36th Parliament, 1st Session

L079 - Wed 29 May 1996 / Mer 29 Mai 1996















































The House met at 1333.




Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): The litany of broken election promises continues. The decision to introduce video lottery terminals to Ontario has broken a fundamental election promise which firmly stated, "A Harris government will not move on VLTs until all sectors have been consulted." Sadly, there wasn't a public dialogue, nor was there any contact with interested parties that have a legitimate stake in this issue.

The introduction of VLTs makes it clear that the government is desperate to find answers to its main fiscal dilemma: how to pay for its tax cut. I cannot think of a better example of financial desperation than a government which actively tries to seduce money out of the pockets of hardworking Ontarians through an ill-conceived, get-rich-quick scheme. These people should be investing in their future, not throwing money away in false hope.

Finally, what is most disturbing about this endeavour is that the government is drooling so much over the anticipated revenue that it has lost sight of the social consequences this decision will have.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I'd like to direct my statement today to the Premier and Chris Hodgson, Minister of Natural Resources.

On May 16 more than 900 Ministry of Natural Resources staff members were laid off, most of them in northern Ontario. In my riding of Cochrane North, 41 jobs were lost.

I'd like to read into the record a letter that was sent to me by one of my constituents whose husband received a pink slip from the Ministry of Natural Resources office in Kapuskasing. Her letter reads:

"Dear Mr Wood:

"I would like you to extend my true thanks to Mr Mike Harris and Chris Hodgson for the lovely pink slip my husband received May 16 after almost 10 years of service.

"Since my husband does have bumping rights, my children would like to thank them for having to leave their home, friends and grandparents behind.

"I would also like to thank them for the loss of our drug plan, dental plan, optical plan and most importantly, my husband's life insurance. With three small children (eight, six and four) these things are not very important to have.

"I would just like to say if we decide that we do not wish to use the `bumping rights,' please look forward to seeing our name on your list of welfare recipients.

"Yours truly,

"A wife that decided to leave her job three years ago to look after her children."


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): Two weeks ago one of my constituents, a 15-year-old boy, had his throat slashed by a 17-year-old. He died, tragically, near my home. While he lay dying, blood pouring from his neck, the 17-year-old assailant taunted him.

Last week a 14-year-old murdered another 14-year-old with a crowbar in Burlington.

A year ago during the election campaign a friend, Mr Tom Ambas, lost his younger brother, Louis Ambas, who died from 54 stab wounds allegedly committed by a young offender. When that young offender went to court he was supported by two lawyers, two social workers and a psychiatrist, all paid for by the taxpayers of Ontario. Louis Ambas's family had no such support.

On behalf of my constituents, I call upon this House to send a message to federal Justice Minister Allan Rock to toughen the Young Offenders Act. The youth must be put on notice that they cannot hide behind their age.

The party's over. We the people will not stand silent any more. No longer should an 11-year-old be allowed to rape a 13-year-old girl and taunt the police that they can't touch him because of the law. We've had enough of being terrorized.

Justice Minister Rock, here are some changes to the Young Offenders Act that we demand:

That young offenders be tried as adults for violent crimes.

Remove the clause that gives children legal aid services regardless of parents' income.

Apply the Young Offenders Act only to those 15 and under.

Release the names of convicted young offenders.

Try children as adults after two convictions.

Make drug counselling mandatory for young offenders.

Adult time for adult crime.

The province will do its part, Allan Rock. It's your turn, and time is of the essence.


Mr John C. Cleary (Cornwall): A 70-year-old woman who resides in the riding of Minister Noble Villeneuve has come to me with grave concerns over the changes the Tory government has made to health care and the coverage for cancer treatment. Diagnosed last fall with cancer of the bladder, she's already undergone one form of treatment unsuccessfully.

Just recently, her doctor determined she might be better treated by receiving a weekly shot of BCG administered in his office. The treatment costs her $90 per visit up front. As of April 1, however, BCG has been delisted from OHIP, and now the woman and her husband are not sure they can afford the entire treatment schedule on their limited income.

Because of this government's delisting of health services, perhaps to fund their massive tax cut for wealthy executives, this woman's worrying is not only about having cancer; it's about not being able to afford the treatment in Mike Harris's Ontario.

I ask the Premier and the Minister of Health to consider the effect their cutbacks to health care are having on the people of Ontario.



Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Last night I attended a meeting in Toronto where hundreds of tenants gathered to voice their opposition to Tory tampering with our rent control system.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was presented with a document he was asked to sign, A True Tenants' Protection Package. Given that the minister says he wants to improve rent control for tenants, I'm sure he will have no problem agreeing with these basic points and will be willing to sign this pledge:

"(1) That any new tenant protection package will include a cap on maximum rents.

"(2) That vacant apartment units would be covered.

"(3) That rental housing stock will continue to be protected.

"(4) That any rent increases will be linked to the ongoing maintenance of the building, and that any increase due will be denied if there are outstanding work orders against the building."

Any tenant protection package that doesn't contain these basic elements would be unacceptable and ineffective in protecting the rights of Ontario's 3.5 million tenants. This seems to me a reasonable and basic starting point for any changes the minister has in mind.

I will be sending a copy of this pledge over to the minister and I'm asking him to sign it and return it to me. I assure the minister that tenants in Ontario, especially the 75% of the constituents of his riding who are renters, will be most interested in his response.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I bring good news again from my riding of Niagara South, good news of more new jobs. Today I am pleased to announce the expansion of OxyChem Durez, a manufacturing company in Fort Erie, Ontario. Between 20 and 25 new jobs will be added to OxyChem's workforce. That's an increase of 65 more jobs over 1995-96.

OxyChem's Fort Erie plant supplies raw materials to the auto manufacturing industry. This is the second time I've stood up in this House to announce an auto-related business expansion in Niagara South. A few weeks ago I announced 100 new jobs at Ronal Manufacturing in Stevensville. And let's not forget the expansion and major investments by Honda in Alliston and Magna in St Thomas.

It becomes clear to me that under this government we are standing at the edge of major job creation in the province of Ontario. The word is getting out that Ontario is open for business again and open for jobs. The word is out that Ontario is the best place to invest in Canada.

I learned of OxyChem's expansion on May 7, the same day the finance minister set forth the first tax-cutting, job-creating budget in the last 25 years. Is that a coincidence? Maybe so, but certainly it is not a coincidence that this government has helped to create 10,000 new jobs per month since we've taken office.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): From July 26 to 28, the town of Kenora will host a very special reunion of the former Kenora-Keewatin District Senior Baseball League. Featuring teams from Kenora, Keewatin, Redditt, Dryden, Sioux Lookout and Norman, the league has an impressive history dating back to the early 1900s.

Since forming an organizing committee in February, local volunteers have been working hard to contact everyone who has been connected to the league. I am told that calls have been made to former participants who now reside in places as far away as Los Angeles, Vancouver and here in Toronto. The organization has told the Kenora Daily Miner and News that the most memorable calls have spanned decades rather than just time zones.

Organizers expect as many as 200 former participants and their spouses to attend what I know will be a very successful reunion. Along with a banquet and dance, the reunion committee has organized a jam-packed, three-day event, including a slow-pitch field day, a cruise on the MS Kenora and a fish fry.

I commend the organization committee for their efforts, and I look forward to welcoming all the participants to what I know will be a fun-filled and nostalgic three days.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I rise today in some dismay and disappointment. You have to know that's difficult for me, because I'm your quintessential eternal optimist. If there's a ray of sunshine out there, I normally find it; I'm always looking for a silver lining.

Even though over the last number of months I've been quite critical of this government, I was always acting under the impression that somehow there was a plan, that these folks had this agenda they're unfolding for us in Ontario well-thought-out and that at the end of the day we'd all be better off. In fact, some of my constituents are hopeful that's the case and they're waiting for some indication that the plan, particularly in Sault Ste Marie, is going to unfold soon.

But yesterday, the long-awaited business plan this government has been promising us for quite some time now was delivered in this House, and I have to say it was disappointing. It was disappointing because it had nothing in it that gave me or my constituents, the people in Sault Ste Marie, any comfort that this government knows what it's doing, that there is a plan in place and that the upwards of 1,700 jobs that ultimately we will lose in Sault Ste Marie, the already over 500 jobs we have lost in my community, will be replaced and that there's a plan out there that will give us what we need to get on with the job of replacing those jobs and making sure that prosperity does come to this province.


Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): It's my pleasure today to recognize an important event and a milestone of Ontario's resource management: the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Conservation Authorities Act.

When Ontario's first conservation authorities were formed in the 1940s, their founders were pioneers in conservation in this province. At that time, poor land use practices and lack of flood control measures had led to frequent and damaging floods, extensive soil erosion and insecure water supplies. Today, thanks in large measure to the work of conservation authorities, Ontario has incorporated resource management planning and flood control measures into municipal and provincial development plans.

Over the years, the role of Ontario's conservation authorities has included many aspects of natural heritage protection, and we applaud the dedication and hard work of conservation authorities in meeting the needs of their local communities and of the province. This government will continue to work with conservation authorities and municipalities to ensure that Ontario's tradition of watershed-based resource management is maintained and strengthened.

Our recognition in the House today is a tribute to a half-century of accomplishments and a reaffirmation of the valuable work that will continue to be done by Ontario's conservation authorities.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I'd like to inform the members that we have a former member in the west gallery, Mr Walt Elliot from the riding of Halton North. Welcome, Walt.

I would like to inform the members of the Legislative Assembly that we have in the Speaker's gallery today Mr Jim Anderson, the general manager, and Ms Wendy Stewart, vice-chair, of the Association of Conservation Authorities of Ontario. Please join me in welcoming our guests.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Yesterday the member for Essex South (Mr Crozier) asked a question of the Minister of Finance (Mr Eves) which was referred to the Chair of Management Board (Mr Johnson). The question dealt with the elimination of subscriptions for weekly newspapers from the legislative library.

The question was not in order, since it concerned administrative matters internal to the assembly and cannot be considered to be governmental or ministerial responsibility. I want to remind all members that such questions should be raised with the Board of Internal Economy or with the Speaker and not in the House.



Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): Today I am reporting to the members of the House on the results of the first phase of the work of the task force on agencies, boards and commissions, chaired by Bob Wood, my colleague the member for London South and the parliamentary assistant to the Chair of Management Board of Cabinet.

Provincial government agencies, boards and commissions were set up to help the government fulfil specific objectives over a specific period of time. However, even after their objectives were no longer relevant, many agencies continued to exist. The result is that there is now a heavy layer of approximately 200 scheduled agencies, boards and commissions, many with obsolete mandates and inflexible structures that are cumbersome and expensive to administer.

In its throne speech the government made the commitment to put all its agencies, boards and commissions to the test. The purpose of the task force was to review and make recommendations on government agencies, boards and commissions with a view to eliminating those mandates which were obsolete and streamlining the operations of those which remain. The government has made decisions, based on the task force's recommendations, to help achieve a smaller, more efficient organization that spends taxpayers' dollars wisely and which is more flexible and community-based in the way it obtains advice from experts and the public.


I would like to thank Mr Wood and his hardworking team on the task force for their excellent work thus far in helping streamline and rationalize the agency sector.

Mr Wood and the task force have recently completed a thorough review of 50 advisory agencies. As the task force's work progressed, some ministries were prompted to take early action in announcing the elimination of some advisory agencies and the new processes they plan to use to obtain advice in the future.

Overall, the government will eliminate 22 advisory agencies over the next two years. In some cases, advisory functions will be taken over by ministries or the government will seek advice through less formal mechanisms. Three agencies -- the Health Care Systems Research Review Committee, the Health Research Personnel Committee and the Health System-Linked Research Units Grants Review Committee -- will be amalgamated into one advisory committee.

Elsewhere, 12 agencies are still under review with the possibility of further savings as the government reduces duplication, increases efficiency and looks to alternative ways of seeking advice. We want to look at new options which are more flexible for the government to receive advice from the community. Finally, 13 advisory agencies will continue to operate.

The government's decisions are concrete steps to reduce government costs, eliminate duplication and develop new ways of seeking advice from the community while maintaining the integrity of the advisory function. The recommendations of Mr Wood's task force will save taxpayers $2.9 million over the next two years, and that is 31% of the 1995-96 budget for advisory agencies.

As this government has said many times, in an environment of restructuring and cost reduction you've got to find new ways to do business. The same is true for our advisory agencies. Whenever possible, government will seek advice through volunteers and less formal processes. Where formal advisory agencies continue to be used as a method of consultation or advice, government will look for qualified people who are willing to serve on a voluntary basis.

This review of advisory agencies means that the first phase of the work of the Government Task Force on Agencies, Boards and Commissions has been substantially completed. Further decisions will be forthcoming as Mr Wood and the task force continue with their review of operating and regulatory and adjudicative agencies. I will continue to update the members of the House on these decisions as the work of the task force progresses.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I want to say to the minister that I heard his statement and I'm thinking now that if I have trouble falling asleep later on this evening, I'll watch a rerun of that statement. It certainly will help to put me to sleep.

I've heard this repeatedly, over and over again. The government keeps saying, "We're going to restructure." The minister refers to cost reduction and how we've got to find new ways to do business. We hear that every single day in this House. Every minister stands up, and this minister stands up, each and every day and repeats the same jargon.

Again, no one in this House would be against finding more efficient ways to do the things we have to do. On the other hand, what we're seeing -- I look at the business plans that were announced by the government yesterday. The title boldly proclaims Doing Better for Less. Well, we're not doing better for less; you're doing a whole lot less for less. That's really what it comes down to.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Spend, spend, spend.

Mr Cordiano: It's not spend, spend, spend. You're actually reducing the operations of government. You're actually dismantling the operations of government. At least if you were to come clean with the people of this province that you will in fact do less for less -- you will do less for less.

When I look at the business plans, here's a beauty: the Attorney General and the conclusions in the business plan. What does he say? "A faster, more efficient and more accessible court system." Of course it's going to be faster, more accessible and more efficient. You're going to prosecute fewer cases. You're going to allow more economic crimes to go unprosecuted. That's happening all across Metro. We have a rash of break-and-enters everywhere. There's a crisis that's looming large, and you're going to make things more efficient. Certainly you are with the reduction in the workload for court cases coming before prosecutors. There's no question of that.

I look at culture in the business plans that were announced yesterday, and I quote: "encourage the arts, preserve Ontario's heritage, advance the public library system." That's absurd. With the cutbacks we're seeing in transfers to municipalities and transfers to the arts, how can the minister stand up and say, "That's part of my mission; that's part of the vision statement"? Absolutely the opposite is true. There's no vision over there; there's no mission. The mission certainly isn't to advance the arts, because you can't possibly do that with the dollars you've reduced in terms of the ministry's budget.

Look at what the plans say with respect to economic development and trade. That's another interesting one. It says, "To contribute to economic development and job growth through programs, services and partnerships." Well, well, well. The Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, what's his job? He has proclaimed it to be: "We're getting out of the business of helping business. We're simply not going to do anything further to help business directly." So how can you proclaim that that is a vision and a mission for the ministry when in fact the opposite is happening right now?

Again, when you flip through the pages of this business plan that was put forward yesterday, you find education. This is my favourite. The minister wants "a system that realizes excellence in student achievement, is accountable to the people it serves and spends taxpayers' dollars wisely." That's a further joke when $400 million are taken out of the budget for education. How can you have a more effective education system that won't result in larger classroom sizes, that won't result in the dropout rate further increasing?

It's clear that this government will do a whole lot less -- yes, maybe for less, but you're going to do a whole lot less. So why don't you tell people like it really is, that you're going to really cut the services that people need? You're going to dismantle the education system. You're going to really hurt our health care system. It will result in a two-tiered health care system for this province, something we've never seen in this province. You're going to dismantle a whole bunch of operations within government because you cannot do it if you don't do less with less. There's no way you can do it. So come clean with the people of this province.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): Here we go again, another statement that says nothing except that the unrelenting attack on everything we hold sacred in this province goes on. Today democracy itself is under review; democracy itself is up for grabs.

This is a wonderful province that we live in, a province that's the envy of jurisdictions all over the world: a standard of living that's above the norm, opportunities for people, education, health care, a place that's good to work in, a place that's good to bring children up in. We all play a part in making it that. We've all had a role to play in developing the institutions we all feel are essential to the very democracy that we participate in and that we rely on to make sure those things are in place and that we have some level of comfort that we will have present today services, opportunity to work, and not only that, but that our children will have those same opportunities five or 10 years down the road.

There are some basic fundamentals that underlie all of this: a sound education system, a health care system that's accessible to all, social services that take care of us in our time of need, and a strong government that's willing to stand up and play a role to create some stability so that this jurisdiction continues to be a good place to invest in, a good place to do business.


It requires a participation by all of its citizens in the decisions that affect them, but more and more we see all of this in the last short few months under serious attack. In July 1995 it was the poor. They lost almost a quarter of their take-home pay. Shortly after that it was the middle class, because we took away their jobs, we took away their services, we took away their ability to deliver those services, by taking in Sault Ste Marie, for example, $2 million out of the local economy every month. By way of the money they took away from the poor, we've hurt small business. This government cares nothing about small business.

Now, in the last few weeks, we hear that local government is under attack. We don't know what local government is going to look like. We don't know when Big Brother is going to come in and say, "You get together with him and form a new government."

School boards out there are anxious. They don't know what's in the cards for them. They don't know what the future holds. They don't know even if they're going to be around. School boards, the very epitome of local democracy, people elected to collect property taxes and spend it on that most fundamental of services that we all count on, education, and we don't know what's going to happen to them and what this government has in store for them.

Today we're delivered a statement that tells us that we're well on our way to reviewing and making massive changes to our agencies, boards and commissions, again without any context, without any business plan, without any reference to what you're going to put in place once you take this away. The government and this minister obviously didn't learn much from yesterday's experience. Here's another exercise in empty rhetoric and Orwellian language. Tory backbenchers are running around with axes threatening to chop away at agencies, boards and commissions.

It's pretty obvious that the Mike Harris revolutionaries have no idea why this kind of system was set up in the first place. For some public service operations, it's better for people if there is advice and direction from independent, fairminded citizens, but that obviously doesn't mean that much to the Tories. You can see it from the bare-knuckled partisanship in many of their appointments to these agencies that have come up for review in the legislative committee I sit on.

It's entirely possible that the operation of some agencies, boards and commissions could in fact be improved, but the way to do it is not with a partisan meat axe, seeking funds that can be freed up to cut taxes for the rich. This is just one more step in covering up the slashing of jobs and services under a thick layer of frothy spin. The people of Ontario will not be fooled. In this case, the government claims to be saving $2.9 million over two years by cutting off resources, sources of independent advice. For the remaining agencies, you say you only want people who can afford to serve without being paid, and we know what that means. At what price democracy?

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Mr Speaker, I'd like to ask for unanimous consent to give the Premier the opportunity to make a fulsome statement on the Ipperwash controversy and to clarify the role of the government in this whole affair.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): We do not have unanimous consent.



Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have a question for the Premier. Today we learned that a mere 24 hours before the unfortunate events at Ipperwash on September 6 last, events which left one person dead and three people wounded, a meeting took place between an OPP superintendent, the parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General and as many as six senior political staff, including your most trusted adviser, your executive assistant for issues management, Deb Hutton. Premier, what directions did you give to Ms Hutton before she went into that meeting with the OPP superintendent?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): None.

Mr Michael Brown: Let me tell you who was at that meeting: Deb Hutton, your executive assistant; Dan Newman, parliamentary assistant to the Attorney General; David Moran, executive assistant to Charles Harnick; Jeff Bangs, executive assistant to Chris Hodgson.

Premier, these are among the most powerful political staff people in the government. They make decisions. What decisions were made at their secret meeting with the OPP superintendent the day before the tragic events at Ipperwash?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me clarify a few things: Number one, this was not a secret meeting. This was a meeting of a committee established on a formal basis by the NDP government following the Oka crisis that when a situation develops, as developed the day before the meeting, with an occupation of a provincial park at Ipperwash, the membership of this committee would be set up to get a review of events that took place.

On September 4, an occupation -- this was a holiday Monday, if you will recall -- took place of Ipperwash Provincial Park. On September 5, there was a meeting of the committee, of those parties affected, the same committee set up by the NDP. A staff member from my office, as per Mr Rae's office that attended those meetings on a basis when they had them, attended to get information so that the Premier's office, the Minister of Natural Resources office, the other offices of those who were affected could be briefed on events that took place on September 4. That was the purpose of the briefing and that is what took place.

Mr Michael Brown: Premier, you're just not believable. You want us to believe that you called together these senior political staff, including your own executive assistant and the superintendent of the OPP, to a secret meeting to discuss Ipperwash and not once were there any discussions of what the police were planning. No one believes that's true. We asked for an inquiry in the past and you refused. Now we know why.

Will you tell us now exactly what role your executive assistant played in formulating a plan of action for Ipperwash? Will you tell us what information the OPP shared with your executive assistant? Will you tell us what information your executive assistant shared with you following the meeting? And can you tell me why, if this was a police action with no political interference, six of the most senior members of the government's political staff were having a secret meeting with the OPP? Do you really want us to believe that the timing of this police action just 24 hours after this meeting was just a coincidence?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me clarify a few things for the honourable member: The staff involved will be pleased to have you call them six of the most senior decision-making staff, because this is perhaps elevating their status beyond that which they believe they have --


Hon Mr Harris: -- and the member now says they want the pay to go with it.

Number two, you called it a secret meeting. There was nothing secret about the meeting. In fact, I would tell you this, that every member of this Legislature and every member of the media I think would have been astounded had there not been a meeting of the key ministries involved following the occupation of the Ipperwash park. You would have been astounded if such a meeting and a briefing did not take place 24 hours following the occupation of the park. So it was not a secret meeting. The only thing secret about the notification of the meeting was the home and cottage phone numbers of those people who were on the list of the committee set up by the NDP so that if something happened these people should be called together to have a meeting so that everybody can be briefed on what happened. So there was no secret meeting.

The staff involved were those who should be involved from the ministries that ought to have been briefed on the events that took place, and there was absolutely no direction, as there ought not to be, from me or any of my staff to the OPP.

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

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): To follow up with the Premier and just to confirm, on September 5, at the time the meeting was taking place, I gather the OPP were assembling a large number of officers to gather at Ipperwash to deal with the crisis. At the same time, many of the senior staff, the political staff, were at this meeting. I can only assume that it was a meeting designed to bring your staff up to date on what was being planned.


A very important question, Premier, is: Was your staff informed of the OPP plans for a buildup, and what was the response of your staff that you had at that meeting to that buildup?

Hon Mr Harris: First of all, the meeting involved 20 people, of whom there would have been one political staff member from each of the ministries that were affected and that were involved in this situation: the Ministry of Natural Resources, because it was their park and they had responsibility for the Ipperwash Provincial Park; and I believe the Attorney General's ministry -- by the way, the meeting was called, as it ought to have been, by the minister responsible for native affairs. That person is the one who would call the meeting, call the people together and give a briefing on the situation that was taking place at that time: "Here's the update. Here's the best information we have available." Invited from the OPP was the liaison officer who is assigned to that committee in these circumstances.

I can't recall at this particular point -- back to September 5 -- the precise information, but if you check the press records of what I said to the media, that's what I was told.

Mr Phillips: Premier, it's a very clear question. You had a representative at that meeting. The OPP had decided to handle things very differently in this circumstance than they had in previous circumstances. I can only assume that at that meeting your personal representative -- the OPP would have assumed that that person was there representing your office -- you, Premier. I assume the meeting was designed to do what you said it was designed to do, and that is to bring you up to date.

I want a very clear answer from you. Was your staff informed of the buildup, and what was your personal staff's response to that buildup?

Hon Mr Harris: When it came to an assessment of the situation, it would have been reported what the assessment was at the park. I think you can clearly get that from the records of what I said to the media.

When it came to whatever might have been the response to that, clearly my understanding would have been that that is a matter for the OPP to deal with; that is not the business of the Premier, of the Premier's staff or of any other staff. It is now in the hands of the OPP. Any negotiations are in the hands of the OPP. They are the experts in this field, and surely nobody would presume to think that the Premier or his political staff would have expertise in these areas. Therefore, we would not have offered any opinion.

Mr Phillips: I'll take from that, Premier, that your staff was told that the buildup was taking place. If they weren't, you can deny that, but I've given you two opportunities to come clean with the people and so far we're getting no answer from you.

It is clear that at the time that meeting was taking place, the OPP were rounding up sharpshooters, were bringing in extraordinary measures, without question. At that meeting, I can only assume, because you refuse to answer the question, that your personal representative, the person you sent to that meeting, was informed of those matters. You've chosen to not tell the people of this province what took place at that meeting and the fact that you and your staff were informed of the buildup. Frankly, your hands are all over this. You have tacitly approved the actions of the OPP.

My question is: Now that we are beginning to see the true facts of this matter, will you finally agree to hold a public inquiry where we can finally get the truth of the matter? Will you agree today to a public inquiry where all the truth can come out rather than you hiding behind the facts?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me say a few things. It's easy for you to stand in your place and make silly allegations and impute motives, things that are absolutely untrue.

We knew nothing of any OPP buildup. It was not our business. It is the business of the OPP to deal with it. Any briefing that I got would have been in there. You saw there's a statement of September 12 that we made on the issue. So it is an OPP matter; it's not a political matter.

Quite frankly, you get, through your interventions now, to the very heart of parliamentary democracy: the separation of police and politicians. I want to tell you, that is something that we treat very seriously and something we think is very, very important.

You come to the question of getting to the facts after the fact, obviously, of a situation that has taken place. We have not said no to a full public inquiry. We have not said no to an emergency debate. We have not said no to a legislative inquiry. We have not said no to any of these things. We have said no, we knew nothing of any buildup. My staff heard nothing of any buildup. I was informed of no buildup that you keep repeating.

What I will tell you is this: When the SIU investigation is completed, there are also outstanding charges that are there. There is a personal lawsuit that is there. I share the frustration with a lot of people about the length of time that the SIU investigation is taking place. When that is complete and we have the information, then we can make an assessment of what kind of follow-up do we want, would we all like to have, to ensure that the type of situation that occurred at Ipperwash never happens again.

The Speaker: Leader of the third party.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): A question to the Premier on the same matter. The Premier's responses are confusing. I remind the Premier that on April 2 he told reporters that briefings on the Ipperwash situation for the staff of the Premier's office were "more after the fact," yet now we know that the day prior to the incident a meeting took place of the aboriginal emergencies committee, a committee which was set up by the Liberal government and was used by the NDP government as well -- the day before the incident -- and a member of your staff, Ms Hutton, was in attendance, as were members of the other ministers' staff and also the parliamentary assistant to the minister responsible for native affairs.

Can you make it very clear? Did you give any direction or express any opinion about how the situation should be proceeded with to your staff, to the OPP or to government officials after the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park?

Hon Mr Harris: By way of preamble, the member talks about a meeting taking place in advance of a very unfortunate shooting incident at Ipperwash. I don't know if you are implying that there was a meeting that took place to plan this or to talk about this.

Mr Wildman: No.

Hon Mr Harris: Well, that's what you're implying. The meeting that took place on September 5 was to deal with the occupation that took place on September 4 and to get a full briefing. You would expect that meeting to take place. There was an unfortunate incident, obviously, that took place that we all know about -- it's now the matter of an SIU investigation -- and there would have been further meetings of that committee to take place to get briefed with whatever information we had on that. Obviously it's not very complete because then the SIU comes in and there are other investigations that need to take place.

I can assure you that the purpose of the meeting of this committee on the 5th -- as you say, a committee set up by the Liberals, formalized by you -- was to give a briefing to those ministers who would have been involved, including the Premier's office, of the situation as we understood that it existed at Ipperwash Provincial Park. At no time -- at no time -- was there any direction given by any political staff or any politicians as to what the OPP should do or how they should carry out their job.

Mr Wildman: The information in the press this morning indicates that the parliamentary assistant to the native affairs minister was present at the meeting, which is quite unusual. Your press secretary is quoted as saying, "The Premier was never directly involved in formal meetings on Ipperwash." There have been all sorts of rumours about statements made regarding getting the -- expletive -- "Indians out of the park."

Why will you not clarify your role in this affair and clear the air? Were you involved in any informal meetings where any informal opinions or directions were expressed about how this matter might be dealt with in order to ensure that the Ipperwash Provincial Park occupation did not continue?

Hon Mr Harris: Was I involved in informal meetings? I don't know what an informal meeting is. When I go to bed at night, is that an informal meeting? When I sit and talk with people, is this an informal meeting?

I clearly understand the role of the separation between politicians and the police, and at no time did I give direction to staff to give direction, or did any of my staff give direction, to the best of my knowledge, to any member of the police, the OPP, at any level of any category as to how they should carry out their job. That is not our role and I can assure you that did not take place.


Mr Wildman: There are certainly a lot of questions around the role of the government and the staff of the government and government ministers in the handling of the situation at Ipperwash. Since the Premier says that he and members of his government did not give direction, can he tell us who did? Who gave the direction that the aboriginal people should be moved out of the park and that whatever measures were necessary should be used? Who is going to make this clear? Who is accountable? Who is going to investigate the role of everyone -- the government, the staff, the OPP -- involved in the incident that led to the shooting of Anthony Dudley George at Ipperwash?

Hon Mr Harris: Right now, the SIU is investigating the actual events that took place. When the legal matters that are being dealt with have been completed, then I believe it would be appropriate that we take a look at, if necessary or if required or if the SIU investigation or the ensuing court action do not answer all the questions, if they continue to not answer the questions, then I believe that if you wish to discuss whether you want to have a special inquiry, a legislative committee -- I'm not sure an emergency debate is going to serve a lot of purpose, but if you want one of those, we're prepared to talk about that too.

The Speaker: New question.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is also to the Premier. At the time of the shooting of Dudley George last September you were consistently quoted, as you've said, in the press stating that the Ipperwash occupation was a police matter and that there was no political involvement in any of the decisions that were made regarding that situation. You've repeated that here today.

I have with me a copy of a House note on this issue, dated September 14, for the minister responsible for native affairs -- obtained, I might add, through freedom of information. The note says, under the suggested response section: "The occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park is primarily a police matter. Therefore, I shall refer your question to the Solicitor General, the Honourable Bob Runciman."

Since obviously this is a question that has arisen and is exercising a lot of people, will you explain, as the Premier, to this House what the roles of the Attorney General -- also the minister responsible for native affairs -- and the Solicitor General were in the events leading up to the shooting of Mr George?

Hon Mr Harris: I can't refer it to both of them, but I guess I can refer to one of them and they can explain directly for themselves. I'll start with the Attorney General, the minister responsible for the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Certainly the role of the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat was to be advised of what happened, to be informed of what was going on; to find out if there was any way to facilitate a resolution to the situation, which we've been trying to do for the last several months, many months; and quite simply to be informed of what was going on and maintain a dialogue with Chief Bressette, which we have done; to maintain and have a dialogue with Mr Mercredi, which we have done, in terms of trying to understand what the difficulties that caused this situation to arise would have been. We've looked at a number of those issues. We're setting up a methodology to attempt to settle those differences. The difficulty continues to be that Chief Bressette would like to proceed and move forward. He has difficulties in terms of the continuing occupation of the park and some members of what are referred to as the Stony Pointers, who are not people he has any control over dealing with. So that's what the role of the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat has been.

Mrs Boyd: I'm sorry that the Premier decided again to pass off his responsibility to a minister, but I'll continue questioning the minister. I have, Minister, in my hands, also obtained through freedom of information, your minister's briefing form, entitled, interestingly enough, Occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park by the Stony Pointers, so I assume you have the same note.

There have been excisions from this, of course, under subsection 30(1) of the act, but this note was prepared on September 5, one day before the shooting of Dudley George, and it is an informational note outlining the issue. But at the bottom, after the deleted sections, there is a statement, which reads, and I quote exactly: "It was agreed that ministerial direction should be sought as soon as possible. The committee will be meeting again on September 6, 1995."

That ministerial direction was sought the day before the shooting. The meeting took place on the day of the shooting. The minister responsible for native affairs keeps trying to say that this was an informational situation, that it was a police matter and the responsibility of the Solicitor General, but you are the minister who was asked for ministerial direction and you were asked to provide that for a meeting on the day of the shooting. It's very hard for us all to understand how you all can continue to say that this was simply a police matter, when quite clearly your own briefing note indicates that ministerial direction was sought.

Minister, can you please explain what was the ministerial direction that you gave on September 6 in answer to this request?

Hon Mr Harnick: Quite simply, there were questions posed at those meetings asking whether we should obtain a civil injunction as a result of the fact that the province owns the park and wished to assert the ownership of that park to see if we could use that civil injunction to peaceably, peacefully end the occupation. That's quite simply what that ministerial direction would have involved. There's nothing more.

Mrs Boyd: That's very interesting, because on April 1, 1996, in response to a question from the Leader of the Opposition on this issue, you stated:

"I also point out to the Leader of the Opposition that I believe it's Chief Superintendent Coles, who was in charge of the southwest region of the Ontario Provincial Police, indicates quite simply this was a police matter, not a political matter, and there was no political interference."

You've just said that what you were giving ministerial direction about was a peaceable civil remedy. Are you telling us that your ministerial directions were not followed? What kind of a cover-up are we seeing going on here? Your answers are very inconsistent between, "It's a police matter," and, "I'm seeking a civil injunction." You say that you gave no political direction in one case and there's no political interference in one case, and then you tell us that indeed you were giving ministerial directions.


There really is a problem here. If this was simply a police matter, why was ministerial direction being sought on a civil remedy before the shooting? Why again -- it feels very familiar, this issue -- were directions not given to the OPP to wait until you had an answer on that civil remedy to avoid the issue if what you were trying to seek was a peaceable solution? It's widely rumoured that the language used and attributed mostly to the Premier, but it may well have been attributed to others, was, "Get the" -- expletive -- "Indians out of the park." Is that the ministerial direction you gave?

Hon Mr Harnick: I think the characterization and the stretch that the member tries to make are ludicrous. The member knows full well that my involvement does not have any involvement with the Ontario Provincial Police. They were there as a result of the occupation of the park. You can't say in one breath, "Why were you not directing the police?" and in another breath, "You shouldn't be directing the police."

There was no involvement in a political way with directing the police. We were looking for ways and means to end this occupation, that was one of the suggestions and it was one of the procedures we looked at. It unfortunately was not able to effect that kind of a result. To make a connection between the idea that there was a discussion about obtaining a civil injunction and tying that in to instructions to the Ontario Provincial Police is ludicrous.

The Speaker: New question, the member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Phillips: To follow up with the Premier in terms of the Ipperwash issue, it is clear to everyone that the OPP handled this circumstance in quite a different manner than they had been handling previous disputes with our native communities -- very different, a very substantial buildup in officers and in armaments and quite a different approach. It is unusual to see the OPP change their approach that dramatically.

My question is this, and you no doubt have had your staff look at this completely: Are you saying, for the record, that the OPP completely changed the way they deal with native confrontations without first seeking and explaining to the government their revised plans for dealing with native confrontation?

Hon Mr Harris: I'm not saying anything. I don't know whether the OPP have changed how they dealt with situations. Each situation is dealt with in its own way. I don't think it's clear yet. Unfortunately, we don't have all the facts yet of what happened there or why; that's part of the SIU investigation. I'm not saying any change took place. I don't know if any change took place. I don't know how they handled them in the past, and we were not party to how they handled this one.

Mr Phillips: Just confirm, Premier: You are saying the OPP did this all on their own, they did not discuss their new method of operations with anyone in your government and they did this without any authorization, discussion or tacit approval from your government. Are you saying that today, Premier?

Hon Mr Harris: I am not saying they changed any of their modus operandi or how they operated or what they did. I don't know how they operated in the past; I don't know what examples we have where there were occupations of provincial parks and if there has ever been an identical situation to this.

You are implying in your question that somehow or other the OPP changed. I do not know that the OPP changed because I don't know what their plans were in the past and I did not know what their plans were on this occasion.

The Speaker: New question, the leader of the third party.

Mr Wildman: To the Premier on this issue: To give a couple of examples from the past, the Premier will recall that in the year 1990 there were a number of occupations not just in Ontario but across the country. There were some in Ontario, and subsequently there was the Poplar Hill Road blockade and the Shawanaga Road blockade.

In all those instances, to my knowledge, the OPP took the approach of trying to avoid confrontation, trying to isolate the blockade or the occupiers without direction from anyone at a political level. That was the approach the police took. That is why my colleague from Agincourt has indicated there was such a change in this case.

Why would the OPP change its approach? Chief Superintendent Coles is quoted in the press on March 31 saying, "A decision was made to confront the people." Subsequent to this, Chief Bressette has said that he was warned the day before the incident and told that the direction, "Get the" -- expletive -- "Indians out of the park," had been given, and he went on the radio to warn the public and the occupiers.

If you did not give the direction and if members of your government did not give the direction, to your knowledge, who did?

Hon Mr Harris: To the best of my knowledge, there was not any change in OPP policy or philosophy or in how you deal with circumstances. I would assume that the OPP would always want to peaceably resolve any of these disputes.

At this time at Ipperwash there was clearly, in the government's view, an illegal occupation of Ipperwash park and this matter was turned over to the OPP to resolve. I certainly would think that the OPP would in 1990, in 1991, in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 at Ipperwash, and today, want to resolve these situations as peaceably as absolutely possible. Certainly I can tell you that that would be our goal and no direction would be given contrary.

Mr Wildman: Is the Premier prepared to request the minister responsible to investigate who may have said what Chief Bressette says was said, "Get the" -- expletive -- "Indians out of the park," who did it, who said it, who gave that direction, and report back to the House as soon as possible as to whether or not that decision was made at a political level in the bureaucracy or whether it happened at all?

Hon Mr Harris: I don't know whether it ever happened at all. I don't mind inquiring to find out if anybody knows if it happened. But I would suggest that when we get the SIU investigation finished with, hopefully sooner rather than later, and any charges that are outstanding there, we want to have a look at what took place and why, and hopefully all these things will see the light of day.


Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): My question is for the Minister of Education and Training. Mr Minister, constituents in my riding have expressed concern to me following the recent announcement of the establishment of the general education development testing in the province. They have informed me, and of course we all know, that there's been a pilot program conducted by the Independent Learning Centre for the past year. The concern of my constituents is that the pilot of a year wasn't long enough. Could you respond to their concerns about the length of that pilot program?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'm pleased to address the honourable member's question because I believe the general education development testing that we have now expanded across Ontario is a very important initiative for many people in the province of Ontario, particularly those people who obviously have not obtained a secondary school diploma but who have prior learning that brings them to the level of a high school graduate.

This program has been piloted for a year in the province. However, I want to make sure the honourable member's constituents understand that the general educational development testing, the GED testing, has been done in virtually every jurisdiction in North America except Ontario. We're one of the very few exceptions who don't offer this service and this program to our citizens. I think this is very important and a very big step forward for those people who would like to enter into other training initiatives or educational programs or who require this for applying for jobs. I think it will be a big step forward for a lot of people in the province.


Mr Carroll: As a follow-up, they also expressed some concern that generally the educational development is kind of a backdoor way to get your high school equivalency diploma. Can you assure us or comment on the fact that the testing standards for the general educational development testing will be as rigorous as the testing standards for our high school students?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I can assure the honourable member that the GED tests are indeed exhaustive. There's a series of five comprehensive tests that are involved over two days, a total of seven and a half hours of test writing, to assess the knowledge of the applicant. This assessment is done in the areas of written skills, literature and the arts, social studies, science and mathematics. When a person has completed this process they can be accredited, and the people who are relying on that accreditation can be assured of the fact that these individuals have met our high school standards.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): My question is for the Minister of Health. Women in Ontario are beginning to worry that they will not be able to get the maternity care they need when they need it. They're being told by their obstetricians and their general practitioners that they will not be available to give the maternity care and to deliver their babies.

My question for you today is very simple: Will you stand in your place and assure women right across this province that they will receive obstetrical care when they are pregnant and have their babies delivered safely in their communities by obstetricians should they need obstetrical care?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): As you know, we've been very concerned about both obstetricians and general practitioners, family doctors, who do deliveries about the threat of withdrawal of services. All members of the House will know that on April 1 we increased those fees for delivering babies by 30%, which gives obstetricians, on average, a $14,000 increase towards their malpractice insurance. That's this year's increase, which should cover most of the malpractice insurance. If we look at the 1995 rates, the malpractice insurance levy was $13,496. This year we have given $14,000.

All members will also know that as a result of this government's action -- and it took some nine months, I admit, to have both the doctors and the federal government and the CMPA, the Canadian Medical Protective Association, take us seriously -- retired Justice Charles Dubin has been appointed by the federal government, the CMPA and myself to do a full investigation or inquiry, including actuarial studies, of the protective association. He will report back to us in September. In the meantime, we have taken interim actions to try to make sure we cover the concerns expressed by obstetricians, and we will take further action until Mr Dubin's final findings are in, if there's more action that needs to be taken.

Mrs Caplan: The minister is talking about fees and studies. He is not giving the women of this province any secure feeling that they are going to get the care they need when they need it. The fact is that you created this problem. We are on the verge of a crisis. Obstetricians are deciding not to deliver babies. Family doctors need obstetrical backup, midwives need obstetrical backup and women need the confidence to know that they are going to get the maternity care they need; that they'll get the care before they have their babies, when they deliver and after they've had their babies.

Eighteen per cent of women in Ontario are considered high-risk and need obstetrical care, and yet we know that doctors are leaving this province. They are leaving Sudbury. Six out of eight obstetricians are saying they will be withdrawing from deliveries in Thunder Bay; eight out of eight obstetricians in Sudbury say they will not be doing deliveries; five out of six in Sault Ste Marie; 10 out of 12 in Windsor; 97% of obstetricians in Ottawa are saying they will not do deliveries.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Same thing in St Catharines.

Mrs Caplan: St Catharines, Orangeville. Right across this province, doctors are telling their patients that they will not be looking after them when they are pregnant and when they are delivering their babies.

You have the responsibility. What are you going to say to the women when their doctors tell them they're not going to be available to help them safely deliver their babies? It might be all right --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The question has been asked. Minister.

Hon Mr Wilson: Let us give some comfort to the women of this province. It is against the law for obstetricians or any other physicians to withdraw services from their current patients. That is an act of professional misconduct, and I do not believe that the doctors of this province will act in an irresponsible and illegal manner, first of all.

Secondly, we do talk about fees because that is what they talk to me about. Staff have met this week with obstetricians, we're meeting again today with obstetricians. I could get into great detail about the Sudbury situation, where those physicians are going, because we spoke to the Sudbury doctors yesterday. The fact of the matter is, we are putting more money back on the table, in spite of the fact that other areas of government have been cut, in spite of the fact that doctors in Ontario are the highest-paid profession in Canada and the highest-paid doctors reside here in Ontario and that this province spends 18.5% more on physicians' services per capita than any other province.

We are doing all we can to provide the dollars to physicians and we expect them to live up to their legal obligations to their patients in this province.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question for the Premier in relation to a transcript from a preliminary hearing at which the Minister of Transportation testified on April 19. This was a preliminary hearing into fraud charges against one of the minister's former employees prior to his being elected.

On that date the minister made the following statement about bogus automobile warranty claims -- I'm reading from page 231 of the court transcript -- "I have no problem with at least a customer benefiting from this bogus, if you want to call it `bogus,' warranty submission."

The lawyer for the accused asked Mr Palladini further: "If the work is done and the customer is happy and a bogus claim is put in to Ford and Ford doesn't catch it, your customer is happy and you're happy because you don't have to pay for it, correct? You're okay with it." The minister responds, "Well, if the customer benefits, obviously I'm okay with it."

Premier, what is your reaction to the Minister of Transportation, a minister of the crown, saying bogus warranty automobile claims are okay?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I don't have any opinion. I'd be happy, if you would like me to, to have somebody review the decision, see what context it's all in and report back to you.

Mr Wildman: I appreciate the Premier's response, since this is a matter of integrity and credibility. The minister in his testimony on page 233 of the transcript deals with the question of integrity. My question to the Premier is, if the Minister of Transportation can make these kinds of statements, surely his integrity and credibility are in question. How can the people of Ontario have confidence in your government and your ministers, particularly the Minister of Transportation, when it's apparently okay with him to have laws broken?

Hon Mr Harris: I indicated that if you would like me to look at the transcript of some court case that took place long before the member was elected that dealt with a business he no longer has any dealings with, I'd be happy to take a look at that. I won't ask him to take a lie detector test, I can assure you of that.

But let me say this: If you are asking me, do I have confidence that the current Minister of Transportation is a person you ought to trust and have confidence in in doing the best to his absolute ability for every single person in the province of Ontario, I have that confidence. If you want me to look into the transcript of some court case of some event that took place some time ago in a former business, I'd be happy to take a look at it.



Mr Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott and Russell): I have a question for the Premier about his government's failure to protect construction jobs in eastern Ontario. The problem is very simple. Quebec construction workers are allowed to work in Ontario, but Ontario workers are kept from working in Quebec for a number of reasons. For example, a contractor in my riding recently was the low bidder for a $100,000 job in Grenville, Quebec, but the job was given to a Quebec firm. The contractor from my riding was prevented from taking the job due to regulation designed to keep Ontario firms out of Quebec.

Premier, you are scheduled to meet tomorrow with Quebec Premier Bouchard. I assume that one of the items on the agenda is your government's failure to protect Ontario's construction workers from unfair competition with Quebec construction workers. Will you tell this House what information to support Ontario's position on construction jobs you have supplied to the Premier of Quebec in advance of tomorrow's meeting, and will you share that information with this House?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know that the Minister of Labour and others have relayed, official to official, our concern with enforcement, if you like, and meeting the principle and the intent of the agreement that was signed by the former government on ensuring that barriers to trade in the area of the construction industry that you raise are eliminated. So that has taken place.

I have indicated to the first minister of Quebec that that's one of the items I would like to talk about, interprovincial trade and barriers that are there, and so I hope we can make some progress. I would agree with the member that the situation is not perfect today, and the agreement that was signed by the former government is not perfect, but I will say this: It's better than what your government had or my government had previous to that, and it is a move in the right direction.

Mr Lalonde: What the Premier has just said -- in a report released January 1996 from the Ontario-Quebec construction agreement committee, it states that no problem has been reported. I would say this is false information.

Premier, you are very much aware that this issue affects thousands of Ontario workers. It has been raised repeatedly by the member for Cornwall, the member for Carleton East, the members for Ottawa East, Ottawa West, Ottawa Centre, Ottawa South and Renfrew North. I say to you very directly, if you do not return from Quebec with a firm agreement to protect thousands of Ontario workers, your meeting with the Premier of Quebec will have been a complete failure.

Next week I am introducing a private member's bill to deal with this issue. The bill is very simple. It calls for Ontario to impose the same rule on Quebec construction workers that Quebec imposes on our construction workers.

Will you make the following commitment: If you fail to resolve this issue tomorrow at your meeting with the Quebec Premier, will your government pass and implement my private member's bill to protect Ontario's construction workers?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me first of all apologize to the member that I was not aware you had a private member's bill detailing this. It is obviously my loss that I did not know that, and I will undertake to read your private member's bill before I go to Quebec to meet with Mr Bouchard.

Let me say this. Do I expect tomorrow to have an ironclad agreement that will resolve all the disputes? No, I don't expect that. I understand the agreement which I supported, signed by the former government, was not a perfect agreement, but it was a step in the right direction.

I might say that the honourable member did not mention Nipissing riding where we have concerns, Timiskaming riding where we have concerns as well, all the way up the Ottawa River, which many people forget goes right through to Lake Timiskaming. We all have these concerns. It is not perfect and I doubt it'll be perfect after my meeting tomorrow, but I hope we can make progress.

I want to say now in a very partisan way that your government and the former government up to 1985 did absolutely nothing.

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Nineteen ninety-five.

Hon Mr Harris: Up to 1985. The former Conservative government and your government from 1985 to 1990 did absolutely nothing. You may criticize the NDP government that their agreement is not perfect, but it is better than anything that took place in the previous history of my experience here. I hope we can build on that and advance on that and that we can, not perfectly, not overnight, have freer trade with --


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


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): My question is to the Chair of Management Board in reference to a story that is causing us all some great concern, as it presents some real, troubling inconsistencies and basic unfairness during the very difficult strike conflict you imposed on your workers in OPSEU.

Interjection: He imposed it?

Mr Martin: Yes, and he was adamant during that process that those workers not be dealt with fairly as they were looking forward to, by the thousands, being thrown out of their work. It was also very clear that he was not willing to go beyond the two weeks in severance pay for every year of hard-earned recognition.

Today we find out that on the other hand, in dealing with some of the more high-priced personnel in his government, he is offering a severance package of about $160,000. What we over here want to know is, how do you square that? How do you make the case for this being in any way fair, or is this going to be the order of the day of your government, the way you deal with these very tragic and difficult situations?

Hon David Johnson (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): The first point I'd like to make is that I did not offer any severance package to anybody, and I will not comment in this Legislature or in public on any particular situation because that would not be fair to any individual involved.

But I will say that there is a policy in place to handle the severance payments, to handle, in general, the financial situation when a person leaves the civil service, and the policy in place today is one created by the previous government represented by the NDP.

Mr Martin: Help me get this straight. I understand why it is that you don't want to talk about this. I have to tell you, if it were me, I would be embarrassed. On the one hand, you don't want to deal fairly with the men and women who deliver all the services, clear roads and do all the very difficult, essential work we all depend on to keep this province going. You don't want to give them what they have rightfully coming to them. On the other hand, you're willing to offer $160,000 to a different level of employee and, not only that, but another $64,000 in salary and another $37,000 in vacation pay. Explain to me again, Minister, how you think this in any way is fair.

Hon David Johnson: I'll explain a couple of things. In terms of the union, the union freely negotiated the contract with this government. The union ratified the settlement with the government through 90% of those who voted, so I assume that the union is happy with the settlement they achieved with this government.

I'll explain once again, to the extent that there have been any settlements involving non-union people, that the criteria that are in place were formulated by the previous government representing the NDP. As a result of various comments and situations, I have asked the Management Board staff to review the policy the previous government put in place with regard to severance to see if it is competitive and to see if it is in line with what is happening in the private sector and the broader public service.



Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): I rise to direct my question to the Minister of Education and Training. As I announced earlier in the House, I have established a site on the World Wide Web as one way for my constituents to communicate with me. My Web site is www.clementmpp.org and it has allowed me to get direct feedback and suggestions via this new medium.

One of my constituents e-mailed me to voice his concern about the moratorium on capital funding by the Minister of Education. I'd like to take this opportunity to put his concern before you.

It's important to realize that Brampton is growing at an unprecedented rate. We now have a population of over 265,000 and expect that by the year 2006 our population will be 412,000. Consequently, our schools are being asked to handle more students. Enrolment at the Dufferin-Peel separate board has been one of the fastest-growing in the province. The minister's moratorium suspends one of the plans to put an extension on Loyola school and a school planned for Springdale in 1998.

My constituent is concerned because he feels that the moratorium on funding has made the board's planning more difficult. Minister, can you give any assurances regarding the future of necessary capital funding for schools?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I'd like to congratulate the member for Brampton South because I know the member is concerned about staying in touch with his constituents, and certainly having a Web site is one way of staying in touch. The member for Brampton South is well known for being in communication.

As to the member's question, we put a moratorium on new school construction over the course of the next year so as to assist school boards in finding the savings we believe can be found and that they believe can be found outside the classroom to mitigate the effects on the operating side. We are aware of the fact that there are pressures on the system for student placement across the province, particularly in high-growth areas.

I want to emphasize the fact that there have been portables attached to schools across this province for many years. Our way of building schools, our way of doing capital in this province haven't worked for students for a long period of time. This government is committed to doing a review of our capital program, looking at alternatives that are used in other systems around the world, including design-build, leaseback, the use of alternative structures, the whole gambit of methodologies of finding student places that are acceptable for young people in the province.

Mr Clement: Thank you for the answer, Minister. I remind the honourable members opposite that Peel is one of the highest growth areas in terms of school population. Are there any plans to ensure that Peel and similar regions can accommodate this growth?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'd like to inform the member for Brampton South, who has been involved in a series of discussions with the Peel board and the Dufferin-Peel board, as have my other colleagues from that area, about capital, about building schools. I want to assure the member that I have been in contact with the Peel board and the Dufferin-Peel board about alternative methodologies of building schools, of putting students in proper places for their education. We believe that those will be fruitful conversations, because both those boards in the past have made representations to the ministry with very innovative ideas about how to put up schools at the same time that houses are built. We believe that's what the people of Peel expect.



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

"Whereas the Harris government wishes to eliminate people from receiving social assistance while attending school; and

"Whereas this presents an ongoing limitation on those already in a frugal existence;

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

"To continue to allow social assistance recipients to receive benefits while attending school for the following reasons:

"We require the medical/dental plan for our families; OSAP debt would be overwhelming to repay; long-term diagnosis is that these students will be `off the system' in approximately three years rather than never; the lack of jobs in the area means we must be more marketable to compete; and anyone undertaking the task of schooling while parenting and maintaining a home needs to be encouraged, not discriminated against for trying to become independent."


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): This is a petition from a member of my constituency. It reads:

"Citizens for Choice in Health Care -- a petition to the Legislature:

"To the Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

"I request as a taxpayer and consumer that I be confirmed in the right to make an act upon my own choices with respect to medical and health therapies offered by all regulated health care professionals, particularly physicians, as long as I am not being harmed or at risk of appreciable harm.

"I request that the Legislature enact a Choice in Health Care Act to ensure that consumers and taxpayers will have meaningful choice and access to safe, effective and cost-effective health care that meets their needs, and that this legislation be modelled upon acts of this type already in place in such jurisdictions as the states of Alaska, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington. In particular, this act should establish the authority of true peer review and the standard of patient outcome.

"I further request that the government of Ontario take immediate action to terminate the pattern of abusive actions of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario which, contrary to their mandate and the public interest, attack and punish doctors simply because they employ complementary medical therapies. This the college does to the detriment of medicine, the welfare of patients, the rights of consumers, the interest of taxpayers and my personal needs."

This is signed by Thelma R. Forsyth from 30 West Avenue in Toronto.


Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): I have a petition signed by 991 concerned residents of the Peterborough area regarding the closure of the dining facilities in the Quinte-Thousands Island Lodge in Kingston. It reads:

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas the management of the Kingston Regional Cancer Centre has decided to eliminate the existing kitchen facilities at the Quinte-Thousand Islands Lodge in Kingston;

"We, the undersigned citizens of Canada, do hereby petition the Parliament of Ontario to rescind this decision forthwith."

I affix my signature.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): I'm pleased to present and support a petition which reads in part:

"Whereas Algonquin Park is the jewel among Ontario's provincial parks, attracting more than 500,000 visitors annually to experience Ontario's wilderness heritage;

"Whereas the citizens who live in communities surrounding Algonquin Park work to enhance and protect the park;

"Whereas a recent decision was made by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to contract out all campgrounds along Highway 60; and

"Whereas the said ministry has also announced the closure of the fire attack base at Whitney at the eastern gate of Algonquin Park, thereby reducing fire protection response and threatening the park and the safety of all people within the region;

"Therefore, be it resolved that we, the undersigned, demand that the Legislature of Ontario order a halt to the aforementioned ministry actions that threaten the future of Algonquin Provincial Park, including the commercialization of campgrounds and the cutbacks to fire protection."

This petition is signed by hundreds of my constituents living in and around Algonquin Provincial Park.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): If I could have five seconds of the House's time, we have a visitor in the Speaker's gallery, Gino Matrundola, former member for Willowdale.



Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I have a petition that was forwarded to me from St Paul's United Church in Cochrane and it's signed by the minister, Douglas J. MacKay.

"Because the moving of the Cochrane regional office of the Ministry of Natural Resources will necessitate an unneeded expenditure of taxpayers' dollars;

"Because recently a brief relocation of the MNR regional office has been submitted to the government by respected representatives of the town of Cochrane pointing out that there is available space in Cochrane for this office; and

"Because the economic base of the town of Cochrane has already been decimated by the removal of government ministry offices;

"We respectfully request that the government of Ontario, through the honourable Len Wood, MPP for Cochrane North, reconsider its decision to relocate the regional office of the Ministry of Natural Resources presently situated in Cochrane, Ontario."

As I said, it's signed by Douglas J. MacKay, Alice Anderson, Pierre Girard, Jennifer Holmes and about 20 other people. I affix my name to the petition.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition from residents of Barrhaven community, in the southern part in my constituency of Nepean, 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."

Because I am in agreement, I have affixed my own signature thereto.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition that's addressed to the honourable Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and it deals with the government's plan to privatize.

"Whereas the Ontario government plans to sell off public services to corporations who will run them for profit; and

"Whereas after the corporate takeover it will be strictly user-pay for the services we now depend on; and

"Whereas our clean air and water standards and worker safety rules are being relaxed because corporations don't like rules that interfere with profits; and

"Whereas privatization is being sold as a way to save tax dollars, even though large corporations pay little or no taxes, while individual Canadians pay most of the tax bill; and

"Whereas Bill 7 was introduced in the interests of facilitating its privatization agenda by stripping public sector workers of their rights to retain fair working conditions when services are transferred or privatized;

"We, the following citizens of Ontario, beg leave to petition the Parliament of Ontario to abandon the selloff of Ontario's public services and reinstate successor rights for public service employees."

I have affixed my signature to it.


Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): I have a petition to the Ontario Legislature.

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

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


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."

There are members who have affixed their signature to this, and I will do so.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Further petitions, the member for Oakville South.

Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I am glad you got to me. My mother is here today, and I'm glad she's here, as well as my aunt from California. I know I'm not supposed to announce that during the petition.


Mr Gary Carr (Oakville South): This is on behalf of the people in Leeds-Grenville.

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

"Whereas the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has announced the closure of the Brockville office,

"We, the residents of the community, urge the government of Ontario to reverse this decision so that the Brockville area office may continue to provide the services required for the management of the natural resources in the united counties of Leeds and Grenville."

That is signed by about 2,500 people in the Leeds-Grenville area and tabled on behalf of the member, who is the minister, and as I understand it is not able to table that.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to first congratulate the member for Oakville South for performing so well in front of his mother and his aunt. Now I will present my petition, which 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; and

"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 our province is designed to gain revenue for the government at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the desperate in order that the government can cut income taxes, to the greatest benefit of those with the highest income;

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

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

I affix my signature to this petition, as I'm in agreement with it.


Mr Toby Barrett (Norfolk): I wish to present a petition to the Ontario Legislature.

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

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

I affix my signature to this petition.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition on behalf of all those individuals who are concerned about the reduction of building standards in the province of Ontario. It's addressed to the Premier, Minister Al Leach and members of the Ontario Legislature.

"Whereas accessibility is a right and not a privilege; and

"Whereas changes your government has suggested to the Ontario building code threaten to remove that right for thousands of Ontario voters; and

"Whereas we oppose any change that would limit the scope of the building code regulations dealing with accessibility; and

"Whereas" your "government's proposal, Back to Basics, would eliminate 20 years of progress towards accessibility for people with disabilities; and

"Whereas accessibility is a principle of the Ontario building code that must be preserved and improved upon;

"Therefore, we, the undersigned, call upon the Legislature to reconsider your government's position on this issue."

I've affixed my signature to it.


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

"Whereas since March 1996, gasoline prices have increased on average a dramatic 10 cents a litre, which is over 45 cents a gallon; and

"Whereas this increase in the price of gasoline has outpaced the rate of inflation by a rate that is totally unacceptable to all consumers in this province because it is unfair and directly affects their ability to purchase other consumer goods; and

"Whereas Premier Mike Harris and Consumer and Commercial Relations Minister Norm Sterling, while in opposition, expressed grave concern for gas price gouging and asked the government of the day to take action;

"We, the undersigned, petition Premier Harris and the government of Ontario to eliminate gas price fixing and prevent the oil companies from gouging the public on an essential and vital product."

I know all members of this assembly would agree with this petition and I affix my signature to it.



Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I rise to request unanimous consent from the members of the assembly for an emergency debate around the circumstances and the controversy over the Ipperwash incident that led to the death of Anthony (Dudley) George as a result of actions at the gate of the park.

This is a very grave situation and I think it's important that we have a full and clear debate so we can clear the air and ensure that all members of the House and the public know what role, if any, there was by members of the government in the decisions that led to the police action at Ipperwash.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The leader of the third party has asked for unanimous consent. Do we have unanimous consent? We do not have unanimous consent.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to put a few remarks on the record with respect to the point of order raised by the leader of the third party.

Currently there is an SIU investigation ongoing, as I'm sure he and other members are aware. The government would be more than pleased to discuss with the opposition parties, once that investigation is completed, what the most appropriate form of action would be at that point in time, but we really do feel it is important that that investigation is completed first.



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

Your committee begs to report the following bill, as amended:

Bill 34, An Act to amend the Education Act / Projet de loi 34, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.

Shall Bill 34 be ordered for third reading? Agreed.


Mr Barrett from the standing committee on regulations and private bills presented the following report and moved its adoption:

Your committee begs to report the following bills without amendment:

Bill Pr34, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa

Bill Pr47, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa

Bill Pr48, An Act respecting the City of Ottawa.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Shall the report be received and adopted? Agreed.



Mr Klees moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill Pr61, An Act respecting the Town of Richmond Hill.

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



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 48, An Act to implement the International Fuel Tax Agreement / Projet de loi 48, Loi mettant en oeuvre l'accord appelé International Fuel Tax Agreement.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Does the third party have any further debate? Are we ready for the question?

Mr Johnson has moved second reading of Bill 48. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

Shall the bill be ordered for third reading? Agreed.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Mr Speaker, I believe we have unanimous consent to do third reading of Bill 48.

The Speaker: Agreed? Agreed.

Mr Wilson, on behalf of Mr David Johnson, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 48, An Act to implement the International Fuel Tax Agreement / Projet de loi 48, Loi mettant en oeuvre l'accord appelé International Fuel Tax Agreement.

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

Resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.


Mr Ouellette, on behalf of Mr Palladini, moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 39, An Act to amend the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act and the Public Vehicles Act and to make consequential changes to certain other Acts / Projet de loi 39, Loi modifiant la Loi sur la Commission des transports routiers de l'Ontario et la Loi sur les véhicules de transport en commun et apportant des modifications corrélatives à certaines autres lois.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The member for Oshawa has the floor.

Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): I am pleased again to have the opportunity to speak to this bill. The week before last, the resources development committee had public hearings on this bill. I was encouraged to hear a great deal of support for the government's approach on this issue for the bill and for deregulation itself.

Our first witness, Mr Jim Devlin of Trentway-Wagar, told us: "Bill 39 is a bill that is...10 or 12 years overdue. Bill 39 brings to the regulated industry a way to deal with a lot of the things that are wrong and have been wrong for many years....The system is very much broken and has been broken for some time."

This government agrees, which is why we are moving towards deregulation with an interim period as set out in Bill 39. Many times in the past months we have heard how regulation must be preserved, based on the claim that it guarantees service to small communities through cross-subsidization of unprofitable routes by profitable routes.

This may have been the case when regulation was first introduced in the 1920s but it has not been the case for many years, and the reason is simple: Licence holders were simply allowed to abandon communities they no longer wished to serve, without any impact on their other routes. This is how over 400 communities in Ontario lost intercity bus service between 1980 and 1995.

The fact was confirmed at committee by Dr Mark Bunting of PM Bunting and Associates, a transportation economist and policy analyst. He said: "For many years we relied on the regulatory bargain which protected intercity runs in exchange for service to smaller communities. This bargain doesn't operate any more. We can't rely on regulation to ensure service to small communities. That can't be an argument for maintaining regulation."

I certainly hope the expert testimony we heard at committee will put to rest the claims of the opposition about cross-subsidization. The simple fact is that over the past several decades, under governments of all political stripes, that arrangement has broken down. To restore that system forcing carriers to take up routes they did not want to serve would necessitate a massive government intervention in the marketplace and, frankly, would not be consistent with the way Ontario, Canada and the rest of the world are headed. Freer trade and less economic regulation is the way of the world now. We do our industries and our citizens no favours in denying this fact.

This was confirmed at committee by Mr Brian Crow of the Ontario Motor Coach Association, who said: "Over the past five years, OMCA has tried to get our members to read...the writing on the wall as it applied to economic regulation. There is a global movement towards deregulation. Other transportation sectors, as well as other industries, have been deregulated."

I think it's fair to say that there has been a little fearmongering around this issue by the opposition and unions. This government is accustomed to this by now, and we are obliged to set the record straight.


First, as we have seen with regulation, no regulatory system can guarantee service. This is reality. Second, several witnesses told us that rural Ontario and northern Ontario would not lose services, witnesses such as Rick Walsh of Walsh Transportation. He said:

"The fact that rural Ontario would lose service, as suggested by some of the big line carriers, in my opinion is false. An example of this: Even though the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission is subsidized throughout northeastern Ontario with my dollars, I run a limousine service daily from Kirkland Lake and the Tri-towns to Toronto, Sudbury and North Bay. The ridership is good; it's increasing. We also run a division in North Bay called Northern Airport Service, where we run two daily trips from North Bay, Powassan, South River, Huntsville and Bracebridge to Pearson International Airport."

As to the claim of the so-called Freedom to Move Coalition that communities such as Bracebridge, Huntsville and Kirkland Lake would lose service, Mr Walsh said:

"I think that not only won't they lose service, but they'll have more service.... For example, in the first week of July or June we're going to be starting service -- where we were running limousine services from Kirkland Lake to Toronto, we're upgrading our licence.... So if anything, service to the communities you've mentioned, as far as we're concerned, will only get better."

The committee heard an excellent presentation from Transportation Action Now, a disabled advocacy group that encourages the government to keep its commitment to the disabled. We will do so. However, I have looked into this issue a bit further and I must say that the disabled community has suffered somewhat at the hands of the federal government.

In 1993, after a two-year inquiry, the National Transportation Agency recommended a federal regulation under the National Transportation Act that would ensure 100% lift-equipped buses. This was based on the assurance that there would be a continuing government subsidy to industry. However, the federal government's transportation policy has drastically changed in the past two years in that it is no longer providing subsidies.

As Mr David Baker of Transportation Action Now told the committee:

"There was a feeling that it would be useful to have a national standard. There was preliminary agreement to a standard....

"Unfortunately, what's happened since 1993 is that there's a change in the federal government and also a change in the Quebec government. There is no longer a consensus for a national standard and each province is left to go its own way."

This government is committed to continuing to work through Transport Canada's advisory committee on accessible transportation to find a voluntary industry/user-based solution to this issue. I understand that at a meeting in March of this year significant progress was made. A follow-up meeting is planned for late September in Toronto.

This government is committed to fulfilling its promise on accessible intercity buses; however, Bill 39 is aimed at established an interim regime of economic regulation, not at issues such as accessibility. Bill 39 is not the appropriate time or place to deal with this issue. For example, issues of accessibility, facilities and the training of staff at those facilities are clearly beyond the scope of the Public Vehicles Act. Further, much of Bill 39 will be replaced in anticipation of deregulation. It is not the proper venue for addressing accessibility. A more appropriate place would be in the disabilities legislation that this government has committed to introduce.

A concern we heard, largely from opposition members, was how Bill 39 does away with the appeals of transport board rulings. Keeping appeals to a minimum in this interim period prior to deregulation is absolutely essential. What could happen in this period is that the appeal process could be used as an instrument of delay by one carrier against another until full deregulation occurs. Although there may be a diversity of use within the industry about Bill 39 and deregulation, the industry spoke with one single voice on this issue: the rehearing provision is not needed and all unnecessary appeal mechanisms would compromise the effectiveness of the interim regulatory system.

Another key feature of the interim period is keeping costs of economic regulation low and paid for by the industry. This is why much of the industry preferred written hearings. Unless credibility is directly at issue, natural justice should be met by written hearings.

Although the position of the industry was not unanimous, there was some concern expressed about Ontario going it alone on deregulation. Some carriers are concerned that they will not be able to compete with carriers from provinces that continue to be regulated.

The federal government has stated its preference for deregulation of intercity busing. The province will use the interim period to persuade the federal government to follow through on its commitment and attempt to persuade other provinces to harmonize with Ontario.

However, I would like to be clear that all it takes is for the federal government to deregulate; then all intercity provincial carriers will be deregulated whether the home provinces are regulated or not. If the federal government deregulates, it doesn't matter what Manitoba or Quebec wants. They will not be able to keep our companies out.

The opposition has raised concerns about safety of intercity buses in a deregulated environment. First, this bill is only about economic deregulation, not safety deregulation. As is clear from the government's introduction of the road safety plan last fall and its tabling of legislation earlier this week, we are getting tough with operators of commercial vehicles, be they trucks, buses or anything else that makes money on our roads.

Finally, the opposition's fearmongering about layoffs at the Ministry of Transportation does not apply to safety. This government has hired additional enforcement officers the previous government allowed to be lost through attrition, and we will be hiring even more.

I believe Bill 39 will result in what the Minister of Transportation has always intended to occur: an orderly transition to deregulation for the benefit of the riders and the intercity bus industry of Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Comments and questions? Further debate?

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): In terms of Bill 39, which is a bill that regulates and then deregulates -- I'm not sure what it is; there's essentially an air of confusion about this bill -- I want to make some things clear. First of all, one of the most upsetting things about this bill is that the disabled community and disabled community advocates across Ontario are very upset that this government and that committee refused their amendment. They asked that an amendment be brought forward that would essentially carry through with a promise the Premier made to this community before the election.

The Premier of this province, Mike Harris, made a very strict and explicit promise to the disabled community. He said, during the 1995 campaign, "A Harris government would work to ensure that all new intercity buses purchased in Ontario are fully accessible." That amendment was brought forward at committee and the government members turned it down.

I think that is unconscionable because it is an explicit promise made to this community before the election. The Premier of this province made that promise and this is probably one of the reasons he got elected, because he promised to address this issue. Bill 39 has not included a provision for intercity buses to be accessible, and that denies a large percentage of Ontario residents the right to mobility through intercity buses.

The advocacy group for disabled transportation, Transportation Action Now, issued a press release today where it again said, "During the 1995 election Mike Harris promised persons with disabilities and seniors: `A Harris government would work to ensure that all new intercity buses purchased in Ontario are fully accessible.'" Bill 39 refused to do this. In other words, here's the first opportunity this government had to make good on Mike Harris's promise, and this government and this bill categorically turn down this promise and commitment the Premier made to the disabled community of Ontario.

The Minister of Transportation has refused to meet with this group. As the press release said:

"Given an opportunity to review the issue before third reading, the government has elected to slip the bill through. In doing so they have declined Transportation Action Now's request for a meeting with Minister Al Palladini. The government gave the public less than two hours' notice of their intention to rush the bill in for third reading so that no one in a wheelchair could be present to hear the debate."

The disabled community can't even be here for the third reading. They feel this is denying them accessible transportation on buses. It's especially irksome to them because they were promised by Mike Harris that intercity buses would be accessible. That was a very specific promise he made. The Premier of this province, before the election, knew this was a very serious issue for the disabled community, and I'm sure he investigated this issue. Therefore, in writing he made this promise to the disabled citizens of this province, and yet he is now saying no. In other words, he's breaking a very clear promise. I wonder whether the Premier of this province will resign because he's broken this clear commitment to disabled citizens across this province.


This is a serious matter, and Bill 39 has not addressed this critical concern that disabled and physically challenged people have across Ontario. That is certainly one of the reasons why, on our side, we will not support Bill 39, because it breaks this promise to the people of Ontario who are taxpayers and deserve a right to fair and equitable mobility in the towns and cities across Ontario. So I don't know how the members across could support this bill, especially when it breaks a commitment that the Premier made himself to the disabled community in this province of Ontario. Bill 39 contradicts that promise 100%.

Another amendment that we proposed which I thought was very meaningful -- in fact, it was supported by a lot of the industry. In other words, the busing companies thought it would enhance safety and protection for the public if the insurance and liability level for insuring bus carriers were raised. Right now you can get insurance for operating a bus in Ontario with about the same amount of liability that an ordinary motorist has for their private automobile. It is not sufficient.

I know we had deputations saying that the insurance liability level should be raised to a minimum of $10 million so that the 40 to 50 passengers on a bus could be protected if there's an accident. The government side refused to raise the minimum level; right now it remains at a nominal level, where you could be in a bus accident and you only have this limited insurance liability, which is adequate only for private automobiles. The government had an opportunity to listen to the deputants; it refused to listen.

Another very important amendment, suggested by the deputants again, was about the safety audit. Right now under Bill 39 you have to submit a complete safety audit six months after receiving your licence. The request we made and many members of the industry made is that that safety audit should be presented when you get issued your licence. Why the six-month delay? Again, this was something advocated by the deputants that came before the committee. They said that if you really wanted to get serious about bus safety, this would be one way of doing it: immediate safety audits when the licences are presented. The government refused to listen to this safety suggestion.

As we know, last week there was an intercity bus that lost two wheels on the 401. Just as our trucks are losing wheels, we have our buses losing wheels also. So safety is a very serious concern, and Bill 39 refused to address these safety issues. They're leaving thousands of bus passengers in the lurch to those bus carriers that are not fulfilling their commitments. The vast majority of them, the good bus carriers, wanted to increase the safety features, wanted a higher insurance liability premium, wanted this safety audit. This government has said no. So how can they be speaking out of both sides of their mouth, saying no to the safety audit and no to higher insurance liability maximums? On top of that, they're also saying no to the disabled community, which asks for the same basic rights as able-bodied Ontarians get on buses.

Another very disconcerting aspect of Bill 39 is, here's the bill that essentially takes away the right of appeal of this board. This is essentially going to be a one-person board. That person's decisions will be final. So if you're a bus operator, or you're the mayor of Stratford, anybody who wants to appeal the decision of this one-person board has no right to appeal. This is contrary to every precept in Ontario legal precedence.

You should have a right to appeal a board decision. This Bill 39 takes that right away. You can't go to cabinet. You can't go to divisional court. You have to rely on the superintelligence of one person and hope that he or she is right. No right to appeal, and this is not a very democratically fair part of Bill 39.

Some of the previous concerns about Bill 39 also are that this bill, in essence, shows the absurdity of the government's position. What the government has done is it has said to the neighbours in the States -- Michigan, Ohio -- to our Quebec neighbours and to our Manitoba neighbours that Ontario will deregulate completely by January 1, 1998. So what it means is that Quebec or Manitoba or our southern neighbours are going to wait the next year and a half, two years, for us to deregulate; then they will come in here and encroach upon Ontario businesses. So why would you warn them in advance so they could wait and not do anything and anticipate that on January 1, 1998, they're going to come in here because they know this government has stated categorically they're going to deregulate on January 1, 1998?

I don't know if you realize what is happening to many Ontario companies, not only in busing, but essentially they're raiding Ontario business centres. If you go to Pearson airport, most of the bus carriers in Pearson are Quebeckers, Quebec-owned companies. If you own an Ontario bus company, you try to get into Dorval. You can't get in there. There are no equal rights for Ontario companies. Yet this government is going to leave Quebec companies the opportunity to raid all of these Ontario business centres.

If you live up in the Ottawa Valley -- I know my colleague from Prescott-Russell says in Hawkesbury and those areas, they're going to be killed by deregulation allowing for Quebec bus entrepreneurs to come in and take business away from Ontario.

It's going to happen with the American carriers.

The Manitoba carriers will raid our businesses because of deregulation, because we've told them that's the day it's going to happen. So they're going to wait. They're not going to deregulate, because Manitoba stated categorically they're not going to deregulate. Quebec has stated categorically they're not going to deregulate.

We're going to be open to this raiding and poaching by these jurisdictions outside of Ontario. That's what this bill does. It puts Ontario carriers at a great disadvantage. Especially when you're in a very competitive business, this is most difficult.

Another thing that is very difficult about this bill is that the government has rushed ahead with this new approach with no business impact study. I've asked them repeatedly to do an impact study. What does this mean to our carriers? What does it mean to the small communities across Ontario? What does it mean to small business in these small communities when you close down bus stations, you get rid of bus routes, when you deregulate? What does the future process of this bill do to businesses in Ontario, communities in Ontario?

They have not done this study. All they do is point to a very anecdotal fact saying that 400 communities across Ontario have lost bus service over the last 15 years. There is no analysis of why those 400 communities lost the bus service. They don't know why because they never examined the reasons. Is it because a factory closed? Is it because other centres grew in population? Is it because of road conditions? They've done no analysis of why this happened.

They've done no analysis, for instance, of what happened in the United States. In the US, when the Teflon president, Ronald Reagan, deregulated, half of the communities served by bus in the United States lost their service. Out of 11,000 communities serviced by intercity bus in the United States, under deregulation over 5,000 American communities lost their bus service with deregulation, and I asked the government to find out if this were to happen here. All they say is, "Trust us." The invisible hand will somehow ensure that deregulation will be a bonanza for everyone.


As you know, a lot of people in the industry do not agree with deregulation, they don't like Bill 39, and these are hard-nosed, free-enterprising business people. They say this bill stinks and they say deregulation makes no sense: no business sense and no common sense.

Mr Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): Name them.

Mr Colle: PMCL is one for sure; the Dubeau family, who have been in this busing business since the turn of the century, and you ask Mr Laval Dubeau. He'll tell you this bill stinks and deregulation isn't all it's made out to be and there are problems with it. You talk to other people in the industry and they have very serious doubts about where this government is going because they essentially have not done their homework. That's why they had to backtrack.

They first announced there was going to be total deregulation. Then they came up with this bill, which was sort of a backtrack to try and cover their traces because they'd made major mistakes, because they forgot to put in the equation the fact that Quebec is still not deregulated and they couldn't persuade Quebec to deregulate. So this bill is an attempt to cover up their steps in their mistaken approach.

I should mention, in terms of this whole bill as it relates to safety and inspections, that right now we're getting reports on the roads of Ontario that OPP officers are now manning roadside inspection stations. They're so short of MTO staff people that OPP officers have to fill in at these inspection stations. So who is going to enforce the safety regulations of these buses across Ontario when they don't even have enough MTO people in the inspection stations? Who is going to inspect these buses to ensure they meet safety requirements?

I say that a lot of people who came before us in the deputations are worried about the safety of these buses, especially when it comes to deregulation, because we know the history of deregulation as it relates to truck deregulation. When truck deregulation came to Ontario, it basically meant the reins were taken off safety, and you know the history of trucking after deregulation. Safety has become a horrendous embarrassment to this government.

Finally the minister recognized he had to do something about truck safety. After a year of telling him that he had to do something, he finally did it. How many wheels have to fall off the trucks? He finally did something when it was as obvious as the nose on his face that the trucking industry in this province is not safe, and now we've got a minister going into bus deregulation and the same thing is going to happen. With deregulation, they are putting Ontario passengers at risk because there are not going to be enough inspectors, the limits aren't going to be high enough in terms of liability and there's no safety audit required when you get your licence, so therefore safety is not an important part of Bill 39. It's taken a back seat, literally, in Bill 39.

I wonder how many bus accidents will occur because of deregulation as they go down that road, because what happens with deregulation is that everybody tries to enter the business to make a fast buck. As one of the deputants told us, there are people with 20-year-old buses that are ready to go when deregulation comes in, and when these 20-year-old buses get patched up with baling wire and whatever and they're on the roads of this province because of deregulation, I wonder how many of these buses are going to be safe. I wonder how many bus wheels will come off.

That is what the threat is of a bill like Bill 39 and what happens after Bill 39, because the government has refused to look at the history of deregulation and what it means to safety and what it means to communities, the economic and safety impacts.

That's why this bill is especially odious when it doesn't take safety seriously and, secondly, when it refuses to acknowledge a commitment made to the disabled people of this province where specifically the Premier of this province said, "I will do everything I can to ensure that all future intercity bus purchases in Ontario are fully accessible." You have a bill about intercity buses. That is missing. He has broken his promise to the disabled people of this province. They have all kinds of excuses. The disabled community has brought forth this amendment. They rejected the amendment and basically broke this promise to the disabled community.

That's why we oppose this bill, because of the fact it breaks faith with people and it goes into uncharted waters. It puts an industry at risk and it puts the passengers and cities and communities across Ontario at risk because it hasn't looked at the impact of deregulation and this bill and what it really does to real people.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions or comments? Further debate?

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): I thank you. Merci, Monsieur le Président, et bon après-midi à vous.

I understand that we have a tacit commitment, unanimous consent, and I'm seeking that consent, that commitment, to have our caucus split the time and to do so in succession.

The Deputy Speaker: Agreed? It is agreed.

Mr Pouliot: Let me at the beginning make our position clear on Bill 39, which is an interim measure. In fact, it spells out the explicit intention of this government to deregulate the intercity bus industry effective January 1, 1998. For a myriad of reasons, our caucus will oppose the bill.

Simply put, you ask yourself questions when the government du jour, the government of the day, comes forward and talks about deregulation. At present under a regulated system that has been the order of the day in the province of Ontario since 1920, an operator makes money by way of operating the most lucrative route; take the Toronto-Ottawa route or the Peterborough-Toronto or the Toronto-Niagara Falls. In exchange for making money on those lucrative routes, you have the responsibility to provide service to the remote and smaller communities in this vast and magnificent land.

You are well aware that more than 850 communities are part of the province of Ontario. When you travel by bus, you never travel first class. When you travel by bus, you're always in the "democratic" class.

Who will benefit by deregulation? Oh, a few well-acquainted, -positioned people, people who associate with the rich and maybe with the government of the day, lobbyists with a set of wheels, people who are only too willing to tap the marketplace, and some good, well-intentioned, serious operators. Unfortunately, operators of all sorts are just waiting to get their piece of the action.

More important, in this endeavour of winners and losers, who will lose? You've guessed it: people who are dependent on the system, who do not have an alternative, quite often people who do not have the means to drive a car, or people who do not have the facility, because of health problems, to drive a motor vehicle; the poor, people who cannot afford to go from point A to point B looking for work, seeking medical services, visiting relatives, and must use bus transportation -- it's more economical and also commonsensical, the only way to go, the only way they can go -- the marginalized, those who have less; the students going to their small community, yet there are no bus services to take them to and from so they can go back to post-secondary education.


Those are the perennial and residual losers, because it has been decreed by the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, by the government in Ontario, that we must adhere to the Mulroney syndrome -- example, air deregulation -- and the ideological bender of Thatcher and Reagan vis-à-vis bus deregulation. "Why not follow suit? Those are the people we court. The very political air we breathe is based on those philosophies, so we must, like lemmings, whether it works or not, adopt the policy of the ostrich, that we bury our head in the sand and the rest of us is exposed to all winds. It doesn't matter, as long as we're on the `right' track." So we grease the tracks, we lure, we entice a few of our friends. The populace doesn't matter.

The argument here doesn't make the weight. The sister provinces of Manitoba to the west -- and they can hardly be accused of being New Democrat -- and Quebec to the east have refused to deregulate. Consequently, we open the doors to all kinds of entrepreneurs, Ontario-based, of course, but western- and eastern-based as well, and those people are poised and they will come calling for our clientele.

I've made this example before, and it's filled with validity. Picture this: a day like today, June, July, a plane comes from Europe to Pearson, of course, and with all the bells and whistles afforded a Prevost vehicle -- almost, for tourists, opium you smoke with your eyes. They're delightful vehicles. Who would not be seduced? So you board the bus, you go to Niagara Falls for as long as the river flows, and the chef de mission says: "Okay" -- the whistle blows -- "you've had your two hours at Niagara Falls. Back on the bus. Eight days in Quebec City."

But you can't go to Dorval or Mirabel and reciprocate, because they are regulated. It's not a matter of, "Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." This is a one-way invitation to come and raid without having to do so at your own peril -- a one-way street. The proverbial one-way street has reached the marketplace. This is what the minister and his cohorts are doing by way of Bill 39. They're setting the table. The feast will be by invitation only, RSVP, and only for a few. The populace, the people who use this system -- well, they'll get the crumbs. And one more time, if these people have their way, people will not have a say.

It does grieve me a great deal that one more time those who don't have the tools to defend themselves. It does grieve me a great deal that those who don't have the ammunition are left fighting the steamrollers emanating from this government. But don't take my word for it. Let others speak, those who don't have a voice inside these walls.

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Like me.


Mr Pouliot: The voice of Transportation Action Now is hardly a laughing matter. This is what they say: "Prior to his election as Premier, Mike Harris stated in response to a written question from our organization" -- and this is a quote from the now Premier Mike Harris -- "`a Harris government would work to ensure that all new intercity buses purchased in Ontario are fully accessible.'"

That was during the days of soliciting, during the course of the election, when the Premier was trying to sell the hardest commodity as he was knocking on doors, that being trying to sell himself for the favour of the voters. He said that if he did not honour the response -- because they were to be so different -- he would do the honourable thing, that while he had an ounce of dignity left, he would resign. Those people are far too polite, far too ethical, to tell him, "Mike, get the heck out, because you have not respected your engagement towards the disabled, towards people who are trying to join Ontario's main life," if you wish. They're trying to be like you, trying to be like us, they're trying to be mobile, trying to participate, to integrate more fully. What they're saying is that this guy there, they placed a lot of faith in him during the election time. He's quite presentable, and some of them believed what he was saying. He perspired sincerity, and you can see the perspiration. I guess if you can fake sincerity, you can fake anything.

Mr Stockwell: Oh!

Mr Pouliot: I don't know. I'm not imputing motive, but there's a world of contradiction, a difference between what was said and what is being done or not done.


They go on to say, "My questions to you today are" -- this is the pleading voices of people who are physically challenged, in unison -- "does the Mike Harris government support the integration of people with disabilities in the mainstream of Canadian life? If so, as part of that commitment, will you ensure barrier reduction to bus transportation services for people with disabilities? How can you ensure that this happens except by regulation? If the Harris government does support barrier-free bus transportation, will the minister" -- that's pal Al, Mr Palladini, whose jurisdictional capacity ensures the deregulation that's about to come; so they're talking about him, Al Palladini -- "ensure that people with disabilities are accommodated"?

There's another contradiction that I want to share with you: Mr Palladini never consulted with any user group. He was in hiding. How would he know if he doesn't ask and if he doesn't listen? I guess when you rule by decree, when you dictate, groups and lobbyists only slow things down. They get in the way. They complicate matters. So we steamroll. There's no need to listen to them.

Then the audacity. You go beyond. Mr Palladini is quoted as saying, and here's the quote, "Government has no business in telling bus companies how to run their operations except in the area of safety." In other words, if you're disabled or spokespeople for a disabled organization, you're waved aside; you're left twisting; your voice is not heard; you don't have the pleasure of an audience; you don't get to kiss the ring; you're discarded. You might be thrown in the ditch, if one were to go further. You don't count.

They have decreed that people with disabilities will not be -- there will be no regulation. So you won't have wider buses and you won't have lower floors to accommodate people. It waits for no one, because we're on the waiting list too. It's inevitable: Those steps will be harder to negotiate, but the bus won't be there to accommodate you. In fact, the bus might not be there.

Recall what happened in the United States a few years back when Reagan deregulated the bus industry: 52% of communities lost their service; more than half ceased to exist. The day you see bus deregulation strike -- tales of Houdini: You see it; the next day you don't see it. Systematic, deliberate, but unless you're a client, unless you bring forth the human dimension and place it first in your argument, who gives a damn? Who cares?

I can assure you we do care, because that's us. Those are the ordinary Ontarians about to lose a service when there's no need to do so. If it ain't broke -- and you know the rest. Why change things? Things are going okay. Unless you're engaged, you're committed, you're on an ideological bender and you must change no matter what, sometimes it's better to do nothing, better not to change.

I have some quotes. There's nothing like asking the people who play the game, the people who know, the experts in the field. When you spend investment and time, when you're the person doing the job, you should know better than anyone or better than most what you're talking about.

Jim Devlin, president of Trentway-Wagar -- that's probably the third largest carrier in the province of Ontario -- knows busing; you've got to give him that. Jim is not a card-carrying member of the New Democratic Party; we can give him that. This is what he says: Simply put, he doesn't want instant coffee. He says, "I'm not in favour of deregulation." Point final.

Reg DeNure, the vice-president of the Ontario Motor Coach Association -- he owns Chatham Coach Lines -- "If it isn't broken, why fix it?"

Gino Defent. Of course, he owns Gino's Bus Line, a family endeavour.

The larger companies are definitely going to drop routes, because recall here, remember, there's no tradeoff, no obligation. You just grab the gravy, the lucrative. Since the beginning of time, certain elements have been attracted by material wealth, given that quality of having mercantile minds. They have two rules. The first rule is, never lose money; and the second rule is, remember rule number one. They're not about to become the good Samaritan. It's not in their mandate. As a shareholder, would you invest in a losing endeavour? Highly unlikely.

There's more. I could toss them across but I will save time; I know there are other speakers. Turn to page 1 and listen to what the players are saying, listen to what the experts are saying: "Rural Ontario is going to suffer if intercity bus service is deregulated."

Unions are upset; I mean deeply hurt, upset big time. Who wouldn't be when you will lose your job? We all like to put a paycheque on the table. Some of us weren't born rich. Aside from the family unit and good health, the right to earn a paycheque is sacrosanct. We need it. You don't have to emanate from U of T or Harvard. It's not very deep. They're about to find themselves on the UI list; ie, unemployment insurance. Because the cast is set, cards are being dealt and you're the tradeoff. For a few dollars more, for that fistful of dollars, men and women lose their jobs? Bagatelle, minor. They'll find another job. Most people do that.

So you lose a service; people lose their jobs; fewer routes. Not 500; no, within six months you will have upward of 2,000 fewer jobs. Men and women will be deprived of the ability to earn a paycheque when it need not happen, because the system works relatively fine. We're not opposed to evolution. We're not opposed to changes. We're saying that if there's a change or changes to make the system more expedient, more efficient, let's do that. But don't kill the patient with too much radiation; you fail when you do that. We acquiesce readily. We know the system cannot go on without changes; nothing does. Things do change and you must accommodate the legislation to reflect that. But to that extent, to that extreme?


Sometimes there are people who wish to cut all the trees in the forest and there are other people who don't wish to cut any trees, but in there there's a balance, an equilibrium where you satisfy. You take a little more time and you do it well and you do it progressively. You don't plug the digestive process. You let people assimilate the data. But when from one day to the next you come to the marketplace with a chainsaw, government by meat cleaver, and you destroy what is basically a good system, a system that has served us well, proven, since 1920, not a flash in the pan -- and it was there for a reason, the tradeoff. You make money on one route; you have a social responsibility to supply an essential service in the less lucrative market.

Then they had the gall and the audacity to say that safety will not be compromised. Let's talk about this. This is a government that's about to discharge, to pink-slip, to surplus 1,200 employees in the Ministry of Transportation. How on the one hand can you attempt to prophesy that safety will not be in jeopardy -- you get up with great trumpet and fanfare and repeat that you wish to make the Ontario roads the safest in North America -- and while you're doing this, the other hand, that of the puppeteer, dislodges 1,200 people?

Your inspectors? Well, they're gone, in the ditch, twisting in the wind without a job. Fewer inspectors does not mean better safety, not in my book it doesn't. The reverse -- the resource -- the opposite does. You've heard, you've read of wheels literally falling off transport trucks. Fewer inspectors will only give us more.

Picture this: You go and buy a licence. "Okay, a hundred bucks? Got it. Give me my licence." Deregulation: Every Tom, Dick and Harry can come to the marketplace, come calling. The teller takes $100. "Here's your application." Now you go to the marketplace with whatever wreck you have. This is what you do: You are now a bus operator, legalized by the province. You go to the insurance shop and they stamp you and collect a few dollars more and out you go. You establish your own market. Good luck to you. Then things get a little tougher. Some don't make it; they just don't have the cash flow or the ability. The vultures gather and they descend on the weak ones and swallow them. Others decide to merge; they're of equal force. Others get taken over because today looks better than the future -- takeovers, mergers, bankruptcies.

While this is happening and you're on the hook to the friendly chartered bank, your line of credit has been exhausted so you can no longer command prime plus half, or prime plus one. You're a mid-sized or a small entrepreneur so you will pay the loan. You started with collateral, but now your collateral is the bus line that you hope to operate. You don't have a guarantee.

Your mechanic tells you that you need new sets of tires because the book says rotate, and after so many thousand kilometres, replace tires. But you've beaten a path between your residence and the banker's office. So now you're going to see the banker with cap in hand. Where are you going to place your $10,000? On the tires or to pay back your loan? Are you going to change oil all that often, or as often? Or are you going to yield and say, "I cannot afford to have the same conscience because my pockets are empty," as opposed to saying, "I cannot afford not to have a conscience because my pockets are full"? I can't answer that, but I'm asking, will safety not be compromised by deregulation when there are more players fighting for a smaller piece of the action? Of course it must. Those are basic laws of economics. Establish your priority, do your research, cut your costs.

I say with equal candour that our caucus did appreciate the briefing, not only from the minister, the invitation from the minister, but the briefing from the minister's political staff -- very able people, very dedicated and no doubt, extremely loyal to the minister, and that of the Ministry of Transportation. In both instances, they're asked to deliver the goods. Their job is to see how they can make it happen. Civil servants inevitably do that very well. In almost all instances, the annals, the record is one of being almost immaculate and always very diligent and very expedient in their delivery of the government's will.

Mr Speaker, I will conclude my remarks by thanking you and repeating that, as a matter of principle, as a matter of conscience, the New Democratic Party of Ontario does not, cannot, shall not support what is in front of us for third and final reading and, in the days ahead, no doubt royal assent.

I want to thank you and we will continue to monitor, we will continue to be vigilant and to remind the government of the day that what is being suggested, what is being done today, what will be passed today or tomorrow by vote -- and they have the numbers, they have the clout, no doubt -- we will remind them that what is being done today is a mistake and it could have been avoided.


Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I appreciate the opportunity today to rise and speak on third reading of this very important bill. My colleague so eloquently explained and put on the record thoughts and concerns that he has around the impact this will have on the people of this province and on our ability to get around.

I want to focus for just a few minutes this afternoon on two distinct areas where this will have a tremendously important impact; I think it will be negative, others may argue otherwise. I'd like to speak today, for the few minutes that I have, first regarding the impact of any deregulation of transportation where it concerns that very important and beautiful part of Ontario I live in, northern Ontario, because those of us who live in northern Ontario, who work up there, who want to do business up there know that transportation is absolutely essential, and anything you do to either improve it or take away from what we already have has immediate and very important impacts and ramifications.

When I speak of transportation, I speak of all forms of transportation. This government, by some of the actions and decisions that it's made or taken so far in its short term in office, doesn't fully understand the importance and the impact of anything where it concerns transportation for those of us who call northern Ontario home.

I participated in discussion at the committee level, agencies, boards and commissions, around the question of norOntair and the importance of the air industry and air transportation to both medium- and small-sized communities in northern Ontario as we try to take advantage of any opportunity that might come our way, any chance to generate some wealth, create some jobs or make more vital the communities and areas that we live in. Transportation is a very intricately woven network of road, rail, air and water, and diminishing of any one piece of that has some major effects and presents some real concern.

In my discussion, for example, around the question of not just the deregulation of air service in northern Ontario but the actual selling of an air service that was put in place many years ago by a previous Conservative government to make sure that we in the north in some very important resource-based communities -- Elliot Lake, Kapuskasing, Hornepayne, Atikokan, all of those very vibrant communities in northern Ontario that see themselves as having a future have in them people who make a tremendous effort to be responsible and contributing citizens, who make some very important investments of their time and of their expertise and of their resources; they buy homes, they invest in business. Transportation and the diminishing of transportation becomes very much a concern if we see that happening.

If we take, for example, the way this government has dealt with the demise of norOntair and the impact that's had on air service to communities in the north and we look at the way road maintenance and winter snow removal were dealt with this winter, we know we have ourselves on the horns of a real dilemma because this government does not, I don't think -- I know that there are members in this government who really want to understand, but they don't fully understand the challenges we face in the north. Whether it's trying to get our goods to market, whether it's trying to move people for health reasons, whether it's just visiting each other as we live out our daily lives, to recreate or have holidays etc, our transportation systems have become very, very important.

If you who make up this House, who represent jurisdictions that are outside of northern Ontario, want to be helpful in terms of northern Ontario's future and the potential it has to contribute to the economy of this province -- and indeed it does contribute. Anybody who knows of the very valuable contribution that the resource-based industries of northern Ontario make to the larger metropolitan areas of southern Ontario will know why it is important that you pay attention and listen to those of us who share with you some of our thoughts and ideas and some of the concerns that we bring to this place from having listened to our constituents, and in this instance particularly around the question of transportation.

In northern Ontario, distances are enormous. Where in southern Ontario we travel an hour or two and we can literally go through three or four or five communities, in northern Ontario you can travel for two, three or four hours sometimes and not see another human being, not see another house, not see another small community, not see even another small clump of two or three houses. So our transportation, our getting back and forth, our keeping in touch with each other, our looking after each other's needs becomes that much more critical. It is that much more important that we are always able to, one way or another, get through to each other and be able to provide, as I've said before, the health care and education services and those other very important, fundamental underpinnings of any healthy society or economy, to make sure they are in fact there.

As I said, if we look at what the government has done in the short time they've been in office re the question of air service and their obvious misunderstanding of how important it is that there be a well-coordinated and comprehensive air service that is able to make the kinds of connections necessary to get people where they need to go in a timely fashion, in a safe fashion, you take away from our ability to participate in today's economy, given that things are moving so quickly and it is so important for us to be places in a timely fashion.

It was just in the last couple of days, in preparing for a report that's coming out of the standing committee on agencies, boards and commissions, that some people out of my office have had the opportunity to call some of the communities that were impacted by the demise of norOntair and to find out that, yes, in most instances there is air service going into those communities, but it's not as convenient as it was before. As a matter of fact, it would in some instances leave one to wonder whether these new air services really expect to be successful. The schedules are so inconvenient that one wonders why one would take an airplane as opposed to doing the three- or four-hour drive it takes to get to a larger centre to get perhaps on to a bigger plane.

For example, in Elliot Lake, where with norOntair you were able to get on a plane first thing in the morning, get to Toronto, do a full day of business and get back home that night so that you could be at your workplace early the next morning, it now takes three days for that to happen. In the world that we live in today, with commerce moving so quickly and decisions being made so quickly, three days can be a long, long time. If as a businessman making decisions about resources that are very valuable to you, you can't be where you need to be in a timely fashion, then why have the service in the first place?

So if that's an example of your understanding of how important and valuable transportation is to northern Ontario and how you don't understand that transportation systems -- air, road and rail -- need to be interconnected, then it doesn't surprise me that we have before us today this bill on bus deregulation. It doesn't surprise me that we've had a number of people in this House stand and put on the record perhaps some of the thoughts that I'm going to put on this afternoon, but other thoughts around the very disturbing impact this will have on their community, on their particular special part of the province, and on their ability to participate fully in the life of Ontario.


I talked about air service and I talked about the efforts of previous governments to make sure we put the resources that were necessary in place to make sure we had a coordinated, comprehensive air service that connected, made sense, that was working in unison, that wasn't in any way disconnected or causing problems for people who needed to move. We don't have to look too far beyond that to understand that when it comes to the issue of our roads, we have some problems as well.

This past winter we saw, for example -- and yes, we did have a particularly difficult winter, probably one of the most challenging winters I can remember, having lived in northern Ontario since 1960, having lived in Wawa, which sees Sault Ste Marie as its centre of service and commerce, and having travelled up and down that road many, many times as I went to work, as I went to the larger centre or came home from the larger centre for purposes of recreation or socializing, or whether it was ambulances that I remember going up and down that highway to take people from hospital to hospital to make sure they got the kind of health care they needed.

I remember stories of ambulances actually going off the road and other ambulances having to drive out and pick up the patients and bring them in. We didn't have that problem this winter that I can remember, but we did have another problem that presents itself as somewhat problematic. That's our inability, because of the cutback in resources to road maintenance and snow removal, to keep those roads in a safe condition. To give the government its due, because the roads weren't safe, decisions were made more often than not to close them down.

Any of us who travelled on northern highways this winter will have experienced at one time or another some time spent in coffee shops. I remember one day in Parry Sound, I was on my way back to Sault Ste Marie after a long week in the Legislature, working hard on behalf of my constituents, having to stop because there was a major snowstorm happening between Parry Sound and Sudbury and the road was closed. In talking to some of the folks I got to chat with while I was there -- I was there for a good three or four hours -- we began to share stories and began to realize that road closure was now a more prominent reality for --

Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): It's a safe option.

Mr Martin: It's a safe option. It is. You have to recognize, though, that in closing the road and keeping people safe in the coffee shops and hotels that they stop in --

Interjection: It generates money.

Mr Martin: It generates money, yes. It contributes to the economy. I'm sure Parry Sound probably picked up a few bucks that day and some of the hotels where people stayed in various communities as they were stopped along their route contributed in some positive way. But the very challenging and negative aspect of all of this is that when the roads close, you can't do business. When the roads close, you can't move people for health reasons. When the road is closed, if you have a hockey team and you're going to a tournament, you're stuck, and you have a problem when you get there and the organizers have a problem when they get there. It creates problems. It really does. It presents some challenges.

It is, in the collective mind of the northern members of my caucus, not in the best interests of northern Ontario that we should be taking so much out of the road maintenance and snow removal program by way of the money that we spend so that this new approach to safety on the highways can become a more prominent reality for all of us who travel in the north. Because at the end of the day, it does present some danger to life, particularly as we try to move people who need to be in other medical institutions than the ones that are located in our community, and particularly as we look at the reality of the regionalization that's going on, that this government is bound and determined to make sure comes into effect.

A lot of the services and resources that we took for granted would be always available to us in our home communities are now more and more being moved to central operations. A lot of offices that used to be in Sault Ste Marie that had been there forever and we thought would be there forever are now being moved, and that's causing all kinds of concerns and difficulties for a whole array of people in various sectors in my community.

Where it concerns transportation, it means that those of us who need to access those services need to travel more and we need to know that the means to travel, whether it's road or rail, air or bus or train, is in fact there and that it's going to be timely and that it's going to be safe. The only way you do that is by regulating it, by making sure there are rules in place that dictate that certain things happen when other things happen. So it is really important.

As I said, we're into a situation in northern Ontario now where more and more of the services that were offered in places like Sault Ste Marie and Timmins and North Bay, which are not the largest communities in the north -- the largest communities in the north are Sudbury and Thunder Bay, and they are as far apart as Sault Ste Marie or Sudbury from Toronto. In fact, if you're trying to get from Sault Ste Marie to Sudbury or to Thunder Bay to access some regional service, it is more inconvenient. I know from talking to some of the members here they don't fully understand this, but it is easier for us to in fact go to Toronto than it is for us to go to Sudbury or to Thunder Bay. That is because of the transportation networks that are in place or, as the case may be, are not in place. It presents some challenges for us and some details that we need to look at, and that we need to concern ourselves about.

Ontario over the years has prided itself on building on, contributing to, making better, improving. I would suggest that today we have a government in place at Queen's Park -- concerned, yes, about the deficit and the debt, and I don't think there's anybody here who would disagree that we need to concern ourselves about that, but at what price? At what cost to regions of this province as we look at the deterioration of the delivery of services, and in this instance particularly the deterioration, as we move to more and more deregulation, less and less regulation, of transportation?

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I find the comments very interesting and I think it's very important that we should have a quorum here to listen to the member for Sault Ste Marie.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Is there a quorum in the House?

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex D. McFedries): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Sault Ste Marie may proceed.

Mr Martin: I want to actually take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Health, who just came into the House, for coming up to my community.

Mr Terence H. Young (Halton Centre): He was watching on TV.

Mr Martin: Yes, he was.

He came up to my community just a couple of weeks ago and announced that we were going to have an MRI in the city. I want you to know that we appreciate that and that it's important from time to time that we in opposition have the bigness of mind and heart to recognize when something valuable has been done. In fact, the placing of an MRI in Sault Ste Marie lessens some of the anxiety that we in the Sault have around the question of transportation, because it means that we don't have to go to Sudbury or Thunder Bay or London to access that piece of equipment. But there are lots of other services we don't have in places like Sault Ste Marie that are only available to us in places like Sudbury and London that we have to travel to, so it makes transportation for us in the north critical.


Transportation is fundamental and essential to any stabilization of the economy or the life of people in communities in the north, and anything we do to in any way destabilize or diminish that impacts in very serious and comprehensive ways on our ability to do business, our ability to live and to work and to connect with each other and with the rest of the province.

I am not going to get into great detail here about the actual individual impacts of the deregulation of the bus industry on various and sundry communities. You have had, over the last month or so as we have seen this piece of legislation go through the House, some very intelligent and well-thought-out and -presented points put on the record, both here in this House and at committee, on how the deregulation of the bus industry is going to have a very negative impact on northern Ontario and most particularly on the smaller communities of northern Ontario as they try to connect with and do business with the larger centres and take advantage of the services available to them in the larger centres, on our ability to travel back and forth between communities to work with each other on creating a better life for all of us who choose to work and to live in that very special part of this province.

I say today to the government and in this place that you have to be really thoughtful, really careful, when you tamper in any way with the transportation systems in the north. Transportation has to be comprehensive, has to be connected and coordinated, and I believe it has to be there in all the various ways we provide transportation today. That means road, and with road comes bus service, because not everybody has a car. Not everybody can afford a car and not everybody wants to have a car today, as we concern ourselves about the environment. We have to have first-class rail service, both for the products we bring in and ship out and for transportation of passengers, for both personal use and business, and for the tourism trade.

We have in Sault Ste Marie one of the best tourist attractions in all of Ontario. It probably attracts more people in a year than all the other attractions put together in this province -- at least in northern Ontario, anyway, but I would suggest in this province -- and that's the Agawa Canyon tour train. We need to make sure it stays in place.

What I'm saying is that transportation is fundamental. Transportation needs to be built on and enhanced as opposed to diminished. I suggest to you that the deregulation of the bus industry will not be in the best interests of the north and we will see a diminishing of our ability, the opportunities we have, to get out of particularly the smaller communities in the north once this thing kicks in and takes place.

The other thing I want to mention very briefly in wrapping up is that another group in the province will be affected very negatively by this bill, and that's the handicapped. We had a bill presented in this House by a member of our caucus from London, Ms Boyd, just the other day, speaking to the need for this government to take action to make sure that everybody who lives and works in Ontario can access and take advantage of all the services and opportunities that are out there and available to them. The disabled in our province are saying to us very loudly and clearly that at this particular point in time, that is not the case.

They're very concerned that while governments of all stripes have, as I said before, continued to build on and improve and make more accessible things like bus service to all the citizens of Ontario, this bill will go a ways to diminishing, taking away, actually making it more difficult for the disabled in our community to get around.

Here's a press release they put out today. This group is called Transportation Action Now, and it's a group that I believe is under the umbrella of a group called ARCH. It says:

"During the 1995 election, Mike Harris promised persons with disabilities and seniors, `A Harris government would work to ensure that all new intercity buses purchased in Ontario are full accessible.' Bill 39," the bill we're talking about here, "amends the Public Vehicles Act and is the only means of achieving this promise.

"An amendment which would have fulfilled this promise was voted down by the government majority in committee. They said they needed more time to think about it."

Can you imagine? You're sitting out there in the cold, you want to get on a bus and you can't, and you're being told by this government, which has been given the responsibility by the people of this province to improve things, to make sure that systems work and that everybody's able to participate, to give people a hand up as opposed to a handout -- what more obvious a way than to improve legislation when you can, such as was asked for here so these folks can access and get to the places they need to go?

"Given an opportunity to review the issue before third reading, the government has elected to slip the bill through." That's why we're speaking here this afternoon. We want to make sure that all these things are put on the record. "In doing so, they have declined Transportation Action Now's request for a meeting with Minister Al Palladini. The government gave the public less than two hours' notice of their intention to rush the bill in for third reading so that no one in a wheelchair could be present to hear the debate."

I don't believe there is anybody in a wheelchair in the public gallery today to hear this debate that has such important ramifications for them.

Mr Len Wood: Ram it through.

Mr Martin: That's right: Ram it through. But, you know, that's in keeping with the pattern this government has developed for itself.

"Janice Tait, acting executive director of Transportation Action Now, responded, `We've waited a long time for the access promised by this government. Why are they in such a hurry to break their promise to persons with disabilities and seniors?'"

I ask the government that question: Why are you in such a hurry to bring in legislation that will have such a detrimental effect on the part of the province where I live and really enjoy and want to continue living in? My kids, hopefully, will live there in a major way. Why would you not want to take advantage of this opportunity to improve legislation so it gives to another group in our province, the disabled, the opportunities they need to get around and become involved in commerce and the economy in the ways we know they have the resources to do?

I put on the table those thoughts re this piece of activity by this government. I ask the government to please listen, be sensitive, pay attention and, ultimately, do what's in the best interests of the common good here and get off this train you're on that is just hurtling down the track and hurting a whole whack of people, hurting a whole whack of communities and is not in the best interests of Ontario and its future.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Len Wood: We have an agreement.

The Acting Speaker: Ah, you have an agreement that you will split the time. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr Len Wood: It's a great pleasure to add my comments to those of the member for Lake Nipigon, who led off the debate on this, and to those of the member for Sault Ste Marie, in the amount of time we have left. We're talking about Bill 39, which is a bill for deregulation of the bus industry.

The minister's explanation of why he would bring in deregulation seems to be -- I guess the answer is that the Liberals and Tories have deregulated air service, rail service and trucking, and now we should deregulate the intercity bus service as well. There doesn't seem to be any reason other than the fact that they want to follow the lead of what Ronald Reagan did in the States back in 1982 when they deregulated the bus industry there. It was no surprise to everybody at that time that 50% of the communities that were being covered when regulation was in place lost their bus service that was going through.

A number of areas in this province are going to be drastically affected as a result of this particular bill, not only the communities but the population that is in these communities. Freedom to Move has estimated that some of the hardest hit communities are going to be from southwestern Ontario -- Essex, Lambton, Elgin, Oxford, Perth, Huron, Wellington -- as well as in northern Ontario. Cochrane and Nipigon are going to seriously lose the services.


It's kind of sad the way this bill is being rushed through the House. A couple of weeks ago I sat in on committee hearings where the community with special needs, the disability community, is saying they have a signed letter from Mike Harris saying that if he formed a government in Ontario, all new buses being purchased would be accessible for the disabled. When we brought amendments forward to include them in Bill 39, the Conservatives rushed in with their eight members in committee and voted down every particular amendment we had brought forward that would make it easier for the disabled community and some of these other communities. So there was no compassion whatsoever to the disabled community out there even though Mike Harris had promised that when he formed the government he would do it. Bill 39 is the ideal piece of legislation that it could be done in and they could keep their promise by proceeding with that.

We know from the presentations of people who came forward that there are a number of operators out there who are saying: "Well, deregulation is coming, so I have a bus out there, even though I know there are other bus operators that have invested $150,000 or $200,000 on a bus to make sure they're safe and good for the road, I have a bus that's sitting there. It's only worth $10,000 or $15,000, and I can go and put that on the road and cut into the service that the other bus industry is doing right now." It's going to be a sad situation.

We have people who have come forward and said: "Why would the Conservative government want to deregulate the busing industry when it knows it's a failure in the trucking industry? It hasn't worked in the airlines industry, it hasn't worked in the rail industry. Why would you now deregulate the busing industry when we know that rural and northern Ontario are going to suffer as a result of intercity busing being deregulated?"

We have people who have come forward from Ontario Northland who say, "We expect deregulation is going to have a serious effect upon our operation." Ontario Northland's head office operates out of North Bay and it serves a lot of the communities in northern Ontario. They're saying that deregulation is going to affect them very seriously.

The outlook for small-town Ontario doesn't look very good. I have a lot of friends and neighbours that I know who would like to have a car or would like to be able to drive a car but for one reason or another, either for financial reasons or for disability reasons or for other reasons, they depend on the bus to be able to go and see their children or their grandchildren or their great-grandchildren. With regulation they have a fairly stable system that they could leave in the morning and go and have a visit and get back at night. But with deregulation happening the way it is, we know that in the States some communities that were having bus service on a daily basis are now only having it once a week, which would mean that instead of being able to do it on a daily basis, they are only going to be able to do it once a week.

There are a number of things in the bill that might be good if some of the amendments that we had brought forward the Conservatives were willing to listen to at the time, but Bill 39 is being treated very similarly to Bill 26, which was the omnibus bill that brought in the big tax grab for Mike Harris and his Conservatives -- user fees and taxing the people of Ontario to death -- or Bill 7, which was a labour bill that legalized the use of strikebreakers and scabs in the workplace. They just railroad them through.

When I was on committee, it was frustrating and saddening to hear a group come forward and explain to us that they thought they had a strong commitment from Mike Harris. They didn't think that Mike Harris would break a promise to the disabled community and yet, right before their own eyes -- they were still there when we were voting -- they saw that the people on the Conservative part of the committee voted against every amendment that was coming through.

We had a system that had been regulated since the 1920s. There was a reason why it was being regulated: to give the service to these small communities. If a bus company wants to service the larger communities and end up with a full busload, it must go into the small communities and provide a service for these communities. Now the buses are going to drive right by. How do people get out to do their business if they're going to be completely isolated by what is happening?

We know that northern Ontario is going to be hit more severely than some other parts of the province because of the large distances there are between communities, and it's going to be even more harsh on the communities with the announcements that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has made that they're going to eliminate jobs, putting people out of work in most communities in northern Ontario. You were talking about pink slips that went out to 900 people the day before Victoria Day, and most of them are within northern Ontario.

There is no place for these people to go; there's no place for these people to turn. They're going to end up having to sell their cars and hopefully they can find work in the area. Some of them are two-wage earners. They're going to end up being only one-wage earners and they probably would want to depend on the bus on a daily basis to get out of their communities. As a result of what the Conservatives are bringing forward, they want to give a reward to their buddies, because most of the trucking industry that's going to benefit from deregulation is not from the province of Ontario; they're foreign busing companies that are going to come in and rip off the cream from the province, and small communities are going to be left completely out in the cold, as they are with a lot of other decisions that are being made being made by this particular government.

We've had all kinds of companies come forward saying that they don't want to proceed with what deregulation is. We thought and expected that when the bill went out to committee, there would be some compassion and there would be some listening on the part of the Conservative caucus members and that they would listen to some of the amendments we wanted to bring forward that would help out some of the communities and would also eliminate some of the anger that has been generated against the government. But lo and behold, when it came time for the amendments to be voted on, they were voted down one after the other.


For people who were listening to question period today, it was a sad situation where we were asking the Conservative government to accept some responsibility and come forward and admit what is happening, because deregulation is going to hurt the aboriginal community I represent, which depends on the buses to get from one community to another. Even today the Conservative government had an opportunity. Either Mike Harris or Chris Hodgson or Charles Harnick or the Solicitor General could have come forward and said, "We ordered the OPP into Ipperwash to clean up that situation there and that's how it was done." But we didn't see that happening today.

We have a number of people who have -- Gino Defent, president of Gino's Bus --

Mrs Janet Ecker (Durham West): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: The honourable member has made a comment about conduct of this government which I believe should be withdrawn because I don't think he has any basis in fact for that comment. Given the fact that there is a serious investigation going on, I think this is a very serious comment.

The Acting Speaker: Would the member for Durham West take her seat. I did not hear the comment. If the member for Cochrane North has said anything that is contrary to the decorum of the House, I'd ask him to apologize, but I did not hear anything.

Mr Len Wood: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. We're talking about Bill 39 here and the deregulation of the bus industry.

Mrs Ecker: Yes, we were.

The Acting Speaker: Order.

Mr Len Wood: My point that I'm talking about is that I have a number of aboriginal communities and native people in my riding that depend on the bus to get to work, to be able to go out and do their shopping. As a result of what is happening here today with Bill 39, these buses are going to drive right by these communities and the native population is going to be shunned into the back. They won't be able to use the buses for getting back and forth to work, or for going out and doing errands, or for visiting other people.

As I said earlier, there are a lot of motor coach companies that have come forward saying it doesn't make any sense. We know Bill 39 is going to lead to complete deregulation of the bus industry in the long run, but I have to go back to what Mike Harris had promised during the election campaign, that he would not forget about the disabled community. He has broken his promise and he's gone back on it.

The member for Sault Ste Marie read out a letter from the Transportation Action Now community asking why Mike Harris would break a promise, bring a bill into the Legislature and try to have this passed and rammed through the House within two hours. My argument is that it's nothing new. The Conservative government is known for this. We'd never seen the violence that's been created in Ontario since June 8, 1995, when the Conservative government was elected. We're going to see a lot of hard feelings and hardship again with Bill 39, as we see the deregulation that is taking place.

The only people who are going to benefit from this particular bill are the buddies of the Conservatives. You're talking about opening up Ontario to foreign carriers from outside of the province that are going to come in. I'm sure if they didn't support some of the members in the last election, they probably will in the next one, because they're getting exactly what they've asked for: "We want to come into Ontario and shut down all the small operators that are operating in Ontario right now." It's going to be completely foreign-owned. Why would we want to shut down businesses in Ontario, the largest province, and open it up for foreigners to operate in?

Not everybody in small communities has a car. A lot of people can't afford them. What this bill is really all about is it's an attack on the poor, students, senior citizens and the disabled.

The bus companies right now are required to provide service to get a licence to run charters, which are profitable. With deregulation, there will be no incentive for them to stay in any of these particular communities. A number of communities, not only in northern Ontario, are going to suffer as a result of this particular bill.

In the area where I was born and raised, in Mitchell, which covers the area up through Listowel, Stratford, Seaforth, a number of those communities, they're all going to lose the bus service. How are the seniors, the poor, the disabled going to be able to get from point A to point B when they realize there are no more buses as a direct result of Mike Harris and his Conservatives wanting to give the goodies to the foreign carriers?

As I asked earlier, why would this government want to bring in Bill 39 on deregulation when it's very similar to what Ronald Reagan did in the States? That was a failure. It was a failure in the States. It never helped anybody, other than the large bus companies gobbled up the small companies, and as a result 50% of the communities lost bus service. It went from 11,820 cities and towns in 1982 down to 5,690 nine years afterwards. It's not a good piece of legislation. There are a lot of other things we should be talking about.

Mr Stockwell: Are you done, Len?

Mr Len Wood: No. It's good that we have a number of people here listening to some of the facts and figures.

I'm sure people back home are going to be asking, "If there are no benefits, if all Bill 39 is is deregulating and bringing on pain and suffering and hurt for the poor, the women, the children, the disabled, why would a government continue to steamroller ahead and bring in legislation of that kind?" We know that most of the legislation that has been brought in has not been to the benefit of the people in the province of Ontario.

We said yesterday and the day before that as a result of all the user fees and user-pay that Mike Harris has introduced, people are going to be worse off. They are worse off now and will be worse off after July 1 as a result of all the user fees, the increase in property taxes that they're forcing, the increase in school taxes -- user fees for everything. It's very unfortunate.


The Minister of Health is here today. There are a lot of people now who are using the bus routes to go for health appointments. The only choice they're going to have is they're going to have to take a taxi, go to the airport and fly to their destination when the deregulation of the bus industry takes place. This is going to add additional cost to northern travel grants and to the cost of doing business in Ontario. It's very unfair and it's putting a lot of fear into the people in the province of Ontario.

Right now, bus companies will have to give 90 days' notice before abandoning a route; 30 days before a service reduction of more than 25%. You get 30 days' notice that the bus is going to pull out of the community; that's all it is. There's no attempt made whatsoever to spread this over a six-month period or eight-month period and have public hearings and make sure that there's going to be something to replace it.

We've heard arguments in committee and other places that deregulation is going to allow for competition to reduce fares and allow small carriers and minivans into the market. When the presenters were coming forward, they were saying that minivans and small carriers just don't work. There's no way they're going to replace the bus industry that is there right now. There is no money to be made on that.

What will happen is that the larger carriers will come in, and most of them are going to be foreign, and they're going to drop into these communities and pick up some of the passengers, then a few weeks down the road they're going to cut the rates and they're going to squeeze the small operators out. The small operators are not going to be able to operate at a loss. What you end up with is a few foreign-owned bus companies that are going to run charters through the province of Ontario.


Mr Len Wood: They're not buddies of mine. They must be buddies of Mike Harris and the Tory cabinet. Why else would they devastate most of the communities in rural southern and northern Ontario by allowing this to happen?

We have some of the changes that are taking place, and they're all tied in with Bill 39 as we find out that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and the Premier are saying that decisions are going to be made in the north with their new policy.

Two weeks ago we find out that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines goes into North Bay and makes an announcement that he's going to fire the 20 non-partial board of directors heritage board and he's going to replace them with 12 defeated candidates from the Conservative Party, or 12 Conservative supporters in any event, so that they'll have complete control in Queen's Park out of the Premier's office, which is very sad when a commitment was made during the campaign that if they were elected as the government, decisions would be made in the north for the north and that would happen.

Now we find out that the Minister of Northern Development and Mines and the Premier are making all the decisions in Toronto, and there's no consideration whatsoever for any of the people in northern Ontario.

We even find out that the Minister of Transportation is saying: "The people along Highway 11 have had it too good. We're going to go in there and we're going to slash and burn. We're going to take every job that we can out of all those communities, whether it be from Hornepayne, Hearst, Mattice, Kapuskasing, Cochrane, all the way down to North Bay. It's time we gave pink slips to all the Ministry of Transportation people who work there. We're going to contract it out. We know it's going to cost a lot more to plow the roads, a lot more to do the maintenance, but we're going to do it anyway because we are the government and we can do whatever we want, and this is exactly what we're going to do."

They already did it with MNR, and now in the documents that were brought forward to me during constituency week, they're saying that they're going to contract out. The information I have is that when they contracted out during the strike the cost was enormous compared to what they could have done with their own particular people. It doesn't matter if it's snowplowing, it doesn't matter if it's sanding, it doesn't matter if it's repairing bridges or whatever.

Bill 39, on deregulation, is all part of the plan that Mike Harris and his people would like to put in place: "Take everything away from the poor, the middle class and the disabled, the women, the children. We need that. If we're going to start giving a tax break on July 1, we need all that money. So we're going to destroy a lot of the communities not only in northern Ontario but some of them in rural areas in southern Ontario. We're going to take all the money, fire all the employees we have there who work for the government, put them all on welfare, and then we'll have enough money to give to the rich people in the upper income brackets in the province of Ontario."

It's boiling down to that. All the people that are going to get a little bit of a break, the 90% in the province who are going to get a little bit of a break, it's going to be all used up in user fees and extra fees that the government has implemented through Bill 26 and other pieces of legislation they've brought forward. It's a shell game that is being played with the people in the province of Ontario.

I looked at the TV last night and I saw what's happening in BC. It's quite obvious that three and a half years from now we'll have another NDP government in the province of Ontario, the same as they have in British Columbia and the same as they have under Roy Romanow. I'm looking forward to sitting on the government side three years from now, because I can guarantee you it will not be Mike Harris and his Conservatives.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): I don't think the member for Cochrane North could have been watching the same news reports on the British Columbia election last night that I was watching, because if you looked at the results of that election, it's very interesting how many seats they lost, and of course they didn't win the popular vote. They lost the popular vote in spades.

But what is more important is that I'm really interested in his comment about the fact that he's looking forward to being in the government in three years' time. First of all, I would be willing, if I was a gambling woman -- which of course I am not, but I would have been willing had I been -- to make a wager that we will never have a New Democratic Party government again in the province of Ontario.

I say, with respect, the most shocked person in 1990 was in fact the former Premier, Bob Rae, when they won that election in the first place. I'm quite sure, no matter how dynamic and wonderful the new leader of the New Democratic Party will be whenever she is elected next month, it won't be possible for them to retain the government of this province -- the Lord be praised, I might add.

I simply say to the member for Cochrane North that I give the people of Ontario far more credit for using good judgement when they elect their governments than you.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I was quite interested in the comments from the member for Cochrane North. I think one of the things he has pointed out, and as a northern member I appreciate that, is the comparison between bus deregulation and what's happened to norOntair. I suppose I might be able to live with the deregulation of buses if there was a guarantee of service to the communities. But there is no guarantee of service to the communities. Therefore, we will be losing bus service to many communities across the province of Ontario.

The analogy to norOntair is exactly the same. You might be able, as a northern member, to live with losing norOntair, you might be able to live with that, if you knew that the communities of northern Ontario would continue to have the same service or better service across northern Ontario.


What has happened is a fiasco of all fiascoes in terms of norOntair and in terms of providing service to the communities. We've seen the government bumble from one step to another: contract, then find out they didn't tender the contract, then call in MNR to provide service, re-tender the contract for a service level that is greatly diminished to three of the communities which I'm quite familiar with.

If you look at bus deregulation and you look at maybe the small towns like Massey and Spanish across the North Shore that see the Greyhounds go by right now, maybe those Greyhounds are just not going to stop. If that's the case, those communities and the people in those communities will be severely disadvantaged, and those people who are severely disadvantaged really will have no way to go to their medical appointments in Espanola or Elliot Lake. They will have no way to do that, and that's a problem.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I wanted to commend my colleague from Cochrane North on a very good presentation as a representative of a wide area of northern Ontario with many, many small towns that are a great distance from one another where people understand the importance of transportation and regret the way this government is attempting to destroy the transportation infrastructure that is so important in our part of the province.

I must say I was provoked into making these comments by the member for Mississauga South. As someone for whom I've had a great deal of respect over the years that we've known each other in this assembly and continue to have, I must say that I think it unwise for a politician, no matter what stripe, to make such predictions. All of us in this assembly after some time will recognize, I'm sure, that even a week is a long time in politics.

Mrs Marland: Sometimes an afternoon.

Mr Wildman: Yes, and sometimes an afternoon.

I think we should all recognize that the leader of the New Democratic Party in British Columbia achieved a great victory, particularly when you consider where he was coming from and what the predictions were -- again predictions -- about the likelihood of his success in re-electing the NDP government in British Columbia. Not too many months ago when he took over the leadership and the premiership of that province, it was predicted by these many, many predictors in politics that he didn't have a chance, that he could not win at all, and in fact he has done a great job in articulating an alternative to the neo-conservative agenda and in persuading a very large portion of the population of British Columbia that there is an alternative to the approach that is taken by this government.

Mr Stockwell: I want to thank the member for Cochrane North, but I think he's a little hard-hearted. He seems to be a member who's bitter, who's disenchanted, frustrated --

Mr Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): Needs a holiday.

Mr Stockwell: That's right. My friend from Lanark-Renfrew said, "Needs a holiday." We did just come off constituency week, so it's certainly discouraging to see, I know, the calm member for Cochrane North stand in his place and offer up such scathing indictments of a piece of legislation that is thoughtful, reasonable, and brought forward by the parliamentary assistant from Oshawa, who I know would not handle things in such a high-handed and egocentric manner.

I can only say to the member for Cochrane North that maybe we should ask you to just take your time, take a deep breath, analyse what the legislation's doing, see how it's implemented, have a little cup of coffee with your friend from Manitoulin, a little chit-chat, see if maybe we can work something out that's going to be of benefit to both the people of northern Ontario and the greater population of Ontario itself. Maybe --


Mr Stockwell: Madam Speaker, I've got two minutes.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please. Continue.

Mr Stockwell: Maybe at that point we can see that with this kind of legislation we've offered up, by working together cooperatively and all those other socialist comments, we can come to the conclusion --

The Acting Speaker: The member's time is up.

Mr Stockwell: -- that my two minutes are up.

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

Mr Len Wood: I'll be very brief. I just want to thank the people who commented, the members for Mississauga South and Algoma-Manitoulin, our well-qualified leader from Algoma and the member for Etobicoke West. I've been hoping and praying that he gets a change of seat one of these days, and with some of the developments happening today I'm sure he will. I think he deserves to be in cabinet. After serving four and a half years on the third party, he should have been there.

My whole disappointment with Bill 39 was that when the community with special needs was promised by Mike Harris that when he dealt with intercity bus regulations and deregulation, they would not be forgotten, it's a promise he has broken. Mike Harris has gone back on his word to the community with special needs that in terms of all new buses that would be brought in to deal with intercity under deregulation, he would bring in legislation on that. It was voted down by the eight members in committee, and I was very disappointed; as a matter of fact, I was shocked. And the disability community still can't believe that, with less than two hours' notice, Bill 39 was going to be brought here for third reading and rammed through the House. The people out there who were promised that changes would be made are going to be completely forgotten.

At least I'll give credit to Sheila Copps. When she made her promise that she would resign if she couldn't get rid of the GST, she resigned. I hope she doesn't get re-elected, but she made a promise she'd resign. Mike Harris made a promise, but he hasn't resigned.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bart Maves (Niagara Falls): I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this legislation today. It is clear that the current regulatory system in intercity busing is not working. It is outdated. Members opposite sat here today and told us that it goes back to the 1920s, and only they could appreciate and want to cling to something so far outdated. It's inefficient and does not guarantee scheduled bus services to small-town Ontario. No regulatory system can.

Intercity bus deregulation is consistent with the established trend towards economic deregulation of various other types of transportation, including air travel and trucking. There is a great deal of evidence supporting deregulation of this industry. That includes a recommendation from the 1992 Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation.

Economic deregulation is part of the philosophy of this government. This direction is also consistent with the Common Sense Revolution's job creation plan, which focuses on cutting government barriers to job creation, investment and economic growth by eliminating red tape and reducing the regulatory burden.

The current economic regulatory system is costly and burdensome for both the government and the intercity bus industry. The process to obtain an operating licence includes an application fee, administrative costs -- for example, publishing the application in the Ontario Gazette -- lawyer fees for both the applicant and the respondents, and the salaries and expenses for the Ontario Highway Transport Board to hear the application and render a decision.


At the public hearings the committee heard several examples of how costly this process can really be and how it works against riders and the industry.


Mr Maves: The members opposite would do good to listen to this. Mr Jim Devlin of Trentway-Wagar told the committee that he spent $200,000 to apply for a licence to serve my region, the Niagara region, with fully accessible coaches, and he had about 60 witnesses in support of his application. His application was denied, because as he told the committee, and I'll quote:

"The test of public need and convenience was not met. It was not met because we brought forward members of the disabled community to support the application, and there were not enough able-bodied people to support it. Therefore, we failed to meet the test of a public need and convenience."

How can the members opposite support this legislation which has clearly stopped something that was going to be accessible to the disabled and private sector from coming on line? How can they stand across the way and profess that we're mean-spirited when they're supporting a piece of legislation which has stopped accessible busing from coming on line? It makes no sense. I might add that if an entrepreneur wants to invest his money, take the risk, and provide the service, what kind of a government would stop him? A government that embraces outdated legislation based on regulations, not this government.

Further to the point made opposite about the disabled and accessible busing, I'd like to point out that during committee hearings the very last group that presented just prior to clause-by-clause analysis was the Transportation Action Now group, a group that represents disabled passengers. They had proposed in their presentation an amendment to the legislation, and in great grandstanding fashion just prior to clause-by-clause analysis, the member for Oakwood jumped up and basically on a brown paper bag wrote out a legislation of his own and expected us to vote for this.

Many of us on this side of the House approved of the drift of the legislation, the drift of the amendment by Transportation Action Now, but we can't just all of a sudden take something written on the back of a piece of paper and propose that it goes in the legislation. Brown paper bag legislation and matchbook legislation may have been done in previous governments, but not in this one. We couldn't support that. Even though we did support the concept and the drift, it would have been very irresponsible of us to support the way that that amendment was put forward.

We also heard from Mr Avo Kingu, manager of Silver Fox Tours. I'll read into the record his experience as related to the committee:

"We have thought of buying coaches. There's a big, crying need in London for a small coach, 15, 20 seats. The last time I inquired about getting a licence, they told me `Your hearing's going to cost you $20,000, and that doesn't guarantee you a licence.' So what am I to do? I just throw my hands up and walk away from it."

Mr Kingu also told us how people who not only have no intention of providing service but don't even own buses hang on to licences. I quote again from Mr Kingu:

"There a chap in Strathroy, Ontario, who holds a London licence. He sold all his coaches and he has sat on those licences ever since. I offered to buy those licences from him. He wouldn't sell them. So why keep them? Well, it's like money in a pocket. The next guy comes, maybe he'll offer you more. And that's not right. That's not in the public interest. It's not in the interest of the small businessman and everybody involved in this industry.

"That $20,000 that we had talked about, I could have put that down on that coach. The coach only cost $40,000 or $50,000, and I would put some Ontario people to work, because it could be used."

That's the point of this legislation. Deregulation will let a small businessman who want to get into business do that. It will create jobs and it will allow small business people to run the smaller routes throughout this province. I could not have put it more clearly myself than did Mr Kingu. This is what is happening out there. Small communities do not have their service subsidized by service to larger communities. This is a fallacy that the members opposite continue to put forward.

Today carriers only have to give 10 days' notice to abandon routes under current legislation. Under this existing legislation, over 400 communities have lost their routes. Under deregulation, small carriers will more easily fill in these spots and fill up that service.

The current system is not working. They want us out of the way, and the small businesses time and time again said that they would come in and fill up these needs. The small communities lose their services because licence holders have been allowed to abandon them without losing the other parts of the licence. People are hanging on to licences, wasting money trying to get new licences or taking competitors to the transport board to fight off the competition.

There are also costs for the Ministry of Transportation. These include the costs to issue the licence, to collect and approve ticket prices, file timetables for scheduled services; and for enforcement, to ensure the bus companies are operating within the terms and conditions of their licences. Added to this are the court costs if charges are laid against a bus company for operating illegally, as well as costs to the bus company in terms of legal representation and fines if found guilty of the offence. This is a waste and makes no sense for the industry, the government or the travelling public.

Bill 39 will set up an interim regulatory regime that will be streamlined and paid for by the industry. What it basically does is keep the status quo until 1998 and allow the industry time to prepare for full deregulation.

But an important change is that it is to increase the notice period for carriers wishing to reduce or abandon service. Currently, carriers can abandon routes with just 10 days' notice. With Bill 39, we're increasing that to 30 days for a reduction of service and 90 days for an abandonment of service. That's because the previous legislation was outdated. This legislation offers more time. It will encourage other operators to take a look at those services and see if they would like to come in and take them up. It also gives the communities time to look for another carrier to come in.

Once full deregulation is implemented, providers of intercity bus services will not require a public vehicle operating licence to provide scheduled bus services between communities, including school bus services or charter tour services.

In a deregulated environment, operators will be free to provide bus services in response to market demands. Deregulation will allow for an open, competitive market with a level playing field for large and small operators alike.

As I reflect back on the hearings, I remember that time and again we heard from small operators who said they would indeed increase their services for small communities. It was interesting that there was one group, called Freedom to Move, that published what I think was fearmongering, a list of communities which it believed in its ultimate wisdom would lose services under Bill 39. I must tell you that as I sat there and listened to small businesses, one after the other, who came in to appear before the committee, the list that Freedom to Move gave us of communities it felt would be abandoned acted as a checklist for myself and my fellow members as these small businesses came in and told us the communities they were going to increase services in.

It was unbelievable. I want members to understand that it was all these towns that were listed that were supposed to be afraid they were going to lose service. Here there was a whole list of them in alphabetical order. We could sit there and check off these towns as small businesses told us they were going to increase service in those areas. There's a lot of fearmongering going on, and it's typical of members opposite.

Safety is something else that members opposite are trying to make the public become fearful of, but safety will continue to be regulated by the government and carriers will only be allowed to operate if they comply with safety standards and carry sufficient insurance.

I'd like to take this opportunity to remind the Legislature that intercity bus deregulation does not apply to municipal transit or local bus services which operate solely within an urban municipality. During second reading debate and in committee there was some mention of GO Transit. The witness from the Amalgamated Transit Union talked about how after deregulation private buses would be allowed to run against GO's so-called profitable routes or the times of day when it supposedly makes money.

When the Ministry of Transportation's estimates were being looked at by the estimates committee on February 13 of this year, the member for Lake Nipigon asked a representative of GO Transit how many of GO's routes lose money. The direct answer from GO's director of finance was, "All the routes lose money." This should be no surprise to anyone. GO Transit is heavily subsidized by the provincial government: 100% of its capital costs are paid for by the government, and it gets only about 60% of its operating costs from the fare box. I really don't see how any carrier could compete with a system that doesn't have to pay for its buses and that gets 40% of its operating costs from the government. If there is a carrier that can, then maybe we should let it run GO Transit.

In conclusion, this legislation is a reasonable, reality-based approach to bringing intercity busing in Ontario into the 21st century.


The Acting Speaker: Are there questions and comments?

Mr Len Wood: Even after listening very attentively to what the member has explained to us, I'm disappointed that the promise Mike Harris had made that he was going to satisfy the disabled community and those with special needs and make sure that buses were available to all communities -- you make a promise during the election campaign and the promise should be kept, and if you can't keep the promise, you shouldn't make it. Not only did he make the promise; he put the promise in writing.

There was plenty of time in committee to bring the amendments forward that needed to be there to make sure that communities that have people with disabilities and special needs living in them were not going to be denied bus service, especially in northern Ontario. When you're waiting in a wheelchair, who is going to pick you up if the buses are not willing to make sure that the drivers are trained to put you on the bus and get you to point A and back again?

I'm also very much concerned when the member says that the buses are going to be safe. When are they going to be safe? After the wheels start falling off? Some presenters who came forward were saying that with deregulation, they'll be able to go out and buy all kinds of old jalopy buses and put them on and cut the rates, go into these communities for a short period of time and put the safety of all passengers who use these buses at risk. There is no guarantee that this is not going to happen with deregulation. They're going to be given the licence and away they go; they operate the buses, the wheels fall off and people get killed, and then what kind of a mess are we in?

Mr Ouellette: Just to mirror some of the comments my colleague made, members opposite have spoken about all the communities that may lose bus service, with the emphasis on "may." I think the question that needs to be addressed and should be put forward is, what about those over 400 communities that have already lost their service because of the current system? It's just not working.

Then we hear about trucks not being safe and about 20-year-old buses that may be coming on that are not going to be safe and how many of them there would be. Very clearly, this government is committed to truck safety. We've increased the number of inspectors, we're having truck blitzes, we're having bus blitzes and we're going to continue doing those things to ensure that there are no 20-year-old buses out there that are unsafe in this community.

Accessibility was mentioned. I will state again, as I stated earlier today, that further, much of Bill 39 will be repealed in anticipation of deregulation. It is not the proper venue for addressing accessibility. A more appropriate place would be in the disabilities legislation that this government has committed to introduce.

The opposition spoke of how Quebec is not deregulating and that we should not. I say to those members opposite that they should understand that the new Ontario does not follow where others may go. Instead, we cut new paths so that others may follow our lead.

Mr Michael Brown: I appreciated although I didn't agree with most of the comments of the member for Niagara Falls. I was particularly concerned with his little bit of chatter about the amendment that was put forward by my colleague the member for Oakwood concerning disabilities and having transportation for people with disabilities. It was a campaign promise that was made not by anybody but his leader, Premier Harris. It seemed to me that the Conservative caucus would have hoped to have this included in its bill if they were really going to live up to the commitments that Premier Harris had made during the election campaign.

I find it a little passing strange that he cast aspersions upon my friend the member for Oakwood for not properly, in his words, presenting the amendment. Of course it was properly presented. If the government thought that it wasn't properly drafted, the government had every opportunity in the world to redraft it to be consistent with their Premier's promise to the disabled community in Ontario. They, of course, did not do that, and here we are today debating on third reading where we could have waited a day. I don't think it would have made a whole lot of difference. We could have taken this to committee of the whole House and made the appropriate amendment in terms of people with disabilities on public transportation in Ontario.

We're not asking for anything strange over here, other than, if it's strange to ask a government to live up to their own campaign promises, then I guess perhaps it's strange. But I think the member for Niagara Falls should be ashamed to be standing in support of a bill omitting a very clear promise by Premier Harris during the election campaign of 1995.

The Acting Speaker: Further questions or comments? There's time for one more. Seeing none, the member for Niagara Falls has two minutes to sum up.

Mr Maves: The member opposite should be ashamed for endorsing brown-bag legislation. It's not the way this Legislature should work.

The member, if he was listening to my comments, and I don't know that he was, he'll remember about the group that I talked to him about in Niagara who tried to bring in accessible services. They couldn't under the current piece of legislation. Under the new piece of legislation, they will have a better opportunity to do that. That's one of the reasons why I support this legislation. Safety is still under the control of government. Buses still have to pass safety checks in the province of Ontario before they're allowed on our roads, and I would reiterate the member for Oshawa who said that this government is doing more with regard to truck safety than any other previous government.

In summary, deregulation will increase the number of small companies around the province that will be able to expand their services, those that already exist, and those that will be able to come on and take the small bus routes. We heard from many small companies that are willing to expand and we heard a great deal of interest from other companies to come in and take up any room that there is left, not to mention the room left in the 400 communities which have lost routes under the current regulation. This new legislation makes it a lot easier for businesses to come in, fill those gaps and offer the people of Ontario better bus service than they have now.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? Seeing none, would the parliamentary assistant like to wind up?

Mr Ouellette: I appreciate again this opportunity to speak today. I think what we've presented is a fair and reasonable bill. We've addressed all the issues. The parties are under the understanding that this is interim legislation of an up-and-coming final bill.

Over 400 communities have lost their service, and we don't intend that to continue. We want to open opportunities up for the province of Ontario, and I think this legislation here gives us that exact opportunity.

Busing safety is the same as trucking safety. We will ensure that our roads are safe and our communities remain safe by doing the things that we have done, such as increasing the number of inspectors, bus blitzes and so on and so forth, and we will continue to do that.

The Acting Speaker: Mr Ouellette has moved third reading of Bill 39. Shall the motion carry? I think I heard a no.

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

Call in the members.

I have a letter from the government side which reads:

"Dear Mr Speaker:

"Pursuant to standing order 28(g), I would like to request that the vote on Bill 39, the Ontario Highway Transport Board and Public Vehicles Amendment Act, 1996, be deferred until May 30 before orders of the day.

"Thank you for your assistance in this matter."

It's signed by the chief whip.

The vote is accordingly deferred.

It being almost 6 of the clock, this House is adjourned until tomorrow at 10 o'clock.

The House adjourned at 1800.