36th Parliament, 1st Session

L082 - Tue 4 Jun 1996 / Mar 4 Jun 1996




















































The House met at 1330.




Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): I rise in the House today to remember the seventh anniversary of the massacre of democracy protestors at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. It was seven years ago today that the butchers of Beijing ordered the murder and massacre of hundreds of students whose only crime was fighting for democracy. The brutality and magnitude of the military attack in 1989 is still very vivid in my mind seven years later.

Although Canada and the world expressed shock at the time, it is now business as usual with this regime in China. We continue to trade and have economic partnerships with a regime that totally and blatantly violates human rights. The Canadian government, Ontario and the other provincial governments across this country continue to deal with a regime that detains and murders democracy activists today.

That government yesterday arrested a woman for trying to place flowers at the site of the massacre. On Friday they jailed democracy activist Wang Xizhe for travelling outside of his restricted town.

Today in the House we remember the sacrifices made by the tens of thousands of students who risked their lives for democracy in 1989; we remember the hundreds of students who were killed. They were shot, crushed by tanks and tortured because they stood up for democracy.

It is a shameful day for that government. It is also a shameful day for the Canadian government and governments across this country that continue to deal with the murderers and brutal dictators in a regime that continues to go after people for simply standing up for democracy. It is a shame and a disgrace that we continue to do that in this country.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): I'm standing today in the House to talk about the great extent to which the arts and culture sector of our economy contributes to our prosperity here in Ontario. We have the very, very good fortune in Ontario to have many creative and fine artists, actors, musicians, those who work within the arts and culture sector. It's important that even though we acknowledge that quality of life is an important aspect of the arts and culture, the economy is as well.

Ontario's arts and culture sector generates over $11.2 billion annually and creates 260,000 jobs. This is in addition to thousands of self-supported artists who exist within this province. The arts and culture sector is a growth sector. Even during the worst recession of this century, the number of jobs in Ontario's cultural industries grew, and that is a very important thing for us to remember.

The arts and culture sector is a very strong contributor to local economies. If we look at areas like Blyth, for example, in the county of Huron, the festival has a direct economic impact of $1.6 million locally and an estimated total impact of $2 million across a 50-mile radius.

So as we are thinking about our priorities as government, it's important for us to look at the arts and culture sector of our economy as an important part of our prosperity.


Mr Ted Arnott (Wellington): On April 20, a devastating tornado swept through the northern part of Wellington county, hitting the townships of Arthur, West Luther and Peel. In its wake the tornado left extensive damage to homes and farm properties. Preliminary estimates place the total damage at over $4 million. Although many people had their properties insured, there is a considerable overall shortfall between what insurance will cover and the estimates we've received for rebuilding.

Thanks to the outstanding efforts of the township councils, the disaster relief committee and hundreds of volunteers, a fund-raising and cleanup campaign was set up. Without these generous and selfless volunteers, we could not have coped with the disaster we faced. I'm also grateful to the Solicitor General, who within hours of the tornado's occurrence personally visited the affected areas. His interest and concern is very much appreciated.

But much still remains to be done. Damage is extensive and repairs are costly. I have written to and on several occasions spoken with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, encouraging him to support the request by the three townships for funding through the Ontario disaster relief assistance program. I've also advised the Premier, the Minister of Finance, the Solicitor General and the Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet of the situation in Wellington and our need for financial assistance from the province. We need the help of our provincial government.

Financial donations from the public are also urgently needed. I want to encourage anyone who wishes to contribute to do so at any branch of the Royal Bank. Funds will be directed to the tornado relief fund for Arthur, West Luther and Peel townships, Royal Bank branch 00202, account number 5013-479.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): I would like to address my comments to the Minister of Environment and Energy. Minister, I have it on good authority that you have now received the results of a study which you requested from Essex county MOEE staff on 30 partially raised septic systems in Essex. I understand the study shows that sewage is being effectively treated within these systems and it recommends approving them. Thousands of people in Essex-Kent and other ridings are awaiting your decision. Now that you have the results of the study, how much longer must they wait for the approvals?

Speaking of long-standing issues, residents near the Fletcher landfill site in my riding have been waiting many years for a decision from your ministry about the closing of the site. You told media in my riding two weeks ago that you knew nothing about it, but I have had several meetings with your staff and received letters signed by you regarding this problem. I even invited you to come and look at the site. So I wonder whether you have any idea what you are signing. More importantly, I hope you have now obtained a briefing so that you can discuss this issue.



Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I rise today to expand on a statement I made yesterday regarding the Women's March Against Poverty which arrives in Sault Ste Marie tomorrow.

It's a march that will focus on, among other things, the fact that 1996 was declared by the United Nations as the Year for the Eradication of Poverty, yet ordinary Canadians are seeing their lives, hopes and futures collapsing as governments at all levels cut funding to social programs and job security is disappearing.

Women and children make up the majority of Canada's poor. Women across Canada, led by the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and the Canadian Labour Congress, have come together to organize the Women's March Against Poverty and social injustice.

The march started on the west and east coasts on Tuesday, May 14, and is headed across Canada to arrive in Ottawa by June 15, 1996. Under the banner "For Bread and Roses! For Jobs and Justice!" the march will focus on seven central issues: the need for a Canada social security act which will address federal standards, funding for women's shelters and centres, and a national child care program, among other things.

The western caravan will be stopping in the Sault on Wednesday, June 5. Many local women are planning activities to welcome the caravan and publicize the concerns of the marchers. There will be a gathering at the Civic Centre in Sault Ste Marie at 4 o'clock tomorrow. We will then be going to the Indian Friendship Centre and the soup kitchen. Everybody is welcome to attend.


Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): I have something special to share with the members of this chamber today.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. The sign is out of order.

Mr Flaherty: This fine poster being held by the member for Scarborough Centre states, "Bring an end to racism so that the children of tomorrow can live in a peaceful world."

It was the winning entry in a contest sponsored by the Durham Regional Police Service, the Durham Board of Education, the Durham Region Roman Catholic Separate School Board, the Northumberland-Clarington Board of Education and Hewlett-Packard of Canada. Students from high schools across Durham region entered the contest of their own volition in either the intermediate or senior categories and were judged in a process administered by the Durham police.

Whitby's own Peter Mishevski of Anderson Collegiate and Vocational School is the winner and designer of this fine poster for a very worthy cause. Peter is a student who is strong in the arts and is considering a career in the field of graphic arts. He was encouraged by his teacher, Lindsay Howlett, to enter the contest. His poster was reproduced courtesy of Hewlett-Packard, which also provided the grand prize for the best poster, a complete computer package.

The posters have been distributed all around Durham region. I'd be pleased to assist members and others in obtaining copies of this fine piece of work. I know my colleagues in the House today will join in congratulating Peter Mishevski on a job well done. Let's all join together to bring an end to racism so that the children of tomorrow can live in a peaceful world.


Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): On the first of this month the Minister of Health assumed lead responsibility for seniors' issues, including the coordination of Seniors' Month in June. As a former minister for senior citizens, I have great concern about how this government has slowly diminished its commitment to the wide-ranging needs of the elderly, quite apart from its initiative in long-term care.

The shift in responsibility for the broad range of seniors' issues to the Ministry of Health indicates quite clearly that what this government has done is adopted a sickness model rather than a wellness model in dealing with the concerns of so many dynamic participants in the life of this province.

Seniors' Month used to be an acknowledgement of the important role our elders play in our changing society. This year, funding cutbacks have limited the provincial government to simply encouraging the development of local themes in communities that may wish to celebrate Seniors' Month.

This may be a rational way to save some money, but I would like to advance a caution. Seniors are not a special-interest group. They are our own future. It would serve us well to focus on how the older among us are now, and can better be, encouraged and supported to stay strong and vigorous contributors to Ontario society. I would ask this government to more thoughtfully review its commitment to the well, not just the vulnerable elderly.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Since 1987, the Frontier's Foundation received financial support from the Ontario Ministry of Housing to deliver a home renovation program which is geared towards the renovation of substandard residential units in off-reserve, Metis and native communities across northern Ontario. Unfortunately, this year the Conservative government ended any participation by Ontario in the Frontier's Foundation.

What a shame, because the reality of the Frontier's Foundation is that it promoted community volunteerism, promoted community involvement and promoted homeowners' sweat equity in terms of improving housing conditions in communities that are very impoverished. The funding translated into a much larger economic benefit to the homeowners, to the community in general and in particular to any local business in small, mostly rural and remote communities across northern Ontario.

From 1987 to 1994, 235 substandard housing units were improved through the Frontier's Foundation at an average cost of only $7,800 per unit. It employed literally hundreds of people and was a real benefit to local small business, but now it's gone.


Mr Joseph Spina (Brampton North): I join my colleagues from the opposition, the honourable members for Dovercourt and Yorkview, and also on behalf of our fellow Italian members from our caucus, the members for Simcoe Centre, Ottawa-Carleton and York Centre, in celebrating yesterday, which was, as Italians know, our national day marking the foundation of the modern republic of Italy.

Italian National Day is a time when all Canadians can reflect on the tremendous and varied contributions to Canada made by Italians who made this country their adoptive home as far back as 1497. It was an Italian, Giovanni Caboto, or John Cabot as the English know him, who landed on the shores of Canada and claimed this land for the crown. In the 1640s the French were joined at their first settlement in what is today Ontario, Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, by the Italian Father Giuseppe Bressani.

Thanks to Canadians of Italian background, Italian culture and traditions have been ably transplanted here to enrich the lives of all citizens of our country. I call the attention of all members of the House to what is perhaps an often overlooked example of this, that the majority of symbols and traditions that surround us here in this Legislature are historically derived from the legal, legislative and monarchic traditions of the Italic Roman Empire.

On behalf of the government of Premier Mike Harris, I would like to congratulate and thank our Italian Canadian community for all its contributions to Ontario and Canada.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Later today I will be introducing a bill entitled the Automobile Insurance Rate Stability Act, 1996.

With this bill we are delivering on our election commitment to repeal Bill 164 and make auto insurance work again in the best interests of Ontario drivers. This new legislation focuses on consumers by providing them with a fair, balanced and stable auto insurance system.

Last February Rob Sampson, my parliamentary assistant for financial institutions and MPP for Mississauga West, released draft legislation for review by an all-party committee of this Legislature that held public hearings across the province of Ontario. They listened to Ontarians, and today we are responding to Ontarians' concerns. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Sampson for his hard work and delivering what I think is a first-class product to the people of Ontario.

We believe that our changes will provide the environment for healthy competition in the marketplace and stabilize premiums over the long term by strengthening consumer protection, taking aggressive action against fraud and uninsured drivers and restoring the right of innocent accident victims to sue. The plan we are introducing today will set reasonable no-fault accident benefit levels and provide strong tools to control fraud and overcompensation.

By reducing excessive treatment for auto accident injuries, the overall costs of the system will be lower for the industry to administer. We expect that these savings will be reflected in more stable rates for the consumer over the long term.

We have incorporated a number of new initiatives in this legislation to better protect the consumer. For example, the bill will establish a new insurance Ombudsman position to investigate consumer complaints. It will require insurers to offer discounts to retirees. It will make it easier for individuals to comparison-shop for auto insurance by making brokers more accountable to consumers and requiring them to disclose which insurers they have agreements with, the companies they obtained a quote from and the amount of each quote. It will allow insurers to offer optional benefit top-up coverages. This will provide consumers with the ability to customize their insurance plan to meet their individual needs. We will ensure that consumers with minor lapses in insurance coverage will not face significant premium hikes.


This is a first step towards reforming the Facility Association. The government will work with consumers and insurers to revamp the Facility Association to make sure that only truly high-risk drivers are forced to seek coverage from this insurer of last resort.

Honest drivers pay the price for fraud through higher premiums. With this legislation, we are creating a separate offence for possessing and selling false auto insurance certificates. Fines will range from a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $50,000 for a first offence and these amounts will be doubled for a second offence. In addition, to reduce fraud and its cost, this bill will establish three new offences to discourage fraudulent claims by claimants, health service providers, auto body repair shops, the industry and others.

It is against the law in Ontario to drive without insurance, yet there are many uninsured motorists on our roads. Currently the fines for this offence range from $500 to $2,500. In many cases the fines are less than the actual cost of insurance coverage itself. To discourage this practice we are increasing the fines tenfold, to $5,000 up to $25,000 for a first conviction and $10,000 to $50,000 for subsequent convictions. In addition, people who are injured while driving or occupying their own uninsured vehicle will not be able to sue a negligent party for any damages.

In the next few minutes my colleague Al Palladini, the Minister of Transportation, will be announcing additional measures his ministry is taking to deter uninsured drivers and reduce insurance fraud.

This bill will expand the right of innocent accident victims to sue for loss of income and loss of earning capacity in excess of the no-fault benefit. Under Bill 164 there is no right to sue for income losses, and compensation is limited to no-fault benefits. With restored tort rights, fairness is brought back into the auto insurance system. People who suffer catastrophic impairments will now be able to sue for health care expenses in excess of the no-fault benefit of $1 million. Seriously injured innocent accident victims whose injuries meet a threshold will be able to sue for pain and suffering subject to a deductible.

We will be introducing an auto insurance rate index. This index will be an objective measure that will be used as a benchmark for reviewing insurers' rate applications. We will also reduce the regulatory burden on insurers. This bill will enable them to make simplified rate filings with the Ontario Insurance Commission and to obtain faster approval if their proposed filing is below or at the regulated benchmark.

We believe that Ontarians want an auto insurance system that is fair, efficient and provides them with an end to the double-digit increases we have seen in the past few years. By making drivers responsible for their actions and restoring their right to sue for economic losses, we are providing Ontarians with a system that will work for them and put them back in the driver's seat.

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): The Ministry of Transportation is pleased to support the legislation my colleague the Honourable Ernie Eves is introducing today. The insurance amendments proposed by my honourable colleague are supported by my ministry because they will be beneficial to all road users.

This legislation will reduce auto insurance fraud, help stabilize the cost of auto insurance and reduce the number of uninsured vehicles on our roads.

The part of this legislation that directly involves the Ministry of Transportation will require the insurance industry to report the auto insurance status of its clients. This means that if someone cancels their auto insurance or allows it to lapse and yet continues to drive, we will know about it. When the police pull a vehicle over they will have up-to-date information available, information they need to keep uninsured vehicles off the road. As a result, this will reduce the insurance burden for all vehicle owners who now carry the cost of those drivers who do not have insurance.

We're supporting the Ministry of Finance in other ways. In the fall we intend to introduce legislation that will prevent fraud relating to wrecked and stolen vehicles. A new national system will prevent stolen, wrecked and unsafe rebuilt vehicles from being put on the road. This should significantly reduce the opportunities for this kind of insurance fraud.

As well, we will continue to look for ways to protect the consumer. We are working to improve the availability of the public driver record to the insurance industry. By making driving convictions easily available, the industry will have the information it needs to fairly and accurately price auto insurance. In turn, we hope this will benefit good drivers and bring their cost of auto insurance down.

We believe the combined efforts of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transportation will result in a significant improvement to auto insurance and road safety.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): It's my pleasure to reply to the statement of the two ministers today. I listened carefully to the finance minister and his remarks and at the same time I was thinking of what Mike Harris said in February 1990: "I don't believe in no-fault. The name offends me. I was brought up to be responsible for my actions and I think the court system and lawyers are necessary to protect victims. I take a look at the repair industry and the car industry." Then he went on to say, in February 1995, "A Harris government will return to a system based on the no-fault principle, living up to the commitments we made during the debate on Bill 164."

I believe that today we have a return, as the Premier said, notwithstanding that he corrected himself, to the no-fault system. But it's what I don't see in the remarks by the minister this afternoon that I would like to bring to the government's attention. I'm surprised that I don't see the repeal of the 5% sales tax on auto insurance, which would have been an immediate break for the hundreds of thousands of insureds in this province. I don't see any commitment in the minister's speech to lowering or holding premiums. During the hearings, we heard that the insurance rates may increase from 7% to 10%. The minister hasn't repudiated that here, so I hope we're not looking for increases of 35% to 40% over the next five years.

We listened to Ontarians, as the government did, because we, the opposition, were in those hearings as well. I look at the minister's statement where he says, "We expect that those savings will be reflected in more stable rates for the consumer over the long term." Well, Ontarians are tired of increased insurance rates. They not only want reduction in rates over the long term, they want reduction in rates over the short term.

Interjections: Now.

Mr Crozier: They want them now. This doesn't provide that.

They're going to establish an Ombudsman, and that would indicate to me that there's some concern about their confidence in their legislation. To hear the minister speak, this was going to solve all the problems in the auto insurance industry in the province of Ontario, and yet they're going to create another body, regulatory or at least semi-regulatory, in that it's an Ombudsman who will look over the industry.

It says that they will promise reduced rates to retirees. I'm pleased to see that. It doesn't say that it's going to be to accident-free or retirees with accidents, so I should warn the retirees out there today that if you have had minor violations, minor accidents in the past couple of years, you're not likely to see a reduction in your insurance rates.

It's not only what the minister has said today, it's what he hasn't said today that we are concerned about and that we'll be looking forward to in the next few weeks hopefully at additional public hearings, because if this legislation has changed substantially from what was in their white paper, we think it's incumbent then that the government go to the public and that we have an opportunity for the public to comment on the actual legislation that this government proposes.

With regard to the Minister of Transportation's comments, we look forward to any move that will reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the roads in the province of Ontario. It would appear by his statement that it says when police pull over a vehicle they will have up-to-date information. Minister, with the technology that we have today, when an insured either cancels or has his insurance lapse, we think there should be immediate contact with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and that a cancellation or a suspension of a driver's licence and/or ownership for a vehicle should go out immediately. That will be the real way to get uninsured drivers off the roads and make our roads safer in Ontario.


Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): I have to say that it's very difficult to respond to this announcement today because basically there's been no information provided to the Legislature. I imagine when we see the bill this afternoon we'll be able to judge the minister's statement that they have in fact listened to Ontarians and are today responding to their concerns. I would have to say, from listening to the statements made in the House, that the vast majority of the concerns that ordinary Ontarians brought before the standing committee have not been addressed, have not been listened to, and in fact we're not going to see the government's main commitments lived up to.

Let me just highlight those again for people. The minister said today, "We believe that our changes will provide the environment for healthy competition in the marketplace and stabilize premiums over the long term," that they're going to take aggressive action against fraud and they're going to restore the right of innocent accident victims to sue. I want to highlight those because I believe perhaps the first part of the statement is true -- they're creating a healthy environment for the marketplace -- but I don't believe they're going to deliver on any of the others.

Let me take the first issue, which is on rate stability. We know that the government stated in the Common Sense Revolution and in the days after the election that its goal was to ensure that there would not be continuing increases in automobile insurance premiums. When asked what that meant -- "What does rate stability mean?" -- the parliamentary assistant made it very clear in response to my question that he's talking about effectively no increase at all. Now we see in the paper that he's talking about doing some work to ensure that the trend line comes down. Well, that's very different than effectively no increase. I think we know the reason for it.

The parliamentary assistant and the minister released their discussion paper, their white paper on auto insurance, without having done the actuarial studies beforehand, and then got broadsided by the industry and found out that their proposals, with the reintroduction of tort and all of the contingency fees and lawyer fees, were simply going to reduce benefits for accident victims and increase the amount of money going to lawyers, and we would continue to see fees go up in the province.

What we have here is some minor tinkering and moving around of the pieces, at least as it's been announced today; no clear indication of how rates are going to be stabilized; in fact a repositioning on that commitment, a repositioning to say, "We're just going to bring the trend lines down." Not good enough, Mr Minister. We'll look forward to seeing the actual legislation and what's contained therein.

Then they talk about taking aggressive action against fraud -- certainly welcome.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. Would the House come to order.

Ms Lankin: They say they're going to take aggressive action against fraud. While we certainly welcome the initiatives with respect to uninsured drivers, that's just a minor step. As was said by the fraud bureau, the people who have done the research into this, this bill just tinkers with respect to anti-fraud protection.

They asked for legislative guarantees that insurance companies would have to take on this issue of fraud, report their write-offs, not pass it on in the premium fees -- that they would have to take some internal responsibility. We don't see any of that addressed here.

Of course, your commitment in terms of return of the right of tort really isn't a return of an improvement for accident victims; it's simply reintroducing lawyers into the system, the way in which you have tightened up and the way in which you have put limits on economic loss, for example, of 85%. You fail in all of the key promises you've made.

You also don't seem to address the issues of conflict of interest, the issues of access to rehabilitation for all the accident victims who we heard didn't get adequate access now. Your commitment to do something about Facility Association is not contained here. Once that's done, that's going to put upward pressure on premiums. No road safety initiatives. You didn't listen.

The bottom line is, if this bill doesn't have more in content than the minister's statement, you haven't listened. Don't expect us to comply with quick passage of this. This needs to have public hearings. This needs to be reviewed in a meaningful way. If you're going to do it and fix it again, get it right this time. Don't expect us to cooperate with a sham that is not going to stabilize rates.

The Speaker: Further response? The member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): In these few seconds, I'm going to do my best.

It's a little bit of déjà vu all over again. I'm hard pressed to listen to a Liberal member talk about insurance reform when I recall, oh, so clearly, "Yes, I have a very specific plan to reduce auto insurance premiums." The fact is, David Peterson and the Liberals couldn't do it. The fact is that Mike Harris and the Tories aren't going to be able to do it either.

The insurance industry continues to have short arms and deep pockets. It's a greedy, voracious industry that will be allowed to continue to prey on drivers and innocent victims in this province. Let's face it, this government was as disinclined as any prior government to make the real reform, which is to create a public auto insurance system. That's the only way there's going to be fairness for drivers and justice for victims.


Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Mr Speaker, I have a point of personal privilege before the oral question period starts. I want to raise a point with regard to the Speaker. It is an article that I believe ran in the Ottawa Citizen, the Windsor Star, the London Free Press and the Hamilton Spectator, among others: "Speaker Wants Fines for Unruly MPPs."

The part of the article that I believe my point of personal privilege is to, and I will quote right from the article: "Mr McLean said there are about five members in each party that cause the most disturbance. Among the worst offenders are Conservative Toronto-area MPP Chris Stockwell, NDP MPP Peter Kormos from Welland-Thorold, and Hamilton East Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino."

I believe that within this House, what we do in here and our behaviour in here is of public record. You as Speaker have the right and the authority within this House to rule members out of order and to simply eject members and do whatever you feel is necessary. But I believe it is inappropriate outside this House in a newspaper article to point out three members of this House for special attention, as you call it, for the type of behaviour. I believe as Speaker it was inappropriate, it was wrong, and you overstepped your boundaries outside this House by naming them in this article.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. I've heard your personal privilege statement. I don't agree with it. However, all members have been out of order. The member for Welland-Thorold.


The Speaker: No, you're finished. I've heard your point of personal privilege. I've heard it. The member for Welland-Thorold.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker, if I may: I want to tell you, sir, that I have no objection to being referred to in the superlative, but I do have colleagues in my caucus who resent not having been included in your comments. It's with a whole lot of effort that they've attempted to participate in what have been at times lively debates.

I do share the member's concern about the Speaker's public articulation, singling out people for this particular type of condemnation when at the same time the Speaker can refer to a general tone of unruliness. By singling out people, I believe, Speaker, that you've omitted certain personalities who deserve mention in the list that you referred to in the press. You have offended some of them, I'm sure, and I trust that they'll be speaking in due course to this point of privilege.


It's understood that at times here the House becomes unruly; all of us understand that. I think what the House would expect would perhaps be some evenhandedness -- dare I say it? -- in the Speaker exercising his incredible and unique powers. Were that evenhandedness prevalent on a consistent basis with respect to all three parties and with respect to all the personalities in the House, the Speaker would not be in a position where he would feel compelled to give public exposure to but one member from each caucus and the Speaker might find himself in a far more comfortable position in dealing with the House that indeed is far more orderly and has a genuine respect for the authority of the Chair.

The Speaker: The member for Etobicoke West has a point of order?

Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): Yes, Mr Speaker, listen.

I read that article as well after it was given to me by equally disgruntled members of my caucus, and frankly I was pleased that you completed a paragraph without a single "dem" or "dose." I guess what I'm suggesting to you is, if you're prepared to start commenting on the abilities and the workmanship of certain members in this House, then you had better be prepared to have them start commenting on your own.

The Speaker: Time for oral question period.

Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): Mr Speaker, could I respectfully request your consideration for -- oh, maybe it is. Thank you. I was looking at the clock and I wondered if oral question period was going to have its full time allotment.

The Speaker: Do you have a question? It's time for oral question period.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): Mr Speaker, on a point of privilege that I believe relates to the privilege of all members, I would ask that you review a rather hasty response to the member of our caucus who raised a very real concern about your singling out members of this Legislature for public comment outside the Legislature itself. I have written to you, Mr Speaker, in response to your letter expressing concerns to each of the leaders about decorum. I hope you will see that my response to you is a sincere effort to make some suggestions that are constructive, but I really do think you need to step back for a moment and revisit your response to Mr Agostino.



Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex South): My question is to the Minister of Finance. Minister, I, like hundreds of thousands of other Ontarians, have a safe driving record and I haven't had an accident claim in the last five years. Can you guarantee me, along with all the other safe drivers in this province, that our auto insurance premiums will not increase in the next year?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I think competition will determine, quite frankly --


Hon Mr Eves: I know that's a foreign word in an NDP caucus. However, I believe the product we will be introducing this afternoon by way of tabling legislation will address some of the problems that have arisen over the Liberal Bill 68 and the NDP Bill 164 with respect to auto insurance rates in the province of Ontario and I think that he will find that when this legislation comes into effect, safe drivers will be rewarded for safe driving and those who are at fault will pay, as it should be.

Mr Crozier: The question was, will I get reduced rates? In a release from the Common Sense Revolution dated February 9, 1995, it clearly says, "A Harris plan would reduce and stabilize auto insurance rates."

Minister, by not saying that my rates will be reduced, perhaps what you are saying then -- I'll suggest this and you can comment on it -- is that I will be paying more. I'd like the minister just to simply answer. You say, or imply, that perhaps auto insurance rates will be on the increase, even for safe drivers. If they won't be reduced --

Hon Mr Eves: No, I am not saying that; you are implying that.

Mr Crozier: Well, I'm going to give you the chance, Minister. If they won't be reduced and they won't be stabilized, how much do you expect they will increase for safe drivers in Ontario in the short term?

Hon Mr Eves: To the honourable member, they are indeed going to be stabilized. They will be reduced for some drivers, the safe drivers in the province of Ontario. I invite the honourable member to come to the media studio after question period today, and industry representatives will be there to answer his question very directly. I assume that after they do, you'll be back in the House tomorrow apologizing for your remarks.

Mr Crozier: Since everyone has heard the minister invite me to the news conference, and he also said that I could ask questions, which I think would be a bit unusual because I believe it's reserved for the press, why, I'd be pleased to come and ask some questions of him. But what you haven't said, Minister, and I'm going to give you one more opportunity to say it in the House before you go to a press conference, is to assure the people of the province of Ontario who have safe driving records that their rates will not increase, as your now Premier said in 1995.

Hon Mr Eves: To the honourable member, there will be representatives from the insurance industry there. When the press conference is over --


Hon Mr Eves: I would like to read to the honourable member, who has a very selective memory, exactly what the commitment was in the Common Sense Revolution, dated February 9, 1995.

"Key to the Harris plan are the following measures:

"1. The repeal of the NDP's Bill 164." Done.

"2. Setting weekly accident benefits at a reasonable level for basic accident compensation coverage." Done.

"3. Facilitating optional benefit `top-up' coverage for those who choose it." Done.

"4. Restoring tort...for significant economic loss in excess of the no-fault benefit." Done.

"5. Modifications to payments for rehabilitation and medical expenses to differentiate between serious and less serious personal injuries." All five done; a heck of a lot better than a guy by the name of David Peterson, who had "a very specific plan" to lower auto insurance premiums in the province of Ontario. You have a lot of nerve even standing in this place and asking a question with your double-digit increased auto insurance premiums.

Mr Crozier: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to give the minister the opportunity to correct the record, because the document he's reading from says --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Order. He can correct his own record, but you can't correct it.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): On a point of order, Mr Speaker, before I place my question, and that is in reference to the fact that this is question period: To the best of my understanding, this is the forum provided by the Legislature for our members to place questions to the members of the government. For this minister to say he should come to a press conference at 3:30 because he doesn't have an answer today is offensive and unacceptable.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Minister of Health. I want to return to the issue of care for pregnant women in this province. Minister, yesterday in response to the concern that was raised that obstetricians in Sudbury would no longer be taking new patients, you seemed to attempt to reassure pregnant women by suggesting that our emergency rooms are open and ambulances are on the alert.

This is an appalling, shocking response that shows a complete lack of understanding of the care that pregnant women need from the moment of their pregnancy. Surely you understand that what pregnant women need is ongoing care; they need regular checkups, they need regular blood tests, they may need periodic ultrasounds. There has to be that ongoing care to ensure that there is no unusual course of development in that pregnancy and that the expectant mother remains healthy throughout the term of her pregnancy. Without that kind of ongoing care, pregnant women and their unborn babies are in jeopardy.


Are you suggesting, Minister, in the response you gave yesterday, that women should go to the emergency rooms of hospitals in order to get prenatal care? Are you suggesting that they should have to use hospital emergency wards to get ongoing care throughout their pregnancy?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): We take the threat of the withdrawal of services very seriously and it seems to me that the obstetricians who are threatening withdrawal of services are really doing pick-and-choose medicine. They don't mind doing the prenatal care, they tell me, or the post-natal care; it's just that when the big day comes, for political reasons to make a statement to the government, they're not going to deliver the babies. We've made a very generous offer to them, one of the only sectors I know of in our society today that was offered a raise, and they've declined that offer.

What I don't know is a couple of things. The government of the day disagrees with the job action being threatened by obstetricians. I don't know where the Liberal Party stands on this issue.

Mrs McLeod: I'm raising a concern that I believe is a very serious concern. Newly pregnant women in this province have reason to be very, very worried about their access to the health care they need. I'm not asking the minister to talk to me about his negotiations. I'm not asking him to repeat his accusations that physicians are blackmailing. I'm asking him as the Minister of Health to deal with the issue of concern for pregnant women who cannot get health care -- just that. I'm not raising negotiations with you. I'm raising a concern that you don't seem to understand how serious this problem is as of today, when another part of your response yesterday was to suggest: "You don't need to worry. You don't need to worry about obstetricians not taking patients because we are training midwives and because family doctors" -- some family doctors -- "are still prepared to take on obstetrical care."

I hope, Minister, that you don't actually believe that that is a substitute for good obstetrical care. I hope you understand that you actually need an obstetrician if you're dealing with a high-risk pregnancy and that you need that obstetrical care throughout the pregnancy. I hope you understand that the obstetrician has to be there if it's going to be a complicated delivery, that the GP can't do that and won't do that, and the midwife is not trained to do that. I hope you understand that, because without obstetrical care, you as Minister of Health can provide absolutely no assurance to pregnant women that their complicated pregnancies or deliveries are going to be managed safely.

I ask whether you understand that the crisis you have created is as of today endangering the health and safety of pregnant women and their unborn babies.

Hon Mr Wilson: We are doing everything we can, including, if the crisis is caused by the debate over the malpractice insurance, we fully restored that insurance. So to keep heckling --

Mrs McLeod: No, you didn't.

Hon Mr Wilson: I did, in an offer last Wednesday night. At 10:30 at night I was told by the obstetrical association, "Not enough, not good enough," was the quote on the other end of the phone. So I don't know what else they want. We responded to their five points. It seems to be a bit of a political statement. We've asked the College of Physicians and Surgeons to monitor this because it is responsible for the licensing of these individuals, and I fully expect that obstetricians, with the offer on the table, will look after their patients and look after those women who have difficult births or difficult pregnancies. I'll certainly want to be aware of the first obstetrician who refuses to look after a patient in this province.

Mrs McLeod: Minister, that is no answer to women. It is no answer to women who are pregnant today and who don't know if they're going to get the care they need. Minister, it is not a political statement for me to stand here and ask you as Minister of Health to take some responsibility to speak to women who are pregnant and who are not going to get safe care if this issue is not resolved.

You did create the crisis, Minister. All the words aren't going to change that. You created the crisis when you unilaterally withdrew that insurance without any kind of consultation at all. You created the crisis when in Bill 26 you made yourself solely ultimately responsible for setting the fees, which is why you're in there negotiating right now with the obstetricians. You made yourself responsible because you said in Bill 26 that you were going to give yourself the power to take over a hospital board. Well, you're going to need that power if you're going to take away admitting privileges, which is one of the other threats that you've suggested. You'll take away admitting privileges but you have absolutely no response to the women who need the care.

You talk about emergency rooms and you talk about ambulances and you talk about family doctors and midwives, and you won't deal with the reality that women who are pregnant and their unborn babies will be at risk if you cannot get off your high horse and resolve this issue.

Minister, I ask you to stop playing Russian roulette with the lives and the safety of women and their babies. Will you finally just put aside your game of macho brinkmanship for once and resolve this issue so women and their unborn children are handled safely?

Hon Mr Wilson: The Liberal Party went through this same threat from obstetricians 10 years ago in this province. This is history repeating itself. The Liberal health minister of the day threatened to withdraw hospital privileges. Guess where I got that idea from. I remember those debates when I was an assistant around here. This is not a new tactic on behalf of some of the specialists in the province. We've offered them more money. They're ahead of the money game. That has been our response.

Mrs McLeod: This is no response to the women who need care.

Hon Mr Wilson: I've also assured the women of Ontario that fearmongering shouldn't be part of this equation; that the backup system is there, including hospitals; that we are developing contingency plans to deal with someone withdrawing services. We've asked the College of Physicians and Surgeons to have a serious chat with these obstetricians with respect to their obligations under their specialty licence to fulfil their obligations, both moral, as part of their Hippocratic oath, and as part of their licensing requirements, to fully serve the women of this province.

This government is not abandoning the women of the province. That is clear in this issue. I don't know whether the NDP or the Liberal Party agree or disagree with the actions of the obstetricians. I disagree. The obstetricians in this case are holding women to ransom over an issue of dispute with the government. I'd like to know where the Liberal Party and the NDP stand on this issue.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): New question. The leader of the third party.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): The NDP believes that the minister has created a crisis and now he doesn't know how to get out of it.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): My question is to the Attorney General. In regard to the Ipperwash issue, I note that apparently now all of the aboriginal people charged by police in conjunction with the incidents there have been acquitted.

In returning to the issue of what happened on the government's side, or did not happen on the government's side, we know that the blockade committee met on September 5 and, according to the minister's own briefing note, there was a suggestion that ministerial direction should be sought in connection with the occupation of Ipperwash park. The cabinet met on September 6. The blockade committee also met again on September 6. Could you tell us in this House if there were any discussions among politicians about getting the aboriginal protestors out of the park, in briefings or in informal discussions, after the occupation and before the shooting of Dudley George?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): As I indicated last week, the discussion revolved around an explanation as to what had occurred at Ipperwash. To the best of my knowledge, in the meeting the member refers to and subsequently, there was discussion about legal options that might be available. There was a discussion and ultimately an attempt to obtain -- and in fact it was obtained -- a civil injunction to deal with the occupation and to hopefully peaceably end the occupation.

Mr Wildman: It appears that the Attorney General has talked about the blockade committee discussions, but he has not dealt with the question around the possibility of discussions among politicians or in cabinet. This, after all, was what the member for Lambton referred to as the largest police operation he'd ever seen in his constituency. He was apparently at the police command post the day of the incident, prior to the incident.


Last week I asked the Premier to request the minister responsible for native affairs to investigate, to find out who, if anyone, said, "Get the" -- expletive -- "Indians out of the park." Subsequent to that, last week my colleague from Beaches-Woodbine asked the minister if he had looked into who made this offensive comment, but the minister did not answer the question. Let me remind the Attorney General that the Premier said, "I don't mind inquiring to find out if anyone knows if it happened," that is, if the comment was made.

Will the minister report to the House on what he has done to investigate who made this offensive remark, if it was made, and when it was made? Whom have you asked? Whom have you checked with? What have you come up with? Why don't you report back?

Hon Mr Harnick: I can tell you I have no information as to the fact that remark was ever made. I have no knowledge that remark was ever made. In addition, I will say what I also said to the leader of the third party last week, and that is, this matter was dealt with by the Ontario Provincial Police. They dealt with it on the basis of their police practices. There was no political involvement in terms of what the police were doing at Ipperwash.

Mr Wildman: I wanted the minister to tell us how he investigated subsequent to the Premier indicating that he was quite happy to have the minister investigate.

We know that on September 6, Chief Bressette went on a Sarnia radio station to warn aboriginal people, specifically the protestors in the park, that it was his information there had been a meeting in the Premier's office and that an order had been given. Someone, somewhere, somehow gave Chief Bressette the idea that a decision had been made for a police buildup that would remove people from the park.

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): You're dreaming.

Mr Wildman: Perhaps Chief Bressette was dreaming. I want to know how he came to be in this dream. He doesn't just go on the radio and make things up. He was worried there was going to be a confrontation. He had information. He had been warned. The question is, who gave him the information and where did that information come from? We want to know if there were any opinions expressed in the Premier's office or in cabinet or in other meetings, formal or informal, that could have been interpreted to give direction to the OPP to confront the protestors at Ipperwash. Where is your investigation? Will you not report to us?

Hon Mr Harnick: I will say again that there was no political direction whatsoever given to the Ontario Provincial Police. I will also say that those matters the member raises are subject to an investigation that the special investigations unit is undertaking. I believe it would be imprudent to deal with what might be part of an SIU investigation and which might well jeopardize any conclusions the SIU comes to. I'd advise the leader of the third party that this is a very real concern.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The minister knows full well that the SIU is not investigating political involvement; the SIU is investigating police action.

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


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Today we read in the Toronto Star about a company in the United States, Vance International, that is planning to expand into Ontario to take advantage of the new business climate under the Mike Harris government. This company, whose president is former US secret service agent Chuck Vance, is planning to hire about 200 people and believes much of his work will be in the greater Toronto area.

This particular company's employees come outfitted in body armour, helmets and shields. That's because their main business is providing security for scabs in the wave of violent strikes and lockouts that Mr Vance is expecting in Ontario. Mr Vance says that there was no need for his company under the NDP government when replacement workers or scabs were not allowed, but now, "If `a plant continues to operate, then there is the potential for violence,' Vance said."

The only thing this company apparently is waiting for is provincial government approval for its application to operate a security service. Is this the kind of business climate the Mike Harris government is creating in Ontario?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): I will refer that question to the Minister of Labour.

Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): I'm pleased to respond to the question. I would simply like to indicate that this company has indicated that it is moving to the Ottawa community. They've indicated that part of the reason they're doing this is because they will be providing security service for diplomats. Part of their service also is in the prevention of violence on picket lines. They concentrate very heavily on the resolution of disputes before we have violence on the picket lines.

Mr Silipo: The reason I asked the Minister of Economic Development this question was because I wanted to talk to him about the business climate his government is creating. I'm saddened that as the minister responsible for that he chose to defer the question.

But since the Minister of Labour has taken on the question, let's talk a little bit about this particular company, because Vance International has put its expertise to use at such high-profile US strikes as Caterpillar Inc and the Detroit newspaper strikes. There's a photo in the newspaper today showing the company's expertise at dealing with the media; in this case, the Detroit newspaper strikes' violence on the picket lines. According to the article, Chuck Vance believes he would do a better job than the OPP riot squad which clashed with OPSEU strikers here on March 18. He's expecting picket violence to increase, creating a boom market for this type of service in the province.

Is Mr Vance right? Will this government's policies be creating hundreds of jobs for American scab protection companies to battle with Ontario workers, or will your government do the right thing and refuse to grant approval for this company to operate its strikebreaking service here in Ontario?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I think the member opposite understands and realizes that we have had a history of peaceful labour relations in this province. We do not anticipate that this is going to change, and we've already seen evidence of this. This was indicated to be a year where there might be some problems. However, we have seen labour and management deal with the collective agreements; we've seen them deal with the bargaining situation in a very responsible way this year. We've already had Ontario Hydro come to a resolution as to how it can resolve its dispute. We've seen the Toronto Transit Commission resolve its problems, we've seen Kitchener Transit resolve its issues and we've seen Stelco.

I am confident that the employees and the employers in this province will continue to resolve their problems in a very peaceful manner. We're certainly seeing it this year. We're seeing as well new jobs being created as a result of the fact that we repealed Bill 40, we introduced Bill 7 and we now have an investment climate that has induced firms like Magna to come into this province and create new jobs. We've seen over 60,000 new jobs in the last three months. You never saw any job creation at all. There were fewer jobs in 1995 than there were in 1989.

Mr Silipo: The minister's answer tells me just how out of touch she really is with the reality that's going on out there, because if she wants to talk about peaceful labour relations, she need only look back at the days of Bill 40, when we had the most peaceful time in terms of labour relations in this province. That's a situation that's changing day after day with the actions of this government, because the record of economic damage from your government's provocative approach to labour relations is beginning to emerge.


Because of your new labour laws, we're now seeing an encouragement of scabs. It appears, for example, that the Breeders' Cup may decide not to come to Ontario this fall, costing our economy many millions of dollars. This week we've also seen the numbers released for days lost to strikes and lockouts in the first four months of 1996. The total for January, February, March and April is 1.253 million days lost to work stoppages. Under Bill 40, not only did we have labour peace, but we also had the lowest number of days lost to strikes since the province started keeping records. At the rate you're going, Minister, 1996 will set the record for most days lost to strikes ever on record. No wonder you're going to need Vance International and companies like that to move into Ontario with their scab protection services.

But the question to ask is, is this what the business climate needs in this province? Is it really what good businesses want and need? When will your government realize that this provocative approach will not work and when will you stop the use of companies like Vance International as the way to deal with labour disputes in this province?

Hon Mrs Witmer: I would suggest that you take a look at the facts, and if you know the facts, you will also know that this is a year when many collective agreements come up for renewal. Obviously, we're going to see an increase in activity.

But I would indicate to you that at the present time we are continuing to see labour peace and we actually are seeing a situation for the first time in this province where we are seeing new jobs created for the people in this province. For the first time, we are seeing hope and we are seeing optimism. There is a feeling of confidence in the actions of this government.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Minister of Transportation and it concerns the safety record of the trucking company that was previously owned by his colleague the Minister of Education and Training.

Yesterday the Premier referred to the government documents about the Minister of Education's former appalling safety record as something that may or may not be true. He also said that even if it was true, he didn't know whether it was a particularly bad or good record.

Minister, you have now had 24 hours to verify that the document I had yesterday was exactly what I said it was, a document issued by your ministry that sets out the abysmal safety record of a trucking firm while it was owned by your now colleague. I assume you have done that. I also assume you have checked the record of that same company prior to 1991, which was something your ministry was not prepared to divulge to us.

So, Minister, I ask you how you would characterize a company with a record that includes 107 convictions for safety violations, 28 accidents and 26 incidents involving equipment problems that were so severe that the trucks had to be pulled off the road. Would you not agree this is a company that has shown flagrant, repeated and reckless contempt for the laws of this province and the safety of its people?

Hon Al Palladini (Minister of Transportation): I believe that this government has done more for truck safety in one year than the previous two governments have done in the last 10.

I would like to remind the honourable member that as Minister of Transportation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any specific individual as far as their safety record is concerned. I want to say that the entire commercial vehicle registration inspection system is handled through our enforcement officers, so I have no direct contact per se for me to find out or any reason for me to find out about a specific individual.

We have hired more enforcement staff in the last year. We will be raising fines to make sure that truck safety is done.

The member is more interested in the past than in the present. I want to show and share with the members what this government really wants to do as far as safety is concerned. As far as the question the member has asked me about why we do not have, why they were refused, records past 1991, it was her government that authorized, that brought in legislation only for the last five years. Those records are not available, not because they weren't made available --

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

Mrs McLeod: Let me first of all assure the minister, if he's uncomfortable about commenting, that he's not only free to comment; that he is required to comment. These are public records of his own ministry. It's fair to ask him to comment.

If the minister would like to know how his officials characterized this record, I can tell him that they describe it as a very serious record. Since the minister wants to direct his attention exclusively to the past year and this government's commitment to do so much for trucking safety in the past year, let us focus on the record of this company, formerly owned by your colleague, in the past year, a period when your colleague was minister and before he sold the company. The company continued to chalk up violations during that period, when the Minister of Education and Training was in cabinet and still had control of the company.

In the two-month period from June 26 until August 31, 1995, when Jarsno Equipment was sold, the company recorded two safety convictions and had two vehicles detained for faulty equipment. On August 29, 1995, a vehicle was detained because of poor tire conditions, the type of problem that has led to several deaths on our highways during the past few years. Since the minister sold Jarsno, the firm has been involved in four other accidents and convicted of eight safety violations.

You are aware that there are steps your ministry can take to force this company to clean up its act. It could bring out audits, warning letters; it could call the owners in for review; sanctions; and finally, it could cancel operating permits. Minister, you talk a good game; you were out talking a good fight at your photo op today. I want to ask you very specifically about Jarsno: What steps have you taken to deal with the appalling record of safety violations of this company when it was owned by the Minister of Education and, subsequent to that, will Jarsno be part of your crackdown?

Hon Mr Palladini: I say to the honourable member once again that the issue is not the record of one particular company or one driver but of all our roads: safety on our highways. This is the commitment we have as a government and that we want to do. We are going to maintain that commitment and do the things that are necessary, and some of the things your government was not able to do we're going to deliver. I wish I could add more, but I really can't; there's nothing else that I could add.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Energy. Today you gave a speech at the clean air summit at Metro Hall and, as you know, I was there to hear it. We had hoped very much that you would announce a mandatory vehicle emission testing program to protect our air, our water and our health. Unfortunately we were disappointed that you refused to do so.

Yesterday people in our province heard once again about the poor quality of our air. I would like to congratulate Pollution Probe for doing such a good job in providing information about the issue.

By now Ontarians know that car exhaust is part of our smog problem. They expect the government to act to protect human health. Minister, I'm going to give you another chance today. On the day of the municipal clean air summit, will you announce your intention to do the right thing? Will you commit to a mandatory vehicle emission testing program today?

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I think the very last part of my colleague's question is particularly important; she said a "municipal air summit." This is a summit from people in this whole area, from various governing bodies throughout the Metro area and the greater Toronto area looking for solutions, because they recognize this is a very complex problem. This is not an easy fix by a mandatory program, which you keep referring to all the time. You had every opportunity to do it and you chose not to. You put a voluntary program in place.

At that speech, I said we're looking for many solutions. That summit is about finding creative solutions to a very complex problem. It's not just Ontario's problem; it extends all across the country.


Ms Churley: Minister, you're totally wrong. You have your information wrong. The NDP government brought in a voluntary pilot project with the full intention of turning it into a mandatory program. As you know, the time is now up for that program. The next step, which our government committed to, was to turn it into a mandatory program. What you have done is to extend it over the course of the summer, I guess to help get you through the difficult smoggy months of summer. The reality is that the time to do it is now. There's no excuse for turning back. You are the government now. It is your responsibility and your turn.

Minister, you know of the support from the Lung Association and Pollution Probe, but you might also know that such a program run by the private sector is also supported by the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, the Canadian Auto Workers and the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute. Most importantly, it is supported by Ontarians who want to have clean air.

What are you waiting for? For more people to die from bad air? I'm giving you another chance now before the Premier moves you out of your cabinet post. Stand up to him --

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

Hon Mrs Elliott: I'm hearing words from a colleague across the floor who was part of a government that would bankrupt this province, who has no understanding of the complexities of the balance between environment and economy. You only need to look at somewhere like the eastern bloc to find out what happens to the environment when the economy goes bankrupt.

With regard to a mandatory program, the program that was put in place as a voluntary program was one of the most expensive possible. It was intended to be part of a private sector program, but the way it's been set up to date is so expensive no private sector person could possibly take it on. What we're trying to do is figure how to make it practical, because in order for it to be effective it absolutely must work.


Mr Douglas B. Ford (Etobicoke-Humber): My question is for the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism. Many of the businesses in my riding are represented by either the Canadian Manufacturers' Association or the Canadian Exporters' Association. These two business associations have long histories of assisting companies to expand their opportunities at home and abroad. Can the minister advise the House of any recent developments regarding the associations?

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): To the member for Etobicoke-Humber, I'd like to say I'm very glad he's asked the question because it is a very important subject, particularly when Ontario is now recognized as the most important province in this country as both a manufacturer and as an exporting province.

The Canadian Manufacturers' Association was formed 25 years ago and its mandate was to promote Canadian industries and to further the interest of Canadian manufacturers and exporters. Fifty-three years ago, the Canadian Exporters' Association was formed to promote Canadian international business and to advance the interest of exporters.

On May 30, 1996, these two respected organizations joined together. I know the alliance is going to operate very well and continue to serve in the finest tradition that its predecessors have done.

Mr Ford: What do you as Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism think of the new association and its role in the business world?

Hon Mr Saunderson: I'd like to say that this is a very significant new alliance. It makes great sense for two great organizations to come together. It's in keeping with the new business culture that those people over there don't understand, and that is doing better for less. We're very pleased to also have the support of this alliance. They are supportive of our government's approach to doing business, and we'll certainly be supporting them as well.


Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): My question is to the Minister of Natural Resources and it involves the subject that we talked about at a meeting last August, that being the allocation of moose tags in the province of Ontario. The minister has received, as I have, many, many calls regarding the system, calls from resident hunters, outfitters and lodge owners, and the minister will realize how important the hunt is for its economic implications to northwestern Ontario. As I indicated, the minister has heard the problems as well.

Minister, the system, as you agreed, is outdated. It is an unfair system. I have a resident in my riding who has been looking for a tag for some 17 years and has been unsuccessful. At this time I would like to know what changes you plan to propose for the draw system coming up for this hunt.

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I appreciate the question from the member of the opposition. The fundamental problem here is we have more hunters than we have moose and that's a fact of life. I wish there was a simple, easy answer to this.

I hear a member from the third party saying that he's been elected on this issue for five consecutive elections. I can tell you, if there's an easy answer to it, we'll find it. All we can do is maybe set up a process to re-examine this issue. We've done counts this year to try to get the actual numbers for a moose area. We're going to have to have some consultation with the affected groups. The system itself was set up, I think with the best intentions to be fair, with a lottery system. If it needs to be changed, we're open to suggestions.

Mr Miclash: I understand that we have more hunters than we have moose, and that's the reason I'm asking the question, because we also have a draw system. The minister very, very clearly made a commitment to me last August that the system would be reviewed, that there was a need for change. The minister, in the election document A Voice for the North, indicated during the campaign: "Hunting and fishing are an important of the northern lifestyle, a fact that is often lost on government bureaucrats in the south."

Minister, you know that the deadline for applications was on May 15. The applications are in your office; the hunters are waiting. What I'm looking for is what I can tell them about the new draw system that you suggested we needed in this province. What can I tell the person who has gone without a moose tag for the past 17 years? What can I tell the outfitters who are looking for the tags that will ensure that the economy of northwestern Ontario will get a positive experience from the hunt this fall?

Hon Mr Hodgson: As I mentioned earlier, the moose draw presently is done on a lottery system, and there are different pools; so the person who hasn't got one for 17 years is extremely unlucky. That's the honest answer, you can tell him.

What I can tell you about the changes that should happen is that you can become involved in a process this summer for consultation on it. Maybe we'll set up another pool for people who haven't received it for a number of years, or other options to try to make it fair and equitable and also help the economy of northern Ontario. We'll set that process up this summer. It's a complicated issue; there's not a quick fix to it.



Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): It's with some trepidation that I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. My question to the minister has to do with a decision he announced I think about six weeks ago about the closing of fire bases all across northern Ontario -- not in his own riding, I might add, but in other parts of northern Ontario.

At the time we questioned the minister's judgement, and a lot of other people did as well, because we don't believe you can close that number of fire bases and adequately protect the forest resource in northern Ontario. We also have concerns about the safety of firefighters and communities in those remote areas.

Now it looks as though our concerns were justified because of reports coming out of Gogama, which happens to be in my own constituency, that some MNR crews spent more than 24 hours fighting a 130-hectare forest fire near Shining Tree, which is also in my constituency. They ended up coming out of the bush to Gogama, where there used to be a fire base, to use the phone because they were unable to make radio contact to call for backup help; it wouldn't reach Timmins. Furthermore, the crew had not even been fed for 24 hours.

Can you assure this House that there are no crews out there fighting fires with no radio contact and will you admit that your decision to close all those fire bases, such as the one in Gogama, was a mistake?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): I can check into the specifics of the question. I'm assured that this plan will work. If there's an emergency fire situation in a remote area where there was a work station before, we'll be able to take advantage of that, but when there are not fires around, we won't be staffing the people to reside there and to ship equipment back and forth.

I'll check out the specifics on your allegation that the fire crews had to come out and use the phone and that they weren't fed. I'll check that out.

Mr Laughren: The issue has been all across the north for the last number of days. I'm astounded that the minister doesn't know about this.

We've had reports that equipment which was needed to fight that fire and which would normally have been in Gogama, where the fire base was, had to be airlifted from Sudbury to Timmins and then trucked back to Gogama. It's a farce and it would be really funny if it wasn't so serious, but it really is ludicrous. On this issue you have raised incompetence to an art form. That's how silly it has become.

As well, you've now hired back, we understand, people you had laid off just three weeks ago, hired them back on contract to help fight fires, so they're not as surplus as you seemed to think they were. The people who are hired to fight fires -- and I wouldn't take advice from the Chair of Management Board, if I were you. What he knows about fighting fires you could write on the head of a pin.

The people and the equipment --


Mr Laughren: I know the Tories are very sensitive about this.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Would the members come to order. I can't hear the member's question.

Mr Laughren: Mr Speaker, they're your colleagues, not mine. They're not my colleagues, they're yours, so you deal with them.


Mr Laughren: I think the clowns have taken over, Mr Speaker.

The people and the equipment that we need to fight fires need to be strategically located, not riding around in airplanes and pickup trucks, because that's exactly what's happening. You've created a mess. It's your mess; you created it. You have to solve it. I'm asking you now, will you put your ego aside and revoke the order that you issued a few weeks ago to close those fire bases?

Hon Mr Hodgson: The plan that was outlined and announced a few weeks ago was intended to save $4 million on the operating dollars. At that time what we committed to do was, if there was a heavy fire season or a need, we would make sure the resources were there to meet that demand. It's a very serious issue. You've mentioned how we brought staff back to meet the demand.

I want to tell you that $4 million in savings might be minor to previous budgets, but that's a significant saving and we can still deliver a quality service. If there need to be improvements in it, I can assure you that ego or other things won't stand in the way of that. We're always looking to improve upon how we deliver government services, and we'll take a look at that.


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): My question is for the Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. All over the streets of this city you can see the long lines of white panel trucks, tractor-trailers and cube trucks. Film production season is under way in this province, and by the looks of things business is thriving. What is the government doing to ensure that this business stays in Ontario and continues to provide good-quality jobs to the people of this province?

Hon Marilyn Mushinski (Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation): I'd like to thank the honourable member for Scarborough Centre for that excellent question. By introducing a refundable film and tax credit in the budget, as announced by the Honourable Mr Eves, our government is demonstrating its commitment to the film and television production industry in this province.

This morning I had a breakfast meeting with more than 60 key leaders from the television and film production industry. Those industry representatives are most excited and committed to a viable and healthy film and television industry for this province. As well, they are committed to working with this government to find ways to make this industry a leader in the economic recovery of this province.

The refundable tax credit is based on a percentage of the project's eligible labour expenses and eligible production financing. It is estimated that in its first full year of operation the tax credit will inject $15 million back into the Ontario film and television production community.

This tax credit system is based on our belief that government should reward initiative. We're moving from simply providing cash grants and writing cheques to a permanent job creation --

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Wrap up your answer. Supplementary.

Mr Newman: What role will the Ontario Film Development Corp play in the development of this tax credit?

Hon Ms Mushinski: The OFDC will play a key role in administering the tax credit, as well as developing program objectives. This will include the development of criteria measurements, certifying eligible applicants and productions, and verifying labour and production expenditures. The Ministry of Finance will be responsible for administering the eligible applicants' tax filing and for administering the credits and the refunds.


Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. In the budget your government outlined that you and the Minister of Municipal Affairs would jointly look at fairness in local government financing. Last week, the Minister of Municipal Affairs made the announcement that your panel will look at property tax assessment reform and the larger issue of education funding.

However, your panel does not have any direct representation from the educational sector; I repeat, does not have any representation from the educational sector. Surely you will agree that this panel could have a very serious and important impact on education and how it is funded. In light of this, will you make sure that the education sector, which you are supposedly responsible to represent in cabinet, will have at least two direct representatives on this panel?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the honourable member opposite for the question, which is of course very relevant to my portfolio and which doesn't attack any of the hard-working people involved in another industry that I used to be involved with. I appreciate, sir, that your question is on target and relevant to the future of the province.

I believe the honourable member can be reassured that the education community will be allowed to, and I'm sure will, make representations about the future of funding and governance for the system. We are committed to making funding changes. We believe that the funding situation currently in the province does not allow for a fair opportunity for all our students and we intend to have a funding system that does.

I remind the honourable member opposite that we will use studies that have already been done on the funding of our education system, that there's already been input from all stakeholders in education across the province. I believe it is now time and my colleagues believe it is now time for some action.


Mr Patten: Minister, you didn't answer the question. The question was, would you have direct representation on the main panel? I would imagine that you would look at educational studies and you would hear people from education. The point is that this was presented as a joint effort with you and the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It's clear, however, that on at least this issue cabinet has marginalized you and therefore the educational sector, because who is going to make the series of recommendations? It seems to me your government's priorities are clear: economics over education.

Do you intend to allow a panel of representatives from municipalities to tell everyone in the education system how to do their job? Is that what you're trying to tell me? Your panel is supposed to find out who does what and who knows what. Will you ensure that at least two more members of the education sector sit on the main panel? By the way, you may recall my friend the member for Kenora suggesting yesterday that there be some representation from northern Ontario, because this is a panel for all of Ontario, not just for Metropolitan Toronto.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I welcome the question from the honourable member opposite. To be honest with you, because the honourable member usually has very outstanding questions, today I'm a little surprised and a little confused that he doesn't seem to be able to connect funding and economics and finance. It seems to me there's a fairly straight line. We are dealing with billions and billions of tax dollars, and I believe that needs a very serious look. We're committed to a system, to a funding for our school system which will provide an equal opportunity for all students across Ontario, and that's the driver in that end of the process.

We are also looking, overall and holistically, at all funding mechanisms of different services provided by municipal and provincial governments. This panel has been empowered to look at all those issues. If I believe at any point that more people representing more segments of the education system or people from the west or the east or the north need to be put on the committee, that can be done. We will do this to make decisions that need to be made for the future of this province. That is our commitment.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): The time for oral question period has expired.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I'd ask for your guidance. The Minister of Health today said he had offered to reinstate the malpractice insurance premiums for doctors in this province. I understand that is not factual, that he has not offered that reinstatement, and I ask that he either correct the record or withdraw the statement he made in the House.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I have no idea whether it's accurate or whether it's not.

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): Mr Speaker, on the same point of order: The honourable member has accused me essentially of lying to the House, which I have not done. She should not be allowed to do that. She sat down and said, "You've not told the truth." The record is clear that we offered to pay the insurance premiums, and then some, to the obstetricians of this province.

The Speaker: It has been brought to my attention by the member that he indicates that the House was misled, and would the member please withdraw it.

Mrs Caplan: No, I did not use the word "misled." I said the Minister of Health said he had offered to reinstate the Canadian Medical Protective Association premiums. He has not done that. That is therefore not a factual statement, and his bullying tactics are not going to solve the problem.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I clearly heard the member say that the minister must tell the truth in the House, not make any allegations, not impute any motive.

May I point out, given that it has been raised in this House with respect to fair treatment, that the minister stood, the minister made a clarification, a statement on the record, and yet you don't allow the member opposite to do the same. The rules have to be the same, one for the other, Mr Speaker. We're not getting that fair treatment from you at this point.

We have a very significant issue in difference in terms of what obstetricians are saying has happened with respect to these negotiations and the information the minister is providing us in this House. We don't know what the truth is.

The Speaker: I listened to both of them and I'm not sure what the facts are of the answers or the questions, so I can't indicate anything until I have a look at the Hansard to find out what was said. I don't know.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Because the member for Oriole asked for your guidance in raising it, as I heard your response when the Minister of Health rose in rebuttal -- and that's all I can describe it as -- you then informed this House that the Minister of Health had said he had not misled the House and therefore asked the member for Oriole to withdraw. You made a judgement as to whether the minister had or had not misled the House. You entered into the debate, and I guess the question is --

The Speaker: Order. No, we had a problem here a while ago, and I said any member who indicated that somebody else was not telling the truth was to be brought to my attention immediately. The minister got up and indicated what was said, which I am not fully aware of, because I haven't seen Hansard. Until I see Hansard I won't know.

Mrs Caplan: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: If you check Hansard what you will see is that I clearly said the minister has an obligation to tell the truth. I stand by that. I believe he has an obligation to tell the truth --

The Speaker: I'll review Hansard and see what was said. That's all.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): Mr Speaker, when you review Hansard, I think the important aspect of the point that has been raised, I think the issue is that the honourable member for Oriole, through her question and her point, accused the Minister of Health of lying in this House. That is the point of order that is before you. The fact that we have different opinions about what was said outside of this place we have no control over, but we do have control over a former Minister of Health, or any member, accusing a current member of this cabinet of lying.

Ms Lankin: On a related point of order, Mr Speaker: I want to point out to you that this has occurred twice now. You listened in fullness to the comments by the Minister of Health. You listened in fullness to the comments by the member for Mississauga South. You did not interrupt either one of them. Their microphones were on for the entire portion of their statements, which will be fully recorded on Hansard.

May I indicate to you that with both the member for Oriole and the Leader of the Official Opposition you rose in the middle of their comments on both occasions, you cut them off, and the last interjection by the member for Oriole, which you sat in your seat and listened to but never recognized her, will not be on Hansard at all because the mike never came on.

This is of considerable importance if there is going to be a judgement that will be ruled on on the basis of reviewing Hansard, that there is fair treatment in terms of your listening to the representations put forward by members so that they are on the record in Hansard and you can appropriately review them and then make a judgement.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): Mr Speaker, I have a point of order on a different matter, I suppose somewhat related. It's related to question period. Believe me, as one of the table officers I understand the difficulties you can encounter in the chair sometimes. My point of order is on question period. I was on number 5 for a question on the very important Women's March Against Poverty and was fully expecting that it would come around to that. I recognize that partly the reason why we got behind today was the general noise in the House, but the Minister of Education, on the last question from a Liberal member, was clearly, in my view, talking out the clock at the end, was not making any sense whatsoever.

I would ask you to try to pay attention to when members of the government tend to be on a question when we're getting near the end of the clock -- because this was a very important question to me and the women of Ontario -- that you take note of that and make them sit down before the time has run out. What this means is that I was unable to ask this question which people were expecting today.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): I thank the honourable member for Riverdale for her point of order. I do try to be fair; I'll do my best.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): On a point of privilege, Mr Speaker: I seek your direction on this. It happened during question period where my colleague the member for Essex South asked the Minister of Finance a question and the Minister of Finance said -- I'm paraphrasing now, but I think Hansard would support this. I think the Minister of Finance said, "If you want an answer to that question, come to the press conference that we're holding at 3:30."

My point with you, Mr Speaker, is this: The public, I think, expect that this one hour of question period is an opportunity for their elected members to ask questions of the government and for the government to respond here in this forum, not to say, "If you want an answer to that question, you should come to a press conference later on."

I think it's important because the House very much relies on this forum; I think the public very much rely on this forum. It's the first time, frankly, I've heard a minister say, "If you want an answer to a question, come to a press conference." I wonder, Mr Speaker, if I might ask that you could look into this matter for us and provide any advice you can to the House.

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): On the same point, Mr Speaker: I would like to point out to the honourable member that what I said was that industry representatives will be there and the honourable member will be more than able to talk to those industry representatives and see what their particular company's position is with respect to the legislation I will be introducing shortly.

Having said that, the honourable member may be interested to know that Zurich insurance company advises that its reduction will be 3% to 5%; Allstate's will be 5%; Dominion of Canada will be --

The Speaker: Order.

Mr Phillips: Mr Speaker, did you indicate that you would be responding?

The Speaker: I have no jurisdiction over whether they have news releases or news media releases before or after question period. That's totally out of my hands. If you're not happy with his answer, there's nothing I can do about that.




Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I have a petition to the assembly of Ontario which is specifically directed to the Solicitor General of Ontario. It reads:

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

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

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

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

We, the undersigned local residents, urge the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services to suspend plans to relocate the open custody residence for troubled children until a full review of the Dellcrest Children's Centre's decision can be conducted, and explore with the community alternative locations which are much more appropriate."

I have affixed my signature to this document.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): 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."

It's a petition signed by about 150 citizens of the province, and I've affixed my signature to it as well.


Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I have a petition on behalf of 500 people in the province of Ontario that reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

"Whereas Bill 27, An Act to amend the Children's Law Reform Act, was introduced for first reading on December 11, 1995; and

"Whereas the bill amends the Children's Law Reform Act to emphasize the importance of children's relationships with their parents and grandparents; and

"Whereas the amended act would require parents and other guardians with custody of children to refrain from unreasonably placing obstacles to personal relations between children and their grandparents;

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

"Please pass Bill 27 with royal assent without further delay to amend the loopholes in the existing Children's Law Reform Act."

I affix my signature to this particular petition.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): I have a petition signed by 36 residents of Scarborough Centre from such streets as Fishleigh Drive, Midland Avenue, Sunnypoint Crescent and Cliffside Drive. The petition reads as follows:

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

"Whereas the lack of provincial funding for the Fishleigh Drive erosion control project poses an immediate threat to the safety of adjacent residences and presents a public safety hazard and blight on the Scarborough waterfront; and

"Whereas extensive consulting with provincial and municipal government representatives, residents, waterfront regeneration trust and interested parties led to the final approval of this project whose subsequent funding is contingent on provincial capital grant;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to provide funding for the completion of the east terminus of the Fishleigh Drive erosion control project as soon as possible."

I have affixed my name to this petition.


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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my name to this petition.



Ms Isabel Bassett (St Andrew-St Patrick): I have a petition to end the spring bear hunt to the Parliament of Ontario from 753 people, many in my riding of St Andrew-St Patrick.

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

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

"Whereas 80% of the orphaned cubs do not survive the first year; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

I affix my name to this petition.


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

"The government has stated that they plan to sell off 84,000 units which are owned by Ontario Housing Corp. We are in favour of keeping OHC, which assists people on limited income to have decent, affordable housing.

"We, the undersigned, petition the Parliament of Ontario to keep public housing public."

The petition was organized by Alma Denis and has been signed by more than 371 seniors in my riding. I have also signed the petition.


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have another petition from people across the province who are opposed to the sell-off of Ontario Hydro. It reads:

"To the Legislature of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

I see that my leader agrees. I will affix my signature to this petition.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): On behalf of the member for Parry Sound, I have a petition I'd like to present today. In accordance with the standing orders, I will summarize it rather than read it. It has to do with the child care system and it's been signed by approximately 14 residents of the riding of Parry Sound. I believe it's in the proper form.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): This is 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.


Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): I have a petition to the government of Ontario 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;

"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 VLTs in bars in Ontario and in permanent casinos in various locations across the province represents an escalating 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've affixed my signature to this petition as well.


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

"Whereas the public secondary teachers of Ontario have taken a workplace democracy vote in accordance with Bill 7 and have rejected the proposed College of Teachers by a 94.4% 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 as I'm in agreement with its contents.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I have another petition, 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 affix my signature to this petition as I'm in agreement with its contents.


Mr Chris Stockwell (Etobicoke West): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think earlier today in the beginning on the point of order my intervention was somewhat intemperate. I not only ask that those remarks be withdrawn but I offer a sincere and heartfelt apology to you as Speaker and to the august chair that you hold. Although I think it was unfortunate that those comments were in the newspaper and I will stand by that, certainly it didn't call for that kind of intervention and I sincerely apologize to you, the Speaker.

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



Mr Eves moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 59, An Act to provide Ontario drivers with fair, balanced and stable automobile insurance and to make other amendments related to insurance matters / Projet de loi 59, Loi visant à offrir une assurance-automobile équitable, équilibrée et stable aux conducteurs ontariens et à apporter d'autres modifications portant sur des questions d'assurance.

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

Does the member have a short statement?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): No, Mr Speaker. I made my remarks earlier. I don't think it would serve any useful purpose.



Mr Lalonde moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 60, An Act respecting the participation of workers and contractors from Quebec in Ontario's construction industry workforce / Projet de loi 60, Loi concernant la participation des travailleurs et entrepreneurs du Québec à la main-d'oeuvre de l'industrie de la construction de l'Ontario.

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

M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Prescott et Russell) : Ce projet de loi privé déposé aujourd'hui a pour but de nous assurer que les travailleurs de la construction et les entrepreneurs en construction de l'Ontario ont des chances égales lorsqu'ils soumissionnent ou lorsqu'ils tentent d'obtenir des emplois sur les chantiers de construction en Ontario et au Québec.

This bill tabled today is to ensure that construction workers and building contractors of Ontario are provided with equal opportunities when tendering or attempting to work on job sites in Ontario and Quebec.



Mrs McLeod moved opposition day motion number 2:

Whereas the actions taken by Mike Harris and his government have reduced the excellence and accessibility of our education system; and

Whereas Mike Harris promised in the Common Sense Revolution that any funding cuts to education would not come from the classroom; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his government have in fact affected classroom funding with an initial cut of $400 million, which annualized will equal $800 million, and which has resulted in the elimination of the classroom for many young Ontarians and adult students; and

Whereas Mike Harris and his government have acknowledged that the current dropout rate will cost the country $23 billion in lost productivity, $9.9 billion in lost taxes and $1.4 billion in welfare and unemployment benefits; and

Whereas many adult learners are high school dropouts who realize the need to complete their high school education; and

Whereas Mike Harris's actions through Bill 34 will make adult education unaffordable for many; and

Whereas Mike Harris has closed the doors of education and opportunities for these individuals by a reduction of funding for adult education with the intended passage of Bill 34; and

Whereas the government's own studies have shown that junior kindergarten has a positive impact on children; and

Whereas the Royal Commission on Learning recommended that schooling begin at age three to maximize the benefit of early childhood education for each child; and

Whereas Mike Harris also promised to present a toolkit to the education sector to help them reduce their costs and failed to provide an adequate set of tools; and

Whereas for many Ontarians the cost of the tax cut promised by Mike Harris will be a poorer education system;

Therefore this House calls on the Mike Harris government to fulfil its promise not to affect classroom spending; to refocus its priorities on the quality of our education system rather than simply cutting and slashing programs; and to promise no further cuts to the education system.

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Leader of the Opposition): We present this resolution at this time in the belief that it re-emphasizes the concerns we have with Bill 34, the bill that the government plans to pass before the end of the month, the bill that will effectively kill junior kindergarten as a universally accessible quality program, the bill that guts adult education. It's one of the reasons why we present this resolution today, although we know that Bill 34 will be debated again before the end of the month.

But I presented the resolution as well because I believe it emphasizes and reiterates our very real and our growing concern with this government's education policies, our concern that this education minister is ready to destroy public education as we know it and that he does not even acknowledge or seem to understand that this is exactly what he is doing as he not only makes cuts to the education system but brags about how many more cuts he can make in the future.

Some of us do care about education and we will raise our concerns as often as we are able to in this Legislature and in every other forum that's available to us.

My colleagues will be speaking to different parts of this resolution, so I want to use my few moments this afternoon to focus on what this government's cuts to education are going to mean to special education and to the students in classrooms not only today but tomorrow who will need special education support if they are to learn, if they are to complete their high school education and be able to go on to further training and education. There is absolutely no question that this is an important example, one example that concerns me very deeply about the way in which the cuts are affecting the excellence and the accessibility of education for thousands of children who have special needs.

I want to focus my comments on this because I think back to when I first became involved in politics, running as a trustee for the board of education in Thunder Bay almost 30 years ago, I confess. I ran because there was no special education in our schools and there were many people in our community who wanted to see special education programs developed. It was the whole reason why I first got into politics. We were at that point just beginning to understand the nature of special education, of learning disabilities. We were a long way from knowing how to diagnose or remediate them.

We've come a long way in 30 years. It has taken a long time. We have slowly come to understand the very ability of the special needs that students have. We've slowly been able to train and hire specialists who could do assessments and provide the education that teachers need and provide remedial instruction to students. Boards worked on these programs literally on their own until 1980 and then a former Conservative government, under Bette Stephenson as Minister of Education, brought in Bill 82, which made it mandatory, made it part of the law of this province to meet the special needs of students.

We've continued to see progress since then as boards have looked at individual withdrawal programs to meet special needs, they've had special classes that would respond to some students' needs and more and more have moved to integrated classroom models so that students are not in segregated classes. The learning of the last 30 years has not been only about the varied nature of the needs of students, but the flexibility that's needed to be able to respond to those needs. The whole goal is that every child would have a chance to learn. There's no question, no doubt at all that as we understood the needs more, as we learned more about how to respond to the needs, the cost of the special education programs grew.

I suppose it's possible that the Minister of Education looks at these as being non-classroom, non-basic costs so that they're the things that can go when you when you bring about billions of dollars of cuts in education, but these are absolutely critical needs and these cuts are affecting the educational needs of these children. The resources are being withdrawn. It's happening in different ways in different boards because these are agonizing decisions that are being made by boards forced to retrench and consolidate and reduce in every possible area. The bottom line again is that there's no flexibility to meet special needs.

I'm going to take a couple of minutes to give examples. I confess that I could go on all afternoon, because this issue has been so close both to my heart and my political life. It truly made me heartsick to learn last week that the board I first ran for 30 years ago has now been forced into the position of reducing its special education program, including its assessment teams and in-school special education support. For me, after all the years of establishing the need and building the programs, it was like 30 years of work that were suddenly being undone because the Tory government decided it had to have billions of dollars to pay for a tax cut, and that makes me absolutely heartsick. It wasn't because there was a better way of meeting these students' needs; it was because boards were forced to cut, to find dollars, to find them fast, and no area was exempt.

In my brief period of existence outside political life I was involved in the assessment of special-needs students. Just to give you an example of what this kind of cutback may mean, I think of a boy in grade 3 who was well on his way to becoming a serious behaviour problem who was brought in to see me because of the behaviour difficulties he was having. What hadn't been realized was that this young boy had a math disability. He was absolutely terrified of being brought up to the board to do addition sums because he was afraid he would be embarrassed in front of his classmates, so rather than be embarrassed, he chose to be bad. If that problem had not been understood, had not been dealt with in the simplest of ways -- it didn't require a lot of money to solve that child's problems -- that boy was well on his way to being a serious behaviour problem and potentially a delinquent and a truant in later adolescent years.


I found out that in Hamilton the decision has just been made to take 800 students out of their separate classrooms and move them into integrated classrooms. This might be seen to be a good move, except that they're not going to be given the support they need to function in those classrooms. We have parents who are coming into our constituency offices, parents of special-needs kids, desperately worried that their child's special class will be gone.

I can't tell you how I felt when a parent who's worked for many years to provide the support her special-needs child requires came in to see me and said: "I'm so worried he will lose his special class. I know what that woman felt like in Hamilton who went in and closed the garage door with her special-needs child."

A woman spoke to me yesterday with the opposite concern, the concern that her child, who is an attention deficit disorder child, who is in an integrated class, has had a special education support person in that class, is going to lose that support person. The parent has been told that she will have to pay for a tutor if she wants that child to stay in school at all.

I cannot believe that after the years in this province of working to provide for the needs of these students, even making it law under a former Conservative government, this is what's happening to children in our classrooms. This is the reality of what is happening with this government's cuts. This is the reality of what is happening to children. It's going to continue if the cuts continue. The gains of the past 30 years and more in public education are going to be lost.

If these cuts continue we will see nothing less than the destruction of the system. It is the generation of children who will pay the price for this government's policies, and those who need special help and don't get it will be forced to pay a price for their entire lives.

Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): During the election campaign we heard the Mike Harris government make all kinds of promises. One of the promises they made was that they would not cut classroom funding. Since they've cut over $400 million from public schools and more than $400 million from universities and community colleges, anyone tells us that the money to be cut cannot be cut without hurting classroom education. It's just plain wrong to think that this can be done without hurting the education system and the classroom education.

Many studies over the years have shown that junior kindergarten as an early childhood education has very beneficial effects on a child's development. But, as we've heard, the government decided to make junior kindergarten optional.

The program for junior kindergarten was first introduced back in 1944 and has been supported by all governments since then except for the Conservative government we have today. Our NDP government introduced legislation to make junior kindergarten mandatory, providing early education to all children and a means so that all children would have the chance to live up to their potential in our society.

The government says that our youth will benefit in the future from deficit reduction efforts. What I want to say is, who will benefit more from a junior kindergarten program that would educate them in the early days of leading into their future? It's not going to help them if they don't get the education they need at an early age.

The government isn't just picking on the kids. You are reducing the education opportunities for adults, and those adults with special needs. In Cochrane North, for example, not only are we going to lose junior kindergarten in some of the areas, but adults who need the special training to get back into the workforce -- programs are being cancelled. How do the people who are above age 21 get the special training they need to upgrade their education and get their grade 12 diploma and get back into the workforce so they are not what the Conservative government considers to be a burden on society when they are not working?

Most secondary schools, as I said, will not have adult education. Kapuskasing and Smooth Rock Falls had no choice but to terminate their adult education program. As a result, we've seen teachers being laid off. Adult students trying to upgrade their education so they can get back into the workforce are being told, "Forget about it." Where do they turn to? What choice does it leave them? And what about the other special needs?

The group out of Hearst that helps injured workers to re-enter the workforce has been in touch with me, saying that most injured workers in the 20th century have not had an adequate education to re-enter the workforce after an accident. They need more advanced training in their field and other fields. A reduction in funding for adult training programs is really a blow to these injured workers who were looking forward to being able to upgrade their education and being re-employed in new fields in a position similar to the one they've held previously.

All of these people are also taxpayers. They pay taxes and they want their taxes to be contributed to helping our society and economy and everyone else. They're talking about the $400 million in education cuts, and when you total that all up, you're talking about $1 billion in cuts that have come out of classroom education. The promise was made during the election campaign that classroom education would not be touched.

The ones who are losing out on the education are the ones who are often the people who are most seriously hurt and need continuing education. Their livelihood depends on getting a better education through the secondary system. We ask the question, and we've been asking over the past year since we heard about the cuts that are coming, what about their wellbeing? Some people need a leg up, and the injured workers are in that particular category.

Slashing education funding without consideration for those people with special needs -- and we're talking about the injured workers; we're also talking about junior kindergarten, which is being made a local option; we're talking about the adult education programs. These are the people who would have benefited in the long run as a result of not having the cuts to the classroom that are being done.

A lot of the budgets for colleges are being reduced, by about $130 million. The attack on the colleges has already resulted in lots of campus closures. Hundreds of college programs are being suspended or eliminated and there are thousands of layoffs.

I just want to touch a little bit on my riding of Cochrane North. The university at Hearst has lost $375,000 in operating revenue, or about 14% of its budget. Five positions were cut from a personnel of 30. Since 70% of the university expenses is for salaries, the number of layoffs would be clearly greater if staff had not accepted an average wage rollback of 8%. So we have a wage rollback of 8%, and with the cuts we're still ending up with five teaching positions being lost. The students at this university will also be faced with a 20% tuition fee increase this September.

The Collège Boréal in Hearst must reduce its budget by $1.5 million for this fiscal year and they're looking at implementing a 15% reduction; 10% will be in the salary budget and 5% in operating expenses. There will also be restructuring and administration cuts that will result in layoffs and some structural changes. This is a new college which in its first year offered services in 24 communities in northern Ontario. Their programs are popular and 111 people have already expressed an interest in attending the Hearst campus for this September.

I might point out that it was a pleasure for me last Friday to attend the first graduation of the class of students in Hearst and also at the campus in Kapuskasing. It was well attended. People were pleased and happy that as a government we managed to put Collège Boréal in place, and now we've had the first graduation.

Over 9,000 layoff notices have been issued so far in the 32 school boards across the province. The minister claims this will not have an impact on the classroom.

In one school that I know of because my daughter teaches there all the teachers were all given their notices of layoff, and the principal said: "How am I going to operate this school? I don't know yet if some of the teachers are going to be recalled or whatever." As a result, it's causing nothing but panic in some of those areas.

I know we're splitting the time fairly equally among all participants, so with that I'll save further comments for a further day.



The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Riverdale has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Minister of Environment and Energy concerning mandatory vehicle emissions. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.

Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Riverdale has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Minister of Environment and Energy concerning Hydro privatization and peer review. This matter will be debated today at 6 pm.


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

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): My colleagues and I welcome the opportunity today to debate the opposition motion. It gives us a chance to set the record straight.

This motion really amounts to an accusation. Albeit in keeping with the Leader of the Opposition's record, it's an inaccurate, unfounded, unfocused, obscure, vaporous and fuzzy accusation, which is her norm. It's none the less an accusation.

It's interesting to note that both the Leader of the Opposition and the previous speaker have grossly exaggerated the effects of a less than 2% reduction on the operating line of our schools. I'll leave it to my colleagues; I leave them the enormous and endless task of correcting the inaccuracies of the opposition statement. I'm going to focus on what this government, my colleagues and I, can be accused of.

Can we be accused of wanting to change a school system that spends more than the national average but produces mediocre student achievement;

A school system where funding on a per student basis fluctuates by more than 30% from rich assessment boards to poor assessment boards with virtually no difference in student achievement;

A school system where parents feel powerless and teachers are frustrated;

A school system where, by some accounts, 47% of the nearly $14 billion we spend is spent outside the classroom, a significant portion of that on administration;

A school system without the standards of achievement and accurate testing methodologies that our students deserve and our parents quite rightly demand;

A school system that often treats adults like children;

A school system where bargaining units attempt to represent both the professional interests and the bargaining interests of teachers;

A school system that sometimes ignores the up to 70% of students who will leave high school for the world of work or training;

A school system where the acceptable level of reading -- perhaps my colleagues opposite would like to hear this -- for a grade 9 student is grade 4;

A school system with the lowest student-teacher ratio in Canada, at about 15 to 1, but with relatively high class sizes;

A school system that is behind on the information highway that has opened up an enormous gap between children who have information technology access and those who are less fortunate?

We are committed to changing this school system. We have said that very clearly in the Common Sense Revolution and we have maintained that posture since we formed the government.

The official opposition obviously resisted change during its term of office. The third party proposed changes just months before the election. Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, unlike some members of the third party, my colleagues and I are not apologists for the status quo in our school system.

We are committed to bringing about the changes that will lead our school system and our children into the next millennium. My colleagues and I and our partners in education will create more affordable schools --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): What was the royal commission about? Come on.

The Acting Speaker: I ask the leader of the third party to please refrain from shouting.

Mr Wildman: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I appreciate very much your comment, but the minister is being provocative.

Hon Mr Snobelen: I thought I was being affectionate. I thank you, Mr Speaker. There is often some resistance on the part of members of the third party and members of the opposition to hearing the facts about our school system, the facts about where it needs to go, and to actually own up to the record of the previous administrations.

As I was saying, my colleagues and I and our partners in education will create more affordable schools, a more accountable school system, and will focus on the only quality measure that makes any difference, and that is student achievement.

Yes, we are committed to creating better value for the taxpayer by finding savings outside of the classroom, and we expect the cooperation of everyone in the school system in meeting this goal. That's why we'll give boards the authority and the opportunity to create changes in school administration practices, practices that date back past two decades. We'll also allow them the opportunity to negotiate fair sick leave policies without making them have 20 sick days per year, as the current Education Act requires.

We have supported the current system of local negotiations between boards and unions. We've supported that and we've asked them to provide an affordable and accountable system to the people we all serve. We expect, in keeping with our mutual responsibility to taxpayers, to parents and to students, that these negotiations will result in improved teacher deployment and the protection of young teachers in our system.

We are committed to improving and enhancing the testing of students. For the information of my colleagues opposite, grade 4 is not an acceptable level of reading for grade 9 students. That's why we've introduced Bill 30, to create an outside testing agency, and that's why our reforms of the secondary school program will have clear levels of achievement and testing embedded in them.

We believe that teaching is a public trust, we believe it deserves to be regarded as a profession, and that's why we have introduced legislation to create a College of Teachers, to allow teachers to enter into the same kind of relationship with that public trust that over 30 other professional organizations enjoy in the province today.

Like most people in this province, my colleagues and I understand that adults are different from children. The Leader of the Opposition seems to have some problem with this concept, but we understand it. We are going to allow schools to offer adults different programs and services, delivered in a different way than they do for adolescents. Frankly, fitting most adults into programs and delivery systems that were designed for children is an insult to all the parties concerned.

We are committed to finally addressing the recommendation of two royal commissions and ending once and for all grade 13. We will create a much-improved secondary school system, with more compulsory subjects, with higher expectations for our university-bound students and, most importantly, a curriculum designed to help and to encourage the lost 70% of students, those who are destined for work or for a training program. We believe those young men and women are important to the future of Ontario as well.

We're committed to what is possible when teachers have the information tools they need to excite, to stimulate and to encourage the curiosity of young people. That's why we have doubled the technology incentive partnership program, TIPP, for this year and why we will continue to look for investments that will help to move our school system into a modern, relevant learning environment for our students.

Unlike our predecessors, this government will change the education funding system. We'll create a funding mechanism that provides equal opportunity for all Ontario young people.


Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): How do you do that?

Hon Mr Snobelen: I'll tell you how you do that: You do it by placing students and not systems at the core of funding in education.

Another issue that perhaps was too tough for previous administrations to tackle: We'll address the governance structure of our schools, not only to lower administrative costs, but also to give parents and students a real say in the operation of their schools.


Hon Mr Snobelen: I want to thank both members for the applause.

Our government understands that all of our actions must be focused on the future of our children. That means we must take on the problems that our generation has created and not leave the next generation a legacy of increased debt and diminished opportunity. In the actions, in the plans, in the policies of the Ministry of Education and Training, we will work in concert with other ministries, with my colleagues in this government, to take on those problems, to resolve them once and for all and to leave the next generation with a better Ontario and a better opportunity. We must do this and we will do it.

Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I'd like today to address the important issue of adult education. I can scarcely believe my ears on what the minister has just delivered. I'd like to remind the minister that on October 13, 1992, this government's former education critic, the member for London North, stated in this House that, "Without the resources to produce a highly skilled workforce and advanced research facilities, Ontario will be unable to compete in today's global markets."

This is truer today than it was four years ago. Globalization is rapidly changing the way we live, the way we conduct our business and the very structure of our workforce. While it has opened up new industries and new opportunities, it has also led to corporate downsizing. This growing trend has thrown, and continues to throw, tens of thousands of people out of work. The economic costs to the province are enormous. Persistent unemployment is strangling our economic prospects.

Our inability to compete globally will represent nothing less than a national crisis. Crises are something this government knows far too well. It is shocking that we are now experiencing a dangerous crisis in education, a crisis that the minister himself has created.

Our success as a province, as a nation, as an international economy, will depend on making education more accessible, not less so. At a time when we need the strongest possible commitment to education, advancement, education planning and educational opportunities for all Ontarians, this government has instead embarked upon a process of disinvestment in this essential economic building block.

The government forgets that we as legislators have an obligation to provide our citizens with hope, alternatives and opportunities. Now, as never before, the successful economies of the world are focusing on education and training to achieve these goals. The rapidly expanding economies of Asia have relied upon this sector to transform their agricultural economies into rapidly expanding industrial centres.

Today, a successful society is one in which there exists a continuum of education. From primary to secondary to post-secondary education, there must exist strong links that promote progress through the system at all levels. Elementary and secondary schools are critical blocks in building success.

We must build strong foundations at each level and accessible doorways into each. We must also promote excellence in our post-secondary education sector, for it is our colleges and universities that will provide our trained workforce of tomorrow. They will provide the settings for research and development that will dictate our competitiveness in the increasingly important high-tech sector.

We must ensure that we have in place a process to retrain older workers, providing new career choices and opportunities. We cannot afford to lose the experience and skills of valuable people simply because this Minister of Education and Training does not support the fundamental goals of his own ministry.

I believe the road to lifelong learning has no stop signs, but this government has lowered the speed limits, and through funding cuts and reduced maintenance has forced students and teachers to weave through a maze of deepening potholes.

The government's approach in stripping money out of elementary, secondary and post-secondary education is not much different from the private sector model of downsizing, except in one crucial way: The private sector knows that downsizing is useless to the bottom line unless you also fundamentally change core processes and introduce much higher levels of technology. The Harris government is doing only half the job, and the wrong half at that.

The announcement of $40 million for technology in schools during the budget has seen no further announcement by this minister. Has the program been allowed to quietly fade away or does the minister have something concrete to offer to the students of Ontario before they leave school for the summer? Are the computer camps being offered by private enterprise more hidden user fees for the students of Ontario, students who want an education which prepares them for their electronic future instead of the Mike Harris bologna past?

The Royal Commission on Learning spoke strongly in favour of training and supporting teachers who hold the responsibility of providing the necessary and appropriate instruction for students to be aware of the future. Yet where are the plans for training teachers to be proficient users and teachers of the technologies that are the norm everywhere in the workplace except our schools? There are none. Where are the requirements that teachers be given the resources and skills and knowledge that guarantee currency with the work sites into which the minister is going to push students with his new plans for secondary school reforms? There are none.

School boards are giving surplus notices to their youngest and brightest teachers as a result of the massive funding cuts. What is the minister doing to ensure these dedicated teachers are not lost forever to education in Ontario? The answer: Nothing.

The role of government has always been to take the long view, not to be shortsighted. The Harris government is doing a disservice to the taxpayers of Ontario by being penny wise and pound foolish. The short-term savings in scraping junior kindergarten and adult education are going to cost us dearly as troubled youth will strain our social and correctional dollars.

As adults, they are also more likely to remain a social cost instead of productive workers in the economy. They are getting ripped off as children and as adults by the minister's apparent inability to understand cause-and-effect relationships which even the research commissioned by his own ministry proves.

Ontario's adult education programs are a remarkable success story. Each year, over 80,000 daytime students over the age of 21 enjoy the benefits of this program. The success of these graduates is testimony to the dedication, perseverance and potential of these hardworking people. Eighty-three per cent go on to find jobs or continue their education to further advance their career opportunities: 36% continue education, 47% find employment.

This means fewer people on welfare and other forms of social assistance and bigger savings for the taxpayer. Yet despite this success, the Harris government has gone on an assault against adult education in its budget cuts. For small or isolated boards of education, the funding cut for adult students is as high as 70% to 80%. Financial realities leave these boards with little recourse. Opportunities for adult students will be cut and high school dropouts will just remain out of luck.

Through Bill 34, this government is making adult education inaccessible by not allowing re-entry into daytime secondary programs. Anyone over 20 years of age, including single parents, immigrants requiring upgrading and those needing a second chance will all be denied access to the day program, a program with proven success and proven worth. This will inevitably force those students into expensive private programs or into welfare lines.

The government has already acknowledged that the current dropout rate will cost the country billions in lost productivity, in lost access and in increased welfare and unemployment benefits. But what is the government doing to solve this problem? Where are the initiatives? Nowhere.


The Minister of Education and Training told this House on November 2 that "rigorous standards, high levels of expectation and better career preparation for all students will drive the new system," but I simply don't see it. Better career preparation surely includes finishing high school. This government is making that prospect much more difficult. With fewer people graduating high school, we will have fewer people continuing on to college and university. This downward spiral will do nothing but inflict long-term damage on our workforce, our businesses and our competitiveness.

It's time to question the morality of those businesses and governments that tossed their employees out like garbage for the rest of society to take care of. We don't tolerate companies polluting the environment with hazardous chemicals, but it doesn't seem to bother this government that our most precious resource, our people, is cast off and destroyed.

Even the inventors of the downsizing movement have realized they have gone too far. What they agree on is that while it is good that downsizing improves profits, some of those profits should be redirected to train the displaced workers for other meaningful work. This simply makes good business sense.

One would think the minister would be using his influence in the educational and business communities to develop the kind of partnerships which will link supply with demand, the supply of high-quality adult education provided by our secondary and post-secondary institutions with the demand from business and government, which need to reduce their workforces and which also need to train their remaining staff to meet the tough competition we face from abroad.

I've travelled throughout the province speaking to students, teachers and administrators, something I encourage the minister to do. I know that our schools, our colleges and universities are successful, they are innovative, but they need encouragement and support, not criticism and funding cuts.

Let me give you one example of what I mean. I met recently with the president of Cambrian College in Sudbury and saw at first hand the success that can be generated through dedication and innovation. Through extensive co-op programs, they are building strong links between faculty, students and businesses, extending knowledge and ideas throughout the economy. Cambrian College now has contracts with both Inco and Falconbridge mining company to train staff. It has created a resource centre for smaller businesses that need to develop the skills of their staff. Cambrian also encourages its teachers and administrators to work in the private sector, both as a way to save money and as a way to provide local businesses with expertise they would otherwise never be able to afford.

These are innovative, creative ideas which promote lifelong learning, recognize the demand that exists in all our communities across Ontario and the role which our educational institutions can play in filling the demand. It is time to start investing in our people.

This is only one example. If the minister were to exert an effort he would find many others, but the minister is silent on creativity; he is silent on innovation; he is silent on commitment. What is needed above all by this government is a commitment to deal with the real problems related to education in this province: funding structures, excessive dropout rates, lack of career opportunities, growing violence in the schools and income security.

This government must realize that education is the lifeblood to the economy. We cannot let it be capped at the knees. We must do all we can to keep people in school, to give them every chance possible. We must ensure the existence of adequate day care, nutritional programs, co-op and mentoring initiatives and quality counselling. We must reach beyond the confines of the most advantaged and provide greater opportunities to the vast pool of human resources that have been held back because of a lack of these opportunities.

Our province hurts every time a child drops out of school. Our economic engine slows a little each time an individual fails to pursue lifelong goals because of lack of opportunities and structural restrictions.

It was Robert Frost who once said, "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" It is education that helps us exceed our grasp.

Government must set the stage for growth and opportunity for Ontario students, students of all ages. We must establish high goals and objectives and embark on an aggressive campaign to expand our potential, our capabilities, and above all, our achievements. Our human capital is important and we Liberals will not allow anyone, not even this government, to squander it.

Mr Wildman: I join in this debate in support of the resolution because I think we are at a crossroads in terms of education in the province. I listened very seriously to the Minister of Education and Training's intervention in the debate and I must say I've seldom heard so much puffery in this House, and that's saying a lot. I've heard a lot of that in the years I've served in this place.

There was just a lot of rhetoric without any real substance to what the minister put forward, and that's really tragic when we're talking about the future of our children and how we provide adequate opportunities for children to gain the skills they will need to be able to compete and contribute and be productive in the 21st century.

This party that is in power ran on a campaign where they pledged to exempt classroom education from any cuts, and now we've seen that this government is taking over $400 million out of the education system in four months. The minister has agreed, he has acknowledged that this works out on an annualized basis to at least $800 million, perhaps as much as $1 billion. When that is indicated to the minister, what is his response? His response is, "Well, good; if we can get more out of it, all the better," and then he goes on to say that he intends to have further cuts next year.

The point is this: It is absolutely impossible, even if you play around with definitions, to take $1 billion out of the education system in one year and not affect classroom education. It is completely impossible. What makes me angry about this government's approach in a funny way is not so much what they're doing, which really concerns me, as what they're saying about it, because if you're going to hurt classroom education by taking $1 billion out of education in one year, be honest about it.

Don't keep going around the province saying, "Oh, we're not going to affect classroom education. We're not going to hurt kids' education. We're just going to take money out of administration," because it is not true. It is not true. Let's just be frank. Let's be honest with the public and say, if the government really believes it: "We're in a serious economic position. We're in a very difficult fiscal position and we're prepared to hurt classroom education in order to deal with the fiscal situation." Because that is the position you are really taking, so why not be honest about it?

Mr Bill Murdoch (Grey-Owen Sound): Would you agree with that?

Mr Wildman: I'm not saying I would agree with it. What I'm saying is that at least if that is what your position is, be honest about it. Just be honest. Just be frank. Don't play games with the public, because that's what you're doing.

What have we seen happen in education in this province because of Bill 34 and the commitment to take $1 billion out of education in one year? We've seen 26 boards already eliminate junior kindergarten programs. Some of these programs are long-established programs that were in place before our government made it mandatory. Those boards have eliminated it because they cannot afford it. The ones that have continued junior kindergarten programs in most cases have changed them. They've changed them to be full day every other day or they've combined them with kindergarten programs to save money but to try to preserve the program, because they understand how important early childhood education is.


This government says, "Well, we promised that junior kindergarten programs would be optional, and therefore we are going to make it optional." But when you put the option in place at the same time as taking so much money out of education all at once, for many, many boards it is not really an option. They have to end the program because they can't afford to continue it.

The minister acknowledges the importance of junior kindergarten and early childhood education programs, and yet he says that he's not affecting classroom education. The last time I checked, junior kindergarten programs take place within classrooms. You can't eliminate junior kindergarten programs and say you're not affecting classroom education.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): We are not eliminating the classrooms.

Mr Wildman: Oh, that's a real canard. The member says, "We" -- meaning the government -- "are not eliminating junior kindergarten programs." No, the boards are. It's all the boards' fault. Well, who provides, particularly in assessment-poor boards, most of the money for junior kindergarten programs? This provincial government does.

What are they doing at the other end of the spectrum, in adult education? This legislation says that adults, people who have been out of school for over four years past age 16, should go to continuing education programs; they shouldn't go to day adult education programs.

Frankly, that is a case, I believe, under the Human Rights Code, because in my view that is discrimination on the basis of age, which is illegal in this province, to say that people over the age of 21 cannot attend day programs and must go to continuing education programs. It's going to be an interesting court case. But more than that, it is contradictory to this government's own stated program. This is a government that says that it wants people to become productive, to upgrade themselves, to get the skills they need in order to provide for themselves and their families and to compete and contribute to society. Just by ending adult education programs, you're making it more difficult for adults to get the skills they require and to upgrade themselves. It's contradictory to the government's own program, and it's going to hurt adults, and it's going to hurt our competitive position in Ontario going into the 21st century.

The government is also freezing capital projects as part of this saving of $400 million in four months. That means that in many, many projects where students have been going to school in portables, they will continue to go to school in portables; they won't be able to get the expansion that the school requires. This is a government that says classrooms are exempt. Well, going to school in a portable is affecting education in the classroom.

What has this meant? It has meant 10,000 layoff notices for teachers. Again, a government that says it is not going to affect classrooms, it's not going to affect classroom education, all the layoffs will take place in support staff and in administration -- well, we've seen many, many teachers who are going to be laid off, and those teachers work in classrooms and educate students. So don't continue to go around saying, "We're not affecting classroom education." You are adversely affecting classroom education for students. So just admit it. If that's what you want to do and that's what you think is important, well, okay, but say so; don't pretend with the public.

This is a minister who said that the NDP did not want change. It was the New Democratic Party government that appointed the royal commission. The unfortunate thing with this government is that it's taken everything that might save money the royal commission proposed and hasn't done anything the royal commission proposed that would cost money. That's unfortunate. That is most unfortunate.


Mr Wildman: The College of Teachers is going to be paid for by teachers, so let's be careful.

At the other end, in the post-secondary level, this government has taken $430 million out of colleges and universities and has increased tuition fees. The minister is talking about teacherless classrooms. When I pointed out that this is affecting classroom education at the post-secondary level, the minister wrote me, in a letter dated March 8:

"The government's stated intention to isolate Ontario classrooms from reduced funding levels specifically targeted the elementary and secondary school systems. While the government's commitment to education is articulated differently at the post-secondary sector, the principle of protecting education itself remains."

What that gobbledegook means is that even the commitment to protect classroom education does not apply at the post-secondary level. At least the minister is being a little more honest at that level. Why can't he and the government be as honest in dealing with elementary and secondary classroom education?

This is a time when we should be strengthening our education system. This is a time when we should be providing more opportunities for young people to gain the skills they require so that Ontario will remain competitive going into the 21st century. Instead we have a government that, despite the fact the minister says he wants to put students at the core of education, is putting the bottom line, and the bottom line alone, at the core of education in this province. He's prepared to hurt students if it saves money, and it doesn't matter what it means for the future of those kids.

It's a tragedy for Ontario that we are faced with this kind of an approach by a government that is blinded to what it is really doing if it believes it's not affecting classroom education; and if it really does understand that it is affecting classroom education, then unfortunately it is being dishonest with the public.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a privilege today to participate in the Liberal opposition debate on education. By way of a starting point, I'd like to read some of the documentation here that serves as a background for what we're discussing today.

"We will expand cooperative education programs" and work to combine school experience and job training -- a very good plan. We're all familiar with the plan. It's the commonsense approach to education.

"A...government will strengthen teacher education through new initiatives" and "will proceed with the creation of a College of Teachers." That's been done; that's Bill 31.

"Give the College of Teachers the mandate to strengthen teacher education....

"Give the college the mandate to expand ongoing teacher education" and certification.

"Identify `best practices.'"

That's Bill 31. That's a very good idea. I'm sure it's shared by the opposition, although I'm kind of reading from material here.

Support local schools and school councils: That's been done. We're very much endorsing that.

"Standardized testing: Only a minority of Ontario's secondary school students are part of any province-wide standardized testing program." Parents and students want to know where they stand.

Quality and accountability: It's been done. That's Bill 30. We're proceeding right along.

Tuition fees, by the way -- I want Mr Wildman to listen -- went up 42% during the reign of the NDP, or the reign of terror, as we often refer to it; the reign of fear, actually.

Another thing here that's very important is, "Spending less on administration: Sixteen cents out of every provincial dollar and an average of 55% of property taxes are spent on education and training." We must make more use of the taxpayer dollars and get "value for our dollar."

"Our government will further cut spending on administration and get rid of waste and duplication...."

By the way, I'm actually reading from the red book, and that's Bill 34, the last one I just talked about. I may as well put this down, because they just copied our book, because this is the book that's doing it, and Bill 30, Bill 31 and Bill 34 are central pieces to the restructuring that is so important for our children's future and the future of Ontario.


I guess it begs the question, how would the Liberals have addressed the changes, or would they have done anything? Our plan could be captured simply by three small words: to provide a system that is affordable, accountable, and quality. Let me just speak on those three words. Affordability: That's Bill 34. Accountability: That's Bill 31. And quality is Bill 30. The difference with the Progressive Conservative Party versus the Liberals or the NDP is we are actually doing what we promised. There are really no surprises here. I'm very proud to support our Minister of Education.

I'll give you an example. He issued a memo, a directive to the boards and to the directors of education, on March 6. If I could for a moment, I'd just like to read from that, and this was talking about the $400 million in savings. "Education savings strategy amounts are really 3% of the spending on education." That's what the reductions were. Let's put them in perspective. People of Ontario, my family and people in my community, are learning to do more with less. It's very tough for people who have been spoiled for years. Education spending has been going through the roof. We spend $500 more per student and $1 billion more as a province than any other province.

Our reduction strategies announced on March 6 were clearly outlined to the boards, where their elected responsibility should have been, at the board table. First there was a recommendation of $65 million to be achieved out of the current $890 million spent on administration -- almost $1 billion spent on administration -- and out of the $1.2 billion spent on custodial services and maintenance services. That was $65 million.

We also recommended that there would be $16 million that would be saved in transportation. Do you realize that with all the busing going up and down the roads, we spend over $600 million in transportation? They wanted to save out of that $600 million a mere $16 million.

There was another recommendation to save $150 million, and I admit that we changed the funding structure for junior kindergarten and adult learning and full equivalency for the funding that would be available to a regular student. Now, you've got to recognize that junior kindergarten is a half-time program. And also, to round out the $400 million, there was $167 million that was removed from capital.

The overall reduction really, when you look at it, wasn't as staggering as the newspapers and the school boards were all terrifying people about. It was less than 1.8% of operational spending. Put that into perspective. All I heard was school teacher layoffs, all of these draconian measures that we're doing. They were afraid to bite the bullet and get onside with a province that is staggering in debt.

I want to look at the NDP. They actually did a lot of good things in education. Mr Cooke was excellent, I believe, and some of his ideas. The difference is, we're following through. The NDP government commissioned the study on school board amalgamation. A former Liberal member, John Sweeney, headed the commission, recognizing that they were overgoverned. I think we'd all agree with that. In fact, Mr Cooke agreed. In fact, it was the terms of reference in the whole report. I would guess that the report, we'll all debate it, but 47% of the actual spending was said to be outside of the classroom. We could all argue about the dollars, but let me tell you that the 7% we're talking about here is the $1 billion that we're after.

I'm going to give you a couple of working examples here from my riding of Durham East and how effectively some of the boards are working. By the way, there are five school boards in my riding of Durham East -- count them -- not including the Christian school. There are five school boards in my riding. I think we could do it with less. That's all we want, to have less administration. The Liberal red book said that; they wanted less administration. We can find the money if we just get off the rhetoric and get down to actually trying to solve the problem.

For example, in my riding of Durham East I would think with five boards there is some duplication. Would you agree with me there is some duplication? Thank you very much, Mr Wildman.

I would say also, and flattering the boards, most of them have decided to keep junior kindergarten. Almost without exception they've decided to keep junior kindergarten, and indeed adult education. For example, the Northumberland-Clarington board and the Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland and Newcastle Roman Catholic Separate School Board are working in cooperation. I'll give you one example. They went to a program of alternate-day, full-day junior kindergarten, and in that one grade, that one board saved over $800,000 in busing alone. Imagine how many teachers you could pay with $800,000, how many jobs they actually saved by those elected trustees making a decision to save the people of Ontario waste and duplication. Every one of them called me: "Watch the buses running up and down the road -- one for high school, one for the separate school, one for the elementary and one for the separate school," four buses on the same road in many cases. Unacceptable. This is what this is about: restructuring, affordability in education.

Another example of a saving initiative by cooperation between boards, which is part of Bill 34, is in the Campbellford area. They saved almost $50,000 in that one small, rural area by combining the public and separate board busing and changing the start and stop times of the school day. I think that's commendable for those boards.

I'm disappointed, however, that most boards did pass on a slight tax increase. They still haven't learned that revenue never stops; it's just a continuously expanding pot of money. Well, Ontario's in tough shape.

I would like to say, though, that we shouldn't completely depend on all our own ideas, because much of this spending is addressed in the red book. They said that they would reduce administration spending, waste and duplication. I don't need to go on with this because we are doing it. The difference between the red book, which the Liberals -- it's their opposition day. We're actually delivering.

We do respect that the majority of teachers are professionals. They are dedicated and hardworking. Many teachers have told me personally that they do not want to be part of the problem; they want to be part of the solution. They don't want to lose the young teachers they work with. They know the changing technology and methodologies of teachers, and many of the students I've talked to said the same thing. The teachers they don't want to lose are the young ones. I believe the unions have a challenge where they have to look at the seniority provisions and the other provisions to allow us to keep the young teachers, to work in a cooperative way to solve the problems. Many teachers, independent of their unions, have told me they are prepared to share in the restructuring of education.

My wife's a teacher. I have five children, and education to me is priority number one. I believe if we work cooperatively and lower the rhetoric level -- let's get reasonable. The reduction to education funding is 1.8% of spending once you address the capital side of it. This is achievable but there has to be agreement on the Liberal side. I'm surprised how few people from the Liberals are here today to participate in this very, very important debate.

I want to summarize by saying that Minister Snobelen is working hard to restructure education to make it accountable, affordable, and with quality and excellence in the results. The number one customer in education is the student, and then it's the classroom teacher, and anything above that, I believe that cooperation between boards, public and separate, is the way to go to save the taxpayers of Ontario dollars that they have no more of.

Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I'm very pleased to rise in this important debate today. I listened to what I thought was outrageous rhetoric coming from the Conservative benches. There is nothing in this motion that any member of this House should not be able to support, because all this motion does is call upon the Mike Harris government "to fulfil its promise not to affect classroom spending; to refocus its priorities on the quality of our education system rather than simply cutting and slashing programs; and to promise no further cuts to the education system." That is what they promised in their revolutionary election document. They said they would not cut classroom education, they said they would not hurt students, and yet their policies have done exactly that.

Every study that has ever been done says that not only is junior kindergarten valuable and important, but acknowledges that children, particularly those who come from a disadvantaged environment, the earlier you can get them education, the better achievers they become, the better the opportunities they have; and because you have moved in quickly to intervene, to assist, to educate, the fewer problems and fewer costs you have down the line, the fewer jails you have to build and the fewer special education classes you need. We know the importance of junior kindergarten; we know the importance of educating young people as early as possible and giving them that head start and that opportunity to achieve.


We know the outrageous dropout rates there are in this province and the enormous cost to our economy. There are adult students -- we call them adult learners -- people who have dropped out whom we have always tried to encourage to go back to finish high school, get their diplomas so they can then move on to upgrade their skills, get off social assistance and family benefits and welfare and all those kinds of supports they have been forced into simply because they didn't have the skills to get a job. By going to school, by upgrading their education, many adults become productive citizens in our society.

What has this government done? What this government has done is not keep its promise. They have cut support to the classroom; they have hurt students, both young and adult; they have hurt the quality of education.

It is teachers who deliver educational services in this province. When you lay off teachers, when teachers get pink slips from their boards of education, which have been forced to cut because of the policies of this government, when members stand in their place and say they shouldn't raise property taxes, let me tell you that you can't have it both ways. You can't say to the boards, "We're cutting your transfers, we're cutting your dollars, and we don't want you to hurt classrooms and you can't raise property taxes." The boards are telling you it doesn't work that way, that you get what you pay for. If you want junior kindergarten, you have to pay for it; if you want adult education, you have to pay for it; if you want quality education, that costs money.

My constituents in the riding of Oriole care about education. They know that the opportunity education affords their children is one of the most important things we can do to ready the next generation for the economy, for the world and for giving them an opportunity to succeed and be self-sufficient and self-supporting. They know that education provides opportunity. They know that the North York Board of Education, Metropolitan Toronto and the province of Ontario -- we have always been proud of the quality of education we have provided.

We've always recognized that we can do better. There may be efficiencies possible, we all want those efficiencies, but the difference between the Conservative policy and the Liberal policy is that we believe any of those savings should be rechannelled into education and support of our students. Unlike this government, which would take those dollars and give them to the wealthiest in society, we have said education must be a priority for students in this province.

This opposition day motion brings to the attention of the people of this province how your policy has failed and how your promises have been betrayed. I hope the resolution will pass this House.

Mr Marchese: I'm happy to take part in this discussion in support of the resolution by the Liberals and want to comment on a number of things about this government and its views on education.

First of all I have to say they speak a good line when it comes to education, because it makes it appear that they really are sincere, but when you look at everything they have done, it is nothing short of a scandal in terms of what's happening in the classroom.

They talk about education and they say how important it is and how much value they place on it because it is the future of what children get into and what they need to be able to be better prepared for the work world and they're providing that kind of opportunity for those students.

They're not doing that. The toolkit that they had promised school boards is empty. There is nothing there. All it does is take money away from all boards of education and put nothing back. This is contrary to the promise they made, of course, that they wouldn't take one cent away from education, and lo and behold, when you add it all up, it's close to $1 billion.

You can't say that when you take $1 billion away from the educational system, you're not hurting it. It is a mythical thing to say that you will do more with less. It's mathematically not possible to do. In the mythical world of the Tory reform wasteland, it is possible to do more with less, but in the real world, it is not mathematically possible to do more with less. You're cutting away. You're cutting $1 billion and you're hurting the classroom teacher, you're hurting those students and you're hurting the parents of those students, because that's what you're doing.

When the member for Durham East talks about ending some of the duplication and getting different boards involved, both Catholic and public, that's a good initiative. Who will disagree with that? We've done that in the Metropolitan Toronto school board, of which I was a member for eight years. We pioneered that. It's nothing new to the system, nothing new to this province. We have done it. All this does, of course, is extend that and permit boards to continue to do that. That's a good thing; nothing wrong with that.

But when you get to the serious parts of what Bill 34 does, and you look at in the detail that one should look at it, all you see is nothing but damage to the educational system. When the Minister of Education and Training speaks of the Liberal resolution as being obscure, grossly exaggerated, misinterpreting facts, more-with-less kind of stuff, it's all hogwash.

The resolution speaks about the genuine fears that parents, teachers and we, as politicians on this side, have with respect to what you're doing, particularly as it relates to the measures taken in Bill 34. It is scandalous. What they have done with junior kindergarten is a travesty in this province. Junior kindergarten, in the way that we had introduced it, allowed for universality across Ontario. It did not distinguish between one board or another, from Metro, the east, the north and so on. It did not say to the Catholic school board, "If you can do it, do it," or to the public board, "If you can do it, do it, or not." It was a universal program which we argued was important to do because it benefits all children. It benefits particularly those children who come from poorer backgrounds, from backgrounds where they haven't had the economic and financial and professional advantages that so many families have. It was designed to redress inequality in society. When you take the universality away, you are hurting those students who come to the educational system vulnerable, less prepared socially at times, and intellectually at times as well. You're hurting those students in particular. You're widening the gap of the inequality between those who do well, who have, and those who do not have, from a social, psychological and economic point of view.

You are increasing the gap between the rich and the poor. You're making it much tougher for those students who would have the advantage of equal opportunity, which you speak of so well but know nothing of, if you had maintained the junior kindergarten program as opposed to taking it away.

All we can do is simply make our arguments with the public so that they understand that the measures contained in Bill 34 are essentially hurtful to students, teachers and the parents, as well, of those students. You are forcing one board, a Catholic system, to compete with the public system.


I indicated in my remarks before that some people are switching their tax assessment to be able to get on to the other system that's offering the program. That's a bad thing. It's unhealthy competition that you're offering. If some board decides, because it's financially able to offer the program, to offer it, you force the other system, be it public or separate, and you force the parents of that particular system to switch their assessment. It's wrong. It shouldn't be that way. It shouldn't be that you have a patchwork of boards offering a program and another patchwork of boards across Ontario not being able to offer it. It's a problem. It's wrong. You are directly responsible for that.

You can say all you want that it's boards that are cutting away the program, but once you have eliminated the universality principle, then you are directly responsible for that because you know that some boards will not be able to do it. You will not be able to say, "We didn't do it," because the majority of those people -- trustees, yes, teachers, yes, and parents -- will know that you are the one who made it impossible for them to offer that program because you've taken it away, and that's a problem.

When we speak of equality of opportunity, you've taken away an important measure that gave students, and the parents of those who don't come with the same advantage, that opportunity; you took that away.

Before I get to adult education, I want to talk briefly about the fact that some of you, including the member for Durham East, talk about or make reference to the Sweeney report and say that 47% of educational costs are non-classroom related. It's a mythical figure. It means very little because all the people I will mention are connected to the classroom.

Consultants are connected to educational programming. Vice-principals are connected to the students and the education of those students. Principals are connected to that as well. Social workers and psychiatrists wherever they're hired, whether they are there as staff or are hired, to offer a service to students are connected to the classroom. Educational assistants are connected to the classroom. They help the special education teachers, indeed most other classroom teachers, to deal with classroom problems. You can't argue that's not classroom related.

When you make the point without understanding it, you're hurting. You're hurting me in hearing it, you're hurting the parents, you're hurting the teachers and you're hurting the students.

Even the bus driver who drives the bus is connected to the classroom. Everybody who performs a function in the educational system is offering something to the education of that child. If you take the educational assistant out, you're hurting the classroom. If you take the social worker out, you're hurting the classroom, you're hurting the teacher and you're hurting the student.

How some of you could argue that without putting some substance to what you're saying is hurtful to the rest of us who have to defend why these people are in the educational system in the first place.

On the matter of adult education, you're taking the goalposts away, you're taking the net away and you're taking the floor away. By reducing the funding to adult education students above the age of 21 by half, you've said that they are not valued, that they're not important. When you ship them to a system of continuing education, which is an optional program across Ontario, you're saying to those adult students that their education is not as important as the rest of the other students in the elementary and high school system. When you miss the understanding of the continuum to offer educational opportunities to adults, it's a problem.

This resolution is clear, it's good, it should be supported. What this government is doing with its $1-billion cuts is going to hurt the educational system and it's going to be permanent, and I'm not sure we'll be able to remedy that particular problem you've caused.

Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I want to begin by saying I'm very pleased to join the debate this afternoon on the future of education in the province of Ontario. I think I should, for the sake of my arguments, begin by describing the state of the education system inherited by the minister about this time last year.

Contentions I often hear from across the floor and in the press sound like a flock of Chicken Littles. As far as education goes, I tell the members opposite that the sky fell some time ago and that this government was elected to pick up the pieces.

I start with Humber College, for example, one of Canada's largest community colleges, which you're very familiar with, with an enrolment of approximately 25,000 students. Every year Humber administers a basic English test to its new entrants. Not only does one third of these students fail this test, but the samples of their writing are often deplorable. One Ontario high school graduate recently was quoted as writing, "...bilingualism, which means men and women getting the same pay for the same work." English placement tests given to students at Humber College reveal that two of every five had problems constructing sentences or correcting certain grammatical errors such as verb tenses. Technology professors at the school reported that first-semester failures had grown over the past few years from an acceptable rate of 6% to about 50%.

Parents for some time have complained about the declining quality of the schooling their children receive, and many are even more disturbed about the dangers to their children's physical wellbeing. In the past 10 years, large numbers have taken their children out of the government-financed systems and put them into private schools or home schooling instead.

Ordinary classroom teachers complain that the atmosphere in which they are required to teach is often not conducive to learning.

Taxpayers complain constantly about growing costs with diminishing returns in terms of educational quality, and it is a rare person indeed who believes that our schools are giving children the tools they need to meet the problems of everyday life.

Change was needed, change was necessary and change took over these chambers almost a year ago this month, and under this minister and under this Premier we are bringing about change to make education truly work for students, teachers and taxpayers once again. Change does not mean merely throwing more money at the problems. As we heard earlier from the minister himself, Canada is in the top tier of developed countries when it comes to spending on education. In that realm, Ontario spends close to $1 billion more, or $500 more per child, on education than the average of the other provinces, with only mediocre, at best, testing results. Our change is about excellence in education.

If our students are not winning their share of awards internationally or even in Canada, what do we have on our mantle to show for our spending over the past 10 years? From the beginning of the 1980s to about 1991, the school-age population in Ontario dropped and the number of students enrolled increased by barely half a per cent annually, pretty much at a constant rate. Running against this trend, local government spending on education tripled, while school board employment -- jobs at the board, not in the classroom -- showed average yearly increases of 2%. While the population grew by 2% at the boards, remuneration increased by over 9% per year.

At the same time, our secondary schools saw the number of consultants grow by 80%. The number of teachers and principals working outside the classroom has increased by 128% in that time. Obviously this minister and this government have inherited a highly bureaucratic system with between 40% and 47% of spending taking place outside the classroom, as verified by the independent Sweeney report.

Currently, as we've heard a couple of times today, Ontario schools spend approximately $890 million on board administration, $600 million on transportation and $1.2 billion on custodial and maintenance services. Bill 34 is about finding savings in these areas so as not to affect the classroom. If Bill 34 were not to pass and we simply dole out more dollars without accountability and emphasis on measurable results in the classroom, we will exacerbate the problem. By handing over more money and running up the debt, we would simply shrug off these important responsibilities on to the next generation. Deficit financing would be the refuge of a craven politician, but making difficult choices, determining what pieces of the broken education system to pick up and build anew and what pieces to leave behind takes thoughtful and brave leadership.


Here are some choices we have made in less than a year to get the bureaucracy under control, to put together the pieces again and to restore excellence to education. Out of the savings this government has made so far we will double the funding available for innovative uses of technology in the classroom to $40 million. We fully anticipate that these funds will be matched by the private sector and by school boards. We have forged a partnership with the Canadian Living Foundation for Families to help parents and communities set up and expand local nutrition programs to ensure that elementary school students receive the nutrition they need to succeed in school. The 1996-97 budget provides up to $20 million to help preschool children with speech and language disorders to prepare them for education in the next few years.

Many parents are denied control over the kind of schooling their children receive. Power over time has instead gravitated to the professional educrats. Without a doubt, teachers play an important role in the development of our children and take the students' wellbeing to heart, but we should make no mistake that parents are the ultimate stewards of the next generation and the final trustees of their own children's futures, so this government is going to champion the rights of parents in the education system. Empowered parents, families and taxpayers, not government officials, educrats or teachers' union bosses, will ensure that accountability and measurable classroom results are restored to the system.

In that vein, we have made provisions for the establishment of parent councils in each school to give parents more control over the education of their own children. At the same time, student achievement will be measured through an ongoing province-wide testing system which will be publicly reported by the Education Quality and Accountability Office. This will help parents and students measure how well the system is operating and will also put an end to Ontario's disastrous policy of social promotion that pushes poorly prepared students ahead from year to year without ensuring that they have acquired the necessary skills to advance to the next level.

In an effort to further promote our goals of excellence and accountability, the Ontario College of Teachers will be established. Teaching standards and ongoing professional development of teachers will thereby be ensured. As we relieve the burden of made-in-Toronto mandates, we invite parents, taxpayers and ordinary classroom teachers to participate in local decision-making for a change.

We are fulfilling our commitment to restore junior kindergarten as a local option for school boards. Many parents and taxpayers have questioned me whether junior kindergarten was a program they wanted to fund in the first place, and if they did support this program, many questioned whether using a full-salary teacher was the best way to deliver this program. Now JK will be a local option chosen by trustees to reflect the views of their local constituents.

I think taxpayers, teachers and administrators agree that the needs of adult students often differ from those of younger students. Adult students in Ontario will continue to have their needs for secondary school level education met, but boards will be given the flexibility to make determinations at the local level to meet these needs in less costly ways. I believe the summary of our work to date shows that the minister and this government are making the difficult but desperately needed decisions to make the education sector make sense once again.

I believe this resolution before the assembly today asks me to fall in line and march with the Chicken Little crowd and the placards, despair and hyperbole, but the education system in Ontario went off the tracks some time ago when Taj Mahals took the place of textbooks.

I believe the changes we have made, like investing in technology, strengthening the role of parents and taxpayers, administering province-wide testing to ascertain our strengths and to uncover and eliminate our weaknesses, represent desperately needed improvements to the system.

To stop now and to embrace the failures of the past, as this resolution would have me to do, is tantamount to abandoning a brighter future for our children, to giving up on a stronger role for parents and taxpayers, and to stepping away from the path to excellence in education.

I for one cannot do that and I will not be supporting this resolution before the assembly today.

Mr Frank Miclash (Kenora): Thank you very much for allowing me to participate in this opposition motion put forward by my leader today.

When we talk about education we talk about a commitment made by this government that education in the classroom would not be affected. As a former educator, I must say those are the people we must look out for, the students in the classroom.

The commitment was made by this Premier, this Minister of Education and this government that there was no way education would be cut and that the students in the classroom would not be affected. We have seen many examples, many from my own riding, where students have learned that their programs are going to be taken away from them -- extracurricular programs, programs that they so much depended on, programs that kept a good number of students in the educational system.

Again, as a former educator I remember the days when you would need a little bit more encouragement to keep that student in the programs they were involved in, to get them through that final year, to get them that grade 12 graduation diploma. What we're finding now is that with the cutbacks in education this is no longer true. These programs will not be available for the boards of education to offer.

When we take a look at the adult education being cut, the adult education that will come out of each individual board, where that adult will not have the ability to return to get the skills they may have missed out on during their years in school, we take a look at a very significant impact on those people who are in need of maybe those extra credits to get them into the workforce.

I can give you an example that happened in my office within the past six months, where we had a student come out of the adult education system, a student who worked in my office for a number of months on the co-op program through the adult education program offered by the Kenora Board of Education. She gained the skills she needed. She gained the skills to allow her to go into a full-time position, which she now retains to this day, with another agency within the municipality. But had it not been for the adult education that she received through that program offered by the Kenora board, she would in no way be the productive person she is today, contributing to society as we see it.

The minister often talked about the creation of a crisis. We noted that crisis in the Kenora region when the students learned that programs were going to be taken away from them. We noticed a number of students who were not happy, students who walked out of many schools. Whether it be Thomas Aquinas school in Kenora, Lakewood school, the high school in Dryden, the high school in Sioux Lookout, students were hearing and were noting that yes, these cuts were going to affect their education system. They were not happy.

I personally invited the minister to come to explain to those students how it was that he could stand in his place and say that those programs would not be cut. He has yet to take me up on that invitation. I hope he does do that.

Then we had the Minister of Education who got caught cooking a deal with one of his cabinet colleagues and indicating to that cabinet colleague: "Oh no, your board won't be cut. We'll take care of you." Of course when that deal was discovered, we saw a great amount of scrambling over in the government benches. They had to come up with why that deal was made for that particular board.

My school boards, throughout the entire region, felt that they were in the same category. They were in areas of low student population, had low transfer payments. They were in that same category, but when they came back to the minister to ask as to whether their transfer grants would not receive such a large reduction, they were told no, they didn't actually fit into the category. Again we look at a category that was cooked up after a deal that was made with a cabinet colleague of the Minister of Education.

I have yet a number of examples from the Kenora Board of Education, which indicated that there were going to be impacts in its classrooms. They talk about the curriculum support cut by 33%. That means that a teacher in a classroom who had a student with special needs in that classroom will no longer receive the assistance they need to help out with that student with special needs. Speech language pathology services were cut from the Kenora Board of Education. Junior kindergarten is no longer a reality for the Kenora Board of Education because of the cut in transfer payments. We keep telling this government it is responsible. The number of people who are incensed by that, that they cannot offer junior kindergarten across the province -- a very large impact.

We're talking about larger class sizes in the school system throughout the smaller communities with smaller boards. Teachers will be faced with many more students in the classroom. As a former educator, I cannot say enough about how that is going to have an effect on each and every student in that classroom.

Thank you for the opportunity to again speak in favour of the opposition resolution for today. I look forward to supporting it in the vote.


Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): Notwithstanding that this is a resolution brought to the Legislature by the Liberal Party, I feel compelled to indicate that I find myself in accord with it. We witnessed some incredible attacks on public education in this province over what will be in but a few days the course of the last year. It's impacted on an incredible range of people as well. I speak directly to the folks in Welland-Thorold, but as well to literally hundreds, and by this point probably thousands, of people I've talked to across the province.

Just the other day last week a young student from Welland High and Vocational School over on West Main Street in Welland asked me to deliver this letter to the Legislative Assembly. This young man writes to the Speaker, which I suppose is you, Speaker, and Her Majesty's royal opposition, which I suppose entails both of the opposition parties. This young man, James Bottrill Jr, writes:

"Ladies and gentlemen my family has become very interested in the proceedings of your legislation. In particular to the proposed cuts in the educational system and other public services."

This is a high school student. There was a time when high school students would have had the privilege or luxury of being preoccupied with other things rather than the sort of despair that's inherent in concern about the future of their educational system and the public institutions in their community. That in itself is something that should be of some great concern to more than a few people here, that we have young people who are being compelled to become preoccupied with maintenance of public institutions rather than being preoccupied, as one wishes they could be, with their studies, with their social life, with summer jobs, with hobbies and activities like that.

Young Mr Bottrill writes, "I've had an idea ever since Mr Harris said" -- and he quotes Mr Harris; it's a little bit of a paraphrase, but it's close enough to bang on -- "`I went through university living on baloney and macaroni.'

"Well, Mr Harris, I say to you and your party. So what. If it didn't kill you then it shouldn't kill you now.

"I propose that the Ontario legislation cut the deficit from where it began. In the Ontario legislation of Parliament. By cutting your own pay back to a $6.85" a day "without benefits. If anyone believes that they cannot live on this I suggest that they consult one of Mr Tsubouchi's employees and apply for social assistance.

"Thank you for your time."

That's from a concerned young student, James Bottrill Jr, from Welland.

It's a little bit tongue in cheek. There's something Swiftian about the content of the letter.

Mr Mike Colle (Oakwood): A modest proposal.

Mr Kormos: Quite right. But it certainly betrays the depth to which the impact of the cuts and the axing and the slashing -- basically it's vandalism. It's public vandalism of a type that the people of this province aren't going to tolerate. And it's not just a little bit of graffiti; we're talking about destroying institutions.

I've been blessed. Like more than a few people here, I'm the first generation of my family to have ever received an education beyond high school. I didn't do so well at getting a high school education, but I was blessed to receive education beyond high school. The first generation in my family -- like, I'm convinced, more than a few other people in this very chamber.

I recall my parents and their parents before them working -- working harder than any of us have ever imagined -- and sacrificing and doing without. They sacrificed and worked hard -- incredibly hard, slavishly hard -- and did without for the most modest of goals: to help build some of these institutions, some of these public bodies in our society, like health care, like a public education system so that their children and their grandchildren, unlike them, could get a high school diploma and a college degree or a university degree.

Young people are in a state of despair and fear about their futures. Their parents and grandparents are in a state of mourning, because their parents and grandparents are witnessing what they've built with such care and passion and incredible sacrifice being vandalized, destroyed, burnt to the ground by a government that received no mandate for this sort of nonsense.

What was the promise, Speaker? You know what the promise was. Don't be coy, Speaker; you can speak up. The promise was not a penny cut from classroom education, and you know it as well as anybody else in this chamber. Not a penny. Yet we've seen over 10,000 pink slips given out already in the province of Ontario, hundreds of them down in the Niagara region alone: qualified, competent, caring, compassionate, skilled professional teachers being told, "No, there's no room for you in our classrooms"; support staff to make those schools better capable of accommodating young people in the course of their education being told, "No, there's no room for you in Tory Ontario's schools or classrooms."

We've seen the abandonment of junior kindergarten, one of the most effective and important stages in an overall educational program. We've seen tuition increases -- and I know their lines. "The last government increased tuition, and that's the reality of it," but that makes the compounded increase by this government even more substantial and even more devastating: community colleges' tuitions up 15%, and in universities even more. We've seen a de-funding of community colleges and universities and high schools and elementary schools and preschools and day care centres and are being told that people should suffer an increased reliance on the charity perhaps of the local church. That's not the kind of society that our parents and grandparents worked so hard to build and sacrificed so much to invest in.

I tell you, like young James Bottrill Jr, of whom I'm exceptionally proud -- and you recall, Speaker, that there were a group of students here from the Welland-Port Colborne area just the other week wearing their pink ribbons -- pink ribbons to symbolize the pink slips. It's a style of student activism that warms my heart, that reminds me indeed of those wonderful decades following the 1950s. But I tell you, these young people are becoming increasingly concerned, to the point where they are going to respond with far more than mere letters to this government.

I encourage the public of Ontario to join with them when they join together, marching as they did in London, in Hamilton, in Kitchener, as they will shortly in Peterborough and then here in Toronto, in North Bay, Ottawa, Sudbury and Sault Ste Marie, until they bring this government down and bring this craziness to an end.


Mr Bill Grimmett (Muskoka-Georgian Bay): Like some of my colleagues, it is a privilege for me to speak today on opposition day on the resolution put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. I want to say at the outset, being the father of two boys attending school currently at the Glen Orchard public school in Muskoka, that the subject of education is one which is very close to my heart.

I have previous experience as a school trustee with the Muskoka Board of Education and I've had the opportunity through that experience to learn how things really operate in a school board situation.

I honestly think that parents and most of my constituents I've spoken with understand the need to deal realistically with the fiscal challenges we have as a provincial government. I listened very carefully today to the comments of my colleagues, both on this side and also in the opposition. Unfortunately, the leader of the third party is not here now, but I want to say that when he was challenging the sincerity of the members of the government on our assertion, that when we make reductions in the moneys paid to school boards we're not sincere in saying the reductions can be applied in administration and will not affect the classroom, I want to assure the leader of the third party and all members that I am most sincere in saying that I believe the reductions we've made in education spending can be made in administration and do not have to translate into and affect the classroom.

On the issue of junior kindergarten, I think it's important we explore that issue and talk at some length about the whole issue of junior kindergarten. During the reign of the previous government, I was a school board trustee and the issue of junior kindergarten was debated many times at our school board table. I have experienced the slings and arrows directed towards school boards by supporters of junior kindergarten, and I quite understand, I think they're very sincere, those people who support the idea of universal junior kindergarten.

But while we're being condemned for providing a local option on junior kindergarten, it's important to emphasize that during the election all our candidates -- I can speak for myself anyway. I made it very clear that we felt the decision on junior kindergarten should be made locally, and I made that knowing that the Ontario Public School Boards Association had felt and had told the provincial government that junior kindergarten should be a local option, that it isn't something that should be imposed by the provincial government.

While I can say I think the previous government was very sincere about its belief in the benefits of junior kindergarten and the need for universality in the junior kindergarten program, most boards of education thought it was very high-handed of their government to say, "You must have junior kindergarten, but if your grant structure happens to be very low, we're not going to fund junior kindergarten to the full extent." I can say that some boards went to the Ontario Public School Boards Association and said, "We should lobby the government to stop mandatory junior kindergarten because we as a board want to make decisions on how we spend the money we collect locally, and we also want to make decisions on how we spend the money we get from the province."

On the issue of junior kindergarten, I feel that we as a government, and during the election, were very clear on saying it should be a local option. That option is still there for boards to make and I know that in my own riding, in the Muskoka part of my riding, the board has agonized over the decision of junior kindergarten and they've chosen to keep it. They are well aware that it is a decision they will have to answer to the local taxpayers on, but on the issue of the reductions, the Muskoka board has had great difficulties in dealing with reducing grants from the province for years, and this year they have been able despite further reductions in grants to bring in a budget that actually lowers the local mill rate.

It's clear to me that the current debt this province has threatens the ability of the provincial government to deliver those services the public value the most. We've identified the services we feel the public have as a priority and one of those is classroom education. Currently on a per student basis Ontario spends more than any other province in Canada, and provincially the current system is in my opinion top heavy with administration.

I say that having been part of a school board, having experienced the decisions at the budget table over a four-year period. Many of the decisions that were made at that level were decisions I didn't agree with because I felt there were reductions that could be made in administration without affecting the classroom. I feel I know how school boards operate and I feel they can spend their money more efficiently while improving the quality of education we offer to students.

As we work to achieve these out-of-classroom savings, it's critical to increase local autonomy for each school and encourage greater input from parents and from the community at large. The opposition seems most disturbed by the fact that the government has introduced measures to find savings outside the classroom. We've announced measures to provide school boards with the ability to adapt administrative structures to local needs, and I firmly believe these cost reductions can be implemented.

Over the last couple of months, I've had the pleasure of holding a couple of public meetings in my riding to receive feedback on the final recommendations of the school board restructuring task force, also known as the Sweeney task force. This task force was commissioned by the NDP, headed by a former Liberal cabinet minister and has been received by our Progressive Conservative government. The report recommends that non-classroom expenditures made by school boards be limited to 40% of their total budgets. Alone, this would reduce total expenditures in Ontario by approximately $1 billion a year. Obviously the Sweeney task force believes there's room to find savings.

In March, the education minister announced the government's strategy to help school boards bring education spending under control and to achieve savings of $400 million for the 1996-97 fiscal year. Those measures include savings of $65 million from the approximately $890 million spent annually on board administration and $1.2 billion spent on custodial and maintenance services, and the boards have been requested to find savings of $16 million in 1996 from total transportation expenditures.

In my riding of Muskoka-Georgian Bay, a rural riding, there's a newly created joint education task force of the Simcoe County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, which serves Muskoka, and the Muskoka public board. They've established a list of areas where the two boards might be able to work together to reduce costs and duplication. One area highlighted for improvement by the task force is transportation. A recent Muskoka Board of Education study found that 48% of the bus routes in the district overlap with bus routes for students who don't attend public schools. Local officials have identified this situation and are trying to remedy it. Currently, the Muskoka board uses a computerized program to plan the most efficient transportation routes, and the Simcoe county Roman Catholic board recently was able to plug its information into this system with the goal of creating an integrated transportation system.

I think this is the kind of local joint initiative that all boards should consider as an area for potential savings. I know, in speaking to some of my colleagues, that other boards have moved even further in this regard to provide a joint initiative to save money on transportation.

The opposition would have ratepayers believe that government reductions will only lead to increased property taxes. In Muskoka, it didn't happen. As I indicated, with a more than $1-million reduction in provincial grants on a $50-million budget, they were able to come in with a reduction in the mill rate this year.

Muskoka is a smaller board with a significant cottage assessment. It's one of almost 30 smaller school boards across the province which will see their funding reductions capped. This cap was introduced to help those boards with less than 10,000 students deal more fairly with the reductions. When asked by a local reporter when the last time was that the Muskoka board was able to offer ratepayers a zero increase, the board's director only half-jokingly responded, "In 1812."

I wanted to comment on the suggestion by the member for Welland-Thorold that our government was guilty of public vandalism. I have to say that many of my constituents have come to me and asked, "When are the reductions going to be made in education?" There is a feeling in the land that reductions can be made in education without harming the children.

Recently I had the pleasure to join committee hearings on Bill 34 as we toured in Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay. Bill 34 introduces a number of critical measures which, among other things, provide greater autonomy at the local level. Among those are making junior kindergarten a local option and making adult education more affordable for school boards. It will provide flexibility to school boards with respect to adult education by enabling them to direct certain adult students to continuing credit courses. They'll continue to have their needs for secondary-school-level education met, but boards are being given the ability to make determinations at the community level to meet these needs in less costly ways. I believe the public supports that kind of initiative.

Bill 34 also encourages cooperative initiatives with other local boards and public agencies. School boards will be required to report annually on such efforts to improve efficiency.

For years now we've all known that fundamental changes are warranted in the area of education funding. This is a major issue in my riding, where the current system threatens the economic wellbeing of Muskoka-Georgian Bay. I've been asked many times if we are planning on revamping the assessment system in the way we finance education, because it is a particular sore point in the Muskoka part of my riding. So I'm pleased to see that our government is reviewing service delivery in the province, looking at issues such as assessment and the financing of education, and I look forward to seeing the recommendations of the Working Group on Education Finance Reform.

The size and makeup of the boards in my riding place them in a rather unique situation. While the provincial government remains committed to reducing out-of-classroom expenditures, I anticipate this will be done in a way which will not result in significant inequities for boards in unique circumstances such as the one in my riding.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It's a pleasure for me to be able to join in this debate this afternoon and to affirm our support for the current resolution.

Our party is equally concerned about the effects of Bill 34 on the way of educating the children in our schools, both at the public and elementary level and at the secondary level, but also in our colleges and universities.

We've seen a number of bills that have affected education. Bill 34 is one of them, but there are a number of other actions this government has taken, and the cumulative affect of those actions will over time, we believe, erode the education that's available to the people of Ontario.

There's been a lot of discussion this afternoon about the effect on adult education of the decisions that have been made by the current government. I was most offended when the Minister of Education made some comment that it really wasn't very healthy for adult students to have to put up with the regular school system anyway, because as we've heard this afternoon in the debate, in many jurisdictions the local boards understood that very well and had the courage and the foresight to set up schools that were dedicated to adult education, dedicated to dealing with some of the issues that school dropouts had identified.

Other boards have had the courage to set up alternate programs for other groups who have special needs. In my community, we have a native alternate school that deals particularly with the issues that aboriginal people have had within mainstream education.

We see the junior school problem being a very real problem.

One after another the Tories have stood up this afternoon and said: "We believe in local autonomy. We're letting people make their own choices." Frankly, it's like asking a hostage to make a choice with a gun to his or her head. That's the kind of choice we're talking about.

Our boards of education are made up of fine people who work very hard to try to provide the kind of education the people of their community demand. There is no question that it is hard for all of us to accept the kind of changes we need to make, but those school boards have found themselves suddenly facing very difficult choices because of the decisions that have been made by this government, decisions that most people in this province believe to be totally contrary to the promises this party made during the last election. What is more, if this party believes that the way in which they are trying to spin this story as being better for education is going to work in the long run, we believe they will be proven wrong.

Education is an investment, and as with most investments, the returns only come down the line. One of the tragedies of the kind of decision-making this government is making is that by the time they discover their mistake, a mistake that all of us on this side of the House are doing our best to point out to them now, it will be too late for many of the students in this province. Many of the young students will not have had the head start they need in order to level the playing field, to enable them to participate fully in their future education. Many adults will have lost the opportunity to retrieve the lost years that they found, and they will not be able to obtain an education within their own communities to which they're entitled, and which this government in fact requires of them. This government says it wants to end dependency on social assistance. Well, education is one of the most important factors in that, and yet at the same time that this government is constantly castigating those who are on social assistance for being lazy or unable to get work, it is taking away the very tools those people need.

What about the others who have special needs? In my community I am constantly hearing our boards of education talk about how costly it is to meet the special needs of disabled children. One of the biggest tragedies that we foresee is constant and increasing pressure within local school boards that they not provide the level of education to people who have special needs simply because it costs a little bit more than it does for a student who is fortunate enough to have no disability.

So our party will be supporting the official opposition in this resolution and we urge the government to hear our concerns.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Mike Colle): Further debate?

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to wind up this debate this afternoon. I have listened to every speaker and I have taken note of some fine arguments. I have listened to what I think are some arguments that indeed are mythological. I would like to try and address those, but I would like to first of all address what I think is occurring in Ontario today in terms of the government, and that is really what are our priorities and what are the government priorities, because that very much has a lot to say about education today.

Over the past 12 months it seems to me that what was talked about and what was said in the Common Sense Revolution brochure that the members refer to very often, the principles of accessibility, quality and excellence, in fact are more and more being pushed aside by an economic agenda. We're quite concerned about this. We're concerned about this because it's obvious that the supreme value is really economics.

In my opinion, you will have heard very often the Minister of Education and Training talk about quality, accessibility and affordability. You will note that of late the minister seldom refers to accessibility, because that's one of the things affected by the policies, and conclusively affected by the policies that are here. It has affected the abandonment of junior kindergarten, and everyone must agree that is a classroom. There's another myth: the classroom, the definition of the classroom.

What did the government do? They took the definition of the classroom and they shrunk it at both ends. They took out junior kindergarten at one end for some boards, a good many boards, and they took out for some boards, and a good many more boards, adult education at the other end and said, "Well, now, that's the classroom." It's interesting that it wasn't the classroom when we were in the election.

Also, and the member for Durham West talked about this in terms of junior kindergarten, while it would be a local option, there was no reference whatsoever in that brochure to, "And by the way, we're going to cut half the funding for it." There was no reference at all that that was there. They cut it in half and therefore provided the option for many boards, as you well know, as no option.


They also abandoned many people who were involved in or would like to continue to be part of, and in the future will not be part of, the adult education program. It's abandoned its immediate responsibilities for adequate facilities for students for this year; next year and the year after will be greatly affected.

Indeed, a crisis has been created and ironically a crisis has been created in the minister's own riding. I'm going to be attending a meeting tomorrow night because a school board in the minister's riding is concerned. They have a crisis on their hands with so many portables and they're prepared to take serious action, even to the point of asking their residents to up their property tax for education.

Remember, the government said this would be in the face of no tax cuts, but of course we know darned well that when you pass on responsibilities to other levels, you either can't deliver the service, or to deliver that service you must receive that revenue and therefore you either charge a user fee or you charge a local tax.

The government has abandoned some crucial programs, has redefined education, but effectively has eliminated the classroom for many people because it's redefined.

This is another myth I would like to deal with that continually is being addressed, and three or four members of the government party this afternoon addressed this. I don't know how often one has to say things, except I suppose that is the minister's strategy, that if you say it long enough and if you say it often enough, people will begin to believe you. You know what? Sadly, there is some merit to that argument, whether or not the argument in truth is valid or not.

For example, the minister continues to refer to outdated statistics of three years ago that Ontario is the second-highest and spends 10% more per pupil than the average of the other provinces, which amounts to $1.3 billion. Isn't it interesting that's the $1.3 billion the minister will probably take right out of education?

Unfortunately for the minister, it isn't a reality; it's a myth. We have brought this up at committee, at estimates. StatsCan data argue the case and they fly in the face of what the members on the other side and the minister continue to refer to. Ontario per pupil expenditure is sixth in Canada after the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Quebec, BC and Manitoba, and believe me, it'll get worse. Ontario's average expenditure is 2.4% above the Canadian average, not 10%. Ontario has 41% of the student population in Canada in the elementary and secondary panels and spends 42% of the money. That doesn't seem to me to be terribly out of whack.

In order to make his case, the minister compares apples with oranges. The data the minister uses is spending for federal and private schools and kindergarten expenditures that were not counted in the enrolment, some 100,000 students, thus inflating the per pupil cost allocations. The deputy minister, in estimates, agreed with that. We asked him if he would take a look at being able to have a true comparison. He said: "Yes, you're right, it really was not a justifiable comparison," and that he would go away and come back with something more comparable when we looked at those kinds of tests.

Bringing the debate over spending into today's dollars, taking into account the social contract reductions, the over $800 million which will be annualized and leave the system, in fact we'll be spending probably about $85 less than the average of the other provinces. We will have fallen well below the average of all the provinces when you say that. So there's another myth that continues to be said. Of course, I think after a while people believe what they say, even though people will provide evidence and not be able to respond.

I have to wind up shortly but I want to respond to a couple of things the minister said. He talked about grade 9 kids and that they have a grade 4 reading and writing capacity. Tests showed last November -- while I would not be totally supportive of saying that is the best we can do; I know we can always do better -- that in recent tests more than 93% of Ontario grade 9 students got passing marks in both their reading and writing skills.

When I hear comparisons made internationally on our expenditures and we don't have true comparisons, I find that an embarrassment. There is not another school system in the world that provides the opportunities for people with special needs that our educational system provides. There is not another school system in the world that provides the universality and accessibility that heretofore our educational system in Ontario has provided. That is now in jeopardy.

I underline that the minister is using that word less these days, and now I don't hear it at all: "Accessibility," remember that, because accessibility will mean more costs; those looking for an education to get off welfare now will have to remain on welfare, contrary to the indication and the stated policies of this government.

I ask the members of this House to support this motion, and in the interests of our educational system, to put it back on track to quality and accessibility.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): We are now voting on opposition day number 2, standing in the name of Mrs McLeod. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, say "aye."

All those opposed, say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members.

The division bells rang from 1757 to 1802.

The Speaker: Would members take their seats, please.

All those in favour of Mrs McLeod's motion will please rise one at a time.


Bisson, Gilles

Curling, Alvin

Martel, Shelley

Boyd, Marion

Duncan, Dwight

McGuinty, Dalton

Bradley, James J.

Gerretsen, John

McLeod, Lyn

Brown, Michael A.

Grandmaître, Bernard

Miclash, Frank

Caplan, Elinor

Gravelle, Michael

Morin, Gilles E.

Castrilli, Annamarie

Hampton, Howard

Patten, Richard

Churley, Marilyn

Hoy, Pat

Phillips, Gerry

Cleary, John C.

Kennedy, Gerard

Pupatello, Sandra

Colle, Mike

Kormos, Peter

Ramsay, David

Conway, Sean G.

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Ruprecht, Tony

Cooke, David S.

Lankin, Frances

Sergio, Mario

Cordiano, Joseph

Laughren, Floyd

Wildman, Bud

Crozier, Bruce

Marchese, Rosario

Wood, Len

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


Arnott, Ted

Galt, Doug

Ouellette, Jerry J.

Baird, John R.

Gilchrist, Steve

Palladini, Al

Barrett, Toby

Grimmett, Bill

Parker, John L.

Bassett, Isabel

Guzzo, Garry J.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Beaubien, Marcel

Hardeman, Ernie

Ross, Lillian

Boushy, Dave

Hastings, John

Runciman, Bob

Brown, Jim

Hodgson, Chris

Sampson, Rob

Carr, Gary

Hudak, Tim

Saunderson, William

Chudleigh, Ted

Jackson, Cameron

Shea, Derwyn

Clement, Tony

Johnson, Bert

Sheehan, Frank

Danford, Harry

Johnson, David

Snobelen, John

DeFaria, Carl

Johnson, Ron

Spina, Joseph

Doyle, Ed

Jordan, Leo

Sterling, Norman W.

Ecker, Janet

Kells, Morley

Stewart, R. Gary

Elliott, Brenda

Leadston, Gary L.

Stockwell, Chris

Eves, Ernie L.

Marland, Margaret

Tascona, Joseph N.

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry

Tsubouchi, David H.

Flaherty, Jim

Maves, Bart

Turnbull, David

Ford, Douglas B.

Munro, Julia

Young, Terence H.

Fox, Gary

Murdoch, Bill


Froese, Tom

O'Toole, John


Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 39; the nays are 61.

The Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

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


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Riverdale has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Minister of Environment and Energy concerning mandatory vehicle emission testing. The member has up to five minutes and the minister or parliamentary assistant will have up to five minutes to rebut.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): First of all, I'd like to thank the Minister of Environment and Energy for kindly consenting to postpone this until Thursday, but the House leader's office basically told us that we had to do it today, so here we are. I hope that she was able to get her notes. I wasn't able to get mine. So this will be a test of how good we are without our notes.

I have two late shows today. The first was specifically on my question yesterday, and I asked it again today, on why the minister is not going ahead with a mandatory vehicle emission testing program. I want to say to the minister first off that sometimes I appear to be very, very -- I suppose -- angry and hostile when I talk about the environment, and I do want to say to her that it's nothing personal. I certainly don't believe that I'm exceptional in any way in terms of my background in the environment, but before I came to this place and before I got involved in politics, I was very active in the environmental community. I find it personally very painful and very difficult to watch environmental protection that was built up over 20 years being destroyed.

I want to say to the minister that I recognize the difficulties for ministers of the environment within governments. I heard Sheila Copps on the radio the other day saying -- she is no longer of course the minister of anything, but at that time she had left the Ministry of the Environment. But I think all ministers of the environment do have some problems, especially in times in recession and difficult financial eras.

But I would say to the minister that this issue we're talking about today is something that could be done and should be done and would not cost the government a dime -- not a dime. It would be an opportunity for the government, and for you as minister to make some kind of mark as Minister of Environment and Energy, without having to spend any money because the private sector has already said they would be willing to step in and take over this program.


Minister, you said today that it was very complicated and complex and that the volunteer program that's now up and running wasn't working, was too complicated, too expensive. All of that isn't true. It was put in place so we could set something up, take a look at a model, see how it works and go from there. It is very clear that we have the private sector willing to take on this role. As I said earlier in my question to you today, many in the private sector support moving forward with a mandatory program.

I suspect the problem, which you alluded to today in your speech at the clean air summit, is that you remember knocking on doors and having people say to you -- and this government got elected on this -- "Get out of my face; we want government out of our face." I recognize that. There is a lot of that; some of it's legitimate, some isn't. But I can tell you that polls show that in the area of environmental protection and health, people very definitely want their government to protect them. There is absolutely no doubt about it.

As you know, there was all-party support for my resolution on putting together a task force to deal with carcinogens and other suspected cancer-causing chemicals in our environment. People recognize, as does your caucus, at least the ones who were here that day, that it's very important to protect people's health.

We know that smog is literally killing people in the Ottawa-Windsor-Toronto corridor and that there is a viable way to help fix it. Sure, about 50% of the smog pollution comes from across the border. We know that. But we also know that a certain percentage of it comes from vehicle emissions -- there is no doubt about that -- and people are getting sick. It's costing the health care system about $1 billion a year to deal with it.

I say to the minister that it would be a very, very good gesture for the environment and to make her mark as the Minister of Environment.

The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Thank you. Your time has expired. Minister, you have five minutes for your reply.

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I wasn't sure what questions we were going to respond to today, whether we were going to talk about Ontario Hydro or whether we were going to talk about the issue of air quality.

The issue of air quality is one that we've said from the beginning we're concerned about. I have said publicly in many speeches that in the past we spent a lot of time talking about waste management in the Ministry of Environment and Energy but that I think the two key priorities we have to work on are air quality and water quality in the province, followed closely by the issue of toxics, which you've just alluded to.

They are very serious issues. The fundamental difference we've got between our governments' points of view is that this government understands that environmental integrity and protection are very, very important but that they have to come in a balance with our economy.

With regard to the vehicle emission testing program, for instance, yes, it's true, we have a voluntary program that has been extended for six months. Your government started it and our government has followed through for six more months. We have been looking at this program trying to figure out what the lessons are that we are to learn from that voluntary program. We've been looking at equipment, we've been looking at cost, we have been looking at frequency, we've been looking at the kind of results we could get.

While it's very easy to say, "This is a great idea and we should do it," it's one thing to say it in the city of Toronto where there is a large car population and the results would be more immediately tangible, but it's another thing to consider the effect such a law or change would have throughout the province.

There are very many people who are saying, "Is this the best solution?" The issue with air is that it's not one single thing but many things working together, because you're right; more than 50% of the smog problems we have here in Ontario are not generated in the province. So we're looking at economic instruments, we're looking at emissions trading, we're looking at a number of other issues that are transboundary issues. The Canadian minister, for instance, is concerned about this and, again, is looking at transboundary, interprovincial ways to help solve the problem.

Having said that, with the issue of mandatory testing, we have been looking at it. We have not dismissed it out of hand as something we shouldn't do. What we have been trying to determine is, how can this work? It has to be affordable. It has to be customer-friendly. It has to be something that will meet the targets that we want.

The difficulty with the voluntary program that's in place now is that the equipment and the process that were established in that voluntary program are very expensive. It's not something we're prepared to take on as a government, and neither was your government. That was part of the raison d'être for establishing it the way that you did. The difficulty is that in the way it was done, it's not easily transferable to the private sector, which would be the group that would have to pick it up.

One of the things we've been trying to do is determine how to make a mandatory vehicle testing program, for instance, actually work, but it goes well beyond that. The issue is one of smog; it's not just vehicles. The fact of the matter is that even if we were to do a mandatory testing program, because of low-emission vehicles which are coming into effect -- I think the federal government anticipates the regulation to be in place by 1998 -- because of new fuel formulations -- and I believe the federal government announced on Friday it anticipates that new formulations will be regulated with national standards probably in February or March 1997, so we are beginning to see concrete changes already -- because of those kinds of things, we will immediately begin to see changes, but we're also seeing the industries come forward with on-board diagnostics. So we will see a change for those reasons in smog levels that are going to be emitted throughout the province.

The question is, do we go ahead and phase in a program which by virtue of time could eventually be phased out and may not -- and this is the worry -- be as effective as we anticipate it would be, because smog is not just something that's caused by vehicles.

I remember looking at a map not very long ago and some of the areas along Lake Huron which are beach areas have unbelievable levels of ozone. They have no urban environment there; they have no vehicles. They are breathing the air that is coming to them from other industrialized areas. Our southern neighbours produce it, certainly some cities here produce it, but it's going all across the province and it affects not only our personal health but it affects our vegetation and plant life.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Riverdale has given notice of her dissatisfaction with the answer to her question given by the Minister of Environment and Energy concerning Ontario Hydro privatization and peer review. The member for Riverdale, you have five minutes.

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): It was very interesting listening to the minister responding to my comments on the first question about vehicle emission testing. She keeps talking about how complicated it is to do all of this; it's so hard to set up a little mandatory vehicle emission testing program.

They've had a year. The plan was, after the NDP government put the voluntary system in place, to then move forward in the other mode. But what was interesting about that answer is that I'm sitting here starting to already think about the next question we're dealing with, and that is the privatization of Hydro and the safety of our nuclear plants. Think of the complications around trying to privatize something that huge and that complicated. If you want to talk about complication, I'll tell you, that's an area where the government should be slowing down.

I just find it so ironic to see the minister standing there and saying: "Gee, it's so hard to do this vehicle emission testing program. Oh, it will take forever and it's complicated and difficult." But in the meantime the government and Hydro are willing to spend lots of money to set up the commission, although it didn't talk to very many private citizens, to come back with a report which of course the public hasn't seen yet. We believe, and we haven't been told otherwise, that the government and certain people, including the chair of Hydro would like to privatize so their Bay Street friends and top manager can make more money. But a Hydro report itself said that rates would go up, and because I don't have my notes, I think around 25% to 35%. They would not release their background numbers as to why. Then they took it out of the report and it's gone. Where is it? Where are those figures? Nobody can find them any more. It was in Ontario Hydro's own report. Now they try to stay off the issue of rates.


I relate that back to the issue I'm talking about today, and that is the peer review report. That's another document that hasn't disappeared yet that the public cannot have access to. The privacy commissioner said, "I don't agree with what Hydro is saying about suppressing this report." Now the minister has decided to defend the peer review process and defend Hydro's top management instead of defending the public interest and the safety of Ontarians. What is really disturbing about this report is that it's very clear that Hydro -- they said it publicly -- doesn't want the report released because it would interfere with their privatization plans for a nuclear plant.

Minister, in my view this is shocking, totally shocking. I can't believe that you didn't say right away, "I am going to get to the bottom of this." This is very disturbing. This government has not made the decision to privatize yet. How dare they be going out there, and it's been going on for months, putting forward their view of privatization, how great it would be? You keep standing up and defending them, saying, "I don't want to interfere in their day-to-day operations." This is not day-to-day operations. This is a huge asset that's owned by the public.

Our government had the courage, the first government, to rein Hydro in, get it under control. We froze the rates. We know that competition has to come; everybody agrees with that. But it is just mind-boggling that this government has not already ruled out privatization because Hydro's own numbers show it doesn't make sense. One can only assume that it's pure ideology. You do want to help your rich friends.

Minister, I would like you to stand up and give a message to Hydro that the safety of Ontarians comes first, that you are no longer going to defend the peer review process. In this case, we know there is a report sitting there which raises serious concerns about the safety of nuclear plants in Ontario, and the public has the right to know. So I ask you today, Minister, to give me a better answer as to the peer review stuff. It just doesn't wash.

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

Hon Brenda Elliott (Minister of Environment and Energy): I would say to the member opposite the same thing I said in the House earlier today. The member complains that we have not yet found a solution for what she believe the answer to all the smog problems in the province to be, and that's a mandatory vehicle testing program, and that we haven't implemented it within one year. I say to her, she had five years to do it and did not accomplish it.

Having said that, we'll move on to the next issue, which is the issue of electricity restructuring. I would remind the member that I have never used the word "privatization." This is a word that is being used by others. When we came into government, we listened to the people of the province, who said to us very clearly, "The issue of rates is one with which your government should be concerned because the rates of Ontario Hydro, the electricity that we all need and require for this province, are in jeopardy."

We have said that we have been listening to people, so we first of all began by putting a five-year rate freeze on the average rates. The next thing we did, again in response to listening to people who said, "We have a problem here," was trying to determine what was the problem. So we've established the Macdonald commission, which has been going throughout the province listening to submissions. Over 200 people have come forward with submissions on the ways they believe we can best deal with the issue of introducing competition into the electricity industry in this province with the hope of reducing the rates.

We have said that yes, getting the rates down is important. We have said reliability is essential. We have said safety is absolutely key. We have always said those, right from the day we began to talk about this issue. The Macdonald commission understands that, and those are certainly the same comments they have been hearing from people who have come before them all across the province.

Having said all those things about the Macdonald commission and introducing the idea of competition, which will lead to lower rates -- and there are many, many ideas on how to introduce that idea of competition -- we have not yet determined as a government how we are going to go about this. The Macdonald commission, which will be reported on on Friday, will be the first step in a long consultation process on how to go forward, keeping in mind first and foremost the concerns of the people across this province.

The honourable member across the way talks about the issue of peer reviews and the issue of Ontario Hydro meeting with some companies. Yes, it's quite true. Ontario Hydro has met with companies, and they have been meeting with some companies to talk about the Bruce centre, to talk about restoration and repair. They have every right to do this. The Bruce Energy Centre has need of repair and has need of restoration, and there have been companies coming to talk to them about how to do this.

That's a completely and utterly different issue from the peer review process. The peer review process is something Ontario Hydro has been part of for many years. Both governments opposite, the NDP government and the Liberal government, supported the concept of peer review because the ministers and the government understood they are fundamental to a candid and frank discussion about the operations, about the safety, about the maintenance of nuclear facilities.

Peer review material comes to Ontario Hydro as a tool to help them understand their facilities. It is a very critical tool. That is why the peers in the industry are involved, because they understand that with confidentiality, frank discussion and open criticism are welcome and their comments and ideas will be used by the corporation to improve the facility. That's what it's all about. Those peer reviews are not for the government.

The safety of the operation of the nuclear facility is regulated by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada. That is the regulatory body that makes decisions about the safety of the nuclear operation in the province. And I can tell you -- you asked me -- safety is paramount with nuclear facilities.

I put to you that the advice given to the operator, to Ontario Hydro, through the integrity of the peer review process is fundamental in making sure they have the best advice on how best to operate those facilities, and I support that peer review process. It's not something we would receive as government; it's not meant for us. It's not meant for the Atomic Energy Control Board. Even the regulator doesn't want to see it, because they understand it would fundamentally flaw the integrity of the process.

The Acting Speaker: The motion to adjourn the House having been deemed to have been made, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 1828.