36th Parliament, 1st Session

L073 - Mon 13 May 1996 / Lun 13 Mai 1996

















































The House met at 1333.




Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Today, the Coalition to Save Tenants' Rights, on behalf of the tenants of Ontario, served eviction notices to the Tory government, Al Leach and Mike Harris to vacate possession and occupation of the Legislature of Ontario due to the Tories' breach of obligation to the 3.2 million tenants of Ontario.

Their notice read:

"This government is developing legislative amendments which will remove rent controls and gut all other tenants' rights in this province. The government is doing this despite the fact that the elimination of tenants' rights has nothing to do with deficit reduction, was not part of the Common Sense Revolution and was not part of their campaign platform. The destruction of tenants' rights without a mandate from the electorate to do so constitutes a breach of the government's obligation to this province's tenants."

The Coalition to Save Tenants' Rights is working to stop this Conservative government's plan to dismantle tenants' rights.

The Minister of Housing will be proposing legislation that will dismantle the tenant system we have now in place. The minister has made his future intentions clear: As tenants move from one unit to another, they will no longer be covered by tenant protections. The unit they would move from will be lifted from rent control, and the landlord would be able to charge whatever rent he wanted for that decontrolled unit. Of course, the tenant's new unit would also be lifted from tenant protection as well and the rent will certainly be considerably higher.

I urge the Premier and the Minister of Housing not to dismantle tenants' rights in this province.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): This week is National Mining Week and, as the NDP critic for northern development and mines, I'd like to congratulate the industry on its contribution to this country and this province.

Mining is a cornerstone of the Canadian economy, creating thousands of jobs and contributing billions of dollars to the economy. The minerals and metals sector employs over 300,000 across Canada, and in 1995 contributed $23 billion to the Canadian economy.

In the province of Ontario more than 50 communities, most of them in northern Ontario, depend on mining for a significant portion of their livelihood. Each year, the industry generates $5 billion in personal and corporate income in Ontario and supports over 72,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributing more than $1.2 billion to provincial revenues.

In my riding of Cochrane North, the Detour Lake gold mine of Placer Dome Canada Ltd recently won the John T. Ryan national trophy for achieving the best safety record in 1995 of any metal mine in the country.

Earlier this year saw the opening of a permanent camp for the employees of Detour Lake, a $10-million commitment made by Placer Dome and a great boost to the economy of this province and my riding of Cochrane North.

The contribution of this industry to this country and to this province is considerable. Through their investments in us, they have shown the confidence they have in our workers and our ability to be productive and competitive in this industry, in this resource-rich province.


Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Today marks the beginning of Police Week in Ontario. Police Week is celebrated from May 12 to 18. The theme this year is Working Together in the Community as Partners in Community Safety. Our theme of Police Week stresses the importance of partnerships between the police and the community and reflects our commitment to community policing.

Part of that commitment will take the form of new funding for community organizations and local police services to be directed towards crime prevention activities. The government will provide $2 million this year for community-based crime prevention initiatives as part of our commitment to reinvesting in the justice system.

This new funding is intended to be seed money which will encourage the growth of local community-based crime prevention agencies across the province. The money may be used for such programs as the development of community resources to combat youth crime and gang-related violent crime; the development of community safety audits to identify local safety concerns; and the expansion of Community Watch programs across the province.

The provincial government will not run these programs. They will be run by community-based organizations meeting the needs, which will mobilize the resources of the community to identify and solve local problems.

Police Week provides an opportunity for our communities and community organizations to show their support for police services and it allows the police services to demonstrate their commitment to community safety and to public safety.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Last Thursday evening I took part in a forum on education in Sudbury. The hall was filled with people clearly upset about the direction in which this government is going with regard to education funding.

The message was clear: People are fearful about these cuts to education. There were several speakers outlining the major effects to the classroom because of this reduced funding. It was abundantly clear to the audience and to the viewing public that the effects to the classroom are real and will impact negatively on the classroom, especially those classrooms housing special-needs children -- the autistic child, the EMR student, the developmentally handicapped student -- all those students who need a specialized setting with specialized teachers and a specialized curriculum. These, mostly directly, will be devastated.

I only wish the Minister of Education would realize that every life is a biography and the special-needs students' biographies will all be sad stories because of the government that didn't care about them.

An adult education student who spoke literally wept at the effects of the minister's slash to the funding model for adult education. Her dreams are being shattered by a government that doesn't care.

These people asked that I present letters and petitions to the Premier and the Minister of Education. Will you read these letters? Will you listen to the voters? Will you show you care? Do you understand that fear?



Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to bring to the attention of the House correspondence to the Solicitor General from Mr Harry Hynd, the director of District 6 of the United Steelworkers of America, regarding this government's intention to take away mandatory inquests into the deaths of workers on construction sites or in mining. The letter in part says:

"The United Steelworkers represents the majority of the workforce in the mining industry and thus we have considerable experience with this industry and its hazards....

"The mining industry is an extremely hostile environment. There is no natural lighting underground. All light is artificial and in a number of cases, the only source is that which is supplied by a miner's cap lamp, particularly when working in development areas. The travelling conditions underground are very rough and often very slippery. It is not uncommon to experience ground movement when working underground which may cause rock bursting or rock fall to occur. More and more heavy equipment is being introduced underground and more and more of it is being operated from remote locations, meaning that greater potential exists for the equipment to come into contact with unsuspecting workers who may be in the area of travel, including the operators themselves."

He goes on to say:

"Our experience tells us that in every inquest into a mining fatality that we are aware of, something has been learned that would not otherwise have been learned."

We know that just a couple of weeks ago Mr Ray Courchesne died in a mining accident at Inco. Under the new law there's no guarantee there would be an inquest into that death. Shame on the government.


Mrs Helen Johns (Huron): I rise today on behalf of the Minister of Health to recognize that May is Hearing Awareness Month.

The aging of our population and the increase in noise pollution have made hearing loss the fastest-growing disability in North America. Often referred to as the invisible disability, more than one million Ontarians experience some degree of hearing loss, with the greatest incidence occurring among the elderly. For these people, making the communication link is the key to enjoying an independent life.

The barriers to communication can be lifted through the use of technology, sign language, interpreters, closed-captioning, assistive devices such as teletypewriter phones and American sign language.

Hearing loss, unlike many physical symptoms, may go unnoticed even when a person is wearing a hearing aid. Hearing loss in an adult may have many detrimental effects such as withdrawing from family and from social situations. People who have a hearing loss often stop communicating with others because they are unable to hear and understand what is being said.

There are many ways to facilitate communication, and I would like to thank the Canadian Hearing Society not only for their information but also for their assistance to people with hard-of-hearing difficulties.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): On Thursday, May 2, I had the pleasure, along with the member for Hamilton Centre, David Christopherson, and 900 people, of gathering at the Hamilton Convention Centre to pay tribute to the Hamilton status of women subcommittee's awards to nine women of the year for Hamilton-Wentworth.

The Hamilton status of women committee was established in 1975, the first such committee of its kind in Canada. For 20 years this committee has brought the interests and issues of women to the forefront and has been a leader right across this country.

The winners that evening were: in the arts category, Hamilton choreographer Virginia Binko and Candace Malott, a promoter of African-Canadian art; in community service, Irene Stayshyn, a member of the board of directors of the Catholic children's aid society and a tireless volunteer; in the communications field, community activist Leonor Sorger; in public affairs, Evelyn Myrie, founder of Black History Month in Hamilton, and Marlene Thomas Osbourne, co-chair of the mayor's committee against racism; in health, sports and fitness, administrator Joyce Caygill; in the workplace, Birgitt Bolton, former executive director of Wesley Urban Ministries.

The evening also paid a tribute to past winners, including Priscilla de Villiers, founder of Canadians Against Violence Everywhere Advocating its Termination.

It was a successful evening, a great evening to pay tribute to many women who have given tirelessly over the years to Hamilton in their work in the community and the environment. We pay tribute to them and all members of the House join me in congratulating these women.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Members of this House for years have heard members from the current government talk about the importance of Ontario wines, the importance of the Ontario wine industry and the importance of supporting Ontario grape growers.

Ontario boasts 15,000 acres of vineyards located in Niagara and southwestern Ontario. Ontario wines have reached international recognition, winning gold medals in Europe and elsewhere in the world, and they are being featured in many European wine stores. The grape and wine industry provides made-in-Ontario jobs for 10,000 full-time and seasonal employees.

The Premier and his finance minister talk a lot about investment in Ontario, yet last week, when they were out celebrating their budget, spending their tax break, how did they do it? Not by investing in Ontario; not by maintaining or creating jobs in the Ontario grape and wine industry; not by supporting Ontario farmers by purchasing a fine Ontario wine or an award-winning Ontario wine. No, they did not do any of these things. Instead, they celebrated their tax break by purchasing a wine from Europe. I wonder what all those announcements and statements by members of the government mean when they don't walk the talk.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): The 1996 Ontario budget announced that Ontario's personal income tax rate will be cut by 30.2% over three years, with the first step taking effect on July 1 of this year.

Among the benefits Ontarians will enjoy as a result of these tax cuts is the fact that 91% of all taxpayers will see an Ontario tax cut of 30% or greater and that 64% of the benefits of the tax cut will be concentrated on middle-income Ontarians earning between $25,000 and $75,000.

According to the 1991 census, the average household income in the riding of Perth was $45,331. This means that more than 65% of the people living in the riding of Perth fall into the $25,000-$75,000 category and therefore will see a greater than 30% cut in their Ontario personal income taxes.

To illustrate the impact of the fully implemented tax cut, a couple with two children and a family income of $60,000 from two earners will realize an Ontario tax saving of $1,385 -- 30%. We trust this will lead to hope, jobs and prosperity, not only in the riding of Perth, but for all Ontarians. We congratulate the Minister of Finance on making the announcement.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I'd like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today Holocaust survivors who are being recognized for their contributions to the province of Ontario. Please join me in welcoming our guests.



Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): Since the Employment Standards Act became law in 1974, it has undergone numerous reforms. As a result of this patchwork process, the act has become increasingly complex, more difficult to understand and administer, and more expensive to enforce. Economic restructuring has also significantly changed the nature of work among the workplace parties. As a result, the act no longer responds to the needs of the workplace parties.

Later today, I will introduce amendments to make the act more relevant to the modern workplace, as well as facilitating its administration and enforcement by reducing ambiguity, simplifying definitions and streamlining procedures.

In keeping with our government's desire to encourage greater self-reliance in the workplace, employers and employees will be required to settle more disputes on their own rather than appealing to the ministry in each and every case. This will allow ministry staff to focus more attention on helping the most vulnerable workers.


To accomplish this end, bargaining unit members will be required to resolve employment standards complaints through the grievance procedures provided in their collective agreements.

To facilitate resolution of complaints, employees will be required to choose to pursue a complaint through either the ministry or the courts as opposed to using both avenues in order to determine which one offers the best settlement.

In addition, unions and management will have more flexibility in negotiating such terms and conditions of employment standards as hours of work and statutory holidays.

The government will also change the act to enable employment standards officers to focus on the resolution of claims and to make the claims and appeals process more efficient.

Among the changes to make this possible:

The limitation period for filing an employment standards claim will be reduced to six months of an alleged violation from the present two years.

The limitation period for appeals will be increased to 45 days from the present 15. The shorter period does not allow the parties enough time to consider whether they should exercise this important right to appeal.

The time-consuming and expensive work of collecting money owed to employees by employers will be done by collection agencies.

The act will also be amended to clarify employee rights regarding continuation of service credits and the entitlement to vacation pay and time under the pregnancy and parental leave provisions. There has been confusion among arbitrators and referees as to how to interpret the present wording in the act concerning these rights. Clarifying this poorly worded section of the act alone will reduce the number of claims and the amount of litigation as well as enhance the benefits to which women across the province are entitled.

The proposed changes are consistent with the Red-Tape Review Commission's direction for regulatory reform in that they provide for greater flexibility and streamline the procedures for compliance and enforcement.

These changes represent the first part of a two-phase review of the act to cut through years of accumulated red tape, encourage the workplace parties to be more self-reliant in resolving their disputes and make the act more relevant to the changing nature of work and the needs of today's workplace parties. The broader review will be completed by the end of 1996 and legislation will be introduced in 1997.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): If I could have the House's attention for about five seconds, I want to inform our guests, if you'd like to stay, that I understand there's unanimous consent after this statement has been finished to make a statement by each party.

Mr Dwight Duncan (Windsor-Walkerville): The minister began her statement today by referencing the Employment Standards Act and the fact that it has not had a comprehensive review since 1974. Indeed, history tells us that the Employment Standards Act and its predecessors, which were first brought into this province to help keep unions out and to help keep workers from organizing and improving their lot, have not been substantively reformed in actually close to 60 years. We welcome any opportunity to discuss the Employment Standards Act.

The minister has said there's also been restructuring going on in our economy, and we concur entirely. We believe that the act itself is out of date and is in desperate need of positive amendment.

Today, the minister is introducing roughly 15 amendments to the act, substantive amendments, including some clarification of language. The long and the short of it in our view is that these amendments are the beginning of undermining the ability of unorganized workers to protect themselves, and indeed it affects organized workers as well.

Under the guise of streamlining and better administration, the government intends to implement an employment standards system in this province which will ultimately leave the most vulnerable workers in Ontario unprotected.

The minister has also referenced her desire to bring forward more comprehensive legislation later this year. The Employment Standards Act covers a wide variety of topics, everything ranging from hours of work through to minimum wage and other minimum standards in Ontario. We invite the minister to begin a public dialogue on those issues to allow for more complete discussion. The government is proceeding in an area in which it didn't have a lot to say in either the pre-writ or writ periods during the election. We are very concerned that this government, given its history, will in fact penalize those who are least able to protect themselves.

The Employment Standards Act is an important statute that affects virtually every workplace in this province. It's our view that amendments to it and discussion around amendments to the act ought to be conducted in full public view. The government again is pursuing an agenda behind closed doors without adequate opportunity for response to very important issues. But I guess we shouldn't be surprised with this government. We've seen it from the beginning. We saw it with Bill 7. We saw hundreds of amendments brought forward without any opportunity for public debate. We saw it with Bill 26, which affected so many aspects of how we govern ourselves, particularly in important areas in health care and municipal affairs; again, very little room for public debate.

We see an agenda that isn't designed simply to streamline administration in this case but in our view is designed to lessen rights and protections for those most vulnerable workers in Ontario. It is our view -- and we will have more to say about this -- that as time goes on the government intends to undermine the protection that workers in this province have enjoyed for many years, long before 1974.

We, in addition, will present our own version of amendments to that act, because we think it is an important act and we think it requires updating. We think, however, government should err on the side of protecting vulnerable people in the workplace and not on the side of lessening their protections and making their lives more difficult.

Any changes to the Employment Standards Act, be they minor clarifications, affect tens of thousands of workplaces and workers in Ontario, and we believe, particularly as the minister begins to embark on her more substantive reforms to the act later on, that there ought to be public hearings, public discussion, so that everybody who has an interest in this important piece of legislation has the opportunity to comment publicly.

We are reminded time and again of this government's insensitivity to the working poor, to middle-class people. Again, they are removing protections. They would have us believe that they are doing this in the interest of streamlining and making government more effective. What it does is lessen those protections that workers have come to rely on.

We think and we believe that changes to the Employment Standards Act ought to be predicated on the fact that vulnerable workers in this province require a certain degree of protection and have enjoyed that protection for many years. We look forward to further amendments and we will debate them and continue to represent the views of those who need their views represented the most: the most vulnerable workers in our society. This is an important beginning to amendments to an important piece of legislation. We'll be there to protect the interests of those who are least able to protect themselves.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): Today we see yet one more piece of this government's ongoing, relentless attack on the rights and protection of workers. Their announcement of changes to the Employment Standards Act of course not only waters down the rights that workers have but is in large part meant to cough up the $2.4 million that the Ministry of Labour is contributing towards the tax cut.

We know, because in the document tabled by the government with their business plan, sketchy as it was, that the changes to the Employment Standards Act were included in a section of this report that showed where they were going to find savings. I don't imagine there can be doubt in anyone's mind in the province of Ontario that when this government talks about savings, when it has to do with the rights and protection of workers, it means those rights and protections are under attack and that they're losing them.

In this case, we're looking at $2.4 million in 1997-98 that's meant to be saved by amending the Employment Standards Act. That means fewer rights, less protection for workers in legislation, therefore less need for employment standards officers because there are fewer rights to enforce and therefore this government can lay off staff and contribute its portion of the $5 billion needed to pay for the tax cut, of which, as we all know, over half will go to the top 10% income earners in the province.


In the short briefing that we had just before question period on the content of this legislation, because as yet we have not had a chance to review it, we were told that from now on there'll be a maximum amount of $10,000 that a worker can claim under the Employment Standards Act. Currently, there are several hundred cases a year where workers are awarded more than $10,000. This government says the Ministry of Labour no longer has any interest in those cases. You've got to go off to a civil court process, and if that means more cost to the worker, more cost to the employer, more of a burden on the court system, which we've heard the Attorney General talking about needing to come to grips with, so be it. If those costs increase, so be it. It doesn't matter because the Ministry of Labour gets to save its portion of the contribution to the tax cut.

What else do we find? We're told that they're putting the right to provide for regulations in this law where they can set a minimum amount, where if your claim is less than that, you're out of luck; you no longer qualify. You cannot make a claim if it's under a certain amount. What will that amount be? We don't know. All we're told is that this law will make a provision for the cabinet to put in place regulations that will set that limit. That could mean if they set it at $100, because to a lot of the Tory members and their supporters $100 is nothing but to a lot of workers $100 is in many cases $100 they worked for, are entitled to, this government could now put a regulation in place that says, "If your claim is $100 or less, it doesn't count; you can't do anything." According to the stats that we were able to get a hold of, that means about 1,000 people a year, if it was set at $100. Obviously it would be even more if it was set lower.

One of the most insidious things that I found sitting listening to the briefing earlier was that it's now possible under this new law for collective agreements to provide for rights and protections that are less than the Employment Standards Act, less than the minimum provided for in the Employment Standards Act. It relates to issues of hours of work, overtime pay, vacation pay, holidays and severance. They're talking, as I understand it, about the total package, as long as it's greater than, individual parts of that package can be less than, meaning, if you increase the overtime rate, you can provide fewer public holidays than the law requires you to.

The problem there is that first of all, with unions under attack, with scabs now being made legal again, the intent of this government is to water down the effectiveness of unions. We already see with the Jockey Club, for instance, a strike that's ongoing becoming very bitter because there are scabs involved in that strike. This government's tipped the balance in favour of employers. That's the name of the game. So if you can provide where a collective agreement can give you less than the Employment Standards Act, all you need is a weak union and you can force them to sign anything. This government's intent has been to go after unions, workers and their rights and people will not stand for it.


Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Mr Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to acknowledge Holocaust Remembrance.

The Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent? Agreed.

Hon Mr Harnick: On April 16 at sundown, Jews around the world lit memorial candles in observance of Holocaust Memorial Day and the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War. As we stand in remembrance, the sufferings and the testimonies of Holocaust survivors are a song, a hymn of praise and a testimony to the eternity of the Jewish people and the greatness of their spirit.

It is almost impossible for me to adequately express the fact that six million Jews were annihilated from virtually every town, village and city which the Nazis touched.

Without the memories and testaments of the Holocaust survivors and their families, this horror might be allowed to fade into the pages of history, which it must never be allowed to do if we are to ensure that it never happens again. As time passes, it is going to be more difficult to convey to future generations what happened in Eastern Europe during the Second World War.

Today, a number of Holocaust survivors have joined us. These men and women have been honoured by the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority. Joining us today are Mr Efim Multianer, Mr Leo Drukmaler, Mrs Catherine Horvath, Mr George Horvath, Mr Louis White, Ms Ada Hefter, Mr Joseph Klasner and Mr Thomas Simon Newman. If we could welcome them to the Ontario Legislature.

That these survivors chose to rebuild their lives here in Ontario is a point which we honour by not forgetting the horror which forced them to move here.

This past year, I had the opportunity to visit Israel, a nation which arose in 1948 out of the ashes of the Second World War and where so many other survivors eventually arrived. Israel has been and remains a haven for Jews, a home to go to, a place to seek a new life, a place where the desert has blossomed and where life has been changed from darkness to light.

Canada and Israel are very different nations with very different histories, but we share in common a recognition of the horror of the Holocaust and a commitment to ensuring that it is not forgotten.

As we look at the world today, it is already apparent that some people and nations have forgotten the atrocities that the Jewish people endured during the Second World War. As a people and as a nation, we cannot allow the world to forget as once again the horror of "ethnic cleansing" is visited upon the world. We must all work together to ensure that the memories of both the survivors and those who died during the Holocaust are not forgotten.

As I've done previously, I would like to conclude my comments with a quotation from the Rabbi of Bluzhou, Rabbi Israel Spira, a Holocaust survivor. In his teachings he stated: "Every day, every child, after studying the daily lessons prescribed by our sages, should learn about the Holocaust, for it says in our holy Torah, `Then it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are come upon them, that this song shall testify before them as a witness.'" This is from Deuteronomy 31:21.

The sufferings and the testimonies of Holocaust survivors are a song, a hymn of praise, and a testimony to the eternity of the Jewish people and the greatness of their spirit. Thank you for the opportunity to bring this to the Legislature today.

Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): Last week I made a statement to the House commemorating Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and today we have an opportunity to put a face, a body, to those who survived.

We have eight members who survived the Holocaust, who have come to Ontario, who have made a life for themselves and have made an outstanding contribution. In what context? After the war, western theologians were trying to reconcile the horrors of the Holocaust between God, civilization and the horrors of Auschwitz, and a growing body of literature grew up trying to come to terms with this particular conundrum: How, if there is a God, was this allowed to happen?

Now we have another body of literature, sadly, coming forward that denies that the Holocaust even happened. We have a situation where today there are desecrations of synagogues, there are defacings and vandalism in cemeteries, there are growing signs of anti-Semitism and, as I say, most disturbing of all, a growing body of literature that even denies that the Holocaust happened.

I challenge all of us to take a look at the eight individuals in the Speaker's gallery, and face them and tell them that the horrors that they experienced and the viewing of their families being slaughtered and being separated didn't happen. It is something that makes no sense, and yet as time and distance removes us from the situation of the 1930s and the 1940s, we have this growing situation.

The survivors had a vow that those who survived would remember those who perished from generation to generation and that they will remember. It is up to us, as citizens of Ontario, of Canada and the world, to make sure that those who perished -- "the Holocaust" is an Old Testament term for dealing with sacrifice. If it turns out that this was a sacrifice for nothing, then we as humans have all lost. It's imperative that we always remember so that the world will never forget.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I join with my colleagues in remembering and celebrating. This is a time to remember the Holocaust, and the individuals who are here with us in the gallery are a testament to what we should be celebrating as well, and that is a commitment to humanity, a testament to the strength of the human spirit, that they could suffer so much and yet go on to contribute so much to our society. As my colleagues have indicated, it's something that those of us who have not experienced it directly sometimes have difficulty understanding, and we run the risk, with the passage of time, of having the memory fade.

If I could be permitted to relate a personal experience: I would indicate to you that I never really understood, although I had studied the Holocaust, the emotion, the terrible personal loss that survivors have experienced, until a couple of years ago when a close family friend who is a Holocaust survivor visited my wife and myself after a tragedy in our family, along with a clergyman. We had a long talk in which he explained what it meant to him to have lost his family and the fact that he survived himself only because the Belgian underground hid him throughout the war. The clergyman who was with us said to him, "But what happened to you was the result of unspeakable evil; what happened to the Wildmans was just an unfortunate, terrible accident." He responded and he said, "The fact that I survived was an accident," and to me personally, that brought home what it meant to be a survivor.

As we experience every night on the newscasts what is happening in Bosnia, what has happened in Rwanda and Burundi, sometimes I guess we might be tempted to wonder if the sacrifice of the Holocaust was in vain. But surely if one individual can bring home to me the humanity of that experience, then in remembering, we will all be driven to struggle, to strive, to ensure that despite our human failings we will not destroy one another, but rather live to celebrate our achievements together.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: In response to an answer on Thursday, May 9, on page 2872 the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing indicated in his answer in part, "municipal tax increases this year" --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. You can correct your record, but you don't have the right to correct somebody else's record.

Mr Bartolucci: No?

The Speaker: You can correct your record, but you can't correct the minister's record.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to ask this question of you, and you may be able to help me on the ruling in the House.

The Minister of Finance the other day made reference to a study or a document which was related to a police document on video lottery terminals. I read somewhere in the rules at one time that if a minister makes reference to it, it is supposed to be tabled in the House. Is that correct, or would you at least look into it, perhaps to be fair to you?

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Thank you. I will.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Attorney General. This government has clearly broken its promise not to touch spending for law enforcement. Minister, it is clear that you have to cut millions of dollars from your law enforcement budget and it appears that you are going to do that by prosecuting fewer so-called minor crimes.

Your plan, as we understand it, is that criminal offences such as house break-ins and thefts will no longer be treated as seriously as they once were and as they must be. It is not a minor crime or a lesser crime when your home is broken into, it's not a minor crime when someone steals from your business, but it appears that in Mike Harris's Ontario it is about to be open season for house breakers, fraud artists and car vandals. Will you tell us today exactly what your plans are to scale back prosecutions for crimes such as breaking and entering and theft?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Let me at the outset say that I have no plans to scale back the prosecution of crime in the province of Ontario. I am quite frankly very, very disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition would read something in the newspaper and all of a sudden it becomes the gospel and then it is used to strike fear into communities across the province.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I'm having a problem hearing the answer.

Hon Mr Harnick: Let me outline for you some of the research that you get out of the media. The media said that I'd be cutting 33% from the Ministry of the Attorney General. Wrong. Eight per cent.

The media said that I'd be closing -- it was front-page news -- 50 courthouses across the province. You know what? Wrong again. Fifty courthouses have not been closed.

They said there were going to be 120 crown attorneys cut from the system. Wrong again. They've said we're going to get rid of all the court reporters in the province of Ontario. What we might do is start five pilot projects for electronically dealing with court reporting on an experimental basis.

What we are doing in the province of Ontario is developing a plan that will streamline the justice system so we won't have any more situations like the Askov case when the Liberal Party was the government, which ignored the backlog and had 60,000 cases of very serious offences struck from the system.

The Speaker: Wrap up your answer.

Hon Mr Harnick: We will develop a system that properly deals with every crime that comes before the system.


Mrs McLeod: I listened very carefully to what the minister said. I asked him a straightforward question. He acknowledged he is streamlining the system. It is clear that he has to cut millions of dollars from law enforcement that was not supposed to be touched. Law enforcement includes policing and includes charging and includes prosecution. As you streamline the system, you are going to gut law enforcement in order to pay for a tax cut.

I asked the minister to tell us what changes he was proposing to find the millions of dollars he needs to pay for the tax cut, and he did not respond.

Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough North): Give him a chance, Lyn.

Mrs McLeod: We will indeed give him a chance, because the rumours that he suggested are out there are very worrisome. It's worrisome to think there will be fewer investigations, fewer charges and therefore fewer prosecutions of house break-ins and car thefts when in 1994 there were almost 400,000 business and residential break-ins in Ontario, when there were almost 40,000 cases of fraud.

These are very significant crimes to the people who are hurt by them. The very thought of the kinds of changes you are contemplating worries people like the High Park Residents' Association in Toronto who say this proposal is "a green light for thieves." Minister, I don't know how a government that campaigned on a solemn commitment not to touch justice or law enforcement can even contemplate changes that will gut law enforcement to pay for the tax cut, but I ask you to tell us what you are going to change.

Hon Mr Harnick: There's not one penny coming out of the Ministry of the Attorney General to pay for any tax cut. Furthermore, in terms of the overall budget there's maybe a 1.1% difference in the criminal prosecution's budget from last year and the year before.

Mr Redekop of the Junction-High Park residents' group said that "the government should focus on alternatives to court for property offenders.

"`I think it's fair that we have to find ways of dealing with these issues other than a long litigious system which benefits mainly lawyers, but just saying we're going to put these all off -- that's not the answer.'"

We're not going to put them off. We're going to do a better job at pre-trial diversion, post-trial diversion, screening pre- and post-trial, we're going to deal with more minor cases and every single one of those cases is going to have a sentence imposed. We're also going to ensure that we can always properly prosecute serious crime in this province. That is the intention and that is exactly what we're going to do. Every case will have a proper sentence. That is the commitment of this government.

Mrs McLeod: There's a certain pattern developing with ministers in this government. Whenever there is a so-called rumour out there they say: "That's all it is. It's just a rumour. No decisions have been made. This information has no basis in fact." Then lo and behold, what do we find the next day? The rumour turns out to be absolutely factual.

Closing family support offices across the province? No decisions have been made on Thursday, but on Friday we see that clearly those decisions are being made.

There is one decision. It's not enough to bluster about what you would like to do; it's not enough to bluster about streamlining. The question was, what are you doing to take money out of the justice system, which means fewer cases will go to court? Clearly you are considering having fewer cases go to court and result in prosecution and conviction.

Minister, what has to be clear, the decision that has to be made -- it's not good enough to say no decisions have been made -- is that you and your government will keep the commitment not to cut dollars from law enforcement. The commitment was clear that you would not be cutting dollars from law enforcement, that you would not be scaling back prosecutions for any type of crime, even in the name of diversion. Will you make those commitments today?

Hon Mr Harnick: We will not be scaling back prosecutions in this province one iota.

I have a lot of trouble from the Leader of the Opposition who was in a government that, because of their inaction and because of the fact that they didn't care about how the system worked, saw 60,000 cases of drunk driving, sexual assault, manslaughter, murder jettisoned from the court system because they wouldn't streamline the court system to ensure that we could prosecute serious crime.

This government is doing just that. There will not be any cutbacks to prosecutions. We will do a better job dealing with less serious crimes and a better job dealing with serious crimes, but no cases will be lost and there will be no scaling back of prosecutions by this government.

Might I also say that if the Leader of the Opposition believes the Toronto Star is the place to do her research, that's her problem. But let me tell you, we said in opposition and we say when we're in government that the crime of breaking and entering into someone's home is a serious offence and we will not turn a blind eye to any of those cases. They will all be prosecuted by this government.

The Speaker: New question.

Mrs McLeod: We know we're in trouble with any government that says it will not touch law enforcement and cuts $115 million from the operating budget --

The Speaker: New question.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My second question will be to the Minister of Housing. As he will know, today the Coalition to Save Tenants' Rights pinned an eviction notice to the doors of this building, and they did it because they wanted to show their fear about what you're planning to do to gut rent control and to leave tenants across this province without any protection.

You have been very unclear, Minister -- "unclear" is putting it mildly -- about what your plans are. You will tell landlords that you're going to scrap rent controls at the same time you're going to tell tenants that somehow you're going to beef up tenant protection. Obviously, people are concerned about plans that are again being made that are only rumours but are about to become a fact.

We have thousands and thousands of postcards, Minister, that have been sent to us by people who want to tell you that rent control is necessary. They want you to know that they cannot afford exorbitant rent increases. Don't leave these people in fear and confusion. Will you come absolutely clean with your plans? Are you intending to strip away rent controls?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): We have been very, very consistent in our approach with rent control. We have said that nothing's going to happen to the existing system until such time as we have something that provides protection for tenants, and we are going to do that. We are going to bring forward our proposal in the very near future and we will be going through a full consultation process with all of the stakeholders involved before we make any changes to the existing legislation. I have been very consistent with that approach.

Mrs McLeod: If you've been consistent, Minister, it may be in line with what you told the Fair Rental Policy Organization on November 27 when you said, "Marketplace rent control will take the sledgehammer out of the hands of tenants and provide a level playing field." That doesn't sound much like tenant protection to me.

Let me get very specific. I think you would agree the most basic provision in rent control is that all tenants in the province are covered. We understand that you are planning to change this most fundamental principle, and as we understand it, one of the plans you're looking at is that as tenants move from one unit to another, they lose the protection of rent control. If they stay in their apartment, they're covered; if they move, the new unit is no longer covered and the unit they left would be decontrolled. This is clearly a way to, step by step, simply abandon rent control.

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Wrong. You are fundamentally wrong every time you stand up and say anything.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, is this the plan? Are you planning to scrap rent control through this back door, underhanded method?

Hon Mr Leach: We plan to take our proposal out to the stakeholders, all of the associations, and I can tell the member across that we've had conversations with all of the interested stakeholders. They're quite aware of the direction we're going in.

I think we have a proposal that will bring balance to the system, something that will enable the industry to get back into building new rental stock. There's absolutely none being built anywhere. We have tens of thousands of tenants looking for some place to live, but with the existing system, nobody will build. We have to find a balance that will provide protection to tenants, which we intend to do, plus provide incentives to the industry to get back and to build. We will see that proposal coming forward very shortly.


Mrs McLeod: I find it surprising that the Premier is sitting in his seat saying: "No, no, these are not the plans. This is just one more wild rumour that somebody's hearing about what this government is not planning to do." Yet, Premier, because we can't see your plans, you're not prepared to show us your plans, all we have is you saying in Stoney Creek two weeks ago, and I'm quoting: "There's no question that a thriving, competitive, active, vacancy surplus marketplace will keep your rent lower than any government plan." That doesn't sound like rent control to me. That sounds like a man, a Premier, and a government that are planning to scrap rent control.


Minister, instead of you and your Premier playing games with words and cooking up complicated schemes to hide what you're doing, why don't you just admit that you are planning to get rid of rent control and let rents go sky-high, whatever the market says, and that we'll find out your real plans some time after May 23?

Hon Mr Leach: What I've said we are going to do is to take our proposals to the stakeholders so they'll have every opportunity to have input for it.

I think, again, the opposition party is flip-flopping around. They said in their red book, and their housing critic said in the estimates, that the existing system doesn't work and has to be fixed. How are you going to fix it if you don't change it?

I think the Liberal Party and the NDP are the only people in the world who are in favour of rent control. I can tell you that the Toronto Star, that bastion of Tory support, says that rent control should go. The Toronto Sun says rent control should go. Canada's national newspaper says rent control should go. Why don't you wake up and smell the coffee?


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Would the House please come to order. These outbursts do not do any good at all.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is for the Solicitor General. In the Common Sense Revolution, the Conservative Party promised that funding for policing would be guaranteed. On page 5 of the Common Sense Revolution, the Conservative Party stated, "Any actions we take will not result in increases to local property taxes."

Now, about nine months later, we have a discussion paper that was issued by the Ministry of the Solicitor General which talks about the financing of police services. On page 11, it states: "Since property tax is the largest source of revenue to municipalities, it is likely that many of the 576 municipalities will raise property taxes to finance the costs of police services in their communities."

From your discussion paper, Solicitor General, it becomes clear that you are going to pass the cost of policing to municipalities, which have no choice but to raise property taxes. Why didn't you tell people and communities that provincial funding for policing was being cut in order to find money for your tax break? Why don't you tell people that municipalities will be forced to raise a head tax now to cover the cost of policing?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): That is, as the member described it, a discussion paper. It was a discussion paper drafted by all of the various stakeholders in the policing community across this province, a steering committee that wanted to put virtually every option on the table for discussion. I can't stress more than that: This is a discussion paper.

There will be a policing summit in June where all the various options available to the stakeholders in the policing community will be discussed. We'll be moving out of that towards some legislation in the fall. Really this is the first in-depth review of policing in 25 years in this province, and I'm proud of it.

Mr Hampton: This is interesting once again. Last spring it was a promise: No cuts to policing. Last spring it was a promise: No actions that will result in the raising of property taxes. Now it's open for discussion.

What is open for discussion? What it is is this: There are all kinds of municipalities in rural Ontario and in northern Ontario that are going to be asked to raise their property taxes substantially, because they're going to be told that they have to cover the cost of OPP policing.

Let me put it this way: Your document states that in rural and northern Ontario, "regardless of mechanisms for allocating and/or phasing in the costs of OPP service, it is likely that any increase in property taxes could create financial hardship for some of these municipalities."

Let me ask the minister: Last summer, it was a promise -- not a half promise, not a one quarter promise; a promise -- "No cuts in policing services and no increases in property taxes." How does he get away now with proposing that municipalities cover all this?

Hon Mr Runciman: If I have to, I'll go back to the quotes that I delivered last week to the same party with respect to the former Solicitor General, sitting directly behind him. He should turn around and ask him what his position was and what his government's position was with respect to equitable funding. I have made -- we talk about --

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): You made the promise, Bob.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): You said you weren't reducing funding to policing.

Mr Cooke: Don't be so phoney. You made the promise.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I can't hear the answer.

Hon Mr Runciman: Obviously, they can't deal with the truth. When we were in opposition, I was clearly on the record, my party was clearly on the record in favour of equitable financing for police services right across this province. We've always said that. We said that in opposition. I pressed the then minister to move in this direction. We're doing exactly that now that we're forming the government. We're keeping our promises; we're keeping our commitments.

Mr Hampton: The Solicitor General makes an allegation that a former government was looking at this. Yes, there were a few wisenheimers in the civil service who advocated this, and as a government we had the good sense to turn it down. All right? Let's get straight about it: We had the good sense to turn it down.

Your report further says, your discussion paper further says that you are suggesting to boards of education that they pay police services for crime prevention videos. Get it? The police, under this Conservative government, are now going to charge school boards for community policing services. Not only that; we have this in the face of school board budgets being cut.

Last summer it was a promise that you were not going to cut policing services and you were not going to raise property taxes. Now it's open for discussion that you will raise property taxes, that you will cut policing services, and even school boards are going to be forced to pay for policing services. How do you get off on this?

Hon Mr Runciman: The member's comments about the public service were a cheap shot. It's clearly on the record, and I indicated that if he was in the House last week he would have known. I quoted my predecessor as a Solicitor General clearly on the record on at least two occasions standing up and indicating that we had to move towards equitable financing. We have municipalities in this province paying for their OPP --

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): You made a promise you can't keep, and you knew it.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton Centre, come to order, please.

Hon Mr Runciman: I quoted municipalities in northern Ontario as well indicating that they believe quite clearly that it's not fair. We're going to bring fairness to the system. I've always said we'll bring fairness to the system. That's what we're doing. We're not breaking any promise; we're keeping a promise.

The Speaker: New question, the member for London Centre.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is also to the Solicitor General, because I think we have to get to the bottom of how he thinks this government is going to keep its promise around maintaining policing, around guaranteeing that policing will be maintained when he says first of all they will stick with their promises around taxation and that sort of thing. It just doesn't make any sense.


In this same discussion paper you admit that -- and I quote from page 19 -- "Without adequate financial support, many police services may be compelled to reduce service levels and/or cut existing crime prevention or law enforcement programs." We hear you shouting over there that, first of all, you are not going to reduce policing; you do not favour municipalities raising taxes, even though your government reduced your grants to them by 43% --

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): That's a minor detail.

Mrs Boyd: Just a minor detail -- making them make cuts to policing. Really, when you say this, are you saying very clearly to the people of Ontario that you expect police services to reduce their service levels and cut existing crime prevention and law enforcement programs? Is that what you're saying?

Hon Mr Runciman: I've indicated on a number of occasions since December, when we announced a significant review of the structure and financing of police and the governance of police in this province, the first major review undertaken in a quarter of a century, that we're going to look at all of the various roles and responsibilities of police officers right across this province.

Even in discussions with rank-and-file officers, they know their areas they can move in to improve the ability of officers to be on the front lines. We may be looking at paperwork burden. We may be looking at oversight. We're looking at questions like prisoner transportation: Should police be involved in that? Court security: Is it necessary to have a fully trained, highly qualified police officer involved in court security? In traffic management and in parade situations -- a whole range of responsibilities where questions have been raised about whether indeed we need a fully trained, highly paid police officer in that responsibility and in that role. This is a very significant review. We're looking at every issue, every possible question that could be raised.

Again I emphasize that these are discussion papers. They are not policy statements; they are not policy directions. They are encouragement of discussion surrounding some very detailed issues.

Mrs Boyd: Well, Mr Solicitor General, it is very interesting that this discussion paper was not widely available. You have selected very few people to distribute it to. We couldn't get one until someone kindly gave it to us. It's very important that you admit that your level of discussion does not allow people to really explore the issues.

Your document stipulates that, due to the current fiscal reality, police services may wish to explore partnership opportunities with public and private institutions, and it goes on to state that the opportunity may exist to reduce the burden on police services in the province by "providing certain narrow powers to particular individuals employed by designated organizations and institutions that have specific security needs that would otherwise have to be provided by the public sector."

You want to minimize the need for police by relying on the private sector. You want little private armies of people hired by other institutions to do the policing instead of the highly trained and publicly accountable police. Are you really proposing that services that are presently provided by police be provided by those private organizations because your government is unable to keep its promise to guarantee policing funding?

Hon Mr Runciman: It must have been desperation day at question period meeting this morning. I'm not proposing anything. This is a discussion paper. These issues were drafted by a steering committee involving all the stakeholders across the province. These are not policy directions.

I'm not sure what more I can say to the member in terms of these kinds of issues. I think it was the consideration of everyone involved in the policing community across the province that those kinds of issues should at least be looked at and discussed at the summit in June. That's all it means.

Mrs Boyd: You also in this discussion paper want police services to explore the use of unpaid volunteers to support the functions presently being provided by paid members of trained police services.

A few weeks ago you stood here in this House and elsewhere, speculating about whether welfare recipients forced to perform workfare situations could provide security in local neighbourhoods instead of the police, and you would have untrained people with varied backgrounds, conceivably thrown into hazardous situations, who might then become a danger to themselves, the community and the police themselves. You're the one who speculated on that, nobody else, and when you were asked about it, you certainly didn't deny that you thought that might be a possibility.

You are belittling in this discussion paper and in the comments you make the expertise and training that police officers bring to the job they perform. Is that the kind of policing your government said it would guarantee?

Hon Mr Runciman: I want to indicate that --

Mr Christopherson: Do you put a flag on the fender when you go to the summit, Bob?

Hon Mr Runciman: That's only something you would do, David.

The irony of it is that those of us who have been around this place for some time realize the -- I can't use the word, but I think you all appreciate the word that I would like to use with respect to that party's support for policing and public safety. They have a dismal record.

I want to indicate that just before I came to this House I was down at Metro police headquarters, where I announced $2.24 million of new money going into community policing efforts across this province. Following that, I visited the Centre of Forensic Sciences, where I announced over $2 million going into the expansion of the DNA lab in this province.

We're committed to reinvesting in the justice system in this province. We're committed to bringing policing into the 21st century. We're going to keep our commitments, we're going to keep our promises, and we're going to have a much safer Ontario as we go into the next century.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'd like to continue this line of questioning with the Solicitor General. You had mentioned that this is only a discussion paper, yet two weeks ago we had a concrete example of your new pay-for-policing policy where in Ottawa the car dealers had to pay for the conclusion of a car theft investigation. We're seeing this already, so it's a reality today.

Now your discussion paper goes beyond that, saying the police are going to have to spend some of their time off the street and raising revenue to give police services in Ontario, so the police are going to sell advertising and market crime-related products.

Minister, what's policing coming to in Ontario? In the election you said there wouldn't be any cuts to policing. Now you're telling them they're going to have to go out and raise their own funds. We don't want our police to be hucksters. We don't want them to be into show business. We want them to be making policing in Ontario the world-class policing system that it is. Minister, are you running a police force over there or are you turning it into a circus?

Hon Mr Runciman: The only circus these days is a Liberal caucus meeting.

In his question, the member raised one valid point, and that had to do with the Ottawa situation. I have a real concern about that as well, and the ministry is taking a look at the appropriateness of that. On the face of it, I agree that was an inappropriate measure, and we're going to develop a policy with respect to those kinds of contributions.

But I will say that the involvement of the community in support of police is not something new. In my own community, for years the Lions Club service clubs have been involved in purchasing new police vehicles, in assisting in the purchase of police boats. We've had this year the involvement of private sector firms in the sponsorship in Metro and expansion of the RIDE program.

I think these kinds of initiatives and involvement of the community and the private sector are welcome. I do not think they're wrongheaded at all, but there are issues concerning the kinds of support that we're going to spell out clearly are not appropriate.

Mr Ramsay: This is just another example where Ontario is starting to look more and more like New Jersey. Are we going to have OPP officers now on television endorsing The Club? Are you going to be doing those all-night infomercials maybe with Mel Lastman pushing pepper spray? I don't know. You'd better change that mad dog image there if you're going to be doing that. Minister, if you go down this road, one of two things is going to happen. People are going to be afraid to ask for assistance in this province because they're afraid they're going to be charged because you're going to start to charge people on nuisance calls, or it's only going to be the well-heeled in this province who are going to get the adequate, proper policing that all Ontarians deserve.

Minister, are you going to stop this nonsense and ensure that Ontario continues to have the world-class police force that we're all proud of?

Hon Mr Runciman: This kind of rhetoric does no one any good. I want to say, I've met with police services right across this province. I was at Metro today, and they understand the tough financial pressures this government is facing as a result of spending policies, in part, of that member's government.

We're dealing with it in a very positive way and I'm getting that kind of feedback from rank-and-file officers right across this province. They feel very positive about what we're doing and the fact that we're taking a look at very serious issues that were avoided by governments of the past. These are issues that have been crying out for a serious review and we're moving in that direction. The kinds of issues that you are raising today simply don't merit response.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Education and Training. The minister will know that on March 28, on TVO, the Premier made the following statement regarding private universities in Ontario: "I don't see anything wrong with a private sector, private university system. No taxpayers' dollars. They have to meet standards and set those standards. I personally believe that competition might be good for our institutions."

Minister, are you intending to establish a private university system in Ontario?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I think the leader of the third party is aware of the fact that there are a variety of private post-secondary programs offered across the province now, and some of our universities are considering some private, outside-of-provincial funding structures for some of their courses. There already exists a body of that sort of education and training available to people in Ontario now.

We have a discussion paper that we look forward to releasing in the very near future that will look at some of these issues as they relate to the future of post-secondary education in the province. I look forward to that discussion with the universities, with the colleges and with students across the province. We want to make sure we do what meets the needs of the students.

Mr Wildman: The minister talked about certain types of programs at certain institutions, but it appeared that the Premier was talking about a freestanding private institution. As a matter of fact, he said, "Before the mandate is out, or before I retire, it is something I'd like to put before the people."

We've talked to Michael Piva of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. He says: "Privatizing Ontario's universities is the wrong solution to the problem of underfunding that has been exacerbated by this government. It will inevitably lead to a two-tiered university system, one for the rich and another publicly funded system for the poor."

Minister, let's be straight here and let the people of the province know what exactly your government is intending. You've cut funding, you've increased tuition fees, and now it appears you're paving the way for an American-style, privatized, two-tiered university system in the province. How can you assure the people of the province that there will be equal accessibility to the system and that the institutions you may be going to allow to be established will ensure that they have the same standards as the publicly funded institutions and that we don't end up with a two-tier system?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I note the honourable member's delectation at using half a quote, or misusing it. My understanding, and I read the media report, didn't suggest at all taking one of our 18 universities and privatizing it. As a matter of fact, what it said is we should have a look at what services might be provided to students, without taxpayers' support, by other institutions, by other organizations; what might happen that's new in the province of Ontario in the area of post-secondary education. I think there's no point in taking that quotation and making it into something that it didn't mean to imply.

We are going to have a discussion paper and we will be taking to the people of Ontario a discussion about post-secondary education. The principal piece of this will be about how we have the proper access to post-secondary education in the province of Ontario. If private university fits into that structure, why wouldn't we consider it?


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): My question is also for the Minister of Education and Training. In talking with several OAC students in my riding, they expressed some concerns about the way OAC marks are collected. It seems that several students take OAC courses two, three, even four times, either to pass or to upgrade their marks. Since these marks are used to determine qualification for university admittance and determine qualification for specific courses at university, would you not agree that it would be a fairer system if somehow the high school transcript could show the number of times a high school course was taken?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the member for Chatham-Kent for the excellent question. Given that my father's side of our family came from the Chatham-Kent area, I'm not surprised at the quality of question, because I recognize the fact that there are a lot of great thinkers in that area of Ontario.

The member is quite right that currently only the highest mark a student obtains is recorded on their transcript and students frequently repeat courses so as to get a higher mark for college or university entrance. This is unfair to students who have earned a high mark their first time through a course and it's unfair to universities and colleges, which rely on these marks for entrance standards. The colleges and universities have been calling for some time for a more open transcript so that they can determine the number of times a student has taken a course and all the marks that have been obtained. This is one of the things we are considering in our secondary school reform, because we believe full disclosure would be useful both for the institutions and for the students.

Mr Carroll: I compliment you on that initiative. I think it's a great approach.


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

Mr Carroll: I didn't realize the compliment was quite that humorous.

Minister, can you imagine some circumstances where indeed there would be exceptions to your rule of showing the number of times a course was taken?

Hon Mr Snobelen: Yes, there are situations that we are considering where full disclosure may not meet the objectives of either the colleges and universities or the students. Some of those exemptions would include a severe sickness by a student or perhaps a death in the family, so we are considering those circumstances where perhaps full disclosure would not serve the purposes intended, and we will include those in our final position on disclosure.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is to the Premier. Your government has promised for some time now that you would prepare legislation for auto insurance. While all the parties agreed that it was helpful to review the draft legislation, we still have yet to see legislation placed before this House. The legislative clock is ticking, sir. Drivers with no claims and clean records are continuing to see their insurance premiums skyrocket, and drivers who have been out of the system for a short period of time are finding that they're being thrown into the Facility Association. In short, the situation is a mess and your government is dragging its feet. When can drivers in Ontario expect rate relief?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I appreciate the question, particularly on this day when so many new jobs are being created in the province of Ontario and the excitement is building about the prosperity and the excitement of the tax cut is coming forward, but that's just this day.

I accept on behalf of the government the member's compliments on the full consultative approach that we took to this so we can finally get it right. The input that was received by Mr Sampson on the draft proposal that was put out has been very beneficial. A number of changes he has recommended be made will answer some of the concerns you talk about with Facility and with the rates of insurance.

I would like to tell you that we could have had this finalized, but we inherited a mess of such gargantuan proportions from two governments that failed to deliver and really fouled up the auto insurance available here, with changes here and changes there, and then the Liberals and then the NDP, it was such a mess that it took a little bit longer than we thought, but I can tell you the results will be worth waiting for.


Mr Crozier: I'm just a little disappointed, because when I came to this place I told the folks in Essex South that if anybody would answer a question, the Premier would, and he hasn't. You haven't told us when the legislation is coming down. In the meantime, insurance rates are going up at five or six times the rate of inflation. You mention the tax break. I suggest that even the rich, who are going to receive the bulk of your tax cut, are going to find it gobbled up in increased insurance premiums.

All you have to do is tell us. You've had enough time. You said last year you had a plan. In the fall you said you had a plan. We've had the committee meetings. We've had the report. When are you going to stop dragging your feet and put the legislation that you seem to be so proud of on the table?

Hon Mr Harris: I appreciate this question on this very special day when it was brought to my attention that the Lakehead school board, the Muskoka board, Nipigon, Ottawa, the Timmins board have all come in with zero tax increases, no teacher layoffs. They've all retained junior kindergarten.

So on this exciting day with all these zero tax increases, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk as well about insurance rates, which will be important to the municipalities and others who have a lot of vehicles as well. I want to repeat that it was a huge mess that we inherited, but the consultative process brought forward by my colleague Mr Sampson from Mississauga West has been an exhaustive process.

The member wants to know when the good news can be received by all the people of Ontario, and I will respond that as we are speaking now, the legislation is being drafted.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Minister, despite your soothing words in your answer to the Leader of the Opposition earlier, the tenants of this province say that you and your government have declared war on them and that they're not going to take it. They're starting to fight back.

As you know, the Coalition to Save Tenants' Rights tried to serve you with an eviction notice here at Queen's Park this morning. My colleague seems to have it right there.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The member for Hamilton Centre is out of order.

Ms Churley: Their notice of eviction under section 107 of the Landlord and Tenant Act says -- it's very short -- that your government has "breached its obligations to the tenants of Ontario and has by an act or omission seriously impaired the safety or other lawful rights of the tenants of Ontario." These words mirror those infractions for which tenants can be evicted under the Landlord and Tenant Act.

Under the act, an eviction can be halted if a tenant takes certain action within seven days. Minister, within seven days will you promise to the tenants of Ontario that you will keep your hands off rent control and all other tenants' rights in Ontario?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): To the member from the third party, I'm very surprised to hear that they've declared war on changes that we've made, because we haven't made any changes at all at this point in time.

I have met with every one of those tenants' groups. I have assured them that we will bring in a proposal that protects tenants' rights. But the first thing that tenants do when they come in to see me is complain about the conditions of the buildings they're in, that the buildings are falling apart, that they don't have any choice about where to live because nobody is building any new ones, that maintenance is non-existent.

We have to do something that will allow an owner of a building or a landlord to be able to carry out those repairs, to entice people back into the building business so they can give tenants choices. We're going to introduce some proposals that will do that. But I'm still assuring the tenants of Ontario that there will be strong protections for tenants in our new legislation.

Ms Churley: The tenants of the province just don't believe you. Some of them have met with you and they come out of the meetings afterwards terrified because of what you're saying. You know that evictions in Metro have gone up about 33% during the term of your government, and that is before your new act.

The tenants are afraid you're committed to gutting rent control, bringing back the days of 30%, 40% and even higher percentage increases. I was a city councillor when that was happening in my riding. Our government put a stop to that and the tenants are terrified about what you plan to do. They say that because of your government, tenants who face eviction will also now lose their day in court.

Now I'm asking you very seriously, Minister, how can you call your package a tenant protection package when the legal aid clinics and other people who work directly with tenants every day say that all of your proposed changes will weaken tenants' rights and force more people out on to the street? That's what people are afraid of.

Hon Mr Leach: I think the member might have hit the nail on the head there, because that's one of the problems. Your party did stop everything. It stopped the construction of new buildings. There are no new buildings being built; 25 rental units built in all of the city of Toronto last year. That's a direct result of nobody being prepared to invest money in this province because of the ridiculous systems we have in place at the present time.

We have to entice people back into the building business. They are not going to do that with the legislation that's in place today. They have told us that. You know it's wrong, the Liberals know it's wrong, and it has to be changed. We are going to bring in a balanced package that will protect tenants and also get new stock built in Ontario.


Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): My question is directed to the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. Last Tuesday the Minister of Finance announced new measures to help generate an additional $180 million a year for volunteer initiatives. Part of that was an allocation of up to $10 million to support the work of volunteers, including a component dedicated to linkages among volunteer groups and agencies. Minister, can you tell us anything more about this exciting initiative?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): Thank you to the honourable member for Halton Centre. First of all, I want to recognize and thank the efforts of the member for Durham York, Ms Julia Munro. Her hard work and determination on behalf of the Premier led to the creation of this initiative that was announced last week.

As well, I'm very proud that this government has given my ministry the responsibility for developing this initiative to create linkages within the volunteer community. The province will commit up to $10 million annually to coordinate, assist the work of and link volunteer service networks. Under the linkages program there will be increased capacity to match people in need of services with volunteers able to offer their time and their skills.

Mr Young: Madam Minister, on a short supplemental: When do you think linkages will be up and running?

Hon Ms Mushinski: My ministry is currently working on the development of this particular initiative, and I expect to make an announcement on the details of this program within the next few months.



Mr Monte Kwinter (Wilson Heights): I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. On May 16, 1995, the current Premier wrote in a letter, and I quote: "A Harris government will not move on VLTs until all sectors have been consulted, all impacts are assessed and an agreement is reached on the distribution of revenues." As the minister responsible for the Ontario Lottery Corp and now responsible for VLTs, can you tell us when these consultations took place, when all the impacts were assessed and when an agreement was reached on the distribution of the revenues?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): We are very excited about the introduction of the video lottery terminal program. We have done extensive research, as the member asked, to be sure that they are phased in very slowly. First off will be at the racetracks, as you know, and then there will be the charity gambling locations, and then we will bring in the video lottery terminals in due course.

We are very fortunate that we've had the ability to watch what is going on in the eight other provinces that have had the VLTs. We have studied what's happened in those provinces very carefully. We're very comfortable about our decision and we're sure it's going to benefit all of Ontario and will be done properly.

Mr Kwinter: That has to be one of the more bizarre answers we have ever heard in this House.

I want to quote. On March 8, only eight weeks prior to the day the Minister of Finance announced the VLTs, I appeared at estimates with the minister. I started to talk to him about the potential for VLTs in Ontario. He said, "I think I should interrupt you right at the moment just to say that to date the decision of the government is that there will be no VLTs." That was only eight weeks before you announced them. I also want to quote a little later on in the discussion. The minister said, "To say again...there are no VLTs on the horizon." All I have to say is, you either have a very short horizon or you have no idea what is going on in your ministry or this government. How can you stand there and baldly say you've done extensive research when eight weeks before the announcement you said there would be no VLTs and they weren't even on your horizon?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'm very happy to have the chance to respond to that supplementary question. May I say to the honourable member that his question is just as bizarre as himself. When I made that comment we had not had all of the budget consultations received at that particular time. We were going through proper consultations. I felt that my answer was the correct one at that time, and I think what we're doing now is the correct action for the province.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Attorney General. We were all interested earlier this afternoon to hear your response to the Leader of the Opposition's question when she asked you about the extensive stories about a drop in the level of prosecution in the province. You said you wouldn't see that happen.

I'm looking at the budget put out by your government, and your ministry is slated to drop from $753 million in 1995-96 to $637 million in 1996-97; that's $116 million. You have so far talked about all the things that haven't been decided or that you're not going to do. The people of Ontario would like to know what it is you are going to do.

On Friday we heard about the budget plan on the FSP -- family support plan -- offices. You'd been asked about that before and you said no decision had been made, yet we understand the Deputy Attorney General has been going around from office to office of the FSP plan talking to the staff. They're expecting pink slips. Would you tell us what you're expecting to do with the FSP plan and whether that's where you're going to get some of that $116 million in savings?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I've indicated that we are reviewing the family support plan in the province of Ontario. It's very interesting that prior to any discussions about changes to the family support plan members of the opposition would stand up and say: "Nobody is answering the phone. Nobody is getting good service. There is money that is out there that is going uncollected." Now we are reviewing the family support plan in a way that will provide better customer service for those who need the family support plan and in a way that will provide a better method of collecting money for mostly women and children whose support orders are not being paid.

We have right now in Ontario about $900 million owing on family support plans. I listen to the opposition. One day they say: "The plan is terrible. You've got to change it." Then when you start to do a review to decide how to change it, they say: "Don't change the plan. It's just fine. We like it exactly the way it is." It is not good enough that $900 million remains outstanding in Ontario, mostly money due to children. It is also not realistic to leave the plan the same way it is now, because customers who need access to people can't get it. We're looking at making changes to make the family support plan better.

Mrs Boyd: It's nice for all of us to know that the minister has read the business plan and knows how he is to manage the problems that are likely to occur. This business plan says there are a number of contentious issues: first, staff layoffs -- a lot of staff layoffs, 161 full-time equivalents; reduced local service delivery -- local service delivery to people all over the province; perceived reduced telephone inquiry -- reduced telephone inquiry to the plan; economic effect on local economies where the regional offices are located -- my situation is one where London will be grossly affected and we're very concerned; and the last one, which should concern us all, will affect the Ministry of Community and Social Services, on whose behalf the plan enforces and recovers welfare payments, $46 million worth last year.

Attorney General, when you talk about this, no one says the plan doesn't have to be fixed. We say what you are doing is going to gut it, because you are planning only to enforce those orders where there's a problem, instead of all the orders, so that it becomes a non-contentious issue, and you are putting women and children at risk who then will have to try to collect personally those payments through the courts.

Hon Mr Harnick: I don't know what can put women and children more at risk than the fact that there's $900 million outstanding and that no one is implementing new ways to try and collect that money. That is exactly what we are going to try to do: to implement a system that will collect successfully a very large proportion, a much greater proportion of the outstanding money. As well, we're going to try and make the plan more friendly for those who have to use it. We want people to be able to call the family support plan and speak with someone who can deal with their problem immediately, without having to refer it. We're looking at making the family support plan better.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, request that the Legislature of Ontario not approve any tax cuts until the causes of poverty and unemployment in Ontario are dealt with effectively and until the province's debt and deficit are paid down."

This is signed by a number of constituents in my riding. I have affixed my own signature because I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition that reads as follows:

"Since video lottery terminals will contribute to gambling addition in Ontario and the resulting breakup of families, spousal and child abuse and crimes such as embezzlement and robbery;

"Since the introduction of video lottery terminals across Ontario will provide those addicted to gambling with widespread temptation and will attract young people to a vice which will adversely affect their lives for many years to come;

"Since the introduction of these gambling machines across Ontario is designed to gain revenue for the government at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the desperate in order that the government can cut income taxes, to the greatest benefit of those with the highest income;

"Since the placement of video lottery terminals in bars in Ontario and in permanent casinos and various locations across the province represents an escalation of gambling opportunities; and

"Since Premier Harris and Finance Minister Eves were so critical of the previous provincial government becoming involved in further gambling ventures and making the government more dependent on gambling revenues to maintain government operations;

"We, the undersigned, call upon Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to reconsider its announced decision to introduce the most insidious form of gambling, video lottery terminals, to restaurants and bars in Ontario."

I affix my name to this petition as I'm in agreement with its content.



Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): This petition is about rent control. It says:

"To Premier Mike Harris, Minister Al Leach and members of the Ontario Legislature:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I'm presenting a petition today from constituents in Nepean and those from Ottawa, Stittsville, Kanata and Richmond, which reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas drinking and driving is the largest criminal cause of death and injury in Canada;

"Whereas every 45 minutes in Ontario a driver is involved in an alcohol-related crash;

"Whereas most alcohol-related accidents are caused by repeat offenders;

"Whereas lengthy licence suspensions for impaired driving have been shown to greatly reduce repeat offences;

"Whereas the victims of impaired drivers often pay with their lives while only 22% of convicted impaired drivers go to jail, and even then only for an average of 21 days;

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

"We urge the provincial government to pass legislation that will strength measures against impaired drivers in Ontario."

I have affixed my signature thereto because I am in agreement.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition was accumulated by the students at the St Albert Adult Learning Centre in Sudbury. It is to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"We, the undersigned, disagree with the Conservative government concerning the cutbacks to our education and the layoffs of our teachers. Students need an education; and

"We therefore petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to restore the funding to education, and specifically the funding to adult education."

Because I agree with this, I have affixed my name to it.


Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas induced abortion is the intentional medical killing of pre-born human beings before birth and evidence that pre-born human beings of five to six weeks' gestation have the ability to experience pain has been reported as long ago as 1941 and corroborated as recently as 1994;

"Whereas a recent study reviewing all available research on the reasons for abortion in Canada concluded that `as a procedure abortion is not therapeutic and as there is mounting evidence that it is harmful to women's health, funding by the government under health care cannot be justified';

"Whereas US studies have shown that where public funding for abortion has been removed, both the pregnancy rate and the abortion rate have dropped significantly;

"Whereas the Canada Health Act does not require that elective procedures be funded nor has any Canadian court ever found a constitutional right to publicly funded abortion;

"Whereas it is the responsibility and the authority of the province exclusively to determine what services will be insured;

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

"That the Ontario government remove induced abortion from its medically insured services, and

"That the Ontario government, through the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community and Social Services, endeavour to encourage an alliance between all groups offering crisis pregnancy support across the province."

I affix my signature.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I have a petition addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas our school mission statement requires the establishment of a stimulating and challenging learning environment; and

"Whereas the Carleton Board of Education's proposed contracting out of our custodial staff would seriously jeopardize this learning environment;

"We, the undersigned, respectfully petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to amend Bill 34 in such a manner as to prevent Ontario school boards from contracting out custodial services."

I affix my signature.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): At the beginning of the week that the Health Action Task Force is presenting its report to the district health council, I'm pleased to refer the petitions urging the saving of St Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton. The petition is 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 efficiency; and

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

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

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

I continue to support these petitions.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I rise today to present a petition on behalf of the member for Markham. It's a petition from Ramer's Wood Co-operative Homes Inc. It appears to be in the correct format, and I'm submitting it to the Legislative Assembly.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition signed by hundreds of people from Parkdale against an open-custody residence.

"Whereas the Dellcrest Children's Centre is planning to open a 10-bed open-custody residence for troubled children and youth at 182 Dowling Avenue; and

"Whereas the residence is an inappropriate site for the rehabilitation of troubled children and youth because it is within walking distance to illicit drugs and prostitution activities; a large number of unsupervised and supervised houses that are home to ex-psychiatric patients, parolees and our society's most vulnerable and ostracized members; and a number of licensed establishments that have been charged with various liquor infractions; and

"Whereas the Ministry of Correctional Services and the Dellcrest Children's Centre have decided not to hold open discussions with our community prior to the purchase of this home for the purpose of an open-custody residence; and

"Whereas the decision to relocate also expresses a total lack of regard to our community's consistent and well-established wishes for the Ontario government to stop the creation or relocation of additional social service programs or offices in an area that is already oversaturated with health and social services for disadvantaged, troubled or disenfranchised people;

We, the undersigned local residents and business owners, urge the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services to suspend plans to relocate the open-custody residence for troubled children and youth until a full review of the Dellcrest Children's Centre's decision can be conducted and explore with us alternative locations that can be established."


Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I have a petition that has been signed by members of many ratepayers' associations who support local option assessment reform in the city of Toronto.

I affix my signature to it.


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

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

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

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

I have affixed my signature.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature.


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I still have another petition signed by residents of my area where they are showing concern with cuts to the education system, and I'll read it to the House:

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

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

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

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

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

I support this and I will affix my signature.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): A petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

I support the petition and affix my name to it.


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

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

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

"Whereas the principles of discipline, self-help and a regimented environment at Transition House have combined with counselling and support to provide youth with the motivation and self-respect to return to school or find jobs; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario has cut its direct funding to Transition House by almost $48,000 annually and places the existence of Transition House in jeopardy;

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

I affix my signature to this.



Mrs Witmer moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 49, An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act / Projet de loi 49, Loi visant à améliorer la Loi sur les normes d'emploi.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Does the minister have a short statement?

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): No, I have no further statements, Mr Speaker.


Mr Grandmaître moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr34, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Grandmaître moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr47, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa.

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

Mr Grandmaître moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr48, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa.

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


Mr Shea moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 50, An Act to provide for financial disclosure by trade unions and employees associations / Projet de loi 50, Loi prévoyant la divulgation des renseignements financiers par les syndicats et les associations d'employés.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Mr Derwyn Shea (High Park-Swansea): Very briefly, what we have required for the private sector and have required for the public sector I think it is now appropriate to require for unions and employee associations.



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

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): When we adjourned last, I believe the member for Sault Ste Marie had the floor.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): As I was saying last Thursday afternoon when it became 6 of the clock, the folks out there in Ontario become increasingly concerned as they get a further look at the reality of the budget that was presented last Tuesday, as they get a chance to read it themselves, as they get a chance to read the analyses that are being done by various and sundry people and, most particularly, as they begin to realize how it's going to affect them in their communities, in their families and personally.

Their concern is one of several factors. They look at this proposal and they see it for what it is: a very simplistic approach to a very difficult and challenging concern or situation that we face here in this province, in this country and indeed globally today as the economy changes and we are all challenged in very significant and important ways to respond and to contribute. If you look at the program this government has put before us -- and I think it's important that we not get sidetracked here, that we not misunderstand or not put the whole package together -- this program is about cuts, first and foremost about cuts to government, about cuts in services and about cuts in the level of employment in the public service in this province, and yes, it's about cuts in taxes.


We are told that it is also about cutting the deficit, but we know when you put the numbers together, that just doesn't add up. At the end of the day, to meet the targets that have been established by way of the tax cut particularly, and the need there will be to cut services, we're going to have a deficit that's going to continue to grow, a debt that's going to continue to grow in this province or a massively enlarged cut to programs and services and the job level that we've all learned are so important and contribute in such a significant way to the stability of the communities in which each one of us lives.

When we look at this program the government has put before us and we see in it the absence of any real detail, any real business plan, any impact statement, we begin to understand why so many have some very genuine and real concern -- in fact, as I said last Thursday, are anxious to have the program this government is putting before us work. They know you're going to be the government -- you were elected with a mandate a year ago and will be around for another three or four years, so you're going to be the government -- and they want your program to work.

But what they're beginning to realize is that they don't think you understand or want to hear from them re the thoughts and ideas and concerns they might have, because you have not given them any opportunity before the budget was presented, and with the lack of material with the budget they don't see any opportunity for them to participate in any further discussion, so they become more and more concerned.

As they look at the program itself they become concerned, and they become even more concerned as they look at how this is beginning to roll out and the reality for them in their lives, and we begin to hear things. I suggest to you that over the next days and weeks we will begin to hear it more and more as reality sets in.

I have here today a copy of a paper that my colleague from Kapuskasing brought today, the Northern Times. It's saying here that the folks in his area are saying, "Don't cut services for taxes," because they know how important services are in their neck of the woods, how important the jobs that those services represent are up in that part of northern Ontario, and indeed I would suggest to you there are many people in my city of Sault Ste Marie who are saying the very same thing.

As a matter of fact, even before the announcement of April 11 regarding how many jobs are going to be lost directly in provincial government service cuts, we are going to lose in the neighbourhood of 525 to 550 full-time, high-paying good jobs in Sault Ste Marie. That represents approximately $31 million out of the economy of my community. If you want to boil it down to an even more finite or focused scenario, let's look at some of the numbers and how they play out in Sault Ste Marie.

The benefit of the government's tax cut for a couple with a combined income of $60,000 with two children in Sault Ste Marie would be $1,385 a year.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): That's not chicken feed.

Mr Martin: That's not chicken feed, that's for sure. But based on that implementation schedule, the tax benefit to this family is $163, and we're getting close to chicken feed here.

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): That's not bad.

Mr Martin: It's not bad, though. It's not bad, that's right. For a person on a low and fixed income, $163 is a significant amount of money. As of July 1, they will receive an increase in take-home pay -- listen to this one -- of $2.53 every two weeks.

Mr Stockwell: Go crazy.

Mr Martin: That's it, go crazy -- $2.53 every two weeks. If you place this family in my riding of Sault Ste Marie, your tax cut will cost them -- just keep all this in perspective -- $86.40 in increased property tax.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Oh, no, no, no.

Mr Martin: Well, you're the guys who keep saying to us over here that there's only one taxpayer -- so $86.40 in increased property tax. If this family happens to have one child in university, and there are a lot of people out there who do, we have a tuition increase of $490; and an increase of $6 a month, or $72 per year, if one person in that family is taking public transit. This government is giving them back $163, but they'll have to pay $648 more for services than they were before this budget came into place. That means they're short $485.

Interjection: Chicken Little.

Mr Martin: Chicken Little? That's $485. This is the program. This is how it boils down.

In my community of Sault Ste Marie, we're losing over 500 jobs, and that's just the beginning. We anticipate that by the time you're finished, we will have lost somewhere between 800 and 1,000 full-time jobs and all that represents to my community. What it represents in my community is $31 million out of the economy of Sault Ste Marie, not being spent in corner stores and grocery stores, not being spent on new cars or on flowers for the garden, for food -- all the different things people spend money on that keep the economy going. When you boil it down to an individual family case, the situation that I presented to you here works itself out so that these folks are now going to be short $485 in their take-home pay.

Does it bother us --

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): No.

Mr Martin: -- that this program you've laid before us, that you've spun out with such great enthusiasm and excitement, that you've had your spin doctors do their utmost to present in a positive and constructive light, doesn't at the end of the day work out, doesn't accrue any benefit to any community in this province or to any individual or family? No.

It's for this reason that I, as I said last Thursday, stand here in this House today and second the motion of the finance critic of my party when she says that she has absolutely no confidence that this government and the budget that it's presented will do anything of a positive nature for the people, the working people, all of the people of this province.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comments and questions? The Chair recognizes the member for Etobicoke West.

Interjection: Good luck.

Mr Stockwell: Good luck to you too.

I want to comment to my friend the member for Sault Ste Marie, whose addition to this debate for the budget is probably a good speech. It's a speech that really reveals the position of the member and how he's seen the debate and the direction this province has been heading in the last number of years. I understand his concerns with respect to the direction this province is heading. I'd be very surprised if he didn't offer that opinion of the direction of this province, and no, I'm not setting you up. I understand and appreciate the fact that Mr Rae and his administration probably did a couple of good things in Sault Ste Marie in the last four or five years. I myself think that a couple of the initiatives he took -- it was Algoma, I think, and --

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): St Marys Paper.


Mr Stockwell: St Marys, yes. They turned out to be very productive. They were productive initiatives. If the kinds of initiatives that Premier, Mr Rae, took in the rest of the province had been as successful as the initiatives he took in Sault Ste Marie, he might well still be in government today and you would probably be a powerful and engaging parliamentary assistant of some kind, maybe even a minister. I understand what you're saying with respect to the issue. I'm not a parliamentary assistant, nor am I a powerful minister, so by suggesting to the member for Sault Ste Marie that he'd be a powerful parliamentary assistant, that means he'd be one notch higher than I, which I think is probably without doubt for sure.

Having said all that -- my time has run out so I don't get to finish my comments -- I just want to thank him for his contribution. I will certainly review the numbers with respect to the tax cuts and the impacts that will be felt at the local level. I myself found it interesting and certainly engaging.

Mr Michael Brown: I'd like to commend the member for Sault Ste Marie on his fine speech and I'd like to commend the government on its approach to the budget, which seems, absolutely incredibly, to be exactly the same as the former government's. One of the interesting statistics, if people will look carefully at their budget document, is that the ratio between revenue and debt service remains exactly the same as the former government's. What's going on here, if you want to have a look, is that Ontario intends to spend 21 or 22 cents -- I can't remember exactly the figure -- to service the debt today, which is exactly what the former government was spending, and intends to be spending that same 22 cents out of every revenue dollar four years down the road. We will not have improved our situation one little bit.

That is a tremendous change from 1989. In 1989 we were spending in this province less than 10 cents of every revenue dollar to pay interest. That meant there was money available for programs; that meant there was money available for education; that meant there was money available for health.

As we watch this government follow exactly the same budgetary process, coming out with the same result, borrowing an additional $22, borrowing $13 billion for a tax decrease that I don't think the shareholders have earned yet, I think this is something the member for Sault Ste Marie may want to consider in his reflections.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I just want to compliment my good friend the member for Sault Ste Marie on the excellent presentation he made over the last number of minutes and the previous day.

I find it interesting that the member for Etobicoke West would congratulate the NDP on what happened in Sault Ste Marie with Algoma Steel and St Marys Paper -- which are good news stories, there's no doubt about it, and I acknowledge that -- also, Spruce Falls in Kapuskasing and Provincial Papers in Thunder Bay. But what the member for Etobicoke West has neglected to tell you is that when he was in the opposition as the third party, when that legislation came up for employee ownership to protect the jobs in these communities, the Tory caucus at that time voted against that as a group. A solid block voted against any incentive there was to save jobs and protect some of the communities in northern Ontario.

Mr Stockwell: What are you talking about -- never came to the Legislature.

Mr Len Wood: The member doesn't remember voting against that particular legislation. But I just wanted to say that even though the cuts to health care, education and the forcing of the municipalities and school boards to raise taxes -- and they're going to use up more than what is proposed in the tax cut to the population out there. It's going to cost them $200 or $300 more a year for most people, and it's all on borrowed money, as the member pointed out.

You're going to go out and borrow $22 billion to $30 billion to give a rebate back to the people in the province, the upper-income people. It's supposed to be a job creation program. In their budget, they don't say the numbers that it's going to create other than the fact that it's not going to create the 725,000. There's somewhere around less than 300,000 jobs that it might create, because the $4.5 billion they're giving back is only a small portion of the $300 billion that the economy of Ontario spends every year.

Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): I'm sorry; I was going to resist speaking to this particular item, but I feel I must.

I want to respond first of all to the member for Algoma-Manitoulin, who indicated to this House just a few minutes ago that in his view Ontarians hadn't, I think he said, "earned" their tax cut. Let me tell you, they've earned their tax cut. They earned it to begin with; then we took it away from them. They are the ones who earn the income in this province, not the province of Ontario. It's their money. We're just giving it back to them. With respect to my friend from Algoma-Manitoulin, he's got it the wrong way, which I suppose should not be surprising, because of course it's coming from a member of the Liberal Party, who have difficulty getting things straight.

I also want to talk to the item before I speak to the member for Sault Ste Marie.

The reason why the Liberals had indeed a rather low interest-to-revenue ratio was that every time they came to the tax trough, they boosted the tax rate. They balanced the budget not because they had some dramatic and infamous way to control expenditures; they just kept jacking up the taxes. No wonder they balanced the budget. We could balance the budget as well if we tripled the tax rate, but we're not doing it, because Ontarians deserve and want a tax break.

With respect to my friend from Sault Ste Marie, a wonderful place that I've been to -- and there is a tremendous amount of development happening in Sault Ste Marie in the forest products sector, as he would know -- I should say to the member that when he does his calculations, he should be aware of the fact that not all municipalities in this province have responded to the expenditure reductions by boosting property tax rates and service fees. In fact, the city of Mississauga has dealt with reducing transfers from the province over the last 10 years without one property tax increase -- without one.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie has two minutes to wrap up.

Mr Martin: I want to first of all thank all the members for taking time to participate in my small contribution, for their thoughts, their comments and their support, and particularly the member for Etobicoke West. I must say he was here last Thursday, sat through the whole debate, and is here again today showing tremendous interest in this budget, and so he should because, as are my constituents, his constituents are very concerned. They want this thing to work, they really do, but they don't know whether it will or not. So far, all the indicators are that we're in trouble. We're in trouble.


Mr Martin: Listen, we're all here to help and we'll help. We'll help in the ways that we can.

I want to thank the member for Algoma-Manitoulin for his comments. He always contributes in a very positive and strong way to the debate here in the House, and my colleagues from Cochrane North, from Kapuskasing and Mississauga West. The nice thing about this place is that we have these opportunities on days like today to put forth our ideas, put forth our concerns, and to have others respond to them.

Just by way of furthering the information that's on the table, I want you to know that in Sault Ste Marie it's not just property taxes that are going up; it's more user fees. For example, ice rentals for families with children and figure skating and hockey are going up by 5%. Pool rentals are going up by 10%. If the parent is a senior, they'll now pay a $20 user fee at the seniors' centre. A branch of the public library is being closed. And listen to this: They're closing the zoo at Bellevue Park. All of us who grew up in Sault Ste Marie used to enjoy going to the park. Now it's going to be closed because of your budget.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired.

I just wanted to say that I'm very patient today, but there are too many conversations. I would ask that if you feel it necessary to outburst and say something, I'd like you to leave, before you do that, voluntarily.

Further debate?

Mr Stockwell: Mr Speaker, I would just like to make a point of order. If you're going to outburst and heckle and you leave, what's the point of heckling?

The Deputy Speaker: You have no point of order. I recognize the member for Kitchener.

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you to my colleagues. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to express my views on our government's first budget.

Less than a year ago, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, under the positive leadership of Mike Harris, won the provincial election. Early in the campaign the polls indicated that we didn't have a chance of winning the election, if you'll remember, but somewhere along the way something happened that was so dynamic that not only did it start to turn the direction of the polls around, it resulted in a landslide victory for our government. The dynamic was that the people of Ontario started to listen to what we were saying to them. It is that simple. The people of Ontario listened and heard what we had to say to them.


The reason they started to listen to us was a second very simple yet powerful dynamic. The second dynamic that came into play was the realization that they were hearing in our platform what they had told us they wanted us to do before we ever went into the campaign. Somewhere partway through the last provincial election, voters in Ontario started hearing what they had been saying they wanted the next government of the province of Ontario to do. Somewhere along the political path leading up to the election, the voters were starting to hear their message being given back to them in the form of our campaign platform.

In my own campaign, I well remember a 12 1/2-second media message that I believe was the most powerful of all the messages in my campaign. It was the one single message which every constituent who voted for me believed I would carry out on their behalf. That media message emphatically stated that I was the only candidate in the riding of Kitchener who was dedicated to working on their behalf to reduce their income taxes. The message was that simple. As you know, in 12 1/2 seconds you only get to make one short, direct statement, something that the members of this Legislature could learn from time to time. That was the one specific message my constituents heard, the one specific message they wanted to hear and the one specific message which showed them I was listening to them. They believed me when I promised them that if they honoured me by electing me to represent them at Queen's Park, I would work hard to carry out their wishes.

In all honesty, I don't know what candidates in other parties heard when they visited people in their homes, but I do know what I heard. I know that my constituents expected me to work towards a tax reduction if they granted me the honour to represent them in this House. I stand here proud today as a member of the first government in a quarter of a century to provide income tax relief for the struggling, hardworking taxpayers in the province of Ontario, in particular those hardworking taxpayers in the Kitchener riding who sent me here to do just that.

Members of this House may find it interesting to learn that in a poll which took place on Monday, the day before the budget, which directly asked the people of Kitchener if they wanted a tax reduction, over 56% agreed that they wanted their taxes reduced. They wanted the tax cut. As much as the opposition parties like to rant and rave about how detrimental our income tax reduction is to the economic health of the people of Ontario, the fact remains that each one of us on the government side has stuck to his or her guns and has helped deliver what will prove to be a major tax reduction to the people of Ontario. This is what the people of Ontario told us they wanted and this is what we delivered.

This, of course, is not the approach either of the parties in the opposition ranks has taken to governing. I can't for the life of me remember having been given the opportunity to express my opinion on whether or not I wanted my taxes raised 65 times in 10 short years. Yesterday morning's editorial in the Toronto Sun is interesting. I'm going to read a little bit of it:

"Well, well, well, what have we here?

"Why, it's Liberal leader Lyn McLeod's reaction to the 1993 Ontario budget, expressing her outrage that the then NDP government had just raised taxes by $2 billion.

"McLeod was incensed.

"She described it as the largest tax grab in Ontario history.

"She said it would destroy 50,000 jobs.

"She called it `a disaster for working people' offering `no hope and no prospects for the future.' Far from stimulating the economy, she said, `this budget strangles it.'

"Stressing how it would hurt ordinary Ontarians, McLeod noted that under the NDP tax grab, a family of four earning $50,000 a year would pay at least $330 more in new taxes.

"But wait. What's this we see even further back in our files? Why, it's then NDP leader Bob Rae reacting to the 1989 Liberal budget that grabbed an extra $1.3 billion from taxpayers' hides.

"Rae described that as a `death by a thousand cuts' for ordinary Ontarians, adding he opposed the Liberal hike to provincial income taxes."

No, I wasn't asked if I wanted my taxes increased. I can't remember having been asked either if I was agreeable to having our entire social, educational, justice, policing and health systems jeopardized by the growth of a debt of such magnitude that the interest to service that debt is more than we can afford to spend on primary school education, is more than we can afford to spend on community college education, is more than we can afford to spend on our universities and is more than we can afford to spend on our hospitals. In my mind, these conditions are not only intolerable, they border on being criminal.

I want to say directly to the opposition parties that I hold you directly accountable for bringing the finances of this province to the edge of financial disaster. Your governments were financially incompetent and nothing could have said it clearer to you than the results of the June 8 election, and yet you still do not listen. You refuse to hear what the people of Ontario emphatically told you June 8, 1995, and what they are telling you today, May 13, 1996.

You still refuse to listen to what the voters of this province want this government to do. What they want their government to do is to reduce taxes. The opposition parties refuse to hear what the people of Ontario have been telling them about the tax reductions and I know they will continue to bray like donkeys because of their lack of understanding about the economic realities facing this province and the wishes of the majority on how to deal with them.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at a local high school in Kitchener, and the students of this province, who are very bright, very aware, were shocked to learn that they would work for half a year just to pay their combined taxes. I held up a printed cheque and I asked the students, "How much of this do you think you should pay in taxes?" The response was 10% to nil. They were shocked to hear the realities of the impact of the debt and the interest on the debt, and these students were very unsympathetic to those who oppose tax reductions. They were unsympathetic and bordering on angry at those who were opposed to this government reducing the debt by significantly reducing government spending. Again, these are the facts as they relate to the income tax reductions for the constituents of my riding of Kitchener, and I am proud of them for their determination.


However, there is another area of the budget to which I will direct my comments. It is an area in which I can speak with a background of over 30 years' experience and is another area where the opposition members simply refuse to listen. That area is the impact of the budget on small business. The number one priority of this government is jobs, jobs and more jobs. This government's philosophy to job creation is rooted in the knowledge that it is the private sector -- let me repeat that -- it is the private sector which creates jobs. It is the responsibility of the government to facilitate that process through cooperation with the private sector.

For the past five years the business sector in this province felt it was viewed as an enemy of the government; the private sector was viewed as being incapable of knowing what was needed to help create jobs; the private sector was viewed as being careless, lacking compassion and greedy. This attitude is still expressed by a number of members of the opposition parties, the majority of whom have little, if any, business experience.

Attitude is as important in a government's relationship with the private sector as it is in maintaining a strong family. This government's budget, in addition to taking steps to financially stimulate the economy, changes the provincial government's attitude towards business.

This budget tells business we are listening to them, we have heard their request to reduce government interference in their operations; this budget tells business we recognize that it is they who create the jobs; this budget tells business we recognize that they are forced to spend too much time, in some cases up to 20% of their administrative time, filling out government forms simply in order that they can send this government money which we say they owe to us. This budget is different. This budget tells business this government is determined to stimulate the economy by putting more money back into the hands of the consumer.

Anyone with any business experience will tell you that a significant aspect of operating any business is perception. As a businessman, as an entrepreneur, I can tell you that the former government was perceived to be anti-business, with the result that business confidence was badly shaken in the province. This budget emphatically proves to the private business sector that this government has a positive perspective towards the private sector.

The construction industry, in the pre-budget hearings, requested this government's assistance in spurring ahead new home sales. You'll remember that, Bruce. In response, the budget provides a land transfer tax refund for first-time new home purchasers. In response to this tax reduction, Mr Tom Stricker, president of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association, stated: "It's a good-news thing to us. It's well received." The impact will be more jobs in the construction industry.

The moviemakers expressed their appreciation for the 15% tax credit of qualifying labour expenditures, while first-time filmmakers will get a 30% credit. Robert Lantos, chairman of Alliance Communications, Canada's largest movie and TV producer, stated in reference to the budget that: "It certainly seems like a very constructive move that recognizes the importance of the film and television industry to the province." The impact will be more jobs in the movie industry.

Other members of the arts community are also pleased with the budget. "It's absolutely terrific," said Elaine Calder, general manager of the Canadian Opera Company. Stan Shortt, managing director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, said: "This kind of legislation is critical." The budget received positive endorsement from the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Shaw Festival, the Stratford Festival and the National Ballet of Canada. These arts groups recognize that the budget will assist in bringing stability to their organizations and will help create more jobs.

The horse racing industry will be stabilized by the significant reduction of the provincial tax on horse betting from 7% to one half of 1%. This will help in maintaining jobs in this fragile industry.

The reduction of the income tax, coupled with the elimination of the 5% health care tax for small to midsize businesses with payrolls under $400,000, affects 88% or 270,000 businesses that have all been greeting the budget with enthusiasm.

Brien Gray, senior vice-president of the organization for small business, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, stated that, "For too long entrepreneurs in this province have felt that governments generally have been working at odds with them." He called this budget "a breath of fresh air." The result will be more jobs in the small business sector. It must be remembered that when we are discussing the importance of small business, we are discussing the sector which produces approximately 90% of all new jobs in the province.

In addition to the direct assistance, this budget provides strong indirect assistance to small business. Banks, which make investments in Ontario to small businesses, are being offered an incentive through the form of a capital tax credit to offset a temporary surtax on their capital tax if they increase the availability of equity capital for small business. The government is also tightening the rules governing how labour-sponsored mutual funds can invest their funds. More of it must be directed towards small firms. These two initiatives will result in more jobs.

The primary point I am making here is that this budget is perceived by the business community as a positive step forward, stemming from a government with an obvious positive attitude towards the private sector. This new attitude -- this refreshing, new, positive attitude -- is exactly what this province needs to get back on track economically. This will result in more new jobs.

This government in its first budget has provided a much-needed income tax break to 91% of the people of Ontario and is providing both direct and indirect assistance to tens of thousands of businesses in the province. This budget is a statement of confidence, it is a statement of commitment, it is a statement of understanding and it is a statement which emphasizes to the people of Ontario that this government will stand by its promises. This is an outstanding economic document for the people of Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I must stand and reply to this, since the member for Kitchener so kindly brought my name into it, and I hope no one takes it out of context. I'll be speaking to the budget a little bit later, but just a couple of comments.

One was the reference to the stimulus for the purchase of a new home for first-time home buyers in the next year, how it would be a stimulus, and I don't think anybody should look a gift horse in the mouth. I too would take a tax credit on a home if it were my first home and I was taking the opportunity to buy it.

But let me quote from the minister's speech where it says, "To encourage people who have been waiting to buy their first home, first-time buyers who purchase a newly constructed home after today and before March 31," 1997, "will receive a refund on their land transfer tax, maximum refund being $1,725, equivalent to the tax on a $200,000 home."

As I said, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth, but if someone is sitting and waiting to buy their first home because they're only short $1,725 on a $200,000 home, I doubt very much whether that's going to be the incentive to make them rush out and buy it.

What maybe could better have been done, if the government had listened in the pre-budget hearings, is rather than giving a tax cut to the rich when it's in its full term of about $5 billion a year they could have reduced the retail sales tax every year on the whole cost of whatever anyone's purchases are. That would have cost in the range of $5 billion a year, and I think would have more equitably spread the tax cut across all stakeholders in the province.

Mr Martin: I want to respond to a comment from the member who just presented regarding the economy that they inherited when they came to government being in crisis. The only crisis is being caused by your government and what you're doing by way of diminishing the money that is flowing around in communities like mine and the number of jobs you're cutting. The economy in Ontario in 1994 was probably the best it had been in years after some very difficult times and after some very creative and courageous initiative and leadership given by our government.


I don't have to tell you, because I've told you two or three times over the last couple of weeks, just exactly what happened in my own community of Sault Ste Marie, but lest you not understand, let me just share with you some of the results of 1995, which I suggest to you are a result of some of the very good work that we did on behalf of stabilizing the economy and the business community in Ontario in 1993 and 1994.

General Motors: $1.3 billion in profit, sets record profit in 1995. "Barrick Gold Has Dug up 10th Straight Year of Record Profits." Bank of Nova Scotia made $876 million in 1995. Those are just three.

Brascan, a big corporation that has some interests in Sault Ste Marie -- they own Great Lakes Power -- had a 1995 profit of $312 million, the best in its 96-year history.

I have another piece of paper here that talks about Petro-Canada, which had a profit of $196 million for 1995. This comes, it says, despite charges that they paid out for major layoffs.

I suggest to you, Speaker, that this member has his facts just a little bit skewed and in fact the economy was well when they came to power. They are now destroying it.

Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I'm pleased to speak and comment on the comments made by the member for Kitchener. I listened very carefully, and as usual he was very impartial in the way he made his remarks.

I want to touch on the comments surrounding the issue of a reduction in the land transfer tax, because the issue was brought up by my friend from the Liberal Party. I had to note with some irony that the Liberal Party brought up the issue of land transfer tax. Having practised in that field as a lawyer for clients who pay a considerable amount of land transfer tax -- most of my practice was in the real estate field -- I recall during the period from 1985 to 1990, when the Liberal Party was in power, numerous increases in the land transfer tax in Ontario. I can say that it is a disincentive to purchasers of homes in Ontario for the land transfer tax to continually be raised.

I would have thought that the comments on the reduction would have been more positive. I can assure the member that a reduction in the amount of land transfer tax paid will be a factor when people consider whether to purchase a home. When they sit down to look at the extra costs, including paying lawyer's fees, paying for the various items involved in purchasing a home, $1,800 on a $200,000 purchase is certainly an issue that will be considered.

The other issue raised was whether the provincial sales tax could be reduced. It seems to me that the provincial sales tax was last raised by a Liberal government, so again I note the irony in those issues being raised by my friend from the Liberal Party.

Mr Michael Brown: I was extremely interested in the speech by my friend from Kitchener. One of the interesting things and one of the things I've had some difficulty in understanding is that this government, by way of the budget announcement on Tuesday, announced that it was about to borrow $8 billion this year. Some of that money is to go to pay for the tax cut. I was kind of surprised, given the fact that when the NDP presented a budget in 1990 that presented us with a $10-billion deficit, we didn't have the same reaction out here in front of the Legislature. We didn't have thousands of people in front of the Legislature protesting that $10-billion deficit.

I'm interested in the member thinking that his children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren are going to be paying for that $8-billion deficit they've rung up. Just so you know, Mr Speaker, and I think all members would know, by next March 31, this government will have rung up far more in debt and deficit in just 18 months than the Liberal government between 1985 and 1990, the one they are saying was so irresponsible. I wonder how he's going to go home to his constituents and tell them that in 18 months they've already borrowed more money and contributed more to the provincial debt than any government prior to 1990. I find that an astounding statement.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Kitchener has two minutes.

Mr Wettlaufer: I never cease to be amazed at how the members of the opposition parties keep talking about how we are borrowing to pay for the tax cut.

I would like to read something. This is from an economist from Wilfrid Laurier University. It was in the Kitchener paper a week ago.

"`The 10 fastest-growing American states are the 10 states that cut taxes the most,' said Laurier economics professor Douglas McCready. `There is also evidence that the poor benefit more from growth in the economy than the rich do. If there are more jobs, then people will be off welfare and that helps the lower end.

"`I would argue that for the last 20 years, we've been going through a change in income distribution that has damaged the middle class anyway, even with government growing. So I'm not so sure that is happening because the government is moving out of certain services.'"

We heard Patti Croft on Canada AM last week say that this budget is predicated on interest rates higher than the experts predict, GDP lower than the experts predict, and that the world financial community views this in a most positive manner.

The spending that was started by the Liberal government in 1986 doubled in five years, from $27 billion to $55 billion -- and they talk about us borrowing. They had the strongest economic climate that this province has ever known in its history, and they talk about debt. It started with them. It couldn't be kept up by the NDP because of a recession in the world, so I won't blame the NDP entirely, but we have been left with a climate that has been absolutely unforgivable as a result of the Liberal start.

The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further debate?

Mr Crozier: I would say you're darn right. We had the best increase in economic performance in the province of Ontario during the Liberal reign, and I'm glad to acknowledge that.

There is going to be, obviously, over the next number of days an awful lot said about this budget. I must say it was very nicely crafted; it looks pretty. I've always been curious, and maybe one of the government members would tell us in one of the responses, what it costs to put a budget together. It's always given me a great deal of thought as to how many person-hours go into it, how much the printing costs are. It's something that has to be done, but I just think it's probably a very expensive process.

What I'm going to do today, and I'll just outline it for you a bit, Speaker, is to briefly give some historical facts; I'm then going to give a bit of an overview as we see it on the budget; then I'd like to give an overview of Ontario's tax system. Much of what I'll have to say today, quite frankly, is a result of research and is not simply my own assumptions. I want to make it clear that when I give you statistical information, I believe it to be the accurate information that others have put together.


In that historical perspective, I want to join in the normal fray of what goes on in this place, and that is, rather than looking to the future and what we can best do for the province of Ontario, we generally look to the past and blame someone else. Certainly part of the tax mountain that has been built up over the years in this province was built up by a Liberal government, albeit its share was a short and a small one, I think. The previous government had their ideas on what taxes could be adjusted. But it would seem to me that the previous speaker, the member for Kitchener, and others would lead you to believe they didn't have any part in this.

This is back in the years 1981 to 1984. I have to admit this isn't expressed in 1996 dollars. Therefore, you can assume it would be considerably higher. But in the years 1981 to 1984 Mike Harris, the now Premier, supported a Conservative government that had 16 tax increases totalling $1.83 billion. The Taxfighter, Mr Harris, now Premier, continually berated the Liberals and the NDP when he was the leader of the third party and outlined what the Tories called a catalogue of greed. Through four successive Tory budgets the now Premier, the Taxfighter, supported tax increases in every one of those.

I'm told one of them was the largest single increase in personal income tax in the history of the province of Ontario. The 1981 budget presented by Mr Miller, which now-Premier Harris supported, increased personal income tax from 44% to 48%. Apparently the Premier is now trying to get it back down to that range. He's told us that it's going to get somewhere around the 49% range in 1997, but they haven't told us where it's going to go beyond that, how it's going to be implemented.

OHIP premiums were increased by 15% in that budget. Fuel tax on gasoline was increased by a cent a litre. Diesel was increased. Total revenue from those was $135 million in 1981. Tobacco taxes were increased. Beverage taxes were increased.

In the 1982 budget, which the now Premier supported, OHIP premiums, retail sales tax, tobacco tax and beverage tax were again increased.

In the 1983 budget, the Taxfighter, Mike Harris, again supported increases in OHIP premiums, alcohol, tobacco, corporations, social service -- maintenance tax was brought in at that time.

In 1984 he supported increases in OHIP premiums and water power charges.

Historically, we've seen then quite a change in the Premier -- not to say that this isn't good, but as Paul Harvey, if you're a radio listener, says, "That's the whole story."

Now what I'd like to do is indicate to you very briefly how we feel about this budget. We feel this budget is what you might call a high-risk strategy, because it's a concern of some economists that what might happen is that if the economy doesn't perform the way it should, why, there may be as much as a $2-billion shortfall when it comes to the year 1999 and the year 2000 and on into the year 2001. The high risk involved here is that if you give back what's going to amount to be $13 billion over four years, before you have the deficit and the debt under some sort of control, what's going to happen then? What if you find yourself in a hole? That's what we're concerned about as being the high risk in this strategy.

As has been said before and will be said again, I'm sure many times, $22 billion is going to be added to the debt in the next four years. The finance minister stood up here a few days ago and said, "If we had done nothing, look what the debt would have climbed to." We're not suggesting that the finance minister should do nothing. We're suggesting that the finance minister should attack the deficit, and once that is wrestled down to zero and once we have a plan for attacking the debt, that's the time we can then start to reap the benefits of the sacrifices we would have made over the last three or four years.

My friend from Kitchener mentioned before about jobs. He was emphatic about jobs. I agree with him: Jobs are important. The point is that we've heard over the last eight to 10 months that this government would create a climate in which 725,000 new jobs could be created. Well, they've got a long way to go, because their own figures suggest that over the next couple of years, into 1998, they will only create in the neighbourhood of 200,000 to 300,000 new jobs. That leaves them 425,000, or thereabouts, new jobs to be created in the few years thereafter. Again we bring up the point that risk is a concern. It's a high risk. You're going out on a long limb, and if that limb starts to bend or if that limb breaks, why then, I suggest we're going to be in a worse position than we are today and it's going to be more difficult to recover from that position we've put ourselves in.

As a matter of fact -- and I'll leave jobs with this -- the government's own figures indicate that the unemployment rate when it took office was 8.7%. The unemployment rate is going to climb to 8.9%, according to their predictions, in 1996; going to drop slightly, to 8.8%, in 1997; and then be slightly below, at 8.5%, what it was when they took office. In their own figures, they're going to an increase in unemployment over the next two years. As I said, it's going to be tough, because in the last two years of their mandate they're going to have to create 438,000 new jobs to keep their promise.

I suggested that I'd like to take a look at an overview of Ontario's tax system. This was put together by the taxation policy branch of the Ministry of Finance of the government of Ontario, believe it or not, so these are not my figures. These are the figures of the finance department of our own government. I might start out by asking, why do we have to have taxes in the first place? I recall the company that I worked for back in my earlier years in the lumber business. We still had the tax records from the first tax that was ever implemented, and that was the temporary war measures tax. That was in the neighbourhood of the early 1900s, so I guess we can see what "temporary" means.

But the real main function of a tax system is the collection of adequate tax revenues to finance the government's expenditure programs, the redistribution of income to improve fairness and the encouragement or discouragement of specific types of behaviours or activity. For example, Ontario provides numerous incentives to encourage job creation and new investment. Then the province attempts to distribute those taxes so that, as has been said, fairness is one of the focal points.

It might interest you to know that personal income tax in the province of Ontario in 1994-95 was $14.344 billion, or that 42% of the revenue raised by the government was through personal income tax; 26.9% was through the retail sales tax. As I said, personal income tax is the largest source of revenue for the province of Ontario. Over 5.1 million individuals paid Ontario personal income tax in the year 1993.


Corporate income tax is the third-largest revenue source in the province of Ontario, and small business, of course, is part of that. All of us want to do what we can to encourage small business to flourish in the province of Ontario.

Retail sales tax is one I mentioned before. Because we're asked for alternatives, oftentimes the government will say: "Well, you don't like the fact that we're reducing personal income tax for the richest in this province. What would you do?" I would have done what I mentioned a few minutes ago, that is, look at retail sales tax; look at the tax every one of us has to pay in varying degrees. I believe that would have been a better way to give taxpayers of the province of Ontario some relief while at the same time encouraging them to spend their money to help the economy grow. Reducing the retail sales tax means essentially that you have to go out and buy something before you benefit from it.

The problem with credit on personal income tax is that there may be a variety of ways in which we decide to spend it. I dare say that some who are better off in this province will simply invest it outside the country. That won't make one new job. I point out that the per capita debt of Canadians over the age of 15 has grown since 1970, in today's dollars, from $7,440 to $19,680. A number of individuals have said, "I'm going to pay down my personal debt." I'm afraid that won't have the effect we would like it to have on the economy of Ontario.

I want to share with you some comparisons of tax competitiveness. The Minister of Finance, I believe it was just Thursday, said we are the highest-taxed jurisdiction in North America. If you take just personal income tax, which was being referred to at that time, that is true. We are one of the highest-taxed jurisdictions in North America. In fact, in Canada we're second only to Quebec. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the promise of the government that it was going to give the first half of the 30% tax reduction up front -- we are now almost a year into the government's mandate -- half of that tax reduction, half of the half they promised up front, will be given beginning July 1 and the second half at the beginning of January 1997.

The personal income tax reduction that's being offered by the government will go some way to making our personal income tax fairer, but as we know, in this global economy it isn't just personal income tax that either attracts or in some cases deters companies from establishing themselves in any given location. I suggest to you that most often it's the corporate tax, because after all it's the bottom line that companies are looking for and the tax jurisdictions they look at before they settle, because many of the executives of these companies, as I say, can shelter tax offshore.

If you compare us to the G-7, we are right in the middle. There are three lower than us: the US, Japan and the UK. And there are three higher than us: Italy, Germany and France. When I say that the USA is lower than us, they're in the area of about 30% of GDP, and we're at 36.3% of GDP. The comparison then is often made that, well, we have to look closer than that even. We have to look at our borders. We have look at Michigan, for example, as being one of those areas that we are not only in competition with, but that we have to compare ourselves to.

I would quote from an article by James Walker, a national affairs writer for the Financial Post. In his article he says, "To hear Ontario Premier Mike Harris tell it, in Michigan they've lowered taxes 21 times in four years and now enjoy their lowest unemployment levels in 25 years. Harris gushed this out in a speech to supporters this past month."

One of the problems with that, and one of the things that Premier Harris didn't say at that time, is that there has been a significant increase in consumption taxes, sales taxes and excise taxes in the state of Michigan. Like many other examples that Premier Harris cites in the US, they just may not be exactly what they appear on the surface unless you include everything.

When we come to interprovincial tax comparisons, the total burden in Ontario including all levels of government, we were the second highest in Canada. The total tax burden in Ontario is about 37%, compared with a national average of 36%. So again we're very close at least to the average.

I'd also like to point out that there are some areas where we compare favourably with other provinces aside from personal income tax, such as the top marginal rate for dividends in 1995. Again Ontario was right in the middle of all the provinces in the great Dominion of Canada.

When it comes to corporate tax comparisons -- again this is an international comparison, taxes on corporate income as a percentage of GDP in the G-7 countries -- Canada was the third lowest of the G-7.

All I'm trying to point out here is that when you talk about taxes, to be fair, we have to talk about all taxes and we have to be all-inclusive. We're in a global market and we can't just simply look at personal income tax and draw that comparison.

When I said earlier that I felt we have a high-risk strategy with the attempts that are being made by this government to attack the deficit by its decrease in spending, and yet on the other side the tax credits that are being given, I feel the time has come in these budget considerations when the government has decided that if we're going to cut income tax, if we're going to give a tax cut that's mostly going to go to the rich, we have to get some money somewhere. I think probably this came along later in the budget deliberations, because we had the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism stand in this place and say, about eight weeks before the budget came down, that VLTs, video lottery terminals, were not going to be put in place in the province of Ontario.


Something happened in those eight weeks and I think the something was that, notwithstanding the misgivings of the Minister of Finance that he's expressed in the past, someone has said: "Folks, we've got to find more money. It's as simple as that. We've promised this tax cut. We're living on it. We've signed documents" -- although the Premier signed a document saying that if he didn't fulfil his promises, he'd resign.

He said: "Look, folks, I've signed that thing and I'm going to have to resign if we don't give this tax cut, and yet I've also signed documents that we're going to balance the budget. In fact, I've signed documents that say we're going to bring in balanced budget legislation." Unfortunately, we didn't see that in the budget speech, but I expect it'll come along.

The Premier has said: "I don't want $1 million a day coming in to the province of Ontario. I don't want the money. I don't want the Ontario government to have it." In other words, he's said time and time again, "We don't have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem."

As I said, I think with the advent of the VLTs that we have seen in the budget speech, suddenly they do have a revenue problem and this is how they're going to solve it. They've given the tax break to the rich. "What are we going to do now? We've got to go out and get the money from some of those who least can afford it." How's the best way to do that? You introduce the crack cocaine of gambling; you introduce VLTs.

Initially they've said: "No, we're going to put them in controlled environments. We're going to put them into racetracks and we're going to put them into permanent charitable casinos." I happen to think that if you're going to put any form of gambling any place in the province of Ontario, a racetrack is a good place to do it. I think, with all due respect, that the government has proposed a good thing in reducing the provincial tax rate on harness racing. I think that's good. They could have stopped there just to see how effective that would have been.

But no. Even though we felt that any casino in this province should have a referendum, they've said, "No, without consulting anybody, we're going to put video lottery terminals in racetracks and we're going to put them in what we are now going to call `permanent charitable casinos.'" Frankly, a permanent charitable casino in 50 locations in the province is no different, except perhaps in size, from the casino in Windsor and the casino in Niagara Falls, for which a referendum was taken.

The Speaker has said he wants a referendum on that and I agree. Anything like that should be done by referendum because these video lottery terminals, which by the way -- and I'm reading from the speech of the Treasurer, "Once an acceptable implementation plan is developed, the network can then be expanded to the hospitality industry," having regard to certain "guidelines."

It's strange -- after an implementation plan is developed -- yet in the speech they already have the guidelines. I don't understand that. I asked the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations just last Thursday if in the province of Ontario we have a comprehensive strategy for gaming. His answer would indicate that they don't have one, and yet they've got some of the guidelines on which they're going to take these video lottery terminals, the cocaine of gambling, and they're going to take them beyond just horse racing facilities and the permanent charitable casinos.

I'll quote from an article by David Lewis Stein of the Toronto Star: "You can also see these 50 casinos becoming a back-door way of bringing high-stakes gambling to a neighbourhood near you." I think that's as true a statement as could be made.

I want to finish, because I only have a couple of minutes. Quite frankly, when I think back, I probably should have taken the whole half hour to speak about VLTs. I want to tell you what a few professionals have to say about VLTs, and then I want to you go home and think about it tonight.

Garry Smith, who has become a gambling specialist at the University of Alberta, about VLTs: "First of all, it's the speed at which you can play. You can complete a game cycle in about one and half seconds once you're adept at playing, and because of that, you get the feeling that you're constantly in action," and that's what gamblers seek.

The article goes on to say, and it was Professor Smith's name on this as well: "Indeed, racing and betting have declined sharply in recent years"; that is, harness racing and purebred racing betting. "These video gambling machines will let bettors amuse themselves between races and help tracks make up the drop in betting."

As I say, in a very controlled atmosphere, and if you have mature gamblers, I guess that's fine. But I'm going to conclude by quoting a Mr Barsany of the Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling. The concern with him and frankly the concern with me, and it should be the concern of this government, is our young people. "It's perfectly suited," he says, "and susceptible to the fast, computer-driven pace of video games. The VLT is one of the most addictive forms of gambling: addictive because it's fast, addictive because it provides instant gratification, addictive because it's paced for the modern way of thinking of young people of computerized gambling instead of dealing cards and throwing the dice."

It's the effect of video gambling on young people that's caused the most concern in the growing number of studies about video lottery gambling in Ontario. I'm sad to see that the government is so hungry for revenue that it's going to go out and pick the pockets of many of the people who can least afford it in an uncontrolled atmosphere.

We don't have vending machines for cigarettes any more, because our youth could have access to them. There were penalties involved with that, but that didn't matter; we took the vending machines out. I'd like you to consider, although I think it's too late with this budget, that you also think hard before you put in the VLTs.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Questions or comments?

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I want to congratulate the member for his comments. I want to speak for a few minutes about the issue which the member ended on, and that is the issue of VLTs.

I'm sure some people in this House are aware that when the NDP was in government I had responsibility as the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, at that time to bring forward policy around casinos in the province of Ontario. I spent a great deal of time working with officials from my ministry and the larger community figuring out the best approach to expanding gambling in Ontario. I have to admit, and many people were aware of it at the time, that even as the minister responsible, I had some grave concerns about expanding gambling in Ontario.

We took a very cautious approach, and that approach was to have one pilot project in Windsor, where the majority of citizens were supportive. Of course, cross-border shopping was a major issue at the time. At that time, there was quite a lot of lobbying from, in particular, the hotel, motel and restaurant associations and some others -- the horse racing industry -- who indeed were having, and are having, some problems competing, about putting VLTs in their premises. We categorically rejected the notion of going further and bringing in VLTs. We categorically rejected that notion because, as all evidence points to, it is the --

Mr Stockwell: But you built a casino. No, you built two casinos. VLTs bad, casinos good.


Ms Churley: Yes, VLT is bad. It is the crack cocaine of gambling. Our youth and the poorer people in our society will be robbed by these machines and this government should be ashamed of itself.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Your time has expired. Comments and questions?

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I listened with interest to the speech of the honourable member for Essex South. I believe, if I understood his thesis, his theory, correctly, the criticism of our government's budget is that it is risky, and risky because it combines spending reductions with tax reductions, resulting in a balanced budget over five years.

If we go back to May 1995 and test the thesis, the Liberal member for Essex South was campaigning, as were we all. His party had been in government from 1985 to 1990, had increased spending on average 10% per year in good times, had increased taxes numerous times on the people of Ontario, had increased the public debt during those five years of good times.

Then in May 1995 the Liberals were seeking to be the government of Ontario and were advocating spending reductions, a balanced budget over four years with tax reductions, the same contents one finds in the budget that the Minister of Finance presented in this House last week. Now the Liberal member speaks against his party's own election platform. So in May 1995 we get one story and in May 1996 another story from the Liberal side of the House.

Is it any wonder that the Globe and Mail published a poll last week showing politicians ranking only above lobbyists and car salesmen in terms of public esteem or lack of esteem when you get one story in May 1995 and another story in May 1996? Unlike the Liberal members opposite, we keep our commitments to the voters of Ontario as set out in that budget.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I'm surprised, first of all, the previous member has made some disparaging remarks about car salesmen. I've always found them to be very honourable people in our society and I know the member for Etobicoke West must be very annoyed to hear that.

Mr Stockwell: There's no vote you won't suck up to, is there?

Mr Bradley: But the speech was an outstanding speech, and let me tell you why. He made reference to the video lottery terminals. Now if I were a betting person, and I am not, I would bet that at least half the Tory caucus must be at the very least uneasy and at the most opposed to this escalation of the kind of gambling we've seen in this province and the addiction of this government apparently now to gambling and other governments across the country to gambling revenues.

I suspect the reason the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, Bill Saunderson, didn't know anything about it a few weeks ago in committee when he was asked about it and said they weren't going to do it, is because they weren't getting the kind of heat at that time about the tax break. What's really happened along the way was the government finally started to hear from conservative economists who told them, "If you give this income tax break, what you're going to have to do is you're going to have to borrow $13 billion to pay for it," or more than that at the time. So they had to get some quick, easy money.

Unfortunately, the people who would be most inclined to use these will be those in desperate circumstances, the most vulnerable people in our society, people who are addicted to gambling. So this government's answer is the introduction of the most insidious form of gambling, and I'm glad the member for Essex South brought that to the attention of this House and others in the province.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments? The member for Etobicoke West.

Mr Stockwell: Mr Speaker, I'd like to thank you for this opportunity. I will say this is probably the easiest budget that we're going to have to deliver. I don't have any doubt about that. I don't think anyone on this side of the House or over there would argue with that. It seems to me that for our budget to come to fruition, it will have to see some economic prosperity and some decent growth numbers. There's no doubt that we need inflation to stay at a reasonable level and that the lid has to be kept on interest rates.

I think we also understand that in selling this budget, or as I have done so in my riding, I have told the people of Etobicoke that before we get too excited about this budget, there are going to have to be tougher budgets in the next few years, and those budgets in the next few years are going to be more difficult for us to defend because the spending cuts are going to still be in there. There are going to be $6 billion or so spending cuts, maybe more. We're going to have to pass through some further tax cuts that we've got to come up with revenue for.

I know the federal government's planning on continuing to reduce our commitment in transfer payments. That won't be helpful.

Mr Len Wood: Hey, you can't blame the feds for this.

Mr Stockwell: I'm not saying I'm blaming the feds, the member from Cochrane. I'm not blaming them, I'm just telling you that they've not been helpful to the people of the province because they've consistently reduced the federal commitments.

Mr Len Wood: You're doing the same thing Brian Mulroney was doing.

Mr Stockwell: Obviously the member for Cochrane South is barking about Brian Mulroney. Okay, fine, Brian Mulroney.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is we understand this is going to be more difficult in future years. Given the options we were faced with, it seems to me the prudent approach was the one we adopted during the campaign, and that was to reduce government expenditures and rein in government spending. I understand why you people oppose that now. What I don't understand is why were you in favour of it during the election.

The Acting Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for Essex South, you have two minutes.

Mr Crozier: Two minutes is such a short time, but I want to first of all say to the member for Durham Centre, who said that we were proposing tax cuts and now we seem to oppose them, not at all. We were proposing targeted tax cuts. In fact the first one we would propose was to take the 5% sales tax off auto insurance, which would have been about $264 million a year, and we would have targeted a total of 5% in tax cuts over the term of the government. But what we would have done at the outset was, yes, attack spending, attack the deficit, try and reduce the deficit to zero over those four years.

I think without saying --

Mr Wettlaufer: How many jobs?

Mr Crozier: If yours will create jobs, why wouldn't that? It's as simple as that.

The Acting Speaker: Please address the Chair.

Mr Crozier: What we didn't say was we'll produce 725,000 jobs and then find in the budget that's been cut to 280,000. I'll tell you that.

We know the deficit has to be attacked, but we would have done it in a targeted way.

In conclusion, I just want to say, here's part of the problem we're dealing with. Mr Pollock, who's the president of the Ontario Video Gaming Corp, says, "I don't think it's society's role to tell people how to spend their money. I think gambling is certainly better for you than smoking" -- I guess that's his opinion -- "and I don't know about drinking. I don't have any difficulty with people playing on a modest basis," and that's what we're dealing with. What's a modest basis?

There are hordes of people who disagree with him, but please, government, consider what this is going to do to young people who are going to grow up in an atmosphere of gambling, not like me when there wasn't gambling when I was younger, except that it was illegal, and if you think you're going to stomp out the illegal gambling, you're wrong.

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

Mr Len Wood: I want to take a few minutes today to make some comments on the budget that was tabled last Tuesday. If we're looking at some of the news stories that are coming out of the papers -- "Eves Ploy Revealed Between a Spin and the Truth." I hear some of the Conservatives saying that it's going to be easy to sell the budget. All the tax breaks that are going to be given are going to be more than eaten up by user fees, increased property taxes.

The front page of the local paper says that because of Mike Harris's cut in transfer payments to Kapuskasing, the town is going to increase taxes by 2.6%. That's just on property taxes. If you take the other user fees that the municipality is going to have to impose, plus the user fees the government is imposing, it's going to cost anybody who gets a tax break of $200 to $250 in a year $500 or $600 in user fees. Seniors -- most of their pensions are not indexed from private plans -- are going to have to pay $2 for every drug prescription they get, so their standard of living is going to be continuously eroded.


For a whole year the Conservative government never came up with a budget; now, a year later, they come up with their budget. This part of the budget was supposed to be a good news story, but on Focus Ontario Saturday night people were calling in and saying to the Minister of Finance, "Well, if this is such a good-news budget, why did I get my layoff notice in the mail?" A teacher phoned in. People phoned in from Ontario Hydro. They're just devastating the north.

Chris Hodgson was in North Bay, Mike Harris's home town, to make a major announcement. The mayors and reeves almost laughed him out of the hall because he said: "I'm here to make a major announcement. I'm going to fire the 20 people who are in charge of the heritage board and I'm going to appoint 12 new people." Some of the 12 new people were defeated Conservative candidates in the last election. These are the qualifications they have to replace the 20 heritage board people we had on the board.

At the same time he said there was no money left in the heritage board fund, which is not completely true, because when you put $60 million on top of $40 million and with the interest on that, you come up with a fund that he says is somewhere over $100 million.

To go into North Bay and spend taxpayers' money to make an announcement like that didn't make any sense whatsoever, because the heritage board money was always there. The board of directors were doing a good job. Just because they've got some Conservatives who were defeated in the last election, they wanted to find a place to put them, so they made an announcement of that kind. It didn't go over very big, I can assure you of that.

When Mr Eves claims that his budget is for the people, he's fundamentally wrong; it's sadly wrong. This is a budget that was brought out on December 7. It takes a lot from the people of Ontario. Their standard of living is going to be reduced. At the same time, all they're doing is reducing the deficit from $9.1 billion to $8.2 billion, a reduction of $900 million, and yet they're forcing school boards, municipalities, hospitals and health care to reduce their budgets and send pink slips out to hundreds of people.

My daughter, who has been teaching in Hamilton for five or six years, got a layoff notice and said, "Well, why?" The school board says it's because Mike Harris cut back on transfers that are going to the school board and they're going to have to reduce the number of caretakers, secretaries and teachers.

I go into other areas of the province. I've travelled this province a fair amount in the last month. I was in the Manitoulin Island area, I was in North Bay, I was in Thunder Bay, as well as travelling through my own riding, and there were no good comments coming out of the budget that was announced. Of course, the only two Conservative members from the north, as you're aware, are Mike Harris and Ernie Eves.

Mr Martin: And they're really not from the north. Mike's moved to Toronto.

Mr Len Wood: They're not from the north, I guess. North Bay is the gateway to the north, so it's the beginning.

A promise was made. People who were out selling the Conservative pledges during the last campaign -- they call it the Common Sense Revolution -- said, "We're going to create 725,000 jobs before the end of our mandate," yet all we heard last July was, "We're going to take $2 billion away from the women, the children, the poor and the disabled in this province so we can build it up into a fund and give it back to the wealthy people." They did that last July and they made it effective October 1.

They made further announcements in funding for winter maintenance. I mean, imagine, during the worst winter we've had, when the only money that Palladini was willing to spend was to get the Solicitor General to send out the OPP to close the roads so that --

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Just take your seat. Just a reminder: When you talk about a member, you don't mention him by his family name; you mention his riding, please. And that applies to everyone.

Mr Len Wood: Yes, there's no doubt about it. But I'm proud of my name and I don't mind people calling me by my name, a family name that goes back.

But it's a disgrace, what we had to go through with the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. They're still talking about it. Even though we're having sunshine now and the snow is starting to melt, they're still talking about the disgrace it was to have to risk yourself travelling on the roads, and it's going to be worse again next year because they've cut the money for winter maintenance. They continue to reduce that.

It's not only the fear of the winter roads. They're putting people at risk throughout all northeastern and northwestern Ontario by closing down all of the fire stations. We had 19 fire stations through the MNR within northeastern and northwestern Ontario. There are only two that they've left open. One of them happens to be in the Minister of Natural Resources' riding and the other happens to be in the Minister of Finance's riding. We've never seen forest fires in these particular areas. So they closed down the 17 fire stations. Where there were forest fires, people had to be evacuated from these communities because of risk to their lives of dying from smoke. Now, after a bad fire season last year, the Minister of Natural Resources -- it's unfortunate he's not here today, but he's well aware that total communities had to be evacuated or the people would have died and the towns would have been destroyed. So it's one thing after another that they've completely destroyed.

Every newspaper that I've opened up since the budget was announced last Tuesday is saying, "What is the fairness in a budget that would put $7,000 in a person's pocket who's making $200,000 a year and would give only $400 to a person who's making $20,000 a year?" Then on top of that you have the Premier who is forcing user fees on to these people who are making $20,000 a year, and it'll probably cost them maybe $600 in user fees, in increase in taxes. There's no end to the suffering and pain that is going to go on as a result of the attack put on the people of this province.

If you're looking at the debt and the deficit, during the campaign the Premier was out campaigning at that time and was saying the debt and the deficit are too high, and yet he and the Minister of Finance are prepared to go out and borrow at least $22 billion -- probably higher than that -- to give a tax break at the same time as taking away $8 billion from the poor and the unfortunate people in this province. They're going to run the debt up way over $100 billion, probably up to $125 billion by the time the next election is called. They're running a deficit of $8.2 billion.

So we're going to be looking at all of the line-by-line ministries. Where are they spending this money? What kind of irresponsibility is happening on the part of the Tory government that they would operate in this fashion at the same time as giving -- the last figures I saw, it's close to 13,000 people who are going to be laid off within the public sector, and 2,200 of those are going to be in MNR.


When we asked the Minister of Natural Resources, "Why? How can you justify an attack on northern Ontario?" his argument was: "I could have been a lot more severe than that. I'm doing a favour to northern Ontario. I'm only cutting 45% of the jobs out of northern Ontario; I'm cutting 55% out of southern Ontario." What he doesn't understand is that northern Ontario only has 10% of the population. When you take 45% of the layoffs out of a population that's only 10% of the province, it's totally devastating.

They've taken $430 million out of post-secondary education, and at the same time they've boosted the tuition fees by 20% for universities and 15% for colleges. Then they turned around and said, "We'll put $100 million back in for reinvestment." They took $1.78 billion out of the hospital sector and they've only put a small portion of that back in. I understand that somewhere around $30 million has been reinvested.

The hospital sector has been cut by almost $2 billion, they've slashed the highway capital project by $540 million, and now they have the nerve to say in the budget, "We're going to announce $40 million for the north and $100 million for the south." The day before the budget came out they had already announced that $10 million or $12 million of that had already been spent on four-laning the highway from North Bay to Powassan. There are only pennies left to maintain the highways.

The Minister of Transportation said: "I'm sorry. If I see a pothole anywhere in Ontario or northern Ontario, I'll personally go out and fill up the pothole." That's not what we're asking for. We're asking that you do not leave a debt to the province of Ontario by refusing to maintain this infrastructure that's out there. If you don't spend the money on a regular basis, it's like having a house and letting it fall apart. It's worth nothing whatsoever. If it's worth $100,000 today and if you let it fall apart, it's worth nothing six months, a year or two years down the road. That's exactly what's going to happen with our highway system.

On child care: It's a shell game they're playing with child care. They're saying, "We're going to cut by $50 million and then we'll put another $40 million back into it." It's less and less that they are spending.

When you look at the total reduction -- and I have to turn the clocks back -- if you take the $2 billion that was taken away from the children in this province through a cut in welfare to the women, the poor, if you take the $2 billion that was cut there, if you take the 23% that is cut in capital spending for roads, bridges, schools and hospitals, you have the $4 billion there that they're going to give back in the 30% tax break, and most of the 30% tax break will be used up. Those who are going to put it back into the economy, it'll be used up in user fees. You'll have the 10% fairly well-off people in this province who are going to get the majority of the tax break. They're telling me and they're telling other people -- I'm sure they're telling the Tory caucus as well -- that they have no intention of spending this on job creation out there and hiring extra people.

For the Conservative caucus to go out during the last election and campaign and get elected on June 8 with a promise of 725,000 jobs which are going to be created over the period of time -- where is the job creation program? We know the tax cut is not going to do it. A tax cut of 30% is not going to create the jobs, and most of the tax cut is going to go to the 10% in the upper part of the income of the province.

The layoffs that are happening: Although all of the school board budgets haven't been announced as yet, I have an article here from the Northern Times. A reporter out of Hearst says that the Roman Catholic separate school board in Hearst will have to cut 17 jobs as a result of Mike Harris taking away $875,000 in provincial education grants, so we're talking about 13 employees getting their notices on June 30, and there will be other ones who will be getting them before September. If you multiply this across the province, in just five school boards in southern Ontario it's 10,500 teachers and other staff who are getting their layoff notices. Within the government sector alone, we've had 10,500 notices that have gone out or will be going out before Victoria Day, as well as the 2,000 to 3,000 who had already disappeared.

Unemployment in the province is going to continue to grow. In northern Ontario, we always have higher unemployment than in the rest of the province, and the unemployment is longer. I was fortunate, and my colleague the member for Sault Ste Marie. We were happy and pleased over the last four or five years to be able to stabilize some of these communities; in Kapuskasing with the new employee ownership at Spruce Falls Inc. It's just amazing how they've grown and expanded. They've put back the sawmill that Kimberly-Clark had torn down. They put back another paper machine that the former company had taken down. They're making a profit. They've gone from breaking even five years ago to showing a profit. If they continue on with what their quarterly reports are showing, they'll be up about $90 million in a year. It's nice to be able to have that cash in the bank when you think back to when we first got elected as the NDP government. All the communities and all the major companies were saying, "I'm sorry, we're going to have to walk away from these companies."

In my two-minute response earlier, I pointed out that had it been a Conservative government from 1990 to 1995, a lot of these communities would have been ghost towns, because to put together a lot of the employee ownership plans, whether it was St Marys Paper in Sault Ste Marie, Algoma Steel, Provincial Papers or de Havilland, all of these places, we had to have legislation put in place so that the employees who invested in the companies could get a tax break provincially. We had to put in place employee ownership legislation so that the tax breaks could be given. After you'd invested for five years, you would get a tax break for those five years and then you could sell your shares. The new Tory government has extended that to eight years, but in any event, at that point in time you had an NDP government with 70 seats and you had a Liberal official opposition, and the Tories had 17 or 18 members in their caucus. They voted against the legislation that we brought in as a package. They would not accept it. As a result, if they had been in government, they would have shut down Sault Ste Marie, turned it into a ghost town -- Kapuskasing, Thunder Bay -- how many other communities?

I know the present government is saying that it's looking for growth of 2.8% for 1997, 2.8% growth for the next year, but in 1994, when the NDP was in government, we had a 5% growth, and there were a lot of jobs that were being created at that time, even though three years prior to that we had lost a lot of jobs.


As I mentioned earlier, the heritage fund was implemented and designed to create jobs, protect jobs and help in the growth of northern Ontario. Now, with one stroke of the pen, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines goes into North Bay and makes an announcement: "I'm sorry, we're going to have to fire the 20-member board of directors that the NDP government appointed, and we're going to appoint our own 12 Conservative supporters," whether they were defeated candidates in the last election -- in the case of the one who's coming out of Kapuskasing -- or whether they're just Tory supporters in other communities.

They're saying they're not going to continue to help out businesses or industries that want to expand and create employment so that people will stay in the north. They're saying they're going to use this for the developing and marketing of regional tourism and enhancement of projects, telecommunications, transportation infrastructure and improvement. They're saying they're going to use that heritage money for transportation infrastructure. They cut all the transfers to all the municipalities, school boards, hospitals and everything, and now they're saying they're going to use the heritage money to replace that, I guess. That's what it looks like in the comments they're making.

They're saying "...other economic development initiatives to ensure northern communities remain attractive places to live and work." Well, in northern Ontario the places are attractive. They're nice places to live in. They're good places to live; they're good places to work. But if you see a community that is struggling and having a hard time, why not work with the unions, with the private sector companies and community leaders and say, "Let's give a loan or a grant to a business"? Whether it be a sawmill or whether it be every five, 10, 15 jobs that the private sector is not willing to do on its own, why not continue putting money back into the communities, because the return that comes out of there is immense, instead of just destroying everything we had put in place for years?

I know some of the municipalities are saying they're happy with user fees. At least they're saying it doesn't show up on the property taxes. But it's going to mean some people are not going to be able to use the services because of the user fees. They're on a restricted income.

We hear all kinds of examples coming out of schools, where the teacher tells students in grade 8 or grade 9: "Your clothes seem to be loose. Are you not feeling well? What is going on?" In one particular case, a person said: "Yeah, I know my pants are almost falling off, but my mother's on welfare and I have a younger brother and sister, so me and my mum, we can't eat as much as what we'd like to have. As a result, our clothes seem to be getting bigger, but we have to do that. We have to make a sacrifice because the Conservative government cut the money we need. I'm the oldest one in the family, and me and my mum, we have to only eat a little bit so that the other two children don't go hungry." Is that really the society we want?

I'm getting examples of that as I'm travelling through my riding. I'm even getting examples of that in the county of Perth where I was born and raised. I talked to my family and they're saying the same stories are coming out of there. So it seems it's a situation that's spreading right across Ontario.

These are the children who are the future. These are the people who are going to be standing in our place at some point in time, making the decisions we are making. If they are not kept healthy enough so that they can get a good education and we can look after them, they're going to become a burden on society.

Over the last number of days, I've heard Bud Wildman and Tony Martin and other people using examples of the sacrifice and the pain that's being inflicted. Somebody figures they're going to get a $300 tax break and then they find out that the tax break they were going to get, with the user fees and the increased charges, that lo and behold, they have to dig into their wallet for another $300 or $400 to compensate for what the Conservative government is doing to them by forcing user fees on to them.

There are a lot of areas that we could probably talk for longer than the time that I've been allotted, but I just want to go back to the fact of, if you promise during an election campaign that you're going to create 725,000 jobs, at this point, one year into the mandate, it's quite obvious that it's not going to happen. It's a broken promise. There was a promise made out there that, "We'll give a tax cut and it's going to create the jobs." We know the tax cut is coming, but the tax cut is going to be eaten up with user fees, property tax increases, school board tax increases, health care tax increases and we're not going to benefit.

On top of that, people are saying to me, "Is it not true that the Conservatives promised that at the end of their mandate they would have a balanced budget?" I said, "Oh, yeah, that's right." So you can expect next year and the year after that you're going to have more pain and suffering because they've got $8.2 billion more that they're going to have to cut each and every year if they want to have a balanced budget by the end of their four-year mandate.

Mr Martin: They're still not going to achieve it.

Mr Len Wood: They're not going to achieve it. It hasn't worked in any other jurisdiction in North America and for the Conservatives to go out and campaign on a bunch of weird promises that they said they were going to implement -- it's not going to work. So I don't know if they're going to do like Sheila Copps did and resign. That would be a promise that they would keep. She kept her promise and resigned and has a by-election. I don't know if Mike Harris is going to keep his promise or if he's going to break his promise and try just to ride it out until the end of his mandate and have an election four or five years down the road. I think with that, I'll save my other remarks for another day.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Ms Churley: I'd like to congratulate the member for Cochrane North. He spoke very, I believe, plainly and with a great deal of common sense, real common sense about what's happening to people. In summary, because I've only got a couple of minutes here, what the CSR said it would do in four years, let me remind people, is the revolution would give everybody a 30% tax cut, it would reduce the $8 billion deficit to zero and create 725,000 new jobs. That's what they said they were going to do.

Now, with finally the budget being brought down, the government very, I suppose, cleverly tried to separate the cuts, the $8 billion in cuts that we're going to see -- some have already been made -- separating that from the budget and the tax cuts and saying that there is no connection.

One of the things that I think members of this government absolutely have to do is at least admit that the cuts are having an impact on people, particularly welfare recipients and low-income people, that there are more user fees, there will be even more user fees, that municipal taxes are going up and will go up and that some people are suffering a great deal as a result of the cuts. That has to be admitted, and unfortunately, what happens sometimes when governments are trying to defend their records, they will turn a blind eye to the suffering and pain that is being caused by cuts and changes in policies that are being made. That is what is happening here with this government.

I know the government isn't going to change its mind about a lot of these policy changes, deregulation and tax cuts and all of that, but I would ask government members to not turn a blind eye to the suffering and results of the cuts that they have made and try to do something about it.


Mr Hastings: I guess the comment I would like to make about the observations from the member for Cochrane North and any other subsequent remarks today is that I've heard from the members opposite on several occasions that they know there has to be some kind of restructuring going on in this province as a result of what we inherited. We tend to talk about that theme, but when you get to the actual specifics, they always drop back to, "Actually, you don't need to make any changes because everything's perfectly okay."

The member for Riverdale points out that when you make a change, obviously there are going to be people who are hurting. We know that. We know that some people are going through pain because of loss of job. Some of our policies are not helpful in that broader context. But I think what she fails to remember and forgets rather conveniently is what is the ultimate objective of this particular exercise. I would say that the ultimate objective is to deal with these problems now or allow them to become even worse, to exacerbate the situation.

Surely the members opposite don't want that, but when you listen to them over and over, what I generally hear is: "Everything's fine. Keep to the status quo." The status quo type of thinking across the way is certainly in full bloom in these comments and we don't get to the real issues. The real issues are fiscal debt and deficit, but over there they really aren't. That's why I was saying it's like a myth when we know it isn't a myth at all.

Mr Michael Brown: I enjoyed the speech from my friend from Cochrane North. I think it was interesting that he talked about the heritage fund right off the top of his speech. I thought that was one of the more interesting, if you can term it that, government announcements.

As you know, in the budget announcement the Minister of Finance announced that there would be $60 million replaced in the heritage fund that had been taken out by the former New Democratic Party government and transferred to general revenue, plus there would be $5 million in interest paid.

Unfortunately, I'd asked a question in the Legislature a little earlier. I'd asked the Minister of Northern Development and Mines if he would be paying the $30 million for this year, the $30 million that was due the heritage fund this year. The minister stood in his place and gave me all the assurances in the world that the $30 million would be placed in the heritage fund this year.

You know what, Mr Speaker? I'm sure you do know. There is not $30 million being put into the heritage fund. The $60 million that is being taken back from general revenues and being replaced in the trust doesn't add. You can't make that add up. The minister says there's going to be $120 million in the fund altogether. There was $78 million in it before this government took power. They haven't spent any of that. Add $90 million to that, that's $168 million, and there's only $120 million showing in the books.

I'm confused. I think northern Ontario is offended by the spin that this government is putting on the heritage fund, and I'm happy the member has brought that up and has said, "We, as northerners, want a proper accounting for the heritage fund."

Mr Martin: I just want to as well commend the member for Cochrane North. He makes an excellent point, and nobody better to make it than him. There isn't a member in this House who has more credibility when it comes to speaking on behalf of working people and taxpayers in small communities in northern Ontario. There's nobody like the member for Cochrane North, who travels the distance that he does, who has more meetings --

Interjection: Who?

Mr Martin: Cochrane North. Excuse me. If you people would only come up to the north every now and again, you'd understand what these places mean and who these people represent and what communities they live in.

The Acting Speaker: Please address the Chair.

Mr Martin: If the members across only knew where northern Ontario was, they might be able to deal with some of the challenges they face re northern Ontario in a more realistic and practical sense and they would listen to the member for Cochrane North, who speaks most eloquently on behalf of the people he represents and who are going to be, frankly, given the shiv by this government re this budget that was just put out here. On one hand they're talking about a tax break and giving people money back, but on the other hand he knows and I know, because we're in contact with the people whom we represent, that it's going to be put in one pocket and taken out of the other. Every penny they get by way of a tax break will be more than doubled in property taxes and user fees.

In northern Ontario we're in double jeopardy, because every job you take out, every penny you remove from our community is money that's just gone, disappears. We can't just walk down the road and do something else. We can't just walk down the road and get another job. We just can't walk down the road and access more services; they just aren't there. Down the road for us is like 100 or 200 or 300 miles. We have some unique circumstances in the north that we have to deal with, challenges that we have to confront every day, and we have members in this place who speak on behalf of the government who don't even know where places are.

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

Mr Len Wood: I'd like to thank the four honourable members who did two-minute responses to my 39-minute speech on the budget. There is no doubt about it that I disagree with --

Interjection: You got 39?

Mr Len Wood: It was 29; excuse me. To the Conservative member who was saying we don't want to have change, we know there's change. There's been drastic change. Since the 42-year reign of the Conservative government, there has been change. The Liberals had government for five years, the NDP had government for five years, and now we see that the Conservatives are going to have government for four-and-a-half years. Then you'll have an NDP government back at the end of the four or four-and-a-half years, so change is inevitable.

You have a political party that goes out and campaigns that taxes are too high -- "We're not going to raise taxes" -- and then you see they bring in the VLTs and a tax grab of $1 billion. Mike Harris said that taxes were too high -- "We're going to reduce the taxes" -- and yet it's the big tax grab.

People are telling me they are not going to create 725,000 jobs, and the tax break that is going to go to the 20,000 or 30,000 wage earners who are making that kind of salary is going to be more than eaten up in property taxes, school taxes and user fees out there. People are going to be a lot worse off after the budget came out on May 7 than they would have been the day before the budget was announced, because it was not a good news budget. It's laid out there as if it was going to be a good news budget, but the only thing that's in the budget is bragging about the 30% tax cut.

What they're not telling the people is, "For the last 10 months we've destroyed northern Ontario, we've destroyed a lot of areas in southern Ontario, and we're not apologizing to anybody for it." It's a disgrace as far as I'm concerned.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): In this 1996 provincial budget, Finance Minister Eves has brought in phase 1 of the government's commitment to reduce the provincial personal income tax rate by 30%. While naysayers question this reduction, it is being done for some very clear and historical reasons. Perhaps I will expand on the little history lesson from the member for Essex South.

There is a course of events which brought us to make this promise, and to understand this I would like to look back over the past 10 years when Ontarians --

Mr Crozier: Go back further.

Mr Barrett: We've already gone back further -- the last 10 years, when Ontarians faced the brunt of 65 new and increased taxes. I know the member for Kitchener made reference to these 65 tax hikes.

We have been hammered with a total of $7.5 billion in new or increased taxes since the Liberal-NDP accord of 1985. From 1985 to 1994, personal income per capita increased by 54%. However, the burden of provincial taxes per capita increased by 73%, more than eroding any pay increases we may have received.

During the last decade, free-wheeling government spending, in combination with relentless tax hikes and failed job creation schemes, contributed to Ontario's current fiscal crisis. During the same period, government spending almost doubled, from $29 billion to $54 billion, the deficit grew from $2.6 billion to $10.1 billion, and during that 10-year period the debt almost tripled, approaching $100 billion. It more than doubled under the NDP, from $42 billion in 1990-91 to almost $100 billion in 1995.


What does all this mean for Ontario today? Quite simply, a lot of money has been taken out of people's pockets. The economy slowed and consumers, businesses and investors lost confidence. Once confidence was lost, the drag on the economy contributed to the 1990 recession. Rebuilding that market confidence depends on pumping money back into the economy by leaving money in the hands of taxpayers.

When the Liberals took office in 1985, the first thing they did, with the support of their coalition NDP colleagues, was to begin a tax-and-spend rampage that saw Ontario taxpayers gouged with 32 new and increased taxes. Both alcohol taxes and tobacco taxes were increased by the Liberals.

In 1988 the Liberals gained a majority government and ended the NDP-Liberal coalition. The new government's budget imposed $1.3 billion in new tax increases. The retail sales tax was increased from 7% to 8% and its application was broadened, gasoline tax was increased, alcohol taxes were increased and tobacco taxes were again increased by the Liberals. In fiscal year 1989-90 we got another $1.3-billion tax hike. Economic development suffered when the Liberals levied a payroll tax to draw another $2 billion business dollars from our economy.

During a time of prosperity in Ontario -- this was in the mid- to late 1980s -- the Liberal government forced these new taxes on the province and still spent $5 billion in excess of its budgets. The Ontario Liberals left taxpayers in a listing boat with neither oars nor lifejackets. The next government in office punched a hole below the water line.

The NDP government introduced its first budget in 1991 and announced it would spend its way out of the recession. To do this, the government drove the provincial deficit from $3 billion to $9.7 billion, a record year-over-year increase of 219%. Bob Rae decided to finance his deficit on the backs of taxpayers by imposing 14 additional tax increases totalling $1 billion.

In 1992-93, the provincial deficit rocketed to $12.9 billion, much higher than the $9.7 billion forecast. To finance this addition to the debt, the NDP raised taxes once again. This was in the middle of what they described as the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The NDP brought in another one billion tax dollars. The government then established the failed Jobs Ontario program at a cost of $1.1 billion.

The 1993-94 NDP budget inflicted further damage to middle-income earners and an already weak economy. This budget contributed $2 billion in increased taxes and fees, the largest single tax grab in the history of Ontario. This was a new record, extending on several large tax grabs that have been mentioned today. The provincial sales tax was broadened to cover more consumer goods, ultimately discouraging consumer spending. An analysis of three NDP budgets by Global Economics Ltd found that as a consequence of those budgets, the average Ontario family paid $663 in additional taxes in 1993.

During its term in office from fiscal year 1990-91 to fiscal year 1994-95, the NDP government imposed 33 tax hikes and fee increases, totalling in excess of $4 billion. What do we have to show for it? Consumer confidence hit bottom as record amounts of our money left for Queen's Park, businesses closed and jobs were lost.

The Harris government intends to return this $4-billion tax grab to Ontarians with a 30% cut to Ontario's personal income tax rate. For many, this reduction will translate into their first real wage increase in many years.

People have almost come to expect that taxes will be raised in each budget. The 1996 budget is no ordinary budget; this is a budget that cuts taxes, as we now know, as promised during the 1995 election campaign. I ask, when was the last time Ontarians can remember an Ontario budget that actually cut taxes?

High taxes kill jobs, undermine government revenues and slow economic growth. If high taxes created jobs, there would be zero unemployment in Ontario today. If high taxes were good for revenues, we'd have a budget surplus and no accumulated debt. If high taxes helped economic growth, we would be living through a bonanza right now.

The tax-and-spend decade very clearly did not work. The last two governments in this province hiked taxes no fewer than 65 times, as pointed out by the member for Kitchener. This included 11 personal income tax hikes. Consumers were given 65 reasons not to spend money. Businesses were given 65 reasons not to hire new employees. Investors were given 65 reasons to keep their money out of the economy. That's 65 reasons why our economy is moving so slowly now to recover from the recession.

Bob Rae alone increased total tax rates the equivalent of some $4 billion. What did we get? Nearly 9% unemployment, successive double-digit deficits and an accumulated debt of almost $100 billion. Ontario now has the highest per capita number of people in the country trapped in a cycle of welfare dependency.

Despite those huge tax rate hikes, the government didn't really increase the dollars it took in. The reason is simple. For most Ontario families, after you've paid the bills, the rent or the mortgage, fixed your kids' teeth and bought your groceries, there's nothing left. Rather than money left at the end of the month, there's month left at the end of the money. Forget about a new fridge or a new stove or home repairs or a new car or a restaurant meal. Forget about paying down credit cards. Families just couldn't afford it.

Ontario families are the critical link to our economic recovery. Small businesses, retailers, store owners in my riding of Norfolk live or die by customers' ability to buy. These entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy. Small business owners create the vast majority of new jobs in our province today. The problem is, not enough people are buying. The idea of disposable income has been disposed of because governments historically have taken more and more of our own money. We never see it again.

It makes sense to say it's time the government left more of our own money in our own hands to get people spending again, to boost the consumer economy, to kickstart the recovery; quite simply, to create jobs. It's this kind of plan that the government is following. Unlike past Liberal and NDP governments, who made it their priority to raise the revenue of the Ontario government, our goal is to raise the average income of Ontario families.

Our government said it would cut taxes to create jobs, and it will. This will return roughly $4 billion over three years to taxpayers' pockets. That means we're taking the total tax burden back to where it was before Bob Rae.

Some who oppose lower taxes say the government's plan is a giveaway to Tory friends. Let me be clear about the friends that elected this government to keep its tax cut promises. They're white collar and blue collar, middle income and lower income. They're behind desks, they're behind the wheels of trucks, combines; they include farmers and farm workers. Their roots go back many generations in my riding, and they are also people who have just arrived to start a new and better life in a better place. These are the hardworking people the tax cuts will help.

Can we afford to give this tax cut? After 10 years of tax hikes and rising spending that killed our economy, we can't afford not to. Ontario has the second highest taxes in North America. All around the world today, jurisdictions are cutting taxes. In recent years more than 50 countries have reduced taxes for businesses or individuals. Michigan, for example, which is Ontario's single largest export market, lowered taxes over four years and now enjoys its lowest unemployment level in 25 years.

In conclusion, these are some of the reasons why the government in Ontario must cut provincial tax rates: because it's good for the taxpayer, it's good for job creation and the economy, it's good for our competitiveness --

The Acting Speaker: Order. It being 6 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1800.