure we get the highest-quality services at the best price, which is what he was to live up to in the request-for-proposal process.

Mrs McLeod: The highest possible services at the least price, with a company that is being investigated for shoddy services, a company that was being investigated and was being widely reported in the American press long before you made your announcement -- in February of this year, in October of last year. In July of last year, a correspondent reported that the Justice Department was investigating allegations about National Medical Care.

Minister, we are not talking about the other 1,100 independent health care facilities; we are talking about the one independent health care facility that you were about to approve. It is a direct result of Bill 26, Minister, because with Bill 26, in spite of all objections, you opened the door for US health care profit-making providers to come into this province. You took away the Canadian preference rule and that's why National Medical Care was even allowed to bid on providing kidney dialysis services in eastern Ontario.

You say they won the contract because they had the lowest price, but you assured the public that the quality would not suffer. We warned you that services would suffer if you allowed US profit-making companies into Canada, and now we learn that a grand jury in New Jersey is investigating this company for shoddy service.

Minister, you gave yourself unparalleled powers under Bill 26, powers to decide -- you and you alone -- which American for-profit companies would be allowed into the province of Ontario. There are no checks and balances on your decision-making power. You have a responsibility today to tell us, because Bill 26 was flawed, what you will now do, what steps you will take to make sure this never happens again.

Hon Mr Wilson: For an honourable member who in one of her earlier questions took pride in her research, her research is indeed shoddy. This tender was a matter of public record and was put out prior to Bill 26. These tenders were begun in September of last year. This particular tender would have been out in October, November at the latest, long before Bill 26 went through this Parliament.

Secondly, let's not leave on the record any falsehoods about Bill 26 with respect to this. The previous Canadian preference in the previous Independent Health Facilities Act, you know, or you should know, held no weight in law whatsoever. We cleared up Bill 26 to make sure that we could put further stipulations, tightening up, actually checking to make sure they are Canadian, which was not part of the Independent Health Facilities Act prior. At the end of the day, after Bill 26 went through, everybody except the Leader of the Opposition agreed that what we did was to tighten it.

I will say, with respect -- and all I can do is be honest, the way my parents raised me in Alliston -- that when I became aware that National Medical Care was involved with Dr Posen, who is a respected nephrologist from the Ottawa-Carleton region, who is the proponent of this, that his name, as owner of the clinic, was on the tender, when we became aware of that, we began investigating it, and that's what we're doing right now.

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

Mrs McLeod: I had intended moving to the Minister of Education and Training with a question, but I'll give him a reprieve for today and stay with the Minister of Health.

Minister, I find it absolutely incredible that with all of those words, you haven't answered a very simple question: Is it true or is it not true that under Bill 26 you gave yourself as Minister of Health unprecedented powers, first of all, to allow any company, profit-making or not-for-profit, to come in as an independent health facility without a Canadian preference, and potentially even without a request for proposal, although I'm not suggesting that was the process followed in this case? Do you or do you not have the power to make those decisions?

Hon Mr Wilson: Yes, today I fully have the power to decide whether it's a Canadian company or not, which did not exist in anything other than words. Under the previous Independent Health Facilities Act, anyone could set up a non-profit Canadian corporation as a front to run an independent health facility in this province. Bill 26 allows us to check beyond that to make sure they truly are Canadian, if that is the desire and the contents of the tender that we put out.


Secondly, with respect to the particular case that's raised here, all three names that appear in the tender document for this Canadian non-profit organization that is to run Ottawa-Carleton dialysis services are fully Canadian, respected physicians in this province, and my ministry and I had no reason prior to the Ottawa Citizen article to suspect there was anything behind this with respect to American involvement. Once we found out, we immediately started talking with them and want to find out exactly what all the facts are in this case, and that's what we're doing now.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, it would not have required a great deal of effort on your part to determine whether or not the names in the proposals were Canadian. I'm sure it would not have taken a great deal of effort on your part to determine that the company which was being negotiated with to manage the service, to provide that service for that Canadian-based group, was in fact a US profit-making company, National Medical Care, nor would it have taken you much effort to find that this company was under criminal investigation in the United States for providing essentially similar services to what they were being contracted to provide in Ontario.

Did you make any effort to check on the company that was being negotiated with to provide these services in Ontario?

Hon Mr Wilson: Yes, we checked with the company we were negotiating with, which was Dr Posen, who is a very highly respected nephrologist in Canada in the Ottawa-Carleton region. That is the company we were negotiating with. Where his employees were coming from, we were not at that stage. As far as I'm assured now, there are still Canadian nurses and there are still Canadian nephrologists. Where his management team was coming from, which I assume is one or two people, no, we did not check that. We were not aware of that.

Very clearly, the company we were dealing with is a non-profit Canadian company owned by Dr Posen. That is what the tender documents show and we took him on good faith with respect to those documents.

Mrs McLeod: Let me understand this, Minister. You've acknowledged that you, and you alone, as a result of Bill 26, have the powers. It is Bill 26 which allows the Minister of Health unilaterally to determine that independent health care facilities can be licensed in the province of Ontario without a Canadian preference. That is clearly your decision and you've acknowledged that in the House today.

You, and you alone as Minister of Health, are also accountable to the people of this province for the quality of the services they receive. Do you not feel that you have a responsibility to check not just the Canadian companies presenting the proposal but in fact the companies that will be managing and providing the services to Ontario residents? Have you no responsibility to ensure that this service will be of the highest quality, indeed that it is all aboveboard?

You are the only elected member. Are you suggesting that with the sole ability to decide who gets a licence, you feel you've discharged your responsibilities to Ontario residents by simply checking out the presenting Canadian company and leaving that responsibility to non-elected people to determine whether they are going to be able to provide quality service? Is that what you're telling us today?

Hon Mr Wilson: Nothing could be further from the truth. For the first time in the history of Ontario we brought in quality guidelines for dialysis services. That's what the request for proposal was all about. The preference of this government is highest quality at best price, in that order. You people let out tenders across this province with no quality guidelines as to what your performance measurements were going to be, what your expectations in terms of quality of medical services were going to be on behalf of the people of Ontario. You are very free to check the tender here. The fact of the matter is, we put in extensive clauses for the first time on the quality that any company must meet.

We also can fully retain the right in Ontario to have Canadian preference if that's required, but I would remind the honourable member that this contract was done prior to Bill 26. Perhaps if we had had Bill 26, I would have been able to check fully the passports of everyone who might work at the clinic, if that's what the honourable member is suggesting.

I again remind the honourable member that for the first time we have brought in quality guidelines, that it's not just politicians with this responsibility but that the College of Physicians and Surgeons has a responsibility also to help us ensure quality assurance. We're very confident, with respect to the other dialysis services we've done around the province, that we are going to get very high quality or they won't continue to have their licence as an independent health facility. That is the bottom line.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): In the absence of the Premier and the Minister of Finance, I have a question for the Chair of Management Board. As we all know, this is tax filing day and these are mailbags with a lot of returns dealing with the issue of taxes.

The Premier has attempted to pretend that the government spending cuts have nothing to do with financing the proposed tax cut. As a matter of fact, today he told a reporter: "Well, of course...there's no relationship between the spending reductions or the new spending and the tax cuts. They're two separate policies." This communication spin by the Conservative government isn't fooling anybody in Ontario. Just as there's only one taxpayer, there's only one bottom line. This is part of the same package.


Mr Wildman: Obviously the Conservatives seem to be upset about this, but we want to present to the government 102,000 returns on a mailout where people have indicated that they want us to tell the government they don't want this tax cut at the expense of more expensive drugs for seniors and at the expense of food for kids or transportation for the disabled. The question really is, as we send these over to the Chair of Management Board for his government, will the government listen to what these people have to say? Will you recognize that your determination to have a tax cut means fewer services for people who need them, and will you change your position?

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Take the sacks out.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I believe this government has a strong reputation for listening to the people of the province of Ontario. This government has kept the promises it made during the election.

I want to read just a short quote from the Premier. This quote was made one week ago.


The Speaker: Order, please.

Hon David Johnson: This quote was from a message one week ago. It says: "Tonight I want to announce more steps that will benefit hardworking people and their families. We're going to cut taxes for small businesses and new small businesses. The budget that we will introduce will include a modest tax cut targeted to the middle class. The full details of this tax fairness package will be outlined in the budget. We're on the side of the ordinary people and are very proud of that fact."

The Premier involved is Premier Glen Clark, the NDP Premier --


The Speaker: Order.

Hon David Johnson: Maybe they should bring some of the bags to Glen Clark, the NDP Premier of British Columbia.


The Speaker: Order. Would the members on this side come to order, please, and would the members on this side come to order, please. The leader of the third party.

Mr Wildman: Since the Chair of Management Board is interested in quotes, perhaps he would look at some of the comments made on the returns that he has received from people in Ontario. I'd like to read him a couple of those comments.

John Lukkarinen from Scarborough writes, "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize...Mr M. Harris' 30% tax break promise is totally unrealistic at this time."

Mrs Dorothy Skakoon from Windsor writes, "A tax break would be welcomed but not at the expense of others -- that's blood money."

Mrs Olga McDaid of Thunder Bay writes, "I wonder if a tax break would cover all the user fees that will be imposed on the public with all the cutbacks?"

Obviously these people recognize that in Ontario, when you're talking about cuts to cut the deficit but at the same time you're bringing in a tax cut that will benefit the top 10% of money earners in this province far more than anyone else, they're going to pay for it in other ways. They're going to pay for it in fewer services and in more hidden taxes, or user fees.

The people in this province voted for this government's program. They promised a tax cut. They also promised not to touch health care, not to affect classroom education, not to cut agriculture and not to cut police services. In fact they've cut $2 billion out of health care and $400 million out of education, they've cut services and programs for farmers by 30% and they've cut police services.

The Speaker: And your question is?

Mr Wildman: Isn't it true that to keep your promise on the tax cut, you're breaking all your other promises with regard to safeguarding some of the most important parts of this budget and government services in Ontario?

Hon David Johnson: The answer to that clearly is, absolutely not. This government is living up to all its promises.

In terms of who is receiving the benefit of this tax cut, the leader of the third party will know that 90% of the taxpayers of the province earn under $68,000, so clearly the maximum benefit goes to people with middle incomes or low incomes.

As the ministers have indicated, this government is committed to protecting the health care envelope. The $17.4 billion has been protected, will continue to be protected. We made that promise during the election. We'll abide by that promise.

This government has committed to protecting classroom education. The amount of reduction, about a 3% reduction in spending across the province, permits school boards to implement the efficiencies and yet protect classroom funding.

It's the same with police. This government has exempted from any reductions the front-line policing. What has been reduced is the administration behind the scenes.

I believe the people of Ontario will say: "Right on. Administration costs should be reduced, but protect front-line services, protect education, protect policing." That's what this government has done.

Mr Wildman: It's obvious that this government is committed to trickle-down economics, which haven't worked elsewhere and won't work here.

Doesn't the minister recognize that the layoff notices in education haven't gone to administrators but have gone to teachers, teachers in the classroom, and that this government has broken its promise on the health care envelope? It is not a sealed envelope; in fact more has been cut than has been put back in, in terms of the transfers this minister says.

Doesn't this government recognize that the people of the province want balance? They want to see that you will meet your commitments with regard to education, health care, agriculture and policing. You're not doing it simply because of a commitment to meet a tax cut that means you're going to have to cut all these other services far more deeply and widely than you anticipated.

Can't you admit that you're making significant cuts to these areas where you promised not to, in order to meet the promise of a tax cut that will benefit, despite what you say, the top 10% of income earners in this province and not the rest of us?

Hon David Johnson: I clearly wouldn't admit to that, because it's not true. It's important that this government live up to all its commitments. People are looking for that in government, and clearly that's what we are delivering.

The reason Glen Clark in British Columbia is reducing certain taxes is the same reason we're reducing taxes in Ontario. The unemployment rate is too high. We need to stimulate the economy, we need to stimulate economic growth, we need to create jobs and we need to get people back to work. That's why we are introducing the income tax cut.

In the long run, with more people working, with more people drawing pay, there will be more taxes paid. There will be more income taxpayers, there will be more income tax paid, there will be more sales tax because those people will be buying. In the long run, this income tax cut will help this government balance its budget.



Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The so-called Common Sense Revolution states: "Historically, municipalities have responded to provincial funding limits by simply increasing local property taxes. There may be numerous levels of government in this province, but there is only one level of taxpayer." The document goes further and says this very specifically: that this government will work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions it takes will not result in increases to local property taxes.

As well, during the election campaign the Premier went further and signed a taxpayer protection pledge. He promised he'd reduce personal income taxes by 30% and wouldn't raise any others, and he vowed he would resign if he broke any of his promises. The Premier seemed to understand at the time -- at least he led the people of this province to believe he understood -- the interrelationship of provincial funding and local government finance. The Premier included words in his election pledges to sooth concerns over the property tax. He made people believe his numbers worked and that he could make the necessary cuts, implement a tax cut and balance the budget without affecting property taxes. Do the minister and his government still stand by those words?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): We certainly do. I can name municipality after municipality coming out this year with no tax increases whatsoever. We're working very closely with the municipalities. They're more than prepared to work with us to reduce costs through efficiencies, probably a word you haven't heard very often.

The city of Toronto, no tax increase. Metro, 1% to build a subway -- good move. North York, no tax increase. Municipalities right across the province, no tax increase. They're working with us, something they didn't do with you.

Mr Kormos: As a result of this government's cuts, municipalities and school boards across the province are being forced both to cut services and raise taxes. The cuts are so deep that they're not choosing tax hikes instead of restructuring or tax hikes instead of service, because they're doing all three.

Examples: Sault Ste Marie, a 3.75% increase, at the same time raising user fees, your hidden taxes, for parks and recreation services and senior centres, and cutting transit services; York region, an increase of 1.4% in order to maintain police services; Peel school board, 1.7%; Simcoe county board, 3%; Sudbury school board, 5.9%; Sudbury separate school board, 4.5%; Waterloo County Board of Education, 1.9%; Metro separate school board, 1.5%; the Windsor school board is contemplating a 3.9% tax hike.

These guys don't want to admit it, but these property tax hikes are a direct result of their need to create fiscal room for their tax cut, for their tax break for the richest in this province. This minister said he was going to work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions they take will not result in increases to local property taxes. What has he done with respect to these municipalities?

Hon Mr Leach: It's absolutely amazing that a party that raised taxes 33 times and just battered the hell out of municipalities would have the audacity to get up and talk about tax increases of 1% or 2%, and most of those are with school boards. The tax increases by municipalities this year will probably be lower than any other year in the last decade, and they're working with us on restructuring because they realize that municipalities have to work more efficiently and more effectively and must restructure.

There are 35 separate restructuring programs under way at present, as of today, involving more than 100 municipalities. They realize the problems your government got us into over the last five years. They know they have to work with us to get rid of the deficit and get tackling the debt. They're prepared to work with us, and we're working with them.

Mr Kormos: That's pure horsefeathers and this minister knows it. It's been pointed out day after day that one of the problems with this government's so-called plan is that because of the spending cuts they're going to need to finance this tax break for their rich friends, user fees and property taxes are going to go up.

At the same time that this government has whacked municipalities and school boards with huge cuts to transfer payments -- that's what they've done -- the government has maintained that it won't affect services. We hear that over and over again. They've been very specific about their claim that the cuts to school board transfers will not affect classroom education, that they have to protect police services, so that municipalities and school boards have to take the cut, not impact the level and quality of services and not raise the property tax.

Look what happened to the Sudbury Board of Education. Just last Wednesday they voted to increase the public school portion of property tax by 5.9%. In defending his decision, board chair Ernie Checkeris stated: "What do we do? Do you want us to kill children's education and screw up a whole generation?" As reported in the Sudbury Star, Mr Checkeris "insisted administrative and staffing ranks have been pared to the bone." So you're asking the impossible.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): And the question is?

Mr Kormos: The minister is asking the impossible. How can you maintain that this income tax cut, this tax break to your rich buddies, will create jobs when the cash you claim to be putting in the hands of Ontarians is being eaten up with these property tax increases, the ones I've been citing to you today?

Hon Mr Leach: I find it really amusing sometimes. They sit over there and they say we cut social services spending by 20%, so there's no money to spend, it's going to hurt businesses. Then when we say we're going to reduce taxes and give money to spend, you say that's bad too.

Mr Kormos: Why have property taxes gone up?

The Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold.

Hon Mr Leach: Which position do you want to take? Is he finished asking the question, Mr Speaker?

We're working with municipalities very closely. We've had more meetings with AMO. They agree with the actions this government has taken.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): How about the user fees, Al?

Hon Mr Leach: The user fees are an excellent way for municipalities --

Mr Kormos: What about the property taxes going up?


The Speaker: Would the members come to order, please. Will the minister wrap up his answer.

Hon Mr Leach: That's the most hypocritical position I've ever heard.


Mr Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South): My question is for the Minister of Environment and Energy. This morning the World Wildlife Fund of Canada handed out its national report card. The report card marks each province on its efforts to protect natural areas. Ontario scored an F. In contrast, and I find this a particularly interesting contrast, Alberta scored a B, the second-highest mark in the country. Minister, what's your explanation for your government's failing grade?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I thank my friend opposite for the question. This is normally an area that my colleague the Minister of Natural Resources would be happy to respond to, but I'm pleased to answer on his behalf.

The protection of natural areas and sustainable management of this province's resources is a concern for this government. The Ministry of Natural Resources is drafting an action plan for completing Ontario's system of protected areas. This plan will provide comprehensive criteria for designating new areas, and once this plan is in place, we will move forward.

We will meet its campaign commitment to provide an action plan, and I would like to note that this plan was started by the previous government, but the document failed to address properly the World Wildlife Fund's desire to balance environmental protection and job creation.

Mr McGuinty: In 1989, Ontario was further ahead than all the other provinces in the protection of its natural areas. In fact, Ontario was the very first province to commit itself to meeting the goal of establishing a network of protected areas by the year 2000. Your party made an election promise to have a plan for just such a network in place by December 1995. Four months later there's still no sign of that plan. Not only have you missed your own deadline; your commitment in even making a plan is now suspect.

Minister, when specifically will you be releasing your plan to protect Ontario's natural areas?

Hon Mrs Elliott: I would like to emphasize the fact that I think it's important we do not go forward in a piecemeal fashion. We are working on our action plan.

The other thing I would like to note is it's important that we have some decisions made with regard to boundaries. Certainly the first nations would be concerned about this, and there are some mining concerns that need to be addressed as well.



The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): If I may have the indulgence of the House's time, we have a visitor in the gallery today, Mr Mel Swart, a former member for Welland-Thorold. Welcome, Mel.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Health. Minister, you will be aware, I hope, that the board of directors of the Association of District Health Councils in the province passed a motion last week regarding their concerns about your recent partisan appointments to local district health councils. The association sent you a motion calling on you to end your political interference in appointments.

The association has researched and documented the direct involvement of your political office in the appointments process and has found that a total of 23 parachuted appointments have been made in eight district health councils. You have ignored the legitimate, non-partisan recommendations made from district health councils in Ottawa-Carleton, Essex-Windsor, Brant, Waterloo, Simcoe, Hamilton-Wentworth, Halton and Sudbury. You've ignored recommendations from those district health councils.

Will you do the honourable thing and rescind those blatantly partisan appointments and start listening to the local associations that know better what's best for their community than you do sitting here in Toronto?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I'm aware of the letter from the Association of District Health Councils of Ontario. I'm also aware that the world doesn't exactly operate the way the honourable member suggests that it does in terms that every organization out there and every person who is on an advisory board to the government is necessarily non-partisan.

I'd be happy to give you the litany of names of very partisan people whom you appointed, as government, to the district health councils. You undid 20 years worth of non-partisanship, true non-partisanship, in our district health councils in Ontario, because district health councils were started as advisory boards 20 years ago by the Conservative government of the day to be truly the eyes, ears and conscience of local communities and to not take partisan shots at the minister through the local media, as we see very often in his own area, and they are indeed partisan shots.

Having said that, the record is clear: 80% of the DHCs' appointment recommendations to this minister have been approved by this minister and this government, a record better than the previous NDP government's with respect to accepting the advice of district health councils in this province.

Mr Laughren: I will not call the minister a liar, but what he just said is simply not true.

The Manitoulin-Sudbury District Health Council is a very good example of some of the most blatant political involvement we've ever seen in our community. The chair of the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Health Council, in a letter addressed to you, states: "In recent months, our council nominated 12 people for appointment and three for re-appointment after having rigorously followed the process set out in the information guide for appointments to DHCs. Council members are concerned that you have chosen to disregard their nominations. Further, council members are concerned that political affiliation now appears to be an important criterion for appointment."

This isn't happening in just one district health council; it's happening in at least eight across the province. The district health council says that you are undermining the community confidence, and that's exactly what you're doing, because I can tell you that in Sudbury your appointments are a joke. You must, you simply have got to, if you're going to restore confidence in the district health councils across this province, restore legitimacy and integrity to the appointment process. Will you do that?

Hon Mr Wilson: If the honourable member doesn't have confidence in his constituents who have been appointed to his district health council, you, Mr Laughren, are Chair of the standing committee on government agencies, boards and commissions, and if you don't have confidence in your own constituents, many of them put on your district --

Mr Laughren: It won't wash, Jim, I know my contituents better than you do.

Hon Mr Wilson: You tried this when I was up there and it didn't fly, Mr Laughren. These are excellent people, recommended in many cases by the medical society in Sudbury. They're your constituents and those of Ms Martel and Mr Bartolucci, and if you don't have faith in your own good people, and all of them non-partisan, haul them before the legislative committee, which is your right, and challenge their qualifications in a public committee, and stop taking cheap shots at these good people who are volunteers and not paid a penny for their efforts.


Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. I was flipping through the newspaper the other day and I ran across a rather startling article, I think it was in the Toronto Star, concerning the Ontario teachers' pension plan.

If I understand the facts correctly, and I must admit the facts were somewhat difficult to understand -- frankly, they were overwhelming -- it appears that the previous government, in its attempt to keep a lid on the escalating deficit they were dealing with, which they were generating, cut a deal, it seems, with the Ontario teachers' pension fund. It looks like this deal would say, all right, the government will let that pension fund off the hook, and I think the terminology was "holiday," although I'm not exactly sure what that word means, for yearly contributions to the pension fund if the province agreed to pick up a tab to the tune of an $8-billion deficit in the pension plan at that time, a deficit I was led to believe was created by questionable investments in the fund.

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

Mr Sampson: Could the minister help me out and help my constituents out who have been calling me on this item, and advise as to whether this deal was indeed a done deal and what kind of financial mess has been left to the taxpayers of this province by the previous government sitting over there in this Legislature?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I agree with my colleagues who just commented what an excellent question the member for Mississauga West has raised today. The honourable member will know that I too have heard questions from my constituents because of recent media stories. My constituents, and I'm sure yours, are concerned not only that they have recently read they are on the hook for an unfunded liability for sick leave gratuities for about $1 billion, but that because of the actions of previous governments in 1989 and 1992, some of which the member has alluded to, the taxpayers are on the hook for a liability with the pension fund of over $8 billion. Not only will the taxpayers be paying for this next year, but their children --


Hon Mr Snobelen: The members of the opposition might want to hear this. The children of our taxpayers will be paying for this unfunded liability, because this will be paid out over the next 34 years, because of a deal arrived at by the previous governments.


Although we've heard some people talking about the draconian effects of a reduction, of a request that boards find savings next year of under 2%, about $233 million, next year the taxpayers of Ontario will contribute almost $1 billion to this pension fund because of those arrangements made by previous governments.

Mr Sampson: I'm still shocked. I can't believe these numbers. I cannot believe what the minister has been telling us.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Talk to Bill Davis; he did it.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Where's Bill Davis?

The Speaker: Order. I can't hear the question.

Mr Sampson: I'm still shocked and so are the residents of my riding. I cannot believe we're expected to pass this debt on to my children and my children's children and my constituents' children. This is over and above the $100-billion debt we were talking about before. It's now $108 billion and growing every time we look at what this previous NDP government did. What can the minister possibly do to relieve us of this burden?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I know that not only is the member shocked but many people are shocked when they find out that not only is the province on the hook because of these arrangements for over $8 billion but the $1.2-billion experience gain that the fund has recently developed can't be used to satisfy that because of the arrangement made by previous governments. Indeed that is shocking.

One of the other things I think is shocking is that members of the opposition -- both parties -- and members of teachers' unions often quote the cost of education without including the cost of pension, without including this normal cost of compensation. I'm surprised by that. In our announcement a couple of weeks ago about our own compensation, this government recognized that pension is part of compensation. Maybe it's time the members of the opposition take that into account when they quote education dollars, and the same with the unions representing teachers. One of the things we can do is to recognize these contributions.


Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Since assuming office last June, you have had meetings with the Association of Canadian Distillers as well as representatives of individual distilleries, including Hiram Walker from my community, Corby and Seagram. The representations made to you and your colleagues were to the effect that the taxation on distilled spirits is unfair relative to other forms of taxation on alcohol. You've been exploring the whole alcohol industry. Have you made recommendations to the Minister of Finance with respect to this and is your government prepared to deal with the concerns that have been raised by the association, especially with respect to the jobs that could be lost if we don't?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I really appreciate the contribution the distilled spirits industry has done for the province of Ontario. Particularly, Hiram Walker in Windsor is one of the largest distillers in the world. Past governments haven't recognized their contribution. In talking with the distilled spirits industry, I have said to them that as we go through the restructuring of our retail system, we will be considering issues like the distribution of taxes and markups with regard to all different products, and said to them very clearly that I recognized there perhaps wasn't an even playing field with regard to that sector of the alcohol industry.

Mr Duncan: You are no doubt aware that there have been some disagreements between the federal and provincial jurisdictions, and the federal government is looking for provincial agreement around the whole issue. Last week, in correspondence and meetings, the federal Minister of Finance indicated a willingness, if a jurisdiction like Ontario takes the lead, to look at the whole issue.

The Minister of Finance also wrote to me on June 30 and indicated, "In preparation for the upcoming budget, I will be reviewing a number of taxation issues, including the level of taxation on alcohol products."

Minister, the industry is really at a desperate stage. Indeed, last week Hiram Walker indicated a concern that it will close if this issue isn't addressed relatively quickly. Would you, with the Minister of Finance, agree to try to fast-track this and meet with the Minister of Finance to see if we can come up with some arrangements to try and protect the jobs that are left in Ontario, recognizing that since 1984 there have been over 8,000 jobs lost in the industry?

Hon Mr Sterling: You know, our government is going to bring forward a budget next week where we have promised some tax cuts. Unfortunately, our federal government has done the exact reverse.

I find it strangely ironic that the federal Liberals would meet in Windsor last week and start talking about tax cuts to distilled spirits. We've heard about promises about scrapping other taxes in Canada and in Ontario, and I don't know, when federal Liberals get together and start talking about scrapping taxes, whether they're serious or not. Were we not going to get rid of the GST in the province of Ontario and Canada? Isn't that what the Deputy Prime Minister of this country said in the past? She said she would resign if they didn't scrap the GST. Has she resigned?

If the federal Liberals would like to drop the amount of taxation that they are taking on distilled spirits, I would welcome that kind of leadership. I would welcome leadership on the part of the federal Liberals to decrease taxes, not increase taxes, as both the provincial and federal Liberals have done time and time again. It's time for the --


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


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Health. We have learned that because of your government's cuts to the health care system, cancer patients may no longer be assisted with transportation to where they have to get their radiation treatments. The Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation has been told to expect a cut in its budget this year. That means they will have to find about $1 million somewhere. They plan to reduce their budget in the transportation area and in the next few years will completely phase out funding to the Canadian Cancer Society to provide transportation services, despite the fact that the Cancer Act in section 5 requires that they provide those transportation services.

I'd like to ask the minister if he feels it's now time to put an end to the big lie that you're not cutting health care services in this province.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I can only assure the honourable member, as I have on many, many occasions, that the health care budget was $17.4 billion when we arrived in office; it's $17.4 billion today and it will be $17.4 billion each year going through the next election, as was our commitment to the people of Ontario in the last election campaign and in the Common Sense Revolution when we wrote it in May 1994.

I can assure you that that fact will be once again reconfirmed in Mr Eves's next economic statement or budget, that is, we have fully sealed the health care envelope. You've not been able to find, having just gone through an estimates process with the opposition parties here, any evidence contrary to that. The budget is fully sealed at our commitment.

With respect to the reduction in transfers to the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation, yes, we did announce as part of the November statement and we more recently, in filling out the details of that statement, did announce a 5% cut. We do not want to see a cut in front-line services and we are making it very clear that they must find that 5% in administration, as we've done in the Ministry of Health, and they're not to cut front-line services. I thank the honourable member for bringing this point to my attention.



Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Point of order, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Mississauga South on a point of order.

Mrs Marland: Mr Speaker, my point of order is based on standing order 13(a), which reads as follows: "The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum...." Also, 20(b) says, "When a member is speaking, no other member shall interrupt such member...." I feel, as do a lot of members on all sides of this House, that the decorum in this chamber is deteriorating to a point of absolute disgust for us as members.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): It's all because of the Tories.

Mrs Marland: You see what I mean? We have received from you at least four letters asking us to restore the decorum. I am standing in my place today, Mr Speaker, to ask you to review the tapes of the proceedings in this House so far today and to tell us if you accept the proceedings in this House as a standard of decorum that you're proud of.

The Speaker: The member has made her point very well. I suggest that all members are guilty of the same offence. I would say to the honourable member that she should raise that issue in her caucus next Tuesday, and I would ask all chairs of caucus to raise the issue in their caucuses. Perhaps that would be the best way to solve the situation that we have.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): Mr Speaker, on this point of order: I must say I concur with the member for Mississauga South on this issue. In fact, as caucus chair, we were discussing this in the Liberal caucus this morning in our place. I would like to ask this Speaker if he would consider being strict with the questioners -- and that's us in the opposition -- but also with the responders in the government. I think if each of us on both sides would try harder to place our questions more succinctly and the answers in turn would come back to us more succinctly -- and we'd ask for your assistance in that -- we could have better decorum in this House.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On the point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise in support of my friend the member for Mississauga South and point out that while there have been many interruptions from all sides of the House, I was quite taken aback by the reaction on the government side when I tried to place my first question. I would really like all members on that side to take that into account and remember that all interjections are out of order.

The Speaker: I'm very pleased that the issue has been raised and I'm very pleased that the other members have taken the time to realize the problem that we have. I will certainly do my part to try to make question period a better place for all.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Hamilton Centre has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the minister without portfolio, Workers' Compensation Board, concerning his report on the WCB. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.



Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Attached is a petition signed by 67 superannuated teachers of Ontario, district 13. It reads as follows:

"We, the undersigned, superannuated teachers of Ontario of district 13,

"Could much more readily accept the government of Ontario cuts if they were more equitably focused, rather than targeting the most vulnerable of our citizens;

"Would much prefer a comprehensive attack on the deficit, instead of a singleminded focus on expenditures only, which in our view jeopardizes the future of education, reduces the quality of health care, reduces the supervision of our environment, attacks the wellbeing of our poorest citizens, many of whom are children, puts affordable housing at risk and increases costs for seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes."

They recommend "a focus on our unemployment, which is a provincial disgrace, by making loans more accessible for new businesses, eliminating payroll taxes and possibly reducing the length of the workweek."

They recommend "an immediate study of employment as it will look in the next generation, and the preparation of a plan which promotes full employment in as short a period of time as possible. This would do much to eliminate the hopelessness which is rampant among many who are not wealthy Ontarians."

I submit this petition to the House.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly against the changes the Harris government wants at the WCB. They want to regain the fair benefits that were agreed to in 1915.

I affix my name to the petition.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have a petition to the Legislature.

"We, the undersigned, hereby apply to the Ministry of Transportation to have the speed limit on Highway 7 east from Television Road to Drummond Line in Otonabee township reduced from 80 kilometres to 50 kilometres for safety reasons."

I affix my signature to it.


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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have a petition from people out at St James Town in regard to the government's plan to scrap rent control. It reads as follows:

"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 Party 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 in 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;

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

I have signed the petition.


Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I have a petition signed by 444 students from Orangeville District Secondary School objecting to the cuts by the Dufferin County Board of Education.

I wish to file this with the Legislature.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): A petition to the Ontario Legislature.

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

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

This petition is signed by a number of constituents from across the riding of Kent.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a petition signed by 253 residents of Ontario. It is addressed to the Premier, and it says:

"I'd like to tell you that it's more important for me to provide prescription drugs for seniors than it is to get a tax break. It's more important to help a person with disabilities to get work or feed a hungry child than it is to get a tax break.

"Mr Harris, stop the cuts. Keep your tax break. We want the kind of Ontario we're proud to call home."

I support the petition, and I affix my name to it.


Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I have a petition with 30 signatures addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"Whereas the OPP detachments of Wasaga Beach, Bala, Alliston, Shelburne, Midland, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge and Huntsville report 1,068 traffic collisions in the month of November 1995; and

"Whereas November 8th and 15th were peak snowfall periods and MTO services were not in full production; and

"Whereas there is a large population from these towns that travel to jobs in Toronto, Brampton and Mississauga that need roads plowed and sanded 24 hours a day due to shift work; weekdays and weekends during heavy squalls off the Great Lakes. In addition, the winter tourism industry to these areas draws approximately 100,000 weekend drivers; and

"Whereas the provincial government spending has reduced Ministry of Transportation services of no snowplows during 12:30 am to 4:30 am;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to provide sanders and plows 24 hours a day for the following well-travelled routes:

"County roads 18 (Airport Road), Simcoe 10, and highways 50, 27, 400, 26, 10 and 24."

The petition is in the proper format and I affix my signature.



Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): A petition to the Ontario Legislature:

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

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

I have affixed my signature to this petition.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I have a petition that comes from many co-op members. They're very concerned about the federal government devolving their responsibilities away from co-ops and passing them on to the provincial governments. This petition is to the Legislature Assembly of Ontario, and it reads:

"Whereas the Ontario government has clearly indicated that it `wants to get out of the housing business'; and

"Whereas the Ontario government is reviewing the legal contracts and budgets of every co-op housing project in the province; and

"Whereas the Ontario government has announced plans to make huge cuts to co-op and non-profit housing funding; and

"Whereas the Ontario government wants to replace affordable housing with subsidies to private landlords; and

"Whereas co-op housing is a proven success in providing affordable homes owned and managed by the people who live in them; and

"Whereas the actions of the Ontario government threaten to destroy stable, well-maintained communities which have been built over the last quarter of a century and the investment all Ontarians have made in this type of affordable social housing;

"We, the undersigned, request that the Ontario government sit down with the co-op housing sector to negotiate a deal which will ensure the long-term financial viability of housing co-ops and the continuance of rent-geared-to-income assistance upon which thousands of co-op members depend, and which will promote greater responsibility for administration by the co-op housing sector and less interference by the government in the day-to-day operations of housing co-ops."

I support this petition and sign my name to it.


Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I have a petition signed by a number of residents in Oxford county expressing their concerns with the privatization of public services in Ontario.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition from a number of residents of Ontario. It reads as follows:

"To the government of Ontario:

"Whereas the government of Ontario appears to be moving towards the privatization of retail liquor and spirits sales in the province; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a safe, secure and controlled way of retailing alcoholic beverages; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides the best method of restricting the sale of liquor to minors in Ontario; and

"Whereas the LCBO has an excellent program of quality control of the products sold in the stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a wide selection of product to its customers in modern, convenient stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO has moved forward with the times, sensitive to the needs of its customers and its clients;

"Therefore, be it resolved that the government of Ontario abandon its plan to turn the sale of liquor and spirits over to private liquor stores and retain the LCBO for this purpose."

I affix my signature to this petition as I am in agreement with its contents.


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 service in our community should not be sacrificed in the name of efficiency; and

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

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

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

I add my name in support.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition here. It's addressed to the Ontario Legislature and it's signed by over 600 people from eastern Ontario.

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

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

I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition and a number of letters signed from women in the town of Hearst.

"Since the Pay Equity Act was supposed to be reviewed this spring, I urge you to support the reversal of Bill 26 amendments to proxy pay equity.

"Please send me a letter stating that your position is in reversing Bill 26 changes to pay equity."

The resolution goes on to say:

"An extra $1.50 would have meant a real difference to my life: more money to pay for food, clothing and rent, more money going into community businesses. As a taxpayer, more money would have gone back to the government to help pay down the deficit. Finally, I would have received a fair wage, even though I work in a mostly female workplace."

These letters and petitions are signed by a large number of women from the town of Hearst, Mattice and the surrounding area, as was the other one I presented earlier on the changes to the WCB from a number of men and women from the town of Hearst.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

I will add my name to that petition.


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

"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 Party 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 in support.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a very short petition here, but I hope the government will take it very seriously because it deals with a serious issue. It's a petition in support of family resource programs.

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

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

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

I've affixed my signature to same.



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.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): As the previous day came to a close, I had a few more comments I wanted to make on Bill 39. The heart of this bill leads to complete deregulation of the bus industry in the province of Ontario. We know what's going to happen when complete deregulation of the bus industry comes. Communities in northern Ontario, small towns in southern Ontario are going to be devastated when you have the disabled, the seniors, the students who are not going to be able to have the bus service they need to get back and forth from universities and colleges, and some of them use the bus on the weekends to get back and forth from their workplace.


The government is saying in their comments, "Well, if you're concerned about safety, we're going to address the issue of safety," but we all know that when you deregulate an industry, whether it be the airline industry or the trucking industry, larger carriers will come in and put the squeeze on the small carriers, and the small carriers as they start losing money will cut corners, as we saw when the Liberals and the Tories in Ottawa deregulated the trucking industry. We see transports driving with no brakes, we see tires falling off the transports, and this is what could happen to the busing industry.

We know that the highways are not going to be maintained any more, so if you deregulate the bus industry and the small communities have to rely more on private vehicles, and at the same time the Ministry of Transportation is giving pink slips to about 1,200 workers from the Ministry of Transportation, this is not going to help to repair the potholes that we have building up all over Ontario and especially in northern Ontario. Although we don't see the potholes on a day like today when a severe storm has hit and closed down the highways, closed down the schools -- and we're almost at May 1 -- eventually, as the sun comes out and melts the snow there, we'll see the frost heaves and the potholes. With 1,200 workers less with the Ministry of Transportation, we don't have a winter maintenance program now that is sufficient and we're not going to have a summer program that is going to be sufficient to do the maintenance that is required.

Deregulation on Bill 39: We know it's going to lead to complete turmoil in some of the communities. The previous speaker from the county of Perth: I raised the issue yesterday that I don't know why a lot of the Conservative backbenchers are not speaking out at their caucus meetings and saying, "Look, for the few dollars that are involved in giving a tax break to the wealthy and the upper 10% people in the province, why are we going to lose our buses in these communities?" Some of these communities are Conservative-held ridings, and they don't seem to care about the seniors, the disabled, the students who are going to be hurt out there.

We can go on and on about the disasters that are going to happen as a direct result of this particular bill. What I would ask is that before the bill receives third and final reading, there are public hearings and that the government would reconsider its decision, change its mind, and say, "Well, okay, we've hurt enough people in these small towns already by laying off 2,200 MNR employees, we've given notices to close to 200 Ministry of Northern Development and Mines employees" -- I mentioned earlier the Ministry of Transportation employees who are getting laid off.

It is hurting the tax base of these small communities very seriously, and they don't know where they're going to turn. In the town of Cochrane, which is about 80 miles from Kapuskasing where I live, the 4,500 people who live there have been looking for a meeting with Premier Mike Harris and Chris Hodgson to discuss the issue. Why move 40 or 50 jobs 65 miles down the road to another community and devastate the tax base in the town of Cochrane?

I guess the nice weather has taken Mike and Chris out on the golf course, because they don't show up in the Legislature. In the town of Cochrane, the mayor and the town council can't get hold of them. They haven't answered their phones in the last two weeks. I've said almost every day in the Legislature: "Give this town the courtesy of five or 10 minutes of your time. Explain what you're doing; explain that you have to devastate some of these communities, whether it be deregulating the bus industry, whether it be the cutbacks that are happening in health care, education, government employees. Sit down and explain to the mayor, the town officials and the chamber of commerce, who are very angry." I don't blame them for being angry when people don't answer their phones.

The original notice, a fax letter, went out saying: "This is what we're going to do. We're going to pull $2 million out of the town of Cochrane and devastate it." Now we know that a lot of communities like Smooth Rock Falls, Kapuskasing and Hearst are in danger of losing the regular bus service that comes in. When you lose your bus service, that affects the stores; it affects the businesses.

I go to get my car repaired at the garage, where they'll say: "We're going to order a part. That part will be in tomorrow. It'll be coming in on the bus." If buses don't stop in these small communities, what do the garages do? What do the farmers do in Mitchell, Monkton, Stratford, in all these communities in southern Ontario where I was born and raised? They're going to be devastated by having to spend the extra money, the extra cost that's going to be involved in getting parts.

Farmers depend on local bus service to get timely delivery of parts they need for their machinery in the spring or fall, for seeding, and for sawmills and industry throughout northern Ontario.

In addition, students, the disabled, seniors who don't have cars -- some of them don't have drivers' licences -- look forward to getting out on the bus, using that service. Now we have a Conservative government in Ontario that is saying, "We don't care about that particular service that's being delivered."

They don't care about people who are hurt or injured on the job and receiving workers' compensation payments. They're going to reduce them. Last year they attacked the women and children who are receiving welfare by cutting those.

The spinoff effect is on corner stores, which are the life of small communities. People don't have the money any more and cannot buy the services there. Losing the bus service that goes into those communities is going to be completely devastating.

I got a call at noonhour today that in addition to roads being closed in northern Ontario because of a severe snowstorm -- we hope it's the last snowstorm of the season, but it probably won't be -- schools being closed and the highways being closed, we have had a major derailment, where seven freight cars jumped the track, and it looks as if not only is the track closed but Highway 11 is closed. This happened very close to a school yard. I just wanted to relay to people across Ontario, as we're speaking on Bill 39, some of the events that are happening.

Down here the weather is different. I joke that while we're still shovelling snow in the north, down here they have another hardship because they've got to rush and get their lawnmowers ready to cut the grass. That's the extreme, about five or six weeks' difference in the season.

As I said on the last day I was speaking to this, I hope the Conservative caucus raise this at their caucus and do not act like a bunch of trained people who are going to clap their hands when they're told to and do exactly what Mike Harris tells them to do. It seems like that's the way.


I can recall a number of years ago with Jonestown, Rev Jones was there and he said: "Either you drink the Freshie or you'll get shot. You have a choice." So most of them drank the poisoned Freshie and the rest who refused to drink the Freshie, they shot.

I don't know if this is the fear the Conservative caucus has of Mike Harris, but there's got to be some fear in their minds. Why else would they just agree to allow their small towns to be devastated as a result of government cutbacks and the damage being done as a result of this particular legislation which will lead to complete deregulation of the whole bus industry?

With that, I will wrap up my comments and wait for another day as more legislation comes forward.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments?

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure today to rise and comment on Bill 39, the intercity bus deregulation.

Comments were made a few days ago in the House by the member for St Catharines who went on to name a bunch of the communities in my riding: Blackstock, Orono, Nestleton, Brooklin, Port Perry and Newtonville. I'm surprised the member would attempt to alarm these people.

This bill recognizes that in the past 10 years many of the 400 communities have indeed lost bus service. The current legislation allows for operators to discontinue service with a minimum of 10 days' notice. Furthermore, I'm convinced that the minister has made every opportunity to work with communities and small entrepreneurs within those communities to be able to establish a not-so-regulated environment.

In conclusion, I would make the comment that in transportation issues, as I read through the changes being made, safety is almost the most important and central factor to the decisions being made.

I just want to straighten out and comment to the member for Cochrane North. I recognize that small communities will have to -- some of the entrepreneurs will now have an opportunity to provide a service that's appropriate for their municipality. I believe the communities I represent will be better served by the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in each of our communities.

Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I want to make a comment in respect to this policy.

It is true that there has been and will continue to be significant change in the transportation sector, including the motor coach industry, but what Bill 39 intends is that the traditional cross-subsidization of previous Ontario government policy -- that cross-subsidization required that the major motor coach operators like Greyhound and Voyageur Colonial, if they were going to be licensed to operate on the significant and profitable routes along Highways 401 and 17 and 400, were going to be required to provide some level of service in the low-volume, unprofitable parts of rural Ontario.

A fundamental aspect of Bill 39, which I think is objectionable, is that the government for whatever intention seeks to remove the requirement that has historically been there, that if you are a major player like Greyhound and Voyageur, for the right to operate on the profitable routes, you were going to be required to do business on the lower-volume routes.

The big winners in this policy contained in Bill 39, a policy that will abandon that cross-subsidization, are the big corporate players like Greyhound and Voyageur, and the real losers are those small communities -- at least in my part of east-central Ontario. I don't speak for Durham region but I can tell you, if we alleviate the requirement, remove the burden, or remove the requirement for Voyageur to cross-subsidize routes like the ones through the eastern part of the province, there will be no service.

Voyageur and Greyhound win, and they win big; small-town Ontario loses, because many of these routes are simply not viable without cross-subsidization.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I want to comment on the speech made by the member for Cochrane North because he's 100% right on this. The issue is that you have a number of Tory backbenchers who go to their caucus meeting on Tuesday morning and are told by Mike Harris and the Minister of Transportation that they have to blindly follow this blanket policy of complete bus deregulation and come into the House and do as they've been told by their masters. That's what's happening in this House. At a time when people are cynical about politicians, I believe that kind of action adds to that cynicism.

There are plenty of Tory members in this House, some 85 of them, a good majority of whom represent ridings that are going to be negatively affected by this decision by this government, and they are coming into this House and saying, "Mr Mike, Mr Al, I'll do your bidding and I will not speak out on behalf of my constituents." I warn you all, this will affect you.

The member for Cochrane North is 100% right. Smaller communities that don't have the volume are going to get negatively affected. That's going to be the result of this policy. Those communities with large markets will not be as greatly affected -- no question.

We say to you from the NDP caucus, we're prepared to work with you at looking at how we can make changes to bus regulations so that we can free up the market maybe a little bit more in those areas that have larger population bases that can support the increased competition. But in those areas where you don't, I'm saying there is going to be a price to pay and that is going to be that the people in those areas, the people you represent, aren't going to have the bus services necessary.

I know the member from Etobicoke's going to get up and he's saying there are 400 communities that lost services under deregulation as is. The point is, and he knows full well, that the cross-subsidization issue deals far more with the issue of being able to deal with keeping bus services in place in communities that need them than you would have without the cross-subsidization in bus regulation.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Not to be pre-empted by the member from Cochrane, let me just explain the situation as I see it. Obviously, from the two-minute comments made by the members opposite and both members from Cochrane, they're not letting the facts get in the way of their decision.

The fact is this: Those people in the more than 400 communities who had their bus services discontinued think they were very important. You may not think that, by saying that by cross-subsidization they're important runs that we're going to keep on the road. Those over 400 communities that lost their bus service -- hey, guess what? -- they thought that was important and they've lost them.

Furthermore, when they talk about cross-subsidization, right now you can maintain your contract once a month. All you have to do is run a bus once a month during tourism season and you keep your contract. What kind of bus service is that? Once a month. If you're going to leave town, you just have to make sure you leave on the right day or you wait 30 more. That's the kind of service you're asking to maintain. The status quo isn't working.

I appreciate the fact that some on the other side of the House don't think these changes are perfect, but --


Mr Stockwell: On that side of the House, to the left. But the fact remains, I've heard nothing concrete. You're prepared to work with us. Well, other than slamming the piece of legislation that's come forward, I've heard nothing that would convince me they're prepared to work, prepared to put their positions forward.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Like you worked with us, Chris; that kind of partnership and cooperation.

Mr Stockwell: I think we did put our positions forward. It was called the Common Sense Revolution, to the member from Hamilton. If you weren't so arrogant and pious in government, you would have taken that seriously and maybe you wouldn't have been decimated quite as badly as you were.

I say to the members opposite, don't let the facts cloud your judgement, because that's what you keep saying. It's the same merry-go-round. Over 400 lost. You'd only have to maintain a service for providing a bus once a month and these people can opt in and out as they see fit. The argument I hear from Ontarians is, "The status quo doesn't work; we need to address the issue; here are our changes," and you keep telling us, "Maintain the status quo."


The Acting Speaker: The member for Cochrane North has two minutes to respond.

Mr Len Wood: I don't know why the members are clapping for the member for Etobicoke West. When you devastate small communities in northern Ontario or farming communities in southern Ontario, it's nothing to clap and laugh and joke about. We're talking seriously about the disabled, the women, the children, the elderly people who are going to lose their bus service.

I want to thank the other members who made comments: the member for Cochrane South and the members for Renfrew North and Durham East.

The real heart of this bill is deregulation, and it's part of the government's agenda to reward its friends at the expense of the public. It's not the students who are benefiting from this bill, it's not the seniors who are benefiting from this bill, it's not the rural communities in northern Ontario or southern Ontario that are benefiting from this bill. The only ones who are benefiting from this bill are Mike Harris's friends and some of the rich bus industry in Ontario.

It's not too late for the Conservative caucus to change their line. I mean, Sheila Copps promised during the election campaign that she would get rid of the GST or she would resign. Mike Harris has said that if taxes go up, he will resign. It's not too late to change their minds, be honest with the people and help some of the communities.

Mr Stockwell: Hey Len, you said you'd eradicate food banks. You said you'd have government-run auto insurance.

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

Mr Len Wood: The member for Etobicoke had his two minutes to respond, and he still feels it's okay for Mike Harris to damage and hurt the small communities by deregulating the bus industry and pulling the industry out of these communities. I'm sure the Tories are going to have to go back home and they're going to have to explain why they supported a bill that is going to devastate their communities as far as where the buses stop and deliver the services.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Frank Sheehan (Lincoln): It's a pleasure to rise and speak on the subject of intercity bus deregulation. I believe this initiative of the Minister of Transportation is long overdue. As chairman of the Red-Tape Review Commission, I am not going to get into some of the specifics, because they have been adequately explained and exposed by our members on both sides of the House. But I'd like to suggest some reasons why we should consider deregulation, principally because regulation has many manifestations. It's not just the law or the written regulation; it's hearings, licences, permits, guidelines, permission, reports. All of these things add cost, they discourage initiative and they stifle innovation.

We are deregulating because we believe the free market will provide needed services economically. We are deregulating because as Conservatives we believe that less government control encourages private sector efficiency and innovation.

The Canadian Manufacturers' Association made a presentation to our commission and they pointed out a study, that it costs Canadians over $48 billion to comply with regulations. Ontario's portion of that is estimated to be $20 billion. If you take 10% of that alone, $2 billion, and divide it by the average industrial wage, you will find that it's costing Ontario approximately 55,000 lost jobs. So regulation kills jobs.

We feel the changes in Bill 39 satisfy our government's concern that regulation is costly. We feel that regulations are not always effective in achieving their stated goals, and we believe that regulations, as typified by the regulation of the bus industry, have often been counterproductive and achieved objectives that weren't contemplated; in fact, that are directly opposite.

You've heard it stated that over 400 communities have already lost their bus service, and I would like to point out to the members from the north that the north does not have a corner on lost transportation. Just a few names: Petrolia, Wyoming, Oil Springs, Watford, Strathroy, Dunnville, Wainfleet, Camden, Thedford, all communities within easy reach of my residence in St Catharines, have been without bus routes.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): Killaloe.

Mr Sheehan: Right. What about Killaloe and Rainy River?

The town of Beamsville, for example, is on a main run, so-called, but it hasn't had bus service for the last two years. Grimsby doesn't have bus service, Lincoln, none of them, and they're right in the heart of this thing. If the regulated process was such, then certainly the run by Gray Coach or the new PMCL line coming from St Catharines-Toronto should be able to subsidize little drop-ins to Beamsville, Grimsby etc, but they do not. That's the regulations that have been in place.

We think Bill 39 will encourage business and entrepreneurs to spot some opportunities, to see that the removal of these regulations will provide them with an opportunity to make -- I don't want to say this out loud -- a profit by providing a service to people who need this service. We have been sitting in a regulated market since 1920, and there's no doubt that regulation has reduced initiative and competition.

The changes in Bill 39 will encourage these entrepreneurs to recognize the opportunity and to capitalize on this open market. Who says we have to have a 39-seat bus? Why can't we have a van? Why does the bus service have to run all the time on a regular circuit? Why can't they do it like they do in the paramedic or Paratransit system, on a demand basis? Perhaps it will encourage some semi-retired or early retired people to earn some extra money and keep contributing to their communities.

There's a story about a young fellow in the University of Western Ontario who made a very nice little living operating a weekend shuttle service between London and Toronto. This is the kind of activity that we think will help. This is the kind of activity that we think will provide better busing service for these isolated communities.

You have to understand that this government is committed to safety and health and that all of these considerations are taken care of in other acts that are on the books. I urge you to vote for this bill. Bill 39 is a productive piece of legislation and it will help the people of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Bisson: I'm going to take the opportunity to respond to a couple of points the member makes. First of all, he makes the comment about new operators coming into business and being allowed to make a profit. Somehow or other the Tories think people in the opposition, specifically from our party, are opposed to that. Quite the contrary. The economic system runs on the basis of somebody being able to make a profit, and that's the whole point here. If you can't make a profit, you don't operate a business. It's very simple economics.

The point we're trying to make is that when you talk to operators who are presently running a system of buses, various kinds of buses in rural communities and smaller communities, they're able to make a profit because the market is so small that they're given basically a monopoly -- and there's nothing wrong with a monopoly in that case -- to run a bus service up and down the highway picking up service in some of the larger areas, but in exchange, they cross-subsidize those better routes for routes that have less profit. This is the whole point.

If you move away from regulation in those communities that have those bus services in place because of regulation and because of the licences that were granted to private operators who have a monopoly in that area, they're not going to be able to run those bus services because there won't be a buck to be made. Why would any businessperson with any common sense run a bus service if he or she can't make a buck? That's the point here. In exchange, what the government did years ago was put in place bus regulation. They said, "We're going to allow the private sector operator to operate a bus service up in this area, and in exchange for getting a licence in those areas where he can make a few extra bucks because of the monopoly, he will cross-subsidize those fares with those communities that can't get bus service because there's just not enough of a market to warrant it."

That's what the whole idea of bus regulation was all about. So if the member is saying this is all about profit, I'd say go back and take a look at it again, because you can move away from regulation in areas of large market, but if you move away from that in smaller communities, we're going to get stuck with no bus service at all.

Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): On this debate I have to support the member for Lincoln. As he's pointed out, regulation is costly. Not only would I support him because he's a fellow caucus member, but because what he speaks of is through his experience on the regulation review committee.

Regulation is costly. Currently, the situation is not working. Individuals have the ability to maintain a bus service, and to capture a market, they can provide service as little as once a month in order that during the summertime or when peak periods come by, they can capitalize on charter services in those areas and provide other services, whereas what this legislation does is give the local communities the ability to determine their own service and have the potential to provide that; not only that, they can also give local employment, which is an economic stimulant to the local community, not only through employment but through the purchase of goods such as gas or whichever they may decide to support as well.

We can only emphasize that this is a potential for the smaller communities. We constantly hear and we constantly bring up the fact that over 400 communities in the province of Ontario have lost service, and that is with the system the way it stands right now. It's not working. This is April 1996; deregulation comes out in 1998. That gives us ample time to review the situation that is coming about and we can see what's going to take place then.


Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I would just say in response to the member's intervention in the House and his speech earlier that speaking to deregulation is the question of market forces and what impact they have. The fact that he mentioned that there might be some operators to take up some of these routes would be obviously a good thing, so that in other words, it would be incumbent upon the marketplace to determine where these services would be provided, and that would be done on the basis of demand. That would be done without regard for underserviced areas, without regard for the kinds of considerations we've given to underserviced areas in the past.

The member is hoping and the government is hoping that these areas would be serviced even if they're not profitable. We have great concern with that. As well, this initiative by the government, this bill, would speak to a half-baked deregulation -- it's not the full deregulation that was talked about earlier -- so we don't know what the real impact would be of finally deregulating the entire industry.

There are all kinds of reasons to be concerned about the way in which this approach is moving forward. We don't know what the impact of any of these measures will be on these small communities; we don't know what the impact will be for those people who need these types of services -- students, farmers, small business people reliant on bus service to deliver their parcels from one community to another. The list is endless in terms of the requirements of small communities. I think the government owes it to the rest of us to at least indicate clearly that it understands what the impact will be out there in those communities.

Mr Stockwell: I'd like to compliment the member for Lincoln on his speech to this place today. I think it's insightful and offers some answers to the questions that have been developed in opposition.

I want to just dispel one myth that seems to pop up rather regularly in the opposition benches. The thought is that when deregulation kicks in, profitable runs will no longer subsidize unprofitable runs and the operators can then pull out of the unprofitable runs. Let me be very clear about this: They can right now. They have the capacity to pull out of unprofitable runs. They have exercised that capacity 400 times in the last 15 years. They can continue to exercise that option in the future if we maintain the status quo. Let's make no bones about it. There's no middle ground; there's nothing that isn't understandable. Very simply, they've opted out of over 400 runs in the past 15 years. On 10 days' notice --

Mr Bisson: So you're going to proceed.

Mr Stockwell: Let me finish. On 10 days' notice, to the member for Cochrane South, they can opt out of any other run they like. So this idea that's being proffered by the opposition, that by partial or full deregulation you're going to cut loose the unprofitable runs and they won't be there any longer, is poppycock, bafflegab, opposition blubber. It doesn't make any sense. They've had that option. They've exercised that option and the option has accrued, over 15 years, over 400 times. One last get it through your head: If we deregulate, it makes no difference; on 10 days' notice, they're out of there, as it is today.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Lincoln has two minutes.

Mr Sheehan: Thanks to Mr Stockwell. I'd like to point out to the member from Cochrane that we understand the concept of cross-subsidization. The communities I mentioned are not on any profitable runs, nor are they likely to move anywhere near close to any profitable runs, so there is no opportunity to cross-subsidize and provide them with service. The facts are, they're out of service and they're not likely to get it under the present process.

This is a process that will encourage other people to provide alternative ways of providing this service. It was the subject of the gentleman from -- what's the name?


Mr Sheehan: Business will go where the opportunity is. This will just permit business to go where the opportunity is, and maybe the people of Ontario will get some service they've been doing without for the last 10 or 20 years.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Cordiano: Let me just continue with that train of thought with respect to what this government is proposing. I want to deal with that in just a moment.

To start a discussion on this bill, my intervention is really to start to understand why it is that we cannot fully support or embrace this bill as it has been proposed by the government. The reason for that and why we are putting forward opposition to this bill is because the government has come forward with a half-baked idea about deregulation and, furthermore, has not laid to rest any of the concerns that we have with respect to those underserviced areas.

If the government came to this Legislative Assembly and the minister brought forward impact studies or reports, some analysis which was done and information and evidence available to us to determine that these communities would not be adversely affected by the impact of this bill in the way we've described -- and I want to deal with that in just a moment, but I think it is clear that this government is flying on automatic pilot, without understanding what the full impact of this bill will be.

So I say to the members opposite and the minister, if he's listening from afar, why not deal with the measures that could be brought to bear on this? Why not do a full impact study, or impact studies, in those communities? Let's determine what the real impact would be upon those communities and then let's come back and determine furthermore that this is the appropriate way to move.

The members opposite cannot stand in this House and say: "Well, we know that this is a better measure because what we've had before really didn't work. It hasn't worked; we've lost routes in 400 communities." I say to the member who brought that forward that the reason some of these routes were eliminated -- there was the Ontario Highway Transport Board which could have been appealed to by the operators to suggest that they were losing money on these routes and could therefore grant permission to stop service on these routes. There was a process in place and there had to be a hearing before this board.

After this measure is brought in and we get partial deregulation under this bill, operators will no longer be required to do that. The board is no longer directly accountable to the minister. The board will be made up of representatives from the industry. In fact, the industry will be self-regulating in this fashion.

As a result of that, the operators could eliminate these unprofitable routes much more easily than they could under the present board, before this bill was brought in, so it's not true that these routes were eliminated that easily. There was a process that had to be followed and the process was very clear, and only then could application be made for these routes to be eliminated on behalf of the operator. It was a much more difficult process to achieve the elimination of those unprofitable routes.

Imagine what will happen after this bill is enacted. There'll be no stopping, no limit to the number of unprofitable routes that will be eliminated. Instead of 400, we may have thousands of routes that will be eliminated. Consequently, it will be far worse. Contrary to what the previous member said in his speech, it will be a lot worse.

The bill will adversely affect those communities. People will feel the impact of this. Let's not fool anybody here; let's not have the government fool anybody here with respect to the service that will be eliminated in those small communities. The fact is that this bill has not been thought through properly. At the very best, the government should admit this. Pull back the bill, let's have those impact studies and let's determine what the real consequences will be for those communities so that people will be fully aware of what they face. Currently, that's not the case.

Furthermore, the government does not plan to have hearings on this bill in committee. I think that's also a disadvantage for people. The public will not have a say in those communities, and I think people would want to have a say.


Protection for small bus operators who currently run those routes will be lost as well under this bill. Furthermore, there is no reciprocal agreement with Quebec and Manitoba, but the bus operators there will be free to come in and poach those routes, compete freely against our bus operators in Ontario, so we'll have those kinds of problems to deal with. The government has not dealt with this basic problem. I can't for the life of me understand why this government would move forward without protecting our bus operators from the poaching that may take place from those other jurisdictions. We will likely lose some of our profitability, and Ontario-based bus operators will lose some of their market share to those competitors. It is inevitable; it's quite clear that this will happen.

This is not full deregulation, and we don't know how far this government will go. They have pointed to the fact that this is an interim measure, that there will be additional measures down the road, and not knowing fully where things may end up in their final form, where the industry might reasonably know the direction the government is going in and the direction that deregulation will take it throws the industry into confusion. I think those are fair questions to ask, and all this should be dealt with through committee hearings so that we get a much clearer picture, so that those communities across Ontario will know what the full impact is.

I said earlier that bus service is not only relied upon by students who travel to and from school; there are seniors who in most cases have no other choice but to use bus services and other people travelling across the province to see family or visit the doctor in other cities across Ontario. There are some very good reasons why people need bus service across this province, and I don't think the government has made the case to the point that deregulation will make for a more efficient marketplace in all those small communities. Where there are large enough populations in communities where that is the case, you could probably show with an economic model that private operators would have the profitability levels to make those routes efficient, and therefore deregulation probably could be accepted in those areas. In locales and communities where you don't have those efficient numbers, where you don't have large enough numbers of people living, I don't see how you can make this work.

The member repeats, "The status quo is not acceptable; we're going to move to another model." That's like giving up the car that you know, that maybe needs repair, that needs to be brought up to speed in terms of maintenance, to buy some other car that is a lot older, and you have no knowledge of what shape it might be in once you get in it and drive it off the lot. We're giving up something without knowing what we're getting in return, without really knowing what we're buying into here. All we're asking is that this government make provision for determining what the real impact would be on those communities. Why not try out an impact study for some small centres? Why not do a pilot in some communities to determine whether this will work so we can better understand what will take place down the road?

It's not good enough that we stand in this chamber. Again, it's like this government saying to people, "We're going to make government more efficient, we're going to make government more effective, we're going to make government more accountable," and then it imposes user fees on everyone. On the one hand, they're reducing costs, they're trying to make things more efficient. Sure, the provincial treasury will benefit, but what happens to those municipalities across Ontario where property taxes will increase as a result of this government's cuts in transfers to municipalities, to our hospitals, the health care system, to education? What will happen? You'll get user fees on the other side; we'll pay for it in another way. That speaks to the unfairness of what this government is doing.

Yes, you're going to move to deregulate. What about the fairness in all of that? What about the fairness for people who won't have access to those services? To do so, they're going to have to spend a greater deal of their disposable income to make possible accessing those services. That's the kind of initiative we're talking about here. That's the kind of initiative that leads to unfairness, that leads to people saying, "This is not going to impact positively on our community."

The member stands up and says, "It's better to move in another direction, because the direction we were moving in has resulted in the elimination of 400 routes across this province." This will result in an even greater elimination of routes across the province.

It's really this government ignoring the interests of the little people, little towns and communities, Ontarians from across this province who can't afford the kind of services this government thinks people can afford. By eliminating public services like bus routes that have been cross-subsidized by the government, you're really throwing people to the wolves in terms of services, saying, "Fend for yourself."

User fees, all kinds of additional charges which do not lead -- as this government has put it, it does not put more money in the pockets of the mythical one taxpayer; it does not do that. There are all kinds of hidden costs associated with this government, all kinds of hidden costs associated with the agenda it's brought forward, the kinds of costs that add up over time, the kinds of costs that are perhaps not apparent to people at the present time but will become more and more apparent.

All of those Conservative backbenchers will have to answer for those initiatives down the road, and we've seen it before in this House. They will have to answer for why this government brought about these changes which resulted in lack of access to service, in user fees, in additional charges for the hardworking people of this province whose income cannot stretch any further. As they keep saying, there's one taxpayer, and the one mythical taxpayer is going to have fewer dollars in his or her pocket to purchase these services when they become so unaffordable. If you want them, you're going to have to pay a whole lot more for them, for so many things this government is doing.

This is a general theme, this is a pattern of this government. On the one hand, it is just cutting, making more efficient, and then, on the other, hardworking people who have very little disposable income are going to be even harder hit by the measures that are taken by this government. Time and again, we're seeing that unfold before this very assembly.

I think the people of this province will come to realize at some point in time that there is a hidden cost, that it's not all it appears to be, it's not about making things less expensive for that one mythical taxpayer. That one mythical taxpayer will be hit with all kinds of additional charges again and again. Municipal transfers have been cut. What does that mean? Police services have been cut in quite a number of municipalities across this province. What are municipalities forced to do? They're forced to either cut services or increase property taxes.


I notice that the Minister of Municipal Affairs is in the assembly now, and I say to him, municipalities across this province are being constrained.

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): Constrained?

Mr Cordiano: Yes, that's right, being constrained, and they're put in an unenviable position.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): That's putting it mildly.

Mr Cordiano: That's putting it mildly is right. They're being put in a very difficult position. I will not use inflammatory language to explain this because I want the minister to understand they're being put in a very difficult position. They can either cut services, which is what the government is saying to them, or, far worse, raise property taxes to maintain those services.

Hon Al Leach: Or cut spending.

Mr Cordiano: Cutting spending is what everybody has been doing over the last number of years. Everybody has been doing that in municipalities. There are municipalities that have said to me: "We're being very efficient and yet we're being punished by this government because it's cutting transfers to us. Where's our reward for having been efficient?" Municipality after municipality, and yet you cut transfers to every single municipality across this province with no regard for the fact that some of them have been very efficient. You've not done that. That's unacceptable. Municipalities find that unacceptable; they find that unworkable.

Again, the one taxpayer, who's going to have to pay more in property taxes, isn't going to like it very much. I hope they're going to tell those Conservative backbenchers from across Ontario that they don't like it very much, that property taxes are very regressive. No accounting for income; it's a very regressive form of taxation.

This government forces it on to municipal taxpayers. They're downsizing and they're making more efficient their part of governance, which is at the provincial level. The treasury of Ontario of course will benefit, because they've cut and eliminated a whole bunch of services, but they're forcing them on to municipalities.

The federal governments, various of them, both Conservative and Liberal, have cut transfers to the provincial governments, and now you're offloading off on to municipalities. Municipalities are going to have a harder time dealing with this. People said in the last election campaign that they didn't want cuts to policing, they didn't want cuts to health care, they didn't want cuts to education, classroom sizes to increase. They didn't want those cuts. This government also said it would not cut agriculture. What have they done? They've cut all of those areas, along with many other services.

We all know deficits have to be contained. We know that; we agree with that. But at the same time, don't tell us you're not going to increase costs for the average taxpayer in this province, because it just isn't so. Every single one of those taxpayers who pay property taxes -- or renters, for that matter; they'll find property taxes increasing as well -- is going to face the impact of those additional costs, the offloading this government is perpetrating on municipalities. They're going to face those additional hidden costs.

It's through the back door that this government is achieving what it said it would do. It's doing so contrary to the commitments it made in the last election campaign. It's violating the very commitments you made in the last campaign. You are contradicting yourselves. Of course we want to continually point that out, because I think people in this province want to know about that very clearly. They want to know why this government is not living up to its commitments, not living up to the things it said it would do in the last election campaign. It will lead to additional costs.

Finally, I want to say that the government should take this piece of legislation back, should think about it very carefully, should also conduct impact studies to ensure that communities across this province, small communities, are not adversely affected; to ensure that the seniors of this province are not going to be hurt by this; to ensure that students who rely on that bus service to get to and from school will not be hurt; to ensure that the small business people across this province, and farmers, who rely on bus services to deliver their parcels from one community to the other are not going to be adversely affected. I fear they will, and that is the concern we have. These communities and those people will be adversely affected and it will hurt them.

We say we are genuinely concerned. Take the bill back, rework it and then let's talk about it.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Bisson: I want to take this opportunity to comment on this. I listened intently to the member from Etobicoke make the comment -- and the member here commented on it as well -- that presently, under a regulated bus system, you're able to take away services out of the community. That is true, but the only way you can do that is, if the operator wants to do that, the operator has to go before the Ontario transportation commission and make the case, as the member said. Only in those cases where the case can be made will the service be withdrawn.

The point is that what will happen under deregulation is simply this: If you have a bus operator who has been given a licence to operate a bus service and given a monopoly to do so in, let's say, an area where there are 20 communities, there may be four, five or six of those communities that are not profitable on their own. The bus operator makes money on the larger communities, because he has the monopoly in that area, and it helps by cross-subsidization to pay for services in the smaller communities.

If you get away from regulation, what will end up happening, quite simply, is that to compete with the new operator who might have come into the area, the bus operator who used to have the monopoly will say, "I have to pull services out of those communities," and he won't have to go to the transportation commission to do that; he will do that on his own. What you will end up with is a system where you have competition in those areas that are able to make a buck, because there is a larger population base, and the six or seven communities out of those 20 in that particular case will have absolutely no service at all.

I think we need to be clear: It's a philosophical belief. I understand that the Conservative government says, "We believe the private sector will do it and will do it on its own and communities won't be affected." I guess what I say is, after 1998 when full regulation comes off, only time will tell, but I say there are going to be communities that will be without services because of this bill.

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I'd like to give the member for Lawrence an example of how the current system doesn't work. A constituent in southwestern Ontario recently called to get a price on having a bus chartered. She didn't like the price she was given so she suggested to the person she talked to that she was going to phone around and get a better price. She was laughed at and told, "We're the only ones who service this area, so good luck on getting another price." She got a price from an area outside that one that was considerably lower, and transported her Girl Guide troop from her area to another area so she could take advantage of the lower price. The current system does not work.

The member for Lawrence suggested that we should have some further studies. I would submit to him that this is 1996. The deregulation we're talking about is due to come into effect in 1998. How much longer would you suggest we're going to need for studies?

I would suggest to the member for Lawrence that we need deregulation. The current system does not serve the people well, as alluded to before. The 400 areas that don't have good service would say it's not working well. I submit to you that we need to change it. The status quo is not acceptable. We have allowed some time for discussion, and we think that from now until 1998 is long enough.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I enjoyed the member's speech very much. He obviously showed that he has an intricate knowledge of the issue and understands the ramifications for the smaller communities across this province.

I was glad he was able to work the tax break into it, and how the government will have to borrow $20 billion of additional money, adding that to the provincial debt, in order to give the tax break. So it's not a free tax break; it's going to cost money. I was glad he worked that into his speech.

In addition to this, I was pleased to hear that he wanted to have an impact study before you proceed. If there's one criticism of this government that is predominating out there, it is that it's moving quickly and, as the member for Wellington said, recklessly. He said that about the tax cut, but I'm sure he meant that, or he may have meant that, about other things as well.


What the government could do, if it wanted to really look at a piece of legislation carefully, assess its ramifications and then move forward in whatever way it chose to do so, would be to take the time to assess the impact. I would think that perhaps the Minister of Health wishes he had taken time today to assess the impact of getting this American firm to do the dialysis, an American firm that today is under investigation in three different states. If he had taken the time, he would not have proceeded with that company. I'm saying the same principle applies in this particular case. I just can't believe that the ministers and the minions have been able to -- I don't think you can use the word "con," so I'll say "convince" -- convince the government caucus, particularly those in rural communities, that this is somehow going to help them. Indeed, it is going to harm them, mark my words.

Mr Len Wood: I enjoyed the comments from the member for Lawrence. He laid things out very carefully and sincerely as to the disaster and destruction that is going to take place as a result of Bill 39, which will lead to complete deregulation of the bus industry, and communities will lose the service. This bill is going to do nothing for the students, the seniors, the rural communities, whether they be in southern Ontario or northern Ontario.

As the member for St Catharines in the two-minute wrapup was saying, in addition to Bill 39 they're bringing in to hurt the small communities, they're also going to go out and borrow $20 billion to give a tax cut to the 10% of the upper-income people in this province. It's wrong to do that at the same time as you're taking away the services and destroying the livelihood of some of these small communities.

I don't think we can emphasize clearly enough that it's very important that the Conservative caucus backbenchers take this back to their caucus and talk to their cabinet ministers and talk to the Minister of Transportation and tell them very clearly that enough is enough. It's not only the two opposition parties that are upset with the deregulation bill as it stands; it's people who are speaking out loud and clear in every small community right across this province. They're saying: "I elected a Conservative the last time around. He's not going to get my vote next time around because the destruction, the destroying, is going to be too much." At the end of four years, there's going to be just too much laying out there, and the Tories are going to be wiped out. They'll end up with five or 10 seats in 1999, that's quite obvious, because people remember and they will take their vote someplace else.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I'm pleased to have the opportunity to rise during the debate for Bill 39 to share a few of my thoughts and perspectives on the bus deregulation.

Having been in the tourist industry for over 25 years, I've spent a good portion of my time in business dealing with the bus industry in Ontario. I think I have a unique perspective on this issue, and I'm going to talk on this issue.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Peterborough, could you take your seat just for a moment? I apologize to the House, particularly to the member for Lawrence. I forgot to give him his couple of minutes to sum up. I will give you that opportunity now if I can have agreement from the House.

Mr Cordiano: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I certainly wanted the two minutes to tell my friends just how much I wanted to once again tell them they're wrong in moving forward with this bill. Certainly they should think again.

The OHTB, the Ontario Highway Transport Board, will be under Bill 39. No longer will the board directly relate to the Minister of Transportation. The Minister of Transportation will not be party to the hearings that take place on the board regarding decisions with respect to unprofitable routes, and I am sure application will be made to eliminate some of these routes under Bill 39. That's the stated intention of the bill.

Quite frankly, there will not be an appeal process there, as is currently the case under the regulatory regime that we have in place at the present time. That is very important, because the debate here centres around whether the marketplace, unrestricted, completely deregulated, will make up the difference in servicing these underserviced areas that are now the case. Certainly the arguments by the members of the government have been made without regard for those underserviced communities across the province.

I have to repeat that people will be seriously injured by this and seriously hurt by the fact that they will be paying more if they want those services, and in most cases will not have those services even if they want them because they're not going to be provided by anybody. That's what we're concerned about. Seniors, students, small business people, all will be affected by the deregulation we're talking about.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Peterborough, let's try again.

Mr Stewart: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I know they are waiting patiently for me to go through the first paragraph again, which I'm not going to do, but I want to make sure that the perspective I have today in speaking on Bill 39 -- and that is the fact that I'm going to speak on the bill. That is a bit of a change in this House. There will be no rhetoric; we're going to talk about bus deregulation in this province.

The bill does not provide for full deregulation. Full deregulation will not come, as we know, until January 1, 1998. That represents a significant time frame for companies, passengers and government to deal with transitional steps within the industry.

By moving to a deregulated intercity bus industry, this government is removing barriers to job creation, investment and economic growth by eliminating red tape and reducing the regulatory burden required to serve the travelling public of this province. This bill is consistent with our overall message of making it easier for new businesses to get involved in the marketplace.

When smaller, more efficient carriers tell the provincial government that they can service a particular route in a more cost-effective way, then why have previous governments refused that right? This is the real question that the members of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party must ask themselves: Why have you not allowed more carriers into the marketplace and why have you continued to favour regulated routes? This is the type of monopoly that previous governments created in our democratic society.

I would now like to take a few moments and deal with a couple of myths that are often expelled from the mouths of those individuals who do not support Bill 39.

Many opponents cite the notion that safety will be compromised at the expense of profit, a statement the opposition makes every time real change occurs in this province. Bill 39 addresses the concerns surrounding the monopoly of routes. The bill does not allow for fewer safety regulations, nor would our government allow safety to be compromised. Safety is and must continue to be our government's number one priority.

How will safety be ensured? The initial cost to get into business is no small investment. High startup costs will ensure that only carriers that are truly, seriously interested in competing for further routes will risk such an investment. Insurance requirements will continue to reflect current fiscal liability, international compatibility and will act as a deterrent to unsafe operators. There will also be a renegotiation of safety standards specific to the bus industry under the National Safety Code.


With competition for routes occurring under Bill 39, a business person cannot afford to risk losing a particular route because of the condition of his vehicles if they are designated unsafe by the Ministry of Transportation. Let me be very clear about safety standards. Safety standards are not being deregulated; only the ability to compete for routes is being deregulated. The government of Ontario will continue to enforce, modify and improve all standards as they pertain to the busing industry. Anything less would be unacceptable to the passengers of this province.

We heard a number of times about communities in Ontario that are going to lose bus service. Opposition members have led some members of the public to believe that a regulated industry is the only way to protect services. Since 1980, as we have heard here today, over 400 communities have lost their bus service within a regulated market. This indicates that monopolies have created our underserviced communities. Why has this happened? One reason is that the provincial government has issued a licence to a larger carrier, or smaller, to service a rural route. Bus carriers traditionally have not made a profit on some individual routes. The reason for this is that you cannot operate efficiently a 47-passenger bus or smaller on a rural route with only a quarter of the bus full, which ultimately leads to the discontinuation of service.

Very often after service is discontinued, the licence is not released to another carrier but continues to be held by the original licensee, which prevents other operators from servicing that route. That is the problem of the hoarding of licences in this province. Unfortunately, they can't make a profit because a number of operators hold a licence, not servicing it, in a number of consecutive towns and villages and nobody else can go in. Under Bill 39, small carriers may choose to operate small passenger vans or other types of vehicles and will be able to service that route in a more cost-effective way, thereby preserving service to the communities. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a fact. The hoarding of licences has caused a problem in this province and that is why we are not getting good bus service.

Another common tactic used by those opposed to the concept of bus deregulation deals with notice provisions when withdrawing service from a community. Many will argue that under a deregulated system, operators will simply walk away from routes whenever they desire. That will not be the case.

Bill 39 addresses this concern with the new service replacement program to maintain and improve service for many smaller rural communities.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Who writes that stuff?

Mr Stewart: I write it on facts.

The proposed program would require scheduled carriers to provide a 30-day notice period prior to service reduction of more than 25% of the original service. The current notice provision is 10 days. The notice period for route abandonment also increases from 10 to 90 days. The increases in those periods will provide enough time for new operators to offer service on these abandoned routes.

In conclusion, Bill 39 will allow more people to compete within the industry and ultimately provide better service for the people of Ontario. As more investors, bus companies and entrepreneurs participate in a more competitive interest, I am confident that the spinoff effects will be enormous. More people will be required to drive the vehicles, more people will be required to maintain the vehicles, more van and small passenger vehicles will be purchased in Ontario, thereby stimulating all industries that traditionally benefit from vehicle production in this province.

Mr Kormos: Doesn't this sound like deregulation of the airlines to you?

The Acting Speaker: The member for Welland-Thorold, order please.

Mr Stewart: Bill 39 is consistent with everything our government has achieved and will continue to try to achieve.


The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West, order.

Mr Stewart: Bill 39 will provide for more efficient service for passengers, it will provide for less government through a streamlined regulatory body with less bureaucracy and reduce red tape for business. In the end, when more businesses are providing services to the communities of our province, we will see a fundamental principle of our government come to a reality. That is, we will see more people employed in what is a very important industry that helps to drive the economic engine of this province. Free enterprise is the lifeline that made Ontario a great province. Regulation, control and social biases have destroyed the economic fibre of this province. We must return to a more deregulated business climate and return the concept of consumer choice back to the people of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Crozier: I am pleased to respond to the member for Peterborough because I'll also tell him something he does not understand. Right now, Greyhound Bus Lines, on a through bus, or at least on a long-haul bus, comes from Toronto through to Detroit. They go through Leamington, Kingsville, Essex. If this goes through, that bus no longer will come through Leamington, Kingsville and Essex, it'll scream right on down 401 and they'll forget about us, because it's part of their licence now and has been for years and years to service that route. They can't just simply drop it on 10 days' notice, but they'll be able to drop it on 30 days' notice and not even have to go to the Ontario Highway Transport Board the way they have to now.

When we can prove the need for service in those small communities -- and I suggest this is going to happen all over the province of Ontario, where they no longer will have to go to anyone to prove that they shouldn't provide the service, they'll just simply drop it. You don't understand what's happening now in small-town Ontario.

This government with this bill, this flawed bill -- because as the member for Chatham-Kent said, if charter service is a problem, then correct that, but don't throw the whole thing out. I think this government is looking at this kind of like a fly-by-night airline operation. The pilot comes on, says: "You know, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is we're making great time; the bad news is we're lost."

Mr Bisson: The last part of the member for Peterborough's speech I think said it all. What he was saying in this House, and I couldn't believe that he actually did so, is that free enterprise on its own will do it better and the big problem in this country and this province, he said, is "the social bias," and towards social programs that governments have done over the years. I think that is all telling. That is the point.

This government, this group of Conservative members who are quite different, I would say, than members of Conservative parties of the past, do not believe that the province of Ontario, or any government for that fact, has a responsibility to make sure that people have access to a basic level of service when it comes to buses, when it comes to hospitals, when it comes to whatever service, because I think it --

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): A socialist viewpoint.

Mr Bisson: The member says it's a socialist viewpoint. If it is, I'm damned proud to be a socialist, because I believe we have a responsibility among ourselves as a people in this province to make sure there is a level of service that is comparable no matter where you live in this province. If you happen to be a person living in Kapuskasing, Timmins or Sudbury, you should be able to access services that are at least somewhat similar to services to people who are living in other places like Toronto.


For the member to get up in this House and say the problem in this province has been the social bias is telling. If what you stand for is a system where it is only the private sector that decides what happens, we will lose lots and lots other than just bus services in this province. You will see health care go by the way, you will see social housing go by the way, you will see all levels of services that people need to sustain a living in this province go by the way. That is not the Ontario most Ontarians want and it's certainly not the one I want to see under a Conservative government.

Mr Stockwell: I'd like to compliment the member for Peterborough on his comments. Some of the outrage from the members offering their two-minute issue --

Mr Crozier: Outrage? Get real, you don't recognize it.

Mr Stockwell: It sounded like outrage. Okay, maybe you didn't believe what you were saying. I don't know.

In my opinion, it is a little shortsighted to believe that runs from Toronto to Detroit won't have some profitability from certain sectors within the province to Detroit or to Toronto. There will be profitability. There will be profitability for private operators to open up services -- maybe on a smaller scale, maybe not huge buses, but at least services to communities that are affected when changes are made when you have direct through runs.

I believe firmly that when you regulate an industry, there's a huge subsidization factor, and the subsidization factor comes into the price of a ticket. If you don't think that by subsidizing a bus line, that affects people's ability to move around in this province, you're kidding yourself. When you subsidize a bus ticket, the price to get on that bus is more expensive. Therefore, fewer people can afford it. Therefore, fewer people have an ability to travel this province due to the subsidization.

I think personally that a private sector operator will move into a lot of these runs and provide services at reasonable prices, just as effectively and efficiently as they were when they were regulated. I understand the members opposite not agreeing with that. I understand the member from Cochrane and the Liberals on this issue. You don't fundamentally believe the private sector or free enterprise can provide services as efficiently, as effectively as the government. That's where we part company, because we fundamentally believe if you don't subsidize it, if you give them a fair chance, reasonable taxes and a buoyant economy, they'll produce for us, and they'll produce taxes and jobs. No wonder we don't agree.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I wanted to comment on the member for Peterborough's remarks. I think it's fair to say that in the first half of your remarks you were trying to reassure the people of Peterborough that there were still regulations here. That's how I interpreted the first half of your remarks, that somehow or other people were misrepresenting the bill, that there were still regulations here.

I think it's fair to say it's 100% clear it is the government's intention to completely get out of the regulations. The minister, when he introduced this, said, "We are setting up an interim regulatory system during the 21 months leading up to full deregulation." To the residents of Peterborough: Let's make no mistake, this is all about full deregulation. It's not about keeping in place some regulatory regime. The member said there were 400 communities that lost their services. I guess, therefore, the conclusion is, let's just open it up wide and let the marketplace completely determine this.

You may very well believe that, you may very well want to defend that now, but I assure you, in a few years, as you head into the next election, there will be many communities in Ontario that won't have service that right now rely on service, that are watching this Legislature. This is not unlike public transit for many of us in urban areas. This is the equivalent. This is how some of them get to doctors' appointments, get to visit relatives. This is their public transit.

The member says let the marketplace completely dictate this. We understand that's your philosophy. But when the next election rolls around, the people who lose their service will hold you accountable. You are now going to completely deregulate the industry, let the marketplace determine it, and to the residents of Peterborough, I look forward to a debate in the next election when you find your services decline substantially.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Peterborough has two minutes.

Mr Stewart: I have listened to these comments. I believe the marketplace should dictate the type of service we have. Do you wish to have a monopoly on price as well as the operation? Do you not want the people of Ontario to get a break by having competition in the marketplace?

Mr Crozier: What about the GO trains? Privatize the GO trains.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Essex South will come to order.

Mr Stewart: I've heard things, as I told you before. Who is holding accountable the government that lost bus service in 400 communities over the last 10 or 15 years? What are you people saying to that? You're not saying anything to it, unfortunately.

What I'm suggesting to you, and I've said this prior, is that operators are holding licences that are not allowing them to go anyplace else, and that is why communities are being underserviced. Deregulation will solve that problem and I believe the marketplace will dictate the service.

One comment I did want to make: I had made the comment that regulation, control and social biases have destroyed the economic fabric of this province. I mean that. I still believe it and I want to make sure that everybody totally understood it, because a gentleman, the honourable member, said different. I believe deregulation is what will totally help this province, turn it around, create jobs, create businesses, and that's what it's all about.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I wanted to share some of the concerns my colleagues have on Bill 39.

In my riding alone, I have some concern. We have two major operators in our riding, which are Leduc Bus Services and 417 Bus Line. What I'm concerned with at the present time is, with the full deregulation that will be coming on probably in 18 months, what's going to happen with the operators in our riding? I'm looking at the Quebec people, the US people who will be coming down in our riding and also in the province of Ontario. At the present time there is an agreement, let's say, on construction workers. As we all know, it was impossible to get the Quebec government to agree with the agreement that was signed by our previous Peterson government.

But at the present time, those operators we have in our riding are two major ones and there are six others in our riding. I remember at one time Voyageur had the full monopoly in our riding. Voyageur was taking the workforce to Ottawa every 10 and 15 minutes in the morning. At one time, this large carrier decided to cease operation. All the people were left without transportation from my riding to Ottawa. Small drivers, small operators, started to buy buses. I'm referring again to 417 and Leduc bus lines, who have invested a lot of money in buying coaches to provide some of those services. What is going to happen if the full deregulation comes into force 18 months from now? Will there be a protection for those people who have invested this amount of money to buy coaches? I really don't feel, according to Bill 39, we will have this protection.

Also, I don't see anywhere in this Bill 39 that we will have access or there will be a process to appeal to Divisional Court. There will not be any appeal to the cabinet. Who will make a decision? Just the one single person who will decide if it is okay or not to have a large carrier come in in Ontario and disband all the small operators that we have in place at the present time.

Small business people are the key operation of Ontario business, the key operation of Canadian business. If we are to let the large carriers come into Ontario, take over all the small routes that were created by the small operators of our riding, after a while, if they see that they don't have une route profitable, they will cease operation and those people who have spent money, invested money in buying coaches in the past will not be there any more to provide the services to our people.


My people are really concerned about it, and also, if I'm looking at my colleague from Nepean, I'm sure one of the major bus operators that we have in Ottawa, I wonder if Carleton Bus Lines are fully in agreement with this Bill 39. I don't think so. Because at the present time, again, some buses from the Quebec side come into Ontario picking up passengers to take them back to Quebec. Will we have the same access to the Quebec-side people? I don't think so, if I go by the former agreement that we had in place in the past.

I was saying that we have two major bus lines, but at the present time, senior people do enjoy the transportation of our local transportation people, do enjoy the small operators, because this is the medicine that I would say is facing all the health cuts that we are facing at the present time. I always said to the senior people: "You enjoy travelling. The fact that the people are able to travel across the country, across Ontario, it's better than being at the doctor every week like we used to be."

Now that we have those small operators that are able to give this type of service to the people of our riding, of our province, will they be able to continue with these services to be able to travel at a low cost? When the major operators move into our riding, move into Ontario, like Greyhound for example, do you think that the US people, when they come into Ontario to get their licence, will continue giving this type of service? No, I don't think so, because we'll be paying a high price for it, and this enjoyment that those senior people have at the present time, the small service club, the small hockey clubs that are having the services of those small operators, very often at no cost at all for the benefit of our young sports people, I think this service will not be able to continue if we don't come up with some changes in Bill 39.

I recommend at this time that the government should pay close attention to this bill by having public hearings across the province so the small operators will be able to voice themselves towards this new regulation or towards this new Bill 39.

I would like to thank you, Mr Speaker, for bringing this to your attention and let's hope that the government will pay attention to these small operators across the province to make sure that those small operators will be in business 18 months from now.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Cordiano: I just wanted to commend my colleague for a very fine speech and very informative. I think he makes a number of very well-thought-out points with respect to small operators and how they will be affected.

He points out for government members, for their advantage, that small communities will be affected badly by the measures contained in this bill, that young people -- he points this out -- in fact young athletes, depend on bus service in many of these communities, and that's certainly something that needs to be pointed out to the government. Hockey teams and all kinds of other athletes across this province depend on bus service, and it's very important. I think, if for no other reason, this government needs to look carefully at what the impact will be on those young people who depend on bus service to get around the province to go to tournaments, to go to athletic competitions across the province.

Many of these communities are serviced by small operators, and those small operators who've invested a great deal of capital in new coaches etc, they're going to be affected. Their businesses will be adversely affected by this, and the member rightly points that out.

I say again that the government needs to be cautious about moving in this direction. We suggest to the government that they pull back the bill and that they look at this very carefully, that they look at what we are saying very carefully and take what we are saying very seriously, because the concerns we point out will come back to haunt many of the members on the back benches of this government. Those communities you represent will be asking, where were you when we lost our service? Where were you when you should have stood up for your community's interest?

Mr Ouellette: The member just mentioned, "Where were you?" Well, where were they when the 400 communities lost their service? Currently the system is obviously not working and we are trying to change it. That's one of the points that we are trying to bring out very effectively.

Also, the member for Prescott and Russell mentioned the bus companies coming across from Quebec. Once they cross the provincial boundary, it falls under federal legislation. The federal government legislates the busing regulations between provinces. He should know that and bring that forward as well.

Another area that needs to be mentioned is that the charter services that are given to provide hockey teams with that are at the expense of the regular service as long as a busing company provides essential, regular service, which could be once a month. Once a month; is that essential? Is that providing a proper service? I don't believe so, and neither do we in the ministry. We're trying to change that.

It was also mentioned that there need to be studies. This is April 1996; we're talking about deregulation in 1998. What do they think is going to happen in that time? We're going to close our eyes and pretend we're not looking at what's happening? Obviously there is a time frame there for a reason, and that's exactly what we intend to do.

Mr Bradley: I think one of the reasons the member also is apprehensive about the particular piece of legislation before the House is the price of gas in the province. With the price of gas being so high, that means a lot more people are going to need bus transportation and bus service, because the Ontario government has allowed the price of gas to go to 60 cents a litre in southern Ontario. The northerners would say they're used to that and they don't like it and it's even higher.

Here we are in a situation where people in these smaller communities in particular require this service so they're able to avoid what is going on with these huge gas companies. It's not the operator's fault in this case, the person at the pump. It's not that person's fault; it's the large gas companies that fix these prices, and the people who sell it at the retail level are stuck paying this.

How does that relate to this bill? Well, in a couple of ways. First of all, it's going to make the price of gasoline for the buses much greater and that may discourage some people who service those small communities unless they're required to do so by the direction of the Ontario Highway Transport Board.

The second reason is that it's driving people out of their personal vehicles because they simply cannot afford to drive in this province as long as the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the Minister of Environment and Energy, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology and the Treasurer won't do anything about the gasoline prices in this province. We know how very powerful these people are, and that's why I think it's very important that we not pass this bill.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I want to congratulate the member for Prescott and Russell on his presentation and for being in the House today to defend his constituents and the services that he believes they are fully entitled to, as well they are. I think it's worth pointing out again or reinforcing a number of the issues that the member spoke to.

First of all, we need to go back and look at the experience in the United States, because we have a neighbouring jurisdiction that moved to full bus deregulation. The fact of the matter is that after the first four years of bus deregulation, some 4,000 additional communities lost bus service. Some 375 of those communities were small or remote, but there were other medium-sized communities where you would think a profit could be made where in fact service was lost. So anyone in this House who is trying to tell the people of Ontario that there won't be more and fuller bus service lost is just kidding themselves, because that was certainly the experience in the United States.


I listened to the comments the minister made and I did not hear him say that the next two years is a period in which we will have a study where we will look at what is happening, and if more and more communities lose their service, there will be some kind of change. He didn't say that. This bill is the first step down the road to bus deregulation. Let's face it; let's call it as it is. He did not stand in the House and say that if things were going wrong we'd make a change; he made it very clear it was his expectation that more communities would have more service under bus deregulation. He said that on more than one occasion in this House, even though the experience in other jurisdictions has been absolutely contrary to that.

It behooves the minister to take a good look at what has happened in the United States and at what is happening in Quebec and Manitoba. Those two jurisdictions are telling the federal government they want to maintain bus regulation because that's how they're going to safeguard service in their communities. He would be well advised then to take this legislation and just put it away, because it's not going to help communities anywhere to get more bus service.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Prescott and Russell, you have two minutes.

Mr Lalonde: I was surprised by one comment that was brought to my attention by the member for Oshawa, that the federal government would legislate or regulate transportation in Ontario with Quebec operators. This is news to me. If it is a law, it has to have been a recent agreement, because I don't think it does exist. I thank the member for Lawrence for his comments.

Just one more point: Only small bus operators could afford what we have seen in Cornwall or what we will see in Cornwall this weekend. The majority of the athletes in the Special Olympics are transported by small bus operators at no cost to the city of Cornwall.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Phillips: I appreciate the opportunity to join the debate on Bill 39. The first thing is to be very clear on the bill. I think the minister was quite forthcoming on it; I'm not sure the debate is centred on what he said, though. He made it very clear that the intent of the bill is to completely deregulate the intercity bus industry in Ontario. There will be I guess a 21-month period with some regulatory regime, but at the end of that period it's over, it's done and the bus industry is completely deregulated -- as long as we're all dealing with that fact.

This bill was designed in downtown Toronto without taking into account the needs of the rural community of Ontario. I always think that when a new government is elected, that's the time the back bench should keep a good eye on bills going through the House. There are things that perhaps the bureaucrats would like to get done, there are things that in this case the industry might like to get done, but they're things that will also come back to haunt you in a very significant way. By my calculations, deregulation kicks in in 21 months, and then you'll begin to see the full impact of it just leading up to the election.

I guarantee you that there will be cuts in service to rural Ontario that none of us are going to want to defend and none of us are going to like, but all of you will say, "I'm sorry, my hands are tied, because industry makes those decisions." Believe me, for anyone who represents a constituency with a rural community, you're not going to like this bill.

The reason I raise it is that whether it's deliberate or not, rural Ontario is systematically seeing these cutbacks in services. Without doubt there are going to be hundreds of communities where people relied on some form of service for actually some basic necessities probably -- doctors' visits, visits to family, shopping, things like that.

I hope you'll forgive me, Mr Speaker, but I was struck, in the announcement by the cabinet on April 11, by what I regard as a systematic cutback in services for rural Ontario. This is just one of them, and I raise these because many members who are in the House today represent those areas.

The Solicitor General: I don't think there's been much debate in the House here, but half of the OPP police stations in this province are going to close. I think you can guess where they'll be. I get my trusty map out and you can see, if half of the OPP stations in Ontario are going to close -- and that's what the budget says. They're going to reduce by about one half, to 80 to 85 locations from roughly 170 locations right now of OPP -- they're going to be cut in half. So think of your own constituency, think of the OPP stations there; imagine half of them closed, gone.

Interjection: So much for law and order.

Mr Phillips: As my colleague says, so much for law and order. Believe me, if there is one thing that gives people a comfort around safe and secure communities, it is that there is an OPP detachment not far away, in case of whatever emergency situation comes up, the thought that their OPP station is not far away. But, in the interest of efficiency and the interest of, dare I say, funding the tax cut, the government says it's going to close half of the OPP stations, and that was just two weeks ago.

In this same statement, the Ministry of Natural Resources indicated it was going to cut 2,170 jobs. Where are those jobs? They're not in downtown Toronto. Believe me, they're not in downtown Toronto where the bureaucrats may live. They are heavily in the north, heavily in our rural communities. This was a second part of the statement by the minister in I think an attack on rural Ontario -- 2,170 positions. I might add that, according to the staffing report -- this is December 1995 -- the entire Ministry of Natural Resources had 4,800 jobs and is going to cut 2,170.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): One fifth of all of the cuts.

Mr Phillips: As my colleague says, one fifth of all of the cuts to the public service were in natural resources. I think we all know that those are heavily in our rural community, related to the conservation of our natural resources, operations of many of our parks, which we all know will now be permanently closed. That was the second one.

The third one: I don't think there's any question that we are going to see smaller hospitals in this province close. Even though the solemn promise in the Common Sense Revolution was that they wouldn't touch a penny of health care, all members in the House know the Minister of Health said, "We are cutting 18% of the budget of our hospitals." That's done; 18% of the budget of our hospitals cut. I assure you, as I look around Ontario, my fear is that for our smaller communities, the "efficient" way of doing things will be to see our small hospitals in rural Ontario close, consolidate with a larger hospital. If I'm not mistaken, one of the major hospitals in Peterborough is looking to consolidate one of the smaller hospitals in the neighbouring community. So there's the third area of attack on rural Ontario.


The fourth area would be the Ministry of Agriculture. What's happened to the Ministry of Agriculture, which of course -- actually, it's called the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I'm talking here about what I regard as a systematic attack on rural Ontario, with this bill, Bill 39, being simply one of them: a Toronto-driven solution to an industry problem, I gather.

But the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs says, among other things -- and remember, this was the ministry where there was a promise there would be no cuts made. That was a very popular one for the Conservatives. In fact, much to my dismay, I look at the electoral map of Ontario, and for those who never see these things, Liberal is red, NDP is green, and the Conservatives are blue, and rural Ontario is painted completely blue, much to our dismay, of course. I'd love to see some red out there.

Mr Crozier: You will next time.

Mr Phillips: My colleagues say, "You will." I think rural Ontario is being taken for granted. I've mentioned Bill 39. I've mentioned the OPP closing half of their detachments. Again I remind all of us: Think about the OPP detachments in your constituency. Half of them are going to close. I've mentioned here the Ministry of Natural Resources. The Ministry of Agriculture: Here they mention they are going to cut positions by 954. I remind you that the total staff in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is about 2,000. They point out here, "The ministry's field office network will be consolidated at strategic locations." That's a code word for, "Small ones will close and be consolidated into large ones." You know who's going to suffer in that case, Mr Speaker, and I suspect your community in the Stratford area could be one of those hit.

Why do I go through all of this? I would say also that in education, I don't know whether any of you have yet been hit with school boards saying, "Listen, I don't know how in the world we're going to deal with our cutbacks." I would add that school boards have been cut by about $233 million so far. The government ran on a platform of cutting $1 billion, so you are not quite a quarter of the way through your cuts to school boards and already we're seeing the impact of it. One of the impacts for rural Ontario obviously is going to be school busing. School boards are actually looking at charging now for transportation for students.

The member from Ottawa has --

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Nepean, not Ottawa.

Mr Phillips: Nepean. My apologies. One of the Conservative members from Nepean is shocked that a school board would charge for busing. I just say to people that if you're in a rural community, you have no alternative. You have to have the school bus. What's happening is that school boards just don't know where to turn. They've been told, under threat actually -- the Premier was in Ottawa, as coincidence would have it, and said, "Well, if school boards cannot handle their cuts outside of the classroom, maybe we'll just get rid of that school board." So you can appreciate why school boards are turning over every rock to find some saving or some money outside of the classroom. Where is it going to hit? It will hit in busing. There's no question of that. As I say, the school boards are now beginning to look at charging for students to travel on the bus.

Here we have it for rural Ontario: Small hospitals closing, OPP detachments -- and I suspect the OPP will be no different than any other organization; they will close the small ones and consolidate them into the large ones. Where are the small ones? By definition, in the rural areas of Ontario. It looks like the Ministry of Natural Resources has been the hardest-hit ministry, it and agriculture. I don't why that is, but it looks like they've been the two that have been really hammered in the cutbacks, both tending to be ministries that deal with our major rural issues: agriculture, food and rural affairs.

This bill is but one in a pattern, Bill 39, An Act to amend the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act and the Public Vehicles Act, which will --

Mr Baird: Have you read it?

Mr Phillips: I actually did read it, and I have even read the minister's comments on it. That's why I have no doubt of the intent. He made it crystal clear, absolutely clear: "The time has come to let the industry decide how best to meet the diverse needs of the community it serves." I know you believe that. That reflects your belief, and we just have a difference of opinion.

The member for Nepean said have I read it? I've read the bill and the minister's comments, "At one time it made sense to regulate the intercity bus industry, but the time has come to let the industry decide how best to meet the diverse needs of the community it serves." On something that, as I say, for many in our rural communities, this isn't a frill, this isn't some service they can take or leave, this is an essential service and I simply don't believe the time has now come to let the industry make these decisions.

We have the former general manager of the TTC here as one of our members, and he knows probably better than most that there are lots --

Hon Mr Leach: And the former chairman right there.

Mr Phillips: And the former chairman of the TTC. They both know that there are communities in Metropolitan Toronto that get TTC service that don't pay their way, that are subsidized by other parts of the community. They know that the TTC at certain hours doesn't pay its way, but as part of a service, an essential service, some people subsidize other people on the TTC so you're going to have a comprehensive transportation system.

In this case, we have for many communities what is essential for them, but there's no question that when the curtain comes down in 21 months there'll be hundreds of communities in this province that have bus service now that won't have bus service. And why? Well, because, as the minister said, "The time has come to let the industry decide how best to meet these diverse needs of the community."

It's a big risk. I gather you've decided to take this risk, or at least the minister has sold the caucus on taking this big risk. In 21 months from now you'll start to see the impact, and this will be the environment you will face when you go back to the communities that sent many Conservative members -- we understand that: OPP detachments closing; small hospitals closing, the Ministry of Natural Resources closing outlets, closing parks, closing their offices; the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs closing its small offices; school boards charging for bus service -- I think an attack on the rural quality of life.

You ask, why do we spend the time debating this bill? It's because we think we know where it ultimately leads. Frankly, I think in terms of simply the politics of it, if I were on the back bench or I had the ear of the Minister of Transportation, I'd say, "Do we really want to put ourselves in this position wherein dozens of communities in my constituency -- people will say to me, `Where were you when this bill went through that stopped my bus service, that I can no longer visit my children or my grandchildren, or I cannot get to the school or visit my doctor?'"

I hope we've put this into some kind of context, Mr Speaker. I know you're enthused about the debate here.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): He's worried about the Listowel bus.

Mr Phillips: My colleague says he's worried about the Stratford bus.

I will say, because you're in the chair, Mr Speaker, I used to drive a mail truck from London to Thorndale to Belton to St Marys, St Paul and into Stratford every day. I have some appreciation as a result of that of the needs of communities like Thorndale and Belton and St Paul, the need to ensure that they have the same services that those in urban areas just absolutely take for granted. We in an urban area take for granted that if we want to go somewhere, to visit family or friends, to go to work, to visit a doctor, we have some public transit. This is the public transit that we are giving up.

That's the reason for raising it. Unfortunately, I have a feeling the bill will pass. In opposition, you get a little bit used to that, but that shouldn't stop us from raising the concerns we have.

I always hate to be in a position where I say "I told you so" in two years, but I just assure the members we will say we told you so when you run into the problems created by this bill and the lack of service that will result in the end.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr O'Toole: It's a pleasure to rise again today to respond to the member for Scarborough-Agincourt's comments with regard to Bill 39, bus deregulation.

Just to repeat, Durham East is made up of many small communities -- Orono, Newcastle, Nestleton, Brooklin -- and a number of those communities were mentioned when the member for St Catharines repeated the litany of small towns that are at high risk. In the current situation within busing in Ontario it's my understanding that with 10 days' notice, Voyageur or one of the larger carriers can drop them from their routes. It has to be recognized that those 400 communities that are currently underserviced are not being serviced. It's wrong to state that they are.

The member for St Catharines mentioned a couple of points on busing. He brought up the issue of a gas tax, and I just want to repeat the Liberal concern on gas. They've been instrumental in raising the price of gas. Perhaps the member Colle might recall that he passed a resolution as a Metro councillor in which he suggested $53 per month for a green fee to support mass transit. That would have raised $753 million.

There are other records of Liberal attempts to raise taxes: starting in 1988, raising the tax 1 cent a litre, and 3 cents on unleaded gas, with a net revenue of $167 million; in 1989, raising the tax 2 cents a litre for $297 million in additional tax. It all ended up in their last financial statement, in 1991, with a 3-cent-a-litre increase, a $410-million tax grab.

When it comes to further comments with regard to the impact on hospitals or health care in all the small communities, the NDP closed more beds in hospitals than any government in the history of Ontario.

Let's set the record straight: We've locked up the health care budget, and we're going to fix busing as well.

Mr Cordiano: I just want to commend my colleague the member for Scarborough-Agincourt on a very good speech in which he described the assault this government is making on rural and small-town Ontario. That's the only way you can describe it; it is an assault. It is an assault on a way of life. It is completely insensitive on the part of this government with respect to the needs of small-town and rural Ontario.

The distances people have to travel are completely forgone in any consideration this government might make with respect to the changes that are being discussed in Bill 39. Ultimately, they will pay the price in answering to their constituents. The backbenchers of the Conservative Party will have to answer to those constituents at some point in time.

Mr Bradley: Did I hear they're defending the oil companies?

Mr Cordiano: They continue to defend all the big operators out there, the big oil companies, the big bus operators who will benefit from this change in Bill 39. They will not defend the interests of small-town Ontario and rural Ontario with respect to bus service.

We're trying to point this out to the members opposite on the government benches. We're trying to say to them, be more sensitive to the fact that when you cut services, and not only bus services -- when you're cutting hospitals, the lifeline of communities in rural Ontario, when you're cutting all of these essential services that are so vital to those communities -- you haven't got a real appreciation of what that does to communities outside of Toronto. You have to be concerned about what will happen with respect to students, seniors, young people, people who won't be able to afford any alternative.

Mr Baird: I congratulate my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt on another great speech. My colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt has only made one bad decision in his political career, and that was back in 1987 when he decided to join the Liberal Party. Other than that, I have nothing bad to say about the member. He's a very honourable fellow.

Regrettably, the Liberal Party's view of the economy is coming through again, and I know it must be troubling for the member for Scarborough-Agincourt to be stuck in that small cabal in the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it; if it keeps moving, regulate it; if it stops moving, subsidize it. I know my friend from Scarborough-Agincourt would have trouble with that, but it's confining in the Liberal Party.

I did enjoy his remarks on Bill 39. I particularly enjoyed the 20-minute lead-up to the remarks when he actually started to discuss the bill. We heard about school boards, this government supporting the idea of amalgamating school boards after Mr Sweeney's report, Mr Sweeney being a former colleague of the member opposite. He mentioned hospitals. I didn't hear when he talked about hospitals, though, mention of the 6,600 hospital beds closed by our friends. I didn't hear him mention that. I heard him talk about the OPP, MNR, agriculture. It took him a while to get to this bill.

When he talked about the issue of the gas tax, I didn't hear him talk about the Liberal increase in the gas tax in last year's budget. I know that in the two minutes he has to respond, he'll want to talk about the Liberal gas tax and where that money is going. I know he'll want to enlighten the House that the Liberal Party would perhaps come out against their federal cousins.

I would encourage the honourable member to allow a free vote on our budget next week. Allow the Liberal members to vote for our budget if they really want to.

Mr Bradley: I appreciate the opportunity to commend my colleague the member for Scarborough-Agincourt on a very thoughtful address to the Assembly this afternoon. What I was offended by was the fact that he was attacked by members from east of Toronto who were up defending the oil companies with these gas price increases by trying to blame governments.

I would not rise in this Legislature to blame Darcy McKeough or Frank Miller or Larry Grossman or any of the Tory ministers who raised the gas taxes. I understood that they needed these for programs to keep the hospitals going, to maintain the roads in the province, and to provide the kinds of services that we as Canadians feel are important. So I did not criticize them.

I understand that the price of gas has gone up because, of course, the oil companies have decided to put it up. This has nothing to do with taxes, the recent one. I can't blame you; I can't blame your predecessors. I'm blaming the oil companies. And what happens? Instead of worrying about something else, up get government backbenchers who people might say are in the pocket of the oil companies. I wouldn't say that but, you know, they could come to that conclusion, that no matter what business does, it is okay. So if you want to ram it to motorists in this province by putting the gas prices up over 60 cents a litre, apparently to some members of the Progressive Conservative caucus that's fine.

Now, my friend from Nepean gets up. I always want to know what the Premier's office has told people to say, what are the talking points for the Tories that day. All I have to do is listen to my friend the member for Nepean, and he will read the latest. Last week it was that the status quo was no good. This week he has the line on some of the former governments.

Very good speech, Gerry, I must say.


The Deputy Speaker: The member for Scarborough-Agincourt has two minutes.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate that.

Because the member for Nepean raised the issue of finances, here's my point of view: The Premier and the Minister of Finance were both around in previous times; very few of the rest were here. But I went back and looked at their record. They were there for four years in the Conservative government. What happened? The single biggest increase in personal income tax was when they were in government, Premier Harris and Mr Eves; the single biggest increase in the history of the province when they were there.

Each budget, for four straight budgets, took taxes up 24 times. That was Premier Harris and the Minister of Finance. They took the debt up. They were running deficits of $2.7 billion for four straight years when they were around before. That's what we worry about. They were running the deficit up by 11% every single year. They took the spending up by 12% every single year. We didn't go through a worse period of fiscal mismanagement than those four budgets when Premier Harris and --


Mr Phillips: Well, up until that point in time. The Provincial Auditor went through and looked and said: "What's happened here? The last time a Conservative government balanced the budget -- 1969."

Mr Bradley: Some of the members were not even alive then.

Mr Phillips: Some were not alive. The point I make for those of you newly elected is, keep an eye on the Premier and keep an eye on the Minister of Finance. It is a myth that they can manage the finances.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm very pleased to come to the House this afternoon; I wish I had been here during the previous speeches. I've been in the justice committee and we've been looking at what the Tory government's been doing to halfway houses and putting everybody on electronic monitoring. We're a little upset about that, so we've been working there.

But an issue such as bus deregulation is extremely important to people in northern Ontario and the people of rural Ontario. It's a group of people this government should be making sure it looks after. It's a big, big concern. I'll tell you what's going to start to happen, because this is the second area we've seen of transportation deregulation in Ontario. The first was when the Conservative government pulled out norOntair airline, the government-run airline in northern Ontario.

Right now, we're in this period of time where some of the private sector airlines have come in. But I want to tell you what they've done in my area. We've had an airline come in, but it's a schedule that's designed to fail. I feel badly about that because I'd like it to succeed. As I go on a little further, I'm not prejudiced one way or the other on public sector versus private sector supplying services. That's what I'm going to be talking to you about and hope that you would show some flexibility in this.

What happened when norOntair pulled out of northern Ontario? Various different private sector airlines have come in, and in some of the great routes, in the profitable routes, they're providing a very good schedule and I think they're going to be successful. But in some of the other routes, such as in the riding of Timiskaming, where I live, connecting Kirkland Lake with Earlton, with the feeder airline routes that come into Toronto using Air Ontario, coming into Sudbury, we don't have a very good schedule.

I'm afraid that's exactly what's going to happen with bus deregulation. Not only are we going to get a lack of service, but we're going to get very poor service in some of those areas. We might see a bus once or twice a week. That's a concern I have.

I'd like to bring this down to the basic principles I believe in when it comes to this sort of thing. All of my colleagues in the Liberal Party believe that if the private sector can do a job, then it should be allowed and encouraged to do so. But in this country, we can't always depend on the private sector to do the work. So we have a couple of other levels of things. In some cases, we have public sector involvement in providing services, and so we do that where there isn't the private sector partner able to do that.

Another level of service provision that government is here to ensure that happens is regulation, and so we put in regulation to make sure the private sector will service a certain area, and we do that because, in the case of busing, there are some very rich routes out there across this province connecting our main urban centres that are very viable and very desirable for bus companies to be involved in, very profitable, and that's great. But we say to those companies that if you're providing and making a very good profit, which we encourage you to do by providing a service on those main transportation corridors in Ontario, we ask you in tradeoff to provide those smaller communities that many of us live in, on all sides of this House, with bus service for those people also. That's all we're asking for on this side of the House today. We're saying, make sure that the small communities are provided with the bus service.

I want to talk a little bit about who some of those people are and maybe why you're not defending them also today. When I came in here, I brought in a roadmap of our great province of Ontario, and I see one of my colleagues already had one out, and you start to look at the number of towns and communities in Ontario, over 800 of them, spread over thousands and thousands of kilometres of distance in this province.

I live in northern Ontario and am very aware of the great distances. I grew up in the south, and I'll tell you, 25 years ago when I moved up to my farm outside of New Liskeard, I was really astounded by the distances of northern Ontario, and being the MPP for the last 11 years for the riding of Timiskaming, I've had the opportunity and the great pleasure of travelling right across northern Ontario.

Maybe not everybody in Ontario appreciates that it's further to drive from Toronto to the Ontario-Manitoba border than it is to go down the I-75 to Tampa, Florida. That's how big a place we live in, and we who live in the north, and several of my northern colleagues here are agreeing with me, we have a very large province, and not everybody has the luxury of being able to fly, as I'm able to do in the north when I travel on business, and not everybody has the luxury of owning an automobile, that many of us I'm sure in this place would take for granted. Not everybody has those two, what I call, luxuries.

Many, many people rely on public transit, and public transit in northern Ontario is basically two things, because we don't have subways, and only in the very largest urban centres of northern Ontario do we have actually bus transit within the cities. Public transit for us in northern Ontario means train and bus. We, in the Highway 11 corridor, by Ontario Northland Railway, have a train service, but it's not the train service that we had up till about six years ago where we had two trains a day; it's down to one.

As we know, the transcontinental trains, run now by Via Rail, have cut down their train service and so bus transportation becomes a very important transportation service for people of modest means in northern Ontario and southern Ontario.

When you live in the city, especially a great city like Toronto, you can use the subway, you can use the TTC buses, you can use GO Transit to get out to the suburbs and commute. You really don't ever need to get on to a Greyhound or Gray Coach or Voyageur bus, but if you live in northern Ontario and you're a 72-year-old grandmother and want to go see your granddaughter somewhere else in northern Ontario or down in southern Ontario where probably you're going to find them, unfortunately, today, because that's what happens with our children moving south, you're going to have to take the bus. I'm not sure that 72-year-old grandmother, who maybe lives in Dryden or maybe even lives further off the road than Dryden, maybe in the Rainy River district, possibly Fort Frances, is going to be able to have that bus service to get to Thunder Bay or maybe even to get into northeastern Ontario or even to go farther into southern Ontario. That's the problem.


Mr Len Wood: They have the same problem in the south.

Mr Ramsay: One of my colleagues makes the point that the very same thing is going to happen in southern Ontario, that this isn't just a northern situation. We have great distances in southern Ontario, many small farm communities that were founded in the last century that have shrunk in size as people have moved to cities and to some smaller urban centres in southwestern and in eastern Ontario. Yet people live there; people want to live viable lives there. They want to live there but they want to be able to visit their relatives. In many cases they have to get out of those communities to access medical services, whether they live in southern or northern Ontario. As we all know, many more sophisticated medical services are only available in the urban centres of southern Ontario, and bus travel for many of those people is the only mode of transportation that's available to them.

It's very important that we ensure that a reasonable, viable and safe transportation system is available for all the different needs the people of Ontario have to travel. As our population ages, this is going to become more and more important. As we look across the map we see town after town in southwestern Ontario, whether it be Orangeville, Shelburne, Hanover or Arthur, and many of those towns are going to find themselves without bus service. That is a big concern to many of us.

One point I want to bring up and really what concerns me, where I think maybe the politics in here is -- and I'm sure this is going to upset some government members. When I see the initiatives the Conservative government is bringing forward, there seems to be a concerted effort only to bring in policies to a segment of the population that they perceive would be supporters of the present government. I see people, especially on the lower end of the scale, who really are being ignored. In fact, I'll go a little stronger and say they are being victimized.

I haven't heard the Conservative government say to big business, "With the ever-increasing profits that the banks and many big businesses are accruing today, why don't you become better partners in our communities and hire more people in Ontario?" I haven't seen the initiative where the Premier would say, "Sure, it's a free society, but we think that big business has a very important role to play in creating employment in Ontario, not just cutting workers."

I suppose that discussion can't go on for many members of the government because this government is playing the same game itself. Two weeks ago it put 10,600 civil servants on the street over the next two years, so I guess we're not going to see that.

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): They're not on the street.

Mr Ramsay: One of my colleagues across the way said they're not on the street, but if you look at unemployment figures today and if you look at the government's own unemployment projections, there is no sign from the government's own figures that the employment picture is going to be any brighter in the next three years. It's a real concern to us on the opposition side that this government is creating an economic mess in Ontario, that they are creating unemployment by the severe cuts they are doing in the civil service.

Bus deregulation is just one of many areas in which northerners feel really abandoned by this government. We in northern Ontario have always looked, maybe a little more strongly than those who live in the south, at the government as a partner in our lives. Government has been needed as a partner to help develop northern Ontario because of the great distances and the very low density of population. In fact, we have 10% of the population in northern Ontario and basically nine tenths of the land mass of the province.

We need government as a partner and we've always had a visible sign of government as a partner because we in the north are the stewards of most natural resources. The Ministry of Natural Resources, for example, has always been a very big presence in northern Ontario, and what we see with this last statement by the Chair of Management Board a couple of weeks ago is basically a demolishing of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The Minister of Natural Resources, long before a previous Tory government brought in and invented the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, has really been the northern government partner with northern Ontarians in seeing that our resources in northern Ontario are well managed. They have been the stewards of our wildlife and our timber resources and, before the Ministry of Mines, also of our mineral resources. What we've seen is basically a demolition of that ministry, and it's a tremendous concern to the people of northern Ontario that we are not going to have the safeguards in place, we're not going to have the supervision, and in fact, we're not going to have employees of the government, representatives of the people of Ontario, directly supervising those resources on our behalf.

I must say to you that this isn't just something that environmentalists who are concerned about our forest resources are worried about. Forestry companies are also extremely worried about this, because they look to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the foresters who are part of that ministry as partners also in the management of forest resources. Even though they have their own foresters, they look to the Ministry of Natural Resources for advice, working with them in partnership to make sure that our natural resources are managed well. They are very afraid that this partnership is no longer going to be there, as we see a government that is bent on privatization of just about everything the government does.

This not only is happening with natural resources; we're seeing this with all the different ministries, and we're very concerned with where this transfer is going to happen, who is going to be in charge of supervising those resources, how are they going to work with the community. I've talked to the Minister of Natural Resources. I know he has some ideas, especially in the Temagami area, a very contentious area of conflicting forest users, of how we're going to manage that area in the future, but in the Chairman of Management Board's statement of the other day, the Temagami office of the Ministry of Natural Resources has been closed. It's been closed arbitrarily. The people there are going to be moved to North Bay. Ironically, that's the Premier's riding and he's going to benefit from that.

The Minister of Natural Resources knows, though, that there's going to have to be some sort of management body in place in Temagami as he brings forward some sort of management plan. We don't know exactly what management plan it's going to be, but the minister has received as of last week a plan from the Comprehensive Planning Council of the Temagami area, of the Timiskaming area, that a Liberal government, a New Democratic government and a Conservative government had all put their stamp of approval on, and finally we have those recommendations there, and one of those recommendations is some sort of governance model.

Who is going to govern the new plan that is being put forward? I think there should be some sort of local government model there, and I'm certainly willing and open to discuss that with the minister, maybe some sort of conservation authority, maybe some sort of forest authority that would look after all the forest resources there, not just counting trees and managing trees as a resource but all of the forest resource of the woodlands there. Who's going to do that?

We're now kind of left in a position that the Temagami office is closed. There's a hiatus there. There's a vacuum there. We have a very contentious area. We're going to have a very hot summer, I will tell you, in the Temagami area. Probably regardless of whatever the Minister of Natural Resources decides to do there, there are going to be factions from both sides of the equation not happy with the compromise that maybe is being put forward right now by the Comprehensive Planning Council, and it's important that the Ministry of Natural Resources has a presence there, that the government of Ontario has a strong presence there.

The other presence I think we need there, and I know my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt had mentioned the closing of the OPP offices across the province -- that one hasn't been mentioned to date, but it would be very important that our OPP detachment in Temagami also be open in that area, especially over the next couple of years as we move towards a new forestry plan for the Temagami area. I would say to the government, you've got to be careful and think out a lot of these closures, a lot of these things that you're deregulating here and be very careful in what you're doing.


Other closures that have affected my riding also involve the Ministry of Natural Resources. Three of the offices in my riding have been closed, two others besides the Temagami office: the one in Elk Lake has been closed and the one in Englehart has been closed. So we're seeing a shrinkage of the government presence in our area.

It's very interesting to note, actually, politically that the small communities in my riding that have had very strong government presence for the last 50 years have consistently voted for the governing party because of that government presence, because for 42 years, as we all know, the government of the day in Ontario was the PC party. That's how people in those towns voted, because they were government workers, it was a Tory government in power for all those years, and that's the way they voted. It's ironic for those small communities that it's a PC government that is abandoning those people and their support over all those years and pulling out those agencies, pulling out those government ministries, pulling out those government jobs.

This is the same thing that we fear with the bus service across northern Ontario. In northern Ontario, it's the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission that supplies the bus service, most of it, for northern Ontario. Through the north, we do have the transcontinental buses that are coming from Vancouver or from Winnipeg. They drive through the north, so Greyhound, Gray Coach, Voyageur are passing through. But we also have the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, the ONTC, supplying buses that travel within northern Ontario, that supply that transportation for destinations within the north.

If you want to go off, say, one of the main corridors, such as the Highway 17 corridor, the Trans-Canada Highway that leads from Montreal through Ottawa, through North Bay to Sudbury to Sault Ste Marie, then you make a big right turn, and you go up around Lake Superior, very beautiful country, the Canadian Shield country there, going to Thunder Bay, you have an opportunity there to split and if you carry on 17, basically you go out through the Trans-Canada Highway through Dryden and through Kenora and eventually to Manitoba.

The other corridor through northern Ontario is the Highway 11 corridor, which is basically, as we all know, through the 200th-year commemoration of Yonge Street, a continuation of Yonge Street. In the north we pick it up, Highway 11 in North Bay, in the Premier's riding. It comes right up through my riding of Timiskaming in through Cochrane South and in through Cochrane North, around the great clay belt area of northern Ontario, through to Thunder Bay. But then after Thunder Bay it splits and goes down through the Rainy River area eventually again to the Manitoba border.

These two highway corridors, by and large, are served by many of the multinational transcontinental bus lines, but in many of the smaller centres within northern Ontario, to get from A to B and from B to C in northern Ontario, we rely on the ONTC network. Of course, that is all regulated and it's mandated that we receive those bus services. For instance, through my riding, the ONTC bus would stop at Marten River coming up from North Bay. It would also stop at Temagami. Those are easy routes because they're right on the highway. But it has to come off Highway 11 at Cobalt to go through to the Tri-town area along Lake Timiskaming, so it has to pull off on to Highway 11B to make a pickup and a stop -- and this is also passenger and freight, something that we depend on also in northern Ontario; the parcel delivery system is very effective and efficient and low-cost.

It has to pull into Cobalt, the towns of Haileybury and New Liskeard, back on to Highway 11 up to Englehart. There in Englehart, or actually before that, Earlton, it would have to pull off the highway. The transcontinental multinational bus lines do not make those pulloffs into some of those smaller towns. Going further up the road, to Kirkland Lake: Kirkland Lake is about 25 miles off Highway 11, so that is, for a bus line, a major detour off the Trans-Canada Highway.

The Ontario Northland bus does pull in there and we have a very beautiful ONTC bus terminal there that also houses some government offices and provides other office space for the town of Kirkland Lake. We're very appreciative of that investment and depend on that bus terminal and the bus routing through Kirkland Lake to serve that community, that finds itself because of its geological proximity of gold mining that was off the highway, unlike a Hemlo, which was right on the Trans-Canada Highway -- we depend on the ONTC to supply that bus service. We have that bus service, it services Kirkland Lake and then goes on to Timmins, which again is off the main highway; it's on Highway 144, but you have to make basically quite a routing to get into Timmins off the Trans-Canada Highway if you were to go up to the towns of Cochrane to Kapuskasing, Hearst, up into the great towns of my colleague the member for Cochrane North, Len Wood. So bus deregulation is a very, very big concern for us in northern Ontario.

What I'm saying to you today and to the members of the governing side is that we ask you to proceed with great caution before you deregulate something like bus service. Take a look at the history of why we have had an industry such as this regulated. As you know, there are not very many industries in this province that we do regulate, and we are allowing some, over the last couple of years, to do some deregulation.

One of the contentious issues was telephone service. Telephone service is a bit of a different area because the infrastructure is already in place. Thanks to regulation of that industry, the monopoly company -- in Quebec and Ontario it's Bell Canada -- built the infrastructure. The infrastructure is in place, so it's possible to deregulate long-distance, and maybe some day, with arrangements through the local-distance carriers, we can get to deregulation of local-distance phone service. We can do that because the infrastructure is in place.

But we just can't jump into this with bus service because there are not necessarily guaranteed bus lines between all of the communities that are served today. That's why I would say to the members of the government side to take a breath. Let's give this some sober thought before we jump off the precipice of deregulation when it comes to bus services and make sure that all the communities that have service today will continue to have service over the years, because I don't want to see and have people come into my office from Kirkland Lake or New Liskeard, anywhere in the riding, who have to go down to Sudbury, which is our northeastern Ontario health care transferral centre.

Sudbury is a referral centre for health care in northeastern Ontario. All of us in the northeast, whether we live in Sudbury or not, are very proud that Sudbury has developed as it has; over the same number of years that the mines have lowered their employment requirements, it has developed into that referral centre. In fact, Sudbury has developed into a world-class health centre to serve not only northeastern Ontario but also a lot of the province, especially when it comes to some of the specialties that Sudbury is very famous for, those two being cardiology and oncology.

As we all know, when some of the lineups are building, as they're building more and more, in southern Ontario, when there was some capacity in the south, Sudbury actually became a destination of choice for many heart patients from southern Ontario because of the high-quality work that the physicians, the nursing teams, all the technicians and all the support staff who work in the Sudbury institutions provide for the people of Ontario. We're very proud of that in northern Ontario, very proud of that in northeastern Ontario, the catchment area that is served by the Sudbury area.

It's the people in my riding and beyond, in the Cochrane South and the Cochrane North area, who require, many of them, bus transportation to get down to Sudbury, to get to the MRI facilities, to get to the CAT scan facilities, to start their cancer treatments, to understand their prognosis and to work with the highly trained staff they find in North Bay and Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie. These are transferral centres for us, referral centres for health care for all of northeastern Ontario. It is very important that the people in the small towns are connected to these larger urban centres.

While you look at the map and look at those centres and say, "Sure, there's going to be no problem in the private sector providing bus service between Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury," and I'm sure Sault Ste Marie through Sudbury to North Bay, while we know that's going to be in place, it's very important that we have the bus service we have today to make sure that in those small centres our people are connected to those services.


I wish we had all those services out of Sudbury and North Bay and the Sault and, in the northwest, out of Thunder Bay to provide those services for the people of northwestern Ontario, but unfortunately we don't. We can't supply all the services sometimes because of the capital requirements and sometimes for the very highly specialized expertise required to deliver very sophisticated services, which maybe can only be delivered in Sick Kids Hospital and some of the other Toronto hospitals.

Therefore, we also require very good bus transportation out of the small communities of northern Ontario into the large urban centres of southern Ontario, Toronto being a primary one, but also to be able to get over to London for a cardiac operation and other services. It's very important to the people of Ontario, especially in northern Ontario and rural Ontario in the south, to have first-rate bus services to provide transportation for family visiting relatives, for our seniors going on trips, for people going on vacations and, as I've talked about at great length this afternoon, for our families in northern Ontario to access the health care services we are not fortunate enough to have in our own communities. These services are very important.

Through Bill 26 and other legislation this government has brought forward, they have jumped in without the thinking I wish they had become involved in before they jumped off the precipice, in this case, of deregulation without giving it the thought I believe it deserves.

Mr Crozier: A very high precipice.

Mr Ramsay: As my colleague from Essex South says, this is very high precipice. This probably is a dangerous one to leap off. Many of the government members who represent rural constituencies had better give this, on the political side, a very close look too. I think they may be abandoning some of their own constituents, which I am sure deep down they would not want to do.

What we have to do, what I have always done in my 11 years, is to look after the interests of my constituents first. I would say to the government members, you should do that and put the brakes to bus deregulation.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Questions or comments?

Ms Martel: I'd like to congratulate the member for Timiskaming for raising the concerns on behalf of the constituents in his part of northeastern Ontario. I'd like to thank him as well for pointing out the discrimination by this Conservative government which continues against northeastern Ontario and northern Ontario as a whole.

He was very quick to point out the fact that we have lost regular scheduled air service which was once provided by norOntair, once established by a former Tory government; that we have had a number of programs delivered by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines gutted; and that we now have the spectacle of at least 2,100 staff losing their jobs at the Ministry of Natural Resources, one half of those being in our special part of the province.

I know if the member had had time he would have wanted to point out what the minister said in this House last week when he talked about bus deregulation, particularly with respect to his desire that this Conservative government lobby other provinces to move to full bus deregulation. He said specifically: "It will give us a chance to work with the federal government and other jurisdictions to encourage deregulation of the bus industry in other provinces. In this way, we can ensure Ontario bus companies a fair access to other markets within Canada."

It's worth pointing out again what the position is of both Manitoba and Quebec with respect to bus deregulation, because it is completely opposite to the direction this minister is taking, specifically in Quebec. The Quebec government has said, as late as November: "As things stand, total deregulation threatens to accelerate the process whereby regional bus transport services gradually disappear. Moreover, the resulting greater competition in the more profitable routes would force carriers to drop the less heavily travelled time periods and concentrate on the hours and periods most in demand. While it may be natural and logical, this move towards market concentration runs counter to our priorities, namely, maintaining stable services to the greatest number of Quebeckers possible."

In Manitoba, they said: "There is simply no major problem that would be addressed by bus deregulation and no significant constituency advocating it, other than on theoretical or ideological grounds."

No other jurisdiction, in terms of our neighbours, wants to move to this. I don't know why we are.

Mr Colle: The one thing we're telling the government on this is that if they were to look at the UK example, with bus deregulation there was a 25% reduction in the number of people using buses and services deteriorated. Also, look at the American example. I know they've referred to the 400 lost communities in Ontario and keep on repeating that, but they never once refer to the fact that in the United States, when Ronald Reagan deregulated intercity buses 5,000 of the almost 10,000 communities that had bus stops before deregulation lost their bus stops. In other words, those communities were left without bus service.

What that tells me is that the ministry has not done a comprehensive analysis of the impact of what they're going to do. They obviously haven't looked at the UK, haven't looked at the United States. If they were to incorporate analyses of what those did to bus service and what it meant to the providers, along with the Ontario example, put it before an independent group that can analyse this and say: "Here's what it means to the people who need the bus service. Here's what it means to the providers" -- because right now the providers do not agree with the direction of this bill. In other words, the people who are providing, for the most part, good bus service in Ontario think the government isn't doing the right thing with this bill.

Before you go in this new direction, sit down and do an analysis, come back and give us the written analysis to show us what the impact is going to be, and then we can have a better debate.

Mr Gravelle: I also want to take the opportunity to congratulate the member for Timiskaming for his comments. It's really important, at least for those of us on this side of the House, to make it as clear as possible to this government that this bill in many ways symbolizes a lot of things that are wrong and are going wrong with this government.

I want to note especially that although many of us as northerners, the member for Timiskaming and other northern members, have spoken of this issue as extremely important to us in terms of retaining service for the seniors, for people who need it and rely on it -- and this government continues to not understand that -- it's very significant as well that the member for Scarborough-Agincourt spoke earlier, and the member for Lawrence, and the member for Oakwood spoke as our critic on this issue. It's important to note that these are members from urban ridings who are showing their concern for the entire province, unlike those on the government benches. It's really quite sad, because certainly a number of members on the government side represent rural ridings and those are the ridings that we know are going to be most dramatically affected by the deregulation of the system.

Let's not kid ourselves. That's what this is really leading to and what it's all about. It's a sad day for the province when a government moves ahead, with no regard at all for the people who actually got them here. We are going to continue to fight this battle. We are going to vote against this bill and we are going to implore this government to consider that they should remove this bill. They should certainly remove it and give those people an opportunity to discuss it in a more full way before this action takes place.

I am proud of how our caucus has responded, how all those in opposition have responded in opposition to this bill, and I ask all those to consider voting against it.

The Speaker: The member for Timiskaming has up to two minutes for wrapup.

Mr Ramsay: I'm pleased to wrap up and finish off our debate today on bus deregulation. I appreciate the remarks from the members for Sudbury East, Oakwood and Port Arthur.

The member for Sudbury East brought up a very good point about the policies of Manitoba and Quebec. It's something the government had better be aware of. If you start getting into deregulation here, the bus companies from Quebec are going to be coming in here and putting into jeopardy a lot of our Ontario companies in bus service. You'd better watch that. It's one of the reasons we have a regulated system, to make sure that in areas such as this, where we encourage private sector participation, there is a fair, level playing field when it comes to who can participate in that business. And of course we want to make sure that Ontario companies have a fair opportunity to participate and make a profit but at the same time provide service to those places in Ontario that might not, on only a for-profit basis, receive service.

It's very important to us to make sure you don't just jump off this ledge into total deregulation but that you proceed with caution. That's why my colleagues and I will be voting against this bill.

The Speaker: This is a motion for second reading of Bill 39. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members. It will be a five-minute bell.

Interjection: Thirty minutes.

Hon Mr Sterling: Mr Speaker, I think there's unanimous consent to have a five-minute bell rather than a 30-minute bell.

The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?

Mr Christopherson: I have a deferral, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker: Deferral: "Pursuant to standing order 28(g), I request deferral of the vote on second reading of Bill 39 until immediately following routine proceedings on May 1, 1996, before orders of the day."

It's been deferred until tomorrow.

Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made.



The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Hamilton Centre has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the minister without portfolio, Workers' Compensation Board, concerning his report on WCB. The member has up to five minutes for his statement and the minister will have up to five minutes for rebuttal.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have requested this late show because on at least two occasions now I have raised questions in the House during question period with the minister responsible for reforming the WCB, and in both those cases I did not receive answers to my questions. It wasn't an issue of not getting the kind of answer I wanted; it was more a matter of the minister deliberately, in my opinion, avoiding dealing with the substantive parts of my questions. I feel that those questions have a right to be answered, particularly given that they're about injured workers and what this government is going to do to injured workers through their reform of the WCB.

Yesterday I raised the minister's report -- I'm going to give a number of examples where I make the case that this paper, which is the foundation upon which the government is planning to slash benefits to injured workers, is shaky, at best, and totally inaccurate.

On page 26 of that report the minister says, "In Quebec, an employer pays an injured worker's full salary for the first 14 days." The minister knows that a letter was sent to him on March 9 from the assembly of injured workers of Quebec where they say, "This is absolutely wrong." They go on to explain that the WCB in Quebec pays the worker 90% of net, just as we do here in Ontario.

The same organization points out that in the report the minister talks about the method of paying life pensions in lump sums, and they characterize that as "absolutely wrong." They go on further in the letter that they've sent to the minister to say, "Unfortunately on these two occasions what is written about our system is false."

My questions were and remain regarding those two issues: How did mistakes like that happen in terms of that's what is in this report, and it's wrong, so how did that happen? Second, what is the minister going to do about it? Since this is their cover for attacking injured workers and we're proving that it's not correct, what's he going to do about it?

I raised a couple of weeks ago the fact that in the same report, the minister says, "Ontario's average rate is estimated to be over 40% higher than the average rate in neighbouring Great Lakes states."

I brought forward a report commissioned by the federal government, done by KPMG Peat Marwick, wherein they make the case -- and the federal government is using this document, to the best of my knowledge -- that our costs are not only comparable but they're lower. I asked the minister to present and provide his documentation that proves what's in this report on this matter and many others, and I want you to know, Speaker, that to date we have not received that documentation.

Just yesterday, when the minister was responding to my comments, he said in the House that "still the unfunded liability laid at about $14 billion." That's out of yesterday's Hansard. The unfunded liability has never been at $14 billion, but the minister said very directly, without any caveats at all, that it's at about $14 billion. It's not. It's at $10.9 billion. There's a big difference, particularly when this government is using the unfunded liability as an excuse as well as talking about the fact that the WCB does not have the fiscal ability to manage its portfolio. The fact of the matter is that the investment fund of the WCB is now up over $7 billion. That's up from $6 billion just a while ago.

The report, the minister's comments, everything is based on absolute falsehoods. It doesn't hold up. I think I have a right on behalf of injured workers to demand the minister prove his comments or take this document back and fix it and present us with the truth.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): I appreciate the opportunity to make clarifications about the issues which the member opposite raises with some degree of vigour and some degree of convoluted approach. But the truth is, we will unfold for the member opposite the clarifications he's been seeking.

Clearly, the system in Quebec with respect to what employers are paying is 90% of net, plus there is the top-up. This is net, after tax, plus top-up. So the argument could be made that an injured worker in Quebec does make more money on workers' comp than they do if they're an uninjured worker. Could I have made the suggestion in the report more clear? I didn't think it was appropriate to underscore the fact that in Quebec it's possible to make more on compensation than it is to be retained in your workplace. The member opposite would know that most employer groups that are organized do 100% top-ups that include that, so the report could have been strengthened by indicating that they get paid full salaries at the prescribed statutory level, but it's at 90%. Our point is that it's at 90% and that we're examining as a province reducing it to 85%.

I'll give him an example. An injured worker in Quebec or in Ontario earning $40,000 will end up with a total income, with the adjustments for WCB and so on and so forth -- a $40,000-income worker who's healthy would have a total income after taxes of $29,299. Under the WCB system in Ontario and in Quebec, that injured worker would end up with a total income of $30,336, $1,037 ahead to be an injured worker. That was the point of raising it in this issue.

On the issue of commutation of pensions, I want to apprise the member that the commutations that occurred in the province of Quebec -- it was a measurement of the degree of disability. Certainly, people with 100% disabilities were not able to cash out hundreds of thousands of dollars from the pool. In fact, and don't quote me on the number, but it was like 20% or 30% --

Mr Christopherson: I like that: "Don't quote me on the number."

Hon Mr Jackson: Well, you want clarity.

Mr Christopherson: Provide it.

Hon Mr Jackson: The fact is that there was commutation of pensions, and the OFL has indicated very clearly to us that there are some concerns with commutation. But the report has to acknowledge that jurisdictions in Canada have resorted to commutation; it was appropriate. It's one of the 56 different ideas that should be discussed and considered, and we raised it.

I want to talk about the comparative rates, because on this issue members of the House will be pleased to learn that the member is using the optics of statistics in the worst possible fashion. The report you're using, the KPMG comparison, was done only with the manufacturing sector, and the difference with the KPMG report is that in many circumstances in the United States it's separated the secretarial pool from the manufacturing unit. It artificially skews the actual rate. The member is using statistics in a rather offensive way, because we are talking about all injured workers; your defence is only manufacturing workers without calculating in the secretarial pool.

Mr Christopherson: Give us your background material.

Hon Mr Jackson: The member opposite asks for the answers; we're giving him the answers. He really just doesn't want to know the truth.

Mr Christopherson: Give us the material.

Hon Mr Jackson: If the member opposite can't pick up the KPMG report and open it on page 1 and find that this is only the manufacturing sector, and if that same member can't pick up a discussion paper which says all injured workers in Canada should be compared with the rates that are paid by all injured workers in the jurisdictions in the United States --

Mr Christopherson: Where's your backup, Cam?

Hon Mr Jackson: -- the documentation comes from the National Institute for Workers' Compensation Systems -- both in the United States and in Canada. The member opposite would compare states like Florida and Rhode Island and Nevada, and this province wants to compare it with our immediate trading partners, the people who are looking at the jobs in the auto sector, like Michigan and Ohio. Those jurisdictions south of the border have balanced their unfunded liability. What we inherited from your government was a $14-billion unfunded liability.

The Speaker: Order. There being no further matters to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to have been carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1812.