36th Parliament, 1st Session

L068 - Thu 2 May 1996 / Jeu 2 Mai 1996






























































The House met at 1003.




Mr Clement moved private member's notice of motion number 16:

That in the opinion of this House, since Ontarians are entitled to high levels of service from the public sector; and

Since Ontarians sent a clear message in the June election that the status quo is not acceptable and called for a government committed to driving substantive reforms in the delivery of public services; and

Since the Progressive Conservative government has already taken steps to respond to this message by reviewing all public expenditures; and

Since it is important that this process does not neglect the needs of Ontarians and should include the establishment of guiding principles within the public service that will ensure that it is responsive to the public's expectations;

Therefore, in order to provide Ontarians with a better, more accountable and more responsive public service, the Chair of the Management Board should investigate the establishment of a mechanism to ensure that the following principles and standards are adopted by the government of Ontario:

(a) Measurable standards need to be established whereby the public as consumers of public services can assess how services are delivered on a regular basis;

(b) Information needs to be readily available to the public that will allow them to understand what services cost, who is in charge and how they can benefit from the service;

(c) The public must be consulted on a regular basis to ensure that the service is still achieving its desired objectives and continues to be a service which the public sector should be providing;

(d) The public's needs must be paramount in determining how to deliver a service;

(e) The public must be treated equally and with dignity and respect;

(f) The public must have access to a system of redress whereby the government must accept the responsibility for the delivery of services in an appropriate manner; and

(g) The taxpayer must be protected by ensuring that government services are delivered in an efficient and economic manner within the context of the existing fiscal environment.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this resolution.

I mean no disrespect to the government or members of the public service when I say that the manner in which government services are delivered in this province is sometimes problematic. What I mean by that is this: As members, I'm sure we have heard over the term of our office that perhaps there are numerous examples where constituents of ours have spent far too much time in lineups; the government itself provides services using outdated delivery methods; there seem to be at times instances where changes in format or delivery of those services seem to occur without rhyme or reason. There are lots of examples of those sorts of situations that we have all faced and have had to try to resolve as members of the Legislature.

In my opinion, the system lacks a comprehensive and coherent set of guiding principles and standards which can be used by the public themselves to measure the effectiveness of the public service and to ensure that the public service is achieving the desired objectives, the objectives we all hold dear. At times the public does not know what it can reasonably expect from the public service, and the public service itself, if I may speak in its defence, lacks the tools to ensure it is providing citizens with the proper type of service, with the service the public demands.

Just as we heard on June 8, in the last election, Ontarians are demanding a better system. The status quo is not acceptable. We as a government and we as members of the Legislature -- it's not only the government; it's all of us as representatives of our respective ridings -- must drive some substantive changes at the core of government and change the way the public service at times functions. By supporting my resolution, I believe this House will be sending a clear message to Ontarians that it is their government and that we are making the attempt to make the system more responsive and accountable to them.

If I may be permitted then to take each proposal one at a time, item (a) refers to standards. I believe there is nothing wrong in saying that our government must be engaged in businesslike productivity. That drive must be on a massive scale. We're a large organization delivering very essential services to the public. We have to do so in a way that has measurable standards. Measurable and appropriate standards, once they are put in place, can guarantee, I believe, to a greater extent than right now, superior service.

I would like to offer members of the Legislature some examples of what these standards might entail: standards of courtesy, standards of helpfulness, standards of accuracy, standards of the assurance of privacy and confidentiality, and an upfront commitment to prompt action. For instance, waiting times should be reduced and should be set out. Those are the types of standards that a lot of businesses in Ontario have to live with, day in, day out, in order to accomplish their goals of service, productivity and growth in their own business, and I think it is right to apply those standards and to meet the expectations for those standards in the public service.


Secondly, information: I believe there should be no secrets about how the bureaucracy operates in the province of Ontario. We must be able to set out for the public the cost of delivery of those specific services so that people know how their taxpayers' dollars are spent, and they can assist in the public policy discussion and the judgement as to whether those tax dollars are spent wisely or unwisely. I believe we need full and accurate information to be made readily available, in plain language, to the public in different forms; for instance, Braille, audio-video tape, different languages that the public uses, mother tongues. Those are the sorts of things that can make a difference in the everyday lives of many people who rely on government services.

I believe those standards of any particular department in the government must be made available and that department must also be able to demonstrate on a regular basis how it is performing against those standards. It's what is called benchmarking, and the idea is that we all have to be measured against some standards.

In item (c) I talked about a form of consultation with the public and that the public service must be responsive to a changing environment, and the only way to do that is to allow for consultation with Ontarians on a regular basis. Users' views about services that they use on a regular basis should be sought regularly and systematically to inform decisions about what services should be provided and what services should not be, and how those services that are to be provided should be delivered.

We cannot allow services to be entrenched in our system simply because they were done in the past. I've heard that argument so many times when dealing with certain aspects of public service, not from all members of the public service, but from some people the answer seems to be, "Well, that's the way we've always done it." I don't think that's good enough any more for the citizens of Ontario. We must explore other means of delivering those services -- outsourcing, privatization -- or better delivery within the public service as well.

In item (d) I talked about the public's needs. It's the end user, the public, who should determine what those needs are. The lifestyles, the schedules, the mobility of Ontarians themselves must be considered when setting up and updating delivery mechanisms. As an example I offer to this House, we must consider how late and how many days a week driver's licence renewing offices need to be open to allow working people adequate access to those services. That's the sort of thing Ontarians, with their varying lifestyles, now need from our public service.

Item (e) refers of course to non-discrimination, that all citizens must be treated equally with dignity and respect and that service providers must make every reasonable effort to accommodate the needs of Ontarians.

Item (f) is redress. I would say as a matter of principle that Ontarians are entitled to an apology if things go wrong and a good explanation of why they went wrong. How many times have we heard that the hours of a particular public service office are from 8:30 to 4:30; a constituent shows up at 4 o'clock and, for reasons that are not evident, the office is closed. There might be a perfectly good explanation why that has happened, but I believe that Ontarian deserves, firstly, an apology that the stated hours have not been met, an explanation as to why those hours have not been met, and then an expectation: Is that going to occur in the future or are we thinking of ways to ensure it does not happen again? That is what I mean by redress.

Finally, we must consider the fiscal climate. We cannot spend haphazardly. We must keep in mind the limits that the current situation imposes upon us. Taxpayers must be guaranteed that their money will be used efficiently and appropriately.

If I can conclude, the principles and standards which this resolution calls the Chair of the Management Board to investigate will allow us to contemplate a wide range of mechanisms when improving the public service. These can include but are not limited to privatization, more competition, contracting out, performance-related pay or perhaps in some cases, more resources into the public service to ensure that the job is done properly for the people of Ontario.

In the long run, I would like to see specific criteria established for health care, the police, education, housing and so on to ensure that Ontarians are able to hold the public service accountable by scrutinizing its performance against the public and understandable principles and standards which I outlined.

It is ambitious. When the project takes hold, people will find themselves less frustrated when dealing with the civil service and with government and will be able to reclaim the public system as their own. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to my resolution.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I am pleased to join in the debate and to say I support the thrust of this resolution very much. My background is, like many, from the private sector, and certainly in the businesses I've been involved in we did set some very specific goals and we measured ourselves on a constant basis against that.

Probably the first test of this will occur on Tuesday when the budget's presented. There was quite a comprehensive report called the Ontario Financial Review Commission report, Beyond the Numbers: A New Financial Management and Accountability Framework for Ontario, which is really what we're talking about, accountability. It was a commission that was appointed by the new government. A group of people who are extremely competent made the recommendations and it was tabled, given to the government on November 20.

I think the first thing we will look at, and I assume that other members will, is to what extent those recommendations were incorporated in the budget, because their recommendations very much mirror what the member's resolution talks about. It says:

"This report presents a new framework for better use of resources throughout the public sector. It will move government from its current process orientation to a performance orientation. It lays out a cycle of planning, reporting, monitoring and evaluating," etc.

I thought it was a pretty good report actually. So I think, for all of us, we will look Tuesday at the budget and ask, to what extent did it incorporate those recommendations? If the government members feel strongly about the thrust of the resolution by the member, I think your first responsibility is to hold your own government accountable. On Tuesday, I would suggest to you, take this report with you and evaluate the budget presentation against it, because it incorporates many of the recommendations that are laid out in this resolution.

To be candid with the members, I frankly have been very disappointed in the lack of information from this government. It's the first time since I've been in opposition that I have not been able to get from the government what's called a medium-term fiscal outlook, a look at where we are going over the next three years on revenue and on expenditures. The only number we get is the deficit number. This report from a blue ribbon committee is very specific and it says that the budget has to outline the revenue, expenditure and economic projections for the upcoming year and the following two years, and it goes on to outline the various things that have to be in the budget for it to provide this accountability framework.

I raise this because I think the backbench members can have a significant influence on the way the cabinet responds to your wishes. I would first urge you all to get this report -- the Chair of our economics committee is sitting beside the member; he will know the report -- read it and judge the budget on Tuesday on how well it performs against that.

The second thing I'd say is that, without doubt, our public sector has to be held accountable. I would say, however, that the government perhaps wasn't aware of the structure of the public structure or, for whatever reason, wasn't clear on the numbers in the public sector. I raise this because, if you recall, when you ran in the campaign, you said, "We're going to get the bloated public service back to 1985 levels." In fact, I think in your bible, the Common Sense Revolution, which I carry around, of course, with me all the time, it says, "We will trim the cost of the direct provincial government workforce by 15% -- the equivalent of some 13,000 employees, returning the system to the approximate size it was in 1985." In other words, we've got to get rid of this bloated bureaucracy.


You now know that the numbers in the Common Sense Revolution weren't the facts. As a matter of fact, in 1985, before the bloated bureaucracy, the number of public sector employees was 81,000. On March 31, 1995, 10 years later, the number of public servants was 81,251. Essentially, the public sector when you took office was exactly the size it was 10 years ago, in 1985. So I know it's publicly very popular to talk about the bloated bureaucracy --

Mr Ted Chudleigh (Halton North): Another promise kept.

Mr Phillips: The member says, "Another promise kept." It was another false promise. Frankly, you ran on something politically very popular that was, dare I say, not true, and you knew that. You knew the public service was the same size as it was in 1985, but it's very good politics to say: "We've got to get the public sector trimmed down, the bloated bureaucracy. They're all over there doing nothing."

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): It sounded good.

Mr Phillips: It sounded good, but it was not true. The bureaucracy was exactly the same size when you came into office as it was 10 years ago. Those aren't my numbers; they're your numbers.


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Phillips: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I know they don't like to hear this, but it's the truth.

Also, I know you ran on a platform of law and order. That is, frankly, politically very popular too. But I will say this. Even though the bureaucracy, the public service, over that 10-year period was exactly the same size, 5,000 more people were in law enforcement and 5,000 fewer people in all the other areas of government. So where was the big bloating in the bureaucracy? It was where I gather you believe it should be, and that is law enforcement, OPP, correctional services, our court systems.

I raise those things just because it is, I know, politically easy to attack the public sector; I know that. You've been very successful at it. I very much support the need for some clear standards and I will be supporting the motion, but I simply say, let's be careful that we don't blame the people delivering the service and that we hold ourselves accountable. It is us who will determine what services we want.

When I say "us," that exaggerates my own importance; it will be the government that determines it, and we'll observe it. It will be the government that sets these standards, and frankly I very much look forward to you setting the standards and I very much look forward to hopefully those standards being ones we can support, and then I look forward to holding you accountable for the quality of health care, the quality of education, the quality of our communities, our quality of life, our standard of life, our social infrastructure, because in the end that's what we're all about.

So I don't have a problem supporting the thrust of the motion and look forward, as I say, to those standards.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I as well appreciate the opportunity this morning to speak to this piece of work put forward by the member across the way. I want to say that I find it very difficult to get excited about it, although I suppose at the end of the day our party will probably support it as well, in that there's nothing in here that I think anybody in this House disagrees with.

The only troubling part of it is that it is being presented by a government that so obviously doesn't believe in government. I find it, yes, consistent in some ways, and I'll explain that in a minute, but I also, with consistent, find it quite hypocritical, cynical and in fact quite disrespectful of the people of Ontario, of the process that government is supposed to be in Ontario in 1996 and of this place.

It's consistent because it flows from what I saw as a very bully-boy type approach to business by government in this province, beginning with the announcement in July of a 22% cut in the take-home pay to the poorest in the province. It was akin to, in my mind, a school yard where the bully walks in, picks out two or three of the smallest kids, pummels the heck out of them and then says, "Okay, now I'm in charge," and that sends out the message. It sets the tone and it creates the environment. Then, after you've done that and after you've got everybody shaking in their boots, you bring them all together and you say, "Okay, let's sit down now and talk about the rules that will apply in this yard." That's exactly what you've done and it's exactly what you're doing here, and I suggest to you that it is, as I said, cynical, it's hypocritical and it's disrespectful. However, as I say, it is consistent.

You have shown both by what you've said in the Common Sense Revolution, what you've done since the election and what you propose to do, I suspect, in the budget that's coming down next week that you don't believe in government, that you believe government should play a smaller and smaller role and that the private sector out there should be in control, the private sector whose sole focus -- I don't criticize them at all for this, because they know and we know what it's about -- is the bottom line and making profits. Government in a civilized society, in a modern society, has a fundamental role to play in the development of an economy and in protecting people's rights and the development of the health of a jurisdiction, and you haven't done that.

Our party certainly believes Ontarians are entitled to high levels of service from the public sector, but the threat to delivery of any services at all, let alone high levels, comes in this instance and in this day in Ontario clearly and solely from the government benches. This government is slashing billions of dollars from public services and laying off tens of thousands of workers in the Ontario public service and the broader public service, and you suggest that in that climate somehow or other we should set some standards and begin to talk about performance objectives? To cause such unprecedented damage and then offer a slick resolution in favour of high levels of public service sets new standards for unmitigated gall, beating out the famous case of a person who axes his father and mother, then asks for mercy as a poor orphan.

Virtually from the day Mike Harris became Premier, this government has defined itself with its attacks on public employees, public services and the poor in the province. In the campaign, the Tories may even have lured some government workers into voting for them, like lambs to the slaughter. Here's what the Common Sense Revolution says: "The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has developed several commonsense proposals for ending waste and duplication. We will work with government employees, listening to their ideas and eliciting their help in taking action."

Is that what you were doing when you brought the police in here and started to bang heads on that infamous day of a few weeks ago? Instead, the government opted for confrontation with its workers and their unions.

In Bill 7, the Harris government abolished successor rights for Ontario public service employees, taking away a right enjoyed by every other unionized worker, public and private sector.

In Bill 26, the government stripped away pension rights enjoyed by all other workers in Ontario. After tying one of the union's hands behind its back, the government provoked a strike and was astonished that the workers didn't collapse.


The Acting Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie has the floor.

Mr Martin: It took a completely unnecessary and wasteful five-week work stoppage before the government relented and agreed to a fair deal.

Then there are the cuts to jobs and spending, and I could go on and on with the examples of disrespect and misunderstanding this government has for the role that government and the public service play in a modern, civilized society in 1996.

To bring this piece of work forward today is a cynical approach. Even though we may at the end of the day support it because everything in it is motherhood, the fact that you're bringing it forward makes it very much distasteful.


Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): It is indeed a pleasure for me to be able to respond to the resolution of the honourable member for Brampton South.

The Ontario public service has tried on two previous occasions in recent years to reform our customer service. The Tomorrow project was initiated under the Liberals in 1989. Sponsorship for the program rested with the senior civil servants rather than with the ministers, and possibly this was a mistake in that effort.

A separate committee was then struck to examine customer service. Later, presentations were made to the government's policy and priorities board, and these were endorsed for the New Directions.

After the surprise defeat of the Liberals in 1990, the NDP established the Customer Service Task Force. This task force then launched an ambitious research project. The overall findings were that the public rated every service provider, including banks, department stores, even the post office, at a higher level than the Ontario public service was providing. The only exception that was lower than the Ontario public service was the service received by the federal government. Only one in five felt they were getting good value for tax dollars. As mentioned earlier, the status quo is not satisfactory.

The report identified a very significant service quality gap in the public's perception. The NDP government showed little interest in the Tomorrow project but gave some support to its own Customer Service Task Force recommendations. Although some specific recommendations of the Customer Service Task Force were acted on, a strong strategic direction did not emerge from this exercise. Many of these initiatives were window dressing such as the Amethyst Award and Customer Service Week. The Clearing the Path project of MCCR is one of the few successes that emerged from that process. This has been adopted and enhanced by our government.

In the past, it seemed to have been the policy was to throw money at any problem, and that was the case with these previous projects.

We believe that major changes that flow from restructuring and spending reductions will also provide an opportunity to improve the delivery of public services. In fact, improved customer service should be viewed as a means to control costs within government. Premier Harris has already asked senior bureaucrats to energetically pursue new models for service delivery.

Our government has also indicated that, as it reduces costs, it will move to reduce internal duplication, offer one-stop access to services and improve delivery. By adopting a doing-it-right-the-first-time strategy, customer service/quality improvement has led to operational efficiencies in many companies. In fact, some studies have shown that poor customer service and ineffective customer communications cause up to one third of the entire workload of an organization.

We recognize that service sloppiness steals from the bottom line. Therefore, the potential payoff from service excellence within the Ontario public service is considerable, both in giving the public better service and in reduced costs. With service excellence, everyone wins: The customer wins, the employees win, management wins, the community wins, the Ontario government wins and the taxpayers of Ontario win.

While it appears that mediocre service in the Ontario public service is common, this is definitely not a given. In many ministries we have examples of departments delivering superb service. We must analyse these examples, build on them and find ways to make them work across the Ontario public service. A mistake that the two previous governments made was trying to drive the process from above at the deputy ministry level without involving ministerial buy-ins. The real key to creating a genuine customer service focus is indeed leadership -- leadership that offers direction, that offers the means, that offers the inspiration to sustain committed service in the Ontario public service.

At the same time, customers and employees must be consulted and allowed to give their input. We must recognize that in any service organization the customer must come first. After the customer, then comes the first-line manager, then comes the senior management, and finally in our case would come the Ontario government.

I've often asked educators who is the most important in their system, and invariably they tell me that the teachers are the most important in the educational system, and they're dead wrong. The most important people in the educational system are the students. The students are the most important and the students come ahead of the teachers. Without students there'd be no teachers. Then come the principals, then the superintendents and directors and finally the board of education. When we forget and lose track that the students are the most important or that our customers are the most important, then we've lost everything. Within the Ontario public service, the pyramid has been inverted for far too long, with the civil servants focused on pleasing the boss instead of the customer.

We must develop a new vision for customer service. It is a strategic goal. A customer bill of rights is a good starting point for vision-building, but the process of change must also take place on the front line. Customers should be asked what their expectations are. Employees should be asked to identify ways to improve customer service. Who is better qualified? Often cost savings and operational efficiencies are identified by the front line in many companies. Employees must be rewarded for finding ways to improve service delivery and meet customer needs. Far too long we've had a reverse reward system in government and in many other organizations. We ask for one thing but we reward for something else, and it's time that we change our reverse reward system that so often occurs.

We are committed to providing the people of Ontario with a smaller government that costs less and does a better job. Successful implementation of a service quality initiative will play a key role in shaping the Ontario public service into a customer-driven organization. It is dependent on having a vision. A strategic plan establishing a customer bill of rights is a step in the right direction and one that I endorse.

It is also necessary to involve employees and involve management in the process and constantly ask what it is that the customer needs and what it is that the customer wants. When customer needs are identified, the government must respond quickly by redesigning services to meet any change in requirement. That is how a successful customer service program is built and sustained. In today's environment, customers expect no less from private sector companies. We, as the public sector, can't afford to be any different.

Mr Sergio: I'm delighted to join the discussion on this particular motherhood or fatherhood issue this morning brought by the government side. I'm quite pleased indeed to join the member for Brampton South in the discussion and the rest of the members.

I would call this an act of contrition from the government side, and it's quite interesting that this comes -- I should say, what a difference a few months make. If I could remind the government side, this is the total opposite of what they said they were going to deliver during the election and what the public is getting now after the election.

But I don't want to embarrass any of the government-side members with some rhetoric, because I think they will be doing that for themselves. What they are presenting to us today, this will be brought to their attention on a daily basis so that the people of Ontario will be reminded that they were elected to deliver exactly what they are proposing here today and nothing less. But unfortunately, what we are seeing is a total about-face.


When we are telling the people of Ontario and we are telling those who are serving the people of Ontario that they expect accountability, fairness, justice, delivery of services on time, availability of information on time, I have to say to the members of the House that this comes first with you people; this comes first with the direction and the leadership that the government gives to those people.

Should I dare say that yesterday we saw an example of that leadership and that direction, and of the service the public of Ontario is entitled to expect from the government and its members, every elected member? We have seen yesterday that in the quest of privatizing service, the people of Ontario would have been stuck, if you will, with giving up a very important portion of health service to an American company, a disreputable company, I should say. This is exactly what this resolution or this bill proposes to do, to give the people of Ontario what they should be entitled to get on a fair share basis. It is not what the people of Ontario are getting from the government of the day.

I'm pleased indeed to say, not as the government side says, I am going to support this in principle, but this is a famous line and I'm going to use that time and time over. But today, for the sake of discussion on this particular item here, I will support this resolution. I'm delighted to support this resolution, not in principle but in fact because this is exactly the gospel that I think the government side should be attaining itself on a daily basis.

I think the public is entitled to know what actions the government or the Minister of Health are going to be taking with respect to those bureaucrats from which the interests of the people, the service, accountability, was expected. Isn't that nice that on something of such importance, a dialysis clinic, some bureaucrats knew three months ago that there were problems with this particular company. Wasn't it brought to the attention of the government or the minister?

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I don't believe it.

Mr Sergio: We don't believe it either. I don't think they themselves believe it. But we are told that the minister, his own staff, the government -- let me tell you that something like that is not an issue that you make a decision in 24 hours; it is based on a period of time. I wouldn't be surprised if the Premier knew about it and didn't do anything about it, and the Minister of Health knew about it and he didn't do anything about it. They would, but for the opposition, have given a contract to provide dialysis service to an American company that is being disgraced in its own place.

I am delighted to support this resolution here, but let me remind the members on the government side that this is according to their own gospel and it's one document by which you will have to abide, on which you have to deliver and for which you have to be accountable to the people of Ontario. On your own document here, on page 7, it says: "We will not cut health care spending. It's far too important." Isn't that nice, that from the government side on a daily basis we see all the cuts to service that are being given to the people of Ontario.


Mr Sergio: Mr Speaker, they don't like the truth, you see. You have to wait because you have to give an account to the people of Ontario.

On page 8 of their own Bible, they say, "Classroom funding for education will be guaranteed." Do they know how many millions of dollars they have cut which affects the education in the classroom? This comes from their bible.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Time has expired.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): It gives me pleasure to be able to make some comments on the private member's resolution from the member for Brampton South on the notice of motion.

There are a lot of things that have been spelled out and I've looked at the resolution, section (c), section (d), section (e), section (f), where the public must have access, the public must be consulted. I know this might be the member's own personal feelings, but it's quite obvious from reading this resolution and hearing the comments today that this member has very little influence on what is happening within his own Tory caucus and within cabinet, because what he is saying in this particular resolution is completely contrary to what is happening out there.

Last July they slashed $1.9 billion and 20% of the welfare cheques. In November, another $6 billion was announced including slashing to hospitals, classroom education, and other areas that the Tories had promised during the election campaign they would not touch, these services would be protected. You cut funding to hospitals, to classroom education and thousands of notices have gone out to teachers who have been notified that they're going to be laid off. Teachers are telling me they're going to be reduced to crowd control in the classroom. The Conservative government has no control over what is happening out there.

They've also chopped 10,000 jobs from the public sector. In northern Ontario, the cuts they've done to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture -- it's got to be some kind of a joke when the Harris government is saying it's interested in high levels of service at the same time as it's decimating the public sector. I'm sure there are government employees who are out there listening today to what is being discussed in this resolution, saying: "Yes, we'd like to have what the member for Brampton South has put in his resolution. We'd like to have public consultation and public input, but it's a joke." It's not happening.

I have a letter here dated May 1 from the mayor of Cochrane. Since April 11, when the town of Cochrane was faxed a letter from Chris Hodgson, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and MNR -- since April 11; the letter I have today is May 1 -- the mayor in the town of Cochrane is receiving so much pressure from the public in that community with the announced closure of the MNR buildings and the layoff of 42 people, and yet nobody on the government side has had the respect since April 11 to agree to sit down with the mayor and the chamber of commerce and listen to the proposal they have.

When you're talking about in the resolution that the public must be consulted, the public must be talked to, it's not happening. I beg the Tory caucus, I beg the member for Brampton South to meet with Mike Harris, talk to Chris Hodgson, who has become a joke of northern Ontario. In previous governments, even in the Conservative government back in the 1970s and 1980s, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines was considered to be the Premier of northern Ontario. Now we have a minister who is a complete joke. Headlines in the newspapers have no respect for him whatsoever because of the fact that he wants to run the whole show out of Toronto, out of the Premier's office.

I'll be supporting the resolution because we'd like to see some of these things happening, but it is not happening. It's the big lie that is out there. The Conservative member puts this down on paper and says this is what we'd like to do, but it's not happening. It's the big lie right across Ontario. With that, I know the member for Cochrane South wants to make some comments, so I'll wrap up there.

The Acting Speaker: I believe the members understand there are certain words we cannot use in the House. It incites the ire of the members and I would suggest that perhaps you could use another word.


Mr Len Wood: I'll withdraw the word. This is what is happening on the front pages of the newspapers right across Ontario, but if it upsets some of the members in the Tory caucus, I will withdraw that particular word. There are other words that can be used, because what we have here is that they're saying, "The public must be consulted...," "The public's needs must be paramount...," and the public must have access to information. There is no access to information. The public is not being consulted. You have a group of people -- some call them the whiz kids -- who are around Mike Harris and he's calling all the shots.

The other day I made some comments that what is happening within the Tory caucus reminds me very much of Jonestown. Reverend Jones put so much fear into his whole community that he told them, "Either you drink the poisoned Freshie or you'll get shot." It wiped out the whole town.

The Tory caucus seem to be fearful of speaking out to Mike Harris and to the cabinet ministers and saying, "What we're doing now is completely contrary to what we promised we were going to do during the election campaign." You got elected, sure. The public supported a lot of the things that were being said during the election campaign, that they wanted change, but they did not vote for the OPP to be called out to beat up the poverty group that came here on the opening day of the Legislature, beat them up with clubs. They did not expect that the Tory government was going to bring out the OPP and have heads bashed in because they could bring a few Conservative cabinet ministers through a picket line on the opening, on March 18. It's sad when you look at all the headlines that are in the newspapers and then you hear one member saying, "This is what we'd like to see happen," and it's not happening.

It's a resolution that a lot of people would have a lot of respect for if it was really what was happening out there within the Tory government of Ontario, and it's not happening.

I know the member for Cochrane South would like to make a few comments on this as well, so I'll leave him a bit of time.

Mr Bob Wood (London South): It is with some pleasure I rise today to urge support for this resolution from a Management Board perspective. This resolution will empower taxpayers, put the service back into public service --


The Acting Speaker: Order. I would remind the two members in the back to remain quiet. This is all part of the dignity and the decorum of the House, to let the person who has the floor speak, please.

Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think that comparing us to Jonestown and talking about --

The Acting Speaker: Please take your seat. The member for London South.

Mr Bob Wood: This resolution will empower taxpayers, put the service back into public service and increase the accountability of the public service.

There are a couple of things we note about this resolution that it does not do. We do not think it requires a new and expensive process of consultation; we think that's an important aspect of it. We do not think there has to be a process of redress that will require the creation of a new bureaucracy.

We believe many of the principles and standards set out in the resolution are already being incorporated into the government's new approach to business planning. Each ministry is developing a business plan with a results-based performance measurement allowing taxpayers to determine the effectiveness of core programs and services.

The needs of Ontarians are at the centre of this planning process as the government determines the best way to deliver core services in an efficient and cost-effective manner. As the Chair of the Management Board said recently, "We are meeting these" financial "targets and changing the way government operates by developing and implementing ministry business plans that are thorough and fair."

We think this resolution is on the right track and we are pleased to recommend this resolution to all members of the House.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): In the minute and 37 seconds that I have, I will try to be succinct and to the point. As a New Democrat, I too don't have a problem with the body of what the member has put in his resolution. Other than the first line that talks about the status quo not being acceptable, the rest of the body of what's in the resolution is acceptable, because we all believe the public needs to be involved and there needs to be some accountability in regard to the public knowing what they're getting for their taxpayers' dollars.

The problem I've got with this is the basis on which this resolution comes forward. The member says, "The status quo is not acceptable." He's saying to you students up there in the gallery and other people across the province that the entire system of taxation and the entire system of services we have does not work, and because it doesn't work, they have to undergo a whole bunch of changes. This is the same idea the Minister of Education, the person responsible for your education, has: "I'm going to create a crisis within the system of education and with the ministry so that I'm able to go forward and make the kind of changes I want to make so I can change the system of education to my view."

I say to the member and the Tories: Shame on you. That is wrong. The system is not broken; it's not a question of the system being broken. The simple problem is that we have less revenue coming in than we have money to pay for the programs and services people want. If we want to deal with those issues in regard to how do we make the two meet so that we have an equal amount of money to the amount of services going out, I think we can deal with that. But buyer beware, these guys don't believe in public services, they don't believe in government. They would much rather see the entire thing thrown in the private sector, so that if you want to go to college or university, young people up there, you would pay through your nose and you'd never be able to go under a Tory government.

Mr Clement: I would like to thank all honourable members who have participated in this debate, either officially or unofficially, in terms of your comments. It was gratifying to get support from all three political parties that are represented in this chamber with respect to my resolution. If it pleases the Speaker, what I would like to do is respond to some of the comments that were elicited from the discussion.

Mr Bisson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Normally in private members' hour, in the 15 minutes that are given to each party, members from the caucus have an opportunity to address the motion and then the member who sponsors the bill speaks in the last two minutes. I'm sure there are Conservative members -- you should at least ask to see if --

The Acting Speaker: It's totally within the procedure. There were four minutes left that the member for Brampton South is entitled to use, with the agreement of his own colleagues, plus his two minutes. The member for Brampton South, you have the floor.

Mr Clement: The first thing I'd like to do is comment on some suggestions made by the honourable member representing Scarborough-Agincourt. The member for Scarborough-Agincourt made an excellent point which I would like to expand on for a minute. He commented on, from his perspective, the lack of information the government provides. I happen to think we are providing the information he seeks, but let me say this to the honourable member: There is, I believe, an inherent problem in government, a systemic problem, when it comes to giving the right information to the public. He has a personal concern about the information that has been made available to him, but on a general level his point is well taken. There is a tendency of government -- and I think there are members of this House in all three parties who have participated in governments at particular points in time -- to cloak information, to shield information, to shield themselves from the proper accountability to the public.

In the sense that the honourable member for Scarborough-Agincourt was talking generally about the lack of information that sometimes occurs when we deliver public services to the community, I agree with him absolutely and I think we as a government have to do a better job and we as members of the Legislature have to do a better job of getting that information out.

The honourable member for Yorkview indicated that he felt this resolution was a motherhood or parenthood issue for members of the House. I would like to honourably disagree with him. I think this is quite a radical measure. It may sound like motherhood; maybe that's part of the problem. It sounds like motherhood because we all want proper service and proper accountability, but the fact is we haven't had it. We have not had it for a long time. As a result of that, this is a radical formulation. What a radical idea, that perhaps the customers, the taxpayers, Ontarians, deserve accountability, deserve better service. That is a radical idea in the province of Ontario. Would that it were not so, but it is so, and that is why we need substantive change in this area.


I'll deal with the honourable members of the third party now, because the consistent theme that I heard from them, the thread of their theme, was that they didn't want to see any sort of change where you had less service. Let me tell you this, Mr Speaker, to the honourable members opposite, their solution was more equals better -- more spending, more debt, more people doing repetitive things. That is not the solution. That got us into the mess in the first place. That is what the people of Ontario have rejected.

It is not to say, though, that less equals worse. I believe we can do more with less and my government believes that as well. I believe that with proper benchmarking, with proper standards, with proper accountability, with assisting the civil service to do their jobs and to have that accountability, we will allow them to do their job for the public in Ontario. We will allow them to have the proper standards so that when they are doing their job, they know exactly what is expected of them, not from the government, not from necessarily the members in this chamber. We are 130 taxpayers but we are not 10 million taxpayers.

The opportunity and the task for us is to ensure that they reach the expectations of the public of Ontario, because they are the ones who deserve better, they are the ones who pay the bills. They are the ones in times of need in their lives -- whether it is simply for a driver's licence, but in more cases than not it is something more than that and something more substantive than that -- they deserve a public service that has the highest standards, not only in Ontario, not only according to what business in Ontario does; I want to see and we want to see a public service that is the best in the world, bar none. That's what the people of Ontario deserve, that's what they expect, that is their right for paying the taxes that they pay to the government of Ontario and it is our job, it is our responsibility, not only on the government side, but as 130 elected representatives who serve our constituents, to set those standards, to set the framework and that is what this resolution does.

Is it going to be a task-oriented effort, is it going to be something that will take some thinking and some creativity? Yes, it will. Are we accountable for how we manage this? Yes, we are. That is the burden and the obligation of government and we as a government have to do better with less, but I believe with this resolution we can do better for the people of Ontario.


Mr Colle moved private member's notice of motion number 15:

That in the opinion of this House, since the roads in this province constitute a $100-billion asset; and that the Ministry of Transportation is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the provincial highway system, which consists of about 22,000 kilometres of roadway; and

Since the 1995 annual report the Provincial Auditor has concluded that 60% of highways are currently considered to be in poor or substandard condition; and that if immediate actions are not taken to repair highways the condition of the infrastructure will continue to deteriorate to the point that a massive and costly reconstruction effort will become necessary; and

Since the average cost of rehabilitation is estimated at $80,000 per kilometre lane but if not implemented immediately the reconstruction cost per kilometre lane escalates to $250,000 per kilometre lane; and that poorly maintained roads jeopardize the safety of motorists and increase the number of accidents, resulting in higher repair and insurance costs; and

Since representatives for the Ontario Road Builders' Association who appeared before the finance committee earlier this year told committee members that since this government came into power no money has been spent on the roads and highways in the province, thus increasing the deterioration of roads; and that provincial cuts to the road maintenance and repair budget mean increased costs for future road reconstruction; and

Since the provincial government is transferring thousands of kilometres of provincial roads to municipalities which in addition have had their provincial operating grants drastically cut; and that a comprehensive long-term government investment strategy in road maintenance and repair will maintain and encourage economic growth and commerce in communities across Ontario and can readily be undertaken by a highly trained and highly skilled local workforce;

Therefore, the government of Ontario should immediately establish a road maintenance and reconstruction fund whereby the government guarantees that a fixed portion of the gas tax along with other government revenues be designated to go directly towards the road maintenance and reconstruction fund for road maintenance, repair and reconstruction in order to systematically eradicate the existing substandard condition of 60% of our provincial roads.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes for his presentation.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Let me at the outset say that the main intention of this resolution is to focus attention on the need to invest in our existing road infrastructure assets. It's not to say that this condition came to light as a result of this one government or another government before it. It's in essence been a state that's existed, I think, in Ontario and across Canada really for the last probably two decades where systematically, because of competing interests, whether it be social services or whether it be recreation centres, there just aren't enough dollars to go around. Systematically there hasn't been an attempt to reinvest in our road infrastructure, and I think it's about time we tried to bring that back to focus so that the taxpayers in Ontario will appreciate the importance of our roads, not only to the people who use them commercially or recreationally or for regular service, but also to our economy.

That's what we can do here today by saying that perhaps one way of getting the focus back to ensuring that we don't spend millions and millions extra down the road because we don't fix what has to be fixed today, we should set up a fixed fund that comes from the existing gas tax -- it could be other revenues to give the government some flexibility -- that is put aside and earmarked just for road reconstruction. You do it over a 10-year period. You can say, "We're going to take so much out of the gas tax or other revenues and that earmarked fund is going to be used solely for road repair or reconstruction." So there isn't a period of time where you're competing with another emergency or whatever, where that road reconstruction budget may be depleted and you're basically losing out to another interest.

People who use the roads, whether it be motorists or truck drivers, are already paying for those roads through their gasoline tax etc; they pay general taxation. So some of those moneys could be earmarked, again, systematically and we could have perhaps a 10-year plan of getting our roads back to where they should be.


One of the things that is important about this is that we have a highly trained and skilled workforce right across Ontario, so immediately we could have the private sector go in and undertake these road repair and reconstruction programs in every community in Ontario. We don't even have to have a government workforce to do it; the private sector, big and small, can do it. They're ready and able to do it. What we need is for the government to put these moneys aside, and these moneys have to be solely used for road reconstruction.

What is a challenge too is to ensure that, as these moneys are put aside, we also adhere to the directions of the auditor. He said we need to implement life-cycle costing analysis. In other words, we can't just spend money on roads and expect that the problem is going to be solved. You have to have a comprehensive life-cycle cost analysis. You don't just look at the cost of the road in terms of the design-and-build construction aspect of it; you have to include in the costing what the future repair and maintenance costs will be, what the future inconvenience to the public will be for a repair. Those have to be included so that you don't have a situation where you always go for the lowest bid but the lowest bid doesn't include what it's going to cost you five or 10 years from now to repair a road that wasn't built up to standard. Life-cycle costing has to be included.

The second thing that has to be included is a significant, comprehensive warranty system, which means that if a road is not built to standard, there be significant penalties for the builders of that road. There's a case the auditor points out where there's a section of road that basically split apart, segregated itself, after four or five years. The cost of repairing that road for the government was $500,000. The fine to the roadbuilder was $2,500. What happened is the roadbuilder paid the $2,500 fine and the government ended up picking up the $500,000 cost of reconstruction. If you're going to have this fund set up, you have to have those guarantees also in place that the money will be well spent, that the road will not just be built on the lowest tender without regard to future potential costs to the taxpayer. That is a critical part of the costing.

In terms of the present system, as you know, there has been a marked difference. At one time, when you came across the border from Quebec at Hawkesbury or you came across from Windsor or at Fort Erie, you could see the marked difference. The Buffalo side or the Detroit side was always in worse shape. The Quebec side always was worse than Ontario. Now you see a reverse pattern occurring. Now the potholes, the rough sections of road are on our side. Those of us who have driven across Ontario in the last year have noticed this marked difference.

That's a warning signal to us that we have to invest in this infrastructure, because what we don't repair today -- and it's very obvious. The cost of doing some momentary repair is $80,000 per kilometre. If you delay that, you'll pay three times as much. Deferral and delay mean tripling, quadrupling the cost.

That's what's been happening in municipalities, in regional governments and in provincial governments; they kept on deferring and delaying. Basically they did a lot of resurfacing, but the resurfacing is essentially hiding what's below the surface. It's a waterproofing, and it looks good for a couple of years or a year, but what was really needed was reconstruction. The money for reconstruction wasn't put there, but the roads, the shiny blacktop looked good. Underneath, you had a crumbling infrastructure of that road.

This fund is not just for resurfacing; it's for a comprehensive reinvestment in roads that will save you money down the road -- no pun intended. This is something that will not only help, as I said, all the communities in Ontario in terms of travelling on the roads, but it can encourage commercial development because good roads mean good business, good roads mean safety, and that's what it's all about. It's not just about roads for the trucking industry -- the trucking industry, as you know, is in dire need of good roads. You know the impact of bad roads on that industry, the impact of bad roads on all industries and especially on the travelling public.

We know, for instance, that the growth of the number of transport trailers across Ontario, the weight of them, the frequency of them with just-in-time delivery has increased dramatically so there's an extra load, literally, on our roads. There are extra pressures on our road infrastructure because of the frequency of trucks. We cannot look at this as if it were 1950, 1960 or 1970. The number of trucks and vehicles on our roads is increasing dramatically and that puts more wear and tear on our road infrastructure.

This is an investment in an asset that Ontario has built upon over the last 50 years. Like any asset you have, it's important to systematically reinvest in it, because the cost of not doing that will go through the roof astronomically, not only in terms of extra construction costs in the future but in terms of the cost in added insurance. There is the cost in front-end alignments; talk to people about what it costs now to fix your front end, because most automobiles are front-end alignment automobiles, and $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 is not uncommon. Those potholes, those rough roads mean expensive auto repair bills. They also mean accidents, the number of accidents that occur. It also, as someone says, could increase gas consumption. There's a cost in many ways if you delay and defer this.

I ask the government to be brave. I know they've asked us for constructive suggestions and I think this is a constructive suggestion. Start with a minimal amount put aside in a fixed, dedicated fund for road reconstruction and repair. You can send a very strong signal to the federal government, you could send a strong signal to other provinces and the people of Ontario and to municipal governments that you are concerned about the state of our highways. I challenge you to take this constructive suggestion.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I would like to speak in support of this resolution in general principle, but I'd like to say at the outset that I, and I imagine some other members of this House, not only within the New Democratic Party, would have some problems with moving to a designated fund, on a philosophical belief, because designated funds in themselves can become problematic for any government and any province over a period of time, because then a lot of programs that need to be delivered are not as supportable on the part of some taxpayers because they're not directly affected. You would get into a situation where the glitzy and easier items to fund such as highway maintenance would be fairly easily supported when it comes to designated funds, but I would argue that other things around education and social services would have a more difficult time.

In general I support what the member is doing because I know what he's trying to say here. The member is trying to say that we have a problem when it comes to the maintenance and the reconstruction of our highway system in Ontario.

Let's be blunt here. I stand here as a New Democrat to say that when we were in government we spent a lot of money on road maintenance, on road reconstruction, but the reality is we didn't spend half as much as needed to be spent according to the auditor. The auditor himself said that the road situation in Ontario needed a vast influx of capital to bring them up to the standard set out within the Ministry of Transportation. If I remember correctly, the number quoted by the auditor was that about 60% of our highways was in need of a huge amount of influx of capital to bring them up to standard. In saying that, quite frankly, there isn't enough money out there to be able to do the job properly. I think we need to be clear on that, be it a New Democratic government or a Conservative government.

Where I have some problems with what the government is doing is that the government in its zeal to move forward on its agenda is saying, "We're in a hurry to cut in a whole bunch of different areas so that we can be seen to be doing our job of balancing the budget." One of the things they've done is they've gone to the highway capital budgets and they say, "We're going to reduce that," because it's an easy way you're able to reduce expenditure and you don't see the effects immediately.

I have some difficulty with that because highways, as the auditor has pointed out, are not getting the amount of money they need to keep them up to standard and we're going to be in trouble. I remember that in the last year of our government, it seems to me that our capital budget in regard to the amount of money spent on highway improvements was half more than what the Conservatives are spending now.


The Conservatives, since coming to government, have cut that capital budget by almost half, and I say that's a danger, because in the longer run that's going to cost the province a lot of money. If you don't spend the money now, it's going to cost you two and three times that amount of money as you go back to reconstruct the highway five, six or 10 years down the road. That's short-term, shortsightedness on the part of the government in trying to save money on the front end.

The bigger problem I have is what the government is doing with highway maintenance. This is a huge problem in northern Ontario, and equally as bad I would imagine in a lot of other places in Ontario.

The government again, in order to address its financial situation, has said, "We're going to go to the Ministry of Transportation and we're going to have it play its part when it comes to the fiscal agenda of this government." They've gone to the Ministry of Transportation and they've done a number of things. They've cut back the amount of salt and sand that's applied to our highways in northern Ontario during the winter. I can tell you as a member who drives from Timmins at least twice a month -- I normally take two trips a month where I drive down and two where I fly -- those highways have never been in worse shape than we've seen them this winter.

The Conservatives can argue we've had a heavier winter. I agree, it's been a worse winter than we've had in the past, but even in bad winters we have never seen our highways in the situation they are. There are entire stretches of highway a day after the snowfall that have not been plowed. You'll see that even four or five days after the snowplow they haven't been salted, and we've seen a huge increase in accidents on highways in northern Ontario and we've seen a lot more fatalities than we've seen in the past years, I would say. I think if you pull the stats and you compare it year over year, the numbers would bear out those numbers quite to the point.

What we've got is a government that's saying it's cut back on the capital side, and it's also cut back on the operational side of maintaining our highways. That is quite dangerous to the travelling public, and the member for Oakwood brings forward this resolution to say to the government, as the critic for his party, that he's trying to figure out a way and an alternative to what the government is doing so that we're able to deal with making sure we have the amount of dollars necessary to protect our highways. So he brings forward this resolution for designated funds.

I say to the government members that it is actually quite sad the member has to come forward to do that. If the government had been doing its job and if the Minister of Transportation, Mr Palladini, had taken seriously the job of highway maintenance and reconstruction, the member for Oakwood, quite frankly, wouldn't have had to come forward to this House today and bring forward that resolution.

I would say to the member for Oakwood and to the rest of the members of the House, I'll support the resolution on the basis that I know where you're going with it, but I want to put on the record clearly that I have a problem with designated funds. I think they lead to problems.

The only other point I want to make is this: Another thing that's happening in regard to highway maintenance -- this is not spoken about because it's not a "glitzy issue" with voters -- is that the government of Ontario is going to municipalities across this province and they're saying, "We're going to transfer over highways that are under the control of MTO on to the municipalities." At a time when municipalities are facing huge cuts in transfer payments from the provincial government this year, with more coming, this is really going to make it difficult for them to keep those highways up to pace. The government, in its scramble to figure out what they're going to do when it comes to maintaining our highways, is saying: "We got a solution. We're going to transfer over 1,700 kilometres of roads on to municipalities and let them deal with it."

Municipalities are having a hard enough time as it is trying to deal with maintaining their own municipal roads in light of everything that's gone over the past number of years. Under our government, the NDP government, they didn't get a transfer increase for at least three to four years. They've basically had flat-lined budgets over the last three or four years. Most of the municipalities did not increase municipal taxation to a large extent, so they really have the same amount of money they had four or five years ago to provide services that are increasingly becoming more expensive.

On top of that, you've got the provincial government coming down and saying, "I'm going to cut your transfers from last year's municipal transfers." They've been hit by 40% to 50%, depending on which communities were affected, and now they're going to transfer 1,700 kilometres of road maintenance on to municipalities. That's kind a of tricky way to get out from under your responsibility as a government, but by passing it on to the municipalities, I don't think the best interests of the travelling public are going to be dealt with in a positive way. They're having a difficulty as it is right now maintaining their own roads, and having you do that I think in the end is just going to lead to more problems. I'd like to thank you, Mr Speaker, and I look forward to other debate.

Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I'd like to respond to Mr Colle's resolution. Mr Colle resolved that the Ontario government would create a fund that would dedicate provincial revenues for road maintenance, repair and reconstruction.

First of all, I'd like to assure the members and the public that despite financial restructuring, this government will spend what it takes to keep Ontario roads safe. Ontario's transportation system is an economic asset that quite literally keeps the province moving. We must preserve that asset. However, we must also work within the reality of Ontario's fiscal situation. We cannot continue to spend more and more of the taxpayers' money. We must spend more wisely and certainly we must spend smarter than has been spent in the past. Mr Speaker, 60% of our highways infrastructure is in imminent or immediate need of repair, and believe me, the Ministry of Transportation appreciates and shares all members' concerns about this.

In the past few years, however, the previous government focused capital spending on expansion. With less money for highway repairs, the result should have been obvious, as was stated earlier. Today the pavement tells no lies. Our highway system could really use an overhaul. Ontario's roadways must be in tip-top shape if Ontario is to remain competitive. The longer they go without routine repairs, the more they will cost us to maintain in the long run and the greater the pressure to take on costly rebuilding projects. That's why the Ministry of Transportation has reviewed its spending priorities to refocus resources on high-priority areas. When money is tight, we must spend only where the need is greatest.

Today MTO has a new focus and that focus is on preserving, not expanding our investments in roads and bridges. We will no longer build every highway or every subway that is proposed. We will concentrate on ensuring safety and we will put money towards preserving, repairing and maintaining the current system. That way we'll be able to keep down the long-term costs of looking after them and possibly avoid having to rebuild some of them altogether. In the past year, this government invested $3.4 billion in capital spending and MTO's portion of that was almost half. That money keeps our roads, highways and bridges well maintained and safe for Ontario's seven million licensed drivers.

Shortly we will announce our capital spending plans for the coming year. Although I can't give you the details, I can assure you that we are doing everything possible to balance the government's promise to rein in spending with the need to put money back into the highway system. We are already doing that by cutting ministry overhead so that more capital goes towards highway construction. We will also remove or postpone non-critical items in reconstruction contracts so that more money is spent on actually filling a pothole or repairing a bridge, and we will ensure that our road maintenance budget at the very least preserves acceptable road conditions until we can afford major reconstruction.

I'd like to move to another point. I think the members here today should know that Ontario pays for all of its highway construction and upgrading. That includes work on highways that are part of the national highway system, yet Ontario receives virtually no funding from the federal government. In 1994 the federal government collected $1.8 billion in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes from Ontario, yet it did not invest one cent in our highway network, and then, with last year's federal tax increase, the Canadian government collected even more revenue from Ontario road users, close to $2 billion.

This government expects fair treatment from the federal government in the form of a national highway program. It seems the federal government favours bilateral agreements with individual provinces, such as the agreement it signed with New Brunswick last June. It is a three-year, $340-million agreement, cost-shared 50-50.

The members might be interested to know that the federal government contributions to highway spending for all of Canada amount to only about 6% of the total spending on highway jurisdictions. This compares very poorly with other major industrialized nations, for example, 31% in the US, 44% in Italy, 49% in Australia and 68% in France. Certainly the taxpayers and drivers in Ontario should be aware of the lack of federal funding for our highways. Ontario is the hub of Canada's economy and Paul Martin certainly knows this.

The federal government should reinvest a fair share of its revenues it collects from Ontario back into our highway infrastructure so it can remain safe and efficient.

Finally, I'd like to say one thing before closing. This government will continue to invest in transportation projects that are vital to our long-term economic health, and road maintenance is at the top of our list. We simply can't afford to let the transportation system deteriorate. This government will continue to make appropriate investment decisions regarding Ontario's infrastructure, and those decisions will be based on safety and the greatest return to the economy and the people of Ontario.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I'm pleased to join this debate in support of my colleague from Oakwood and his resolution. Every municipality in Ontario is suffering the effects of the government's downloading. The municipalities have had their operating grants cut by $660 million, or 48%, over two years, plus the government has identified 3,700 kilometres of highways which will be downloaded to municipalities, without ensuring that each proposed highway is brought up to standard or that the funding is provided to make it so.

Further cuts to road maintenance and repair budgets means municipalities will have to try and address their existing roads and bridges with greatly reduced budgets. At the same time, the government is forcing the burden of underserviced provincial roads on to municipalities. This can only mean additional taxes and user fees for local residents, and they face the spectre of unsafe highways, which are a threat to their families and their businesses. Where is the justice for local ratepayers?

The Provincial Auditor's 1995 annual report confirmed that the province is not spending enough to maintain the existing infrastructure of highways. Currently, 60% of highways are considered to be in poor or substandard condition. The report confirms that the cost to renew and rehabilitate a road at its practical life expectancy is $80,000 per lane kilometre. If left beyond that period, it could be $250,000 per lane kilometre. We all know that poorly maintained roads are unsafe. This increases the number of accidents which, in addition to the human toll, further drain our tax dollars and increases the cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle.

The rebuilding industry is one of Ontario's largest employers. Over 20,000 full-time jobs in every part of the province rely on road construction. The government is creating a climate of uncertainty which could result in unprecedented layoffs in the industry. What hypocrisy from a government which emphasises that it is open for business. Mr Harris promised 725,000 new jobs for Ontarians, yet he has no plan and no strategy.

My colleague Mr Colle points out that the highway infrastructure of the province constitutes a $100-billion asset. We must not allow our highways and roads to deteriorate. Maintaining the infrastructure is an investment in Ontario's future which will provide jobs to a highly trained and skilled workforce. The government must ensure that municipalities are given the funds to ensure the integrity of Ontario's highway infrastructure. My colleague's bill would ensure that this would occur.

The government has earmarked only $50 million for compensation packages across the province. Some municipalities have already made agreements with the province with 100% compensation, while many other municipalities, including some in my riding, may only receive 22% funding. This would only be enough money to do a two-inch resurfacing of the transferred roads and would not address any other necessary repairs. With truck traffic increasing, that might last two years in my riding. Then what?

The government promised moneys to bring the roads up to standard. However, both counties in my riding have been hurt when these agreements have been revoked without consultation. This is simply one more example of the government's attack on rural and small-town Ontario. There are many Mike Harris policies that take aim directly at rural Ontarians. I'm talking about bus deregulation, which threatens service for small Ontario communities. I'm talking about the closing of licence and vehicle issuing offices throughout rural communities.

In my riding we have already lost the licence-issuing office of Ridgetown, which the car dealers, businesses and individuals depend upon. Just recently, the government closed the Leamington licence-issuing office, which serves a part of my riding, and two part-time licence-issuing offices and driver's licence examination centres called "travel points," one in Tilbury and one in Ridgetown.

Jobs, programs and services have been lost at three agricultural colleges in Ontario. Who else does this affect but farmers and rural Ontarians?

I'm concerned also with the government's plan for Ontario Hydro. There is a threat to small public utilities that have been providing excellent service at far lower rates than Ontario Hydro, which could be absorbed, causing huge increases for rural Ontarians. Then there are "small usage fees," which will force rural costs up.

A change which will adversely affect municipalities' abilities to provide drainage loans is another possibility and policy that will hurt the agricultural industry and the people of rural communities.

Finally, I would like to make mention of a very serious problem in many ridings, and mine in particular -- that of doctor underservicing -- which the government has paid only lip-service to. The Conservatives have said that they will force physicians to practise in rural areas. This use of force was not asked for and will not work; it will only create bitterness among doctors and citizens, while forcing the brightest and best out of our country. The attack on physicians has already created an exodus across the border, and this promises to get worse.

The Mike Harris agenda is not working in rural Ontario. Mr Colle's resolution will force the government to live up to its responsibilities in the transfer of provincial roads to municipal governments. I'm delighted to support his resolution.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I want to rise for a couple of minutes to talk about this resolution by the member for Oakwood. I commend him for bringing it forward. I have a bit of a problem with designated taxes, since when we were in government we didn't designate taxes to any particular cause. It is fraught with danger in that it can allocate to some things but there are other areas that don't have a source of revenue, and the danger is that you eat into those other important services in the province. However, I'm not going to quibble with the member for Oakwood. I think he's done the right thing by bringing this forward.

I find it passing strange to hear the Tories in this House, after almost a year in office, blaming the previous government for the condition of our highways, which have deteriorated so much in the last year. I have never, never seen the highways in the condition they're in now. My colleague the member for Renfrew North, who sits to my right, was telling me about the condition of Highway 401 near, I think he said, Napanee. I haven't seen it myself, but it is truly incredible the way you've allowed the roads to deteriorate in this province. I know it's been a tough winter on the roads. We've had other tough winters on the roads in this province as well. Coming from northern Ontario, most of our winters are tough on the roads. But I have never seen them in the condition they're in now.

What you are basically doing is imposing a user fee on motorists in this province without being up front and honest about it. I read in the Legislature a week or so ago a letter from a constituent of mine, a Mr Sauvé. When he was driving from Chelmsford, which is up near Sudbury, to Ottawa, he ran into two potholes; he just couldn't avoid them, with oncoming traffic and so forth. The total bill, when he got everything fixed up, with realignment and a new rim and a new tire and so forth, was almost $600 -- $585.94. He'll be tickled pink when he gets his tax cut, because you've imposed a user fee on him because of the condition of the highways; not just on him, on a lot of other people too.

I have never seen Ontario's roads in the condition they're in now. For you people to be standing on your hind legs and saying that somehow another government was to blame for what you've allowed to happen in the last year you've been in office -- it's in the last year that the roads have deteriorated so badly; it wasn't before then.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): June 7. They just got so bad.

Mr Laughren: Well, do a survey of Ontario residents and ask them if they've ever seen the highways deteriorate to the level they have in the last year. I'll bet you they'll tell you that's absolutely correct. I'm the first to acknowledge that the severe winter had a bearing on that, no question about that, but if you think you can put all the blame on God, then you're wrong, because you have a major role to play in this. You have abandoned Ontario's roads. The Minister of Transportation has done it by withdrawing winter maintenance all across the province. You can't avoid that. It's time you faced up to the fact that you are government. How long do you think you can get away with saying, "It was the NDP and it was the Liberals who allowed the deterioration of the highways"? That's absolutely ridiculous. Take it on. It's your responsibility. You wanted it; you got it.


It's time, therefore, that you started delivering what you said you were going to. I heard members opposite say this morning that you were going to concentrate on highway maintenance rather than expansion of the highway system. Fine. Get on with it. When does that happen? When does it start? It sure hasn't started yet. You've cut your budget and you're telling me you're going to put more into it? Please. We know what's happening to our highways and we know that you're to blame. We know that you're to blame because it's happened in the last year.

You could look around to blame anybody you want. The fact is that at some point you have to take responsibility for governing and for what you do and don't do as a government. I know that you'd like to pretend that everything that's happening in the province that's wrong is somebody else's fault. Grow up, folks. You're the government. Get on with governing and take care of our highways.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): I rise, and I am pleased to do so, in response to some comments particularly by my distinguished colleague from Nickel Belt, who gave a spirited defense of God, and I think in fact I ought to echo that point. He's quite right: God needs no help on this issue. The facts speak for themselves. I'd like to bring them to the attention of all honourable members in this House today.

What particularly intrigues me by this -- when I first saw the motion, I really thought my distinguished colleague from Oakwood was indeed joshing us. Now I'm persuaded that he has been walking on the road to Damascus and a marvellous conversion has taken place. I have seen the metamorphosis before my eyes and I have suddenly seen the butterfly emerge as a magnificent caterpillar. I want to respond to a couple of points that are outlined before us today in this motion.

The honourable member would have the people of Ontario believe that this government is allowing the transportation system of Ontario to disintegrate, and you know and we all know that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there are two points upon which the member's argument fails.

The first picks up on a theme that the honourable member for Nickel Belt would try to slide by very quickly in a marvellous fashion. The fact is that the claim that 60% of the province's roads are in poor or substandard condition is certainly a figure that comes forward from the auditor's report. I want to remind this House that the figure in 1979 was 40%. If we take a look at the 20% in that period of time, who the heck do you think was in government during that period of time? Last time I took a look, it was the Peterson government, it was the Rae government, it might even have been Premier Bob White, for all I know. The fact is that 20% of deterioration occurred during that administration and this government is now setting about to put the record straight.

Let me make it very clear that the quotes given to us by the Ontario road builders to back up the statement of the member that since this government came to power no money has been spent on the roads and highways I suggest is a misreading of what the Ontario road builders have said, even though one might suggest that there be some bias in that source. I wouldn't put that before us, but I would suggest that maybe we'd want to review again the source of that quote.

I want to remind us, for example, that the Ministry of Transportation estimates are showing that this government will spend a total of $500 million on highway construction this fiscal year, of which a higher portion will be dedicated to rehabilitation than in previous fiscal years. In fact, expenditures for roadway maintenance and repair are $236.5 million in 1995, compared to only $225 million in 1994. So it seems as though the member for Oakwood may be attempting to create some kind of crisis where none exists.


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Shea: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I know it's difficult to keep them in line.

What is the solution, for example, to this non-existent problem that the honourable member for Oakwood is trying to address? Well, surprise, surprise, surprise: It involves introducing what essentially becomes a new tax for the people of Ontario. How characteristic that is indeed of the Liberal Party and perhaps even of my colleague in terms of how they deal with the people of Ontario. Old habits do die very hard.

Mr Colle proposes, and I quote, "that a fixed portion of the gas tax, along with other government revenues, be designated to go directly towards the road maintenance and reconstruction fund." Obviously he feels, first of all, that half a billion dollars is not sufficient to begin the work of reclaiming the roads and improving the road conditions in this province.

What is very interesting is that he makes no comment of where that other revenue should come from. Should it come from education? Should it come from health care? Should it come from police services or public transit, dare I suggest? Or should I suspect that Mr Colle is really suggesting this should come from an increase in taxes? Frankly, Mr Speaker, you and I both know that simply cannot happen. The Liberals may try to have it both ways; they can't have it both ways in this case.

What I want to make very clear is that the member has also shown a distinct lack of awareness when it comes to the gas tax.


The Acting Speaker: Order. There should not be any exchange between members across the floor. The member for High Park-Swansea has the floor. I hope this is clear.

Mr Shea: I remind the House that it is the federal Liberal government which collects approximately $2 billion a year from the gas tax on Ontarians, and you and I don't see a penny of that, Mr Speaker. I wonder if anybody could tell us how much money in the last two, three, four or five years the federal government has put towards the roads in this province out of the $2 billion every year it takes out of this province from the gas tax. I haven't seen a nickel of it. I plead on behalf of my colleagues from northern Ontario; they haven't seen a nickel of it either.

I think it's time for the federal government to begin to accept some of its responsibility in this regard. Mind you, it's also the same Liberal government that is currently proposing to subsidize the Maritime provinces in their efforts to harmonize the GST, and of course that may be where some of our road tax is going.

The provincial gas tax currently goes into the consolidated revenue fund, and that's where we get the $500 million to do road repairs, need I remind us? So I can only conclude from the member for Oakwood that he is proposing we increase the provincial gas tax to solve this invented problem. Or perhaps he feels we should direct money away from other services such as hospitals or schools. I really hope that is not what he is suggesting.

Finally, I am particularly amused that this transformation of my dear colleague has occurred before our very eyes, a colleague for whom I have consummate respect and indeed know well, as he served for six years as a chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission and part of that as the chairman. He must have forgotten some of the things that occurred and that he proposed when he was a Metro councillor.


I have some press clippings here. According to the Toronto Star of July 21, 1990, then councillor Colle proposed taxing motorists $53 per month, or $636 per year, to be allowed to drive to work. I must suggest that that money he was going to tax was not going to go for the urgently required road repairs in Metro. Even if the Gardiner Expressway was crumbling and other Metro roads were disintegrating, that money was not going to be directed; it was going to go to public transit, not for the roads for which this member now argues that more money is necessary. A week later, he is quoted as saying, "It's time for a crackdown on driving," using both stiff tax increases and transit incentives.

Clearly, the member before us really has his eyes more fixed on public transit than automobiles, but the motion before the House now would say exactly quite the reverse. Clearly, Mr Colle now feels that cars are no longer evil and that we should do everything in our power to make it convenient to drive all over the province.

Finally, this government has been working diligently to undo the damage of the previous last decade of Liberal-NDP mismanagement. The Minister of Transportation will ensure that the roads are put back into good --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I rise in support of the motion from my colleague the member for Oakwood because it makes perfect sense. You've heard from the member for High Park-Swansea; you've heard some "common sense." Well, I stand in support of perfect sense.

I would like to relate to the House a little bit more about common sense and what the common sense proponents have said. In the document issued in January 1995, called A Voice for the North: Report of the Mike Harris Northern Focus Tour, they were committed to roads. It said, "The Ontario Transportation Capital Corp will raise money to build new roads in the north and to continue four-laning." It also said, "Improving transportation in northern Ontario will provide better service, preserve communities, safeguard existing jobs and allow more opportunities for job creation." Now, that was common sense, and that was said in January 1995.

Almost one year to the day, on January 18, the three members from the nickel basin received letters from the Ministry of Transportation which said: "Over the next few years, the Ontario government's transportation priorities in northern Ontario will focus on providing for the safeguard of motorists. To meet this goal, the Ministry of Transportation will concentrate its efforts on maintaining, rehabilitating and, where required, upgrading the existing highway system." What they said was that they were going to cancel the environmental assessment of Highway 69. The headlines all over the north were "Four-laning of Highway 69 Cancelled by Tories."

The people in the north said, "They lied to us," and I said: "No, `lying' is not the proper word. They broke a promise. But they're going to continue the maintenance of highways."

Well, on April 11, in the business plan announcements, we notice that in the business plan announcement for the Ministry of Transportation you will see a 17.2% reduction in northern highway funds. What's going to happen to the road maintenance in northern Ontario? It's going to be non-existent. Again the people of the north said, "What's happening? It doesn't make common sense," and I said: "It's not a lie, it's a broken promise. We cannot use that terminology because it's incorrect." So we have another broken promise.

When we hear the proponents of common sense speak, they utter broken promises. The member for Oakwood makes perfect sense, because this will allow, if you people adopt this resolution, the opportunity to create a fund that will go exactly to where it is supposed to go, to what you said in the Common Sense Revolution you would do, and that's commit to maintaining highway safety.

The member for Oakwood's resolution makes perfect sense. Help us help you look good and live up to your commitments in the north and support the resolution from the member for Oakwood, because it makes perfect sense. Common sense is filled with broken promises. Perfect sense offers a direction for repair, and I stand in support.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): The member for Oakwood has brought forth a resolution. The way I see it is that he's saying the funding is being cut for highways, and it's quite true. The Ontario Road Builders' Association is saying that the Tories spent only $179.9 million in a year on highways compared to the $393.4 million that the NDP government spent in the same time frame.

If you look at the roads in northern Ontario, it's quite obvious that the member from the Conservative Party who spoke must only ride on streetcars and take the subway. If he were on the highways he would know that this is the worst year anybody has seen as far as winter maintenance is concerned. We've never seen a year like this, where the Ministry of Transportation does not have the money to go out and plow and sand the roads.

What did they do? They send out the OPP and block off the road for a couple of days. Just yesterday and the day before, the roads in Kapuskasing were closed because the snowplows and the sanding trucks were not able to be out there on the road. It's quite obvious that these things are going to happen when you realize that MTO has reduced its budget by 12% for snowplows, 11% in the number of seasonal staff -- that's a total of 125 -- and this has happened during one of the worst years we've had for snow. The ground has not been seen in northern Ontario, especially in Kapuskasing, since the end of October, and we're still getting snowstorms. At the same time, the Conservative government is cutting back drastically on the amount they are prepared to spend on winter maintenance and on summer maintenance.

There were promises made: "The Conservative government will continue the trend of installing passing lanes and repairing the roads in northern Ontario." Now they've broken all those promises. We see members at the federal level resigning over broken promises. It's quite obvious that the Tory caucus should resign en masse for all the promises they broke, promises they made during the election campaign, promises they made immediately after. They've broken all of them.

When we look at this resolution, to get more money into repairing the roads, I believe it's a good resolution and should be respected. The Tory caucus should come forward and support it.

The Acting Speaker: Before we continue the debate, I would like to remind the members that there are too many conversations going on. It's all part of the decorum in the House to give a chance to the person who is speaking, to give them a chance to have a say.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I am particularly pleased to support the member for Oakwood's resolution this morning which is calling for Ontario to spend a reasonable amount of money on maintaining our highways.

I'm from Algoma-Manitoulin and I'm most familiar with the roads that impact us directly. I'll tell you, I have had more complaints about Highway 17 this year. Some people even talk about it as a roller-coaster. In the member for Nickel Belt's riding they stopped construction on Highway 17, the only four-laned portion, and left that road with only two of the four lanes open, with oncoming traffic -- a very dangerous situation. We had a bad accident up there. It is a terrible situation, and the government left it there.

What the member for Oakwood is talking about here is seeing something that, in Ontario, happened; it wasn't designated, as Mr Colle is suggesting here, but up until 1990, through all governments up until 1990, there was a rough correlation between the revenues generated by fuel taxes and other taxes on transportation and the amount spent in the Ministry of Transportation. That did change in 1990 and I think all the member for Oakwood is saying is, "Let's get back to a system that is more or less the same."


One of our members has brought to your attention the increased cost of insurance when you hit these potholes. I want to tell you, I'm a little bit concerned about this. The government has a vested interest in having insurance rates go up. It sounds a little strange, but we all know there's an 8% premium tax on automobile insurance: 3% that's hidden, 5% you see. It seems to me as insurance rates go up over there, Mr Eves is very happy to collect the $300 million or $400 million that comes into this province by taxing the drivers of Ontario.

What we're suggesting over on this side is this money should be put back into our transportation system so that when Mike Brown or any of my constituents or anybody in the north is driving down the abominable Highway 69, attempting to get to Toronto or points in the south, or our transportation, our trucks, the things that are vital to the economy of northern Ontario, move up and down that corridor -- when we hear that it's cancelled, they're not going to do anything more, we are absolutely bewildered, given the government's promises when they were in opposition.

I want to say to you, given the size and increase in revenues that are coming from transportation, from fuel taxes, from licence fees -- have you paid your licence fees lately? Have you renewed your licence? It is just crazy the amount of money that the government has coming in from the drivers of Ontario, and at the same time we're seeing the cutbacks in service, not near as many licensing points. In my constituency, I'm going to have people driving 40, 50, 60 miles to take a driver's exam. That is going to be just absolutely incredible: a downsizing in service and yet they can't maintain our roads.

Highway 6 needs work, 108 needs work, and surely the government could find the money to do something about 17 west of Sudbury, which is just phenomenally bad, Mr Speaker. I'm sure you've driven it and you know the situation. I'm getting letters. I have a constituent that sent to my office a bill for 400 bucks that he has spent in order to repair his vehicle because he hit a pothole on Highway 17.

So I'm saying to you, Mr Speaker, this resolution calling for the government to dedicate at least some of the huge flow of revenues that they're seeing from taxing the drivers of Ontario, through fuel tax, through insurance taxes, and all the other taxes on drivers, put some of it there.

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm pleased to stand here in support of my colleague from Oakwood's resolution to establish a road maintenance and reconstruction fund.

The government often tells us: "How would you deal with this situation? What are your alternative solutions?" Today we have an opportunity to support a creative, constructive plan that would deal with a really serious problem across the province, a problem that impedes economic development, threatens public safety, and if not dealt with will cost the province a lot more.

In my riding there are various places that need road work immediately but they've been postponed or cancelled. I support this resolution. We've got to fight for it. It makes perfect sense. We support our member strongly.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Oakwood, you have two minutes to respond.

Mr Colle: I want to thank the members around the chamber for their support and their debate and contribution.

I just want to say that this is a constructive offer that we've made whereby a government who talks about accountability -- how can they refuse this basic accountability and making sure the taxes that are now collected through gasoline taxes etc are put back into repairing roads? How can they talk about accountability if they don't support this?

I would say that I was just astonished by the member for High Park-Swansea who has the gall, a person who lives in downtown Toronto, to say to northern members and people in rural Ontario that the roads are just fine, that this is an artificial crisis like the Minister of Education has created.

Obviously, the member from downtown Toronto has not been to Napanee. He has not been to Sudbury. He has not been to Thunder Bay. He hasn't been to Cornwall. He sits in his big fancy limousine in downtown Toronto and thinks that everything is okay in the rest of Ontario. This bill, this resolution, is a direct message to say that just because the streets are fine in downtown Toronto, they're sure not fine in small-town Ontario. They better wake up to this. Even myself, as a transit advocate, I've seen the light. Things are so bad on our roads that even I can see that something has to be done. I was the chairman of the TTC and when he talks about the TTC, he's the parliamentary assistant to the minister who used to scold us at the TTC because we weren't spending enough money. He was saying we were clowns when we told him, "Wait, can you afford it?" So I find it very hypocritical.

This is the message: Be accountable. The taxes already collected: Put some apart to fix those potholes in small-town Ontario.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will deal first with ballot item number 25, standing in the name of Mr Clement. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.

Mr Clement has moved private member's notice of motion number 16. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

We will deal with this vote in a few minutes. Please take your seats.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item number 26, standing in the name of Mr Colle. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.

Mr Colle has moved private member's notice of motion number 15. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

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

I had forgotten to explain to you something of a small incident that happened last week, last Thursday. Before we proceed with the voting today, I would like to address the members that on Thursday last, there seemed to be some confusion as to the procedure we were following on the deferred votes for both items of private members' public business.

I want to assure all members that the procedure followed was completely in accordance with standing order 96(f) and was the procedure we have followed in the House for many years. When a vote is requested on the first item of business, the calling in of the members by the Chair is deferred until we determine if there is to be a vote on the second item. The members are then called to the House once with one five-minute bell, and both votes are taken in succession.

We have tried to accommodate those members in the past who have wished to vote on the first item but not the second by pausing between the questions to allow those members to leave the chamber before voting on the second item. This also allows other members who may be waiting in the lobbies to enter the House to record their vote on the second item. This procedure, I admit, is cumbersome at best. However, we have to follow the standing orders that require the votes to be taken in succession. If it is the wish of the members, I will cause the doors to be open for 30 seconds of the clock after the first vote, rather than an unspecified pause, as we have done in the past.

In the third session of the previous Parliament, this House operated under a special order, dated April 20, 1993, wherein the votes on Thursday mornings were taken individually. In that case there were two five-minute bells, which seemed to work much better than the current procedure. However, until a similar order is passed, we have to proceed with our present procedure.

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

The division bells rang from 1210 to 1215.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Mr Clement has moved private member's notice of motion number 16. All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remain standing until you're recognized by the table.


Agostino, Dominic

Fisher, Barbara

Pettit, Trevor

Arnott, Ted

Ford, Douglas B.

Phillips, Gerry

Baird, John R.

Fox, Gary

Preston, Peter

Barrett, Toby

Froese, Tom

Pupatello, Sandra

Bartolucci, Rick

Galt, Doug

Ramsay, David

Beaubien, Marcel

Grandmaître, Bernard

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Bradley, James J.

Gravelle, Michael

Ross, Lillian

Brown, Jim

Hampton, Howard

Sergio, Mario

Brown, Michael A.

Hastings, John

Shea, Derwyn

Carroll, Jack

Hoy, Pat

Sheehan, Frank

Castrilli, Annamarie

Johnson, Ron

Smith, Bruce

Chudleigh, Ted

Jordan, Leo

Spina, Joseph

Clement, Tony

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Stewart, R. Gary

Colle, Mike

Laughren, Floyd

Stockwell, Chris

Conway, Sean G.

Leadston, Gary L.

Tilson, David

Cordiano, Joseph

Marland, Margaret

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Crozier, Bruce

McLeod, Lyn

Wildman, Bud

Curling, Alvin

Munro, Julia

Wood, Bob

Danford, Harry

Ouellette, Jerry J.


Duncan, Dwight

Parker, John L.


The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will please rise and remain standing until their names are called by the table.


Bisson, Gilles

Churley, Marilyn


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 58, the nays are 2.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

Let me explain now what's happening. The doors will be open for 30 seconds to permit people to leave, if they so wish, and others to come in, if they so wish. Just watch the clock.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We'll now deal with ballot item number 26 standing in the name of Mr Colle. All those in favour of this motion will please rise and remain standing until your names are called by the table.


Agostino, Dominic

Cordiano, Joseph

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Bartolucci, Rick

Crozier, Bruce

Laughren, Floyd

Bisson, Gilles

Curling, Alvin

McLeod, Lyn

Bradley, James J.

Duncan, Dwight

Phillips, Gerry

Brown, Michael A.

Grandmaître, Bernard

Pupatello, Sandra

Castrilli, Annamarie

Gravelle, Michael

Ramsay, David

Churley, Marilyn

Hampton, Howard

Sergio, Mario

Colle, Mike

Hoy, Pat

Wildman, Bud

Conway, Sean G.

Kormos, Peter


The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will please rise and remain standing until your names are called by the table.


Arnott, Ted

Froese, Tom

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Baird, John R.

Galt, Doug

Ross, Lillian

Barrett, Toby

Hastings, John

Shea, Derwyn

Beaubien, Marcel

Johnson, Ron

Sheehan, Frank

Brown, Jim

Jordan, Leo

Smith, Bruce

Carroll, Jack

Leadston, Gary L.

Spina, Joseph

Chudleigh, Ted

Marland, Margaret

Stewart, R. Gary

Clement, Tony

Munro, Julia

Stockwell, Chris

Danford, Harry

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Tilson, David

Fisher, Barbara

Parker, John L.

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Ford, Douglas B.

Pettit, Trevor

Wood, Bob

Fox, Gary

Preston, Peter


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 26; the nays are 35.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

All matters relating to private members' public business having been completed, I do now leave the chair. The House will resume at 1:30 of the clock this afternoon.

The House recessed from 1222 to 1330.



Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): May 3 is of special significance to citizens of Polish ancestry, who are celebrating the 205th anniversary of the Polish Constitution. The Constitution of Poland already 205 years ago guaranteed a great deal of personal freedom and, for the first time in Europe, divided authorities into the legislative and controlling body, the Parliament; the executive body, the ministers; and the independent judiciary, the courts. For the first time, it really diminished a great deal the royal power and the power of the oligarchy.

The May 3 Constitution was a remarkable instrument for its time, in several ways. It was proof of the Polish nation's drive towards individual and national freedom which had manifested itself throughout history, and it was adopted without violence, unlike the counterparts in the United States in 1787 and in France in 1791.

This year, the anniversary also reminds us of the great and significant contributions that Polish Canadians have made to Canada in all walks of life, and especially their determination to keep Canada united.

Finally, May 3 will be celebrated by Polish Canadians all across Ontario. We do have, however, a special invitation to all of us from the president of the Polish-Canadian Women's Federation, Jadwiga Sztrumf. She is here today, and she welcomes all members to join at the special prayer service at the Katyn monument on King Street West.

Remarks in Polish.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): A day of mourning was observed on April 28 to pay respect to working people who have died or suffered illness or injury on the job.

It's appropriate, then, that today I speak to you about the unveiling of the Ontario Heritage Foundation provincial plaque last Thursday, April 25, 1996, to commemorate a tragic day in labour history that occurred at Reesor Siding on February 11, 1963, in Kapuskasing in my riding of Cochrane North. It was a day that won't soon be forgotten.

A contract dispute between management and members of the Lumber and Sawmill Workers' union led to a strike in January 1963. Striking workers tried to shut down the paper mill in Kapuskasing by blockading the pulpwood shipments from independent contractors. More than 400 workers were approaching Reesor Siding on February 11 when shots rang out. Three strikers were killed and eight others were wounded.

In commemoration of this unforgettable event in the history of the Ontario labour movement, a plaque sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Labour, in cooperation with the local Industrial Wood and Allied Workers of Canada, was unveiled April 25 at Reesor Siding, 35 miles west of Kapuskasing.

This event is still very vivid in the minds of people of Cochrane North and will probably remain that way for many years to come. Labour peace is important to us all. To be able to live and work together in harmony is a goal that all of us should try to achieve.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): I rise today to recognize two important initiatives that focus on the government's natural resource management mandate.

The first one is Arbor Week, which started April 26 and runs until May 12. The objectives of Arbor Week are to educate people about trees and to encourage them to plant and care for trees. During this time, municipalities and community groups across the province will be involved in many activities, including tree-planting events and educational initiatives.

We have many partners helping us to celebrate Arbor Week. They include the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy, Arbor Day Council of Canada, Landscape Ontario, Guelph Arboretum, the Ontario Horticultural Association, the Ontario Forestry Association, the Ontario Shade Tree Council, Union Gas, the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training, and Tree Plan Canada.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): The second event I am announcing today is that May is Rabies Awareness Month. The purpose of Rabies Awareness Month is to raise everyone's awareness and knowledge of the potential problem posed by all forms of rabies, in particular, raccoon rabies.

Our partners in Rabies Awareness Month are the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.

I encourage all members to support initiatives offered in their community as part of Arbor Week and Rabies Awareness Month.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): The wholesale dismantling of the educational system in the province has to stop. The Minister of Education, without any regard for the children of this province, is taking an axe to our educational system and chopping away at the hope and future of this province.

The deeds of this minister are already well documented. He once spoke of manufacturing a crisis so as to give the excuse for deep spending cuts. He then turned his attention to firing teachers across the province and robbing school boards of property tax dollars, all in the name of deficit fighting.

Now we find out that he's cutting the number of hours of class time and resorting to threats, coercion and intimidation of local school boards and their personnel to hit their financial targets. It is no wonder members of his own party have called the minister "out of control" and "a little out of whack right now."

Finally, the province's future prosperity depends on high standards of education. This is one lesson the Minister of Education should not forget. It is time for this government to do its homework and seriously study the impact these cuts will have on the quality of education in Ontario.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): There is apparently no measure this government won't take to silence its critics. It is a sad irony indeed that just when their voice was needed like never before, the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues has been ended by the Harris government. This event alone speaks volumes of the swing to the radical right of the Ontario Conservative Party. It was a much more moderate version of Tory government that in 1973 appointed the advisory council in the first place.

This was an active and valuable council. In its 23-year history, it immersed itself in every major issue of the day, from pay equity and employment equity to women's health, environmental standards, reproductive choice, child care, women's poverty, violence, native issues and racism.

The original intent was that the council would serve as an arm's-length body, able to comment when the government of the day fell short on its commitment to women's equality. I think it's increasingly obvious to women that this commitment no longer exists.

Recent polls have shown a gender gap in support for the Conservative Party. Women continue to be sceptical of the Harris government's commitment to their wellbeing. This government's appalling track record stands in stark contrast to the contribution of the Ontario Advisory Council on Women's Issues.

I'd like to take a moment to give my heartfelt thanks to all of those who over the past years have served on this council to the benefit of all Ontario women.


Mrs Janet Ecker (Durham West): I rise in the House today because I will be submitting to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing a collection of surveys from the voters of Durham West on the important matter of GTA reform. Put forth by the Ajax/Pickering News Advertiser, these surveys constitute a response to the recent recommendations of the GTA task force report, otherwise known as the Golden report.

I request that the minister bear in mind the views presented because they clearly show that while the people of Ajax and Pickering agree in principle with the notion of greater cooperation among the regions, they are weary of the establishment of new government institutions to solve our problems and, in particular, with the imposition of new taxes. For example, a majority of the respondents are in agreement with the proposal for a greater Toronto area economic strategy and a common marketing plan. However, they remain fundamentally opposed to the idea of replacing regional governments with a single GTA government or council, as well as the proposed user fees on vehicles and gasoline fund region-wide infrastructure.

One proposal that does solicit a favourable response is the concept of actual value assessment. The people who responded are clearly ready to support a more equitable form of property tax assessment.

In closing, it is my sincere hope that the feedback I'll be presenting to the minister will aid him in his ongoing review of the Golden report.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Today I rise proudly in the presence of my wife, Joan, and my son, David, who are in the gallery, to make a statement on the economic impact of the closure of St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital.

While both the London Psychiatric Hospital and the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital are important employers, the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital is seven to 10 times more important to St Thomas than the London Psychiatric Hospital is to London.

St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital is the fifth-largest employer in St Thomas and surrounding area. The sheer size of London and its greater proportion of white-collar employment make London's economy better able to absorb the closure of a hospital.

STPH creates the equivalent of 750 full-time jobs in St Thomas. This represents 5% of all the jobs in St Thomas. The London Psychiatric Hospital only represents one half of 1% of the jobs in London.

St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital generates $32 million a year in economic activity in St Thomas.

I ask the Minister of Health to seriously consider the disastrous economic effect on the city of St Thomas, Elgin county and the surrounding areas before any final decision is made to close the hospital.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): When the government introduced its anti-worker Bill 7, we predicted there would be confrontation on the picket line and that indeed it could lead to picket line violence.

There are now in my home town of Hamilton 300 workers at the Jockey Club who have been locked out for some two months. They are members of Local 528 of the Service Employees International Union. The contract offer that's in front of them now includes taking 90 current full-time jobs and reducing those workers to 10 hours per week with no benefits. The company, as a result of its legal right now to use scabs, has employed scabs to go in there and take away the jobs of those lawful picketers.

On Monday, these workers will vote on a final contract offer, and that offer includes a section that would terminate three of their colleagues. Under the previous NDP law, those three picketers would have had the right of access to an arbitrator. That right's been taken away, and if those workers now want to vote for this agreement and end this strike, they have to cut loose three of their colleagues.

Bill 40 gave workers decent, fair rights in this province. Bill 7, the government's anti-worker bill, is meant to cause confrontation, and it's doing just that. This is just one more piece of the evidence that proves that case.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I rise today to acknowledge, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Cystic Fibrosis Month.

Cystic fibrosis is a fatal genetic disorder which affects primarily the respiratory and digestive systems. As the disease progresses, it has increasingly devastating effects on the lungs, where it causes severe respiratory problems and recurring bouts of lung infection.

The treatment of cystic fibrosis includes the intake of pancreatic enzyme supplements and a diet high in calories, protein and fat. Vigorous physical therapy on a daily basis is used to loosen and drain the secretions that accumulate in the lungs.

When the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was founded in 1960, the average life expectancy of a child born with CF in Ontario was only about four years. Now, as a result of improvements in antibiotics, nutrition and physiotherapy, the median age of survival is approximately 33 years.

In 1989, doctors at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children discovered the CF gene, and they are confident that with continued efforts CF may soon be controlled.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for its support of and dedication to people and their families living with cystic fibrosis.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I'd like to inform the House that we have a former member in the east gallery, Mr Sheppard, from the riding of Northumberland. Welcome, Howard.



Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I wish to inform my colleagues in the Legislature today that I, on behalf of the government, will be introducing the Ontario agrifood and rural business bill. This bill lays the groundwork for future growth in Ontario's farming, food and rural sectors.

Ce projet de loi établit les bases de la croissance future des secteurs agricole, alimentaire et rural ici en Ontario.

Last fall and winter, we held table talks and other consultations with farmers, agribusiness and rural people across the province to determine the kinds of support they think government should be providing as they head into the next century. What we heard has been incorporated in this bill.

The Ontario agrifood and rural business bill includes the legislative changes necessary to help the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs focus on such priority areas as research and technology transfer, investment attraction and advocacy, market development, and rural economic development. An important goal is to reduce red tape and overregulation. In fact, the ministry has been working with the Red-Tape Review Commission to eliminate unnecessary or unfair barriers to business growth and job creation.

The bill does not jeopardize programs and services now available to the agrifood sector. Instead, it encourages greater industry participation and moves the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs out of the direct delivery of some services that can be much better carried out by others. For example, it provides for the establishment of a crown agency to be known as AgriCorp that will deliver crop insurance, market revenue programs and related farm programs to the agrifood business. The bill also provides for the alternative delivery of research, education and laboratory programs.

When preparing this bill, we reviewed all of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' agriculture and food legislation and regulations. Several items of legislation were found to be decades old and in need of updating or elimination. Based on this, the bill amends several acts and repeals others. On the whole, the agrifood and rural business bill reflects our commitment to Ontario's agrifood industry.

C'est un projet de loi qui prépare le terrain à l'innovation et montre que nous pouvons faire mieux avec moins.

It is a bill that prepares the way for innovation and demonstrates that we can do better with less.

Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): The Minister of Agriculture has dropped an omnibus bill as it relates to agriculture on the table today, this coming from a government that promised no cuts to agriculture during its campaign. It can be fully understood that they would drop these many pieces of legislation into one bill.

The members on the other side have problems within their own ranks, as we read in the press, about the minister's cuts to agriculture. Just recently, Mr Speaker, you would know that the minister cut $56 million from the budget of OMAFRA and cut over 964 jobs from his ministry.

I've often wondered, Mr Minister: Through the press we've learned, and partially through this announcement on your bill, that some of these jobs are going to rotate back into other government agencies. Be clear about this: I'm glad that these people are not losing their jobs. But I am concerned. Are you going to download on these other institutions such as the University of Guelph and other areas? Are you going to provide the funding that will allow them to keep these jobs in place? Or are you just downloading so you can say, "This other agency laid those people off and I had nothing to do with it"?

As well, you're going to have to explain to the business community, which may have an appetite for your laying off of people, one that I don't share, how you laid off 900 people one day and brought 600 people back. Maybe Mr Johnson would like to explain that to the public as well.


Believe me, I'm glad these people are maintaining their jobs and I hope the University of Guelph will keep --


Mr Hoy: You've got the explaining to do, not myself. I have no explaining to do on that shell game, Mr Minister. I have no explaining to do.

You've closed ag offices across rural Ontario. You've taken the autonomy away from colleges in small towns such as Ridgetown, Kemptville and Alfred and placed them with the University of Guelph, and that is where the public is fearful of future directions.

In your statement today you talk about the creation of a crown corporation, and it's possible that you may be moving to user fees for the farm public. As we know, your leader has stated that user fees are nothing else but a tax, so what you've done is combine massive cuts to agriculture, and the possibility exists here to a large degree of introducing user fees for the agricultural community across Ontario.

Then, as well, in your aim here where you say you're getting out of the direct delivery of some services which can be provided by others, it seems like a veiled attempt to say, "We're going to privatize," and therefore, again, we're getting into the user fee area for agriculture. You're repealing eight acts, amending six, and you say this was all consulted with the Red-Tape Review Commission. I hope you have a number of farmers on that commission.

Mr Minister, if you continue your assault on agriculture, laying people off and cutting the ministry in such great amounts, something you said you would never do, you're going to have the ministry downsized to the point where you'll be able to run it from the basement of your home.

We'll be watching the introduction of this bill in total to make sure you have consulted with the agricultural industry, as you stated coming in the door today, and we'll be consulting with them to hold you to your word, something that really isn't in high esteem these days.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to agree with my colleague who has so well put it that we see now the Minister of Agriculture is having all of the tools he needs taken away from him.

In the past, I know my friend has been a person who has cared about agriculture and he has, as an opposition member, brought forward many of the items that needed to be brought forward at that time. I lament that other members of the government have abandoned him and taken away the resources my friend needs to carry out his responsibilities. I want to indicate to him that I will fight to get the resources back for him, because I know these resources will be needed to assist all farmers in Ontario and I know that the backbench members of the Tory caucus agree with me.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): The Minister of Agriculture calls this the agrifood and rural business bill. Let there be no doubt about it, this is another example of doublespeak. This is not about rural business, this is not about agrifood, this is about hidden taxes. This is about how farmers will now be able to pay hidden taxes to AgriCorp. This is how farmers will now be required to pay hidden taxes to the agriculture and food institute of Ontario. This is how farmers who used to receive a service from the Ministry of Agriculture will now pay hidden tax after hidden tax after hidden tax because those services are being removed. That is what this bill is about, nothing more, nothing less than a whole series of hidden taxes that are going to be placed upon the farmers of Ontario, because the Ministry of Agriculture, in terms of the services it has provided in the past, is no more. It is totally out of the picture. Everything now farmers will have to pay for in the form of hidden taxes.

Let's just do a little review. Before Christmas, this Minister of Agriculture took $26 million out of the Ministry of Agriculture budget. Then he announced just after Christmas that a further 30% at least, $156 million, would come out of the agriculture budget.

The situation became so serious that a number of backbenchers to this Conservative caucus wrote a letter to this minister, to the Premier and to the Deputy Premier, and in it they said:

"The rural caucus advisory committee agreed unanimously on February 14, 1996, that the government should honour the Premier's commitment in the Common Sense Revolution and in its Rural Economic Development policy booklet that there be no more cuts to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' budget."

Just to retrace the record a little further, 964 jobs are going from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. These are the people who used to provide services to farmers; these people will be replaced by other people who will collect hidden taxes from farmers. Every time a farmer wants a service, someone will be there with a handout saying: "You owe us hidden taxes. You pay for this."

Let there be no doubt that this is probably the greatest increase farmers and residents of rural Ontario ever will have faced. That is what this bill is all about. What it comes down to is this: As rural hospitals are being closed, as rural school boards are being pushed to the edge of the cliff, as rural roads become nothing more than a series of potholes and as services across rural Ontario are cut, this minister comes forward with a bill for more hidden taxes. That is what is going on here.

There is only one partially positive thing in this bill: the creation of the AgriCorp for Ontario, but let the record be clear that the AgriCorp is something my honourable colleague Elmer Buchanan introduced and spent many months working on with agricultural organizations across this province. This minister's trying to cover up a bill which is about nothing more than hidden taxes, and then trying to take credit for AgriCorp to cover up the mess he is creating is nothing less than despicable.

People will see through this. As people see hidden taxes upon hidden taxes mounting up every time they request help, every time they request a service which used to be provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and they are now told, "You must pay for this, you must pay for that," it will become very clear to them that rural Ontario will be the greatest victim of this government. Rural Ontario will suffer in terms of service after service -- health care, education, child care, roads and basic services -- and at the end of the day the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs will say to them, "Pay more taxes" -- only they aren't open taxes; they're hidden taxes.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Health. On Tuesday you said that neither you nor your ministry was aware until late last week that you were negotiating with a United States company that is under investigation in three American states to manage two dialysis clinics in Ontario. Yesterday you admitted that the information you had provided on Tuesday was inaccurate and incomplete, and that is very worrisome.

Yesterday you also claimed that while your ministry knew about this some three months ago, you were not personally informed. Either that information is incomplete again, Minister, or you have told your ministry that privatization is to go ahead at such breakneck speed that you don't even need to be kept informed, and that too is worrisome. What is most worrisome is the extent to which you seem to be prepared to jeopardize the health of the people of this province in order to carry out your government's obsession with privatization.

It is not just National Medical Care that is a minefield; it is the entire for-profit dialysis industry. Here is how the New York Times, in its major investigative series, described the industry: "The investigation found an industry that uses equipment and procedures that cut costs and raise profits, often at the expense of patients' health, that operates with few rules to assure high-quality care, and that has induced doctors to play along by giving them a share of the cash."


As you embark on your dangerous mission to privatize health care, why did you choose the disgraced private dialysis industry as your beachhead?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Again, with the particular tender that is under question here, it isn't a privatization of health care; it's a not-for-profit Canadian company, run by some Ontario doctors, that was to run this. However, I wish to inform the House that as a result of the questions that have been raised, many of which I agree are very genuine concerns, about the management company that would have been involved with Dr Posen and his other physician colleagues in Ottawa, I have cancelled this particular request for proposal. We're going to ask all interested parties to resubmit and we've made some changes.

A lot of these questions about the management team who would work in the clinic and some accountability measurements that are to be worked out are normally contained in stage two, which we hadn't got to yet. Those will be combined with stage one so that all the relevant and important questions are asked up front in the future as we move to provide the best possible, highest-quality services to the people of Ontario and particularly to people with kidney disease.

Mrs McLeod: How fortunate for patients in the province of Ontario we did raise the question in the House, so that we have the minister, who said, "I didn't know and I didn't want to know," now having to at least take some steps to correct the major mistake he was about to make.

The issue I raise with you today is broader than this one contract with National Medical Care, because I'm saying to you that the problem is not just with this one company. It's not just the practices of one rotten apple that you're about to cut off; the standard for the entire industry is to jeopardize patients' health by cutting costs. This is an industry where the standard is to shift the duties of doctors and nurses to less-trained and poorly supervised technicians; where the standard is to use poorly maintained and out-of-date equipment to the point of reusing disposable equipment designed for one treatment only; where the standard is to keep patients on dialysis for too little time.

Again, why are you so willing to jeopardize the health of Ontarians that you would allow a thoroughly disgraced for-profit dialysis industry even the possibility of getting into Ontario to manage clinics in this province?

Hon Mr Wilson: I can assure the honourable member that whatever company or hospital or non-profit organization wins these tenders, for the first time included in this request for proposal are the highest-quality standards for haemodialysis and dialysis services. I have what accompanies the request for proposal, which is 37 pages of quality criteria that must be met to win these contracts. We hadn't got to that stage with this particular tender; that's stage two.

These standards -- they're called clinical practice parameters and facility standards -- are put out by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. They are responsible to ensure, along with help from the Ministry of Health, that the proponents of these proposals and the eventual winners of these tenders must, every day and for every patient and for every hour they're open, meet these standards, fully policed by the independent College of Physicians and Surgeons. That is a breakthrough for health care and haemodialysis in this province and something we should all be proud of.

Mrs McLeod: You rammed through Bill 26, and with Bill 26 you took the people of this province to the very slippery edge of the slope of privatizing our health care services. You are trying to push us down that slope and you hold up standards of quality. For the last two days you have refused to acknowledge that you had any responsibility at all for enforcing any kind of standards of quality. You didn't even want to know who was behind the provision of services for kidney dialysis. You cannot talk about enforcing quality standards when you're not prepared to take any responsibility for looking at what this for-profit American industry can do to our health care, and that's the issue I want you to address today.

Let me again quote a prominent New York kidney specialist. We're dealing with kidney dialysis, where you introduced new services. He said, "National Medical Care is sort of a harbinger to look at in terms of what is coming in the future of health care" -- not one isolated incident, but the future of health care. Even the president of National Medical Care said, "Economic decisions can and do entail clinical compromises, and patients will bear the cost."

Minister, that is what American for-profit medical care is all about, and that's what you are exposing the patients of this province to by starting us down that slippery slope. I want you to stand up today and tell us unequivocally, not just that you are not going to proceed with this contract now that you know the company is under criminal investigation, but that you will categorically not allow the privatization of dialysis treatment, given what we know about this industry, and that you will not allow your reckless drive to privatize health care to jeopardize the lives of people of this province.

Hon Mr Wilson: Again the word "privatization" is being thrown around here. Your government approved over a thousand independent health facilities when you were in government. You may call those all privatization, because that's exactly what you're doing here. This is the same act, particularly when these tenders went out under the old Independent Health Facilities Act.

Under the new act, you'll see in today's press release the new accountability measures we can put in, the expansion of the ability to ensure accountability and quality assurance, which was what this section of Bill 26 was about. It's a positive, I assure you. And I can assure you that there are 1,011 independent health facilities in this province today, if you want to call that privatization. They are owned by doctors, as was the case in this proposal in question. They do diagnostic services. They provide dialysis services, like Dialysis Management Clinics in Markham, which has been up and running and was opened by the NDP some two years ago. It is a private clinic. There are no fees for the patients, as is the case with abortion services, which the Liberals put into independent health facilities; those abortion services, the facility fees and the doctors' fees, are paid for fully by the province, as is the case here. There is no difference between the proponents we saw on paper and approvals you gave in over a thousand cases.

Frankly, this is not about privatization; this is about providing the highest quality of services to the people of Ontario.

About this "I didn't want to know" business, of course I wanted to know. I have taken full responsibility in this House for not being informed by my officials, and we're trying to ensure that doesn't happen again so we don't have to go through this again. Believe me, I fully wanted to know all the circumstances surrounding the issuing of this tender. When I became aware of it, I took immediate action to cancel the tender, and we're starting again on a level playing field.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, you opened the door wide --

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

Mrs McLeod: My next question is to the Minister of Health. I say to him, you opened that door to privatization and American for-profit medical care wide when you took away the Canadian preference in Bill 26 and even took away the need for a request for proposal in the future. Minister, no one will any longer trust what you will do with those kinds of powers you've given yourself.

Mr Speaker, it's frustrating when you're dealing with a minister who wants to convince everybody that everything is just fine in health care in the province of Ontario while he opens the door to this kind of company facing criminal investigations and almost concludes a contract with them. It's frustrating when you deal with a minister who is slashing and burning and taking dollars away from health care and tries to tell us that the health care system is going to get better when the people in our health care system tell a very different story, and that's the issue I turn to now.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): The minister will know that the Ontario Nurses' Association has done a survey of its members, and that 81% of the nurses of this province believe that understaffing due to budget cuts and downsizing has reached the point where unsafe conditions exist for patients. They believe your cuts are putting patients at risk, and I ask how you respond to those front-line workers who are telling you that your cuts are creating unsafe conditions in our hospitals.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I agree with much of what the Ontario Nurses' Association said in terms of its concerns about restructuring. I've heard those concerns, and we've responded very clearly as a government.

First of all, we've not cut one penny from health care. I think all members will be reassured of that fact in just a few days when the finance minister once again brings us up to date on the books of the province.


We've not cut one penny. They talked in the ONA news conference about a "shell game," and I do take some exception to that, because we've dramatically reduced our staffs -- my staff is one third the size of the previous government's staff -- and we've dramatically cut administration in the Ministry of Health, and we're reducing waste and eliminating waste and duplication. Yes, if they want to call it a shell game to take waste and duplication in administration and drive it to front-line services like dialysis, like cardiac services, like expanded paramedic services in this province, if that's a shell game, I'm proud to keep playing it. The fact of the matter is, we've not cut one penny of health care. We're getting rid of waste and duplication and overlap and we're driving those dollars to front-line services, enhanced services for the people of the province, something long overdue in this province.

Mrs McLeod: You haven't restructured a single thing yet. All you have done is cut, and you have cut $1.3 billion from hospitals and from the front lines of our hospitals. That is what the nurses who work in those hospitals are telling you. They're telling you about the kinds of conditions that exist today in Ontario hospitals and that our patients are facing.

Minister, patients are being discharged from hospitals earlier and earlier. If you don't want to listen to the nurses tell you that, talk to patients. Ontario has the shortest length of stay for patients in North America. Nurses are concerned that patients are being sent home too early, that patients are not given enough education about what to do when they're sent home early. We're talking about mothers with newborn infants. We're talking about patients recovering from that cardiac care that you talk of providing.

Eighty-five per cent of nurses believe that the quality of health care in Ontario has deteriorated, and you created this situation by slashing $1.3 billion from our hospitals. Are you prepared to listen to the nurses and restore the $1.3 billion to our hospitals?

Hon Mr Wilson: Very clearly, it was the Liberal government that began us on the process of restructuring and reforming the health care system.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): You're in charge now.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Hon Mr Wilson: The honourable member and her ministers of health back when they were in government gave a lot of speeches about moving away from expensive institutionalized care to appropriately placed community health services. The NDP did a bit of work on it, but we've built on that.

Three weeks ago, we announced $170 million in new dollars. The honourable member knows full well that we've not cut $1.3 billion, that we haven't seen that hospital money from that side of the equation in the sealed envelope, yet we found $170 million to reinvest in community services, allowing 80,000 more seniors and disabled individuals to receive home care and homemaking and meal services in their local communities, creating 4,400 new health care jobs, many of those for nurses. We've done that before the major hospital restructuring begins in this province so we don't have gaps in services.

We're finally doing what 15 years of health ministers have talked about. We're making the shifts, putting the dollars in the community first without seeing one penny of hospital restructuring money, beefing up those services so we don't have gaps in services as we restructure the hospital system in the province.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, you have done what no government has ever done before, you're right: You've taken $1.3 billion away from front-line health care delivery in the hospitals of this province. You cannot deny that you have cut hospital budgets by $1.3 billion, and nurses in this province are trying to tell you what those cuts mean to patient care.

You surely know that as a result of your cuts there'll be some 15,000 nurses in this province who will lose their jobs over the next three years, 15,000 nurses who provide that front-line care. How do you replace that kind of care? They're telling you that patients are already exposed to unsafe conditions, and surely they know, because they're in there day in and day out. They're telling you that your cuts to hospital budgets will mean more layoffs, more cutbacks, more corners cut. Minister, will you not listen to them? Will you not hear what they're saying? Will you not put those dollars, if you haven't cut health care, back into hospitals, put the $1.3 billion back into the front-line health care of this province?

Hon Mr Wilson: I have listened very carefully to ONA and have a very good relationship with ONA, and I did in the five years in opposition. We've had meetings since I've been Minister of Health, and the proof is in the pudding.

This morning, ONA said at the news conference, "Our vision of Ontario's health care system is one that fully integrates all its institutional and community services, where consumers can move smoothly from one health service to another in a publicly administered and funded, streamlined system."

Mrs Pupatello: Funded. That says funded.

The Speaker: The member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Hon Mr Wilson: What is this government's vision for health care contained in my speeches of the last 10 months since coming to office? Our vision for health care: identical to ONA's. We will shift from a fragmented system to integrated programs, breaking down the silos we so often hear about.

For example, we've heard many times that this integration is badly needed between hospitals and community-based services. Finally, our new direction for health care will result in seamless and accountable care for Ontarians, integrating assessment, diagnosis, treatment, care, illness prevention and health promotion. With the some 22 announcements we've made since coming to office, our reinvestment strategy, including the new jobs and community-based services, we are fully backing ONA's vision of health care as articulated this morning, and our government's vision of health care as articulated by me and many of my colleagues since coming to office some 10 months ago.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): The Minister of Health reached into the Americanization cookie jar and got bit. He's now called for new tenders.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Bud, you can't get bit in a cookie jar.

Mr Wildman: That's what he thought.

Is the minister aware that dialysis in the United States has a record that 23% of patients die, twice that of a number of other jurisdictions like Japan and Europe and others? Is this the kind of system this minister wants to import into Ontario? How can the people of this province have confidence that a government that is interested in Americanizing the system is not going to import those kinds of problems into our system of health care?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Again, it's perhaps a good idea to ensure we all know what the facts were in this case, and that is that it wasn't the government that invited in the American management system; it was the Canadian proponents who invited in a Canadian management team to set up this clinic. When we got word of the reputation behind all of this, that the process has been biased, in fairness to everyone we're going to start over on that one.

I am fully aware. This Parliament passed a private member's bill in 1993 in my name dealing with this issue and calling upon your government, Mr Wildman, to do something about the dialysis crisis in the province. Since we came to government, we've been able to expand those services significantly, and clinics today are up and running in several communities. We've made those announcements, the RFPs have gone through, the clinics are open. I've been to the openings already of many of those clinics.

I am fully aware, probably as much as any member in this House, of the overly aggressive nature with respect to the grabbing of dialysis patients in the United States. I'm aware of this because we had US officials and Ontario renal experts appear before the standing committee on social development in response to my private member's bill in December 1993. So in February and March of 1994, we spent a full month hearing about the horror stories in the United States. I'm fully aware of that. That's why, when I became aware of a problem in one of our tenders, I acted immediately to correct that problem and to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Mr Wildman: The minister's response raises all sorts of interesting questions. We didn't understand when the private member's bill was debated in this House in 1993 that this is the kind of solution you had for dialysis.

The minister says this is an effort to ensure that the problem with this particular tender will be rectified. As soon as he became aware of it, he said, he acted, which raises all of the questions that have been asked and not answered about why he wasn't aware of it when he should have been originally. Why did he have to learn about it after he'd made the announcement in Ottawa?


We've looked at the RFP, the request for proposals, and there is nothing in that request for proposals which ensures that any company making a proposal can be checked for their record to ensure there haven't been problems in the past, criminal investigations in the past, or to ensure that they don't have American connections.

How can we be sure this retendering will ensure that we don't end up with more of these problems as long as this government is prepared to accept RFPs from anybody, including American firms?

Hon Mr Wilson: It's a very good question. During stage two of the independent health facility process -- and it's the same process the Liberals followed and the NDP -- stage two would have required a full interview with the proponent, with any management company that may or may not be involved, and a description of the business and professional experience of the persons or person submitting the proposal, and that would have caught a number of things.

Having said that, the honourable member raises a very good question in terms of any legal proceedings that might be against a company and so, in today's announcement you'll see we've added two things to the first part of the RFP process.

They are: Increased measures to deal with accountability, including moving up -- this is normally stage two, the CPSO part of the process-we're moving that up to stage one so that the 37 pages here have to be fully adhered to, all the accountability measures and questions must be in place and answered prior to any announcements. Secondly, we are asking any disclosure of any relevant legal proceedings by the persons or companies that may be involved in future tenders.

What we've done is taken the normal independent health facility process, which was done over a number of stages, combine the first two stages so that we ask these questions up front, and not end up in the situation that clearly we've ended up in with this one proposal.

Mr Wildman: The minister seems to be trying to pretend that his ministry staff were not aware of the criminal investigations involving National Medical Care, which was related to Dr Posen's firm.

Moving up the request, the checking for criminal investigations, to the first stage of the RFP process doesn't deal with the fact that even in the older process, the previous process, the ministry staff were aware of the criminal investigations and the minister took the view that whether or not it was an American firm was not relevant. That's what he argued. He said Dr Posen's firm was a non-profit Canadian firm and going to employ Canadians, so it didn't matter.

How is it that he can stand here in this House and say he's retendering and he's going to check and he still hasn't explained why his ministry staff did not give him the information they had in their possession, that there was a company involved in this process that had serious problems in the United States and was under investigation?

Hon Mr Wilson: I have fully explained to the best of my ability what happened. The ministry, again I repeat, indicated that with the Canadian preference they were looking for in the proposals, that both the proponent here was Canadian and the management company was Canadian and therefore they did not feel it necessary to raise any flags, even though -- you are right -- they were fully aware in January or February when Dr Posen told one of the officials that this Canadian management company was a Canadian subsidiary of a US Boston-based company. They were fully aware of that. I was not aware of that. When I became aware of that, we took action to correct the situation.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Education and Training. The minister has announced in this House that he's getting money somewhere -- $14.5 million -- to alleviate problems faced by small boards in the province as a result of his cuts to boards across the province. He's also released a list of 27 small boards that would benefit from this change.

Could the minister explain why boards like the Manitoulin Board of Education are not on this list of 27?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): As I explained in the House a matter of a few days ago, we have released a change in a regulation that allows for small boards, those boards with 10,000 or fewer students, to have the amount of the savings they're looking for in their school system limited, the change in their general legislative grant limited to one of two criteria: 3% of their overall spending or 15% of the previous GLG. School boards that fit within those criteria -- again, there are by our estimates currently about 27 boards that will fall into that category -- will see some relief from GLG reductions over the course of the next year.

Other boards are affected in different ways. As we've explained in the House on prior occasions, the general legislative grant takes into account both the savings this government is asking all boards across the province to look for outside of the classroom in their spending -- we think that's consistent with what the taxpayers and parents want in this province -- and other circumstances; for instance, the impact of the social contract and the impact of assessment changes and student enrolment changes. The circumstances for each board are slightly different.

Mr Wildman: I asked a question specifically about the Manitoulin Board of Education and I don't think the word "Manitoulin" was even mentioned by the minister in his response.

The minister said: "We will be modifying the general legislative grant regulations for small boards with fewer than 10,000 students. What we will be doing for these small boards is limiting the grant reduction to either 3% of the school board's operating expenditures of 15% of the board's 1995 grants, whichever is less."

I have a copy of Ontario regulation 116/96, signed by the minister, which supposedly implements this change. The minister doesn't even know how many boards would qualify for this new regulation. It isn't 27; it's more like about 60 boards that have fewer than 10,000 students and that would face situations of 3% of operating or 15% reduction in grants over last year as a result of his cuts. It's not 27.

Has the minister read this regulation that he signed? If he has, can he tell us what the regulation permits, who is included in the regulation and what it means for these small boards across the province that are facing serious financial problems and have fewer than 10,000 students?

Hon Mr Snobelen: There are boards with fewer than 10,000 students that are in isolate communities that do not relate with the general legislative grant, and those isolate boards are outside and exempt from this particular action. We have very clearly spelled out what the criteria are. I have explained to the House before, and I believe to the honourable member before, that our estimate -- and I believe I used that word just a few moments ago -- is approximately 27 boards. That's what we believe, based on the numbers we have in the ministry to date, will be the numbers of boards that will fit within those criteria: small board and the two caps. That is based on our estimate of their enrolment numbers, of their grant numbers.

Again for the edification of the honourable member, the savings this government is asking boards to look for outside of the classroom across the province amount to less than 2% of their gross operating costs. Those boards that face a higher reduction than that face it based on the actions of the previous governments.

Mr Wildman: The minister has thrown the grant system of his ministry completely out of whack. The minister obviously doesn't know where Manitoulin is. It's a board that has fewer than 10,000 and is not an isolate board. It is not included on his list and it is going to face these kinds of financial problems. It fits into the criteria. The point is, there are a lot of other boards like Manitoulin that are affected in the same way.

When is the minister going to straighten out how this regulation is going to be applied within his ministry so his own ministry staff will know how to do it, how is he going to ensure that boards like Manitoulin, where the director of education said, "Well, I guess the ministry has just made a mistake," will benefit, as they should, from this change, and when is he going to tell us where the money is coming from to do all of this?


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): John, if you don't know Manitoulin, you'll never find Manitouwadge.

Hon Mr Snobelen: With all due respect, I certainly won't need the help of the member opposite to find Manitoulin Island since I have visited that community in the past.

I can tell you what I've told the House before. The criteria under which this will be applied are very clear. I can assure the member opposite that my ministry staff understand it, but we are waiting and we are having discussions with small boards across the province, as I announced last week, to see, with their actual enrolment numbers and with their actual grant projections, who fits and who does not fit. As I've said, our estimate is 27 boards. That's an approximate number, and we'll see, as the real numbers come in, who fits and who doesn't. Perhaps the board in question will fit. I'm not aware of their circumstances, but I'm sure the ministry will be.


Mr Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa East): My question is to the Solicitor General. Mr Minister, you'll recall that in your Common Sense Revolution you promised no cutbacks to municipal transfer payments, and also to create more secure communities in the province of Ontario. Yet in my own city of Ottawa, municipal services were cut back by $18 million in 1996. The results were not surprising, when I read the Ottawa Sun headline this morning, "Car Dealers Help Finance Underfunded Cops; Ottawa New Car Dealers Association Helps Defray the Costs of a Massive Car Theft Investigation."

Mr Minister, this investigation had been ongoing for almost a year, but because of lack of funds, it was being shelved, but the new car dealers association came to the rescue with a donation of $15,000 to complete the investigation. Is this the start of a user-fee system? Is this the start of a two-tier justice system -- one for the rich and one for the poor?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): As the member is probably aware, we are beginning a process of reviewing the structure of policing in this province and the financing of policing in this province. This is the very first significant review in almost a quarter of a century of how police are structured right across the province of Ontario. We can't do everything overnight, but we're certainly going to be making very significant changes in policing, which is going to result in more police officers on the front lines right across this province.

When we make a promise, if you will, with respect to the front lines, that is not a blank cheque. Most of the police officers I've talked to across this province realize that we have a difficult financial situation to deal with. Much of it can be laid at your doorstep, Mr Member. We're dealing with it and the police want to play a role in that. We can find administrative efficiencies; we can make changes in the roles and responsibilities of police. We're looking at all of those areas and we are going to have in this province a much more effective and efficient police service right across Ontario as we head into the next century.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): Now we understand what police restructuring means in Ontario. It's a protection pay system for those who can pay to have their investigation continued.

The minister floated another idea late last night in a Toronto crime forum here that he wants to use welfare recipients as security in crime-ridden neighbourhoods. It's sort of part of workfare. Maybe it's going to be called copfare. I don't know what we're going to call this unarmed, undertrained, ill-equipped squad. Maybe it's going to be Runciman's Raiders or the Pogey Police or Bobby's Bobbies. We don't know what it's going to be called.

But the minister is putting these people in danger and you're putting the public in danger. Are you suggesting that part-time amateurs will be a deterrent to crime in big-city neighbourhoods? Do you honestly believe that by lowering the standards of our professional police in Ontario, we will be making our neighbourhoods safer?

Hon Mr Runciman: The comment the member is making reference to was part of a round table discussion which was sponsored by Rob Davis, who is the Conservative candidate in York South, who has a significant interest in hearing the concerns of people in that area related to crime. This was a discussion of problems and concerns of constituents in that particular riding and suggestions on ways that we can deal with them. The suggestion that was raised with respect to the Holland and Belgium experience was one that I indicated I had read about. I've asked for additional information on it and it's something that we should perhaps take a look at.

We also, as the member is aware, have the Ontario civilian commission on policing in this province, which is in place to ensure that we continue to have adequate and effective police services across this province. If a police service makes a decision to reduce service to their community, they're going to have to deal with the definition of "adequate and effective" as defined by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. We have one community that's experiencing that right now. I feel very confident with respect to the support and cooperation we're getting from police officers right across this province and I can tell you, they know we know that they're getting much more support from this government than they ever received from the Liberal government.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I have a question to the Minister of Community and Social Services. I'm sure that you're aware of the Metro Toronto report which shows a startling increase in evictions since your social assistance cuts took effect. In January of this year, eviction applications were 33% higher than the previous January, and by February of this year, 68% of welfare recipients renting in the private market paid more in rent than they got in shelter allowances.

I'd like to ask the minister, if people can't afford their rents, where are they supposed to move in Metropolitan Toronto? Mothers and children are now relying on hostels in this community. Are you suggesting, as the Premier did once just a few months ago, that families should move out of Metropolitan Toronto?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): First of all, it is very unfortunate if anyone is evicted from their home. We do know, however, that evictions had been on the rise in Metro at least over the past five years, and certainly that period would take into account the time that the honourable member was in power.

We also know that there are some very difficult decisions for individuals to make to live within their means today in this province, whether they're on welfare or whether they are people who are working for a living. We are aware, of course, that we did do a cut to welfare, to 10% above the average of the other provinces, but it is 10% above the average of the provinces, and hand in hand we allowed people to earn back the difference between the old and new rates.

So I understand the situation. It's not much different than it has been over the past five years, but I believe we have a responsibility to work with them to try to find solutions.

Mr Cooke: I wonder what the minister thinks when numbers are up 33% in this community and you're saying they're similar to what they have been in the past.

The sheriff's office in Niagara north told us this morning that they have had about a 20% increase in evictions and increased violence when notices are served. In Windsor, we heard that evictions for the first three months of this year are almost one third of the total for last year. In Middlesex, the sheriff's officer said he is now serving between 70 and 80 notices a month, instead of the 50 a month he had last year. He also points out that he's having to physically remove single mothers and children because they have no place to live.

Mr Minister, how can you stand in this House today and still say that your welfare cuts have no impact on mothers and children? And what are you going to do to make sure in this province, one of the richest in the world, that we don't have mothers and children living in the streets or shelters?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: First of all, I know that Metro Toronto housing counsellors are available to assist recipients with their housing needs. The ministry also provides a community startup allowance to assist their moving to more affordable accommodations.

Let's put this in perspective. I understand it's unfortunate, but the honourable member across the way is throwing some numbers at me in terms of how the numbers of evictions have increased. It is unfortunate, but let's compare some figures here. Statistics from the sheriff's office show that between 1988 and 1995, during the Liberal and NDP terms of government, the rate of evictions in Metro Toronto increased by approximately 300%, even while these two parties raised welfare rates.



Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question today is to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. In your speech last week to the Canadian Club of Burlington, I was pleased to hear you reiterate the provincial claim that the federal government has carved out for itself a role in many areas that are clearly of provincial jurisdiction. By eliminating the overlap and duplication, what benefit will be realized by the people of Ontario?

Hon Dianne Cunningham (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, minister responsible for women's issues): The taxpayers of Ontario are tremendously overburdened and the situation is compounded, as I think all members of this House would agree, by overlap of many programs and services between all levels of government.

We're not talking in any way about a power grab that some of us often hear about in the media; we're really talking about very clearly defining our own roles and responsibilities at all levels of government. In this way, many of my colleagues are having bilateral discussions with their ministries and with the ministries of the federal government and they're focusing on clarifying those roles and responsibilities. We are committed to efficiency and we are committed to making a long-overdue change, and we probably will have the support in this regard of all members of the Legislative Assembly.

Mr O'Toole: All the people in Ontario, including those in Durham East, commend you for your leadership in this area. What is your action plan for ending this overlap and duplication between the provincial and federal governments?


Hon Mrs Cunningham: I don't think some of my colleagues on the other side should be laughing in this regard. We have had some leadership in this area, and there has been a new process developed as a result of the last premiers' meeting in July. The advisers they had moving this agenda forward are the same people who are advising us, because this is particularly non-partisan and in the interests of all Canadians. There was a Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal, and I think that all the premiers will be looking at that policy in the next meeting of the premiers sometime in the summer. Although the Prime Minister has this report, I think he will be looking at it very carefully as well. We have called on the federal government for practical solutions, and those are the kinds of questions we are getting.

We think there are areas the federal ministers should just get out of. That's the kind of discussion we want to have. As a matter of fact, we're looking forward to positive solutions.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I have a question for the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. On April 4 in the House, with nearly unanimous all-party support, my colleague the member for Algoma-Manitoulin received legislative sanction, approval, for the return of $60 million to the northern Ontario heritage fund that had been removed in the stealth of the night by the former government -- $60 million that belongs to northerners and is desperately needed for economic growth in our part of the province. The Premier expressed shock and dismay over the removal of this money from the fund. So far, the minister has not accepted his responsibility to get the money back into the fund.

If you wish to retain any credibility as minister, you have an obligation to return that money to the fund. My question is, will you announce today in this House that this money is to be put back into the heritage fund, and if not, when?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I agree with the member's motion. I think most northern people in Ontario agree that the money was improperly taken out of the trust account. It was a board decision. It wasn't illegal, but the former NDP government stole the money from northerners and it had revenue retention. I'll take that into consideration and --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I would ask the minister if he would withdraw the word he used.

Hon Mr Hodgson: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It wasn't illegally stolen. It was directed out of the account.

The Speaker: Will you withdraw it?


The Speaker: You withdraw it. Thank you.

Mr Gravelle: That sounds like a no to me, Minister. Let me get this straight. Next week, the Minister of Finance is announcing a tax cut that will entail the borrowing of over $2 billion by this government in this fiscal year alone, only a start towards the $20 billion you'll be borrowing in the next few years to pay for the tax cut, yet you cannot find $60 million for the north, $60 million that belongs to us. You truly should be ashamed. You should do it now and change your mind. It's clear your commitment to the north is simply a sham.

Unless you wish to respond to me in a supplementary, let me go on. A couple of weeks ago, we learned further that the Minister of Transportation is removing $20 million from the northern highways fund. As Minister of Northern Development, you've indicated that the heritage fund would now be used for road and capital work in the north. This is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. You'd just be replacing money, taking it away from another area of essential northern need. This is shameful and underhanded. Those of us concerned about economic development in the north need to know if this is your intention. Will you tell us now? Is the northern Ontario heritage fund to be used to replace moneys taken away by the Minister of Transportation?

Hon Mr Hodgson: I disagree with most of the premise.

The heritage fund: As he's aware, there will be announcements in the budget coming up next week. He knows I can't announce that today.

The infrastructure in the north: We're doing our best to prioritize our spending to make sure northerners' needs are listened to and met. He'll just have to wait for the budget next week.

I agree totally with his premise that it was inappropriate to take money that was dedicated for a specific purpose which had revenue retention, roll that into general revenue and then have that money spent throughout the province. Once money is spent, it's very hard to put it back. We're doing our best to get our finances in shape and also get this economy moving again. You'll have to wait and see.


Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): I have a question for the Minister of Community and Social Services. Last fall your Premier said it was not his intention to penalize social assistance recipients who get help from family and friends. He said, "Common sense tells me that you would expect family members, neighbours, community members to be helping."

In light of that comment, I wonder if the minister can explain the following situation to me: My constituent, Line Weirmeir, had $100 deducted from her March family benefits cheque because she honestly told her case worker that in light of high shelter costs, her mom was helping her with food -- not cash, but food. Can you explain why you're penalizing Line in this way?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): First of all, I would appreciate very much if the member would send me particulars of the situation so we can look into it. She knows full well we can't comment on specific cases, but I certainly will look into the situation.

Last fall, my ministry sent a directive around to all the area offices to indicate clearly that we do support communities, neighbours and friends helping out people who really need that. Certainly I suspect and feel food would be in that category. We will look into it and I would appreciate your sending me the circumstances.

Ms Martel: The supposed clear guidelines about gifts, which you hope food is included in, actually went out in February, and Line's cheque was deducted in March of this year. What's needed from you is to state clearly that it's not the intention of this government to penalize people on social assistance when families are trying to help them out.

The fact is, in this case, in order to have the $100 reinstated to her family benefits cheque, Line's mother had to send a letter to the case worker to say she was no longer giving food to her daughter. Now she has to get food from the Inner-City Home Food Bank in Sudbury. Instead of turning to her mother for help, she now has to turn to a food bank. How can you possibly justify that?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: I indicated earlier on that if the member would provide me with some of the particulars, we will look into it. We sent a directive out to indicate that we do support friends and family helping out people who need the help.



Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I have a question for the minister responsible for WCB reform. Recently in the Etobicoke media it was reported that an injured nurse from Etobicoke was required to take on a job as a rehabilitation worker with the WCB in order to continue receiving WCB benefits. Even though she wasn't even interested in the job and had wanted to take up retraining as an ultrasound technician, the pre-accident employer said she wasn't equipped to do the job.

My question for the minister deals with re-employment strategies. Minister, how will your proposals deal with the inflexible, uncustomer-like, unfriendly attitude of the WCB bureaucracy regarding this kind of situation involving this injured worker and many other similar workers in similar circumstances?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): I'd like to thank my colleague for the question. I think members of this House would be interested in learning that Ontario spends about half a billion dollars on vocational rehabilitation in the province of Ontario, and yet we only repatriate to the workplace about 50% of our injured workers. It's an expensive system for employers who are paying for it, but it's also expensive for injured workers who aren't getting an opportunity to return to work.

During our consultations, injured workers indicated to us that what frustrates them is they want a more direct say in what future voc rehab will allow them to return to work. So we are looking at service delivery improvements, but we are also looking at voc rehab, which does the return to work of our injured workers. We're looking at incentives for re-employment; that clearly was set out in our discussion paper. We are looking at a self-reliant model where the injured worker can sit down with their employer and discuss labour market re-entry if it's not at their own work site. If they can't find work with their own employer, the system will have an agreement with them to develop a proper plan.

The fact is, the structure and the direction of return to work has been missing in workers' compensation, and our Premier reiterated that at our recent International Forum on Workers' Compensation, Health and Safety review.

Mr Hastings: I'd like to find out if the minister for WCB reform received any kind of new information from the recently held International Forum on Workers' Compensation, Health and Safety that was held in this province --

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): No worker representation there.

Mr Hastings: -- and I'd like to know what kind of pro-worker feedback delivery mechanisms you discussed at this particular conference that could help deal with the problems of WCB, unlike our friend from Hamilton Centre across the way.

Hon Mr Jackson: The fact is that injured workers in Thunder Bay suggested that we have a closer look at the reforms undertaken in Germany where they are leading European jurisdictions for returning injured workers to work and for rehabing those injured workers. They have very high success rates. We did have some representation from Germany at that conference.

We also had representation from Australia. They have a system which injured workers in Ontario consider very helpful and appropriate. In that jurisdiction you must have a return-to-work plan for each individual injured worker who's been on benefits and away from work for more than two weeks.

The Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario participated in that forum and it made recommendations as well about more flexibility for older injured workers. They are looking that our future economic loss awards are more streamlined for older workers, who find that the WCB becomes a very insensitive institution for older workers. We are looking for low-cost, high-resolution solutions for injured workers in Ontario.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. I'll use a quote from the member for Quinte, who is trying to get his question on and has been prevented by his fellow members. It says as follows: "Today I would like to speak about an issue on the minds of every motorist in the province, and that's the price of gasoline."

Minister, when my colleague Mr Colle, the member for Oakwood, asked you this question in the month of April about gas prices, you said you had "been to other provinces and other countries" and "actually Ontario motorists enjoy the most competitive gasoline prices, I think, in the world."

Minister, now that virtually all of the stations in Metropolitan Toronto and southern Ontario are charging 60 cents per litre, are you still satisfied that the people of Ontario are paying the most competitive price for gasoline in the world?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): To the member for St Catharines, I would say that of course we are always concerned about a price of a commodity that is very vital to all of us and to business as well. If he was, and I'm sure he is, perusing the foreign press these days, he will see that the price of fuel is much higher than it was earlier on this year. There are various reasons for that, and we monitor these things very carefully. But I think, overall, Ontario is well served.

Mr Bradley: The US Department of Justice this past week launched an investigation into price fixing and gouging in the field of oil prices. Your member for Peterborough said the following: "The average price of a barrel of oil is presently at a four-year low when averaged over the entire year. Investment experts in the price of crude oil have indicated that a moderate increase in the price of one barrel of oil should not affect consumers at all. They've also indicated that a small increase should not affect consumers for at least six months.

"People are increasingly concerned about 10- and 15-cent-per-litre price hikes." This is the member for Peterborough joining my colleague the Liberal transportation critic, Mr Colle, in a crusade against these high prices.

I ask the minister, now that the prices are so high -- and I'm sure all of us, regardless of our political background, believe this to be the case -- are you prepared -- because we count on you in Ontario, and I know you're concerned about trade, and I know you're concerned about tourism -- to approach the oil companies at this time, as our provincial minister, to indicate to them your dissatisfaction with the gouging that's taking place of Ontario consumers and those visiting our province?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I think what should happen is that the member for St Catharines should perhaps approach his friends in Ottawa, because I think that's their responsibility. I might say there are going to be quite a lot of the members from Ottawa over in Hamilton in the next few months defending a certain person there who was forced to do something she really didn't want to do. I suggest they go to Hamilton and confront their member from Ottawa.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The time for oral questions has expired. Motions


Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): Pursuant to standing order 55, on behalf of the government House leader, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of May 6, 1996.

On Monday, May 6, we will continue with second reading of Bill 36, An Act to amend certain acts administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources, after which we hope to complete committee of the whole and third reading of Bill 38, the Toronto Islands Amendment Act.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The minister is out of order, because we're into motions and then petitions is next and then that would be the proper time to give your statement with regard to orders of the day.

Could I have the unanimous consent of the House for him to proceed? Agreed? Agreed. Proceed.

Hon David Johnson: As was announced earlier this week, the Minister of Finance will give his budget address on Tuesday, May 7, at 4 pm.

On Wednesday, May 8, the official opposition will respond to the budget, after which the House will adjourn.

On Thursday morning, private members' business, we will consider ballot item number 27, standing in the name of the member for Algoma, and ballot item number 28, standing in the name of the member for Peterborough.

On the afternoon of Thursday, May 9, the NDP will respond to the budget, after which we will go into normal rotation of speakers.




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

"Whereas the Rent Control Act protects Ontario's 3.3 million tenants and allows for security and stability in their homes and communities; and

"Whereas lifting rent control in Ontario would leave tenants with uncontrollable rent increases and financial instability; and

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government is considering changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act favouring easier and faster evictions by landlords;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to save rent control."

I affix my signature with many of those who have signed this petition.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I have here yet another petition from the people concerned with regard to the government's scrapping of rent control, and it reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

"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 to that petition.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I have a petition pertaining to tax cuts signed by approximately 20 of my constituents. It appears to be in the standard form, and I'm submitting it on their behalf today.


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.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I have a petition to the Ontario Legislature.

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

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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature to this petition, which has numerous signatures from people in both London and the Middlesex area.


Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Ministry of Education is asking all school boards in Ontario to reduce spending; and

"Whereas some boards, such as the Lanark County Board of Education, have already achieved significant savings and had their funding cut in previous years; and

"Whereas some boards have a much lower assessment base;

"Be it therefore resolved that we, the undersigned, respectfully request the Ministry of Education and the government of Ontario to make financial assistance available to such affected boards."

This is signed by the trustees and staff of the Lanark county board.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition for the Minister of Health and the assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Ministry of Health will begin to charge seniors and social assistance recipients a $2 user fee for each prescription filed on June 1, 1996; and

"Whereas health care experts have assessed that user fees for drugs could jeopardize the health of individuals who cannot afford to pay for their medication; and

"Whereas Ontario's ex-psychiatric patients rely heavily on prescription drugs to remain stable and mental health care providers and the general public are scared of the outcome if these patients cannot afford to buy their medication because of the $2 dispensing fee, when it is normal policy to only prescribe them two to three days of medication to prevent overdosing or misuse of drugs;

"Whereas the perceived savings to health care from the $2 copayment fee will not compensate for the suffering and misery caused by this user fee and will not even cover the costs of extra emergency services, nor repeated hospital services. The $2 copayment fee will consequently not lead to cost savings but rather increases in the case of expensive health care services;

"We, the undersigned Ontario residents, strongly urge the government of Ontario to repeal this user fee before it takes effect on June 1 because of the potential dramatic increase in emergency and police services, and the suffering and misery of human lives -- especially psychiatric outpatients and those who depend on medication for their daily survival."

I've affixed my signature to this document.


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

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll affix my signature to it.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): The fight to keep and save St Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton continues. I have further petitions to 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 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 continue to support these petitions.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Earlier today, I was privileged to meet with many students from all over the Durham region. The students were here to speak to the Minister of Education and Training and indeed to present him with a couple of T-shirts and petitions. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Ontario students are concerned with funding reductions to education. Furthermore, students have requested the opportunity to meet with and work with both the Minister of Education and their MPP for Durham East.

"Therefore, we petition both the minister as well as our local MPP to meet with and listen to the students' concerns and suggestions before any further education reductions."

I am pleased to sign my name to the petition.



Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a petition from the residents of 35 Shoreham Drive in North York petitioning the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads as follows:

"Whereas the Rent Control Act protects Ontario's 3.3 million tenants and allows for security and stability in their homes and community; and

"Whereas lifting rent control in Ontario would leave tenants with uncontrollable rent increases and financial instability; and

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government is considering changes to the Landlord and Tenant Act favouring easier and faster evictions by landlords;

"We, the undersigned tenants of 35 Shoreham Drive in North York, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to save rent control."

I agree with the content of the petition and I will affix my signature to it.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): A petition to the Ontario Legislature and it reads as follows:

"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% margin;

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


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): This petition is to the Honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Niagara region has one of the highest per capita populations of seniors in the province of Ontario; and

"Whereas the Niagara region ranks 32nd out of 38 health regions in long-term-care funding and that more individuals wait for support services from the March of Dimes than those who actually are served by it; and

"Whereas Alzheimer patients who critically depend on support services in order to cope in a more humane way with this devastating illness continue to suffer from unacceptable delays in receiving respite care; and

"Whereas more than half of all Ontario families waiting for Alzheimer-related respite care reside in the Niagara area;

"We, the following undersigned citizens of Ontario, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to adopt the plan by the Niagara Regional District Health Council which would help improve the way vulnerable people are treated in the Niagara area."

I affix my signature to this petition as I agree with its contents.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Premier Harris and Minister Jackson regarding saving workers' compensation.

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

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

I affix my signature also.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and I'll read it.

"Whereas the Minister of Education and Training has gone on record stating that the government is deeply committed to an educational system that delivers excellence; and

"Whereas the Progressive Conservative government is cutting funding support for elementary and secondary education by over $400 million; and

"Whereas by reducing grants to boards such as the MSSB, which can be shown to be well under the targeted expenditure levels for administration and operational support, the minister has penalized the very boards which have been extremely prudent and frugal in their non-classroom spending; and

"Whereas the so-called equalization payments are indirect taxation without representation because there is no guarantee that they will be used to offset reductions in educational transfers;

"We, the undersigned residents of North York, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to ensure any reduction to expenditure levels are implemented in a fair and equitable manner to both grant-dependent and negative-grant-position school boards."

I am supporting the content of the petition and I will affix my signature to it.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition addressed to the government of Ontario.

"Whereas the government of Ontario appears to be moving towards the privatization of retail liquor and spirit 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 product sold in its 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; and

"Whereas the LCBO is an important instrument for the promotion and sale of Ontario wine and thereby contributes immensely to the grape-growing and wine production industry;

"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'm in agreement with its contents.


Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): Mr Speaker, I think you'll find that there is unanimous consent to defer the late show originally scheduled for today until Thursday, May 9.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Agreed? Agreed.



Mr Smith from the standing committee on social development presented the following report and moved its adoption:

Bill 30, An Act to establish the Education Quality and Accountability Office and to amend the Education Act with respect to the Assessment of Academic Achievement / Projet de loi 30, Loi créant l'Office de la qualité et de la responsabilité en éducation et modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation en ce qui concerne l'évaluation du rendement scolaire

Bill 31, An Act to establish the Ontario College of Teachers and to make related amendments to certain statutes / Projet de loi 31, Loi créant l'Ordre des enseignantes et des enseignants de l'Ontario et apportant des modifications connexes à certaines lois.

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

Shall Bill 30 be ordered for third reading? Agreed.

Shall Bill 31 be ordered for third reading? Agreed.




Mr Villeneuve moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 46, An Act to amend or revoke various statutes administered by or affecting the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and to enact other statutes administered by the ministry / Projet de loi 46, Loi modifiant ou abrogeant diverses lois appliquées par le ministère de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, ou qui touchent ce ministère, et visant à édicter d'autres lois appliquées par le ministère.

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

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): This very important piece of legislation will lay the groundwork for future growth in Ontario's farming, food and rural sectors. It will recognize the major contribution that the agriculture and food industry in rural communities make to the economic growth and wellbeing of the province of Ontario.

Ce projet de loi veut établir les bases de la croissance future des secteurs agricole, alimentaire et rural en Ontario.

The Ontario agrifood and rural business bill includes the legislative changes necessary to help OMAFRA focus on such priority areas as research and technology transfer; investment attraction and advocacy; market development; and rural economic development.

The government's objective is not only to maintain Ontario's strong agricultural base, but also to help the industry move in bold new ways. It is a bill that prepares the way for innovation and demonstrates that we can do better with less in the province of Ontario.


Ms Bassett moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr54, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.

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


Ms Bassett moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr55, An Act respecting the City of Toronto.

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



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 38, An Act to amend the Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act, 1993 / Projet de loi 38, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1993 sur l'administration de la zone résidentielle des îles de Toronto.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I believe the member for Yorkview had the floor last time.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I am pleased to begin the debate where I almost started yesterday. I wish to add my comments to the comments that were made yesterday on this particular bill, which is very, very important. I will hopefully bring some more information that the House hopefully will take into consideration when we get to the voting time.

As was said yesterday, this has been pitting the residents, the tenants of the islands against the rest of the people of Ontario, especially those in Metro, for a very long time. This issue was very hot, especially for the members who are within Metro, the GTA region. Perhaps those far beyond or who come from northern riding or the far east and west may not be so acquainted with the acrimonious debate which took place regarding the infamous market value assessment and the non-passage of the same when we were dealing with the issue of the land lease on the island.

What we have now is a heck of a lot more than a sweet deal. If the residents of Metro and Ontario were upset, were appalled at the deal which was made for the island people, we were not surprised. There are still now today, as we speak, many people who find it very difficult to provide for themselves and their families, there are many seniors in my own riding who find it very difficult to pay all the bills and continue to live in their own little home, while we have made very special arrangements for a very few people on the islands.

Yesterday we heard the Conservative speakers and some from the former government, the NDP side, telling the Liberals they did it, they didn't solve the problem. Why didn't they?

This has been an issue that has been a problem since 1954, 1955, 1956. To the Conservative members I'd like to say: You were in power for over 40 years. Why didn't you settle this issue? As the member for Scarborough East was saying yesterday, let's deal with this issue once and for all.

I don't want to steal a page from their book when they say, "This is great and we can support it in principle, but -- "; I'm not going to say that, because even though it does a little bit, it helps the situation a little bit, I'm going to support it, because I think it helps to solve, to bring about a lasting solution to the island problem.

They have a chance now again as a government to bring a lasting and final solution to this issue. The member for Mississauga East was saying yesterday that what goes around comes around, meaning that this issue is going to be afflicting the Liberals and the NDP. Let me remind you once again that for over 40 years the Conservative had a chance to bring a lasting solution to this problem. Now the issue has come around again. They are back in power and they could really bring a lasting solution to this particular problem.

But what we are seeing today is another little bit. It's a Band-Aid; it's not a complete solution. If it was not for grandstanding or politicking, we wouldn't be here today discussing this particular issue. We could be dealing with some other matter. We wouldn't be taking the time of our staff and yourself, Mr Speaker, or that of the House, because they could have dealt with this particular issue by a regulation by their own government.

To waste time in this House and play politics and accuse the two opposition sides is nothing less than pure politics. They could solve this problem, which is repealing the provisions for the non-profit housing corporation established under the NDP government, without bringing it to the House, simply by a government regulation. But they have chosen of course to bring it out into the open, in front of the cameras, so they could say: "This is what we are doing. We are repealing what the NDP has done." Big deal. They have already said that.

I'm not going to let the NDP off the hook on this particular one. They have made a total mess with respect to non-profit housing and allowing -- not suggesting, but allowing -- 100 units of co-op housing on the Toronto Islands. That was a total disgrace and the people of Metro have responded to that. When I say "to that," it's not that I'm speaking in opposition to affordable housing, co-op or whatever. We have said all along, even when I was in my 16 years on North York, that affordable housing is a provision we have to look for, we have to provide the people with, but there is a cost, there is a price and there is a way. While the NDP was trying to give money to all kinds of developers at a price in Metro of $158,000, real estate people were selling condominium units for $90,000. You tell me where the logic was in those days.

No wonder we were feeling outraged when they came up with the proposal that now we will let -- the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale called it the Flying Toad -- a corporation build 110 non-profit units on the islands. I think it was marshland or under flood control or stuff like that. I tell you, there was an uproar all over the place. The city of Toronto was against, Metro was against, the people were against, but in their wisdom, the NDP went ahead with it.


Today we have a bill, Bill 38, which proposes to change two major components of what had been done before. The act intends to repeal that particular provision for a non-profit housing corporation, the so-called Flying Toad, and there are fundamental changes to the composition of the Toronto Islands Residential Community Trust Corp. That's fine. As I said before, these changes could have been brought about, done, introduced, by their own government without bringing it to the House. The other thing is, they just have to say, as they did before -- they already stopped all funding for non-profit housing. They could have said, "There is no funding; therefore, there is no corporation."

But I'm pleased to support the bill as it has been presented, because at least it formalizes these particular two aspects, and that is the elimination, if you will, of building 110 co-op houses on the islands, and the changes made to the composition of the trust.

If the government wishes to continue to support tenants and co-ops, and I believe there is a place at a proper price, there are many other areas where the government could make that particular provision, but of course today we are faced with a lot more than that. Instead of providing exactly that and finding ways and means to provide affordable housing for the many thousands of residents in Ontario, they have totally said, "Let's stop." Not only that, but they will eliminate rent control, which will put many, many tenants in a serious and precarious situation.

It is not surprising if the Conservatives feel there is support for this type of regulation. There was an uproar when this was introduced, because the rest of the taxpayers in Ontario, especially those in Metro, who paid the highest taxes in Ontario, if not Canada, were feeling outraged because they felt there are many citizens within the city of Toronto here who can't even afford to take a trip during the summer and visit the island and enjoy the open spaces, enjoy the fresh air, walk around, take a bike without the concern of being hit by a car or stuff like that.

Why didn't the previous government take that into consideration and say -- you know what? In 1980 -- I think the government side should know that -- it was their own government that said: "For 25 years and no more. No renewal leases beyond the term of 25 years." So what happens? In 1993 we have the NDP government that gives them a wonderful deal of a 99-year lease, until the year 2092. If you were a homeowner, a senior living on a pension, if you were a single wage earner, if you were a single parent who could barely afford to stay in your home or make ends meet, I think you would feel outraged as well.

There are people in Metropolitan Toronto, let alone the rest of Ontario, who can't afford rent any more. With all the cuts that the present government is imposing, they can hardly afford to live in a one-bedroom or two-bedroom or subsidized housing. They just can't afford it. Wouldn't you feel irritated that these people have got now a lease for 99 years at the cost of $30 a month? I would, and I would say the rest of Ontario feels the same way.

I would say to the minister that while I applaud the idea of formalizing this issue and hopefully bringing this to a complete solution in the year 2092, I would seriously urge the minister, instead of dealing with this tidbit of affair, which he could have cleaned simply by introducing a regulation, to deal with tax reform within Metro. That's the issue and I urge the minister to deal with this particular issue.

He's already three months late to deal with the GTA. When this item comes back, we are going to have another round of acrimonious debate, and no wonder. The problem continues to persist. The problem continues to affect the many thousands of people who, on a daily basis, we are seeing their potentials being threatened, we are seeing their incomes reduced, we are seeing their jobs lost, we are hearing more cuts coming, and how will they feel? So rightly so.

Therefore, I am not totally opposed to the fact that this brings a little bit of justice, but we have to take into consideration those people who are being affected by decisions by the government, especially when it affects the rest of the people of Ontario. It's not only that they are living on the island scot-free, if you will; they haven't been paying any rent since 1981. Even today, no one, either Metro, the city of Toronto or the provincial government, has been able to say, "We will accept this amount," and let's get it over with. They are not even paying rent since 1981. Do the rest of the people of Ontario know that? No, they don't. They don't know that. So if we feel that the people are irritated, there is good reason why they are being irritated.

The issue that was pinning the two sides apart was the very hot issue that perhaps the members from ridings outside of Metro are not too familiar with. It is this huge issue that is splitting Metro and the residents of the island. As I said before, unless we bring some equity to the antiquated system within Metro and Ontario, if you will -- but Metro is being hit hard. For the sake of me, I have to ask the minister why he's waiting so long, why he's being conned by his own caucus members and the Premier and the finance minister, why he's not being more straightforward and saying, "Look, if we don't bring justice to Metro, justice to the GTA, we are going to have a ghost town, especially at the core of the city of Toronto."

When it's convenient for us, we hear members from all sides, especially from the government side, saying, "Hey, Ontario is the economic engine of Canada." When it's convenient, we all say that. We keep forgetting one very important thing: that Metropolitan Toronto is the engine of Ontario, and if we let this engine die here in Toronto, in Metro, Ontario will suffer and so will the rest of Canada.

Let's think for a moment what this is doing really, what this is doing to Metropolitan Toronto and especially the core. The minister knows very well, because he has been connected for a number of years with the regional government of Metropolitan Toronto. He has been serving under that government for many years. He was an employee of the TTC, the chairman, for many years, so he knows full well the particular problem that Metro is going through, and it's not going away. It's getting worse. He knows that Metro is subsidizing the region by 30%.


I haven't heard the minister once come into this House and say: "Mr Premier, Mr Finance Minister, members of this House, we have a huge problem here and we've got to deal with it because if we don't deal with it, Metro is going to suffocate; Metro is going to die. Business are going to go to Mississauga, to Hazel McCallion's country; they're going to go to Markham; they're going to go to York region, the city above Toronto."

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's dead.

Mr Sergio: I hear the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale saying it's dead; it's already dead. I can appreciate what the member is saying. If he realizes, being a member from the northwest area of Metropolitan Toronto, that Metro is indeed already dying, I wonder if he brings this to the attention of his caucus or to the attention of the minister. Being a former councillor in Etobicoke, I wonder if he's aware that 80% of the homes in Etobicoke under market value assessment, or AVA as it called, would be receiving a very hefty reduction and so would every other municipality within Metro.

This is the issue. This is the solid issue that I think the government and especially the minister should be taking a lead on. This is an area where they can show some real leadership, not meaningless items such as this one here which they could have done away with without bringing it to this House.

I would have a lot more to say, but I can see that the House is very quiet today and it's Thursday, and perhaps a lot of the members went ahead to their ridings, and I can understand that too, but I do implore the minister to deal with the GTA. Don't let the Golden report go away, die on the shelf. This is the third report done by the government, to the tune of millions of dollars, and I'm imploring the minister to fight for the people of Metro and the people of Ontario.

I will end my presentation by saying that the bill does not solve all the problems associated with the islands. It brings some fairness, and I'll be willing to support that.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Just a few responses to what the member for Yorkview said. First of all, I should say that it's the Metro politicians who have been the most hostile to the islanders, not the community. I haven't had one call that I can remember where a constituent of mine or somewhere in Metro called and said, "This is terrible," other than my good friend from Mississauga West making the case that this was bad and other Metro politicians saying this was bad --

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): Etobicoke West.

Mr Marchese: Etobicoke West. Sorry. What did I say?

Mr Cooke: Mississauga.

Mr Marchese: So there were a lot of Metro politicians but certainly not the general public. That is not the case. The city of Toronto has been supportive for many years. Yes, there have been some individual politicians who were not supportive of the island and the islanders and having a permanent community there, but other than some Metro politicians, it is unfair to say that the general public was against.

He also equates that this deal we made with the islanders restoring some peace and restoring some equity to those people was so bad that given that there are so many poor in this province, this deal somehow makes the poor poorer. It's outrageous to make a comparison that says there are poor people out there and we shouldn't be doing this for the islanders. I think it's outrageous that we should be making that kind of statement and comparison.

I also would remind him again, as I reminded his colleague yesterday, his Premier, Mr Peterson, committed himself to restoring peace to the islanders, creating a permanent residential community on the island. He broke that promise. He clearly forgets what his leader had said, and I want to remind him and his colleagues that they broke their promise in this regard, and we kept it.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): I think a few points of interest were made, and clarification should be made as well to some of the comments.

First off, the city of Toronto was in favour, yes, as a majority of council it was in favour -- there were those who were opposed -- but let's be clear. The city of Toronto sold the property to Metropolitan Toronto many years ago, because they didn't want the responsibility of the island, and they sold it to a duly elected metropolitan council who on a number of occasions were challenged in a court of law by all sectors within the island community, and each time they were challenged, right up to the Supreme Court of Ontario, it was ruled that Metropolitan Toronto was in fact legally right, correct, and they should have in fact acted the way they did act, which was to declare the land public open space.

On the question with respect to funding, it's interesting. The member across the floor says that the tax cut this government is offering is a tax cut for the rich, it's not going to benefit the poor, but he can't seem to understand that by not taking the value of this property, if you're going to leave housing there, and selling it for value, for what the market would bear, and many would say $250,000 or $300,000 for those units on the island --

Mr Marchese: Come on, Chris. What are you talking about? Etobicoke West?

Mr Stockwell: Let's please be serious. When you were doing this deal, many times -- $250,000 is clearly understated as value for that property. If Mr Marchese is arguing that point, I'm afraid he's totally shortsighted and naïve with respect to property values on the island. You could have taken that money and invested it in any number of programs the province runs, but they chose not to do that. They chose to leave it as an enclave for the socialist élites of Metropolitan Toronto so they could have a place to live, compare socialist notes in the clubhouse, be subsidized across the island at the highest level and be given public, open space parkland as their home. For heaven's sake, they "kept their promise." Who are you keeping your promise to? Your socialist enclave friends.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I am surprised to hear my very good friend the member for Etobicoke West slowly edging towards the position of -- may I say it without offending him -- government apologist. I can remember when he was very vociferous and quite an independent-minded individual.

I know he must be very concerned about the contents of this bill, because I well remember his speeches in the Legislature and I admired him. When he got up there with fire in his eye and fire in his voice and vehemently put the case that he thought was most appropriate, I really admired that. I'm having a fear now that he's somehow edging his way back into the inner circle. I don't know whether it's the influence of the chief government whip, who is quite influential. He was prompting the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism just a little while ago. I don't know what it is.

I want to indicate that the new president of the press gallery is Richard Brennan, serving his sixth term; vice-president, Jeff Harder, Toronto Sun; vice-president, electronic, Raj Ahluwalia, CBC Radio; treasurer, Randy Rath, CHCH-TV in Hamilton. Congratulations also to Jim Coyle, columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, who coached the Cameroon soccer team for six-year-olds to the championship of the Pele soccer league.

I want to say as well that I appreciate the debate that's taking place here. For the new members of the Legislature, this is an example of a very difficult problem to resolve. This is probably one where every party wishes there wouldn't be a recorded vote this afternoon.

Mr Hastings: I'd like to go back to the comments made by the member for Yorkview regarding how this bill was introduced to the House and the lack of necessity for introducing it. If I heard him correctly, he was saying that this government could simply have resolved the problem through regulation. If that's so, then he'd probably be the first on his feet saying: "Why didn't you consult the Legislature? Why weren't you involved in debate on such an important subject?" Does that mean he advocates that you could do this in about every instance? I doubt it very much.

I'm glad to hear that the member for Yorkview at least supports some elements of the bill, but I'm a bit confused as to where his colleague from Oakwood is coming from, because I thought I heard on the first day of this debate that the member for Oakwood was not supportive of the bill. If that be the reality -- I hope I'm wrong -- then here we go again with two different positions on such a significant item of legislation as this. Can't you guys in the caucus get together and say hello to each other and debate the merits and come to a reasonable accommodation on this issue? Surely to goodness that's a simple thing to overcome.

I'm glad to hear the member for Yorkview recognizes that we have a problem regarding the assessment methodology we have to deal with in Metro Toronto, but I think this is not the forum in which to debate this particular item. The real focus ought to be on whether we have resolved most of the problems regarding the island homes and the capacity of the previous government to put a non-profit in a floodplain. That's the real issue.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Thank you. Your time is up.


Mr Sergio: I'm pleased to respond to some of the comments, especially to the member for Fort York. I don't blame him. How can I blame him? I think he's doing his job. He's supporting his constituents, therefore he's speaking in support of providing additional housing on the island.

What I'm concerned about is that he mentioned these are poor people. Well, if these are poor people, there are other ways and other places to accommodate perhaps more people with the same amount of money, instead of providing 110 units. We have just heard from the list that was provided that those are not poor people living on the island. They are people who have a cottage, if you will, on the island, which they live in at their whim. They also have a very expensive house across the lake on the mainland, within Metropolitan Toronto. So to the member, if you call those poor people, then I would say provide that affordable housing in many other locations within the city.

With respect to bringing peace and security to the island, I think this is the wish of everyone, but there is a way you can provide decent, clean, peaceful, affordable housing where you're not going to infringe on parkland, which is a sacrosanct right on behalf of all the people of Ontario. I think we should strive to make sure that parkland is always protected for the enjoyment of all the residents of Ontario and all the taxpayers of Ontario.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Leach has moved second reading of Bill 38. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

House in committee of the whole.


Consideration of Bill 38, An Act to amend the Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act, 1993 / Projet de loi 38, Loi modifiant la Loi de 1993 sur l'administration de la zone résidentielle des îles de Toronto.

The Second Deputy Chair (Ms Marilyn Churley): Are there any amendments, and if so, which sections?

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): I have two amendments: subsection 11(3) of the bill, subsection 17(12) of the Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act, and subsection 16(5) of the bill, subsection 22(14) of the Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act.

The Second Deputy Chair: Are there any questions, comments or amendments to sections 1 to 10?

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Madam Chair, if you could bear with me, from 1 to 10, I'm just very interested in noticing that the land title and interests acquired by the province under that subsection are being transferred. Was any consideration given to the clauses within that at the cost involved of abrogating those agreements? I just wanted to know if you could answer that for me.

Mr Shea: I think there would have to be a full appraisal done on the property. To my knowledge, there has not been a full cost evaluation done on that.

Mr Stockwell: Ballpark? Any idea? No ballpark?

Mr Shea: No.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I'm not sure this is the appropriate time to ask the question, but there was some dispute when I was listening to the debate yesterday about who paid for the ferry service. I'm wondering how that happens. If I could have clarification, I'd be happy.

Mr Shea: My understanding is that the current relationship is re-ceded and indeed we return to the former financial arrangements that existed prior to the deal. As you know, currently Metro is paying something in excess of $700,000 a year, but the arrangements will now return to the former payment for TTC. That includes ferry scheduling as well. But Metro will pay.

The Second Deputy Chair: Any other comments, questions, amendments? Seeing none, shall sections 1 through 10 stand as part of the bill? Carried.

Mr Shea: I move that section 11 of the bill be amended by adding the following subsection:

"(3) Section 17 of the act is amended by adding the following subsection:

"Transition, 1996 amendments

"(12) Despite the termination of the lease to the trust described in paragraph 2 of subsection 22(1) of the Toronto Islands Amendment Act, 1996, every land lease sold under this section before subsection 22(1) of that act comes into force is continued."

Mr Stockwell: What does that mean?

Mr Shea: In terms of resale, this clarifies that the existing land leases continue under this bill.

The Second Deputy Chair: Further questions or comments?

Shall the amendment carry? Carried.

Shall section 11, as amended, carry? Carried.

Are there any questions, comments or amendments on sections 12 through 15?

Mr Michael Brown: I'm looking at subsection 13(6), actually that whole section, and I'm wondering what the terms of the purchase are to be -- the terms of the lease is I guess the proper terminology -- under the financial terms the government's offering on these 12 lots. Is it the same as the previous, that the answer is, they will pay $1 a day for 99 years on the 12 lots?

The Second Deputy Chair: What section is your question on? Is it 12?

Mr Michael Brown: It's actually 13. You asked 12 through 15.

The Second Deputy Chair: First of all, can we dispense with section 12 before we move on to section 13? Are there any questions or comments on section 12? Carried.


Mr Michael Brown: I believe the parliamentary assistant did answer my question.

Mr Shea: Yes, it is as you --

Mr Michael Brown: Could he then tell me, are the names on the list the same list as was compiled earlier, or is there a new list? How does that happen?

Mr Shea: No. They're not the same names on the list.

Mr Michael Brown: Could you help me out in terms of how the new list is being determined?

Mr Shea: The new list is wiped out, and the trust in fact now establishes the mechanisms for the new list.

Mr Michael Brown: So I understand this, the composition of the trust is being changed in this act.

Mr Shea: Yes.

Mr Michael Brown: The government actually controls the majority of the appointments, so the government will in fact control the 12 names that will come on this list.

Mr Shea: I'm not prepared to go that second step, but I understand the point you're raising.

Mr Stockwell: That was a curious answer, but I'll move on.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): Whose side are you on?

Mr Stockwell: I'm on the side of right -- right in both senses.

My question is to the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The offers that are being made or tendered to the people on the list, and I understand there's more than 12 people on the list, will be enough money, as I understand it, to offset the losses that have been incurred by the board. On the losses that have been incurred by the board to date, it has been speculative at best as to the rationale of why those losses have been incurred.

Are we underwriting a mismanaged group of volunteers, how they've mismanaged government money and appropriated it, in my opinion, incorrectly, and thereby increasing the population in the housing stock on the island to underwrite that?

Mr Shea: You know the province has a $305,000 loan guarantee that the government wants to pay off. The number of lots that are indicated in the legislation before us says up to 12 and the government is attempting to at least deal with its guarantee and so this will wipe out that guarantee. It may, and I say may, leave some additional moneys to be used to help with some improvements, but that is something the trust will have to determine and report out later.

Mr Stockwell: Moving on from that question, the obvious next question is, why would we not, as the government, charge market rates for the properties?

Mr Shea: It's an interesting question, but I gather that from the staff's perspective, at the very least, you can't have two systems for resale. In fact, what they're trying to do is keep everything on exactly the same track, the same positioning.

Mr Stockwell: Are you suggesting that if we sold these for market rates, then when these leases expire, they wouldn't necessarily fall in to the government again, they would still be held in private ownership? And to further extend that -- so we're planning for basically 100 years in the future. We wouldn't want to get out of sync is what you're saying, in 100 years, and that's why we can't charge market rates.

Mr Michael Brown: I think I should pick up on the questions of my colleague the member for Etobicoke West and wonder, given the fact that we understand the government is opposed to co-op housing -- I think that's what they said -- given the fact that the government is appalled by the financial arrangements that were made -- that's what the government said -- and given the fact that the government believes in the free market -- so they say -- and given the fact that in Ontario when we have crown land for sale -- and I happen to be the MNR critic -- we generally look for the highest bidder, why is it different in this case and why does the government want to forgo that revenue?

Mr Shea: As you know, we have already established 250 leases, we're talking about up to 12 more, and I think the answer is pretty self-evident in that regard. We've certainly been left with a legacy that has to be dealt with in some way. The member in his comments earlier quite rightly said, as have other members of the House, that this is a matter we are attempting to deal with in a sensitive fashion and to deal with quickly in what we hope will now resolve this matter to the best benefit of everybody concerned. But with 250 leases that have already been dealt with one way, and up to 12, whatever that number may be, it seemed more than reasonable and appropriate that they should be dealt with in exactly the same fashion.

Mr Michael Brown: I'm having a little trouble following that logic in that the government was opposed, or so we're told, to the 250 leases already there. I'm just looking for a little consistency from the government. That might be a wrong thing to look for -- I see one of the members shaking his head -- but it does seem to me that this is an odd approach for the government to be taking. You're going to create a list; somehow some bureaucracy is going to decide who's on the list. You were opposed to having that method of selection followed before. Normally you would look to the free market to maximize the taxpayers' benefit here.

Mr Shea: I think my colleague knows that, in addition to my comment about the tracking of up to 12 and keeping it in the same consistency as the 250, the last government made deals that this government believes it cannot renege on, should not renege on. The cost of that would be quite prohibitive, and so it is honouring that arrangement.

Mr Michael Brown: Could you tell me then, seeing as the act specifically exempts the municipality of Toronto from any problems with building code violations, fire code violations etc, does the government require buildings that are now placed on those 12 new lots to be leased to conform with the building and fire regulations of the city of Toronto?

Mr Shea: What is happening to make sure there is a very clean start is that everything that is currently in place is ended and there's an entire new list that has started. The building code is to be fully enforced. Standards on the up to 12 lots, as well as the existing lots, will all be in conformity to the city of Toronto's standards.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Just some quick remarks: First, we are happy that the government has maintained or honoured much of what we did as a previous government. We think that was the right thing to do. It's the right balance this government has taken on this issue. I've disagreed with a number of amendments they have made, and I spoke on that publicly yesterday, but I know nothing will change as a result of those remarks.

I did want to say for the record that what the member for Etobicoke West said, that the money we will get as a result of building 12 lots goes into dealing with the mismanagement of those dollars, is inappropriate and wrong. None of those dollars were mismanaged and it's important for the record to say that's not the case.


Mr Stockwell: On a point of order, Madam Chair: Are we into debate at this point or are we in committee of the whole?

The Second Deputy Chair: We really should be sticking to section 13, which is the section we're dealing with right now. Thank you. Further questions or comments?

Mr Michael Brown: I found the parliamentary assistant's answer curious in regard to the fire and building code regulations. Could he help me and point out where in the act it doesn't exempt those particular properties?

Mr Stockwell: The explanatory notes, last paragraph.

Mr Michael Brown: Explanatory notes don't mean a thing.

Mr Shea: There is no exemption. If the question is, "Is there property that is exempted?" my answer is that there is no exemption. What is happening is that existing charges and so forth under the codes are now removed and everything starts again. The city of Toronto is to undertake a complete review of all the properties. All properties are to be brought up to the code of the city of Toronto, every one, including those in the future, and the up to 12 will be included in that as well. There is no exemption from that.

Mr Stockwell: I think I can help my friend. On page 7, subsections 33(2), (3) and (4) will exempt the city subject to the date the thing's enacted. Anything previous to that date will not be coded but anything after that date will be coded.

The Second Deputy Chair: Further questions or comments? Seeing none, shall sections 13 to 15 stand as part of the bill? Carried.

Mr Shea: I move that section 16 of the bill be amended by adding the following subsection:

"(5) Section 22 of the act is amended by adding the following subsection:

"Transition, 1996 amendments

"(14) Despite the termination of the lease to the trust described in paragraph 2 of subsection 22(1) of the Toronto Islands Amendment Act, 1996, every land lease sold under this section before subsection 22(1) of that act comes into force is continued."

This is the same kind of amendment as the previous one, but this deals with the resales.

The Second Deputy Chair: Questions or comments?

Mr Stockwell: This deals with the resales. So you're saying this is just housekeeping or technical, that it draws it in line with the existing units?

Mr Shea: Yes.

Mr Stockwell: Therefore, these existing units' leases will come due in 2092, at the same time as the previous 250 that were sold for a buck a day for 100 years?

Mr Shea: I recognize the heavy heart behind the question and I answer with the same.

Mr Michael Brown: This is a question of clarification on this section. It's probably here somewhere, but I haven't found it. Is it possible to resell a lease and does it have to be on the same terms? You can't profit from a lease, as I recall. Is that correct?

Mr Shea: Yes, that is correct.

Mr Michael Brown: So the land is subject to the lease for $1 a day for 100 years? The dwelling may increase in value and that could change the purchase price, but the land value cannot change in terms of the lease?

Mr Shea: Yes.

Mr Michael Brown: This is a really interesting thing, as members would know. I understand the government wanting to hold the lease as something not subject to profit. When you get a deal like this, you shouldn't be able to walk away with a cash bonanza either. But when you do that, it is quite conceivable that the dwelling is where you hide the increase in value. We from farm country know that a quota, for example, for milk is a very valuable commodity, although it's really not supposed to be. So you sell the cow and the quota is attached to it.

I'm suggesting to the parliamentary assistant that if what he's hoping to do here is to keep profiteering out of this rather lucrative land-lease arrangement, what arrangements are you making to make sure that it doesn't actually happen on the value of the dwelling?

Mr Shea: That is a good question and an obvious one. The appraisal is of course on the bricks and mortar only; it's not on the market value.

Mr Stockwell: This is another concern I had with respect to this flawed piece of legislation the socialists passed: It would turn this whole scenario into tantamount to key money. I think that was what my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin was driving at. I put the question to the parliamentary assistant as well. My concern is, and it was a concern at the time, yes, we've locked in the land leases on this deal at $30,000 or $40,000 for 100 years, but much like apartments in York and sometimes even in the city of Toronto, the key money is the key. So they'll pay $30,000, or that portion left in the lease, for the duration of that lease, but they'll give the owner, if there's 50, 60, 70 years left on it, $100,000 for the dwelling.

I would really be miffed, let me tell you, if an islander who paid us $30,000 for the property and dwelling for 100 years were to turn around 25 years from today and sell that lease back but take $100,000 in key money. Is that possible, do you think, in this bill? Why is that not possible, may be the real key question.

Mr Shea: That is why we have a list and that is in fact why the control will be deposited with the trust.

Mr Stockwell: And the composition of that trust is a majority of government appointments, and that way you're saying that there's no way the list can be abrogated; it's just there. The next one on the list gets the dwelling and they know what they have to pay.

Mr Michael Brown: I take what my colleague from Etobicoke West says with advisement. It's interesting that the government -- I think I suggested that the government will now control this trust. The difficulty we have is that governments change, appointments change and therefore lists may change. I think we're dealing with this issue right now. We should at least understand that what is the intention of the government may not come to pass. We're just looking for some assurance that both the people who are there now, the people who will come there and the broader public are all protected from profiteering, is what I'm suggesting.

Mr Shea: Truly, I understand the question being raised by my colleague. There is such a thing as the legislative prerogative and that is obviously one that flows from the decision of the people who elect the representatives in this House. I would hope that this has been laid to rest once and for all. I understand exactly the question that he is raising; I understand the issue that is being addressed by my colleague from Etobicoke West and I appreciate it, but I think we also recognize the legislative prerogative and I think the government now has presented what it thinks is the fairest and wisest course at this moment in time.

The Second Deputy Chair: Further questions or comments? Seeing none, shall the amendment carry? Carried.

Shall section 16 of the bill, as amended, carry? Carried.

Are there any questions, comments or amendments to sections 17 through 24? Shall sections 17 through 24 stand as part of the bill? Carried.

Shall the title carry?


Mr Stockwell: I just have a quick question on the title.

The Second Deputy Chair: On what?

Mr Stockwell: On the title. It's okay to be rather loose. I know you're loose in your interpretations because I saw the member for Fort York working on some section that had nothing to do with so -- I just want to go on the record that I am very concerned that these houses are going to stay here, that in 100 years there may be another socialist government in this province. Maybe that's an outside bet, I'm not sure.

The fact is, we've left an opening here and the opening is if the next government wants to come along and develop the island and put the housing back on the island and put the Flying Toad Co-op back on, it can happen. I would have much preferred if we had demolished the units and done away with it.

The Second Deputy Chair: Shall the title carry? Carried.

Shall the bill, as amended, carry? Carried.

Shall I report the bill, as amended, to the House? Carried.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): I move that the committee rise and report.

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

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.


Mr Hodgson moved second reading of Bill 36, An Act to amend certain acts administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources / Projet de loi 36, Loi modifiant certaines lois appliquées par le ministère des Richesses naturelles.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): Members may recall that this is a bill to amend legislation under three existing acts: the Game and Fish Act, the Provincial Parks Act and the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. These amendments will help the Ministry of Natural Resources deliver programs in a more cost-effective and efficient manner and assist us in better managing our natural resources.

For the first time in Ontario's history, amendments to the Game and Fish Act will protect Ontario's black bears by restricting hunting licences and prohibiting the sale of black bear parts, regardless of their origin. Profiting from animal parts in this way is not acceptable. There has been a growing public concern over the trade in black bear parts, gall bladders, paws and claws. Ontario has received increasing national and international media attention relating to this issue.

The amendment to the Game and Fish Act prohibits the sale and possession of black bear parts, regardless of their origin, and also has the support of key ministry stakeholder groups. Black bear populations in Ontario are healthy and capable of sustaining an annual harvest. The amendment to limit black bear hunters to one licence per year helps us establish a strategic conservation program to ensure that the population remains healthy.

Another problem we have addressed affects certain agricultural areas where deer numbers have remained high, despite harsh winter conditions and the impacts of hunting. The MNR will be working with the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and other agricultural groups to identify areas where more intensive control is required to alleviate nuisance deer problems. Adjustments will be made to the hunting seasons and bag limits where appropriate to help control this problem.

Farmers will be required to make every reasonable effort to control the nuisance deer problem through other means, such as fencing or the use or repellents. In those cases where such measures are not possible or fail, the MNR will allow farmers to harvest the deer themselves or to use an agent appointed by the ministry to do so.

The ministry is setting specific criteria to ensure the control of nuisance deer will take place under clearly established conditions and is consistent with ethical harvest practices. Carcasses of deer that have been shot will be considered crown property, and my ministry will be working with appropriate agencies to ensure the animals are disposed of in a manner that benefits society. One such initiative will involve the donating of fresh venison to food banks and other needy charities.

An additional amendment to the Game and Fish Act proposes that the Game and Fish Hearing Board, which hears appeals on the cancellation or issuing of commercial licences, be replaced by a hearing officer. This officer will have the same responsibilities as the board but with less administrative burden. Accountability to the minister will still remain. These amendments to the Game and Fish Act will help the government manage Ontario's wildlife more efficiently as we move to streamline ministry operations.

The amendments proposed for the Provincial Parks Act will result in increased delegation of authority of parks management, while broadening the government's ability to work with private partners to ensure the continued protection of our natural heritage. Provincial parks are a cornerstone of Ontario's commitment to ecological sustainability. I had the opportunity earlier this week to visit one of our finest parks, Sandbanks, in first-hand experience. They also generate benefits for the private sector as major tourist attractions and through consumer spending on outdoor equipment, recreational goods, rental accommodations and much more.

However, provincial parks have been operated traditionally on a deficit basis at a level that is no longer sustainable in the current financial situation. The proposed amendments will allow the government to operate its provincial parks program in a more businesslike manner.

The first amendment will enable Ontario parks to enter into agreements with any local entity. This proposed change will give parks management the authority necessary to enter into agreements with private partners. In addition, most park revenue and spending occur in a 120-day period each year. Given the short operating season, park management must have the flexibility needed to implement required changes in a timely manner.

The second amendment to the Provincial Parks Act therefore will allow the Ministry of Natural Resources to set fees and charges related to the operation of provincial parks. The current regulatory process is lengthy and inhibits park management's ability to set or modify fees and charges according to the local market conditions. The amendment will allow us to react more quickly to meet market trends.

The third provincial parks amendment will dedicate all revenues generated by the parks system to the operation of our parks. This move will go a long way to ensuring the continued viability and enhancement of Ontario's provincial parks. The parks' budgets will be dependent on the revenues generated, not on the capital. This money will be kept in a special account to earn interest to help the provincial parks program become more financially self-sufficient. Dedicated revenues will ensure Ontarians who use our parks system that their contributions will go directly into the maintenance of their parks. The protection component of the program will remain the government's financial responsibility. To make sure that the parks system is accountable to the people of Ontario, I will table an annual report on the provincial parks' operations.

Our fourth amendment will allow the Minister of Natural Resources to authorize any person to take on duties or powers that may be required to ensure the operation of a provincial park.

Taken as a whole, these amendments to the Provincial Parks Act mean that Ontario parks enjoy greater independence in their operations and financial matters, while continuing to ensure that our beautiful parks are protected and maintained, today and in the future, for the enjoyment and recreation of all those who use them in the province of Ontario.

The last three amendments are to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. One will ensure that forest management activities continue to be carried out on certain areas of crown land, the second is designed to facilitate enforcement of the act and the third to streamline regulations.

As I've said before, Bill 171 looked after the large forest companies. The changes we are making ensure that small operators are looked after as well. We are providing the needs of small operators in all our negotiations on management units.

With the first amendment, the Minister of Natural Resources will be able to enter into agreements with smaller operators to enable the ministry to perform certain forest management activities on their behalf. This amendment recognizes small operators may not have the capacity to employ full-time professionals to do such things as the preparation of a forest management plan or the gathering of forest inventory information related to their operations.


This amendment will provide smaller operators the opportunity to continue their operations, to participate more actively in forest management and to acquire the skills needed to operate in today's forests.

Another amendment under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act will make it an offence to prevent employees or agents of the Ministry of Natural Resources from carrying out appropriate searches or inspections as required under the act. This amendment would most likely be used in cases of unauthorized harvesting of crown wood or failure to accurately report the amount of forest resources which have been harvested. Without the amendment, those who are unwilling to comply with the act can prevent an officer from entering a mill, yard or any other place where the crown wood is stored or records are kept.

A third amendment to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act would allow the minister to set forest renewal and forestry future charges. Such charges are currently set according to regulations made by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. In the future, according to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, rates will be set on a unit-by-unit basis. However, under the current system the process would be cumbersome, as each unit would require its own regulation. The amendment we are proposing is consistent with the government's policies regarding unnecessary regulations. It will allow the Minister of Natural Resources to set unit-specific charges in a more efficient and businesslike manner.

The amendments that I have outlined will help ensure that the Ministry of Natural Resources continues to effectively manage wildlife in all areas of the province, to fulfil its forest management obligations, and to manage and promote provincial parks while protecting Ontario's natural heritage for present and future generations.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Questions or comments? Seeing none, further debate.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): We are presented here with an omnibus bill, another omnibus bill from a government that seems to use these on a rather regular basis dealing with a number of interesting concerns not necessarily related. As I look at this act, we see forestry addressed, the Game and Fish Act, provincial parks, and we wonder sometimes what you're trying to hide.

The minister makes these kind of warm and schmoozing sounds about how good this is for the province. He's just not the same member that I travelled the province with about a year or a year and a half ago as we held hearings on Bill 171, the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, the same minister who, when he was over here on this side of the House, was deathly opposed to the provisions of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act.

Ms Shelley Martel (Sudbury East): No. Get out.

Mr Michael Brown: Well, it's on the record. As we look at this, we discover that not only in that area is he now terribly supportive --

Ms Martel: Come on, give us some quotes.

Mr Michael Brown: I'm not going to, at least at this point, give the quotes, because I have some broader issues to deal with before that.

But I want to say to the minister that the increased search powers of the ministry is absolutely the opposite approach to what the minister took when he was out talking to the people of northern Ontario with myself and our colleagues in an all-party committee. I'm just kind of wondering, as we go talk to those folks, who were very concerned about the minister and the ministry encroaching unnecessarily or obtrusively -- and guess what; the minister gets to decide that -- in their affairs, how they will enjoy this. But that comes later in the speech.

I think really what I want to talk about is the almighty gall of a minister in a ministry that would cut its staff by over 2,000 individuals -- a full one out of five out of every layoff, every termination that was announced by this government some weeks ago is happening in the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Ms Martel: That is the point.

Mr Michael Brown: It is exactly the point that we want to talk about. How in the world does the minister have any credibility with northern people or with people across this province who are interested in the proper management of Ontario's natural resources when frankly we're not going to have anybody out there with the ability to enforce the regulations, enforce the acts and see to the interests of our natural resources?

The natural resources of Ontario have long been held as one of the most important factors in our quality of life. They have provided livings for countless generations of Ontarians. They have provided an opportunity to create wealth, to build. Many of the office towers we see in downtown Toronto come from the wealth of our forests or from our mines. As we contemplate that, we wonder how a ministry that is only a shadow of its former self will be able to protect the interests of Ontario in this regard. The conclusion I come to, and I think the only fair conclusion you can come to, is that the ministry has absolutely no intention any longer of safeguarding a legacy for the people of Ontario. It has become a privatization of our forests that boggles the mind. I don't think any of us could have comprehended that.

Just for a second I have to say this. My friends to the left, the former government, were in favour of Bill 171, the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. There is no question. At the time they proposed it, they told us not to worry; that the minister, although he had huge discretion, could decide virtually anything he wished under this legislation, could decide under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, without the review of this Legislature, to do virtually anything he wished; that the minister was a good fellow that we all knew well and he would do no wrong.

I pointed out at the time that even though the former minister may have had the confidence and may be a brilliant politician and may be all of those things, in spite of that, 40 or 50 years from now he was probably not going to be the minister and there might be another government and, another government with another view, and the bill that he had presented and that we took across northern Ontario dealing with forestry permitted the new minister or a new government to do exactly what this government is doing, to privatize northern Ontario. Mr Hodgson is providing us in this bill with but one amendment, or maybe two, that affect the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. The body of that act is essentially the same. The minister is using that to privatize the forest.

Why should that be a concern to us? Since the early 1980s, I believe, we have had management by large corporations of large sections of Ontario land. We have received the crown forest sustainability licence, which is the new version of the management of those private lands, and frankly, I think that's a good idea. We got good timber management, we're getting regeneration because of the trusts that were put in place, but the problem is that the mandate of the companies, which was previously really just to look after the timber interest, to look after what happens to the trees, how they're harvested, how they're regenerated, the care of the forests --

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I don't think the member is on topic with the legislation. I would ask you to rule on that.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Ted Arnott): I would caution the member to speak to the topic at hand.

Mr Michael Brown: I'd like to thank the Speaker for helping me out, but this is an act that deals with the Crown Forest Sustainability Act and therefore, even in the wildest imagination of my friend the member for Etobicoke West, I am on topic.


The problem with the crown forest sustainability licence and it was recognized at the time -- I see the former parliamentary assistant here today and he recognized the problem -- was: How do you deal with the crown management units? Because on those units, there are no large players -- well, I shouldn't say there aren't any, but there are few on those crown management units that have the ability to do the planning, to do the regeneration, to manage the forests in an effective way.

Traditionally, the ministry has always provided those services. It is a service that has been provided and decided by the ministry. Then someone would go and harvest the timber in that area and then someone else, usually, would go in and do whatever silviculture and regeneration would occur. So the problem with Bill 171, the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, was: How do you deal with these crown management units?

The suggestion, I think at the time, the government put forward was that the loggers would form co-ops. Well, some loggers have, and that's to their benefit. They got to the critical mass where they could do the planning, they could do the silviculture, they could do the regen, they could do what needed to be done. But the vast bulk of those crown management units, Mr Speaker, as you would know, have not fallen into that category.

When we were in, I believe it was Thunder Bay on the previous hearings -- and the minister would know this -- we had a rather colourful logger in front of the committee, and he was asked: "Do you think that the loggers will form co-ops?" Actually a member of the government at the time asked him, "Well, why don't you just form a co-op?" He said -- and this is a direct quote -- "If you get 20 independent loggers in a room, you do not get a co-op; you get a fight," and I look around at some of the northern members and they're nodding their heads. We all have knowledge of our constituents to the effect that what he said is the absolute truth. Co-ops are not necessarily always the answer.

It boggles the mind to think that it actually could have worked in all cases. But what the minister is proposing here is that after a huge increase over the last five years in stumpage, in area fees, in all the costs involved in revenues to the government, now the crown will charge those loggers an additional fee, after having paid huge increases, to manage the forests. Well, this absolutely boggles the mind. These enterprises, which employ a lot of my constituents and a lot of the constituents of many of the members I see here today, are not what you would call extraordinarily wealthy organizations. They employ a lot of people; they have a lot of expensive capital equipment; but, boy, the profit margins are very narrow, and they've been stretched to limit by the increased cost of government fees, licences, permits, you name it.

Many of them are on the brink of financial disaster, and that's just the way it is. To go to them now and to say to them, "Well, we're going to give you the opportunity to pay more money for something you already get," is outrageous. You know what I think this particular measure is actually in place for? It isn't in place, as the minister says, "to protect the small logger"; it is to eliminate the small logger. I think the small logging companies in northern Ontario are going to be pushed out of business by the management fees by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

I want to tell the minister that that is what he's contemplating, and I know that, because the Ministry of Natural Resources -- and I've had this information from companies in my area -- told the larger companies: "If you need more timber supply, forget it. We can't allocate any more. The way to get that supply if you need it for your mills is to buy out the small guys. Buy them out; get your supply that way."

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): And they're doing it.

Mr Michael Brown: Yes, they're doing it. That's exactly what they're doing. The member for Algoma would know as well as I do that that's what's going on and that's the ministry's direction. But there may be some people out there who aren't falling in line. They're not being purchased by the larger companies. So what we'll do is put even more pressure on these financially marginal enterprises and charge them even more. We will force them to either amalgamate with others or sell out to the majors. I wish the minister would just come forward and say to us clearly that that's his intention, because his intention to come in here and tell us, "The opportunity to pay a fee will keep you in business," is really outrageous. It is totally something we can't understand.

One of the things in the forest industry that we value is our sustainability, and the sustainability can only be determined by government. The only enterprise that is surely to be around tomorrow and in future generations is government. Private enterprises are driven by the bottom line, as they should be, and we fully understand that. The responsibility for protecting Ontario's resources needs to be protected by the ministry or by government. It is the only organization with a time line anywhere near what a tree's time line is.

If that's the case, the plans that are developed by the larger companies and the ministry itself have to be comprehensive enough and well planned enough to provide Ontarians with an assurance that the forest will be sustainable as a commercial entity. Ontarians also want to know that the forest will be diverse and will support many of the values.

I think of the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association, for example; I think of canoeists; I think of people in my riding who have the hunt camps and various crown leases. I think of all the uses of our forests and I think of the environment and our ecological systems. When you have a look at all of those, I think what this government is intending to do is to turn all of that management directly over to the private companies. I think that is the case.

Some members might be interested to know this: The private companies do not want to do this. The private companies believe they do not have the resources or the expertise, and they do not want to feel that they're the fall guys if something goes wrong.

Over the past 10 years in this province -- probably even longer; over the past 20 years -- we have seen a remarkable change in forestry in Ontario. We have seen environmental practices, regeneration practices that have put Ontario at the forefront. We still have a ways to go, but the improvement of companies in managing their timber resources has been quite astounding over the last 20-year period.

In that context, they are quite happy, but they are not very sure they have any ability to manage for the fish in our streams and lakes, manage for the moose, the deer, the black bear. They don't believe that should be downloaded to them. That is not their area of expertise; they don't pretend to be experts in that field. There's a growing concern that those very forest companies whose business is to harvest timber, to make paper, to make sawlogs, don't have the ability to manage wildlife resources, for example, in an appropriate way. I sympathize with them. I don't really understand how they can take their expertise and expand it in a way that would permit the management of wildlife diversity and all those other issues -- old-growth forest, all those kinds of things -- that, while the forest companies quite readily agree are important, they don't see how they themselves can make those decisions on.


Now we have a situation. The forest companies really don't want to do this, because they quite clearly don't believe that it's their responsibility or that they have the expertise. They need the Ministry of Natural Resources. But where's the Ministry of Natural Resources? Try to find them. Northern town after northern town is losing its offices. The ministry which we used to call the imperial authority of the north will pretty much be no authority in the north because it doesn't have the people to be out there making the management decisions that need to be made.

That's why I find the sections involving forest sustainability to be particularly difficult in the context of where the ministry is going overall. I cannot imagine that the people of Espanola, Gogama, Chapleau or Dubreuilville will be pleased with the management that they have of their forests both in terms of their jobs and their recreation and the long-term ecosystem by way of what is happening to the Ministry of Natural Resources today.

In that context, I also want to bring in one of the interesting things the Ministry of Environment and Energy is doing these days. The Ministry of Environment is using the EBR registry -- that's the Environmental Bill of Rights registry -- to pose to Ontario that they are reviewing all 80 regulations involving the environment in Ontario. I know you have a special interest in that, Madam Speaker.

But do you know what? As important -- not more important, but as important -- as those regulations are the regulations of the Ministry of Natural Resources; at least as important. We are not seeing those regulations on the EBR registry. At least I haven't seen them; I don't believe any member has seen them. No one knows what the plan is for the Ministry of Natural Resources in terms of changing its regulations.

I have in my hand the changes in 1996 requirements for fire permits, for example; maybe not a big deal, but maybe a big deal. In those changes in regulations, we're seeing quite a difference in the way they were approached. There will be permits required in far fewer situations. Maybe that's fine, but maybe it isn't. I believe the people of Ontario were not consulted about this whatsoever.

After having gone through one of the worst fire seasons we've seen last year, I think the people in my area would be somewhat concerned about fire permits and fire regulations. I think my constituents would want to know that the Ministry of Natural Resources is still going to monitor this situation and is going to do what it can to diminish the number of fires we have in northern Ontario. Last year, we even had a ministry fire get out of control; that's how bad it was.

For the ministry to relax these permit situations without going out and asking, "Does that make sense? Is this a sensible reduction? Is this a sensible relaxation of fire permits?" is quite remarkable, because at the same time we are losing attack bases, forest firefighting bases. I have a list here somewhere; I believe around 12 or 15 bases will be closed.

Ms Martel: It's 17 out of 19.

Mr Michael Brown: Seventeen. Sorry, I didn't count fast enough. Seventeen out of 19 forest firefighting bases are being closed. So here we are. We're saying that fires are going to be permitted on a much more relaxed basis in our forests. We're saying our ability to attack those forest fires when they do break out -- and as everybody knows, the key to getting one out is to get it early and fast. You can't wait. If you wait, you're in big trouble; you've got to get them early. We're eliminating 17 out of 19 forest fire attack bases. You see that and you say, what kind of commitment is that to the forests of northern Ontario? What kind of sustainability will our resource have when we don't have people to fight the fires in the right positions and when we're loosening the permits for setting fires in the first place? Maybe, just maybe, it won't rain all summer and maybe we're going to have a big problem.

What does the minister suggest in this fashion? Nothing, absolutely nothing. He doesn't put his regulations in the EBR so people can comment on his changes before he makes them. I think that's outlandish, unreasonable and a detriment to good public policy in the province. Instead, he comes in with a bill that permits the ministry to charge private operators more money to operate in the forests of Ontario. That's his contribution. I find that totally unreasonable -- just not on.

I'm going to leave forests for a moment and move on to some of the other issues that are also important, because of course my time is severely limited this afternoon. We'll come to the fish and game amendments.

I should point out to the government that we are in favour of its amendments dealing with bear parts. Every Ontarian should applaud the government -- listen to this -- applaud the government for putting forward this regulation. Trafficking in bear parts is something that none of us wants to happen. There was, under the old act, a little latitude that nobody expected, and that basically came from the point that you couldn't sell them if they were shot in Ontario or came from Ontario, but they could have come from somewhere else; there's some idea that trafficking could occur, but of course no one ever really knows where the bear was actually killed. This clears up a problem, and we're glad the government has cured that problem.

We're also happy that the government has addressed the issue of nuisance deer. Anybody who comes from Manitoulin Island knows this is a major problem and that farmers and land owners should have some ability to deal with nuisance deer if that's necessary. On Manitoulin Island, we have far more deer than we have people. It's a tremendous problem for motorists. It's a tremendous problem for farmers in their fields. I have one farmer who really believes he feeds about 500 deer most of the year, and he's probably correct. This will help, so we agree with that.

With that little bit of applause, I'll move on.

Provincial parks: The most important part of our natural legacy is our provincial parks system, something every Ontarian values in terms of preservation of our natural and environmental history. What this government is doing with provincial parks is absolutely unacceptable to the people of Ontario and I believe to the world community.


I was recently at a news conference held by the World Wildlife Fund. People would know them. They have the little logo of the panda. It's a very well respected organization. In 1989 they started a campaign called Endangered Spaces. I'll say that again; it's Endangered Spaces. Some people think it's endangered species, but that's not the case. It's Endangered Spaces. It is a campaign to set aside representative ecologies, ecosystems, across Canada by the year 2000. I just want to read from their press release.

"The World Wildlife Fund Canada handed out its annual Endangered Spaces campaign report card today and failed the government of Ontario" -- failed the government of Ontario -- "for their efforts to protect natural areas over the past year.

"This is the sixth year that the annual Endangered Spaces progress report has been published. Ontario's F" -- they didn't have a lower mark or we probably would've gotten it -- "was the only one of two failing grades this year. The other one went to New Brunswick. The highest grade awarded was an A to Nova Scotia, which this year set aside 31 new sites, and to British Columbia, which established 62 new parks.

"The federal government received a C for its efforts to protect terrestrial areas. Alberta" -- Ralph Klein's Alberta -- "which received an F last year, was awarded a B, the second-highest mark in the country. For the first time, progress on the protection of Canada's distinct marine regions was also assessed.

"Ontario's F grade is a drop from the D-plus it received in last year's report. WWF noted that very little has been accomplished during the past year towards meeting the goal of a network of protected areas representative of each of the province's natural regions by the year 2000. This was especially disappointing because the Endangered Spaces campaign goal was explicitly endorsed by Ontario Premier Mike Harris during the 1995 election and is strongly supported by Ontarians.

"Ontario began this campaign" -- I want you to listen to this; the campaign began in 1989 -- "as a national leader. It is now falling behind at an alarming pace. This year's F grade recognizes that not one new site was protected to Endangered Spaces campaign standards since the release of last year's progress report" -- not one.

"In addition, the proposed dissolution of conservation authorities in southern Ontario and changes to the Planning Act will mean increased loss of already rare wetlands, forests and ravines.

"This year's report card reflects a tremendous disparity in the extent to which different governments are honouring their commitment to the Endangered Spaces campaign. Ontario could learn a great deal from Alberta's turnaround, especially given the similarity in political philosophies."

That statement is from a reputable group, one of the most reputable environmental groups I know of, one that's worthy of the support of most Ontarians. Well, it's worthy of support of all Ontarians, but it has the support of the great majority of Ontario people.

I suggest to the government that its closing of parks in this province -- and we are getting updated lists on the number of parks. I would like to stand here and say there are 17 parks closed, there are 20 parks closed -- well, I wouldn't like to say it, but I would like to know for sure that's what I meant. It is not the case. On a daily basis, we are finding new parks being closed in this province. The Minister of Natural Resources is closing Ontario's parks. That is what he's doing, and I do not believe that the people of Ontario elected a Conservative government to close down their provincial parks.

He seems to believe he should only keep open those that pay. That's what this legislation's about, because this legislation permits the privatization of those that will pay. I'm afraid what we're going to get when you use that kind of criterion is the private sector looking at our parks and deciding that instead of natural resources treasured by all Ontarians, what they really are is some kind of Disney World, because the private sector, as it should, will want to make some money. The private sector knows that to make money, you need more services that you charge people more money for; the private sector knows that what you want to do is maximize the number of people in the parks, and that is the opposite of the philosophy of provincial parks. Provincial parks are there for the enjoyment of Ontarians, but primarily to protect our natural and environmental legacy. That's what they're there for.

Recreation-class parks, and they're great parks, are not like KOAs; they're different. They don't supply the same kinds of amenities. I think many members here would be very concerned if our provincial parks turned into KOAs. If you want a KOA, go to a KOA. They're great parks, wonderful, but they're not what the provincial government wants to maintain. I don't think that's our business.

When you look at the conservation authorities closing parks across this province because they have no choice, and the provincial parks system being reduced and then privatized, I'm very concerned that our legacy is being eaten away bit by bit. When Tuesday comes along and we see the real budget numbers around this place, I think we will be even more appalled at what happens to Ontario's parks, wildlife, environmental protection, environmental regulation and natural resource regulation.

It's very difficult, as you look through this seemingly, as the minister calls it, housekeeping bill -- I think you would find that the Minister of Natural Resources is completing a process of turning our natural resources over to people who have the profit motive. That is what drives them.

I don't think that in the long-term interest of Ontarians this is what we want to have happen. Forest companies don't want that to happen; people who work in the forests don't want it to happen. Surely my friends at the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters don't want that to happen. Surely we want to maintain full access to crown lands across this province; surely we want our wildlife to be looked after; surely we want to look after habitat protection; surely we want our wetlands to be protected; surely we want our spawning beds to be protected.

This legislation and the actions of the minister are essentially saying that this is no longer any business of the government of Ontario. I think you folks over there on the Conservative benches would do well to reflect about what your constituents believe in these issues because, as the World Wildlife Fund says, it is clearly, even in Alberta, a far greater priority than it is in Ontario.

I would suggest to you that this bill and the overall direction of the ministry are absolutely unacceptable to the people in this province. If you want to fight an election campaign on these issues, let's go, because there wouldn't be much of a contest.

I've talked about this bill in those contexts but not in terms of economic development in northern Ontario. Where do you think 45% of the people in the Ministry of Natural Resources live? Some of them are here in southern Ontario, but the vast majority are spread through northern Ontario. Roughly 85% of northern Ontario is crown land. These people are in charge of that huge expanse of land. Northern Ontario is 90% of Ontario. This part of the province is just a little blip on the map compared to northern Ontario, and these people in the Ministry of Natural Resources for generations have taken their responsibilities seriously and have been as good stewards as they possibly could have been in the circumstances across all of northern Ontario, and they deserve our support. The communities they live in deserve our support.


What you are doing here in this bill and in your actions is destroying communities, destroying the ability of communities to deal with the crown land that surrounds them, because everyone who lives in northern Ontario knows that if you want to have input you can go and talk to MNR and they're usually not very far away. Well, they just got a lot farther away is what's happening here, and your friends you used to curl with, maybe you hunted with, maybe you went fishing with from MNR are now not going to be there either. It is going to be an attack on the fabric of northern Ontario communities that is unacceptable to all of us.

I can't understand -- this minister is also the Minister of Northern Development -- how he does not understand by fully taking one out of every five job terminations in the province in his ministry, that this is not going to have a real impact on northern people, on northern communities, on northern jobs, and it is absolutely outrageous.

I want to tell you how bad this is. The day the World Wildlife Fund put out these press releases, the ministry, I guess trying to show what a bunch of wonderful conservationists they really are, announced a partnership for $4 million with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. That's very nice. The Nature Conservancy of Canada does a lot of nice things, but many of us are suspicious that the reason for that partnership is to buy from the conservation authorities the land they are going to have to put up for sale, because the minister has taken 70% of their funding away.

Much of the land the conservation authority has was donated to them by good-hearted people in the community who wanted to preserve land. I think maybe the nature conservancy is now going to buy land from a conservation authority that needs to sell the land that was given to it to pay the bills now. It's absolutely recycling in the weirdest sort of way. You're recycling donated dollars. When you're in trouble, get another group to buy some land for you. Mr Hodgson seems to be encouraging this kind of abuse of the volunteer sector.

As we stand here, it just absolutely boggles my mind. I don't know how my good friend from Victoria-Haliburton can believe that what he's doing could be by any stretch of the imagination in the interests of the people of Ontario or the people of the north in particular.

I maybe should start looking at the Hansard at this point, because there were some interesting things said. This is a strange thing, as you look through. There's a history to this place that's got -- aha, Mr Hodgson. I want to talk about these new fees; I seem to have gotten his attention. He said back in a legislative debate on 6 December, 1994, on third reading of Bill 171 that he's now adding additional fees to:

"Stumpage fees are already going up...on top of this; this is the new business relationship I'm referring to. Under your own estimates, I'm assuming this...cost-benefit analysis...was given to the cabinet. It wouldn't be on the revenue side to show what impact this legislation will have on the MNR."

In other words, what the minister's saying here is this is just a revenue grab; it's got nothing whatever to do with the natural resource. He was right; it was a revenue grab.

He said, "This bill is basically window dressing for the doctors of spin." That's what he said about it. That's the bill he's now very proud of, he's going to enforce. He said: "It's window dressing for the doctors of spin... It's another example of trying to be all things to all people and defining nothing. I don't know how they've done it, but the environmental people, the people in the industry, the people who are concerned with research and development are closer...in a consensus than this government is." And that was true. For these reasons he did not support the bill. But the fact is, nothing has changed.

Those groups actually have I think a better idea of the direction that you should go. But you are seeing this as a cash grab, as a way to put people out of business, as a way to take jobs from northern Ontario, as a way to put our legacy in the forests at risk, as a way to make your bottom line as a government look better so you won't really have to tell the people you're about to borrow $20 billion so you can give certain individuals in this province an absolutely outrageous tax break. That's what you're sacrificing.

I know in my constituency that tax break isn't going to help a lot of people. We don't have a lot of people in the kind of bracket that you have. I represent, unfortunately, some of the lowest-income areas in the province, indeed in Canada. Our people would just love to be in the kind of category to be paying big income tax, but they're not, and therefore when income tax is cut, they will receive very little of that money.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): But they're good people.

Mr Michael Brown: They're good, hardworking people who this government is working very hard to take their jobs away from. I implore the minister, stick up for natural resources at the cabinet table. Tell them they're important. Tell Mike Harris, who is supposedly a northerner, that you can't do this. Nobody wants the Ministry of Natural Resources to be out of business, and you essentially have put them out of business, just a shadow of their former self.

I really wonder how my friends at the anglers and hunters are going to view this when they understand two or three years from now -- and it's going to take two or three years to bang down through the system to where the rubber really hits the road, when they find out that their wetlands, where they were hoping their wildlife, their waterfowl would breed, are no longer being protected in a meaningful way. I wonder what they're going to think when the minister hasn't acted on my resolution to deal with ATVs -- I just thought I'd throw that in, Chris -- also a resolution that you supported while you were over on this side of the House.

Mr Wildman: For that matter, in terms of forestry, how would Leo Bernier feel about the ministry these days.

Mr Michael Brown: That's a whole other question, Mr Wildman.

I think I'm going to wind up my comments now. We will obviously have a great deal more to say in this debate because it affects northern communities in very intense sorts of ways that can only begin to be imagined today. The forests of Ontario employ over 60,000 people either directly or indirectly and provide us with billions of dollars of export revenue. The forests of Ontario maintain good jobs for the people in Espanola, the people at St Marys Paper in Sault Ste Marie, the people in Kapuskasing, the people all across northern Ontario, and surprisingly they provide a great number of jobs here in southern Ontario as they secondarily reprocess many of the fibres here.

I think the minister has to come to the realization that this ministry is too important to be relegated to a third-class position. It is totally outrageous that the minister would bring forward a bill that he calls an omnibus bill, changes several different acts, and tells us it's housekeeping. The policy that informs it is far more than housekeeping. It is to the detriment of the province and it is to the detriment of the people of northern Ontario.

With that, I'll yield the floor to colleagues who wish to participate in the debate.


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

Ms Martel: I would like to just comment on the remarks that were put forward by the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, and I want to start where he was finishing, which was the impact in northern communities of the MNR cuts.

Fully 20% of all of the cuts that are occurring across the public service in the next two years are occurring at the Ministry of Natural Resources. Some 45% of those cuts will occur in northern Ontario, yet we have less than 10% of the population in our special part of the province.

In terms of communities, that means, for example, in Temagami, where you have a population of 900, some 50 MNR jobs to be lost from that community. That will completely devastate that community. In the community of Cochrane, with a population of 4,000, you will have 42 people losing their jobs, 30 families to be affected. The town council has estimated that will take in excess of $2 million out of that community by those job losses. Surely the minister has to start to understand the impact of these cuts in our special part of the province, because in community after community in northern Ontario the result will be devastation in terms of job loss, families having to move, and for those who are left to try and pick up the pieces, a very difficult time indeed to try and do that.

The other point I want to focus on is the fact that this minister seems to think the government no longer has any responsibility when it comes to the protection of the natural resources of this province, resources which belong to all of the people who live in this province. By the cuts alone, the ability of the government to protect fish and game and other wildlife and to protect timber resources is being put at risk. It's the responsibility of government, this government, to ensure those resources are protected for all of the people. This minister has got to start to assume some of that responsibility.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for his applause and support of this bill as it relates to the Game and Fish Act.

I'd like to as well perhaps just take a minute to speak to a concern he expressed regarding the effect that the amendments to the Crown Forest Sustainability Act would have on the smaller loggers. Contrary to the member's view of the ability of the small business people in northern Ontario to cooperate, I'd like to take this opportunity to let him know that this is a welcome change and is one that we entered into as a result of consultation with these people. Very soon we will be announcing, as a matter of fact, a very successful initiative as a result of this opportunity for cooperation among some of the smaller licensees. So it's with that in mind that I want to reconfirm for the member that the changes we're proposing through this act will augur very well for northern Ontario and for the economy of northern Ontario.

With regard to the comments the member made about endangered spaces, I'd like to remind the member that as a result of government over the last 10 years by his party and the previous NDP, all of Ontario was an endangered space. We're going to do what we can to turn that around for the province of Ontario and make sure we put policies in place that will once again put Ontario back on track.

Mr Crozier: I would like to rise for a minute or so in support of my colleague the member for Algoma-Manitoulin and his comments, and just to point out that I represent the most southerly riding in the province of Ontario. An awful lot has been said today about concern of what this bill may do to northern Ontario, so I want to say to my colleagues and friends on both sides of the House that we support the preservation of natural resources in northern Ontario, and fortunately we have a couple of small provincial parks down our way, but I think of Algonquin Provincial Park. I would never want to know it as Algonquin Private Park.

I think of Wheatley Provincial Park down my way. What a tragedy it would be if we had to call it Wheatley Private Park. This government and governments of all stripes have an obligation in certain areas, and certainly when it comes to protecting our natural resources, when it comes to providing safe, clean recreational areas, it's the responsibility of government. I'm afraid the direction we see this government going in is that of abdicating that responsibility, and it saddens me.

Mr Wildman: I'd just like to congratulate my friend the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for his presentation and indicate that I have similar sentiments with regard to the changes to the Game and Fish Act, but I want to express sincere and heartfelt concern about two matters.

The first is the ability -- or frankly, the inability -- of the Ministry of Natural Resources to meet its very important mandate with regard to managing the resources as a result of the cuts that have been made by this government. I note that the ministry says, "MNR remains committed to its vision of sustainable development and its mission of ensuring the ecological sustainability of Ontario's natural resources." What a joke. The ministry says, "MNR will focus on developing resource management policies, standards and guidelines and will enforce them." What a joke. If you lay off most of the staff, you are not going to have the kind of staff required to ensure that guidelines are carried out and to enforce them. You're not going to be able to monitor what happens and what's being done in the private sector.

The other issue I want to raise is similar to what my friend the member for Sudbury East said: the effect of these cuts in northern Ontario and the inability of the ministry to carry out its mandate to properly manage our resources. Small communities in northern Ontario are absorbing 45% of the cuts, and the minister has the gall to get up and say that because 55% of the cuts are in southern Ontario, he's favouring the north. The north has 10% of the population of this province. We're absorbing almost half the MNR cuts. The part of the province that has 80% to 90% of the population is absorbing 55% of the cuts. What equity is that? What are you doing to favour northern Ontario? You're not doing a damned thing for northern Ontario.

Mr Michael Brown: I appreciate the interventions of the members for Sudbury East, Algoma, York-Mackenzie and of my good friend the member for Essex South.

I want to address some comments of the member for York-Mackenzie, which I thought were strikingly interesting. There are cooperative arrangements being made. We knew that; there were some being made before and there continue to be. My point is that the large majority of crown management units will not fall into this particular situation. You will have successes; certainly northern people do cooperate, but often it is not something that is very likely to happen.

Most offensive, from what I heard from the member for York-Mackenzie, is that this government is proud of getting an F from the World Wildlife Fund. This was a campaign promise by the Premier. Mike Harris said explicitly that he endorsed the Endangered Spaces campaign. Mr Klees, the member for York-Mackenzie, says the actual policy of the Ministry of Natural Resources and of the treasury benches is: "Rape, pillage, plunder. Forget about regulations. Forget about enforcement. Forget about maintaining a quality of environment and a quality of natural resources in this province, because we can't afford it."

You know what? We cannot afford not to. We need those resources. They are a legacy. We have seen an environmental deficit in the forests of Ontario. We need to redress that balance. We can have a strong industry. The industry recognizes that they can be in the forefront, and frankly are in the forefront, of environmental protection, but this government is going to destroy even them.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Ms Martel: I want to begin my remarks here today, and I will be carrying on next week, to say that while I intend to participate in this debate, I really am truly amazed that the priority bill for the Minister of Natural Resources, the one that he is bringing into the House today, is one which really is a housekeeping matter but needs to be very much contrasted against the massive layoffs that are occurring in your ministry at this point in time.

You have brought forward a bill today which talks about protection of natural resources and through that amends a number of acts which allegedly will allow that to happen. But the fact of the matter is, when you have 2,100 people coming out of your ministry over the next two years, the remaining staff will be completely incapable of protecting the resources of this province, no matter how badly they want to.

I must say that this being your priority today, in light of the massive layoffs that are occurring, reminds me of the position the Minister of Education and Training found himself in in this House about three weeks ago. In light of layoff notices going to thousands and thousands of teachers across many boards right across this province, we have the priority of the Minister of Education and Training being a bill to establish the College of Teachers. At the same time that we know there is going to be a tremendous negative impact in classrooms right across this province, from the elementary panel right through to post-secondary education, we've got the minister standing in his place and putting forward as the government's education priority a bill to establish the College of Teachers.

We have here today that same kind of bizarre decision by this minister that he will put forward this bill, that he will come proudly to this House today and put it forward, and at the same time we have happening out in the province thousands and thousands of layoffs that will occur that will put all of the natural resources which government is supposed to protect at risk.

I have to say to the minister, I'm sure he is proud to be here today to be moving this bill and I'm sure that a number of very good people in the ministry have spent some time trying to put it together. But surely you ought to be here today hanging your head in shame for being the minister who is now gutting the Ministry of Natural Resources, presiding over that very gutting of the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the minister who will make it impossible for the staff who remain two years from now to do anything whatsoever to protect the natural resources of the province which belong to all the people.

Really, that is what I intend to talk about today, because I think this issue is so important and it contrasts so greatly against a bill which you say is going to protect resources.

What I find interesting is that it's this minister who is presiding over a real loss in his ministry. Fully 20% of all of the cuts that are occurring across the public sector are occurring in your ministry. It's not as if the minister, when he wants to, cannot lobby. All of the members of this House were here last week when it became very clear that the Minister of Education and Training cut a special deal for the Minister of Natural Resources to help him in his board and to help the board in his riding that was suffering from very severe cutbacks. Many other boards across this province are also facing very severe cutbacks. The minister went to lobby his friend the Minister of Education and Training and got him to cut a special deal, and now some other boards are going to benefit from this special deal because this matter came to light.

I have to say that I find it passing strange that on the one hand, when it comes to his ministry and protection of his ministry staff and his ministry budget, the minister is quite prepared to toe the government line around deficits and deficit reduction and the need to get control of the debt, but when it comes to dealing with those cuts head-on in his riding, he runs for cover and then he runs for help, and he runs for help to the Minister of Education and Training and gets him to put together a special little sweetheart package that will not have the same level of cuts applied to his board as was going to be applied to every other board across the province.

I have to say, if you are so interested in protecting your riding -- and you should be; all of us want to do that -- how can you stand in your place today and at the same time use deficit and debt reduction as an excuse to gut your ministry. I don't understand how you can do that.

There's one other point I want to raise in this regard. I think it's interesting that there are 17 out of 19 fire bases being closed by this ministry --

Hon Mr Hodgson: Forty-five.

Ms Martel: Excuse me. We got the list from your ministry that outlines all of the MNR facilities. We got a list after April 12 from the Ministry of Natural Resources listing all of the MNR facilities, and on that particular list, community by community, was a listing of what the facility was and whether it was going to remain open or whether it was going to be closed, and we assume from that list that that is a complete list, because that's what we got from your ministry to talk about the cuts. On that list, it showed 17 of 19 fire bases being closed. There are two that are going to remain open. Madam Speaker, can you guess which two are going to remain open? The first is in the Minister of Finance's riding, the riding of Parry Sound, and his fire base is going to have the privilege of being kept open and those fine staff are going to have the privilege of continuing to work for the Ontario government. Guess where the other fire base is, Madam Speaker. Let me tell you. It is in the minister's own riding. In the riding of Victoria-Haliburton, the fire base is being kept open. Only two across the province: one in the Minister of Finance's riding and the other in the minister's riding.

Hon Mr Hodgson: It has always been. It's central; look at the map.

Ms Martel: I can only say to the minister, if that isn't correct, then you had better give us all of the information, because we asked your ministry for all of the cuts of all of the MNR facilities, and the list that was provided to us showed 17 of those bases closing, two of them remaining open, and those two in the minister's own riding and the Minister of Finance's riding.

It is clear to me that when the minister really wants to lobby, he is quite capable of doing so. The unfortunate reality is that he's not prepared to lobby on behalf of a ministry, in fact two ministries, because I'll include northern development and mines in this, which are terribly important and terribly significant to the people in the special part of the province where I live, and it's a real shame that he's not prepared to do that except when it comes to his own riding, except when he's trying to protect interests in his own riding, except when he's trying to make sure that he doesn't have to take a lot of flak for the government cuts in Victoria-Haliburton.

I want to deal first of all with the change around the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. There are five amendments that are being put forward. The first one, which is the most significant, was one that the member for York-Mackenzie referenced, and I want to read into the record exactly what the change is, so I'm quoting from the amendments that have been put forward by the government:

"Subsection 27(3) of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, 1994 is repealed and the following substituted:


"(3) The minister may enter into an agreement with the holder of a licence under this section in respect of,

"(a) renewal and maintenance activities necessary to provide for the sustainability of the crown forest in the area covered by the licence; or"

And this is the new part that's being added:

"(b) obligations of the licensee that will be performed by the minister in return for payment of a fee."

I called the Ministry of Natural Resources because I wanted to be clear on what this change was and to very clearly understand whether or not this was a new fee that would be applied to users of the forest. I was told by Ministry of Natural Resources staff that the intent of this particular change is to now charge new fees to small operators who operate on the crown management units. What they said to me was that now, on those units that are operated under sustainable licences, it's the big companies which pay for the cost of forest management and forest planning, but on the crown units it's ministry staff who do that, so that is a free service the small operators enjoy. Now, however, those small operators are going to be paying fees for forest management, for all the work currently undertaken by Ministry of Natural Resources staff.


I have to say to the member for York-Mackenzie who, when he stood up to respond to the comments made by the member for Algoma-Manitoulin said, and I'm quoting, "This will be helpful to northern Ontario." I have to say to you, sir, tell it to the small operators, because they won't believe you. Tell it to the small, independent loggers that this is somehow going to be helpful to them. They won't believe you.

The fact of the matter is, your minister is bringing forward an amendment that has the effect of charging a new fee to small, independent operators, to small, independent loggers right across the province -- not only in northern Ontario. This was a fee they did not pay before. It was a service that was provided by ministry staff. You have to explain to me how the good folks in northern Ontario and eastern Ontario are going to be so pleased that now they have to pay a new fee for services undertaken by crown staff.

The fact is, it's a tax. It's a new user fee. It's one of those things that your Premier, in the Common Sense Revolution, promised he would not bring forward. He said very clearly in the Common Sense Revolution, "There will be no new user fees." We've seen user fees on drugs. We saw a whole host -- $13 million worth -- of new fees announced in some of the business plans that were announced in this House on April 12. One of those new fees coming out of the business plans is the one that's going to affect the small, independent loggers, the independent operators who operate on crown management units.

I have to say that the minister, who was the critic when Bill 171 was being debated through June and right through until December 1994, the now minister was one of those members who spoke very ferociously against any new fees for independent operators. I don't have the benefit the member for Algoma-Manitoulin does of having been there through the course, because I wasn't involved in the bill and I wasn't on the committee, but I know my colleague from Cochrane North, who was the parliamentary assistant, made it very clear to me that the current minister spoke out on behalf of those independent operators. He made it clear that they should not suffer any new fees, they should not suffer any increase in payments, any increase in taxes because, by God, they were living on the edge as it already was. They were barely able to make a living as it already was.

Now we have this minister coming into this House and moving an amendment that will have the very effect of what he used to fight against. That effect will be an increase in costs for those people who are trying to operate on crown management units, who are trying to make a living, who are trying to keep their families fed. Now this Tory government, a government which promised no new user fees, is going to implement a new user fee on services they previously received free from the crown.

It's the same kind of situation we saw here today in the bill that was brought forward by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs today gave the good news to the farmers that many of the services that used to be provided by ministry staff they will now have to pay for: more hidden taxes, more payments made by farmers, more cost for people trying to make a living in the province of Ontario, and again, absolutely contrary to the promise this Premier made during the Common Sense Revolution and out on the campaign trail. I wait and look forward to him standing in his place on Monday to say that he is going to resign, given that he's broken yet some more promises made by him on the campaign trail.

That's the most significant change in the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. The others are minor changes; they are important ones. I would have thought this minister would have used his time today in the debate on second reading to make it very clear, to express very clearly, as a matter of fact, some very strong support for the intent and for the principles that are enshrined in the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. I would have hoped that he would have done that because, in some way, shape or form, it would have then reinforced many of the things he said about this act and about its importance when he was on this side of the Legislature and when he was operating as critic for Bill 171.

I think that to get a good sense of what the minister said, and why I would have thought it would have been important for him today to come in and use whatever means he could at his disposal to reinforce the principles of that bill, I'm going to go back and just read you a little bit of Hansard. This comes from the debate on second reading, June 20, 1994. I'm quoting the member for Victoria-Haliburton, his comments as he began the debate on second reading. I'm going to read a fair bit of it so you get the full gist of how important he thought sustainability was at that time. He said:

"The bill seeks to promote sustainability in two ways: sustainability of the forests, the whole forest ecosystem and the future needs in the timber component; and sustainability of the communities or the people who earn their living from the forest economy.... But I would like to comment on the sustainability aspect.

"We have a problem with global buyers, primarily from Europe, the United Kingdom and Germany, that demand that forest product producers conduct their operations in a sustainable manner. It's incumbent upon governments within Canada to prove to these buyers that we are in fact sustainable and that the forest product coming off and going to these markets is sustainable....

"I applaud this government for its role in getting the message out that our forests are different and that we're trying to make our forests sustainable. In this respect, I think Bill 171 deserves some praise.

"The aspect of the bill that there will be an audit and report to the Legislature so it's open, so everybody can have a look and say, `Yes, Ontario's wood products are from sustainable forests,' is also applaudable. But the problem is that if we don't follow through on this, it will soon get so that the lip-service, telling the world that our forest products coming from Ontario are sustainable -- if the reality doesn't match the rhetoric, we will destroy the credibility of products coming from this province for years to come. So I think it's important that when we implement this bill, we implement it right."

He said, at the bottom: "We have to be very careful, though, that what we are doing in this act matches what we're saying it's going to do. If we're saying that all products produced in Ontario in wood are from sustainable forests, then we should ensure that's the case. If it isn't, we ruin the market potential for future generations, for people who are dependent upon the jobs related to the forest industry."

I wholeheartedly agree with the minister: That was exactly the intent of the bill, and it's very important that in Ontario we can ensure that the wood products that are going out of this province come from forests that are sustainable if we are going to be able to sell our products abroad and if we are going to be able to protect the thousands of jobs of people who work in the forestry industry in this province.

I'm telling you that with the staff cuts at MNR, the 2,100 people you're going to lay off over the next two years, many of them living in northern Ontario, and with the new direction that this government is taking to give away public resources on the crown management units to the big forestry and big pulp and paper companies, I am saying to the minister today we are not in a position to ensure sustainability in our forests. By the magnitude of the staff cuts alone, you will not be able to guarantee to anyone that regeneration, reforestation and harvesting practices are economically and environmentally sustainable. You won't be able to prove that to anyone, because you won't have the staff to monitor that or to know what's happening in the forest. That's the first problem.

The second problem is that as this government moves to hand over all the crown management units, some 8.2 million hectares of crown land, to the big pulp and paper and forestry companies of this province, we will not be able to convince anyone in the environmental movement that our practices are sustainable, that our harvesting, our reforestation, our regeneration practices are sustainable, in fact that we have products coming from forests that are going to be around for the benefit of the people of Ontario for many years to come.


That's the problem the minister has, and that's the contradiction I see between the principles of the bill that he stated he was in support of in June 1994, and the reality that faces this minister and the ministry today. The reality is that between the cuts and between the changes, the new direction to give away crown land that he should not be giving away, because it's not his to give, we are not going to be in a position to convince anyone that our forests are sustainable and that we are managing them and protecting them in the way that will allow us to continue to have important access to international markets for wood products.

I want to talk about three things as I make that point. The first has to do with the giveaway of crown land, because I think it is appalling that in Ontario today we have a minister whose staff is involved in giving away 8.2 million hectares of public land to the major pulp and paper and forestry companies without any public consultation whatsoever.

We began to raise this issue in this House last December, and on December 13 my colleague the member for Cochrane North asked the minister why it was that his ministry was involved in secret negotiations with these companies to give away these crown lands. The minister, in his first response in the House that day said, "I'm not aware of any formal negotiation process. If there's going to be a change in the relationship in the forest industry with regard to crown land, we'll certainly make an announcement in the House at the appropriate time if that should occur, but I'm not aware of any ongoing negotiations at this time."

In the House the next day, because the minister obviously didn't know his staff were involved in negotiations, I raised with him where those negotiations were occurring, which companies were involved and which crown units were at stake. At that point, I said Stone Consolidated and Avenor are negotiating for the crown management unit at Red Lake. Stone Consolidated is also negotiating for the crown management unit at Fort Frances, and we also know that you're negotiating with E.B. Eddy, with Yaeger and with St Marys Paper on the crown management units in Sault Ste Marie and in Wawa.

I asked him again why it was that the negotiations were going on in secret to give away resources which belonged to all of the people of the province. The minister tried to tell me that under Bill 171, which is the Crown Forest Sustainability Act -- the bill we're dealing with today -- there was some kind of provision to allow that kind of giveaway of public resources. I said to him then, and I tell this House today, that this minister and his ministry have no authority in law whatsoever to be doing what they are doing.

It's the responsibility of the minister to protect the crown units. If there's going to be a change in the crown units, in the timber that all the people of the province should have access to, then that process has to be an open one. It has to be a public one. It has to be involving all of those people who have an interest in forestry resources, not just the big companies who stand to gain the most but all of those people who have an interest in how we use timber from the crown units: northern communities, first nations communities, small independent operators, the FON, environmental groups.

Not one of those groups is at the table in the current round of negotiations going on. In fact, even though the minister denied that there was anything happening, that there were any negotiations going on, his press secretary, Rob Savage, did finally admit that discussions with some companies are taking place. Although he couldn't provide any specifics about what and how much is on the table, he assured us that the process isn't a giveaway. Well, that's exactly what it is, and it is being held behind closed doors, in secret, with companies that right now already have access to the most significant resources in the province. They have huge access already to timber resources.

If you're going to make any change on the crown units, you can't do that just in conjunction with the people that already have access to the most timber in the province. It is the right of everyone to participate in that process to determine how public resources are best to be used, not just negotiations between ministry staff and some of the big companies that already have the most timber in the province, and that is what's happening.

What I'm very concerned about is that as you give away those timber resources on the crown management units, give those away to the pulp and paper and big forestry companies, what you also do is very negatively impact upon the independent loggers who have had traditional access to those crown units.

The minister, at one point, when he was in opposition, did care about the small independent operators and their ability to operate, particularly on the crown units. He said: "I can assure you that we are going to be concerned about small loggers that are a major force in rural communities and northern communities. The interests of these small logging companies are important to the government and open discussions will be held with them."

Well, the fact is that there are no discussions going on with the small independent operators with respect to the future of the crown management units -- none at all. They're not involved in the process, they're not participating, because the process so far has involved only the ministry and the big forestry companies. A number of people whose very livelihood is at stake -- they are very concerned about who they will have to get a licence from -- are not able to participate. I want to quote the minister again, because he used to be very concerned about these issues.

On June 20, on the same debate on Bill 171, the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, the minister said, "It is essential to the stability of hundreds of small sawmills and jobbers that they be allowed continued access to their licences." I agree. That's why I'm concerned about the very precarious situation this minister is putting those folks in. If they have to go begging, cap in hand, to the big pulp and paper companies to continue to get licences, they're going to be in big trouble.

I'm not the only one who feels that way. Let me give this quote to the House, a quote from Robin MacIntyre, who's on one of the MNR citizens' advisory committees in Sault Ste Marie. MacIntyre is concerned that the transfer will dislocate smaller operators in favour of the big companies.

"We have a lot of small operators in the Sault area who depend on access for cedar shake operations, firewood cutting etc, but the ministry turned around and gave a big chunk of the Algoma highlands to Lajambe Forest Products, now E.B. Eddy. Now if someone wants to cut cedar shakes, they have to go to Lajambe for a licence, and it's not in the interest of the big companies to encourage small operators. The result is that small operators are now moving on to private lands where there are no rules, and that's because they're finding their access to the crown units becoming more and more severely restricted."

I also have a quote from an industry representative in northwestern Ontario who concurred. He said: "There's no question that the small operator is doomed. This process will gradually, and sometimes not so gradually, knock out the smaller guys and their cutting licences will revert to the big guys."

The crown units are for the benefit of a whole bunch of users. The small independent operators have traditionally had access to those crown units, and they have dealt directly with the ministry, by and large, around conditions on their licences and that very access to the crown units.

If you put that into the hands of the big companies, I fear that the smaller operators will lose all the way around. They will lose every way, and sooner or later they are going to have to get out of the business because they're not going to be able to compete. They're not going to be able to compete in terms of trying to fight with the big companies to get access to some timber, and they're not going to be able to continue to compete with the prices that the big companies are going to set for timber coming off their units.

While the minister used to be concerned about this and used to be concerned about independent loggers, it's very clear from both the new fee he's instituting as part of the amendments to this bill, and from his change in direction, that he couldn't care less about them now, or their ability to continue to operate.

It is on that note that I will adjourn this debate, and I will continue on Monday.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): It being almost 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock next Monday.

The House adjourned at 1759.