36th Parliament, 1st Session

L072 - Thu 9 May 1996 / Jeu 9 Mai 1996



















































The House met at 1002.




Mr Wildman moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 24, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act / Projet de loi 24, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement, la Loi sur les ressources en eau de l'Ontario et la Loi sur les pesticides.

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

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I hope members of the assembly will allow me to use whatever time is left from the total time at the end. Thank you.

I'm hoping we can have a good discussion this morning and that members of the assembly will consider very carefully Bill 24, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Pesticides Act, and will consider supporting this piece of legislation.

The legislation is designed to enable the Ministry of Environment and Energy to crack down on offenders who continue to ignore Ontario's environmental protection laws, especially those who dump waste illegally across the province. The bill would strengthen the provisions of these three acts.

The reason for this is that the Ministry of Environment and Energy officials have seen in the greater Toronto area the need for additional enforcement powers to protect the environment against illegal waste dumping, and to ensure that those who flout provincial laws are stopped.

Between 1993 and 1995, the Ministry of Environment and Energy cracked down on illegal waste operators. They set up a special task force which launched a series of investigations of every waste management company in the GTA. They set up a RIDE-like program which inspected trucks carrying waste on the highways in the region.

By the end of 1994, the ministry had laid 500 charges and issued over 15 orders to close down and clean up illegal dump sites. I think this is an indication of how serious the problem is, and was at that time in the greater Toronto area. The unfortunate thing is, though, that even with all these charges and orders, some illegal operators continue to defy provincial laws and regulations.

I want to emphasize that this is a particular problem for property owners. Particularly in rural areas, farmers find that someone comes along and dumps waste illegally on their property and they're stuck with the problem. Even if they know who it is, it's very difficult to get anything done. In most cases, they don't know who did it and they're stuck with the problem of having to clean it up.

It's also a problem for those legitimate operators -- waste management companies -- that are being undercut by these fast-buck operators who will use any method to be able to cut the price and avoid regulations.

This private member's bill gives the Ministry of Environment tools to combat illegal practices and to deal with these fast-buck operators who continue to dump on other people's properties and who treat current fines simply as a cost of doing business.

Illegal waste haulers and dump operators are costing Ontario residents and property owners a great deal of money and they're hurting legitimate waste management companies. These costs are in the millions of dollars for cleanup and loss of business.

Also, these illegal activities undermine Ontario's 3Rs program. This bill would reinforce Ontario's commitment to the 3Rs and to reducing waste that is being put into landfills across the province. It would make it possible for the Ministry of Environment and Energy's enforcement branch to shut down illegal operators immediately, to seize licence plates, vehicle permits and equipment, and to issue stop-work orders and cleanup orders that would have to be complied with. By being able to seize the equipment, these people would not be able to continue operating and simply pay fines. They would be risking a serious loss if they continued to operate against the law.

Under the current law, the Ministry of Environment and Energy can't do these things. It can only require the owner to clean up a site. This is a very serious problem, as I indicated before, for farmers particularly, but for residents of rural areas in general. If the property owner has had nothing to do with the illegal dumping, it is most unfair that the property owner should be left with the cost of cleaning it up, but right now there are no provisions in the law that would require illegal operators, even if they're caught, to make restitution to owners who've had to clean up an illegal dump. This bill would rectify this situation.


Also, the bill would significantly increase penalties upon conviction for illegal operations, it would increase fines up to four times what the current fines are, it would increase the number of offences that could be subject to jail terms on conviction and it would also allow judges to use more imaginative approaches to sentencing for community service. In other words, the judge might require the illegal operator not only to clean up sites but also to get involved with education and 3Rs programs that would help the environment.

Also, with regard to liquid industrial waste and hazardous waste, the bill would double the maximum jail terms that are now allowable for such offences. These are serious penalties, and I recognize that they're very serious, but I continue to believe that these are very, very serious offences. By bringing in much tougher penalties we would be demonstrating Ontario's determination to protect the environment.

I believe this bill that is being put forward would give the Ministry of Environment and Energy the tools that they need to ensure that there is tough environmental law enforcement in Ontario. The experience we had between 1993 and 1995 demonstrated there was a significant problem in the greater Toronto area. But all of us in this House know that it isn't just a problem in the immediate region of Toronto; it is a problem throughout the province. Too many operators are hurting the overall industry of waste management by being prepared to cut corners and in some cases outright flout the law.

I believe that many, many legitimate operators in the industry would support this legislation. As a matter of fact, I've had such opinions expressed to me by a number of large operators in the waste management industry who would like to see what they call a level playing field. They believe the ministry has to have the power to put the illegal operators out of business, and that's what this bill attempts to do.

It also would be a very clear statement if members of the assembly were to support this legislation in saying that members of this assembly, all of us, all three parties, take very seriously the protection of the environment, we take very seriously the 3Rs program in Ontario and we are opposed, collectively, to illegal dump operations and illegal haulers across Ontario.

I've had too many farmers in my own area, where I suspect the problem isn't as serious as it is in many parts of southern Ontario, get stuck with having to clean up illegal dumps of tires, construction materials and sometimes just domestic waste. It's unfair to those property owners. They should be able to get restitution if they have to make these kinds of cleanups when an illegal operator is caught. The legislation now doesn't allow for that. I hope the members will look very seriously at Bill 24 and consider supporting the amendments I propose.

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): The indiscriminate and illegal dumping of waste is of great concern to our ministry as well and I compliment the member for bringing in this bill. It is really a significant impact in the form of cleanup and remediation costs. This is true whether the victims are property owners or municipalities. In addition, we are aware that these illegal activities undermine legitimate businesses operating in the waste management and recycling sectors.

The resulting uneven playing field deters potential investment in new recycling and waste management initiatives. These investments are crucial to our work with municipalities in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the 3Rs programs. Effective, fair and uniform enforcement against those who choose to flout environmental protection laws helps to restore and maintain an even playing field, thus benefiting legitimate businesses and the province as a whole.

We therefore support legislative changes that would increase the effectiveness of our efforts to protect the environment.

Our ministry has analysed Bill 24 and we support in principle and agree with many of its proposals. Reforms such as seizures of licences, permits and equipment are all supported by our ministry and are consistent with our "polluter pays" approach to environmental crimes.

We do believe, however, that Bill 24 could and should do more. It sends out the message that we are prepared to get tough on illegal dumping but needs to address other serious offences which may also be adversely affecting the natural environment. Such an approach would be more consistent with the ministry's statement of environmental values under the Environmental Bill of Rights.

It is our view that the public would be better served if legislative amendments were brought forward in one cohesive amendment package addressing issues in a more comprehensive manner; that is what we are also preparing to do this fall.

As members are aware, the Ministry of Environment and Energy is currently conducting a review of all regulations for which it has statutory responsibility. Concurrent reform initiatives are also being carried out for the approvals process, the environmental assessment process and for the waste approvals process.

Our actions in disbanding the Interim Waste Authority and lifting the ban on municipal solid waste incineration are consistent with the new approach. At the same time, these actions demonstrate our government's commitment to provide local governments with the tools they require to find solutions to their waste disposal problems.

In the course of our regulatory review, it has become clear to us that the current legislation contains limitations that compromise the effectiveness of some enforcement efforts. We are aware of the shortcomings, and the amendments proposed in Bill 24 come as no surprise to us. Many of those amendments, with some modifications and fine-tuning, would dovetail with the objectives of our regulatory reform project, but they would have to be broadened to apply to other enforcement initiatives that protect and conserve the natural environment. They should not be limited to waste handling only.

Our amended regulations will be brought forward this fall in conjunction with our regulatory reform. Besides streamlining administrative areas that are cumbersome and inefficient, the changes will result in leaner and more effective enforcement provisions. We will be providing our field staff with improved tools that allow them to effectively stop repeat and continuous offenders.

As we move towards more efficient regulation and the elimination of unnecessary restrictions on legitimate businesses, it will be imperative that there be appropriate laws to deal with those individuals who have no regard for the environment or for the public interest.

At the same time, of course, any proposed broadening of powers must ensure their fair application by incorporating all necessary safeguards, such as appeal routes and notice provisions. By developing laws that are both fair to those who comply with them and appropriately punish those who break them, we can develop a level playing field for businesses in Ontario. It is important that the environmental agenda ensure continued protection for the environment and reflect the government's desire to create a better business climate in the province. With such a level playing field, industry can once again feel confident that Ontario is indeed a good place to do business.

We will continue to focus our compliance and enforcement activities on issues that produce real environmental benefits, for example, by doing more spot checks of significant activities and spending less time on nuisance-type occurrences that are best handled at the municipal level. In short, we are strictly enforcing existing regulations even as we press ahead with the job of developing more effective ones.

In approaching the task in this way, our goal is to create a new environmental management and regulatory regime that meets four distinct objectives. To begin with, the new regime must be effective; it must provide better ways to protect the environment and ensure that problems are identified and resolved as quickly as possible.

The regime must also be efficient. By that I mean that the benefits of regulations would have to exceed the costs.

Greater emphasis must be placed on results, and less on the process by which they are achieved. The ministry must identify where the command-and-control approach to regulation and enforcement can be complemented with other methods of environmental management, such as market-based instruments and voluntary agreements. This will mean injecting more rigorous efficiency tests into our policy development process. Our new regulatory regime will also have to be flexible. Solutions to environmental problems must be designed in consultation with those affected, and we must look beyond the immediate answer of a regulation for every issue. We must have a system that can adapt to circumstances.


Finally, our new regime must be fair in terms of establishing a level playing field between companies within sectors and between municipalities. It must also be fair in terms of harmonizing our standards with those of other jurisdictions.

In meeting these four reform objectives, we will continue to protect the environment in a way that is more responsive to the needs of people and the regulated community. We will be making a significant contribution to the need to reduce barriers to economic renewal and competitiveness.

But regulatory reform is not something government can do all by itself. It has to be a consultative process, and that is the way we have been proceeding. Right from the start, we have been accepting written submissions as well as meeting with business and environmental clients and our municipal colleagues. We are obtaining their input on what works and what doesn't work, where the costs are and how we might improve the regulatory regime.

This is indeed a sound approach. Working together as partners, government and private sector have a wonderful opportunity to both improve and streamline our regulations and sweep away obstacles to investment and job creation.

To sum up, we are committed to environmental protection, we are committed to regulatory reform and equally committed to making sure that polluters are held accountable for their actions.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'm pleased to stand in my place today and speak to this private member's bill, and I was just going to ask the same question I heard asked rhetorically from the initiator of this bill, the member for Algoma. I wasn't quite sure from the previous speaker, the member for Northumberland, if he is supporting this bill. I would certainly hope that all members in this House could support this bill.

Mr Garry J. Guzzo (Ottawa-Rideau): He's waiting for the Liberals.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): He's waiting to hear your speech.

Mr Ramsay: I'm going to support it. I just hope you do, and I hope I can convince you. I guess that's what this is all about.


Mr Ramsay: They're wavering over there. I can see some of the members saying they're not quite sure.

I think what this bill speaks to -- and it really applies to any sort of law or regulation -- is that if you have law and regulation on the books in the Statutes of Ontario, then they should be enforced, and I think we all would agree with that here. What the member is saying is that the enforcement tools and vehicles, if you will, that our environmental enforcement officers have are not sufficient to do the job, are not sufficient to enforce the laws that are there today. So really the member isn't pushing for greater regulatory reform, though I know that we are quite anxious as to what this government is going to do in regard to regulations, but what the member is really talking about is to make sure that the environmental enforcement officers have the tools to do the job properly.

I'll give you an example of what we've done in the Ontario government -- and all governments support this -- in giving our enforcement officers the tools to do the job, and that is the conservation officers who work for the Ministry of Natural Resources, I guess the few that remain -- I look back to our natural resource critic -- and what's very important is that over the years we have understood that poaching, which obviously is the stealing of our natural wildlife, out of season and against the law that we regulate, is wrong and that it's so wrong that it's extremely important that we arm our conservation officers to the equal or better of the people they come up against. This is exactly what this member is saying in regard to environmental regulation and enforcement, that we give those officers out there, the women and the men we ask to enforce our environmental regulations, the tools with which to properly fulfil their responsibilities.

In regard to enforcement of conservation officers by those people, they are armed, for one thing, and the only reason they are armed, of course, is that the people they come against are also armed. They have the powers and the rights to seize all the equipment used in committing that crime. That's a very important aspect to this particular bill also, so that if an environmental enforcement officer sees, comes across, witnesses a transgression of our environmental regulation -- for instance, somebody dumping on a farm some sort of waste, whether it be industrial or household waste, on private property somewhere -- that enforcement officer has the power and has the right to seize that equipment that the perpetrator had used in committing that act.

Only if we get serious about the enforcement of environmental regulation are we going to be able to stop these sort of transgressions that happen, as the initiating member, the member for Algoma, has said, right across rural Ontario. I am somebody who lives in rural Ontario. I live on a farm. We see certain people from day to day take advantage of the great spaces that we live in and create havoc and hazard by unlawfully dumping waste on private or public lands. We need to give the tools to our enforcement officers to make sure this doesn't happen.

I support this and I think the majority of the members in my caucus also support this. I would hope the government members especially would support this, because you have the power to nix this or to support it and let it move through to the next stage. I see this as a friendly piece of legislation that you could incorporate in your legislation. This is an opportunity, I think, for all members of the House to work together to really, truly become legislators and come together on a piece of legislation in a tripartisan way, to work together, maybe looking for some improvements at committee stage, at second reading, and bringing it back here and really saying: "The public sees us quibble back and forth during question period and other times during the House, but maybe there are some things we can come together on. We can work together as legislators for the betterment of all the people of Ontario."

I really don't see the politics in this and I don't see the partisanship in this. I think basically it's motherhood. We obviously believe in our environment in Ontario. I know every member of this House believes in the sanctity of our environment and protecting it, and especially in having the ability to enforce the laws that we have today. We all agree with those laws. You are the government and you obviously agree with those laws. Previous governments of all three parties have built over the years I think a body of environmental law that we can all be proud of here.

We are one of the jurisdictions that really is on the forefront of environmental legislation in North America and around the world, but especially in North America. I think we should all be very proud of that because all three parties represented in this House have taken part in the building of that body of law.

I think what today the member is saying is that we should make sure that we have the tools to enforce that law, that the law is not just there as a sham or a face but actually has meaning, and that we give the men and women we hire to enforce those regulations the proper tools to do the job so that those operators who do not play by the rules understand that if they do try to break these rules and regulations they will be caught, they will be punished and dealt with appropriately.

As the member for Algoma says, this is only fair to those majority of people who do play by the rules, who respect the environment, who are in the business, as we all as a jurisdiction have to be. We have to have people who handle our waste. We obviously want the very best people to handle our waste. It's not a type of activity that we all like to think about every day, but obviously it's a necessary activity of the human endeavour. We have to handle it well; we have to handle it in an environmentally sustainable way.

What the member is saying in this piece of legislation is, let's make sure that we give teeth to the rules that we have on the books today. That's what the member is asking for. I certainly support that and I would hope all members of the House support that too.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I take pleasure today in having the opportunity to stand here and support my colleague from Algoma on his Bill 24 and to also thank and congratulate the member for Algoma for carrying on with this work now that he is no longer the Minister of Environment for Ontario. I know, however, that the member for Algoma, and our very popular interim leader, I might add, has a strong interest in protecting the environment and continues today in that trend.

I see that the member for Bruce is here today. I think it was two weeks ago I learned a lesson in this House, and that is not to get too fiercely partisan in private members' debates. I'm happy to say that despite my partisanship in the last debate we had in private members' hour on an environmental resolution, which was mine, on cancer prevention and phasing out carcinogens over time, I did, I'm happy to say, get support from enough members of the House from all parties to go ahead and set up that task force to find ways to phase out and ban the most serious persistent toxins in our environment, which proves to me that we can all try to work together.

So today on this bill I'm not going to get overly partisan. It might be a little difficult because obviously we have disagreements on environmental protection and that becomes very, very clear on a daily basis. I would say, however, that after listening to the speech by the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Environment and Energy, it seems to me, and perhaps this will be clarified, that he was saying although he generally supports the direction of this bill, because of the red tape review which is ongoing, this is not a good time to be passing such a bill. If that is what he's saying -- and again I'd like him to clarify that -- perhaps what I can do is convince him and his members today to allow this second reading to go ahead so that we can have more discussion on the bill.

When Mr Wildman was the Minister of Environment he began the process of cracking down on illegal dumpers by setting up a special task force, and in just 18 months task force members laid more than 470 charges. There were 14 ministry orders to close and clean up illegal waste sites. But as the member for Algoma pointed out, there are loopholes in the existing legislation which must be closed, and I think all members will agree with that.

When I was first elected, between 1990 and the few years after 1990, I heard from several of my constituents. One in particular comes to mind, a constituent who lives in Riverdale but had some property and I believe a warehouse on the site that he used for business purposes. Somebody came along, I suppose late at night, and dumped an enormous amount of waste on his property, including old tires and God knows what else. It was an enormous amount, something he couldn't possibly just clear out himself. He was ordered by the ministry to clean up that site and to pay for it. This man did not have a lot of money. He was a small businessman and was just getting by and he couldn't possibly afford to clean it up. I believe at the end of the day he had to borrow money to clean up somebody's waste. I'm sure many of us in this House have similar stories.

Just on that front alone, to protect the people who have private property that is being used to dump illegal waste, certainly I think we would all agree that we have to close the loopholes that make it possible for these private land owners to have to clean up themselves.

On the other issue around the dangers, particularly around hazardous waste being dumped illegally, there's no question that there has to be very severe punishment for that kind of illegal activity. It is an enormous threat to our health when we don't know what is in the waste that's being dumped and it could end up in some way in our food chain or water, or workers could be damaged and their health threatened just in the process of cleaning it up.

I would like to say that I have some real trouble with the concept of voluntary agreements. I just don't agree with that approach. I believe it's been proven over time that people need very clear, straightforward, transparent rules and regulations which apply equally to everybody. I believe that is the only way we're going to have the ability to make sure as a society that our waste is handled in a safe way for all residents of Ontario. I know the red-tape review is going on. I sincerely hope that government is very, very careful in terms of its approach to voluntary agreements to make sure the rules apply to everybody in a fair and consistent way.

I'd like to end on the issue of enforcement. It's absolutely necessary, and I know that the parliamentary assistant agrees with this, and I believe he's said it himself in his speech, even in the process of the cutbacks that are happening, and staff reductions, if we have rules and regulations and the people aren't there to enforce them, it hardly means anything. I'm glad to hear the parliamentary assistant today talk about the importance of enforcements and glad to hear him confirm -- I believe I heard, anyway -- that enforcing regulations around the management of waste would be a priority for the ministry.

I hope today that all members in the House -- I know we all agree with the concept of this bill before us today -- will agree to support the member on second reading of this bill so it can go forward and we can have more discussion together, all three parties, about the best way to proceed. It is very clear that we all agree that the rules and regulations and enforcement around the illegal dumping of waste has to be attended to. I believe the member for Algoma, with his experience on this issue while serving as Minister of Environment, is very aware of what needs to be done. After all, he headed up the task force, he looked at the issue very clearly and I believe the bill embodies and takes care of most, if not all, of the loopholes in the present legislation.

So again, I would urge all members to support the second reading of this bill today.

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): I stand today to speak in support of the initiative put forward by the honourable member for Algoma. My notes say to pause here to give Mr Wildman time to recover. You see, I seldom agree with Mr Wildman's political views, but that's the way it is.

Mr Baird: Always interesting, though.

Mr Preston: Yes, always interesting. I understand that he's in opposition and he feels he must undermine everything we do, but that's not going to be my position today. I understand the sense of frustration that the members opposite must be feeling in the last few days in trying to find something to complain about, anything to complain about, in our latest legislation, but I guess when facts don't suit they fall back on fairy tales and they bring the bogeyman out of the closet. The bogeyman is out of the closet. This government has seen him, we've met him, taken steps to defeat him. This latest budget is full and ample evidence that he's on the run. Those are the facts, not fairy tales. But I digress.

This is my maiden speech. I spoke about three months ago. Unfortunately, I started at five minutes to 6. Time constraints shut me down. This I understand; my mother did not understand. So a word of caution, more to me than you: I don't want to get cut off today and have you have to deal with a 95-year-old firebrand, because if she thinks her son is badly treated, the protesters we've seen down here will look like the welcome wagon.


While I have in the past fundamentally disagreed with Mr Wildman's politics, I feel the environment should be apolitical, as members opposite have said. There is no room in the environment for politics. I have six children; I have 12 grandchildren. I want this world to be the best possible world for them, their children and their children's children.

The opposition would have you believe that as Tories we put business ahead of the environment. This is fundamentally untrue. A strong, vibrant environment is just as important as a strong, vibrant economy. I strongly support Mr Wildman's initiative in strengthening sanctions against offenders of our pollution laws, written and unwritten, for I feel there are some laws that still need to be written regarding pollution.

We want to assure the people of Ontario that our government is prepared to enforce strict pollution control measures and that we will prosecute to the full extent of the law anyone who violates our guidelines. As the honourable member Dr Galt pointed out, our government is pursuing a comprehensive set of principles, guidelines and laws to deal with those who consistently break the law and endanger us and, more importantly, our future generations.

I will be voting in support of this bill. It enables the ministry to act in an expedient manner, utilizing the threat of plant closures and equipment seizures as opposed to simple fines, because fines are considered the cost of doing business. As Mr Palladini has said in respect of the trucking industry, this is fundamental as it does not interfere or unnecessarily hinder those companies which comply with ministry guidelines. Frank Sheehan and the Red-Tape -- pardon me, Frank Sheehan and the Red-Tape Review Commission --

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): That's hard to say; I know what you mean.

Mr Preston: It is terrible to say, yes -- will be working to streamline and clarify those regulatory burdens.

I know personally of some businesses that would rather pay fines than clean up their act. When asked why these repeat offenders are not stopped, the ministry responds with a sigh and says it must follow the letter of the law. They must prove that violations occur and get injunctions to stop them. This bill now gives them the authority needed to enforce such laws in a timely manner. As the honourable member for Northumberland stated, the Ministry of Environment will bring forth legislation this fall which will enhance the steps taken here today.

By working with the members opposite, it is my hope that we can find common ground to ensure that future generations are left a clean, healthy environment because, because although we are undoing the financial damage -- it's taking us five years -- it can take a lifetime or more to undo damage to our environment.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I'm proud to participate in this debate in support of the bill from the member for Algoma. I think he described himself as Bud "Mr Compromise" Wildman in a recent committee meeting.

As I listen to the speeches being made by all members, I would like to point out that this is an important bill. It is to rectify the situation that occurs with local land owners who inherit liabilities over which they have absolutely no control, illegal activities, and it needs to be addressed. It also protects the legitimate private sector waste haulers and waste disposers in this province that are undercut and damaged by the actions of an unscrupulous few.

I have, as I suspect most members have, and probably even the member for Algoma, some reservations about some of the mechanisms. I don't think that should stop us in any way from moving forward with this legislation.

One of the things I fear in here today, one of the things I really fear, is that this bill will receive unanimous approval in the House today and then it will be sent off to the Never-Never Land of committee of the whole. That would be disastrous, I would say to the government members. It needs to be sent to the resources development committee or another such standing committee of the Legislature for public hearings, so that we can remedy the faults that may be in the bill. That's the way the process works. No member comes here with a bill that they believe is absolutely perfect and can't be improved. That's what this place is about and that's what the standing committee process is about.

I say to the government, if you are in support -- and I'm glad you are; it sounds as if there is broad support in this House for this legislation -- don't let this bill die. Make sure that it goes to public hearings, make sure that the people of Ontario can comment upon this and make sure that we can come out of this with a bill that accomplishes the objectives the member for Algoma is putting forward today. It would be a travesty for this bill not to have public hearings, and I want to tell you why.

I want to tell you about the red-tape review and the environmental regulations in general. One of the things that's happening here is that they're being updated, so to speak. There's nothing wrong with that. They've needed to be updated. They should be updated. In some cases, they don't attain the objectives they were designed to attain. The world changes. People find ways around them. Some of them become outdated and outmoded and don't need to be there any longer, at least in the form they are there.

But the problem with this is that there is no public input into the review. I think all members would like to see, on environmental acts and on environmental regulations, a real public process around a reform of those very important provisions in the regulations.

I am suspicious, as many members are, given the attack on the Ministry of Environment's budget and given the attack on the Ministry of Natural Resources's budget, that these regulations are really not about reform. They are not about reform at all. They are not about improving the environment. They are about a systematic destruction of Ontario's environmental leadership over decades, under all three political parties.

In a non-partisan way, I would ask the government to come clean on this regulation reform. Put it out for public discussion; show us your options; tell us why they're better or why they're worse; tell us why you're making particular adjustments to those regulations; tell us how you're improving efficiency; tell us how they are sustainable over the long term. Make sure that you're not giving Ontario an environmental deficit that will be carried on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren and their grandchildren, make sure that this is not about short-term political gain in the province and make sure that we are really looking after the environment and sustainable development in this province.

The objects and the mechanisms in this bill are not unusual. They do occur in the Ministry of Natural Resources, where we are protecting our natural resources through the fine work of our conservation officers, with many of the same penalties. The government itself is proposing to us to deal with drunk driving and other such problems through administrative policy that would do much the same thing.

The objection on the basis of, "You haven't had your day in court," and all that kind of stuff is a reasonable one. But there are occasions in this province where a reasonable administrative review will solve many of the problems that I think the government might object to, and I personally would object to, and still attain justice and protection of the environment.

The member has identified a real problem that I really wish he'd come forward with addressing when he was the Minister of Environment, but in the fullness of time he is proceeding with this motion. He would have had much more chance to pass it when he was the Minister of Environment, but nevertheless, I'm calling on all reasonable members on all sides of the House to support Mr Wildman's resolution in the hope that we can take it to committee, we can have public input and we can really protect those land owners in my riding and other rural ridings across the province from what's happening with these waste disposers, the illegitimate, unscrupulous ones. They hurt the vast majority of people in this industry who behave in a responsible manner, lower, unintentionally, our environmental standards and cause a huge burden to land owners in this province who inherit liabilities they had absolutely no responsibility for.

I think all reasonable members will not only support Mr Wildman's bill, they will also support its going to committee and having full public hearings across this province and they will tell the government that it's unacceptable for the ministry to revise, reform, whatever you call it, environmental regulation and natural resource regulation without the input of the people of Ontario.

Mr Wildman: I want to thank my colleagues from all sides of the Legislature.


The Acting Speaker: There are still 54 seconds left for this side. If you want to use them or give them away, I'm in your hands.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): I'm pleased to rise in the House to say that I intend to support the member's bill.

I have one concern, and perhaps the member can address this, in section 19.1: "A provincial officer may, without a warrant or a court order, seize a vehicle or other thing if he or she reasonably believes...." I wonder if the member had anything in mind specifically when he referred to the "other thing," if he could clarify that for us, please.


Mr Wildman: I'm not sure how I should respond to that.

I thank the members from all sides of the House who supported the legislation for second reading. I hope they will agree, as the member for Algoma-Manitoulin has said, to have the bill go to the resources development committee. I don't necessarily believe, as the member who just spoke has pointed out, that the bill is drafted as tightly and as clearly as it might be. I'm aware that it could be improved in clause-by-clause in committee. I'm not here attempting to bring in new regulations for protection of the environment but rather to give to enforcement officers the tools to enforce current regulations under these three pieces of legislation.

That is why this legislation wasn't brought forward under the previous government. Frankly, we believed at the time that the task force, with concerted effort involving the enforcement branch, the police, the municipal authorities, the fire departments and so on, all of whom were involved in the task force, would be able to make really significant progress in bringing an end to illegal dumping in the GTA. They did lay a lot of charges but it became apparent, going into 1995, that some operators -- not many -- treated the fine simply as a cost of doing business and that there needed to be changes in the enforcement powers, in the tools given to enforcement officers. The period of time ran out for the government and that's why the legislation didn't come forward.

I hope this government will consider very carefully ensuring that enforcement officers have the tools they require. The MPP for Northumberland mentioned the government's changes to reform the environmental regulations. We're looking forward to what the government brings to the House in that regard, and I hope this bill can go forward in the meantime and that we can give enforcement officers the tools they require.

What I'm talking about here, to make it clear for everyone in deciding whether or not to vote for the legislation on second reading, is to allow provincial officers to make enforcement orders and seize vehicles and other things used in the commission of offences; to allow the courts to order forfeiture of vehicles and other things in the commission of the offences -- those other things might be backhoes, buildings, gates, fences, I'm not sure, but we can certainly look at those in committee; to facilitate the service of summonses against corporations under the three acts; to prohibit the keeping of false records and the refusal to furnish required information to enforcement officers; and to increase penalties for certain offences under the three acts.

As many members have said, the purpose of this is to protect the environment, but also to make it fair for legitimate business operators who are in the waste management industry. It is most unfair that legitimate waste operators sometimes have to use very expensive methods to manage waste properly and that other operators who compete with them and do not use those same methods are willing to cut corners and dump illegally, and are therefore hurting the business for legitimate operators and in some cases putting them out of business. We've got to make it so expensive for these illegal operators that it is not profitable for them to use illegal approaches so that there is a level playing field in the industry. In a sense, and I mean this sincerely, this is intended to protect legitimate operators in the waste management business.

It's also particularly important that we protect innocent land owners who may own a few hundred hectares of property in rural Ontario who suddenly will find, one day when they're out on the back 40, that somebody has come along and dumped a whole lot of tires, for instance, on their property without permission and without permit. The problem is that the land owner, under the current legislation, is stuck with having to clean it up, and there is no provision under the current law for the illegal operator, even if he's caught, to make restitution to the property owner. That's most unfair, and I think we should do everything we can to ensure that property owners are protected as well as protecting the environment.

I appreciate the support the MPPs for Northumberland, Timiskaming, Riverdale, Brant-Haldimand and others have given the legislation this morning. I hope members will support it on second reading and that we can refer it to the resources development committee for refinement, amendment and improvement so that we can all work together to ensure that we protect the environment, legitimate operators and property owners in this province from illegal dumping.

In that regard, I would like to talk a little about what led me to move the bill as I did. Between 1993 and 1995 the task force that was brought together discovered, not just in rural Ontario but in some parts of urban GTA, warehouses that were supposed to be transfer stations where an operator had a permit for a transfer station, they came along and completely filled up the warehouse with waste, right up to the roof, and then just abandoned the warehouse. We then had this building, a firetrap in most cases, sitting there. The operator in some cases went out of business, no longer was operating the same business or may have been operating another waste management business, and the municipality was stuck with having to clean up this fire hazard and deal with the waste.

In other cases hazardous wastes were being dumped into the municipal sewer systems and that caused serious environmental problems and again the municipalities were stuck with the problem.

In addition to what I was saying before, this is an attempt to strengthen the powers that municipalities have to protect themselves against additional costs that are incurred because of illegal operations and illegal dumping.

I hope all members will support the legislation and agree to have it go to the resources development committee for further amendment after second reading.



Mr Stewart moved private member's notice of motion number 17:

That in the opinion of this House, since the expression of spirituality in public schools is currently limited only to the reading of prayers and other spiritual texts, and that the multifaith character of Canadian society has never implied that particular expressions of, as well as education about, diverse spiritual traditions are to be suppressed, but openly celebrated and respected by students and all Canadians as part of the intrinsic fabric of our country, and

Since spiritual expression and reflection is an important part of the overall development of values and the communication of the varied role of spirituality in our lives, and that open spiritual expression is practised within the publicly funded separate school system,

Therefore, the Ministry of Education and Training should recognize the important role of spirituality and spiritual expression among students of multifaith traditions in Ontario's public school system by allowing local public boards across Ontario the right to determine for themselves how such spiritual expression should be included in the daily activities of their schools.

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

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): Thank you, Mr Speaker and members of the House, for the privilege of participating in today's debate on my resolution which would provide individual public school boards in Ontario the right to determine, along with parents and trustees, how best they can enhance their students' right and ability to express their spirituality. Participation in spirituality rather than non-participation is the goal of this resolution.

My aim in bringing this resolution before the House today is not to impose a particular philosophy or creed on students in our public schools who are of varied religions and cultural backgrounds. My resolution would give our students in public and secondary schools the right to go beyond the study of religions that make up the multifaith society of Ontario and Canada and allow them to express and celebrate their own sense of spirituality, whatever that may be, through external as well as internal ways.

My resolution is about enhancing greater spiritual freedom, not imposing any particular religious doctrine, but it's about providing an opportunity for Ontario students to gain important wisdom from spiritual reflection and experience that will indeed assist them in consciously building a society that is founded on respect for individuals and communities and their cultural and spiritual heritage.

Today's debate is about a continuation of a heated religious issue that began after the September 23, 1988, decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The court decision denounced a regulation under the Education Act requiring public schools to use the Our Father prayer along with the readings from the Christian scriptures during opening and closing exercises. In the case of Zylberberg versus the Sudbury Board of Education, the judges ruled that the regulation violated section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights of non-Christians.

Following that ruling, the Minister of Education under then-minister Chris Ward established an interim policy that made opening and closing exercises optional. On January 12, 1989, the education minister announced changes to section 28 of regulation 262 where any content in opening and closing exercises other than the singing of O Canada was to be optional for each public board. Those boards that wished to do so could include one or more readings that impart spiritual values and that are representative of our multicultural society. Readings could be chosen from spiritual writings, including prayers and secular writings and/or a period of silence. Again, no participation by the students.

In January 1990, however, the Ontario Court of Appeal released a second decision on religion in the public school system. In what became known as the Elgin county decision, the Court of Appeal upheld that subsection 28(4) of regulation 262, which required two periods of religious education in public schools each week, violated 2(a) of the charter. The court ruled that subsection 28(4) violated the guarantee of freedom of religion because it had the effect of imposing the religious beliefs of a majority on minorities. The court also upheld that the charter does not prohibit the teaching of religion as a means of fostering moral values as long as students are not taught exclusively from the view of one religion.

In brief, the court maintained that public schools may raise the awareness of students about all religions but could not impose any one religious view on students. Under then-Minister of Education Marion Boyd, a new policy on religious education in public schools was announced to ensure that what the government understood by the court's decision was upheld. Again, no participation by the students was allowed.

It was assumed by the government of the day that these court decisions excluded the expression of spirituality among public school students of any kind. The decision made clear that a specific religion could not be imposed on students, and I wish to publicly reiterate my concurrence with this fundamental point. But what I take exception to is the view that if I show respectful sensitivity for different religions, I could be accused of supporting one religion over another.

Moreover, I would argue that on the basis of the 1994 Ontario Ministry of Education and Training resource guide entitled Education About Religion in Ontario Public Elementary Schools, religious education and spiritual expression have never been viewed by the public as a value-neutral subject compared to subjects such as math or science in which, no matter how they are taught or by whom, the principle of the subject remains the same. It is clearly stated in the guide that "students need to acquire information about and develop respect for religions that are practised in Ontario and throughout the world. By providing the means for them to do so, schools can enhance students' understanding of themselves and others and of the world in which we live." This concept tends to bring diverse communities closer together.

Also under The Common Curriculum Grades 1-9 policies and outcomes, 1995, the section on "Self and Society" outlines the topic of "Understanding Diversity and Valuing Equity." Religious education is designed, according to this section, to help students develop the knowledge, skills and values they will need to help build and preserve an equitable society. In the 1985 education ministry announcement on opening and closing exercises, it is explicitly noted that the spiritual readings are to be chosen on the basis of their being able to promote social, moral and spiritual values in a multicultural society.

Spiritual reflection in our public school system is intended to offer some sense of values, responsibility and compassion to the students who study it. I believe that the current religious education programs in the public school system should strive to teach our young people about spiritual reflection and the importance of and respect for life. I believe that participation and spiritual reflection represent what we are trying to achieve. In many cases, a moment of silence serves no purpose other than to reflect on many things not related to the particular subject. By participating, it allows most people to step outside of their own experiences just for a moment and at least think about the common issues we all face.


I would argue that if we already believe that the study of different spiritual traditions has a beneficial impact on students' values, how are we contradicting this by allowing students the right to express and share expressions of their own spirituality? It is participation. Could not education about values, respect, ethics and understanding for others be even more supportive of our students, again by participating rather than only by instruction? As the great Greek philosophers would argue, separation of theory from practice lies in the root of ignorance. Their unity is the basis of sound education and wisdom.

I'm simply putting forward the view that spiritual expression in the public school board is an important complement to the study of spiritual traditions wherein students gain insight about ultimate meanings. Without the ability to participate in spiritual expression, students are without the right to share what they feel about their spiritual insights and development. What are we telling students about spirituality when we allow them to read the prayers of others, yet students cannot participate in their own prayers or directly celebrate with their multiculturally diverse colleagues? The aims of spiritual tolerance cannot be furthered by suppression.

I do not, however, wish to have the Ontario government impose more guidelines on school boards in this respect. I believe that local school boards, in conjunction with parents, teachers and students themselves, must decide for themselves how best to allow public school students the right to express their spirituality. We already have a publicly funded separate school board that teaches its own spiritual tradition to students. We also have non-Catholic parents who take their students and their children to Catholic schools or privately funded religious schools because they feel that spirituality is too important an issue in their children's life development to leave unaddressed.

The Acting Speaker: Your time has expired. Further debate?

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): I want to speak on this issue. It's a very challenging and difficult resolution, and it's a very sensitive resolution, as my colleague stated.

As I listened to my colleague's resolution, I had some other thoughts. At one point, I was hearing that this resolution was going to bring about one's own individual expression of one's religion. Then I heard in some other part, "allowing others to participate in my religion so they can have more insight." When I hear words like that, I start to consider whether one is trying to influence one over the other. Religion is such a personal expression, and as soon as we bring it within the realm of education, some convincing argument will come about that it is enforcing one's belief on the other.

When I first saw the resolution, I readily said, "I would like to support a resolution like that, where religious expressions of people can be done." But when I looked at the Human Rights Commission regulations, they even have difficulty defining what is "religion" and what is "creed." Although they said one's religion is protected under the Human Rights Code, one has not really come up with a proper definition of what is creed.

I'd like to introduce just the area I represent, Scarborough North, and the diversity of religion and language within it. In 1991 they said there were about 121,000 people there, and I think there are almost 200,000 now. In that area, Canadian-born are just less than 50% -- that doesn't mean they are all one religion -- and people who are foreign-born are about 54%. Normally, with foreign-born people, there is more diversity of religion. There are over 15 listed languages spoken in Scarborough, but there are really about 30 spoken in total. You can see that religion and language are both quite diverse. That is trying to just define who we are as Canadians, who we are as Ontarians, who we are as Scarborough North. That tells us the complexity of it.

The reason I decided to speak on this resolution is that I visit schools every Friday morning and speak about Parliament and the role of Parliament and what we do, and then entertain questions from the students. One student asked me about the fact that they're not given the right to express their religion inside school, and I don't think I handled the question very well. I think my response was that I'd have to take a closer look at it to find how best it could be done and how best it could be debated. I know the previous government had also wrestled with this, whether the Lord's Prayer should be said or maybe there should be silence, and many compromises came about in dealing with that kind of issue.

It's a very complex issue. Canada is noted for its sensitive approach to religion, to languages. People call it the experiment of multiculturalism. We're looking for answers to how we can live in a better society, in a much more harmonious way, whether it's culture, language or religion.

But as the member read his resolution, as I said, I got extremely concerned. It sounded somehow like we start talking about public schools, that the Catholic schools are funded and they preach their religion, and why should they be given that right over anyone else? We know it's an historic thing and comes with a background of how they came to that level of funding, how they were deprived of that funding, as a matter of fact, how much discrimination happened with Catholics in the past just to be educated. It is extremely difficult.

Religion or spiritual being is a part of human life, a part of human expression, a part of human vision, and if we in any way suppress that, it is going to erupt in other areas where we'd have to pay a higher price.

I strongly believe that if religion is being taught in the school, one has to be extremely careful that we're not talking about enforcing one value over the other but, just like any other thing taught in the school, that students are given the facts and then decisions can be made, more than trying to influence them one way or the other.

But to suppress the religious way of life is quite harmful for the individual's upbringing and the intrinsic value of life itself. As I see it, religion is not that we kneel down to pray at 8 o'clock in the morning as we get up or at 12 o'clock at night when we go to bed, to thank whatever God we have for the wonderful day and the elements of it all. It's a complete way of life, though some of us have narrowed it down. Christians, like myself, narrow it down to Christmas, others to Passover, and go to church and say we have done our bit. But if we are real practising Christians, we behave in a Christian way through the way we live and the way we conduct ourselves from hour to hour. So do Muslims, so do Jews. It's a way of life. Therefore, to just restrict someone to a certain hour, just a quiet time to express their views, I don't think is sufficient. It's also telling them, "We don't want you to chant, we don't want you to do any of the things that normally you would do, but just to keep quiet for a moment of silence and to pay respect to your God."


Of course one tries to resolve the problem, but I think this resolution, which I welcome because it gives us the opportunity to discuss about it, has to do more. I think it could be very dangerous if we start somehow to make a decision to say, "Yes, this is what should be done," without proper consultation. I, even as a parliamentarian, and the 129 other members here as parliamentarians, should never feel that they have the answer to say, "That's the direction to go." That's why we have consultation, and that consultation method has got to be extremely sensitive and very wide and involve all religion, and sometimes no religion at all. If one's religion is not to have a religion, it's also a religion. The fact is that one has to be extremely sensitive to that.

As I wrestle with this resolution to say whether I support it or not, I just want to be very clear -- and sometimes we become rather partisan and political about this. I started off by saying that I would support this, but somehow I don't think I will support this resolution. The problem I have too, and of some concern to my colleagues, is whether or not legislation is the way to go. Do we legislate this kind of stuff? Then maybe this resolution, the resolution itself will open its road to legislation. I think we should legislate the right not to discriminate in regard to these things and giving people equal rights, and then we define what equality is all about. That is so important for us, not to move in the direction of legislation on morality or where one should go and when they should do it and why they should do it.

However, we must also consider the fact that we have a legislated body called the schools, and which we run in a manner of taxpayers' money and how it should be done. The format has to be there to be respected, but in the meantime we must not infringe on people's rights of how to express their own spiritual belief, as long as their spiritual belief does not infringe on others. That is where the complexity comes in, whether or not chanting, for instance, in the schools would interrupt someone who wanted to have a quiet moment to communicate with their God, or whether or not only silence alone should be a part of it. It is a very complex issue, an issue that we must move with in a manner of, I would say, total respect for others and their beliefs.

The resolution I would say has gone a bit far in asking us to say yes or no in this regard, but it is welcome because it then generated that discussion and the discussion should not end here. So the paradox I find myself in is whether I want to make a decision or not. I feel if we are not ready for this kind of a decision, what we should do is then say no to it, but make sure that this kind of debate and discussion comes about at the time.

To give it to boards -- and we said of course, and the member here stated, that the teachers and the students and the parents should be involved in that. More than that, the religious groups have got to be involved with that, whether it's a synagogue, whether it's a mosque, whether it's the pastor of a Christian church who has got to be involved, because somehow the person is taught in the right manner in their own religion how to demonstrate and how to express their religious belief.

I will be voting against this because I think that somehow in voting for it, we would start opening up in a manner where we're telling people that we are moving towards legislation in the expression of one religious belief; a very complex issue, an issue that I really would have loved to have voted for, but I feel at this moment I could not.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I welcome this resolution; it's one that, if I were writing it, I would have written slightly differently, but I say that with all due respect to the member for Peterborough, Mr Stewart, who has brought us this resolution.

I think it's a topic that, I would argue, we don't talk enough about, because I think that often when we get into the situation of talking about the role of religion within our society, and in this case within the school system, we tend, more often than I would argue is necessary, to categorize ourselves on either extreme of that argument.

Those of us who believe strongly in the separation of church and state all too often take that position to the point of saying there can be and there should be no discussion at all about religion in our school system. I don't say that's what everyone who believes in that says, but I hear that all too often, as I say. Whereas on the other side there seems to be sometimes too much of a push for saying, no, it should all just be completely open and with total discretion.

I think the notion of spirituality and spiritual expression as part of reflecting the reality of the diverse society in which we live today is something that we should be not only discussing more, as I say, but also within our school system should be the topic of broader discussion.

The only hesitation I have in the way in which the resolution is written is that one could read it in a way that seems to just leave complete discretion at the local school board level on what to do around this very important topic. But I want to read it also in the context and, if you'll excuse the expression, the spirit -- no pun intended -- within which I think it's presented -- and I've listened carefully to what the member for Peterborough had to say in presenting this resolution -- in that it does call upon the Ministry of Education and Training, in recognizing the important role of spirituality and spiritual expression, to allow school boards the right to determine how -- and I think that's important -- such spiritual expression should be included. I presume that the only way in which it could be done, knowing a little bit about the rules that govern education, is in fact for the minister to clarify at least some of the guidelines, if not indeed some of the regulations, around this issue.

So it's for that reason that I want to say very clearly that I support this resolution. I support this resolution because I think there is some merit in going beyond the very good things that are happening now.

I spent some time as a school trustee at the Toronto Board of Education where, among other things, we developed a book of readings and prayers to be used in the opening exercises, long before the question was settled through the variety of directives from the ministry that the member for Peterborough referred to earlier, the point of that book of prayers and readings being to reflect the diversity that exists, certainly within a school system like the Toronto school system, the diversity of cultures and certainly the diversity of religions.

I take very much the intent of this resolution as being that we should not be afraid to build upon that type of approach and to say that in fact the way to respect the different religious and the different spiritual beliefs that our citizens and hence our young people have, including, I would say, the fact that there are many among our population who consider themselves to be either agnostic or atheist, that there is in fact an ability within our system to reflect that diversity, as opposed to saying that the way we're going to respect that diversity is by ignoring that reality which many of our young people bring with themselves to school.

I've always been one, whether it's been on the questions of culture, on the questions of race and indeed on the questions of religion, to say the way that you most effectively respect the diversity that exists is by talking about it, by giving people the opportunity to understand each other better. It's in that spirit that I want to support this resolution, because I think that out of it might come some interesting discussions and, I hope, some more useful guidelines that could go from the ministry to the school boards in terms of how these issues can be looked at.


I certainly recall in some of my own education, back in Australia, in a public school, where once a week there was the opportunity for a variety of religious classes to be offered. I see that as merely being one possibility. I don't know that it would work or that it's something I would necessarily say ought to be part of our public school system, but I think it's one way to reflect that diversity.

Another would be simply to ensure that in the appropriate way in classrooms, with teachers obviously having the ability and the background to be able to do this, there was some ability for young people to understand the different religions and to be able to express to their fellow students what it is about their particular religious beliefs that they feel strongly about, not as a way to try to impress upon others that one religion is more important than another or purer than another, because that's a debate that I think would be inappropriate, but as a way to simply say, "This is part of who I am." If part of who a young person is also comes from a frame of mind that says, "I don't have a religious belief, but here is my set of morals and here is my set of beliefs," that is also something that ought to be just as equally recognized and reflected. I'm assuming that's also part of the spirit of this resolution.

I think this is the kind of thing that might engender some broader discussion, and for that reason it's useful. I think it's better to reflect the diversity we have by talking about the differences and the different approaches that we have, rather than trying to bury those and say, "We're not going to deal with those." In that sense, I support this resolution before us today.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure today to stand to support the private member's bill, ballot item 28.

I recognize the importance of faith and morals in a tolerant society. Our children need to participate and to fully understand themselves, and in that, to understand each other.

Thank you to my fellow peers for allowing me to speak.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I want to take a short opportunity to comment on this particular resolution. I will not be voting in favour of this resolution, but for the record, I would like to make sure people understand why.

I think it is a well-worded resolution. To give credit to the member, I think what he's trying to do here is in itself not a bad thing, and looking at the wording, it is very well put together. But the difficulty I have is that what we're saying here -- and I just want to read it. It says, "The Ministry of Education and Training should recognize the important role of spirituality and spiritual expression among students of multi-faith traditions in Ontario's public school system by allowing local public boards across Ontario the right to determine for themselves...."

The difficulty I have is that I really don't believe we should go to the local boards with that particular issue. It should be a power left within the Ministry of Education to determine what the policy should be when it comes to the question of religious education within the public school system.

As my colleague from Dovercourt said, there are people out there who believe quite strongly that there needs to be a separation between church and state.

Really, the question here is twofold: Do we want to teach particular religions within our public schools; in other words, do we want religious classes in our public schools that teach Anglicanism, the Pentecostal religion or the Jehovah and Hinduism religions, or do we want to teach children about different religions in order to build tolerance? When I look at this particular resolution, I think it would be left fairly open to the interpretation of the school boards, and I quite think we'd be in a situation of a charter challenge if they were to interpret it along the first line.

I'm not going to take a lot of time. I just want to say I will vote against it on that basis. I believe, like the member who brought this resolution forward, that we should be trying to find ways to teach religious tolerance within our school system. Maybe what we need to do is go to the second, which is to try to incorporate within our public school system a system of education that tries to teach tolerance so that children are able to come to school, are able to share with other students the beauty of their religion with other students and at the same time learn a little bit about the other children's religions so that we can build tolerance. But I would have difficulty in going to a system where we purely are teaching different religions in different classes, and I will vote against this motion.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to my colleague from Peterborough's resolution. In many ways I know that it directly challenges the very fabric of the educational system in the province. It raises the basic question, what exactly is the purpose of our educational system? In general terms, it raises the question, what are we striving to accomplish as a society by even having an educational system?

Year after year, the taxpayers pour multibillions of dollars into education, and yet today there is growing criticism from many parents that the system is failing their children, both in the technical skills such as reading, writing and mathematics, but perhaps even more importantly they believe the schools are failing in the social areas.

I think that few in this House would argue that a top priority of our educational system must be the development of socially responsible, caring children who will grow up to become socially responsible, caring adults. Children are this province's greatest asset. On this I think we all agree.

In my riding of Kitchener, we have a major park called Victoria Park. This summer the city of Kitchener is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the park. Every weekend in the summer the playground in the park is alive with the sounds of hundreds of children laughing and playing. For me, the children playing in Victoria Park have come to represent all that is good in my riding and in the province.

I can watch the children play catch with their parents. I can watch as they timidly climb the stairs to the top of the slides and slide down with shrieks of laughter. I can hear the shouts of "higher" as they encourage their parents to push them harder on the swings so they can try to touch the sky with their feet. I am forced to smile watching the children run in and out of the water spray-pole, trying not to get wet while being thrilled when they end up being soaked because their little legs won't carry them away from the water fast enough.

This wonderful summer life of Victoria Park is very much the same today as it has been every summer for 100 years. But despite the obvious wonderful similarities of the summer life in Victoria Park, there is one significant difference. That difference is in the makeup of the families who take their children to the park. Today, the summer life in Victoria Park represents a microcosm of the social fabric of our great province. Today, the children who play in the park represent the cultural mosaic that is the strength of our communities.

As hard as it is to imagine, it is a fact that less than three decades ago there were 1,446 school boards in the province of Ontario. The school system was based upon what was then perceived to be in the best interests of the region it served. Today, the challenges of the educational system are significantly different. The educational needs of our children now must be viewed from a global perspective.

Today, the educational system faces the challenge of preparing our children to be able to think in terms of and to be able to socially interact with an international perspective. Today, the children in Victoria Park represent families with backgrounds from every corner of the world. The truly wonderful aspect of these obvious cultural and racial differences of the children is the tremendous strength of the cultural similarities that also exist between the families who take their children to the park and the children who play together in the park.

I am of the belief that every child playing in Victoria Park has a gift to offer us. I am of the belief that these children can teach us how to better get along with each other, how to play together, how to work together and how to appreciate each other, not in spite of our obvious racial and cultural differences, but because of the obvious similarities we share with all peoples from all parts of the world. The time has come to learn how to celebrate the positive aspects of all cultural backgrounds of the children in our school system.


The time has come for us to also accept the fact that the social backbone of every successful culture is its spirituality as defined by its major religions. Sceptics want us to ignore this basic historic fact, but ignoring this fact is to do a great injustice to the great cultures throughout the world. We gain nothing from ignoring this reality, but we may gain from recognizing it and our children may gain a small insight into the differing heritage of some of their schoolmates. I have long believed that only through increased education might we eliminate the ignorance of other beliefs that is the root cause of racism.

We have had a generation of increasing emphasis on legislation but less emphasis on education. To force bilingualism and biculturalism, then multiculturalism, on Canadians when they should have been embraced by all of us, what we have fostered is resentment and increasing racism. If we are to eradicate this disease, we must do so through the education system.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a number of citizenship courts in Waterloo region. It amazed me to find that the people receiving their Canadian citizenship were from more than 30 different countries. Think about that, Mr Speaker. People from 30 different countries, all with varying cultures and many religions from around the globe, chose Waterloo region as their home. I think it is worth the time and energy to learn just a little bit about the spiritual aspects of the cultures that bind them together.

Our school boards should be given the opportunity to take time each day to identify a positive spiritual thought representative of the cultural background of their student bodies. I believe that a moment of spiritual expression and reflection is itself a small step, but it is an important step because it helps send out the message to our young people that we once were all from a different heritage and that each of us has something positive to learn from those from differing racial, cultural and spiritual backgrounds.

The time has come to start the process of celebrating the strengths of all the cultures which make up our new social fabric. I believe this resolution is a small step along that road and I will be supporting it.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this subject this morning since it's a subject that is very close to my heart and in some very significant instances some of the motivation for my actually being here in this House.

It is because of the spiritual upbringing and understanding that existed in my home as I grew up and in the community in which I lived and the interaction that I had with people over the years both on an informal and formal basis that I'm able to stand here today with some confidence that I reflect in some way hopefully a balanced approach to the way we set the rules that govern us and guide us in this wonderful province of Ontario.

Certainly the resolution that's in front of us today speaks to something that I think is innate to the very beautiful nature of the country we call Canada. The fact that we have so many people among us because of our, I think, very progressive immigration policies -- I myself came to this country in 1960 with five sisters and a brother and my parents to a community, Wawa, north of the community that I represent today, Sault Ste Marie. In arriving, I discovered the variety of nationalities and people who were there who professed their belief and nurtured themselves spiritually in ways that were, yes, different from perhaps the very formal way in some instances that I did my spiritual exercises, but nevertheless were very supportive and helpful and positive in their life.

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on the fact that we see diversity as something that enriches us and makes us better as a country, that actually sets us out on the world stage as an example of the way people with diverging views on things from culture, politics and, yes, religion, can live together in harmony and enhance the fabric and the very nature and future hopes and opportunities not only for us but for our children and our children's children.

This resolution today, in my mind, gives us an opportunity to reflect on that for a moment and to speak to it in a very specific way re how we in fact foster, encourage and nourish the spirituality that is at the root of the lives of so many of us and so many of the different groupings that we find in the communities that make up Ontario today.

I personally feel that all of us, in very direct and helpful ways, need to focus on parts of who we are in order to be balanced and productive and contributing individuals. Certainly we all need to be very social beings, and I think we need to nourish that by having friends and spending time with friends and family. We all need to be people who concern ourselves about how we are physically, so we put in place as a country a health care system that will help us with that, plus we encourage through the programs that we set in place, both provincially and municipally, opportunities to recreate. We all need to be concerned as well about the way that we develop and support ourselves emotionally. But more particularly today I think it's important that we also pay attention to the spiritual side of ourselves and that we nourish that, that we not in any way deny it and that we not in any way put our head in the sand about it.

Schools are used in our society today to educate and to help us come to terms with a whole lot of what sometimes can be difficult and problematic. So I think it's only correct that we should allow for some expression, for some participation, for some understanding and enjoyment of that particular reality and that in our schools and in our local areas we should get together and decide how it is we should do that.

Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I welcome the opportunity to speak to this resolution this morning. I want to first of all comment on the ideas that have been presented so far this morning.

People have tended to concentrate on the very important opportunity that this resolution presents to create the atmosphere of tolerance and understanding that all of us appreciate and recognize as paramount to our democratic system. However, what I would like to do is take a couple of minutes to talk about another aspect that I think deserves attention.

It's really important to understand that students, particularly adolescents, are very curious and naturally interested in the development of value systems and understanding where these come from and the foundations upon which our own society is based and the foundations upon which other societies are based. I think it's really an important opportunity then for people to see this development in this context. It's one that I think has been overlooked, as the previous speaker mentioned, that we have not addressed the issue of spirituality in our education system. We have tended to shy away from it for the kinds of reasons other speakers have mentioned, but I think the fact that there is a tremendous sensitivity here and there is a need to develop this carefully doesn't mean we shouldn't accept the challenge that is suggested by this resolution.

I would also add that not only is this a natural time to address the students' curiosity and need to learn about the various ideas of spirituality, but I'd also suggest that it is at the base of so much that has been developed in music, in literature, in the arts and in history itself. To deny that this is in fact what has in so many cases been the raison d'être for the world's best music, art and literature is to leave out a part of the puzzle.

For that reason, I think we need to support this resolution and move forward in looking at where we should go to provide students with that opportunity.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): This is a very difficult issue for someone like me who, like most of my colleagues, I think, in this House, has a great respect for the need for us in our communities to come to grips with the issue of spirituality. But I can assure you, having gone through the difficulties of the Elgin case that the member mentioned in his introduction, leaving this issue up to school boards is not the appropriate thing to do. It simply opens the door for a majority religion position in local school boards to deny right to all of those other groups.

If you read the materials on both sides of the question in Elgin county, you will understand that there is no ground out there around what could be considered to be multicultural spiritualism. People on both sides of the question, from all different religions, object to the issue of another person's religion being used as an expression, and all that will happen is this issue will be up for debate in every school board in the province. The divisions among us which we are trying to heal will in fact become worse. That really concerns me. I'll be voting against the resolution.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I will be in support of the resolution. I appreciate the experience the member for London Centre has had in her former capacity as Attorney General, but this whole issue is about choice, whether it be religious exercises, whether it be courses in religion.

The whole issue developed in the 1988 Court of Appeal decision. At that time it was made quite clear that religious exercises, particularly with respect to public elementary schools, would apply as long as one religion did not receive primacy.

All of us in this place represent many different areas, many different cultures, many different religions. Whether we like it or not -- I quite like it, as a matter of fact -- religion is part of our culture and we should have the ability to allow religious exercises if it's chosen. I've spoken to members on one of my school boards in Dufferin county, and there are some members who oppose it, there are some members who are in favour of it. If in their wisdom they decide that the people of that area wish that type of religious exercise or religious education, they have the ability to do that. They are in a better position to decide whether that should take place.

In this Legislature we start our days off each day when the Speaker has the Lord's Prayer and one other prayer. That is our choice. That could be changed by the rules of this place. The rules could be voted on to decide that that practice not take place, and I'm quite thankful that it hasn't. To date, that process does take place and for a few moments we reflect on our spirituality, and I quite frankly personally have no problem on that issue.

I commend the member for bringing this issue forward. I believe there is some confusion with respect to policies that have come forward from the Court of Appeal decision, notwithstanding the fact that there was a 1988 policy that said school boards did have the option, although some school boards, as I understand it -- I think Brant county allows a noonhour Bible club to meet with respect to accommodating its rural community. In 1992, parents in Sault Ste Marie rejected the ban of religious instruction in public schools by sending their children to separate schools.

There is some uncertainty as to the policy of the provincial government. The provincial government has guidelines which ban religious education during the instructional day, which could be interpreted as including the noonhour.

I believe if anything, as the member for Dovercourt has raised, there is nothing wrong with discussing this topic and coming to some sort of consensus as to where we should be going. I happen to believe, with the member who introduced the resolution, that school boards are in a better position to make these types of decisions. If the school boards in their wisdom see that there should be religious exercises -- at the commencement of the day, at the end of the day, at noonhour -- or if the school boards in their wisdom see fit that there should be religious courses at any time during the day, they should have that option. I believe the intent of the resolution is to clarify that, because there's no question, as I indicated, that religion is part of our culture, part of the Canadian culture. Therefore, I would support that resolution.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Peterborough, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Stewart: First of all, I'd like to thank the members from both sides of the House who are going to support this resolution.

This resolution is a bill about -- I could mention a number of words. It's a bill about understanding. It's a bill about tolerance. It's a bill about multifaith expression. It's a bill about freedom of speech in our democratic society. It's a bill about freedom of expression. It's a bill about the lifting of suppression in schools as far as spiritual reflection or expression is concerned.

There is nothing mandatory about this bill. There is nothing forcing anybody to do anything. What it does do is allow our students to participate in some type of spiritual reflection, if they so wish. I believe it is a resolution that is long overdue. Recently in Peterborough we had a phone-in show and probably better than 50% of the people who phoned in were students who want to be part of this type of spiritual reflection.

I believe this bill enhances the rights of students. It brings our students in public schools greater spiritual freedom to learn, understand, appreciate and participate for themselves, their colleagues and ultimately society, to prepare themselves for the future and be part of the future of this province.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will deal first with ballot item number 27, standing in the name of Mr Wildman. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise?

Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Pursuant to standing order 96(k), the bill is referred to the committee of the whole House.

Interjections: Resources development.

The Acting Speaker: Shall this bill be referred to the standing on resources development? All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remain standing. A majority of the House being in agreement with the request of the member, this bill stands referred to the standing committee on resources development.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will now deal with ballot item number 28, standing in the name of the member for Peterborough. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise?

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 ayes have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1200 to 1205.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Stewart has moved private member's notice of motion number 17.

All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remain standing.


Agostino, Dominic

Ecker, Janet

Preston, Peter

Arnott, Ted

Fisher, Barbara

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Baird, John R.

Fox, Gary

Ross, Lillian

Barrett, Toby

Galt, Doug

Shea, Derwyn

Boushy, Dave

Guzzo, Garry J.

Silipo, Tony

Brown, Jim

Klees, Frank

Stewart, R. Gary

Carroll, Jack

Martin, Tony

Tilson, David

Chudleigh, Ted

Munro, Julia

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Danford, Harry

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Wood, Bob

Doyle, Ed

Pettit, Trevor


The Acting Speaker: All those opposed to the motion will please rise and remain standing.


Bisson, Gilles

Cooke, David S.

Laughren, Floyd

Boyd, Marion

Curling, Alvin

Martel, Shelley

Christopherson, David

Grandmaître, Bernard


Churley, Marilyn

Lankin, Frances


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 29; the nays are 10.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

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

The House recessed from 1207 to 1330.



Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): This is National Mental Health Week. A number of events are planned throughout the week to raise awareness of mental health.

Over two million Ontarians suffer with mental illness. The impact of mental illness affects not only the one third of Ontarians directly touched by the problem but our society as a whole. It is estimated that over 1.8 million workdays are lost every month by people who suffer from a mental illness. This loss of productivity affects Ontario's competitiveness.

Ontario is fortunate to have a strong network of 354 local community mental health programs to offer services to people suffering from a mental illness and support to their families. Our community agencies serve over 34,000 people every day. Unfortunately, a 5% funding cut announced by the Mike Harris government will have a detrimental effect on the ability of our community agencies to provide care many so desperately need.

In a recent Environics poll, nine out of 10 people believe Ontario should increase or maintain spending on mental health programs. When reminded that taxes or the deficit could rise as a result, people still supported maintaining or increasing spending on community mental health.

The people of Ontario are aware of the seriousness of mental health, and I urge the government to listen to 90% of Ontarians that our mental health support services are important and we do not want to see them cut any further. Mental illness does not leave a segment of Ontario society untouched.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): Because there have been so many different cuts made because of the Tory business plan, many individual programs that have offered a great deal of support and help to Ontarians who want to get back to work to become self-sufficient have just been lost in the flurry of different closures.

I want to talk about one today, and that is the Transitions program, which was an Ontario Training and Adjustment Board program geared to helping those over 45 who lost their jobs either during a transition or a downsizing. That program assisted 14,000 laid-off older workers, 50% of whom were able to find permanent employment within three months.

The decision to wind down that program seems to have happened very quietly. Even the participants did not know. The decision was made on April 11 and the rules went into effect on May 1. Those rules mean that no new applications will be accepted after May 1, that the course training credit has been slashed to $3,000 from $4,500, and that all training has to be completed by December 31.

This is a very serious issue for older workers. The government says it is looking at other programs to replace this. They need to look quickly, because older workers are losing their jobs every day.


Mr John L. Parker (York East): I draw the attention of this House to Celebrate Your Watershed Week in Metro Toronto region. Many events are being held throughout this week to help promote an appreciation of the vast stretches of natural land that exist within our urban area inside and around Metro Toronto.

Accompanied by Margaret Casey of Friends of the Don East York, I was among the more than 160 canoeists who came to "Paddle the Don" last Sunday as part of the kickoff to the week's events. Our trip began at Serena Gundy Park in the riding of Don Mills. From there we paddled the length of the lower Don through the great riding of York East and down through the fine ridings of Riverdale and St George-St David to the mouth of the river. We then crossed the Toronto waterfront to York Quay, emerging a full four hours after our start.

I have paddled many lakes and rivers of this province and explored much of Ontario's wilderness. Although last Sunday's trip took place entirely within an urbanized area, there were stretches that seemed just as remote as any northern route I have ever known. This is a credit to the dedicated efforts of the hundreds of volunteers and professionals who have served the cause of conservation in the Metro region over the years.

I am pleased to note that in this, the third year of the Paddle the Don event, participation more than doubled last year's turnout of 75 canoes. Let's hope that next year we can increase participation further. In the meantime, I urge residents throughout the Metro region to take this occasion to get out and explore and take an interest in helping to preserve the natural environment within our community.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I would like to tell this House about a truly dedicated group in my riding. The Thunder Bay arm of the Ontario Friends of Schizophrenics is a volunteer, non-profit, self-help group comprised primarily of families who are striving to increase public awareness of schizophrenia, provide support for families and raise money for research.

Given its prevalence and the needs it creates, schizophrenia is one of the most devastating of mental illnesses. The risk for developing schizophrenia at some time during one's life is one in 100. At any particular point in time, approximately one out of every 225 people has the disorder. That means that approximately 48,000 people in Ontario had schizophrenia in 1994.

The majority of those who develop the disease do so in their late teens or early twenties and are afflicted by it for the rest of their lives. A shocking one in 10 commits suicide. The Friends of Schizophrenics estimate that hospitalization, outpatient treatment, medication, community services, family benefits and productivity losses amount to over $2.5 billion a year.

Despite the breadth, severity and cost of this disorder, research in this area is vastly underfunded and the province's current mental health system is unable to meet the needs of people with schizophrenia. Further, Friends of Schizophrenics are concerned that changes in the Ministry of Health will result in a further erosion of already inadequate services.

I would like to applaud the Friends of Schizophrenics, and especially the Thunder Bay chapter and president Helen Schumacher, for their sensitive and dedicated service.


Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Because of drastic cuts in education funding, students in my riding of Lake Nipigon and in other northern Ontario communities are being hit harder than anywhere else in the province of Ontario.

Because of these cuts, one of my constituents, a 13-year-old Franco-Ontarian student with a learning disability who currently attends the Centre Jules-Léger in Ottawa, a centre of excellence indeed -- this 13-year-old challenged person will no longer be able to live in residence on the weekend because it has been decreed, it's been decided by the Minister of Education, that starting in September the residence will close on weekends. So every weekend this 13-year-old young adult will have to commute 17 hours, return, from Ottawa to the township of Geraldton in the riding of Lake Nipigon.

The Centre Jules-Léger is the only school in Ontario that serves Franco-Ontarian children with severe learning disabilities: deafness, blindness or deafness and blindness combined. Students who live in Ottawa return home -- it's quite natural -- over the weekend. But students like my constituent who live farther stay in school residence. They go home maybe once or twice a month.


Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): As Ontarians, we all have an interest in ensuring that young children start life in a healthy and secure environment. We all have a stake in their wellbeing. The Ontario budget reflects this government's commitment to children, as the following initiatives demonstrate.

Five million dollars has been earmarked this year in startup funding for the formation of a partnership with the Canadian Living Foundation for Families in order to help parents and communities set up and expand local nutrition programs for elementary school children. This fulfils another promise from the Common Sense Revolution. It is also the realization of initiatives begun by the Premier himself on behalf of Ontario's children while he was still a member of the opposition.

Services to meet the needs of preschool children with speech and language disorders will receive 10 million new dollars this year, together with another $10 million to be added later.

Child care funding is being enhanced with an additional $200 million above current levels. Overall expansion of the province's support for child care will rise to $600 million.

I am proud to say that this level of support for child care by this government is the highest ever in the history of Ontario. A sole-support parent with one child on an employment income of $30,000 and with $5,000 in child care expenses will save 35.1% or --

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



Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): News reports yesterday indicated that the Ontario transportation minister will be out personally filling potholes around Ontario if the public doesn't find that road maintenance is up to snuff. Well, guess what? Ontario road maintenance is not up to snuff.

Can you imagine Minister Palladini donning his Gucci shoes, shovel in hand, patting down hot tar? A very funny sight that would be indeed. It's also very inefficient. Here's a minister who is making about $100,000 a year, who should have some important decisions to make in managing some very difficult issues ahead, and he wants to get out in the sunshine and fill potholes with hot tar.

We've heard from people across Ontario. The Hawkeswood family from Windsor, the Baverstock family from Timmins, everyone wants proper road maintenance.

Minister, we don't think you're building a better tomorrow or spending taxpayers' money wisely.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): As troubling as the government's budget announcement about the development of a regime of video lottery terminals, slot machines, across this province was the bothersomeness of the fact that the Ontario Lottery Corp is going to oversee, regulate and control the placement of these VLTs.

The Ontario Lottery Corp has become a corrupt institution in this province. I'm not speaking about cash register integrity, there's no question about it, but this is the third successive government to fail to take in hand an Ontario Lottery Corp that has built a fiefdom around gambling in Ontario at the expense of, among others, small business.

Witness the case of Christopher Bahnuk, who worked for AT&T as a technician and was fired at the insistence of the Ontario Lottery Corp when he discovered faults in the integrity of the lottery distribution system through lottery outlets here in Ontario.

Witness the case of Brant Warner, a small business person whose lottery ticket licence was pulled by the Ontario Lottery Corp so that big chain stores adjacent to him could have lottery terminals at the expense of a true small business person who is trying to support himself, provide a little bit of employment and engage in free enterprise.

The Ontario Lottery Corp requires a thorough investigation, and it's the last body that we want to see supervising this government's organized gambling.


Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): Two days ago today the Honourable Ernie Eves, Minister of Finance, delivered this government's first budget, a good-news budget that meets this government's commitment to provide strong incentives for private sector investment and job creation in Ontario.

This budget will help achieve our goal of an Ontario with more jobs, a healthy economy, lower taxes and a balanced budget. It is a jobs, hope, growth and opportunity budget for the people of Ontario, and of course the tax cut that was promised by this government is now a reality and will help to spur our economy by consumer savings, personal debt reduction and consumer spending.

Two of my constituents, who were very pleased that they will receive a tax cut as promised by this government, have already informed me that they will use the money they receive from their tax payment for a new roof and repairs to the exterior of their home.

I would also like to recognize the tremendous contribution to our province by the same two constituents. These two individuals have decided to take advantage of the new Ontario opportunities fund announced by the Minister of Finance. They were so impressed with this government's responsible financial initiatives to get this great province back on track that they decided to show great leadership and belief in the future by being among the first Ontarians to contribute to the fund.

I am pleased, on behalf of my two constituents, Diane Malott and Chris Zielinski of Etobicoke-Humber, to present a cheque for $100 to the Minister of Finance to help pay down our province's deficit.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today Mr Lévis Brien and Mr Russell Copeman, members of the National Assembly of the province of Quebec. Please join me in welcoming our guests.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I beg to inform the House that I've laid upon the table a response from the Honourable Gregory Evans, the Integrity Commissioner, to the request by the member for Windsor-Riverside and the member for Fort William on whether the member for Nipissing had contravened the Members' Integrity Act or Ontario parliamentary convention.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Chairman of Management Board. Minister, as you will know, we have for some time now been raising concerns about the potential closure of all the regional family support plan offices. Your colleague the Attorney General, when we've raised this issue in the past, has said there has been no decision made yet.

I have minutes of a meeting that was held on April 25 between the Deputy Attorney General and the staff of the regional offices of the family support plan. The minutes make it very clear that the business plan relating to the family support offices was referred to your ministry, to the Management Board, for review and further consideration. We also understand from these minutes that a decision on whether to close the regional offices would be made following the presentation of the May budget. We have learned that regional managers have been called to Toronto for a meeting with the assistant deputy minister tomorrow.

Minister, I would ask you, because clearly you're aware of this with the issue having been referred to Management Board, what is the status of the decision? Is it your intention to shut down all the regional offices of the family support plan?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): I have no announcement to make in that regard today. We did indicate during the process whereby I announced reductions to the spending of the province of Ontario that the business plans would be coming forward after the budget had been tabled. I expect that the estimates will be tabled, the business plans will come forward. There are meetings taking place, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, and as a result of various meetings, decisions will be made and they will be announced at the appropriate time.

Mrs McLeod: I say to the minister that the minutes of this meeting of the Deputy Attorney General with regional staff make it pretty clear that the decision has indeed been made and what the decision is. According to these minutes, the deputy told the staff that he is looking at having one point of contact for clients. That's about as clear a statement as can be made that you are planning to centralize all these services.

The deputy told the staff at this meeting that their proposals, the proposals of regional staff, had been given consideration. In fact, he said the only way in which the staff proposals differed from the management proposal was that the staff had found a way to keep the regional offices open but management recommended the regional offices be closed. I don't think it gets much clearer than that, Minister, and the rumours are already rampant throughout the regional offices that the pink slips are ready to go.

Will you just confirm today what is going to happen? Will you confirm that the regional offices, those offices that are closest to the families and to the children who need support, are about to be closed down?

Hon David Johnson: I will support that the government wants to make a better system than the one that's in place today, and the current system in our view is not working as well as it should for the children of Ontario, so we intend to implement changes to improve the system. But I will confirm as well today that no decision on the closing of the regional offices has been made. Obviously there is a consultative process that's taking place. We do want to and need to improve the system, but no decision has been made to close the regional offices as of this point today.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, where does it say, in the briefing note you just read about finding technical new ways of getting more efficient, about the importance of the regional offices in the enforcement of the family support plan? Where does it say how important these regional offices are to the families and to the children who depend on getting that kind of support? Where does it say in that briefing note that the regional offices can demonstrate the effectiveness in ensuring that there is compliance?

Let me give you one example: Windsor. The compliance rate in September 1995, the Windsor office, was 64%, and that is up 20% since February 1992. That's effectiveness. That means that by working with parents the Windsor office has been able to make sure that support payments get to children and that fewer deadbeat dads get away with ignoring the needs of their children.


If I give you the example of the Thunder Bay office, our goal here surely is effectiveness. The staff in this office serve over 3,000 clients, and their clients go from the Manitoba border halfway to Sault Ste Marie, a huge distance. I'd like you to tell me how that can possibly be done effectively working out of a phone line in Toronto. Sometimes this involves personal meetings. Sometimes it involves being on the site to work with employers in the workplaces. It is proving to be effective.

It's clear from these meetings that effective service to families and children was not the goal. It's clear that the goal was to get the province some cash now. This is all about the tax cut. It is all about the budget. It is all about finding dollars. You don't care what happens to the service to families and children as a result.

Why are you ignoring the obvious fact that the regional offices are a critical and an effective part of the family support plan? Why do you insist on closing these offices down, despite the fact that families and children will be worse off as a result?

Hon David Johnson: I will reiterate that as of this point no decision has been made to close the regional offices. But I'm glad to see that the Leader of the Opposition shares the concern of this government for the children. Indeed, she shares the concern this government has for the compliance rate. We feel the compliance rate should be made better, and that's why this government is working with mothers against fathers in arrears, for example, why this government is working with families against deadbeats. This government thinks that the compliance rate, the payment rate, should be increased. That's what this issue is all about, and this government will continue to work to increase the compliance rate, to make sure the money gets into the hands of those who need it. I'm glad to see that in that fight we will have the support of the official opposition.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. In the last couple of days you've been bragging about the fact you're spending more than ever before on roads, but your budget documents don't substantiate that. In your budget documents, your ministry is cutting $542 million from capital over the last two years, you're cutting $156 million from operating, so if you're cutting about $700 million, how could you be saying you're spending more?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I certainly would like to correct the member's allegations that we are cutting funds and yet we're going to be spending more. We are going to be spending more on the infrastructure. There are ways, and this government has chosen to take those ways, in cutting expenses off administration and other things that are a major part of the expenditure and putting the money where it's needed the most. Yes, we are going to be spending more money this year to repair our infrastructure than we have in the last six, and the numbers will prove that.

Mr Colle: The potholes prove it. I think the condition of the roads right across this province proves that you're not giving us the full figures. If you drive on Highway 401, if you drive on Highway 69, if you drive anywhere in Ontario, you know that your cutbacks can't be hidden any more.

You have even offered to fix the potholes yourself. Are you going to now give us a 1-800 pothole number? Are you going to give out your cell phone number so people can call you? How can these thousands of people across Ontario get in touch with you? What's the number?

Hon Mr Palladini: I am just amazed at how the member is addressing the problem, as if this government is completely responsible for the condition of our highways. The lack of funding and the lack of attention was clear. The last two governments did not put money back into the infrastructure when they should have. If they had done that, we would not have the conditions we've got today or have to spend the money we have to spend today.

It's been a severe winter. We've gone through a strike. The roads are still frozen; there's still thaw in the ground. It's not a position where we could address some of those potholes the member's referring to. But I want to assure the member that yes, we are going to address the problem and we are going to rectify the problem. I'm going to say it in this House: If our staff doesn't fix a pothole, I will personally go out there and fix it myself.

Mr Colle: The minister should give us his personal phone number so people can phone him. We'd like to get that number for the public so they can call you.

How can you keep blaming the weather? How can you blame previous governments when in the budget document you cut $542 million in capital the last two years? You're spending even less this year in operating than you spent last year. If you're cutting, it's your fault, because you still are putting more potholes in our roads by cutting. Why are you blaming others when you've cut one third of the budget?

Hon Mr Palladini: It is very clear. In the past six years the government of Ontario has put on the ground, into our highway infrastructure, an average of $245 million. This government is going to be putting in excess of $350 million this year. Like I said to the member previously, we are looking for cuts in areas that are not going to affect our infrastructure. We are going to invest money in our infrastructure because we know how important it is for Ontario's economic vitality, and it will be done.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I have a question to the Minister of Finance. As we pointed out yesterday, your budget has abandoned the Common Sense Revolution's job creation promise. You have been quick to take credit for jobs that have been created in this province, so presumably you will also be prepared to take responsibility for the jobs that aren't being created. I want to share with you some real numbers, numbers that tell the story about the level of unemployment in this province.

First of all, your own numbers are projecting a higher unemployment rate in 1996 than in 1995 and, even more significantly, you're projecting 515,000 people unemployed in 1998. That's a 2.8% higher figure than when you took office last year. With those real numbers in mind, how can you tell the people who are looking for jobs in Ontario that this kind of performance is good enough?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): The honourable member will know, if he's done his homework with respect to these numbers, that the number of people seeking employment during the years he talks about is going to go up by approximately 84,000 people during that period. I'm sure he's incorporated that into the numbers he's using here today because I know he'd want to be objective about the numbers he's presenting to the Legislature and to the people of Ontario.

The fact remains that the Ontario economy on its own, before the tax cut, has created 75,000 net jobs in the last seven months alone.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): That leaves 650,000 to go.

Mr Silipo: As some of my colleagues have said, those people are called the unemployed, and they're the ones the minister should be concerned about.

I want to focus on an area that I know is of particular interest to all members and I'm sure the minister as well, and that is what this all means for young people. The latest statistics show us that there's an unemployment rate of 16.1% for youths from 15 to 24 years of age. According to statistics from the month of March, 140,000 youths can't find work, an increase of 5.2% from the same month last year.

When we look around and see the kind of cynical attitude young people have, you can understand why they're quite cynical when there's that high level of unemployment. What you're telling young people in Ontario, aside from some efforts you've taken with respect to summer job creation, is that the only solution you've got is to put a tax cut in the pockets of those who already have a job. You're not giving young people hope in terms of any job creation incentives that are going to apply to them.


What real action have you taken or are you going to take to create jobs for young people, as well as the rest of Ontarians, but particularly for young people in Ontario?

Hon Mr Eves: The best future we can give the young people in the province is to provide the economy of Ontario and the people of Ontario with an economic climate where people will want to remain, will want to expand their businesses, will want to locate in Ontario.

I know you may find that difficult to accept, and I will accept your difference in philosophy in that area, if you will. However, we have seen what the opposite tack has brought us -- quite frankly, not much: not a single new net job in the previous six years up to our assuming office on June 26 of last year. We know what that philosophy is about: creating make-work projects. And often when the government's funding of make-work projects ends, unfortunately, so does the job. We are making every effort to provide an economic climate here in Ontario where there are lasting, meaningful jobs for young people in the province.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Minister, your words ring especially hollow in Sault Ste Marie. The actions of your government have already cost the people of Sault Ste Marie over 500 jobs, and this doesn't include the impact of the announcement that was made by your minister on April 11.

Last week, I asked the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism what he was going to do about the job loss in Sault Ste Marie, and he talked about some jobs he was creating in St Thomas. To suggest for a second that the unemployed of northern Ontario should move en masse to St Thomas just doesn't cut it. Can I go back to the people of my community of Sault Ste Marie, of northern Ontario, and tell them that this government is going to live up to its promise to do something now about the job loss and to live up to its promise to create jobs in this province?

Hon Mr Eves: As I just said to his colleague in response to a previous question, the best sort of job creation program that this government, or any government, in my opinion, could possibly provide to the people of Ontario are five million taxpayers of Ontario out there spending money as they see fit, not as a government in Queen's Park sees fit. That is the future of the province of Ontario and that will create lasting jobs.

Even before the tax cut, the private sector has created 90,000 jobs in the province of Ontario in the last nine months. That's almost four jobs created for every one lost in the public sector. For those 500 people you're talking about, and I do appreciate your concern about those people, there were another 2,000 jobs created by the private sector during the same period.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have another question to the Minister of Finance. I draw your attention to the so-called Common Sense Revolution document, page 5, upon which your government program, your budget, has been developed. It says there: "Historically, municipalities have responded to provincial funding limits by simply increasing local property taxes. There may be numerous levels of government in this province, but there is only one level of taxpayer -- you."

Then in heavy print it says, "We will work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions we take will not result in increases to local property taxes."

That's on page 5 of the Common Sense Revolution. Does the minister stand by those words and that commitment?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): The leader of the third party will know that local representatives are elected to perform certain responsibilities and functions to their constituents, just as he and I are in the provincial Legislature to provide certain responsibilities to our constituents.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): You're sloughing it off on them, Ernie. You passed the buck to them, and you know it.

Hon Mr Eves: With respect to municipalities generally in the province, what we have asked and what we have passed on to the municipalities, I say to the member for Windsor-Riverside, is a reduction of 2% to 3% of their total expenditures for this fiscal year. Is the third party telling me that municipalities as a whole in the province of Ontario cannot accommodate a 2% or 3% reduction in their total expenditures without dramatically raising taxation? Is that what he's saying?

Mr Wildman: The minister today, and yesterday, is not following through with the commitment on page 5. As a matter of fact, he's complaining that municipalities may continue what the document said they've done historically. The minister is saying that the 2% to 3% reduction should be easily handled and that the municipalities can do this without raising local property taxes. But the fact is that they are raising local property taxes.

These are decisions that are made locally. What is the government doing to live by the commitment in the Common Sense Revolution which says, "We will work closely with municipalities to ensure that any actions we take will not result in increases to local property taxes"? What are you doing in terms of working closely with municipalities and with school boards to ensure that they're not raising local property taxes?

Hon Mr Eves: What we are doing is providing municipalities with a limited reduction of 2% or 3%. If they decide that they have to raise taxes or user fees dramatically to accommodate a 2% or 3% reduction --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): That's not your promise.

Hon Mr Eves: I say to the member for Beaches-Woodbine, the would-be leader of the third party, she must know that municipal leaders and representatives have jurisdiction over their own actions. They pass their own budgets, believe it or not, and they will be responsible for their own actions in November 1997.

Not all municipalities in the province have passed budgets for the upcoming year; in fact, a lot of them are not finalized. But, for example, the following regions have come up with absolutely zero mill rate increases for this year: Halton, York, Peel, Muskoka. They seem to be able to cope, and other municipalities would do well to follow their lead.

Mr Wildman: What the minister is saying is that they aren't doing anything about working closely with municipalities to ensure they don't raise property taxes.

The 2% or 3% he continually mentions ignores the fact that just on the education side there's a 16% cut in the general legislative grants. It's resulted in significant increases. The minister raised some examples; let's look at some examples.

In Sudbury, it was reported yesterday in the local newspaper that separate school taxpayers will pay an extra $77 to help the board make up a $10-million shortfall in provincial funding. Also, the Waterloo board of education has authorized a tax increase, and the chair of its finance committee attributed it directly as a result of cuts from the provincial government. We know other municipalities are increasing property taxes. I have a whole list here of school boards across the province that have increased property taxes anywhere from 1.5% to 5.9%.

You're not doing anything about this. You're simply saying that it's up to them, it's always been up to them. As you said, historically, whenever they lose provincial grants, they raise it locally. That's what's happening. The local property taxpayer is now having to pay those taxes and it's eating up whatever you're giving them in an income tax break. Why won't you live up to your commitment to do something about this?

Hon Mr Eves: To the leader of the third party, I'd like to talk about his government's record from 1991 to 1995. Here are some examples -- I know he won't like this; I can hear the screaming already -- of education property tax increases while you were in government for four years: city of Toronto, up 15.7%; city of Scarborough, up 15.7%; city of York, up 16.1%; city of Sudbury, up 4%; city of Windsor, up 17.3%; city of Thunder Bay, up 14.6%.

Transit user fees: in the Metropolitan Toronto region during your tenure in office, up 28.5%; in the city of Sudbury, up 21.1%; in the city of Kingston, up 23.5% -- user fees during your period in office, I say to the leader of the third party -- in the city of Toronto, user fees went up 18.3%; in Etobicoke, 18.9%; in Scarborough, 18.6%; in North York, 20.1%; in the city of York, 18.6%; in the borough of East York, 18.4%. You have the gall and the hypocrisy to stand here and talk about increase in user fees and property taxes. During your tenure in government --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I wonder if the honourable minister would withdraw the word "hypocrisy." Would the honourable member withdraw the word "hypocrisy"?

Hon Mr Eves: I withdraw that word, Mr Speaker.



Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'd like to give the Minister of Finance time to calm down before I ask my question of him.

The minister has quite honestly -- there are differences in society, differences on whether the government is right or wrong on this, but the government has decided that it's going to embark upon a program of very deep cuts to services in the province, so junior kindergarten will disappear in some places, some assistance to women's shelters will be diminished, funding for hospital care in the hospital itself may go down in some places, and children's aid funding, and seniors will pay some user fees. We understand what your policy is and I fully understand. I don't agree with it, but I understand what your thrust has been.

As well, Minister, when you were in opposition, you and your good friend the Premier made some excellent speeches and directed some excellent questions to previous governments about the issue of government advertising. I know the classic response is to get up and read what other governments did and so on and say how much better you are, but I knew you were going to change things. I was really confident that you would actually change things over there and you wouldn't embark upon an advertising blitz. So I ask you, sir, because the Speaker wants the question, how can you possibly justify spending over half a million dollars on self-serving political advertising such as appeared in the paper today and appeared previous to this, when your policy was to oppose this kind of advertising when you were in opposition and at a time when you're cutting so many services in the province?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): The advertising that is being done with respect to the budget, he will be happy to know, is a total cost of $280,000. That is less than the previous government spent with respect to --


Hon Mr Eves: No. It's $280,000, which is less than the two previous budget advertising campaigns by our predecessors. It is a modest advertising budget. It's providing information to the people of Ontario about their tax cuts. I know he may be interested to know that yesterday alone our office received over 550 phone calls with inquiries about the land transfer tax aspect of the budget alone.

Mr Bradley: I understand that. When you advertised, for instance, that you were going to have a measles vaccine, I thought it was very legitimate that you do that program. It was a good program and I think we complimented that.

But what I well recall, being in this House with you, and you sat just a couple of seats down from me, you used to get up and point angrily at the government and ask why they would be doing any advertising.

Any kind of information that you needed to put forward to the people of Ontario surely was on the front pages of the newspapers, on radio and on television. Why, when the entire thrust of your program has been to restrain and when you have been so adamant against any kind of advertising of this kind in the past, would you now justify spending $630,000? I'll tell you how that is. That's the $280,000 you're spending post-budget and the $350,000 you spent two weeks ago to talk about your budget cuts. How can you justify that? Don't you find that inconsistent with your whole theme and message?

Hon Mr Eves: Our government is spending far less dollars in advertising than either their administration or your administration on an annualized basis, and we will continue to show restraint in that area.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Yesterday the Minister of Finance stated that the tax cut announced in the budget has nothing to do with municipal user fees or property tax hikes that are happening across the province.

In November the government announced a 43% cut in municipal transfers over two years. Half of that amount was announced in the budget, so we're going to have significant cuts again next year. Do you still deny that the tax cut in the budget will cost more and more people municipal tax increases and user fees at the local level and that they are directly related to one another -- they aren't two separate things -- that the cuts in your transfer payments that we've seen this year and that we'll see more of next year have encouraged local municipalities to raise user fees and property taxes?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): To the leader of the third party, municipal tax increases this year are probably lower than in any year in the last decade. My municipality is zero, Mississauga is zero, Scarborough is zero, Sudbury region is zero, Halton region is zero and York region is zero, so if there are municipalities increasing their taxes and if I were their resident, I'd be thinking about that in November 1997.

Mr Wildman: The minister can't play Pontius Pilate and just wash his hands of all this. Yesterday the chair of the Sudbury region, Tom Davies, stated when he was commenting on the provincial tax cut, "Of course you're going to pay for it at the local level." Yesterday a Metro Toronto official was quoted as saying: "All of the easy cuts have been made. Next year it's going to get harder and harder. In fact, Metro anticipates a budget shortfall of $133 million next year."

These problems that are being faced at the municipal level are a direct result of your budget and your tax cut. How can you stand there and say it's up to the local taxpayers to make a decision next November, when you made a commitment in your Common Sense Revolution document to work closely with the municipalities to avoid the very thing that's happening at the local level?

Hon Mr Leach: We are working very closely with municipalities. That's why most of them are coming in with zero tax increases. Certainly there are going to be additional reductions and expenditures. We have to get rid of that $9-billion deficit somehow, and the municipalities have told us that they're quite prepared to work with us to do that.

Metropolitan Toronto is going to experience some drastic reductions. They're prepared to work with us and are confident that even next year they'll come in with zero tax increases.


Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): My question is to the minister without portfolio, Workers' Compensation Board. A coalition of employer groups today released an economic impact study which predicts that if all reforms to Ontario's workers' compensation system pledged by Mike Harris during the election campaign are implemented, they will have a very strong stimulative effect upon the economy. Can the minister tell us how these jobs will be created and what the projected revenues would be?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): I'd like to thank the member for the question. The reference in the question is to a report that was released today by the Employers' Council on Workers' Compensation through the accounting firm of McGraw-Hill. They've run some numbers out to demonstrate that with the very positive news included in Tuesday's budget from the Treasurer about the average assessment rate reduction and other reforms currently being considered by this government, there will be positive job stimulus in the province of Ontario. They quote a figure of 33,000 new jobs, and they talk about injecting revenue into the economy, through the growth in jobs, of over $200 million. This is positive news. It's the direction our government is going in and it's a commitment we've made, very clearly, that reduced costs will translate into growth in jobs for the citizens of Ontario.


Mr O'Toole: Thank you for the answer, Minister. I was wondering if you could tell the House today when we can look forward to the timing of these reforms being implemented.

Hon Mr Jackson: I would like to indicate to the members of the House that the budget also contains some positive news for certain specific employers. For example, our Treasurer removed the tax on call centres. This is a very important thing to Ontario because we're the last province that still charges this tax, yet if we want to attract companies from around the world to locate in Ontario to build call centres and increase employment, our WCB assessment rates are some of the highest in the country, and this is now the basis on which there is competition.

I also want to assure members of the House that there are many things in the current study that are very positive for injured workers. Not only does rate relief increase an employer's ability to hire new jobs, but it also means that an employer then can invest in return-to-work initiatives and that positions can be found for injured workers within employment when there's a climate and atmosphere of expanding employment in Ontario. We believe this is very positive news as well for injured workers.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): My question is to the Minister of Health. Minister, today the Hamilton Spectator reported, "During the five-week OPSEU strike, 19 managers at the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital were paid a total of $270,000 in overtime." The average overtime payment during the five-week period per manager was $14,000. These are individuals who make in the range of $50,000 to $60,000 a year before your bonus, your gift of overtime was given to them. What has occurred here was clearly incompetence on your part to manage the facilities during the OPSEU strike, another example of incompetence in running the health care system. This is one facility, as a matter of fact, that the health care task force has recommended for closure and moving somewhere else, this particular facility. This is a facility that will see front-line staff laid off.

Can you explain to the House how you can justify $270,000 in overtime payments to 19 people during a five-week period when you're laying off front-line staff and hurting the health care system in Hamilton?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): That question is best answered by our very capable Chairman of Management Board.

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): To the member for Hamilton East, during the course of the strike the staffing at the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital was about one third of its normal level and there was a great deal of concern expressed by many individuals. I received a note, for example, from the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, I received a note from the Canadian Mental Health Association expressing concern with regard to the staffing level. I received a note from the acting chair of the provincial psychiatric hospital chairs group expressing concern that we have as much staffing as possible, as could possibly be available, indicating, "A very serious situation exists in Ontario's psychiatric hospitals as a result of the OPSEU strike." We were in a position of having to put in place all the existing staff and overtime possible to give service to the most vulnerable.

I also received a note from a resident who indicated that former Premier Bob Rae should not have given the psychiatric workers the right to strike. That letter was forwarded to me by the member for Oriole, Elinor Caplan. A colleague of the member for Hamilton East forwarded that letter to me expressing concern with regard to the staffing. That's why we had the overtime. That's why it was essential that staff be there to the highest degree possible.

Mr Agostino: The 19 managers were basically on call in case there was a problem. That is the way it normally works at that facility. They're not there 24 hours a day. There were no problems with the management staff getting through the picket lines. There were no problems with people being held up there.

The OPSEU agreement for the essential services that you covered would have covered the OPSEU strike at the HPH enough, would have given the protection they needed. Frankly, if you talk to people there, these 19 individuals who normally would have gone home at the end of the day and would have been called in an emergency situation were still available. You chose to have them there 24 hours a day, to pay them while they were sleeping, to pay them to sit and do administrative work. They were not doing front-line work. They were at a command post, as it's been reported, in case a problem occurred. They were on call. They could have been called any time. They would have got through the picket lines.

You took the easy way out. You decided you were going to lay off front-line staff across this province, but you were going to give managers in this facility, in Midland and across this province, big fat paycheques during the strike to reward them for being so loyal to you. That is wrong, and your answer is not acceptable.


Mr Agostino: The Minister of Health seems interested now in answering the question. I wish you would have taken the opportunity when I asked you the question instead of passing the buck --

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

Mr Agostino: Can the minister, without getting into the whole rhetoric and all the political crap we got a minute ago, explain to us about the 19 individuals who were at the HPH, what their duties were, what they did and what qualified them to earn $270,000 in overtime pay during the strike?

Hon David Johnson: It's almost difficult to know where to start. This is really an insult to the people who worked there around the clock, 24 hours a day. This hospital has to be open 24 hours a day. There are 200 patients in this hospital and various outpatients; the outpatients were restricted to some degree, but certainly various outpatients were coming. His own member for Oriole has written to me with a note from a constituent expressing concern with regard to the safety and dealing with the vulnerable patients in this hospital.

The people who worked long hours in overtime and who received a single overtime payment did all sorts of duties, from their regular duties to serving food to mopping the floors to cleaning up. They did everything that needed to be done, considering that about one third of the staff was on duty to service a population of some 200 patients. I might say that at the end of the day, there was still a huge saving to the taxpayer as a result of this arrangement.



Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a question to the Minister of Finance. Yesterday you said, "The reference to video lottery terminals" -- slot machines -- "in the budget really was in response to having control over some 15,000 to 16,000 illegal video lottery terminals operating in the province today which are not subject to any sort of regulation or control."

Interestingly, Detective Staff Sergeant Larry Moodie of the OPP illegal gaming unit disagrees with you, because he said, "Legalizing video gambling is not going to eliminate the illegal machines," as he was quoted in a Toronto paper in March of this year.

Minister, just who did you rely upon, if not Detective Staff Sergeant Larry Moodie from the OPP, leading the illegal gaming unit, to form your conclusion that your legalized slots are going to eliminate the illegal VLTs that you referred to yesterday?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Finance officials have been in contact with other ministries and we are informed that that is the projected number of illegal video lottery terminals in the province of Ontario -- a guesstimate, in any case, at 15,000 to 16,000 of them.

I also said, in question period and more particularly in the scrum after question period yesterday, that there were really three primary reasons why the government decided to introduce VLTs in the limited fashion that it is so doing.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Money, money, money.

Hon Mr Eves: No. Number one is, quite frankly, to get a handle on control and regulation of VLTs in a controlled and monitored atmosphere.

The second reason is so that charitable organizations actually get a fair share of the revenue. Unlike the previous administration, where charitable organizations received about $12 million a year from roving charitable event sites, as they're referred to in the province of Ontario, under our proposal they will receive over $180 million a year on an annualized basis.

The third reason is, yes, we will receive some revenue but --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): "We don't have a revenue problem. There is no revenue problem; it is a only spending problem."

Hon Mr Eves: To the member for Beaches-Woodbine, who's howling about the revenue, the revenue projections maximized under our proposal will be $260 million a year. That would cover about 260 hours of the debt left for us on ongoing basis.

Mr Kormos: Once again, Minister, Detective Staff Sergeant Larry Moodie of the province's illegal gaming unit, one of the people in this province with expertise with whom you clearly didn't consult, notwithstanding your leader's promise of consultation, says that "Legalizing video gambling is not going to eliminate the illegal slots out there." It's acknowledged, because Detective Staff Sergeant Larry Moodie indicates as well that there's a growth in illegal gambling, a flourishing of it, sucking billions of dollars out of the economy.

In an 80-page internal report prepared by the Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario, it was indicated that -- Minister, I'd wish you'd listen to this -- "Until the government provides meaningful enforcement, illegal gambling will continue under a façade of honesty and integrity. There seems to be an acceptance that gambling is not a problem"; that is, illegal gambling.

You yourself said yesterday that "illegal gaming activity is growing like Topsy in Ontario."

Minister, are you aware that there are only four police officers working in the illegal gaming unit for all of the province of Ontario? If you're really serious about discouraging illegal gaming and illegal slots, why don't you commit yourself today to putting more police officers into that illegal gaming unit?

Hon Mr Eves: I don't have to commit myself today to it because I committed myself yesterday to it in the scrum when I was asked questions outside the House by the media. There definitely will have to be -- the member is quite right -- a larger force to enforce video lottery terminals, gaming of all types, in the province of Ontario. But I do want to say to the honourable member, when he talks about who have different opinions about what the government is doing in this area -- I want to read to him an excerpt from a letter written to the Premier yesterday from Frank Chapman, chair of the Provincial Bingo Charitable Activities Association:

"I am writing to you on behalf of the Provincial Bingo Charitable Activities Association to express how appreciative we are of the initiatives to support charitable fund-raising and, in particular, those related to gaming that were announced by the Minister of Finance on Tuesday."

I want to read to him from the Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling, who I think know a little bit about this:

"After 14 years of struggling alone to place the issue of problem and compulsive gambling in the consciousness of gaming providers in Ontario a light finally begins to shine at the far end of the problem and compulsive gambling tunnel." That is a quote from the executive director.

Another quote from Don Ohlgren, president of the Association of Registered Casino Operators of Thunder Bay's Klondike Casinos, and I'm sure the leader of the official opposition would be interested in this: "It's like going from the Stone Age to Valhalla."

There are a few quotes of people who are concerned about charitable organizations in the province, who are concerned about problem gambling, which your government did nothing about despite the fact that it introduced casino gambling to the province of Ontario.


Mr Bob Wood (London South): My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. Two days ago, the Minister of Finance announced that the racetrack tax was being reduced to 0.5%. At long last, Ontario's taxes are in line with other jurisdictions. We're very pleased to note that the Minister of Finance listened to the Western Fair Raceway in this regard. Could the minister tell us what effect he thinks this reduction is going to have on jobs in the horse racing industry?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): Until about 10 years ago, the racing industry in this province was very strong and vibrant. Over the past 10 years, because of other kinds of gaming which have been introduced to the province of Ontario, the racetracks and the horsemen, the some 25,000 people who are involved in this industry in the province of Ontario, were under attack.

We were very pleased the day before yesterday to find a reduction of the racetrack tax to 0.5%, which brings us into line with the other provinces in this country and the other jurisdictions in North America. It will allow our horse racing industry -- the many trainers, the grooms, the farmers who grow the produce for the horses, the breeders in particular; we have an excellent breeding program here in the province of Ontario, one we're very proud of, particularly in the standardbred area -- to get back on their feet. It will allow them to expand and take advantage of the market, which is now really up for grabs; it will allow the many people who work at these racetracks to hold their jobs -- they've been losing their jobs in the past -- and it will allow us to again be number one in North America in the horse racing industry.

Mr Bob Wood: I wonder if the minister could tell us when this tax reduction will be implemented.

Hon Mr Sterling: Tomorrow -- no. I don't think the Treasurer is expecting it tomorrow.

This will put considerable resources back into this industry. However, the Minister of Finance and this government are very concerned that that money be used for the revitalization of this industry. Because of the very desperate situation they were in, for the first time in Ontario's history the various sectors of this industry got together, under the name of OHRIA, the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association. This included the thoroughbred owners, the standardbred owners, the trainers, the horsemen, the small tracks, the big tracks. It included all of them, and they are going to put forward a plan as to how this money will be used to revitalize this very important industry. Once we are satisfied that plan is fair to all, then we will implement this tax cut.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is also for the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the real minister who's in charge of gaming goodies in this province. I too would like to quote from a letter written by the now Premier last May:

"A Harris government will not move on VLTs until all sectors have been consulted, all impacts assessed, and agreement is reached on the distribution of revenues. A number of groups have suggested to the government that any movement should be deferred until you have a strategic provincial policy on gaming."

In view of this, have you developed a provincial strategy on gaming for Ontario?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): My ministry is working along with other ministries that are involved in this particular part of Ontario society on forging an overall gaming strategy for the province of Ontario. The initiatives put forward by the Minister of Finance in his budget on Tuesday will give us tremendous opportunity to get a hold of the many problems we have in Ontario with regard to the gaming industry. Those result from the fact that the whole gaming industry has grown topsy-turvy over the last 15 or 20 years. It spanned the time when we were in government before; it spanned the time when you were in government before; and it spanned the time over the last five years when the third party was in government.

Therefore, we plan to utilize these new instruments to put forward a very comprehensive gaming plan that not only will include fairly the charities, which have not received their fair share, but will also include in it a plan to deal with the addiction which spins out of gaming.

Mr Crozier: Number one, you've admitted that addiction comes from it. Number two, let me paraphrase: You have no strategic plan for gaming in Ontario. It's as simple as that.

The Addiction Research Foundation says the analysis is -- and it at least has done some -- that VLT gambling is the crack cocaine of gambling. They go on to say that surveys show -- and they've done surveys that you haven't, apparently -- that it appeals to young adults and that about 10% of the users will develop some type of gaming-related problem.

The Premier has said: "I don't want millions of dollars in the province of Ontario. I don't want the money. I don't want the Ontario government to have it." Will you assure the House today that before you go beyond racetracks and fixed charitable casinos, you will have a strategic plan in place and that you will consult the people of the province of Ontario the way the Premier says, that referendums should be held? Because it's one big casino, is what it is. Will you commit to that?

Hon Mr Sterling: We will commit to being more careful about the introduction of VLTs in this province than any other of the eight jurisdictions which have this kind of gaming in their provinces. We are taking a more cautious approach to dealing with this existing problem that is already there than any other province has done across this country.

We are first going to introduce them in some of the racetracks, a very controlled atmosphere where we can be certain young people will not gain access to them. The other place where we will be introducing them will be in charitable gaming event sites. They will be in a very controlled atmosphere and charities will be gaining a huge amount of money out of that particular activity. If it can be taken further than that, we will perhaps go to licensed premises, as the Treasurer has outlined, but before we take that step, we will be certain that we have adequate control. We will have a limited number, far fewer than any other province in the country of Canada, and we will ensure it is done in the most safe and efficient way it possibly can be done.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the same minister. This is on a problem that has been ongoing, off and on, for many years in this province, and that is the lack of regulation and difficulty in dealing with the changes in gasoline pricing across the province.

The price in Wawa, in my constituency, this week for regular gas is 70 cents per litre. That is three cents higher than a smaller, more isolated community 60 miles away in White River, and six cents higher than an even smaller community 70 miles in the other direction.

Will the minister indicate -- I know he monitors the price -- what his government is prepared to do in terms of encouraging the federal government to take action to ensure that there is not collusion in the oil pricing and gasoline pricing industry in this province and in this country? I understand that in the United States there is an anti-trust investigation going on. Why is it that we in Canada cannot take the same kind of action they have in the US?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): As you know, gasoline prices are not only of concern to people in northern Ontario, but in eastern Ontario, the area from which I come, they are of great concern too.

I find it mildly amusing that my Liberal colleagues across the floor, those who feel so vulnerable on this issue because our federal Liberal MPs, and we have a few in this province, while in opposition trumpeted this issue in 1988, 1989, 1990 -- I remember Mac Harb, the Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre, railing against the government to do something. Well, once in government, our federal government --


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

Hon Mr Sterling: The federal government set up a Commons committee, as you may be aware, and the sum total of what the Commons committee said was that the federal government reviewed the Competition Act. The Competition Act is designed to maintain competition in domestic market and to deter anti-competitive behaviour. The committee decided they didn't need any kind of amendments to that particular act. The Liberal-dominated committee also decided that there were no allegations of anti-competitive behaviour that could justify a charge under this act.

The Speaker: The question has been answered. The oral question period has expired. The member for Oriole on a point of order.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Yes, I have a very serious point of order, Mr Speaker: The Chairman of Management Board, in response to a question from my colleague from Hamilton East, referred to a letter that I had sent to him on behalf of a constituent. He has the letter and so do I, and it's very serious because the minister misrepresented what I had written and in fact the issue that my constituent had written on, if the minister will read the letter --

The Speaker: Order, order. I would ask the honourable member if she would withdraw the word "misrepresent."

Mrs Caplan: Mr Speaker, I can't, because it's the only thing that I -- what is another word that I can use?

The Speaker: Order. Take your seat. Thank you.


The Speaker: Order.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe that you and the members of this House would want to know that in the east members' gallery is former page Brandon Sheppard who, along with Layne Sheppard, J'Etta Sheppard and their mother are visiting their brother Tyler-Blair Sheppard from Tillsonburg who's presently serving as a page.


The Speaker: The member did not have a point of order, but he made a good point.

I'll take a point of order.

Mrs Caplan: I'd like to table this for the record, for the file, so that you may review this, and I would ask that you do so. When you do, Mr Speaker, you will see that the correspondence that the Chair of Management Board referred to was about a different issue than the one --

The Speaker: Order. You haven't got a point of privilege.

Mrs Caplan: -- on a different issue is wrong. That is unbecoming comment and that is sleaze. Correct the record.

The Speaker: Order. I will not warn the member again.


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, before you move to motions, I wondered if I could read the business sheet for next week.

Pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of May 13, 1996.

On Monday, May 13, we will continue with responses to the budget.

On Tuesday, May 14, we will begin second reading of Bill 47.

On Wednesday, May 15, and Thursday afternoon, May 16, we will continue with second reading of Bill 47.

For Thursday morning's private members' business, we will consider ballot item number 29, standing in the name of the member for Scarborough North, and ballot item number 30, standing in the name of the member for London Centre.



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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition to the assembly of Ontario on behalf of Linda Mitchell and a number of other Ontarians.

"Whereas bears are hunted in the spring after they have come out of hibernation; and

"Whereas about 30% of the bears killed in the spring are female, some with cubs; and

"Whereas over 70% of the orphaned cubs do not survive the first year; and

"Whereas 95.3% of the bears killed by non-resident hunters and 54% killed by resident hunters are killed over bait; and

"Whereas Ontario still allows the limited use of dogs in bear hunting; and

"Whereas bears are the only large mammals hunted in the spring; and

"Whereas bears are the only mammals that are hunted over bait; and

"Whereas there are only six states in the United States which still allow a spring hunt;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to amend the Game and Fish Act to prohibit the hunting of bears in the spring and to prohibit the use of baiting and dogs in all bear-hunting activities."


Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): It is once again my pleasure today to present to the Parliament of Ontario a petition with well over 400 names.

"Whereas the present Condominium Act of Ontario does not give the condominium corporations the legal right to limit the number of people who occupy each unit in a complex, thus causing overcrowding situations in many buildings; and

"Whereas the overcrowding creates excessive demand on services and facilities of the condominiums, leading to tensions, violence, fire and health problems, increased maintenance expenses and depreciation of values;

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

"We strongly recommend the Condominium Act of Ontario be amended to give condominium corporations, through their own rules and regulations, the legal right to limit the number of persons per unit and the right of entry to ensure adherence to the rules.

"The rights of condominium owners and taxpayers must be considered and supported in order to alleviate the inequitable situation."

One month ago we submitted 1,000 names and Chris Stockwell a couple of weeks ago submitted 700 names and today I'm submitting over 400 names.

"Whereas the present Condominium Act of Ontario does not give the condominium corporations the legal right to limit the number of people who occupy each unit in the complex, thus causing overcrowding situations in many buildings."

I put my signature to this petition.


Mr Peter North (Elgin): I have a petition yet again from the people of the city of St Thomas supporting the St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital, and it says:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): 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 products 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-producing industry;

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


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have petitions from United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1008, to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the Minister of Labour, the Honourable Elizabeth Witmer.

"We, the undersigned, are opposed to the proposed changes to workers' compensation in Ontario, including the elimination of the current bipartite board of directors; the reduction of temporary benefits from 90% to 85%; the introduction of an unpaid waiting period for compensation benefits; legislated limits on entitlement including repetitive strain, chronic pain and stress claims, reduced permanent pensions and pension supplements;

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

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

I affix my signature also.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition from a large number of people in Ontario and it reads as follows:

"Whereas the people of Ontario are being subjected to the most drastic reduction in services in the history of the province;

"Whereas the Premier has required that the people of this province pay higher user fees and property taxes;

"Whereas the Premier and his ministers have preached restraint to all who have requested funding from the provincial government;

"We, the undersigned, request the government of Ontario not to embark upon an advertising campaign using taxpayers' dollars and designed to sell the Ontario budget to the people of the province."

I affix my signature to this petition, as I'm in complete agreement with its contents.



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 are actually 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 as I'm in complete agreement with its content.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I have a petition 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 quality of health care service in our community should not be sacrificed in the name of this efficiency; and

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

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

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

I affix my signature also.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I've a petition 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 alcohol 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 products to its customers in modern, convenient stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO has moved forward with the times, is 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 wines and thereby contributes immensely to the grape-growing and wine-producing industry;

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

I affix my signature to this worthwhile petition.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have another petition.

"Whereas the people of Ontario are being subjected to the most drastic reductions in services in the history of the province; and

"Whereas the Premier has required that the people of this province pay higher user fees and property taxes; and

"Whereas the Premier and his ministers have preached restraint to all who have requested funding from the provincial government;

"We, the undersigned, request that the government of Ontario not embark upon an advertising campaign using taxpayers' dollars and designed to sell the Ontario budget to the people of the province."

I affix my signature to this petition, which it appears has arrived too late.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): "To the Honourable Lieutenant Governor of 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 are actually 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 important petition.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment to the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I am pleased to take part in this debate.

I sat through the budget lockup reading the document and I really was looking for some of the hard numbers. For the last number of months those of you here in the House who've been around as we've participated in a number of different debates and discussions on the general economic directions of this province will know that I have been very concerned about the lack of hard information that's been provided by the government, particularly by the Ministry of Finance.

I really, truly believed that yesterday, finally, after 10 months of the government telling us in broad terms what it was doing, we would see the specifics, we would actually get the numbers, we would get the hard detail and we would be able to fill in all the blanks in terms of the picture that has been presented by the government. But I was sadly mistaken, and I was very surprised, because yet again there was all sorts of information that was missing.

It was only a few weeks ago that we had the supposed detail of what the expenditure cuts were going to be, and you'll remember that the government tabled a number of business plans. We stood here in the House and we said: "But where's the beef? Where's the detail?"

There is no hard information. We've got the overall targets now of how much money is going to be cut from each ministry, in other words, the overall $8 billion that we know the government has said it's going to cut. We know how much has been relegated to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs or to the Ministry of Environment and Energy, but we don't know specifically within those ministries what the nature of the cuts is.

We were told: "That's coming. These are just the summaries of the business plans." We said, "Well, give us the business plans," and they said, "The business plans aren't ready." So we asked, "How can you have a summary of a business plan if the business plan is not ready?" We were assured that we were just making too much of all this and that the information and the detail would come with the budget.

Lo and behold, the day before yesterday the budget arrives, we go through the budget speech, the budget papers, the Ontario finances, the budget highlights, and the detail is not there either.

It's an interesting way in which business is being conducted here in the province of Ontario. There's a bit of a shell game. You know that game where you have shells or cups and there's a pea? You put it under them, you mix it here and there and someone has to guess where the pea ends up. Well, we don't know in this province where the real impact of this budget -- the pea -- is going to end up, because this government is playing a shell game with all the numbers.

As I have an opportunity to respond to this budget, I want to take you through that step by step and show you how they've worked very hard to try to convince the public -- the cuts of $8 billion; the changes we're seeing in our school system, our health care system; the cancellation of support programs for women's shelters, all sorts of things that we rely on to build safe communities, healthy communities; the basic supports in infrastructure; that government is a part of redistributing the wealth of our province to the citizens of our province -- that all the cuts on that side have nothing to do with the budget they brought forward and the income tax cut they're giving, which is primarily going to benefit the wealthiest.

We know there is only one bottom line, and at some point in the province of Ontario, even if the government continues to refuse to acknowledge it and continues to try to play the shell game and move the pieces around, at some point it all has to be consolidated and come back together. That's the point when people are going to see that this government is governing in the interests of only a few in this province, that this government is making decisions that benefit the wealthiest, that this government is making decisions that hurt the most vulnerable, that this government is making decisions that are ripping apart the infrastructure of our communities, that are hurting families and that are not putting money back in the pockets of the middle-income earner whom they profess to be so concerned about.


Perhaps it would be most helpful if I approached this discussion from the perspective of how the government has tried to present this information. When someone does something good, you should probably give them a pat on the back. In this case, I've got to say that budget was one of the most brilliant communication pieces I have ever seen -- spin-doctoring, as they call it in the political business; smoke and mirrors, as someone who might be more cynical than I would call it.

I was in awe at how you tried to put this forward as simply a good news budget and completely divorce it from the actions the government has taken with respect to the $8 billion in cuts, completely divorce the two like they had nothing to do with each other. It's like the Premier standing up two weeks or so ago and saying, "The tax cut has nothing to do with the expenditure cuts, and by the way, the tax cut's going to pay for itself."

Let me start there, because that's perhaps one piece of information we can get clarified from this budget. In the news releases that went along with the budget, we saw the first one with a heading, "Income Taxes to be Cut 30% over Three Years." This is the government's communications vehicle and it tries to put a positive spin on this and tries to suggest that there will be a stimulus to the economy, that there will be economic growth and that jobs somehow will flow from this.

We did some very careful reading of the budget papers in support of the budget to try to look at the economic growth figures to try and understand --

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): Well, if you only understand one page out of the 50 pages of the budget --

Ms Lankin: In fact, for me, I was trying to get the answer to the questions that I asked the Minister of Finance when he came before the standing committee on finance and economic affairs:

"What kind of impact do you expect from this 30% tax cut? What sort of economic stimulus will it produce? What will that mean in terms of consumer confidence? How many jobs do you truly believe it will produce and over what period of time?"

These are the sorts of answers you get to questions when finance officials grind the numbers and do the economic analysis and the economic modelling on any proposal for a change in various taxes. We know that has to be available to the Minister of Finance. But at the standing committee on finance and economic affairs he said to us, "Well, I haven't asked my officials those questions."

"Minister, you haven't asked your officials what the economic stimulus, the impact is going to be of this tax cut? You haven't asked your officials what they expect it means in terms of lost revenue to the government and/or consumer confidence and jobs?"

"No, I haven't asked those questions."

That is only too bizarre, and I have to tell you that's not believable. But I suspect the reason the minister didn't want to answer the question and didn't want to provide us, the members on the standing committee, with that information was that the minister probably didn't want to be open to the criticism that his own officials' work that they had done and research they had done and the numbers they produced showed and actually made folly of his statements that this tax cut was going to stimulate the economy, that this was going to be the government's main job creation program. We see that we're right on that assertion as we look into the documents.

The members across are looking at me with a bit of scepticism. I think they don't believe me.

Mr Preston: Well, we figured you would really read it.

Ms Lankin: I want to try to get them to take these numbers and to go back and look and do the research themselves, because these numbers are in your budget document and you can take the opportunity to understand them. I think you should go back and ask your finance minister some of these questions in your next caucus meeting.

The economic growth numbers, the projections for economic growth are based on economic modelling that asks: What's the activity in the economy? What do we think it's going to produce in terms of economic growth? From that, government officials determine what they expect will happen to government revenues and how many jobs they think will be created in the economy.

The Premier and the finance minister have stood in their place in this House on a number of occasions and have attempted to make the argument to the people of Ontario that this tax cut is somehow going to pay for itself. They argue that we cut taxes, therefore consumers have more money in their pockets, therefore they'll go out and spend, that will create economic activity, that will create jobs --

Mr Preston: You are starting to get it.

Ms Lankin: -- there will be revenue from the jobs that will come in income tax to the government, and therefore that will pay for itself.

Mr Preston: You do. Right now, you understand.

Ms Lankin: We have some true believers on the other side. There are some people who are applauding or saying, "Yes, I think the member's got it," and many iterations of that. Fine. If that's what you think the truth is, why isn't that in your budget plan? Why don't the numbers show that?


Ms Lankin: I suggest to the member opposite who's been so mouthy through this opening few minutes of my comments that you're going to get a hoarse voice because I've got 90 minutes to go. If you want to continue, continue.

Take a look at the numbers on economic growth. In the November economic statement, the projections for economic growth show short-term expectation of 1.9% and medium-term expectation of 2.8% -- that's for 1997-98 -- meagre economic growth. Much less than what was projected in the Common Sense Revolution, by the way. But that's okay; slow economic growth.

That was, by the way, projected before this budget; that was projected before the tax cut. Now in the budget documents we see the tax cut has been implemented, has been announced, we see how it ramps up over the next few years and we look at the medium-term figures with respect to economic growth and the medium-term figures with respect to revenues to the government.

What do we see? We see the revenue loss from the income tax cut taken out of the fiscal equation in the government, and we see economic growth projected to be, my goodness, 1.9% in the short term and 2.8% in the medium term -- absolutely no indication of pickup in economic growth as a result of the mighty stimulus of the 30% tax cut.

What happened to it? Where did it go? No economic stimulus. No improvement in the projections for economic growth in this province. Yet the minister and the Premier have stood in their place and said: "Don't worry, that's what the tax cut's going to do. It's going to stimulate the economy. It is going to make a higher and more aggressive pace of increase in economic growth, and that will produce the jobs and that will produce the revenue." It's not there. It's not in your own budget figures.

So, Mr True Believer, go take a look at the budget, go take a look at the numbers.

Mr Preston: Are you talking to me?

Ms Lankin: You've got to understand that your finance minister doesn't even believe his own comments and those of the Premier.

We see for the first time absolute proof, absolute numbers. Of course, from the commonsense point of view on this side of the House, we always knew that it was ludicrous to suggest the tax cut could pay for itself. That would suggest that if you didn't have any taxes in this province, there would be more revenues coming into the government. Extend your argument. It doesn't make sense.

It is a -- what are the parliamentary words? I can't say "lie"; I can't say "misrepresentation." It is a false representation of economic fact to suggest that a 30% income tax cut could pay for itself and that there was no impact on the bottom line with respect to the deficit or a need to cut expenditures to make up for that if you're going to balance your budget. So what do you say? I go back to calling it a shell game or a con job; a communications spin-doctoring position that doesn't bear any true relationship to the economy.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: The honourable member referred in her comments to a false statement. Now, is that not very close to a lie? I would ask that the member be asked to withdraw that.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): I don't believe it was out of order, but I would caution the --

Ms Lankin: It wasn't out of order.

The Acting Speaker: One moment. I would caution the member to be careful in how you distinguish your version of the facts here. I am saying that was not out of order, but I'm cautioning the member to be careful; it was close.

Ms Lankin: So I behave by the rules and I'm being cautioned to behave by the rules. I accept your caution, Madam Speaker, only because of my great respect for you and for the office you hold.

I very clearly said that the theory put forward --

Mr Klees: Point of order.

The Acting Speaker: Point of order?

Mr Klees: Well, yes, Madam Speaker.

Ms Lankin: Are you questioning the Speaker?

Mr Klees: Well, no. I'd like clarification, if I might. I'm just wondering, and it would help me in future as well, if in fact an honourable member in this House can refer to a statement made --

Ms Lankin: I didn't refer to a member.

The Acting Speaker: Order. I've already given my ruling. I told the member for Beaches-Woodbine that I didn't consider her remarks out of order and, as you know, I did caution her to stay in order. I think she's very well aware of that caution. I have ruled and that's the end of the matter.

Ms Lankin: Well, nice try.

Let me come back and say to you very clearly that the statements that are in the budget document and the theory that is put forward that a 30% tax cut is going to pay for itself in the way in which it has been suggested is a false representation of economic fact. I will say that over and over again. I have not, sir, called anyone a liar.

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): However --

Ms Lankin: You can't censor my thoughts, though. What can I say?

Mr Laughren: Thank goodness for that.

Ms Lankin: My colleague is interjecting in a not very helpful way. I'd ask the Chair to caution my colleague beside me here.


The point I want to make with respect to the tax cut first of all is that the budget finally shows us numbers which make it clear that the government itself does not expect any economic growth, any stimulus to the economy, as a result of the 30% income tax cut. The projected economic growth numbers in the short term and the medium term have not changed from the November projection to this budget's projection. What has changed is the introduction of the 30% tax cut, which was supposed to produce a stimulus. The government hasn't counted on it producing any stimulus in its numbers in the budget document out into the years.

Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): It's two days ago.

Ms Lankin: One of the members opposite says, "It's two days ago." Sir, the budget has projections for short-term and medium-term changes in revenues, in economic growth, in expenditures and in deficit. So you either believe there's an impact from this tax cut -- and if there is an impact, then you build that into the numbers -- or you don't believe there is an impact. What I say is that it makes our point very clearly that this 30% tax cut fails miserably as an economic measure to stimulate the economy, to stimulate revenues to the government and to stimulate job creation.

The other thing we see is that the government argues this is actually going to build consumer confidence. They suggest this is the case because people are going to have more money back in their pockets. In a sense, I understand the theory of that.

If I were fashioning this kind of a tax cut approach, I would target it to those people who are most likely to go out and spend it. I would take a look at the people who are at the lowest income levels who are paying income tax, because most of the money that those people have goes immediately back into the economy. I think all of you would agree with that. I think people who are at the low income, people who are living on less in terms of resources, tend not to have a lot of savings or might have more indebtedness, but their money goes back into the economy very quickly. I would think of targeting it more towards those people, making the income tax scale much more progressive.

I would think, in terms of medium- and middle-income people, that you want them to have a substantial enough amount left in their pockets at the end of the day that in fact they see that as an increase in the standard of living and that it builds their confidence and they go out and look to participate more in the general economy.

Then I would think that at the higher end, where you know that people already have disposable income, that they already spend what they're going to spend -- I keep asking in terms of the wealthiest in this province, how many fridges do you think they need? They're not going to take the tax cut and go out and buy a new fridge or a new couch. They have the money to do that already. So at that end of the income scale I would think of reducing the kind of tax cut they got. I don't see why you would target it to them.

That might have the kind of stimulus effect. But I have to ask you to take a look at what you've done. With the exception of a minor little tinkering on surtax and at the low end, virtually it's a 30.2% income tax cut across the board. That will apply to everyone filling out their tax form and everyone will pay 30.2% less in terms of the provincial income tax.

You might think that's fair, but if you pay a lot of taxes because you earn a lot of income, you're going to get an awful lot more back. That's the way the progressive nature of the income tax system works. If you're a middle-income earner, you're not going to get so much back out of that tax cut, and if you're a low-income earner who pays very little in taxes now because your income is so low, you're going to get hardly anything back. The reality is, in terms of disposable income, you've got people at the low end who would tend to spend that money more readily not getting much back, middle income getting just a little bit back, and the wealthiest people in the province getting the vast majority of the money.

Here's where we again see sort of the shell game and the smoke and mirrors and the positioning, the positioning statements of the government, and this one I thought was very interesting in the budget. It tries to make the case that somehow this tax cut is fair. Essentially what it does is try to refute the arguments that we in the opposition have been raising that virtually half of the money from this tax cut is going to go to the 10% wealthiest Ontarians. The government must have been feeling fairly vulnerable on that point, because they went to great lengths in the budget to attempt to refute it, and so what they did was they looked at all the various percentiles of taxpayers and how they could get the best cut on this, and this is what they came up with.

The government rhetoric says that 64% of the benefit goes to middle incomes, those with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000. Mr Speaker, may I say to you first of all -- that's tough to say, Mr Speaker. May I say to you first of all --

Mr Preston: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe the member opposite is ridiculing the Chair, and on top of that, I'd like to get an opportunity to get your payday on the TV.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Stockwell): I appreciate your hospitality. Please sit down.

Ms Lankin: As I was saying, the government rhetoric says that 64% of this benefit is going to go to those whom they call middle-income earners, those they define as people with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000. First of all, $75,000 income per year in Ontario society is not exactly a middle-income earner. That is within the top 10% tax bracket. I find it extraordinary the way the government has had to play with the figures. And of course $25,000 a year is not exactly middle income. So what did they do? They stretched the definition of "middle income" in the most amazing way and declared with great pride that 64% of that benefit goes to middle-income earners with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000.

Mr Pettit: That's just your perception.

Ms Lankin: The member across says it's just my perception, but it's the government rhetoric. But could I point out something to you? What the government doesn't say about that 64% --


Ms Lankin: Listen just for a sec, just for a moment. Listen to this next, okay?

What the government doesn't say is that that income group they have identified, the $25,000 to $75,000 who are getting 64% of the benefit, which they make sound like it's a lot, comprises 93% of the taxpayers. So flip that around. What does that mean? If 64% of the benefit, only 64% of the benefit, is going to 93% of the taxpayers, therefore, 36% of the benefit is going to 7% of the taxpayers. What a sham. Smoke and mirrors in terms of how you present the numbers.

The real fact is that this tax cut, as we see from the numbers in the budget again, when it's fully implemented is going to cost $4.8 billion annually. That's in 1996-97 dollars. Half of that, so that's $2.3 billion or $2.4 billion, in that range, is going directly into the pockets of the top 10% wealthiest in this province. Shame. There is no other way to describe that but to point out the obscenity and the unfairness of this government's priorities, to point out who it is you are benefiting, who it is you are governing on behalf of, who it is you take into consideration when you make the decisions. It's amazing that you would have the gall to put forward that kind of rhetoric, to try and spin that information in a different way.


The government has taken great pains to try and separate these issues of the tax cut from the expenditure reductions. We've already pointed out that in the budget document itself it proves that the tax cut doesn't pay for itself, that there is no planned economic stimulus as a result of the tax cut. We've already shown that $4.8 billion annually will be lost in government revenues, that over the course of the time of implementing this to when the government goes back to the people and gets to the point where it is going to attempt to balance a budget they will have had to borrow $22 billion to pay for this tax cut. We're giving away a dividend on borrowed money and that interest will have to be paid on that borrowed money to give that tax cut. Over 50% of that revenue the government's forgoing, 50% of that money is going to the 10% wealthiest of this province, and the government continues to try and separate that out from the decisions it's making on the expenditure side in order to balance the budget.

Yet they would tell us that everything's in control and they would tell us that the expenditure decisions have already been made and that this province never had a revenue problem, that this province only ever had a spending problem. Yet in the budget we see the most cynical move on behalf of a Minister of Finance who sat on this side of the House and with great eloquence and vehemence fought against any government considering the introduction of extended gambling, such as video lottery terminals, and this government now puts in video lottery terminals.

I had an opportunity to take a look at the issue of VLTs, because when governments are in a difficult fiscal time and looking at money the bureaucrats come forward with ideas, and lo and behold, ministry officials recommended the very proposal that your government has decided to proceed with to our government. I took a long look at that because half a billion dollars in revenue at a time when you're seeing tough fiscal decisions being made about program expenditures and trying to balance the budget and deal with the deficit issues, it's pretty hard to forgo half a billion dollars in revenue unless you believe there's something fundamentally wrong about proceeding with the introduction of widespread gambling of the most addictive sort in order to get a cash grab for government.

I'll tell you very clearly, I believed there was something wrong with that, in my own personal opinion. I was very opposed to the inclusion of video lottery terminals as a government revenue generator. I thought it immoral for a government to rely on greater addictions, gambling addictions, to bring money into government.

There are people opposite who are sort of groaning. I'm telling you my own personal opinion. I fundamentally oppose government policy which relies on the addictions of unfortunate people losing their money and government treating that as a cash cow.

It really is not of any importance what I personally feel on this because the government is the government and the government makes the decision. But it is of importance to know what position the Minister of Finance holds on this because you have to have some integrity. At some point along the way, if you've changed your mind, say it, but the minister has not indicated that he's changed his mind. He stood on this side of the House and, as I said, he railed against any thought of introduction of video lottery terminals. He bespoke the evils that would sweep our communities. He accused governments opposite of the truest kind of hypocrisy to be considering video lottery terminals. Now he turns around and introduces it in a budget and says: "Well, gosh, it's okay. It's because we want to clean up the illegal aspect of this."

Well, I say bull. I know what it's about because I've seen the numbers. It's about $500 million in revenue. From a government who said we don't have a revenue problem in the province of Ontario --

Mr Laughren: No revenue problem.

Ms Lankin: No revenue problem in the province of Ontario. We have an expenditure problem.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I would like you to tell this House if the words "hypocrisy" and "bull" are parliamentary.


The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order, please. I have to admit that I didn't hear the member use the word "hypocrisy." I did hear her use the word "bull." I think that once again I would caution the member to temper her language. Again, I would not --

Ms Lankin: I've got the clock ticking here.

The Acting Speaker: Excuse me. The Speaker is ruling here. Again, I would caution the member to temper her language. Thank you.

Mr Preston: Come on, Speaker; "hypocrisy" was withdrawn this morning.

Ms Lankin: I want to point out to the member opposite that in the use of the word "hypocrisy" I was quoting the Minister of Finance when he was a member of the opposition, who accused previous governments of hypocrisy. I didn't say it about anyone over there. It was the Minister of Finance.

I say to the member for Mississauga South, if she wants it withdrawn, speak to the Minister of Finance. Tell him to withdraw all of those quotes in Hansard year after year after year, where he went after previous governments for a decision that he has now just swept in in this budget to collect $500 million irrespective of his own personal positions on this and without answering any of the concerns that people have raised with respect to the impact of video lottery terminals.

I opposed video lottery terminals when it was proposed by the ministries to our government. Our government refused to proceed with that. The Minister of Finance has decided to proceed with it. All I can say to him is at least be upfront, at least be honest, at least admit that you're so starved for money because of your decision to proceed with the tax cut and because of the difficulty in making all of the budget cuts that you have predicted and because there is slower than expected economic growth and you can't meet your deficit figures. You've got to find money somewhere. So I understand, but be honest about it. Answer these things up front. Stop trying to hide the facts from the people of Ontario.

The other thing that is really important to touch on that's related to the minister's assertions about what will be produced from the tax cut, and to me is an important issue that's on the minds of Ontarians, is the question of jobs. For a lot of people it's a question of, "Am I going to have a job in two months' time, in a year's time?" For a lot of people, it's a question of: "Am I ever going to find a job? I've been out of work for a long time." For youth in our educational facilities who are working hard in getting an education to try to build towards a future, wondering if there's going to be any future for them, if there will be any jobs available.

I believe that in most families in Ontario the question of economic security and income security and job security is absolutely paramount in their minds right now. It's one of the reasons why we haven't seen a return of consumer confidence. People are worried. People are not going to go out and spend. Just think about it for a moment. If you're worried about losing your job, you're not going to go out and spend. If you don't have a job, you can't go out and spend. That's pretty basic economics.

We see the numbers in terms of the lack of consumer confidence and we know that this issue is of primary importance to the people of Ontario. Are there going to be jobs? Will I have a job in the future? Will I be able to keep the job that I have today? And so, I found it particularly disturbing that the budget document itself did not give Ontarians any reassurance about the government's job program, about the government's sense of confidence in the numbers of jobs that will be created through these budget actions and through other government actions.

They went to great lengths to hide that information -- back to this smoke and mirrors -- not in the communications documents, not in the spin doctor documents. In fact, when I look at the news releases that came from the government -- here's one; it was on the top of the list. "Budget creates jobs." Where? And where in the budget did you predict any jobs that would come from this?

Let me back up a moment, because there is a job promise out there that we have all heard. Well, you would all know it because you campaigned on it. In the Common Sense Revolution you made it very clear that the tax cut and the various other elements of the Common Sense Revolution were going to produce 725,000 jobs over a five-year term of your government. That's a big number; it's an impressive number. It's not a very real number, but one would hope that if the government had truly set its mind on that and believed it had a plan to get us there, it would set out that plan in the budget and show us some milestones about how it's doing, how it's getting along and what its projections are: Are they going to make that, are they going to exceed that, are they going to fall short of it?

I spent a fair bit of time in the lockup going through the budget speech, the budget papers, the budget highlights document and the Ontario finances and, lo and behold, that number of 725,000 was nowhere to be found. The key promise of the Common Sense Revolution -- the return of economic confidence, the return of promise of jobs to the province of Ontario, what the Common Sense Revolution was supposedly all about -- has disappeared.


This is the government's first major economic document, the first budget 10 months into the history of this government of Ontario, you've had time to take control of the reins and to get the ship going in the direction you want -- that's a mixed metaphor, the reins to the ship -- you've got things going in the direction you want and all of a sudden your key promise disappears.

I thought there had to be something in here, so we looked in the background paper and we looked to see if there were any other expressions of it and we couldn't come up with anything. We called the officials from the Ministry of Finance who go around from lockup to lockup and answer questions and we said, "Is there any place in this budget where this government has a projection of the number of jobs that are going to be created as a result of the actions that have been taken up to this budget?" "Oh yes," an official said. He took out a briefcase and a big, heavy briefing book, not the information provided to any of us in the lockup or to any members of this Legislature, the package of documents we received, not any information provided to the public of Ontario, but this minister's big briefing book. He flipped through it and found some numbers. Those numbers added up not to 725,000 jobs but only 289,000 jobs.

I ask the members opposite to take a look at how far short of your promise your government's budget falls on the key issue on the minds of all Ontarians: "Is there going to be a job for me tomorrow? Will I still have my job? If I don't have a job now, will I get a job?" You promised 725,000 jobs. The measures contained in your budget, as confirmed by officials in the Ministry of Finance, will produce 289,000 jobs.

You've got a major problem, my friends, and the province of Ontario has a major problem because the economics behind your approach that take ideology and place it above common sense, dare I say it, that take a zealous belief in what's possible if you follow the neo-right economic approach that we've seen in Reaganomics, in Rogernomics, in Thatchernomics, that didn't work in any of those areas -- if you extrapolate from those experiences, you should know that it's not going to work in Ontario either.

Your own documents, your own budget papers, your own ministry officials' numbers make it very clear that you're falling short of your key promise of 725,000 jobs. It's very clear, if you work backwards from those numbers and you go into the budget documents, that you can find numbers which project growth in employment, and if you take the right economic model and have the right calculations that follow, you can get to the government's information of 289,000 jobs.

I have to ask you why that number wasn't in the budget document, in the budget papers, in the budget highlights or in the Ontario finances? Why do you condone a practice on behalf of your Minister of Finance to hide information from the public of Ontario? I have never seen a budget in this province in the last years that didn't give the public information about what the government expected to be happening with respect to jobs, that didn't put itself out on the line in saying, "This is what we believe will be the end product of the steps we are taking as a government."

You've completely moved away, completely hidden information, completely abandoned your promise of 725,000. I guess that's the real reason why none of the numbers appeared in the document. You didn't want that to be shown. It wasn't that you didn't have the numbers, because when we asked the finance officials, they pulled the briefing book from the briefcase, they opened it up, and sure enough, there it was: The work had been done.

Your finance minister knew those numbers and made a conscious decision not to include them in the budget documents because they didn't want to inform the people of Ontario that the plans they had in the Common Sense Revolution, that they promised with great surety would lead to the new Nirvana of job creation in this province, they didn't want to admit that those plans didn't work.

During the campaign you went out with the Common Sense Revolution and brought all these Conservative Bay Street economists, these experts, to certify that, "Absolutely, this is right." We said there should have been a rider on the bottom of that which said, "PS: This promise will be cut in half once competent treasury officials get to work on crunching the numbers and see what the real effect is."

It's extraordinary that you'd think you could get away with just hiding that information and not addressing it. It seems to me it would be a position of much greater integrity to put forward the fact that with the changes in the economy, with all sorts of other things -- dress it up how you want -- the end result is that the plan you've put forward is only going to create fewer than 300,000 jobs -- "But we still want to get to the goal of 725,000, so here are the additional measures we as a government are going to take." Probably I would have felt some sense of satisfaction in knowing that we'd been right all along and that the Common Sense Revolution didn't have a hope of producing 725,000 jobs, but at least there would be an honest representation of the facts and a recommitment of the government to its goal of 725,000 jobs.

That's not what we saw in this budget. We saw smoke and mirrors; we saw numbers being hidden; we saw the public being left without concrete information. We heard the Minister of Finance who yesterday in this House stood in his place in answer to my question and said: "Those numbers of 289,000 are just very prudent and cautious numbers. We know they're not right. We know we'll do much better than that. We know and we believe that we'll get to the 725,000." If you think the numbers in the budget are wrong, how can you put them out to the people of Ontario? There is a basic question of credibility here. This sham, this shell game of a document is going to catch up with you, and I suggest we will see over the course of the next few weeks, as more and more layers of the onion get peeled away, that what's left in the centre is a pretty rotten core.

I've talked a bit about the tax cut and about the impact or lack of impact in terms of jobs and job creation. I want to talk about some other aspects of the budget in which we see one thing being said in the document, but when you step behind it you can see the reality is something else. One of the most extraordinary ones was with respect to capital spending. You see, the other thing I believe very much about this budget document is that the government went to great lengths to identify areas where they were vulnerable, where public opinion was showing a concern for the government's actions or lack of actions, then they tried to do something in a communications style to shore that up.

I'm truly glad that the Minister of Transportation is here. I've enjoyed listening to him in the last day or so and imagining him out on some remote highway with a shovel and asphalt and filling the potholes himself. It's going to be really interesting to see that unfold. But the budget is a very good example of the smoke and mirrors and the shell game that I talked about.

The government has announced in the last number of months cuts to all sorts of areas in government spending. A huge area of reduction is in capital spending, and many of us believe it is very important to continue to invest in the physical infrastructure of this province so that we have good, decent roads, that we have good, decent bridges, that we have the public infrastructure which produces assets and both social and economic dividends for decades to come for the people of the province of Ontario. We are talking about a good, efficient economy; you need, for example, good, efficient roads.


Of course, there's been much made here in the Legislature and across the province and by roads boards and municipalities and a number of others of the problem with respect to the maintenance and repair of our roads and projections about what is going to happen in the future if the government continues along its actions. So what do we see over the course of the last few months? We see capital spending slashed by 23%. That's a total of $2.7 billion cancelled from capital spending in the province.

The largest capital budget in the province of Ontario is the Ministry of Transportation, and the Ministry of Transportation's capital budget has been slashed by $500 million. That was just in the last announcement that you made, half a billion dollars. Now in this particular budget, we see again, from a spin doctor's communication point of view, the government trying to overcome the criticism about the state of repair in the roads, and it announced an extra $100 million for southern highways and northern highways get a $40-million increase and a $20-million tender for Highway 416. Extraordinary; $500 million you cut from the budget overall. With what's left, the meagre amounts left, you do some moving around and then you announce in the budget that it's an increase in spending, that somehow you are doing something more for the people of Ontario. I mean, talk about smoke and mirrors.

Then the minister tries to back it up by saying, "We're going to fix every pothole in every provincial highway, and if my staff misses one," he says, "I'll go out and fill it myself." Well, I look forward to that day. I suggest that we'd better send someone with him because I think he may get lost. He was up in Thunder Bay last week speaking to the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and wanted to assure them that he knew the state of northern highways, and said, "Let me say to any of you here from Timmins...." Well, he forgot or didn't know that Timmins is in northeastern Ontario and there was no one of course at the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association from Timmins.

We'll make sure when he goes out to fix the potholes that we have a good map and a good trail guide that can get him to the right pothole and the right stop, because I'm sure if he got lost he would try and use his cell phone and he might run into trouble in that as well, in terms of all of the areas where the cell phone wouldn't work. But it's another fact about northern Ontario that the minister seems to need to be enlightened on.

There are many other examples of those kinds of shell games, where the government in this budget, in an attempt to create a sense that it is investing new moneys or that it's expanding budget expenditures in a number of areas, has put forward what it calls good news. Well, they really wanted this to be a good news budget. They really wanted to try and put a warm and fuzzy coat on the government and say: "Look, we care. We care about kids. We care about families. Look at all these little wonderful things we're doing." Extraordinary.

I mean, kids, that's a really good example again in terms of a shell game. The announcement? Well, they're going to put up to $5 million in a program that will allow communities to set up and expand local nutrition programs. Isn't this interesting. You cut welfare recipients, social assistance recipients, family benefit assistance recipients, over 40% of whom are kids, you cut the money going to them by 21.6%. We see people being evicted from their homes. We see a huge increase in the number of people who are reliant on food banks. We see more and more homeless people, more and more hungry kids. Hundreds of millions of dollars you cut out of the pockets of the lowest-income people in the province, the poorest people in the province and the poorest children in this province, and you take $5 million and put it into a breakfast nutrition program and say: "Aren't we great? We're investing in kids." That's the drabs left over from the huge, huge cut that you've made in that budget area. Extraordinary. Well, it goes on.

You've talked about $20 million into schools for computers. There was already a $20-million budget established by the previous government. You've talked about increasing it by up to another $20 million, of course only if it's matched by school boards, whose grants you've cut and who are cash-strapped and whom you don't want to raise taxes. I don't know where the money comes from, but it looks good. But what's that against? That's against cuts of $432 million to the school system. You take out $432 million and then say maybe up to $20 million will go back in, and you make it like a goods-news announcement. People are not stupid; people can see the shell game that's going on here. I say again that this is smoke and mirrors, and there's example after example of this.

Health care: Let me talk about the health budget for a moment, because this one's really interesting.

One of the things that was missing in the budget document is any clear information about how the government was actually going to achieve its fiscal target, the fiscal target being the deficit numbers you've set out. You've got revenues projected on a very, very slow incline. They would've increased much more because of economic growth, but because you've given a 30% tax cut, that takes away those revenues; revenues are not going to grow in a way to make up for the problem. You've got $8 billion that you say you're going to cut, yet we've got areas where we see the supposed reinvestments happening, and economic growth is slower than you projected in the Common Sense Revolution.

We've said all along the numbers don't add up. Well, they still don't add up. You've got these projections here of what your fiscal plan looks like, and it's very difficult to tell upon what these projects are based because once again the Ministry of Finance has not produced the normal kind of information that would accompany a budget.

Let me just give you a very practical example: the Ministry of Health, a $17.4-billion budget, a sealed budget, as we have heard. We heard much in the minister's speech that the budget for this year at least, for 1996-97, is forecast at $17.7 billion; that with an extra $300 million there, that's an increase. I'm not going to quibble about this. I'd just point out to you that the 1995 actual budget was $17.9 billion, so a $17.7-billion budget is actually still a decrease from what was being spent in the province. But I accept the point that your commitment was on a $17.4-billion envelope.

It is interesting to watch the history of this, because it was very clear during the election in the Common Sense Revolution. "Absolutely not a penny will be cut from health care: $17.4 billion. It's a sealed envelope." Then we saw the announcements last year, the expenditure reductions, and we saw $2 billion cut from the health care budget. Of course the opposition and people in the province of Ontario responded immediately, very critically. "You promised you weren't going to cut health care." It was one of the sacred promises of the Common Sense Revolution: "Not one penny," you said, not one penny, because it's too important.

When we pushed the ministers on that, we had the Premier, the finance minister and the Minister of Health stand and say, "No, no, our promise was that by the end of the mandate, by the time we go back to the people, it will be $17.4 billion." Oh, the laughter on this side of the House and the laughter --

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I don't accept that. Please.

Ms Lankin: I don't know what was happening back there, Mr Speaker. Unacceptable behaviour? Okay.

The promise was changed over that period of time. In the election, as I was saying, it was a sealed envelope of $17.4 billion and not a penny would be touched. Right after the election, $2 billion was cut. Opposition raises these issues and there's criticism and the public is concerned, and the government repositions the promise. They say, "No, no, our promise was $17.4 billion by the end of our term when we return to the public." We point out once again that that wasn't an accurate representation of the promise that had been made during the election campaign in the Common Sense Revolution, and the public starts to agree, and the pressure starts to mount.

Then the government all of a sudden changes its position again and comes back to saying, "No, no, it's a sealed envelope, and it will be this year and next year and every year of our term." Now we've got the government back to the promise of the Common Sense Revolution that there will be a $17.4-billion budget. Okay. But $2 billion was announced in terms of cuts. We hear a commitment in the budget, and the forecast is there for $17.4 billion, that that money is going to be reinvested in the health care budget.


Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): It is; it is.

Ms Lankin: The basic problem, I say to the member for Etobicoke West, is that the $2-billion cut was also applied against the deficit, the bottom line. You can't spend the money twice. I'm left trying to figure out, where did this $2 billion go? If it's not going to be cut from the Ministry of Health, if it's going to be reinvested in the Ministry of Health, and yet you've reduced the deficit by $2 billion because of that, you've got a problem in the plan.

I've been thinking about this, I've really been trying to work it through, and I've come up with three possible solutions. Help me with this. We'll walk it through and see if it works.

The first one: You don't really intend to spend $17.4 billion on health next year. That's the budget forecast, but we all know that there is a budget forecast and then, at the end of the year when you do all the accounting, there is the actual. Is that the case? Are you really going to spend $17.4 billion? I have members across assuring me yes. I hope some ministers will nod their heads.

Oh, good. We've got those little dogs that bob in the back window there. The Minister of Health says that $17.7 billion not only is forecast for the Ministry of Health but will be spent in the Ministry of Health.

But now we've got the $2-billion problem left over.

The second solution could be that the deficit will be $2 billion higher than you projected. Is that possible? Is that an answer? The Chair of Management Board's here. Maybe I could get him to nod his head yes or shake his head no. Will the deficit be $2 billion higher than you projected?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): We're bang-on this year, spot-on.

Ms Lankin: We're getting a no, so that $2 billion is not going to be added to the deficit. You're still going to meet the deficit targets.

I'm still stuck. There's $2 billion missing in the government's fiscal plan.

Mr Stockwell: What's the third option?

Ms Lankin: The third possibility is that there is going to be -- this is back to my shell game theory, I say to the member for Etobicoke West. We've heard some evidence of this -- rumours, rather, not evidence, not hard evidence. We've heard some rumours of this, and we'll see soon; the proof will come. We have heard that the government is going to take activities like children's services that are currently in the Ministry of Community and Social Services and that have budget lines attached to them and move those over inside the sealed envelope.

You see, the sealed envelope has some holes in it. Some money has gone out that's been applied against the deficit and some money is going to come in that's already attached to other services and other budget lines. In fact the $17.4 billion or $17.7 billion is not going to remain being spent on existing health services in the province. You're going to change the name of some services that are currently with community and social services, another ministry, and move them in under the Ministry of Health.

You couldn't do that, could you? That would be a horribly cynical version of the shell game if you were to do that. The ministers have been very cooperative in shaking their heads. Maybe I could get the Minister of Health to assure me at this point in time that that sealed envelope is not going to have anything transported into it from another budget, another ministry. I'm waiting for the minister. The minister is not nodding his head.

Mr Stockwell: They don't know. They haven't been told yet.

Ms Lankin: I think I'm on to something, I say to the member for Etobicoke West. I think we're getting someplace here.

Of course, there is a fourth possibility. I said there were three, but I've been thinking about it a lot and there actually is a fourth possibility, and that is that the other $2 billion is going to have to be found across a whole range of other ministries' activities, that in addition to the $8 billion you've already cut, you have to find another $2 billion in expenditure cuts.

As I said yesterday here in this House to the Minister of Finance, there are more cuts to come. You notice that yesterday the Minister of Finance did not respond with a yea or nay. I asked him to either assure us that there would be no more cuts or at least say there may be some more cuts.

The Premier has been much clearer on this issue. After the November expenditure cuts, the Premier said very clearly: "That's it; not another cent to be cut. We've got the spending problem licked in this province. No more bad news; no more cuts to be made." Interesting, but the Minister of Finance wouldn't confirm his Premier's statements yesterday. I found that one of the most interesting exchanges -- not by what he said, but by what he wouldn't say. Often, if you listen carefully, you learn more by what ministers refuse to say than by what they do say.

Again to the members opposite, you really don't have control of what's going on in government at this point in time. You've got changing priorities and changing polices, and you're scrambling to meet the polls and the sense of vulnerabilities and to cover up problems. You've got a $2-billion problem of money that you cut from health care, which you've now made a promise you're going to reinvest, but you also cut it from the bottom line of the deficit. You've got to find it somewhere. Either you break your promise on health care and you spend less; or you import a whole bunch of expenditures and programs from other ministries and pad them into the Ministry of Health and try and say you've met your commitment; or you miss your deficit target by $2 billion; or you find $2 billion in additional cuts from other ministries like the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, like the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, like the Ministry of Environment and Energy. Across ministry after ministry, you send them back to the table to find more cuts.

It's going to be an extraordinary job, because they haven't even finished finding the $8 billion you've targeted. You've made all these announcements, and the great rollout by the Chair of Management Board of the non-business-plan business plans. Remember the business plans that came? We said, "But there's no detail," and they said, "Well, they're only the summary of the business plans." We asked for the business plans and they said, "Well, we haven't finished them yet." How can you have a summary of the business plan when you don't have the business plan?

Hon David Johnson: It's called work in progress.

Ms Lankin: So they said, as he's saying across the floor from me right now, "Well, it's work in progress, and you'll get it with the budget." The budget's come and gone; we don't have it yet.

I've been talking to a lot of people in ministries, and the bottom line is that they don't have a clue yet where many of these cuts are going to come from. The 10,600 layoffs the Chair of Management Board announced, those ministry employees are still waiting to find out where those jobs are going to be cut in their ministries.

The employee relations committees -- management and union sit down and meet and discuss these things -- on both sides of the table have got their hands up in the air, saying: "We don't know what the government's doing. We don't know where the cuts are coming from. We know what the targeted amount of money is. We have no idea what department and budget lines it's coming from in our ministries, and we don't know who it is who's being laid off."

What a way to run a government. This is a government that is scrambling to catch up with its own mouth. You're out there with the communications lines; you're out there so busy spin-doctoring. It would be nice if your cabinet would spend a bit of time back doing its work and get the decisions taken and clear up for people, bring some surety to this process for people, let them know what's happening and what it means to their lives. I find it quite extraordinary and I think it is indicative of a lot of incompetence in the way in which the government is being run at this point in time.

As we look at this, we can see that the overall approach of this government with respect to this budget was to try and present it as a good-news budget. We can see that as the government cuts its spending over the next number of years to pay for the tax cut, and while it's moving to eliminate its deficit at the same time, it is going to have a very significant impact on the economy of this province.

The tax cut is not going to stimulate the economy, is not going to produce the jobs the government promised. If you work tediously through the numbers in the budget, you can see the proof for that. On the other hand, we know that the $8 billion that is already announced as going to be cut from the budget, plus another $2 billion now that is free-floating and has yet to be assigned, is going to take real money out of real programs and services to people, is going to cause layoff of civil servants and workers in the broader public sector to the tune of about 100,000 people.

We know that those people who are waiting every day to find out the details of the pink slip are not out there spending. Is it them? Is it their co-worker? Is it going to affect their family, their neighbourhood? This tax cut you have promised is being eaten up by user fees, by increased property taxes, by increased licence fees. There is no economic stimulus with that. It doesn't work. The basic plan doesn't work.


Our concern is that the government is proceeding along a line based on an ideological commitment and a blind belief in a document called the Common Sense Revolution, one document whose numbers have been I think rightly challenged, whose numbers have been shown by the fullness of time and what's been revealed in the budget of Ontario that was presented on Monday to have been incorrect, to have been wildly exaggerated, to have been based on a hope and a prayer, not on any kind of sense of the real economy of Ontario.

The belief that the government seems to have that lower income tax is a solution to economic growth is really naïve and it really ignores all of the economic evidence to the contrary. But even if that were true, it is not true when you counterbalance that with the kind of expenditure cuts that you've made and cuts in transfer payments to your municipal partners and school boards and others, because in the real world out there, as much as you want to turn a blind eye to it, as much as you want to distance yourself from the actions of municipalities and school boards, in the real world, where they have already gone through several years of making extraordinary efforts to end duplication of administration, to get the fat out of the system and to cut unnecessary expenditures, the bottom line is now with the cuts that your government has made in transfers to those partners out there in the broader public sector, they have no options left but to raise municipal taxes, property taxes, to introduce new user fees.

I don't know how you believe you can distance yourself from this when your Bill 26, the omnibus bill, actually gave the licence to the municipalities to do that. You created the mechanism for them to do that, so your ministers knew well what the impact of these cuts was going to be.

They're raising property taxes, they're raising user fees, they're introducing new user fees on a whole range of services in municipalities. Where garbage was collected and previously there had been no charges, there are new per-bag charges being introduced; user fees for uses of library services where there weren't before; for many recreation services. You're really affecting the pocketbook of those middle-income taxpayers that you say you've designed this whole tax cut for.

We spent some time in question period today and have provided the information that shows how in fact in the first year of your tax cut, people are going to be out of pocket. Just let me give you some examples. In the budget document, your government produced some examples of the kind of tax cut money that people were going to receive. So we've taken those exact examples and have gone to communities and taken a look at what's happened in the municipality and what kind of changes around property taxes or user fees have been put in and done the calculations to see what the person ends up with.

Let me give you an example: a Sudbury couple with two children, one income of $25,000. In 1996, the tax cut they're going to receive is a total of $22 for the year. This is a fairly low-income family. It's $1.70 every two weeks. In Sudbury, the new fees they're going to have to pay as a result of your government's cut in transfer payments add up as follows: $75 more per year for property tax and $76 more per year for public transit fees. So the real impact on that family is that they're going to be $205 worse off after your budget of Monday than they were before. The Premier did promise that everyone would be better off Tuesday than they were on Monday. Not this family in Sudbury.

Another example: in London, a single student who's just getting married and has an income of $35,000. The tax cut for 1996 is going to produce for that individual $105. That's $8.07 every two weeks. In London, however, municipal governments and others have made some decisions with respect to the services that they provide and as a result of the cut in transfers from the province to the municipality of London, that single student is now going to be paying $61.74 more for property taxes, $22 more for the marriage licence they're just about to purchase and $84 more for tuition fees because of the cuts in transfers to the University of Western Ontario. The real pocketbook impact for that student in London is a decrease of $62.74. They're not better off after this budget.

Example 3: Metro Toronto, single mom, two children, with an income of $30,000. I just remind you that I'm not making up these examples. These are the examples that you put out in the budget document. These are your examples. This person lives in Metro Toronto. In 1996, the tax cut, according to your numbers that you put out, that this person will receive is $45 for the year. That's $3.46 every two weeks. New fees: $29.72 more per year for property taxes, and $344 more per year for public transit fees. The real pocketbook impact of your government's budget on that single mom living in Metro Toronto with two children and the income of $30,000: She's losing $328 a year. She's worse off after your budget; she's not better off. It's quite extraordinary.

It is interesting that the higher you go up the income level, however, there are some people who end up being better off. In fact, the 10% wealthiest in this province end up quite well off as a result of your government's budget. It comes back to the decision of who you're going to benefit as a government. You get to have a choice in this. As a government, you get to decide, on behalf of whom you are governing, who is going to benefit from the decisions that you are taking. You can ensure that the broad public of the province of Ontario benefit from the decisions of the government or you can decide, as it appears very clearly you have, that you're going to target the wealth and the goodness and the giveaways from this government to the wealthiest people in this province; and the most vulnerable and the poorest, let them fend for themselves.

All of the cuts that have been made you somehow tried to distance from this budget. I think that was the other very cynical aspect of the communications effort that went on here. I note that in the budget you listed and relisted a whole lot of announcements that you've already made. In the area of health, for example, you talk about $170 million to provide seniors and people with disabilities with care at home. This was less money than was in the budget for expansion of community-based services. So you cut back the budget, you announced the $170 million, you made it sound like a new investment, but you already announced that before.

The immunization of school children against measles and some other immunization programs, you'd already announced it. Let me see, what else here? There's $25 million to help hospitals serve areas of high population growth; you'd already announced that. Expanding emergency paramedic services; you'd already announced that. Reinvesting funds to allow patients with acquired brain injuries to be treated in Ontario; you'd already announced that. I started that, by the way. I think it's a good announcement. I'm glad you continued with it, but you'd already announced it. Emergency services in northern and rural hospitals by sessional fees; you'd already announced that.

Isn't it interesting how you reiterated, reannounced, recycled, reused every single, small thing you could do which you could use to try to put a good news cast on this? But somehow there isn't a mention anywhere in this document of the details of the $8 billion in cuts. Funny that it's not contained in this budget document. I mean, what is a budget about? It's about the government's expenditures and the government's revenues and the plans to change both of those. But it's missing. It's empty of any of the information. All of the pain, all of the hurt, all of the negative impact from the decision of $8 billion in expenditure cuts: not here.

I think people will see through that, and I don't think the people will believe the Premier of the province for one moment when he says that the tax cut is not related to the expenditure cuts or that the budget doesn't have anything to do with the decisions that have been taken on the expenditure side. Just because you refused to talk about it on Tuesday when you introduced the budget doesn't mean it's not part of the reality of the province of Ontario, and it doesn't mean you're not going to be hearing about it from your constituencies day after day after day as they start to feel the impact of those cuts, as the real services that those families rely on disappear in the province of Ontario.

There is so much that is happening. These cuts are to the sorts of things that have provided a sense of dignity and life to many people with disabilities, for example; a sense of security in life for many people like seniors in terms of access to very medically necessary drugs; importance in terms of children and justice for children. When you've made the cuts, these are the people who are being hurt.


I think it would be worthwhile in the closing minutes that I have here to reiterate what some of those decisions were. You refused to talk about them on Tuesday in relationship to your budget, but I think they are very much related to your budget and I want to take a moment and just run through some examples. I can't do the whole $8 billion, because quite frankly we haven't seen all the details yet, but there are some things that we know.

For example, Mike Harris cut social assistance benefits on October 1, 1995. As a result of that, the number of children using food banks in Metro Toronto, Durham, York and Peel regions has increased by 68%. That's the real impact of the decision that your government made and that many of you applaud and apparently are still applauding.

What else happened as a result of that? Evictions in Metro Toronto were 33% higher in January 1996 than in the previous January. Today, the largest group of children in Metro Toronto area shelters is aged 5 and under. These are real kids out there who are hurting, and hurting as a result of your government's decisions.

Poor children, we know, have worse health, they do worse at school, they suffer neglect more frequently and they're more at risk of abuse. Poverty has a lifelong effect. There's a whole generation of kids who are being affected by the decisions of your government and by the cuts that have been made.

Let's take another example. The government has made it much tougher for parents to help their kids get a head start by making junior kindergarten optional and essentially abolishing it in most parts of this province.

More than $1 billion in education cuts, by the time the minister is finished, will be felt in, for example, larger class sizes, fewer aides for children with special needs, user fees for textbooks and other educational necessities. Yet, again, one of the essential promises of the Common Sense Revolution was that your cuts wouldn't touch classroom education.

There are thousands and thousands of teachers who have received their layoff notices. Those teachers work in classrooms. When those teachers are gone, in order to continue to serve the kids in this province you're going to have massive classroom sizes, the number of kids in there. You know that teachers can't continue to provide the same quality of education on that kind of teacher-pupil ratio. You know they won't be able to give the individual attention that's required to recognize the problems in early intervention and give the kids the help they need. Of course you're affecting classroom education, and those kids are going to pay for years to come.

Cuts to children's aid societies mean increased caseloads and fewer services, including family preservation, parent support programs, services to adolescents in the community. Sexual abuse treatment programs have been cut back, early intervention programs have been cut back, special needs arrangements for developmentally handicapped children have been cut back, and support to foster parents has been cut back -- kids again being affected, being hurt by the government's decisions with respect to these cuts.

There are more than 6,500 children on waiting lists for children's mental health services, and the average waiting list time is six months. Your cuts to those agencies are going to make those waiting lists grow. Of course, one of the effects of untreated children's mental health problems can be, later in life, criminal behaviour. On average, it costs less than $2,500 a year to provide a child with mental health services, but it costs $45,000 annually to keep an offender in prison.

Think of the long-term effect of the decisions you're taking. Think of the costs you're building into the system downstream in terms of poorer health, in terms of less education, in terms of less ability to get and keep a job, in terms of problems in the criminal justice system. Think about all of those things.

Your decisions are affecting people. Your decisions are affecting kids. I've only given you a few examples with respect to kids, but it's pretty clear that the direction you're going is harmful to the future of our province and the future of the economy of our province, to families, to communities, to children in particular.

I think it is not honest to say there is no relationship between the tax cut and the spending cuts. I think that's not being honest with the people of Ontario. If you believe so strongly that your economic plan is good for the province and that it will work, then I think you should at least be straight up and say, "We think you've got to take this pain in order to get the good that's going to come out at the other end," but your numbers in your own budget show that you've given up hope in terms of the 725,000 jobs, you've given up hope in terms of the economic stimulus that will be produced by your so-called economic measures and the tax cut, and so you're spending more time on cynical manipulation of communications to try and convince people that these are separate issues, that they're not related.

I say there is one expenditure number, there is one revenue number and there is one deficit number, and the three of them are pretty seriously related and you can't separate them out. The bottom line is you are proceeding with a tax cut that is going to benefit the wealthiest in this province the most, that is not going to produce an economic stimulus, that will not produce the jobs. You're proceeding with cuts to the tune of $8 billion minimum, with more cuts to come to pay that off, to make the fiscal room for that while you're trying to reduce the deficit. That money is coming out of the economy. It's creating a fiscal drag in the economy. It's putting people out of work. The overall combination of the two, economists project, will create a loss of 100,000 jobs in the province of Ontario. You risk pushing us back into a recession. This is not a commonsense economic approach. This is not an approach that will pay off for the people of Ontario. The fiscal plan that you're putting in place, I think with time people will see for what it is. It is bad social planning and it is bad economics.

Before I finish, I want to take an opportunity to contribute to the ongoing debate on this budget document by moving an amendment to the motion, and I would like to move that the amendment to the motion be amended by adding after the word "losers" the following: "and

"That the economic projections announced by the Minister of Finance reveal that the tax cut will not deliver the promised economic growth and will only serve to add to the accumulated debt of the province; and

"That since the government plans to take another $22 billion out of the revenue base, it must cut expenditures further in order to balance the budget; and

"That more cuts will result in further erosion of Ontario's economic growth potential and a further decline in revenues; and

"That the result of the budgetary policy tabled by the Minister of Finance is contradictory to the government's stated objectives of providing for economic growth and an increase of 725,000 jobs;

"Therefore, this House no longer has confidence in the government."

The Acting Speaker: Ms Lankin moves that the amendment to the motion be amended by adding after the word "losers" the following: "and

"That the economic projections announced by the Minister of Finance reveal that the tax cut" --

Mr Stockwell: Dispense.

The Acting Speaker: No, no. It's too important an amendment -- "will not deliver the promised economic growth and will only serve to add to the accumulated debt of the province; and

"That since the government plans to take another $22 billion out of revenue base, it must cut expenditures further in order to balance the budget; and

"That more cuts will result in further erosion of Ontario's economic growth potential and a further decline in revenues; and

"That the result of the budgetary policy tabled by the Minister of Finance is contradictory to the government's stated objectives of providing for economic growth and an increase of 725,000 jobs;

"Therefore, this House no longer has confidence in the government."

Let me explain why the Speaker has to read the amendment. This is the only occasion -- during a budget debate -- that the Speaker has to read the amendment. No "dispense."

Member, carry on.

Ms Lankin: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I agreed with your first explanation, that this is too important an amendment, and it is, because fundamentally -- this will come as no surprise to the members opposite -- there can be no support from this side of the House for this government's budget. Fundamentally, we believe you are headed in the absolute wrong direction, that you are endangering the economy of the province of Ontario, that you are in danger of pushing us back over the cliff into another recession, that you are destroying the fabric of communities by ripping out the social infrastructure that has been provided by governments of all political stripes, that you are hurting families, you are hurting kids, and you are doing it all in the name of an ideological belief in a tax cut, 50% of the value of which will flow to the 10% wealthiest in this province.


Some of you know some of those 10% wealthiest. I find it extraordinary that you could believe they are worthy and deserving of that refund from government revenues at the cost at which it will come: at the cost to the disabled person who will no longer have Wheel-Trans to be able to go to work, to be able to participate in the full life of the community; at the cost to seniors who may not be able to afford the necessary medication they need to live a healthy and independent life outside of institutions; at the cost of more and more families who are being evicted from their homes, who are going homeless; at the cost of kids who are lining up at food banks, who are going hungry.

Think about who benefits from your budget, and think about who's paying the cost of that. The balance is wrong. The approach is wrong. The impact on the communities of our province and the families of those communities is wrong.

I say to the members opposite, you have a choice. You can pursue a fiscally responsible agenda that still shows that you care about people and that you're not simply padding the pockets of the wealthiest in this province.

I say shame on your budget. Shame on the approach of your government. Shame on the cynical attempt at manipulation of public opinion with a communications document that was carefully crafted to make it seem like it was a feel-good, do-good budget. Shame on the smoke and mirrors approach which attempts to separate the real impact of very difficult cuts, the impact on people, from the giveaways to the wealthy. Shame on the whole lot of you.

This is a sad time in the province of Ontario with a government firmly ensconced, in control of the direction, 10 months into their office, their first budget having brought such pain on so many people. I only hope you will think about it. I only hope that with time, as your term in government continues, you will see how wrongheaded this is and you will find the sense to restore not just the services and the help that many people who have been reliant on them need, but a sense of hope and vision for the province, a sense that there will be a place for all the people of this province to find the economic security that they want for themselves and their families, the better tomorrow that they want for their kids.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Sault Ste Marie has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism concerning cuts in services and jobs. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.

Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Cochrane South has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Transportation concerning comments respecting Timmins. This matter will also be debated at 6 pm.


Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I'm honoured and pleased to speak in favour of this good news budget. It's the first budget in 25 years to reduce personal income tax in the province of Ontario. As a politician, I welcome it. It delivers what it promised, a tax cut. It also fulfils another promise, to abolish the employer health tax imposed by the Liberals in 1989. So rarely do politicians deliver what they promise that this budget, I believe, should be there to restore some faith in the political process.

As a citizen, I celebrate the good news budget. It marks a milestone in modern Canadian politics. It's a budget that reduces taxes rather than raising taxes. It represents a psychological turning point in giving beleaguered taxpayers a break. It also contains no new spending cuts. It has innovative initiatives that will work to create jobs and restore prosperity to Ontarians. These initiatives range from helping small businesses get loans from banks, helping students in co-op programs to get job placements, helping students get summer jobs and helping people with disabilities, as well as seniors, to be cared for at home rather than in institutions.

I am particularly pleased with other initiatives that are close to my heart: The addition of $200 million to child care spending in this province which will bring spending in that area up to $600 million, which is the highest ever in the province of Ontario. I am pleased about the $170 million set aside to enable seniors and the disabled to be cared for at home rather than in institutions. I am pleased about the $10 million set aside for preschool children with speech and learning disabilities. I am pleased about the increased funding for early detection of breast and ovarian cancer. I am pleased about the increased funding for prenatal programs for pregnant women and women with young children. I am pleased about the $5 million set aside in startup funds for nutrition programs for small children. And I'm pleased about the $10 million for helping the volunteer sector.

I am also pleased with the initiatives that are of special significance to my riding of St Andrew-St Patrick and to Metro Toronto. These include the tax credit for film and TV productions in Ontario which will be doubled for those making their first commercial film in Ontario. This initiative has already been welcomed by Michael MacMillan of Atlantis Films and many other film producers and makers.

I'm also pleased that the finance minister has promised to lower property taxes for hotels in Metro, a tax that penalizes a sector of our economy that brings in millions of tourist dollars and which, like the film industry, provides thousands of jobs.

I'm delighted as well, as parliamentary assistant to the finance minister, to have had the chance to play a small role in obtaining crown foundation status for our major cultural institutions. We heard from 27 groups from cultural, health, philanthropic and volunteer organizations in the province and at this time I am pleased that the finance minister has expanded his November 29 list to now include the Big Five cultural institutions.

The announcement has already been applauded by Valerie Wilder of the National Ballet of Canada, by Elaine Calder of the Canadian Opera Co, by Stan Shortt of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, by Max Anderson of the Art Gallery of Ontario, by John McNeill of the Royal Ontario Museum, by Colleen Blake of the Shaw Festival and by Richard Monette of the Stratford Festival.

These institutions are great cultural treasures and would be worthy recipients of major philanthropic gifts as crown foundations and such gifts will help them continue to play an integral part in the cultural and economic life of the province by providing jobs and by attracting tourists along with the many spinoff effects that tourists bring.

But today I am particularly eager to address the broader issues that this budget represents. The tax cut fulfils the third pivotal promise of the Common Sense Revolution geared to put Ontario on the road to fiscal recovery.

First, we have already moved to bring austerity to government, as promised. Second, we have already moved to remove barriers to job creation by killing Bill 40, freezing hydro rates, reducing payroll taxes and by beginning to reform the Workers' Compensation Board, again as promised. Now we are moving to lower personal income taxes, as promised.


There is no parallel in modern history of a government doing so much in so little time exactly as it promised. Yet we have the strange anomaly of the opposition attacking the government for living up to its words and fulfilling its promises. The Liberals and the NDP are complaining that this government has not reneged on its promises. The opposition is also very unhappy that the people of Ontario are getting a tax break. Instead of rejoicing for the taxpayers, the opposition is begrudging them their modest gains. Maybe the NDP and the Liberals are so ideologically addicted to a policy of tax and spend that they have failed to notice that the world has passed them by.

Most governments of all political stripes in Canada, across North America and across the entire industrialized world are embarking on a new course: spending less, taxing less, regulating less and privatizing more and more of their services. They are doing it because they have been forced to do so by their high deficits and debts. And they are also doing it in order to compete in Canada, in North America, across the west and in fact anywhere else in the globe.

Every time that an Air Canada jet takes off from Pearson airport with an editorial or a printing job for a press in Hong Kong to be flown back within a week, we here in Ontario have lost out on jobs. Every night when data are put on the satellite from Toronto to be processed overnight in Bangalore, south India, or a software program to be written there and brought back the next morning, we in Ontario have lost out in jobs.

We may not be able to compete on wages, but we can improve our effectiveness in the international marketplace if we reduce our payroll and personal taxes and provide some relief to our businesses and their employees. We are doing just that. The measures announced in our budget will help us keep step with our competitors around the world.

Just last week Germany announced spending cuts of almost 2% of the GDP for the next year. Earlier, France announced plans to reduce public spending, including sweeping changes to its health care plans. Across Canada, the federal and many provincial governments -- Liberal, Conservative and NDP -- are all slashing expenditures and are moving towards balanced budgets. Only last week, Nova Scotia announced plans to lower its income tax rate by 3.4%. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and BC are all planning similar tax cuts. In short, in Ontario we need an income tax cut. Thanks to the NDP and Liberal governments, Ontario is the second-highest-taxed jurisdiction in North America. Ontarians are overtaxed and they want a tax cut. They want tax relief. And now they are going to get it.

Business associations welcome it. The Investment Dealers Association of Canada welcomes it. The Retail Council of Canada welcomes it. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce welcomes it. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business welcomes it. The Canadian Manufacturers' Association and the Ontario Taxpayers Federation welcome it, and the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association welcomes it.

These initiatives will not come at the expense of the government's overall fiscal plan. We are operating on target. Even the bond rating agencies are satisfied that this government can provide the promised tax relief and reach its deficit targets. None the less, the opposition has been trying to lay a guilt trip on working and middle-class Ontarians about the tax cut that not only is needed but is ethically and morally sound. We do not and should not apologize for giving tax relief to the people most disproportionately hit by the 65 tax hikes imposed by the Liberals and the NDP in the last 11 years, including 11 increases in personal income taxes alone.

Ninety per cent of taxpayers earn less than $68,000 a year, and the tax cut will benefit them. In fact, combined with the health tax levy, the tax cut has progressivity built into it, so by the time the full 30% tax cut is implemented, more than 60% of the relief will go to those earning below $50,000 a year. Only one fifth of the tax cut, 20%, will go to those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 a year and a mere 16% will go to those with gross incomes of more than $100,000. The majority of Ontarians are taking home less today than they did in 1985, thanks to the past two governments' policies which have led to a lack of mobility and spending power in the middle and lower classes. Our tax cut aims to change this.

Although there is some debate on how stimulative a tax cut might be, there is no debate on the fact that our economy has been driven largely by our strong exports. Internal consumer demand, which drives 60% of our economy, unfortunately is still very soft. We need consumer confidence back to stimulate the domestic economy. We can argue about how much of the tax cut people will spend or how much they will save or how much they will use to pay off their debts or mortgages, but whatever they do, they will do it better than government. Money in the hands of the people is much better, infinitely better than money in the hands of bureaucrats. Moreover, there's nothing more apt economically and ethically than returning cash to those to whom it belonged in the first place. There's ample evidence in the United States and elsewhere that tax cuts end up stimulating the economy, and our tax cut aims to do exactly that.

In providing a tax cut, this government has taken a moderate, middle course. It has charted a path between those fiscal Conservatives who want to apply all the expenditure savings to paying the deficit and those like the NDP and Liberals who neither want to cut expenditures nor trim taxes. The Liberals and the NDP are taking this position in the name of social justice but, as I have said in this House before, they have no copyright on compassion. There is no social equity in their tax-and-spend strategy or in continuing their course farther into the damaging waters of high spending, high taxes, a high deficit, high unemployment and high welfare rolls.

In the name of social justice we must reform the overbloated modern welfare state to save it, to preserve priority services such as health care, services for seniors and the disabled, child care and the justice system, the very services this budget protects that we so value in Ontario. That is the moral and ethical course to take.

This budget, with its emphasis on job creating strategies, less spending, lower personal income taxes, lower payroll taxes, less bureaucracy, more entrepreneurship and greater incentives for investments will turn our ship of state around, away from the economic upheaval and social uncertainty that have plagued us, and take us to the tranquil waters of steady economic progress and social justice.


The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): Actually, I can scarcely believe you read that, because it's not like you. I don't know who wrote that.


Mr Phillips: I'm serious. I have a good deal of respect for that member, and that was nonsensical rhetoric. It's just not like her.

If you're very pleased, and I gather from your comments you are, as we all know from dealing with our own constituents -- I'll give you an example. I have an older couple in my constituency who have been cut back in support from $1,000 a month. They are broke, bankrupt, can't get a job, about 60 years old. They were getting $1,000 a month. They're being cut to $800 a month. They have to now go out and find a basement apartment, and why? Because I gather you are strongly supportive of dealing with the deficit by giving someone making $150,000 a year a $5,000 tax break.

If you're very proud of and pleased with that, if that's how you're dealing with the deficit, I have a different opinion of this society. If you're very pleased that the hospitals are going to be cut by almost 20% over the next three years to fund this tax cut, I have a different opinion of this society.

Mr Klees: You sure do: Spend.

Mr Phillips: I understand the member in the back who's barracking, because he's one of the true believers in this, but I never felt you were one of the true believers.

If you believe that we need to cut educational spending by one quarter, about 25% of the province's support for education across this province to fund this tax cut, then you and I have a very different opinion about the future of this province.

While you may be proud of this budget, I personally think it's heading us down the road to very serious problems. I was surprised to hear what I would regard as the extreme rhetoric from the member. I can't imagine she wrote that. If she was saying her own words I think she'd say something quite different.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): In the couple of minutes I have, I want to very seriously and sincerely ask the member where there's anything ethical or moral in taking 21.6% out of the take-home pay, so to speak, of the very poorest among us; where there's anything ethical or moral about taking some of the most committed, hardworking, sincere and serious workers in communities like Hamilton and Sault Ste Marie and Toronto and Windsor, who work for the public service, who have honed their skills, who have gone back to school, who have invested time and energy so they could become the best they can be, and just summarily kicking them out of work. One day they're working; the next day they don't have a job.

These people are attached to families, families who need the support they provide by way of the work they do. These people belong to communities that depend on the contribution they make, not only by the direct work they do in the jobs they have as civil servants and teachers and nurses and, God forbid, even doctors; the communities are dependent on them for the very life we all collectively and communally put together so that everybody can have some sense of belonging and dignity and some opportunity.

How can you take money from the poorest, take services away from the poorest, kick excellent, hardworking people out of their jobs and somehow call that moral or that there's ethics connected to it in any way, for the sole purpose of giving a tax break to the very rich?

Mrs Marland: It's very difficult to sit in this House and listen to a lecture from the member for Sault Ste Marie on what is ethical and what is moral in terms of being forthright and upright in making policy decisions for the future of the people in this province.

I would like to commend the member for St Andrew-St Patrick on her speech this afternoon. I felt she was very succinct.

When you talk about everything being taken from the poor people, I simply throw that back to the critics in both the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party and ask them who it is they think government assists in the first place.

The point is, if we look at where we are today in this province, spending $9 billion on interest, $9 billion that just goes right out the door, that is more than we spend on all the schools, all the universities and all the colleges in this province. It's also more than we spend operating all the hospitals in this province. If the opposition feels it's fine to spend 20 cents out of every dollar on interest, we're simply standing up as a government and saying, "No, we can't afford that," because another 10 years from now we're going to be in a situation where we can't even offer the most basic health care and educational programs in this province.

You talk about affecting the poor. What we are doing is driving the economy in this province and creating jobs which in turn give the poor an opportunity to work, which is more than that government did for the five years they were in office. All they did was put government money into creating jobs, and when the government money ended, the jobs ended.

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I have to say to the member that her presentation today was courageous. I cannot believe for a moment that a reasonable, compassionate, honourable individual as she is could utter the kinds of words she did without feeling just a twinge of remorse.

Mr Stockwell: What a load of hooey.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West.

Mr Stockwell: Do you think you've cornered the market on compassion? Do you really believe that?

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West, please remain quiet.

Mr Stockwell: When did you corner the market on compassion? When?

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West, if you want to leave the House for a minute, you could do so.

Ms Castrilli: What this budget really does is not at all what has been presented this afternoon. What this budget really does is shift the balance in society even more than what we've seen to date. What it really does is not just attack the poor and give to the rich, but it's a real attack on the middle class, those individuals who pay the taxes, who create the jobs, who work every day. It is those individuals who in the end will have far less to contribute and to pay. That's what this budget does.

There is nothing in this budget which talks about creating opportunities for that very vital sector. There is nothing in this budget which promotes jobs and employment in a very real way. There is nothing in this budget which even addresses some of the very essential issues this economy must take cognizance of, such as technology and education. It ignores the reality around us. It ignores the world around us. It is a budget which is set on one ideological course, which is to benefit a very small segment of society. I really cannot applaud the member for her statement.

The Acting Speaker: The member for St Andrew-St Patrick, you have two minutes to reply.

Ms Bassett: I must say to the honourable member for Scarborough-Agincourt that he said he was disappointed in me; I'm disappointed in the honourable member, because you obviously haven't been reading my other speeches in Hansard that say exactly the same thing, almost in the same words. No corner on compassion: The problem is that you have trouble seeing somebody who is compassionate taking a different route or a different solution to the problem of our economy.

I believe very strongly in one way of achieving probably the same aim that the honourable members on the opposite side have, which is to look after people who are less fortunate than we are. We in this party, with our budget, are going a different route. The route you took put us deeper into debt, made our whole economy collapse. We feel we are going to take a different approach.

If you were to speak this way in five years, maybe you would have a point. We need the chance to put these measures in place, and that's exactly what we're going to do. The fact that I am taking a different route does not mean that I care or our party cares any less. If you read this budget carefully, you will see that many of the measures are exactly what the disadvantaged people are asking for. I am sure that in the end they will be much stronger.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): That's a lot of nonsense. It's disgusting to say the poor are asking you to do what you're doing.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre, please.

Mr Christopherson: That's disgusting, Speaker. They're saying the poor asked for this agenda.

The Acting Speaker: Order.

Ms Bassett: Anybody who doesn't have work wants a job.


The Acting Speaker: Order.

Ms Bassett: -- jobs with the measures introduced in this budget.

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


The Acting Speaker: No, no, the rules apply to everyone. Further debate?

Mr Phillips: I'm pleased to join the debate and say that I don't have any doubt at all that this budget reflects where the government's going. I have no doubt that the government fully intends to implement its 30% tax cut. I don't doubt that for a moment. I have no doubt that you will hit your deficit targets on March 31, 2001, and if you can't do it with the cuts you've got in place, you'll make more cuts. I accept that. That is your agenda.

In my opinion -- and time will prove either us right or you right -- it is an extreme right-wing agenda. I believe that. I believe it is driven by some in your caucus who absolutely obviously believe this. I think it is heading Ontario down a very dangerous road. Time will tell, but I want to be proudly on the record as saying to all of you in the government caucus that I fundamentally disagree with the direction you're heading in. I'm proud to say that and I will be in this Legislature to challenge you at every moment we possibly, legitimately can.

The reason I say that is that we have heard from the government that the deficit and debt are a huge problem -- $1 million an hour of interest. It's the rationale you use for social assistance cutbacks. It's the rationale you use for cutting hospital spending. It's the rationale you use for dramatic cutbacks to support for municipalities and law enforcement.

You've absolutely gutted the support for the infrastructure in this province. A few months ago, you ran on a campaign. All of you made very specific commitments to maintain the infrastructure spending. I'm sure all of you looked at your own budget now to find you've gutted it, absolutely gutted it. The previous government was spending almost $4 billion on capital. This budget shows you will, the year we're into right now, cut that to $2.7 billion, and then the second year you're going to cut it almost in half, from the previous government's roughly $4 billion to $2 billion. You are gutting the infrastructure.

You are gutting the infrastructure, our educational system, support for municipalities, our hospitals, our law enforcement. Why?

Mr E.J. Douglas Rollins (Quinte): We're married to lowering the debt.

Mr Phillips: Because I know you are absolutely married to the 30% tax cut, absolutely married to it.

Mr Rollins: Proud of it.

Mr Phillips: "Proud of it," the member says. I know you are. The public probably can't hear them saying, "Absolutely," but I think every single person in this province should know, as they're being asked to tighten their belt, to trim -- "We have to fight this deficit" -- that at the very same time this government can somehow find $5 billion to fund a tax cut. Those are your own numbers from page 22 in the budget, full-year implementation.

By the way, I will add as a sidelight that I was very surprised to now find that you're now saying the Fair Share health levy, which you said would bring into the province $400 million, will bring in $260 million. This big clawback -- "We're going to claw back on the well-to-do with the Fair Share health levy" -- by your own numbers here, you are bringing in far less in the Fair Share health levy than the campaign promise you made.

But here we are: The debt and deficit are a huge problem. We all of us have to weigh in on this. How can you justify, if it is such a big problem, saying to those people who have had to trim and cut and who have very little to spend that at one and the same time the province can afford to give someone making $150,000 a $5,000 tax break? It is inexplicable.

You'll say there are other jurisdictions doing it. There is not another jurisdiction in Canada that has not first balanced its budget before looking at tax cuts. You use Michigan and often say, "Well, Michigan and New Jersey," I think the members understand that in US states they don't have debt and deficits; they must balance their budget. It wasn't a case of saying, "We have a $100-billion debt in the province, but we can still afford a $5-billion tax break."

I know you're married to that, I know you got elected on that and I know this is a core belief. The member for Brampton South, Mr Clement, is shaking his head. In many of your caucus this is a core belief, this is the most important thing. Whether you have to cut more or not is irrelevant; you will deliver that 30% tax cut. I think it's wrong.

We're beginning to see the promises they are now jettisoning, the promises they are now breaking. The first and most important one is on your job creation promise. That was your number one promise. You said to the people of Ontario, "This plan will create" -- it wasn't just simply saying, "We think that if we do all these things, there will be jobs created." It says, "This plan" -- I'm reading now from the Common Sense Revolution -- "will create more than 725,000 new jobs over the next five years."

What do we now find in the budget? We now find, and this was an absolute shock to me, that the government itself is predicting -- page 39 of the budget -- that in 1998, three years, more than halfway into this revolution, there will be more people out of work in Ontario than in 1995 when you took over from the dreaded NDP, as you often say. What kind of a proud record is that, that three years into this job creating revolution, there will be more people out of work in the province of Ontario than when you came into office?

Furthermore, the government said, "This amazing plan is going to create jobs." There were obviously millions of people who believed you. I had many people in my constituency on social assistance who actually believed you when you said, "We're going to start creating jobs tomorrow -- 145,000 jobs a year, every single year."

Mr Rollins: Three hundred every day.

Mr Phillips: I realize the member who's barracking over there may not like to hear this, but it was a fraud. You're not delivering on the jobs, and people are going to hold you accountable for that. I see him over there yelling from the back, Madam Speaker, but he's going to have to answer to all of those people for that fraud on the jobs. What's happening? Of course you're going to deliver the tax cut. Of course the friends who are making $150,000 are going to thank you when they get that $5,000, and I understand that. But at what expense?

The first one is jobs, and by your own admission. I think it's shameful that you accept a budget that will show more people out of work three years from now than when you took office. I wouldn't have accepted that if the Minister of Finance had come into a caucus and said, "Now, we've got this great plan." The first question the caucus should have asked was: "What does it do for the jobs? Because that's the thing we ran on." The member will realize, as the public are increasingly realizing, that you ran on a fraud.

The second thing I'd say on this budget is that the member for St Andrew-St Patrick said, "There were no cuts in the budget," proudly said, "No cuts in the budget." Well, there were no cuts in the budget only because you have announced them before and you're going to announce them tomorrow. But all the cuts were in the budget in financial terms. I would say to the public that you are only now beginning to feel the impact of the cuts. This government is going to cut $3 billion of spending this year, $3 billion next year and $1 billion the following year. Those are still to come. We have not yet felt the impact of the cuts required to fund your tax cut. What it means in real terms is that you are going to cut about 25% of spending out of the government. You may say: "Great. That's what everybody's looking for." All right, they're looking for a 25% cut in education, they're looking for a 25% cut in support for municipalities -- in fact, you've cut them more than that -- they're looking for that huge cut in the infrastructure spending, in our capital. When you ran, you ran on the basis of saying it is absolutely essential to maintain the infrastructure. So that's the second thing I'd say, that we have not begun to feel the impact of the cuts required to fund this tax cut.


The third thing I'd say is simply that this is a government that has sold its cuts on the basis of fiscal responsibility: We all need to do our bit. The $1 million an hour -- as I say, I'm sure young people in this province wake up with nightmares about the $1 million an hour. But the government says that they are going to increase the debt of this province over the next four years by $22 billion. For a group that says the debt and the deficit is our single biggest fiscal problem, I don't understand how you can accept the debt and deficit going up, the debt going up by $22 billion, paying interest on that -- I would say just the interest alone on that extra debt is $5 billion. That's what the taxpayers have to pay, the hardworking, decent people of this province who are paying the taxes. Those hardworking, decent people have to pay $5 billion of taxes to pay the interest. But we can still afford a tax cut that the government says will cost $5 billion a year. We can still afford that. So the deficit and debt isn't such a huge problem that we can't afford that kind of a tax break.

I think people in the province will begin to see that there is a penalty in Ontario if you are less well off, less able to fend for yourself, needing some assistance. This is a budget that without question punishes the most humble in our province and rewards the most powerful. It humbles them.

The specifics on the expenditure cuts: The member said there were no expenditure cuts in here because they were, I gather, all announced earlier.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): They're not related.

Mr Phillips: As the leader of the NDP said, and he's right, the government is saying these aren't related. That is absolute nonsense and I don't think even the Minister of Finance believes that. Certainly none of the backbench members believe that these things aren't all related and that the deep cuts -- and by the way, the cuts, by your own admission, are about a third deeper than you promised during the campaign. We all remember the campaign. You ran on a certain campaign. You got in and you said, "We're going to have to cut a third more." So you've cut a third more out. That's your plan.

Mr Stockwell: Why? We spent $2 billion more --

Mr Phillips: The member says, "Why?" So they've cut a third more, but the tax cut -- we have to cut a third more out of the budget. We've got to cut education far deeper than we've said. We've got to cut hospitals by almost 20%. I don't know what's happening to your local hospital, but my local hospital, which is one of the really fine hospitals in Ontario, is faced with a 15% cut over the next three years. Incredible. Why is that? Because the government has to find $5 billion for your tax cut.


Mr Phillips: One of the members across there is barracking about a hospital being inefficient. The Salvation Army Scarborough Grace General Hospital is one of the finest hospitals around.

On the cuts that our school boards are being forced now to deal with, the government has said that it plans to cut at least $800 million from school budgets. You begin to see the impact of that. You have not got a third of the way through those cuts and already we're seeing dramatic impacts on the classroom. In fact, the minister was forced, under some pressure I gather from some of his colleagues, to put some more money into the grants that he cut. But we are seeing already, while you're just beginning the cuts to education, it is impacting directly on the classroom already.

Mr Preston: How many teachers have we laid off already, Gerry?

Mr Phillips: The member is again barracking. I gather he's saying that the school boards are not experiencing a problem. I will say to the member that they are experiencing significant problems, and they are going to experience much bigger problems. Why? Because you want the 30% tax cut, and you want to cut far deeper than you ever said you would cut during the campaign.

Our law enforcement: I would say to the rural communities that they must be getting extremely concerned about this government. Half of the OPP detachments closing, half of them around the province closing up.


Mr Phillips: There's the member over there for Quinte. I should mention him because I gather he's quite proud of half of the OPP detachments closing. The member for Quinte is quite proud of that. The member for Quinte is quite proud that the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is cutting the staff by, I gather, 900 people. Maybe he's quite proud of that. Why? Although you ran on a platform of not touching the Ministry of Agriculture, we're finding substantial numbers of staff being laid off from the Ministry of Agriculture. Why? Because if there's one thing this government is committed to, it's the tax cut. If you've got to cut deeper and wider and far more severely than you ever promised or ever ran on, you'll do it.

Mr Preston: If you want to tell fairy tales, try The Three Bears.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Order, please, the member for Quinte.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate that. For the people at home, a rather juvenile approach over here is being heckled. I normally like to listen to sensible people, but I'm going to have to start ignoring you. Who is this? Who is this over here? Peter Preston, the member for Brant-Haldimand. So anybody from Brant-Haldimand watching, Mr Preston is making rather silly comments. I'll look forward to his own speech, but I'm going to have to ignore him because he's so silly. But the people in Brant-Haldimand I think will probably begin to appreciate his rather silly comments, eventually if he ever gets a chance to speak.

To continue with this budget, because make no mistake, we are heading down a road that I gather the government members and certainly the Common Sense true believers like. But here's the impact: The first impact we saw was the job situation, delivering far fewer jobs than you promised. The Minister of Finance said, "Well, we think we can do a little bit better, and maybe we can see more jobs created," but the numbers in this budget and any reasonable look at job creation says you are going to miss your job target dramatically. You're cutting expenditures far deeper than you said.

I would say to your members, by the way, that this budget is, frankly, your easy budget. The tough ones are the next two. I say that for these reasons: one is that there are some cute little things in here where the government took some expenditures out of this year and moved them back into previous years. It's called restatement of prior year public accounts. It's a cute little way of taking expenditures you were planning to use now, moving them back two years, taking the deficits up and just burying them. There is probably about $800 million of expenditures you've moved back to prior years -- it's here on page 50 -- and restated the deficit. "Restated deficit" means showing a higher deficit.


Mr Stockwell: Lower.

Mr Phillips: No, it's actually a higher deficit. Somebody said "lower."

Interjection: They wouldn't do that.

Mr Phillips: Well, they did that, and they moved expenditures from this fiscal year into last fiscal year.

I say to the government members that I understand you may feel fairly good about the budget. I'm sure when you get to the Rotary Club you get the pats on the back. I gather the Premier was at a very swanky restaurant, Centro restaurant.

Mr Preston: "Give me a job at Centro."

Mr Phillips: The member is saying to give me a job there. This is my job and this is what I love doing.

I gather he got a standing ovation. Certainly here on Tuesday -- as one of my colleagues said, the Albany Club closed down for two hours -- this place was filled with more suits than Harry Rosen's.

I understand why you may like this budget, but for the people of Ontario you are embarking on a road that I think is extremely dangerous and will do a lot of damage in this province. You are not the Bill Davis Conservatives. This is a very different road we're heading down, one that I think is wrong and I gather the one that you think is right.

The 30% tax cut has gone. It's out of the barn and it's going to create enormous deficit problems. Some of you will say, "That's great, because that will keep forcing more and more government expenditure cuts"; I understand that. The expenditure cuts are far deeper than the campaign you ran on. You've got a one-year reprieve because you've done some things in this budget -- moved expenses back to previous years, taken some deficits up.

By the way, the debt servicing costs, the interest costs are actually substantially lower than you thought. I think your $1 million an hour went a bit by the boards because they're a lot lower than had been previously estimated. You're shaking your heads, but you also got a reprieve on that.

The real challenges come in the next two budgets. First you delayed the tax cut a little bit, and I understand that. Your Common Sense Revolution said it would come on April 1 and you delayed, essentially, the big cut until January 1, but your big expenditure and revenue cuts come over the next two years, and that's when our fiscal problems get really serious.

I think you're heading down the absolute, wrong track here even though you may temporarily get some pretty good pats on the back as you wander around.

Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): You need a few.

Mr Phillips: The member said I need a few.

Believe me, in three years, when the educational system is struggling; when young people have been through several years of very dramatic tuition increases -- they're 20% this year, for some programs substantially more and no end in sight; when our roads are crumbling and you've essentially cut the capital spending in half from the previous government's numbers; when our hospitals have absorbed a cut of almost 20%; when many people in this province realize that the people who are making good incomes got a terrific tax cut -- I got a tax cut and most of it seems to be gone on brand-new user fees.

If I remember, that is what the debate on Bill 26 was all about: giving the municipalities the flexibility to raise the money. As a matter of fact, I think the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing said one of the reasons for Bill 26 is to give the municipalities more flexibility to introduce user fees to compensate for our cutbacks. He said that at committee.

So it should be no surprise to you when municipalities introduce new user fees. In fact, I was with many of you at a committee hearing where you said, "We promise the municipalities that we will give them more flexibility to find different ways of raising revenue, because the province can no longer provide support for them." So it should be no surprise when they say, "All right, I'm going to have to put a user fee here, a user fee there, increase the licence fee here, charge for that here, charge for that there." They are responding to what you said: "We're going to cut you back on our support, but we'll give you more opportunity to raise money."

My point is this: that for middle-income earners and lower-income earners, a huge part of their tax decrease is being eaten up with fees. But for someone making $150,000 -- and we all know over half of this tax cut goes to families earning more than $90,000 -- this will be a pretty good bonanza for them. But for the average hardworking person in Ontario, hardworking, taxpaying person, they are going to barely see this tax cut by the time municipalities are through with new user fees; by the time, for some of them, if you've got a young person in a college or a university, it's eaten up right away with the tuition fee -- more than eaten up.

As we head down this road, I will proudly say I fundamentally disagree with the direction. I understand it's popular for a tax break, but when you quote other jurisdictions you will find other jurisdictions that cut taxes got their fiscal house in order first on a sensible basis. I know that you like to quote Mississippi or Missouri or Michigan or somewhere like that; all of those by law can't run deficits and debt. So it isn't as if they were dealing with a situation where they had a huge debt -- no. In my opinion -- it's an important point -- what drives this tax cut fundamentally by the true believers -- I call them the commonsense true believers -- is a belief that if you cut taxes you cut revenue, you keep forcing less and less government.

I talked to one of the senior --


Mr Phillips: Well, the minister from Brampton is also -- one of the reasons I'm always suspicious of the Conservatives is that the last time a Conservative government balanced the budget was 1969. It is frankly a myth that the Conservatives are great money managers. It's a myth. Now, it's a myth that's a bit tough to dispel, but even in your own documents here --


Mr Phillips: Well, but there it is, everybody in Ontario, the last Conservative balanced budget.

As a matter of fact, and even according to your own document, this government, the Harris government will not balance the budget until March 31, 2001, which is going to be roughly a year after the next election. So in your mandate, I guess that's one reason why I carry around this, the Ontario Taxpayers Federation -- you remember you said you're going to have immediate passage of this, but it called for a balanced budget in your first mandate. Your budget document does not call for a balanced budget in your first mandate. You may try and introduce one, but it will not be balanced until March 31, 2001, after the next election.

You wonder why one is suspicious of Conservative fiscal management. But you're going to go ahead with a 30% tax cut. You are going to dig Ontario a fiscal hole. You're going to increase the debt of this province by $22 billion. The taxpayers of this province are going to pay, on that alone, an extra $5 billion. Why? Because $13 billion of that is as a result of the tax cut over the next four years. That's the cost of your tax cut. That's what you say you're going to do. That's what's in your document here. And so if this deficit is such a huge problem, tell me again, how in the world we can afford a 30% tax cut?

I'll tell you who's going to pay for it. It will be people who are less able in this province. It will be our educational system, it will be our individuals on social assistance, it will be the health care sector, it will be the people in municipalities paying more user fees, it will be our college and university students with enormous increases in their tuition fees, and why? All to fulfil, in my opinion, a right-wing philosophy around the economy that I don't support, and I'm pleased to say that I don't support this budget.


The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Christopherson: I'd like to compliment the member for Scarborough-Agincourt on his comments and on his analysis and criticism of the Mike Harris budget. Particularly, I want to focus on a couple of things. One, he mentioned that in his view this is the easiest budget that this government will deliver, and I would agree with that, because the way they've been able to structure this, coming off the momentum of winning -- we remember what that's like when you're still aglow in the victory of an election campaign, and that's rightfully yours, you won it, but immediately you used the cover of that euphoria to announce billions of dollars in cuts, much of those an attack on the poor. You've announced that you're going after the disabled by, by and large, dismantling WCB, and all of the transfer payments to health, to education, to social services, to transportation, all of those things you did in the early days, and in this budget, you announced the tax cut which at one level sounds like a good thing, and it's not surprising people have some appeal to that, but the fact of the matter is, with the follow-up budgets as your term of office unfolds, you won't have that luxury. You won't be able to roll things out that way. You'll be accountable. You'll be accountable to the people of Ontario for what has happened to Ontario and all the things that are important.

The member for Scarborough-Agincourt also talked about the fact that Ontarians will barely see their tax cut and, again, by and large, it sounds like a good message, but listen to what people are saying. They're now becoming more and more aware that with the tax cut goes an increase in user fees, an increase in property tax, and at the end of the day, most working people will be worse off as a result of this budget, and time will prove that to be true.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure to respond to the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, who has a fairly respectable background in finance, and I'm surprised at his flippant comments. He should be more than familiar with the red book action plan.

Our budget is all about creating opportunity and hope, an environment for investment, and we've pledged to stop the spending and stop the taxing and balance the budget. But it's funny. As I look back in my archives, the red book, which we don't see much of but we hear even less: Their first commitment, in 30 days, was to introduce a balanced budget. That's exactly what we're intending to do.

If I go on, it says "Cutting Spending," and I underline the severe cuts that they're going to eliminate, through public-private partnerships and reducing and streamlining government organizations and operations, private partnerships of government organizations. All of this sounds very familiar. On page 8 they have a 5% tax cut, a statement that says, "Rising taxes kill jobs." That's exactly what we're trying to do: reduce taxes to create jobs. It sounds like you agree on it.


Mr O'Toole: Yes. The member from Niagara there says cut taxes by 5% during the first term. They weren't sure what their plan was really, but it sounded very much like ours. The difference between you and us is that we're doing it. We're actually creating the opportunity and the hope that people are looking for.

Another little thing: our favourable tax treatment of the mining corporations, with a $15-million reduction in taxes. I think that many of our plans are directly to impact on the small entrepreneurial business. Keep in mind that over 90% of the people in Ontario earn less than $68,000. Each one of those people are the people who are going to have disposable income that you were prepared to tax away from them. The one thing that's new in this is there is no tax increase.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I was very pleased to be in the House to hear the speech of my colleague from Scarborough-Agincourt, our treasury critic and obviously one of the best experts of finances. I think everybody in the House would just about agree to that. He has a tremendous understanding of the finances of this province and I must tell you he's got the utmost respect of all our colleagues in giving us an analysis of what's really happening here. I'm glad the member across the way brought up some of the things we in the Liberal caucus have talked about during the election, because what we wanted to do --

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Did they have VLTs in theirs?

Mr Ramsay: That's true. VLTs and a lot of things that you're doing weren't in your book. But what we wanted was to do a modest and a sensible restructuring of government. We also wanted to see smarter government, and in doing that we would make it slightly smaller. But we weren't going to cause the havoc that you people have caused by getting rid of 10,600 people overnight that is going to cause such a dramatic drag on this economy. Whether it's the southwest, the east, Toronto or the north --

Mr O'Toole: Look at the Liberals in Ottawa.

Mr Ramsay: -- we're feeling that drag in that economy and the private sector isn't going to be able to keep up --

Mr O'Toole: You would never have done it. Ask Sheila Copps.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Durham East, come to order.

Mr Ramsay: -- at the rate of creating new jobs the way you are shedding public sector jobs. So you are hurting the economy. It's just like a Mulroney government over there. You're giving the tax cut to the big people, the big corporations, and the high-earning individuals are getting the big tax breaks. For the average working person, they know it's a shell game for sure, it's a great sleight of hand. You're like the Doug Henning of the new Ontario, because you're putting a little bit of money into one pocket but all those other partners of yours are having to take a lot of money out of their other pockets. The same taxpayer has got maybe two pockets and one pocket has got a little more, but boy, they're getting ripped off in that other pocket. You're totally ripping them off.

Mr Wildman: I want to congratulate the member for Scarborough-Agincourt for his presentation. I thought it was most thoughtful and well considered. It's interesting that we have now, in the period for comments, barracking across the floor, people saying essentially, "We're doing what you said you were going to do, only you weren't going to do it right," and so on.

The point is, we're dealing with a budget that has been brought in, and this budget, as the member for Scarborough-Agincourt said, is going to require the borrowing of substantial amounts of money to pay for a tax cut. It means increasing the debt significantly, at a time the government says that they are going to cut the deficit, in order to finance a tax cut that is not going to produce the number of jobs that the government claimed it would produce when they came into government.

We're talking about less than half the jobs predicted by the Minister of Finance's own figures that were promised by the Conservative government. The people who are going to benefit are those who do not need a tax cut. The people, as the member for Scarborough-Agincourt said, who are at middle income and lower income levels are going to have more than their tax cut eaten up by user fees, hidden taxes and increases to property taxes to finance education and municipal services because of the cuts in transfer payments by the provincial government.

The fact is, we're going to see enormous increases in taxes as a result of this budget and people are going to be paying more this year than they were last year. That's why I appreciated the comments from the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, because the fact is the public are going to understand the impact of this and they're not going to like it.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Scarborough-Agincourt, you have two minutes to respond.

Mr Phillips: I appreciate the comments. I wanted to respond to the member for Durham East primarily. I think where we really part company is on the 30% tax cut. I can remember very well the day that this document was released. I think it was May 4, around then, of 1994 -- two years ago. I happened to be meeting with a group of people from outside whom I regard as financial and economic experts, not necessarily Liberals, just a group of people whom we asked to come in and give us advice. I ran out and got the document -- it was actually early in the morning -- and brought it back in. I said: "Holy gosh, they're planning a 30% tax cut. What's your advice on how one responds to that?" These were senior bank economists and financial people. They said: "It's ridiculous. The province cannot afford a 30% tax cut if it wants to get its fiscal house in order and have a sensible social environment."

Their advice was, "Let it die of its own weight." Of course, it didn't -- you got elected; we lost. I understand that, but my opinion has not changed from that day that you have made a promise to the people of Ontario that will lead this province down a road that I think is dead wrong.

I proudly say that today. I'll keep saying it. I'll tell people out there who like the tax cut that this is where it's heading, and I will say the same thing I said two years ago: This is not the Ontario I believe in, not the Ontario I want and not the Ontario that I think Ontario deserves.

You go ahead and do your 30% tax cut and go on down to the country club and get a big pat on the back, but I'll be here arguing against this thing because I think we need a better Ontario than this will provide.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Martin: It is a great pleasure for me to stand today and second the motion of non-confidence of the finance critic of my party, the member for Beaches-Woodbine, and to support the comments she's made in this place and to say that I agree wholeheartedly with everything she said; and to also suggest to the members across the way that they might want to listen to the member for Beaches-Woodbine. They'd serve themselves well, and the people they represent, by paying some close attention as well to the member for Scarborough-Agincourt, who has just spoken so eloquently in this place. He's been around for quite a while, he knows of what he speaks, and he never but tells the truth here.

I know there are not many of you across the way who have been around more than this last short term of this government. As a matter of fact, I think there's only two: the Management Board Chair, the member for Don Mills, and also the member for Etobicoke West.

The member for Etobicoke West is right when he says he has been here all afternoon listening to the debate that's going on and wants to get into it in some meaningful way. But we know that if he did, what he would be saying is that he just can't believe what he's hearing. I know the member for Etobicoke West is in touch with his constituents and they're telling him that this is shocking, that this is just not good stuff and that he should bring that perspective to this place and share it with us as much and as loudly and as eloquently as he has potential to do every chance he gets.

I hope he gets that chance in the next week or two to rise in the House and, like I'm going to do here today, speak very clearly on behalf of the people I represent, who are the people who live and work in Sault Ste Marie. I dare say they represent very clearly and directly the feeling and the sense of the people in almost every community across this province. They want to believe, they really do, that this government knows what it's doing. They want to believe that the program this government is laying out for them and for their families and for the communities they live in is going to work for them and that it's going to do all the things they're being told by way of all of the hoopla --

Mr Stockwell: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: With respect to the member for Sault Ste Marie, I'm not going to question his memory but I think there's been a gap with respect to his announcement of me finding out from my constituents that they don't support this budget. I don't recall ever standing in this place --

The Acting Speaker: Will the member for Etobicoke West please sit down. That is not a point of order.

Mr Stockwell: On a point of personal privilege, Madam Speaker: I would ask the member to withdraw the comments, because I don't recall standing in this place making those statements. Certainly it was not anything I've said today --

The Acting Speaker: That is not a legitimate point of privilege. Would the member for Sault Ste Marie please continue.

Mr Martin: I certainly don't intend to withdraw, although I'm really glad that I did give you the opportunity to get up and say a few things because I think your voice is important and --


Mr Martin: No. The member for Etobicoke West is a well-respected member of this place. He spoke very eloquently when we were in office about all kinds of things, particularly where it impacted directly on the people he represented in Etobicoke West. We're expecting that in this instance his integrity will continue and that he will begin, as we on this side of the House are going to do, to bring the honest feeling and sense of real angst in the gut of the people who live --

Mr Stockwell: When I sat over there, you claimed I didn't have a heart.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): He didn't say "heart"; he said "gut."

Mr Christopherson: He still said "gut," not "heart."

Mr Martin: That's right, the gut.

Mr Christopherson: He's still not giving you credit for one.

Mr Martin: I'm waiting to hear what you have to say. Once you've had your say, we'll determine whether it's gut or heart.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): Forget him, Tony. Make your speech. Make your speech about the people of Sault Ste Marie.

Mr Martin: Okay. We're going to speak about the people of Sault Ste Marie.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. I can't hear the member.

Mr Martin: The people of Sault Ste Marie really do want to believe that the program this government is putting in place is going to be helpful. Even though they didn't vote for you, the people of the north want to believe that what you're doing is going to be in their best interests. They really do, because they know that even though they didn't vote for you, you're going to be around here for three or four years and you're going to be doing what you said you were going to do. They are very concerned that what you're going to do is going to be very damaging, because so far it has been to them and to their neighbours and to family members who are losing some of the money they need to put bread on their table and pay their rent. They're losing their job. They're losing their services.

All the indications are that this is going to be tough, although, again, you have not said that it wouldn't. You said this was going to be short-term pain for long-term gain. I suggest to you that actually it's going to be short-term pain for long-term pain, that what you're doing is not going to be in the best interests of the general public out there -- the middle class and the lower class. It may be good for a small number of the powerful and the rich, but it's not going to be good for the ordinary citizen, the person you should be coming in here every day and speaking on behalf of, because that's what government is about.

We know -- you know -- that the powerful and the rich can take care of themselves. They don't need us. They'll find ways of making sure they do okay. I think we've seen that in the last five years. We've been through in this province in the last five years, particularly in the early 1990s, one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression, and yet major corporations in Ontario declared profits through that period, and in some instances record profits, and in the last couple of years historic record profits. They're able to look after themselves. They don't need your help. They'll figure out a way to get the money they need to do their thing.

What you have to be concerned about is the overall impact this will on the communities that you live in and that elected you to come to this place and the people who live in them -- the middle class, the ordinary person who goes to work every day, who sends his kids to school hoping that it will be a good education so that when they're finished they can get a job, all those things. You have to concern yourself about that. You have to hold your program up to the scrutiny of those who understand the impact that will have on those folks -- not the wheelers and dealers on Bay Street, not the wheelers and dealers on Wall Street and the people who run the banks, because they'll give you one answer, and it will be very narrow and very selfish and will not in any way consider the impact this will actually have on the people who have their money in their institutions. You have to hold the program you're presenting to the people of Ontario up to some scrutiny. There has to be some way of telling whether this program is going to work or not, because that's what the people out there -- in my community anyway, and I suggest your community -- are asking: Will this program work? Is it going to work?

I suggest to you that so far the signs are very problematic. We just have to look at what --

Mr Preston: To date.

Mr Martin: No, no. You've been in power now for about nine months, and what you've done so far -- and it's all part of the package that was delivered here -- has been very damaging. It's been very damaging to those who can least afford to deal with it.

The first thing you did when you got the reigns of power -- it wasn't even a month. You decided that you would take not 5% or 10% or 6%, which is usually the percentage that you're looking at when people go in to negotiate, whether it's an increase or a decrease or whatever in salary or wage; you took 21.6% out of the pockets of the most poor among us without any consideration at all re the impact that would have on them or their families or the communities in which they live.


Do you know what that meant for my community? Above and beyond the fact that we have literally hundreds of families who are now having to consider actually moving their place of residence because they can't afford the rent any more, who are now having to decide whether they will pay for health care or put food on the table, above and beyond that, this meant $2 million a month out of the economy of Sault Ste Marie, $2 million not being spent in the corner stores and the grocery stores and all those other small places of business that in Sault Ste Marie are the bread and butter of our economy. This was the impact: $2 million.

I don't think you people really understood that, and I don't think you know today how that's impacted on my community. Add that to the services you took away by way of your announcement in July and then further announcements in November and the jobs that disappear and the money that goes with that and you begin to understand.

In Sault Ste Marie the Christmas and January of 1994-95 were probably the best we had seen in a long, long time, because finally our community had made its way out of that very difficult recessionary period of the early 1990s. Algoma Steel was working, St Marys Paper was working, the ACR was running up and down the line, teachers were teaching, nurses were nursing, doctors were doing what they do best. Everybody was feeling confident and there was some stability in the community and we were all feeling like we'd finally arrived, that the community was finally getting its legs under it and it was going to go places.

We even had a new company setting up in town. Georgia Pacific Flakeboard had come to Sault Ste Marie, attracted by the very stable environment there: the price of energy, the health care system, the education system, all of those things that are important to investors. They came to Sault Ste Marie and they set up shop and they were creating 100 new jobs. That was Christmas and January of 1994-95.

Christmas and January of 1995-96, now that was a different story. That's just a couple of months ago. We're now almost back into a recession again. People weren't spending money at Christmas because, first of all, they didn't have it, and those who did weren't sure how long they were going to have it. Nobody knows in Sault Ste Marie any more how long they're going to have their job, unless they work at Algoma Steel, St Marys Paper or the ACR. If they work in the school system, if they work in the health care system, if they're a social worker of some kind, really working hard and doing their best to take up the slack because a lot of their colleagues are gone now, they didn't have a job, so they weren't spending either.

You didn't only hurt the poor because they now weren't able to have the kind of Christmas they had the year before and were expecting to have for a few years to come, and hurt the middle class because they didn't know if they were going to have a job so they weren't spending and having the kind of Christmas they'd like to have. You also hurt the retail sector of my community, which is, as I said before, the bread and butter, the people who really put out in so many important and significant ways in my community, whether it's charity or their own time and expertise. They're hurting now too, because they didn't have a really good Christmas.

January, February and March are times of real soul-searching in our community as people make decisions about both the short term and long term and what they're going to do and how they're going to deal with the very difficult circumstance they find themselves in.

That's a very clear indication of the impact the program of this government is going to have on our communities, on the people who live in those communities.

The budget you presented here this week has done nothing to dispel the sense out there that you really haven't done your homework, that there are no impact studies. There's nowhere in the document that I've looked at where they roll out, what's this going to look like, how's this going to impact people, how's this going to impact communities?

The job strategy: In Sault Ste Marie -- and this doesn't even take in the announcement of April 6 talking about the direct jobs connected to the provincial government -- we've already lost over 500 jobs in the city. That represents about $31 million out of the economy of Sault Ste Marie, not being spent in the stores, not there for people to buy a new house or upgrade their house or whatever, the kinds of things that contribute to -- I'm going past 6 of the clock, I just want you to know.

Mr Preston: Don't do that; it's Thursday, Tony.

Mr Martin: Tonight I'm going to go past 6. I feel so strongly about this that I've got to take all the time that I've got given to me here and say what I have to say on behalf of the constituents of Sault Ste Marie.

I know that the member for Etobicoke West isn't going to be able to get up and do that, so I've got to do it for him and let the folks out there know how the agenda of this government that's represented so very clearly and directly in the budget that they delivered this week is not well-thought-out. There's no understanding of the impact that it's going to have.

There are over 500 jobs already gone out of my community. How are you going to replace those? You said you were going to create 725,000 jobs. We haven't seen a fraction of that yet. The other day, I asked a question of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. I said: "You know, 500 jobs are gone out of Sault Ste Marie. What are you going to do? What advice do you have to the citizens of my city, to the leaders of the city?"

Mr Christopherson: How did he help you?

Mr Martin: He said, "We've created 1,000 jobs in St Thomas."

Mr Christopherson: St Thomas?

Mr Martin: Yes. Does he want the people of the Sault all to move down to St Thomas? What about the people in St Thomas? You live close to St Thomas and you know that in London and St Thomas, your area, that they're experiencing the same kind of unemployment and layoff that we're experiencing in northern Ontario. Would it be fair to all of a sudden have busloads of unemployed people from Sault Ste Marie land in St Thomas, looking for the 1,000 jobs that now are out there to be had? No, I don't think so.

I guess what I'm suggesting here is that the people in my community and the people across this province are asking very sincerely and very honestly, "Is this program going to work?" I have to tell you, so far by the indications that I've seen and what's happened to date under the leadership of this government, the signs aren't positive, the signs aren't good. It doesn't look like we're going to be able to achieve the growth that is suggested, that I think we all hope will happen.

I think it is probably important too if you're going to, in any analytical or critical way, look at a proposal that's put in front of you as to whether it has potential to be positive or work or not, you have to compare it to some things. I've already shared with you the approach that our government took when it was in office to the challenges that we faced in the early 1990s that were very severe.

I know that in the early 1990s, in Sault Ste Marie and I dare say in other communities across the province, there were some really difficult things that the business community and people who work in those workplaces faced, and it was no different in most of the communities in northern Ontario. Did our government in front of that say, "You're on your own; let the marketplace decide"? Take money out of the community by way of cuts and say, "This is going to be good for you"? No, we didn't do that. We knew that as a government we had a major role to play, that we had to be there and that actually government is a fundamental determinant of healthy economic activity in a jurisdiction.

We came in as a government. Bob Rae himself came into Sault Ste Marie and sat down in that community with the workers and with management and with the financial institutions and it wasn't easy. It went on for months. I was there. I remember the dark cloud that was over our community as we all worked through this very difficult -- and the government was there giving leadership, believing in the people, supporting the workers, supporting the management of that company in their efforts to make positive change and put in place something that would be there for us in the long haul.

That's the kind of government this jurisdiction wants, needs and deserves. It is not getting it with the present government. I suggest to you that that's a major flaw in the budget that's been presented and it will come back to haunt you.

Mr Christopherson: You keep fighting for them, Tony. You keep fighting for them.

Mr Martin: I will, absolutely, I'm telling you. It's 6 of the clock now. The whole NDP caucus is with you out there. We know how difficult it is; we know the challenge you're going to face. We tried to be there. We were there with you in significant ways when we were government and, given the chance, by damn, we'll be there again. I'll be back on Monday.

The Acting Speaker: The motion that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made.



The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Sault Ste Marie has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism concerning cuts in services and jobs. The member has up to five minutes to debate the matter and the minister or parliamentary assistant may reply for up to five minutes.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I rise this afternoon somewhat, not totally, disappointed that the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism could not find it in his very business schedule to come and explain to me and my constituents what this government intends to do, given the very dire and difficult circumstances we now find ourselves in.

I am happy, though, that his parliamentary assistant, a very capable and able member of this House who comes from Sault Ste Marie and probably knows more intimately the challenges we face in that community, will probably be able to speak to me today on behalf of the government in a way that hopefully will be helpful to the citizens of that city, because we are going through some very difficult times.

As I said the other day to the member for Brampton North, in Sault Ste Marie at this particular point in time, without considering the impact of the announcement of April 11, we are down a net 500-plus jobs. That means $31 million, approximately, out of the economy of Sault Ste Marie. You add that to the $2 million a month we're losing because of the cuts to social services and that computes to about $24 million, so we're talking $50 million to $60 million out of the economy. That's going to have a very direct and severe impact not only on the people who are out of jobs and the people who are getting less to spend but on the retail sector, the small business community in Sault Ste Marie.

I shared with your minister last week that we as a government were challenged in the early 1990s; when we came in the challenges were huge. You remember in 1990 Algoma Steel was on strike, lockout, however you want to put it, St Marys Paper was bleeding through the ears and the Algoma Central Railway was losing money to the tune of about $10 million a year. We came in, in each instance bringing all players to the table, government playing a leading role and supporting in the ways that it could.

I suggest to some of you who perhaps don't understand or sometimes lead me to believe that you don't know that this was not a bailout by government. This was in no way just walking in and throwing bags of money at Algoma Steel or St Marys Paper. It was sitting down with workers and management and financial institutions and coming up with a business plan that was good in the short term, good in the long term, not in any way in contravention of any trade agreements that Canada or Ontario has with other jurisdictions and is now proving to be very successful. As a matter of fact, some of the money these enterprises have generated by way of profit over the last year or two are now being reinvested.

The question I have for the member, because the minister suggested I might be a bit more constructive in the way I ask the question or bring it forward, is first of all, what can we expect from the government by way of leadership, involvement, concern and some assistance?

Last Thursday we had a referendum in Sault Ste Marie on whether we want a casino. I know there are people out there who have some concerns about a casino and that a casino doesn't come without some cost, socially and in some other ways, and that we need to do some really difficult and important work around that and make sure we put in place all the services and supports that are necessary if we go ahead with that opportunity for our community.

Last Thursday in Sault Ste Marie we had a referendum, and of the ones that voted, 59.1% or 59.2% or 59.3% of the people in Sault Ste Marie voted in favour of Sault Ste Marie moving ahead with a casino in our city.

I guess my question to the member who understands some of the feelings, the sentiment in the Sault about this, because he has family who, like me, probably go over from time to time and spend a bit of money that could, if we had our own casino, be spent in Sault Ste Marie.

The question I have is what can we expect from the government by way of answer re that referendum and could we set up a meeting perhaps between government officials and the officials of my city so that we could talk about that and get it on the way?

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): There are two fundamental questions here that the member for Sault Ste Marie has given, and I thank him for the compliments. I return the compliment with his sincerity representing the people of Sault Ste Marie because, if nothing else, Tony is definitely a sincere person in his statements and what he wants to do for the people of his riding.

The first question was, what can they expect from government with respect to the plans that we are looking to adopt. A number of things have happened, and some of the initiatives have begun with the budget, as we heard the other day. As a result of what we are trying to accomplish -- now, I'm going to be very general in the beginning, Tony, and then I'll get to the specifics.

We have taken serious steps to try and balance the budget, and also to put the money back into the people's pockets. It's not so much putting that back into the people's pockets as it is taking less out of their pocket via the taxes that they've been burdened with over the past few years.

There's no question that when you raise taxes it's been demonstrated clearly that there isn't always an increase in revenue. In fact, very often there is a decrease in revenue, even with the higher taxes, because two things happen: people spend less and furthermore, it builds in the underground economy.

I think a lot of the job loss in the Sault that you mentioned, and frankly across the province, is as a result of the economic situation that we faced in the early 1990s, and actually I would say that your government took a constructive approach to the situation that was in Sault Ste Marie at that time. I agree with you, it wasn't entirely a bailout, in spite of what I may have been quoted in the newspaper as saying.

It was a constructive solution to resolving the problem with Algoma Steel, and I will say that I am pleased that the workers made the project work. I'm pleased that the steel plant is back on its feet again and working well, and I believe it declared a profit and dividends in the past year and a half or two years.

That is an excellent result. But let me be clear that I still believe and we still believe that taxes kill jobs. I know that under your party, unemployment rose in the province from 6.3% to 9.3% and I think that was reflected in the increases in taxes and a lot of the spending debt that took place without taking into account the amount of debt that was being incurred.

I have a short amount of time left, so I'll go to the specifics here.

With regard to government plans, first of all, the elements of the budget I think will speak for themselves, and I won't outline those, but I have made recommendations on a small business report and over the next few months we will see some of those recommendations being adopted and a strategy to promote and build small business. I have spoken directly with Mr Strapp, from your economic development department, and I'm pleased with the initiatives they are doing there and I'm looking to build more partnerships with the economic development department and the government to help develop stuff there.

Now, with respect to the casino, I know when the decision was made one of the reasons the Sault didn't get it -- I think someone communicated the fact: "You didn't have a referendum. Niagara Falls had a referendum." I'm not entirely convinced that was the situation, but Niagara Falls was the only city in Ontario that had voted for a casino. I'm pleased that the Sault has now come across with a majority. I would suggest to you that the decision lies in the hands of the casino corporation, with some advice from our ministry. We would be pleased to hear a presentation from the city of Sault Ste Marie with respect to the casino.



The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Cochrane South has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the Minister of Transportation concerning comments respecting Timmins. The member for Cochrane South has five minutes.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to ask a question of the minister. I pointed out that the minister and some of his colleagues had travelled to Thunder Bay last Friday, and at that meeting, the Minister of Transportation, wanting to say something to the crowd assembled there, the municipal leaders from across northwestern Ontario who were congregated at the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, commented, "To all those in attendance from the city of Timmins, I'm looking forward to visiting your community in the near future."

In my question I said to the minister, "There wasn't anybody from Timmins there." One had to believe that the minister didn't know where the city of Timmins was and somehow had incorrectly assumed that Timmins was in northwestern Ontario.

In his response, the minister said that indeed he did know where Timmins was but what he was actually referring to when he made that comment in Thunder Bay -- I'll read the quote from Hansard: "I was basically being polite, because one of his colleagues from Timmins was there and I was being polite to recognize the colleague." The colleague he was referring to was none other than Len Wood, the MPP for Cochrane North, who lives in the community of Kapuskasing. When I heard the response, I said, "Jeez, maybe he really doesn't know where Timmins is."

When I put the question forward, it was just trying to see where the minister was and to make sure indeed he knew where Timmins was, and when I first started listening to the answer, I thought, "No, he really does know," and he was maybe a little tired that day and made a comment that didn't come out quite right. But in his response in the House on Tuesday, he basically said, "Your colleague from Timmins was there, and the reason I made the comment is because he was there and I wanted to be nice to him and acknowledge him in the room."

I say again to the minister, the member for Cochrane North, none other than Len Wood, comes from Kapuskasing. There is a large distance between the city of Timmins and the fine town of Kapuskasing of some 200 kilometres or more. Driving along Highway 11 from Timmins, that particular community is at least two hours away by car, and that's pushing it a bit. I've done it in two hours, and if the OPP were to see me doing that, I might get myself in a little trouble.

But the point is, clearly the minister has a problem when it comes to the question of where the communities are situated within the province of Ontario. He came back and said to me in the supplementary, "With members like that, with their attitude on such an important day, one of the most important days in Ontario's history -- the budget -- the member wants to talk about geography.... Ask a question with substance so the people of Ontario know you're doing your job."

Minister, it is a question of substance. We believe, as most of us in the assembly do, that the minister responsible for transportation should have an idea where the communities are within the highway system. How are you going to make a decision about where you're going to have enough snowplows in the winter or which potholes have to be filled if you don't know where the different communities are? I take it the minister's had a bit of a geography lesson since then. He's learned where Timmins is, and for that I thank him.

But then the next day I'm listening to a press scrum and the minister says -- and I couldn't believe this; my God, he actually said this; this is really hard to believe -- "I am going to make sure that the Ministry of Transportation gets some extra money so that every pothole on the highways of Ontario is filled, and if not, I'm going to be out there and I'm going to be filling those potholes myself," says the Minister of Transportation. I say to the minister today, you're going to be filling a lot of potholes. The reality is that you have less money attributed to your budgets both on the capital side and on the operational side at the Ministry of Transportation, according to your own budget that you released here on Tuesday. In fact, the ministry's not going to be able to keep that commitment that you're making on behalf of it.

It comes back to the point of the question I asked you on Tuesday. You're the Minister of Transportation. Your responsibility is to have first of all a good understanding of the roads system within the province of Ontario, know something about the geography, which I'm sure you've been brushed up on by now, and then to make decisions about how basically with your officials you're going to maintain the highways in northern Ontario.

Minister, my question to you is, if you're making comments such as I've heard in the House earlier this week, the comment that you made in Thunder Bay last Friday and the comment you made again on Wednesday morning in the press scrum in regard to potholes, how are we as citizens of this province supposed to take you seriously when it comes to your role as the Minister of Transportation, the minister responsible for maintaining our highways? My question is simply that: How can we take you seriously if, quite frankly, you don't understand the geography of this province?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): Certainly the rhetoric goes on. I'm pleased to participate in this debate. The honourable member would like to know how northerners are supposed to have confidence in my ability to make decisions, as he puts it, on behalf of the people of the north. I believe the budget should have answered his question with Minister Eves's announcement of additional infrastructure rehabilitation funding.

But first I would like to address the premise of his question. This is not a government that makes decisions on behalf of people. We allow people to make their own decisions. That's why we're implementing the 30% cut in the provincial income tax rate: to put more money back into the pockets of the people who earn it, to do with as they wish, because they can spend it a lot better than any government.

People say the tax cut would only work for people if they spent it. That's not true. You can do four things with the tax cut: You can spend it, save it, invest it or pay down a debt. Each and every one of those things will help the economy and create jobs.

Let me return to his concept of decision-making for the north just for a moment. The honourable member belonged to a government that decided for the north to take $60 million out of the heritage fund. I wonder what the people of the north had to say about that. Fortunately, this government, in its first budget, is returning not only the $60 million, but interest along with it.

The honourable member began his question to me on Tuesday by reminding me of something I said at the conference I attended last week in Thunder Bay. I would like this opportunity to remind him of something he said in this very House a week ago today. He said: "When we," the NDP, "were in government we spent a lot of money on road maintenance...but the reality is we didn't spend half as much as was needed to be spent." Now, that was an honest admission and I admire the member's honesty.

Mr Bisson: It's true.

Hon Mr Palladini: However, that neglect is why this government is putting an additional $40 million back into the highways in northern Ontario --

Mr Bisson: Well, you've got the project.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Cochrane South, you've had your opportunity.

Hon Mr Palladini: -- to begin to reverse a decay that has occurred because of previous governments' lack of attention to our highway infrastructure.

Last week I may have been mistaken about the member's riding, and I was trying to be polite. I did get Cochrane North and Cochrane South. The reason I mentioned that was because I wanted the member to know that I was going to visit the beautiful city of Timmins. So I was not looking to put any blocks between myself and certainly the member. I do know where Timmins is and I will be travelling there in the very near future.

I have travelled to Thunder Bay, North Bay, Sudbury, Dryden, Kenora, Fort Frances, the Sault, Vermilion Bay and Rainy River, and I have been to some of these places more than once. I'm looking forward to going back, even if it is to repair a pothole.

I might not be as knowledgeable about the north as the honourable member for Cochrane South, but I can assure the people of northern Ontario that their issues and transportation concerns will be addressed.

I would like to name for you some other places in the north, if I may, places like Powassan, Kenora, Bruce Mines, Kakabeka Falls, Thunder Bay, Geraldton, Longlac, Naughton, Sundridge, Nipigon. What do all these places have in common?

They are just some of the northern communities where the Ministry of Transportation will be doing roadwork this fiscal year.

Shortly, I will be announcing further details of our capital spending plans for this year, and I'm sure the member will tell his constituents in Timmins and in other parts of his riding that the Minister of Transportation does indeed know where the north is.

The Acting Speaker: There being no further matter to debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 pm next Monday afternoon.

The House adjourned at 1822.