36th Parliament, 1st Session

L084 - Thu 6 Jun 1996 / Jeu 6 Jun 1996





























































The House met at 1003.




Mr Cooke moved private member's notice of motion number 20:

That in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should introduce a bill of rights for Ontario children which, in keeping with the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Canada is a signatory, the spirit of Yours, Mine and Ours: Ontario's Children and Youth 1994 report of the Premier's Council on Health, Well-being and Social Justice, and the spirit of Mike Harris's Common Sense Revolution, which promises community nutrition programs, a learning and earning and parenting program, homework assistance programs and child support enforcement, and that such a bill of rights for Ontario children should include the following principles:

(1) that every child has the right to a standard of living adequate for his or her physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development;

(2) that every child has the right to benefit from social security, including adequate social assistance where financial need exists;

(3) that every child has the right to benefit from accessible, high-quality child care services and facilities;

(4) that every child has the right to be protected from exploitation and abuse, whether physical, sexual, mental or emotional;

(5) that every disabled child has the right to enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance, and facilitate the child's active participation in the community;

(6) that every child has the right to the highest attainable standard of health and access to health care services, including the provision of adequate, nutritious food and clean drinking water;

(7) that every child has the right to participate fully in cultural and artistic life with equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activities; and

8) that every child accused of an offence has the right to be treated in a manner consistent with promoting the child's sense of dignity and worth, reinforcing the child's respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others, and taking into account the child's age, reintegration and assuming a constructive role in society.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Pursuant to standing order 96(c)(i), the honourable member has 10 minutes.

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): I think it's particularly appropriate that this resolution is being debated today in light of the information that has come out publicly with respect to young offenders at Bluewater who were then transferred to the Elgin-Middlesex centre. More will be said about that, I'm sure, in the House later today, but I think it reinforces the fact that we're talking here about young people. We're talking about rights that need to be guaranteed in law and need to be respected by all of society no matter what a young person has done to bring them in contact either with the justice system or services that are needed to assist that young person.

I want to say that the resolution I have tabled and am asking support for from the Legislature today I believe sets out objectives not only for government, although government obviously has to show the leadership, but for all of our society: business, labour, our entire community. If this objective of society's was set out, we could all work together to achieve these goals for the children of this province. It's time, in my view, that society was led by its elected leaders in the Legislature and set out these goals for our young people in the province.

I know there are some in this province who believe that government no longer has a major role to play and that every time government has gotten involved in something, it has failed. But, Mr Speaker, I want to say to you that all of us will remember that we, as a society, set out in the 1960s and the 1970s, as a goal, to eradicate senior citizen poverty in our country. By and large, that goal has been achieved because it became a priority for governments, it became a priority for individuals, it became a priority for our communities. It became a priority every time people went to the polls to vote for their governments, because that was a number one objective of everyone who lived in our country. So when government and society and communities work together, we can achieve a lot. I believe it's not only in the best interests of children but in the best interests of all of society if we begin to set this as a major goal objective and that we direct programs.

I also want to say that the purpose of such legislation and I think its major accomplishment could be that it would set a measurement by which government can be measured about how it's achieving these goals and objectives and principles if a bill of rights was passed. That's been one of the problems. I don't believe we have set out common goals and objectives of what we want to achieve to overcome some of the difficulties our children are experiencing in our province. I want to run through just a few of the actual principles that we have included in this resolution.

The first one is "that every child has a right to a standard of living adequate for his or her physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development."


For years now, we have all talked, as politicians and others in society, about the need to eradicate child poverty in our country. It's time we did something about it. I believe that with the words that have been spoken by the current federal government that if in fact provinces jumped on board, there could be a national program directed at eradicating child poverty. This is pretty fundamental to any plan that would be put in place to assist children in our country and in our province.

"That every child has a right to benefit from social security, including adequate social assistance where financial need exists."

Of course that's tied in with (1). Where there are families that require assistance through the social assistance program, then that social assistance has to be adequate to live and to avoid poverty in our province.

"That every child has the right to benefit from accessible, high-quality child care services and facilities."

Access to education is fundamental to providing a future for our kids. The Royal Commission on Learning report, For the Love of Learning, said very clearly -- it's documented -- that for every dollar invested in our young children in the early years' programs, we can avoid $7 of expenditures later.

So when we talk about access to high-quality child care services, I think this puts child care in the proper context. Child care is not just a women's issue or an economic issue, it has primarily got to be seen as a children's issue in this province. Child care is not babysitting. Child care is early childhood education. So when you combine this with junior kindergarten programs and kindergarten programs and you have access to early child care facilities and early childhood learning opportunity, I believe you've increased opportunities, you've begun to move towards equalization of opportunity in our province.

Again, in 10 minutes you don't have time to respond to everything that was said in the Royal Commission on Learning report, but if you take a look at how they've documented the need for access to these types of programs, I think it is very compelling. I would finish on this comment by saying that if you want to put this in economic terms, I'd say don't look south of the border for models of how you treat children in their early years and access to child care and early childhood education opportunities; look to some of our other competition, for example, Europe where three-year-old programs in the education system are commonplace.

It may just be important for people, especially in the Conservative Party, to understand that maybe that's why quite often in worldwide testing, where we're compared to other jurisdictions, some of our kids don't do as well as students in European jurisdictions. Maybe that's because they are given opportunities at a much younger age, and they do better in literacy and numeracy than our kids because they've been exposed to it at an earlier age. That kind of investment is not ideological; it's practical. It's absolutely practical and important if we're going to compete in the world.

"That every child has a right to be protected from exploitation and abuse, whether physical, sexual, mental or emotional."

Again, I refer to what's been in the news in the last 24 hours. Young offenders still have rights. No matter how difficult it is for all of us to accept that, the fact is, a criminal whether a young person or an adult -- but here we're talking about children -- still has rights. They have rights when they're in our custody, especially, to be able to understand that they're not going to be physically abused. I think that how the current government handles this situation in Bluewater and the Elgin-Middlesex centres over the next several weeks is going to, more than anything, define what this government believes not only about children involved in our justice system but about young people generally.

"That every disabled child has the right to enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance, and facilitate the child's active participation in the community."

Again, there are programs that have been put in place over the years and need to be expanded, need to be strengthened in our province so that we can integrate entirely children who are physically or mentally challenged into our entire society. Unfortunately, with some of the cuts that are taking place in the Ministry of Community and Social Services and some of the cuts that are taking place in the Ministry of Education and Training, we are seeing steps being taken backward, not forward. Vulnerable children, disabled children, are the most vulnerable to these cuts.

"That every child has the right to the highest attainable standard of health and access to health care services, including the provision of adequate, nutritious food and clean drinking water."

When you take a look at the waiting lists now at some of our agencies in this province, our children's mental health programs in this province, the waiting lists have always been, for the last several years, unacceptably long. They're getting longer now because of the cuts. A child needs the intervention of a social worker or a psychologist or a speech pathologist. They may be waiting six months before they even get assessed, let alone a year to get treatment.

Time doesn't permit to go into all of how I feel about the need to proceed on this, but I ask members of the Legislature to take a look at this resolution, to take a look at the principles it sets out and today pass this resolution unanimously so that we as a Legislature can say that we believe in the rights of children, we're prepared to set this as a goal of this Legislature and we think society should set it as a goal.

Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): It is a pleasure to address the House on the issue raised by the member for Windsor-Riverside. Our children are important to all of us. I would like to comment on a number of the issues that have been raised.

Given the attention our government places on Ontario's children, I would like to remind the members of this House of some of the initiatives we as a government have taken to improve the lives of children in the province of Ontario. In the short time we have been in government, we have clearly demonstrated that children are a priority.

I must point out that there are several ministries working together towards improving services for children. The Common Sense Revolution clearly outlined the Premier's commitment to implementing a community nutrition program for school-aged children. Studies have found that there is a direct link between children who go hungry, that they tend to do poorly in class, are more disruptive and suffer more health problems. With leadership from the Premier and with private sector and volunteer support, a nutrition program will be implemented at little or no cost to the taxpayer. Such a program will meet specific criteria: It will be accessible, it will be family- and community-driven and it will not compete with existing programs.

To that end, the May 7 provincial budget allocated up to $5 million this year in startup funding for the formation of a partnership with the Canadian Living Foundation for Families, to help parents and communities set up and expand local nutrition programs for elementary school children.

Raising children is a demanding job. Every Ontarian has an interest in making sure that young children start life in a healthy and secure environment. We all have a stake in their wellbeing.

By avoiding a large government bureaucracy, this partnership will ensure that the largest possible share of available funding, including donations from individuals and businesses in the community, goes directly to meeting children's needs. This $5-million commitment is a modest investment which will have big payoffs in terms of increased involvement by large corporations, small businesses and volunteers.

Our investment will ensure that communities have the tools and the support they need to get programs started and to sustain them over time without government funding.

Parents and communities will take the lead in identifying the need for child nutrition programs and in getting these programs up and running.

The government and the Canadian Living Foundation for Families will make sure communities have the support they need to develop local solutions. Volunteers will play a key role in providing the community nutrition programs.


As well, the government is working on a number of other initiatives designed to support children. For instance, the Attorney General's office is working on the family support plan. They are aiming to increase compliance and to make sure parents pay their child support. By doing so, we will improve child support and enforcement.

Some possible solutions could be the use of better technology and enhanced enforcement powers. Currently, there is over $900 million owing in arrears. We can and must do better for our children's sake.

The Ministry of Health has introduced a number of new initiatives which are going to enhance child health. We know children who receive a good start have greater opportunities and the possibility of a healthier, more productive life. To that end, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Citizenship and Culture will work collaboratively on a Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program. This represents a $10-million investment in children's health.

Another key initiative the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Education are working together on is a $10-million investment, which will double to $20 million in future years, for new speech and language services for preschool children. Speech and language disorders are the most prevalent handicapping condition for about 10% of Ontario's children. Early speech and language intervention before a child enters a school has proven results. The government is investing in young children to prevent the need for far more costly intervention later.

The Ministry of Health is also investing $4.5 million in a measles immunization program and is expanding the $6 million hepatitis B immunization. So you can see that this government's commitment is to achieving the highest standard of children's health possible.

Given all that this government is doing for children and that the government is delivering on most of the items mentioned in the member's motion, we are committed to doing even more for children and we'll certainly support the member's motion.

I believe we have demonstrated our government's dedication to children. We are taking the necessary steps to ensure children are safe, well cared for, provided with excellent health care and have the opportunity to live a useful and productive life.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I stand in support of this resolution today because:

Contrary to what you just heard, this government's agenda does not include children in a meaningful or positive way. That's why this resolution is so important.

The Premier, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Community and Social Services, the Minister of Education and any other minister who is charged with the responsibility of protecting children are not ensuring our children's future or protecting the children of tomorrow. That's why this resolution is so important.

This government believes that children's agencies shouldn't be treated any differently than any other agency in government when these same children's agencies can't meet the demand now placed on them. That's why this resolution is so important.

This government's commitment to a 30% tax cut without regard for the needs of children is so blatantly and fundamentally flawed. That's why this resolution is so important.

In the year past, the year of the child, the Ontario child has been sacrificed by a government which doesn't understand the pain children experience. That's why this resolution is so important.

We shouldn't need to be debating this type of resolution in Ontario. It should be a fundamental, automatic right of a child to be protected by government policy. Government must, without reservation, ensure that the policy and direction it takes ensure the safety and fosters the positive growth of children in every area of growth -- in their physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. Governments are charged with that responsibility. If the government was fulfilling the mandate that it's charged to fulfil by the people of Ontario, we needn't have to debate this resolution. But this isn't the case.

Sadly, when you think of the children out there, we have to ensure that this resolution is passed, and passed unanimously, because we must protect children. We must protect children because of this government's policy. If we only look at section 2 of the resolution, "that every child has the right to benefit from social security, including adequate social assistance where financial need exists," let's talk about the pain children experience.

The pain is real and the pain manifests itself in many different ways. If a child is hungry because of the welfare support to his parent being cut, that pain is real and that pain is immediate and that pain is intense.

The pain of being teased in the playground because you're not dressed like the other kids, because your parents can't afford proper clothing, that pain is real and that pain is immediate and that pain is intense.

When you're embarrassed at school because you can't afford to buy a piece of pizza on Pizza Day or you can't afford to Kris Kringle at Christmastime with the rest of your students because your parents don't have that extra few cents, that pain is real and that pain is immediate and that pain is intense.

Approximately 500,000 children have been hurt by this government's cuts to welfare -- 500,000 children hurt. The pain is real, the pain is immediate and the pain is intense.

There were 2,200 more children under 13 in families on social assistance last month than there were in August, and that pain is real and that pain is immediate and that pain is intense. There has been a 53% increase this year alone in the number of mother-led families in Metro Toronto who have had to turn to hostels for shelter. Tell me that the pain that these kids feel isn't intense, isn't immediate and isn't long-lasting. Forty per cent of the people on welfare are children. Tell me if that pain isn't immediate, if that pain isn't real and if that pain isn't intense.

Let's take a look. The member for Windsor-Riverside spent just a few moments talking about early childhood education. Let's take a look at what happens when you cut funding to the junior kindergarten program. There is no question about it, the people of Ontario clearly know that this government cut funding to junior kindergarten programs. They may say it's a local option; they've given no option. They have cut funding to junior kindergarten, and whether the death of junior kindergarten comes this year or next year, death is imminent.

Let's see what happens in the long term when you cut funding to programs like junior kindergarten. "Early childhood education programs provide the foundation upon which all later educational success is structured." Let me tell you, after being in the classroom for 30 years I know that to be a fact. "As outlined in the Royal Commission on Learning report, quality early childhood care and education has been identified as one of the four engines of change that should drive education reform:

"`Research findings and practice experience indicate that much learning takes place in the years before a child starts grade 1. We know that positive learning experiences help children to develop self-confidence and positive attitudes to learning and equip them with a strong foundation for the development of learning skills.'"

We're talking about programs that happen before grade 1. We're talking about junior kindergarten. We're talking about senior kindergarten programs.


"Quality early childhood education programs are the most practical strategy for the prevention of future problems for children in Ontario. Longitudinal research such as the Perry Preschool Project has found that children who receive quality early childhood care and education during their early years had significant higher levels of social, economic and emotional success by the age of 27. Compared with a control group, the adults from this study showed higher earnings by $2,000 per month; greater levels of home ownership; higher levels of high school graduation by 33%; lower incidence of arrests and convictions by 50%; lower incidence of dependence on social services by 50%."

Those are astounding figures and if the government would only look at these figures, they would know their agenda for early childhood education is flawed, is wrong. What you are doing is providing the pain I spoke about earlier, but you're not providing it for the short term. The pain that's going to be real, the pain that's going to be immediate, the pain that's going to be intense is also now going to be long-lasting because you haven't afforded the opportunity for children to get a proper foundation.

After being in a classroom for 30 years, I know only too well that if a child starts off with a secure and proper foundation, the child will grow in a very secure and proper way. The child will be positive towards learning, the child will experience success, the child will experience happiness and the child will experience the joy of learning, instead of the frustrations, instead of the hurt and instead of the pain that will be real, that will be intense and that will be immediate, as well as long-lasting.

I'm not happy to be able to stand up here today and have to support this type of resolution, but I know because I care for children, as I'm sure the members of both opposition parties care for children, and do you know what? Individually, I don't think there's a member on the government side who doesn't care for children. I don't believe for a second that what's happening to children in Ontario today is because any individual member of this House wants it to happen. It's because of a belief in a philosophy, in a Common Sense Revolution that makes no sense, that makes no perfect sense, that is flawed because of what the basis of the revolution is.

Fellow members of this House, our children are important. Our children are the future Ontario must build upon. Each child in Ontario is a biography. Each child will have a life story to tell. From its very early stage in that story, the story must start out on a happy note. In order to do that, children must have the security that their government will provide policies that protect them, that ensure their rights and ensure that they can grow in a strong Ontario and that they can be strong. Sadly, this is not the case; sadly, this is why I have to stand up in support of the resolution; and sadly, this is why this resolution has come forward today.

I would only hope that after this sad story is over, there will at least be unanimous consent that this resolution is important.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I rise to support the resolution brought to the House by my colleague from Windsor-Riverside in favour of a Bill of Rights for Ontario Children. We know the United Nations has Canada as a signatory to the rights of the child convention of the United Nations and this resolution certainly follows from that.

My main concern is with items (5) and (7) in the resolution. Number (5) says "that every disabled child has the right to enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance, and facilitate the child's active participation in the community."

My concern is that with the changes that are being made in the Ministry of Education and Training and the amount of money that's being taken out of education in one year, $1 billion in one year, it is going to be very difficult to provide special-needs children with the kinds of programs that are required to ensure that a disabled child will have the right to enjoy a full and decent life. Boards across the province are cutting the number of teachers' aides and special assistants in the classroom that are required to enable disabled children to be integrated into the classroom and to be able to develop to their full potential. This is very, very alarming and it's happening right across the province.

We also see that in number (7) it says "that every child has the right to participate fully in cultural and artistic life with equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activities." Again, we see with the programs that are being cut by boards to meet the spending targets that are being imposed on them by the Ministry of Education and Training that it's these very kinds of programs that are being cut first.

Board after board across the province is cutting music programs; board after board is cutting drama programs. Anything related to recreational and leisure time is seen as not being core to the program or not being central to the program that is necessary for a student to graduate, and as a result we, I think, are running the risk of severely limiting the exposure that children have to cultural and artistic life, and limiting their opportunities to determine what potential they might have for not necessarily going into those fields, but being able to appreciate them, being able to participate fully in the cultural life of their community by having some understanding of the wealth, the cultural heritage that we have coming from our own culture, our own heritage, the European heritage, the Asian, the African and so on around the world.

I commend my friend for introducing this resolution. I regret that the government apparently does not understand the need for a bill of rights in this province and I would urge that the government seriously consider the impact of the moneys that are being taken out of the education funding in this province, what effect the cancellation of junior kindergarten programs, special education programs, music, drama and other so-called non-core programs is having with regard to the convention of the United Nations, of which Canada is a signatory and which we I believe have an obligation to fulfil. It's for that reason I urge the government to consider very seriously the implementation of a Bill of Rights for Ontario Children.

Mrs Janet Ecker (Durham West): I'm very pleased to rise to speak to this motion that our colleague from Windsor-Riverside has put forward today, to talk about the importance of children and the needs of children. There are many, many parents and grandparents in this caucus who understand and appreciate the importance and understand the anxiety and joy, that combination of feelings that only parents can truly appreciate. That's why we as a government have taken so many steps to try and protect children.

Some of the critics across the way like to describe our agenda as a jobs agenda --

Mr Wildman: No, it's not a jobs agenda, it's a cutting agenda; there are no jobs.

Mrs Ecker: -- and frankly, I don't think we need to apologize for that. I know they're hooting and hollering on that, but I think even their own Premier's Council, the last government's Premier's Council on Health, Well-being and Social Justice talked about how employment is one of those indicators that helps healthy, stable families, and healthy, stable families are an important contributor to the health of children and one of the things that I think we need to be concerned about as a government and as a society.


But if a strong economy was this government's only concern, I suppose I could at least understand the honourable members' concerns across the way, although you can make an argument that a strong, healthy economy is the building block upon which we build the social programs that are so important to us. But we are doing other things for children, important things for children, and I think my colleague the member for Durham-York has mentioned some of them today.

The member for Windsor-Riverside's resolution has a list of objectives, and I'd like to just touch on a few of them because there are too many things to talk about today in the time that I have available.

First of all, he talks about the need, in point 4, "that every child has the right to be protected from exploitation and abuse." That is certainly the preamble and the objective in the Child and Family Services Act; it's to serve the best interests of the child. Under this act, all serious injuries and deaths of children receiving services are to be reported to the ministry within 24 hours. We have $360 million a year that is supporting the children's aid societies, and they have the mandate to provide services to children in need of protection under this legislation. We also have a contingency fund of $30 million to help those agencies if they have a problem or a crisis in their services.

Disabled children is another area that is mentioned in point 5 of the member for Windsor-Riverside's motion, and we have a number of special programs to help disabled children and their parents. We're protecting services for the disabled: for example, the special services at home program, which is $37 million, which helps 10,000 individuals; the handicapped children's benefits, which is a program that is helping 11,000 children across this province; and, as our government has committed to previously and we will be announcing, the special allowance and the special support that we will be putting in place for disabled people who are currently stuck on the welfare system, which is not an appropriate way to respond to their very legitimate and very, very important needs.

Another effort is the restructuring of children's services that the ministry is doing. We currently spend more than $700 million overall for children in need. One of the things I think is so important about how we are doing that is that we went out to the community, we went out to the advisory groups, and we asked: "How do we do this? What is the best way to make sure that these resources are going to front-line services to help children, where they should be?" That advice has helped us to develop a very realistic plan in children's services and also has helped us in collaboration with the other ministries that support that as well.

It's also important to note that while the federal government has the responsibility for signing treaties on behalf of the provinces, Canada is a signatory nation on the UN bill of rights for the child, and therefore Ontario is already bound by the United Nations' much more extensive bill of rights for children. In May 1995 Canada presented its report to the United Nations on the implementation of the convention in Canada. The Ontario contribution to the Canadian report was more comprehensive than any other province's. The UN issued its comment in June. They expressed no concerns with any aspect of Ontario's compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I think that's also an important point which we need to mention today.

Finally, I'd like to turn my attention to the issue of child care, which of course is something I've been very involved with over the past many months. I can understand the concerns of those in the community. I'd like to recognize that we have Kerry McCuaig from the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care over there in the Speaker's gallery. I know the concern and the anxiety there is in the sector, because the prospect of any change is very difficult for people. One of the things I've been very concerned about is the rumours and the misinformation that have gone around because of that concern and anxiety perhaps, but also because of individuals who I think should exercise perhaps a little more restraint in the rumours they repeat to people. I have had women on the phone literally in hysterics because of things they have been told.

This government was supposed to have wiped out child care in July; we didn't do it. We were supposed to have wiped out child care in November's economic statement; we didn't do it. We're supposed to be implementing some sort of taking all the fee subsidies and turning them into vouchers; we're not doing that. There were predictions that this budget was going to cut child care; it didn't happen. As a matter of fact, we increased the child care spending in this budget up to $600 million, the highest it's been in Ontario's history, and the reason we have done that is because we believe in the importance of child care support to parents. We know how difficult it is for parents who are trying to get into the workforce to make sure there is quality care for their children; we understand and appreciate that. That is one of the reasons we are working so hard to bring forward recommendations that will help children and parents in their choices.

Some parents have the ability or financial resources to choose to stay at home and raise their children in the early years of life. There are others who would like to choose to but unfortunately are not able to. There are those where child care support is an absolute necessity. It's an important building block for those who are trying to get off social assistance. It's also a very important support for many people who perhaps are in low-income jobs, and that kind of child care support can make the difference between staying in the workforce or having to go back on assistance.

We want the system to help more parents, and that's one of the objectives we are trying to do. We're looking at parental choice, we're looking at flexibility, because one of the messages we have heard from so many people in the child care field is that the system needs to be more flexible so that it can meet the needs of parents and of children out there, parents who have shift work or part-time work.

I had the privilege this morning of being at one of the Better Beginnings projects here in Toronto. They talked about how the subsidy system as it is currently designed has not been able to help those on social assistance trying to get off because it's so rigidly structured.

Those are some of the objectives and things we are trying to do to improve the system. I would love to spend many more minutes talking about some of the things we would like to do in the child care system, but I close by saying I've been very pleased with the support and encouragement I have had from members of this cabinet, from my own minister and particularly from the Premier and the Deputy Premier, who also understand and appreciate the importance of this issue for so many parents out there in the province.

I've outlined some important principles that we see. We've touched on a couple of points that have been in the member for Windsor-Riverside's resolution. I don't know why he seems to feel that when he had the opportunity in the last several years -- I understand he was a very influential member in his government -- he could have brought forward something like this at that time. Because of the principles in this that we believe in and that we support, because we are trying very hard to meet those objectives in that resolution, I am very pleased to be able to support this motion on behalf of this government.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I'm very happy to stand here today and support a colleague, who also comes from Windsor, in his motion brought forward in the House today in regard to children. As the House and those at home may know, the Ontario Liberal Party from the very beginning, immediately after June 8, 1995, selected the role of children's services critic, and I was very honoured to play that role. I feel some kind of kindred spirit with our fellow member for Windsor-Riverside, Dave Cooke, because we in our critics' role of children's services had made such a significant statement that it has led the honourable member to bring forward the bill of rights today. I thank you for carrying the torch with us on the issue of children. People at home are very grateful too that Mr Cooke finally has joined us in our battle to ensure that the war against children stops.

The best thing I heard today, towards the end of the speech of the member opposite, was that the member for Durham West would be supporting the bill. Probably the most significant item is that government members will follow the lead of the member for Durham West and support the bill brought forward today in support of children across Ontario. We thank you for that and for showing leadership on behalf of your government today.

I had the opportunity to do some significant travel with groups like the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, and we spent some time on the road. We're very happy to see Kerry McCuaig here today, again showing leadership across Ontario communities on issues like child care and what it means to the balance of Ontarians. The government was hoping it would have jobs on that agenda. The government so far is not living up to its agenda for jobs. The previous government as well had honourable intentions in the area of jobs, but all leaders understand that child care is a significant component in the area of jobs and that this government too must address the area of child care.


The member for Durham West has led some kind of investigative process -- we're not certain what that process was -- to look at the area of child care. We're glad she's here today telling us that it is a difficult topic to deal with, that critical to the discussion is funding.

In 1993 the former NDP government slashed across the board when they realized they had a spendthrift government for their first two years of office; they spent their last two clamping down. They clamped down across the board, including children's agencies. That, with me individually in Windsor, was when I started sitting up and taking notice of what the Ontario government was doing to children in Ontario, because they cut children's aid societies: They cut children's mental health agencies, since 1993, 5% one year and 5% the next year. Where was the priority for children in 1993?

I am so happy that our member for Windsor finally has seen the light and is showing some leadership in bringing forward a children's bill of rights. I am pleased on behalf of the Liberals, on behalf of my colleague the member for Sudbury, to support the bill of rights. We urge its passage today.

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It's a great pleasure to support my colleague from Windsor-Riverside in this motion today. It's very important for us to really look at the motion and understand what we are all committing ourselves to do: to speak on behalf of those who are too young, too immature to speak on their own behalf, whose voices seldom get heard and for whom we are the voice.

These sessions are supposed to be non-partisan. We haven't quite succeeded in that this morning, as is often true, and this truly should be a non-partisan issue. Studies over the years commissioned under different levels of government have shown us that the elements of poverty, abuse, neglect and exploitation are the very indicators of the inability of people in later life to be self-sufficient and live healthy and fulfilling lives within our community. That is exactly what this motion is intended to remind us of and to spur us to change.

The reality is that we have a society, and we have to understand that, over a long period of time, not the responsibility of any one government or even a series of governments, where children are exploited, abused and neglected in great numbers.

The federal study around child abuse showed us that one in four young women and one in seven young men are abused before they reach the age of maturity. This ought really to concern us a great deal because the protection of our children is extraordinarily important to us. It is really important for us to constantly keep in mind that the factors that help us to keep our children safe are the factors that help us all to live a safe and healthy lifestyle.

It is extraordinarily difficult for parents who are enmeshed in job loss and in poverty to protect their children, to give their children a sense of self-worth. My colleague from Sudbury talked about the issue of the effect on children's sense of self when they are not able to participate in events or appear similar to their friends and feel as though they are part of mainstream society.

Hundreds of children run away from home every year, almost universally as a result of issues around abuse, exploitation or neglect. They don't all come from poor families. Many of them come from families where the issue is not economic wellbeing but the health of the family and the ability of people to parent appropriately.

One issue that my colleague the member for Durham West raised was the child care issue. I find it very difficult when this member says they have not cut any child care spaces, when we all know that nearly 5,000 spaces that were provided under the Jobs Ontario Training programs have been lost. It's extremely important for us to acknowledge that 19 child care programs have closed since this government took place, 12 regions have frozen their subsidy intake and 12 community-based planning groups have lost their funding. That is a serious blow to child care.

We are waiting for the report from the member for Durham West, and we are waiting to see whether in the case of child care the issue of flexibility in fact means flexibility to take away services and take away standards, because that's what flexibility has meant in the labour legislation, it's what it's meant in the health legislation, it's what it's meant in municipal affairs and environmental planning.

So we hope that the commitment of this government, as said by the member for Durham West, is that flexibility will indeed improve the lot of children instead of erode the quality and the number of programs that are available to them. We will be waiting to see whether that is in fact true.

The member for Durham West also said that the United Nations last June had expressed no concern about Ontario's compliance with the rights of children as articulated by the United Nations. I wonder if they will say the same thing this June, because there has been a steady erosion of those basic supports to children that in fact got that successful report from the United Nations monitoring agency.

It is very important for us to understand that it is very, very swift when erosion of services begin to erode the supports for children, and that very often, because those children have no voice in the halls of power, their problems go unnoticed unless we bring them to the attention of the government of the day. It is extremely important for us to say yes, we have a Child and Family Services Act that makes provision for the protection of children; we do. In fact, under that act it is the responsibility, in part III of that act, for children's aid societies in this province to protect children from exploitation and abuse.

But all children's aid societies in this province have articulated very clearly the very great difficulty they are having in performing their task, and the need for us to rethink how to support families and children in the community. Vast amounts of money now go in that system to take children out of unsafe homes instead of to work with parents and with the community to provide the supports to keep children within their families and within their communities.

The real problem is that many of those services are not core services or mandatory services, as defined in the act. They are possible services: crisis intervention, assessment, counselling, preventive services. The kind of bringing someone in to teach parenting skills and to teach homemaking skills. Those are the kinds of programs that are not mandatory in our children's aid societies but which, in fact, may be the key to helping our families and our children to be safer and more healthy places to live.

One of the things we need to recognize is that there is a domino effect whenever a program is changed. When a family with two children loses $3,000 out of their income in a year, that has an effect on the children in that family. When the budget guide for the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto says that families need a certain amount of money in order to live, and that those families are living in Metro Toronto at $7,234 below that guide, given the cuts to social assistance, we should be alerted that down the line we are going to see problems in terms of the ability of children to be motivated at school, the ability of parents to feed their children, the ability of parents to give their children the kinds of stimulation they need in order to be fully healthy and fulfilled.

When we look at the issue of those children living at $46,654 below the average wage in Metro Toronto, we see that the gap is greater. What my friend from Sudbury said: What happens as a result of that gap is an erosion of the ability of young people to feel strong and effective within their community. What happens when you add a $2 fee for every prescription for every child in every one of these families is an inability of parents to maintain basic health for their children.


So when the government says, "We have nothing to worry about; we got a clean bill of health from the United Nations in Ontario for obeying the rights of children last June," we need to ask ourselves what we will see in the future. Every time an action by government affects the ability of families to care for their children and the ability of children to learn and to grow in a healthy, safe environment, we must ask what the overall effect of that will be on our ability to protect the rights of children.

This is an issue that really requires far more than the kind of time that we have all had this morning. It is an issue that should be joined in a very real way, not just in this Legislature but frankly in all our communities. It's a truism to say that children are our future, but it is a very real issue that unless we are protecting and nurturing, caring for our children today, they will turn into uncaring adults, they will turn into adults who are not able to be self-sufficient, adults who are not connected into their communities, adults in fact who are alienated from those who did not care for them.

This is an awful warning to us, because we know that the roots of crime, the roots of destruction in our society are alienation. One of the aspects of not fulfilling the rights of children is that we alienate our future from ourselves.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate? The member for Windsor-Riverside has two minutes.

Mr Cooke: First I want to thank the members who participated in the debate. I agree with many of the comments that have been made and the directions that even the Conservative members have reinforced. I just wish, as we were standing here today, that they were more than words and that they were being translated into programs and investments. Everybody today talked about the importance of investing in the early years, but what we see in the province right now is money being taken out both in the education system for junior kindergarten and in our child care system across the province.

We can use all the kind of language we want about reforming our child care program and talk about choice and flexibility and all the rest of it, but, as my colleague from London Centre has said, "flexibility" sounds like a good word but more often than not what it means with this government is removing flexibility from working families that want access to programs. That's exactly what'll happen with child care if we move to this program about your system program or if we take hundreds of millions of the dollars that we now invest and invest it more into home day care programs and so forth rather than investing them into the formal system that we currently have.

I think it will be an important statement today if we pass this resolution and go on record supporting this resolution, and that's why I appreciate the support that has been voiced by all parties. I want to say to my colleague from Windsor-Sandwich I appreciate her non-partisan comments throughout her speech, but I'm going to try to make a cable show out of this and I can tell her that we can sufficiently edit her comments to make them sound very supportive and I do appreciate the fact that the Liberal Party, after opposing junior kindergarten when I was Minister of Education and Training, is finally on side.


Mr Hastings moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 27, An Act to amend the Children's Law Reform Act / Projet de loi 27, Loi modifiant la Loi portant réforme du droit de l'enfance.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It's a privilege to stand in the House today to discuss the merits of Bill 27, An Act to amend the Children's Law Reform Act. The purpose of Bill 27 is to emphasize the importance of a child's relationship with his or her parents and grandparents. The amended act would require parents and other guardians with custody to refrain from unreasonably placing obstacles to personal relations between children and their grandparents.

I introduced Bill 27 because many parents and grandparents from all over Ontario have been victimized, in my estimation, by the loopholes of the current Children's Law Reform Act. Over the last two days I have presented this assembly, in the form of many petitions, over 900 signatures from Ontario citizens who support Bill 27. I understand that more petitions will be forthcoming at my office next week.

I have also received numerous calls and letters of support, not just from parents and grandparents but, surprisingly, from children. I have one letter in particular that I treasure, in a sense, because it was from a 15-year-old young lady who was separated from her grandparents when she was younger, was reunited briefly, only to be separated again by a family court when her parents petitioned that situation.

I'd like to pay tribute to all the folks who have come today to support this bill.

I have reviewed another letter from a set of grandparents who have not seen their grandchildren in over six years. Both parents in separate court decisions were deemed unsuitable to care for the children because of a history of physical and mental abuse. Rather than the court placing the children in the custody of their grandparents or other relatives, the children are now in a foster home awaiting adoption. These grandparents have been fighting for custody and access ever since, but their pleas are being ignored by the courts.

These are two stories out of hundreds that currently exist in Ontario, where the best interests of the child are not being considered.

I am not the first member to introduce this type of legislation in the House. The Attorney General of the former Liberal government, Mr Ian Scott, introduced legislation that died a quick death on the order paper. The previous NDP government introduced similar legislation, but the outcome was similar in prediction when the election was called.

The fundamental principle and message of this bill is to require provincial family court judges to consider the ongoing dynamic relationships between children and grandparents in the access and potential custody of the family. This principle strengthens the wellbeing of the child-centred decision-making in provincial family courts.

The current Children's Law Reform Act is amended by adding the following subsections.

In the first, subsection 24(2), a list of matters that a court must consider when determining the best interests of a child is amended to include a specific reference to "the importance of maintaining emotional ties between children and grandparents."

The second, subsection 24(2.1), quite unequivocally requires a court that is considering custody or access to "give effect to the principle that a child should have as much contact with each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child."

The third section that I would like to comment on is the proposed subsection 24(2.2), which requires that a court, in considering custody issues, "take into consideration each applicant's willingness to facilitate as much contact between the child and each parent and grandparent as is consistent with the best interests of the child."

May I add, this bill is fundamentally different from the legislation that was tabled in Ottawa by the Reform member of Parliament Daphne Jennings recently. Bill 27 does not eliminate the rights of children. It protects them and even advances and enriches the principle of child wellbeing as found in this legislation.


May I add that the three subsections I have pointed out in this legislation are 24(2), (2.1) and (2.2). All clearly state the phrase "the best interests of the child."

Grandparents already have the right to make custody and access applications. Bill 27 is amended to mention them specifically, simply telling the courts that in certain individual circumstances grandparents should be specifically considered as an alternative to foster care or children's aid. At the end of the day, the actions which are in the best interests of the child must remain paramount, and that's what this bill does.

Bill 27 has the support of grandparents' groups across Ontario. Groups such as GRAND, the Heritage of Children of Canada and the Canadian Grandparents' Rights Association, family lawyers such as Mr Carl Orbach and Mr Sender Herschorn in Toronto and family court assessors have endorsed Bill 27, in addition to an Etobicoke-based group called Kids Need Both Parents, and a petition that was signed by over 900 Ontario citizens calling for the passage of Bill 27.

With some of the loopholes in the existing act, children are sometimes unfortunately used as pawns in bitter custody battles between the parents. Grandparents have often never seen their grandchildren as a result of these custody battles. Because of the many ambiguous laws, I was prompted to introduce this legislation.

Let us not forget who are the real victims in this situation: It is the children. Family is family, and children deserve the right to know who their family is. Children are very good judges of character and human and family values. Such character traits are what children are best known for when they are able to grow up in a safe and secure environment.

I encourage all members in this House to support Bill 27 and help reinforce a safe and secure environment for our province's greatest investment -- our children.

Pour conclure, je crois que le principe fondamental dans ce projet de loi est la nécessité de créer de meilleures relations entre les générations et de reconnaître l'importance des liens et des racines familiales.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): I'd like to remind the people in the gallery that only the members are allowed to applaud. Further debate?

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I am happy to stand today in support of the bill that's being brought forward by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale.

At the outset, I want to say that the member has every good intention to bring forward a bill, to get support of all members of the House, all opposition members and government members, to ensure the safe passage of the bill, because the intent of the bill is a very worthy one and I think all members today who are going to be here and listening are going to see that. In fact, they're going to think it's just as worthy as previous bills that have come into the House.

The grandparents who are here today clearly are wondering why we have gone through this the number of times we have. Why have we had Bill 156? Why have we had Bill 124? Why in the past have we brought the bills forward, the whole House has passed the bills, and we're back in the House again now talking about Bill 27, which is identical to Bill 124 in 1989 and also identical to Bill 156 from 1994? Why are we here again talking about Bill 27? We all agree with its content. Why are we doing this? We have to pass it. These two were passed as well.


Mrs Pupatello: Absolutely, Mr Speaker. I'm more than happy to speak with you.

The intent of the bill is noble. It raises many of the issues that child advocates support. Our primary interest is the interests of the child. Grandparents are in the best interests of the child. The biological link is implicit in the bill. We support that. Clearly, grandparents should be acknowledged, that they can play a significant role in the healthy level of a child's development. If the courts are dealing with this matter, in many instances there's been a division within the family. The additional role model, then, of a grandparent can and should be a soothing and stabilizing force in the life of that child. Divorce rates, family breakups, separations continue to rise, and we've never needed this kind of impetus as we do today, because those rates are going up all the time. I'll be supporting the bill because of that very reason, because it signals to the government that this is important, that the Children's Law Reform Act can be improved.

I've got to be honest. This bill, like its predecessors, bills 156 and 124, likely will not come forward as legislation, and there's a very good reason for that. The Attorney General's office has not supported the bills in the past, and we have to ask ourselves why that is. Today I wanted to bring forward amendments that the Attorney General's office could support. It may not be the content of Bill 27 as it's been presented today, but we do have to make the government an offer that it can bring forward in legislation.

I would like to go through those appropriate amendments.

First, under subsection 24(2), we find the term "best interests." In that area we find further clauses (a) through (g). We would add, for example, (l). This would include the preparedness of the applicant to include relatives in the plans proposed for the care and bringing up of the child.

By adding a further subsection to section 24, the definition of "relatives" would be outlined. The definition of "relatives" found in the Child and Family Services Act, subsection 136(1), is highly appropriate. This is most important, as that definition of "relative," when used in reference to a child, means as its first definition the grandparent. We believe that part of the Child and Family Services Act, that definition where it lists grandparent as "relative," should be brought into the Children's Law Reform Act. Then you would find the word "grandparents" listed, and that is what grandparents are looking for. It does continue with great-uncle, great-aunt, uncle or aunt, whether by blood, marriage or adoption. To this we would also add siblings, because there are instances where there are older siblings in the families involved, and whether it's by virtue of death of the parents etc, those older siblings too would become important.

May I say that this improvement to the act puts the onus on the parents to outline what the continued contact with the grandparents will be. This improvement allows the grandparents inclusion in access to the grandchild without having to access the courts and being forced to pay the associated costs. There are so many instances where that has happened.

These recommended changes, as outlined here, are in keeping with legislation a government can bring forward. Bill 27, as it's presented today, is not manageable in its widest application, and it is because of this that previous bills, Bill 156 and Bill 124, have not come forward, so neither will Bill 27. We must make the government an offer that can be brought in legislation today.

The Attorney General's office is required to look at the widest application of the bill. I'd like to offer to the Attorney General -- and I know he is watching the debate with interest today -- that we feel the debate today is required. He must know that all members of the House will be supportive and that it is an important issue. Then he must look at the widest application of the bill as presented, see that like its predecessors it was not manageable, and look at what he could possibly bring forward. I feel that what we're offering as a Liberal caucus are amendments that can be brought forward. To the Attorney General I say, please look closely at the Hansard. I'll be submitting to you my speech verbatim so you can look at amendments that are plausible for government.

I believe it is a real solution and one the grandparents indeed are looking for, that (a) the best interests of the child are maintained, and (b) the interests of grandparents are enshrined in the Children's Law Reform Act where grandparents are included in cases of separation of the parents without forcing grandparents to access the courts to continue to be a beneficial and stabilizing force in the life of a child.

To the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, I trust it will pass today so that your government will move to bring forward legislation that will truly benefit grandchildren and certainly grandparents.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): In general, I support what the member is trying to do with the bill. As was pointed out earlier, under the Peterson government and under the Rae government, private members' bills did come forward basically saying the same thing this bill says. As was the case in those debates, most members of this assembly, if not all, will probably vote in favour of the general principle of the bill; that is, everybody believes a family consists not only of mother and father, those relationships, but also the grandparents as a very important factor in the raising of the child so the boy or girl is able to understand who the family is, where the family comes from, what the connections are in terms of all the other aunts and uncles and grandparents. I think that's very important, as all other members do, when it comes to the raising of children.

Unfortunately, Bill 27, I would just caution, as was pointed out earlier, is basically the same format brought forward at the time Ian Scott was the Attorney General. Ian Scott would not support the bill as Attorney General because he pointed out correctly then that there were some definite problems in how this legislation is written, that in some cases might actually add to the acrimony you find in custody battles when parents separate.

It was the same argument when Marion Boyd was the Attorney General under our government and a private member's bill came forward. I remember the discussions at caucus where members of our caucus generally supported what the individual member was trying to do, saw it as being a very important direction to take, but unfortunately the bill was not amended by the member to take into account the issues our Attorney General had raised, the same as the prior Attorney General, Ian Scott.

We're back where we were eight or nine years ago, right back to square one again. I suggest that the member take heed of the comments made by the member for Windsor-Sandwich. I'm not going to repeat them. I think she made the points fairly well about some of the amendments needed.

Take a look, for example, at subsection 1(2.1). It reads, "A person who has custody of a child shall not unreasonably place obstacles to personal relations between the child and the child's grandparents." That's fairly wide open. In some cases there may be very good reasons for protecting the child, that that is not to happen. The way this reads, it says it doesn't matter, that all grandparents will have access to the child no matter what.

There may be some cases out there -- I agree they're not the majority of cases, but there are some cases out there -- where one of the parents, or both, or the grandparents shouldn't have access. What you're doing here is setting in legislation rights and privileges for the grandparents that do not exist under the current law for the parents themselves, the estranged parent, be it the father or the mother.

I think this language is a bit wide to be using. We should say what you did under subsection (2), "in the best interests of the child." With that, the judge could look at the case and say that as in 90% of cases, probably even higher than that, there's not a big problem with the grandparents, but in the cases where there may be -- I'm reluctant to get into individual cases, but as the member for Cochrane South, I can recall at least two or three occasions where the mother of a child has come into my office to complain about the way the child was being set against her by the grandparents at the request of the estranged husband. There were games being played. The father of the children, who didn't have access for very good reasons in a case I remember -- I don't want to repeat them in this Legislature; they were horrible enough when I had to hear them -- was prodding his parents to take the child away from the mother for visitation so he could come around by the back door, as it were, to visit the child. Clearly that would not have been in the child's best interests, and when the parents and grandparents went to court to get access, the judge rightfully didn't give access to the child in that case because it wouldn't have been in the best interests.

I want to say for those people watching that the reality is that the vast majority of grandparents are caring, are nurturing, are part of the family and are very necessary for the raising of the children. In my case, in my family, the grandparents on my wife's side and my parents on my side played a very large role and still do when it comes to the raising of our children. In fact, my eldest daughter is 19 years old and probably has a stronger relationship with her grandparents than a lot of other children, and that's very important to her. I recognize this is what the member is trying to do, to make sure that every other child out there who, for whatever reason, finds themselves in a situation where the parents have separated, has access to the grandparents.

But I say again, this is really opening up the legislation to some very difficult situations that we may end up putting children in. Again, under subsection (2), in making an order respecting custody of access to a child, at least in that particular area you've covered off the "best interest" portion and I at least see that you've tried to do that.

I just will end on this note and say I will vote in favour of the legislation, but I want the member sponsoring this bill to know, that I have some very, very grave concerns as to how the legislation is written up. I think what you need to do at the very minimum is the Attorney General must get involved. The Attorney General should be talking to the former Attorney General here. Marion Boyd has a lot of experience in this particular issue, and Ian Scott I saw was in the assembly a couple of weeks ago, and talk to the people at the ministry to make sure that this bill, if it does go forward and it is passed, in the end will be for the best interests of the child and not just the way that it's written now.

I would guess that if the bill stays the way it is, it will never see third reading. There is no way that the Attorney General will allow this to get to third reading the way it is written now. On that, I thank you very much for the time to debate.

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Obviously, as the various members have pointed out, the numbers of times that this issue has been raised in the House over the years, it's been a very controversial bill. I quite frankly will be speaking against the bill.

The rule that currently exists in the province of Ontario is, what is in the best interests of the child, not what is in the best interests of the grandparents or anyone else. As the member for Windsor-Sandwich suggested, perhaps it should be opened up to other areas. It should be opened up to aunts and uncles and other members of the family who may have similar rights.

I can tell you that anyone who has been personally involved in a matrimonial battle or any solicitor who has advised and participated in family law proceedings, the battles over children and the tugs of war involving children are just dreadful, and that's just involving a man and a woman. I can tell you that with grandparents, we have two more sets of people who would be part of that tug of war, possibly in different directions. The battles will become unbelievable.

If all of you grey-haired people, of whom I am one, think back to when you were younger and realize the influence that grandparents could have in such applications, when the sole jurisdiction should be yours, you might have second thoughts. I suggest that you go back to those days, particularly the grey-haired people who are thinking of this situation.

I understand some of the examples that have been given by my friend from Etobicoke-Rexdale, although I will tell you that under the present law, the Children's Law Reform Act, any person, absolutely any person can apply for custody or access. "Any person" has been defined by the courts to include grandparents, so there are no legal obstacles to applications by grandparents. Once grandparents apply for custody or access, they are entitled to all the same considerations that a parent is entitled to. That's the law now. For example, the court would be required to consider the love, affection and emotional ties between the child and the grandparent and would be required to consider the child's views and preferences. All of those things exist in the law now, so this isn't something new that is required.

The federal Divorce Act and the legislation in other provinces do impose some barriers on applications by grandparents and other parties, but Ontario's law clearly does not impose now any obstacles with respect to grandparents' access. No matter who the applicant, the merits of the application are to be determined solely according to the best interests of the child -- and I emphasize, the best interests of the child. That is what we all should be thinking of when we're voting on this particular legislation: not the rights of grandparents, not the rights of parents, not the rights of aunts and uncles or cousins, but the best interests of the child. If there has been a relationship that has developed over the years with grandparents, the court will take that into consideration. I can assure you that is done now. I strongly believe in the system that we have now, and if a judge makes an error, there's a right of appeal if a judge has erred in not considering certain facts or the law.


There was a federal private member's bill to include grandparents' rights in the Divorce Act, and this was defeated, as I understand, in 1995. The Canadian Bar Association, the national family law section, expressed concerns about increasing grandparents' rights. Singling out grandparents for special mention is not supported by any convincing social science evidence that access to grandparents is more important to the child than access to other persons who have a significant relationship with the child, whether they be aunts and uncles, whether they be godparents, whether they be simply friends. That evidence has not been produced.

The proposed bill, I would submit, goes far beyond the current law by imposing a duty on parents of an intact family to facilitate access for grandparents. I would submit that this is a marked departure from Canadian common law principles with respect to the autonomy of families to determine the best interests of the children and would likely promote greater conflict between parents and grandparents. There is judicial evidence that grandparents have attempted to use access as a means of interfering in their own child's marriage that the grandparents disapproved of in the first place, and hence I get back to my opening comments of those terrible, terrible tugs of war where innocent children are used as a means to getting at the other parent, and indeed if the grandparents get into the picture I shudder, as some members have referred to me privately, at the quagmire that could be created in the future.

Access enforcement is one of the most integral problems in family law, and extending grandparents access rights will not help them enforce such orders.

Perhaps a few comments with respect to some of the sections. Subsection 20(2.1) would direct parents not to place unreasonable obstacles to relationships between the child and the child's grandparents. That's one of the sections that is in the bill. This would apply to intact families where there is no problem and therefore would be a marked departure from Canadian law which respects the autonomy of the family, of the parents, to determine the best interests of children while they're in their custody.

So if you believe in the family, you believe in the parents having jurisdiction over their own children, then I quite frankly don't think you should be supporting this bill. There is no precedent for such a provision. There would be much litigation to determine what was a reasonable obstacle.

Since the Children's Law Reform Act applies equally to children born in and outside marriage, this provision would apply to require a single parent to provide access to the parents of the other biological parent, even though the other parent had never lived with the child. That's a problem that I think we need to consider before we support this legislation.

I have other comments to make, but I know there are other members of my caucus who would like to speak on this legislation. I thank you very much for letting me participate in this debate.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I stand in support of this bill. This bill is a significant bill. It is extremely important in nature. When I was doing a little research on this, what was most upsetting was that this bill has been presented twice before -- 156 and 124 -- and both times it went nowhere. It may have not gone anywhere because of what the member for Dufferin-Peel says: because of the legal aspects of it. Certainly that has to be considered when passing new legislation. But, you know, it's the identical bill brought back for a third time. You would have thought that after the first time we would have learned we have to make recommendations or alterations to the bill. Certainly grandparents and parents and children would understand that after the second time we would have learned that we have to make some alterations to the bill so that we can approve this.

Here it is a third time. Let us hope that on this third occasion this bill will pass in the assembly this morning and then it will go to committee of the whole. Then it will be the job of the government to bring this bill back, taking into consideration the very, very important legal aspects that the member for Dufferin-Peel has suggested, but also making sure that the intent of the motion by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale is enshrined in law.

I want to just digress a little bit and go back to my years in the classroom to give you a few experiences in a very general way why this legislation is so important. I was speaking to a group of students from Killarney this morning from St Joseph school who were in the gallery earlier on, and at the time a grandparent came up looking for the delegation. I believe his name was Mr Hill from Scarborough. The principal of the school and I talked a little bit as he went down to find the delegation. The secure feeling he had and the excitement he had about being here today to listen to the debate -- let me tell you, after 30 years in the classroom and after planning 30 Christmas concerts and after planning 30 variety shows and after planning countless events where parents and grandparents are involved, there is nothing -- nothing -- that can be more pleasing to the eye and more gratifying to the heart than to see the beauty and the excitement of the interaction between a grandparent and a grandchild.

If you look at celebrating, for example, May 30 as Croatian Independence Day, you see dida and baba in the audience at the school concert, and that sense of security for that child is beautiful, and that sense of gratification for that grandparent is beautiful. If you're looking at the Christmas concerts and you see the mémères and pépères and the nonnos and the nonnas coming to the concerts and you see that very, very strong bond, within that bond is the feeling of security and love. Let me tell you, Mr Speaker, some children, many children, too many children, need that extra support, need that extra encouragement of being able to see grandpa and grandma at the Christmas concert, in the classroom talking to their teachers. It provides that parent's child and that grandparent's grandchild with the opportunity to feel good about themselves. That's the intent of this legislation by and large.

I think the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale wants to ensure that grandparents can take an active role in ensuring that the development of the child is total, that the development of the child is very, very positive. There's nothing wrong -- and let me differ a little bit with the member for Dufferin-Peel in that respect -- with grandparents having rights and there's nothing wrong with non-custodial parents having rights and there's nothing wrong with aunts and uncles having rights. If it's in the best interests of the child, then how and why should we get bogged down in the bureaucracy of government that doesn't allow this to happen? Surely this House and surely our lawmakers are able to come together. This shouldn't have to come back a fourth time. Surely we can present amendments to this legislation to ensure the Attorney General can accept the wording of the bill.


Isn't it sad for us to have to be worried about debating language, about debating the way words are interpreted, when their very actions, if implemented, would determine that children feel better about themselves, that children feel more secure, that children in fact feel proud of themselves because we have dido and baba, nonno and nonna, mémère and pépère in the audience, grandma and grandpa watching me, being proud that I am important not only to my fellow classmates and not only to my teacher, who tries all the time to make children feel important, but also to my grandparent whom I love and whom I worship and whom I look up to.

That person can take a very, very active role, be it in a very minor way to us, by their attendance at a Christmas concert, but let me tell you, to the child it is major; it is a significant moment of time. It is a significant opportunity for that child to say, "I am loved."

I think, simply put, the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale wants to ensure that this happens and that it happens on a continuing basis and that it happens so that the rights of grandparents are there, so that the rights of non-custodial parents are there, but more importantly, and I will use the words again from the member for Dufferin-Peel because they are important, that the best interests of the child are always the determining factor. There are going to be occasions when that isn't going to be able to happen because the best interests of children will not be served. However, they are so few and far between that we shouldn't be concerned about semantics so that we can't pass legislation a third time because we can't get the wording straight. What's wrong with the wording, "I love my grandchild"?

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm pleased to have a chance to speak very briefly to this bill and indicate the reasons why I'm going to be supporting this particular bill.

I know there are concerns and I know that some of my colleagues in my caucus have expressed some and will express some more. I have to say that I share some of the concerns that I think we've heard from all around so far in the debate, and I have to confess to not having been able to be here for most of the earlier part of the debate, but I know some of those concerns because this is not the first time this particular issue and a bill very similar to this, if not identical, has been before this place.

We certainly saw the former member for Oakwood, Mr Rizzo, introduce a bill very similar to this, I believe, in the last Parliament. It did pass, as I recall, second reading. It didn't proceed from there. I hope that if this bill does pass, and I want to indicate, as I said, my support for it, that it will get a chance to go to committee where some of the issues and concerns that people have can be addressed.

I know there are those who believe this approach puts in a particular way the emphasis on grandparents' rights as opposed to the rights of children. All of us, I hope, would be concerned primarily with what is in the best interests of children in determining questions of custody, in determining questions of access. That remains, as I read this bill, the primary focus and should remain the primary focus, while at the same time acknowledging, as this bill tries to do, that grandparents have an important role to play in a continuing relationship with children, regardless of family breakdown and marriage breakdown between the parents. That relationship should continue to be nourished and upheld where it is in the best interests of the child, that continuing to be the main criterion. Because that's an issue worth pursuing, I want to support this bill at second reading stage. I hope that if it passes it goes to committee, where we can iron out some concerns and problems people have with the way this is being approached.

Mr Carl DeFaria (Mississauga East): It is my privilege to rise in the House today to speak on the proposed legislation by my colleague the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale. The issue before us today is a very important one. Some may say that in emphasizing the importance of a child's relationship with his grandparents, as this legislation does, we are trying to interfere with the direct relationship between parents and children. Some may even say we are trying to give grandparents power or control over children that only parents may rightly have.

The role of grandparents has been predominant throughout most of history and is still in many parts of the world. Before the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, extended families performed functions that today have been taken over by other institutions such as schools, businesses and churches.

No one can deny that with the decline of the predominance of families in the lives of our children came a decay in our social fabric and an increase in crime and other social problems. Children need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging comes from contact with their grandparents and other extended family members.

From the perspective of grandparents, this bill speaks to the fundamental right to a relationship with their grandchildren. They do, after all, have a biological tie to them. There is no reason why grandparents should not be able to maintain a steady relationship with their grandchildren, especially in the case of divorce or separation of parents.

Clearly defined rules should be able to keep a check on the balance of the grandparents' relationship with their grandchildren. For example, in Quebec the law will deny grandparents access to grandchildren only when a sound reason for such denial is brought forward and proved in court. This bill proposed by the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale also restricts contact when it is not in the best interests of the child. Looking at the bill, you will see that contact is only to be allowed when it is consistent with the best interests of the child.

As someone who practised in that field, as a lawyer who practised under the previous children's welfare act who was involved with the office of the official guardian when the child representation program was introduced over a decade ago who has been on that panel representing children for at least 10 years, I tell you there are problems with the present legislation. Some people will argue that the present law is fine and should not be amended. Unfortunately, under the existing act family relationships in many instances become irrevocably severed, to the eventual detriment of the family fabric, and that is not in the best interests of the child.

In the unfortunate circumstance of separation and family breakup, there is little doubt that it is in the children's best interests to attempt to minimize the disruption in their lives. The unfortunate circumstance of separation and family breakup need not necessarily lead to a permanent disconnection of all family members involved: brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and grandparents.

I respectfully submit to all members of this House that unless a particular family member is the cause of the family breakup, I can't think of too many situations in a family breakup where I would like to see contact severed between a child and any of his or her extended family members. I think that in a family breakup children need more, not less contact with extended family members.

In my book, grandparents are at the top of the class of extended family members. That's why I support this bill, encourage all members to vote for it and allow it to go for further scrutiny to an appropriate committee such as the standing committee on administration of justice.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): One thing about this bill, as it comes forward to this House in the same form time after time, is that I don't think there's any disagreement here among us, that we have concerns around the issues of grandparents who are separated from children they love. I don't think any of us have any concerns about expressing very strongly our own belief that our children thrive and prosper better when they have a good sense of their roots and a fine relationship with their grandparents.

Those of us who live in extended families make great efforts to ensure that those connections are maintained. When we hear language such as that used by my friend from Sudbury or the last speaker, it plucks at our heartstrings. We all know how we would feel if we have or have had a good relationship with our grandparents and how it would not be in our best interests to be separated from those grandparents.

I suspect there are those in this room, and certainly many hundreds of thousands in Ontario, where that is not the case, where the dispute that arises is because the relationship is not like that. It is only where there is a dispute that we're talking about needing legal means to ensure rights.

The member from Sudbury asked why this bill keeps coming forward time after time, and the answer from anyone who has worked in the Ministry of the Attorney General or has been the minister has to say because it is unworkable, because it widens things so far that the extraordinary conflict that would arise from these competing rights that would then be set in place is enormous and would never be in the best interests of families and children, particularly subsection 1(2.1) which, as my friend from Dufferin-Peel pointed out, very clearly creates a huge quagmire into which we would simply disappear. Our legal aid resources, our court resources, our child guardian resources, all those resources could quickly become eaten up in these disputes.

If the last speaker's suggestion around there being a way people could prove in the opposite way in court that there's some impediment to that, it might work, but time after time we get this configuration of the bill, and it will be turned back again and again because it is unworkable in this form.

I join my colleagues in the Liberal Party in saying that if we really agree with this, we should work on seeing what might be possible in terms of dispute resolution, in terms of ways we can encourage, through supervised access programs and that kind of means, ways in which these disputes can resolve themselves in other ways. I would not agree with my colleague the member for Windsor-Sandwich that it would ever be appropriate to give this a means that would happen outside the court, because it is the court that has to determine what is in the best interests of children.

It is terribly tragic when, as part of a dispute between two adult individuals who have produced children, they separate the parents from their children. People here with us today have expressed that tragedy again and again. I don't think any of us are anything but sympathetic to that issue.

The problem we have is that if we inject the rights of grandparents into this picture, we have resulting complications that simply make the problem between parents and children and those parents' parents far more difficult and far more time-consuming. It is extraordinarily difficult for us. With this particular configuration of a bill, we recognize how this would draw out the currently far too lengthy custody and access cases which, I would remind people, happen only in a minority of cases. In most cases, about 85% of cases, custody and access issues can be resolved relatively amicably. But 15% of cases take up enormous amounts of our resources in terms of our courts, legal aid and enormous personal resources for families. You get into not just a two-way dispute but possibly a six-way dispute if you start multiplying the numbers, and then with this "or any other person" in this bill the complications are enormous.

I would urge the member for Etobicoke-Rexdale to accept the fact that most of us here really appreciate what he is trying to do and what his concerns are and encourage him to work with his government to come up with some way in which there can be a greater recognition for grandparents' rights within the construct of the best interests of the child, rather than merely bringing forward a bill that for very good reason has been turned away now by three different governments. That is the point here. If it were workable, if it were possible with this bill, because we all have such feeling for the needs of those who are embroiled in this kind of dispute, it would have passed before now. It simply isn't practical, and bringing the same bill forward again and again is not the answer to the problem.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): I'm pleased to rise on this bill and I want to commend my colleague from Etobicoke-Rexdale for bringing this forward.

I want to correct the record, however. Previous members have spoken about the fact that this bill has been introduced twice before. Thanks to my executive assistant. The previous Bill 201 was introduced in February 1987 by the Conservative justice critic. It spoke precisely to this issue and shows that this House has been very concerned about this issue for some time. Being new to this Legislature, I can tell you that I'm somewhat frustrated that an issue that is of such importance to so many people continues to go around in circles, as the member for Sudbury had indicated.

Surely this should not be an issue that would divide us. Surely this shouldn't be an issue that those of us in this place couldn't figure out some practical way to ensure that access and a relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren can be accommodated. That's why we're here. It's a challenge we should step up to. Whether it's this identical bill that we can make work, or whether it's a bill that is brought in by the Attorney General, something should be done to ensure that the family in this province can be strengthened, that children and grandchildren can have the kind of relationship that they deserve, that grandparents want to have with their grandchildren.

Surely family is the foundation of our society and the degree of the quality of relationship between the individual members of that family will determine the strength ultimately of our society. At a time when families are breaking up, I believe it's imperative that this Legislature take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that those family ties are strengthened and maintained.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Etobicoke-Rexdale, you have two minutes to reply.

Mr Hastings: I'd like to thank all the members of the House for their general support of the principle of this bill and to extend to them my courtesy and appreciation for their remarks.

The one thing I want to reiterate in the limited time I have is that whatever shape or form this particular bill comes back in, in terms of the principle of protecting and enhancing the importance of children in their relationships to their families, there is one clear, obvious need out there, and that is that the provincial family court system -- much as the players in it keep insisting that everything is fine and that grandparents or anybody else have access or perhaps even custody awarded, if you look at the statistics, I would suspect and know, from talking with various folks who have been involved in this particular matter, that judges usually award, 99.9999%, the custody and access of children to their parents, and it goes no further.

What is important about this particular bill is the principle that it would have provincial family court judges look at the principle of the relationship. It nowhere, in any shape or form, points out the right of grandparents in terms of having a specific legal legitimate status before the courts. What it does say is to have family court justices look at this relationship. Instead of ending up where they can award access or custody to other players in the field, they end up having them go to children's aid or to foster homes. That, to me, is not a very suitable policy alternative. That's why I have suggested this one.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We will deal first with ballot item number 33, standing in the name of Mr Cooke. If any members are opposed to a vote on this ballot item, will they please rise.

Mr Cooke has moved private member's resolution number 20. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): We'll now deal with ballot item number 34, standing in the name of Mr Hastings. If any members are opposed to voting on this ballot item, will they please rise.

Mr Hastings has moved second reading of Bill 27, An Act to amend the Children's Law Reform Act. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will please say "aye."

All those opposed will please say "nay."

In my opinion, the ayes have it.

I declare the motion carried.

Will it be referred to the committee of the whole House? It will be referred to committee of the whole.

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

The division bells rang from 1203 to 1208.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Gilles E. Morin): Mr Cooke has moved private member's notice of motion number 20. All those in favour of the motion will please rise and remain standing.


Arnott, Ted

Fox, Gary

O'Toole, John

Baird, John R.

Froese, Tom

Parker, John L.

Barrett, Toby

Galt, Doug

Pettit, Trevor

Bartolucci, Rick

Grandmaître, Bernard

Pupatello, Sandra

Bisson, Gilles

Guzzo, Garry J.

Rollins, E.J. Douglas

Boyd, Marion

Hampton, Howard

Ruprecht, Tony

Brown, Michael A.

Hastings, John

Shea, Derwyn

Castrilli, Annamarie

Jordan, Leo

Silipo, Tony

Churley, Marilyn

Kennedy, Gerard

Smith, Bruce

Cooke, David S.

Klees, Frank

Stockwell, Chris

Cordiano, Joseph

Lalonde, Jean-Marc

Turnbull, David

DeFaria, Carl

Lankin, Frances

Wettlaufer, Wayne

Doyle, Ed

Laughren, Floyd

Wildman, Bud

Ecker, Janet

Marchese, Rosario

Wood, Bob

Fisher, Barbara

Martiniuk, Gerry


Ford, Douglas B.

Munro, Julia


The Acting Speaker: All those opposed to Mr Cooke's resolution will please rise and remain standing until your names are called.


Carroll, Jack

Johns, Helen

Sheehan, Frank

Hudak, Tim

Maves, Bart

Tilson, David

Clerk of the House (Mr Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 46; the nays are 6.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

All matters relating to private members' business having been debated, I will now leave the chair and the House will resume at 1:30 of the clock.

The House recessed from 1212 to 1333.



Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): I want to use this opportunity to make a final plea to the Attorney General to keep open the regional family support plan offices across the province, including the one in Thunder Bay.

I am willing to accept that the minister is sincere in his desire to have a more efficient system put in place that will return more money to the children, who need and deserve it, but he needs to recognize that his recent statements in the House about beefing up the number of enforcement officers and having more staff who can directly deal with clients can only be accomplished by using the regional support staff and giving them the resources to do the job.

The minister acknowledges that the 1-800 line presently in place does not work. People simply cannot get through. Putting a few more people on the line will not make the necessary difference. However, if these tools were given to the regional offices, compliance would dramatically increase. The minister's decision to criticize the operation of the regional offices as a way of justifying a centralization of the system is unfair, inaccurate and an unwarranted attack on remarkably dedicated people.

The facts are clear. Though there has been no increase in staff over the past four years, net receipts have risen from $166 million in 1991-92 to $420 million in 1995-96, an increase of over 250%.

The system can improve, Minister, if you recognize that it is the regional offices and their staff that are the key to increasing compliance. By moving to a centralized 1-800 number you are simply dooming the system to failure.


Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): As we sit here today there are 30 workers sitting in at the Ontario Ministry of Labour in protest over this government's labour agenda, in particular its health and safety agenda.

Workers and their unions in this province have watched this government dismantle health and safety laws, dismantle health and safety agencies and attack the labour movement under Bill 7. Now we see them attacking under Bill 49, where they misled the leadership of the labour movement, telling them there was nothing to worry about in Bill 49.

We see protests happening in London, Hamilton and Kitchener. They will continue in Peterborough, Toronto and throughout the entire mandate of this government, because contrary to what this government may think, workers and their unions and those who fight for rights of injured workers are not going to stand back and allow this government to continue to dismantle everything that means something to workers in terms of their rights, in particular, health and safety as it affects the workplace.

When we saw Bill 49 come forward with a devastating attack on the basic standards of employment known as the workers' bill of rights, we knew clearly that Bill 7 and Bill 26 were not abberations. That's the way this government operates. The only thing the labour movement has left to do is to fight back, and fight back they will.

That's why those workers are occupying that office today in the Ministry of Labour. That's why hundreds of auto workers marched in support of what they're doing from the CAW political action convention down at the Sheraton Centre. I assure this government that you will see more and more demonstrations of fighting back because the labour movement is not going to stand back and allow you to dismantle all the rights that workers have gained over the decades.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): On this 52nd anniversary of D-Day, I would like to recognize and honour the sacrifices made in the fight for our freedom.

June 6 marks one of the most momentous 24 hours of the 20th century. Canadian ships and landing craft manned by about 10,000 members of the Royal Canadian Navy carried or escorted the 14,000 assault troops who landed on Juno Beach. The aircraft, numbering 10,000, formed a stream more than 100 miles long. Canada played a very critical role. Our fighting brigades in Normandy had an incredible casualty toll of 18,000 killed.

Veterans embody certain values that are rarely seen today. Duty, responsibility, respect and pride were qualities exhibited selflessly and with honour. They were prepared to give their lives for the common good so that others would be free -- free from darkness and oppression.

I feel it is important, as we reflect on this significant day in our history, to not forget the pain and suffering of the mothers, wives, children and girlfriends of the men who died. I ask all Ontarians and Canadians today to remember these sacrifices, to remember the inhumanity of the conflict, to remember the courage of both civilians and soldiers, to remember the brightness of their souls and to remember that from the darkness in which they were immersed came our light.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): Here is another example of the Minister of Health Americanizing Ontario health care by trying to micromanage Ontario's health care. He's putting costs ahead of appropriate care. The Ministry of Health is starting to look like just another US insurance company.

I'm referring to the Ministry of Health refusing to allow the doctors, the experts who treat people with HIV and AIDS, to prescribe the drugs they feel are necessary for their patients to survive. The Ministry of Health, not patients and their physicians, is taking over the role of medication prescribing.

The treatment of HIV and AIDS is a very difficult job and the Ministry of Health, instead of helping doctors, is making it more difficult. Medical technology is changing rapidly and new drugs and treatments for HIV and AIDS are being discovered, thank goodness. By freezing the list and requiring section 8 applications for everything under the Ontario Drug Benefit Act, you are making it extremely difficult for patients to receive the drugs they need in a timely manner to be treated for this deadly disease.

I would say to the Minister of Health, please listen to the experts. Listen to the people who provide the care. Don't let your ministry for economic reasons decide who should get what treatment and when. People living with HIV and AIDS have difficult enough lives. Don't make it more difficult for them, Minister. Change your policy and help these people.


Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): For many years, the people of northern Ontario have understood the important role government can play when it comes to economic development, not only in northern Ontario but across the province of Ontario.

We have seen in northern Ontario under the previous NDP government record levels of investment in regard to the softwood industry, with the construction of brand-new mills in places like Timmins and all over northern Ontario, amounting to seven or eight brand-new mills being built in the northeastern and northwestern parts of the province over a period of about a year and a half to two years, dating back to 1993.

All this was possible because the government of the day understood that government can play a positive role when it comes to economic development. Government itself is not the one that brings the capital, but government can be the catalyst in making sure that capital comes to places like Timmins and goes to places like Kapuskasing or Sault Ste Marie.

I'm sorry to say that a lot of that activity we've seen under the NDP government that got started under the hardwood initiative and others is now basically going for naught. Once those projects are built and the construction is done, we're not seeing any new projects being announced anywhere in northern Ontario when it comes to the private sector investing hard-earned, needed dollars into northern Ontario in developing our economy.

I say to this government that you have a responsibility. You have a responsibility as a government that speaks for all Ontarians, including northerners, to play your role and take your responsibility in making sure you work with us, the people of northern Ontario, to develop our economy, and we want you at the table. To say you'll leave it strictly to market forces and government to withdraw from this is totally wrong and ludicrous.



Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): It's with great pleasure that I rise to address the House today. Typically, Oshawa is known as the Motor City or the City that Motivates Canada. But in today's reference, the motor city is known for something else to the thousands of registrants who will converge on Oshawa for the Oshawa and District Dart League's 17th Annual Motor City Open Darts Tournament.

From Friday to Sunday this weekend, Oshawa hosts Canada's largest dart tournament at the Donavan Sports Complex and we welcome players from all over Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, many of the US states and as far away as England.

I would like to also add that it was two years ago in England that an Oshawa native by the name of John Part took the world darting title away from the English for the first time in history.

This tournament is not only a boost to the economy of the city of Oshawa, but it puts Oshawa in the forefront as being a host city that goes above and beyond the call to make guests welcome. I invite all members and all Ontarians to attend Canada's largest annual dart tournament this weekend in the City that Motivates Canada -- Oshawa.


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Democracy was not well served, the public interest was not well served, and healthy business competition was not well served this past week with the announcement that Conrad Black would be obtaining control of 58 of 104 daily newspapers in Canada, many of them in Ontario.

Perhaps John Miller of the school of journalism at Ryerson University described the events best when he said:

"The month of May has turned the Canadian newspaper industry upside down: Owners have dealt hundred-year-old papers like playing cards. Publishers and editors have been fired. And cost-cutting is threatening the existence of one of our most important national news institutions, the Canadian press.

"When the dust cleared, one man, Conrad Black, controlled more daily papers than any person in this country's history. And it happened almost before we knew it, because newspaper ownership in Canada has become so concentrated -- some would say saturated -- that all of the 34 properties he bought changed hands privately in boardrooms without the bother of competitive bidding and with no possibility the new owners will be people who actually live in the communities being served."

Employees of the newspapers that have been affected by Hollinger have received their pink slips, the firing notices have been issued, and good newspaper employees are now out on the street. Ultimately, the reading public will be the losers as increased profit becomes the main focus of the operation of the majority of this nation's newspapers.


Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I'm pleased to rise today to pay tribute to radio station CHIN as it celebrates 30 years of broadcasting. It was indeed 30 years ago today, on June 6, 1966, that CHIN Radio first began broadcasting to the diverse cultural communities of southern Ontario.

Today, that broadcast capacity has grown to include programs in over 30 different languages. Of course, one cannot speak about radio station CHIN without speaking and focusing on its founder and current president, Johnny Lombardi. It was Johnny Lombardi who began radio station CHIN and it is he who at 80 years young continues to be the driving force behind this radio station, which has since expanded its activities to also include programming in television.

Mr Lombardi's contribution has been recognized in a number of ways, including having received the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, the Order of the Official Knight of the Republic of Italy, as well as the Order of Merit by the National Congress of Italian Canadians, Toronto district. But above all of those and many other awards that Johnny has been awarded is the recognition that in fact what he has stood for and what he represents through radio station CHIN is the expression of many ethnocultural communities that have grown over the years to contribute to the life of this province and through radio station CHIN he has provided an avenue for that expression to be heard throughout the province.


Mr Tim Hudak (Niagara South): I am pleased to rise in the House today as the member for Niagara South to welcome the Fort Erie Progressive Conservative Association of Women to Queen's Park. Regardless of party affiliation, the members in this House are indebted to the hardworking volunteers who support us, not just during election campaigns, but throughout our mandate in our efforts to represent our constituents.

I believe I am particularly fortunate to have the Fort Erie PC women's association actively supporting my endeavours in Niagara South.

The association was founded in 1939 and is currently the oldest continuing women's PC association in the province of Ontario. A few of the current members are charter members of the association, proudly dedicating a lifetime to their good causes. These women represent trailblazers in women's political activism in Niagara and consequently have attracted many other strong women to their association, continuing the tradition of activism, political discourse and tireless community work.

It was about a year ago today that they were pounding the pavement, hammering in signs, working the phones and computers and devising strategy, dedicating countless hours to advance the principles held firmly in their hearts and minds.

Nearly a year to the day, it brings me great pleasure to welcome the Progressive Conservative Association of Women to Queen's Park, the shining city at the end of a long road.



Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): I am rising today to provide members of the Legislature with information about the allegations that have been raised about the treatment of young offenders at the Bluewater Youth Centre in the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.

On the afternoon of February 29, 1996, there was an incident at the Bluewater Youth Centre, and 52 youths were transferred at 10 pm to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre and the Niagara Regional Centre.

At the request of my ministry, the office of child and family service advocacy launched an investigation on March 1. The child advocate interviewed all 52 youths involved in the February 29th incident and submitted her report to the ministry on March 9, 1996.

On March 1, a team of four police from the Ontario Provincial Police, west region, also interviewed the youths at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. Nineteen youths have subsequently been charged.

That same day, an internal ministry investigation was also launched. This investigation has not been completed, although I have been informed that a report will be completed by the end of June.

On May 31, 1996, the office of the Deputy Minister of Correctional Services received a second and separate report from the child advocate that covered the management of the young offenders following their transfer and admission to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.

After reviewing the report, the correctional services division contacted the London Regional Police Service on May 31. That service has now launched its investigation and Chief Fantino has assigned a team of investigators to this matter.

As well, in order to reassure the families of young offenders, I have asked that the eight young offenders currently in the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre be transferred to the Sprucedale facility until this matter is resolved.

Upon the conclusion and receipt of the report of the internal investigation and the conclusion of the London police investigation, I will consider taking further action to deal with any unresolved issues.

Correctional employees are held to a high standard in their behaviour towards offenders in custody. There can be no excuse or tolerance for the use of force beyond that which is necessary to refrain offenders from injuring themselves.

I am, as I am sure members of the Legislature are, concerned about the matters raised by the child advocate, and we have taken a number of steps to ensure the safety of the young offenders who are in custody under the Ministry of Correctional Services.


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Later today I will be introducing a bill entitled the Tax Credits and Economic Stimulation Act, 1996. This bill implements further key measures of the 1996 budget to restore confidence, create jobs and spur economic growth in Ontario.

Our college and university students are among the greatest strengths of our future economy. We must ensure that they have enhanced employment opportunities to lead productive and independent lives. This bill implements the cooperative education tax credit which I announced in the budget. This refundable tax credit will provide employers with a tax saving equal to 10% of the cost of hiring a student who is participating in a recognized co-op program at an Ontario college or university, up to a maximum of $1,000 per student.

This legislation will also assist Ontario's film and television industry. This province has become one of the major film production centres in North America, creating skilled jobs for many Ontarians. To ensure that we remain a competitive player in this important industry, this bill implements our budget commitment to provide a film and television tax credit that harmonizes with the federal tax credit introduced last year and targets the benefits to Ontarians.


A large share of Ontario's new jobs have come from new and growing businesses. These businesses need sources of capital from investors who believe in their potential and who are prepared to maintain investments until the potential is fully realized. This bill will implement our commitment to ensure that capital raised by labour-sponsored investment funds is made available to Ontario entrepreneurs and especially to emerging small businesses that are not yet big enough to raise capital in more traditional ways.

There is a new confidence in the province of Ontario. All four credit rating agencies have confirmed Ontario's long-term debt ratings. Yesterday, Dominion Bond Rating Service upgraded Ontario's short-term rating. This is the first time in eight years that Ontario's rating has been upgraded.

Ontario's resale housing market in May reflected the best May sales since 1986. In the first five months, home resales were up 55% compared to the same period last year.

One year ago, the people of Ontario indicated they wanted a new direction for the province of Ontario. The measures in this bill are part of turning the corner to a better future and prosperity for all Ontarians.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I stand in my place today speaking on behalf of the Liberal caucus and I'm sure I express for all members in this House our disappointment and sadness at the events that took place in the Bluewater correctional facility and later on at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.

In a society such as we have in Ontario in the year 1996 we find it very difficult that incidents such as this go on in our criminal justice system. Like the minister has said, we ask all those involved in the criminal justice system to have the very highest standards in regard to the upholding of justice and how we treat everybody in the system. It's doubly disappointing and saddening when it's our youth who are involved.

As the minister knows, we have in this country a Young Offenders Act that says to young people: "We are going to treat you differently. We're going to treat you in a special manner because we think you have another opportunity to correct your ways before you maybe go on to a path of criminal activity." For this sort of action to happen, especially to our youth offenders, is very troubling.

I have to ask why the minister has chosen today to make this statement on an incident that happened in February. There are allegations that have been made over the last few months, and it's unfortunate that because of a CBC news story and a subsequent article in the Toronto Star in today's edition the minister now finds it timely to make this statement in the House.

The young offenders involved and the parents of those young offenders and all of us who have a great concern in the criminal justice system should have been notified by you sooner. Also, in the same manner, why have you decided only today to remove the eight young offenders from that detention centre and not earlier, when you knew and had these reports weeks ago?

There's much to be learned from this, and all of us are going to be going over Judy Finlay's report. She raises many issues that are of great concern -- the use of excessive force, the use of verbal, emotional and physical intimidation and isolation, and the strip searches that went on. We're very concerned about that. In the end, we hope the ministry and the minister will ensure he will put practices in place so that an incident like this will never happen again.


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'll respond to the Minister of Finance's statement. The first program he outlined for us has to do with young people. This program they're announcing involves 5,000 young people in a co-op program. The challenge all of us face is that our young people are facing enormous problems right now. All of the young people who are going back to university and college are facing huge increases in tuition. Many are deciding they can't afford it. They can't afford even to borrow the money because of their fear of the enormous debt. The program announced today affects 5,000 young people in the co-op program, but the problems we face are much larger. We see that youth unemployment continues to be unacceptable, the real unemployment rate among our young people running around 30%. We see that they continue to lose jobs. We see that they continue to have unemployment rates which are totally unacceptable and continuing to rise.

The programs on film development: Clearly that is a growth industry, one that we all want to encourage. It is a unique industry that I think is a terrific industry for Ontario and will support clearly things that help develop that.

On the labour-sponsored venture capital corporations, there are some moves here which I think will encourage and speed up the investment by the labour-sponsored venture capital corporations, which we welcome.

I would just say on the credit ratings that in 1990, the last year of the Liberal government, Ontario had the top credit rating by all four credit rating agencies. All four had Ontario at the highest rate. So we are waiting for the government's programs to restore us to that level. I will say that I think all of the credit rating agencies have indicated their concern that the promised 30% tax cut puts at risk Ontario's opportunity to get back to that highest credit rating for the province. So the true measure of this government will come in the years ahead when what we regard as a fiscally irresponsible program is finally fully implemented.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): In response to the finance minister's statement today, may I indicate that the three specific initiatives that he says will be contained in the bill are ones that our caucus in principle does not have a concern with, and we will wait to see the specific language that's contained in the legislation and respond in detail at that point in time.

But I am concerned that the minister puts it forward and purports it to be part of a major turning point in the province of Ontario. One, I don't think the changes are of that magnitude of import, but more importantly, he couches this in language that we're at a turning point and that confidence is being restored to the province of Ontario. Confidence by whom?

I would say to the minister that perhaps the large corporations and others who have seen themselves insulated from the effects of the recession of the last number of years, who continue to make profits, who will now see greater profits, feel a sense of confidence, or the shareholders who are seeing companies continue to downsize in major ways and to see the bottom line improve for them perhaps have a sense of confidence.

But let me tell you that working families don't have a sense of confidence. Public sector workers who are looking at potential layoffs don't have a sense of confidence. The youth of today who were hoping that the promise of the Tory government for 725,000 jobs was a real promise don't have a sense of confidence.

So I'm not sure who you're talking about, Minister, and particularly that you would make that kind of statement in light of the recent reports we've seen, like the study that was released by the University of Toronto's Institute for Policy Analysis, which shows that when you take the full impact of the cuts you're making in order to finance the tax cut, which is primarily going to benefit the wealthy in this province, you're going to cause a loss of 172,000 jobs that would otherwise have been created in this economy. The fiscal drag because of the billions of dollars you're taking out of public sector spending more than offsets in a negative way any stimulus that comes from that tax cut.

The Premier has on many occasions said that he believes their plan will produce jobs. He has no basis for that, no studies that show that, no independent confirmation. He said again over the course of the last months, and I quote, "We're on track for over 725,000 jobs, and by the time we go back to the people, we will exceed it."

Let me tell you, the study released last week clearly shows that the Tories' job promise is out the window. There is nothing left of substance or credibility in that promise. This study really confirms that the Mike Harris revolution has very little to do with common sense.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): The statement of the Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services is clearly an effort to try and fend off the criticism that his ministry has received since this story broke some time yesterday. I appreciate that the minister is attempting to reassure not only this Legislature and the general population in the province of Ontario but also the youthful offenders and their families that the ministry has behaved in an appropriate manner, given the allegations that have been made.

I think, Minister, you will find that the comments you have made are not going to indeed reassure anyone, because there are major inconsistencies even between this statement that you've released here today and other reports that have been made: inconsistencies in the dates of information, inconsistencies around when the ministry knew and what actions the ministry took.

So I would say to the minister that this effort to try and stave off criticism won't work and he will expect to hear more about these issues in the days to come.




Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): My question is to the Minister of Health. I'm worried about pregnant women, particularly women who are considered high-risk. I'm worried they're not going to be able to get the expert obstetrical care they need in this province. You continue to deny the fact that we're facing an obstetrical crisis, but you cannot go on denying this forever. Will you admit to the people of the province that you did not take the advice you were offered by the College of Physicians and Surgeons and others who warned you where your bad policy decisions would lead us? Will you admit that you're responsible for this situation and tell the people of this province, tell the women of this province, what you're going to do about it?

Hon Jim Wilson (Minister of Health): I'd reiterate to the honourable member that we don't have a crisis at this point. The doctors themselves say there's six months' lead time. In four editorials today which somewhat support the position we've taken I think we're all reminded, as I said yesterday in the House, that the best thing that can be done at this point is to turn our energies on the core problem, which is the malpractice insurance fund. We all should be working together to ensure that we get the answers and the accountability from that fund the taxpayers and the doctors in this province deserve.

Mrs Caplan: It's about your accountability to the women of this province, to the high-risk women who need obstetrical care. Your rhetoric does absolutely nothing for those women who are now pregnant and who are being refused treatment, being refused obstetrical care they need. You have to get your head out of the sand and you have to fix this problem you created.

Unlike you, I know the critical and important, essential function obstetricians play in this province. My new grandson is three weeks old and is he just wonderful. But part of the reason he arrived safely is the expert care my daughter-in-law received from her doctors. You see, my daughter-in-law's pregnancy was classified as high-risk. She didn't start seeing someone six or eight months after she found out she was pregnant; she needed that care almost from the day she found out she was pregnant. It was the expertise of those obstetricians who helped with the safe arrival of my grandson.

Obstetricians provide essential care for high-risk pregnancies. The expertise of obstetricians is also needed by general practitioners, family doctors and midwives. Obstetricians are the backup and support. Are you going to ensure that high-risk pregnant women receive the expert care they need here in Ontario?

Hon Mr Wilson: Yes, and I've said that consistently in this House and when asked about this issue. May I congratulate the honourable member for the birth of her grandchild. I'm happy for you and for your daughter-in-law. As in the case of your daughter-in-law, where the obstetrician obviously provided very good service, I expect that obstetricians in this province will fully live up to their obligations to their current patients and future patients in the province and will continue to provide the very good care they provide in their profession.

Mrs Caplan: Your assumption is incorrect. We know you are already talking about sending women to the United States to deliver. It is absolutely unbelievable that you would stand in this House and give that answer, because women are beginning to feel the effects of your irresponsible policies and actions. In Sudbury alone four women in the past two days have been turned away by obstetricians. It is estimated that up to 26,000 women will be turned away and not be able to receive care. That's the result of the survey from the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

You cannot deny that there is this crisis. Tell the women of this province once and for all that they will not be sent to the United States, that their children will not be American citizens and that you are going to ensure they will receive the obstetrical care Ontario has been famous for and proud of. Stand in your place and assure the women of this province that they're going to get the care they need here and tell them how you're going to do it.

Hon Mr Wilson: In terms of a solution to the concerns of the obstetricians, we have fully responded to that. I'm confident that as more obstetricians in our towns and cities actually hear of the government's offer, they'll be pleased with the offer and perhaps we will then see a positive response from many of them, because it is a very generous offer.

I'm pleased to once again assure the honourable member -- I would be very pleased if she would provide me with the names of the four women who were denied obstetrical care, and consistent with this government's commitment we will ensure they receive obstetrical care. To hear they're not getting service sure flies in the face of one of the Sudbury doctors in the paper of two days ago where he assured the good people of Sudbury in this province that that would not happen, that they would not abandon the women of this province. If there are individual cases, we want to hear those and we will take appropriate action.


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): My question is for the Minister of Finance. I'd like to pursue with the Minister of Finance and revenue my discussions yesterday in question period with his colleague the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism on the subject of Quebec-Ontario relations along the commercial frontier of the Ottawa River Valley.

Minister, are you aware that Quebec-based businesses are able to compete very effectively in eastern and northeastern Ontario, in part because they can manipulate the Ontario retail tax system that effectively allows Quebec-based businesses to use Ontario purchased building materials for Ontario construction projects without paying any Ontario provincial sales taxes? Are you aware that this manipulation is going on to the disadvantage of the Ontario treasury, where I estimate millions of dollars are being lost on an annual basis, and more importantly, to the expressed disadvantage of Ontario businesses and working men and women trying to compete on this uneven playing field?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I presume this is not a new problem with respect to the relationship between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Yes, I am concerned about the issue the honourable member raises. I would be happy to look into the matter further and to take it up directly with representatives from the province of Quebec.

Mr Conway: The Minister of Finance is a member of the Legislature who represents constituents in communities like Mattawa who live and work on this commercial frontier. He will know, and if he doesn't he can talk to my colleagues Mr Lalonde from Prescott-Russell, Mr Morin from Gloucester, myself from Renfrew county and I'm sure my colleague the member for Lanark-Renfrew, because small businesses in our part of eastern and northeastern Ontario are telling us that they are encountering far more interest and far more oversight from Quebec government revenue officials checking their books than they ever encounter from Ontario revenue officials checking their books.

Will you, as you check into this, ascertain why it is that Quebec revenue officials seem to be much more vigilant in checking the books of Ontario businesses than Ontario revenue officials are, again in the interest of providing a level playing field? People in Mattawa, Pembroke, Rockland, Hawkesbury, Timmins and Kirkland Lake find it passing strange that they are losing Ontario business to Quebec competitors who are able to effectively underbid Ontario businesses for work in Ontario because these Quebec businesses can avoid paying Ontario retail sales tax on building materials purchased in Ontario for work to be done in Ontario.

Hon Mr Eves: As the member will also be aware, last week the Premier of Ontario met with the Premier of Quebec. I understand there were some discussions with respect to the construction industry in general and trade between those two provinces. I would be more than happy to look into the suggestion the honourable member's just made.


Mr Conway: Let me say again what I said to your colleague the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism yesterday. I've been around here for 21 years and I appreciate the diplomatic efforts of finance ministers and prime ministers and economic development ministers over two decades, but I have come to believe that diplomatic efforts alone are not going to solve the problem that working men and women in Mattawa and Pembroke and Rockland and Hawkesbury and North Bay and Kirkland Lake, among other communities, continue to face.

Will the minister accept this rule for this ongoing tension along the commercial frontier that is the Ottawa River Valley: that the Ontario practice will be whatever the Quebec practice is, that we will offer a perfect reciprocity and we will let Quebec City decide where the bar comes to rest, that whether it's on tax policy or on procurement policy or on regulatory policy or on labour mobility policy, whatever the rules in Quebec are, particularly as they are applied to Ontarians, Ontario will reciprocate with precisely the same policy and the same application?

Hon Mr Eves: To the honourable member, I think we should undoubtedly be working towards true reciprocity in trade, as he points out, among all provinces, especially with respect to the two largest provinces in the centre of Canada, being Quebec and Ontario, of course. I can assure you that this government will do whatever it takes to make sure Ontarians are treated fairly and equitably in this regard.


Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): My question is to the Solicitor General. Before I begin, I want to assure the minister that I'm not going to draw him into areas that might bring him into conflict with the police investigation. I know how serious that is.

We all know -- it was widely reported -- that there was a riot at the Bluewater Youth Centre in Goderich on February 29. Following that, a number of the youths who were alleged to have been involved in that were transferred to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, where it's been widely reported again that they were met with a line of 12 guards who were holding batons, they were beaten and humiliated, and a number of other things occurred. In fact, our office has spoken this morning with a parent whose son is one of those young offenders. She clearly alleges that her son, on his arrival at Elgin-Middlesex, was slapped and thrown against the wall, picked up by the hair and thrown naked to the cell floor. These are very serious allegations.

Yesterday, Minister, you were questioned by the media and, incredibly, you seemed to be completely unaware of the serious allegations that had been raised at Elgin-Middlesex. I'm quoting from a transcript of that scrum. You were asked whether the police investigation deals with the two institutions, and your response was: "The institution that I've been apprised of is the Bluewater institution. I haven't heard about the other one. That hasn't been brought to my attention."

That seems to me very serious. I wonder if you would make this Legislature aware of when you became aware that this very serious allegation had been made about the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): We are very concerned about the matters raised by the child advocate. I want to put emphasis on the fact that these are allegations. I know we heard responses to my statement earlier today with respect to these being findings of fact.

Ms Frances Lankin (Beaches-Woodbine): Remember the position you took on Bell Cairn.

Hon Mr Runciman: Yes. Re-read the Hansard. It's quite different from what you're saying here today. I very much stressed in that particular instance that these were allegations, and I think we should never lose sight of that.

With respect to the child advocate's findings related to the Elgin-Middlesex situation, I was made aware of those after the cabinet meeting yesterday. That's the first time they were brought to my attention.

Mrs Boyd: I think then that you ought to be incredibly disturbed about what's going on in your own ministry, because the incident at Elgin-Middlesex took place either during the evening of February 29 or the early morning of March 1, and your ministry didn't see fit to tell you until yesterday? That's three months.

Your communications branch told our office this morning that the ministry did not know of any allegations regarding Elgin-Middlesex until May 30, a week ago. Judy Finlay of the office of child and family service advocacy states that your acting deputy minister was told of her concerns regarding the allegations at Elgin-Middlesex on March 4, and the two of them agreed that she should investigate the Bluewater incident and the Elgin-Middlesex incident separately. Her report on Elgin-Middlesex was completely filed on May 24, another week before.

It seems to me, Minister, that we should all be worried that in those three months those young people who had made these allegations were under the care of the very people against whom the allegations were made. You say in your statement that you've taken action to remove them today. Your acting deputy minister knew on March 4 that those young people were in circumstances which could have been further endangerment to them.

Minister, you talk about Bell Cairn. Do you want to hear what you said about Bell Cairn? You said, "There are at least two serious omissions with respect to the statement today: one is that there is no reference to the communications breakdown within the ministry; also, there is no reference to an investigation into how this matter was handled, or rather, mishandled, by senior officials in the ministry."

Minister, I put it to you that we have the same complaint today about your management of your ministry. Why did you wait? Why did you wait until now to call in the police and to make those children safe?

Hon Mr Runciman: To try to draw an analogy between Bell Cairn --

Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): You just told us a couple of minutes ago, "Read your Hansard."

Hon Mr Runciman: That's right, I did indeed. This is more about political revenge than concern for young people; that's what it is. That's accurate.


Hon Mr Runciman: I'm not sure they really want a response, Mr Speaker. This is a façade for public consumption. The reality is that these were allegations made; an investigation was carried out --

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): On March 4.

Hon Mr Runciman: No, no, no. An investigation was carried out, because of these rumours, by the child advocate. We called them in the day of the offence at Bluewater, the day of the problems at --


Hon Mr Runciman: Mr Speaker, I'll answer when they want to listen to it.

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

Mrs Boyd: I hope you can. This is very, very disturbing behaviour. Of course the child advocate was brought in. Under the act, they need to be involved in situations where young people are engaged in this kind of thing, and they were brought in to talk to those young people, find out what happened, get their side of the story; that's for sure -- and to understand, that's right. She reported to your acting deputy minister on March 4 that she had concerns about what had happened at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre, where those children were incarcerated as a result of those events.

You didn't take action, and you say this isn't comparable to Bell Cairn? I must tell you that all of us know that our responsibility to the care of children and youth is far more onerous than the kind of issue that was involved at Bell Cairn. It's serious, it's equally as serious. For you to characterize it as otherwise is quite unusual.

Minister, listen. It is totally unacceptable to you, I am sure, if these allegations are shown to be true -- at least I hope it is. Maybe not; maybe you think this is acceptable behaviour. If you do, then your behaviour is certainly displaying why, as the leader of your ministry, people in your ministry think they can get away with this kind of behaviour. What kind of leadership are you demonstrating? We're asking you to tell us where the control is in your ministry around this kind of situation and who is responsible for making sure that very serious, critical information that is received by your acting deputy minister on March 4 gets to the minister some time before three months later.


Hon Mr Runciman: The reality is of course that we asked for an investigation, we encouraged an investigation. We called in the child advocate's office immediately following the Bluewater incident.

Ms Lankin: You asked for nothing. You said you didn't know about it. Why didn't you know about it?

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): You said you didn't know about it.

The Speaker: Order. Can we have order, please.

Hon Mr Runciman: As soon as the report was delivered to the deputy minister's office, we acted immediately. We called in the London city police to conduct an investigation because there were allegations here with respect to criminal behaviour.

To try and suggest that there's any analogy here between this matter and Bell Cairn is offensive, to say the least. We were talking about sexual assaults that were within the ministry for months and months and the minister was totally unaware. We were not unaware. We were completely aware of what was going on with respect to this situation. We've taken appropriate action and I'm quite confident that we've dealt with this in a most appropriate way.

The Speaker: New question.

Mr Peter Kormos (Welland-Thorold): To the Solicitor General: His ministry learned on March 4 that there were serious allegations of criminal conduct against his staff, including assaults and assaults-bodily harm, by the victims of that conduct. Those young people weren't even moved out of Elgin-Middlesex until today. Why were the police not called in to conduct an appropriate criminal investigation on March 4 when your deputy minister and you knew -- or you certainly ought to have known -- of these serious allegations of criminal assaults and assaults-bodily harm against young people in your care?

Hon Mr Runciman: This was looked at.

Mr Cooke: By whom?

Hon Mr Runciman: This was looked at by the OPP, and at that point in time they did not believe there was any substance to the allegations. Because of the child advocate's report and the concerns that have been brought forward by the child advocate, we have asked the London city police to become involved. We felt that it should be a third party, an independent service, that comes in and takes a look at all of the questions that arise out of her report.

Mr Kormos: Talk about reading Hansard; one should read the Hansard of New Democrats raising the injustices and assaults at Grandview, among other places, and the Tory response of the day. This is a little bit of déjà vu all over again. The legacy of this Tory government is going to carry on that left to us by previous Tory governments in terms of abuse of young people put in their care.

What happened is that young people were prodded, struck, kicked, many of them sustaining injuries. The deputy minister, and now we can assume the minister, knew about this on March 4. The minister failed, notwithstanding that he's the province's top cop, to take any action to ensure that the law was enforced. Are we to assume that the conduct by your staff is so consistent with your theory about boot camps and getting tough on young kids that you approve of that kind of behaviour and that's why you did nothing?

Hon Mr Runciman: That kind of question doesn't merit a response. I want to indicate that if you take a look at the record of the response of the minister with respect to everything that's occurred, take a look at the chronology with respect to this whole matter, the ministry, the minister's office, the minister's staff and the deputy minister's office have responded in an appropriate way to some very real concerns on the part of the child advocate. We have never in any way, shape or form downgraded those concerns. We think they are certainly very serious and we're pursuing them very vigorously.

Mr Kormos: You see, not only was the assistant deputy minister advised on March 4, but as well Ms Finlay reported her findings on an ongoing basis, as she was conducting her inquiry, to the Solicitor General's ministry. If the Solicitor General wasn't informed of that, he clearly has been more than incompetent as a minister. If he was informed about that, he has maintained these young people, eight of them, in the care of those keepers who were the assaulters of those same young people, and that means the only inference one can draw is that the minister somehow approves of this sort of conduct on the part of his staff.

If he didn't and if he doesn't, why did he not do anything on March 4 and why were those young people kept in that same institution for three months when you knew what had been going on for a heck of a lot longer than you're prepared to admit now?

Hon Mr Runciman: Ms Finlay did indeed deliver a report to the ministry in March.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): Release it to us, Bob.

Hon Mr Runciman: I don't have any problem releasing that to you.

Mr Kormos: Reporting findings on an ongoing basis. You knew about it March 4 and regularly thereafter.

Hon Mr Runciman: You know, he asks a question and again he doesn't want to hear the answer.

Mr Kormos: I'd like a straight answer.

Hon Mr Runciman: Give me an opportunity. That's all you'll get from me, is a straight answer.

In the report in March from Ms Finlay to the ministry, she outlined 10 concerns and recommendations. The ministry responded very promptly to those concerns raised in that March report and I want to put on the record Ms Finlay's acknowledgement of that. Ms Finlay said, "I have been satisfied with the response by the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services to that review, both in terms of timeliness and the nature of the response." The child advocate indicated very clearly her positive response to her first report.


Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I have another question for the Solicitor General. It's on another area, but it really shows that something is certainly wrong in the state of Denmark over there in this government.

As the minister knows, last November the Provincial Auditor gave your ministry a failing grade when it comes to parole supervision. Of the 177 files the auditor had looked at, 49 offenders had failed to comply with their parole probation conditions, a third had failed to do their community service that the judge had ordered, half hadn't paid their restitution that the judge had ordered and half hadn't attended the treatment programs that were required. Overall, 31 of 49 cases of non-compliance were not dealt with and 13 of these were maximum-risk offenders.

I and others at the time were really concerned about this and we were sort of scratching our heads and wondering why this was going on. I think I have an answer, because I have a memo here from your assistant deputy minister for correctional services division, Neil McKerrell, dated April 10 of this year, six months after the auditor's report. The memo, to all the regional directors and managers, states that a number of the probation and parole officers hold second jobs outside the ministry and that they attend these jobs during their core business hours they should be working for you.

Minister, how long have you known about this and why did it take you six months to find out that your parole officers weren't on the job?

Hon Bob Runciman (Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services): The member raises an issue respecting parole and obviously I think it's clear to all that we did take very strong positions in opposition with respect to the way individuals were treated with parole decisions. We were very much concerned with the release decisions made by previous parole boards and we have acted upon that.

I believe we have done an excellent job and the record bears that out. Certainly, we continue to have problems and we're trying to address those, but if you look at what we've done with respect to appointments to the parole board, we've ensured that individuals now appointed to the board have a wide range of backgrounds in terms of community service and a significant representation of individuals with justice experience in their backgrounds now serving on parole board duties in this province.

If you take a look at the growth rate in terms of release decisions over the past 10 years, for the first time in 10 years, releases are down dramatically. They were rising on a constant basis over the past 10 years during Liberal regimes and during NDP years, up to the point where we were releasing 58% of those who applied for parole. We are now down to 32%. We're being much more careful in the kinds of release decisions made and the public in Ontario is much safer because of the change in government.


Mr Ramsay: Mr Speaker, I'd really ask the minister to listen very carefully about what this problem is because in my supplementary it gets worse. The first question was, why aren't these people on the job, doing their job? They're doing other jobs when you're paying them to do the job to supervise dangerous offenders who are on the streets of Ontario today.

The memo goes on to say, "Of course this practice is contrary to the Public Service Act and the consequence of doing this is disciplinary action." The memo concludes by stating, "This should be brought to the attention of all of those who might fall into this category."

Minister, I really have to question the mild rebuke you're giving to these people who are moonlighting when one considers the seriousness of this offence.

A second memo from one of your regional managers, dated this Monday, almost two months after this first memo, to clarify this, asks those who hold these second jobs to make arrangements to terminate those jobs within another 90 days from now. This is an incredible waste of taxpayers' dollars and gross negligence on your part in managing dangerous offenders who were on the streets of Ontario cities and towns.

Minister, why are you allowing this double-dipping moonlighting to go on for five months after your ministry found out about it and allowing dangerous offenders to be running on the streets of Ontario unsupervised?

Hon Mr Runciman: That's quite an allegation to suggest that we are allowing dangerous offenders to run on the streets unsupervised.


Hon Mr Runciman: I commissioned Douglas Drinkwalter last fall to review the operations of the parole board in the province of Ontario, to take a look at the whole range of issues. That report has now been delivered. We're certainly looking at these kinds of areas as well.

But to suggest that the parole system is going to hell in a hand basket -- in fact, the parole system has been improved markedly during the 11 months this government has been in office. It's providing much safer decisions with respect to release of dangerous individuals into our communities across this province and I think the record proves that.

I'm very proud of the changes that we've brought into force with respect to the parole board of Ontario. I stand by that and we're going to continue to make improvements so that public safety always is the number one consideration in release decisions.


Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I have a question of the Attorney General and the minister responsible for native affairs with regard to the Ipperwash situation and SIU.

The minister will recall that the Premier last week indicated that following the completion of the SIU investigation, he might be prepared to look at having a public inquiry into the incident at Ipperwash. I think all of us would recognize that the special investigations unit investigation completion date is uncertain and it certainly is long overdue. Now we find that the head of the SIU, Mr Reynolds, has been appointed assistant deputy Attorney General just this week.

Will the new head of the SIU as a result need to go over the whole investigation again, and how will that be done in order to ensure that there is proper distance between the prosecutorial and investigative branches of the government? Does this now mean there will be an even longer delay in the completion of the SIU investigation?

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I'm advised that there will be no delay whatsoever as a result of the transition by Mr Stewart to become head of the SIU.

Mr Wildman: I'd like to deal with Mr Reynolds' position as assistant deputy to the minister. Is the minister concerned that there might be at least a perception of conflict of interest with regard to the SIU investigation of Ipperwash, and if he is concerned about that, does that mean Mr Reynolds must withdraw from any further involvement in the Ipperwash investigation and any possible prosecutions that might result from the findings of the special investigations unit's investigation of the Ipperwash incident?

Hon Mr Harnick: Mr Reynolds will withdraw from any continuing involvement with the SIU. Your colleague from London North is nodding her head because she knows full well that these kinds of things occur in the ministry of justice on occasion and there are very stringent screening methods to ensure that an individual can have no involvement with a matter in which there is a conflict. That is set up in this particular instance. There will be no delay as a result of Mr Stewart taking over and there will be no conflict, because of the screening devices that we have in place.


Mr Jerry J. Ouellette (Oshawa): My question is for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board. Minister, I've been hearing ads recently on the radio that are sponsored by the union that represents the workers at the WCB. They claim that there is no financial crisis at the WCB because, to quote the union, the board owes no creditors and has $8 billion in assets, earning 18% interest in 1995, and the board enjoyed a surplus of $510 million in 1995 and over $100 million surplus for 1994.

Minister, can you explain the apparent difference in opinion between the ads that the union is running and your discussion paper that was released earlier this year regarding the seriousness of the financial problems at the WCB?

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Workers' Compensation Board]): I appreciate receiving the question, because like many members of this House I too have listened to these ads on radio which indicate that according to the union that serves the employees at the Workers' Compensation Board, there is no apparent financial crisis at the board. They go on to say that the board has currently no creditors.

Well, the truth is that the board does have a lot of financial obligations. In fact, if you look at claimants as being persons standing in first order to be paid from this insurance company, they are owed actually $17.35 billion in benefits. In fact, when you subtract the assets, that still leaves a shortfall of over $10 billion. That clearly is a financial crisis at the Workers' Compensation Board.

Frankly, injured workers want to make sure their future benefits are secured and they want to make sure the system is financed in a way that they are secure.

Canadians live in a society where our entire pension fund has been drawn into question. How do you think injured workers feel with that size of unfunded liability? This government is prepared to make the necessary changes in legislation to secure the financial security of the WCB now and into the future for Ontario's injured workers.

Mr Ouellette: Despite these ads that would have us believe everything is all right at the WCB, worker after worker who comes in to see me tells me stories of delay: delay in getting their claims adjudicated, delay for medical assessments, delay to file an appeal, and delay sometimes for years to get an appeal finally decided. What is the government doing to assure injured workers that despite this ad campaign, it understands the problems they face in dealing with the board?

Hon Mr Jackson: I want to assure my colleague and all members of the House that during the course of the consultations which have been undertaken with the WCB, we heard from many injured workers who indicated concerns about client services. We also heard from employees at the board, and those employees at the board also indicated that they were suffering under legislation that lacked a high degree of clarity and an administrative structure that was difficult in order for them to do their jobs.

I don't wish to imply that the employees down at the workers' comp aren't doing a great job; there are some outstanding individuals down there. But that board needs strengthening of its administration, and all three political parties in this province over the last two years campaigned on the issue that the WCB had to be reformed. This government has taken the necessary action, first with my colleague the Minister of Labour, who with Bill 15 looked at the governance of the board, and to strengthen the financial accountability of this institution.

The bottom line is, injured workers in Ontario don't want the employees at the board putting advertising out there for injured workers. They want the employees to pick up the phone and return their calls when injured workers phone for service. That's what this is about.



Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): My question is for the Attorney General. Earlier this year you'll remember there was an enormous outcry with respect to the crown plea bargaining arrangement with Karla Homolka, commonly known as the deal with the devil. There was an ensuing flurry of protest from the public. Hundreds of thousands of people signed their names to a petition, there were thousands of phone calls received from angry citizens and there were repeated requests by myself in this Legislature for an inquiry. You finally relented and did convene an inquiry, albeit it was not a public inquiry, which was presided over by Mr Justice Patrick Galligan.

The inquiry concluded that there would be no further action undertaken against Ms Homolka but also went on to make several important recommendations. One in particular required you to look at clear guidelines for plea bargaining arrangements or what Mr Justice Galligan called "the difficult and distasteful matter of dealing with accomplices," guidelines that are particularly important in the case of serious offenders. I wonder if you could advise us as to when we could expect such guidelines.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): The senior members in the criminal law division are working on this project and I expect they'll have guidelines prepared and dealt with. Very much of the development of this area of law has been done pursuant to cases, pursuant to Supreme Court of Canada decisions. That is what the crown attorneys use as their guide to deal with these matters.

The member opposite is indicating that she has some concerns about plea negotiations. I don't know whether her plea negotiation concern is just related to accomplices. Maybe she'll tell me in her supplementary.

Ms Castrilli: I was simply referring to comments made by Mr Justice Galligan. Plea bargaining guidelines and clarity in those guidelines are extremely important right now, particularly in the aftermath of the Homolka case. I think we all agree that it will improve the justice system by giving uniformity, by increasing public understanding of the rules and therefore public confidence in the system. Those are goals that are very laudable.

Moreover, victims and their families have the right to know that a logical and reasonable process will be followed with respect to the bargaining process and that we will not have deals of this kind, sweetheart deals, for the sake of expediency.

You stated in the Legislature on March 19 that your staff was willing and eager to develop such rules: "That's exactly why we had this examination, so that we could do a better job with the administration of justice. Where there's improvement, we want to make it. That's exactly the kind of recommendation that we want to respond to and will respond to."

I'm glad that you are recommitting yourself to that statement. I would tell you, though, that tonight in St Catharines there will be a very important forum on plea bargaining and that victims and their families and the public at large will be interested in hearing a commitment from you as to exactly where we stand. Can we get such a commitment? Can we get a clear time frame with respect to the bargaining rules?

Hon Mr Harnick: I wonder how objectively the member is going to enter the debate tonight when she will be debating with a crown attorney and a defence lawyer. It bears repeating and I hope that the people she's debating with will have the opportunity tonight to talk about her characterization of the justice system being made up of sweetheart deals for the sake of expediency. There could be no greater slur against the administration of justice, against the work crown attorneys do and against the work defence lawyers do in defending accused individuals before the courts. If that's the approach the member takes, I suspect she belittles the process and also indicates how little she knows about the way the criminal justice system works.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): I have a question for the Minister of Natural Resources. When you announced that you were killing norOntair air service last November, we told you, and a lot of other people did as well, that it would leave many northern communities without air service because the private sector simply wouldn't move in there if it couldn't make a profit. You said: "Don't be worried. The private sector will step in and look after the problem and provide the service."

Business people, municipal leaders and health care providers to northern communities came before the standing committee on government agencies in February and March and said that your decision was the wrong one and was going to be a problem for maintaining local airports, for getting doctors and specialists into those communities, for ensuring that there'd still be fixed-wing medical evacuations from those communities and for ensuring that the Red Cross could still get blood to those communities. You said: "Don't worry. The private sector will step in and provide the service and look after the problem."

Guess what? Air Creebec, one of those private airlines that was going to step in and provide the service, has now announced that it will no longer provide services to Sudbury, Kirkland Lake and Earlton because the routes are not economical. Could you tell us what you're going to do to ensure that these communities and other northern communities are not left without air services as a direct result of your killing norOntair?

Hon Chris Hodgson (Minister of Natural Resources, Northern Development and Mines): As the member of the third party knows full well, the board of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, along with the municipal advisory board of the affected communities, has been working with the communities and with airline companies. The private sector has stepped in and filled most of the communities. The municipal leaders of these towns are working with this advisory board and with the ONTC board, and I'm confident they'll come up with a solution.

Mr Laughren: I'm very much aware of that committee of which you speak, because you wouldn't let MPPs from the opposition parties attend those meetings. What kind of cooperation is that you're seeking from members across the north? You refused to allow members to attend those committee meetings, for reasons known only to yourself.

In an interview on MCTV last December, you said the government would step in in the transition period to ensure that remote communities would still be serviced by air. You made that promise to people all across northern Ontario. The private carriers that you said were going to service these communities are already starting to withdraw their services. It's all coming apart on you; it's falling apart. You're putting municipal infrastructure, you're putting health care and indeed you're putting the viability of northern businesses as well at risk.

I'd like you to share with me not some general vagaries about how everything is going to be just fine and the private sector will look after it. You've already said that and it hasn't worked. What I'd like to know is what you intend to do to ensure that you keep your promise that there'll be air services provided to those northern communities.

Hon Mr Hodgson: There is an ONTC board; that's not a vagary. There is a municipal committee that is working on it. We sold the airline. Previously, under your leadership we were subsidizing these northern communities, through the Ontario taxpayers, by over $5 million a year. We had assets that we sold for over $13 million. For four of the communities, for a four-month interim period, there is a subsidy that will go there that's a lot less than what you were squandering the money on before. This municipal group, with the ONTC board, will make sure there's air service to these communities, working with them.

There is air service. At first you said there'd be no air service. Then the private sector came along and said 14 of the 17 communities will be picked up. For three of the 17, we had a tender and there is a small subsidy. Now we've got one of the airline carriers saying, "We're going to withdraw unless we get a subsidy." We're going to work at this in a methodical way to make sure these communities are served in conjunction with their municipal authorities.



Mr Rob Sampson (Mississauga West): My question is to the Minister of Education and Training. Last week the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced a plan that this government is going to proceed with in regard to property tax assessment and a disentanglement process. But I also recall at one point in time you telling the House, and I believe the public, about an education finance reform working group, and that this particular group was working on a study or a proposal that was going to be dealing with, as the title says, education finance reform.

I understand that this group has been working on this particular package for some 18 months, and I'm worried that the report probably needs to come to the attention of this House at the same time the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing receives a report of that committee that he has struck, headed by a well-known individual from Toronto and also attended by a well-known individual from Mississauga.

Could you please tell us, and tell this House, when you expect this long-awaited report?

Hon John Snobelen (Minister of Education and Training): I want to thank the honourable member for Mississauga West for a succinct and direct question, an excellent question. It's right on target, as always from my colleague.

The member for Mississauga West is correct that the education finance reform working group was commissioned by the previous government over a year and a half ago. It was chartered to look at the very complex, often apparently unfair funding method that we have for our schools in Ontario. It's a system where some individual students in the province receive more than 30% less funding for their education than other students do, and that appears to be unfair to many observers. The funding would appear to be tied to availability -- I know the member has expressed concern to me about this in the past -- rather than what program costs are.

This working group was comprised of people who represented the francophone interests of both the public side and the Catholic side in the province, the five teachers' federations, including the Ontario Teachers' Federation --


Hon Mr Snobelen: Thank you, to the members opposite -- the public and Catholic school boards and the business officials in both the Catholic boards and the public boards across the province.

I believe I'll be receiving that report in the next few days, and as soon as I receive it I will release it.

Mr Sampson: I know the opposition was applauding my next question. How will you see this report fitting into the disentanglement process and, more specifically, what actions do you see coming out of this particular report? How will it fit with this committee and what are the actions that we can see?

Hon Mr Snobelen: The working group has dealt with this very, very difficult subject, again for over a year and a half, and from my understanding and from my reports, their sessions have been difficult, very complicated and, of course, there are a lot of vested interests in the funding of this almost $14-billion system.

When this report is released, one of the things I think many of the people in Ontario will be surprised by is the lack of a common accounting system for costs across the system. In a system this large it seems appalling to many observers that there isn't a common system of accounting, and I hope that subject is addressed by the working group. Also, there is no individual costing of the programs as they affect students across the province, and that seems to be necessary to us as well.

I want to assure the honourable member that this government will receive the report and will consider it and we will be looking to change the funding of education in Ontario, not just to make it more affordable to the taxpayers of Ontario -- although surely that's one of our goals -- but also to provide an equal opportunity for every child in the province of Ontario.


Mr Pat Hoy (Essex-Kent): My question is to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. I have in my hand a letter addressed to you from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Retail Farm Equipment Dealers' Association. As you know, the restructuring committee of the Ontario Farm Implements Board will decide the future of that particular important body. In this letter these two groups have expressed their concerns over the steps taken by your ministry. They're particularly upset over the gag order that you've imposed on the members. The association members cannot even speak to their own representatives on the status of the talks. Is this how your government operates, by not allowing groups to have any input? The associations both feel that the questions being addressed must be openly discussed by the stakeholders.

Minister, as the next meeting is on June 10, will you lift this gag order and allow for open discussions with those who are directly affected by this program?

Hon Noble Villeneuve (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, minister responsible for francophone affairs): There is no gag order from this minister or from the ministry, and those people who represent the people who have sent them to that board certainly have the opportunity of expressing their thoughts as they see fit.

Mr Hoy: Minister, I quote from the letter from these two organizations: "On the question of open discussions, we take issue with the imposition of a gag order on the members of the reorganization committee." Clearly there is a gag order on them; they can't discuss back to their own representatives. First of all, you must remove that restriction from them.

Further to that, Mr Minister, I would also like to touch on another part of this letter. The OFA and the ORFEDA have repeatedly sought a complete accounting of the board's operating books. How can they expect decisions to be made on such a crucial issue without the proper information? Will you assure the House today that you will send them the information so that these associations can be properly prepared for the meeting that is coming on Monday?

Hon Mr Villeneuve: As far as I'm concerned, they have had the opportunity of discussing whatever had to be discussed. On June 10 the opportunity will arise again and I'm quite sure they will express their thoughts, and if indeed they want to communicate with the minister or the ministry, they are very, very welcome.


Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): In the absence of the Minister of Health, I have a question for the Deputy Premier. My question has to do with the whole issue of treatment for AIDS.

AIDS Action Now and the Toronto HIV Primary Care Physicians Group held a press conference today calling attention to the recent changes your government has made to funding rules for access to two new AIDS drugs. It used to be that doctors treating AIDS patients wrote prescriptions for the patients and the patients would be reimbursed for those prescriptions, but as the result of a recent policy change by your government that was supposed to take place April 1, you are now requiring that only those patients approved in advance will see refunds for the money they had spent on their prescription drugs. We're talking about hundreds of dollars a month for people living with AIDS.

Part of the problem is that your government made the policy change in secret and didn't bother to inform doctors. It wasn't until the ministry finally sent a letter out on May 16 to AIDS activist groups six weeks later -- and as you know, six weeks can literally be a lifetime to someone living with AIDS. All this is done apparently to save money for your precious bottom line, Mr Deputy Premier, that you are imposing on your government.

How is it that you now allow a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Health to decide who will get reimbursed for these very important drugs?

I'll finish it up, Mr Speaker, because I won't have time for a supplementary. AIDS activists are calling for an innovative, comprehensive program for people living with AIDS so that they can be assured that secret policy decisions by the Ministry of Health never happen again. Will you instruct the Minister of Health to work with AIDS activists and AIDS doctors to develop a comprehensive program immediately?

Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): The ministry is indeed aware of the concerns that the honourable member has raised. They've been brought to the ministry's attention by both physicians and consumer groups with respect to this issue.

Because, as the member has properly stated, not everybody was aware of the change in the procedure, the ministry has agreed that they will provide time for individuals to seek approval, that retroactively they will reimburse people for their receipts, and they are taking steps to make sure that such policy is fair and consistent in the future and that it doesn't happen again.


Mr Laughren: What really is at stake here is the whole issue of who does the prescribing for the AIDS patients. Is it a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Health or is it going to be the doctors who are specialists in dealing with AIDS patients?

Bill 26 has run amok. I have to tell you, Minister, that what's needed here -- it's true there's been some time through to July 31, but that hasn't changed the policy; the policy's still in place. I'm asking you to do away with that policy and go back to the way it was done before so that doctors prescribe drugs, not bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health.

Hon Mr Eves: The honourable member is wrong. Bureaucrats do not make these decisions. As he knows --

Mr Laughren: Yes, they do.


Hon Mr Eves: No. As he knows, these guidelines are developed by the Drug Quality and Therapeutics Committee. They are made in consultation with leading HIV and AIDS specialists in the province of Ontario. These are clinical decisions; they are not simply financial or bureaucratic decisions, as he would lead us to believe.


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 34(a), the member for Rainy River has given notice of his dissatisfaction with the answer to his question given by the minister responsible for native affairs, the Attorney General, concerning comments made with respect to Ipperwash. That will be debated tonight at 6 pm.



Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): I move that Mr Kennedy be substituted for Mr Agostino on the standing committee on social development and on the standing committee on public accounts; that Mrs Ross be substituted for Mr Kells on the standing committee on general government; that Mr Doyle be substituted --


The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Would the members come to order. I can't hear what the minister is saying. Minister?

Hon Mr Eves: That Mr Doyle be substituted for Mrs Ross on the standing committee on government agencies; that Mrs Bassett be substituted for Mr Vankoughnet on the standing committee on public accounts; that Mrs Marland be substituted for Mr Doyle and Mr Stewart be substituted for Mr Vankoughnet on the standing committee on the Ombudsman.

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


Hon Ernie L. Eves (Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance and Government House Leader): Mr Speaker, if I might indicate the business for next week, what little of it there is so far, pursuant to standing order 55, I wish to indicate the business of the House for the week of June 10, 1996.

On Monday, June 10, we'll begin second reading of Bill 46, the Agriculture and Food Institute of Ontario Act.

Negotiations are currently underway among the House leaders. We'll be meeting again on Monday of next week to determine the rest of next week's business.

For next Thursday morning's private members' business, we will consider private ballot item number 35, standing in the name of the member for Timiskaming, and ballot item number 36, standing in the name of the member for Rainy River.



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

"To the government of Ontario:

"Whereas the government of Ontario appears to be moving towards the privatization of retail liquor and spirits sales in the province; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a safe, secure and controlled way of retailing alcoholic beverages; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides the best method of restricting the sale of liquor to minors in Ontario; and

"Whereas the LCBO has an excellent program of quality control of the products sold in its stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO provides a wide selection of product to its customers in modern, convenient stores; and

"Whereas the LCBO has moved forward with the times, sensitive to the needs of its customers and its clients; and

"Whereas the LCBO is an important instrument for the promotion and sale of Ontario wine and thereby contributes immensely to the grape-growing and wine-producing industry;

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

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


Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): I have another petition on choice in health care from a citizen in my riding. It reads:

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

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

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

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

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

This is signed by Mr Jim Kirkwood, who lives in Riverdale.


Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I have a petition signed by constituents in my riding of Nepean, from Barr Haven. It reads as follows:

"To the Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because I'm in agreement, I've affixed my own signature thereto.


Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): This petition is yet another petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It concerns the family support plan and it comes from the people in Sudbury.

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

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

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

Because this is of significant importance to children, I affix my name, because I am in complete agreement with it.


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): This is a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"We, the undersigned, make the following petition:

"Whereas the Fort Frances-Rainy River Board of Education did, prior to the social contract, lose all of its teacher-librarians, guidance counsellors, the sole French consultant and the sole vice-principal;

"Whereas the classroom teacher and consultant components were further reduced by 4.75% to comply with social contract directives;

"Whereas social contract budgetary constraints which directly affected the classroom have also been met;

"Whereas the board has already surpassed the administration-school cost ratio with the ratio of 37% administration to 63% school costs; and

"Whereas current grant reductions have augmented the adversity of these previous cuts and jeopardize the quality of education within our schools;

"We respectfully request a cease to the grant cutbacks and request that the Minister of Education and Training re-evaluate the grant reductions to the Fort Frances-Rainy River Board of Education as was done in the case of the Haliburton board of education."

This petition is signed by 100 individuals and I have affixed my signature as well.


Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I have a petition pertaining to the Power Corporation Act of Ontario, signed by Richard Force and 11 other concerned citizens from Newmarket, Sutton, Windsor and King City, and it reads as follows:

"To the Parliament of Ontario:

"Whereas Ontario Hydro arrears incurred by a tenant can become a lien on the owner's property under the provision of the Power Corporation Act of Ontario, section 89, RSO 1990, chapter P18, and they can be collected from the owner in the same manner as municipal taxes, this special advantage conferred on Ontario Hydro by a previous government has been described by one as `improper and outrageous';

"Whereas any other electric power utility in the province (see attached list) who makes a contract with another party (a tenant) to pay for service does not have the right to extract money for a defaulted bill from a third party (the owner);

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

"To request that the portion of the Power Corporation Act, that is, section 89, RSO 1990, chapter P18, that contains this special advantage legislation be repealed."



Mr Tony Ruprecht (Parkdale): I keep getting petitions that are addressed to the Parliament of Ontario, but specifically to the Solicitor General's ministry.

"Whereas the Dellcrest Children's Centre is planning to open a 10-bed open custody residence for troubled children and youth on Dowling Avenue in Parkdale; 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 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 and youth until a full review of the Dellcrest Children's Centre's decision can be conducted and explore with us alternative locations which are more appropriate."

I have affixed my signature to this document.


Mr Jim Brown (Scarborough West): I have a petition from the residents of Scarborough to the Legislature of Ontario.

"Whereas the recommendations of the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council to close inpatient paediatric beds, the special care nursery and the burn unit at Scarborough General Hospital are resulting in significantly reduced access to paediatric, newborn and burn care for a large geographic area of Scarborough; and

"Whereas the paediatric unit, special care nursery and burn unit at Scarborough General Hospital provide very cost-efficient, quality care;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature of Ontario to:

"(1) Continue paediatric services including inpatient paediatric beds;

"(2) Continue special care nursery services;

"(3) Continue and combine Metropolitan Toronto's burn care at Scarborough General Hospital."

I agree with the petition and attach my signature.


Ms Annamarie Castrilli (Downsview): I have a petition signed by hundreds of my constituents to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"Whereas the Toronto Transit Commission are considering the elimination of the Ancaster bus -- it will be replaced by the Calvington bus, which will run only during rush hour, every 60 minutes -- these residents will be severely prejudiced;

"Whereas the Toronto Transit Commission's decision adversely and unreasonably burdens these residents, a large part of whom are senior citizens and high school students;

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to take the necessary action to not bring about the elimination of the Ancaster bus route."

I affix my name to this petition.


Mr Gerard Kennedy (York South): I have a petition signed by residents from a number of Ontario communities.

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

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

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

I attach my signature to this worthy petition.


Mrs Elinor Caplan (Oriole): I have a petition to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

"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 present this petition and sign my signature.


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

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

"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;

"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."


Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): I have a petition addressed to the Legislature of Ontario. I'll read it as such:

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

"Whereas the residence is an inappropriate site for 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 and relocation of additional social service programs or offices in an area that is already oversaturated with health and social services for disadvantaged, troubled and disenfranchised people;

"We, the undersigned residents and business owners, urge the Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services to suspend plans to relocate the open custody residence for troubled youth until a full review of the Dellcrest Children's Centre decisions can be conducted and explored with us, so that alternative locations can be found which are more appropriate."

I agree with the petition and I'll affix my signature.



Mr Laughren from the standing committee on government agencies presented the committee's 11th report.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Does the Chair wish to make a short statement?

Mr Floyd Laughren (Nickel Belt): No.

The Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 106(g)11, the report is deemed to be adopted by the House.


Mr Cordiano from the standing committee on estimates presented the following report:

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex D. McFedries): Pursuant to standing order 59, your committee has selected the estimates, 1996-97, of the following ministries and offices for consideration --

Interjections: Dispense.

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals: Dispense.

The Speaker (Hon Allan K. McLean): Pursuant to standing order 60(b), the report of the committee is deemed to be received and the estimates for the ministries and offices named therein as not being selected for consideration by the committee are deemed to be concurred in.

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




Mr Eves moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 70, An Act to provide Co-operative Education and Film Industry Tax Credits, to create Economic Growth, to implement other measures contained in the 1996 Budget and to amend certain Acts administered by the Minister of Finance / Projet de loi 70, Loi créant des crédits d'impôt pour l'éducation coopérative et l'industrie cinématographique, favorisant la croissance économique, mettant en oeuvre d'autres mesures mentionnées dans le budget de 1996 et modifiant des lois dont l'application relève du ministre des Finances.

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



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 49, An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act / Projet de loi 49, Loi visant à améliorer la Loi sur les normes d'emploi.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): It's a pleasure today to rise again to resume the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 49, An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act, introduced by the minister, Mrs Witmer.

In preparation for this discussion, I have to draw to the members' attention, to connect it up to last Monday, Mr Tascona, the member for Simcoe Centre, was speaking, and I must remind members that Mr Tascona was a practising labour lawyer of some expertise in this area and draw members' attention to the member for Beaches-Woodbine, who made some comments which I responded to, I might add, on Monday. I would draw that to members' attention.

In preparation, again, the debate really focuses on establishing some sort of fairness and balance in the workplace. The Employment Standards Act today does not reasonably address the changes that are taking place in the workplace. In that regard, section 32 of the bill -- actually, I would like to show members a copy of the bill. The bill is a very small, impressive piece of legislation, and it's meant to be an introduction to changes to the Employment Standards Act. The section I want to talk about this afternoon is the limitation period, which seems to have arisen as a concern to the opposition.

Section 32 amends section 82 of the act. What it says is that in a proceeding under the act, no person is entitled to recover money that became due to the person more than six months before the date on which the facts upon which the prosecution or proceeding is based first came to the knowledge of the director.

Our response to that is that the time limit today is currently two years, and that creates in itself an administrative problem, and it's unduly prescriptive to those people working in the ministry trying to solve the problems for workers in Ontario. The reduction of the two years: Our response is that the two-year time period which presently exists is excessively long, the effect of enforcement of the act is extremely costly and difficult to investigate, the alleged violations accumulate, the time spent in trying to investigate is hampered by factors such as witnesses being available and the employed workforce in the workplace may have indeed changed hands. Investigation of older claims imposes a large administrative burden on the Ministry of Labour which does not result in any kind of reasonable equity for the claimants themselves, that is indeed the worker that has the claim.

In addition, the inappropriate amount of time and effort required on these older claims detracts from the ministry's ability to investigate other claims. So changing the period of time from the present two years to the current period is, I believe, effective use of taxpayers' dollars. Other provinces across Canada, by the way, have a similar claim period, the six-month claim period, so we're only bringing our Employment Standards Act up to a more recent --

Mr Ron Johnson (Brantford): Bringing them in line.

Mr O'Toole: Yes, bringing them in line with other workplaces, really, to be competitive not only in Canada but indeed in the global economy.

Mr John L. Parker (York East): A national standard.

Mr O'Toole: Yes, a national standard. This is really what we should be working towards. As I said, I appreciate the comments by my fellows here, kind of keeping me on track.

The time period in which an employee can recover moneys owing to the recurring violation will still be longer than the claim period. The employment standards branch will pursue up to one year in back pay.

I've got to stop here, because really the most important thing I've heard that the opposition have said in their comments is that these changes are draconian; I know the member for Hamilton Centre is always very critical of our "draconian" measures. But really, the minister has said very clearly in her announcement that this does not alter minimum employment standards for the people of Ontario. It introduces flexibility and it brings the whole Employment Standards Act up to date on behalf of the people of Ontario.

With respect to claims, if the claim period has expired, employees will still have two options. They may go to court or they may use alternative dispute mechanisms. This would be good for the workplace of Ontario. Clearly the answer is yes, shortening the time period for making claims under the Employment Standards Act and the notice period, speed-up of claims and resolutions and the whole process will be brought into a more accountable, responsive form for the people of Ontario. This is because shortening the claim period will significantly lighten the administrative burden to the Ministry of Labour and make better use of taxpayers' dollars.

Mr Ron Johnson: More with less.

Mr O'Toole: Yes. Therefore, I would like to give my full support to the changes introduced to the Employment Standards Act by the Honourable Elizabeth Witmer, Minister of Labour. It is my firm belief that these changes will encourage a more effective administration of the act, and more effective enforcement of the act will benefit all workers in Ontario.

I had a couple of other comments that I wanted to refer to, but yesterday in the House we had the introduction of the Red Tape Review report, the updated report, where I think eight ministers actually introduced the elimination of barriers to growth, the elimination of red tape. Each one of those barriers actually prohibits or restricts the competitive nature of Ontario.

This is just one more attempt by one of our ministers to upgrade Ontario, to make us competitive. The Employment Standards Act needs to be updated; there's no question of that.

I want to assure members that there has been wide consultation on this process. If I could draw members' attention to the background document, starting in 1991, our now Premier issued A Blueprint for Economic Renewal and Prosperity in Ontario. So this consultation serves as a long basis of trying to consult with the people of Ontario. Indeed, as a member of the Red Tape Review Commission, I am actually consulting with members of the workforce in my riding. The labour-management group from OPSEU: I've spoken with those members. I've spoken with the Ontario separate school trustees, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, the OSSTF, the secondary school teachers, the power workers, and that consultation process tells me that the membership, the working people in Ontario, are ready to make changes. They want to participate in making those changes.

There's another important book in January 1995, part of our consultation process, Creating Jobs through Small Business, this report again widely consulting with the people of Ontario. It might be important just to draw to your attention what they found. The consultation is that they had to look at changes to not only the Employment Standards Act, but indeed the Labour Relations Act. That's what we did. We listened and we did what the people of Ontario wanted. Bill 40, we all know, was rescinded. In fact, we changed it completely in response to the people of Ontario. In fact, the whole NDP labour approach was restrictive. It caused Ontario to be less competitive. This was a widely held belief.


If I look back to my notes -- I always like to use the book that everybody --

Interjection: The red book?

Mr O'Toole: The red book. It doesn't mean anything now but it still forms the base of policy that we're listening to. I'm going to quote from it. It says, "For every week that Bob Rae" -- NDP -- "has been Premier, Ontario has lost nearly 1,000 jobs." They go on go list a number of reasons for that, but most specifically, just to quote from page 17, for "Restoring Balance in Labour Relations." That just talks about the balance we're trying to bring back where the leadership of management, the union and the workplace are the right parties to get involved.

One upgrade in the Employment Standards Act is allowing collective agreement, negotiating fair and reasonable conditions for the workplace, but the decisions and collective agreements must not deliver less than those standards in the Employment Standards Act.

I could go on but I think it's important to look again and review the act a little bit. I'm going to read a section that I think is very important that explains what the collective bargaining process and the Employment Standards Act really do. Subsection 4(3) says, "A collective agreement prevails over section 58 and parts IV, VI, VII and VIII...if the collective agreement confers greater rights relating to hours of work, overtime pay, public holidays, vacation...." We cannot usurp the benefits that the employees of Ontario have accumulated over the years but we must recognize that there are changes in each workplace.

Public sector firefighters, for example, work some 10-hour shifts, 12-hour shifts. Technically, that's not permissible without exemption from the current act.

Vacation pay is another important thing. This is section 28:

(1) "Every employer shall give a vacation of at least two weeks to each employee upon the completion of each 12 months of employment, whether or not the employment was active employment."

What they mean by that somebody is on maternity leave or parental leave is still entitled. That's part of their earned-up entitlement.

"(2) An employer shall pay vacation pay to an employee entitled to a vacation under subsection (1).

"(3) The vacation pay must be not less than 4%...."

It's not taking away; it's outlining, streamlining and improving the current Employment Standards Act.

There's ongoing dialogue right now, and I believe there's going to be a white paper submitted by the minister some time over the summer for wider consultation with the OFL, Gord Wilson, and other important participants in the workplaces of Ontario.

Subsection 42(4): "The period of an employee's pregnancy leave or parental leave is included in any calculation of his or her length of employment" whether active or inactive or length of service, "or seniority, for the purpose of determining whether he or she has a right under a contract of employment." That's a clarification entitling those people on parental leave to have that time contribute towards the length-of-employment calculation. That's is very fuzzy under the current act.

I could go on. Much of this is housekeeping and routine, but in terms of responding to those needs in the workplace I think it's timely, it's responsive and it addresses an outdated act.

I could go on, but one other subtle important change -- the NDP actually dismantled the collection agency. It became rather dysfunctional. In fact, they're way behind in collecting on decisions or orders that had been made. "`Collector,' means a person...who is" empowered or "authorized by the director to collect" outstanding amounts under orders of the act.

The director, by the way, can enforce -- this is something new -- that the cost of getting the collection done isn't carried by the taxpayer of Ontario; it's going to be paid for by the neglectful employer. The persons who are responsible are going to pay for the collection. I think that's a very important change, a saving, doing more for less.

The Ministry of Labour spent an inordinate amount of time trying to collect these claims when that money for all those collectors was being paid for by the taxpayer. Now the person who's been delinquent in complying with the act is going to pay to make sure that we deliver on the commitments. That's really what we're trying to do. We're trying to deliver for the workers of Ontario --

Mr Parker: Fairness.

Mr O'Toole: Fairness in the workplace and fairness in the process by making sure that it's a sustainable system, that it's a system that's affordable for the taxpayers of Ontario.

Mr Parker: A system that's effective.

Mr O'Toole: Effective. Exactly. My peers here in the Legislature are certainly helping me through this troubled time that I'm not completely prepared for. But I think "restoring balance" is a very good line to remember. I also think there should be no less than what the standards are today in any collective agreement.

I'm repeating myself here, but we've addressed the change in time from two years to six months. I think that's a reasonable and fair thing to have done. We've also addressed the whole idea of collection. Now it's going to be more timely and paid for by the delinquent employer.

We've also addressed that there will be no less than exists in the Employment Standards Act today. I would believe that this is a two-phase process of upgrading and updating the Employment Standards Act. I've mentioned that. The bill does not weaken any current standards. It's very important that people in Ontario understand that.

I'd like to continue but, in all fairness, it's my responsibility to attempt to share some of this time with the members.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): No, no. Go ahead.

Mr O'Toole: If I'm being encouraged to continue, I have lots of material here, Mr Wildman.

I think, in a wider scale of things, that the minister has gone out of her way, as this government has gone out of its way, to eliminate the barriers to growth and to create jobs and hope and opportunity. This is just one of those pieces.

Mr Mario Sergio (Yorkview): Where are the jobs?

Mr O'Toole: The jobs are created not by the government, as the previous government thought, and as indeed the Liberals thought -- that spending money will create jobs. It doesn't. In fact, when we spend money, we have to tax more, and as we tax more we become less competitive as a province. We have higher tax rates than most of our competition. We've got to become competitive to allow it to be an efficient, effective workplace for investment to create jobs. It's a wrong perception that the public sector actually creates jobs. It doesn't really create jobs. It creates a climate for investment and hope and opportunity which in itself is jobs.

One example of that would be that in the recent budget, Minister Eves announced the elimination of the employer health tax. That's a tax on job creation. I think the elimination of red tape, barriers to jobs, is another thing we've done.

The reform that's under way with the Workers' Compensation Board: The minister answered a question today in the House. They have a tremendous liability. That liability is a debt that all of us share, not just the workers of Ontario, the injured workers. We need to re-establish the consistent funding in those areas.

I say the Bill 40, the changes to the Labour Relations Act, was a very, very important elimination of a barrier to opportunity for working people in Ontario, which includes me, by the way.

I do admit in Durham East, with the Hydro workers and General Motors and people who work for the government, OPSEU members, they're citizens; they're people I try to represent. They always say we're trying to give away something to our rich friends. My friends are the people who live and work in my riding, and that's really what this is about. I am available in my constituency office to listen to the board of trade or to the union management team. That's the people I want to represent.

Mr Parker: This is a very accessible member.

Mr O'Toole: Yes, a very accessible member. At that point and with those points being made, I thank you for this opportunity to speak on Bill 49 and hope this contribution has clarified for the people of Ontario some of the misconceptions, the platitudes that have been announced by the opposition today and during this debate.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Questions and comments.

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): Thank you for the opportunity to comment. What the people of Ontario should know -- and they get a chance to watch this through their television sets if they have cable TV -- is you just watched a true believer. This is a true believer on the other side, one of the right-wing republican guard that is now dominating the government benches.

The people who are losing their jobs in St Catharines at Foster Wheeler, at Thona, at Mott's beverages, at Kelsey-Hayes, at Court Industries, at ITT Aimco and at General Motors, as well as those who have lost their public sector jobs, will wonder why the government would be spending its time on this piece of legislation when indeed there would be more important work to be done to ensure there are job opportunities in our part of the province.


What happens with this legislation is that the government brings in, as the member characterizes it, a fairly routine bill, although if you look carefully at it there are some worrisome portions of this bill. They bring in a somewhat watered-down version of what they would like to have brought in, but the real hammer is coming a little later on. The member did not mention in his speech that the major revisions that will come to the Employment Standards Act and other labour legislation, in the fall of this year very likely, will have far greater ramifications. They will not create the balance that the member speaks of but will create an imbalance and will not be in the best interests not only of industrial workers and those represented by unions or non-unionized workers in our province, but also the people of the province as a whole.

That's why this legislation is not going to make a significant contribution to the future of this province. I know all of the workers from the plants I have mentioned will be wondering where their jobs have gone under the Mike Harris government, because that's when they all disappeared.

Mr Parker: I was very impressed and somewhat taken by the remarks of my friend and colleague from Durham East. I thought he spoke eloquently and very well on all of the subjects that he touched on.

I want to comment on one of his remarks in particular. That was his comment that reducing the time limit from two years to six months brings Ontario into line with the rest of the country. That's a point that bears repeating and bears some dwelling on, because there's no reason why Ontario should be out of step with the rest of the country in this respect. I think it's only appropriate that Ontario bring itself into conformity with the rest of the country on this one so that the rules that apply in other provinces across the country are in line with the rules that apply in Ontario and we are uniform across the country with, as it were, a national standard for matters of this sort.

There's another reason why six months is an appropriate term. What we have found with a two-year term is that the employees are drawn into an artificial sense of security because they are lulled into a sense that it is not important to proceed on a timely basis. They are lulled into a belief that it's perfectly appropriate and perfectly acceptable and perfectly adequate to delay bringing proceedings, and then what do they find after a year or a year and a half? They find that the witnesses are gone, the facts are hard to find, the documents have gone astray and it's hard to pursue a case. The cases moulder and moulder in the files, the backlogs increase, and the cause of justice is not served and the cause of the worker is not served.

Imposing and requiring a six-month time period is far more reasonable. It focuses everyone on the matter at hand, it focuses everybody on the issues while they are fresh and it gives everybody a chance to move the case along in a timely fashion while the facts are fresh in everyone's mind and while they can be dealt with in an expeditious and effective manner. I think that in itself bears an important emphasis.

Mrs Sandra Pupatello (Windsor-Sandwich): I too have to comment, as did our member for St Catharines, on the kinds of projects and activity that are brought forward by the government for us to debate here, and in fact that you are prepared to go and hold public hearings on issues like this act.

There have been several items that deal with labour relations in Ontario where not that long ago you refused to take part in public hearings. The labour community said to all of you, and I'm sure would have said to the good member for Durham East, had he been consulting with those labour representatives at that time, "We would dearly have loved to have public hearings on Bill 7," for example. I would suggest that at that time the door was not open to your labour groups from Durham, nor was the telephone available to them. And now, while you may have learned your lesson the hard way in terms of being consultative with people, this act, even though some of it is indeed is procedural and administrative, there is some meat here that really should be addressed, and I do hope that later I will get an opportunity to do that. But in terms of direction, I do feel that sometimes we've got the cart before the horse.

Bill 7 was a significant change for Ontario as we deal with the labour people of Ontario -- no hearings. All of a sudden you wanted to have hearings on a bill which we would admit that at least half is indeed procedural and administrative. So I question that while the good new member from Durham would like to say how open he is to listening to his people, I would suggest that he really hasn't been doing that from the beginning, and I trust that in future in his own community he will begin to listen to the labour leaders from Durham East.

The Deputy Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Wildman: I listened to the comments from my friend from Durham East with interest. I must say that I had a little concern about a couple of things that he said. First, he indicated that this was just an attempt to harmonize and make certain that the people of Ontario, the economy of Ontario, was competitive with other economies and therefore this was an attempt to harmonize.

I have a problem with that term "harmonize," almost as much a problem as the Minister of Finance has with it when it is brought up with regard to the GST, because what it basically means in the context of this government is to harmonize downward, that is, Ontario never can have higher standards than anywhere else. Ontario could never lead. Ontario must not have standards that are in any way better than Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland, or, heaven forbid, I suppose, could not even have standards which would somehow outpace Mississippi or Alabama, because somehow we would be not competitive.

There's a time to lead, there's a time to show by example, work by example, to protect people in this province and to encourage other jurisdictions to follow your lead. Also I'm concerned that the government maintains the argument these are largely minor changes and that they have indeed consulted widely about them. The fact is that they consulted certainly with the business community, but they did not consult with the people who are most affected.

The member said he's talked to members of the labour movement from his own riding. That's commendable. But why is it that government hasn't dealt with those people who are elected by the labour movement to speak for the labour movement?

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Durham East has two minutes.

Mr O'Toole: I'm flattered by the number of people who have quite competently responded today. It shows to me that they've been listening, and indeed they should be listening. I just want to make sure I acknowledge each one of them.

The member for St Catharines, Mr Bradley, a senior member here, is worried about the workforce in St Catharines, and well he should. I think all of the workers in Ontario are worried because we're really not competitive. We have to be competitive, and that's what we've done with Bill 40 being changed and with the employment standards and further changes that you allude to. But I have confidence in the workers of Ontario. We have a skilled workforce; we have a knowledgeable workforce. We have the infrastructure with the resources, the talent, the hydro and the power. All we need to do is be competitive.

I want to thank my partner here, Mr Parker from York East, who really did say it better than I did, although he's a trained lawyer so he knows how to say things more succinctly.

The member for Windsor-Sandwich, Sandra Pupatello, I often chide for championing, trying to be -- but she's in the House today. She's one of the people who might be the leader of the Liberal Party, but she's in the House here. There are very few people across the floor from me, but I commend you for being here. But I think I'm really not too sure what your point was, because you tend to be on both sides of the issue. That flip-flop is going to haunt you.

I also want to recognize the member for Algoma, a good friend, a person who really I can learn from. I think we can all learn from his leadership. But when he has trouble with the term "harmonization," really he has to recognize that we have to become more competitive. I think they would agree with that. I'm completely convinced they would agree with that.

I want to conclude, making sure the people of Ontario understand that this is a two-phase process to amend the Employment Standards Act. This is the first phase. Also, there's no weakening in the minimum standards, what we're trying to do is streamline the process for the working people of Ontario. I want to thank you very much for helping me to make those points today.

The Deputy Speaker: The time has expired. Further debate?


Mr Sergio: I'm pleased to join the discussion on this issue here, the so-called Employment Standards Improvement Act. I would call it the Americanization of the employment standards in the province of Ontario. I was going to make three, four points briefly, but I think I'm going to make five or six, after I heard the last speaker over there.

In all honesty, if I were a worker in Ontario today, I would be seriously and terribly worried. I would be worried because from one day to another I have no idea what this government is going to do to the workers of Ontario.

What we have heard is that they wish to create, by bringing in legislation such as this, fairness and balance in the workplace. Then they point to page 17 of the so-called red book where we are saying that we want to create a fair balance within the framework of the workplace in Ontario. Some if it, sure, is rhetoric, and some of it is just simple, procedural issues, but my dear people on the other side, you don't realize that bit by bit you are totally decimating the workplace for the workers in the province of Ontario; that's exactly what you're doing here. If I were a worker in the province of Ontario --

Mr Ron Johnson: You're not.

Mr Sergio: -- I would be trembling, I tell you, because what you're doing is --

Mr Ron Johnson: You're not a worker. You're on permanent vacation.

The Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr Sergio: Mr Speaker, I don't mind having members disagreeing with what I have to say, but I tell you, if they get nasty, it's only nasty towards the workers and the people of Ontario.

What they're doing here -- and I'm pleased that the member for Durham East has said it best -- if they want to create a climate for employment, surely for the companies south of the border, this is what they are doing. That's where the Premier is at, creating a climate for investment for the people south of the border; nothing more, nothing less.

I wonder when the Premier, when the Minister of Labour, when some of the members on the other side have visited one of those working places where now, because of lack of jobs, workers in Ontario are working for minimum wages. Is this the fairness, is this the balance we want to create within the workplace? With all due respect, my dear members, I think the scale is tilting towards the employers, the big business people, and it's completely tilting away from the workers of Ontario.

The changes you are proposing in this particular Bill 49, these amendments here, are supposed to create a better environment for the workers in Ontario. This is not the case. It is clearly not the case.

Having said that, it doesn't mean we are saying, "No, don't do anything." We recognize that the system is archaic, that the laws haven't been changed for a number of years. Yes, indeed, we do need some changes, we do need some improvements, but the reality of the fact is that you people are going too far. And this is not the end of it. You have said it yourselves, "This is not the end of it."

We have already seen the devastation with Bill 7, the so-called Labour Relations and Employment Statute Law Amendment Act. We have seen it with Bill 8, the Job Quotas Repeal Act. We are seeing it with Bill 15, the Workers' Compensation and Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act. We have seen it already, so no wonder the workers are in a panic out there, are afraid out there. No wonder we continue to expand south of the border and say: "Come. We are preparing a good cushion for you to come and invest and work in Ontario."

Even today, when the member for Renfrew North asked the question, "How are you going to deal with protecting jobs in Ontario across the border from Quebec?" what was the answer? I'm asking the member on the government side, what was the answer from the minister? "We will be looking at it."

With all due respect, the existing situation has been in place for a number of years. This government is celebrating one year in power. What have they done? They are not even aware of what's going on.

There is one company here that just lost a $2-million bid to a company from Quebec. And we have just heard that they are coming to buy equipment, products, material in Ontario under a Quebec address. The material is never being shipped to Quebec; it's staying in Ontario. But they are getting away with paying the 8% at the cost of the people of Ontario. It's a big problem.

So this is what the law that they are presenting is supposed to do. In fact, it is working against the workers of Ontario. And where's the fairness? Where is the balance? Which means that the scale is tilting towards those companies, north and south of the border. It's tilting towards the large companies, to the detriment of the workplace and the workers.

The workplace is one matter. The workers, it's another. And I think that's where the buck should stop. What does this legislation -- I'm asking the minister, I'm asking the Premier, I'm asking the members on the government side -- what does this amendment to this legislation here, this Bill 49, do to improve the working relations between the workers and the employers? What does this do to improve the safety in the workplace? What does this do to make sure that health conditions are safeguarded in the workplace?

Let me tell you that there are plenty of industrial places out there that shouldn't be having any work going on in there, let alone workers, and they are standing up because they just can't afford either to fix them, hardly to pay their taxes. Competition is too stiff. They don't make enough money. They lack proper equipment, ventilation and stuff like that. Those are the things that we should be concerned with.

What this act is proposing, the way it is presented, is that the Minister of Labour is proposing a number of what they call administrative and procedural changes to the Employment Standards Act. Also, the government argues that the impact of these changes will be greater: simplicity and promptness and effectiveness in the enforcement of the act, more flexibility in the resolution of complaints, and greater self-reliance in the workplace. In fact, taken together, the proposed amendments reduce the ability of the province to establish minimum standards within the labour standards administration.

So if this reduces the standards, who established them? If the government does not retain any control with respect to employment standards, who controls them? The workers? No; the employers. They can do whatever they want, practically. They can do whatever they want. This is another area. We have seen it with the insurance field. My goodness, we have seen it with that: abdicating their responsibility. This is another area where the government is abdicating their control, their responsibility, and now they are giving it to the corporations, the employers. And who is looking after the employees? Who is looking after the workers?

What was gained through many years on behalf of the workers will be lost, will be washed away immediately with the passage, the approval, of this law.

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): Rushed through immediately.

Mr Sergio: Absolutely, absolutely. You said it yourself. You approve these amendments, you change this law -- goodbye. Goodbye protections. Where are they going to go to appeal? Oh, sure, they will talk among the employers, some representatives, in the hope that they can satisfy their concern.

Mr Baird: That's why that's called collective bargaining.


Mr Sergio: Yes, indeed: consultation. This is one famous phrase, one famous word, that we hear all the time from the government, "We have consulted." Well, whom have they consulted? I'll tell you --

Mr Baird: Four weeks of public hearings --

Mr Sergio: Four people? Four? Yes, indeed, four people. They have consulted four people, yes.

If they were to present these amendments to the workers of Ontario, they would reject them, they would refuse them, as this is taking away whatever is left as protection in the workplace for the workers of Ontario.

Mr Frank Klees (York-Mackenzie): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think the record will show that the honourable member misrepresented a comment that was made by a member here, saying that there were four weeks of hearings, and the member read into the record that there were four individuals who were contacted. I think that record should be corrected.

The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Mr Sergio: I welcome the opportunity to be interrupted, Mr Speaker. When the other side is saying, "Four, four, four," I read "four." Now, what this means, I have no idea. But I appreciate the interruption.

When they speak of housekeeping -- that's all they are, just housekeeping, cleaning up, stuff like that. How do you expect to conduct housekeeping, cleaning up, real stuff like that, when you totally forget about the welfare of the workers of Ontario?

As I said, I was only going to speak for a couple of minutes and make a few points, but I have to say frankly that the scale, with the approval of these amendments, will be tilting completely away from the employees --


Mr Sergio: Yes, absolutely. I'm doing okay. My time is doing well and I would invite any member from the other side to visit some of the places, the workplaces, where the real worker --


Mr Sergio: Really, Mr Speaker -- and visit those places, and then come into this House and say, "We are really doing something for those workers, for those conditions, working in those areas."

I am going to end up here and allow some more time for one of my colleagues to speak on it. But, I'll tell you, as they say, this goes too far and it cannot be supported. If I were a worker in Ontario, I would continue to be very apprehensive when the government is leaning towards approving this particular law.

The Deputy Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Ron Johnson: Just commenting to the member for Yorkview on his comments, I have to say that he didn't make half as much sense as the member for Durham East did, and I think that's evident in the way the member for Durham East has really talked to a lot of constituents in his riding. I know that many of us on the government side have done that throughout an extensive consultation process. Had the member across the way done the same thing, I have a very strong feeling that he wouldn't be saying the things he's saying here today.

I want to talk briefly about the misconceptions that the member is trying to do, the fearmongering that he's trying to do to the people of Ontario. I refer to his accusations of erosion to employment standards, and it's important to recognize that this legislation does not erode employment standards one bit. In fact, what it does is allow for much more flexibility. I think that's something both workers and employers have been looking for, for a very long time.

He said in his comments that he recognized that the system before this piece of legislation as it currently stands is extremely archaic. But what he fails to admit is that he wouldn't have the courage, nor would his party have the courage, to take on the tough decisions and make the amendments that are necessary to make this legislation effective for the working people of this province. Certainly, I'm very proud to be part of a government that has the courage to make those tough decisions. The bottom line is that if his party was in government we would certainly have the most archaic labour laws in the entire country today.

I think it goes right back to job creation, which is exactly what all this is about. This is about job creation. I look at the Honda plant in Alliston, I look at the auto parts sector from Magna, I look at Northern Telecom in Nepean, which the member John Baird represents very well down here at Queen's Park. I look at the kind of job creation we're seeing and that is a culmination of all our efforts here on this side of the House, and this piece of legislation is simply going to add to the enhancement of job creation in this province.

Mrs Pupatello: I want to compliment our member for Yorkview for expressing his views and those of our caucus regarding this legislation that's been brought forward.

I want to mention that our member for Yorkview is correct. Mario Sergio indicates that the government is trying to say this bill has something to do with job creation and that in fact this is simply not the case. They may suggest there's some kind of misrepresentation, but the truth is that on a daily basis we have reports of job loss after job loss after job loss.

We want to look no further than perhaps the area of Brantford. Let's look at what's happening in the community of Brantford and suggest that, for example, is the member for Brantford truly having a good look in his own backyard? What will this have to do, in terms of the Employment Standards Act, with job creation in Brantford? I would welcome a discussion with people from Brantford. I think there are going to be many who concur with me. This doesn't have anything to do with job creation.

It's as our member for Yorkview, Mario Sergio, indicated; he is dead on. In this government not only do we have the true believers who are up today -- I like to call them the ones who drink the purple Kool-Aid, actually; in any event, that's a joke. What they're doing is passing it off, as they've done many other pieces of legislation: euphemisms, one word that truly means another. The government is intent on hanging the balance too far in favour of their big corporate friends, and someone unfortunately has to look out for the workers of Ontario.

Mr Baird: The member opposite talked about those of us on this side of the House who are the true believers. We're all true believers. We believe Ontario's best days are ahead. We believe we can create jobs in this province and restore hope and opportunity. I appreciate why members of the Liberal Party aren't true believers because they have no beliefs, nothing to believe in.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): Flip-flop.

Mr Baird: The flip-flop, as my colleague from Scarborough East mentioned. We always enjoy listening to the member for Yorkview's speeches. He talked about consultation. We are undertaking a very broad review of the Employment Standards Act. The consultation process will be almost a year long, wide-ranging. We've already had some very good meetings with the labour leadership in Ontario. I agree with one of his caucus colleagues who said half of this bill is purely administrative and a good part of it is housekeeping beyond that.

My colleague from York-Mackenzie mentioned four appearances in terms of your comments. We're going to four weeks of hearings on this. I know the member for Windsor-Walkerville and I are equally as enthusiastic to have the opportunity to go out and get input on this bill before it comes back into law. We're equally as enthusiastic, I can assure the member for Windsor-Sandwich.

This bill is about streamlining government, it's about doing more with less, because we're not happy with the present collection ratio. We believe we can do a better job for workers in this province. That's why we're bringing in collection agencies to ensure that we do a better job on delinquent orders. These are delinquent orders for workers and these workers want their money. They have every right to expect it and not enough of them are getting it in Ontario. So this is good news for workers with respect to collection agencies, because we think we can do better for less.

The member opposite spoke about reductions in the civil service. We recall the red book, which talked about the Liberal reductions to the public service being only 1,000 less than this government's projections.

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

Mr Sergio: I'm very pleased that they have been listening. It shows that they have been listening. The member for Brantford said it all. He said this is about jobs. Indeed, if this is about jobs, how come what you're doing is creating 25,000 jobs less?

Interjection: This is leadership.

Mr Sergio: God help us. If this is leadership, and you have fewer jobs now than three months ago, then go and tell the workers of Ontario what you're doing. Your own document shows that you will not be able to reach the job quota that you set in your own Common Nonsense Revolution. This is exactly what it is. Every bit of this legislation will take away jobs from Ontario workers, and here they are saying that this is about jobs. My goodness, no one else more than you people -- on a daily basis you say that you're going to create 725,000 jobs. If this is how you're going to do that, I really feel for the people, for the workers of Ontario.


You have fewer people employed today than you had in January: 25,000.

Mr Baird: You're wrong, Mario.

Mr Sergio: I'm not wrong. Your own document shows that. Take a look at your document. It shows you exactly that. I am pleased that they're alive and well and they can see in their own budget document, the so-called business plan, it shows exactly that. So indeed this is about jobs. I hope that when it comes to the crunch they will really see it, that it's a job cruncher.


The Deputy Speaker: There's too much yelling and shouting. It's the purpose of this House to allow debate, the person that has the floor, and the rest are not allowed to. There's no rule to allow me to let that continue, so don't put me in that position unless you would like to.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): I am happy to have the opportunity to speak against this particular bill which I find offensive and which many workers of Ontario, unionized and non-unionized, find offensive as well. This particular bill is part -- an integral part, I would add -- of a corporate agenda shaping the social policy of this province. It's important to speak to this bill not in an isolated way but rather as it makes its contribution towards so many other things this government has done that continue its assault on the working people of this province.

If you see this in the larger context, as it should be seen, at the macro level rather than the micro level, then you will see that there is a pattern. I want to give you a whole long list and then come back to Bill 49 as a way of showing you how all these things interconnect as part of the larger corporate agenda of this province, of which the government is an instrument.

If you look at what this government has begun to do with the people on social assistance, it cut the benefits by 22%. It's an attack on the most vulnerable citizens of this province. It attacks the most marginal, those who don't have a voice and those who don't fight back against governments which obviously decided that they're an appropriate victim to attack.

They have frozen the minimum wage. Who, of course, works at those jobs where we're looking at minimum wage? It's the most vulnerable individual, who doesn't have a steady job, who can't find a steady job, the person who works in a cafe, the person who works in a restaurant, the person who is looking for a job but all that he or she can find is a job that pays minimum wage. So they're very vulnerable when it comes to their economic survival in this society. So this government has chosen, for the interests of the private sector and the corporate agenda, to freeze minimum wage to, as they say, create more jobs. We know that's largely mythical, because there is hardly the creation --


The Deputy Speaker: I'd like to remind the members for Nepean and Brantford that I'll not warn them again.

Mr Marchese: The jobs are not rolling in as some of my colleagues on the other side would like to believe. We have high unemployment in this province. It hovers at 9%, and I tell you that it's going to continue for years. That's very high. In spite of their promises to produce jobs, it's not working. It is not working. So we see an assault on the very vulnerable citizens who work at minimum wage, and this government has decided to freeze their wages, all to benefit the interests of the corporate classes that we have in this society.

Move on. Pay equity: They have dealt a heavy blow to pay equity. Who of course would benefit from pay equity policies that we've introduced in the past, and the Liberals as well? It's women who have benefited from pay equity, who have been traditionally underpaid for the work that they have done. That's why we've introduced it, as a way of equalizing the payments and the support to women who do the same type of work that others do, although different, but underpaid.

This government has decided to freeze those wage rates and to let them go down because it serves the purposes of the employers and it serves the purposes of this government as they are the instrument of the employer and the corporate sector of this province.

Moving on: They have dealt a heavy blow with their Bill 7 as they have repealed completely our labour laws. The anti-worker Bill 7 is seeing its evil deeds as we see it throughout the province, hurting workers in particular.

Employment equity is gone. We have known historically from all the research that is available that aboriginal people don't get the same treatment in society, and therefore are underworked and underemployed massively. We know that people of colour have not been treated with the same respect in the workplace and that they deserve equal treatment in the workplace, as every other worker.

Women have been in that category for many years, although the lot of women has improved, I would say, over the 20 years, but have suffered historically in society as it relates to employment practices and of course, people with disabilities. This government has decided to eliminate that kind of fair treatment for people who have been traditionally, historically not treated appropriately, and all to serve the business sector which was irked by this particular policy, this particular bill that we introduced as a former NDP government.

It goes on. The Advocacy Act has been repealed. Whom does the Advocacy Act protect? It protected the seniors who are very, very vulnerable in this society, it protected people with disabilities who are very, very vulnerable, but this too seems to have irked this particular government and so they've decided to repeal. Basic protections that we have given to working people in this province are slowly being eroded because they irk business and because they irk this particular government as well.

The Anti-Racism Secretariat is gone. Why anybody would remove that at a time when we know it's important -- this government has decided that it irks them and it probably irks some other people who obviously support them in the province out there, so they decided that too needs to go because we don't need that particular policy that gave greater protection to people of colour, and so that too is gone.

We have of course the cuts in education, in health and social services and they're massive cuts, because by next year, the cuts represent $8.3 billion worth of expenditure reductions. It's massive and it's going to hurt everybody. In order to make the reductions they're talking about, they are eroding the kinds of safety nets that we have been used to for a very long time and want and many demand. It's what makes us very distinct from the Americans.

But gradually this government, this very reform-minded government, is going to eliminate that kind of infrastructure that we've had that makes us radically different from our neighbours to the south.

The income tax redistribution to the wealthy has been introduced by this government. I have given an example of what that means. Five bankers in this province earn over $1.5 million. Five of them earning $1.5 million will get a tax reduction of $450,000. It is a redistribution of money that is taken from the poor and is given to those who don't need it and will not spend it for the purposes for which you wanted them to spend it.

This income tax cut does not serve those who are making a very modest living because they will get very little back and will have nothing to spend whatsoever. They will see very soon, as they get their income tax cut, that it contributes very little to that empty pocket. They will have nothing to spend, and the economy will continue to erode and sag for many years to come.


This is an ongoing assault on the people of Ontario. We see the business agenda in every facet of our lives and we've seen business wanting a freer rein over the environment because they feel they're overregulated, and this government seems very willing to cater to that interest. Imagine that we might be overregulated when it comes to issues of the environment. How could we ever be overregulated when it comes to protecting the environment that eventually leads to good health or poor health, depending on how badly damaged the environment has been? But business says to this Conservative government: "Please remove those regulations. We're overgoverned and overregulated. Let us do what we want." You're catering to the business and corporate agenda that's setting and shaping social policy and you are the instrument of that policy. You, Conservative, Reform-minded government, are their instrument.

Bill 49 continues the assault on working people. The Employment Standards Act was there to prevent business from exploiting workers, both unionized and non-unionized, and you have decided, with all the other measures you've already taken, to continue the assault with this by eroding the standards we have around minimum severance, working conditions, hours of work, paid statutory holiday, parental leave and so on. These are important minimum standards that we have introduced because we know historically that there have been abuses. The Employment Standards Act is in place because abuses have happened. They take place, and for you to change it is a problem and is part of the corporate agenda which you call streamlining, which you call efficiency, but it's an attack on working people.

I am convinced this is not what people have been asking you to do. We're not sure that some of you have consulted the garment workers out there and asked them what they think about this and how they have been treated by employers. I'm not sure you've done that kind of homework. You may have consulted some of your friends -- no doubt -- because it fits into the corporate agenda, but you haven't been talking to garment workers. They would tell you differently. They would tell you the abuses they've had to suffer over the years on this very issue.

This is an issue. This bill causes a great deal of concern not just to me but to many people in the province. This piece of legislation affects approximately six million people, unionized and non-unionized. We know that the workforce that is unionized out there is 34%, the rest is non-unionized, so you are affecting approximately four million people without a collective agreement. These are the very people who need the protections, particularly non-unionized workers, those workers who have no voice and no representation.

Who protects their working standards? Who is there to protect them once you introduce a bill that removes basic minimum standards? Who protects the people who have no knowledge of what their rights are? These are the very vulnerable people who work under difficult conditions and have no knowledge of what their powers or their rights are. Who protects them -- under the name of streamlining, efficiency, competition or the promise of jobs? That's not going to work; that's not going to help these people. It will not help them one single bit, because they have no power. Employers have all the power. They dictate because they control employment, not the poor person who doesn't have a union, doesn't have a collective agreement, doesn't know how to speak English very well and doesn't know what his or her rights are. You are taking basic human, social protections away from them. That's not the kind of province these people want. That's not the kind of province most people of this province want.

One measure we're talking about here is that the bill involves a reduction in the time limit to file a complaint from two years to six months. Does this sound like a housekeeping measure to most of the people who are listening here today? Is it a minor change, a housekeeping change? We don't think so. Does giving people a shorter time in which to make a complaint or seek redress make the system more efficient for the person who has been aggrieved or hurt or injured by these employment practices that take away some of the rights they're asking for? It doesn't. How does it make it more efficient for a garment worker who is working at home, watching the children and working 40, 50, 60 hours a week?

Is six months enough time? It is for you who want to make it more efficient, because you want to fire workers in the ministry who would otherwise be doing this job, but it doesn't make it more efficient for the individual seeking redress who doesn't know at times where to begin, who barely speaks the language and is frightened to come into a different country understanding what he or she might do. Where do they go, even when they know they're frightened, to seek redress? You're saying, "Let's limit the time from two years to six months." Whom are you helping when you do that? Certainly you cannot stand there and say, "We're helping that poor garment worker out there," because you're not doing that.


Mr Marchese: Ron, surely you know they're garment workers and they're badly mistreated and very overworked. They don't get overtime or holiday or vacation pay. I know you're puzzled by all this, but you must talk to them as a way of understanding what you're doing with this bill, because you're hurting people like that, the sector that doesn't have anybody to be their voice. You're denying them access to the system; you're denying them access to pursue this in the best way possible where government should be the fiduciary of their rights and not passing it on to somebody else. You're taking those basic rights away.

Then you introduce a maximum dollar amount of what can be claimed, which is $10,000. The seriousness of violations becomes irrelevant to you. If a worker were to seek redress and were to be entitled to $20,000 or $30,000, you say: "We're sorry, you're only entitled up to $10,000. We don't seem to care whether you should be getting more. We've established a cap." How does that benefit the individual who's been affected or wronged if the benefits he was entitled to are more than $10,000?

You argue that they can go to the courts. Isn't it wonderful to send individuals who don't know what their rights are, who don't know where to begin looking for their rights, who are afraid of the political system, who are afraid to talk to us and talk to governments because of whatever particular social, economic or political background they come from and don't know where to begin -- and you tell them, "You can go to court and seek redress"? You don't seem to care whether they can afford it, let alone whether you think they're able to do that, because that's not part of your planning; it's not part of your thinking.

Who benefits from this measure? Certainly not the victim of this abuse of the Employment Standards Act. Who gains from this? Which side of this issue are you on? Are you for those workers, unionized and particularly non-unionized, or are you for the employer and the corporate business world out there, of which you are an instrument?

I say you're on the side of the corporate agenda, not on the side of workers, and this is a problem. It's a problem because you are legalizing the employer and the corporate sector to continue their abuses against working people of this province.

All I can urge the people of this province who are listening to do is to continue to fight back against this Tory government, against this Reform-minded government. Don't isolate the issues and think we're dealing with yet another little issue, that it's not important, because it's part of a larger agenda, and when you see it in a broader macro context you see that working people, working poor people and the middle class are being assaulted by all of you here today and in the last year and for the next three years. So I urge the public that's watching today to fight back against this government.


The Deputy Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I'm always impressed with the words from our member for Fort York. I did want to correct a few things, though, that he said that I take a little exception to. He talked about us butchering the Pay Equity Act. I think we should know that this year we will put more money into pay equity than at any time previously in the province, and the only thing we've changed is the proxy system, which all of us know did not work very well. So we haven't done anything to negatively impact pay equity.

I want to talk about employment equity. Yesterday I had an opportunity to visit a plant in Weston, a large manufacturer of pharmaceuticals that employs about 2,000 people. They informed me that in their 2,000 employees, they have representatives from 79 different cultures, 79 different nationalities. They say: "We don't need employment equity. We hire the best person for the available job."

The other comment I want to make is about income tax redistribution to the wealthy. I don't know -- $3 billion of the tax cut is going to go to people making between $25,000 and $75,000 a year. I don't believe they are what we would term the wealthy in our province.

He asked us to choose sides: Whose side are we on? I would like the member for Fort York to know that we are on the side of an Ontario with a future. I don't mind him criticizing what we're doing; I think that's probably his role here. I would just like to recommend to him that in future he get his facts straight before he criticizes.

Mr Sergio: I compliment the member for Fort York on his usual passionate words. I have to also commend him on the fact that indeed he is speaking as a defender of the worker, especially those who are not unionized, in small shops and stuff like that. I think those will be the ones who will even suffer more than those who at least have some type of protection, some type of union.

If there was a message in what the member has said, I think he was saying that workers are in that situation today where they are working longer, they are working harder, they are working more, they are working more for less money, and the conditions are also deteriorating. When this happens and we see that there's legislation coming doing absolutely nothing to build confidence in the workers for their protection, for their safety, then of course we have to say, "What is being done with respect to protecting the workplace for the workers, for the safety, for the enjoyment, for the atmosphere in the workforce?"

Surely we are not saying just do one side and don't do the other. I think what we are saying is we have to create this balance. Sure, we have to have jobs, we have to create more jobs and we have to attract business to Ontario, but I think the first responsibility would be to look after the employers of the province or the workers of the province of Ontario, and I have to agree that the amendments as they are proposed will not do that and they are not supportable.

Mr Wildman: I just wanted to congratulate my friend from Fort York on his presentation and to say that it is a bit odd to have the member for Chatham-Kent argue that this government is doing more for equity in the province. He points to one firm which says that it has 72 different countries represented in its workforce. I wonder how many are represented in the management at that company and I wonder what this might mean for the future of the company.

He also says that this government -- I think the term he used was "on the side of the future." Well, in my view, and I realize it's a biased view, the Conservative Party does have some options to present to the people of Ontario for going into the 21st century, but they aren't futuristic. In fact the basic thing is, even in dealing with this bill, they're talking about flexibility, not having regulations. They're talking about the invisible hand of the marketplace essentially deciding who achieves, who is successful and who isn't. That is not anything futuristic, that's 18th century, that's Adam Smith, that's laissez-faire capitalism. I recognize you're putting that forward, but it's hardly something that is new or futuristic. It is something that we recognize in western society has helped to bring progress but has also produced problems, problems that require regulation to protect those who are vulnerable, and this bill is taking away those protections.

Mr Baird: I'd indicate to the member for Fort York that this bill is part of a two-step process with respect to a review of the Employment Standards Act, the first being the bill we're debating here today. The second will be an approximately year-long consultation process, to see legislation come for the spring session next year.

The member specifically mentioned the garment workers in the province and the challenges they face in this workforce. I couldn't agree more: There are a lot of challenges in the garment industry. That's why we need an Employment Standards Act that's more reflective of the 1990s and ready for the next millennium. Simply put, I think there are challenges facing the garment industry: Often they are immigrant women working at home; even hours of work, let alone the minimum wage. It's an issue of fundamental human rights. Also -- very secondary, by the way -- it's an issue of competitiveness. We have one company which accepts its obligations under the Employment Standards Act and is put at a competitive disadvantage because the next guy cheats his employees out of rules. So there are two very important reasons why we've got to modernize the act.

That's something this government has already announced and will be following through on. We had a very productive meeting with senior labour leaders in the province of Ontario a number of weeks ago and are prepared to work with them to help modernize the act over the coming year. At this stage, this bill is the more short-term measure.

The member specifically mentioned the issue of the $10,000 maximum. In 1994-95, only 4% of all individual claims were for more than $10,000. These complaints were often for large wrongful dismissal claims by middle-level managers. Encouraging such claimants to find their own recourse will free up more ministry time to deal with the claims from some of the most vulnerable workers in the province that the member spoke of. That's part and parcel of the goals and objectives of these reforms.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Fort York has two minutes to respond.

Mr Marchese: I thank the members for Chatham-Kent, Yorkview, Algoma and Nepean for their comments.

I appreciate that the member for Nepean is obviously very sincere, as I hear him, about his concerns for garment workers, but the point I'm making is that Bill 49 obviously doesn't help at all. It doesn't help those workers at all. That's why we're here speaking against the measures you've introduced.

In fact, part of my concern is that the core commitments that guide these governments are commitments that seem to be quite consistent with the corporate agenda, which is what I've been arguing. That's my concern, because the corporate market agenda is going to drive a lot of people into some terrible times in the coming years.

I want to quote from a friend of mine, Ian Adams, who had an article in the Star today. He speaks of three different categories of people we have in this society: the possessor, the possessed and the dispossessed. He says: "The `possessors' are the elite 20% who own and control most of the national wealth and income. The `possessed' are the contracted former middle class. They are possessed by the banks, mortgage and credit card companies to an incredible 87% of indebtedness." Then of course we have the dispossessed, who are the very vulnerable, the poor who have been driven out of work etc.

These are the kinds of things we've got in this society: the possessors, those who own the wealth; the dispossessed who have been marginalized completely and further marginalized by this government; and the possessed. This is the class problem we've got, and this bill and every other measure I've talked about that this government has acted on is hurting working people who are in unions and non-unions alike. We're asking the people of Ontario to wake up to this kind of strategy which this instrument is part of.


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

Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): It's my pleasure to join in this very important debate this afternoon. I'm hoping my comments will generate light. I'm sure they will generate heat. The honourable members opposite will, I'm sure, let me know if that is the case. I wanted to concentrate my remarks, if it pleases the Chair --

Mr Wildman: Don't congratulate yourself at the beginning.

Mr Clement: I'll try to be a bit more humble next time.

I wanted to concentrate my remarks concerning Bill 49 on section 3 of that bill, which amends subsection 4(2) of the Employment Standards Act. This is the section that deals with allowing deals via collective agreements or other agreements between workers and managers that would prevail, if there was such an agreement, over the standards as found in the Employment Standards Act.

Honourable members should think of this particular section in a particular way, I would submit. Examples of labour flexibility could include such things as workers wanting more time around recognized holidays such as Christmas or other religious holidays that we have in our society now, in return for working more hours than was the case in the past throughout the rest of the year. That might be something workers might want to do in order to spend some more time with their families at very special times of the year, and this particular section would allow that flexibility.

I want to go from perhaps the particular to the more general and discuss what I think is an important aspect of this particular subsection of Bill 49, and that is, the importance of labour flexibility. Not only will I discuss the importance of labour flexibility for the economy and draw a connection between labour flexibility and job creation, but there are also arguments to be made for how increased labour flexibility is exactly in tandem with the demands of the modern worker, the demands of the individual worker, how she or he -- and frequently now it is she -- wants to access the labour market for her wants and needs as an individual in our society.

Let me first tackle the issue of the connection between labour flexibility and jobs. This is what connects this. That is the fine thread that connects this particular bill to what is absolutely at the focus of the government's agenda, namely, to create jobs and opportunity; once again in Ontario to create a land of opportunity.

The connection, I believe, is valid between labour flexibility and job creation, and in fact it has been documented, it has been studied, it has been reviewed not only in this jurisdiction, but for those who want to look in many of the other jurisdictions of the western world.

I would draw your attention to an interesting statistic I've dug up. Typically, what has happened in western Europe is that through the peak of each economic cycle there has been a certain unemployment rate and then when that cycle goes into a downturn that unemployment rate increases. What has happened over the last 20 years in Europe is that when they are in the down cycle when the recession is on, the unemployment rate for each of those down cycles has shown an upward progression; that is to say, more people get more unemployed more often as the 20th century has advanced.

But there has been an exception to that rule and that exception has been Great Britain where, through a number of changes that were instituted first in the Thatcher era and have continued since then, there has been a marked increase in labour flexibility in Great Britain. In fact, Britain is the only European nation that has shown a decrease in the upward level of unemployment in each successive down cycle, such that last year, while Europe was suffering from an unemployment rate of 11% in general, Britain had an unemployment rate of 8.3%. Nothing to be proud of, perhaps, but significantly better than a western Europe that includes such economic giants as Germany. So I would ask honourable members to keep that in mind.

Another interesting example I've dug up is comparing Alberta's unemployment rate to those of the near states in the United States: Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. This is a different statistic; this is actually employment growth. I'd like to talk about jobs being created rather than unemployment all the time. Job growth, comparing Alberta to those southern states previous to Mr Klein's changes: The average of those 10 states south of the border showed employment growth of 11% to 15%, whereas in Alberta the rate was 4%. I think a very interesting statistic that shows increased labour flexibility -- the United States is known as having the most flexible labour market in the world -- meaning jobs, jobs for citizens.

I would draw members' attention as well to another example in Europe, because it's not only Ontario that has had a bit of a revolution, a "common sense" revolution. Spain is another interesting example. Spain has been going through some tough times. They've had 11 years of socialist rule, which is tough enough, I'm sure, but certainly their unemployment rate has been among the highest in all of western Europe. Spain has an official unemployment rate of 24%. That's the official rate. That means for those youth who declined to enter the job market, for those who gave up, if you added those on to Spain's unemployment rate, it would be far higher than 24%.

Mrs Pupatello: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I would like to call for a quorum of the House, please.

The Deputy Speaker: Is there a quorum?

Senior Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Journals (Mr Alex D. McFedries): A quorum is present, Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Brampton South.

Mr Clement: Thank you. Before we were so rudely interrupted, I was talking about Spain.

Mr Wildman: She was just trying to bring an audience in for you.

Mr Clement: Thank you very much for your concern about an audience. I'm sure folks at home are listening with rapt attention.

Spain has an unemployment rate of 24% and is known to have the least flexible job market in the entire western Europe. Hopefully that will change. They've just elected a new Conservative government under Mr Aznar, and hopefully they can do something to try to drive some flexibility into their market, because what employers in Spain were telling the former socialist government there was, "Even though the demand is there, even though there are more people who want our goods and services, it is in our interest not to hire, because if we hire someone, we can't fire him." There is no way in the world in Spain that if you hired somebody, you could fire them.

Incidentally, for those who are interested in a bit of history, this is one of the effects of Fascism. Under the Franco regime in Spain, in their statist attempt to control everything, they wanted a system so that workers had jobs for life, so that the employer-employee relationship was so sacrosanct that no human force could rend it asunder. That's one of the effects of Fascism in Spain, and the effect was now 24% unemployment on the official rate. So one would hope that in Spain flexibility would be the order of the day as well.

Let me move on from there to talk a bit more about flexibility in marketplaces around the world and what I have uncovered in my research in this area. Flexibility is not only an important aspect of creating employment, but one of the primary preconditions to flexibility, according to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, otherwise known as the OECD, another important factor, is proper education standards for the future workers in our province.


So I would argue that although section 3 of this bill is part and parcel of increased labour flexibility, another part and parcel of ensuring that we have jobs for Ontarians is a proper education system that educates with proper standards so that the young people in our province will have the ability to not only find a job, but perhaps if something goes wrong or if that particular company downsizes, will have the ability to find another job and another job.

The honourable member for Fort York perhaps was referring to this when he talked about vulnerability in our society. I share the honourable member's concern about vulnerable people, but I would argue that the real vulnerability when it comes to downsizing is when that unemployed worker has no job to go to because, number one, the economy isn't creating jobs, or number two, that person does not have the requisite skills. I think it is incumbent upon us as legislators to ensure the skills are present with each and every person: the flexibility skills, the creative skills, the skills to read and to write and to be numerate so they can compete in the job market of today.

There are other examples of how to achieve labour flexibility. I'm reading now from another OECD report called Flexible Working Time: Collective Bargaining and Government Intervention. This particular document surveys a number of different countries within the OECD, of which of course Canada is a member: Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Japan. In this document, the point is made that in Japan -- everyone always brings up Japan as an economic model -- the consensus has been that it is better to achieve labour flexibility through negotiation, collective bargaining negotiation, rather than through government intervention. That's what the Japanese have learned in creating the economic miracle they have in their country.

I would continue then from the aspect of connecting labour flexibility with jobs and go to the individual, because this is not merely an economics discussion in the macro sense of the word. This is about people. This is about people who are living with a lot of the changes that are occurring throughout the world, not just in Ontario or in Canada. The studies show, again, that there is a rough consensus from the workers -- I dare say not the unions necessarily, but from the workers themselves -- that they want increased flexibility.

A report from the Institute for Labour Relations' Bulletin of Comparative Labour Relations, printed in Germany and in Boston: Among the demands for increased flexibility from workers and employers -- and employers, I'll admit to that; the need for flexibility in the organization of working time; for the abolition of rigid rules concerning dismissal that in fact prevent the hiring of new workers. Demands are coming from the Spanish confederations, the French, the Dutch, the Japanese. This is a worldwide phenomenon.

I dare say there is a reason why it is important. Studies have shown that the demand for labour market flexibility is there. A study of workers -- not unions, not governments, but workers -- in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, France, Spain, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom goes from a low of 45% in Germany to a high of 69% in the United Kingdom wishing to have greater flexibility in work hours and differentiation in terms of additional leisure time and how that interacts with their wages. I think there's a fair consensus there in those countries that flexibility is the way to go.

Let me add a further dimension to this debate. The greatest demand for flexibility in terms of work hours, in terms of the demands day to day versus the demands at peak periods -- the greatest demand from workers for that flexibility is coming from working women. It's coming from working women who are trying to obtain control over their lives. Perhaps they're single parents. Perhaps they are married individuals with kids at home and are struggling, with their husband, to meet the demands of being a proper parent in our society, a proper parent, and still trying to get ahead a little bit in life through a double income, which is in fact, for most people now, not a lifestyle choice; it's a necessity. We all know that; it's a necessity for a lot of working couples that both individuals work.

So the greatest demand for the flexibility is not from the élites that the member for Fort York worries about, it's not for the big corporations, it's not for the big management organizations; the greatest demand for change is coming from working women. They're the ones saying, "Look, we just can't compete or can't be part of the economy if the working hours are the standard working hours that have been that way since the 1850s." They want to see that change. We are responding to that change. Perhaps for the first time in the province of Ontario, the government of Ontario is responding to the demands for flexibility by working women. I, for one, am very proud of that fact.

In conclusion, I encourage the members opposite, perhaps at committee stage we'll have the reasoned debate which I hope I have added to in at least an infinitesimal degree. Perhaps having seen the studies that I have seen, perhaps having read the reports that I have read, perhaps seeing what is out there, not only in the province of Ontario but the demands that are being made by the workers throughout the world for changes, for increased flexibility, for access to jobs that the rigid standards of the past were not accommodating, perhaps they will join us in ensuring that Ontario is not only competitive in terms of the dollars and cents that are so important but is competitive for the quality of life for our workers, for everyone in this province to have a quality of life that will be the envy not only of the Dominion of Canada but for the rest of the world as well.

The Deputy Speaker: Comments and questions?

Mrs Pupatello: I was more than a little interested in listening to our member across the way and what he had to say about the act being presented. I guess most interesting is that some of the reports he was quoting I too have had the pleasure of reading in the late hours. OECD reports are interesting when they're given in full context. So, for example, if you're going to be quoting that kind of information about labour markets in markets like Sweden, I think you should mention too that the taxation levels there are between 70% and 80% often, and I wonder how many of his colleagues, the true believers, would be advocating that we turn to levels of taxation such as those European countries that you might have listed.

I think that enters into a whole new debate, that we have individuals of the government caucus who are advocating a 70% or 80% taxation rate in the country, like the markets that he mentioned. I guess that's the danger, that when we have members come in and do their preparation and start drawing on other world markets, we need to remember that Ontario has always led the world in labour market change and that we have always been ahead of that.


When I speak for my own region, if you look at the tool and mould industries where I come from, government members will acknowledge that we lead the world in those industries. We do so because we have excellent employment standards, we have excellent labour-management relationships where I come from. The fear is that when we discuss the reality of the bills that are being discussed here today as they concern labour and employment standards, what we see is a digression. We are being regressive here with this act. I wish the member would look to the balance of the reports of the OECD he is quoting from and continue to compare apples and apples, as opposed to what he's presented today.

Mr Wildman: I listened with interest to the comments of the member for Brampton South. Obviously he's done a good deal of thinking about this and he's done some research, and I congratulate him for putting forward his views clearly and succinctly. However, I caution him that if one looks at certain elements of the situation in western Europe or Japan without looking at the full context of the economic situation and the social structure, one might reach invalid conclusions. It is important to look at the whole picture.

I want to make clear that when he says that the best way to deal with flexibility, which he argues is being demanded by workers, is through negotiations, we don't disagree with that. However, we also believe it is imperative to have some basic bottom lines. What is being proposed here by this government is something that will significantly complicate collective bargaining in Ontario for those unionized workplaces, where there will be demands put at the bargaining table that up to now have not been legal and will make it quite likely that we will see significant difficulty in reaching agreements that are acceptable to workers and to employers in areas that up to now have not been matters of contention.

I also suggest to him that when he looks at other nations, and I think it's important to do that, he should perhaps look at the history of Spain. He did talk a little about the Fascist regime, but he should also perhaps have looked at the other part of the Iberian peninsula, Portugal, which has a very different experience in an economy that's quite similar.

Mr Ron Johnson: I want to make a few comments with respect to the presentation of my colleague the member for Brampton South. What he was able to give us today was a tremendous amount of insight into what other jurisdictions in other countries have done. The key part of his presentation -- and I hope the members opposite were listening to this because it is the key part of the presentation -- was the important link he was able to establish between labour flexibility and job creation. He's proven, through some very good evidence, that there is a correlation between labour flexibility and job creation.

I think back to what the member for Windsor-Sandwich said earlier to one of my comments claiming the same thing. She said there's no relation at all between the two things, between Bill 49 and job creation. That's exactly where she's wrong. The Liberals simply don't get it. It's not about one piece of legislation. Creating jobs is about creating a climate. This is part of that -- a very small part of that, I might add, but a very important part -- in terms of creating a climate that's conducive to job growth.

I'm glad to see that the member for Windsor-Sandwich, having been much more educated by my colleague the member for Brampton South, can now share that education with the rest of her caucus. Hopefully they will come back in support of this legislation now that they see the important link. It's funny; she's even got the audacity to look at us as a government that may want 80% tax rates. We decrease taxes; that's what this government's all about. Coming from a member who sits in a party that raised taxes 33 times in three years, now she's talking about comparing us to the Sweden model, which is completely absurd. Of course, that's not what we're after in Ontario at all.

The important part here is the link that has been established between labour flexibility and job creation, and I certainly congratulate the member for Brampton South on giving us some very good information.

Mr Joseph Cordiano (Lawrence): I want to comment very briefly on the member's speech and suggest that he's got it all wrong, as his government does on these matters. Surprise, surprise. Once again they are perpetrating another myth.

They want us and the public of Ontario to believe that the income tax cut will create more jobs, when in fact we know that around the world where this type of economics was attempted, it has not led to more jobs. In fact, New Jersey, their role model, has one of the worst employment records in all of the United States. When you look at the Employment Standards Act -- and the member was talking about flexibility -- the aspects of flexibility that are workable are in fact for workers at the high end of the job market who are highly skilled, who need perhaps no unionized effort to meet the kind of negotiating demands they're calling upon for employers to meet.

These are highly educated, highly trained, highly skilled people who don't need that kind of minimum standard to be there for them. In fact, the member fails to mention when he refers to flexibility that it's people at the lowest end of the workforce who need that kind of support, that kind of floor. They do not have the power to negotiate for themselves because quite frankly their skills are in abundance. That's what's happening around the world and that's what your government fails to realize.

When you talk about lowering standards, you're going to compare us to places like Alabama, and other developing countries in the world where employment standards are lower. That's what you fail to realize.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Brampton South has two minutes to respond.

Mr Clement: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to reply to my colleagues. I thank the honourable members from Windsor-Sandwich, Algoma, Brantford and Lawrence for their remarks respecting my presentation.

I must be contrite to the members. They have made a good point about putting things in context and perhaps we all need a bit of context every now and again in this chamber.

Let me bring a bit of extra information about Sweden, however, which was not a country that I did really focus on. But it's quite interesting that the new Prime Minister of Sweden is cutting welfare rates for the first time in the history of the Swedish nation, so perhaps they have been reading the Common Sense Revolution as well.

In terms of who I am comparing to, the member for Lawrence got it wrong unfortunately. In fact I made no mention of Alabama at all. I was comparing us to what has generally been considered part of the successful economies in the world, the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Britain. Spain has moved mountains since Fascism has receded.

I don't want to compare us to Albania, as the honourable member for Algoma mentioned earlier. I don't want to compare us to Myanmar. That isn't the purpose of this. The purpose is to compete with the best countries in the world, because we have the best workers, we have the best education and we have the best market position geographically. There is nothing preventing us from competing with the best in the world except that we have had bad government for 10 years and that's the sort of thing we have to change in order to create the jobs and opportunity that are so desperately demanded by the people of the province of Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Pupatello: It is my pleasure to discuss the bill that's being introduced and make some commentary. I welcome the Conservative member for Nepean to stay on this side of the House actually and I can understand why he may want to go.

All of our discussions on this have to be in context and I would submit that the member for Brampton South who has just finished -- we could go on about comparisons of other world markets. In fact, the area of Sweden has the best child care in the world. They also have a significant level of early childhood education, usually by age three, so if we are going to look at comparing markets, I was pleased to hear the member mention that, yes, in fact, he should have been a little more focused and compare appropriately.

I guess overall I want to start by saying that the mission of the government is indeed to cut and there is no difference here. The fact that we're going to relate that to job creation is a stretch. I think they do hope that happens. Overall, the government is intent on cutting because they have to finance a huge tax cut, which is very popular. Even where I come from, where they don't tend to elect Conservative members, tax cuts are certainly welcome to most people. I think everyone agrees the world over, not just in our economy in Ontario, that tax cuts are appreciated, and we think that when it's done appropriately and when it's done fiscally responsibly, they are welcome.


In our case, as we remember our campaign vividly, we would have done it certainly less so and we would have been more fiscally responsible, because what it's resulted in is the government having to find significant levels of cuts across the board to account for the huge loss in revenue the government suffers from as a result of not taking in the money from the income taxes.

One of the areas they're finding as a huge cut will be this operation within the Ministry of Labour, and that is a 26.6% cut in the employment practices division of the ministry.

I don't know if some of the backbench Tory members realize that's the level of cutting that is going on in that ministry, that we have people who are inspectors, people who used to be out there across Ontario workplaces who simply will not be there any more, and that the true agenda is we've got to cut 26.6%. I don't think you're going to see that right away, but within six months, the people on the shop floors across Ontario will know those people aren't there any more. You are responsible for that. The government is responsible for ensuring that employment standards are there and exist.

We realize that much of the bill, as it's been presented, is indeed housekeeping items, but there are some areas that are not just housekeeping, not just the wrong word in the translation; there are some that are significant.

The government proposes to alter limitation periods and notice provisions for claims by reducing the period for making a claim. That certainly doesn't put more onus on an employer; it puts more onus on the employee. The government also intends to establish a maximum amount for which an order to pay can be written. That again doesn't affect the employer; it certainly does affect the employee.

The government, through this, proposes to permit prescription by regulation of minimum amounts for which an order to pay can be written. Also, it proposes to require claimants to elect either a ministry remedy or civil remedy through the courts, with the exception of claims for violations for which reinstatement might be ordered.

It proposes, where collective agreements are in place, to require the use of grievance procedures to arbitrate the Employment Standards Act. I know that it is a very detailed thing and that unless you really work in this field, it may not be understandable. Our Labour critic spoke at length about this item, that this in fact is creating a very different climate at the bargaining table, and that's fine --

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I notice the gentlemen running out. I'm wondering if there's a quorum to hear my friend from Windsor-Sandwich.

The Deputy Speaker: Would you please check for a quorum.

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

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Windsor-Sandwich.

Mrs Pupatello: I appreciate that everyone's rushing back in to hear my presentation and comments on the bill.

As I was saying, there are some elements our Labour critic, Dwight Duncan, has gone into at length about some of the changes and they are significant, and we recognize other areas that are considered housekeeping.

We appreciate that there will be public hearings on this bill. We mentioned that the level of public hearings, frankly, is surprising from this, the government that refused public hearings on a significant labour change such as Bill 7. We are surprised; in fact we're pleased. Some of you do indeed learn lessons, even though it's been difficult.

I've been interested to hear overall that the submissions made by the government members have always attached this bill to job creation. I find that interesting. They've attached it to the elimination of red tape, and we've heard a lot about that lately.

I'd like to compare that to the kind of red tape we have to suffer in the Windsor area when we try to look for a doctor; in fact the Minister of Health refuses to recognize that we need doctors in Windsor until we submit to all of that red tape bureaucracy to get us proclaimed an underserviced area. Let me tell you there's a significant package that had to be submitted and it had to go to several layers of the ministry. We're awaiting a response. Our people responded quickly, but I can tell you that in the Ministry of Health there is an enormous amount of red tape. In terms of priority, I would say the health ministry ought to be the priority of government and they should look to that. The very numbers the minister uses were incorrect where doctors were concerned, and we had to do the job of proving that we were short in supply of doctors.

In the case of Sudbury, having already been proclaimed an underserviced area, now the people of Sudbury have to go looking for a doctor in order to access the funding. We know there is work to be done in Windsor and Essex county even when we get the designation after all the red tape that currently exists in the Ministry of Health. Even when the designation comes, we have to go find the doctors then and ask them to make a remittance to see if they can have access. That's the kind of red tape that should have been a priority if the government was talking about red tape this week.

They continue to link this act to jobs and the creation of jobs. I'm wondering what the people in Brockville feel about Bill 49. I wonder what the people who work at Phillips in Brockville feel about Bill 49. Do you think that the Phillips plant, now that it's closing and gone -- and Brockville had a significant stake in Phillips -- is really concerned about what the Employment Standards Act is today? I think their priorities go beyond that and that if we were going to be focusing government activity in the time we spend here, we should be looking at how we maintain corporations in towns where they are absolutely the anchor of the town. I'm sure that the member from Brockville has significant concerns over where the people will go.

I'd like to talk about an announcement this week about the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. They're talking about closing down many stores. That may be in the corporate best interest to do so but, regardless, officials from that company tell me that they're looking at 100 people per store that is closing whose jobs will be lost. Those 100 people per store are scattered across Ontario -- some in your communities and some near mine. The A&P jobs, though, what differs there in that scenario, is that most of the people are young. Most of the people are young, part-time people.

If we're talking about job creation, I know some of you -- and certainly the member for Brampton South, who has done extensive research in world G-7 countries and labour markets, realizes that part-time work and women in part-time work is certainly a significant part of the working landscape today. So when A&P announces stores closing and a potential 100 young part-time people losing their jobs, this is a significant impact to them. I don't know what the people of A&P think about An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act. I don't think they consider that this act would really be a priority right now.

We talk about priorities. We've got to say the priority was certainly to decrease the taxes, and they are starting to do that. We hope that their strategy will work because it's the only strategy that the government has in the bank. If this strategy doesn't work, you don't have any other things to pull out of the cupboard to all of sudden create the 725,000 jobs that you've promised us. Even if you're going to try to stay on target, the government members recognize they would have to, between now and the end of their mandate, create in excess of some 150,000 jobs a year.

Mr Speaker, I have to tell you that in the highest levels of recoveries of economies, we have never, ever been in a position to be hiring and creating those levels of job opportunities in Ontario, and yet we've struggled and come out of a significant recession during the last government's term. We don't know how they're going to do it. I can tell you that the bill that we're discussing today is not going to be a part of creating over 150,000 jobs a year, as is required by the government to meet its own targets.

I found it particularly interesting that the government hasn't been talking about those job targets very much any more. They talk about the red tape and they talk about the tax decreases, but you're not mentioning your job targets any more.


We talked to young people after we managed, as a Liberal caucus, to hold your feet to the fire on the youth opportunities for summer employment programs. We did hold your feet to the fire on that. You did bring that program back even though you had cut it initially.

Now we're talking to young people and they're still telling us that those job programs haven't worked, and I'll tell you why: The government brought forward that program so late, with a deadline so early; the wrong phone number on the back of the application forms so that it frustrated most of the students who tried to access the plan. You have another program where you've allowed so little in terms of an incentive for employers to hire the students. In fact, it was at the $2.50 level for some employers, where they used to be able to take students on with a greater coverage by government for student summer programs. Those programs have failed, so we're in the middle now of a lot of high school students who are going to be let out for the summer who aren't going to have access to the jobs. Even the low number of jobs that was available last year is not going to be found this summer.

I guess the worst part is that when they get back to school in September, they're looking at an 18% increase in tuition. I remember clearly the Conservative members campaigning around Ontario. They never told students in the universities across Ontario that they'd be paying those levels of tuition increases. I think if they did, they would say, "I don't think we have our priorities right." But now I can go back to the students across Ontario and say, "We know what the priorities are: It's Bill 49, An Act to improve the Employment Standards Act." I would tell those university students who desperately need their jobs, the job-creating measures that are offered to them in the Employment Standards Act, "We're sorry, it's not going to go a long way to helping people pay an 18% increased tuition."

We were at the opening of the research and development centre in Windsor last week, where Yves Landry, the president of Chrysler corporation, spoke eloquently about the kind of links that corporations make with institutions and their employee groups. We heard from Buzz Hargrove, representing the CAW, who also spoke eloquently about the relationships between employees and employers. The people who are out there working in very successful corporations understand that they need to work together on these things and that often government can be cumbersome, but they all acknowledge there is a role to play in government.

When Yves Landry spoke about the opening of the research and development centre, he agreed that there is a corporate responsibility for their own future and for that of their employees. We were proud to listen to that in Windsor, where you find the headquarters of Chrysler Canada, listening to a very successful corporate representative speak about that kind of corporate responsibility. I wish all of you had come, not just one of your Conservative members, to that opening, because his speech was important in that corporations do recognize corporate responsibility as it relates to jobs, job creation and their future. I think they are involved in it, but I can tell you, it's quite a stretch to suggest that job creation has anything to do with Bill 49.

I guess if we have to speak about it, we want to be proactive. We want to talk about what we would do. We could make recommendations that would in fact improve the lay of the land for workers in Ontario.

I had an opportunity to speak with some firefighters across Ontario. We have excellent representatives from firefighters' associations in Windsor. One wrote a letter to Cam Jackson that was talking about WCB reform. The link here is that it's the same kind of direction in terms of the act and Bill 49 that's been brought forward today and where the government is going in the area of labour relations in general. He wrote an interesting letter as a response to a committee called prevention, rehabilitation and return to work.

The firefighters have some grave concerns about the direction the government is going as it applies to labour and labour relations. In fact, he said, even at this meeting: "We heard input from many areas of the world" -- all around the world; I would submit one of our members from Brampton South must have been at that meeting with his books as well -- "not to mention our own country. Apparently there has occurred great success in changing the WCB rules. With all due respect, I say `apparently' because we heard only one side of this apparent fix." It was a consideration of who called it a success: Was it the government, the corporation or the workers?

Our gentleman from Windsor, Doug Topliffe, is saying you've got to look at it being called a success by all of the parties. "Certainly some of the workers' quality of life was improved via rehabilitation and prevention. However, we did not hear of the workers who were hurt by this process. What about the workers who lost pay due to an injury, who perhaps lost jobs due to slow healing? Of special interest may be the unknown number of workers who may have lasting effects of injuries because they could not afford to lose money by being on compensation. Another unanswered question: the number of injured workers who aggravated their injuries by staying at work because they could not afford their time off.

The waiting period does not seem fair for any worker. A company is realizing a potential profit due to their workers doing their job. Why should a person be punished after assisting in the making of another person's profit? For a worker who serves the public, why should he or she be punished for doing a job that makes your life easier?

A huge concern is for emergency service workers. Some of the government members who are here might be interested in this very discussion because it's of huge interest to the constituency where I come from, and any constituency, and that is, what are we doing and what kind of dialogue is the government having with our emergency service workers? I'd like to shed some light on that for you.

For police, firefighters, correction officers, ambulance attendants and many more who are working at dangerous jobs that often entail sudden, strenuous and dangerous activities, a waiting period and return to work may be implemented. I'd like to ask all those involved with this process a question. Can any one of you sincerely believe that a firefighter who will enter a burning building to rescue any one of the citizens of Ontario and becomes burnt or injured should be punished by losing pay due to a waiting period?

Mr Baird: I agree.

Mrs Pupatello: The member for Nepean agrees. These are the kinds of discussions the government is having with emergency service workers, that it's going to implement these waiting periods. I understand that this loss of pay may be forgiven, but we're not certain of it. If you are off for a period of time, when is the pay returned? If you don't heal within a certain time frame, you may be taken off compensation -- another nice thank you for the firefighter who just saved your life.

Apparently there's discussion in this area surrounding the opportunity for the emergency service worker to opt out of doing the work. In this scenario we've got firefighters who are running around a burning building and they're going to stop before they enter the building to save a life and say: "Wait. I'm going to opt out of this work because it might be too dangerous." That is the kind of discussion this government is having with emergency service workers in Ontario. I want to tell the people in Windsor-Sandwich that we're going to continue to fight the government on this kind of thing because our firefighters, our ambulance crews, all of them are vital and we don't think that they needlessly have to be attacked through the kind of reform that's being discussed currently with this government. We go on.

We think the problem should be rectified by prevention, rehabilitation and eradicating the malingerers and fraudulent cases. If you ask most people on the street about the workplace, about the employment standards and any of that, all of us want to get rid of fraud, all of us want to get rid of malingering cases etc. We think that the government really should focus on that as a priority, certainly not on bringing forward a bill like Bill 49.

We are seeing, and even this week on radio news we kept hearing, reports of the cost of repetitive strain injuries, because there are reports that have now been released. We know that the latest cost to an average Canadian company is some $12,000 per year in repetitive strain injury. Even carpal tunnel syndrome -- many of us are now beginning to understand what it is -- $6,500 per year per case for each newly reported case. These are enormous costs to companies.

If you were truly a government which was interested in helping corporations and employees -- you say you are interested in both -- what you should be doing is looking at how to get into the workplace to try to prevent these kinds of things from happening at all. If you realize there's such a change in the workplace -- it's far more automated, you have many different types of workers doing many different types of things and the injuries are very interesting in that they're very much the same kind of thing -- then government should be leading the way in how to address that. Prevention is absolutely critical.

With all the time and energy it has taken for you to produce Bill 49, I submit you could have come up with some very good leadership ideas on getting into the workplace and creating incentives for corporations to get into the workplace and prevent those kinds of injuries in the first place. We have private companies across Ontario who are very good at doing this. We have public institutions too who are very well trained in looking at ergonomics and how to prevent repetitive strain injury, and making very minor changes in the workplace so it doesn't happen. Corporations now are on their own to look to do that. We know there are some who are very visionary and very concerned about their workers, that they choose to do that on their own at their cost.


This government keeps saying how interested it is in the workers and keeps pointing to the benefits to the employees here. If they truly were, they would be leading the way in looking at prevention in the workplace and how to create incentives for companies to look to the preventive factor in injured workers. There are many ways you could do that, whether it's tax incentives -- a number of ways. There are some ways to get into a workplace that are not all that expensive that companies, if they're shown the way with some leadership from government, would be encouraged to look at. You could put people in the workplace to train the workers and train the management to look at the little things you can change on the work floor that will stop repetitive strain, in some examples.

When you are in an automated-industry area like I am in Windsor-Sandwich, those things are commonplace. If we look at the changes made to the GM floor at the trim plant, for example, some very minor changes created some huge savings on the floor and in terms of injured workers.

It's just a fallacy that the government members stand to speak to Bill 49 and talk about how they're interested in helping the workers of Ontario. I see it as rhetoric. In fact, if you look at their real goals, the goals are to cut 26.6% of the ministry's budget in the area of employment standards. That's the true intent of the bill, and I don't think we should take our eye off that ball.

We had members today talk about child care, who wanted to compare child care around the world. I know you're government members, but you really should be involved in that child care study that's going on right now. Most of the conditions and changes that employers and employees want to see involving child care -- the member for Brampton South stood and said it's mostly women who want to see changes. I would encourage the member for Brampton South to go to the PA of the Ministry of Community and Social Services and say that, that government should show leadership to companies and encourage them to look at the area of child care as it affects the workplace, because it makes a significant difference for females who work to include child care in the workplace. I would love to see some leadership on that issue coming from this government. So far, while you say we should look at child care because it's so important, what you've done in the area of child care has simply been to cut the spaces.

I will agree that the former government did the best they could in trying to alleviate in the area of child care. We recognize too the strain they were under financially in their last two years of governing. But while you talk about child care, your actions are in fact the opposite. You have taken months and months talking about child care and have done nothing about it.

In one breath we're talking about employment standards in the workplace. I want to talk about employment standards, but in a portable in a school. We've got a teacher in Sacred Heart school in LaSalle and she teaches in a portable. The portable, number one, has a big hole in the floor. The floor of the portable is so fragile that they've got to use the portable for primary grades only. They've got to put the little kids in the portable; they can't put the big kids in there because they'll go right through the floor. I want to talk to you about employment standards. If you go in the portable, you don't want to go in the wintertime because it's too cold and it's drafty, and even in the springtime it's over 80 degrees and has been in the last couple of weeks. When it rains, the roof leaks.

You want to talk to me about employment standards? Where are the priorities with the government? I've got a school in LaSalle called Sacred Heart that has so many portables they don't have a school yard. They've got to get special easement consideration from the town so they can put more portables in there. I don't want to talk about employment standards with you; I want you to fix the portables at Sacred Heart school in LaSalle.

Mr O'Toole: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member is completely out of order in terms of addressing school board issues. They are important. They're important in my riding and each of our ridings. But we're debating Bill 49, amendments to the Employment Standards Act. Let's take the time to debate the issue that's in front of us.

The Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Mrs Pupatello: I would submit that's very much to do with employment standards. I don't think teachers in this province ought to be stepping over holes in portables. That's a low standard of employment, if you ask me.

If you want to talk about priorities of government, let's clean up what we have going on right now in the education system. The Minister of Education comes from portable city. Peel has the most number of portables going, and the minister represents that area. We have more children at Sacred Heart in the portables outside the school than we do inside in the building, and you want to talk to me about what the government priorities are. I think we've got to get our heads on straight here and look at what's really going on in Ontario.

I'm very pleased to have had the opportunity to discuss many things as they relate to my riding, as they relate to job creation. I don't think the government is on track in its job creation. The government knows that their numbers are down, that they have an impossible task to try to find jobs and create the lay of the land appropriate for 150,000 jobs a year or more between now and the end of their mandate. While this government no longer wants to talk about the job quotas it set for itself, I continue to remind the government members that you owe Ontario 725,000 jobs by the end of your mandate. I think you should get to work.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mrs Marion Boyd (London Centre): It's always a pleasure to hear the member for Windsor-Sandwich. She takes in a lot in her discussion of the bill in place and she's quite right to point out that if the government is going to boast that this kind of bill is a job creator, then it needs to answer questions about the level of job creation that has gone on.

The previous speaker used foreign examples of how flexibility in work standards could develop more jobs. He neglected to talk about the very thing we need to discuss here when we talk about this bill, that flexibility is a euphemism for driving down employment standards to the lowest common denominator. You may have more jobs, but the return for those jobs and the quality of life for those workers are different.

In everything this government has done in the field of labour relations, from Bill 7 to this bill to the other kinds of measures it's taken in Bill 26 and so on, has been to achieve this so-called flexibility. It's time we identified that "flexibility" is a code word for lowest common denominator in employment standards and in quality of working life. It is extremely important for us to be clear that the agenda is to drive down wages, to drive down bargaining power, to drive down health and safety, to drive down all the standards.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): A race to the bottom.

Mrs Boyd: It's a race to the bottom, as my colleague says, in the hope that somehow this will create the necessary number of jobs. In doing that, if that flexibility creates havoc in the quality of life of Ontarians, which I would say is our major competitive factor in attracting industry to Ontario, it will be a pyrrhic victory indeed.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): It was most enlightening to listen to what I thought would be some new ideas or alternatives coming from the member for Windsor-Sandwich, but when we got to the actual part of listening for the specific alternative, she used the word "incentives" and then moved on to talk about her school board problem.

It's very interesting to comment about her points on job creation and mention there's no linkage to this bill in that regard and link it up with the WCB proposals. The direct experience of myself involving trying to get rehabilitated workers back to work prior to 1987 -- if you look at the statistics of a very badly organized, dysfunctional WCB, they were significantly higher than when the previous government of Mr Peterson brought in mandatory job reinstatement quotas in Bill 163. What happened to the hiring of rehabilitated workers is the direct experience; it's on the record. All you've got to do is go to any library and get the annual reports of the WCB, and you will find that job creation went right down into the flatlands; it went south.

When this member talks about this particular government having to get 725,000 jobs, she talks about it in terms of a quota. We don't think in terms of quotas over here; we think in terms of targets. Those targets aren't going to be set by this government; they're going to be delivered by the private sector of the day. There is a big, big difference if you could only think about it.


Mr Sergio: I am quite pleased to take two minutes and render some much-due justice to my colleague the member for Windsor-Sandwich on a very in-depth presentation. I'm pleased that the members were indeed listening. I think the message the member for Windsor-Sandwich was trying to portray is that we have to distinguish between very skilled jobs, such as the member for Nepean mentioned before, where there are probably some 100 jobs being created in a high-tech industry, versus the jobs in a factory on a chain line. I think that's where the difference comes in and that's where unfortunately we are missing the message. If there is a balance to be created, it's exactly there. While we look after creating business for the skilled professionals, we have to look after creating a good environment and protecting jobs for the unskilled labour. I think that's where the problem is. I think that's what some of the members have said before, that they would like to see a class act out there: quality, number one in the world and stuff like that.

How can we accomplish that? I think the government side knows that. I think this is what the member for Windsor-Sandwich was trying to say: that unless we take care of those needs in the workplace, we will not have the number one position created for our people and we will not have a number one position created for Ontario employers.

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): I watched intently from my office the speeches, what is being said in regard to employment standards. I must concur. The reality is that this is not just another attempt; in fact, it's another action on the part of this government to basically take away workers' rights. This government believes that if you drive everything down to the lowest standard and you get it down to the lowest standard, somehow or other magically that will create all of the jobs.

I guess you'll create some jobs in doing this. I suppose if you create the standards down low enough that people are working for less than minimum wage or for minimum wage and people have no benefits of real value, maybe there are people who want to invest in Ontario in those kinds of climates. But I say, I want off. That's not the kind of Ontario that I grew up in; it's not the type of Ontario that other people grew up in. It's not the type of Ontario that I think benefits our economy overall. In order to have an economy that works, you have to have people who have a disposable income that's sufficiently high to be consumers.

This government, yet again, under Bill 49 is demonstrating that what it wants to do in the end is to say: "Let's drive down the price of labour. Let's drive the benefits of workers so far down that in the end we are more competitive than other economies." I say the government is wrong. I say the government, rather than trying to take an approach of, "Let's hit them with a stick," should rather try to take an approach more conciliatory in nature and try to bring together the parties to effectively make the kinds of changes that have to happen in our economy and that have to happen in workplaces so that we can move our workplaces along with the economy that's ever-changing.

We saw when we were in government that there were some ways that could be done. It's difficult at times. For example, the workers at Kimberly-Clark up in Kapuskasing and Algoma Steel in Sault Ste Marie certainly had to negotiate concessions in order to be able to restructure their companies, but there was a partnership. What this government is talking about is not doing a partnership; it's strictly about taking a club and hitting people over the head with it. I don't like that one bit.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Windsor-Sandwich has two minutes.

Mrs Pupatello: While I could have listened to them much longer in terms of their rebuttal -- they're so interesting -- I must conclude today by saying that it really is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak to the people of Windsor-Sandwich so that they indeed know that there are members here in this House who are truly trying to protect their interests.

We want to talk about employment standards today. I want to talk about the employment standards as they relate to the hole in the portable at Sacred Heart school in LaSalle. You cannot get away from this. It doesn't matter how hard you try. That is a priority. When we have small children going to school in a portable jumping over the hole in the middle of it, that is an employment standard that is unacceptable in Ontario.

I want to talk to the people at Hiram Walker. We are trying to tell the government and the finance minister, Ernie Eves, that the tax system for spirits in Ontario is excessive. We think you need to look at that. You have 17,000 coasters that have come up from my area to say: "Review the tax situation with distillers. Save the jobs at Hiram Walker." You know there are some 600 jobs there that you could save. Think about it, Mr Hastings: That's 600 jobs you wouldn't have to create, because with one fell swoop your finance minister could fix it for the people at Hiram Walker. I want you to take a good hard look at that.

I want you to look at the doctors in Ontario. Look at the red tape you could cut out. If you are really interested in cutting red tape here in Ontario, don't make us go through this underserviced area business; talk about the real issues and make some real solutions for people.

When it really concerns the injured workers of Ontario, when we talk about employment standards, we want to talk about that. Do what's in the best interests of the workers in Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Hampton: I'm pleased to take part in this debate because it is an important debate and represents another piece in the great Republican revolution that's happening here in Ontario, or you could call it the return to the past, the deep past.


Mr Hampton: Or you could call it, as the member from Flat Rock over there calls it, the Common Sense Revolution, although there is no common sense in this.

What this represents, and people across the province need to reflect on this every day, in the small picture, in the narrow picture is that working people, the most vulnerable working people in this province, people who don't have a union, will see themselves deprived of wages they are due, will see themselves deprived of overtime pay they are due, will see themselves deprived of vacation pay they are due. The government will in effect legalize the theft of that money from them so that the most unscrupulous employers in the province can keep that money. That is what's happening here.

The time limits will mean that people who work in some of the worst working conditions in this province, who do not have the protection of the union -- in many cases they are new Canadians, people who may not speak the language that well, people who may not understand the legal structure -- those people, by this legislation, will be denied the wages they have earned, will be denied the overtime pay they have earned, will be denied the vacation pay they have earned in order that this government can hand that money to the unscrupulous employers who are cheating them of it. That's what's going on here.

This is a direct transfer from the lowest-paid working people in the province, not to someone who deserves a transfer, but to the most unscrupulous employers you'll find anywhere in the province. This is indeed a completely disgusting piece of work. That's what's going on here. The government tries to cover it up with a bunch of propaganda, saying that this will create jobs. What a load of baloney. What a total load of baloney.


We saw from some non-unionized workers who came to this place a few days ago and dared to hold a press conference the kind of thing that's going to happen: workers who have been trying to get overtime pay from their employers for up to two years, and the employers, who know the workers are vulnerable, say to them: "Don't bother me about the overtime I owe you. Go away." After they bother the employers for a while the employers suddenly say: "That's it. I'm firing you."

This bill will make it impossible for those workers to recover the wages they are due. This bill will make it possible for those most unscrupulous of employers to keep those wages. It's all legal now. This government tries to cover it up with a bunch of baloney that somehow this nonsense is going to create jobs.

Let's go through some baloney that we heard here today. We heard, for example, one of the Conservative members get up and talk about Spain and he completely avoided the economic history of Spain. The fact is that Spain is a country that virtually was left out of the Industrial Revolution because it based its economy for the greatest period of time upon taking precious ores and natural resources out of other places in the world, whether they be the Philippines, Central America, South America and a host of other jurisdictions.

When Spain lost that colonial economy, it literally fell into great poverty. Then Spain, through the Fascist operations of Franco, tried to paper over the structural difficulties it had. That did not work. Recently Spain was trying to earn itself a niche in the European market in terms of producing some products that you can mass-produce at a low wage. That niche has been taken away now by Poland, Czechoslovakia, the USSR and other countries that were behind the Iron Curtain. This member completely tried to avoid all that economic history and said, "In Spain it's a problem of flexibility." What nonsense.

Then the member referred to West Germany and said that the problem there is a lack of flexibility. He left out the history of eastern Germany and West Germany over the last seven years, where Germany has been trying to accommodate one of the largest economic leaps that any jurisdiction has ever tried, where in one fell swoop it is trying to reincorporate the economy of eastern Germany into West Germany and it's created all kinds of dislocations in the West German economy that have nothing to do with flexibility. What nonsense.

What nonsense the government is trying to use to justify a piece of legislation that is about nothing more than on the one hand legalized theft from the most vulnerable and poorest workers in this province on behalf of some of the most unscrupulous employers; on the other hand they talk about flexibility which, if you read through everything this government is doing, is about nothing more than a race to the bottom in terms of wage levels, a race to the bottom in terms of labour standards, a race to the bottom in terms of health and safety standards, health and safety training, health and safety enforcement and a race to the bottom in terms of its desire to take a whole bunch of injured workers out of the worker compensation system and find a human junk pile somewhere to throw them on. That is what this is about.

Flexibility, when you define it in terms of what this government is doing, is nothing more than a race to the bottom. It's not about encouraging entrance to the workforce. It's not about helping women into the workforce. It's not about providing more child care or child care that is appropriate for women who want to enter the job market. It's not about maternity leave or parental leave which would allow women to leave the workforce to have children, to re-enter the workforce without detriment or penalty. None of these things, which are all about flexibility, are anywhere in this legislation or anywhere in this government's concept. That is flexibility which helps people enter the workforce.

Flexibility means, for example, being able to enter into an apprenticeship course. Nothing about that here. In fact this government, by its actions, is telling the private sector it's okay to wipe out apprenticeships, it's okay to wipe out leave for education, it's okay to wipe out leave for training. None of this is about a positive definition of flexibility. It is, when you take the wrappers off, all about a negative definition of flexibility, which means a race to the bottom for working people.

I want to refer again to talking about the small picture, because there's a wider picture here. We heard one of the members refer to some of the American experience. I want to talk about that American experience just a bit, because the reality in the United States is that the Americans are discovering that by implementing the lowest minimum wages, or not having minimum wages, in other words, completely violating working people, completely exploiting working people -- the Americans are discovering by the low minimum wage, or no minimum wage, that by gutting labour laws, by lowering labour standards generally, it is doing nothing for the American economy. All it's doing is creating more and more working poor.

The Americans are discovering that having more and more working poor people in their jurisdiction does not allow them to have the kind of education system, the kind of health care system, the kind of community solidarity you need in order to be productive in the 21st century. So the Americans are discovering, for example, that because of that absence of --

The Deputy Speaker: I think this might be a good time to move on to something else. I would like to give you a minute. You have a late show for tonight?

Mr Hampton: We have a late show at 6 o'clock; yes. It's not 6 of the clock yet.

The Deputy Speaker: Is that clock right? I have 6 o'clock. Would you like to finish out that clock?

Mr Hampton: I want to keep going, Speaker. I'm on a good run here. I want to keep going. The fact of the matter is that it's not often I get this many republican members in the House so that I can recite to them some of their own history south of the border.

The fact of the matter is, the United States is discovering that the race to low wages, the race to low labour standards, the race to wiping out labour law is not giving them the kind of economy they need in order to be productive in the 21st century. What it's giving them is social problem after social problem after social problem, and those social problems are increasing in cost. So jurisdiction after jurisdiction in the United States is looking at a way out of the race to the bottom that this government is now heading Ontario into.


Mr Hampton: Speaker, one of the Conservative members wants to get in the debate, and I welcome him at some point to get in the debate. I hope you have something more factual than some of your other speakers have had today.

Even in the United States, which these republicans like to cite so often, the evidence is not there to support the race to the bottom. The race to the bottom in terms of wages, labour standards, employment standards, workers' compensation, health and safety is generating all kinds of social problems in the American jurisdiction, social problems that then create an economic drag of their own. That's becoming a huge problem in the United States.

I'll come back again, there is the narrow picture of this. The narrow picture is simply this: This government, as I said, is going to legalize theft from the most vulnerable workers. This government is then going to allow that money to be turned over to the most unscrupulous employers in the province. There is nothing in this legislation or anything written between the lines in this legislation which will incorporate any positive interpretation of flexibility which might help the economy. It is all about a lowering of the standards to the bottom. And why is it doing this? What's the short-term goal?

The short-term goal is that the Ministry of Labour also has to lay off a whole bunch of employees so that it can take millions of dollars out of its budget and turn the millions of dollars that used to go towards helping the most vulnerable workers over to the Minister of Finance so the Minister of Finance can then wrap that money into a tax break for the wealthiest people in the province. That's what's really going on here.

Not only is it the legalized theft from the most vulnerable workers, also, in terms of the net transfers within the government, it means taking resources away from the most vulnerable workers, turning those resources over to the Minister of Finance so that he can then give them away in the form of a tax break to the wealthiest people.


I believe that more and more people see that that is what this government is all about. That is what the great Republican revolution or the great Conservative revolution or the so-called Common Sense Revolution is all about: taking resources, taking money away from the poorest and most vulnerable people in the province and transferring those resources, again, to the wealthiest people of the province. That's happening in at least three ways in this bill.

Speaker, I want to go on and talk a bit more about the big picture, because there is a big picture item to this as well. But I see that it is 6 o'clock, so I would move adjournment of the debate for today so that I can return again on Monday.

The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 34, the question that this House now adjourn is deemed to have been made.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The member for Rainy River has given notice of dissatisfaction with the answer to the question given today by the Minister of the Attorney General. The member for Rainy River has five minutes.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): The subject of this late show is essentially this: The government, in the form of the Premier, a few days ago indicated that he thought it would be a good idea if the minister responsible for native affairs looked into the allegation that certain very derogatory comments were made about native people in connection with the situation at Ipperwash park.

My leader and other members of the caucus, including myself, have asked now the minister responsible for native affairs, who is also the Attorney General, on a number of occasions what investigative or inquiry process he has put in place, who has been talked to, who has been asked about this, and in the first three or four days that he was asked he neglected to give any information at all.

The third or fourth day that he came in, he indicated that he couldn't talk about it because there was an SIU investigation and that somehow the SIU investigation would interfere with questions about political accountability.

The last day that we were here, he said that he had done some investigative work, that he had inquired, and I asked him: "Have you spoken to the member for Lambton? Have you spoken to the Premier? Have you spoken to all of the actors in the Premier's office? Have you spoken to all of those people who attended the blockade committee meetings? Have you spoken to these people, and if you have, we ask you to table the names of the people you have spoken to in this House."

The Attorney General, minister for native affairs, answers by saying, "My investigations have not indicated, number one, that this comment was made, and of course following from that, who made it."

He says he's done some type of investigation; he says he has inquired of some people. We simply ask that -- especially in his role as Attorney General he ought to be concerned about this -- if he has talked to people, if he has made this inquiry of people, that he table in the House who it is he's talked to, he table in the House what the results have been, what people have said.

It is very clear on the other side of this argument that, for example, the family of the individual who died at the blockade is convinced that these comments were made. In fact the chief of the first nation went on radio before the incident happened and indicated that the government had taken a certain direction with respect to these matters.

So all we're asking of the minister in this situation -- he says that he has conducted some type of inquiry; he says that he has gone and asked what has happened -- we're asking him to disclose. What's the nature of the inquiry that has been made? Who has been talked to? What were the questions that were asked? What were the answers? Who were the people who provided these answers?

It seems to me that in a very serious situation, which is what we have here, where the government has been called into question, that the government would want to ensure that there was not any untoward comments made, that the government would want to disclose to the public that it has taken all the appropriate steps, that it has made such inquiries as have been asked for and as were indicated by the Premier would be appropriate. It seems to me that the government would want to come clean; the government would want to lay the record on the table.

If the government does not lay the record on the table, if the Attorney General, the minister responsible for native affairs, cannot lay before the House who it is he has talked to, what questions he has asked, what the answers were, the only conclusion we can draw from that is that the government either does not want to disclose this information -- and we can't imagine what the reason would be for not wanting to disclose this information -- or, reluctantly, we may have to conclude that the government is trying to cover up some information.

The Deputy Speaker: The Attorney General has five minutes.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): I have made inquiries, as the member has asked me to do. His inquiries were specifically related to finding out who made a particular comment. I have made those inquiries. I have found no one who knows anything about that particular comment. That's all I have to say.

The Deputy Speaker: There being no further debate, I deem the motion to adjourn to be carried. This House stands adjourned until 1:30 pm next Monday afternoon.

The House adjourned at 1809.