36th Parliament, 1st Session

L078 - Tue 28 May 1996 / Mar 28 Mai 1996















































The House met at 1333.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Mr Speaker, I would like to address a few words to the assembly, and to you in particular. You know I have a great deal of respect for your office and for you personally. I also have a great deal of respect for the responsibilities that are charged to me as an MPP. I certainly don't consider getting named and escorted out of the House as a badge of honour to be worn proudly.

However, we are responsible for our actions and we are also responsible for our actions that are not appropriate. You will know before I say this that I have never been named by you before, I have never been warned by you before, and I have never been called to order by you before. Having said that, yesterday on the way out of the House there was an action that wasn't appropriate; it was the direction of the Sudbury region book towards the minister, which inadvertently and not on purpose landed on the lap of the Minister of Environment and Energy, and that is not an appropriate action.

For that action, I deserve to be made to apologize and I do so, because to own up to one's responsibility in this high office is extremely important. I would only hope that there could be communication between questions and answers that doesn't allow for that level of frustration. I guess maybe we all have to work a little bit harder. However, that action on the way out was not appropriate.



Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Like a giant umbilical cord, Highway 69 stretches between Sudbury and the south. It is an inescapable lifeline reaching from the heart of the Sudbury community deep into the heart of other communities which serves the economic needs and social yearnings of people at both ends.

It is this narrow strip of potholed pavement that more than anything else in the north defines how fragile Sudbury's link to the southern heartland can be. That the short section of highway between the French River and Sudbury is dangerous cannot be disputed. That is why the "Highway 69 Worth the Investment" postcard campaign is so important.

In 1993, there were 103 accidents, with three lives lost; in 1994, there were 109 accidents, with lives lost; in 1995, 72 accidents, with death and carnage all too evident; and so far this year, three deaths, innocent lives snuffed out because this government doesn't believe Highway 69 is worth the investment.

Premier, Minister of Transportation, people are needlessly dying on Highway 69. You have made cuts which make Highway 69 more dangerous. You killed the funding for four-laning. Restore the money for the environmental assessment. Highway 69 is worth the investment.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): This week we celebrate National Access Awareness Week. The purpose of National Access Awareness Week is to challenge all Canadians to raise awareness of the barriers facing people with disabilities and to create and support equal access which will ensure the full participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of life in Canada.

Many have been telling us they suffer substantial disadvantages and exclusion from the mainstream of Ontario society. They face numerous barriers in fully participating in important activities such as jobs, education at all levels, public transit and the use of goods, services and facilities. Physical, systemic, communication and attitudinal barriers impact us all, and we must all commit ourselves to removing them.

I want to take this opportunity to recognize Esther Ignagni of Toronto and Andrew Evans of Unionville, both recipients of a $3,500 National Access Awareness Week student award bursary for their outstanding academic and community achievements.


Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): I rise today to announce that the Stratford Festival is once again under way in the riding of Perth. Last night marked the grand opening of the festival's 44th season, and I appreciate that the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and the Minister of Community and Social Services were able to join me and a number of other dignitaries in attendance at this gala event.

As many of you know, the Stratford Festival is world- renowned for its performances of Shakespearean plays, and this year is no exception. Performances of King Lear, The Merchant of Venice and As You Like It will be thrilling thousands of people this summer. Although the festival is best known for its Shakespearean productions, performances this year will also include The Music Man, Amadeus, The Little Foxes, A Fitting Confusion, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Barrymore, Sweet Bird of Youth and Waiting for Godot.

In addition to the grand opening of the festival, last evening also marked the official launch of the Festival Theatre Renewal Campaign. The goal of this campaign is to raise $13 million, which will be used to revitalize the Festival Theatre's auditorium and its front-of-house facilities, originally built in 1957.

Once again I would like to take this opportunity to invite all members of the House to come to the riding of Perth and share in the excitement of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival.



Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): June is Foot Health Month in Ontario. Almost 80% of Canadians will suffer from some form of foot discomfort in their lifetime. Foot problems are not confined to any age, gender or ethnic group. Children, adolescents, the elderly, diabetics, men and women all suffer from some type of foot ailment.

According to the Ontario Podiatry Association, feet average 100,000 miles in a lifetime, and that's a lot of walking. Foot Health Month is designed to bring awareness to a variety of foot problems. A painful ailment in the foot might cause discomfort in other parts of the body.

Through information campaigns, Ontario's chiropodists and podiatrists and their associations want people to know that solutions are available. Podiatrists, for example, have been very helpful to Ontarians, diagnosing and treating foot ailments through palliative, biochemical and surgical means. Chiropodists offer foot care in hospitals and in clinics. However, we are concerned that many people are unable to access needed foot health care due to recent government cuts in service.

During Foot Health Month this June, I'd like to remind all members of this House as well as the people across the province of the value of proper foot health care. We salute Ontario's podiatrists and chiropodists for their contribution to the comfort and the health of the people of this province.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I would like to offer congratulations to the people of Chapleau and Foleyet for the way they have dealt with the flooding emergency in the past 10 days. I am pleased to tell this House that the latest reports indicate that water levels are slowly dropping and the worst is probably behind them.

I had the opportunity to visit Chapleau late last week and I was impressed with the solidarity with which the local people tackled this emergency. Municipal leaders, business people and individuals all volunteered selflessly to do what had to be done. In particular, I think the employees of CP and CN Rail should be recognized for their help in maintaining connections to Chapleau and Foleyet when highways became impassable.

While the local people deserve congratulations, the same cannot be said of provincial agencies. This flooding has pointed out a distinct lack of coordination of provincial agencies in unorganized areas. During the emergency, the township of Chapleau had to take the lead in dealing with highway flooding outside its municipal boundaries because of a lack of action from the Ministry of Transportation. The people of Foleyet had to rely on the generosity of Wal-Mart for clean drinking water because the Ministry of Environment and Energy was nowhere to be found.

There is still much work to be done and many bills to be paid. Perhaps in the flood cleanup the province will demonstrate the same leadership and spirit that have only been shown by the local communities up to now.


Mr Trevor Pettit (Hamilton Mountain): I'd like to take the opportunity in the House today to salute Barton Secondary School, one of the great high schools in my riding high atop Hamilton Mountain. This year marks the 35th anniversary of this terrific school, which has had many great achievements over the years. On May 11, the parents' council hosted some 200 visitors to a dance and a trip down memory lane.

The Barton Barons have had tremendous success over the years on the Hamilton high school sports scene, most recently winning both the boys' and girls' 1996 public high school hockey championships. Some notable graduates include Wayne Cuncic and Doug Strong, who both starred in the CFL, with the Toronto Argonauts and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers respectively, and Kevin Pettit, who was named to the first team all-America hockey team while at Cornell University.

Then there are local business people like Grant MacLean of Safety Seal Plastics and Ralph Schmidt of ReMax Escarpment Realty, two thriving east mountain businesses. These individuals continue to devote themselves to their community.

Barton has also been blessed with some outstanding educators such as Alan Meiklejohn, Jim Russell, Jim Ruddle and current principal Paul Murphy.

Already there is excitement over the plans for Barton's 40th anniversary at the turn of this century. I encourage all former students and teachers at Barton, wherever they may be, to contact the school and be put on a mailing list to ensure they will not miss out on what promises to be an outstanding event, an event for which I will be exceedingly proud to serve as honorary chairman.


Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I'm most pleased to be able to bring to the attention of this House a very significant event which took place recently in Thunder Bay. Survivors: In Search of a Voice is a collection of art intended to give a voice to the thousands of women struggling with the pain, fear, challenge and triumphs of breast cancer.

Commissioned and funded by the Toronto-based Woodlawn Arts Foundation, the exhibit features works of art by 24 prominent female Canadian artists, in partnership with and inspired by 100 breast cancer survivors, and is a monument to the courage of women stricken with this devastating disease.

As so many of us are aware, breast cancer is a killer and a thief. Annually, 6,500 women in this province are diagnosed with breast cancer, and for over 2,300 this disease will prove fatal. Families are robbed of mothers, wives, grandmothers, daughters and sisters.

Currently, women in many northern areas face waiting periods of four to eight weeks from the discovery of a lump to diagnosis. This terror-filled waiting period can be dramatically reduced with early detection programs and assessment centres. Access to advanced, less invasive diagnostic technology is an essential need, and in fact I would argue a right, for women in northwestern Ontario.

Thunder Bay has had a wonderful organizing committee which brought Survivors: In Search of a Voice to our community, and I applaud their hard work and the generosity of the project partners and countless volunteers. The committee's goal in bringing the exhibit was to increase awareness and funds for breast cancer treatment in northwestern Ontario, and I believe they did just that.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Today I placed in each member's legislative mailbox this year's Beaches International Jazz Festival calendar. I hope you will all enjoy this colourful reminder of some important events coming up in my home community. I'd like to extend an invitation to all members to attend the jazz festival, which runs from July 24-28.

Many well-known jazz stars have appeared at the festival. Saxophonist Tom Scott, the Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra, the Johnny Pacheco Latin Orchestra, Warren Hill and Brian Hughes are just a few of the featured performers in recent years, and 1995's festival included Ernie Andrews, Phil Dwyer, Doug Riley and exciting newcomer Lee Ping Ming.

This jazz festival began in 1989 and began over a two-day period. Since then it's grown phenomenally. Over that time it's also provided over $100,000 for Senior Link, a local seniors' organization in the Beaches, through sales of T-shirts and other memorabilia. In 1995 alone it was estimated that half a million people attended the five-day event and provided a tremendous boost to the local Beach economy and the economy of Metro Toronto.

Lido Chilelli, the president of the jazz festival, also donated a number of promotional items to the 1995 press gallery auction. The proceeds, as you all know, went to the United Way, and it raised over $300. I would like to thank him personally and of course Pauline Johnson, who organized it.

Please don't miss this event. It's a wonderful time in our community. It isn't just a jazz event; it's a family celebration. The jazz festival hotline is 416-698-2152.


Mr Dave Boushy (Sarnia): I rise today to bring to the attention of all members that Saturday, May 25, was Jordanian National Day and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

At this time, Canadians of Jordanian background, as well as all Canadians, may reflect on the great contributions to the development of that country and to the Middle East process King Hussein of Jordan continues to make. King Hussein travels the difficult road to peace in the Middle East with courage and determination. He is a leader who inspires peaceful cooperation and international understanding. He is most deserving of all our support and encouragement.

Ontario is a province that may gratefully boast a thriving Jordanian Canadian community whose hardworking members have enriched our society in so many ways. As a Canadian of Lebanese background myself, and on behalf of the government of Premier Mike Harris, I take this opportunity to wish all Jordanian Canadians our congratulations on Jordanian National Day, and much continued great success in the future. As-Salaam Alekum.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today a delegation from the Jordanian Canadian Club. Please join me in welcoming our guests.




Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): Today, as I promised in my April 11 statement to the House, the government is making public its business plans for all government ministries, and they show that we can do better for less.

By publishing these business plans, by making ministries publicly accountable for performance and by seeking the advice and involvement of our clients and the public, we are continuing to enhance the openness and accountability of the government of Ontario.

The business planning process will help ministries concentrate on core businesses and identify functions and services better left to the private sector. This will help ensure that scarce public resources are used more productively.

This is the first time ever that all Ontario ministries are publishing business plans and establishing benchmarks for performance. These business plans define the core services that ministries will deliver over the next two years. They set proposed performance standards so the public will be able to judge how effectively ministries are doing their jobs.

The tabling of the business plans is part of an ongoing effort by all ministries to refine their core businesses and develop more cost-effective ways of running their operations.

During the next few months, ministries will consult their clients on their business plans and proposed performance measures. Their advice will help us build on the measures we have and show us where we need refinements to make them more meaningful for the future.

In addition, the general public is invited to participate in the business planning process. They can provide comments by calling a toll-free telephone line already set up for this purpose, by using a tear-off response form included in the business plan document or by writing to me personally.

This process is another step in the government's commitment to do better for less and to provide the people of Ontario with the quality services they need at a price they can afford.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I truly don't know how any member of the public can respond to the gobbledegook which is all the government has offered it in this document today. These are not business plans; these are pages and pages of platitudes and empty wish lists. If any corporation on Bay Street put out this kind of a document and tried to call it a business plan, their stock value would drop by $2 by the next morning.

There is absolutely nothing here. It's pure propaganda. It's a spin document. There are all kinds of words, and the words signify nothing. There is absolutely nothing that relates to the reality of what this government is actually doing. There are fine words about what the government might like to do -- that's where the wish list comes in -- but there's nothing that says how they're going to do it, nothing that says what more they're going to cut, nothing that says where they're going to privatize.

There are no specific measures of what they actually want to achieve and, as a result, there are very few specific targets or ways of measuring what they might consider to be success, and there is certainly absolutely nothing this document offers that is going to let the government prove that anything -- anything -- that they have done or are about to do is going to provide a more effective government service.

The reality is that all we have had from this government is a full year now of slashing and burning and devastating cuts to the services that government provides and that people need.

In five minutes I can't begin to go through the whole document, even though there is nothing there, so I want to just take one of the 21 ministries and give you the example of why we say there is less than nothing here. The Ministry of Health statement says, "By integrating assessment, diagnosis, treatment, care, prevention of illness and promotion of healthy lifestyles, the ministry will ensure that health care services are focused on the patient."

That's the vision statement. What does that mean? What does that mean to people who are facing longer waiting lists for emergency care? What does it mean to the people who are phoning our offices and saying they can't get in for the surgery that they need? What does it say about the $1.3 billion that has been taken off hospitals? There's no mention of a $1.3-billion cut to front-line hospitals here. There's no place in the Ministry of Health statement that talks about the $2 prescription fee that seniors and the disabled are going to have to pay for their drugs in the future.

There is a statement here that the Ministry of Health is going to move from government operations to something called "public-private partnerships." We've seen the Minister of Health's first foray into public-private partnerships when he invited into Ontario an American for-profit dialysis company that was already under investigation for fraud and jeopardizing the health of patients with inadequate care. That's their first foray in moving from government operations to public-private partnerships.

What this really means, as the government moves out of operations, is that they are prepared to abandon all responsibility for adequate funding, that they will take no responsibility for setting standards of health care and enforcing them. They say they're no longer going to be a service provider; they're going to be a system manager. In health, surely of all areas, the government has a responsibility to provide health care services to the patients and the people of this province, and no amount of use of buzzwords from system management jargon is going to allow them to abandon that kind of responsibility.

I go on on the health care vision statement. They talk about "psychiatric hospitals that might be better managed as part of the health care system in communities." What does that mean? Does it mean we're going to have fewer psychiatric beds? Does it mean we're going to have more psychiatric patients unceremoniously dumped into our communities without adequate community support? It goes on to say, "some public health laboratory work and administrative functions might be provided more efficiently and effectively by the private sector." We've already had the Minister of Health saying, "I am going to close down, to privatize a whole slew of government-run public health laboratories." What does that mean? Who's going to provide that service? Who's going to pay the cost of that service? Are we going to see new user fees for public health lab testing? This document says nothing about that at all.

There's a reference in here to underserviced areas, an ongoing concern. They're going to reduce the number of underserviced areas and in that same mission statement they say, "But we are not going to exceed the budget." So if there are too many underserviced areas for the government to meet the need within its budget, because physicians have fled this province, what's the government going to do to reduce underserviced areas? Just change the criteria, not recognize that they are underserviced.

I could go on to every single one of the ministries. I'd love to get into education where they talk about their sole measurement of excellence being how many dollars are spent in the classroom and not outside the classroom. We know what that means.

All I can say in two seconds left is that this is pure spin, pure propaganda. They are not doing better with less; they're just doing less.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): This is just another 1-800-JOKE on the people of Ontario by this government: 1-800-LAYOFF. This is not doing better for less. This is just simply doing less.

I have a copy of the government's plan and I've had a chance to go through it. The most startling revelation of this document is what's not here. This government has not given the people of Ontario any information with the release of this so-called plan. They have simply announced the death knell of good government: government that is responsible for wellbeing of its citizens through safety and environmental regulation; government that builds an infrastructure of transportation links, education technology transfer in order to foster economic development; government that looks after the taxpayers' investment in their communities and the province's prosperity.

They have not given us anything concrete on which they will base their decision to privatize, to deregulate and to cut services. They have simply stated their beliefs, their rhetoric and their ideology once again. The government has announced its intention to go ahead with privatization, to go ahead with deregulation.

They have stated their objectives and their performance-measurement techniques, but they have not told us what they are going to do. They have not told us just exactly how they will meet their objectives. Most importantly, they have forgotten about the people of this province. It is very revealing and startling in that sense.

This document forgets about people. How will each and every one of the citizens of this province be affected by this business approach? This document is simply full of platitudes and rhetoric. It does not consider the fact that because of this business approach, sick people will be taxed with new drug user fees. Homeowners will pay higher and higher property taxes. School children will have to pay for their books, their music and their recreation.

It leaves out the job loss. There is no more information in this announcement than there was in the last, and this is supposed to be the detailed follow-up. In fact, the last release of the business plan had more information. At least that release included a measure of the job loss this government is responsible for in its own operations.


In skating over these crucial issues, the issues the government has real responsibility for, this government simply substitutes rhetoric for substance, the rhetoric that conveniently substitutes the concept of people for the concept of shareholder. Well, I have news for this government. The shareholders you talk about are people and these people have concerns. You're supposed to provide government for them, not for business.

Where the people of this province are in fact shareholders, you have not told them how you will protect their interests. For example, the people of Ontario -- shareholders, to use your newspeak -- have close to a century of equity in Ontario Hydro, equity that belongs to the people of Ontario. Will you protect their interests? I ask the minister, just who did you talk to? Do you think the people of Ontario want to lose that investment? Do they want to lose their guarantee of safety? Do they want their province to languish in a sea of unemployment and get left behind as our competitors invest in technology and economic development? Do they want to lose their services? How are they to analyse this plan and put forward their concerns?

You have put your plan forward in terms of a cost-benefit equation but you have left out the largest part of that equation: Who really benefits and who pays?

What do I tell the people of Sault Ste Marie when I go back this weekend, as we head down the road to losing almost 1,700 jobs in our community? What do I tell the people who have lost almost a quarter of their take-home pay as they try to feed their children on the mere pittance that this government tosses to them? What do I tell the leaders of my community as they grapple with the loss of that many jobs, which equals almost three medium-sized businesses just picking up and leaving town? Where are the jobs? Where are the 725,000 jobs that you promised in your campaign? Where are the jobs? Where are the people who will lose their jobs going to go, never mind the people who are already unemployed?

Three weeks ago they told me to send the people from the Sault down to St Thomas; there are 1,000 jobs down there. Last week in my community they were trying to peddle workfare. Jobs someplace else, workfare; what's next? 1-800-LAYOFF. That's exactly what this government is giving to the people of Ontario. That's all they have to offer. You're bankrupt of ideas. Give it up.



Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My first question is for the Minister of Health. Minister, I suggest to you that yet another glaring omission in this so-called business plan that your government has presented today is that there is absolutely no reference of any kind to setting standards of care in residential facilities for our seniors. It's a glaring omission, Minister, but I suspect that it is a very deliberate one when we see what you have actually done in recent months.

Minister, effective June 1, you have eliminated regulations that would have required a certain level of nursing care in nursing homes and homes for the aged. I ask you if you can explain to us today how abandoning the standard of nursing care in homes for the aged and nursing homes is going to benefit elderly residents in Ontario.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): The interim provision that was put in by the previous government the honourable member is asking about was the 2.5 hours of care, which was a labour adjustment measure that was meant to be temporary. It was a concession to the unions while the homes underwent the transitions required and the funding transitions required under the previous government's Bill 101. We have ended that transition measure with the agreement of the Ontario Nursing Home Association -- in fact, urged by them. In fact, we have agreement from all sectors in the long-term care facilities sector, and I don't think there's any particularly valid basis for the honourable member's question today.

Mrs McLeod: The minister has not only set aside that former guideline, but he has put nothing in its place at all. He has abandoned any responsibility for setting a standard for nursing care in residential care facilities for our seniors. He's done that because he wants to work within a fixed budget and manage his funding, and the fact is that he is about to shift $144 million away from homes for the aged and into nursing homes. In other words, he is going to rob Peter in order to pay Paul. You have a given budget, so you're shifting dollars around, and, Minister, I suggest that what you are left with is inadequate funding to provide a reasonable level of care for seniors in either homes for the aged or in nursing homes.

Will you acknowledge the reality, because the bottom line here is that inadequate funding means that seniors are at risk in nursing homes and homes for the aged? Will you acknowledge the reality of what's happening, that you are not adequately funding residential care for seniors, that there's not enough money to provide a reasonable standard of care, and that you are therefore abandoning any responsibility for setting and enforcing standards?

Hon Mr Wilson: A copy of a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star recently from the Ontario Nursing Home Association reads as follows:

"The Ontario Nursing Home Association applauds the Honourable Jim Wilson's announcement as a positive first step in the long-awaited implementation of a long-term care process.... Mr Wilson deserves credit for acting to implement the equitable funding scheme according to the law. His predecessors were well aware of the inequity in funding different care institutions, but it was the current minister who had the courage to redistribute the pot of money. Moreover, it is evident that the Minister of Health has succeeded in protecting the budget allocation for long-term care despite tremendous pressure on all provincial ministries to cut spending."

Mrs McLeod: The fact is that the nursing home association has also said they never in their wildest dreams thought the minister would try and respond to the needs of nursing home residents by simply shifting the dollars around and leaving no one with adequate levels of care. What this minister has done is set rates of funding; he has not set standards of care and he is not enforcing them. As a result of that, we are already beginning to see the cutbacks in service that will put seniors at risk.

Minister, I want to bring your attention to just one of those cutbacks: Extendicare, which operates, as I'm sure you know, about 30 nursing homes in Ontario, told the news media last month that it's planning to eliminate some 60 full-time positions in its nursing homes. Again, as I think you're aware, because many of those positions are part-time, the actual number of staff who will lose their jobs is much higher. So we have a situation here, Minister, where private and profit-making companies like Extendicare are going to receive more money because of your shift, but they're also going to lay off staff because you are not setting any standard of care.

Can you explain to us why a profitable company like Extendicare is going to receive more dollars because of your shift, but it's going to lay off employees and therefore provide a lower level of service?

Hon Mr Wilson: The previous government, the NDP government, passed Bill 101, which introduced levels-of-care funding, but they didn't actually implement levels-of-care funding; and all three parties have argued in committee over the years that we have to implement levels-of-care funding. That's what will be done.

With the announcement that I made in this House on behalf of all the members here, some 360 long-term-care facilities -- some of them homes for the aged, some of them charitable homes, and many of them, yes, nursing homes owned by the private sector in the province -- will receive enhanced funding based on the actual care needs of the patients or residents of those homes, and about 150 homes will see the end of red-circling, which was another transitional measure put in by the previous NDP government, and money distributed to those homes that were traditionally underfunded.

I could not understand in my years in opposition, and no member of this House could support a system, where a particular level of care in Toronto or in part of Simcoe county was worth X number of dollars, and yet another human being needing that same level of care was somehow worth less money in another part of the province. That was unfair. It depended on whether they were lucky enough sometimes to get into a home for the aged versus a nursing home; and what we've said is, we've introduced equity across the system based on the actual care needs of the residents. I want to tell you, it's long overdue, and we've had great applause from the people who operate long-term care facilities, including many municipalities on behalf of their homes for the aged.

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

Mrs McLeod: My question is also the Minister of Health, and I preface it by saying to this minister --

The Speaker: Who's it to?

Mrs McLeod: -- to the Minister of Health, Mr Speaker -- the idea of levels-of-care funding was that you would set a reasonable standard of care that met the needs of residents in homes for the aged and nursing homes, and then you would provide adequate funding to deliver that standard of care, Minister. That is not what you've done. You've simply set a rate of funding that has nothing to do with the level of care that residents in our seniors' homes need.


I want to pursue the issue of what I think people in Sudbury would consider an inappropriate situation, in fact what I think people across this province would consider an inappropriate situation, and it relates to an Extendicare nursing home in Sudbury.

A couple of citations I want to read into the record, and I'm quoting from the ministry's own inspection records from 1994 when the following situation was reported in this particular home in Sudbury: that a number of patients were observed to have dry exudate around eyes, long dirty nails, female residents with long facial hair, dried food on residents' faces hours after meals; also in 1994 that soiled and clean linen are stored together in a shower room. In 1995, and again I'm quoting from ministry inspection records, "Many gerry chairs and wheelchairs are soiled." Minister, there are many other quotes and I know you can obtain a record of that for yourself. In a 1996 report, I quote, "Physicians don't always document on the residents' health records each visit."

It's quite possible that the specific problems from 1994 and 1995 have been addressed, but it is clear that year after year your inspectors have found problems with this particular nursing home. You, Minister, have the power, if you are in any way concerned about standards and enforcing standards, to protect the residents of this home. You have the power to call in your enforcement unit and order immediate action to protect the health of the seniors there. I ask you why this isn't happening, why you have failed to issue an enforcement order against this facility.

Hon Mr Wilson: Perhaps if I knew the name of the facility, I would be a little wiser and be able to act on the concerns being expressed. As you know, compliance advisers, registered nurses are available to go into homes and make sure they're living up to their service agreements that they signed with residents and with the Ministry of Health. There are no exceptions to the rules.

The highest-quality service must be delivered within the guidelines provided by the government, and when there is a potential breach or an alleged breach, we want to know about it and we have inspectors and compliance advisers that will go in. They're also available during this transition period as levels-of-care funding is implemented, and I remind members that 74% of the long-term-care facilities in this province will see enhanced funding as a result of the government's action.

Mrs McLeod: I'm talking about the Extendicare home in Sudbury. I'm surprised the minister is not aware of it since he has, year after year, reports from his inspectors, including the current year, which indicate concerns with this particular home, about which he might have been looking at taking action through an enforcement order.

If the minister's prepared to look into it, I'll ask him to consider something else directly related to this situation, because I say to you that as a result of abandoning any standards for the level of care that our seniors are going to receive, Extendicare is free to reduce its staffing. They are going to lay off some 13 full-time equivalent employees in this very Sudbury home where the problems have been recurring for several years.

Minister, I suggest that thanks to your decision to abandon nursing home standards, we now have a situation where a nursing home operator is laying off employees at a home where there a recurring and significant problems with the care the residents are receiving, and I ask how you can justify that situation.

Hon Mr Wilson: I made it very clear when we made the announcement to move to levels-of-care funding that some 2,000 or over 2,000 nurses and workers in our long-term-care facilities, nursing homes, homes for the aged, charitable homes for the aged, will be experiencing a shift in employment. They will be moving to homes where traditionally levels of funding have been reduced.

We anticipate, though, with the increased levels of funding that there will be a net increase of a few hundred jobs in the overall sector. This is in addition to the 4,400 jobs we announced in long-term-care, community-based services as a result of the 170 million new dollars put into that system. So there will be a net increase in jobs.

I would be happy, on behalf of the honourable member, to look at the situation with Extendicare in Sudbury. She has already pointed out that ministry officials are obviously involved there. I'll be sure to follow up on it. It's not one that's been particularly brought to my attention in the last few days, but we do have complaints from time to time. The same system and the same standards, in fact enhanced standards, are in place today that were in place at the time the honourable member was a member of the governing side of this House.

Mrs McLeod: That's just not possible. You have abandoned the setting of standards. You no longer require the 2.25 hours of nursing care per week. You haven't set new standards that have anything to do with care; you've just set a rate of funding. As a result of that, even in a nursing home which is about to get some new dollars because you've shifted the money around, they are going to lay off employees. There will be less care, and in this case less care in a home that is already delivering care that is not adequate for the people in that residence.

Minister, surely you are already aware that there is a nursing home operated by this same company in Timmins, operated by Extendicare, that is under an enforcement order from your ministry. I have inspection reports which paint a very troubling picture of that facility, and I am glad you did take action in that case. It's our information that Extendicare was also planning to lay off employees in that home in Timmins but they have rescinded those layoffs as a result of the enforcement order.

I ask you, Minister, will you issue an enforcement order for the Extendicare nursing home in Sudbury, and will you do that before the company lays off employees at that home where there is a potential to make a bad situation even worse?

Hon Mr Wilson: I think it would be prudent to take the opportunity to look at the facts. I will do that. I will contact our ministry inspectors this afternoon and be brought up to speed with respect to that particular home. We may very well find that the inspectors are doing everything possible there, and they'll take the matter very seriously. The concern is there. The standards are in place. They have not, as the honourable member alleges, in any way been lessened.

The 2.25 hours was a union transition measure; it had nothing to do with standards in homes. I'm sorry the previous government spun it that way, because it was completely false to do so. The fact of the matter is, the standards are there and the inspectors are there.

I will look into this particular situation on behalf of the honourable member.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. In your business plan, you refer to restructuring of the Ontario Housing Corp. Is the ministry intending to prepare OHC for privatization?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): As we mentioned in the Common Sense Revolution, we don't believe that government should be in the housing business, and we are looking at various options on how to approach the portfolio of OHC. We know the Liberal Party in Ottawa also feels it should get out of the housing business. We don't believe we should be in the bricks and mortar business and we're reviewing a number of options that are available to us at this time.

Mr Wildman: I have a document entitled Interim Communication Strategy, the proposed restructuring plan of OHC. It's labelled "Confidential for purposes of advice to the minister." The document proposes a special corporation, and on page 4 says: "It will be responsible for restructuring and changing public housing. This will include streamlining the system and undertaking appropriate portfolio management and privatization initiatives." Yet on the very same page, page 4, under "Communications," it tries to spin this as something else when it refers to the public environment. It says, "It needs to be made clear that this initiative is the restructuring of OHC, not privatization."

Which is it? Why does your plan say you're going ahead with privatization, and then when you talk about communications you try to spin it as the exact opposite?

Hon Mr Leach: We're always trying to ensure that we operate as efficiently as we possibly can. Certainly we're looking at the restructuring of OHC. We want to make sure the residents of OHC are given the most effective and the most efficient service they can possibly have. That's our plan. OHC is looking at how they can deliver their services more effectively, and that's what that addresses.

Mr Wildman: The business plan says "restructuring," yet in the plan you have here, which is based on a background study done by Ernst and Young, you keep saying it isn't privatization, but you also say that you're paving the way for privatization.

If this report isn't about privatization, why is privatization mentioned throughout? If it's not about privatization, why does it describe tenants' groups like Low Income Families Together, Homefront and the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations as "particularly hostile" in the report? If it's not about privatization, why does it describe the initiative as "the biggest change in public housing since its creation"? Why don't you admit what you're doing, that you're trying to hoodwink the very groups that you think are hostile because they have reason to be?

This is about privatization and unloading. It's not restructuring; it's unloading housing to the private sector. You're scaring these people. Why don't you be straight with the public and say exactly what you're going to do instead of, in this document, simply saying "restructuring"? Are you going to privatize? If so, when and how, and how is it going to affect the tenants?

Hon Mr Leach: Again I want to tell the honourable member of the third party that we're looking at all the options that are available to us. Obviously, privatization is one of the options being reviewed and looked at; so is the restructuring of OHC. We just want to make sure we provide the most efficient services we possibly can, and we intend to do that.



Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I've got a question to the Chair of the Management Board. We've had a chance to take a look at your so-called business plans. They are plans; they're plans for business. They're plans for business to get rich and for the rich to get richer at the expense of voters and taxpayers and the public here in the province of Ontario.

In this so-called business plan it becomes clear that the Ministry of Environment and Energy plans to privatize water and sewer services and Ontario Hydro. You're not redesigning government; you're selling it off to your rich friends. When you're finished with the great Ontario selloff, how can you guarantee that public safety will be enhanced, that Ontarians will have and continue to have a safe, secure supply of drinking water and a reliable energy supply? Just how can you guarantee that when your private friends are taking over the operation?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): This is the first time in the history of the province of Ontario that we have developed business plans that the people can see, can judge the performance of this government. Are you asking me, are the business plans perfect? Are you asking me, will the business plans improve as the years go by? Are you asking me, will we have input from the people of the province, from the stakeholders, from those in the environmental community? Yes, we will. Yes, they will improve.

But we have a document, the first of its kind in the province, which sets out standards, which sets out core businesses, which sets out performance standards. We will work with the people of the province and the people of the province will hold us accountable with regard to these standards, as they should. That's good government, that's open government, that's visible government and that's the kind of government the people of Ontario want to see.

Mr Kormos: The problem is that's just not the case. This government said it was going to set up a privatization committee to examine parts of the government to be sold off and to receive input, but in the meantime the government has in fact been selling off public assets, government services. A few weeks ago was announced the privatization of the central collection agency of the government. The government says there are going to be some $2 million saved. What they don't say is that more than that is inevitably going to be spent on the commissions to the private sector doing this same work.

On page 57 of these so-called plans, for the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations section, it states, "Civil servants do not need to deliver public safety programs and services for the government to be satisfied that public safety standards are met." That's balderdash.

I ask the minister, why is he privatizing services before there's been any examination by the privatization committee, before there's been any input, and indeed before there's been any determination of efficiencies as compared to the chaos and disaster that's going to be generated?

Hon David Johnson: There have been some initiatives in terms of what I would call contracting out, out-sourcing. There was a report in the daily news last week with regard to bill collection services. That's one activity that's being discussed. But I can tell you, as the Minister of Finance has indicated in the budget process, a framework structure is being developed for privatization which will guide the key issues. If Ontario Hydro, for example, and TVOntario and the LCBO and those sorts of agencies are to be considered for privatization, then the framework developed by the Minister of Finance, which I understand will be available within the next few weeks, months or thereabouts --

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): What about water and sewer safety?

Hon David Johnson: I would suggest to the member opposite, with regard to water and sewer provisions, that framework will be before us. You'll be able to see that framework and there will be accountability within that framework, and I think that will be important.

What we're seeing here today are business plans governing the activities of the provincial government, putting forward performance measures to which the people of Ontario can hold this government and future governments accountable.

Mr Kormos: Look, it's clear that Ontario's being sold off, that the assets of the people of Ontario are being sold off to the rich friends of this Tory government. Foreign investors, I tell you, are drooling at the prospect of buying institutions and services that have taken years for our parents and those before them to build and pay for.

Brokerage houses like Morgan Stanley are ecstatic at the money they're going to make from the great Ontario selloff. The French government -- listen -- has already expressed great interest about purchasing parts of Ontario Hydro and taking over bill collecting and the delivery of local water services. Lyonnaise des Eaux, a French water firm, has already opened a Toronto office in an attempt to pounce on this great Ontario selloff. Other foreign investors are lining up for their share of the windfall.

Minister, how can you guarantee that the interests and the public safety of Ontario are going to come first, and not the interests of foreign investors?

Hon David Johnson: First, I would like to say that if foreign lenders are drooling, foreign investors have been drooling for past five years with regard to the debt and the deficits run up by the government represented by the third party. It was common during that period of time that about 60% of the deficit was funded through foreign lenders, lenders from the United States, from Europe, from Japan. That's when foreign lenders were drooling.


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

Hon David Johnson: With regard to privatization --


The Speaker: Order. I can't hear, Minister.

Hon David Johnson: With regard to privatization, this government has said over and over again that we will not privatize for the sake of privatization. That part of the framework which will be coming forward will involve conflict of interest, will involve benefit to the taxpayers of the province. Before any service, whether it be Ontario Hydro, whether it be the water services, whether it be the LCBO, before anything would be considered for privatization, there must be a benefit to the people of the province of Ontario. I would assure not only the member opposite but the people of Ontario that that will be the approach taken by this government.


Mr Robert Chiarelli (Ottawa West): My question is to the Attorney General. For the record, earlier today I gave the Attorney General notice that I would be asking a question on the Guy Paul Morin case.

The Guy Paul Morin case is Ontario's version of a gross miscarriage of justice on the scale of a David Milgaard or a Donald Marshall. In February 1995, then- Attorney General Marion Boyd, on behalf of the government of Ontario, announced a public inquiry into the case. At that time, she specified that the names of the judges and the inquiry's terms of reference would be announced within two weeks. That was some 15 months ago.

In May of last year, during the 1995 election campaign, Premier Harris promised the inquiry would be a priority if elected. In July 1995 you yourself immediately confirmed this promise upon your appointment as Attorney General. That was some 11 months ago. In January 1996 you said the inquiry would be up and running early in the new year. That was five months ago.


Minister, the opposition has been patient, the public has been patient and the Morin family has been patient. If I might add, given the circumstances, they've been very non-political on this matter. I ask you: Your ministry has had 15 months to set up an inquiry. It is either incompetent or it has ulterior and strategic motives for not proceeding with this inquiry. Which is it?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): We are still committed to providing the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mr Morin's involvement in this matter. We as well, as my friend from Ottawa West knows, have appointed Justice Alan Gold, a former justice of the Quebec superior court, who is dealing with some of these outstanding matters. We're taking direction and advice from Justice Gold and I hope we will be in a position to make announcements pertaining to the many outstanding issues very shortly.

Mr Chiarelli: Attorney General, you'll be aware of the fact that Justice Gold indicated that neither the issue of compensation nor additional police investigation should interfere with the public inquiry, that the public inquiry should be of predominant concern to the ministry and the public.

My supplementary basically has to do with a letter which you no doubt have seen. It's dated May 10, 1996, sent to your Deputy Attorney General by Ian Binnie of McCarthy Tétrault, the Morin family lawyer. The letter states: "I regretfully draw the conclusion from the continued inaction of the Ontario government on the compensation issue, after almost a year and four months after the conclusion of Mr Morin's appeal, that the Ontario government has no serious interest in making a settlement of the Morin family lawsuit. Accordingly, may we please have your statement of defense within 30 days of today's date."

My question is this, Minister: Is the Ministry of the Attorney General, by delaying this inquiry, frustrating the administration of justice in order to leverage a lower financial settlement?

Hon Mr Harnick: In response to that question, I can tell the member that we have responded to Mr Binnie's letter. One of the issues in terms of the issue of compensation as we work with Justice Gold, whose advice we are taking on this, is quite simply the fact that although a great deal of time has passed, a number of the issues that pertain to the issue of compensation were not provided to the ministry from Mr Binnie until early in the 1996 calendar year. As a result of that, there has been some delay in our ability to deal with the various items that will make up a compensation package. We have certainly conveyed that to Mr Binnie and, as I've indicated, hope to be in a position very shortly to resolve these long outstanding matters.


Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I have a question to the government House leader. The Minister of Labour has said the intention of Bill 49 was to deal only with minor housekeeping matters under the Employment Standards Act. Our caucus was quite pleased to hear from you at the House leaders' meeting the other day that you were prepared to take a look at sections of this legislation that were contentious to be removed so that the housekeeping matters under this legislation could move ahead.

We've identified some of the sections of the bill that other stakeholders as well consider to be contentious. Examples are flexible standards allowing employers to table terms in collective bargaining that fall below the employment standards minimum, a forced choice between a court's and employment standards' enforcement, setting a $10,000 maximum and an unspecified minimum that would prevent some workers from getting the money they are owed, cutting back the time limit to an unreasonable six months, which means many workers would be blocked from the Ministry of Labour enforcement of their rights, and there are other sections.

I ask the minister, are you prepared to agree with a number of groups which have identified these issues as contentious, pull them out of the act and put them in with the major review of the Employment Standards Act so we can get on with business in the Legislature?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): That decision will have to be made by the Minister of Labour. I refer the question to the Minister of Labour.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I think it's very important to recognize the fact that the changes we're making to the Employment Standards Act are preliminary changes. Many of these are very consistent with the changes that have been made to employment standards in other provinces throughout Canada; they are no different whatsoever.

There is also a tremendous amount of misleading information that has been distributed. For example, there is a cap as far as $10,000 that can be obtained by an employee if you use the Ministry of Labour. However, if you wish to obtain more money you can go through the courts. I would indicate to you that the majority of cases that are above $10,000 are usually people in middle-management positions who usually are using the courts as well as employment standards.

I would indicate to you that we are quite prepared to have hearings here in Toronto; we've indicated we would do that. We're quite happy to receive the input and the suggestions you might have for changes to the legislation at that time.

Mr Cooke: That wasn't the question, and that's why I asked the government House leader, since he is the one who negotiates the schedule in this place and made a commitment at a House leaders' meeting that he would take a look at items that were contentious and whether they should be pulled out of this piece of legislation.

I'd like to ask the Minister of Labour, since it's been referred to her, does she not understand that she can stand up and give whatever defence she wants of her legislation, but when she introduced the legislation she said it was housekeeping? Many people in organized labour, many at legal clinics across the province and other advocates do not believe that this legislation is non-contentious; that there are in fact very substantial items. Why don't you live up to your word and make the substantial changes part of the major review and put through your housekeeping legislation alone this spring? Why are you trying to make major changes and mislead people by saying that they're minor changes? That's what it's all about.

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would just like to remind the members opposite that I recognize there is an NDP leadership convention; I recognize that you are looking for union support. However, I would also like to indicate to you that the changes we are contemplating are no different from any changes that have been introduced in the other nine provinces in Canada. They are not major changes.

Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think the member for Windsor-Riverside used unparliamentary language. I ask you to ask him to withdraw his unparliamentary statement.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I heard the word, but in the phrase it was used I thought it may have been all right in the way it was used. But I don't condone the use of that language.



Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): My question is to the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations. As members in this Legislature, we have all been contacted at one time or another by condominium unit owners, developers, property managers or lawyers who have told us that the current Condominium Act needs to be updated to deal with the issues and practices of today's condominium marketplace.

In response to these requests, Minister, you announced on April 4 in the Legislature the release of a working draft on reform to the Condominium Act. You also indicated that the deadline for submissions on the working draft was May 15, 1996. Could the minister provide an update on this initiative to the House and to our constituents?

Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations): I am indeed encouraged by the response I am getting back from members of the Legislature with regard to the process we're going through to amend the Condominium Act.

As you know, in April I introduced this working draft paper and it has attracted much attention from all of the stakeholders involved with condominiums. My parliamentary assistant, Jim Flaherty, has been meeting constantly with these people over the past while. It became apparent to Mr Flaherty and myself that the May 15 deadline was unrealistic, so on May 17 we announced that we would extend the deadline to June 28 of this year in order for all the groups to have an opportunity to examine this very complex bill and to put forward their constructive suggestions so we can have a very, very good piece of legislation to put forward to the House.

Mr Stewart: Minister, you indicated in your original announcement on April 4 that you intended to introduce legislation to reform the act this spring. With an extended deadline, as you have mentioned, to June 28, this will no longer be possible. Can the minister tell me what process he now intends to follow and when he will introduce legislation in this House?

Hon Mr Sterling: I'm indeed a little disappointed that I wasn't able to carry through the consultation process on the original time frame, as I would like to get this piece of legislation introduced into the Legislature and get on with the legislative process as soon as possible. However, I do believe the more prudent action is to have further consultations this summer, and we will plan to introduce the legislation this coming September or October. It's interesting that the people who are participating in this process would much rather meet together as stakeholders, talk with each other and try to make compromises within a more or less formal atmosphere than is presently available in the legislative process.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this piece of legislation works out, and with regard to the possibility of following this new avenue with other pieces of legislation so that we can have the best possible legislation in this province, and with a lot of consultation, I hope not only from members of the public but from members of this Legislature as well, not only on the back bench of the government but also from the opposition.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is for the Minister of Finance. I know you're having trouble making up for the revenue you've lost through the tax cut for the rich and I know these budget constraints you've had to go through. It has been decided that you're going to cancel all the subscriptions to weekly newspapers for the legislative library. In cancelling these, you're asking for the balance to be paid back to the government. Something was mentioned about privatization by the Chair of Management Board and he said that perhaps, if the US is drooling about the chance to invest in our private businesses, those in Ontario are frothing at the mouth.

Minister, I have in my hand a cancellation refund request to a small weekly newspaper in my riding. But could you explain to us, if you want to help business in Ontario, why the company is EBSCO publishers' services department in Birmingham, Alabama?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I believe this is something that falls under the auspices of Management Board or the Board of Internal Economy.


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

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): In all the hubbub from the other side, it was very hard to hear the question, but I do know that advertising costs for the province generally come from two sources: One is Management Board, which would deal with government advertising, and another is for the main Legislative Building, which deals with the Board of Internal Economy. As with all other costs, there has been a containment put on advertising costs both from the province of Ontario and from the Board of Internal Economy.

I'd be happy, if the member would give me the details again -- I'm sure he will in his supplementary -- to look into this particular case and get him a more precise answer.

Mr Crozier: Speaker, I'd like you to know and the members of this place and the people watching that this minister does not know what he's talking about. This isn't a question of advertising, Minister, it's a question of cancelling subscriptions to weekly newspapers. I'd like to know what you think of the fact that the company requesting the return of funds -- and you're going to have to pay them -- is located in Birmingham, Alabama. What do you think of that?

Hon David Johnson: Again, there is a containment of costs that is required, and yes, certain subscriptions have had to be cancelled. I would be happy to look into the details of this particular situation and report back directly to the member involved.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. You're embarking on a so-called disentanglement initiative with municipalities, and in discussions I've had with municipal leaders around the province, they really worry that what you mean by this disentanglement process is that you're going to dump many provincial services now delivered by your government on to municipalities. They worry that this is going to mean possible new user fees or increased user fees, and they also worry that it might mean that to offset those costs, they have to raise property taxes. I am talking to local ratepayers' associations around the province. They also have the same concern.

I say to you, Minister, there is only one taxpayer. We have heard this in the House by your government when you were the third party; we're hearing it again. There is only one taxpayer.

Will you absolutely guarantee that your disentanglement process will not result in increased property taxes or new or additional user fees to the ratepayers of this province?

Hon Al Leach (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing): The one thing I can guarantee is that our approach to disentanglement is going to work a whole lot better than your approach did.

It is a good idea that anytime you can separate the delivery of services between municipalities and the province, it should be done. Even you agreed with that. What you try to do, as much as you can, is to ensure that the separation of services is done in a method that doesn't add cost to the delivery of one side or the other. If I take X, you take Y, and it's a balancing thing. The same approach had been tried by all parties in this House, except that this party will succeed.

Mr Bisson: Minister, you sounded awful nervous in your response to my first question. That makes me worry even more. We, the third party, the New Democrats, believe with you that disentanglement is an objective that we should be working towards. The difference is that as government we said we were going to do that, but not at an additional cost to municipalities and certainly not at the cost of increased municipal taxes or user fees.

In an article that appeared on May 9 in the Globe and Mail, you're quoted as saying, "The goal of the negotiations should not be" --


Mr Bisson: Speaker, I want members of the House to listen to this. Here's what the minister had to say: "The goal of the negotiations should not be, as it was with the NDP effort, an effort to get an exact equivalent of dollars transferred between the two levels." That sounds to me like you're saying you're going to allow local municipalities to either increase property taxes, or force them to do it, or increase user fees because of the transfer of services that you're going to do from the provincial government down to the municipalities.

I ask you again, Minister: Will you guarantee in this House today that when you go through this process of disentanglement it will not result in increased property taxes to ratepayers or new or increased user fees? Come clean. Answer the question.


Hon Mr Leach: Disentanglement is a matter of negotiation between the two parties, and there's more than just municipalities; there are the other sectors involved as well. What we're going to try and do is to ensure that we establish a system that provides the most efficient delivery of services, and I think we can do that, just as you thought you could do it and so did the Liberals. I think it's a goal to try and attain.

Whether you do it by ensuring that it's right to the penny -- I don't know if that can be done. The province may have to assume slightly more expenditures or municipalities may have to, but if it's all in the process of ensuring that the public receives the most efficient delivery of services at the most economical cost, that's what should be done.


Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. International trade is very important to the province and especially to agriculture. One just has to look at the Ontario grape and wine industry, especially in Niagara region and particularly Niagara-on-the-Lake. They have become internationally known for their quality and taste and are winning gold medals all over the world.

Mr Speaker, I know that you, along with the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and certainly the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the Honourable Norm Sterling, as well as all members of this House, enjoy Ontario wine and will choose it first over all international wines. In addition, the Ontario tender fruit industry, particularly the peach sector, is exporting its products to the US.

Minister, could you tell us if there are any other international opportunities for Ontario's agrifood business?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): To my honourable friend from St Catharines-Brock, that area where most of our very good Ontario wine comes from, yes, we are exporting wine to places like Italy and France, where indeed wine originated, and we are winning awards.

On my recent trip to Asia, I can tell you that the Asian importers told us that our pork, our soybeans, our tobacco are among the best in the world, that the quality is number one. As we speak, we have Japanese and Chinese importers in Ontario making deals. Yes, we do have some of the best food products in the world and we have been just a little bit shy in telling the world.

Mr Froese: I would like to further ask the minister how this government is supporting agribusiness to ensure that it continues to grow and create jobs in Ontario.

Hon Mr Villeneuve: I'm very pleased that my colleague asked me that. We did provide $8 million to the ethanol industry very recently. We did provide, in the budget, $15 million for research, development and marketing. We will also be exempting, for farm building construction, up to $20 million -- an estimate -- and providing a rebate for the provincial sales tax. It's good news all across Ontario.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. As you well know, school boards across the province have had to terminate junior kindergarten programs due to the decrease in funding that you are providing that program, not because it's a local option. It's a financial decision, not an educational decision.

In defence of your cuts and your support to junior kindergarten, you continually make reference to the review of JK which you say is under way at the moment. I wonder if you could share with us today with whom you and your staff are consulting and when we might expect to have a report on this review.

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): As the honourable member knows, this government is proud of keeping its commitments to the people of Ontario, and particularly those commitments that were spelled out in the Common Sense Revolution. So I and my colleagues are very proud of living up to our commitments in the area of junior kindergarten and restoring it as a local option to school boards across the province, and of funding it at the same rate as other education products and services across the province.

As far as the review is concerned, we are committed to an in-depth review of early childhood services in the province of Ontario. We had an internal look at the history of junior kindergarten, how it's offered in other jurisdictions, the history of it in Ontario. We have completed that internal piece of work. Now one of my colleagues is investigating the whole area of child services in the province, because we believe these must be integrated. When that report is complete, we will look and see what process we need to develop in order to have a thorough look at not just junior kindergarten, but in fact how we offer services and support to the most at-risk young people in our province. That's what our intention is.

Mr Patten: I noted that he didn't mention one party, one group, that he's consulted with, and I also note that now, all of a sudden, there's a shift to Janet Ecker's work with child care and day care. That was never made reference to before. All of a sudden now there's a shift because nothing is happening in your ministry related to junior kindergarten review.

Minister, you said in January, and I quote, "At the end of the review, if we come to the conclusion that the system that was in place last year or this year was the right system, we will put it back in place, and this will include funding and mandatory status and all the rest of it." That's from you.

Does it make sense to destroy a program only to find out later that perhaps you should keep it? At the moment, you're destroying the option for kindergarten because it's a financial decision. Every single study that we heard in the last week across this province suggested the incredible benefits of junior kindergarten. Why do you continue to put the cart before the horse?

Will you commit yourself today to keep the funding in place for junior kindergarten until a thorough review is made and until the results of that review are known?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I can say this. I have also seen the reviews and some of the studies that have been done on different early childhood education programs around the world. Many of those programs, I'm sure the member will agree, differ considerably from the junior kindergarten program that's offered, or has been offered up till now, in the province of Ontario. We believe a thorough review is necessary. We believe it should be comprehensive. We believe we should look at the whole of child services in the province of Ontario.

Our commitment remains the same. Our commitment remains to provide services to the most at-risk kids in the province of Ontario, and we will use all of the assets of this government to do that. We will use all the people we have, all the ministries we have, to focus on that. I intend to be part of that, and a very serious part of that.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is for the Minister of Community and Social Services. I'm sure you've been made aware of a study that was released yesterday by the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, a study which began under our government but which your government refused to continue funding.

There's no wonder that you probably didn't want to hear the results, but NAN and the Grand Council Treaty 3 went ahead without your help and they found that even with the special northern allowance of $280 per family, social assistance recipients in remote communities cannot come close to adequately feeding their families.

There's no shopping around in those communities. The vast majority of them are reachable only by air. In the communities which are accessible by road, just the transportation costs to get to a grocery store range anywhere from $16 to more than $300 a month. Minister, what are you going to do in response to these findings?

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): First of all, we acknowledge that it is challenging for some people to live on restricted budgets, but I would like to reiterate, as I have been for several months, the fact that we reduced the welfare benefit, that's true, but we reduced it at 10% above the average of the other provinces.


In connection to that, we also introduced the ability of somebody to earn back the difference between the old and new rates. This is something we're trying to encourage. As the member has said, it is true that we have a special allowance that takes into account the fact that --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I can't hear the minister. It's a problem when we have interjections.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): You're not missing anything. Don't worry about it.

The Speaker: The member for Hamilton East, come to order. Minister.

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I was saying, we have a special allowance that acknowledges that there are additional costs to some remote northern communities. We did not cut this special allowance for the northern remote communities. I'd like to point out as well that there is a variance in the amount that someone can get, but that also varies with the size of the family. That is taken into account, and that program was supported by the members across.

Mrs Boyd: The minister is clearly identifying for everybody in the province that he's not aware of the real facts of the matter for the nations that we're talking about.

There's no denying that the cost of living has always been higher in the northern communities, but surely the minister knows that unemployment in those communities can be as high as 90%. Where does he suggest they go for a job? They can't fly in and out every day to a job. Because of your government's 21.6% cut to benefits, many families in first nations communities in Ontario's north spent this winter making the choice between fuel and food, to quote NAN Grand Chief Charles Fox. In other words, there isn't enough to go around even with the special northern allowance.

Minister, what are you saying to these families? That they just have to grin and bear it? What are you going to do about the fact that hundreds of people in these far northern nations are not able to feed their families properly? They have none of the facile alternatives that you suggest. Just exactly what are you going to do to make sure those families and those children do not get faced with this horrible choice between warmth and food?

Hon Mr Tsubouchi: What the honourable member points out is the importance of our workfare program, which we'll introduce shortly. Clearly the members opposite would like to support a program of more of the same, basically do nothing to try to resolve the problem that has ballooned over the last 10 years.

I'd like to add, in closing, that I have met recently with the Chiefs of Ontario. We have been discussing some of the issues they're aware of, including workfare. We'll continue to have discussions with them to try to find some solutions for their communities, and they're willing to sit down with us and find those solutions.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I wish to register dissatisfaction with the last answer from the Minister of Community and Social Services. I will be filing the appropriate papers.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: In answer to a question, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs had quoted that wine was invented and created in France. For the record --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Will the member take his seat, please.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my signature to the many who have signed this petition.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a petition from people in my riding who are concerned about what is happening to the poor in this province. It reads:

"We, the undersigned, believe it is wrong to put the burden of fiscal restraint on the most vulnerable and powerless people in society, in effect scapegoating welfare recipients for the financial problems we as a whole society are responsible for.

"Therefore, we call on the provincial government to re-examine its welfare cuts, and at the very least: (1) establish rates that reflect the fact that the Metro Toronto rental market is 40% more expensive than the average in major Canadian cities; and (2) exempt those from cuts who would be unable to work to make up the difference, such as single parents of pre-school-aged children."

I affix my signature to this petition.

Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): A petition from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, a message for Premier Harris of Ontario:

"By placing an undue burden for the fiscal recovery on the backs of the poor, your government is reneging on its responsibility to protect the most vulnerable of our society.

"We ask you, the government of Ontario, to first and foremost consider the common good of all the people of Ontario in your fiscal and economic decisions."

I append my name to this petition.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): I have a petition to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas the matter of selling off Ontario Hydro is likely to come before the Legislature in the near future;

"Whereas we, the undersigned retirees of Ontario Hydro, who have, through the payment of electricity rates, help pay for Ontario Hydro, are concerned about privatization of Ontario Hydro, leading to higher rates, lower reliability and compromised nuclear safety,

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

"Please preserve the public ownership of Ontario Hydro and refuse to sell off this important public asset."

I affix my signature to that.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): I have a petition which is appropriately labelled "Petition," and it reads:

"We, the residents of Ontario, demand that Thorold Magazine be allowed to sell lottery tickets in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Ontario Lottery Corp, and not to be discriminated against because of large corporations having a monopoly and control of lottery operations.

"We, the residents of Ontario, understand that this petition is to be presented to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ontario Lottery Corp and the House of Commons, Legislative Assembly of Ontario, by MPP Peter Kormos, who has been given no response to his request in the denial of lottery tickets to Thorold Magazine."



Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): I have a petition signed by approximately 198 of my constituents. It relates to the Huronia District Hospital. I'd like to file it at this time.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep getting petitions against the 10-bed open custody residence for troubled children and youth at 182 Dowling Avenue in south Parkdale. It's addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it reads:

"Whereas the residence" at 182 Dowling Avenue in south Parkdale "is an inappropriate site for the rehabilitation of troubled children because it is within walking distance to illicit drug and prostitution activities; a large number of unsupervised and supervised rooming 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 house 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-documented 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 and overcrowded with health and social services for disadvantaged, troubled or disenfranchised people;

"We, therefore, 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 which are much more appropriate."

I'm affixing my signature to this document.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I'm pleased to present a petition from the folks in my riding of Nepean, the city of Gloucester and Ottawa, which reads as follows, addressed 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 strengthen measures against impaired drivers in Ontario."

As I am in agreement with this petition, I have affixed my own signature.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): To the Honourable Solicitor General and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

I have signed my name as I believe in it.


Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the Harris government is planning to remove rent controls; and

"Whereas removal of rent control legislation breaks a campaign promise made by the Conservatives during the election; and

"Whereas a great number of tenants are seniors and people on fixed incomes who may have had their income cut by 22% due to social assistance cuts and cannot afford increases in their rent; and

"Whereas growing unemployment and the scarcity of affordable housing in Metro makes removal of rent control an even greater disaster for tenants and for people who cannot afford to buy homes;

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

"That the government of Ontario keep their pre-election promise and not remove rent controls and continue the Landlord and Tenant Act and Rental Housing Protection Act."

I affix my name to this fine petition.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have a petition signed by a number of Ontarians that reads as follows:

"Since video lottery terminals will contribute to gambling addiction 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 in various locations across the province represents an escalation of gambling opportunities; and

"Since Premier Harris and Finance Minister Eves were so critical of the 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 the province."

I affix my signature to this petition as I'm in complete

agreement with its contents.


Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario signed by 732 young men and women.

"Whereas many students feel that the government should find other solutions to cut back on government spending; and

"Whereas the government of Ontario has directed hundreds of millions of dollars to be cut from the budgets of school boards in Ontario; and

"Whereas the cuts in the budget will force the layoff of many young teachers and that it will have a deleterious impact on curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular activities;

"Therefore the undersigned call on the Ministry of Education to (1) reduce the required employment time a teacher must serve before retiring without penalty, (2) reduce the number of boards and (3) consolidate the number of school systems into one system."

I present this petition to the Legislature.


Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): I have a petition that's been presented to me by a number of Mississaugans.

"We, the undersigned, urge you, as representative in Peel, to take action to ensure that Peel region receives its fair share of funds available for social services. With the present and imminent cuts to budgets, Peel's allotment must be made in proportion to its population.

"Peel does not receive the same share of funds appropriate to its size. In 1994, the amount allocated per child for social service programs in Peel was $96.52, whereas Toronto received $338.18 per child and the average for Ontario was $261.68. An equitable distribution of the available funds is the only tolerable solution."


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas we believe that the family support plan is a viable and necessary service provided by the government of Ontario;

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

"That the proposed centralization of the family support plan will have a negative impact on the children who are supported under this plan and should be cancelled."

I have affixed my name to it as I agree with it.


Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition that reads as follows and is addressed to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

"Whereas Ontario's ex-psychiatric populace relies heavily on prescription drugs to remain stable and mental health care providers and the general public are scared of the outcome of these patients, they can't afford to buy their medication because of the $2 user fee when it is normal policy to only prescribe them a two- to three-day supply of medication to prevent potential misuse and overdosing; and

"Whereas the perceived savings to health care from the $2 user fee will not compensate for the suffering and misery caused by this user fee and will not even cover the costs of extra emergency services needed for people whose health has been jeopardized because they cannot afford to pay for their medication; and

"Whereas the current Ontario Minister of Health, Jim Wilson, promised as an opposition MPP in a July 5, 1993, letter to Ontario pharmacists that his party would not endorse legislation that will punish patients to the detriment of health care in Ontario;

"We, the undersigned Ontario residents, strongly urge the government of Ontario to repeal this user fee plan before it takes effect on June 1, 1996, because of the potential dramatic increase in emergency and police services and the suffering and misery of human lives -- especially psychiatric outpatients and those who depend on medication for their daily survival."

I'm affixing my signature to this document.




Mr Ramsay moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 56, An Act to amend the Environmental Protection Act and the Waste Management Act, 1992 with respect to the Importation of Waste from one municipality into another / Projet de loi 56, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la protection de l'environnement et la Loi de 1992 sur la gestion des déchets en ce qui a trait au transfert de déchets d'une municipalité à une autre.

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



Mrs McLeod moved opposition day motion number 1:

Whereas the Progressive Conservative campaign document promises to ensure that any actions by the Mike Harris government will not result in increases to local property taxes; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his government have repeatedly said that there is only one taxpayer; and

Whereas Mike Harris has repeatedly said that a fee hike is the same as a tax hike; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his government have either introduced new fees or hiked existing fees in the ministries of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation; Consumer and Commercial Relations; Economic Development, Trade and Tourism; Education and Training; Environment and Energy; Management Board Secretariat; Municipal Affairs and Housing; Natural Resources; and the Solicitor General; and

Whereas Bill 26 gave municipalities the power to impose new and increased user fees despite the overwhelming opposition from the electorate; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his government have reduced transfer payments to municipalities by 42%; and

Whereas this reduction has led to property tax increases in various municipalities; and

Whereas transfer payments to school boards, colleges and universities, social service agencies and other transfer partners have also been significantly reduced; and

Whereas these reductions have led to a 20% tuition fee increase; and

Whereas these reductions have forced municipalities to introduce hundreds of new user fees; and

Whereas these reductions will negatively affect the province of Ontario and its citizens; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his government's approach to deficit reduction has led to Ontario now being known as "Home of the User Fee"; and

Whereas the spending cuts leading to all these new fees and fee hikes will ultimately fund the tax cut to the wealthy in Ontario; and

Whereas for the average Ontarian any tax cut will be eaten up by new user fees;

Therefore this House calls on the Mike Harris government to stop any further actions that will lead to new or increased fees at the provincial or municipal level; do a complete inventory of new and increased user fees at the provincial and municipal level; acknowledge the impact of Bill 26 on user fees in Ontario; and present to this House a more balanced approach to deficit reduction.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): I am pleased to rise and speak to the motion, because I am concerned that the government of Ontario, which has introduced user fees or seen increases in user fees beyond anything that we have ever experienced before, is sublimely unaware and intends to remain unaware of the sheer number of user fees that are being introduced or increased in this province.

We have undertaken to keep a list of the user fees, the Mike Harris user fee watch, in order that we can be aware of how the tax cut that is forcing cuts to services and forcing cuts to agencies is leading to new and increased user fees in this province, and how indeed the government itself in every ministry is coping with cuts by new sources of revenue called user fees.

We're undertaking to keep the Mike Harris user fee watch so that we are looking at how these fees are being increased and what the total cost to people in this province is going to be, because the government itself does not want to be made aware and is certainly not keeping any list. In fact, I thought it was interesting that when we presented our first list of some 160 user fees that had not been introduced by the government -- we didn't even include those -- but that have been introduced by municipalities and communities across the province, the government phoned us and asked if they could have our list so they could at least be aware of what we were keeping track of.

What we are finding is that there are, if you speak very broadly, two kinds of user fees that are proliferating in this province. I want to refer to the first kind of user fees as being user fees of the pickpocket kind. Those are the kinds of fees where the government claims to be putting money in taxpayers' pockets on one hand with its tax cut, but in fact is taking money equally as fast out of their pockets with the other hand.

You could realize that every new user fee and every increase in a user fee actually has that effect, so that while the government puts money into the taxpayers' pockets with its tax cut on one hand, the new and increased user fees take it out with the other hand. All of the user fees have that effect of gobbling up any benefit to a taxpayer that the tax cut might have brought about.

I don't think you're going to find very many seniors in the province of Ontario who think they are going to benefit from a tax cut, not when they find that they are facing that $2 fee on prescription drugs which the government is introducing and not when they have to pay the increase in transit fares. That increase in transit fares is something that seniors are experiencing whether they live here in Toronto or whether they live in my home community of Thunder Bay in northwestern Ontario. There's not a lot of money left in the pockets of seniors after the increased user fees hit.

I don't think you're going to find that students feel as though they have a lot of money left in their pockets when they face the $400 on average more in tuition that they're going to face in colleges and universities this fall.

I don't think even middle-income people are going to feel they benefit very much when they get hit with a new fee and an increased user fee every time they turn around.

I understand why this government doesn't like to be confronted with the list we're keeping with the Mike Harris watch on user fees. They don't like to be confronted with the charge of picking people's pockets, because they really did want a lot of credit for putting money back in people's pockets. They didn't want anyone to really notice in how many ways, how many different places, that very money is being taken out again. But that is what's happening.

I think it is remarkable that the voters in York South last Thursday night understood exactly what this government was doing. They weren't fooled by this government's attempt to buy them with their own money. They realized that even as the government talked about its tax cut, boasted about its tax cut, spent thousands of dollars marketing the great benefits of the tax cut, this same government was taking that money right back out of their pockets, and they were cutting the health care and the education and the policing services in York South even as they boasted about the tax cut.

Some of this picking of the pockets of the Ontario citizen is happening very directly. These are user fees that the government itself is introducing or increasing in a whole host of areas. In our resolution, we documented the sheer number of ministries that are actually introducing new user fees or increasing their user fees.

Some specifics: In the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the registration program has increased the marriage licence fee to $75 and introduced a new fee of $2 for staff-assisted searches of records. We have the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario standardizing special-occasion permit fees for receptions and fund-raiser community festivals at $75.

We go to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. There are going to be increased revenues of $594,700 from increased fees at Huronia historical parks and Old Fort William, and increased revenues from fee increases at Ontario Place and the St Lawrence parks.

We have the Ministry of Education with licences for private vocational schools increasing by 4%.

We have the Ministry of Environment and Energy with a generator registration fee giving revenues of $291,000 for registering and managing records of generators of liquid and hazardous waste. We have the waste manifest fee. We have the water well records fee.


If we go to the Solicitor General, we have the Solicitor General implementing a pre-employment basic training program for correctional officers and introducing a fee for that for five weeks of basic training.

In every imaginable way, this government is looking for new sources of revenues to replace the $5 billion in tax cuts that it is putting back in the pockets of the wealthiest people of this province.

There is going to be more to come, without any question at all. The list of fees that are being increased and the list of new fees that are being introduced are literally growing on a daily basis. While there is nothing in the business plan that the government tabled today about specific new fees that are about to come, we know for sure they are coming.

You have to wonder how it could be happening, because this is the same government led by the same Mike Harris who used to say a user fee is exactly the same as a tax. This was the tax-fighting government, the tax-fighting Premier. How could this tax-fighting government claim to cut taxes and actually be increasing them? How could they say they would bring in no new taxes, and yet they're bringing new ones in? The Premier said that a user fee was the same as a tax.

The government would like to simply ignore the fact that it's raising fees, that it's bringing in new fees and that Mike Harris used to say a user fee was the same as a tax. There are places where it was said so clearly. I think of the very clear statement that there would be no new user fees in health, and what did we see in Bill 26 but a new user fee in health, a user fee of the worst kind, a fee for prescription drugs for seniors and for the disabled in our province? There is only one conclusion anybody can come to: This government, which said it was going to lower taxes, not raise them, is raising them by any other name a lot faster than it is lowering them.

I recognize that only some of this pickpocketing activity that's going on is being done by the government directly; some of it is indirect. Some of the new fees, some of the increased fees are being put in place by other agencies, and in particular by municipalities. The government says: "We're not responsible for any of that. We're not the ones who are raising those fees. We're raising our own, no question about that, but these other fees that municipalities are raising, these property taxes that school boards are increasing, we're not responsible for those." Of course they are responsible, because they have encouraged these new and increased fees, and they have made these new and increased fees absolutely necessary because of the cuts they have imposed on their transfer partners.

I give you as an example colleges and universities, which have been cut by some $400 million, and the government said: "Don't worry, colleges and universities, we're going to give you a means of recovering some of those revenues. We're going to give you permission to raise tuition fees for students in colleges and universities. You can raise them by 10%, and if you like, you can raise them by a further 10%." As a result, students in this province are facing tuition increases, on average, of $400 next year. They made the increase in tuition fees necessary because of their cuts and then they encouraged them, gave them permission to recover some of those revenues by increasing user fees to the students of this province. Is this government not responsible for the fact that tuition fees are going up $400 for students this fall?

We look at what they've done to municipal governments -- cuts on average of 43% over two years, and then the government says: "We have nothing to do with the kinds of user fees that municipalities are being forced into. We have nothing to do with those increased property taxes." I wonder what the government really thought that municipalities and school boards were going to do when they were hit with cuts of this magnitude. School boards were faced, on average, with a cut of 9% in their grants from this government. The government said: "Don't worry, you can find all this in administrative savings. Don't worry, we're going to give you tools that you need to reduce administrative costs."

None of the tools that any school board would need to actually reduce costs have been provided by this government. In fact, this government is getting out of any kind of centralized support for boards of education in curriculum and in evaluation. All that this government has done is to give the boards tools for cutting programs like junior kindergarten, adult education and special education.

When boards and parents and communities say, "We don't accept those kinds of cuts in education. We want to keep junior kindergarten. We want to protect our special education. We want our adults to have training," when they say no to those kinds of so-called tools the government has given them, the only resource that the school board has is a tax increase. That's why many school boards are facing tax increases.

With municipalities, the government has given them a different approach, and I acknowledge that, because this is where the government said: "We know we're cutting you by a horrendous amount, 42% over two years. We know you can't cope with that, municipalities, so in our famous Bill 26 we will give you permission, we will give you encouragement, we will give you the legal right to bring in new user fees."

In fact, you may recall that when Bill 26 was first presented by this government, the sky was the limit for the municipalities. They could bring in new sales taxes. They could bring in increased gas taxes, their own gas tax. They could even put a head tax or a poll tax on every citizen within their community. All of that was going to be allowed under Bill 26 until the government finally realized that that indeed was what was likely to happen, because many municipalities were looking at doing exactly that: tolls on their roads, taxes on their gasoline. So they put some minor limitations on it, but they still gave municipalities the freedom to raise new taxes by another name, and indeed that's what we're seeing: 160 at last count, up now to over 300 user fees that are being introduced at a municipal level.

I don't think this government should be surprised, when it not only forced those municipalities into making these kinds of revenue increases but encouraged them, gave them permission, gave them the direction as to how they could do that. They shouldn't be surprised that municipalities are taking that route, and they certainly can't claim they aren't responsible for it.

I ask you, if the transit companies are raising fares, if they're eliminating discounts for seniors, is it because municipalities have less money to support public transport in their communities, and is a 42% cut to municipalities responsible for that? I suggest it is.

If the Toronto Transit Commission has to budget more for needed renovations because this government is not prepared to commit itself to 75% of the cost of renovations, which governments traditionally have done, is the government responsible for the increased fares for the TTC that result from the TTC having to pay its own renovation costs? I say again that of course this government is responsible.

In some cases government decisions are going to be responsible for new or increased user fees that the municipalities themselves have to pay. This is getting really indirect, and I think it's important to give a couple of examples.

Ministry of Environment and Energy labs: The regional laboratories, testing laboratories, of the Ministry of Environment and Energy are being shut down across this province. These are the same labs that do the weekly high-volume testing of water to make sure our communities have safe drinking water. The ministry is simply going to shut down that testing capacity.

You have to ask, who is going to do the testing of our water in communities? The municipalities already pay a fee for service. The private sector is clearly going to have to step in and do it. We can't let our water go untested, particularly not when there are very serious concerns about the quality of drinking water in at least 40 Ontario communities. So the private sector is going to have to somehow come in and do it.

What are they going to charge municipalities? Is this really going to be more efficient? Is it going to be more cost-efficient for municipalities? This government, with its so-called business plan, hasn't even addressed that question. All they've done is go out and cut the labs of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, shut them down, and they haven't even looked at who is going to provide the service or what it's going to cost or whether this is going to be one more offloading, downloading of costs on to municipalities.

The government hasn't looked at it because this government doesn't want to know, because if municipalities have to pay more to test their water, if the private sector provider isn't more cost-efficient and it actually costs more for that service, that's going to mean that down the road there's going to be an increase in the charge for water or an increase in the property tax for residents of that community. That's an increased user fee, a new user fee, directly related to a decision this government has made. But they want to make those decisions in isolation. They don't want to look at the impact down the road.

Now they're looking at shutting down public health laboratories. Again, they don't really say for sure in their business plan they're going to do it, but we know that the Minister of Health has said he's going to privatize a slew of public health labs. Who's asking the questions and who's providing the answers as to who is going to take over that service?

If the private sector is going to step in and do what the public health labs now do, what is it going to cost? Who's going to pay the cost? Are we going to see new user fees? Are we going to see user fees for AIDS testing, for example? Nobody is asking the questions in the government. Nobody wants to know the answers. Nobody wants to look down the road at what it's going to cost the citizens of this province.


That's the second kind of user fee that I want to touch on. It's the kind of user fee that not only picks your pocket by actually taking money out of your pocket, but the user fee that threatens basic values in our society. There is no question in my mind at all that access to health care, one of the most basic values we hold in this society, is threatened by the user fee introduced by Bill 26, prescription fees for drugs for seniors and the disabled.

There are many seniors who cannot afford this fee and there are certainly many psychiatric patients who will be on as many as 10 prescriptions that have to be replaced weekly who could be facing as much as $40 a month. The advocates for the psychiatrically disabled in our communities tell us that if this prescription fee goes ahead, what will happen is that our psychiatric patients simply won't take their medication. Their health will be jeopardized and the safety of people in our communities indeed will be jeopardized if we can't provide adequate treatment for those who are psychiatrically disabled.

There is now a sort of threat from the Minister of Health that as he moves to this new system he has in mind, people may be asked to pay if they go and see a doctor who is not the designated doctor for that individual. I have to wonder what's going to happen in a small community if there are only one or two doctors there who are designated to provide all the medical care for people in that community and their waiting list is long and somebody would like to be able to jump the queue to get ahead of the waiting list.

Who's going to be able to jump the queue? Who's going to be able to get in faster? Who's going to be able to pay to go to a doctor who's not the designated doctor for the people in that community? I suggest to you that only those people who can afford it are going to be able to jump the queue. Welcome to two-tiered health care in the province of Ontario, where only the well-to-do can afford the user fees that let you access the best, and in some cases like seniors and the psychiatrically disabled, only the well-to-do can access care at all.

There's no question in my mind that access to quality education is threatened by the user fees that are proliferating in Mike Harris's Ontario, threatened by the 20% increase in tuition that students are facing this fall. Access to education, both post-secondary education and elementary and secondary education, is going to be threatened in the future if you're in a position where you just can't afford the new, expanded user fee for the private elementary or secondary school or the first-class private university that Mike Harris and his colleagues have in their vision of the new Ontario.

There's no question that those private sector institutions, whether it's elementary and secondary schools or universities or colleges, are going to have to provide something that's first-class, because that's what people who can afford to pay are looking for. If you can afford to pay, you will therefore be able to get the best in Mike Harris's Ontario, and there will certainly be much less pressure on this government to provide anything more than mediocre for everybody else.

That's why user fees are wrong. It's not just because Mike Harris said a user fee is a tax by any other name and because there is a sheer hypocrisy in boasting about a tax cut that puts money in people's pockets when you know it's primarily the most well-to-do who are benefiting and the middle-class person or the senior or the student is actually going to have more money taken out of their pockets than they're ever going to have put in it; it's not just the hypocrisy of that, but user fees are wrong because only those who can afford to pay can get the service. That's the whole idea of a user fee.

In Mike Harris's Ontario there are actually going to be two Ontarios: one for those who can afford the fees and one for those who can't. Those who can't afford the fees may be unable to use the public library in the future, and we've found 24 communities that have introduced some form of new or increased library use fee. It may be that kids in the future, if they can't afford the fee, won't even be able to use the local playground. We certainly know they're not going to be able to visit very many parks or very many tourist attractions.

Even access to police and fire service, basic safety and security, is now being threatened by the advent of the new user fees. We see the pay-for-protection scheme in Ottawa, the forerunner of what police forces are going to have to look at as this government brings in more and more cuts and police forces are told they've got to find new ways to get revenues if they want to keep their police on our streets.

And firefighting: Anybody who was on the Bill 26 committee hearings will remember the concerns of firefighters, concerns presented by people like Jim Lee, president of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, or Bruce Carpenter, president of the Provincial Federation of Ontario Fire Fighters; concerns about what would happen if municipalities would start bringing in user fees for fire protection; concerns that people would try and put out a car fire if there was a user fee for calling the fire department to put out a car fire and you weren't a resident in that community; concerns that if the municipalities bring in user fees for false fire alarms, that there may be people, landlords, owners, who actually disconnect their systems in high-rise buildings so they don't have to pay large user fees for false alarms.

Those were fears -- we didn't imagine these, we didn't invent them -- that were presented as our firefighters looked at their concerns in Bill 26 and said to this government, "If you open the door for user fees in fire protection, we're afraid that the safety of citizens in our communities will be jeopardized." Those fears are now realized as municipality after municipality brings in exactly these types of fees.

Those are concerns about what's already happening. We have to be concerned about what's going to come next, because this government's agenda is clearly to privatize whatever they can privatize, and once they privatize a service or an asset they can no longer control the increase in fees. That's what privatization is all about.

I'm not going to get into Ontario Hydro today, I'm not going to get into what's happened to hydro rates in Great Britain where there has been a recent privatization, but you can be sure that if Ontario Hydro was privatized the rate increases wouldn't just nickel-and-dime us to death in a pickpocketing kind of way, they would devastate our economy.

There are other areas where the government's plans to privatize are undoubtedly going to lead to fee increases in the future and this government will have absolutely no control over them.

I've mentioned health and environmental lab testing.

The government is not refusing to consider privatizing the LCBO even though it gets revenue from it. There's evidence from Alberta that the resulting cost to consumers is an increased cost.

Parks -- as they privatize our parks, what's it going to cost us to use our parks? What will increased fees do to our tourism potential? What will the loss of tourism attractions that this government's going to turn over to the private sector do to our economy?

You wonder whether this government ever looks beyond its ideology to see the long-term impact of what it's doing. If it did, this government would surely realize that the decisions they are making here in Queen's Park are directly related to what's happening in our communities. They are responsible for what's happening in our communities. They would have to acknowledge that the money being taken out of people's pockets in new and increased user fees is a direct result of their cutbacks, whether they bring in the fee change directly or someone else brings it in because they've been forced to by the government's cuts.

They would have to recognize that the services people need will be inaccessible if fees continue to rise, and that the gap between the haves and the have-nots in this province will get greater and greater. They would have to concede that only the most well-to-do will benefit from the dollars put in their pockets through the tax cut, and as well, only the well-to-do can benefit because they can afford to pay, with the new user fees.

This government must understand what it is doing, it must take some responsibility for what it is doing, and that is why we have placed this resolution before the House today.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for London Centre has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Minister of Community and Social Services concerning the NAN study with respect to social assistance rates, and this matter will be debated today at 6 pm.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm glad to have a chance to start off debate -- the clock is the wrong one, but I'm sure that will be corrected. I'm happy to be able to lead off debate for our caucus on this resolution presented in the name of Mrs McLeod this afternoon, and to say that we, of course, in the New Democratic Party caucus will be supporting this resolution because it essentially calls the Mike Harris cuts, and the user fees that have come about as a result of those cuts, what they are, which is that they are wrong, that they are indeed inappropriate and that they are indeed another form of taxation.


It wasn't that long ago when Mike Harris would, in talking about user fees, use words like, "They've taken to disguising their tax grabs as fees, hoping no one will notice, a trend the people of Ontario should be alarmed about." It also wasn't that long ago that Mike Harris would be talking, a lot more than he happens to be talking these days, about the fact that there's only one taxpayer out there.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise to us to see what Mike Harris and his government are doing, which is to have forgotten about the fact that there's only one taxpayer, to have forgotten about the fact that user fees are just taxes by another name, and to be continuing on a course of action that on the one hand has them trying to take the credit for reducing provincial income taxes, while at the same time they are directly and indirectly forcing upon the people of the province increased property taxes and increased user fees; in other words, a tax grab by another name, to paraphrase the now Premier.

That is what is most offensive about what we are seeing as the Mike Harris agenda unfolds, that in service after service -- in education, both elementary and secondary education, in post-secondary education, in a variety of social services, in health care -- we are seeing cuts to the tune of millions and millions of dollars all to pay for the tax cut, all to pay for the income tax cut Mike Harris wants to implement and be given credit for.

At the same time, we are seeing as a result of the funding cuts they are having to make to schools boards, to municipalities, colleges and universities to find the money to pay for those tax cuts, those bodies are having to turn around and increase taxes and fees to make up for a great part of those cuts. We are seeing increases in tuition fees for college and university students, we are seeing increases in property taxes or cuts in services, like junior kindergarten in the school board sector, and we are seeing increases in municipal property taxes or cuts in a variety of municipal services, again in order to make up for those cuts.

Gone is the concept of the one taxpayer. Gone is the concept that user fees by another name are just taxes. What is happening -- and what I know it troubles the members opposite for us to continue to remind them of -- is that what Mike Harris is doing is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. That's what we're seeing throughout the province.

This whole approach started, in effect, very soon after this government took over, with some of the most drastic cuts taking place as one of the first actions this government took. You recall the social assistance cuts: a 22% cut to the poorest citizens in the province, the citizens that need the support the most, the many citizens that have had to rely on social assistance through no fault of their own. The poorest citizens among us are being asked to take severe cuts, cuts that are severely hurting their ability to take care of themselves and their families, while at the same time families at the upper end of the income scale will be the ones, the only ones, who will benefit from the tax cut.

Of course we heard in the budget announced a few weeks ago the approach again taken by the Harris government of saying, "At the end, when the tax cut is fully implemented, this is what you're going to see as a benefit." That may be if in fact we ever see the implementation of the full tax cut. But the reality that isn't being focused upon enough now is the fact that what people will see when the tax cuts are implemented this year is but a small fraction of the benefit of that income tax cut, yet they're having to bear the full impact this first year of increases in property taxes or increases in other taxes that can only get worse.

If you look municipality by municipality, in instance after instance you will see that story unfold. As one example and one example only, in Metropolitan Toronto, a single mom with two children with an income of $30,000 will get, as a result of the tax cut in 1996, a benefit of about $45 for the whole year. That's about $3.46 every two weeks. But what's going to happen on the other side of the equation is that that same family is going to have to pay almost $30 more for property tax increases and is going to have to pay $344 more for public transit fees. Again, those are taxes that have been increased as a result of cuts to those bodies brought about by the Mike Harris agenda. So what's that family going to be left with at the end of the day? Not a benefit, but that family is going to be out of pocket, is going to be worse off than they are today, by some $328.

That's the Mike Harris revolution. That's what the Mike Harris revolution means for someone of very modest means. It's not until you get into the high-income brackets of some $100,000 that you can count on seeing any benefit at all come out of that.

Of course all of this will do nothing to create the jobs, which is what this is all supposed to be about. The whole thrust behind the Common Sense Revolution, the Premier used to remind us -- he doesn't do it quite as fervently these days -- was to create the 725,000 jobs. You know what? Their own numbers in their own budget indicate they will get nowhere near those 725,000 jobs.

The people of the province have a right to ask themselves, "Then what is all this for?" If the provincial income tax cut simply means more increases in property taxes or user fees at the other end, if it means less in the way of services and education, in social services and health care than we have in this province today, what is the point? The only point is that the real revolution Mike Harris is interested in has nothing to do with reducing the deficit, has nothing to do with creating jobs; it has everything to do with shifting the power and the wealth of this province from all of us into the hands of a few. That's what it's all about, and that is what people in this province are beginning to see.

It's quite easy for us to look at this and say, "This is not something we want to support." But what I have just a bit of difficulty with is in looking at where this resolution is coming from. It wasn't that long ago that the member who has moved this resolution was speaking not that differently from how Mike Harris is speaking. It wasn't that long ago that members of the Liberal caucus would wave this document around very proudly.

Well, I don't see too many of these in the hands of the Liberal caucus members these days. It's becoming a collector's item. You have to go to the archives to find one. I've managed to hold on to one and I'm not letting go, because it makes for some good reading. I know the members of the Conservative caucus carry one around because they like to compare quotes and see how close what they are doing is to some of the things the Liberals, during the election, said they would do.

Let's not forget, during the election it wasn't just Mike Harris who was talking about cutting public sector jobs; it was also the Liberals who said they would cut public sector jobs. It wasn't just the Tories who said they would cut taxes; it was also the Liberals who said they would cut taxes. It wasn't just Mike Harris who said, "We will miraculously do this without hurting basic services like health care and education"; it was also the Liberals who said they would miraculously do that without cutting health care and education.

You know what? Just as it's proving to be true that you can't cut the kind of dollars the Tories are cutting out of the system without hurting basic services like health care and education, just so it is not true, as the Liberals would have us believe, that they could have done it without affecting those basic services. We have in the Liberals, when you go back to the election, just a milder version of what the Mike Harris cuts would bring us today.

I pointed out earlier the one first big cut the Tories made in the area of social assistance. They brought about a decrease, as they like to call it, to 10% above the provincial average, which has turned out to be about a 22% cut. Interestingly enough, when you take a look at what the Liberals would have done, they would have cut down to a basic allowance that reflects the national average and is less than the current allowance. That sounds to me like it's actually less than what the Tories have done. In truth, because I want to be fair to my Liberal colleagues, they also would have topped that up with an additional allowance to take into account training etc, but they never did tell us what the basic bottom line would be.


Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): They are heartless.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West.

Mr Silipo: I think we have to take a look at this resolution with a big grain of salt. I would say this: I am happier about the kinds of words that are coming out of the Liberal caucus today than were coming out of them during the election, because I think they have finally realized that you don't deal with the problems in this province by cutting and slashing. It seems that we are, at least these days, hearing a little bit more from the Liberal caucus about in effect a saner approach to dealing with the economy.

So when the leader of the Liberal caucus says that the voters in York South weren't fooled by the Tory agenda, I would say to her that she's right. I agree with her on that point because I think one of the clear messages that came out of the York South by-election is the rejection of the Harris agenda.

But I would also say to my Liberal colleagues that the reason that happened and the reason particularly, I would say, that the voters chose to elect the Liberal member there is because the Liberal member there happened to sound more and more like a New Democrat than certainly the Liberal caucus did when they ran around the province with this document.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): He sure didn't run on the red book.

Mr Silipo: Exactly. In fact, again on the basic issue of social assistance, the Liberal member went out of his way to distance himself from the red book. I say that again not because I want to rub the red book in the face of the Liberals, but simply to show that they have shifted.

I'm happy that they've shifted, because where they are now is quite frankly where they should be if they believe in truth that dealing with the problems we have in this province really can only be done, yes, by tackling the deficit, but by tackling the deficit in a way that puts the focus on creating jobs, on creating wealth in this province and then using the tax system that we have, using the structures that we have, the powers that we have as a provincial government to ensure that wealth is appropriately and fairly distributed among our citizens, in a way that protects our basic services like health care and education.

So I'm much happier to see where the Liberals are today. It does beg a little bit of a question as to where they may be tomorrow, but we will wait and see. I'm sure that the members --

Mr Stockwell: They have no idea.

Mr Silipo: Maybe they don't have any idea, but at least they seem to know where they are today. We will see where they are tomorrow and we will watch with great interest to see where our Liberal colleagues end up, because they certainly have shown a great ability to move right across the political spectrum from right to left to centre and anywhere in between where it seems that the wind of the day may be blowing.

We will see. It will be a very interesting time.

Mr Stockwell: At least you're consistent.

Mr Silipo: The member for Etobicoke West says at least I'm consistent. Coming from him, that's some credit.

Let me just say this in conclusion, because I know there are other members of my caucus who want to speak to this resolution: We will support this resolution, because at the end of the day it calls on Mike Harris to realize that what he's doing is wrong, that you cannot heal the problems that we have in this province by taking with one hand, giving with the other and pretending that you're the good guys and that it's the municipalities, the school boards, the colleges and the universities that are doing your dirty work for you in terms of raising other forms of taxes, which is what user fees really are.

It's that realization that I know the members opposite don't like to be reminded of but that the people of this province, in my own riding of Dovercourt and right throughout the province, are realizing more and more. It's that realization that will come to haunt the members of the Tory caucus. It's that realization that will at the end of the day see this government thrown out of office. It's that realization that will bring about the real revolution that has to come about in this province, which is an understanding that while we have economic problems, while we have fiscal problems, they cannot be resolved by this cut-and-slash approach that Mike Harris is perpetuating, and it certainly cannot be resolved by this notion that you could pretend to be the good guys by giving income tax cuts while you are forcing the other elected bodies to increase taxes as a result of your cuts to them. That is something that certainly I am seeing the public beginning to realize more and more, and that is something that I know quietly -- because publicly they can't yet admit it -- members of the Tory caucus are also beginning to realize.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I'm very happy to join in the opposition debate on this motion about user fees from the Leader of the Opposition and to look at some of the history involved from the previous two governments and how they utilized the whole concept of user fees, as if we were the first government to deal with user fees and the other two were completely sinless in this regard.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): You do admit they're a sin, then?

Mr Hastings: That is obviously not the record and the member for Essex South knows that, I think.

For 10 years we have had a situation in which all Ontarians had to look to one certainty, and that was higher taxes. Every year, every budget we had higher taxes. You would think, "They're increasing expenditures for good programs and they'll try to control expenditures." That's not the situation at all. The record clearly indicates the reverse reality. They used piles of money for some very questionable programs and now the piper has come home to roost. We're paying for it.

We need to make the linkage about the cruel cuts that this particular government is making, the heartless cuts. If the other two parties, when they were in government, had actually managed the store much more effectively and prudently, then there would be lots of money today for all the necessary and essential services, particularly with respect to education and health care.

On May 8, 1996, one day after our government's budget, Ontarians woke up with the reverse reality. Pleasantly, for once in their lives, they could say, "There have been tax reductions." Reductions, imagine.

Mr Crozier: Income taxes were reduced for five years, from 1989 to 1994.

Mr Hastings: Imagine reductions, contrary to what the member from Essex is saying.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): But increased user fees.

Mr Hastings: The increased user fees are in effect one of the descriptions. Yes, they're increased user fees by the previous Liberal regime, and I'll get to that, in terms of the percentages, of the scope and the extent in which they're trying to confuse the listeners and the voters in this province that they never, ever used a user fee. Well, that's not the reality.

Getting back to the viewpoint that people actually woke up with a refreshing viewpoint that they had no tax increases, in fact this budget clearly shows 10 tax reductions. That is unique, the first time in 11 years. Everyone in Ontario is all too familiar with the legacy that the Leader of the Opposition and the NDP left in terms of 65 tax increases. I know they don't like to be reminded, but the record shows it and it needs to be reconfirmed again and again.

The Harris government promised to lower Ontario taxes, and that's exactly what was accomplished in the May 7 budget. We've kept our promise. Our government cut taxes to ease the burden on Ontario taxpayers. We reduced taxes because it's good for Ontario. We didn't just reduce personal income taxes; our government lowered a total of 10 different taxes. These reductions are an important part of the government's economic program to restore growth, hope and opportunity and to get the jobs machine going that the members opposite so recently used to refrain about -- but we haven't heard from them lately about -- "Where are the jobs?"

Mr Crozier: Where are the jobs?

Mr Hastings: It's not hard to look if you look around and see what's happening out there, particularly in the auto parts sector as one example. Another example was when the finance minister introduced the exemption for the provincial sales tax on call centres, what's happened there. Three hundred jobs in the last month, and we haven't even got to June 7 yet. However, that's good news the members of the opposition don't want to hear about in any regard.


But there is much more to this government's budget than 10 different tax cuts. There was a commitment from this government to the people of the province that will put money back into the areas of health care, child care and education. The May 7 budget clearly demonstrated that in terms of the support available for child care, with an additional $200 million over the next five years.

I'm also proud to be part of a government that doesn't just talk about the importance of day care. We acted. We've kept our promises, and the budget clearly shows that with a total of $600 million for child care, the highest in Ontario's history in this particular sector.

The Premier and the finance minister have said time and again that this government would maintain the $17.4-billion spending envelope for health care. In spite of the federal government's reductions in transfers which will amount to at least $1.2 billion for the coming fiscal year, the Harris government is exceeding its commitment by placing an additional $300 million into the operating budget of the health ministry for a total of $17.7 billion. With that additional money, we can provide funding for 23 new MRI machines across the province to expand our government's program in aiding the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, which affects more than 6,000 women in this province annually.

We have also invested $25 million to help hospitals serve areas of high population growth and reinvested another $170 million this year into seniors and people with disabilities for care at home instead of an institution. This means an additional 80,000 people will receive services such as in-home nursing care, and that is expected to create nearly 4,400 new jobs in the health care field -- new jobs.

In education, we've introduced the cooperative education tax credit to businesses and corporations to ensure that students have an enhanced opportunity while attending university or college. The tax credit of up to $1,000 per co-op placement will be effective September 1, 1996, and provide businesses with a tax saving equal to approximately 10% of the cost of hiring a student participating in a recognized co-op program. In that regard, I've had teachers in my own community, particularly Cherry Yamamura, feel that investment in a program such as this is an important first step for preparing adult students for jobs.

In addition to the tax credit, we want to encourage companies and individuals to contribute to funds for Ontario students through an Ontario student opportunity trust fund. Every college and university will have the opportunity to establish a fund and the province will match contributions made after budget day and before March 31, 1997. Moneys from each fund will be used to assist academically qualified people who, for financial reasons, would not otherwise be able to attend an institution of advanced post-secondary education.

The tax cuts we've outlined in the budget are fair to Ontario taxpayers. We've often heard that this is designed for and targeted to the wealthy. If you look at the definition by the opposition parties of what constitutes "wealthy," that would be anybody who earns $53,000 and change; they're wealthy. But if you look at the real stats, it clearly shows we're going to have a broader impact in terms of the tax reductions, particularly personal income tax, for Ontario citizens. In fact, in Ontario about 90% of the people earn less than $68,000 a year. Our government's tax cuts will benefit everyone because the economy benefits.

I look forward to the press conference the Liberals and the NDP will host on this subject when each and every one of the members holds up their income tax -- and I'm sure we're going to see a lot of that -- where they've designated that they won't accept the tax decrease and it'll go either towards deficit reduction or to specific charities perhaps in their own ridings. I'm sure when push comes to shove, most of them will grab the tax cuts and keep them.

Mr Crozier: Like the Tories will.

Mr Hastings: Yes. We're going to keep them because we believe in them. You publicly criticize them and then turn around and will probably assist in using them personally -- a major double standard, I would say. They just don't understand, we just can't seem to get through to them -- you have a mantra over there, I guess, as we're commonly accused of -- that tax cuts really do mean jobs in this province. Every dollar that stays in the pockets of Ontarians -- imagine -- will help consumer and investor confidence. Taxpayers can spend a dollar more wisely and effectively than a bureaucrat or a politico, who think they know better how to spend the dollars than the person who earned them.

A lot of people think Ontarians will spend the money. I've heard the criticism that they're going to use the money for debt reduction, as if that were a criminal activity. Debt reduction means that later on they'll have the money and the opportunity to spend it on a particular consumer item they may want. And imagine, the other thing is that they may actually save some money. That's one of the problems in this economy. We do not have an adequate savings rate like we used to have in this country, as high as 15% if you look at the statistics of a decade ago.

The Leader of the Opposition claims that the reduction in transfer payments will force increases in property taxes. It's too bad the Leader of the Opposition hadn't spent a few years in local government, because she probably would have a much more fundamental understanding of what constitutes the real necessity to save at the local level.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): She has been 18 years in local government.

Mr Hastings: Well, the school boards aren't a particularly great model for saving moneys, although some of them have started to make some real attempts at that.

I would like to remind the Leader of the Opposition that this government asked municipalities to reduce their expenditures by only 4% of their operating costs. This should not necessitate large user fees or property tax increases, and when it does, in my estimation, I think you will find there hasn't been a lot of imaginative or innovative management from the senior bureaucrats or the members of those particular councils. They automatically reach for the tax increase from the shelf as an antidote to the problem every time; you can find that pattern in some municipalities in this province.

While most municipalities are still finalizing their budgets for 1996, many have completed their budgets and have held their mill rate increases to zero or even slightly decreased their mill rate. You'll never hear that from members opposite. Some of those municipalities are Halton, Ottawa, Markham, Richmond Hill, Guelph, Peel, Muskoka, Mississauga, Hamilton, Brampton and Etobicoke. They all had a zero tax increase in their mill rates. I'd say that's effective municipal leadership and management. The county of Kent had a slight decrease, the town of Forest had a slight decrease and -- this one I find particularly interesting -- the town of Southampton had a 2% decrease.

When the Liberals and the NDP talk about municipal user fees or property tax increases, they must be having flashbacks from their time in government. Let's look at the record. During the Liberal years in office, from 1985 to 1990, 88% of all municipalities in this province increased their municipal user fee revenue -- increased it. Over half the municipalities in Ontario increased their user fees by approximately 50% or more, and one quarter of the municipalities increased their user fees by over 100%. When they talk about this government exhorting municipalities to use user fees as the easy way out, certainly they need to go back and look at their own record. Fourteen municipalities in Ontario increased their revenues from user fees by an astounding 1,000% -- not bad if you were looking at it from a Liberal viewpoint.


In the area of property taxes, the Liberals allowed local property taxes to skyrocket during their time in office. Just look at the municipalities that have not been reassessed since 1985: 231 had mill increases of 40%-plus or more in those five wonderful years we lived through. From 1985 to 1990, Lakefield had an 82% increase in its mill rate; Etobicoke 43%, for the member for St Catharines; Port Hope, 68%; North York, 41% --

Mr Bradley: Were you on council then?

Mr Hastings: Yes, for two years I was. Toronto, 39%; Oshawa, 67%; Mattawa township, 159%, where the member is most concerned about the buses.

The Leader of the Opposition claims that reductions to school boards will also result in user fees. Our government reduced school board expenditures by less than 2% of their total operating costs. Examples of boards that have managed to work in that time frame: Timmins and Lakehead district Roman Catholic school boards, Muskoka, Nipigon, Ottawa and Timmins boards of education have managed to cope with reductions in their education grants without increasing property taxes and without laying off teachers. Each and every one of them also retained junior kindergarten. Those are what I'd call organizations that have truly tried to deal with the fiscal crisis that you folks left for us to deal with.

Checking the Liberal record again, the previous Liberal government allowed local tax increases in education to skyrocket during their time in office. From 1985 to 1990, Oshawa had a 76% increase in its education mill rate, and other municipalities -- one of them, Harley township, had an increase of 157.2%.

One reason those increases occurred is that the government of that day allowed for the land speculation tax to come into operation, a marvellous intrusion into local government.

Now that the Liberal government is read into the record, doesn't it seem a little hypocritical that the opposition leader today would present a resolution on user fees and accuse this government of implementing them?

The Acting Speaker: You used that word, and I would ask you to withdraw it.

Mr Hastings: I'm not quite clear what --

The Acting Speaker: You used the word "hypocritical," accused the leader of being hypocritical. That's what you said.

Mr Hastings: "Unbelievable," I'll insert. It's unbelievable that the opposition leader would introduce this resolution and then turn around and say the Liberal user fee history lesson she's completely forgotten about. We can also mention that the newer government had a good record of user fee increases which they talk about.

When you have increased user fees, increased taxes, the Canadian Tax Foundation, if anybody looks at economic models, clearly shows that in basic economics, increased taxes equal decreased production, which equals decreased sales. That means that people have less money in their pockets to consume, spend or save, to make mature, logical, consumer decisions, because they're always paying more.

Therefore tax cuts, in my estimation, and overspending, getting that under control, are really strong, vigorous ingredients for creating better and effective economic growth. If you look at the history of jurisdictions which continuously opt for higher and higher tax increases, you end up with a stagnant economy. There's a very strong correlation between those two.

It's time for us, and we have done it, to reduce taxes, to create an economic growth climate, which Ontario has not had for many years. I put that in the context of a growing competitive economy, the biggest one being Michigan. I know a lot of our members opposite hate to bring up American examples, but the member for Oriole did in her health debate not long ago, so I see no reason, if she can do that, we can't look at other examples of growth economies nearby. Particularly, Michigan is an example of how lower taxes, lower unemployment and an increasing economic growth rate have led to more and more jobs. That's what we have to do to have a competitive economy at this time in our economic history.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): It's always nice to follow the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, because it gives us an opportunity to correct the record. Let me start off by saying that we love using American models. For example, today Bruce Crozier, the member for Essex South, used a model with regard to the firm from Alabama collecting debts, but Mr Johnson, the Management Board chair, wasn't about to or willing to answer the question but would check it out.

There are all kinds of opportunities on this side of the House where we present you with questions with regard to your American model and there are no ministers willing to answer our questions. I want to correct the record for the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. We're more than happy to use American examples that the government is using; they just don't want to provide the people of Ontario with the answers that we all know are fact.

We talk about budgets and tax increases. On May 9 in Hansard, in response to a question, "Do you still deny that the tax cut in the budget will cost more and more people municipal tax increases and user fees at the local level and that they are directly related to one another?" the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing said, "Municipal tax increases this year are probably lower than in any year in the last decade...Mississauga is zero, Scarborough is zero, Sudbury region is zero" etc.

Let me clarify the record again. In 1994 in the region of Sudbury there was a 0.07% decrease in regional municipal taxes; in 1995 there was a 0.14% decrease in regional taxes; and in 1996, the first year this government can take credit for instituting its reductions which caused this tax relief, municipal taxes for the region of Sudbury increased by 3.5%. My point is quite simple: Taxes increased because of the Conservative agenda, because of the Common Sense Revolution agenda, because the Common Sense Revolution doesn't make perfect sense.

Let's talk a little bit about what happens at the local level. We've heard from the members of the two opposition parties that clearly you can't do what they're doing without having an impact at the local level. I want to tell you that of the school boards in Sudbury, the Sudbury Board of Education had to increase taxes by 5.9% and the Sudbury District Roman Catholic Separate School Board had to increase taxes by 5.9%.

The city of Sudbury, with its mayor, Jim Gordon, a former Tory cabinet minister, and members of council worked very hard at ensuring that they wouldn't have to increase taxes, because for six years in a row they've worked extremely hard at being very fiscally responsible so that they can deliver a zero tax increase. They tried everything, but for the first time in the history of Sudbury they introduced the User Fees Manual. Now every councillor from the city of Sudbury has a User Fees Manual. It's the city of Sudbury's User Fees Manual. I'm a former alderman of the city of Sudbury, and when I first saw this I was saying: "Jeez, we never had this before. We never had this when we had a Liberal government in Toronto. We never had this when we had an NDP government in Toronto. Why do we have this now?" The city clerk said, "Open to page 2 and you'll see why."


In 1995 the province of Ontario's fiscal and economic statement reduced major funding transfers to municipalities by 50% over two years. We can't cope with that reduction without doing something. We either have to increase taxes or, as Mike Harris said in April 1994, we have to have a fee hike, because that's the same as a tax hike. Mike Harris is saying a fee hike is the same as a tax hike. If this is true, then this in fact becomes a tax hike book.

Let me talk about a few of the tax hikes in user fees that we're going to have in the city of Sudbury thanks to the provincial government; not thanks to the hardworking mayor and the hardworking councillors of the city of Sudbury, because they had no choice. They spent many, many hours trying to minimize the impact on the people of Sudbury, but they couldn't do it without increasing user fees and making sure that the Mike Harris agenda of having Ontario be the home of the user fee comes to reality.

If we look at section (a) of bylaw 96-100 in the administrative section we find out that from now on, for proof of school support, you're going to have to pay $5. If you're going to apply for direction of school support, you're going to have to pay $5. If you ever want the city council agenda and minutes for a year, you're going to have to pay $270.64. If you want a letter of approval for a tag day, you're going to have to pay $25, a new user fee.

If you want the publication lottery licensing bylaw, you're going to have to pay $5.75, and we know that's going to be a hot item with this government. If you need proof of residency to ensure that you're in Ontario and not in New Jersey or not in Michigan or not in Alabama, you're going to have to pay $5. If you want an application for a special-occasion permit, you're going to have to pay $25. If you want complete election results next time to ensure that you're right that the provincial Progressive Conservatives lost the election, you're going to have to pay $11.50.

Mr Crozier: That's worth it.

Mr Bartolucci: I would suggest that's probably going to be, as my fellow colleague said, the best investment anybody in Ontario could make.

For example, if you want to make a photocopy of those election results and you want them done at the city of Sudbury, if the paper is 11 1/2 by 14, you're going to have to pay $1.15; if it's 11 by 17, you're going to have to pay $2.30. That really doesn't make a difference, because as long as the message gets out, whether it be on a small piece of paper, regular size or big paper, that the Tories lost the next election, it'll be worth the investment.

Mr Hastings: That's fantasy.

Mr Bartolucci: You think it's fantasy. We'll go to fantasy in a second.

If under the administrative section you want to find out if there are certified true copies of the documents, you're going to have to pay an increase of $5. If, and I know the member for St Catharines will be happy with this, you have to do an environmental search in the city of Sudbury, from now on, after the Minister of Environment and Energy destroyed environmental protection in the city and in the region in the province of Ontario, you're going to have to pay $50. You know what? If you want letters of tolerance, as opposed to intolerance, you're going to have to pay a new fee of $75.

If you go to the very back page -- I'm running out of time -- you'll find there are checklists now for the councillors in the city to ensure that the user fee they're imposing fits the government's criteria for establishing user fees. There are, all together, 18 points you should check before including a fee as a user fee in the city of Sudbury -- unheard of, never been done before, but thanks to this government, it's now mandatory.

In conclusion and in summation, I just want to say that I am really very much impressed with the resolution today. It makes an abundant amount of perfect sense because it tells the people of Ontario that the reason for increased user fees and the reason for new user fees isn't the fault of school boards, it isn't the fault of city or regional governments, it isn't the fault of police services boards or fire services boards. It's clearly the fault of the provincial government so it can provide a tax break to those people who need it the least: the wealthy of this province.

Mr Len Wood: It's a pleasure for me to address the resolution brought forward on the official opposition day by the Liberal leader.

We've witnessed the first Conservative budget in a decade, and despite the rhetoric most people are going to be worse off. It's particularly true in northern Ontario. We're going to be a lot worse off as a result of the budget brought forward than before the budget was introduced.

The government's tax break is billed as a magic bullet for our economy. We're told it will create thousands of jobs and mean instant prosperity for all. Last week, during constituency week, we were listening to the people there, and they don't believe that.

The numbers are clearly showing something else. It is clear that any tax break is going to be eaten up by new user fees, higher municipal taxes and other costs as a direct result of billions of dollars in cuts that your government has already made.

In Kapuskasing, for example, the taxes will be raised by 2.6% -- it's not the fault of the municipal leaders in Kapuskasing; they have no choice because of Mike Harris's reduction in transfers to the municipalities -- with the major part of these allocations going to roads and recreation. Local taxpayers will be covering the cost of road construction now that provincial funding is no longer available. We hear that our friend Al is out filling up potholes on the 400, but I doubt we're going to see him on construction crews filling up potholes in northern Ontario -- at least I don't believe he's going to be up in Cochrane North helping to repair the roads.

In the town of Cochrane, for example, $180,000 was chopped from the municipality's provincial transfer payments and they were forced to look for other ways to raise money. They took the route that they were not going to increase taxes, but they used the other method that has been pointed out by the Liberals speaking today as well as my colleague from Dovercourt: They're increasing user fees by 16%.

In Hearst, another town I'm very proud of -- 90% of the population there is French-speaking -- municipal taxes will increase by 2.5% and user fees are going to be increased in order to preserve services and reduce operating costs. The average in-town and Mattice separate school board supporter will be paying close to $8.50 and $11 more this year, respectively.

In December 1995 the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services announced that a review of the structure and financing of police services in this province would be undertaken, and recently there have been reports that municipalities could be faced with a $250-per-household charge to cover the service of the Ontario Provincial Police in our area. If this is implemented, this will affect all the municipalities within Cochrane North. The only one that used to have its own police service was Kapuskasing, and now it is paying somewhere around $800,000 or $1 million a year for OPP services; for the other communities, it was agreed by previous Conservative governments that they wouldn't be charged for it. Now we're talking about close to $250 that could be added on.


Reducing transfer payments and increasing taxes and user fees locally to help pay for a tax break doesn't make any sense when all the funds come out of the same pocketbook, that of the taxpayer -- and there only is one taxpayer.

The Conservative government has taken $432 million out of elementary and secondary school funding. Now they're putting back approximately $20 million to buy a few computers, and this is Tory language for "fundamental reform in education finance." Two school boards in my area will benefit from this reform in education finance, but we have a cut of $875,000 in provincial education grants, which means the Hearst District Roman Catholic Separate School Board will see a reduction of 17 support staff positions and 13 employees will be laid off at the end of the school year, and Kapuskasing-Smooth Rock Falls and District Board of Education will have to eliminate more than seven positions this year in order to avoid a tax increase.

If your tax break is considered to be the magic bullet for our economy, then the bullet, as far as I'm concerned, shot a big hole in the economy, especially in Cochrane North. On May 16 the government announced it would be laying off 900 staff in the Ministry of Natural Resources. When we raised the question with the Minister of Natural Resources, who's also the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, his sarcastic remark was: "We're doing a favour to northern Ontario. We're only going to be cutting 45% of the staff in northern Ontario and the other 55% is going to be done in southern Ontario."

What he doesn't understand is that northern Ontario, even though it has 80% or 85% of the land mass, only has 10% of the population, so a 45% cut in jobs there means that local municipalities and whatever are going to lose some of their tax base. People are going to have to sell their homes, and if they can't sell them, they'll have to board them up and try to find work in other communities. As I pointed out, we're struggling, as most of the layoffs will be taking place in northern Ontario -- 41 jobs within Cochrane North. Cochrane will lose 22 jobs just with the MNR cuts, Hearst eight, and Kapuskasing 11.

This year, from what I can understand, the taxpayer in this province will get a tax break of about $100, which we are to put back into the economy by purchasing items we want or need, thus creating jobs. With the job loss that's created in the north by this government, some northerners unfortunately will be spending more than the $100 tax break this year on basic necessities, like food for their tables normally paid for by us as employed, hardworking and productive members of society.

This particular resolution deals with the new user fees and the increase in user fees. We see all kinds of examples. The Ministry of Environment and Energy is going to charge new user fees, and if you add them all up, you're talking about $1 million. Management Board is going to have user fees for documents. The Solicitor General and corrections is going to have user fees. Consumer and commercial relations is going to have user fees. If you add up all these user fees of the Conservative government of the day, they've picked the pockets of the people in the province by close to $13 million. When they say they're giving a tax break or a tax cut effective July 1, what they've done is taken out of one pocket in user fees, and what people thought was going to be put back into the other pocket is going to be used up, so there is no benefit in what the budget came down with. People are worse off now than they were before the budget.

During the election campaign in my riding of Cochrane North, I campaigned vigorously and was successful in getting elected. But the feeling that I had was that there wasn't very much difference between the Conservative candidate and the Liberal candidate, because they were both campaigning that we're going to have to get rid of, the Conservative candidate was saying, 12,000 or 13,000 -- I believe it was 13,500 -- jobs in the bureaucracy and the Liberal was saying they're going to get rid of 12,000. The Conservatives were saying they were going to reduce taxes by 30% and the Liberals were saying they were going to reduce taxes by 5%. So there wasn't very much difference between what the Liberals were saying during the last campaign and what the Conservatives were saying. As a result, as I said before, I appreciate my constituents in Cochrane North for having me elected here.

The 30% tax cut that is being brought forward has to be linked to the number of jobs that are being slashed and cut and eliminated in Ontario. As I said before, all of the small communities that I represent -- Kapuskasing is the largest community. The town of Cochrane is going to be completely devastated.

I'm pleased the Minister of Transportation is here today to listen to some of the comments, because after we have the minister of northern destruction go in and lay off a massive number of people throughout the riding, now we find out from documents that the Minister of Transportation has been circulating around that he's going to take the axe to all of the communities that are west of North Bay and eliminate large numbers of jobs there. It's just unreal, the amount of devastation that is being brought forward.

Then we find out that there's a tax grab. When Mike Harris was campaigning, he was saying that there was only one taxpayer in the province. Whether it's an increase in taxes, whether it's a user fee, it's a tax in any other way. Now we find out that they're bringing forth the user fees.

The economic plan that the Tories would like us to believe in their Common Sense Revolution and leading up to the budget, that they're going to create jobs in Ontario, we know that it's not going to happen. We have unemployment in Ontario at 9%; it's close to 12% in northern Ontario. There's no way that they're going to be able to create the jobs that they said they were going to during the election campaign.

It might be nice to say in Cochrane North, for example, they're going to lay off 150 or 200 government employees and privatize the work that they're doing and contract it out at half of the wages that they're being paid now, but that's not new jobs that are being created. It just means that they're shifting that from people who are making $18, $20 or $22 an hour on to other people and they're going to be paying them $8, $10, or $12 an hour, and the new people they're going to hire through contracting out are going to have to start absorbing the user fees that they're bringing in.

I consider Bill 26 to be part of the budget process. Whether it was the announcements that were made last July, the announcements that were made in September and again in April leading up to the budget, Bill 26 is one of the bills that introduced new user fees for seniors and social assistance recipients for drugs. That's nothing more than a tax grab on the sick and on poor people. Bill 26 also gave the municipalities the ability to charge new fees and new taxes. As the Conservative government in Ontario today reduces the amount of money and transfers that they're doing for education, health care, and to municipalities, it's being replaced by user fees.


I know my colleague Tony Silipo earlier used examples of how people in four or five different cities and communities around Ontario are going to be a lot worse off now as a result of the budget with the increase in user fees.

We have an example in Sudbury. A couple with two children making $25,000, after the tax cut is worked into what -- with the new fees and everything, they're going to have a decrease of $205, even with the famous tax cut that we hear Ernie Eves talk about.

A single person in London is going to be a lot worse off with the new user fees in the budget. He's going to be out of pocket by $62.74 if you consider everything in.

It's scary to think that in addition to what the Conservative government here today is bringing in new user fees on, any service that we as members of society require, they're also forcing the municipalities, the school boards and all of their transfer partners to increase their taxes or increase user fees. As a result, I spent last week, constituency week, and some of the things that constituents are saying, there's a lot of unkind words that are being said against not necessarily you, Mr Speaker, but against the Premier and the cabinet that is forcing the drastic changes on to people in northern Ontario.

We know that since the Conservative government got elected, they've created a lot of violence in this province as well. They had the poverty group beaten up on the front steps. We had the riot squad breaking open the group on strike so that they could bring in a few cabinet ministers to the Legislature. It's been violence one after the other. That's in addition to all the taxes and increases, the deterioration in the education system, the deterioration in the health care system for northern Ontario.

The roads have been abandoned in northern Ontario. This morning, we're still getting our last snowstorm. People woke up this morning at 7 o'clock. The grass around the house was green. People are fearful next winter they will not be able to afford the user fees that are going to be imposed and it's going to be a tragic situation.

I know some of the members on the other side don't like to hear the truth being spoken, but all I would say is that for what the Conservative government is doing they're very unpopular in northern Ontario. I was in North Bay, and even the Premier is getting to be more and more unpopular all the time in his home town of North Bay.

I would hope that the Tory backbenchers would listen to what is going on around the province and speak up in their caucus and give the message very clearly that people are going to be worse off, and are worse off now, as a result of the budget and the user fees that are being imposed than what they were before the budget was introduced.

With that, I'd like to save some time for my other colleagues.

Mrs Lillian Ross (Hamilton West): I'll make my comments brief because I know some of my other colleagues want to speak on this motion, take part in the debate.

When we were elected almost a year ago, we were very clear with our plans for taxation. We said that the rates would come down. This should have been no surprise to anyone since we had campaigned on reduced taxes for over a year. With 65 tax increases brought about by the former Liberal and NDP governments, the people of Ontario had literally hit the taxation wall. Steps had to be taken to give taxpayers in Ontario a break and to make Ontario competitive again. By cutting taxes and doing better with less, we believe that investment will come back to Ontario and jobs will follow, giving Ontarians across this province real hope with increased growth and prosperity.

We were elected to bring fiscal sanity back to government. The results of the last election were very clear. People told us they were overtaxed. They were sick of government getting in their way. It seemed that whenever you could get ahead, the government would just jump in and penalize your success with yet another tax. Well, this government is determined to reward success, not to penalize it.

Already we are starting to see the dividends of our actions. There have been almost 130,000 people drop off the provincial welfare rolls. In February alone, the economy created 70,000 new jobs. Our deficit target last fiscal year was met and surpassed. At the same time, we have been able to reinvest in areas that Ontarians think are necessary. This year our government will spend $17.7 billion on health care. We will spend more on day care than any government in Ontario's history. We can do this because we are spending more wisely.

However, as we at the provincial level restructure and reorganize, it is very clear that municipal governments need to restructure as well. In Hamilton-Wentworth, the constituent assembly on municipal restructuring has just reported its findings and has recommended sweeping changes to the way in which services should be delivered in the region. The status quo is unacceptable. Two-tier government is costly and unaffordable. Like us, municipalities realize we must all live within the economic realities we are faced with. Like us, they will have to do better with less.

The opposition would like everyone to believe that our spending reductions were done solely to finance this big tax giveaway. Nothing could be further from the truth. Government overspending had to be curtailed. Previous government spending created huge deficits and debt, with interest payments of $1 million an hour more than we took in in revenue. That rate of spending was totally irresponsible and absolutely unsustainable.

However, reduced government spending does not automatically translate into new user fees. Municipalities realize that they become part of the solution and must look at better ways or alternative sources of supplying services to their taxpayers.

Mr Speaker, I'm very proud to be a member from Hamilton-Wentworth and to tell you that its municipal politicians have been very proactive in trying to restructure and find alternative delivery sources. One only needs to look at three major partnerships with the private sector: Phillips Environmental for waste water management, Laidlaw for landfill sites, and present ongoing negotiations involving the privatization of Hamilton airport. These actions were all taken because Hamilton-Wentworth wants to provide their taxpayers with the best value for their tax dollars.

Decisions facing municipalities cannot be trivialized, but in Hamilton-Wentworth user fees have been commonplace for years. As a matter of fact, the honourable member for Hamilton East in the Liberal caucus and the member for Hamilton Centre in the NDP caucus have voted for user fees when they were elected officials at the municipal level.

Let me give you an example. Every time you step on the HSR bus to take a ride, you pay a user fee. Every time you use the community centres, you pay a recreational fee or a user fee. Every time you turn on your tap, you pay a water fee or a user fee. But municipal politicians, those closest to the heartbeat of what goes on in municipalities, know that large numbers of user fees will not be tolerated, just as massive new tax increases would not be tolerated. Like us, municipalities will need to do just as we are doing; that is, doing better with less.

The proof is in the pudding. Tax cuts do indeed stimulate economic growth. Just as an example, in the state of Michigan, Governor John Engler has cut taxes 21 times. Michigan now boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States, a budget surplus and a booming economy. I don't think it's just a coincidence. Lower tax rates attract investment and jobs.


The opposition believes that tax cuts benefit only the rich and result in user fees. The personal income tax cut put forward by this government benefits the broad middle class, because that's where the bulk of income tax revenues comes from. In fact 64% of the benefits from a tax cut go to the people earning between $25,000 and $75,000. Higher-income earners, those above $52,000, will see their tax cut reduced by the progressive Fair Share health care levy. Tax reduction initiatives have been taken in other provinces, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and BC, so they are not new.

This motion put forward by the leader of the official opposition seems to ring hollow in the light of the evidence of how tax cuts worked in other jurisdictions. The opposition refuses to accept the fact that tax cuts can create jobs, even though there's plenty of evidence to back that fact up. For that reason, I obviously am voting against this opposition motion, and I urge everyone else to do so.

Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I'm pleased to follow my colleague from Hamilton West. I always find it interesting that the Tories feel that the years 1985 to 1995 are fair ball, but their 42 years of governing before that, particularly the years that Mike Harris was in the House, somehow have disappeared from the surface of the record in this province. I just want to remind the great Taxfighter across the floor once again that from 1981 to 1984, Mike Harris supported 16 tax increases equalling $1.823 billion. The great Taxfighter, as he likes to call himself, supported tax increases in income tax, OHIP premiums, beer taxes, fuel taxes, tobacco taxes, retail sales, corporate income tax, social service maintenance tax and a surcharge on personal income tax. This is the great Taxfighter of today. My colleagues across the floor keep referring to Liberal and NDP times. I would ask you to go back and look at your own record, your record of failure when you were in government, particularly those years that your Premier was part of that government.

But to get back to the question at hand today and the issue of the user fees as they apply across Ontario, there's not a lot of things I agree with the Premier on, but there are two quotes particularly in which I think the Premier is dead-on, two things the Premier said when he was in opposition. One was made to the Windsor Star on April 26, 1994, when Mike Harris said, "A fee hike is the same as a tax hike." In the Common Sense Revolution, here we go, May 3, 1994: "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees." They're not my quotes. That's Mike Harris then, and I guess a different Mike Harris now.

When one looks at what has happened in the few months this government has been in power -- increased user fees in Citizenship, Culture and Recreation; Consumer and Commercial Relations; Economic Development, Trade and Tourism; Education and Training; Environment and Energy; Management Board Secretariat; Municipal Affairs and Housing; Natural Resources; and the Solicitor General -- when you look at those ministries, those are your own. Those are not municipalities increasing user fees. Those are new or increased fees by your government.

Therefore, I would suggest that when the Premier said, "Under this plan, there will be no new user fees," the Premier is wrong and the Premier's words obviously don't hold up to the truth and reality of what's happening today. Or when the Premier said, "A fee hike is the same as a tax hike," when you look at the fee increases in the various ministries, I presume the Premier and this government are now acknowledging the fact that they have raised taxes across Ontario.

The member for Hamilton West spoke of the great record and the great work in Hamilton-Wentworth, and I agree; I don't think we need to take any lessons from this provincial government. I remind the members that there were substantial increases in Hamilton-Wentworth, and every single one of those user fee increases and new user fees this year were supported by her husband, a regional councillor and card-carrying Tory.

When we look at Hamilton-Wentworth, as a result of government cutbacks the citizens of Hamilton will have to pay an additional $1 million in direct user fees for recreation, swimming pools and other services; Hamilton-Wentworth, $1.07 million in new user fees at the regional level; $5.1 million in water and sewer increases for Hamilton-Wentworth. If you have a son or daughter going to McMaster University, as a result of the cutbacks McMaster will have to take in additional $6 million next year in increased tuition fees, and Mohawk College another $2.9 million. There will be increased fees for the Hamilton street railway and the DARTS disabled system. Day care: increased fees that range from $10.40 to $42 additional per month.

That has not happened because the municipal government decides it wants increased fees. That has happened because the municipal government has had to deal with the draconian, drastic cutbacks you have imposed upon them.

All you're doing is forcing a shell game. It doesn't matter how you slice it; it is the same taxpayer to whom you pretend you're giving a tax cut who now has to turn around and pay these increased user fees at the provincial level or at the municipal level.

The average steelworker in my community will lose all the tax cut you have given them this year if his or her son or daughter goes to McMaster University next year. That whole tax cut is gone, wiped out, simply as the result of the tuition fee increases you have imposed upon them.

You're saying these policies don't benefit the wealthy of Ontario. Let me tell you that the average person making $30,000 or $40,000 who gets a tax cut of $300 or $400 this year is going to lose that money very quickly when you look at all the user fees that have been added at the municipal level. A person making $100,000 or $150,000 is going to be in a different ball game. That individual is going to be able to cope quite well, thank you, with a few-hundred-dollar increases here and there, because the benefit they get from the tax cut is substantially higher.

What you are doing is playing games with the people of Ontario. You pretend you're giving people a tax break, but what you are doing is taking it out of one pocket at the municipal level and pretend like you're giving it back to them in the other pocket. The people will not be fooled. Ontarians are starting to wake up and realize that this government did not keep the commitments it made when it talked about no new user fees, no tax hike. That was simply a sham, a crock that you tried to sell to the people of Ontario, and it is one they're going to reject badly four years from now, but unfortunately they're going to reject it in a very painful way every single day for every service they'll have to pay more for as a result of your policies. You're responsible for what has happened across Ontario, and Ontarians are not going to forget what these user fees will become: the largest tax grab, at the end of four years, in the history of this province.

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I appreciate an opportunity to join in the Liberal opposition day motion regarding user fees and their impact on the people of Ontario. I want to concur with the comments of my colleague from Hamilton East, who has outlined carefully and accurately the impact on the citizens we collectively represent in the region.

I would, however, like to comment on the remarks of the government member for Hamilton West. I listened very intently to her comments, because of course in a few years she and the rest of you in the government caucus will be called upon to answer for what you have done to the people of Ontario and, more important, the people most vulnerable in our community who have been hurt the most by the actions you've taken.

I noted that the member for Hamilton West said their government was "elected to bring fiscal sanity back," and, a further quote, to bring about "spending more wisely."

It's interesting that just a couple of weeks ago, I spent time with that very same member at a high school, Westdale high school in Hamilton, at a political forum called by the students to talk about the impact of this government's economic agenda and their cuts on the education system. I can tell you that those students, and I suspect they're representative of an awful lot of students across the province, understand very clearly what's going on. They had the facts, the figures, the time frames, they had very pointed questions, and I can tell you that those young leaders of the future do not agree that this government is bringing any kind of fiscal sanity back, nor are they spending more wisely. In fact, those students are very concerned about the cuts as they affect the education system and what it means to them as regards their ability to get the kind of education that they need and that quite frankly they deserve and that, I would go on to say, historically they've had in this province.


They look at the tuition fee increases that are coming when they go on from high school, because a lot of the students who were there were in their last couple of years of high school, and they gave very dramatic examples of what they're facing and what they see.

While we hear members like the one from Hamilton West talking this great macroeconomic miracle that's going to happen to our economy here in Ontario, those students focused on the fact that they have textbooks that are so out of date that they still show the Prime Minister as being Pierre Elliott Trudeau. They are dealing with a shortage of textbooks that's so severe that they have to take the textbooks they have -- and by the way, oftentimes they don't even have textbooks, they've got photocopies, because they don't have the money to provide decent textbooks for our students. They have to take those textbooks and before they're finished the course they're taking, it's not unusual, they tell us, to have to hand those books over to the next class that's beginning the course they are still finishing, because if they didn't do that, that class wouldn't have any textbooks at all.

On my way out, I walked with the teacher who worked with the students in putting on the forum and walked out with one of the students, and they showed me that there hadn't been a complete or adequate paint job in this school for almost 20 years. Westdale is a proud institution in our community. Some of the finest citizens in our community and across Ontario went through that school. I know there are former students who go through there and hang their head in shame at the condition of that school. Why? Because the boards have had to cut to the point where they don't have money to reinvest in maintenance, they don't have the money to invest in textbooks, they don't even have the money to maintain the staff levels they once had.

Let's keep in mind that this is not, as the government would have people believe, an institution that has been immune from the cuts and fiscal constraints of the years leading up to your deadly budget. They've already made the cuts. They've already made the changes. They've already made the institutional realignments that allow them to save the money, all the buzzwords this government talks about as if it was their idea, like nobody ever heard of this before. School boards, certainly the ones in my community, have been doing that for years.

Those students are aware that the $400 million that's cut from this fiscal year because of the way the fiscal calendar works is equivalent to $1 billion out of our school system. I asked those students, "Do you think it's a fair tradeoff that this is what's happening to your high school, and you know what the cost is going to be for your university and college education, when this tax cut benefit only means at best $5 or $10 a week to your parents?" And that is before we talk about the fee increases that boards and municipalities are having to institute in order to offset the cuts. Their answer was, "Of course not." How can that make any common sense? How can it make common sense that you would give back five or 10 bucks? Most of that you would claw back in user fees and then allow the education system to deteriorate the way it is.

This is a school board that had the courage to say it wasn't going to jettison important programs like junior kindergarten and stood in its place in its governing council and chose to raise property taxes, which is not very popular these days, less so now than ever. They felt it was more important to maintain the integrity of the key priorities and components of an excellent education system rather than bow to the fiscal bottom line of this government.

We see the same thing happening in health care; we sure see it happening to seniors. I have a lot of seniors in my riding because I represent the downtown of Hamilton, which is more convenient and can provide a better quality of life for many seniors by living in the downtown area. In the week that we all spent back in our ridings, I had senior after senior approaching me and telling me they're scared, that they're afraid of the future. They know there's not going to be any great fiscal gain for them. They're not going to have extra money in their pockets.

These are people who have worked all their lives, decent, hardworking people who shouldn't have to fear for their future in the final days that they spend. They shouldn't have to do that, but that's what this government is doing; that's what your agenda is doing to seniors in my riding and I suspect right across Ontario.

As an example, if we take Hamilton seniors who have an income from two pensions of $20,000 and they take six different prescription drugs a month, which I would suggest is a low calculation for many seniors, the tax cut means $2.53 every two weeks for those pensioners in my riding. What are they looking at in terms of fee increases? Again, not because anybody locally wanted to raise the fees but because they had no alternative: $130 more for public transit, based on average usage by seniors, and $144 per year in new user fees for the Ontario drug benefit plan.

Seniors in Hamilton are worried about their health care system; they're worried about whether or not they're still going to have a home, based on the fact that it looks like this government is going to go after Ontario Housing Corp. They continue to see services they rely on in the community cutting back on their ability to help seniors have the best quality of life they can, a quality of life they worked for that they deserve, that they're entitled to.

I find it obscene that a member from the Tory back benches who represents other seniors in Hamilton would stand up and talk about this great benefit to Ontarians and to seniors like those in my riding when this is what their reality is. Their reality is one of fear, of concern about how they're going to survive, and all they see is government members standing up saying, "The tax cut's going to create all kinds of jobs, and when we create all kinds of jobs, that'll give us all the tax revenue we need and then we'll be able to put it into priority places," all this great, far-right-wing macrononsense that sounds good when you're making a speech but does not work when it trickles down to the average working person in communities like mine in Hamilton. That's not just us.

It was just a couple of months ago when John McCallum, chief economist at the Royal Bank, said, and I quote from a Globe and Mail article, "I don't believe a tax cut financed by spending cuts will stimulate the economy."


No one is being fooled. The name of this game is to take care of your friends, and your friends are the ones who already have the money and have the influence and have the best that our economy has to offer. Quite frankly, people do not resent success. There's nothing wrong with people being successful. What's wrong is to give that very same group of people more, and funding it by taking from the most vulnerable. They took 22% of the money, the income that goes to the poorest people in our province, to pay for this tax cut, where of $5 billion -- which has to be borrowed, by the way, to be paid for -- over half goes to the top 10% income earners in the province of Ontario. That's what this is about: It's about taking care of your friends, and everybody else, too bad.

With this government there's us and there's them, and that's how they see it. If you're not one of them, you're the enemy. The enemy is being dealt a vicious hand by this government.

They talk about job creation, that the tax cut is going to give us job creation. Your own statistics in your own budget document show that your target of 725,000 jobs is not going to be met. Those are your own figures. You're not going to achieve that. For the jobs that are created, look what's happening on the labour front: Employment standards rights are being attacked and watered down; health and safety protection is being attacked and watered down and eliminated; benefits to workers injured on the job through no fault of their own are going to be attacked and cut. Of course, that cut will go to pay for a reduction in the assessment rate to many of their friends.

Environmental protection: much of it gone.

Mr Bradley: Almost all of it gone.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): It's almost all gone.

Mr Christopherson: I hear from a previous environment minister in the Liberal government and my colleague, a former cabinet minister, the member for Riverdale, that it's almost all gone. It is gone.

This government does not care about that because all they see, as the member for Hamilton West talked about, is what's happening in Michigan. If you really want to see what's going on and understand where this game plan is, take a look down at the United States. Take a look at the agenda of the right wing in the United States today. That's the agenda that's in front of us. They stand up with pride and talk about what's going on in Michigan. You take a look at what they did to the poorest people in Michigan. How can you stand there and take pride in saying that we're doing the same thing? That's not building Ontario; that's not giving people opportunity and hope and the ability to provide for themselves and their families in the future. That's taking away; that's going after the most vulnerable; that's playing the worst kind of politics.

You've designed it in a way that you're hoping school boards and municipalities will be the ones that take the political heat, that they'll take the political fall, and you can run around and take the credit, saying, "We cut taxes and we made sure that the fiscal budget was balanced and we did this and we did that." The reality is that those cuts and the damage in our communities, like that in mine of Hamilton Centre, Hamilton-Wentworth, is a direct result of what you're doing. It's all in aid of making sure your friends get more. It's a disgusting agenda, and more and more Ontarians are seeing it.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): I'd like to start out by pointing out that we have introduced absolutely no new user fees into the post-secondary sector, none. Furthermore, anyone criticizing this government for increasing tuition fees would do well to look at the facts and the history in the last 10 years in the province of Ontario.

Over the past decade, increases to tuition fees have been the norm rather than the exception. I say to the member for Hamilton East, who is a member of the Liberal Party, the Liberals increased tuition fees by 30% between 1986 and 1990. To my colleague from Hamilton Centre in the NDP, the NDP government increased tuition fees by almost 50% between 1990 and 1995. Not only that, but it was the NDP that cancelled student grants and made the Ontario student assistance program a loans-only program.

I would also like to point out that, unlike the previous two governments, we had the strongest possible rationale for raising tuition fees: We were left with a deficit of $9 billion, and that's to say nothing of the debt. This made it necessary for us to introduce modest tuition fee increases. College tuition fees will rise by 15% in 1996-97, to $1,275, and for universities, basic tuition fees will increase by 10%. As a result, basic tuition fees for undergraduate arts and science students will be $2,386. In both cases the fees will in all probability be the absolute best value of a student's entire life.

University tuition will be partially deregulated, which means that universities will be able to increase tuition fees by a further 10% at their discretion.

Post-secondary education in this province is clearly one of the best bargains around. College students pay only 24% of the cost of their education and university students pay 33%, still a small portion of the actual cost. If you look at our neighbours south of the border, you'll find American students pay 10 times that amount for a decent education, and sometimes even more.

Education is an investment in the future that students and their parents make. It's not unreasonable that students should pay a fair share of the cost of the education they receive, and this is not an idea that originated with this government. The previous two governments obviously thought students should be paying a larger proportion of their fees.

As is painfully clear, Ontario has been spending beyond its means for too long and there's no way we could continue to run a province with a $9-billion deficit. As a government, we were spending more on debt interest than we spend on education, and I can tell you, students understand the situation, apparently better than some politicians. I've travelled extensively in the province talking to students and people involved in post-secondary education, and young people are very realistic about the need for us to tighten our belts. They don't want to inherit a huge provincial debt, and most of them are willing to do their share to help. This government intends to stand by our students and see that they get the sort of help they need.

We have asked that both colleges and universities direct 10% of any new revenues from tuition increases for local student aid. We are also working with the federal government to develop a new student aid model for post-secondary students. We feel that student loans should be geared to what a student earns after graduation. At the same time, we want to ensure access for all students who want a post-secondary education without placing an undue burden on the taxpayers of Ontario.

Furthermore, as Mr Eves announced in the budget, we are providing an incentive to encourage companies and individuals to help Ontario students. We have made it possible for every college and university to establish an Ontario student opportunity trust fund. The province will match any business and individual donation to this fund made before March 31, 1997, and the money will be used to assist academically qualified individuals who for financial reasons would not otherwise be able to attend college or university. The province expects to contribute approximately $100 million towards this initiative, creating $200 million in trust funds.

Our commitment to post-secondary education and the students of this province doesn't stop there. We've been talking informally with the educators and students across the province about the future of post-secondary education. Shortly, we will be issuing a discussion paper on post-secondary education that will give us a framework for the way education will work for the next 100 years, and I can assure you that it will work more efficiently, more effectively and more economically. This discussion paper will be the basis for four to six months of consultation among government, post-secondary institutions, private partners and anyone concerned with post-secondary education. It will be an opportunity for all partners to be involved in improving our post-secondary system. And let me add this: Consultation will be a full policy review on certain matters, not just a fiscal exercise.


I believe it is important to get the views of those who are running the system, those who are using the system and those who are paying for it.

We want to address such areas as: What shares of the total cost of education should be borne by the student, the government and the private sector; how we can rationalize programs and differentiate fees for professional and graduate degrees; how we can protect accessibility; and how we can encourage cooperation among the institutions.

When the consultation is completed, we will have a policy framework in place to make important decisions, decisions that will ensure that Ontario has a sustainable post-secondary system that provides high-quality, accountable and affordable education to the greatest number of students.

There is a wealth of ideas and creative thought in our colleges and universities. People are offering up solutions, from special bursaries for students with limited financial means to innovative ideas on restructuring and partnerships. Our colleges and universities are committed to helping develop a new framework of shared funding responsibilities among students, post-secondary institutions, taxpayers and other community and business partners.

Funding is not the only issue facing our post-secondary institutions. They continue to offer an abundant range of educational opportunities to all learners in the province. They are building upon past successes, and as a government, we will facilitate their future successes.

I'm very proud of our record and direction on post-secondary education. In less than a year, we've become government and we've accomplished a great deal in many different areas. I'm particularly proud of what we've done in post-secondary education and I'm looking forward to further successes in the coming years.

Mr Joseph N. Tascona (Simcoe Centre): I'd like to join my caucus colleagues in addressing those issues raised by the member for Fort William. While I'm sure it is obvious that I do not agree with the statements made by the member for Fort William, the member is correct about one thing: There is only one taxpayer in Ontario. Since there is only one taxpayer in Ontario, it is important that my government has already taken steps to address the growing burden that Ontario taxpayers have had to bear during the last 10 years.

Contrary to the member for Fort William's statement, I have not heard any of my constituents refer to Ontario as the home of the user fee. I have, however, heard the expression that Ontario is finally the home of the tax cut. After more than a decade of tax increases by the opposition parties, this moniker is long overdue.

I've had constituents telephone my office to thank Mike Harris for lowering their provincial income taxes. I have also had young families call my constituency office in Barrie and Bradford-West Gwillimbury looking for information about the tax rebate available for first-time new home buyers. I have seen the television stories on the local news featuring families who are not so young any more but are finally able to buy their first home. I have also had people tell me how they're going to spend their tax cut.

There is evidence that tax cuts help to encourage investment in small businesses. A quick look at my riding of Simcoe Centre will show you that small business and entrepreneurship are what drives Ontario's economy.

The member for Fort William charges that government spending cuts and tax cuts are funding the tax cut to the wealthy in Ontario. I'm not sure how my colleague from the official opposition can logically make that claim when we know that it is much more than the wealthy who will benefit from the tax cut.

During the last 10 years of Liberal and NDP governments, the people of Ontario have shouldered the burden of some 65 tax increases. In fact, most of the Liberal and NDP tax increases were at the expense of the middle class, the people of Ontario who work day in and day out trying to get ahead. The Liberals and the NDP didn't focus their tax increases on the wealthy, and my government is not focusing its tax cut on the wealthy either. That's why more than 90% of Ontarians will soon be paying less tax, thanks to the Minister of Finance's budget introduced earlier this month.

The opposition, with their years of tax increases and their dislike for tax cuts, appears to have forgotten that the middle class of this province is not just the wealthy. The middle class includes families with young children who are trying to make ends meet. It includes young people starting out with jobs after completing their schooling. The middle class includes people approaching retirement age, as well as those who have already retired. It includes single parents who have seen more and more of their paycheques eaten up by taxes over the years. Our tax cut will finally make it a little bit easier for almost everyone in Ontario. I have trouble understanding why giving these people a break is such a bad thing.

Spending reductions at the provincial level are also important because there is only one taxpayer. The province has kept that in mind, and it is important for municipalities to realize this as well. Municipalities in my riding have demonstrated that budgets can be kept in line, that services can be provided efficiently and effectively without having to increase taxes.

For too long, the governments of this country at the federal, provincial and local levels have operated on the basis that there is a never-ending supply of money to spend, that taxes and spending can be increased without being accountable to the taxpayers and their ability to pay. Our budget finally took that into account. The people of Ontario haven't been able to afford the tax increases loaded on them by the opposition. Future generations, our children and grandchildren, can't afford the huge debt we will leave them if we don't control government spending.

Our government is taking action to control and reduce that debt. In the process, we have had to make some tough choices, but in the long run these decisions are in the best interests of Ontario's future.

I have consistently said that municipalities must not pass on taxes at the local level. I believe our municipal politicians are responsible to their electorate and know that tax increases can be prevented through careful planning and innovative decisions. This is evident in my riding of Simcoe Centre. Since the Mike Harris government was elected, the city of Barrie has brought in a 0% increase in municipal taxes. This is the city's fifth consecutive year of no tax increases.

I think it is fair to say that in the city of Barrie a new mindset began several years ago. The question has become, what level of service must be provided, and beyond that level, what additional services should be provided and who should be expected to pay for them?

Municipalities face fiscal challenges, but I believe they are prepared to face those challenges as long as the province gives them the tools needed to do the job. Bill 26 gives municipalities those tools.

The city of Barrie experienced a decrease in transfers from the province but it is dealing with that reality responsibly, and other municipalities in my riding are following suit. I'd just like to quote an article from the Barrie Examiner from last night dealing with and entitled "Tax Cut Next on the Agenda." It states:

"Restructuring, laying off employees and finding new, less expensive ways to deliver services have paid dividends for these municipalities." And I'm referring to Barrie, Innisfil, the townships of Essa, Springwater and Oro-Medonte.

"The town of Innisfil, which passed its 1996 operating budget last week with no increase despite losing $710,000 in provincial transfer payments, has a simple economic philosophy.

"It's spend what you make, or match your expenditures to your revenues, as Mayor Stewart Fisher said.

"This is, of course, what the private sector has been doing since the economy headed south in the late 1980s, and continues to do in the appropriately named nasty 1990s.

"It's been slower coming in the public sector because administrators and managers there aren't dealing with their own money, but the taxpayers' instead.

"But now the taxpayers are demanding not to pay higher taxes, period. People who haven't had a pay raise in three or four years, or have had to take a pay cut to keep their jobs or even lost their jobs, simply can't afford to pay higher taxes.

"They don't want to hear about union demands or the social contract or rising expenses. There's no more money coming into the household, so there's no more money heading out."


The Simcoe County Board of Education was also able to keep its spending in line and prevent passing on a larger increase to taxpayers. This proves that at the local level responsible decisions can be made. In Simcoe county, the average mill rate increase will be only 1.77%. The Simcoe County Board of Education is a fast-growing board and it would have been easy for trustees to pass on taxes. Instead, they made a more responsible decision, a decision accountable to the people they were elected to represent. Municipalities in my riding have not introduced hundreds of new user fees, as the opposition suggests.

Bill 26 does give municipalities more power. However, for years, municipalities have been asking the provincial governments of the day for more power. With respect to our budget introduced earlier this month and in a follow-up to Bill 26, the mayor of the city of Barrie wrote to me and told me that the city of Barrie is supportive of any initiatives which can be undertaken to ensure that municipalities have the authority and the flexibility required to carry out their vital functions and activities. Bill 26 allows municipalities like Barrie to do that.

The actions taken by my government are a balanced approach to deficit reduction. We have created business plans for our ministries so that taxpayers can be assured that vital and necessary services continue to be provided. For years, governments of the day have asked the people of Ontario to give up more and more of their hard-earned dollars in order to fund services and government programs at increasingly higher costs. For a change, this government has presented a new solution: Just as Ontarians have had to do more with less, the provincial government is learning to do more with less.

There is no reason to believe that our municipalities and local governments are not capable of this. We have asked our ministries and our partners at the municipal and local levels to find efficiencies that will ensure that taxpayers' hard-earned dollars are more responsibly spent. Bill 26 allows municipalities to make decisions based on local needs. Taxpayers are best at determining how their money is spent. They are intelligent enough to elect municipal leaders who spend their money wisely. They also know enough to elect provincial governments who promise to do the same.

My government made that commitment to the people of Ontario. Our budget allows taxpayers to keep more money in their wallets because the people who earn the money are best equipped to decide how it will be spent. Our budget also moves to reduce our debt by scaling back the size of government. At the same time, we are increasing spending on key services such as child care, technology in the classroom, special education for children with learning disorders and nutrition programs for children and new mothers. Bill 26 and our budget have helped this government reduce the debt. At the same time, we have managed to cut taxes and provide better service at a more efficient price. We have presented a balanced approach to deficit reduction and will continue to do so.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: Thank you, Mr Speaker. As we wind up this debate or get down to the last part of this debate, I know there will be a vote shortly in the House.

The Speaker: Excuse me. I didn't know whether you were on a point of order.

Mr Bradley: No, I'm not.

The Speaker: Then I should be rotating.

Mr Bradley: I will be next in the rotation.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Those guys are Tories.

The Speaker: The member for St Catharines.

Mr Bradley: Thank you, Mr Speaker. As we wind down, I know we'll be having a vote quite quickly in the House. I think there are a few things that should be said about this particular motion and why I believe it's a supportable motion today.

First of all, as we have said on numerous occasions in the past, one of the problems is that the government has decided it is going to embark upon a 30% income tax cut at a time when the province simply can't afford that income tax cut. It's an income tax cut that will largely benefit the richest, most wealthy people in our society.

It's interesting that government members will say, "Well, everyone's going to benefit," but the president of the bank, the president of a major corporation, a person with a large income, is obviously going to benefit immensely from such a tax cut while the individual who has a modest income is going to benefit very little and is going to have to pay various user fees, whether they're for the provincial government or local governments and agencies.

What the government is doing is cutting the most progressive tax, the tax that takes into account a person's ability to pay, and transferring it to the most regressive tax, that is, the municipal property tax, which does not take into account a person's ability to pay, or to user fees. While user fees hit everyone, of course the most wealthy will be able to afford them and those with the least means in terms of finances will not be able to afford those increases in user fees.

What happens politically is that the province comes off as being popular because they are the ones who are cutting the taxes. They force municipalities and local agencies to be the most unpopular people because they're the ones who have to either raise property taxes or raise their user fees.

In addition to this, the local people, many of whom do not want to go through this exercise now because they've already gone through it over the past few years, will have to make those unpopular decisions and will have to enact measures which are going to prevent people from playing a full role in their society.

The government will have to borrow an additional $13 billion just to finance the tax break. I haven't found anybody, except government members and a few cheerleaders in the Conservative Party, who think that makes any sense at all, to be borrowing $13 billion additionally to finance a tax cut to give the money to you and to me. Once the budget is balanced, a lot of people would say you could justify it at that time. They simply don't believe you can justify it at this particular time.

Economists say what you're doing over there -- that is, cutting the income taxes at the same time you are cutting expenditures by government -- means you're going to have a contractionary effect. Every economist I've talked to has said that. I believe if you talk to John Crispo privately, when he's not at a Conservative meeting, he's going to tell you that, because he knows that to be the case.

What you've done is you've got people fighting at the local level, and that's great politically. In terms of education you've got the Catholic boards fighting with the public boards; you've got the people who believe in junior kindergarten fighting with the people who believe in secondary education or believe in adult education; you've got the boards of education fighting with their employees; you've got teachers in both panels fighting with one another and pointing the fingers at one another. But in fact the finger has to point in only one direction: that is, Toronto; that is, the provincial government; that is, what you are imposing upon them.

Community college students and university students are going to find it more difficult to gain entrance into the universities and colleges of this province at the very time we have to have a highly skilled, highly educated population to be able to compete in an ever-competitive world.

We have seen cuts in social service payments, but at the same time those people are seeing rent controls about to be removed, so that's an increased cost. And in addition to that, those people have to pay additional user fees from a base which is a much more modest base.

The local people do not want to get into raising these fees. We've heard many examples of them across the province. When junior kindergarten is cut, the local board of education ordinarily does not want to cut that; it's forced to cut that by the lack of funding forthcoming from the provincial government.


I read an interesting article in the Burlington Post -- someone just brought it to my attention -- by Paul Mitchison. It probably demonstrates what the problem is with what the government is doing and how it is affecting people at the local level. It reads as follows:

"And while city politicians passed the budget with no tax hike, many residents are beginning to find out they've been hit with painful new user fees.

"The cost of riding a bus has risen to $2 from $1.70 and prices are increasing on everything from minor hockey to green fees at the...municipal golf course. But the new cost of a summer dip reflects the most chilling user fee increase.

"Karen des Tombe said she was `shocked' to find a family pass for Nelson pool, which cost $80 last summer, is now a $307 Family Swim Card.

"`The pool was always fun and cheap, but not now,' she said, adding she'll now have to limit trips to the pool to an occasional special event. `Who's going to be using it with these prices?'"

I can answer that question. It will be the rich and the privileged, if they don't have their own.

"The new user fees are listed in the city's latest Recreation and Leisure Guide. A swim card allowing 45 visits to Nelson is now $307.40, while a book of 10 visits for a five-member family is $76.80."

A little girl wrote a letter to the Post, and I'll end with this letter. It says the following:

"The Burlington Post also received a letter from a disappointed 14-year-old girl saying her family is on a fixed income, unable to afford a vacation and can't pay the new rates at Nelson.

"`My sister and I were really upset because we really enjoyed going to the pool last year and this year we've been told we won't be able to.'"

That really epitomizes what's happening in Ontario. That is what I call the Americanization of Ontario where the gulf between the rich and the privileged and the poor and those of modest means increases tremendously. And that is what we are trying to end in this province with this resolution.

Mr Ernie Hardeman (Oxford): I just want to take a few moments to say I will not be supporting the motion.


Mr Hardeman: I'm sure everyone is somewhat surprised.

I find it interesting that the Leader of the Opposition would suggest that the reduction in transfer payments to municipalities will be the cause of an immense increase in user fees when in fact from 1986 to 1990 in the province of Ontario municipal grants were increased by 19% at the same time that municipalities were increasing their share of the property tax in the neighbourhood of 20%. It was also during that time that the implementation of user fees was increased well beyond both the increase in provincial funding and the increase in the municipal taxation. So it does not necessarily follow that municipalities are going to use the user fee option to replace provincial funding.

In my city, the city of Woodstock, they were able to set their 1996 budget with no rate increase, and incidentally, they were also not required to implement any major new user fees.

We've heard a lot of talk about the user fees and the different things municipalities will be able to charge user fees for. Again I find it interesting that prior to the government's implementation of Bill 26, user fees could in fact be charged on some 100 different items in the municipal sector. Bill 26 allows municipalities the opportunity to choose which one or where they think it's the most appropriate place to charge those user fees.

Many areas have been talked about that seem to be, in some people's minds, unique in user fees. In my municipality we have been paying for garbage collection for some time now through a user-pay system, $1 per bag collected. I want to point out that when that process was implemented in 1993, the waste generated per household was reduced by 40%. It was not a way of raising more money but in fact was a way of paying for services people required, but it also provided the opportunity for the taxpayer to utilize that service in such a way as to not expend any more money than they felt was appropriate.

I see my time has almost expired. I would just suggest again that I think the Leader of the Opposition is wrong in assuming that we will increase user fees by reducing funding.

The Speaker: The member's time has expired.

We're dealing with the opposition day number 1 motion standing in the name of Mrs McLeod.

All those in favour of Mrs McLeod's motion will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

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

The division bells rang from 1756 to 1801.

The Speaker: The resolution standing in the name of Mrs McLeod: All those in favour, please rise one at a time.


Agostino, Dominic

Cooke, David S.

McLeod, Lyn

Bartolucci, Rick

Cordiano, Joseph

Miclash, Frank

Boyd, Marion

Crozier, Bruce

Morin, Gilles E.

Bradley, James J.

Duncan, Dwight

Patten, Richard

Brown, Michael A.

Grandmaître, Bernard

Pupatello, Sandra

Caplan, Elinor

Gravelle, Michael

Ramsay, David

Castrilli, Annamarie

Hampton, Howard

Ruprecht, Tony

Christopherson, David

Kormos, Peter

Silipo, Tony

Churley, Marilyn

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Wood, Len

Cleary, John C.

Lankin, Frances


Conway, Sean G.

Laughren, Floyd


The Speaker: All those opposed will please rise one at a time.


Arnott, Ted

Hardeman, Ernie

Pettit, Trevor

Baird, John R.

Harnick, Charles

Preston, Peter

Bassett, Isabel

Hastings, John

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Beaubien, Marcel

Jackson, Cameron

Ross, Lillian

Boushy, Dave

Johns, Helen

Runciman, Bob

Brown, Jim

Johnson, Bert

Shea, Derwyn

Carroll, Jack

Johnson, David

Sheehan, Frank

Chudleigh, Ted

Johnson, Ron

Skarica, Toni

Danford, Harry

Jordan, Leo

Smith, Bruce

Doyle, Ed

Kells, Morley

Spina, Joseph

Eves, Ernie L.

Martiniuk, Gerry

Sterling, Norman W.

Fisher, Barbara

Maves, Bart

Stewart, R. Gary

Flaherty, Jim

Munro, Julia

Tascona, Joseph N.

Ford, Douglas B.

Murdoch, Bill

Tilson, David

Fox, Gary

Newman, Dan

Tsubouchi, David H.

Froese, Tom

O'Toole, John

Turnbull, David

Galt, Doug

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Villeneuve, Noble

Gilchrist, Steve

Palladini, Al

Wood, Bob

Grimmett, Bill

Parker, John L.

Young, Terence H.

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 31, the nays are 57.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

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


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for London Centre has given notice of her dissatisfaction with an answer to her question given by the Minister of Community and Social Services concerning the NAN study with respect to social assistance rates.

The member for London Centre has five minutes and the minister or his parliamentary assistant will have up to five minutes to respond.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): This afternoon the Minister of Community and Social Services displayed a complete lack of understanding of the northern communities which were the subject of my question. This minister has a standard response which he gives to every question that's asked, whether it's relevant or not. The minister is clearly ignoring his responsibility as a minister of the crown to provide representatives of the people with appropriate information in response to the questions that are put in this assembly.

In the first place, the minister suggested that social assistance recipients in Ontario are able to earn back the difference between the old social assistance rates and the new rates, which are 21.6% of those old rates. This is a tired refrain from this minister, one that rings hollow enough in the populated areas of the province, where unemployment is about 9%, but it's ridiculous to offer this as a solution in communities where unemployment rates soar as high as 90%, 10 times what it is here in the south.

There's another thing that's 10 times greater in the north, and that's the scale of the map. A standard road map is huge. Here is Toronto, and way up there is Fort Severn, Fort Albany --


The Speaker: Order. The members are out of order.

Mrs Boyd: We have to find some way to educate this minister on what Ontario is really like. I'm not sure that this minister has any idea what these communities are like at all. They're not large, metropolitan areas, where people have access to services, to public transit, to jobs here and there. In fact, many of the services and opportunities for employment that did exist have been eliminated by this government and this minister.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, for example, eliminated the small communities improvement program that provided minor capital funding for construction and renovation of facilities -- jobs.

This minister cut funding to the native friendship centres, cancelled programs like Little Beavers, the community youth support program, that were helping young people to find jobs. Family services across the north have suffered drastic cuts to their counselling, and now they're unable to help families identify the source and impact of problems.

Then, to add insult to injury, this minister treated this serious issue as another opportunity to tout his so-called workfare program, a program that hasn't even been announced. The problem facing families in remote nations is a simple one: They don't have enough money to keep their families properly nourished and warm. From the little we know about workfare, we can be sure it will not increase family incomes. The minister has clearly stated in the past that people will be working for their welfare benefits, not earning extra money. How does he even dare suggest that this is an answer to communities with 90% unemployment?

Let's look at the issues raised by the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation in Grand Council Treaty 3. Together, they represent 74 first nation communities; almost 50 are accessible only by air for most of the year. Even where there is road access, many social assistance recipients have to travel to larger centres such as Kenora to shop. The social service administrator shopped for items to feed a family of four using the Agriculture Canada thrifty nutritious food basket. A loaf of bread that cost $1.19 in Thunder Bay was $2 in Kingfisher Lake, $3.55 in Fort Severn and $2.29 in Fort Albany. A can of tuna -- of great interest to this minister -- cost $1.60 in Thunder Bay, $2.95 in Kingfisher Lake, $2.26 in Fort Severn and a whopping $3.76 in Fort Albany. There are no stores to shop around, and there is no way to bargain when food is brought into these communities.

Let's look at specific communities. A family of four receives a basic allowance of $612 a month. If they're shopping at the IGA in Sioux Lookout, they can make their food bill by $766 using the measure. But if they live in Attawapiskat, where they get the northern allowance, bringing their social assistance to $892, their groceries cost them $1,242, or $350 more than they can afford.

This is not an issue to be taken lightly, to use either as a public relations opportunity for government policies which have yet to be announced. I want a serious answer from the minister. I ask him again, what action are you going to take in response to the NAN Grand Council Treaty 3 findings?

The Speaker: The Minister of Community and Social Services for up to five minutes.

Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Minister of Community and Social Services): I'm glad to see the honourable member across the way wants a serious answer from me, considering they had a staged demonstration at the earlier part of her little speech with a map of the province. I appreciate the lesson about northern Ontario, since my family is from Fort William and I have a lot of relatives up there. I would hazard a guess I've spent a lot more time in northern Ontario than the member has.

The member opposite raised a question in the House earlier today with respect to the news release by the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation. I'd like to reiterate this government's commitment to reform the welfare system to break the cycle of dependency which has been created, quite frankly, by the policy of the previous 10 years. The previous government had a policy of more of the same and doing nothing, and in fact made the problem worse. We recognize this challenge for people who live on a restricted budget, but we have maintained the welfare rates at 10% above the average of the other provinces in this country and we do have a special allowance that takes into consideration the unique circumstances associated with living in northern remote communities. This allowance was not reduced, and this was in addition to the current social assistance rates and is based on family size.

In calendar year 1995, we provided approximately $8 million in northern allowances for people on social assistance. We also provide over $100 million annually for services for native peoples. We will be working with the first nations communities to look at how we can implement welfare reform, taking into consideration how Ontario Works and community projects can benefit first nations communities.

Since my April meeting with the Chiefs of Ontario, several other meetings have taken place and staff are continuing this important dialogue. This will be done in consultation with other key ministries to ensure a coordinated economic development approach. To that end, the province will, under the leadership of the minister responsible for native affairs, encourage and assist aboriginal economic and community development to reduce dependence on transfer payments and to facilitate greater self-reliance and responsibility for community wellbeing.

The goal of the aboriginal policy framework is a better future in which aboriginal communities have stronger economies and greater capacities to become more self-reliant and exercise greater responsibility for their wellbeing. While aboriginal, federal and provincial governments have a number of ongoing initiatives in place to support economic development, a more coordinated collaboration among all three parties with the private sector may realize even better results.

As part of my government's spring budget, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines has been asked to investigate opportunities for partnerships between government and the private sector to build infrastructure and to stimulate resource development in remote areas north of the 51st parallel. The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp's new board of directors met to begin mapping out plans to invest some $210 million over the next four years to bring new jobs and growth to northern Ontario.

So yes, we are concerned with native communities and northern Ontario.

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

The House adjourned at 1814.